A grass called Miscanthus could yield more ethanol than switchgrass or corn. Lots more.
By Dawn StoverPosted 08.15.2008 at 10:38 am 14 Comments
Move over, switchgrass. There's a new miracle crop on the horizon. Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign indicates that a perennial grass named Miscanthus x giganteus can produce about two and a half times more ethanol per acre than either corn or switchgrass.
The march towards a perfect energy source moves along thanks to one very powerful laser
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.20.2008 at 6:40 am 12 Comments
Every few years, a new claim of successful cold fusion shows up in the news. It's the mythical holy grail of energy production. Nuclear fusion—the mashing together of two hydrogen atoms into a helium atom with an accompanying release of energy—is currently only the province of stars, requiring tremendous pressure and heat to succeed. Cold fusion, which is still very much a fantasy, aims to do the same without the pressure and heat. While we continue to see false progress toward viable cold fusion, our goals in the realm of real fusion may have just become a little more realized.
Can concentrated PV plants beat solar thermal technology?
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.26.2008 at 4:34 pm 2 Comments
The last few years have seen tremendous growth in solar thermal power plants—huge arrays of mirrors that concentrate the sun's energy onto a liquid which then boils and spins a turbine. The process is generally more efficient than using photovoltaic panels, and new solar thermal plants under construction in Spain and Australia will be among the largest capacity solar plants in the world. Old-fashioned PV panels were starting to look archaic, or at least suitable only for small-scale projects like roof instillations. But not all PV panels are created alike.
A judge's ruling to cut down trees that block solar panels is just the tip of the iceberg for a growing conflict in California
By Bjorn CareyPosted 02.21.2008 at 12:11 pm 5 Comments
Here's one for your "only in California" file: A judge has ordered a Sunnyvale couple to cut down two of the eight redwood trees on their property because they block sunlight access to their neighbor's solar panels.
About six years ago, Mark Vargas complained that eight redwood trees on Richard Treanor's and Carolyn Bissett's property were blocking sunlight to the $70,000 worth of solar panels he built to power his house in 2001. To protect his investment, Vargas cited the obscure Solar Shade Control Act that requires homeowners to keep their trees from shading more than 10 percent of a neighbor's solar panels between 10am and 2pm, peak hours for collecting sunlight. The judge ruled in favor of Vargas, although he decided against fining Treanor and Bissett the up to $1,000 a day in violations allowed by the law.
What would you use to keep next-generation nuclear reactors cool? If you said highly reactive molten sodium, take a bow
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.16.2008 at 3:14 pm 15 Comments
It's going to be at least another two decades before any commercial models are built, but researchers are at work designing the Generation IV nuclear reactors. Unlike the generation II and III models now in use that use water to cool and control the fission (preventing runaway reactions, subsequent meltdowns and the environmental apocalypse that would result), the leading contender for cooling material for the Gen IV reactors is molten sodium. Not sodium chloride (plain, unreactive table salt), but sodium metal.
A new report highlights the world's most acute needs
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.15.2008 at 4:50 pm 4 Comments
A panel convened by the National Academy of Engineering announced today a list of the most important projects in the world—at least, what would be, were we to figure out how to build them. The 14 priorities range from economical solar power—we only need to harness 1/10,000th of the sunlight that hits Earth to satisfy the world's energy needs—to reverse-engineering the brain and universal access to clean water (see the full list after the break). They're also introducing a slick new website to solicit public opinion. What do you think is the most important engineering challenge for the century to come?
Forget corn; we'll get fuel from all the other stuff, says DOE
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.15.2008 at 9:32 am 5 Comments
"Cellulosic ethanol technology is a lot closer to reality than a lot of articles would have you think," said Jacques Beaudry-Losique, manager of the Department of Energy's Biomass Program this morning at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. After some well-publicized studies stated that corn-based biofuels might exacerbate CO2 damage to the environment, focus has shifted to these so-called "second generation" biofuels that use non-food crops such as switchgrass, wood chips or crop residues (e.g. all the parts of the corn plant that are currently wasted after harvest--the stalk, leaves and "cob").
Looking for a clean fuel that grows anywhere, needs only sunlight and water, and could produce enough oil to free the U.S. from its petroleum addiction? Here´s one start-up's plan for converting oil from algae-yes, algae
By Elizabeth SvobodaPosted 07.01.2007 at 2:00 am 6 Comments
Take a peak inside the Solix labs to see their oil-from-algae operation up close in our photo gallery and video
"Here it is!" Jim Sears says with a tour guide's come-see enthusiasm. I stop, my feet stuck in six inches of fresh powder outside the Old Fort Collins power plant, but the contraption before us doesn't exactly inspire awe.