Future Energy eNews   IntegrityResearchInstitute.org     Oct. 25, 2007       

1) Genetically Modified Algae Produce Biofuels - Hydrogen from algae could be very efficient
2) Virus - Assembled Batteries - Getting nature to help with energy mass production
3) Fixing the Power Grid - Big batteries will fight blackouts and make renewable energy more viable
4) Tiny Solar Cells - made of nanowires, these are inexpensive photovoltaic cells
5) Energy Neutral Homes - California leads the way: "houses that produce energy" mandated
6) Pentagon Backs Space Solar Power - Report may finally make 24 hour solar power happen
7) Piezoelectric Nanowires Power Up Under Load - Energy-harvesting is the new game in town
8) Coal-Fired Power Plants Cancelled Everywhere - 16 plants scrapped by public pressure!
9) CSI Cleantech Summit 2007 - Cleantechnology and Sustainable Industries event Oct. 30-31 in DC

1) Hydrogen from Algae

Prachi Patel-Predd, Technology Review, September 27, 2007

Genetically modified algae could be efficient producers of hydrogen and biofuels.

Algae are a promising source of biofuels: besides being easy to grow and handle, some varieties are rich in oil similar to that produced by soybeans. Algae also produce another fuel: hydrogen. They make a small amount of hydrogen naturally during photosynthesis, but Anastasios Melis, a plant- and microbial-biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that genetically engineered versions of the tiny green organisms have a good shot at being a viable source for hydrogen.

Melis has created mutant algae that make better use of sunlight than their natural cousins do. This could increase the hydrogen that the algae produce by a factor of three. It would also boost the algae's production of oil for biofuels.

The new finding will be important in maximizing the production of hydrogen in large-scale, commercial bioreactors. In a laboratory, Melis says, "[we make] low-density cultures and have thin bottles so that light penetrates from all sides." Because of this, the cells use all the light falling on them. But in a commercial bioreactor, where dense algae cultures would be spread out in open ponds under the sun, the top layers of algae absorb all the sunlight but can only use a fraction of it.

Melis and his colleagues are designing algae that have less chlorophyll so that they absorb less sunlight. That means more light penetrates into the deeper algae layers, and eventually, more cells use the sunlight to make hydrogen.

The researchers manipulate the genes that control the amount of chlorophyll in the algae's chloroplasts, the cellular organs that are the centers for photosynthesis. Each chloroplast naturally has 600 chlorophyll molecules. So far, the researchers have reduced this number by half. They plan to reduce the size further, to 130 chlorophyll molecules. At that point, dense cultures of algae in big bioreactors would make three times as much hydrogen as they make now, Melis says.

"If you can increase the productivity by means of thinning out the [chlorophyll], it's going to affect any product that you make," says Rolf Mehlhorn, an energy technologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Algae that use sunlight more effectively would produce more oil, he says. Startups such as Solix Biofuels, based in Fort Collins, CO, and LiveFuels, based in Menlo Park, CA, are trying to extract oil from algae; the oil can be refined to make diesel and jet fuel.

The process is still at least five years from being used for hydrogen generation. Researchers will first have to increase the algae's capacity to produce hydrogen. During normal photosynthesis, algae focus on using the sun's energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose, releasing oxygen in the process. Only about 3 to 5 percent of photosynthesis leads to hydrogen. Melis estimates that, if the entire capacity of the photosynthesis of the algae could be directed toward hydrogen production, 80 kilograms of hydrogen could be produced commercially per acre per day.

Switching 100 percent of the algae's photosynthesis to hydrogen might not be possible. "The rule of thumb is, if we bring that up to 50 percent, it would be economically viable," Melis says. With 50 percent capacity, one acre of algae could produce 40 kilograms of hydrogen per day. That would bring the cost of producing hydrogen to $2.80 a kilogram. At this price, hydrogen could compete with gasoline, since a kilogram of hydrogen is equivalent in energy to a gallon of gasoline.

In 2000, Melis, working with researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), found that depriving the algae of sulfur nutrients forced the cells to make more hydrogen. The researchers were only able to deprive the algae of sulfur for a few days at a time, but during that time, about 10 percent of the algae's photosynthetic capacity went toward making hydrogen.

Researchers at NREL are making progress in increasing hydrogen-production efficiency, according to lead researcher Michael Seibert. They can now force the algae to generate hydrogen for up to three months, as opposed to just a few days. Seibert expects that Melis's chlorophyll-trimmed algae will be useful when the process is transferred to large bioreactors. Until the NREL researchers test the mutant algae, though, he says that it may be too early to tell.

