- Printing TVs as Thin as Paper, & 1st Completely Plastic Solar Cell
- ALEC — Public Charity or Lobbyist?
- ALEC Received Funding from Koch Industries & Exxon Mobil to Craft Legislation Aimed at Repealing Renewable Energy Standards
- New $60 (or $20) LED Bulb that Lasts 20 Years
- Fully Networked WattStation and WattStation Connect Software Launched
- Japan Solar, Wind, & Geothermal Feed-in Tariffs Coming Soon (Potential Rates Unveiled)
- Explaining ARPA-E & “Inventing the Future”
- Florida Atlantic’s National Marine Renewable Energy Center Applies to Test Marine Turbines in the Gulf Stream
- US DOE Boosting Plug-and-Play Solar with SunShot Initiative
- In San Francisco? Hit Up a Cleantech Mixer Tonight
- US Energy Facilities at Risk from Sea Level Rise (Interactive Map)
- Toyota Spain & Wind Energy Leader Gamesa Team Up to Give EVs a Boost
- Floating Wind Turbines Get Lift from UK & US Partnership
- 97% of Americans Overestimate Cost of Installing Solar Panels
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 06:13 AM PDT
Imagine owning a television with the thickness and weight of a sheet of paper. It will be possible, someday, thanks to the growing industry of printed electronics. The process, which allows manufacturers to literally print or roll materials onto surfaces to produce an electronically functional device, is already used in organic solar cells and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) that form the displays of cellphones.
Although this emerging technology is expected to grow by tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years, one challenge is in manufacturing at low cost in ambient conditions. In order to create light or energy by injecting or collecting electrons, printed electronics require conductors, usually calcium, magnesium or lithium, with a low-work function. These metals are chemically very reactive. They oxidize and stop working if exposed to oxygen and moisture. This is why electronics in solar cells and TVs, for example, must be covered with a rigid, thick barrier such as glass or expensive encapsulation layers.
However, in new findings published in the journal Science, Georgia Tech researchers have introduced what appears to be a universal technique to reduce the work function of a conductor. They spread a very thin layer of a polymer, approximately one to 10 nanometers thick, on the conductor's surface to create a strong surface dipole. The interaction turns air-stable conductors into efficient, low-work function electrodes.
The commercially available polymers can be easily processed from dilute solutions in solvents such as water and methoxyethanol.
"These polymers are inexpensive, environmentally friendly and compatible with existent roll-to-roll mass production techniques," said Bernard Kippelen, director of Georgia Tech's Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE). "Replacing the reactive metals with stable conductors, including conducting polymers, completely changes the requirements of how electronics are manufactured and protected. Their use can pave the way for lower cost and more flexible devices."
To illustrate the new method, Kippelen and his peers evaluated the polymers' performance in organic thin-film transistors and OLEDs. They've also built a prototype: the first-ever, completely plastic solar cell.
"The polymer modifier reduces the work function in a wide range of conductors, including silver, gold and aluminum," noted Seth Marder, associate director of COPE and professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "The process is also effective in transparent metal-oxides and graphene."
COPE is a collaborative effort of Georgia Tech professors in the Colleges of Engineering, Sciences and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. The center is working on the next generation of electronic devices in order to save energy, reduce costs, increase national security and enhance the quality of the environment. Researchers from the groups of Georgia Tech professors Jean-Luc Brédas and Samuel Graham, as well as Princeton University Professor Antoine Kahn, also contributed to the new study.
The research was funded in part through the Center for Interface Science: Solar Electric Materials, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under Award Number DE-SC0001084, by the STC Program MDITR of the National Science Foundation under Agreement No. DMR-0120967, and by the Office of Naval Research (Grant No. N00014-04-1-0120). The content is solely the responsibility of the principal investigators and does not necessarily represent the official views of the DOE, NSF and ONR.
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 05:51 AM PDT
Steve Horn | ALEC Launches Assault on Renewable Energy Industry (via Desmogblog)
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as covered previously by DeSmogBlog, is the “Trojan Horse” behind mandating that climate change denial (“skepticism,” or “balance,” in its words) be taught in K-12 classrooms. Well, ALEC is at it again, it appears. Facing an IRS complaint filed by…
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 05:44 AM PDT
Two leading conservative political organizations say they are stepping up coordinated efforts to repeal state-level renewable energy targets.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a "stealth business lobbyist" that works with corporate interests to help them write and implement "model" legislation — says it may soon start crafting laws designed to kill or weaken state targets for renewable electricity, heating and fuels.
