The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is the Department of Energy's green tech incubation lab, so perhaps it's no surprise that the research agency is attempting to lead America to greener pastures by example. The NREL just put the finishing touches on its new Research Support Facility (RSF) in Golden, Colo., -- the largest zero-energy office building in the nation -- hoping other developers will follow its lead.
With lackluster battery tech one of the biggest hurdles standing between existing energy economies and those of the green, renewable future, there's a lot of pressure on researchers to come up with the next big battery breakthrough. And pressure, it turns out, might be just the ticket. By exerting the kinds of super-high pressures found deep within the Earth on a unique compound, researchers at Washington State University's Pullman campus have created a novel new material with the capacity to store huge amounts of mechanical energy as potential chemical power.
Need a weekend project around the house? Mark Suppes, web developer by day, has built his own nuclear fusion reactor in a Brooklyn workspace. It kind of makes that project car you’ve got rusting in the garage seem lame by comparison.
It's been a big week for bacteria. Last week, a Canadian geo-scientist proposed using carbon-eating, methane-excreting microbes to turn crude into cleaner natural gas while still in the well. Now, researchers have found similar bacteria rapidly turning a CO2-filled coal mine into a veritable methane factory, blending CO2 and hydrogen atoms in the coal into natural gas, sans environmentally harmful mining.
In recent years, the U.S. military has been making small strides toward a greener energy standard – the Navy wants to create a green strike group by 2012, while the Air Force has been testing biofuels in its aircraft. But for troops on the ground relying increasingly on electronic devices, solar is the way forward. With that in mind, DARPA has assembled an industry-academic team of photovoltaic leaders to create the next generation of battle-ready solar cells that achieve 20 percent conversion while standing up to harsh combat conditions.
If you’re an ocean-transiting container ship, friction is a drag. The bigger your load, the more energy it takes to propel you through the water, and that means increased fuel costs and increased emissions. But by mimicking the hydrophobic characteristics of the water fern, researchers at the University of Bonn think they can create container ships that move faster – and more efficiently – from port to port.
It's abundantly clear that we need to get off fossil fuels for various reasons (try Googling "oil spill"), but our infrastructures are far better tuned for the hydrocarbon fuels of the past century than the renewables of the next. So why don't we just make fuels that work in our existing technology from renewable energy?
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it can be difficult and costly to get at the raw gaseous stuff, at least in the kind of commercial volumes that could sustainably fuel a hydrogen economy. But researchers at the DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have made a substantial leap toward a hydrogen-based future by devising a cheap, metal catalyst that can split hydrogen gas from water.
America may have taken her first steps in what is sure to be a long, incremental, and sometimes painful shift toward a large-scale clean energy future. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar finally approved the Cape Wind project today, allowing for the construction of 130 turbines at Horseshoe Shoal south of Cape Cod.
The project will be the first major offshore wind project backed by the federal government, and if successful it might not be the last. Salazar said today that Cape Wind is only the first of many wind projects that will dot the Atlantic coast, piping carbon-free electricity back to shore for use in public power grids.