Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Fossil-Fuel-Funded Think Tank, Heartland Institute, Exposed (Deniergate? Heartlandgate? Pick a Name)

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 07:03 AM PST

Since this is highly relevant to the advancement of the clean energy industry, as these are the people trying to confuse you about the science of global warming and climate change (the prime stimulus for a clean energy revolution), and since these same people increasingly spread doubt and misinformation about clean energy technologies, I’m reposting this piece from Planetsave in full.

The gist of it is that leaked documents from the Heartland Institute show who funds this influential “think tank” (which is more of a lobbying institution than a think tank) and what it’s all about—stopping science teachers from teaching science (literally), keeping climate scientists from getting their voice heard in major business publications (i.e. Forbes), and spreading doubt and confusion about perhaps the most important issues ever facing human society. (I also find it ironic, though I’m sure it was planned, that the Heartland Institute’s initial focus was on spreading misinformation about smoking’s effect on our health… work it continues today.)

Here’s the piece:

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Land of the Rising Sun: Japan’s Surging Sales of Residential Solar PV

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 06:03 AM PST

Japan Solar PV Sales From wind and geothermal power to fuel cells, the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred March 11 off the coast of Fukushima — along with much longer standing energy security concerns — has revitalized clean and renewable energy prospects in Japan. Smoothing the way forward is the introduction of a national feed-in tariff that’s slated to go into effect on July 1 this year.

Once the world leader in use of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy, solar PV is once again coming on strong in Japan. Domestic sales of solar PV cells rose 30.7% year-over-year in 2011 to 1,296 MW, the first time they’ve exceeded 1 gigawatt (GW), according to the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPEA), which noted that government incentives for homebuyers installing solar energy systems boosted the total. As can be seen in the following chart, residential solar PV installations far and away account for the largest share of Japan’s solar PV installations.

According to market researchers at the Yano Research Institute, Japan’s domestic market for PV power generation systems is expected to grow to 1,725 billion yen (about US$ 22.4 billion) from fiscal 2011-2020, a 263.2% increase.

Growing worldwide demand for solar energy systems and technology is also helping Japanese manufacturers. Though October-December sales were weak, Japanese solar PV cell exports rose 1.2%, to 1,462 MW for 2011 as a whole, Reuters reported. A chart from JPEA shows total Japan solar PV shipments and destinations from 1981-2010.

FiT Centerpiece of Japan’s Renewable Energy Drive

In addition to its human and environmental costs, the nuclear power disaster at Tokyo Electric Power’s Dai-ichi plant in Fukushima is having dramatic repercussions on Japan’s electricity production and energy security. Only 4% self-sufficient in meeting its energy needs, only three of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants are now operating, and all of them could be shut down by April should restart approvals be denied. That’s drastically increased Japan’s reliance on fossil fuel imports, the bill for which is increasing $30 billion a year, Reuters notes in its report.

Counting on increased nuclear power capacity to meet more of its domestic energy needs, the Dai-Ichi nuclear disaster prompted an abrupt reversal in national energy policy. Japan’s now moving forward with a broad-based drive to increase use of clean, renewable energy resources, the center piece of which is its national feed-in tariff (FiT).

Officially known as the “Law on Special Measures Concerning Procurement of Renewable Energy Sourced Electricity by Electric Utilities,” Japan’s feed-in tariff (FiT) includes solar PV, wind, small and medium-scale hydropower, geothermal, and biomass.

As explained on the Japan for Sustainability website, the FiT law requires Japanese electric utilities to purchase electricity generated from renewable energy sources at set prices that cover costs plus a margin over a set period of time. Electric utilities will be allowed to levy a surcharge based on customers’ usage to recoup the additional cost. The new FiT law also includes measures intended to avoid regional surcharge imbalances.

FiT surcharges and electricity rates are to be reviewed at least every three years, with surcharges to be reduced 80% or more for energy-intensive industries, such as steel and chemical manufacturing. The Japanese government was also reportedly considering using revenue from taxes on petroleum and coal to reduce and make up for exempted surcharge revenue, according to Japan for Sustainability.

Japan’s FiT and Solar PV

When it comes to solar PV systems, the FiT is aimed at factories and other facilities that generate 10 kW or more of electricity as opposed to smaller units for residences, which will be applied for excess electricity purchasing. The FiT for residential solar PV systems is to be ten years and 15-20 years for other renewable power generation systems.

As Japan for Sustainability points out, “Residential solar panels are now sold at high-volume home-appliance retailers, rapidly boosting the number of households that are installing solar panels on their roof. Both the national and local governments have subsidy programs for PV power generation systems, but some local governments have already exhausted their funds for these programs because residents rapidly snapped up the subsidies.”

