Sunday, September 30, 2012

2008-07-31 "'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution; Scientists mimic essence of plants' energy storage system"

by Anne Trafton from "Massachusetts Institute of Technology"
In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.
Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today's announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.
Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," said MIT's Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. "Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon."
Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.
The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity — whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source — runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.
Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.
The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.

'Giant leap' for clean energy -
Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world's energy problems, said Nocera. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for one year.
James Barber, a leader in the study of photosynthesis who was not involved in this research, called the discovery by Nocera and Kanan a "giant leap" toward generating clean, carbon-free energy on a massive scale.
"This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind," said Barber, the Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London. "The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated since it opens up the door for developing new technologies for energy production thus reducing our dependence for fossil fuels and addressing the global climate change problem."

'Just the beginning' -
Currently available electrolyzers, which split water with electricity and are often used industrially, are not suited for artificial photosynthesis because they are very expensive and require a highly basic (non-benign) environment that has little to do with the conditions under which photosynthesis operates.
More engineering work needs to be done to integrate the new scientific discovery into existing photovoltaic systems, but Nocera said he is confident that such systems will become a reality.
"This is just the beginning," said Nocera, principal investigator for the Solar Revolution Project funded by the Chesonis Family Foundation and co-Director of the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center. "The scientific community is really going to run with this."
Nocera hopes that within 10 years, homeowners will be able to power their homes in daylight through photovoltaic cells, while using excess solar energy to produce hydrogen and oxygen to power their own household fuel cell. Electricity-by-wire from a central source could be a thing of the past.
The project is part of the MIT Energy Initiative, a program designed to help transform the global energy system to meet the needs of the future and to help build a bridge to that future by improving today's energy systems. MITEI Director Ernest Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, noted that "this discovery in the Nocera lab demonstrates that moving up the transformation of our energy supply system to one based on renewables will depend heavily on frontier basic science."
The success of the Nocera lab shows the impact of a mixture of funding sources — governments, philanthropy, and industry. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Chesonis Family Foundation, which gave MIT $10 million this spring to launch the Solar Revolution Project, with a goal to make the large scale deployment of solar energy within 10 years.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Local Clean Energy Alliance (Oakland)

Join the Clean Energy & Jobs Oakland Campaign -

The Clean Energy & Jobs Oakland campaign is working to bring Community Choice energy to Oakland by asking organizations and individuals to call on City Council to support this program.
 For more information on the Clean Energy & Jobs Oakland campaign, check our campaign web site [].
We will need lots of help on the campaign and urge you to get involved. If you have questions or are interested in joining the effort, please let us know:

Plug into LCEA
That’s right, the Local Clean Energy Alliance is looking for an infusion of new energy—people energy—to help meet aggressive goals. We welcome your involvement in any number of ways. All it takes is a commitment to equitable, local clean energy solutions that contribute to the health of our community.

Check out some of the opportunities available especially the volunteer openings.

2012-09-19 "It's a Victory! CleanPowerSF Passes 8-3"

Bay Localize is a project of Earth Island Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization []
[436 14th Street, Suite 1216, Oakland, CA 94612] [510-834-0420]
On September 18th San Francisco took a huge step in meeting its climate action goals! The Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to approve Clean Power SF, San Francisco's version of Community Choice Energy. The Local Clean Energy Alliance and allies have spent years shaping the program and organizing the support to move it forward.
"This vote is a big victory in the 10-year effort to bring Community Choice Energy to San Francisco," stated Al Weinrub, Coordinator of the Local Clean Energy Alliance. "It's a crucial step in transitioning off fossil fuels in a way that provides economic opportunity and clean energy jobs." 
 Clean Power SF will offer residents the option of purchasing 100% renewable energy starting in the Spring of 2013. Tuesday's vote approved a five-year contract for San Francisco to purchase 30 MW of renewable energy for participating customers. The program's long term vision is to install 31 MW of solar right in San Francisco and reduce energy use by a whopping 107 MW through energy efficiency measures. Meeting these goals could create more than 4,000 local jobs per year.
 San Francisco set climate action goals of reducing emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2017 and 80 percent below those levels by 2050. According to Ed Harrington, General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Clean Power SF offers "the only chance of reaching those goals." 
 Harrington also noted that Clean Power SF is "an incredibly efficient way to spend money...the City has spent $90 million on solar and other renewable energy projects that power fewer than 7,000 homes, whereas this $19.5 million will power 90,000 households." The program will initially include about 90,000 customers, or roughly a quarter of the city's residential ratepayers.
Special thanks to all of our allies who achieved this victory together, notably Michelle Meyers, John Rizzo, and Jeremiah Dean of the Sierra Club Bay Chapter; Eric Brooks of the San Francisco Green Party; Josh Arce and Eddie Ahn of Brightline Defense Project; and June Brashares of Global Exchange. Al Weinrub of the Local Clean Energy Alliance played a major role coalescing this group over the years. Twenty other community organizations as well as Senator Mark Leno, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, and Senator Leland Yee also supported the program.
 The Local Clean Energy Alliance, hosted by Bay Localize, is the Bay Area's largest clean energy advocacy alliance with more than 90 organizational members. Click here to join the Alliance.

Photo: Al Weinrub Local Clean Energy Alliance Coordinator speaks out on CleanPowerSF

2012-09-19 "CleanPowerSF" by Corrine Van Hook