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California’s battle to cut emissions with biofuels burns in new truck engines

California’s battle to cut emissions with biofuels burns in new truck engines


Renewable diesel is touted as a cleaner-burning fuel, but a recent study has shown the fuel falls short on one measure of reducing pollution from new truck engines – giving pause to California regulators who support increased production.


The state, the largest vehicle market in the country, has aggressively moved to curtail fossil fuel emissions from all vehicles while also encouraging production of renewable diesel – seen as key for reducing emissions in hard-to-electrify sources like trucking.

The efforts are part of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), a rule designed to decrease the carbon intensity of the state’s transportation fuel.

Renewable diesel lowers greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum-based diesel. The fuel has also been promoted as a way to cut emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a harmful pollutant that contributes to ozone deterioration and causes respiratory problems.

However, engines made more recently emit more NOx when running on renewable diesel, especially when blended with 35% biodiesel or more, compared with conventional diesel, according to a study released by California Air Resources Board (CARB) in November.

Trucks arrive to pick up containers at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

That could affect the way regulators revise the LCFS, which spurred investment in renewable diesel, made from fats and vegetable oils.

State regulators are considering changes to the LCFS that align with a 2022 goal to bring various California regions into compliance with national air quality standards. The study means regulators could have to consider whether renewable diesel increases emissions in areas with worse air quality.

CARB said it has “identified several questions about the study results” that require further evaluation, and will be accepting public comment on the study until the end of January.

Regulators did not respond to a request for comment.

Heavy-duty vehicles are one of the largest contributors to NOx emissions – a precursor of ozone and particulate matter formation. Improved emissions control technology has helped NOx emissions fall by 60% between 1990 and 2019 nationwide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A fuel nozzle from a bio diesel fuel pump is seen in this photo illustration taken at a filling station in San Diego, California January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Companies and regulators had previously purported that renewable diesel reduced NOx emissions by 10%, citing the results of earlier studies that examined the fuel’s performance in older engines.

But trucks with newer engines that ran renewable diesel did not meaningfully lower NOx emissions, according to the study. While these new technology diesel engines, or ‘NTDE’ engines, are present in only 43% of the state’s commercial vehicle registrations, they account for more than 75% of the miles traveled among the state’s heavy-duty fleet.

“CARB threw caution to the wind and opened the door to renewable diesel’s unlimited use without having properly studied NOx emissions impact in NTDEs,” said Pat McDuff, chief executive officer at Glendale-based California Fueling, in a public comment submitted in January.


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HYUNDAI TO OFFER HYDROGEN FUEL CELL VERSIONS OF ALL COMMERCIAL VEHICLES BY 2028


Hyundai Motor Group said on Tuesday it plans to offer hydrogen fuel cell versions for all its commercial vehicles by 2028 and will cut the price of fuel cell vehicles to battery electric levels two years later.

MAERSK CEO SAYS CONSTRUCTION OF FOSSIL FUELED SHIPS SHOULD BE BANNED


Maersk CEO Soren Skou says the International Maritime Organization should take a tip from the European auto industry by banning the construction of fossil fueled ships.


He urged California regulators to reverse regulatory changes that prohibit his company from selling fuel additives meant to decrease NOx emissions in biodiesel.

The state is trying to bring 19 regions into compliance with air quality standards enacted in 2015. In two regions – the south coast and the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin – CARB has targeted lowering NOx emissions as one way of improving air quality. In 2020 regulators adopted a new regulation to reduce NOx emissions 90% by 2027.

Renewable diesel generally cuts greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, said Tristan Brown, associate professor of energy resource economics at SUNY and advisor on New York’s Climate Action Council.

Brown noted most biodiesel blending in the United States is 20% or less. “The real question is what amount of NOx is emitted by NTDE engines at volumes of 10% and 20% biodiesel blend levels, and that is not reported by the study,” Brown said.

Source:

Laura Sanicola via Reuters



Batteries get hyped, but pumped hydro provides the vast majority of long-term energy storage essential for renewable power – here’s how it works

Batteries get hyped, but pumped hydro provides the vast majority of long-term energy storage essential for renewable power – here’s how it works


To cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half within a decade, the Biden administration’s goal, the U.S. is going to need a lot more solar and wind power generation, and lots of cheap energy storage.


Wind and solar power vary over the course of a day, so energy storage is essential to provide a continuous flow of electricity. But today’s batteries are typically quite small and store enough energy for only a few hours of electricity. To rely more on wind and solar power, the U.S. will need more overnight and longer-term storage as well.

While battery innovations get a lot of attention, there’s a simple, proven long-term storage technique that’s been used in the U.S. since the 1920s.