ALEC has come under fire in recent weeks for its support of voter ID laws and the controversial Stand-Your-Ground law that opponents blame for the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. After progressive groups began an aggressive campaign to educate the public about ALEC, 13 companies have since pulled their membership from the organization.
Last July, Bloomberg News acquired tax documents showing that Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and other energy companies paid membership fees to ALEC in order to help write legislation repealing carbon pollution reduction programs in states around country.
Bloomberg now reports that ALEC is looking to take aim at renewable energy programs in states:
ALEC has already attempted to write legislation preventing targets for renewable energy on the federal level. As nothing substantive has happened nationally, it seems ALEC is now preparing to take its corporate-influenced legislation to the 29 states that actually have targets in place.
Along with promoting legislation to kill climate policies and renewable energy targets, ALEC also provided the framework for legislation currently moving through the U.S. House of Representatives that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating toxic coal ash.
According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Peabody Energy — the largest private coal company in the world — is a major underwriter for ALEC and sits on the organization's Private Enterprise Board.
Americans for Tax Reform, the infamous anti-tax organization run by Grover Norquist, also says it is taking a more aggressive approach to opposing renewable energy targets. According to Bloomberg News, the group is urging its members to "speak out" against renewable energy promotion policies.
The organization has falsely claimed that such targets are costly to ratepayers.
In fact, no official analysis has found that state-level renewable energy targets specifically increase energy prices. While some states have seen increases in rates over the years, a recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that clean energy targets had no statistically significant impact on those price changes.
Despite the real-world evidence that clean energy is increasingly cost-competitive andeconomically beneficial to states, the sector is under attack. The industry should be prepared for a more aggressive campaign from organizations like ALEC and Americans for Tax Reform on the state level.
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 05:34 AM PDT
We wrote about Philips’ new, innovative and super energy-efficient LED bulb last year when it was announced as the first winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s L Prize competition. (For much more detail on the bulb, check out the link above.) Now, the $60-bulb has been commercially launched — it went on sale in some stores, such as Home Depot, on Earth Day.
Despite the great long-term savings (see below), a $60 price tag scares a lot of people off. Trying to tackle that issue, Philips is currently discounting the bulb to $50, and it is also looking to partner up with electric utilities to drop the price by as much as $20 or $30 more. So, the cheapest you can buy it online is $50, but in some regions, where utilities partner with Netherlands-based Philips, the price could get as low as $20.
Notably, the DOE L Prize had such tough requirements that this Philips bulb was the only entrant! The prize required that the bulb be sold for $22 in its first year. Philips says it has always had the idea of utility rebates in mind to get down to this amount — not surprising, since I know CFL manufacturers have also gone that route.
Philips LED Compared to 60-Watt Incandescent Light Bulb
If used 4 hours a day, the LED bulb should shave about $8 off an electricity bill. So, compared to a $1 incandescent and depending on the price of the bulb in your area, it could take less than 3 years to nearly 8 years to make up the extra cost, but then you’re essentially making money on it for 12-17 years (assumptions: 4 hours of use a day; you live for another 12-17 years). Of course, this doesn’t take into account the benefit of your bragging rights and the fun of show-and-tell when friends or family see the ‘flashy’ bulb.
LED Compared to CFL
The bulb’s real competition is CFLs, though. While the Philips LED bulb lasts about 3 times longer than a CFL, a CFL only costs about $5, which means that it’s a better long-term investment. The benefits of the LED, however, are that it produces a “more natural-looking light” (though, I can’t say I have a problem with the light produced by today’s CFLs) and it doesn’t contain the small amount of mercury that CFLs contain and that make some people avoid them (as if that ever made anyone avoid thermometers… and even though the energy savings prevent even more mercury from being emitted by coal power plants in most places).
A 60-watt CFL uses about 15 watts, wheres this Philips LED uses about 10 watts (a typical incandescent bulb uses 60).
Philips’ Other LED Bulb
While this bulb is getting almost all the attention now, Philips has another LED bulb not quite as efficient that has been on sale since 2010. Reportedly, it has been doing well and LEDs currently account for about 20% of Philips’ U.S. lighting sales. That’s up from about 0% three years ago.
Why did Philips go this route? Ed Crawford, the head of Philips’ U.S. lighting division, says it was because of the L Prize.
While Crawford is certain the technology used in its new LEDs would have been developed anyway, he’s sure it wouldn’t have so quickly. He thinks it sped up the process by about 3-5 years. So, a big thanks to the DOE and to Philips for making this happen — I might just have to get my hands on some of these bulbs soon!
