- Solar Energy Industries Association Statement on Proposed “No More Solyndras Act”
- Another Action Opportunity! Save US Wind Power Jobs!
- New Solar Power Supergroup: U.S., Germany and Japan
- European Union to Implement Further CO2 Emissions Reductions on New Cars
- Electric Roadway Charges Electric Vehicles
- New Study: Natural Gas is a Smart Move in Battle Against Global Warming,… But Is It Really?
- 1,940 MW of Solar for California by 2016
- Korea Ramping Up Wind Power Projects
- Smart Headlight System Sees Through the Rain
- Improvements in Microbial Fuel Cells
- Inmates Bike to Power City and Reduce Sentences
- Apple Rebuffs Green Certification
- Protestors “Gift” Tate Modern a 1.5-Ton Wind Turbine Blade
- Plants Tweet When Ready for a Drink
- 2600 Miles On An Electric Scooter — For The Win
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 11:53 AM PDT
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee and the Energy and Power Subcommittee held a legislative hearing on the discussion draft of the No More Solyndras Act. Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®), issued the following statement on the discussion draft:
"The solar industry supports efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars are protected and used wisely to increase the effectiveness of Department of Energy ("DOE") Loan Guarantee Program. The solar industry stands ready to work with policymakers on a bipartisan basis to achieve these common sense goals and improve the loan program.
"Unfortunately, the discussion draft – as was noted on multiple occasions in the legislative hearing – would 'throw the baby out with the bathwater.' The loan program has been utilized on a bipartisan basis to leverage private capital to promote transportation, health care, education, housing and energy infrastructure policies. The provision in the discussion draft that sunsets DOE's loan program would hinder our nation's ability to develop innovative energy infrastructure projects. In solar alone, this program has achieved a number of notable successes. Chief among these are 11 utility‐scale solar power plants in the Southwest, totaling 2,700 megawatts – enough to power 500,000 homes.
"The solar industry welcomes the opportunity to work with Congress and the Administration to improve the DOE loan program."
The U.S. solar energy industry employs 100,000 Americans at more than 5,600 companies, mostly small businesses, across the nation in all 50 states.
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 11:38 AM PDT
Yesterday, Senators Bennet (D-CO) and Moran (R-KS) introduced an amendment to the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act, S. 2237, that would extend the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) as well as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for two years.
As you know, our main challenge has been to get our Senators to bring the PTC up for a vote. We now have a window of opportunity to see that vote through. To make it happen, we need Congress to support the PTC amendment to the small business bill.
If you are not familiar with the PTC and would like to read more about it before contacting Congress, please visit SaveUSAWindJobs.com.
Thank you for your efforts to reach out to your Senators at this key moment.
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 05:42 AM PDT
Forget your Avengers, your X-Men and your other super-groups (yes, we’re talking about you, Queens of the Stone Age), if there is any planet saving to be done from now on it will be accomplished by the new Global Alliance of Solar Energy Research Institutions. Okay, so the name makes for a tight fit across the front of your typical superhero costume, but the new alliance could provide the global solar industry with the kind of rocket-propelled boost that it needs to break through into the mainstream energy landscape.
Three Solar Power Research Powerhouses
GASERI joins the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory with Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems and Japan's Research Center for Photovoltaic Technologies.
As NREL rather drily puts it, the goal is to “accelerate progress toward shared solar research and development goals as well as to ensure sustainable long-term use of solar energy.”
The core of GASERI will be an exchange program, in which each of the three participants will send researchers to each others’ laboratories for long term, collaborative projects lasting up to two years.
NREL, Fraunhofer and RCPT
NREL should ring a bell with regular CleanTechnica readers, since it has been a pioneer in the solar energy field across 35 years of both Democratic and Republican administrations.
We’ve covered some of NREL’s solar power projects such as its work on see-through solar cells in partnership with the company New Energy Technologies, and we’ve also talked about some of the educational tools NREL has created for the renewable energy industry and the general public including a free online renewable energy map and a tool for rating green utilities.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems is Europe’s largest applied solar power research organization, with multiple research alliances across Europe and in the U.S., and significant funding from private sector partners in the solar power industry.
A sprawling network of research and industry affiliations will also come into play for the Research Center for Photovoltaic Technologies, which is part of Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.
No More Solyndras?
