- Ultra-Efficient Side-Illuminated Solar Cell Architecture Created By Researchers
- Sandy Is The Next War, According To Army Sustainability Report
- Solar- And Wave-Powered Mobile Weather Station Survives Hurricane Sandy
- U.S. Drought Worsening, Wheat Crop Suffering
- Collapse Of Maya Civilization Strongly Linked To Climate Change, Finds New Research
- Big Boost For Renewable Energy In Store: ABB Develops “Game Changing” Hybrid HVDC Breaker
- Kimberly-Clark Professional Bolsters Sustainability Commitment With Introduction Of Alternative Fiber Towel And Tissue Products
- Solar Provides NJ, Pennsylvania Residents Bang For Their Buck (More Than 2:1 Return): Report
- Abengoa Begins Construction On 150 MW Concentrating Solar Power Plants In South Africa
- 5000 MW Of Geothermal For Kenya By 2030?
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 03:50 PM PST
The new cell architecture is able to go beyond a 40% conversion efficiency — that’s extremely efficient for solar cells — with intensities equal to 10,000 suns.
“Typically a concentrator solar cell comprises interdependent stacked materials connected in series, with significant associated fabrication difficulties and efficiency limitations,” explains Prof. Jeffrey Gordon, a member of the Department of Solar Energy and Environmental Physics at BGU’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research.
“Our new designs for concentrator photovoltaic cells comprise multiple tiers of semiconductor materials that are totally independent, and overcome numerous challenges in compiling the elements of even the most efficient solar cells,” he says.
By doing this, the solar concentration levels at which the cell efficiency peaks increase by more than 10,000 times ambient solar beam radiation. That is considerably higher than any others ever before.
“Our future depends on the development of alternative energies, and BGU is leading the way in this field,” explains Doron Krakow, executive vice president of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU). “Prof. Gordon and his colleagues in BGU’s Energy Initiative continue to bring new innovations that will impact our world for the better.”
The new research was just detailed in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.
Source: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 01:49 PM PST
U.S. Army Sustainability Report 2012
The Army’s Sustainability Report 2012 does not pussyfoot around the issue of global warming. From the beginning it states that “rising demand for scarce resources, increasing regional unrest, and the effects of climate change are just some of the trends that will affect our future security environment.”
In that context, the report lays out a long-term national defense strategy grounded in energy conservation, alternative energy, water conservation and sustainable waste management.
While clearly focused on military goals, the report also is not shy about identifying environmental sustainability with fundamental human welfare. The opening paragraph lays it all out:
“Training, equipping, and supporting the Army's operations require land, resources, and people. By implementing sustainability principles and practices, the Army will decrease future mission constraints, increase flexibility and resilience, safeguard human health, improve Army quality of life, and enhance the natural environment.”
A Blueprint for Sustainability
The report covers actions taken in 2010 and 2011. At the policy-making end, the Army took the important steps of forming the Senior Energy and Sustainability Council and issuing the Army Sustainability Campaign Plan. Together, these establish the institutional framework that is needed to bring about top-to-bottom change in an organization. That means identifying sustainability as a unifying goal that prioritizes and guides future action.
At the implementation end, the actions include large-scale projects such as Army Net Zero, which aims to demonstrate that sprawling, complex facilities can be taken off the grid and meet net zero standards for energy, water, and/or waste.
The Army also launched the Energy Initiatives Task Force in 2011. This is an office staffed with specialists whose mission it is to relieve base commanders from the administrative burden of getting utility-scale solar power and other alternative energy installed at Army facilities. A recent memorandum of understanding between the Departments of Defense and the Interior will help streamline the Army’s alternative energy construction process, too.
On a more brick-by-brick end of the scale, the actions include habitat and wildlife conservation on training grounds, a stepped-up focus on wellness and family life, and reducing or eliminating the use of toxic materials.
Any and all of the actions outlined in the report already have a civilian counterpart (the net zero waste initiative is one good example).
Moving beyond the Sustainability Report, the Army is leading a cultural revolution that should make the collective hair of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News stand on end. Its newly launched “The Power is in Your Hands” initiative calls upon each Soldier and civilian to participate in an “energy-informed culture” grounded in new technology and smart choices.
That’s something the “support our troops” faction in Congress might want to keep in mind when their new term begins in 2013.
(Disclosure note: I live and work in Sandy’s path. More on that in the next post!)
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 11:38 AM PST
The Wave Glider named Mercury, produced by the company Liquid Robotics, survived Sandy easily, giving unique insight into the storm.
