About the Author


Laura Sanchez

Articles by Laura Sanchez

A Liquid Battery

| Advances in materials science are producing extraordinary developments in the energy storage space. A research team from Chalmers University in Sweden recently developed a solar thermal fuel that can store energy long-term and discharge it on demand as heat. The energy storage capacity of this fluid relies on an isomer—the chemical conversion of a molecule into ... READ MORE

There’s a Robot in Your Pipes… And it’s Wearing a Skirt

| Sometimes great innovations are inspired by quotidian life. Such is the case with a revolutionary leak-detecting robot. Mechanical engineer You Wu began developing leak detection solutions when he joined the MIT Mechatronics Research Lab and was charged with adapting a colleague’s gas leak detection device for water pipes. The original model, a self-propelled robot, was ... READ MORE

Aligning Electrons

| Air travel accounts for nearly 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions and is considered one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas pollution. Therefore, the scientific community has long felt that the electrification of air travel could provide wide-reaching benefits for the global environment. Powering an aircraft, however, requires batteries that are able to discharge ... READ MORE

Reevaluating the Acre-Foot

| It’s interesting to consider the origins of various units of measure. The acre, for example, once defined the area of land that a team of oxen could plow in a day. The Egyptian cubit, used in ancient architecture, represented the length of a man’s forearm, from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. ... READ MORE

Energy Policies at the Polls

| Renewable energy emerged as a theme in the recent 2018 US midterm elections, with four ballot initiatives addressing power production in western states that could impact the energy sector nationwide. A carbon-fee proposal in Washington State would have created funding for investments in clean energy and pollution programs had it passed. An unsuccessful Colorado initiative proposed ... READ MORE

Climate Change and System Complexity

| Angkor, Cambodia, was one of the world’s foremost cities in the 13th century. The ancient urbanization extended across more than 1,000 kilometers and boasted an elaborate water infrastructure network—a system of reservoirs, embankments, and canals that irrigated farmland, diffused floodwaters, and distributed water among residents. In the 15th century, however, the city collapsed, and its ... READ MORE

Structural Energy Storage

| As an energy efficiency advocate, I get excited when materials multitask. So when a recent study revealed that carbon fibers can function as battery electrodes while bearing a structural load, it piqued my curiosity. What if the hood of a car could double as a battery? What if an aircraft’s fuselage effectively stored energy? The ... READ MORE

A Pivotal Technology

| It’s fascinating to consider inventions that have shaped 20th-century American culture, such as the electric light bulb, the automobile, and the personal computer. Irrigation technology has also shifted our cultural landscape—specifically center pivot irrigation—by nourishing vast fields of circular crops across the American Midwest. Records show that in the early 1900s midwestern farmers began pumping ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Multidimensional Insights

| SUNSPOTS WERE OBSERVED by telescope as early as the 1600s. Astronomer Galileo Galilei was the first to document the location of these solar specks by making ink marks directly onto paper. While maintaining the precise image plane, he translated complex data points into an accessible and easily read format. ... READ MORE

The Electrification of Transportation

| What do you get when you put microgrid developers, policy experts, and electrical engineers in a room together? An exhilarating experience. This year’s HOMER International Microgrid Conference brought together energy experts from 17 different countries to exchange case studies, share technical presentations, and to map out the future path of microgrid development. One particularly insightful ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: A Digital Orchestra

| Digital pings, percussive thumps, and violin notes emerge as coordinated sounds from a building on Stanford University’s campus. But inside, the Stanford Laptop Orchestra’s tangled cables and video game equipment make it more closely resemble an IT department after a network crash than a conventional music ensemble. ... READ MORE

Renewables and Resilience

| North Carolina receives 4.6% of its electricity from solar farms. The state is second only to California for installed solar capacity. And in the face of weather events, it appears that solar generation may have enhanced its resiliency. When Hurricane Florence made landfall on September 14, the storm’s torrential rains and severe winds wreaked havoc on ... READ MORE

Fatberg to Fuel

| A fatberg is a greasy gelatinous mountain. The pestilent globs can reach 140 tons, lurking in sewer systems from London and Melbourne to Baltimore. And not only are they a nuisance, they’re costly to remove. These colossal clogs develop when fats sent down sewer pipes intermingle and congeal with solids such as wipes, sanitary napkins, ... READ MORE

