Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘The Environment’ Category

Colorado: A Leader in Cleantech

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Good stuff. Thanks Eric.

Renewable Energy World

 

 

 

Move Over Silicon Valley: Cleantech Companies Are Finding Their Home on the Range

Eric Drummond, Partner, Husch Blackwell LLP

February 11, 2014

Most people in the cleantech community recognize that Santa Clara Valley is a unique and beautiful place with world-class universities, piles of venture capital and an entrepreneurial history second to none, but recent trends indicate that cleantech companies are beginning to consider a new home base on Colorado’s Front Range.

[…]

So, what makes Colorado’s Front Range so unique and attractive? Many say that it’s a combination of a highly skilled workforce, and nationally competitive federal research centers and research universities, like the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab. Located 20 minutes west of Denver, NREL is the only federal research lab specifically dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. In addition, it employs more than 1600 full-time employees and works with nearly 750 visiting researchers, interns and contractors from across the globe.

[…]

Another Colorado asset is the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, a 501c3 non-profit corporation formed to accelerate the success of high-impact scientific and technology start-up companies. Most agree that it is essential for cutting-edge technology companies to have the right kind of business support to commercialize their technology and take that technology to scale, and that’s where the Innosphere comes in. The Innosphere is a unique institution that provides entrepreneurial start-up companies with resources such as specialized test and demonstration facilities at NREL, the Colorado State University Powerhouse and in a 30,000-square-foot LEED Platinum certified building with state-of-the-art wet lab  facilities, assistance with raising capital, access and connections with academic and leading government institutions, a network of experienced advisors, and professional and business development networking opportunities.

Read the entire article here.

Microgrids and Utilities: Will they innovate?

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Will microgrids play a major part in the future of energy, as this article contends? If so, will utilities innovate to take advantage of the flexibilty and other advantages microgrids offer?

Many pieces will need to fall in to place, and there will need to be a microgrids starting point.

Digital Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Feb. 14, 2014

The emergence of Microgrids for power generation could threaten the dominance of the age-old power distribution system in the U.S. Microgrids have evolved from simple power backup systems to small smart grids. The swift and cost effective installation of Micro grids could help distribute electricity among the masses. These rooftop solar systems meet the energy needs of the customers. In addition, the customers are allowed to sell excess power back to the utilities.

A report from American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that utilities need to spend $763 billion by 2040 to properly modernize and harden the existing grids against natural disasters. We believe that rather than going for a very costly maintenance, it will be economical to develop these Microgrids, which could lend support to the existing system.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1738880#ixzz2tpsdqryO

 

Read the entire article here.

Some Pros and Cons of Microgrids

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It’s a little surprising to me that the state of Connecticut is investing in microgrids, though I am happy to see it! I just heard that we lose 1% of GDP annually due to power outages, and not just major outages like those in Connecticut after Hurricane Sandy or in New Orleans after Katrina. Little bumps in power that happen day-to-day, even in grids as robust as in the urban U.S., are very costly to manufacturing, data centers, and other businesses.

Microgrids are able to stand alone in supplying power to a community, business or university campus, military base, island, hospital, etc. Often they are still tied into the grid, but want the back up supply in the case of a power interruption, whether momentary or lasting several days.

The most interest right now comes from islands that would like to add renewables to their grids, saving money over costly diesel generation, while also decreasing air pollution and GHG emissions. The US military is another early adopter, both at domestic bases so that they can operate in the case of an attack or a natural disaster, and at bases abroad where bringing in fuel costs money as well as way too many American lives. Convoys carrying fuel, food, and other supplies are common targets for attack.

The four main advantages for microgrids that I see, is that when they are designed and located properly, they are more reliable, less expensive, cleaner, and more receptive to innovation than current, traditional electricity grids, whether large or small.

A huge challenge for integrating newer energy resources is that our current grid infrastructure is so big that we simply cannot change it, both due to technical difficulties and because of the cost of changing out such large systems. In addition to being smaller, microgrids are designed to integrate multiple sources of energy. With the number of emerging technologies in energy today, this adaptability is yet another huge benefit of microgrids.

