Category Archives: Energy

It Takes a Village to Create Solid Electrolytes

By Kevin Clemens – Presently, commercial lithium ion batteries use a carbon graphite anode electrode and a metal oxide cathode electrode. They are separated by a liquid organic solvent that can pass lithium ions between the electrodes while preventing electrons from making the journey. The organic solvent of the electrolyte is flammable—resulting in a potential for a fire in the event that a lithium ion battery is punctured.

The anode side of a lithium ion battery is made from layers of graphite. Lithium ions are inserted between the material’s layers during charging and are released during discharge. Battery researchers realize that replacing the graphite anode with metallic lithium would allow many more lithium ions to flow during discharge, producing a battery with at least twice the capacity. But during the charging stage of a lithium metal battery, spiky crystalline structures, called dendrites, form on the metal surface. These dendrites can grow through the liquid electrolyte, reaching the cathode and shorting out the battery.

A worldwide search is on for a solid or semi-solid electrolyte that can prevent dendrite growth while allowing the easy passage of lithium ions without conducting electrons. more>

Updates from Siemens

Case Study
PlySim meets composite structural engineering challenges; results include a 500+ percent improvement in modeling productivity, plus a better blade and a growing business

Siemens – According to RenewableUK, the trade and professional body for the United Kingdom (U.K.) wind and marine renewables industries, the U.K. is the windiest country in Europe – so much so that this free fuel could meet the power needs of the country several times over. RenewableUK notes that there are over 4,000 wind turbines currently operational in the U.K., with a total capacity of 7.391 gigawatts (gw), enough to power over 7 million homes. It is estimated that by 2016, there will be 8 gw of offshore capacity installed, with a total of 18 gw by 2020. However, there are significant engineering challenges associated with such substantial growth that companies such as PlySim, based in Edinburgh, U.K., are already successfully addressing.

PlySim Ltd. (Plysim) is a composite structural engineering consultancy, with heavy focus on finite element analysis (FEA). Its main markets are in the renewables sectors (wind, wave and tidal) as well as marine and civil engineering. Malcolm Wadia, director of PlySim, says, “We work with clients worldwide on the analysis of large complex structures in composite materials, having materials tested if necessary, developing the whole structural design prior to analysis, and providing certification reports and full-scale test specifications for each design, if required. Ultimately, we provide the 2D ply layup and production drawings.” more>

Huge power outage in Amsterdam – We are prepared! – Sunday, April 29th, Dutch electricity network administrator Tennet reported Amsterdam South East was hit by a power outage, with the effect that 18,000 connections no longer had power.

The outage occurred 00:42 at a Tennet substation when a high-voltage connection in Amsterdam Bijmer-South failed. Trains, trams, and planes ground to a temporary halt in and around Amsterdam. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was closed due to the power outage.

Our main task as is to keep our data centers and your critical IT infrastructure on-line at all times.. Huge power outages like these confirms that we are able to keep that promise. more>

Updates from GE

Leading The Charge: As Battery Storage Sweeps The World, GE Finds Its Place In The Sun
By Tomas Kellner – The “duck curve” has two distinct peaks — one in the morning and the other after sunset — connected by a sagging belly pulled down by the deluge of renewable energy generated by the millions of solar panels sprinkled across California’s roofs and fields.

On a sunny Sunday, this glut of input could even lead to oversupply, a situation where wholesale energy prices drop so much that producers pay utilities to take their energy.

The problem reverses when the sun sinks into the Pacific. Power producers must quickly crank up their plants – many of them burning gas or coal – to replace those missing solar electrons with 11,000 megawatts to keep the state’s homes and businesses humming.

“The peak for solar power generation is at noon,” says Eric Gebhardt, vice president of strategic technology for GE Power. “What if you could store this energy and release it six hours later when the sun goes down and people come home, start cooking dinner and watch TV?” Gebhardt asks.

That’s precisely the point of GE’s Reservoir, a new grid-scale energy storage system the company unveiled today. The grid has to be perfectly balanced, meaning that power supply and demand match, to prevent it from crashing.

The Reservoir will allow producers to “decouple when energy is produced and when it is consumed,” Gebhardt says. “Without it, if you have too much solar during the day, the only option you have is to curtail production.”

The rise of the electric car unleashed innovation in the battery space, and the spread of solar power has brought costs down 50 percent over the last four years, says Keith Longtin, product breakout leader at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York. “You are now getting to a point where energy storage starts to make sense,” he says. more>

How Bitcoin Ends

By Douglas Rushkoff – Bitcoin was a clever idea. Idealistic, even. But it isn’t working out quite as its developers imagined. In fact, once all the coin has been mined, bitcoin will simply reinforce the very banking system it was invented to disrupt.

Watching the bitcoin phenomenon is a bit like watching the three-decade decline of the internet from a playspace for the counterculture to one for venture capitalists. We thought the net would break the monopoly of top-down, corporate media. But as business interests took over it has become primarily a delivery system for streaming television to consumers, and consumer data to advertisers.

Likewise, bitcoin was intended to break the monopoly of the banking system over central currency and credit. But, in the end, it will turn into just another platform for the big banks to do the same old extraction they always have. Here’s how.

Central currency is not the only kind of money that ever existed. For many centuries, gold and other precious metals served as money.

