- $120 Million “Manhattan Project” to Avert Critical Materials Shortage
- Australian Heat Wave Is Literally Off The Color Scale
- 1 Year Of Volt Ownership: Costs Of Operations & Comparisons
- Tesla Wins Again, Bicycle Rental Made Easy, First Solar Leads US Solar Installations… (Cleantech News Roundup)
- Chevy Volt Sales Tripled In 2012
- Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Sales In The US Rose 73% In 2012
- Brighter LEDs Inspired By Fireflies, Efficiency Increased By 55%
- GE, Citi, & Others Invest In 143MW Catalina Solar Farm
- Ford EVs Spark A Revolution Linking Homes To Cars
- Mosaic’s First 4 Solar Energy Crowdfunding Projects Sell Out In Under 24 Hours
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 05:32 PM PST
Dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium: if you can’t pronounce them that’s okay, all you need to know is that the near-term supply of these five rare earth metals is on shaky ground, just when they have been emerging as critical materials that the U.S. depends on to develop and produce the clean energy technologies of the future.
To keep the supply lines humming and to develop domestic alternatives, the Department of Energy has just committed $120 to launch a new Energy Innovation Hub spearheaded by the Ames Laboratory in Iowa, called the Critical Materials Institute. The success of the project could have a huge impact on the ability of the U.S. to continue deploying advanced wind turbines and solar cells as well as electric vehicles and energy efficient lighting.
The Energy Innovation Hubs
To get a better idea of the significance of the Critical Materials Institute, it’s helpful to look at the Energy Innovation Hub initiative as a whole, which now includes five distinct points of focus.
The Energy Innovation Hub platform began in 2010 under the Obama Administration, based on the success of the three Bioenergy Research Centers established in 2007 under the Bush Administration.
The Bioenergy Research Centers have employed a multidisciplinary, “scientific management” approach aimed at developing next-generation biofuels and bioenergy strategies.
It’s the same type of organizational structure characterized by the famed Manhattan Project as well as lesser known but game-changing research efforts including the development of radar at MIT’s Lincoln Lab and the development of the transistor at AT&T Bell Laboratories.
With the Critical Materials Institute, the Energy Innovation Hubs now cover advanced electric vehicle battery research, energy efficiency technologies for buildings, artificial photosynthesis, and a nuclear energy performance and safety research effort based on advanced computer modeling.
The Critical Materials Institute
Knowing what you now know about dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium, it’s pretty clear that at least three of the four existing Hubs are facing a scenario in which they could come up with any number of groundbreaking new technologies that have nowhere to go because there is an inadequate or unpredictable supply of critical materials needed to manufacture them at commercial scale.
In the context of national security, the sourcing of rare earths and other critical materials from non-allied countries like China has already contributed to instability and potential shortages in the marketplace, spurring the need to develop alternatives.
That, in a nutshell, is where the Critical Materials Institute comes in. As DOE describes it in the press announcement:
“The new Hub will focus on technologies that will enable us to make better use of the materials we have access to as well as eliminate the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions…Many materials deemed critical by the Department are used in modern clean energy technologies – such as wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient lighting.”
As part and parcel of its interdisciplinary approach, one thing that the new Hub will focus on is the entire life cycle of the materials, which includes recycling and resource recovery as well as more efficient manufacturing techniques.
The other three areas of focus include developing new sources of critical materials and new strategies for making critical materials extraction more commercially viable, the development of substitute materials, and an over-arching research area that will evaluate environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Like the other four Hubs, the Critical Materials Institute is a public-private venture that includes numerous other national laboratories and academic research partners as well as General Electric, OLI Systems, Inc., SpinTek Filtration, Inc., Advanced Recovery, Cytec, Inc., Molycorp, Inc. and Simbol Materials.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
$120 Million “Manhattan Project” to Avert Critical Materials Shortage was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 09:49 AM PST
Due to the fact that there are so many temperature differences even on very small areas of maps, color gradients are a neat way to show those differences — it’s not very useful to simply print temperature readings in text form on every mm of a map to show temperature gradients that are a fraction of a degree.
It has gotten so hot in Australia this week that extra colors has actually been added to the country’s temperature maps — dark purple and magenta. The new color is for 51 to 54 degrees Celsius. Previously, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology used the color black for the hottest temperatures on the map, which went as high as 50 degrees. The extreme heat, of course, has broken temperature records in the country.
“In order to better understand what temperatures we might see … we introduced two new colors,” said Aaron Coutts-Smith, manager of climate services at the Bureau of Meteorology.
He said that temperatures are forecast to exceed 50 degrees over a large area of Australia next Monday.
I guess Australians won’t need hot water for baths at this time!
