Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Green Storage: New Funding For Wider Use Of The Sunshine & Wind

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 10:58 AM PST

When the sun shines, illuminating and inciting photosynthesis for plant life, we also catch it with our solar panels. We catch these rays to use them for our electricity needs, and we catch them to hold for times when the sun is hidden away. When the breeze blows, when wind stirs and incites, green power is also plentiful. However, at other moments when consumers need energy, the wind is not always blowing nor are the sun’s rays raining down on us. Renewable energy sources, solutions, rely on the timekeeping of Mother Nature. Sources have an intermittent flow, so storing the energy produced is necessary for the wider use of green energy.

Wind power sunset — green energy

$600,000 Innovation Grant from ARPA-E

To give renewables more with which to work, even greater potential for powering our daily needs, a team led by engineers and chemists at Harvard University will use a one-year, $600,000 innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects AgencyEnergy (ARPA-E) program to develop a new type of storage battery. The grant may be subject to renewal beyond a year, depending on performance. The award is part of a $130-million funding effort by ARPA-E through its "OPEN 2012" program, designed to support innovative energy technologies.

Green energy storage has to be viable — it cannot add much to the price of renewable electricity without making it unacceptably expensive.

Green energy

Practical economics is a great concern. Hopeful that this work will be put into cost-effective form, the researchers are examining how to improve on their “flow battery.” The technology offers grid-scale electrical energy storage based on eco-friendly small, organic molecules. Practical implementation is everything for the program. Researchers are collaborating with Sustainable Innovations, LLC, a commercial electrochemical system developer.

"Storage of very large amounts of energy is required if we are to generate a major portion of our electricity from intermittent renewable sources such as wind turbines and photovoltaics," says lead investigator Michael Aziz, Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). "Currently no cost-effective solution exists to this large-scale storage problem. Flow batteries may make stationary storage viable in the marketplace, and that will enable wind and solar to displace a lot more fossil fuel."

"We think our particular approach could have advantages over other flow batteries, such as higher power density, high efficiency, inexpensive chemicals, and a safer type of energy storage," says Aziz. "The success of this program would render intermittent renewables like wind and photovoltaics dispatchable at will, and thereby permit them to supply a large fraction of our electricity needs."

Wind turbines at Greenway parking lot, Chicago

One of the key features of this new technology is that it includes a type of highly rechargable fuel cell – flow batteries are suitable for storing large amounts of electrical energy in the form of liquid chemicals, which are flowed past the electrochemical conversion hardware and stored externally in inexpensive tanks that can be arbitrarily large. This permits the designer to independently size the electrochemical conversion hardware (which sets the peak power capacity) and the chemical storage tanks (which set the energy capacity).

Aziz believes that using a particular class of small organic molecules may be the key. These molecules, which his team has already been working on, are found in plants and can be synthesized artificially for very low cost. Aziz is working on this most needed storage with: Roy Gordon, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science at Harvard, who will be responsible for the chemical screening and synthesis of molecules and of practical electrocatalytic and protective coatings; Al├ín Aspuru-Guzik, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard who will use his pioneering high-throughput molecular screening methods to identify optimal molecules; and Trent M. Molter, President and CEO of Sustainable Innovations, LLC, who will provide expertise on implementing these innovations into commercial electrochemical systems.

"While not eliminating fossil fuels, flow battery storage potentially eliminates a barrier to doing so within the existing energy system and market," says Aziz.

The Funding Behind This and Other Positive Changes: ARPA-E

The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects AgencyEnergy, known as ARPA-E, was launched in 2009 to seek out transformational, breakthrough technologies that are too risky for private-sector investment but have the potential to translate science into great leaps in energy technology, the potential to form the foundation for entirely new industries and have large commercial impacts. ARPA-E has attracted over 5,000 applications from research teams, which have resulted in over 180 groundbreaking projects worth nearly $500 million. More information on the program is available at

Image Credits: wind power sunset — green energy by photography.andreasgreen energy by Truthout.orgwind turbines at Greenway parking lot, Chicago by John Picken

Green Storage: New Funding For Wider Use Of The Sunshine & Wind was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Milestone: Chevy Spark Has The Option To Charge In 20 Minutes

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 04:10 AM PST

Electric vehicle charge time may appear to be primarily a convenience issue, but fast charging makes a tremendous difference where practicality is concerned.

The Chevy Spark is reportedly being offered with a fast-charging option that will charge the vehicle in 20 minutes. Relatively fast charge times of 20 minutes mean that it is more feasible to recharge your electric vehicle in public if you are almost out of range.

Chevy Spark electric car.

The Chevy Spark electric vehicle can apparently charge to 80% of its capacity in 20 minutes with the fast-charging capability. Using a standard 240 volt outlet, it takes 7 hours.

When shopping for an electric vehicle, one of my priorities would be charge time, because it dictates whether or not you can travel long distances.

The Chevy Spark is $25,000 without tax credits. In the U.S, it will only be available in two states: California and Oregon.

