Friday, November 2, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

100% Electric Tax Company Coming

Posted: 02 Nov 2012 12:00 AM PDT

 
Electric vehicles may not be all over the place yet, but a new taxi company in the DC area is looking to help change that.

Chris DeMorro of Gas2 writes: “a new millennium calls for new answers to transportation, and a Virginia taxi company wants to be on the cutting edge. The Electric Vehicle Taxicab Company hopes to provide customers with a modern transit experience via a fleet of electric cars equipped with Apple iPad tablets.”

The innovative taxi company is the Electric Vehicle Taxicab company. Its home base will be Arlington County, Virginia (just outside Washington, D.C.).

For more on this story, check out: All Electric Taxi Company Ready For Prime Time?


First All-Carbon Solar Cell Created

Posted: 01 Nov 2012 02:50 PM PDT

 
The first solar cell made entirely out of carbon has been created by researchers from Stanford University. This technological breakthrough is offering the possibility of cheap, practical alternatives to the sometimes rather expensive materials used in current solar cells.

carbon solar cell

“Carbon has the potential to deliver high performance at a low cost,” said study senior author Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a working solar cell that has all of the components made of carbon. This study builds on previous work done in our lab.”

In contrast to the rigid silicon solar panels that cover many rooftops, the new thin-film prototype was created entirely of carbon materials that can be coated from solution. “Perhaps in the future we can look at alternative markets where flexible carbon solar cells are coated on the surface of buildings, on windows or on cars to generate electricity,” Bao said.


 
The new coating technique also creates the possibility of greatly reducing current manufacturing costs, according to Stanford grad student Michael Vosgueritchian, co-lead author of the study with postdoctoral researcher Marc Ramuz.

“Processing silicon-based solar cells requires a lot of steps,” Vosgueritchian explained. “But our entire device can be built using simple coating methods that don’t require expensive tools and machines.”

The new solar cell is composed of a photoactive layer that absorbs the sunlight, which is sandwiched between two electrodes. In the common thin-film solar cells of today, the electrodes are usually made from conductive metals and indium tin oxide (ITO). “Materials like indium are scarce and becoming more expensive as the demand for solar cells, touchscreen panels and other electronic devices grows,” Bao said. “Carbon, on the other hand, is low cost and Earth-abundant.”

So, in creating the new solar cell, the researchers replaced the silver and ITO that is used in typical electrodes with graphene and carbon nanotubes. “Carbon nanotubes have extraordinary electrical conductivity and light-absorption properties,” Bao said.

And the active layer was replaced with carbon nanotubes and “buckyballs,” which are carbon molecules just one nanometer in diameter that are shaped like soccer balls. The research team has filed a patent for the new technology.

“Every component in our solar cell, from top to bottom, is made of carbon materials,” Vosgueritchian said. “Other groups have reported making all-carbon solar cells, but they were referring to just the active layer in the middle, not the electrodes.”

There is a drawback to the all-carbon prototype, though — it mostly just absorbs near-infrared wavelengths of light. This results in a laboratory efficiency of only around 1 percent. “We clearly have a long way to go on efficiency,” Bao said. “But with better materials and better processing techniques, we expect that the efficiency will go up quite dramatically.”

The researchers are currently experimenting with a wide variety of carbon nanomaterials, looking to inprove the efficiency.

But improving the efficiency may not be immediately necessary because these new solar solar cells have a significant advantage operating in extreme environments, potentially carving out a place for themselves there.

“Materials made of carbon are very robust,” Bao said. “They remain stable in air temperatures of nearly 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“We believe that all-carbon solar cells could be used in extreme environments, such as at high temperatures or at high physical stress,” Vosgueritchian said. “But obviously we want the highest efficiency possible and are working on ways to improve our device.”

The research was just published on October 31st in the online edition of the journal ACS Nano.

Source: Stanford University
Image Credits: Mark Shwartz


Michael Bloomberg (NYC Mayor) Endorses Obama (Main Reason — Climate Change)

Posted: 01 Nov 2012 12:53 PM PDT

 
michael bloombergThis article was originally published on Climate Progress. It has been reposted with full permission (image added).