Puzzling Pipelines

| The word for “puzzle” in Spanish is “rompecabezas”—literally, a head breaker. The term serves as an apt description of Mexico City’s hydrologic tangle, a multi-faceted conundrum that exemplifies the global need to make water systems sustainable. Legend has it that Mexico City was founded in a sacred location. For more than two centuries, the Mexica ... READ MORE

A Golden Sandwich

| Gold is an extraordinary element. Its illuminating luster has, throughout history, been associated with prestige and opulence. Homer, in The Illiad and The Odyssey, referred to gold as the “glory of immortals and a sign of wealth among ordinary people.” Chemically, gold is a transition metal known for its malleability and low reactivity. Recently, scientists ... READ MORE

Singing in the Shower

| Everybody sings in the shower. At least that’s the belief that Susan van Rooyen and Moe Kekana were operating under as they developed a brilliant water-saving campaign in Cape Town, South Africa. And as it turns out, they were right. As drought conditions became grave in late 2017 and the threat of Day Zero approached, ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: This is not a Pipe

| IT’S ONE OF the most iconic images of the Surrealist Movement. When in 1929 René Magritte painted a brown and black tobacco pipe above the words, “This is not a pipe,” in French, he dared us to question our perceptions. While the painting is a representation of a pipe, it is not a real pipe. And with the introduction of this intelligent paradox, the artist asks us to reconsider the intricate relationships between what we see and what we think we see and to reevaluate everyday conventions. ... READ MORE

Sophisticated Sand

| “The way we treat stormwater, especially in California, is broken,” explains Joseph Charbonnet, a graduate student in civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley. “We think of it as a pollutant, but we should be thinking about it as a solution.”  As water flows through urban areas, over rooftops, lawns, and streets, it can accumulate ... READ MORE

Green Goals for the Golden State

| California has taken steps on the path to clean energy lately. Last week, the state Assembly passed legislation that would set a target to eliminate carbon emissions from California’s energy generation profile. If signed into law by Governor Brown, the bill, S.B. 100, creates a clean energy goal, mandating that 100% of retail energy sales ... READ MORE

Flushed but not Forgotten

| Dental floss, wipes, contact lenses, medications, facial tissues… Each of these items may seem innocuous, but in wastewater treatment facilities, they can be highly destructive. When flushed down toilets and into sewer systems, these products can’t be dissolved by conventional methods. Instead, they clog pumps, tangle around mixers, contaminate waterways, and end up in the ... READ MORE

Stacking Blocks

| The science is simple. Lifting mass against gravity stores energy that can be released when the mass falls. An innovative energy storage system is putting that science to work today with cranes and concrete blocks. The Energy Vault system, developed by entrepreneur Bill Gross and Swiss inventor Andrea Pedretti, can store a total of 20 ... READ MORE

3D Printing a Better Membrane

| About 96% of the Earth’s water can be found in its oceans. As desalination technology becomes increasingly cost-effective and efficient, a growing number of communities around the world are becoming reliant on seawater for survival. In reverse osmosis, the most common desalination process, water is forced through a membrane that selectively filters out contaminants on ... READ MORE

The Birds and the Bees

| As a result of increasing environmental stressors and urbanization, bee populations have declined significantly in recent years. Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are investigating ways to support pollinator populations by hosting them on solar sites—a solution that also increases land use efficiency. Bees play a valuable role in agricultural ... READ MORE

Groundwater Graphics

| It looks like the earth is breathing. The land beneath Southern California appears to rise and fall in two animated graphics created by geophysicists at Caltech. Researchers recently analyzed satellite radar data in order to better understand the effects of groundwater extraction and replenishment on the land. Their findings reveal just how much the ground ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Vision, Resources, and Timing

| Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into innovation,” technologist Dean Kamen notably said. It has become clear, throughout centuries of scientific advancements, that successful innovation and technological maturation require the miraculous convergence of vision, resources, and timing. ... READ MORE

Innovations in Elevation

| Seven billion. That’s the estimated number of elevator journeys taken each day. Elevators are an invisible yet integral part of our increasingly vertical urban culture. And yet the efficiency of this building component is often overlooked. Elevators often weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds. Lifting and lowering that amount of mass multiple times every hour requires ... READ MORE

Coastal Concerns

| I’ve written about rising sea levels and the potential effects on infrastructure for a number of years now.  But the gravity of this global issue resonated with particular poignance last week when my town released a landmark report outlining the effects of sea rise on our little seaside community. The report, called the Coastal Vulnerability ... READ MORE