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 04:40 AM PDT
GE Energy’s Industrial Solutions business has launched the WattStation and WattStation Connect this week at the SAE 2012 World Congress in Detroit. The comprehensive electric vehicle charging station and software platform has numerous features. For example, it:
GE says that it teamed up with Hertz to develop the WattStation connect software due to Hertz’ leadership in offering electric vehicles around the world. "Their global EV solutions in the U.S., Europe and China require the advanced, networked stations that we offer," said Michael Mahan, product general manager, EV infrastructure for GE Energy’s Industrial Solutions business.
A little sales-y, but here are a couple more videos on the WattStation and WattStation Connect that you might be interested in checking out:
And here’s a very non-sales-y video showing how to use the WattStation Connect:
Or, for more details, check out the GE news release on the WattStation and WattStation Connect.
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 04:00 AM PDT
Japan’s about to become the next major economy to implement a solar feed-in tariff, and from the looks of it, it’s going to be a generous one. (I can see a herd of solar companies migrating over to Japan now.) Wind and geothermal feed-in tariffs are also on their way to implementation.
Japan’s Solar Feed-in Tariff to Be Big
For solar, Reuters is quoting 42 yen (or about $0.52, €0.39, or £0.32) over the course of 20 years. That’s “roughly twice what is currently paid in Europe,” Craig Morris of Renewables International notes before asking: “Will Japan be the next boom and bust market?” (Note: it’s still less than the $0.55 Ontario is planning to pay.)
Japan has been a solar power leader before, but sitting on its previously large capacity of low-carbon nuclear, it held its horses as Europe steamed ahead with strong feed-in tariff programs. For anyone critical of such feed-in tariffs (i.e. the folks who stop by our site from time to time to try to spread the lie that it’s a failure), take notice of Japan’s decision now to follow suit after careful consideration and observation. It’s clear that it wants to boost solar on its citizens’ rooftops, and wind and geothermal power as well, at a blistering pace, and it knows that a feed-in tariff is a great way to do so (and also a great way to bring renewable energy costs down).
Japan Clean Energy Feed-in Tariffs: More Details
The 42 yen is in line with what the solar sector in Japan was pushing for, Reuters notes, and payments are likely to start on July 1.
In addition to presenting this solar feed-in tariff proposal, once finalized, to Trade Minister Yukio Edano, a 23.1 yen per kwh rate for wind power and 27.3 yen per kwh for geothermal power are also looking likely. The final rates, which are expected to be determined as early as Friday, would then need to be approved by Edano, “who is likely to make a final decision as early as end-May by also taking into account public opinion.”
More details from Reuters on rates of return for the three industries: “Ueta’s calculation based the pre-tax internal rate of return for solar power suppliers at 6 percent, for wind power suppliers with capacities of 20 kw or higher at 8 percent, and geothermal suppliers at 13 percent, the draft showed.” This offers a nice boost to companies in these industries.
Notably, it is clear that the policymakers don’t want to chip into utility company profits and intend to have the costs to be passed on to customers. ”The law (mandating the tariff scheme) clearly states that for the first three years, we should pay special attention to profit (of the suppliers),” Kazuhiro Ueta, the head of the panel studying appropriate rates, told reporters.
“When you look at it from the viewpoint of households, this may be a burden through electricity costs. But to put it in other words, this is an investment to promote renewable energy. It is necessary to understand that this is a framework for promoting such energy.”
The feed-in tariff rates will be reviewed annually once implemented.
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 03:58 AM PDT
We’ve written about ARPA-E projects many times here on CleanTechnica — it’s into some of the key things we’re all about. So, there’s no passing up this cool video above on ARPA-E, some of the projects its funding, and one of Obama’s favorite terms — inventing the future.
As you can see, the video features Arun Majumdar, director of ARPA-E; wind energy startup Makani power; and a seaweed (kelp) to fuel project from the Bio Architecture Lab (BAL). Of course, there are soooo many more projects under the ARPA-E umbrella — take a stroll through our ARPA-E articles for a look at more of them.
As a reminder, ARPA-E is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is most well known for bringing us the internet and GPS (as noted in the video).
The video, “The Energy Fixers,” is a collaboration between GE’s Ecomagination and VICE’s Motherboard.
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 03:47 AM PDT
Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) is the first to apply for a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) leaseto install and operate small-scale, experimental marine turbines some 15 miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, smack in the Atlantic Ocean’s powerful Gulf Stream current.