The announcement of this significant international effort to boost the global solar power industry comes as the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives considers “No More Solyndras” legislation that would shoot down the Department of Energy’s successful loan guarantee program.
The loan program provided funding for the notoriously failed Solyndra company, but it has also played a key role in helping the U.S. solar power industry position itself to regain the leadership status it once held in the global solar market.
If the loan guarantee program is ended, it will take away critical support from the U.S. solar industry, leaving the fruits of GASERI’s research to companies based in Germany, Japan, and elsewhere around the globe.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 04:35 AM PDT
”With our proposals we are not only protecting the climate and saving consumers money,” Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said. “We are also boosting innovation and competitiveness in the automotive sector. And we will create substantial numbers of jobs as a result. This is a clear win-win situation for everyone. This is one more important step towards a competitive, low-carbon economy. More CO2 reductions beyond 2020 need to be prepared and these will be considered in consultation with stakeholders.” Actually, it sounds like it’s a win-win-win situation (a benefit for all those who rely on a livable climate, a benefit for new car consumers, and a job-creation booster).
The targets already exist in legislation but have hitherto been without law for implementation. The regulations proposed by the Commission establish the methods by which the targets will be achieved.
The proposals will cut average emissions from new cars to 95 grams of CO2 per km (g CO2/km) in 2020 from 135.7g in 2011 and a mandatory target of 130g in 2015. Emissions from vans will be reduced to 147g CO2/km in 2020 from 181.4g in 2010 (the latest year for which figures are available) and a mandatory target of 175g will be set for 2017.
Source: European Commission
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 04:26 AM PDT
As a refresher, first: a team of Japanese university students have recently displayed a method that could possible say goodbye to the stationary charging station for good, by essentially electrifying the roads on which we drive to perpetually charge your electric vehicle and give it an indefinite range.
The premise is simple: the Electric Vehicle on Electrified Roadway (EVER) system is able to transfer electricity to a vehicle through four inches of concrete and through the cars tires.
Now, on to the recent news…. In their most recent demo — on display at the Wireless Technology Park 2012 – a metal plate was placed along with a four-inch layer of concrete, which represents the road surface. The result? Electricity between 50 and 60 watts was successfully transmitted to standard size automobile tires.
Looks like this technology is moving along nicely. We’ll be keeping an eye on it and let you know of any new developments as they come along.
Source: Toyohashi University of Technology via Inhabitat
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 04:16 AM PDT
Cathles reached this conclusion after reviewing the most recent government and industry data on natural gas “leakage rates” during extraction, as well as recently developed climate models. His research was published in the most recent edition of the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics and Geosystems. Cathles is a faculty member in Cornell’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
No matter the time frame considered, he concluded, substituting natural gas energy for all coal production and some oil production provides about 40 percent of the global warming benefit that a complete switch to low-carbon sources would deliver, making this a good intermediary step.
Other researchers (for example, leading climate scientist Ken Caldeira and former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold) have found that the climate change–related benefits of natural gas are not great enough to warrant its use as a bridge fuel (that we should just be going straight into renewable energy). Others have found the touted climate benefits of natural gas grossly exaggerated. However, this is clearly a point of debate within this field.
"From a greenhouse point of view, it would be better to replace coal electrical facilities with nuclear plants, wind farms and solar panels, but replacing them with natural gas stations will be faster, cheaper and achieve 40 percent of the low-carbon-fast benefit," Cathles writes in the study. "Gas is a natural transition fuel that could represent the biggest stabilization wedge available to us."
The study, entitled "Assessing the Greenhouse Impact of Natural Gas," also reached a range of other conclusions about expanding the use of natural gas as an energy source, as well as the climate impact of “unconventional” gas drilling methods;
"The most important message of the calculations reported here is that substituting natural gas for coal and oil is a significant way to reduce greenhouse forcing, regardless of how long the substitution takes," Cathles writes. "A faster transition to low-carbon energy sources would decrease greenhouse warming further, but the substitution of natural gas for other fossil fuels is equally beneficial in percentage terms no matter how fast the transition."
But the real question is: would a focus on natural gas really be enough to avoid runaway global warming that could doom human civilization?
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 04:08 AM PDT
According to a report by the California Public Utilities Commission, the state of California plans to have a total of 1,940 megawatts of solar capacity implemented by 2016, probably at the end of the year. The Golden State was the first in the United States to achieve 1,000 MW of installed customer generated solar technology. Over 300 MW were constructed in 2011.
