Archive for the 'Biomass' Category

2017 BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge from the U.S. Department of Energy

The 2017 BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge kicks off today!  This year’s theme is  Exploring the Future American Energy Landscape.  The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergies Technologies Office is  asking 9th- through 12th-grade student teams to use technology to research, interpret, apply, and then design an infographic that responds to one of five research topic areas selected for 2017:

History of Modern Bioenergy

Bioenergy and Society
Workforce and Education

Science and Technology

Even better, all of the tools necessary to integrate this challenge into your curriculum or offer it as an after-school activity are provided!

BioenergizeME Toolkit

Five steps to building an infographic

Social media guide

BioenergizeME Research Strategy Guide

BioenergizeME Resource Library

To date no past submissions have come from NC – let’s change this!

To be considered for the competition, teams must register by Feb. 3, 2017 and infographics must be submitted by March 3, 2017.

Check out the 2016 award winning infographics on cellulosic ethanol, algae as a biofuel and energy from biomass You can view all previous winning infographics here. One NC teacher remarked that she would incorporate these  infographics into her AP Environmental Science class by having her students review and critique the infographics to decide which they would fund for further development.

Interactive infographics from the IEA | World’s energy system through 2050

IEA World Energy 2012

The World’s Energy System in 2012

The International Energy Association’s publication Energy Technology Perspectives 2015, is accompanied by a set of interactive visualizations that utilizes the data and figures behind its publication on energy technologies.  I am an advocate for having students visualize the entire energy system – the diversity of energy sources used to provide electricity to homes and industry and to power our various modes of transportation.  I also find it useful to examine how the system is changing over time as our demand for energy grows in light of the need to limit society’s carbon dioxide emissions. These interactive infographics from the IEA illustrate how the world’s energy system will evolve through 2050.  There are three parts to this online tool: an energy flow visualization, an emissions reduction visualization and a transportation visualization. Here I am featuring the energy flow visualization where the  user can hover over a specific energy source, transformation or end user to study a particular energy flow.  The diagram below shows the global energy flow for coal in 2012 and for 2050 (projected); one can easily compare the two graphics to see that coal use will decrease while global energy demand will increase.  Have you considered asking your students to evaluate and explain energy flow diagrams?

IEA World Energy 2012 and 2050_coal

Global energy flow for coal in 2012 and for 2050 (projected).

The emissions reduction visualization tool allows the user to assess how individual countries or regions can reduce carbon dioxide emissions via deployment of technologies and energy efficiency measures under three different warming scenarios (2°C, 4°C and 6°C). The transport visualization tool enables the user to select an “indicator” such as annual road energy consumption for a specific country, region or the world to visualize the extent to which the selected indicator needs to change to limit Earth’s average global temperature to either 2°C, 4°C or 6°C.  According to the IEA website. “the 2°C Scenario is the main focus of ETP 2015. It lays out the pathway to deploy an energy system and emissions trajectory consistent with what recent climate science research indicates would give at least a 50% chance of limiting average global temperature increase to 2°C.”  You can read the Executive Summary of the ETP 2015 here.

And if you want to read more about energy flow diagrams, check out this post.

Duke Energy 2050 Vision | Online Challenge

I recently learned about this interactive online “Energy Challenge” by Duke Energy where users create a plan to meet the energy demand of  a carbon constrained world in the year 2050. Duke Energy aggregated data from across its entire U.S. service territory and created a visual representation of its service area and power generating facilities which sets the stage for the user who is tasked with making choices about how to meet a growing energy demand while working towards CO2 reduction goals.  Choices that can be made by the user include: building new power plants, including solar and wind farms, upgrading existing power plants to produce more energy, retrofitting existing plants to reduce emissions, closing inefficient power plants and implementing energy efficiency programs.


As users make decisions, such as retiring a set of aging coal plants or adding a wind farm, they get instant feedback regarding cost (in billions of dollars), impact on CO2 emissions (tons per year) and the extent to which their plan meets the predicted energy demand for the year 2050.  The energy demand meter displayed on the right side of the screen makes it easy to visually monitor the extent to which a decision helps to meet energy demand and the extent to which this demand is met through non-renewable energy sources, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures.

