Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

US Underestimates Costs of Carbon Pollution and Climate Change, Study Finds

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 06:22 AM PDT


WASHINGTON (September 14, 2012) – The federal government is significantly underestimating the costs of carbon pollution because it is using a faulty analytical model, according to a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.

A more appropriate accounting of costs would pave the way to cleaner, more economically efficient sources of power generation, the study found.

"This is a wake-up call for America to start aggressively investing in low carbon sources of energy. The very real economic benefits will accrue quickly and increase over time," said Dr. Laurie Johnson, chief economist in the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"With approximately 40 percent of all carbon emissions in the U.S. coming from power plants, the economic advantages of clean electricity sources are significant," she said.

Johnson, who co-authored the study with Chris Hope (University of Cambridge, Judge Business School), "The Social Cost of Carbon in U.S. Regulatory Impact Analyses," (http://www.springerlink.com/content/863287021p06m441/fulltext.pdf), said the model used by the government is incomplete because it all but ignores the economic damages that climate change will inflict on future generations. That model was the product of an interagency task force comprised of six cabinet agencies and six executive branch offices.

The real benefits of carbon reduction range from 2.6 to more than 12 times higher than the government's estimate.

"It turns out that the price we now pay for energy is much higher than what shows up on our electric bills or the tab at the gas pump," Johnson said.

Without properly accounting for pollution costs, natural gas appears to be the cheapest generation option for new power plants. However, as Johnson writes here in her blog (which will be available at 6am Monday) the revised estimates show, after incorporating the economic costs of carbon and other pollutants from fossil fuel generation, building new generation using wind and solar power would be more cost effective than either natural gas or coal.

Supplementary analysis by one of the authors shows even greater gains from replacing existing coal plants with new wind and solar photovoltaic, or with new fossil fuel generation that has carbon capture and storage technology.

The country's existing coal fleet accounts for approximately 36 percent of all U.S. CO2 emissions and is responsible for virtually all power-sector sulfur dioxide emissions, which cause thousands of premature deaths every year, respiratory problems, heart disease, and a number of ecosystem damages.

Image Credit: carbon pollution via Shutterstock

Arizona Wins America’s Next Top Algae Biofuel Research Facility… For Now

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 06:05 AM PDT

Arizona has just won a $15 million Department of Energy grant to establish the first ever national algae biofuel testbed in the US, which gives it at least temporary bragging rights to the #1 position as it jockeys with other states to establish the kind of algae-friendly cred that will attract new business into its borders.

It’s going to have some stiff competition, though. Texas A&M University’s algae biofuel research program also recently got a huge infusion of federal cash, and a network of regional research centers is growing in Hawaii, California, Ohio and Georgia.

Arizona gets $15 million DOE grant for algae research

A National Push for Algae Biofuel Research

To be fair, the competition is far more friendly than not. Under the new grant, Arizona and states with existing algae research centers will collaborate with each other and with federal laboratories as well as with private sector partners.

The Arizona testbed will be called ATP3 (for Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership), and will be housed at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation at the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University.

Just as the name says, it will be supported by a laundry list of public and private partners, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Cellana LLC, Touchstone Research Laboratory, SRS Energy, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas at Austin, and Commercial Algae Management.

Also weaving into the algae biofuel picture are the US Navy’s algae biofuel initiative, which has been forging ahead despite opposition from Republican leadership in Congress, NASA algae biofuel research, and the US aviation industry’s biofuel initiatives.


What’s It All About, Algae Biofuel?

If all this activity seems a little Manhattan Project–esque, there’s a good reason for the urgency. With only three percent of the world’s oil reserves, the US could drill its way to China and back without reducing its dependence on foreign supplies. Even aside from global warming issues, domestic fuel diversity is critical for long-term security.

As the recent drought shows, food-based biofuel crops such as corn aren’t going to cut it over the long run, so attention is turning to non-food sources. Algae looks like a winner because it is rich in oil; it can be grown under controlled conditions; it can thrive in different regions of the US; and it won’t necessarily take up any space that could be used to grow food.

Move Over Cacti, Here Comes Algae

The new testbed in Arizona is designed to provide private industry with shared access to a national database for analyzing algae growth and algae biofuel production methods, which will help quicken the pace of research from the lab to fully scaled-up commercial algae farms and biofuel refineries.

