Boeing wins Pentagon contract to build a solar-powered drone that can stay aloft for five years

With four scrawny fuselages and wings stretching more than the length of a football field, Boeing Co.’s solar-powered drone looks a bit like a flying antenna. But the government is hoping that the aircraft, dubbed the SolarEagle, will one day be capable of flying for five straight years at 60,000 feet. Last week, Boeing announced it had won an $89-million contract with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a prototype of the SolarEagle that can demonstrate it can stay aloft for 30 days by 2014. Eventually, Chicago-based Boeing sees the SolarEagle hovering at stratospheric altitudes for at least five years. "That's a daunting task, but Boeing has a highly reliable solar-electric design that will meet the challenge,” Pat O'Neil, the plane’s program manager, said in a statement. The SolarEagle will draw on solar energy through panels affixed to the wings. The power will be stored in fuel cells and used through the night. The plane will also feature electric motors and propellers. Much of the design work is being done by Boeing engineers at its Phantom Works facility in Huntington Beach. Boeing expects the plane to be ultimately used as a spy and communication aircraft. Source - LATimes Blog

Spray-on solar panels tested at University of South Florida

New technology was unveiled last week that allows ordinary everyday surfaces like windows to be converted into solar panels by spraying on a special coating. Maryland-based technology developers New Energy Technologies, Inc., said their spray-on solar panels could even generate power from artificial light on glass surfaces inside commercial buildings. The company showcased a small-scale working prototype of its "SolarWindow" system at a public demonstration on Thursday at the University of South Florida, in Tampa. Less than a tenth the thickness of solar thin-films, SolarWindow makes use of some of the world's smallest functional solar cells, as developed by University of South Florida physicist Xiaomei Jiang. Researchers are currently working toward lower production costs and increased power performance, along with methods for applying power-producing coatings to glass surfaces. John A. Conklin, the firm's President and CEO said: "Today's public demonstration is a pivotal milestone not only for the dedicated research team, but for our external stakeholders as well, including our investors who are keenly aware of how the development of the highly-anticipated SolarWindow technology has the potential to create a fundamental paradigm shift in the way we produce power worldwide." Source - BrighterEnergy.org

Lowe's Expands Energy Center Nationwide

After a successful start last December in 21 California stores, Lowe’s today announced it has brought the one-stop destination for energy-saving products to all U.S. stores. The Energy Center is retail’s first truly integrated energy solution, bringing products that measure, reduce and generate energy to one convenient location to meet consumers’ individual energy needs.  “The Energy Center builds on Lowe’s commitment to bring more innovative products and services to our customers,” said Nick Canter, Lowe’s executive vice president of merchandising. “By pulling together comprehensive options to help them manage their energy use, the Energy Center makes it easier for customers to become more energy efficient while putting money back in their pocket.”  Lowe’s is the first major retailer to offer many of these products in one place, putting solar technology alongside ENERGY STAR® qualified CFLs to provide a wide range of solutions that empower consumers to measure their energy use, reduce energy consumption and generate renewable energy.

American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) Releases 50-State Report on Renewable Energy

The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) today released a report, Renewable Energy in America: Markets, Economic Development and Policy in the 50 States, as an online resource and a product of ACORE’s mission to bring renewable energy into the mainstream. Compiling financial, renewable energy resource potentials, market and policy information in one easily-accessed, online format, the report is intended to be an executive summary for all who are interested in the highlights of the renewable energy sector in every state. The report notes each state’s highlights regarding their renewable energy market and recent economic development activity. Installed capacity and projects in development are provided for each state and provide a further picture of which renewable resources are actually in development. Resource maps highlight selected renewable resources within each state. Finally, the Report includes a list of key policies in place within each state.

