Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Possible Material Breakthrough for Thermoelectric Field

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 11:08 AM PDT

Liquid-like materials that may form a foundation for new thermoelectric energy devices have been discovered by researchers from Caltech, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Michigan, and the Chinese Academy of Science’s Shanghai Institute of Ceramics. The scientists have identified a liquid-like compound whose properties give it the potential to be more efficient than traditional thermoelectrics, which convert heat into electricity.

According to the Caltech announcement, thermoelectric materials have traditionally helped power spacecraft ranging from Apollo to the Curiosity rover now headed for Mars. Now scientists and engineers – interested in exploring more sustainable management of materials – have been trying to recover wasted heat as an efficient energy source. They have also proposed using these materials to create more efficient heating systems in electric cars or even as new ways to exploit solar power, writes Caltech.

The researchers studied a material made from copper and selenium. Although it is physically a solid, the material exhibits liquid-like behaviors due to the way its copper atoms flow through the selenium’s crystal lattice.

“It’s like a wet sponge,” explains Jeff Snyder, a faculty associate in applied physics and materials science in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech and a member of the research team. “If you have a sponge with very fine pores in it, it looks and acts like a solid. But inside, the water molecules are diffusing just as fast as they would if they were a regular liquid. That’s how I imagine this material works. It has a solid framework of selenium atoms, but the copper atoms are diffusing around as fast as they would in a liquid.”

The research is described in a paper recently published in the journal Nature Materials.

Electricity is generated in a thermoelectric material generates when a temperature difference exists between one end of the material and the other. The example provided: If you place a thermoelectric device alongside a heat source, such as a laptop battery, the side closest to the battery will be hotter, meaning electrons in the hot end will diffuse to the cool end, producing an electric current.

Good thermoelectric material must also be good at conducting electricity, yet low-performing at heat conduction – thus enhancing the flow of electrons.

Caltech writes:

"One way to improve thermoelectric efficiency, then, is to decrease a material’s ability to conduct heat. To that end, researchers have been developing thermoelectric materials with a mix of crystalline and amorphous properties, Snyder says. A crystalline atomic structure allows electrons to flow easily, while an amorphous material, such as glass, has a more irregular atomic structure that hinders heat-carrying vibrations from traveling."

In the case of the copper-selenium material that the researchers studied, the crystal structure of the selenium helps conduct electricity, while the free-flowing copper atoms behave like a liquid, damping down thermal conductivity. The efficiency of a thermoelectric material is quantified using a number called a “thermoelectric figure of merit.”

NASA engineers first used this copper-selenium material roughly 40 years ago for spacecraft design, Snyder says. But its liquid-like properties—which were not understood at the time—made it difficult to work with. This new research, he says, has identified and explained why this copper-selenium material has such efficient thermoelectric properties, potentially opening up a whole new class of liquid-like thermoelectric materials for investigation.

In addition to Snyder, the research group included Caltech graduate student Tristan Day. Other authors on the Nature Materials paper, titled “Copper ion liquid-like thermoelectrics,” are Huili Liu, Xun Shi, Lidong Chen, Fangfang Xu, Linlin Zhang, and Wenqing Zhang of the Chinese Academy of Science’s Shanghai Institute of Ceramics; Qiang Li of Brookhaven National Laboratory; and Citrad Uher of the University of Michigan.

Source: Caltech

Photo: Caltech

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Making Super Energy-Efficient Jet Engines (Infographic)

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 09:29 AM PDT

 
Last week, just before the launch of GE's annual reports data visualization, I ran across news that GE had just shipped its 1000th GE90-115B jet engine, and I learned that the GE90-115B is super efficient. I will get to that more at the end of this post, but given the opportunity to quickly search through GE's annual reports via the data visualization linked above, I thought I'd try to find out a bit more about GE's historical involvement in jet engines and jet engine efficiency first.

Way back in 1952, GE noted that the most promising possible outgrowth of its defense assignments from that time was "applying jet propulsion to commercial aviation." We have certainly seen that — GE has been supplying commercial aviation companies with jet engines for decades, as noted in some of its reports. Additionally, in the late 1960′s, GE's data visualization shows us that the company was very focused on developing better commercial aviation engines. "Commercial aviation engines represent a major GE investment in future growth," GE wrote in 1969.

ge efficient jet engine

What's all this have to do with cleantech? Well, GE's decades of research and development have led to tremendously more efficient jet engines. As the image above from a 2006 annual report implies, the aviation industry and air travel continue their growth around the world. In that same report, GE touted its GE90 jet engine and projected it would bring in $40 billion of revenue in the following 30 years. Why so optimistic? Let's have a look….

ge large jet engine

GE's GE90-115B jet engine, the 1000th of which was shipped a couple weeks ago, saves tons (millions of tons) of greenhouse gas emissions compared to its closest competitor when it is used in the Boeing 777. That widely used aircraft is 22% more fuel-efficient per seat with this jet engine in it. (Fun fact: it also has 50% more thrust than the rocket that took Alan Shephard to space.) Pretty green, eh? Looks like decades of research and development have paid off, not only for GE but for the whole world. And, as of 2011, GE reports that aviation "accounts for the largest share of GE's research and development expenditures," so I think we can expect to see a continued increase in jet engine efficiency.

