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Greener Grid

LED Street Lighting Project Cuts Energy Consumption In Half

October 22nd 2011

Technology - LED street

As of late, the streets in the historic centre of Arraiolos in Portugal have been lit up entirely by energy-efficient lighting diode technology (LED), used in combination with an intelligent lighting management system. The project was realised by Schréder, a manufacturing company for street lighting, in cooperation with Osram Opto Semiconductors. According to Osram, the new street lighting will ensure energy savings of approximately 50 percent.

In the scope of the project, street lanterns used in the historic town centre of Arraiolos were replaced completely by new luminaires that use energy-efficient LED-technology in combination with an intelligent lighting management system (LMS). Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Fuel Economy of New Vehicles still at Lowest Point in the Past Year

October 12th 2011

Automotive - car door

For the second straight month, the average fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States remained the same, according to a researcher at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The average fuel economy of vehicles purchased in September was 22.1 mpg, unchanged from August.

According to Michael Sivak, research professor and head of UMTRI's Human Factors Group, average fuel economy of all new vehicles bought last month is at its lowest level in the past year. In fact, average fuel economy for new vehicle purchases has trended downward since it hit a high of 23.0 mpg last March.

"This decrease is likely related to a slight drop in gas prices since spring, because people tend to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles when gas prices go up," Sivak said. Read more ..


Mideast Energy on Edge

Storm Clouds Over Eastern Mediterranean

October 12th 2011

Turkish Topics - KemalRais
TCG KemalReis (credit: Turkish Navy)

In early October, US-based Noble Energy Company began exploratory drilling for offshore gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus. They did so with the agreement of the Nicosia authorities, in an area indisputably located within Cypriot territorial waters. Despite this, there was real concern that the drilling could face interference from Turkish navy ships on maneuvers in the area.

The explorations proceeded undisturbed. The Turkish ships observed procedures from a discreet distance. But Cyprus’s defiance of recent Turkish warnings against beginning the search for natural gas in this area is unlikely to be the last word on the matter.

Muscle-flexing in the eastern Mediterranean forms part of Ankara’s broader combined strategic and economic ambitions. Israel is part of the picture and is drawing closer to the Cypriots. Read more ..


The Solyndra Scandal

Fundraiser for Obama Urged Solyndra Deal from the Inside

October 12th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Steven Spinner

An elite Obama fundraiser hired to help oversee the administration’s energy loan program pushed and prodded career Energy Department officials to move faster in approving a loan guarantee for Solyndra, even as his wife’s law firm was representing the California solar company, according to internal emails made public late Friday, October 7.

“How hard is this? What is he waiting for?” Steven J. Spinner, who worked in the Obama administration’s energy loan guarantee program, wrote in August 2009. “I have OVP [the Office of the Vice President] and WH [the White House] breathing down my neck on this.” Spinner, a high-tech consultant and energy investor who raised at least $500,000 for Obama’s campaign, joined the DOE in April 2009. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Colored Solar Cells Boost E-Reader Efficiency and Create Energy-Harvesting Light Displays

October 10th 2011

Energy Topics - solar cell in color
Colored solar cell (Credit: Jay Guo)

A new kind of screen pixel doubles as a solar cell and could boost the energy efficiency of cell phones and e-readers. The technology could also potentially be used in larger displays to make energy-harvesting billboards or decorative solar panels. Jay Guo, a professor in the University of Michigan's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has developed the reflective photovoltaic color filter device that can convert absorbed light to electricity. The research is newly published in the current print edition of ACS Nano.

In traditional LCDs, less than 8 percent of the backlight actually reaches a viewer's eyes. The rest is absorbed by color filters and polarizers, Guo says. "This absorbed light is totally wasted," he said. "It becomes heat. You can feel it if you put your hand close to a monitor. Why not try to harvest some of this energy?"

That's just what he has done. Guo's new filter can convert to power about 2 percent of the light that would otherwise be wasted. This could add up to a significant amount in small electronics, he says.