Australia’s average maximum temperature of 39 degrees has been exceeded for seven consecutive days. The last time anything similar happened was when it was exceeded in 1973 for four consecutive days.
The heat wave has fueled fires in 5 of 6 Australian states, including at least 90 wildfires in New South Wales in Southeastern Australia, as well as the island of Tasmania.
With reduced rainfall and plants losing water, plants are withering and drying out, making them more combustible.
Lightning can strike and ignite one little patch of dry plants, and it can spread as far as the dry fields of plants extend.
This is why wildfires can last days, and become so enormous.
This is only one of multiple unusual phenomena which signify that the global climate is indeed warming. Climate change is real, and these stories of temperature record increases should help the few remaining deniers to realize this.
Australian Heat Wave Is Literally Off The Color Scale was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 09:23 AM PST
One year of Chevrolet Volt ownership was reached on January 6, 2013. Today, January 7, 2013, marks the beginning of year two. My previous blog entries go over a lot of my personal feelings on the car, so I am going to focus on just the numbers for this entry.
According to AAA, the average price of gas in 2012 was $3.60 a gallon, which set the record. Below I computed my savings based on the average price of gas for 2012. When I post these through-out the year, I use the weekly average for my numbers because keeping track of a yearly rolling average can be tricky.
What isn’t listed here in additional savings is that I had no oil changes for the year. Throw in 3 oil changes (at around 7,500 mile intervals) that most of the comparison cars would have needed and makes the Volt even more attractive. I also only paid for about half the electricity listed up there. While I did use about $371 in electricity, the place I charge at work provides electricity at no cost to me (supporting their sustainability mission) and a lot of the malls and shopping centers I go to also allow me to charge for free. I also received my level 2 charger at no cost to me, thanks to Progress Energy and being an early adopter. While that giveaway is no longer available, new Volt owners are making this up with by often paying 3-4k below sticker price. I paid almost sticker price for my Volt. It is now possible to get Volts around 30k, after tax credits, at dealerships that push heavy volume Volt sales.
In retrospect, my actual numbers were pretty close to my early estimates for yearly driving assumptions and expenses. I had initially thought I would drive 22k miles a year, but a long vacation abroad at the end of December ended up shaving about 1,000 miles off my anticipated total.
One of the more interesting observations after a year of ownership is the degree the EPA label underrates Volt performance and savings. Many Volt owners have stated that the EPA label should be considered a floor. In other words, in all likelihood, a Volt owner will do MUCH better than what is stated on the EPA label. For example, the range of 35 miles for a 2011 and 2012 was generally only seen during winter months, and most owners that I have spoken to exceed 40 most of the year (including me).
So I decided to have a little fun.
I took the EPA label for a 2012 Volt then edited it to match my actual performance. I changed their assumptions in the fine print to match my circumstances exactly, including REDUCING the 5 year price of gas average the EPA has on the label (as $3.95 a gallon) to the average gas I experienced in 2012 of $3.60. I recomputed MPGe based on my average consumption of 31 kWh/100 miles.
Anything in GREEN is an improvement on the label. Anything in RED was when the Volt underperformed. The only thing in red was the combined MPG of 36 instead of the labeled 37. My engine ran so little, often coming on for 1 or 2 miles throughout the year, that the engine was not able to warm up and gain any efficiency. On the few trips where I traveled a long distance, the engine was averaging about 45 MPG.
Below is the original label. The differences are pretty stark. Without a doubt, I have some of the best electrical rates in the country, and have found ways to charge when I am at work to prevent the gas engine from ever turning on. But this should give readers an indication of the ENORMOUS variability in calculating the costs of operating an electric car. There is room for a lot of improvement over the EPA label.
Pictures speak louder than words.
This is how much gas the Volt used in one year
Had I driven a car getting 50 MPG, like a Prius, this is how much gas I would have used:
Had I driven a car getting 30 MPG, like a Chevy Cruze, this is how much gas I would have used:
Had I driven a car getting 23 MPG, approximately the new car average, this is my fuel burn:
And finally, if I elected to drive a car getting 17 MPG, I would have used this small amount of petrol:
This is one year. Can you imagine how this is going to look in 5 years?
If anyone believes my power rate is wrong, please see the bottom of this post for an explanation.
1 Year Of Volt Ownership: Costs Of Operations & Comparisons was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 08:39 AM PST
Tesla Wins Again, Bicycle Rental Made Easy, First Solar Leads US Solar Installations… (Cleantech News Roundup) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 06:56 AM PST
The surge in demand for the Volt capped a tumultuous 2012 for electric vehicles. In 2011, manufacturers fell well short of their sales targets. And as criticisms mounted last year, it seemed like automakers had to spend more time defending electric vehicles than actually making them.
