New MIT Database Aims to Impact City of Boston’s Energy Policy

by Kevin Tidmarsh

A new project created by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology might just put Boston on the way to becoming a more energy-efficient city. The tool, which can estimate the gas and electricity demand of each of the roughly 100,000 buildings in the city for every hour of every day of the year, was developed by researchers at MIT’s Sustainable Design Lab and Lincoln Laboratory, along with members of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and aims to provide a comprehensive database of the city’s buildings and their energy and heat usage that can be provided to energy policy makers. Continue reading

South Korean Scientists Develop New, More Efficient Method of Producing Hydrogen

by Gage Taylor

Inspired by the way plants convert sunlight into energy, scientists at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea have developed a new type of photoelectrode that boosts the ability of solar water-splitting to produce hydrogen, an essential process in the development of hydrogen as a fuel source. The special photoelectrode is capable of absorbing a high percentage of visible light from the sun and then using it to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The multilayered photoelectrode has a two-dimensional hybrid metal-dielectric structure that consists of three layers: gold film, ultrathin TiO2 (titanium dioxide), and gold nanoparticles. According to the team’s study published last month in Nano Energy, this structure shows high light absorption, which in turn significantly enhances its photocatalytic applications. Continue reading

Nuclear Energy: Public Opinion and Distance

by Francis Sugita

Opposition to the usage of nuclear power plants continues to grow in Japan despite government officials and private investors pushing to reinstate Japan’s nuclear power plants. The oppositional increase is obviously closely related to the Fukushima accident. That being said, there are other factors that must be considered when analyzing public opinion, one being distance. One important case study written post-Fukushima explored the effect of distance to a nuclear energy source and public opinion. This study is important not only because fatal nuclear accidents rarely occur, but also because nuclear accidents have caused an increase in opposition to nuclear power plant usage throughout the world (not just in Japan).

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Corporations Take the Lead in US Wind Power

by Woodson Powell

According to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Q4 2015 market report, about 75% of the megawatts contracted through power purchase agreements (PPAs) during the fourth quarter were non-utility buyers (companies, city governments, universities) [http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2016_02_22_us_wind_power_demand_corporations_take_the_lead]. That spike in corporate contracts is not simply reflective of a shift in contracting, but also of the growth in the wind power industry. The AWEA’s report notes that the United States wind industry installed 8,598 megawatts in 2015, 77% more than 2014 [http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/FileDownloads/pdfs/4Q2015%20AWEA%20Market%20Report%20Public%20Version.pdf]. Historically, utility-scale wind power was mostly purchased in the form of large wind farms, because it was an efficient way for states to meet their renewable portfolio standards. Nowadays, corporate purchasers are entering the market, because wind power has good value, not just because of government mandates. Continue reading

How viable is the solar energy business?

by Tashi Mitra

Solar energy as a viable business is crucial to the world’s energy market. The jury has been out on this question: is it possible to make money in the solar business?With oil prices at an all time low, the viability question becomes even more relevant as development related investments in the solar energy sector could dramatically reduce. The world’s dependence on fossil fuels — coal, oil, etc — over the years has resulted in an environmental degradation of an unprecedented level. Hence it is crucial that alternative energies, like wind and solar, become viable businesses. Continue reading

Apple Power

by Charles Kusi Minkah-Premo

Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have created cheap and efficient batteries from apple leftovers. Just imagine charging your smartphone by hooking it up to a rotten apple! In reality, this is a little bit of a stretch from what to expect from this discovery but it is by and large a big win for green technology. In a post for Clean Technica, Tina Casey discusses why this ‘apple-power’ could make waves for energy storage systems and could allow sodium-ion batteries to compete with the in-vogue lithium-ion batteries. Continue reading

Nanowires are Hot

by Griffin Merians

A study conducted in Taiwan and published in Nanoscale Research Letters, found that the use of silicon nanowires can be used to improve solar thermal energy efficiency. Solar energy is the most abundant source of renewable energy on our planet, and using thermal energy to capture this energy could play a key role in increasing our use of this form of alternative energy. Solar thermal energy is comparatively inexpensive, easy to implement, and efficient compared to many other forms of energy, and using silicon nanowires could be the latest breakthrough in improving this efficiency. Silicon and silicon nanowires are used extensively in photovoltaic electrical energy generation, but have not traditionally been used extensively in thermal energy collection. However, new research into the thermal properties of silicon nanowires has found they are significantly more efficient in thermal conversion than traditional silicon plates. Continue reading

Cities and District Energy

by Judy Li

As part of a special National Geographic series on energy issues, Christina Nunez published an interesting piece about district energy, the distribution of thermal energy through a network of underground pipes to heat and cool a group of buildings, and how it is being harnessed for sustainable energy development. District energy is widely used and has a long history; many cities around the world have extensive subterranean systems built decades ago. Continue reading

Berkeley National Laboratory Scientists Inventing Paint-on Retrofit for Energy Efficient Windows

by Erin Larsen

The US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers are in the process of developing a paint-on coating for windows to increase energy efficiency. It is estimated that 10 percent of aggregate energy consumption in buildings in the US is due to window performance. Warm and southern climates are particularly impacted because a significant fraction of energy usage goes to air conditioning. This inefficiency costs building owners about $50 billion annually. While window replacement or other commercially available retrofits would resolve this problem, the high cost of these options is prohibiting. Berkeley Lab’s polymer heat-reflective coating that can be painted on would be $1.50 per square foot, one-tenth the current market for commercially installed energy efficient retrofit window coatings. Continue reading

Solar Powered Plastic Beach Huts

by Tyler Hoyle

Spark is an environmentally friendly international design studio. Each of its four offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Singapore work to create distinctive solutions that reflect initiatives of attaining more sustainable environments across the globe. In Singapore, Spark wants to use recycled plastic from the ocean to build a series of elevated Beach Huts across the coast. The aim is to raise awareness to the negative effects of ocean plastic, which has contributed to the annual death of millions of seabirds and thousands of sea manuals. Continue reading