Univ. of Nevada, Reno is working on turning Sludge into Power

Like the little engine that could, the University of Nevada, Reno experiment to transform wastewater sludge to electrical power is chugging along, dwarfed by the million-gallon tanks, pipes and pumps at the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility where, ultimately, the plant’s electrical power could be supplied on-site by the process University researchers are developing. “We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration testing of our research,” Chuck Coronella, principle investigator for the research project and an associate professor of chemical engineering, said. “The process to dry the sludge to make it burnable for a gasification process, which could then be transformed into electricity, is working very well. This is an important step for our renewable energy research, processing about 20 pounds an hour of sludge in a continuous-feed system to produce about 3 pounds an hour of dried powder.” The team of researchers custom built the processing machine in a lab at the University and brought it to the plant for testing. It uses an innovative process with relatively low temperatures in a fluidized bed of sand and salts to economically produce the biomass fuel from the gooey sludge. Read full release here.

Cannon Power Group Closes $547 Mill Power Sales Transaction With So. California Public Power Authority

Del Mar-based Cannon Power Group announced today the closing of the sale of a 20-year block of renewable power to Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA) for $547 million. This is believed to be the largest transaction of its kind in the power industry. The power will be provided from Cannon Power Group's 262-megawatt (MW) Windy Flats wind project in Goldendale, Washington under a long-term power purchase agreement entered into last year by the parties. "This uniquely structured transaction is a true win-win for both parties," said Gary Hardke, president of Cannon Power Group. "It combined SCPPA's low-cost, tax exempt bond financing with the federal stimulus grant program to produce a very attractive long-term cost of renewable power." SCPPA reportedly closed its 20-year bond financing at the end of August at pricing of less than four percent, according to Bloomberg News. Cannon Power Group received total federal stimulus grants of $220 million in connection with the project. "This was really a remarkable and innovative transaction," said attorney Tom Trimble, partner and co-head of the Renewable Energy Practice at Washington D.C.-based Hunton & Williams, who represented Cannon Power Group in the transaction. "It allowed the parties to navigate the credit crisis and take advantage of the low interest rate environment." Cannon Power Group's Windy Flats project went on line earlier in 2010. It is part of the company's 500 MW Windy Point/Windy Flats project. The project, one of the largest wind projects in the United States, and representing an investment of over $1.2 billion, spans over 26 miles along the Columbia River. It is expected to be completed in 2011 and has provided over 350 new jobs to the local area. Cannon Power developed and constructed the project.

Scientists develop self-healing solar cells

Over time, most solar cells degrade due to prolonged exposure to the sun's scathing rays and are rendered useless. But with a little inspiration from nature, researchers have now created a new solar material that regenerates its damaged energy-capturing packets on-demand. A small prototype solar cell built from the self-healing material can continuously produce electricity for an entire week without losing any efficiency, the scientists report. The team was inspired by plants in nature. The ingredients within a plant’s leaves that turn sunlight into energy aren't actually immune to the sun’s damage. Instead, the molecules do their job (pump out sugar), get destroyed, and in less than an hour they regenerate. This process happens over and over again – enabling the leaves to produce energy at the same efficiency as they did on day one of their operation. Read the full article by Michelle Bryner here.

Call for Solutions!: Downeast Launches $5 million Biomass Engineering Competition

The DownEast 2010 Biomass Engineering Prize Competition seeks innovative solutions and technologies capable of transforming an underperforming biomass-fueled electricity generating facility in Maine into a vibrant part of the green energy grid. A recent operations audit concluded that available conventional retro-fitting options were uninspiring. This challenge has two simple goals: return the facility to profitability and utilize new and disruptive biomass-fueled electricity generation technologies that do not require massive capital investments and that can achieve sustained profitable operations. All manners of solutions will be considered, including new technologies and novel applications of existing technologies, process improvements and site re-use. In short, DownEast is seeking creative ingenuity from innovators across the globe.

San Diego gym turns spin bike into a power source

The Greenasium really wants to be green. To do it, the new gym in San Diego is turning its customers into real gym rats. The Greenasium , which opened Wednesday, has three specialty spin bikes straight out of Gilligans Island that push electricity back into the grid, helping provide power to the gym and other electricity customers. Its the first human-powered fitness studio in San Diego, according to its owners. "The bike's are retrofitted by a company up in Seattle that we work with called Resource Fitness ," said Greenasium's co-owner Byron Spratt. "As the bike (spins), the wheel creates DC power, converts it to AC power, which is plugged back into the wall, which puts energy back into the grid." Spratt expects to add elliptical bikes in October to help offset their carbon footprint to an even greater extent.