Easing Energy Inequities

| Emissions trading, or cap and trade, is a permit-based approach to controlling pollution that offers companies economic incentives for reducing emissions. The permitting process limits the amount of total allowable emissions while enabling companies to purchase additional permits from those producing fewer emissions. California’s cap and trade program—the fourth largest in the world according to Yale Environment 360—raises billions ... READ MORE

10 Parts Per Million

| For decades, nitrates have boosted the productivity of America’s farmland. However, the crop-plumping substance has also produced negative effects by contributing to algae blooms and endangering humans as a potential carcinogen that accumulates in groundwater sources and soils. The US drinking water standard for nitrate—10 parts per million—was set in 1991. But recent studies offer ... READ MORE

Grid Expectations

| In 1882, when Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station came online, the electrons that it generated traveled by wire directly to the consumer. But in the decades since, the grid has changed. The complexity of today’s distribution matrix, coupled with the high costs of producing energy, is forcing utilities to rethink their business models and adapt. ... READ MORE

Caught in a Trade War

| It’s easy to sometimes feel removed from the threat of trade wars when your livelihood isn’t directly dependent upon raw materials. However, the reality is that no industry is protected from the effects. In recent weeks, as discussions between the Trump administration and China have intensified, it has become clear that nearly every industry and ... READ MORE

Floating to the Rescue

| Although towing an iceberg from Antarctica to South Africa to relieve drought-plagued Cape Town sounds far-fetched, or like the plot of a summer blockbuster movie, it’s a solution that experts in South Africa are seriously considering. Marine salvage expert, Nick Sloane, who in 2014 successfully refloated the capsized Italian passenger ship Costa Concordia, has developed ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Global Perspective

| SINCE THE INVENTION of the telescope in 1608, mapping the cosmos has captivated many of our imaginations. Beautifully complex maps from that era document the heavens in elaborate celestial charts. One of the most celebrated is the Atlas Coelestis, a 1660 collection of lavish engravings by Andreas Cellarius that illustrate the planetary orbits, planispheres, lunar phases, and constellations. ... READ MORE

Powering Ports

| Ports are high-traffic, energy-intensive transportation hubs and critical national entry points. In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and augment energy resiliency, the Port of San Diego is planning to install a solar-powered microgrid—a project that could serve as a landmark for other harbors. The Port of San Diego is one of America’s top ... READ MORE

River Revival

| The Santa Cruz River once flowed year-round in Tucson, AZ, supporting one of the largest mesquite forests in the world.  But urban development and extensive groundwater withdrawals in recent years caused the river’s volume to dwindle. Today, city administrators hope to use recycled effluent to restore the river’s flow to historic levels and revive riparian ... READ MORE

Metal-Organic Frameworks

| Some of today’s greatest energy efficiencies are born at the interface of water and energy conservation. A new filtering material used for desalination has introduced the possibility of efficiency gains by facilitating the removal of sodium from seawater or process brine while simultaneously extracting lithium. Modern desalination plants typically use polymer membranes to convert seawater ... READ MORE

From Vapor to Liquid

| We’re surrounded by water molecules in the air. Even in the driest environments, it swirls around us as airborne vapors. For decades researchers have worked to develop ways to extract and collect water from the air but these concepts have typically required large amounts of energy and have often proven unwieldy. However, two new projects, ... READ MORE

Wind Energy’s Inertia

| Today, wind turbines spin gracefully across the California desert; they tower over Iowa cornfields, and stand watch off coastal waters. Wind power is emerging as an increasingly viable power source. The domestic US market for offshore wind has gained momentum recently due to both declining costs and supportive policies. Current laws in several northeastern states ... READ MORE

Incentivizing Groundwater Management

| How can organizations finance the changes needed to preserve groundwater? In Brazil, where drought has left the countryside parched, farmers are being paid to improve infrastructure and implement groundwater preservation techniques. In Brazil, about 60% of the country’s freshwater is used for crop and livestock production. With the understanding that poor water management by agribusiness ... READ MORE

Destination: Decarbonization

| According to scientific consensus, the future of climate stabilization depends upon the decarbonization of energy systems and the reduction of global greenhouse-gas emissions. The electrification of buildings, power industry researchers explain, is an important step on the path to decarbonization. A European study conducted by the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project indicates that immediate action is ... READ MORE

