Google Inc. is investing $168 million in an alternative power project that aims to produce enough solar energy to light 140,000 homes.
The commitment announced Monday is part of the financing that BrightSource Energy needs to build solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert. BrightSource also has lined up $1.6 billion in loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy and a $300 million investment from NRG Energy Inc. The project, known as the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, is supposed to generate about 392 gross megawatts when it is completed in 2013.
Google has been dipping into its bank account to back various projects that promise to generate energy from other sources besides oil and coal. The company has emerged as a major consumer of electricity as it opens huge data centers to house the computers that run its Internet search engine, email and other online services.
Promoting energy that causes less pollution is one of several crusades championed by Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Page, 38, reclaimed his original job as Google’s CEO last week after handing over the reins during the previous decade to a more experienced leader, Eric Schmidt, who is now the company’s executive chairman.
Gasoline prices continue to rise across the nation, according to the Energy Information Administration’s latest figures.
A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline now costs $3.79 on average, up from $3.68 last week and $3.19 on Feb. 21.
For all grades, a gallon will set you back an average of $3.84, up from $3.73 last week. And premium unleaded has cracked the $4 barrier, at $4.03 per gallon, up from $3.92 last week.
Gas prices in some areas are higher. For instance, the Drudge Report has highlighted a story from the Chicago CBS affiliate speculating about gasoline hitting $5 per gallon before Memorial Day.
A gallon of regular unleaded in the Windy City costs an average of $4.11, compared with $3.71 a month ago, and about $3.10 a gallon at this time a year ago.
In an ambitious attempt to replicate nature, various researchers are seeking to create fuels from water and sunlight, much the way plants do.
California Institute of Technology professor Nate Lewis on Saturday gave a snapshot of the “swing for the fences” research his lab is pursuing to make fuels directly from water and sunlight. Caltech last year was picked as the lead for a newly created Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) to run the Department of Energy’s Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub.
The center is one of many so-called solar fuels efforts that seek to bypass the traditional biofuel method of growing plants and then convert biomass to a transportable, liquid fuel. Other researchers and companies are seeking to genetically engineer microbes that secrete fuels or develop cheaper methods for splitting water to make hydrogen fuel.
During a talk at the Yale Climate & Energy Institute’s annual conference, Lewis described the concepts driving his research and what form a solar fuel generator could take.
The sun is the largest source of energy, but storing solar energy with conventional means, such as batteries, is very expensive, he said. The notion behind his research is to store solar energy in the chemical bonds of fuels. Light-duty transportation will move toward electric vehicles because they are more efficient than internal combustion engines, but there is still a need for liquid fuels in other forms of transportation or to generate power when there is no sun.
Nationwide, young people are working to move their college campuses and communities beyond coal to clean energy solutions — and they are winning. In the past few weeks we’ve seen three colleges decide to move beyond coal on their campuses, showing yet again that students are helping to lead the fight for clean energy.
Just this week we saw Miami University of Ohio announce it would immediately begin reducing the amount of coal burned on campus and eventually eliminate it altogether.
Miami students had worked for months to pressure the university to improve local health by abandoning coal, and the Miami Beyond Coal Group activated more 600 volunteers to advocate against coal this semester alone.
And last week came another hit from Ohio, when Ohio University (OU) announced it would move beyond coal by 2016. Over the course of the campaign against coal at OU, well over 2,000 students signed a petition urging the college to move beyond coal — which is more than 10 percent of the entire student body.
Just like hound dogs sniffing around for burglars, Closterium moniliferum, an green alga that usually lives in ponds, could sniff and eliminate radioactive strontium 90 (Sr-90) from water and from existing nuclear waste. 80 million gallons of radioactive nuclear waste are already stored in the United States. The discovery has been made by Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory researchers.
The algae sequester strontium by transforming it into harmless crystals of barium-strontium-sulfate. “Nuclear waste cleanup is a problem we have to solve,” said senior author Derk Joester, who experienced Chernobyl’s radioactive fallout when he was a teenager living in southern Germany. “Even if all the nuclear reactors were to shut down tomorrow, the existing volume of waste is great, and it is costly to store. We need to isolate highly radioactive ‘high-level’ waste from ‘low-level’ waste. The algae offer a mechanism for doing this, which we would like to understand and optimize.”
Strontium’s sinful chemical resemblance with calcium can make it dangerous to all living things, since it can infiltrate in bones and trigger cancer in a few years. The Closterium moniliferum is able to “tell” between calcium and strontium, though. Inside the cells, the algae first process barium, strontium and calcium from their watery environment. The calcium is excreted from the cells, and the other two are processed into crystals.
“The synchrotron X-ray microscopy available at the Advanced Photon Source was absolutely critical to this study,” Joester said. “It allowed us to visualize where calcium, strontium and barium go inside the cells.”
Oil has a bigger impact on our economy than any other commodity. And given that the price of oil has been increasing significantly since 2003, it has come to the forefront of our economic concerns. In 2003, oil was trading at approximately $25 a barrel. Five years later, it reached a high of about $147. Today, the price of oil has settled around $100 a barrel. Given that most industries are significantly hindered by high oil prices due to the fact that oil is both a direct and indirect cost in the production of various products and goods, the rise in prices has been a painful trend for consumers, investors and businesses.
However, there are some ways you, as an investor, can benefit from the increase in oil prices. The key is finding the industries whose business models are centered on finding ways to satisfy customer and business needs when oil is too expensive for many companies and consumers. It is these industries that offer great investment opportunities in times of oil shortages caused by issues such as the recent turmoil in Libya. Here are six prominent industries that can benefit from increases in the price of oil. (How a company accounts for its expenses affects how its net income and cash flow numbers are reported. Check out Accounting For Differences In Oil And Gas Accounting.)
1. Oil Substitutes and Alternative Energy
Companies that provide goods that are substitutes for oil do very well when oil prices are high. As customers become dissatisfied with the price of oil, they often turn to coals, biofuels, natural gas and ethanol products for their energy needs. Peabody (NYSE:BTU) and Cloud Peak (NYSE:CLD) are two coal companies that often do well when oil prices increase.
Companies that provide green energy services are also likely to increase in value as the profitability of wind farms, hydrogen production facilities, and solar and fuel cells rises along with the price of oil. First Solar (Nasdaq:FSLR), Nordic WindPower, and Altergy Freedom Power are good examples of such green energy companies.