In essence, bitcoin is money built and maintained by nerds, based on the premise that good nerds will outnumber the bad nerds. Sure, bad actors can dedicate all of their processing power to fake transactions, but they will be outnumbered by those who want the token to work properly.

What is the incentive for people to spend millions of dollars on computers and power once there’s no more kickback of coin? more>

Updates from GE

Making Waves: GE Unveils Plans To Build An Offshore Wind Turbine The Size Of A Skyscraper, The World’s Most Powerful
By Tomas Kellner – These turbines come with a 12-megawatt generator sitting 150 meters above the waves. Each will be capable of powering 16,000 homes and producing 67 gigawatt-hours per year, based on wind conditions on a typical German North Sea site — that’s 45 percent more energy than any other offshore wind turbine available today.

“We asked ourselves ‘What is the biggest rotor we would still feel comfortable with?’ and then we pushed ourselves some more,” Vincent Schellings recalls. “From a technology perspective, it seems like a stretch. But we know it’s doable. The beauty of the turbine is that it gives an edge over the competition. There’s nothing like this. Not even close.”

The size matters. The huge rotor allows the engineers to catch a lot more wind and ramp up what the industry calls “capacity factor.” This number describes the amount of power the turbine can produce per year at a given site, versus the energy it could have generated had it run full power all the time.

GE’s Haliade-X clocks in at 63 percent, “five to seven points higher than the competition,” Schellings says. “Basically, every point of capacity factor is worth $7 million per 100 megawatts for our customers. That’s a nice upside.” more>

Electric Vehicles Could Impact the Grid

By Kenny Walter – Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a new computer simulation to explore the impacts in-home charging could have on the nation’s grid.

“Previous research into the amount of energy required by homes hasn’t taken into account plug-in electric vehicles,” Matteo Muratori, a transportation and energy systems engineer at NREL said in a statement. “Given that more people are choosing to drive these types of vehicles and charging them at home, this additional demand should not be overlooked.”

According to the study, as more PEVs are added, the distribution infrastructure might no longer be able to reliably support the local electricity demand. more>

When exponential innovation meets the infancy of “Industry X.0”

Accenture – With everything from agriculture to aeronautics in the midst of paradigm shift, a cautious approach to adopting new technologies simply can’t keep pace.

Nor will adopting just one innovation suffice. Effective adaptation almost always involves a combination of innovations working together: a dash of machine learning here, a sprinkle of automation there.

As Accenture Chief Strategy Officer Omar Abbosh describes: “You’re combining a series of innovations, one on the back of the next, to do something fundamentally different… You’ve all heard about Big Data and artificial intelligence and internet of things… They are all very meaningful in their own right, but when they come together they can have a massive impact on business and society.”

The benefits of combination abound. For example, amalgamating just five technologies—autonomous robots, AI, 3D printing, big data, and blockchain—could save industrial-equipment companies a total of $1.6 billion. more>

Updates from GE

Power Play: This Software Takes The Guesswork Out Of Energy Demand
By Bruce Watson – Predicting power demand used to be a simple science: People use more power during certain times — like the morning, when they cook breakfast and turn on their lights — and less during others, like when they hit the sack. Relying on predictable sources of electricity — like gas- and coal-fired power plants — utilities were able to balance supply and demand with some fairly straightforward math based on historical records and other data.

But the steady rise of renewable energy made the power landscape infinitely more complicated. On the supply side, changes in wind or cloud cover can sharply shift the amount of power available. Demand has also become harder to nail down as more consumers manage their power use with smart thermostats and appliances like connected ACs.

At the same time, market forces demand better power forecasts. Power plants and fuel are expensive, and they don’t want to operate or buy more equipment than they may need. “In some countries, regulators are asking power generators to guarantee the quality of their forecasts,” says Olivier Cognet, CEO of Swiss-based startup Predictive Layer.

“It’s no longer possible to say ‘We’ll sell you 20 turbines and see what they produce.’ It’s ‘We’ll produce x amount of energy by noon, y amount of energy in two hours and z energy in one month.” more>

Updates from GE

GE Is Helping Build A Huge Wind Farm On Santa’s Doorstep, Europe’s Largest
By Dorothy Pomerantz – In Markbygden forest in the northern Sweden, the temperature drops to minus 10 degrees Celsius in the winter and bitter winds blow. That makes this area 60 miles south of the arctic circle uncomfortable for humans, but the sparsely populated region, where real reindeer roam, is perfect for a wind farm.

Engineers there are now building the roads and preparing the land to erect some of the world’s largest wind turbines. When the project is complete, 179 GE turbines, each twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, will rise approximately 140 meters above the forest, where they will catch the nearly ceaseless wind to generate 650 megawatts of electricity. When complete in 2019, it will be the largest operating wind farm in Europe, increasing Sweden’s installed wind generation by 12 percent, says Thomas Thomsen of GE Renewables.

GE machines already power Europe’s largest operational wind farm in Fântânele-Cogealac in Romania, which can generate 600 megawatts. Earlier this year, the company partnered with Spain’s Forestalia Group to supply wind turbines for a planned 1,200-megawatt wind farm near Aragon. The company also will supply turbines for the planned 2,000-megawatt Wind Catcher in the Oklahoma Panhandle, which will be the largest wind farm in the U.S. more>