Monday, July 23, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

1,800 MW of Offshore Wind Turbines Will be Supplied to UK

Posted: 22 Jul 2012 10:30 PM PDT

Germany’s Siemens is to supply 300 turbines to the United Kingdom, with each of the turbines totaling 6 MW of capacity. In total, that will come to 1,800 MW of power generation capacity.

Middelgrunden Wind Farm by Kim Hansen

The wind turbines used are of the SWT-6.0-154 direct-drive type. Direct-drive means that the blades don’t turn a gear, which would then turn another gear. It utilizes no gears and thus provides the benefit of reliability and mechanical simplicity.

It does, however, come with the consequence of the internal generator being forced to turn at the same low speed that the turbine blades turn at. Offshore wind turbines are often direct-drive because the cost to maintain turbines that are located far offshore is quite high.

“Offshore wind energy has huge potential,” said Michael Suess, a member of the Managing Board at Siemens AG and CEO of the Energy Sector. “Offshore wind conditions are strong and stable enabling an energy yield which can be about 40 percent higher than onshore. The United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany in particular are counting on the future of offshore wind energy. We are pleased that our long-term customer DONG Energy has chosen the latest generation of our wind turbines. Together we are working to further reduce the levelized costs for this environmentally friendly form of power generation.”

Offshore wind farms can generate the greatest and most consistent power supply compared to other wind farms, because offshore winds are stronger and more consistent.

Offshore wind power is more expensive than onshore, but the offshore wind industry is still young and learning.

They will continue to innovate.

Source: Siemens



Let There Be Light: First SolarKiosk Opens in Ethiopia

Posted: 22 Jul 2012 09:03 PM PDT


To my generation, Ethiopia will always be “that country.” The one where the people have nothing, so you’d better be grateful and eat your vegetables, you know? During the famine that the country experienced in the 1980s, images of its people’s migration were burned into our subconscious by PSAs and “Feed the Children” commercials in between Transformers and Thundercats cartoons.

Things in Ethiopia have gotten somewhat better in recent years, but it’s far from an idyllic paradise: many of the country’s 80+ million inhabitants lack access to clean water, refrigeration, or even electric lighting. It’s still a rough place, in other words — but Graft Architects, a German engineering and design firm, thinks it has come up with a way to make life in Ethiopia a little bit better. It’s called the SolarKiosk, and the first one went “live” near Lake Langano, Ethiopia just last week.

Designed as an "autonomous business unit," the designers of the SolarKiosk envision bazaars of ‘Kiosks’ (below) that would offer energy, products, tools, and services to “off-the-grid” areas without access to a stable source of electricity and lighting.

Each SolarKiosk ships equipped with a roof-mounted array of photovoltaic panels, and acts as a sort-of “energy hub” for the locals. Each energy hub, in turn, will generate enough power for night-long lighting, “jumping” car batteries, and refrigeration — which, otherwise, would be almost totally unavailable to many Ethiopians. "What we dream of is that these people, at night, can not only enjoy cold beer, but maybe they can even watch TV," said SolarKiosk creator (and, apparently, beer enthusiast) Lars Kr├╝ckeberg during a TED talk in Berlin.

The Graft firm is currently looking for investors to fund the next round of production and installation, and has made that prospect a bit easier by keeping setup costs relatively low. The creators designed the SolarKiosk as a light-weight structure that can be “flat-packed” as a kit of parts, which would then be assembled on-site using local materials and workers. In extremely remote locations, the SolarKiosk “kit” is light enough to be strapped to a donkey (That‘s in your press release? Really!?), so you’d have to assume helicoptering a kit in is also a possibility…. I’d still pay good money to see someone try to strap one of these to a donkey, though. Those things are mean!

You can see more of the innovative SolarKiosk in the photo gallery, below.

SolarKiosk SolarKiosk SolarKiosk SolarKiosk CAD model SolarKiosk SolarKiosk Coca-Cola SolarKiosk exploded SolarKiosk

Source: Graft Architects, via Gizmag


Ball State Geothermal Project Enters Stage Two

Posted: 22 Jul 2012 08:30 PM PDT

Ball State University in Indiana has recently begun the second and final phase of what will be the largest geothermal heating and cooling system in the United States.

Photo Credit: Ball State

The project, which began in 2009, intends to replace four coal-fired boilers along with two smoke stacks. During phase one of construction, the North District Energy station was built, along with two geothermal energy fields, while connecting north-end buildings to the new system. After the first phase of construction,  almost half of the Indiana-based campus now receives heating and cooling from the new geothermal system.

