- Japanese Design Studio Creates Dynamic Urban Three-Wheeler
- Green Gadget Holiday Shopping Gift Review
- Upwind Study: 20 MW Wind Turbines are on the Horizon
- Greenpeace Speaks – Radiation Fail, Fukushima Still Way Too Hot
- New York Trying to Create New Solar Rebate Market
- Fuel Cells, Solar, Wind — Head-to-Head Clean Tech Comparison
- EPA Lowers the Boom on Fracking in Wyoming
Posted: 09 Dec 2011 10:08 AM PST
At the Tokyo Motor Show, the innovative Japanese design firm, D-Art has introduced the all-electric three-wheeler called – "Style" – a sound method of urban transportation in congested areas.
The 30-kilogram Style costs approximately $6,500 and will run at 25 kilometers per hour for some 20 kilometers before charging is required.
The company has produced a limited edition tilting three wheeler named the Hagane a few years back – the Hagane used a proprietary D-Art two-wheeled front end on a Yamaha majesty scooter.
Elsewhere in the world of three-wheelers, gizmag reports more news:
"Yamaha showed a three-wheeler which will sit somewhere between electric wheelchairs and electric scooters and bicycles. Yamaha’s role in the shaping of the global EV market might yet be very significant.
"The company works closely with Toyota, which is the world’s largest automotive manufacturer and its electric scooters, bicycles and other small mobility devices look likely to supplement Toyota’s own efforts in micro-mobility such as the iReal, Winglet and its partner robots."
Gizmag adds that two other electric three wheeler prototypes were announced at Tokyo, coming from start-up Kobot, a joint venture between one of Japan's Kowa and Tmsuk.
These good tools will impact change in the urban environment.
Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:44 AM PST
With holiday season officially upon us, it's time to think about presents for your loved ones. Gift options abound, and it can be tough to tell which will be a hit and which are destined for the return line.
Fortunately for your shopping lists, energyNOW! correspondent Patty Kim researched this year's coolest clean tech gadgets to help figure out which will help your friends and family go green. The full review is available below:
Changers Solar Charger
Since cellphones and tablets are so popular these days, the Changers Solar Charger was a great starting point. It's a personal solar power charging station that lets users produce and consume renewable energy wherever they can find some sunlight. The kit contains two components – a flexible solar module which can hang on a window, and a rechargeable 16-watt battery. Four hours of direct sunlight will fully charge the battery, and it'll provide enough juice to fully charge most handheld electronic devices a few times.
The solar charger sells for $149, and in an interesting twist, tracks the energy you produce. The results will be tweeted and stored, and can be redeemed into credits that can be redeemed in the Changers online marketplace.
Voltaic Systems Solar Laptop Charger Backpack
If you're in the market for device charging, but prefer to generate your power on the go, the Voltaic Systems solar laptop charger backpack may be a better idea. Three 3.4-watt solar panels adorn the backpack, and attach to a universal laptop battery. One hour of direct sunlight will run a laptop for 30 minutes and 90 minutes of sunlight will fully charge most cell phones. The backpack is waterproof and durable, but heavy at 5.5 pounds, and costs a bit more at $389.
Nest Learning Thermostat
Charging devices is great, but reducing utility bills is becoming more important for homeowners during the economic downturn, and that's where the Nest Learning Thermostat comes in. It's from the makers of the iPod and applies the same easy-to-use principles. After a week of installation, it will learn your cooling and heating preferences, constantly incorporates new temperature adjustments you make around the home. The Nest is currently on back order, and sells for $249, but is worth checking out for fun energy-saving features.
So what about the kids in that energy-efficient home? The H-Racer 2.0 is just like any other remote-controlled toy car on the market, except for one aspect – it runs on hydrogen. The car's small refueling station comes with a solar panel, and when water is poured into it, creates a chemical reaction that releases oxygen into the air and hydrogen into the gas tank. The process takes about 60 seconds and will power the car for around 10 minutes. The H-Racer retails for $119 and is great for anyone interested in alternative energy or science.
Stromer Electric Bike
And last, but not least, consider taking the Stromer electric bike for a ride. It's one of the most powerful e-bikes on the market, with a 600-watt rear-hub motor, and has two modes of power. The pedal assist mode will provide a boost for riders when they're heading up hills, and the power on demand mode will cruise along at 20 miles per hour without any pedaling. The 36-volt battery can charge onboard or separately, and takes five or six hours to fully charge, but provides a 45-mile range on pedal assist. The Stromer is expensive, at $3,399, but is perfect for commuters.
Big-ticket items like toys and electronics typically sell well during the holidays, but they can wind up being energy hogs. Hopefully some of the products hitting the shelves this year will wind up saving energy and helping consumers be a little more sustainable. Happy holidays!
Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:37 AM PST
Under Europe’s Upwind project, a feasibility study was conducted and it concluded that 20-MW (20,000-kW) wind turbines are likely by 2020. If you’re not familiar with wind turbine sizes, this is HUGE. The standard wind turbine these days is probably 3 to 5 MW, and the ‘tremendously large’ wind turbines companies like GE, Siemens, and Vestas are working on or offering are 6 to 10 MW.
Large-scale wind turbines produce electricity far more economically than small, residential turbines for multiple reasons, but the main one is the fact that the average wind speed at a given location usually increases with altitude.
While larger turbines are more expensive to build, transport, and install, the altitude-related benefits make the trouble and expense of installing large-scale turbines worth it, because they generate electricity the most cheaply (9 cents/kWh unsubsidized, in the United States, and assuming a capacity factor of 35%, according to the NREL).
Small wind turbines often fail to pay for themselves due to unacceptably slow wind speeds at altitudes of less than 20 feet, and these turbines often being less than 20 feet tall. And because they don’t generate much electricity, they have to be oversized in order to generate enough electricity to meet demand, and oversized turbines are costly.
The 20-MW turbines mentioned above will be 200 meters (656 feet) in diameter, which is 80 meters more than traditional 5-MW turbines, which are 120 meters (394 feet) in diameter. They would also be lighter and more flexible (for their size, of course).
Significant technological advancements will have to be made, and the current design will have to change. But wind turbine developers and researchers are working on it and are optimistic.
“Making a 20 MW wind turbine is not just upscaling today's 5 MW machines. Nevertheless, we have already identified the necessary innovations in terms of design, materials and way the turbine is operated”, said Jos Beurskens of the Energy Research Centre Netherlands, who led the Upwind project.
As big as these turbines are, they do generate far more electricity per square foot of land they occupy than smaller turbines, so they actually occupy less space overall.
Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:12 AM PST
Environmental organization Greenpeace went to Japan to measure the radiation levels outside the stricken Fukushima plant, and the report they published is rather disturbing. Nine months after the disaster, local residents just outside the evacuation zone are still subject to dangerous levels of radiation, and apparently no one is doing anything to fix it.
Radiation Levels Are How High, Again?
Greenpeace took measurements in two locations in Fukushima's neighboring regions – Watari and Onami – and found that the background radiation measures up to 37 micro Sieverts per hour. Just for comparison's sake, radiation levels in, say, Germany are about 1,000 micro Sieverts per year. Greenpeace spokesman Niklas Schinerl was horrified at the results:
The current radiation level just outside the evacuation zone — 37 miles from the damaged reactors — is comparable to the level inside the zone, according to Greenpeace's measurements, but the zone has not been expanded. In addition, the decontamination measures carried out by local authorities have officially been reduced. Shinerl commented further:
Progress is Slow or Nonexistent
Despite official clean-up work, only 35 of Onami's 370 houses have been fully decontaminated, and the clean-up process has not yet begun in Watari. Only 1,038 of 6700 local residences have even been officially measured. If the official decontamination process continues at the current pace – one house every three days – the displaced populace will have to wait a long time indeed before they can go home again.
A major part of the problem is shifting the responsibility; initially, the federal government was to be responsible for the decontamination process. However, that responsibility is now in the hands of local authorities, who have neither the experience nor the technical knowledge to effectively handle the situation.
Greenpeace finishes its report by pointing out that it’s been asking for progress for months (since August, specifically), and says that the organization presented Prime Minister Yoshihiro Noda with a detailed list of necessary technical requirements. The list has been ignored and the situation for many evacuees has not improved.
Your move, Japan. Do something.
Posted: 09 Dec 2011 04:09 AM PST
New York solar energy advocates are pushing for the adoption of a new bill that would create a solar renewable energy credit (SREC) market. If enacted, the New York Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act would launch an SREC market starting in 2013.
An SREC represents the environmental attributes from a solar facility and is generated each time a certified and registered solar power system produces one thousand killowatt-hours (KWh) of energy. For every 1000 killowatt-hours of electricity produced by an eligible solar facility, one SREC is awarded which can then be sold on an SREC specific market, typically to utility companies that are required to purchase SRECs in order to comply with renewable portfolio standards (where state utilities are required to purchase or generate a percentage of their electricity from renewable energy resources). Depending on the size of the solar system, the typical residential solar system can produce one SREC every two months.
While there are a number of excellent New York solar rebates to help interested residents go solar, the state is trying to ramp up its solar production, particularly in light of the fact that its neighbor, New Jersey, currently ranks second in the nation in total installed solar capacity, while New York is only seventh. In terms of total solar capacity, New York is likely to pass the 100 megawatt mark this year, compared to New Jersey's installed base of 500 megawatt. The thinking is, if New Jersey can be a solar mecca, why can't New York. And the difference appears to be the SRECs.