Notwithstanding members of Congress who have railed against federal support for algae biofuel, it seems that algae has the potential to become big business, and on that account, it is winning support from legislators at the state level.

Algae could provide a particularly significant economic boost for states like Arizona, which could see its agriculture and energy production sectors grow in one fell swoop.

In Arizona, ASU writer Amelia Huggins notes that state lawmakers recently approved two bills designed to create a friendly opening for private industry. One classifies algae as agriculture, and the other permits algae farming on state trust lands.

Huggins also notes that algae research in the state has “benefitted from the strong support of Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer.”

Image: Algae for biofuel. Some rights reserved by roland.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Advanced Solar CPV Manufacturing Plant to Open in NC this Month

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 05:58 AM PDT

Semprius is readying the opening of its first manufacturing facility later this month in Henderson, North Carolina. With backing and support from the Obama Administration, the DOE, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, Semprius has developed the world’s most efficient solar PV cells. Its concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology is capable of converting 33.9% of the energy in sunlight to usable electricity, according to the parties involved.

Management initially expects to produce five to six megawatts (MW) worth of its leading-edge CPV modules per year at the Henderson, NC plant. That could over time expand to as much as 35 MW and employ as many as 250 people in doing so, according to a Bloomberg News report.

Swimming Against the Tide

Semprius is opening its CPV plant amidst a general backdrop of solar energy market and industry turmoil, manufacturing plant slowdowns, shutdowns, and layoffs — both in the US and other other major solar-producing countries, including Germany and China. Management and its investors believe that the combination of high-efficiency and low-cost production will prove the company viable in a fiercely competitive global solar PV market that governments around the world have targeted as a low-carbon, green economy growth engine.

"Semprius' modules are the most efficient in the world and ‘very price competitive’ with rivals such as First Solar Inc. (FSLR) and SunPower Corp. (SPWR), among others," Bloomberg quoted Semprius CEO Joe Carr as saying. "In very high brightness areas where we do our best work, we're highly competitive." Carr declined to discuss cost details.


Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Siemens AG — both of whom have taken equity stakes in the emerging solar CPV manufacturer — are two of its initial customers. Semprius has raised $40 million from investors over the past 15 months, Bloomberg reports. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Siemens together own 16% of the company.

A SunShot CPV Manufacturer Ready to Go Commercial

Semprius received initial seed funding from the DOE under President Obama’s "SunShot Incubator" program, refining and proving its technology with NREL in Golden. NREL validated Semprius’ tiny, dot-sized CPV cells as having an energy conversion efficiency of 41% at a concentration of 1,000 suns.

In its search for a location to build a manufacturing plant to commercialize its CPV cells and modules, Semprius landed in Henderson, NC. Construction of its 50,000-square-foot plant began earlier this year, with the state government and local agencies contributing $7.9 million towards construction.

About the diameter of a dot made by a ballpoint pen, Semprius's solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are triple-junction cells made of gallium arsenide. Low-cost lenses concentrate sunlight 1,100 times onto the cells. Their tiny size reduces module cost, as they take up only 1/1000th of the entire solar module area. It also enables a high density of cells per module, which better distributes unwanted heat across the entire solar module solar area. That eliminates the need for heat dissipation hardware, such as heat fins, further reducing production costs.

Semprius' patented micro-transfer printing process allows thousands of its concentrated solar PV cells (CPV) to be transferred from a growth substrate to a semiconductor wafer or other form factor. It's a continuous, massive parallel process that runs continuously and allows the growth substrate to be used repeatedly, which cuts costs dramatically, according to NREL and Semprius.

From Local to National, India to the US, Government Action Key to Low-Carbon Green Economic Development

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 05:50 AM PDT

City and local governments are key, pivotal enablers when it comes to making the transition to low-carbon, green economies. Formulating broad-based policy frameworks and incentive programs; conducting advanced public and public-private R&D; and building shared information resources are among the critical roles institutions at the international and national levels can provide. The task of following through and enacting them, meanwhile, reaches down to the local level.

