Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

Every day is Earth Day.


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  • Weekend Video: Happy Birthday Solar Cell
  • Weekend Video: Offshore Wind As A Hurricane A Wall
  • Weekend Video: Get On The Climate Policy Train

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 5 (continued from yesterday)


  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 1
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 2
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 3
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 4

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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge


    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here ( Thanks.


    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns


    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart



    Your intrepid reporter


      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.


    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Thursday, September 11, 2008


    USA Today profiled 4 cutting-edge New Energy concepts currently getting attention from a lot of the venture capitalists scouting the field for the new new thing.

    The ideas: (1) Fast printing of thin-film solar panels; (2) Turning biomass into E-coal, a dense solid coal substitute; (3) Algae-derived ethanol; (4) Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)

    Nanosolar’s is one of many mass production techniques being tested in the thin-film marketplace and there is no certainty it is THE technique. One will certainly emerge.

    The NewEarth E-coal concept definitely beats coal. But just because chemotherapy and radiation therapy beat death don’t make them things anybody would volunteer for except under the direst of circumstances. There are limits on capacity potential and cost effectiveness but it is has short term applicability.

    Algenol’s algae-derived ethanol is interesting but the real value of algae is as a source of high-density liquid energy. Algae can be refined into anything petroleum can be refined into, which makes them potentially invaluable as heavy vehicle and jet biofuels and as plastics feedstocks. Current massive U.S. subsidies for ethanol might make the Algenol concept a potentially good short term bet. The long term future of personal transportation is electric vehicles.

    PSEG Global’s Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) might be really useful
    (see COMPRESSED AIR ENERGY STORAGE – FURTHER ON) but it reinforces the idea that wind energy needs storage to be workable whereas the truth is that the Department of Energy recently affirmed wind is capable of providing 20% of U.S. electricity without ANY storage capacity. Wind is predictable and when there is enough built and grid-connected, power from where the wind is blowing can readily be moved to where the winds have calmed.

    Schematic of an Algenol plant. (click to enlarge)

    Energy Innovators: 4 creative solutions to energy problems
    Paul Davidson, September 8, 2008 (USA Today)

    Nanosolar; NewEarth Renewable Energy; Algenol (Paul Woods, CEO) ; BioFields; PSEG Global (Stephen Byrd, president)

    4 new Energy technologies selected for the promise they show: (1) Fast printing of thin-film solar panels; (2) Turning biomass into E-coal, a dense solid coal substitute; (3) Algae-derived ethanol; (4) Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)

    Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) - dispatchable wind energy. (click to enlarge)

    - 2007: The wind and solar industries each grew 45%.
    - June 2008: The U.S. consumed 633,000 barrels of ethanol/day, 43% higher than June 2007.
    - First 6 months of 2008: Venture capital investments in New Energy was $980 million, - 92% more than the investment in the first 6 months of 2007.
    - 2010 or after: Solar energy expected to be cost competitive.
    - Cellulosic ethanol is several years away.
    - Algenol expects to make ethanol from algae in 2009 and generate 20 billion gallons of ethanol by 2020.
    - CAES would store wind energy as compressed air during off-peak hours and release it at peak periods to run turbines and generate electricity.
    - 1991: The only U.S. compressed-air generator was built.

    - Nanosolar is based in Northern California.
    - Nanosolar opened a factory in San Jose in December 2007.
    - NewEarth Renewable Energy is based in Seattle.
    - Algenol is based in Maryland.
    - BioFields will use Algenol technology in a saltwater algae farm in Mexico's Sonoran Desert.
    - Algenol wants to build 20 plants in sunny areas such as Texas and Florida.

    (1) Most thin-film makers cut costs by reducing the amount of silicon they use but it is still expensive to attach the silicon onto a base. The Nanosolar technique embeds tiny silicon particles in ink and coats a layer of ink on mile-long rolls of aluminum foil that is then cut into solar panels. It turns out panels at 100 feet/minute, 20 times faster than present processes at 1/10 the cost. Nanosolar opened a factory in December 2007 with a 430-megawatts/year capacity, comparable to an average coal-fired power plant. It will make huge solar panels for cities and other utility-scale users this year and target businesses and homes next year.
    (2) NewEarth Renewable Energy’s E-Coal is biomass made from plants and organic waste. It is a substitute for coal but gives off only the greenhouse gas emissions it absorbs by growing. It usually yields only 1/3 to ½ coal's energy but NewEarth boosts its energy content by burning it in an oxygen-deprived chamber at 250 degrees to a condensed solid.
    NewEarth has also made the process cost-efficient by using Nile reed. The process does not require coal plants to be upgraded and costs 5% to 40% less than regular coal. It will be blended with coal initially but can eventually replace coal.
    (3) Corn-based ethanol is a lost cause. Algae, mostly used as biodiesel, can also be made into ethanol. BioFields will use Algenol technology in an $850 million saltwater algae farm in Mexico's Sonoran Desert and make 100 million gallons of ethanol/year as a gas substitute for Mexico's state-run oil monopoly. Algae are made into biodiesel by killing them to extracting their oil. Algenol adds enzymes and sunlight to enhance their ability to convert sugar into ethanol. It grows the algae in 50-foot long tubes filled with seawater. Ethanol is captured as a gas and condensed into liquid. The algae aren't destroyed and keep producing ethanol. The cost is half of corn ethanol’s. It will wholesale for $1 less than gasoline. An NREL scientist calls it "definitely doable" but points out algae-ethanol does not have the high energy content of other oils.
    (4) Batteries can compensate for wind’s intermittency but are expensive. CAES uses wind power during low demand periods to compress air into underground caverns or above-ground tanks and then releases the air at peak demand periods to run turbines and generate power. The newest system, 25% less costly than previous prototypes because it uses off the shelf parts, is half the price of batteries. It also generate electricity in 5 minutes instead of the 20 minutes required by current prototypes. It is designed to supplement intermittent wind or solar power by storing low cost, off peak power and supplementing the grid at times of high demand. Success depends on finding and using cheap, efficient storage containers.