The California Solar Initiative is the largest solar program in the country and has a budget of $2.2 billion dollars. By the end of the first quarter of 2012, California had about 1,255 MW of solar capacity installed at over 120,000 sites.
Though solar power has become somewhat of a political football in an election year, and there has been some negative press due to situations like Solyndra (just one of hundreds or thousands of solar power companies), California has continued to install more solar capacity. Given the political turbulence and a struggling economy, it is impressive to see such a huge state determined to follow through with its clean energy goals.
One of the main benefits of installing 1,940 MW of solar capacity by 2016 is replacing 585 million therms of natural gas utilization.
Net metering is also part of the overall strategy, as it allows some financial benefit (albeit not large) to low-income residents who install solar panels, as well as those who typically buy solar panels who have more money.
When the national economy returns to a more stable and productive phase, one would hope the lessons learned during the lean times could help the cause even more, when there is greater opportunity for financing, and creative strategy.
Image Credit: Wiki Commons, Urban
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 04:00 AM PDT
Korea is speeding up its wind power projects, aiming to complete construction of turbine test beds in the South and Yellow Seas by June 2013, as well as expanding some pre-existing offshore projects.
Jae-Yong NamKung, Deputy Director of New and Renewable Energy Division, confirmed Korea’s ambitions at the June 15 Global Wind Day Networking Seminar. He said a 20-MW wind power test bed in southwestern Korea would be completed a year ahead of schedule.
Wind power turbines of 5–7 MW will be tested and certified on Jeju Island as a precursor to placing them in the South and Yellow Seas. The construction and expansion of harbors is spurring the acceleration of wind turbine testing, as the new harbors will play a role in the assembly and logistics of offshore wind farm projects. The results of the tests will also be used to help the Korean government form a long-term wind power plan to be announced in early 2013.
At this time, renewable energy makes up about 2 percent of Korea’s total energy production, but government backing of the Green Growth strategy has created a competitive business niche for wind power. By 2013, Korea would like to install about 500 turbines with 100 MW capacity off its western shores in a private–public partnership. Local governments around Korea are also pushing 5-GW wind farm projects.
Korean manufacturing titans like Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Ship Building and Marine Engineering are getting into the wind power game. The Korean Wind Energy Industry Association Chairman Dr. Rimtaig Lee said that by applying the shipbuilder’s experience of natural gas and oil exploration to wind energy, the engineering firms are now building five installation vessels, cumulatively.
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 03:50 AM PDT
Driving during a rain or snowstorm can be can be a struggle at night, but a newly developed ‘smart’ headlight system will make it much easier. The system greatly improves visibility by continually redirecting light to shine between particles of precipitation.
The system was created by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.
Demonstrated in laboratory tests, the system prevents the distracting and dangerous glare that precipitating precipitation creates when it reflects headlight beams back at the driver.
“If you’re driving in a thunderstorm, the smart headlights will make it seem like it’s a drizzle,” said Srinivasa Narasimhan, associate professor of robotics.
A camera tracks the motion of the raindrops or snowflakes, and then a computer algorithm is applied to the data to predict where the particles will be just a few milliseconds later. The light projection system then adjusts itself, deactivating the light beams that would illuminate the particles in their predicted positions.
“A human eye will not be able to see that flicker of the headlights,” Narasimhan said. “And because the precipitation particles aren’t being illuminated, the driver won’t see the rain or snow either.”
To human eyes, rain usually appears as streaks moving through the air, but to high-speed cameras, they are widely spaced, discrete drops. Between them, there remains plenty of space where light can be distributed.
“In their lab tests, Narasimhan and his research team demonstrated that their system could detect raindrops, predict their movement and adjust a light projector accordingly in 13 milliseconds. At low speeds, such a system could eliminate 70 to 80 percent of visible rain during a heavy storm, while losing only 5 or 6 percent of the light from the headlamp.”
In order for operation at highway speeds and for good function in snow and hail, the response time of the system will need to be reduced to just a few milliseconds. Lab tests have shown that the system is certainly feasible, and researchers are very confident that the speed of the system can be improved.