Here’s more on that super efficient jet engine pictured and discussed above, in infographic format:


Jet engine images via GE data visualization

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Electric Bicycle Sales to Hit 47 Million per Year by 2018, Report Finds

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 08:03 AM PDT

 
Piggy-backing on my post the other day about electric bicycles (focused on the fact that you can buy an electric bicycle for about the same money as it costs to fill up your gas tank 20 times), here’s more electric bicycle news: annual sales of electric bikes are expected to go over 30 million in 2012 and over 47 million by 2018.

The findings, from a recent Pike Research report, indicate that “the worldwide market for e-bicycles will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5% between 2012 and 2018″ and the “e-bicycle market is anticipated to generate $6.9 billion in worldwide revenue in 2012, growing to $11.9 billion in 2018.”

China is where most of the growth is projected to occur, due to its rapid urbanization, demand for low-cost transportation, and a historical affinity to bikes, I presume. The Chinese are expected to be buying 42 million of the projected 47 million or so e-bicycles that that will be sold in 2018, 89% of the total world market.

Of course, the report is based on assumptions, and sales under a more optimistic scenario are even higher. Under the most aggressive forecast, sales will reach 51 million bicycles and $13.2 billion in annual revenue by 2018.

While China is going to continue to lead growth in the sector, the North American e-bicycle market is also expected to grow.

"E-bicycle manufacturers and importers in North America and Latin America continue to struggle with a weak distribution network and modest demand," says senior analyst Dave Hurst.  "As a result, the e-bicycle market is experiencing an accelerated rate of acquisitions and business failures.  Nevertheless, sales are expected to grow rapidly, with a CAGR of nearly 22% in North America from 2012 to 2018."

Want more details on these e-bicycles and the e-bicycle market? Here’s more from Pike Research:

The vast majority of the e-bicycles sold in China, the world's largest market, utilize sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries.  While this has resulted in extremely low-cost e-bicycles in China, it has also led to a number of challenges including e-bicycle traffic congestion, lead contamination, and manufacturers effectively ignoring laws relating to e-bicycles speed and weight limits.  Pike Research anticipates that the global penetration of lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries will grow from 6% in 2012 to 12% in 2018.  Cost pressures from Asia Pacific will keep manufacturers interested in SLA batteries through this decade, but once manufacturing efficiencies have driven down the costs of Li-ion, we will start to see the decline of SLA as the battery of choice in e-bicycles.

Pike Research's report, "Electric Bicycles", provides a comprehensive analysis of the worldwide e-bicycle and e-bicycle battery industry including an examination of market forces, technology issues, government policy influences, the competitive landscape, and key drivers of growth.  The study includes global forecasts for e-bicycle units and e-bicycle batteries through 2017, segmented by world region and key countries.

Source: Pike Research
Image courtesy Kalkhoff

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Evolutionary Clue in Butterflies Could Enhance Absorption of Sunlight

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 07:16 AM PDT

 
Tongxiang Fan, Ph.D., and his team at the Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China have for a long time studied the wings of butterflies from the species Troides aeacus and Papilo helenus, trying to figure out why these creatures are phenomenal at generating heat from sunlight.

Their results were presented in American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) 243rd National Meeting and Exposition.

Butterfly wings may boost sunlight absorption

Picture of Red Helen (Papilio helenus), a swallowtail butterfly that can be found in India and Southeast Asia.

Not the Blackness, but the Underlying Architecture

Black generates heat energy from light more efficiently than any other color. Particularly, black butterflies are reliant on a type of pigment called melanin to generate heat, to make up for lack of heat from their metabolism during cold weather.

Melanin is also essential for humans, but not in the same way: darker levels of melanin help us to protect the skin against sun damage.

The interesting thing with butterflies is that the structure of their wings also contributes to enhancing heat generation. By using electron microscopes, the researchers in Shanghai were able to identify scale-like features on the wings of these butterflies, which not only enable more heat absorption but also less light reflection.

As you can see below, the scale structure that is found on the butterfly wings is quite complex:


Credit: American Chemical Society

The hope is that this research could help in the development of some solar technologies. This is not the first time that looking at evolutionary traits from other species has led to new discoveries in science and better technology, of course — just look at the similarities in the shape of an airplane and a bird, for another prominent example of biomimicry.