    click to enlarge

    - Martin Roscheisen, CEO, Nanosolar: "It's all about higher throughput [to cut costs]…"
    - Paul Maycock, consultant, Photovoltaic Energy Systems: "[Nanosolar's systems] could be one of the more exciting products [in solar energy history]…"
    - Ahava Amen, CEO, NewEarth: "We can produce (clean) fuels that are pound-for-pound replacements for coal…"
    - Paul Woods, CEO, Algenol: "We don't have any limitations, because we're not competing with the food supply,"
    - Stephen Byrd, president, PSEG Global: "[CAES] really is likely to further enable the growth of renewable[s]…"


    At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Next Generation Ethanol - Just Add Water

    The main problem with ethanol is that the majority of engines on the road today are not designed for it. One exception is the Saab 9-5 Biopower engine, which IS optimized for ethanol. It outperforms gasoline, getting 20% more power, 16% greater torque, and 10% better mileage. The Lotus Exige 265E “Flexi” gets 45 more horse power on E85 than it gets on gasoline. Within the next two years, Suzuki, Ford, GM and numerous other car makers will introduce engines which exploit the advantages of ethanol. for its higher octane, faster flame speed, lower burn temperature and less heat loss, and most importantly for its compatibility with water.

    Our system of blending 15% gasoline into ethanol is not necessary. Ethanol can be denatured without using gasoline. That was how politicians created an incentive for oil companies to distribute ethanol, by giving them a 51 cent per gallon tax credit to blend it with gasoline. Problem is, ethanol performs better when it’s mixed with water rather than gasoline. This is called hydrous ethanol.

    Nothing new. In the 1920's, the model A Ford cars and trucks ran on 165 proof ethanol, 17.5% water and 82.5% ethanol. Recently, a Pratt Community College engine testing team lead by instructor Greg Bacon, mixed 20% water with pure ethanol, and efficiency in the combustion chamber doubled. When the ethanol explodes, the water instantly turns into additional power in the form of steam and also provides hydrogen and oxygen inside the cylinder. Next year, Ford is introducing the EcoBoost engine, which may also have advanced ethanol technology that improves efficiency even more. Brazil has been using 4% hydrous ethanol for years. They laughed at us when we started mixing ethanol with gasoline.

    Phil Ratte, Mechanical Engineer, BME University of Minnesota said: “From 1981 to 1989, I worked with Herb Hansen, who had been an engineer on a WW II submarine, and a former captain of a nuclear submarine. We developed two prototype cars, a Ford Pinto Station Wagon and a Mitsubishi Sedan, that ran as well on 65 proof ethanol (2/3 water and 1/3 ethanol) as they did on unleaded regular gas.”

    So if we can dilute pure ethanol with 2/3 water and run our vehicles on it, why aren’t we doing that? Its coming. The State of Louisiana is now planning an experimental hydrous ethanol program that may also be replicated in other states. Dongfeng, a major Chinese auto maker is introducing a car this year, with a slightly modified fuel system, that runs on 65% ethanol and 35% water. They claim hydrogen is formed. Toyota also has a similar hydrous ethanol prototype that produces on board hydrogen.

    The BTU argument that ethanol is inferior to diesel and gasoline is not valid. Pure ethanol has higher octane, faster flame speed, lower burn temperature which translates into less heat loss, and most importantly, it mixes with water. With advanced engine technology, it can outperform gasoline 2 to 1 or better. Major automakers are scheduled to produce smaller, lighter, high compression, turbocharged ethanol optimized engines that are a lot more efficient than current gasoline and diesel engines. The fuel will be cheaper, cleaner and made in the USA.

    If you prefer an ethanol powered fuel cell, the Swift Direct Proton Fuel Cell developed by Purdue University’s Research Park in West Lafayette, Indiana is about $2,000, only 1/10 the price of a hydrogen fuel cell. No need to compress hydrogen into ultra high pressure hydrogen tanks, which increases the cost of the fuel and the vehicle. Put safe and friendly ethanol in your conventional liquid fuel tank. Maybe that’s why Toyota is building ethanol plants in Brazil, and GM is investing in ethanol development in the U. S. They must know something we don’t know about ethanol.