Energy’s Evolution

| What does the future hold for microgrids? According to Peter Asmus, Research Director for microgrids at Navigant Research, as inertia carries the market forward in the coming decade, microgrids will present opportunities for new business models and technologies as well as an energy landscape transformed by distributed generation sources. Peter’s research at Navigant focuses on ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Complementary Technologies

| Technological synergies make equipment working in harmony more efficient, cost-effective, and profitable. Today, as the world moves toward increasingly decentralized power systems, an ever-growing number of architectures are combining solar, wind, geothermal energy, CHP, gas-fired generation, and energy storage. These hybridized systems are utilizing the attributes of each power source to effectively boost power capacity ... READ MORE

Storage in the City

| Wooden water tanks were once ubiquitous on the urban skyline—cylinders standing guard like sentries above the rooftops. Today, however, it seems that water containment devices are increasingly tucked away behind walls and integrated into building design. Most contemporary buildings pump water to large reservoirs in the top floors to make use of gravity flow. According ... READ MORE

V2G Solutions

| California has set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through both the addition of renewable energy generation sources and the electrification of transportation. But these concurrent initiatives have raised questions about how the grid will accommodate the additional resources and coordinate demand. Three policies are in place to advance the state’s clean energy efforts. ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Working Smarter

| DUSTY CHAPARRAL, RED sand, and ocotillo cacti sped by the window for hours as writer Ryan Bradley drove off-road through Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. When he finally pulled over for the night, the sun had slipped over the distant hills, turning the dry landscape a rosy pink. ... READ MORE

Microbial Fuel Cells

| Cellular respiration is one of the fundamental biological processes necessary for life. During this metabolic reaction, cells convert biochemical energy from nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The process involves breaking down molecules and freeing electrons. The movement of these electrons affords opportunities for energy production. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) capitalize on the respiration process by ... READ MORE

Microgrids as a Tool for Transformation

| Karl Rábago is excited about the future of microgrids. Beyond the provision of clean, reliable power, he sees microgrids as a valuable tool for transforming the existing energy system from the inside out. For over 25 years, Karl has immersed himself in energy innovation, regulatory policies, and topics relating to clean energy. As the Executive ... READ MORE

Distributed Energy—Reader Favorites

| Listed below are the top Editor Blogs, Reader Favorite articles, and Business Energy magazine articles for you to enjoy. This list is curated based on reader views, search traffic, e-mail click-through, and most commented articles. Bookmark this page so you will always have quick access to Forester Media's top Business Energy content. ... READ MORE

Omniscient GRACE

| Perspective often grants us the vantage point necessary to observe things with clarity. When Carl Sagan described gazing back at the earth from space in Pale Blue Dot, many of us were, for the first time, able to visualize our home planet from afar and reflect on it in the context of the universe. On May ... READ MORE

Capturing CO2 in Coal Country

| Wyoming is the nation’s top coal-producing state. According to the US Energy Information Administration’s 2016 statistics, it provides 40% of all coal mined in the US. And the state’s Republican governor is on a mission to limit carbon emissions, a plan that makes many in coal country uncomfortable. Governor Matt Mead (R) believes that carbon ... READ MORE

Infrastructure’s Inflection Point

| As evinced by the number of water main breaks, failed water quality tests, and low scores on infrastructure report cards, the network of pumps and pipes that keep America’s lifeblood flowing is in dismal shape. Not only is repairing the aging system necessary in order to address the most critical issues and maintain current levels ... READ MORE

Renewables Required

| Last week, California became the first state to require solar on new homes. After January 1, 2020, the California Energy Commission’s updated standards will require that newly constructed homes include PV systems. The new policy applies to both single-family and multifamily houses that are three stories or less and includes incentives for energy storage. According ... READ MORE

Engineering Efficiency

| As water scarcity becomes an increasingly grave global threat, efficient new ways to treat, reuse, and replenish the available water supply become more important. A recent study has determined that engineered polymer membranes may represent progress toward a solution, since they offer heightened filtration and varied pore selectivity for water treatment applications. Researchers at the ... READ MORE

