Friday, January 18, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

For Its HQ, The International Renewable Energy Agency Chooses… Abu Dhabi?!

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 09:52 PM PST

Conceived in Germany and established in Bonn, Germany in 2011 to promote and foster development and adoption of renewable energy worldwide, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) counts 159 national governments and the European Union as members. On January 13, IRENA announced that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had ratified its decision to establish its global headquarters in Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates of which the UAE is comprised.

IRENA’s choice is remarkable in at least two respects. For one, IRENA will be the first international organization headquartered in the Middle East. Secondly, and more remarkable, the UAE and neighboring Gulf Coast Countries have based and built their fortunes on the production and international sale of oil and petroleum derivatives, as well as natural gas.

Photo Credit: IRENA

Renewable Energy Comes of Age… Globally

When it comes to energy resources, technology, infrastructure and markets, times are changing fast, however. Looking to further develop and diversify their economies and provide healthy, sustainable socioeconomic conditions for fast-growing populations, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Coast Countries (GCC) are coming round to the view that developing solar, wind, and other clean, renewable energy resources is increasingly viable, and vital, to their sustainable development. That’s good news for citizens and residents of the region, as well as of the world.

The UAE’s formal ratification of the headquarters agreement with IRENA confirms the latter’s "position as the global hub for renewable energy," IRENA stated in a press release published during the first day of its third general assembly and the sixth World Future Energy Summit, the "centerpiece" of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

"The ratification of our headquarters agreement and the presence of a record-breaking number of ministers and policy makers at the 2013 Assembly marks IRENA’s coming of age," IRENA director general Adnan Amin stated. "What began as a visionary idea in 2009 has truly taken form. The renewable era is upon us."

That’s quite a statement, especially given it comes out of the UAE, yet one that’s indicative of the impetus that’s built up behind the drive to transition away from fossil fuels and toward economies and societies driven by renewable energy and clean technology.

Site director Zachary Shahan is on the ground and on site covering Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, and CleanTechnica’s been reporting on developments and the increasing momentum building up behind solar and renewable energy in the Middle East for some time. Following are links to several examples — some new, some older:

For Its HQ, The International Renewable Energy Agency Chooses… Abu Dhabi?! 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.

$10MM EERE Funding Opportunity for Algae Biofuel Advancements

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 08:00 PM PST

The Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) office announced January 17 up to $10 million in funding to foster advances in biofuels derived from algae.

According to EERE, "the funding will support research projects aimed at boosting the productivity of algae cultivation systems and developing and demonstrating effective, energy-efficient, and low-cost algae harvest and processing technologies, such as centrifugation and extraction."

EERE funds will be awarded to applicants whose projects aim to maximize the amount of oil produced from algae cultivation and processing and improve production of biofuel intermediaries. Finding ways of realizing these goals will "help lower the cost of biofuels by decreasing capital and operating costs, while enhancing the sustainability of algal biofuels by capturing energy from every available part of the feedstock and reducing water resource requirements," EERE explains in a press release.

Realizing the Promise of Algae for Biofuel Production

The focus of EERE’s Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is on longer-term research projects with a duration of up to five years that "integrate research and development on comprehensive mid-scale processes from strain development to production of biofuel intermediaries."

Aiming to build on the current body of knowledge, EERE identified three priority areas of integrated research:

  • Improvements in Algal Biomass Productivity;
  • Improvements in Preprocessing Technologies; and
  • Technical Advances that Enable Integration of Algal Biomass Unit Operations.

Elaborating further, the main objective of the Advancements in Algal Biomass Yield (ABY) funding opportunity "is to demonstrate, at a process development unit scale of one (1) acre cultivation equivalent, algal biofuel intermediate yield of 2,500 gallons of biofuel feedstock (or equivalent dry weight basis) per acre per year by 2018.”

Achieving commercial-scale viability of algae biofuel production would be a tremendous breakthrough in terms of producing clean, renewable fuels for transport and shifting away from heavily subsidized and controversial production of biofuels from corn and other food crops.

EERE’s Biomass Technologies Office considers this an "important milestone in reducing the cost of algal biofuels to cost-competitive levels on the way to achieving 5,000 gallons per acre by 2022.

With support from the Australian government, Aurora Algae is looking to commercialize algae biomass R&D undertaken at the University of California, Berkeley to produce biofuels, nutritional, and pharmaceutical products at a site in Western Australia.

Cultivating a genetically-enhanced strain of common algae in six 1-acre (4,000-square meter) saltwater ponds, Clean Technica’s last report has Aurora consistently producing between 12-15 metric tons of algal biomass per month.

Back in the US, a blend of biodiesel containing a 20% mix from algal sources went on sale at gas stations in San Francisco this past November, according to a report from IM sister site Gas2Go.