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Secret Clean Energy Stash Discovered in Oceans

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 04:57 AM PST

Lockheed Martin, Navy and ORNL work on ocean thermal energy conversionLockheed Martin, the company better known for airborne innovation, is developing a way to mine renewable energy that is literally just sitting there in the ocean, waiting for someone to reach out and grab it. The new system, a twist on ocean thermal energy conversion, is considered one of those “disruptive” technologies that could bring about a sea change (sorry, couldn’t resist) in the way ships, robots and other oceangoing equipment power their operations, in addition to providing a steady supply of energy for landlubbers.

Hidden Energy in the Ocean

According to Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Jim Pearce, ocean thermal conversion (OTEC) systems located in tropical waters could generate up to five terawatts of power without affecting the ambient temperature of the ocean. That would be five terawatts of clean, renewable “base” power. Like geothermal, OTEC systems operate continuously and could potentially provide a reliable base of supply to back up intermittent sources like wind and solar (a terawatt is a trillion watts, by the way).

Mining Ocean Thermal Energy

For now, the key to ocean thermal energy is locked away at about 3,000 feet below the surface. In the tropics, the temperature difference between that depth and the surface is about 20 degrees Celsius. The OTEC system would use this naturally available supply of warm and cold water to run a power plant based on Rankine engine technology. Also known as Schoell engines, Rankine engines are external combustion engines in which a piston is moved by cycles of heat and cold.

Corrosion is the Rub for OTEC

One obstacle in the path of a commercially viable, large scale OTEC plant is the cost of a heat exchanger needed to intensify the energy of the warm surface water. Last month, Lockheed shipped a new 20-foot tall heat exchanger to Hawaii for a six month round of testing. The exchanger was constructed using a process called friction stir welding to reduce corrosion. The process, which involves heating metal to a plastic state rather than melting it, has been used successfully on ships and spacecraft. This is its first use on an ocean-going heat exchanger.  With another new twist – the use of graphite foam to boost the

efficiency of the heat exchangers – there could be a cost savings of about 50 percent.

Thank You, U.S. Navy

As regular readers of CleanTechnica could probably guess, Lockheed’s OTEC project is yet another example of the U.S. Department of Defense pursuing alternative energy sources under the Obama Administration. Lockheed has been working on the technology since the 1970′s but things really took off after 2009 when the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command awarded Lockheed Martin $12.5 million to develop a pilot plant. The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is also a collaborator on the project.

Image: Courtesy of Lockheed Martin via ORNL.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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Religious Leaders Want to Raise Offshore Wind in Maryland

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 04:46 AM PST

offshore wind supported by religious leaders

Offshore wind power has soooo much potential in the U.S., but we can’t seem to get a single project up in the water. Cape Wind proponents continue to struggle for its long-awaited birth, nearly one year after we thought it was finally set to rock and roll.

Well, now, down in Maryland, it looks like some religious leaders are working hard to bring their first offshore wind farm baby to the world. While the state has a ways to go to reach Cape Wind’s status, many there (including these religious leaders) want the process to be much smoother and want projects to get up in the water much more quickly.

“Religious leaders in Prince George’s County are calling on Maryland lawmakers to support offshore wind power development,” WTOP reports.

“A group of 30 religious leaders says it plans to deliver a letter to the county’s delegation supporting off-shore wind legislation. The group, which plans to release the letter on Monday, says it is supporting offshore wind because of the toll pollution from coal-fired power plants is having on the health of county communities.”

It’s common sense to me. Religious leaders across the country (and the world) fight to protect the lives of the unborn. It’s only logical that they also fight to protect the lives of the living. Coal power plants and natural gas power plants threaten people’s health and lives. Wind is a top alternative.

“Offshore wind is a key piece of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s legislative agenda this session,” according to WTOP. Let’s hope it goes somewhere.

Source: WTOP | h/t Think Progress
Offshore wind farm via shutterstock


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Support Open-Source Kenyan Wind Turbine Project (TODAY)

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 04:27 AM PST


The deadline for getting a cool, open-source Kenyan wind turbine project funded is today. Check out the video above for an intro on the project. This is not about creating wind turbines to take over the global small wind turbine market—it is about using Kenya’s own resources and creating wind turbines on the cheap that can bring electricity to many, many more people.

You don’t have to give a lot to get this thing going. That’s the beauty of crowdfunding. Chip in a little bit, if you can, and support this creative clean energy initiative.

