Monday, February 20, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Gold & Silver Nanoparticles Improve Efficiency of Thin-Film Solar Cells at Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 09:19 AM PST

Scientists at Swinburne university of Technology and Suntech Power Holdings celebrate improvement in thin-film efficiency

Researchers from Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology and Suntech Power Holdings have developed the world’s most efficient broadband nanoplasmonic solar cells for use in thin-film technology. Project scientists report improving the efficiency of existing thin-film cells by up to 8.1 percent through incorporating nucleated gold and silver nanoparticles.

The team at Swinburne’s Victoria-Suntech Advanced Solar Facility (VSASF) had already been embedding conventional gold and silver nanoparticles into thin-film cells produced by Suntech. These highly reflective particles increased the wavelength of absorbed sunlight, thus improving the rate at which its photons were converted into electrons.

Senior Research Fellow at Swinburne Baohua Jia, PhD, said: “The broadband plasmonic effect is an exciting discovery of the team. It is truly a collaborative outcome between Swinburne and Suntech over the last 12 months.”

Jia believes that this new technology will have an important impact on the solar industry. “What we have found is that nanoparticles that have an uneven surface scatter light even further into a broadband wavelength range. This leads to greater absorption, and therefore improves the cell’s overall efficiency.

The scientists hope to get the efficiency up to at least 10 percent by the middle of this year, and ultimately want to “develop solar cells that are twice as efficient and run at half the cost of those currently available.”

According to Swinburne Professor Min Gu, Director of the VSASF, thin film cells have attracted enormous research interest as a cheap alternative to bulk crystalline silicon cells. However, the significantly reduced thickness of their silicon layer makes it more difficult for them to absorb sunlight.

“Light trapping technology is of paramount importance to increase the performance of thin-film solar cells and make them competitive with silicon cells,” Professor Gu said. “One of the main potential applications of the technology will be to cover conventional glass, enabling buildings and skyscrapers to be powered entirely by sunlight.”

Suntech plans on mass-producing the improved solar cells, and expects them to be commercially available by 2017.

Source: Swinburne University of Technology

Photo: Swinburne University of Technology



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The Global CDM Hydro Hall of Shame

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 07:00 AM PST

Construction already underway at Kamchay Dam, which is seeking carbon credits.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is meant to catalyze climate-friendly and sustainable projects in low-income countries. Instead, it’s provided massive subsidies to hydropower developers while increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Through deception and abuse of the system, at least two-thirds of all CDM projects are likely not additional, and more are slipping in each year.

In an attempt to cure its ills during the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the CDM Executive Board has initiated a year-long policy dialogue. Having failed to reach any decisions about reform at Durban, the CDM policy panel members will examine unresolved issues ranging from stronger rules for public participation to an appeals procedure. Of particular concern to the global movement for rivers is ensuring that the CDM imposes greater limitations on large hydropower projects, which are more likely to create enormous environmental and social problems for local communities than smaller community-driven decentralized projects.

Despite these good intentions, the CDM continues to approve egregious hydropower projects while delaying any improvements. In December 2011, an EU-commissioned report recommended the European Union consider banning credits from large hydro projects. However, the EU has decided to delay any action, essentially ignoring the urgency for reform raised by this study.

The Hall of Shame Honorees

Below are some of the worst hydropower projects that we’ve seen in the CDM pipeline since 2008. If all of these projects are issued carbon credits or CERs, and it turned out they were non-additional (as most of them are), that would mean European countries will shell out €27 million per year over the lifetime of these projects while allowing emissions to increase. [Current CER price: 4.11.]

Registered by the Executive Board
  • In Panama, the Barro Blanco Dam is currently undergoing construction despite investigations into the developer’s human rights abuses and failure to consult the local indigenous Ngobe communities living along the Tabasara River. Despite ongoing protests by indigenous communities against dam building and mining in the region, the CDM Executive Board approved the project for 67,000 CERs or about €300,000 per year.
  • In Uganda, the World Bank-funded Bujagali Dam, which drowned a treasured waterfall and forced hundreds from their lands, was registered by the CDM Board to the tune of 858,000 CERs for the Netherlands or €3.5 million per year for the developer, even though it is near completion.
  • In India, the Rampur run-of-river project was registered despite being nearly complete and the recipient of a World Bank loan back in 2007. India will sell these credits to Sweden at 1.4 million CERs, or about €5.8 million per year.
Approved by a validator
  • In China, the 513MW Hubei Duhe Pankou Hydropower Project is seeking carbon credits despite relocating 23,000 people in a process fraught with conflict and inadequate compensation claims. Another 10,000 or more will have to be relocated. If registered, it would generate 803,000 CERs for Switzerland or €3.3 million per year for the developer.
Seeking validation approval
  • A Kachin refugee family flees the fighting at the Dapein dams in June 2011. Dapein I Dam is trying to seeking carbon credits. (Photo: U.S. Campaign for Burma)

