Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Startup Hopes to Double the Power of Solar

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 01:42 PM PDT

A Massachusetts start-up called Bandgap Engineering is aiming to double the power generation of solar cells using nanowires. Already, the company says it has achieved a 5% increase in energy conversion for solar cells and their cost is just one dollar per watt to install.


When placed in cells, their nanowires cause sunlight to bounce around inside and greatly increase the chance it will be absorbed. If Bandgap can arrange the nanowires so they are aligned with specific planes, solar cells could produce electricity from low-light situations.

Solar cells with an efficiency of 60% are theoretically possible but the startup is aiming at 38% for now. It is also applying its nano-silicon technology to lithium-ion batteries.

Bandgap was awarded a $750,000 DOE grant in 2011.

Image Credit: Illustration by Kristian Molhave, Wiki Commons

More Bicycle Friendly Communities for the U.S. — Los Angeles, Miami, and Nashville

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 01:25 PM PDT

Bicycle friendly communities are exactly what it says on the tin — communities taking steps to make cycling safer and more accessible for everyone. The League of American Bicyclists recognizes and awards five levels of BFCs (Bicycle Friendly Communities, of course) — Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. As of this month, 47 of the 50 states can claim to host BFCs.

Pedal Towards Progress

This month, Los Angeles, Miami, and Nashville were among 28 new cities awarded BFC status — a privilege now shared by 2/3 of America’s largest cities. Cycling has a number of direct and indirect health benefits (with the possible exception of the ubiquitous shorts), and the League claims that bicycle commuting grew 80%(!) in BFCs between 2000 and 2011 — but only by 32% in less bike-friendly cities.

League President Andy Clarke responded to the new communities with this:

“This latest round of BFC awards proves yet again that any city — regardless of size or geography — can take cost-effective steps to increase bicycling in their community. From Bentonville, Arkansas, to Bethesda, Maryland, cities are embracing biking as a means to save money, reduce congestion, improve health and boost their economy.”


From Carmageddon to 1600 Miles of Bike Paths

Los Angeles, which is widely known for its traffic congestion (although some of its cars are admittedly the awesome zero-emission electric type) has added 75 miles of bike paths and has plans to build a total of 1,600 miles worth over the next three decades.

Nashville has invested $7 million in bike paths and other greenways since 2008, and Miami is working on putting in more bike paths, as well.

The mayors of all three cities — all of which received the Bronze award — have continued to pledge further development of cycling accessibility over the next several years.

Questions or comments? Anecdotes about cyclists? I nearly ran over three on the way downtown when driving the i-MiEV last month, for instance, but my home town of Chicago is apparently not on the BFC list. Let us hear from you in the comments below!

Source: League of American Bicyclists

Control Your Nissan Leaf Remotely

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 01:13 PM PDT

LeafLink is a smart phone app which enables you to control your Nissan Leaf in multiple ways. It enables you to control the A/C so it can cool shortly before you go out to get in it (so that you are not burnt by scorching summer heat). You can also turn on the heater before going out to the Leaf so that you don’t have to sit in the cold.

LeafLink App Screenshot

It Allows You to Control Your Nissan Leaf Charger

LeafLink also enables users to start the charging process or set a charger timer remotely. It also tells you the driving range with or without the air conditioner on, as well as the state of charge (often called SOC).

One benefit of the charge timer is that it enables users to take advantage of TOU (time-of-use) electricity pricing. Electricity is sometimes cheaper at night in the United States, so the Leaf can be programmed to charge at least every night during what are called off-peak hours.

Navigation Features

  • You can send addresses to the Leaf’s navigation system.
  • You can find charging stations on a map.
  • You can find places on a map.

Oh Yeah…

While this program is convenient, it is of course only useful to those that can use it, and it only supports Apple iOS devices. It would be far more helpful, and its sales revenue could be increased by preparing an Android  version (Android devices comprise over 68% of the smart phone OS market, as of August 8, 2012).

Photo Credit: LeafLink website

Reposted with full permission from Electric Love.

Interactive World Map on Renewable Energy & CO2 Emissions

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 12:54 PM PDT

Using data from the Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index to create an interactive map of energy standards across the globe, Direct Blinds has produced a great inside look at renewable energy and CO2 worldwide. The Guardian writes:

“Taking scores from the index relating to renewable energy and carbon dioxide emissions, the graphic shows data for the 19 single-country members of the G-20, and for the 10 top performing nations in each of the two categories.”

Unfortunately, the map is too big to display on Cleantechnica, so head on over to Direct Blinds to check it out.