Here’s a little more from the IndieGogo page linked above:

We are training local technicians to build wind turbines from scratch, using scrap metal and car parts that they source locally. We need your support. We've already received an award from the President of Kenya for our work, but its financial support that we now need in order to keep this powerful dream alive. The wind turbines:

+ Are 3 times cheaper than equivalent solar panels

+ Do no harm, unlike disposable batteries or kerosene smoke

+ Help create skilled jobs

Your donation:

+ Will be matched, dollar for dollar by the Segal Family Foundation doubling your impact

+ Is direct, thanks to the match funding, your $25 (that's £15) enables two artisans to work for a week, acquiring the skills they need to be energy independent

open-source kenyan wind turbine project

Looks like a good project. Help to fund it!

Much more info available on IndieGogo.

h/t Climate Denial Crock of the Week

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New LED Bulb for Under $5

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 04:06 AM PST


cheap led light bulbs

LED light bulb for under $5.

Yes, the price is $4.95, but nonetheless, a long-lasting, efficient LED bulb for $4.95 is a win! The announcement was just made a few minutes ago, as Lemnis unveiled three new lines of its Pharox LED replacement bulb. The 200-lumen Pharox BLU is the bulb selling for $4.95, and the 350-lumen Parox Blu is selling for $6.95. They are, apparently, only sold through the Pharox website.

The other two bulbs are the Pharox XL and Pharox PRO.

Cheap LED Light Bulbs to Take Over the Lighting Market

“A recent U.S. Department of Energy forecast predicts that LEDs will represent 76 percent of the general illumination market by 2030, but Lemnis predicts 80 percent market penetration by 2020 due to significant price drops such as this one and further innovations in LED technology,” the company behind the bulb noted in the news release.

The company says that the bulbs have a pay-back time of 6 months to 2 years* and are expected to last over 10 years—that means some big-time savings!

The New Bulbs

“The new Pharox BLU 200-lumen model is a ‘no frills,’ non-dimmable consumer LED and is the first branded LED replacement bulb with a price that starts under $5. It comes with a one-year warranty.” Seems odd that the warranty is only for one year, while the lifespan is for an estimated 10 or so, but still seems worth giving a shot. However, the next two bulbs on the ladder offer a longer warranty, at least.

“The XL line is aimed at home and commercial customers who want to be sure of a longer-lasting LED and the 3 year/35,000 hour warranty to back it up. Finally, the Energy Star-qualified Pharox PRO bulbs (coming soon) are designed with the commercial and rebate-driven customer in mind and will carry a 5-year replacement guarantee.”

You Can Have Big Savings

Again, the savings potential from going with these LEDs over incandescent light bulbs is huge.

“A typical 40-watt incandescent bulb costs approximately $5.69 per year to use at $0.13 per kWh, three hours a day. The equivalent Pharox 350 lumen bulb (BLU, XL and PRO) costs just $0.85 per year in energy use. As these durable LED bulbs last between 15,000 – 35,000 hours, in most cases they pay for themselves in less than two years and keep on paying for years after.”

*“In the conservative scenario (3 hours average per day, $0.13 kWh lowest tier pricing), the pay back is just over 2 years: most Pharox buyers replace bulbs they use closer to 5-6 hours a day and shave off top tier pricing at e.g. $0.30) realizing a 6 month pay back time.”

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Fleet of London EVs to Ferry Olympic Athletes

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 03:39 AM PST

EVs at the Olympics

The 2012 Olympics are almost upon us, and we all know what that means. Droves and droves of tourists, athletes, and everyone in between will descend upon London, overcrowd it briefly, and then vanish. But rather than build huge facilities that will never be used again, London is using the Olympic crowds as an excuse to improve its EV charging station network and promote driving electric cars.

The UK company ChargePoint Services was rewarded a contract to install not less than 120 charging posts around the Stratford site and other "key locations" around London. The posts to be installed are GE Energy's quick-charge DuraStation posts. ChargePoint will also develop the software required to manage the live charge post network.

Athletes in Electric Cars

The plan is to transport officials and competing athletes between venues by in London EVs this summer. Some 200 electric BMWs and Mini Coopers are available to the Olympics organizers. This is actually an ideal use for electric cars, since most of the venues are in London (and not all within walking distance) and a relatively short-range zero-emission EV is the perfect way to get everyone where they need to go without adding to the London smog. Travelers going to sites farther away may have to rely on more traditional transportation, but at least traffic in London itself should stay fairly clean.

The installation of over 100 charging posts is also supposed to help Mayor Boris Johnson's stated goal of 1,300 public charging points by 2013, of which only 400 have been installed so far, as the posts will join the mayor's Source London network after the Olympics have ended.

Questions or comments? Let us know below!

