Friday, November 9, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Top Tips For Preserving Heat In The Winter Months

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 05:29 PM PST

Did you know that one third of the heat your house produces through your central heating system is rapidly lost? There are five main areas that heat is lost and these include the roof, walls, floors, windows and ceilings.

But you can save your pennies and preserve the heat to make sure you stay toasty and warm over the approaching chilly months; and you can do this by eliminating the loss with some simple measures.

Image: snow-covered home via Shutterstock

It is imperative that your house is kept warm when the weather takes a turn for the worst. Findings by the Institute of Health Equality reveal that cold housing increases the level of minor illnesses such as colds and flu, and exacerbates existing conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism.

Energy prices are increasing; Npower and British Gas are the latest utility providers to increase their gas and electricity prices. So how can you reduce your energy bills over the next couple of months and preserve heat?

Here are some top tips to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce the burden on your purse strings.


According to the National Energy Foundation, you can save up to 20% off your energy bill by insulating the loft. It is recommended to install a minimum depth of 150mm (6 inches) and ideal materials include mineral wool, fibreglass, and recycled paper.

According to Part L1B, 250 mm mineral fibre, glass wool or cellulose fibre as quilt laid between and above ceiling joists is recommended, or loose fill or equivalent. This may be boarded out insulation also. 150 mm is considered the threshold minimum value under Part L1B.

It is also ideal to insulate the walls as insulation can reduce heat loss by two-thirds. Cavity-fill insulation is an option worth exploring.



Draughts from windows and doors can cause up to 20% of heat loss according to a recent study, so fix them with either draught-proofing or double glazing. This is a very popular energy-saving measure and it is much cheaper than cavity wall insulation.

Alternatively, use shades and curtains to regulate the heat in the home. When it's cold, leave the blinds open on sunny days and close them at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through the windows.

Thermostat (heat controllers)

Control the amount of energy that is emitted in each room with a heat controller. Did you know that by turning your thermostat down by one degree you can cut your energy bill by 10%?

Boiler check

One way you can preserve heat is to carry out maintenance on your boiler to check its efficiency. An old boiler will emit more carbon emissions, so perhaps you may need to replace it.

Heat recovery ventilation (HRV) system

There are alternative ways to preserve heat in the home and this can be achieved with a HRV system. This is not very well known but experts claim that it can reduce your energy bills by up to 30%. Basically, the system is like mechanical ventilation you find in kitchens and bathrooms except it has an influence over the incoming air.

It captures 90% of the heat energy before the stale air is expelled and it is used to pre-heat the incoming fresh air. The heat is used over and over again so the property remains warm.


There are various ways that you can conserve the energy in your home. Follow these top tips and stay cosy this winter.

This article was provided by Myredlandroof, the UK's leading roofing experts. Speak to the professionals today for specialist advice and tips, and visit the website to find reputable local roof replacement companies.

Floating Solar Plants To Expand In Japan

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 02:30 PM PST

As previously reported on CleanTechnica, Japan is experimenting with floating renewable energy. It is now expanding on that with ten floating solar installations totaling 20 MW of power capacity. These will be built by home renovator West Holdings. It will get the technology from South Korea’s LS Industrial Systems.


Though this type of solar installation may sound exotic and even unnecessary to some, Japan has enough earthquakes that floating solar panels would be very sensible in some areas.

A nature reserve in Saitama and a swamp in Osaka are two of the first locations for these solar installations. Together, their capacity is 3 MW.

Notably, floating solar panels have been operating at a Napa Valley winery since 2011.

Japan is transitioning away from nuclear power and currently has most of its nuclear plants offline.

Image Credit: Araisyohei, Wiki Commons

Duke Energy To Contribute $2 Million To Palmetto Clean Energy (PaCE) Program

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 12:48 PM PST

Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the United States, has contributed $2 million to Palmetto Clean Energy (PaCE), a South Carolina non-profit program which is designed to improve the quality of the environment by promoting development of renewable energy sources.

"Spearheading the advancement of technologies that promote the generation of electric energy through environmentally friendly, renewable resources in South Carolina is important to Duke Energy,” said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy state president — South Carolina. “Our ongoing partnership with PaCE and this contribution highlight our commitment to these efforts.”