Levi Strauss Using Reycled Plastic in Latest Denim Collection

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 12:37 PM PDT

Levi StraussJust about everyone has owned a pair of Levi Strauss jeans, unless you’re still into wearing polyester. Levi Strauss is a known icon in the clothing industry. Now it is setting the standard again with a new denim collection that will incorporate over 3.5 million recycled bottles into their clothing.

This is a great way to promote recycling by an industry leader and help lower the environmental impact of its products.

This is not Levi’s first attempt to be eco-friendly. Last year, the company launched its Water<Less collection that lowered the amount of water used in manufacturing by an average of 20%. The new collection will be deemed the Waste<Less collection.

Here are some more details on the new Levi Strauss jeans from BusinessGreen:

The Waste<Less denim trousers will each include at least 20 per cent post-consumer waste, equating to eight plastic 300ml to 500ml plastic bottles per pair.

The denim will include PET plastic and other polyethylene terephthalate materials, such as brown beer bottles and black food trays that have been collected by local recycling programs across the US.

The bottles and food trays will be sorted by colour, crushed into flakes and made into a polyester fibre, which will then be mixed with cotton fibre to create cotton yarn by Levi’s partner company Cone Denim.

Levi’s said the resulting fabric will also have an undertone of the colour of the bottles used.

James Curleigh, global president of Levi’s brand, says: “By adding value to waste, we hope to change the way people think about recycling.

“This collection proves that you don’t have to sacrifice quality, comfort or style to give an end a new beginning.”

More and more of the bigger-named clothing brands are joining in on lowering their environmental impact.

Some of these more eco-friendly brands include Nike, Adidas, Timberland, and now Levi Strauss… with several more in their footsteps.

Source: BusinessGreen
Image Credit: Levi’s shop via Iupungato /

Modern Day Don Quixotes Fight to Save Wind Power Tax Credit

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 12:26 PM PDT

In a real-life riff on Don Quixote, a group of military veterans has come to Congress not to tilt at windmills but to fight for them. Organized by the veterans clean energy coalition Operation Free, the group is lobbying for extension of the wind tax credit. Their support of wind power is based on the national security threat posed by oil dependency, a threat that is bound to intensify unless the U.S. gets serious about transitioning to more secure and reliable forms of energy. Most of the group’s members are also employed in the wind industry and they come with another equally important message for Congress about creating new jobs and easing the high unemployment rate for veterans.

military veterans lobby Congress for wind power tax credit

The Wind Tax Credit, National Security, and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

In a prepared statement, Operation Free spokesman Mike Breen explained the connection between wind, security, and employment:

“Wind-generated electricity diversifies our energy supply and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, which strengthens our economic and national security. We are proud to stand with these Texan veterans who have traveled to our nation's capital to help educate our members of Congress about the benefits of wind. These meetings provide a critical opportunity for veterans who found job opportunities in the wind industry….”

Operation Free, btw, is an initiative of the Truman National Security Project, an institute for progressive leadership on national security. CleanTechnica readers may recall that documentary filmmaker Roger Sorkin, a fellow at the Truman Project, is working on a new film that lays out the burden of oil dependency on national security and on soldiers, their families, and their communities.


Support Our Troops!

Along with supporting the wind tax credit, from the get-go, the Obama Administration has pushed hard to support Department of Defense initiatives that reduce oil dependency and create new jobs, by kickstarting the development of the clean energy sector. Solar power is already becoming ubiquitous at military facilities both in the U.S. and overseas, and new advances in radar technology will enable more wind power for military facilities, too.

Another early Obama Administration initiative was the Recovery Act, which focused millions of dollars on new job-creating clean energy projects in the civilian sector. For the wind industry, that has included federal support for a public-private partnership that trains military veterans for wind industry careers.

According to the Truman Project, veterans hold a “high percentage” of jobs in the wind industry, which currently stands at about 75,000.

The matchup of veterans and wind power makes sense when you consider the broad range of technical skills required of today’s geared-up military personnel. Depending on the job, some degree of physical stamina and training also comes in handy in the wind industry (just take a look at The Weather Channel’s “Turbine Cowboys” and you’ll see).

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

According to the latest reports, the U.S. wind and solar industries have been growing at an impressive clip. They are positioned for explosive growth, which could launch the U.S. into global leadership of the clean energy sector.

However, the lack of support for extending the wind tax credit by Republican leadership in Congress has already had a significant negative effect on the domestic wind industry in recent months, and it appears to be set for a free-fall if Congress fails to act.

It remains to be seen whether Operation Free can change some minds and snatch victory back from the jaws of defeat. By the middle of this week, the group had reportedly confirmed meetings with 32 members of the House and Senate, all but two belonging to the Republican party (here’s the list, and while they’re at it they might want to drop in on the Romney campaign office, too).

