Monday, October 27, 2008

E-Charkha Spinning Wheel Generates Electricity While Making Yarn [Charkha]

E-Charkha Spinning Wheel Generates Electricity While Making Yarn [Charkha]

Impoverished Indian families can look into getting the e-charkha, an electricity-generating version of the ubiquitous yarn-making spinning wheel, as a way to increase productivity without a boost in energy costs. The e-charkha, designed by RS Hiremath, generates juice as the charkha spins and diverts it into a free battery at the bottom of the machine.

About two hours of spinning would be enough to run a custom LED light source for six to seven more hours, significantly extending the amount of time families can work. Using LEDs will also help families avoid kerosene lamps, which drastically reduce air quality inside the home when they are used. The Indian government is already giving away several of the e-charkhas to Indian residents under its "Funds for Regeneration of Traditional Industries" program. A good thing, since very few of the people who need it can afford the roughly $200 it costs. [Inhabitat]


Saturday, October 25, 2008

GE & NASA to test hybrid jet engine


GE Aviation and NASA are teaming up to test an “open rotor” jet engine design that puts the fan blades on the outside of the engine, which they say could reduce jet fuel consumption by more than 30 percent. GE and NASA actually designed the engine and developed it into a product — the GE36 — in the 80s, but say they never commercially released it because of falling oil prices.

In the face of high fuel costs this year they have decided to revive the engine design and plan to start wind-tunnel tests in early 2009 at NASA’s Glenn Research Center where the original testing of the GE36 took place. Initial testing of the open rotor design will focus on fan configuration performance and acoustics. GE and NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate are jointly funding the program.

Exhaust from kerosene-burning jet engines released high up in the atmosphere is already responsible for 4 to 9 percent of the climate change impact, according to the European Climate Action Network. The air travel industry is increasingly trying to reduce emissions, as carbon regulations are likely to come into effect internationally. Startups like Solazyme, Aquaflow Binomics and Sapphire Energy are working on bio-jet fuels that can reduce carbon emissions. And Boeing, along with a consortium of airlines and Honeywell’s energy technology developer UOP, have established the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group to develop cleaner jet fuels as well.

Images courtesy of GE.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Australia has best solar cell efficiency


SYDNEY, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Australian scientists at the University of New South Wales say they have become the first to achieve 25 percent efficiency in a silicon solar cell.

The university's Australian Research Council Photovoltaic Center of Excellence also held the previous world record of 24.7 percent silicon solar cell efficiency. A revision of the international standard by which solar cells are measured resulted in the new record being achieved by a team led by Professors Martin Green and Stuart Wenham.

Green said the jump in performance resulted from new knowledge about the composition of sunlight.

"Since the weights of the colors in sunlight change during the day, solar cells are measured under a standard color spectrum defined under typical operational meteorological conditions," he said. "Improvements in understanding atmospheric effects upon the color content of sunlight led to a revision of the standard spectrum in April. The new spectrum has a higher energy content both down the blue end of the spectrum and at the opposite red end with, dare I say it, relatively less green."

The researchers said the university's world-leading silicon cell is now six percent more efficient than the next-best technology.

Photo credits: ScienceDaily


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Solar refrigeration: A hot idea for cooling


Fishermen in the village of Maruata, which is located on the Mexican Pacific coast 18 degrees north of the equator, have no electricity. But for the past 16 years they have been able to store their fish on ice: Seven ice makers, powered by nothing but the scorching sun, churn out a half ton of ice every day.

There's a global scramble to drive down emissions of carbon dioxide: the electricity to power just refrigerators in the U.S. contributes 102 million tons annually. Solar refrigeration can also be inexpensive and it would give the electric grid much-needed relief. Electricity demand peaks on hot summer days—150 gigawatts more in summer than winter in the U.S. (A gigawatt equals on billion watts.) That's almost 1.5 times the generating capacity of all the coal-fired power plants west of the Mississippi River. Further, solar is plentiful. The solar energy hitting 54 square feet (five square meters) of land each year is the equivalent of all the electricity used by one American household, according to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Energy Information Administration, both part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Making cold out of hot is easier than one might think. A group of students last year at San Jose State University built a solar-powered ice maker with $100 worth of plumbing and a four-by-eight-foot (1.2-by-2.4-meter) sheet of reflecting steel. No moving parts, no electricity but give it a couple hours of sunshine and it can make a large bag of ice.

The key is the energy exchanged when liquids turn to vapor and vice versa—the process that cools you when you sweat. By far the most common approach, the one used by the refrigerator in your house, uses an electric motor to compress a refrigerant—say, Freon—turning it into liquid. When the pressure created by the compressor is released, the liquid evaporates, absorbing heat and lowering the temperature.

Absorptive chillers like solar refrigerators use a heat source rather than a compressor to change the refrigerant from vapor to liquid. The two most common combinations are water mixed with either lithium bromide or ammonia. In each case, the refrigerating gas is absorbed until heat is applied, which raises the temperature and pressure. At higher pressure, the refrigerant condenses into liquid. Turning off the heat lowers the pressure, causing that liquid to evaporate back into a gas, thereby creating the cooling effect.

