Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

US Public Transit Ridership Increases In 2012

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 10:49 AM PST

A new report looking at public transport use over the first three quarters of 2012 has found that ridership has increased by 2.6%, amounting to 201 million more trips taken in the first nine months of the year than were taken in the same time period in 2011.

Public Transport Ridership Increases in 2012

"With seven consecutive quarters of ridership increases, it's obvious that public demand for public transit is growing," said Michael Melaniphy, President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), authors of the report.

"As Congress works to resolve our country's deficit problem, it also needs to work to resolve the transportation deficit. Otherwise public transit and highway funding will be facing an annual $15 billion shortfall in the next 10 years."

Providing mobility is the main function of a public transport system, unsurprisingly, but there are critical links to the economy as well. APTA notes that, for every $1 billion invested into public transport in the US, 36,000 jobs are created and subsequently supported. As we’ve noted before, per dollar invested, mass transit is a clear job creation winner:

"We continue to see that in areas where the local economy is improving and new jobs are being added, public transportation ridership is up," said Melaniphy. "This makes sense since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes. Public transit service is an important resource for employees and employers as it is instrumental in helping people travel to their jobs."

Specific cities listed as experiencing economic improvement linked with public transit ridership in the third quarter include: Grand Rapids (MI); Seattle (WA); St. Petersburg (FL); Phoenix (AZ); San Francisco (CA); Los Angeles (CA); and Riverside (CA).

The full APTA report can be seen here (pdf) and a Breakdown for January to September 2012 is provided in the APTA press release.

Image Source: Ed Yourdon

US Public Transit Ridership Increases In 2012 was originally published on: CleanTechnica

$5 Gravity Energy Storage System Provides Free LED Lightning

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 10:38 AM PST

Gravity energy storage is not exactly at the center of energy-related debates. However, it does have some admirable qualities. One is that such systems can be designed to last a lifetime. This is very important to everyone, of course, but especially to those living in impoverished parts of the world.

A so-called “gravity-powered” LED lamp, GravityLight, has been created that generates its own electricity with the assistance of gravity… although it is not completely gravity powered.

This is a human-powered LED. Like “wind-up” radios, this can be powered by bare human hands, and it works.

I am not going to label this as just another “wind-up” device, or “old technology,” because it is more convenient, and it’s addressing a critical need of the day. Plus, this device seems to work very well.

When those older, hand-wound devices I mentioned got old, their batteries malfunctioned and they would have to be cranked many times, and for a long time in order to get much out of them.

This LED uses no batteries or fuels. This means that it has the potential to last a very long time, if built well.

How The GravityLight Works

To use the GravityLight, the user lifts a heavy weight attached to the lamp by pulling a rope for about 3 seconds, and then the LED operates for 30 minutes before the rope needs to be pulled again.

The weight is a bag that can be filled with rocks, or any other material, as long as it is heavy enough to pull the rope down and turn the LED lamp’s internal generator.

The generator uses gears to achieve the rotational speed it requires. Exactly how that is done, is not stated.

Normally, people would use the rope to turn a large overdrive gear slowly, and that large gear turns a much smaller gear. Due to the fact that the small gear is so much smaller, it turns at a very high-speed. So the large gear provides a large amount of torque at an extremely low-speed, and that torque is converted into a higher rotational speed (but with less torque) suitable for the generator using this arrangement. I can only guess that this is how this lamp was built, based on the nature of this type of device.

Source: Smart Planet

$5 Gravity Energy Storage System Provides Free LED Lightning was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Better And Cheaper Organic Solar Cells On The Horizon Thanks To Alternatives To Fullerene

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 03:47 AM PST

Cheaper and more efficient solar cells are within reach thanks to new research that has deepened our understanding of fullerene, a primary but expensive component of organic solar cells. The new research has clarified a great deal about how they function, and will help in the development of cheaper, better replacements for them.