Algae power: (photo caption) While regular green algae absorb most of the light falling on them (right), algae engineered to have less chlorophyll let some light through (left). When grown in large, open bioreactors in dense cultures, the chlorophyll-deficient algae will let sunlight penetrate to the deeper algae layers and thereby utilize sunlight more efficiently.
Credit: Anastasios Melis, University of California, Berkeley

2) Virus-Assembled Batteries
 Kevin Bullis, Techology Review,  April 07, 2006 http://www.technologyreview.com/printer_friendly_article.aspx?id=16673#
A biological template ramps up electrode performance and scales down size.
More than half the weight and size of today's batteries comes from supporting materials that contribute nothing to storing energy. Now researchers have demonstrated that genetically engineered viruses can assemble active battery materials into a compact, regular structure, to make an ultra-thin, transparent battery electrode that stores nearly three times as much energy as those in today's lithium-ion batteries. It is the first step toward high-capacity, self-assembling batteries.

Applications could include high-energy batteries laminated invisibly to flat screens in cell phones and laptops or conformed to fit hearing aids. The same assembly technique could also lead to more effective catalysts and solar panels, according to the MIT researchers who developed the technology, by making it possible to finely control the positions of inorganic materials.

"Most of it was done through genetic manipulation -- giving an organism that wouldn't normally make battery electrodes the information to make a battery electrode, and to assemble it into a device," says Angela Belcher, a researcher on the project and an MIT professor of materials science and engineering and biological engineering. "My dream is to have a DNA sequence that codes for the synthesis of materials, and then out of a beaker to pull out a device. And I think this is a big step along that path."

The researchers, in work reported online this week in Science, used M13 viruses to make the positive electrode of a lithium-ion battery, which they tested with a conventional negative electrode. The virus is made of proteins, most of which coil to form a long, thin cylinder. By adding sequences of nucleotides to the virus' DNA, the researchers directed these proteins to form with an additional amino acid that binds to cobalt ions. The viruses with these new proteins then coat themselves with cobalt ions in a solution, which eventually leads, after reactions with water, to cobalt oxide, an advanced battery material with much higher storage capacity than the carbon-based materials now used in lithium-ion batteries.

To make an electrode, the researchers first dip a polymer electrolyte into a solution of engineered viruses. The viruses assemble into a uniform coating on the electrolyte. This coated electrolyte is then dipped into a solution containing battery materials. The viruses arrange these materials into an ordered crystal structure good for high-density batteries.

[Click here for an illustration of the battery-forming process.] http://www.technologyreview.com/printer_friendly_article.aspx?id=16673#

These electrodes proved to have twice the capacity of carbon-based ones. To improve this further, the researchers again turned to genetic engineering. While keeping the genetic code for the cobalt assembly, they added an additional strand of DNA that produces virus proteins that bind to gold. The viruses then assembled as nanowires composed of both cobalt oxide and gold particles -- and the resulting electrodes stored 30 percent more energy.

Using viruses to assemble inorganic materials has several advantages, says Daniel Morse, professor of molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara. First, the placement of the proteins, and the cobalt and gold that bind to them, is precise. The virus can also reproduce quickly, providing plenty of starting material, suggesting that this is manufacturing technique that could quickly scale up. And this assembly method does not require the costly processes now used to make battery materials.

"You could do this at the industrial level really quickly," says Brent Iverson, professor of organic chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Texas at Austin. "I can't imagine a way to template or scaffold nanoparticles any cheaper."

Yet-Ming Chiang, materials science and engineering professor at MIT and one of Belcher's collaborators, says that, while small batteries designed for specific applications could be made using this process within a couple of years, much work remains to be done. For example, cobalt oxide might not be the best material, so the researchers will be engineering viruses to bind to other materials.

One of the ways they have done this in the past is using a process called "directed evolution." They combine collections of viruses with millions of random variations in a vial containing a piece of the material they want the virus to bind to. Some of the viruses happen to have proteins that bind to the material. Isolating these viruses is a simple process of washing off the piece of material --only those viruses bound to the material remain. These can then be allowed to reproduce. After a few rounds of binding and washing, only viruses with the highest affinity for the material remain.

The researchers also want to make viruses that assemble the negative electrode as well. They would then grow the positive and negative electrodes on opposite sides of a self-assembling polymer electrolyte developed by Paula Hammond*, another major contributor to the project. This would create self-assembled batteries, not just electrodes. Another goal is to make "interdigitated" batteries in which negative and positive electrode materials alternate, like the tines of two combs pushed together -- this could pack in more energy and lead to batteries that deliver that energy in more powerful bursts.