The research team's findings might help us in improving performance of our any technology that is reliant on sunlight as a source of heat generation. There have been many improvements over the last few years in such technology, such as solar thermal systems that harness solar heat, but none that have had a biological foundation (at least not that I can think of). There is no doubt that solar collectors can benefit humanity, which is what the team focuses on, but who knows if the research one day will be used to increase passive solar heating in residential situations or as an integrated part of arctic clothing?

Do you think the researchers are onto something? Feel free to discuss below.

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Fracking Language: Between the Lines with Oil Reserves

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 07:04 AM PDT

 

Sometimes it is not one news story or headline that suggests the state of affairs but several concurrent articles that tell us what is happening. While I may always try to provide useful links here, “hell [may be] more than half of paradise.”

Recently we have several intersection events: high gasoline prices, a Presidential election, and a resulting discussion of oil reserves. We have had high oil prices before, and I expect that, as before, we will complain about the prices as they increase. They will reach a high point that we begin to accept. And that peak will be followed by a recession and a price decline for months or a year before they once again begin their upward trend. It is as if we are being tested and slowly being acclimated to the new price. This is not to suggest that this is a conscious process or someone is manipulating prices. But in a world where only a handful of major oil companies control almost all the market share, some cooperation is possible and, to some extent, might be expected. My concern is that this cyclical trend will come to an end suddenly by one war, one embargo, or one well placed natural event. It may happen before any serious attempt is made to diversify our transportation fuels, and our strategic petroleum reserve will offer little cushion.

Americans seem to be somewhat insulated from foreign gasoline prices. In most non-oil-producing countries, fuel prices are higher than they are in the US, but here we may have developed an art of not questioning “good fortune.” Prosperity theology says good fortune is a sign of being “blessed by God.” Who are we to question “God’s will” … especially when it seems to be favorable. It is when we begin to feel the pinch that we insist upon our insular perspectives, not comparing our situation to other countries, and wonder “what has gone wrong” and “who is to blame?”

This is also the year for a Presidential election. Whatever else, energy and emphasis is placed upon some ideas which may not otherwise receive the same attention. Former governors who once advocated policies very similar to incumbents now speak out against a measured policy in hopes of capturing the center stage. While this clearly reveals political posturing, it nevertheless is something we should be happy to see. What may have been more of a “ho-hum” issue becomes relevant not just for its own sake, but because it may be a pivotal issue for the election. Blaming a rival for something they may not have within their control may seem like a good tactic. It may also backfire and appear shallow and disingenuous if the public is a bit more astute than expected by political advisers.

One way to start an understanding is with definitions. Robert Rapier did an excellent job in a recent article that defines some of the various supplies of oil and may help to clarify several possible meanings of the word “reserves.” I have also read articles that tend to lump natural gas reserves along with oil reserves in an attempt to suggest that unrestricted drilling will lower gasoline prices. Tom Murphy has written an excellent series called “Do the Math.” In an interview, he states categorically that “natural gas is not a direct answer to a liquid fuels shortage.” We can run cars on natural gas, but in the US the EPA adds a regulatory review on top of a costly conversion. In contrast to what Tom Murphy calculates, Geoffrey Styles suggests that North America could be the new Middle East. This is where we need to apply our knowledge of “what is a reserve.” Deep sea oil, tar sands, and shale oil seem to be lumped together and compared to Middle East Conventional Oil. That is not a deal most would want to buy into.

Relating to these issues can seem somewhat distant to our daily activities. In perhaps an overly long article, Maggie Koerth-Baker gives us a walk through a peak oil/climate change future in Merriam, Kansas. Petrochemicals — their refining, production and use — are like a poison we have grown somewhat used to over decades. We have modeled our communities around the prospect of the availability of this poison. A governor once wanted and our president now wants to slowly reduce our dependence upon it. The GOP thinks it is good policy to offer supplying it more cheaply. Where is the leadership? Why can’t we seem to say that this thing we want is poisoning our environment, costing us a fortune, and putting our country and way of life at risk. It is killing us and we want it to be cheaper?

Photo Credit: Refinery Libelul

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Pakistan Next to Wake Up to Solar

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 06:40 AM PDT

 

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Pakistan is one of a number of countries that cannot serve electricity to its whole country on a daily basis. As such, and especially with its good solar resources, it’s another country ideally set up to leapfrog the dirty energy options of the past and jump right to solar power (something I focused on in the CNBC/Harvard Business Review interview above). Here’s more on Pakistan’s extreme electricity needs, solar potential, and solar plans from AFP:

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12 Years Later — Solar Energy in Germany (VIDEO)

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 06:20 AM PDT

 

Scroll to the bottom to watch the video (but you probably want to read the post for context first).

