Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Planetsolar, Largest Solar-Powered Boat, to Complete Round-the-World Journey on Friday

Posted: 02 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT


TÛRANOR PlanetSolar, largest solar-powered boat in the world.

PlanetSolar, the world’s largest solar-powered boat, is scheduled to finish its first around-the-world journey this May 4th, 2012 in Monaco. Hercule harbor will welcome the boat, which has been travelling around the world to promote solar power since September 2010.

Raphaël Domjan, the project founder, will tell stories about some of the highlights of the ship’s adventures during a weekend-long party in Monaco. “Part of the party, such as the ‘SolarLightShow’ or the concert of the Swiss band Sonalp, will be powered by the energy of the boat's batteries collected during more than 19 months of sunny navigation,” the Planetsolar website states.

TURANOR PlanetSolar on its way to Miami in November, 2011.

In total, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar will have sailed nearly 60,000 kilometers by the end of its journey, all powered by the sun.

Want more info on the boat? Here are some more details:

  • Length: 35 m / Width: 23 m
  • Height: 6.10 m / Weight: 95 t
  • Solar Panels: 38’000 with 22,6% yield
  • Maximum engine power: 120 kW
  • Average Engine: 20 kW (26.8 HP)
  • Crew: min 4 people

More details about the arrival weekend can be found on the Planetsolar arrival page.

I wonder where the boat will go next….

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  2. World's Largest Solar-Powered Boat Hitting the Waves
  3. Futuristic Catamaran to Attempt First Solar-Powered Circumnavigation

Solar-Powered Recycling & Composting Bins Text When They Are Full

Posted: 02 May 2012 07:00 AM PDT

trash bins tweet when full

I never really thought about it, but consider how much energy could be saved if recycling, compost, and trash cans were only emptied when they were full. Well, the University of Washington may be leading us in that energy efficient direction.

“Last year, the University of Washington realized it had a big waste problem,” Megan Treacy of TreeHugger writes. “A sampling of the garbage at the campus’s Red Square found that 61 percent was actually compostable. To make sure the compostable waste wasn’t going out with the garbage, the university decided to seek a high-tech solution in the form of smart, solar-powered kiosks that collect garbage, compost and recyclables and communicate wirelessly when they need to be emptied.”

The solar-power kiosks automatically send a text to the university’s Recycling and Solid Waste Department when it’s time for a pick-up.

Additionally, the bins “compact the waste they collect, allowing them to hold 500 percent more waste, which eliminates four out of five collection trips that the department used to do with the old bins, reducing fuel consumption.”

Sound like all-around green machines!

Image Credit: © University of Washington Office of News and Information

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Researchers Find Clues to Efficient Organic Photovoltaic Material (Could Help Create New Materials to Improve Solar Cells)

Posted: 02 May 2012 04:30 AM PDT

by Brookhaven National Laboratory Media & Communications Office

Structural details of photovoltaic material revealed: The bilayer polymer backbone motif (3D image) is derived from the x-ray scattering pattern (background) obtained at beamline X9 of NSLS. In the 3D image, the yellow region denotes the paired backbones and the blue region denotes the liquid-like side chains.

Detailed studies of one of the best-performing organic photovoltaic materials reveal an unusual bilayer lamellar structure that may help explain the material's superior performance at converting sunlight to electricity and guide the synthesis of new materials with even better properties. The research, published in Nature Communications April 24, 2012, was conducted by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, in collaboration with researchers from Stony Brook University, Seoul National University in Korea, the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Germany, and Konarka Technologies.

The material, known by the handle PCDTBT, is an example of a "polycarbazole conjugated polymer," a molecule composed of a chainlike carbon backbone with alkyl side chains. Its ability to move electrons around — both "donating" and "accepting" them — makes it among the best organic photovoltaic materials currently in use, able to convert sunlight to electricity with efficiency as high as 7.2 percent in organic solar cells.

"Despite the fact that this material has been extensively studied, no one has reported detailed structural features to provide a basis for its superior performance," said Brookhaven physicist Benjamin Ocko, who led the current research. "Understanding why this material performs so well will help scientists harness its essential attributes to engineer new materials for a wide range of applications, including displays, solid-state lighting, transistors, and improved solar cells," he said.

Brookhaven Lab research team members Xinhui Lu, Htay Hlaing, David Germack, and Ben Ocko.

To probe the molecular structure, the team exposed thin films of PCDTBT to intense beams of x-rays at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) using a high-resolution x-ray scattering technique. Unlike previous studies, which used less-intense x-rays, these studies revealed the formation of a crystalline-like phase at elevated temperatures. Furthermore, the patterns produced by the diffracted x-rays indicate that the structure is comprised of layers of conjugated backbone pairs, a pattern quite different from the single backbone constructions observed in all other organic photovoltaic materials studied to date.

