Even at historically low natural gas prices, bioenergy may not be out of the running — it just may need a little help from the sun. A new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota examining the financial viability of solar-heated biomass gasification technologies that produce a natural gas substitute product concludes that combining these renewable resources can make economic sense.
In traditional biomass gasification, 20 to 30 percent of the biomass feedstock is burned to produce heat for the process. But if the required thermal energy is supplied from a concentrated solar source, all of the biomass can be converted into useful synthesis gas. The study, published in Biomass and Bioenergy this week, developed a financial feasibility metric to determine the breakeven price of natural gas at which the produced syngas could be sold at a profit. The study suggests that solar-heated biomass gasification systems could break even at natural gas prices of $4.04–$10.90 per gigajoule, depending on configuration. Continue reading
Reprinted by permission from the University of Minnesota Law School.
Our energy system is in the midst of a major transition. Power sources are shifting from coal to more natural gas and renewables. The aging grid needs to adapt, becoming “smarter,” more flexible and resilient. New greenhouse gas emissions regulations and a changing climate add further complexities.
This transition has the potential to spark innovation in business and government, leading to new jobs and a cleaner environment, and the University of Minnesota has launched the Energy Transition Lab to help turn this potential into reality. Ellen Anderson, a former state senator and energy advisor to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, is the ETL’s inaugural executive director; its faculty director is Law School professor Hari Osofsky, an expert in energy law and an IonE resident fellow. Continue reading
This week’s Frontiers in the Environment was presented David Letterman–style by Energy Transition Lab executive director Ellen Anderson and Energy Transition Lab faculty director Hari Osofsky, who is also an IonE resident fellow and Law School professor. The pair explored the “Top 10″ key areas of energy transition and the Energy Transition Lab’s role in them. Continue reading
Please join us this Friday, Sept. 26, 10–11 am at IonE for a discussion about Minnesota’s role in implementing the Clean Power Plan, a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing regulations that build on actions being taken across the country to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Nationwide by 2030, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels. The proposal also would cut pollution that leads to the formation of soot and smog by over 25 percent in 2030, according to the EPA website. Continue reading
Environmentalists in the United States have long pushed for reductions in carbon emissions. Now, it seems the era of carbon regulation may be upon us.
But implementing these complex regulations is complicated and takes place at both the federal and state levels. This was the topic of Fresh Energy science policy director J. Drake Hamilton’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, April 30 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.
In “Adventures on the Frontiers of Carbon Reduction,” Hamilton emphasized the need to educate the public on new and existing policies impacting carbon emissions for broader public involvement.
People of color in the U.S. are exposed to 38 percent more nitrogen dioxide air pollution in the neighborhoods in which they live than are white people, according to new research from the University of Minnesota. The exposure they receive results in approximately 7,000 heart-related deaths per year.
U of M Instititute on the Environment resident fellows Julian Marshall and Dylan Millet and fellow researcher Lara Clark compared U.S. Census data and nitrogen dioxide levels in cities across the country and found that, irrespective of income, nonwhites had higher average exposure to nitrogen dioxide than whites. The findings received extensive coverage in the media this past week. Continue reading
Satellite imagery of the Upper Midwest at night shows a massive cluster of light in western North Dakota, easily dwarfing the metropolitan areas of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee or even Chicago.
The source of this apparent high plains metropolis isn’t a city at all, but rather the Bakken shale oil field, where producers are flaring as much as 266,000 million cubic feet of natural gas each day.
This abundance of natural gas — mostly composed of methane — was the topic of First Green Partners co-president Doug Cameron’s Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, Mar. 26 on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus.
In “Methane: Black Hat or White Hat in the Green Economy,” Cameron discussed the pros and cons of the abundant fuel source and why environmentalists shouldn’t be so quick to discount methane as a “quick fix.”
I’ve been studying up on Canadian energy resources. The short summary is that Canada has a lot of resources. The other summary is that the United States (including Minnesota, where I’m from) has a lot of interests in Canadian energy. Like most energy issues, it’s complex. It’s a collision of our modern economy dependent on electricity at the flip of a switch and travel as easy as hopping in a car, with the impacts of developing increasingly hard-to-get, non-renewable energy resources — all in an increasingly unstable climate with a whole host of impacts on more localized communities.