It’s called pumped hydro energy storage. It involves pumping water uphill from one reservoir to another at a higher elevation for storage, then, when power is needed, releasing the water to flow downhill through turbines, generating electricity on its way to the lower reservoir.

Illustration of two open- and closed-loop hydro storage systems. Closed-loop systems use two reservoirs rather than running water.
Two types of pumped-storage hydropower; one doesn’t require a river. NREL

Pumped hydro storage is often overlooked in the U.S. because of concern about hydropower’s impact on rivers. But what many people don’t realize is that most of the best hydro storage sites aren’t on rivers at all.

We created a world atlas of potential sites for closed-looped pumped hydro – systems that don’t include a river – and found 35,000 paired sites in the U.S. with good potential. While many of these sites, which we located by satellite, are in rugged terrain and may be unsuitable for geological, hydrological, economic, environmental or social reasons, we estimate that only a few hundred sites are needed to support a 100% renewable U.S. electricity system.

Why wind and solar need long-term storage

To function properly, power grids must be able to match the incoming electricity supply to electricity demand in real time or they risk shortages or overloads.

There are several techniques that grid managers can use to keep that balance with variable sources like wind and solar. These include sharing power across large regions via interstate high-voltage transmission lines, managing demand – and using energy storage.

Aerial view of a pumped hydro project's two reservoirs and solar array on a dry landscape
The Kidston pumped hydro project in Australia uses an old gold mine for reservoirs. Genex Power

Batteries deployed in homes, power stations and electric vehicles are preferred for energy storage times up to a few hours. They’re adept at managing the rise of solar power midday when the sun is overhead and releasing it when power demand peaks in the evenings.

Pumped hydro, on the other hand, allows for larger and longer storage than batteries, and that is essential in a wind- and solar-dominated electricity system. It is also cheaper for overnight and longer-term storage.

Off-river pumped hydro energy storage

In 2021, the U.S. had 43 operating pumped hydro plants with a total generating capacity of about 22 gigawatts and an energy storage capacity of 553 gigawatt-hours. They make up 93% of utility-scale storage in the country. Globally, pumped hydro’s share of energy storage is even higher – about 99% of energy storage volume.

Pump hydro projects can be controversialparticularly when they involve dams on rivers that flood land to create new reservoirs and can affect ecosystems.

Creating closed-loop systems that use pairs of existing lakes or reservoirs instead of rivers would avoid the need for new dams. A project planned in Bell County, Kentucky, for example, uses an old coal strip mine. Little additional land is needed except for transmission lines.

Satellite image showing potential pairings of reservoirs in a mountain area.
Examples from the atlas of off-river reservoirs with the potential to be paired for pumped hydro near Castle Rock, Colorado. Andrew BlakersCC BY

An off-river pumped hydro system comprises a pair of reservoirs spaced several miles apart with an altitude difference of 200-800 meters (about 650-2,600 feet) and connected with pipes or tunnels. The reservoirs can be new or use old mining sites or existing lakes or reservoirs.

On sunny or windy days, water is pumped to the upper reservoir. At night, the water flows back down through the turbines to recover the stored energy.

A pair of 250-acre reservoirs with an altitude difference of 600 meters (1,969 feet) and 20-meter depth (65 feet) can store 24 gigawatt-hours of energy, meaning the system could supply 1 gigawatt of power for 24 hours, enough for a city of a million people.

The water can cycle between upper and lower reservoirs for a hundred years or more. Evaporation suppressors – small objects floating on the water to trap humid air – can help reduce water evaporation. In all, the amount of water needed to support a 100% renewable electricity system is about 3 liters per person per day, equivalent to 20 seconds of a morning shower. This is one-tenth of the water evaporated per person per day in the cooling systems of U.S. fossil fuel power stations.


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THIS DAM SIMPLE TRICK IS A BIG GREEN ENERGY WIN


Only a small fraction of dams actually produce electricity. Transforming them into hydropower plants might stop new ones from being built.


Storage to support 100% renewables

Little pumped storage has been built in the U.S. in recent years because there hasn’t been much need, but that’s changing.

In 2020, about three-quarters of all new power capacity built was either solar photovoltaics or wind power. Their costs have been falling, making them cheaper to build in many areas than fossil fuels.

Australia is installing solar and wind three times faster per capita than the U.S. and is already facing the need for mass storage. It has two systems under construction that are designed to have more energy storage than all the utility batteries in the world put together; another dozen are under serious consideration. None involve new dams on rivers. The annual operating cost is low, and the working fluid is water rather than battery chemicals.

Shifting electricity to renewable energy and then electrifying vehicles and heating can eliminate most human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. has vast potential for off-river pumped hydro storage to help this happen, and it will need it as wind and solar power expand.

