Sunday, June 28, 2009
June 20, 2009
The race is on to create a new world of energy
Jeroen van der Veer
We stand at the early dawn of a new energy future. It will be powered by alternative energy and cleaner fossil fuels. If governments adopt the right rules and incentives, by the middle of this century renewable sources will provide nearly 30 per cent of the world’s energy. Society will be on the road toward sustainable mobility. The world’s highways will rumble and whir with vehicles powered by all manner of energy: petrol, diesel (yes, still there), electricity, biofuels, natural gas and hydrogen.
In the years ahead, conventional diesel and petrol cars will go increasingly far on every litre of fuel. Biofuels will account for up to 10 per cent of liquid transport fuel in the next few decades. Our Shell scenario-makers think that by 2020 up to 15 per cent of new cars worldwide could be hybrid electrics, such as Toyota’s Prius, some of them capable of plugging in to recharge their batteries. After 2030, fuel cell vehicles powered by hydrogen will be a small but growing part of the fleet. By 2050, more than a billion extra vehicles are expected on the world’s roads, more than double today’s total.
Greater variety of fuel choices will be a boon for consumers. Different fuels will be stronger in different regions. In South America, biofuels will likely predominate. In Brazil, ethanol from sugar cane already supplies more than 40 per cent of demand for petrol. China, meanwhile, plans to expand production and use of hybrid and electric vehicles, tapping its vast coal deposits to generate power.
As more vehicles go electric, the environmental footprint of the world’s power generators will become even more important. Wind, solar and hydropower will account for 30 per cent of electricity generation by 2030, up from about 18 per cent today. Many new coal-fired power plants are expected to capture CO2 emissions and store it safely underground, rather than pump it into the atmosphere. Plants increasingly will turn coal into a gas, rather than burn it. They will then burn the gas to generate power, or use it as raw material for a variety of chemical products, while CO2 will be captured and stored. Such integrated plants will begin to resemble refineries. Likewise, refineries can gasify heavy oils — and use the gas to produce hydrogen — and generate heat and electricity — while capturing and storing the CO2.
Indeed, fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, will continue to provide more than half the world’s energy in 2050, building a long bridge to an era when alternatives can take over. A growing population and higher standards of living for billions of people in the developing world will mean that we need all available sources of energy to keep the world’s economies humming. So, while the world races to build up alternative fuels, it must also find new sources of fossil fuels, including unconventional ones, such as oil sands. And we must accelerate efforts to make fossil fuels cleaner, by reducing the CO2 emitted in their production and use.
None of this will be easy, or cheap. Industry and government regulations must change on a huge scale and at an unprecedented pace. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2030 we will need to invest $5.5 trillion merely in renewable energy. That’s like buying more than 18,000 Boeing 747 jumbo jets at $300 million apiece (only about 14,000 have been built since its introduction in 1970). Billions more must go into upgrading electricity transmission networks to handle increased demand and the on-and-off power generated by wind and solar.
Much of this money will come from private companies, but governments will need to continue using tax credits and other incentives to encourage the growth of renewables. They are still small relative to the world’s overall energy needs. Including hydropower, renewables account for about 7 per cent of global energy. Wind today supplies about 1 per cent, with approximately 70,000 turbines. Biofuels, thanks partly to billions of dollars in government subsidies, now also supply about 1 per cent.
To judge from society’s experience with nuclear power and other technologies, new energy sources take at least 25 years to reach significant scale. To illustrate the challenge, in the case of wind the world will need another 1-1.5 million turbines covering an area nearly the size of France in order to reach 10 per cent of the electricity generated by 2030. That means expanding today’s worldwide turbine production of about 15,000 a year to just under 100,000 a year by 2030.
Energy companies are already preparing for the future, increasing production of natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, investing in renewables, such as sustainable biofuels, and researching ways to capture CO2 and store it safely underground. But the enormity of the challenge means that government should do its part to encourage society’s shift to a new energy system. For instance, new technologies with great promise to reduce CO2 emissions will require initial government support to achieve quickly the scale necessary to have real impact.
