Global environmental challenges
Got a great idea for fuel cell technology? The United States Department of Energy has $65 million to spend.
The funding will go toward research and development on fuel cell components with the goal of reducing costs and increasing reliability of the solid-state devices that convert hydrogen, natural gas or another fuel into electricity through an electrochemical process.
“The department will be funding research and development initiatives related to fuel cell system balance-of-plant components, fuel processors, and fuel cell stack components such as catalysts and membranes, as well as innovative concepts for both low and high temperature systems to help meet commercial viability targets in terms of cost and performance,” the Energy Department said Wednesday. “Applicants will likely include teams of university, industry and national laboratory participants.”
An additional $9 million will be available for an independent analysis of the cost effectiveness of fuel cell technology research efforts.
For those fretting that the United States is losing its green tech edge to countries such as China, take heart: Abu Dhabi thinks America remains an innovative powerhouse.
Four of the six finalists for the $2.2 million Zayed Future Energy Prize are from the U.S. The prize, named for the founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, grants a seven-figure award for “outstanding work in renewable energy and sustainability.”
Silicon Valley is an epicenter of green innovation, home to a host of entrepreneurs developing energy efficiency technologies. And now if those startup executives want to build a house or office building they’ll have to practice what they pitch to venture capitalists.
The California Energy Commission last week approved a request by Santa Clara County – the geographic center of Silicon Valley – to impose green building standards stricter than those required by the state.
California isn’t the only solar power in the West.
Abengoa, the Spanish renewable energy giant, said Tuesday that it had closed a $1.45 billion federal loan guarantee to build Arizona’s first large-scale solar thermal project, a $2 billion, 250-megawatt power plant called Solana.
Like two solar thermal plants approved in the past week by California and federal regulators that will be built by SolarReserve, the Solana project will store the sun’s energy in molten salt. The heat can be released at night to create steam to drive an electricity-generating industrial turbine.
JinkoSolar, headquartered in Shanghai, makes silicon ingots and slices them into wafers for photovoltaic cells. The cells are built into photovoltaic modules and packaged into solar panels. The company, which was the listed on the New York Stock Exchange in May, employs 5,600 workers. And with a production capacity of 600 megawatts, JinkoSolar is one of China’s largest, if little known in the United States, photovoltaic manufacturers.
The federal government has signed off on another big solar power plant, approving a land lease Monday for SolarReserve’s 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada that will store energy for up to eight hours after the sun sets.
The Department of Interior action is the second approval of a solar thermal power station to be built by SolarReserve, a Santa Monica, Calif., startup that licenses its technology from United Technologies Corp. Last week, the California Energy Commission green lighted SolarReserve’s 150-megawatt Rice Solar Energy Project to be built in Southern California.
General Motors is upping the ante in the green car sweepstakes by recycling oil-soaked plastic booms deployed in the Gulf of Mexico into parts for the Chevrolet Volt.
About 100,000 pounds of boom material that had been placed along 100 miles of the Alabama and Louisiana coasts in the wake of the BP oil spill are being repurposed as radiator air deflectors for the Volt, an electric hybrid car.
With China’s subsidy of its renewable energy industry likely to be a continued topic of debate in 2011, a new report on the United States’ solar exports offers some insights into the domestic industry.
The data is a bit dated – the report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research looks at 2009 imports and exports – but interesting nonetheless.
These days there’s not a lot of industries that can report booming growth year after year (the one-company juggernaut that is Apple excepted). But it’s blue skies for the photovoltaic industry, according to a new report showing that solar installations in the United States are expected to have grown 62 percent in 2010 from the previous year.
The survey released by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research found that as of the close of the third quarter, 530 megawatts of photovoltaic modules had been installed so far this year, 22 percent more than the total for 2009.
Most people have seen a polar bear, usually at the local zoo. And most zoo-goers know that wildlife advocates worry about the big white bears’ future as their icy Arctic habitat literally melts away as a result of global climate change. But apparently more than the climate is changing above the Arctic Circle.
The new mammal around the North Pole is the grolar bear, a hybrid created when a polar bear and a grizzly bear mate. Then there’s the narluga, a hybrid of the narwhal and beluga whale. The presence of these two new creatures and others produced by cross-breeding may be caused when melting sea ice allows them to mingle in ways they couldn’t before, according to a comment in the journal Nature.