Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Minnesota Vikings, Juhl Wind Score a Huge Renewable Energy Touchdown

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 09:30 AM PDT

With the National Football League season officially underway, yet another team has scored a renewable energy touchdown.

This time it's the Minnesota Vikings, and this one’s big.

Image Credit: Mall of America Metrodome, via Shutterstock

Juhl Wind Inc, well-known for its commitment to community wind power, is teaming up with the Minnesota Vikings to tackle clean energy supply at Viking home games this NFL season.

Juhl will supply renewable energy credits (RECs) from one of their wind energy plants. This will counteract the energy consumed at games this year at the Mall of America Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The total amount of energy ‘provided’ by Juhl during this football year will hit 520,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh), cutting 507,520 pounds of carbon emissions.

“The renewable energy produced will offset all the electricity used throughout Mall of America Field — from the concession stands and ticket offices, to the field lighting and scoreboards making the Vikings one of the only NFL teams to play in a 100% green-powered facility during the entire 2012-2013 season,” said President of Jul Wind Inc, Corey Juhl, in a statement.

Minnesota Vikings officials are hoping this encourages Minnesota residents to move towards clean energy.

“We are very pleased to partner with Juhl Wind on this renewable energy initiative for the stadium.  The Minnesota Vikings are committed to becoming more environmentally friendly and utilizing renewable energy resources whenever possible.  We certainly encourage other households and businesses in Minnesota to participate alongside us," added Vikings Vice-President of Sales and Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix.

For your curiosity RECs become available when renewable energy is available at various renewable energy plants. The credits are then bought to offset consuming energy somewhere else. When RECs are bought at the same amount of energy used, this means the electricity consumed is essentially put on the power grid from a renewable source. RECs also help finance future renewable energy development.

The NFL has used RECs in the past, with its biggest game being the Super Bowl last February.

It’s nice to see pro football clubs leading the charge on renewable energy use. Here is hoping more teams continue to score more touchdowns for clean energy.

Source: PR Newswire

Tesco Opens First (almost) Totally LED Store

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 09:00 AM PDT


Tesco, the UK–based supermarket giant, is zeroing in on becoming a zero carbon emitter. This week, Tesco opened one of its Express supermarkets in Loughborough fully outfitted with LED lighting.

The company said it hopes to save 30% on energy costs, compared to similar stores. Tesco Environmental Programme Manager Emmily Sj√∂lander told the UK’s Business Green: “We have recognised that through the use of LED light fittings we can dramatically reduce energy usage, particularly at Express stores due to their smaller size and lower ceiling height.”

All external signs and interior areas of the store are sporting LED lights, with the exception of the bakery oven where the temperatures are too high.

Tesco is trying to become carbon neutral by 2050 and has opened “Zero Carbon” stores in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Powys, Cefn Mawr, and Dublin.

Source: Business Green
Image: JuliusKielaitis via Shutterstock 

National Bike Challenge Ends with 30K Riders Going 12 Million Miles

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 08:30 AM PDT


The 2012 National Bike Challenge came to an end August 31, with a whopping 30,000 riders pedaling 12 million miles over four months.

The Challenge, sponsored by Kimberly-Clark Corporation, League of American Bicyclists, Endomondo, and Bikes Belong, included some lighthearted online competition between states, communities, universities, workplaces, and individual riders.

Vermont took first place in the states contest, with Burlington taking the top community ranking. Wisconsin took second place and Nebraska came in third.

See a complete list of Bike Challenge winners Bike Challenge news release.

Source: League of American Bicyclists
Image: Angelo Giampiccolo via Shutterstock

300,000 Jobs and $200 Billion Economic Potential from U.S. Offshore Wind

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 08:00 AM PDT

America has some of the best offshore wind resources in the world — especially along the Atlantic coastline. But while the promise is massive, zero turbines are currently spinning in U.S. waters.

Fortunately, federal and state governments have made significant progress toward the first offshore turbines and have put America at a turning point toward harnessing the more than 1,300 gigawatts (GW) of energy generation potential identified along our coasts. Harnessing a realistic fraction of offshore wind's potential — 52GW — could power 14 million homes with clean electrons while creating over 300,000 new jobs and $200 billion in new economic activity in some of our biggest cities.

