Future energy
Renewables, fuel cells, hydrogen, and efficiency

Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Monday, February 28, 2005


Q-Cells AG: New European solar cell producer, based in East Germany, rumored to IPO in 2005.  "Q-Cells AG, (Thalheim near Wolfen), the largest producer of solar cells in Europe, is presenting its latest construction project .. The company is expanding its production capacity from hitherto 170 MWp (megawatt peak) to in total 320 MWp."  4:46:48 PM  permalink  

Stationary Fuel Cells growing in California: "FuelCell Energy and Alliance Power have formed a joint venture, Alliance Star Energy, and entered into an energy agreement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The agreement provides the framework for fuel cell power plant projects for Starwood's hotels ..  Initial focus will be in California, but the arrangement is open to all of Starwood's hotels and resort properties.  The first project is to provide 1 MW of fuel cell power to the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, the fourth hotel employing FuelCell Energy's Direct FuelCell (DFC) technology. Four 250 kW DFC power plants will supply base load electricity for the 1,044-room hotel, and the heat byproduct will be used for the hotel's Lagoon Pool. .. 

The San Diego Regional Energy Office, administrator for The California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) Self-Generation Incentive Program for the San Diego area, issued a reservation letter that will provide incentive funding of up to $2.5 million of eligible project costs. The CPUC Self-Generation Incentive Program was created to encourage customers of electrical corporations to install distributed generation that operates on renewable fuel and/or contributes to system reliability. Existing law defines 'ultra-clean and low-emission distributed generation' as an electric generation technology that produces zero emissions during operation or that produces emissions that are equal to or less than limits established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The program currently runs through 2007 and provides up to $67 million per year in incentive funding for clean and renewable generators, including fuel cells. "

  4:43:30 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, February 22, 2005


How E2 works:  July 2002: "Automakers said the new limits on emissions that state lawmakers were considering would hurt the economy and prevent consumers from buying sport-utility vehicles. Environmentalists said they would help curb global warming. Into the fray stepped Environmental Entrepreneurs, insisting that business and environmental interests are not at odds. 

Last week's passage of the Assembly bill limiting greenhouse-gas emissions -- the first of its kind in the country -- was just what Nicole Lederer and Bob Epstein envisioned for Environmental Entrepreneurs, a 2-year-old group of business leaders who support environmental causes.

E2, as the group is known, presented undecided Assembly members with business leaders -- mostly Silicon Valley financiers and tech executives -- who supported the bill. That gave politicians a defense against the charge that they were anti-business.  ``They were essential to the passage of the bill,'' said Anne Baker, a staff member for Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Woodland Hills, who created the bill. ``They wrote Op-Eds, they wrote to legislators, they came here and met with members of the state Assembly on a regular basis. They were relentless.'' ..

Rick deGolia, chief executive of Fonelet Technology, a San Francisco start-up, appreciates the approach E2 takes, particularly how it makes presentations, called "ecosalons,'' to members about environmental issues.  "They're professional, sophisticated, mature,'' said deGolia, who hosted one on the oceans last year at his home. "They're helpful to me to gain expert knowledge from people who are really dedicating their lives to environmental issues and presenting them in a way that's very valuable to business leaders.''

A call to action from E2 often means clicking ``Yes'' in response to an e-mail asking for permission to use the member's name and professional status in literature supporting a legislative goal. To rally behind Pavley's emissions bill in March, E2 gathered 86 names over e-mail and submitted them to legislators as evidence that the business community was in favor of tougher environmental policy.

E2 is a select group. It requires a minimum contribution of $1,000 to the NRDC to join; so far E2 has raised $1.8 million.   Epstein also has started a pet project called E2 Venture Endowment -- a fund to support start-ups working on technology that helps the environment or makes another technology cleaner."

  12:43:31 PM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, February 17, 2005


Thomas L. Friedman: No Mullah Left Behind:  Excellent NYT column, reprinted widely in the US and overseas (India, Pakistan, Europe).  "The [WSJ] added, the conservative mullahs are feeling even more emboldened to argue that with high oil prices, Iran doesn't need Western investment capital and should feel "free to pursue its nuclear power program without interference." This is a perfect example of the Bush energy policy at work, and the Bush energy policy is: "No Mullah Left Behind."

By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that? ..

[We need] a "geo-green" strategy. As a geo-green, I believe that combining environmentalism and geopolitics is the most moral and realistic strategy the U.S. could pursue today. Imagine if President Bush used his bully pulpit and political capital to focus the nation on sharply lowering energy consumption and embracing a gasoline tax.

What would that buy? It would buy reform in some of the worst regimes in the world, from Tehran to Moscow. It would reduce the chances that the U.S. and China are going to have a global struggle over oil - which is where we are heading. It would help us to strengthen the dollar and reduce the current account deficit by importing less crude. It would reduce climate change more than anything in Kyoto. It would significantly improve America's standing in the world by making us good global citizens. It would shrink the budget deficit. It would reduce our dependence on the Saudis so we could tell them the truth. (Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.) And it would pull China away from its drift into supporting some of the worst governments in the world, like Sudan's, because it needs their oil. Most important, making energy independence our generation's moon shot could help inspire more young people to go into science and engineering, which we desperately need.

