Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

CleanTechnica Partners with TheGreenJobBank, #1 Green Jobs Site

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 07:30 PM PDT

green jobs partnershipYou may have noticed that we have partnered up with TheGreenJobBank, which seems to be the #1 green jobs website in the US. The partnership should make it easier for you (or others) to find good green jobs to help the world.

You can now search for green jobs via the “Green Job Search” widget on the left side of our site, via TheGreenJobBank.

For more on TheGreenJobBank’s leadership in this arena, here’s part of a recent post from its site:

I just finished a comparison of about 30 green job websites, and TheGreenJobBank comes up #1 in the USA, as ranked by Alexa.

We also have, by far –an order of magnitude higher, more green jobs than any other site. Compared to our 10,000, the closest behind us is Eco.org with 650. In fact, we have more green jobs than the total of all green jobs posted on all these sites!

I’m excited about this partnership! And hope you are, too.

ABB Lands $55 Million Eolicas do Sul Contract for Substation, Equipment Infrastructure

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 02:23 PM PDT

Relying heavily on hydro power to fuel socio-economic development, Brazil is increasingly looking to clean, renewable wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources to augment hydroelectric capacity and help meet growing demand for electricity and transportation. In turn, Brazil’s Eolicas do Sul is looking to ABB for electrical substation and transmission infrastructure equipment as it works to integrate more wind-generated electricity into Brazil’s electrical grid.

The Brazilian electric utility and wind power developer has placed a $55 million order with ABB to supply three new substations and associated transmission infrastructure in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul bordering Uruguay, the Swiss multinational announced late last week.

The project contract calls for ABB to supply, install and commission the substations — two turn-key 34.5/138-kV and one 138/500-kV — as well as step-up power transformers and air- and gas-insulated switchgear. The step-up transformers will increase the voltage of wind-generated electrical power so that it can be integrated within Brazil’s grid.


Building Out Brazil’s Wind Power Infrastructure

ABB is also to provision the substations with supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and telecommunications systems, as well as substation automation, control, and protection equipment compliant with IEC 61850 standards.

In addition, ABB is to provide and install two 138-kV overhead transmission lines that will integrate a new 400-MW wind power plant — one of the largest in the country — into Brazil’s national grid. The wind power plant is scheduled for completion in 2014.

More electricity is consumed in Brazil than in any other Latin American country — twice as much as neighboring Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, ABB adds. By way of broader perspective, at just over 100,000 MW, its installed electricity generation capacity is comparable to that of Italy or the United Kingdom.

At present, the 150-MW Osorio Wind Farm in Rio Grande do Sul is the largest wind power generation complex in Latin America, according to the Brazilian government. The wind power complex consists of three wind farms with a total of 75 2-MW wind turbines installed atop concrete towers 100-meters high.

A growing population — projected to reach 220 million by 2020 — and rapid industrialization is fueling rising demand for electricity in Brazil. The country’s expected electricity generation capacity requirement is forecast to grow to reach some 150,000 MW by 2020, ABB notes.

"These substations will help to integrate wind energy and boost power supplies to meet growing industrial, commercial and residential demand," commented Brice Koch, head of ABB's Power Systems division. "They will also reinforce the transmission grid and help improve reliability, efficiency and power quality."

Slowly, but Surely, Brazil Emerges as a Leading Market for Wind Power

Slowly but surely, Brazil is emerging as leading market for wind power, according to a study conducted by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and Brazilian Wind Energy Association (ABEEolica). Though wind power growth was small in absolute terms in Brazil in 2010, total installed wind power capacity rose 50% to reach the 1,000 MW threshold.

The Brazilian government’s PROINFA program, which was introduced in 2002, and regulated, regularly scheduled wind power project development auctions, which have taken place since 2009, have been keys to growth of installed wind power capacity in the country, the GWEC notes. As much as 5,000 MW of wind power could be installed in Brazil by year-end 2013, GWEC forecasts.

The Brazilian government’s taken actions to assure that the substantial economic and social benefits of promoting and fostering wind power and renewable energy growth are realized in the country itself.

Brazil’s national development bank, BNDES, shut five of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers out from the country’s $3.5 billion wind power market for failing to obtain the legally required 40% of wind turbine components from local suppliers, according to a July 20 Bloomberg report.

Acciona SA, Fuhrlaender AG, Vestas A/S, Siemens AG, and Suzlon Energy Ltd. are no longer eligible for BNDES financing, which effectively shuts them out of the Brazilian market, as such loans are the only source of funding for turbines. Unable to obtain BNDES loans to purchase wind turbines from the manufacturers, wind power project developers will either suspend construction on some projects or switch vendors, according to Bloomberg’s report.

