From Wired Science - Green technology was hot in 2008. Barack Obama won the presidential election promising green jobs to Rust Belt workers. Investors poured $5 billion into the sector just through the first nine months of the year. And even Texas oilmen like T. Boone Pickens started pushing alternative energy as a replacement for fossil fuels like petroleum, coal and natural gas. Green technology and its attendant infrastructure are probably the best bet to drag the American economy out of the doldrums. So, with the optimism endemic to the Silicon Valley region, we present you with the Top 10 Green Tech Breakthroughs of 2008, alternatively titled, The Great Green Hope.
Without a radically expanded and smarter electrical grid, wind and solar will remain niche power sources. To make use of clean energy, we'll need more transmission lines that can transport power from one region to another and connect energy-hungry cities with the remote areas where much of our renewable power is likely to be generated. We'll also need far smarter controls throughout the distribution system--technologies that can store extra electricity from wind farms in the batteries of plug-in hybrid cars, for example, or remotely turn power-hungry appliances on and off as the energy supply rises and falls. Watch a demonstration of General Electric's software system for the grid or read more in the MIT Technology Review
The City of Burbank has been selected as a national test market for a new zero-emissions, ultra-quiet prototype bus that uses a hydrogen fuel cell instead of a diesel or gasoline engine. The breakthrough vehicle will be unveiled in a spring 2009 Downtown Burbank ceremony and then go into immediate service on various routes within the City's BurbankBus network. Designed and fabricated by Colorado-based Proterra, the revolutionary vehicle can travel 250 miles before needing to be recharged, runs at double the fuel economy of a diesel bus and releases nothing but water from the engine exhaust. In addition to being created and built in this country, it relies on power that is 100% derived from U.S. sources, thereby reducing dependence on foreign energy. [read more]
Ecosystem Solar Electric Corp. applying for permits to build a 49 MWe Super Peaker. The Super Peaker, a Solar Thermal Electric CSP and Recovered Free Energy Technology, Integrated Storage Component Hybrid Power Plant is to be sited near Boron, a small town located in the vastness of the Southern California Mojave Desert. It will operate 24/7/365 and is estimated to produce over 290,000 megawatt-hours, sufficient to power 45,000 homes and businesses. Construction cost is estimated at $49 million, which is lower than that of a coal-fired power plant. [read more]
Critical Solutions Inc. (Pink Sheets:CSLI), the designer of renewable energy tower systems, reports that the Company's Titan and MOJO systems were successfully utilized in military and emergency response exercises at the Center for National Response in West Virginia. Utilizing alternative energy power sources including solar panels, wind turbines and hydrogen fuel cells, the towers have been designed to power communications and security systems for both long term and short term requirements. Completely independent of the power grid, they eliminate the costs of trenching and physical bandwidth provisioning, are flexible to place and relocate, and easily upgraded because they utilize COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) integrated security and communication systems. [read more]
Instead of fossil fuels going in your gas tank, how about adding a pinch of salt? That may be the case in the future as a new process is under development to convert a type of salt into a biofuel. New properties of imidazolium salts (IMSs) could convert carbohydrates into versatile chemical compounds for biofuel production, according to a study by researchers at Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN). Biofuels are currently the only sustainable source of liquid fuels available, but the lack of highly efficient methods to convert carbohydrates into chemical compounds for biofuel production is one reason for the slow down in any replacement of petroleum feedstock by biomass. [read more]
The new 15-watt incandescent-shaped covered Energy Smart® CFL will appeal to people that want the energy savings and long-life performance of a GE Energy Smart® Spiral® CFL with the appearance, size and fit of a traditional incandescent bulb. The equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb, the new 8,000-hour rated life CFL is guaranteed for 5 years based on 4 hours of daily use. The new covered GE Energy Smart® CFL bulb, available only from GE, debuts nationwide at Target on December 28, 2008 . Youtube video demonstration .