One critical step is to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions — doing so in all leading countries, not merely a few. I prefer a system that caps emissions and allows companies to trade emission allowances, as Europe’s already does. Cap-and-trade systems should encourage a relatively steady CO2 price, which will have the strongest influence on energy consumers’ behaviour and on the efficiency designed into factories, homes and offices. It will also harness the ingenuity of industry and channel investment to the most efficient emission reductions.
While energy policy can drive technology, it may ultimately raise costs and be politically unpopular. As society and political leaders face difficult choices, they should remember that failure to act now could force us into more painful choices down the road.
Influencing consumer behaviour may prove toughest of all. While technology will give society greater energy choices, it remains unclear whether people are willing to become better users of energy.
Despite the massive hurdles, the push to create a new energy system will benefit us all. It will reverse the rapid rise in the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. It will provide new business opportunities for companies and entrepreneurs. It will create well-paid jobs in a thriving new industry. Competition among energy sources will drive innovation, keep energy affordable and increase global energy security. The race is on.
• Jeroen van der Veer is the departing chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell
We are upsetting the balance of nature. We are burning the candle at both ends! We produce more CO2 per person then nature can compensate for, and we are cutting down the rain-forests that nature uses to compensate with. Major changes are needed NOW!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Eureka Solar Tower Tests Receiver in Andalusia
June 26, 2009
Abengoa Solar's first high-temperature power tower, Eureka, was unveiled June 19 by Martín Soler Márquez, director of Innovation, Science, and Enterprise for the Andalusian Regional Government. This power tower is intended to test, on an experimental basis, a new type of receiver that will achieve the higher temperatures needed for higher-efficiency thermodynamic power cycles. It is the only plant featuring these characteristics in operation in Andalusia and Europe. The aim of this new technology is to increase plant performance, thereby reducing both generating costs and the area of the solar field.
This experimental plant occupies a 16,000-square-foot portion of the Solúcar Platform and uses 35 heliostats and a 164-foot tower that houses the experimental superheating receiver. The power output capacity of the experimental plant is approximately 2 MW. The plant includes a thermal energy storage system supplying power supply to the grid for short periods when there is no sunlight.
According to Rafael Osuna, general manger of the company, "this marks the beginning of the next experimental phase for this high-potential solar power tower technology, which could lead to an important step forward in our goals of generating clean electricity at competitive prices. Our significant investment in research and development has made this groundbreaking concentrating solar power technology a reality."
Abengoa Solar now has three solar power towers in operation, two for commercial use and this experimental tower.
The new plant is part of the Solúcar Platform, a solar thermal and photovoltaic solar installation complex scheduled for completion in 2013. Thanks to its 300-megawatt power output, the plant will supply clean electricity to 153,000 households and eliminate the emission of 185,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, reaching a total of 4 million tons over the course of its useful life.
The Solúcar Platform also features a research and development area that is building several demonstration plants for new technologies. This makes the platform the only place in the world with installations employing practically every type of solar technology available, whether in commercial use or under demonstration.
Abengoa Solar's website is full of informative data. It is a must-see...
Friday, June 26, 2009
The Smart Energy market requirements document is available for review at http://www.zigbee.org/smartenergy. It was jointly developed by ZigBee Alliance members, HomePlug Powerline Alliance members, utilities, regulators, suppliers and technology providers as a foundation for an enhanced ZigBee Smart Energy profile and as the basis for global standards development by other organizations. On May 18, the ZigBee/HomePlug Smart Energy profile was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as an initial interoperable standard for HAN devices and communications and information model.
The development of the Smart Energy profile drew upon the collective experience of members involved in the current development and deployment of the existing wireless ZigBee Smart Energy standard. Certified products and services based on this standard are available for use today from a variety of ZigBee members. The standard is supported by a comprehensive certification process that delivers secure, robust, reliable, plug and play interoperability with advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and Smart Grid applications.
