Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Green Earth Cements Eco-Friendly Role with NASCAR

Posted: 30 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT

Green Earth Technologies partners with Sherwin Willimams in NASCAR promotionGreen Earth Technologies has started to promote its line of eco-friendly motor oils through the NASCAR circuit, and it has just stepped things up a notch through a new partnership with the paint company Sherwin Williams. The new effort dovetails with the Obama Administration’s national initiative for transitioning out of petroleum products and into biobased products like Green Earth’s, called the National Bioeconomy Blueprint.

Green Earth and NASCAR

Green Earth’s G-OIL™ and G-CLEAN™ products will become part of Sherwin Williams’s NASCAR Home Tracks program, which means wider distribution, and the company is anticipating a good response according to President and Chief Market Officer Jeffrey Loch:

“We came into NASCAR earlier this year to demonstrate that our American-made, environmentally friendly G-OIL meets the performance demands in NASCAR’s three major series…The Sherwin Williams Home Tracks program covers over 20,000 competitors across the country and we hope they will try G-OIL and our G-CLEAN products for their teams, shops and families.”

Sports and sustainability

Loch’s faith in the racing market’s receptiveness to green products is well placed, as the world of professional sports seems to be running ahead of the curve in terms of pop culture’s influence on household habits.

As covered numerous times in CleanTechnica (here, here and here…and here), racing and many other sports have been early adopters of recycling, solar power, wind power, rainwater harvesting and other green initiatives, and the impact is felt on participants and fans alike.

In many cases, sports venues use their green initiatives as a green branding and selling tool with high visibility placement.


Aside from Green Earth’s products, the National Bioeconomy Blueprint will manifest itself in many other ways through NASCAR in the coming years. Last week, NASCAR entered into an agreement with the U.S. EPA to “to raise awareness of environmentally friendly products and solutions to address America's environmental challenges.

The new initiative will also help racetrack owners boost their bottom line, as it provides them with EPA’s technical assistance to reduce energy, waste management and other costs.

Image: Courtesy of Green Earth Technologies

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Toyota Prius Now 3rd in World Auto Sales

Posted: 30 May 2012 06:14 AM PDT


Toyota Prius has now pulled into third in worldwide auto sales. In other words, that thing is popular! Many probably still think of hybrids as “alternative” vehicles, but apparently they are now very mainstream.

And this is really good news for 100% electric vehicles like the Volt and the Leaf. Why? Well, their first-year sales are looking much better than the Prius’ were, implying that they will one day be on the top of the heap as well (will make it hard for FOX News to rail against them then).

Presumably, rising fuel costs, some new Prius models, concern about global warming, and the fact that the Prius is just a really good car are responsible for its success. And, due to all those factors, the first quarter of 2012 marked the first time the Prius was the third best-selling car line in the world.

“Toyota sold a staggering 247,230 Prius hybrids, beating sales figures for cars like the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf,” Green Car Reports… reports. “In first place for the quarter, selling 300,800 cars was another Toyota, the 2012 Corolla. In second place, just under 30,000 cars ahead of the Prius line, was the 2012 Ford Focus.”

Green Car Reports notes that while there was only one Prius model per year available up until one year ago, three additional models have been offered in the last year — the 2012 Toyota Prius C subcompact hatch, 2012 Toyota Prius V mid-size wagon, and the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

Congrats to Toyota, the folks who work on the Prius models, and all of you who have decided to go and choose a Prius over a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle.

h/t Inhabitat
Image: Toyota Prius

Cleantech News: Logitech Solar Keyboard Offerings Expanded; Nest Now in Canada; Green Bike Lanes Work in LA; Romney Lost on Green Jobs…

Posted: 30 May 2012 05:45 AM PDT

Solar, clean transportation, energy efficiency, and other cleantech news from around the internet:

Solar News

Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 (Photo: Business Wire)

Logitech Expands Solar Power Keyboard to Mac, iPad, and iPhone: Today Logitech (SIX:LOGN) (NASDAQ:LOGI) announced the expansion of its solar offering with the new Logitech® Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 for Mac®, iPad® or iPhone®. A continuation of Logitech's solar series, which started with the Logitech® Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 and has continued with the Logitech® Solar Keyboard Folio for iPad, this new keyboard adds Bluetooth® connectivity with an easy-switching capability. It allows you to simultaneously pair multiple devices and quickly switch among them with the push of a button.

