Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Computing with Water Droplets: Drops of Water as Bits of Information

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 02:43 PM PDT

 
A radical new concept for computing has been developed that uses drops of water as bits of digital information. This new concept was spurred by the recent discovery that when two water droplets collide with each other on a highly water-repellent surface, they simply bounce off of each other similar to billiard balls.

The research, just published in the journal Advanced Materials, was done by experimentally determining the ideal conditions necessary for the rebounding of water droplets when moving on superhydrophobic surfaces.

“In the study, a copper surface coated with silver and chemically modified with a fluorinated compound was used. This method enables the surface to be so water-repellent that water droplets roll off when the surface is tilted slightly. Superhydrophobic tracks, developed during a previous study, were employed for guiding droplets along designed paths.”
 

 
By making use of the tracks, the researchers were able to demonstrate that water droplets could be used as “superhydrophobic droplet logic.” As an example, a memory device was designed that allowed water droplets to be used as bits of digital information. Devices that are capable of elementary Boolean logic operations were also constructed. It’s these basic devices that make up the building blocks of computing.

Video (Superhydrophobic droplet logic: flip-flop memory):

Even more interesting, though, is that when the water droplets are “loaded with reactive chemical cargo, the onset of a chemical reaction could be controlled by droplet collisions.” By combining the droplet logic operations with the collision-controlled chemical reactions, there is the potential to make programmable chemical reactions, single droplets then serving the simultaneous function as bits of digital information and as miniature reactors.

Video (Chemical reaction controlled by droplet collisions):

“It is fascinating to observe a new physical phenomenon for such everyday objects — water droplets,” says Robin Ras, an Academy Research Fellow in the Molecular Materials research group.

“I was surprised that such rebounding collisions between two droplets were never reported before, as it indeed is an easily accessible phenomenon: I conducted some of the early experiments on water-repellent plant leaves from my mother’s garden,” said Henrikki Mertaniemi, the researcher that “discovered the rebounding droplet collisions two years ago during a summer student project in the research group of Ras and Academy Professor Olli Ikkala.”

The researchers think that the present research will lead to useful technology that is based on superhydrophobic droplet logic. Some of the possible applications are autonomous and simple logic devices that don’t need electricity, and biochemical analysis devices that are programmable.

Source: Aalto University


California’s Solar Energy Passes a Milestone

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 07:44 AM PDT

 
During a recent heatwave, California reached a solar energy milestone. Its solar power plants hit over 1,000 MW (1 GW) of electricity generation, almost as much as their combined 1,160 MW capacity, which is equal to the power production of two large 500-MW gas-fired power stations. The power plants reached this milestone on several occasions during the heatwave.

California solar panels via Shutterstock

Despite their large size, solar panels have the potential to utilize the least land of all types of power plants, due to the fact that they can be integrated into almost anything, whether it is on the ground or installed on rooftops which are usually hardly utilized.

Electricity demand tends to be higher on sunny days, and this is especially due to the power requirements of air conditioners, standing fans, and evaporative coolers. Generally speaking, the sunnier the weather is, the hotter it becomes (not including those times of day in certain places when it simply becomes “hot” due to high humidity).

This is clearly a great match for solar. Heat rises, electricity demand rises, and solar electricity is rising at the same time.
 

 
This is one reason solar panels are complemented so nicely by air conditioners (or vice versa). Typical coal-fired power plants are not very adjustable because they take a long time to start up and shut down, so it is difficult for them to increase power production in time to meet increased air conditioner power consumption in such heatwaves.

Bob Foster, chairman of the ISO board, said that ISO’s board of governors has approved enough new transmission investment to enable California utility companies to reach a state goal of a 33 percent renewable power mix by 2020. I think we’ll be seeing the state surpass 1,000 MW of solar more and more often.

Source: The Sacramento Bee & Business Wire
Photo Credit: NNSANews


$1 Billion Carbon Capture for Alberta Oil Sands

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 07:08 AM PDT

 
Shell has approved a $1.36-billion carbon capture project for Canada’s Alberta oil sands. This project supposedly will capture one million tons of CO2 each year, which will be stored about one mile below the Earth’s surface. The carbon capture project has been named Quest, and $874 million dollars in funding for it is coming from the governments of Alberta and Canada. (The bulk of the funds is coming from the Alberta government.)