And batteries could be just the beginning. Since the viruses have different proteins at different locations -- one protein in the center and others at the ends -- the researchers can create viruses that bind to one material in the middle and different materials on the ends. Already, Belcher's group has produced viruses that coat themselves with semiconductors and then attach themselves at the ends to gold electrodes, which could lead to working transistors.

"If you can make batteries that truly are effective this way, it's just mind-boggling what the applications could be," Iverson says.

*Correction: The virus-battery work was the result of a collaboration between researchers at MIT. The original article mentions Angela Belcher and Yet-Ming Chiang. An important part of this work was the development of a self-assembling polymer electrolyte by Paula Hammond, MIT chemical engineering professor.

3) Fixing the Power Grid

Peter Fairley, Technology Review
http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/19584/?nlid=618  October 17, 2007

Big batteries will fight blackouts and could make renewable power economically viable.

Large-scale power storage is crucial to our energy future: the Electric Power Research Institute, the U.S. utility industry's leading R&D consortium, says that storage would enable the widespread use of renewable power and make the grid more reliable and efficient. Recent announcements by utility giant American Electric Power (AEP http://www.aep.com/), based in Columbus, OH, suggest that grid storage technologies are finally ready for commercial deployment in the United States. Last month, AEP ordered three multi-megawatt battery systems and set goals of having 25 megawatts of storage in place by 2010, and 40 times that by 2020.

"That was a dream four or five years ago; now it is happening," says AEP energy-storage expert Ali Nourai.

The AEP system uses a sodium-sulfur battery about the size of a double-decker bus (see below), plus power electronics to manage the flow of AC power in and out of the DC battery. Though new to the United States, the system has been used at the megawatt scale in Japan since the early 1990s; the battery was produced by NGK Insulators of Nagoya, Japan http://www.ngk.co.jp/english/index.html .

Charging Charleston: The utility American Electric Power (AEP) deployed this huge sodium-sulfur battery as part of a demonstration project in Charleston, WV. The battery provides 1.2 megawatts of power for up to seven hours, easing the strain on an overloaded substation. Trouble-free operation since installation last year convinced AEP that such energy-storage technology is ready for active duty.
Credit: AEP

Nourai says that AEP and other U.S. utilities gained confidence in the economics and reliability of storage thanks to a demonstration project in Charleston, WV, where AEP installed a large battery system in June 2006. In Charleston, peak demand in both summer and winter had overloaded transformers at local substations, causing blackouts. Rebuilding the substations to accommodate more power could have taken as much as three years. Instead, AEP spent just nine months installing a battery system that charges when demand for electricity is low and can deliver up to 1.2 megawatts for seven hours when demand peaks.

Two of AEP's new projects are slightly larger two-megawatt, seven-hour battery systems designed to provide similar quick fixes in areas with power-reliability problems. A battery in Milton, WV, for example, will provide backup electricity for customers in areas prone to blackouts from a weak power line. "When there is a blackout, the battery will pick up as many people as it can and continue to feed them," says Nourai. "They will not even know there was a blackout." The battery will postpone Milton's addition of a new substation and a high-voltage transmission line by five to six years.

When AEP decides to make more permanent upgrades to substations or completes construction of a new power line--a process that can take five or six years--it will simply move the nearest backup battery to another choke point. "It can be lifted with a forklift and loaded onto a flatbed truck," says Nourai. "Within a week we can have it up and operational at another site in our system."

Richard Baxter, author of Energy Storage: A Nontechnical Guide and chair of a conference held last week in New York City on investing in storage, says that AEP's new projects are a "good litmus test" for the industry. "Storage technologies are emerging as a viable, commercial-level product," Baxter says.

The emergence of a grid storage market is drawing in new battery developers. These include Firefly Energy of Peoria, IL http://www.fireflyenergy.com/ , which is using high-surface-area nanostructured electrodes to revive lead-acid technology, and lithium battery developer Altair Nanotechnologies, based in Reno, NV http://www.altairnano.com/. In June, multinational utility AES agreed to buy an unspecified number of Altair's batteries; CEO Alan Gotcher says that Altair will deliver a one-megawatt, 15-minute prototype by the end of this year.

AEP, meanwhile, is exploring a potentially more transformative role for storage: turning the ever-shifting power output of renewable resources such as wind and solar power into steady, dependable energy. The company plans to connect its third two-megawatt battery system to a group of wind turbines at an as-yet undetermined site. Nourai says that the goal is to learn whether batteries can smooth out short-term fluctuations in power flow from the turbines. If they can, utilities should be able to absorb larger levels of wind power on their grids.

