- Feeding the World in a Changing Climate
- UK Government Appeal to High Court Solar Feed-in Tariff Decision Rejected by Supreme Court
- Denver Zoo Creatively Fuels Tuk-Tuk With Animal Waste
- Natural Gas Leak off Scottish Coast — Energy Giant Total Trying to Contain It
- Taking Control for a Brighter Future
- 9 Suprising Things about People Who Go Solar (Infographic)
- Over 70% of Californians Go Solar Using a Service (Don’t Buy Their Solar Power Systems)
- Old Disco Trick Unlocks Graphene’s High Tech Potential
- SunPower’s World Record Solar Cells Now in Commercial Production
- Unveil Building Energy Use, Create Thousands of Jobs (2 New Reports)
- Worldwide Solar Cell Production in 2011 = 37.2 GW (Up 36%)
- Ecova Earns 2012 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award
Posted: 29 Mar 2012 06:56 AM PDT
According to the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, there are nearly one billion undernourished on our planet, and millions who suffer from chronic disease due to excess food consumption.
The demand for food continues to grow as populations continue to grow, and food prices grow with them. But despite all of this, approximately one-third of food produced for humans is lost or wasted.
On top of this, climate change threatens more and more droughts, flooding, and outbreaks of pests at the same time as we clear 12 million hectares of agricultural land through land degradation and deforestation.
"Food insecurity and climate change are already inhibiting human well-being and economic growth throughout the world and these problems are poised to accelerate," said Sir John Beddington, chair of the Commission. "Decisive policy action is required if we are to preserve the planet's capacity to produce adequate food in the future.”
The report produced by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change was released at the Planet Under Pressure conference currently in progress and highlights specific opportunities available under the mandates of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Group of 20 (G20) nations.
The Commission outlined seven recommendations that are designed to be implemented by a combination of governments, international institutions, investors, agricultural producers, consumers, food companies, and researchers. Those 7 recommendations are:
The full report, Achieving food security in the face of climate change, is available in PDF format (link above), while a video explaining the gist of the report can be viewed here:
For a series of quotes from the various Commissioners involved in the preparation of the report, jump to the next page.
Image Source: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture
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Posted: 29 Mar 2012 06:49 AM PDT
Solar energy is a quickly growing field in many countries, as we've pointed out many times here on CleanTechnica. The United Kingdom, however, finds itself in a position of hobbling growth in the PV sector, as feed-in tariffs for photovoltaics have been cut roughly in half.
While arrays completed by March 3 are still eligible for the old tariffs, the UK government tried to cut funding for such projects much more abruptly at the end of 2011. The UK’s High Court deemed this illegal, and the UK government decided to appeal that decision. Now, the Supreme Court has refused to hear the government's appeal. Nonetheless, legal uncertainty of the UK government’s constant appeals inevitably causes uncertainty in the industry and also ends of leading to rushed efforts to meet deadlines and poor workmanship, as time for quality control is reduced or gone altogether.
Renewable Energy Is a Good Thing, People
The Department of Energy and Clinic Change (DECC) reported on its website its disappointment that the court refused to hear its case, saying:
However, this supposed good intention is in strong contrast to the solar industry’s impression of this story. Solar Century chairman Jeremy Leggett has made the point that while the UK has a target of 20 gigawatts of PV by 2020, it only has 1 gigawatt installed so far. Pacing itself doesn’t seem like what’s needed at this point.
The question now is whether or not the UK will be able to continue installing solar power at the rate necessary to meet its goals for renewable energy with the tariff cuts in place — at least two gigawatts per year. Given the current state of the UK PV industry, the government is going to have to lay out some sort of plan in order to meet its goals, and so far it doesn't seem to have one.
Hopefully a plan will be forthcoming shortly, or the UK will fall behind the rest of Europe in clean and green energy.
Comments or questions? Let us know below.
Source: Renewables International
Posted: 29 Mar 2012 05:59 AM PDT
The image of the garbage-burning DeLorean from Back to the Future II is iconic for the 80s, but despite efforts, as of yet, no one has managed to make a car actually run on trash. The Denver Zoo is coming closer, though, with a new-found power source that is a little bit surprising — the zoo's engineers have found a way to run a tuk-tuk on animal poo.
