Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Virtual Green Highway for Electric Vehicles between Vienna & Bratislava (via IBM & ZSE)

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 09:46 AM PDT

electric highway bratislava vienna

IBM has teamed up with Slovakia’s Zapadoslovenska energetika, a. s. (ZSE), the largest distributor and supplier of electricity in the country, to implement a smart energy feasibility study aimed at preparing Slovakia’s capital city of Bratislava for electric vehicles (EVs) and finding possibilities for connecting Bratislava and Vienna with publicly available electric vehicle charging stations.

The study will use e-mobility technology and is part of a larger pilot project — VIBRATe’ (VIenna BRATislava E-mobility). This pilot project, “a first of its kind in Central Europe,” aims to reduce emissions with a smarter, more energy-efficient transportation system.

“IBM Slovakia is teaming with ZSE to provide insights into various implementation scenarios and infrastructure options for charging,” an IBM news release states. “Together, the companies are investigating charging station locations for normal and rapid charging across the borders, as well as analyzing networking availability. This insight will allow ZSE to strategically place charging stations in areas that are convenient for consumers, without straining the distribution system, an issue caused by unpredictable charging across territories.”

"Model map of possible allocation of charging stations in Bratislava using sample testing data. Green color shows the objects in a grid of 0.5 kilometer density."

“Rising fuel prices and energy consumption are two major issues facing many cities around the world, these factors coupled with aging roads and infrastructures, can affect city planning, local economy, and overall community satisfaction,” said Guido Bartels, General Manager of IBM’s Global Energy and Utilities Industry. ”This mobility project with ZSE tackles all of these issues. It has the potential to introduce a modern, convenient and more intelligent way for consumers to commute, which in turn may encourage more to make the shift to an electric vehicle, while reducing stress on the energy grid.”

Grid Benefits from EVs & EV Charging Network

Aside from the environmental benefits, electric vehicles and a distributed EV charging network helps out electricity grid managers. The project above will help “utilities manage power load on the energy grid during peak charging times with better insight into consumption,” IBM notes. “Additionally, energy suppliers will have the ability to store energy for use when natural sources of energy are not available.”

Source: IBM

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Fin-Shaped Outdoor LED Lighting from Cree

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 09:27 AM PDT

LED outdoor lighting

LED lighting company Cree has now developed some pretty unique-looking outdoor LED lamps. The Aeroblades™ series of luminaires debuted at Light+Building in Frankfurt last week. The lamps are based on Cree's advanced BetaLED® Technology with superior NanoOptic® lighting control.

The Aeroblades series was developed in coordination with design firm Speirs + Major. Notably, despite the unique and somewhat ‘flashy’ design, form followed function for the design company.

"While everybody else was creating standard shoeboxes and other conventional designs, we were approached with a revolutionary technology that allowed us to throw out all preconceptions of how urban luminaires should appear," said Keith Bradshaw, director, Speirs + Major. "The result is the Aeroblades luminaire, designed for the best LED performance and the form followed."

Here’s more on the technology from a Cree news release: “The Aeroblades series boasts a unique modular design that allows the state-of-the-art light engine to bring unprecedented versatility and precision to outdoor applications. Aeroblades luminaires can be fine-tuned with NanoOptic technology optical control and the number of luminaire blades to meet specific illumination needs in smaller increments than either traditional designs or competitive LED products….

“Breakthrough engineering includes an innovative thermal management system that enables higher lumen output and provides significant boosts to lifetime, efficacy and color consistency. All luminaires have the option of 0-10V dimming, are designed to meet a minimum L70 (lumen maintenance) of 80,000 hours and feature a five-year warranty….

“Aeroblades luminaires will initially be available in more than 300 combinations, including: two, four or six blade versions, 20 optical distributions, four color temperatures (3000K, 3500K, 4000K and 5700K), four drive currents, two pole mount and wall mount versions and seven DeltaGuard® paint finishes.”

Full availability is expected to begin in Q3 2012.

Source: Cree

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Fisker Unveils Atlantic — Extended-Range EV

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 09:03 AM PDT


The night before the New York Auto Show last week, Fisker Automotive unveiled a luxury four-door sporting sedan prototype — the Atlantic. The Atlantic is plug-in series hybrid vehicle using electric vehicle with extended range (EVer) technology. The new model is “aimed at young families who want to drive an impactful, high-end vehicle while making a positive statement about responsibilities — both in terms of their commitment to sustainability and the practicalities of everyday life.” It is smaller than its well-known Karma, and thus more fuel-efficient and cheaper as well. The car is reportedly 90% developed, but no release date has been announced.