But Nourai says that AEP also wants to determine whether storing wind energy can boost its value. There are at least two ways that this could happen. Wind energy produced at night could be stored for delivery during peak hours of the day, when the price of electricity spikes. And if the power delivered by wind farms were more predictable, it would be more profitable. When an independent generator such as a wind-farm operator sells to power distributors, it must promise to deliver a certain amount of power at a certain hour. While the details vary greatly in different regional and national power markets, wind-farm operators can be penalized if they fail to meet their commitments because the wind didn't blow as hard as expected. Systems that store a fraction of a wind farm's output when the wind is blowing can eliminate most of this risk.

Nourai notes that Japanese utilities are already installing energy-storage technologies to make wind power more reliable and profitable, thanks to government incentives that cover one-third of the cost of the storage system, and to the wider spread between Japan's day and night electricity prices. Nourai believes that NGK, which can currently produce 90 megawatts' worth of sodium-sulfur battery systems per year, is considering constructing a second factory to meet the resulting demand. Meanwhile, a study completed this year by Sustainable Energy Ireland, Ireland's energy-policy agency, concluded that time-shifting storage projects might already be profitable in Europe http://www.sei.ie/.

However, an expert panel assembled by the Electric Power Research Institute last year judged that storage costs needed to drop below $150 per kilowatt-hour to make such time shifting economically attractive in the United States; a report issued by the institute this spring estimates that systems employing NGK's sodium-sulfur batteries cost $300 to $500 per kilowatt-hour. That cost differential has fueled recent interest in solar-thermal-power plants that capture renewable energy in the form of heat, which is easier to store than electricity. (See "Storing Solar Power Efficiently.")

For more information

Ireland Study http://www.sei.ie/getFile.asp?FC_ID=2901&docID=59

Storing Solar Power http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/19440/

EPRI Report http://www.epriweb.com/public/000000000001014668.pdf

4) Tiny Solar Cells

Kevin Bullis, Technology Review, October 18, 2007


Photovoltaics made of nanowires could lead to cheaper solar panels.
By Researchers at Harvard University have made solar cells that are a small fraction of the width of a human hair. The cells, each made from a single nanowire just 300 nanometers wide, could be useful for powering tiny sensors or robots for environmental monitoring or military applications. What's more, the basic design of the solar cells could be useful in large-scale power production, potentially lowering the cost of generating electricity from the sun.

Each of the new solar cells is a nanowire with a core of crystalline silicon and several concentric layers of silicon with different electronic properties. These layers perform the same functions that the semiconductor layers in conventional solar cells do, absorbing light and capturing electrons to create electricity. To make the cells, Charles Lieber, a professor of chemistry at Harvard University, modified methods he'd previously used to make nanowires that could serve as sensors or transistors. He then demonstrated that his solar cells can power two of his earlier nanowire devices, a pH sensor and a set of transistors.

"This paper provides the very first example of using a single silicon nanowire for harvesting solar energy," says Zhong Lin Wang, professor of materials science and engineering at Georgia Tech. He calls Lieber's work "breakthrough research in the field of nanotechnology."

At first, the nanowire solar cells will most likely be useful in niche applications where their small size is key, such as extremely small sensors, or robots whose sensors and electronics might benefit from an integrated power source. "There has been a lot of talk recently about making independent nanomachines and nanosystems," says Phaedon Avouris, a fellow at IBM Research. "The issue has always been, how are you going to power them? If you want to have an independent nanosystem that's self-contained, that's not plugged into a central power supply, then you need something like this."

The ultimate goal would be to build electronic components that can self-assemble into devices that might not be possible to make otherwise. (Lieber has shown that it's possible to make such components from nanowires, which can then be assembled into regular arrays in solution.) "We'd like to incorporate memory, a nanoprocessor, maybe a sensor, and a power source to drive that," Lieber says. "If you try to put together all of these pieces with conventional technology, it gets pretty cumbersome."

In addition to powering tiny machines, solar cells made from microscopic wires might eventually be bundled together into large arrays to replace conventional rooftop solar panels. Lieber's research is still at an early stage, but his new nanowires suggest that a theoretical solar cell proposed by researchers at the California Institute of Technology could be viable. Harry Atwater, a professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech, and Nathan Lewis, a professor of chemistry there, have suggested that solar cells made of microscopic wires would be much cheaper than conventional solar cells, since they could be made from less expensive materials--including, Lewis says, rust.