More than a Decade Ago…

12 years have passed since the German parliament adopted the “Renewable Energy Sources Act” — it was adopted on March 29, 2000. This law was primarily developed by Hermann Scheer, who developed the underlying concepts during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Up until his death in 2010, Dr. Scheer was one of the most significant and uncompromising proponents of renewable energy sources in Germany and around the world.

The law that gave priority to renewable energy sources guaranteed access to the grid for renewables and included a comprehensive feed-in-tariff system. It became known as “Scheers-Law” around the world. Today it has been introduced to some extent by over 60 countries and states around the globe.

Since this historic push for a 100% renewable energy supply began, there have been countless developments and success stories in the fields of clean energy and energy efficiency around the world.

Solar Energy — The Energy of the People

But the most important success of “Scheers-Law” is, without a doubt, the commercialization of photovoltaic technology. In the middle of the last decade, many companies around the world started to massively expand their production capacity for silicon and other materials required to make PV solar systems. This solar gold rush that led to investments around the globe was mainly driven by demand in Germany up until recently. The effects of this developement? Since 2009, the prices for PV solar systems have fallen by up to 70% and continue to decline.

At the Brink of a New Industrial Revolution

Today, industry experts claim that photovoltaic & multi-kWh energy storage will become the cheapest source of electricity even in OECD countries within the next 10 years.

When this happens, it will lead to a very fast structural change across the entire world economy. Huge parts of the fossil energy market, which makes up 10% of the world economy, will disappear. People around the world will become energy independent. The powerful energy corporations that dominate the fuel market will lose significant parts of their revenue… perhaps they will even get marginalized by this development as they are stuck with huge investments.

This development has just started, but with 24.5 GW of PV solar capacity installed on more than 1 million roofs in Germany, the first signs of this new industrial revolution can already be observed.

For example, even during the dark & windy winter month of January, PV solar produced up to 7 GW or 10% of peak-load demand in Germany.

When a deadly cold wave brought the fossil- and nuclear-dominated energy system of France close to collapse, German PV solar kept many gas- and oil-fired power plants offline, which significantly lowered the spot-prices at the European Energy Exchange.

Here’s a video I created for more on all this:

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The World’s First Nationwide Service Network for Electric Vehicles Is in Germany

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 06:16 AM PDT

 
World's First Nationwide EV Service Network

Long gone are the days when cars could be fixed with coat hangers and bubble gum (and I assure you, those days did exist), but most drivers don't worry too much if something on the car goes awry these days. Most drivers are never too far from a shop capable of fixing whatever it is that has gone wrong. For EV drivers, it's a bit of a different story.

Electric car pioneer Karabag and truck manufacturer Still hope to change that with the world's first nationwide service network for electric vehicles. The network will not only address the issue of finding parts for electric cars, but also that of finding qualified technicians — mechanics require special training in order to handle the high-voltage batteries and other electronics of EVs. Karabag is hoping to create more demand from its customers by making it easier for them to maintain their vehicles.

Where Else but Germany?

Karabag's EV service network is, of course, primarily concerned with Karabag's electric vehicles (the new 500E; Fiat's commercial vehicle, the Fiorino E; the Doblo E; Scudo E; and the Ducato E). Still, a market leader for electric forklift trucks, is currently retraining its technicians to repair the Karabag EVs.

Over 800 Still locations — including offices, service stations, and some mobile service points — will be available to EV owners, whether their cars need to be repaired or simply maintained. Karabag's goal is to have each station be no more than 15 miles from any customer (something like North America’s West Coast EV highway).

The mobile service points, or so-called "Flying Doctors," are outfitted with exchangeable batteries and spare parts boxes containing electronics for battery management and control. They guarantee mobility within 48 hours of a call. For any of Karabag's new customers, the cost of the service network is part of the two-year warranty.

Questions or comments? Let us know below.

Source: Autobild via Gas2
Image: Karabag

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Light Car Sharing — Electric Cars for All

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 06:01 AM PDT

 
EDAG Light Car Sharing

To own a car or not to own a car — a pressing question, particularly if you live in any kind of massive city. The German engineering group EDAG is trying to sidestep the issue entirely with its offering at this year's Geneva Motor Show, the Light Car Sharing and Light Car Open Source project.

The Light Car project is a car sharing network, similar to the popular Zipcar program. However, since Germany (along with the rest of the EU) is taking carbon emissions pretty seriously, EDAG's version of the car sharing network involves an electric car.