Image: Don Quixotesome rights reserved by liber

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Tesla Motors Accepting Roadster Trade-ins for New Model S

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 12:05 PM PDT

Tesla Roadster trade in

There’s some good news for all those Tesla Roadster owners out there that have their eye on the new Tesla Model S.

Tesla has announced it will start a buyback program to help the roadster owners who want to trade in their old ride for a Model S. In some cases, the new owners could even ride away with extra money in their pockets.

Here’s more one the news from AutoblogGreen:

The California-based electric-vehicle maker is starting a buyback program in which owners of the company’s first car, the Roadster, can trade it in for credit against the purchase of a Model S sedan, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Tesla made about 2,500 Roadsters, with chassis bits provided by Lotus, between 2008 and 2011. The company estimates that it could sell Roadsters for anywhere from about $73,000 for a four-year-old model to about $93,000 for a 2010 model with low miles. Owners paid upwards of $109,000 when they were new.

The new Tesla Model S has a price range from $50,000 to around $100,000 depending on the options desired. This is a new start for Tesla dealerships and may help those who wanted a Roadster but couldn’t budget the full price at the time.

Source: AutoblogGreen
Image Credit: Tesla Roadster via Zoran Karapancev via

This article has been reposted from Electric Love with permission.

Turkey Places 27MW Wind Order from Vestas

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 12:00 PM PDT

Turkey has recently placed a 27 megawatt (MW) order from global wind manufacturer Vestas.

The new endeavour between Tefirom and the Zaf Group with Vestas will include 9 V112-3.0 MW wind turbines for the Senuk wind power plant in Hatay, Turkey.

Vestas’ new deal in Turkey will include a 10-year active management output (AMO) agreement, along with the servicing, installation, delivery, and commissioning of the brand new wind turbines, a news release from Vestas noted.

"Having been chosen by Zaf and Tefirom for the first V112-3.0 MW wind power plant in Turkey is a clear sign of trust in our proven and reliable technology. With this order, Vestas reinforces its presence in Turkey and is fully committed to support the expansion of the Turkish wind energy market," said Acting President of Vestas Mediterranean and Chief Sales Officer of Vestas Wind Systems A/S Juan Araluce in the release.

Meanwhile, Vestas is expected to deliver the turbines in the first quarter of 2013, with power from the new turbines up and running by the second quarter 2013, as well.

Annual production of the Senbuk power plant is expected to be 97,800 megawatt-hours of electricity, reducing about 50,000 tons of carbon emissions from the air each year, Vestas said.

Source: Vestas

“Think Like a Man” is First Entirely LED-Lit Film (Video)

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 10:00 AM PDT


Movie sets are notorious energy hogs, from heating and cooling systems, to round-the-clock generator usage, to lighting. Notably, Sony’s romantic comedy Think Like a Man, directed by Tim Story, is the first film entirely lit LED style.

What’s the big deal about using LEDs on a movie set (or anywhere for that matter)? These energy-efficient lights last about 200 times longer than incandescent bulbs, emit less heat, and use about 75% less energy — a huge savings over months of filming.

Source: The Credits

10 Ways to Save Money, Energy and Protect Your Health This Winter

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Via the EPA, here are 10 great money-saving, Earth-saving, health-boosting tips for the coming winter (image added):

Winter home via Shutterstock

WASHINGTON – With winter quickly approaching, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is highlighting ten tips for Americans to protect their health, save money, and lower energy while enjoying the winter holiday season.

1. Maintain your heating equipment to lower utility bills. Heating and cooling costs account for about $1,000 — nearly half of a home’s total annual energy bill. Maintaining the efficiency of your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills. Dirt and neglect can impact the efficiency of your HVAC system and are some of the top causes of heating system failure. Schedule an HVAC checkup with a licensed HVAC contractor to make sure your system is operating at peak performance. Also, check your system's air filter every month and change it when it’s dirty or at a minimum, every three months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy.

2. Download EPA's free Apps to help protect your health. The AIRNow app allows users to enter a zip code and get current particle pollution and ozone levels and forecasts for more than 400 cities across the country. The Ultraviolet (UV) Index provides an hourly forecast of the UV radiation levels from the sun. Both are available for Apple and Android phones. Learn more about these apps and the others:

3. Decorate for the holidays with Energy Star light strings that can last up to 10 times longer. Energy Star-qualified light strings use about 65 percent less electricity than incandescent light strings and are available in a variety of colors, shapes and lengths. They save energy and are more durable, shock-resistant and cooler to the touch. If every decorative light string sold in the U.S. this year were Energy Star qualified, Americans would save $80 million in utility bills and one billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented.

