$2B chip market in alternative energy

Alternative energy systems and the semiconductors used in them could grow at an annual rate of as much as 40 percent over the next several years, according to a new market research report. Solar, wind and fuel cell systems consumed an estimated $800 million in semiconductors in 2008, a figure that could rise to nearly $2 billion by 2012, according to the report from The Information Network (New Tripoli, Penn.). The chips involved are primarily MOSFETs, IGBTs, microcontrollers, DSPs and discretes used to convert the renewable energy from AC to DC power. Some of the anticipated growth will come as the result of the recently passed economic stimulus package that calls for spending about $43 billion on alternative energy including about $4.3 billion on smart electric grids.

$mart Meters = 76,000,000 in 2009

Smart meters, which measure and automatically communicate detailed electrical (or gas or water) usage information to the utility and, in some cases, enable greater consumer awareness and control over consumption, are being deployed at an increasing pace, especially in North America and Europe. The current trends in AMI markets represent a continuation of the growth rates charted by ABI Research over recent years. "We don't think that the economic crisis is having a significant effect," says Lucero. "Utilities' smart metering deployments are typically multi-year plans developed in the context of regulated market environments, and not terribly susceptible to short-term economic fluctuations."

Wind Powered Ski Resort

This $4 million wind turbine project can be found at Jiminy Peak, in Hancock, Massachusetts. The turbine is nicknamed Zephyr, after the Greek god of the west wind. And Zephyr isn't afraid to make its presence known. The tower is more than 250 feet tall. The hub adds 10 feet, and the blades extend an additional 123 feet, creating a 386-foot green machine. Zephyr works its magic to produce about a third of Jiminy Peak's electric needs, shaving $450,000 a year from the resort's energy bill. To put that in perspective, the energy from the turbine is enough to power more than 600 homes. And Zephyr's power doesn't stop there. It has also drawn the interest of many visitors.

Sony Direct Methanol Fuel Cells

Sony will be soon exhibiting its cordless speaker system and cell phone chargers that are powered by its direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC), where the fuel methanol is located within a transparent tank. A lithium ion secondary battery is used to compensate for low outputs of tiny DMFCs, enabling mobile devices to handle steep current peaks without any detrimental effect. The cell phone chargers rely on USB connectivity to keep your precious handsets juiced up .

Single Photovoltaic Cell Charger

NTT Energy and Environment Systems Laboratories developed a circuit module that enables the charge of a lead storage battery with a single photovoltaic cell. The circuit module consists of a boost circuit with a DC-DC converter and an IC equipped with the "MPPT (maximum power point tracking)" function. The boost circuit can increase the typical voltage of a single photovoltaic cell, about 0.5V, up to 15V.

The SmartSwitch

Peter Russo and Brendan Wypich of Stanford University developed the SmartSwitch, a light control with tactile feedback that helps you "see" how much energy is already being used, whenever you try to flick the switch. If the total energy consumption in the house is low, the SmartSwitch is easy to flip. But if the consumption is higher, the SmartSwitch is physically harder to flip, thanks to a brake pad within the mechanism. The idea is that people will use this tactile feedback to decide if they really really need that light on or not.

Heavy Coal User to build Solar Power Plants

NRG Energy, one of the United States' most coal-dependent utilities, on Monday signed a deal with California startup eSolar to develop solar power plants. The agreement calls for NRG to invest $10 million in Pasadena-based eSolar for the right to use the startup's technology to develop and operate three solar power projects in California and the Southwest that would generate 500 megawatts of greenhouse gas-free electricity. NRG ranks as one of the nation's dirtiest utilities, spewing 70 million tons of carbon dioxide annually from its coal-fired power plants. eSolar will use fields of mirrors to heat water to create steam that drives electricity-generating turbines.

LA leads the way with LEDs

Los Angeles' 140,000 streetlight fixtures will be replaced with LED units over the next five years with help from the Clinton Climate Initiative in the most extensive municipal green lighting retrofit thus far. The upgraded lighting system is expected to save the city $48 million in energy and maintenance costs and cut carbon emissions by 197,000 tons over a seven-year period. The cost savings accrued during that time are to pay for a loan that will fund the project. After paying back the loan, the city is expect to save about $10 million a year in costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by at least 40 percent and cut carbon emissions by about 40,500 tons a year.