These findings come from "The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy," a new report from the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF) outlining the energy and economic benefits offshore wind could create in the U.S., highlighting progress made to date, and detailing policy action needed to realize the industry's potential.

Federal Policy + State Action = Turbines

While it seems like offshore wind has been touted for years, the future is closer to reality than ever before. The federal government has designated over 2,000 square nautical miles of federal waters with high wind speeds and low potential conflicts for wind energy, with leases expected by the end of 2012.

These areas dovetail with efforts across 10 states comprising much of the Atlantic seaboard to promote offshore wind and streamline the leasing process. In addition, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have set offshore wind energy generation goals for their states.

The result of all this policy action has been a host of proposals. The oft-delayed Cape Wind project off Massachusetts is expected to begin construction in 2013, and the federal government is currently reviewing lease applications for a utility-scale project in New York, a floating turbine pilot project in Maine, and the Atlantic Wind Connection undersea transmission line. In addition, wind farm proposals are advancing in Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Grid Reliability and Price Benefits

Beyond creating new jobs and economic activity building and operating all these new turbines, plugging offshore wind into our nation's grid can increase reliability and lower utility prices. Offshore winds blow strongest during the day and in heat waves – precisely the points when demand for electricity is highest and the risk of power shortages most acute.

In addition, the greatest potential wind power lies along some of the East Coast's biggest cities. Grid congestion has constrained the ability of cheaper power to reach these demand pools and created some of the highest power prices in the country. But if these population centers could tap into steady electricity being generated just offshore, growing demand could be met cheaply. In fact, New York State's grid operator recently found consumers save $300 million in wholesale electricity costs for every 1GW of wind on the grid.

Global Competition to Lead the Industry

Looking past our shores, the global economic stakes couldn't be higher. Europe's offshore wind boasts 4 GW of capacity, powers 4 million homes, and employs 40,000 with 300,000 total jobs forecast by 2020. Meanwhile, China has 260 megawatts (MW) of capacity currently built and plans 30GW by 2020 – enough to power 10 million homes. Statistics like these illustrate how our opportunity to lead the offshore wind industry slips away with each day of inaction.

So how can America harness the power of the wind? NWF has outlined four steps for federal and state policymakers to follow:

  1. Set goals for offshore wind energy development in the Atlantic Ocean and renewable energy generation across the U.S.
  2. Target tax credit, procurement, and funding actions to level the playing field for offshore wind.
  3. Ensure offshore wind projects are sited, constructed, and operated responsibly.
  4. Increase stakeholder coordination and public engagement.

"America's Atlantic coast has some of the best offshore wind energy resources in the world, the technology to harvest it is ready right now, and we have workers ready to do the job," said Catherine Bowes, NWF senior manager for new energy solutions. "We need to take advantage of this golden opportunity to make our electricity supply cleaner, more wildlife-friendly, and more secure."

Offshore wind turbine photo via Shutterstock

Benefits of Thorium Are ‘Overstated’, UK Report Finds

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 07:30 AM PDT

Thorium nuclear has often been argued for as a solution to the world’s energy problems. It’s proponents say that it is safer and cheaper than the uranium that powers normal nuclear reactors. However, a newly released government report in the UK says that the supposed benefits of thorium are “overstated.” (Coincidentally, we’ve had some pretty active discussions this week on two CleanTechnica posts regarding thorium.)


The new UK report suggests that the UK continues to be involved with the technology, but that many of the claims made by thorium proponents are exaggerated. Specifically, the claims that it is impossible to build a bomb with the nuclear waste from thorium, that it doesn’t leaves toxic waste, and that it is more efficient, are singled out as overemphasized.

“Thorium has theoretical advantages regarding sustainability, reducing radiotoxicity and reducing proliferation risk,” states the report, prepared for the Department of Energy and Climate Change by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL). “While there is some justification for these benefits, they are often overstated.”

Part of the reason that the NNL is ‘pessimistic’ about the technology comes from the fact that UK utility companies are not willing to invest the money into the research and development necessary to “draw out thorium’s advantages.”

“Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that worldwide there remains interest in thorium fuel cycles and this is not likely to diminish in the near future,” the report concludes. “It may therefore be judicious for the UK to maintain a low level of engagement in thorium fuel cycle research and development by involvement in international collaborative research activities.”

The report also makes a note of the fact that thorium’s possible advantages over conventional nuclear would only be clear when used in reactor types other than the conventional solid-fuel, water-cooled reactors that are used in nearly all of the world’s commercial nuclear electricity stations.

“In particular, a design known as a very high temperature reactor is ‘especially well suited to thorium fuels,’ NNL states. The old UK Atomic Energy Authority built and operated an experimental thorium-fueled high temperature at Winfrith in the 1960s and 70s. The reactor, nicknamed Dragon, is partially decommissioned.”

There are several other projects underway outside of the UK. In America, Flibe Energy is creating a thorium reactor that is based on designs developed in the 1960s by the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

In Asia, China and India are both developing the technology. The latter is likely to begin construction on one that uses solid thorium fuel in the next four or five years.

“Thorium is an abundant, mildly radioactive element that occurs naturally around the world. The largest reserves exist in Australia, the US, Turkey, India, Brazil and Venezuela, according to the World Nuclear Association.”

In summary, in solid-fuel, water-cooled reactors thorium nuclear reactors (which some countries are working on) still produce a waste product that lasts an extremely long time and is very toxic; are an an easy terrorist target or source of bomb-making ingredients; and don’t seem economically efficient to develop.

High-temperature, liquid-fuel nuclear reactors may solve the problems above, but they have not been tested nearly as much, and there has never been commercialization of such a reactor.

Other unstated downfalls of at least some (if not all) thorium reactors include: extreme susceptibility to disasters, including droughts; and truly unknown longterm effects on life via the regular releases of very small quantities of radioactive elements.

The full National Nuclear Laboratory report can be accessed on the UK’s Department of Climate Change & Energy website.

Source: Guardian
Image Credits: Thorium Crystal via Wikimedia Commons

‘Energy Orb’ Device Made That Forces You To Exercise In Order To Use Your Computer

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Designed to appeal to those that work long hours on the computer without remembering to take breaks to exercise, stretch, and relax, designers Janko Hofmann and Fabian Pammer have created a device that will ‘force’ them to take breaks.


The Personal Energy Orb is a small ‘orb’ that attaches to your computer and to your bike. When you are at home, you can attach it to your computer and it then moderates the speed of the mouse’s movement. When it’s low on energy, the mouse begins to move slower until it is recharged via biking.

“Move it from your computer to your bike, and it recharges as you pedal. In other words, exercise breaks become mandatory for computer use, rather than the ‘should do’ task that you really end up skipping most of the time,” Jaymi Heimbuch of TreeHugger writes.

“Of course, the renewable energy feature of the Personal Energy Orb that allows it essentially to charge the mouse through pedal power is neat,” Jaymi adds.

Source: TreeHugger
Image Credits: Vimeo screen capture

iPhone 5 — Is It ‘Green’?

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 06:30 AM PDT

The iPhone 5 was announced by Apple yesterday. The new phone was given some pretty noticeable upgrades and changes, but is it ‘green’ to buy a new phone every year? Is the iPhone 5 itself ‘greener’ than its predecessors?

The major upgrades are a larger 4-inch Retina display, a thinner overall device, and a host of new features and design changes. Some of these changes make it slightly more green, but others, definitely not.

One of the main pros of the new phone is that it uses a faster and much more efficient processing chip, the new A6 chip is nearly twice as fast as the old chip, but it also is much more efficient in its power use.

As a result, the battery life is expected to improve to the equivalent of “8 hours of 3G talk time, 8 hours of 3G browsing, 8 hours of LTE browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 10 hours of video playback, 40 hours of music playback, and 225 hours of standby time. That’s a nice increase compared to the 4S, which comparatively offered 6 hours of 3G browsing, 9 hours of Wi-Fi and 200 hours of standby time,” Megan Treacy of TreeHugger reports.

Another nice improvement is in its durability — they are switching back to a metal back rather than the glass one used for the last couple of models. This should go a long way to decrease the waste from easily broken phones.