“We are pleased to receive this significant donation,” said Robert Long, chairman of the PaCE board of directors. “Gifts such as this play a vital role in helping us expand renewable energy responsibly in South Carolina. Without this gift or the financial support that PaCE receives from its other generous donors, PaCE would not be able to achieve its goals of encouraging and supporting renewable energy in South Carolina.”

Duke Energy has made a commitment for a total of $2 million. The $1 million contributed by Duke Energy to PaCE in 2012 will be followed by an additional $1 million in 2013 which is a part of a settlement agreement reached with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and the Coastal Conservation League (CCL) as part of the Duke Energy–Progress Energy merger. It shows the determination of Duke Energy in promoting renewable energy and reducing its carbon footprint.

“Dollars contributed to PaCE will support renewable energy produced right here in South Carolina, giving a boost to our state’s economy while protecting our environment. That’s why we worked hard to secure this commitment from Duke Energy,” said Blan Holman, attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, who represented the Environmental Defense Fund, the CCL, and SACE in negotiating Duke Energy’s contribution to PaCE.

Duke Energy utility operations serve approximately 7.1 million electric customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest of United States. It owns and operates power generation assets in commercial and international business segments in North America and Latin America. It is also foraying into the renewable energy assets in the United States.

Image Credit: PaCE

Urine-Powered Generator Created By African Teen Girls

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 12:38 PM PST

Some renewable energy sources are more glamorous than others. Solar and wind are glamorous; biomass and biogas, not as glamorous. Perhaps one the least glamorous renewable resources — but superabundant — has recently been used to power a generator. “Urine” for a surprise as to the resource… Yup, it’s pee! (har har, bad joke)

Teenagers Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Eniola have developed a urine-fueled generator that can provide six hours of electricity per one liter of pee. The young ladies showcased their invention at this year’s Maker Faire Africa in Lago, Nigeria.

Here’s how it works, according to The Next Web: “An electrolytic cell separates the urea into nitrogen, water and hydrogen. The hydrogen goes into a water filter purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder. The gas cylinder pushes the hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas. This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.” And voilĂ ! Now you have electricity from pee.

The girls’ generator isn’t the first urine-powered invention – a few batteries have already been powered by pee.

I have to say, I’d much rather use urine as a power source than guzzle it as a health drink.

Image: Laboratory glassware via Shutterstock

With Competition Increasing At Home, Indian Companies Eye Malaysian Renewable Energy Sector

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 12:20 PM PST

Indian companies are looking to invest in Malaysia's renewable energy feed-in tariff scheme, an official at Malaysia's largest power utility has revealed. The feed-in tariff regime is part of Malaysia’s new mechanism under the Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan and the Renewable Energy Act 2011 to promote generation of renewable energy.

The Malaysian government is also promoting microgrid power projects and some Indian companies have expressed interest in becoming technology partners in such projects. Representatives of some Malaysian companies were participating in the ASEAN-India Workshop on Cooperation in Renewable Energy.  

Malaysia's feed-in-tariff system obligates the distribution companies to buy electricity generated from the renewable energy sources from the Feed-in Approval Holders (FiAHs) at a fixed premium price for a specific duration. This program is a part of Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan and Renewable Energy Act 2011, which aims to catalyze the development of renewable energy projects up to 30 MW in size.

According to the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) of Malaysia, authority responsible for managing and oversees the FiT system, a company incorporated in Malaysia having a foreign person, (alone or together with other foreign persons), holding no more than 49% of voting power or the issued share capital of such company can apply for feed-in approvals.

SEDA has also recently announced that it is opening 20 MW of non-individual solar photovoltaic feed-in-tariff quotas for installation for the projects due to be commissioned next year.

Indian companies have gained significant expertise in development of renewable energy projects, both large- and small-scale. India is among the top generators of wind energy. The country leapfrogged to over 1,000 MW solar power capacity from just 8 MW in a span of one to two years.

Competition has increased significantly over the last few months, specifically in the solar energy sector due to steep fall in the capital cost. This has led to a similar fall in the feed-in tariffs offered by the government. It seems natural that the Indian companies are now scouting new developing markets.

Image Credits: SKopp and Zscout370 (Wikimedia Commons)

The views presented in the above article are the author's personal views only.