Here are more details on the vehicle from Fisker:

Like the Karma sedan, the Fisker Atlantic is a plug-in series hybrid vehicle that allows drivers to switch manually or automatically between electric and gasoline driving modes and sustain the charge of its lithium ion batteries on the move.

Its four-cylinder gasoline engine, which acts as a generator and is not mechanically connected to the wheels, is tuned to offer maximum economy and high torque. This Atlantic EVer powertrain will offer highly competitive performance for a car in its class. The standard powertrain will be configured for rear-wheel drive and an all-wheel drive version will be offered as an option.

The Atlantic design prototype's glass roof shows off a ridged 'spider' structure. This incredibly strong construction also allows the Atlantic to offer a remarkable amount of rear headroom for a car with its sleek, coupe-like stance. This high-tech approach fulfills and surpasses all current and future rollover safety and crash-test requirements worldwide. The Fisker Atlantic's long wheelbase also affords extra legroom for rear passengers and more space in the trunk.

The unique, exciting styling of the Atlantic retains and progresses Fisker's signature design DNA. Henrik Fisker and his design team set out to create the most beautiful and dramatic vehicle in its class. Much of the design was inspired by nature, for example, the dynamic side theme, with strong sculptural lines that optically cross the center and over the rear wheels of the car. This gives a sense of power – replicating the stance of a wild tiger ready to pounce.

Further important design details to note include an evolution of the Fisker Karma signature grille, with a wider sculptured line defining the power dome on the hood. Strong creases emerge from the inside of the headlamps and continue back over the hood to elongate the car. The sharp headlights themselves give an 'eagle eye' with a strength of strong character not seen on a production car before. These touches allow the Atlantic to create a greater rear-view mirror presence than any other vehicle in its class.

Additionally, the rear door handles have been elegantly integrated in the rear C-pillars, to continue the sense and look of a sporting coupe without losing the practicality of a four-door sedan. The extremely slim LED tail lamps use the latest technology allowing them to split into two parts to offer a wider aperture for the trunk opening. The rear end of the car is clean and aerodynamically shaped, with a sharp spoiler lip on the trunk that runs down over the side of the car to enhance aerodynamic performance.

Overall, the Fisker Atlantic's dimensions are comparable to those of an Audi A5. It has been engineered inside and out to offer a dynamic yet compact feel on the road.

Related posts:

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Nissan Leasing Leaf Batteries Soon?

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 08:33 AM PDT

I know some of our readers don’t think there’s a future in EV battery leasing (expecting battery costs to fall so much that leasing them won’t make much sense). However, at the moment, the price of EV batteries is one of the top priorities for EV companies to address, and with the operational costs of EVs being much lower than their gas-powered competitors, there’s certainly room for EVs to drop the dollar figure on their price tags at the auto dealership by leasing the batteries instead of selling them with the cars. Word on the street is that Nissan may be doing so with the Leaf in Europe. And given its competition there, that almost seems like a must. Here’s more from Chris at Gas2:

    Nissan Considering Battery Lease Option For Leaf? (via Gas 2.0)

       Despite being the top-selling electric vehicle around the world, Nissan Leaf sales have not soared as expected. No doubt this is largely the fault of its expensive battery pack, which accounts for much (if not all) of the price premium. But Nissan's business partner, Renault, has decided to lease…




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Zimride — Cool Carsharing Option

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 08:25 AM PDT

Sharing more of our goods (and experiences) is increasingly popular in our networked world. And carsharing is one small (but significant) aspect of that. Zimride is one company leading the way on that front. Here’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Zimride” from sister site Gas2, from occasional CleanTechnica writer (and Zimride user) Susanna Schick (who was just severely injured in what seems to have been an intentional hit-and-run in LA):

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Zimride (via Gas 2.0)

OK, so I'm not a hitchhiker, (and that is NOT my car!) but I have been known to give rides to strangers. And even a stretch Hummer can save CO2 with Zimride. So perhaps this is more "The Pilot's Guide to Passengers." I found out about Zimride at the Opportunity Green Conference they co-sponsored…

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New Record for “Recycling Indoor Light to Electricity”

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 08:22 AM PDT

UK cleantech startup G24 Innovations (G24i) has reportedly set a new world record for “the recycling of ambient indoor light to electricity” using dye-sensitized solar cells.

