Nuclear fusion was in the news this week as work on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) continues. (You can get some background on ITER here and here). In Nuclear Fusion – Possible at Last? OILPRICE wrote that ITER is our generation’s “Manhattan Project” with 34 nations representing more than half the world’s population joining forces in the biggest scientific collaboration on the planet. The $17 billion fusion reactor underway in a forest in the south of France is a global effort by the “best and brightest” in the U.S. Europe, Russia and Asia to find an unlimited, powerful, clean energy source. The Independent in One giant leap for mankind added more about the significance of the ITER project:

If Iter demonstrates that it is possible to build commercially-viable fusion reactors then it could become the experiment that saved the world in a century threatened by climate change and an expected three-fold increase in global energy demand…The design, development and construction of a machine that will attempt to emulate the nuclear fusion reactions of the Sun is proving to be a triumph of diplomacy, as well as science and engineering.

We’ve passed from the design stage to being a construction project. We will have to show it is safe. If we cannot convince the public that this is safe, I don’t think nuclear fusion will be developed anywhere in the world,” Dr Carlos Alejaldre said. (Dr. Alexjaldre is Iter’s deputy director responsible for safety.)

ITER is the first experimental fusion reactor to receive a nuclear operating licence because of its power-generating capacity. For every 50 megawatts of electricity it uses, it should generate up to 500 MW of power output in the form of heat.

In a related post, BREAKING Energy said the US is losing out in the international race for fusion power. While the US is focused on budget cuts and short-term energy issues other countries around the world are looking at the longer term and deciding large scale investments in fusion power are critical.  The post mentions research and projects currently underway in the UK, Germany, France, Japan, China, and South Korea.

As other countries invest more heavily in fusion power, America’s leadership in this field will soon come to an end. Ceding a new high-tech industry to competitors will result in a decline in America’s competitive edge, and its best and brightest scientists will be lured by more advanced facilities abroad.   (See also Science Insider, Senators Request Investigation of International Fusion Experiment)

The Globe and Mail introduced us to the skyscraper of the future. Buildings account for roughly 40% of the world’s energy consumption (heat, light, electricity). so architects and engineers are working hard to make them energy neutral. The post explores how we will live and work in the skyscrapers of the not-so-distant future.  Note: registration required.  (with h/t Ian)

Global Renewable News said global biofuel production will reach 62 billion gallons by 2023. This is the forecast by energy research firm Navigant Research. Along with ethanol and biodiesel, the next wave of advanced biofuels will include fuels derived from non-food feedstocks and drop-in synthetic substitutes for gasoline, diesel, and kerosene-based jet fuel. These biofuels are primarily used for transportation uses (cars, trucks, aviation, marine vessels) and by 2023 will replace nearly 6% of global transportation fuel production from fossil fuel sources.

Click Green told how solar panels work.

The world’s first ocean thermal power plant will be built off the coast of China reported Clean Technica. The 10 MW electric power plant will be built off the southern China’s Hainan Island, perhaps as early as 2017. The electricity will be used by a resort on the island. Ocean thermal power involves heating warm surface water to produce steam that drives a turbine generator. Cold water is then pumped from 800 to 1,000 metres below the ocean surface to condense the steam back into a liquid form. See also New Energy and Fuel, Ocean Thermal Energy Goes Commercial for a fuller account.

greentechgrid posted the US and Europe may be seeing the end of paying for electricity by the kilowatt-hour. With the arrival of newer technologies (eg. solar, wind, combined heat and power, waste-t0-energy operations), fewer businesses and residences are paying for the electric grid as each year passes. Utilities are now looking at alternative means of maintaining, if not increasing, revenue to cover their grid network fixed costs. Hence, larger network access fees to the electric grid can be expected over the next few years.

Climate Spectator examined a draft report by the Australian Energy Market Operator which concludes that it is feasible to operate Australia’s electric grid in the eastern part of the country entirely on renewable energy by 2030. The AEMO finds it is possible to operate the grid with 100% renewable energy while meeting the current reliability requirement.  This means that with only renewable energy it was possible to meet the energy needs of the eastern grid 99.998% of the time. However, this does not mean this will be an easy task.  The AEMO recognized there would be far greater variability in supply than occurs presently and the need for substantially larger amounts of spare capacity in order to ensure 24/7 electricity supply. It is estimated that the cost of a 100% renewable electricity system for the country could cost between $219 to $332 billion in Australian dollars. The post concludes:

In the end though economic projections are almost invariably a very rough guess.  This doesn’t mean they should be ignored, but the real value from this study is its assessment of the physical feasibility of maintaining high reliability with large amounts of renewable energy.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts strong growth for the global renewable energy sector through to 2030. By that time annual investments in renewables will reach $600 billion annually. By that time renewables will account for between 69% and 74% of new power capacity added worldwide. Investment in renewables will be driven by further improvements in the cost-competitiveness of wind and solar technologies relative to fossil fuel alternatives, as well as an increase in the roll-out of non-intermittent clean energy sources like hydro, geothermal and biomass. Bloomberg’s prediction is based on its latest projections for coal and natural gas prices in the US, Europe and Asia over the next 20 years.

Guy Turner, head of economics and commodities for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, commented: “… renewable technologies will form the anchor of new generating capacity additions, even under a less optimistic view of the world economy and policy choices.”

Anxious to maintain its national electric grid at high capacity, Japan is turning back to coal-fired generation plants said The Sydney Morning Herald. The Japanese government is moving to speed up the environmental assessment process for new coal-fired power plants in the wake of the forced idling of much of the country’s nuclear power plants following the Fukushima power plant meltdown in March 2011. The government plans to reduce the approval period for new plants from 4 years to one year. With nuclear under review, coal is viewed as the cheapest alternative energy source to generate baseload electricity. Of Japan’s 50 nuclear power plants, just two are in operation at the moment. All were shut for a review of operating procedures after the Fukushima accident.




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