Nearly 90% of those responding to a new survey by the Consumer Electronics Association said environmental factors such as energy efficiency would play a role in their decision to buy their next television. But because there is no one standard about what it actually means for a product to be "green," the study shows that consumers also are confused by claims to that effect. Less than half of the 960 people surveyed said they're generally able to make sense of the environmental attributes attached to electronics on the market. Tim Herbert, the C.E.A.'s senior director of market research, said that although consumers are confused by the green credentials of various electronics, "the key takeaway is the growing importance of 'green' in consumers' purchasing decisions." [read more]
Southern California Edison unveiled its newest power plant: 33,700 solar panels atop a warehouse in Fontana that will feed green energy directly into the grid. It's the first piece of what the utility says could become the largest rooftop solar installation in the world, a swath of photovoltaic panels spanning two square miles. The 600,000-square-foot warehouse rooftop, owned by ProLogis Inc., is the first of 150 commercial buildings that Edison is looking to outfit with solar panels over the next five years. Collectively, solar panels on all those roofs would provide 250 megawatts of electricity, enough by Edison's reckoning to power more than 160,000 homes when the sun is shining. Read More.
Intel is researching technology to harvest free energy from the environment, which could lead to devices such as mobile phones running for indefinite periods without recharging. The company said it was working on tiny sensors that could capture energy from sources such as sunlight and body heat. In the future, such energy could be used to power personal electronic devices such as cell phones. Recharging themselves by scavenging free energy allows the sensors to continuously record and transmit readings over wireless networks, without any human involvement. Read more.
Researchers at MIT have unveiled a new type of silicon solar cell that could be much more efficient and cost less than currently used solar cells. The design combines a highly effective reflector on the back of a solar cell with an antireflective coating on the front. This helps trap red and near-infrared light, which can be used to make electricity, in the silicon. The researchers applied their light-trapping scheme on thin silicon cells that are about five micrometers thick. Their prototype solar cell is 15 percent more efficient at converting light into electricity than commercial thin-film solar cells. Read More.
Also known as cogeneration, CHP is the simultaneous production of electricity and heat from a single fuel source such as natural gas, biomass, biogas, coal, waste heat, or oil. According to a report from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, boosting the use of combined heat and power, or CHP, to 20 percent of generating capacity in the U.S. by 2030 would save 5.3 quadrillion British thermal units of fuel annually, the equivalent of nearly half the total energy currently consumed by U.S. households. The lab said there would also be a 60 percent reduction of the projected increase in carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 154 million cars off the road. Read More.
The first solar-powered car to travel around the world ended its journey at the U.N. climate talks, arriving with the message that clean technologies are available now to stop global warming."This is the first time in history that a solar-powered car has traveled all the way around the world without using a single drop of petrol," said Louis Palmer, the 36-year-old Swiss schoolteacher and adventurer who made the trip. The car, which runs noiselessly, can travel up to 55 mph and covers 185 miles on a fully charged battery. Read More.
What if your house could generate electricity from the noise of the cars on the road? Or if the waste heat generated by your air conditioner could help put a dent in that expensive summer electric bill? As the demand for cheaper and more renewable energy sources increases, piezoelectrics - a class of material that produces an electric potential when mechanically deformed - may hold the key to unlocking the energy flowing all around us. There are applications of this technology already in place - certain dance clubs in Europe utilize dance floors with piezoelectrics to help power the lights. What would really be useful to the consumer, however, would be small piezoelectric systems that could assist in powering personal electronic devices. Read More.
The Embassy Festival of Trees, in Fort Wayne, Ind., features a new attraction this year: a tree powered by, possibly, you. The alternative-energy tree won't be sucking up electricity from Indiana Michigan's power grid. Rather, visitors to the Festival of Trees will be allowed to hop on a bike connected to a generator and pedal away. The generator creates energy that goes into a power pack that lights the tree. Because the power pack can store energy, the strand of lights will stay on for a while even when no one is pedaling. When the power starts running low, an alarm will sound indicating it's time to start pedaling again. Read more.
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