Are the Batteries Ready? 100% Clean Energy Requires Progress on Storage

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 12:32 PM PDT

In the long run, there's no avoiding energy storage for a 100% renewable energy society. The two major sources of renewable power are wind and sun, and they are either fickle or reliably not available at night.

The problem is that the simplest energy storage option for electricity is batteries, and this image from Wikipedia (hat tip to Robert Rapier) illustrates a significant technical barrier: our simplest option is also among the least energy dense material we have.

There are two likely paths to a 100% renewable energy future in these circumstances: mass distribution of low-density, low-cost storage, or higher density storage.

In some respects, we're already moving along the first path. Widespread availability of battery-powered iPads and laptops has led to great strides in greater energy density of batteries and lower cost. The following chart (used in our Democratizing the Electricity System report) illustrates the changes in the past 15 years.

Electrified transportation is the next iteration, using batteries that are orders of magnitude larger (e.g. a Nissan Leaf battery with 23 kW-hour capacity has 300 times the storage capacity of a Macbook Pro laptop battery). These are 1st-generation commercial batteries, with enormous improvements in capacity and cost likely. Furthermore, with hundreds of millions of cars, the sheer storage capacity of the U.S. vehicle fleet will be tremendous (over 4 billion kilowatt-hours) as electric vehicles become the drive train standard. And a recent study has shown that the storage capacity of 2.1 million vehicles can enable an additional 10 gigawatts of wind power on the grid (in the Northwest).

The Germans, ever the clean energy integration leaders, with over 15% of their electricity sourced from wind and solar, have also looked at electricity to hydrogen storage (a look at the above chart suggests the energy density of hydrogen has some advantages).  While not as efficient as batteries (two-thirds of power is lost, compared to 10-20% round trip for batteries), the resulting hydrogen can be used in natural gas power plants to provide backup power or piped into the natural gas network for building heat.  It's not only flexible but it also could be useful because wind power in particular can peak during periods of low electricity use (nighttime).

The good (or bad, depending on your perspective) news for the U.S. is that renewable energy is such a small fraction of total electricity generation that energy storage isn't yet necessary in any significant quantity. Existing power plants have sufficient spare capacity to fill the gaps left by variable renewables. While this state of affairs doesn't endear the U.S. power industry to environmentalists, it does mean there is time to see storage technology improve.

I'm optimistic.

This post originally appeared on ILSR's Energy Self-Reliant States blog.

Biofuel Does Grow on Trees, Part Deux

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 12:27 PM PDT

Cornell researchers get biofuel from willow

So what if money doesn’t grow on trees? Researchers at Cornell University have set out to prove that biofuel can grow on willow shrubs, and if their current project bears out,… well you can take that to the bank.

As a commercially viable biofuel crop, shrub willows could put more than one million acres of underused land into production in New York State alone, providing farmers with a new, low-maintenance cash crop while pumping out renewable fuel, too.

A long and winding road for shrub willow biofuel

As with all woody biofuel crops, shrub willow has been facing some stiff obstacles in terms of commercial biofuel production. The primary goal of the research team has been to develop a species of willow shrub that can produce high yields on marginal land, and that project has been going on since 1998.

That’s nothing, according to Cornell researcher Larry Smart. Cited in a recent article by writer Sarah Thompson, he mentioned that “determining the precise genetic mechanisms that produce hybrid vigor has been a scientific challenge for a century.”

Fortunately, things began to heat up earlier this year with $950,000 in new funds for the breeding program from Cornell’s Northeast Sun Grant Institute, along with installation of a new boiler to heat two buildings at the school’s campus in upstate New York. The boiler will burn shrub willow biofuel produced on the campus.

The Sun Grant Institute is partly funded by federal agencies, which came through again last month with a grant of $1.37 million to study the yield and vigor of shrub willow hybrid. That research will leverage new information from the plant’s newly mapped genome.

Shrub willow biofuel and fracking

Aside from demonstrating that shrub willow for biofuel can be a viable cash crop, the new boilers will help show farmers that shrub willow cultivation is also an economical way to produce biofuel for use on the farm.

In that regard, the shrub willow program is part of a broader effort by Cornell and New York State to develop non-fossil fuel resources within the state’s borders. As with the state’s dairy farm biogas initiatives, the goal is to enable property owners to extract more cash from their land in a sustainable way, rather than leasing land for potentially harmful uses such as fracking operations (fracking is a natural gas drilling method that involves pumping chemical brine underground).

