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Algae Growth, Better Energy Storage, and Meaningful Fuel-Economy Stickers

Energy news from around the Web.

Growing Algae

Solazyme, a company that makes cosmetics, and maybe biofuels, from algae has done well in its initial public offering, raising nearly $200 million. A series of IPOs from advanced biofuels companies that haven’t made commercial quantities of fuel has some concerned about a bubble.

DOE Supports Molten Salt

The DOE has recently announced a number of loan guarantees for solar power plants. One of the latest is a $737 million loan guarantee that could help scale up a technology that will make it possible to use solar power after the sun sets. Concentrated sunlight heats up salts, which store enough heat to generate electricity for hours.

Better Graphene Ultracapacitors

A research team at the University of Texas has made interesting new structures from graphene—it looks like the one atom thick material has formed a network of tunnels, leading to high surface areas and potentially high energy storage.

New Stickers for Plug-ins

The EPA has released its new fuel economy label, and it has some useful features. For example, it estimates how much drivers will save in gas over five years compared to the average new vehicle (or how much more they’ll spend). That seems like the single most useful bit of information a driver could have when comparing fuel consumption in vehicles, especially since mileage numbers can be misleading.

The label also attempts to fix a problem with the test versions they released last year. Those made electric vehicles look better than they are by not counting greenhouse gas emissions from generating the electricity they use. The new label at least has some fine print disclosing that emissions from coal plants aren’t included. But they included something I suggested (and many others) some time ago: a link to a greenhouse gas calculator that drivers can use to estimate the emissions in their zipcode, based on the source of their electricity. In future versions, the calculator will allow you to customize your estimates based on how you drive—which can make a big difference in plug-in hybrids such as the Volt.

From the NY Times:

The new labels, which replace a five-year-old design that provided only basic information about estimated fuel economy, represent the broadest overhaul in the sticker program’s 35-year history. There will be different labels for conventional vehicles, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, with cars running solely on battery power estimated to get 99 miles per gallon.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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