Friday, February 3, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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India Crushed World in 2011 Cleantech Investment Growth

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 07:32 AM PST

india solar wind

For those eager to overlook words, note the important word “growth” at the end of the title above—India didn’t crush the world in cleantech investment in 2011 (as you know if you’re a regular reader here on CleanTechnica) but a recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) shows that India had a tremendous cleantech investment growth rate of 52%. (As I noted in my 2012 solar expectations post, I think India’s going to have an even much better year in 2012.)

India Solar Investments, Projections & Targets

In total, India had $10.3 billion invested in cleantech in 2011. Grid-connected solar investments increased 7 times over, going from $600 million in 2010 to $4.2 billion in 2011. These solar investments moved the country from 18 MW of installed solar power in 2010 to a total of 277 MW installed at the end of 2011. 500-700 MW may be installed in 2012, the report noted.

More good news on the solar front is that the country looks set to exceed its 2007-2012 5-year plan. “India's 11th five-year plan, running from April 2007 to March 2012, targeted the addition of 12.4GW of grid-connected renewable energy. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, this target will be exceeded, with 14.2GW capacity installed during the period,” BNEF commented.

India Wind Investments & Projections

$4.6 billion was invested in wind energy, making it the country with the 3rd-most installations in 2011 (behind China and the U.S.). The country added a record 2,827 MW (compared to 2,140 MW of new installations in 2010). BNEF estimates 2,500-3,200 MW of new wind power installations in 2012.

Where the Investments Came From

Here’s more from BNEF on the types of investments driving the industry:

Asset financing for utility-scale projects remains the main type of clean energy investment in India, with $9.5bn in 2011. This is significant as the higher lending rates observed over the past year could have negatively impacted asset finance. Venture capital and private equity investment also made a strong comeback with $425m invested in 2011, more than four times the 2010 figure. Wind and solar project developers such as Mytrah Energy India and Kiran Energy Solar Power succeeded in doing deals. The only major type of investment that fell in 2011 was equity-raising via the public markets. Only $201m was raised compared to a record $735m in 2010 when the Indian stock market was at its all-time high.

India’s total cleantech investments in 2011 accounted for 4% of the world’s cleantech investments. Clearly, given its size, it’s still got plenty of room to grow.

Source: BNEF | India, solar panels, & wind turbine via shutterstock

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EnerDel Battery Customers Sticking by Its Side

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 07:07 AM PST

EnerDel (aka Ener1) got hit with some big troubles recently as a company it was heavily invested in and reliant on (Th!ink Global) recently went bust. Result: bankruptcy. But, over on Gas2, Chris looks into this story in a little more detail and also notes that EnerDel’s customaers appear to be sticking by its side and hopeful that it will be back on its feet soon. Here’s more:

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Cutting Fossil Fuel Subsidies Alone Could Accomplish Half of World’s Carbon Reduction Goals

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 07:01 AM PST

Certain political leaders and media outlets would like to convince you that cleantech gets too much money in subsidies. I’ve written so many times here on CleanTechnica about the fact that fossil fuel industry get a staggering amount more in direct and indirect subsidies. But how about this news—half of the world’s targeted carbon emissions reductions could be achieved simply by turning off the fossil-fuel-subsidy spigot! Here’s more from Chris DeMorro on sister site Gas2:

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Nissan Ships Its Electric Cars on a Solar-Diesel Ship

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 04:47 AM PST

You may ask how green an electric car really is—after all, doesn’t it have to be shipped to the dealership using dirty fossil-fuel trucks and ships? Not quite—Nissan has just revealed its new energy-efficient, partially solar-powered cargo ship, specifically developed to make the process of getting electric cars from the factory to the showroom a little greener.

Nichiomaru Solar-Diesel Ship from Nissan

Nissan keeps making noise about leading the charge toward zero emissions, or at least as little carbon dioxide output as possible. Going beyond their zero emissions and eco-friendly cars is their latest domestic shipping project – an energy-efficient and eco-friendly car carrier.

Named the Nichiomaru, which means "king of Japan," the ship is the first Japanese vessel to make use of both solar panels and an electrically controlled diesel engine. It's also got energy-efficient appliances and lights up nearly everything with LEDs. According to Nissan's calculations, the Nichiomaru will use 1400 tons less of fuel and put out 4200 fewer tons of carbon dioxide per year compared to the same class of ships without the nifty gadgets.

The Leaf Is Now Greener

The Nichiomaru is based in Yokohama (that's the one that has the massive USAF base nearby, south of Tokyo). Its shipping route will take it from the Kanto region (around Tokyo) out west to the Kinki region (the port city of Kobe, home of the super-expensive Kobe beef), and down south to the island of Kyushu, and that's where it gets super neat. Where previous ships running this path would make 4 circuits a week, the Nichiomaru can make 6 and still use fewer finite resources to do it. And it isn't Nissan's only foray into green shipping, as they are also using an aerodynamically-improved shipping carrier in Northern Europe to deliver LEAF EV's to dealerships as well.

