Archive for March 21st, 2010

California museum celebrates ecosystems

Divers place kelp inside an underwater exhibit during its construction at the California Science Center. The exhibit is part of the "Ecosystems Experience," opening this week.Stand in the path of a flash flood. Roam around a kelp forest. Nearly 10 years in the making, the $165 million Ecosystems Experience opens this week at the California Science Center.

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Visit the original post at: MSNBC.com: Environment

We Are Thisclose to Affordable Concentrating Solar Power – And More Green Jobs, Too

ALCOA and NREL are testing a low cost concentrating solar arrayPittsburgh-based Alcoa and the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory have partnered up to take us another step closer to low cost solar power.  The lab is hosting a test run of Alcoa’s new concentrating solar power technology, which was designed to be competitive in the U.S. energy market partly due to a low cost, energy efficient process.  It could also result in more green jobs in manufacturing – if the company takes advantage of opportunities in the U.S.

Conventional solar technology relies on glass mirrors, and glass is not Alcoa’s area of expertise.  That would be aluminum, one of the world’s most inexpensive and abundant metals.  In addition to its other advantages Alcoa notes that aluminum can be “infinitely recycled” (nicely put!), which is something to think about for future sustainability because at this rate the world will soon be awash in solar panels.

(more…)


Visit the original post at: Energy News

We Are Thisclose to Affordable Concentrating Solar Power – And More Green Jobs, Too

ALCOA and NREL are testing a low cost concentrating solar arrayPittsburgh-based Alcoa and the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory have partnered up to take us another step closer to low cost solar power.  The lab is hosting a test run of Alcoa’s new concentrating solar power technology, which was designed to be competitive in the U.S. energy market partly due to a low cost, energy efficient process.  It could also result in more green jobs in manufacturing – if the company takes advantage of opportunities in the U.S.

Conventional solar technology relies on glass mirrors, and glass is not Alcoa’s area of expertise.  That would be aluminum, one of the world’s most inexpensive and abundant metals.  In addition to its other advantages Alcoa notes that aluminum can be “infinitely recycled” (nicely put!), which is something to think about for future sustainability because at this rate the world will soon be awash in solar panels.

(more…)


Visit the original post at: Energy News

India Launches Energy Conservation Fund, Aims At Saving 25,000 MW

The Indian government has launched a new fund aimed at providing state governments with financial help to promote energy efficiency. The Energy Conservation Fund will be formed by contributions from the state governments which can later request for grants to promote energy conservation programs.

State governments will have to make a initial contribution of INR 2 Crore (more than $440,000) to the fund. Assuming that at least 25 of the 28 state governments make the contribution the fund could up to $11 million. Although the quantum of initial contribution is quite low, the contributions are expected to increase as the government brings in stricter energy efficiency regulations and state governments realize the advantages of energy conservation projects. (more…)


Visit the original post at: Energy News

It’s About Fracking Time! U.S. EPA Lights a Fire Under Hydraulic Fracturing

US EPA will study the impact of hydraulic fracturing on water suppliesIt’s been a long time coming, but the U.S. EPA will finally assess the pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking.  It’s a mining method that involves injecting massive amounts of chemical brine deep underground in order to release natural gas (among other things).  According to an article in the New York Times, hydraulic fracturing involves more than 260 chemicals, including benzene and many other toxic substances.  Maybe that hasn’t drawn too much notice in sparsely populated areas but there’s a natural gas drilling boom going on  in higher-population states like Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus shale formation is drawing gas companies like flies to honey, and now people are starting to pay attention.

In most places you can’t even dump out a few pints of toxic chemicals such as used motor oil without getting into serious trouble with the law, so how is it that all these fracking people (corporations are people, too!) get to dump umpteen millions of gallons without any kind of accounting whatsoever?  I mean, isn’t there a little something called the Clean Water Act, right?  Right?  Hello, anybody there?