Zero Emissions, Lots of Blinking Lights

The car in question is the third in EDAG's Light Car series. It will have a range of around 90 miles and a top speed of 87mph, both of which are more than adequate for a city environment. It also boasts bumpers covered in a soft gel, to reduce any risk of injury in case of minor collision (with pedestrians, presumably) on crowded city streets.

EDAG's concept car isn't a "light car" because it weighs very little, although it's super compact — it's a "light car" because it lights up. LED strips embedded in the front, rear, and sides of the vehicle glow red, orange, and green to indicate occupancy (up to six people total – three in front and three in back) as well as the current state of the vehicle.

No, You Cannot Avoid the Smart Phones

Much like the electric scooter sharing project in San Francisco, the Light Car Sharing project also fully integrates smart phones into its process. Users can find cars and see if they're available using their phones. Your phone can also be used to reserve a car. (Although, the Light Car isn't controlled with the smart phone, as far as I can tell).

EDAG is drawing on its 40-odd years of engineering experience to work on the Light Car Sharing project. As it also supports new developments in the automotive field in 21 countries around the world, the project falls right in line with the rest of its work — and hey, zero emissions from the cars themselves and the ability to charge them with greener and greener power (as Europe's renewable energy continues its rapid growth) is pretty great.

Questions or comments? Would you like to see one of these in a city near you? Let us know below.

Source & image: EDAG via Gas2

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Say Goodbye to T12 Fluorescent Lamps (Businesses: Get Your Rebates Now!)

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 05:30 AM PDT

 
T12 Lamps

This July, U.S. lighting manufacturers will cease production of many T12 lamps in order to comply with Department of Energy (DOE) regulations. First announced in 2010, the DOE planned to phase out magnetic ballasts used in T12 lamps in favor of more energy-efficient T8 and T5 lamps.

Currently, the federal government uses financial incentives as a motivating factor for commercial lighting retrofits. Since T12 lamps will no longer be available, business consumers will have no choice but to utilize newer T8 and T5 lamps, meaning the government will no longer be offering rebates. So, if your company has been dragging its heels on a lighting retrofit, you may want to consider performing one now, before the rebates disappear.

Of course, incentives are only one reason to upgrade. According to Ourtakeongreen.com, by replacing a T12 system with a T8 system, you can reduce energy use by 33% and save $12 per fixture per year. If you have 1,000 fixtures, that means $12,000 a year in energy savings. Plus, the normal payback period for upgrading to T5 or T8 lamps is usually only 1-3 years.

Additionally, the T12 lamp only lasts for approximately 28,800 hours, while a T8 lamp can last for 36,000 hours and a T5 for 52,000. A longer life for your lamps means lower maintenance costs for your business.

Source: T12 Phase Out For July

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Clean Links: Solar, Wind, Energy Efficiency, Clean Transport, Energy Storage, Geothermal, & Waste-2-Energy News Roundup

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 05:28 AM PDT

 
Some other top cleantech posts from the past couple weeks or so:

Wind Power

1. Vestas published an interesting video on the chemistry of wind turbine blades (above) — interesting.

2. “A consortium led by GICON Grossmann Ingenieur Consult GmbH has developed a floating platform designed to be used for offshore wind farms,” North American Wind Power notes. “GICON says the floating offshore foundation (FOF) can be deployed not only in deep water, but also in water as shallow as 25 meters.”

3. Vestas announced a couple of big wind turbine orders in the past couple weeks, 50 MW worth of wind turbines for a wind farm in in the Fujian province of China and a 396-MW order for a wind farm in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Solar Power

1. SolarCity & Rabobank this month announced “$42.5 million in structured financing to fund over 30 commercial solar projects in California.” Lyndon Rive, chief executive officer of SolarCity, said: "We can allow many businesses to install solar panels for free, and pay less for solar electricity than they pay for utility power. With the help of strong partners like Rabobank, we're allowing businesses to generate their own clean power and improve their bottom lines at the same time."

2. Trina Solar this month teamed up with actor, race car driver, and advocate Patrick Dempsey to donate solar technology to people in need and educate people about affordable solar power. Here’s more from Trina Solar:

This will involve donating solar modules to local schools, health clinics, and nongovernmental organizations and building the infrastructure to sustain the investment, including a network of supportive local partners, local installers, and system component providers.

The initiative will also include an educational campaign to increase awareness about the reliability, cost-saving features, and positive environmental impact of solar power. The project builds off Mr. Dempsey’s 2011 video, “Plug Me In, Light Me Up,” which showcased how solar can help the environment and improve lives. This year, Mr. Dempsey will continue to raise awareness through live appearances, social and digital media, and other communications tools.

More info is available on Trina’s 15 minutes page.