Source:

Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu & Matthew Stocks at The Conversation



Fishermen protest after eruption causes oil spill in Peru

Fishermen protest after eruption causes oil spill in Peru


An oil spill on the Peruvian coast caused by the waves from an eruption of an undersea volcano in the South Pacific nation of Tonga prompted dozens of fishermen to protest Tuesday outside the South American country’s main oil refinery.


The men gathered outside the refinery in the province of Callao near Lima’s capital. Peru’s environment minister, Rubén Ramírez, told reporters that authorities estimate 6,000 barrels of oil were spilled in the area rich in marine biodiversity.

Under the eyes of police, the fishermen carried a large Peruvian flag, fishing nets and signs that read “no to ecological crime,” “economically affected families” and “Repsol killer of marine fauna,” which referred to the Spain-based company that manages La Pampilla refinery, which processes around 117,000 oil barrels a day, according its website. They demanded to speak with company representatives, but no executive had approached them.

Fishermen protest after eruption causes oil spill in Peru

Image 1 of 9

A cyclist shows his oil-covered hands after stopping to put them into the polluted water on Cavero beach in Ventanilla, Callao, Peru, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, after high waves attributed to the eruption of an undersea volcano in Tonga caused an oil spill. The Peruvian Civil Defense Institute said in a press release that a ship was loading oil into La Pampilla refinery on the Pacific coast on Sunday when strong waves moved the boat and caused the spill. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

The company did not immediately returned an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

“There is a massacre of all the hydrobiological biodiversity,” said Roberto Espinoza, leader of the local fishermen. “In the midst of a pandemic, having the sea that feeds us, for not having a contingency plan, they have just destroyed a base of biodiversity.”

An Italian-flagged ship was loading oil into La Pampilla on Saturday when strong waves moved the boat and caused the spill. Repsol in a statement Sunday said the spill occurred “due to the violence of the waves.”

The eruption caused waves that crossed the Pacific. In Peru, two people drowned off a beach and there were reports of minor damage from New Zealand to Santa Cruz, California.

On Tuesday, northwest of the facility, on Cavero beach, the waves covered the sand with a shiny black liquid, along with small dead crustaceans. Fifty workers from companies that work for Repsol inside the refinery removed the oil-stained sand with shovels and piled it up on a small promontory.

Juan Carlos Riveros, biologist and scientific director in Peru of Oceana – an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans – said that the species most affected by the spill include guano birds, seagulls, terns, tendrils, sea lions and dolphins.


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DID SHIP’S ANCHOR CAUSE CALIFORNIA OIL SPILL? MAYBE


Officials investigating one of California’s largest recent oil spills are looking into whether a ship’s anchor may have struck an oil pipeline on the ocean floor, causing heavy crude to leak into coastal waters and foul beaches, authorities said Monday.

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“The spill also affects the main source of work for artisanal fishermen, since access to their traditional fishing areas is restricted or the target species become contaminated or die,” Riveros said. “In the short term, mistrust is generated about the quality and the consumption of fishing is discouraged, with which prices fall and income is reduced.”

Peru’s environmental assessment and enforcement agency estimates that some 18,000 square meters of beach on Peru’s Pacific coast have been affected by the spill.

In a statement, the Peruvian agency said Repsol “has not adopted immediate measures in order to prevent cumulative or more serious damage that affects the soil, water, flora, fauna and hydrobiological resources.” An AP reporter on Monday observed workers dressed in white suits collecting the spilled oil with plastic bottles cut in half.

José Llacuachaqui, another local fisherman leader, who was watching the cleanup, said the workers were only collecting the oil that reached the sand, but not the crude that was in the seawater.

“That is preying, killing, all the eggs, all the marine species,” he said.

Source:

Franklin Briceno via Associated Press



For BP, car chargers to overtake pumps in profitability race

For BP, car chargers to overtake pumps in profitability race


BP says its fast electric vehicle chargers are on the cusp of becoming more profitable than filling up a petrol car.


The milestone will mark a significant moment for BP which wants to shift away from oil and expand operations in power markets and around electric vehicles (EV).

EV charging has for years been a loss-making business as a whole for BP and rivals as they invest heavily in its expansion. The division is not expected to turn profitable before 2025 but on a margin basis, BP’s fast battery charging points, which can replenish a battery within minutes, are nearing levels they see from filling up with petrol.

“If I think about a tank of fuel versus a fast charge, we are nearing a place where the business fundamentals on the fast charge are better than they are on the fuel,” BP’s head of customers and products Emma Delaney told Reuters.

Strong and rising demand for rapid battery chargers in Britain and Europe, has already brought profit margins close to those for traditional petrol filling, she said.