Besides being closest to stakeholders and constituencies, city and local governments hold sway over land use, natural resource, and local environmental policies. They hold sway over local power, water, waste and transportation systems, building codes, local taxes, and a host of other laws, regulations, and rules-governing issues that can be of central import when it comes to developing low-carbon sustainable economies, as well as managing what can be extensive. They, and the communities they’re responsible for and represent, may be best-served by initially focusing their sustainable development plans on areas in which they have the greatest control and a direct, vested interest.

And that’s what is happening in cities, towns, and villages (as well as nations) as geographically and culturally separated and diverse as India and the US. Such progress in integrating and coordinating policies and actions from local to national levels, and even to international levels, is a tremendously positive sign.

New Local Solar Initiatives in India, the US…

In India, civil authorities in Kolkata, Howrah, Durgapur, and Siliguri are incorporating requirements that all "multi-storied commercial establishments, including hospitals and five-star hotels" install solar water heaters in local building codes, according to a Times of India report. In the nation’s capital, the government of Delhi intends to expand its solar photovoltaic (PV) installations to include more of the capital’s historic monuments.

Here in the US, the California city of Sebastopol is considering requiring solar PV arrays be installed on new commercial construction, the Press Democrat reports, which would make the northern Californian city one of the few cities in the nation with an outright renewable energy mandate.

"It is something that would work for some cities and be inappropriate for other cities that are not as far along the deployment curve," Tom Kimbis, vice president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the former director of Solar America, a $4.9 million federal program in which 25 cities, including Sebastopol, developed solar programs, told the Press-Democrat’s Bob Norberg. "Some cities are just installing their first solar panels. Sebastopol is on the other extreme. It could be a model for other cities their size."

“A solar system on a commercial building could cost $40,000 to $75,000, but with tax incentives and rebates, it could pay for itself in five or six years,” Norberg paraphrased local councilman Patrick Slayter.

Across the country, on the East Coast, Connecticut has launched a "Solarize Connecticut" program that cuts the cost of residential solar PV installations by pooling orders from local home and property owners and sharing the resulting savings, according to a report from Westport Now.

"Solarize Connecticut" is modeled along the lines of neighboring Massachusetts’ "Solarize Massachusetts," which has proved a great success and is being expanded. Four Connecticut municipalities, including Westport, have been chosen to launch the program, which aims to encourage at least 50 local residents in each muncipality to purchase and have solar PV and/or solar hot water systems installed at below-market rates before Dec. 14.

Dovetail with Those at the National and International Levels

The solar energy initiatives coming from city and local governments and civil authorities in India fall right in line and reinforce the national government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, which has catapulted India into the ranks of the world’s largest solar energy producers.

What’s true at the local government level is also true for the largest property owner and energy consumer in the US — the federal government. The Commerce Dept. and other federal government departments, offices, and agencies are on track to meet the energy use, waste and cost reductions called for by the President in his Executive Order 13514 of 2009.

US government departments, offices, and agencies are also aggressively pursuing achievement of the carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions established by President Obama in an executive order issued on January 29, 2010. That executive order calls for the federal government to reduce its GHG emissions by 28 percent by 2020.

All these are part of a strong, broad, sweeping, and self-reinforcing sustainable development strategy laid out in the Obama administration’s "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future" strategic plan.

"As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient," President Obama stated in his GHG reduction executive order of 2010. "Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy."

The federal government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone. "Achieving the Federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce Federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year," he notes. "This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020," according to the White House.

Peak Wind Power in UK Rises to Over 4,000 MW

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 05:21 AM PDT

Peak wind power recently hit 4,010 MW in the UK. (The previous record of 3.8 GW was set in May 2012.) This was a record for electricity generated by UK wind turbines. At that level, wind power was generating about 10-11% of the UK’s electricity. Renewable Energy UK said the peak level was enough to power about 3 million British homes.

wind power uk

This group says the UK has enough wind resources to provide all the electricity the country could need several times over. By 2016, it could have 8 GW of wind power installed and 18 GW by 2020.

Image Credit: Magnus Manske, Wiki Commons

Global Cleantech Market Expected to Expand to €4 Trillion by 2020, Germany to Capitalize

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 04:30 AM PDT

Worldwide, the clean technology market is worth more than €2 trillion a year, and it is expected to more than double in size by the mid 2020s, according to new research commissioned by the German government. This doubling of market size is expected to occur regardless of potential ongoing global financial turmoil.


