Day: October 26, 2020

U.S. DOE report concludes carbon capture at Colstrip coal plant ‘not financially attractive’

Read the full story at IEEFA.

High operating and capital costs could make carbon capture, utilization and storage “not financially attractive” at a large coal plant visited by Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette this month, according to a Department of Energy analysis recently made public.

According to the report, which was conducted by DOE and Leonardo Technologies Inc., capturing and compressing 63% of carbon dioxide from each of the Colstrip units to support advanced oil recovery would cost more than $1.3 billion. Annual operating costs at Colstrip could come in at about $108 million, the report said.

Webinar: Selecting Athletic Turf You Can Feel Good About

Oct 28, 2020 1 pm CDT
Register here.

Many variables must be considered when selecting the right type of athletic turf or outdoor recreation space for your application. Even if health and the environment are at the forefront of the decision making process, it can be difficult to identify which options reduce the use of toxic chemicals. Is synthetic turf better than natural turf? If synthetic turf is used, what type of infill has the fewest hazards associated with it? Healthy Building Network has reviewed the existing body of data related to the most common types of athletic turf and infills. Based on this research, we have developed guidelines for selecting athletic turf in our simple Hazard Spectrum format. These guidelines take into account past research on athletic turf and also consider where more research is needed. Furthermore, they consider emerging environmental concerns raised by the use of synthetic turf such as the potential for microplastics to be released into the environment.

Multi-institutional team extracts more energy from sunlight with advanced solar panels

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Silicon solar panels are reaching their technological limit, but researchers are experimenting by combining silicon with other materials to squeeze more energy out of sunlight. Electrical and computer engineering professor Larry Lee led a new study that could boost the efficiency of consumer solar panels by 50%.

Associated journal article: Fan, S. et al (2020). “Current-Matched III–V/Si Epitaxial Tandem Solar Cells with 25.0% Efficiency.” Cell Reports Physical Science 1(9), 100208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrp.2020.100208

Remembering Mario Molina, Nobel Prize-winning chemist who pushed Mexico on clean energy — and, recently, face masks

Molina speaking about climate change at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico, Nov. 2018. Leonardo Alvarez/Getty Images

by Elena Delavega (University of Memphis)

Dr. Mario Molina, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who died on Oct. 7 at age 77, did not become a scientist to change the world; he just loved chemistry. Born in Mexico City in 1943, Molina as a young boy conducted home experiments with contaminated water just for the fun of it.

But Molina came to understand the political importance of his work on atmospheric chemistry and ozone layer depletion, which won him the Nobel in 1995, along with Paul J. Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland. Getting that surprise call from Sweden completely changed how he saw his role in the world, Molina said in 2016. He felt a responsibility to share his knowledge of clean energy, air quality and climate change broadly and to push decision-makers to use that information to protect the environment.

As a Mexican, Dr. Molina was a point of pride for me. Though I am a social scientist, not a chemist, his career inspired me to follow my dreams and to trust science to show us all the right path.

Clean air now

Mario Molina thought climate change was the biggest problem in the world long before most people did.

His research was instrumental in spurring negotiation of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that effectively banned fluorocarbons – harmful chemical compounds that damage the ozone layer. The agreement is credited with helping the ozone layer heal. He understood that the environmental problem is global, and that what happens in China or the United States affects Mexico, too.

After a long a career in academia, Molina and his wife, Luisa T. Molina – also an an atmospheric scientist – founded the Centro Mario Molina in 2005, a Mexican center dedicated to environmental research and public policy. Together, they co-directed the center, which conducts extensive work in Mexico City.

The Molinas sounded the alarm in Latin America about air pollution and public health, which remains a challenge in the region. But they also understood the role of economics in environmental protection – and, importantly, the centrality of fossil fuels to the Mexican economy – so the Molinas worked with Mexican economists to address concerns that green energy would hurt prosperity.

Four men toast each other
Molina (2nd-R) shortly after winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, celebrating at a reception with past Laureates from M.I.T., Oct. 11, 1995. Stuart Cahill/AFP via Getty Images

Through his organization, Molina also promoted cooperation between scientists, goverment, industry and civil society until 2013, when then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto appointed him to head the country’s National System for Climate Change.

In 2018, when Mexico’s government changed, Molina was not invited to serve in the new administration. Mexico’s current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, came to power promising to build a new oil refinery in Mexico.

Molina urged Mexico to transition to clean energy sources “sooner rather than later,” promising this policy change would promote “public health, job creation and energy security for the country.” In a May 2020 interview, Molina stressed clean energy “is an investment that society makes and very profitable.”

