Energy in the News: Friday, June 30

Friday, June 30, 2017

Beyond Carbon Neutral awards second round of seed grants

U-M Energy Institute

This month, nine U-M faculty individuals and teams were awarded a second round of seed grants to conduct exploratory research on various scientific and societal aspects of carbon dioxide removal- a climate change reversal strategy aimed at reducing the amount of greenhouse gases entering the environment. Administered by the Energy Institute, the project is called Beyond Carbon Neutral.

The approximately $200,000 of research funding will focus on supporting projects that that amplify and build upon results from the first round of funding, and on new ideas that provide foundational results that can be built upon with additional research. These seed funding outcomes will identify specific research objectives to drive the next funding phase.

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Is energy ‘dominance’ the right goal for US policy?

The Conversation, feat. Daniel Raimi

In recent weeks, a new energy buzzword has taken flight from Washington, D.C., making stops in Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, Utah and more: “American energy dominance.” Taking a cue from a 2016 speech by then-candidate Donald Trump, top federal officials including Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have begun to trumpet the notion of energy “dominance.”

Although no Cabinet official has offered a precise definition, it’s a recurring theme in a set of administration events organized around energy policy, including a planned speech by Trump emphasizing exports of coal, natural gas and oil.

So what does this new energy catchphrase mean, and how should we think about it?

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Study defends green credentials of EVs, PHEVs

Wards Auto, feat. Michael Sivak

Claims that electric vehicles won’t help reduce harmful emissions are flawed, and instead evidence suggests EVs can have a major impact on reducing the pollution traced to vehicles used in everyday life, a University of Michigan study finds.

The report prepared by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the university’s Transportation Research Institute indicates that, based on a review of so-called “well-to-wheels” studies that take into account both the sources and production of electricity and the fuel used in internal-combustion engines, EVs are substantially cleaner than vehicles with conventional powertrains.

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Want safer self-driving cars? Let them chat!

PCMag, feat. Huei Peng

Self-driving cars are only as good as the sensors they use to detect the world around them. But the University of Michigan believes sensors alone aren't good enough. They want self-driving cars communicating with each other directly and have carried out the tests to prove why that's better.

A University of Michigan-led public-private partnership created the 32-acre Mcity test track, which allows for new driving technology to be tested away from public roads. In this case the self-driving cars were equipped with Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), allowing the vehicles to transmit up to 10 messages per second to each other over a short range.

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New $8.25M Airbus center at Michigan for next-gen, high efficiency aircraft

University of Michigan News, feat. Alec Gallimore and Carlos Cesnik

Long wings could significantly improve the cruise efficiency and reduce the operating cost of long haul aircraft, and Airbus is partnering with the University of Michigan to make these advanced designs possible.

A new joint center will study computer simulation tools and techniques for designing and evaluating future aircraft. The agreement was signed today at the Paris Air Show.

Concepts like elongated wings could reduce fuel burn, emissions and the cost of long-haul flights. But to avoid an increase in weight, those long wings would be more flexible than the conventional designs, which would change the way the plane flies.

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U-M chemist wins prestigious award

University of Michigan News, feat. Melanie Sanford

A University of Michigan chemist is a 2017 laureate of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, announced today by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences.

Melanie Sanford, the Moses Gomberg Distinguished University Professor and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan, is one of three laureates awarded the honor. Sanford is honored for her work developing simpler, more environmentally friendly approaches to the creating molecules that can be used to store energy in batteries, serve as new medical imaging agents, convert carbon dioxide into fuels, or serve as pharmaceuticals to treat disease.

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Solar energy revolution hits barrier: Air pollution

CBS News

Solar energy is running into a pesky problem: air pollution worldwide.

Researchers from Duke University found that air pollution — specifically airborne particles, which accumulate on solar cells — is cutting solar energy output by more than 25 percent in certain areas of the world, causing billions of dollars of losses. The research was published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

The hardest hit regions happen to be those currently investing the most in solar energy infrastructure: China, India and the Arabian Peninsula, according to researchers.

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Utilities need storage to keep renewable energy growing

Morning Consult

State standards are driving electric utilities’ use of renewable energy — but without battery storage capacity, electricity generated from wind, water or the sun may soon saturate the market in certain regions.

Ten years ago, utilities underestimated how much renewable energy they would use due to states’ regulations and the falling cost of wind and solar power. But without large-scale battery storage, the increases observed so far could be at risk of plateauing.

The growth and breakthroughs in renewable energy contributed to lowering the country’s carbon footprint since renewable and nuclear energies do not create carbon dioxide; a saturation in the renewable energy market could also hurt some states’ ambitious climate goals.

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Nuclear falls behind renewable electricity on national scale

Morning Consult

After steadily climbing in 2017, renewable power dethroned nuclear as the leading carbon-free electricity source in the United States, even as lawmakers try to prop up nuclear power with more generous tax credits.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest monthly electric power report, released last week, shows renewable energy generated more power in March and April compared to nuclear — the first time that has happened in data over the last year. The Nuclear Information and Resource Service, an anti-nuclear group, said renewables have never overtaken nuclear since the EIA began tracking the issue in the 1970s. The EIA was not immediately available to comment.

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Carbon in atmosphere is rising, even as emissions stabilize

The New York Times

On the best days, the wind howling across this rugged promontory has not touched land for thousands of miles, and the arriving air seems as if it should be the cleanest in the world.

But on a cliff above the sea, inside a low-slung government building, a bank of sophisticated machines sniffs that air day and night, revealing telltale indicators of the way human activity is altering the planet on a major scale.

For more than two years, the monitoring station here, along with its counterparts across the world, has been flashing a warning: The excess carbon dioxide scorching the planet rose at the highest rate on record in 2015 and 2016. A slightly slower but still unusual rate of increase has continued into 2017.

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