Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

A Solar Powered Army of Energy Managers

Posted: 21 Aug 2012 11:57 PM PDT

A dustup over the U.S. Navy’s biofuel program hogged the media spotlight this spring, but under the radar, the Army has been pursuing an ambitious alternative energy program of its own. Aside from $7 billion in cutting-edge and utility-scale projects, the Army’s initiatives include a modest but critical experiment in energy conservation at base camps.

army uses solar power at base camps

Smart and Green Energy for Base Camps

The Army had been slowly but steadily introducing portable solar power and other new energy equipment at forward operating bases on a piecemeal basis. The new initiative, called SAGE for Smart and Green Energy at Base Camps, steps it up a notch with an integrated, camp-wide approach that relies on a heavy dose of user engagement.

SAGE got under way last summer at the Base Camp Integration Laboratory at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. The 150-person camp consists of a 10-acre compound that includes energy efficient shelters and other buildings, waste reduction systems, solar power for hot water, graywater recycling, and a power management system that includes a microgrid and energy storage.

Affordability and portability also factored into equipping the camp. The whole thing relies on off-the-shelf technologies that can be shipped in a single C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and set up in four hours.

The goal of the SAGE experiment is to test whether energy savings of up to 60 percent are possible at camps of up to 3,000 soldiers.

An Army of Energy Managers

Alternative energy and conservation are literally life and death issues for the Army, as described in a recent issue of Stand To!, the Army’s online leadership newsletter. The whole page is worth a read but here are a few key paragraphs (breaks added for readability):

“The Army is making Power and Energy an accountable consideration in everything we do, making every Soldier, civilian and family member an Energy Manager…

“Supplying power and energy to our Army around the world is an increasingly challenging, expensive and dangerous undertaking. The Army must include energy security as a prime consideration in all activities to reduce demand, increase efficiency, obtain alternative sources of energy and create a culture of energy…

“Innovative and adaptive leaders, seeking ways to increase energy efficiency and implement renewable and alternate sources of energy, are key to saving lives and increasing the Army’s flexibility by reducing costs.”

The need to transition to a “culture of energy” is something that environmental organizations have been hammering away at for,… well, forever, so the Army’s full-on engagement in this issue will go a long way toward mainstreaming more responsible stewardship of the Earth’s resources.

It would also help if the party of “support our troops” was on board with the program, too, but considering the cold shoulder Republican leaders in Congress gave to the Navy’s biofuel initiatives, don’t count on it.

Image: Portable solar canopy. Some rights reserved by US Army Africa.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Cleaner Fuel for the Big Ships of the Seas

Posted: 21 Aug 2012 11:35 PM PDT

Another presentation from the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) concerning alternative fuels saw scientists describing the development of a new fuel mexture that they believe will ease the major air pollution and cost problems facing cruise ships, oil tankers, and container ships, each of which tend to burn the cheapest and most highly polluting form of diesel fuel.

According to George N. Harakas, Ph.D., these large vessels have slow-speed engines specifically designed to burn the inexpensive “bunker fuels” that are, literally, the bottom-of-the-barrel residue from the petroleum refining process.

Bunker fuels are high in substances (such as sulfur) that produce air pollution, which creates a serious health and environmental problem when ships cruise along the shore or drop anchor in ports of heavily populated urban areas.

Harakas and colleagues from the Maine Maritime Academy and SeaChange Group LLC developed a fuel by adding two ingredients to low-sulfur diesel to produce what they call Bunker Green fuel, a member of the Eco-Hybrid fuel family.

The resulting fuel has improved emission properties and the potential to lower fuel costs for the shipping industry as a whole.

Laboratory tests conducted at the Marine Engine Testing and Emissions Laboratory (METEL) at the Maine Maritime Academy demonstrated that the fuel produced 15 percent lower emissions of soot-like particles and 26 percent less nitrogen oxide pollutants.

Harakas concluded that Bunker Green fuel could help the shipping industry reduce air pollution to meet these IMO regulations, especially for older ships.

Source: American Chemical Society
Image Source: Justin Russell

Report Continues Good News for Renewable Gasoline and Diesel

Posted: 21 Aug 2012 11:28 PM PDT

Presented at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), scientists have shown that a new process for converting municipal waste, algae, corn stalks, and similar materials into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel is showing the same promise it did in larger operations as it did in laboratory-scale devices.

"These results are essential in establishing the credibility of a process that may seem too good to be within the realm of possibility," said Martin Linck, Ph.D. "However, we are moving steadily toward having multiple demonstration-scale facilities in operation by 2014, with each facility producing a range of 3,500-17,500 gallons of fuel a day from non-food plant material. We will be designing commercial-scale facilities that could produce as much as 300,000 gallons per day from the same kinds of feedstocks."

The new technology is termed  Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion (IH2), and it involves the use of internally generated hydrogen and a series of proprietary catalysts which jump-start chemical reactions that otherwise would happen relatively slowly, or not at all.

IHuses practically any kind of nonfood biomass material to produce gasoline, jet fuel, or diesel fuel. Anything from wood, cornstalks and cobs to algae, aquatic plants, and municipal waste.

Linck explained some of the differences involved in IH2:

Lincksaid it differs from other biofuel technologies in producing a finished, ready-to-use liquid hydrocarbon fuel, rather than crude intermediate substances or substances that contain unwanted oxygen, which must be further processed and upgraded to meet specifications for transportation fuels. He cited other advantages of the IH2 technology, including flexibility to use a broad range of feedstocks and mixtures of feedstocks from different sources; the use of existing technology and equipment, which keeps its cost low; and production of 90 percent less greenhouse gas per gallon than fossil fuels. CO2 is the major greenhouse gas in this case. The process does not require external hydrogen gas since it produces its own directly from the biomass feed ― a key advantage because most hydrogen gas today is made from natural gas or coal.


