Archive for the ‘energy independence’ Tag

Tesla, Toyota to build electric cars at Fremont, CA NUMMI plant

Tesla, Toyota to build electric cars at NUMMI plant

“Stunning” says it all.

In a stunning deal, Tesla Motors announced late Thursday that it is teaming up with Toyota to build its all-electric Model S sedan at the recently shuttered NUMMI plant in Fremont, creating more than 1,000 new jobs.

This is exactly the kind of partnership I was hoping one of the Big Three would do with Tesla.

Tesla will use the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant to begin production of the Model S, a sedan that can seat five adults and two children and has a range of 300 miles. Once it reaches full production at the NUMMI plant, Tesla expects to produce 20,000 electric vehicles each year, which will sell for $50,000.

But the Model S would occupy only a small part of the NUMMI plant, leaving room for Tesla and Toyota to manufacture other models of electric cars there.

“Long term, we think we could create 10,000 jobs, half from Tesla and half from our suppliers,” [Tesla CEO Elon] Musk said.

(via San Jose Mercury News)

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Will Politics Slow the Wind?: Scientific American

A very thought-provoking article in Scientific American walks through some of the growing pains facing the wind industry (Will Politics Slow the Wind?).

Not many years ago, there wasn’t enough wind power coming from the Great Plains to worry about. Now there is, and lots of people are worrying.

A group of mostly East Coast utility companies calling itself the Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy fears that the prime conditions in the Great Plains will make the region’s wind power too cheap for its members to compete with, unless developers there are made to pay the costs of moving wind power eastward.

The article also touches on the backlash generated when a windfarm in Texas announced it would be using stimulus funding to buy turbines manufactured in China.

For years, the knock on wind energy was that it was too expensive, too unreliable, and too far away to be of any practical use. Two of those reasons are gone, and the grid upgrades needed to deliver wind energy will solve a problem that has needed attention for too long.

Solar panel breakthrough would drive down costs

This sounds promising – a new method of manufacturing solar panels that runs faster, uses less material, and can set up continuous manufacturing process. Those three things combined should dramatically lower the cost of solar panels – one of the big stumbling blocks to greater adoption of solar energy.

The two wild-eyed visionaries behind this development are Robert Stemple, former chaiman of General Motors, and Stanford Avshinsky.

From the Oakland (MI) Press:

After nearly two years of work, they [Stempel and Ovshinsky] are finally ready to go public with a process that will make solar panels less expensive and easier to manufacture by using the thin, amorphous materials on which Ovshinsky has worked since the 1960s…

The key to the new process is that it uses less material. It’s also faster and can run 24/7, helping drive down the cost of the finished product.

via Executives team up, plan to build cheaper solar cells in Oakland County – The Oakland Press Business: The best place for news in and around Oakland County.

Stan Avshinsky is a certified genius. Chances are, you are reading this courtesy of one of his inventions, the LCD screen. He’s spent much of the last fifty years researching practical alternatives to fossil fuels. Among his more than 400 patents are discoveries which resulted in the development of nickel-metal hydride batteries (no longer used in laptop computers, but still important for hybrid cars), and thin-panel photovoltaics for use in solar panels. (Oh, and he’s self-taught. An amazing man, and a wonderful story. Someone should make a movie.)

Wouldn’t it be great if someone at First Solar, just down I-75, were to set up a prototype manufacturing facility under Mr. Avshinky’s direction?

Bring more jobs to Ohio the goal of solar energy tour

More news on renewable energy from Ohio:

DAYTON — The hope that new manufacturing jobs follow a broadening base of renewable energy sources is the message of this weekend’s Ohio Solar Tour throughout 91 communities, including Dayton.

via Bring more jobs to Ohio the goal of solar energy tour | Dayton Daily News.

The Ohio Solar Tour is being organized by the good folks at Green Energy Ohio – the same outfit that got the Lake Erie Wind project rolling. More on that in a bit.

For me, the really exciting news comes at the end of the piece, detailing some of the larger wind, solar, and biomass projects underway:

Biomass:

On Friday, Oct. 2, Cherokee Run Landfill in Logan County will host a community open house for its new 4.8 megawatt landfill gas project. The landfill consists in part of trash from the Dayton area.