    In Cambodia, the Kamchay Dam, already operational and built by the world’s largest dam builder, China’s Sinohydro Corporation, is currently seeking validation for the second time. The project has been plagued by controversy, safety concerns, and a lack of transparency ever since it was awarded a development contract in 2005. If registered, it would generate 281,000 CERs for the UK or €1.2 million per year for Sinohydro.

  • In Burma, the Dapein I Dam is already operating but recently applied for carbon credits at 678,000 CERs annually, or €3 million. This project was also the site of the June 2011 violence between the Burmese army and the Kachin Indepence Organization. The fighting displaced an estimated 30,000 people. 90% of the electricity will go to China, as will 100% of the credits.
  • In Brazil, the 1,800MW Teles Pires Dam is being planned for the Teles Pires River, a tributary of the Tapajós River, which in turn is one of the principal tributaries of the Amazon. Civil society in Brazil considers it a dismal example of violations of indigenous rights and environmental legislation. It will likely flood 123 square kilometers of land and be a carbon source rather than carbon neutral. It is estimated to sell 2.5 millions CERs or €10 million per year. It is currently open for public comment.

Delaying the solutions

The irony to all this is that the CDM may be dying, largely under the weight of its own uncertain future and a lack of demand for credits given the economic downturn in Europe. However, instead of putting political will and resources behind cutting our dependence on fossil fuels, reducing emissions in our own backyards, investing directly in truly clean energy projects, and helping the most vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, wealthy countries are seeking other loopholes. For instance, New Zealand, the U.S., Japan and Australia want to create their own CDM-like mechanisms, which will likely run into the same problems that the CDM has experienced.

As for the policy dialogue, the CDM can only be salvaged now with a serious commitment to restructure the entire system. With additionality being near-impossible to prove, perhaps it should be eliminated entirely. After all, what the CDM needs now is a major overhaul, not a makeover.

Kamchay Dam in Cambodia, photo courtesy of Marcus Rhinelander, 2008.

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Floating Wind Farm to be Built off Fukushima

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 04:43 AM PST

Nameless reports floating around the internet make it clear that Japanese trading house Marubeni is planning on building a floating wind farm off the Fukushima coast in Japan.

Kamisu wind farm on Japan's east coast

The planned wind farm is expected to begin development in March and will be supported by the Japanese government via the reconstruction budget that was put into place after 2011 tsunami. Also involved are Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nippon Steel Corp, and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding.

Given the success of the Kamisu near-shore wind farm during the tsunami in 2011, and the vital electricity it provided in the wake of the disaster, floating wind farms are definitely a smart move for Japan to make.

Source: Wind Power Monthly
Image Source: Kazuhiko Teramoto

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500 Tesla Model X Reservations in First 4 Days

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 04:40 AM PST

The Tesla Model X (yes, Tesla’s awesome-looking electric SUV with wicked falcon-wing doors) is off to a good start. The only SUV I think I actually like got 500 reservations in its first 4 days of availability. Here’s more from Chris DeMorro of sister site Gas2:

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Coolest, Most Space-Efficient Home in the World?

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 04:35 AM PST

I ran across a video of this Hong Kong apartment about a year or so ago and was amazed. Unfortunately, I wanted to share it with someone recently and couldn’t find it (I couldn’t remember where it was located). The good news for me is that Glenn just reposted an old Green Building Elements article (and video) on it! If you haven’t checked out this extremely space-efficient Hong Kong apartment before (or if you have and just want to have another look), here’s a post and video on it:

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Prefabricated Zero-Energy Home from LivingHomes

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 04:26 AM PST

Over on sister site Green Building Elements, where he is now the editor and site director, Glenn has a post on a great new home from LivingHomes and Brad Pitt’s Make It Right organization. The zer0-energy home, to be debuted at an upcoming TED Conference, looks beautiful:

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Interview with Pinchas Doron at AORA Solar

Posted: 19 Feb 2012 05:18 PM PST

When officials from AORA Solar cut the blue ribbon to launch the Tulip CSP system in Spain, I was able to sit with Pinchas Doron, PhD, AORA's chief technology officer, to learn more about this innovative hybrid system. What follows is a condensed version of that interview.

