Friday, February 12th, 2010
We’re in for some climate chaos. The Copenhagen Accord means at least two to four degrees of warming over the next fifty years — and who knows how much “global weirding.” As greenhouse gases trap more heat, or energy, close to the earth, and that energy is used by large weather systems, which move faster and are more intense than ever.
This means more Category 5 hurricanes. More likelihood of Florida snow. My biggest concern about all this change? Eating. If crop yields drop 80 percent as they’re expected to, if we don’t adapt to a changing climate, I might get hungry.
So how do we produce food in a changing climate? How do we produce food with shortages of oil and fuel around the corner? Well we might start, like Joel Salatin’s family-owned Polyface Farm in Virginia, by decreasing inputs to the farm.
Friday, February 12th, 2010
With this post, CleanTechies is diverging from our usual content with this light-hearted Valentine’s Day tribute to clean energy from the Vote Solar Initiative, which is working to make solar power mainstream.
People love solar. There are plenty of reasons why that’s the case. Solar creates local jobs. It produces reliable electricity when we need it most. It improves energy independence by tapping a homegrown resource. It offers real hope in the fight against global climate change. And ultimately the idea that we could be harnessing electricity from that big, yellow sun of ours just makes people feel good.
Always up for a good sun pun, Vote Solar thought we’d hammer that point home with a tongue-in-cheek Valentine Video campaign. (more…)
Thursday, February 11th, 2010
IBM researchers have increased by 40 percent the efficiency of a thin solar cell that can be applied like ink and that uses widely available materials.
The new cells can convert solar energy into electricity with an efficiency of 9.6 percent, a significant improvement on the 6.7 percent high for existing technologies and close to the level that would make the cells practical for use in commercial solar panels, according to a report published in the journal Advanced Materials.
The new technology uses a semiconductor material made of fairly abundant elements — including copper, zinc, tin, sulfur and selenium — and utilizes an inexpensive ink-based process in creating the cell.
Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
Biodiesel refers to a vegetable oil or animal fat based diesel fuel consisting of long chain alkyl is typically made by chemically these oils with an alcohol. Biodiesel is meant to be used in standard diesel engines and is thus distinct from the vegetable and waste oils used to fuel converted diesel engines. Biodiesel can be used alone, or blended with petrodiesel.
There was a recent White House announcement calling for expanded production of biofuels (36 billion gallons by 2022, to be exact).
But producing more biofuels is only part of the equation when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our reliance on petroleum carbon based fuels. Vehicles must be ready and sometimes converted to this usage.
Enterprise Holdings just announced that it will convert its entire fleet of Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental airport shuttle buses to biodiesel by spring of this year. That’s more than 600 buses throughout more than 50 North American markets.
Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
The U.S. biofuels story is a mix of interrelated elements: energy security (lessening dependence on Middle Eastern oil), ethanol, a clean energy economy…and China.
Traditionally, the geopolitical reality plays out like this: the United States relies on politically sensitive Middle Eastern petroleum, which makes the U.S. particularly sensitive to oil price volatility, which in turn, compels the U.S. to invest money and human capital in guaranteeing supply.
But as a major corn producer, the United States commits corn resources to biofuels in the name of moving towards energy independence, price security, and a clean energy economy. Meanwhile, China is industrializing, making a lot of money in the process, and beginning to suck up a rapidly growing percentage of the global supply of crude oil.
Monday, February 8th, 2010
At a factory in Wuxi, China, workers lift solar panels onto conveyor belts, while others in white lab coats move between machines as they check on a process for etching and engraving silicon wafers to form solar cells.
This scene in itself isn’t remarkable. But there is a new sort of excitement about the work. China’s production of solar panels has grown quickly in the past two years; it is it now the world’s leading exporter. When Matt Lewis, a representative of the California-based nonprofit ClimateWorks, visited the factory in October, he said it reminded him of his native Silicon Valley: The workers, even ordinary line workers, had a sense that they were part of building the future, the hot new industry.
Saturday, February 6th, 2010
Hallowell International in Bangor, Maine, is the manufacturer of the Acadia, a combined heating and cooling system that can be combined with solar or wind installations to take users off the grid. The system can be installed in new buildings or can be retrofitted when consumers are considering green upgrades.
CleanTechies has three questions for president and founder Duane Hallowell.
CleanTechies: Acadia uses something called “boosted compression” technology. Tell us about that.
Duane Hallowell: Since the 1950s, heat pumps, which operate by exchanging air for heating and cooling, have been the most popular and environmentally-friendly heating ventilation and cooling (HVAC) application. However, because they absorb heat from the outside air, they are inefficient in cold-weather climates, requiring additional, costly heating elements in order to work correctly.
Friday, February 5th, 2010
Researchers in the Middle East are developing a technology they say will convert saltwater-tolerant crops into jet fuel, creating a biofuel that doesn’t consume huge amounts of fresh water or take land away from food crops.
The Masdar Institute in the United Arab Emirates is creating a demonstration farm that will use a system called integrated seawater agriculture, in which seawater would be transported via canal to a desert-based farm that combines fish and shrimp farming with cultivation of mangrove trees and salicornia, whose seeds can be converted into fuel.
Friday, February 5th, 2010
Twenty-five solar industry and regulatory leaders shared data and forecast a positive future, especially for small-scale projects, at the third Solar Electric Utility Conference hosted by PHOTON International Thursday in San Francisco.
Smaller Is Better
Keynote speaker Pat Wood III, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and now with Wood3 Resources, summarized the dominant theme of the day. “As I was preparing my presentation, I was struck by the growth of ‘bite-sized’ solar projects and how that is an emerging trend and is based on solid economic data,” he said.
Thursday, February 4th, 2010
The green economy is thriving despite the economic downturn, according to the State of Green Business 2010 report released Wednesday by Greener World Media.
“Green professionals weren’t among the first to be thrown overboard,” said Joel Makower, report author and Executive Editor of GreenBiz.com, in a statement. “Their budgets were slashed, their headcounts frozen, all while their mandates sometimes increased. But they managed to survive, even thrive, during tough times.”
What top trends are now driving green business? To start, the report says more companies and consumers are embracing “radical transparency.”