Category Archives: CCRES AQUAPONICS

CCRES Algae Project Q&A

 

 CCRES ALGAE
CCRES Algae Project
Q&A

See answers to common questions about growing algae for biofuel production.

Algae’s potential
What makes algae a better alternative fuel feedstock than cellulosic feedstocks, such as switchgrass or miscanthus?
What transportation fuels can algae produce?
How much fuel can algae produce?
Where could this type of algae grow?
What can you do with material derived from algae production not used for fuel?

Economics
How much would a gallon of algae-based transportation fuel cost if it were available at a service station today?
What can accelerate the commercial availability of algae biofuel?

Environment
How will algae-based transportation fuels impact greenhouse gas emissions?
Is the process capable of being replicated at the local level to increase energy efficiency and promote low-energy overhead?

Security
Can algae-based fuels be used in developing countries to help them bypass fossil fuel dependence?

CCRES ALGAE
Q: What makes algae a better alternative fuel feedstock than cellulosic feedstocks, such as switchgrass or miscanthus?

A: Large-scale production of resource-intensive plants, like switchgrass or miscanthus, requires a substantial amount of fertile land, fresh water, and petroleum-based fertilizer to grow. The fuel derived is ethanol, a lower-energy fuel not compatible with the infrastructure now used to transport, refine, and deliver liquid fuels, like gasoline and diesel.

Conversely, algae can produce hydrocarbons capable of being converted directly into actual gasoline or diesel fuel, which can be transported and delivered to market using the existing refinery infrastructure.

Q: What transportation fuels can algae produce?
A: Algae produce a variety of fuel and fuel precursor molecules, including triglycerides and fatty acids that can be converted to biodiesel, as well as lipids and isoprenoids that can be directly converted to actual gasoline and traditional diesel fuel. Algae can also be used to produce hydrogen or biomass, which can then be digested into methane.

Q: How much fuel can algae produce?

A: The United States consumes 140 billion gallons per year of liquid fuel. Algae can produce 3,000 gallons of liquid fuel per acre in a year, so it would take 45 million acres of algae to provide 100% of our liquid fuel requirements.

For comparison, in 2008 the United States had 90 million acres of corn and 67 million acres of soybeans in production. So growing 45 million acres of algae, while challenging, is certainly possible.

Q: Where could this type of algae grow?

A: Algae perform best under consistent warm temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees. Climates with plenty of sunshine offer optimal conditions. Ideal Croatian locations include many of the southern and southwestern areas, such as Dalmatia,(including Dalmatian hinterland ).

CCRES ALGAE
Q: What can you do with material derived from algae production not used for fuel?

A: Production of 140 billion gallons of fuel from algae would also yield about 1 trillion pounds of protein. Since algae-produced protein is very high quality, this protein could be used to feed livestock, chicken, or fish. Presently, all livestock in this country consume about 770 billion pounds of protein per year.

Q: How much would a gallon of algae-based transportation fuel cost if it were available at a service station today?

A: Today, the cost would be relatively expensive. Additional investment in research is needed to further refine and enhance the algae strains that generate such fuels. Also, more infrastructure needs to be developed to achieve the necessary economies of scale that will come with large-scale commercial production. Once overall efficiency increases, the cost of producing a gallon of gasoline from algae will dramatically reduce.

Q: What can accelerate the commercial availability of algae biofuel?

A: As viable and potentially transformational as algae-based transportation fuels have already proven, we need a much better knowledge base on algae at the microbial level. We also need to build on this platform to develop the tools and train the next generation of scientists that will help usher in the age of accessible, affordable, and sustainable fuels made from algae. That is a central component of the Croatian Center for Algae Biofuels (CCRES Algae Project).

CCRES ALGAE
Q: How will algae-based transportation fuels impact greenhouse gas emissions?

A: Production of alternative transportation fuels from algae will help reduce the amount of CO2 in the environment. Algae provide a carbon-neutral fuel because they consume more CO2 than is ultimately released into the atmosphere when algae-based fuel burns. The amount of carbon removed from the environment will depend on the number of algae farms built and the efficiency with which algae can be modified to convert CO2 to fuel products. Eventually, algae farms will likely be located adjacent to CO2 producing facilities, like power plants, resulting in potentially significant CO2 sequestration benefits.

Q: Is the process capable of being replicated at the local level to increase energy efficiency and promote low-energy overhead?

A: Absolutely. There are huge advantages to locating algae farms near urban centers. The algae consume industrial waste and contaminants, which are usually found in higher concentrations near cities. A perfect location is near a power plant, where the algae can consume flue gas and other waste, or near a wastewater treatment plant where the algae could consume significant amounts of nitrates and phosphates from the waste stream. This could result in cleaner effluent discharge, and perhaps eventually create “new” sources of non-potable water for industrial or agricultural use.

Q: Could algae-based fuels be used in developing countries to help them bypass fossil fuel dependence?

A: Algae-based fuels (and the protein byproducts derived from their production) definitely have the potential to positively impact developing countries. The requirements for farming algae are fairly straightforward and can be done almost anywhere in the world with an adequate supply of sunshine. In Africa, for example, millions of algae acres could be farmed in its less-populated regions, resulting in a reduced dependence on foreign oil and a reliable and sustainable energy supply.

 
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News and Events by CCRES July 06, 2012

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources

News and Events July 06, 2012

Energy Department Announces $102 Million for Small Business Research

The Energy Department announced on June 27 that it will award new funding to 104 small businesses nationwide. The grants, totaling more than $102 million, will support businesses in 26 states, helping companies to develop promising technologies with a strong potential for commercialization and job creation.
Funded through the Energy Department’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, the selections are for Phase II work. In Phase II, companies will build on the conceptual work undertaken in Phase I and pursue the next steps in bringing the technologies to market. The Phase II awards are up to $1 million for work over two years. The awards support developing technologies in areas ranging from large wind turbine towers to more energy-efficient data centers. For example, the Xunlight 26 Solar company of Toledo, Ohio, will work on transparent, flexible cadmium telluride modules for photovoltaics. See the DOE press release, the list of awards, and the SBIR and STTR website.

 

Energy Department Awards $14 Million for Energy Efficiency in 22 States

The Energy Department announced on June 27 that its State Energy Program has awarded $14 million to state-led energy efficiency projects in 22 states. The funds will allow the government agencies to conduct energy efficiency upgrades to public facilities and develop local policies and programs to help reduce energy waste and save taxpayer money. These investments are part of the Energy Department’s strategy to create jobs, boost domestic manufacturing in energy-saving technologies, and help Americans save money.
The state-led projects will conduct whole-building energy efficiency upgrades across hundreds of public buildings, saving millions of dollars for state and local governments and creating new local jobs for energy auditors, architects, engineers and construction workers. The states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The projects fall under two broad categories, including advancing energy efficiency in public buildings and deploying fee-based self-funded public facilities energy retrofit programs. In addtion, two states will be taking energy efficiency policy action to encourage cost-effective energy efficiency investments and establish or increase statewide energy savings goals by 2015. See the DOE press release and the complete list of projectsPDF.

 

Obama Administration Announces Investments in Biofuels

Photo of a series of buildings.