As one of the most prominent automakers getting into the electric vehicle market, GM took a lot of heat from conservative politicians, bloggers, and Fox News pundits about its Chevy Volt. The car was called "crappy" and labeled an "exploding Obamamobile" by commentators looking for an opportunity to attack President Obama's investments in clean technologies.
Tired of the barrage of attacks, former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz — a Republican who once called climate change "a crock of shit" — lashed out at his fellow conservatives for spreading fear and cracking jokes about the car: "This is an unfortunate, knee-jerk reaction…Folks, it's pure fiction. Please get it out of your heads," Lutz said.
Although GM is still below its sales targets for the Volt, the company is promoting its latest sales figures as proof that more Americans want fuel efficient and electric cars.
The average price of gasoline in the U.S. last year was the highest ever recorded, boosting consumer interest in fuel-sipping automobiles. With more fuel-efficient models available from automakers, sales increased substantially — up 13 percent over 2011 sales.
"The U.S. light vehicle sales market continues to be a bright spot in the tremulous global environment," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of LMC Automotive, an industry analysis firm, to the Associated Press.
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration finalized new standards that will increase the average fuel efficiency of America's cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Natural Resources Defense Council says those fuel standards could save consumers $68 billion in fuel costs each year after 2030, when the mileage targets have been met.
Chevy Volt Sales Tripled In 2012 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 02:44 AM PST
Mintel is predicting that sales in 2013 will rise even more significantly, reaching at least 535,000 units sold by the end of the year, which would be a 14% increase over sales in 2012.
And, by 2017, it’s predicted that sales will reach 850,000 units a year, making up 5% of the total car market in the US.
“According to Colin Bird, an automotive analyst with Mintel, new models such as the Toyota Prius v (Prius+ in Europe) and the Chevrolet Malibu Eco are catching on with consumers. He said the segment would expand further in 2013 with the onslaught of new models, such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid series and the Honda Accord Hybrid.”
He also notes that one of the main driver of EV and hybrid adoption is that people are looking to protect themselves from expected future increases in gas prices.
Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Sales In The US Rose 73% In 2012 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 02:34 AM PST
Researchers used the newly discovered pattern to make an LED overlayer that mimicked the structure on the fireflies. This overlayer increased LED light extraction very considerably. And it “could be easily tailored to existing diode designs to help humans light up the night while using less energy,” the Optical Society of America notes.
“Fireflies create light through a chemical reaction that takes place in specialized cells called photocytes. The light is emitted through a part of the insect’s exoskeleton called the cuticle. Light travels through the cuticle more slowly than it travels through air, and the mismatch means a proportion of the light is reflected back into the lantern, dimming the glow. The unique surface geometry of some fireflies’ cuticles, however, can help minimize internal reflections, meaning more light escapes to reach the eyes of potential firefly suitors.”
The light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, used by humans have the same problems with internal reflection. So by copying the patterns used by the fireflies, much greater efficiencies than have been previously achieved are possible. Specifically, the researchers created a jagged overlayer that was placed on top of a “standard gallium nitride LED.”
Researchers have previously copied other features of firefly lanterns, but almost entirely on the nanoscale, as changes at a larger scale were assumed to be less effective for increasing efficiency. This assumption was made because these previously unresearched features are larger than the wavelengths of visible light are. This new research is the first that has identified these micrometer-scale photonic features, and to the surprise of the researchers, these features increased light extraction considerably more than the smaller nanoscale features.
The researchers currently think that commercial technology based on their findings should be available within the next couple of years.
The new research was just published in a pair of papers in the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Optics Express.
This research is another in a number of recent breakthroughs in LED technology, and also potential uses and applications, including: space farming, spray-on LED wallpaper, and combating seasonal affective disorder.
Source: Optical Society of America
Brighter LEDs Inspired By Fireflies, Efficiency Increased By 55% was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 02:01 AM PST
The financial and energy giants are part of a consortium including MetLife Inc., Mitsubishi UFJ, and Financial Group Inc. The consortium took a majority stake of the 143-megawatt (MW) Catalina solar project from EDF Renewable Energy.
On private land southwest of the Piute and Tehachapi Mountains totaling 1,100 acres, the new farm will give a clean energy alternative to 35,000 San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) homeowners, according to the press release. That is the equivalent of 250,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions taken off the highways each year.
"We appreciate the new investment with our partners in Catalina. It underscores solar power's ability to provide clean, abundant and affordable power, while creating economic benefits," said Director of Project Finance with EDF Renewable Energy Michael Wheeler.
Already starting operation in December 2012, the Catalina solar project is expected to be running at maximum capacity in the second quarter of 2013.
