Saturday, June 30, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Algae Biofuel Plays in Peoria

Posted: 30 Jun 2012 11:06 AM PDT

Solazyme opens algae biofuel refinery in PeoriaThe algae biofuel company Solazyme has just opened its first commercial scale algae biorefinery in Peoria Illinois, and as the saying goes, if it plays in Peoria, it will play anywhere. Peoria is legendary as a test market for consumer products like Hellman’s (the mayo company) as well as tour rollouts for Bob Dylan and Metallica among others.  While Peorians themselves might not get a chance to use algae biofuel any time soon, the location is symbolic of algae’s future role in the mainstream of the U.S. fuel market.

The Algae Biofuel Controversy

The Peoria location is also a bit ironic, given the roaring dust-up around algae biofuel earlier this year that was stoked by several conservative talk show hosts and at least one failed candidate for President. The shouting culminated with a Republican-led effort by Congress to put a damper on the Department of Defense’s ability to purchase algae biofuel and other forms of alternative energy.

So far, that hasn’t interfered with the Navy’s plans to launch a Green Strike Group this summer, using ships and aircraft powered with the help of non-petroleum fuels including an algae biofuel blend (the group is anchored by a nuclear powered carrier, btw).

The controversy obviously hasn’t stopped Solazyme from forging ahead with its plans, either. The company has been pumping out algae biofuel in test quantities, and with the new plant will enable it deliver about two million liters annually.

Solazyme’s New Algae Biofuel Refinery

The facility was partly funded with a Department of Energy grant in order to demonstrate the feasibility of producing algae oil on a commercial scale.

Solazyme has been fermenting batches of algae on a commercial scale since 2007, but the new facility marks the first time that the company will produce algae oil in commercial quantities, in one integrated operation.

The company’s high-efficiency algae system is based on proprietary microalgae that grow without light, enabling them to be cultivated directly in standard industrial fermentation equipment.

Solazyme refers to this system as “indirect photosynthesis,” since the microalgae still depend on nutrients in sugars derived from sun-loving plants.

The Algae Biofuel Juggernaut Rolls On

Though the current drop in fossil fuel prices may slow down the algae biofuel market temporarily, its march to the mainstream seems inevitable.

Along with Solazyme, the Department of Defense has also been working with the algae biofuel company OriginOil in order to develop biofuel standards and certifications that would enable the U.S. algae market to integrate seamlessly with NATO fuel standards.

As another indicator of mainstreaming, algae biofuel is building a long term home base deep in the heart of oil country, through an expanded algae biofuel research program spearheaded by Texas A&M University and other partners.

Image (cropped): Some rights reserved by Ecstatic Mark.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

 

 

 


New CleanTechnica Feature: Quick Cleantech News

Posted: 30 Jun 2012 10:10 AM PDT

 
Hello! As you might have already noticed, we’ve got a new widget on the right side of the page — a “Quick Cleantech News” widget. We started working on this before conducting the recent reader survey, and the idea has been on my mind for ages, but I was especially happy we were creating it after seeing our reader survey results.

Our 2012 reader survey (and our 2011 survey, for that matter) showed a pretty even split between those who want a relatively higher number of posts (with relatively less depth/originality) and those who don’t want us posting so much (and want relatively more depth/originality). It was about 45% to 45%. While most people indicated in a future question that they wanted us to publish 8 posts or fewer a day, there are still a lot of readers who want a lot more posts. Plus, it’s clear that there’s demand for stories on a wide variety of cleantech topics, which you just can’t adequately provide with a handful of posts a day.

We have a solution! (Of sorts.)

When we publish pieces (quick pieces) to the Cleantech News category, they don’t feed into our home page’s main column — they just feed to that category page and that Quick Cleantech News widget that you can see on the right side of all our pages.

So, people who want more news can keep their eyes on that, while people who want less news can just keep their eyes on our main column. Of course, if you’re only interested in one or two categories, you can also just bookmark those category pages and skip the home page altogether.