While organic solar cells have changed and improved a lot since their introduction about 20 years ago, there are limiting factors to them that haven’t been improved since they were invented — the fullerene component is one of them.

But now, thanks to the new research from the University of Warwick, an important property of fullerenes, “namely the availability of additional electron accepting states, which could be replicated to create a new class of 'fullerene mimics',” has been discovered.

This previously unknown property is believed by the researchers to be the reason that previous attempts at substituting for fullerene have failed. Fullerene’s ability to accept electrons in a variety of different excited states improves the speed and efficiency of electron capture and the charge separation process.

“The solar cell industry has been searching for an alternative to fullerenes for some time as they have many drawbacks as electronic acceptors, including a very limited light adsorption and a high cost. Also, going beyond fullerene derivatives would increase the possible blends that can be considered for organic solar cells,” a press release posted on Green Building Elements notes.

“However the Warwick scientists have shown that a new class of molecular acceptors with this electronic characteristic can be designed relatively easily, providing a route towards replacing fullerene derivatives in solar cells.”

Professor Troisi says: "Finding a replacement to fullerene has eluded the scientific community and the photovoltaics industry for the best part of two decades. By pinpointing this particular way in which fullerene behaves, we believe we have found a key which may unlock the door to new replacements for this material. Using this knowledge, we are now collaborating with experimentalists at University of Warwick to actively develop fullerene substitutes."

A patent application has been filed and the scientists are keen to work with commercial partners to bring this technology to market.

The new research is described in a study published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Source: Green Building Elements
Image Credits: Copyright Fraunhofer ISE

Better And Cheaper Organic Solar Cells On The Horizon Thanks To Alternatives To Fullerene was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Chevy Volt Owners Love Their Cars Most, 92% Would Buy Again

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 03:40 AM PST

Perhaps it’s the ridiculous miles per gallon and fuel/financial savings. Perhaps it’s the tremendous performance. Perhaps it’s the option to use the car as back-up power. Perhaps it’s the fact that you can drive the car in electric mode the large majority of the time but still have the ability to drive long distances without needing to plug in for hours.

Whatever it is, the Chevy Volt is the car with the highest user satisfaction rating in Consumer Reports… for the second year in a row. Last year, 93% of owners said they’d buy the vehicle again. This year, the figure is about the same at 92%.

As Chris DeMorro of Gas2 notes, efficient electric and hybrid-electric vehicles did quite well, with almost all the rest of the consumer satisfaction leaders being luxury cars:

“Of the 44 models that rated highest among consumers, 10 were fuel-efficient models including the Toyota Prius, Prius C, and Camry Hybrid. The Nissan Leaf also had a high rating, though the remaining 34 vehicles were mostly luxury or sports cars.”

Chevy Volt Owners Love Their Cars Most, 92% Would Buy Again was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Save Money With Energy Efficiency

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 03:19 AM PST

The energy efficiency tips below are worth coming back to every once in awhile. Check out this Green Living Ideas repost for a number of ways you can save energy and, thus, money this Winter:

Home insulation, good money saving habits, and you (via Green Living Ideas)

By now most Green Living Ideas readers know the value of home insulation, but for those new to the green lifestyle, insulation is like an extra blanket on your bed in the winter. Except for houses, the insulation can help keep in cooler air in the summer and warmer air in the winter. Pointing out how…

Save Money With Energy Efficiency was originally published on: CleanTechnica

In 20 Years, Climate Will Be The Issue Obama Is Judged On, Van Jones Says

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 03:00 AM PST

This articles has been reposted from Climate Progress with permission.

President Obama's legacy will be defined by a number of issues: the stimulus package; killing Osama bin Laden; his endless battles with Congress; his support for gay marriage.

But arguably the biggest issue he'll be judged on — one that is still rarely mentioned in Washington policy circles — is climate change.