As an example, the test apparatus is a joined camera and off-the-shelf DLP projector. Future systems would likely “be based on arrays of light-emitting diode (LED) light sources in which individual elements could be turned on or off, depending on the location of raindrops.”
Advancements in LED technology may make it possible to combine LED light sources and image sensors onto a single chip. This would allow very high-speed operation at a low cost.
The researchers are now working on a more compact version of the prototype that can be installed in a car for road testing.
Another advantage of the system is that it can detect oncoming cars and move the headlight beams away from the eyes of those drivers, that would eliminate the need to shift from high to low beams.
“One good thing is that the system will not fail in a catastrophic way,” Narasimhan said. “If it fails, it is just a normal headlight.”
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 03:40 AM PDT
Certain types of bacteria may be able help address two of the biggest environmental challenges of today. How do we effectively deal with the vast amounts of organic waste produced? And how can we switch to a less-polluting, renewable energy infrastructure in enough time to halt climate change?
Researchers César Torres and Sudeep Popat from Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute think they have found a solution. There are specific types of bacteria that are very good at converting organic waste into useful energy.
Using an innovative technology known as a microbial fuel cell or MFC, the bacteria are applied to the conversion process.
Torres says, “the great advantage of the microbial fuel cell is the direct conversion of organic waste into electricity. ”
The researchers think that, in the future, MFC’s could be linked to municipal waste streams, or agricultural and animal waste sources. They would provide a sustainable system for the treatment of waste, and at the same time, energy production.
Scaling up the technology will require some improvements in efficiency, though. “My particular focus is to understand at a fundamental level how anode respiring bacteria transfer electrons from their cells onto an electrode,” Popat says, “as well as to design new systems that are both economical and efficient.”
MFC’s are a unique kind of battery — they are part electrochemical cell, and part biological reactor. They usually contain two electrodes that are separated by an ion exchange membrane. Bacteria grow and spread on the anode side, forming a biofilm (a dense cell aggregate) that adheres to the MFC’s anode. The bacteria there then act as catalysts for the conversion of the organic substrate into CO2, protons, and electrons.
In a natural environment, many bacteria “use oxygen as a final electron acceptor to produce water, but in the oxygen-free environment of the MFC, specialized bacteria that send the electrons to an insoluble electron acceptor, namely the MFC’s anode, dominate.”
The bacteria are capable of then oxidizing organic pollutants, like the ones found in waste streams, and then transferring the electrons to the anode. The stolen electrons then move through an electrical circuit, that ends at the MFC’s cathode, creating electricity.
This study is the first comprehensive analysis of cathode limitations in MFC’s, and will help to further develop these systems, through continual refinement of operating conditions and materials.
“The main importance of our study is not to provide immediate answers, but to conduct a mechanistic study to determine how the cathode operates and identify the sources of inefficiency,” Torres explains. “Now we can begin to work on solutions.”
Source and Image: Arizona State University
Posted: 12 Jul 2012 03:37 AM PDT
As concerns reach a fever pitch about America’s dependency on foreign oil, a Brazilian prison has tapped into an energy supply that benefits both suppliers and consumers. Inmates at the Santa Rita do Sapucaí prison can ride stationary bikes that have batteries that bank electricity generated by peddling. The batteries are then taken out of the bikes and used to power six street lights in the city.
The Brazilian judge responsible for the program said he was inspired after reading about American prisons using stationary bikes to power communal TVs. To entice inmates to peddle, the judge has agreed to reduce sentences by one day for every 16 hours peddled. Currently, there are two bikes at the prison and the plan is to add eight more.
The benefits are twofold: energy produced in an environmentally friendly way and whittled waistlines for detainees. As American prisons burst at the seams with overweight prisoners and city budgets are strained with rising energy costs, prisoners peddling to contribute to the local energy supply and improve their health sounds like a perfect match.
There are a number of products on the market that utilize peddle-power. Careful what you believe, though. Some products overestimate what riders generally produce. To be realistic, the average person can comfortably produce 150 watts during a comfortable ride, which is enough to charge everyday devices, like smartphones.
Using stationary bikes to produce power on a small scale isn’t exactly a huge money saver since grid power is relatively cheap (about 12 cents per kilowatt hour). But, churning out energy for your personal uses by burning calories — without burning dirty, unsustainable fossil fuels — is an awfully nice idea, isn’t it?