The Energy Department is boosting support for biofuels. This type of pilot biorefinery makes cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs.
Credit: POET
The Energy Department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Navy on July 2 announced $30 million in federal funding to match private investments in commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels. Drop-in biofuels are fuels that can serve as direct replacements or supplements to existing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels, without any changes to existing fuel distribution networks or engines—and have the potential to significantly reduce U.S. reliance on oil imports. DOE is also offering a total of $32 million in new investments for earlier-stage research that will continue to drive technological breakthroughs and additional cost reductions in the industry.
In his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future released in March 2011, President Obama set a goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025, increasing energy efficiency, and speeding development of biofuels and other alternatives. As part of that effort, the blueprint directed the DOE, the Navy, and the USDA to collaborate to support commercialization of drop-in biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel, which lead to the current Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). This FOA has a two-phased approach, with government and industry sharing in the cost. In Phase 1, applicants will submit a design package and comprehensive business plan for a commercial-scale biorefinery, identify and secure project sites, and take additional required steps spelled out in the announcement. Awardees selected to continue into Phase 2 will submit additional information for the construction or retrofit of a biorefinery. Applications are due by August 13, 2012. See the funding opportunity announcement, and the Blueprint for a Secure Energy FuturePDF.
In addition, DOE offered new investments in earlier-stage biofuels research that complement the commercial-scale efforts announced by the Navy and USDA. These early-stage, pre-commercial investments are the latest steps in the Obama Administration’s efforts to advance biofuels technologies to continue to lower costs, improve performance, and identify new effective, non-food feedstocks and processing technologies.
The funding announced by DOE includes $20 million to support innovative pilot-scale and demonstration-scale biorefineries that could produce renewable biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and shipboard diesel using a variety of non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials, and algae. These projects may support new plant construction, retrofits on existing U.S. biorefineries, or operations at plants ready to begin production at the pilot- or pre-commercial scale. This investment will also help federal and local governments, private developers, and industry collect accurate data on the cost of producing fuels made from biomass and waste feedstocks. See the full funding solicitation. Applications are due August 13, 2012.
Also, DOE announced $12 million to support up to eight projects focused on researching ways to develop biobased transportation fuels and products using synthetic biological processing. Synthetic biological processing offers an innovative technique to enable efficient, cost-saving conversion of non-food biomass to biofuels. These projects will develop novel biological systems that can enhance the breakdown of raw biomass feedstocks and assist in converting feedstocks into transportation fuels.
The projects—which will be led by small businesses, universities, national laboratories, and industry—will seek to overcome technical and scientific barriers to cost-competitive advanced biofuels and bioproducts. Applications are due July 10, 2012. See the full funding opportunity announcement, and the DOE press release.

 

Administration Makes Major Advances in Energy Efficiency Access

The Obama Administration announced on June 26 that 36 new members have joined the Better Buildings Challenge. These new commitments, from four states—Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, and North Carolina—local governments, and school districts, total nearly 300 million square feet in job-creating building energy upgrades, which is equivalent to more than 130 Empire State Buildings. In addition, new public tax guidance issued at the same time by the U.S. Department of the Treasury will make it easier for state and local governments to access more than $2 billion in existing low-cost financing to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through qualified energy conservation bonds. These bonds (QECBs) provide state and local governments with access to low-cost financing to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
The challenge is part of the Better Buildings Initiative launched in February 2011 to support job creation by catalyzing private sector investment in commercial and industrial building energy upgrades. The initiative is spearheaded by former President Clinton and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness with the goal of making U.S. buildings 20% more efficient over the next decade, which will help reduce U.S. energy costs by nearly $40 billion. Last year, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20% of all the energy used by the U.S. economy. See the Energy Department press release and the Better Buildings Challenge website.

 

Interior Reports Two Major Wind Energy Initiatives Finish Review

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced on July 2 that two major wind energy initiatives have completed important environmental reviews in three states—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Wyoming—clearing the way for public comment and final review.
DOI announced the release of final environmental impact statements for a proposed wind power complex in Wyoming that would generate up to 3,000 megawatts of power, making it the largest wind farm facility in the United States and one of the largest in the world. The proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Farm would include up to 1,000 turbines and generate enough power for as many as 1 million homes. The project would be built on public, private, and state land in Carbon County, Wyoming. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is reviewing the proposed wind project, as well as a proposed amendment to the Rawlins Resource Management Plan to accommodate the facility.
Also, DOI announced the publication of an environmental assessment for commercial wind leases and site assessment activities on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This step positions DOI to offer the area as one of the nation’s first offshore competitive lease sales before the end of the year. The environmental assessment for the Rhode Island/Massachusetts Wind Energy Area will be used by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to inform future leasing decisions as part of the Obama Administration’s “Smart from the Start” offshore wind energy initiative. The Wind Energy Area comprises approximately 164,750 acres within the area of mutual interest identified by the two states. BOEM leadership will host public information sessions on July 16 and 17 to further engage stakeholders and consider public comments on the environmental assessment. See the DOI press release.

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov

A Material Change: Bringing Lithium Production Back to America

Between 1980 and 2009, the global demand for lithium has tripled. This metal is a key material in a number of growing industries, including advanced vehicle batteries and consumer electronics. But more specifically, lithium-ion batteries are a vital component in electric vehicles and other rechargeable batteries for consumer electronics and are used to produce the plug-in electric vehicles on the market today. These batteries also have a major impact on energy storage infrastructure and are helping integrate renewable energy sources into the electricity grid.
After leading the world in lithium production in the early 1990s, America now imports the majority of its lithium materials and compounds from South America.
The Energy Department is hoping to bring lithium production leadership back to the United States with a $28.4 million federal investment in the communities of Silver Peak, Nevada, and Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Read the complete story in the Energy Blog.

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

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$62M to Biofuels Industry

 

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov

 
 
As part of President Obama’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, he directed the Navy, USDA and DOE to collaborate to support commercialization of “drop-in” biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel. Competitively priced drop-in biofuels, he said, will help improve America’s energy security, meeting the fuel needs of U.S. armed forces, as well as the commercial aviation and shipping sectors. The recent announcement of an available $30 million in funding promotes speeding the development of biofuels for military and commercial transportation. The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is available.
 
 
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Navy and Department of Energy are announcing $30 million in federal funding to match private investments in commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels. The Energy Department is also announcing a total of $32 million in new investments for earlier stage research that will continue to drive technological breakthroughs and additional cost reductions in the industry.
This funding opportunity is made possible through the Defense Production Act (DPA), an authority that dates back to 1950 and has been used to boost industries such as steel, aluminum, titanium, semiconductors, beryllium, and radiation-hardened electronics.

    “…through this DPA effort the nation will be able to harvest an aviation biofuels industry to satisfy the world’s needs, not just our U.S. military.” — USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

The new funding comprises a two-phased approach, with government and industry sharing in the cost. In Phase 1, applicants will submit a design package and comprehensive business plan for a commercial-scale biorefinery, identify and secure project sites and take additional required steps spelled out in the announcement. Awardees selected to continue into Phase 2 will submit additional information for the construction or retrofit of a biorefinery.

Agencies participating in this initiative will make additional funding requests to Congress to support the initiative, including President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request of $110 million.

“This is an important time for the biofuels industry to step up and show the Department of the Navy how they have developed biofuels that are certified and certifiable for military use,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The ability for U.S. industry to make, create and innovate has never been more important to our national and energy security. I know that through this DPA effort the nation will be able to harvest an aviation biofuels industry to satisfy the world’s needs, not just our U.S. military.”

The Energy Department has also announced new investments in earlier stage biofuels research that complement the commercial-scale efforts announced by the Navy and USDA. Totaling $32 million, these early-stage, pre-commercial investments are the latest steps in the Obama Administration’s efforts to advance biofuels technologies to continue to bring down costs, improve performance, and identify new effective, non-food feedstocks and processing technologies.