It will also be available in Europe, South Korea, and Canada.

The Chevy Spark will also be equipped with the Apple Siri agent to assist the driver so they don’t have to look at the screen as often.

This is a major improvement from GM. Battery charge times have been decreasing. Many chargers are still designed for slow charging — as the fast-charging ones are larger, more powerful, and more expensive — but the ability of batteries themselves to charge faster has improved quite a bit.

It is now common for batteries to be capable of charging in less than an hour using the correct chargers.


Milestone: Chevy Spark Has The Option To Charge In 20 Minutes was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Energy Conservation Saved The Lake Stevens School District From Cuts

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 03:59 AM PST

The Lake Stevens School District is actually saving their teachers’ jobs, buying more textbooks, and funding a new AP class because they can, due to energy conservation efforts.

Energy Conservation via Shutterstock

Other schools are doing the opposite due to difficult financial times.

And what they did is just about one of the simplest, yet most effective, energy efficiency strategies: They simply turn things off when they are not using them.

Energy conservation is the cheapest way to save energy, with the lowest initial cost, as it doesn’t require the purchase of new appliances, building upgrades, or solar panels.

Not that the purchases mentioned are not helpful. They are another piece of the energy puzzle, but the easy step of turning things off when they are not needed is an obvious first step.

"The whole idea is when we're not using anything its off," said Barb Ossowski, an energy education specialist.

This reduced their energy usage by 34% since March 2010, translating to savings of $1.5 million.

"Keeping money in our own pockets for our school and our children and that's what we're in the business for," said Ossowski.

"We're also being good stewards of the environment," she said.


Energy Conservation Saved The Lake Stevens School District From Cuts was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Shrub Willow Biofuel Heats Up New York Fracking Wars

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 03:21 AM PST

Wow, that was fast. Just last summer, we noticed that scientists at Cornell University were developing shrub willow biofuel as a means of helping New York farmers to squeeze extra income from marginal land, and before the ink has dried on the research papers, we’re getting news of a 1,100 acre shrub willow biofuel operation that is already providing biomass for power plants in the state. If shrub willow energy really does catch on, it could provide farmers in New York and elsewhere with a more sustainable source of extra income than natural gas fracking, despite mounting pressure from the drilling industry.

shrub willow biofuel offers New York farmers an alternative to fracking

A Shrub Willow Biofuel Farm Grows in New York

The new shrub willow operation, called Celtic Energy Farm, is located upstate by Lake Ontario. Land preparation began in 2009 and, according to a report in, the crop is already spoken for by the renewable energy company ReEnergy.

About 800 acres of shrub willow can yield about 1 megawatt, or enough to supply about 750 average homes for one year.

Even before fracking emerged as a farmland and water supply preservation issue in New York and other parts of the Marcellus shale region, researchers at Cornell University and other institutions had spent years working on pest-resistant, drought-hardy strains of willow shrub suitable as a biofuel crop.

The federal government has been heavily involved, most recently with a grant of $1.37 million for shrub willow research through Cornell University’s Northeast Sun Grant Institute.

More Improvements in Sight for Shrub Willow Biofuel

As research continues in the U.S., overseas interest in willow biofuel has also grown.

In the U.K., Rothamsted Research, Imperial College London, and the University of the Highlands and Islands' Agronomy Institute have achieved a new breakthrough that could help speed the development of biofuel-friendly strains of willow.

The U.K. team has been analyzing varieties of willow grown in very windy areas. The conclusion is that wind can induce growth stress that creates changes in the composition of wood, making it easier to extract sugars.

Willow Biofuel vs. Fracking

Natural gas fracking refers to a drilling method that involves shooting a chemical laced fluid deep underground. Though regulatory loopholes have made it slow going, federal agencies have been doggedly pursuing the connection between fracking and water contamination, and anecdotal evidence is also mounting.

Despite the risks, many property owners find it difficult to resist the financial benefits of leasing or selling land over to fracking operations, especially in economically distressed areas (as dramatized in the forthcoming Matt Damon/Gus Van Sant movie Promised Land).

The introduction of new income sources like shrub willow could help provide land owners with a more sustainable alternative.

Aside from its use as a biofuel crop, shrub willow acreage can also serve as a wildlife habitat, and its deep roots help to prevent soil erosion.

Image (cropped): Willow(cropped) by petur r

Follow me on Twitter:@TinaMCasey

Shrub Willow Biofuel Heats Up New York Fracking Wars was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Solar Potential — Insane (VIDEO)

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 02:37 AM PST

Here’s an interesting solar energy video that one of our fabulous readers shared awhile back:

The post on which the video was shared was a short post that included these two graphics:

solar energy

“Comparing finite and renewable planetary energy reserves (Terawatt‐years). Total recoverable reserves are shown for the finite resources. Yearly potential is shown for the renewables.” (Source: Perez & Perez, 2009a)

Merry Christmas, and thanks for helping us advance this insanely promising energy resource!

Solar Potential — Insane (VIDEO) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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