Chartwell’s recent “Smart Metering Technology” report found that “…40 percent of electric utilities prefer ZigBee compared to other in-premise standards.” No other technology standard garnered such a large share of preference. To date, ZigBee Smart Energy has been selected by leading utilities to reach approximately 40 million homes and businesses across North America in the next few years as part of ongoing Smart Grid and Advanced Metering Infrastructure deployments. ZigBee Smart Energy has also been selected as the HAN technology standard by utilities and regulatory agencies in the European Union, Australia and Asia.
The HomePlug Powerline Alliance is the leading industry group in the development of multi-vendor, global standards and certification for powerline communications. With more than 70 percent of the cumulative worldwide market share (per recent reporting from In-Stat), HomePlug technology is rapidly becoming a key element of the Smart Energy HAN and is already being integrated into AMI applications by utilities and meter manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe.
“We are sharing these new requirements as part of ZigBee’s outreach to assist the many Smart Grid standardization efforts underway around the world,” said Bob Heile, chairman of the ZigBee Alliance. “As a global and open standards group, the ZigBee Alliance fully understands the benefits of cooperating and lending our expertise to multitude of governmental and standards groups involved in the development of Smart Grids. We hope this early visibility will help those efforts.”
“The Smart Energy market requirements document reflects the consensus of many utility companies to maximize both the consumer benefits and ROI of the HAN and Smart Grid,” said Rob Ranck, HomePlug Alliance president. “This is another benchmark in our key objective to collaborate with other organizations to make the Smart Grid a reality.”
ZigBee Smart Energy – The Standard for Energy Management and Efficiency
ZigBee Smart Energy enables wireless communication between utility companies and common household devices such as smart thermostats and appliances. It improves energy efficiency by allowing consumers to choose interoperable products from different manufacturers giving them the means to manage their energy consumption more precisely using automation and near real-time information. It also helps utility companies implement new advanced metering and demand response programs to drive greater energy management and efficiency, while responding to changing government requirements.
The ZigBee Alliance is a non-profit association of more than 300 member companies driving development of ZigBee wireless technology. The Alliance promotes world-wide adoption of ZigBee as the leading wirelessly networked, sensing and control standard for use in energy, home, commercial and industrial areas. For more information, visit: www.ZigBee.org.
About the HomePlug Powerline Alliance
Founded in 2000, the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, Inc. is an industry-led initiative with more than 70 member companies that creates specifications and certification logo programs for using the powerlines for reliable home networking and smart grid applications. The Alliance accelerates worldwide adoption for HomePlug technology by collaborating with international standards organizations such as IEEE and through market development and user education programs.
Sponsor members include Cisco (CSCO); Comcast (CMCSK); GE Energy, an affiliate of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE); Gigle Semiconductor; Intellon Corporation (ITLN); Intel Corporation (INTC); Motorola (MOT); NEC Electronics Corporation (TSE: 6723); and SPiDCOM Technologies. Contributor members include Arkados (OTCBB: AKDS); Corporate Systems Engineering; Renesas Technology Corp., Texas Instruments Incorporated (NYSE:TXN and Yitran Communications Ltd. Additional information about the Alliance, including a complete listing of certified products, is available at www.homeplug.org.
The sooner they smarten the grid the better off we'll be. This will "manage" our power distribution instead of over-loading the system to meet demands...
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concludes that the United States cannot meet its targets for stabilizing greenhouse gases unless it finds a way to economically capture carbon dioxide emissions coming from existing coal-burning power plants.
Coal plants generate about half of the country's electricity and 80 percent of the nearly 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide released annually into the atmosphere from power production. China also relies heavily on coal for electricity production and in the last five years has been on a rush to build new coal plants — none of them designed to capture carbon dioxide.