Xinhui Lu, the paper's lead author, noted that by analyzing the scattering patterns, they discovered undulations along the polymer's backbone, and how the undulations in neighboring backbones are shifted with respect to each other. By carrying out molecular modeling simulations, the authors were able to predict which polymer backbone configuration would be most stable.

In a conjugated polymer, the backbone provides the path for electrical conductivity and the alkyl side chains, similar to simple oils, provide the solubility required for processing. Though necessary, these side chains interfere with the polymer's electrical performance. PCDTBT is novel, the scientists say, since it is predominately composed of the backbone with little alkyl material. "Similar to oil and water, the polymer's conjugated backbone pairs 'phase separate' from their alkyl side chains and this gives rise to the bilayer structure," said David Germack, one of the paper's coauthors. It is this structural motif that likely contributes to the material's excellent electrical properties, and this understanding could guide the design of new organic solar materials.

"While we have significant in-house expertise in synthetic chemistry and organic solar device fabrication, we lack the in-depth structural characterization tools available at Brookhaven Lab," said Jeff Peet, a senior scientist at Konarka Technologies, a world leader in the development and commercialization of organic solar cells. "These kinds of tools and collaborative studies with research partners at Brookhaven can elucidate very subtle differences between materials, giving us critical insights into how we should design our next generation of solar cell materials."

Additional collaborators on this research are: Htay Hlaing of Broookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University, Won Ho Jo of Seoul National University, and Denis Andrienko and Kurt Kremer of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research.

This research was funded by the DOE Office of Science, Konarka Technologies, the Energy Laboratory Research and Development Initiative at Brookhaven Lab, the German Research Foundation, and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven is also supported by the DOE Office of Science.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

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In Massachusetts? You’ve Got a Chance to Win a Home Solar System

Posted: 02 May 2012 04:00 AM PDT


East Coast solar power company Mercury Solar Systems has launched a home solar sweepstakes in which one lucky Massachusetts resident (yep, that’s a requirement) will win a 7kW home solar electric system valued at up to $35,000.

“Massachusetts homeowners log on to to enter to win and see the official rules. The deadline to enter is June 3, 2012 at 6:00pm ET.”

Other requirements are that your roof be unshaded and your electric bill be more than $50/month.

Nope, we’ve got no connection to Mercury Solar Systems — just seems like a nice opportunity and would be great if one of our cleantech-loving readers won the solar setup.

Image Credit: Mercury Solar Systems

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Dow Solar Shingles Now Available in Northern California and Central Texas

Posted: 02 May 2012 02:00 AM PDT

Dow recently announced that it was expanding market availability of its solar shingles, the solar shingles are now available in Northern California and Central Texas (San Antonio and Austin, Texas).

solar shingles dow

In Northern California, the clean energy shingles are available through Town & Country Roofing and Dority Roofing; in Central Texas, they are available through BELDON Roofing CompanyQuality Roofing and Ja-Mar Roofing.


We’ve covered these solar shingles many times, but for anyone new to this technology, the shingles protect one’s roof the same as normal shingles would, but they also act as power generators via their incorporated solar photovoltaic cells. Dow’s “Powerhouse Solar Shingle” comes with a 20-year warranty and “has received seven performance and safety certifications, including the backing of Underwriters Laboratories (UL)International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES) certification, California Energy Commission Certification and is proven to withstand rain, hail and wind uplift.”

An included monitoring system delivers real-time production and consumption information that can be viewed online.

As we’ve noted before, solar power generally improves the resale value of a home, and I assume that holds true when a home is equipped with solar shingles rather than traditional solar panels. "Houses with solar sell on average twice as fast as comparable houses without solar, and adds to the total home value,” said Kasey Dority, President, Dority Roofing.

It’s unclear what these solar shingles cost, and as always, I’d recommend looking into all the options available to go when going solar. But if you’re deciding between roofing your house with standard shingles or solar shingles (not interested in going solar in some other way for some reason), my bet is that solar shingles pay off better in the long run. But let us know if you have any info from looking into the matter.

Sources: Dow & Dow
Photo Credit: Dow Solar

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Requirements for New DOE Voluntary Energy Savings Specifications

Posted: 02 May 2012 12:30 AM PDT

For many commercial buildings in America, lighting represents about one-third of the total energy consumed. On average, over half of the lighting fixtures in commercial buildings operate for more than 10 hours a day and collectively consume more than 87 terawatt hours of electricity annually, which is equivalent to the energy used by nearly 3 million homes.

Recently, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced new voluntary energy-saving specifications for lighting troffers (rectangular overhead fixtures used in commercial buildings) and parking lot and parking structure lighting. Developed by the DOE's Commercial Building Energy Alliances (CBEA), these new commercial lighting specifications can reduce energy use by more than 40% compared with conventional lighting and have the potential to save businesses up to $5 billion annually.