The solar-diesel hybrid ship is the latest part of Nissan's environmental action plan, which it calls the "Nissan Green Program 2016." Their stated goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions not only coming out of the tailpipe of the car, but also in production, distribution, and sales. The Nichiomaru is their first success in the logistics area of the chain.

Questions? Opinions? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: Kankyo Business | Image: Nissan.

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Tesla Talks Up the Model S (Video)

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 04:35 AM PST

Tesla has been playing the information game with its Model S sedan, showing its potential customers and fans just enough to keep them interested without pouring on too much detail at once. (Is there such a thing as too much detail? Surely not.)

The company is not, however, going the possibly expected route of an expensive and clever Super Bowl commercial. Instead, it’s released a two-minute video on Vimeo, hoping it will trend and give them a lot of exposure without investing a lot of cash. Information comes in the form of commentary from the car’s designer, Franz von Holzhausen, and Tesla Vice President George Blankenship, interspersed with some great shots of the car itself.

Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

The video gives its viewers their next Model S fix without saying much of anything substantial; “the entire car must be assessed from the ground up, we're doing what people think can't be done with a car, we designed the best car imaginable,” they say.

Also pointed out is how keeping the heavy batteries in the floor of the car keeps the center of gravity low, which makes the car more willing to stick to the ground and leads to better handling (have you heard the phrase "top-heavy"? It's why SUVs flip over—this is the opposite).

While Blankenship and Holzhausen are speaking in shallow clich├ęs without saying much of use at all, the footage of the Model S looks promising. Its smooth silhouette and aggressive face slide easily around curving mountain roads, to emphasize how well the car handles.

Watch It Now

Check out the video here if you want to see the Model S in action—it really does look like it handles beautifully, and there’s some great scenery in the background. I’d advise watching it with the sound off, but you could leave it on if you want to hear the inspirational music in the background:

The Model S is supposed to start deliveries at some point this summer. For those already bored with it, Tesla is also developing an SUV (based on the Model S platform) which it calls the Model X.

Image: Tesla Motors | Original Video: Tesla Motors

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MIT Developing Paintable Solar Cells Made of Plants

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 04:19 AM PST


In a report published by Scientific Reports, researchers say they're successfully working toward making low-cost solar cells from plants. While, technically, all plants are some sort of solar cell (photosynthesis takes sunlight, water, and CO2 and turns it into sugar, as you may remember from high school chemistry), the key here is the word "low cost."

Photosynthesis On Your Roof

The project in question is focusing on a way to produce "biophotovoltaics" without all sorts of sophisticated lab equipment. And while esoteric and possibly arcane lab equipment is all sorts of cool, it's also rather expensive and not always workable for mass-producing items. The new system is incredibly user-friendly and costs a lot less – mix green plants (like grass clippings) with custom-designed chemicals, and out comes a photovoltaic material made with the power of photosynthesis.

MIT researcher Andreas Mershin, one of the paper's co-authors, explained just how easy the process is:

“Take that bag (of chemicals), mix it with anything green and paint it on the roof.”

That's it – mix and paint. Mershin wants to see this inexpensive method used in developing countries, for example, where electricity is scarce and the power grids are unreliable.

Practice Makes Progress

The other key phrase in the report is "making progress;" while the solar cells made with Mershin's chemical bath are 10,000% more efficient than previous plant-based solar cells, they still only convert 0.1% of sunlight to energy. (Just to keep the numbers straight, CleanTechnica readers may recall seeing record-breaking solar cells with upwards of 20% conversion.)

The solar cell in question is made by growing zinc oxide nanowires at room temperature on a variety of surfaces by isolating the photosystem-I molecules (the ones that actually perform photosynthesis in plants). The nanowires provide a large surface area to carry the flow of current.

In a video released by MIT, Mershin spoke about the process:

“After many ears of research, we’ve managed to make the process of extracting this protein and stabilizing it and putting on a surface that is made in a way to allow for the photovoltaic effect to happen to be very easy."

Still Working

Mershin's attempt is far from the first to look at plants for inspiration, but previous attempts produced too little current with much too expensive equipment. This new process is a giant leap forward. The team isn't done yet, though. The solar cells must become more durable and much more efficient before they're ready to hit the market.

Still, the idea of a mix-and-paint solar cell is pretty awesome. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Cnet | Image: Scientific Reports

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The World’s Prettiest Solar Car Drives Through America

Posted: 03 Feb 2012 04:16 AM PST

SolarWorld GT American Leg

The world's prettiest solar car (the one from Bochum) kicked off its U.S. leg of its journey around the world this week. The SolarWorldGT is in California today, after successfully completing the first 3,100 miles of its journey in Australia and New Zealand.