Sadly, the Bush team won't even consider this. .. President Bush has a better project: borrowing another trillion dollars, which will make us that much more dependent on countries like China and Saudi Arabia that hold our debt - so that you might, if you do everything right and live long enough, get a few more bucks out of your Social Security account. 

The president's priorities are totally nuts."

  1:56:50 AM  permalink  

Nanotubes crank out hydrogen: "Several research efforts are using materials engineered at the molecular scale to tap the sun as an energy source to extract hydrogen from water. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have constructed a material made from titanium dioxide nanotubes that is 97 percent efficient at harvesting the ultraviolet portion of the sun's light and 6.8 percent efficient at extracting hydrogen from water. 

The material is easy to make, inexpensive, and photochemically stable, according to the researchers. The 97 percent efficiency is the highest reported, according to the researchers. There is one catch -- only five percent of the sun's energy is ultraviolet light.   The researchers are working to find a way to shift the response of the nanotube arrays into the visible spectrum.  The key to making titanium dioxide nanotubes that efficiently harvest the energy from light is controlling the thickness of the nanotube walls, according to the researchers. Nanotubes 224 nanometers long with 34-nanometer-thick walls are three times more efficient than those that are 120 nanometers long with 9-nanometer-thick walls.

The researchers made the titanium dioxide nanotube material by mixing titanium with acid and electrifying the mixture, which caused the tiny tubes to grow, then heating them to cause the material to crystallize."  [via WorldChanging]  1:01:08 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Cheap earthquake-proof walls: "An innovative house design just passed the most rigorous possible test for standing up in earthquakes. The 2-story test unit, built using inexpensive, off-the-shelf materials, has no frame and uses no wood. On a “shake table” in a Cincinnati lab on Wednesday, the structure stayed intact through the strongest earthquake-like shaking in three dimensions. ..

“Wednesday’s test showed that a home built from these materials would have survived the most severe earthquake ever recorded,” said Rachel Jagoda, the FAS Housing Technology Project Manager, who supervised it.  “This test demonstrates that homes can meet the most rigorous seismic standards without increasing cost. In fact the structure is less expensive to build than standard 2’x4’ framed construction and much more energy efficient.”

The construction system uses panels for the walls, floor and ceiling. Each panel is in effect a sandwich of expanded polystyrene material similar to Styrofoam in coffee cups. It is cladded on both sides with cement board, a product now used in rooms where moisture may be a problem. No wood is required to make these structures rigid.

FAS will use the technology to build an elegant home in Houston this summer, demonstrating that it is compatible with the highest standards of U.S. architecture. The system could have wide application as low-cost housing that is safe in areas prone to severe earthquakes such as Afghanistan and Turkey. “"

Update: WorldChanging carries a more complete and well-linked summary.

  9:06:56 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Biofuel and ethanol summary:  Short look at non-ethanol fuels, and longer consideration of the economics and technology of ethanol.  Links to future technologies (cellulose enzymes, biorefineries).  11:01:37 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, February 11, 2005


The efficiency of cars, with or without hybrid technology: An important UCS study from January 2003. Compared to today's 23 mpg US fleet average:

  • A fleet of passenger cars and trucks using conventional technology has the potential to reach a fleet average of 40 mpg. The average vehicle in this fleet will cost about $1,700 more in the showroom, but will save consumers $3,800 at the gas pump over the vehicle’s 15-year life for a net savings of $2,100.
  • A fleet of mild hybrids can reach nearly 50 mpg, with a retail price increase of about $2,900 by using advanced technologies available to automakers within this decade. Lifetime gasoline savings will amount to $4,700, producing a net savings of $1,500 for the average driver when the cost of battery replacement is included.
  • Full hybrids using advanced technology are the key to a passenger car and truck fleet that approaches an average of 60 mpg. The average price increase for such vehicles is about $4,000 and the owners will save nearly $5,500 on gasoline over the life of the vehicle. Including battery replacement, consumers would see an average net savings of $900. Plug-in hybrids would realize even greater energy security and environmental gains, but with higher costs and lower net consumer savings.
  9:18:09 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, February 10, 2005


Winners and sinners on global warming:  Good story on how the Kyoto Protocol was improved under US pressure, and how it has finally come into force.  11:06:53 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, February 04, 2005


GE Expands Financing to Clean Energy Technologies: "Not only is GE one of the largest players in the U.S. clean energy market, but they also boast a hefty commercial finance arm. The company is now putting their expertise and skills in those two areas together through a new venture. GE Commercial Finance is launching an initiative to provide financial solutions to the growing number of companies focused on clean energy and related technologies. The initiative is a joint effort of GE Commercial Finance's Technology Lending and Energy Financial Services businesses. "  10:04:13 AM  permalink  

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Last update: 11/24/2005; 11:23:01 PM.
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