Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Down the Foxhole - ActiveDen

Down the Foxhole - ActiveDen

Link to Envato Notes

This Week’s Featured Authors

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 03:31 PM PST

Congratulations to this week’s featured authors!

LatinFlashFeatured ActiveDen Author: LatinFlash

This week’s featured author is LatinFlash, who has 8 items, including the newest from the Video Players category.
View LatinFlash’s Portfolio

urbazonFeatured AudioJungle Author: urbazon

This week’s featured author is urbazon, who has 691 items, including the newest from the Misc category.
View urbazon’s Portfolio

sebrosenFeatured ThemeForest Author: sebrosen

This week’s featured author is sebrosen, who has 4 items, including the newest from the Blog / Magazine category.
View sebrosen’s Portfolio

ruslan-ivanovFeatured VideoHive Author: ruslan-ivanov

This week’s featured author is ruslan-ivanov, who has 9 items, including the newest from the Holidays category.
View ruslan-ivanov’s Portfolio

getstrongholdFeatured GraphicRiver Author: getstronghold

This week’s featured author is getstronghold, who has 56 items, including the newest from the Badges & Stickers category.
View getstronghold’s Portfolio

3dhorizonFeatured 3DOcean Author: 3dhorizon

This week’s featured author is 3dhorizon, who has 14 items, including the newest from the Electronics category.
View 3dhorizon’s Portfolio

FusiondevsFeatured CodeCanyon Author: Fusiondevs

This week’s featured author is Fusiondevs, who has 5 items, including the newest from the Images and Media category.
View Fusiondevs’ Portfolio

erengokselFeatured Tutorials Author: erengoksel

This week’s featured author is erengoksel, who has 24 items, including the newest from the Miscellaneous category.
View erengoksel’s Portfolio

sergeyskleznevFeatured PhotoDune Author: sergeyskleznev

This week’s featured author is sergeyskleznev, who has 934 items.
View sergeyskleznev’s Portfolio

Author Interview: MrCharlesBrown

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 12:00 AM PST

Being multi-talented, following a proven creative process, rhythm and blues, and lots of respect for Envato. This week we meet Charles Brown (mrcharlesbrown) from GraphicRiver.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?

I was born in Nigeria. I’m an R&B artist, graphic artist, web designer, writer (film scripts, novels, inspirational books, poems, etc.),  composer, journalist, novelist, ghost writer, moderator, and editor. I have produced a good number of on-demand graphics resource DVDs that are on sale on amazon.com.

Which marketplaces do you belong to? What types of files do you sell?

As of the moment, my files are on GraphicRiver, but very soon I will extend to other marketplaces in Envato.

How did you get started? Have you had any formal training?

Actually I was inspired by a good number of creative authors. Envato as I know today, is one of the world’s most reliable marketplace and professional graphic design community. I joined Envato after I saw the kind of files that are hosted on GraphicRiver. Yes, I had formal training from Lynda.com.

Describe your home workspace.

I use one of the rooms in my apartment as my workspace. I set up one desktop for major projects and laptop for minor projects, a printer and 24-7 Internet service.

Describe your creative process. What steps do you normally follow to create your files?

Before creating any file, I will first search for a similar file if there is any. I properly go through the process the author took. And what I will do is to create something entirely unique and unbeatable that will surpass the other one and also attract a good number of potential buyers. On the other hand, if the item I want to create is entirely a new concept, the steps I will take will be to:

  1. Conceptualize the end result.
  2. Determine how it will interest my clients.
  3. Get all the necessary materials that I will be needing for that item.
  4. Sometimes, use a pencil to sketch the basic formation.
  5. Proceed with the creation.
  6. Properly complete the item and seek opinions from critics.
  7. Present it to my clients.

The process stated above is really very helpful and I will encourage other authors I follow it.

What is your advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio?

My advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio is to search for best-selling items, mimic the concept and create something superior that will sell 100 times higher than the previous item. You can enrich your portfolio by creating easy-to-purchase items that many people from different parts of the world can purchase. Also not all kinds of files are approved by Envato. A good number of files are being denied because Envato has a standard and stands by it. Therefore, it is good for you to create those items that can be easily approved and that can make huge sales, so that you can enjoy the fruit of youe labor, and also the Envato team will also make money – both parties will be happy.

What do you do to market your files?

What I do to market my files include:

  1. Study the market.
  2. See the top selling files.
  3. Get item request from clients.
  4. Determine whether Envato needs that type of file.
  5. Create the file.
  6. Upload the file to the Envato marketplace.
  7. Wait for feedback from the Envato team.
  8. If approved, I will try to advertise the item through some social networks.
  9. Enjoy the income!