Previously, Texas Instruments' Solar Lab verified a G24i efficiency record of 15% for its light-energy-harvesting technology. Now, however, with a new cell composition, G24i claims that it has hit a much higher efficiency of 26%.

“The breakthrough, which rates G24i's new PV cell as almost five times more powerful than its nearest commercial competitor, is based on recent work by Professor Michael Graetzel and colleagues at the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne,” a news release states.

“Professor Graetzel's dye-sensitised cell invention is recognised as coming close to mimicking the light reaction in nature's photosynthesis.”

“This efficiency achievement is impressive", commented Professor Graetzel, recipient of the 2012 Albert Einstein World Award of Science and the 2010 Millennium Technology Prize for inventing dye-sensitized cells.

G24i Dye Sensitized Cells in Use Today

Think this technology is still just in the lab? Think again. The unique solar PV cells are currently being used in place of batteries in various products, such as “shade and blind systems for one of the largest hotels in Las Vegas” and “computer peripherals products such as wireless keyboards.” However, this big efficiency boost will certainly open up more markets and make the technology attractive to more and more companies. For example, it is hoped this sort of technology could eventually be used for powering ones iPhone, iPod, etc.

"The global market for disposable batteries is worth in the region of $80bn a year. The potential to increase the volume of sales for our technology is immense," Richard Costello, Chief Operating Officer of G24i, said.

With standby or phantom power accounting for a lot of our electricity usage (8% in the UK), this product clearly can have a big green impact.

Ultimately, the hope is that G24i can get the technology’s efficiency up to 40%, what is considered to be the maximum efficiency feasible with this sort of light source.

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CleanTechnica Writer Susanna Schick Victim of Serious Hit & Run while Riding Bike in Downtown LA

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 07:30 AM PDT

Cars kills countless people ever year. Hitting someone with your car on purpose is akin to shooting someone — a car is a deadly weapon if used as such. I don’t know the full details of the story below, but from Chris’ retelling of it, it certainly looks like a potential felony for the driver who hit our occasional writer, Susanna Schick, and fled the scene of the crime. Susanna is suffering numerous horrible injuries (see below) and I’m sure she would greatly appreciate any help you can give her.

Susanna mostly writes on sister site Gas2, but she has covered several cleantech events in LA for us when asked. Check out Chris’ post below for more details and info on how to donate some money to Susanna.

[repostus hash=67482cc181da736e572d468902c098b4 title=Friend%20And%20Gas%202.0%20Writer%20Susanna%20Schick%20Victim%20Of%20Hit%20And%20Run%20While%20Riding%20Bike host=Gas%202.0 short=193Oy

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Renewable Electricity Supply to be Cheaper by 2030

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 07:04 AM PDT


Macro-Economic Benefits

An increasing number of countries have formulated policies to introduce renewable energy sources into their electricity supply in order to combat global warming or to decrease their dependency on imported fossil fuels. A positive side effect of this development has been the macro-economic benefits gained by each society that starts this transition to a solar- and wind-powered economy. Green jobs and regional value creation, better air quality and health benefits, and many more positive results can be observed all over the world.

Of course, the transformation of the energy system isn’t free. Investment is needed to introduce new technologies and build the infrastructure that suits the requirements of renewable energy sources. Governments all over the world have developed different kinds of incentives to encourage the private investments that are needed to reap these climatic and economic benefits. While there are many approaches to the issue, the most successful and cost-effective method to date is a feed-in tariff system.

Over the course of more than 20 years, Germany has experimented with all sorts of policy incentives — tax credits, quota systems, loan programs, and, for several years starting in the year 1991, there was a primitive feed-in tariff system in place. These programs worked somewhat, but the results were rather mediocre.

The real breakthrough came with the “Renewable Energy Sources Act” and the comprehensive feed-in tariff system in included. It created the necessary investment environment for new participants and has allowed them to create entire new industries and exponential growth in renewable energy generation ever since.

Micro-Economic Benefits Too?

The macro-economic benefits of this successful law are obvious. More than 375,000 jobs in what is now called the “renewable energy industry sector,” a reduction of energy imports and environmental damage worth several billion euros, and a significant reduction of CO2 emissions. Due to the way renewables are being integrated into the conventional energy system, they have actually lowered the price of electricity at the European Energy Exchange.

