Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

India, US Launch Solar Energy Research Institute With $50 Million Funding

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 03:35 PM PST

 
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the US Department of Energy (DOE) along with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore have officially launched the Solar Energy Research Institute for India and United States (SERIIUS) with $50 million collaboration to promote solar energy research.

The research institute forms collaboration between academia and industry (from both countries) for the development of solar energy in both the countries.

SERIIUS is a part of PACE program that was launched in 2010 by US President Barrack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, according to Kamanio Chattopadhyay, co-founder of SERIIUS.

This joint centre on solar energy is led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on the US side and the Department of Science and Technology on the Indian side, and both have committed to provide $12.5 million over a period of 5 years, while an additional $25.5 million will be provided by the consortium of 30 partners from both India and US sides (comprising of academic institutions, industries, and R&D laboratories).

The SERIIUS will work on the following six objectives:

  1. Focus efforts on high-impact fundamental and applied research and development (R&D) to create disruptive technologies in PV and CSP.
  2. Identify critical technical, economic, and policy issues for solar energy development and deployment in India.
  3. Identify barriers in technology transfer and how to overcome them by making effective project structure by teaming research institutions and industry. Reduce the time from discovery to technology development and commercialization, through effective coordination, communication, and intellectual property management.
  4. Creation of a new platform for bi-national collaboration using a formalized R&D project structure, along with effective management, coordination, and decision processes.
  5. Creation of a sustainable network to build large collaborations and foster a collaborative culture and outreach programs. This will include the use of existing and new methodologies for collaboration based on advanced electronic and Web-based communication to facilitate functional international focused teams.
  6. Development of a strong workspace program in solar energy science and technology.

 
Kamanio Chattopadhyay, called this collaboration a "programme without borders," which "may lead to a paradigm shift in solar energy technology."

Photo Credit: glennharper (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

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

India, US Launch Solar Energy Research Institute With $50 Million Funding was originally published on: CleanTechnica

A CEO’s Comments On Wind Tax Credit Longevity

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 07:05 AM PST

 
I briefly interviewed Donn Pendergrass, the CEO of ATI Casting. ATI Casting is a firm headquartered in La Porte, Indiana that manufactures customer-specified gray and ductile iron castings, some of which are for wind turbines.

floating wind turbine

Mr. Pendergrass made some interesting comments about the state of the wind industry and the impact that the longevity of wind energy PTCs (production tax credits) have on it.

He said that the current 1 year PTC is too short because it takes years just to construct factories for wind turbines, and it takes a year even to construct a wind farm alone.

Due to the fact that many Republicans are against a production tax credit for wind energy, the tax credit expires and is renewed too frequently.

For something like this to work, it has to last 3-5 years, according to Mr. Pendergrass, who has seen some of his colleagues lose their jobs due to tax credit uncertainty.

Entrepreneurs need to be certain that the tax credits will be available when they need them, before they undertake manufacturing and wind farm construction endeavors, which are expensive and risky enough as they are. A long-enough tax credit provides them with the financial security necessary to complete their projects.

This is a good excuse to highlight the importance of linkage industries and the relationship between ATI Casting and its customers in the wind industry.

It is very common for industries to rely on each other for materials, and even consultation, inspection, etc. But just how much do they depend on each other?

To be brief: Tremendously.

The scope of this is much greater than most people will see because it isn’t terribly obvious. This also means that the scope of job losses caused by a wind industry collapse would be tremendous as well, because it isn’t only the wind industry that would be impacted.

Wind turbines comprise various electronic, iron, copper, aluminium, and composite parts.

Within the iron industry, there are iron mining organizations, as well as smelters and recycling firms.

The electronics alone are created by literally dozens of manufacturers. You would be surprised at how many people manufactured even one little television, for example.

You are likely to see parts from Fairchild Semiconductor, Siemens, Motorola, Intel, Toshiba, ST Microelectronics, Texas Instruments, and many more manufacturers on only one circuit board.

Imagine a wind turbine.

Apart from the numerous electronics manufacturers that are partly sustained by the wind industry’s purchases of electronics from them, the iron industry partially relies on them as well because wind turbines are largely constructed of steel, and steel is an iron product. A wind turbine also contains other elements to improve its resistance to rust and overall performance, such as carbon, tungsten, vanadium, manganese, and chromium.