Until now, solar cells made from such cheap materials have been impractical because of a fundamental contradiction in their design requirements. To be efficient, solar cells must do at least two things well. First, they must absorb light, so they need active materials thick enough that light can't pass through them. But they also need to collect the electrons knocked loose by absorbed photons. For this, extremely thin materials are usually better; otherwise, electrons can get trapped inside the material. One way to reconcile these competing design constraints is to make relatively thick layers of material but to use extremely pure, crystalline materials that lack the defects and impurities that can trap electrons. Such materials work well, but they're expensive, keeping the price of solar panels high.

Nanowires such as those Lieber used for his solar cells offer an alternative. The nanowires can absorb significant amounts of light along their length. At the same time, electrons have only to move a short distance in the nanowire, from one concentric layer of material to another, to be collected. (The layers serve to separate electrons from their positive counterparts, holes, which allows the electrons to be collected.) Since the materials are thin, the chances of an electron being trapped by a defect before escaping from one layer to the next are low, so it's possible to use cheaper materials with more defects.

Lieber demonstrated that nanowires can indeed produce electricity, but a number of challenges remain before they will find their way into commercial solar cells. Lieber has tested only small numbers of nanowire solar cells. For large-scale applications, the nanowires would need to be chemically grown in dense arrays. Atwater and Lewis recently took steps in this direction, publishing in the past month two papers in which they describe growing dense arrays of microscopic wires, but wires without the multiple layers that Lieber's have. Paired with a liquid electrolyte, the wires generated electricity from light. Since it may prove easier to manufacture solid-state solar cells such as Lieber's, however, Lewis and Atwater are working to produce arrays of wires with multiple layers.

The most significant limitation of the work of both groups is the poor efficiency of their solar cells. For example, Lieber's cells converted 3.4 percent of incoming light into electricity. While that's an encouraging number for proof-of-concept solar cells in the lab, it's a far cry from the 20-plus percent efficiency of conventional silicon solar panels. Even with the potential advantage of cheaper materials, wire-based solar cells would probably need to be about 10 percent efficient if they were to compete with existing technology. The researchers' next steps include finding ways to make more dense arrays of wires to absorb more light and, in Lieber's case, to find ways to generate increased voltage from nanowire solar cells.

Nano solar: (photo caption) A cross section of a silicon nanowire that converts light into electricity. The image has been colored to highlight the functional layers of the device. Each layer is made of silicon modified with another material that gives it distinct electronic properties. The outer layer of silicon dioxide protects the active layers inside. When an electron inside the nanowire is freed by a photon, it leaves a positive “hole” behind it; the blue layer and the red core separate electrons from holes. Once these are separated, the electrons can be collected to create a current. The yellow layer separates the blue layer from the red layer.
Credit: Charles Lieber, Harvard University

5) Energy neutral homes urged
Oct 19, 2007 Los Angeles Times
The PUC adopts targets emphasizing efficiency for new construction.

California energy regulators Thursday adopted a target that all homes built after 2020 produce at least as much energy as they consume to reduce demand for electricity and cut pollution tied to power generation.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved the guideline at a meeting in San Francisco. Homes would meet the goal through such measures as advanced insulation and solar power systems.

The state also adopted a target that all new commercial buildings meet the zero-net-energy target by 2030. California is one of the most aggressive states in offering utilities financial incentives to promote energy efficiency to reduce demand for electricity.

"Saving energy will be a lifestyle," Commissioner Dian Grueneich said at Thursday's meeting. "It keeps the lights on, it saves money and it significantly decreases greenhouse-gas emissions."

There are little data collected on how many of the approximately 1 million new homes built each year in the U.S. achieve zero-net-energy status, said Paul Norton, a senior engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. Interest in energy-efficient buildings is rising because of higher electricity prices and concerns about global warming, he said.

"There's still lots of room to make homes more efficient," Norton said in an interview last month. "It is taking some time, but it is happening."

Investing more in insulation can result in needing fewer heating ducts and using a smaller furnace, thereby offsetting some of the increase in building costs, Norton said.

California may influence the building industry by requiring utilities to offer financial incentives that lower the cost of energy-efficient structures, Grueneich said in an interview last month.

Utilities regulated by the commission include Edison International's Southern California Edison, PG&E Corp.'s Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas & Electric Co. The ruling adopted Thursday requires the utilities to devise a single, statewide plan for implementing energy-efficiency initiatives.

6) Pentagon Report: Let's Put Solar Power Collectors in Orbit
Brian Berger, FOX News.com, October 15, 2007 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,301479,00.html

A Pentagon-chartered report urges the United States to take the lead in developing space platforms capable of capturing sunlight and beaming electrical power to Earth.
Space-based solar power, according to the report, has the potential to help the United States stave off climate change and avoid future conflicts over oil by harnessing the Sun's power to provide an essentially inexhaustible supply of clean energy.

