- Direct Methanol Fuel Cells Are a Proven Alternative to Batteries
- China to Have 3 GW of Concentrated Solar Thermal Power (CSP) by 2020
- Huge CPV Solar Power Project to Bring Low-Cost Electricity, Green Jobs & Growth to Baja Mexico
- Wind Turbines to Improve Efficiency by Acting More Like Humans?
- Solar Airplane (Solar Impulse) to Fly for 48 Hours from Switzerland to Morocco
- More Nuclear Power Plans Trashed
- Enphase Energy Announces IPO Prices
- Live Wind Energy Map Looks Like Living Van Gogh Painting (One of the Coolest Maps Ever)
- Ford Focus Electric to Go ‘Build to Order’ Route (Like Dell Computers)
- Solar Windows from UK Company Could Hit Market in 2013
- 6 Things You Really Need to Know about Renewable Energy
- EPA Takes Historic Step, Issues Clean Air Act Limits on CO2 Emissions from New Power Plants
- On Bike Share System Provides Affordable and Sustainable Transportation Solution for Campuses
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 09:30 AM PDT
For those interested in alternative fuels that are renewable, Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFCs) are worth investigation. These alternative energy devices – invented at the Caltech/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory with the University of Southern California (USC) – can be used to power a wide range of portable and mobile electronics.
Here is the green beauty of these electrochemical devices: They are capable of converting high energy density fuel (liquid methanol) directly to electricity, reports Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Corporation, a subsidiary of Viaspace, which develops disposable methanol fuel cartridges that provide the energy source for fuel cell powered notebook computers, mobile phones, military equipment and other applications being developed by electronics OEMs, such as Samsung and Toshiba.
They operate silently, at relatively low temperatures and offer much longer operating time than today’s batteries. Better than a battery, DMFCs don't need to be recharged. They can provide electricity continuously to the consumer electronic devices as long as oxygen and fuel are supplied to the fuel cell. To achieve this, DMFCs can be “hot-swapped” and instantly recharged with replacement methanol cartridges (akin to batteries).
Methanol or a methanol/water solution is the industry’s choice of fuel. Because it is a liquid, it is easy to store and transport. Methanol is inexpensive and readily available.
Viaspace provides this detail on how the fuels cell works:
As I have reported before, methanol is an alternative renewable fuel that should be embraced with open arms – from both a cost and climate standpoint.
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 08:36 AM PDT
The concentrated solar power (aka concentrating solar power) market will continue to grow, even in the midst of solar PV’s rapid cost reductions. According to the latest reports, China is projected to have 1,000 MW (or 1 GW) of concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) capacity by 2015 and 3 GW by 2020.
“Among the newly-encouraged energy resources listed in the Catalogue of Industry Structure Adjustment 2011 Version issued by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on June 1st, 2011, concentrating solar thermal power was given high priority,” REVE notes.
“According to China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, in the next 5 years, regions with good illumination conditions and adequate space and water resources will serve as pilot areas of solar thermal power projects to accelerate industry development. Insiders believe that by the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015), China’s installed capacity of solar thermal power will exceed that of photovoltaic generation.”
REVE also notes that 2nd Annual China Concentrating Solar Power Summit will be June 28-29 in Beijing, China, where ‘hot issues’ will be discussed and investment opportunities explored. “250+ industry leaders from government departments, power & energy companies, solar power plants, technology and equipment suppliers, industry solution providers and research institutes will join in.”
Currently, here’s a list of Chinese CSP projects either planned or under construction:
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 08:35 AM PDT
San Jose concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology and systems developer SolFocus yesterday announced that it’s joining with Mexico property developer Grupo Musaand Georgia’s Synergy Technologies LLC to bring Mexico’s landmark solar power plant in Baja California online.
The planned 450-MW solar power plant, Mexico’s first large-scale solar PV project and the largest by far in the country to date, is to be constructed near Tecate, Mexico in 50-MW stages. The first stage is to start late this year and start producing clean, renewable solar power before year-end 2013, according to a SolFocus press release.
The Baja solar power plant will employ SolFocus’s Concentrator Photovoltaic equipment and will be owned and operated by SolMex Energy SA de CV, a new joint venture company formed by Grupo Musa and Synergy.
Baja: A Tremendous Solar Power Resource, Now a Test Ground for Solar CPV
Northern Mexico has the third-greatest solar resource in the world, according to the developers. The energy conversion efficiency of SolFocus’s CPV solar cells approach 40%, as compared to less than 20% for the highest efficiency crystalline silicon (c-SI) solar PV out on the market today. Durable and able to perform at high efficiency in high-temperature environments, they’re also well suited to site conditions in Baja, according to the company.
