March 2010 Archives
March 05, 2010 |
Twenty years ago, I first proposed a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna. The population that breeds in the Gulf of Mexico was down by about 80 percent. The population that breeds in the Mediterranean was down by half. Now, things are worse, and the principality of Monaco has made another proposal to ban international trade in this species. It is gaining momentum, and on March 3 the United States announced its support for the initiative. The European Union, which has been wavering in the face of pressure from its fishing industry and Japan, should now end its fence sitting and get behind this proposal.
Such a trade ban is enacted under a treaty called CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). CITES is why, for instance, there’s a ban on ivory (which is why there are still elephants in Africa).
The bluefin is an awe-inspiring creature, a warm-blooded fish capable of swimming at highway speeds, crossing oceans, and reaching weights well over a thousand pounds.
Because bluefin tuna fishing worldwide is driven by prices paid in Japan, where individual fish have sold wholesale for up to $175,000, every population is depleted. A population in the tropical Atlantic, which in the 1960s had yielded the highest-ever catches of bluefin anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean, appears extinct. Formerly thriving fisheries in the North Sea are gone. In some recent years, U.S. boats have landed only about 15 percent as many fish as two decades ago. The European population is now in a plummeting tailspin.
Driving all this, remember, is prices paid in Japan. An international trade ban would quell the intensity of the fishing. But a lot of money is at stake.
Fish from both the American- and Mediterranean-spawned populations breed separately, but mix in open-ocean feeding areas. Part of the sharp decline U.S. boats are feeling is from American overfishing of the past, and the most recent drop is largely from rampant European overfishing in the last decade. Since I drafted the initial proposal (which Sweden formally took to CITES in 1992), things have only gotten worse.
So last year, the principality of Monaco proposed a trade ban under CITES. A lot of fishing-industry lobbying pressure — in the U.S., in Europe, and in Japan — moved immediately against the proposal. They were looking for a repeat of what happened in 1992, when they succeeded in blocking an open vote in exchange for a few orchestrated, soon-forgotten promises from the fishing sector.
This time, things are different. The plight of fisheries is much more widely known, the scale of the fishing enterprise more ghastly, the fish more depleted, the effects on small-scale fishing interests (which might otherwise be catching bluefin tuna in a sustainable fishery) more acute. And with a world economy brought to the brink of collapse by greedy excess, the image of Japanese bankers gnawing bits of flesh from a fish costing $175,000 is no longer a vicarious curiosity, but rather distinctly less palatable.
And so, this time, the proposal is gathering surprising momentum. Much of the decision-making is happening well before the actual CITES meeting convenes March 13 to 25 in Doha, Qatar, as various bodies weigh in and countries announce their support or opposition. It’s enormously significant that the U.N. has determined that the giant tuna meets the criteria for an international trade ban, and even the international tuna commission that — ineffectively — manages bluefin tuna fishing agrees that it does. The European Commission, which determines the European Union’s fisheries policy, has recommended that the EU’s 27 member nations (which vote as a bloc at CITES) support the ban. But the EU, still debating, has taken no official stance. Its position will now be pivotal.
Even if international trade is banned, bluefin tuna could still be caught and sold within any given country. But the fish are now sufficiently scarce that without Japan’s prices, many boats would turn unprofitable and give up. The fish could recover, and a more sustainable fishery develop.
With some of Europe’s major countries and the European Commission now calling for a trade ban — and with support by the U.S. — it is disappointing that the European Union remains uncommitted. In fact, every country with a stake in the future of the sea — should vote to ban international trade in bluefin tuna. The world needs to let this thousand-pound powerhouse of a fish recover from Japan’s insane lust for its flesh and the ensuing seagoing buffalo hunt.
Reprinted with permission from Yale Environment 360
by David Ferris
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?
“We want a funding category and we want air space, so we can all play together,” said Len Shepard, CEO of Sky Windpower, creator of the giant helicopter-turbine.
Here’s a rundown of the models I saw:
Joby Energy. A Joby wind installation would look like a giant white ladder turning circles in the sky.
At each rung of the ladder are two small propellers that generate power as the ladder tugs against the wind at 400 meters up.
Tethering the device is a cable that serves two power functions: sending generated electricity to the ground, and if the wind goes slack, returning power to the props to help the device make a safe, helicopter-style landing.
The Joby team, made up of former students from the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology and Stanford, are now assembling a 100 kilowatt (KW) model and are hoping to create a 300 KW one soon.
Makani Power. Early on, Makani got the ultimate imprimatur of approval: $10 million in seed money from Google, followed by another $5 million since. But their design has been a mystery. That cleared up a bit this week as Makani displayed a giant red fiberglass prototype at its booth at the ARPA-E conference.
Makani’s kitewing will zoom though the sky in circles with propellers attached, much like Joby’s design. Founder Corwin Hardham said the company plans to develop a 100 Kw model in the next year and a half, and a one-megawatt model the year after that.
Sky Windpower. Unlike Joby or Makani, Sky Windpower’s approach is to launch a larger generator far higher in the sky — 6,000 to 27,000 feet up, said Shepard. Buffeted by winds of up to 300 miles an hour, it would stay in one place, more or less, governed by its tether and four rotors. Such high winds means the generator could be as large as a jet plane and could pump out 1 to 1.6 MW per unit.
Reprinted with permission from The Ferris Files
Ocean Power Technologies (OPTT) received a EUR2.2 million grant from the European Commission to deploy a PowerBuoy wave energy device as part of the WavePort project in Spain. OPTT will be responsibly for the PowerBuoy as well as the underwater pod and will be working closely with the Wave Energy Centre (Portugal), Fugro Oceanor (Norway), DeGima (Spain) and the University of Exeter (UK).OPTT’s proprietary technologies allow for wave by wave tuning to optimize efficiency. The U of Exeter will help out in wave prediction analysis while Fugro will provide wave monitoring equipment to collect and transmit data to further enhance efficiency. OPTT CEO Charles Dunleavy commented: “This award by the European Commission is a springboard for OPT to further develop our Spanish project and to demonstrate the commercial performance of the PowerBuoy’s proprietary and innovative tuning system. We would like to thank the Commission for this award and we look forward to working with our Consortium partners and the EC to deliver this exciting new PowerBuoy project.” Shares of OPTT were up a few percent today and holding in around support of the 200 day moving average. Reprinted with permission from Green Stocks Central
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?
Mark Chen: Chinese manufacturers are highly competitive in the global market. Their growing production scale, cost advantages and domestic market place pressure on U.S. and European manufacturers alike. U.S.-based PV manufacturers can compete with innovation and customer intimacy.
Manufacturers, including Abound Solar, SunPower and First Solar are leading in their respective market segments through cutting-edge products that offer higher performance, higher quality and lower cost. Sometimes this includes strategic use of offshore production, but all have hundreds of key employees based in the United States. Abound Solar’s unique advantage is in producing at lower cost while also partnering with our customers to ensure high-performing PV installations are designed and constructed.
CleanTechies: What are the barriers to PV that you’re encountering with commercial installs?
Mark Chen: The primary barriers to widespread penetration of commercial PV that we face are lack of financing, complexity of regulation and permitting and lack of understanding of various PV technologies.