The report, "Space-Based Solar Power as an Opportunity for Strategic Security," was undertaken by the Pentagon's National Security Space Office this spring as a collaborative effort that relied heavily on Internet discussions by more than 170 scientific, legal, and business experts around the world.

The Space Frontier Foundation, an activist organization normally critical of government-led space programs, hosted the Web site used to collect input for the report. Speaking at a press conference held here Oct. 10 to unveil the report, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Paul Damphousse of the National Space Security Space Office said the six-month study, while "done on the cheap," produced some very positive findings about the feasibility of space-based solar power and its potential to strengthen U.S. national security.

"One of the major findings was that space-based solar power does present strategic opportunity for us in the 21st century," Damphousse said. "It can advance our U.S. and partner security capability and freedom of action and merits significant additional study and demonstration on the part of the United States so we can help either the United State s develop this, or allow the commercial sector to step up."

Demonstrations needed

Specifically, the report calls for the U.S. government to underwrite the development of space-based solar power by funding a progressively bigger and more expensive technology demonstrations that would culminate with building a platform in geosynchronous orbit bigger than the international space station and capable of beaming 5-10 megawatts of power to a receiving station on the ground. Nearer term, the U.S. government should fund in depth studies and some initial proof-of-concept demonstrations to show that space-based solar power is a technically and economically viable to solution to the world's growing energy needs.

Aside from its potential to defuse future energy wars and mitigate global warming, Damphousse said beaming power down from space could also enable the U.S. military to operate forward bases in far-flung, hostile regions such as Iraq without relying on vulnerable convoys to truck in fossil fuels to run the electrical generators needed to keep the lights on. As the report puts it, "beamed energy from space in quantities greater than 5 megawatts has the potential to be a disruptive game changer on the battlefield. [Space-based solar power] and its enabling wireless power transmission technology could facilitate extremely flexible 'energy on demand' for combat units and installations across and entire theater, while significantly reducing dependence on over-land fuel deliveries."

Although the U.S. military would reap tremendous benefits from space-based solar power, Damphousse said the Pentagon is unlikely to fund development and demonstration of the technology. That role, he said, would be more appropriate for NASA or the Department of Energy, both of which have studied space-based solar power in the past.

The Pentagon would, however, be a willing early adopter of the new technology, Damphousse said, and provide a potentially robust market for firms trying to build a business around space-based solar power. "While challenges do remain and the business case does not necessarily close at this time from a financial sense, space-based solar power is closer than ever," he said. "We are the day after next from being able to actually do this."

Damphousse, however, cautioned that the private sector will not invest in space-based solar power until the United States buys down some of the risk through a technology development and demonstration effort at least on par with what the government spends on nuclear fusion research and perhaps as much as it is spending to construct and operate the international space station.
"Demonstrations are key here," he said. "If we can demonstrate this, the business case will close rapidly."

Charles Miller, one of the Space Frontier Foundation's directors, agreed public funding is vital to getting space-based solar power off the ground. Miller told reporters here that the space-based solar power industry could take off within 10 years if the White House and Congress embrace the report's recommendations by funding a robust demonstration program and provide the same kind of incentives it offers the nuclear power industry.

Military applications
The Pentagon's interest is another important factor. Military officials involved in the report calculate that the United States is paying $1 per kilowatt hour or more to supply power to its forward operating bases in Iraq. "The biggest issue with previous studies is they were trying to get five or ten cents per kilowatt hour, so when you have a near term customer who's potentially willing to pay much more for power, it's much easier to close the business case," Miller said.
NASA first studied space-based solar power in the 1970s, concluding then that the concept was technically feasible but not economically viable.

Cost estimates produced at the time estimated the United States would have to spend $300 billion to $1 trillion to deliver the first kilowatt hour of space-based power to the ground, said John Mankins, a former NASA technologist who led the agency's space-based solar power research and now consults and runs the Space Power Association. Advances in computing, robotics, solar cell efficiency, and other technologies helped drive that estimate down by the time NASA took a fresh look at space-based solar power in the mid-1990s, Mankins said, but still not enough justify the upfront expense of such an undertaking at a time when oil was going for $15 a barrel.

With oil currently trading today as high as $80 a barrel and the U.S. military paying dearly to keep kerosene-powered generators humming in an oil-rich region like Iraq, the economics have change significantly since NASA pulled the plug on space-based solar power research in around 2002.
On the technical front, solar cell efficiency has improved faster than expected. Ten years ago, when solar cells were topping out around 15 percent efficiency, experts predicted that 25 percent efficiency would not be achieved until close to 2020, Mankins said, yet Sylmar, Calif.-based Spectrolab - a Boeing subsidiary - last year unveiled an advanced solar cell with a 40.7 percent conversion efficiency.

