Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Wendy: Art, Architecture, & Environment Mix Together In Abu Dhabi (Exclusive Photos)

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 02:07 PM PST

Wendy isn’t just a fun name — it’s also a super green architectural creation. After a tour of Shams 1 — the largest single-unit solar power plant in the world — CleanTechnica director Zachary Shahan and I received a “VIP Media” tour of Wendy as part of our journey in Abu Dhabi (UAE). Wendy is a 56-foot-tall award-winning art installation that has been placed on Corniche beach to highlight Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week hosted over 30,000 participants from 150 countries over the course of the week, January 13–17, 2013.

Wendy art exhibition

Marika visiting Wendy at Corniche beach in Abu Dhabi. Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica

Wendy from a distance. Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica

Wendy was designed by HWKN (Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner), winner of the MoMA PS1 2012 Young Architects Program in New York. Matthias and Marc gave us a tour of the super green architectural creation, pointing out some of its less obvious but important features.

wendy cornich beach

People entering Wendy. Photo Credit: Marika Krakowiak / CleanTechnica

The spiky, nylon mass, which is treated with titania nanofilm spray, cleans the air by neutralising airborne pollutants (pollutants that have been linked to early death by numerous scientific studies). During its week-long installation, Wendy will remove pollution created by about 260 cars. The installation is powered by Masdar’s solar panels and serves people cool air, water, and music.

Wendy art exhibition

Wendy & the moon. Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica

Wendy Lights Night Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach

The lights and spikes of Wendy in early evening (Corniche Beach, Abu Dhabi, UAE). Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica


Wendy has added great value to public space by offering people a sustainable and social zone on a Corniche beach, which was certified with a Blue Flag in June 2011 for its sustainable development and environmental management. It was interesting, while there, to see how others responded to the art exhibition and read about its interesting environmental features.

Wendy art inside

Touring the inside of Wendy with Karl Burkart. Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica

Fans, mist, and light inside Wendy. Photo Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica

So, if you are visiting UAE at the moment or if you are living there, do not miss the chance to meet Wendy, as the exhibition will be open for visitors to walk into through February 6, 2013.

For more stories and exclusive CleanTechnica content from Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, check out our latest posts from the event in our Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week archives.

Wendy: Art, Architecture, & Environment Mix Together In Abu Dhabi (Exclusive Photos) 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.

Queen Of Jordan: Most Forceful Speech Of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (VIDEO)

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 02:05 PM PST

Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, courtesy of Masdar

At least within our green media circle, the consensus was that the Queen of Jordan gave the most powerful speech of all the great speeches at the combined opening ceremony of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, the International Renewable Energy Conference, the International Water Summit, and coordinated events.

Right from the beginning, it was clear that she, or her speech writer, had a great sense for how to get people’s attention using popular figures of speech:

“I'm humbled to be surrounded by such a distinguished and talented audience: politicians, business leaders, innovators, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. In fact, I half expected to walk in and see thousands of light bulbs above your heads sparking…popping… and burning with brilliant ideas!”

From then on, she had our attention, but she made sure to hold and increase it:

“By being here today, you're already part of the solution to the global energy crisis. Fueling our future with innovation and humanity. Bringing power, and with it, empowerment, to millions around the world. So, thank you Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Abu Dhabi, and Masdar, for bringing us together.

“I cannot think of a better place for us to gather. Abu Dhabi's bold vision for sustainable energy is transforming this nation and inspiring our region… at a time when the Arab world is at a critical juncture. No one can predict the future, but this much is true: energy requirements will play a vital role in determining it.”

Beautiful words, with deep understanding behind them. But Queen Rania Al Abdullah wasn’t there just to pay praise and make us feel good. She was there to move the world forward.

“The Arab world includes some of the richest and the poorest countries in terms of energy resources. This stark disparity is evident even in countries that share borders. Despite neighboring some of the most oil-rich countries, my country, Jordan, relies on imports to cover 96 percent of our energy needs.

“Our region hosts yet another contradiction. We're rich in the energy of our overwhelmingly young population, but poor in the opportunities we can offer them.

“And we've all seen the result of that. Frustrated energies spilling onto the Arab street over the past two years.

“According to a Gallop poll conducted last year, in the midst of the unrest, the majority of Arab youth still place finding a job as their number one priority. Yet, if we continue with business as usual, too many are unlikely to find one in the next 5 years.

“It was Thomas Edison, the inventor of the aforementioned light bulb, who said that, ’Discontent is the first necessity of progress.'

“Well, we've seen the discontent; now let's work on the progress.

That was a moving introduction, but then she got into the crux of the whole week, the need for sustainable energy. I recorded the following six and a half minutes of her talking about this, so I’ll share that video now, followed by the text of that section:


Here’s the text of that section:

“But in the absence of long-term, sustainable solutions to our energy needs, progress will be slow and uneven. Not just in this region, but everywhere.

“Today, 1.4 billion people, that’s 1 in 5 in the world, still cannot access grid electricity. For a billion more, access is unreliable.