The New York Times reports that the companies involved in the project (Shell, Chevron, and Marathon) have not stated how much they have invested in it.

The Shell press release says its project will reduce emissions at the Scotford upgrader, where bitumen is processed, by up to 35 percent. They also say this reduction is the equivalent of removing 175,000 cars from operation, each year.

Joe Oliver, Canada’s energy minister said: “Our government is committed to exploring and demonstrating CCS technology as a critical opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our environment.”

A representative of Greenpeace said they would rather see the money go towards clean energy production, such as the development of solar and wind farms. They also mentioned fuel-efficient vehicles as a potential alternative.

It seems more than a little odd that the companies managing the carbon capture and storage project have not divulged how much they are pitching in. Certainly many people would probably like to know if the governments involved are paying the bulk of the cost. (Shell’s 2012 first quarter profits were $7 billion, according to Think Progress.)
 

 
“It's a lot of taxpayer money spent on greenwashing. The truth is there is an environmental Armageddon happening in northern Alberta. There are also questions about whether these gases can be safely stored underground,” said Kate Colarulli, deputy director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Oil campaign.

Certain questions arise, such as where exactly will the liquified CO2 be pumped, and how secure will it be underground? How can it be monitored for leakage?

Will independent testers be allowed to measure the amounts of CO2 that are being captured and stored? Allowing a Big Oil corporation to manage it’s own environmental accountability, and helping it fund the emissions reduction project sounds more than a little questionable. Equally important is the suggestion the greenlighting or greenwashing of the oil sands carbon capture may help get the Keystone pipeline project approved by U.S. officials after all.

Image Credit: NASA, Public Domain


POD Point Is Launching Pay-As-You-Go Car Charging Network

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 06:34 AM PDT

 
POD Point is planning to launch the first pay-as-you-go (PAYG) electric vehicle charging system, bringing the UK one step closer to a nationwide electric vehicle charging system.

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Free to join and with no monthly fees, the PAYG network, nicknamed PP PAYG, is designed for the demographic of drivers who would make use of public charge points but do not want to pay a monthly membership fee.

The PP PAYG system is based on Transport for London’s Oyster smart card model. In this case, though, drivers will have the option to use SMS text messages rather than smart cards to fill up their account or unlock charging posts.
 

 
Erik Fairbairn, the POD Point chief executive, is quoted as saying there is a strong case to be made for creating a nationwide PAYG recharging network.

“Most electric or hybrid vehicle owners use public charge points occasionally, in areas they don’t visit every day – yet existing charging schemes are either regional, or charge a high monthly fee regardless of use.”

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“The PP PAYG network will deliver a nationwide charging network that makes economic sense for electric and hybrid vehicle owners to join – and charge point owners will benefit from increased use of their charging facilities,” Fairbairn added.

The network launched on September 3rd, with 200 charging bays already on the POD Point Open Network. From 2013 onward, all new POD Point charge points that are installed will automatically be on the network, bringing the total number to more than 4,000 by 2014.

Source: Business Green
Image Credits: Pod Point


Biohybrid Solar Cell Breakthrough: Spinach Protein Combined with Silicon in New Way that Greatly Boosts Performance

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 06:30 AM PDT

 
In a technological breakthrough, the photosynthetic protein in spinach has been combined with silicon in a new and unique way, resulting in a solar cell that produces considerably more electrical current than any previous “biohybrid” solar cells.

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“This combination produces current levels almost 1,000 times higher than we were able to achieve by depositing the protein on various types of metals. It also produces a modest increase in voltage,” said David Cliffel, associate professor of chemistry, who collaborated on the project with Kane Jennings, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

“If we can continue on our current trajectory of increasing voltage and current levels, we could reach the range of mature solar conversion technologies in three years.”

 

 

The researchers next plan to build a functional PS1-silicon solar cell using this new design. They estimate that the new design could allow a two-foot panel to put out at least 100 milliamps at one volt. That’s enough to power a number of different types of small electrical devices.