Some 3,850 SolFocus SF-1136SX CPV systems will be installed on the 122 hectare (~300 acre) Baja CPV solar power project site. Though Grupo Musa expects to use most of the initial 50-MW of renewable energy produced by the Baja CPV solar power plant to power its own facilities, the project will deliver low-cost, renewable energy reliably over the long term across the region. That will foster and facilitate economic activity in an environmentally and socially responsible way, including through the creation of green jobs, SolFocus CEO Mark Crowley pointed out.
The 450-MW Baja solar power project is also notable in that it offers additional evidence of private sector follow-through on the Mexican government’s efforts to chart and navigate a transition away from an energy policy centered on oil and gas to cleaner, renewable energy resources.
Follow-Through on Mexico’s Clean Energy–Climate Change–Sustainable Development Plans
"Mexico has been successful with wind energy, and now this large solar project will support our energy infrastructure and economic development efforts in the very near future. This project adds to Governor Osuna Millan’s vision of a sustainable Baja California."
Developing Pacific Mexico’s wind energy resources have thus far been the focus of renewable energy project announcements. Marena Renovables earlier this month placed an order for 396-MW worth of Vestas wind turbines, which are to be installed on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca. The largest wind farm in Latin America announced to date, Marena Renovable’s a multinational consortium comprised of Dutch pension fund service provider PGGM, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp., and Macquarie Bank’s Mexican infrastructure fund.
Developing wind and solar power generation dovetails with Mexico’s climate change action plans. Also earlier this month, Mexico’s Senate began working on a unified national climate change bill, one that would consolidate and better organize climate change action plans that have already been passed in the Federal District of Mexico City, Tabasco and Veracruz.
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 08:01 AM PDT
Wind turbines may get a bit of an efficiency boost (eventually) by mimicking human memory systems, thanks to the thinking and work of some Chinese researchers.
As you well know, the wind changes frequently, and wind turbines have to adjust as it changes in order to maximize their efficiency. They can only do that as well as their control systems allow them to. Some Chinese researchers think they have found a ‘simple’ way to improve those control systems by making them act more like humans and memorize previous changes.
Here’s more information from the American Institute of Physics, via Science Daily:
So, apparently, this new method hasn’t resulted in better wind turbine efficiencies yet, but it’s expected to in the future. Yet another technological advancement likely to bring down wind power’s already low costs.
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 06:32 AM PDT
Here are some more details, posted on sister site Planetsave last night:
And here are my overall thoughts on the plane and its place in the world of aviation and cleantech:
While flights in this plane may not be very practical for most people right now, think about how fast we've transitioned from the Wright brother's early, dinky planes to the jets we fly in today. Also, this plane is really just a testament to the tremendous leaps and bounds we've made in the solar power sector in general in the past few decades (or even just the past few years). Kudos to the great folks in the solar sector moving us forward and the great folks involved in the solar impulse project — hopefully it encourages and inspires more people to go solar!
Now, here’s that video of Solar Impulse’s first flight:
What do you think of this solar-powered airplane?
Image Credit: Solar Impulse/Stéphane Gros
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 06:28 AM PDT
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 05:52 AM PDT
Enphase Energy, now a world leader in microinverter technology for the solar industry, announced pricing yesterday for its initial public offering (IPO) of 8,969,697 shares of common stock. The price was set at $6.00 per share.
“All of the shares of common stock in the offering are being offered directly by Enphase. In addition, Enphase has granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 1,345,454 shares of common stock, solely to cover over-allotments, if any,” the company noted in a news release.
“Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, BofA Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. are acting as joint book-running managers for the offering. Jefferies & Company, Inc. is acting as joint lead manager, and Lazard Capital Markets LLC and ThinkEquity LLC are acting as co-managers. The shares are expected to begin trading on the NASDAQ Global Market on March 30, 2012 under the ticker symbol ‘ENPH.’”
Still not clear on what Enphase’s microinverter technology does? As Enphase writes, it ”increases energy production, simplifies design and installation, improves system uptime and reliability, reduces fire safety risk and provides a platform for intelligent energy management. Our semiconductor-based microinverter system converts energy at the individual solar module level and brings a systems-based, high technology approach to solar energy generation.”
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 05:38 AM PDT
Fernanda B. Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, founders of Many Eyes, have created one of the coolest maps I’ve ever seen — it looks like a living Vincent van Gogh masterpiece. (Makes me think van Gogh was able to see the wind.)