3. Q-Cells and GETEC green energy AG have announced that they have teamed up to construct a 28-MW solar power plant in Saxony-Anhalt. “The installation will occupy an approx. 55 hectare site at Amsdorf near Halle, and around 123,000 polycrystalline modules supplied by Q-Cells will be in place by April of this year.”

4. First Solar has announced that it is building a 26-MW solar power project for NRG in  near Tucson, Ariz. — the Avra Valley PV Solar Project. “Electricity from the Avra Valley solar project will be sold to Tucson Electric Power under a 20-year power purchase agreement.”

5. JinkoSolar has opened a PV Module Testing Lab with UL, the company recently announced. The state-of-the-art PV module testing laboratory is located in Jiangxi, China and has been awarded the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Witness Testing Data Program (WTDP) Certificate. “JinkoSolar’s facility in Jiangxi can conduct over 16 different kinds of tests, ranging from basic pressure and impact tests to challenging hot spot, pre-decay and UV aging tests, all of which conform to UL and International Electrotechnical Commission regulations.”

6. Enbridge has acquired a 50-MW Nevada Solar Project from First Solar, First Solar announced last week. The Silver State North photovoltaic (PV) project was developed and constructed by First Solar in Clark County, Nevada, near the community of Primm. “NV Energy will purchase the energy output under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) approved in 2010 by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.”

Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, & Waste-to-Energy

1. LED lighting company Cree has announced that it is bringing its new mid-power XLamp® ML-C and ML-E LEDs to market, “bringing increased versatility and flexibility to a wide spectrum of lighting applications.” The XLamp ML family “now offers red, green and blue color options, high-voltage and three different price-performance options in the proven and reliable ML package. The ML LED high-voltage options can enable the use of more efficient, smaller drivers to lower cost for applications such as LED replacement lamps.”

2. New technology is taking up an increasing share of energy storage projects around the world, a recent Pike Research market report found. More:

Traditional pumped storage accounts for the vast majority of energy storage capacity in use today.  Although most active storage projects are utilizing decades-old pumped hydro storage technologies, the industry has entered a new period of innovation as a number of market players invest considerable resources to develop emerging technologies such as advanced batteries, compressed air energy storage (CAES), flywheels, and thermal storage.  According to a recent tracker report from Pike Research, newer technologies, including advanced forms of pumped storage, account for 12% of all energy storage projects announced as of the fourth quarter of 2011, in terms of capacity.

Overall, the cleantech market intelligence firm finds that nearly 600 energy storage projects, representing 152 gigawatts of capacity, have been announced or deployed worldwide.  The last decade has seen a surge of new project activity, particularly using new technologies.

"Although traditional pumped storage is still the clear winner in terms of capacity, it is telling that the new technologies such as batteries, CAES, thermal storage, flywheels, and new pumped storage, such as seawater and closed-loop systems, have such a large share of the activity in the market," says research analyst Anissa Dehamna.  "While the industry still faces a variety of challenges, including technology development and the need to reduce costs, energy storage is gaining increased momentum in the global marketplace."

3. The waste-to-energy market is growing fast and is expected to grow to $29.2 billion by 2022, according to another recent report by Pike Research. More:

In 2011, the world generated an estimated 2 billion tons of municipal solid waste (MSW). Over the next decade this number will grow much higher, increasing global demand for solutions that convert waste into heat and electricity, a family of processes known as waste-to-energy (WTE). WTE encompasses thermal and biological conversion technologies that unlock the usable energy stored in solid waste. High upfront capital costs and attractive economics for landfilling, however, represent persistent barriers to widespread adoption. Although more than 800 thermal WTE plants currently operate in nearly 40 countries around the globe, these facilities treated just 11% of MSW generated worldwide in 2011 compared to the 70% that was landfilled. According to a new report from Pike Research, this number is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade. Waste-to-energy systems will treat at least 261 million tons of waste annually by 2022, with a total estimated output of 283 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity and heat generation, up from 221 TWh in 2010. Under a more optimistic scenario, WTE will potentially treat 396 million tons of MSW a year, producing 429 TWh of power.

The global market for thermal and biological WTE technologies will reach at least $6.2 billion in 2012 and grow to $29.2 billion by 2022, the cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts. Under the optimistic forecast scenario, market value could reach $80.6 billion by 2022.

"With many countries facing dramatic population growth, rapid urbanization, rising levels of affluence, and resource scarcity, waste-to-energy is reestablishing itself as an attractive technology option to promote low carbon growth in the crowded renewable energy landscape," says senior analyst Mackinnon Lawrence. "China is already in the midst of scaling up capacity, and growth there is expected to shift the center of the WTE universe away from Europe to Asia Pacific."