It was discovered more than 40 years ago that one of the proteins involved in photosynthesis (PS1) was able to function even after it was extracted from plants. And even more impressively PS1 converts sunlight into electrical energy with almost 100 percent efficiency, much more than the conversion efficiencies of less than 40 percent achieved by artificial devices. Since these discoveries, PS1 has been targeted as a way to very high-efficiency solar cells.

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Another major advantage of biohybrid solar cells is that they can be made from cheap and easily obtained materials, rather than the rare and expensive materials used in conventional cells, such as platinum or indium.

“The Vanderbilt researchers report that their PS1/silicon combination produces nearly a milliamp (850 microamps) of current per square centimeter at 0.3 volts. That is nearly two and a half times more current than the best level reported previously from a biohybrid cell.”

Apparently the reason that this combo is so good is because “the electrical properties of the silicon substrate have been tailored to fit those of the PS1 molecule,” which was done by implanting electrically charged atoms into the silicon in order to alter its electrical properties. This process is termed ‘doping’. The PS1 protein was found to work extremely well with silicon doped with positive charges, and very poorly with negatively doped silicon.

Source: Vanderbilt News
Image Credits: Julie Turner/Vanderbilt; Amrutur Anilkumar/Vanderbilt University


Italy’s Solar Power Production Passes Its Wind Power Production!

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 06:11 AM PDT

 
Italians are appreciated for their passion for loving strong and living for love. True to their naturalistic approach, they are setting good examples in renewable energy, and they are way ahead of most of us in this (its installed solar power per capita is 5 times that of California).

Modern geothermal electricity generation was developed in Italy, long before power plants were developed in Iceland, New Zealand, or California. Now, as Windworks.org reports, solar energy has actually passed up more developed and prevalent (worldwide) wind energy. “This may be the first time that a developed country has generated more electricity with solar PV than with wind energy,” Paul Gipe writes.

Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE) reports that not only did solar PV development grow dramatically in Italy during 2011, as widely reported, but that solar PV generated nearly 10.7 TWh of electricity for slightly more than 3% of internal consumption.”

 

 

Catch up, California!

Italy may be second to Germany in total installed solar power capacity and per capita solar power, but is clearly in front of California, which probably has better press regarding this matter. Italy is doing more with its solar resource than the “Golden State,” while they share similar climates and similar populations.

Italy actually has five times more solar energy per capita after one decade of development. Catch up, California!

Italy a Clear Solar Power Leader

Notably, Italy is actually the #1 country in the world for installed solar power relative to electricity production (as of the end of 2011).

As mentioned above, it is second in per capita solar. And it is third in installed solar power per GDP (behind #1 Czech Republic and #2 Germany).

Here’s more info on Italian solar PV at the end of 2011, Italian solar PV in 2012 (up through August 29), and Italian renewable energy generation through 2011, via Wind-Works.org:

 


San Diego Zoo Adding Solar for EV Chargers

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 05:36 AM PDT

 
The San Diego Zoo will be adding a solar photovoltaic canopy system and five electric vehicle chargers. Construction began on the ten solar canopies Sept. 4, and when completed they will generate 90 kW of electricity. The electricity will be used to charge EVs and for storage in a 100-kW battery system. Excess electricity generated by the panels will be directed back to the grid. The new solar canopies will also provide shade for about fifty cars.

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The zoo receives millions of visitors each year, and the solar canopies and EV chargers will be part of an educational experience about clean energy, so there will be an educational benefit to installing the new system as well.

“By providing a sustainable energy mechanism at a well-known destination like the Zoo, we are not only raising awareness for this technology but we are making this option available to guests that we host from all over the world”, said John Dunlap, Director of the San Diego Zoo.
 

 
It should be noted that many children visit the zoo, so they will be able to learn about animals, clean energy, and climate change in one setting. It might be worthwhile in the Solar-EV exhibit to mention the impact of fossil fuels and climate change on polar bears, because the zoo has its own, which you can see on its polar bear cam.

The zoo is working with Smart City San Diego on the EV-Solar project. This organization is a collaboration between UC San Diego, San Diego Gas & Electric, GE, and CleanTECH San Diego. It works on bringing organizations together to help the city have responsible, sustainable energy policy and usage. For example, in addition to the zoo project, it works on smart appliances, stored energy systems for photovoltaics, economic development and similar efforts.

