Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category


April 17, 2014



Harvey Wasserman, The World Community Must Take Charge at Fukushima Campaign

2:32 AM (12 hours ago)

to me



By Harvey Wasserman


The authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has left zero doubt that we humans are wrecking our climate.

It also effectively says the problem can be solved, and that renewable energy is the way to do it, and that nuclear power is not.


To read the rest of the story, please go to:




April 5, 2014

By Harvey Wasserman /

High above the Bowling Green town dump, a green energy revolution is being won. It’s being helped along by the legalization of marijuana and its bio­fueled cousin, industrial hemp.

But it’s under extreme attack from the billionaire Koch Brothers, utilities like First Energy (FE), and a fossil/nuke industry that threatens our existence on this planet.

Robber Baron resistance to renewable energy has never been more fierce. The prime reason is that the Solartopian Revolution embodies the ultimate threat to the corporate utility industry and the hundreds of billions of dollars it has invested in the obsolete monopolies that define King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes & Gas)…..



Wind energy: New insight into best arrangement of wind turbines on large installations

April 2, 2014

April 1, 2014
American Institute of Physics (AIP)
Researchers have developed a new way to study wake effects that includes the airflow both within and around a wind farm and challenges the conventional belief that turbines arrayed in checker board patterns produce the highest power output. Their study provides insight into factors that determine the most favorable positioning.

The figure shows a three-dimensional visualization of the flow in a simulated wind-farm. The blue regions show a volume rendering of low-velocity wind regions. These low velocity regions are primarily found in the meandering wakes behind the turbines.
Credit: JHU LES/Bock/XSEDE

As wind farms grow in importance across the globe as sources of clean, renewable energy, one key consideration in their construction is their physical design — spacing and orienting individual turbines to maximize their efficiency and minimize any “wake effects,” where the swooping blades of one reduces the energy in the wind available for the following turbine.

Optimally spacing turbines allows them to capture more wind, produce more power and increase revenue for the farm. Knowing this, designers in the industry typically apply simple computer models to help determine the best arrangements of the turbines. This works well for small wind farms but becomes less precise for larger wind-farms where the wakes interact with one another and the overall effect is harder to predict.

Now a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has developed a new way to study wake effects that takes into account the airflow both within and around a wind farm and challenges the conventional belief that turbines arrayed in checker board patterns produce the highest power output. Their study provides insight into factors that determine the most favorable positioning — work described in a new paper in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, which is produced by AIP Publishing.

This insight is important for wind project designers in the future to configure turbine farms for increased power output — especially in places with strong prevailing winds.

“It’s important to consider these configurations in test cases,” said Richard Stevens, who conducted the research with Charles Meneveau and Dennice Gayme at JHU. “If turbines are built in a non-optimal arrangement, the amount of electricity produced would be less and so would the revenue of the wind farm.”

How Wind Farms are Currently Designed

Many considerations go into the design of a wind farm. The most ideal turbine arrangement will differ depending on location. The specific topology of the landscape, whether hilly or flat, and the yearlong weather patterns at that site both dictate the specific designs. Political and social considerations may also factor in the choice of sites.

Common test cases to study wind-farm behavior are wind farms in which turbines are either installed in rows, which will be aligned against the prevailing winds, or in staggered, checkerboard-style blocks where each row of turbines is spaced to peek out between the gaps in the previous row.

Staggered farms are generally preferred because they harvest more energy in a smaller footprint, but what Stevens and his colleagues showed is that the checkerboard style can be improved in some cases.

Specifically, they found that better power output may be obtained through an “intermediate” staggering, where each row is imperfectly offset — like a checkerboard that has slipped slightly out of whack.

This work was funded by the National Science Foundation (grant #CBET 1133800 and #OISE 1243482) and by a “Fellowship for Young Energy Scientists” awarded by the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter in the Netherlands. The work used XSEDE (NSF) and SURFsara (Netherlands) computer resources.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Physics (AIP)Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Richard J. A. M. Stevens, Dennice F. Gayme and Charles Meneveau. Large Eddy Simulation studies of the effects of alignment and wind farm lengthJournal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, April 1, 2014 DOI: 10.1063/1.4869568

Cite This Page:

American Institute of Physics (AIP). “Wind energy: New insight into best arrangement of wind turbines on large installations.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2014. <>.

