Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

New Audi A3 e-tron Plug-In Hybrid With 201 HP To Debut At Geneva Motor Show

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 04:07 PM PST

In the next two weeks, Audi is going to introduce its latest Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) at the Geneva Motor Show, which is hosted annually in Geneva, Switzerland.

Audi A3 e-tron. Image via Gas 2.0.

Audi A3 e-tron visualization.

The latest A3 e-tron propulsion system comprises a 1.4 litre TFSI turbocharged gasoline combustion engine that produces 148 HP, and an electric motor that provides an additional 101 HP.

It utilizes a newly designed e-S tronic six-speed transmission that turns the front wheels.

The electric motor and gas engine mentioned above provide the vehicle in total with 350 Newton-metres, or 258.1 ft-lbs of torque, and 201 HP.

These motors propel the vehicle from 0 to 62 MPH (100 km/h) in 7.6 seconds, and to a maximum velocity of 138 MPH (222 km/h). This is not bad for a plug-in hybrid, but it isn’t uncommon for hybrids to achieve this.

For example: the Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid does it in 2.9 seconds, and can attain a top speed of 198 mph; the Lexus RS450h AWD hybrid SUV does it in 7.4 seconds; and the Lexus LS 600h L does it in 5.6 seconds.

According to the ECE standard for plug-in hybrid automobiles, the Audi A3 e-tron requires only 1.5 litres of fuel per 100 km traveled — this translated to 156.8 MPG (U.S. rating) or 188 MPG (UK rating).

Its CO2 emissions are 35 g/km when the electric motor is in constant use.

This PHEV has three driving modes:

  1. Electric mode: In this mode, it relies only on electricity and can travel 31 miles (50 km) per charge. It can attain a top speed of 81 MPH (130 km/h) in this mode.
  2. Hybrid mode: This involves the combined use of the electric motor and gasoline engine. The vehicle can attain a speed of 138 MPH in this mode.
  3. Gasoline-only: This involves the use of the gasoline combustion engine alone.

Source: Gas 2.0

New Audi A3 e-tron Plug-In Hybrid With 201 HP To Debut At Geneva Motor Show 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.

Cabot Launches First Graphene-Based Additive To Improve Energy Density Of Li-ion Batteries

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 12:48 PM PST

Cabot has developed a graphene-based additive called LITX™ G700 to improve the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.

Graphene - Credit: nobeatsofierce/Shutterstock.

Graphene (Credit: nobeatsofierce / Shutterstock)

LITX G700 is a conductive graphene-based additive that is to improve conductivity and achieve a high energy density in lithium-ion batteries at “ultra-low loadings” in comparison to conventional additives. Lower volume additives offer the advantage of more space in batteries for energy storage materials.

"Cabot is committed to becoming the key performance additives supplier to the lithium-ion battery industry," said Gregg Smith, general manager of Cabot Energy Materials. "Our new graphene-based additive is bringing a new leading-edge material to the market. We have been working closely with our customers to help deliver solutions that will increase and extend the performance of their current and next generation battery cells."

Graphene is a carbon-based material (often made from graphite) which exhibits a highly unusual combination of features such as high electrical conductivity, high thermal conductivity, rust resistance (it does not rust at all), malleability, semiconductor capabilities which enabled IBM to make a 155 GHZ transistor, strength far exceeding that of steel, and a weight 1/6th of that of steel.

"We recognize that graphenes have the potential to improve performance in a number of applications from advanced batteries to conductive plastics and tires. We see it also leading to new, stronger composite materials," said Yakov Kutsovsky, chief technology officer. "Cabot has made and continues to make investments in graphene technology. This enables us to have a robust platform capability in which to test and further develop graphene materials."

Source: Businesswire

Cabot Launches First Graphene-Based Additive To Improve Energy Density Of Li-ion Batteries 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.

Delhi Students To Generate Power From Wind Produced By Metro Rail

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 12:42 PM PST

Students of one of India’s most reputed universities are planning to harness high speed winds generated by Delhi’s metro trains. A team of ten students of Delhi University is planning to strategically install a small wind turbine on the Delhi metro network to generate electricity. Delhi Metro carries about 2 million people everyday across its 196-kilometre network, which has142 stations. When all planned phases of the Delhi metro are executed, it would become the world’s fourth largest metro network at 420 kilometres. It is also one of only five metro systems worldwide that operate in profit.