Unirac and Bella Energy Complete Milestone Solar Project on Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT. (PRNewsFoto/Unirac, Inc.)

Salt Palace Convention Center Gets Large Solar Array: “Unirac, Inc., a Hilti Group Company and North America’s leading provider of infrastructure for solar power systems, was selected by Bella Energy, a nationwide commercial solar developer and project engineering firm, as the solar mounting supplier for a 1.65 MW roof mount on the Salt Palace Convention Center, in Salt Lake City Utah,” PR Newswire writes. “The completed array is the largest commercial roof mount PV system in the state of Utah and provides more than 18% of the 675,000 square foot convention center’s power needs.”

Solar-Powered Micro-Grid Coming to Albuquerque, New Mexico Courtesy of Japanese: “A Japanese consortium showcases a self-sustaining, solar, energy storage and backup turbine-powered project in Albuquerque, with Forest City as host.”

Chinese Solar Companies Launch the Solar Energy Promotion Alliance: China's four largest solar photovoltaic manufacturers have launched the Solar Energy Promotion Alliance (SEPA) to defend attacks on Chinese solar panel companies and subsidies, and perhaps go on the offensive as well.

Clean Transportation News

Jennifer Klausner (left) and Alexis Lantz (right) of the LACBC (Credit: Women on Bikes SoCal)

Green Bike Lane in LA Boosts Women Cyclists 100% on Weekdays, 650% on Weekends: “Overall, riding went up 52 percent after the green lane was installed, with a particularly big jump on the weekends (250 percent). But even more eye-opening was the gender shift,” Carolyn Szczepanski of the League of American Bicyclists writes. “The number of female cyclists on the weekday went up 100% after the green lane was installed. On the weekend, the percentage increase was a massive 650%,” the LACBC writes.

Green Lane Project to Spread the Word about Good Bicycle Planning: “For the next two years, the Green Lane Project will lend expertise and support to Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. as those cities implement the type of infrastructure that has proven successful at leading people to take up biking for transportation,” Streetsblog DC writes. “The Green Lane Project — which officially kicks off [today] with an event in Chicago — will also make an impact beyond those six cities. By broadly disseminating the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, a pioneering document released last year by the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the project will reach a critical audience in places that may not have the level of political support for bike infrastructure found in the six cities receiving direct assistance.”

Energy Efficiency News

Nest Now in Canada: The Nest Learning Thermostat is now available in Canada, as of yesterday.

EnergySavvy Expands into East Coast: Seattle-based cleantech company Energy Savvy, which builds software to support utility and governmental energy efficiency programs, is opening up its first East Coast office, in Boston.

Cleantech Policy News

Romney Campaigns Against Green Jobs while Solar Industry Flourishing in His State: “The Romney campaign released yet another ad today on Solyndra and the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program. Romney's ad repeats the same half-truths and lies about stimulus funding that factcheckers have repeatedly debunked,” Rebecca Leber of Think Progress writes. “During the campaign, Romney has routinely dismissed the nation's 3.1 million clean energy jobs while intensifying his attacks on the industry. Ironically, the clean energy industry is booming in his home state of Massachusetts, creating 64,000 jobs across the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors.”

Romney Attacks Green Energy Jobs in Colorado, Which Has Over 70,000 Green Jobs: How far off your rocker do you have to be to campaign like this? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado had 72,452 "green goods and services” jobs in 2010. Nonetheless, Romney decided to say this in a speech in Colorado yesterday: “[Obama] said he was going to create some 5 million green energy jobs.  Have you seen those around here anywhere?  No, as a matter of fact he's gone after energy.”