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that climate change is his top consideration this election season. As Bloomberg helps his city recover from Superstorm Sandy — one of nearly two dozen extreme weather events costing more than $1 billion since last year — he says that it has influenced his decision to vote for Barack Obama:

The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast – in lost lives, lost homes and lost business – brought the stakes of Tuesday's presidential election into sharp relief.

The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work. And in the short term, our subway system remains partially shut down, and many city residents and businesses still have no power. In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods – something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable.

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be – given this week's devastation – should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

But we can't do it alone. We need leadership from the White House – and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.

After a period of silence among political leaders and journalists this campaign season on climate change, the issue has dominated headlines in the days after Hurricane Sandy.

Image: Michael Bloomberg via A. Einsiedler / Shutterstock.com


Utility-Scale Installations Lead US Solar PV Growth

Posted: 01 Nov 2012 12:36 PM PDT

 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-861 Annual Electric Power Industry Report, and Form EIA-860,Annual Electric Generator Report
Note: EIA collects data on the electric power industry in alternating-current megawatts (MWAC), while the PV industry in general discusses PV capacity in direct-current megawatts (MWDC), because solar panels produce DC power.

According to EIA’s new survey-based estimate of total solar capacity, total on-grid photovoltaic (PV) capacity nearly doubled in 2011, led by particularly strong growth in both utility-scale PV and commercial sector PV capacity. Although 2011 was a record year for solar PV growth, solar PV capacity has consistently grown over the past few years. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) reports that total grid-connected PV capacity quadrupled between 2008 and 2011.

The recent growth in utility-scale PV projects is especially noteworthy. This category was all but nonexistent only five years ago, when the residential and commercial sectors accounted for nearly all of the PV installations. While a residential PV system might comprise only a few solar panels and 5 to 20 kilowatts of capacity, utility-scale plants have capacities of 1 megawatt (MW) and above. Utility-scale PV capacity grew from just 70 MW in 2008 to 1,052 MW in 2011. In fact, prior to 2011, the majority of utility-scale solar capacity was concentrating solar technology, and not PV.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-861 Annual Electric Power Industry Report, Form EIA-860, Annual Electric Generator Report, and Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). 
Note: EIA collects data on the electric power industry in alternating-current megawatts (MWAC), while IREC and the PV industry in general discusses PV capacity in direct-current megawatts (MWDC), because solar panels produce DC power. For this chart, EIA assumed 80% efficient conversion from DC power to AC power.

Both the number and average size of utility-scale projects are increasing. According to data reported to EIA as of August 2012, the 10 largest operational PV plants all exceed 20 MW; there were no PV projects of this scale operating prior to 2009. Although total utility-scale PV capacity still accounts for only about 0.1% of total generating capacity of all types in the United States, PV accounted for 3% of new capacity additions in 2011, and 5% of 2012 capacity additions (through August, the most recent month for which data are reported to EIA). Because the utilization rate for PV, which is governed by the availability of sunlight, is lower than for other types of capacity, PV’s generation share is well below its capacity share.

Smaller-scale residential and commercial projects (sometimes referred to as distributed capacity) still account for the majority of on-grid PV installed capacity. In 2012, both utility and nonutility scale installations are on track to exceed the level of capacity additions realized in 2011. EIA data on utility-scale PV capacity show 589 MW installed through August 2012 and an additional 944 MW under construction and scheduled to be complete by year end. This growth is matched by growth in the commercial and residential sectors, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) reports for the first and second quarter of 2012.

Multiple federal, state, and local programs encourage solar power development. At the federal level, solar projects built through 2016 are eligible for a 30% investment tax credit (ITC). In addition, ITC-eligible projects that were under construction by the end of 2011 were eligible to claim the 30% credit as an upfront cash grant from the U.S. Treasury Department’s 1603 program.

Thirty states also currently have mandatory renewable portfolio standards (RPS). More than half of those policies include provisions that offer added incentives for solar and distributed generation facilities, either through mechanisms such as awarding bonus credits for solar generation, or by requiring that a certain portion of the RPS be fulfilled by solar or distributed generation. Many states also offer net metering for distributed solar PV capacity, which compensates distributed generation owners for power produced in excess of on-site usage. The states with the most total solar PV capacity in 2011 were California, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, all of which have policies designed to encourage solar power.