“And without sustainable energy, there can be no sustainable development.

“Energy is humanity's lifeblood; where it flows, prosperity burgeons. Where it stalls, the impoverished and disadvantaged languish… burdened by multiple challenges.

“The most crippling effects of energy poverty are felt by children. It is a cruel irony that those who had the least to do with climate change and energy crises are paying the highest price. And they know it.

“Last year, the Child Fund Alliance surveyed over 6,000 children aged between 10 and 12, from 47 countries, to find out about their hopes, aspirations, and fears.

“In one question, they were asked, ’If you could do one thing to improve the environment around your community, what would it be?’

“The answers might surprise you.

“They didn't say, ‘build a soccer field’ or ‘give us a playground.’

“Some of the most popular responses from children were pleas to improve infrastructure. ’Drill for water.’ ‘Build schools and hospitals.’ ‘Provide electricity and latrines.’

“Although they were young, they were wise beyond their years.

“In recent years, the global community has made great progress in improving the lives of children, with more children enrolled in school, less global deaths among children under 5, more access to clean drinking water.

“But, in too many places, this progress is not only slowing, it's in danger of stalling.

“Take Gaza, where power cuts, a daily reality, make studying at home tough. Street lamps there are not only illuminating roads, they're lighting up futures. Look, and you will see children huddled under them, textbooks in hand, reading, learning. They have learned to make a little light go a long way.

“Looking up from his notes, 10-year-old Yazan says, ’When my mother buys me a candle at home to study, it doesn’t last long, so I come here. I hardly ever notice the passing cars; I'm here to study, because I wish to become a doctor.’

“Here's the thing. Maths can be hard. Grammar can be hard. Exams can be hard. Light to study by in the evening, in the safety of your home — that should be easy.

“Because if it's not easy, children will drop out of school. And as they do so, the promise of better health… good jobs… and stronger economies goes with them.

“Or take Yemen, where, in the past year, there have been some days with less than one hour of electricity, and where sitting under street lamps to study is simply not an option for girls.

“‘We were tired of darkness,’ said 16-year-old Wafa Al-Rimi. And so, with the help of INJAZ Yemen, and some private sector guidance, she formed an all-female company that invented solar-powered lights – for which they won INJAZ Al-Arab's Best Company of the Year in November.

“Or take Sudan, where midwives pray that mothers will give birth at daylight. Because when darkness descends, it is only by the flickering flame of a kerosene lamp, with all its choking fumes, that fragile newborns are brought into the world.

“Nimat, a midwife, recalls a harrowing moment during a delivery.

“‘Suddenly, a very strong wind blew out the lamp's light. I was forced to continue the delivery in darkness, fumbling, and guessing what to do.’

“Birth. The most critical moment for a mother and her newborn child… and the light goes out.

“Or take Iraq, where black-outs are so frequent, the Al-Dakhil Clinic in Baghdad had to destroy precious medicines because they couldn't be kept at the right temperatures. And where they had to cancel their children's vaccination program because the vaccines couldn't be stored properly.

“Children don't deserve these injustices.

“But there is light, and well before the end of the tunnel.

“You and I know that there are no technical barriers to universal access to modern energy.

“With capital investment and political will, we could light up schools for children, power health clinics for mothers, and their babies, and pump clean water for families.

“With new energy we could fuel a solar revolution; bring about a boom in the science, engineering, and manufacturing fields; build green industries and green jobs; and open new markets for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Proven, innovative solutions exist. And I'm proud that many of them are coming from the Arab World.

“I'm proud that in Jordan, Bedouin women are training to be solar engineers, swapping unhealthy and expensive kerosene lamps for solar power, and in so doing, freeing up money for their families.”

Pretty powerful stuff. Very powerful stuff. And it’s wonderful to see this world leader exposing, so powerfully, the benefits of clean energy and green entrepreneurship.

As you must have noticed if you watched the full video above, that wasn’t the end of her speech. My memory card or my batteries ran out. After a quick recharge, I recorded the short video below, but before that part, there was this short segment, focusing on a few more bright examples from the Middle East, as well as the need for much more:

“… Or in Egypt, where farmers are exploring biodynamic agriculture, using compost to turn desert lands into healthy soil. And where they're exploring innovative irrigation methods to reduce water stress.

“I'm proud of Abu Dhabi, of its global leadership role in sustainable development. And Masdar City, a test-bed for renewable energy and technology.

“And, I'm pleased that, for the first time, this conference is engaging and encouraging high school students to find innovative energy solutions, through the Zayed Future Energy Prize.

“But while there are many examples of new energy technologies, they are still too few and far between. They must be streamlined and scaled up, made cheaper and more efficient.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there is an industry waiting to be tapped. And the Arab world is perfectly positioned not only to tap it, but to lead it.

“In so doing, we would be addressing one of the key fundamentals to a more corrective course for the region, using the potent energy of our people to chart the way forward.”

