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X Prize: $100 Million for Clean Fuels

Steve LeVine, Business Week
The X Prize Foundation made its name handing out $10 million awards for cutting-edge innovation in promising but thinly financed fields of research. But now the Santa Monica (Calif.) foundation is targeting one of the most-crowded contests in technology: the race to discover clean alternatives to fossil fuels.

In its richest and largest competition yet, the foundation will divvy up some $100 million for transformations in biofuels, clean aviation fuel, energy storage, the provision of basic utilities for developing nations, and other categories.

The announcement, coming as oil approaches $120 a barrel, is a fresh jolt to the search for a replacement for fossil fuels in transportation and electricity.
(29 April 2008)
Energy Bulletin contributor Steve LeVine is now on the staff of Business Week. Latest at his blog: Notice to Tinkerers: X-Prize Throws $100 Million Into the Biofuels Pot.

Experts call for ‘feed-in tariffs’ to encourage renewable energy use

Ashley Seager, Guardian
Engineers, trade unions, farmers and house builders today backed a campaign by Friends of the Earth and the Renewable Energy Association to introduce a “feed-in tariff” system that would improve Britain’s take-up of renewable energy.

Ahead of a crucial House of Commons vote on Wednesday, which aims to add a feed-in tariff to the energy bill currently going through parliament, organisations such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the House Builders Federation , the TUC and the National Farmer’s Union said they wanted to see a feed-in tariff (FIT).

FITs have been introduced in nearly 50 countries around the world, starting with Germany which has massively increased the roll-out of technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, ground-source heat pumps both at the domestic and industrial levels.

FITs work by setting a guaranteed price for renewable electricity fed into the national grid that is above the market price. The countries which have adopted one have made big carbon savings and created thousands of new jobs. Britain, though, lags behind almost every EU country in its use of renewables, producing just 2% of its energy in this way
(29 April 2008)

The Energy Return of (Industrial) Solar – Passive Solar, PV, Wind and Hydro (#4 of 5)

Professor Charles Hall and students, The Oil Drum
Introduction to Solar Energy

The sun is of course the main source of all of the energy that humans depend upon. Most importantly the sun runs the great systems of climate, hydrology and ecosystems that define and create the conditions within which the human economy must operate. In the distant past, solar energy generated fossil fuels and much of the mineral concentrations that we depend upon. I

n a beautiful book “A Forest Journey”, John Perlin traces the historical dependence of emerging human civilizations on forests as well as the crashes of civilizations that commonly followed the over-exploitation of forests and the soils they made.

At issue on TheOilDrum today is the energy return on investment for the production of “industrial energy” from modern solar energy. By ‘industrial’ we mean electricity and heat more or less equivalent to what we get today mostly from fossil fuel.

The five main sources of such “industrial” solar energy are usually thought to be hydroelectric power, passive solar, photovoltaics, wind and various types of biomass. We examine the first four of these in todays oildrum posting, and biomass at a later date. Since the EROI of wind has already been analyzed (and I might add more throughly than we have found possible for what we give today) by Cleveland and Kubiszewski, we present results for hydropower, photovoltaics (briefly) and passive solar. As usual we are doing this to seek additional references to bolster our analysis.


We find in solar (industrial) energy a very large potential but a rather small application (so far). The greatest use is traditional biomass (perhaps about 5 percent in the US) and hydropower. In general high EROI sites in the United States were developed by the middle of the last century and a further expansion is probably limited by environmental considerations. (Globally the potential is much more).

In the United States existing wind power seems to have a rather good EROI (18:1) although that is likely to be decreased substantially if issues related to storage are factored in. Present generation photovoltaics have a moderate EROI (around 8:1 but with great variability and uncertainty). Both wind and photovoltaic systems appear to have a large potential for improving their EROI.

The greatest potential, however, is for passive solar, although this issue seems not to have been analyzed very often using EROI explicitly. There are many reasons to favor a solar future and it is probably quite possible to get there, but we need a much more comprehensive analysis of the issues of availability and storage if applied on a very large scale.
(29 April 2008)

Under-road radiators may beat the ice

David Adam, Guardian
The old question of how drivers of salt-spreading lorries get to work could soon be answered under government plans to recycle summer sunshine collected by Britain’s roads and use it to keep them ice-free in winter.

The Highways Agency plans to install pipes underneath a section of road to gather solar energy in summer and recirculate it in winter.

Experts hope the scheme could be a way to treat the roads which are the first to freeze. Officials are also testing the technology to heat and cool buildings, cut energy bills and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

… The scheme, known as interseasonal heat transfer, or IHT, will lay a network of plastic pipes filled with water just below the road surface.

In summer, when road temperatures can reach 40C, the water is warmed and pumped to pipes insulated with polystyrene. In winter, when sensors detect the temperature at 2C, warm water is pumped back under the road to heat the ground and prevent ice forming.

Because of the significant investment needed, only cold spots could be realistically considered at this stage, she said. “Salting of the road will not be replaced.”
(25 April 2008)
Figure and audio at original.