Transportation

1. The Vauxhall/Opel Ampera, the European version of the Chevy Volt, has now passed the 7,000 orders mark. GM noted that it was well ahead of schedule in its effort to hit 10,000 orders this year, quite a different story than in the U.S., where conservative media and politicians have essentially stalled Chevy Volt sales. The Ampera actually won the 2012 European Car of the Year, the first time an American-made car has won that award, Bob Lutz recently remarked.

2. ECOtality announced last week that it had partnered with Regency Centers to install Blink® electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at 19 Regency locations across the U.S. They have identified spots for approximately 40 EV charging stations in Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and D.C.

mitsubishi ev motor

3. Mitsubishi recently announced that it’s working on an EV motor that’s much smaller than normal while packing the same power punch. How? It uses a silicon-carbide inverter. “Mitsubishi claims that the motor's power chips are all silicon carbide-based, which results in a 50% improvement in conductive efficiency compared to their (and everyone else's) current silicon-based inverter systems,” Jo Borras of sister site Ga2 writes.

Geothermal, & Renewable Energy in Kenya

1. “Renewable energy sources are expected to witness strong growth in Kenya over the next two decades, as an effort to fulfill the country’s rapidly growing energy demand which is driven by economic growth,” a new report by Research and Markets titled “Kenya Bets Big on Renewable Energy” finds. ”In 2008, the country has a development plan called The Vision 2030 in place, to ensure the growth of the national economy by focusing on its core infrastructure sector. Under the plan, the Kenyan Ministry of Energy has outlined the Least Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP) in 2011 to ensure the growth of the power industry in the country. The broad objective of the plan is to provide an adequate quality supply of energy which is cost effective and affordable, through use of indigenous energy resources with environment conservation ensured.”

2. The EnergySource 49.9-megawatt Hudson Ranch I geothermal plant went online this month. The power plant is located at the Salton Sea geothermal field and is the first in that field to come online in twenty years. “The Salton Sea known geothermal resource area (KGRA), EnergySource President and CEO Dave Watson said, has a total economically recoverable geothermal resource potential of between 1,400 and 2,000 megawatts. It has a developed capacity of just under 330 megawatts.” Additionally, Reuters notes: “CalEnergy, part of Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings, is pressing ahead with a 160-megawatt project known as Black Rock after years of delay. Ormat, an Israeli-run company with 349 MW of capacity at eight geothermal plants in California and Nevada, is building nearby. A crucial power line to San Diego is set to be completed this summer.”

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Pond Scum Growing Closer to Mass Use (Video on Obama’s Support for Algae Fuel)

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 04:30 AM PDT

 

If you haven't already been over to the Climate Desk, check it out. They've accumulated some great reporting on climate issues and produced some very slick films on science and clean energy.

The latest film put together by Climate Desk producer James West cuts through the knee jerk political reactions to the President's support of algae biofuels and asks: "will it ever be the fuel of the future?" In truth, there's a lot of debate over what impact it will have.

Algae-based biofuels have come down dramatically in cost over the decades, from hundreds of dollars per gallon to between $8 and $30 a gallon. However, companies reaching commercial scale still haven't inched over the last few yards to achieve cost parity with petroleum-based fuels. Experts don't expect the resource to play a major role in our fuel mix for another 5-10 years.

But there's a lot of fascinating research happening the field today, and companies are closer than ever to cracking the code. Even though algae fuels won't have an immediate impact, this film illustrates why mocking the President for supporting innovative alternatives to petroleum is just silly.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

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World’s First Wind-Powered Opera?

Posted: 27 Mar 2012 04:00 AM PDT

 
glyndebourne wind powered opera

This is probably not world-changing news, but it’s too fun to skip. An arts organization in the UK, Glyndebourne, plans to host the “world’s first” wind-powered opera festival. Glyndebourne is apparently a clean energy trendsetter — earlier in 2012, it became the first UK arts organization to get 100% of its power from wind energy.. one high-cultured wind turbine, to be specific.

The opera festival it’s hosting this summer is its 78th and will run from May 20 to Aug 26. It will include “new productions of Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen directed by Melly Still, Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro directed by Michael Grandage, and Ravel's L'heure espagnole and L'enfant et les sortilèges presented as a double-bill and directed by Laurent Pelly.” Tickets went on sale over the weekend and start at £10.

Glyndebourne’s 900-kW Enercon turbine, which cost £1.5 million, is expected to produce 90% of the electricity needed for the operas.

“The 2012 Festival also offers the chance to see a showcase of 12 internationally renowned artists and sculptors whose work synchronises with the 2012 repertoire,” Glyndebourne writes. “Artists exhibiting at this year's Festival include renowned South African artist Deborah Bell, Tuema Pattie who recently exhibited at the Royal Academy and collagist artist John Stazaker. Stezaker is the first artist to take a photographic approach to the cover design of the Glyndebourne programme book.”