However, the micro-economic effect of this successful policy — the down-side, if you will — is increased end-consumer electricity prices due to a surcharge that pays for the feed-in tariff. Today, the mix of all renewable energy sources paid for by the feed-in tariff produces electricity for approximately 16 ct/kWh. Compared to the average 6ct/kWh required for electricity generated by the mix of conventional steam-powered power plants, it’s no surprise that investing in such a system must seem like economic non-sense, especially in our current culture of tunnel vision economics that has taken root in the minds of our political elite.

It’s About Tomorrow, Stupid!

The typical result of this tunnel vision, is that most critics of renewables are totally ignorant of the fact that it’s beyond stupid to compare building blocks of a new system with the results of a system that has been established and subsidized for over a century.

Most nuclear reactors are reaching the end of their lifetime, powerlines are becoming outdated, and many fossil fuel power stations are approaching closure. That means that, over the course of the next few decades, almost the entire conventional energy system has to be replaced simply because of old age. Since this is a long-term process, it’s important to look at the long-term trends. And, boy, it doesn’t look good for the conventional energy sources. Across the board, a combination of necessary new standards and rising fuel costs increase the cost of electricity generation of new conventional power plants.

With renewable energy sources, it’s the other way around. Technologies to harness renewable energy are getting cheaper to install every year. PV solar prices fell by more than 60% within just a few years and wind power is now cheaper than new coal or nuclear. The trends are very clear.

So, What about 2030?

Now, a recent study commissioned by the German Ministry of the Environment has come to the conclusion that the transition to renewable energy sources will lead to cheaper electricity prices over the course of the next two decades.

Some of the leading German research institutes were asked to analyse the feasibility of the renewable energy goals of the German government and the economic implications of this transition. Among the institutes was the German space agency DLR and the famous “Fraunhofer Institute for Wind & Energy Systems” (IWES).

Using learning curves for renewable technologies based on experience of similar technologies and recent developments, the study tried to look into the future. Based on experience and the probable mix of renewables in the years to come, they simulated the price per kWh.

The result:

With the rate of introduction of renewables continuous till 2030, and the goals being met, the average price of electricity generated from a mix of renewable energy sources will be at an average of 7.6 cents per kWh by 2030. The trend at that time will continue to be downward. At the same time, the price of “conventional” fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation will already be at approximately 9.0 cents per kWh. That means that renewable electricity supply will be cheaper by 2030 or earlier.

Even though the numbers are the result of computer simulations and countless hours of work, it has to be noted that predictions of the future in terms of facts and figures are the modern-day equivalent of looking into a crystal ball. But where do you think prices and the wider national economy (macro economics) would be headed if we stuck with a dying conventional energy system that will only get more expensive over time? 2030 is just 18 years in the future, so most of us will be around to see how it turns out.

One thing is certain: Beginning the inevitable transformation of the energy system at conventional energy costs of 6 cents per kWh is definitely cheaper than starting at 9, 12 or 15 cents per kWh.

Related posts:

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E-Ship 1 — 21st-Century Sailing

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 06:14 AM PDT

wind turbine parts

When Wind Turbine Engineers Face Shipping Problems

Engineers are a practical thinking bunch. When they encounter a problem, they think of it as a challenge that has to be solved by utilizing the mighty forces of applied science.

The engineers that make up the management of the leading German wind turbine manufacturer Enercon encountered such a challange a few years ago. Every time they had to ship wind turbine parts across the oceans to provide their customers with clean energy solutions, they faced the problem of standardized cargo units not matching the dimensions of their products at all. This meant that they had to pay for significantly more cargo space than what was actually required for their wind turbine parts. On top of that, fossil fuel prices are rising continuously, an unstoppable trend that will increase transportation costs for all shipping for the decades to come.

However, transportation costs are a part of the entire profitability calculation of any project. Thereby, they also play a significant role in the decision-making process of investors when investors choose a suitable wind turbine for their project. German medium-sized businesses are known for their global export orientation, their long-term business strategies, and their obsession to control as many portions of the value chain as possible. With this mindset, the solution to the ”challenge” described above was obvious — in order to make Enercon wind turbines more competitive around the globe, they had to construct and operate their own cargo ships.