A Train of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation at one of the stations (Credit: WillaMissionary | Public Domain)

A Train of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation at one of the stations (Credit: WillaMissionary | Public Domain)

The project is part of the university’s Innovation Project Scheme. The students working on the project have determined that the best locations to harness wind energy on the metro network are the entry points of tunnels and the point where the train moves from an underground line to an elevated line. The operator of the Delhi metro network, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, has given permission to the students to install a small turbine at one of the underground stations on the network.

The team of students believes that these small turbines can, under ideal conditions, generate up to 500 watts per hour (or 12 kW in a day). Due to frictional losses and other ground conditions, the turbines may be able to generate around 200 watts per hour (or 4.8 kW in a day), the team estimates.

While the power generation potential of these small turbines is far less than the daily power consumption of the metro network, the initiative represents exceptional innovation from the students. The power generated will be virtually free which would bring the metro at least some benefit, as it pays among the highest electricity tariffs in Delhi. The power generated will also offset carbon emissions.

The Delhi metro already generates substantial carbon offsets every year through its kinetic energy recovery system and has also implemented rainwater harvesting initiatives. The Delhi metro was recently registered under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for reducing emissions by replacing thousands of vehicles from the roads of Delhi. Importantly, this initiative would inspire others to think about similar or even better projects which could help huge cities like Delhi to grow in a sustainable manner.

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

Delhi Students To Generate Power From Wind Produced By Metro Rail 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.

Self-Driving Nissan Leaf Controlled From iPad (4 VIDEOS)

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 12:33 PM PST

Remember the days when handmade items were considered superior to machine-made ones? Maybe the same switch will occur with driving.

Following Google’s early lead in self-driving vehicles, and adding a twist, Oxford University is testing a driverless Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. It is controlled by an iPad which enables a person to take over the car or switch to “auto drive,” which permits the robot system to drive itself. Check out these videos below, followed by more text.

The system is being tested in Begbroke Science Park, near Oxford. The next stage of research involves teaching the robot to understand complex traffic flows, and to decide the best routes to take, according to Dr. Ingmar Posner, who is co-leading the project

Self-driving cars have been under development for a while, and they do work. However, would they actually provide a net safety benefit?

Automation in general has come a long way, and is now, in many cases, very accurately done. Factory machinery now achieves unparalleled consistency and high accuracy. A factory machine can be like having the perfect employee that never slacks off, and always exercises the best practices, no matter how tedious they may be.

But let us explore the safety of this concept by first considering the nature of most automobile accidents. They are often caused by inattention in various ways. An intentional failure to pay attention when text messaging; an inevitable loss of attention even when doing nothing; interruption of attention caused by phone calls; loud, distracting music; reduced attention due to high levels of alcohol in the body; and much more.

An automated system always “pays attention,” and can actually watch all sides of the car, unlike people. It also has potential efficiency benefits. Robots are not temperamental — they can drive at consistent, lower speeds for a longer time than many people can without getting frustrated. This is a highly efficient way to drive, and a way to extend vehicle range.

Will self-driving cars provide all these benefits without adding notable downsides? What do you think?

Source: Autoblog Green

Self-Driving Nissan Leaf Controlled From iPad (4 VIDEOS) 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.

Majority Of Ohio Voters Support Renewable Energy

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 11:31 AM PST

A new statewide public opinion poll has produced data showing most of Ohio voters agree there should be laws requiring some portion of local energy to be generated from clean sources, such as wind and solar. To be more specific, the poll found almost 80% of voters support legally requiring clean energy in Ohio. About 75% support increasing the total number of wind farms. Nearly 60% would pay an extra $3 a month on a $100 dollar energy bill to support the development of electricity from clean sources. About 66% support the state of Ohio’s energy policy which promotes clean energy in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Ohio_Statehouse_columbusPerhaps even in more telling is the fact that 65% said they have total support for clean energy. Here is the energy question associated with this figure as it was stated in the poll:

“As you may or may not know, Ohio has a law that requires a certain portion of the electric power sold in the state be produced by clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

The law was passed to promote new sources of clean energy and make Ohio less dependent on fossil fuel energy sources like coal and natural gas. Do you support or oppose this law?

Would you say that you strongly support/oppose this law, or just somewhat support/oppose it?

As mentioned above, 65% said they have total support, with another 35% saying their support is strong.