    You say Algenol's ethanol has no oil. Who cares? You can mix it with 2/3 water.


    At 6:49 PM, Blogger Prof.Hans-Jürgen Franke said...


    University of Hawai'i Professor Pengchen "Patrick" Fu developed an innovative technology, to produce high amounts of ethanol with modified cyanobacterias, as a new feedstock for ethanol, without entering in conflict with the food and feed-production .

    Fu has developed strains of cyanobacteria — one of the components of pond scum — that feed on atmospheric carbon dioxide, and produce ethanol as a waste product.

    He has done it both in his laboratory under fluorescent light and with sunlight on the roof of his building. Sunlight works better, he said.

    It has a lot of appeal and potential. Turning waste into something useful is a good thing. And the blue-green-algae needs only sun and wast- recycled from the sugar-cane-industry, to grow and to produce directly more and more ethanol. With this solution, the sugarcane-based ethanol-industry in Brazil and other tropical regions will get a second way, to produce more biocombustible for the worldmarket.

    The technique may need adjusting to increase how much ethanol it yields, but it may be a new technology-challenge in the near future.

    The process was patented by Fu and UH in January, but there's still plenty of work to do to bring it to a commercial level. The team of Fu foundet just the start-up LA WAHIE BIOTECH INC. with headquarter in Hawaii and branch-office in Brazil.


    Fu figures his team is two to three years from being able to build a full-scale
    ethanol plant, and they are looking for investors or industry-partners (jointventure).

    He is fine-tuning his research to find different strains of blue-green algae that will produce even more ethanol, and that are more tolerant of high levels of ethanol. The system permits, to "harvest" continuously ethanol – using a membrane-system- and to pump than the blue-green-algae-solution in the Photo-Bio-Reactor again.

    Fu started out in chemical engineering, and then began the study of biology. He has studied in China, Australia, Japan and the United States, and came to UH in 2002 after a stint as scientist for a private company in California.

    He is working also with NASA on the potential of cyanobacteria in future lunar and Mars colonization, and is also proceeding to take his ethanol technology into the marketplace. A business plan using his system, under the name La Wahie Biotech, won third place — and a $5,000 award — in the Business Plan Competition at UH's Shidler College of Business.
    Daniel Dean and Donavan Kealoha, both UH law and business students, are Fu's partners. So they are in the process of turning the business plan into an operating business.

    The production of ethanol for fuel is one of the nation's and the world's major initiatives, partly because its production takes as much carbon out of the atmosphere as it dumps into the atmosphere. That's different from fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which take stored carbon out of the ground and release it into the atmosphere, for a net increase in greenhouse gas.
    Most current and planned ethanol production methods depend on farming, and in the case of corn and sugar, take food crops and divert them into energy.

    Fu said crop-based ethanol production is slow and resource-costly. He decided to work with cyanobacteria, some of which convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into their own food and release oxygen as a waste product.

    Other scientists also are researching using cyanobacteria to make ethanol, using different strains, but Fu's technique is unique, he said. He inserted genetic material into one type of freshwater cyanobacterium, causing it to produce ethanol as its waste product. It works, and is an amazingly efficient system.

    The technology is fairly simple. It involves a photobioreactor, which is a
    fancy term for a clear glass or plastic container full of something alive, in which light promotes a biological reaction. Carbon dioxide gas is bubbled through the green mixture of water and cyanobacteria. The liquid is then passed through a specialized membrane that removes the
    ethanol, allowing the water, nutrients and cyanobacteria to return to the

    Solar energy drives the conversion of the carbon dioxide into ethanol. The partner of Prof. Fu in Brazil in the branch-office of La Wahie Biotech Inc. in Aracaju - Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke - is developing a low-cost photo-bio-reactor-system. Prof. Franke want´s soon creat a pilot-project with Prof. Fu in Brazil.

    The benefit over other techniques of producing ethanol is that this is simple and quick—taking days rather than the months required to grow crops that can be converted to ethanol.

    La Wahie Biotech Inc. believes it can be done for significantly less than the cost of gasoline and also less than the cost of ethanol produced through conventional methods.

    Also, this system is not a net producer of carbon dioxide: Carbon dioxide released into the environment when ethanol is burned has been withdrawn from the environment during ethanol production. To get the carbon dioxide it needs, the system could even pull the gas out of the emissions of power plants or other carbon dioxide producers. That would prevent carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere, where it has been implicated as a
    major cause of global warming.
    Honolulo – Hawaii/USA and Aracaju – Sergipe/Brasil - 15/09/2008

    Prof. Pengcheng Fu – E-Mail:
    Prof. Hans-Jürgen Franke – E-Mail:

    Telefon: 00-55-79-3243-2209


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