“Advanced biofuels are an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and support American industries and American jobs,” said Secretary Chu. “By pursuing new processes and technologies for producing next-generation biofuels, we are working to accelerate innovation in a critical and growing sector that will help to improve U.S. energy security and protect our air and water.”

The new funding announced by DOE includes $20 million to support innovative pilot-scale and demonstration-scale biorefineries that could produce renewable biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and shipboard diesel using a variety of non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials and algae. These projects may support new plant construction, retrofits on existing U.S. biorefineries or operation at plants ready to begin production at the pilot- or pre-commercial scale. This investment will also help federal and local governments, private developers and industry collect accurate data on the cost of producing fuels made from biomass and waste feedstocks. The full funding solicitation is available.

In addition, the Energy Department also announced $12 million to support up to eight projects focused on researching ways to develop bio-based transportation fuels and products using synthetic biological processing. Synthetic biological processing offers an innovative technique to enable efficient, cost-saving conversion of non-food biomass to biofuels. These projects will develop novel biological systems that can enhance the breakdown of raw biomass feedstocks and assist in converting feedstocks into transportation fuels.

The projects will be led by small businesses, universities, national laboratories and industry and will seek to overcome various technical and scientific barriers to cost-competitive advanced biofuels and bioproducts. The full funding opportunity announcement is available.

 

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

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Renewable Energy Croatia 2012

 
 
 
Renewable energy resources, like wind and solar, are abundant, homegrown, and emissions-free and have the potential to help lead the nation toward energy independence.
Unfortunately, today’s infrastructure is unable to maximize the benefits of significantly more renewable resources. Wind and solar resources are connected to the grid as “one-off” solutions that are generally not integrated with other generation nor optimized as a reliable first-tier energy source.

Additionally, when renewable resources are producing electricity, the possibility of congestion on transmission lines can create a barrier to their full utilization. The variability of renewable sources can also cause challenges. And when renewables are offline—when the wind doesn’t blow or it’s a cloudy day— other power generation will be needed to fill in the gaps.

Without infrastructure expansion and changes to the way the power system is operated, it will be difficult for the Croatia to produce more than 20% of its electricity (the target percentage for many EU states) from variable renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar.

The Variability of Renewable Power

Wind and solar power are inherently variable, meaning sometimes the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Then what? Fortunately, smart grid technologies can help manage the unpredictability of wind and solar to help alleviate reliability and stability issues caused by power fluctuations. This will become increasingly important as more wind and solar power is connected to the grid.

Automated demand response technologies will act as a lever that utilities can pull to help lower demand in the event there is a gap in renewable power generation—for instance, if the wind stops blowing. To address such contingencies, a utility may incent consumers to opt into programs that allow certain devices (i.e., water heaters) to be temporarily switched off during peak times.
In the future, storage technologies could also help utilities manage the short-term imbalances in the supply and demand of energy, sometimes caused by the fluctuations of a lot of renewable energy. Batteries will store energy during times of excess wind energy production and discharge that energy via smart grid automation technologies when energy demand exceeds supply.

Grid Congestion
In some parts of the country, overburdened power lines make it difficult to move electricity from wind farms into the grid for consumption. There have been cases when wind farms are forced to shut down—even when the wind is blowing—because there is no capacity available in the lines for the electricity they create.

Without adequate transmission to transport power from “renewable” rich areas (like Dalmacija region) to densely populated areas, it is only cost effective to use renewable sources in certain areas of the country—at least for now.

While building new infrastructure would certainly help, smart grid technologies can also help utilities alleviate grid congestion and maximize the potential of our current infrastructure. Smart grid technologies can help provide real-time readings of the power line, enabling utilities to maximize flow through those lines and help alleviate congestion.

As smart grid technologies become more widespread, the electrical grid will be made more efficient, helping reduce issues of congestion. Sensors and controls will help intelligently reroute power to other lines when necessary, accommodating energy from renewable sources, so that power can be transported greater distances, exactly where it’s needed.
   
    

Distributed Generation
Traditionally, electricity has flowed one way, from a power station to a customer. However, as more energy is generated by alternative sources, power will be entering the network from multiple locations, including the distribution network (i.e., distributed generation). These sources are often cleaner or more efficient; for example, combined heat and power plants (CHP) are more than 75% efficient, compared to traditional generation, which is only 49% efficient on average.1

Unfortunately, the current grid was not designed with multi-directional power flow in mind. Two-way power flow, sophisticated controls, and grid automation technologies can help bring wind, solar and other alternative energy solutions safely into the distribution grid and move it where it’s needed, when it’s needed.

In some regions, individuals can contribute to energy production on the distribution grid by generating electricity at their home—for example, solar on rooftops. Where available, enhanced net-metering incents consumers to sell power back to the grid during peak pricing hours—so, consumers make money, and utilities are able to better manage peak demand. Whole neighborhoods could become solar or wind generation plants, introducing excess power back into the grid to meet demand.

 

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

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Capture the Carbon Dioxide

 Capture the Carbon Dioxide
 
In nature, photosynthesis uses the energy in sunlight to split water into carbon dioxide and hydrogen. A typical plant cell relies on a series of electron carriers, which create a photosynthetic circuit that allows plants to capture the carbon dioxide they need, and then convert it into the biomass that fuels cell growth. At the same time, plants produce hydrogen, a molecule that can be used in a variety of renewable and sustainable fuel technologies, but that is also expensive to produce in large quantities and currently involves non-renewable natural gas reformation.
 
A photosynthetic organism such as green algae tends to use solar energy to generate either fixed carbon or hydrogen—while this is fine for growth, it is not particularly efficient for making greater quantities of hydrogen. Facing this challenge, NREL researchers wondered if they could find ways to boost the hydrogen-making capacity of photosynthesis. They posed a key question: What controls the partitioning of electrons between these two competing metabolic pathways?
 
A team from NREL, along with colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tel Aviv University, set out to answer this question. They hypothesized that they could engineer the process by “rewiring” algae’s catalytic circuits, or pathways. To do so, they would replace the normal hydrogen-producing enzyme, hydrogenase (H2ase), with a ferredoxin and hydrogenase fusion protein. They speculated that inserting this kind of a fusion protein into this reaction path could divert more electrons into hydrogen production and push the algae into making more hydrogen and fixing less carbon dioxide. If successful, this engineered photosynthetic circuit could potentially increase efficiencies and thus bring down the price of hydrogen. In its more than 30-year history of innovation, NREL has been a leader in working with green algae for hydrogen and biofuel production, as well as with finding ways to speed renewable fuels to market to help meet the nation’s clean energy goals. It is this expertise that encouraged MIT’s Iftach Yacoby to partner with NREL, which enabled the researchers to collaborate on technical innovations such as the CdTe-H2ase.
 
During NREL’s work with green algae, the lab’s own Senior Scientist Paul King and other researchers worked with hydrogenase enzymes as a key component of the photosynthetic hydrogen production equation. These biological catalysts can convert electrons and protons into hydrogen gas, or convert hydrogen into electrons and protons. For this work, the team chose to use in vitro tests under anaerobic conditions. They were able to demonstrate how the hydrogenase and other enzymes compete to regulate whether algae uses the solar energy it captures through photosynthesis to produce carbon compounds or hydrogen. As they studied these interactions, they were able to devise a procedure to engineer the proteins that compose electron transfer circuits. 
 