With banks reducing the amount of credit made available, particularly to owners of large property developers (i.e., retail stores and commercial real estate developers), sources of finance for large-scale systems can often be the single, most important barrier to greater usage of PV.
Secondly, a highly-fragmented and heterogeneous system of incentives and regulations increase the complexity of any system design and installation. Owners often misunderstand the wealth of incentives available to them. Project developers can also be held up by local permitting and utility interconnect regulations.
Lastly, many PV system buyers still do not buy from a basis of knowledge and experience. There is no Consumer Reports of solar. Instead, they tend to buy either solely on upfront cost or efficiency, neither of which are good measures on which to depend. They should be looking at the full system, the quality and reputation of the component manufacturers and calculating the full long term cost of the electricity that will be produced.
Reprinted with permission from Cleantechies
Manufacturing will begin in San Diego, California, at Kyocera’s Balboa Avenue facility during the first half of 2010, with an initial production target of 30 megawatts (MW) per year.
Kyocera’s has set a goal of producing 1,000 MW of solar cells per year (equal to one gigawatt) globally by March 2013. 1000 MW in capacity would be enough to provide 3.5-kilowatt solar-electric systems for about 285,000 homes each year.
Solar energy has become one of Kyocera’s fastest-growing businesses globally, with the company expecting to double its production of solar cells in the two fiscal years from 2009 to 2011. In addition to the operations coming to San Diego, Kyocera currently has solar module manufacturing facilities in Japan, China, the Czech Republic and Mexico.
Kyocera Corporation was founded in 1959 as a producer of advanced ceramics. By combining these engineered materials with metals and plastics, and integrating them with other technologies, Kyocera Corporation has become a supplier of solar electric generating systems, telecommunications equipment, copiers, printers, electronic components, semiconductor packages, cutting tools and industrial ceramics.
During the year ended March 31, 2009, the company’s net sales totaled 1.13 trillion yen (approximately US$11.5 billion). Kyocera marked its 50th anniversary in 2009, and the 40th anniversary of its U.S. operations. It is ranked No. 418 on Forbes magazine’s 2009 “Global 2000” listing of the world’s largest publicly traded corporations.
Kyocera Group companies currently employ approximately 4,000 people in the United States.
Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business
California Attorney General Jerry Brown has announced a completely new kind of renewable energy legislation, introduced by State Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D) – designed to add more renewable energy storage to the grid.
You’ve heard of Renewable Energy Standards. These are (state level only, so far) rules that require that electric utilities add more renewable energy every year, in the 24 states that have them.
Using the legislation, four Northeast States have been able to reduce their greenhouse gases on an EU scale – to below 1990 levels by contributing to the build-out of about 17 Gigawatts of renewable energy along with neighboring Canadian provinces. Other states, Like Michigan, are on track to do so with elegant policy design that gets solar rooftops down to as little as $6,000 each.
Reducing greenhouse gas levels below 1990 levels simply takes replacing the dirty 19th century energy they used to have on the grid with more clean renewable 21st century energy. That’s what passing Renewable Energy Standards does: it forces utilities to replace old power plants that they have grandfathered in to evade Clean Air Act rules for the last 40 years, and add more low carbon electricity.
But California might be the first state to implement another necessity borne from adding more renewable energy to the grid: adding more storage for renewable energy.
In a sense, the storage industry will the equivalent of the 19th century railroad industry. Railroads had to be built in order to cheaply bring coal to coal-fired 19th century power plants that were near the cities of those times, and even to stoke homeowners individual fireplaces. Like the railroad, the storage industry will be a trillion dollar industry.
AB 2514 would require utilities to incorporate energy storage in their distribution networks. The rules will mandate storage equal to 2.25% of daytime peak power by 2014 and 5% of daytime peak power by 2020.
This bill will provide the first real boost to the renewable energy storage industry, as it secures a clean energy future for California. To bring 2.25% of peak demand in storage online, Jon Petersen estimates that (with 135 MW a year of storage needed) $200 million each year will need to be invested, along with the new jobs that all that new investment brings.
The legislation dovetails nicely not only with California’s needs (and the world’s) but it immediately amortizes the $620 million from the Obama Administration’s advanced grid awards from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) invested by the newly energized Department of Energy in a variety of innovative new storage technologies.
Storage is critical, because as PG&E’s Jonathan Marshall told me “There have been times that wind turbines at Tehachapi have actually had to be turned off at night, because power going into the grid causes damage if it’s not used.” PG&E was awarded $25 million of that $620 million advanced grid funding. California Gets Smart-Grid Funds to Bottle Wind.
The legislation will also tend to favor, and help along the implementation of those solar technologies that include storage, (typically solar thermal using heliostats) such as SolarReserve; which has 7 hours of night time storage in salt.
Reprinted with permission from Cleantechnica
The expansions are expected to create more than 6,900 new jobs.
The company plans to invest $952 million in future projects and has leveraged an additional $161 million from the federal energy department.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), approved key incentives to help win Dow’s projects over competing national and global sites.
The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) board approved a Centers of Energy Excellence designation and $5 million grant for Dow to establish operations focused on cost-effective carbon-fiber materials for application in the wind-energy and transportation sectors. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will collaborate with Dow. Through ORNL’s participation, the U.S. Department of Energy will provide a $5 million match, and Dow will contribute up to $10 million of in-kind resources.
On Thursday, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) board approved a new job-creation state tax credit valued at $61.3 million over 15 years for Dow projects, which includes the full-scale production facility in Midland for the company’s Powerhouse Solar Shingle.
The solar project is expected to generate $249 million in private investment and create 6,100 new jobs in the value chain, including 1,275 direct Dow jobs. Additional projects over the life of the tax credit could create up to an additional 425 jobs and $351 million in additional investment.
In addition, the MEGA board approved an advanced-battery tax credit valued at $42 million to support Dow Kokam’s advanced-battery manufacturing operations. The advanced-battery credit will support phase II of the project involving the manufacture of lithium ion packs. The company is investing $342 million in this phase of the project, which is expected create 480 total jobs.Phase I and Phase II of the Dow Kokam project is expected to generate $670 million in new private investment and 800 new jobs. To support the project, the MSF board approved on Wednesday a 15-year state Renaissance Zone for the 56.22-acre site.
The projects come on the heels of a report titled, “American Innovation: Manufacturing Low Carbon Technology in the Midwest,” released earlier this year, which used economic research from Deloitte to estimate that climate and energy policies could create up to 100,000 new jobs in the region and generate additional market revenues of up to $12 billion, boosting state and local tax revenues by over $800 million by 2015.
Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business
The EPA has decided to designate the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn a Superfund clean-up site.
The window over my desk stares out at the raised Gowanus Expressway, nicely framing the Statue of Liberty beneath it about three miles off. The statue is obscured, though, when a drawbridge over the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn lifts to allow boats through.
For about a century after the canal’s construction in the 1860s, oil, chemical and manufacturing companies along its 1.8-mile length accounted for the bulk of those boats, and the waterway paid the price for hosting such industries: the EPA has decided to designate it a Superfund clean-up site, a move which will hold the polluters financially responsible and theoretically result in its cleanup within a decade or so.