Posted: 11 Jul 2012 11:54 PM PDT
While many of us are horrified at the idea of using anything but an Apple product, the computing hulk has rankled environmentally conscious users with its veto of a common green certification. Last week, Apple pulled all 39 of its laptops, monitors, and desktops out of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certification program.
Some speculate that one of the reasons Apple has opted out of the EPEAT certification is because its products are not easily disassembled — a necessity for repairing and recycling. These days, Apple is using industrial-strength glue instead of screws. A major complaint of consumers and environmentalists is that the glue-secured batteries and displays mean they have to be trashed — not repaired — when broken. Forcing consumers to dispose instead of replace is a significant blow to Apple’s green reputation.
Apple has its own recycling program, which disposes of batteries and displays of any brand for free, via Sims Recycling Solutions. In the environment section of Apple’s site, the company contends that it is committed to creating products that are environmentally responsible: “That’s why we design them to use less material, ship with smaller packaging, be free of toxic substances, and be as energy efficient and recyclable as possible.”
Since Apple is refusing to allow EPEAT to evaluate its products, the U.S. government cannot purchase Apple gear, due to a requirement that 95 percent of electronics purchased have the certification. By leaving the EPEAT program, Apple is losing out on consumers with deep pockets like the federal government and alienating green users. Sounds like a lose-lose situation.
Posted: 11 Jul 2012 11:48 PM PDT
More than 100 protestors hand-delivered a 1.5-ton wind turbine blade to London’s Tate Modern art museum to publicly decry BP’s sponsorship of the gallery last weekend. The oil giant spends more than £1 million on sponsoring British art institutions like the Tate, National Gallery, and Royal Opera House.
The 54-foot blade, which came from a decommissioned wind turbine in Wales, was presented by Liberate Tate, an art collective. The blade was carried across the Thames Millennium Bridge before being officially gifted to the Tate with a request for it to be included in the permanent collection. Liberate Tate is calling the blade a “communiqué and performance documentation.”
Liberate Tate maintains that the public feels uneasy with art institutions accepting dirty oil money from BP. The collective says more than 8,000 people have signed a petition to Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, expressing their disgust of the financial entanglement between BP and the museum. The open letter states:
“There is a contradiction in Tate being committed to climate action while also being heavily associated to a company whose business model is binding us to a catastrophically dangerous future and outdated energy model. This association is damaging to Tate's reputation and its relationship with an increasingly climate-conscious general public.”
A few months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, Liberate Tate began ramping up public protests against Tate’s engagement with BP. The performances included pouring gallons of molasses down stairs at a party, soaking a naked performer with an oil-like substance and releasing helium balloons with dead fish attached.
A spokeswoman for the Tate said that the blade was removed by security staff. No word on whether the museum has decided if the blade will be put on display.
Posted: 11 Jul 2012 11:46 PM PDT
The Botanicalls DIY kit contains about 30 pieces, with some soldering required. Don’t fret if the assembly sounds overwhelming; you can access a step-by-step manual online. The DIY kit requires a power outlet and network connection with an ethernet cable for the ATmega328 microcontroller to broadcast your plant’s needs.
After building your kit, place the two metal prongs of the leaf-shaped device into your plant’s soil and wait for the tweets to come rolling in. For the chip to work properly, the plant needs to be in at least three inches of soil. The tweets are pre-programmed, but can be changed to whatever clever alert you want to see posted on your Twitter feed.
Botanicalls DIY can also inform you of the soil moisture level or if the plant didn’t receive a sufficient dousing from your latest watering. See what some Botanicalls plants are posting on Twitter @Pothos.
Botanicalls was developed by Rob Faludi, Kate Hartman, and Kati London as graduate students at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in 2006 as “a new channel of communication between plants and humans.” After seeing many houseplants wither and die in the lab, they decided to give the plants a direct way to access fellow programmers — and violá! Botanicalls was born.
You can order the Botanicalls DIY kit online at Sparkfun for $99.95.
Posted: 11 Jul 2012 11:35 PM PDT
French Student Successfully Concludes Zero-Emission National Scooter Tour (via Gas 2.0)
French student Vianney Bureau has just completed a road trip around France. This is not unusual. He has completed the road trip on a scooter, which is also not unusual. The detail that makes this trip stand out is that Bureau undertook his 2600 mile trip on an electric scooter. The driving force behind…
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