4. Lower the temperature in your home to increase savings up to 12 percent. Control your home's temperature while away or asleep by using one of the pre-programmed settings. Programming the thermostat to turn the temperature down 8 degrees for 7 hours each night and an additional 7 hours each weekday could result in a seasonal heating savings of approximately 12 percent. For the average home, this could result in savings of about $180.

5. Check for water leaks and install WaterSense products to save approximately $170 per year. The average household spends as much as $500 per year on their water and sewer bill, but approximately $170 per year can be saved by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

6. Reduce your food waste. Feed people, not landfills. Food is the single largest type of waste going to landfills and incinerators. Americans disposed of approximately 33 million tons of food waste in 2010. When excess food, leftover food, and food scraps are disposed of in a landfill, they decompose and become a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas. Much of the food that is discarded in landfills is actually safe, wholesome food that could have been used to feed people. So when you are thinking about making your family dinner, think about how you can reduce your food waste to save money, help communities, and protect the environment.

7. Look for the Design for the Environment label on more than 2,800 products during winter cleaning. EPA’s Designed for the Environment (DfE) logo differentiates products that use only the safest ingredients to protect people, our pets, and the environment. In 2011, Americans using DfE products cut the use of harmful chemicals by more than 756 million pounds.

8. Test your home for radon gas, 1 in 15 homes may have elevated levels. Radon, a colorless odorless gas, is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and levels can increase during colder months. Purchase an affordable Do-It-Yourself test kit online or at a local hardware store to determine the level in your home. Addressing high levels often costs the same as other minor home repairs.

9. Learn before you burn and cut firewood use by more than 30 percent. The Burn Wise program has best burn practices to help better protect your home and your health. Never burn garbage, cardboard, ocean driftwood or wet wood. If you replace an old wood stove with a more efficient one, efficiency can increase by 50 percent, 1/3 less wood can be used for the same heat and 70 percent less particle pollution indoors and out are produced.

10. Prevent Pests. Now is the time when pests such as insects and rodents may try to move indoors. Eliminate sources of food, water, and shelter to reduce pest problems. Prevent pests by using caulk to eliminate cracks, repair water leaks, remove clutter, and clean up crumbs and other food sources. If you decide to use a pesticide, read the label first. The pesticide label is your guide to using pesticides safely and effectively. It contains pertinent information that you should read and understand before you use a pesticide product.

More winter tips:

More local information from MyEnvironment:

All year long you can Pick5 for the Environment:

Lower Your Costs & Boost Your Profits by Going Greener: 3 Top Options

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Who doesn’t want to lower their costs? Who doesn’t want to increase their profits? Who doesn’t want to do their part to protect the natural environment we all rely on for survival of our species? Say get on with it and do these three things below!

Three Ways to Lower Costs and Boost Profits by Going Greener (via Ecopreneurist)

This is a guest post by Shel Horowitz, author and green business marketing expert. You can follow him on Twitter @shelhorowitz Every business wants to increase revenue and cut expenses. How about if you do both of those things, and help the planet at the same time? How? By going greener in your business…

Communities Can Benefit from Wind Farms

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 03:03 AM PDT

Communities May Benefit from Wind Farms

The government in the UK has come up with a nice little incentive to promote wind farms in its local communities. For communities that allow wind farms to be built in their area, residents could see a decrease in the electric bill and maybe even a new playground or other beneficial infrastructure investments. The UK’s Guardian reports:

“The Department of Energy and Climate Change has launched a consultation into how communities could benefit from having wind farms sited near them, for example by receiving discounts on bills or investment in local infrastructure. It will also look at how local businesses could become involved in the supply chain and how developers can best consult local people.

“The energy secretary, Edward Davey, said that too often host communities had seen the ‘wind farm but not the windfall’ and he wanted to ensure people benefited from them.

“‘We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them.’”


As with everything, there is a group that opposes communities reaping any benefits from wind farms. The group Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) issued a warning to the government “against promoting a system in which communities were ‘paid off’ to secure planning permission for wind farms.”

Tom Leveridge, senior energy campaigner for CPRE, said: “This would fundamentally undermine a core principle of the planning system – that planning permission should not be bought or sold – and put the countryside at greater risk from poorly sited wind developments.”

It seems the majority favor the incentives — who wouldn’t want cheaper electric or a new playground for the kids? There will always be those who just can’t see the rewards for going with renewable energy.