Q. Tell me about the history of this hybrid CSP system.

A. The core technology, the enabling technology – it started at Weizmann Institute of Science. Weizmann has a solar tower facility – built in 1989. In 1992 I joined that group initially on a part-time basis before finishing my PhD. It was there that we developed the ideas of what we call the DIAPR (directly irradiated annually pressurized receiver). This later evolved into that solar receiver that we have now, which basically is the device that heats compressed air to the temperature that is required to run an air turbine.

Q. The micro turbine is powered by hot air from the sun that is being reflected in the mirrors, not gas, like many think?

A. That solar receiver that we have now, which basically is the device that heats compressed air to the temperature that is required to run an air turbine  – common name is gas turbine. People think it is a turbine that runs on natural gas, but it is not. It is a turbine that runs on air. People often misunderstand – so how do you run a gas turbine with sun?

Q. Your first 'proof of concept' for the system took place in Nanjing, China five years ago, followed by a system in Israel?

A. In 2009 we started our first prototype in the southern part of Israel. We ran that system under various operating conditions and came to a lot of obstacles along the way. And following those lessons we upgraded the design of many of the system components and came to build this plant that is now here. In parallel, we are now operating the system in Israel that is almost the same as this one. So we'll basically have twin units.

Q. In Israel, you supply power to the grid?

A. We were the first ones in Israel to go through that process of getting the authorities approval to build such a thing and connect to the grid and have the Israel Electric Utility – which is a state-run utility – to approve our connection to the grid. And understand I never knew there were so many divisions of Israel Electric until each one of them wanted to visit. But they were satisfied; they were satisfied with what they saw. So they shaved on our on beard – that's a Hebrew expression: shave on somebody else's beard so you don't get the cuts yourself. So actually now everybody was satisfied. Our beards were shaved – and we didn't get cuts, by the way.

Temperature in the Tulip micro turbine is 1000 degrees Farenheit

Q. The technology is such a complete solution for renewable energy using solar. Why has there not been a larger following of your achievements?

A. I think that we've probably been under the radar even though we had this first launch in 2009.  But most people considered us as being under the radar.  Most people – the premise is to go to large plants, large units. We can do a large plant but our units will stay as those modular units. We're quite unique.

Q. Talk about your business plan.

A. The business plan would be to do clusters of units – maybe tens of units, maybe hundreds – which would start initially from a small number of units that will help gain the confidence of this new technology. By building a cluster, you could much easier finance. You build groups, then you start generating income and then you build the next so you have a phased financing, basically, and a phased matching income at the other end. We would go initially to grid-connected installations. We will look for places where we can benefit from the discrimination of providing heat as well – of being flexible in operation and flexible in terrain, which is also extremely important. The key is flexibility. As we move along we also get into the off-grid market – a lot of places where the grid is either absent or not reliable. And there are a lot of places like this. Over there such a solution would be very good, actually. Again, I like to look at it as electricity – it's not a power plant, it's an energy solution.

Q. How is the turbine powered in this hybrid system?

A. The turbine can run on solar only, can run on solar, augmented by fuel, and we can run fuel-only. Now the fuel that we can use can be bad fuel, but it can also be nice fuel – it can be biogas, synthetic gas – whatever you could look at that would be green maybe.

Q.   Do you consider adding sustainable fuel or biogas to your hybrid technology?

A. You could also use things that you need to take care of like the date plantations in the southern part of Israel. They have all this biomass that has fallen and you need to do something with it. You cannot really leave it in place. Or cow manure – you need to do something with it. Take that thing – not all processes, some processes are available that would use heat from the excess of the turbine – take that cow manure, or other stuff and generate renewable fuel that would in turn feed the turbine when there's no sun.

Q. Like methane?

A. Yeah. So there you have sustainability – both in how you run your turbine and in taking care of that yucky matter that you need to do away with.  So that is why we think that our system – even though we deal with the intermittency of the sun by burning fuel (natural gas) is still a sustainable system. It's not a fossil power plant. You could use fossil fuels if you don't have anything else and you need the power at night, okay? You do until you have another option, and when you have another option, modify the system to use another fuel is extremely simple, and fast, and probably not expensive….So that's sustainability, as far as I can see it.

Photos via AORA

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