Forbes

 

 

 

 

 

David Ferris, Contributor

7/31/2013 @ 8:30AM |3,734 views

Microgrids: Very Expensive, Seriously Necessary

The state of Connecticut announced last week that it would build nine “microgrids” to deliver more reliable power, including at the police station in Bridgeport, the naval submarine base in Groton, the St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, and the campus of Wesleyan University. The cost to taxpayers: $18 million.

Some readers might say: $18 million? For, what, some backup generators? And what is a microgrid anyway?

It is no coincidence that Connecticut is pushing the envelope of power innovation. Last October, Hurricane Sandy knocked power out to 625,000 homes and businesses, revealing how inadequate the the power system is in the face of superstorms.  “Today marks another step forward for how we handle extreme weather,” said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.

Read the entire article here.

A Recipe for Brazil’s Resurgence

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The four years I was privileged to live in Brazil, from 2002 until 2006, were a pivotal time in the country’s success. The groundwork may have been laid by Pres. Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the 1990’s (I had the pleasure of meeting him when he came to speak at the school where I was teaching), but it was during Lula’s first term (2003-’07) that the country took off. While doing my PhD research on Brazilian sugarcane ethanol production (2006-2010) there was still abundant optimism both inside and outside Brazil for the country’s economic and political future.

While it has since plateaued, the article below provides a three-point recipe for its resurgence:

1. Reform the tax code and public spending. Make taxes less burdensome and more transparent, and direct public funds toward infrastructure instead of bloated entitlements.

2. Open the economy and integrate with the rest of the world.

3. Reform the political system to diminish corruption and pork barrel spending.

In my (admittedly limited) experience, these are bang on. A colleague and I earned roughly the same salary, but he paid 40% less in taxes than I did, and no one, including experienced Brazilian accountants, could explain why. The vestiges of import substitution policies from the 1980’s have continued to hold the country back. And the politics are so dirty that one prominent politician, Paulo Maluf, continues to serve in their congress even while he is wanted by Interpol. His name has been turned into a verb, malufar, which means to steal.

Brazil is a great country populated by wonderful people, and I am grateful to have lived and worked among them. Like many countries, including mine, it needs reform.

Economist_logo

 

 

Brazil’s future

Has Brazil blown it?

A stagnant economy, a bloated state and mass protests mean Dilma Rousseff must change course

FOUR years ago this newspaper put on its cover a picture of the statue of Christ the Redeemer ascending like a rocket from Rio de Janeiro’s Corcovado mountain, under the rubric “Brazil takes off”. The economy, having stabilised under Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the mid-1990s, accelerated under Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the early 2000s. It barely stumbled after the Lehman collapse in 2008 and in 2010 grew by 7.5%, its strongest performance in a quarter-century. To add to the magic, Brazil was awarded both next year’s football World Cup and the summer 2016 Olympics. On the strength of all that, Lula persuaded voters in the same year to choose as president his technocratic protégée, Dilma Rousseff.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

October 4th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Amory Lovins’ Three Energy Trends to Watch

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Energy efficiency tops Lovins’ list of energy trends to watch, particularly automobile efficiency, which is excellent news. Efficiency is sometimes overlooked because it’s not as sexy as new energy technologies, but in my mind it’s the most important aspect of our energy future. Saving energy means saving money, which should make it an easy sell, as well as resources. Even if we increase renewable energy, those technologies still require resources in one form or another, so decreasing energy use is a more effective way to ensure the availability of essential resources for future generations.

His claim that the steepest increases in efficiency will be in automobiles is especially encouraging due to the resulting decrease in imported petroleum. There is often an odd connection made between renewables such as wind and solar, or even domestic natural gas, and decreased petroleum imports, but this is a fallacy. We use petroleum for less than 1% of our electricity generation (Yergin, 2012). The only ways to decrease petroleum imports are to decrease vehicle miles driven, increase vehicle efficiency, or power automobiles with something other than petroleum, a trend that is increasing, but so far still negligible.