Still, there is some opposition, particularly from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Republican state Sen. Kris Jordan is an ALEC member who has introduced a bill to repeal Ohio's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. This standard means utilities have to get 25% of their electricity from alternative or renewable sources by 2025. Considering there are still twelve years to reach the goal, it does not seem like an unreasonable target. Combined with the fact that most Ohio voters are for clean energy, it doesn’t appear to be quite enough. So opposing it seems like sheer folly.

Politifact reported Jordan spoke out on behalf of legislation that would open state parkland to drilling for fracking. Some conservatives that oppose clean energy development have ties to the petroleum industry, or are directly involved with it.

Image Credit: Alexander Smith, Wiki Commons

Majority Of Ohio Voters Support Renewable Energy 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.

Biofuel Policies Causing Fastest Rate Of Grassland Destruction Since The Dust Bowl Of The 1930s

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 11:21 AM PST

Biofuels have often been sold as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but that isn’t really/always the truth. In addition to the greenhouse gas emissions that they release when they are burned, which are less than with fossil fuels, they contribute significantly to global greenhouse emissions through the same mechanisms that all other agriculture does.

20130226-181729.jpg

As Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen has argued, emissions of nitrous oxide due to nitrate fertilizers, and other potent greenhouse gases associated with agriculture, are likely very seriously underestimated. And in addition to their effect on the climate, the production of biofuels has led to significant damage to many natural environments, and a drop in agricultural food production.

By converting farmland to the production of biofuels, the price of corn and other food staples is forced to rise as total agricultural area drops. “Standards passed in the United States and Europe requiring a certain level of biofuel use have encouraged producers to dedicate more corn to ethanol production and less to food supplies.”


 
The production of biofuels has also led to increasing rates of deforestation in the developing world. Which further intensifies global food insecurity, desertification, and the spread of infectious disease, among the other global effects of climate change.

And now, a new study from South Dakota State University has discovered another significant downside to the large-scale production of biofuel, the rapid destruction “of grasslands in America's Western Corn Belt (WCB) region — North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa.”

The study’s authors state that the pace at which grasslands were converted to corn and soy production between the years 2006 and 2011 exceeded the rate of deforestation in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia. About 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of tall-grass prairie were lost in Iowa alone.

In sum, we found a net decline in grass-dominated land cover in the WCB totaling nearly 530,000 hectares (approx. 1.3 million acres). This change was concentrated in two states, South Dakota and Iowa, with the majority of grassland conversion occurring in the WCB's three western states relative to the core corn/soy growing areas in Iowa and Minnesota.

The primary driving factors of this rapid conversion seem to be the price boost for growing biofuels (subsidies), the subsidized crop insurance, and a lack of incentives for farmers to preserve the grasslands.

This conversion of natural grasslands to agricultural farmland for the purpose of reducing carbon emissions brings with it some funny ironies. The “grasslands are themselves able to store carbon from the atmosphere better than cropland. So expanding biofuel crop production into grasslands specifically further dilutes biofuels' already dubious benefits.”

And something that is very important to note is that the destruction of these natural soil anchors could have potentially devastating consequences for the nation’s food supply, as occurred during the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s. The many dust storms seen in recent years, while certainly not unprecedented, do appear to be increasing in quantity and intensity. And they seem to be very clearly associated with the increasing levels of drought, and increased loss of the natural vegetation that works to keep the soil anchored and moist.

20130226-181647.jpg

The study authors note that the rate at which grassland is being converted to farmland hasn’t been this high since the 1920s and 1930s.

Source: Climate Progress
Image Credits: Tall-Grass and Dust Bowl via Wikimedia Commons

Biofuel Policies Causing Fastest Rate Of Grassland Destruction Since The Dust Bowl Of The 1930s 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.