The designation, one of ten sites designated a Superfund National Priority by EPA, was met with disapproval by officials in Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, as they had preferred to undertake the cleanup without the EPA’s help. Of course, that plan would have involved voluntary financial support of the companies that might have done the polluting, which, for some reason, seems unlikely to have worked particularly well. According to the New York Times, the EPA has already identified seven companies along with the city of New York and the US Navy as being potentially responsible for the canal’s contamination.
As dirty as the canal’s waters are, though, some life (like oysters) still does thrive there. The Superfund designation could help bring it back even further.
One objection the city had to a Superfund-driven cleanup was the apparent stigma of attaching that word to it, and what that might to do commercial or residential development along the canal. But the EPA administrator to the region, Judith Enck, pointed out that “Banks look at the environmental conditions of the properties. It is not a secret in Brooklyn that the Gowanus is contaminated. The notion that Superfund is going to create a stigma just doesn’t hold up.”
Looking out the window now, the drawbridge refuses to rise, leaving this section of the Gowanus boat-free for at least a little while. And hopefully, soon it might be… wow, let’s see what they found there… polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons-free; heavy metals-free; pesticides-free; polychlorinated biphenyls-free; volatile organic compounds-free. Yeah, that would be good.
Reprinted with permission from Ecopolitology
The EPRI analysis points to significant efficiency gains using superconducting DC transmission lines, with the capability to reduce transmission losses at full load by more that 150% compared to alternating current (AC) or high-voltage DC systems. Assuming the trend continues for cost-performance improvements in superconducting wire, such a line could become an option within a decade along with Extra High Voltage (EHV) AC lines that are currently used to move large amounts of power over long distances.
The EPRI report indicates that the builders of superconducting DC transmission lines could rely on commercially available technology and construction methods similar to those used in natural gas pipeline construction. These include factory manufactured, transportable sections of an outer carbon steel pipe containing inner stainless steel piping for the flowing coolant and superconducting cable, and trucking to the site for assembly, welding and burial.
The lighter, thinner, higher-capacity superconducting cable might be fabricated, shipped and installed with methods and equipment now used for conventional underground transmission cable. Production capacity of superconducting wire today is limited but given substantial demand capacity could possibly be expanded sufficiently for longer lines. Refrigeration and vacuum requirements of the line might be met by equipment and methods utilized in the industrial gas industry.
“In the future we may see the development of generation facilities, such as large wind farms or nuclear “farms” capable of producing five to 10 gigawatts (GW), but located far from urban centers of demand. It will then be necessary to move large amounts of power over long distances,” said Arshad Mansoor, vice president of Power Delivery and Utilization for EPRI.
As designed, the superconducting cable system outlined in the report would provide 10 GW power capacity with a nominal current and voltage of 100 kiloamps and 100 kilovolts. The report also points to the cable system’s potential to enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of the existing AC power grid.
EPRI also has published two companion superconducting reports. These highlight the practical issues of integrating a long-distance, high-power superconducting DC link into the existing, lower-power AC transmission and distribution systems, and states that the operation and control of this link will be a key to the viability and acceptance of the concept.
The reports can be downloaded at the link below.
Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business
The Economist Intelligence Unit Survey finds mixed results in a poll of 202 executives in the financial and corporate social responsibility sectors. Many executives believe that sustainability practices will have a significant effect on their company’s bottom line in the long run. However, short term results are less optimistic. Executives report the main roadblocks to sustainable practices as the lack of participation in reporting firms, as well as low cash incentives.
An recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey shows that only 24% of executives polled believe that in the short term (1-2 years) there is a strong correlation between the commitment of sustainable business practices and the financial performance of the firm. Less than half of companies even report their environmental and sustainability goals.
While sustainable business practices may not have a significant impact in the minds of executives in the short run, over the period of 5-10 years 69% of executives polled believe that there is a strong link between sustainability and profit. Companies worldwide are redeveloping their core business practices to meet sustainable goals in every aspect from supply chain to energy use policy.
This survey sponsored by Enel, of over 200 finance and corporate social responsibility executives explores the process by which executives are incorporating sustainability into their everyday business practices. The study defines sustainability as, “operating in a way that preserves the long-term productive capacity of the natural and social environments.
Results of the Survey
According to this Survey, 34% of executives polled said that their firm’s immediate financial goals were of more importance than practicing sustainability. This is the cause of the major roadblock between corporate profit and sustainable business practices.
Executives believe that in the long run, integrating sustainable business practices into their firms, will allow them to operate more efficiently and increase profit margins. 87% of executives agree that sustainability will become more important over the next three years. Executives report including sustainability into every facet of business operations, including supply chain relationships (29%), improving energy efficiency (38%), educating employees on sustainability (32%), and engaging employees in sustainability related activities (30%). Fifty-four percent say sustainability efforts have been led by top management, which is the reason sustainable practices have been growing at such a high rate.
The survey produced five key findings:
The poor business climate is an obstacle to pursuing sustainability.Thirty-four percent of respondents said their firms’ immediate financial goals were a more pressing priority than sustainability. Not surprisingly, this represents the leading obstacle to embracing sustainability. Lack of consensus and clarity are also obstacles.
Executives increasingly see opportunity in sustainability. Eighty-seven percent agree that sustainability will become more important in the coming three years. Of these, 46% strongly agreed. While sustainability represents a risk for some, others see opportunity.
Companies are embedding sustainability into various corporate functions.Executives report including sustainability into a variety of corporate functions, including supply chain relationships (29%), improving energy efficiency (38%), educating employees on sustainability (32%), and engaging employees in sustainability related activities (30%). Fifty-four percent say sustainability efforts have been led by top management, which may explain the wide reach of such initiatives.
But only around half of companies report their progress on sustainability.Just 49% of respondents said they report progress in meeting their environmental sustainability goals. Slightly over half (53%) report their progress on meeting social sustainability goals. Nonetheless, executives say that stating goals and reporting progress towards those goals are essential in embracing sustainability.
Cash incentives are not widespread—but are growing.Employee recognition programmes are the most widespread employee incentive, cited by 38% of respondents. Just 18% of firms link pay to sustainability indicators, but anecdotal evidence suggests this practice is growing among leading companies.
Reprinted with permission from Green Economy Post
Creating a revolution in the way energy is produced and shared, distributed solar energy is one of the top clean energy topics of the day.
Chicago utility company ComEd (an arm of the energy giant Exelon Corporation) has a new pilot project in this field that will outfit 100 Chicago-area homes with solar photovoltaic panels and “at least 50 of those with ’smart’ meters, net metering, battery backup and a grid-tied status that enables them to send unused electricity from their solar energy systems back to the grid.”
ComEd Environmental and Marketing Vice President Val Jensen says that the aim is to turn each of these homes into a “mini-utility”. But the project goes far beyond that.
The selected homes will be part of a pilot program to make people into better energy consumers, teaching them how to plan electrical usage to avoid “peak” loading (i.e. using electricity when nearly everyone else is in the mornings and evenings). Doing this can help individuals to reduce their energy bills and can also help to reduce the need for expensive utility upgrades for transmission and distribution.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 is providing most of the funding for this project ($5 million), while ComEd and its technology vendors are providing an additional $3 million.
The smart grid is supposed to be extended to 131,000 homes eventually, with 8,000 being used to evaluate “advanced metering capabilities”. Advanced metering capabilities include “two-way smart metering that tests consumers’ ability to use the technology to change energy use behaviors.”
