Information and stories on Energy and Electricity

bacteria1_opt
In a concerted effort to find a realistic solution to the energy independence problem plaguing the globe, huge amounts of research funding have been invested towards finding alternative forms of energy. Of several promising methods put forward thus far, none have had the potential both for energy independence and sustainability than that of butanol production through bacteria.

Swedish researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm recently conducted a study that utilized genetically modified bacteria to produce butanol, a hydrocarbon that could be utilized as an effective fossil fuel. The bacterium – known as Cyanobacteria – was altered using DNA recombination technology to change its metabolic properties to produce butanol instead of its usual algae dependent byproduct. Furthermore, once various environmental challenges are worked out, industrial production of the bacterium produced fuel is expected to commence in less than a decade. In regards to the energy independence gleaned from such a process, a researcher remarked that, “Fuel based on Cyanobacteria requires very little ground space to be prepared. And the availability of raw materials- sunlight, carbon dioxide, and sea water- is in principle infinite.”

This exciting new frontier in genetically engineered bacteria has almost universal applications, and can be harnessed to produce an important alternative to the energy intensive ethanol fuel production. This is great news for the future of energy independence both at home and abroad, and shows how much quantitative results can be gleaned from greater scientific funding.

Brian Turner

Source Science Daily
Photo Scienceray.com

Geothermal Plant In Iceland
Nearly 40 countries have met their energy needs through utilizing geothermal energy. The global potential for geothermal energy is very much untapped, with worldwide geothermal electricity capacity at only 11 gigawatts, or .3% of the total global power generation. To change this, the World Bank is implementing a Global Geothermal Development Plan to generate geothermal power for low- and middle income countries to deliver power to 1.3 billion around the world who are without it.

At the Iceland Geothermal Conference in Reykjavik on March 6, Sri Mulyani, World Bank Managing Director, spoke about the need for donations to support the Plan as well as the importance of geothermal energy for developing countries. “Geothermal energy could be a triple win for developing countries: clean, reliable, locally-produced power,” said Indrawati. “And once it is up and running, it is cheap and virtually endless.” She adds that previously geothermal energy work has been done at the national and regional levels and that what is needed now is “a global push.”

The World Bank’s plan will focus on exploratory test drilling which makes geothermal projects more capital intensive than other renewable sources due to expensive and sometimes fruitless drilling. Significant investment in these projects is needed before a site is deemed viable enough to provide considerable geothermal energy. The cost of testing the potential of a site to produce geothermal energy is US$15 to 25 million, an investment that is lost if the site proves not suitable. However, in countries with more dense populations, geothermal energy, which has the smallest land footprint per kilowatt hour, is an especially useful resource. The goal is to develop a pipeline of projects that are commercially-viable and ready for private investment.

25% of Iceland’s electrical power is generated by geothermal power plants and 95% of Iceland is heated by volcanic hot water. Currently, Iceland is potentially looking to sell and export the surplus energy the country produces. In collaboration with Iceland, the World Bank is working to assist surface exploration studies and technical assistance for some African countries. The Olkaria Geothermal Plant in Kenya has received long-term support from the World Bank. Only 16% of the Kenyan population has access to electricity. With an abundance of geothermal resources present in East Africa’s Rift Valley, the geothermal potential could provide 150 million households with power. The World Bank’s plan is to double geothermal generation to deliver close to 30% of Kenya’s electricity by 2020. Pierre Audinet, Clean Energy Program Team Leader at the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program calls it “a potentially transformative resource,” especially for many developing countries.

Throughout the developing world, there are untapped geothermal resources. Geothermal energy is a carbon-free access to electricity, is relatively clean, and delivers constant power. World Bank Group funding for geothermal developments has risen from $73 million in 2007 to $336 million in 2012. With the Global Geothermal Development Plan, the World Bank hopes to increase their support.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: World Bank

India_Solar_Energy_Poverty
A single NGO and India’s foremost energy research institute, Teri, has single-handedly provided solar-powered lights to over 500,000 homes throughout rural India.

No less than five years ago, much of rural India had no access to electricity, instead using kerosene lamps that were not only dangerous but also bad for the environment. These 400,000 people had no access to any form of electricity, and another 100,000 had only an inconsistent and unreliable connection.

In the last five years, Teri has provided these people with a much better alternative – solar-powered, LED lamps using solar panels and batteries.

As part of the Lighting One Billion Lives initiative, started in 2007, the NGO coordinates the distribution of lamps to some 2,000 villages, works with vendors and manufacturers to lower the price of lamps, trains personnel and provides tech support, and works with various other organizations to help run the charging stations. Each charging station provides around 50 solar-powered LED lamps that also double as phone chargers.

Teri has already seen a huge improvement in the cost and efficiency of the lamps. When started, the lamps costed around $100 each, however, the price is now down to $15-30 per lamp, and the battery life has tripled.

Teri, other NGOs, Bollywood stars, and individuals sponsor villages to provide the lanterns initially, after which a local villager becomes in charge of renting each lantern, for no more than the price of kerosene, on a daily basis.