His third point, on increasing distributed energy, is also important, and one I’ve written about before on this site. Moving away from large, centralized power plants to smaller units in neighborhoods, at large office parks, and other locations, provides two big benefits, among others. First, it can greatly increase efficiency as electricity travels far shorter distances, spending less time in transmission lines, meaning more of it arrives where it’s used, as opposed to dissipating in those lines. Smaller plants can also adapt much more quickly to changing energy technologies. Centralized plants that are 50 years old are difficult to modify, and too expensive to scrap to accommodate more renewables or different electricity feedstocks.

Amory-4

 

Though Lovins’ hardline conservationist stance is sometimes controversial, from his “Soft Energy Paths” in 1976, through his work with Rocky Mountain Institute, right up to today and this recent article, he’s been an important voice in the energy conversation.

 

Amory’s Angle: Three Major Energy Trends to Watch

By Amory B. Lovins

Popular media and political chatter are abuzz with a cacophony of energy news and opinion. Amid the chaos, some orderly strands can be discerned. Here are three themes that merit attention:

EFFICIENCY IS ACCELERATING

Government forecasts predict U.S. energy intensity (primary energy used per dollar of real GDP) will continue to decline roughly two percent annually through 2040, but that the drop will be steepest in automobiles.

Read the entire article here.

New Study Finds that Fracking is Safe

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I agree wholeheartedly that it is entirely possible to conduct fracking safely, but also think the scientist from Duke makes a very important point:

‘This is good news,” said Duke University scientist Rob Jackson, who was not involved with the study. He called it a “useful and important approach” to monitoring fracking, but cautioned that the single study doesn’t prove that fracking can’t pollute, since geology and industry practices vary widely in Pennsylvania and across the nation.’

There’s no doubt that hydraulic fracturing can be and generally is done without harming water supplies. The problem is that, as we continue to demand the lowest possible prices for electricity, there is considerable incentive for some, less scrupulous companies to cut corners in their safety and compliance efforts. I am not a proponent of larger government that stifles the free market, but believe there is a place for simple, transparent regulation that ensures future generations have clean water, air, and other natural resources. Citizens must also remain vigilant to keep companies honest, and an effective media is also essential to provide accurate, objective information to keep everyone honest.

Study finds fracking chemicals didn’t pollute water: AP

July 19, 2013, 5:41 AM

A Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, Pa. in April 2012

A Consol Energy Horizontal Gas Drilling Rig explores the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg, Pa. in April 2012.

 

PITTSBURGH A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.

After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.

Read the entire article here.

EPA Proposes Increased Bureaucracy

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Is this proposed legislation going to improve working conditions or environmental impact at sugarcane and ethanol production facilities, or is it just more paperwork? I’ve written extensively on this site and in my doctoral dissertation about these issues, as well double fuel pumpsas related policies, but it’s not clear the intent of the proposed legislation. Whatever it is, demand for imported ethanol has taken various swings over the last few years, not due to natural factors, but due to the EPA’s decisions.

When the US EPA allowed Brazilian sugarcane ethanol to meet the “advanced biofuels” requirement in 2010, it certified, according to their analysis, that cane ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50% (61%) over traditional, petroleum gasoline. This comes after much debate regarding the actual GHG emissions from sugarcane, corn, and cellulosic ethanol.

When the EPA made their decision on this debate, it significantly increased demand for Brazilian cane ethanol as US refiners worked to meet the advanced biofuel mandate. The EPA, however, lowered the volume on this mandate due to lagging development of domestic, cellulosic ethanol that would also satisfy the advanced mandate.

Now, according to the article below, that increased demand could be dampened, and the number of producers reduced to only the largest players, as meeting the new reporting requirements increases transactions costs. Policy fluctuations like these have made it very difficult for investors in Brazil since the prices they earn for their product are not subject to natural factors of supply and demand, but due to the whims of bureaucrats in Washington.

