Home' Technology Review : November December 2008 Contents As the energy debate rages in political and scientific circles,
investment in clean energy technologies continues to rise. Clean
Energy Trends 2008, published by research fir m Clean Edge, esti-
mates that wind energy, biofuels, and solar photovoltaics (PV)---a
combined $75.8 billion market in 2007---will increase to $238.5 bil-
lion, within a decade. Yet it remains to be seen which clean energy
technologies have the brightest commercial future.
A GUST IN WIND ENERGY
Wind power, whose new-installation capital costs were estimat-
ed at $30.1 billion in 2007, is projected to expand to $83.4 billion by
2017. It's a prospect that investors like oil and gas titan T. Boone
Pickens are banking on. He aims to build the world's largest wind
farm---up to 2,000 turbines---in Texas.
Cur rently, the largest player in wind energy in the United States
is Florida-based FPL Group. Its subsidiary FPL Energy has
nearly 60 wind facilities in North America. These turbines have a
generating capacity equivalent to 30 percent of the nation's wind-
generated electricity. The company intends to add 8,000 to 10,000
megawatts by 2012.
"[Wind energy] is an important element of our growth strat-
egy," says FPL Energy spokesman Steve Stengel. "By the end
of this year, we will have approximately $8 billion invested in our
NEW APPROACHES TO BIOFUEL
It's estimated that the biofuels market will increase from $25.4
billion to $81.1 billion by 2017. However, opinions differ on what
the biomass feedstock of choice will be.
At the University of Georgia, researchers recently announced
an acid-free pretreatment technology that significantly increases
the simple sugars released from grasses for conversion to etha-
nol. It's a discovery that builds upon claims scientists made at
BioMass 2008: the best energy yields come from native grasses,
not cor n or soy.
Meanwhile, 2008 has proved a banner year for algae-based bio-
fuel, attracting $179.5 million in venture capital as of September,
according to the Cleantech Group.
The technology behind PetroAlgae, a company based in
Melbourne, FL, sidesteps the food-versus-biofuel dilemma,
since algae does not require arable land. PetroAlgae claims it can
produce 200 times more oil per acre per year than is possible with
soybean-based biofuel. This oil can be used in many applications,
including transportation, bioplastics, and cosmetics.
In Boca Raton, FL, Citr us Energy president David Stewart
plans to take advantage of the five million tons of citrus waste the
state generates each year by building a first-of-its-kind commer-
cial-scale plant that turns orange and grapefruit peels into etha-
nol. Once in operation, the facility's equipment will also be used
for further research on energy crops during the citrus off-season.
"Citrus peel does not car ry the carbon and energy burdens of
having to plant, fertilize, har vest, and transport a dedicated feed-
stock for ethanol production," Stewart says.
LOOKING TO THE SUN
There are those who believe that becoming independent of fossil
fuels will require a portfolio approach, with much of that portfolio
invested in solar energy---a market that's estimated to grow to $74
billion by 2017.
As of next year, Florida will host the world's largest solar PV
plant. The DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, which
will generate 42,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, is under
construction in DeSoto County. With 240 days of sunshine and 85
percent of the maximum solar resource available in the country,
Florida has become a hub for research centers and businesses
exploring next-generation solar technologies.
One example is the University of South Florida's Clean Energy
Research Center, which studies thin and thick films, silicon carbide
materials and processing, photovoltaic and hybrid systems, tandem
solar cells using organic polymers and inorganic materials, and
rooftop systems. Researchers here were first in the world to exceed 15
percent efficiency for a thin-film PV cell using cadmium telluride.
No matter which technologies push to the forefront, it's evident
that fossil fuels are no longer the only players in the energy market.
The International Energy Agency estimates that $600 billion needs
to be invested annually to meet the projected demand for new
electricity and fuel sources worldwide. With such a great need,
companies that make it their business to produce clean energy are
certainly positioning themselves for a greener future.
SPOTLIGHT ON INNOVATION - A TECHNOLOGY REVIEW CUSTOM SERIES
The Technology Review Custom Team takes a look at the technologies that are changing the ways in which we do business. The first
article of four focuses on clean energy and takes a look at the advancements in the wind, biofuel, and solar sectors.
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For more information about Clean Energy and to view an expanded article online visit www.technologyreview.com/spotlight
Source: Clean Energy Trends 2008, Published by Clean Edge.
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