PV costs have also been declining. According to SEIA’s first and second quarter Solar Market Insight reports, module costs alone have fallen to less than half of the level seen only two years ago. The costs for a full, installed system are also generally on the decline, due to falling component costs and increased experience in installation. This is particularly true for smaller-scale customer-sited projects, although these projects are still generally more expensive on a dollar-per-watt basis. However, despite recent cost declines, grid-connected solar PV installations still generally rely on incentives in order to be competitive with retail and wholesale electricity.

This article was originally published on the website of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.


The Connection Between Mass Transit & Health (Infographic)

Posted: 01 Nov 2012 10:02 AM PDT

 
Mass transit isn’t just good for the environment and your wallet (currently, savings from taking transit equal $9,934 a year for the average American) — it also positively impacts your health. Check out this infographic below from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Public Health website for nifty facts on how public transportation coincides with healthier behaviors, like walking and biking. Some noteworthy stats:

  • 30 percent of transit users get 30 minutes (or more!) of physical activity each day
  • People on public transport walk an average of 19 minutes daily to get to and from stops
  • The risk of obesity increases 6 percent every additional hour spent in a car

So what are you waiting for? Put a few bucks on that metro pass and improve your health!

Here’s the infographic:

Source: DC Streets Blog


Benefits Of Electric Cars Are Not Just Fuel Savings

Posted: 01 Nov 2012 08:07 AM PDT

 
The benefits of electric cars are not just economical and environmental. They offer convenience benefits as well.

Nissan has created an advertisement for its Leaf vehicle which, for example, highlights the convenience of charging in your own home. Check it out, and then check out the article below for more on the benefits of electric vehicles:

Convenience of Charging

Despite the fact that typical electric cars take hours to charge, which complicates the process of recharging in public, electric cars are the only cars that can easily be charged at home overnight without stopping at any gas stations to fill up, and without buying any additional equipment.

Everything you need to charge in the comfort of your own home is built into the car.

If your office allows you to charge your car, you can get your full range back even before you make your second trip home. This is another convenience benefit. You can safely leave it to charge

You might end up running out of “fuel” less often than a gasoline-powered car driver if you plan your trips accordingly: An important fact is that people with gasoline-powered cars wait until they are almost out of gas to to refill, partly because they don’t want to sit at a gas station. So if you have an electric car, congratulations on being able to effortlessly enjoy your full range every single day.
 

 

You Can Avoid Becoming Stranded Altogether

The secret to preventing stranding altogether is to first determine the length of your average daily commute, which is likely to be less than 40 miles. You would then choose a car which offers a driving range which is considerably more than that. For example, if you drive 40 miles daily, a Nissan Leaf could work.

Whenever you need to make an unusual trip, use Google Maps (Click “Get Directions”) to determine the distance of the different routes.

Electric Cars Can Back Up Wind and Solar Power Plants

Electric vehicles and wind farms complement each other especially nicely. This is because electric cars contain large energy storage systems known as batteries.

They store upwards of 24 kWh (24,000 Watt-hours) of energy, which is actually enough to supply a house with up to 1,000 watts of power for 24 hours continuously (however, the average house in the United States draws an average of 3 kW).

When wind farm wind speeds increase, and the turbines generate more electricity, the cost of wind power drops for that moment, and electric cars can take advantage of that low-cost (even 3 cents per kWh) power and capture it with their batteries.

You could actually drive your car at a cost of 3 cents per kWh just because of a stormy day!

Furthermore, wind power is most abundant at night, helping to make electricity cheapest at night in many places, when you are most likely to charge your EV.

Cost and Range

If you experience difficulty getting through the complicated and technical work of understanding the cost difference between electric and gasoline-powered cars, as well as the controversial range issue, see if this example of 40 miles a day is helpful:

If driving 40 miles per day for all 30 days of the month, it would add up to 1,200 miles per month, and it would cost a 25 MPG gasoline-powered car driver $192 per month, assuming a gasoline cost of $4 per gallon.

The Nissan Leaf, however, would cost $36 per month to make those same trips, assuming an average electricity cost of $0.10 per kWh. The Nissan Leaf is equipped with a 24 kWh battery bank. After driving 40 miles in this vehicle, you would have a range of 33 miles remaining for the rest of the day.