As with most technologies, the efficiency of such absorptive refrigeration depends on the degree of engineering (and expense) brought to bear. Single-effect devices have a coefficient of performance of 0.6 to 0.7—that is, they create 60 to 70 Btus (British thermal units) of cooling for every 100 Btus of input heat. That low level of efficiency can be achieved with something as crude as some pipe, a bucket of water, some calcium chloride (as absorbant), ammonia (as refrigerant), and a sheet of shiny metal (the solar collector).

If what you want to do is heat or cool, using solar energy this way is probably more efficient—and certainly cheaper—than converting it first into electricity. "That approach ought to be comparable to photovoltaics, or a little better," said Tom Mancini, program manager for solar power at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M.

It would take a fair-size collector—86 square feet (eight square meters), assuming 40 percent panel efficiency—just to deliver the cooling of a small (6,000 Btu per hour or half-ton) window air conditioner. And central air-conditioning units are often 30,000 Btu or more; few homeowners could spare the space for that.

But concerns over collector area depend on location. In the developing world, solar powered ice makers allow locals to store the village's food or medicine without any electricity. For example, in May charitable organization, Heifer International, set up three solar ice makers in remote areas of Kenya. Each will be able to keep 26.5 gallons (100 liters) of milk chilled. More than 500 members of two dairy cooperatives are expected to benefit directly.

Most of the interest in such solar refrigeration in Western countries comes from the commercial, not residential, sectors. Cost is one reason—absorption chiller systems typically cost $7,000 to $10,000 per ton of cooling; one-ton window air conditioners from big box retailers start around $250—but companies can save on electric bill as well as enjoy a more benign environmental image.

Building occupancy patterns is another; most Americans are not at home during the day. "We don't have as much daytime occupancy in residential buildings as in commercial," says Pat Hale, sales manager for Yazaki Energy Systems, in Plano, Tex. Other problems include the expense of retrofitting homes to add plumbing to the attic. And the high temperatures associated with concentrating solar collectors raise liability concerns.

But some entrepreneurs think a residential market nevertheless is emerging. Walter Ross is CEO of Austin Solar AC, a start-up that is testing 36,000 and 60,000 Btu solar-fired chillers. The units provide cooling in summer and heating during winter by just using the sun's heat directly. "We're getting a lot of interest from people who have been using propane for heating," he said. "The biggest issue we run into with these is siting: Most neighborhood associations won't allow these things on your roof."


HP unveils renewable energy research initiatives; pledges to double renewable power use by 2012


PALO ALTO, Calif., Oct 20, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) - HP today unveiled renewable energy initiatives in its facilities, research and products to support a new goal to double the company's global purchases of renewable power from under 4 percent in 2008 to 8 percent by 2012.
This complements HP's goal to reduce energy consumption and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions from HP-owned and HP-leased facilities worldwide to 16 percent below 2005 levels by 2010.

To reduce its carbon footprint, HP is relying on diversified renewable energy resources, improving energy efficiency and placing a strong emphasis on energy reduction and optimization at a number of its facilities around the world.
In 2007, HP successfully met its goal to increase renewable energy purchases by more than 350 percent and purchased 61.4 million kilowatt hours (kwh) of renewable energy and renewable energy credits in the United States.
"HP is investing in technologies that bring us closer to operating in a sustainable IT ecosystem," said John Frey, senior sustainability executive, HP. "We are supporting renewable energy programs for our own operational efficiency, harnessing research to demonstrate environmental leadership and offering products that support customer concerns about rising energy costs."
Harnessing solar and wind power
HP recently completed a 1.1-megawatt, 6,256 solar panel system at its facility in San Diego. This is one of the largest solar power installations in the County of San Diego and is projected to save the company $750,000 during the next 15 years while providing more than 10 percent of the facility's power. Further, the system will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 60 million pounds over the next 30 years. This is equivalent to providing electricity to 3,800 homes or removing more than 5,250 cars from the road over this time period.
SunPower ( installed the system and GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE that owns the system under SunPower Access, will provide the electricity under a power purchase agreement.
HP also extended the benefits of solar power to its U.S. employees. To date, more than 600 HP employees and retirees have requested an evaluation of a home system installation, and more than 60 have completed an installation or are under contract to install SunPower systems at their homes.
HP elected to participate in Austin's Green Choice program, to procure almost 19.9 million kwh of wind energy from wind farms in western Texas for two of its Austin data centers, which represents nearly 20 percent of the annual energy used by the two centers. Additionally, the facilities are using the HP Dynamic Smart Cooling (DSC) system, which enables real-time changes to air conditioners, fans, vents and computing equipment help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and reduce energy costs.
HP DSC typically yields energy savings of 20 to 40 percent over legacy HP data centers. HP's Austin data centers are on track to achieve energy cost savings of more than $100,000 annually based on the integration of HP DSC technology.
HP consolidated three of its facilities in Melbourne, Australia, with sustainability in mind. The new facility design included orienting the building to strategically reduce energy consumption associated with heating and cooling and using energy-efficient lighting. As a result, HP expects to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by 70 percent.
Sustainable IT ecosystem
HP is leveraging renewable and non-renewable resources to effectively and efficiently manage a limited supply of available energy. The use of various sources of power throughout its operations will support the development of HP's micro-grid for power and cooling distribution in the data center facility, which ensures efficiency, manageability and regulatory requirements while meeting service level agreements.
HP Labs, the company's central research arm, has initiated research that uses nanowire photonics to potentially increase the efficiency of solar cells to more than 20 percent. This development allows solar cells to operate on a level of those used in expensive deep-space applications, while being manufactured at much lower costs, like those used in pocket calculators or to recharge portable devices.
Nanowire photonics may be integrated with a greater selection of conductor materials, allowing for low-cost options. In the future, nanowire photonics may optimize renewable energy throughout the IT industry and other business sectors.
Taking steps to reduce the energy required for manufacturing and distributing products, HP plans to reduce the energy consumption of its volume desktop and notebook PC families by 25 percent, relative to 2005. Today, HP announced two new desktop PCs and a display designed to have reduced impact on the environment with energy-efficient processors and recyclable packaging.
The HP Pavilion Verde Special Edition a6645f and HP Pavilion Phoenix Special Edition a6655f desktop PCs are ENERGY STAR(R) qualified and meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The products also meet the standards for the Silver registration in the Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT(TM), one of the highest ratings products can achieve for their environmental attributes. In addition, HP announced the ergonomically designed 25.5-inch HP w2558hc Vivid Color display, which is ENERGY STAR qualified and offers a Power Saver feature that helps to reduce energy consumption.
The special-edition desktop PCs provide up to 45 percent energy savings compared to PCs without power management enabled and come in 100 percent recyclable packaging with less plastic foam.
HP and the environment
For decades HP has been an environmental leader, driving company stewardship through its holistic design for environment strategy. HP influences industry action through its long-standing commitment to maintain supply chain responsibility, sustain energy efficient operations, reduce its climate impact and offer product reuse and recycling options. HP also makes it easier for customers to recognize environmental attributes through HP Eco Solutions, a program that helps customers identify products and services designed with the environment in mind. More information is available at