“One hundred miles due east of Toms River, New Jersey, the weather sensors on the Wave Glider gathered dramatic data from the ocean surface, reporting a plunge in barometric pressure of over 54.3 mbars to a low of 946 mbars as Sandy neared landfall,” writes Liquid Robotics.
"This is a testament to our robust and reliable technology and proof of its readiness for severe weather data collection,” stated Dr. Edward Lu, chief of innovative applications for Liquid Robotics, in a press release. “That couldn’t be more true considering one of their gliders also survived a shark attack,” TreeHugger‘s Jaymi Heimbuch notes enthusiastically. “Sharks, storms… bring it!”
And as Yahoo! News notes: ”Wave Gliders have already set world records for oceangoing travel by traveling from the West Coast to Hawaii. One pair of robots is headed for Japan with a stop at the Mariana Trench — the deepest place on Earth — while a second pair heads for Australia. The Mercury Wave Glider is part of an ocean-observing project that includes two Sonardyne undersea nodes. Such a project aims to show how both subsea and surface technology can monitor tsunamis in a cost-effective way.”
"In the midst of this epic disaster, Liquid Robotics wishes to express our sympathies for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy," said Bill Vass, CEO of Liquid Robotics. "We are working closely with scientists around the world to use the Wave Glider technology for better hurricane, typhoon and tsunami prediction so we can help reduce the risk to human life and property.”
The wave-powered and solar-powered Wave Gliders are yet another cleantech success story we’re happy to report on here on CleanTechnica.
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 10:57 AM PST
Usually, October is the third-wettest month of the year for Texas, but this year there has barely been any rain at all. Last month was the ninth-driest October there since 1895.
Both Texas and Oklahoma have recorded temperatures that are above “normal” and have received practically no rain. And Kansas and Nebraska have also seen the droughts that they are experiencing expand.
These long-persisting droughts have limited the growth of the new winter wheat crop in those states, “as soil moisture levels were too low to spur normal plant development. Grazing for livestock was also poor as pastures remained parched.”
“Roughly 59.48 percent of the contiguous United States was suffering from at least ‘moderate’ drought as of November 6, down from 60.16 percent a week earlier, according to Thursday’s Drought Monitor, a weekly compilation of data gathered by federal and academic scientists.”
The section of the US that is now under “extreme” or “exceptional” drought has risen though, up to 19.36 percent from 19.04 percent.
Many places have not seen any, or barely any, rain in the past three weeks or more. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels have been continuing to plummet. And surface water supplies have been continuing to drop sharply, with no end in sight. As the climatologists say, we are entering a “new normal.”
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 10:50 AM PST
The collapse of the Maya civilization is likely a good mirror for what may occur in the modern world when climatic changes lead to failures in the highly specialized and delicate framework of modern civilization. Modern research has found that the classic Maya civilization collapsed at the end of a long period of wet weather, as it gave way to drought. As the local climate changed, the civilization and its products disintegrated, leading to widespread famine, endemic warfare, and the collapse of cities.
And now new research that has just been finished is providing more insight into the effects that climate change had on the Maya. The research very accurately details a climate record spanning over 2,000 years in the area of modern-day Belize, revealing more about the changing periods of wet and dry weather in which Maya cities developed from 300 to 1000.
The research was done by using the climate data that is contained in stalagmites and the large amounts of archaeological evidence left behind by the Maya. Stalagmites are the mineral deposits that are left behind by the slowly dripping water in caves.
“Unlike the current global warming trend, which is spurred by human activities including the emission of atmosphere-heating greenhouse gases, the change in the Central American climate during the collapse of the Maya civilization was due to a massive, undulating, natural weather pattern.”
“This weather pattern alternately brought extreme moisture, which fostered the growth of the Maya civilization, and periods of dry weather and drought on a centuries-long scale,” said the study’s lead author, Douglas Kennett, an anthropologist at Penn State University.
During the wet periods agriculture expanded and allowed the population and urban centers to grow. This process reinforced the centralized power that the kings of these centers possessed. The kings are known to have claimed credit for the things that the region was dependent on but had no control of, such as the rains and the weather. The supposed mechanism of this influence over the elements were the ritualized public blood sacrifices for which the Maya are well known. Because the power of the kings over their subjects was largely dependent on a favorable climate for agriculture, their rule could be greatly influenced by changes in the climate. It’s very easy to argue that modern civilization is no different — without large-scale agriculture, it’s hard to imagine any semblance of it persisting for long.