The researchers created the new filter by adding organic semiconductor solar cells to an elegant and ultra-thin color filter, similar to what Guo's lab had created over a year ago. That filter is composed of nano-thin sheets of metal with precisely spaced gratings that act as resonators, trapping and reflecting light of a particular color. The color depends only on the amount of space between the slits. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Steve Jobs Leaves a Legacy Environmentalists Can Learn From

October 7th 2011

Technology - Steve Jobs headshot w/dates

The world’s most innovative rebel was given up for adoption. But neither this, nor cancer, nor a series of public setbacks ever deterred his strength of vision. This is Green Prophet’s tribute to Steve Jobs.

“No one wants to die,” Steve Jobs said in a speech to Stanford’s 2005 graduating class, “and yet it is the destination that we all share.” At 56, after struggling with pancreatic cancer for several years, Apple’s co-founder and lead visionary finally reached his destination. And though he once said that he didn’t care about being the richest person in the cemetery, he will be, not only because he is one of the world’s wealthiest people, but because his commitment to personal excellence has completely changed how millions of people from all walks of life interact with their personal computers, their telephones, and one another. Read more ..


The Solyndra Scandal

Venture Capitalist's Email Illustrates Closeness between Obama Administration and Campaign Bundlers

October 5th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Solyndra Obama
President Obama shakes hand with Solyndra employees

New White House emails show a top donor to Barack Obama was in direct contact with one of the president’s closest advisers about the federal energy loan program, the latest disclosure underscoring the closeness between the administration and bundlers with a stake in Energy Department funding.

Steve Westly, a California venture capitalist who raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s campaign, emailed Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest advisers, to warn her about political fallout that could ensue if the president visited the factory being built by Solyndra.

“Could you perhaps check with [the Energy Department] to make sure they’re comfortable with the company? I just want to help protect the president from anything that could result in negative or unfair press,” Westly wrote on May 24, 2010. “If it’s too late to change/postpone the meeting, the president should be careful about unrealistic/optimistic forecasts that could haunt him in the next 18 months if Solyndra hits the wall, files for bankruptcy.” Read more ..


Internal Combustion on Edge

Jerusalem’s Bus Station: A Pollution Death Trap for Workers and Shoppers

October 4th 2011

Israel Topics - Jerusalem Bus Terminal

Working in a congested bus station, especially one like Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station is not conducive to one’s health. The toxic fumes created by the hundreds of buses that go in and out of this station, and all the free radicals in this air pollution is almost as bad as “black cloud” infested Cairo, or Tehran, where as many as 27 people die each day from air pollution.

A recent study was made by Israel’s Environment Ministry, and was reported afterwards in the Jerusalem Post. Findings? Pollution at this bus station, including high levels of ozone, sulfur dioxides, nitrous oxides, and particulate matter, made the level of pollution in the air four or five times greater than acceptable levels. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

E-Mail Trail shows Obama Administration's Early Concerns over Solyndra

October 3rd 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama solyndra
President Obama and Solyndra officials

Administration officials raised concerns about a 2010 visit by President Obama to a Solyndra manufacturing plant in California, arguing that the visit would embarrass the White House if the company ultimately went bankrupt, emails released Monday show.

In the days before Obama visited the now-bankrupt solar company's facility on May 25, 2010, one OMB official wrote an email to a colleague that said, “Hope doesn’t default before then.” Another official said, “I am increasingly worried that this visit could prove embarrassing to the Administration in the not too distant future, given 1) what we just heard today from DOE that Solyndra is delaying their IPO at least until the end of the year, and 2) what the auditors said about Solyndra making it through the year absent new financing.” Solyndra canceled plans to go public in June of 2010. Read more ..


The Race for Biofuel

From Woodchips to Biofuel

September 26th 2011

Technology - Wood Chips

It’s not every day that an Israeli company based on the science of a Nazi collaborator wins a huge US contract. But HCL Clean Tech, which offers a process to turn wood chips into biofuel, just received a $100 million bond package from the Mississippi state legislature to build plants in Grenada, Booneville, Hattiesburg and Natchez for products in the cosmetics, pet food, and lubricants industries.

The plants will take wood chips from region, where there is a surplus of pine trees, and begin processing them in 2012 in Grenada. Three bigger plants will be opened in 2015, 2017 and 2019, according to the deal. Most of the funding will go toward building the facilities, while $5 million is earmarked for infrastructure and training.

