SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Energy development

77

There is an ongoing debate about the deployment rates and composition of alternative energy plans that could feasibly displace fossil fuels globally by mid-century, as required to avoid the more extreme impacts of climate change. Here we demonstrate the potential for a large-scale expansion of global nuclear power to replace fossil-fuel electricity production, based on empirical data from the Swedish and French light water reactor programs of the 1960s to 1990s. Analysis of these historical deployments show that if the world built nuclear power at no more than the per capita rate of these exemplar nations during their national expansion, then coal- and gas-fired electricity could be replaced worldwide in less than a decade. Under more conservative projections that take into account probable constraints and uncertainties such as differing relative economic output across regions, current and past unit construction time and costs, future electricity demand growth forecasts and the retiring of existing aging nuclear plants, our modelling estimates that the global share of fossil-fuel-derived electricity could be replaced within 25-34 years. This would allow the world to meet the most stringent greenhouse-gas mitigation targets.

Concepts: Economics, Nuclear fission, Coal, Nuclear power, Energy development, Greenhouse gas, Enriched uranium, Light water reactor

66

The United Nations Conference on Climate Change (Paris 2015) reached an international agreement to keep the rise in global average temperature ‘well below 2°C’ and to ‘aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C’. These reductions will have to be made in the face of rising global energy demand. Here a thoroughly validated dynamic econometric model (Eq 1) is used to forecast global energy demand growth (International Energy Agency and BP), which is driven by an increase of the global population (UN), energy use per person and real GDP (World Bank and Maddison). Even relatively conservative assumptions put a severe upward pressure on forecast global energy demand and highlight three areas of concern. First, is the potential for an exponential increase of fossil fuel consumption, if renewable energy systems are not rapidly scaled up. Second, implementation of internationally mandated CO2 emission controls are forecast to place serious constraints on fossil fuel use from ~2030 onward, raising energy security implications. Third is the challenge of maintaining the international ‘pro-growth’ strategy being used to meet poverty alleviation targets, while reducing CO2 emissions. Our findings place global economists and environmentalists on the same side as they indicate that the scale up of CO2 neutral renewable energy systems is not only important to protect against climate change, but to enhance global energy security by reducing our dependence of fossil fuels and to provide a sustainable basis for economic development and poverty alleviation. Very hard choices will have to be made to achieve ‘sustainable development’ goals.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Sustainability, Fossil fuel, Renewable energy, Peak oil, Energy development, Greenhouse gas, Energy economics

64

In the aftermath of the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the future contribution of nuclear power to the global energy supply has become somewhat uncertain. Because nuclear power is an abundant, low-carbon source of base-load power, on balance it could make a large contribution to mitigation of global climate change and air pollution. Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning. Based on global projection data that take into account the effects of Fukushima, we find that by mid-century, nuclear power could prevent an additional 420,000 to 7.04 million deaths and 80 to 240 GtCO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels, depending on which fuel it replaces. By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Natural gas, Methane, Fossil fuel, Coal, Energy development, Greenhouse gas, Global warming

57

This study addresses the greatest concern facing the large-scale integration of wind, water, and solar (WWS) into a power grid: the high cost of avoiding load loss caused by WWS variability and uncertainty. It uses a new grid integration model and finds low-cost, no-load-loss, nonunique solutions to this problem on electrification of all US energy sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) while accounting for wind and solar time series data from a 3D global weather model that simulates extreme events and competition among wind turbines for available kinetic energy. Solutions are obtained by prioritizing storage for heat (in soil and water); cold (in ice and water); and electricity (in phase-change materials, pumped hydro, hydropower, and hydrogen), and using demand response. No natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed. The resulting 2050-2055 US electricity social cost for a full system is much less than for fossil fuels. These results hold for many conditions, suggesting that low-cost, reliable 100% WWS systems should work many places worldwide.

Concepts: Energy, Petroleum, Fossil fuel, Coal, Solar energy, Wind power, Energy development, Hydroelectricity

52

To realize the sustainable energy supply in smart city, it is essential to maximize energy scavenging from the city environments for achieving the self-powered functions of some intelligent devices and sensors. Although the solar energy can be well harvested by using existing technologies, the large amounts of wasted wind energy in the city cannot be effectively utilized since the conventional wind turbine generators can only be installed in remote areas due to the large volumes and the safety issues. Here, we rationally design a hybridized nanogenerator, including a solar cell (SC) and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), that can individually/simultaneously scavenging solar and wind energies, which can be extensively installed on the roofs of the city buildings. Under the same device area of about 120 mm×22 mm, the SC can deliver a largest output power of about 8 mW, while the output power of the TENG can be up to 26 mW. Impedance matching between the SC and TENG has been achieved by using a transformer to decrease the impedance of the TENG. The hybridized nanogenerator has a larger output current and a better charging performance than that of the individual SC or TENG. This research presents a feasible approach to maximize solar and wind energies scavenging from the city environments with the aim to realize some self-powered functions in smart city.

Concepts: Sun, Renewable energy, Solar power, Nuclear power, Wind power, Energy development, World energy resources and consumption, Wind turbine

50

Ignition is needed to make fusion energy a viable alternative energy source, but has yet to be achieved. A key step on the way to ignition is to have the energy generated through fusion reactions in an inertially confined fusion plasma exceed the amount of energy deposited into the deuterium-tritium fusion fuel and hotspot during the implosion process, resulting in a fuel gain greater than unity. Here we report the achievement of fusion fuel gains exceeding unity on the US National Ignition Facility using a ‘high-foot’ implosion method, which is a manipulation of the laser pulse shape in a way that reduces instability in the implosion. These experiments show an order-of-magnitude improvement in yield performance over past deuterium-tritium implosion experiments. We also see a significant contribution to the yield from α-particle self-heating and evidence for the ‘bootstrapping’ required to accelerate the deuterium-tritium fusion burn to eventually ‘run away’ and ignite.