“Policies Will Be the Game-Changers”

| At this year’s HOMER International Microgrid Conference, industry leaders and policy makers will gather to develop goals, financial models, and policy objectives that help drive the industry forward. Distributed Energy magazine is proud to co-present this enriching event. Jon Wellinghoff, CEO and founder of GridPolicy Inc., is one of the conference’s highly anticipated keynote speakers. ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Incremental Growth

| If you’ve ever looked closely at a seashell, you know the wonder encapsulated within the graceful spiral of its pearlescent form—what Frank Lloyd Wright called “nature’s most perfect architecture.” The shape is at once sculptural and mathematically precise. Many sea creatures take a modular approach to expansion. Because their calcified exoskeletons are never shed, they must enlarge their shells to accommodate growth. Many do so by building self-similar units onto the existing structure in a process called gnomonic growth. ... READ MORE

An Economics Experiment

| Mexico’s aquifers are severely depleted. According to researchers at the University of California at Riverside, 101 of the country’s 188 major aquifers have reached the point of overdraft. In 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, the Mexican government was concerned that the nation’s farmers would be at a disadvantage ... READ MORE

Electrifying an Island

| On the morning of April 17, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) announced that less than 3% of its customers were without power—a small victory in the wake of Hurricane Maria. It seemed as if the island had entered the final restoration phase following the largest power failure in US history. And then the ... READ MORE

Spotting Scarcity from Space

| While Cape Town, South Africa made headlines last month because of its “Day Zero” plan to ration water for citizens following years of drought, a number of other regions around the globe are silently facing similar scenarios. A new project indicates that reservoirs are shrinking at an alarming rate in Morocco, India, Iraq, and Spain. ... READ MORE

A Breakthrough for Batteries

| Lithium-based batteries have been restricted by the limited availability of cobalt. More than 50% of all cobalt produced globally is used in energy storage devices. A majority of that is mined in the Republic of Congo, oftentimes by children. Lithium-based energy storage technology relies on cobalt because of the metal’s ability to accommodate ions and ... READ MORE

How to Measure a Monster

| Children’s toys, broken electronics, fragments of plastic, and abandoned fishing nets. It sounds like a line from poet Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Things. But instead, it’s an account of the debris swirling between Hawaii and California in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) as observed by oceanographer Laurent Lebreton and a team of scientists. A ... READ MORE

Level I Trauma Center in New York City Chooses MTU Onsite Energy Trigeneration Power System Solution From ROLLS-ROYCE

| Combined cooling, heating and power system expected to generate $1.6 million in annual operational savings Rolls-Royce will deliver two MTU Onsite Energy natural gas-fueled combined cooling, heating and power (CCHP) trigeneration systems to Richmond University Medical Center, a Level I trauma center in Staten Island, New York (USA). The trigeneration project is being managed by ... READ MORE

Shared Storage

| It takes a village to power the globe. We’ve discussed a patchwork quilt approach to energy distribution previously in the context of microgrid clusters and community solar projects. However, community energy storage is another emerging concept that shows great promise for helping grid operators integrate renewables into energy systems and effectively balance loads. Community energy ... READ MORE

Pipe Sleuth

| A clear understanding of water main break rates can be helpful for assessing pipe performance and making key decisions related to water infrastructure asset management. In March, Utah State University’s Buried Structures Laboratory published a new study on pipe break rates. The report, titled, “Water Main Break Rates In the USA and Canada: A Comprehensive Study,” covers valuable ... READ MORE

Managing Multiple Microgrids

| Last week I traveled to Chicago where, as a participant in Siemens’ US Innovation Day, I had an opportunity to explore a number of exciting technology advancements. One of the innovations that I found interesting was the concept of aggregated microgrids managed by a utility. At the event, Siemens announced that it plans to partner ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Inspired by Nature

| As a child, I was intrigued by natural processes. I often leaned in as close as possible to see the pollination of tiny flowers, a lizard shedding its skin, or an insect migration in an effort to observe biology in action. I learned valuable insights about life from those quiet moments of contemplation. ... READ MORE

Sea Rise and Subsidence

| Rising seas are an emerging threat to infrastructure everywhere. But a new study finds that land in some coastal areas is also sinking at a rapid rate, accelerating the need to protect pipelines, pump stations, and treatment facilities. The geological force at work is called subsidence. According to the USGS, subsidence, or sinking earth, occurs ... READ MORE

The Power of Connectivity

| The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming what buildings can achieve when it comes to energy efficiency today. Here, Dan Ritch, chief information officer and vice president of Connected Services for Honeywell Building Solutions, discusses the IoT’s impact on buildings and energy service. Distributed Energy (DE): What’s your take on the Internet of Things and ... READ MORE

