Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Public Wave Energy Test Facility Begins Operation in Oregon

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 05:23 AM PDT

The United States saw the launch of one of the first public wave energy testing systems this week off the Oregon coast near Newport, an operation which will allow private industry or academic researchers to test new wind energy technology.

The testing facility, The Ocean Sentinel, cost $1.5 million and was developed by the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) at Oregon State University. And there’s no cooling off period either, with the first device to be tested within a few days, a “WetNZ” device developed by private industry.

Experts have long been calling for a facility such as this to help companies and academics develop new wave energy technology, measure and understand the wave resource, and study the energy output.

"The Ocean Sentinel will provide a standardized, accurate system to compare various wave energy technologies, including systems that may be better for one type of wave situation or another," said Sean Moran, ocean test facilities manager with NNMREC.

"We have to find out more about which technologies work best, in what conditions, and what environmental impacts there may be," Moran said. "We're not assuming anything. We're first trying to answer the question, 'Is this a good idea or not?' And if some technology doesn't work as well, we want to find that out quickly, and cheaply, and the Ocean Sentinel will help us do that."

The need for a facility such as this is paramount in an energy industry that, experts believe, will probably not be dominated by one specific type of technology. Given the very nature of waves and the oceans they roll across, one technology simply may not work in every location and circumstance.

The Ocean Sentinel will be able to measure wave amplitude, device energy output, ocean currents, wind speeds, extremes of wave height, and other data.

The challenges at hand, Moran said, are enormous.

"We're still trying to figure out what will happen when some of these devices have to stand up to 50-foot waves," Moran said. "The ocean environment is very challenging, especially off Oregon where we have such a powerful wave energy resource."

Source: Oregon State University

Solar Energy from Any Semiconductor on the Horizon

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 05:09 AM PDT


Solar power keeps getting more exciting, more accessible, and more affordable every day. The DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has reported that researchers from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California Berkeley have developed solar cells that can be created from from a wide variety of semiconductors, including metal oxides, sulfides and phosphides. Previously, those substances were considered unusable because of the difficulty in modifying their naturally occurring properties by chemical means.

The implications of creating solar cells from non-toxic and abundant materials are industry-changing because doing so would cause the expense and complications would plummet. Currently, common materials for solar cells are crystals of silicon, cadmium telluride, or copper indium gallium selenide.

Source: the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Image: njaj via Shutterstock

Minnesota Wind Farm Set To Receive Gamesa Wind Turbine Order

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 05:02 AM PDT

The Big Blue wind farm in the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota will receive Gamesa's newest wind turbine.

Gamesa will provide the wind farm with 18 G97-2.0MW turbines, which are geared for low-wind sites, according to the company's statement.

The new wind turbines will allow for the greatest energy output in that location, thanks to a better aerodynamic blade design and nacelle improvements, Gamesa said.

Exergy Development Group will help to install the 18 turbines.

Meanwhile, Big Blue Wind Farm LLC, an Exergy subsidiary, will own the wind farm. Northern States Power will buy the offtake, and the wind farm will provide power to approximately 20,000 homes per year, the company said.

The new wind project, as part of Faribault County's first commercial wind farm, will add 60 new local jobs, while enhancing Minnesota's reputation as a top state in wind capacity. Currently, the gopher state is sixth overall in wind capacity in the United States.

"This is a new collaboration that brings Gamesa's innovative wind turbine technology into Exergy's expanding renewable energy development portfolio, and it enables us to showcase a new turbine model that can increase the potential for wind development across the United States," David Rosenberg, Vice President of Marketing for Gamesa North America said in a statement.

Exergy's Dustin Shively, Lead Project Engineer on the Big Blue Project had this to say about the wind farm:

"The G97 is a very efficient turbine and perfect for this site. We are excited to be working with Gamesa and look forward to having the turbines installed and fulfilling our mission to provide wind energy to the Blue Earth community."

Source: Gamesa
Image Credit: Minnesota wind turbine image via Shutterstock

Solar Panel Market to Advance by 15.3% through 2015

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 04:55 AM PDT

A recent report released from publisher Infiniti Research points to further growth for the global solar panel industry.

The report finds advances in photovoltaic (PV) technologies will help the global solar panels market to increase by a compound annual growth rate of 15.3% between 2011 to 2015, the report said.

However, despite the upward trend due to better technology, the report also noted fluctuating solar energy availability across seasons could challenge further advances in the market.

