Posts filed under ‘The Planet’s Resources’

IBM Invents Dirt Cheap Solar Energy Using A Magnifying Glass

IBM_Solar_2_t.jpgSolar energy is child’s play. Just use a magnifying glass in the sun and you’re generating energy in a jiffy. It’s what scientists at IBM are doing. They’ve launched what they claim to be breakthrough solar energy which is among the cheapest solar solutions around.

The scientists say they create five times more energy by concentrating the sun’s power through a lens. One square centimeter of solar cell produces as much as 230 watts of energy, the most ever in solar techology.

Having only just pioneered the technology, IBM says it will now focus on commercializing it at an installation cost of less than two dollars per watt. The company believes that it should be possible to produce systems even cheaper than that. The reason that IBM is so confident about this is pure maths; by using a much lower number of photovoltaic cells and concentrating more light onto each cell, they’ll ultimately need less total materials than your average solar farm.

One major hurdle that IBM scientists have yet to tackle is temperature control. Due to the high sunlight concentration – light of the equivalent of 2,000 suns are concentrated- temperatures are also going to be extremely high. The scientists say they will borrow innovations from other IBM R&D staffers specializing in cooling computer chips.

This post also appeared on Triple Pundit, the new blog by Treehugger, to which I contribute freelance articles about the environment and business.

May 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm 3 comments

Hemp Is Outlawed In The US, But The Plant Could Be Key In Combating Global Warming

Commercial hemp is a plant that scientists tout as having wonderful capabilities to combat climate change. The plant is outlawed in most countries including the US, but the EU subsidizes industrially grown hemp.

Commercially grown hemp has less than 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THD), the psychedelic substance in ‘real’ cannabis. Most countries that shy away from growing it say they are fearful that farmers will also start growing the THD rich cannabis. Other than in the EU, the crop is grown in Canada, China, Russia and Australia.

Hemp takes in more carbon dioxide than any other plant and what’s more, hemp grows at an amazingly rapid speed. Wood made from hemp has 3-4 times the productivity of trees for paper manufacturing. And because it grows so fast, hemp can be used to solve the large-scale clearing of land and forests around the globe.

Various activists in the US are lobbying to get the crop reinstated. It was outlawed in the 1950s but Henry Ford ran his first car on hemp based fuel. Perhaps soon the activists will have their way. Already, the controlled substances act was amended last year to exclude industrial hemp from the legal definition of marihuana. The Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp informs farmers and interested parties about the positive effects hemp has.

The applications of the crop for the energy industry are manifold and hemp is a way more powerful crop than rapeseed and other ethanol producing crops, without producing any harmful effects for the environment. Only one acre of hemp yields 1,000 gallons of methanol. Also, hemp can be used to create alternatives to coal, fuel oil, acetone, ethyl, tar pitch and creosote.

In the food sector hemp is also in strong demand. In 2004, the US alone imported $12 million worth of the stuff for the food sector. And the US healthcare market used $30 million worth of hemp.

May 14, 2008 at 3:30 pm Leave a comment

German Car Makers Fear 120 g/km Emission Target

timberlake.jpgThe European car industry is going to be heavily impacted by regulations on pollution limitations and tensions are rising between German manufacturers on one side and the French and Italian car industry on the other. Reason? German cars are much heavier than those made by the French and the Italians and the Germans fear that they will be penalized by new pollution regulations.

New cars by 2012 can only emit 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer at max. Most European cars average 160 grams per kilometer at the moment. The new rules are expected to transform the look and feel of all European cars. Even the smallest and most energy efficient cars are required to undergo design changes so the sector as a whole can reach the new goals.
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May 4, 2008 at 10:46 am 1 comment

Creating Order In The Chaos Of Enterprise Carbon Credits

carbontr.jpgCompanies involved in offsetting their carbon footprint have access to over twenty tools to calculate their emissions, most of which have been launched in the last year. So far, the voluntary carbon offsetting market is dominated by European players. Reviews of their efforts have not been all too positive, so US companies following in their footsteps do best to avoid the pitfalls.

The main criticism centers on what´s left out of the equasion. Companies embarking on greening up their business practices are faced with a daunting task and most go about it the `easy way´ at first. There´s the option to simply offset carbons on the Chicago Climate Exchange, the European Climate Exchange or on the newly established NYMEX venture, the Green Exchange. Businesses have access to these exchanges if they wish to reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions by as little as 1%.

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April 8, 2008 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

Bangkok Climate Summit Negotiators Are Playing For Time

The climate change summit in Bangkok which ends tomorrow is not expected to reach much progress. Analysts say that the talks at best will result in an agreement to schedule more rounds of negotiations. The talks which are sponsored by the United Nations, would require new financing if this is the case.