The first element of their strategy was based on their hypothesis that they could have more of the electrons go to hydrogen if they altered the composition to replace hydrogenase with a ferredoxin-hydrogenase fusion. In the anaerobic test tubes, the team confirmed that the photosynthetic circuit can switch from capturing carbon dioxide to producing hydrogen by substituting the fusion. The hydrogen production was carried out in the presence of the CO2 fixation enzyme ferredoxin:NADP-oxidoreductase (FNR). This process is a biological model for using solar power to convert water into hydrogen. The basis for this switch was modeled as two new Fd-hydrogenase circuits (boxes 1 and 2, Figure 2), and a reduced level of FNR activity modeled as a third circuit (box 3, Figure 2). 
 
King considered these results promising, because they suggest that fusion is an engineering strategy to improve hydrogen production efficiencies, and might be useful in resolving the biochemical mechanisms that control photosynthetic electron transport circuits and product levels from competing pathways. The next phase, already underway, is to introduce the fusion protein into green algae Chlamydomonas and determine if rewiring can take place to improve hydrogen-production efficiencies. Even though this is only one of a number of variables to consider, this strategy has already signaled an avenue to pursue in the drive to reduce the cost of hydrogen fuel and make it cost-competitive for industry.
 
 
A diagram showing a series of linked boxes with labels for biological compounds, explaining how photosynthetic electrons support carbon dioxide fixation and hydrogen production. Enlarge image

Photosynthetic electron transport pathways that support carbon dioxide fixation and hydrogen production. Light-activated PSII extracts electrons from water and transfers them, while parallel circuits couple Fd to either FNR for carbon dioxide fixation or hydrogenase production.
Credit: Paul King, NREL

A diagram showing another series of linked boxes with labels depicting the engineering of hydrogen-producing enzyme to create a hydrogen production circuit to increase hydrogen during photosynthesis. Enlarge image

Engineering of the hydrogen-producing enzyme to create an Fd-H2ase fusion changes the composition of the hydrogen production circuit to include both direct (box 1) and indirect (box 2) H2 production modes. The CO2 fixation circuit (box 3) remains open, but operates at a reduced level.
Credit: Paul King, NREL
 
 
CCRES special thanks to NREL

NREL is a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, Office Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy operated by the Alliance for Substainable Energy, LLC.

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES ( CCRES)

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News and Events by CCRES June 28, 2012

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources

News and Events June 28, 2012

Efficiency, Renewable Energy Projects Win 12 R&D 100 Awards

Photo of two men testing equipment in a laboratory.

NREL engineers Jason Woods, left, and Eric Kozubal conduct research on a prototype of DEVAP, which earned an R&D100 award.
Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL
Energy efficiency and renewable energy projects from DOE national laboratories have won 12 of the 100 awards given out this year by R&D Magazine. The awards are presented annually to recognize exceptional new products, processes, materials, and software developed throughout the world and introduced into the market the previous year. Overall, DOE won 36 awards, including those funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Scientists and engineers from DOE’s national laboratories and facilities received the honors from an independent panel of judges.
There were eight DOE winners for energy efficiency. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was cited for four projects: NanoSHIELD, a protective coating that can extend the life of costly cutting and boring tools by more than 20%; the robotic hand, which costs approximately 10 times less than similar devices while commanding 10 times more power than other electric systems; the asymmetric rolling mill, which provides a way to efficiently process sheet and plate materials, accelerating the production and availability of low-cost magnesium; and the low-frequency RF plasma source, a low-cost plasma generator for research, development, and production of nanometer scale materials at lower temperatures, faster rates, and with enhanced properties. In addition, Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) earned honors for its ultra-fast, large-scale efficient boriding—a thermo-chemical surface hardening process in which boron atoms are diffused into a surface—that can drastically reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve the performance and reliability of machine components. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) won for its desiccant-enhanced evaporative air-conditioning (DEVAP) systems, which cool commercial buildings using a small fraction of the energy used by traditional coolers. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) won for co-developing graphene nanostructures for lithium batteries, in which small quantities of graphene can dramatically improve the performance and power of lithium-ion batteries so batteries last longer and recharge quickly. And, Sandia National Laboratories was honored for the Sandia cooler, technology that significantly reduces the energy needed to cool the processor chips in data centers and large-scale computing environments. See the press releases from ORNL, ANL, NREL, PNNL, and Sandia.
In renewable energy categories, there were four R&D 100 award picks. ANL and several partners developed a novel high-energy and high-power cathode material that is especially suited for use in lithium-ion batteries used in plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) was recognized for its platinum monolayer electrocatalysts for fuel cell cathodes, which have high activity, stability, and durability, while containing only about one-tenth the platinum of conventional catalysts used in fuel cells, significantly reducing overall costs. NREL was tapped for its SJ3 solar cell, which achieves a world-record conversion efficiency of 43.5% with the potential to reach 50% by using a three-layered SJ3 cell to capture different light frequencies, ensuring the best conversion of the energy from photons to electrons. And, Sandia’s microsystems enabled photovoltaics were recognized because the glitter-sized PV cells created using microdesign and microfabrication techniques can be released into a solution and “printed” onto a low-cost substrate. See the press releases from ANL, BNL, NREL, and Sandia.
Since 1963, when R&D Magazine’s annual competition began, DOE has received more than 800 R&D 100 awards in areas such as energy and basic scientific applications. See the DOE Progress Alert, the DOE press release and the complete list of R&D 100 winners.

U.S. and Canada Set Next Phase of Clean Energy Dialogue

The Energy Department and Environment Canada released on June 21 the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue Action Plan II, outlining the next phase of activities the two countries will undertake to jointly advance clean energy technologies. The new action plan renews U.S. and Canadian commitment to work together to build smart electrical grids, and advance clean energy research and development. Action Plan II places a greater emphasis on energy efficiency to take advantage of the approaches and tools in each country to help facilitate the uptake of energy efficient technologies and practices.
Among the initiatives under Action Plan II will be an initiative to clarify U.S. and Canadian regulatory authorities for deployment of offshore renewable energy and technologies. The plan also calls for new investigations of the potential of power storage technologies. Also, the plan calls for discussions among key Canadian federal departments and provincial governments, the Energy Department, and U.S. national labs regarding options to harmonize data gathering related to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for North America.
President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper established the Clean Energy Dialogue in 2009 to encourage the development of clean energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change in both countries. See the DOE press release and the complete planPDF.

Energy Department, Park Service Announce Clean Cities Partnership

Photo of three park vehicles with signage.

New alternative fuel vehicles at Mammoth Cave National Park display decals acknowledging the Department of Energy-Clean Cities/National Park Service Initiative that provided the vehicles to the park.
Credit: Victor Peek Photography
The Energy Department and the National Park Service announced on June 19 that five national parks around the country will deploy fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles as part of an expanded partnership, helping to protect some of the nation’s most prized natural environments. The Energy Department is providing $1.1 million for the park projects. Each of these national parks is collaborating with at least one of the Energy Department’s Clean Cities coalitions to choose the best clean energy options for its fleet. The parks include Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California; Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado; San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Texas; and Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.
Some of the alternative fuel vehicles are multi-passenger rides devoted to park visitors, and that means even greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The new projects build upon the success of the program launched last year at Grand Teton, Wyoming; Mammoth Cave, Kentucky; and Yellowstone, Wyoming. The parks predict their combined projects will save more than 13,000 equivalent gallons of gasoline, avoid the emission of about 100 tons of greenhouse gases annually, and reach 6.5 million visitors each year. The Energy Department has been working with the National Park Service since 1999 to support the use of clean, renewable and alternative fuels, electric vehicles, and other energy-saving practices to help preserve air quality and promote the use of domestic energy resources in the parks. See the Energy Department press release, the Clean Cities website, and the National Park Service’s Green Parks Plan website.