Basics Of Solar PV Technology

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 07:03 AM PST

This article was originally published on Solar Love:

solar PV panels

Solar PV Panels via Shutterstock

A simple solar photovoltaic (PV) system consists of the following basic components:

  1. A solar cell: A solar cell is a solid-state electrical device (p-n junction) that converts the energy of light directly into electricity (DC) using the photovoltaic effect. A solar cell is categorized as a multi-junction cell, single-junction cell, crystalline cell, thin-film technology, or some of type of emerging PV cell (like organic cells, etc.).
  2. Solar module: Collections of a single solar cell are termed as solar modules. Solar cells are connected by a wire either in parallel or in series according to the desired output. If we wish to have more current, the cells are connected in parallel, and if we wish to have more voltage, the cells are connected in series.
  3. Solar module array: When solar modules are connected either in series or in parallel according to the desired output, the collection of the solar module is termed a solar module array.
  4. Solar charge controller: If we wish to charge the generated DC power from the solar array to a battery, as mostly seen in rooftop installation, a solar charge controller is inevitable. Through this controller, the battery life is elongated and maintains a constant output voltage for the battery input, which is normally either 12 volt or 24 volt. It uses the PWM (pulse width modulator) or MPPT (maximum power point tracker) technique for better charging performance.
  5. Combiner box: The combiner box is an electrical distribution box where the DC circuit breakers are placed. The combiner box combines the multiple DC inputs coming from the panel (either module or array) terminations and converts these into one DC output. The output of the combiner box is connected to the charge controller or the inverter, depending on the type of system installed.
  6. Solar array inverter: This inverter is also termed as a central inverter or string inverter. It converts the single DC output power from the combiner box into AC power which then can be connected to the power/electric grid. This inverter uses the MPPT (maximum power point tracker) technique for better optimized output. However, the problem of partial shading or shadowing — technically termed as potential induced degradation (PID) of the solar panel — is prominent with the use of such an inverter.
  7. Solar module inverter: This inverter is installed at the modular level. It converts the generated DC power to AC power using a micro inverter for each module. This inverter also uses the MPPT (maximum power point tracker) technique for better output. The advantages of an such inverter are that it has more reliability with better performance. And also it reduces the PID effect.
  8. Power cable: There are two types of power cables. Low-voltage power cables (solar panel to the combiner box, combiner box to the inverter, and inverter to the transformer) and medium-voltage power cables (transformer to the substation).
  9. Switch gears / protection: Switch gears are one of the most important components in a PV system. It allows protection of the components from any fault during the operation, such as over-current, over-voltage, temperature rises, lightening faults, switching faults, etc. For better reliability of the system, communication between each component is a must. A central monitoring computer allows checking the communication between each component and the execution of tripping the fault.
  10. Power quality issues: This has become one of the major topics in the utility sector for common consumers. Due to cabling, there is a higher chance for interference in the power signal, which leads to a reduction in generated output power. For such cases, a metal mesh encasing the cables improves shielding. Due to the use of power electronic switches in inverters, common mode (CM) disturbances are prominent. Because of CM disturbances, transience in the power is seen and the output power is distorted. A thorough understanding of EMC related to the PV system is important for better performance and high reliability for that given PV system.

With this basic intro on photovoltaics out of the way, we will next dive into articles more focused on each of these components.

Basics Of Solar PV Technology 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 Million!

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 06:36 AM PST

cleantechnica-logo-niceFor the first time, CleanTechnica has broken 1 million pageviews in a single month — ironically, it happened in the shortest month of the year. We actually busted through the barrier at some point yesterday.

Of course, we want to send a big Thank You to you wonderful readers! I hope we can keep providing you with great cleantech stories so that you continue to learn, be inspired, and share this important content with your friends and family!

Also, I have to also give a big thanks to the rest of the Important Media network, which has helped us a ton in getting to where we’ve gotten!

1 Million! 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.

First Solar Sets New Solar Efficiency Record For Thin Film

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 05:08 AM PST

Solar innovator First Solar has just announced a new word record for solar cell conversion efficiency, for its cadmium-telluride (CdTe) thin film solar cell. That’s significant because CdTe solar cells can be made more quickly and cheaply than conventional silicon solar cells, bringing down the cost of solar power. The title of solar efficiency record holder is also significant politically because it was only last spring that First Solar was caught in the crosshairs, when certain members of Congress tried to manufacture scandals out of the Obama Administration’s support for the U.S. solar industry.

first solar's CdTe solar cell sets efficiency record

World Record for Solar Cell Efficiency

In tests confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, First Solar’s CdTe solar cell achieved a conversion efficiency of 18.7 percent.

That’s far less than the efficiency of, say, an advanced concentrated solar system, but the relatively low cost of producing CdTe thin film solar cells makes up for a world of sin. First Solar’s manufacturing process can turn a sheet of glass into a solar module in less than 2-1/2 hours, which according to the company gives it the industry lead in energy payback time.