To Catch a Carcinogen

| As populations around the world face water scarcity, water reuse has gained recognition as a valuable resource. While today’s advanced filtration methods and water recycling technologies are highly sophisticated and continue to make tremendous progress, there remain a number of challenges to address with direct potable reuse. One such challenge is the elimination of disinfection ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Keeping the Lights On

| In 2017, the US experienced a historic year of weather and climate disasters. According to NOAA, the nation was impacted by 16 different billion-dollar disasters, including a drought, two floods, one freeze event, eight severe storms, three tropical cyclones, and one wildfire. In total, these events had widespread economic effects, with cumulative costs exceeding $300 billion. This ... READ MORE

Batteries On Demand

| My curiosity was piqued by a new energy storage offering last week. Younicos (a subsidiary of Aggreko) announced that it is launching a new battery rental package that it calls “Energy-Storage-as-a-Service.” The model allows customers to choose from containerized solutions that are shipped to the site and operated by Younicos. As a part of the ... READ MORE

Deliberating Trump’s Tariffs

| For decades American steel and aluminum companies have voiced concern over global competitors, claiming that subsidies in overseas economies have created unfair advantages in the global marketplace. The Trump administration recently proposed the imposition of a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on imported aluminum. It announced these protectionist policies under the ... READ MORE

Avoiding Overdraft

| Many agricultural areas of the American West are reliant on groundwater withdrawals—and even more so in the face of drought. But many aquifers have become depleted or overdrafted over the years. And as temperatures rise with climate change and as droughts become more extreme, overdrafts are likely to increase.  To help ensure sustainable water supplies, ... READ MORE

Solar Market Sweet Spot

| Community-scale solar appears to be finding its stride. Not only do these innovative photovoltaic systems enable multiple customers to participate in a single solar project and to receive compensation for their portion of the power produced, but they also offer a number of economic, grid, and environmental benefits. A new study published by the Rocky ... READ MORE

A Pipe Dream No Longer

| According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the US—events that waste more than 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water. Asset management is essential for pipeline integrity. But many water utilities today find themselves limited in their water pipeline asset management by the ... READ MORE

Defining the Bounds of Batteries

| The versatility of energy storage is remarkable. But this multi-functionality presents challenges when it comes to defining the technology’s role and establishing regulatory policies. Is energy storage a generation or distribution asset? And should utilities be able to pass along the investment cost to consumers? The state of Texas is currently deliberating these questions. While ... READ MORE

Cloud Seeding for Snowfall

| The western US has received relatively little snowfall this winter. Because reduced snowpack levels mean less water for drinking, irrigating crops, and powering hydroelectric plants, for decades many states have invested in cloud seeding to boost water supplies. But only recently has a scientific study proven that the process actually works. Cloud seeding involves the ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Connecting the Dots

| IN 2017, THE US experienced a historic year of weather and climate disasters. According to NOAA, the nation was impacted by 16 different billion-dollar disasters, including a drought, two floods, one freeze event, eight severe storms, three tropical cyclones, and one wildfire. In total, these events resulted in the deaths of 362 people. ... READ MORE

Expensive Electrons

| Regardless of income level, people today need energy to live—to heat their homes, preserve food, and function in an increasingly digital society. Energy is not a discretionary expense. But what percentage of a household’s income should be allocated to pay energy bills? A 2016 study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ... READ MORE

Record-Breaking Water Recycling

| Guinness World Records exist for a number of outrageous feats. There’s the largest gathering of Elvis impersonators, the farthest tightrope walk in high heels, and the biggest gum bubble ever blown. But this week, there may be a new record set for a highly practical accomplishment: the most wastewater recycled to drinking water within a ... READ MORE

Uncharted Territory

| Portolan sailing charts are navigational maps based on the observations of the early explorers. They are incredibly detailed, well-surveyed, and beautiful. I learned recently that their origin can be traced to 1270, when King Louis and his fleet were blown off course as they sailed to Tunis. The king demanded to know their location, so ... READ MORE

State of Scarcity

| “I feel quite on edge about it—anxious in fact—with the constant worry as to whether I’m truly doing enough,” Cape Town resident Andrea Petersen told me this week. Living with the uncertainty of water availability presents significant challenges. A three-year drought, coupled with population increase and insufficient planning, has brought the city face to face ... READ MORE