What are your three favorite files, and why do you like them?

My three favorite files include: HDR Legendary Image Action Reason: Because it is a highly essential item that every author / potential buyer who desires to achieve the best HDR effects in his/her flyers, magazine covers, posters, etc., must have. Action Pro Sketching and Painting Reason: Because this bundle ultimately sketches and paints any portrait or artwork exactly the way it will look like when manually sketched and painted by a fine artist. Realistic Fire Text Styles Reason: Because it contains the best and realistic fire effects that will help every author / potential buyer to achieve outstanding fire effects in his projects for both commercial and personal use.

Apart from yourself, who is your favorite marketplace author, and why do you like them?

My favorite author is Webtreatsbecause they are very talented and very serious with their career.

What do you do in your spare time?

I go to the studio and record some songs with some R&B singers.

Cover Art New to AudioJungle!

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 08:46 PM PST

AudioJungle authors have a new feature to get excited about. We are proud to announce cover art for AudioJungle! This means that each audio track you upload can have an individual cover art thumbnail, instead of having the same profile image for all of your tracks. We think this is awesome and want you to get creative. Embrace the cover art image and personalise your tracks! The image must be 80X80 pixel and please remember to be aware of the assets you use.

How do I add Cover Art to my files?

To upload your personalised cover art, upload it as an ‘Optional Thumbnail’ in the section shown below.

Once you have uploaded your thumbnail and music this is what the upload box will look like.

What happens if I don’t want to upload cover art with my audio?

If you don’t upload a cover art image as an ‘Optional Thumbnail’ your profile picture will be the default image for your file.

How do I add cover art to my existing files?

You can add your cover art by clicking edit on your existing file. Please mind that your file will be re-reviewed to make sure the cover art is not breaking any copyright laws or featuring inappropriate material. If you are only updating a cover image and not the entire file please mention this is the ‘Notes to Reviewer’ section. Because there are many people who will want to update their files at once, we ask that you space out updating your tracks over a few weeks. This will mean that the AudioJungle review line wont be slowed down too much.

This feature was requested by our community and we want to thank you for your patience while we made this change. We encourage all AudioJugle authors to go through their old uploads and update their tracks to include cover art.

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

New Solar Module Efficiency Record.. & These Modules Are Coming to Market

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 07:55 AM PST

solar module efficiency record

The picture shows a test system consisting of 40 high concentrating photovoltaic (HCPV) modules. The latest prototypes of the modules achieved a major milestone with 33.9 percent solar module efficiency. (Press picture: Semprius)

Yep, it’s that time again—a new solar module efficiency record has been set and independently verified. The solar module company is Semprius. The new efficiency record is 33.9%. The modules are actually set to come to market this year. And the efficiency percentage “was externally certified after measurement under standard test conditions at the Instituto de Energia Solar (IES) at the University of Madrid (Universidad Politecnica de Madrid),” a news release notes.

This is the first time that a photovoltaic module has converted over one-third of the solar energy hitting the module into usable electricity. The previous record was reportedly 32.0%.

“Depending on the specific location and irradiation, the HCPV modules can deliver an energy output per square meter that is two times higher than common polycrystalline modules,” the news release goes on to note. ”Leading module manufacturers of conventional PV technologies achieve a maximum module efficiency of approximately 20 percent with monocrystalline PV modules and about 16 percent with polycrystalline technology.”

Also worth noting is that the module chosen for the test is not just a laboratory module—it is one of a normal distribution line that is expected to become commercially available later in the year.

Semprius has developed its innovative solar modules with support from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). (Yep, we’ve covered Semprius a few times in the past year.)

How Semprius’ Solar Modules Work

Semprius’ high concentrating photovoltaic (HCPV) module systems “bundle the sunlight on the modules with the aid of integrated lenses on small photovoltaic cells… [and are] especially suitable for sunbelt regions with high direct irradiation,” the news release above summarizes.

In a separate news release by the company, Semprius gives a little more detail on the unique features of its HCPV modules: “Semprius delivers a unique HCPV module design that begins with its proprietary micro-transfer printing process. This process enables the company to fabricate the world's smallest solar cell – approximately the size of a pencil point – to create solar modules with unmatched efficiency and performance.”

