Space-based solar panels have been researched by some of the more fanciful scientists on the planet for quite some time based on the clear advantages that such technology would have over earth-based solar panels; such as 24 hours sunlight and no interference from weather patterns. Now a team of Japanese engineers have added a slight twist to the idea and decided to place solar panels on the moon.
Shimizu, one of world’s largest architectural, engineering, and construction firms, has drawn up plans to install a solar belt around the moon's equator that would collect energy from the sun and beam it back to earth in the form of microwaves and lasers. On earth it would be collected by special receiver stations, converted into electricity and then fed into the national grid. (Related article: New Efficient Materials Promise a Photovoltaic Revolution)
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Aware of the difficulties of constructing arrays in space, Shimizu intends to use a fleet of remote controlled robots to install the Luna Ring, which would stretch across the entire 6,800 mile lunar equator, with a width of 248 miles. That comes to a total area of solar panels of 1,686,400 square miles, enough to generate 13,000 terawatts of energy. ( Continue… )
With a nuclear deal signed, Iran isn't wasting any time working to revive its battered energy industry.
Tough international sanctions on Iran's vast oil and gas wealth aren't going to disappear overnight, but last week's interim nuclear accord opens the door for Iran's return to oil influence.
Iranian officials are already putting out feelers to western oil majors and leaders of other OPEC nations, hoping to stake out room on the international market for the Islamic Republic's oil.
It could be a welcome addition, as supply disruptions in Libya, Nigeria, and elsewhere continue to rattle investors. Still, production in the US and Saudi Arabia is booming, and neither country is likely to slow down anytime soon.
Iraq has gobbled up much of Iran's OPEC market share in the past year, and isn't in any rush to give it back. What's more, it will be months, at least, before Iranians see any real relief from sanctions imposed by the US. ( Continue… )
President Obama's signature health-care program is stumbling out of the gate. Lawmakers are scrutinizing overseas spying operations. A deal on Iran's nuclear plan has yet to materialize.
After weeks of discussing glitches and setbacks, Mr. Obama tried to change the subject in Cleveland Thursday. He toured a steel plant to highlight job growth in the auto industry, which just five years ago was on the verge of collapse. And he pointed to one area where the United States has seen some progress: energy.
"We [have] invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil, double wind power, double solar power, produce more oil, produce more natural gas, and do it all in a way that is actually bringing down some of our pollution, making our entire economy more energy-efficient," the president said in a speech at the factory.
The energy intensity of the US economy – total energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product – has been dropping for some time: 58 percent per real dollar of GDP between 1950 and 2011, according to the US Energy Information Administration. And it's projected to continue to decline over the coming decades. Energy consumption per person began a steady decline in 2007, in part because of new appliance and fuel-economy standards passed during the Obama administration. ( Continue… )
Oil prices will only rise moderately over the next 20 years according to estimates from the International Energy Agency. The IEA released the 2013 edition of its much-anticipated World Energy Outlook, which projects oil prices to rise steadily but slowly to $128 per barrel (in 2012 dollars) by 2035.
Leaving aside the fact that these projections are usually way off, the report bases its rosy figures on some pretty tenuous developments. For example, for prices to keep from spiking much higher than the projected $128 per barrel, production will have to keep up with rising demand. According to the report, world oil production will increase from the current rate of 89 million barrels per day (mb/d) to 101 mb/d by 2035. Therefore, for this to successfully play out, global production needs to add 12 mb/d.
Yet, the IEA believes that over half of this production will come from two countries: Iraq and Brazil. First, let’s take Iraq. Iraq has the fifth largest oil reserves in the world at 141 billion barrels and there are high hopes that it can ramp up production. In fact, the IEA is predicting that it will be the largest source of additional oil production in the world over the next 20 years. Iraq is so important that the IEA published a special report on its energy sector last year, in which it predicted that the Middle Eastern country could double its production from 3 mb/d in 2012 to 6 mb/d by 2020, steadily ratcheting up production to 8.3 mb/d by 2035. (Related article: Serious Oil Problems Uncovered in Nigeria) ( Continue… )
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is on the defensive after a series of crash-related fires have raised concerns over the safety of the company's Model S electric car.
The concern is unnecessary, Mr. Musk says. The three fires occurring in the past six weeks were the result of freak accidents, according to the Tesla CEO, not design flaws in the Model S.
Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is weighing a formal investigation after the third fire took place Nov. 6 in Tennessee. The federal agency will determine whether there is any need for a recall – a notion Musk is already dismissing.
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Tesla Motors has had a string of good news over the past year – winning major industry awards and earning a top safety rating from the NHTSA. The success has put a bright spotlight on Musk, which has helped boost the profile of Tesla Motors and electric cars in general. So far, the Tesla CEO isn't shying away from that spotlight when the news isn't so great. ( Continue… )
The holidays have come early for US drivers.
Gas prices are at the lowest they've been in 33 months and are projected to near the $3 mark as the year comes to an end. A combination of ample domestic supplies and light demand are keeping prices low.
About 1 in 4 gas stations across the US are already selling gas for less than $3 a gallon. Six states – Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas – already have average gas prices below $3 a gallon. Missouri motorists are paying the least: an average $2.82.
Falling prices put cash back in the pockets of consumers, but it may not be enough to spur a strong holiday shopping season this year. Most forecasts suggest only a modest increase in holiday spending as the effects of the Great Recession continue to linger. ( Continue… )
The US is poised to become the world's largest oil producer beginning in 2015. But its reign will be fleeting as the Middle East reasserts itself two decades from now.