(more…)


Visit the original post at: Energy News

New Food: Natural Products Expo Trends and Treats
2010 expo west photo
Expo West spread out over 1 million square feet. Photos by R.Cruger

On entering the Natural Products Expo at Anaheim’s immense convention center, one was bombarded with the overwhelming magnitude of displays – more than 3,000 booths with vendors hawking their wares, offering sips and bites. In its 30th year, the record attendance of 56,000 indicated the growing appetite for more healthy options, especially compared to 3,000 in 1981. There were interesting trends, much eco-friendliness and lots of enticing tastes in this cornucopia for cuisine… Read the full story on TreeHugger
Visit the original post at: TreeHugger

New Food: Natural Products Expo Trends and Treats
2010 expo west photo
Expo West spread out over 1 million square feet. Photos by R.Cruger

On entering the Natural Products Expo at Anaheim’s immense convention center, one was bombarded with the overwhelming magnitude of displays – more than 3,000 booths with vendors hawking their wares, offering sips and bites. In its 30th year, the record attendance of 56,000 indicated the growing appetite for more healthy options, especially compared to 3,000 in 1981. There were interesting trends, much eco-friendliness and lots of enticing tastes in this cornucopia for cuisine… Read the full story on TreeHugger
Visit the original post at: TreeHugger

University Solar Team Switches Focus From Competition to Near-Production Ready Vehicle; Changing the Solar-Powered Paradigm

Sunstang
The new Sunstang is a three-wheel, fully electric, single-passenger vehicle. Click to enlarge.

After 17 years of building solar cars to enter into competitions—the World Solar Challenge and the American Solar Challenge—the Sunstang solar team at The University of Western Ontario is shifting its focus to developing a near production-ready commuter vehicle.

This next-generation Sunstang is based on the team’s re-evaluation of the solar-powered vehicle paradigm. Rather than trying to use solar cells to provide power directly to the vehicle, the new Sunstang will use a removable battery system which will be recharged by a residential solar charging stations. One battery pack will remain on the charging station, while the other is in the car.

The issue with the competitions is that the difference between our car, which was basically the lowest budget possible, to the cars that were winning is the solar panels and that’s it.

—Geoff Gauthier, project manager for the Sunstang

Suntang2
Efficiency to cost ratio. Source: Sunstang team. Click to enlarge.

Today’s solar race vehicles are nearing a technical saturation point in which little improvement can be made without a growth in efficiency of the solar panels, the Sunstang team says. The team calculated that the cost of solar panels grows nearly exponentially with an increase in efficiency. Not only does this create major issues for racing vehicles, it suggests that applying these technologies directly to a practical vehicle would be in vain, the team concluded. Hence, the switch in the solar-powered model to using swappable batteries recharged by home solar stations.

The new Sunstang is a three-wheel, fully electric single passenger vehicle with a steel chassis and composite body. The car will be powered by a 10.5 kW CSIRO motor designed for solar racing. The car has a top speed of 135 km/h (83 mph) and can drive approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) based on a speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) or up to almost 300 km (186 miles) in the city on a fully-charged battery.

The interior will be similar to a traditional car: it will have more than two cubic meters of storage space and a spare tire.

Sunstang has received a $10,000 donation from Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc., which distributes tires for high performance, passenger car, commercial and off-road vehicles. Yokohama is considering designing and producing a tire specifically for the new Sunstang project.

The group plans to drive the vehicle across Canada in August or September to raise awareness and build exposure for the team. There are 32 members from the Faculty of Engineering and other faculties across campus working on the design and production.

At this point, the group has finished its design and is manufacturing the vehicle. The battery system is in the designing process.


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

University Solar Team Switches Focus From Competition to Near-Production Ready Vehicle; Changing the Solar-Powered Paradigm

Sunstang
The new Sunstang is a three-wheel, fully electric, single-passenger vehicle. Click to enlarge.

After 17 years of building solar cars to enter into competitions—the World Solar Challenge and the American Solar Challenge—the Sunstang solar team at The University of Western Ontario is shifting its focus to developing a near production-ready commuter vehicle.

This next-generation Sunstang is based on the team’s re-evaluation of the solar-powered vehicle paradigm. Rather than trying to use solar cells to provide power directly to the vehicle, the new Sunstang will use a removable battery system which will be recharged by a residential solar charging stations. One battery pack will remain on the charging station, while the other is in the car.

