Finding New Energy from Wasted Energy

There have been worries over the last few years about where Texas will get the future energy they need to power our expanding economy. The electricity demand on the grid in Texas continues to get worse and our power generation infrastructure has not been able to keep up.

Fascinating science however is finding out things that we could only dream about a few short years ago. Take for instance new metal alloys only recently discovered as little as a year ago. It is known as: Ni45Co5Mn40Sn101. Whatever that means 🙂

There is one known alloy material that was discovered at the University of Minnesota that can directly take heat and convert it to electricity at the lowest hysteresis ever found. This simply means it converts heat to electricity better then anything currently in the market. Imagine this working on a car exhaust or electricity turbine?

Although most of us practically look at things like our current power infrastructure such as the natural gas and coal fired power plants we mainly use to produce electricity in Texas we may be able to make these plants much more efficient in the not so distant future.

Imagine being able to take the heat coming off of steam generated turbines that are already heating metal in these generation facilities and send that on to the electric power lines.

You could drastically reduce the waste of burning fuel only to then create a another form of power. When you burn up fuel you lose some of that resource when electricity is generated so any way to capture that energy as it turns to heat is a great benefit.

The alloy is a  multiferroic composite of nickel, cobalt, manganese and tin. The metal can be non-magnetic and highly magnetic based on what temperature it gets heated up to. Having magnetism and a permanent electric polarization is very rare for an alloy.

A small increase in temperature is all that is needed for the metal to go from non-magnetic to very magnetic. Unfortunately this metal loses some of the heat energy but a good amount of it is converted to electricity. The positive aspect to this alloy is that it has a very low hysteresis compared to other things which allows it to be the most efficient method of turning large amounts of heat energy into electricity that would have normally gone to waste.

A common example to help explain just how this metal could work is the idea of capturing the heat from a car exhaust and allowing that heat to be converted into electricity.

General Motors is already working on similar devices for their vehicles but the efficiencies is nothing like what is found in this new alloy. You will likely see this alloy being deployed in future cars, power generation plants and other applications in the future.

If you would like to read more about this topic please visit this link: popsci.com and watch the video below.

TXU Parent Gets Burned Again!

Energy Future Holdings is the Dallas based company that controls TXU and if you remember was the entity purchased in the largest leveraged private equity buyout in U.S. history. The Energy Future Holdings private equity buyout now ranks as the number 2 biggest ever as RJR Nabisco beat them out. The deal was a cool $44.37 billion to buy up Energy Future Holdings by buyers KKR, TPG, and Goldman Sachs.

The former secretary of the state was appointed to run this big massive company and now facing a 5th consecutive quarterly loss I start to wonder about the too big to fail concept. Is this loan guaranteed by the government in one way or another. How does this get handled if government has to step in?

I kind of doubt these companies would get into this buyout if there weren’t some pretty strong guarantees in place for this leveraged loan.
Being burdened by all this debt Fitch Ratings downgraded Energy Future Holdings’ debt to 8 levels below junk and said a default is very likely a possibility.

The company faces increasing troubles in trying to generate cash and their debt is only going up along with their interest payments. Sales fell 27% to $1.22 billion in the first quarter and interest expenses increased 22% to $785 million from a year earlier.

I wonder who has a protective stake in this buyout and what investors will end up being screwed? The report seemed to blame falling power prices on EFH’s downfall so far. I wonder if the problem has anything to do with the EPA and environmental activists that stopped all those state of the art coal power plants that were expected to be built by TXU?

Power generation is a big part of the EFH business. Their retail side, TXU, sells retail electricity service but this is a carefully balanced business that has other worries unrelated to the generation side of the business.

Trying to keep this big company going with all the government regulation and competitive deregulated market in Texas seems like a huge undertaking and add to that the pressure of all that debt.

I see this as a long uphill climb into positive territory.

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