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The second West Central Minnesota Renewable Energy Tour will be taking place on July 27 and 28. The University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center and the Canadian Consulate are hosting the tour.

Participants can board a bus at the University of Minnesota Saint Paul Campus (Gortner Ramp) or at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris.

The tour will feature renewable energy systems including combined heat and power biomass gasification systems, biomass combustion system, anaerobic methane digestor, and a renewable hydrogen and anhydrous ammonia systems.

Space is limited so please find additional information and register on-line here.

Revisited: There's Fuels in that Thar Sun

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Solar Gasoline.png
Since 2009, Dr. Jane Davidson's team has been investigating using solar energy to produce liquid fuels (see 12/20/10 post). The team and its research are continuing to gain momentum via a feature article and accompanying online interactive tool in the May 2011 of Scientific American. The article, 7 Radical Energy Solutions, features seven energy alternatives in the works at various labs throughout the country. One of the seven, Solar Gasoline, focuses on the work being done by Davidson's team. In this case, the energy is produced from one of Earth's most abundant but underused resource: the sun. More energy in the form of sunlight reaches the Earth in an hour than the entire globe uses in one year. Tapping this energy for cost-effective liquid fuels would be a tremendous leap in renewable energy solutions and would enable wider use of solar energy in fuel cells, for electricity on-demand and for transportation purposes

The liquid fuel, a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide and termed syngas, is produced by concentrating sunlight and using the heat to produce a chemical reaction, which in turn produces liquid fuel. There are still some hurdles to overcome, such as cost and finding more durable materials for the reactor. But considering how far Davidson's team and the technology have come thus far, the future is bright for Solar Gasoline.

Photo: Scientific American.

Scientific American article by David Biello.

Published! Dr. Martin Saar in Geophysical Research Letters

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Drs. Martin Saar and Jimmy Randolph have had a paper accepted to Geophysical Research Letters on the feasibility of developing an enhanced geothermal power plant system that generates electricity in low to intermediate heat flow regions like Minnesota while simultaneously sequestering carbon dioxide in the ground.

IREE supported this research via a $600,000 Large Grant, and the project has leveraged just over $1.7M.

Geothermal energy offers clean, renewable, reliable electric power with no need for grid‐scale energy storage, yet its use has been constrained to the few locations worldwide with naturally high geothermal heat resources and groundwater availability. We present a novel approach with the potential to permit expansion of geothermal energy utilization: heat extraction from naturally porous, permeable formations with CO2 as the injected subsurface working fluid.

Fluid‐mechanical simulations reveal that the significantly higher mobility of CO2, compared to water, at the temperature/pressure conditions of interest makes CO2 an attractive heat exchange fluid. We show numerically that, compared to conventional water‐based and engineered geothermal systems, the proposed approach provides up to factors of 2.9 and 5.0, respectively, higher geothermal heat energy extraction rates. Consequently, more regions worldwide could be economically used for geothermal electricity production. Furthermore, as the injected CO2 is eventually geologically sequestered, such power plants would have negative carbon footprints.

Full Citation
Randolph, J. B., and M. O. Saar (2011), Combining geothermal energy capture with geologic carbon dioxide sequestration, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L10401, doi:10.1029/2011GL047265.
Or, see:

Register! IREE to Co-sponsor Energy for Defense Event

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Join us for the "Energy for Defense" event. This event will feature key presenters from the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Energy (DoE), and industry representatives who will discuss the opportunities and challenges for small businesses in the power and energy field.

For more information or to register, click here

From 9 to 20 by 2030

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blades_blue_sky2.jpgWind energy currently represents just 9 percent of the renewable energy used in the United States. Wind is abundant, and operating wind turbines does not produce greenhouse gases. Although tall, wind turbines have a small footprint, which makes them appealing in agricultural areas because energy can be produced without giving up huge amounts of precious farmland.

Wind turbines are also available in a range of sizes and so can be used by a wide variety of populations: industries, rural communities and developing countries can all use wind to meet some or all of their energy needs, even if they are off the grid. And, if developed on a large scale, the wind industry could produce up to 115,000 jobs, up from the industry's current total of 85,000.