Discarded 20th-Century Engineering Marvels

Every child knows that mankind has sailed across the seven seas with 100% wind-powered ships for centuries. So it’s a no-brainer that a wind turbine maker developing their own cargo ship would want to utilize wind power as a means of propulsion somehow. The engineering challenge was to find a way to adapt the age-old concept of sailing to the requirements of 21st-century cargo shipping. In a nutshell: a modern sailing vessel has to be reliable, it can’t be manpower intensive, and it has to be superior in a meaningful way.

To solve this problem, the Enercon engineers embraced the concept of “rotor-ships” developed by the German engineer and inventor Anton Flettner during the early 1920s. Flettner utilized the “Magnus effect” to design an unconventional concept of propulsion for a sailing ship. The “Magnus effect” is the phenomenon whereby a spinning object flying in a fluid creates a whirlpool of fluid around itself, and experiences a force perpendicular to the line of motion. In the case of the rotor-ships, the spinning objects are huge metal cylinders and the “fluid” is the wind. The resulting force was utilized to produce propulsion for the ships.

First Rotor-Ship, the "Buckau"

In 1924, the first experimental rotor-ship was built. In February 1925, the “Buckau” made its maiden voyage from Danzig in modern-day Poland across the North Sea to Scotland. The two “Flettner rotors” of the ground-breaking vessel operated without problems even in the stormiest weather conditions and were significantly more efficient than traditional sails.

One year later, Flettner’s rotor-ship crossed the Atlantic sailing to the US via South America. When it arrived in New York, it was quite a sensation and the rotor-ship proved to be a technological success. A few months later, a second ship was built with “Flettner-Rotors”. This time, it was a 90-meter-long cargo ship called “Barbara”. It underwent trials in the Mediterranean by the navy of Weimar Germany, where it received positive reviews and operated without problems. According to the ship’s captain, the 3 Flettner-Rotors of the cargo vessel generated up to 600 hp of additional power and could be used 30-40% of the time during their journeys. Considering that the ship’s conventional engine had 1,100 hp, that’s a 54% boost! (source of the photo)

Cargo ship "Barbara" in 1927

Despite receiving such positive reviews and being an absolute technological success, the idea of “unconventional sailing” was no commercial success and the concept was deemed inefficient compared to conventional fossil-fuel-powered naval vessels. The “rotor-ship” disappeared from the seas in 1933 and Anton Flettner turned his attention to other projects. He would later become a pioneer in aviation engineering and develop the first helicopter ready for serial production, the Fl-282 Kolibri (Hummingbird) built in 1942 for the German military during World War II.

80 Years Later — A New Beginning, E-Shop 1

More than 80 years after the first rotor-ships successfully set “sail” to travel across the oceans, the paradigms of efficiency have changed. Energy efficency and sustainability are the new benchmarks that increasingly define our understanding of how things have to fulfill their purpose in order to be called efficient. With these benchmarks guiding their design process, Enercon built the first commercial rotor-ship of the 21st century, the “E-Ship 1″.

E-Ship 1 in Emden (Photo by Carschten -- Source Wikipedia)

Having more than 20 years of experience in wind power engineering, Enercon designed an aerodynamic hull, a new and efficient propeller for the conventional diesel-electric propulsion, modern Flettner-rotors with automatic control systems, and a special over-sized steering rudder that is required to convert the trajectory of the “sails” into the desired forward motion.

Energy efficiency being the guiding principle of the ship’s design, the exhaust fumes of the diesel engines that power the two propellers of the main propulsion don’t go to waste. The hot exhaust fumes power a modern Siemens steam turbine that generates additional electricity. That electricity is used to spin the four Flettner-Rotors, each being 27 meters high and having a diameter of 4 meters. This modern motor sailor design reduces the fuel consumption of this 123-meter-long cargo ship by up to 30-40%.

The ship made its first voyage with cargo in August 2010, carrying nine turbines for Castledockrell Wind Farm from Emden to Dublin, Ireland. Today, it regularly ships wind turbines around the world. According to a ship-tracking website, E-Ship 1 just left the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa a few days ago.

One more fun fact: this is the first ship to utilize excess heat of the engines to cool the interior of the ship — just a little extra, in case saving 40% on increasingly expensive gas isn’t enough to set new standards.

The E-Ship 1 — 21st-century sailing at it’s best!