This week I am going to Canada to learn about energy on a Pan-Praire Energy Tour organized by the Canadian government. The places I’ll visit are Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The energy resources: oil sands, uranium, carbon capture and storage (not a resource, but an important stop), large hydro and renewable resources. We’ll also be discussing many issues surrounding these resources, including First Nation relationships and climate change. Continue reading
Outdoor air pollution from factories and automobiles seems to dominate the news. But there’s another, just as sinister, form of pollution and it’s coming from inside the house.
Ellison Carter, a postdoctoral fellow in energy, air pollution and health at the Institute on the Environment, discussed her research on environmental and health impacts of indoor air pollution at Frontiers in the Environment in February.
In her presentation, “Where There’s Smoke…Evaluating the Benefits of Household Energy Improvements in Developing Countries,” Carter explained why indoor air pollution in developing nations is a particularly challenging problem.
Minnesota farmers spend more than $400 million per year on nitrogen fertilizer. To keep more dollars in the Gopher State and reduce fossil fuel consumption in agriculture, the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center is using wind energy to produce anhydrous ammonia that can be used as fertilizer. The project was funded through an IonE Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment grant. Continue reading
A global partnership led by Institute on the Environment researcher Jill Baumgartner will investigate the health and climate impacts of advanced cooking and heating stoves as part of a three-year study on clean household energy technology in rural China. Continue reading
There you are, hunkered over your sink, hands wrist-deep in hot water, swiping suds over food-crusted dinner plates. That squishy, soapy thing that’s helping you do so many daily chores…ever wonder where its life began and where it will end?
That sponge, like everything on the planet, has a life cycle, composed of all the materials and energy that brought it to your sink and all the tasks it will help you complete until you’ve squeezed the last bit of work from it and tossed it into the trash. Continue reading
In an age when debates over fracking and renewable energy dominate the news, it’s increasingly clear that the United States is in the midst of an “energy renaissance.” Along with a host of environmental concerns, the nation’s changing energy system faces a new, often overlooked, challenge: How can we get energy from its source to the people who need it?
That was the topic of Institute on the Environment resident fellow and University of Minnesota Law School professor Alexandra Klass’ Frontiers in the Environment lecture Dec. 4.
In “Transporting Energy: U.S. Infrastructure Challenges,” Klass discussed her research on the physical and regulatory system in place for moving oil, natural gas and electricity and possible changes needed as the nation’s energy sources diversify.
(12/6) A student proposal to develop a renewable fuel–enabled free piston engine captured the $10,000 top prize in a Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) competition held Thursday at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Read more
Photo credit: Nancy Johnson, ME Department
It seems like we’ve been talking about renewable energy and the “green economy” for decades, but major changes to the nation’s energy system are just getting started and Minnesota is leading the way.
Ellen Anderson, senior advisor on energy and the environment to Gov. Mark Dayton and a former Minnesota state senator, discussed the major drivers of change in the energy market and what Minnesota is doing to be a leader on the clean energy front. Anderson delivered her presentation, “Energy Transformation: Minnesota’s Bright Future in Clean Energy,” Oct. 9 as part of the Institute on the Environment’s weekly lecture series, Frontiers in the Environment.
I recently spent a week in Berlin participating in the Berlin Seminar on Energy Policy.
This was the third seminar and my second time participating in the exchanges, which are organized by the University of Minnesota Center for German and European Studies. CGES director Sabine Engel and Minnesota lieutenant governor Yvonne Prettner Solon are the hosts of the seminar.
The German Energiewende (energy transition) is at the center of our discussions with German policy makers and energy innovators. It has very ambitious goals: Continue reading
Solar power in Minnesota is inevitable. That was the message delivered by Fresh Energy executive director Michael Noble at the March 6 Frontiers in the Environment talk, “Unleashing Minnesota’s Solar Power Potential.” Fresh Energy is leading a campaign to bolster the state’s clean energy future.
What do prehistoric cave dwellers and today’s humans have in common? The ongoing quest for fuel sources. Humans have always had an energy crisis, said Larry Wackett, IonE resident fellow and professor at the BioTechnology Institute, at the first Frontiers seminar of the spring semester: Is Frac(k) A Four-Letter Word?