Thin film technology is also generally lighter and potentially more flexible than conventional solar cells, giving it a broader range of application. The trick is to tease out just a bit more efficiency from the technology to keep it commercially competitive.

First Solar has already been transferring its efficiency improvements into commercial production. Last year, the average efficiency of its production modules went from 12.2 percent to 12.9 percent, with the leading line achieving 13.1 percent.

By way of comparison, other commercial CdTe solar cells range in efficiency from about 10 percent to 12.4 percent.

We Built this Low Cost Solar Power!

Silicon is still by far the most-used material in photovoltaics but the Department of Energy has had its eye on CdTe at least since 1994, when NREL started up a public-private R&D partnership called the Thin Film Photovoltaic Partnership Project.

The Thin Film Project focused on three types of promising thin film materials. It included small companies for pilot projects, but for commercial production it assigned one major thin film manufacturing company to each of the three materials.

One of those companies was First Solar, making it the only major CdTe manufacturer that the Thin Film Project has focused on since 2003 (yes, from the early years of the Bush Administration).

The whole point of the Thin Film Project was to help the U.S. solar industry regain its competitive edge in the global solar power market. When the project first started, thin film was an extremely expensive, rarefied technology that was used primarily in space programs. It achieved marvelous results under the Bush Administration. From 2003 to 2008, U.S. thin film manufacturing capacity grew from about 10 MW (megawatts) to more than 250 MW.

By 2009, at the start of the Obama Administration, First Solar had emerged as an all-out success story. This is NREL’s take on it:

“…an innovator in thin-film solar technology has grown from a start-up company to become the world's largest manufacturer of solar modules. First Solar, Inc. now manufactures its cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar modules throughout the world, and in 2009, it became the first solar manufacturer in the world to produce more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar panels in a single year. That's enough solar modules to equal the generating capacity of an average-sized nuclear power plant.

SunShot and Low Cost Solar Power

Working toward the same goal of global competitiveness, with climate change and national defense thrown in for good measure, in 2011 President Obama folded the Thin Film Project into a far more comprehensive public-private program called the SunShot Initiative.


The goal of SunShot is to make solar power and other forms of alternative energy as cheap and accessible as fossil fuels, not only through transformational research but also by lowering the cost of manufacturing and installation.

That’s not exactly a new idea, by the way. SunShot’s precursor, the Advanced Energy Initiative was launched by President Bush in his 2006 State of the Union Address, with the same goals of addressing national security and environmental issues as well as global competitiveness. His words could have just as easily been spoken by President Obama today:

“Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology.”

Just sayin.’

Image: First Solar logo courtesy of First Solar, Inc.

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First Solar Sets New Solar Efficiency Record For Thin Film 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.

Airplane Powered Entirely By Plastic Waste Will Travel From Sydney To London

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 05:00 AM PST

An airplane powered only by waste plastic will be making the journey from Australia to Britain sometime within the next few months (TBD). The "Wings of Waste" Cessna will be piloted by Jeremy Roswell, an Australian pilot looking to raise the public’s awareness of our modern “consume and throw away” culture.

20130226-140317.jpg

The flight is expected to make the trip from Sydney to London, over Asia and the Middle East, before traveling over parts of Europe. The fuel will be refined entirely from waste plastics that would otherwise end up as litter somewhere, such as plastic bags and bottles. After refinement, you end up with something similar to typical aviation-grade diesel fuel.

“The fuel is created by carefully heating plastic waste in the absence of oxygen. This process, which is called pyrolysis, creates a fuel that is essentially the same as petroleum. Despite this fractional distillation the fuel still produces emissions when burned – although they are slightly cleaner than traditional transport fuels.”


 
Roswell is hoping to make an impact on the awareness that people have of their “wastefulness.” Much of what is thrown away is not only damaging to the environment but could also be quite easily used for other purposes.

"You look down at that garbage in the Pacific, and you see the result of what it's doing," said Rowsell, in reference to the damage that plastic garbage does to marine ecosystems, via ingestion, entanglement, and the release of toxic chemicals into the food chain. "I'm doing this because I believe that unless we do something to give back to the planet, we're stuffed."

Source: Inhabitat
Image Credits: AtAltitude

Airplane Powered Entirely By Plastic Waste Will Travel From Sydney To London 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.