Why? America's oil boom won't last forever, according to an annual outlook released Tuesday by the International Energy Agency (IEA). And the technologies that have fueled that North American boom in shale rock formations won't be easily replicated in the rest of the world.
"The capacity of technologies to unlock new types of resources ... and to improve recovery rates in existing fields is pushing up estimates of the amount of oil that remains to be produced," reads the Paris-based agency's report. "But this does not mean that the world is on the cusp of a new era of oil abundance."
Such a pessmistic forecast may seem hard to believe, given that the US is producing oil today at levels not seen since the 1990s. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, two advanced extraction techniques, have fueled a boom in shale oil and gas production across the US. ( Continue… )
The self-declared government of Cyrenaica, a district in eastern Libya, said it established its own oil company that's ready to put crude oil on the international market. Libya since Moammar Gadhafi's dictatorship ended in 2011 has struggled to return to the level of stability he ensured with an iron fist. Now, one of Africa's leading oil states is tearing apart at the seams defined largely along the divisions suppressed during Gadhafi's autocracy. With 48 billion barrels of proven oil reserves at stake, what's next for Libya may have less to do with political reform than it does with who controls the oil spigots.
Tribes in eastern Libya have pressed for a return to an administrative system established in the 1950s. Then, Libya was divided into three states, with Cyrenaica spread out over much of the eastern half of the country. That all ended when Gadhafi took power in a 1969 coup d'état. Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, leader of the revised eastern administration, said the new company would be set up in Tobruk, where protesters last week laid siege to the Hariga port. That protest left a tanker set to load 60,000 barrels of crude oil for Italy stranded offshore.
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Seemingly waning in power, and just weeks removed from his kidnapping, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said the central government in Tripoli might run short on money because of oil export woes. The eastern area is home to several key oil fields and export terminals, meaning Zeidan has little say over what happens there. He said 60 percent of the oil production in Libya has stopped because of a series of disruptions, and most of that is from the eastern region. In the next month or so, he said, the Libyan economy may be in a bit of a pickle. (Related article: Libya: Benghazi Burns as Clashes Intensify in Tripoli) ( Continue… )
Optimistic, but unwarranted, energy supply forecasts permeate the media (courtesy of the oil and gas industry) even as the occasional dire scenario gets coverage. But, it is well to remember that none of people making forecasts can know the one thing they all desperately want to know: the future.
The most important thing you need to understand about forecasts--any forecast--is that their accuracy deteriorates rapidly, the further they go into the future. Surprisingly, almost no one who makes public energy supply forecasts acknowledges this; otherwise, we would see what statisticians call error bars--very large ones--in all these forecasts. In layman's terms, the further out a forecast goes, the wider the range of possible outcomes--so much so that for long-term forecasts the range of outcomes is far more important than the middle estimate.
But, this kind of waffling doesn't get headlines. Humans are evolutionarily disposed to listen to those who sound the most confident in their pronouncements, not those who are hesitant and full of equivocation.There is reason to believe that overconfidence is an evolutionary advantage, and that this explains its persistence in human society. In addition, research has shown that those projecting confidence engender loyalty even if their forecasts are wrong more often than those who couch their predictions in the language of uncertainty. You can get some of the advantages of being right without actually being right. People like to feel that they are certain even though that feeling often turns out to be false.
So, the lay public is treated daily to an orgy of often contradictory soothsaying and tends to respond as follows: "Come back to me when you know for certain." But, that's just the problem. We can't know anything about the future for certain, and yet we must plan for it. So, how do we go about doing that? ( Continue… )
Veterans Day 2013: Why energy jobs are good fit for vets (Sponsor content)
On Monday, among the parades, waving flags and memorial services that commemorate Veterans Day, it is important to remember that the members of our military often come home and face a new challenge — civilian life. Fortunately, there are ways that we, as residents and members of the business community, can show our gratitude to these American heroes. We can hire veterans.
At AREVA, a nuclear energy supplier headquartered in Charlotte, we are dedicated to hiring military veterans. In fact, about 10 percent of our Lynchburg-based workforce of almost 2,000 people is comprised of veterans and we have similar hiring practices in Charlotte, Richland, Wash., and Columbia, Md., our other larger locations. We’ve found that the job skill parallels between the military and the civilian energy industry allow veterans to translate their experience into a rewarding career with great opportunities for advancement. Our military veterans have the training and leadership skills necessary to tackle the needs of a society with a growing demand for energy.
Across the United States, nuclear and other clean energy is an important part of our lives. Nationwide, nuclear energy accounts for about 20 percent of the electricity that powers every computer, electric car and light bulb. This clean, safe and reliable energy depends on a strong and talented workforce, and we need to ensure that we are developing and attracting top talent, particularly as new nuclear plants are built and we continue to service our existing fleet. Nuclear energy already employs thousands of Americans in well-paid careers. Careers in business, communications, human resources, legal, engineering, information systems and building trades, just to name a few.
At AREVA, we have been very successful in our efforts to recruit military veterans, who represent a growing part of our team across the country. In fact, military veterans comprise nearly 10 percent of our U.S. workforce. To encourage and continue this trend, we support the Troops to Energy program, as well as many other military recruiting events, and even launched a webpage in 2012 specifically dedicated to opportunities for veterans. These valuable resources help retiring military personnel find careers that are a good fit for them.
As we celebrate this Veterans Day, I believe we should honor our veterans by helping them in their transition to successful careers in their civilian lives. At AREVA we pledge to thank those who have protected our great nation year-round by hiring veterans whenever possible.
Mike Rencheck is CEO of AREVA Inc. North America