Monday, June 25, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Green Cities: Waste2Tricity Pushes ‘Game Changing’ Waste-to-Energy Tech

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 07:26 AM PDT

Graphic courtesy: Waste2Tricity

The folks over at Waste2Tricity in the UK believe they’ve hit upon a process and combination of technologies that’s going to change the economics of the energy-from-waste (EfW) market. The consortium is putting together an EfW system and strategic plan ultimately based on two core components: at the front end plasma gasification technology is to be used to “gasify” waste that will feed clean, high-efficiency alkaline fuel cells that will produce electricity and hydrogen. Initially, W2T proposes using internal combustion engines (ICEs) on the back-end.

Aiming to turn urban waste into a local, renewable clean energy resource, UK governments since at least 2009 have been soliciting input from and providing incentives to private industry in the search for cost-effective EfW solutions. Waste2Tricity (W2T) says its plasma gasification-fuel cell system is not only head-and-shoulders above competing alternatives in terms of clean energy, it will be of a modular, scalable nature that will enable the cost-effective construction of EfW plants up and down the country, eliminating trash and waste and producing clean, low-carbon energy locally, at source. Adding to the possible benefits is the potential to use surplus hydrogen to stock hydrogen vehicle fueling stations.

“We’ll be running at the 10-MW scale taking waste as a feedstock. It’s much more distributed, and you’re avoiding the issue of grid losses [by minimizing transmission distance],” explained Howard White, a consultant to W2T. “You’re not having the grid losses and you’re boosting your efficiency because a lot of feedstock is essentially renewable and local.”

The High & Rising Cost of Waste

The W2T consortium–made up of alkaline fuel cell developer AFC Energy and AlterNRG, amongst others, was formed in 2009 as a result of rising fossil fuel costs over the past decade.

Since 2002, the high and rising price of fossil fuels has fundamentally changed the way government, business and society look at energy, prompting individuals and groups across all three spheres to cast a wider net in the search for clean, renewable energy alternatives, as well ways to reduce the amount of energy that’s wasted.

At the same time, rising urban populations have led to more and more trash and waste, and less space to bury it. Reuse and recycling has increased, but they’re nowhere near large enough in scale today to effectively cope with the issue. That’s meant rising taxes for the public, including businesses, to haul away and bury or burn trash.

Burning it by conventional means has traditionally meant incinerating waste, and increasingly making use of the heat produced to fuel coal-fired electricity generation. It’s an old, centralized, large-scale, inefficient and very polluting means of converting waste to energy, and that doesn’t have to be, nor should it be, the case given advances in technology, W2T’s White and John Hall pointed out.

The UK’s Waste-from-Energy Drive

Since at least 2009, UK governments have been working on policies and the right combination of market-based incentives to commercialize a new generation of more efficient, much greener EfW plants.

“There’s been a drive to find a technology that will efficiently extract energy from waste, from renewable carbon feedstocks,” White elaborated. “The market has developed and there’s certainly been a lot of government interest in promoting advanced technologies. On the UK government side, that’s been focused on Advanced Conversion Technology– pyrolysis, gasification and anaerobic digestion. We have focused on gasification in W2T.”

After much back-and-forth between government and varied, often competing commercial and public interest stakeholders, a potential turning point occurred last August in the UK’s EfW market,continued W2T managing director John Hall: Air Products and AlterNRG received local council planning permission to build a utility-scale, advanced EfW plant in Teesside in the Tees Valley.

Air Products-AlterNRG’s proposed advanced waste gasification plant has been designed to process more than 300,000 metric tons of waste and produce 49-MW of electrical power, enough for some 50,000 homes. Plasma gasification equipment is to process the waste and channel it into natural gas turbines, which will generate electricity.

“The final decision depends on the future of the ROC (Renewable Obligation Certificate) regime,” Hall explained, a clean energy program established around 10 years ago along the lines of state REC programs that exist in the US.

A much anticipated reformulating of UK ROC rates–Electricity Market Reform (EMR)– for various forms of clean energy production– wind, solar, landfill gas, hydroelectric, etc.– that’s been delayed repeatedly now appears imminent. The new ROC rates will have a major impact on the financial viability and returns available to clean and renewable energy project developers and investors.

Scaling Down for Distributed, Local Power

In any event, “the Teesside project validates the technology,” Hall stated, noting that “it’s been operating eight years in Japan.”

Besides being much smaller in scale, thereby holding out the potential of locating EfW plants closer to sources of waste feedstock, W2T takes Air Products’ design one step further by replacing natural gas turbines with fuel cells. That will further boost the energy efficiency of the system, as well as reduce CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions further, Hall and White explained.

According to the two W2T execs, their plasma gasification-fuel cell system can cost-effectively boost electricity output from waste conversion by 130% over steam turbines and as much as 70% above internal combustion engines (ICEs) and natural gas turbines. At the same time, substantial reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions would be realized, not to mention eliminating the nasty problems associated with disposing of fly ash.

AlterNRG acquired Westinghouse’s plasma gasification technology, which will be incorporated as the front-end of W2T’s EfW system. At the back-end will be AFC Energy alkaline fuel cells.

AFC’s been testing its modular, low-cost fuel cells with chemicals manufacturer Akzo Nobel at its Bitterfield chlor-alkali plants in Germany where hydrogen is produced as a by-product in the making of chlorine, a widely used intermediary chemical that is in turn used to produce mass market products, such as poly vinyl chloride (PVC).

W2T’s Plasma Gasification-Fuel Cell Design

In W2T’s proposed system, syngas is produced as a result of the plasma gasification of organic waste. The syngas– primarily a mix of CO2, CO and H– is refined to remove contaminants, such as sulfur and nitrogen compounds– that can gum up natural gas turbine and fuel cell works.

The carbon monoxide (CO) is used to produce additional hydrogen and CO2 via a gas-water shift process. The hydrogen and CO2 are separated by means of pressure-swing adsorption (PSA), which results in highly refined hydrogen for the fuel cells, White explained.