“Crazy” Legal Action Threatens Green Deal Scheme

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 04:10 AM PST

The UK’s groundbreaking £600 million Green Deal scheme is under threat after the European Union confirmed it would mount a legal action against it.

However, the decision to challenge the Green Deal scheme in the courts has been branded as “crazy,” with politicians and business leaders from across the EU condemning the decision.

Green Deal housing schemeAt the heart of the dispute is the UK’s long-standing commitment to charging a reduced rate of sales tax on energy-efficient materials used in the construction industry. Most items in the UK attract a sales tax rate of 20%, but the Green Deal, unveiled in October 2012, said that a reduced rate of 5% would be chargeable for energy-efficient building materials.

However, the EU says that this is against its rules, which allow a reduced rate of sales tax for social schemes but not for environmental ones. It also claims that a 75% reduction in the sales tax charged is not the best way to promote the use of energy-efficient goods.

The Green Deal scheme was brought into effect by the Energy Act 2011. This allows landlords and homeowners to make environmentally friendly modifications to their properties without paying upfront costs.

Instead, Greed Deal providers, including traditional finance companies, would meet the initial cost and the landlord or homeowner would repay the debt through savings on their electricity bills.

Several energy efficiency schemes, such as micro generation, already attract a 5% sales tax in the UK. One of the reasons for expanding the scheme to general energy-efficient building materials was to ensure the repayments to Green Deal providers would remain below the savings made.

The EU has long accepted homemade renewable energy in Britain as a social benefit, which is expected to be a key part of the UK’s defence against the legal action, as is the observation that other countries (including France) also have a reduced 5% sales tax on green building renovation.

Image Credit: My neighbourhood (some rights reserved)

“Crazy” Legal Action Threatens Green Deal Scheme 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.

36 U.S. Cities Ranked On Their Bikeability

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 02:00 AM PST

This article was originally published on Bikocity:

bike-trail-florida-nokomisI get lost in a time warp playing with this bike score map. What a pleasant diversion and a bit of fun after being outside on my bike for hours this evening. The map is interesting and useful. Especially diverse and informative are the comments at the side of the scoring of a city. Those comments vary as we bikers vary, so many different styles — one person happy, another not so much, with more complaints and needs not yet met.

Yes, we have some great winners in the Walk Score rankings of the "Bikeability of Every Address in 36 Cities." I expected much of what I found; however, let's really applaud those Minneapolis bikers for leading the country. Like our Danish role models, cold does not change their passion for biking, and the rest of us are trailing behind.

Minneapolis top bicycle city.

Walk Score published it bikeability rankings last spring, but they were only at the citywide level. You can also plug in your address, and come up with a custom rating for your own address with Walk Score. By using an algorithm that takes into account factors such as bike infrastructure, topography, and the number of cyclists on the streets, Walk Score has released "Bike Scores" for addresses in 25 American cities and 11 Canadian cities.

Walk Score's first 25 bike-scored U.S. cities include the top 10 vote-getters, the top 10 most bikeable cities they had scored this spring, and five others selected for mysterious reasons.

The full list is:

  • Cincinnati = Bike Score 37
  • Austin = Bike Score 45
  • Pittsburgh = Bike Score 39
  • Philadelphia = Bike Score 68
  • Miami = Bike Score 57
  • Oakland = Bike Score 57
  • Houston = Bike Score 49
  • Los Angeles = Bike Score 54
  • Eugene = Bike Score 75
  • San Diego = Bike Score 48
  • Ann Arbor =Bike Score 76
  • Boulder = Bike Score 86
  • Fort Collins = Bike Score 78
  • Tempe = Bike Score 75
  • Tyler = Bike Score 38
  • Minneapolis = Bike Score 79
  • Portland = Bike Score 70
  • San Francisco = Bike Score 70
  • Boston = Bike Score 68
  • Madison = Bike Score 67
  • Washington, DC = Bike Score 65
  • Seattle = Bike Score 64
  • Tucson = Bike Score 64
  • New York = Bike Score 62
  • Chicago = Bike Score 62

Here are some major landmarks for some extra fun: the US Capitol got a Bike Score of 89, Philadelphia's Liberty Bell got a Bike Score of 96, and UCLA got a Bike Score of 55.

