- California’s Cap-and-Trade Program Finally Approved
- Yes, Cell Phones Are Bad for Your Child (Probably)
- DOW Starts Mass Marketing Solar Shingles
- CleanTechnica Job Board!
- More Portable Renewable Power for the U.S. Military
- 5th Annual “Freeing the Grid” Report Released
- Small Wind Turbine Market Sees Strong Growth (2010 Market Growth Report)
- The Real Reason the Obama Administration Backed Solyndra
Posted: 22 Oct 2011 02:36 PM PDT
QUICK NEWS: If you haven’t heard yet, California’s cap-and-trade program is finally fully, fully approved. Here’s the quick summary from the LATimes:
More on the LATimes: California becomes first state to adopt cap-and-trade program
Of course, I think this is a wonderful thing and look forward to California’s success leading the way for other states and the U.S. as a whole to one day adopt such a program (or some system for putting a price on CO2 and other harmful greenhouse gas emissions). As utility company CEOs (and many others) have made more than clear, a price on CO2 is critical to us addressing the causes of global warming (which are clearly human-caused) and propelling ourselves and the world into a clean energy economy much, much faster.
Kudos to California!
Posted: 22 Oct 2011 11:09 AM PDT
Studies, studies, and more studies have been done to research cell phone safety – do they cause brain tumors? The World Health Organization officially classified cell phones' radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as cancer-causing (cue massive debate), not long after Dr. Devra Davis claimed that cell phones were especially dangerous to children. Dr. Davis may be right after all — new research published in the journal Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine indicates that kids absorb more radiation than adults. This is, in a nutshell, bad.
Cell phone radiation, whether or not it actually causes cancer, is nonetheless tested and tested again to make sure the devices are safe to use. Cell phones are certified before they're approved for sale and production. The problem here is that while they might be okay for adults, none of the tests are specifically aimed at children.
Current cell phone certification tests use a plastic head model called the "Specific Anthropomorphic Mannequin," or SAM. SAM was modeled after military recruits in 1989 – all of whom were at least 18 (unless someone lied on his application). Still, since it doesn't seem likely that a small child enlisted in the military, SAM is not a representation of a child's head.
Since children have smaller heads and thinner skulls than adults, the bone marrow can absorb up to 10 times the radiation that an adult's might, according to the report. Maybe cell phones aren't dangerous for children, and maybe they are – but the current tests won't tell us. With more and more cell phones in the hands of kids, maybe it’s time to revamp the tests.
Posted: 22 Oct 2011 11:05 AM PDT
Dow Solar company has started mass marketing solar shingles. Solar shingles are roof shingles with solar cells (electricity generating material) integrated into them, so the shingles are the solar panels. The solar shingles plug into each other and help to hold each other down very securely during strong winds.
The solar shingles can only be stolen by first unplugging those at the edge of the array and then working your way inwards, which means that securing the edge only will actually secure the entire solar panel array from thieves.
Dow’s shingles incorporate thin film solar cells, which are printed onto the shingles which permits some extent of flexibility, and have been in the works for awhile. We first wrote about the solar shingles back in 2009. Thin film solar cells may sound flimsier to some people, but they are actually more durable than traditional silicon wafer cells, because silicon wafer cells are very brittle. Both types of cells, however, are encased in protective solar panels (which is the complete product that you purchase). Thin film cells are more durable primarily because they can withstand more shock than traditional cells.
Solar shingles also have potential aesthetic benefits, because they resemble ordinary shingles, and the aesthetic appearance of traditional solar panels is a problem for some people.
Solar shingles have been installed since they were made available in 2009, but availability was limited. Colorado is the first state in which they will be available to the masses, and Dow says that it plans to sell them in large quantities in several other states as well.
The solar cells that are integrated into the Dow shingles are supplied by Global Solar (which is based in Arizona, U.S) and their efficiency is claimed to be 10%, which is in the average range of thin film solar cells.
Dow partnered with the home building company D.R. Horton to build homes with 3,000 watts (3 kW) of solar shingles installed on them. The size of the homes ranges from 2,205 to 4,115 square feet and the cost starts at $485,950.