Concepts: Laser, Nuclear fusion, Plasma, Nuclear power, Energy development, Alternative energy, Fusion power, Inertial confinement fusion

30

The events of March 2011 at the nuclear power complex in Fukushima, Japan, raised questions about the safe operation of nuclear power plants, with early retirement of existing nuclear power plants being debated in the policy arena and considered by regulators. Also, the future of building new nuclear power plants is highly uncertain. Should nuclear power policies become more restrictive, one potential option for climate change mitigation will be less available. However, a systematic analysis of nuclear power policies, including early retirement, has been missing in the climate change mitigation literature. We apply an energy economy model framework to derive scenarios and analyze the interactions and tradeoffs between these two policy fields. Our results indicate that early retirement of nuclear power plants leads to discounted cumulative global GDP losses of 0.07% by 2020. If, in addition, new nuclear investments are excluded, total losses will double. The effect of climate policies imposed by an intertemporal carbon budget on incremental costs of policies restricting nuclear power use is small. However, climate policies have much larger impacts than policies restricting the use of nuclear power. The carbon budget leads to cumulative discounted near term reductions of global GDP of 0.64% until 2020. Intertemporal flexibility of the carbon budget approach enables higher near-term emissions as a result of increased power generation from natural gas to fill the emerging gap in electricity supply, while still remaining within the overall carbon budget. Demand reductions and efficiency improvements are the second major response strategy.

Concepts: Nuclear physics, Nuclear fission, Coal, Nuclear power, Energy development, Electricity generation, Sustainable energy, World energy resources and consumption

29

While metal halide perovskite solar cells (PSCs) presently attract enormous research interest because of their high solar to electric power conversion efficiency (PCE) and low fabrication costs, their practical development is hampered by difficulties to reach high performance on large size devices. Here we introduce a simple vacuum-flash solution processing method to obtain shiny, smooth and crystalline perovskite films of high electronic quality over large areas. This enables us to fabricate solar cells with an aperture area exceeding 1 cm(2) showing a maximum efficiency of 20.5% and a certified PCE of 19.6. This exceeds by far the current certified record of 15.6% for PSC of similar size. We demonstrate that the reproducibility of the method is excellent and that the cells show virtually no hysteresis. The success of this new approach paves the way to realize highly efficient large-area PSCs for practical deployment.

Concepts: Method acting, Solar cell, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Energy development, Halide, Aperture, Metal halide lamp

27

Buildings consume nearly 40% of primary energy production globally. Certified green buildings substantially reduce energy consumption on a per square foot basis and they also focus on indoor environmental quality. However, the co-benefits to health through reductions in energy and concomitant reductions in air pollution have not been examined.We calculated year by year LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification rates in six countries (the United States, China, India, Brazil, Germany, and Turkey) and then used data from the Green Building Information Gateway (GBIG) to estimate energy savings in each country each year. Of the green building rating schemes, LEED accounts for 32% of green-certified floor space and publically reports energy efficiency data. We employed Harvard’s Co-BE Calculator to determine pollutant emissions reductions by country accounting for transient energy mixes and baseline energy use intensities. Co-BE applies the social cost of carbon and the social cost of atmospheric release to translate these reductions into health benefits. Based on modeled energy use, LEED-certified buildings saved $7.5B in energy costs and averted 33MT of CO2, 51 kt of SO2, 38 kt of NOx, and 10 kt of PM2.5 from entering the atmosphere, which amounts to $5.8B (lower limit = $2.3B, upper limit = $9.1B) in climate and health co-benefits from 2000 to 2016 in the six countries investigated. The U.S. health benefits derive from avoiding an estimated 172-405 premature deaths, 171 hospital admissions, 11,000 asthma exacerbations, 54,000 respiratory symptoms, 21,000 lost days of work, and 16,000 lost days of school. Because the climate and health benefits are nearly equivalent to the energy savings for green buildings in the United States, and up to 10 times higher in developing countries, they provide an important and previously unquantified societal value. Future analyses should consider these co-benefits when weighing policy decisions around energy-efficient buildings.

Concepts: Pollution, Air pollution, Energy development, Limit superior and limit inferior, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green building, Sustainable design, Natural building

27

Microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology is a promising technology for electricity production together with simultaneous water treatment. Catalysts play an important role in deciding the MFC performance. In most reports, effect of catalyst - both type and quantity is not optimized. In this paper, synthesis of nanorods of MnO2-catalyst particles for application in Pt-free MFCs is reported. The effect of catalyst loading i.e., weight ratio, with respect to conducting element and binder has been optimized by employing large number of combinations. Using simple theoretical model, it is shown that too high (or low) concentration of catalysts result in loss of MFC performance. The operation of MFC has been investigated using domestic wastewater as source of bio-waste for obtaining real world situation. Maximum power density of ∼61mW/m(2) was obtained when weight ratio of catalyst and conducting species was 1:1. Suitable reasons are given to explain the outcomes.

Concepts: Water, Electrochemistry, Energy development, Fuel cell, Microbial fuel cell, Glossary of fuel cell terms, Electric power, Fuel cells