The one process White said he believes is generally accepted as the best, most proven method of refining syngas to produce almost pure hydrogen is that of Calgary, Alberta-based W2T partner AlterNRG, which acquired the technology from Westinghouse, White noted.

“Syngas contains oils and tars that can gum up systems. At over 1200 degrees C, you crack the tars and oils. The majority of gasification systems operate at 850 degrees C and leave these contaminants in the gas stream.”

There is one missing link in W2T’s vision of a “closed-loop” EfW system: what happens to the CO2 captured during the process? White noted that 60%-70% of the cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS) lies in the extraction part of the process.

The Missing Link in a Closed Loop EfW System

Without carbon storage, or sequestration, any technology that uses hydrocarbons as a fuel, be it ICEs, gas turbines or fuel cells, produces CO2 and other emissions, he continued.

“However, if you look at the feedstock and see that 85% of it is renewable, it will result in a reduction in carbon emissions. If CCS is incorporated, it will result in negative carbon emissions.”

In addition, Hall added, fuel cells’ higher efficiency will result in pro rata reductions in the proportion of CO2 and emissions as compared to EfW systems where ICEs and natural gas turbines are used.

“You need sequestration to really close the loop; CO2 pipelines, etc., they’re part of long-term government strategies. They’re now trying to make industry carbon capture-ready.”

For its part, W2T’s now moving forward with a project that entails building an 80,000 metric ton EfW plant. Along the lines of Air Products’ Teesside plant, plans call for ICEs to be used in a first stage, to be replaced with AFC fuel cells at a later stage.

“We believe once you have a system with fuel cells linked in, then you’ll have a low-cost waste-to-energy plant that will outperform substantially any other solution on the market. “It recalibrates the total cost of waste-to-energy downward, which will eliminate the practice of throwing waste into the ground.”

“You’ll get a sea change in the approach to waste overall,” White continued. “As opposed to a nuisance, waste becomes a great resource. As this resource is generally accepted, you’ll get the opportunity of a virtuous circle of distributed energy. The feedstock is produced in place, where the electricity is generated.” That sounds like a goal worth pursuing.

1,000 MW of Wind Power Planned for Uruguay by 2015

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 07:12 AM PDT


It was just in September that Uruguay estimated it could add 800 MW of wind power by 2015. Recently, it upped that estimate to 1,000 MW. Over half that total may be under construction before the end of 2012.

On some windy summer nights, Uruguay gets about 80 to 90 percent of its energy from wind power. Energy Secretary Ramón Méndez Galain said: “Because we're a small country, we can do things.”

Wind power may already be the cheapest source of energy in Uruguay, a nation with just 3.3 million people. Reportedly, the price of wind power had dropped to $63.50 per MWh by August 2011, down from $85/MWh just seven months before that.

In 2011, the small nation had 43 MW of wind power in operation, with plans to construct a number of 50-MW plants. (A plan to build a plant of 180 to 200 MW with Brazil fell apart in the same year, though.) Three hundred and forty-two megawatts from six new projects will become operational through 2014, with the remainder of the 1,000 MW coming in 2015. There has been a steady and fairly quick progression to these new large goals.

For example, in 2007, UNDP and the Global Environment Facility collaborated with the National Energy Directorate to fund the Caracoles Wind Farm, a large-scale, newest-generation wind farm. This is a 20-MW plant providing power to offset reliance on hydroelectric and oil-based power plants. One thing that sparked an interest in wind power then was a long-lasting drought, which reduced the volume of water available to hydroelectric generators.

Uruguay’s hydroelectric capacity is about 1,500 MW, which will offset periods of low or no wind for their wind power farms, when they are all operational.

Image Credit: Amateos, Public Domain

80% Surge in California Third Party Home Solar Market

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 07:06 AM PDT


California may have been edged out by New Jersey for the most installed solar capacity in first quarter 2012, but it may not have lost its spot as the top American market for solar power for very long.

A new study out from home solar company Sunrun and market analysts PV Solar Report reveals an 80 percent surge in California's third-party home solar market so far in 2012, compared to 2011. More importantly, this growth has been largely fueled by 13 median-income cities, labeled "solar stars," all showing triple-digit growth.

The report notes that solar adoption continues to grow in traditional California hotbeds like Fresno and Bakersfield, but the sun has broken through the clouds in new communities like Santa Clarita, Castaic, Palmdale, Clovis, and Pleasanton — the top five cities.



While solar growth is notable in any instance, the economics of this new surge could be indicators of a growing trend. The average median annual household income across all 13 solar star cities was $57,000 — a range that would typically make the upfront cost of installing solar difficult. However, in nine of the solar star cities, at least 75 percent of homeowners preferred installing solar through a third-party provider — and that's where Sunrun comes in.

The company owns, insures, and maintains the rooftop solar arrays installed on their customers' homes, thus eliminating the cost of buying and installing solar. In addition, customers using a third-party solar service can lock in stable electric costs for years.

By making solar more affordable and even profitable, third-party solar providers say they can keep the industry growing. "Home solar is at the tip of the iceberg in terms of growth," said Lynn Jurich, Sunrun president and co-founder. "As costs continue to drop and more homeowners realize they can go solar without high upfront payments, adoption will scale exponentially."

The Vauxhall Ampera — Experienced By A Doubter

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 06:50 AM PDT

ampera review test drive electric vehicleThe Vauxhall Ampera is a special car. Or so we're supposed to believe! It's one step closer to the clean motoring future that awaits us all. I have not exactly been blown away by the electric vehicle offerings we've seen in the past, so I feel skepticism is an acceptable default position.

The Prius has never excited me. And, in any case, is the relatively energy efficient model really worth getting that excited about? I'm just not sure the green credentials are impressive enough to warrant abandoning conventional cars.

On 100% electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i, I’d still like a bit more range, or a lot more fast-charging stations, before going for one of them.