It is true that this President has done more than any other leader in American history to promote clean energy. But that will only be one piece of his legacy. The rest of his climate record will be marked by his decision to allow drilling in the rapidly melting Arctic ocean, his choice to approve or deny the Keystone XL pipeline, and his ability to once again lead on pricing carbon. These are all still very much up in the air.

Van Jones, the former White House "Green Jobs Czar" and a progressive moment builder, is warning the President that he needs to find the "courage" to stand up and deal with these issues in a climate context. In an interview with science writer Chris Mooney for Mother Jones Magazine, Jones says he believes that climate will be "the issue he's judged on":

Mother Jones: What would real climate leadership look like? You gave President Obama a "B" or "B-" on the environment in his first term, what would he have to do to earn an "A" in the second one?

Van Jones: An "A" would be a major energy and climate bill as a centerpiece of his legacy. He obviously has to deal with the economy and the budget issues that the Tea Party keeps trying to politicize. And there's a question of immigration reform, which is critical as a major part of the progressive coalition. But, ten years from now, twenty years from now, the only thing people are going to be asking of this president is either, why he didn't find the courage to do something on climate change, or they're going to be asking how he found the courage. I think from the viewpoint of history, this is going to be the issue that he's judged on. We've seen a lot of conversation about this fiscal cliff, which is an invented, manufactured crisis, but very little talk about the climate cliff, which is a real, unavoidable crisis.

So if we can have the president of the United States on TV every day talking about the manufactured fiscal cliff, then he can use all of those resources to put pressure on Congress to do something about the real climate cliff.

After his re-election last month, President Obama hinted that he might once again talk about climate change in his second term: "We want our children to live in an America that isn't…threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."

However, in his first post-election press conference, the President backed away from acting on climate and attempted to separate the environment from the economy: "If the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody is going to go for that. I won't go for that."

The White House likes to point to the stimulus package, EPA regulations, and other executive orders as evidence of the President's work on climate — often without really talking about climate. While these actions do set us on a pathway toward emissions reductions, they are still not nearly close to what scientists say we need, and not quite bold enough to convince countries like China and India that the U.S. is leading internationally on climate.

In the last few weeks, we've seen a range of new research telling us that we are on the brink of catastrophic climate change — right now. In the next twenty years, everything we know will be influenced and transformed by climate. And when people look back, they won't be nitpicking about which policies did more to incrementally reduce emissions.

Assuming that Obama stays mum on climate, they'll be asking why the President of the United States didn't use the opportunity to rally the country when the science demanded it.

In 20 Years, Climate Will Be The Issue Obama Is Judged On, Van Jones Says was originally published on: CleanTechnica

2/3 Of Top Global Corporations Have Set Important Green Targets

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 02:52 AM PST

This article has been reposted from Climate Progress.

Last year, $260 billion was invested in clean energy globally, marking the one trillionth dollar put into the sector since 2004 and the first time that clean energy saw more investment than fossil fuels.

As a new report shows, much of that activity is being driven by large corporations that are setting internal sustainability goals that include targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or targets to procure renewable energy and energy efficiency.

According to a new analysis from Ceres, WWF, and Calvert Investments, 68 percent of companies in the Global 100 list have set targets to lower global warming pollution or purchase clean energy. In addition, 58 percent of companies in the Fortune 100 list have set similar targets.

In the past, when corporations announced renewable energy goals, they were mostly a public relations opportunity. Instead of investing in projects themselves, companies would buy tradeable renewable energy credits — an offsetting mechanism that many criticize for doing little to bring new renewables online. But that dynamic is changing. As this report points out, large corporations are now choosing to directly purchase renewable electricity from project developers, or are even building on-site projects themselves. As the report points out, this is an important and positive shift in corporate culture:

Many companies with a history of predominantly purchasing RECs have transitioned instead to favoring PPAs and on-site direct investment, driven  by longer-term commitments to emissions reductions and renewable energy. These companies are looking to capture the long-term value of renewable energy, like electricity price certainty, instead of year-on-year purchases of RECs. In some cases companies are able to get closer to cost parity (the price at which renewable energy is cost competitive with fossil fuel) with long-term PPAs or  on-site direct investment. Companies also increasingly recognize that RECs do little to incentivize new investments in renewable energy. By investing directly or signing PPAs, companies are directly adding renewable capacity to the grid.