Siemens Looking to Make Semprius a Market Leader

Siemens became a strategic partner of Semprius last June when it acquired a 16-percent stake in Semprius. It is confident that it can combine some of its manufacturing strengths with this highly efficient technology to make the company’s modules a market leader in the solar industry.

“Semprius as a leader in HCPV modules shows us that we have bet on the right technology,” said Martin Pfund, CEO of the Siemens Energy Photovoltaic Business Unit. “The world record is a breakthrough in module efficiency. Combined with our expertise in turnkey solutions business it has the potential to become a game changer for the solar markets in regions with high irradiation. With Semprius as a partner we will further broaden our portfolio in the photovoltaics market. We’re very pleased to be working together with Semprius to commercialize this technology globally.”

Semprius is looking to further develop and improve its modules, while Siemens is “focusing its research and development activities on optimizing system components such as the trackers, field design and inverters.”

Test Installations Ramping Up

A Semprius test installation has been in place in Arizona since August 2010, but global deployment of initial test systems is set for major ramp-up this year. Additionally, Semprius is “completing the construction of a pilot plant in Henderson, North Carolina, to validate the technology for larger installations. Ramp up of the first pilot line production of HCPV modules there will begin during the second half of 2012.”

The focus, as you may have noticed, is on utility-scale solar.

“This is the culmination of our emphasis on bringing smart design to solar,” said Joe Carr, Semprius President and CEO. “Our world record efficiency modules combined with our low cost manufacturing processes and Siemens’ PV system expertise will deliver a best-in-class global solution for utility-scale solar plants.”

Semprius is based in Durham, North Carolina (i.e. somewhere close to Duke).

Sources: Siemens & Semprius

No related posts.

National Solar Energy Plan Close to Completion, Conservation Groups Support It

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 07:05 AM PST

national solar energy plan

Solar Energy Plan Map courtesty of US Department of Interior, BLM.

by Natural Resources Defense Council

Washington, D.C. (January 30, 2012) — On the heels of President Obama's State of the Union remarks to expand clean energy development, the Interior Department is moving to finalize the nation's first solar energy program for public lands with the closing of the public comment period today. Over the past 90 days, the Bureau of Land Management has been seeking input on the Supplemental Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) for solar development on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

The solar plan has garnered more than 100,000 comments in the past two years from stakeholders across the country advocating for balanced, guided development that would minimize potential impacts on wildlife and sensitive lands, and reduce uncertainty in permitting. Solar companies, major trade associations, utilities and conservation groups also submitted a joint letter to Interior with recommendations to help shape a successful solar program.

Following are statements from conservation groups and other stakeholders in support of guided solar development:

"It's time to kick our addiction to polluting fuels and create new jobs by increasing clean sources of energy," said Johanna Wald, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Interior's intention to guide development to thoughtfully designated 'solar energy zones' will help ensure the success of the solar industry and our nation's quick transition to a clean energy economy while protecting irreplaceable lands and wildlife. Reaching that balance is a tall order but Interior has provided strong leadership demonstrating that a comprehensive final solar program can be achieved."

"We are at a critical juncture in the future of solar development on our public lands," said Chase Huntley, Director of Renewable Energy Policy at The Wilderness Society.  "We have seen a tremendous amount of leadership from staff at the Department of the Interior to ensure we develop a strong solar program. Over the next few months we hope to see them finalizing a plan that strikes a balance between wildlands and wildlife protection while creating certainty and a level playing field for the solar industry."

"If the Obama administration is to reach the goal of powering three million homes with clean energy by the year's end, it must move quickly to put in place a smart solar energy program that speeds up permitting of projects. The key is to guide development away from conflicts with wildlife and natural resources to areas with access to transmission," said Jim Lyons, Senior Director for Renewable Energy with Defenders of Wildlife. "The Interior Department's proposed solar program focuses on producing power in low-conflict and no-conflict zones and offers the best opportunity to achieve this goal.  This zone-based approach is an important step toward producing energy in the right places and protecting sensitive public lands and wildlife."

"Properly designed solar energy zones on public lands would be a major step forward in helping create an enduring and stable investment environment for the solar industry," said Nancy Pfund, founder and managing partner at DBL Investors. "As a solar investor, I believe the biggest advantage of the zones approach is reducing uncertainty in permitting. By doing so, it will reduce risks and attract long-term investments for projects that will create jobs and help advance our nation's clean energy goals."

"The Bureau of Land Management’s latest solar energy plan is a major step forward in achieving the multiple goals of efficient solar development and protecting our water, wildlife and magnificent western landscapes," said Timothy Hay, former Nevada consumer advocate and public utility commissioner. "By establishing clearly defined zones for solar energy development, we can begin to provide investors, developers, conservationists and citizens the predictability and stability to move forward."

