- “Coffee Roaster” Technology Could Speed the Decline of Coal
- Clean Tech News & Views Link Drop
- CleanTechnica 3rd-Ranked Green Blog on Technorati for Over a Month
- New Smart Turbine Takes the Guesswork out of Micro Wind Power
Posted: 08 Jan 2011 07:00 AM PST
Researchers at the University of Leeds are developing a roasting process that would transform raw biomass from a bulky, water-saturated material into an energy-rich powder that is perfect for burning in coal-fired power plants. Called torrefaction, it is a relatively low-temperature process similar to that used in roasting coffee beans. If the researchers can overcome a few stumbling blocks, the process could lead to a new burst of coal-to-biomass power plant conversions, and consequently to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Can’t Get No Torrefaction
One of the biggest obstacles to large scale torrefaction is the tendency of powders to explode in storage, so that is one area on which the researchers are focusing close attention. Part of the goal of the research is to design new safety features that can be incorporated into power plants and other large facilities. As far as coal-to-biomass conversions go, it is possible that the cost of new equipment could be offset by the lower cost of shipping and handling torrefied biomass. Torriefied biomass could also be burned in conjuction with coal, resulting in higher efficiency and lower emissions.
Woody Biomass for Power Plants
The Leeds researchers are also looking into the use of locally grown non-food crops that are suitable for torrefaction. So far they are focusing on willow, poplar, Miscanthus (perennial grasses), and woody waste from forestry operations. Poplar is also emerging as a liquid biofuel crop, so it is possible that torrefaction would help reduce shipping and handling costs related to liquid biofuel production as well as being used in power plants.
A Place in the Sun for Woody Biofuel Crops
Here in the U.S., woody biofuel crops may prove to be a good option for reclaiming some of the millions of acres of brownfields and abandoned industrial sites that the EPA has targeted for alternative energy production. As managed forests, woody biofuel crops could double as recreation areas and wildlife habitats. It’s certainly a better option than undermining communities and blowing up mountains for coal.
Image: Coffee roasting by sflaw on flickr.com.
Posted: 08 Jan 2011 04:03 AM PST
Some clean tech news and views from around that we didn’t cover this week:
Using arrays of long, thin silicon wires embedded in a polymer substrate, a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has created a new type of flexible solar cell that enhances the absorption of sunlight and efficiently converts its photons into electrons. The solar cell does all this using only a fraction of the expensive semiconductor materials required by conventional solar cells….
The headline news for the coal industry in 2010 was what didn’t happen: Construction did not begin on a single new coal-fired power plant in the United States for the second straight year….
Incoming Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) ran as a tea party candidate, who claimed to be determined to change how business was done in Washington. Yet on Fox News Sunday this morning, Lee was asked by Chris Wallace why if his goal was to "drain the swamp" would he pick to have an energy lobbyist as his Chief of Staff? Lee responded that he wasn't "scared" of lobbyists and that his lobbyist was "brilliant"….
Hawaii’s clean-energy sector mushroomed in 2010, and industry observers and insiders are anticipating another record year for 2011….
Back in November I explained how the media blew the story of UC Berkeley study on climate messaging. That study found the best message is also the most science-based: Doing nothing risks "many devastating consequences" but "much of the technology we need already exists." We just need to deploy it already!…
Seven of the country's major transit projects received a late (or very early) Christmas present last week, when the Federal Transit Administration announced the distribution of $182.4 million under the New Starts program, which provides aid to local subway, light rail, and bus rapid transit lines — and, we've argued, creates jobs in the process….
Early infrastructure investment might be the plan for these seven projects — but unfortunately it's not the plan for the country at large. Ezra Klein, no stranger to the argument that now is a great time to spend on infrastructure, says there are two types of deficits in present-day America: The budget deficit we've heard about to death, and the "investment" deficit that's rarely mentioned. Infrastructure projects, Klein wrote Monday, are a great way to address the latter….
The State of Massachusetts has set the highest possible reduction requirement for greenhouse gases allowed under state enviroinmental legislation.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles mandated a 25 per cent reduction in emissions against 1990 levels within 10 years, arguing that the state was already two thirds of the way towards the target thanks to existing measures….
Pracht: “Where would Ohio be today if it opted out of the interstate highway system?”
