Energy in the News: Friday, October 20
Advanced manufacturing lab opens in Detroit
The Michigan Engineer News Center, feat. Sridhar Kota
A $50 million lightweighting research and development lab that the University of Michigan helped to jumpstart opened its doors today in Detroit’s Corktown district.
LIFT, which stands for Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow, and IACMI, The Composites Institute unveiled the 100,000-sq.-ft. facility. It’s a cornerstone of LIFT’s effort to establish a regional manufacturing ecosystem that moves advanced lightweight metals out of the research lab and into tomorrow’s cars, trucks, airplanes and ships for both the commercial and military sectors.
A seemingly symbolic action shifted the climate change debate
University of Michigan News, feat. Andrew Hoffman
On the face of it, environmentalist Bill McKibben's international climate campaign to have universities divest fossil fuel assets had limited success. Only a handful of institutions pledged to divest and it didn't affect the stocks of fossil fuel companies.
But a new study by University of Michigan sustainable enterprise professor Andy Hoffman and Temple University's Todd Schifeling, a former postdoc with U-M's Erb and Graham institutes, shows McKibben's activism might have been successful in another way. Their analysis of media coverage of climate change during McKibben's 350.org effort shows that it influenced the public debate.
A better way to produce metal-organic frameworks
University of Michigan News, feat. Adam Matzger
Metal-organic frameworks are porous materials that can absorb incredible amounts of substances, and researchers hope to use them to mop up pollutants or as part of fuel cells that store hydrogen gas.
Now, University of Michigan chemists have developed a simpler and more efficient method to manufacture metal-organic frameworks on a large scale that makes the MOFs as porous as possible. In fact, a single gram of the MOF produced by the chemists can soak up a football field's worth of material, if the material were laid in a single layer across the field.
New connection technology is cutting cost of solar installation
Midwest Energy News
Utility customers in Ohio and Nebraska are among those taking advantage of a new and simpler technique for connecting solar arrays and other renewable energy systems to the grid.
ConnectDER, as it’s known, generally eliminates the need to enter a home and it greatly reduces the amount of electrical work required.
“It allows you to inject the solar on the customer side of the meter prior to getting into the home,” said Michael Shonka, a solar installer who has put the new equipment in a half-dozen homes in the Omaha area. “This means we can cut out $1,000 to $2,000 worth of cost in the system because you don’t need electricians to go through foundations trying to get to the service panel, and you don’t need to rearrange the panel.”
Some people know it as “plug and play” solar.
Would a coal subsidy help Wyoming? Probably, but studies show the grid doesn't need it.
Coal demand has declined as more and more coal plants retire before old age. Each time, the news ripples through Wyoming, the producer of 40 percent of the nation’s coal. Wyoming depends on other states that use its natural resources to keep the lights on. But the market is relying less and less on coal, and Wyoming’s mines are collateral damage.
Leaders in the state have fought regulations and policies that would further erode coal’s dominance in the electricity market, and coal companies have made their own suggestions about how Washington can support the industry, from carbon capture incentives to taking away federal support for competing energy industries like wind.
California’s new law aims to tackle imported emissions
California has started a large investment in infrastructure. In early 2017, the US state approved $52bn in spending on repair and maintenance projects. As one of the most progressive states for emission reductions and proactive climate policy, California has been examining ways to ensure that its infrastructure investments minimise greenhouse gas emissions.
Jerry Brown, California’s governor, signed into law the Buy Clean California Act. The act requires that the state set a maximum “acceptable lifecycle global warming potential” for different building materials, specifying that only materials with embodied emissions below that level can be purchased by the state.
Utilities should look for advantage in EV boom — report
Electric vehicles are coming, and power utilities should get ready to lift themselves into a golden age.
That's according to a report published yesterday by the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions weighing in what a long-awaited breakthrough for electric vehicles could mean for utilities.
As electric vehicles become more pervasive, authors at the consultancy wrote, they're likely to revive flat demand for electricity. And if utilities rise to the occasion, the advent of electric-powered mobility could improve management of power grids and pull new customers into utilities' orbits.
Renewables will give more people access to electricity than coal, says IEA
Around the world, more than a billion people still lack access to electricity.
This number is shrinking, down by one third since 2000, despite rising population levels, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) special report on energy access, published today.
The report says that while coal has supplied nearly half of the progress from 2000 to date, its role is set to decline “dramatically”. This is because renewables are becoming cheaper and because the hardest-to-reach people are in remote, rural areas where off-grid solutions offer the lowest cost.
The truth about the cobalt crisis: It’s not a crisis, yet
Volkswagen’s failure to secure long-term cobalt supplies has highlighted concerns over one of the most precarious elements in the lithium-ion battery supply chain.
There is sufficient cobalt worldwide to meet foreseeable demand for the mineral, according to Caspar Rawles, an analyst at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. The real question “is whether we can access it quickly enough,” he said.
Volkswagen last month sought to secure a €50 billion ($59 billion) contract to supply enough cobalt for 150 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery storage by 2025, which Rawles said could amount to roughly 30,000 tons of the metal a year.
The potential impact of solar tariffs in 12 charts
The American solar industry is holding its breath as it awaits the U.S. International Trade Commission’s coming vote on remedy recommendations in the landmark Section 201 trade case. These recommendations will then be delivered to President Trump, who holds protectionist economic views and reportedly requested that someone in the Oval Office “bring me some tariffs.”
With the outcome pending, GTM Research just published an updated analysis on the current state of U.S. solar and what might happen if various levels of tariffs are enacted.
Bright outlook: solar trifecta is key to integrating smart utility-scale solar
Utility-scale solar has become an important and growing part of the electric generation portfolio in the Unites States. Existing or “traditional” utility-scale solar is designed and operated to generate and deliver the maximum amount of electricity in real time. Operational challenges are becoming evident in markets with high penetrations of traditional utility-scale solar. These challenges include variable output, lack of robust ancillary services, and dispatch limitations.
A common response to this challenge is to simply pair traditional utility-scale solar with flexible natural gas generation. However, this is not the only option. Utility-scale solar holds the potential if operated differently to address some of these issues on the electric grid by itself. “Controllable” utility-scale solar may emerge in the near term as a resource to support electric grid operations.
New talks on Paris climate pact are set, and that’s awkward for U.S.
The New York Times
When Trump administration officials travel to Germany next month for United Nations climate change discussions, they will face a fundamental contradiction: how to negotiate the terms of a deal they say they’re walking away from.
Like a spouse who demands a divorce but then continues to live at home, the relationship between the United States and other parties to the Paris agreement is, at best, awkward.
The Trump administration has declared it will abandon the global climate change pact and make no effort to meet its voluntary target to curb planet-warming emissions. On Tuesday, President Trump repeated his claim that former President Barack Obama’s diplomats agreed to bad deals.