IH2‘s developer, the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), is already operating two pilot plants that will test and refine the process. Both operations are using wood, corn stalks, and leaves or algae as biomass material.

The smaller of the two plants has a capacity of just one pound of biomass per hour, and can produce anywhere between 72 and 157 gallons of fuel per ton of dry, ash-free feedstock.

The second plant, larger, can handle more than a hundred pounds of biomass per hour, and is designed to operate continuously.

"Full commercial scale will be dependent on client location and feedstock specifics," Linck said. "Our preliminary engineering estimates are using 2,000 ton per day of feedstock, but this will depend on feedstock type. For example, municipal solid waste plants may be smaller, and plants converting wood may be larger.”

Source: American Chemical Society
Image Source: Gas Technology Institute

Despite Headwinds, US Clean Energy Industry Continued to Create Jobs in 2Q

Posted: 21 Aug 2012 11:20 PM PDT

As many as 37,409 clean energy jobs could be created as a result of the more than 70 major clean energy projects announced across the US in 2Q, according to a study from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national group of business leaders advocating for sound economic and environmental policies.

Applauding the clean energy employment gains made in the US in the second quarter of the year, E2 also notes that the looming expiration of the federal production tax credit (PTC) is already dampening further gains in the wind power sector.

In its latest "Clean Energy Jobs Roundup" report, E2 tracked 12 wind power generation project announcements that it has estimated will create some 2,300 jobs. That compares to the 31 wind power projects announced in 1Q with a likelihood of adding more than 9,100 green jobs to US employment rolls.


Good News and Bad News

“The good news is that despite the challenging economic and political environment, the clean energy industry is still creating badly needed American jobs all across the country," commented E2 executive director Judith Albert. "The bad news is that the threats to the wind industry because of uncertainty over the Production Tax Credit are very real, and are already taking its toll on job creation in that sector."

Following are the top 10 US states for 2Q clean energy job creation, according to E2:

1. California (16 projects announced with 20,879 possible jobs)
2. Florida (3 projects announced with 7,375 possible jobs)
3. New York (3 projects announced with 1,408 possible jobs)
4. Michigan (9 projects announced with 1,319 possible jobs)
5. Colorado (2 projects announced with 1,100 possible jobs)
6. Ohio (4 projects announced with 712 possible jobs)
7. New Jersey (2 projects announced with 600 possible jobs)
8. Illinois (4 projects announced with 542 possible jobs)
9. Nebraska (1 project announced with 500 possible jobs)
10. Mississippi (1 project announced with 426 possible jobs)

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Clean energy projects were announced in 30 states in the second quarter. Nearly one-third of the announcements were in Midwest states, including Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois
  • Clean energy projects cross over party lines. A total of 35 clean energy projects were announced in Democratic districts and 31 in Republican districts. Nine projects spanned districts represented by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers
  • Public transportation, electric vehicle manufacturing and power generation announcements led the clean energy sector for job growth.

A full copy of E2′s second quarter "Clean Energy Jobs Roundup" is available free for download on its website.

iPhone Device Reveals Whether Your Food Is Really Organic

Posted: 21 Aug 2012 11:16 PM PDT


Soon you will be able to immediately find out if that pricey organic salad you ordered for lunch is worth it. Lapka Electronics is debuting an iPhone accessory that detects whether your food really is organic, or its organicity.


Lapka’s "personal environment monitor" is a suite of four stylish sensors that connect to your iPhone through the headphone jack. The sensors measure organicity, radiation, electromagnetic fields (EMF), and humidity. An app then displays the information on your screen. The elegant set is powered entirely from the iPhone and doesn't need batteries or charging.

Lapka's health focus shows in the fact that it tests your food along with environmental radiation and EMF. Organic labeling has vague meanings, and organic fields can be exposed to nearby contaminants. The organic sensor detects the nitrate content in what you're about to eat or drink. Nitrates are residues from synthetic fertilizers and are a good measure of whether raw food is organic. You simply poke your food with the ultra-thin probe to get a readout displayed on your iPhone.

Even the owner of a local New Jersey catering company who I’ve worked with admitted that the app could come in handy. The company offers organic menu choices and can use the app for quality control – before their iPhone-toting customers do.

The Lapka radiation sensor measures radiation with precision, down to the particle level, and is considered professional grade. The app interprets the results for you based on your environment, so that you get an accurate idea of how concerned you should be. Lapka is smart enough to know the difference between transient radiation on a plane flight and excess radiation in places such as your home.

The EMF sensor measures the strength of electromagnetic fields and will even suggest areas in your environment that have the lowest levels.

The fourth measurement, humidity, is more about comfort than safety. It combines humidity and temperature readings into one comfort rating using a database of what people consider ideal for your environment.

The app’s data presentation is just as impressive as its leap into organic food testing. It tells you what the measurements mean and suggests a course of action based on how far out of normal range the readings are.

For the visually inclined, the app has a second method of showing results. According to Fast Company, a more abstract readout displays a red pool of particles that accelerate as levels rise. You can share this environmental snapshot with people who don’t have the app.

Lapka took great care with the aesthetic design of the set. "Since this is a healthcare and environmental product, we used organic materials like wood and ivory-like plastic, it will look better with time … it'll become your very own, personal talisman," Creative Director Vadik Marmeladov told Fast Company.

Fortunately, you won’t have to wait long to see it for yourself. The product is in final production stage and can be ordered later this year. The suite of peripherals will sell for about $220, and the app will be a free download from the App Store.

Image Credit: Lapka Electronics

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