Crowdfunding Helping California Churches To Go Solar

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 11:45 AM PST

Churches in the United States are non-profit. Therefore, they aren’t eligible for investment tax credits (no federal funding is available to them), and this complicates the process of funding solar panels on their properties. So, some California churches have decided to use an unusual approach, crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding Solar for Churches

Crowdfunding in this case is the acquisition of small contributions from members of the congregation to the pool of money which will be used to purchase the solar system.

Electricity costs impact churches considerably in a recession environment in which donations have declined. “Going solar” is one way to help guard against further and future economic recession, because it is, technically, the purchase of 30 years of electricity in advance, and at a fixed price.

If it is a grid-tie net-metering setup, then as utility electricity prices increase, the churches’ incomes from net-metering increase, and the financial payback time of their panels is decreased.

NorthCreek Solar-Powered Church (Parking Lot Canopy)

Churches that Installed Solar Systems

NorthCreek Church in Walnut Creek, California

This is a 305 kW DC system that consists of 1,092 Suntech 280 solar panels. The estimated CO2 reduction is 573,406 pounds. The estimated annual electricity production of this system is 377,189 kWh.

This installation offset 99% of the church’s energy costs with a zero-money-down lease.

NorthCreek Church Solar Project (Aerial View).

Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

Tassajara Zen Mountain Center is located in a remote location in the Carmel Valley inland from Big Sur.

“This is the oldest Zen training center outside of Asia, and closely allied with the San Francisco Zen Center.  Its remote location definitely has its advantages.   Away from the "busyness of civilization", Tassajara is known for the peace and quiet to find extreme inner peace, surrounded by only the sounds of nature where you can study, practice or train in Zen Buddhism.

“Way back in the coastal California mountains, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center set out to install a photovoltaic solar system.  Their ground-mounted, off-grid, battery-based system has been built in two phases approximately 4 years apart.  The first phase of approximately 9 kW DC covered basic needs, but as the Center grew, they required the use of a generator more often than they desired.  In order to come closer to net zero in terms of supply, the Center contacted Sun Light & Power to design and commission Phase 2 – another 12 kW DC (bringing the total to approximately 21 kW DC) – to almost completely eliminate the need for their back-up generator.”


Additional Solar Churches & Houses of Worship

These houses of worship have new solar installations pending.

St. Stephens Church, Orinda.

Zen Center, San Francisco

Christ the King Lutheran Church, Fremont, CA

First Chinese Baptist Church, San Francisco

St. John's Episcopal Church, Oakland

Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, Richmond

Source: Sun Light and Power (via email)

Nuclear Waste Storage Facilities “Intolerable”

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 11:22 AM PST

Nuclear waste stored in run-down facilities poses an “intolerable risk;” long-term planning has faced “historic neglect” and decommissioning costs have spiralled out of control.

That’s the damning conclusion of a report by the National Audit Office into the Sellafield nuclear power station, the largest and oldest in the UK.

Sellafield site including nuclear waste facilities

Nearly 20 million gallons of nuclear waste are stored on the site in ponds and silos for the 50-year period needed for nuclear waste to cool down. Many of these are themselves over 50 years old and have “deteriorated so much that their contents pose significant risks to people and the environment”.

There have been many plans to improve the facilities, the latest of which came to a halt last year because it was “unrealistic,” with 85% of the improvements attempted failing to achieve what they were meant to achieve.

One of these was meant to fully encapsulate the nuclear waste silos on the site but was scrapped in 2008 because construction had started before the design process had completed.  Work has now restarted on the project with costs rising 92% to over $2 billion.

The estimated cost of decommissioning the entire site by 2120 has risen by over 40% in just 3 years, and currently stands at $107 billion.

Co-incidentally, that’s exactly the same amount (40% that is) which Green Alliance and WWF estimated the UK could cut its energy demand by if it gave proper incentives for householders and businesses to generate their own renewable energy.

Instead, the UK Government made an unbelievable decision in 2008 to return to nuclear power and revealed plans last year to build another eight new nuclear power plants by 2025.

I just hope British children and taxpayers of the future will forgive them.

Picture Credit: Postcard of Sellafield by Leonora Enking (some rights reserved).