"Well-designed solar energy zones will result in faster permitting and speedier construction of projects," said Jonathan Foster, a director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) in California. "Interior's approach to guide solar development to appropriate areas strikes the right balance between protecting critical lands and wildlife, and providing greater certainty for project success – and should be supported by solar developers, environmentalists, and the public at large."

"The solar industry is up to the task of meeting the President's goal for dramatically expanding our rich solar resources in the Southwest," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.  "However, project developers need clear rules of the road that balance the need for flexibility to build solar power plants both inside and outside of designated Solar Energy Zones with responsible stewardship of public lands, resources and wildlife. These are not mutually exclusive objectives and we look forward to continuing work with stakeholders."

Related posts:

  1. Renewable Energy Projects Under Pressure from Feds and Environmental Groups
  2. National Renewable Energy Laboratory Offers Free Energy Conservation Software for Buildings
  3. WWF Solar Boat Promoting Renewable Energy and Marine Conservation [VIDEO]

EVs Outselling Hybrids 2:1 in China

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 06:54 AM PST

Looks like the Chinese like their clean cars pure, they bought about twice as many pure electric vehicles than hybrid vehicles in 2011. But 2012 could see that ration grow even larger (in favor of electric vehicles). Here’s more from sister site Gas2:

Related posts:

  1. Disaster Zone Dutro — Hino Motors Sends Hybrids North for Rebuilding
  2. Toyota to Unveil Concept Hybrids at Tokyo Motor Show
  3. China Forgets "China-Only Wind Turbines" Policy, but Why?

Luminescent Solar Concentrator Efficiency Improvement from UC-Merced Researchers

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 06:39 AM PST

First of all, if you want an intro on luminescent solar concentrators (as I did), check out that Wikipedia page linked above.

Now, the important news is that a team of researchers at the University of California, Merced (UC Merced), has found a way to redesign luminescent solar concentrators in order to make them “more efficient at sending sunlight to solar cells.”

"UC Merced researchers discovered that hollow cylindrical luminescent solar concentrators, bottom, are more efficient than traditional flat panel concentrators."

“We tweaked the traditional flat design for luminescent solar concentrators and made them into cylinders,” UC Merced physics professor Sayantani Ghosh, the lead researcher, said. “The results of this architectural redesign surprised us, as it significantly improves their efficiency.”

Luminescent Solar Concentrators’ Limitations

From the UC Merced news release: “The main problem preventing luminescent concentrators from being used commercially is that they have high rates of self-absorption, Ghosh said, meaning they absorb a significant amount of the light they produce instead of transporting it to the solar cells.”

That explains why most of us probably hadn’t heard about this technology until now.

Improving Efficiency with Hollow Cylindrical Design

But, as Ghosh noted above and UC Merced presents more specifically, the team found that “hollow cylinders absorb more sunlight while having lower self-absorption losses.”

Luminescent Solar Concentrator Advantages

As noted in the Wikipedia introduction on luminescent solar concentrators above, the main advantage of this solar technology is that it works better than traditional cells in diffuse sunlight, meaning that 1) these concentrators work better on cloudy days, and 2) they don’t need to face the sun directly and, thus, don’t require sun-tracking mechanisms.

Could These Be Commercially Viable?…

According to Ghosh, this discovery could make luminescent solar concentrators commercially viable. The new design improves performance without increasing the number of quantom dots needed, so the cost isn’t going to change much, if at all.

“This saves on infrastructure costs and also opens up the possibility that the collectors can be integrated onto vertical surfaces like walls and windows,” UC Merced writes. “The next step is to develop a large array of hollow cylindrical luminescent solar concentrators and track the efficiency of the panel.”

What Are Quantum Dots?

If you skipped the Wikipedia intro above, quantum dots are embedded in the concentrators and allow them to “absorb solar radiation over a broad range of colors and re-emit it over a narrower range,” UC Merced summarizes.

We’ve written on the use of quantum dots in solar, and how they could potentially boost solar efficiency 100% a handful of times in recent years. Definitely something to keep an eye on.

More on UC Merced’s Research

Other members of the research team included Richard Inman, Georgiy Shcherbatyuk, Dmitri Medvedko, and Ajay Gopinathan.

A paper on the work, “Cylindrical luminescent solar concentrators with near-infrared quantum dots,” has been published in the journal Optics Express.