The issue with the competitions is that the difference between our car, which was basically the lowest budget possible, to the cars that were winning is the solar panels and that’s it.

—Geoff Gauthier, project manager for the Sunstang

Suntang2
Efficiency to cost ratio. Source: Sunstang team. Click to enlarge.

Today’s solar race vehicles are nearing a technical saturation point in which little improvement can be made without a growth in efficiency of the solar panels, the Sunstang team says. The team calculated that the cost of solar panels grows nearly exponentially with an increase in efficiency. Not only does this create major issues for racing vehicles, it suggests that applying these technologies directly to a practical vehicle would be in vain, the team concluded. Hence, the switch in the solar-powered model to using swappable batteries recharged by home solar stations.

The new Sunstang is a three-wheel, fully electric single passenger vehicle with a steel chassis and composite body. The car will be powered by a 10.5 kW CSIRO motor designed for solar racing. The car has a top speed of 135 km/h (83 mph) and can drive approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) based on a speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) or up to almost 300 km (186 miles) in the city on a fully-charged battery.

The interior will be similar to a traditional car: it will have more than two cubic meters of storage space and a spare tire.

Sunstang has received a $10,000 donation from Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc., which distributes tires for high performance, passenger car, commercial and off-road vehicles. Yokohama is considering designing and producing a tire specifically for the new Sunstang project.

The group plans to drive the vehicle across Canada in August or September to raise awareness and build exposure for the team. There are 32 members from the Faculty of Engineering and other faculties across campus working on the design and production.

At this point, the group has finished its design and is manufacturing the vehicle. The battery system is in the designing process.


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

Hybrid Sales Falter in S. Korea while SUV Sales Climb

Korea Times. Automakers in South Korea sold a total of 591 hybrids in February, represented 0.5% of the total market, down from a 0.6% new vehicle sales in January. February sales included:

  • 266 units of Hyundai’s Avante hybrid, just more than half of the 526 sold in January. Avante hybrid sales had topped 1,000 after its debut in July through September, but dropped to 627 in October and 485 in December.

  • Sales of Kia’s Forte hybrid fell from 615 last September to 307 in November to 78 in January.

  • Sales of the Toyota Prius dropped from 128 last October to 54 in February,

  • Most other hybrid editions from popular foreign brands fail to sell more than 10 vehicles a month.

“Despite large subsidies and tax incentives, the sales of hybrids are weaker than originally expected. They will eventually take root since an increasing number of people care about the environment, but not in the very near future,” a Seoul analyst said. “The relatively high price tags of the models and the recent recalls of Toyota’s hybrid cars seem to be negatively affecting consumer sentiment toward the new type of vehicles.”

The Korean government offers tax incentives amounting to 3 million won ($2,630) for buyers of hybrid cars. Plus, Hyundai Motor started providing price cuts of up to 2.9 million won this month. Still, observers point out that they are still too expensive for most motorists.

As a counterpoint, sales of Hyundai SUV models were up 70% year-on-year in January and February to 18,704 units. SUV Sales for Kia more than doubled during the same span.


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

Study Finds That Geoengineering Technique of Ocean Iron Fertilization Can Stimulate Toxic Diatom Blooms

In a new collaborative study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), oceanographers and students from Canada and the United States have demonstrated that ocean iron enrichment—a proposed geo-engineering technique designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and curb climate change—sharply increases the chances of developing toxic diatom blooms.

Adding iron to large regions of iron-deficient but otherwise nutrient-rich, ocean waters stimulates massive blooms of phytoplankton (photosynthetic, microscopic plant-like organisms), thereby increasing carbon dioxide uptake and removal from surface waters as these cells die and sink, or are eaten by zooplankton and then sink as fecal pellets, and sequestering the excess carbon flux into the deep sea for many years to come.