Pro-Transit Ballot Initiatives Continue To Be Popular With Voters (70% Voted Through)

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 11:05 AM PST

President Barack Obama may have been the big winner of the 2012 US Presidential Election, but according to the American Public Transport Association (APTA), transit was also a big winner. Nearly 70% of pro-transit measures were voted through.

13 of 19 local public transit–related ballot initiatives were approved during voting on Tuesday, which means that, in 2012, 46 out of 58 pro-transit measures have passed, reflecting a long-term trend since the year 2000.

"Despite concerns about the economy, voters throughout the country at a rate of nearly 70 percent voted on November 6 to pass pro-public transportation ballot initiatives," said American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. "This successful trend of passing transit measures demonstrates that public transportation is a vital and essential service that people want and need. Even with economic concerns still on everyone's minds, voters decided to pass taxes, create bonding, or take other actions to improve or maintain public transportation."

Notably, the top issue on voters’ minds is actually jobs, and transit creates jobs like nothing else:

Orange County saw a half-cent sales tax for local and regional transit following a successful half-cent sales tax measure for improved public transportation in Durham County last year. Arlington County in Virginia voted to pass a nearly $32 million bond that will support a number of public transit projects, including capital projects for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Several votes to eliminate transit altogether were voted down across the country and several ballots fell marginally short of the necessary two-thirds to pass.

For a complete list of 2012 transportation state and local ballot initiatives, go to the CFTE web site at

Source: The American Public Transportation Association
Top Image Source: Pim van den Heuvel

Eight Greentech Finalists Compete for $50,000

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 05:56 AM PST

The final round of the NOVA Innovation Competition 2012 will be held at the Saint-Gobain NOVA External Venturing booth #4463N at the 2012 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in San Francisco next week, where the eight finalists will compete in a live speed dating format to pitch their innovations to a judging panel consisting of Saint-Gobain business leaders.

The competition has drawn startups from around the world that have recently innovated new products in the area of “sustainable habitat and construction materials.” This included construction products, advanced materials, energy efficiency, and environmental sustainability.

The eight finalists are:

  • Aquamost Inc. (Brookfield, WI) – A chemical-free system for the remediation of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and other oil/gas well wastewater, combining catalyst plates, UV light and electricity.
  • Architectural Applications (Portland, OR) – An air conditioning efficiency technology that uses membrane-based, air-to-air heat and moisture exchangers integrated into the building envelope system to create healthier indoor environments with much less energy.
  • Blue Water Bioproducts (Port Huron, MI) – Developer of eco-friendly polyurethane resins made from lignin, a pulp and paper industry waste product.
  • Encapsulix (Simiane, Provence, France) – Developer of thin-film coating equipment that make OLED, LED lighting, photovoltaics, organic electronics more durable and less expensive to manufacture.
  • Heliotrope Technologies (Oakland, CA) – Developer of energy efficient electrochromic glass windows that can switch between solar transparent, heat blocking and heat and lighting blocking states.
  • PlanGrid (Sunnyvale, CA) – Complete collaborative platform for construction information and the fastest PDF viewer in the universe.
  • Smarter Shade (South Bend, IN) – A daylight control platform that enables a new or existing window to go from clear to dark with the touch of a button, which activates a sliding film.
  • ThermoCeramix Group (Boston, MA) – A radiant heat system integrated into gypsum wall board and tiles for ceilings and walls.

The first three winners will receive cash prizes of $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000, respectively. However, the real prize in the contest is the opportunity each of the eight finalists now have to partner with Saint-Gobain’s NOVA External Venturing organization in exploring potential joint development, licensing, or other collaboration agreements.

Source: NOVA Innovation Competition

US International Trade Commission Votes Unanimously In Favor Of Anti-Subsidy Duties On Chinese Silicon PV Imports

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 04:47 AM PST

U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) judges Nov. 7 voted unanimously (6-0) that Chinese government subsidies to silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell and panel manufacturers violate World Trade Organization (WTO) rules by causing harm to their U.S. counterparts. The ITC panel voted against the Coalition of American Solar Manufactuers’ claim of critical circumstances, which would have seen countervailing and anti-dumping duties imposed retroactively to the date CASM originally filed its two petitions — October 19, 2011.