"There is no credible pathway towards stringent greenhouse gas stabilization targets without CO2 emission reductions from existing coal power plants," says the report. Members of Congress, where a bill to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions could come up for a House vote as early as next week, were being briefed on the MIT report.
Carbon dioxide has been captured and put into the ground in relatively small scale projects — mostly in connection with enhanced oil recovery, for years, but never in the huge volumes that would be needed to capture emissions from a large coal plant.
The MIT report says there are multiple technologies being explored for carbon capture, but the government still has not adequately supported carbon capture research and is moving too slowly to develop large demonstration projects to show that capturing carbon dioxide and injecting it into the ground will work at the scale needed.
The report, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press in advance of a press conference Friday, says the federal government and industry need to "dramatically expand" its support for carbon capture research and development to the tune of $12 billion to $15 billion over the next decade.
Such technology, if shown to work in U.S. plants, could get China to reduce greenhouse gases from its rapidly growing network of coal burning power plants, the report says.
"We've got to address the carbon emissions from our current fleet (of coal plants) and also have to think how the technology we develop can be applied in China," Ernest Moniz, director of the MIT Energy Initiative and co-author of the report, said in an interview.
Together, the U.S. and China account for 20 percent of the world's carbon dioxide from coal burning power plants, said Moniz. If China doesn't address emissions from its coal plants "we really can't address the climate issue in a serious way."
The MIT report summarizes a consensus view of participants in a symposium sponsored by MIT's Energy Initiative on the feasibility of retrofitting existing coal plants with carbon capture technology. Participants included 54 representatives utilities, academia, government, public interest groups and industry.
The report said about half of the U.S. coal plants — most of those producing 300 megawatts or more of power — may be suitable for carbon capture technology. Many of the smaller plants, accounting for about 30 percent of electricity production, can achieve emission reductions through increased efficiency, use of a mix of coal and biomass as fuel and other measures. Other plants, especially the oldest, may have to be replaced, said Moniz.
Wayne Leonard, chief executive of Entergy Corp., who was a co-chairman of the symposium, said the symposium's conclusions should be viewed "in an international context" especially as carbon capture technology development relates to China.
"In the U.S. coal is the reality. But in China and India it is the future" and they won't abandon it because of climate change, said Leonard. "But offering them a technological solution, a solution that we are actively developing and deploying ourselves on our own coal plants, would be something that has a far better chance of success in getting them to act."
While Entergy, the New Orleans-based utility, relies on coal for less than 10 percent of its electricity production, it was a co-sponsor with MIT of the carbon capture symposium on which Friday's report is based.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
WORCESTER, Mass. – Columbia Tech, a US-based contract manufacturer, today announced its partnership with Massachusetts-based Owl Power to manufacture the company’s Vegawatt cogeneration system.
The Vegawatt system utilizes waste vegetable oil from restaurant deep fryers as its non-toxic fuel. On average, this fuel produces 10 to 25 percent of a restaurant’s electricity and hot water, reducing energy costs by up to 1,000 dollars per month. Vegawatt is a fully automated system that requires no restaurant staff intervention or maintenance, requires no additional chemicals, and produces no liquid byproducts.
“As Owl Power expands, we need a flexible manufacturing partner that will evolve with us,” said James Peret, President and CEO, Owl Power. “Columbia Tech’s ability to accommodate Owl Power’s rapid development makes the company an ideal partner to build the Vegawatt system, and a valuable long-term partner for our overall business.”
“We are proud to deliver leading-edge domestic manufacturing services so customers can concentrate on growing their business with confidence,” said Chris Coghlin, President and CEO, Columbia Tech. “Helping Owl Power keep manufacturing costs down enables restaurant owners nationwide to benefit from an affordable solution to utilize waste and conserve energy.”