Specifically, the research found that the clean technology market has “grown at an average of almost 12 per cent a year since 2007, and predicts it will continue to accelerate over the coming years.”

“The economic and financial crisis has not stopped the worldwide expansion of the green tech industry,” said the study’s author, Torsten Henzelmann, head of the Civil Economics, Energy & Infrastructure Competence Centre at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. “On the contrary, the worldwide market volume has now overshot the €2tr mark, thus exceeding our forecasts from 2009.

“Things will be a bit slower than in previous years, but by 2025 we expect the worldwide market to double in value to €4.4tr.”

The research also revealed that Germany has a dominant share of the global clean tech market, at 15%, and is expected to grow more than any of its competitors. Germany’s cleantech companies are already generating a very high 11% of the country’s GDP and employing over 1.4 million workers. And according to the research, the clean tech market volume is expected to reach €674 billion by 2025, more than doubling.

Germany’s success is only attributable to its very clear vision and “guarantees [of] investment security.” Though its “early-mover advantage” helped that, it isn’t the main reason for its success, said Luc Bas, the director of European programmes and international states and regions at The Climate Group.

One of the study’s most interesting findings, though, is that the cleantech sector’s rapid growth has been stimulating the other segments of the economy, even some seemingly very separate sectors.

“More and more companies are finding that using green tech is a way to stand out among their international competitors,” said report co-author Ralph Büchele. “Better efficiency regarding energy and [raw] materials is increasingly becoming a strategic advantage in international competition – that goes for all sectors of the economy in general.”

Source: Business Green
Image Credits: German Renewable and Bernburg via Wikimedia Commons

Gamesa Strengthens Brazilian Presence with 258 MW Wind Turbine Order

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 04:25 AM PDT


One of the leading global companies in the wind energy business, Gamesa, has just agreed to a contract to provide wind turbines with a total capacity of 258 MW for 10 wind farms in southern Brazil.

The agreement is for Gamesa to provide and install 129 of its G97-2.0 MW turbines and also maintain and operate them for the next 20 years. Installation is set to begin late in the first half of 2013 and be completed during the first quarter of 2014.

“The wind farms’ construction will generate more than 1,500 jobs, both direct and indirect. When they are all in operation, the 10 wind farms will generate around 957,000 MWh of electricity per year, enough to meet the annual energy needs of 510,000 Brazilian households. Moreover, the sites will prevent atmospheric annual emissions equivalent to 370,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.”

Source and Image: Gamesa

Antalya Metropolitan Municipality & Renault Preparing Zero Emissions Partnership

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 04:20 AM PDT

The Antalya Metropolitan Municipality in Turkey and Renault have signed an agreement to deploy a program to prepare a Zero Emissions Partnership.


The partnership is aiming to achieve wide-scale deployment of electric vehicles in Antalya, specifically focusing on the establishment of a “substructure of charging points for electric vehicles manufactured in Bursa Oyak Renault Automobile Plants since the end of 2011.”

The main objectives are:

  • To install and develop a network of charging points for electric vehicles;
  • To develop specific projects related to fleets, public spaces and urban areas; and
  • To review the various regulations regarding the installation and operation of charging points for electric vehicles.


Source: Green Car Congress
Image Credit: Renault

Electric Vehicle Converters Petitioning White House for Tax Incentives

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 04:09 AM PDT

Organizations and electric vehicle converters are petitioning the White House for tax incentives to financially aid the conversion of fossil-fueled propulsion systems to electric systems. It is called the “Equal Incentives for Conversion” petition.

Washington Capital.

According to the petition on the White House website:

“While the Federal government should continue providing Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicles (IRC 30D) tax incentives for new plug-in vehicles, they should extend the same incentives to EV / plug-in conversions. Conversions target 250M existing vehicles on the roads, can save over 40% of fuel use or no fuel at all, have a smaller carbon footprint than new car since they reuse most of the original vehicle, and cost less to buy as an incremental expense making plug-in more affordable.”

Jon Lesage from Autoblog Green asked: “Why is it that you can get a $7,500 federal tax credit on your electric vehicle manufactured by a major automaker, but not on your converted EV or plug-in hybrid?”