A Commerce Dept. WTO panel on Oct. 10 issued its final determination on anti-dumping duties to be imposed on imports of silicon PV cells and panels from China. The ITC’s ruling on Chinese government subsidies to its domestic manufacturers brings to a close what’s been a controversial, fiercely debated issue that’s divided the U.S. solar manufacturing industry into opposing camps represented by CASM on the one side and the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) on the other — at least in terms of U.S. international trade litigation.



Gaming International Trade

"Today's unanimous vote by the International Trade Commission confirms what has been apparent in the marketplace for the past two years – Chinese manufacturers, with the enthusiastic support of the Chinese government, have attempted to game the international trading system in order to gain a virtual monopoly on solar cells and modules sales in the U.S. market," commented Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, the lead litigant in filing the two WTO petitions with the Commerce Dept.

"We have seen the results of this campaign in the marketplace, with more than a dozen companies either shutting down manufacturing facilities or significantly cutting back production and employment in the United States and a Chinese industry, led by LDK Solar and Suntech, having to increasingly turn to its national and provincial governments for help to survive.

"With this relief, combined with an aggressive domestic enforcement regime, there is hope that the United States can maintain a viable solar manufacturing base, conduct ongoing research and development and continue to make solar an increasingly viable part of the American renewable energy portfolio. On behalf of the membership of CASM, I want to thank the commissioners and the ITC staff for the hard work on this case.”

Encouraging Dialogue

"Today's expected decision by the ITC marks the end of a distracting and politically-charged trade case between the U.S. and China regarding imports of solar cells. Although this ruling was anticipated given the ITC's low threshold for injury determinations, we are nevertheless disappointed that they have left in place the Commerce Department's tariffs on solar cell imports. Fortunately, the scope of the decision is unchanged and is limited to solar cells produced in China, thereby minimizing harm to the U.S. solar industry," CASE president Jigar Shah, a partner in Inerjys, a $1 billion fund that invests in clean energy via growth capital and project finance, stated in response to the ITC’s final determination.

"We will continue to encourage dialogue and negotiation between the U.S. and Chinese governments to seek a constructive resolution. Unilateral tariffs and a trade war in today's interconnected global marketplace are unnecessary and detrimental to effective and efficient business competition.

"Going forward, we must avoid a repeat of the SolarWorld saga, as the growth of the solar industry here, in Europe, and around the world is too important to be upended by one company's self-serving crusade. Fortunately, the scope of the decision is unchanged and is limited to solar cells produced in China, thereby minimizing harm to the U.S. solar industry."

Commenting on the ITC’s finding against CASM’s claim of critical circumstance, CASE commented, "We are pleased that the ITC has determined that there were no critical circumstances, and thus no reason to apply the tariffs retroactively. This means that tariffs will not apply to modules made with Chinese cells that were imported into the U.S. during the period of the investigation."

Solar PV & International Trade Litigation: More to Come

We haven’t heard the last on this issue, however. The European Commission on Sept. 7 decided it has received sufficient evidence from the EU ProSun group of European solar PV manufacturers to investigate claims that Chinese silicon PV wafer, cell and panel manufacturers are dumping product in the European Union (EU) market. Results are expected around June.

The Chinese government, for its part, on Nov. 5 filed a complaint with the WTO asserting that some European governments’ subsidies are in "violation of WTO prohibitions on import replacement subsidies, seriously affect Chinese exports, and harm China’s rightful interests as a WTO member," according to a BBC News report.

Following, courtesy of CASE, is a table summarizing the preliminary and final determinations on anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties imposed on Chinese silicon PV cell and panel imports to the US made by the ITC and Commerce Dept. panels.

Second Generation Nest Thermostat Available At Best Buy

Posted: 08 Nov 2012 04:31 AM PST

Nest has recently announced that it has released its second generation Nest Learning Thermostat for sale at Best Buy, with a price of $249.

Available on-line at as well as at more than 600 Best Buy stores, the new thermostat is a unique one that can save you a good deal of energy (note: we’ve covered the Nest Thermostat several times now).

Nest's second generation thermostat, with its mobile phone and web apps, allows for anyone in the house to control the household temperature.

Meanwhile, consumers at various stores can test the new thermostat before making the purchase.

Installing the new thermostat takes around thirty minutes, according to the Nest website.

Overall, there is lots of potential with this thermostat and I think it could make for a good energy efficiency investment. What are your thoughts?

Source and Image Credit: Nest

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