News & Events

News

Energy in the News: Friday, March 29

April 2: ME Department Seminar: Bridging mechanics and electrochemistry: Experiments and modeling on battery materials
April 3: Public Roundtable on Overcoming Challenges to Electric Vehicle Deployment, hosted by UMEI and Ceres
April 8: Fastest path to Zero with U-M and Third Way (contact Suzanne Baker at suzyhb@umich.edu for details)
April 9: Carbon Neutrality: Special Public Session with President Schlissel
April 10-11: Global CO2 Initiative LCA/TEA workshop (invite-only; contact Susan Fancy for details)
April 11-12: ELPP Spring Conference, Planet in Peril: Averting Climate Change Catastrophe Through Law and Social Change
April 15: Clean Wolverines Symposium (invite-only; contact Susan Fancy for details)

Demonstrators continue to push University of Michigan on carbon neutrality
MLive, featuring Jennifer Haverkamp and Jonathan Overpeck
With the University of Michigan in the process of designing and building nearly half a billion dollars in new construction and renovation projects, alum Jan Culbertson wants the university to adopt more environmentally friendly building construction standards.
She was one of several speakers at a UM Board of Regents meeting Thursday, March 28 seeking more urgency from the university in its path to achieving carbon neutrality.
“We as design professionals and building owners have not made adequate progress, and in your case, a delay in immediately raising standards misses the opportunity to impact nearly $437 million in building projects currently in design – buildings that will be with us far beyond 2050,” Culbertson said.
“As a nation, we need to accelerate our progress, and locally, we need the university as a leadership partner.”
Activists spoke at Thursday’s meeting a couple of weeks after students and community members were detained during a sit-in protest March 15 inside the UM Fleming Administration Building, which followed a Climate Strike protest earlier that afternoon.
Read more

Are oil majors serious about cutting emissions?
E&E News, featuring Daniel Raimi
Oil and gas companies have long touted their efforts to curb methane emissions from leaky oil-field equipment. They have taken a decidedly dimmer view of government attempts to reduce leaks of the planet-warming gas.
So it was to considerable fanfare earlier this month that BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC announced their support for federal efforts to regulate methane (Energywire, March 13).
The news followed a similar announcement from Exxon Mobil Corp. in December, when it informed EPA of its support for federal methane standards on new oil and gas wells.
“We recognize methane emissions are a critically important climate issue,” Shell President Gretchen Watkins said earlier this month at CERAWeek by IHS Markit, an industry conference in Houston. “We support and participate in many impactful voluntary programs. But, in this instance, I believe we can do more. I want to make clear Shell’s support for the direct regulation of new/modified and existing onshore oil and gas sources in the United States.”
The rhetoric represents a potential watershed moment for the industry, which fought former President Obama’s efforts to plug leaky oil-field equipment and cheered President Trump’s early efforts to roll those back.
Read more

Black engineers convention to help push more minority students into jobs
Detroit Free Press, featuring Alec Gallimore
Enthralled by a viewing of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Alec Gallimore wanted nothing more than to be hurtling through space on the way to Mars.
Fueled by “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” Gallimore dreamed of being an astronaut, but realized he’d probably only be able to fly in a shuttle mission and wasn’t likely to end up on Mars.
So he became an engineer and began work on propulsion systems to get a manned spacecraft to Mars. Now he’s the dean of the University of Michigan engineering school and working hard to increase the number of black engineers graduating each year.It’s a daunting task. Eight percent of undergraduate degrees from his school in 2017-18 went to underrepresented minorities. Thirteen percent of the more than 7,000 undergraduate students in his college in the fall of 2018 were underrepresented minorities.
And he knows getting to 10,000 black engineering graduates nationwide by 2025 is a steep task.
Read more

What will it take for humans to trust self-driving cars?
Popular Science, featuring Huei Peng
On March 18, 2018, Elaine Herzberg, 49, was crossing a road in Tempe, Arizona, when a Volvo SUV traveling at 39 miles per hour hit and killed her. ­Although she was one of thousands of U.S. pedestrians killed by vehicles every year, one distinctive—and highly modern—aspect set her death apart: Nobody was driving that Volvo. A computer was.
A fatality caused by a self-driving car might not be more tragic than another, but it does encourage the wariness many of us feel about technology making life-and-death decisions. Twelve months later, a survey by AAA revealed that 71 percent of Americans were too scared to zip around in a totally autonomous ride—an eight percent increase from a ­similar poll taken before Herzberg’s death.
Read more