The new project is expected to create about 800 new jobs, with the average salary not too shabby at $67,500 plus benefits. Backers of the bill, which was approved almost unanimously, believe these jobs - some 200 new positions in Natchez alone - will be readily filled by locals. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Congressional Republicans Take a Closer Look at Obama-Solyndra Solar Connections

September 26th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama solyndra
President Obama meets Solyndra executives

House Republicans have sunk their teeth into the bankruptcy of an Obama administration-backed solar firm, and they made it clear this past week that they’re not letting go. Unlike other GOP-led probes of the White House that quickly faded away, Republicans are vowing to intensify their investigation into the California-based Solyndra. The company declared bankruptcy and laid off 1,100 workers this month just two years after receiving a $535 million stimulus-law loan guarantee from the administration.

The incident has ignited a firestorm in Washington, leaving the White House scrambling to defend itself against Republican allegations that the administration missed a series of red flags that hinted at Solyndra’s pending financial collapse. The debacle is a messaging nightmare for the White House, which has invested a huge amount of political capital in the stimulus law and its clean energy agenda. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

KeyStone Pipeline Capers present an Environmentalist's Nightmare for North America

September 23rd 2011

Energy / Environment - Keystone pipeline map

In June 2010, TransCanada began the first phases of construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline in Canada. Keystone XL is an expansion of the already existing Keystone Pipeline, which runs east across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, south from North Dakota to Kansas, east through Missouri and then into Illinois. The expanded petroleum route will extend through parts of Montana and continue south through Oklahoma and Texas. The Keystone XL pipeline will cost USD 7 billion to construct and will carry nearly 800,000 barrels of oil a day into the U.S. from Canada.

Though seemingly very different, Alberta and Texas share a similar economic reliance on petroleum. In a report earlier this year, The Economist discussed the production of oil in Alberta across a 232 square-mile area known as the tar sands or oil sands. A crude form of petroleum called bitumen occurs naturally underground in this region, which is home to “one of the largest oil reserves in the world.”

An Environmentalist’s Nightmare

Opposition to the project extends beyond the gates of the White House. Many U.S. citizens question the safety and necessity of the project. Environmentalists and alternative-fuel advocates insist that its approval indicates merely a “commitment to the petroleum-based economy.” Read more ..


The Race for Hydrogen Cars

Innovative Hydrogen-Powered Vehicle

September 17th 2011

Energy Topics - Hydrogen car

Amidst ongoing discussions over the shortfalls and challenges of battery electric vehicle concepts, at the Frankfurt Motor Show Daimler presented a research car driven by hydrogen fuel cells. The vehicle boasts a large number of innovative features including its electronics.

The F125 is powered by the same near-production fuel cell stack that was used in the fleet of Daimler B-class passenger cars that circled the world recently. The hydrogen to feed this stack is stored in a tank with a capacity of about 7.5 kg of hydrogen. The tank design is rather innovative: Instead of the cylindrical high-pressure (700 bar) tanks typically used for this purpose, the vehicle's tank stores the liquid hydrogen in a porous, spongy metallic structure. With its working pressure of only about 30 bar, it was possible to integrate the tank into the floor assembly. This technology however, still is an object of basic research, Daimler admitted. Read more ..


The Race for Batteries

Gel Electrolyte Promises Better Battery

September 14th 2011

Technology - Batteries

Researchers at the University of Leeds in England have invented a polymer gel that they claim can be used to manufacture cheaper, flexible lithium batteries without compromising performance.The technology has been licensed to Polystor Energy Corp. (Pleasanton, Calif.), which is attempting to commercialize the cells for portable consumer electronics applications.

Professor Ian Ward, the research physicist who developed the technology, said it could replace liquid electrolytes currently used in rechargeable lithium cells. In addition the gel can be made into a thin, flexible film by way of an automated low-cost process.

The polymer gel developed by Professor Ward and his team gets rid of the traditional need for a separator in a rechargeable lithium battery, making for a lighter pack. In addition they have developed a patented manufacturing process that extrudes the gel between an anode and cathode at a speed of up to 10 meters per minute to create a battery that is nanometers thick. Read more ..


Turkey and Israel

Turkey’s Threat to Israel’s New Gas Riches

September 14th 2011

Israel Topics - Leviathan Oil field

Ankara warns that Turkey will stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean—and directly challenges U.S. policy.