DOI OKs First Commercial Solar Project on Indian Trust Lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) approved on June 21 a 350-megawatt (MW) solar energy project on tribal trust lands of the Moapa Band (Tribe) of Paiute Indians in Clark County, Nevada. The project marks a milestone as the first utility-scale solar project approved for development on tribal lands. The record of decision approves the construction, operation, and maintenance of a low-impact photovoltaic (PV) facility and associated infrastructure on about 2,000 acres of the Tribe’s reservation, located 30 miles north of Las Vegas. The project is expected to generate about 400 jobs at peak construction and 15-20 permanent jobs.
Proposed by K Road Moapa Solar LLC, the project would be built in three phases of 100-150 megawatts each. In addition to PV panel arrays, major project components include a 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission line to deliver power to the grid and a 12-kV transmission line to the existing Moapa Travel Plaza after Phase 1 is complete. About 12 acres of U.S. public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management would be required for the 500-kV transmission line. The project will generate lease income for the tribe, create new jobs and employment opportunities for tribal members, and connect the existing tribally owned travel plaza to the electrical grid, decreasing its dependence on a diesel-powered generator. To minimize and mitigate potential environmental impacts, a Desert Tortoise translocation plan, a bird and bat Conservation strategy, and a weed management plan will be implemented, and biologists will conduct natural resources monitoring during all surface disturbing activities. See the Interior Department press release.

FERC Approves Final Rule to Integrate Variable Energy Resources

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued on June 21 a final rule that requires transmission providers to offer customers the option of scheduling transmission service at 15-minute intervals instead of one-hour intervals. The rule also requires generators using variable energy resources, such as wind and solar, to provide transmission owners with certain data to support power production forecasting. According to FERC, the ruling will promote more efficient operation of the transmission system amid increasing integration of variable renewable energy resources on the grid. The ruling also benefits electric consumers by ensuring that services are provided at reasonable rates.
The final rule finds that while power production forecasts help transmission providers manage reserves more efficiently, forecasts are only as good as the data on which they rely. By requiring new interconnection customers whose variable energy resources to provide meteorological and operational data to transmission providers forecasting power production, FERC finds that transmission providers will better be able to manage resource variability. The final rule takes effect 12 months after publication in the Federal Register. See the FERC press release.

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov

Making the Impossible Possible: From Kennedy’s Moonshot to Solar’s SunShot

By Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Director, SunShot Initiative & Solar Energy Technologies Program
In my two years as the director of the Energy Department’s Solar Energy Technologies Program, I have often been accused of being an eternal optimist. I see our nation’s energy challenges as an incredible opportunity—one that has the potential to revolutionize our economy, environment, and national security.
That’s why, back in 2010, we established the SunShot Initiative to decrease the total installed price of solar energy by 75% by 2020. We took our inspiration from President Kennedy’s 1962 “moon shot” speech that set the country on a path to regain the lead in the space race and land a man on the moon. Many thought a manned lunar mission was beyond NASA’s capabilities, but this bold move ultimately united the country when it proved successful.
There were plenty of naysayers when we launched the SunShot Initiative—even within the industry—who said that subsidy-free, cost-competitive solar couldn’t happen in this decade. But we didn’t listen to them. And now—as the price of solar panels decreases and America’s solar energy industry explodes—many of those same naysayers are changing their tune. See the complete post on the Energy Blog.

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Carbon capture and consumption

Carbon capture and consumption

 
 
 

 

Could it Eliminate the Need for Wastewater Aeration?

Algal blooms have always proved a challenge for the water industry. Yet could this organic matter,with the help of wastewater nutrients, be turned into a biofuel and help alleviate fossil fuel shortages? Tom Freyberg investigates the European funded All-Gas project.
First generation biofuels from crops never really bloomed into a fruitful harvest. Opponents criticized using up valuable land to grow crops and fuel the cars of the rich, instead of filling the stomachs of the poor. Second generation biofuels – made from biomass – have proved a lot harder to extract the required fuel and fully crack.
And then along came algae. Unlike first generation biofuels, algae can be grown using land and water not suitable for plant and food production.
Consuming solar energy and reproducing itself, algae generates a type of oil that has a similar molecular structure to petroleum products produced today. As if this wasn’t enough – algae growth also consumes carbon dioxide, a known major greenhouse gas (GHG).
As a result of the apparent benefits the race is on to commercialize second and now third generation biofuels, in the case of algae. Continents and companies are putting money where their mouths are to find out how what we thought was simply a green weed growing in the sea could be the answer to inevitable fossil fuel shortages.

 
Algal culture ponds are used to grow and harvest micro-algae using nutrients contained in wastewater

 

Earlier this year US President Barack Obama announced that the Department of Energy would make $14 million available to support research and development into biofuels from algae. The Department has suggested that up to 17% of the US’ imported oil for transportation could be replaced with biofuels derived from the substance.
Meanwhile Europe is going even further and mandating the gradual replacement of fossil fuels to biofuels. An EU Directive stipulates that by 2020 a total of 20% of energy needs should be produced by renewable fuels. A further requirement is that 10% of biofuels need to be met through transport related activities.
Even UK government backed agency the Carbon Trust has forecast that by 2030, algae-based biofuels could replace more than 70 billion litres of fossil fuels used every year around the world in road transportation and aviation.

Nutrients: burden or blessing?

So far, so good. Yet while algae derived biofuels sound like an answer to inevitable fossil fuel shortages, two challenges remain: space and nutrients. The first challenge will be addressed later but on the topic of nutrients, phosphorous and ammonia are required alongside sun light and carbon dioxide to “feed” the algae. And with up to 30% of operating costs at algae farms attributed to buying and adding in such nutrients, it’s a notable expense.
It is in response to this particular challenge where the wastewater sector could play its part, with untreated effluent being a known source of phosphorous and other nutrients. An EU funded project aims to bring together the challenge and solution and link the water and biofuel industries together.
The €12 million, five-year project is starting at water management company aqualia’s wastewater treatment plant in Chiclana, Southern Spain and is backed by the European Union as part of its FP7 program – supporting energy-related projects – with six partners.
Called All-Gas, which translates into algae in Spanish, the project will see “algal culture ponds” being used to grow micro-algae using nutrients contained in wastewater, such as phosphorous. A 10-hectare site will eventually be needed for the project. Frank Rogalla, head of R&D at aqualia, says nutrients are abundant in wastewater, so it makes sense to incorporate the two industries.
Traditionally aeration processes at wastewater treatment plants are heavy energy users, accounting for up to 30% of a facility’s operating costs. In the US, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, drinking water and wastewater systems account for between 3% and 4% of national energy consumption alone.
However, Rogalla later told Water & Wastewater International magazine (WWi) that growing algae with wastewater can eliminate the need for aeration, thus reducing energy use.
He said: “We have converted our treatment to anaeraobic pre-treatment, meaning we will generate biogas from the start instead of destroying organic matter, so no aeration will be needed. From the 0.5 kWh [kilowatt-hour] per m3 which you generally spend for aeration, that will be completely gone. We will have a net output of energy from algae conversion either to oils or to gas. So that’s why you get this positive output of 0.4 kWh per m3 of wastewater treated.”
Rogalla added: “It will not cost more than traditional wastewater treatment, which costs about 0.2 Euros per cubic metre. We think we will use the same operational costs but instead of consuming energy we will produce additional benefit, meaning we generate about 0.2 Euros per cubic metre in additional profit from the fuel. Our aim is to be cost neutral.”
So the question has to be asked of how, technically, can the proposed treatment eliminate the need for wastewater aeration? The answer, as Rogalla later tells WWi, is through the initial conversion to biogas.
Compared to nitrification and dentrification to eliminate nutrients in conventional wastewater treatment, a process Rogalla says consumes about 5 kWh/kg Nitrogen during aeration, All-Gas will use an alternative conversion. Firstly anaerobic pre-treatment will convert most organic matter into biogas (CH4 and CO2). Algae will then take up the nitrogen and phosphorous.