UK Green Energy Investments Hit Almost £7 billion in Last Fiscal Year: “DECC figures show renewable industry announcements in 2011/12 of confirmed and planned investments could create 20,800 jobs,” Jessica Shankleman of Business Green writes. “In the last financial year, renewable energy companies unveiled plans to invest nearly £7bn across the UK.”

Ernst & Young Releases Latest Quarterly Global Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices Report (CAI): “The short to medium term global sector outlook is generally downbeat as the ongoing problems with Sovereign debt issues and increased competition from Asian manufacturers continues to focus the minds of European policy makers and the growth in shale gas and political resistance to tax credit extensions continue to pose significant challenges to the US market. However, as more mature technologies move ever closer to grid parity with traditional energy sources, there is good reason for longer term optimism for the global renewable energy sector.”

“Inside Tesla” Video Premier

Posted: 30 May 2012 05:39 AM PDT

Tesla is releasing videos in a new series called “Inside Tesla” as we all eagerly await the rolling out of its first deliveries on June 22. The first video, below, was released yesterday, and it included the following in the description: “This series of Tuesday updates is designed to take you behind the scenes of Model S production as we count down the days to our first deliveries.”

More announcements will be made on the “Model S Deliveries Begin June 22” page. In addition to two much longer “Inside Tesla” posts from May 22 and May 29, this is what’s on there now:

Watch Live on June 22  as We Deliver the World’s First premium Electric Sedan

Just over three years ago we unveiled our vision for the future of transportation: Model S. Now it’s time to deliver.

On June 22, 2012, our first customers will make history when they get behind the wheel and drive Model S home for the very first time.

To share the excitement as we countdown to this historic event, we will publish weekly blog updates every Tuesday called “Inside Tesla”. There are many announcements in the works, so check back every week!

US Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels Expected to Have Minimal Impact on Cost of Solar Systems in US

Posted: 30 May 2012 05:26 AM PDT

While US tariffs on solar products coming from China may cut imports nearly in half, a new study from IHS shows that the impact on total solar system costs is likely to be negligible.

Before the US Dept of Commerce preliminary ruling was made, “IHS estimated that 2 gigawatts (GW) worth of solar modules shipped into North America in 2012 would be imported from Chinese manufacturers. This would have represented as much as 60 percent of the market for North American use.”

However, with the tariff, shipments are expected to be reduced by about 45% of 1.5 GW in 2012.

"The Commerce Department action will have a major impact on the North American solar market, constraining supplies and driving up prices for modules and systems," said Mike Sheppard, a photovoltaics analyst at IHS. "Even when alternative supply lines are adopted, the penalties are likely to add as much as 12 percent to the cost of solar modules, lowering the average return on investment (ROI) for solar systems in the region by as much as 2.5 percent."

However, if these Chinese solar companies produce modules, laminates, and panels in a different country, using Chinese solar cells, they are exempted from this ruling. So, many are assuming these companies will simply move those processes to a nearby country with low labor rates (i.e. Taiwan). This will still lead to an increased module cost of 10-12%, but module costs aren’t everything.

Accounting for a 10 percent increase in total module cost based on the cell outsourcing strategy mentioned above, the cost of installation for a ground solar system rises to $2.65 per watt, up from $2.56 per watt.

That’s something, but it’s probably not as bad as you were expecting, right?

With such numbers, “the ROI for solar installations is expected to only decline by 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent.”

solar cost increase from us china solar tariff

"This reduced ROI means some investors may think twice when valuing other vehicles to put their money," Sheppard said. "However, most investors will not be deterred."

Source: IHS

Australia Out-Installed Germany in Under-10kW Solar in 2011

Posted: 30 May 2012 04:58 AM PDT


Reportedly, “Australia installed more solar power in the under-10 kW system size than Germany did in 2011.” This is rather surprising. Everyone knows German solar power, especially rooftop solar, expanded greatly in 2011. But who’s talking about Australia?