On September 8, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Aljazeera that his government had taken steps to prevent Israel from unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the Mediterranean Sea. “Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean,” he stated, apparently citing Israeli plans to tap newly discovered offshore gas reserves. Israel “will not be the owner of this right,” he warned.

In other remarks, Erdogan declared that the Turkish navy would protect future aid ships bound for Gaza in order to prevent a repetition of the 2010 flotilla incident, in which Israeli commandos killed nine activists attempting to break the blockade. These comments came just days after the release of a UN report condemning the deaths but justifying Israel’s blockade—a judgment that prompted Ankara to drastically reduce diplomatic relations between the two countries and freeze their substantial military cooperation and trade. Read more ..


Grid on Edge

Prisoners of the Grid Suffer Blackout in Arizona and Northern Mexico

September 11th 2011

Energy Topics - Power outage

The September 8 blackout provoked by a failure at a private utility company substation in Yuma, Arizona, rolled across the border and affected more than 1.3 million people in northern Mexico, according to press accounts.

For more than ten hours, chaotic scenes unfolded in the states of Baja California and part of neighboring Sonora. Workplaces ground to a halt, classes were canceled, traffic lights stopped functioning and water service was interrupted. In the Baja state capital of Mexicali, the electricity shut-down came as temperatures soared to 111 degrees.

The cities most impacted included Tijuana, Tecate, Mexicali, Ensenada, Rosario, and San Luis Rio Colorado.

Panic-buyers seeking water, ice and food saturated Oxxo and Circle K convenience stores. The proximity of the blackout to the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, as well as this year’s disaster at the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan, prompted sensational speculation as to the cause of the power outage. Read more ..


The Green Edge

The Mideast’s Environmental “Prophet”

September 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Karin Kloosterman of Green Prophet
Karin Kloosterman, founder of Green Prophet

Can young people in the region come together around green issues? The woman behind the Green Prophet website thinks so. She has a vision of a multicultural, borderless Middle East, not unlike the European Union, with Israel and its Arab neighbors brought together not by enmity but by a deep concern for the environment—from Beirut to Jerusalem to Cairo, the people of the Middle East joined by the need for clean air and water, regional issues that transcend nationalities and political ideologies.

It’s a noble, if slightly Quixotic, vision, but perhaps not a surprising one from the woman behind an increasingly popular website with the lofty name, Green Prophet.

“It might sound naïve but I think it’s achievable” within 20 years, said Karin Kloosterman, who in 2008 launched Green Prophet, a news website dedicated to environmental and ecological issues that affect some 20 countries across the Middle East.

“My true vision is to access the young global elite in the region and get their minds working, accessing information and thinking up new ideas for green projects to save the environment for the future,” said the Canadian-born Kloosterman, who moved to Israel just over a decade ago and lives in Jaffa. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Solyndra Investigation Expands, with Agents Visiting Executives’ Homes

September 11th 2011

Energy Topics - solyndra HQ

Federal agents have expanded their examination of the now-bankrupt California solar power company Solyndra, visiting the homes of the company’s chief executive, a founder, and a former executive, examining computer files and documents.

Agents visited the homes of CEO Brian Harrison and company founder Chris Gronet. Agents also visited the home of a third executive involved in the company from the start, according to a source who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity because of the legal sensitivity of the situation.

Gronet, reached at his home Friday morning, did not dispute that his home was visited by federal agents a day earlier.

“I’m sorry,” Gronet said in an interview. “You probably understand full well that I cannot comment.” Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Driving Responsibly can cut Fuel Consumption even for Gas Guzzlers

September 8th 2011

Automotive - car door

While driving a fuel-efficient vehicle is the best way to save gas, motorists can still cut fuel consumption nearly in half by driving slower and less aggressively, properly maintaining their vehicles and avoiding congested roads, say University of Michigan researchers. See their report here.

"Driving a light-duty vehicle in the United States is currently more energy-intensive than using a bus or a train and even flying," said Michael Sivak, research professor at the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "How can we improve on this performance? Vehicle selection has by far the most dominant effect—the best vehicle currently available for sale in the United States is nine times more fuel-efficient than the worst vehicle.

