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Energy in the News: Friday, September 21

Engineering, LSA faculty to pursue battery breakthroughs as part of nationwide battery initiative

U-M Energy Institute, feat. Don Siegel, Jeff Sakamoto, Adam Matzger, and Melanie Sanford

Five University of Michigan faculty will be part of the second five-year phase of the Joint Center for Energy Storage (JCESR) research, an ambitious Department of Energy project aimed at breaking the scientific barriers to realizing next-generation batteries.

DOE will fund JCESR up to $120 million over the five-year renewal period. The renewal was Announced on Tuesday by Paul Dabbar, DOE Under Secretary of Energy for Science. The project is headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory; U-M is one of several university and national laboratory partners who will participate in the research effort.

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Puerto Rico: Networking to power a grid

Global Michigan, feat. Ivette Perfecto, John Vandermeer, and Jose Alfaro

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan hope farmers like Don Julio will benefit from a project to enhance the resilience and sustainability of the agricultural sector in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The project would use a gasifier to turn coffee husks, clippings and other agricultural leftovers into fuel that will power hybrid microgrids. They expect to use the byproduct of the process, called biochar, to improve soil quality.

Lead researcher Ivette Perfecto, a Puerto Rican native and professor at U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability, said the team envisions long-term impact on the island’s energy and agricultural landscape through the project, which received seed funding from SEAS and was recently awarded $200,000 by U-M’s Graham Sustainability Institute.

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The true costs, benefits of fracking

Stateside, feat. Daniel Raimi

Today on Stateside, Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee discusses what he is doing to prevent the deportation of a 48-year-old man from Nigeria who is deaf and has cognitive disabilities. Plus, University of Michigan Professor Daniel Raimi breaks down the risks, myths, and benefits of fracking.

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Opinion | Fixing Michigan infrastructure crisis takes new thinking about funding.

Bridge MI, by Peter Adriaens

Students in Detroit still can’t get a drink from a water fountain. It’s been two weeks since the superintendent turned the taps off due to copper and lead contamination.

Another day, another failure of basic infrastructure. And another socio-economically disadvantaged and vulnerable population failed by government.

While the blame game has just started on whether the water utility or the supply lines to the schools are at fault, the core problem is that the way we are financing public infrastructure is stuck in the 20th century.

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Self-driving cars and CO2 emissions: It’s complicated

E&E Climatewire, feat. Ming Xu and Morteza Taiebat

A key finding was that self-driving cars can reduce emissions if they complement the use of public transit. For instance, someone might take a short trip in a self-driving car from their home to a bus station. That would be more eco-friendly than if the person had made the whole trip in a car. It would also be more convenient, allowing the person to read or watch TV rather than keeping their eyes on the road.

But self-driving cars could increase emissions if they replace biking or walking, the study found. And people might be tempted to hop into an autonomous vehicle for short trips instead of getting the exercise.

“It very much depends on what the autonomous vehicle replaces,” said Ming Xu, an associate professor at the School for Environment and Sustainability.

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A warmer world makes hurricanes wetter and more intense

The Associated Press, feat. Jonathan Overpeck

A warmer world makes for nastier hurricanes. Scientists say they are wetter, possess more energy and intensify faster.

Their storm surges are more destructive because climate change has already made the seas rise. And lately, the storms seem to be stalling more often and thus dumping more rain.

Study after study shows that climate change in general makes hurricanes worse. But determining the role of global warming in a specific storm such as Hurricane Florence or Typhoon Mangkhut is not so simple — at least not without detailed statistical and computer analyses.

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More from Jonathan Overpeck:

Is global warming making tropical storms such as Florence more devastating? International Business Times, feat. Jonathan Overpeck, Read more

Former DOE official takes helm of carbon capture initiative

E&E Greenwire, feat. the Global CO2 Initiative

The announcement follows several others this summer on new initiatives related to carbon or air capture.

Last week, a think tank led by former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the Energy Futures Initiative, announced plans to launch a yearlong project analyzing air capture and developing a federal plan to deploy it (Greenwire, Sept. 10). Earlier this year, the University of Michigan launched a “Global CO2 Initiative” aiming to fund and support research to turn CO2 into commercially successful products.

Friedmann and others cite reports indicating that the world is far off the needed trajectory to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures stay at manageable levels by century’s end.

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Two large-scale renewable energy projects planned in West Michigan

MiBiz

Two large-scale renewable energy projects are moving forward along a stretch of M-46 in eastern Muskegon County.

One would be the largest solar project in Michigan at Muskegon County’s Wastewater Management System, while the other would be the first major wind project in the region since Consumers Energy’s Lake Winds project came online in Mason County in 2012.

Kansas-based Tradewind Energy has received necessary permitting and now is seeking off-takers for its 125-megawatt solar project at the wastewater treatment facility. By comparison, the largest solar project currently operating in Michigan in Lapeer County has a 48 MW capacity. Tradewind Senior Development Director Travis Narum hopes construction will begin in 2019 at the earliest.