Queen Rania certainly knows how to inspire. As noted above, and as I think you’d all agree, we considered this the most forceful speech of the opening ceremony, and probably the most forceful speech of the whole week (though, one more of the few I have remaining to publish was comparably forceful, in my opinion).

The above quote wasn’t the end of Queen Rania’s passionate speech, however. For the end, she came back to Thomas Edison, an energy and technology leader of another generation, and one who had firm faith in renewable energy, especially solar energy. Here are the Queen of Jordan’s final lines:

“Let's be inspired by Edison.

“'I have not failed,' he said, 'I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.'

“I say, with your help, let us find one that will.”

For more content from CleanTechnica’s trip to Abu Dhabi, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, for the World Future Energy Summit, and/or for the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover specific events or Masdar in any particular way.

Queen Of Jordan: Most Forceful Speech Of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (VIDEO) 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.

Major Price Drops Coming For Electric Vehicles

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 12:40 PM PST

High prices have always been a hurdle for electric vehicles – if they're too expensive for average drivers to buy, wide-scale integration will never be possible. Fortunately, it looks like that axiom is about to change dramatically. 

Nissan Leaf EV

Nissan Leaf image via Shutterstock

Purchase prices for both top-selling electric vehicles, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, are set to plunge, potentially opening up emissions-free driving for a much wider class of drivers and turning a corner toward a sustainable transportation future. 

18% Price Cut For Nissan Leaf

Nissan first took the low-price pole position, announcing last week that the 2013 Leaf EV would start at a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of $28,800 for the entry-level S grade vehicle. 

This is an 18% reduction from the 2012 Leaf entry model's $35,200 MSRP, and makes the 2013 Nissan Leaf S the lowest-priced five-passenger EV sold in America. But even better, consumers may now theoretically purchase a Leaf for as low as $18,800, depending on available federal and states tax credits. 

The two higher-end Leaf models, the SV and SL, will also see significant price drops in 2013 compared to 2012, with the SV falling 10% to $31,820 and the SL falling 6% to $34,840. Perhaps best of all, Nissan will assemble 2013 Leafs, battery packs, and electric motors at three facilities in Tennessee, supporting thousands of green jobs. 

“Thousands Cheaper” For Chevy Volt

Not to be outdone, General Motors announced it would introduce a similar price reduction for the Chevy Volt. GM's North America president stated the company would take out "thousands of dollars" from the next-generation Volt. 

Improved battery pack and electric motor designs will allow the Volt's cost-cutting move, but the exact pricing details are still to be finalized. Regardless, GM is setting its sights even higher, saying, "we will see the day when we have an affordable electric car that offers 300 miles of range with all the comfort and utility of a conventional vehicle." 

High Price Concerns Eat EV Dust

US electric and hybrid vehicle sales rose 73% in 2012, making them the fastest-growing sector of the American auto industry, and sales are predicted to grow another 14% in 2013. 

While both the Volt and Leaf increased sales in 2012, with 23,461 and 9,819 sold respectively, they've still got many miles to go until they reach parity with internal-combustion engines. A recent study of EV perceptions among 2,300 drivers in 21 US cities showed sticker shock was considered a "major barrier" for new car buyers, even when savings from fuel economy were factored in.

But, now that prices are truly starting to fall within reach of the average American driver, prices could soon become just a speed bump for the EV industry.

Major Price Drops Coming For Electric Vehicles 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.

Synthetic Diesel From Chickens Will Be Showcased At Daytona International Speedway

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 09:04 AM PST

Mazda plans to show off its new Mazda6 “clean diesel” sedan at the Daytona International Speedway’s Rolex 24 endurance race next week, where it will run three high-performance racing versions of the car on renewable, synthetic diesel produced by the company Dynamic Fuels. Since one partner in Dynamic Fuels is the chicken products giant Tyson Foods, you can probably guess where this is going, so let’s skip the chicken-and-the-road jokes and see how it is that chickens could achieve a performance level that won’t result in a 24-hour embarrassment for Mazda.

synthetic diesel from chicken fat showcased at Daytona

Renewable, Synthetic Diesel from Chickens

Aside from Tyson, the other partner in the Dynamic Fuels venture is the company Syntroleum, which has also made a name for itself producing synthetic liquid fuels from nonrenewable feedstocks, namely natural gas and coal.

The new synthetic diesel venture is a 75-million-gallon-per-year facility located near Baton Rouge, Louisiana that can process a variety of solid or semi-solid feedstocks into liquid fuel. Naphtha (better known as lighter fluid) and liquid petroleum gas are also churned out as byproducts.

As for those feedstocks, chicken waste from Tyson’s food packaging operations is just the tip of the iceberg. Dynamic Fuels lists a dizzying array of possibilities, primarily chicken fat and inedible fats from pork and beef, as well as recycled cooking oil (mainly from frying) and “flotation fat” recovered from washwater during beef processing.

