- Popeye Would Love this Sustainable Hydrogen Fuel Made from Sunlight and Spinach
- Cleantech Politics News of the Week
- Other Cleantech News of the Last Week (or So)
- Solar & Wind Energy News of the Last Week (or So)
Posted: 06 Feb 2011 05:00 AM PST
Breakthroughs in sustainable hydrogen fuel technology are coming fast and furious, and the latest one seems like something out of an episode of Popeye. Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have confirmed a system for converting visible light into hydrogen fuel based on an ordinary, off-the-shelf ingredient from the produce section of a local market: spinach.
Spinach and Sustainable Energy
Popeye aside, alternative energy researchers have long cast an envious eye on the ability of plants to convert sunlight into energy almost instantaneously. As reported by writer Sopan Take a few years ago, researchers at Oak Ridge have been developing ways to harness the photosynthetic capabilities of spinach for a long time. In the 1980′s, they patented a way to turn spinach membranes into miniature electrical switches. About 10 years ago, they worked with the University of Southern California on ways to use spinach proteins to treat certain forms of blindness. More recently they have been looking into ways of using a spinach protein to fabricate solar cells as a cheaper, renewable and more readily available alternative to silicon.
Spinach and Hydrogen Fuel
Oak Ridge writer Bill Cabage describes the latest breakthrough as a biohybrid photoconversion system. The researchers were able to confirm that a particular light-harvesting protein derived from plain old supermarket spinach can be induced to assemble itself into a membrane, by putting it into a liquid solution containing synthetic polymers. The protein, called LHC-II (LHC stands for Light Harvesting Complex) interacts with the polymers to form a membrane, which in turn produces hydrogen. In other words the membrane acts as a kind of photovoltaic cell, but instead of generating electricity it generates hydrogen.
Next Steps for Hydrogen Fuel from Spinach
Now that the basic process has been confirmed, the next steps will bring the researchers closer to developing a working model. Another potential hurdle to overcome is reducing the cost of the catalyst. Oak Ridge researchers have been using platinum, which is very expensive and is vulnerable to the vagaries of global markets. Conventional hydrogen fuel cell technology relies on platinum, but various less costly alternatives are on the horizon, so it is possible that the Oak Ridge research may benefit from these developments.
A Hydrogen Fuel Converter for Every Home
We’re probably years away from it, but this latest development brings us closer to the possibility of a compact, affordable hydrogen fuel generator that practically anyone could learn how to operate at home. After all, now-ubiquitous devices like the iPad aren’t too many years away from those huge rooms full of outrageously expensive equipment that used to be needed to run a simple computer operation. Saying good-bye to “yesterday’s energy” will be a long process but cleaner, healthier, alternatives are within sight, and it’s time to ask ourselves who really benefits from clinging to the past.
Image: Spinach leaf by stewart on flickr.com.
Posted: 05 Feb 2011 02:38 PM PST
Here’s a wrap-up of some of the good or big cleantech (and dirty tech) politics stories we didn’t cover from the last week or so, to complement our wrap-ups of big solar and wind energy news and other cleantech news.
Obama Says “Climate Change” Again
As I noted over on our sister site Planetsave a few days ago (and many others have noted), Obama has uttered the words “climate change” again.
Obama’s Energy and Climate Czar, Carol Browner, to Leave White House
In a shocking announcement, we found out that Carol M. Browner, President Barack Obama's energy adviser, plans to leave the White House soon. This announcement came just before Obama’s State of the Union Address. Any connection between it and Obama’s silence on climate change? We can only speculate… the official announcement said that she was happy with what would be in the speech.
"She will stay on as long as necessary to ensure an orderly transition," a White House official said. "Carol is confident that the mission of her office will remain critical to the president, and she is pleased with what will be in the [State of the Union address] and in the budget [next month] on clean energy.”
Fossil Fuel Industry Keeping Its Massive Energy Subsidies (So Far)
While Obama clearly stated in his 2011 State of the Union address that the extremely wealthy fossil fuel industry doesn’t need anymore tax breaks (“We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.”), the Senate has shot down the first attempt to cut these massive energy subsidies. As Bruce Alpert sadly starts a post on this matter, “The oil and gas industry, which beat back new regulatory bills even during the worst days of last year’s massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scored another victory this week.”
And while oil prices continue to rise at a rapid rate, Americans struggle, Big Oil attacks clean energy programs in Congress that would significantly help to address those issues (and successfully kills many of them), the leading five oil companies in the U.S. actually raked in $1 trillion in profits i the last decade. Give those multi-millionaire and billionaire execs their tax loopholes and bonuses!…
EPA Strikes Back Regarding Attacks on Its Jurisdiction
While Republicans in Congress throw multiple attacks at the EPA’s legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is striking back. Ben Geman of The Hill reports:
As it clearly should.
How Would Cutting Rail Funding Hurt America’s Transportation Future?