Of course, there is an entire industry for every one of those materials. I have mentioned ten industries the wind industry helps to support, and that isn’t all of them.

The expiration of the PTC would likely cause job losses in all ten, since the wind industry purchases from them all in considerable amounts. Fewer purchases translate into shrunken revenue, and the laying off of employees.

Not extending the PTC would harm numerous industries, hundreds of companies, tens of thousands of US employees. It would be an obvious attack on a considerable number of hard-working Americans who are improving our world.

Photo Credit: qayaq

A CEO’s Comments On Wind Tax Credit Longevity was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Peel & Stick Solar Panels: Game Over For Disposable Batteries… Eventually

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 06:53 AM PST

 
A solar panel so small, light, thin, and flexible that you can stick it onto just about anything has been developed by engineers at Stanford University. The new peel and stick solar panels actually work more like those temporary tattoos that you apply with water, and there’s a bit of heating involved, so in terms of powering up your mobile devices, the technology is not quite as simple and convenient as popping in a new battery (or, for that matter, plugging into a wall socket). However, the research team has only just begun to tap the possibilities of the new solar panel.

stanford engineers develop peel and stick solar panels

How to Make a Peel & Stick Solar Panel

According to an article by Stanford freelancer Glen Martin, the key to the new solar panel is to sandwich the meat of the solar cell between a removable bottom layer or substrate and a protective top layer that is also removable.

The research team, headed by PhD candidate Chi Hwan Lee, worked with a flexible silicon/silicon dioxide material for the substrate.

The next layer is a nano-film of nickel, and then the actual solar cells are deposited in the form of a thin film.

Over that, goes a layer of protective polymer (plastic) with a heat-activated release tape.

How to Peel and Stick a Solar Panel

Here’s where it gets a bit sticky, so to speak. You can’t just peel the thin-film solar cell off the substrate and stick it onto something in one step. First you have to dunk the whole solar panel in room temperature water and lift up a bit of the release tape, so the water can get between the substrate and the layer of nickel.

That takes care of the substrate (which can be re-used, by the way). Then you have to warm the solar cell all the way up to 90 degrees C before you stick it onto a surface. But it’s not self-sticking. You’ll need to get some glue or double-sided tape for that.

Once the adhesive is set, then you can finally peel off the release tape the rest of the way, along with the protective top layer.

So far, the team has tried the process on paper, plastic, window glass, and other materials. It could work on any number of other surfaces, including curved shapes or rough surfaces such as fabric.

Peel & Stick and Plug & Play Solar Panels

Thin-film solar cells are fabricated using a standard manufacturing process, so in that regard the prospects look good for lowering the cost of producing the new solar panels on a commercial scale.

As far as user-friendliness goes, the new solar panel has a ways to go before it gets to the ease of a true plug and play solar panel. A company called SpinRay, for example, is already marketing a plug and play solar panel you can hang off your deck without any watering, heating, or gluing to do. German company Sun Invention has created and is selling similar plug and play solar panels. One option even comes with storage.

Even in its current form, though, the peel-and-stick model seems to be a little more user friendly than the new solar panel DIY kits that you put together IKEA-style (some people are more challenged by IKEA than others).

In any case, if the new peel and stick solar panel can be simplified and commercialized, its potential for window application could make it a useful resource for low-cost solar-powered homes and other buildings, as a complement to plug and play solar panels or DIY solar kits.

Image (cropped): Stickers by jelene

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Peel & Stick Solar Panels: Game Over For Disposable Batteries… Eventually was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Measuring Electricity Cost In Dollars (New Smartphone App)

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 06:42 AM PST

 
Many appliances exist to measure your electricity usage, but sometimes converting that statistic into a usable figure is difficult — we can’t always determine how many cents per kilojoule we’re using.

Continuing the love for Indiegogo projects, we have another project looking for funding from ‘the crowd’: the MeterPlug.

The MeterPlug plugs in between any appliance and the AC outlet and sends your consumption information to a smartphone application, which can then show you how much electricity you are using and what that actually means in dollars.