Dow estimated that the solar shingle manufacturing plant will create 1,275 jobs by 2015!
Photo Credit: Dow Solar
Posted: 22 Oct 2011 08:59 AM PDT
You may or may not have noticed: we added a cleantech and green jobs board for you all on the bottom-right side of all our pages this week. The system is specifically tailored to you all, but can be adjusted as time goes on to make it even more relevant.
If you’re looking for a job (or just curious), check it out and let us know if you have any feedback.
You can also create a customized subscription to the job board in a few ways:
And you can see all jobs listed on this service at: www.workwithpurpose.org
And!! If you’re a company looking to hire, you can post jobs on that same site. It’s only $25 for a 30-day ad.
Posted: 22 Oct 2011 08:28 AM PDT
Portable renewable energy is the wave of the future for the U.S. military. The U.S. marines are field-testing solar power backpack kits, the Army is looking into shippable, micro-mini renewable energy grids, and the Air Force is getting solar power in shipping containers – and that’s just for starters. In one of the latest efforts, a company called SkyBuilt is providing $2.1 million worth of portable solar and wind power equipment for NAVAIR, the Naval Systems Air Command. So…does this mean we’ll see more support for clean energy funding from the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives?
SkyBuilt’s Portable Wind and Solar Energy Systems
SkyBuilt patented its basic portable renewable power system back in 2007. It can fit in a standard shipping container, and it functions like a portable micro-grid. Along with solar and wind power, the system can also integrate micro-hydro power, liquid fuels, and gas fuels, including biofuels. Aside from its potential for application in military operations and disaster relief, it was also designed to be used as an unmanned station that rarely if ever needs conventional fuel deliveries. The system was designed with minimum maintenance in mind, and it can be operated by remote control.
Renewable Energy, Fossil Fuels and National Defense
Regular readers of CleanTechnica already have the scoop on the military’s efforts to transition out of fossil fuels altogether, since the topic gets regular coverage here. It’s a deeply grounded, long term national defense strategy that takes domestic military facilities off-grid, streamlines the logistics of fuel supply to overseas operations, and reduces the risk to troops from guarding fuel convoys (the troop safety risk related to has gotten to the point where the Navy is planning to deploy its first ever unmanned cargo flights in Afghanistan, to help keep trucks off the road).
Clean Energy and The “Real” American Jobs Act
The Obama administration’s progressive approach to clean energy policy is fully consistent with the Pentagon’s push for renewables, but the majority party in the House has gotten itself into something of a pickle over the issue. On the one hand, this is the party traditionally associated with full-on support for our troops, but on the other hand it hasn’t exactly extended itself to translate that support into energy policies that improve force effectiveness while reducing troop risk. This tension is most recently revealed in the House Republicans’ Real American Jobs Act, which is in full conflict with the Department of Defense on future energy policy: it increases federal support for fossil fuels while rolling back environmental regulations that support the development of renewable energy.
Image Credit: Portable remote solar and wind power station courtesy of SkyBuilt.
Posted: 22 Oct 2011 04:02 AM PDT
Net metering and grid interconnection may not be as sexy as solar panel breakthroughs and consumer products, but I think they are at least as important. And I think the renewable energy advocates and experts who create the annual Freeing the Grid report agree with me.
Freeing the Grid is a policy guide that grades all 50 states on two key programs: net metering and interconnection procedures. The 2011 Edition of Freeing the Grid was released this week. (I’ve been eagerly awaiting this year’s report for awhile now, but actually thought it came out later in the year.)
Here’s a little more on these policies and this year’s results from the news release (emphasis added):
Posted: 22 Oct 2011 03:16 AM PDT
I published preliminary stats on the American Wind Energy Association’s 2011 report on small wind turbine growth about a month ago. The official release of the study results is now out. Here’s AWEA’s news release on it (much more information and many graphs are included at the link on the bottom):
AWEA U.S. Small Wind Turbine Market Report: more homes, farms, schools and businesses using wind power
America's small wind turbine industry saw substantial growth in 2010, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported [this week], highlighted by a 26 percent expansion in the market for small wind systems with 25.6 megawatts (MW) of capacity added, as well as a robust increase in sales revenue. Nearly 8,000 small wind units were sold last year, totaling $139 million in sales.