One critical area that has not made many advances since the 1990s or even the 1970s is the cost of launch. Mankins said commercially-viable space-based solar power platforms will only become feasible with the kind of dramatically cheaper launch costs promised by fully reusable launch vehicles flying dozens of times a year. "If somebody tries to sell you stock in a space solar power company today saying we are going to start building immediately, you should probably call your broker and not take that at face value," Mankins said. "There's a lot of challenges that need to be overcome."

Mankins said the space station could be used to host some early technology validation demonstrations, from testing appropriate materials to tapping into the station's solar-powered electrical grid to transmit a low level of energy back to Earth. Worthwhile component tests could be accomplished for "a few million" dollars, Mankins estimated, while a space station-based power-beaming experiment would cost "tens of millions" of dollars. Placing a free-flying space-based solar power demonstrator in low-Earth orbit, he said, would cost $500 million to $1 billion.
A geosynchronous system capable of transmitting a sustained 5-10 megawatts of power down to the ground would cost around $10 billion, he said, and provide enough electricity for a military base.

Commercial platforms, likewise, would be very expensive to build. "These things are not going to be small or cheap," Mankins said. "It's not like buying a jetliner. It's going to be like buying the Hoover Dam." While the upfront costs are steep, Mankins and others said space-based solar power's potential to meet the world's future energy needs is huge. According to the report, "a single kilometer-wide band of geosynchronous earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today."

For more Information
* Click here to visit FOXBusiness.com's Energy Center. http://www.foxnews.com/business/personalfinance/energy/

* Click here for FOXNews.com's Patents and Innovation Center. http://www.foxnews.com/technology/innovation/

* Click here to visit FOXNews.com's Space Center. <http://www.foxnews.com/science/space/

7) Piezoelectric nanowires power up under load
James Tyrrell , Nanotechweb.org and Nano Letters, October 16, 2007 http://nanotechweb.org/cws/article/tech/31482
Higher charge constant material makes energy-harvesting scheme more
Foot-powered radio tags or ultra-sensitive vibration sensors are just two of the applications under discussion for piezoelectric nanowires that yield electricity when bent or stretched. Scientists have already demonstrated that nanowires made from zinc oxide (ZnO) and gallium nitride (GaN) generate electricity when under strain, but the materials' low piezoelectric charge constant means that the process is relatively inefficient.

One option is to make the nanowires from barium titanate (BaTiO3), which has a charge constant of 85 pC/N compared with 12 pC/N for ZnO and just 3 pC/N for GaN. As Min-Feng Yu from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US, points out, the chemical synthesis is more complicated and harder to control, but it should lead to better performing devices.

To find out, Yu and his colleagues put a freshly grown BaTiO3 nanowire to the test on their custom loading platform. The nanowire was anchored at each of its ends across a split substrate by two deposits of platinum located using an electron beam (see photo). One part of the substrate was fixed and the other was driven using a single axis positioning stage. This allowed the team to load and unload its BaTiO3 sample with great precision. To measure the response, the nanowire's piezoelectric output was routed through a highly sensitive charge amplifier and then captured using data acquisition software.

As well as performing experiments, Yu and his team modelled the energy-harvesting process in detail. The researchers came up with an expression that describes the electricity generated by the nanowire during each loading cycle and begins the process of preparing design guidelines.

"Devices may require an array of BaTiO3 nanowires in order to output sufficient energy or to be sensitive enough to ambient perturbations such as mechanical vibrations and acoustic waves," Yu told nanotechweb.org. "It also looks like the nanowires need to be even thinner and longer."

The group's test structure had a diameter of 280 nm and measured 15 µm in length, but still appeared to out-perform the competition. According to the team's analysis, a BaTiO3 nanowire generates more than 16 times the output of a ZnO nanowire operating under the same conditions.

Next, the researchers plan to optimize their circuit configuration by lowering the parasitic capacitance and increasing the parallel load resistance. The scientists believe that these changes could improve energy conversion by a factor of 10.

The researchers published their work in Nano Letters.

8) Plans for Coal Power Plants Scrapped
Oct 18, 2007
Associated Press Online


BILLINGS, Mont., Oct. 18, 2007 (AP Online delivered by Newstex) -- At least 16 coal-fired power plant proposals nationwide have been scrapped in recent months and more than three dozen have been delayed as utilities face increasing pressure due to concerns over global warming and rising construction costs.

