Nuclear Power

Gen4Energy

Gen4Energy draws on research done at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It is simple, safe, cost-efficient, clean, and sustainable. Each unit is about the size of a hot tub and costs $30-$50 million. These units will be buried about 15 feet or more underground and, when refueling is required, will be dug out and replaced. The reactor size is 25 megawatts (producing electric power required by about 20,000 homes) and anticipated energy cost from these units is about 10 cents per kilowatt hour (slightly higher than average US energy cost).

Traditional nuclear energy plants typically require very expensive and time-consuming individualized designs, permitting, cost estimation, and government subsidized loan guarantees for funding. In contrast, these modular units can be mass produced and transported to locations where they will be needed. Supplying power in localized fashion is yet another advantage, because it reduces energy transmission losses.

Gen4Energy modules are anticipated to become available in 2013.

Transaatomic Power

Be sure to watch the 4-minute video. Transatomic's "molten salt reactor can be fueled by existing nuclear waste ... a resource to be tapped rather than a liability that needs to be disposed of .... Transatomic employs uranium dissolved in liquid salt, which does not require active cooling. And, if the power fails, the nuclear material drains passively away from the core, making the reactor 'walk-away safe.'"

"Molten salt enables Transatomic to draw 92% more energy from the uranium -- thus its ability to reuse (270,000 tons) of spent fuel rods and to significantly reduce the burden of radioactive waste on the planet (while generating enough energy for the next 72 years."

Energy Produced from Fusion

This is by far the most revolutionary and promising approach to clean alternative energy production. Lockheed Martin appears to have made a breakthrough in this technology, will have a working prototype fusion reactor in one year, and should be able to go into production in a decade.

Lockheed Martin's Fusion Reactor

Energy Produced Without Use of Biomass, Arable Land, or Fresh Water

Joule Unlimited

Be sure to watch the informative videos.

Uses sunlight and waste carbon dioxide to produce clean diesel fuel that can be used directly in existing infrastructure.

The process does not require biomass, agricultural land, or fresh water for crops.

From their website: "At full-scale production the company projects delivery of up to 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually, at costs as low as $20 per barrel equivalent including subsidies." See the following video explaining their process:

Algenol

Algenol's advantages parallel those of Joule. It uses hybrid algae together with carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight to produce ethanol. Ethanol produced with this process is competitive with gasoline when oil prices are above $30 per barrel. Production costs are fixed and capacity is limited only by availability of carbon dioxide and desert land. This is an ingenious and elegent technology that, hopefully, can be demonstrated to be workable on a large scale.

LanzaTech

Uses waste gases (i.e., gases that contain carbon monoxide and are waste products of steel manufacturing, oil refining, or chemical production) to produce fuel and chemical products. Microbes developed by LanzaTech turn the gas into ethanol or other chemicals.

Biomass: Conversion of inedible agricultural waste into ethanol

Typical approaches focus on development of microorganisms that simplify and accelerate the process. Several companies are actively and independently pursuing approaches to these fundamental chemical problems. Most are funded from private sources. Some are in the process of completing pilot plants. There is tremendous potential here and it is inevitable that one or more of these companies will succeed in scaling up and becoming commercially and economically viable.

Sustainable Oils

Uses the unique camelina oilseed that is a weed native to northern Europe. This seed needs little moisture and can grow on fallow land in rotation with wheat. It is ideal for water-scarce areas where more desirable crops cannot be grown.

Sustainable Oils, in collaboration with Honeywell, has produced jet fuel and has tested it in a variety of engine types and aircraft. This jet fuel can be blended with petroleum-based fuel.

Qteros

Uses a proprietary microorganism (the Q Microbe) to simplify and streamline production of ethanol from a large variety of (non-food) biomass sources.

Amyris

Develops organisms capable of producing chemicals (e.g., microbes that process sugar). Produces genetically-engineered yeast strains to convert sugar (e.g., from sugarcane) into molecules such as farnesene (that in turn is used to produce specialty chemicals and diesel). Objective is to develop yeast strains that can help scale up production to commercial quantities. Other isoprenoids produced from these yeast strains are used in pharmaceuticals, flavors and fragrances, and industrial chemicals.

Amyris has made considerable progress and is currently partnered with Total to produce fuel from plant or cellulosic sugars. Their renewable diesel is currently being sold in metropolitan areas of Brazil. The partnership is awaiting approval from industry for use of their jet fuel.

Coskata

Focus is on use of its proprietary organisms to produce ethanol from inexpensive biomass at a low enough cost to be competitive with gasoline.

Mascoma

Has developed industrial microorganisms that produce enzymes to ferment sugars liberated from biomass into end-products. Their consolidated bioprocessing, CBP, is capable of producing high yields under industrial conditions.