The new CBEA High Efficiency Troffer Specification provides minimum performance levels for LED and fluorescent troffers used in commercial buildings, including offices and restaurants. The new specification delivers energy savings of between 15% and 45% compared with conventional systems.

Through the CBEA, the Energy Department collaborates with building owners, operators, and manufacturers to develop minimum performance requirements that are voluntarily adopted by CBEA members. Increased adoption of energy-saving specifications can help American businesses cut costs, reduce energy use, and increase their competitiveness. Building operators can voluntarily adopt these specifications for new buildings or building upgrades to reduce their energy bills and carbon emissions.

One of the biggest companies of electrical consumption is Wal-Mart. It is now use energy-saving lights that meet the specification and report energy savings of 58% in new parking lot sites — it is upgrading more than 250 of its existing lots. Other companies considering the upgrades are Lowe's and MGM Resorts.

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Bentley SUV is a V6 Hybrid

Posted: 02 May 2012 12:10 AM PDT

If you give a serial murderer a water gun, is he all of a sudden not evil? Obviously not. If you give an SUV a hybrid drivetrain, is it all of a sudden clean and green? Well, I guess that depends on who you ask. For a more nuanced discussion of this matter, as it concerns a V6 hybrid Bentley SUV that’s apparently in the works, here’s a Gas2 post from Jo Borras (at least half of which I don’t understand — have I told you I’m not a car guy?):

Green is the New Fast: Bentley’s New SUV is a V6 Hybrid (via Gas 2.0)

Bentley's latest new platform, the 9F "concept" SUV shown earlier this year, has met with … I think "mixed reviews" is the polite way of saying that everyone hated it, right? Anyway, everyone hated it, and Bentley's hoping you'll give it a second chance by thinking of it as "slow…

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Clean Energy Switch to Cost Fossil Industry $4 Trillion by 2020

Posted: 01 May 2012 08:59 PM PDT

No wonder the push back against clean energy is so strong. A staggering amount of money is at stake. I had not realized quite how much impact that switching to clean energy will have on the dirty energy industry, currently the richest industry on the planet.

The IEA 2012 report on global progress on cutting greenhouse gases to prevent the worst effects of climate change includes an estimate of the immediate financial costs of investing in newer cleaner forms of energy in various forms.

Over the next eight years, we have to spend money on energy – either way: whether we want to still try for a relatively livable planet or whether we want to roll the dice and let it go to hell after we’re done with it.

If we spend it on clean energy, it will take $5 trillion in U.S. dollars, the IEA calculates. But we would save $4 trillion by not buying dirty energy, in just the next eight years alone.

The report is long, and it has a lot of interesting data which I will cover separately, but this fact really stood out. The calculation of what we will not spend on fossil energy over these next 8 years, if we add clean energy instead, is a stunner.

“Globally, the near-term additional investment cost of achieving these objectives [cutting greenhouse gas emissions] would amount to USD 5 trillion by 2020, but USD 4 trillion will be saved through lower fossil fuel use over this period. The net costs over the next decade are therefore estimated at over USD 1 trillion.”

Put it another way, this sum – $4 trillion – makes it very clear just what the fossil industry has to lose by 2020. It could lose four trillion dollars in eight years, or half a trillion dollars a year. Is it any wonder that millions are being thrown around to protect this industry?



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Philly’s SEPTA Trains are Rolling Power Generators

Posted: 01 May 2012 07:47 PM PDT

SEPTA reaches milestone for capturing energy from braking trainsCommuter trains run by SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, are becoming “virtual power generators” thanks to new technology that captures the energy from braking and feeds it back to the grid. CleanTechnica first reported on the regenerative braking system when it was in development a couple of years ago and we’re happy to pass along news that the system has hit an important milestone on the path to completion.

Trains that capture kinetic energy

Regenerative braking systems are ideal for just about any kind of mechanism that involves frequent braking. That includes elevators, school buses, trucks, shipping cranes and yes, commuter trains. SEPTA partnered with the company Viridity Energy to develop a system that not only captures the kinetic energy from braking, but also stores it for later use.

The pilot program for the new system is situated on Philadelphia’s heavily used Market-Frankford line, and with the help of a large-scale lithium-ion battery from the company Saft it is now capturing and storing energy.

Another company, transit energy specialist Envitech Energy, is on board to provide power conversion, control and integration. When fully operational, the new system will enable SEPTA to sell energy to the grid, just like any other power generator.

A regional transmission organization, PJM, has dibs on the electricity, which enables it to add another element of alternative energy to its portfolio while providing SEPTA with the kind of revenue stream that other commuter rail systems can only dream about.