This pilot program is said to be the largest in the country “to focus on retraining electrical consumers to change their habits to reduce stress on America’s aging electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure” and will last for 12 months.
Participants will be given a range of different gadgets to help them out with all of this:
“The smart-use rollout will include about 3,100 customers using a basic energy-use display meter; 1,500 ratepayers getting a larger, touch-screen device that allows electricity monitoring and Internet access; and 400 ComEd users getting programmable thermostats that allow programming and remote control of heating and air-conditioning units.”
The program is also “the first in the world” to offer a tiered pricing approach to its pilot participants, “offering one of six electric rates; the current flat rate; rising rates based on more-than-average consumption; hourly rates based on day-ahead wholesale rates; rates sharply rising based on peak demand; a rebate for those who reduce use during peak demand; and a time-of-use rating based on peak loading and non-peak periods, like midnight to 7 a.m.”
Looks like an exciting pilot program in Chicago. Something to keep an eye on.
Reprinted with permission from Cleantechnica
Marine Biologist Huw Griffiths from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is involved in this major international investigation into the distribution and abundance of Antarctica’s vast marine biodiversity — the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML).
More than 6,000 different species living on the sea-floor have been identified so far and more than half of these are unique to the icy continent. A combination of long-term monitoring studies, newly gathered information on the marine life distribution and global ocean warming models, enable the scientists to identify Antarctica’s marine "biodiversity hotspots".
Researcher Griffiths describes how krill populations (the shrimp-like invertebrates eaten by penguins, whales and seals) are reducing as a result of a decrease in sea-ice cover. A much smaller crustacean (copepods) is dominating the area once occupied by them. This shifts the balance of the food web to favour predators, like jellyfish, that are not eaten by penguins and other Southern Ocean higher predators. Sea-ice reduction is also affecting penguins that breed on the ice.
Images of marine life counted in the census are truly amazing. The photo shows an Ice Fish.
To see more images of some of the creatures counted visit: http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/press/press_releases/press_release.php?id=1139
Reprinted with permission from Environmental News Network
A lunch box staple is the core idea behind solar technology that could bring cost effective solar-heated hot water to cold climates. Solar Panels Plus has come up with a solar hot water heater based on evacuated tubes similar to those popularized by Thermos. Last year two of the company’s models were certified as eligible for Canada’s ecoENERGY for Renewable Heat program, but the real test will occur in southeastern Idaho, where Solar Panels Plus has installed a solar hot water system at the Homestead Family Restaurant in Blackfoot.
If the installation keeps the solar hot water coming in cold weather, it’s another big step forward for the ability of solar energy to compete with fossil fuels. Restaurants are hot water gobblers, and a low cost solar installation that works in cold weather would have a relatively short payback for high volume users — especially if it receives solar energy incentives from its utility, as was the case here.
Solar Panels Plus and Thermos-style Solar Energy
Like a Thermos bottle, Solar Panels Plus uses double-walled glass tubes to retain and concentrate heat, helped along by an optical coating. The tubes passively track the sun due to their curved shape, which helps boost efficiency. The five SPP-30 model solar collectors installed at Homestead each contain 30 of the tubes and the owner estimates a savings of $500 monthly on electricity bills for the 130-seat restaurant. Though the solar collectors operate effectively under cloudy, cold or even freezing conditions, the company recommends that for maximum reliability and return on investment, the system should be used to marginalize the use of conventional fuels rather than replacing them completely.
Utilities, Incentives, and Clean Energy Champions
The Homestead system was installed under an incentive program offered by the local utility, Idaho Power Company. It was the first commercial installation under the utility’s clean energy program and according to a recent press release it illustrates, “a commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability – something we champion.” Well, join the party. Utilities are emerging as the knights in shining armor of the clean energy scene by promoting clean energy innovation and pushing for small scale, on-site installations. A recent survey revealed that most utility companies believe that by 2050 small scale clean energy will become an important part of the national grid, and within that group 13% believe that the small scale clean energy “electranet” will actually surpass conventional centralized generation.
Nuclear Power and the Clean Energy Future
The clean energy juggernaut keeps rolling along, picking up investment power and the support of corporate giants including utility companies. Even the nation’s top sports industries are on board the sustainability train, including golf, the ski industry, Major League Baseball and the National Football League. If this keeps up the future doesn’t look good for the promotion of nuclear power as called for by the Obama administration’s current energy package. The fact is that nuclear energy is neither clean nor sustainable, it is simply expedient. It is rapidly becoming obsolete as a fuel for electrical generation, and if the utility industry survey cited above is any indication, its large scale centralized model is out of place in the electrical grid of the future.
Reprinted with permission from Cleantechnica
Mercedes has announced that they plan on building an E300 Bluetec Hybrid starting later this year—representing the company’s first foray into the world of diesel-electric hybrids. The car will reach European dealerships by early 2011. No word on whether or not Merc has any plans to release the vehicle in the States yet… so if you want it here, start making your voices heard now.
The car will be powered by the 2.2 liter, four cylinder, CDI engine from the E250. Reportedly Mercedes says the car can eek out more then 56 mpg. Granted that number is using British imperial gallons on the European test cycle. But, after doing the conversions and accounting for the fact that US EPA standard mpg estimates are usually 15% lower than European mpg estimates, we end up with roughly 40 mpg US. Considering how big and safe (read: heavy) the E300 is, that is certainly an impressive number.
Based on reader reaction to numerous previous posts here at Gas 2.0, diesel-electric hybrids are a type of vehicle that has always had a fervent following. Given that diesel is currently undergoing a resurgence in the US with both VW and Audi reporting huge demand for their new clean diesel cars, hopefully Mercedes will take it as a hint that the US is also ready for a diesel-electric hybrid.
Reprinted with permission from Gas 2.0
The report “Solar Thermal Power Report” by ReportBuyer describes solar thermal energy technology in its various applications, describing the various technologies: collectors, receivers, heat storage systems and energy conversion units.
CSP uses lenses and mirrors to directly tranfers solar energy into electricity via conventional steam and heat turbines or by focusing light onto photovoltaics. The Ivanpah project being developed by BrightSource in California is a high-profile example.
Solar thermal (ST) collectors--used for water heating and building heating (or cooling through solar chillers)--have more capacity and produce more energy than wind power and more than geothermal, solar PV and ocean energy combined. By 2009 there were 147,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power, 174,000 MW of solar thermal collectors. By comparison there was only about 1,000 MW of CSP and about 17,000 MW of solar PV capacity.
The last two or three years have seen strides forward in all solar technologies and many 50 to 100 MW CSP power generation projects are being developed, with larger ones in the pipeline. The major solar thermal markets--China, USA, Turkey, Germany and Japan are outlined in the new report. It also states that Israel is important for per capita use but relatively small in total. Between them, they have 75% of the global market for solar thermal collectors and ancillary equipment.
The growing CSP markets of Spain and the United States are also outlined, with lists of projects already competed, under construction and planned.
Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business
Ford has made many improvements in bettering its fleet average fuel mileage in recent years. But lest we forget, it was the Ford Explorer that helped create the SUV craze. And it wasn’t long ago you could buy the monstrous Excursion from any nearby dealership, a road behemouth more suitable to Lord Humongous than suburban soccer moms.