“You can imagine the Maya getting lured into this trap,” he said. “The idea is that they keep the rains coming, they keep everything together, and that’s great when you’re in a really good period … but when things start going badly, and (the kings are) doing the ceremonies and nothing’s happening, then people are going to start questioning whether or not they should really be in charge.”
“The political collapse of the Maya kings came around the year 900, when prolonged drought undermined their authority. But Maya populations remained for another century or so, when a severe drought lasting from the years 1000 to 1100 forced Maya to leave what used to be their biggest centers of population.”
The Maya also had their own hand in the collapse of their agricultural system. Their farming (like modern farming) led to soil erosion and nutrient depletion. They combated this by intensifying their farming. Using more land and more irrigation, and that in turn caused greater erosion.
“When the climate in the area shifted toward drought, in a long-running pattern called the intertropical conversion zone, it exacerbated human impact on environment,” Kennett said.
“There are some analogies to this in the modern context that we need to worry about,” he said.
It’s predicted that modern climate change could very well undermine agricultural systems throughout large sections of the world, causing widespread famine, warfare, and disease… which these affected populations then export to the surrounding and otherwise unaffected territories, “just as it may have happened in Maya civilization.”
The research was just published in the journal Science on Thursday.
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 07:37 AM PST
The hybrid DC breaker combines "advanced ultrafast mechanical actuators with ABB’s in-house semiconductor IGBT valve technologies or power electronics.” ABB management deems it a "game changer."
Capable of carrying electricity over long distances much more efficiently than alternating current (AC), HVDC transmission is seen as a way of transporting renewable energy from remote utility-scale locations — such as desert solar power facilities and offshore wind farms — to consumption centers at much lower cost than existing transmission infrastructure.
Stopping HVDC Flows Faster than the Blink of an Eye
According to ABB, the breakthrough hybrid DC breaker "removes a significant stumbling block in the development of HVDC transmission grids where planning can start now. These grids will enable interconnection and load balancing between HVDC power superhighways integrating renewables and transporting bulk power across long distances with minimal losses," technology manager for grid systems and HVDC grids program manager Magnus Callavik writes in a Nov. 7 post on the ABB Conversations blog.
ABB’s hybrid circuit breaker is capable of blocking and breaking DC currents at thousands of amperes and several hundred thousands of volts, equivalent to the average power consumption of 1 million Europeans.
"It amounts to stopping power capable of feeding a large city much faster than an eye blink!," ABB elaborates. "This speed helps protect the DC transmission system and prevent power outages in new low loss compact power superhighways. The next step is to install the breaker in pilot installations."
Edison and GE May Have Lost the Battle of the Currents…
Promoted and developed by Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse, alternating current (AC) in the early 20th century won the so-called "War of the Currents" versus DC, which was promoted and sponsored by Thomas Edison and General Electric. AC has since become the predominant form of electric current used in transmission lines, grids, buildings, and homes.
There are advantages to using DC at local and much smaller scales, however, according to ABB. DC is still used to distribute electricity — particularly in remote and isolated communities — and numerous and varied equipment and devices produce as well as run on DC (including batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines on the production side; and computers, cell phones, and LED lights on the consumption side), ABB notes in "Tesla vs Edison: the war of currents."
Building out DC distribution grids where AC counterparts already exist would be impractical, ABB acknowledges, but it sees DC as a "solution of choice" in newly built areas or cities, as well as for communities and installations that are off the grid at present. "Such islands include new ships and communities generating their own power from renewable resources," ABB says.
Furthermore, ABB points out, "DC distribution would be particularly attractive for communities using power generated by photovoltaic solar panels, since this is already DC power and currently has to be converted to AC before distribution."
Image Courtesy: ThinkGeek Design
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 07:26 AM PST
The company has announced it is the first major tissue manufacturer to introduce products containing non-tree fibers to the North American market. This product introduction is fundamental to the company's exploration of options that foster more sustainable development.
The new Kleenex and Scott offerings will be featured at Greenbuild 2012. They represent an early phase of the Kimberly-Clark Professional effort to advance an ambitious corporate-wide initiative aimed at accelerating the use of rapidly renewable, non-tree sources of fiber in Kimberly-Clark products.
Company officials say the alternative fiber products will contain 20% non-tree fibers, including wheat straw and bamboo. Unlike trees, these plants have a shorter harvesting cycle that allows for more efficient and sustainable use of land and resources.
Currently the Kimberly-Clark Professional Alternative Fiber products are an early phase effort and will only be available through Kimberly-Clark Professional for organizations in the business-to-business segment.
