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Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries

A recently discovered form of carbon graphite – the material in pencil lead – has turned out to have a completely unexpected property which could revolutionise the development of green energy and electric cars.

Researchers have discovered that graphene allows positively charged hydrogen atoms or protons to pass through it despite being completely impermeable to all other gases, including hydrogen itself.

The implications of the discovery are immense as it could dramatically increase the efficiency of fuel cells, which generate electricity directly from hydrogen, the scientists said.

The breakthrough raises the prospect of extracting hydrogen fuel from air and burning it as a carbon-free source of energy in a fuel cell to produce electricity and water with no damaging waste products.

“In the atmosphere there is a certain amount of hydrogen and this hydrogen will end up on the other side [of graphene] in a reservoir. Then you can use this hydrogen-collected reservoir to burn it in the same fuel cell and make electricity,” said Professor Sir Andrei Geim of Manchester Univeristy.

Ever since its discovery 10 years ago, graphene has astonished scientists. It is the thinnest known material, a million times thinner than human hair, yet more than 200 times stronger than steel, as well as being the world’s best conductor of electricity.

Until now, being permeable to protons was not considered a practical possibility, but an international team of scientists led by Sir Andre, who shares the 2010 Nobel Prize for his work on graphene, has shown that the one-atom thick crystal acts like a chemical filter. It allows the free passage of protons but forms an impenetrable barrier to other atoms and molecules.

“There have been three or four scientific papers before about the theoretical predictions for how easy or how hard it would be for a proton to go through graphene and these calculations give numbers that take billions and billions of years for a proton to go through this same membrane,” Sir Andrei said.

“It’s just so dense an electronic field it just doesn’t let anything through. But it’s a question of numbers, no more than that. This makes a difference between billions of years and a reasonable time for permeation. There is no magic,” he said.

The study, published in the journal Nature, shows that graphene and a similar single-atom material called boron nitride allowed the build-up of protons on one side of a membrane, yet prevented anything else from crossing over into a collecting chamber.

In their scientific paper, the researchers speculate that there could be many applications in the field of hydrogen fuel cells and in technology for collecting hydrogen gas from the atmosphere, which would open up a new source of clean energy.

“It’s really the very first paper on the subject so what we’re doing is really to introduce the material for other experts to think about it,” Sir Andrei said.

“It was difficult not to speculate. If you can pump protons from a hydrogen-containing gas into a chamber that doesn’t contain anything, you start thinking how you can exploit this?” he said.

“One of the possibilities we can imagine, however futuristic, which has to be emphasised because everything has been shown on a small scale, is applying a small electric current across the membrane and pushing hydrogen though the graphene or boron nitrite membrane,” he explained.

“Essentially you pump your fuel from the atmosphere and get electricity out of this fuel, in principle. Before this paper, this wouldn’t even be speculation; it would be science fiction. At least our paper provides a guidance and proof that this kind of device is possible and doesn’t contradict to any known laws of nature,” Sir Andre added.

Graphene: potential uses

Graphene is tough, about 200 times stronger than steel, yet incredibly light. It is considered the first two-dimensional material because it forms sheets of crystal that are just one atom thick.

It is also an excellent conductor of electricity, so is useful for anything involving electronics, such as bendable mobile phones and cameras, and wearable electrical devices attached to clothing.

Medical applications include its possible use as a material for delivering drugs to damaged sites within the body, which could open new avenues for treating patients with brain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or cancer.

Graphene is also being developed as a new material for membranes involved in separating liquids. It could be used to purify water in the developing world or to create more efficient desalination plants.

Scientists also believe that graphene’s high strength and low weight can be harnessed in the making of new composite materials and polymers for the transport industry, making travel safer and more fuel efficient.

Now, it seems, graphene might also be used to generate new forms of generating clean electricity using hydrogen fuel cells, and even as a technology for harvesting hydrogen fuel from air. More

 

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Latin America And Caribbean Region Expected To Install 9 GW Of Solar In 5 Years

That solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is poised to become a dominant energy generation technology throughout the world is of no surprise to most, but the sheer wealth of possibility being forecast throughout the middle and southern hemispheres begins to give an idea of just how prevalent the technology will be by the end of the decade.

Figures published by NPD Solarbuzz have so far predicted that several of the major Asia Pacific nations will account for 60% of solar PV demand in 2014, while being primary drivers of growth over the next several years, at the same time as the Middle East and Africa region currently has close to 12 GW of solar demand in the pipeline.

So it should really come as no surprise that NPD Solarbuzz’s recent figures show that the Latin America and Caribbean region is set to install 9 GW of solar PV over the next five years.