What is most relevant to you, however, is your electricity cost. Multiply it by 360 (this is 360 kWh, the amount of electricity the Nissan Leaf would require to drive 40 miles per day for a 30 day month).


Bluglass Shares Jump After LED Breakthrough

Posted: 01 Nov 2012 07:56 AM PDT

 
Via Renew Economy, republished with full permission.

Shares in Australian LED technology developer BluGlass jumped sharply last week after the company announced what it called a "world first" reduction in impurities in its gallium nitrade films.

The Sydney-based company described the development as a "breakthrough" for the company and its "low temperature" thin film technology, which is known as "Remote Plasma Chemical Vapour Deposition” (RPCVD) and was developed after 15 years of research at Macquarie University. It is designed to grow semiconductor materials such as gallium nitrades for the production of high efficiency devices such as LEDs (light emitting diodes) and solar cells.

The announcement was enough to push the stock up 36 per cent to 15c, its highest level since May last year. A unit of Japanese industrial  giant Sumitomo has a 19.9 per cent stake in the company.
 

 
Bluglass said the ability to produce GaNs with industry acceptable impurities (carbon and oxygen) was a significant step towards its "proof of concept" milestone and its aim to show the advantages of the RPCVD technology – mostly in the efficiency of LED devices.

"This achievement is a breakthrough for the company and is a critical step in proving to the industry and future customers the potential of our technology," CEO Giles Bourne said in a statement.

"Carbon and Oxygen are well known inhibitors of RPCVD, and their reduction will be viewed by the industry as a significant achievement. These reductions in impurities will greatly assist BluGlass in achieving its technical and commercial milestones."


BMW i4 Electric Sport Coupe Could Be At LA Auto Show

Posted: 01 Nov 2012 07:33 AM PDT

 
And for a preview of a preview, here are some details on the BMW i4, an electric sport coupe, from sister site Gas2:

The BMW i4 coupe could be based on the upcoming BMW i3 all-electric sedan (with optional range extender?) according to a report in French car magazine l'Automobile. The BMW i4 would use a carbon-reinforced chassis and body to offset some of the extra weight from the batteries, and I assume it will keep the rear-wheel drive setup of the i3 as well.

An all-electric BMW coupe that isn't the fantastically-expensive i8 supercar? I can totally get down with that. Though just a rumor for now, pricing is rumored to be well above the i3's target price tag of around $50,000. BMW has targeted a sub-8 second 0-60 mph time for the i3, so I for one assume a BMW EV sports coupe would be at least a second or two quicker.

For more of Chris DeMorro’s thoughts on this news, check out: BMW i4 Electric Sport Coupe Coming To LA Auto Show?


A Look At Paris Car-Sharing Program Autolib’

Posted: 01 Nov 2012 07:00 AM PDT

 
Bike sharing and car sharing may slowly transform transportation systems as we know them this century. And Paris is a clear leader on this front, with the wildly successful bike-sharing program Velib’ leading to many near replicas in major and medium-sized cities across the globe. Now, the city is also taking a lead in the electric car-sharing genre. Here’s a look at the city’s Autolib’ program form sister site Ecopreneurist:



Paris Car Share Autolib’ Enjoys Success After First Year (via Ecopreneurist)

Many cities around the world are familiar with car sharing programs, by which citizens without a means of transportation may "rent" cars on a pay-as-you-go basis in order to save money. In most cases, these programs help to cut traffic congestion because they encourage patrons to give up personal…




95% Of LED-Lit Cities Happy With Overall Performance & Energy Savings

Posted: 01 Nov 2012 05:31 AM PDT

 
In a survey of 100 US cities and municipalities using LED streetlights, 95% report satisfaction with the overall performance of the lights. The 60% savings (or more if you’re on a movie set) in energy and maintenance costs undoubtedly play a role in the LED streetlight satisfaction.

PR Newswire reports that about 45% of responding cities received funding for the LED project from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is drying up, making future LED project funding harder to find.

The good news is that the price of LED streetlights is becoming more and more affordable and, “on track to hit parity with legacy technology within a few years,” according to PR Newswire.

The survey can be found in the study “United States Smart Infrastructure: LED and Smart Street Lighting.”

Image: LED Streetlight via Shutterstock


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