Delaney did not disclose profit and loss for EV charging or when overall profit from the business could eclipse traditional fuel. In 2020 BP reported a gross margins for retail fuel sales of $3.5 billion. Its customers and products division made $2.6 billion in net profit in the first nine months of 2021, around 17% of the company’s total profit.

The company also said that electricity sales for EV charging grew 45% in the third quarter of 2021 from the previous quarter.

According to consultancy Thunder Said Energy, the traditional fuel retail margin at petrol stations is about 17 cents per gallon, roughly 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

London-based BP plans to grow its EV charging business in the coming years to 70,000 charging points by 2030 from 11,000 now.

Like rivals including Royal Dutch Shell, BP’s retail business, which includes fuel sales and convenience stores, is highly profitable and central in its energy transition strategy.

“Overall, we see a huge opportunity in fast charging for consumers and businesses, as well as fleet services more generally – that’s where we see the growth, and where we see the margins,” Delaney said.

Shell aims to have 500,000 charging points globally by 2025. On Thursday it opened its first ultra-fast EV charging station in London, which can charge 80% of a car battery in 10 minutes.


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TAIWAN SOON TO HAVE MORE GOGORO ELECTRIC SCOOTER BATTERY SWAP STATIONS THAN GAS STATIONS


Electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro is famous for its battery-swapping network of GoStations that extensively covers its native Taiwan. The system has become so popular that it will soon eclipse the number of gas stations on the island nation.

ENGLAND WILL BE FIRST COUNTRY TO REQUIRE NEW HOMES TO INCLUDE EV CHARGERS


The British government has introduced legislation that will require all newly built homes and offices to feature electric vehicle chargers in England.


While rivals like Shell are investing in a range of charging technologies including tens of thousands of slower, low voltage, on-street charging points in Britain and elsewhere, BP is focusing on fast and ultra-fast charging technology.

“We’ve made a choice to really go after high speed, on the go charging – rather than slow lamppost charging for example,” Delaney said.

Fast charging, defined as more than 50 kilowatt, and super-fast charging at more than 150 kilowatt, are however expensive to install as they require large investment in heavy-duty power infrastructure.

“Historically, many operators have struggled to make money out of EV charging, that’s been like the worst kept secret in the industry,” said Adrian Del Maestro, director at PwC Strategy&.

The drive to expand EV charging points also aims at keeping a strong stream of customers at BP’s petrol stations and their adjacent convenience stores.

“There has been a land grab by charge point operators, including the oil majors, to buy real estate and build infrastructure, with a view to generating growth revenues in the future,” Del Maestro said.

Source:

Ron Bousso via Reuters



What Are Solar Trees, and Could They Replace Solar Panels?

What Are Solar Trees, and Could They Replace Solar Panels?


At first glance, solar trees might seem impractical — more art than function when compared to the best solar panels. But solar trees offer a few surprising benefits over their ground-mounted counterparts


Did you know that the shape of airplane wings were designed to mimic the sloped wing tips of eagles? That the ridges on whales’ fins that create an aerodynamic flow in water inspired the shape of the modern wind turbine? That termites drilling holes in their mounds to cool down in the desert summers influenced a method for designing more energy-efficient buildings?

Biomimicry has long been one of my favorite growing areas of science and sustainability — emulating models, systems or elements of nature to solve complex human problems. After all, mother nature has been around a lot longer than humans; she has a lot to teach us. So, as a specialist focused on solar energy, I’ve often wondered what nature can teach us about how to capture our power from the sun. Enter solar trees. 

What Are Solar Trees? 

A solar tree is a device resembling a tree in shape, but with photovoltaic (PV) panels in place of its crown. The “leaves” of the tree capture solar energy and convert it to electricity, with branches funneling that electricity down through a trunk and into a central battery within. In essence, they provide the same benefits as solar panels, but they use only a fraction of the surface area necessary for an array of solar panels.       

Solar trees are not a new invention, but they’re enjoying a rising popularity. Most of our readers may recognize the most iconic solar trees in Singapore’s stunning Gardens By the Bay, as seen in productions like Crazy Rich Asians and The Bachelor.