Dupont Cellulosic Ethanol

Construction has begun on their cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada: Nevada Plant

REG Life Sciences

Uses synthetic biology to develop catalysts that enable simple one-step fermentation processes of biomass to fatty alcohols, specialty ester, and biodiesel.

Algae

These appear to be far more efficient than plants as sources of energy.

Sapphire Energy

Uses an algae that draws energy from sunlight, multiplies in open saltwater ponds, and feeds on carbon dioxide and sunlight.

Power from Waste

PK Clean

Has developed a process with the goal of attempting to convert 2 trillion pounds of plastic waste sitting in US landfills into energy. "The process converts 70-80% of plastic into oil plus 10-15% into hydrocarbon gas." PK Clean uses (the latter) as fuel for its operations."

Solena Fuels

Produces synthetic gas from waste, then converts it to hydrocarbons, and next to jet or marine fuel. It can use 500,000 tonnes of waste to produce 16 million gallons of fuel, nine million gallons of naptha, and 20 megawatts of electricity.

Fuel Cells

Bloomenergy

Uses solid oxide fuel cell technology to produce clean, reliable and affordable electricity. It is manufactured from inexpensive materials (a sand-like powder), converts fuel to electricity at about twice the level of efficiency of other technologies, uses renewable or fossil fuels, and can generate or store electricity.

Their standard "energy servers" provide 100 kilowatts of power (equivalent to the needs of 100 homes). The modular system allows starting small and adding more units as more power is needed.

Most importantly, this process bypasses the electricity transmission grid and the massive expenses of maintaining the grid plus the power losses in transmitting energy through the grid. Current customers include Walmart, Staples, AT&T, Coca Cola, Adobe, Google, FedEx, Bank of America, and many more.

Fuel Cells from Honda

Honda has invested many years of research to develop their fuel cell stack. The company has been testing fuel cell powered vehicles in Europe since 2009.

Honda's FCX Clarity requires hydrogen refueling stations. The vehicle uses an electric motor that gets its electricity from an on-board fuel cell. This system generates clean power with water as its only emission. Fuel efficiency is three times that of gasoline-powered engines.

The following site provides detailed information about the FCX Clarity.

FCX Clarity Vehicle from Honda

Batteries

Solid-state batteries currently under development have the potential to reduce battery sizes by 80%. Toyota Motors is exploring this technology (i.e., to replace the liquid electrolyte in today's electric vehicle batteries with solid state materials.

Sakti3

Makes batteries that do not use flammable liquids that are currently employed in electric car batteries. Their solid state batteries make batteries safer, reduce battery weight, and result in improvements in energy density. This company has ties with General Motors and is currently producing prototypes for testing by potential customers

See also the following article on this technology:

MIT "Technology Review" Article on Sakti3

Wildcat Discovery Technologies

Can synthesize 3000 unique materials per week and test them as electrodes in functional cells. This capability to quickly develop and test potential materials for batteries should help speed up the discovery of new battery technologies. Wildcat has already identified a pair of materials that could increase battery energy density by 25%.

Wave Power

Involves a simple and reliable use of wave energy. As a platform bobs up and down, a vertical piston drives a generator by using magnets and not the less reliable hydraulic devices. Underwater cables transmit the power to the shore.

Ocean Power Technologies

Wind

Windside

One disadvantage of wind energy is that wind turbines must be located in remote, windy areas. The resulting variable power requires very expensive collection, storage, and transmission systems to be connected to the energy grid. Wind turbines from Windside can operate independently of the power grid and supply energy in a decentralized and efficient way. Energy produced from the larger Windside turbines can also be fed into the power grid where it is easily accessible.

Based on 30 years of research, Windside produces double helix vane turbines that are efficient, durable (50 year life span), quiet (under 5 dB), and do not harm birds. Power is generated from wind speeds of 1.5 to 60 meters per second.

Drawbacks of Home-Based Wind Turbines

Footnote About the Absurdity of Corn-Based Ethanol

In considering the usefulness of various alternative sources of energy, it is important to consider how much energy is required to produce the end product. In the case of corn-based ethanol, for one unit of energy that is required to plant, grow, harvest, and process the corn, the energy yield of the resulting ethanol is 1.3 units; so the "return on energy invested" to produce ethanol from corn is 1.3. For comparison, the return on energy invested to produce ethanol from switchgrass is about 5 (meaning, we get out 5 times the energy that is invested to produce the switchgrass-based ethanol). It should be obvious, then, that corn-based ethanol would not be viable without government subsidies.

Please help to enrich and improve these pages. Send comments and suggestions for additional promising energy resources to
Albert Mehrabian

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