Lithium Extraction from Volcanic Clay

| Lithium powers our lives today via batteries for phones, computers, household electronics, and electric vehicles. The soft, silvery-white metal, known for its light weight, contributes remarkable power-density in lithium-ion batteries thanks to a single valence electron that the element gives up easily for cation formation. With burgeoning markets for electric cars and lithium-ion batteries, and ... READ MORE

Fortified by Fungus

| Concrete, one of the building world’s most versatile, durable, and economical structural materials, is not infallible. It cracks. And even the smallest fractures can cause significant damage. Concrete shrinks as it dries. It can crack during this physio-chemical process or due to other factors such as weather fluctuations, seismic activity, or tensile stress. And as ... READ MORE

Trump’s Solar Tariffs

| The Trump administration’s decision last week to apply a 30% solar import tariff for crystalline-silicon solar cells and modules has been met with a broad spectrum of responses. While some expressed outrage, others felt that the decision could have been worse and may even present opportunities for industry expansion. The tariffs come in response to ... READ MORE

Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk

| The energy industry is amidst the most dramatic period of change that it’s ever experienced. Advances in distributed energy resources, energy storage products, cleaner-burning fuels, and improved data management are driving monumental industry shifts. We’re amidst a metamorphosis of traditional power architectures, equipment, and policies. A recent study released by Schneider Electric found that while most ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Multi-Talented Technologies

| In the late 1880s, the Swiss Army purchased a new style of folding pocket knife for its soldiers. It was equipped with a tool able to open food rations in the field and disassemble the standard-issue Swiss rifle, the Schmidt-Rubin, which required a screwdriver. ... READ MORE

When Disaster Disrupts a Conveyance System

| The US experienced an historic number of weather and climate events in 2017—16 different disasters with damages over a billion dollars, according to NOAA. These events included one drought, two floods, one freeze, eight severe storms, three tropical cyclones, and one wildfire that together resulted in the deaths of 362 people.   My community in ... READ MORE

Great Implications

| It was unanimous. Every member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted last week to deny a Department of Energy’s (DOE) proposal to restructure pricing. The tariff structure, the DOE explained, would help power companies recover costs at generation plants with long-term fuel supplies. These subsidies were needed, it argued, to support grid resiliency ... READ MORE

The Cannabis Conundrum

| For weeks I thought I had a skunk problem. Every evening, the scent returned. But as it turns out, odiferous varmints were not to blame. My home, nestled in an agricultural region of California, has recently found itself at the epicenter of the cannabis industry. And it seems that this burgeoning agricultural business may affect ... READ MORE

The Battery Apocalypse

| In the near-distant future, spent batteries could clutter the landscape. A primary focus of energy storage tech developers has been on engineering more power-dense and lighter weight lithium-ion batteries to power devices like laptops, cell phones, and electric vehicles. But it seems that little planning has gone into the product’s end of life, a circumstance ... READ MORE

Regulatory Revisions for Water Reuse

| Water management is an essential component of resilient building design. However, codes and regulations are typically structured around traditional centralized water delivery and wastewater systems. Therefore, for architects and builders, introducing decentralized systems to capture and reuse water means that projects can easily become mired in regulatory quicksand. But it seems that codes may be ... READ MORE

A Lasting Impression

| You’ve seen her enigmatic smile. It allures, engages, and seems to interact with those standing before her. The Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s sixteenth-century masterpiece, appears more alive than any other portrait. In fact, some believe that by integrating elements of anatomy, chemistry, and optics into his artistic process, Leonardo da Vinci created the first augmented reality experience centuries before the concept existed. ... READ MORE

Technology That Talks

| Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used often in the solar industry for its predictive capacity—for weather forecasting and to support informed decision-making. AI’s algorithms are able to analyze massive quantities of data from satellites, weather stations, and sensors to determine patterns and foresee weather events that could impact energy generation. We recently reached out to Attila ... READ MORE

Revisiting the Flint Fiasco

| Before we close the books on 2017, we thought that it would be interesting to revisit some of Water Efficiency’s top posts for the year. This blog post received more comments than any other Water Efficiency post published in 2017. Unprecedented Charges in Flint While I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to do my job well ... READ MORE

What Every Digital Desert City Needs

| Before we close the books on 2017, let’s revisit Distributed Energy’s top posts for the year. This blog post received more comments than any other blog post published in 2017. Brains, Brawn, and Bill Gates Automation software, customizable networks, and data collection create energy savings. Building energy costs are a significant expenditure for businesses and the public building ... READ MORE

