Saturday, July 14, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Another Light Bulb Deadline Looms — Where’s the Outrage?

Posted: 14 Jul 2012 06:58 AM PDT

old T-12 fluorescent tubes are being phased out

What if they banned a light bulb and nobody cared? Given all the fireworks over the incandescent light bulb phaseout that began earlier this year, there should be another round of outrage over the July 14 deadline for phasing out another highly popular type of light bulb, the T-12 fluorescent tube. But nope, not a peep. Part of the reason could be that the original deadline has been extended, but still, you’d expect someone to at least set off an M-80 or two. Representative Bachmann? Mr. Limbaugh? Anyone?

Phasing Out the T-12 Light Bulb

The July 14 deadline refers to new federal standards for the ubiquitous, four-foot-long fluorescent tubes found in millions of schools, offices, warehouses, factories, retail stores and other establishments, along with untold millions of home workshops.

As with the incandescent light bulb “ban” that stirred so many passions among so many conservative political leaders and pundits, there is no direct ban on using the old bulbs. Once the deadline goes into effect, the old bulbs can no longer be imported and they cannot be manufactured or sold domestically

Also, as with incandescent lighting, the primary reason for phasing out the T-12 is to shift the lighting industry into new energy efficient technologies.

In addition, old T-12 light bulb technology is notoriously finicky, and New Yorkers in particular may recall that concerns have been raised regarding health issues related to old T-12 fixtures.

A Long Road to Better Light Bulbs

The new T-12 standards date back to 1992, with amendments to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (not to be confused with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which includes the new incandescent standards).

The 1992 amendments directed the Department of Energy to conduct reviews and publish new standards as needed. Those determinations were made in 2009 with a deadline of July 14, 2012.

According to a backgrounder provided to CleanTechnica by the Department of Energy, the deadline was extended when a supply issue arose over rare earth oxides, which are key materials in the new technology. China controls more than 95 percent of the global supply, and in 2010 it changed its export quotas, leading to a significant price increase.

Philips Lighting Company, GE Lighting, Osram Sylvania, and Ushio America all applied for extensions, which were granted with the new deadline of July 14, 2014.

China will most likely continue to dominate the global market, but the Department of Energy anticipates that the two-year extension will buy time to develop new technologies that require less rare earth material, and to develop new sources including the recycling stream.

In the meantime, T-12 aficionados are advised that this might be a good time to switch over to the smaller T-8, which according to the Department of Energy “provides a rich source of lighting that delivers a high lumen package, a high CRI (color rendering index) rating and exceptional energy efficiency.”

Image: Some rights reserved by Brett Jordan.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Australia Could Be World’s 1st Solar PV Mass Market, Yingli States

Posted: 14 Jul 2012 06:13 AM PDT

One of the world's biggest solar PV manufacturers, Yingli Green Energy, has announced it will set up its regional headquarters in Sydney after concluding that Australia represents one of the most promising solar PV markets in the world.

The Chinese based, US-listed  Yingli, one of the big three solar manufacturers, and No 1 in the world in 2012 according to some surveys, has had only a minimal presence in Australia to date and has sold just 5MW of panels into a market that has now installed more than 1,500MW.

However, the company says Australia is set to be a "world leader" in coming years — the result of rising retail electricity prices, falling PV costs, new financing options and a lot of sun. And as some of its principal partners move into the country, it has chosen to do so too.



"Australia is one of the most promising markets in the solar industry," Liansheng Miao, Yingli's chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Lucas Sadler, the newly appointed head of Yingli Australia, said Australia could be the first major market in the world to reach mass grid parity — where solar PV installations are cheaper than grid-connected electricity supplies, and are available widely because of innovating financing such as solar leasing.

"If you look out to 2014/15 — the prospects are quite extraordinary, and Australia could lead the world," Sadler told RenewEconomy in an interview. He cited the advancement of micro investors, the introduction of "plug and play' kits, and affordability in the mass market, as well as excellent options in the off-grid scale market. "Some researchers say Australia may be the first to reach grid parity on a mass scale. Over the next three to five years, it's going to be one of the most active markets in the world."

Sadler said Yingli saw growth in the residential market, and in commercial and larger scale projects. Commercial-scale systems of the 10kW to 30kW range was of particular interest to business customers struggling under the weight of rising electricity costs.. "We are moving into the second phase where merits of having a solar system are quite strong – customers will recognize the return on investment because electricity prices are so high."

Sadler, a former executive with utility TRUenergy who has worked with retailers and in the telecommunications business, said he expected solar PV to become an attractive power hedge to consumers, and even to emerge as a "fast-moving consumer good" – in the same way as solar hot water systems, or even flat screen TVs. "I think you will see people make decisions like buying a solar PV systems instead of a flat screen TV – it's a sensible move to take a power hedge for the next 25 years."

Yingli will also use its new Australian branch to distribute Yingli Solar panels to the New Zealand and the Pacific Islands region.

This post was originally published on REnew Economy. It has been reposted with permission.