Electric vehicle conversion is the only option for people that want electric versions of specific cars. Right now, if you want an electric car from a mainstream manufacturer, it has to be a new Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, or Ford Focus, and new cars are always very expensive. Three choices simply doesn’t cut it.

What if you want a Volvo, Acura, or a Dodge? Electric vehicle conversion can be fun, of course, but it also enables you to have an electric version of any model that you want. If you DIY, you can save money by avoiding labour costs.

Most people can’t do this themselves, but they can have organizations do it for them.

Electric vehicle converters may have the potential to really help get the electric vehicle industry off the ground if they receive substantial tax incentives.

Most people buy the vehicles that they personally want to. Aesthetics and brand play a truly tremendous role in vehicle purchase decisions, so there will have to be a large variety of vehicles to choose from, which is why this is so important.

25,000 signatures are needed for this petition to be considered by the White House, and, so far, it is far from that goal.

If you support it, go ahead and sign it!

Source: Autoblog Green

Make Your Mark in Cleantech via Cleantech Fellows Institute

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 03:38 AM PDT

Are you interested in making the transition to work in a clean technology industry? The Clean Fellows Institute intends to educate a group of proven executives interested in the creation of venture-backed clear technology companies. This is for serious thinkers who desire to transition to fast-growing but still young cleantech business, people who know that they are willing to make a shift, to change their careers, and to become completely involved with sustainable, progressive technology.

The national profile of the Cleantech Fellows Institute allows the organizers to leverage partnerships across the U.S. to gain access to industry leaders and visionaries that are willing to share their expertise and insight into growing a cleantech business.

Cleantech Fellows Curriculum FocusThis 17-week intensive program delves into a number of topics.

The 2012 Cleantech Fellows Institute curriculum includes, but is not limited to, the following sectors:

Looks interesting, useful, inspiring. Find out more about how to make your mark in cleantech via the Cleantech Fellows Institute site.

4 Charts Provide Distributed Solar Lessons from California

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 03:29 AM PDT

A new study for the California Public Utilities Commission explores the "Technical Potential for Local Distributed Photovoltaics in California." Basically, it's one of the more in-depth analyses of local solar power in the country, suggesting that California has the capacity to add 15 gigawatts (GW) of local solar (20 megawatts and smaller) to its grid by 2020.  The study pushes the boundaries of distributed generation by assuming that local solar can be installed sufficient to meet 100% of local demand, far beyond the conservative "15% rule" that utilities typically apply.

There are the usual caveats about the technical limitations of the current grid, but a few graphics from the report provide a glimpse into the implications of a distributed generation future.

This first chart shows supply curves for various types of distributed solar under their 15 GW scenario.  What I find interesting is that the biggest chunk of distributed solar is not on the ground or on commercial roofs, it's residential rooftops.  Half of the state's distributed solar potential is on residential rooftops.

This next chart illustrates the cost and benefits of residential solar PV for a PG&E substation in Fresno, CA.  What I find interesting is that 6-7 cents of the levelized cost of solar (which includes the federal tax credit) are offset by electric system benefits and greenhouse gas reductions.  Energy provides another 5-6 cents.  Presumably, state incentives (the CSI, net metering, etc.) fill the gap.


This next chart of interconnection costs for distributed solar has two interesting findings.  First, interconnection costs (for the utility) are lower for residential solar than for other small-scale (< 1 MW) distributed solar.  Costs fall off as projects increase in size to a sweet spot of 3-5 MW and then rise again.  Divided over the projected output of 25 years, however, these costs are in the hundredths of a cent per kilowatt-hour.

This chart shows what it will mean to have a significant amount of solar on the grid.  It will effectively shift the peak demand period on the electricity system from the mid-afternoon to the early evening (when solar PV no longer produces much electricity).  This could have interesting implications for net metering customers who count on high peak prices to pay off their PV investment.

The last item of interest is their cost projection for maximizing local solar power.  Reaching the 15 GW distributed solar potential would increase the state's renewable energy supply from 33% in 2020 to 48%.  The marginal cost is about $6 billion, or about $0.15 per kWh.  That's not bad when the avoided cost (e.g. "market price referent") in California is around $0.12 per kWh, especially when we're talking about 2.5 GW of additional local solar power with $750 million in economic benefits and new jobs.