"Nevertheless, remaining factors that a driver has control over can contribute, in total, to about a 45 percent reduction in the on-road fuel economy per driver—a magnitude well worth emphasizing." Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Israeli Electric Car firm announced First Trade-In Agreement for Electric Cars

September 7th 2011

Automotive - Electric car Israel

Better Place, the company bringing an electric car infrastructure to Israel, has been changing so much about how the Israeli public thinks about transportation. It has educated the public about the benefits of using electric cars, taught us that a whole new electric infrastructure can be created to replace fossil-fuel-guzzling gas stations, and now it is teaching us that yes, there is such a thing as a used electric cares salesman.

According to a recent agreement between Better Place and Trade Mobile, Better Place customers will be able to enjoy car trade-in services when buying or selling Renault Fluence Z.E. electric cars.

This is the first such agreement of its kind in the Israeli electric car market and is opening up a whole new green industry. Read more ..


The Race for Hi-Speed Rail

Stealthy Federal Budget Plans Keep High-Speed Rail Plans alive

September 7th 2011

Transportation Topics - Shinkansen bullet train

With Congress eliminating spending for the President’s faltering high-speed rail (HSR) program and making cuts in Amtrak’s soaring subsidies, the Obama Administration appears to be shifting its reliance on funding for its ambitious passenger rail programs to a little-known federal loan program lodged in the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT): the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Act (RRIF).

This provision allows up $35 billion in federal loans and loan guarantees for rail projects at the discretion of the President. Because nearly all passenger rail systems in the world lose money, these loans are unlikely to be paid back, and taxpayers will be on the hook for multi-billion-dollar losses.

Background

President Obama used the 2009 stimulus to create and fund an HSR program. An initial $8 billion was provided by the stimulus, and an additional $1 billion per year was to be provided through annual appropriations bills for the five following years. On top of this, the President’s highway reauthorization plan of February 2011 proposed adding an additional $50 billion to the rail program between 2012 and 2018. Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

Risk to Nuclear Plants in Hurricane’s Path May Not be As Great As Some Fear

August 30th 2011

Energy / Environment - Irene hits NYC 08/29
Irene Makes Landfall in NY (credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

As Hurricane Irene bore down on the East Coast, the nuclear industry assured the public that the storm wouldn’t damage the dozens of reactors in its path. The industry’s watchdogs also expressed less concern about the hurricane’s potential impact on nuclear reactors than about the vulnerability of the exposed connections between them and the rest of the world.

One concern surrounds the electric grid—the lines that transmit power to cities and homes. Another concern is the reliability of electricity that supplies the reactors themselves, and ensures safe operation of the plant. (For other more likely nightmare scenarios, see reports of the risks of earthquakes and fires.) Read more ..


Energy vs Environment

What Risks are Posed by an Earthquake beneath a Reactor near You?

August 30th 2011

Energy / Environment - North Anna NPC
North Anna Power Station

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said two reactors were taken offline near Lake Anna in central Virginia, near the epicenter of Tuesday’s earthquake, which shook buildings up and down the east coast. Other plants, including some in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, declared “unusual events” requiring further scrutiny.

The NRC, in an April inspection meant to identify potential risks from an earthquake at the North Anna Power Station, noted earthquake “vulnerabilities” found there. Specifically, the NRC report notes that portions of water and gaseous suppression systems and hose stations “are not seismically designed.”

The report noted that “potential leakage can occur through penetrations following seismic event.” Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Eco-Friendly Renewable Battery gets Solar Boost with Israeli Technology

August 26th 2011

Energy Topics - Solar panels

Batteries are everywhere - not just in iPods and smart phones. They power billions of devices, but they are expensive and aren't always easy to change. Israeli startup Sol Chip has a cure for the battery blues - an eco-friendly renewable battery power technology that integrates photovoltaic energy sources (PV) with low-power electronic devices (VLSI).

For a good example of Sol Chip's breakthrough, check out today's large dairy farms. Low-power radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are used to keep track of the herd's location, milk production and registration details while protecting the cows against disease and theft. When the tags eventually run out of power, replacing their batteries isn't practical since the tags have to remain sealed against humidity and rain. So farmers end up having to attach a new tag at great trouble and expense. Read more ..


After the BP Spill

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Claims Process has “Largely Succeeded,” Says Feinberg

August 25th 2011

Disaster - Gulf Oil Spill Sat Image 2010-05-24

One year after launching a program to compensate the victims of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, administrator Kenneth Feinberg said Tuesday the process has “largely succeeded,” while acknowledging some initial missteps.