Largest Solar Rooftop Project in U.S. to be Built in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake County and its project partners, NexGen Energy and Bella Energy, announced the construction in downtown Salt Lake City of one of the largest roof-top solar panel installations in the United States. The estimated 600,000 square-foot system will be built atop the Calvin L. Rampton – Salt Palace Convention Center. When completed, the system will produce 2.6 megawatts of electricity, one-quarter of the annual needs of the convention center. The team presented a plan to install up to 2.6 megawatts of solar modules on the structure. If built to that capacity, the Salt Palace will host the largest rooftop solar facility in the United States, generating more than 3,330,000 kilowatt hours of electricity every year while reducing the building’s consumption by 25%.

Deere & Co. sells its wind unit to Exelon for $900 million

Deere & Co. said Tuesday it would sell its John Deere Renewables unit, including wind farms, to Exelon Corp. in a deal valued at $900 million. Exelon said it's expanding its role in the wind generation business by adding 735 megawatts of wind energy, plus 230 megawatts under development, via the deal. Deere plans to take an after-tax charge of approximately $25 million in its fourth quarter results as part of the sale. Exelon said it would use debt to pay for the deal. Source: Steve Gelsi of Market Watch.

MECASOLAR installs 42 MW of solar trackers in Italy in 2010

The Spanish multinational MECASOLAR will end 2010 with more than 4,200 trackers and fixed structures in solar farms throughout Italy,which will reach an output of 42 MW. This figure makes the Spanish company the leader in its sector in the Italian market. With MECASOLAR in Italy , the multinational will reach at the end of the current year 282 MW accumulated in tracker installations throughout the world, a figure which is equivalent to the manufacture and start up of more than 22,000 solar trackers in countries such as the United States, Greece, Italy, Germany, France or Spain, among others.

Report shows Forty percent of consumers are likely to test drive an electric vehicle

According to a new study of online American adults from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®. The study, Electric Vehicles: The Future of Driving, suggests electric vehicles entice consumers with improved environmental quality and potential cost savings, but leave them with questions about battery life and convenience of battery charging. Consumers are open to considering an electric vehicle in the future, with 42 percent reporting they are likely to follow news reports about electric vehicles. However, overall awareness of the various types of alternative vehicles remains low. While nearly one-third (32 percent) report they are familiar, or very familiar, with hybrid vehicles, only about one-quarter are familiar with electric-powered vehicles (25 percent). The study finds running out of battery power on the road (71 percent), lack of charging stations and/or not being able to recharge (66 percent) and limited mileage (59 percent) are the most common perceived disadvantages with electric vehicles. Home charging stations may also impact purchase decisions. Half of consumers (51 percent) would be less likely to consider purchasing an electric vehicle if they would have to install special charging equipment for the batteries.

Charging up CES with the Electric Vehicle TechZone

With consumers looking to live more sustainably, electric vehicles are quickly gaining popularity as alternative transportation. The Electric Vehicle TechZone at the 2011 International CES features a full range of high- and low-speed vehicles, energy storage devices and charging equipment for the green-minded consumer. Garner unprecedented media coverage and access the industry elite, government officials and final decision-makers.

Do-it-yourself solar power for your home

Imagine outfitting your house with small, affordable solar panels that plug into a socket and pump power into your electrical system instead of taking it out.  That's the promise of a Seattle, Washington-based start-up that is working to provide renewable energy options -- solar panels and wind turbines -- for homes and small businesses. The panels cost as little as $600 and plug directly into a power outlet. The company,  Clarian Power , aims to be the first to bring a plug-in solar power system to the market, in 2011. Clarian's president, Chad Maglaque, says the company's product is different from existing micro-inverters, which convert solar panels' power into AC current. Maglaque says his system has built-in circuit protection, doesn't require a dedicated electrical panel and plugs directly into a standard electrical outlet. Source: CNN

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