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NEMA's eiXtra: July 27, 2009
eiXtra: published by NEMA Hot Topics
On the Hill/Around the Nation
International News
NEMAVoice
Monday, July 27, 2009
feature story
New Geothermal Heat Extraction Process to Deliver Clean Power Generation

PNNL’s introduction of a metal-organic heat carrier, or MOHC, in the biphasic fluid may help improve thermodynamic efficiency of the heat recovery process. This image represents the molecular makeup of one of several MOHCs.
Advanced heat recovery method makes most of low-temp "hot rock" resources

A new method for capturing significantly more heat from low-temperature geothermal resources holds promise for generating virtually pollution-free electrical energy. Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will determine if their innovative approach can safely and economically extract and convert heat from vast untapped geothermal resources.

The goal is to enable power generation from low-temperature geothermal resources at an economical cost. In addition to being a clean energy source without any greenhouse gas emissions, geothermal is also a steady and dependable source of power.

“By the end of the calendar year, we plan to have a functioning bench-top prototype generating electricity,” predicted PNNL Laboratory Fellow Pete McGrail. “If successful, enhanced geothermal systems like this could become an important energy source.” A technical and economic analysis conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that enhanced geothermal systems could provide 10 percent of the nation’s overall electrical generating capacity by 2050.

Click to watch PNNL's Pete McGrail describe the process.

PNNL’s conversion system will take advantage of the rapid expansion and contraction capabilities of a new liquid developed by PNNL researchers called biphasic fluid. When exposed to heat brought to the surface from water circulating in moderately hot, underground rock, the thermal-cycling of the biphasic fluid will power a turbine to generate electricity.

To aid in efficiency, scientists have added nanostructured metal-organic heat carriers, or MOHCs, which boost the power generation capacity to near that of a conventional steam cycle. McGrail cited PNNL’s nanotechnology and molecular engineering expertise as an important factor in the development, noting that the advancement was an outgrowth of research already underway at the lab.

“Some novel research on nanomaterials used to capture carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels actually led us to this discovery,” said McGrail. “Scientific breakthroughs can come from some very unintuitive connections.”

PNNL is receiving $1.2 million as one of 21 DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy grants through the Geothermal Technologies Program.

Some of the research was conducted in EMSL, DOE’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the PNNL campus.



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Hot Topics

07.27.09
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Regional renewable energy advocates reacted with cautious optimism to Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) FY 2010-11 Final Record of Decision (ROD) concerning the rate BPA will charge for integrating wind into the regional grid, and BPA’s June 16th letter detailing future commitments related to operational changes.

07.17.09
Recycled Natural Gas Pipes Shore Up Green Building
Building a support structure of something tried, true, and tested like "off the shelf" steel is standard practice in building construction.

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On the Hill/Around the Nation

07.23.09
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS—SURVEY FINDS U.S. IMAGE ABROAD "IMPROVED MARKEDLY" WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA'S ELECTION: A new Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, conducted May 18 to June 16, found that "the image of the United States has improved markedly in most parts of the world, reflecting global confidence in Barack Obama." The poll even found that in Germany, Obama enjoys greater confidence than Chancellor Angela Merkel and French citizens are more confident in Obama than they are in President Nicolas Sarkozy. The Pew report found that the United States' image has not only improved dramatically in Western Europe, but "opinions of America have also become more positive in key countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia as well." Even countries with a Muslim majority, Indonesia in particular, where the United States was incredibly unpopular during the Bush Administration, have seen an increase in favorable American sentiment since Obama was elected. "However, for the most part, opinions of the U.S. among Muslims in the Middle East remain largely unfavorable, despite some positive movement in the numbers in Jordan and Egypt. Animosity toward the U.S., however, continues to run deep and unabated in Turkey, the Palestinian territories and Pakistan." At the same time, Pew's survey also "confirms a drop in confidence in the United States among Israelis." Immediately after Obama's Cairo speech, Israeli confidence in him to do the right thing slipped from 60 percent before the speech to 49 percent. On policies, Obama's personal popularity doesn't always translate. For example, Obama's plan to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan "is the only Obama policy tested that does not engender broad global support. In fact, majorities in most countries oppose the added deployments."

The Progress Report

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International News

07.21.09
South Africa and Germany Could Improve Renewable Energy Cooperation–Chamber
Energy efficiency and renewable energy were sectors with a lot of potential to scale up South African and German cooperation, said Southern African German chamber of commerce and industry CEO Matthias Boddenberg.

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