Productive: instead of using traditional nitrification and dentrification processes, organic matter will instead be converted into biogas

 

As the algae will transform most nutrients into biomass, they will also produce O2 in the process, as CO2 is taken up and oxygen released in their metabolic process. As a result, according to Rogalla, aeration is not necessary. Most organic carbon is transformed into energy (via biogas), nutrients are incorporated into algae, which produce oxygen for any polishing action necessary.

An overview of aqualia’s wastewater treatment plant in Chiclana, Southern Spain

 

“It only seems logical to use the wastewater nutrients to grow algae biomass; on the one hand saving the aeration energy, on the other hand the algae fertilizer and cleaning wastewater without the occurrence of useless sludge, but producing biofuels and added value instead,” Rogalla adds.
 
 

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov

  and WaterWorld, Industrial WaterWorld

Space challenges

Addressing the second challenge of space requirements to harness algae ponds, for a commercial scale operation it’s estimated that a 10 hectare site is required (roughly 10 football pitches). Yet when compared to the oil yields of other crops, algae still proves favourable.
Data from US-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) show that oil yields from soybeans work out at 400 litres/hectare/year, which compares to 6,000 for palm oil and theoretically, a potential 60,000 for microalgae. For barrels/hectare/year, the same comparison yields 2.5 for soybeans, 36 for palm oil and a minimum of 360 for microalgae.
As predictions go, the production of 60,000 litres of biofuel from only one hectare of algae is optimistic compared aqualia’s aims for the Europe project. If a target set by the EU is reached, then each hectare should produce 20,000 litres of biodiesel. This, the firm says, compares to 5000 litres of biofuel per hectare per year for biofuels such as alcohol from sugar cane or biodiesel from palm oil.
The Spanish project also hopes to use produced biogas from the anaerobic pre-treatment and raw wastewater organic matter as car fuel, with each hectare touted to treat about 400 m3 per day.
Statistics to one side, the challenge of space remains. Booming urban populations are expanding closer to rural wastewater treatment plants but at the same communities insist on an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ rule when it comes to infrastructure that treats their waste. Rogalla does not think the land issue could impede the development of algae ponds to the majority of wastewater treatment plants. “Algae ponds of course can be put on marginal lands, or even on rooftops,” he adds. “In rural areas extensive oxidation ponds for wastewater treatment are not uncommon, not to mention the often unused land areas as buffer zones around wastewater treatment plants.

Biogas generated from wastewater could mean the 0.5 kWh per m3 usually spent on aeration won’t be required

 

“As we do not claim that all fuel can be made from biofuel on land, but only where possible wastewater should be turned into biofuel (excluding mostly big cities), the land issue seems secondary.”

Carbon capture and consumption

One further benefit that has made algae growth attractive compared to other fuels is its consumption of Greenhouse Gases (GHG), namely CO2, in order to grow. While captured carbon consumed by algae will inevitably be released later when used as a fuel in cars, it could still be a step in the right direction in reducing the impact of a world still firmly grasping CO2 emitting fuel sources.
An article entitled Algal Biofuels: The Process from NREL in a Society for Biological Engineering journal suggests that over two billion tons of CO2 could be captured by growing algae on the space equivalent to the entire U.S. soybean crop of 63.3 million acres.
Power plants and cement kilns appear to be an ideal match for algae growth, then. Yet, in order for All-Gas to attract seven million Euros worth of funding for its project, the CO2 had to come from renewable sources. Any fossil fuel burning plants were not permitted, as Denise Green, manager of biofuels across Europe and Africa from Hart Energy Consulting tells WWi.
“This particular call was restricted to projects in which the carbon dioxide supply for the algae cultivation was provided by renewable applications, excluding carbon dioxide from fossil fuel installations,” she says.
“However I see no reason why future funding for algae projects could not be provided for research into algae as part of the solution for CO2 capture for zero emission power generation. If there are objections to using algae from fossil fuel installations for transportation fuels, there are other industries for which algae can be used where this may not be an issue.”

 

Project roll out and commercialisation

The project will be implemented in two stages, with a prototype facility being used to confirm the scale of the full-size plant during the first two years. Once the concept has been proven in full-scale ponds, a 10 hectare site will be developed and operated at commercial scale during the next three years.
Rogalla suggests the project could be rolled out among aqualia’s existing facilities along the Mediterranean belt, including Italy, Portugal, Egypt and even South America, all of which have “favourable conditions, meaning the climate is advantageous and the land is available”.
Clearly, the conversion of algae to fuel is possible and has been demonstrated on a laboratory scale. It could hold the potential to turn a new leaf for biofuels haunted by their unsuccessful and much criticized first generation brothers. The real interest for the water sector should be the pipe dream of the project to eliminate aeration and turn existing wastewater treatment facilities into biofuel production centres.
The pivotal outcome of the project will be cost. This was proved in the well documented closure of the US Department of Energy’s algae research programme in 1996 after nearly 20 years of work. At the time it was estimated that the $40-60/bbl cost of producing algal oil just couldn’t compete with petroleum for the foreseeable future.
However, it is the additional methane extracted from raw wastewater and algae residue that differentiates this project. It’s not just reliant upon biodiesel produced from the algae. All-Gas has the chance to spearhead Europe into proving that algae biofuel, through the help of wastewater, could eventually be more competitive on a per barrel price with traditional oil.
 
CCRES ALGAE PROJECT 
part of 

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

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Tiny Green Factories

Tiny Green Factories

 
 
 
New ways to turn photosynthetic green algae into tiny “green factories” for producing raw materials for alternative fuels.
 
Overturning two long-held misconceptions about oil production in algae, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory show that ramping up the microbes’ overall metabolism by feeding them more carbon increases oil production as the organisms continue to grow. The findings — published online in the journal Plant and Cell Physiology on May 28, 2012 — may point to new ways to turn photosynthetic green algae into tiny “green factories” for producing raw materials for alternative fuels.

“We are interested in algae because they grow very quickly and can efficiently convert carbon dioxide into carbon-chain molecules like starch and oils,” said Brookhaven biologist Changcheng Xu, the paper’s lead author. With eight times the energy density of starch, algal oil in particular could be an ideal raw material for making biodiesel and other renewable fuels.

But there have been some problems turning microscopic algae into oil producing factories.

For one thing, when the tiny microbes take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, they preferentially convert the carbon into starch rather than oils. “Normally, algae produce very little oil,” Xu said.

Before the current research, the only way scientists knew to tip the balance in favor of oil production was to starve the algae of certain key nutrients, like nitrogen. Oil output would increase, but the algae would stop growing — not ideal conditions for continuous production.

