The best use of the sun's energy is to make hydrogen, according to a Duke University researcher. Engineer Nico Hotz earlier this week detailed results from his research around a rooftop solar panel that generates hydrogen from the sun's heat. The hydrogen gas--which is made by breaking off hydrogen atoms from a water solution--can be stored and used to make electricity in a fuel cell. In his experiment, Hotz determined that his system creates more usable energy than solar photovoltaic panels which convert sunlight directly into electricity. He calculated the cost could be lower, too. There have been research efforts--and a commercial product from a company called Nanoptek--to make hydrogen from sunlight. Hotz's system, though, uses a new technique that relies on methanol, also known as wood alcohol, and a nano-engineered catalyst. Under the glass of Hotz's solar collector are copper tubes, coated with aluminum and aluminum oxide, which carry water and methanol. Once the liquid is heated to a sufficient temperature, a catalyst is added to cause hydrogen atoms to break off. That hydrogen gas is then piped and pressured for storage in a tank, where it can be drawn on to make electricity in a fuel cell.
They can look benign from a distance - solar panels glistening in the sun or turbines gently churning with the breeze to produce electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes. But building and maintaining them can be hazardous. Accidents involving wind turbines alone have tripled in the past decade, and watchdog groups fear incidents could skyrocket further - placing more workers and even bystanders in harm's way - because a surge in projects requires hiring hordes of new and often inexperienced workers. Last year, the solar industry grew 67 percent and doubled its employment in the U.S. to 100,000 workers, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The wind industry supports more than 75,000 jobs. "We're hearing about more and more incidents," said Lisa Linowes, executive director of watchdog organization Industrial Wind Action Group. "One of these days, a turbine's going to fall on someone." Many wind turbine technicians work in a bathroom-size space 20 stories above ground surrounded by high-voltage electrical equipment. Some inspect turbine blades while suspended alongside them, on sites whipped by strong winds. Components can weigh more than 90 tons.
According to a report out on Wednesday morning from Dow Jones VentureSource, with analysis by Ernst & Young, cleantech venture capital investing dropped 44 percent to $1.1 billion, compared to the same quarter a year ago. The number of cleantech VC deals were also down by 12 percent to 68 for the quarter. Similar numbers were reported by the Cleantech Group last month, which found that cleantech VC investing had dropped by a third in the second quarter compared to the same quarter last year. The second quarter fall follows some mixed signals for cleantech VC investing from the first quarter of the year, but also some solid signs that cleantech investors have been pulling back on new investments. While the first quarter of the year produced an almost record amount of cleantech VC funding according to numbers from the Cleantech group, a deeper dive into those numbers revealed that the bulk of those fundings were follow-on rounds for capital-intensive companies like Miasole, BrightSource, Fisker Automotive, and Bloom Energy. However, Dow Jones VentureSource reported first quarter numbers more conservatively than the Cleantech Group, at actually 8 percent lower than today’s second-quarter numbers.
The worldwide renewable energy boom continues. Now, the euphoria has also arrived in the American solar market. This is what DEGERenergie reports from the Intersolar North America. What surprises recently is the diversity of the demand in the United States. Not only potential investors and solar park operators were interested in information about the most efficient technology DEGERenergie offers for medium and large-scale solar projects – more than ever, specific inquiries also came from individuals wanting to benefit from the advantages of MLD tracking. Michael Heck, Vice President Marketing & Sales at DEGERenergie, puts it like this: "The issue of self-supply is rapidly gaining importance – not only in Germany."
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