Monday, April 18, 2011

Simona Drevensek: biofel production from algae on the rise

Approximately 17% of the oil imported into the U.S. for cars, trucks and buses could be replaced by algal fuel by 2020, according to a study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Still, biofuel demand, due to rising oil prices and federal and state policies, will grow, and algae remains one of the more promising feedstocks.

"Algae has been a hot topic of biofuel discussions recently, but until now, no one has taken such a detailed look at how much America could make and how much water and land it would require," said Mark Wigmosta, lead author of the study and a PNNL hydrologist. "This research provides the groundwork and initial estimates needed to better inform renewable-energy decisions."

Simona Drevensek: one of the largest solar panel makers makes panels cheaper

Trina Solar will begin to sell modules in the U.S., Australia and Europe that are grooved to accommodate the low-cost racking system invented by Zep Solar -- one more tiny step in reducing the cost of solar.

Simona Drevensek: Biofuels, rising food prices and the lowest stocks of of food in decades in

In 2008, many economists were surprised by the rising prices of maize, rice, wheat and petroleum, all of which tripled in real terms. Prices came down, but ever since, it’s been a rocky road.

Blame part of it on an increase in demand and natural disasters. Floods in Australia, drought in Argentina, fires in Russia, and frost damage in the U.S. and Europe contributed to the spike in food prices in December 2010, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). These events resulted in export bans and short-term speculation, causing riots and political instability in more than 30 countries worldwide.

But part of the problem derives from ethanol production. In the U.S., 40% of corn production from food and feed is used for ethanol fuel production, putting stress on corn supplies in a year when stocks are at the lowest level in decades. People living in the 52 high-risk countries -- 750 million of them already malnourished -- rely on 83 billion tons of imported food a year, much of it corn, soybeans and wheat exported by the United States.

Simona Drevensek: Sprint delivers 4th green cell phone

Sprint has long been an innovation leader. It introduced the first fiber-optic cable and 4G network to the U.S. as well as eco-friendly cell phones. Cell phones are central to American youth -- 58% of 12-year-olds and 83% of 17-year-olds own mobile phones. Smart phones are replacing calculators, cameras, camcorders and books.

But most cell phones are made from toxic materials. Millions of used phones are causing environmental concern, as only 10% are recycled in the U.S. annually. It is estimated that 140 million end up in landfills, accounting for 65,000 tons of waste material. How could we tackle the problem? With green phones, says Sprint.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Simona Drevensek: extracting oil with solar energy

The Fremont, California-based company has created a one-acre greenhouse filled with solar-energy collectors to create low-cost steam for an oil field. More, ideally, will follow.

The project is expected to reduce the costs of producing steam, which will lower the price of oil and ensure jobs. “This is the first solar EOR (enhanced oil recovery) facility in the world and it was built without government money. Because all the easy oil has already been extracted, this is where the next generation [of oil recovery] takes off,” said U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy, congressman for California’s 22nd congressional district, adding that this could also expand local employment.

It could also recreate jobs, but how many and how you count them is up for debate.

"Each acre of solar field generates five jobs -- most of the elements needed were manufactured locally. Creating systems just for 20% of EOR energy would generate 25,000 jobs here," said MacGregor.

Simona Drevensek: Mobile App PlugShare prevents ‘range anxiety’

Many electric-car lovers hesitate when deciding to purchase an electric vehicle. The main reason: lack of public charging stations and the fear of running out of battery charge on the road. A new mobile app, PlugShare, could change that. An app for iPhone and iPod Touch released by Xatori Inc., an electric-vehicle software company, lets U.S. users share outlets with EV drivers. The idea is to create a social network similar to where people can share plugs with EV owners wanting to charge up anywhere they can get electricity.

The costs for electricity from a normal outlet are only about 15 cents an hour. “If you let someone charge for the afternoon it might cost 45 or 70 cents, a pretty small amount compared to the price of oil,” explained North, adding that the most likely users will be “people who want the EV revolution to happen”.

With PlugShare—a community-driven, EV (electric-vehicle) charging network—anyone can contribute to boosting electric-car use.

Simona Drevensek: More U.S. innovation finds a home overseas.

Trina is one of the largest solar makers in the world, but it is unclear how extensively the company will adopt Zep's technology.

Simona Drevensek: solar wastewater treatment plant

Hayward is turning its wastewater green.

This week, the Bay Area city unveiled a 1-megawatt (MW) solar-energy system built by REC Solar, offsetting 24 percent of Hayward’s wastewater treatment plant’s energy needs and thus saving 24 million pounds of carbon dioxide over a projected 25-year operating life. The installation covers about eight acres and will produce enough energy to power more than 153 homes.