The Gift of Clean Water

| It’s the season of giving and during the holidays, many of us celebrate by sharing gifts. A few years ago, I became interested in microlending while searching for a way to, in some small way, do a little global good. I thought I would share my personal experience here as a means of exploring microlending’s potential ... READ MORE

Energy Storage Inspired by Eels

| In 1799, Alessandro Volta modeled the first battery—a stack of zinc and copper discs called the “voltaic pile”—after the body of the electric eel. The discovery was pivotal and enabled a series of other important innovations. Nearly two centuries later, the sea creature has inspired yet another energy technology—a bio-compatible soft battery. Electric eels produce ... READ MORE

Inferno: The New Normal

| A wildfire, on target to become the largest in California’s history, is actively consuming the valley that I call home. The Thomas Fire has left hundreds of thousands of once brushy, chaparral-covered acres between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties bare, outlined in shades of charcoal gray. The blaze continues to spread with 236,000 acres burned ... READ MORE

The Future of Energy

| The energy industry is in the midst of a dramatic transformation as it reevaluates and reconfigures the way that it generates, stores, and distributes electrons. Energy demand worldwide increases by 2% each year as our culture becomes more energy-dependent. Meanwhile, mounting concern over CO2 emissions, fossil fuel usage, and sustainability have made necessary new technologies ... READ MORE

Next Generation Water Summit 2018 Announces Nobel Prize Winning Keynote Speaker

| The Next Generation Water Summit (NGWS) 2018 will host the 2nd annual regional forum, featuring globally recognized climate researcher and Nobel Prize winner, Jonathan Overpeck. The NGWS 2018 takes place on April 29th – May 1st at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Next Generation Water Summit brings together ... READ MORE

Tools of the Trade

| As many of you know, one of my favorite books is a collection of poems called Odes to Common Things. In it, Pablo Neruda writes about ordinary objects that we often take for granted. In “Ode to my Socks,” he outlines the fundamentals of comfort. He analyzes a universe of aromatics in “Ode to a ... READ MORE

A New Day for Commissioning and Energy Management

| Next year, CxEnergy will mark its fifth year with the 2018 edition scheduled April 23 through 26 in Las Vegas, NV. The event is unique in the industry with its focus on commissioning, energy management, and testing and balancing (TAB). These professions are also the focus of its three presenting organizations: the Associated Air Balance ... READ MORE

Wastewater to Wine

| Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe is a landscape of contrasts. Vibrant green vineyard rows are bordered by arid desert. Water is scarce in this winegrowing region known for its crisp whites and complex red blends. Therefore, it has begun turning wastewater into wine. Just north of the Valle de Guadalupe, Camillo Magoni cultivates 800 vines ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: A Lasting Impression

| You’ve seen her enigmatic smile. It allures, engages, and seems to interact with those standing before her. The Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s sixteenth-century masterpiece, appears more alive than any other portrait. In fact, some believe that by integrating elements of anatomy, chemistry, and optics into his artistic process, Leonardo da Vinci created the first augmented reality experience centuries before the concept existed. ... READ MORE

Brains, Brawn, and Bill Gates

| “The current reality of smart cities is that there aren’t any,” asserts a recent Scientific American article. And it’s true. While there are a number of cities with “smart” elements, such as networked cameras and traffic signals or daylight-sensing streetlights, most of today’s smart cities are made up of smart projects within traditional infrastructures, not ... READ MORE

Incentivized Conservation

| Farmers in Colorado’s San Luis Valley raise potatoes, alfalfa, barley, and quinoa. But the arid, 8,000-square-mile area between the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges only receives an average of 7 inches of rainfall each year. So for decades, farmers have irrigated their fields from the subsurface groundwater. In the early 2000s, when ... READ MORE

Just a Phase?

| Thermal energy storage offers tremendous potential for a variety of technologies. A common approach to thermal storage uses a phase change material. Phase change materials (PCM) are substances—often fatty acids, paraffins, or salt hydrates—that store and release energy by melting and solidifying at a specified temperature. Typically, input heat melts the material and the phase change, or ... READ MORE

How to Clean a Cannon

| The aquatic choreography of the Bellagio Hotel’s fountains is awe-inspiring. Water is sculpted into graceful formations and launched to unfathomable heights to produce a dynamic work of art.  Behind these elegant bursts of water is an elaborate masterpiece of hydraulic engineering—a system of high-tech pumps, piping, vessels, and compressors. The sheer scale of the installation ... READ MORE