 Image Credit: cburnett, Wiki Commons


Mitt Romney’s 17th Century Position on Global Warming

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 05:08 AM PDT

 
Take it from presidential candidate Mitt Romney, global warming is real. In an online debate hosted by Scientific American earlier this week, Mr. Romney stated that “my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences.”

If this seems like a rather radical position for a Republican candidate… well, read the rest of his statement, and you’ll see the roots of a mathematical formulation that goes all the way back to the 1600′s. Whether that applies to real life in the 21st century is another story altogether.

Romney endorses climate change

Climate Change is Real… Not!

Look at the full statement that Romney provided to sciencedebate.org in answer to a question #2, about climate change. While he starts out with an unqualified assertion about global warming, in the very next sentence he undercuts his own words:

“However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk….”

Having arrived at the conclusion that the world may or may not warm to a significant degree, which may or may not result in any particular harm, Romney has put himself in position to adopt an argument that will be familiar to any first-year student of philosophy: the famous wager over the existence of God proposed by the 17th century French (yes, French!) scientist and mathematician, Blaise Pascal.

Pascal’s Wager

Pascal’s argument is incredibly nuanced, but for our purposes we can boil it down to a few basic propositions. Keep in mind that Pascal was a prodigy who lived during a time when a great deal of public energy was giddily focused on celebrating the human capacity for rational thinking.

In that context, Pascal conceded that God’s existence cannot be proved directly by reason, at least not in the 17th century understanding of reason and certainty.

However, he proposed that belief is still possible without abandoning reason altogether. There is still a rational platform on which to base faith, because you can make a rational calculation about the consequences of belief versus disbelief.

Belief gets you the possibility of infinite rewards, while it costs you nothing. On top of that, you get the benefits of living a virtuous life, which is presumable healthier and happier.

Disbelief gets you, at best, zippo. At worst, well, you could find yourself frying in hell if God really does exist but you failed to believe.

Given those choices, any rational person would bet on God.

Betting on Global Warming

That brings us right around to the Romney position on global warming, which he somewhat inelegantly expresses at sciencedebate.org as the “No Regrets” policy:

“So I believe we should pursue what I call a ‘No Regrets’ policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action.”

Sub in “whether God exists,” and there’s your 2012 version of Pascal’s Wager. Whether or not climate change actually exists, it is beneficial to act as if it does.
 


 

Steps That Will Lead to Lower Emissions… or Not

To Romney’s credit, some of the steps leading to lower emissions that he proposes are right in line with President Obama’s energy policies, including a strong emphasis on federal funding for new energy technologies.

However, a Romney administration could soon find itself in hot water if the global market for fossil fuels continues to undercut emerging alternatives on price.

In that case, under the energy policies Romney spells out at science.org in answer to question #6, those new technologies would languish in the laboratory and those federal dollars would go to waste, leaving his administration with a financial debacle on its hands that would make the Solyndra bankruptcy look like chump change.

The missing piece in Romney’s wager is a regulatory framework, tax policies, and government subsidies that provide secure, reliable economic incentives for the private sector to invest in new low-emission technology. Without that qualifier, the No Regrets policy falls apart.

No doubt, Pascal would agree.

Image: Heat. Some rights reserved by DBduo Photography.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


The Other Side of Cleantech — Air Quality Monitoring

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 05:00 AM PDT

 
We focus almost all our time on technologies that help to keep our air and water cleaner, and our climate more livable. However, there’s a whole other side of cleantech that we don’t tend to give second thought to — environmental monitoring technologies.

How do we know technologies are clean? How do we know the air is cleaner? (Well, other than by noticing when it’s not black or grey.) Invisible no-named technologies and companies just tell us so. Well, maybe not exactly, but that’s how it seems.

I recently ran across one such company — TSI Incorporated. TSI offers a whole ton of technologies in this arena, from indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring equipment, to filter testers, to ventilator test systems, to particle counters,… and much more.

How’s your air quality?

I’m not going to lie, I think I’ve become a total cleantech nerd — all these things sound super interesting to me, and I’m very curious to play with them all… if only I knew how or where to start. Oh yeah, there’s another obstacle — they aren’t exactly cheap. What seems to be the most basic indoor air quality meter runs for $590.

