Sunday, March 7th, 2010
The Unstoppable…Solar Lobby?! A skirmish this week in Arizona revealed that the solar industry, while still adolescent, is developing some political brawn. A bill in the state legislature proposed expanding the definition of “renewable” to include nuclear power, a move that would have allowed the state’s lone nuclear plant to fulfill Arizona’s mandate to receive 15% of its electricity from renewables. Solar companies howled, including Suntech Power Holdings, which threatened to cancel its first U.S. factory in Arizona. Days later, the proposal was retired.
Wal-mart to Suppliers: Go Green or Else Wal-mart announced a goal of cutting 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain by the end of 2015. By using its unparalleled purchasing leverage, Walmart intends to force greener behavior on the part of its vendors, like it or not. (more…)
Saturday, March 6th, 2010
The most surprising thing about the inaugural ARPA-E summit, held this week outside Washington D.C., is that the conference hall was full of losers. They were inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs who had applied for funding from the U.S. government’s exciting new energy-research organization but had been shot down.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy received 3,500 proposals, but only accepted 37. That leaves room for some compelling also-rans.
As a consolation prize, some of the most credible finalists got booth space in the exhibit hall. The most visible were those with ambitious plans for “kite power” — harnessing the powerful and consistent winds that blow high off the Earth’s deck.
Kite energy is way out there, both physically and in the public mindset, and it can be a hard sell, even to an agency like ARPA-E that funds risky projects. Who wants to put their money on the line for a four-rotor helicopter the size of a 747 that’s suspended several kilometers in the air? (more…)
Friday, March 5th, 2010
Wind turbine technology has become a fully commercial venture, but the recent rapid growth of the wind industry has strained its supply chain to meet demand in a timely manner. Furthermore, unexpected component failures, especially electronic controls, gearboxes, generators, and rotor blades, have driven up operations and maintenance costs.
During the course of the research for a new report just published by Wind Energy Update, it ultimately became clear that reliable and verifiable data on wind industry operations and maintenance cost trends is quite rare. In fact, there are no current widely available data sets illustrating these wind industry costs.
Proprietary research, reviews of scarce secondary sources and anecdotal evidence obtained through confidential interviews with wind industry owners and operators and component suppliers suggest that operations and maintenance expenses are double or even triple what was originally projected, particularly with the latest class of multi-megawatt machines now permeating the global wind market. (more…)
Thursday, March 4th, 2010
Four Democratic U.S. senators have asked the Obama administration to stop investment in wind power and other renewable energy projects until the government ensures that the projects primarily use U.S. labor and materials.
The senators, led by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, introduced legislation requiring that economic stimulus funds only be spent on clean-energy projects that use materials made in the United States and that create a majority of jobs in America.
Thursday, March 4th, 2010
Mark Chen is the director of marketing at Abound Solar, a Colorado-based manufacturer of thin-film cadmium telluride solar modules. Cleantechies sat him on the hot seat for three questions:
CleanTechies: Unlike many photovoltaic (PV) companies, you are manufacturing in the United States. Tell me about the company’s decision to do that.
Mark Chen: Abound Solar was founded in Colorado in 2007 based on research conducted at Colorado State University for over 15 years. Abound Solar’s manufacturing technology features a continuous semiconductor deposition process on a fully-automated production line. Our geographic roots and low labor content allow us to be competitive despite higher hour wages in the United States
CleachTechies: Can the United States compete with China’s photovoltaic industry? What advantages do you offer?
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
The British government will introduce legislation that would tie new, subsidized loans for energy efficiency to a house, rather than a current owner, a move that could make energy retrofits far more affordable for most homeowners.
Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband said the new legislation would enable homeowners to take out long-term loans at lower interest rates and thus encourage homeowners to make energy-efficiency improvements that they might otherwise not have made had they planned to sell their houses in a few years.
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
After making his fortune with Idealab and a host of technology start-ups, Bill Gross has turned his attention to renewable energy. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Gross talks about the solar power plant technology his company eSolar is developing and about the future of solar.
Bill Gross is not your typical solar energy entrepreneur. In a business dominated by Silicon Valley technologists and veterans of the fossil fuel industry, Gross is a Southern Californian who made his name in software. His Idealab startup incubator led to the creation of companies such as eToys, CitySearch, and GoTo.com. The latter pioneered search advertising — think Google — and was acquired by Yahoo for $1.6 billion in 2003.
That payday has allowed Gross to pursue his green dreams. (As a teenager, he started a company to sell plans for a parabolic solar dish he had designed.) Over the past decade, Gross has launched a slew of green tech startups, including solar power plant builder eSolar, electric car company Aptera, and Energy Innovations, which is developing advanced photovoltaic technology. (more…)
Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
Biofuels in Europe are struggling to meet the most basic thresholds for sustainability, according to the Times of London, which claims to have seen a government study that shows fossil fuels are better for the environment than “green fuels” made from crops.
The findings show that the United Kingdom’s biofuels mandate would result in millions of acres of forest being logged or burnt down and converted to plantations.
The study finds that some of the most basic crops used to make biofuels fail to meet the minimum sustainability standard set by the European Commission. (more…)
Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
Imagine a lightweight, flexible solar cell that could be built into your clothing, allowing you to charge the batteries on gadgets from iPods to smart phones with a little help from the sun.
A team of researchers at the California University Institute of Technology (Caltech) has developed a new, super bendy solar cell made from silicon wire arrays grown on a silicon base.
The new cells enhance the absorption of sunlight and converts photons into electrons using less than half of the amount of expensive crystalline silicon used by conventional solar cells.
Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor, professor of applied physics and materials science, and director of Caltech’s Resnick Institute focusing on sustainability research , led the team in the development of the new solar cells. Atwater said the flexible cells are so rugged they can be rolled up as opposed to traditional solar cells that are made from thin, brittle wafers. (more…)
Friday, February 26th, 2010
The European Commission confirmed on Thursday that it believes legally binding sustainability criteria for biomass used to generate heat and power are not necessary in Europe, thus ending a long process by which the European Union body has debated the utility of a supranational scheme.
The Commission, however, adopted a report on sustainability requirements for the use of solid biomass and biogas in electricity, heating, and cooling. The report makes recommendations on sustainability criteria to member states and encourages them to introduce schemes at the national level.
This strategy minimizes the risk of the development of varied and possibly incompatible criteria at the national level, leading to barriers to trade and limiting the growth of the bio-energy sector in the European Union. (more…)