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Old 02-19-2010, 04:49 PM   #1
Torange
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Default DARPA algae fuel progress

http://www.heatingoil.com/blog/darpa...per-gallon215/

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an office of the US Department of Defense, will soon be producing jet fuel made from algae at a price comparable to that of petroleum-based fuel, the UK Guardian reported on Saturday. DARPA could be months, not years, from producing an algal biofuel that is price-competitive with fossil fuels. According to Barbara McQuiston, special assistant to energy for DARPA, “Oil from algae is projected at $2 per gallon, headed towards $1 per gallon.”

The oil produced by algae still needs to be refined into jet fuel, which can be done while still keeping the price under $3 per gallon. McQuiston said an additional refinery will come on line in 2011 and be capable of producing 50 million gallons of algae-based jet fuel a year.

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Old 02-19-2010, 05:00 PM   #2
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Great find Torange .

It would seem there is a great future in fuel from Algae but how the
heck do you invest in it or position yourself to take advantage of it ?
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Old 02-19-2010, 11:06 PM   #3
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I think that algal biofuel is the most likely of any biofuel process to eventually come to fruition.

Unfortunately, that is faint praise indeed. Algal fuels share a lot of things with solar energy, not least of which is that they've been researched since the mid-70s, and are always just a "few years" from practicality. There are a number of problems that are very difficult to overcome and stand a fair chance of making the whole enterprise moot (like wind power, which is a great idea except for the detail that sometimes the wind doesn't blow. Oops.)

Read the comments that follow that story. And read this:

http://i-r-squared.blogspot.com/2010...-2-gallon.html
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Old 02-19-2010, 11:47 PM   #4
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Thank-you Dharma .

I read the article and associated interview with an Algae guru at
http://i-r-squared.blogspot.com/2009...algae-ceo.html

Disappointing but I find it hard to suppress all excitement caused by the
mental vision of vast Algae ponds covering Tropical Northern Australia .
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Old 02-19-2010, 11:53 PM   #5
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Gotcha, Ross. Sorry to have been so unperceptive.
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Old 02-21-2010, 04:30 PM   #6
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Algal fuels share a lot of things with solar energy, not least of which is that they've been researched since the mid-70s, and are always just a "few years" from practicality.
Not sure that's fair. Solar energy is practical today, for some purposes in some places. For example, you can buy a fully functional solar panel array sufficient to power a 3 bedroom house in Houston now for something like $30,000. At current electricity rates, it pays for itself in about 10 years. At electricity rates corresponding to 2008 prices when natgas hit $11/mmbtu, a home solar panel pays for itself in less than 5 years.

Also, in many countries residential hot water heaters run off solar panels that are mounted on the roof. This has been true for decades in places where sunshine is plentiful.

And, not to be flip, but I've had a solar powered calculator in my desk for about 20 years. So for all the obstacles to solar, it's come a lot farther than algal biofuel.
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Old 02-21-2010, 04:32 PM   #7
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None of the alternative energy sources are scalable. They all have a very long way to go before they are.
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Old 02-21-2010, 04:38 PM   #8
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None of the alternative energy sources are scalable.
Solar energy is scalable. It's just that people are reluctant to invest in a technology that takes a 5-10 year horizon to pay off.

It takes discipline for society to build expensive solar panels, instead of burning almost free fuel that gushes up from under Saudi Arabia. But it'd be a good thing to do, since oil is finite.
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Old 02-21-2010, 04:44 PM   #9
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No, solar is not scalable at this point. It is too expensive to be competitive, even with government subsidies. Its variable output and availability make it an adjunct power source at best; never a primary one. And obviously, it is only feasible in certain regions.

Solar technology is advancing rapidly. If it becomes cost effective, and if it can be coupled with a viable energy storage technology, that might make it viable on the large scale. It will remain viable only in certain regions, though; mainly the southwest.
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Old 02-21-2010, 04:51 PM   #10
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Solar technology is advancing rapidly. If it becomes cost effective, and if it can be coupled with a viable energy storage technology, that might make it viable on the large scale. It will remain viable only in certain regions, though; mainly the southwest.
Well, it's cost effective now in certain regions for certain things. It's cheaper over a 10 year horizon to buy a solar array for your house in Houston than to buy electricity from Reliant Energy. The problem is that 10 years is a long time for most people.

As for regions where there isn't enough sun, well that's where transmission and storage come in. Solar panels in Arizona can theoretically power homes in Boston.
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Old 02-21-2010, 10:27 PM   #11
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DR:
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"Well, it's cost effective now in certain regions for certain things. It's cheaper over a 10 year horizon to buy a solar array for your house in Houston than to buy electricity from Reliant Energy. The problem is that 10 years is a long time for most people."
How many people can afford the up-front costs? The answer is 'damn few'. And five years down the road come the cost of a full battery bank replacement. And again every five years thereafter. Is that figured into your cost analysis? And what about the cost of insuring the system? In may areas of the country, large hail is fairly common. And who is going to get up on the roof of a two-story home to regularly clean those solar panels? Some home owners can do that, but a lot cannot. That means some will pay to have it done, and others will simply wonder why the output of their system has plummeted.