Construction of the second phase will see 780 of the 1,800 remaining bore holes installed in a field on the south side of the campus. Construction of the project will carry on through the 2013-14 year, which will include a brand new District Energy Station South. The station will include 2,500 heat pump chillers, along with a hot water loop on the south side of the campus

The eventual goal is to link up 5.5 million square feet of geothermal heating and cooling across Ball State University.

The project has been a boon to supporting renewable jobs in the state of Indiana, creating 2,300 indirect and direct jobs, according to Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

Both federal and state financing helped fund the costs of the $50-million project. The US Department of Energy provided $5 million in stimulus money, while the Indian state government provided $45 million in capital funding for the project.

Increased costs of maintaining a fossil-fuel-based heating and cooling system, along with a more sustainable outlet, were some of the reasons for the switch.

"When costs began to escalate for the installation of a new fossil fuel burning boiler, the university began to evaluate other renewable energy options," Jim Lowe, director of engineering, construction and operations, said in a statement.

"This led to the decision to convert the campus to a more efficient geothermal-based heating and cooling system."

The school expects to save $2 million in operating costs, while cutting carbon emissions on the campus by nearly 50%, thanks to the conversion to geothermal.



50% Increase in European Offshore Wind Power in 2012

Posted: 22 Jul 2012 07:30 PM PDT

Even though national and regional economies are sputtering across the globe, offshore wind power installations in Europe increased fifty percent
in the first half of 2012 compared with the first half of 2011.

Over 130 offshore wind turbines were installed in 2012, and 160 more are constructed and waiting for grid connections. So far, those connections have been delayed by weather, but if not for that, the total number of new megawatts in operation might be 647 for this year.

The total number of megawatts of offshore wind capacity by the end of June was over 4,300. An additional 3,700 MW of offshore wind capacity may be built in the near future there.

The European Wind Energy Association has produced some startling numbers in its report from last year on the market outlook for its offshore wind capacity. The report says Europe is making progress toward the goal of 40 GW of capacity by 2020. Additionally, it stated 150 GW of operational offshore wind is possible by 2030.

The report uses 141 GW as the figure associated with offshore wind capacity for Europe — that is offshore wind power capacity planned, already consented, under construction, and online. 114 GW is in the planning stage. The UK has about 42 GW planned, and Germany has over 21 GW in the same category — these are the leading nations. In just eight years, it is expected eighteen European countries will have offshore wind power in operation.

There are many jobs associated with renewable energy projects in Europe.  Over two million green jobs could be created if the 2020 renewable energy goals are met.

Image Credit: Public Domain, Wiki Commons

“Firefly” — Solar-Powered Boat Putting Progress into a Modern Perspective

Posted: 22 Jul 2012 07:00 AM PDT


Sometimes 'progress' drives a good product to the brink of extinction before it brings it back. For example, between the late 1800s through the early 1920s electric boats in England were experiencing a heyday, with charging stations abundantly situated up and down the Thames river. Then, the fossil-fuel-powered internal combustion engine emerged, heralding speed boats to come. Electric marine vessels lost their allure, to say nothing of their marketing value, almost overnight.

Then, an interesting thing happened, the ’70s. It was a time when we realized oil was not a renewable resource, that conservation, moreover, meant more than a big brown bear admonishing people not to litter. A spark of interest in sustainable energies was born. Although, it took approximately another decade for electric boats to regain their lost popularity, leading at last to an awakening interest in solar-powered boats.

Today, those seventies growing pangs have erupted into 'green' fever. So, too, ‘progress,’ especially in terms of boating, which is no longer defined as getting where you need to go in the fastest, loudest way possible. As the Electric Boat Association, an organization that promotes electric boating throughout the United Kingdom, and has done so since 1982, puts it: "no noise, pollution, or fuss."

So, after a near-century and a near-360 turnabout in terms of interpreting the concept of progress, solar-powered boats are getting their day (fittingly enough) in the sun, besides quietly gaining attention and making news. For example, the first ever Atlantic crossing for a motorized marine vessel using no fossil fuels happened in 2007. The vessel was the solar-run catamaran, Sun21. Several years later, the largest boat to ever run on solar power, the Turanor, PlanetSolar, successfully circumnavigated the globe before returning to its home port in Monaco. And the bar keeps getting raised.

However, while the above-mentioned voyages are great examples of solar power proving seaworthy, one wonders about the regular guy, who just wants a sustainable-powered boat to tool around in, one that works and doesn't break the bank. Mr. Regular Guy doesn't necessarily dream of circumnavigating the planet. He just wants to hang out at his local marina.

