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

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

Government Announces Grant for Alaskan Native Tribal Energy Assistance

by Kevin Tidmarsh

A new initiative from the US Department of Energy aims to “develop regional energy experts to provide technical energy assistance and informational resources,” according to a DOE press release. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this move has already drawn criticism from conservative pundits, who are calling the move a waste of money on the government’s part.

Just a day after the Andrew Follett at the Daily Caller has already released a piece [http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/16/energy-dept-spends-7-million-on-north-alaska-solar-power-except-its-dark-247/] decrying the program as a waste of government money. The headline, which declares that the energy department has spent “$7 Million On North Alaska Solar Power, Except It’s Dark 24/7,” is both misleading and factually incorrect. While that may be true at some points in the winter for locales above the Arctic Circle, the grant isn’t limited to these locations, and a report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy notes that in the southern parts of the state, power production from solar panels doesn’t actually have to stop during the winter Continue reading

Facing Troubles in Nevada, Solar Company Sunrun Nevertheless Shines Bright

by Kevin Tidmarsh

The US-based solar energy company Sunrun, which claims to have “the second largest fleet of residential solar energy systems” in the country [http://fortune.com/2015/06/26/sunrun-ipo-solar-silicon-valley/], has announced that it has secured funding that points to a bright future for the company. While the market for solar energy is still nascent, Sunrun has done rather well for itself – especially given tighter state regulations and the financial difficulties of the renewable energy industry. But in spite of new regulations in the famously sunny state of Nevada that forced the company to withdraw operations from the state, the company is feeling good about its prospects and future – in no small part due to the company’s recent announcement that they have closed $250 million of senior secured credit facilities for its future growth [http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdetwiler/2016/02/03/sunruns-250-million-in-financing-a-positive-sign-for-distributed-solar/#11aad2306cbc]. Continue reading

Indiana Coal Power Company Makes Deal With Environmental Groups

by Kevin Tidmarsh

A long and protracted battle between environmentalists and the owners of a coal plant in southern Indiana may finally be coming to a close. The settlement, which was reached among Duke Energy Indiana, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, and various environmental groups in the state, will offer ratepayers refunds totaling $87.5 million for charges incurred during the startup and testing phases of the power plant of the coal plant located in Edwardsport, Indiana, as well as include $1 million for low-income assistance and community solar power grants. Continue reading

Switzerland’s Transition to Sustainable Energy

by Aurora Silva

Switzerland has a long tradition of using nuclear energy. With no reserves of coal, oil, or natural gas of its own, the country had to turn to other sources to meet its energy needs. As a result, a nation of only 8 million people— a bit larger in population than the state of Massachusetts— has five nuclear power plants, making Switzerland one of the top seven nuclear-powered nations on the planet on a per capita basis. Another telling statistic is that nearly 40 percent of Swiss electrical generation comes from nuclear power. To give a sense of what that proportion means, only 19 percent of US electricity is generated from nuclear power. The burning of coal has been of almost no consequence in Switzerland’s total energy mix for the past 50 years—in sharp contrast to the United States, where 44 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from coal. The country’s famed train and trolley systems are all electric, with the energy to power them coming nearly entirely from a combination of hydro and nuclear power. Continue reading

New Indiana Energy Bill Aims to Audit State Property

by Kevin Tidmarsh

A new bill in the Indiana legislature could walk back some of the state’s recent cutbacks on energy efficiency programs. House Resolution 1107, which was introduced in this session of the Indiana legislature, aims to remedy some of the cutbacks on the defunct state initiative called Energizing Indiana by allowing for the Indiana Department of Administration to conduct energy efficiency audits on the state properties deemed to be the “least efficient.” Continue reading

LiquiGlide: A Non-Stick Solution to Waste

by Alex Elder

LiquiGlide, a company founded by a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a new technology that enables sticky substances to flow easily across the surface of any container. This technology works by coating the container’s interior with a specialized lubricating liquid which then makes the surface permanently wet and slippery. This technology was initially marketed towards commercial uses such as glue and ketchup bottles as well as paint cans. Applying LiquiGlide’s technology to these sorts of containers would greatly reduce the amount of waste involved when remnants of these products are left over, unable to be used by the consumer due to their viscosity. Widespread implementation of this technology could have major environmental payoffs by reducing waste. In a few years, LiquiGlide expects this technology to be ubiquitous. Continue reading

Semitrex launch promises to increase power supply energy efficiency, eliminate phantom load

by Trevor Smith

Laguna Beach-based technology startup Semitrex launched in February 2015, highlighting new power supply technology which aims to dramatically increase energy efficiency. (Energy Industry Today 2015). Semitrex’s innovation revolves around replacing the complex, multi-part power supply used in devices that require AC/DC conversion, including everything from televisions to washers and dryers, with microchips embedded with power supply circuits. The power supplies that can be replaced by the chips, aptly named Power Supply System on a Chip, currently require more than 50 discrete components from 14 different manufacturers (Semitrex 2015). By streamlining this process, Semitrex was able to fully redesign the way these power supplies work, creating a new chip that promises to increase energy efficiency and all but eliminate the phantom load ‘always-on’ devices drain from the grid. Continue reading