Of course, Australia’s total 837 MW of newly installed solar in 2011 doesn’t compare with Germany’s 7,481 MW. Apparently, Australia hasn’t offered much support for utility-scale solar yet, but small-scale solar is in high demand. 815 MW of Australia’s PV installations were less than 100 kW in size and 96% of these — 804 MW — were from solar systems smaller than 10 kW in size. This barely beats Germany’s 759 MW. Similarly, in 2010, Australia beat Germany in the number of installations at this size, but not quite in MW installed.

“On the strength of its residential sector, Australia ranked 8th in capacity installed in 2010, and ranked 7th in 2011, highly respectable for a nation of its size,” Warwick Johnston of Australia writes on Renewable Energy World. “These figures mean Australia could easily be the world’s largest market for residential PV.”

While Australia lags on commercial- and utility-scale solar, its residential-scale solar success has led it to some important cost reductions and “socket parity” about as fast as anyone.

“As Bloomberg New Energy Finance showed, Australia is one of the first countries to have reached residential ‘socket parity’; ahead of much of the world. Australia has also showed that in spite of massive cuts to government support, residential solar can survive without premium feed-in tariffs when solar power is primarily used on-site. With ‘socket parity’ reached for small businesses, and tantalisingly close for large business, Australia’s commercial market is set to grow organically, free from the distortions of solar-specific government incentives.”

Exciting stuff. Goes to show you, even just promoting residential solar power adoption can quickly drive down costs and make solar power cost competitive in an unfair market where the health and environmental externalities of fossil fuels still aren’t taken into account.

My guess is that getting solar on a lot of residential roofs will also increase political support for solar, in general….

Image: Brendan Howard /

Experience Curves — Basic Business Concept that Too Many Congresspeople Don’t Understand (or Don’t Care About)

Posted: 30 May 2012 04:13 AM PDT


We’ve written about the issues in this post below a number of times (though, without specifically mentioning “experience curves”). But it’s an issue that deserves a lot more attention and Rob Day’s piece, reposted in full from Greentech Media, is an excellent one that really drives home the key points, so I’m sharing it here with you all.

One important comment I would make, though, is that there may be a little truth to this line — “Both parties are at fault one way or another” — the blame is certainly in no way equal. GOP ‘leaders’ in Congress, despite the preferences of their constituents and even the clean energy support of state GOP leaders across the country, seem to have made it one of their key missions to delay a clean energy revolution as much as possible. A very small number of Democrats (from fossil-fuel-dominated states) also consistently go against clean energy. Democrats’ main fault is that they don’t fight harder for clean energy, but there’s no doubting this is a very hard Congress to work in, and their blame for that is minuscule compared to the blame that should be put on the GOP Congresspeople who fight 100% for dependence on fossil fuels.

Anyway, now, Rob’s wonderful piece on experience curves and attacks on the US military switching to renewables:

Experience Curves: Why Doesn't Your Senator Understand Them?

By Rob Day

Do you know what an experience curve is? Does your representative in Congress know what it is?

It’s a well-established and oft-proven truth of manufacturing costs that as you make more of something over time, costs come down. This is separate from manufacturing scale effects, which can also drive costs down, but simply put the more we make of something over time, the more we figure out how to drive the costs out. “Incremental innovations” add up to significant cost savings over time.

BCG summarized this way back in the mid-1960s as: Costs fall about 20-30% every time cumulative installations double.

This is not rocket science. It’s well understood, and frankly pretty basic.

So why can’t many politicians and their lamprey (like the RAND Corporation) understand this very basic business concept?

We’ve seen attacks on all kinds of renewable energy technology policies because the renewable energy costs are high. That is, high today. Early in their experience curves. Well… duh.

Most recently, some politicians have even gone so far as to deny the military the ability to acquire relatively small amounts of advanced biofuels. The argument made, of course, is that these biofuels cost too much.

