Energy

Campus natural gas power plants pose no radon risks
February 7, 2017 10:13 AM - David Kubarek via Penn State

When Penn State decided to convert its two power plants from their historic use of coal as a source of energy to natural gas, there was concern about radon emissions. Although radon is known to exist in natural gas, now Penn State research indicates that it does not escape from these two power plants in harmful amounts.

By converting the West Campus Steam Plant on the University Park Campus, Penn State reduced its greenhouse gas emissions at the plant by nearly 40 percent, but the University wanted to make sure that the conversion was not causing a significant increase of radon levels in the atmosphere. Penn State also operates a second power plant on the East end of campus near its football stadium.

Low-Cost Imaging System Detects Natural Gas Leaks in Real Time
February 6, 2017 11:17 AM - The Optical Society

Researchers have developed an infrared imaging system that could one day offer low-cost, real-time detection of methane gas leaks in pipelines and at oil and gas facilities. Leaks of methane, the primary component of natural gas, can be costly and dangerous while also contributing to climate change as a greenhouse gas.

Flipping the switch on ammonia production
February 3, 2017 10:43 AM - University of Utah

Nearly a century ago, German chemist Fritz Haber won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for a process to generate ammonia from hydrogen and nitrogen gases. The process, still in use today, ushered in a revolution in agriculture, but now consumes around one percent of the world’s energy to achieve the high pressures and temperatures that drive the chemical reactions to produce ammonia.

Today, University of Utah chemists publish a different method, using enzymes derived from nature, that generates ammonia at room temperature. As a bonus, the reaction generates a small electrical current. The method is published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Battling corrosion to keep solar panels humming
February 3, 2017 09:26 AM - Sandia National Laboratories

People think of corrosion as rust on cars or oxidation that blackens silver, but it also harms critical electronics and connections in solar panels, lowering the amount of electricity produced.

“It’s challenging to predict and even more challenging to design ways to reduce it because it’s highly dependent on material and environmental conditions,” said Eric Schindelholz, a Sandia National Laboratories materials reliability researcher who studies corrosion and how it affects photovoltaic (PV) system performance.

Scientists Report on Latest Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Impacts
February 2, 2017 02:39 PM - Louisiana State University

LSU scientists will present new research at the 2017 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference in New Orleans next week. These experts will be among hundreds of oil spill-related researchers from academia, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and industry, who will share the latest oil spill and ecosystem scientific discoveries, innovations, technologies and policies on Feb. 6-9.

Turbine Breaks World Record for Wind Power Generated in Just One Day
February 2, 2017 11:14 AM - Yale Environment 360

A 722-foot tall, 9-megawatt wind turbine operating at an offshore testing site near Østerild, Denmark has set a new world record for wind electricity generation. The V164 turbine, built by Danish energy company MHI Vestas, produced 216,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in just 24 hours, enough to power 240 U.S. homes for a month.

Oil production releases more methane than previously thought
February 1, 2017 10:58 AM - International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Global methane and ethane emissions from oil production from 1980 to 2012 were far higher than previous estimates show, according to a new study which for the first time takes into account different production management systems and geological conditions around the world.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, which scientists rank as the second-most important contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. Yet while methane concentrations in the atmosphere can be easily measured, it is difficult to determine the contribution of different sources, whether human or natural. This is necessary information for reducing emissions.

Wind is Canada's largest source of new electricity generation for more than a decade
January 31, 2017 01:49 PM - Canadian Wind Energy Association

OTTAWA – Canada’s wind energy industry had another year of strong growth in 2016, adding 702 MW of new capacity through the commissioning of 21 projects in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Sixteen of these projects are owned, at least in part, by aboriginal or local communities, or municipal governments. Canada now has 11,898 MW of installed wind generation capacity, enough to supply six percent of Canada’s electricity demand and meet the annual electricity needs of more than three million homes.

A Better Way to Farm Algae
January 31, 2017 10:21 AM - Matt Wheeler via Syracuse University

Scientists have long known of the potential of microalgae to aid in the production of biofuels and other valuable chemicals. However, the difficulty and significant cost of growing microalgae have in some ways stalled further development of this promising technology. Bendy Estime, a biomedical and chemical engineering Ph.D. candidate, has devoted his research to this area, and developed a new technology for energy efficient cultivation and harvesting of microalgae.

Estime’s research has been published as a peer-reviewed article in Scientific Reports on Jan. 19. He and his research advisors, Distinguished Professor Radhakrishna Sureshkumar, chair of the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, and Professor Dacheng Ren, have secured a provisional patent for the technology.

Storing Solar Power Increases Energy Consumption and Emissions, Study Finds
January 31, 2017 10:14 AM - University of Texas at Austin

Homes with solar panels do not require on-site storage to reap the biggest economic and environmental benefits of solar energy, according to research from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. In fact, storing solar energy for nighttime use actually increases both energy consumption and emissions compared with sending excess solar energy directly to the utility grid.

In a paper published in Nature Energy on Jan. 30, researchers assessed the trade-offs of adding home energy storage to households with existing solar panels, shedding light on the benefits and drawbacks of adding storage considering today’s full energy grid mix.

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