Bioo is generating electricity from the organic matter in soil and creating biological batteries to power agricultural sensors, a growing $1.36 billion global market. Eventually, Bioo envisions a future where biology could help to power our largest cities.
A cyberattack on the U.S.’s largest fuel pipeline on May 7 forced a shutdown that triggered a spike in gas prices and shortages in parts of the Southeast. WSJ explains just how vulnerable the nation’s critical energy infrastructure is to attack. Photo illustration: Liz Ornitz/WSJ
There’s a lot of interest in the hydrogen fuel economy. Here’s what you need to know about how it works and the hurdles it faces.
Hydrogen is a clean fuel that, when consumed in a fuel cell, produces only water. Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of domestic resources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewable power like solar and wind. These qualities make it an attractive fuel option for transportation and electricity generation applications. It can be used in cars, in houses, for portable power, and in many more applications.
Energy usage by large, old buildings like the Empire State Building represents a huge obstacle to cities’ dreams of carbon neutrality. New York City’s buildings account for 70% of its carbon emissions, for example, and half of those emissions are produced by the largest 5% of its structures. But retrofitting old buildings to make them more energy efficient represents a formidable challenge, both from an engineering perspective and in terms of convincing owners that doing so is in their financial interest.
Miles below the Earth’s surface, there’s enough thermal energy to power all of humanity for the foreseeable future. It’s called geothermal energy, and it’s poised to play an increasingly large role as a source of always available, renewable power. Now, there are a number of startups in the geothermal space, working to figure out how to access this heat in difficult to reach geographies, at a price point that makes sense. And it’s even gotten the attention of oil and gas industry giants, who are interested in greening their portfolios while sticking to their core competencies – extracting energy resources from deep within the Earth.
Texas had a rough winter in 2021. In mid-February, with temperatures dropping to the single digits, demand for electricity hit a record high throughout Texas. Supply ran short, causing the state’s electric grid operator to implement rolling power outages.
At the height of the crisis, more than 4.5 million customers lost power. The freak winter storm caused neighboring states such as Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas to also impose rolling blackouts. Texas residents shivered in the cold, as outages lasted for days at a time. They lost access to water. Some resorted to turning on their cars in their garages to keep warm then died due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The historic breakdown was a wake-up call — if the power grid in Texas was so fragile, what about the rest of the United States? The U.S. has faced a 67% increase in weather-related power outages since 2000, according to data from Climate Central. Part of the problem is an aging infrastructure. Most of today’s power grid was built in the 1950s and ’60s, with the hopes that it would last for 50 years.
In the past decade, wind power capacity has tripled, and it’s projected to double in the decades to come. Wind is now America’s top renewable source of electricity generation, and the domestic offshore industry is finally taking off, as major manufacturers debut ever larger and more powerful turbines. While the industry faces some challenges with permitting, public opposition from various interest groups, and the obvious intermittency issues, there’s no doubt that wind is poised to play a major role in the energy transition. The question is just how fast it will grow.
The meltdown at a nuclear power station in Fukushima, Japan, ten years ago stoked anxieties about nuclear energy. But nuclear is one of the safest, most reliable and sustainable forms of energy, and decarbonising will be much more difficult without it.