Still, I wonder how one might benefit me. As the site notes, we spend over 90% of our time indoors (according to an EPA study). I actually sit at home almost all day… sometimes, it is all day. If I were to test my indoor air quality, perhaps I’d find some things out that I could address to improve my health and life, and that of my family members. Another note from the site: “Recent studies claim that over one third of the buildings in the United States have air quality problems.” Yikes.

Of course, outdoor air quality is important, too. We’re thinking about buying a place. Currently, we live quite close to a busy road, some of the building right around us burn coal for heat in the winter, but then we’ve also got a big park right across the street. All this has me wondering how the outdoor air quality in different places would compare, and it sure seems like it would make sense to buy and live in a location with good air!

Anyway, any of you ever buy or use any such products? Have any info to share on such things? Want to see us cover this sort of thing more?


Kohl’s Boosts EV Charging Station Initiative

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 05:00 AM PDT

 
Kohl's announced this week that it’s increasing its electric vehicle (EV) charging station program.

According to a new release, the company plans to have 36 new EV charging stations across 18 more stores by late fall of this year.

Image Credit: Business Wire

Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Texas are four states that are a part of the charge station expansion plans.

The increase in EV charging units will push Kohl's total to 101 stations at 52 stores in 14 states.
 

 
"Since Kohl's EV charging station initiative began in December 2011, it has received extremely positive feedback from our customers who are excited about the added convenience," said chief administrative officer John Worthington.

"From our solar program to our green building efforts, Kohl's has been pleased to be able to grow sustainability programs that make sense for our business, customers and communities – and our EV program is one more great example."

Kohl's has also teamed up with Duke Energy, ECOtality Inc., and ChargePoint in the company's EV charging station initiative to boost the number of charging units.

Thanks to a two-year deal with Duke Energy, as part of the Plug-In project in Indiana, six charging stations were installed across Kohl's locations in central Indiana.

Meanwhile, Kohl's partnership with ECOtality Inc will allow it to put 30 EV charging stations at 15 stores across Texas, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Selected outlets will be available until the end of 2013, at which point there will be a review of further potential to keep growing its EV charging station network.

Source: Kohl's Green Scene


New Gamesa Wind Order Heading to China

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 04:55 AM PDT

 
Gamesa has announced a deal to give 48 megawatts (MW) of wind power to the Longyuan Group in the Fujian Provincial city of Jiangkou in China.

The deal allows the Spanish wind turbine manufacturer to provide 24 of its G90-2.0MW & G87 2.0 wind turbines for the wind farm in the Jiangkou starting in October. Design improvements to the G87-2.0MW will allow for higher energy production, up to 8% compared to the former G80-2.0MW wind turbines.

Longyuan Group and Gamesa have teamed up to provide a total of 1728 MW in past projects, the release said.

Meanwhile, since 2000, Gamesa has put up 3,000 wind turbines across China, while supporting up to 3,000 MW in wind energy across the emerging market.

Source: Gamesa
Image Credit: Western China wind turbine via Shutterstock


World’s Miners Turning to Solar, Wind, Renewable Energy to Meet Growing Power Needs

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 04:52 AM PDT

Mining companies, already squeezed by high fossil fuel costs that are likely to rise further, are turning to renewable energy systems for power. RWE Innogy commissioned its 20.5-MW wind farm at Titz in Germany’s Rhenish mining area this week, just one of a string of renewable energy project announcements made by mining and renewable energy companies in recent months.

Relying on solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources stands to serve mining companies in good stead, both over the short and long haul. Advantages and benefits come in the form of more reliable, competitively priced energy supplies; the possibility of owning and earning positive investment returns by developing their own renewable energy systems; reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and the negative environmental impacts of their operations; fostering more sustainable local economic development; and improving relationships with local communities and governments in countries in which they operate.

Moreover, mining companies making use of renewable energy has a nice synergy and symbiosis to it. Renewable energy technologies depend critically on the metals and minerals miners extract, while mining companies should always be looking for ways to reduce the environmental impacts of their operations and improve their relationships with local communities and governments, as well as their public image.

Renewable Energy Use Growing among Mining Companies

China’s Jinko Solar on Aug. 31 announced it’s working with engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) partner Solea Renewables to build a 1-MW solar energy array at a chromium mine in the northern South African province of Limpopo. The solar PV installation is said to be the first off-grid, utility-scale solar PV system in South Africa.

