Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Company Perspectives: SiGNa Chemistry Brings Smart Hydrogen Fuel Cells to the Renewables Marketplace

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 10:59 AM PDT

For those who want to know more about advancements in renewable hydrogen fuel cells that are produced without leaving an ugly footprint, SiGNa Chemistry is a very solid company to watch.

Company Perspectives: SiGNa Chemistry Brings Smart Hydrogen Fuel Cells to the Renewables Marketplace (via

In this business of championing green energy solutions that are sustainable, too much in the way of bad news is found when chemical companies and their convoluted product supply chains get dissected. SiGNa Chemistry stands as an exceptional green chemistry company in its manufacture of hydrogen fuel…

143,000 MW of Solar and Wind for Pakistan?

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 10:53 AM PDT

Aggressive investment in clean energy sources may be afoot in Pakistan. Several sources have recently stated that a US AID report found Pakistan has about 150,000 MW of wind power potential. One source said it is planning 25,000 MW in wind power installations by 2015.

Karachi downtown

The report also said one area — the Sindh corridor — has a wind power potential of 40,000 MW. Another source says wind power potential in this area is actually 50,000 MW.

Overall potential is one thing, but getting there is obviously quite another. In the short-term, however, there are plans to add an additional 800 MW of wind power in this region, and that new growth could be completed by 2013. Wind speeds in the Sindh corridor have been measured at 7.5 and 7.7 m/s, which puts the area in the “Excellent” category for wind power.

Additionally, there are 30 clean energy projects in the pipeline there with a total output of 1,947 megawatts. The government wants to attract foreign investment up to $2.7 billion in order to expedite some of these clean energy projects. The main motivation to do so is the very high cost of yearly oil imports and the burden oil places on the national economy. Currently, that figure is about $12 billion.

Pakistan has been experiencing an energy crisis. For example, the Punjab this summer has had its power cut up to twenty hours a day in some periods. The difference between supply and demand reached 7,500 MW at one point.

Peak demand in summer is about 18,000 MW. Approximately one third of that is for air conditioning. Energy demand is rising by 1,500 MW per year, and the country of 180 million people is growing constantly. Already, there are riots and protests over the lack of energy and how the government is managing the situation.

Articles such as this one about the massive potential of renewable energy sometimes are not well-received because readers point out the potential exists on paper but there are many obstacles which appear to make it nearly impossible to realize. In some cases, this frustration may be fully warranted, but having a very large potential is a good thing, and recognizing it can reference a direction for the future, when currently there isn’t a clear picture what should be done.

Image Credit: Asjad Jamshed

US Reaches 50 GW of Wind Energy Capacity in Q2 of 2012

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 07:36 AM PDT

Wind energy in the United States hit a new benchmark, reaching 50 gigawatts (GW) of electric capacity in the second quarter of 2012.

The announcement was made by Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) at the National Clean Energy Summit in Los Vegas, Nevada.

So far this year, according to the AWEA, 2,800 megawatts (MW) of wind, along with 1,400 wind turbines have been installed across the US, helping the wind industry reach this fantastic achievement. Many of the new installations have come from new projects in Nevada, Idaho, Iowa, Hawaii Oklahoma, and California. Some of the key projects that are going in across six of these states, according to the AWEA include:

  • Pattern Energy's Spring Valley wind farm, 30 miles east of Ely, Nevada (151.8 MW)
  • Enel Green Power North America's Rocky Ridge wind farm in Oklahoma (148.8 MW)
  • enXco's Pacific Wind project in Kern County, California (140 MW)
  • Utah Associated Municipal Power's Horse Butte project in Idaho (57.6 MW)
  • First Wind's Kaheawa Wind II wind farm in Hawaii (21 MW)

What has occurred in the wind industry with the US reaching that plateau is quite remarkable. Consider the following:

  • Between 1981 and 2003, 5 GW of wind power was generated. That number doubled to 10 GW by 2006, then 25 GW by 2008, and now 50 GW in 2012.
  • Nuclear energy was the last new energy technology to reach 50 GW, done in the late 1970's and 1980's.

The next question you are going to wonder is how much 50 GW of wind energy gets you. This beautiful infographic below, supplied by the AWEA, shows just how much impact 50 GW of wind power can do:

The most interesting fact I found out from this infographic was that wind potential is enough to take out coal power plants in the US. 50 GW of wind provides the same amount of energy as 44 coal fire power plants, or 11 nuclear power plants. The future potential to move at a lighting-fast pace and replace these sunset energy sources is very realistic, especially when you consider that 39 states now have utility-sized wind farms, according to the AWEA.

Politicians were pleased with the US wind energy's latest milestone. "This milestone for wind-energy production marks continued success for this clean, renewable and domestically produced energy source," said Republican Senator Chuck Grassley in a statement. "Wind energy has exceeded expectations since I first authored the tax incentive, in 1992, and offers an ideal for expanded production and use of alternative energy sources in the future."