Image Credits: Minneapolis bicyclists by ibikempls (some rights reserved); Liberty bike trail in Florida by Cynthia Shahan

36 U.S. Cities Ranked On Their Bikeability 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.

Hands-on Learning With Bike Powered Generators: Can You Explain What A Watt Is?

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

What exactly is a watt? Can you feel it? If you remember from your last physics class, you could say it is a unit of power, one Joule per second, or a rate of energy usage. All of these answers are correct, of course, but what do they mean? How can we relate to a watt? This is the question we asked over a year ago. This question led to the development of an educational tool that would demonstrate — in a very physical way — power and energy. It was the start of our bicycle powered generators project.

kinetic energy bike ladyI am an engineering student because I enjoy solving problems, especially in a hands-on way, but I also love sharing this experience with anyone who finds it interesting, which is why the educational element of the bicycle-powered generators project is what made me so excited about being involved. Our product was going to educate individuals about power and energy, which are two concepts that perpetually affect the world, yet are often quite mysterious.

With the hope of providing a little clarity, a group of engineering students and I have designed and constructed a bicycle-powered charging station. This is a stationary bicycle that generates electricity and uses the electricity to charge your cell phones or iPods.

bike powerThe beauty of the charging station, though, is that it also displays in real time the amount of power that you are generating while you pedal, and it shows you the total amount of energy that you generated when you are done. It shows you how much power is being used to charge your phone, and the nearby display shows how much power several common devices use. Can you pedal fast enough to light a lightbulb? Definitely. An Xbox? Most likely. A blow dryer? Definitely not.

The charging station is now on display in the engineering building here on the Northern Arizona University (NAU) campus. My hopes are these:

First, that the users will internalize a little bit of knowledge about power and energy. I hope that the project will make them begin to think about how much energy they use, and consider how they might reduce it.

electric bike generatorSecond, that this project will motivate students to accomplish projects outside of class. I hope that they will get involved with an organization such as Wind for Schools or work with university organizations like the Green Fund (both of which were integral parts of this project) to gain support for their own ideas.

About the Author: Matthew Petney is a senior studying mechanical engineering at Northern Arizona University. This year, Matt is supporting the USDA/NRCS-funded solar-powered irrigation system on the Navajo Reservation, and he also helps with a Wind for Schools program that works with middle and high school students to construct bicycle-powered generators and bicycle-powered blenders. He is currently pursuing the Fulbright scholarship, among others, in order to continue work with a prosthetics clinic in Bolivia for the year after graduating from NAU.

Hands-on Learning With Bike Powered Generators: Can You Explain What A Watt Is? 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.

Stretchable Lithium-Ion Batteries Developed, Complement Already Developed Stretchable Electronics (VIDEO)

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 12:33 AM PST

Stretchable lithium-ion batteries are now a reality. Created by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois, the flexible batteries are designed to power their already created counterparts, flexible electronic devices.

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Previously, the flexible electronics needed to be connected to a power outlet via a cord. But with the creation of the new battery, the devices are now mobile.

“The stretchable electronic devices can now be used anywhere, including inside the human body. The implantable electronics could monitor anything from brain waves to heart activity, succeeding where flat, rigid batteries would fail.”

The new batteries have been demonstrated to continue working even after being thoroughly “stretched, folded, twisted and mounted on a human elbow.” The batteries can go for about 8-9 hours before they need to be recharged, which can be done wirelessly.

“We start with a lot of battery components side by side in a very small space, and we connect them with tightly packed, long wavy lines,” said Yonggang Huang, co-author of the paper. “These wires provide the flexibility. When we stretch the battery, the wavy interconnecting lines unfurl, much like yarn unspooling. And we can stretch the device a great deal and still have a working battery.”



 
In any other way, these batteries are the same as conventional lithium-ion batteries. The power and voltage is identical. They simply possess great flexibility. It will be interesting to see what uses people can come up with for these.

The technology will be detailed in a paper published on February 26th in the online journal Nature Communications.

Source: Northwestern University
Image Credits: Northwestern University

Stretchable Lithium-Ion Batteries Developed, Complement Already Developed Stretchable Electronics (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.

Future Electric Grids (VIDEOS)

Posted: 27 Feb 2013 12:10 AM PST

Continuing on with our daily series on Leonardo ENERGY videos, here are two on “Future Electricity Grids” (smart grid stuff — a little bit, transmission stuff, renewable energy stuff, and much more):

Future Electric Grids (VIDEOS) 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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