Most of the corporate targets are set for 2015 to 2020. With very little certainty on a global deal to reduce greenhouse gases and with numerous countries shifting their support for renewable energy, there are many uncertainties beyond that time frame. But one thing is certain: the planet is warming at an accelerated pace and many of the world's leading companies understand that they need both adapt to and mitigate the problem. According to a survey of 400 of the biggest global companies released by the Carbon Disclosure Project in September, 37 percent of corporations say they are already seeing the impact of climate change on their business — up from 10 percent in 2010.

Reactions to corporate sustainability goals are understandably mixed. Advocates working closely with companies hail these corporate targets as a big step forward; others concerned more broadly about rampant consumer culture worry that they are simply cosmetic changes that avoid the need for structural reforms.

For example, when Walmart announced its suite of targets designed to cut packaging, make operations more efficient, and procure more renewables, many advocates saw it as a major shift in corporate culture. Ultimately, however, Walmart's business model is still built around fueling consumerism by selling massive amounts of cheap products in sprawled-out stores. That's not sustainable.

Both of these views have merit. Ultimately, true corporate sustainability — a target that is still very hard to define — is a very complex, long-term process. The road to getting there is evolutionary. So if a corporation like Walmart doesn't completely reinvent its business model overnight, that shouldn't prevent us from building off the short-term successes.

This latest report reminds us many of the world's largest companies and investors actually recognize we have a problem and are trying to do something about it. That's more than we can say for our policymakers here in the U.S.

2/3 Of Top Global Corporations Have Set Important Green Targets was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Do The Math, Then Get Optimistic (VIDEO)

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 02:39 AM PST

By Richard Littlemore (Reposted from Desmog Blog)

University of Lethbridge Prof Jim Byrnes weighs in with a short video with survey of numbers both frightening and reassuring. The conclusion is obvious. There’s no question we can “afford” to fix the climate problem – only a more pressing question as to why we have not even begun …

Do The Math, Then Get Optimistic (VIDEO) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

“Exxon Hates Your Children” Ad Campaign

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 02:22 AM PST

This articles was originally published on Climate Progress. It has been reposted with permission.

You might have seen the ad below, called "Exxon Hates Your Children," circulated this week.

"We all know the climate crisis will rip [your children's] world apart, but we don't care, because it'll make us rich," says the fake Exxon executive.

Two groups, Oil Change International and The Other 98%, rolled out the campaign this week and are trying to raise money in order to put the ad on television. It's gotten a lot of attention in the last two days, including from Exxon, which called the ad "offensive." So far, the campaign has raised more than $10,000.

The ad has two objectives. One is to draw attention to tax subsidies that go to profitable oil companies and try to influence the current fiscal debate. The other, which is an evolving part of a newish campaign, is to marginalize fossil fuel companies and strip their "social license." Activists concerned about the environment have always demonized coal, oil, and gas companies in varying ways. But this is something slightly different. As the science gets more frightening and fossil fuel companies continue to ramp up their extraction of carbon fuels, climate groups are attempting to back these companies into a corner in new ways.

It's an extension of the "Do The Math" campaign, which seeks to target the bottom line of fossil fuel companies by encouraging institutional investors to pull their money out of the sector. "These companies have lost their social license" by exacerbating the climate crisis, said campaign leader Bill McKibben. "This is a rogue industry."

Expect more of this no-holds-barred communications strategy from environmental groups:

“Exxon Hates Your Children” Ad Campaign was originally published on: CleanTechnica

$60 Billion Opportunity. Yes, Please.