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

Affordable Solar-Powered Air Conditioner in a Neat Little Package is Finally Here

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 03:17 AM PDT

Kingtec has developed affordable solar-powered air conditioning in a relatively neat package. Here are some of the key details:

  • Price: $2,895 USD.
  • Cooling capacity: 16,000 BTU (4.7 kW of cooling capacity).
  • Power consumption: 850 watts.
  • SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio): 22.5.
  • EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is a measure of the BTUs of cooling capacity per watt of power consumed): 18.8.
  • Weight: 200 pounds (This is tremendous for a window air conditioner of this size! But it does contain extra parts for the solar setup).

Why Solar Panels Are Not Integrated Directly into A/C Units

A/C units tend to be shaded by the roofs of houses, as well as awnings, so they are usually not exposed to direct sunlight, and they shouldn’t be. It is best that they are kept as cool as possible.

This single issue is a big one, but as long as the solar panels can be a decent distance away, this isn’t a problem.


Main Benefits of Solar Air Conditioning

Normally, to solar power an air conditioner, you would have to buy an air conditioner, then a separate inverter, separate batteries, solar panels, and hire both an electrician and a building contractor to set up the system for you, and that costs a fair bit of money.

Home solar power systems tend to cost $7 per watt in the United States (without tax credits), and around half of that cost is installation alone — this is because you have to hire contractors to set up the electronics such as the batteries, panels, etc. by hand.

However, for situations where it works, there are some big advantages.

The second benefit: Solar panels tend to generate more electricity at the same time that air conditioner power consumption increases. The fluctuating power consumption of air conditioners (caused by weather variation) is a problem for the electricity grid because power plants are not able to adjust their power production quickly enough to meet power demand spikes.

Cutting Your A/C Use

Finally, while this is a clever invention which can take advantage of economies of scale (due to factory production), unlike traditional hand-built solar setups, you can substantially reduce your air conditioner usage using simple measures such as closing window blinds on some windows, opening other windows to facilitate ventilation, and much more.

One of the greatest conservation tips of all is to use less energy (not reduce your standard of living, just turn things off when you aren’t using them — you don’t have to use them less to conserve energy), then go about obtaining energy from more sustainable sources, in general.

Source: TreeHugger
Photo Credit: Kingtec Solar

Top-Rated Raceway Gives the Green Light to Recycled Oil

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 01:24 AM PDT

EcoPower recycled oil has just been named the official oil of Virginia International Raceway, one of the top-rated tracks in the U.S., so if you had any doubts that the green revolution is sweeping into the mainstream, this ought to help put them to rest. VIR is making a big deal out of this deal, which it sealed in time to kick off its inaugural VIR 240 American Le Mans Series this week.

VIR Names EcoPower Recycled Oil official track oil

Green Oil for a Greener Raceway

EcoPower is a brand of the environmental services company Safety-Kleen, which bills itself as the largest oil recycler in the U.S.

According to Safety-Kleen, its used-oil refining process can use up to 85% less energy than producing motor oil from virgin crude.

The arrangement with VIR is designed to show off EcoPower’s performance under a wide range of conditions. The raceway will use several different grades of EcoPower to power dozens of vehicles, from emergency vehicles and ATVs to heavy equipment and lawn mowers.

Building Green Cred at the Racetrack

Auto racing has the unique ability to blast the green tech message out to millions of fans from all walks of life in a high-performance, pumped up setting that’s hard to beat anywhere else.

The marketing power of new green tech hasn’t been lost on the racing industry. NASCAR, for example, has added a whole new “Green Sponsor” category among which are Liberty Tire Recycling, the bio-oil company Green Earth Technologies, and electronics recycler Creative Recycling.

Earlier this year, Richmond International Raceway made the Ford Focus EV its first ever all-electric pace car for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Just a couple of other examples are the huge solar installation at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania and the green showcase at the Indy 500 last year, which was part of the event’s 100th anniversary celebration.

VIR seems a little slow to the party, but it is positioned to take it up to a whole new level through affiliations with the tenants of its on-site industrial park, the Virginia Motorsports Technology Park, including Virginia Tech’s new National Tire Research Center.

It’s also worth noting that one of VIR’s sponsors is the green-transitioning Coca-Cola company, which has been getting top marks for pushing the global corporate world in a more sustainable direction particularly in the field of water conservation.