With solar costs coming down, big investors seem to having an eye for big solar projects in California. Recently, MidAmerica Solar purchased the 579MW Antelope Valley Solar Projects from SunPower.
This has been the second renewable energy investment within the past week for GE, which also purchased a stake in some major onshore wind projects previously owned by Iberdrola.
It's nice to see institutional investors stepping up to the plate and putting their money down towards clean energy projects. If solar prices continue to decline, it could make downstream investments much more attractive, while defying naysayers who seem to think solar energy investment is going into a tailspin.
GE, Citi, & Others Invest In 143MW Catalina Solar Farm was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 01:31 AM PST
When you look at EV ownership in the context of overall household electricity use, MyEnergi Lifestyle really does echo the Model T goal of making car ownership more affordable for more people, a key challenge for car companies nowadays as young people have been dropping out of the automobile market in droves.
With Ford at the helm, the MyEnergi collaboration includes global heavy-hitters such as the power management company Eaton, solar industry giant SunPower, home appliance company Whirlpool, and semiconductor innovator Infineon, as well as smart thermostat pioneer Nest Labs. That lineup alone hints at the basic concept, which is neatly summed up by Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure:
"More than ever, cars are sharing the same energy source as the home. The time is right for the home appliance and transportation sectors to converge if we are going to tackle a myriad of sustainability challenges in a rapidly changing world."
Renewable Energy and EV’s
The inclusion of SunPower in the partnership helps to resolve one key conundrum of EV ownership, which is the use of grid-supplied electricity that includes electricity generated by coal or oil, to power “emissionless” cars.
That somewhat gloomy picture is rapidly changing, as more solar power (and wind power) come onto the grid. Solar-powered (and wind-powered) EV charging stations are also going to make a big difference.
For its part, SunPower will offer Ford EV owners a high-efficiency rooftop solar installation with a 25-year warranty. The details are a bit light so far, but depending on how the installation is configured, the solar-generated electricity can be used not only to recharge the car battery but to power other electric appliances at the home as well.
When Homes and Cars Collide
The MyEnergi initiative is packed with loads of other goodies, geared toward saving energy and maximizing the household’s total use of off-peak electricity, or what Ford calls “time-flexible loads,” across all appliances.
That includes Ford’s cloud-based MyFord® Mobile app that automatically monitors utility rates to ensure that users get the best off-peak price when charging their vehicle, without having to do any additional planning or calculating. The app is already available on the C-MAX Energi, Fusion Energi, and Focus Electric.
For the benefit of homeowners who don’t or can’t take advantage of the SunPower offer, Ford also notes that the energy mix for utilities generally favors more renewable energy during off-peak hours.
The result, according to a computer model developed by Ford and its partners with the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a reduction of about 60% in the average annual energy costs for a typical single family home.
The Coming Personal Mobility Revolution
MyEnergi is part of a broader conversation about personal mobility, which Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford articulated right around this time last year.
Ford’s strategy of a “connected vehicle future” is designed to address the challenges of “increasing vehicle populations and rapid urbanization,” aka gridlock and air pollution.
Car-to-car and car-to-house communication is just one aspect of the solution of the future, which will also encompass seamless communication between individual drivers and access to mass transportation.
For that matter, Ford is also stretching out the interconnectedness of EV technology to include using solar arrays integrated with spent EV batteries as a power source for stationary facilities, beginning with its Michigan Assembly Plant.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
Ford EVs Spark A Revolution Linking Homes To Cars was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 09 Jan 2013 01:20 AM PST
The first four solar power projects listed on Mosaic’s online marketplace, sold out in less than 24 hours. More than 400 investors put up amounts ranging from $25 to $30,000 (the average was nearly $700) for a total investment of more than $313,000, Mosaic announced on its blog.
Massive Clean Energy Transition in Sight
More than 700 investors have plowed $1.1 million into Mosaic to finance 12 rooftop solar power arrays in Arizona, California, and New Jersey. This latest batch of four projects were opened to residents of California and New York, as well as accredited investors nationwide.
Among those investing in Mosaic’s earliest projects were Roland Regos and Rosana Francescato. "A crucial step toward an authentic democracy is to put clean energy in the hands of the public," Regos asserted. Mosaic is a true champion of the people."
Mosaic has one more project open to "accredited investors who meet certain financial suitability requirements." The requirements include investors with income of more than $200,000 in each of the previous two years, $300,000 in joint income with a spouse with "a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level this year," or those with a net worth, excluding equity in a primary residence, of more than $1 million either individually or jointly with a spouse.
That’s a message that shouldn’t be lost on the American public in a period of high economic and job insecurity and a decades-long trend of worsening income, wealth, and social and political inequality.
Mosaic’s First 4 Solar Energy Crowdfunding Projects Sell Out In Under 24 Hours was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
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