President Obama tapped Feinberg last year to head up the claims process. Feinberg established the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) with the aim of doling out the $20 billion BP set aside to compensate victims of the spill and clean up the region.

“I think overall we’ve largely succeeded in getting money out to eligible claimants,” Feinberg said.

Feinberg has come under fire from Gulf Coast lawmakers and others, who argue that he has not moved quickly enough to compensate the victims of the spill. At the same time, BP has argued that the GCCF’s claims formula is overly generous. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

Ford Plans Solar Panel Option

August 25th 2011

Technology - Ford Focus/Solar Panel

Ford and SunPower Corp have teamed up to offer customers a rooftop solar system that will provide enough clean, renewable energy to offset the electricity used to charge the vehicle. “Under the ‘Drive Green for Life' program, Focus Electric owners can reduce their total cost of ownership by generating enough energy from their high efficiency SunPower rooftop solar system to offset the electricity required to charge the vehicle at night,” said Mike Tinskey , Ford director of Global Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure. “It's an eco-friendly solution that perfectly complements our plug-in products and other green initiatives.” Read more ..


The Race for Nuclear

East Coast Earthquake Shakes up Debate over Nuclear Power

August 25th 2011

Energy Topics - Nukuler plants in Amerika

Virginia's largest earthquake in more than a century shook the East Coast on August 23 and is likely to revive a long-standing debate about the safety of the country's nuclear power plants.

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake caused the shutdown of two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Va. The plant, which is located less than 20 miles from the epicenter of the quake, lost offsite power and was running its cooling systems on diesel generators on August 23. Dominion said it was able to restore offsite power to the reactors late evening August 23.

While there were no reports of damage at the North Anna reactors and plant operator Dominion said the cooling systems were working properly, nuclear opponents quickly pounced on the incident August 23.

They say the incident shows that U.S. nuclear reactors are vulnerable to major natural disasters and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should move quickly to implement a series of sweeping regulatory changes recommended by a federal task force last month. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Tiny Gold Particles to Boost Organic Solar Cell efficiency

August 23rd 2011

Energy Topics - Plastic solar cells and Yang Yang
Yang Yang holds plastic solar cells

In the world of solar energy, organic photovoltaic solar cells have a wide range of potential applications, but they are still considered an upstart. While these carbon-based cells, which use organic polymers or small molecules as semiconductors, are much thinner and less expensive to produce than conventional solar cells made with inorganic silicon wafers, they still lag behind in their ability to efficiently convert sunlight into electricity.

Now, UCLA researchers and their colleagues from China and Japan have shown that by incorporating gold nanoparticles into these organic photovoltaics — taking advantage of the plasmonic effect, by which metal helps to enhance the absorption of sunlight — they can significantly improve the cells' power conversion. Read more ..


The Race for Photo-Electric

Photovoltaics Energy-Conversion Powered by Heat

August 22nd 2011

Science - Iron man

A new photovoltaic energy-conversion system developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can be powered solely by heat, generating electricity with no sunlight at all. While the principle involved is not new, a novel way of engineering the surface of a material to convert heat into precisely tuned wavelengths of light — selected to match the wavelengths that photovoltaic cells can best convert to electricity — makes the new system much more efficient than previous versions.

The key to this fine-tuned light emission lies in a material with billions of nanoscale pits etched on its surface. When the material absorbs heat, whether from the sun, a hydrocarbon fuel, a decaying radioisotope or any other source, the pitted surface radiates energy primarily at these carefully chosen wavelengths. Read more ..


The Nano Edge

Polymer LEDs that Stretch Like Rubber

August 22nd 2011

Energy Topics - electron microscope

Today's conventional inorganic electronic devices are brittle, and while they have a certain flexibility achieved using ultrathin layers of inorganic materials, these devices are either flexible, meaning they can be bent, or they are stretchable, containing a discrete LED chip interconnected with stretchable electrodes.

But they lack "intrinsic stretchabilty," in which every part of the device is stretchable. Now, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have demonstrated for the first time an intrinsically stretchable polymer light-emitting device.