So, how is the Ampera, a so-called E-REV (extended range electric vehicle), any different? Well, put simply, the wheels are always turned by an electric motor, but there's a 74 bhp, 1.4 litre petrol engine to help things along if need be. In other words, electric will take you as far as it can on its own, and then a relatively efficient petrol-driven generator kicks in to lend a hand.

It's a clever idea, and the judges at the Geneva Motor Show obviously thought so too, naming it the 'Car of the Year'. Clean, green motoring, with back-up. Great — no more range-anxiety. But is this a car you'd relish seeing outside your house and driving to work every day? Here's what I thought when I took it for a spin:

Looks Matter!

The Ampera looks like a normal car. Hardly a ringing endorsement, but, for many, that's important. In fact, it looks like a really nice normal car, with a curvy roofline and cool boomerang headlights (flavour of the month for Vauxhall).

The solid aerodynamics are very apparent from the front, particularly in the design of the wing-mirrors. In fact, I much prefer the Ampera from the front. The high-positioned lights at the back seem to create a slight impression of bulkiness.

How It All Works

The technology used by Vauxhall's engineers for the Ampera sets out to solve the age-old problem of electric vehicles: zero emissions = not the best range! This is indeed an age-old problem, with the first electric vehicles being designed over 100 years ago. So did they crack it?

Well, for journeys of 25-50 miles, with a fully charged battery, you can be satisfied with the knowledge that you're running on pure electricity. The lithium-ion batteries in the Ampera offer 2-3 times more power than the NiMH (nickel metal hydride) versions found in conventional hybrids. So, there's plenty of juice on full charge, but when they become totally depleted, something happens:

The 1.4 petrol engine swings into action to power an electricity generator, which tops up the electric motor's battery. With this system, you can drive on for up to 310 more miles!

So, at all times, the Ampera's wheels are turned by electric power, which is a significant engineering step forward. Plus, the regenerative electro-hydraulic brake system converts braking energy into electricity, which is constantly fed back into the motor. This switches to friction braking when the battery is fully charged.

Driving The Ampera

I'm sure you can imagine how odd it is to move from stationary to 60mph in 9 seconds, with no noise! The weirdness of this was what first struck me when driving the Ampera. I found it very disconcerting at first (not least on behalf of passers-by who didn't hear me coming!), but pretty soon I loved it.

Lots of people have observed that it's rather like flying, and I see their point. Cruising around long S-bends at decent speed, in absolute quiet, is a really fun experience. The Ampera features hydraulic ride bushings on both suspensions, which helps to preserve the feeling of a smooth, effortless ride even on less than perfect roads.

The all-round performance is, unsurprisingly, very similar to that of the Astra. The solid build and rack-mounted power steering combines with McPherson strut front suspension, to produce sensitive and responsive handling.

Practicality — Is This A 'Real' Car?

So, the Ampera offers zero CO2 emissions on the electric motor, plus decent drive quality. But what would the reality be of owning one of these cars? For many people, the petrol equivalent, the Astra, is a very practical and reliable family car. Could the Ampera fill its shoes?

Well, for starters, there's the drawback that it only has 2 backseats. For some families that ends the debate right there. But Vauxhall chose to sacrifice a third back seat by positioning the battery compartment where it would have been, in order to preserve the maximum possible boot space. That was probably quite a shrewd move, as, together with the absence of range-anxiety, it makes the Ampera a car that can deal with family trips and holidays (for families of 3 or 4 at least).

The driving area is not difficult to figure out. There are 2 colour LCD screens, on the dash and at the top of the centre console. The dashboard screen displays how many miles you have left on battery power and the miles remaining with the petrol generator. The centre screen gives you control of the entertainment system, temperature and so on.

I was pleased to discover that there are 2 horns available to the driver. The first is the usual full volume blast, whilst the second is gentler little 'toot', for alerting pedestrians who might be oblivious to your silent approach.

Filling up the Ampera with petrol for its petrol generator is done in the usual way, but what about charging the battery? Well, on the other side of the car to the filler cap is the connection point for the charge cord. Simply push it in, press the button and attach the plug to any standard 240V power supply.

It really is wonderfully simple to recharge your car using an ordinary wall socket, as you would a camera or phone! It takes about 6 hours to reach full charge, so if this were your main car it would simply be a case of plugging it in every night or so. The estimated cost per charge is around, wait for it, £1!

Safety Points

An electric car obviously presents a few unique safety challenges. But, according to Vauxhall, there are about 500 tests constantly running to check the battery is in good condition and at the right temperature. As a result, there's actually far less chance of the Ampera catching fire than a conventional petrol car.

80% of the Ampera's body is comprised of high-strength steel, and there are frontal, side, knee and curtain airbags. A handy 'ISOFIX' system makes it really easy to attach a child's seat. The all-round safety record of the Ampera earned it the maximum 5-star EURO NCAP rating.


I think there's no doubt the Ampera is a big step forward for electric motoring. It's more than just a token for short trips to the shops! With a spacious interior, large boot, and complete absence of range-anxiety, this ticks all the boxes for a main family car.

Often the most groundbreaking products don't actually invent something truly new, but make existing technology more applicable to the lives of ordinary people. With the Ampera, I think Vauxhall have just opened the door to realistic and practical electric motoring.

Author: Josh Austin works for County Motor Works, which have been new and used car dealers in Essex since 1907. He is a motoring enthusiast and has had the chance to put the entire current Vauxhall range through its paces.

Image: Ampera at Geneva Motor Show via Gustavo Fadel /

Energy Efficiency Goals Transforming Building Industry (+ Energy Efficiency & ‘Other’ News Roundup)

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 06:10 AM PDT

Some top energy efficiency news from around the interwebs (other than our own energy efficiency coverage):

Energy Efficiency News

Aggressive Energy Efficiency Goals Are Transforming the Building Industry, According to Pike Research

Despite significant growth and much publicity, the green construction and technology market still accounts for only a small percentage of the commercial building stock worldwide. Today, the spread of sophisticated building automation systems (BAS), which take advantage of the convergence of information technology (IT) data and building data, is helping drive significant growth in intelligent and energy-efficient buildings. According to a recent report from Pike Research, aggressive energy efficiency goals within the building stock – which is undergoing tremendous growth, particularly in developing Asia Pacific nations – will drive revolutionary change in BAS technology and transform the building industry over the next decade.