That’s currently the meat of the Dynamic Fuels menu, which performs a sustainability twofer by using up animal waste that would otherwise go to landfills, to the tune of about 1.5 million pounds per day for this operation alone according to a recent article at forbes.com.

The same process can be applied to any number of biofuel crops including two of our favorites, camelina and algae (so far Dynamic Fuels has steered clear of controversial crops like palm oil).

Run Chicken, Run

Sustainability is all well and good, but the real question is how the fuel performs. Part of that question was answered last year, when Dynamic Fuels provided its chickeny renewable synthetic diesel to the U.S. Navy for use in its Green Fleet initiative.

The key, according to Dynamic Fuels, is a process that “produces the exact same molecule that you get from petroleum diesel, without all of the impurities that give petroleum diesel its unique odor and color.”

In contrast to conventional biodiesel refining, the Dynamic Fuels process is similar to petroleum refining, in which hydrotreatment is used to remove all of the oxygen from the finished product. Dynamic Fuels notes that this absence of oxygen provides synthetic diesel with superior performance characteristics compared to conventional biodiesel, particularly in regards to performance in cold weather.

The multi-stage process involves a series of catalytic reactions with hydrogen, which starts by breaking the feedstock molecules (triglycerides) at the oxygen atom, forming a small amount of water along with propane and paraffin. The next stages involve rearranging the carbon atoms to prevent the finished product from solidifying.

Among the other advantages Dynamic Fuels cites, its synthetic fuel can be stored, transported and used on a drop-in basis without requiring any alterations in the existing fuel infrastructure or vehicle engines. The synthetic diesel also boasts a lower sulfur level than conventional biodiesel.

One final note to add is that conventional biodiesel refining results in vast quantities of crude glycerin as a byproduct, which is a problem that the Dynamic Fuels process avoids (researchers are working on commercially viable ways to use crude glycerin, though).

Mazda’s SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel Engine

Aside from putting renewable, synthetic diesel to the test, forbes.com notes that Mazda will be showcasing its new SKYACTIV-D diesel engine, which is designed to cut black carbon and other diesel emissions down to the bone without the expense of conventional pollution controls, as well as providing a 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency.

Image (cropped): Chicken by The Consortium

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Synthetic Diesel From Chickens Will Be Showcased At Daytona International Speedway 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.

A Newer World: Book Review

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 06:00 AM PST

A Newer World: Politics, Money, Technology, and What's Really Being Done To Solve The Climate Crisis, which came out late in 2012, is a joyful, optimistic, yet sober look at the accomplishments society has seen in sustainable development over the past 25 years.

A Newer World: Politics, Money, Technology, and What's Really Being Done To Solve The Climate Crisis

Often, environmental books give a really grim outlook on the situation without a solid economic solution to the problem (read Bill McKibben's Eaarth), or pan realistic solutions (read Ozzie Zehner's Green Illusions) we face.

However, environmental professor at New York University William F. Hewitt provides something rare that has not really been seen in much contemporary environmental literature — hope — while melding the realities of climate science, politics, and economics all into one.

For starters, Hewitt notes that international conferences such as those in Copenhagen and Cancun were not complete failures on climate change, given the complexities of global economic and political systems, and the steps forward they brought. This included 73 countries after the Copenhagen conference proving how they would reduce carbon emissions in both the near term and by the middle of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, the author illustrates the progress made with the UN Green Climate Fund for developing countries. The fund was underwritten thanks to $30 billion promised from developed countries to be used through 2012. Hewitt also noted that countries agreed prior to the Copenhagen conference to have $100 billion yearly by 2020 given to developing nations for climate mitigation and adaptation projects.

Even on the most contentious issue — carbon pricing — gains have been made, despite the ongoing bickering on Capitol Hill. Hewitt points to regional carbon pricing schemes in providing a map forward. One example includes the eastern ten states of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). As of 2011, greater than $900 million have been raised through auctions, with 80% of the proceeds going to clean energy projects.

Meanwhile, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), involving California and four Canadian provinces (Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia), had its first reporting period starting in 2012, and lasts for three years.

But the most interesting argument in the book was the massive gains seen in clean technology and renewable energy. In 1996, there were 6.1 GW of installed wind power capacity, which rapidly grew to 197 GW by the end of 2010, according to the book. By 2015, installed wind capacity is expected to reach 459 GW according to the Global Wind Energy Council, Hewitt notes. The author suggests wind energy is now a part of mainstream energy generation, thanks to reaching grid parity in many areas of the world.

Solar, in the meantime, is also making advances thanks to its dropping costs.  Hewitt says: "The technology, the solid business case, and the dire environmental necessity inherent in the threat of global climate change — all of these are driving solar power toward realizing its extraordinary potential." (p.38)

He points to the abundant resources solar energy can provide, as much as 1,700 exajoules (EJ) for photovoltaics and 8,000 EJ for concentrated solar power (CSP) by 2050, showcasing the potential for global solar power.