March 26, 2014
OpEdNews Op Eds 3/25/2014 at 11:57:05

We Have Sustainable Energy Technology:

the Problem is the Oligarchy

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the nuke experiment
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By Ethan Indigo Smith 

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

“I know that I know nothing” ~ Socrates

You can’t tell someone who knows everything, anything.

Inextricably linked to war and and disaster, the nuclear experimentation industry exemplifies every problem society has stubbornly manifest, only exaggerated and magnified beyond the pale. It causes social and environmental problems of the most hazardous and horrendous proportions, and the fact that we allow it appears to be the result of humanity’s collective mental problems. Our darker inner nature is destroying Mother Nature.

The environmental destruction of nuclear experimentation is exactly like the environmental destruction caused by global burning of petroleum products, only exponentially so.  The petrolithic era and nuclear era both began in war, and continue to fuel war in both war machines and in reason to declare war in the first place. Without these mined, extracted and refined elements, no war machines would exist on a massive scale and the oligarchs’ reasoning to go to war would have never been. The petrolithic and nuclear eras have enriched the pockets of only a few people, but through the (inevitable) environmental destruction and degradation they cause, they endanger all life.


Some may argue that nuclear energy and nuclear weapons systems are separate. If nuclear experiment is peaceful why is it that nuclear nations make the most weapons?

We, humanity as a collective, have historically been more likely to confront than comfort; more willing to go to war and hinder than to be still or help one another. We, as individuals in our daily lives, are for all extents and purposes pretty much performing actions and reactions as actors in some play. Approaching the essence and quality of pretend time evident in a big group of kids, we are acting — and being unconscious of our reality.

Reality CheckAt the root of this insistence on greatness, modernity and surety of industrial infrastructure (built and imagined) is certainly our tendencies toward violence rather than sitting still and considering or asking questions, and toward not considering the negative potentials. By ignoring potentials we ignore our reality. It is akin to ignoring the inevitability of our mortality. We do so because we do not want to shake our view, our status quo and perspective, for changing our perspective requires changing plans and addressing reality.

The nuclear and petrolithic eras have left so much wild environmental destruction, both by direct fuels and war machines, that they require a total reconsideration and alternation of perspective and plans.  If we do not think, if we do not seriously consider, we are:

  • at best, in denial.
  • at worst, so stupid as to ignore reality in its entirety and act as if we can control the future based on omitted information and partial assumptions.

Take the example of the recent radiation leak in New Mexico at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (Pilot meaning experimental and Isolation now being a misnomer of wishful thinking). This latest disaster suggests the lack of imagination and comprehension in the nuclear industry, and illustrates the industry’s uncaring stupidity. Despite the ongoing failure of other nuclear plants, the energy industry that put the plutonium there assured us there would be no leak — as if they could predict Earth’s volatile future. It then proceeded to mine for natural gas in the area and may have caused the collapse of the storage facility, which is the likely cause of the radioactive release. I say “may have’ and “likely’ because, although the leaders of our energy systems can openly make predictions, they seem incapable of telling us what is happening today.

In short, we war for and with petrolithic and nuclear fuels that leave countless innocents either doomed or entombed.

We have energy systems available that do not require total destruction at every step, and there are more about to flood the energy arena.

We are not thinking consciously about the problem, but simply acting and reacting as we always have, supporting systems that benefit few at the expense of many.

We have the technology, the problem is the oligarchy.

To free our society from the nuclear and petrolithic wars we have collectively manifested, we must deal with our mental problems and finally face reality. We have to reform our energy systems into environmentally and socially sustainable infrastructures that benefit all and risk none. The alternative is no alternative at all.