Overall, the market for commercial building automation systems will double over the next decade, the cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts, increasing from $72.5 billion in 2011 to $146.4 billion by 2021….

FutureDash Launches IndieGoGo Crowdfunding Campaign for the EnergyBuddy Home Energy Monitoring System

FutureDash™ Corp. [announced last week] that its EnergyBuddy™ home energy monitoring system is now available for pre-ordering on the world's largest open-funding platform IndieGoGo at special introductory pricing.

With a unique glowing ‘red, yellow, green’ luminescent top EnergyBuddy tells you at a glance whether your consumption is over or under-budget. It also brings your electricity use to life in far more detail with colorful dashboards showing dials, gizmos and graphs so that you know exactly where your home’s electricity is being used and what you can do to reduce it.

Information and control is available on your iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone or computer screen as it happens, from anywhere on the net and is totally secure. Empowered with this information you can optimize your energy usage to cut your costs, reduce your energy budget and lower your environmental impact….

Technology Innovation and Cost Decreases are Fueling the Spread of Net Zero Energy Buildings

Several forces, including concerns about corporate image and branding in an increasingly sustainability-focused marketplace and growing interest in staying on the cutting edge of technology, are driving many in the construction industry toward the goal of producing zero energy buildings, i.e., buildings that produce as much energy as they consume through on-site and renewable energy systems.  Many of the technologies needed to deliver zero energy buildings, such as energy efficient HVAC systems, have already been developed.  Others, however, such as triple glazed windows and solar panels, are not considered cost-effective in comparison with conventional alternatives.  According to a recent report from Pike Research, over the next few decades, cost decreases in these existing technologies and innovation in emerging technologies, driven by stringent government regulations, will help make zero energy building more attainable….

“Good Morning America” Summer Concerts Featuring GoVision LED Backdrop

ABC's "Good Morning America" 2012 Summer Concert Series in Central Park will use an LED screen from Argyle, TX-based GoVision LP….

Other News

200 Nominations for Global Cleantech Cluster Association’s Later Stage Awards

Check them all out at the link above.

Analysis: Search for rare earth substitutes gathers pace

The hunt for substitutes for rare earth minerals is gaining momentum as auto makers, lighting companies and clean tech developers seek to reduce their reliance on thin and unreliable supplies of the raw material….

Bloomberg: "Cheap" Coal is Dead

Climate Deniers can only say coal is cheap because they do not value our children's futures, to say nothing of their brains, lungs, and sex organs.

But even if you leave human health and well being out of the equation, "cheap" coal is gone, and the coal industry is a dead man walking….

Electricity Use Drops, Customer Satisfaction Rises In Major Utilities' Smart Grid Programs, Vermont Law School Studies Show

The US electric transmission and distribution system is on the verge of a transformation to a smart electric grid. At the center of the evolution of the smart electric grid is the introduction of new technology at the customer meter, as well as the distribution and transmission system level. This technological innovation has required that the road map to a smart electric grid become a partnership of electric utilities and technology companies. Unsurprisingly, the introduction of this new technology has presented new legal, policy and regulatory challenges for state and federal utility regulators. The federal government has added additional momentum to this technological evolution by awarding $3.4 billion in smart grid investment grants to utilities and other entities as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These investments are supporting two types of investments in smart grid technology—implementation of smart grid technology across utility service territories and demonstration of smart grid technology….

Image: looking out double-glazed windows via Shutterstock

Tigo Wins $3.5-Million DOE SunShot Award (+ Solar Energy News Roundup)

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 05:49 AM PDT

Some top solar energy news from around the interwebs (other than what we’ve already covered):

Tigo Energy Wins Additional US DOE Award For A Total Of $3,500,000

Tigo Energy®, the market leader in solar optimization technology for photovoltaic (PV) solar installations, [last week] announced it has received one of ten Department of Energy SunShot investments aimed at reducing soft costs associated with solar energy installations.

The award of up to $500,000 will be used to develop software that will further reduce the costs associated with installation, commissioning, and operations & maintenance by providing tools to monitor and manage PV systems. Tigo Energy will use this award to fund module-level monitoring software that analyzes data from solar installations and other sources, such as observed weather conditions. The software is designed to proactively pinpoint faults in a system and assess the financial benefits of service and maintenance by weighing repair costs against the value of energy lost, allowing system owners and plant managers to make intelligent decisions regarding O&M expenditures.

LA County Approves First Solar to Start Module Installation at AV Solar Ranch One

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) have reached an agreement on the installation of solar modules at the Solar Ranch One photovoltaic (PV) power plant currently under construction in the Antelope Valley.

The agreement enables First Solar to continue construction activities of the 230-megawatt power plant that, when completed in 2013, will generate enough electricity to power 75,000 homes. Installation of the modules had been delayed while First Solar and Public Works worked to achieve agreement related to the module code certifications….

Local San Antonio Family First in Texas with DOW POWERHOUSE™ Solar Roof

DOW POWERHOUSE™ [has] announced the first installation of its cutting-edge DOW POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle roof system in San Antonio. Bobby and Sarah Ross waited over a year to be the first homeowners in Texas with a POWERHOUSE solar roof.

enXco Announces Solar Module Supply Agreement With First Solar

First Solar will deliver 61 megawatts peak (MWp) of thin film modules starting in September 2012 for enXco’s Catalina Solar Project located in Kern County, California.

Catalina Solar will be built in two phases — the first phase of approximately 60 MWp is targeted to go online by the end of 2012 and the remainder of the project by June 2013. The plant will generate enough clean energy to power the equivalent of about 35,000 homes annually and will offset about 74,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year….

