Energy resources

  • The costs of using wind energy, natural gas for electricity virtually equal

    The costs of using wind energy and natural gas for electricity are virtually equal when accounting for the full private and social costs of each, making wind a competitive energy source for the United States, according to a new study on the federal tax credit for wind energy. The analysis shows that wind energy comes within .35 cents per kWh when levelized over the 20-year life of a typical wind contract, compared on an equivalent basis to the full costs for natural gas-fired energy.

  • Russia leads, U.S. lags in construction of nuclear power reactors around the world

    Has a new cold war developed between Russian and the United States in the twenty-first century? Many argue that it has — but with a more unconventional front of commercial nuclear energy contracts with developing countries. Russian companies are building 37 percent of new nuclear reactors around the world; U.S. companies build only 7 percent of new nuclear facilities.

  • World record in high altitude wind turbine set to be broken

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    Boston, Massachusetts-based Altaeros Energies, a wind energy company formed out of MIT, said its Alaska demonstration project is set to break the world record for the highest wind turbine ever deployed. The $1.3 million, 18-month project will deploy the Altaeros BAT at a height 1,000 feet above ground. At that height, the BAT commercial-scale pilot project in Alaska will be over 275 feet taller than the current record holder for the highest wind turbine, the Vestas V164-8.0-MW. Investment into the high altitude wind sector has recently gained momentum with several large acquisitions.

  • New insight into improved wave energy testing

    Scientists have studied how wave energy developers can more accurately measure and predict the wave conditions within wave energy test sites. The researchers deployed wave measurement buoys and used wave modelling to show how variations in wave size and strength could be resolved.

  • Controversial Mississippi power station to cut emissions by more than half

    A new $5 billion state-of-the-art power facility is under construction Kemper County, Mississippi. It places a firm bet on the future of carbon-capture technology, and other technological advancements, including: it utilizes the gasification process with carbon in unique ways; it recycles treated wastewater to generate power; and it makes money from the carbon dioxide it has removed by selling it to oil companies for their own extraction. Critics say that investing so much money in untested technologies is too much of a gamble.

  • Shale may offer long-term home for nuclear waste

    About 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel currently sit in temporary above-ground storage facilities, and it will remain dangerous for tens or hundreds of thousands of years or longer. Experts say that since the U.S. government abandoned plans to develop a long-term nuclear-waste storage site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada in 2009, finding new long-term storage sites must be a priority. Shale deep under the Earth’s surface could be a solution. France, Switzerland, and Belgium already have plans to use shale repositories to store nuclear waste long-term.

  • Methane from Deepwater Horizon oil spill has entered food web

    When millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, so did large volumes of methane, or natural gas. Now, researchers have confirmed that methane-derived carbon has entered the Gulf’s food web through tiny organic particles floating in the Gulf. The presence of methane is not cause for alarm though, the researchers said. Overall, it has a benign impact on the food that makes it from the sea to people’s dinner tables.

  • Libyan PM escapes country after assembly ousts him over oil tanker fiasco

    Libya’s General National Congress has approved a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and designated the defense minister as acting prime minister. Zeidan left Libya after the vote, in all likelihood for Italy. The no-confidence vote came after a North Korean-flagged tanker named Morning Glory managed to sail away from the port of al Sidra, carrying 234,000 barrels of crude oil from rebel-held oil fields. Last summer, armed militias in east Libya took over most of the country’s oil fields – and also three ports, with partial control of a fourth — bringing oil exports, which had amounted to 1.6 million barrels a day, to a halt. U.S. describes oil sale by the militias as “theft” from the Libyan people.

  • East Europe’s natural gas networks vulnerable during conflicts and crises

    Gas networks in Eastern European countries, such as Ukraine and Belarus, are less resilient than the U.K. gas networks during conflicts and crises, according to new research. The authors suggest that a decentralized approach to managing congestion on gas pipeline networks could be crucial for energy security during geopolitical conflicts or natural disasters, for example.

  • Small biomass power plants could help rural economies, stabilize national power grid

    As energy costs rise, more Americans are turning to bioenergy to provide power to their homes and workplaces. Bioenergy is renewable energy made from organic sources, such as biomass. Technology has advanced enough that biomass power plants small enough to fit on a farm can be built at relatively low costs. Researchers have found that creating a bioenergy grid with these small plants could benefit people in rural areas of the country as well as provide relief to an overworked national power grid.

  • Experts call for a new organization to oversee grid’s cybersecurity

    In 2013, U.S. critical infrastructure companies reported about 260 cyberattacks on their facilities to the federal government. Of these attacks, 59 percent occurred in the energy sector. A new report proposes that energy companies should create an industry-led organization to deflect cyber threats to the electric grid. Modeled after the nuclear industry’s Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, the proposed organization, to be called the Institute for Electric Grid Cybersecurity, would oversee all the energy industry players that could compromise the electric grid if they came under a cyberattack.

  • Large offshore wind farms could weaken hurricanes before they make landfall

    Computer simulations have shown that offshore wind farms with thousands of wind turbines could have sapped the power of three real-life hurricanes, significantly decreasing their winds and accompanying storm surge, and possibly preventing billions of dollars in damages. For example, an array of 78,000 wind turbines off the coast of New Orleans would have significantly weakened Hurricane Katrina well before it made landfall, reducing wind speeds between 80 and 98 mph, and decreasing the storm surge by up to 79 percent.

  • Advancing algae’s viability as a biofuel

    Lab success does not always translate to real-world success. A team of scientists, however, has invented a new technology that increases the odds of helping algae-based biofuels cross that gap and come closer to reality. The current issue of Algal Research showcases the team’s invention — the environmental photobioreactor. The ePBR system is the world’s first standard algae growing platform, one that simulates dynamic natural environments.

  • Not much is known about long-term health effects of chemical leaked in W.Va.

    In January, 10,000 gallons an obscure chemical called 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or MCHM, used in processing coal, leaked from storage tanks into the nearby Elk River in the Charleston, West Virginia area, contaminating the water of more than 300,000 residents for days. To what degree MCHM affects long-term human and fetal health is a major concern for residents because of the lack of complete toxicology and other studies on the chemical.

  • U.K. could generate half its energy needs from currently underutilized bioenergy sources

    The United Kingdom could generate almost half its energy needs from biomass sources, including household waste, agricultural residues, and home-grown biofuels by 2050, new research suggests. Scientists found that the United Kingdom could produce up to 44 percent of its energy by these means without the need to import. The new study highlighted the U.K. potential abundance of biomass resources that are currently underutilized and totally overlooked by the bioenergy sector.