They developed a simple process to fabricate the transparent devices using single-walled carbon nanotube polymer composite electrodes. The interpenetrating networks of nanotubes and the polymer matrix in the surface layer of the composites lead to low sheet resistance, high transparency, high compliance and low surface roughness. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Despite White House Orders, Agencies Can’t Measure “Green IT” Progress

August 11th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - USDA building

Two presidential administrations have tried to lower the carbon footprint left by hundreds of thousands of computers used by the federal government. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both issued executive orders requiring agencies to adopt “green IT” practices—such as reducing the number of printouts and curbing energy consumption by relying on central servers rather than desktops.

Yet nobody, not even officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a mission of safeguarding the environment, can tell exactly how well the government is doing—the result of a failure to set up reliable ways of measuring the impact of the initiatives, the Government Accountability Office has found . Read more ..


Oil Addiction

Political Common Ground on Peak Oil and Public Health

August 10th 2011

Energy Topics - Arab Oil Derick

Peak petroleum—the point at which the maximum rate of global oil extraction is reached, after which the rate of production begins to decline—is a hot topic in scientific and energy circles. When will it occur? What will the impact be? While geologists and economists debate the specifics, American University School of Communication professor Matthew Nisbet believes peak petroleum and the associated risks to public health may provide an opportunity to bring conservatives and liberals together in the move toward alternative forms of energy.

“Somewhat surprisingly, conservatives are more likely to associate a major spike in oil prices with a strong threat to public health,” said Nisbet—an expert in the field of climate and energy communication. “This could present a gateway to engagement with conservatives on energy policy.” Read more ..


Race for Alt Energy

Water/Methanol Hybrid Energy System Boosts Rooftop Solar Power

August 10th 2011

Science - hydrogen system

While roofs across the world sport photovoltaic solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, a Duke University engineer believes a novel hybrid system can wring even more useful energy out of the sun's rays.

Instead of systems based on standard solar panels, Duke engineer Nico Hotz proposes a hybrid option in which sunlight heats a combination of water and methanol in a maze of glass tubes on a rooftop. After two catalytic reactions, the system produces hydrogen much more efficiently than current technology without significant impurities. The resulting hydrogen can be stored and used on demand in fuel cells.

For his analysis, Hotz compared the hybrid system to three different technologies in terms of their exergetic performance. Exergy is a way of describing how much of a given quantity of energy can theoretically be converted to useful work. Read more ..


The Race for Wind Power

Inflatable Wind Turbines Proving to be an Affordable Energy Solution

August 5th 2011

Energy / Environment - Inflatable Wind Turbine

Inflatable wind turbines are now lighter and cheaper than heavy conventional ones. Following a number of  Israeli clean technology companies being winners in the General Electric Company’s Green Innovation Marathon, GE has announced plans to establish a “Green Tech Shop” in Haifa in which a number of renewable energy and other green technology projects will be developed under the giant American electronics company’s sponsorship. One of these green companies, Winflex LTD, is set on proving that harnessing energy from the wind does not have to involve the use of  large cumbersome wind turbines, such as the wind turbines now churning away on the Golan Heights.

Winflex wind rotor

What is unique about Winflex’s inflatable wind turbines is that they are made out of “light, flexible and inexpensive cloth sheets made out of composite materials.” The result are light weight portable wind turbines that can be installed virtually anywhere – even on home rooftops – and result in a much shorter return on equipment investment than conventional wind turbines. By reducing costs and erection time of equipment, it reduces need for government subsidies, according to Winflex’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Vladimir Kliatzkin.

Using inflatable, easily installed wind turbines is a novel idea, especially compared to those giant whirling wind turbines are now becoming commonplace in many western European countries, such as Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, and Holland. Winflex’s designs uses a much lighter rotor around which the turbine blades revolve like sails from a sailing vessel. Read more ..


The Race for Smart Grids

Europe Needs Substantial Investment to make Smart Grids a Reality

August 4th 2011

Energy Topics - High volt tower

Intelligent electricity networks – smart grids – are a key component in the EU energy strategy, but substantial investments are needed to make them a reality. A new study from the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), presents a review of 219 smart grid projects Europe-wide. The vast majority of investments, amounting to about 5.5 billion euros, were made in old Member States ("EU15"), while new Member States ("EU12") tend to lag behind.