"Across the country people are saving money and helping the environment by using small wind turbines to power their homes, farms and businesses" said Larry Flowers, AWEA Deputy Director of Distributed and Community Wind. "This report shows that the market for clean, affordable, homegrown wind energy is as good in small scale applications as it is for large utilities."
Small wind turbines are defined as those that are 100 kilowatts and under. The U.S. small wind industry represents an estimated 1,500 full-time equivalent jobs. Small wind turbines manufactured in North America typically incorporated 80-percent domestic content.
With small wind scaling up during the last few years, its benefits are becoming more noticeable. Growth in 2010 pushed cumulative sales in the U.S. to an estimated 179 MW of capacity—a total that reaches well into the range of many utility-scale wind farms. As a result, small wind is having a positive impact on the environment, as installations now annually displace 161,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That is the equivalent of taking 28,000 cars off the road.
Small wind's 2010 growth was supported by sound policy at the federal, state, and local levels. Those policies enabled more than $30 million in rebates, tax credits, and grants to go to small wind purchasers, users, and others. Though more than 30 states offered small wind incentives and grants, a long-term and consistent federal policy is crucial to the growth of the country's small wind industry. The current Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for small wind expires at the end of 2016.
The 2010 U.S. Small Wind Market Report can be accessed at http://awea.org/learnabout/
Posted: 21 Oct 2011 11:44 PM PDT
The Obama administration had set a goal, for the public good, of cutting solar costs to $1 a watt installed by 2016.
The reason that the Obama Department of Energy invested $535 million in backing some of the private VC loans (which totaled $1 billion) to Solyndra was that the company had a way to bring down the cost of solar.
The unique solar panel they made was key to this effort. Note that the Solyndra roof (pictured) is quite different from the typical solar roof. That difference is key. Solyndra wasn’t just another solar panel manufacturer, making just another thing that could be more cheaply made in China.
The corporate media presents the Solyndra bankruptcy as if there was no real differentiation between Solyndra and the typical solar panel manufacturer, making it easy for Republicans to use them to trumpet unfounded accusations of cronyism, but you should understand that the Solyndra panel represented a breakthrough technology.
In their white paper A Grand Challenge for Electricity From Solar, on how to get solar down to $1 a watt by 2016, the DOE sets out their goals, and noted that installation costs represented about half the cost of solar.
“Two approaches will be pursued to achieve the dramatic cost reductions required:
(a) installing arrays in fields on lightweight frames with equipment that has the sophistication of agricultural combines capable of covering hundreds of acres a day, and
(b) finding ways of building PV arrays into building components such as roofing so that the incremental installation cost could be very low. Arrays that follow the sun are somewhat more expensive than installations that don't move but can produce more electricity per year per watt of installed PV and can produce more energy late in the day when many utilities need most power.
Tracking is usually also needed for units that concentrate sunlight on high efficiency cells. Concentrating systems add to costs but can reduce the area and cost of the photovoltaic devices.”
Solyndra invented a completely unique solar panel, using (then cheaper than traditional) thin film wrapped entirely around inside light weight cylindrical tubes that could make energy from light coming from any direction.
Arranged in cot-like pop-together arrays, they were so light they could practically be popped together by four year olds. Their unique technology would really speed up installation time, cutting installation costs – which are about 40% of the cost of solar.
Solyndra made arrays that followed the sun. Normally arrays that follow the sun must be moved on trackers, adding to their expense. Solynndra made solar that followed the sun passively because they were cylindrical and could make energy from light coming from any direction. Because the thinfilm in the cylinders could pick up light from any direction. Solyndra panels did not need heavy expensive trackers to follow the sun.
If solar were cheap, we could be energy independent and avoid climate change. Public investment in promising manufacturing in the US could make solar cheap, and of course create jobs doing so. This should be obvious, but it is not being written. Instead, some ridiculous political motive is assigned to the Obama administration for getting involved.
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