German / Euro Green Dogma vs Cold Green (eyeshades, cash) Reality

At PhysOrg.com:German energy giants pull plug on conventional power
by Mathilde Richter20130818-201745.jpg

Lightning fills the sky above a wind farm near Jacobsdorf, eastern Germany in May 2013. With political clout firmly behind renewables, priority is given in the national power grid to so-called “clean” electricity.

Technology Review-high Frequency Soft Switching inverters could be a breakthrough enabler of small and mid scale Solar PV

Novel Electronics Could Speed Adoption of Solar Power – Technology Review.

Not a new technology but if these guys can bring it to market at a significantly lower total cost of ownership number they are going to ignite the market.

Biggest issue with SftSwt has always been complexity and consequent reliability issues.  If these guys have reduced the parts and interconnect count (in other words integrated the controls and sensors)they are on the right path.

Charge Your Phone (and Your Car) from Afar

Charge Your Phone (and Your Car) from Afar – Technology Review.

This has been coming for some time but as the tag line says at the end, “…It’s going to catch on superfast…”  This may well be the technology that electric cars were looking for. Think about it coils at stop signs and stop lights, etc, or even in charging lanes.  With the technology of the battery and electric propulsion at its current level this should make the electric car a reasonable investment.  The problem is the deployment, investment, but spread out over time and geography and with the expectation that you’re going to have diesel, gas and LNG vehicles around for a long time I think you can see a realistic road to electric nirvanah.

A few chemicals and a microwave and see what you get

Zapping raw materials in a microwave oven and drying the resulting solution produces a black powder (top) made of hexagonal bismuth telluride nanoplates (bottom).

High-efficiency thermoelectric materials could lead to new types of cooling systems, and new ways to scavenge waste heat for electricity. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, have now developed an easy, inexpensive process to make such materials.

The materials made by the RPI team already perform as well as those on the market, and the new process, which involves zapping chemicals in a microwave oven, offers room for improvement. “We haven’t even optimized the process yet,” says Ganpati Ramanath, a materials science and engineering professor at RPI. “We’re confident that we can increase the efficiency further.”

What caught my eye here is that the material is a form of nano particulate, its produced in an evidently very simple process and it has a very high efficiency.  This type of technology as the article notes could have a great number of applications.  In a car one could conceive of replacing the mechanically driven alternator with something like this or supplementing it, this would essentially be using waste heat to provide electricity and would increase gas mileage.  There are many other places where heat scavenging would make sense and have an impact if the materials and system were cheap enough.  This goes back to a fundamental issue, energy efficiency costs money and if the cost of burning a tiny fraction more fuel over the life of the system (which can add up to biggish $) is less than the energy scavenging equipment then the equipment will not be installed unless the added cost is passed on to someone. 

 

Algae to the rescue

Green tea: Joule Energy's SolarConverter turns carbon dioxide and sunlight into ethanol fuel at a pilot plant in Leander, Texas.

 Technology Review| Photosynthesis Fuel Company Gets a Large Investment:  Joule Unlimited will build a production plant for turning sunlight and CO2 into liquid fuels.

The company is combining many technologies to move to direct creation of biofuel precursor liquids.  The algae is similar to that others are experimenting with but excrete the molecules into the water instead of retaining inside the cells.  This way the harvesting ‘only’ entails fractionating the liquid from the flow.  The bioreactors are essentially double panel windows with the algae filled liquid flowing inside.  The water gets CO2 from a power plant which scrubs it out of the plant effluents and one guesses that in cooler climates the water could be warmed in the cooling cycle of the same power plant so the system could operate year round.

The company calculates that their system can produce a great deal more, more easily refined biofuel precursor liquids than the alternates. Which mostly involve growing various kinds of plants and then converting them to biofuels in either chemical or bio reactors.