Consumer Reports recently did its annual round of real-world gas mileage numbers. The 2010 Ford F-250 Lariat ranked as the vehicle with the worst tested gas mileage, getting on average just 10 mpg.
The testing was for “light duty” vehicles, although there is nothing exactly light about the F-250. What really surprised me was that this was a diesel-equipped model. How much worse would the gas version have fared? Second place of this dubious distinction goes to the Hummer H2, a zombie brand which managed just 11 mpg. Behind that was the Cadillac Escalade and several other giant domestic SUVs.
As far as the most fuel efficient cars, it should come as no surprise that the Prius topped the list at 44 mpg. Surprisingly though the Smart FourTwo beat out the Honda Insight, netting 39 mpg and 38 mpg respectively. The highest ranking domestic car (and the only one in the top ten) was the Ford Fusion Hybrid, with 34 observed mpg.
While the F-250 fared the worst this year, 2010 should be a different story. Ford is unleashing a bevy of new engines, and yesterday they unveiled their in-house built diesel engine for the Ford Super Duty. The 6.7 liter diesel engine has 390 horsepower and a monstrous 735 ft-lbs of torque, while improving fuel economy (though by how much we don’t know, as the EPA doesn’t require the figures to be published). That is good enough to tow up to 24,000 pounds. The F-150 should also be getting Ford’s new EcoBoost engine sometime this year.
Out with the old, in with the new!
Reprinted with permission from Gas 2.0
Yesterday the California legislature just raised the allowable limit on rooftop power from 2.5% of our grid to 5%, because we were in danger of exceeding the 2.5% – within a matter of months. The net-metering limit was about to be breached.
Net metering is like roll-over minutes on cell phones. It means our utilities must credit us for our excess generation while we are at work on sunny afternoons, so that our night time electricity use is credited by the afternoon’s excess electrons stored on the grid in our “account”.
Under prior law, any net energy generation remaining at the end of each 12-month period was granted to our electric utility. (We got no end-of-year roll-over kilowatt-hours.)
But yesterday that got better, for us.
AB 920 now gives solar homeowners two additional options for the excess kilowatt-hours in our credit at the end of the year. We now have the option of rolling over month-to-month indefinitely – banking credits for later, when we can finally buy an electric car, maybe! – or we can take the cash at the end of each year. (The exact cash amount won’t be finalized by the CPUC till By January 1, 2011.)
So, if you are installing solar this year, you should feel free to overbuild your solar system, because now you can be paid cash (or rollover credits) for the excess. But be sure to sign up for one or other of the new end-of-year credits options with your solar estimator. Otherwise, per DSIRE: “If the customer makes no affirmative election for either option, the utility will be granted their NEG at the end of the 12 month period with no compensation to the customer”.
In China, now, they go a step further. There, the utilities don’t just credit you for your excess kilowatt-hours produced. In China, utilities must buy all the electricity anyone produces.
That’s the real Al Gore Electranet. We’ll get there in this country, eventually. We took the first step yesterday.
Reprinted with permission from Cleantechnica
On Feb. 19, a brief public statement in Delhi broke the news that the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister on Climate Change, the austere veteran bureaucrat, Shyam Saran, was to quit. The announcement came as a surprise: Saran was Delhi’s most senior climate official. He had earlier been entrusted by the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, with shepherding the controversial nuclear deal with the U.S. to a conclusion, then put in charge of India’s climate diplomacy. Only a few days before his resignation, Saran had chaired a meeting of India’s climate negotiators and domestic ministers to map out a post-Copenhagen strategy. What had gone wrong?
Within hours, India’s press was pointing to one man as the key to Saran’s departure: the relatively junior figure of the Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh.
Ramesh, though a minister, does not hold cabinet rank. Nor, until last year, was he a figure of international significance. In India’s complex, status-conscious political world, he ranked below the heavyweight Saran, a veteran foreign service official with a secure base in India’s powerful bureaucracy and the solid backing of India’s climate negotiating team.
But in the course of the last 12 months, from what might be rated, at best, a medium rung on Delhi’s ladder of power and influence, Jairam Ramesh has vanquished two senior rivals to emerge as the voice of India’s transformed climate policy. India had previously hung back, adamant that its prime responsibility was to give its citizens a better life, climate impacts notwithstanding. Today Delhi accepts that it is in India’s best interests to be constructively engaged in low-carbon policies both at home and internationally. And in the public battles that have been fought over India’s future responsibilities in climate change diplomacy, it is Ramesh who has triumphed.
The signs of friction between the opposing visions of Shyam Saran and Jairam Ramesh had not been hard to find. In the difficult months leading up to December’s climate summit in Copenhagen, the battle at the heart of government over India’s position had spilled over into public view in leaked letters, threats of resignation, and competition for the support of Prime Minister Singh.
India’s traditional negotiating stance, shaped and defended by Saran, could be summed up in one truculent sentence: The developed world had caused the problem and the developed world should fix it. Ramesh, though, pressed for a change in approach: Though India may not have been part of the problem, he insisted, it had to be part of the solution.
In July 2009, when Prime Minister Singh endorsed the climate statement agreed at the major economies forum in Italy, with its ambition to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees C, a dissenting Indian negotiator wrote a strong letter of protest. It was, he wrote to the prime minister, “a body blow to everything that we have fought for,” giving voice to the widely shared conviction that agreeing to the overall target opened the door to future emissions constraints for India that would undermine its right to develop.
Ramesh countered with a leaked letter of his own, in which he asked the prime minster for permission to change India’s policy. Shyam Saran let his opposition to Ramesh’s ideas be known, and two senior officials on the negotiating team threatened to boycott Copenhagen unless they received assurances that Ramesh would not be allowed to dilute India’s hard-line position.
In the aftermath of the climate summit, the argument continued: Saran was opposed to accepting the Copenhagen Accord, Ramesh was in favor. Supporters on both sides argued that the policy confusion was sending the wrong signals. The Feb. 19 announcement — and the further speculation that followed, that Saran’s office could be dissolved entirely — has left Ramesh the clear victor.
It was Ramesh’s third public victory in a few short weeks, each time against men who seemed more powerful. The first had come on the morning of Feb. 5, toward the end of the opening ceremony of the 10th Sustainable Development Summit in Delhi, when Jairam Ramesh had gestured to the conference host, Rajendra Pachauri, the beleaguered chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. When Pachauri obediently crossed the stage to Ramesh’s side, Ramesh gave him a very public hug.
Pachauri, the once-proud Nobel laureate, was open to hugs that week, and to the sometimes lavish tributes that the conference speakers, from the prime minister down, dutifully delivered in support of his chairmanship of the IPCC. He was under attack for a notable howler that had been published in the IPCC’s influential Fourth Assessment in 2007, the contentious claim that the Himalayan glaciers, which are vital to India’s water supply, would disappear by 2035.
The now discredited date originated a decade ago in a telephone interview with the Indian glaciologist Syed Iqbal Hasnain, published in the magazine New Scientist. It was picked up in a later WWF report on the condition of the Himalayan glaciers, and it appears to have been copied straight into the IPCC impacts assessment. In January, two London newspapers had attacked the 2035 date. By February it was a full-blown scandal.
