Wednesday, December 7, 2011

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Latest from: CleanTechnica

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High-Speed Rail Hacked & Attacked in U.S., but Not Yet Fully Dead

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 07:10 AM PST

I’m a huge high-speed rail fan. It is a tremendously efficient mode of transport, easy-to-use, comfortable, and even fun. Here in Europe, I am amazed at how nice it is every time I ride such trains. Of course, a large portion of our political leaders (in the party known for its tea escapades) do not seem to be aware of its many promises and positive features. The latest news on how they have nearly killed high-speed rail in the U.S. (some of Obama’s grand high-speed rail plan here) is as follows:

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Clean Energy Gets 1 Trillionth Investment Dollar

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 07:00 AM PST


Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported yesterday that over 1 trillion dollars have now been invested in renewable energy, smart grid technology, and energy efficiency since 2004, when records on this began. (So, yeah, over one trillion dollars were invested long before yesterday, but you know how these things go….)

clean energy investment trillionth dollar

Interestingly, the one trillionth dollar was recorded in the midst of the (not-so-uplifting) climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa. For global warming deniers and other conspiracy theory addicts, that is probably just more indication that this is one humongous government-business-investor-environmentalist conspiracy. For the rest of us, well, it’s something old-timers call “coincidence.”

Bloomberg New Energy Finance notes that the trillionth dollar was probably invested somewhere in the developing world (if you are a fan of such minutia), and lists these as some of the of the projects which might have received that unique (but not so unique) dollar:

Rhodia Energy secured the Brazilian real equivalent of $60.5m in debt for the 77MW expansion of its biomass co-generation plant in Paraiso; China Huadian Corporation financed a 48MW wind farm in Fujian province; Marena Renovables Capital obtained debt from the Inter-American Development Bank towards the development of the 396MW La Ventosa wind farm in Mexico; and the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy got debt financing for the development of phase one of the 125MW Ouarzazate solar thermal project. In venture capital and private equity, electric vehicle specialist Fisker Automotive of the US landed $58m in the first tranche of a funding round. On public markets, biodiesel maker Petrotec of Germany raised the euro equivalent of $11m in cash and kind, via a rights issue.

More important than where the trillionth dollar was spent is the clean energy trend over the past decade or so.

Annual clean energy investment has risen nearly five-fold, from $52bn in 2004 to $243bn last year, a compound annual growth rate of 29%,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance notes.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects figures for 2011 once again to be in record territory, driven by fundings for US solar thermal projects, some large European offshore wind financings, continued high levels of activity in China and Germany, and the flowering of national renewable energy programmes in India.”

I’m sure it won’t take nearly as long to invest another trillion as it took to invest the first trillion.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance/energyNOW! (on Facebook, via Twitter) | Solar panel & money image via shutterstock

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Green Jobs: Fun Infographic & More

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 06:25 AM PST

Green jobs — the triple win that FOX News loves to hate (still not sure why…).

Sister sites Ecopreneurist and sustainablog recently posted the Green Jobs Infographic below from Jobvine Jobs, so I thought I would too (CLICK TO ENLARGE IT).

green jobs infographic

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More on Electric Motorcycles

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 06:01 AM PST

I’ve never been a motorcycle guy at all, but some of these new electric motorcycles do have me thinking (as you may have noticed). Beyond thinking, though, Susanna Schick knows bikes (or, motorbikes, for a bicycle enthusiast like me), and she’s also super excited about developments in this field. Here’s more from her on these clean, fast vehicles:

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Solar Impulse (Solar Plane) Ready in 2014?

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 05:51 AM PST

We’ve covered the solar plane known as “Solar Impulse” several times here on CleanTechnica. For background, see:

There’s more recent news on the Solar Impulse now, though. Here’s more from Gas2:

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Vehicles Fuel Economy Continues to Rise

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 04:49 AM PST


Sometimes there can be good news, as in this case, thanks to researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute who have released figures stating that average fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the US is up for the second straight month.

According to the figures, the average fuel economy of all cars, light trucks, minivans, and SUVs purchased in the month of November was 22.6 miles per gallon, up from 22.6 miles per gallon in October and up from 22.1 miles per gallon in both August and September.

The calculations were made from the monthly sales of individual models of cars, light trucks, minivans, and SUVs and the EPA "combined" fuel-economy ratings for the respective models of vehicle.

Novembers number is still down from the all-time high as calculated by the University of Michigan researchers, when in March of this year it reached 23 miles per gallon. But after a steady dropoff after the month of March, the numbers are again climbing.

Source: University of Michigan

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New Tokyo Broadcast Tower Is Greener than Expected, but Not as Green as It Could Be

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 04:46 AM PST

Tokyo Sky Tree TownTokyo's new broadcast tower is going to be a little greener than originally planned – the Tokyo Sky Tree Town project will incorporate an environmental information management system provided by Hitachi. The system is called the EcoAssist-Enterprise-Light, and is scheduled to go live with the rest of the complex on May 22nd of next year.