Eric Jaffe of the INFRASTRUCTURIST delves into that and why the Republican Study Committee’s proposals to cut federal rail spending goes beyond ignorant.
China’s Starting to Kick Our Cleantech A**.. How We Can Get Back On Top
Kate Gordon, the Center for American Progrss’ Vice President for Energy Policy, touches on how China is leading the world in cleantech, how the U.S. can be more of a global innovation leader, and why the Republican Study Committee’s proposals totally undermine U.S. chances of doing so.
Low-Carbon Industries to Dominate China’s 5-Year, $1.5-Trillion(?) Investment Plan
Low-carbon investment is the name of the game these days if you want to dominate the global economy. China knows it, and is looking to put most of its chips on this. Conerning China’s new 5-year investment plan that may total $1.5 trillion, Reuters recently reported:
China is looking to go from the number two economy in the world to number one with this shift away from production of cheap goods to innovation, development, and production of cleantech.
Why the EPA Needs to Be Able to Regulate Carbon Pollution
To close out, the Center for American Progress had a great in-depth piece the other day on why the EPA needs to be allowed to regulate carbon pollution: EPA and Greenhouse Gases 101. Check it out.
Photo Credit: nasa hq photo
Posted: 05 Feb 2011 02:28 PM PST
Cleantech a Major Reason Why Siemens is Making So Much Money
Siemens has beating analysts’ projections of how much money they are going to make and is rolling in the dough. A big reason for that is its focus on cleantech such as clean energy and high-speed rail. Siemens is also reportedly planning to raise R&D research to record levels in 2011 to “harness clean-energy demand.”
World’s First Biodegradable Mouse
Fujitsu recently released what it termed the world’s first biodegradable and even the world’s first “green” computer mouse. Need a new mouse? Skip the plastic — go biodegradable.
Electric Vehicles to Get Louder?
A plus and a minus of electric vehicles is that they are extremely quiet. Why is this a minus? Because it can be dangerous for pedestrians, especially the visually impaired. There’s a push now to find ways of protecting pedestrians from these silent, green vehicles. Timothy Hurst of ecopolitology has more:
What’s the Next Big CleanTech Thing in Europe?
This is the question. And there are a number in Europe invested in finding the answer:
Sony and WWF Announce Final Open Planet Ideas Winner
Here’s the news on this interesting project from WWF:
New Computer Technology to “Revolutionize” Computer Memory and Green Data Centers?
Sounds good, yeah? Here’s some detail from BusinessGreen:
Photo Credit: mattbuck4950
Posted: 05 Feb 2011 02:17 PM PST
Ted Turner’s Solar Plant Begins Commercial Operation
Founder of CNN Ted Turner has announced that the 30-MW solar power plant developed and built by First Solar that he jointly owns has now started commercial operation. Here’s a little more from CalFinder Solar:
The project was first announced at the recent climate conference in Cancun and the electricity produced by it is expected to be enough to power 9,000 homes.
Department of Energy (DOE) to Cut Solar Costs by 75%?
That’s the news. DOE Secretary Steven Chu has announced a program to cut solar costs 75%. ”The U.S. Department of Energy said on Friday it will spend $27 million on a new effort to reduce the costs of solar power by 75 percent by the end of the decade in a bid to make the renewable power source as cheap as fossil fuels,” Reuters reports.
Chu is calling the program a “sun shot,” taking from President JFK’s “moon shot” of the 1960s, a plan to land a man on the moon.
World Completely Powered by Clean Energy Possible by 2050?
A new report just out by the WWF announces that “All of the world's energy needs could be provided cleanly, renewably and economically by 2050.”
The energy report took two years to prepare and goes into all energy needs, including transport.
"The report is more than a scenario – it's a call for action. We can achieve a cleaner, renewable future, but we must start now," said WWF Director General Jim Leape.
Global Solar PV to Double by 2015?
Global solar photovoltaic investment could hit $48-55 billion by 2015, potentially doubling current amounts, a report released by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association and Greenpeace announced last week.
"Solar photovoltaic technology has, for many years now, shown increased power efficiencies and cost reductions," said Ingmar Wilhelm, President of EPIA. "Today's cost predictions, driven also by economies of scale in light of global photovoltaic capacity, totalling 40,000 MW in 2010, show that the technology is on the brink of an economic breakthrough."
PV prices have dropped 40% since 2005 and are expected to drop another 40% by 2015.
Wind Energy (and Marine Energy) Jobs Nearly Doubled in UK, Despite Horrible Economy
While the overall economy was in the dumps, with UK employment dropping 3% in the last couple years, the UK’s wind and marine energy sectors went the opposite route during the same time. The UK wind energy sector grew 91% in this time. The sector saw an increase of over 4000 wind energy jobs last year. The wave and tidal energy sector also improved significantly.
Massachusetts Launching $1000 Solar Thermal Rebates
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