The fracking issue is a particularly urgent one for New York State, since upstate reservoirs located in rural areas provide virtually all of the drinking water for New York City, and for a number of upstate communities.

Water contamination from fracking is the main concern. The propensity of fracking to cause earthquakes is also a major concern for New York’s sprawling reservoir system, which involves enormous reservoirs and hundreds of miles of aqueducts.

Image: Some rights reserved by Magic Madzik.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

10 Things to Love About the Tesla Model S (video)

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 12:19 PM PDT

Any time people are happily stowed away in trunks and hoods, you can rest assured the car is a keeper. Konstantin Othmer’s video showcasing the ten things he loves about his Tesla Model S is cute and gives a good picture of what consumers get out of the vehicle. The music is a touch cheesy, but wait it out to see the rad door handles (yes, door handles) and sweet touchscreen on the dash that even Mr. Magoo could see clearly.

Source: Tree Hugger

Nova Scotia Building 3 New Wind Farms

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 12:17 PM PDT


Canadian Atlantic province Nova Scotia has recently given the green light on three commercial wind projects.

Announced on August 2nd by the Nova Scotia Power Advisory, the province's renewable energy body, the three projects announced include:

  • A 78-megawatt (MW) South Canoe wind project in between Chester and Windsor Nova Scotia, which will be run and operated by Oxford Frozen Foods.
  • Another South Canoe wind project, this time totaling 24 MW, will be run by Minas Paper Pulp and Power in Lunnenburg County.
  • Lastly, a 13.8-MW wind farm near Canso, Nova Scotia, and operated by the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.

The three projects will help bring the province’s wind power capacity to 500 MW, while helping to reach the province’s 25% renewable energy target by 2015. Nova Scotia also plans to have 40% of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2020.

The news was a positive step by officials to create economic investment in the province.

“These large wind projects will result in C$200 million in private sector investments that will, in turn, help us meet our cleaner energy agenda,” said Nova Scotia Energy Minister Charlie Parker in a statement.

“Nova Scotia has one of the best wind regimes in North America,” Parker said. “The wind itself is free, and the cost of building wind farms can be spread over many years. The result is a stabilizing effect on electricity rates,” he said.

Source: Government of Nova Scotia
Image Credit: Nova Scotia Wind Turbine via Shutterstock

India’s Leading Institutions Plan Carbon-Free Transport for Cities

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 12:11 PM PDT

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) University, and Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D) will work together to make Udaipur, Rajkot, and Vishakhapatnam low-carbon cities. This will be the first transportation project to be financed by the United Nations Environment Project (UNEP).

The institutes will work together to coordinate policies at the national level to achieve a sustainable transport system and enhance capacity of cities to improve mobility with lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Methodologies for appropriate infrastructure and technology options for emission reductions will also be developed by studying the freight movement in each city.

The Ministry of Environment & Forests and the Ministry of Urban Development have jointly launched a project — ‘Promoting Low Carbon Transport in India’ — which will push for low-carbon public transportation in cities across India.

CEPT will focus on inclusiveness and mobility; IIT-D will handle the technological aspects; and IIM-A will make an integrated plan for low-carbon, pollution-free transport system in these cities.

The project will also create an online network for information sharing and coordination to facilitate better cooperation among stakeholders and to encourage public engagement.

India's transport sector is the second-largest contributor of carbon dioxide emissions. Increased vehicular use in recent years has led to increase in congestion, accidents, noise, and local air pollution, particularly in urban areas. Initiatives like this will help to create a model pathway for low-carbon transport in India that can serve as an inspiration to other developing countries.

Image: Abubiju/Wikimedia Commons

The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only

Ukraine to Achieve 1,800 MW Solar Power Capacity by 2016

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 12:01 PM PDT

According to recent forecasts from Macquarie Research, Ukraine will increase its solar power capacity by 400 MW in 2012. The current solar capacity of Ukraine stands at 200 MW.  The research gathered information from various sources, like the European Photovoltaic Association, Germany's Solarbuzz, and many other sources.

Analysts are of a view that, by 2016, Ukraine will construct and commission new solar PV facilities with cumulative capacity of 1.8 GW, which is equivalent to the capacity of two nuclear reactors.

According to Macquarie Research’s estimates, Ukraine, which was included for the first time in the forecast, will put in operation 400 MW of new PV capacity each in 2012 and 2013 and 500 MW capacity each in 2014 and 2015.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, Ukraine constructed and commissioned more than 20 solar power plants with a total capacity of over 270 MW. In particular, at the end of last year it launched the Perove solar farm of over 105 MW in Crimea, which is the largest solar park in Europe and the CIS.