Energy is a crucial strategic issue for our military. Much of our military strategy is dictated by energy supply, at both a national and a tactical level. Soldiers regularly carry 20-60 pounds worth of batteries into battle. From 2003-2010, more than 3,000 soldiers were wounded or killed while guarding energy supplies. The US military spends more than $19B per year on energy and that’s expected to rise over time. Every 3 days, the US military consumes 1 million barrels of petroleum (pdf). The military has undoubtedly done lots of studies to understand just how vulnerable they are to disruptions from foreign-supplied energy, especially liquid fuel, before making this request. And they’ve decided it’s a strategic priority, as a critical part of their mission, to help buy down the cost of advanced biofuels (as well as advanced energy storage and distributed electricity generation techs) by making some early purchases, to jump start those experience curves. They understand they’re under budgetary constraints. They’re not making a political request. They’re making a strategic request. They’re planning ahead, beyond the current budget crisis, to the next military crisis.

Politicians supposedly pride themselves on their business savvy. And supposedly, they support our troops.

Why don’t these politicians understand experience curves? And why don’t these politicians understand the life-and-death nature of energy supplies for our men and women in uniform?

I would suggest to you, Gentle Reader, that these politicians understand both concepts quite well. And that this is a sign of how toothless the alternative energy lobby is in DC. Because what’s really driving this is that the partisan hacks in DC drove a bad political deal last year where there are significant cuts in defense spending to be triggered if they can’t make a budget together. And they’re realizing they can’t make a budget together. Because they’re partisan hacks and it’s an election year. So therefore when they see an undefended target like advanced biofuels spending, especially since these same partisan hacks have decided to politicize energy technology as an election issue, so therefore it’s perfectly fine to ignore well-established concepts like experience curves. And, I guess, to ignore the welfare of our troops.

This simply should not be a partisan political issue. It’s not even a “green” issue. It’s a strategic military issue. Shame on them.

This should piss you off. They’re either being ignorant, or disingenous. And it’s far from the only case of this. It’s just the most eggregious example. Perhaps the most unpatriotic example.

Contact your Senators and Congressperson. Tell them to stop it. Both parties are at fault one way or another. If they don’t put a stop to it, do what you can to make them feel implications of their ignorance or disingenousness come November.

PS: I’m not a Democrat. And I’m not even a big biofuels supporter. I’m just sick and tired of the cleantech sector being politicians’ undeserving punching bag, and suffering collateral damage from their incompetence at governing. Make your voice heard. You’re more influential than you might think. But only if you speak up and participate.

Image: USA Capitol courtesy Shutterstock

73% of Americans Would Consider an Alternative Fuel Vehicle

Posted: 30 May 2012 03:44 AM PDT

Gas prices may have dipped in the weeks leading up to the Memorial Day weekend, but consumers are still responding to high gas prices.

According to a new poll from Consumer Reports, 37 percent of Americans say that fuel economy is their top consideration when looking for a new car. That makes efficiency the most important factor for consumers by far.

The next closest consideration was safety, which was ranked as a top priority by 17 percent of Americans.

The poll also showed that nearly three quarters of respondents were open to considering new types personal transportation like electric vehicles:

The survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, found that car owners were open to different ways of saving at the pump, from downsizing to looking at hybrids, electric cars, or models with diesel engines.In all, nearly three quarters (73 percent) of participants said they would consider some type of alternatively fueled vehicle, with flex-fuel (which can run on E85 ethanol) and hybrid models leading the way. Younger buyers were more likely to consider an alternatively-fuel or purely electric vehicle than drivers over the age of 55.

Electric vehicle sales in the U.S. have been slower than expected. While record numbers of Chevy Volts were sold in March, the following month saw a major dip in sales. Nissan has faced a similar pattern of sales with its Leaf.

But auto industry executives say it's far too early to draw conclusions about the success of the electric vehicle in the U.S.

"I don't want you to take a one-month or two-month sales result in one particular market to try to make your opinion about the evolution of a very important technology for the industry," said Nissan's CEO in April.