There is also a better camera. “While it’s the same megapixels as the improved 4S camera, the new camera is supposed to be better in low lighting situations, have reduced noise, be 40 percent faster and also offers a panorama feature. If it hasn’t already, this could mark the full replacement of a point and shoot camera for iPhone users, which means one less gadget being consumed.”

The cons are all pretty significant though, many leading to greatly increased waste.

“The only major hardware change that makes it to the con list is a pretty significant one. The new, smaller dock connector renders all existing speaker docks, accessories, and charger/syncing cables using the previous 30-prong design obsolete. Apple says it will offer an adapter and adapter cables for $19 to $39, but most likely we’re going to see a bunch of ditched speaker docks and cables. Accessory makers like Bose, JBL, and Bowers have stated they’re already working on new models to work with the redesign.”

If you are going to be replacing your phone for the new model, I, like Megan, strongly encourage that you recycle your old phone by “reselling it to one of the many sites that are itching to pay you cash for your old model, like Gazelle, NextWorth and ReCellular.” As Megan adds: “While you’re at it, resell any of your 30-prong accessories too. Electronic resellers pay more when you include cables and chargers and eBay is always a good option for speaker docks and larger accessories. Keeping these items in the consumer stream extends their life and prevents them from becoming e-waste and gives other people a used option to buy instead of a new one having to be manufactured.”

Still, the question remains: is it green to upgrade your phone every year? I think the jury is still out on that one.

Source: TreeHugger
Image Credits: Apple

$3.5 Billion Wind Power Line Approved for Oklahoma

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 06:00 AM PDT

The Plains and Eastern Clean Line wind power transmission line in Oklahoma was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Wednesday to start acquiring customers for its potential 7,000 MW of clean energy.

This line will be approximately 800 miles in length and is a high-voltage direct current transmission project. The new line is being developed in order to send clean energy generated by wind farms in western Oklahoma, southwest Kansas, and the Texas Panhandle to customers in the Mid-South and Southeast.


The project will be managed in two 3,500-megawatt phases. The first phase is under development. Such a transmission line is necessary to uncork the renewable energy potential of the region, because the existing electrical grid is not equipped to efficiently transmit new power sources.

It has been estimated about 10,000 jobs will be created as a result of the project being constructed. Additionally, 1,000 jobs will be generated for maintenance and operation of both the new power line and the wind farms connected to it.

The line could be finished by late 2017, and associated wind farms built from start to finish in just two years. The 7,000-MW project, if completed, could reduce CO2 levels by the same amount as removing two million cars from operation would, it has been estimated. Another estimate pegs the potential number of homes powered by the huge project at about two million. Another estimated huge benefit is the savings of 400 billion gallons of water annually that would have been used for the cooling of thermal power plants had they been used instead of the new wind farms and power line.

Oklahoma will have 3 GW of wind power installed by 2012, which will put the state three years ahead of its goal of generating 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2015. Somehow, it doesn’t seem this very important story will make the national evening news, but it should.

Image Credit: James Fleeting from Wichita Falls, USA, Wiki Commons

Americans Want More Public Transit Options, Not More Highways, Study Finds

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 05:30 AM PDT

A bipartisan poll of 800 Americans shows that most want more transportation options, think their community would benefit from improved public transport, and support local investment in public transit. Who wants to spend hours alone in their car, burning expensive, dirty gasoline? Fewer and fewer of us.

Americans sound like they are ready and willing to support public transport, according to these stats:

  • 59 percent of Americans feel the transportation system is “outdated, unreliable and inefficient.”
  • 63 percent think traffic should be addressed by improving public transit.
  • 68 percent support local investment in public transport improvements, including 39 percent supporting it “strongly.”
  • 64 percent say their community would benefit from an expanded and improved public transportation system, such as rail and buses.

And they when compared to driving and roadbuilding options, citizens clearly favor transit:

  • 59 percent would like more transportation options so they have the freedom to travel other than by driving.
  • 63 percent (more than three in five Americans) would rather address traffic by improving public transportation (42 percent) or developing communities where people do not have to drive as much (21 percent) – as opposed to building new roads, an approach preferred by only one in five Americans (20 percent).
  • 67 percent favor setting new standards for local planning that guide new development into existing cities and or near public transportation.