“The increase in R&D was another major prevailing trend in the Global Solar Panels market. In addition to reduction in policies, there were also favorable policies and procedures that existed for boosting the Global Solar Panels market,” said one of the analysts from the authorizing publisher in the statement.

The regions covered in the report included: the Americas, Europe, Asia, along with the Middle East and Africa.

First Solar Inc., Suntech Power Holdings Co. Limited, Trina Solar Limited, and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Limited will be the key vendors who will control much of the market, the report noted.

Source: PR Newswire
Image Credit: Engineers Checking Solar Panels Image via Shutterstock

Philips Rolls Out Itty Bitty LED

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 04:50 AM PDT


Philips has produced a tiny new LED, small enough to mount 250 of them in one-square inch. These LEDs, called the LUXEON Z, can be mono-color or multi-color, in a full spectrum of colors including white.

The LUXEON Z is 80 percent smaller than traditional LEDS and is expected to be easily adapted to for various packaging and design purposes.

Source: Business Wire
Image: Courtesy of Philips

UC Davis Leads List of Most Sustainable Colleges in America

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 04:48 AM PDT

America's colleges and universities have become symbols of sustainability in recent years, investing in renewable electricity and energy efficiency to cut costs and appeal to green-minded students. But even among this crowd of teacher's pets, the University of California Davis leads the pack of most sustainable colleges in the country.

UC Davis vaulted to the top of the Sierra Club's sixth annual "Cool Schools" list from the 8th spot in 2011 by diverting around 70 percent of its trash from landfills, setting strict green purchasing standards, creating a sustainable transportation system that boasts up to 20,000 bikes on any given day, and inaugurating the largest planned net-zero energy residential community. The school also has plans in place to reduce emissions below 2000 levels and electrical use by 60 percent.

The "Cool Schools" list, open to all four-year undergraduate colleges and universities, ranked 96 schools that responded to a 300-page voluntary survey. Entries were evaluated based on criteria like energy sources, energy efficiency, purchasing, waste management, transportation, and financial investments.

The survey, officially called the Campus Sustainability Data Collector, was implemented for the first time in 2012 in order to standardize school responses and streamline the overall process. Several organizations contributed to the survey, including the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Sustainable Endowments Institute, and the Princeton Review.

A total of 894.5 points were required for "total sustainability" but no school achieved that lofty mark. UC Davis registered 709.17 points, and the rest of the top ten scored between 700 and 627 points. The full list of the top ten schools and their respective point totals are:

  1. University of California, Davis – 709.17 points
  2. Georgia Institute of Technology – 704.89 points
  3. Stanford University – 681.48 points
  4. University of Washington – 679.56 points
  5. University of Connecticut – 667 points
  6. University of New Hampshire – 653.36 points
  7. Duke University – 642.32 points
  8. Yale University – 640.08 points
  9. University of California, Irvine – 628.48 points
  10. Appalachian State University – 627.92 points

While they didn't take the top spot, the other schools within the top five reported notable achievements in 2011. Second-ranked Georgia Tech offers more than 260 sustainability-related classes, while third-ranked Stanford focuses on food issues with 20 classes on food policy and an extensive composting system. Fourth-ranked University of Washington sources more than half of its food within 250 miles of campus and has multiple renewable energy sources, and fifth-ranked University of Connecticut makes its marks with a facility that produces 15 truckloads of compost per week and recycling programs for everything from cell phones to sneakers.

The latest Cool Schools ranking follows up on another recent report from the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment that found hundreds of schools inventorying their carbon emissions, creating climate action plans, purchasing billions of kilowatt-hours of renewable energy credits.

Clearly, climate awareness and sustainability is taking off on American campuses, but even more impressive achievements may be ahead, led by the efforts of the students themselves. "These schools are channeling the enthusiasm of their students, who consistently cite climate disruption and environmental issues as the most serious challenges their generation must confront," said Bob Sipchen, Sierra magazine's editor-in-chief.

UC Davis image via

Solar Power Funding Healthy in Q2 Despite Industry Turmoil

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 04:44 AM PDT

Total funding in the solar energy sector amounted to more than $4.3 billion spread across 66 transactions in the second quarter of 2012, with strong results in venture capital funding, debt funding, and corporate funding in particular, according to a Mercom Capital Group report.

Mercom’s 2Q solar energy market research results are especially encouraging given reports "of solar companies downsizing or going out of business seemingly every day." That was the case for venture capital (VC) funding in Q2, for example, which at $376 million in 32 transactions was slightly higher than in Q1. The average size of VC investments in the solar energy sector has been dropping consistently since 2010, "with large VC deals becoming rare," Mercom points out in its “Solar Funding and M&A Q2 2012" report.

