Monday, May 24th, 2010
Another Bad Week, Or a Really Good One? Good news grows as slow as a tree, but bad news spills as fast as a broken oil main. That seems to be the lesson from this week as BP, the U.S. government and an armada of ships and volunteers tried but mostly failed to contain the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Though BP had some success at slowing the spigot, oil is pooling in the wetlands of the Mississippi Delta and resides at unmeasured quantities in the deeps. There it has joined the Loop Current with a probable next stop in Florida.
Meanwhile, 1,500 miles north, an equally momentous event drew little attention: an agreement to curtail or end logging on 72 million acres of Canada’s boreal forest, an area roughly the size of France. An unlikely consortium of logging companies and Greenpeace agreed to halt the chainsaws altogether for three years in an area as big as Montana, and to develop a sustainable-forestry program for the remainder. The accord might be the forerunner to permanent protection for an area that encompasses two-thirds of Canada’s logging concessions. (more…)
Friday, May 14th, 2010
The Oil Spill’s Unlikely Victim: As oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill continued to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, it tarred the feathers of an endangered creature: the climate bill. Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman introduced a retooled American Power Act on Wednesday to little fanfare. Perhaps that’s because the media’s klieg lights were already divided between the grilling of oil executives on Capitol Hill or the so-far hapless efforts to plug the leak. Or maybe it’s because the two senators took to the dais without their erstwhile Republican ally, Lindsey Graham. Nevertheless, it was ironic to see a solution to our fossil-fuel addiction pushed to the side because of a fossil-fuel disaster. Must we cap the gusher before we get a cap on CO2?
More Electric Cars Roll to the Starting Line: You’ve heard that the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt are on the way, but how about the Think and the Wheego? Wheego, a maker of electric putt-putt vehicles based in Atlanta, hopes that 200 highway-ready copies of its Whip Life will roll off the assembly line by August, months ahead of the well-publicized launch of the Leaf. Meanwhile, the Norwegian carmaker Think raised $40 million this week and plans to start assembly of the tiny Think City in Elkhart, Indiana in early 2011.
Monday, May 10th, 2010
Are Offshore Oil Rigs a Threatened Species? Is the Deepwater Horizon spill the beginning of the end for offshore oil drilling, or just another Exxon Valdez? Today, as BP attempted to place a 100-ton cap over the broken well gushing under the Gulf of Mexico, it was uncertain if they’d be able to stanch the spreading damage at sea or in Washington, D.C.
The spill has muddied the prospects for a climate bill as one of its pillars — a new round of offshore oil drilling — founders in unstable political soil, as Mackinnon Lawrence reports. Meanwhile, environmental groups are hustling to make the case, as in this Sierra Club video, that offshore oil is dirty and unsafe. Perhaps it’s not only brown pelicans and terns who will have trouble flying after all this is over, and the black tide might yet turn against its maker.
Efficiency Experts To America: Stop Dreamin’ and Pick Up Yer Caulkin’ Gun. At a symposium of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy — what, you missed it? — experts concluded that weatherstripping beats windfarms as the fastest way to save the US economy, and released some numbers to prove it. First, America is not as efficient as it thinks: the domestic economy is only 13 percent efficient, compared to 20 percent efficiency in Japan and some European countries. We were left pondering if it’s more efficient, percentage-wise, to order a veggie pizza from Papa John’s or gnaw on a frozen one from Trader Joe’s. (more…)
Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Last week electric vehicle services company Better Place demonstrated a fleet of electric taxis that will operate in Tokyo and have batteries that can be replaced in about two minutes. The taxis will utilize Better Place’s battery swapping stations, which today cost around $1 million each for the equipment to automate the process.