The poll was conducted via telephone and with focus groups in Charlotte, Raleigh, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.

Source: NRDC
Image: Alan49 via Shutterstock

Time to Move onto Flying Cars, Tesla Investor Tells Big Auto Companies

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 05:00 AM PDT


Tim Draper, the founder of venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and one of the original and primary financial backers of Tesla when it began, said that with the release of the Model S and the continued expansion of their electric vehicle line, Detroit’s ‘Big 3′ automakers should give up on the electric car market and move onto flying cars or something.

“The Model S is Tesla’s most crucial launch and it has said the vehicle will account for 90 percent of its revenue this year. Tesla has said it expects to deliver 5,000 Model S sedans by year end and 20,000 in 2013, compared to the 13,500 Volts and about 4,230 Leafs GM and Nissan have sold to date.”

Source: Reuters
Image Credit: Model S via Wikimedia Commons

Motor Trend Attempts LA-to-Las Vegas Drive in Model S EV on One Charge

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 04:30 AM PDT

Editors at Motor Trend were recently loaned a Tesla electric car to put to the test, so that they could determine whether or not it lives up to the manufacturer’s extraordinary claims. They were allowed to keep it for 3 days, so they attempted an LA-to-Las Vegas drive in the Model S… without recharging it.

Tesla Model S.

The Tesla Model S gets an EPA estimated 265 miles range per charge, and Tesla Motors claims that it travels up to 300 miles.

The test drivers made the trip without air conditioning and at relatively low speeds (as little as 52 mph on the freeway, but they cruised at 65 mph). They made the 211-mile trip from the outskirts of Los Angeles to Las Vegas, realizing before the end that they had a fair bit of range to spare, so they turned the air conditioner on near the end. It was simply too hot! (104°).

Here is a map of the area. The purple line is not necessarily the path chosen by the Motor Trend editors, but it is what Google suggested:

View Larger Map

Factors Affecting Range

In the video, they said the range plummeted as their altitude approached 4,000 feet, but they were going uphill. Driving uphill is not equivalent to driving at a high altitude. Altitude is simply distance from the surface of the earth and doesn’t greatly affect EV range.

Uphill driving certainly will affect range, because energy has to be used the whole time to keep the vehicle moving uphill, unlike a trip on a level surface which enables it to coast (due to its inertia), which actually lets them regain some of the energy that they used to accelerate.

This efficiency rule applies to all types of cars — use it!

Gasoline-powered cars are affected by altitude because of the fact that air density decreases as altitude increases, and the engines are not able to consume as much air. Electric vehicles don’t need air, so they should not be affected by altitude.

Slow traffic, which was encountered near the end of the trip also affects electric vehicle range, in two ways. 1) The more time the vehicle is at rest with the air conditioner on, the more electricity is wasted. 2) Stop and go traffic allows the regenerative breaking to do its magic. Which trumped the other in this story, I’m not sure.

It would have been much more realistic to make the trip with the air conditioner on, and at a higher speed, but hey, they did accomplish their goal!

Source: Autoblog Green

L.A. Solar Power Video Contest! (Chance to Win $1,500)

Posted: 14 Sep 2012 04:00 AM PDT

Have a camera and a creative spark? You can join the fun and try winning a significant cash prize while making the case for clean solar power for Los Angeles.

Or, think a friend, colleague, school group, church group or other aspiring Spielberg or Scorcese might be  interested? Let them know about the contest!

We’re looking for short videos that will help us  engage, amuse or inspire Angelenos and our public officials to help make L.A. America's #1 solar city.

A guest panel of Hollywood judges and public online voting will determine the top three videos. We’ll show the winners online and at a special event.


  • First Prize – $1,500
  • Second Prize – $750
  • Third Prize – $250
  • People’s Choice Award – free publicity of your work

The contest is open to all California residents—young and old, novices and experienced filmmakers alike, individuals and teams. If you've got a creative idea, then it's time to call "Sunlight! Camera! Action!"

Go to for the contest rules and entry.

The deadline for submitting your video is September 21, 2012.

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