$3.2 Billion in New Solar-Focused Investment Funds, Decline in Large-Scale Project Funding

Also indicative of solar energy’s solid long-term fundamentals, 13 new clean tech and solar-focused investment funds with total capital commitments of more than $3.2 billion were announced in Q2, according to Mercom’s count. Ranking at the top of the list were Frankfurt-based Prime Capital’s $750 million Prime Renewables, which is targeting investments in Europe; US-based private equity firm Denham Capital Management, which is allocating as much as $600 million of capital in its Denham Commodity Partners Fund VI for renewable power companies; and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ (KPCB) 15h venture fund, dubbed "KPCB 15," which is focusing on making investments in early-stage digital consumer and enterprise, green technology, and life sciences companies.

Large-scale solar power project funding declined slightly quarter-over-quarter, totaling $1.4 billion in 13 transactions in Q2 as compared to $1.5 billion in Q1. Seven of the 13 large-scale solar power project funding announcements in Q2 were for solar PV, a combined funding total of $638 million. Concentrated solar power (CSP), also frequently referred to as solar thermal power, accounted for $543 million, while large-scale project funding for thin-film PV projects totaled $200 million.

The top large-scale solar power project fundings included the Moroccan Solar Agency, arranging $315 million of funding for its 160-MW Ouarzazate CSP project; the $172 million financing concluded by Luxcara for its 60-MW Briest Solar PV Park in Germany; and Sempra Energy raising $130 million for its 92-MW Copper Mountain 2 Solar Project. Other noteworthy Q2 solar power project financings were Abengoa raising $125 million for its Solana CSP Project, and Canadian Solar raising $122 million for solar power projects in Ontario.

The US accounted for the single-largest portion of large-scale solar power project financing in Q2, with five large-scale solar power projects funded for a total of $416 million in Q2. India ranked second with three project fundings concluded, and Israel third with two. Morocco ranked second in terms of dollar amounts at $315 million, and Israel was third, with $178 million having been raised to finance solar power projects in the second quarter.

Debt funding for solar energy spiked quarter-to-quarter in Q2, reaching $2.3 billion in 15 transactions compared to $239 million in six deals in Q1. Masraf Al Rayan invested $1 billion in debt securities of Qatar Solar Technologies, China Development Bank loaned $324 million to Yingli Green Energy, and China Development Bank and others extended Yingli another term loan of $237 million in Q2.

Investors, VCs Turn to Downstream Solar, Balance-of-System Investing

Looking at venture capital (VC) activity, "CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) and solar lease companies continue to be popular with investors," in Q2, according to Mercom. Top among VC deals were Nanosolar raising $70 million for its CIGS PV manufacturing and solar lease company SunRun raising $60 million.

Following other investors, VC firms are investing more in downstream solar companies. "Solar downstream companies are slightly ahead in VC funding with $251 million compared to $239 million raised by CIGS companies," as of mid-year, Mercom reported.

"Since 2011, most solar VC investments have gone to thin film companies with $835 million, and with panel prices falling more than 60 percent over the same period, solar downstream companies have been an attractive play," the report authors’ wrote. "In this quarter we are finally seeing VC investments catch up, with downstream receiving the most funding. Balance-of-system (BOS) companies also represent a significant opportunity for investment, innovation and cost reduction. With the fall in PV prices, BOS is now the largest slice of the solar system pie, but VC investments in BOS have been surprisingly low."

Solar Bankruptcies, Insolvencies, and M&A

Turning to solar energy mergers and acquisitions (M&A), Mercom tracked a total of 14 transactions in Q2, with only six disclosing a transaction total of $325 million. That’s a big drop when compared to Q1′s 14 M&A transaction total, which totaled nearly $5 billion.

Also on the downside, Mercom recorded 13 bankruptcies and insolvencies in Q2. Seven were thin-film companies. Another 16 companies announced restructurings and downsizings. Among the major bankruptcy announcements were those of Germany’s Q-Cells, Colorado’s Abound Solar, the German-US Solar Trust of America, and organic PV pioneer Konarka Technologies.

In contrast, solar project M&A increased in Q2, with 19 transactions totaling $437 million completed. That compares to 27 transactions totaling $423 million in Q1. Transaction amounts were disclosed for only eight of Q2′s 19 transaction total, Mercom reported.