Having many animals and many visitors, the Denver Zoo also has to deal with disposing of a lot of organic waste; thousands and thousands of pounds a year. Its first foray into poo as fuel was with a margarita machine, which presumably made perfectly drinkable margaritas. Then the folks at the zoo really got creative.
Tuk-Tuks For The Win
A tuk-tuk is a sort of motorized cart, and if you do not find it as awesome as I do, I shall quietly weep for you. It’s a cute little fuel-efficient way to get around, with three wheels for extra fun. Of course, despite using as little fuel as they do, tuk-tuks still need something to get around. One fuel-efficient three-wheeler plus a desire on the part of the Denver Zoo engineers to prove that they weren't completely insane equals a very unique little vehicle.
The zoo’s power source is certainly one way around expensive electric battery packs; as reported by the Denver Post, one engineer was quite insistent that their research makes perfect sense:
Well, I think they're quite sane and even reasonable. The poo gets turned into pellets. When heated, the pellets produce syngas. The gas drives a generator, and the generator powers the tuk-tuk's battery. If that sounds complicated, don't worry; the take-away is that the poo-powered tuk-tuk is clean, quiet, and odor-free.
Potentially, a use for larger vehicles in the future? Given the increasing population of the Earth and the finite amount of both fossil fuels, and also room to store waste, I definitely think so — but what about you? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Posted: 29 Mar 2012 05:47 AM PDT
The energy company Total has been trying to contain a natural gas leak at their Elgin offshore drilling platform for the past day or so. This natural gas drilling platform is located off the coast of Scotland, and the leak has resulted in the formation of a large gas cloud, which, if ignited, has the potential to cause a massive explosion.
“If the gas cloud somehow finds an ignition source, we could be looking at complete destruction,” said Jake Molloy, an official with the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.
There is not as much gas as was previously thought at the offshore natural gas drilling rig, due to the fact that the wind has been blowing it away. As an understandable safety precaution, 240 workers were removed from the rig due to the high potential of a disaster.
“Investigations are ongoing to analyze the causes and to determine the remediation of the gas leak,” according to Total, the energy company.
According to Total, there is a “sheen” on the water in the platform’s vicinity.
Natural gas vaporizes into gas form immediately when exposed to the atmosphere, and under water too — it bubbles up and out of the water, into the atmosphere, due to it’s low density.
This incident is reminiscent of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, of course, but it isn’t quite the same. This is a gas leak, not a liquid, so it bubbles out of the water, rather than settling on it and depriving it and marine life of oxygen as oil does. Also, the risk of explosion is greater due to the large amount of flammable and poisonous gas leaking into the atmosphere.
Historic Fact: The North Sea was actually the vicinity in which the world’s first offshore drilling disaster took place in 1988. It was the Piper Alpha explosion, and it killed 167 people.
Posted: 29 Mar 2012 04:00 AM PDT
As we all look to the light at the end of the tunnel, the cultural shift toward simplicity, greater sustainability, and environmental responsibility is becoming more apparent. We must take control of our long-term budgets by investing in energy-saving practices, and realizing the trend toward modern advancements in energy efficiency.
You can read many blogs and articles across the Internet about lighting retrofits — replacing T12's with T8′s or T5′s — but when you take a closer look and read case studies, it becomes obvious that many companies are realizing the greatest return on investment by choosing lighting upgrades as a way to increase profitability.
Industry experts say demand is increasing for simple lighting upgrade options, both in interest and in actual projects, and the trend will only continue to grow. The combination of rebates, tax credits, and energy savings dramatically shorten the return-on-investment time, making installation of T8 or T5 lighting
In addition to installing fixtures, the continued growth of lighting management systems only enhances savings. Installation of lighting controls creates the maximum performance of your facilities fluorescent lighting and the demand for such systems is high.
Craig DiLouie, education director for the Lighting Controls Association, said that perhaps the greatest driver is energy management. The New Buildings Institute reports that advanced lighting controls in combination with energy-efficient lighting applications can generate up to 50 percent energy savings in existing buildings. For example, a simple automatic shutoff is one of the most simple, if not the most significant and low-risk, strategies to generate energy savings. Using the newest technology found in the T5 fluorescent bulb coupled with a management system is the best solution to accelerate energy and cost savings.