The United States Department of Energy, with its goal of obtaining 20% of the nation's energy from wind by 2030, also sees wind's potential as a sustainable, large scale renewable energy source. But despite these advantages and acknowledged importance of wind in the U.S. energy portfolio, the challenge remains: How can wind play a larger role in the United States' energy portfolio?

Read on to find out what IREE is doing to address this challenge!

North Central Clean Tech Open Briefing

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Thumbnail image for CTO logo.gifOn Tuesday, April 12, 2011, IREE was pleased to host the North Central Clean Tech Open (CTO) Briefing to kick off this year's competition. The event attracted over 60 attendees and 13 exhibitors, with presentations from experts, past participants, and investors. There was also ample time for networking. To watch the presentations, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

The goal of the CTO is to "find, fund, and foster the big ideas that address today's most urgent energy, environmental, and economic challenges." Since its inception in 2006, CTO start-ups have raised over $280 million in private capital, 80% of the companies remain viable today, and over 2,000 jobs in the clean tech arena have been created. And, this has been done at a cost of less than $5,000 per job, far less than the jobs created by state and federal programs, as well as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The respective missions of IREE and the CTO are well matched, as both are focused on job creation and economic development via renewable energies and clean technologies. Because a part of IREE's mission is to spur economic development in Minnesota specifically, its work with the CTO is especially important: the partnership gives Minnesota entrepreneurs, inventors, and researchers the chance to move their ideas from the lab to the market while simultaneously making money and creating jobs for the State.


IREE to Host North Central Clean Tech Open Event April 12

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CTO logo.gifCome and gather with some of the most innovative minds and incubators who choose to collaborate and grow "Cleantech Eco‐Clusters" around new ideas and company start‐ups with economic development initiatives. We have collected a great group of expert innovators, mentors, CEO's, and economic developers to discuss opportunities to fund new start‐ups.

The North Central Region - Cleantech Open Competition in conjunction with UMN Departments, such as IREE, TLI, and the OTC‐VC and other CTO Partners invite all cleantech professionals to come together on April 12.

For more information on the agenda, speakers, and presenters, see the flyer: Program Brochure - CTO & UMN.pdf


IREE-funded Researcher Jane Davidson to Present on April 5

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UMN SUNgas - A Vision for Renewable Fuels

April 5
6:30pm: Doors open
7pm: Lecture

Tate Laboratory of Physics, Van Vleck Auditorium
116 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis

Turning fossil fuel into energy is easy--you just burn it and live with the carbon dioxide byproduct. What if we could reverse the process and turn carbon dioxide back into fuel? Join mechanical engineering professor Jane Davidson, who will present her research team's efforts to solve one of the world's most pressing challenges: the need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously meeting an exploding global demand for energy. Davidson will discuss the potential of using concentrated solar energy to produce synthetic hydrocarbons that have properties equivalent to what we are deriving from petroleum today.

For more about Jane Davidson or her presentation, click here.

wackett1.jpgAn article by Dr. Larry Wackett, faculty member in the College of Biological Sciences and the University's BioTechnology Institute, will be published in the April 1st issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The article, on which Wackett is lead author, highlights work done by then-graduate student (now Ph.D.) Janice Frias, who, states the UMN press release, "made the critical step by figuring out how to use a protein to transform fatty acids produced by the bacteria into ketones, which can be cracked to make hydrocarbon fuels. The University is filing patents on the process."

Hydrocarbons are the building blocks of fossil fuels, such as petroleum, and take hundreds of millions of years to form. They also emit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. So the challenge is two-fold: hurry up hydrocarbon production and make them clean. With the work being done in Wackett's lab, these challenges are being addressed everyday to make renewable fuels a reality. These fuels have the added benefit of using the same infrastructure as current fossil fuel production and transport, thus making them a cost-effective and relatively simple alternative to fossil-derived fuels.

This research is being funded via a $2.2 million by DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-e) program. The Initiative for Renewable Energy & the Environment (IREE), a signature program of the UMN Institute on the Environment, helped leverage this money for the state and the UMN with an initial investment of $300,000.

Photo: Josh Kohanek

header_default.jpgThe Algal Biomass Organization has issued a call for Speakers and Abstracts for its 2011 Algal Biomass Summit, taking place right here in the great Twin Cities October 25-27, 2011.

More info on presenting or speaking: Call for Abstracts Page.

More info on the Summit: Event Page.

  The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.