Reuters

 

 

 

By Cezary Podkul

NEW YORK, July 12 | Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:13pm BST

 

(Reuters) – Importing cheap Brazilian ethanol into the United States could become much less profitable next year if a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to expand tough documentation and transportation rules to non-U.S. producers takes effect.

The proposal, made on June 14, could seriously disrupt a signature Latin American energy trade, triggering auditing, documentation and transportation requirements, including physically separating U.S. ethanol imports from each other until those requirements are met.

Read the entire article here.

 

 

Ethanol Mills in the Amazon?

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It’s true that ethanol mills have the potential to protect forests, particularly in the Amazon region where cane producers are required by law to leave 75-80% of each plot of land forested. The question is whether or not these laws will be observed and enforced.

The Brazilian Forest Code mandates that agricultural producers do not plant crops on 75% of their land, and also leave riparian corridors and other sensitive areas fallow. These laws have traditionally not been enforced, however, as they risk causing production costs to rise, making Brazilian agricultural products uncompetitive.

Yes, ethanol production in the Amazon can create jobs, protect forests, and reduce petroleum consumption, all while localizing energy production for people who would use the fuel there in the Amazon where the cane is grown and the ethanol is milled. It will take vigilance by Brazilian citizens and media to ensure these laws are followed if this expansion of cane and ethanol production is to occur.

Reuters

Brazil Bill Seeks to Open Amazon to New Ethanol Mills

Tue, Jun 04 13:01 PM EDT

* Investors say ethanol production in Amazon economically viable

* Environmentalists fear pressure on land use

By Reese Ewing

SAO PAULO, June 4 (Reuters) – Brazil plans to vote on a bill in the coming weeks to reopen large areas of the Amazon to sugar cane mills, rekindling fears that ethanol production could accelerate deforestation and create a major marketing challenge for the country’s biofuels industry.

Environmentalists are concerned Congress’ vote could overturn a ban on cane expansion in the region that went into place in 2009 and increase pressure on land use in areas that amount to nearly a third of the broader Amazon region in Brazil.

Meanwhile, the expansion into the environmentally sensitive areas could hurt ethanol producers’ plans to open new export markets, economists say.

Read the entire article here.

Study to Compare Impacts of Diesel and Biodiesel Emissionson on Human Health

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The impacts of ethanol fuel use on air quality in Brazil have been studied without conclusive results, so the results of this study comparing emissions from diesel fuel and biodiesel will be interesting. Other researchers have found that the burning of sugarcane prior to harvest has had adverse effects on human health, but the effect of gasoline combustion versus ethanol combustion remain largely undetermined, so studying the combustion in mines, a much more closed environment, should yield interesting results. Stay tuned…

U of A Wins ‘Underground’ Biodiesel Grant

Posted by – October 18th, 2012

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health awarded a $1.4 million grant to the University of Arizona‘s Mel and Enid Zumerman College of Public Health along with the department of mining and geological engineering. The three-year project will compare exposure and health effects of miners using diesel versus biodiesel fueled underground mining equipment. During the past few years, miners have shifted to the use of biodiesel-blend fuels in an effort to reduce exposure to particulates from engine exhaust.

Continue reading this story here.

Written by Jason

October 20th, 2012 at 8:25 am

Agricultural Policy Matters to Eaters and Energy Users as much as to Farmers

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Food and energy are increasingly intertwined. As energy is fundamental to food production, processing, and distribution, and because agricultural crops are used for biofuels feedstocks, the interconnections and impacts can become dizzyingly complex. Localizing both food and energy production can, in many instances, increase the efficiency, the quality, and the ecological cleanliness of these two essential production systems.

This is not to say I will give up the coffee that comes from Latin America, and it is often more efficient to eat tomatoes trucked from Mexico than to grow them in greenhouses further north, but there is much we can do to decrease energy inputs to the food system, and we can do it without making significant sacrifices.

By MICHAEL POLLAN
Published October 10, 2012

One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.

Continue reading this article here.

Written by Jason

October 11th, 2012 at 5:42 am