Solar-Powered Sports Cars – the Future?

The purely solar-powered car, called the SolarWorld Gran Turismo (or GT), is a joint effort made by American solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld and Bochum University of Applied Sciences of Germany. As a sports car it seats two, and as a solar car, it's powered by the solar cells integrated into the roof.

Kevin Kilkelly, president of Solarworld Americas (the company's commercial unit based in California), spoke briefly to Business Wire about the future of solar cars in the industry as he sees it:

"The SolarWorld GT is an ambassador for sustainable personal transportation, reminding us that the power to shift our driving habits away from dirty fossil fuels is within our grasp. Clean energy from the sun is there for the taking – without depleting the Earth's riches."

From Sea to Shining Sea (or Something)

Going far beyond the 3,000 miles raced by solar cars in Australia every other year, the SolarWorld GT is aiming for a 21,000 mile record-breaking drive – the longest distance ever driven by a solar car. It will travel over 3,700 miles in the United States alone, starting in California and finishing up in South Carolina. The trip should take 49 days in all, with receptions hosted by the drivers and crew at each of the five planned stops.

The SolarWorld team will also be hosting a Facebook competition to see if anyone recognizes where the car has been from clues dropped during the journey. Winners get stuff from SolarWorld, but the big incentive to participate is the drawing for an Apple iPad 2 (which will not be solar powered, sadly).

You, Too, Can See the SolarWorld GT in Action

For those of you who are in the area and want to see the car in person, the receptions at each planned stop are open to the public:

  • 4 p.m. Feb. 3, University of California Santa Barbara, Bren School of Environmental Management, Santa Barbara, CA.
  • 8:30 a.m. Feb. 6, SolarWorld Americas, Camarillo, CA.
  • 4 p.m. Feb. 10, Arizona State University, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, Tempe, AZ.
  • 4 p.m. Feb. 23, Texas Christian University, School of Geology, Energy and the Environment, Fort Worth, TX.
  • 4 p.m. March 9, Florida A&M University, High Performance Materials Institute, Tallahassee, FL.

After leaving South Carolina, the SolarWorld GT will head on to Europe, Africa, and Asia. The final leg of the trip will be back in Australia later this year.

Questions or opinions? Feel like hunting down the solar car and watching it drive by? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: Business Wire | Image: SolarWorld

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Offshore Wind Picking Up with New Developments in Scotland, South Korea, US

Posted: 02 Feb 2012 11:16 PM PST

It looks as though 2012 is going to be another pivotal year for wind energy. Battling against economic and financial headwinds and cuts in subsidies and other financial incentives, wind energy industry players worldwide are looking offshore for opportunities to continue growing their businesses.

As in other renewable energy sectors, European governments and industry have been leading the way forward in terms of developing offshore wind resources and technology. Now, South Korea’s industrial heavyweights, backed by the South Korean government’s strategic renewable energy plans, are ramping up their investments in offshore wind.

In November, South Korea announced it would build the world’s largest offshore wind farm, investing some US$9 billion in a three-phase, 2.5-gigawatt (GW) project off its southwestern coast carried out by a consortium of South Korean companies lead by Korea Electric. When it comes to expanding their offshore wind energy business, South Korean industrial giants are looking a lot farther offshore than South Korea’s coastal waters, however.

Samsung Heavy Industries on Feb. 1 announced its intention to establish an offshore wind energy base for offshore wind energy R&D and manufacturing at the Fife Energy Park, not far from the Firth of Forth, according to a Scotsman report. Scotland’s been working for years to establish itself as a clean energy leader, particularly when it comes to marine and wind energy, and it looks like those investments are beginning to pay off.

World’s Largest Wind Turbines

Samsung intends to develop the world’s largest wind turbines at the Fife energy center in Methill, an investment that’s forecast to grow to as much as 100 million pounds (~US$158 million) and result in the creation of as many as 500 green jobs, according to the Scotsman’s report. Scotland’s David Brown Gear Systems has signed a multi-million-pound contract to manufacture the gearbox systems for Samsung HI’s giant offshore wind turbines, which are to be tested in Scottish and South Korean waters. If all goes well, Samsung HI intends to build a manufacturing facility at the Fife Energy Park.

Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond announced the investment program on opening day of the Scottish Offshore Wind Conference in Aberdeen. "Samsung Heavy Industries are one of the great industrial combines in the world and they are committing to develop a seven megawatt turbine here in Scotland at the Fife Energy Park. It is a fantastic announcement and it points up the great potential of Scotland as the key energy provider of the European continent," he stated.