Well, meet Dan Baker, of British Columbia, just a regular guy. In 2010, Baker had an auspicious idea, to design and create a solar-powered marine vehicle of his own. So, he did. Initially, it took two trolling motors and a car charger to get Baker's baby on a roll. Today, however, when Mr. Baker takes his boat out on Lake Fraser, in British Columbia, he's sneaking through the water, barely disturbing the fish, with his own totally quiet, completely solar-powered pontoon.

The boat, which is suitable for six, produces no greenhouse emissions. 900 beautiful LED lights across the top give it its name: "The Firefly." Two electronically commutated motors placed at the boat's rear corners give the Firefly her maneuverability and acceleration capabilities. The real heart of the Firefly, however, her 'green' appeal, comes from the fact that her fuel, which comes entirely from the sun, is generated from her own homemade solar panel. The panel uses 6 X 6 cells and provides about 140W of electric power, enough to get Ms. Firefly buzzing to the tune of about 4 mph. Because the energy generated from Firefly's solar panel gets stored in a lead-acid battery, she can continue buzzing for approximately 6 miles.

So successful has this prototype proven to be, one wonders if Mr. Baker has plans to market it. Clearly, he has business sense, along with Macgyver-like skills, as he assembled the Firefly for less than $3,000. While there's no word yet on when a boat like this could hit a New Jersey marina where this blogger can try it out, I nonetheless remain hopeful.

Image Credit: Dan Baker


Solar Cells for Windows Take Another Step Forward

Posted: 22 Jul 2012 05:40 AM PDT

We’ve been covering research on windows that create solar power for years. We’re still not quite there, but advances seem to be speeding up. The latest step forward comes from UCLA. The day when we have windows producing solar power may soon be approaching. Here’s the full news below, posted first on sister site Planetsave:

Researchers from UCLA have developed a new transparent solar cell that is a significant step towards giving the windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still being transparent.

The research team "describes a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye." They created the device from a photoactive plastic that generates an electrical current from infrared light.

"These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications," said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).



Yang also said that there has been a definite world-wide interest in polymer solar cells. "Our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are lightweight and flexible," he said.

"More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost."

"Polymer solar cells have attracted great attention due to their advantages over competing solar cell technologies. Scientists have also been intensely investigating PSCs for their potential in making unique advances for broader applications. Several such applications would be enabled by high-performance visibly transparent photovoltaic (PV) devices, including building-integrated photovoltaics and integrated PV chargers for portable electronics."

"Previously, many attempts have been made toward demonstrating visibly transparent or semitransparent PSCs. However, these demonstrations often result in low visible light transparency and/or low device efficiency because suitable polymeric PV materials and efficient transparent conductors were not well deployed in device design and fabrication."

"A team of UCLA researchers from the California NanoSystems Institute, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and UCLA's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have demonstrated high-performance, solution-processed, visibly transparent polymer solar cells through the incorporation of near-infrared light-sensitive polymer and using silver nanowire composite films as the top transparent electrode. The near-infrared photoactive polymer absorbs more near-infrared light but is less sensitive to visible light, balancing solar cell performance and transparency in the visible wavelength region."

"Another breakthrough is the transparent conductor made of a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which was able to replace the opaque metal electrode used in the past. This composite electrode also allows the solar cells to be fabricated economically by solution processing. With this combination, 4% power-conversion efficiency for solution-processed and visibly transparent polymer solar cells has been achieved."

"We are excited by this new invention on transparent solar cells, which applied our recent advances in transparent conducting windows (also published in ACS Nano) to fabricate these devices," said Paul S.Weiss, CNSI director and Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences.

The new study appears in the journal ACS Nano.

A number of researchers and companies have been working on solar windows over the years. It will be interesting to see who comes out with the first commercial product.

Source: University Of California – Los Angeles
Image Credits: University of California – Los Angeles

Stanford Researchers Complete 1st Complete Computer Model of an Organism

Posted: 22 Jul 2012 02:06 AM PDT

Here’s a pretty remarkable new development out of Stanford University. The world’s first complete computer model of an organism! This could be very helpful in a number of ways down the road. Here’s the full news from Stanford:

The Covert Lab incorporated more than 1,900 experimentally observed parameters into their model of the tiny parasite Mycoplasma genitalium. (Illustration Credit: Erik Jacobsen / Covert Lab)


In a breakthrough effort for computational biology, the world’s first complete computer model of an organism has been completed, Stanford researchers reported last week in the journal Cell.

A team led by Markus Covert, assistant professor of bioengineering, used data from more than 900 scientific papers to account for every molecular interaction that takes place in the life cycle of Mycoplasma genitalium, the world’s smallest free-living bacterium.

