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Alternative Energy

  • BP Closes its Solar Business After 40 Years

    After 40 years, BP exits its solar business in the face of fierce competition. Are they to blame? If "BP" is short for Beyond Petroleum, it will have to change its name to just "P" now after it officially shut down its solar business last month, a key division in its quest to develop cleaner sources of energy. After 40 years, the final decision to shut the door on solar mostly comes from the impossible competition faced from China. With the growth of Chinese manufacturing, a global surplus of panels and the subsequent collapse in prices, many solar companies have…

  • A Look at Some of the Obstacles Facing Wind Energy in the U.S.

    In the United States, we have been working on scaling up wind energy but not getting very far. In 2010, wind energy supplied only 2.3% of electricity purchased. Such slow progress seems strange for a product that seems to have such great promise. It can reduce CO2 emissions. It doesn’t require fuel. It is at least partly US made. The popular view is that it could eventually replace gasoline, but that view is very optimistic because electricity is very different from gasoline, and because of the scalability issue.Figure 1. Wind energy (dark green) is barely visible in a graph of…

  • What the Future Holds for Nuclear Power

    A recent thrust on Do the Math has been to sort our renewable energy options into “abundant,” “potent,” and “niche” boxes. This is a reflection of my own mathy introduction to the energy scene, the result of which convinced me that we face giant—and ultimately insurmountable—hurdles in our quest to continue a growth trajectory. It is not obvious that we will even manage to maintain today’s energy standards. We have many more sources/topics to cover before moving on to the “now what” phase of Do the Math. Meanwhile, requests for me to address the nuclear story are mounting. So before…

  • Will 2012 be the Year of Nuclear Fusion?

    The third leading technology for 2012 would be fusion.  While commercial units are not in the offing for the year there is a good prospect that Eric Lerner’s Focus Fusion theory could show a practical method of the achievement.  So far the team at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics has tracked right up the theory proving the preamble tests support that the completion would result in net power out. Focus Fusion is just one.  The Robert Bussard theory of developing the Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) method being taken forward by EMC2 Fusion Development Corporation, if past half way on the latest scale…

  • U.S. Abandons Renewable Fuels, China Picks up Slack

    There’s stupid, and then there’s Washington. The U.S. government is ending a three-decade-old policy of subsidizing corn ethanol, dating back to the Carter administration, which in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran pushed development of alternative fuels to lessen U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East. The tax credits are now 46¢ per gallon. Congress mandated that the United States produce 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022, of which nearly half must be corn-based ethanol, which had the ethanol lobby in ecstasy when it was introduced. Furthermore, many states now require gasoline to contain…

  • Continued Advances in Fuel Cell Technology

    The New Year may well be the breakthrough year for fuel cells.  The astonishing innovation and marketing locomotive of Apple Computers with the i – you name it – product list leading us into new uses for electronic devices, has let slip they will preview a fuel cell idea at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show.Apple has gone so far as to file patent applications named “Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device” and “Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device” – ideas not to be taken lightly.It not a great surprise to close Apple watchers, Apple…

  • Slovakia's Nuclear Schizophrenia - Shut Down, Continue As Usual, or Boldly Go - Where?

    The implosion of the USSR in December 1991 produced massive economic “collateral damage” in its East European allies, as they simultaneously sought both to assert their new-found independence and draw closer to their potential European allies on the western side of 1946’s “Iron Curtain.” Following the euphoria amity quickly devolved down to practical issues, one of which was that the European Union was leery of welcoming new members after the collapse of Communism that relied on power from Soviet-era nuclear power facilities, especially in the wake of the April 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine. Accordingly, the last two…

  • A Detailed Look at Hydroelectricity's Potential

    Having now sorted solar, wind, and tidal power into three “boxes,” let’s keep going and investigate another source of non-fossil energy and put it in a box. Today we’ll look at hydroelectricity. As one of the earliest renewable energy resources to be exploited, hydroelectricity is the low-hanging fruit of the renewable world. It’s steady, self-storing, highly efficient, cost-effective, low-carbon, low-tech, and offers a serious boon to water skiers. I’m sold! Let’s have more of that! How much might we expect to get from hydro, and how important will its role be compared to other renewable resources? Last week, as soon…

  • Investment in African Renewable Energy Reaches $3.6 Billion in 2011

    First, the bad news.Although Africa has vast fossil and renewable energy sources, only twenty percent of its population has direct access to electricity and in some rural areas, four out of five people are completely without power. According to the UN, over 600 million Africans currently do not have access to electric power. A depressing 70 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is living without access to clean and safe energy for their basic needs such as cooking, lighting and heating, making energy poverty among the most urgent issues facing Africa. Worldwide, more than 1.4 billion people worldwide have no access…

  • Australia Developing Wave Power

    Consider. Australia’s 2,966,140 square-mile landmass is ringed by 16,006 miles of coastline. Most of the population is concentrated along the southeast coast of the country, in an arc running from Brisbane to Adelaide along the "boomerang coast." Virtually all of Australia's large cities - Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide - are on the coast. About 80 percent of Australia's population lives within 30 miles of the coast.  So, where do the Aussies get their energy to support their affluent lifestyles?  Australia is one of the most coal-dependent countries in the world and coal and natural gas, along with oil-based products,…