The current analog broadcasting carried out from Tokyo Tower will be switched over to digital next year, prompting construction of the new broadcast center. The center will include an aquarium, a theater, and not less than 310 shops for tourists – all of which will need a considerable amount of energy to maintain.

Where Does It All Go??

The EcoAssist-Enterprise-Light is supposed to provide real-time tracking of how much energy is used from what source – gas, electric, you name it – and when, so that each individual tenant can monitor their power use for energy conservation purposes.

All of the relevant information will be stored online, and will be accessible by anyone with a network connection (and presumably the proper login information), once the necessary application is downloaded.

Hitachi's system is notable for the thoroughness of the data Hitachi claims it will collect and for the speed at which the information will allegedly be available. Personally, I would have been happier with greener power sources for the Tokyo Sky Tree – but at least they're paying attention to how much energy they're using this time.

Source | Image: Kankyo Business

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141 GW of European Offshore Wind Under Way

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 02:02 AM PST

A new EWEA report tallying all existing offshore wind power projects in the 17 European Union states, based on a survey of built, consented and planned capacity and wind farm projects already undergoing construction, finds that Europe has a pipeline of a staggering 141,000 megawatts of offshore wind due on the grid over the next twenty years. With 4 GW installed by the end of 2011, Europe has 99% of offshore wind globally already.

Speaking at the EWEA Offshore 2011 conference and exhibition in Amsterdam, EWEA president Arthouros Zervos said: ”There is a huge developer interest in offshore wind energy across Europe: Developers, governments and investors realise that offshore wind energy offers the growth and jobs that Europe desperately needs.”

Currently, 130 million houses are powered by the 4,000 megawatts of offshore wind already on the grid in Europe. (Because European houses are better insulated and more urban, they use less electricity than houses in the US). But even more encouragingly for the prospects of developing a low carbon future, the associated interests are enormous.

The supply chain for the offshore wind industry is evolving rapidly. The market promise underpinned by ambitious national programmes, particularly in the UK and Germany, has sparked an enormous volume of industrial interest as well as a significant amount of new investment in plant and facilities. This burst of activity should be set against the backdrop of a reces- sionary climate in other industries.

Growth areas within the wind industry include turbine manufacturing and turbine components, while development of substructures, vessels, plus electrical infrastructure, and high voltage subsea cabling all offer scope for expansion. High voltage cabling is a particular market where a capacity constraint has been identified and which needs to be issued urgently, the association says, while suitably trained personnel are also in demand.

As Durban climate talks at Durban got underway, Zervos had a message: “The offshore wind energy sector can replicate the success of the onshore wind technology development, which is now a mainstream source of power competitive with new coal and gas plants, and a major European industry,” he said, but he continued: “To ensure this happens, EU decision-makers need to set ambitious renewable energy targets beyond 2020, invest more in research and develop offshore grids.”

With so many projects in the pipeline, and so many interests now vested in its continuation – manufacturers, developers and suppliers – it seems very unlikely that Europe will abandon its Kyoto-driven ambitious carbon goals at this week’s climate talks at Durban. This ship is too big to turn around.

Developing a secure and stable long-term supply of electricity of off-shore wind power would put Europe so far out ahead of the rest of the world in energy security, why would they want to lose that advantage?

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Our Nuclear Trash Heap Needs IFRs

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 07:26 PM PST

Argonne National Laboratory conducted testing on IFRs

Many energy experts may regard Guardian columnist George Monbiot as a nuclear firebrand who's been tipped with an environmental persuasion. But his Dec. 5 column – A Waste of Waste  – is a document that should be read by all persons with an interest in our planet's energy requirements, regardless of their position on nuclear energy following the ongoing problems taking place at Japan's Fukoshima nuclear facility.

Make no mistake: Monbiot, an environmental crusader with considerable and logical history, has asked an important question regarding our management of  nuclear waste: "Why bury nuclear waste, when it could meet the world's energy needs?"

He cites the important, must-read 2008 book by environmentalist Tom Blees, "Prescription for the Planet"  where he presents information from study scientists about the remarkable, yet untapped potential of integral fast reactors (short form – IFRs) that were developed at the Argonne National Laboratory between 1984 and 1994 before being shut down and dismantled under U.S. Congressional order during the administration of President Bill Clinton.

Reason to be concerned? Monbiot addresses the anti-nuclear movement head-on: "Anti-nuclear campaigners have generated as much mumbo-jumbo as creationists, anti-vaccine scaremongers, homeopaths and climate change deniers. In all cases, the scientific process has been thrown into reverse: people have begun with their conclusions, then frantically sought evidence to support them.