Related posts:

  1. Quantum Dots Could Boost Solar Efficiency by 100%
  2. Quantum Dot Solar Cell Improvements Show Remarkable Potential to Balance Solar Performance & Cost
  3. Solar Cell with 114% External Quantum Efficiency

Water Power: Out with the New, In with the Old

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 06:32 AM PST

Below is the original version of an article I wrote for GE’s ecomagination site (full disclosure: I am being paid for the ecomagination article,.. but not for any extra views I drive to it). Water power has been fairly invisible in recent years as wind and solar have stolen the spotlight, but I think we’re going to see a lot more attention put on it soon (and have already begun seeing that in 2012). We’re planning a “water power” page for CleanTechnica that will be a bit like the solar and wind pages we have, which will certainly include some of the info below, but we’ve got much more than this planned for the page, as there are so many water technologies bubbling up right now. But this is a big piece of the pie, so here’s the full, original piece (for the version published on ecomagination, check out the link above):

Water wheels were a common source of power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but most European and U.S. water wheels are rusted and broken now. They are a distant memory, or a prop to be included in a picturesque country house. However, there is growing interest in harvesting energy from low-flow, low-head streams for individual homes, businesses, or communities. There is a great deal of energy potential from such streams. Are we going to return to the traditional water wheel of yesteryear? No, but new technologies available today could help us make more use of this decentralized, renewable energy source.

Solar and wind energy are well-known renewable energy options that are quickly growing in use around the world. Both have seen record-breaking growth in the past few years. Tremendous growth is projected to continue in the years to come, as well. But solar and wind won't provide the world with all of its energy needs. They may not be ideal for some locations, and they may need to be supplemented by other energy sources in some locations.

Other than the ubiquitous wind and the tremendously powerful sun, one of the most abundant natural resources on our planet is water, and flowing water carries a great deal of energy. Just think of the feeling you had when you walked into a medium- or fast-flowing river or stream, or decided to test your strength against a breaking wave.

While wave power, tidal power, ocean thermal power, and other "water power" options exist, this article only discusses the most readily available water power option today — small or micro hydro.

Small Water Power (or Micro Hydro) Potential

New micro hydro (aka microhydro or micro-hydro) could produce 30,000 megawatts of decentralized, local power in the U.S. alone, according to a 2006 study. To put that into perspective, that's enough power for up to about 30 million homes.

"We keep telling lawmakers that there's tremendous growth potential in the industry. We are far from tapped out," Jeff Leahey, director of government affairs for the National Hydropower Association, says. "We can access existing infrastructure today and build tens of thousands of megawatts in communities around the country."

The map below shows what percentage of a state's electricity sales could be provided from new micro hydro.

micro hydro potential u.s.

All of this small hydro potential could be tapped with "run-of-river" projects (projects not requiring dams) or projects that make use of existing dams.

"There are over 81,000 dams around the U.S. and only 2,400 of them have any electrical generating capacity," Stephen Lacey of Climate Progress reports. "Many of the power-less 78,600 dams are close to existing infrastructure, making it easier to build and maintain a project compared with a centralized wind or solar farm located far away from where the electricity is used."

The question, however, is what technology will be able to capture that energy and efficiently turn it into electricity for a home, business, or community.

Water Power is a Site-Specific Challenge

Water wheels of the past are not efficient enough by today's standards, even though such water wheels were widely used well into the 20th century.

However, there are numerous technologies currently available or being developed. The best option depends on the location of the project, the head of water, volume flow, and other site-specific factors.

An excellent book on this matter is Serious Microhydro: Water Power Solutions from the Experts. This book delves into the details of micro hydro more than probably any other. The author has written three books on micro hydro and is "an award-winning renewable energy project developer with decades of experience operating, installing, designing, selling and teaching about" the technology.

One key point Serious Microhydro makes clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution in this technology sector. There are many micro hydro options, each with their own benefits and downsides. Serious Microhydro includes numerous case studies of projects using a variety of technologies in locations all around the world. In the end, the important thing for each project is determining (or inventing) the right technology for the resource you are trying to tap.

Some of the technologies in use today include Pelton turbines, Frances turbines, Kaplan turbines, Banki turbines, Ossberger turbines, and Gravitation watervortex power plants. However, this is only a handful of the many technologies available.

Micro Hydro is in Our Past.. and in Our Future

Water has been used for ages to help humans perform their work more efficiently, run large machines, and create electricity. GE actually built a "record capacity water-wheel generator for Niagara Falls" in 1918. While other energy sources have taken the spotlight in the past few decades, water is flowing back into discussions about how to sustainably power a growing world population.