Kohl's Department Stores Powers Up Solar Initiative with 30 New Locations in 2012

Kohl's adds New York, Massachusetts and Ohio to list of states with solar locations, will expand overall solar portfolio by nearly 25 percent this year….

Image Source: Tigo

Oil Companies Fear Financial Impacts of Climate Change (+ Global Warming & Climate Change News Roundup)

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 05:40 AM PDT

Some top global warming and climate change news from around the interwebs (a new feature here on CleanTechnica):

Oil Companies That Caused Climate Change Now Fear Its Financial Impacts

We all know oil companies make an amazing amount of money ($33.5 billion in 2012 first quarter profits by the Big Five alone) selling gasoline and other petroleum products to the world. The U.S. government gives billions of our tax dollars back to these companies every year. The oil companies spend big to keep the system running this way.

Not a bad system, if you're a huge fossil fuel corporation. Unfortunately, the oil companies make a product that warms our planet and disrupts our climate, which affects all of us. So what does the fossil fuel industry do? They fund organizations and people that make the case for denial and inaction. So this is an industry that profits from products that science shows will change the climate, then spends money on cover-up.

Actually, though, it gets even stranger. When it comes to protecting their profits, oil companies explicitly acknowledge that climate change poses a threat to their bottom line….

Who Is Filling Climate Scientists’ Inboxes With Abuse, Intimidation And Hate?

IMAGINE coming in to work and opening your inbox to read an email asking you to “kill yourself” before another note reads “I hope someone puts a bullet between your eyes”.

How about another email where the sender describes themselves as a “one man swat team” telling you to “back the F*** off” or they will “smack the living sh** out of you”.

Another emailer says “I’d kill you in a second if given the chance” and another writes that you have been “blacklisted” and that “your children and family will know because we know where you live… expect us at your door to say hello.”

This is not an imaginary scenario, but is instead a sample from the inbox of climate scientist Professor Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia in the UK, as revealed following a Freedom of Information request released [last] week….

Global carbon emissions rise is far bigger than previous estimates

Carbon dioxide emissions have risen by even more than previously thought, according to new data analysed by the Guardian, casting doubt on whether the world can avoid dangerous climate change.

The data has emerged as governments met in Rio de Janeiro to finalise the outcome of the Rio+20 conference, aimed at ensuring that economic growth does not come at the expense of irreparable environmental degradation, but which activists say has not achieved enough to stave off severe environmental problems.

Global carbon emissions from energy are up 48% on 1992, when the original Earth summit took place in Rio – a historic summit at which governments agreed to limit emissions in order to prevent dangerous climate change….

Kickstarter Fundraiser Kickoff. Help Put Climate Crocks on Ice!!

Starting today, you can help kickstart Climate Crocks to a whole new level – at

As of now, I am starting a 3 week fundraiser aimed at outfitting myself to join a scientific team on Washington's Mt Baker, an active volcano in the Cascades Range.  I've been invited by one of the world's foremost glacier experts, (and an advisor to this series..) Dr. Mauri Pelto, to come along and document his annual research foray onto a rapidly declining mountain glacier….

Sea Level Rise Accelerating Along The U.S. Atlantic Coast

The rates of sea level rise along the U.S. Atlantic Coast are increasing 3 to 4 times faster than they are globally, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey….

Emperor Penguin Population May Collapse By 2100 (VIDEO)

The Emperor penguin, Antarctica's iconic, nearly 4-foot-tall sea bird, is likely to see its populations collapse as warming and ice loss in Antarctica accelerates. According to a new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), the Emperor penguins living in Terre Adélie, in East Antarctica, will eventually disappear if the presently occurring warming and loss of ice continues. Which, according to nearly all research done on the matter, is likely to not only continue, but rapidly accelerate….

Expansion of Forests Into The Arctic Will Release Carbon Dioxide

The Arctic is becoming greener as plant growth increases due to warmer temperatures. More plant growth means more carbon stored as biomass, so it had been thought that this would lead to the Arctic removing enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to slow warming slightly.

But new research shows that the stimulation of decomposition rates in the Arctic soil outweighs the influence of the increased plant biomass. The researchers found that the expansion of forests into the tundra in northern Sweden will release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere….

North Carolina Bans Climate Change?

I don't understand why a state would outlaw climate change. North Carolina is on the sea and if the water levels rise it would kill their tourism industry, which in turn would almost bankrupt the state. A lot of people go to the beaches in the state for vacations and spend tons of money there. So, wouldn't it make better sense to fight climate change than try to outlaw it?

Makes no sense to me, but I'm sure in the near future they will regret doing this. Especially when they lose millions in tourism dollars.

North Carolina is no stranger to the "if you dislike it then you should have made a law against it" model of legislation, but this is extreme: the state General Assembly's Replacement House Bill 819 would rule that scientists are not allowed to accurately predict sea-level rise….

More than 2 Million Comments Supporting EPA Protections Against Carbon Pollution and Climate Change Collected

[A] broad coalition of groups supporting clean air safeguards announced they have collected more than two million comments in support of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Carbon Pollution Standard, which limits industrial carbon pollution from new power plants.  The comments, totaling 2.1 million were collected over the past 10 weeks and the groups expect thousands more to be collected in the coming weeks. This unprecedented tally is the largest number of comments ever submitted to the EPA during a public comment period, and far exceeds the number of comments EPA has ever received on any prior issue.

"We already knew that Americans strongly support the EPA's efforts to address climate change and to reduce dangerous air pollution that threatens the health and safety of our children, communities, and wildlife.  Doctors, scientists and other experts agree that carbon pollution threatens our health, plain and simple, by driving climate change which increases the formation of lung-damaging and asthma-attack inducing smog, which is particularly dangerous for kids and seniors. Climate change will also drive more deadly heat waves, floods and increase the spread of infectious diseases.

"But our expectations have been exceeded by the unprecedented support demonstrated by the more than 2 million comments from Americans who support EPA's historic standard to curb dangerous industrial carbon pollution from new power plants while urging EPA to move forward with a strong standard for existing power plants. The message is clear: Americans want cleaner air and less industrial carbon pollution and they want EPA to protect their kids, their families and their communities from the dangerous effects of climate change."