New Plug Monitors Electricity Usage and Cost

By the looks of things, this app will see it’s functionality limited by location, but it has the ability to determine the cost of your electricity usage as well as determining the costs at different times of the day as you go “on peak” and off.

You can also use the app to turn off appliances that have crossed a threshold of usage, or simply when you leave the room.

Current versions of the plug exist for the following locations:

  • North American Plug: Used in the USA, Canada, most of Central and South America, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.
  • European Plug: Most European Countries (including Eastern Europe), Chile, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Uruguay.
  • British Plug: the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Malaysia, and Singapore.

So head on over to Indiegogo for heaps more information on the capabilities of the MeterPlug and the accompanying smartphone app.

Measuring Electricity Cost In Dollars (New Smartphone App) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Solar Panel Manufacturer Stion Corp Receives $25 Million To Expand Production Ability

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 06:34 AM PST

 
A major thin-film solar panel manufacturer, Stion Corp., recently announced that it had raised around $25 million to be used to increase the startup’s production level.

20121221-002449.jpg

The financing was led by Khosla Ventures and included nearly all of the company’s existing investors.

"We may end up at the end of this round having all of them participate," Frank Yang, Stion's senior director of business development said.

Some of the other major investors are: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., LightSpeed Venture Partners, Braemar Energy Ventures, and General Catalyst Partners.

The new funds will be used to increase the company’s production capacity up to around 140 megawatts a year, from its current ability of about 100 megawatts a year.


 
The company was quoted last year as saying “that a six-year expansion project at the site may require as much as $500 million.”

One of their major investors, Avaco Co., led the $130 million investment that Stion received last year. The South Korean company is a major provider of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. They are currently helping Stion Corp improve their technology and enter the European and Asian markets.

Source: Bloomberg
Image Credits: Stion Corp

Solar Panel Manufacturer Stion Corp Receives $25 Million To Expand Production Ability was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Our Water Crisis, And Important Solutions

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 05:30 AM PST

 
Water availability is an extremely critical and underacknowledged issue. I would actually consider it the most underrated issue of the day. The effects of global warming and climate change will be broad and devastating, but one of the largest of those will be threats to our water supplies. Furthermore, other factors also threaten our water supplies and have for a long time, such as our current agricultural practices, population growth, and how we create electricity. Our top focus on CleanTechnica is electricity production, so I’m going to explore some key aspects of the electricity–water link below. But first, here are some water facts from sister site Eat Drink Better that are really worth contemplating:

  • About 60% of your body weight is water, and about 75% of your muscles are water.
  • The current water and sanitation crisis kills more people through disease than wars kill through guns.
  • "At any given time, half of the world's hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene."

 
Additionally, here are a couple water facts from the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week post I wrote on Wednesday (when I was announcing the Water–Energy Nexus blogging contest):

  • 27% of the urban population in the developing world does not have in-home piped water.
  • 99.7% of all the water on earth is not available for human or animal consumption.

 
Between our huge need for water and its increasingly limited availability, we need to do all we can to conserve this precious resource.

Electricity & Water

We do have some good news, though: we know that solar PV and wind power use tens or hundreds of times less water (relative to the power they produce) than fossil fuels or nuclear power. Based on data from a “water and energy facts” article I wrote over two years ago, here’s how top electricity sources compare on water efficiency:

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) notes that wind power "uses less than 1/600 as much water per unit of electricity produced as does nuclear, and approximately 1/500 as much as coal."

So, beyond their importance for fighting global warming, wind and solar energy are also important for water conservation. Additionally, as more areas get hit by crippling droughts, solar PV and wind will offer a more secure electricity supply.

Take Action

To fight droughts from global warming, to improve electricity security in the face of water shortage, and to lessen the water crisis, we should all take action.

Individuals can go solar, or can invest in community solar or wind projects. There are many options these days for individuals to use or support renewable energy. From solar leasing, to crowdfunding solar or wind projects, to buying solar power systems outright for their homes.

Businesses can do the same. An increasing number of large businesses are investing in or buying electricity from solar or wind projects. This helps to address climate and water issues, but it’s also an investment that saves them money in the long term.

Governments, of course, can facilitate the development of more solar and wind power through a large variety of policies and programs. To date, the most effective policy seems to be feed-in tariffs; but renewable energy standards, investment and production tax credits, and carbon pricing are other key options that have successfully brought down the price of renewable technology and stimulated growth.