By providing a complete catalogue of the projects to date, the report showcases how smart grids can help integrate more renewables, accommodate electric vehicles, give more control to consumers over their energy consumption, avoid blackouts and restore power quickly when outages occur. Read more ..


The Race for Alt Energy

Energy Harvesting is Big Business

August 4th 2011

Energy Topics - Photovoltaic cells

In 2011, IDTechEx research finds that the amount of money spent on energy harvesters will be USD0.7Bn, with several hundred developers involved throughout the value chain. Energy harvesting is the process by which ambient energy is captured and converted into electricity for small autonomous devices, such as satellites, laptops and nodes in sensor networks making them self-sufficient. Energy harvesting applications reach from vehicles to the smart grid.

The majority of the value this year is in consumer electronic applications, where energy harvesters have been used for some time. In 2011, 1.6 million energy harvesters will be used in wireless sensors, resulting in $13.75 million being spent on those harvesters. Read more ..


The Race for EVs

There is Plenty of Lithium for Electric Vehicles

August 4th 2011

Automotive - Lithium car battery

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Co. have assessed the global availability of lithium and compared it to the potential demand from large-scale global use of electric vehicles. The research findings, published in the current issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology, conclude that sufficient resources of lithium exist for the next 90 years to supply a large-scale global fleet of electric vehicles through at least 2100.

The researchers compiled data on 103 deposits containing lithium, with an emphasis on 32 deposits that have a lithium resource of more than 100,000 metric tons each. Lithium is a key ingredient in the development of certain types of batteries, and is a key element of batteries used in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

White House Budget Office Raised Risk on Big Solar Loan Guarantee

August 2nd 2011

Energy Topics - solyndra HQ

The White House budget office raised flags about the first energy loan guarantee awarded under the Obama administration, adding another layer of questions to the taxpayer backed financing now at the center of a House investigation.

In 2009, as the Department of Energy pushed to close the $535 million loan guarantee to California solar panel maker Solyndra Inc., the Office of Management and Budget concluded the financing was a greater risk to taxpayers than did DOE. That higher risk rating, in turn, forced the government to set aside more money in case the company defaults on payments.

The Department of Energy pressed ahead, formally approving the deal in September 2009 while portraying the Solyndra loan guarantee as a symbol of President Obama’s quest to spread green energy projects with government backing. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Photovoltaic Inverter shipments to grow to 27-GW by 2015 due to Grid Integration

July 27th 2011

Energy / Environment - solar panels and flowers

‘Smart’ photovoltaic inverter (PV) shipments are forecast to grow to 27 GW in 2015, accounting for almost 60 percent of the market compared to just 20 percent in 2010 according to the latest report from market analyst, IMS Research. The growth is being driven by utility concerns over grid imbalances, the growing proportion of photovoltaic inverters connected to the grid, as well as the need for energy storage to take advantage of self-consumption tariffs and further incorporate photovoltaic inverters into the ‘smart grid.’

According to the new IMS Research report entitled “The World Market for PV Inverters,” features such as reactive power, smart grid interaction and energy storage are transforming inverters from a simple power conversion unit into an essential component of grid infrastructure and will radically change the PV inverter market over the next five years. Tom Haddon a PV Research Analyst at IMS Research explained: “Utilities, especially in Europe, are increasingly pushing for inverters to assist in grid stabilization and conform to stricter technical requirements.”

Because of this, IMS Research forecasts that smart inverters will account for 80% of the EMEA market in 2015. Haddon commented: “Despite this, most inverter shipments will still not be “fully smart” and will only have reactive power capabilities, rather than full smart grid interaction or energy storage.” Read more ..


Race for Solar

Renewable Energy Appears to Re-Charge Germany's Economy

July 26th 2011

Energy Topics - German solar power

Professor Eicke Weber, spokesperson for the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance, says that the transition to renewable energy is set to deliver an economic pay off in the years to come and points out that various studies show a shift to alternative energy sources will raise the GNP in the coming decade and create new jobs. “Germany has the chance to take the global lead in the shift of a large-scale economy to renewable energy, with numerous advantages in the further development of these technologies and the corresponding creation of jobs. I cannot imagine a more effective, sustainable economic stimulus program than this process,” asserted Prof. Weber. Read more ..



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