John Kasich, the newly tea-party governor of Ohio doesn't just deny climate science. He is apparently unaware that everyone from the German military to the once staid International Energy Agency is warning of a looming peak oil crisis (see World's top energy economist warns: "We have to leave oil before oil leaves us")….
You've heard it a thousand times from the highway lobby: Roads pay for themselves through "user fees" — a.k.a. gas taxes and tolls — whereas transit is a drain on the taxpayer. They use this argument to push for new roads, instead of transit, as fiscally prudent investments.
The myth of the self-financed road meets its match today in the form of a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group: "Do Roads Pay For Themselves?" The answer is a resounding "no." All told, the authors calculate that road construction has sucked $600 billion out of America's public purse since the dawn of the interstate system….
A few weeks ago Ryan Avent laid out an extremely thoughtful position on the state of American high-speed rail. All serious followers of this ongoing discussion, of which this site has many, will want to read it in full. For the rest, my summary will have to suffice.
Avent's strongest point is that high-speed rail investments are held to a different standard than other transportation projects. The first response to a proposed rail project these days is that it's too expensive and won't pay for itself. But if economic efficiency is the ultimate goal, then all types of transportation should have to pay for their infrastructure. That means drivers should cover the cost of road maintenance and construction (which they don't), and that means raising the gas tax (which we won't)….
A Japanese government fund will invest as much as 130 billion yen (£1bn) in overseas clean tech projects involving Japanese companies, the Nikkei newspaper reported [yesterday]….
Residents next to the 250mph high-speed rail route between London and Birmingham will be sheltered from the £17bn project by two million freshly planted trees….
As widely anticipated, Republicans in the House of Representatives have wasted no time with their efforts to neuter the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), using the first two days of legislative business to introduce several bills that would strip the watchdog of its right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions….
Posted: 07 Jan 2011 02:40 PM PST
I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with Technorati. It ranks blogs using its own special algorithm and is also a search engine for blogs. It’s got a few major achievements to its name and is well-known to both bloggers and techies.
Anyway, I thought that since CleanTechnica has been sitting in 3rd place on Technorati’s Green Rankings for over a month now, I’d let our loyal readers and fans (you) know.
I’m not actually sure how long we’ve been in that position, to be honest, but noticed it there for the first time a little over a month ago and we’ve been sitting pretty there since.
The only blogs above us are Grist, a green site I imagine you are familiar with, and Climate Progress, which is considered to be the leading climate change blog on the internet and has wide respect from major media outlets and journalists, scientists, politicians, and other bloggers.
So, first of all, thank you to all our great readers for supporting our work and sharing this with your friends and family (and all those people you don’t even know on Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and other such sites)! You are the people who really make a blog a success.
And, hope we can climb in the rankings… though, we are quite a few points behind Climate Progress at the moment. 3 out of over 3,000 ain’t bad though, right?
Image Credit: Screenshot of Technorati Green Rankings
Posted: 07 Jan 2011 01:14 PM PST
Industry powerhouse GE has teamed up with small scale wind turbine expert Southwest Windpower to introduce a new micro wind turbine called Skystream 600. Like a number of other new micro turbines on the market, this one promises high efficiency combined with ease of installation, but with a twist: Skystream 600 is being presented as the first fully smart grid-enabled wind turbine for residential use.
Smart, Renewable Power
The trick is in Southwest Wind’s proprietary “Skyview” system, which enables owners to track the turbine’s energy production through any Internet connection. That’s little more than a neat trick by itself, but in combination with other emerging smart grid technologies it could provide home owners and business owners with some powerful new choices. For starters, you could remotely turn on your dishwasher, clothes dryer or commercial equipment when the wind is high, to take more advantage of free renewable power and minimize your use of grid-supplied power. A battery storage system would provide additional flexibility, too.
A Wind Turbine in Every Pot
Like solar panels, micro wind turbines are coming down in price, and researchers in the American Physical Society anticipate further declines as the technology improves. Quieter wind turbine technologies are also in view, as are compact new wind power concepts designed with tight urban spaces in mind. Pretty soon these alternative energy options will become part and parcel of owning a home or business, much like any furnace, central AC unit or other piece of machinery.
Image: Thinker (Rodin) by Brian Hillegas on flickr.com.
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