The algae used to produce the B20 biodiesel soaks up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce the fuel. Combustion in diesel engines results in 30% less particulates, 20% less carbon monoxide, and 10% less hydrocarbons, and at $4.25/gallon the algae biodiesel "is on par with regular diesel levels, and will soon go on sale at four gas stations around the Bay area," Gas2Go reported.

$10MM EERE Funding Opportunity for Algae Biofuel Advancements 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.

Rising Solar Energy Output Drives German & French Power Prices To Record Lows

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 07:00 PM PST

Renewable energy critics and opponents continue to zoom in on the intermittent nature of solar and wind energy in their efforts to undermine and derail the transition away from centralized, mass production of energy based on burning fossil fuels.

Even at this early stage of a much belated evolutionary process, empirical evidence and ongoing technological advances, as well as pro clean energy and sustainable development polices and market developments, highlight the fallacy of their arguments.

Observed evidence (two examples here and here) indicates that coupled with adequate grid infrastructure and energy policy reform, solar and wind power generation — on and off-grid — can reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the security and resiliency of power supplies without putting an excessive burden on consumers.

Not only does this benefit the environment and the health, well-being, and opportunities of current and future generations, it’s also generating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment and tax revenue each year.

Renewable Energy & Clean-Tech Paves the Pathway

Among developed countries, sunny Germany’s been at the forefront of the global drive towards building low-carbon societies based on clean, renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind energy.

Private sector and government actions and policies that all but brought down the banking and financial system caused global recessions, led to wars, conflicts, growing inequality, and a pervasive sense of uncertainty and fear in the US.

In contrast, federal government actions and energy policy reform in Germany have created an environment and conditions that have diversified, expanded, and made Germany’s economy more dynamic, robust and resilient, driving employment to record-high levels and improving social and environmental conditions.

No doubt Germany is struggling to overcome obstacles and resistance to Premier Angela Merkel’s plan to eliminate reliance on nuclear power by building out solar and wind power generation capacity as replacements. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who cares to familiarize themselves with such revolutionary challenges. In fact, they make Germany’s success in this regard all the more remarkable.

Just yesterday, Bloomberg reported that contracts to deliver electricity for 2014 in Germany and France dropped to record-low levels. The reason? "Rising solar output is expected to cut demand for other electricity sources."

Paraphrasing a research note from Per Lekander – an analyst at UBS’s Paris office — "As much as 18 percent of electricity demand may be replaced by solar panels not connected to Germany's grid, reducing demand for other sources by 6 to 10 percent by 2020.”

"The unsubsidized solar growth should drive wholesale power prices further down," Lekander added.

The availability of electricity generation capacity in Germany is expected to rise, with national electricity production forecast to increase to 64,200 megawatts (MW) on January 21 from 63,600 MW today, according to data from the European Energy Exchange’s Transparency Platform.

Rising Solar Energy Output Drives German & French Power Prices To Record Lows 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.

Belgium Plans Artificial Island For Wind Energy Storage

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 07:00 PM PST

Belgium is planning to construct an island in the North Sea for the sole purpose storing wind energy.

Wind farms, when constructed using traditional mainstream methods, will eventually require backup as their electricity market penetration increases, and when wind turbines generate surplus electricity due to unusually high wind speeds (which can happen pretty often) it goes to waste.

Belgium To Build Energy Storage Island

Image Source: Vestas

“We have a lot of energy from the wind mills and sometimes it just gets lost because there isn’t enough demand for the electricity,” said spokeswoman for Belgium’s North Sea minister Johan Vande Lanotte. “This is a great solution,” the spokeswoman said, adding she thought it could be the first of its kind.

Excess wind power would be used to pump water out of the centre of the island, and it would be allowed to flow back in, but through an electricity generating turbine to augment overall electricity production when there is a shortfall of wind energy.

Vande Lanotte revealed these plans at the Belgian port of Zeebrugge late on Wednesday.

Large-scale wind energy storage has been mostly just a thought for many years, worldwide, but Belgium decided to step up to the plate and put it to the test.

There is an important fact about the electricity market penetration of wind power — In reality, the only real market penetration is done by electricity when it is used. By storing the surplus wind energy in the North Sea plant, they can finally sell it, because they will have it ready for when electricity demand increases during peak hours.

Source: Reuters
Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa.

Belgium Plans Artificial Island For Wind Energy Storage 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.

Improved Solar Cells And Batteries Thanks To Research On Snail Teeth

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 06:00 PM PST

More-efficient solar cells, and fast-charging lithium-ion batteries, are likely in the near future thanks to some new research on how the teeth of a type of marine snail grow. The newly-gained insights will lead to the less-expensive and more-efficient production of nanoscale materials, according to the researcher behind this work.