Micro hydro isn't going to power the world. It's just one piece of the pie. And there are important regulatory hurdles to get over before it can start growing in use at rates like solar and wind (if it will ever match those options). But there is no doubt that it could be a more significant source of the world's power in coming years.

Decentralized power is a popular ideal that improves power security and reliability while also providing individuals and communities with more of the economic fruits of electricity production. Micro hydro is a decentralized power option that has growing following of supporters, is worth utilizing on countless sites around the world, and is likely to play an important role in our future electricity supply.

Related posts:

  1. New Small Hydro Could Add Significantly to State Renewable Power
  2. Ireland Testing Water-Powered Streetlights
  3. Israeli Company Atlantium Develops Pathogen Water Purification System Without Chemicals

New Methods to Store Hydrogen

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 05:05 AM PST

One of the biggest obstacles to large-scale use of hydrogen-powered fuel cells is in how to store the hydrogen, a task which currently requires high pressure,… which, itself, is energy intensive. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are aiming to solve this problem by creating new materials in which to store the hydrogen.

Metal-organic frameworks pack more surface area than a football field in the palm of your hand.

"We're working on materials called metal-organic frameworks to increase the capacity of hydrogen gas in a pressure cylinder, which would be the fuel tank," said Jeffrey Long, a Berkeley Lab scientist who co-lead the project along with Berkeley Lab computational chemist Martin Head-Gordon. "With these materials, we're working on storing the hydrogen without the use of very high pressures, which will be safer and also more efficient without the significant compression energy losses."

According to Berkeley Lab, “metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are three-dimensional sponge-like framework structures that are composed primarily of carbon atoms and are extremely lightweight.”

"What's very special about these materials is that you can use synthetic chemistry to modify the surfaces within the materials and make it attractive for hydrogen to stick on the surface," Long explained.

Vehicles can currently store enough hydrogen to achieve a range close to 300 miles, but that requires the hydrogen to be stored at extremely high pressures, which is not only expensive and energy intensive, but also potentially catastrophically unsafe.

Long’s research has allowed him to store more than double the hydrogen currently modeled, but only at very low temperatures.

"It's still very much basic research on how to create revolutionary new materials that would boost the capacity by a factor of four or five at room temperature," he said. "We have an idea of what kinds of frameworks we might make to do this."

Long's approach is to create frameworks with lightweight metal sites on the surface, making it attractive for hydrogen molecules to bind to the sites. "Our approach has been to make some of the first metal-organic frameworks that have exposed metal cations on the surface," he said. "Now we need to figure out ways of synthesizing the materials so that instead of one hydrogen molecule we can get two or three or even four hydrogen molecules per metal site. Nobody's done that."

At this point, Long’s partner, Martin Head-Gordon, enters the picture. Head-Gordon’s role is to work on the theory of understanding MOFs so that he can predict their hydrogen storage properties and then provide Long’s team with the sort of material they need to synthesize.

"He can do calculations on a lot of different target structures and say, here's the best one for you guys to spend time trying to make, because synthetic chemistry is very cost and labor intensive," Long said.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded Berkeley Lab $2.1 million in funding for the three-year project, which will also include contributions by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and General Motors (GM). The funding was part of more than $7 million awarded by DOE last month for hydrogen storage technologies in fuel cell electric vehicles.

Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Related posts:

  1. Scientists Reach Hydrogen Storage Milestone
  2. Government Scientists More Efficient at Splitting Hydrogen
  3. Scientists Say Sewage Can Produce Cheap Hydrogen

Apartment Buildings Could Save Billions with Energy Efficiency Improvements

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 04:57 AM PST

A new report shows that multifamily buildings—analyst-speak for apartment buildings—could save residents and owners both up to $3.4 billion across America if simple energy efficiency upgrades were made.

The report, Engaging as Partners in Energy Efficiency: Multifamily Housing and Utilities, was released late last week by CNT Energy and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The report demonstrates a saving of 15 to 30 percent in buildings with five or more residential units by making cost-effective upgrades that help reduce energy use. The key, the report explains, is getting energy utilities and apartment building owners to work together more closely to develop effective energy policies.

"We have billions essentially sitting untapped in our apartment buildings. We can harness that by simply setting better policies for efficiency for apartment buildings," said Anne McKibbin, CNT Energy policy director and coauthor of the report. "Partnering with utilities is a crucial part of the process. Building owners and other housing industry players need to work with their utilities, engaging them directly and in local and state regulatory proceedings," she said.