Another issue was that scientists didn’t know much about the details of oil biochemistry in algae. “Much of what we thought we knew was inferred from studies performed on higher plants,” said Brookhaven biochemist John Shanklin, a co-author who’s conducted extensive research on plant oil production. Recent studies have hinted at big differences between the microbial algae and their more complex photosynthetic relatives.

“Our goal was to learn all we could about the factors that contribute to oil production in algae, including those that control metabolic switching between starch and oil, to see if we could shift the balance to oil production without stopping algae growth,” Xu said.

The scientists grew cultures of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii — the “fruit fly” of algae — under a variety of nutrient conditions, with and without inhibitors that would limit specific biochemical pathways. They also studied a mutant Chlamydomonas that lacks the capacity to make starch. By comparing how much oil accumulated over time in the two strains across the various conditions, they were able to learn why carbon preferentially partitions into starch rather than oil, and how to affect the process.

The main finding was that feeding the algae more carbon (in the form of acetate) quickly maxed out the production of starch to the point that any additional carbon was channeled into high-gear oil production. And, most significantly, under the excess carbon condition and without nutrient deprivation, the microbes kept growing while producing oil.

“This overturns the previously held dogma that algae growth and increased oil production are mutually exclusive,” Xu said.

The detailed studies, conducted mainly by Brookhaven research associates Jilian Fan and Chengshi Yan, showed that the amount of carbon was the key factor determining how much oil was produced: more carbon resulted in more oil; less carbon limited production. This was another surprise because a lot of approaches for increasing oil production have focused on the role of enzymes involved in producing fatty acids and oils. In this study, inhibiting enzyme production had little effect on oil output.

“This is an example of a substantial difference between algae and higher plants,” said Shanklin.

In plants, the enzymes directly involved in the oil biosynthetic pathway are the limiting factors in oil production. In algae, the limiting step is not in the oil biosynthesis itself, but further back in central metabolism.

This is not all that different from what we see in human metabolism, Xu points out: Eating more carbon-rich carbohydrates pushes our metabolism to increase oil (fat) production and storage.

“It’s kind of surprising that, in some ways, we’re more like algae than higher plants are,” Xu said, noting that scientists in other fields may be interested in the details of metabolic switching uncovered by this research.

But the next step for the Brookhaven team will be to look more closely at the differences in carbon partitioning in algae and plants. This part of the work will be led by co-author Jorg Schwender, an expert in metabolic flux studies. The team will also work to translate what they’ve learned in a model algal species into information that can help increase the yield of commercial algal strains for the production of raw materials for biofuels.

This research was funded by the DOE Office of Science and the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

 
CCRES 
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Brookhaven National Laboratory
 
Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)
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News and Events by CCRES June 21, 2012

News and Events by CCRES June 21, 2012

 

 

 

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources

News and Events June 21, 2012

 

SunShot Initiative Investments and Solar Contest Announced

Photo of two workers installing a solar panel on a rooftop.

DOE’s SunShot Initiative has a new competition and investments making it easier and less expensive to deploy solar energy technologies.
Credit: Craig Miller Productions
As part of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, the department announced on June 13 a new competition and investments to make it easier and less expensive to deploy solar energy technologies. The department is launching “America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar” competition to aggressively drive down the cost of rooftop solar energy systems. It also is awarding nearly $8 million to nine small businesses to lower the cost of financing, permitting, and other “soft costs,” which can amount to nearly half the cost of residential solar systems. To spur the use of low-cost residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems across the nation, the department is launching America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar competition to challenge U.S. teams to quickly lower the cost of installed rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems. The competition offers a total of $10 million in prize money to the first three U.S. teams that can install 5,000 rooftop solar PV systems at an average price of $2 per watt. By setting an ambitious target, the competition aims to spur creative public-private partnerships, original business models, and innovative approaches to make solar energy affordable for millions of families and businesses. See the America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar competition Web page.
The Energy Department also awarded up to $8 million to support nine highly innovative startups in four states through the SunShot Incubator program. These companies, in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, are developing transformative solutions to streamline solar installation processes such as financing, permitting, and inspection. See the list of projectsPDF.
The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Inspired by President Kennedy’s “Moon Shot” program that put the first man on the moon, the SunShot Initiative has created new momentum for the solar industry by highlighting the need for American competitiveness in the clean energy race. See the DOE press release, and the SunShot Initiative website.
 

 

Energy Department Awards Funding for Concentrating Solar Power

The Energy Department announced on June 13 its new investments in 21 projects designed to further advance cutting-edge concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies. The $56 million in awards span three years, subject to congressional appropriations, and cover 13 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Washington. As part of the planned three-year initiative, Congress appropriated an initial $16.3 million in fiscal year 2011. The Energy Department plans to made additional requests totaling $39.7 million in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to support these CSP projects.
The research projects—conducted in partnership with private industry, national laboratories, and universities—support the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to make solar power cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade. For example, DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories will develop a falling particle receiver and heat exchanger system to increase efficiency and lower costs.
The awards will help speed innovations in new components to lower costs, increase operating temperatures, and improve the efficiency of CSP systems. The 3-year applied research projects will focus on achieving dramatic improvements in CSP performance while driving progress toward the SunShot goal of 75% cost reduction. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which is then used to produce electricity. CSP systems are distinguished from other solar energy technologies by their ability to store energy as heat so that consumer demand can be met even when the sun is not shining, including during the night. See the DOE press release, the complete list of awardsPDF, and the SunShot Initiative website.
 

 

Six New Partners Join the Better Buildings Challenge

The Obama Administration announced on June 14 that six major U.S. companies are joining the Better Buildings Challenge, which encourages private sector leaders across the country to commit to reducing the energy use in their facilities by at least 20% by 2020. Starbucks Coffee Company, Staples, and the J.R. Simplot Company will upgrade more than 50 million square feet of combined commercial building space, including 15 manufacturing facilities. Financial allies Samas Capital and Greenwood Energy will make $200 million in financing available for energy efficiency upgrades through this national leadership initiative. And utility partner Pacific Gas and Electric has committed to offering expanded energy efficiency programs for its commercial customers, who are responsible for 30 million square feet of commercial building space.
The Better Buildings Challenge is part of a comprehensive strategy to improve the competitiveness of U.S. industry and business by helping companies save money by and reducing energy waste in commercial and industrial buildings. Under the challenge, private sector CEOs, university presidents, and state and local leaders commit to taking aggressive steps to reducing energy use in their facilities and sharing data and best practices with others around the country. With the addition of today’s partners and allies, nearly 70 organizations have now joined the Better Buildings Challenge. Together, these organizations account for more than 1.7 billion square feet of building space, including more than 300 manufacturing plants, and they have committed almost $2 billion to support energy efficiency improvements nationwide. See the DOE press release and the Better Buildings Challenge website.
 