Image Source: University of California – Riverside

The research was started as a way to learn more about abrasion and impact-resistant materials. So the research was focused on the gumboot chiton, a foot-long sea snail that is found along the coasts of North America, from California to Alaska. The teeth of these chitons contains what is thought to be the hardest biomineral on the Earth, magnetite. So not only are the teeth very strong, but they are also magnetic. These incredibly strong teeth evolved because, essentially, the snails have to cut through rock to get to the algae that they eat. The teeth are located on a conveyer belt-like structure in their mouth that slowly rotates new teeth onto the tip of the structure, where they are then used to cut rock.

What is really interesting about this though, is how the incredibly-hard and magnetic outer region of the tooth forms.

The research “revealed that this occurs in three steps. Initially, hydrated iron oxide (ferrihydrite) crystals nucleate on a fiber-like chitinous (complex sugar) organic template. These nanocrystalline ferrihydrite particles convert to a magnetic iron oxide (magnetite) through a solid-state transformation. Finally, the magnetite particles grow along these organic fibers, yielding parallel rods within the mature teeth that make them so hard and tough.”

“Incredibly, all of this occurs at room temperature and under environmentally benign conditions,” said David Kisailus, the assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering behind this research. “This makes it appealing to utilize similar strategies to make nanomaterials in a cost-effective manner.”

“Kisailus is using the lessons learned from this biomineralization pathway as inspiration in his lab to guide the growth of minerals used in solar cells and lithium-ion batteries. By controlling the crystal size, shape and orientation of engineering nanomaterials, he believes he can build materials that will allow the solar cells and lithium-ion batteries to operate more efficiently. In other words, the solar cells will be able to capture a greater percentage of sunlight and convert it to electricity more efficiently and the lithium-ion batteries could need significantly less time to recharge.”

Another large advantage to this production method is that the engineering nanocrystals can be grown at much lower temperatures that is currently the case. This should lead to considerably lower production costs.

The new research was just published January 16th in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Source: University of California – Riverside

Improved Solar Cells And Batteries Thanks To Research On Snail Teeth 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.

New Solar Stirling Dish Efficiency Record Of 32% Set

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 05:00 PM PST

A new efficiency world record of 32% has been set for 30kW Solar Stirling dish modules by Ripasso Energy, a solar technology provider based in Sweden.


Image Source: Ripasso Energy

The new Ripasso Energy Stirling Dish modules have proven to be an effective converter of sunlight into electricity in most climates, but most especially in hot and dry climates. It’s in these types of environments that the system is efficient enough to convert roughly one third of solar energy into electricity.

Stirling dish technology has long been noted as a promising technology with many innate advantages when compared to other types of solar power. But until now there hasn’t been much commercial development.

Ripasso Energy wrote in a news release sent to CleanTechnica: “The Ripasso Energy solution is modularized without any need for central turbines or DC/AC converters allowing step-by-step implementation with generation starting from the first units in service. Low environmental impact in combination with low Levelized Cost Of Energy (LCOE) offers a new ‘Fast-track’ path for solar based world future energy in ‘the sun belt’.”

"The solar conditions in parts of MENA, South Africa and Chile indicates that it is possible to obtain LCOE levels of less than 0.1 Euro per KWh for a 30 MW plant and even lower for larger plants where 0.05 Euro per kWh is our target,” says Carl Ohlen, Marketing & Sales Director for Ripasso Energy. “This makes the Stirling dish competitive with all other electrical energy technologies in these countries and also feasible in other regions in Asia, Australia and Americas with relatively high solar radiations.”


Image Source: Ripasso Energy

Ohlen continues: "Recent reports from IEA, the World Bank as well as the negotiations at the latest UN COP conference in Doha all points out the urgency to de-carbonize the energy system. The Ripasso Energy Stirling Dish offers here an efficient solution with fast implementation for many countries in need of electricity."

Their first commercial power plant is currently being built in South Africa.

The all-in-one stand-alone nature of the technology makes it very-appealing. When that’s combined with its apparent cost-effectiveness in sunny regions, it’s hard to imagine that the technology won’t be a large part of future energy development in those regions.

New Solar Stirling Dish Efficiency Record Of 32% Set 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.

WWF Report Finds Solar Land Use Doesn’t Conflict With Conservation Goals

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 04:16 PM PST

Oh, naysayers, brace yourselves for this doozy! The World Wildlife Fund has come out with a report that land used for solar panels is an insignificant amount and does not conflict with conservation goals.

The WWF goes as far as saying that if by 2050 100% of the world’s electricity was generated by solar farms alone the total land mass used would be less than 1%.

It bears reiterating: less than 1%!

For we clean-tech cheerleaders it’s hard to imagine arguments against solar photovoltaic projects, but some worry that there’s not enough room to go around for people, plants, animals, and solar farms. Chalk up another win for solar power, though, because in the report that the WWF put out with First Solar, 3Tier and Fresh Generation, it’s clearly stated that when PV technology is well-planned, communities don’t have to choose between clean energy and nature.