Its inclusion in what is meant to be the UN’s definitive account of the state of knowledge on climate change dealt a serious blow to the credibility of the IPCC process and to Pachauri’s leadership of it. Climate conspiracy theorists pointed out that Hasnain now works for Pachauri’s influential think tank, TERI, and began to widen their attacks to a more general assault on Pachauri’s credibility and reputation for integrity.
For Ramesh, however, the scandal was a vindication of his own long-running dispute with Pachauri on the soundness of the science that underpinned the glacier assessment. When Ramesh had first disputed the 2035 date last year, Pachauri brusquely dismissed his doubts. And when Ramesh supported a report by a group of Indian glaciologists that argued there was little short-term threat to the glaciers, Pachauri had labeled it “voodoo science.”
So for those who followed the battle for ownership of India’s climate policy, the photograph of Pachauri submitting to Ramesh’s public embrace that led the front page of The Hindu, one of India’s main daily newspapers, on Feb. 6, said a great deal. Ramesh, Pachauri’s most vocal public critic in India, had won an important victory.
In attacking the shaky foundation of the glacier claims last year, Ramesh had also found himself embattled with several international NGOs that feared he was undermining the urgent case for climate action. In Copenhagen, he was challenged by a youth activist and threatened with a “fossil of the day” award, a daily badge of shame awarded by a consortium of NGOs during the conference to those they deemed obstructive to climate action.
His critics were the more dismayed because Ramesh had come to office in 2009 with a mission to renovate India’s climate policy. At the 2007 Sustainable Development Summit in Delhi, he had attacked India’s reluctance to contemplate limiting its future emissions as outdated and unhelpful. “If we have superpower ambitions and superpower visions then we should take on superpower responsibilities,” he told his audience.
Some of his admirers feared that his challenge on the threat to the glaciers signaled a weakening of his commitment to action on climate change. By February this year, though, it was evident that his argument with Pachauri over the glaciers was a defense, rather than a criticism, of the need for scientific rigor.
Now that he is the undisputed hand at the helm of India’s climate policy, Ramesh’s continuing rise has international, as well as national, significance.
Ramesh is an unusual figure in Indian politics. An engineer by training, he is, at 55, an energetic and outspoken politician. Dressed in the traditional clothes that remain de riguer for India’s political class, his long gray hair brushed back, he appears to enjoy the public theater of Indian politics and cultivates a close relationship with his followers in the Indian media. His rivals, however, underestimate him at their peril.
“There are two or three things that make him interesting,” observed one political analyst from a leading Delhi think tank, who asked not to be identified. “He comes from a non-political background and he got into politics on his intellectual merit. Not too many politicians have the courage to take that route. He came in as an intellectual and now he manages elections. He has become an integral part of the Congress Party.”
Indeed, Ramesh, who studied at Carnegie-Mellon and MIT in the 1970s, became one of the Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi’s inner circle. The groundwork for his political career was laid over the 20 years he spent as an advisor on economic policy and finance in various government and private posts. Only two years after his entry into Parliament in 2004, he was appointed Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, then briefly served as Minister of State for Power. He took the Environment and Forests portfolio in May 2009, giving him a voice in domestic climate policy but not, at first, in international negotiations.
In his short stint as environment minister, Ramesh has managed to walk a difficult political tightrope. He has moved India’s climate policy forward against the opposition of much of the civil service and India’s influential civil society, both quick to accuse politicians of pandering to outside pressure and failing to defend India’s interests. In an influential speech to Parliament last year, Ramesh argued that it was in India’s own interest to be proactive on climate measures, regardless of international frameworks, because a failure to do so left India’s future prosperity vulnerable to climate shocks. India, he said, should offer a 20 to 25 percent reduction in emissions intensity by 2020, a proactive policy, he argued, that would allow India to claim leadership internationally. It infuriated the traditional climate negotiators who had spent years avoiding any suggestion of leadership.
Unlike the negotiators, Ramesh is an elected politician who must avoid the charges of giving in to outside pressure. As he joked in the course of last month’s Sustainable Development Summit, for a politician to be seen to agree with the European Union or the U.S. on climate policy is “the kiss of death in India.” Hence his insistence in his public statements that his objective is to protect India’s interests and its right to develop.
A few days after the sustainable development conference closed, Ramesh entered the final stages of his third public battle, this time over whether genetically modified eggplant, popularly known in India as Bt brinjal, should be cultivated as India’s first genetically modified food crop. The Minister of Agriculture, a full cabinet member, had given the go-ahead, despite opposition from several of India’s highly vocal NGOs. Ramesh, technically junior to the agriculture minister, claimed the right of final approval.
A noisy series of public meetings in seven major cities were held. In one of them, in Bangalore, Ramesh added to his reputation for unconstrained behavior by calling a heckler a “mental patient,” before announcing on Feb. 9 that further research was required to determine the impact on human and environmental health. “An independent regulatory body needs to be set up,” he told reporters, “a consensus is needed on the tests required, the duration of those tests, and where they are to be conducted.” Asked about the timing, Ramesh replied, “It’ll take a few years. What’s wrong with waiting?”
Bt brinjal will not be coming to India any time soon, and Jairam Ramesh had notched up another notable victory.
Reprinted with permission from Yale Environment 360
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Qatar Solar Technologies (QST) is the first company with plans to produce polysilicon--the primary raw material for photovoltaic solar production--on the Arabian Peninsula.
Other partners include the Qatar Foundation (70%) and the Qatar Development Bank (1%).
Qatar Solar Technologies has invested more than US$500 million in the construction of new production with a planned annual capacity of 3,600 tons of polysilicon in the first stage of expansion. Production is scheduled to begin in 3Q12.
German company Centrotherm Photovoltaics AG is providing technology for the production line.
Qatar Solar Technologies said the market for solar power systems on the Arabian Peninsula is growing.
SolarWorld AG said the deal will secure its supply of solar silicon with favorable long-term contracts. It will also provide for raw material recycling.
Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business
The bill essentially would have erased the mandate for 15% renewable power in the state, because the state's largest utility Arizona Public Service already gets 27% of its power from a nuclear plant.
The proposed bill created a huge stir last week, drawing strong protest from wind power and solar companies, including Suntech Power Holdings (Nasdaq: STP), which suggested it may back out of plans to build its first US fatory in the state.
The bill also would have stripped the state's regulatory board (Arizona Corporation Commission) of its authority to set renewable power mandates.
But the legislature quickly backpedaled from the proposal. House Speaker Kirk Adams issued a statement. "As a high-growth state, Arizona must have an energy plan to match our energy demand, now and in the future," he said. "Renewable energy, and solar in particular, must play a vital role."
Republican Governor Jan Brewer, who recently pulled Arizona out of the cap-and-trade plan being developed by the Western Climate Initiative--praise Lesko's decision to withdraw the bill.
"This sends a clear and united message to employers around the world: Arizona remains the premiere destination for solar industries," Brewer said in a statement.
In Other State News...
Drought-stricken farmers and cities across California were granted a measure of relief on Friday when federal and state officials said they expected to supply significantly more water this year than last.
Read the full Reuters story at the link below.
Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business
Remember that old myth that went something along the lines of “if you sneeze, fart and burp at the same time, you’ll explode”? Well, Porsche’s new 918 Spyder hyper-eco-super-sports-plug-in-hybrid concept has accomplished all three while simultaneously rubbing its head and patting its belly. And I can’t believe it doesn’t explode simply from being looked at.
Talk about jaw-dropping brain candy for car enthusiast greenies with a need for speed.
Porsche’s 918 Spyder of a bombshell takes eco to a new level by combining blistering performance with insanely good fuel economy and emissions characteristics. The 918 Spyder has emissions of just 70 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer and gets roughly 78 mpg (holy crap!). At the same time it can accelerate to 62 miles per hour from a standstill in under 3.2 seconds and has a top speed of 198 mph. It’s so fast that it recently recorded a lap around the world famous Nurburgring in less than 7 minutes and 30 seconds–faster than a Porsche Carrera GT.
The 918 Spyder is a parallel hybrid–sometimes referred to as a full hybrid, like the Prius–but with the ability to run in pure electric mode for short distances. The engine in this beast is a 500 horsepower V8 capable of revving to 9,200 rpms. Combine that with electric motors on the front and rear axles with a combined output of 218 horses, and the 918 Spyder has 718 maximum horsepower to draw on when needed.
Given that the 918 Spyder is an eco-frankenstein of unimaginable proportions, it can draw on four distinct modes of driving depending on the needs of the driver. In electric mode the car can go up to 16 miles on battery power alone. In Hybrid mode, the vehicle operates essentially like a Prius, using the electric motors to supplement the gas engine and maximizing fuel efficiency. In Sport Hybrid mode, the performance potential of all the extra torque supplied by the electric motors is unleashed, adding power to the rear wheels. In Race Hybrid mode, all nods to the environment are waved away and the car uses every available performance enhancing feature to turn it into a monster–including a push to pass mode that harnesses any extra electrical capacity of the battery to aid in passing.
As Porsche says, you can either drive this car to get amazing fuel economy or to get amazing performance, but not both at the same time. Seems like a great solution to me. Now if only I’d win the Lotto.
As a concept, this car has no immediate plans to actually see production, but based on Porsche’s other concepts being unveiled in Geneva, you can be sure the 918 Spyder represents the future of Porsche.
Pure eco-adrenaline lust. Who says you can’t love fast, face-numbing, heart pounding, beautiful cars and be a greenie at the same time?
Reprinted with permission from Gas 2.0
Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies recently showcased their small, at-home hydrogen refueling and storage solution. This very simple device, which can be used to power many electronic devices in your home, has generated quite a buzz. The immediate impacts of this new technology could be noteworthy and the long term value of finally being able to charge and store hydrogen fuel cells in your home also deserves serious consideration.
The technology, named HYDROFILL, is the world’s first personal hydrogen station designed by Horizon. As a small desktop device that plugs into a power source and automatically extracts hydrogen from its water tank. Horizon believes the HYDROFILL is the first step towards private refueling of new generations of fuel cell electric vehicles.
“Horizon is initiating a transition that places consumers in the driving seat. Thanks to our innovation, each household can gradually become a major part of tomorrow’s hydrogen fuel supply infrastructure.” Taras Wankewycz, founder of Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies.
How does it work and what separates this innovation from others on the market?
The first innovation lies in the structure of the storage units. Metallic alloys in small refillable cartridges absorb the hydrogen into their crystalline structure and store it in a solid form. These cartridges are able to release the hydrogen at low pressures, a huge gain over previous methodologies that need to store hydrogen at high pressures. A second distinction is that this storage method creates the highest volumetric energy density of any form of hydrogen storage. Unlike conventional batteries, these cartridges carry more energy capacity, are cheaper, and do not contain environmentally harmful heavy metals.
The device has a number of uses for the consumer in the immediate future. Available in April 2010 and priced at around $600, it will be able to charge your phone, laptop or other electronic devices without the need for a power socket. This power station will fill fuel cell batteries called Hydrosticks with enough energy to power six full charges of a mobile phone. Using a MiniPAK that integrates a passive air breathing fuel cell and this solid state storage unit, their innovation aims to address gaps in providing energy "on the go" to power-hungry device users, as well as a low cost energy storage option for emergency and long duration off-grid power users.
Reprinted with permission from GreenTech TV
Earlier this month, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the decision to create a NOAA Climate Service line office dedicated to bringing together the agency’s climate science and service delivery capabilities as a way of addressing the growing demand for climate data vital to planning and operations. NOAA is also unveiling a new Web site – http://www.climate.gov – that serves as a single point-of-entry for NOAA’s extensive climate information, data, products and services.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) responds to millions of annual requests for climate data vital to planning and operations. Decision-makers and individuals across a broad spectrum of sectors – from transportation to agriculture to energy – increasingly are asking NOAA for information about climate change in order to make the best choices for their families, communities and businesses. Earlier this month, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the decision to create a NOAA Climate Service line office dedicated to bringing together the agency’s climate science and service delivery capabilities as a way of addressing the growing demand for this type of information.
More and more, Americans are witnessing the impacts of climate change in their own backyards, including sea-level rise, longer growing seasons, changes in river flows, increases in heavy downpours, earlier snowmelt and extended ice-free seasons in our waters. People are searching for relevant and timely information about these changes to inform decision-making about virtually all aspects of their lives.
NOAA is also unveiling a new Web site – http://www.climate.gov – that serves as a single point-of-entry for NOAA’s extensive climate information, data, products and services. Known as the NOAA Climate Portal, the site addresses the needs of five broadly-defined user groups: decision makers and policy leaders, scientists and applications-oriented data users, educators, business users and the public.
Highlights of the portal include an interactive “climate dashboard” that shows a range of constantly updating climate datasets (e.g., temperature, carbon dioxide concentration and sea level) over adjustable time scales; the new climate science magazine ClimateWatch, featuring videos and articles of scientists discussing recent climate research and findings; and an array of data products and educational resources.
“By providing critical planning information that our businesses and our communities need, NOAA Climate Service will help tackle head-on the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change,” said Secretary Locke. “In the process, we’ll discover new technologies, build new businesses and create new jobs.”
“Working closely with federal, regional, academic and other state and local government and private sector partners, the new NOAA Climate Service will build on our success transforming science into useable climate services,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
They are unifying NOAA’s climate capabilities under a single climate office to dintegrate the agency’s climate science and services and make them more accessible to NOAA partners and other users. Planning has been, and continues to be, shaped by input from NOAA employees and stakeholders across the country, with close consideration given to the recommendations of the NOAA Science Advisory Board, National Academies and National Academy of Public Administration.
NOAA Climate Service will encompass a core set of longstanding NOAA capabilities with proven success. The climate research, observations, modeling, predictions and assessments generated by NOAA’s top scientists – including Nobel Peace Prize award-winners – will continue to provide the scientific foundation for extensive on-the-ground climate services that respond to millions of requests annually for data and other critical information.
Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, will serve as transitional director of NOAA Climate Service. New positions for six NOAA Regional Climate Services Directors will be announced soon.
Reprinted with permission from Green Economy Post
The federal Recovery Act will provide $12 million to the state for the Green Energy Revolving Loan Fund, but it required any firm applying to manage to provide a minimum match of $18 million in private funds. TRF committed to investing $36 million, which will allow for a $48 million pool of funds in the loan program.