For more of Ethan Indigo Smith’s writing you can go to link at where you can read the first portion of Ethan’s books for free and purchase to support his endeavors. Ethan explores worldwide apathy in his recent serious satire, A (more…)

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Wind farms can provide society a surplus of reliable clean energy

March 22, 2014

March 20, 2014
Stanford University
Researchers have found that the wind industry can easily afford the energetic cost of building batteries and other grid-scale storage technologies. However, for the solar industry, scientists found that more work is needed to make grid-scale storage energetically sustainable.

A big challenge for utilities is finding new ways to store surplus wind energy and deliver it on demand. It takes lots of energy to build wind turbines and batteries for the electric grid. But Stanford scientists have found that the global wind industry produces enough electricity to easily afford the energetic cost of building grid-scale storage.
Credit: Charles Barnhart/GCEP

The worldwide demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations have increased about 40 percent a year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled.

The dramatic growth of the wind and solar industries has led utilities to begin testing large-scale technologies capable of storing surplus clean electricity and delivering it on demand when sunlight and wind are in short supply.

Now a team of Stanford researchers has looked at the “energetic cost” of manufacturing batteries and other storage technologies for the electrical grid. At issue is whether renewable energy supplies, such as wind power and solar photovoltaics, produce enough energy to fuel both their own growth and the growth of the necessary energy storage industry.

“Whenever you build a new technology, you have to invest a large amount of energy up front,” said Michael Dale, a research associate at Stanford. “Studies show that wind turbines and solar photovoltaic installations now produce more energy than they consume. The question is, how much additional grid-scale storage can the wind and solar industries afford and still remain net energy providers to the electrical grid?”

Writing in the March 19 online edition of the journal Energy & Environmental Science, Dale and his Stanford colleagues found that, from an energetic perspective, the wind industry can easily afford lots of storage, enough to provide more than three days of uninterrupted power. However, the study also revealed that the solar industry can afford only about 24 hours of energy storage. That’s because it takes more energy to manufacture solar panels than wind turbines.

“We looked at the additional burden that would be placed on the solar and wind industries by concurrently building out batteries and other storage technologies,” said Dale, the lead author of the study. “Our analysis shows that today’s wind industry, even with a large amount of grid-scale storage, is energetically sustainable. We found that the solar industry can also achieve sustainable storage capacity by reducing the amount of energy that goes into making solar photovoltaics.”

Reducing energy inputs to battery manufacturing is also needed, he said.

Favorable winds

Over the years, consumers have learned to expect electricity on demand from power plants that run on coal, natural gas or oil. But these fossil fuels, which provide reliable, around-the-clock energy, also emit megatons of greenhouse gas that contribute to global warming.

Wind and solar farms provide emissions-free energy, but only generate electricity when the wind blows or the sun shines. Surplus energy can be stored for later use, but today’s electrical grid has little storage capacity, so other measures are used to balance electricity supply and demand.

In the study, the Stanford team considered a variety of storage technologies for the grid, including batteries and geologic systems, such as pumped hydroelectric storage. For the wind industry, the findings were very favorable.

“Wind technologies generate far more energy than they consume,” Dale said. “Our study showed that wind actually produces enough surplus electricity to support up to 72 hours of either battery or geologic storage. This suggests that the industry could deploy enough storage to cope with three-day lulls in wind, common to many weather systems, and still provide net electricity to society.”

The results were especially good for onshore wind turbines. “We found that onshore wind backed by three days of geologic storage can support annual growth rates of 100 percent — in other words, double in size each year — and still maintain an energy surplus,” he said.

“These results are very encouraging,” said study co-author Sally Benson, a professor of energy resources engineering and director of the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford. “They show that you could create a sustainable energy system that grows and maintains itself by combining wind and storage together. This depends on the growth rate of the industry, because the faster you grow, the more energy you need to build new turbines and batteries.”