Duke Energy intends for this tool to “demonstrate the trade-offs and cost implications of choosing an energy generation mix that will meet future energy demand while minimizing CO2 emissions and keeping costs as low as possible.” I could easily see small groups of students competing to see which group can come up with a strategy that reduces CO2 emissions, meets projected energy demand for 2050 and costs the least amount of money.

To learn more about the game, click here.

One Indiana science teacher created a worksheet to accompany this game that could be used with your students.

If you have your students play this game, please share your experience by leaving a comment!



U.S. Department of Energy BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge

FirstPlaceI recently learned about the U.S. Department of Energy BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge when they announced their 2016 Infographic challenge theme: Exploring the Future American Energy Landscape.  They are asking 9th- through 12th-grade student teams to use technology to research, interpret, apply, and then design an infographic that responds to one of four cross-curricular bioenergy topics:

Bioenergy History
Workforce and Education

Science and Technology
Environmental Impacts

Even better, the Energy Department and the Library of Congress have provided all of the tools necessary to integrate this challenge into your curriculum or offer it as an after-school activity!

BioenergizeME Toolkit

BioenergizeME Research Strategy Guide

BioenergizeME Resource Library

To be considered for the competition, infographics must be submitted by March 4, 2016.

Check out the 2015 winning infographics on cellulosic ethanol (see above), algae and algae biofuel. One NC teacher is already planning to incorporate these winning infographics into her AP Environmental Science class by having her students review and critique the infographics to decide which of the three they would fund for further development.


The Energy Lab from PBS NOVA Labs

novaThe Energy Lab from PBS NOVA Labs is a “virtual research platform for teens to engage in science by working with authentic data and taking part in “citizen science” projects.” Using this interactive online tool, students can pursue “research challenges” and use data to design renewable energy systems for real cities across the U.S. while competing with other players to see whose designs can produce the most power and reduce carbon dioxide emissions to the greatest extent.  The Energy Lab also includes a collection of eight short videos that will help students with their Research Challenge.

An educator’s guide is also available and will provide you with ideas for how to use this tool with students. The individual components of the Energy Lab are designed to give educators a range of options for integrating some or all of the Lab into classroom instruction. “From homework enrichment, to science fair project, to a week-long lesson module, the flexibility of the Energy Lab components will help you address the topics of energy, Earth’s systems, technology, engineering, and scientific modeling with your middle school or high school students.”

Assessing Renewable Energy Potential of Contaminated Sites

In its Re-Powering America Initiative, the US EPA is encouraging the development of renewable energy on current and previously contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites “when it is aligned with the community’s vision for the site.”  The type of sites assessed include: Superfund, RCRA Corrective Action, Abandoned Mine Land,
Landfills, and Brownfield sites that have received EPA funding.

repowering NC

Contaminated sites in NC with renewable energy potential.

The Re-Powering Mapper uses Google Earth to allow users to investigate over 66,000 contaminated sites that have been assessed for renewable energy potential.  Sites have been evaluated for their biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind potential.  Users can interact with the map by clicking on a site to learn more about its renewable energy potential.  Your students can select a site near their city/town and assess its renewable energy potential, critique available options and propose a renewable energy plan for the site.

In addition, there are Re-Powering Mapper Facts Sheets summarizing the renewable energy potential that exists for each of the following technologies: Biomass, Geothermal, Solar, and Wind. Each fact sheet includes examples of renewable energy facilities being successfully sited on contaminated land.

EIA’s New Interactive Maps: State Energy Portal

ncAccording to the the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), its state energy portal is “the most comprehensive, dynamic, and interactive view of the U.S. government’s national and state energy data and information currently available to the public.”

The profile/map for NC can be found here. By clicking on the “Layers/Legend” tab and selecting one of five available base maps, educators can customize maps and charts for classroom use. Maps can be created to show availability of energy sources, transmission lines, major power plants as well as renewable energy potential for North Carolina.  Electricity, nuclear, natural gas and renewable energy profiles for the state are also available along with supporting data tables in Microsoft Excel. Also, by clicking on a specific power plant, the portal links users directly to that plant’s data in EIA’s electricity data browser (see corresponding blog post).

This tool also shows how NC ranks in comparison to the other 49 states in terms of energy production, consumption, prices for electricity and natural gas, and carbon dioxide emissions.

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