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 02:17 AM PST

Energy efficiency is the behemoth we have a bad tendency to ignore. Trying to break that bad habit a bit, here’s a good post on energy efficiency from sister site Ecopreneurist:

The $60 Billion Opportunity – Are We Ready For It? (via Ecopreneurist)

No matter what kind of energy it is – people can save most of it with a few simple improvements.  Believe it or not, with that saving comes extra cash.  Want to know how? "The Fifth Fuel," after oil, nuclear, coal, and renewables is Energy Efficiency.  It actually deserves better than co-equal…

$60 Billion Opportunity. Yes, Please. was originally published on: CleanTechnica

UK Green Deal To Cut Energy Costs

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 02:09 AM PST

The UK recently passed The Green Deal, which (among other things) is going to improve energy efficiency across the UK to a great degree and save people considerable money on the energy bills. Here are’s a post from Scott Cooney on sister site Green Living Ideas regarding The Green Deal (he also has one on The Inspired Economist you could check out):

The UK steps up green living a notch: the biggest home improvement scheme since WWII (via Green Living Ideas)

The UK government has taken control of the quickly spiralling environmental situation that grips the country with "the biggest home-improvement scheme since WWII". Similar to PACE Programs in the U.S., the UK government initiative known as The Green Deal aims to make properties more energy efficient…

UK Green Deal To Cut Energy Costs was originally published on: CleanTechnica

SolarCity IPO Closes On First Day Of Trade At $11.79/Share

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 02:00 AM PST

After much hype, anticipation, and frustration, SolarCity’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) hit the Nasdaq Thursday, closing at $11.79/share, while raising $92 million on its first day. The price was 47% more than when it opened up in the morning at $8.00/share.

The solar installation company had originally planned to sell shares between $13-$15/share. However, ongoing concerns, including the downward trend in solar stocks and some accounting issues, have plagued the company's IPO, according to Bloomberg Businessweek:

Even as demand for alternative energy rises, solar-company stocks have been hurt by oversupply of equipment and raw materials. That has depressed the World Solar Energy Index of company shares as much as 65 percent this year, extending the drop from its 2007 peak to 96 percent.

While SolarCity currently benefits from tax credits totaling as much as 30 percent of the cost of these systems, the company's accounting method for valuing the equipment has recently come under scrutiny.

In July, SolarCity and competitors received subpoenas from the U.S. Treasury Department for documents related to grants the company received for building solar systems, filings show. SolarCity said collecting the documents could take six months to complete and that a decision from the department's inspector general may take as long as a year after that.

Despite the concerns, company CEO Lydon Rive believes the company will have a net positive cash flow by the end of 2013, showing that SolarCity is committed for the long haul in it's IPO quest.

“What matters is what the price is in four years, not what the price is today," said Rive in a televised interview with Bloomberg Television.

Meanwhile, SolarCity Chairman Elon Musk echoed Rives sentiment, and noted that the company had debated long and hard about whether to stay private or go public with the IPO. Eventually, Musk and company took the words of institutional investors to heart, going with the IPO and letting investors get comfortable with SolarCity's business model.

“Where we arrived at the $13 to $15 was based on valuing the business on fundamentals,” adding, “$13 to $15 is actually a deal — we actually think it’s worth more than that," he said.

With 684 MW of solar energy installed in the third quarter in the US, and prices continuing to plummet, its only good news for a company like SolarCity, whose IPO may breathe some life into the cleantech market for investors.

Sources: Greentech Media / Bloomberg Businessweek

SolarCity IPO Closes On First Day Of Trade At $11.79/Share was originally published on: CleanTechnica

BYD Supplying 46 EV Taxis To Bogota, Colombia

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 01:30 AM PST

China car maker BYD is set to provide 46 of its e6 electric vehicles (EVs) to Bogotá, Colombia's taxi fleet, making it the first South American all-EV fleet. according to Green Autoblog.

Meanwhile, three other e6 EVs will go to the Bogotá Technology, Science and Innovation administration, as all 49 cars will hit the road by March of 2013.