So is solar effective on a large scale? Right now, no. Not even close. That being said, if you have chosen to live off the grid, solar combined with a generator may be your best option, if you can afford it and if you can put up with the maintenance requirements. But again, that covers very few people.
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Old 02-21-2010, 11:23 PM   #12
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For example, you can buy a fully functional solar panel array sufficient to power a 3 bedroom house in Houston now for something like $30,000. At current electricity rates, it pays for itself in about 10 years.
With all due respect, I doubt that. I haven't seen any data on installations that would do that now, especially in a "normal" building, and especially if we remove government subsidies and factor in the need to replace lead-acid batteries, etc. Do you have a link?

This is a subject in which I have some interest; I run the numbers every few years. My present house is 2.5 years old, and reasonably energy efficient (coated argon filled windows, well-sealed, plenty of insulation, white stone exterior serves to moderate temp changes, etc.). In the summer here in the DFW suburbs my air conditioners run basically all day, and much of the night (when they'd have to run on batteries). No way. The battery bank would have to be half the size of my house, and I exaggerate only slightly. One of my neighbors looked into solar augmentation of his existing system, and his experience mirrors my own investigation: the only remotely cost-effective role for "solar" here is for swimming pool heaters, and that factors in steadily inflating electricity costs. I live in a division where a number of my neighbors could easily absorb the upfront costs, but at least a couple have chosen not to because they'd never reach break-even. More insulation and planting a few trees makes much better sense.

Houston, of course, is worse, because the air conditioners have to not only cool the (hotter) air, but dehumidify it. I do some business in Houston, and I try never to be there after April.

Edited to add: Ought is right about that hail; I have a knobby chunk of ice the size of a tennis ball sitting in my freezer. Several of my neighbors put new roofs on their 3 and 4 year old houses last year.

Last edited by dharma; 02-21-2010 at 11:32 PM.
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Old 02-22-2010, 09:50 AM   #13
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I haven't seen any data on installations that would do that now, especially in a "normal" building, and especially if we remove government subsidies and factor in the need to replace lead-acid batteries, etc. Do you have a link?
Here are some links to companies that will give you quotes for pre-packaged solar systems (including batteries and various options like pole mounting, or back-yard installation), that service Texas.

http://www.solarhome.org/solarpanelscenter.html
http://www.mrsolar.com/

I have a neighbor who went ahead with a quote for a 3-bedroom, 1-story house, who was given a number in the $30k-$35k range. As far as hail, that's not really an issue in Houston, but of course we do have hurricanes on occasion. And the solar panels do need to be moved if a hurricane's a comin. However, I'd probably buy insurance on them anyway.
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Old 02-22-2010, 02:41 PM   #14
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So how much is the full battery bank replacement? Are you even figuring that into your cost analysis? And the cost of insurance?
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Old 02-22-2010, 06:20 PM   #15
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So how much is the full battery bank replacement? Are you even figuring that into your cost analysis? And the cost of insurance?

This might help



http://www.grist.org/article/2010-02...ly-car-a-cash/

SAN DIEGO—U.S. researchers unveiled a vehicle Thursday that could earn money for its driver instead of guzzling it up in gasoline and maintenance costs. The converted Toyota Scion xB, shown at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is the first all-electric car to be linked to a power grid and serve as a cash cow.
“This is the first vehicle that’s ever been paid to participate in the grid—the first proof-of-concept vehicle,” Ken Huber, who oversees technological development at wholesale electricity coordinator PJM Interconnection, told AFP.
The presentation of the box-like, unassuming-looking Scion was the researchers’ way of introducing the “vehicle-to-grid” (V2G) concept as it begins to gain momentum in the United States and around the world.
V2G projects with hybrid cars that use electricity and gas to store energy in their batteries and feed it back into the power grid are up and running in the United States, and the drive now is to produce all-electric vehicles to plug into the power grid.
“This makes the car useful not only when it’s being driven, but also when it’s parked, as long as you remember to plug it in,” said Willett Kempton, who is leading a V2G project at the University of Delaware.
A V2G car is linked via an Internet-over-powerline connection that sends a signal from inside the car’s computer to an aggregator’s server. The aggregator acts as the middleman between the car owner and power grid management companies, which are constantly trying to keep electricity output at a constant level.
When the grid needs more power due to a surge in demand, power companies usually draw from traditional power plants, which in the United States are often coal-fired and leave a large carbon footprint.
When V2G becomes more widespread, the power could be drawn from millions of vehicles plugged into sockets in home garages or from commercial fleets, such as the U.S. Postal Service’s vans, for a much smaller footprint than that of the power plants.
Grid management companies like PJM Interconnection currently pay around $30 an hour when taking power from a car.
V2G is still a new concept, but it is gaining ground in the United States and Europe.
“Ten years ago, this was just a plan. Today, it’s a real project, and in 10 years, we’ll be producing tens of megawatts of power this way,” said Kempton, adding that V2G will readily find applications in countries that are rapidly ramping up reliance on wind and solar energy, such as Denmark and Britain.
Huber said he will be meeting in the coming weeks in Paris with heads of European grid management companies about V2G.
“We’re going to try to determine how we can work together on this. It’s a technology that is very good at meeting a need we have, and there’s growing interest among auto companies to develop V2G vehicles,” he added.
AC Propulsion of California has designed an electric drive system for V2G, and car manufacturers including Renault/Nissan, Mitsubishi, and BMW are producing all-electric vehicles with an eye on the V2G market.