The BOEM lease application is the latest in a long series of steps FAU and its Center of Ocean Energy Technology (COET) have taken in conjunction with federal government agencies to evaluate the potential of tapping into the Gulf Stream to generate clean, renewable baseload electricity.
The recently established Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), part of the Dept. of Interior, on April 24 moved forward the FAU Gulf Stream ocean energy initiative by opening its environmental review of FAU’s application to lease Atlantic ocean waters to test marine hydrokinetic technology — read marine turbines — for public review and comment.
Profiling the Gulf Stream’s Marine Energy Potential
Aiming to map the spatial and temporal energy potential across a section of the Gulf Stream off the southeast Florida coast, FAU’s Center for Ocean Energy Technology (COET) installed moorings for four acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCP) in April 2009, the first step in COET’s plan to create a national open-ocean energy laboratory (NOEL).
Installed in the Atlantic some 7.8 kms (4.9 mi) to 35.9 kms (22.3 mi) off Dania Beach at depths between 221 meters (725 ft) to 645m (2,116 ft), the four ADCPs employ high-frequency, low-power sonar to measure current velocity throughout the water column at single locations every 30 minutes for up to eight months, FAU’s COET explained.
"The deployment of the ADCPs is a major milestone for Florida Atlantic University, and our research and development efforts to utilize energy from the Gulf Stream as a source of renewable energy," FAU President Frank T. Brogan stated at the time.
In 2010, the DOE designated FAU’s COET the third national center for ocean energy research and development, establishing it as the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC).
With the April 24 announcement of its BOEM lease, SNMREC/COET is now moving forward to the next step in its Gulf Stream marine energy plan: deploying a variety of experimental marine turbines in order to “inform the future deployment of commercial-scale marine hydrokinetic energy production on the OCS (outer continental shelf),” the BOEM explains in a press release.
Potential Source of Renewable, Baseload Electrical Power
Whereas there’s a dearth of wind energy potential in the southeastern US, there’s a comparative abundance of marine renewable energy potential. And marine energy has certain advantages over wind energy in terms of its renewable energy resource potential. As highlighted in the article, “Gulf Stream Energy Compared to Wind,” capacity factors for Gulf Stream energy are far higher than the 20%-30% typical for wind turbines (note, though, that new onshore wind turbines are achieving capacity factors of over 50%).
“Because of these much higher capacity factors, the actual output for the Gulf Stream Turbine, having the same rated capacity, should be between 14,201,702 and 19,273,752 kilowatt-hours per year – or about three times more than that produced by the wind turbines in the nation's best locations” (note: the final comment isn’t using newer wind turbine capacity factors).
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 03:36 AM PDT
The latest announcement from the US Department of Energy (DOE) is that it’s giving a $5 million boost to the development of “plug-and-play” solar power systems — “photovoltaic (PV) systems that can be purchased, installed and operational in one day.” The $5 million will go to two projects. The DOE is also requesting another $20 million from Congress over the next four years to encourage the development of such technology.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu made the announcement this week.
"The Department’s announcement today supporting plug-and-play solar energy technologies will help make it easier and cheaper for consumers to adopt clean, affordable solar energy, while supporting U.S. manufacturing leadership in the next generation of clean energy technologies and diversifying America’s energy portfolio,” Chu said on Tuesday.
The DOE website adds: “This effort is part of the Department's broader strategy to spur solar power deployment by reducing non-hardware, or "soft" costs, such as installation, permitting, and interconnection, which currently amount to more than half of the total cost of residential systems. The funding will help drive innovations to fundamentally change the design and installation of residential PV systems, reducing costs for homeowners and simplifying installations and grid connectivity.”
These soft costs and non-module costs (i.e. electronics and mounting hardware) now account for over half the cost of a solar PV system. Bringing them down is seen by many as the most low-hanging fruit today.
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 03:19 AM PDT
CleanTech Mixer in San Francisco! Apply to Demo Your Product (via Ecopreneurist)
Parisoma's CleanTech Mixer in San Francisco is bringing together startups envisioning a cleaner, more sustainable future. Each month a different industry is in focus and about 15 startups are invited to showcase their product and vision for a better future. Themes range from CleanTech and Gaming…
Posted: 26 Apr 2012 03:11 AM PDT
According to a new report from Climate Central, sea level rise is close to doubling the risk of coastal floods that are 4 feet or more above high tide by 2030 all along the US coastline. As a result, nearly 300 energy facilities across the contiguous US are at risk, including natural gas infrastructure, electric power plants, and oil and gas refineries.
Unsurprisingly, as the years pass by, more and more facilities will end up being placed in danger of a similar fate.