The benefits of the program have been huge, including increased health benefits and cleaner air, more light for children to continue their schooling after dark, benefits for medical practices and shops, and entrepreneurship that villagers learn by manning the charging stations. At the current rate that Teri is coordinating villages to receive charging stations, soon almost every Indian village may have a clean, renewable light source.

Although India has been aiming to improve and increase its energy grid, the priority has been on cities and businesses, with rural villages not expected to receive electricity infrastructure for years, if at all.

Teri plans to expand their system of charging stations and LED solar lamps to various other countries including Afghanistan, Burma, Pakistan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Guardian

Pakistan_USAID_Power_Electricity
The first phase of construction on the Tarbela Hydel Power Station, located in Lahore, Pakistan, has been completed. The project, which is being financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), allowed the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) to add 128 megawatts of electricity to the station.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, visited the power station and was briefed by WAPDA Chairman Syed Raghib Shah. Shah said that the WAPDA appreciates the United States’ aid in updating Pakistan’s energy sector, and also stated that these upgrades will allow more consistent electricity to be provided to the people of Pakistan for a very affordable price.

Along with upgrading current power stations throughout Pakistan, WAPDA is also using funds from USAID to construct brand new power stations.

Ambassador Olson stated, “The United States understands that Pakistan is facing an energy crisis and we are committed to doing our part,” and also said that the recent upgrade at the Tarbela station will contribute enough power to provide electricity to 2 million people, and to ensure a consistent source of electricity to avoid blackouts and outages.

As part of a larger project, USAID is providing WAPDA with $16.5 million to repair three additional power stations and to train employees that will finish the Tarbela Hydel Power Station in Pakistan. Besides these three power plants, USAID is also funding additional hydropower projects throughout Pakistan – these efforts include the construction of two dams that will provide an extra 35 MW of power and irrigate 200,000 acres of land.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The News
Photo: Pakistan Today

Clean_Energy_Poverty_Environment
According to a new study, green energy is the only sustainable solution in eradicating poverty for a large number of the world’s poor and preventing “a climate disaster.”

The study, released by the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, warns that the widespread use of clean energy, as opposed to fossil fuels, is the only way to prevent further damage to the environment and to eradicate poverty throughout the world. The World Bank, International Energy Agency, and other major institutions have also given similar warnings.

The UN has implemented a program called the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All) that aims to “double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency” by 2013, double the amount of renewable energy used, and bring electricity to more of the world’s poor. Joeri Rogelj, who worked on the study, says that meeting these goals and also preventing widespread deforestation is the only way to prevent a climate crisis.

Rogelj’s study confirmed that the SE4All initiative’s funding would actually cost less than the current subsidies the fossil fuel industry is given, which are estimated to be about $523 billion in 2011 alone. Comparatively, the funding for SE4All is slated to be around $30 to $40 billion per year. The study also asserts that the conversion to clean energy would also aid in making the Millennium Development Goals of downsizing poverty and promoting international development.

Thus far, several countries are on track to switch much of their energy sources to renewables – Iceland uses 81% clean energy and Scotland has a mandated 100% clean energy by 2020. Denmark is also following suit to become 100% dependent on renewable energy in the near future.

The study concludes that “achieving the three SE4ALL objectives could put the world on a path toward global climate protection,” and that getting rid of fossil fuels would eliminate the health hazards associated with pollution in many developing countries and low-income communities, as 1.5 billion people worldwide still live without electricity.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Business Mirror

TED-conference-2013-alex-laskey

There were some great social-marketing lessons at TED conference 2013. Specifically, this was related to an energy conservation experiment but is widely applicable to anyone trying to create social change or tap into social behavior.

Alex Laskey is the president and founder of Opower, a company that partners with utility companies and the government, now even reaching into international markets, in pursuit of cutting energy, saving money and reducing carbon emissions. On February 27, at the TED conference, he spoke of the need to change people’s mindset in order to create change in behavior. He wants people to check their energy use just like they check their finances or emails.

In an experiment that Opower conducted, they tried to determine what would be the strongest motivational factor for getting people to reduce their energy use. They placed three different messages on the doors of various customers about why they should save energy:

– You can save $54 this month,
– You can save the planet, or
– You can be a good citizen

Which had the best results? None. No one message showed any significant difference in behavior. So Opower tried a fourth message:

– Your neighbors are doing better than you

This is the one that made a difference. People who read the message that 77 percent of their neighbors turned down their air conditioning, then also proceeded to turn down their AC. The power of peer-pressure should not be  understated. “We can be doing so much better,” says Laskey, “starting by tapping into the power of social behavior.”

– Mary Purcell

Source: TED.com

 

Geothermal_Energy_Ethiopia
In a new program, the World Bank is partnering with the Development Bank of Ethiopia to fund geothermal energy exploration in the country, which is extremely rich in geothermal resources that lay through the Great Rift Valley.