Despite the current lag in the EV market, it is clear that America's relationship with the automobile is changing. Consumers are driving less, using less fuel, and buying more efficient cars. Indeed, many younger consumers are choosing not to buy automobiles at all.

This post was originally published on Think Progress and has been reposted with permission.

Image courtesy Mitsubishi i

$26 Million In Prizes for Innovative Manufacturing Systems

Posted: 30 May 2012 03:33 AM PDT

Obama announced manufacturing initiativeInventors, start your engines: the Obama Administration has just launched the $26 million Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a cross-agency competition designed to fire up innovators in the private sector to develop the next generation of high tech, energy efficient manufacturing systems.

The Jobs Accelerator

This Innovation Accelerator is actually the third round of a broader program called Jobs Accelerator. Also styled in the form of a competition, Jobs Accelerator pulls together resources from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, the Small Business Administration and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The program builds on several innovation hubs previously launched by the Obama Administration, including the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Other supporting agencies including the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban Development, EPA, Denali Commission, International Trade Administration ( a Commerce Department agency), the Minority Business Development Administration, and the Patent and Trademark Office.

The Innovation Accelerator Challenge

The aim of the Innovation Accelerator is to push American manufacturing out of the one facility/one product mold and into a more flexible, efficient means of delivering products to consumers and other sectors such as agriculture and health care.

There is likely to be a huge impact on lifecycle management, as new technologies including 3-D printing and self-assembling materials help to narrow the stream of raw materials, energy consumption, packaging, shipping and ultimately disposal or recycling.

The Administration anticipates that about a dozen projects will win grants. According to the press release, the winners will be those who concentrate on cementing long term, sustainable clusters in regions that already have historical or other connections to similar economic trends:

“Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals that will help grow a region’s industry clusters by strengthening connections to regional economic development opportunities and advanced manufacturing assets; enhance a region’s capacity to create high-quality sustainable jobs; develop a skilled and diverse advanced manufacturing workforce; increase exports; encourage the development of small businesses; and accelerate technological innovation.”

Don’t delay — innovate!

Go ahead,  check it out. You have until July 9 apply (guidelines are available at

Image: Some rights reserved by avrene.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

My Interview for Solar Power World

Posted: 30 May 2012 01:20 AM PDT

Frank Andorka of Solar Power World interviewed me yesterday on various topics related to CleanTechnica and solar power. If you’re interested in listening to the interview, here it is:

(Warning: I don’t do much public speaking or participate in many interviews these days — so, I’m a little out of practice and feel like I fumbled over a number of key points)

As I noted in the comments below the Solar Power World post, I stated something a little unclearly in there. To clear that up: German solar electricity production at noon has passed the 20% mark, getting up to at least 25% some days, as you can see in the story above. (Of course, it’s still a ways off from 20% of total annual electricity production.)

(Renewable energy production in Germany as a whole, however, is far above 20% — was around 47% in the month of April — and just wind and solar together have gone over 20%.)

Hope that’s all clear now. :D

Energy-Saving Solution Monitors Individual Appliances

Posted: 30 May 2012 01:02 AM PDT

Two PhD students at the University of Sydney have developed a solution to monitor the energy use of individual appliances in an effort to help consumers decide how and when to use or replace them.

The “MyPower Energy Platform” uses a smart plug with an embedded GSM unit to monitor major household appliances such as washing machines, clothes dryers, microwaves, electrical water heaters, and refrigerators.

“The plugs sense actual power usage and transmit the information via SMS reports to a cloud-based data warehouse every 30 minutes,” said Waiho Wong, one of the two designers from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies. “The householder can then access their electricity consumption data and drill down to individual appliances’ cost based on peak, shoulder and off-peak rates, through the MyPower website.”

“Access to this data will allow users to optimise their appliance usage and take advantage of lower electricity rates by remotely scheduling or switching off the appliance via the smart plug,” said colleague Mahboobeh Mogaddham. “We are excited because this platform can provide a technically and economically feasible solution for households to reduce their electricity consumption by up to 10 percent — a significant cost reduction over the life of their appliances.”