Fortunately, all commercial building types can benefit from lighting upgrades. Selecting the right lighting retrofit product is important, especially when you only want to spend money on the product and installation costs once. Consider these options as a way to significantly increase profitability by simply decreasing operational costs. You're in complete control and no longer a "victim" of ridiculous utility costs and sky-high energy bills.
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 05:46 PM PDT
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 05:24 PM PDT
There is a benefit to not having to put down the money for a solar power system. There is a benefit to having drastically lower electricity bills immediately, even $0 electricity bills, without having to put a chunk of money in for that. Yes, if you have the money to actually buy a solar power system, DO THAT. But if you have determined that you don’t, you can start saving money today with solar leasing!
A new report out this week by Sunrun, “the nation's leading home solar company,” and PV Solar Report, “an authority on solar market data,” shows that a shocking 73.4% of Californians who go solar are now going solar using this option (as of February 2012). They use the terms “3rd-party-owned solar” and “solar power service” to describe this option (which actually includes solar leasing and home solar power purchase agreements). But no matter what you call it or which option you go with, the benefits come down to what I mentioned above. And, in the long run, people can save a ton!
“Sunrun invented solar power service in 2007 as a way for homeowners to go solar without spending $30,000 or more to buy the panels,” the company notes. “Sunrun owns and maintains the panels and homeowners pay a low rate for power. The model increases local economic growth by infusing outside investment dollars into neighborhoods and communities. Consumers also have the added benefit of free maintenance and monitoring on their systems.”
Last year, in June, solar power service passed up purchasing of solar power systems as the #1 way to go solar in California. Obviously, the sub-sector continues to grow. Compared to the first two months of 2011, 3rd-party-owned solar grew 174% in California.
The report notes that, so far in 2012, this solar sub-sector “has generated over $100 million in growth for the California economy.”
"Every consumer in today's economy is looking for ways to save money, and now they can do that with a solar option that allows them to make the switch without owning the panels," said Stephen Torres, founder and managing director of PV Solar Report. "This trend is taking hold on a national scale and PV Solar Report continues to track this and other critical data to provide up-to-date insight on how the solar market is growing."
More information on the report: “PV Solar Report's analysis is based on data from the California Solar Initiative (CSI) and an executive brief is available here. The CSI includes data from the California utilities SDG&E, PG&E and SCE. PV Solar Report is also expanding its services to New Jersey and more information can be found at www.pvsolarreport.com.”
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 05:15 PM PDT
Dry ice once gained notoriety as a fog enabler at innumerable 1970's discotheques, and now it is being revived to hustle a 21st century breakthrough material out of the lab and into commercial use. Researchers from South Korea and Case Western Reserve University are developing a way to manufacture large quantities of graphene based on little more than dry ice and a canister filled with stainless steel balls.
What graphene means for a sustainable future
Graphene’s unique electrical properties combined with its incredible strength (though only one atom thick, a sheet of graphene is 200 times stronger than steel) could lead to smaller, lighter, cheaper, more energy efficient and more powerful electronic devices for the consumer market. Graphene could also give rise to a new generation of electronic devices altogether, with applications for science, medicine, industry and of course, warfare.
Since the words "light" "strong" and "electronic" are usually good for attracting the attention of the U.S. Air Force, it's no surprise that the Air Force Office of Scientific Research is among the funders of the new research.
So close, and yet so far
Graphene has made waves in the research community since first discovered in 2004, but its tantalizing future has been out of reach because it is extremely difficult to mass produce.
Early research was conducted on graphene sheets that were literally lifted from chunks of graphite with sticky tape, and there are a number of ways to generate flakes of graphene, but researchers are still trying to figure out how to produce it in usable forms with predictable behaviors, at a commercially viable price.
The current method of choice is based on acid oxidation, which is a "tedious," expensive process that requires toxic chemicals according to the Korea/Case Western research co-author Liming Dai, a professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case.
Using dry ice to make a better graphene flake
The Korea/Case team is doing a workaround on the production problem by generating graphene flakes that can be bonded seamlessly together. The flakes are prepped using a low cost process without the toxic chemicals.
As described by Case Western blogger Kevin Mayhood:
"Researchers placed graphite and frozen carbon dioxide [dry ice] in a ball miller, which is a canister filled with stainless steel balls. The canister was turned for two days and the mechanical force produced flakes of graphite with edges essentially opened up to chemical interaction by carboxylic acid formed during the milling."