The fully integrated, turnkey solar PV system is expected to supply 1.8-GWh of clean, renewable electricity for the chromium mine’s operations per year for the next 20-30 years, enabling the mine operator to reduce its reliance on diesel fuel and generators.

“While the global demand for South African coal, platinum, palladium and chromium increases, mines and other industrial consumers face power supply constraints due to capacity challenges at Eskom, South Africa’s only national power provider," Solea Renewables director Vusi Mhlanzi stated in a press release. "The turnkey delivery of our PV plants will not only benefit end-users, but it will in turn help reduce the ever present and increasing energy demand Eskom faces."

In Germany, RWE Innogy installed ten REpower Systems SE wind turbines near RWE’s Garzweiler open-cast mine in just ten months. The 150-meter-high wind turbines have a combined capacity of 20.5-MW.

"We are thrilled to see our turbine blades turning at Titz," RWE Innorgy CEO Dr. Hans Bunting elaborated. "Our beacon project in the expansion of renewables in the Rhenish mining area is now contributing power to the grid. Our J├╝chen project will add another wind farm to the mining area at the end of this year – thanks in part to the close co-operation with our RWE Power affiliate."

Added Titz Mayor Jurgen Frantzen, "The RWE wind farm and another one in the south of our municipality are already generating more power than all the businesses and households in Titz consume. That's our contribution to the energy turnaround, and we are proud of it."

Renewable Energy Use in Mining: An Emerging Trend

The emerging trend of mining companies turning to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to meet their growing energy needs is likely to gain momentum in coming years. The cost of producing electrical power from solar, wind, and other renewable sources has been declining rapidly, making it as cheap, in some cases cheaper, than conventional fossil fuel sources. There are several other benefits and advantages that making use of renewable energy offers miners, however.

In addition, installing renewable energy systems insulates mining companies from increasingly high and volatile fossil fuel costs. More stable power costs means less economic and financial uncertainty, and that should lower the cost of renewable energy sources in miners’ financial calculations.

Moreover, installing solar, wind, or other renewable energy systems also improves the reliability of power supplies and provides mining companies with greater energy security. That’s particularly important in the mining business, where companies often operate in remote, isolated areas where grid power is spotty and more costly, if available at all.

Furthermore, renewable energy systems offer a way for mining companies to own their own power supplies. Another advantage of renewable energy systems over conventional fossil fuel power systems is that they’re modular, scalable and can be installed and up and running in short time frames.

Then there are the social and environmental benefits. Mining companies have a notoriously bad history when it comes to their environmental record and relations with local communities and foreign governments. Making use of clean energy sources is a way for them to at least partly address and improve their performance on these critical issues.

By installing solar, wind, or other renewable energy sources, mining companies can lower their carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reduce other forms of environmental pollution (i.e. land and water degradation and contamination).

On the socio-economic front, if mining companies were to own their own renewable energy systems, surplus power could be sold to the local community, paving a pathway for more sustainable economic development among local communities.

Using Wind Power to Mine Iron Ore

Back in June, Brazil–based Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore producer, said it will invest some $315 million to finance construction of two wind farms developed by Melbourne, Australia’s Pacific Hydro Pty. These wind farms will help meet its growing energy needs.

Vale and Pacific Hydro each will own 50% of the wind farm projects, which are located in the northeast Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte. Due to come on-line in 2014, the two wind farms will have a combined capacity of 140 MW and produce clean, renewable electrical power for 20 years or more.

"Vale's global electricity demand is expected to grow 150 percent by 2020," said Vania Somavilla, Vale’s director of human resources, health and safety, sustainability, and energy. "We're looking for alternatives to meet this necessity in a sustainable manner."


332-MW Wind Project for Germany (Part of a 996-MW Offshore Wind Farm)

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 04:30 AM PDT

 
About 30 miles north of Juist, one of Germany’s East Frisian Islands in the North Sea, is the site of a very large wind farm project. It was just announced that 54 REpower 6M offshore turbines have been ordered for the project.

