The second issue of Energy Quarterly has been published in the December 2010 MRS Bulletin. This month the editorial by Steve M. Yalisove emphasizes the importance of Regional Initiatives, those “far-reaching experiments in sustainable energy” performed in some region of the world, with lessons to be learned by other regions of the world as they set forth to find their own solutions. Energy Quarterly now has presented two such experiments:
- September 2010: How Sunlight Became a Commodity in Germany and
- December 2010: Maintaining Brazil’s ethanol fuel momentum.
Sometimes, such as in the case of Germany scaling up solar energy, it is a question of political will. Germany might not be thought of as the sun center of the world, yet they are producing more than a third of the world’s photovoltaic power. Incentives for individuals to install solar cells on their homes and sell energy back to the utilities moved this program forward. Scaling up solar in Germany also opened a market for thin-film solar cells produced in the United States.
In other cases, local resources play a significant role, such as Brazil’s use of ethanol from their plentiful sugarcane crops. Now Brazil not only produces a large fraction of their automobile fuel domestically, they export ethanol to other countries. With an established ethanol industry, will catalysts and other materials developments make possible further experiments with cellulosic ethanol or other second-generation fuels?
These and other regional initiatives, such as nuclear power in France, wind in Denmark, and Desertec to transport renewable energy from deserts to population hubs, make up a useful set of experiments to examine economic, public policy, and engineering challenges in the energy arena. Energy Quarterly’s approach is to present the underlying science behind the engineering challenges and identify the materials issues that may offer useful solutions. What other lessons can be learned?
Elizabeth L. Fleischer
Editor, MRS Bulletin
Materials Research Society (MRS)