When the flakes are soaked in a solvent, they separate into sheets of graphene up to five layers thick. That's not quite the one-atom scale of pure graphene, but it is still incredibly thin: in comparison, it would take three million layers to make a flake one millimeter thick.
Yep, it’s a better graphene flake
The thin sheets of graphene can be pressed into pellets that conduct electricity 688 times better than pellets made from graphene produced by acid oxidation, according to the Korea/Case team.
The team also demonstrated that their graphene pellets could withstand extremely high temperatures (900 degrees Celsius) for a longer period of time than conventional acid oxidation based pellets.
Creating usable graphene pellets in the lab through a low cost, reliable process is a first step to demonstrating that graphene could be fabricated in molded shapes for commercial use. In addition to molding, the team also demonstrated that their graphene flakes can be deposited on silicon wafers to form thin films with a large surface area.
The U.S. Air Force hearts graphene
As for the Air Force, in an article last September Dr. John Boeckl, a materials and manufacturing expert with the Air Force Research Laboratory, described how graphene could "totally transform technologies:"
"Researchers predict that graphene will be as transformative as the television, atomic bomb, and silicon chip. It has the potential for enormous impact on Air Force capabilities, such as enabling band-hopping radar and leading to radio frequency semiconductors that are 100 times faster than the current state-of-the-art. Graphene may lead to the production of lighter aircraft and satellites, and may be used in sensors, electric batteries, transparent conductive coatings for solar cells, and in a variety of other applications."
The Air Force has also been funding graphene fabrication research at Columbia University through an interdisciplinary project involving Columbia Engineering, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Cornell University. Earlier this month the Air Force extended its involvement for another two years with an additional grant of $3 million.
Rice University is another hotbed of graphene research that has been fueled with Air Force funding. Last January a team of researchers at Rice announced that they have developed a method for transforming graphene's relatively simple chickenwire structure into a complex "superlattice" that could be tailored for use in applications based on organic chemistry, as well as electronics, optics, thermoelectric devices and sensors.
"The beauty of this process is the promise it holds for future devices with the ability to efficiently accomplish a wide variety of highly sophisticated functions in one small affordable device," enthused Dr. Robert White of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in an article describing the research.
Dr. White is not alone among his Air Force colleagues in his somewhat poetic advocacy for graphene. In a presentation on graphene developed last year, Lt. Col. Scott Dudley, the Air Force physics program manager who is responsible for finding and funding basic research, evoked the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Pink Floyd to make the case for a graphene-based future.
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 04:51 PM PDT
“This world-record efficiency solar cell delivers sunlight to electricity conversion efficiency of up to 24 percent,” the news release noted.
“We’re pleased to move our world-record breaking efficiency solar cell from the lab into commercial production,” said Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO.
Here are some more details on SunPower’s top solar cells:
“SunPower’s new Maxeon all-back contact solar cell measures 160 mm in size and produces more energy per square meter when compared to conventional crystalline solar cells. The new cell has low reverse-bias breakdown voltage to deliver better performance in shady and dusty conditions, and better temperature coefficient for increased energy harvest in hot environments. The new Maxeon solar cell offers improved aesthetics with a consistent, homogenous, sleek black look.”
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 04:31 PM PDT
“Two new reports from the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) show how a new kind of energy policy is creating skilled, export-proof jobs in cities across the United States,” an email to me 10 hours ago noted. “Under this type of policy, called building energy rating and disclosure, owners of large buildings track exactly how much energy their properties use. Armed with this information, they can make changes that reduce their utility bills and those of their tenants—helping everyone's bottom line.”
Sounds good, eh? But what’s the actual potential here? Glad you asked…. (Or am I just speaking/writing to myself again?) While 5 cities and two states have now adopted such policies, if there were a national policy along these lines, ”23,000 net new jobs would be added in 2015 and 59,000 jobs in 2020.” Cha-ching!
Here are some more useful thoughts and facts from the email sent to me earlier:
When buildings' energy use is made transparent (given a grade that is published online or shared in a real estate transaction), it's like an MPG sticker for buildings. Americans can shop for office space or a new apartment with an eye on how much it will cost them in utilities. That, in turn, spurs owners to make their buildings more efficient, creating demand for specialists who can help reduce energy use: energy managers and auditors, sustainability consultants, and HVAC professionals.