Up until recently, no geothermal energy projects have been pursued in the Ethiopia due to high costs and lack of funding, but the new project will fund an initial $20 million to ignite such projects, with an additional $20 million to be given down the road. The agreement states that the World Bank will pledge $200 million towards developing Ethiopia’s energy infrastructure.

This is not the first energy investment the World Bank has made in Ethiopia; they gave $40 million to the country’s private sector for renewable energy pursuits last year. Initial funds will be put towards exploratory drilling to determine the potential of geothermal projects, and once more information is available, the World Bank will start accepting proposals from organizations and investors interested in developing geothermal projects and power plants within Ethiopia.

Other such geothermal projects have already been in the works by the African Development Bank, with geothermal programs slated for Kenya, Tanzania, and Djibouti. Professor Paul Younger of Glasgow University asserts that the promise for geothermal development in these areas of East Africa is great, with Kenya as the latest “success story.” Although projects in other areas are merely in the preliminary stages, Dr. Younger maintains that the energy industry in the region is developing quickly, and energy development in Eritrea and Uganda may even be possible in the future.

Along with rich geothermal resources, Ethiopia also has considerable hydropower potential of up to 45,000 MW, taking into consideration the great water and rainfall resources in the country. Hydropower already accounts for 86% of energy produced there, so officials recognize the need to diversify current energy sources, and are aiming to harness the potential 5,000 MW of energy that geothermal technologies can offer. The country’s dependence on water resources for power are especially alarming in light of climate change issues, which include increasingly sporadic rainfall and drought conditions.

Although the country has come very far in energy development within the last few years, 85% of the population still lacks access to an affordable source of energy. The country is hoping to provide for the population and decrease dependency on hydropower through aggressive pursuits of renewable energy. As part of the five-year plan, Ethiopia is aiming to increase their energy portfolio fourfold by 2015.

Christina Mattos Kindlon

Source: The Guardian

Energy-101
Whether it’s the annoying news reporter or that obnoxious know-it-all in your Air Pollution class, people everywhere seem to be making up facts and statistics about our energy consumption. Does charging your phone from a laptop save more energy than if you were to charge it from a wall plug? Would using solar energy to power factories actually reduce air pollution?

Energy 101, a free online class offered by the Georgia Institute of Technology, sheds light on “the driving forces of energy used in transportation”, the production of energy-efficient products, and the process of converting renewable resources into a more desired form.

Dr. Sam Shelton, a veteran in energy systems, teaches the course. Aside from his multi-million dollar funded research and development, he is the founder of two companies that produce and market energy-efficient products. He was also a leading developer in the 1980s of the first commercial solar energy systems and investigated the efficiency of offshore wind farms.

The format of the Energy 101 is as simple as they come: over the span of 9 weeks, lectures are taught in 5-12 minute videos. Quizzes are also given and upon finishing the program, students will receive a Certificate of Completion.

But what use is studying the complexities of thermodynamics to the average curious cat? For one thing, Dr. Shelton stresses the ‘no experience necessary’ aspect of the class. You don’t need to be able to understand physics or be able to use mathematical formulas to do well in the class. The information from this class can be put to use in a variety of settings from an elementary school classroom in Arkansas to sustainable farming training in Cambodia.

Understanding the truth about how we use energy and where it comes from will help dictate our policies on diverting our focus to the right alternatives.

Before even listening to one lecture, Dr. Shelton lets his potential students in on an unexpected secret, “Building nuclear, wind and solar energy systems does not save any oil in the US.” This only goes to illustrate the new and exciting information students of Energy 101 can look forward to learning that will enlighten them on the truth about energy consumption in the world.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Coursera.org

Super Bowl Blackout

About 108 million people watched this year’s Super Bowl. That means that about 108 million people got to enjoy the half hour blackout of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. For more than thirty minutes, a viewing public that was greater than the population of Rhode Island was focusing on the lack of power in the stadium. In case you’ve missed it, the Super Bowl blackout was a big deal.

While those in the stadium panicked at not having power for a half hour, much of the world, as of 2003 an estimated 1.6 billion people, live without access to electricity in their daily lives. In the United States, we use electricity for so many things in our day-to-day life, phones, lighting, charging products, cooking and more, to live without it seems unimaginable. Thankfully, the world has changed a lot since 2003, with more and more people gaining access to electricity in their homes or in community centers and clinics around the world. This shift has increased standards of living, production, and education everywhere.

As of 2009, roughly 1.3 billion people still lived without access to electricity according to the group World Energy Outlook. As that number slowly gets smaller, we have to keep in mind that it is an issue, something that is often difficult to remember when the only time we really worry about power in our lives is when we need to charge our phones or pay the bills.

Hopefully, those thirty minutes of Super Bowl chaos will have made people think a little more carefully about the lack of energy access around the world, and inspire them take action on this cause.

– Kevin Sullivan

Sources:PolicyMic,Global Issues,World Energy Outlook
Photo:Digital Trends