Top image: unassembled parts of wind turbines courtesy shutterstock

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U.S. Industrial Companies Must Embrace Energy Management

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 05:48 AM PDT

A new report released by cleantech market intelligence firm Pike Research shows that U.S. industries must take additional measures soon to ensure that they remain cost-competitive on a global scale.

Industrial and manufacturing companies in the U.S. are responsible for close to one-third of all the energy consumed in the country on an annual basis. That sensible management of energy is necessary is not news to these companies. Energy management initiatives are already regularly adopted by industrial companies in an attempt to maximise expenditure.

But the new Pike report notes that these same companies — which are already, in some cases, ahead of the game — must take additional steps to ensure they stay competitive. Unsurprisingly, one such energy management technique is the efficient use of energy that Pike suggests these companies can improve upon to ensure they remain competitive.

"The energy management industry is entering a dynamic period of renewal and innovation," says vice president Bob Gohn. "New technologies are allowing greater insight into energy procurement and use, as well as the management of energy as an input to the industrial process. At the same time, a variety of assistance programs, plus new standards and certifications, are helping to drive energy performance initiatives into the organizational cultures of companies wishing to gain efficiencies in their industrial processes."

The report notes that the realisation that energy and sustainability issues are a critical requirement for staying competitive will result in the growth of industrial energy management software and services through the rest of the decade, increasing from $960 million in 2011 to $5.6 billion by 2020, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.6%.

Source: Pike Research
Image Source: Scott Butner

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Cheap, Next-Gen Solar Cells Could Come from Corn Flakes

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 04:47 AM PDT

kansas state reseracher makes low cost solar cells from corn flakesA new generation of low cost solar cells could be as close as your next bowl of corn flakes if a grad student at Kansas State University has a say in the matter. The doctoral student in chemistry, Ayomi Perera, is working on a new dye-sensitized solar cell that eschews toxic chemicals in favor of a harmless bacteria that commonly occurs in soil and yes, corn flakes.

The corn flake – solar cell connection

Perera has tapped the bacteria Mycobacterium smegmatis for the job of creating low cost solar power. Despite the creepy sounding name it really is totally harmless, which you can easily test at home by enjoying a nice bowl of corn flakes.

As described by KSU writer Greg Tammen, the bacteria’s value in solar tech is that it produces a protein called MspA, which already has many applications in a purified form. Perera has been mixing it with dyes that contain fewer toxic chemicals than conventional dyes, and using the mixture to coat solar cells. The dye absorbs the sunlight, and the protein matrix grabs the electrons from the dye to create an electrical current.

 Better, cheaper solar cells from corn flakes

The driving concept behind the new technology is to lower the cost of solar energy not by increasing the efficiency of the solar cell, but by making it cheaper and easier to manufacture, and potentially cheaper to dispose or recycle. So far the research shows signs of promise, as Perera explains:

“This type of research where you have a biodegradable or environmentally friendly component inside a solar cell has not been done before, and the research is still in its early stages right now. But we have noticed that it’s working and that means that the protein is not decomposed in the light and electric generating conditions. Because of that we believe that we’ve actually made the first protein-incorporated solar cell.”

President Obama’s “corn flake” energy policy

That same concept is driving the Obama Administration’s energy policy, through the SunShot Initiative. While some SunShot funding is dedicated to creating new high-efficiency solar cells, much is dedicated to lowering the overall lifecycle cost of solar energy. That can include cutting edge technology such as transparent solar windows, which enables solar cells to piggyback on building materials. Using low cost, easily recyclable materials to create concentrated solar arrays  is another example.

The goal of SunShot is to lower the cost of solar energy down to parity with fossil fuels in just a few years.

Image: Corn flakes, Some rights reserved by theimpulsivebuy.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

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Cleantech Venture Deals Up, Dollars Down (Q1 2012)

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 04:30 AM PDT

Cleantech Group’s most recent statistics of cleantech investment show that less money (19% less than Q4 2012 and 31% less than Q1 2011) was invested across more deals in Q1 2012. Here’s are more details on Cleantech Group’s recent findings from sister site Green Building Elements:

Clean Technology Venture Deals Rise While Dollars Fall in 1Q 2012 (via http://greenbuildingelements.com)

According to information from Cleantech Group, the number of venture deals for clean technology rose in the first quarter of 2012 even though the dollar total of the funding deals declined modestly. The firm reports that early-stage deals appear to be on the rise again, and the mergers and acquisition…


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Building Codes: Simple Energy Savings

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 12:16 PM PDT

In energy policy, lawmakers often prefer carrots to sticks because it minimizes the opposition. But mandatory rules, like building energy codes, can save energy and pay back several times over during the useful life of buildings.