"It is amazing that 50,000 megawatts of our nation's power is generated from clean and affordable wind energy," Oklahoma Republican Frank Lucas Said.

"This is a very big milestone for the wind industry, and I am proud the Rocky Ridge Wind Project has contributed to this great success. As a leader of Congress, representing Oklahoma's Third Congressional District, I have supported the wind energy in the past, and I will continue to support it in the future," he said.

The impact of the wind industry isn't just on the environment but also economically, on the domestic level. Most of the capacity growth has come from turbines made in the USA, around 60%, according to the statement.

Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy in the statement also agreed with the positive economic impact the wind industry has had.

"We're very proud that Spring Valley Wind is not only Nevada's first wind power facility but also helps America reach 50 gigawatts of clean wind generation."

"Spring Valley Wind brought over 250 jobs to Nevada and will now power up to 45,000 local homes with zero emissions. This project will also generate significant tax revenue and community benefits for decades to come, demonstrating that wind energy is a meaningful long-term investment in the economic health of local communities."

However, uncertainty about the Production Tax Credit (PTC), credited for spurring the development of the domestic wind industry, has plagued wind developers and threatens jobs, according to Denise Bode:

"These truly are the best of times and could be the worst of times for American wind power,"

"This month we shattered the 50-gigawatt mark, and we're on pace for one of our best years ever in terms of megawatts installed. But because of the uncertainty surrounding the extension of the Production Tax Credit, incoming orders are grinding to a halt,"

"Layoffs have begun up and down our American manufacturing supply chain, which the industry has so proudly has built up in support of the U.S. economy and made-in-the USA manufacturing. And when incoming orders stop, so do factories. Congress must act now to give wind energy a stable business environment to keep producing all this homegrown power, and save 37,000 American jobs by the first quarter of next year."

However, hope is on the horizon, as the Senate Finance Committee on August 7th passed the "Family and Business Tax Cut Act." The act would help extend the PTC, vital for further industrial growth.

Overall, 50GW of wind electricity capacity is something to be celebrated by everyone.

Source: American Wind Energy Association
Image Credit: Desert Palm Springs California Wind Turbine via Shutterstock

IEA Calls for More Support for Solar Thermal Power

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 07:29 AM PDT

The International Energy Agency has called for greater political support for increasing the amount of solar thermal power after the launch of a report which found that solar thermal technology could meet one-sixth of the planet’s demand for heating and cooling, saving 800 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year by 2050.

The report outlined a roadmap for development and deployment of solar heating and cooling by 2050 to produce 16.5 exajoules of solar heating annually and 1.5 exajoules of solar cooling.

“Awareness is growing of the urgent need to turn political statements and analytical work into concrete action,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven. “To spark this movement, at the request of the G8, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is leading the development of a series of roadmaps for some of the most important technologies.

“The global energy need for heat is significant in both OECD and non-OECD countries: in 2009 the IEA reported that global energy demand for heat represented 47% of final energy use. Solar heat thus can make a substantial contribution in meeting climate change and security objectives.”

Satellite-derived solar resource map
As solar radiation passes through the earth's atmosphere, some of it is absorbed or scattered by air molecules, water vapour, aerosols, and clouds. The solar radiation that passes through directly to the earth's surface is called direct solar radiation. The radiation that has been scattered out of the direct beam is called diffuse solar radiation. The direct component of sunlight and the diffuse component of skylight falling together on a horizontal surface make up global solar radiation.

The key findings of the report are detailed below:

  • Solar collectors for hot water and space heating could reach an installed capacity of nearly 3 500 GWth, satisfying annually around 8.9 EJ of energy demand for hot water and space heating in the building sector by 2050. Solar hot water and space heating accounts for 14% of space and water heating energy use by that time.
  • Solar collectors for low-temperature process heat in industry (<120°C) could reach an installed capacity of 3 200 GWth, producing around 7.2 EJ solar heat per year by 2050. Solar process heat accounts for 20% of energy use for low temperature industrial heat by that time.
  • Solar heat for cooling could reach a contribution of 1.5 EJ per year from an installed capacity of more than 1 000 GWth for cooling, accounting for nearly 17% of energy use for cooling in 2050.
  • Swimming pool heating could reach an installed capacity of 200 GWth, producing annually around 400 PJ solar heat by 2050.
  • By achieving the above mentioned deployment levels, solar heating and cooling can avoid some 800 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2emissions per year by 2050.
  • Achieving this roadmap's vision requires a rapid expansion of solar hot water heating in the building sector, including in solar supported district heating, as well as in industrial applications. Dedicated policy support should overcome barriers related to information failures, split incentives and high up-front investments.
  • While a number of industrial and agricultural processes can use low-temperature flat-plate collectors, advanced flat-plate collectors and concentrating technology should be further developed to produce medium-temperature heat. Industrial process heat offers enormous potential in sectors that use low- and medium-temperature heat for processes such as washing, leaching (mining industry), drying of agricultural products, pre-heating of boiler feed water, pasteurisation and cooking.
  • The development of compact storage will allow heat to be used when the load is required, aiding the deployment of solar space heating in individual buildings. Dedicated research, development and demonstration (RD&D) resources could make compact storage commercially viable between 2020 and 2030.
  • Solar cooling could avoid the need for additional electricity transmission capacity caused by higher average peak loads from the rapidly increasing cooling demand in many parts of the world. It can also allow for a more optimal use of solar energy applications for domestic hot water, space heating and cooling. With substantially higher RD&D resources, standardised, cost competitive and reliable solar cooling systems could enter the market between 2015 and 2020.