Advancing renewable energy is critical for our future. Among its many other benefits, it is a top solution to our growing water crisis.

Note: this is my entry into the Masdar Water–Energy Blogging Contest.

Our Water Crisis, And Important Solutions was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Cycling Proves To Be Safer For Young Adults Than Driving

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 01:34 AM PST

 
Some thorough studies done recently dispel the myth of there being more danger on bikes in comparison to cars — at least for young males in the UK, Netherlands, etc.

Thank you to our English friends and researchers who studied the stats and found that young male bikers in the UK, 17-20, are safer on their bikes than in cars. These young cyclists are reportedly safer than young male drivers who face 5 times greater risk per hour of transport than cyclists their age.

Young LA Biker

The researchers looked at hospital admissions and deaths in England between 2007 and 2009 for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. These were studied by age group and sex. The research is published in the journal PLOS ONE. On average, studying other age groups, men aged 21–49 and women of all ages were more equivalent. There were similar numbers whether one was driving, walking, or biking. However, for young males, the strong difference was very real — bikes are apparently safer.

The Many Measures of Public Health

Bike Lover @ gostenhof

Dr. Jennifer Mindell (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health) continues to point out, “Perceived road danger is a strong disincentive to cycling and many potential cyclists do not ride on the road due to safety concerns. But research regarding the safety of cycling tends to be distorted by a number of errors which are found repeatedly in published papers and policy documents, with many substantially overstating cycling injuries and under-reporting pedestrian injuries.” Those most at risk when travelling were men aged between 17 and 20 for driving, males aged over 70 for cycling, and females aged over 70 for walking. In general, fatality rates were substantially higher among males than females.

Of course, there are other measures of public health and safety, as well, such as harm from air pollution (largely caused by automobiles).

Good Sense, Conscientious Choices in Day to Day Life

The environmental concerns that we all have are critically perceived by the youth. The young care deeply about their day-to-day choices in a way that we baby boomers did grapple with so acutely at the same ages. This legacy of depletion in resources and diversity, toxicity in water–food systems, and the sheer blind outcomes of the industrial material age is theirs. They care to address these issues in way of life, business, and any way possible – they know their choices will make the difference in restoration of balance.

Bike Light Giveaway Fall 2010

This mindfulness is a vital challenge that they are meeting well in smaller and larger measures. Biking and bike paths, along with community solar power and community gardening are some of the small/large ways they are creating change and meeting the challenge.

It is nice to know these choices can be as safe as conventional options, sometimes safer, and that we continue to make them safer. What they and we must do will influence what is left for their children. The young are rising to the challenge with pragmatic action to offset the short-sighted ideals that left out concerns for future generations. It is nice to know that on their bikes, certainly in the UK and other European countries, the young are also safer biking – not simply conscientious.

Find Health and Well-Being Cycling 

Joyful Biker

Mindell continues to point out: ”An individual who cycles one hour a day for 40 years would cover about 180,000 km, whilst accumulating only a one in 150 chance of fatal injury. This is lower than for pedestrians who face a higher fatality rate per kilometer traveled,” she added. “The health benefits of cycling are much greater than the fatality risk.” Active travel — defined as walking or cycling — is estimated to save £17 billion in healthcare costs alone, according to a recent Lancet paper.

Image Credits:

Cycling Proves To Be Safer For Young Adults Than Driving was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Bicyclists Are Better For Local Economies Than Cars Are, Study Finds

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 01:15 AM PST

 
Many people assume that bicyclists are cheap and that having bike lanes located near their businesses won’t benefit them as much as extra parking would, but a newly released study from the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium directly contradicts that. Bike riders directly out-consumed automobile drivers during the course of the month-long study on everything except for groceries.

20121220-220610.jpg

The government in the already bike-friendly city Portland is currently planning to extend bicycle infrastructure into neighborhoods far from the urban core of the city. But that creates a problem, says Kelly Clifton: “[a]s we move out beyond those areas into more auto-oriented areas, we start to see businesses say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. You’re taking away on-street parking to put in bike lanes, you’re taking away the one parking spot in front of my store to put in a bike corral. I don’t see many bikers around here. So what does this mean for me?’”