The meeting aimed to draft an accord succeeding the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012. The Bangkok talks are the first of what had been planned to be three summits. Some 1,200 delegates from 63 countries are participating. The negotiators are working on the basis of the ‘principle of common but differentiated responsibility’ which they accepted in Bali in 2007. In other words, the new pact will bind all countries to various actions.

These are the opinions of the main countries involved:

China; developed countries should live up to a guideline they agreed on in Bali; 2020 cuts of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels.
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April 3, 2008 at 1:14 pm Leave a comment

Key Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data Set To Boost Prices On The European Climate Exchange

European carbon traders are eagerly awaiting benchmark numbers on European greenhouse gas emissions during 2007. European countries ought to have submitted the data in a central system yesterday but many failed to meet the deadline. banner_environment_en.jpg

That is why the Brussels authorities in charge of the central system have not yet released the information on the Community Independent Transaction Log (CITL), the central system. The numbers are key because they allow market traders to know the right level of demand for the instruments they trade.

EU regulations mandate that energy-intensive companies involved in carbon offsets submit one emissions permit for every ton of carbon dioxide emissions they create. The permits are called EU Allowances (EUAs) and since 2005 there’s been a healthy trade in them. Traders have created futures and options derived from the EUAs. Volumes as well as the prices on the European Climate Exchange have been going through the roof in the past year. During March 2008, almost 120 million tonnes EUAs were traded, an increase of 61% compared to March 2007.

Reuters interviewed a Deutsche Bank analyst, Mark Lewis, about his expectations for the 2007 emissions levels. Lewis expects 2007 carbon dioxide emissions to be between 2,180-2,220 million tons. 2007 levels were between 2,100-2,140 million tons.

The 2008 permit supply is 2,083 million tons, which means there’s a shortage of supply. EUA prices will likely rock once the data is released. Lewis estimates the price is likely to go up to 35 euros per ton during 2008-12. Last Friday, EUA futures contracts were trading down 14 cents at 22.12 euros ($34.87).

During the first phase of the carbon market (2005-2007) trading was characterized by an oversupply of permits which caused the carbon price to fall.

The UK has independently already released its estimates for 2007 emissions levels. Government officials published provisional figures showing UK emission levels reached 639.4 million tonnes, which was 2 percent lower than the 2006.

The authorities in charge of CITL reported that not enough data had been submitted for them to release it. At least 80% of the data entered for the 2006 emissions needs to have been reported before the numbers will be released. This is so the markets don’t trade on false information.

CITL announced that it won’t ‘give public access to installation-level verified emissions data today [April 1]’. Instead, the data will be released as soon as enough submissions have been registered to make the 80% grade.
The officials in charge will release the numbers until at least 80% of the data that was submitted in 2006 has been entered.

Angelique van Engelen writes http://Amplifiedgreen.wordpress.com, a blog about micro green options, macro perspectives.

April 3, 2008 at 9:38 am Leave a comment

New Solar Energy Dye Soon To Be Embedded In Hundreds Of Consumer Products

electrol.jpgOrganic photoelectrochemical, dye-sensitized cells, a new type of solar energy, is expected to hit the market this Summer. The technology, which is easy and cheap to use, will be embedded in hundreds of day-to-day consumer products. The dye cells can be used for windows, building facades, gadgets and even in clothing. The pioneer behind the technology is a Swiss professor named Michael Gratzel, who claims that his invention is more robust than regular photovoltaic panel solutions.

Dye based solar cells are made of titanium oxide nanochrystals. These are coated with light absorbing dye that can be used in various materials including glass and plastic. The dye is immersed in an electrolyte solution. When light reaches the surface, the dye sets free electrons which in turn create ‘holes’ – positive charges as a result of ‘lost electrons’. The titanium dioxide semiconducts and transfers electricity to an electrical circuit and energy is created.

electrolyte1.jpg

The solar cells convert light to electricity with an efficiency of 7.2 percent, which is a record for this type of cell. Solar panels typically convert 16 percent to 20 percent of light into energy. But the advantage of the organic dye cells is that they also convert low light and that they can be ‘tuned’ for specific wavelengths.

The first company manufacturing dye sensitized solar cells is Konarka, which is based in Lowell, MA. This company announced it had successfully conducted the first-ever demonstration of manufacturing solar cells by highly efficient inkjet printing ten days ago. Konarka is focusing on getting the technology embedded in hundreds of day to day products. In the Summer Konarka is planning on shipping out its first products, mainly gadgets, lights and smart cards.

One drawback of the solution’s first editions was that the electrolyte could start to leak in cases of high temperatures. This has been redressed by altering the electrolyte liquids. Grätzel and his team refined this original design by optimising the sensitiser and using organic dyes based on indoline. This allows the titanium oxide to be thinner, which reduces the electron path length.

Michael Gratzel explained in a recent scientific paper published in Inderscience’s Angewandte Chemie how he’s sophisticated his technology.

March 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm 1 comment

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