The slow pace of new plant construction reflects a dramatic change in fortune for a fuel source that just a few years ago was poised for a major resurgence. Combined, the canceled and delayed projects represent enough electricity to power approximately 20 million homes.

The U.S. Department of Energy's latest tally of pending coal plants, released last week, shows eight projects totaling 7,000 megawatts have been canceled since May. That's besides the cancellation earlier this year of eight plants in Texas totaling 6,864 megawatts. Utilities have also pushed back construction on another 32,000 megawatts worth of projects, according to the Energy Department report.

"All these reports that we were about to be inundated with coal plants, I believe this report tells a different story," said Kenneth Kern, director of analysis and planning at the department's National Energy Technology Laboratory. "What has actually happened, if you look at it closely, was much more modest than what was anticipated," he said.

Coal has been a mainstay for utilities, producing half of all electricity consumed in the United States. But it's also one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

In the late 1990s, with natural gas prices rising, utilities eyed cheaper coal as the fuel of choice to meet the growing demand for electricity. Now it appears the resurgence of "King Coal" may have been overstated -- or at least put in check.

As Congress considers restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, analysts said utilities are suspending some projects while they wait to gauge the economic impact of future regulations.

Meanwhile, material costs and demand for skilled labor has prompted plant costs to spike 40 percent or more. Industry representatives blamed increased competition from China and other developing nations aggressively pursuing new coal plants.

"This is like a tsunami attacking the whole industry all at once, with very limited amounts of solutions going forward," said Daniele Seitz, an industry analyst with Dahlman Rose and Co. in New York.

In Texas, TXU Energy has turned its attention to nuclear and wind power after dropping eight of 11 proposed coal plants.

"We're taking a different look at the way we plan to meet the demand for energy," said company spokesman Tom Kleckner.

Fewer coal plant proposals in the United States should be welcome news for environmentalists. They have made the utility industry a prime target in their push to confront climate change.

But the trend also could portend problems in satisfying a projected 40 percent increase in electricity demand by 2030, said James Owen with the Edison Electric Institute, which represents many of the nation's major utilities.

The Bush administration has said 6,000 megawatts of additional coal-fired capacity would be needed every year to cover that increase in demand.

"Obviously some things are causing developers to take a careful look at all of their options and whether they want to go forward with projects," Owen said. "But our industry must be able to meet that demand."

Of 151 new coal plants announced in recent years, only 15 have been built since 2002. Combined, they generate about 3,700 megawatts.

Of the remaining projects, 121 proposals still are considered viable. That includes 76 now listed by the government as "uncertain" in terms of whether or when they will be built.

Peter Altman, a climate policy specialist with the National Environmental Trust, said the new data raises questions about why the government was bullish on coal in past industry analyses. He said the latest report reinforces the need for Congress to do more to encourage conservation, which could ease the demand for new plants.

"The whole question of how many coal plants will be built is based on how much electricity we need. It is within our power to reduce demand," he said.

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said the Energy Department report shows more incentives are needed to help utilities develop cleaner coal-fired plants. Wyoming is the largest coal producer in the nation.

Barrasso spokesman Cameron Hardy criticized the current energy bill working its way through Congress as putting too much emphasis on renewable energies over fossil fuels, which provide the bulk of the nation's power.

"Wind energy is great. But we can't just fiddle around with the smallest portion of our energy production," Hardy said.

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said coal supporters should be satisfied with incentives included in Congress' last energy bill, in 2005.

Committee spokesman Bill Wicker added that the emergence of climate change as a driving issue in Washington has since shifted lawmakers' focus away from fossil fuels.

"The reality is all the trend lines are not supporting the construction of lots and lots of new coal plants," Wicker said.


On the Net:

Energy Department report on coal-fired power plants: http://www.netl.doe.gov/coal/refshelf/ncp.pdf

Newstex ID: AP-0001-20314226

9) CSI Cleantech Fall Summit 2007

Cleantechnology and Sustainable Industries Summit  http://www.csievents.org/

Washington D.C., Oct 30-31 2007

Renaissance Washington, DC Hotel

The CSI Fall Summit brings together leading business & technology executives to present the state-of-art in sustainable industry practices and to voice clean technology development needs across most every industrial sector. Come hear global business and government leaders present on:

Conference Technical Proceedings

Future Energy eNews is provided as a public service by www.IntegrityResearchInstitute.org where a FREE DVD copy of Dr. Valone's presentation on "Progress in Future Energy" from the last Conference on Future Energy is available by visiting the Order Page.