Energy in the News: Friday, February 24
Stabilizing battery storage
University of Michigan News, feat. Melanie Sanford
An issue that has long plagued renewable energy facilities is how to efficiently store energy collected from sun or wind.
Now, University of Michigan and University of Utah chemists have developed an energy-storing molecule that is 1,000 times more stable than current compounds, potentially leading to a longer-lived, more efficient battery.
The researchers are working to develop industrial-scale batteries that can store large amounts of energy for deployment when the sun sets or the wind stops blowing.
Michigan researchers tackle social, engineering obstacles to hydroelectricity
Midwest Energy News, feat. Michael Bernitsas
Separate research teams at Michigan’s two largest universities are pursuing advances in hydroelectric research they hope will have both local and global impacts.
Teams at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University are looking at social, environmental and engineering concerns with hydroelectric generation that have led to negative impacts on streams and wildlife as well as nearby residents.
Michael Bernitsas, a mechanical engineering professor at U-M, has spent the past several years refining his Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy (VIVACE) device that uses cylinders to mimic the movements of fish schools and generate electricity underwater.
Demographic shifts: Shaping the future of car ownership
Knowledge@Wharton, feat. U-M postdoctoral fellow Scott Kelley
Suburbanites may feel stranded without a car in the garage, but for people living in higher-density environments, according to Scott Kelley, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute, “it’s becoming more convenient to not have a car. In fact, we’re already seeing some shift away from private ownership in dense urban centers.”
Ann Arbor's latest stance on taxing solar panels leaves some unhappy
City Administrator Howard Lazarus says trying to reimburse Ann Arbor residents for the city-imposed property tax increases they incur when adding solar panels to their homes would be cumbersome.
And not only that, he said, the city would lose money because a majority of the taxes collected from the increased property assessments are passed along to other entities such as the county, the library, schools and community college. So, even if the city offered rebates of some kind to residents paying solar taxes, the city still would continue passing along the majority of the taxes to those entities, and that would cost the city tens of thousands of dollars annually.
Chinese firms lead U.S. in renewable markets
Chinese companies, industrial manufacturers and technology firms are anchoring a shift toward renewable energy in the private sector, according to sustainable investment advocacy groups.
In a report published today, German utility Siemens AG, Toyota Motor Corp. and the French power company Schneider Electric SE rank at the top of companies doing a large portion of business in the renewable energy field.
ABB Ltd., a Swedish-Swiss power and robotics company, is No. 4, and Johnson Controls International PLC, which specializes in building efficiency, is ranked No. 5.
Coal plants keep closing on Trump's watch
Alex Tracy has spent most of his career in coal. Like many in this corner of northwest Indiana, Tracy got his start in the steel mills. He was employed in a coke plant, where coal is fed into the great blast furnaces that turn iron to steel.
The coke plant closed, but not before Tracy landed a job at the nearby Bailly Generating Station. Tracy has spent the last 13 years at the coal-fired facility, which towers over Lake Michigan and provides power to the maze of steel mills, refineries and other industrial operations that line its shores.
The job makes Tracy part of a decades-old equation. Bailly feeds the mills, the mills feed nearby Chicago. Now that's all set to change. The power plant will close its doors in 2018.
The age of the giant battery is almost upon us
The idea that giant batteries may someday revolutionize electrical grids has long enthralled clean-power advocates and environmentalists. Now it’s attracting bankers with the money to make it happen.
Lenders including Investec Plc, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and Prudential Financial Inc. are looking to finance large-scale energy-storage projects from California to Germany, marking a coming-of-age moment for the fledgling industry. The systems help utilities solve a longstanding clean-power conundrum: managing the unpredictable output from wind and solar farms, and retaining electricity until it’s needed.
How electric utilities could revive their sagging fortunes and decarbonize the country
Despite the industry’s much-hyped “death spiral” — in which customers abandon utilities for distributed energy, prices rise on remaining customers, more customers leave, etc. — these troubles are probably not fatal. Even under aggressive projections, most electricity will come from utility-scale power plants through the middle of the century. Utilities will still be needed. But they do seem to be heading inexorably toward a much-diminished role, with much-diminished profits.
Still, buck up, utility execs, all is not lost! There is a possible future in which utilities become bigger and more important than ever. What’s more, it is a future in which they take the lead in decarbonizing the country.