Solar industry

For the solar industry, the Stanford team found that more work is needed to make grid-scale storage energetically sustainable. The study revealed that some solar technologies, such as single-crystal silicon cells, are growing so fast that they are net energy sinks — that is, they consume more power than they give back to the electrical grid. From an energetic standpoint, these industries “cannot support any level of storage,” the study concluded.

“Our analysis showed that, from an energetic perspective, most photovoltaic technologies can only afford up to 24 hours of storage with an equal mix of battery and pumped hydropower,” Dale said. “This suggests that solar photovoltaic systems could be deployed with enough storage to supply electricity at night, and the industry could still operate at a net energy surplus.”

One advantage of wind over solar power is that it has an enormous energy return on investment, Benson explained. “Within a few months, a wind turbine generates enough electricity to pay back all of the energy it took to build it,” she said. “But some photovoltaics have an energy payback time of almost two years. To sustainably support grid-scale storage will require continued reductions in the amount of fossil fuel used to manufacture photovoltaic cells.”

Other costs

The Stanford team’s primary focus was on the energetic cost of deploying storage on wind and solar farms. The researchers did not calculate how much energy would be required to build and replace grid-scale batteries every few years, nor did they consider the financial cost of building and installing large storage systems on the grid.

“People often ask, is storage a good or bad solution for intermittent renewable energy?” Benson said. “That question turns out to be way too simplistic. It’s neither good nor bad. Although grid-scale storage of wind power might not be cost effective compared to buying power from the grid, it is energetically affordable, even with the wind industry growing at a double-digit pace.

“The solar industry needs to continue to reduce the amount of energy it needs to build photovoltaic modules before it can afford as much storage as wind can today.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. The original article was written by Mark Shwartz. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Michael Carbajales-Dale, Charles J. Barnhart, Sally M. Benson.Can we afford storage? A dynamic net energy analysis of renewable electricity generation supported by energy storageEnergy & Environmental Science, 2014; DOI:10.1039/C3EE42125B

Cite This Page:

Stanford University. “Wind farms can provide society a surplus of reliable clean energy.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2014. <>.

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Solar policy pathways for U.S. states examined

March 12, 2014

March 11, 2014
DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory
The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published a report that aligns solar policy and market success with state demographics. By organizing the 48 contiguous states into four peer groups based on shared non-policy characteristics, the research team was able to contextualize the impact of various solar policies on photovoltaic installations.

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report that aligns solar policy and market success with state demographics. By organizing the 48 contiguous states into four peer groups based on shared non-policy characteristics, the NREL research team was able to contextualize the impact of various solar policies on photovoltaic (PV) installations.

“Although it is widely accepted that solar policies drive market development, there has not been a clear understanding of which policies work in which context,” lead author Darlene Steward said. “This study provides much-needed insight into the policy scope and quality that is needed to spur solar PV markets across the United States.”

The report, “The Effectiveness of State-Level Policies on Solar Market Development in Different State Contexts,” includes statistical and empirical analyses to assess policy impacts in different situations. In addition, four case histories augment the quantitative analytics within each state grouping, specifically:

  • Expected leaders. In Maryland, a comprehensive policy portfolio with equal emphasis on all policy types is driving recent market development.
  • Rooftop rich. In North Carolina, strong interest in clean energy-related policy distinguishes it from other states.
  • Motivated buyers. Delaware’s experience illustrates how targeted market preparation and creation policies can effectively stimulate markets.
  • Mixed. In New Mexico, the leading state for installed capacity in its peer group, policy diversity and strategic implementation have proven to be critical in effectively supporting the market.

The analysis shows that the effectiveness of solar policy is influenced by demographic factors such as median household income, solar resource availability, electricity prices, and community interest in renewable energy. The data also show that it’s the number and the make-up of the policies that spur solar PV markets. Follow-on research expected for release this summer identifies the most effective policy development strategies for each state context and provides strategies for states to take action.

As part of a larger effort to determine the most successful policy strategies for state governments, this report builds on previous research investigating the effect of the order in which policies are implemented. The policy stacking theory, which is outlined in the “Strategic Sequencing for State Distributed PV Policies” report, aims to draw private investors to develop PV markets.