Findings from the report showed that energy efficiency upgrades not only improve the bottom line for apartment buildings, but also help maintain affordable housing for residents while increasing their comfort levels, and they decrease financial risk for lending institutions.

That being said, finding the technical assistance necessary, the financing, and the right qualified contractors is often difficult for building owners.

The report also drew out several regions where there are a large number of “multifamily buildings” where particularly dramatic benefits from improvements in energy efficiency policy could be seen: these include  Florida, Illinois, Texas, and the District of Columbia.

“Maximizing energy efficiency is a win-win for apartment residents, building owners, energy utilities and our energy infrastructure,” said Doug Bibby, President of the National Multi Housing Council. “This report offers excellent ideas that we hope spur further cooperation between multifamily owners and utilities to create a more efficient partnership.”

This report has been widely read and received, with Duane Larson, Director of the Energy Efficiency Strategy at Pacific Gas & Electric Company, stating that “we  are thrilled to explore partnerships with apartment owners as a way of better serving our customers and reaching our energy efficiency goals. This paper outlines some important next steps for collaboration.”

"Utilities and local regulations vary dramatically from state to state and region to region, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution," says Eric Mackres, ACEEE senior policy analyst. "The common thread is that partnering with the utility is crucial. This report outlines a variety of strategies that can help the multifamily housing sector to engage electric and natural gas utilities in order to expand the resources available for energy efficiency retrofits."

Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
Image Source: DieselDemon

Related posts:

  1. Deutsche Bank Report May Unlock Billions More for Energy Efficiency Retrofits in Multifamily Housing
  2. Energy Efficiency Benchmarking to Take Effect for Second Phase of Seattle Buildings
  3. Seattle Launches Energy Benchmarking Program for Commercial Buildings

Paint it White and Stay Cooler

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 04:52 AM PST

Keeping a building cool is the focus of a new study launched by the University of Melbourne and the City of Melbourne which shows that painting the roof of a building white can go a long way to reducing the interior and exterior temperatures.

The research results—which will be available to building owners across Melbourne—assessed the benefits of white roofs and looked at helping residential, commercial, and industrial building owners determine whether a white roof would be suitable and beneficial for their buildings.

By monitoring the temperatures of five test buildings located at the University of Melbourne’s Burnley Campus, the researchers found that white roofs experienced significantly cooler temperatures, both on the outside and within.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said Council had already put the research into practice by trialing a white roof on its ArtPlay building.

"There has been a lot of talk about the energy consumption benefits of white roofs and we commissioned the University of Melbourne to undertake this research so we could get a local perspective on how white roofs can work in our city," the Lord Mayor said.

Councillor Cathy Oke, Chair of the Future Melbourne (Eco-City) Committee said commercial buildings in the City of Melbourne would benefit most from this tool.

"White roofs can cool commercial buildings by three per cent on hot days, which helps reduce the urban heat island effect and improve the health of city users," Cr Oke said.

Dr Dominique Hes, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne in sustainable architecture and lead author of the research explained that, when painted white, roofs are able to reflect heat away from the building rather than absorbing it.

"Reflective white paint on commercial building roofs reduces the energy used to cool the building. Melbourne's CBD has over 3,500,000m2 of lettable commercial space. If the roofs of these buildings were painted white, the city could in theory reduce its CO2 emissions by 4.5 million MJ per year, 1.5 million kilos of CO2 or 3 million black balloons," Dr Hes said.

"White roofs are a low cost solution in making buildings more sustainable, particularly for our older buildings. And if our air conditioners are not working as hard, there are financial benefits for buildings owners as well."

While former US President Bill Clinton, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and many others have encouraged adoption of white roofs, there jury is still out on whether or not they are good for the climate. In some locales, though, it is clear they are good for reducing electricity usage and bills.

Source: University of Melbourne

Related posts:

  1. Bill Clinton Urges Americans to Paint Dark Roofs White
  2. Solar Paint Could Make Those White Roofs Even Better
  3. California Architect Thinks About White Roofs

Best-Performing Solar Modules in 2011 Announced

Posted: 31 Jan 2012 04:00 AM PST

REC solar modules -- exclusive usage rights for picture are held by the Photon Holding GmbH (Photo: Guido Schiefer / photon-pictures.com)

Can you guess which company’s solar modules were determined to be the best-performing solar modules of 2011?