Urban taxis are a suitable application for battery swapping because they:
a) Take frequent short trips.
b) Don’t often stray far from a geographic area.
c) Need to be kept on the road for as much of the time as possible.
d) Idle frequently (when stopped, or running the engine in between customers to control the vehicle’s temperature). (more…)
Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Two Tales of Ocean Energy: Major events in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico laid out the U.S.’s energy choices in stark contrast. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill made landfall in Louisiana, a week after the offshore rig caught fire and sank. Oyster beds and wildlife are at risk, and the spill may grow to be one of the largest in U.S. history. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave the green light to the Cape Wind installation, the first offshore wind farm to be approved in U.S. waters. Its 130 turbines, projected to be up and running by 2012, will provide 75 percent of the electricity needed on Cape Cod and the islands of Nantucket Sound.
Climate Bill Stalls: The U.S. Senate’s version of a climate bill was yanked at the last moment when Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican co-sponsor of the legislation, withdrew his support to protest the Democrats’ sudden crusade for immigration reform. No definite plans for a new bill have emerged. (more…)
Thursday, April 29th, 2010
The European Union has unveiled a strategy to become a world leader in the green vehicle market, including a framework for common standards for electric cars across Europe by 2011 and the development of a network of charging stations continent-wide.
Calling this a defining stage for the automotive industry, E.U. leaders outlined steps to promote the adoption of fuel-efficient vehicles, boost low-carbon technologies, and increase the manufacturing of low-emissions vehicles in Europe.
The plan includes maintaining existing regulations to reduce carbon emissions, initiatives to encourage new innovations and technologies, and the standardization of electric car technologies across the continent so that drivers can recharge their vehicles in any E.U. country. (more…)
Thursday, April 29th, 2010
Dick DeBlasio is a senior life member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and is the principal laboratory program manager for electricity programs at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which include electric distribution and interconnection research and development, thermal systems integration, thermal storage systems, and high temperature super-conductivity programs in support of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.
We asked him for his assessment of the current state of energy storage.
CleanTechies: How important is energy storage? (more…)
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
Israel, a global cleantech powerhouse, is now attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in cleantech investment every year.
The country gets more from its soil, water, air, and sunlight than most other nations on earth.
Why has such a small country been able to position itself a world leader in cleantech?
The answer, I believe, is a combination of many factors: its history, attitude of the people, ingenuity, and challenges to survival.
According to my research, the following are major highlights of Israel’s cleantech leadership to date in 2010: (more…)
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
(Reuters) – Europe took the first steps toward a massive roll-out of electric vehicles on Wednesday, backing up past rhetoric with plans for pan-European standards that the industry has cried out for.
“Without strong standardization work, I think it will be difficult to develop a market for electric cars,” European Union industry commissioner Antonio Tajani said as he launched his E.U. green vehicles strategy.
“This is not an abstract concept, it’s a set of 40 practical actions,” he added.
French carmaker Renault has joined forces with California’s Better Place in a project to put electric cars and their charging infrastructure on the roads of Denmark and Israel by 2011.
But critics question whether common standards will be ready in time, or whether investors risk laying down infrastructure that will later have to be torn up and replaced. (more…)
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
CleanTechies caught up with Maurice Gunderson, senior partner of energy and materials at CMEA Capital, for some energy storage perspectives.
CleanTechies: You were an investor in A123 Systems. When will bulk storage arrive?
Maurice Gunderson: Bulk storage needs a little bit of definition. The kind of thing that A123 is doing is here now, and that’s a very high power storage for grid stabilization. And that makes sense in a lot of parts of the country. I make a distinction between that and very large bulk energy storage, which is intended to store power for very long periods of time, such as from wind turbines, and then release it over relatively long periods of time.
So the answer is there’s no real good battery solutions yet, but there’s a lot of smart people and a lot of money working on the problem and we’re going to see things emerging here within the next few years. The really practical ways to do very large storage right now come down to pumped storage. If nature gives you a canyon and environmental considerations don’t stop you from damming it up, you can make a very nice pumped storage facility. But that only exists when it occurs naturally. So there’s not a lot of places where you can count on building out new capacity of that type. (more…)