The majority of customers for most stores arrive via automobile transportation, but the new study has found that these customers visit less and overall spend less than the minority traffic provided by bikers and pedestrians.

“This finding is logical,” says Badger. “It’s a lot easier to make an impulse pizza stop if you’re passing by an aromatic restaurant on foot or bike instead of in a passing car at 35 miles an hour.” This doesn’t extend to groceries though, where carrying capacity limits how much bikers and pedestrians can purchase.


 
The study was done by surveying 1,883 people as they exited convenience stores, restaurants, and bars; and a further 19,654 people as they left supermarkets. “There are obviously some other factors at play here,” admits Badger. “Families with cars are less likely to eat out than single young professionals on a bike. And we’d all prefer that drivers run up smaller bar tabs than pedestrians.” The researchers bring up the possibility that one factor that goes into the increased consumption of the bikers is the money that they save on fuel and other car-related fees.

Source: Planetizen
Image Credits: Bike Path via Wikimedia Commons

Bicyclists Are Better For Local Economies Than Cars Are, Study Finds was originally published on: CleanTechnica

CSIRO To Lead New Solar Thermal Research Initiative

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 01:09 AM PST

 
The Australian Government announced last week that CSIRO would be leading a new solar research initiative worth over $87 million AUD, an initiative which aims to lower the cost of solar thermal power from 25 cents a kilowatt hour down to 10 cents/kWh.

CSIRO Working on Cheaper Solar Energy

Solar tower and field at the National Solar Energy Centre.

CSIRO is set to partner with six Australian universities as well as the United States Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories, and Arizona State University.

Their goal is simple: create solar technology capable of delivering cheap, zero emission solar energy for the benefit of Australia, and the world.

The initiative was made possible thanks to a $35 million contribution from the Australian Solar Institute and Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which are hoping to keep Australia at the leading edge of global solar research.

CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship Director, Dr Alex Wonhas, said the funding provides CSIRO with the opportunity to work with the world's best and fully develop solar thermal technology.

"A world-class collaboration of this scale ensures we are well on our way to lower the cost of solar thermal technology. Demonstrating the technology is vital, it is what attracts investment and development in the industry.”

Given the ever-increasing Australian population and the recent hikes in energy costs, the Australian people are looking for any cheaper alternatives that make themselves available. Solar is often presented as one of these cheaper alternatives, and with this latest research initiative, one can only hope that solar prices will continue to fall just as traditional energy prices continue to soar.

CSIRO's Australian university partners for the solar thermal research initiative include The Australian National University, University of Queensland, The University of Adelaide, The University of South Australia, Queensland University of Technology, and Flinders University.

Source: CSIRO

CSIRO To Lead New Solar Thermal Research Initiative was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Britain Set To Spur Solar & Biomass Energy

Posted: 21 Dec 2012 01:03 AM PST

 
The British Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has released a five-year plan for the solar and biomass industries in an attempt to give investors certainty on subsidy levels for the 2013–2017 period.

"We want to see a healthy solar industry that grows in a sustainable way,” said Edward Davey, Energy and Climate Change Secretary. “That's why our support levels reflect the fall in the cost of the technology.”

Solar and Biomass Funding from UK Government

Building-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) projects will receive higher rates than ground-mounted projects, which the DECC believe will encourage the installation of solar projects at larger factory or warehouse buildings. Nevertheless, the funding made available will still be a cut of 20% from current levels.

"We have listened to industry about the need to differentiate support between building mounted and ground mounted installations and we have introduced two bands as a result,” said Greg Barker, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change.

"Our proposals for solar projects on commercial buildings will encourage businesses to consider solar PV as a serious option for meeting their power needs."

The press release also made clear that the Government plans to ensure the Renewables Obligation (RO) funds new biomass projects, with support for £600 million available, enough to create nearly 1,000 jobs.

"Biomass will make a significant contribution as we seek to increase the amount of cost-effective, low carbon renewable power in our energy mix,” said Davey. “The support we are setting out [this week] will bring new investment into the economy and create new jobs."

Source: Department of Energy and Climate Change
Image Credit: R Walker (some rights reserved)

Britain Set To Spur Solar & Biomass Energy was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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