Image: Oil (cropped). Some rights reserved by L.C.Nøttaasen.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Car-Sharing Services Becoming Popular as a Way to Get Around

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 01:16 AM PDT

In a world where petrol is growing ever more expensive and gas-guzzling cars are looked at with a sort of snobbish disparagement, new ways of getting around are beginning to emerge and become a priority for many. One such method is car-sharing, and new research has found that car-sharing can become even more popular.

Researchers from the Concordia Institute of Information Systems Engineering have piloted a new computer model that helps determine how car-sharing services can grow, maximize customer satisfaction, and still be profitable.

Car Sharing Can Become More Popular

"Given car-sharing's goal of reducing congestion and carbon emissions, our work represents a potential boost to environmental sustainability," explains Anjali Awasthi, assistant professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, who, prior to arriving at Concordia in 2008, had spent time research car-sharing services in Europe.

"I wanted to apply the lessons I'd learned overseas to the Montreal region," she added.

Working together with her master's student, Ahmed Al Fassi, Awasthi used car-sharing company Communauto (commune auto, presumably) as her basis. The two assessed which areas had the greatest growth potential in Montreal based on a variety of factors, such as population density and customers’ proximity to existing stations. They simulated the response to various growth scenarios to measure the potential impact on individual car-sharing stations, the level of activity among Communauto’s members, and the availability of cars to meet customer demand.

For Communauto, the scholarly research was a great boost. "The expertise and input of Professor Awasthi and Ahmed Al Fassi allowed us to improve the analysis necessary to determine our growth strategy," says Communauto's director of development and public relations, Marco Viviani. "This was the first step that we hope will lead to a long-term collaboration, which will be particularly helpful as we grow into new markets overseas."

Source: Concordia University
Image Source: Communauto

Computer Modelling Could Help Boost Urban Wind Power

Posted: 17 Sep 2012 01:09 AM PDT

Researchers from Murdoch University in Western Australia are hoping to use three-dimensional modelling of urban wind flows to improve the design and efficiency of small wind turbines located in the city.

The project will be run by PhD student Amir Tabrizi — a student at  the School of Engineering and Energy under the supervision of Dr Jonathan Whale, Dr Tania Urmee, and Dr Samuel Gyamf — who said the project would look at wind data from open spaces, rural areas, and urban settings to understand the differences of wind shear and turbulence.

Mr Tabrizi said this would help improve the current design standard for small wind turbines.

Modelling Wind Turbines in Urban Centers

"The current design standard lists design turbulence intensity as 18 per cent across a range of sites, but this result is appropriate for open-site testing only. While it is very early days, our on-site testing has shown turbulence intensity of up to 24 per cent at an urban site in Port Kennedy and 30 per cent at another urban site in Melville," Mr Tabrizi said.

"A knowledge of turbulence intensity helps predict the load on the machine, so it informs the required design strength of turbine components, including the tower and blades. We need accurate data to ensure turbines are strong enough for all conditions."

Currently, Mr Tabrizi is working on adapting a two-dimensional model into a three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics model. The modelling will incorporate the dynamics of various wind environments, taking into account variations by height, prevailing wind directions and the effects of different building shapes.

Already, the simulations have suggested that both rooftop sites and forest sites face turbulence intensity values much greater than those believed to exist in the current design standard.

"Ultimately we want to establish better guidelines for design and installation of urban wind turbines to maximise efficiency and guarantee safety,” Mr Tabrizi said.

“For a small wind turbine, mounted on a rooftop, for instance, we need to determine what part of the roof catches the most energy, how far the turbine should be above the roofline and how far back it should be from the edge of the roof.”

Source: Murdoch University
Image Source: Flickr user maistora


  1. Within the body of the Economiser Electric Radiator is a series of slim, ceramic cells. Each cell contains an imbedded element. It heats up individually and transfers heat energy almost instantaneously to the fluted outer body of the radiator.


  2. Hi, just a moment back I was searching for the information on the same topic and now I am here. So much information, really well executed blog. This is really informative and I will for sure refer my friends the same. Thanks
    atv batteries in California

  3. I agree, this is awesome, awesome, awesome. Keep up the great work... domestic

  4. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will come back sometime soon. I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great job, have a nice day!... Solar Panel