Source: Business Green | Image: MiniUsa

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New Solar Cell Efficiency Record for Organic Solar Cells

Posted: 15 Feb 2012 03:30 AM PST


Organic Solar Cell New Efficiency Record

The most organic solar cell possible is a leaf, but photosynthesis is ridiculously difficult to reproduce. That hasn't stopped a number of researchers from trying, and this week an American company from Illinois has set the new efficiency record for an organic solar cell, or OPV.

So Close to the Magic Number

Polyera, based in Skokie, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), announced 9.1% efficiency in the lab, and the results were confirmed by Newport Corporation of Irvine, California. Given some of the previous efficiency levels reported for solar cells (current records are around 17% for some types of relatively cheap solar cellssomewhere in the 25% range for others, over 30% for high concentrating photovoltaic (HCPV) modules, and over 43% for concentrated photovoltaic cells), this may not seem like much. However, commercial viability is based on a mixture of cost and efficiency and the tipping point for a mass-market launch of organic solar cells is reportedly 10%. So, Polyera has put OPVs super close to actual commercialization.

Brendan Florez, deputy general director of Polyera, spoke briefly to Renewables International on the difficulties of going to mass production, and why 9% isn't good enough:

“But it’s hard to say how much efficiency will drop in mass production. After all, the actual manufacturer will determine the outcome, and that won’t be us. Up to now, we have seen efficiencies drop by 4 to 6 percentage points in industrial production. Of course, we hope that our material is more robust.”

The Solar Cell Itself

The system Polyera is using is a new type of layering system—conductive polymer is applied to a substrate (here indium and tin oxide), followed by the photoactive polymer and finally the front contact. Polyera's CTO, Antonio Faccetto, said that by focusing on the chemical side of things, the company found new ways of combining existing components with better conversion efficiency than before.

Recombining the materials didn't just increase conversion efficiency; the new solar cell is also supposed to be flexible and super light (excellent for transportation around the country or the world). While that will probably help installation, Polyera will be happier if the cells can be made inexpensively and last forever, at least one of which may be possible.

Another oddity Polyera discovered was that the thickness of the photoactive layers had no effect on efficiency. The lack of precision needed plus the ability to manufacture the material on inexpensive foils could simplify the production process considerably, which would seem to imply low production costs right off the bat.

However, without a manufacturer—and Polyera hasn't found one yet—no specific numbers can be generated. The company is currently making samples to try and find a commercial partner or two.

Questions or comments? Let us know below.

Source: Renewables International | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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New EV iPhone App, LEDs, Airline Controversy News, & More (Clean Links)

Posted: 14 Feb 2012 01:37 PM PST

Some more top cleantech news of the past couple weeks, to go along with the 60+ articles we’ve published.

uk energy minister greg barker 4 million solar homes 2020

UK energy minister Greg Barker via Foreign and Commonwealth Office on flickr.

1. Despite recent/upcoming solar feed-in tariff cuts, UK energy minister Greg Barker announced a ramp-up of the UK’s solar power ambitions last Thursday. Barker thinks the UK will have 4 million solar-powered homes by 2020.

"Soraa CEO Eric Kim holds the company's first LED light fixture using its 'GaN' on 'GaN' technology." (Credit: Soraa, via cnet)

2. LED startup Soraa has just unstealthed and is looking to take over the LED 2.0 market. We’ll see. Coverage on cnet and Greentech Media for more.

Vestas wind turbines via johan wieland on flickr.

3. Vestas’ chairman, deputy chief executive, deputy chairman, and chief financial officer (CFO) have announced they’re stepping down from their positions at Vestas, following a rough 2011.

Shenzhen Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, and Air China airplanes via Canadian Pacific on flickr.

4. China has now banned its airlines from participating in the EU’s emissions reduction scheme, continuing a long controversy over this issue (which we’ve written about many times)—it did so on the even of a big China-EU summit last week. Additionally, the U.S. Congress is moving a bill forward that expresses formal opposition to the EU requirement that non-EU airlines operating on the continent participate in the carbon emissions scheme.

5. SunRidge Farms, an organic and natural foods company, celebrated its 30th birthday recently by expanding its use of solar energy. (Full disclosure: I’m primarily including this in the roundup because I love some of their products.)

6. Burbank Water & Power (BWP) and AHBE Landscape Architects recently unveiled California’s 1st sustainable utility campus, the EcoCampus. “Never before have so many different sustainable landscape technologies been integrated into a single industrial campus,” Ron Davis, BWP’s general manager, notes. it really is completely full of progressive, environmentally friendly technologies—check out the link above for more.

7. Ecotech Institute, reportedly “the first and only college entirely focused on preparing America’s workforce for careers in renewable energy and sustainability,” has grown its student population to about 400 in its first year. Hopefully, it won’t take long for it to hit another 400.