Advancements in biomass, hydropower, marine, and geothermal are also giving more clean energy options than has ever been possible before. Hewitt suggests these sources could fulfill all the world's energy needs while avoiding the risk of pollution that threatens the globe.

While he acknowledges the positives, there is much work to be done on climate issues, including advancing carbon pricing schemes and improving lifestyles (bicycling and energy efficiency). Hewitt's sharp, pragmatic, and hopeful view on how far business and world governments have come on sustainable development issues provides something rare: a message that shows how far we have come in environmental issues given the complexities in global politics and economics.

 A Newer World is worth a read for those tired of dire messages, for those who want hope in the face of our fast-paced, complex global economic system.

Image Credit: University of New Hampshire Press

A Newer World: Book Review 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.

Solar Cell Research Receives Nanowire Breakthrough

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 05:00 AM PST

Nanowire breakthrough increases solar efficiencyNew research has shown that nanowires have the potential to drastically improve solar cell efficiency and cost, which leaves us with just one question: what is a nanowire?

Thankfully, the scientists from Lund University in Sweden helped us out a little with that question:

nanowires are made of the semiconductor material indium phosphide and work like antennae that absorb sunlight and generate power. The nanowires are assembled on surfaces of one square millimetre that each house four million nanowires. A nanowire solar cell can produce an effect per active surface unit several times greater than today's silicon cells.

"Our findings are the first to show that it really is possible to use nanowires to manufacture solar cells," says Magnus Borgström, a researcher in semiconductor physics and the principal author of the study which was published in the journal Science.

Nanowire research has been on the rise across the planet, gaining traction as a possible means for creating more efficient and cost-effective solar cells. The dream figure was 10% efficiency, a number previously unattained by any research facility.

Which left Lund University’s achievement of 13.8% rather astonishing and exciting.

Nanowire solar cells have not made it out of lab testing just yet, but Lund University’s researchers hope that with the recent identification of the ideal diameter for nanowires and how to synthesise them, they could be the perfect material for solar cells in sunny locations such as the southwestern US, southern Spain, and Africa.

"The right size is essential for the nanowires to absorb as many photons as possible. If they are just a few tenths of a nanometre too small their function is significantly impaired," explains Magnus Borgström.

Now, commonly, solar cells are made from silicon, which, while cheap, is not incredibly efficient. Silicon solar cells only utilise a limited part of the sunlight that reaches them. Not so for nanowires, which work at a much higher efficiency with the same sort of materials keeping the costs low.

Nanowire research is not necessarily revolutionary, but it does come on the heels of several years worth of increasingly busy solar research and improvements. These discoveries and research initiatives are imperative if we are to move away from our fossil-fuel reliance and into a greener future.

Source: Lund University

Solar Cell Research Receives Nanowire Breakthrough 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.

Todd Stern: “All Of Us Must Challenge Ourselves” (VIDEO)

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 04:54 AM PST

Todd Stern, the United States Special Envoy for Climate Change since January 2009, was another notable speaker at the 6th World Future Energy Summit, part of Masdar’s extensive Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. For those of you who closely follow international climate negotiations, you will see much of the same here that you have seen in previous speeches and conferences. However, if you pay attention to nuance, there may be some quite interesting statements and proposals, and there were certainly several solid points that deserve emphasis. Additionally, I wanted to at least record the speech and make the videos available to you in case you’re interested in watching it for yourself.

So, first, here are two videos that capture most of his speech (sorry for the less than ideal audio and visual quality on these):


And here are some of the points Mr Stern made that I think are worth highlighting:

  • There are many benefits to clean energy besides the climate benefit, but the climate issue is the most imperative. (In other words, what is anything worth if we don’t have food, water, a safe home, and a livable climate.)
  • The costs of climate change are considerably larger than the costs associated with a clean energy revolution, even if some of those climate change costs will only be experienced in the medium or long term.
  • It’s important that each country work its hardest to tackle climate change, and to change into a low-carbon society. “We all — United States, China, the EU, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, India — all of us must challenge ourselves,” Mr Stern emphasized.
  • “Differentiation among countries may be the most misunderstood, intensive issue of the entire negotiation.” In other words, different countries need different policies, different mechanisms, and different types of support in order to make the greatest climate action possible. This is something that could be debated at great length, and is something Todd believes is still wildly underestimated, but I think the key he is focusing on is that we need to do a better job of looking at how to improve each country in the midst of its unique circumstances, rather than getting stuck on one or two overarching global goals or solutions. Still, though, where to draw the line between broad policies or targets and country-specific policies or targets will always be a challenge.
  • “First, we have to make sure differentiation supports ambition rather than discourages it,” Todd noted. This is a simple but very critical statement, and it’s not going to be easy to achieve, as most countries are currently looking for ways to do less than their “fair share” rather than more than their “fair share.”
  • Summarizing the two points directly above, the US is not at all saying that all countries be expected to address climate change in the same way, but that, “for differentiation to support our mutual, overarching commitment to ambition, [climate goals or targets] must be based on real and material circumstances in countries.”
  • Countries need to be very transparent about their progress towards achieving their targets, Todd added. “Countries will be more ambitious if they have confidence that their peers are also genuinely acting. Only a system that lets the sunshine in will give them this confidence.”
  • “We must be ready to think outside the box [in these] climate negotiations and create a flexible structure that can best achieve the objective of real ambition and the imperative of broad inclusiveness while also accommodating the varied circumstances of parties.” As part of this, Todd contended that national targets will probably have to be internally determined. He thinks they will have a “better chance for being successfully implemented” if determined internally. However, what then is the purpose of the international negotiations?… Our Special Envoy for Climate Change had a response: “But if we do go the route of nationally determined commitments, we will need to focus intensively on how best to ensure ambitious country submissions. One idea might be to require countries to submit their proposed climate programs 6 months or so in advance so that other countries and the broader public will have time to scrutinize the submissions and offer their own comments.” He also added at the end that “we should agree that different metrics for measuring action are perfectly appropriate.”
  • “I’d also note that a message of limits, reductions, and constraints is much less attractive than a message of building vibrant, something vibrant and new, a 21st century clean energy economy.” But how to do so in international negotiations is the challenge. “I don’t know yet precisely how to capture a ‘race to the top’ dynamic with respect to climate change, but I think it’s an idea that is worth our exploring.”
  • Todd’s last sentence got to the crux of it all: “Let us be guided at every step and in every decision by our shared commitment to conquer this challenge to serve our respective nations and all nations, and to make our children proud.” If only all of our leaders, and the public as a whole, realized what was at stake as much as Mr Stern.

What do you think of the notes above or other comments from Todd’s speech?

For more content from CleanTechnica’s trip to Abu Dhabi, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, and/or the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover any specific events or Masdar in any particular way.

Todd Stern: “All Of Us Must Challenge Ourselves” (VIDEO) 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.

1.85 MW Japanese “Social Contribution” Solar Farm To Donate Profits To Local Communities

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 04:00 AM PST

The feel-good news about renewable energy never ceases. A 1.85 megawatt solar farm in Japan’s Wakayama prefecture will donate all profits to local non-profit organizations, Kyocera recently announced. The so-called “social contribution mega power plant project” — a partnership between Kyocera and Ryukoku University — is expected to cost about $8 million and be up and running in July 2013.

As Japan bounces back from the devastating 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster, discussion of generating cleaner, safer electricity from offshore wind farms and solar projects (instead of restarting nuclear plants) has been contentious. In the two years since the disaster, protests urging political leaders to totally abandon nuclear power and numerous successful wind and solar projects have tipped the scales of Japanese public opinion towards increasing electricity generated by renewable resources.

Japan’s generous feed-in-tariffs, which require utilities companies to pay 53 cents a kilowatt hour for electricity generated by solar panels, have even attracted foreign photovoltaic makers like Spain’s Gestamp Solar, supporting the CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets’ estimation that Japan could have 17.3 gigwatts of solar power by 2014.

This social contribution solar project being built by Kyocera and Ryukoku University will be in the southeastern city of Inami, and will be operated by Plus Social Co. and The Trans Value Trust Company. The provisionally titled Ryukuko Solar Park will consist of about 7,500 Kyocera solar panels that will generate about 1.9 million kilowatt-hours per year. After operating costs are accounted for, the remaining profits will be donated in the Wakayama prefecture and Kyoto areas where the solar plants will be installed.

In today’s world of fat-cat CEOs padding their own big bonuses, the Ryukoku Solar Park concept of socially responsible investing is novel… and hopefully contagious.

Source: Kyocera

1.85 MW Japanese “Social Contribution” Solar Farm To Donate Profits To Local Communities 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.

Solar-Powered Bulbs Illuminate Off-Grid Homes

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 03:00 AM PST

Photo Credit: Discovery

More than 1.4 billion people in the world don’t have access to electricity, and therefore, lighting is a bit of a problem for these people, most of whom live in Africa and India.

How do they study in the evenings after school, and how do evening schools operate at night in geographic locations stricken with this problem?

Wireless Solar Power

I said “wireless” because solar-powered light bulbs are usually wireless, so that they don’t have to be tethered to a costly power transmission line (transmission line infrastructure can cost up to $80,000 per mile to construct).

Everything is integrated into one unit in the case of the solar-powered light bulb that Evan Mills, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) envisions could be a “boon for literacy,” improve women’s safety, and improve the productivity of businesses that are using ineffective flame-based lamps.

Integrated into these light bulbs is a small solar panel, an LED (since these are efficient), and rechargeable batteries. Typically, the solar panel would recharge the batteries, and the batteries would power the light bulb at night.

