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The hot, dry San Joaquin Valley of California is best known for its agriculture. As a seventh generation resident of Fresno County I am thrilled it is becoming known as a ‘solar-energy-belt.’
Last year Fresno announced its airport, the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, would install “the largest solar power system of any airport in the country.” Still under construction, the system will consist of 25 acres of PV panels in two locations. It will provide 40 percent of the airport’s electricity.
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At the UN Food and Agriculture Food Organization (FAO) summit that concluded today in Rome, Brazilian President Lula da Silva said the US is full of bad cholesterol. Defending his nation’s ethanol production against arguments that biofuels are causing deforestation and worsening the global food crisis, Lula said that the real problems are agro-subsidies and food crop-based biofuels. He compared ethanol to cholesterol in a speech last night to the FAO Committee, saying, “There is good ethanol and bad ethanol. Good ethanol helps clean up the planet and is competitive. Bad ethanol comes with the fat of subsidies.”
Citing that sugar-based ethanol yields 8.3 times more energy than the fossil energy used to produce it whereas corn-based yields only 1.5 times, Lula’s comments no doubt are colored by the recently passed Farm Bill, which was initially vetoed by President Bush and then overturned by Congress with a 2/3 majority in May and is argued to benefit mainly the richest agro-producers.
Earlier this week, auto part manufacturer, Robert Bosch announced its bid to purchase German-based, solar cell producer, Ersol, agreeing to pay 1.1 billion euros for majority control of the company. Ersol is a company that has been on the rise recently, marking a 25% increase in sales and doubling its work force to 1,000 employees in the past year. Shares of Ersol – who has offices in Germany, China, and Southern California, and specializes in solar cells, PV modules, and silicon recycling for semiconductors – skyrocketed this week, jumping 63%, and closing at its highest levels since it began trading in on German markets in 2005. Many industry analysts are speculating that many mergers like this are soon to follow.Click to continue reading »
Dovetailing nicely into my post last week about the work GreenFuel is doing with algae and their emissions-to-fuel process, air carrier KLM reported last week their intention to begin testing airplanes that run on an algae-based fuel.
In a pilot program with AlgaeLink, a Netherlands-based global manufacturer of algae growing equipment and “earth-to-engine” technology, KLM expects to conduct test flights this fall. AlgaeLink will also open two plants this year in the Netherlands and Spain.
KLM hopes to have 12 of their Fokker-50 planes (7% of their air fleet) running on the fuel by 2010, with the eventual goal of running their entire fleet of airplanes on fuel made from algae.
The cost of fuel is an increasing burden on the bottom line for airlines all over the world. In 2012 airlines in Europe will be required to pay for their CO2 emissions. At $100 a barrel, algae will then become not only the carbon neutral choice, but the most cost effective one as well.Click to continue reading »
As the cost of oil continues to soar, and as big names like GM and Ford plan to focus production on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, Norway’s Th!nk City car couldn’t be entering the US at a more opportune time.
The Th!nk City is a compact, electric car capable of going up to 100 km/hr (approx 62 mph) and travel 180 km (approx 112 mi) on a single charge. The company recently announced plans to enter US markets, specifically focusing on California and several other key targeted markets. With it’s body made of recyclable ABS plastic, the City will cost around $25,000, making it both competitive with other EV alternatives such as Zap and AMP, as well as more popular, gas-powered vehicles like the Mini.
James Law is a self-proclaimed “cybertect.” Working within the realm of futuristic design, cybertecture fuses architecture, infrastructure and city planning with emergent technologies and artificial intelligence. At first glance, this seems like the plot synopsis of a bad, made-for-The SciFi Channel movie. However, the design for the new “Cybertecture Egg” in Mumbai could also very well be the zeitgeist of the architectural revolution of the 21st century.
The 13-floor, egg-shaped office building is a hybrid of environmentally focused design with new engineering and intelligent systems. The original design concept was to recreate the world as an eco-system, where life is allowed to evolve sustainably. “[Buildings] are no longer about concrete, steel and glass, but also the new intangible materials of technology, multimedia, intelligence and interactivity,” according to the firm’s website. In addition to several interactive features (such as the ability of an occupant to change his or her “view” at their desk to real time imagery of places around the world), the building will also feature a green roof, wind turbines, and a water filtration system that will process the building’s grey water.
US business leaders have never been as switched on to climate change as now. Congress members are tackling cap and trade issues at long last and a new international climate deal is on its way. It’s easy to lose track of the obvious in all the politics and the fact that half of the US economy’s greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to small businesses escapes many. But the little guys themselves are beginning to make efforts for instant impact measures.
Take the example of US car dealers. Some 500 of them have pledged to reduce their businesses’ energy consumption by 10%. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has calculated that the dealers make combined energy savings of $4.8 million. That’s an impressive amount which also translates in considerable greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) yesterday announced several initiatives aimed at realizing the ambitious goal of generating 20% of the nation’s electricty via wind power.
