The U.S. coal industry needs to develop a collaborative approach with government to reinvent itself, write Drs. Robert Hebner, director of UT Austin’s Center for Electromechanics, and David Tuttle, research fellow with the university’s Energy Institute, in a new op-ed. While the use of coal to generate electricity has declined, the cost of replacing coal-fired power plants and the infrastructure that supports them will limit the rate at which coal will be replaced by alternative sources, such as wind and solar. What is needed, the authors argue, is a coordinated effort between industry and government to develop technological innovations not unlike what occurred in the 1980s and 1990s in the semiconductor industry. For more, read the op-ed, which was published in the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the East Bay (CA) Times.
Texas is poised to be a leader in producing hydrogen for the next generation of electrically powered vehicles, and in the ongoing transition to a cleaner and more efficient energy system, write Drs. Alan Lloyd, a senior research fellow at the Energy Institute, and Michael Webber, deputy director of the Institute, in a new op-ed. As the nation’s largest producer of hydrogen, Texas also has the knowledge and expertise needed to use hydrogen to power turbines to create heat and electricity and as a feedstock in industrial applications such as the production of steel and chemicals, and in the semiconductor industry. The op-ed has been published in the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Rio Grande Guardian, and Texas Monthly. Read more.
Mechanical Engineering Prof. John Goodenough, renowned as co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting batteries for cellphones, electric cars and large-scale energy storage. Dr. Goodenough, along with senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, detailed his findings in a paper recently published in Energy & Environmental Science. For more, read an article on the Cockrell School of Engineering website, and stories in North American Energy News, the Austin American-Statesman, Gizmodo UK, Electronics Weekly, and Newsweek.
The cheapest and likeliest pathway to a cleaner energy future is one that leverages, not duplicates, the existing electric grid and associated infrastructure, writes Dr. Joshua Rhodes in a new article in The Conversation. Rhodes’ article provides a snapshot of new research he has conducted on what the existing electric grid is worth, what it would cost to replace it, and which technologies are best suited for needed investment. Rhodes based his analysis on calculations derived from a variety of public reports, and estimates for new construction and standard approaches for estimating depreciation. From there, he quantified the value of the nation’s assets for power generation, transmission and distribution. For more, read the entire article, which also has been published in the San Antonio Express-News, the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Gate, the Albany (NY) Times-Union, and Salon.
UT Austin scientists have found that high levels of methane in well water from two counties near Fort Worth are probably from shallow natural gas deposits, not natural gas leaks caused by hydraulic fracturing operations in the underlying Barnett Shale. The research, published in the journal Groundwater, builds on previous studies on well water quality in the Barnett Shale and uses chemical and geographic evidence to tie the elevated methane level in certain water wells to methane in natural shallow deposits. J.P. Nicot, a research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology, a unit of the UT Jackson School of Geosciences, led the research. Read more.
Researchers in UT Austin’s Department of Mechanical Engineering have developed an electrode for lithium-sulfur batteries that improves cyclic stability and rate capability. As published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Nano Letters, the team used polypyrrole–manganese dioxide coaxial nanotubes to encase the sulfur in the battery. The lithium–sulfur batteries still face many challenges, such as poor conductivity of sulfur, but researches are developing unique approaches to solving these issues. Read more to learn more about their findings.
UT Austin Mechanical Engineering Professor Varun Rai has been named Associate Dean for Research at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he will oversee a broad portfolio of research efforts and initiatives and represent the LBJ School in university-wide research programs and operations. Dr. Rai currently directs the Energy Systems Transformation Research Group and is a Faculty Affiliate at the Energy Institute. From 2013–2015 he served as a commissioner for Austin Energy, the vertically integrated, municipal electric utility for the City of Austin. Additionally, Dr. Rai serves on the editorial board of The Electricity Journal and Energy Research & Social Science, for which he is also an associate editor. Read more.
By Joshua D. Rhodes, Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute
This piece was originally published in The Conversation and has also been published by the Associated Press, the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express-News, the San Francisco Gate, the Albany Times-Union, and The Atlantic’s CityLab.
The electric grid is an amazing integrated system of machines spanning an entire continent. The National Academy of Engineering has called it one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century.
But it is also expensive. By my analysis, the current (depreciated) value of the U.S. electric grid, comprising power plants, wires, transformers and poles, is roughly US$1.5 to $2 trillion. To replace it would cost almost $5 trillion. [Read more…]
UT Energy Journalism Fellow Lorne Matalon for NPR’s Texas Standard (listen here)
MIDLAND, Texas—Water in west Texas is both an environmental issue and a major stress on overhead for oil and natural gas producers in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico. A private-public partnership in Midland is trying to address both concerns at the same time. [Read more…]
More than 1,000 people attended UT Energy Week, an annual gathering of experts from academia, industry, government, regulatory agencies and nonprofit organizations, to discuss and debate an assortment of topical energy issues, Feb. 7 – 10, on the UT Austin campus. The conference, now in its third year, is hosted by the Energy Institute, the KBH Center for Energy, Law & Business, and two student-run organizations – the Longhorn Energy Club and the Texas Journal of Oil, Gas, and Energy Law – along with support from schools and colleges across the UT Austin campus engaged in energy-related research. Read more.