Maggie L. Fox, President and CEO of the Climate Reality Project, comments:

“It is fitting that two million Americans are speaking out in support of pollution limits on new coal-fired power plants, as many parts of the country swelter under yet another spring and summer of record-breaking temperatures. The reality and urgency of the climate crisis has never been more clear, yet many of our leaders are either ignoring the crisis or blocking action to move toward a clean energy future. Burning coal is one of the single largest sources of pollution causing climate change. Setting pollution limits on new coal-fired power plants is a common-sense first step that Americans clearly support. It’s time for our political leaders to listen to the American people, not just the fossil fuel industry.”

Image: oil-drained world via Shutterstock

Vestas Gets Its Largest Service Contract Renewal, 1,897 MW (+ Wind Energy News Roundup)

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 05:31 AM PDT

Some top wind energy stories from around (other than our own):

Vestas secures its largest service contract renewal for 1,897 MW

Vestas has signed its largest ever service and maintenance renewal agreement with EDP Renováveis (EDPR) to service more than 1,100 turbines across 30 wind power plants in the United States and Europe for up to seven years.

The global service agreement represents a total capacity of 1,897 MW. More than 70 per cent of the turbines covered by this agreement are in the United States, while the remaining wind power plants are in Spain, France, Romania, Portugal and Italy….

Research and Markets: New Report – Wind Energy Industry in South Africa – Ready to Take Off

South African wind energy is poised for large growth. The country has large wind potential, economy is growing, and the government is also promoting the use of renewable energy. The current electricity supply is dominated by coal, which accounts for close to 90% of the total capacity. However, coal generation is marred with issues such as price hikes and emissions. Therefore, the country will have to explore additional sources of power such as gas and renewable energy. Wind power has tremendous potential, but tapping this increasingly attractive source requires encouraging and consistently supportive policy mechanisms. With favorable FITs, investment sops, incentives for wind energy projects and investments in supportive infrastructure, the wind industry in South Africa can be considered a promising business market. We estimate the market will grow even beyond the government’s current target and reach 10.7 GW by 2030….

Why there’s only one honest objection to wind farms

The daft claim that wind subsidies have driven 50,000 people into fuel poverty exemplifies the dishonesty of most objections….

Vestas phases out the kilowatt platform and terminates the production at its Hohhot factory in China

On the basis of thorough internal analyses, Vestas projects a low market demand for the kilowatt platform in the coming years. Therefore, Vestas has decided to phase out the production of the kilowatt platform, including the V52-850 kW and V60-850 kW turbines.

Consequently, Vestas will terminate the production at its factory in Hohhot, China, where 300-350 employees will be made redundant….

U.S. Coast Guard Takes Algae Biofuel for a Spin

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 05:27 AM PDT

USCG tests algae biofuel

The Navy’s biofuel program has been getting a lot of attention lately, along with biofuel initiatives by the Army and Air Force, and now it’s time for the U.S. Coast Guard to take a turn in the spotlight. The Coast Guard cutter Henry Blake has just taken its maiden voyage on a 50-50 blend of biofuel and conventional diesel, and if the results are satisfying, that will pave the way for using the blend on more ships in the future.

What is a cutter?

Those of you with a background in U.S. history (or a finger on the Google) know that “cutter” originally referred to “a small, decked ship with one mast and bowsprit, with a gaff mainsail on a boom, a square yard and topsail, and two jibs or a jib and a staysail.”

Nowadays the Coast Guard uses cutter to refer to any of its ships over 65 feet long. Aside from being relatively large, cutters are also the kind of ships that would give biofuel — or any new fuel — a good shakeout. Straight from the USCG FAQ page: “the cutters in the fleet have always been capable of handling a multitude of missions, sail in any weather, and persevere through any crisis the nation has had.  Most have been long-lived as well.”

Biofuel for the Henry Blake

The Henry Blake is 175 feet long and has a crew of 28. It has a law enforcement function and it performs search-and-rescue missions, as well as performing various maintenance and environmental duties in the Puget Sound and San Juan Island area, including routine maintenance for about 200 navigation buoys.

The Henry Blake will be cruising around for several months on the 50-50 blend while performance and efficiency data are compiled.

Algae biofuel for the U.S. Coast Guard

Doug Esser reported on the new biofuel initiative for the Associated Press, and he has some interesting details to add.

The Henry Blake is an important test bed for algae biofuel (yes, the blend contains algae biofuel) because of the herky-jerky nature of its daily routine. It’s like a delivery truck, not a long distance hauler, so its engine undergoes a good deal of stress from revving up to get from one buoy to the next, with long periods of idle in between.

In addition, the Henry Blake is the first ship that will run all of its systems on the biofuel blend. Aside from the engine, that includes emergency equipment and backup pumps.


Great Green Fleet, Great White Fleet

Though the Henry Blake won’t make it into the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) international maritime exercise, the U.S. Navy will be able to use its performance data to expand the list of sea-tested biofuel ships and aircraft.

The Navy is sending a Green Strike Group to RIMPAC, in preparation for the launch of the Great Green Fleet in 2016.

As with the strike group, all ships and aircraft in the Green Fleet will run with the help of non-petroleum fuels (that includes nuclear power, btw), serving as a global showcase for the future of naval power as envisioned by the U.S.A.

If the “Green Fleet” name rings a bell, that refers to President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, a flotilla of sixteen brand new battleships that went on a 43,000 mile cruise around the world from December 1907 to February 1909.

The Great White Fleet showed off America’s state-of-the-art shipbuilding and technological prowess to the world, and likewise the Great Green Fleet is intended to demonstrate this country’s leadership in new alternative energy technologies for future seapower.

With a mission like that, the Great Green Fleet should enjoy the full support of Congress — especially from the “support our troops” side of the aisle — but, on the other hand, maybe not.