The phytoplankton species of concern belong to the pennate diatom genus Pseudo-nitzschia, a group of species that produce a potent neurotoxin that causes the human illness Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. The naturally occurring biotoxin, called domoic acid, could put human health at risk if accumulated in shellfish, and can damage marine mammals and seabirds that feed on small fish that feed on plankton. In coastal systems, such toxic blooms contaminate organisms such as shellfish and could cause economic losses through the closure of commercial fisheries.

Based on ship-based experiments conducted in the subarctic Pacific Ocean near the Gulf of Alaska, the researchers found that iron enrichment increased the concentration of the toxin produced by each Pseudo-nitzchia single-celled organism. The scientists also found that in water samples enriched with iron, the population of the toxic algae Pseudo-nitzchia doubled in nine days relative to control samples, suggesting that the addition of iron creates conditions that give the toxic species an advantage over non-toxic species, increasing the chances of an ecologically harmful outcome.

It is an indication that we are not the masters of nature when it comes to large-scale ecological manipulations. Any positive carbon sequestration must be balanced against the evident and unforeseen environmental consequences.

—Charles Trick, University of Western Ontario

The research was led by Charles Trick of University of Western Ontario in collaboration with SF State researchers William P. Cochlan and Brian D. Bill, as well as Mark L. Wells and Lisa D. Pickell of the University of Maine and Vera L. Trainer of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

The research was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation (Chemical Oceanography), the US Department of Energy (Ocean Carbon Sequestration), and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Resources

  • Charles G. Tricka, Brian D. Bill, William P. Cochlan, Mark L. Wells, Vera L. Trainer, and Lisa D. Pickell (2010) Iron enrichment stimulates toxic diatom production in

    high-nitrate, low-chlorophyll areas. PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910579107


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

First Private Oil and Gas Consortium Launches in Vietnam; DME Plant One of First Projects

Vi?t Nam News. Vietnam’s first private oil and gas consortium, Sao Nam Petro, recently launched with the participation of DSME of South Korea; AGR of Norway; and Longbeach Oil and Otto Energy, both from Australia. The enterprise at first will undertake projects at the marginal oilfields offshore from Viet Nam’s threshold and build a factory producing dimethyl ether (DME). It also plans to build a gas reservoir in the North.

Deputy chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Duc Kien said the founding of Sao Nam Petro would promote innovation in energy development and security. He asked the conglomerate to rapidly implement oil and gas projects in Viet Nam.

Pham Van Quang, chairman of Sao Nam Group, said the enterprise would focus its investment on oil and gas exploration and exploitation of marginal small oilfields and plots in larger fields.

The company plans to seek other foreign investors, especially for large projects, and to sign joint operating contracts to co-implement the projects. It will also invest to develop strategic oil reservoirs, gas pipelines from the northern to the central and southern areas of the country and other projects.


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Online Database Provides Supply Chain Transparency
Global Organic Textile Standard.jpg
Global Organic Textile Standard logo. Credit: GOTS

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) relaunched a new-and-improved website this past week which includes a database of approximately 1,500 companies, and a total of 2,811 facilities—a 40% increase since 2008–in 55 countries, certified to the organic apparel and textile standard in 2009 alone. GOTS certification ensures that consumers are purchasing certified organic products; the comprehensive list allows companies to develop organic fiber supply chains–from field to final product–with ease.

The Org… Read the full story on TreeHugger
Visit the original post at: TreeHugger

PACE Comes to Florida

PACE Comes to Florida

PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing is one of the most exciting clean energy topics of the past few years. It is also one of the hottest topics to keep an eye on, I think.

I’m not the only one who thinks so, though — Harvard Business Review has named PACE financing one of the “Breakthrough Ideas for 2010?.

If you’ve missed previous stories on the topic, very simply, PACE financing lets people pay for clean energy and energy efficiency retrofits to their homes or businesses through a slightly higher property tax over the course of 20 years. The government fronts the money and you pay it back over time while you save money on electricity. In many cases, the financial savings are greater than the increase in annual property taxes.

PACE financing started in Berkely, California in 2007, but it has been spreading across the US. Now, it has hit Florida. The Florida legislature just passed PACE financing legislation this week.

(more…)


Visit the original post at: Energy News