By encompassing the entirety of an organism in silico, the paper fulfills a longstanding goal for the field. Not only does the model allow researchers to address questions that aren’t practical to examine otherwise, it represents a stepping-stone toward the use of computer-aided design in bioengineering and medicine.

“This achievement demonstrates a transforming approach to answering questions about fundamental biological processes,” said James M. Anderson, director of the National Institutes of Health Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives. “Comprehensive computer models of entire cells have the potential to advance our understanding of cellular function and, ultimately, to inform new approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of disease.”

The research was partially funded by an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health Common Fund.

From information to understanding

Biology over the past two decades has been marked by the rise of high-throughput studies producing enormous troves of cellular information. A lack of experimental data is no longer the primary limiting factor for researchers. Instead, it’s how to make sense of what they already know.

Most biological experiments, however, still take a reductionist approach to this vast array of data: knocking out a single gene and seeing what happens.

“Many of the issues we’re interested in aren’t single-gene problems,” said Covert. “They’re the complex result of hundreds or thousands of genes interacting.”

This situation has resulted in a yawning gap between information and understanding that can only be addressed by “bringing all of that data into one place and seeing how it fits together,” according to Stanford bioengineering graduate student and co-first author Jayodita Sanghvi.

Integrative computational models clarify data sets whose sheer size would otherwise place them outside human ken.

“You don’t really understand how something works until you can reproduce it yourself,” Sanghvi said.

Small is beautiful

Mycoplasma genitalium is a humble parasitic bacterium known mainly for showing up uninvited in human urogenital and respiratory tracts. But the pathogen also has the distinction of containing the smallest genome of any free-living organism – only 525 genes, as opposed to the 4,288 of E. coli, a more traditional laboratory bacterium.

Despite the difficulty of working with this sexually transmitted parasite, the minimalism of its genome has made it the focus of several recent bioengineering efforts. Notably, these include the J. Craig Venter Institute’s 2008 synthesis of the first artificial chromosome.

“The goal hasn’t only been to understand M. genitalium better,” said co-first author and Stanford biophysics graduate student Jonathan Karr. “It’s to understand biology generally.”

Even at this small scale, the quantity of data that the Stanford researchers incorporated into the virtual cell’s code was enormous. The final model made use of more than 1,900 experimentally determined parameters.

To integrate these disparate data points into a unified machine, the researchers modeled individual biological processes as 28 separate “modules,” each governed by its own algorithm. These modules then communicated to each other after every time step, making for a unified whole that closely matched M. genitalium‘s real-world behavior.

Probing the silicon cell

The purely computational cell opens up procedures that would be difficult to perform in an actual organism, as well as opportunities to reexamine experimental data.

In the paper, the model is used to demonstrate a number of these approaches, including detailed investigations of DNA-binding protein dynamics and the identification of new gene functions.

The program also allowed the researchers to address aspects of cell behavior that emerge from vast numbers of interacting factors.

The researchers had noticed, for instance, that the length of individual stages in the cell cycle varied from cell to cell, while the length of the overall cycle was much more consistent. Consulting the model, the researchers hypothesized that the overall cell cycle’s lack of variation was the result of a built-in negative feedback mechanism.

Cells that took longer to begin DNA replication had time to amass a large pool of free nucleotides. The actual replication step, which uses these nucleotides to form new DNA strands, then passed relatively quickly. Cells that went through the initial step quicker, on the other hand, had no nucleotide surplus. Replication ended up slowing to the rate of nucleotide production.

These kinds of findings remain hypotheses until they’re confirmed by real-world experiments, but they promise to accelerate the process of scientific inquiry.

“If you use a model to guide your experiments, you’re going to discover things faster. We’ve shown that time and time again,” said Covert.


Much of the model’s future promise lies in more applied fields.

CAD – computer-aided design – has revolutionized fields from aeronautics to civil engineering by drastically reducing the trial-and-error involved in design. But our incomplete understanding of even the simplest biological systems has meant that CAD hasn’t yet found a place in bioengineering.

Computational models like that of M. genitalium could bring rational design to biology – allowing not only for computer-guided experimental regimes, but also for the wholesale creation of new microorganisms.

Once similar models have been devised for more experimentally tractable organisms, Karr envisions bacteria or yeast specifically designed to mass-produce pharmaceuticals.

Bio-CAD could also lead to enticing medical advances – especially in the field of personalized medicine. But these applications are a long way off, the researchers said.

“This is potentially the new Human Genome Project,” Karr said. “It’s going to take a really large community effort to get close to a human model.”

Stanford’s Department of Bioengineering is jointly operated by the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine.

Media Contact

Marks Covert, Bioengineering: (650) 725-6615,

Dan Stober, Stanford News Service: (650) 721-6965,

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