Unfortunately, if you happen to be an RSS or email subscriber and don’t want to be exposed to so many articles, that’s not really an option at this point. Everything is being fed into the RSS/email feed. So, you’re either going to have to scan through numerous articles a day to find the ones you are really interested in, or you can just jump to the home page daily and see what’s in the main column. (It seems that most readers access the site by visiting it directly anyway, so it can’t be such a pain. ;) )

Sound good? Hope so! I’m excited about it.

As you can see above and on the right, the initial Quick Cleantech News posts are:


Automakers Lead 2012 Ranking of Global Green Business Brands

Posted: 30 Jun 2012 09:57 AM PDT

 

Companies are quick to use the terms CSR and sustainability with just about every announcement, often for purely public relations gain without much reality behind their claims – so how is the average person supposed to judge the best green business?

Interbrand's second-annual Best Global Green Brands report aims to do just that, by evaluating and ranking companies on public perception as well as their actual accomplishments.

Toyota was ranked the top global green brand for the second year in a row in this report, and was singled out by Interbrand for expanding the pioneering Prius brand of hybrid vehicles into a full line of autos, including the company's first plug-in model. Beyond design, Toyota was also credited for achieving near-zero landfill status at all North American factories and for building LEED-certified buildings and dealerships.

 

 

Automakers pull ahead

Auto manufacturers overall did quite well, likely a result of efforts to develop fuel-efficient vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Three other major automakers (Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW) cracked the top ten, and four others (Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and Nissan) squeaked into the top 50.

However, the two top-ranked auto brands, Toyota and Honda, received a lower score on actual performance than consumer perception. This discrepancy could represent a problem for the companies down the road. "It is crucial that consumers' impressions of a brand are in close alignment with the brand's actual environmental performance," said Jez Frampton, Interbrand's chief executive. "Otherwise, a brand's efforts could…suffer due to accusations of greenwashing."

Technology firms plug in

Technology brands comprised the second-largest category of green brands, led by Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic, Dell, and Siemens ranked fifth through eighth, respectively.  Panasonic jumped four spots in 2012 based on the strength of energy-efficient devices and transportation efficiencies, but Siemens dropped five spots based on higher energy/water intensity, increased landfill waste, and higher emissions.

But the biggest jump was by…

French food brand Danone saw the largest single jump from 2011 to 2012, rising 14 spots to number nine overall. Interbrand credited the company for reducing its carbon footprint 27.5 percent, the creation of a fund to address food security and climate change issues, and a significant reduction in packaging weight and recycling.

The analysis was conducted with publicly available data, consumer research, and the benchmarked 2011 Green Brands report. Deloitte evaluated the collected data against 82 metrics, and Interbrand then surveyed more than 100,000 people in the 10 largest global economies.

Further analysis and commentary from Interbrand on how sustainability is impacting businesses and brands is available in the below video – it's definitely a compelling way to spend five minutes!

Green business image via Shutterstock


Solar-Powered Charger for the Apple iPhone

Posted: 30 Jun 2012 09:35 AM PDT

 

The Apple iPhone already has a pretty decent battery life, but with the new EnerPlex from Ascent Solar Technologies, that battery life could grow even more.

The EnerPlex is a new line of consumer products that incorporates Ascent solar cells into a sleek protective case for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s, along with a thin line battery. The case will apparently add very minimal size and weight to the iPhone but will provide “significantly improved battery life by harnessing sunlight for electric power.”

This is the first product in the EnerPlex line, which is eventually hoped offer cases for other phones as well, including the newly released Samsung Galaxy SIII. The company plans to ship EnerPlex in the third quarter of 2012.

“The EnerPlex charger is the first protective iPhone case to leverage the lightweight qualities and superior aesthetics of our CIGS solar technology,” Ascent Solar’s President and CEO, Victor Lee, said. “It will extend the usage time of iPhone smart phones while preserving the high level of design quality that consumers demand. Apple customers can now incorporate green technology into their everyday life, improving the performance of their smart phone without compromising style.”