Apple Jumps Back on EPEAT Bandwagon

Posted: 14 Jul 2012 05:46 AM PDT

Eduitor’s Note: So, as Chelsea noted the other day, Apple decided this week that it no longer meshed with the eco-label EPEAT. As a response, San Francisco told Apple it was out (city officials wouldn’t be buying its products). And, now, due to that or the media pressure or consumer dissatisfaction with this change (or all of the above), Apple is changing its mind and sticking with EPEAT. Here’s more from Scott Cooney of sister site The Inspired Economist:

Apple today announced that it might have been just kidding when it previously announced plans to withdraw its Macbook from evaluation by the green IT label EPEAT. Apple's popularity among designers, artists, and young entrepreneurs might give you the impression that its products are, as the company says, "the world's greenest lineup of notebooks." The truth is a bit more complicated than that, of course, with Apple fairly consistently ranking among the middle of the pack in IT greenness.

Apple's been getting skewered by the public and the media for pulling its Macbook out of the EPEAT certification process. EPEAT is the premier certification for IT products, and an EPEAT certification on your computer means that the product has achieved energy efficiency, product recyclability, low-toxicity, and other standards measuring its environmentally friendly nature. It also comes with a fairly substantial carrot. The Federal Government, starting in 2009 with an Executive Order by President Obama, committed to buying 95% of its computing equipment as EPEAT certified, as a way to save taxpayers money by avoiding energy hogs.

The image Apple would love people to have of its impact on the environment and public health…

It's not the energy efficiency, per se, that Apple had rejected by pulling out of EPEAT, but the standards for repair and recyclability that EPEAT also governs. The company was hoping to release new products that are sleeker and sexier, but unfortunately, that also means that you'd need some specialized tools and expertise to get the products apart in order to repair something broken, and of course recycling becomes far more difficult, meaning that toxins in the electronics would be far more likely to end up as soil, groundwater, or air pollution.

In a letter posted on the company's website, Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield said today:

"We've recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT." 

Follow Scott Cooney on twitter, or join our newsletter in the right hand column, for more from Inspired Economist.

Image Credit: Apple girl via Shutterstock

18,000 Warheads Converted to Nuclear Fuel

Posted: 14 Jul 2012 04:36 AM PDT


Well over four hundred tons of uranium have been converted from former Soviet Union nuclear warheads. Called “Megatons to Megawatts,” the program was started by USEC, a global energy company and leading supplier of nuclear fuel. It was planned to last twenty years and is a partnership between industry and government to convert 500 metric tons of Russian weapons-grade uranium to enriched uranium for use in making electricity in commercial reactors.

The overall goal of the program is converting about 20,000 nuclear warheads for fuel, and it is about ninety percent achieved, so approximately 18,000 warheads have been converted at this point. The sixteen thousand milestone was achieved in 2010. Twenty thousand conversions should be completed by the end of 2013.

The uranium produced so far by the Megatons to Megawatts program is equivalent to about 193 billion gallons of gasoline. Nuclear power plants using the uranium recovered from the warheads have produced up to ten percent of the electricity generated in the United States.



Some of the ICBMs containing the warheads were once aimed at the United States. Enriched uranium from weapons is replacing over 10,000 tons of uranium from mines annually and providing over ten percent of fuel for reactors worldwide. For many years, there has been a legitimate concern uranium from the commercial supply for fuel would wind up in weapons, but what has happened is the reverse. Much more uranium from weapons is being used for fuel to generate electricity. Furthermore, the amount of enriched uranium in weapons stockpiles is many times more than the annual world mine production of uranium.

Whether or not one is opposed to the use of nuclear power plants, at least this particular use of uranium from weapons appears to have a benefit to humankind due to the dismantling of many potentially devastating bombs. The project also is taking weapons-grade uranium offline so to speak and rendering it useless for war when it is converted into electricity.

USEC is the business acting on behalf of the U.S. government and JSC "Techsnabexport" (TENEX) does so for Russia.

The United States reportedly has also been converting some of its own war heads into fuel for nuclear power plants.

 Image Credit: Public Domain, the image is not of Russian warheads, but is intended merely to be an example of a warhead.

Yuba Bikes Up the Ante on Green Style

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 05:54 PM PDT

Peddling around town with a couple reusable bags full of organic produce or your ecofriendly sweetheart never looked as good as it does on Yuba’s Boda Boda Cargo Cruiser. This stylish bike bills itself as as lightweight, comfortable, and easy-to-ride bicycle capable of transporting cargo of various weight and length — with green accents like bamboo runners and cork grips to boot.

The thirty-five pound bike has eight gears and claims to handle hauling surfboards, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboads with a few special attachments. Yuba says the rear deck is meant for flat cargo, so you can pile that vintage record collection Rocky Mountain high without compromising stability.

Source | Images: Yuba Bicycles

San Francisco City Officials May Stop Buying Apple

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 05:51 PM PDT


After Apple pulled out of a green certification program this week, San Francisco city officials have decided to stop buying the company’s products.

The Guardian reports that the city spent $45,579 on Mac products in 2010; small potatoes compared to Apple’s reported profits of $11.6 billion in April.

Source: The Guardian
Image: 1000 Words via Shutterstock

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