Energy Disclosure and the New Frontier for American Jobs profiles business leaders who are adding jobs and expanding their client rosters. These are mostly small business owners who are pioneers in the emerging field of building energy management.
Analysis of Job Creation and Energy Cost Savings From Building Energy Rating and Disclosure Policy shows that current job growth is just the beginning. This analysis by IMT and the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, predicts:
"Brilliant in its simplicity, public disclosure of building energy consumption will start a stampede to upgrade buildings," predicts venture capitalist Elton Sherwin, author of the book Addicted to Energy. Energy disclosure harnesses the power of information in a way that's unprecedented for the built environment. For decades, nobody has known the difference between an energy-efficient building and an energy-inefficient building.
"Better information means more competition for better buildings," says IMT's Andrew Burr, the lead author of both reports. "It means more private investment channeled into training workers, retuning mechanical systems, and upgrading equipment. And that means more work improving American buildings and more American jobs."
Image: houses courtesy shutterstock
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 04:12 PM PDT
While it didn’t grow as fast as the previous year, global PV cell production still grew and hit a considerable 37.2 GW in 2011, 36% more than the 27.4 GW produced in 2010.
While that 36% growth may still sounds like a lot, and it is, it’s quite a bit less than the 120% growth spurt in the sector in 2012, PHOTON International notes in its discussion of its annual survey. Going even further, it notes that “the 2011 cell output was the PV industry’s lowest growth rate since a 34-percent increase in 2003.”
Other findings include:
“The days of solar cell production in western countries are numbered,” says Michael Schmela, editor-in-chief of PHOTON International. “Like other commodities, solar cell production will continue its rapid shift to low-labor-cost countries in Asia, especially China.”
Not everyone has come to that conclusion yet. I’ve seen word that some Chinese companies, following the introduction of new tariffs on imports, are looking to move solar production to the U.S., the #1 country for solar energy investment attractiveness according to Ernst & Young. Though, that is yet to be confirmed.
Despite plenty of supply and some inevitable cuts in demand in some leading solar countries, solar cell production is still projected to increase considerably in 2012.
“Cell producers are still predicting a combined production of around 52.5 GW in 2012 — a 41-percent growth year-on-year. Overall, they are planning to increase capacities by 19 percent to around 69 GW in 2012, after raising capacity by 57 percent to nearly 58 GW by the end of 2011.”
Posted: 28 Mar 2012 12:41 PM PDT
The EPA recently recognized Ecova's long-term commitment to energy efficiency for the eighth year in a row by awarding it the 2012 ENERGY STAR® Sustained Excellence Award.
Ecova, based out of Spokane, Washington, is “the total energy and sustainability management company.” Ecova helps industry-leading companies reduce their energy consumption and strengthen their bottom line — extremely significant considering companies waste nearly 30 percent of their energy through controllable inefficiencies.
Ecova has been an ENERGY STAR partner since 2005, recognized by the EPA for eight consecutive years — twice as Partner of the Year and now a sixth time for Sustained Excellence.
This year several of Ecova's own clients, including Staples, Inc., have won ENERGY STAR awards for work supported by Ecova.
Staples has been an ENERGY STAR partner since 1999 and is always working toward increasing its energy efficiency – from 2007 to 2010 alone, Staples decreased its electricity use per square foot in the U.S. by 12 percent. These efforts saved Staples nearly $9.9 million per year. Ecova has played a large role in these cost-savings; the two companies have partnered for more than 12 years, ensuring Staples has access to accurate data to monitor its progress and track energy efficiency programs for all U.S. facilities.
According to Bob Valair, Staples director of energy and environmental management:
"Working with Ecova enables our organization to have the highest level of energy data and a team of energy experts to help implement and track energy efficiency programs. Ecova also helps submit data from over 2,000 facilities directly into the ENERGY STAR program each month. Data, expertise and analytical capabilities from Ecova play a key role in our success in achieving ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year."
Jeff Heggedahl, CEO of Ecova spoke about the ENERGY STAR recognition:
"It's an honor to win this award from the EPA. Our team of experts is dedicated to helping companies achieve tremendous energy savings through strategic prioritization and measurement. As an organization that understands that energy management is good for the environment and our clients' bottom lines, we deeply appreciate the EPA's recognition of our team's leadership."
Each year, the EPA selects winners of the Sustained Excellence Award from approximately 20,000 organizations in the ENERGY STAR program.
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