This body of work is supported by the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, which is a national effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports private companies, universities, and national laboratories working to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/National Renewable Energy LaboratoryNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “Solar policy pathways for U.S. states examined.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 March 2014. <>.

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Climate Change Poses Major Threat To Energy Infrastructure, Agency Warns

March 11, 2014

Posted: 03/10/2014 11:16 am EDT Updated: 03/10/2014 11:59 am EDT

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From Climate Central’s Bobby Magill:

Oil refineries and drilling platforms in the U.S. are vulnerable to sea level rise and greater storm surge. Fuel pipelines, barges, railways and storage tanks are vulnerable to melting permafrost and severe weather. Warming seas and water shortages put nuclear and other electric power plants at risk. Power lines can be blown away by hurricanes and other extreme weather.

In other words, all the infrastructure Americans rely on to heat their homes, power their lights and fuel their trains, trucks and cars is becoming more and more exposed to failure in a changing climate.

That may seem clear to any one of the 1.1 million people who lost power in the New York area during and after Hurricane Sandy, but those are the conclusions of a U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in January and just made public.


Melting sea ice due to climate change could cause sea levels to rise, threatening the power grid.


The report summarizes much of the research published in recent years about the vulnerability of U.S. energy infrastructure to a changing climate. It is a response to a request from members of Congress for details about risks posed by global warming, how infrastructure can be adapted to withstand the ravages of a changing climate and what role the federal government plays in helping make the adaptation happen.

The GAO report shows that climate change is a practical concern for U.S. energy producers and operators of energy transmission and distribution lines, said Klaus Jacob, a seismologist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and an expert in climate change adaptation. Jacob is unaffiliated with the GAO and was not involved in the report.

Multiple effects of climate change are likely to work together to threaten U.S. energy infrastructure, the GAO reported. Increased air and water temperatures are likely to wreak havoc on the U.S. electricity sector, helping to reduce water available for cooling electric power generators, reducing electricity supply while increasing consumers’ demand for electricity, the GAO said.

Sea level rise along with more extreme weather and coastal erosion threaten infrastructure in low-lying areas, while warmer temperatures and drought increase flooding risk and wildfires, eventually limiting the amount of electricity that can be generated and transmitted during periods of high demand.

Because the report focuses on the financial risks posed by taking no action in the face of climate change, government officials may take the report more seriously than if it were only making an environmental argument for taking action, Jacob said.

The GAO report does not question scientific findings on global warming and it shows that many energy companies recognize the risk they face from climate change, said Steven Weissman, director of the Energy Program at the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law.

“This nonpartisan report should shift the burden of proof for any firms or agencies that are dragging their feet,” Weissman said, adding that the report could focus the attention of the public and policymakers on the need to strengthen all public infrastructure to better stand up to climate change.

Jacob said the GAO’s report may help accelerate the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s assessments of aging nuclear power plants in the U.S., set higher standards for those plants and encourage the federal government to appropriate more money for the research and development of new renewable energy production and storage technologies.

He criticized the report for underestimating sea level rise. The report says that the sea level rise is occurring faster than at any time in the last 2,000 years, and “sea levels are projected to continue to rise, but the extent is not well understood.”

Sea levels have risen globally by roughly 8 inches since the beginning of the 20th century, and a new study published in February in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences projects that sea levels could rise between 9 and 48 inches by 2100, depending on the uncertain rate of Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet melting.

The 8 inches of sea level rise over the past 114 years is already enough to have made storm surges more powerful, put pressure on infrastructure in places like South Florida and exposed millions living along the coast to additional flooding. Three more feet expected over the remainder of the century will make these problems exponentially worse, threatening electric power plants already at risk from water shortages and higher temperatures, the GAO concluded.

Both coal and nuclear power plants require a significant amount of water to generate, cool and condense steam. In 2007, a drought in the southeastern U.S. forced some power plants to shut down or reduce power production because water levels in lakes, rivers and reservoirs nearby dropped below intake valves supplying cooling water to those plants, according to the report.

The Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama had to reduce its power output three times between 2007 and 2011 because the temperature of the nearby Tennessee River was too high to receive the plant’s discharge water. The opposite situation occurred in 2012 when the Millstone Nuclear Station in Connecticut shut down one reactor when water from Long Island Sound was too warm to be used for cooling the plant, according to the report.

“Higher temperature of intake cooling water does not pose an additional risk if proper operational procedures are followed, but it means that the efficiency of nuclear power production is reduced, and that when that happens, there will be additional need for power produced largely by fossil fuel, which in turn accelerates climate change,” Jacob said.

The report emphasizes that sea level rise and extreme weather are just as much of a threat to electric power plants, which often exist in low-lying areas and along coastlines.

Hurricane Sandy forced several Northeast coastal nuclear power plants to shut down, and a 2013 Stanford University paper identified three coastal nuclear power plants in the path of the storm as among the nation’s most vulnerable nuclear power plants to storm surge.

Renewables are also vulnerable to climate change, the GAO said.

Hydropower is possibly the renewable energy source most vulnerable to climate change because rising temperatures leading to increased evaporation can reduce the amount of water available for hydropower and degrade fish and wildlife habitat. For example, a 1 percent decrease in precipitation leads to a 3 percent drop in hydropower generation in the Colorado River Basin, the GAO reported. Climate change is expected to make precipitation events come in heavier bursts, while increasing the length of dry spells in between in many regions.


The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant on the banks of the Hudson River March 22, 2011 in Buchanan, NY.


High temperatures and poor air quality from regional haze, humidity and dust in the air can reduce the energy output of utility-scale photovoltaic (solar) power plants, while concentrated solar plants that don’t use photovoltaic cells are susceptible to drought because they require water for cooling, the report said.

The GAO said energy and power companies are taking measures to shore up, or “harden” — make the infrastructure more resistant to extreme weather — their equipment, lines and infrastructure so they can withstand high winds, more significant storm surge and other challenges posed by climate change.

Such measures are expected to be implemented in New York State as power companies there plan for power line and equipment improvements. The expectation was outlined in a Feb. 20 settlement between the New York Public Service Commission and Consolidated Edison, the New York City-area’s largest utility, requiring ConEd to study how climate change will affect its systems and find ways to mitigate those effects.

“We have performed extensive analysis of our system and the impact of climate patterns and believe our proposals are a significant step toward protecting critical equipment and customers from major storms,” ConEd spokesman Allan Drury said Friday via email when asked about the GAO report. “We plan to spend $1 billion on storm hardening and resiliency measures over four years to protect our electric, gas and steam systems and in fact have already put many protections in place. With the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, temperature increase, and violent storms becoming more frequent, we expect our storm-hardening and resiliency program to evolve for many years.”

The GAO concluded that the federal government’s role in adapting the nation’s energy infrastructure to withstand climate change is limited, but it said the government can support the private sector in its adaptation measures through regulatory oversight, technology research and development and providing information about the climate.


Promising news for producing fuels through artificial photosynthesis

March 8, 2014

March 7, 2014
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
There’s promising news from the front on efforts to produce fuels through artificial photosynthesis. A new study shows that nearly 90 percent of the electrons generated by a hybrid material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules.

Interfacing the semiconductor gallium phosphide with a cobaloxime catalyst provides an inexpensive photocathode for bionic leaves that produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.
Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

There’s promising news from the front on efforts to produce fuels through artificial photosynthesis. A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) shows that nearly 90 percent of the electrons generated by a hybrid material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules.

Gary Moore, a chemist and principal investigator with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, led an efficiency analysis study of a unique photocathode material he and his research group have developed for catalyzing the production of hydrogen fuel from sunlight. This material, a hybrid formed from interfacing the semiconductor gallium phosphide with a molecular hydrogen-producing cobaloxime catalyst, has the potential to address one of the major challenges in the use of artificial photosynthesis to make renewable solar fuels.