The report looks at six countries — Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey — and the Indian state Madhya Pradesh, to see how diverse geographies, demographics, environments, and political structures – with differing amounts of average levels of sunshine – can deftly handle the parallel ambitions of protecting nature and encouraging clean technology.

Now, here’s the key: We can’t willy-nilly throw solar panels here, there and everywhere. We’ve got to recognize that there are thousands of acres in already developed land where solar can easily fit. Some examples of existing land prime for solar power are on commercial parking lots; underneath high-voltage transmission lines; at abandoned industrial sites; and on the side of the road. Sure, even in these locales it’s important to think of safety, cost-benefit, and environmental conservation, making certain that public lands where endangered and sensitive species live (even those places with huge amounts of sunshine) are not considered for solar development.

It’s becoming quite clear that animal lovers and clean tech enthusiasts don’t have to be at odds with each other on solar land usage.

Source: WWF

WWF Report Finds Solar Land Use Doesn’t Conflict With Conservation Goals 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.

Army Gets Biggest Ever Solar Array, Largest of Its Kind in World

Posted: 17 Jan 2013 05:25 AM PST

Giving new meaning to the Cold War era phrase “global superpower,” the U.S. Army has just flipped the ceremonial switch on its new White Sands Missile Range Solar Power System in New Mexico, which is not only the Army’s largest solar installation to date but also the largest of its kind in the world, at least for now. The facility has a pretty substantial solar carport of about 375 kilowatts to help boost it over the four megawatt mark, but the real meat of the solar power system is a 4.1 megawatt, ground-mounted, low-concentration photovoltaic power plant.

Overall, the two systems will generate about 10 million kWh of electricity and save the Army about $930,000 each year.

Army builds largest solar installation of its kind in the world at White Sands

Yep, World’s Largest Low-Concentration Solar Power System

At 4.1 megawatts, the new White Sands array easily beats out the previous record holder for low-concentration solar power, which is (was) a 2 megawatt installation that went online in Puglia, Italy just last spring.

Though low-concentration systems are not as efficient as high-concentration systems, they make economic sense for utility-scale operations where real estate is cheap and plentiful.

For U.S. Army Solar Power, Such Thing as a Free Lunch

The $16.8 million White Sands system, which covers about 42 acres of the 3,200 square mile missile range (plenty of room for more!), cost the Army nothing up front.

The project was developed as a power purchase agreement, which is familiar ground in the solar industry. Basically, a power purchase agreement makes real estate available to the solar installer, whether it’s an individual rooftop or a utility-scale power plant. The property owner doesn’t pay anything up front for the solar equipment, but commits to purchasing the power it generates at an agreed-upon rate for a certain period of time (in this case, 25 years).

Siemens, Inc. built the system at White Sands, and the company will operate it and be responsible for its maintenance. The actual ownership belongs to Bostonia Bank, which financed the installation in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army has been pursuing this type of power purchase agreement hand over fist for the past couple of years. Back in 2011 it established a special Energy Initiatives Task Force to streamline the pipeline for utility-scale installations at Army facilities, relieving individual base commanders from having to reinvent the wheel with each project.

The White Sands Solar Power Plant

The bulk of the installation consists of more than 15,000 solar panels mounted on proprietary STS-Azimuth trackers developed by Solaria Corporation, which also provided the solar modules for the previous record-holder in Italy. The trackers enable each module to continuously adjust to the most advantageous angle, and squeeze more energy out of the sun throughout the day.

The Azimuth tracker consists of a single vertical axis which supports 20 solar modules. Unlike horizontal-mounted trackers, the Azimuth tracker permits the panels to rotate rather than simply tilt.

Solaria estimates that the Azimuth tracker enables it to yield about 30 percent more energy than horizontal trackers.

The single axis configuration also helps reduce cost by cutting down on the need for site preparation, which in turn enables it to be installed fairly quickly compared to other types of energy systems. The White Sands project broke ground in April 2012 and it was ready for action in December 2012.

Solar Power is Only Half the Battle

Impressive as it is, the new solar power plant will only supply about 10 percent of the energy needed by the White Sands facility, and that underscores another critical aspect of the Army’s emerging energy policy.

Rather than focusing narrowly on new sources of energy, the Army has also embarked on an ambitious energy “culture change” initiative called "The Power is in Your Hands."

The goal of the new initiative is to merge new technology with new behaviors, resulting in an "energy-informed culture" in which energy users are keenly aware of their responsibility for reducing the real life-and-death risks involved in providing energy to military facilities overseas.

Given the risks and impacts of energy production here at home, that’s a lesson the civilian sector can take to heart, too.

Image (cropped): White Sands solar power system, courtesy of U.S. Army.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Army Gets Biggest Ever Solar Array, Largest of Its Kind in World 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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