Image courtesy of

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Tesla Starts Delivering Model S to Customers (+ Clean Transport News Roundup)

Posted: 25 Jun 2012 04:19 AM PDT

Other than our own clean transportation stories, here’s some more clean transportation news from around the interwebs:

Clean Transportation


Tesla Motors Delivers World’s 1st Premium Electric Sedan to Customers

Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) delivered Model S, the world's first premium electric sedan, to its first customers at an invitation-only event at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California [on Friday]. These deliveries put Model S on the road approximately one month earlier than previously announced and places the company in a good position to build 5,000 cars by the end of 2012, followed by 20,000 cars in 2013….

Model S is the world's first premium sedan to be built from the ground up as an electric vehicle, meticulously engineered to elevate the public's expectations of what a premium sedan can be. The five-door premium sedan competes with the top cars in its class in spaciousness, handling and style, yet produces zero emissions. Because there is no internal combustion engine or transmission tunnel, the interior of the car allows for additional cargo space in the front of the vehicle and one of the most spacious cabins in its class.

The heart of Model S is its efficiently-packaged electric powertrain that delivers a thrilling driving experience while setting a new EPA record for electric vehicle range of 265 miles. Model S comes with three battery options – 40 kWh, 60 kWh and 85 kWh. The battery's floor-mounted position gives Model S a low center of gravity and ideal weight distribution for exhilarating performance and superior handling. Model S has many similar features, including immediate responsiveness, instant torque and smooth acceleration that made the Tesla Roadster famous. Tesla has already received more than 10,000 reservations worldwide for Model S.

Deliveries of Model S in Europe and Asia will begin in early and mid-2013, respectively….

© Nissan

Nissan Expects LEAF Sales to Double When Tennessee Factory Begins Production

According to Nissan, once its new factory in Smyrna, Tennessee begins production in December, the number of LEAF EVs sold will go up quickly enough for the company to reach its goal of selling at least 20,000 during its current fiscal year (which ends in March). The Smyrna plant is a big deal, with a capacity of 200,000 LEAFs per year and 150,000 battery packs (presumably for upcoming electric models).

Why would that change anything? Well, right now all LEAFs are made in a single plant in Japan, and this limited production is only sold in certain regions of the world and certain states in the US. Nissan bets that with more supply, it’ll be able to have LEAFs available nationally in the US and ramp up the roll out around the world, leading to higher much higher total sales. After all, demand isn’t the only important part of the equation.. If the supply isn’t there, there can be a lot of unmet demand….

© Tata

Tata is Working on an Electric Car to be Sold for Less than $20,000

The Tata Nano made a big media splash because it was so affordable, though it didn’t quite rack up the sales that were expected for varied reasons. Now the Tata Group is trying to do it again, in partnership with France's Dassault Systèmes, but this time with an electric car. This new Tata EV is currently under development, and the goal is to sell it for about 10 lakh, which is about $20,000. The best guess out there seems to be that it would be about the size of the Tata Indica EV, which is pictured in this post and which Tata has also worked on, but it doesn’t seem to have come to fruition (yet?)….

Elektromotive and Charge Your Car team up in pay-as-you-go electric vehicle push

Charging infrastructure specialists launch joint venture with goal of deploying 10,000 pay-as-you-go charge points….

Bikes, Buses, Trains, & Such

"Transformative" Bike Projects Win Big in Fourth Round of TIGER Grants

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood just announced the 47 transportation projects in 34 states (and DC) that will receive a total of almost $500 million from the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program. It's the fourth round of TIGER grants, bringing the total up to over $3 billion for innovative transportation projects….

Rio de Janeiro Opens First Bus Rapid Transit Corridor

The lives of millions of cariocas, Rio de Janeiro residents, have already started to change with the opening of the Transoeste, the city's first BRT corridor. The public transit system, developed with assistance from EMBARQ, WRI's center for sustainable transport, expects to help hundreds of thousands of Rio residents, providing them with safer transport, shorter commutes, and less pollution….

Jopo, Finland’s Most Popular City Bike is a Chopper With Serious Style (Review)

Meet the Jopo, the laid-back chopper-style city bike the Finns have been zipping around on for decades.

With around 20,000 hitting the streets each year, it’s the hottest selling bike in Finland (and in Scandinavia, according to their website). Originally introduced in 1965, the Jopo was re-released in 2002, and now comes in seven different variations, including an electric version, the Jopo Electric 3-Speed….

Explaining the Psychological Appeal of Rail Over Buses

An often-remarked-upon phenomenon in the transit world is the preference, perceived or otherwise, for rail over buses. But this tendency has not been well understood.

pair of recent European case studies delved into this issue, and their findings help illuminate the psychology behind what many have observed. In the first study, set in Germany, 63 percent of subjects preferred a regional train system over an equivalent bus system, given a hypothetical choice with all other factors being equal. Meanwhile, in a second study set in Switzerland, 75 percent preferred trams to buses — even given identical service levels.

Of note, researchers found preferences for rail travel were "rather irrational" and "highly loaded with emotional and social attributions." The largest factor explaining the favoritism was "emotional attributes," like nostalgia, accounting for 38 percent of the bias in Germans. Meanwhile, concrete factors like differences in seat structure or the merits of a fixed guideway accounted for only five percent each….

Save Money. Take Transit. 

Millions of Americans in all corners of the United States, from California to Washington to Arizona to Iowa and Illinois, to Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, Florida, Delaware and Massachusetts, are using public transportation tomorrow to participate in the seventh annual National Dump the Pump Day. In addition to a record 144 public transportation systems participating, there are 18 public and private organizations that are also promoting National Dump the Pump Day, for a total of 162 organizations. (See link below for the list of known participants.)


Stars, Jets and Batteries – multi-faceted magnetic phenomenon confirmed in the laboratory for the first time

Magnetic instabilities play a crucial role in the emergence of black holes, they regulate the rotation rate of collapsing stars and influence the behavior of cosmic jets. In order to improve understanding of the underlying mechanisms, laboratory experiments on earth are necessary. At the Helmholtz- Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), confirmation of such a magnetic instability – the Tayler instability – was successfully achieved for the first time in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP). The findings should be able to facilitate construction of large liquid-metal batteries, which are under discussion as cheap storage facilities for renewable energy….