You can see a still of the map above, but you have to check out the (nearly) live wind map to get the full effect.
Martin and Fernanda work for Google, and the wind visualization map works best in Google Chrome (which you should be using anyway!). However, the creators note that the map is just a personal art project and not associated with any companies. More from Viégas and Wattenberg:
For more wind maps and information, check out our wind power page.
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 05:23 AM PDT
As reported previously here on CleanTechnica, the Ford Focus Electric is the most fuel-efficient car in the US, and it is now on sale for $39,995. It’s supposed to be available in select states (New York, New Jersey, and California) in April; nationwide sometime this Summer or Fall; and in Europe in late 2012. But now, the news is, to “de-risk” roll-out of the vehicle it is going to use a “built-to-order” model (essentially, what Dell pioneered with computers).
“Under the model, Ford dealers across the US will boast one demonstration vehicle and customers will then be able to order the car and receive their model within around four to six weeks,” James Murray notes over on the Guardian.
“We’ve taken a different approach to other EV manufacturers in that we are producing the Focus EV on the same production line as the gas, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions,” he explained. “There are simply too many variables impacting the market that we have no control over, so this gives us real flexibility. If the price of crude rises and demand for EVs climbs we can produce more EVs and fewer gas vehicles.”
Sounds like a good idea. (Also, if conservative media and politicians rail on the car for months over one minor non-newsworthy story, effectively killing sales, this would allow Ford to decrease production.)
Murray also noted a number of innovative offerings connected with the Ford Focus Electric. Ford has teamed up with US solar power company SunPower to promote solar-EV combos. A SunPower arrary could provide enough electricity for a Ford Focus driver to go 15,000 miles a year. “Drive Green for Life” is the name of this solar system offering, which will cost less than $10,000 and include a 25-year warranty. (Note that Nissan has teamed up with SunPower to offer essentially the same thing in combination with its Nissan Leaf.)
Ford Focus Electric drivers will also be allowed to drive in California’s HOV lanes.
For more details on the car, check out: Ford Focus Electric: 110 MPGe & Most Fuel-Efficient Car in US
Images courtesy Ford
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 04:46 AM PDT
Windows that Generate Power?
So, you might be wondering: ‘Is this legit? Can we really create power from the sunlight that hits windows?’ The answer is: ‘Of course we can! It’s already being done.’ The issue now is just getting the cost down (famous last words of many companies and future-tech enthusiasts).
Oxford PV combines dye-based thin-film solar cells with glass substrates for its technology. This combo results in tinted glass that is at the same time a solar power generation system.
“We screen print metal oxides, dyes, plastics and polymers directly on to glass,” explained Kevin Arthur, chief executive of Oxford PV. “Light reacts with the dye to create a current that we collect through two terminals, just like a standard battery.”
The tinted glass can come in a variety of colors or opaque, and apparently architects are dying for it (no pun intended) and trying to get the company to speed up its development process.
Next Steps for Oxford PV
“The technology has been successfully developed in the lab and Arthur is in San Francisco this week as part of the UK’s Clean and Cool Mission with a view to raising £3.5m in venture capital funding to support the development of a pilot production line,” Business Green reports.
“We have small prototype cells that are 10cm by 10cm, but we want to move to a full scale pilot production line that can make panels that are two metres by three metres,” Arthur said. He also noted that the (simplified) roadmap to commercial production is to finish its current funding round by the end of 2012 and start commercially producing solar glass panels by the third quarter of 2013.
Solar Window Advantages
“There are a lot of cost advantages to thin film solar technologies,” Arthur noted. “Because you are basically screen printing, production costs are much lower than for conventional solar cells and the cost of the materials is also falling. But most importantly once a company has decided to have a glass façade on their building they have already decided to install our substrate.” (And the good news is, that’s the majority of the surface of most modern buildings.)
While the technology certainly isn’t there yet, “modelling done by the company suggested the system could produce solar power at a cost of just 35 cents per watt,” according to Business Green.
Solar Window Potential
Currently, Oxford PV’s solar window technology is just producing electricity at a little over 6% efficiency, but models have shown that there is potential to get that up to about 20%. And, again, the main advantages are the overall lower costs and the widespread use of glass as a building material.
“Figures from architects show that 60 per cent of many modern commercial buildings’ surface area is glass,” Arthur noted. “We have modelled the effect of the solar glass on a 700 foot skyscraper in Texas and it revealed that we could generate up to 5.3MWh a day.
“That’s enough to power 52,000 iPads. If you combined the solar glass with the installation of LED lighting in the building you could power all your lights, as well as DC powered devices such as laptops.”