About Owl Power and Vegawatt
Owl Power Company is a Massachusetts-based company that manufactures, installs, and operates clean energy cogeneration systems. The company's flagship product, Vegawatt, is an automated, combined heat and power (CHP) system that utilizes waste vegetable oil as its feedstock. For more information, please visit www.vegawatt.com.
About Columbia Tech
Columbia Tech provides the highest degree of manufacturing excellence for customers seeking turnkey manufacturing and global fulfillment services. Its business model contains a unique blend of front-end DFM and NPI services combined with worldwide purchasing leverage and customized manufacturing programs renowned for extreme flexibility and attentiveness to detail. For more information, please visit www.columbiatech.com.
This is a must have to save the planet. The all-around savings is immense. How many restaurants are there in the U.S.A. that use cooking oil? How many use hot water? I would venture to say, many of them. If you own a restaurant, or know someone who does, this is definitely worth checking out.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
You can always refer to these government specifications to find the latest information.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
..."metal with nanostructures that reflected almost no light at all"...
The possibilities for this technology are very interesting and I look forward to the future results.
Scientists Create Metal that Pumps Liquid Uphill
Ultra-Fast Laser Makes Metal that Attracts, Repels, and Guides Liquids
capillary metal in nature, trees pull vast amounts of water from their roots up to their leaves hundreds of feet above the ground through capillary action, but now scientists at the University of Rochester have created a simple slab of metal that lifts liquid using the same principle—but does so at a speed that would make nature envious.
The metal, revealed in an upcoming issue of Applied Physics Letters, may prove invaluable in pumping microscopic amounts of liquid around a medical diagnostic chip, cooling a computer's processor, or turning almost any simple metal into an anti-bacterial surface.
"We're able to change the surface structure of almost any piece of metal so that we can control how liquid responds to it," says Chunlei Guo, associate professor of optics at the University of Rochester. "We can even control the direction in which the liquid flows, or whether liquid flows at all."
Guo and his assistant, Anatoliy Vorobyev, use an ultra-fast burst of laser light to change the surface of a metal, forming nanoscale and microscale pits, globules, and strands across the metal's surface. The laser, called a femtosecond laser, produces pulses lasting only a few quadrillionths of a second—a femtosecond is to a second what a second is to about 32 million years. During its brief burst, Guo's laser unleashes as much power as the entire electric grid of North America does, all focused onto a spot the size of a needlepoint, he says.
The wicking process, which on Guo's metal moves at a quick one centimeter per second speed against gravity, is very similar to the phenomenon that pulls spilled milk into a paper towel or creates "tears of wine" in a wineglass—molecular attractions and evaporation combine to move a liquid against gravity, says Guo. Likewise, Guo's nanostructures change the way molecules of a liquid interact with the molecules of the metal, allowing them to become more or less attracted to each other, depending on Guo's settings. At a certain size, the metal nanostructures adhere more readily to the liquid's molecules than the liquid's molecules adhere to each other, causing the liquid to quickly spread out across the metal. Combined with the effects of evaporation as the liquid spreads, this molecular interaction creates the fast wicking effect in Guo's metals.
Adding laser-etched channels into the metal further enhances Guo's control of the liquid.
"Imagine a huge waterway system shrunk down onto a tiny chip, like the electronic circuit printed on a microprocessor, so we can perform chemical or biological work with a tiny bit of liquid," says Guo. "Blood could precisely travel along a certain path to a sensor for disease diagnostics. With such a tiny system, a nurse wouldn't need to draw a whole tube of blood for a test. A scratch on the skin might contain more than enough cells for a micro-analysis."
Guo's team has also created metal that reduces the attraction between water molecules and metal molecules, a phenomenon called hydrophobia. Since germs mostly consist of water, it's all but impossible for them to grow on a hydrophobic surface, says Guo.
Currently, to alter an area of metal the size of a quarter takes 30 minutes or more, but Guo and Vorobyev are working on refining the technique to make it faster. Fortunately, despite the incredible intensity involved, the femtosecond laser can be powered by a simple wall outlet, meaning that when the process is refined, implementing it should be relatively simple.