Well, if you haven’t heard already, Photon Laboratory has announced that REC’s solar modules were ranked first in the 2011 module field performance test. They produced “6 percent more energy than competing modules,” on average, a news release by REC noted.

The Photon Laboratory evaluation is a year-long comparative study of energy yield in the field. The evaluation looks at modules of different types, including thin film and monocrystaline.

solar module performance test site

Photon solar module performance test site in Aachen, Germany.

“Since 2005, a total of over 130 different module types has been installed on a piece of property – free of shadowing – were monitored constantly using an elaborate measurement system,” Photon notes. “Two to three units of each module type are represented in the test to prevent potential faulty products or modules with below average results from distorting the results for the entire series. The modules are installed in Germany, facing south at a 28° angle and are mounted about 2.5 m above the ground, which means they have complete rear ventilation.”

More details on the testing procedures are available on the Photon page linked above.

REC topped 45 other companies to take first place in this evaluation in 2011. In 2010, it came in 2nd place, behind Siliken. SolarWorld came in first in 2008 and 2009.

“The results published in the industry magazine Photon Profi state that the highest performance ratio of 90.8 percent and also the highest yield of 1150.4 kWh/kW were measured for the REC module,” REC is happy to point out.

“As the world's most integrated solar company, REC delivers high performing products by controlling the complete solar value chain with production from silicon to cells, wafers and modules to systems development,” the company adds.

Related posts:

  1. Company Hires Prison Inmates to Build Solar Modules
  2. Semprius to Produce Dot-Sized, Low Cost-High Efficiency Solar CPV Cells, Modules at NC Plant
  3. New Record: Thin-Film Manufacturer Soltecture Produces Its First 100-Watt Solar Modules at 13.4% Efficiency

Poisonous Purple Pongam Tree Could Be Next Biofuel Superstar

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 09:14 PM PST

TerViva grows Pongam trees for biofuelIf the name Pongamia pinnata doesn’t ring a bell in terms of biofuel crops, it soon will. Also known as pongam tree, karum tree and poonga-oil tree, the fast growing, drought hardy evergreen boasts delicious-looking lavender flowers that develop into a lush display of pods bursting with oil-soaked seeds. Are you excited yet? Pongam is native to India but it can thrive in hot, dry climates elsewhere, and the biofuel company TerViva is planning to grow about a million acres of pongam trees for biofuel in the U.S., Texas and Canada over the next ten years.

Pongam, Anyone?

Before we get into the biofuel stuff, it’s worth noting that pongam trees are the Ginsu knives of treedom. They have a million and one uses, as cataloged by researchers at Purdue University, ranging from folk medicines, soap, tanning agents and antiseptics to poultry feed, livestock fodder, insect repellent, soil enhancer, dyes, and lubricants. But wait, there’s more. In folk cultures the seeds are used to poison the tips of fish spears. Also the bark can be used to make string and rope, and the wood has a high energy content as a fuel.

But What About the Biofuel?

Oh right, the biofuel. Pongam seed oil has been used as a substitute for kerosene, and TerViva has developed an “elite” strain  that produces oil that shares the basic properties of other biofuel feedstocks. As a biofuel crop, pongam trees fit into the preferred mold of a non-food crop that requires little in the way of irrigation and pest control, so it can be grown on marginal lands. They also have a bonus advantage. Pongam trees are leguminous, which means they fix atmospheric nitrogen and do not require fertilizers.

What Now, Pongam?

Logan Hawkes of Southwest Farm Press reports that TerViva has introduced groves of pongam trees in Texas on a pilot basis, to determine how well the trees grow in that climate. Hawkes also notes that the seeds can be harvested and prepared with conventional equipment already in use for nut trees, peanuts and other crops. After the oil is removed, the leftover seed cake can be used as fertilizer or blended with soybean for animal feed.

Growing Trees for Biofuel

While up-and-coming biofuel crops like camelina have great promise (just ask the Air Force!), trees are also edging their way into the picture. The main advantage is that standing groves of biofuel trees can double as wildlife habitats and managed forests, without having to plow up the entire soil surface at harvest time. Trees can also serve in bioremediation projects. For example, poplar is another fast-growing biofuel tree that has been used to absorb soil contaminants (again, ask the Air Force!).

Image: Pongamia pinnata. License Attribution Some rights reserved by Mulberry24.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


Related posts:

  1. Woodman, Spare that Valuable Urban Tree!
  2. Rubber Tree Inspires New Self-Repairing Plastic
  3. Money Doesn't Grow on Trees, but Biofuel Does