The new revolving loan fund will supply necessary capital for developing energy-saving and renewable energy projects in existing, non-residential buildings throughout Pennsylvania. The projects must cut an entire facility's energy consumption by at least 25% or develop and install technologies on-site that produce electricity from renewable resources.
The funding is expected to help support 500 jobs on projects that will reduce energy consumption by nearly 800 billion British Thermal Units of energy, or enough to power more than 23,000 average homes in Pennsylvania for one year.
California Commits $90 Million to Clean Energy Manufacturing
The California Energy Commission announced $90 million to boost manufacturing in the clean energy sector.
The Clean Energy Manufacturing Program will combine two programs that offer California-based clean energy businesses a combination of financing options including grants, loans, loan guarantees, tax-exempt financing, production incentives, sales tax incentives and credit enhancements.
The Clean Energy Business Financing Program uses the remaining American Recovery and Reinvestment Act State Energy Program funds to provide $30.6 million in low-interest loans to private businesses that improve or expand their energy efficiency or renewable energy manufacturing facilities in California. The Energy Commission received $226 million under the State Energy Program to implement public and private sector programs.
The second program, the Energy Commission's existing Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, offers $59.5 million in state funding to companies developing alternative and renewable fuels and advanced transportation technologies.
The Clean Energy Business Financing Program is in the final stages of development and the Energy Commission expects low-interest loans to be available by late spring. The Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program provides funding in four areas for 2010: Biomethane Production ($21.5 million), Ethanol Production Incentives ($6 million), Vehicle and Component Manufacturing ($19 million), and Advanced Biofuel Production ($13 million). The Biomethane Production solicitation notice of award will be announced in March. The remaining three solicitations will be released in April/May 2010.
"California's manufacturing base has eroded 32 percent since 2001, a loss of over 600,000 manufacturing jobs," said California Energy Commission Chairman Karen Douglas. "In these challenging fiscal times, clean energy products development has become an economic bright spot. Unfortunately, many energy businesses find it difficult to raise the capital required to produce new energy efficiency and renewable energy products and technologies, to create alternative and renewable fuels, and to build new vehicles and vehicle components."
Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business
The iceberg was created, in part, because an even larger iceberg — 60 miles long — rammed into the Mertz Glacier Tongue and dislodged the Luxembourg-sized slab of ice, which is 1,300 feet thick. Both icebergs are now floating next to an extensive area of open water that plays an important part in global ocean circulation patterns. Dense, salty water in this open area slowly sinks to the bottom of the Southern Ocean, then circulates around Antarctica before slowly creeping northward into the Atlantic Ocean, where it eventually rises and plays an important role in Atlantic circulation. Should the icebergs become grounded in the area, as now appears likely, they could change circulation on the ocean’s surface and reduce the volume of so-called Antarctic bottom water heading into the Atlantic, scientists say.
Reprinted with permission from Yale Environment 360
Siemens Energy is set to demonstrate its new Smart Grid monitor technology with Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L). This allows all functions to be monitored within the Smart Grid project control center. The project goal is to determine how this and other innovative technologies can enable and advance utilities in the future. Based on these results, KCP&L may integrate this system into its other locations.
The project scope includes Siemen’s Spectrum Power distribution management system which will coordinate the Midtown substation, Siemens Smart Substation Controller and it will have control of all of the intelligent distribution field equipment.
The combined functions of the pre-existing system and the Spectrum Power will enable and manage the KCP&L Green Impact Zone in this project. The existing systems at KCP&L will be integrated with this new system performing integral functions.
The purpose of this system is to verify a full range of standard modeling and information exchange protocols necessary to implement a functional, cost-effective and secure intelligent grid. In order to implement a system wide level of successful processes, this project will aim to define, validate and verify the necessary parameters and adjustments for KCP&L.
"Siemens' technology will help KCP&L enhance service for the entire Kansas City Midtown area through improved reliability, reduced energy delivery costs, more efficient energy consumption, improved carbon footprint and enhanced information flow," said Ed Matthews, director, Smart Grid, KCP&L. "KCP&L believes this project will serve as a blueprint for future Smart Grid implementation and will accelerate a realization that the 'utility of the future' safely delivers reliable electricity with greater efficiency, reduced costs and improved environmental performance."
KCP&L’s investment of approximately $48.1 million will deliver benefits to 14,000 customers in the Green Impact Zone.
The operational backbone of the project, the Spectrum power distribution management system (DMS) and Smart Substation Controllers, support complex and automated feeder reconfiguration decisions and integrated supervision of the control centers.
The DMS is unique because it is the primary point of integration for facilities, consumer, electrical system, load, distributed energy resource and real time substation and feeder information. The DMS includes outage management, distribution supervisory control and data acquisition, distribution network analysis and integration with KCP&L’s management system.
The Smart Substation controller’s purpose is to establish an intelligent substation IT infrastructure, able to make feeder and substation reconfiguration. This grid helps prepare the integration of renewable and variable energy resources for both controllable demand and demand response.
The DMS and Smart Substation are essential in managing Volt/VAr conditions because they continuously modify protection settings to manage crew safety.
"Siemens is pleased to take a leadership role in the development and implementation of KCP&L's Smart Grid demonstration project," said Mike Edmonds, vice president and general manager of Siemens Energy, Inc.'s Power Distribution Energy Automation business. "The approach is focused on increasing automation to improve grid reliability and increase controllability, while setting the stage for the integration of alternative energy sources and enhancing the opportunities for demand response."
The KCP&L and Seimens collaboration is intended to help transform today’s smart grid into a living infrastructure that will be able to respond quickly, comprehensively and flexibly to society’s needs.
Reprinted with permission from GreenTech TV
Of course, calling it a car is a stretch. There is no windshield, no roof, and the body is little more than a plastic mold fitted over a bike-like chassis. With a top speed of 30 mph on level streets, it isn’t going to get you anywhere in a hurry either. But it does combine mobility en masse with a bit of exercise, something most Americans (including me) could use.
The HumanCar was originally supposed to debut back on Earth Day in 2008. Better late than never though. And watching it in action, per this video, is actually kind of cool. It almost looks fun! Now, would I want to get to work every day in one of these? Probably not. If it had a roof though, it might not make a bad commuter. And this rendering seems to indicate there are plans for a roof at some point. The rowing action creates torque through a four-speed transmission that propels the vehicle forward. At just 300 pounds in weight, the “low mass vehicle” doesn’t take a lot of rowing to get this thing going. How do you steer it? Body lean, sort of like a motorcycle.
What I like most about this idea though is that it uses the oldest, most versatile energy humanity has; ourselves. Rickshaws are popular in many cities where driving cars is a tight prospect, and with four people rowing, I don’t imagine the HumanCar is particularly hard to power. In fact, it can also double as an emergency backup generator, as it has several A/C outlets. You can reserve yours for $50 (and there are well over 800 reservations already), though the full price of the human-powered vehicle comes in at a staggering $15,000. But if you get three friends to split the cost with you, the cost comes down to just $3,500 a head, a much easier pill to swallow.
Plus, you’ll definitely turn heads driving this contraption to work.
Reprinted with permission from Gas 2.0