Lee continued: “The growth of the smart phone market has been tremendous and is expected to continue for several years to come. Apple has sold over 175 million iPhone smart phones. Samsung is introducing new products in a competitive market where the number of smart phones in use globally is expected to reach 1 billion in the next 4 years. 144 million smart phones were sold globally in the first quarter of this year alone. Ascent’s EnerPlex line is focused on providing millions of smart phone customers with a product that prolongs battery life, increases mobility and allows them to be 'green’, all without adding significant size or weight to the phone.”

Source: Ascent Solar


Mexico Going in Big on Solar Energy

Posted: 30 Jun 2012 06:35 AM PDT

 
Mexico has some of the best solar power potential in the whole world, and it’s looking to start tapping that a lot more. Here’s a quick look at some of its big new solar power plans, via sister site Ecopreneurist:



Mexico's Solar Energy Investment and Capacity Doubles (via Ecopreneurist)

According to solar and wind systems producer, Conermex, Mexico will reach a total of 12 MW of electricity generated by solar energy by the end of 2012, doubling its current potential. Mexico currently has 6 MW of solar energy capacity installed, but with a growth spurt in investments and new projects…



Solar Energy Estimate Report (For Consumers & Solar Providers)

Posted: 30 Jun 2012 06:15 AM PDT

 
For anyone who wants to dig into the options a solar contractor looks at when he or she decides what to install on your property, or what a potential solar system should provide for you, the Solar Energy Estimate (SEE) Report offers a pretty detailed look.

From the SEE Report website:

“The SEE Report is a simple one page report that shows you the estimated energy output the chosen system will produce in one year (in KWh) as well as the estimated energy output the system will produce over a time period of 25 years. Comparing the one year and 25 year energy output numbers to the ones provided on a second SEE Report for a different system is a simple way to compare and evaluate the performance of two different solar electricity systems. The SEE Report also includes a bar graph showing the estimated energy output for the first year by month.”

Going on:

“Besides giving a good faith estimate of system performance, the SEE Report also shows the PV system specifications on which the outputs are based. While these might seem confusing at first, the specifications are essential because they allow you to reconstruct the inputs that were entered when generating the report at hand. The SEE Report is based on a variety of inputs including equipment choices, installation specification, and geographical data. Showing the inputs on the actual report, results in more transparency for you.”

Here’s a sample report:

The report can also be used by solar providers if you happen to be a provider not a consumer.

If you want more details before visiting the site, here’s a video on the report:


Solar Energy Spill Billboard Rejected (WTF?)

Posted: 30 Jun 2012 05:00 AM PDT

 
Wow, this is a shocker, a solar energy, anti-oil billboard very similar to the solar energy spill billboard that went viral a few months ago was recently rejected by an outdoor advertising company in Canada. Shocking.

Here’s the full story via Carol Linnitt of DeSmog Blog:



Desmog Video
Greenpeace Clean Energy Billboard Rejected by Pattison
(via Desmogblog)

After a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline spilled between 160,000 and 480,000 liters of oil into Jackson Creek near the Red Deer River in Alberta this month, premier Alison Redford called the incident "an exception." Yet, as Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema reports, this spill…



Clean Energy Videos

Posted: 30 Jun 2012 02:00 AM PDT

Here are a couple more green energy videos for you, to start your weekend off right:

via New Energy News


Ferrari F70 Hybrid in the Works (Pics)

Posted: 29 Jun 2012 01:40 PM PDT

 
Ferraris are some of the first cars that come to mind when one thinks of badass cars. But they pretty much never come to mind when one thinks ‘green’. That may soon change, since Ferrari is really, legitimately, seriously working on a green hybrid supercar (in other words, more Friday Fun for you). Here’s more from the ever clever Jo Borras of sister site Gas2:



Ferrari F70 Hybrid Taking Shape, Could Beat Bugatti’s Acceleration (via Gas 2.0)

That text up there that reads "Ferrari Red"? It's green. Red is the new green, though, as Ferrari has gone to great pains to prove in recent years. To wit: since 2010, the Italian supercar maker has established itself as a leader in the race for automakers to curb harmful carbon emissions, and…



Cleantech City of the Future in New Mexico

Posted: 29 Jun 2012 01:35 PM PDT

 
This is a Fun Friday one for you. New Mexico will soon have an experimental city of the future in the Chihuahuan Desert, which will be testing out all sorts of clean technologies. CleanTechnica heaven, you might say. Here’s more on the beautiful idea/plan from sister site Ecopreneurist:



New Mexico’s Cleantech City of the Future: Testing Ground for Next-Gen Technologies (via Ecopreneurist)

Anyone visiting New Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert in the near future will think that they are seeing a mirage, but it's not!  There is an entire experimental city being built there to test, evaluate, and commercialize next-generation technologies.  The purpose of this Center for Innovation, Testing…



Solar Panels Plus Honda Equals All The Win

Posted: 29 Jun 2012 01:21 PM PDT

 
There are a number of ways to reduce emissions. The obvious ones are to ride a bicycle everywhere and go solar, and then there are things like driving hybrids or electric cars. But, you say, what about the emissions from manufacturing the cars and powering buildings owned by the companies making them? Well, Honda has an answer for that, and it involves installing solar panels on everything that doesn’t move.



Honda Installs All The Solar Panels (via Gas 2.0)

Solar cars are what they are – very, very cool but not entirely practical for everyday use. Honda hasn't let that stop them from using all the solar power they can get their hands on, though; rather than build solar cars, they're reducing their carbon footprint another way. Honda is planning…



Eggasus Takes the Personal Electric Vehicle to a New Aesthetic Level

Posted: 29 Jun 2012 12:45 PM PDT

 
Eggasus

Little personal transportation pods seem like they belong in a science fiction movie (and I have seen many), but a US-based company actually seems to be trying to make them into a reality this upcoming fall. The name of the vehicle is Eggasus (no, really), and it is, in short, a personal electric vehicle. It’s also nine kinds of adorable.

What's More American Than One Person Per Vehicle?

The Eggasus is a neat little zero-emission, single-passenger commuter vehicle. It apparently comes in any color you want, if you don’t like bright yellow – which is actually not a bad choice for those of us who like to be visible to other occupants of the road. The vehicle, as you might have gathered from the picture above, balances on three wheels.

The target market for the Eggasus is supposed to be the current scooter-and-moped crowd, which I'm not sure is the right way to go. While its lack of emissions and small size are probably both appealing to current two-wheeler commuters, the extra wheel and enclosed-ness of the Eggasus will probably not appeal to that particular market segment (think of all the bicyclists, scooterists, and bikers you know – they're on those vehicles because they like the experience).

Technically It’s Probably Sound

The team over at Eggasus says that it’s been working for decades on alternative methods of urban transportation (which might also explain the exterior pod design). The electric motor powering the vehicle is located on the front wheel. Although, Eggasus has not yet released information regarding charge time or any other official specs (I'd like to know how fast it is, really).

The part of the Eggasus that I really like – aside from the fact that it's zero emissions, because who hates vehicles with no emissions? – is that it actually is enclosed. Totally, fully enclosed. The people more likely to buy the Eggasus may not be the current scooter-and-bicyclists, but rather those who want a more economical way to get around in the city without being exposed to inclement weather. The instrumental display panel in front is pretty neat, too.

Does this look like something you'd ride to work in? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: Eggasus via Inhabitat
Image Credit: Eggasus


SolarCity and Bancop Providing $250 Million Worth of Solar Installations

Posted: 29 Jun 2012 12:32 PM PDT

 
SolarCity and U.S. Bancorp have announced their sixth and largest renewable energy tax equity fund to finance up to $250 million in residential solar power and commercial solar power projects for homeowners, businesses, and government buildings.

The two companies have been working together on such projects for three years now, endeavoring to make solar power systems affordable and accessible for everyone.

SolarCity customer Mr. Dan Thornton chose a zero-down lease option and has reduced his average net electricity use by more than 70 percent a year.

"U.S. Bancorp and SolarCity are providing customers an end-to-end, clean energy service that costs less than a monthly utility bill," said Zack Boyers, Chairman and CEO of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, a community investment subsidiary of U.S. Bank. "Together, we have already made solar a reality for thousands of homeowners and businesses. With this new fund for SolarCity's customers, U.S. Bancorp reaffirms its commitment to building sustainable communities by simplifying the adoption of renewable energy sources."