The pair are conducting their PhDs under the supervision of Professor Joseph Davis, Director of the Knowledge Discovery and Management Research Group, who noted that recent research has shown that a householders’ ability to understand and reduce energy consumption is severely constrained by the aggregate nature of reporting found on traditional power bills.

“The proposed solution ‘MyPower Energy Platform’ captures highly disaggregated data at the appliance level and transforms it into actionable knowledge via analytics-based applications,” he said.

Professor Davis says the platform has the potential to be used by both manufactures and governments to develop incentive schemes for households to replace older, high-consumption appliances or to support education and awareness campaigns around energy efficiency and green house gas reduction.

Source: University of Sydney
Image Source: Taylor Burnes

The $200 Whole Foods Gift Certificate, Reusable Bags, and Pure Balance Water Bottle Winner Is…

Posted: 29 May 2012 02:19 PM PDT


I decided to add a little suspense this time, here’s the video with the whole selection process for Mitsubishi i & CleanTechnica’s Whole Foods gift certificate+ giveaway:

Coalition for Sustainable Rail to Convert World’s First Modern Steam Engine Powered with Biocoal

Posted: 29 May 2012 12:28 PM PDT


This is not just a trip down memory lane to visit an old smoky railroad locomotive. At the University of Minnesota, the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) is actively converting a 1937 locomotive – # 3463 – into what will be the world's first carbon-neutral high-speed locomotive. It will not be electric, running instead on steam generated by the burning of biofuel, or torrefied biocoal.

"The CSR team draws on extensive expertise in modern, thermodynamically efficient and low maintenance steam locomotives, and the efficiency and speed that will result from this new technology will exceed all expectations of what a steam locomotive can be," contends the CSR on its website, adding that this machine will run cheaper, quicker, and cleaner than any locomotive on the market today.

The Fuel

The fuel of choice for this enterprise – biocoal – will be produced by the University of Minnesota’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), which specializes in the processing of cellulosic biomaterial into this carbon-neutral material.

Due to the abundance of sustainable forest in Minnesota and the energy efficiency of the torrefaction process (to subject to intense heat), biocoal can be produced at reasonable cost, points out the CSR team. Not yet as cheap as current domestic coal, this price range is significantly lower than the diesel fuel currently powering all diesel-electric fleets. When comparing the fuels on a one-to-one scale, factoring in the overall thermal efficiency of each technology, the efficient external combustion of biocoal makes it substantially less expensive than diesel fuel, contends CSR. (No current costs are shown for the torrefaction process, nor any detail on how much energy will be used for firing.)

"Once its modernization is complete, CSR 3463 will have little in common with the smoke-belching steam engine it once was,” writes CSR. Featuring a gas-producer combustion system, improved steam circuit, modernized boiler, low-maintenance running gear, and steam-powered electric generator (to power the passenger train), CSR anticipates 3463 will be able to pull a passenger train with electric-like performance for less than the cost of diesel-electric locomotives. In order to further prove the viability of biocoal and modern steam technology, CSR plans to test the locomotive at speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour, outperforming any existing diesel-electric on the market and breaking the world steam speed record. CSR has named this endeavor: "Project 130."

CSR is is working with the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the nonprofit Sustainable Rail International (SRI). The locomotive being used was donated to CSR by the Great Overland Station Museum in Topeka, Kansas. While it originally ran on coal, it will be adapted to burn biocoal – a biomass-derived solid fuel with an energy density and handling properties similar to those of coal, but that contains no heavy metals, and produces less ash, smoke and volatile off-gases. Additionally, it releases no more carbon when being burned than was originally absorbed by the plants that it's made from.

"Once perfected, creating the world's first carbon-neutral locomotive will be just the beginning for this technology which, we hope, will later be used for combined heat and power energy in the developing world as well as reducing the United States' dependence on fossil fuels," said IonE's Rod Larkins.

We look forward to the conductor’s words, “All Aboard!”

Source: CSR, gizmag
Photo: CSR

1 comment:

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