As they exist today, more solar trees raise public awareness around sustainability than are used to generate residential or commercial power. What’s more, the trees are still perceived as “futuristic,” but it might be time we start shifting our mindset about these inventions by incorporating them into our vision of what sustainability looks like in practice. Here’s why:

Benefits of Solar Trees

At first glance, solar trees might seem impractical — more art than function when compared to the best solar panels. But solar trees offer a few surprising benefits over their ground-mounted counterparts, including:

  • Solar trees preserve land: Since solar trees are vertically integrated, they require significantly less land than solar farms. The same logic would apply to a high-rise being able to fit more residents than a one-story house. Plus, because of their greater heights, the panels may receive more sunlight than a ground-mounted or roof-mounted arrangement would.
  • They can provide habitat for rare flora and fauna: Solar trees like those in Singapore’s Gardens By the Bay are large enough to host tropical flowers, vines and plants on its trunk and branches. These valuable habitats provide homes for plants and animals, protecting biodiversity in urban areas. 
  • Solar trees require little maintenance: Besides cleaning debris off the solar panels every now and then, solar trees are standalone electrical units requiring little to no maintenance.
  • The trees cool heat islands: By creating shade in urban environments, solar trees reduce the amount of thermal energy that is reflected off of urban surfaces like asphalt, concrete and brick. This can combat the most deadly effects of climate change within cities.
  • They increase awareness of clean energy: The striking structures are immediate attention-getters, conveying a message of creativity, resourcefulness, humility and the need to incorporate sustainability into everyday life. We see similar art installations at work across the world, such as the Terra pavilion in Dubai.

Solar Trees Vs. Solar Panels

We mentioned that solar trees serve essentially the same purpose as solar panels but require a much smaller footprint to do so. But are there any other significant differences outside the trees’ widespread adoption? Let’s dig in.

Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency is a measure of how much energy is produced relative to the amount of sunlight that strikes the panels. So, to compare a standard solar array and solar trees in terms of efficiency, we’d need to know the specs of the solar cells used within the tree. 

However, when it comes to space efficiency, trees take the crown. This solar tree in West Bengal, India produces enough energy to power five homes in the U.S. Solar trees in Lynn Haven, Florida are capable of powering six to seven homes. Instead of using an entire roof to produce this electricity, the trees do so using only a few square feet of ground space. 

Cost

Since solar trees are still rare in the U.S., the average installation cost is high. According to top solar tree company Spotlight Solar advertises total pricing to be $40,000 to $80,000. Based on current average solar costs, you could buy a 15-kW to 30-kW solar panel system (for context, the average home needs a system between 5 kW and 10 kW). 

Of course, the complexity and size of the solar tree will influence the final price. Until solar trees reach the commercial mainstream, demand will limit their widespread availability. 

Storage and Distribution

Solar trees are used to produce electricity that will be used onsite. Storing and distributing the energy generated by the trees (like solar farms and power plants do) would require larger solar batteries and complex systems of transmission.

Utility

While solar panels are used primarily on rooftops or mounted on the ground, solar trees offer a different type of utility. In addition to energy, they provide shade and whimsy while taking up minimal surface area. A creative mind could find endless uses for these trees: shade for city sidewalks, parking lots, playgrounds, backyards and more. This brings us to…


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In an interview, famed astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson explained that we already have flying cars, in a way, because tunnels and overpasses allow cars to access the third dimension. By that logic, India has invented ‘flying solar panels,’ which are being suspended above irrigation canals to cut down on the evaporation of precious water droplets by providing shade from the sun’s evaporating heat.


The Future of Solar Trees

The metallic, modern look of solar trees might turn off the average reader, but keep in mind that as the technology improves, investment flows and demand increases, they’ll become much more similar in appearance to real trees or other plants. This modern mimicry will allow us to blend the trees into our forests, yards, coastlines, parks and cities. 

Apart from residential applications, here are a few of our favorite ideas for the uses of solar trees:

  • Shade along highways or agricultural areas
  • Artistic installations in public parks, outdoor malls and gardens
  • Energy sources for carports and parking lots

Solar trees may still be a few years from the mainstream, but relative to other solar panel alternatives like solar roads, they offer a lot more practical value. The efficiency and versatility of the trees make them ideal for cities and densely populated areas, making us think they will be commonplace sooner than you might expect. 

Looking to “Plant” a Solar Tree?

The options are still somewhat limited, but there are a number of organizations that can install solar trees throughout the U.S. We’d recommend starting with these companies:

Smartflower

Smartflower offers stunning designs of solar devices in the shapes of trees and sunflowers, with solar petals tracking, opening and closing with the sun for optimal energy conversion. We’re talking about premiere trees here. Each tree has an output of 2.5 kW at peak power, which is about half the power production of a small home rooftop solar system. 

Smartflower solar flower on lawn with two people and dog playing Frisbee
Courtesy Smartflower

Spotlight Solar

North Carolina-based Spotlight Solar produces models of several different types of solar trees. With flexible configurations, accessory options, efficient panels and quick assembly, Spotlight Solar’s trees serve as great options for public parks, carports and walkways.