“Ultimately the renewable energy problem is really a storage problem,” Moore says. “Given the intermittent availability of sunlight, we need a way of using the sun all night long. Storing solar energy in the chemical bonds of a fuel also provides the large power densities that are essential to modern transport systems. We’ve shown that our approach of coupling the absorption of visible light with the production of hydrogen in a single material puts photoexcited electrons where we need them to be, stored in chemical bonds.”

Moore is the corresponding author of a paper describing this research in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics titled “Energetics and efficiency analysis of a cobaloxime-modified semiconductor under simulated air mass 1.5 illumination.” Co-authors are Alexandra Krawicz and Diana Cedeno.

Bionic leaves that produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide, with no byproducts other than oxygen, represent an ideal sustainable energy alternative to fossil fuels. However, realizing this artificial photosynthesis ideal will require a number of technological breakthroughs including high performance photocathodes that can catalyze fuel production from sunlight alone.

Last year, Moore and his research group at JCAP took an important step towards the photocathode goal with their gallium phosphide/cobaloxime hybrid. Gallium phosphide is an absorber of visible light, which enables it to produce significantly higher photocurrents than semiconductors that only absorb ultraviolet light. The cobaloxime catalyst is also Earth-abundant, meaning it is a relatively inexpensive replacement for the highly expensive precious metal catalysts, such as platinum, currently used in many solar-fuel generator prototypes.

“The novelty of our approach is the use of molecular catalytic components interfaced with visible-light absorbing semiconductors,” Moore says. “This creates opportunities to use discrete three-dimensional environments for directly photoactivating the multi-electron and multi-proton chemistry associated with the production of hydrogen and other fuels.”

The efficiency analysis performed by Moore and his colleagues also confirmed that the light-absorber component of their photocathode is a major bottleneck to obtaining higher current densities. Their results showed that of the total number of solar photons striking the hybrid-semiconductor surface, measured over the entire wavelength range of the solar spectrum (from 200 to 4,000 nanometers) only 1.5-percent gave rise to a photocurrent.

“This tells us that the use of light absorbers with improved spectral coverage of the sun is a good start to achieving further performance gains, but it is likely we will also have to develop faster and more efficient catalysts as well as new attachment chemistries. Our modular assembly method provides a viable strategy to testing promising combinations of new materials,” Moore says.

“Efficiency is not the only consideration that should go into evaluating materials for applications in solar-fuel generator technologies. Along with the durability and feasible scalability of components, the selectivity of photoactivating a targeted reaction is also critical. This is where molecular approaches offer significant opportunities, especially in catalyzing complex chemical transformations such as the reduction of carbon dioxide.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Alexandra Krawicz, Diana Cedeno, Gary F. Moore. Energetics and Efficiency Analysis of a Cobaloxime-Modified Semiconductor at Simulated Air Mass 1.5 Illumination.Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2014; DOI:10.1039/C4CP00495G

Cite This Page:

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Promising news for producing fuels through artificial photosynthesis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2014. <>.

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Monster wind farm planned in South Dakota

February 13, 2014


Wind turbines in South Dakota
Travis S.

Well blow us over, Mount Rushmore State! Scores of landowners in South Dakota are banding together in an attempt to build a one-gigawatt wind farm, which would be spread over thousands of acres of farmland.

South Dakota is already a leader when it comes to harnessing wind energy. Nearly 500 large turbines spin over the state’s windswept landscapes, with a collective capacity of 784 megawatts of power. The Watertown Public Opinion reports on an attempt to more than double that capacity:


With over 80 landowners ready to dedicate nearly 20,000 acres to one of South Dakota’s largest wind projects, Dakota Power Community Wind is ready to begin the research phase of the operation.

“Our board has approved the purchase of [a meteorological] tower to kick off the research collection phase,” said Paul Shubeck, Dakota Power Community Wind board chairman. “We need to collect two to three years of data before construction can begin.” …

The 20,000 acres of farmland currently signed up for the project are sufficient to support a 300-megawatt windfarm, according to company officials. That would still be the largest single windfarm in South Dakota and would add nearly 50% to the state’s wind production.