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Trump admin announces 25% tariff on Chinese inverters

Greentech Media

The Trump administration on Monday unveiled long-awaited tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. The new round of duties, under Section 301, will hit yet another slice of the solar market: inverters.

In a statement, the administration said tariffs of 10 percent would go into effect on September 24. They’ll rise to 25 percent on January 1. The administration also cautioned China against any “retaliatory action against our farmers or other industries,” which it said would be met with “phase three” tariffs on an additional $267 billion in imports.

Earlier this summer, the administration announced 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of imports. The latest round of duties could raise the stakes in what’s been repeatedly characterized as an escalating trade war.

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It’s time to tie the U.S. electric grid together, says NREL study

IEEE Spectrum

The study reaches four main conclusions. First, it finds that “substantial value” exists in increasing the transfer capability between the grids. Maintaining the status quo of puny connections is the least desirable outcome.

Second, cross-seam transmission has a substantial impact on the location, size, and type of wind and solar that could be developed in each region. Third, cross-seam transmission enables substantial energy and operating reserve sharing on a daily as well as on a seasonal basis. Fourth, there may be additional benefits as well as costs, including enhanced frequency response and resilience to extreme events.

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Bipartisan glimpse in nuclear energy bill passage

Axios

Why it matters: It’s a rare glimpse of bipartisanship on the usually acrimonious issue of energy in a Congress mostly focused on the midterm elections. It is also a step toward helping advanced nuclear-energy technologies, which are still mostly in the demonstration phase.

One level deeper: The bill doesn’t include any huge changes, but taken collectively the requirements could spur more attention and money. Among the provisions:

  • Cost-share grant program at the Energy Department for applicants seeking federal licenses for advanced reactors.
  • Formally structured collaboration among national labs, private companies and others.

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Renewable shift hinges on green ‘conflict minerals’ — report

E&E Energywire

The 23 “green conflict minerals” identified in the report include some that already snag headlines, like cobalt or lithium, either because of the potential for shortages or because investigations into supply chains keep turning up human rights abuses.

Some, like bauxite, are already the subject of large-scale extraction, with global reserves unlikely to be exhausted over the near term.

Others are only mined in a small number of countries. Three rare earths favored for magnets that go into electric vehicles, energy storage and wind turbines — dysprosium, neodymium and praseodymium — overwhelmingly come from Chinese subsoil, and the highly toxic processing happens there, too.

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ChargePoint to add over 2 million EV chargers by 2025

CNET

A lot can happen in seven years, and if ChargePoint follows through on its new promise, it would definitely fall under the definition of “a lot.”

ChargePoint announced today that it intends to expand its network of electric vehicle chargers in a very big way. It hopes to have 2.5 million charging spots up and running in 2025, which would represent a roughly fifty-fold increase in chargers over its current network of approximately 54,000 chargers. That’s yuge.

The chargers won’t be limited to the US, although having 2.5 million chargers in the US alone would go a long way in reducing range anxiety concerns. ChargePoint says that, of its 2.5 million chargers, most will end up in Europe and North America, with a smaller chunk designated for Australia and New Zealand. ChargePoint has focused largely on the US as it expands, but it entered Europe in 2017, too.

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Additional coverage on this topic:

EV charging providers scale up amid a ‘revolution in transportation’, Utility Dive, Read more

Weak CO2 prices not enough to reduce emissions — study

E&E Climatewire

Carbon prices are spreading throughout the world’s largest economies. The only problem for climate hawks: They’re nowhere near high enough to produce a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions.

That is the conclusion of a report issued yesterday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The findings echo the analysis of previous studies and underscore the challenges facing countries, states and cities coming out of the recent climate summit in San Francisco.

The analysis identified a gap of 76.5 percent between real climate costs and carbon prices implemented today across 42 OECD and Group of 20 countries. The gap has narrowed by 3 percent over the last three years, the report found.

At that rate, carbon prices would not accurately reflect climate costs until 2095.

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Apple is investing in negative emissions

Quartz

Apple’s newest smartphones may not have received all-round praise, but its latest environmental initiative surely should. On Friday (Sep. 14), the world’s most valuable company said it is investing an undisclosed sum in a project in Colombia to restore mangroves and sequester as much as 17,000 metric tons (18,739 tons) of carbon dioxide in two years. That’s equal to the emissions that the fleet of vehicles updating Apple Maps will produce over the coming decade.

“Mangroves live at the edge of the land and sea, providing local communities with coastal protection, habitat for their fisheries, and a wealth of biodiversity,” according to Conservation International, an NGO that’s leading the mangrove restoration project. “These and other ocean wetlands store up to 10 times the carbon per unit area as terrestrial forests, making them a vital ally in the fight against climate change.” A 2016 study of 3,000 deforested mangrove patches found that most of them were being cut down for the use of growing rice, palm trees, or expanding fisheries.

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