“Mexico is going back to the previous century or the one before it, at a time when all the experts on the planet fully agree that we are in a climate crisis,” he said of Mexico’s continued reliance on fossil fuels just months before his death. Molina criticized López Obrador for limiting the use of clean energy sources and pushed for more wind energy in Mexico, a technology that’s only just emerging there.

Scientist until the end

Molina defended the importance of science in policy-making until the very end.

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, he was an early and adamant advocate for face masks and was aghast that the presidents of both Mexico and the United States refused to wear facial coverings. He said the government should “force the use of face masks…because only in this way do we know that the curve can be flattened.”

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Mario Molina graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, and completed his graduate studies at the University of Fribourg and the University of California, Berkeley. Though he taught at M.I.T., he remained loyal to UNAM, working with faculty and students til the end.

The many Mexicans who, like me, were inspired by his life’s work mourn his passing.

Elena Delavega, Associate Professor of Social Work, University of Memphis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A Review of Energy and Environmental Management Practices in Cast Iron Foundries to Increase Sustainability

Stefana, E.; Cocca, P.; Marciano, F.; Rossi, D.; Tomasoni, G. “A Review of Energy and Environmental Management Practices in Cast Iron Foundries to Increase Sustainability.” Sustainability 2019, 11, 7245. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11247245 [open access]

Abstract: Environmental impact and use of energy and materials are relevant topics in companies. To achieve energy savings and enhance environmental performance, managers can invest in technologies (technical measures) and/or implement management practices (low-cost and non-technical measures). This paper focuses on energy and environmental management practices in foundry, which is a particularly energy-intensive industry producing significant carbon dioxide emissions. We conducted a scoping review of scientific publications and technical documents to identify practices that enable energy efficiency improvement and adverse environmental impact reduction in cast iron foundries using coreless induction furnaces. The review returned 399 practices, which we categorised according to the process step of application and theme. We developed a hierarchy to classify the practices according to their sustainability. The results show that the practices proposed in the literature focus mainly on avoiding or reducing resource consumption, rather than on recovering residual value. The intended contribution is to promote the adoption of management practices as an effective lever to increase energy efficiency and reduce environmental impacts, while also providing a summary of current knowledge to facilitate the identification of areas for further research. The review could also support foundry managers in the selection and prioritisation of the practices to adopt.

New British standard for biodegradable plastic introduced

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Products will have to prove they break down into harmless wax containing no microplastics.

Mental accounting is impacting sustainable behavior

Read the full story from the Université de Genève.

Human beings tend to create separate mental budget compartments where specific acts of consumption and payments are linked. This mechanism can be counter-productive when it comes to energy consumption and can have a negative impact on attempts to reduce carbon emissions. Psychologists have linked theories and research on mental accounting to energy and sustainability behavior, proposing concrete strategies to improve the impact of climate-control measures.

Associated journal article: Ulf J. J. Hahnel, Gilles Chatelain, Beatrice Conte, Valentino Piana, Tobias Brosch. Mental accounting mechanisms in energy decision-making and behaviourNature Energy, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41560-020-00704-6

Why Kroger and Publix are bringing the farm to the grocery store

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

Just like every other retailer, grocery stores are focusing on the customer experience to get people back in store. Grocery delivery was already a rising trend, and the pandemic kicked it into the next gear. In May, U.S. online grocery sales had grown to 40 percent. So grocers including Kroger and Publix are looking at onsite vertical farms as one way to attract consumers.

There’s still 100 million tons of coal ash to be excavated from Duke Energy ponds

Read the full story at North Carolina Policy Watch.

Millions of tons of coal ash have been excavated from unlined ponds at Duke Energy power plants, but an enormous amount has yet to be dug up, according to the inventory listed in the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s annual coal ash report to the General Assembly.

As of July 2020, there were more than 100 million tons of coal ash remaining in the unlined ponds at 11 of the utility’s 14 plants in North Carolina.

A combination of state law, a consent order and litigation by the Southern Environmental Law Center resulted in the ponds’ closure.

Ohio: Solar farm in the works south of Columbus

Read the full story at the Republic.

Tentative plans are on the drawing board for two significant projects southeast of Columbus.

The largest would create a solar farm near the existing Duke Energy Substation south of State Road 7 on the road leading to the Mineral Springs subdivision.

Attorney Eric Freling of Elexco Land Services, Inc. confirmed he has been talking to rural landowners on behalf of a client about leasing agricultural land for the solar farm project.

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