Spotlight Solar solar tree models diagram
Courtesy Spotlight Solar

Beam Global

Founded in 2006, Beam Global (formerly Envision Solar) produces patented infrastructure products for the electrification of transportation. The San Diego-based company offers solar trees and solar carports as electric vehicle charging stations.

Beam solar trees shading parking spots
Courtesy Beam

Source:

Karsten Neumeister at EcoWatch



These windows are see-through solar panels

These windows are see-through solar panels


What if solar panels weren’t just on the roof?


In a recently built office building in Boulder, Colorado, there are solar panels on the roof. But the building also has one of the world’s first installations of solar-window technology—transparent panels that look like ordinary windows, but also invisibly generate energy.

“When you think about the commercial market, you can imagine big skyscrapers becoming vertical solar farms,” says Susan Stone, CEO of Ubiquitous Energy, the startup developing the technology, which is based on work that began at MIT. “You make that glass surface, which isn’t traditionally available for electricity generation.” Solar windows can also be used to replace ordinary windows in homes.

Boulder Commons, Colorado [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

The technology works by capturing only part of the solar spectrum. “We actually let the visible light that our eyes can see pass right through our material,” says Miles Barr, cofounder and chief technology officer. “And that makes it look invisible to us.” Because typical solar panels absorb the full spectrum—making them appear black—the solar windows capture about a third less energy. But since they can be used in areas where regular solar panels can’t, they can help add to the supply of renewable energy.

Boulder Commons, Colorado [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

The windows, with two panes of glass that are sealed together, have wires that can be connected either directly to something next to the window—such as a light or electronic blinds—or connected to a battery in the building or back into the electric grid.

Boulder Commons, Colorado [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

The startup has spent several years developing the materials, including semiconductors that can selectively capture infrared and ultraviolet light, and ensuring that the product matches the performance and quality of nonsolar windows. Right now, at its pilot production facility in Redwood City, California, the company is making small window panels that have been installed in a handful of pilot locations, including the office building in Colorado. But it’s also preparing for larger-scale manufacturing, and developing processes to make the windows that can run on current window-manufacturing lines. “We’re bringing a disruptive product to market,” says Stone. “And we’re intentionally doing that without disrupting the supply chain.”


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Michigan State University [Photo: © 2022 Ubiquitous Energy]

Andersen Corporation, the international window manufacturer, is one of the startup’s investors and participating in a recent $3o million Series B funding round. “Anderson led the industry in transitioning to insulated-glass units and pioneered the use of low-E coatings, all of which improved dramatically the energy performance of our windows, and both have now become an industry standard,” says Karl Halling, treasurer of Andersen Corp. “Andersen really sees this investment in this technology as a continuation of that legacy.”

As manufacturing scales up, Ubiquitous Energy expects the windows to be around 30% more expensive than conventional windows. But if the windows can replace standard glass, the impact could be significant. The company has estimated that there are 20 billion square feet of glass installed around the world annually, and if all of it was producing power, it would result in a 10% decrease in global emissions. “When you think about the impact that this can have,” says Stone, “it’s huge.”

Source:

Adele Peters at Fast Company



Taiwan soon to have more Gogoro electric scooter battery swap stations than gas stations

Taiwan soon to have more Gogoro electric scooter battery swap stations than gas stations


Electric scooter manufacturer Gogoro is famous for its battery-swapping network of GoStations that extensively covers its native Taiwan. The system has become so popular that it will soon eclipse the number of gas stations on the island nation.


Gogoro’s battery swap stations look something like a bright green and white vending machine.

Users of Gogoro’s batteries (which include scooters of many different brands thanks to its partnerships), simply roll up to a station and swap out their depleted battery for a freshly charged unit. A subscription service makes it a quick and easy process that takes just a few seconds.

At the end of 2021, Gogoro counted a total of 2,215 GoStations nationwide, according to the Taipei Times. The number of gas stations stood barely higher at 2,487.

At Gogoro’s current rate of expansion, 2022 very well may be the year that the number of GoStations surpasses the number of gas stations.

While that may be just an interesting factoid for Taiwan, it paints an important picture of what’s to come for much of Asia and the rest of the world.

Gogoro has aggressively expanded into major two-wheeler countries in the past year, where motorcycles and scooters make up a majority of the vehicles on the road in many cities.

Replacing those loud, polluting gas-powered vehicles with silent and emission-free electric scooters and motorcycles will make a large impact on these cities, measurable in both the decibel and air particulate levels.

This past April, Gogoro announced that it was entering the Indian market and partnering with Hero Motorcorp, the world’s largest motorcycle builder.

Gogoro followed up shortly afterwards with another announcement that it would enter the Chinese market thanks to a new three-way partnership with two-wheeler leaders Yadea and DCJ.