Latin America and Caribbean Five-Year Cumulative Demand Forecast by Project Status

“Solar PV is now starting to emerge as a preferred energy technology for Latin American and Caribbean countries,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “The region has high electricity prices and it also benefits from strong solar irradiation, which makes it a good candidate for solar PV deployment. As a result, experienced global solar PV developers are seeing strong solar PV growth potential in the region.”

NPD Solarbuzz’s Emerging PV Markets Report: Latin America and Caribbean shows that the total PV project pipeline now exceeds 22 GW of projects across all stages of development — with 1 GW of projects already under construction, and another 5 GW of projects have received the appropriate approval to proceed.

The Latin America and Caribbean region was previously home to many small-scale and off-grid solar PV applications, however governments are now looking to solar PV to address large-scale utility power requrements — specifically in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico.

“Many countries across the LAC region have the potential to develop into major solar PV markets in the future,” added Barker. “While project pipelines vary by country, there is a strong contribution from early-stage developments that have yet to finalize supply deals or find end-users to purchase the generated electricity, which presents both risks and opportunities for industry players.”

A number of countries throughout the developing and second-world countries are turning to renewable energy technologies to develop strong, future-proof, and economically efficient energy generation. Such a trend is being backed by major manufacturing companies who are focusing their efforts on these regions, hoping to increase their own profits while fulfilling renewable energy demand. More

 

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On Low-Carbon Economies

RMI and Carbon War Room are working together to help Caribbean islands transition to lowcarbon, clean-energy economies

Former Costa Rican president and Carbon War Room head José María Figueres on islands, carbon, and global energy use

In 1994 at age 39, José María Figueres was elected president of Costa Rica, becoming the youngest president of a Central American country during modern times. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, his administration focused on sustainable development. Since then, he has served as the chair of a United Nations taskforce, CEO of the World Economic Forum and then Concordia 21, and most recently president of Sir Richard Branson’s nonprofit Carbon War Room. Fresh off travel through parts of Asia with RMI chief scientist Amory Lovins, we asked Figueres about the importance of working with islands, creating low-carbon economies, and how to accelerate transforming global energy use.

José María Figueres

Rocky Mountain Institute: Like RMI CEO Jules Kortenhorst, your background spans business and government. Looking at today’s energy and climate challenges, why are market-based solutions — even if bolstered by supportive governmental policies — so important for driving change?

José María Figueres: About 40 percent of global carbon emissions can be profitably avoided today within existing international agreements and national regulations by applying already-proven technologies. RMI and CWR are leaders in helping businesses realize this terrific market opportunity. As we get more capital to flow into financing the transition toward clean energy and lower carbon emissions, we can provide profitable example for others to follow and broaden understanding about these issues at the same time.

RMI: Looking at RMI and Carbon War Room’s collaborative work together in the Caribbean, including the Creating Climate Wealth summit earlier this year, why is focusing on islands so important, given their small contribution to climate change yet great vulnerability in the face of it?

JMF: Working with islands to shift their energy base from fossil fuels to renewables is important for at least three reasons. First, it helps improve the quality of life for island residents, who are burdened with some of the highest electricity prices in the world. Second, such a transition creates jobs, investment possibilities, and entrepreneurial opportunities that render these islands — normally dependent on tourism for the overwhelming bulk of their economies — more competitive. And third, our work with islands can yield shining examples of a successful transition to lower-carbon, clean-energy economies using existing technologies. This will hopefully inspire others to follow in their footsteps, and not only on literal islands. After all, islands need not be surrounded by water. They can be an off-grid mine, a rural community, an isolated military installation, and much more.

RMI: Costa Rica, already known as an ecotourism hot spot and global leader in environmental stewardship, has set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2021. Your energy mix is already almost entirely renewable (mostly hydro plus some geothermal and wind), with an impressively small amount of fossil fuels. As the country embraces diversification with other renewables, such as solar in the Guanacaste region, what lessons can the rest of the world learn from your successes and challenges?

JMF: The first lesson is that renewables are profitable. Powered by renewables Costa Rica has successfully diversified its economy, with a very pronounced and competitive export-oriented bias. Secondly, we are living proof it can be done even among developing nations with scarcer economic resources than the developed world. Thirdly, our experience shows that systemic thinking in addressing these challenges is much better than a “silo” focus.

RMI: What do you see as the most significant barriers that stand in the way of transforming global energy use? With renewables making an increasingly compelling economic case — garnering billions of dollars of global investment, while their costs keep declining, making that investment go further — how can we accelerate their adoption and topple incumbent fossil fuels?