Fla. utility to build world’s largest solar-powered battery
E&E News
Florida’s largest electric company is building the biggest battery system on the planet, a move that will support the early closure of two aging natural gas units.
Florida Power & Light Co. revealed yesterday it’s planning to build a 409-megawatt capacity solar power battery on the state’s west coast. An existing utility-scale solar array will power the battery during the day so it can release electricity later as demand rises.
FPL’s announcement marks the second clean energy headline grabber for the utility in three months. The electric company said in January it would add enough solar to have 11 gigawatts on the grid by 2030.
Electric companies nationwide are beginning to turn to battery storage as a cheaper and cleaner energy option. Batteries solve the intermittency problem of wind and solar and stand to dramatically change the energy industry, which is already going through a transformation away from large, centralized power plants.
Read more

Inside the utility sector’s quiet fight to save EVs
E&E News
Utilities began dispatching lobbyists across Capitol Hill last year to preserve the federal electric vehicle tax credit and build momentum for other transportation electrification measures, even as they largely avoided political fights over those issues.
Those efforts would run head-on with conservatives who have the ear of President Trump: The president’s proposed budget seeks to eliminate the tax credit and gut funding for two offices that lead clean transportation research.
Such are the details emerging from lobbying disclosures filed by nearly a dozen of the nation’s largest investor-owned utilities, as well as the Edison Electric Institute, an industry association.
The documents suggest the electric sector is becoming an increasingly active — if still conflict-averse — player in an ongoing contest between pro-EV industries and oil and gas interests, which have pushed model legislation condemning subsidies and lobbied Congress to end the $7,500 tax credit that drivers can claim when they buy a plug-in electric (Climatewire, March 4).
Read more

Fact check: Is snow on solar panels a problem for clean energy goals?
Midwest Energy News
On the day Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced a goal of powering his state entirely by renewable electricity by 2050, a rural Republican legislator threw snow on the proposal in a Facebook post.
Rep. Jeremy Munson’s photograph of snow-covered solar panels was accompanied by a pointed a rebuke of Walz’s vision: “On my commute to the Capitol this morning, I saw the $10 million industrial solar array in Waterville is still covered with snow and ice. Walz announced his 100% renewable energy mandate today. Anyone see a problem here?”
Turns out, not everyone does. The developer of the Waterville project and federal government studies both say snow hampers solar production but does not stop it, nor does it create a winter-long production hindrance.
Munson’s post drew more than 250 comments from people who mainly agree with his dim view of solar energy and see it as expensive and unreliable. The developer behind the 6.6-megawatt Waterville community solar garden that opened last year sharply disagrees, while conceding that snowy days result in less energy.
Read more

Teeny-Tiny Bluetooth Transmitter Runs on Less Than 1 Milliwatt
IEEE Spectrum
You’re probably swimming in Bluetooth radio signals right now. But none of those are coming from the smallest, lowest-power end of the Internet of Things. These battery-powered and energy-harvesting millimeter-scale sensors are meant to last for years without needing replacement, but their radios can’t muster the energy needed to communicate using even the lowest energy version of Bluetooth, called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
Engineers at the University of Michigan have now built the first millimeter-scale stand-alone device that speaks BLE. Consuming just 0.6 milliwatts during transmission, it would broadcast for 11 years using a typical 5.8-millimeter coin battery. Such a millimeter-scale BLE radio would allow these ant-size sensors to communicate with ordinary equipment, even a smartphone.
The transmitter chip, which debuted last month at IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference, had to solve two problems, explains David Wentzloff, the Michigan associate professor who led the research. The first is power consumption, and the second is the size of the antenna. “The size of the antenna is typically physics-based, and you can’t cheat physics,” says Wentzloff. The group’s solution touched on both problems.
Read more