NREL, in partnership with a state consortium led by the University of Houston, will build a wind turbine blade test facility – the Texas-NREL Large Blade Research and Test Facility – at Ingleside on the Texas Gulf Coast. A second, similar facility to be constructed on the East Coast by NREL in partnership with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative was announced earlier.
Addressing the press and attendees at the American Wind Energy Association’s Windpower 2008 Conference at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, NREL also announced that it was partnering with Siemens Power Generation to build and test a commercial 2.3 megawatt, SWT-2.3-101 turbine at the Lab’s 305-acre National Wind Technology Center outside Golden, Colorado. At the same time, just north of the Center, NREL and Siemens Power will build and bring into operation its first U.S.-based wind technology research and development center in Boulder, Co.
“The projects announced today demonstrate the shared commitment of the federal government and the private sector to achieve 20 percent wind energy by 2030,” DOE Assistant Secretary Alexander (Andy) Karsner said in a press release. “To dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our energy security, clean power generation at the gigawatt-scale will be necessary to expand the domestic wind manufacturing base and streamline the permitting process.”
In line with other news posted today on solar industry developments, we bring you the scoop on the state of solar in the U.S. from Mike Hall, President of Borrego Solar. Borrego Solar is unique in that they have a particular social focus. In addition to getting homeowners and businesses to go solar, they also help schools and affordable housing projects with their solar needs.
I heard Mike lead a panel on the solar industry at the GreenWest Expo two weeks ago. Today I had the pleasure of interviewing him to gain a better appreciation of two main obstacles in solar panel adoption in the U.S.: inconsistent state/federal policies and financing. With a revised federal policy framework that resembles that of many European countries, we could begin to see even more solar panels on roofs in coming years. This, coupled with new financing structures, could really help to propel the industry forward.
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Production of polycrystalline silicon (polysilicon) has begun at Hemlock Semiconductor Corp.’s new facility – the single largest in the world – in the Michigan town of the same name. The new plant will produce some 9,000 metric tons of polysilicon a year, bringing the Hemlock facility’s total annual capacity to approximately 19,000 metric tons by the end of this year.
Producers of high-grade silicon are going flat out to meet growing demand. “Delivering polysilicon from our new facility as quickly as possible was essential to meet our customers’ expectations,” Rick Doornbos, Hemlock Semiconductor president and CEO, said in a press release. “These customers have put a lot of faith in us and the additional quantities of silicon feedstock will enable them to advance solar technology throughout the globe.”
Construction of the first high speed rail link in America will take place in Argentina, connecting the cities of Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba. A contract has been made with Alstom and partners, Iecsa, Isolux Corsan and Emepa, which will see the rail link accommodating trains operating up to 320 km/hr.
The national government and other proponents of the plan envisage a positive influence for economic development in the region. It is hoped that the project will revive the railway system of Argentina, which has suffered extensively since the wave of privatization that occurred in the 90s. Furthermore, it will offer an attractive travel mode for tourists in the region.
However, there are many risks associated with the success of the project, namely the cost of travel which is
“disproportionately expensive relative to the number of people who will benefit from it”
(Poder Ciudadano in Spanish)
The prices are not comparable to the bus system which moves the majority of people between these cities and is not likely to replace air traffic travel either. People in Argentina are questioning the usefulness of the link, as it will be unfordable for most and because there is a desperate need to address other infrastructure issues nationwide.
Growing demand for thin film solar photovoltaic laminates is bringing jobs to Greenville, Michigan.
A leading player in the field, United Solar Ovonic LLC expects to about double employment at its Greenville manufacturing facility by bringing on as many as 400 new employees in order to raise the facility’s production capacity to some 300 megawatts (MW) by 2010.
A wholly-owned subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices Inc. (Nasdaq:ENER), United Solar Ovonic uses proprietary technology to manufacture building-integrated and commercial rooftop thin film PV laminates that are distributed globally under the UNI-SOLAR brand.
“This is great news for our employees and the community. It takes a large pool of talented people for United Solar to build and ramp-up a solar production facility,” Gary DiDio, United Solar Ovonic’s Greenville plant manager stated in a press release.
“Greenville is a wonderful place to work. We were still very busy hiring for our initial production needs. The expansion will require an additional 400 employees. The majority of our hiring will be for production technicians, but there are immediate needs for supervisors, engineers, and many other roles.”
Greenville and United Solar’s plant are located 35 miles northeast of Grand Rapids. Job opportunities are listed on the company’s web site. If you’re interested, many can be applied for via e-mail, according to the company. You have to apply for production technician jobs through the Michigan Works program, however.
As the need for climate change solutions continues to grow, so does the need for properly educated greenhouse gas management and measurement professionals. With the help of various media outlets most people understand and accept the most basic aspects of climate change – global temperatures are rising, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are extremely high and ever increasing, and action needs to be taken, on a personal level and at government and business levels. While it is a positive sign that the general population has this basic understanding, there is also a need for advanced education in greenhouse gas accounting and climate change mitigation. Universities and colleges are typically the first place one thinks of when they hear “advanced education”; unfortunately, these institutions alone do not currently provide education for the full spectrum of the climate change industry.Click to continue reading »