Are Electric-Car Batteries Already at $250 Per kWh? Analyst Says Yes

How expensive are electric car battery packs?

It's a topic of much discussion among electric car fans, and a closely guarded secret within the auto industry, but now an industry analyst has suggested that improved technology and economies of scale has lowed electric car battery pack costs to just $250 per kilowatt-hour of energy stored….

BC Wind Energy Costs Declining, Productivity Increasing: Report

Posted: 24 Jun 2012 02:06 PM PDT

The cost of wind energy in the Canadian province of British Colombia continues to fall, while productivity increases, according to a new report.

The  "2012 Assessment of Wind Energy Costs in British Colombia" report by consulting group GL Garrard Hassan, and commissioned by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA)  showed the price for wind turbines have fallen since 2009 by 20%. At the same time, wind energy productivity has also advanced by 27%.



The report also concluded there are currently 4,700 gigawatt hours per year (Gwh/year) of electricity available in B.C. at a lifetime cost (LCOE) of under C$87/megawatt-hour, and 18,000 Gwh/hr for a cost of under C$95/megawatt-hour. However, this does not include utility contract terms, and substation costs needed to connect these resources to the grid. Nor does it include savings from pollution reductions and avoided healthcare costs.

“BC Hydro is facing an incredible challenge over the next decade as new LNG plants and mining activity drive electricity demand up by a third — or 16,500 GWh,” said Nicholas Heap, B.C. Regional Director of CanWEA, in a statement.

“Fortunately, this new analysis clearly shows that with wind energy we have an abundant cost-effective, zero-emission option to supply this new demand. British Columbians choose wind energy and other renewables as their top choice for new power in repeated polling, so this is a win-win for the province," he said.

Heap also said in the statement that wind is becoming a better option to create energy with zero emissions as costs steadily fall and productivity rises, creating new jobs in the process.

“With a much shorter construction time than large-scale hydro, wind energy is an obvious solution to meeting BC’s energy demand. Investing in wind energy will drive homegrown job creation for our skilled trades and the construction sector while also providing significant new economic benefits to regional areas hit hard by other resource declines," he said.

Photo Credit: Zero Emission Energy Developments Inc (ZED)

20-MW Wind Energy Project to Supply Power to Indian Metro Project

Posted: 24 Jun 2012 01:48 PM PDT


According to reports, the upcoming Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar metro rail project in India’s western state of Gujarat is likely to have a 20-MW wind power plant dedicated to power its trains, stations, and utilities. This will be the first Metro in India to be powered by renewable energy. The project entails an investment of $2.7 billion (Rs 15,000 crore).

The rail project is being undertaken by Metro Link Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad (MEGA), which is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of the government of Gujarat.

The expression of interests (EOI) has been invited from leading companies like Aecom, Atkins, Mott MacDonald, TUV Rheinland (India), Seoul Metro, DB International GmbH, China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group, Egis Rail, Dong Myeong E&C India, Structon Consultants, Sejong Corporation, Sambo Engineering, Thai Engineering Consultants Company Limited, URS Infrastructure & Environment UK Limited, etc. for setting up the dedicated wind power farm for the metro project. Two companies will be finalized for design, system integration, evaluation, and project management.

The dedicated wind farm will reduce dependence on fossil fuels and will create an additional revenue source by selling carbon credits. If MEGA manages to get United Nation certification for carbon credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar Metro will become the first in the world to run on 'green power' to earn carbon credits.

The project will be completed over a period of seven years and will cover 110 kilometers. The implementation of the project will be done in three phases. The Metro rail is proposed to cover a 44-kilometer route in its first phase. Later, the government also plans to link Dholera with Ahmedabad by the Metro rail.

The expected cost of the dedicated 20-MW wind farm is around $22 million. The high initial cost of the system can be easily overcome by low operating costs because of zero cost of fuel and minimal maintenance and additional revenue generation from the sale of carbon credits.

Image: Leaflet | Wikimedia Commons

The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only.

Solar-Powered Biodiesel Station Opens in Atlanta

Posted: 24 Jun 2012 01:39 PM PDT

As someone who runs biodiesel in a thirty-year old Mercedes diesel sedan, it was very pleasing to hear of the opening of a new biodiesel fuel station in Atlanta.

Located at 250 Arizona Ave. NE and providing B100 and B20, the new station is the result of a partnership between the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and Clean Energy Biofuels (CEB). The station is part of the I-75 Green Corridor Project, which is intended to have 1,786 miles of roads where either ethanol or biodiesel pumps can be found by all motorists who can use the alternative fuels. This interstate corridor spans six states — from Hiealeah, Florida to northern Michigan.

The new Atlanta biodiesel station recovers used oils from food service establishments and utilizes solar power to process it to make biodiesel, a fuel which is non-toxic, biodegrades, and has a much smaller carbon footprint than petroleum diesel, aka ‘dino diesel’. The Atlanta station’s biodiesel is formulated to meet the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International standards.

Biodiesel typically is locally produced, so it supports the economy where it is made and does not generally require shipping over long distances, meaning there is very little carbon footprint for transporting it.

It also produces between 50% and 75% less CO2 than burning regular diesel fuel does. Substituting biodiesel for regular diesel also reduces sulfur emissions by one hundred percent.

However, some studies have indicated burning biodiesel could result in increased nitrous oxide emissions. Others have indicated nitrous oxide emissions are the same or slightly decreased.

Biodiesel is compatible with a number of diesel engines, without any modifications required except for changing a number of small rubber hoses, because biodiesel tends to erode them. Not all new diesel engines can use biodiesel though, so it is important to make sure there is compatibility first, before trying biodiesel or there could be engine damage.

Image Credit: Shizhao

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