The strategy works so that SolarCity and U.S. Bancorp provide the funding for solar panels and their installation, the customers pay for the electricity at a rate that is cheaper than their current utility rates, and SolarCity manages the entire process for the customer.

"Our partnership with U.S. Bancorp is unique in that it allows families and organizations to pay less for solar power than they pay for electricity," said Benjamin Cook, SolarCity's vice president of structured finance. "We make the process of going solar very easy."

SolarCity's clean energy services are available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

Source: SolarCity


AGL and First Solar to Deliver 159 MW in NSW Solar Projects

Posted: 29 Jun 2012 12:27 PM PDT

 
The Australian Government has awarded energy provider AGL Energy and PV manufacturer First Solar a $130 million grant to help in a $450 million project to build one of the country’s largest solar installations, which will end up providing 159 megawatts at two locations in New South Wales.

AGL will develop a 106 MW project at Nyngan and a 53 MW project at Broken Hill, and together the two projects will end up generating enough electricity to power 30,000 homes (when it is expected to be completed in 2015).

First Solar will be providing engineering, procurement, and construction services for both projects.

Construction of a solar farm at Long Island

"AGL is delighted to be working with the Commonwealth and NSW Governments, our project partner First Solar, and the people of Broken Hill and Nyngan to deliver these significant renewable energy projects,” AGL's Managing Director, Michael Fraser, said. “They represent a tremendous opportunity for AGL and the broader solar industry to begin the roll-out of solar power as a meaningful source of generation supply in Australia.

"This investment is also a clear demonstration of AGL's commitment to renewable energy and is a natural next step for us to build on our strong track record of wind, hydro and biomass renewable generation assets.”

"As an extra boost to the regional economies of both locations, we expect the projects to create significant new direct and flow-on employment during construction. Ongoing employment will also be generated to support project operations," Mr Fraser added, referring to approximately 150 construction jobs likely to be created in Broken Hill as a result of the project, and 300 in Nyngan.

Source: AGL
Image Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory


How Energy Savings Performance Contracts Help Save Energy

Posted: 29 Jun 2012 12:15 PM PDT

 
We hear it all the time: if businesses and government would use less energy, they would save money. That's just common sense, but energy efficiency improvements cost money. In the case of government, that money comes from you, the taxpayer.

There is a way to do it, though, without reaching into the taxpayer's pocket. With Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs), government can:

• Finance improvements upfront and pay off the debt with money saved on energy bills.

• Get a guarantee from companies contracted to do the work that energy savings will result from it — making the projects attractive to lenders.

• Support jobs

There is a smart piece of bipartisan legislation in the pipeline that takes the concept to the next level. The Smart Energy Act requires the federal government to make its buildings more energy efficient, using ESPCs. Again, energy bills will come down, and the taxpayer won't be footing the bill. Plus, skilled workers are needed.

The Smart Energy Act is also a good kick-starter for businesses, making it easier for them to finance energy upgrades. The bill specifically mentions an innovative technique where factories can capture the considerable heat given off by the manufacturing process and reuse it for electricity and heating.

 

 

By making business and government facilities significantly more energy efficient, we can create 600,000 to 1 million skilled jobs, according to a joint study by the Department of Defense and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Another key benefit: our industries will be more competitive in the global economy, Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Clean Energy Program, says.

The federal government is on the bandwagon but could do more to accelerate the use of ESPCs across the federal building portfolio. U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn recently joined other House members in urging President Obama to demand increased energy efficiency in federal facilities. In particular, she pointed to the potential for ESPCs to save taxpayer money and put Americans to work in good-paying jobs. According to the Energy Department, for every $1 million spent on energy efficiency retrofits, nine jobs are created.

Rep. Blackburn has been a champion for private-sector job growth. With the respect she commands in Washington, she would be an effective co-sponsor of the Smart Energy Act. It is the kind of common-sense solution that has been her signature.

We don't need simply to cut back on energy use because it makes us feel good. We should do it because it delivers real results, real dollars, and real jobs.

Scott Raybin @greensavingsco


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