Project leaders are now working to get more landowners on board. If built as envisioned, the sprawling wind farm would produce more than three times as much electricity as the natural gas–burning Deer Creek Station, which became the state’s most powerful fossil-fuel power plant when it began operating in 2012.


John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin whotweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent

Short-Circuiting the Future

January 30, 2014
January 29, 2014


By Other Words

Even though Obama embraces nuclear reactors as part of his “all-of-the-above” solution to weaning the nation off imported oil and gas, the world may already be on the brink of phasing out this dangerous energy source. In the two years following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, nuclear energy use underwent record declines, capping two decades of shrinking market share.


Fracking is a bridge to nowhere
Will our fossil-fueled economy make humans go the way of the dinosaurs?

There are plenty of reasons to think so. Coal, oil, and gas continue to account for 87 percent of global energy consumption despite scientific consensus that drastic change is essential for avoiding a climate catastrophe.

“When our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did,” he proclaimed. So, we’d better heed one of Barack Obama’s most memorable declarations in his State of the Union address:

But wait. Will he be able to say that to his own grandkids?

Moments earlier, Obama cheered the fact that our country is back to producing more oil at home than it imports for the first time in two decades. And he boasted about his efforts to expedite the construction of power plants that will run on fracked natural gas, eliciting the sound of one hand clapping from the assembled lawmakers.

U.S. oil and gas production are certainly booming due to our perilous experiment with fracking, which Obama calls a “bridge” to a future powered by cleaner energy. But given the environmental perils associated with the hydraulic extraction of fuels using vast quantities of water and toxic chemicals, it’s just a bridge to nowhere.

Meanwhile, major lobbying and advertising campaigns are trying to crush the opposition to building a coal export terminal in Washington state and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline across Nebraska.

Yet a greener future is growing roots. Worldwide solar power consumption soared by 58 percent and installed wind-power capacity grew by nearly 20 percent in 2012.

“Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced,” as Obama poetically put it.

The U.S. solar industry is truly thriving, thanks to sharply declining costs for photovoltaic panels. Sun-generated power grew by 27 percent overall last year, including a 52 percent expansion for residential use of this renewable energy alternative. And our country is now the world’s top wind power market.

Accordingly, investors who can stomach the extreme volatility of investing in the wind and solar industries are being richly rewarded. Solar stocks skyrocketed in 2013, far outperforming benchmarks like the S&P 500 Index. Shares in many solar companies have risen by more than 200 percent in the past 12 months.

And everyone will benefit from alternative energy’s real return on investment — cheaper power, vast reductions in pollution, and the potential to rein in climate change.

Even though Obama embraces nuclear reactors as part of his “all-of-the-above” solution to weaning the nation off imported oil and gas, the world may already be on the brink of phasing out this dangerous energy source. In the two years following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, nuclear energy use underwent record declines, capping two decades of shrinking market share.

Nuclear reactors now generate only 10 percent of the planet’s power, down from 17 percent in 1993, according to a global team of experts.

And Ford is touting a partially solar-powered concept car. The C-Max Solar Energi hybrid is the first vehicle designed by a major automaker that harnesses the sun’s power for propulsion.

Can the Energi and other innovations enable us to reverse course in time? Not if our nation and the world stick with Obama’s all-of-the-above policy.

“If he actually took climate change seriously, he’d understand that more oil means higher temperatures,” said founder Bill McKibben.”That’s just how physics works.”

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Full disclosure: The author owns small-scale investments in companies engaged in solar, wind, and other alternative energy industries.

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Submitters Bio:

William A. Collins, a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut, founded Minuteman Media in 1998. In 2010, the Institute for Policy Studies took over its management and Minuteman Media was renamed OtherWords. OtherWords distributes commentary and cartoons aimed at amplifying progressive analysis in the national conversation. It empowers readers to become more engaged citizens.


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