Guo is also announcing this month in Physical Review Letters a femtosecond laser processing technique that can create incandescent light bulbs that use half as much energy, yet produce the same amount of light. In 2006, Guo's team used the femtosecond laser to create metal with nanostructures that reflected almost no light at all, and in 2008 the team was able to tune the creation of nanostructures to reflect certain wavelengths of light—in effect turning almost any metal into almost any color.
This research funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.
From the University of Rochester (www.rochester.edu)
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
South Korea is looking for ways to increase the use of biogas and other clean energy alternatives amid a push by the government of President Lee Myung-bak to embark on a new development model that emphasizes so-called green growth. Ulsan, a brawny industrial center of about 1 million people on the country's southeastern coast, saw biogas as an attractive way to deal with a burgeoning waste problem as well as coming tighter government regulations.
"Ulsan is running out of waste disposal sites to cover all the garbage that comes out from the city," municipal official Park In-muk said Thursday. "When garbage is processed into compost, it creates waste water," he said, which the city has been letting it flow into the ocean.
The dumping of waste water generated by the processing of leftover food into the sea, however, will be banned from 2013, according to the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime affairs. The Ministry of Environment, meanwhile, has increased its budget this year for waste energy, including biogas plants, by five times to 178 billion won ($143 million), according to ministry official Choi Byung-chul.
The government's impending ban on the practice spurred Ulsan, home to big corporations Hyundai Motor Corp. and Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., helped push Ulsan to look for alternatives. It found a partner in Scandinavian Biogas Fuels AB. The company is based in Sweden, which has been a pioneer in biogas development.
Scandinavian Biogas is investing about 10 million euros to upgrade a wastewater treatment plant in Ulsan and will soon start accepting food and other waste for processing into biogas, said Scandinavian Biogas President and CEO Thomas Davidsson.
"Producing biogas is a very effective way of taking care of the waste" as it can be used for heat, electricity and vehicle fuel, Davidsson said in an interview Wednesday. He was in Seoul to participate in the Seoul Climate Change Expo held in conjunction with the third C40 Large Cities Climate Summit.
Turning food waste into biogas can also contribute to efforts to stop global warming. "If you dump it into the sea, methane will be produced," he said. "And methane released into the air is 21 times more aggressive than carbon dioxide. So it has a great impact on the greenhouse effect."
Ulsan is not alone in looking to Sweden for help. Seoul, South Korea's largest city with a population of over 10 million people, also sees potential in biogas and has teamed up with Swedish Biogas International AB on a pilot project. "There is a lot of potential," Kjell Enstrom, who heads the company's operations in South Korea, said Thursday in an interview.
South Korea has the ability to produce biogas, Enstrom said, though not of a clean enough level to be used as fuel. That gives companies from Sweden, which has championed the technology, an advantage. "Within 10 years I think it will be the main fuel in Sweden," he said.
Davidsson, of Scandinavian Biogas, said his company plans to initially sell the biogas to an industrial user in Ulsan for internal heating. The company has an agreement to run the facility for at least 15 years, he said. Ulsan's Park said that as a long-term goal, the city wants to adopt the biogas system to all its public buses.
Davidsson said that among the advantages of biogas is that is a technology that, unlike ethanol, does not draw resources away from food production. "Here you get energy out of something that you need to do something with: waste," he said. "So it's very effective."
Associated Press Writer Ji Youn Oh contributed to this report.
"It's a relatively obvious question once you ask it, but nobody had really asked it before," says study co-author Chris Field, director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution. "The kinds of motivations that have driven people to think about developing ethanol as a vehicle fuel have been somewhat different from those that have been motivating people to think about battery electric vehicles, but the overlap is in the area of maximizing efficiency and minimizing adverse impacts on climate."