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Each turbine is rated at 6.15 MW, and this type of turbine has been said to be the most powerful one ever used on the high seas. With sufficient wind, just one of them could power 6,000 homes, says the company’s website. (Offshore wind is generally more constant and faster than onshore wind.)

Innogy Nordsee 1, with 54 very large turbines, is just the first phase of the whole proposed project. Innogy Nordsee 2 could have 48 turbines, and the third installation is intended to have 60. The maximum capacity for the entire wind farm, if completed, would be approximately 996 MW. 39 square miles would be the amount of space required to place all the turbines, and the proposed waters range between 85 and 112 feet in depth.

Germany is already one of the world’s leading wind power nations. Its government has set some enormous wind power goals: 7,600 MW by 2020 and 26,000 MW by 2030. (It has been acknowledged, however, that these may be missed.)

“For a second wave of offshore projects to occur, which would produce an additional 6,000 megawatts, the question of equity funding of the responsible grid operators still needs to be clarified, and the master plan for the offshore network implemented without delay," said Thorstand Herdan, Managing Director of VDMA Power Systems.

Even so, it is more than impressive the country remains so committed to renewable energy development, because it is not the most blessed with sunlight, nor with high, steady winds.

Image Credit: Tomasz Sienicki, Wiki Commons

(The image is actually of a wind farm near Sweden, and is meant only to be an example of offshore wind.)


EU Launches WTO Investigation into Chinese Silicon PV Dumping Allegations

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 04:27 AM PDT

 
The European Commission (EC) has decided there’s sufficient evidence to support investigating claims that Chinese silicon photovoltaic (PV) wafer, cell, and panel manufacturers are dumping product in the European Union (EU). The investigation is to cover exports of crystalline silicon PV modules, as well as cells and wafers, and is to be concluded within nine months, provided there is sufficient “prima facie evidence of dumping,” according to an EU press release.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) anti-dumping petition was filed July 25 by EU Prosun, a group of European solar PV manufacturers led by SolarWorld AG, whose US subsidiary — SolarWorld Industries America — has led what’s thus far been successful WTO legal actions against imports of silicon PV products.

EU markets were the destination for 60% of Chinese silicon PV manufacturers’ exports, worth some $26.6 billion, in 2011. This being the case, the EC finding in support of EU Prosun’s dumping allegations would be a much thornier problem for China’s silicon PV manufacturers than the import duties now being levied in the US.
 

 

China PV Manufacturers Rise at the Expense of EU, US Competitors

Acting per the WTO process, US international trade authorities have issued preliminary countervailing duties and anti-dumping duties on Chinese silicon PV imports. Chinese manufacturers have captured some 80% of the US market for silicon PV cells and panels, while US manufacturers have been pushed to, or beyond, the brink of solvency. The Dept. of Commerce is expected to issue a final determination in mid-October.

The same thing is happening in the EU, where once fast-growing silicon PV manufacturing pioneers, such as Q-Cells, have filed for insolvency or are now on the verge of failing. Yet, the EU’s been the largest buyer of Chinese silicon PV exports by far, as Chinese manufacturers have been able to capitalize on the enactment of solar PV feed-in tariffs (FiTs) that have made EU nations — such as Germany, Italy and Spain — world leaders in terms of installed solar power capacity.

Supported by the central government’s strategic economic development plans and financial support from government and banks, Chinese silicon PV manufacturers over the past 5+ years have undertaken huge expansion programs that have flooded the global market with silicon PV panels. China’s surging silicon PV exports have led to precipitous declines in solar panel and installed solar energy costs, as well as WTO legal actions on the part of manufacturers in other WTO member countries.

Riding the wave of growing solar energy demand, Chinese silicon PV manufacturers such as Suntech, LDK, and JA Solar, have rapidly risen to dominate the global market for silicon PV cells and panels. They’ve taken on a huge amount of debt along the way, however.

Changing Fortunes in Silicon PV

Carrying large amounts of debt, and faced with the sharp drop in silicon PV prices, the ongoing EU debt crisis, and slowing economic growth, JA Solar and LDK are reportedly on the ropes in terms of financial solvency and could not survive without government-directed financial support from Chinese banks. Suntech also reported a large loss this quarter, and is facing a growing list of legal actions spun out of an alleged offshore financial fraud and scandal at GSF, a Luxembourg–based solar project development fund Suntech controls.

