Energy resources

  • How effective are renewable energy subsidies? It depends

    Renewable energy subsidies have led to explosive growth in wind power installations across the United States, especially in the Midwest and Texas. Electricity produced by wind is emission free, so the development of wind-power may reduce aggregate pollution by offsetting production from fossil fuel generated electricity production. Emission rates of fossil fuel generators, however, vary greatly by generator (coal-fired, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower). Thus, the quantity of emissions offset by wind power will depend crucially on which generators reduce their output. In other words, the quantity of pollutants offset by wind power depends crucially on which generators reduce production when wind power comes online.

  • Natural gas saves water, reduces drought vulnerability

    A new study finds that in Texas, the U.S. state that annually generates the most electricity, the transition from coal to natural gas for electricity generation is saving water and making the state less vulnerable to drought. Even though exploration for natural gas through hydraulic fracturing requires significant water consumption in Texas, the new consumption is easily offset by the overall water efficiencies of shifting electricity generation from coal to natural gas. The researchers estimate that water saved by shifting a power plant from coal to natural gas is 25 to 50 times as great as the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing to extract the natural gas.

  • One step closer to nuclear fusion power station

    Researchers have made a technological breakthrough crucial to the success of nuclear fusion reactors, allowing for clean, inexhaustible energy generation based on the workings of the stars in our galaxy. At the heart of the new development is an ingenious and robust superconducting cable system. This makes for a remarkably strong magnetic field that controls the very hot, energy-generating plasma in the reactor core, laying the foundation for nuclear fusion. The new cables are far less susceptible to heating due to a clever way of interweaving, which allows for a significant increase in the possibilities to control the plasma.

  • U.S. loses clean electricity as nuclear power plants keep closing

    Four nuclear power plants, sources of low-emissions electricity, have announced closings this year. The main reason: the increasing availability of cheap natural gas as a result of fracking. If plants continue to shut down instead of extending operations, the United States risks losing 60 percent of its clean electricity starting in 2030, according to a new report by the American Physical Society (APS). The APS calls on socially responsible investors to encourage utilities to consider carbon emissions in business decisions.

  • Virtual wall to build invisible barrier for oil spills

    The outer shell of a droplet of oil on a surface has a thin skin which allows it to hold its shape like a small dome; this shell is referred to as the liquid’s surface tension. Now, researchers have developed a technique to form a virtual wall for oily liquids that will help confine them to a certain area, aiding researchers who are studying these complex molecules. This development will have future implications in the guided delivery of oil and effective blockage of oil spreading.

  • Using biological organisms to convert natural gas to liquid transportation fuel

    Researchers will use their expertise in protein expression, enzyme engineering, and high-throughput assays as part of a multiproject, $34 million effort by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) aimed at developing advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation.

  • DOE to resume transient testing of nuclear fuels and materials

    Transient testing of nuclear fuel involves placing fuel or material into the core of a nuclear reactor and subjecting it to short bursts of intense, high-power radiation in order to analyze the effects of the radiation. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Transient Reactor Test Facility began operating on 23 February 1959 and was a principal reactor safety testing facility in the United States for thirty-five years. The U.S. Department of Energy invites the public to read and comment on a draft environmental assessment it has prepared for a proposal to resume transient testing of nuclear fuels and materials.

  • U.S. oil production exceeds imports for first time in two decades

    The United States is well on its way to energy independence, with the Obama administration announcing Wednesday that domestic oil production surpassed imports for the first time in nearly two decades. A report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) offers proof that the United States has managed both to increase domestic oil and gas drilling and reduce the nation’s carbon emissions, which have dropped to a 20-year low. Since 2008, U.S. crude oil output has increased 50 percent, while imports have fallen about 20 percent.

  • Drive-by charging: Advancing wireless power transfer for vehicles

    Researchers have developed new technology and techniques for transmitting power wirelessly from a stationary source to a mobile receiver — moving engineers closer to their goal of creating highway “stations” that can recharge electric vehicles wirelessly as the vehicles drive by.

  • Japan hopes off-shore wind turbines can replace shut-down nukes

    Japan inaugurated a floating offshore wind turbine on Monday, symbolizing the country’s effort to reduce its dependency on nuclear energy and fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy sources. The floating platform is anchored thirteen miles offshore from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has been out of commission since the reactor’s meltdown disasterof March 2011. The platform is anchored to the seabed 400 feet below surface. It is the first project of its kind in Japan, and it aims to show that the country can exploit the country’s powerful offshore winds to create a sustainable energy source.

  • Climate scientists say renewables are not enough

    Some of the world’s top climatologists have declared their support for nuclear energy as a complementary energy source, alongside wind and solar as energy, which would cut fossil fuel pollution and reduce the growth of global warming. The scientists say that opposing fossil fuels and promoting renewable energy sources offer but a limited solution.

  • U.S. mix of fuels used for power generation is changing

    The mix of fuels used to generate the electricity in homes, factories, and businesses across the United States has changed in the past few years as coal, still the largest single fuel used for electricity, has lost some of its share of the generation market to natural gas and non-hydroelectric renewables.

  • Safe long-term CO2 storage possible

    Since 2004, the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) has led an international research network to investigate the geological storage of the greenhouse gas (CCS, for carbon capture and storage). GFZ’s scientists say that their work at the Ketzin site, 40 km west of Berlin, has shown that geological CO2 storage on a pilot scale can be done safely and reliably.

  • Wireless device converts wasted energy into electric power

    Using inexpensive materials configured and tuned to capture microwave signals, researchers have designed a power-harvesting device with efficiency similar to that of modern solar panels. The device wirelessly converts the microwave signal to direct current voltage capable of recharging a cell phone battery or other small electronic device.

  • Reducing volume of nuclear waste by 90 percent possible

    Engineers have developed a way significantly to reduce the volume of some higher activity wastes, which will reduce the cost of interim storage and final disposal. The researchers have shown that mixing plutonium-contaminated waste with blast furnace slag and turning it into glass reduces its volume by 85-95 percent. It also effectively locks in the radioactive plutonium, creating a stable end product.