-------------

More at Google search
V2G-technique PLUGIN ELECTRIC VEHICLE earn dollars
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Old 02-22-2010, 07:29 PM   #16
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The problem is that electric cars and hybrids use lithium batteries, and there is not enough lithium available to make batteries for electric cars to replace even one-tenth of all the cars out there.
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:11 PM   #17
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So how much is the full battery bank replacement? Are you even figuring that into your cost analysis? And the cost of insurance?
No, I didn't include the cost of insurance (but this company offers backyard installation with panels on wheels that could in principle be moved into a garage or a barn or other indoor area in case of hurricane warnings).

But, yes, my calculation does includel battery replacement at 4 year intervals. And my calculation is at today's oil&gas prices, not $145/barrel oil like we saw briefly in 2008, and which we're likely to see again. (At those oil&gas prices, my electric bill is over $400/month in the summer).
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Old 02-23-2010, 02:27 PM   #18
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When the grid needs more power due to a surge in demand, power companies usually draw from traditional power plants, which in the United States are often coal-fired and leave a large carbon footprint.

When V2G becomes more widespread, the power could be drawn from millions of vehicles plugged into sockets in home garages or from commercial fleets
Consider this exchange from one of the pro boards. Initial post:

Quote:
You must not be paying much attention. The grid exists ALREADY. Only minor costs (in the order of tens of billion$) needed to upgrade the system - of course "minor" is relative when you compare the alternatives. As the article was tangentially discussing, what makes EVs feasible is the ability to use the grid during off peak hours (ie at night) when significant generation capacity goes unused - that's why smart meters are important - to encourage consumers to charge at night.
And a reply from "Comox52":

Quote:
This statement is why it is so important to verify information obtained from chat board debates. I can assure you the above is inaccurate because I worked for the 30 years in utility infrastructure design and implementation. The grid is there but the capacity is not. The cost to increase grid capacity is large in terms of cost and time. The net energy required still has to come from somewhere too and right now it is coming from some 8-10 million barrels of oil/day in the US. That is one heck of a lot of energy to replace on the grid!

The electric utility business in north America has undergone a process not unlike other infrastructure sectors in north America. Plant investment has been minimized for years and most all opportunities to push costs ahead has been used. The fact is, plant investment in grid infrastructure is a pure overhead cost for utility companies who work in a regulated environment. It is to their advantage to minimize that investment over time. This is one area that has been starved of investment for most of my working life time. Just the cost to maintain the grid is large the cost to actually grow it faster than GDP is hard to relate too the present cost of maintenance. I can say that should that investment accelerate the underlying cost for grid power will go up faster just because of the amortization curve.

My advice is to look up the facts for yourself, don't take my word for it. If you don't fully understand the cost and maintenance profile of electrical grid infrastructure you have no business putting money into spec investments in electric vehicle technology. Much of what we hear is meaningless "feel-good-political-bullshit", like green power, green collar jobs, etc. It's nice stuff to make up to get some idiot elected but it's not something to invest serious money in.

I don't see much future in electric vehicles once the impact on grid capacity (costs) becomes evident and the sourcing of additional gross power inputs has to be addressed.

Be assured, GM, Ford, etc. would just love to sell us all new cars, at a fat price, while we throw our old ones away before the are worn out, it might save their sorry asses for a little longer. Not my idea of a solution, creating more economic churn. Better to produce stuff that is actually needed and get the most out of what we already have, like the 200+ million perfectly good vehicles, out there, that no one wants to replace.
Based on the information I've seen, it is very doubtful that the grid has sufficient capacity (generation or transmission) to either recharge large numbers of electric vehicles at night or draw from them during the day (presumably when they're parked by commuters). - d

Last edited by dharma; 02-23-2010 at 03:47 PM. Reason: confusing wording
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Old 02-23-2010, 02:39 PM   #19
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Here are some links to companies that will give you quotes for pre-packaged solar systems
Perusing those links, I notice heavy emphasis on 1) the "supplemental" nature of most (all?) of their installations, 2) heavy emphasis on government support, and 3) heavy emphasis on energy saving appliances (swamp coolers in Houston! As if! ), which suggests strongly to me that the capability to power a "normal" home is probably not present. Do you have a link describing any actual, functional installations?

The "Colleyville Eco House" is a few miles from me. They did their best, but it still uses grid electricity.

http://www.colleyvilleecohouse.com/features.html
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