 

Northwestern University Wins Clean Energy Business Plan Competition

The Energy Department announced on June 14 that NuMat Technologies from Northwestern University has won the first DOE National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The other finalists included teams from the University of Utah, University of Central Florida, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and Columbia University. The competition aims to inspire university teams across the country and promote entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies that will boost American competitiveness, bringing cutting-edge clean energy solutions to the market and strengthening our economic prosperity.
NuMat Technologies presented a plan to commercialize a nanomaterial that stores gases at lower pressure, reducing infrastructure costs and increasing design flexibility. One potential application for this innovation is in designing tanks to store natural gas more efficiently in motor vehicles. NuMat Technologies won based on its commercialization idea, go-to market strategy, team plan, environmental benefits, and potential impact on America’s clean energy economy. As the winning team, Northwestern University was awarded $180,000, which includes seed money for their business plan and additional prizes from sponsors, including technical, design, and legal assistance.
Six teams were invited to present their business ideas to a group of judges from industry and academia after successfully winning at regional level competitions earlier this year. Each team created a business plan around a promising clean energy technology they identified from a university or national lab. The plans detailed how they could bring that technology to market, including financing, product design, scaling up production, and marketing. Funded through DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the university-led competition supports the next generation of energy leaders, who will boost American competitiveness. See the DOE press release.
 

 

New Centers for Building Operations Excellence Named

The Energy Department and the U.S. Department of Commerce on June 19 announced selections for three Centers for Building Operations Excellence that will receive a total of $1.3 million. The centers will create and deploy programs aimed at training and expanding current and incoming building operators. The Centers are part of the Obama Administration’s Better Buildings Initiative, which is working to improve the energy efficiency of America’s commercial buildings 20% by 2020 and potentially reduce business’ energy bills by approximately $40 billion yearly.
The three Centers for Building Operations Excellence will work with universities, local community and technical colleges, trade associations, and the Energy Department’s national laboratories to build training programs that provide commercial building professionals with the critical skills they need to optimize building efficiency. The DOE and Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technologies’ Manufacturing Extension Partnership are jointly funding the centers. The centers, chosen through a competitive grants process, utilize multi-organization partnerships and support from local and state governments. The centers are: The Corporation for Manufacturing Excellence in California, partnering with Laney College and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39; the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center in Pennsylvania, partnering with Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Drexel University; and the New York State Department of Economic Development in New York, partnering with City University of New York and Rochester Institute of Technology. See the DOE press release and the Better Buildings Initiative website.
 

 

CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)

  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov 

Reports: $257 Billion Invested Globally in Renewable Energy in 2011

Total investment in renewable power and fuels last year increased by 17% to a record $257 billion, according to two new reports on renewable energy trends by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21). The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012 is the fifth edition of the UNEP report. It is based on data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Among the highlights is the fact that solar power generation passed wind power to become the renewable energy technology of choice for global investors in 2011. See the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012 reportPDF.
According to the REN21 Renewables 2012 Global Status Report, renewables continued to grow strongly in 2011 in all end-use sectors: power, heating and cooling, and transportation. Renewable sources have grown to supply 16.7% of global energy consumption. Of that, the share provided by traditional biomass has declined slightly while the share sourced from modern renewable technologies has risen. See the REN21 Renewables 2012 Global Status reportPDF.
In 2011, the United States closed the gap with China at the top of the renewables investment rankings. U.S. investments grew 57% to $51 billion. China, which has led the world for two years, recorded renewable energy investment of $52 billion, up 17%. The top seven countries for renewable electricity capacity excluding large hydropower—China, the United States, Germany, Spain, Italy, India, and Japan—accounted for about 70% of total non-hydro renewable capacity worldwide. By the end of 2011, total renewable power capacity worldwide exceeded 1,360 gigawatts (GW), up 8% over 2010; renewables comprised more than 25% of total global power-generating capacity (estimated at 5,360 GW in 2011) and supplied an estimated 20.3% of global electricity. See the UNEP press release.
 

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

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Way to Create Biofuels

Way to Create Biofuels

 

Way to Create Biofuels

 
Is there a new path to biofuels hiding in a handful of dirt? 
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) biologist Steve Singer leads a group that wants to find out. They’re exploring whether a common soil bacterium can be engineered to produce liquid transportation fuels much more efficiently than the ways in which advanced biofuels are made today.

The scientists are working with a bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha. It naturally uses hydrogen as an energy source to convert CO2 into various organic compounds.

The group hopes to capitalize on the bacteria’s capabilities and tweak it to produce advanced biofuels that are drop-in replacements for diesel and jet fuel. The process would be powered only by hydrogen and electricity from renewable sources such as solar or wind.

The goal is a biofuel—or electrofuel, as this new approach is called—that doesn’t require photosynthesis.

Why is this important? Most methods used to produce advanced biofuels, such as from biomass and algae, rely on photosynthesis. But it turns out that photosynthesis isn’t very efficient when it comes to making biofuel. Energy is lost as photons from the sun are converted to stored chemical energy in a plant, which is then converted to a fuel.

“We’re after a more direct way,” says Singer, who holds appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a multi-institutional partnership led by Berkeley Lab.

“We want to bypass photosynthesis by using a microbe that uses hydrogen and electricity to convert CO2 into a fuel,” he adds.

Widespread use of electrofuels would also reduce demands for land, water, and fertilizer that are traditionally required to produce biofuels.

Berkeley Lab’s $3.4 million electrofuel project was funded in 2010 by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, which focuses on “high risk, high payoff concepts—technologies promising genuine transformation in the ways we generate, store and utilize energy.”

That pretty much describes electrofuels. ARPA-E estimates the technology has the potential to be ten times more efficient than current biofuel production methods. But electrofuels are currently confined to lab-scale tests. A lot of obstacles must be overcome before you’ll see it at the pump.

Fortunately, research is underway. The Berkeley Lab project is one of thirteen electrofuel projects sponsored by ARPA-E. And earlier this year, ARPA-E issued a request for information focused on the commercialization of the technology.

Singer’s group includes scientists from Virginia-based Logos Technologies and the University of California at Berkeley. The project’s co-principal investigators are Harry Beller, Swapnil Chhabra, and Nathan Hillson, who are also with Berkeley Lab and JBEI; Chris Chang, a UC Berkeley chemist and a faculty scientist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division; and Dan MacEachran of Logos Technologies.

The scientists chose to work with R. eutropha because the bacterium is well understood and it’s already used industrially to make bioplastics.

They’re creating engineered strains of the bacterium at JBEI, all aimed at improving its ability to produce hydrocarbons. This work involves re-routing metabolic pathways in the bacteria. It also involves adding pathways from other microorganisms, such as a pathway engineered in Escherichia coli to produce medium-chain methyl ketones, which are naturally occurring compounds that have cetane numbers similar to those of typical diesel fuel.

The group is also pursuing two parallel paths to further boost production.

In the first approach, Logos Technologies is developing a two-liter bioelectrochemical reactor, which is a conventional fermentation vessel fitted with electrodes. The vessel starts with a mixture of bacteria, CO2, and water. Electricity splits the water into oxygen and hydrogen. The bacteria then use energy from the hydrogen to wrest carbon from CO2 and convert it to hydrocarbons, which migrate to the water’s surface. The scientists hope to skim the first batch of biofuel from the bioreactor in about one year.

In the second approach, the scientists want to transform the bacteria into self-reliant, biofuel-making machines. With help from Chris Chang, they’re developing ways to tether electrocatalysts to the bacteria’s surface. These catalysts use electricity to generate hydrogen in the presence of water.

The idea is to give the bacteria the ability to produce much of their own energy source. If the approach works, the only ingredients the bacteria will need to produce biofuel would be CO2, electricity, and water.

The scientists are now developing ways to attach these catalysts to electrodes and to the surface of the bacteria.

“We’re at the proof-of-principle stage in many ways with this research, but the concept has a lot of potential, so we’re eager to see where we can take this,” says Singer.

 
CCRES
 special thanks to 
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
 

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

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