Canadian Solar, acquiring 16 solar PV projects with a combined capacity of 200-MW for $181 million, topped the ranks of solar project M&A transactions in the second quarter, followed by Wattner’s $65 million acquisition of the Torno I, II, and III solar power plants, with a total capacity of 24 MW.

Also included among Q2′s top solar power project M&A transactions were Luxcara’s $61.6-million acquisition of EDF Energie Nouvelle’s 12-MW Beguey PV plant, NextEra Energy’s $50-million purchase of the proposed 1-GW Blythe Solar Project from Solar Trust of America, and ForVEI’s $43.8-million acquisition of Solaria’s 8-MW PV plant for $43.8 million.

Guide to the Best “Green” Cameras

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 02:45 AM PDT

In today's society, more people are choosing to focus on "green" products in an effort to help preserve our environment and natural resources. This mentality has even extended to the world of photography. There are now several cameras on the market that were either created with natural materials or do not use harmful chemicals. While some of the most well-known names in the business are getting involved in this green initiative, including Canon and Nikon, some products stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to how "green" they are. Read on to find out which ones you should keep in mind for the future.

Made in Japan, the Digicam is manufactured by Canon. This camera company is taking its cues from Japan itself, as the country is turning its focus toward living a greener lifestyle. At just under $200, the Digicam is affordable, disposable, and created with the pieces of old cellular phones. There are also big plans for this device in the future; Canon would like to create a lens that is also made from recycled parts. Currently, the Digicam functions well both inside and outsidethe home and features 8 megapixels.

The EVOLT E-410, which is made by Olympus, has a sticker price of almost $700, although you can purchase it previously owned on Amazon for just under $400. Not only was it manufactured with the environment in mind, but it also takes incredible pictures. The design of the device allows you to grip it easily and the display is crystal clear. Best of all, though, is the fact that the packaging was made with sustainable materials, and there is very little carbon footprint associated with the product. If you are interested in using a photography website builder to display your images, this camera should be one of your top choices.

Although it is not yet released, the DURUS digital camera is shaping up to be a very environmentally friendly option. Since it is manufactured from titanium, it can be recycled after it is no longer functional. Also, as it is being assembled, the DURUS camera isn't made with any harmful chemicals or products. However, there is no information yet on how much this camera will cost since it is currently unavailable.

If you want to be more environmentally conscious, there are a number of ways that you can get started. If you are interested in purchasing a new camera, either for yourself or for a gift, consider using the list above to help you pick one out. You have the ability to preserve both your memories and the environment at the same time.

Image credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by selva

Solar Boat Maker Opens in New York

Posted: 22 Aug 2012 12:10 AM PDT

The Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company has officially launched its new boat manufacturing facility in Rome, New York. A ceremonial fuel line was cut to symbolize their greener solar-electric powered boats.The company has its factory for assembling them on the Erie Canal, which is a fitting venue for testing and demonstrations.

One of the company’s main products is an eight-passenger, solar-assisted pontoon boat called the Loon. This vessel is 22 feet long and has a beam just over 7 feet. It is made of fiberglass and aluminum and has a 5.5 hp electric motor, which has been said to be equivalent in power to a 15 hp gas engine. The battery is a 48 volt 8 x 6 volt AGM deep cycle, with a 6-hour charging time at 115 volts or 4 hours at 220 volts. A rooftop solar array of 1,000 watts is built into the Loon, providing electricity for the batteries. The cruising speed is 7.5 miles an hour, with a range of about fifty miles per charge. Top speed is about 9.5 miles an hour.

The company currently has four employees and wants to add three more by the end of 2012. By the end of 2013, an additional six will be needed if all goes according to plan.

Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company’s new site is at Rod Mill, a location converted from an old mill to more modern facilities funded by a $1.3 million dollar investment from the city. Currently the boat company occupies a 3,000-square-foot warehouse, but the hope is to expand this space to 10,000.

Marine air pollution is a significant environmental and public health problem. Smog, particulate matter, and global warming emissions are all components of marine pollution. A research study by a Canadian scientist found orcas on the West Coast of North America could be exposed to higher levels of carbon monoxide than are found near Los Angeles freeways. Exposure to air pollution can harm their immune systems and cause other health problems.

If electric whale- and dolphin-watch tour boats can eventually replace conventional gas and diesel vessels, marine life will be spared such toxic exposures. The tourist experience would likely also improve because of the significant reduction of noise due to much quieter engines and the lack of petroleum-based fuel exhaust which can be nauseating to some people.

Image Credit: Ernest Mettendorf, Public Domain

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