Besides putting additional financial pressure on Chinese silicon PV manufacturers, the added threat of anti-dumping duties imposed by the EC is raising the domestic and international political and economic stakes surrounding the issue. In the EU and US, the dispute with trade and policy for silicon PV products is spilling over and adding to a growing list of legal disputes regarding a broad range of internationally traded products.

For its part, EU Prosun issued a press release applauding the EC’s decision. Stated Milan Nitzschke, President of EU ProSun, the Sustainable Solar Energy Initiative for Europe, "The European Commission took a big step today to save Europe's green tech sector and broader manufacturing base.

"Chinese companies are selling solar products in Europe far below their cost of production, with a dumping margin of 60% to 80%. This means that Chinese solar companies are making enormous losses, but are not bankrupt because they are bankrolled by the state. Such practices have led to over 20 major European solar manufacturers going out of business already in 2012 alone. If China destroys the EU solar industry where labour accounts for less than 10% of production costs, then virtually all European manufacturing sectors and jobs are under threat."

EU Prosun’s US counterpart, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), has also come out publicly in support of the EC’s decision. "The more than 220 member companies of CASM today applaud the decision of the European Union's Directorate General for Trade to initiate the anti-dumping investigation requested by EU ProSun against Chinese solar manufacturers," Gordon Brinser, president of Oregon–based SolarWorld Industries America Inc., which has been leading CASM’s effort, stated.

"We believe that, similar to the United States, the European Union will come to the conclusion that the Chinese are violating EU and international trade law and we look forward to the results of the investigation next fall.

"We understand the scope that the European Union is considering for this trade case will be a comprehensive one. If the Chinese are found to have violated EU and international law, as we expect they will, the broader scope of the case will help prevent the Chinese from avoiding duties by shipping cells through Taiwan or another third country.

"CASM again calls for the U.S. Commerce Department to revise the scope of the American case in its final determination in order to stop the Chinese from causing continued injury by circumventing any final determinations from Commerce in October and the International Trade Commission in November and to provide effective relief for American industry.

Opposing Chinese Silicon PV Import Duties

Chinese solar PV companies joined in calling for the EC to halt a rising tide of protectionism. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang on Thursday said that the Chinese government “‘deeply regrets’ the European Commission’s decision," according to a China Daily report.

“Restricting China’s solar panel products will not only hurt the interests of both the Chinese and European solar industries, it will also undermine the healthy development of the global solar and clean energy sector,” Shen was quoted as saying.

While continuing its opposition to the imposition of import duties on imports of silicon PV cells and panels in the US, Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) President Jigar Shah also came out publicly in opposition to the EC’s decision.

“Today's European Union announcement initiating a trade investigation into Chinese solar exports to Europe represents the continuation of SolarWorld's efforts to utilize legal maneuvers to support their business objectives. As in the US solar trade case, SolarWorld is seeking to institute trade barriers and tariffs to support its business at the expense of the majority of the solar market. As in the US solar trade case, we note that many European solar companies oppose SolarWorld's self-serving maneuvers. We also note that many European political leaders are rejecting protectionism and are advocating constructive negotiations for resolving the current solar trade dispute.

"Clearly, all global solar industry leaders, including major PV US and EU–based trade associations like SEIA, EPIA, and SEMI, want to see a constructive resolution to global solar trade issues. Just as in the US trade case, when the US solar industry rallied in opposition to SolarWorld's actions, the majority of EU–based solar companies oppose the imposition of harmful taxes on the global solar industry.

"The solar industry's growth, which results in adding jobs and infrastructure investment, is correlated to the reduction in solar system costs, and this cost reduction goal is undermined by SolarWorld's legal initiatives."

Photo Credit: Suntech


World’s First Floating Wind Farm Test Site in Mediterranean

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 04:24 AM PDT

 
In the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the world’s first test site with multiple floating vertical-axis wind turbines is going to be installed. The offshore wind project is called INFLOW — Industrialized setup of a floating offshore wind turbine — and is funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme.

The INFLOW project is an update of a current wind farm that has been running for four years. The goal is to increase the project’s output to 26 MW, with an eventual target of 150 MW by 2018.

Source: Wind Tech International


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