Field, who is also a professor of biology at Stanford University and a senior fellow at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment, is part of a research team that includes lead author Elliott Campbell of the University of California, Merced, and David Lobell of Stanford's Program on Food Security and the Environment. The researchers performed a life-cycle analysis of both bioelectricity and ethanol technologies, taking into account not only the energy produced by each technology, but also the energy consumed in producing the vehicles and fuels. For the analysis, they used publicly available data on vehicle efficiencies from the US Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations.
Bioelectricity was the clear winner in the transportation-miles-per-acre comparison, regardless of whether the energy was produced from corn or from switchgrass, a cellulose-based energy crop. For example, a small SUV powered by bioelectricity could travel nearly 14,000 highway miles on the net energy produced from an acre of switchgrass, while a comparable internal combustion vehicle could only travel about 9,000 miles on the highway. (Average mileage for both city and highway driving would be 15,000 miles for a biolelectric SUV and 8,000 miles for an internal combustion vehicle.)
"The internal combustion engine just isn't very efficient, especially when compared to electric vehicles," says Campbell. "Even the best ethanol-producing technologies with hybrid vehicles aren't enough to overcome this."
The researchers found that bioelectricity and ethanol also differed in their potential impact on climate change. "Some approaches to bioenergy can make climate change worse, but other limited approaches can help fight climate change," says Campbell. "For these beneficial approaches, we could do more to fight climate change by making electricity than making ethanol."
The energy from an acre of switchgrass used to power an electric vehicle would prevent or offset the release of up to 10 tons of CO2 per acre, relative to a similar-sized gasoline-powered car. Across vehicle types and different crops, this offset averages more than 100% larger for the bioelectricity than for the ethanol pathway. Bioelectricity also offers more possibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through measures such as carbon capture and sequestration, which could be implemented at biomass power stations but not individual internal combustion vehicles.
While the results of the study clearly favor bioelectricity over ethanol, the researchers caution that the issues facing society in choosing an energy strategy are complex. "We found that converting biomass to electricity rather than ethanol makes the most sense for two policy-relevant issues: transportation and climate," says Lobell. "But we also need to compare these options for other issues like water consumption, air pollution, and economic costs."
"There is a big strategic decision our country and others are making: whether to encourage development of vehicles that run on ethanol or electricity," says Campbell. "Studies like ours could be used to ensure that the alternative energy pathways we chose will provide the most transportation energy and the least climate change impacts."
This research was funded through a grant from the Stanford University Global Climate and Energy Project, with additional support from the Stanford University Food Security and Environment Project, The University of California at Merced, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and a NASA New Investigator Grant.
Company executives, Gov. Phil Bredesen and economic development officials said the company has purchased a 550-acre site about 30 miles northeast of Chattanooga.
Wacker Chemie President and CEO Rudolph Staudigl declined to give a timetable for the start of production, saying that will be driven partly by demand for the product. He said construction will take at least two or three years. Staudigl declined to discuss wages but said workers will be "well paid" and will need special training.
Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber said his office has been talking to Wacker Chemie executives and competing for the project since 2005.
Staudigl declined to identify any other states that competed for the plant.
Kisber said the state's incentives package for the company will be worth between $75 million and $100 million and will include tax credits and help with infrastructure and job training.
The Tennessee site was picked because of its size; proximity to a chlorine supplier, OLIN Corp.; power from the Tennessee Valley Authority and the transportation infrastructure, a company statement said.
Staudigl described the product as a "gray, shiny looking material like nuggets" — extracted from sand — with a property of collecting light that can be transferred into electricity.
He said it is also the "starting material for semiconductors." The company projects increased demand for polysilicon by the solar and semiconductor industries.
Wacker Chemie is based in Munich, Germany, and is the second-largest producer of hyperpure polycrystalline silicon. It reported last month that its sales reached $5.5 billion in 2008.
In early December, Bradley County commissioners approved a $50 million incentives package for what they described as an unnamed international manufacturer that would create at least 500 jobs.