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Carbon Capture and Carbon-Neutral Fuels

The evolution of carbon-neutral energy production is key to protecting the climate from the impact of humans and our energy-hungry lifestyle.

Carbon neutral fuels are synthetic fuels produced from renewable or nuclear energy which is used to combine hydrogen and recycled carbon dioxide. The carbon needed to produce hydrocarbon fuel can be captured from power plant exhaust, the atmosphere or carbonic gases in sea water. By reusing carbon that would otherwise be expelled into the atmosphere, more fuel is produced that doesn't add to the carbon normally released.

Energy is required to produce such fuel, but using renewables such as wind power or hydroelectric or nuclear power, ensures that the net carbon released is zero.

The United States Renewable Energy Association says: “Most coal and natural gas power plants have been predicted to be economically retrofittable with carbon dioxide scrubbers for carbon capture to recycle flue exhaust or for carbon sequestration. Such recycling is expected to not only cost less than the excess economic impacts of climate change if it were not done, but also to pay for itself as global fuel demand growth and peak oil shortages increase the price of petroleum and fungible natural gas.”

The Navy has studied options for ships at sea to use this process to produce jet fuel from sea water. The cost could be about $6 per gallon. The current costs to ship a gallon of jet fuel for underway refueling average about $8 per gallon.

The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is a San Francisco Bay Area scientific partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and includes other high-level national labs in the development of the next generation of biofuels – liquid fuels derived from the solar energy stored in plant biomass. Their research is focused on the efficient conversion into fuels of lignocellulosic biomass, the most abundant organic material on the planet.

Why is renewable energy important?

Renewable energy is important because of the benefits it provides. The key benefits are:

Environmental Benefits
Renewable energy technologies are clean sources of energy that have a much lower environmental impact than conventional energy technologies.



The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), located in Golden, Colorado, is the United States' primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a government-owned, contractor-operated facility, and is funded through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).


"Building a secure and prosperous America with clean, renewable energy." The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) brings together leading proponents and innovators from all facets of the renewable energy sector for the purpose of moving renewable energy into the mainstream of America's economy.


The Environmental and Energy Study Institute was established by members of the United States Congress who were concerned with environmental and energy problems. The Institute's program includes policy and related research on global environmental issues, including climate change.

Learning About Renewable Power Sources


Principles of Wind Energy

Wind energy is energy harnessed from moving air caused by temperature and pressure differences in the atmosphere. The sun heats the air, forcing it to rise as temperatures rise. When temperatures fall, an atmospheric low pressure zone develops and air from high pressure areas rushes in to fill the void and equalize the pressure. The result is wind, which can be captured with wind turbines.

While wind energy has been used for centuries for simple motion machines and pumps, electricity became practical in the 1980s. Wind energy is the most mature of the modern renewable energy sources. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind power offers many advantages, which explains why it's one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world.

The United Kingdom recently approved construction of a wind farm 80 miles (130 km) off the coast of Yorkshire, that should provide power for up to 2 million homes.

“It is a project that pushes the offshore engineering envelope - demonstrating how far this technology has evolved in the ten short years since the first major offshore wind farm was installed in North Hoyle just 5 miles from shore,” said Nick Medic, director of offshore renewables at RenewableUK.


Practical Application of Solar Power

The Earth's most abundant energy source, the sun, provides enough energy in one hour to fulfill the world's energy needs for a year. But only recently has practical and efficient solar power capture technology come onto the market. Early photovoltaic cells converted only 1 % of sunlight into energy. Newer technologies can average 25-30% conversion.

In late 2014, the Topaz Project opened in Southern California outside San Luis Obispo. This bank of 9 million solar panels is the largest in the world and produces 550 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 110,000 homes. Use of that much power from solar cells instead of fossil fuels will eliminate 377,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

In addition to electrical generation, solar energy can be used to heat water, replacing traditional fuels such a grid electrical power or natural gas. Significant advances allow up to 50% of the heat from the sun to be applied to residential hot water.


Hydropower: The World's Oldest Generators

Water power has been around for thousands of years in the form of water wheels and mills. In more recent times, hydropower evolved into hydraulic power-pipe networks and hydroelectric turbines such as those found in modern dams. These systems have provided clean electric power by construction large scale public works projects.

The newest applications of hydropower are more scalable than large dams, and are also more reliable than wind and solar power. Wave power can be harnessed by placing Wave Energy Converters in the ocean. These devices turn the kinetic energy in the oscillating motion of the ocean surface into electricity. Tests are underway worldwide in locations with optimal wave activity such as the Atlantic Coast in Europe, the Northern UK, and the Pacific Coasts of North and South America.

Similar technology can also harness tidal power for electricity, a modern application of older tide mill technology. As the tides flow in and out under the power of the moon's orbit (and the Earth's orbit around the sun to a lesser extent) the water turns turbines to generate power on a reliable schedule.


Geothermal Energy: Heat From the Center of the Earth

The Earth's core has been cooling since the planet's formation. That, combined with radioactive decay, totals up to an energy potential of 100 billion times worldwide annual energy consumption. The heat from the Earth is constantly rising towards the surface. Places where it emerges, such as hot springs, have been used by humans for centuries. Electrical generation from geothermal heat has also been possible for over 100 years.

The challenges of this type of energy is the cost of large scale applications. Digging down in the appropriate place can cost millions with a 20% chance of failure to find sufficient heating. Easily accessible geothermal steam sites can be depleted over time, forcing a costly relocation or additional drilling.

An experiment planned for March 2016, will attempt to develop more sophisticated and reliable methods of determining where long-lasting geothermal energy spots may be located.