Barely another month went by before Gogoro announced yet another partnership, this time with massive manufacturer Foxconn to produce its electric scooters and swappable batteries.

The rapid expansion continued as Gogoro then announced a partnership with Gojek in November that would see expansion into the large Indonesian market.

Even as Gogoro expands across the Asian continent, its position in the local Taiwanese market grows stronger.

According to a Gogoro representative, 28% of all two-wheeled vehicles sold in Taipei last month were Gogoro-powered, with December marking Gogoro’s largest sales month ever.

The news comes as Gogoro prepares to go public on the Nasdaq via a SPAC deal that will see it listed under the ticker GGR.

When announced last year, the deal was expected to be finalized sometime this quarter.

Gogoro is just one company among dozens that are spreading electric scooters and motorcycles around the world.

But Gogoro’s innovative approach to its GoStations and the company’s rapid expansion has put it in a league of its own.

Seriously, just look at a graph of its domestic e-scooter sales compared to competitors.


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Now with so many companies jumping aboard the Gogoro train and putting the iconic green and black batteries in their own scooters, Gogoro is becoming something of a de facto standard in swappable batteries for light electric vehicles. Gogoro isn’t the only swappable battery game in town, but it is by far the largest. And perhaps a de facto standard is exactly what is needed to further accelerate the adoption of swappable battery technology for light EVs.

I just hope we get to see some light electric cars with a half dozen Gogoro batteries in back. Now that would make my day!

Source:

Micah Toll at ElecTrek



Bill Gates-backed fund aims to invest $15bn in clean tech

Bill Gates-backed fund aims to invest $15bn in clean tech


Breakthrough Energy Catalyst to leverage private-public capital to subsidise new markets for green technologies


Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, a private-public fund backed by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, is reportedly planning to invest up to $15 billion in clean tech projects across the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union.

BEC, a fund that sits within the wider Breakthrough Energy Group that was founded by Gates in 2015, has raised over $1.5 billion from businesses and charitable organizations so far. But Jonah Goldman, BEC managing director, told the Financial Times that the fund ultimately plans to invest 10 times that amount, or $15 billion. BEC did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

In order to deploy $15 billion, Goldman told the FT that the fund plans to use innovative financial structures and partnership agreements. “We are last-mile financing and so, we will be the most risky capital in there,” Goldman said. “We’re really trying to demonstrate which of the technological pathways are going to be most effective.”


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On its website, Breakthrough Energy describes BEC as a “program to demonstrate how we can finance, produce and buy the new solutions that will underpin a low carbon economy.” BEC will initially focus on direct air capture, green hydrogen, long-duration energy storage, and sustainable aviation fuel. The fund, which plans to invest in large projects that would not otherwise be financially viable, will make philanthropic donations, sub-market equity investments and product offtake agreements, according to the FT.

BEC announced in September that it had secured investments from Microsoft, BlackRockGeneral MotorsAmerican Airlines, Boston Consulting Group, Bank of America and ArcelorMittal. It has also received support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the executive arm of the EU, the European Commission.

Source:

Sam Shead at CNBC



Turkmenistan Plans to Close its Blazing ‘Gateway to Hell’

Turkmenistan Plans to Close its Blazing ‘Gateway to Hell’


The nation’s president called for authorities to figure out how to extinguish an inferno that has been burning in a natural gas crater for decades.


These past few years have felt like a trial run of living through the end times. Thankfully, 2022 seems like it’s off to a promising start: Turkmenistan plans to close the blazing natural gas crater known as the “Gateway to Hell,” presumably to keep the other three horsemen of the apocalypse from following their buddy Pestilence through it.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said in televised remarks on Sunday that authorities will renew efforts to put out a massive fire that has burned for decades in the Karakum Desert, Agence France-Presse reports. As terrifying as it is fascinating, the crater’s become one of Turkmenistan’s most popular tourist attractions in recent years.

Citing environmental and economic concerns, Berdymukhamedov called for officials to “find a solution to extinguish the fire,” according to AFP. The crater, which measures roughly 200 feet (70 meters) wide and at least 65 feet (20 meters) deep and looks like a fiery portal to another world, “negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby,” he said.


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“We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people,” he said via AFP.

This isn’t the first time Berdymukhamedov has tried to close the gates of hell. He ordered experts to extinguish the flames in 2010, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

Commonly known as the “Gateway to Hell,” the “Mouth of Hell,” and other colorfully apocalyptic nicknames, the Darvaza gas crater has remained ablaze in the Central Asian nation since 1971. Details on the crater’s origin remain a bit of a mystery, but it’s most commonly attributed to a Soviet drilling accident wherein the ground beneath a drilling rig gave way after it hit a gas cavern. The story goes that Soviet scientists, having underestimating the amount of fuel beneath their feet, lit the sinkhole on fire to burn off emerging noxious gases and prevent the dangerous fumes from spreading. The crew expected it to burn out in a matter of weeks, but more than 50 years later, the blaze is still going strong.