This is the second announcement by BYD regarding the lucrative Latin American market. Earlier this summer, the car manufacturer also announced it was supplying more than 500 electric buses to Uruguay.

BYD is also hitting the European market, thanks to reaching a deal this past October with Greentomatocars in providing 50 e6 cars to a London Taxi Fleet that will hit the road by the middle of 2013.

BYD Supplying 46 EV Taxis To Bogota, Colombia was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Siemens Delivering Two Onshore Wind Power Plants Totaling 126 MW In Ireland

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 01:00 AM PST

Siemens Energy has been contracted by Irish utility Bord na Móna to deliver and service 42 direct-drive wind turbines for two onshore wind power plants set to be feeding power into the grid by mid-2014. The wind turbines will have a combined capacity of 126 megawatts, enough to power approximately 80,000 Irish households.

Siemens Providing Wind Turbines to Irish Wind Farms

The SWT-3.0-101

The order encompasses 28 SWT-3.0-101 direct-drive wind turbines for the Mount Lucas wind farm, located in County Offaly, around 80 kilometers west of Dublin, and 14 SWT-3.0-101 direct-drive wind turbines for the Bruckana wind power plant located on the border of Kilkenny and Tipperary, around 120 kilometers south-west of Dublin.

“This is the first order from Ireland for our direct-drive wind turbines. Globally, we have already sold more than 800 wind turbines of this type for on- and offshore wind power plants. With this innovative technology we contribute to the development of a sustainable energy supply in Ireland,” said Felix Ferlemann, CEO of the Wind Power Division of Siemens Energy.

The Irish Wind Energy Association note that the country already has an installed capacity of approximately 2,000 megawatts in a country with excellent wind conditions, given its location between the Celtic and Irish seas and the Atlantic Ocean.

Siemens has been contracted to supply, install, and commission the 42 direct-drive turbines for the two power plants and will provide service for the plants over the following 15 years.

Source: Siemens

Siemens Delivering Two Onshore Wind Power Plants Totaling 126 MW In Ireland was originally published on: CleanTechnica

DONG Energy Team with Vestas on Development of Next Generation Wind Turbine

Posted: 14 Dec 2012 12:30 AM PST

One of the leading energy groups in Northern Europe, DONG Energy, stepped into a cooperation agreement with Vestas Wind Systems on Tuesday to become involved in the early testing of Vestas’ next generation V164-8.0 MW wind turbine.

The agreement will see DONG energy involve itself much earlier in the picture, allowing the company a detailed understanding of and experience with Vestas’ new offshore wind turbine.

DONG Energy and Vestas Team Up on New Wind Turbine

"The cooperation with Vestas on the V164-8.0 MW turbine is very exciting,” said Henrik Poulsen, CEO of DONG Energy. “We look forward to give our input to the development of Vestas' next-generation wind turbine, as large turbines, dedicated to offshore conditions, contribute to more competitive offshore wind turbine technology.”

"We positively view our relationship with Vestas. We have an ambition to reduce the cost of renewable energy within the foreseeable future, and the V164-8.0 MW turbine could potentially be a solid contributor to that."

DONG Energy will join with Vestas in a number of test activities at Test Centre Østerild to accelerate the development of the V164-8.0 MW, which is expected to be installed and commissioned during the second quarter of 2014.

"I am very pleased to see the most experienced offshore wind operator, DONG Energy, so actively stepping in to directly participate in the future testing of the V164-8.0MW turbine,” said Ditlev Engel, President and CEO of Vestas Wind Systems. ”The turbine represents a great opportunity for both our companies and having DONG Energy so closely involved in the test activities will be valuable for us both.”

"I look forward to building on the trust that they have placed in Vestas and in our next generation offshore turbine to further intensify our joint collaboration.”

Source: Vestas Wind Systems

DONG Energy Team with Vestas on Development of Next Generation Wind Turbine was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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