Machines produce a lot of waste heat, and if we can capture that heat we can convert it into electric energy. Capturing thermal energy is currently inefficient because of thermal dynamics and the lack of super capacitors. Not to be deterred by these obstacles, researchers have found ways to efficiently capture thermal energy. By using an inexpensive material a small thermoelectric can be placed to convert heat to power.
“This looks like a very smart way to realize high performance,” says Li-Dong Zhao, a materials scientist at Beihang University who was not involved with the work. He notes there are still a few more steps to take before these materials can become high-performing thermoelectric generators. However, he says, “I think this will be used in the not too far future.”
The result, which they report today in Nature Materials, was not only a thermal conductivity below that of single-crystal tin selenide but also a ZT of 3.1. “This opens the door for new devices to be built from polycrystalline tin selenide pellets and their applications to be explored,” Kanatzidis says.
Sustainable and renewable energy sources continue to get more cost effective when compared to fossil fuel based energy. This is fantastic since the economics of scale are really kicking into effect around solar and wind technology. Thanks to better and more production wind turbines have become more effective and energy grids have gotten more capable of incorporating the inconsistent energy production.
Improvements in wind turbine design have not only helped to increase the maximum power they can produce (or their generating capacity), but also their capacity factor, a measure of how often they actually produce energy. The average capacity factor of projects installed in 2014 and 2015 was over 40 percent — meaning they produced 40 percent of the maximum possible energy they could produce if it were very windy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
As the exceptionally low price of U.S. wind energy drives further wind farm installations, it will be interesting to see how U.S. grid operators manage the challenge of integrating wind energy with the rest of the grid. So far, at least, they’ve been successful. But policymakers and regulators should be cognizant of the need for new transmission capacity and other grid upgrades to integrate wind as more turbines are installed in more places. Identifying the lowest cost investments to integrate the most renewable energy is not a simple task — but it will become increasingly vital as renewables throw off the “alternative energy” label and become a major contributor to the U.S. electricity supply.
It’s no secret that carbon trade, carbon caps, and various other policy tools improve economies and diminish negative environmental impacts caused by economic activity. Yet, the myth that having a sustainable economy isn’t possible with a growing economy.
Environmentalists have been arguing for better policy and enforcement for decades, and now global investors are also arguing for the same thing. Hopefully with this announcement and others from the recent UN Summit on Climate Change we will see good movement on improving our economy and planet.
“The international investor community has today made it clear that the status quo on climate policy is not acceptable,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. “Investors are taking action on climate change, from direct investment in renewables to company engagement and reducing exposure to carbon risk.”
“But to invest in low carbon energy at the scale we need requires stronger policies.”
The world’s total renewable energy capacity grew at its fastest pace ever in 2013, but global investment in renewable energy still only amounted to $254 billion in 2013. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that global investment in renewables much reach $1 trillion every year from now until 2050 if the global temperatures are to be kept from rising more than 2°C — the threshold beyond which scientists think climate change will get truly catastrophic. But the IEA anticipates global investment will instead plateau around $230 billion annually through 2020. Bloomberg New Energy Finance thinks two-thirds of the $7.7 trillion the world will likely invest in power plants between now and 2030 could go to renewables — but that still falls well short of the mark.
A Cambridge, Ontario metal fabrication company, VeriForm, has become an ecological leader in a field notorious for neglecting the effects of their business and product on the environment. A capital investment of $78000 has allowed VeriForm to implement many small changes (i.e. a centralized programmable thermostat, high-efficiency lighting systems, etc.) which saves the company $120000 annually!
The eco-changes shrank VeriForm’s greenhouse gas emissions to 126 tonnes in 2009, down from 234 tonnes in 2006. That figure is even more impressive given that in 2009 the company’s sales were 28 per cent higher and the plant’s physical size was 145 per cent larger than in 2006.
The inspiration for going green was altruistic. “We were just trying to reduce our carbon footprint,” Mr. Rak says. But the financial rewards quickly became evident “once we started doing spreadsheets and payback analysis,” the 46-year-old says.
This is great proof that, contrary to popular belief, going green doesn’t mean losing money – VeriForm has shown that making smart upgrades that benefit the planet can also benefit profits.
Trains are a great transit solution and are efficient at moving people and goods. Trains are really a green way to travel.
In Belgium, they are taking this green form of travelling and making it even better by powering the trains using solar power.
More than 16,000 solar panels will be installed on the roof of the high-speed rail tunnel stretching just over 2 miles long. The tunnel is primarily used by the high-speed train connecting Amsterdam and Paris via Brussels.
The roof’s total surface area is 50,000 m2, roughly equivalent to 8 football fields. The installation should generate an estimated 3.3 MWh of electricity per year.
The installation commenced this summer on the tunnel’s northern side. Project completion is scheduled for December 2010. The total investment budget is $20.1 million.
Infrabel, the Belgian railway infrastructure manager, will use the green energy in the Antwerp North-South junction (including Antwerp Central Station) and to power both conventional and high-speed trains running on the Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris line. With this project Infrabel has re-emphasized its belief in renewable energy as a viable alternative, and complement, to conventional energy sources.