Solar Windows from New Energy Technologies
As noted at the top of this article, US startup New Energy Technologies has been working on solar window technology (SolarWindows) for the past few years as well. If you missed stories on this company and technology, check out:
Image: screenshot from Oxford PV website
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 03:46 AM PDT
Adam Jones, Special Assistant for Energy Policy at American Progress, wrote a great post on Climate Progress this week on 6 things you really need to know about the value of renewable energy. They are all things that we have covered many, many times here on CleanTechnica, but they are still worth seeing again, especially in a focused, list format. So, here they are:
Jones also went on to give more details on each of these points, listing a ton of renewable energy facts, which I think he did a great job of, so here are those details (the remainder of this post is from Jones’ Climate Progress piece, except where I add in notes using my initials — ‘ZS’):
1. Clean energy is competitive with other types of energy
2. Clean energy creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels
3. Clean energy improves grid reliability
4. Clean energy investment has surpassed investments in fossil fuels
5. Investments in clean energy are cost effective
6. Fossil fuels have gotten 75 times more subsidies than clean energy
Renewable energy will be the engine of U.S. economic growth and prosperity for years to come, but it is not without opposition. Leaders in policy and business must get behind the Americans who are and will be empowered by renewable power and work together to overcome market barriers and false information. The facts are in and we should seize this opportunity to put Americans back to work and maintain a place at the cutting edge of innovation and competitiveness.
Image Credit: wind turbine, solar panel, & globe courtesy shutterstock
Posted: 30 Mar 2012 12:14 AM PDT
Congressional Republicans squashed the Obama administration and supporting Democratic Senators’ latest attempt to eliminate oil and gas industry subsidies this week, but the Obama administration’s efforts to redirect energy policy away from supporting fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy continue nonetheless. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 27 for the first time proposed the nation’s first carbon pollution standard, the Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants.
There’s no limit on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from US coal and other fossil fuel power plants at present. That will change with enactment of the EPA’s Clean Air Act pollution standard, which, while raising the cost of building new coal-fired power plants, will reduce the numerous and sizable health, safety and environmental costs that aren’t being factored into their cost.
"Today we're taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson stated in a press release.
New Power Plants, New CO2 Emissions Rules
The EPA’s GHG (Greenhouse Gas) Tailoring Rule, issued in May 2010, states that in its new power plant permitting process, the EPA will “focus on the largest industrial sources, those emitting nearly 70 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution from stationary sources, while shielding millions of small businesses that make up the vast majority of the US economy.”
The EPA, since an April 2007 Supreme Court ruling that CO2 meets the definition of an air pollutant, has been working steadily with other federal, state and local government offices to establish the new regulatory rules, along with establishing the organizational framework and processes necessary to implement them.
The EPA’s taking a “phased-in” approach to enacting the new CO2 emission standards for new power plants. In May 2010, the EPA issued its final GHG Tailoring Rule, which “raised the thresholds for GHG emissions that define when permits under the PSD (Prevention of Significant Deterioration) Permit Program and Title V Operating Permit programs are required for new and existing industrial facilities.”
Posted: 29 Mar 2012 07:44 PM PDT
With everybody now in a spring's swing, the time seems perfect for college students to make new green plans for going from place to place. As such, On Bike Share is joining the gig, announcing an affordable campus bike share system that's designed to "make bicycling an integral part of college and corporate campus transportation."
On Bike Share (OBS) is in the midst of deploying a comprehensive biking solution for campuses by automating bike fleets. As OBS puts it, campuses design and configure a system to meet their sustainability needs. The OBS system then makes implementation, maintenance, and tracking fast and easy through a series of innovations designed specifically for campus environments.
"Campuses are always looking for ways to be more green," said David Boyce, OBS co-founder in a news release. "The On Bike Share system delivers an alternative transportation solution in a safe and cost-effective way, while at the same time tracking how often the bikes are being used, and ensuring that the system remains in good working order."
The OBS system uses key locking technology, back-end software, and innovative chainless technology, operations maintenance costs are lowered. Registered users can remove the OBS chainless bike from the locking system using their ID card. The bike's unique integrated lock offers riders the convenience of taking the bike where they need to go and the ability to lock it to any standard bike rack.
The chainless technology is a plus, too. OBS bikes use technology from Dynamic Bicycles, and key locking innovation from Morse Watchmans. Boyce adds, "With over 90 percent of all bike maintenance costs attributed to chain and derailleur systems, our customers will benefit from the advantages that chainless bikes provide."
OBS will launch new systems in spring 2012. Happy spring pedaling.
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