Tesla Motors, the company that has jolted the electric car industry, is looking to change the way we power business.
The California-based firm has teamed with SolarCity, a solar-energy company, to back up commercial solar systems with the electric carmaker's advanced lithium-ion batteries. The system, called DemandLogic, debuted Thursday and is initially available only in parts of California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
The project is a convergence of two clean-energy giants on an issue that has long hampered the spread of renewable electricity.
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The sun doesn't always shine, the wind doesn't always blow, and it's costly to store either of those renewable sources. That's why most residential and commercial solar systems simply feed electricity back into the grid, rendering them useless if the wider grid fails. ( Continue… )
The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) cleared an important hurdle on December 2nd when the Greek Parliament ratified a host agreement to allow access through Greek territory. The move was important for the pipeline, keeping the project on track to begin construction in 2015.
TAP will carry natural gas from the resource-rich Caspian basin in Azerbaijan to Western Europe. First, the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) will take the gas from Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey. TAP will pick up from there, carrying the gas through Greece, Albania and under the Adriatic, then terminating in Italy. An estimated 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas will be piped from the Shah Deniz, one of the largest gas fields in the world. Of that total, the pipeline will deliver 6 bcm to Turkey, and the remaining 10 bcm to markets Europe. (Related article: New Study Finds Higher Methane Emissions from Fracking)
The construction of TAP will bring a conclusion to the political jockeying over the “Southern Corridor.” The European Union relies on Russia for 34% of its natural gas imports, and with Russia showing a fondness for cutting off gas supplies when it wants to prove a point, the EU for years has sought supply diversity. This led European policymakers to push for a pipeline from the Caspian, originally in the form of the Nabucco pipeline, which would have run through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and terminating in Austria. ( Continue… )
But the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is staying the course, for now at least.
OPEC will keep its oil production target at 30 million barrels a day for the first half of 2014, the 12-member cartel announced at a meeting in Vienna Wednesday. Nevertheless, if supply continues to rise in countries like the US, Canada, Iraq, and Iran, the cartel may have to rethink its strategy.
Oil prices remain historically high, and the world's leading oil producers would prefer to keep it that way. Maintaining current production levels, the cartel said Wednesday, will help meet growing demand from developing countries and fuel economic recoveries underway in the US and Europe. ( Continue… )
Europe, at present the world's largest market and largest economic bloc, is in decline and living standards are in danger. That was the sober message at an energy conference here, delivered by a battery of speakers from across eastern Europe.
The narrative is that energy is what is dragging Europe down – not low birthrates and pervasive social-safety networks, but increasing dependence on expensive energy imports and hopelessly tangled markets.
Although delegates gathered to discuss the particular problems of eastern Europe, many had comments about the energy dependence across Europe; its labyrinthine regulations in nearly all 28 countries, its inability to form capital for large projects like nuclear, and governments intruding into the market.(Related article: New Study Finds Higher Methane Emissions from Fracking)
The result is a patchwork of contradictions, counterproductive regulations, political fiats and multiple objectives that leave Europeans paying more for energy than they need to and failing to develop indigenous sources, such as their own shale gas deposits in Ukraine and Poland. It also leaves countries dependent on capricious and expensive gas from Russia, unsure of whether they can build needed electric generating plant in the future and poorly interconnected, sometimes by both gas pipelines and electric lines. ( Continue… )
I spent the first week of November in the heart of the Athabasca oil sands around Fort McMurray, Alberta. I was there as a guest of the Canadian government, which hosts annual tours for small groups of journalists and energy analysts. In the previous two articles, I covered some of the environmental issues arising from the development of the oil sands.
In Oil Sands and the Environment – Part I I discussed greenhouse gas emissions, impacts on wildlife, and I touched upon water usage. I also detailed some of the work of Pembina Institute (PI), which is working to improve the environmental conditions as the oil sands are developed. In Oil Sands and the Environment – Part II I covered the tailings ponds, water consumption, impacts to water quality, and impacts to indigenous people.
Today I want to discuss the actual process of converting the oil sands into oil. Some may feel that this should have been the first article I wrote, but because the development of the oil sands is environmentally controversial on many fronts, I thought it was important to go over environmental issues first before discussing the process. I think that if I had covered the process first, most of the comments and questions would have been about the environmental issues. ( Continue… )
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… )