A draft law, “On Introducing Changes to the Law of Ukraine on the Power Sector," was adopted by the Ukranian parliament last month. According to the new law, private households can sell surplus solar electricity to the grid — Ukrainian power supply companies will be obliged to buy excess electricity from households generated from rooftop solar systems up to 16 kW in size. Households will not be required to obtain a license for electricity production. This law is expected to provide impetus for the development of solar energy in Ukraine.

Solar panels via Waynenf

The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only

Agri-Cube: Your Driveway is a High-tech Urban Farm (w/ Video)

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 12:00 PM PDT

From homemade honey to home-brewed beer to homegrown vegetables, more and more people are turning to urban and suburban farming to meet their personal demands for sustainable, organic produce. It’s a good thing. Unfortunately, some neighborhoods and homeowner’s associations feel differently. Combine legal hurdles with fickle weather, drought, pests, and theft, and you can see that urban farming can sometimes be more work than expected. That’s where the Agri-Cube comes in.

The Agri-Cube is a POD-sized hydroponic “office” designed by engineers from Japan to produce the maximum number of all-weather veggies with a minimum space requirement, and it comes complete with variable lighting and climate control.

Each one of these efficient Agri-Cube food factories can yield 10,000 fruits and vegetables per year, and provides everything plants need to grow, from lighting that can be adjusted for each type of plant to water recycling (which helps to reduce the Cube’s environmental footprint).

The Cubes run on electricity, of course, but can be equipped to make use of solar panels to generate the electricity needed to run the system. Something like the SolarKiosk‘s panels should do the trick.

You can get a sense of how the Agri-Cube works in the video, below.

The Agri-Cube is expected to cost about 70,000 USD, and is initially being marketed to restaurants, hospitals, hotels, and other businesses that can benefit from a local, consistant source of vegetables. As for me, I’d definitely welcome a few freshly-grown vegetable during the chilly Chicago holidays… all I need now is about $70,000!

Source: DigInfo, via Treehugger

Solar Bench Takes Office Work Outdoors

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 11:58 AM PDT


It always seems that when the weather is perfect, you just can’t tear yourself away from the computer screen because of work.

Here’s some good news for college students and worker bees from Green Sun Rising: a solar bench that can charge electronics while providing shade.

The cedar and aluminum shelter has thin-film solar panels to catch the rays, and a battery to store excess power for cloudy days. The solar bench makes being locked in a white collar dungeon inexcusable.

Source: Tree Hugger
Image via Green Sun Rising 

New Record Efficiency for Next-Gen Solar Cells

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 11:50 AM PDT

A major breakthrough has been made in the development of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films, leading to the most efficient CQD solar cell ever.

A prototype of the U of T-made colloidal quantum dot solar cell.

The new solar cell was created out of very inexpensive materials, and has been certified at a world-record 7.0% efficiency. That’s a 37% increase in efficiency over the previous record holder.

“Previously, quantum dot solar cells have been limited by the large internal surface areas of the nanoparticles in the film, which made extracting electricity difficult,” said Dr. Susanna Thon, a lead co-author of the paper. “Our breakthrough was to use a combination of organic and inorganic chemistry to completely cover all of the exposed surfaces.”

Quantum dots are semiconductors that are a few nanometres in size and can be used to generate electricity from the entire solar spectrum, visible and invisible wavelengths. And CQD films can be created very quickly and cheaply, in a way similar to paint or ink.

–> You can read more about this news on Page 2.


Study Finds CFLs Damaging to Human Skin

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 11:44 AM PDT

A study out of Stony Brook University found that compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs can damage human skin because of the UV emitted by them. The study is a repeat of a European test which looked at the levels of UV coming through cracks in phosphor coatings on all CFL bulbs.

The researches noted that incandescent bulbs did not affect healthy skin cells.

To combat the harmful emissions from CFLs, researchers suggested avoiding the use of the bulbs at close distances and adding a glass covering.