Obama Administration Cuts 1-2 Years Off Offshore Wind Regulatory Process

Adding to the momentum was yesterday’s announcement by US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the Obama administration has completed a positive environmental impact assessment and has streamlined federal application permit processes for four keystone offshore wind energy areas off the mid-Atlantic coast, setting the stage for federal government auctions later this year.

Offshore wind "is a reliable, clean energy resource that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, curb harmful air pollutants, and create good paying American jobs in manufacturing and construction," Delaware Democratic Senator Tom Carper was quoted as saying.

Eleven offshore wind energy project developers have submitted proposals for a total 12,000 MW of capacity across offshore wind sites that stretch from New Jersey to Virgnia. The developers are now anticipating being able to bid on leases later this year. They’d still need to conduct their own, specific environmental impact assessments, but the streamlined federal process means these projects could be producing power by 2016 or 2017.

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Mexico Finalizes Climate Bill to Cap Carbon

Posted: 02 Feb 2012 06:41 PM PST


Mexico, the world's 15th biggest greenhouse gas emitter – and ravaged by its worst drought in 80 years – is close to passing legislation to create a domestic greenhouse gas emissions trading system able to cap and cut carbon emissions.

After easy passage in the upper house of congress in December with an overwhelming majority, the General Law on Climate Change will now be debated by its 500-member Chamber of Deputies,  according to Point Carbon.

Mexico is bordering California, whose own carbon market is set to begin later in 2012. It is expected that the bill will enable international transactions with carbon markets with which Mexico has established bilateral agreements, such as the United States

Its climate bill would centralize all matters related to addressing climate change by creating a federal climate commission, which would be in charge of formulating and implementing national climate change policies and be tasked with establishing the technical and legal basis of a domestic carbon market and a corresponding body to regulate it.

Mexico is one of eight countries that received funding from the World Bank to help prepare for a carbon market, under an initiative launched at the international climate talks in Cancun in December 2010. Eventually 15 countries will receive this assistance.

Each of the first eight got an initial grant of $US350,000 to help think through and plan how they will design, pilot, and eventually implement market-based instruments for greenhouse gas mitigation.

Mexico – along with Chile, China, Columbia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey, the first eight – will now develop a “Market Readiness Proposal” that will detail how their cap & trade market will be set up to cut the rise in greenhouse gases that is causing climate destabilization.

Among the countries wanting to set up cap & trade, Mexico is not the only one already facing the dire effects of climate change.

A drowned Bangkok had Thai legislators confronting the extraordinary idea of having to move its capital city of 17 million,(Bangkok Becomes First Megacity to Mull Move to Higher Ground) and Chile faces mass starvation as its glaciers are drying up.

Indonesia bears the brunt of more powerful typhoons (hurricanes) and China has drought drying out its interior, and crippling pollution. Mexico’s drought has mirrored Texas’ on the other side of the border.

Texas is praying for relief. But God helps those who help themselves: these nations are moving to implement climate legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a market mechanism that has been proven to work.

I have covered some of the details here in: Record CO2 Reduction in Cap & trade StatesEU on Track to Meet or Exceed Original Kyoto Targets, and Five Good Things Cap & Trade Has Done For You.


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Solar Electric Light Fund Launches Campaign: “Energy is a Human Right”

Posted: 02 Feb 2012 02:56 PM PST

There are many who believe nearly 1.5 billion people in the world who live without access to modern forms of energy should have a voice to affect change for the better. Among those with the mission: the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF). The nonprofit has been working to eliminate energy poverty through the use of solar power and today it announced the launch of "Energy is a Human Right," a campaign showing support for those living in energy poverty.

In announcing the campaign, SELF executive director Bob Freling said that energy is essential for living a quality life. "Access to energy is foundational to achieving a broad range of basic human rights and all of the Millennium Development Goals. Without it, life is very, very difficult as I'm sure 1.5 billion people can attest to."

Using what is called a Whole Village development model, the NGO has worked with communities to create and implement innovative solar energy solutions that can improve people's health and educational environment, and spur economic development. To this end, SELF recently made a commitment to the United Nation's "Sustainable Energy for All Initiative," scaling up this model in Benin, West Africa. Actions have included installing solar systems to power water systems, schools, health clinics, community centers, and street and household lighting systems.

Since 1990, SELF has completed projects in more than 20 countries, pioneering unique applications of solar power for drip irrigation in Benin, health care in Haiti, telemedicine in the Amazon rainforest, online learning in South Africa, and micro-enterprise development in Nigeria.

In today's press announcement, Freling added:

"Our hope in launching this human rights campaign is to call attention to the critical role energy can play in helping people lift themselves out of poverty and create a better life."

Those many areas of the world that have no access to renewable or clean energy need participation from many other champions, in addition to SELF.

PHOTO:  Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia



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