The IEA also outlined key actions they believed were necessary for governments to action:

  • Create a stable, long-term policy framework for solar heating and cooling; establish medium-term targets to maximise the effective use of mature and nearly mature technologies, and long-term targets for advanced technologies that have yet to reach the market.
  • Introduce differentiated economic incentives on the basis of competitiveness per technology by means of transparent and predictable frameworks to bridge competitive gaps. Incentives could for example be based on feedin tariffs or renewable portfolio standards for commercial heat and subsidies or tax incentives for end-user technologies. Economic incentive schemes should be independent of state budgetprocedures to avoid "stop-and-go" policies where, for example, sudden withdrawal of incentives can destabilise the market.
  • Address barriers such as information failures, up-front investment of technologies, lack of quality standards and the 'split-incentive' problem (where the investor in SHC technology does not reap the benefits of reduced energy costs). This can be done through awareness raising campaigns, industry training and education, support for new business models and modified regulations.
  • Provide RD&D funding and support mechanisms to enable promising pre-commercial solar heating and cooling technologies to reach high volume commercial production within the next 10 years.
  • In developing countries, expand the efforts of multilateral and bilateral aid organisations to accelerate the deployment of mature and competitive solar heating and cooling technologies, addressing both economic and non-economic barriers.

Source: IEA (PDF)

DARPA Funds a Robot that Moves Like a Worm, But Why?

Posted: 10 Aug 2012 04:13 AM PDT

MIT Invents Biomimicry Robot WormDARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, is the financial force behind a new biomimicry robotics project from MIT. The end result is Meshworm, a small, soft robot that looks like a moldy lint sock, moves like an earthworm, and holds its own under various stressors, even when “bludgeoned with a hammer.” The question is, why?

Resilient Robots for the U.S. Military

Meshworm has the ability to survive a frightening degree of misuse, and that provides one clue into DARPA’s interest in the new technology.

As described by writer Jennifer Chu, the field of soft robotics is of growing interest to engineers. With little or no need for bulky hardware, soft robots are more durable and lend themselves to miniaturization more easily than their mechanical counterparts.

In terms of military purpose, soft robots like Meshworm could be air-dropped, launched or thrown over relatively long distances, land without damage, and set about crawling silently around, squeezing through tight openings and conducting surveillance.

That kind of unobtrusive mobile robot could also be useful in environmental monitoring, among other applications in the civilian world.


The Inner Workings of a Robotic Worm

One particular challenge for soft robots is developing a means of propulsion that adds little or no bulk. The MIT team overcame this by integrating propulsion into the infrastructure of the robot.

Earthworms provided the inspiration because they move along by teaming longitudinal muscles with another set of muscles that wrap around their bodies in circles.

To mimic these muscles, the team developed a springy mesh tube (yes, just like a link sock) and wrapped it with wires made of a “very bizarre material,” a nickel-titanium alloy.

Chu explains:

“Depending on the ratio of nickel to titanium, the alloy changes phase with heat. Above a certain temperature, the alloy remains in a phase called austenite — a regularly aligned structure that springs back to its original shape, even after significant bending, much like flexible eyeglass frames. Below a certain temperature, the alloy shifts to a martensite phase — a more pliable structure that, like a paperclip, stays in the shape in which it's bent.”

A miniature battery and circuit board provided the juice to heat and cool the alloy, and a series of stress tests (the aforementioned hammer, plus a stomping) proved its durability.

The Future of Soft Robotics

Phase-changing material like MIT’s alloy fall into the programmable matter category, so look for many more Meshworm-type devices to make an appearance as this field develops apace with soft robotics.

It’s also worth noting that one key advantage of small robots, soft or hard, is their ability to perform tasks while using a minimal amount of energy.

Along those lines, engineers at Virginia Tech have been working with the U.S. Navy to develop Robojelly, a robot that swims like a jellyfish. Energy is provided by a fuel cell that scavenges power from seawater, with an assist from a platinum catalyst.

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