Source: Stony Brook University News
Image: gillmar via Shutterstock

10 Ways You Can Use Solar Panels to Help You Save or Make Money

Posted: 06 Aug 2012 02:00 AM PDT

Here’s a fun post from the folks over at Compare Electricity Prices (image added):

solar panel image

Solar panel image via Shutterstock

Whether it's the rising cost of energy, a desire to go green, or a little bit of both, you're considering installing solar panels in your home. Good for you. The advantages and savings can be significant and quickly offset the installation cost. Let's take a look at ten ways to leverage solar panels to reduce your electric bill:

  1. The federal government offers incentives that help offset the cost of installation, so that a consumer can realize energy savings more quickly. This means lower energy cost in a shorter time frame.
  2. Solar panels can be used to generate a portion of your home's power in order to reduce your dependency on traditional power sources. For instance, you can install panels to provide electricity just for appliances or lighting, to reduce your dependency on the utility company, as well as lower your bill.
  3. With solar panels as an alternate power source, you can negotiate a more favorable rate with your local electric company in many cases. Since your consumption will be lower, and your home is more energy efficient, you may qualify for lower rates.
  4. Feed-in tariffs, which are government-induced incentives for energy providers to switch to alternative, renewable energy sources. This can include homeowners, which means you can sell surplus energy generated by your solar panels back to the electric grid.
  5. Power Purchase Agreements (PPA's) allow homeowners to lease equipment from a private company for use in generating electricity, and the company then sells surplus electricity to its customer at a lower price than the local utility. This also gives the homeowner an option that alleviates the expense of installing his own equipment.
  6. Net Metering is another policy that works to the advantage of homeowners using solar power. Electric meters will measure your electricity production as well as your consumption, and calculate the difference. So as you generate electricity with you solar panels, you are in essence banking credit with you local electric company.
  7. While not a direct savings on your electric bill, there is another financial benefit from solar powering your home. The resale value of your home will increase by as much as 20% with the installation of solar panels.
  8. Heating bills can be reduced by using your solar panels to provide the power to your home heating system. Your savings on heating costs versus using conventional electricity can reap you substantial financial rewards.
  9. Another option is to connect your water heater to the solar panel array you've installed. You'll have the added benefit of knowing that you can still take a hot shower, in your comfortably warm home in the event of a winter power outage.
  10. There are numerous DIY kits available to consumers which will guide you in building your own solar panels with surprisingly little effort or expense. This can greatly reduce your initial cost, which in turn brings you to profitability that much sooner.

Say No to Gasoline: Fuel Freedom’s Methanol Cars to Run in Rescheduled Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb

Posted: 05 Aug 2012 12:36 PM PDT


Nonprofit Organization Advocates Alternative Fuels Sponsoring Six-Time Winner Paul Dallenbach in the August 12th Race

Fuel Freedom is sponsoring Paul Dallenbach’s methanol-powered car in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Photo by Joel Yust

Run a racecar with the sustainable fuel methanol and there's good reason to watch. Next weekend in Colorado, the annual Pike's Peak Hill Climb takes place and two of its competitors will be driving methanol-powered cars that have been backed by Fuel Freedom, a nonpartisan campaign to check American oil dependency by backing flexible fuels such as methanol, which was used successfully in California until 2005.

Originally scheduled for July 8, the race was postponed due to the devastating Waldo Canyon wildfire that was taking place.

“Our hearts go out to those affected by the recent wild fires, and we are grateful that the Pikes Peak race is going forward as planned," said Eyal Aronoff, co-founder of the nonprofit Fuel Freedom Foundation, based in Irvine, CA. "This race is important for Fuel Freedom because it demonstrates that professional drivers prefer methanol, ethanol and electricity over gasoline. If they are free to choose what fuel to put in their cars, why can't you have this choice when we drive up to the pump?"

Fuel Freedom supports the opening of markets to competition from alternative fuels and is sponsoring methanol-powered cars driven by six-time PPIHC winner Paul Dallenbach and his nephew, Wyatt Dallenbach, in the rescheduled 90th running of the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb.

As written before at CleanTechnica, in major races like the Indianapolis 500, methanol is a standard fuel. This year the list of alternative fuel competitors has expanded. For the first time at the Pike's Peak starting gate, another non-fossil fuel entrant will compete: an electric-powered racecar. It will be driven by last year's winner, Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima of Japan.

According to Fuel Freedom, unlike gasoline — which is produced from oil — methanol (wood alcohol) can be made from various feedstocks, including wood pulp, natural gas, plus agricultural and municipal waste.

In a press announcement, Freedom Fuel adds: "However, regulatory and commercial barriers prevent American car owners from using methanol fuel in their vehicles. If these barriers were lifted, fuels such as methanol, natural gas, ethanol and electricity could compete on equal footing with gasoline. Consumers could have $2-a-gallon fuel, and a choice over what they purchase at the pump."

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, located 10 miles west of Colorado Springs, CO features a 12.42-mile course, which includes 156 turns, starting at an elevation of 9,390 feet and ending at the peak's 14,110-foot summit, where the song America the Beautiful was penned.

Sources: Fuel Freedom, Business Wire
Photo: Joel Yust

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