Energy in the News: Friday, July 21
Harnessing light to drive chemical reactions
University of Michigan News, feat. Suljo Linic
An exotic interaction between light and metal can be harnessed to make chemical reactions more sustainable, but the physics behind it has been widely debated in the field.
Now, a study from the University of Michigan has shown how a light-harvesting metal transfers energy to a catalytic metal, opening the way for better catalyst designs.
Catalysts are mediators of chemical reactions: they can make reactions happen at lower temperatures, reducing the energy needed, and they can also give an edge to a desired reaction pathway, producing more of the target chemical and less waste.
Nanoparticles could spur better LEDs, invisibility cloaks
University of Michigan News, feat. Rachel Goldman
The inside of the main concourse of the molecular beam epitaxy apparatus, which University of Michigan engineering researchers used to make the advanced nanoparticle-infused gallium nitride semiconductors. The semiconductors could boost LED efficiency by up to 50 percent, and even lead to invisibility cloaking devices. In an advance that could boost the efficiency of LED lighting by 50 percent and even pave the way for invisibility cloaking devices, a team of University of Michigan researchers has developed a new technique that peppers metallic nanoparticles into semiconductors.
Driverless-shuttle maker to set up in Saline
Detroit News, feat. Huei Peng
Navya, the French maker of self-driving shuttles, will set up its 20,000-square-foot production facility in Saline.
Once the operation is up and running, the facility will produce 25 of its Arma shuttles before the end of the year. Navya’s $1 million-plus investment plan is expected to create 50 jobs.
Navya has previously partnered with the nearby University of Michigan and will operate driverless shuttles on the North Campus starting in the fall semester.
Mich. keeps net metering as it tackles distributed generation
Net metering in Michigan will remain in place for at least another year while regulators preside over what's likely to be a contentious proceeding to decide how future rooftop solar owners are compensated for excess generation.
Michigan's new energy laws, which took effect in April, required the commission to establish a distributed generation (DG) program within 90 days.
In an order last week, the Public Service Commission ruled that the state's existing net-metering program, which credits customers for excess generation put back on the grid at retail rates, should stay in place until new tariffs are approved after June 1, 2018.
Michigan utility embarks on ‘next generation infrastructure’ for clean energy
Midwest Energy News
As blighted and empty properties are being revamped on Grand Rapids, Michigan’s West Side, a major utility is partnering with the city and a local developer on an “energy district” equipped with solar panels and battery storage to accompany the growth.
The Circuit West project spanning roughly 10 blocks near downtown is Consumers Energy’s first solar-plus-storage effort in the state. It will comprise up to 1 megawatt of solar with about half as much battery storage capacity.
Though it will be connected to Consumers’ transmission lines and not act as an island, utility officials say the project is like a microgrid in concept. Instead of providing backup generation in the case of outages, the batteries are meant to smooth generation gaps when the sun is not shining and provide a consistent flow of solar-generated power.
Clean energy is trouncing oil, gas and coal in Trump era
President Donald Trump took office vowing to revive the coal industry’s fortunes. So far, the smart money has been on clean energy.
An index of 40 publicly-traded solar companies, wind-turbine component makers and others that benefit from reduced fossil fuel consumption is up 20 percent this year. That’s more than double the S&P 500’s 9.8 percent gain. And better than the 8.3 percent rise by an index of leading coal companies.
The eco-friendly stock rally -- which comes as oil and natural gas-focused shares have dipped -- stems from a constellation of factors, including a Nevada law to boost rooftop solar, China’s mass-transit policy and optimism that Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. might deliver its Model 3 sedan on time. In short, Trump’s pro-fossil fuel agenda hasn’t damaged investor support for clean energy.
Car companies race to roll out self-driving cars, but the rules aren't ready
Car companies are racing to get self-driving cars on U.S. highways. But federal regulators are playing catch-up.
Starting next year, a largely autonomous Audi hits the highways. This fall, students at the University of Michigan will be hopping a driverless bus across campus.
Carmakers are promising mass-market, fully self-driving cars by 2021, and tech companies like Uber and Google could deploy them much sooner.
California is readying its roads, replacing raised lane markers with six-inch-thick solid lines, because they're easier for self-driving cars to see.
But what's not ready are the rules.
Rising from the ashes, a Buffalo suburb ends its dependence on coal
Sixteen months ago, the coal-fired Huntley Generating Station, which sits on the banks of the Niagara River, stopped producing power for first time since World War I.
Erie County lost its largest air and water polluter. But the town of Tonawanda, a working class Buffalo suburb 13 miles downstream of America’s most storied waterfalls, also lost its biggest taxpayer.
The impact of Huntley’s decade-long slowdown — and finally shutdown — hit this upstate New York community like a punch to the gut.
China is crushing the U.S. in renewable energy
China may be the planet's biggest polluter but it's also powering ahead of other countries on renewable energy.
As the Trump administration yanks the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement, claiming it will hurt the American economy, Beijing is investing hundreds of billions of dollars and creating millions of jobs in clean power.
China has built vast solar and wind farms, helping fuel the growth of major industries that sell their products around the world.
What if Big Oil’s bet on gas is wrong?
“In 20 years, we will not be known as oil and gas companies, but as gas and oil companies,” Patrick Pouyanne, chief executive officer of French giant Total SA, told a conference in St. Petersburg last month.
Pouyanne and his peers have pitched the fuel as a bridge between a fossil-fuel past and a carbon-free future. Gas emits less pollution than oil and can be burned to produce the power that grids will need for electric cars.
But with the cost of renewable technologies falling sharply, some are warning that the outlook may not be so rosy. Forecasters are beginning to talk about peak gas demand, spurred by the growth of alternative power supplies, in the same breath as peak oil consumption, caused by the gradual demise of the internal combustion engine.
NASA’s next great X-plane will try to revolutionize electric flight
Electric cars are coming into their own. Every major car company in the world is researching battery-powered vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and a variety of fuel-battery hybrids—if they haven't already brought one to market.
Things are going to be more difficult with aircraft. The challenges of electric flight are multifold, stemming from the fact that modern batteries can't put out enough juice to compensate for their weight. NASA's newest experimental plane, however, is designed to crack the code of battery-powered aviation.