My Experience with Solar-Powered Lights

After Hurricane Sandy knocked out my power supply, I used a 10-watt solar panel to charge an old discarded battery which I used to dimly light two rooms until the power was switched back on. I used it to power one 4-watt, 450-lumen Bridgelux LED module, which was more than bright enough to use as a desk lamp to illuminate my work. (450 lumens is the brightness of a typical 40-watt incandescent light bulb.) It was a very simple setup, and it worked very well.

Source: Discovery

Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa

Solar-Powered Bulbs Illuminate Off-Grid Homes 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.

Renewables Readiness Assessments For Mozambique, Senegal, Kiribati, & Granada

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 02:00 AM PST

A comprehensive set of renewables readiness assessments were laid out for Mozambique, Senegal, Kiribati, and Grenada by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) during the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi last week. The assessments address how each country can establish a business model; set policy; hone regulatory structures; identify resources and technology; and finance, build, operate, and maintain renewable energy projects.

Senegal

This West African nation has good wind potential along the coast, with solar potential throughout the country. The government is developing renewable energy tariffs and power purchase agreements, as well as a rural electrification agency that has secured private and international funding to provide renewable energy in rural areas.

Mozambique

In southeastern Africa, Mozambique has already installed two gigawatts of hydropower, with the capability of installing an additional 12 gigawatts and more.

To complement the hydropower, Mozambique is currently conducting an evaluation of coastal wind potential. Mozambique has a rural energy fund that is similar to Senegal’s rural electrification, with governmental support and donor investment. The University of Mozambique is trying to prepare the next generation of cleantech supporters with graduate-level courses in renewable energy.

Mozambique and Senegal aren’t the only African countries looking to expand their cleantech sectors. IRENA has put out a report that Africa has the potential and ability to fuel itself completely with renewables.

Kiribati

This island nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean has set targets for fuel import reduction and now needs to move forward on large-scale solar applications. Kiribati isn’t totally in the dark on solar — small, off-grid photovoltaic systems have been in use since the 1970s.

Sadly, Kiribati is already feeling the effects of global warming’s rising ocean waters, which is forcing residents to move to Fiji.

Grenada

Grenada has a lot to be proud of. From 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kirani James, to its top ten ranking in the countries with the lowest environmental impact, Grenada is no slouch. These days, the Caribbean country is working on policy to encourage widespread use of solar water heaters and finalizing geothermal energy agreements.

Source: IRENA

For more content from Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week or specific conferences underneath that umbrella, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, and/or the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Renewables Readiness Assessments For Mozambique, Senegal, Kiribati, & Granada 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.

NREL, DOE’s ARPA-E, & Others Team Up To Improve EV Battery Management

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 01:00 AM PST

Recently, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and others related to the Department of Energy (DOE) announced they are teaming up to boost battery optimization in electric vehicles (EVs).

Both the DOE and NREL just announced the Advanced Management and Protection of Energy Storage Devices (AMPED) initiative in San Francisco.

Engineers from NREL will team up with the Eaton Corporation, Washington University, and Utah State University in the hopes of improving the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries in EVs. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is providing $7.4 million for the three projects.

Eaton Corporation and NREL will look to improve hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) fuel economy by 50% while not sacrificing battery life. Testing for this project will be done in the NREL laboratories.

Meanwhile, Washington University is looking to increase utlilzation of untapped Li-ion battery capacity by 20% at the cell level. Both NREL and Washington University will look at developing battery management systems, with hardware systems that use mathematical systems to heighten the battery performance.

The system will estimate in real time the best charging time and discharging batteries, while improving charging rates, power capacity, and safety.

While both Eaton Corporation and Washington University are doing some neat stuff, Utah State University and NREL are both looking to improve HEV battery storage rates in cold weather environments by 50% thanks to software and hardware that will "maximize the lifetime of each cell in a battery pack."

Ford and Colorado State University are also assisting on this project, with testing done at Ford and NREL laboratories.

Overall, the AMPED program is giving out $30 million towards 14 projects which will hope to find improvements in energy storage, and wean society off fossil fuels.

“If successful, the advanced sensing, diagnostic, and control technologies developed under the AMPED program will allow us to unlock enormous untapped potential in the performance, safety and lifetime of today’s commercial battery systems,” said Ilan Gur, ARPA-E Program Director.

“My hope is that these cutting-edge projects will accelerate the impact of vehicle and grid-scale energy storage in reducing our country’s reliance on imported fuels and improving the safety, security and economic efficiency of our electricity grid,” he said.

As electric and hybrids start to become more popular, announcements like this will help to push battery costs further down. In the first quarter of 2012, battery costs in EV's dropped to $689 kilowatt-hours (kWh), compared to $800 kWh in 2011.

The Road to Ramped Up Energy Storage Starts Here

The continuing decrease in battery costs is good news for better fuel economy and overall efficiency, and with China and other global competitors staking their claim in the competitive battery market, the advance of clean technology can only benefit.

Main Source: National Renewable Energy Labratory

NREL, DOE’s ARPA-E, & Others Team Up To Improve EV Battery Management 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.