Source:

Alyse Stanley at Gizmodo



Almost 2 years into the pandemic, empty flights are still ‘frying’ the planet

Almost 2 years into the pandemic, empty flights are still ‘frying’ the planet


A major airline has revealed it is making 18,000 unnecessary flights this winter, prompting environmentalists to call for rules around Europe’s airport slots to be reviewed.


The Lufthansa Group – which includes Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings and Swiss – is having to fly “empty” aircraft just to keep its take-off and landing rights at European airports.

Belgium’s federal mobility minister Georges Gilkinet urged the European Commission (EC) to put a stop to this “environmental, economic and social nonsense” yesterday, after it emerged that 3,000 of these “ghost flights” were from Brussels Airlines’ planes.

Greta Thunberg is among those taking fire at the so-called “use it or lose it rule” which drives the problem. “The EU surely is in a climate emergency mode…” she tweeted sarcastically.

Campaign group Stay Grounded called the empty planes a flagrant example of “bull**** flights” – among which it also includes short-haul trips, private jets and space tourism.

“It seems like the fact that we’re in a severe climate crisis and that flights are the fastest way to fry the planet has not yet arrived in the heads of decision makers and airlines,” the group tells Euronews Green.

“If it had, empty flights would not be allowed anymore.”

So what is the point in these place-holder flights – and what is their cost to the climate?

Why do airlines have to maintain their airport slots?

Currently, airlines must operate flights in at least 50 per cent of their scheduled take-off and landing slots, or risk losing them. This threshold was revised down from the usual 80 per cent when the pandemic hit in 2020, but is set to be raised up to 64 per cent from the end of March until the end of October 2022.

Announcing the change on 15 December, the EC said that air traffic estimates suggest the skies will be almost 90 per cent as busy this year as in 2019. But with airlines continuing to take a hit because of Omicron critics say the rule is still too strict. Lufthansa alone has said it plans to cancel 33,000 scheduled flights by the end of March.

At times during the pandemic, airport runways have essentially been plane-parking facilities. Yet in busier times, these spots are a precious commodity for companies who vie for their share of air space.

The 80/20 rule (as it’s normally known) is about allocating scarce airport capacity efficiently, says the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It gives airlines the security to advertise tickets almost a year in advance, allowing customers to book trips in the long-term.

Lynne Sladky/AP Photo
Lufthansa is making 18,000 unnecessary flights this winter to keep its airport slots.Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

No mention is made of the climate impact in IATA’s explanatory fact sheet. So is it really the best way of doing things?

An unlikely alliance of airlines and environmentalists think not. Speaking to Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper last month, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr described the 18,000 trips as “empty, unnecessary flights.”

And the air company’s EMEA spokesperson Boris Ogurksy tells Euronews Green that more flexibility is needed this winter.

“Other regions of the world are taking a more pragmatic approach here, for example [in the US] by temporarily suspending slot rules due the current pandemic situation. That benefits the climate and the airlines.”

Ogursky also clarifies that all 18,000 Lufthansa flights will carry some passengers or cargo, so are not completely empty.


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What climate baggage do these ‘unnecessary’ flights carry?

The issue of empty – or near-empty – flights, extends beyond the German-based carrier. Other major airlines including KLM and Air France say they are counting on further flexibility from the EC to avoid these unnecessarily polluting journeys.

It’s been an ongoing problem since March 2020, when several carriers retained their normal flight frequency for weeks simply to keep slots at hub airports across Europe, the Irish Examiner reported. At the time, Cork airport went from handling up to 15,000 passengers a day to just 40.

As activists have pointed out, the EC’s inflexibility flies in the face of the European Green Deal commitment to cut carbon emissions from the transport sector by 90 per cent by 2050.

Most, but not all, of Lufthansa’s 18,000 “ghost” flights are operating in Europe but it can be tricky to calculate their exact environmental cost.

Catherine Livesley, founder of No Fly Travel Club says, “a short-haul flight on a 737 emits approximately 18 tons of CO2 per hour – that is almost twice what an average European citizen emits in an entire year.

“It seems incomprehensible that we actively require airlines to produce these colossal emissions simply to secure landing slots – even at 50 per cent of normal capacity.

“Airlines and airports must make it a priority to find a better solution – and should be incentivised by governments to do so”.

Source:

Lottie Limb at Euronews.green