Light-Guide Solar Optic

Light-Guide Solar Optic (LSO)--is a new type of solar concentrator that could significantly lower the cost of generating electricity from the sun. Unlike existing designs, there's no need for mirrors, complex optics, or chemicals to trap and manipulate the light. "It's pure geometric optics," says Nicolas Morgan, director of business development at Toronto-based Morgan Solar. LSO is a flat, thin acrylic optic that traps light and guides it toward its center. Embedded in the center of Morgan Solar's concentrator is a secondary, round optic made of glass. With a flat bottom and convex, mirrored top, the optic receives the incoming barrage of light at a concentration of about 50 suns and amplifies it to nearly 1,000 suns before bending the light through a 90-degree angle.

110,000 SOLAR JOBS

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President & CEO Rhone Resch today commended President Obama for signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law in Denver, Colorado and commented on how it will help stimulate the solar industry immediately. The solar industry is poised to lead the new, clean energy economy and the strong solar provisions in this legislation will help give hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Americans a job that they can be proud of. The solar energy provisions in this bill will help create 60,000 jobs in the solar industry in 2009 alone and a total of 110,000 over the next two years.

China Subsidizes Alternative Energy Autos

China plans to subsidize purchases of alternative energy vehicles to expand domestic demand, boost the domestic auto industry and reduce emissions according to the Ministry of Finance. For passenger vehicles, the maximum subsidy for a hybrid vehicle will be CNY50,000 ($7300), for a purely electric vehicle CNY60,000 ($8775), and for a fuel-cell vehicle CNY250,000($36500). Subsidies for alternative energy buses will range from CNY420,000 ($61400) to CNY600,000($87,700) per vehicle.

Turbines Spinning in Antarctica

The Princess Elisabeth Station will be officially inaugurated in Antarctica on February 15th, 2009. This station is the only polar base operating entirely on renewable energies. It marks a major change as most stations rely on diesel generators because no wind turbines, until now, were thought to be robust enough for such extreme conditions. The turbines will endure the most severe weather conditions on Earth. They will be operating in average winds of 53 mph and winter gusts of over 200mph, while still providing 230V electricity for the stations heating, computers, lights and scientific instruments. The electricity generated is expected to be the highest output of any small wind power system in the world.

BIPV Growth in Europe

Currently, there is substantial amount of interest in this market (Building Integrated Photovoltaics) due to its high year on year growth, as well as an increasing number of countries which now have legislation supporting BIPV technology. The key to understanding BIPV market hot spots is pinpointing the countries that have passed BIPV-friendly legislation. It is no secret that the countries with this kind of legislation have seen the most growth. Led by Germany, and followed by Italy, France and Spain, these markets in particular are ripe for investment. Countries such as Greece, Portugal and Switzerland are moving in the same direction. Although still in the preliminary stages, these markets are something for investors to keep their eyes on as they are emerging into potential BIPV hotspots.

Fuel Cells for Cell Phones

The cell, built by Medis Technologies, is - at least in concept - similar to a glow-stick or a hand-warmer. The user squeezes the cell to mix two chemicals together, and the unit runs until the chemicals are exhausted - about 40 hours. It comes with an assortment of connector tips, including those for USB ports, BlackBerrys and cellphones of various other models, MP3 players and similar devices. The company hopes to soon manufacture a version big enough to run a laptop computer, and later one that could run a whole house.

The Google PowerMeter

Google wants to build the platform for collecting, managing, and analyzing home energy information for… well, if they have their way, for everybody on earth. PowerMeter is currently in internal beta testing. About four dozen Google employees have home energy monitors to record their power usage (as proxies for the smart meters of the future). A Home Energy gadget on their iGoogle home pages shows them shows how much energy they are using. The gadget tracks historical data and forecasts future trends (similar to the displays available for some of Google's finance applications).

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