JMF: There is nothing harder than changing cultural attitudes. Most of the world grew up on fossil fuels without thinking of their unintended consequences: increasing carbon emissions driving climate change. Now we must change our habits and practices, and do so within a ten- to fifteen-year window to avoid temperature changes from escalating beyond two degrees Celsius. This requires broadening our understanding with respect to the business opportunities it entails, strong leadership to change present business models, and public-private partnerships to make progress in the short time we have to act.

RMI: With China and the U.S. dominating global oil imports, fossil fuel consumption (especially coal), and carbon emissions, how do smaller countries such as Costa Rica and the Caribbean’s island-nations perceive their place in that landscape?

JMF: Smaller nations face both a great challenge and a great opportunity. The challenge — and it’s not an easy one to come to terms with — is that even if we do everything we can in the smaller nations and reduce our carbon footprint to zero, the world still needs China, the U.S., Brazil, India, and other large players to do more and move faster. The opportunity, though, is for smaller nations to set an example in the transition to low-carbon economies, which hopefully inspires others to follow. Then, the issue becomes one of scaling solutions, rather than proving them in the first place. Smaller nations can become early-adopters proving the case that paves the way for other major world energy powers to follow.

Follow José María on Twitter.

This article is from the Summer 2014 issue of Rocky Mountain Institute’s Solution Journal. To read more from back issues of Solutions Journal, please visit the RMI website.

 

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OAS Workshop Seeks to Improve Caribbean Sustainable Energy Projects

20 August 2014: A regional workshop organized by the Organization of American States (OAS) discussed how to improve donor interventions regarding sustainable energy projects in the Caribbean.

The workshop, titled 'Development of Sustainable Energy Projects: Experiences, Strategies and Implementation,' took place on 19 August 2014 in Saint Lucia. The event brought together major donors for Caribbean energy projects with country representatives to: examine current and planned sustainable energy projects; discuss local barriers to commercialization of sustainable energy; identify Caribbean country project priorities and gaps in current assistance; and look at ways to foster collaboration and complementarity between projects.

During the opening session, OAS consultant Christina Becker-Birck provided an overview of the 80+ energy initiatives in the region, amounting since 2004 to around US$129 million in technical assistance and grants, about US$108 million in loans and lines of credit, with at least US$100 million pending and planned.

Philipp Blechinger, Reiner Lemoine Institut, outlined the results of a survey on barriers to the development of renewable energy technologies for power generation on Caribbean island States. Carolina Peña, OAS Sustainable Development Department (DSD), outlined OAS energy interventions in the region.

During a roundtable discussion on learning from success stories and failures, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) detailed its Sustainable Energy Programme on technical assistance and energy labeling. The Carbon War Room discussed its 10 Island Challenge to catalyze private investment and produce a Ten Island Renewable Roadmap/Blueprint. The Caribbean Development Bank outlined the proposed Sustainable Energy for the Eastern Caribbean (SEEC) and Geothermal Drill Risk Facility projects. The EU provided an overview of its support for energy projects in the region, and the Clean Energy Solutions Center (CESC) outlined its technical support.

The workshop was organized by the OAS DSD in the framework of the Sustainable Energy Capacity Building Initiative (SECBI) of the Energy and Climate Change Partnership of the Americas (ECPA). More

 

 

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High-level Event Discusses Renewable Energy in SIDS


News: High-level Event Discusses Renewable Energy in SIDS

1 September 2014: Participants recognized sustainable energy for all as a tool for eradicating poverty, combating climate change, creating economic opportunities and achieving sustainable development for all small island developing States (SIDS), at a high-level side event, titled ‘Linking SIDS and Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL): From Barbados to Samoa, and Beyond.' The event took place on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on SIDS, in Apia, Samoa, on 1 September 2014.


The SE4ALL side event aimed to build on commitments from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20+) and the Barbados SIDS High-Level Conference on SE4ALL, to take stock of progress since these events and chart the way forward to ensure sustainable energy for all SIDS.


Speaking at the event, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said achieving the three targets of the SE4ALL initiative is an important part of putting the world on a pathway for keeping temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. He outlined the need for a new energy paradigm, particularly for SIDS, who he said are particularly vulnerable to climate change and faced inflated energy costs due to their remoteness, and he welcomed the proposal of a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on sustainable energy for all with a focus on access, efficiency and renewables. Ban encouraged all leaders to “bring bold actions and ideas and strong political vision and political will” to the UN Climate Summit.