Photo Credit: Kimberly-Clark Professional
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 07:16 AM PST
The Clean Power Research report notes that solar electricity provides a premium value of $150 to $200 per MWh (or 15 cents to 20 cents per kWh) above the actual value of the solar electricity generated, and a levelized value of $256 to $318 per MWh (25.6 cents to 31.8 cents per kWh). When compared to the real cost of the Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC) — which range in cost between $60/MWh (6 cents/kWh) in New Jersey and $20/MWh (2 cents/kWh) in Pennsylvania — the value far exceeds the cost of the SREC's.
“This indicates that electric ratepayers in the region are getting more than a two-to-one return on their investment in solar energy,” said MSEIA President Dennis Wilson, President of MSEIA, in a release.
“Although the current SREC prices are unsustainably low, our analysis indicates that SRECs can increase in price, deliver net benefits and still support strong solar growth. Solar power has proven it can deliver value that exceeds its cost by 50% to over 100%. This net positive benefit will only increase as solar technology continues to drop in cost," he said.
With both states ranking in the top ten in installed US solar capacity (New Jersey second and Pennsylvania eighth), one will hope to see solar energy continue its upward movement, given its economic and environmental benefits as prices continue to fall.
“Solar PV does not get a fair shake in our current utility accounting protocols because those rules evolved for centralized, large-scale power plants,” says manager of the Reinvestment Fund's Sustainable Development Fund, Roger Clark, who helped fund the study.
“We supported this study because it is critical to understand the costs and benefits of solar so that our energy policies, such as Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, are grounded on an accurate perception of the value of solar energy,” he said.
Despite the challenges by utilities, reports like the one released by Clean Power Research give strong support that solar can be a force for good (in environmental and economic ways) and give a big bang for the investment buck.
Source: PR Newswire
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 07:06 AM PST
Khi Solar One is a 50 megawatt (MW) concentrating solar power tower, while the 100 MW KaXu Solar One is based on solar parabolic trough technology. Abengoa on Nov. 6 signed long-term power purchase agreements with South Africa’s state-owned power utility Eskom, and also concluded project finance agreements with a group of South African and international financial institutions, according to a company press release.
South Africa’s Ambitious Sustainable Energy Program Gains Steam
South Africa has set ambitious targets for solar and renewable energy growth as part of a broader sustainable development strategy. The SA Dept. of Energy expects to bring 17,800 MW of renewable energy online by 2030. SA’s Energy Minister recently announced approval of $5.4 billion for 28 solar, wind, and geothermal energy projects that are to add 1.4 gigawatts (GW) of clean, renewable power to the nation’s grid.
Partnering with Abengoa on the CSP projects is state-owned development finance institution Industrial Development Corp. (IDC). With a 51% equity stake in Khi Solar One and KaXu Solar One, Abengoa is building and will operate the plants. IDC holds a 29% equity interest, and domestic Black Economic Empowerment program owns the remaining 29%.
Aiming to minimize water use, both CSP plants will employ advanced dry cooling technology, which Abengoa says reduces water consumption by around 2/3 compared to other CSP plants (historically, one of CSP’s weaknesses compared to solar PV and wind power). The plants will also include energy storage capacity — about two hours’ worth for Khi Solar One and three hours for KaXu — which means Eskom will have greater flexibility and control over their power supplies, including being able to draw on and dispatch power from the plants to meet intermittent power demand after sunset.
US development finance institutions Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) on Sept. 17 announced it has approved up to $250 million in financing that will enable US-based solar photovoltaic (PV) cell and module manufacturer MEMC Electronic Materials and its solar installation and project development subsidiary SunEdison to build and operate a 60 MW solar PV facility in South Africa’s Free State.
Posted: 09 Nov 2012 06:48 AM PST
If this geothermal construction zeal appears less than impressive it should be pointed out that about 75% of Kenyans don’t have consistent access to electricity. Presumably, this means they also don’t have regular access to the Internet, which means they are living without important and sometimes critical information. Renewable sources of energy would be most welcome and geothermal energy is not intermittent like solar and wind.
There is an estimated 10,000 MW of geothermal potential in the Rift Valley within Kenya. In some areas, wood is still burned for cooking fires and literacy rates are very low. Access to electricity could help break the cycle of poverty because it would allow students to be able to read at night and do their homework. Without education, job opportunities are very limited and generations experience crushing poverty. About 1.5 million people in Kenya are living with HIV, and education is one of the chief weapons against the spread of this disease.
Climate change could wreak havoc on Kenya’s economy, which is dependent in part on agriculture and tourism, because drought conditions would wipe out crops and wildlife.
Image Credit: Brian Rutere, Wiki Commons
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