CEO Of Masdar: “Water Is More Important Than Oil” (VIDEO)

Posted: 21 Jan 2013 12:15 AM PST

The CEO of Masdar – host of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the 6th World Future Energy Summit, the 5th International Renewable Energy Conference, and much more — gave one of the most forceful and pointed speeches of the many I attended last week. Luckily, I was able to record most of it. Here’s the video, followed by what I’d consider to be the most compelling points from the video and some of the most compelling points from the other part of his speech (which I did not record):

In text form, here are some of the great statements made by Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber in his speech (in bold), with some notes of my own added in as well:

“The close relationship between water and energy can no longer be underestimated. No longer can we address water without considering the energy needed to withdraw, treat, and transport it. And no longer can we address energy without considering the water needed to extract, generate, and produce it.”

I’m not going to lie — water has been somewhat under-discussed here on CleanTechnica. There is a considerable relationship between water and energy, and while we are certainly facing a huge climate crisis, we are also in the midst of a huge water crisis that is similarly important.

“Today, roughly 7% of the world’s energy consumption is used for water, when nearly 50% of the water withdrawn is used for energy.”

Those are some staggering numbers. I don’t think I’d ever seen that latter one before. But if you read my submission to the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging contest or my post a couple years ago on “water & energy facts,” you should know that nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas power plants do use an insane amount of water… but that solar PV and wind power use a minuscule amount of water, and are those much better options in an increasingly water-constrained world. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber didn’t specifically note this in his is speech, but I’m sure he’s well aware of it, and I’d guess that is one reason why Masdar, Abu Dhabi, the UAE, and other countries in the Middle East are increasingly looking to solar PV as one of their prime energy solutions. Here’s a chart and table on this matter that I created in December:

Water efficiency of different power sources. (Image Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

Water efficiency of different electricity sources. (Image Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

“Ladies and gentlemen, energy and water security rests on two key principles: reducing demand, and accelerating technology that improves access. But fundamental to these principles is the need to address water and energy through an integrated strategy and as one. Because by doing so, we will drive economic growth and foster human development, improve resource security and ease geopolitical tension. This is the balance needed for sustainable growth.”

Quite frankly, you don’t hear such statements every day, and it was certainly refreshing to hear them at all, but especially in a region so important when it comes to global energy and water issues.

“Achieving it will require creating the necessary regulations and policies, forging public and private partnerships, and driving the investment required to deliver real solutions. And solutions that will require a collective action, on a massive scale, from both governments and businesses.

“Realizing action on such scale, may be viewed by some as a challenge. However, the UAE views this as a unique opportunity. An opportunity to expand economic sectors, diversify the economy and establish policies to drive investment.

This ambition to tackle these issues while diversifying its economy was perhaps the most interesting thing I learned during my week in Abu Dhabi. It’s fascinating what’s happening in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, and in the Middle East, in general. I will write a full article (or two) on this matter.

Going back to the beginning of Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber’s speech, which I could not capture on video but do have in text, we can read some of his most striking statements:

“We are gathered here today because we are confronted with a shared responsibility. A shared responsibility to address the intricate balance between our rising economies, our growing societies, and our limited resources. A balance that is crucial to achieving a sustainable future. And a balance that rests on two critical and deeply linked elements — energy and water. Without access to both, economic growth and human development cannot thrive and poverty and conflict cannot be prevented.

“In the UAE, a nation with the 5th largest proven oil reserves, our leadership believes that water… is more important than oil. We believe that water and energy require the equal attention of world leaders.” (From there, the Masdar CEO went into the quotes at the top of this article.)

While it should be obvious that water is more important than oil, there’s no denying that oil goes for a much higher price on the global market, and that a greater economic and political focus is put on oil in many parts of the world. Also, it is a bit astounding to see a leader in such an oil-rich country focus on the need to tackle oil and water issues jointly, especially when it’s clear that oil use is a problematic water issue (and that using cleantech — solar PV, wind power, and electric vehicles — is a key solution). Of course, Dr Al Jaber is the head of a clean energy company, but nonetheless, this was a very powerful statement made at an opening ceremony that included the President of France, the Queen of Jordan, the President of Argentina, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, and many other important people.

Regarding our “shared responsibility,” it is clear that Masdar is doing a wonderful job of bringing world leaders together to tackle these issues in a coordinated and integrated way. This past week in Masdar, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, there was not just another clean energy summit — there was the World Future Energy Summit, the International Renewable Energy Conference, the International Water Summit, the International Renewable Energy Agency General Assembly, the Zayed Future Energy Prize, the 1st Energy Meeting of the Arab League and South American Energy Ministers, and more. Needless to say, it was difficult to navigate it all, but we did our best, and were happy to be at such an important sustainability center. And, more than anything, we’re happy it was all coordinated or integrated like it was.

For more content from CleanTechnica’s trip to Abu Dhabi for all of this, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, and/or the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover any specific events or Masdar in any particular way.

CEO Of Masdar: “Water Is More Important Than Oil” (VIDEO) 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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