Sounds like a wonderful cultural event and it’s great to see such a high-profile organization and event using and promoting the use of wind energy.

You can book a ticket at glyndebourne.com or by telephone from 10:00am at +44 (0) 1273 815000.

Source: Glyndebourne

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Denmark Aims for 50% of Electricity from Wind by 2020

Posted: 26 Mar 2012 12:23 PM PDT

 
Denmark is taking major steps towards a greener future, passing an agreement that the Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building, Martin Lidegaard, says is “the broadest, the greenest, and the most long-term energy agreement that has ever been reached in Denmark.”

The agreement establishes a framework for the policy on climate and energy up to 2020 and outlines a direction for the country up until 2050. It was passed by a broad majority in the Danish Parliament led by the government parties and Denmark’s Liberal Party, the Danish People’s Party, the Danish Red-Green Alliance, and the Conservative Party; in total, 171 seats out of 179 in the parliament.

“This is a historic day for Danish energy policy. In our everyday political work, the parties are different shades of red and blue. However, today – together — we have laid down the foundation for a green future,” says Martin Lidegaard.

Middelgrunden windmills outside Copenhagen

The initiatives are as follows;

  • CO2 emissions in 2020 will be reduced by 34% of what they were in 1990.
  • Energy consumption will decrease by more than 12% in 2020 compared to 2006.
  • A total of more than 35% of Danish energy will stem from renewable energy sources.
  • 50% of the country’s electricity consumption will be stem from wind power.
  • The agreement will ensure a stable framework for the business community as a whole, and the energy sector in particular.

“Large changes will be made over the next decade,” says Lidegaard. “However, with this agreement the parties have started a transition that will strengthen the competitiveness of Danish businesses and ensure that citizens will not be subjected to exorbitant price increases on fossil fuels.”

As already reported on CleanTechnica, Denmark recently approved the construction of two large wind farms at Kriegers Flak and Horns Rev.

“Denmark will once again be the global leader in the transition to green energy. This will prepare us for a future with increasing prices for oil and coal. More-over, it will create some of the jobs that we need so desperately, now and in the coming years,” says Lidegaard.

“Investments are necessary if we are to switch society towards green energy. But the bill will be much bigger if we do not act in time. At the same time, the transition will benefit climate mitigation and the environment, and it will ensure the future competitiveness of Danish industry. With this agreement, the parties are sending a clear message that we all assume responsibility and are taking the challenges of the future seriously. It is truly a great day for energy policy in Denmark.”

Source: Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Building
Image Source: Andreas Johannsen

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Turning Nuclear Power into the Hydrogen Economy

Posted: 26 Mar 2012 12:16 PM PDT

 
The technology for a nuclear plant to also create hydrogen fuel has been around for decades, according to IAEA member Ibrahim Khamis, Ph.D., who spoke at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Sunday, and could help us into the long-heralded “hydrogen economy”.

The term “hydrogen economy” was first coined back in 1970 by former professor of Chemistry at Texas A&M University John Bockris during a talk he gave in 1970 at General Motors Technical Center. In short, it refers to an era where gasoline, diesel, and other fossil fuels are laid by the wayside and hydrogen powers our world.

Steam from Philippsburg nuclear power plant

Spin up to 2012, and according to Khamis, we have the technology to convert the steam created at nuclear power plants into hydrogen using a process termed electrolysis.

"There is rapidly growing interest around the world in hydrogen production using nuclear power plants as heat sources," Khamis said. "Hydrogen production using nuclear energy could reduce dependence on oil for fueling motor vehicles and the use of coal for generating electricity. In doing so, hydrogen could have a beneficial impact on global warming, since burning hydrogen releases only water vapor and no carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. There is a dramatic reduction in pollution."

Khamis said scientists and economists at IAEA and elsewhere are working intensively to determine how current nuclear power reactors — 435 are operational worldwide — and future nuclear power reactors could be enlisted in hydrogen production.

Most current production of hydrogen comes from natural gas or coal and results in the production of carbon dioxide. However there are smaller scale electrolysis projects in use, a process which sends an electric current flowing through water, splitting the H2O molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, and is more efficient if the electric current is passed through steam.

Experts believe that existing nuclear power plants can be adapted using a low-temperature electrolysis which can take advantage of low electricity prices during the plant's off-peak hours to produce hydrogen. For plants being designed and in construction, a more efficient, high-temperature electrolysis process can be coupled with thermochemical processes, and is currently under research and development.

"Nuclear hydrogen from electrolysis of water or steam is a reality now, yet the economics need to be improved," said Khamis.

True, economically viable possibility down the road? Or pipe dream?

Source: American Chemical Society
Image Source: Dmitry Klimenko

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