The new facility will generate enough power for 2,800 homes, according to developers DTE Biomass Energy and Shaw Environmental Inc.

Solar:

What will be one of the larger solar energy fields in the eastern United States will be built on 83 acres outside Upper Sandusky in Wyandot County.

Construction begins in November on the project that will use more than 165,000 panels built by First Solar Inc., which has a manufacturing plant in Perrysburg. It should be completed in summer 2010 and be able to power about 1,500 homes.

Wind:

A major project that could dot Champaign County’s landscape with wind turbines is moving forward, with public hearings on the proposed sites set for late October. It would include building more than 70 wind turbines across six townships in Champaign County where Ohio’s highest elevations are located.

Exxon Invests in Biofuel from Algae Production

Whether its “conventional” sources or renewable, energy is energy, and there is money to be made.

What does Exxon investment mean for algae biofuels?

By Callum James

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) have recently announced that ExxonMobil are set to invest as much as $600 million in biofuel production technology, specifically biofuel produced from algae. Exxon seem to be following the lead of many other much smaller energy companies who have been researching algae as a source of biofuel for some time.

However Exxon are not doing this on their own, they will work alongside Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI). Together they have formed a research and development partnership focused on exploring the production of biofuels from photosynthetic algae. EERE plan on using photosynthetic algae, such as single-celled “microalgae” and blue-green algae, harnessing their ability to use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into cellular oils along with some long-chain hydrocarbons that can be processed into fuels and chemicals.

via Biofuel from algae (via ngoilgas.com).

The are two main advantages of algae-based biofuel.

  • Algae-based biofuel could be converted into a renewable replacement for gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel, without requiring major vehicle retrofitting. The flexibility to refine multiple fuels from a single source is also attractive.
  • Yield from algae production dwarfs that of even the most robust crop-based biofuels on a per-acre basis – more than three times as great as current crops can produce.

I applaud this move. The current actors in the energy markets are extremely well-positioned for this new development. The trading, distribution, and regulatory systems are already in place, no “perfect storm” of events has to fall into place (as was true of the Pickens Plan). No disruption of consumers’ patterns of consumption or lifestyles is required to transition to these new fuels.

Better living through chemistry – the 21st century version.

LakewoodAlive to host forum on wind energy feasibility in Lake Erie – cleveland.com

From the Sun News (Cleveland):

Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force members will discuss the possibility of wind energy in Lake Erie at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at Harding Middle School, 16601 Madison Ave in Lakewood.

The results of the initial feasibilty study were made public in May (see Wind power initiative on Lake Erie passes feasibility test). Estimates for the next stage of the demonstration project – deployment of turbines in a pilot project – range from $77 million to $93 million.

Hello world!

Some explanation about myself: I am not usually this serious, but I take energy independence really seriously. So I am going to try really really hard to be serious on this blog. My goofy side is on display enough places anyway.

Anyway: about me. I’m concerned about the environment, but don’t consider myself an environmentalist – and definitely not a tree-hugger.

I’m concerned about the possibility of global warming, but I don’t know enough to say either “We need to act NOW” or “It’s all a lot of hand-waving.” Kind of the same way I feel about UFOs – I know enough to say I don’t know.

The T. Boone Pickens plan to replace the fuel for our vehicles with natural gas (hopefully, produced domestically) and replace natural-gas-powered power plants with renewable (specifically wind) energy strikes me as bold, visionary, and incomplete. More on that later. To sum up: it’s a good place to start a discussion about national energy policy.

I am encouraged by the effort underway by elected offficials in Cuyahoga County to assess the feasibility of
commercial-scale wind generation in Lake Erie, but concerned that they’re missing the larger picture. More on that later, too. To sum up: should county government be trying to pick the winner in the renewable energy lottery, and is the goal to lessen dependence on coal-fired plants for generation or to reinvigorate NE Ohio’s manufacturing sector? Those goals aren’t entirely compatible.

Anyway, here’s my point: reasonable people can disagree, hopefully without being disagreeable. If climate change is real, if energy independence deserves to be a national priority, if refocusing national energy policy on renewables is a sound strategy for economic growth or environmental protection or both then Americans ought to be able to find some consensus on  those issues. Note that I said “consensus,” not “agreement.”

So here we go!