Sustainable energy in a built environment

The new system is another great example of the potential for alternative energy to piggyback on environments that are already developed for other purposes, rather than impinging on virgin lands. Rooftop solar panels and building-integrated solar technologies are of course two other obvious examples.

New developments in piezoelectric technology (the same trick behind that push-button starter on your barbecue grill) may some day make it possible to harvest energy from any surface under stress, such as floors and even highways.

Along similar lines, the  U.S. EPA is aggressively promoting the use of brownfields and other abandoned industrial sites for wind and solar power installations, the Department of Agriculture is looking into the potential for growing biofuel crops on the grounds of airports, wastewater treatment plants are emerging as multi-purpose alternative energy generators and sports venues from baseball to football, hockey and even NASCAR are getting into the act.

And when those possibilities are exhausted, there’s always you: wearable solar gear and human-powered kinetic energy are just around the corner.

Image: Some rights reserved by lindseywb.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.



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Study Finds Wind Farms Circulate Hot Air

Posted: 01 May 2012 03:28 PM PDT


Land cools each night when the sun goes down. Hot air rises. Fans circulate air. Wind speeds pick up at night.  This combination of familiar facts mean that wind turbine blades move warmer air back down lower than usual over large wind farms.

A small study measuring that effect, Impacts of wind farms on land surface Temperature a paper in Nature by scientist Liming Zhou and his team at the University of Albany, measured the resulting ground surface temperatures from 2003 to 2011 near large wind farms in West-Central Texas and estimated the result could be three quarters of a degree (Celsius) difference.

The fossil-funded media is reporting with glee that yes, Virginia, golly-gee, these wind farms cause climate change.

Conservative media outlets, including Fox NationRush Limbaugh and Jim Hoft, are distortingthe research to claim that wind farms "cause global warming" and Fox News' morning show concluded "wind ain't working."

But here is what Zhou actually says:

“The wind turbines do not create a net warming of the air and instead only re-distribute the air’s heat near the surface, which is fundamentally different from the large-scale warming effect caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases,” says Zhou.

This action of warm air being recirculated downwards by the moving turbine blades is well known to farmers. Citrus growers use big fans to protect crops from frost. Hot air rises. Farmers use large fans to bring it back down to warm near the ground. Similarly, these citrus growers’ fans “do not create a net warming of the air” they recirculate air that is warmer to begin with.

There is some unfortunate language in the paper. Some climate scientists appear to be as innocent of caution about our moronic media over-simplification, and no more expect to have their words twisted by the fossil-funded think tanks than do other scientists studying the mating habits of shrews.

But, per the IEA, there is about $4 trillion worth of dirty energy that we need to buy over the next few decades if we don’t switch to clean energy. There’s nobody who cares about what you think of the mating habits of shrews. But climate science is different. The richest industry on the earth is not taking losing $4 trillion to the competition  lying down. Climate scientists are in the cross hairs. They need to be more careful.

Zhou’s abstract at Nature summarises (and the short abstract is all the media can access for free) ”While converting wind's kinetic energy into electricity, wind turbines modify surface–atmosphere exchanges.”

This could be twisted into the idea that some weird science-y peculiarity to some particular way that wind turbines “convert kinetic energy to electricity” that causes the warming.

Similarly loosely written, the abstract mentions “a significant warming trend of up to 0.72 °C per decade.”  This three quarters of a degree rise can (and will) be misconstrued as ongoing rising temperatures over the decades, just like those caused by greenhouse gases, which do accumulate over each decade, so a 1 degree rise “per decade” results in a 10 degree rise in 10 decades. That is quite different.

What would gave been clearer would be to simply say that as more turbines were added, the land surface temperature rose.

And that is how Zhou puts it in the Q&A that was necessitated by the uproar:

“The year-to-year land surface temperature over wind farms shows a persistent upward trend from 2003 to 2011, consistent with the increasing number of operational wind turbines with timesays Zhou in the Q&A. “FAA data shows that the number of wind turbines over the study region has gone up from 111 in 2003 to 2358 in 2011.

No one writing about climate change and its solution: clean energy should risk misinterpretation. I’ve had commenters who believe that wind turbine blades are moved around by diesel generators.

But I am an intermediary, like everyone who writes for clean energy and climate policy blogs. I know what’s out there. I see first-hand how well the opposition (with $4 trillion to lose) has funded the opposing view. But Zhou, like most scientists, obviously assumes that his readers are rational people.

A scientist will read “instead only re-distribute the air’s heat” and understand that it means that it is merely the fan-like action of wind turbines that moves warm air back down to the ground. That warmth was there all along, but higher up. Over wind farms it is moved down. That’s all.


Related posts:

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  3. Study Finds Wind Turbines Killing Bats Without Even Hitting Them

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