Source: Guardian
Image Credit: Ennor

Magical Gas Conjured from Thin Air

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 02:58 AM PDT

Temperatures are rising. Not only are environmentalists getting hot under the collar, but the world is too.

It’s all to do with that nasty carbon dioxide which cars and industrial processes pump out. Surely, there has to be a neat easy and simple solution to take all this nasty carbon dioxide and turn it into fuel?

Well now there is.

Magic green gas car

Magic green gas

Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS) in the UK has developed a system which combines carbon dioxide and water to produce a hydrocarbon base product.  This base product can then be converted into most of the gasoline products we’ve got used to getting from oil.

It’s not that the science is particularly complicated; it’s just that AFS has managed to nail the end-to-end process and use renewable energy to power it.

In essence, it works like this:

Wind turbines produce electricity to power an electrolyser. This splits water into hydrogen and oxygen and the hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide from the air to make the base hydrocarbon. The hydrocarbon can then be used to produce gas, lubricants, plastics, and all other sorts of goodies.

Furthermore, the gas doesn’t need any special additives and can go straight into today’s cars without engine modifications. No batteries, no hydrogen fuel cells, nothing. Just pump it in like regular gas, from a regular pump.

The company has already built a demonstrator unit at its $1.7m development base which is churning out up to 10 litres of hydrocarbon a day.  Its next aim is to raise the funding to take the project to the next level.

“We think that by the end of 2014, provided we can get the funding going, we can be producing petrol using renewable energy and doing it on a commercial basis,” says AFS CEO Peter Harrison. “We ought to be aiming for a refinery-scale operation within the next 15 years.”

He’s also fully aware of the impact the company’s process could have on an oil-dominated world.

“You have the potential to change the economics of a country if you can make your own fuel,” Harrison continues.  “We’re talking to a number of island communities around the world and other niche markets to help solve their energy problems.”

There’s a whole basketful of if’s and but’s, the most important of which are: 1) whether the scaled up process can run exclusively from renewable energy, and 2) what the cost will be.

That said, this is believed to be the first such end-to-end process anywhere in the world. Not so much “carbon capture and storage,” as carbon capture and reuse.

A holy grail for clean technology if ever there was one, and perhaps the horizon of a post–fossil fuel economy.

Largest Transparent Photovoltaic Roof in the US

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 02:22 AM PDT

The oncology division of the US head office of pharmaceutical company Novartis will soon be looking up to the country’s largest transparent photovoltaic roof.

Sunways AG announced the news of its largest individual order for building integrated photovoltaics to date. The office building was designed by architectural firm Rafael Viñoly from New York.

Sunways described the innovative design:

“A special process provides the semitransparent solar cells with square cut-out openings. This leads to transparency levels of around 10 percent. The staggered arrangement of the solar cells in individually manufactured solar glass modules leads to additional transparency for daylight. The result is an aesthetic solar roof as a multifunctional solution: it not only protects against environmental influences but also uses existing surfaces for the production of renewable energy while rendering natural lighting and shading possible.”

Sunways will be providing 161,000 monocrystalline, semitransparent design solar cells for the project, which be installed into a roof area of around 2,547 square meters with a rated energy output of 295 kilowatts.

Source: Sunways AG
Image Source: Bodisun New Energy

Australian Electricity Emissions Intensity Drops Since Carbon Price

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 02:16 AM PDT

The Australian Minister for Climate Change has reported that the intensity of the country’s electricity generation emissions has fallen since the introduction of the carbon price in July.

Greg Combet, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, revealed that “in the first three months of the carbon price, electricity generated for the National Electricity Market emitted 0.85 tonnes of carbon pollution for each megawatt hour — a 7.6 per cent decline in emissions intensity compared to 2011-12.”

The data come from the Australian Energy Market Operator, who provided the chart below, outlining the emissions intensity for fourteen months over the the time the carbon price was introduced by Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Australian Energy Emissions Drops Since Carbon Price

Emission intensity refers to the average emission rate of a given pollutant from a given source; in this case, carbon from electricity generation.

“This means the amount of carbon pollution released into the atmosphere in the September quarter this year was 2.4 million tonnes lower than it would have been if emissions intensity had remained at the 2011-12 level of 0.92 tonnes per megawatt hour,” Combett added in a press release published Thursday.

Unsurprisingly, given the high-minded attitude my country’s politicians take towards their work, Combet could not pass up the opportunity to take a swipe at the opposition leader, Liberal Tony Abbott, saying that his “claims that the carbon price would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions are just as misleading as his wild claims that the carbon price would lead to unimaginable price increases and wreck the Australian economy.”

Glad to see those in power taking the high road on this.

Source: Renew Economy
Image Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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