Try the considerable amount of waste generated from the manufacture of nuclear weapons. "Is it really waste," Monbiot asks, "or could it be used another way?" Can the green mantra – "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" – be made into a viable solution when it comes to discussions about nuclear waste?

Using information from Blees obtained from scientists who worked on the Integral Fast Reactor Project, Monbiot writes, "These are nuclear power stations which can run on what old nuclear plants have left behind. Conventional nuclear power uses just 0.6% of the energy contained in the uranium that fuels it. Integral fast reactors can use almost all the rest."

Whether naysayer or supporter of anything with the term nuclear in its foundation, it must be conceded that we have an extraordinary amount of nuclear waste on this planet of ours – enough, argue Monbiot and Blees, to meet the world's energy needs for several hundred years, with little in the way of carbon emissions. (See Blees’ insightful 27-minute interview on You Tube.)

IFRs need to be loaded with fissile material (uranium-233, uranium-235, and plutonium-239) only once, after which they can keep recycling ever more of its energy, until a small fraction of the waste remains.

Renewable energy can and should be a dynamic part of this solution. It is unable to scale up to the demand for electricity anywhere near fast enough. In an interview, Blees refers to a Scientific American study regarding meeting our electrical demand with solar energy which surmised we needed 39,000 square miles of solar panels just to meet 69 percent of electrical demand in the United States.

Monbiot concludes with this sobering, but accurate perspective: "So we environmentalists have a choice. We can't wish the waste away. Either it is stored and then buried. Or it is turned into mox fuels. Or it is used to power IFRs. The decision is being made at the moment, and we should determine where we stand. I suggest we take the radical step of using science, not superstition, as our guide."

A growing number of people need to study and share this concern.

Photo: Michael Kappel

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Chicken Fat Biofuel Could Power Navy’s Green Strike Force

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 05:26 PM PST

navy green strike forces uses biofuel from algae, chicken fat and moreThe U.S. Navy could soon be using ships powered with biofuel made from chicken fat. Fresh on the heels of its largest algae biofuel test ever, the Navy is plunging ahead with plans to launch an entire Green Strike Force comprised of ships and aircraft powered with non-petroleum fuels, and to that end it has commissioned the largest ever purchase of biofuel by the U.S. government. The biofuel will be made from a wide variety of feedstocks including algae and inedible animal byproducts such as rendered chicken fat. It will be assigned to the Navy's participation in the largest maritime exercise in the world coming up next summer, the Rim of the Pacific exercise off Hawaii.

More Biofuel for the U.S. Navy

The $12 million contract, announced yesterday, covers 450,000 gallons of biofuel, some of which will be rendered into synthetic fuel from nonfood grade animal products courtesy of Tyson Foods, Inc. through a partnership called Dynamic Fuels LLC. Dynamic Fuels can use a wide variety of nonfood feedstocks including rendered chicken fat and other inedible animal fats. Inedible beef tallow and used cooking oil currently dominate the mix.

Biofuel from Non-Food Sources

The Navy has been testing biofuel made from algae produced by the biofuel company Solazyme, which is also included in the contract.  The use of non-food sources is consistent with President Obama's long term biofuel strategy, which promotes growth in the domestic biofuel industry that does not come into conflict with the nation's food supply. The Navy has also tested biofuel made from the weedy plant camelina, and it has partnered with the departments of Agriculture and Energy in support of developing the U.S. biofuel industry. The partnership was announced during President Obama's tour through the nation's agricultural heartland last summer in support of his Administration's rural jobs and biofuel initiatives.

A High Performance Showcase for Biofuels

The Green Strike Force will not run exclusively on biofuels (it is anchored by a nuclear-powered carrier), but it will demonstrate the performance capabilities of biofuel in a variety of ships and aircraft in real operations. The biofuels will be blended half-and-half with conventional marine and aviation fuels, and the Navy's tests have shown that the 50-50 blend performs as well as 100 percent petroleum without requiring modifications to engines, fueling procedures, or storage and transportation infrastructure.

Biofuels and National Security

In announcing the new contract, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus emphasized the importance of transitioning to fuels other than petroleum, stating that dependence on fossil fuels "is a very real threat to our national security, and to the U.S. Navy's ability to protect America and to project power overseas." In a rousing second, Advanced Biofuels Association President Michael McAdams said:

“Get ready America, because the gallons are on the way as we’re about to make history by leading the world in delivering renewable replacement fuels. Today’s announcement should

effectively silence our fossil fuel detractors as we have yet more proof that advanced biofuels are real and real enough to help better prepare and strengthen America’s armed forces.”

All This and Skin Cream, Too

As a side note, algae biofuel may also help the U.S. kick its dependence on petroleum jelly as a skin care product.  Solazyme researchers have discovered that algae makes a pretty nifty skin rejuvenator, which the company markets under the Algenist (what else?) line.

Image: Sailors install slot seals aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, courtesy of U.S. Navy.

Follow on Twitter:@TinaMCasey



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