“SIDS are creating opportunities and examples that, if replicated worldwide, could lead the transition from fossil fuel energy to renewable and sustainable energy,” said UN General Assembly President John Ashe in his remarks.


The panel was moderated by Helen Clark, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, and featured: Adnan Amin, Director-General, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA); Camillo Gonsalves, Foreign Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Salvatore Bernabei, General Manager, Enel Green Power Chile and Andean Countries; Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and Reginald Burke, Caribbean Policy Development Centre. Key messages included the importance of reducing risk to catalyze private investment, the leadership being taken by SIDS, and various SIDS initiatives on sustainable energy, such as SIDS Dock and IRENA's SIDS Lighthouse project.


Participants highlighted: energy costs and energy security; climate change; and challenges and vulnerabilities faced by SIDS, including their small size and the high costs of importing fossil fuels. They stressed SIDS' renewable energy potential and the importance of addressing energy access and efficiency, highlighting the role of partnerships to address these issues. [UN Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNDP Administrator Remarks] [IISD RS Meeting Coverage, 1 September] [IISD RS Sources]



read more: http://energy-l.iisd.org/news/high-level-event-discusses-renewable-energy-in-sids/


 

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Energy Efficiency Simply Makes Sense

What simple tool offers the entire world an extended energy supply, increased energy security, lower carbon emissions, cleaner air and extra time to mitigate climate change? Energy efficiency. What’s more, higher efficiency can avoid infrastructure investment, cut energy bills, improve health, increase competitiveness and enhance consumer welfare — all while more than paying for itself.

Maria van der Hoeven - IEA

The challenge is getting governments, industry and citizens to take the first steps towards making these savings in energy and money.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has long spearheaded a global move toward improved energy efficiency policy and technology in buildings, appliances, transport and industry, as well as end-use applications such as lighting. That’s because the core of our mandate is energy security — the uninterrupted availability of energy at an affordable price. Greater efficiency is a principal way to strengthen that security: it reduces reliance on energy supply, especially imports, for economic growth; mitigates threats to energy security from climate change; and lessens the global economy’s exposure to disruptions in fossil fuel supply.

In short, energy efficiency makes sense.

In 2006, the IEA presented to the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations its 25 energy efficiency recommendations, which identify best practice and policy approaches to realize the full potential of energy efficiency for our member countries. Every two years, the Agency reports on the gains made by member countries, and today we are working with a growing number of international organizations, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and the German sustainable development cooperation services provider GIZ.

The opportunities of this “invisible fuel” are many and rich. More than half of the potential savings in industry and a whopping 80 percent of opportunities in the buildings sector worldwide remain untouched. The 25 recommendations, if adopted fully by all 28 IEA members, would save $1 trillion in annual energy costs as well as deliver incalculable security benefits in terms of energy supply and environmental protection.

Achieving even a small fraction of those gains does not require new technological breakthroughs or ruinous capital outlays: the know-how exists, and the investments generate positive returns in fuel savings and increased economic growth. What is required is foresight, patience, changed habits and the removal of the barriers to implementation of measures that are economically viable. For instance, as the World Energy Outlook 2012 demonstrates, investing less than $12 trillion in more energy-efficient technologies would not only quickly pay for itself through reduced energy costs, it would also increase cumulative economic output to 2035 by $18 trillion worldwide.

While current efforts come nowhere close to realizing the full benefits that efficiency offers, some countries are taking big steps forward. Members of the European Union have pledged to cut energy demand by 20 percent by 2020, while Japan plans to trim its electricity consumption 10 percent by 2030. China is committed to reducing the amount of energy needed for each unit of gross domestic product by 16 percent in the next two years. The United States has leaped to the forefront in transportation efficiency standards with new fuel economy rules that could more than double vehicle fuel consumption.

Such transitions entail challenges for policy, and experience shows that government and the private sector must work together to achieve the sustainability goals that societies demand, learning what works and what does not, and following the right path to optimal deployment of technology. Looking forward, energy efficiency will play a vital role in the transition to the secure and sustainable energy future that we all seek. The most secure energy is the barrel or megawatt we never have to use.

Maria van der Hoeven is the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, an autonomous organization which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond. This commentary appeared first this month in IEA Energy, the Agency’s journal.

 

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US Navy Lab Turns Seawater Into Fuel

 

 

Published on May 21, 2014 • For centuries, alchemists have tried to turn lead into gold. That transmutation has long

been proven impossible, but another similar dream – turning water into fuel – seems to be achievable. Scientists at a

U.S. Naval Laboratory proved it by flying a model airplane burning re-engineered seawater. VGA'S George Putic has the story.

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