These results come from a Climate Central combined analysis of datasets from NOAA, USGS, and FEMA.
Climate Central has created an interactive map that lets users see threats from sea level rise and storm surges over 3,000 coastal towns, cities, counties, and states in the Contiguous US. The full map with access to individual states and zip codes is available on Climate Central, or there is the simpler version here:
The authors of the report note the limitations of studies such as theirs — pointing out that there can be incomplete or inaccurate data in datasets, and that the “results for any individual facility should be viewed cautiously.”
Source: Climate Central
Posted: 25 Apr 2012 01:56 PM PDT
Increasingly, it seems, wind and solar energy companies are teaming up with car companies to advance electric vehicles (EVs) and clean power. Just earlier today I shared news of a SolarCity–Tesla partnership to advance off-grid living. We’ve also got news that Spanish wind company Gamesa, a world leader, and Toyota Spain are teaming up to advance EV uptake in Spain.
“Toyota Spain is lending Gamesa a plug-in hybrid vehicle for a six-month period so it can test and verify the car’s technology, identify potential limiting factors and analyse its charging requirements in order to facilitate the mass market rollout of vehicles of this nature in Spain in the near term,” Gamesa writes.
The folks at Gamesa will be test driving the Prius Plug-in Hybrid for Toyota. It will do so in both an urban environment and at one of the company’s wind farms.
“During the pilot period, Gamesa will share the data compiled during the vehicle’s test drives regarding the car’s technology and energy saving performance with Toyota Spain in order to furnish information for the Movele initiative, coordinated by the IDAE (acronym in Spanish for the institute for energy diversification and savings), of which Toyota is a member. This initiative is working on demonstrating the technical, energy and financial viability of this class of cars.”
Posted: 25 Apr 2012 01:19 PM PDT
So, the news that the UK and US are now working together to advance floating wind turbine technology is sure to excite a lot of people.
“Floating wind turbines are to be the initial focus of a new agreement between Britain and the United States this week as international talks convene in London to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies,” the UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) wrote on Monday.
“The UK and US will agree to collaborate in the development of floating wind technology designed to generate power in deep waters currently off limits to conventional turbines but where the wind is much stronger.”
The UK is a clear leader in offshore wind energy, and it has plenty of potential to be even more of one. Here’s more from the DECC on this:
Intelligent, long-term thinking — such a relief in this day and age. Specifically, this is what the DECC notes is in the works and being invested at the moment:
For more information, check out the DECC page on this US–UK floating wind turbine partnership and more.
Image Credit: qayaq
Posted: 25 Apr 2012 12:29 PM PDT
The study was conducted online by Harris Interactive® in February 2012. 2,211 U.S. adults participated in the study, and 1,475 of them were identified as homeowners.
“While only 3% accurately understand that installing solar can cost less than $1,000 upfront, 4 out of 10 U.S. Adults (40%) think it requires $20,000 or more in upfront costs, grossly overestimating the true cost of installing home solar,” Sunrun, the country’s largest home solar company, writes. Here are more statistics from the poll:
While people are concerned about rising utility prices, most do not realize that solar can chip off a big chunk of those costs and that solar essential means more money for them in the long run (and, if they decide to go the solar leasing option Sunrun is focused on, perhaps even immediate savings).
“The vast majority of Americans are concerned about rising home energy costs from utility companies — 95% of U.S. adults who do pay and/or are aware of their utility costs cited their rising utility rates as a concern — yet homeowners remain paralyzed by misconceptions about what it costs to install solar.”
"When it comes to money matters, ignorance is rarely blissful. When it comes to solar money myths, misinformation actually prevents U.S. homeowners from making smarter financial decisions," said Manisha Thakor, Harvard MBA and former portfolio manager turned bestselling author and financial literacy advocate. "Solar power service has become something any homeowner should now consider as part of a modern investment portfolio, if it's available to them. Among other benefits, it offers homeowners the unprecedented ability to plan and predict one of their largest household expenses for years to come: energy. Consumers can direct any savings from solar to other top financial priorities like paying off debt or investing in retirement."
It seems that for this reason, and probably largely because of good marketing as well, most people going solar in California (the #1 state for solar power) are going solar via a third-party service (i.e. a solar lease or a solar PPA).
No matter how you go solar, though, I think the point of the matter very simply is that there are a variety of options available these days, and they all offer good financial returns for a large number of people, probably most people. If you’re thinking of going solar, certainly don’t assume it’s too expensive and do look into the options available to you.
Source: Business Wire
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