8. GreenCharge, a new green iPhone app, offers a cool platform for viewing your driving patterns, checking out your charging costs, and seeing your environmental brownie points. The video above has more.

9. Scottish Enterprise has gotten a £50-boost to advance renewable energy in the UK. “The UK Government confirmed that the UK-wide consortium bid from Ocean Energy Innovation, Carbon Trust and the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec), has been selected to set up the £50 million Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult project, funded by the technology strategy board.”

10. easyJet, the largest airline in the UK, “will be the first airline to support the development and trial of the innovative new electric green taxiing system (EGTS),” the company noted last week. Approximately 4% of all the fuel easyJet uses is used when taxiing. It is partnering with Honeywell and Safran on this trial.

Small wind turbine in UK via Martin Tod on flickr

11. The small wind sector is also to get hit hard by UK feed-in tariff cuts, industry leaders recently announced. ”Household & business-scale wind turbines have been deployed in line with the Government’s predictions – if anything, deployment has not been as strong as we would have hoped because of the difficulty of securing planning permission for even small wind turbines,” RenewableUK’s Director of Policy, Dr Gordon Edge, said. ”The Government points to capital costs for some turbines coming down – but overall project costs have been rising across the technology sizes and manufacturers will face real dangers with the proposed cuts – we want to work with Government to ensure lower costs for consumers and protection for our UK-wide industry.”

palo alto feed-in tariff for solar power

Solar panels at the Palo Alto Municipal Service Center via Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious on flickr.

12. Palo Alto, California looks like it’s going to have a feed-in tariff for solar in place soon. If Palo Alto’s City Council passes the feed-in-tariff pilot program, it will go into place on March 5, 2012. “It’s a pilot program for the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) – the first year is capped at 4 megawatts and meant for medium-sized commercial rooftops with a minimum size of 50 kilowatts per installation,” Greentech Media reports. “The FIT is applicable to solar only, although other renewable energy sources could be considered later on. The city will pay $0.14 per kilowatt-hour for 20-year contracts.”

solar junction solar cells record

13. Solar Junction, which develops high-efficiency multi-junction cells for the concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) market and holds a world record in that arena, has secured $19.2 million more and a new partner for ramped up manufacturing of its solar cells, which have an efficiency of 43.5%.

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Government Motors Breaks Up With Big Oil

Posted: 14 Feb 2012 01:32 PM PST

The auto industry has long had a symbiotic relationship with the oil industry. If oil companies are the drug pushers, then car companies are the crack pipe manufacturers.

But  after its near-death experience a few years ago, at least one auto company appears to be distancing itself from its drug pusher. General Motors’ new spokesman for environment and energy matters, Shad Balch spoke out on the breakup, according to Climatewire.

“The oil industry didn’t do us any favors when we were going through bankruptcy and they were making billions of dollars in profits,” Balch  told a panel featuring California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chairwoman Mary Nichols, automakers and environmentalists.

Balch, who came to GM two years ago from former Governor Schwarzenegger’s administration had some mea culpa tough love for GM itself too.

“People did not want to buy one of our products because we had a history of fighting and looking for any other alternative other than building better cars,” he told the panel.

“For whatever reason, there was an aversion to ever saying anything against oil companies, so it made it appear as if we were in bed with them,” he said.

But he espouses a change, “There seems to be such a public hatred towards petroleum-based fuel, so why not build a vehicle that uses anything but?”

But of course, he would say that. He is gummint motors.

GM was initially bailed out in the last months of the Bush administration with $9 billion under TARP, after years of decline and losses.

In March 2009, an incoming President Obama declined to provide more financial aid without far more radical reform proposals, ultimately forcing out longtime easygoing CEO Rick Wagoner, rejecting the company's restructuring plan and finally, after its creditors balked at deep write-downs, forcing the company into bankruptcy court.

Declaring that combined losses of $54 billion prior to the bailout were the result of “a failure of leadership from Washington to Detroit” President Obama said at that time,”We’ve seen problems papered over and tough choices kicked down the road, even as our foreign competitors outpaced us. We, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk responsibility any longer.”

The bankruptcy process was completed in three months with GM selling its good assets to a new leaner company renamed the General Motors Company. As a result, it had to shed many of the excesses of the past — overproduction, bloated vehicle lineups, expensive rebates and fuel- inefficient vehicles.

The new company is 26 percent public-owned, and is much more focused on fuel economy and structural efficiency. It reclaimed its much earlier title as the world's largest automaker in 2011, and made a profit in both 2010 and 2011.

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