The New York Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act contains numerous provisions that are similar to New Jersey and have helped make New Jersey solar a powerhouse in the U.S. Specifically, the bill provides for the unbundling of SRECs (power and SREC can be sold separately) and two-year banking (SREC can be sold in the year it was generated or in the following two years – provides consumer/generator economic flexibility).
New York, however, is making some notable differences to make the creation of their SREC market unique. The first requires utilities to offer some SREC contracts for as long as 15 years, as opposed to how it is in New Jersey where contracts generally run no longer than three to four years. The goal is to make solar projects more financially attractive as utilities are required to purchase SRECs for up to 15 years.
The other unique provisions require that 20% of New York SRECs be sourced from solar systems that are smaller than 50 kilowatts, which would help prevent large utility-scale solar systems from dominating the SREC market. In essence, the bill would guarantee that residential solar markets will be able to participate in the market.
Currently missing from the bill is a non-compliance penalty. In New Jersey, for utilities that do not hit their renewable energy targets, there is a penalty of $675 per missing megawatt. If the price of an SREC were to rise above the $675 compliance payment, no SRECs would be purchased, therefore creating a price ceiling. The cost of penalties there cannot be passed to ratepayers, while the costs of purchasing SRECs can be, giving utilities an additional incentive to purchase the credits.
While there is substantial support for the bill right now, it is going to take some additional revisions and soothing to bring all of the necessary parties, including the unions, into agreement. The next step is a review of the bill by the Governor's office in January and a cost-benefit analysis of establishing the SREC market in New York. If New York does succeed in adopting an SREC market, it could truly allow solar power in New York to dominate.
Rendering of New York Solar-Powered Education & Arts Center via Engineering for Change
Posted: 08 Dec 2011 10:07 PM PST
Fuel cells offer a highly efficient, reliable and increasingly durable means of generating clean electrical energy independent of the grid or integrated with grid power. Installations are growing across a wide range of applications, from combined heat and power (CHP) generation at commercial, industrial, government and educational facilities to hybrid electric vehicles and consumer electronics.
They’re also being evaluated as a means of storing intermittent electricity production from wind power farms and wastewater-to-energy treatment plants, as well as capturing CO2 and NOX emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Fuel cells’ “green” credentials continue to be questioned, however, especially when the fuel used to produce the hydrogen used by alkaline fuel cells is methane in the form of natural or biogas. According to the infographic above, which was provided by fuel cell systems designer and manufacturer UTC Power, these criticisms are misplaced.
Posted: 08 Dec 2011 08:15 PM PST
The Environmental Protection Agency has just released a draft report on its investigation of water contamination in the town of Pavillion, Wyoming, which confirms a preliminary finding that identified fracking chemicals in drinking water used by the town’s residents. The initial report did not to jump to the conclusion that nearby fracking operations were in fact the source of those chemicals, but the new draft puts two and two together and concludes that yes, they were.
Don’t Tar All Frackers with the Same Brush
Fracking refers to the practice of drilling for natural gas in shale formations by jamming a chemical brine underground. That sounds like trouble from the get-go in terms of the potential for water contamination, but in announcing the draft report, EPA was careful to describe this particular case as a problem specific to the Pavillion area, where fracking operations were “taking place in and below the drinking water aquifer and in close proximity to drinking water wells,” a situation that EPA states is not characteristic of all such operations around the country.
Frackers, Stand Up and Be Counted
Be that as it may, EPA is in the preliminary stages of cataloging fracking operations nationwide, in order to get a grasp on the broad impacts of a federal energy policy that has encouraged natural gas production. While fracking has long been conducted in relatively underpopulated regions of the country, new discoveries in and around Appalachia are rapidly bringing the practice into contact with far more heavily populated areas including Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, and fracking is immanent in North Carolina. It makes sense to know what you’re getting into before you start some trouble that you just can’t stop – doesn’t sound too controversial, right?
Pay No Attention to that Fracker Behind the Curtain
Actually, cataloging the impact of fracking operations is by nature a huge matter of controversy, because a web of regulatory exemptions has enabled the natural gas industry to avoid disclosing the chemicals and other substances that go into fracking brine. Normally, operations involving hazardous or potentially hazardous materials must list those materials on Material Safety Data Sheets, but fracking is exempted from disclosing proprietary information and certain other chemical ingredients. The EPA draft report on Pavillion notes that the investigation was hampered because the Material Safety Data Sheets did not include complete information, so good luck with that thing about a definitive nationwide study.
Beginning of the End of Fracking Secrecy
Despite the crippling lack of a strong regulatory framework, details about the chemicals in fracking brine have begun to surface and anecdotal evidence is piling up. The new report brought forth calls in Congress, at least from one side of the
aisle, for a repeal of the 2005 law exempting fracking brine from standard disclosure regulations, nicknamed “The Halliburton Loophole.” Sort of ironic that just a few years after the law was passed, Halliburton was at least partly responsible for gumming up practically the entire Gulf of Mexico (or at least, so says BP). Stay tuned.
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