The state of Illinois is poised to become a regional leader by adopting the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), an example of small-seeming rules with big impact. For example, 40% of primary energy consumption in the U.S. is in buildings, along with about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, adopting the 2012 IECC (as Illinois is doing), with energy efficiency standards 28% stronger than the 2006 code, can make a big dent in carbon emissions.

The financial savings can add up, as well. The federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated in 2005 that homeowners in the Midwest spent an average of $1,800 per year on household energy use. Assuming states had already adopted the 2006 IECC for the previous expenditure figure, the implementation of the 2012 code could save families $500 per year.

Builders often fight codes, and the ones in Illinois are no different, claiming the cost of the improvements will add $5,000 to the cost of a new home. But in fact, the increased cost of a home built to the 2012 code in Illinois will increase the home’s cost by $1500 (~$6 a month) but save $33 per month in energy costs.

In other words, improved energy efficiency in building codes saves homeowners from day 1.

The U.S. Department of Energy supplies maps depicting the current status of state building codes — its residential map is shown below (hold ‘ctrl’ or ‘command’ and click the ‘+’ button to make larger).


Already, 30 states have adopted the 2009 IECC or better, and interestingly, the pattern does not follow traditional red-blue state political divisions.

Of course, a code is only as good as compliance — enforced by municipal government — and the Alliance to Save Energy suggests that it can be spotty. Anyone know of good studies of code compliance?

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (check out our new website!).

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Where Your Smartphone Energy Goes…

Posted: 09 Apr 2012 12:06 PM PDT

New research out of Purdue University shows how free smartphone apps suck energy out of your phone. In summary, they spend 65-75% of their energy on “ad modules” — ”tracking the user’s geographical location, sending information about the user to advertisers and downloading ads.”

Well, as someone in the internet industry, I know that ads are financially responsible for many of the products and much of the content that we love — without them, many of us simply wouldn’t be able to do what we do. But 75% of energy — wow. Good news is that the researchers are also working on a technique to reduce the energy usage of the apps by, so far, 20-65%.

smartphone apps suck energy

Apps Sucking Your Smart Phone Dry

“It turns out the free apps aren’t really free because they contain the hidden cost of reduced battery life,” Y. Charlie Hu, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering, aptly notes. Power consumption isn’t free, and it also isn’t all that cheap.

That said, the research team has only examined 6 free apps so far, and there are millions out there.

In Hu and the team’s work, they developed ‘eprof’ (for ‘energy profiler’), which conducts a more detailed analysis than ever before of where a smartphone’s energy goes. In the case of the extremely popular app Angry Birds, 25% of the energy went to playing the game and 75% went to the advertising modules. Hu noted they the team believed the energy is mainly used “to provide information about the user’s geographical location so the ads can be more targeted or customized to that location,” Hu said.

“Findings will be detailed in a research paper being presented during the EuroSys 2012 conference on April 10-13 in Bern, Switzerland,” the Purdue news release stated. “The paper, written by Pathak, Hu and Ming Zhang, a researcher at Microsoft Research, also suggests a general approach for improving the energy efficiency of smartphone apps.”

Fixing the Problem

It’s often specific software flaws that actually suck a lot of the energy out of the smartphones. As such, some software-fixing technique could make a big difference.

Findings in the paper suggest a way to improve energy efficiency with a technique that has been shown to reduce the energy consumption of four apps by 20 percent to 65 percent.

The ultimate goal is to develop an “energy debugger” that automatically pinpoints flaws in software and fixes them without the intervention of a human software developer, Hu said.

Where did the impetus for this research begin? Apparently, some of the researchers had run into many reports of smartphone batteries dying far too quickly.

“We’ve been hearing about major problems lately in power usage,” Hu said. “A smartphone battery is generally expected to last a day before recharging, but we’re hearing about mysterious instances where the battery runs out in a few hours. Users have been complaining about this on Internet forums.”

For more information, check out the Purdue news release and research paper abstract.

Image: screenshot of Angry Birds site.

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