Monday, October 20, 2008

New solar power material can capture every color of the rainbow


Scientists have created a new material that could dramatically increase the efficiency of solar cells, by literally capturing every color of the rainbow.

Whereas other materials only catch a small range of light frequencies, and therefore only a small fraction of the potential energy, the new invention is capable of absorbing all the energy contained in sunlight. According to team leader, Prof. Malcolm Chisolm, “There are other such hybrids out there, but the advantage of our material is that we can cover the entire range of the solar spectrum.

The discovery, made by an elite team at Ohio State University, opens the door to the development of a new generation of hyper-efficient solar cells. Although at this point the material is said to be some years from commercial development, the university has enough confidence in its potential to commit a large slice of its $100 million ‘high impact’ research budget to the research team over the next five years.

Such long-term investment lends a great deal of credibility to the project, and is likely to increase the chances of the invention moving from the laboratory towards commercial development.

Image Credit - Sylvar via on a Creative Commons license


Friday, October 17, 2008

Liquavista debuts brighter, greener displays


First we had CRT displays, then LCDs, and now LEDs and OLEDs are making headway, but already an even newer display technology promises brighter, clearer screens that use even less power. It’s called electrowetting, and startup Liquavista has unveiled its new ColorBright displays today which use the technology.

The ColorBright line is Liquavista’s first display platform and is targeted for use in watches and cell phones. Liquavista has bigger plans for the technology and says it will provide rich, colorful video displays, legible in direct sunlight and low in power needs. The company claims its technology can provide “TV-like picture quality” at a fraction of the manufacturing and power costs of traditional displays. The company has recently opened a new fab line in Southern China at an existing LCD manufacturing plant and will start making custom and stock displays in volume soon.

Screens are the biggest culprit when it comes to zapping your phone’s battery. The backlight on LCDs accounts for much of the power consumption but Liquavista’s displays saves energy by forgoing the backlight. As we continue to do more display-intensive things with our phones — like watching video — we’ll need displays that consume less power, as anyone struggling with their smartphone’s battery life will tell you.

The two-year-old company uses electrowetting technology developed at the Philips Research Labs. Check out the concept video to get an idea of where Liquavista wants to take their technology and if you’re a DIYer go ahead and play around with the Liquadizer to build your own next-gen display.

Liquavista raised €8 million (at the time, $12.6 million) in Series B funding earlier this year from Amadeus Capital Partners, GIMV and New Venture Partners LLC. Electronics giant Philips is also a backer of the startup. Both Liquavista and Philips are headquartered in the Netherlands.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

3TIER mapping world's solar, wind and hydro resources


It seems like we can find almost everything we need through Google Maps — even the best place to put a new wind farm or a solar power plant. Renewable energy prospectors can now assess potential sites with the click of a mouse using 3TIER’s high-resolution maps of the earth’s solar radiation, wind speeds and hydro power capacities. The company showed off its new seamless, high-resolution solar map of the western hemisphere this week at the International Solar Power conference.

3TIER is working on mapping the entire world with its “REmapping the World” initiative which it hopes will help developing countries assess their renewable energy resources and “leap frog” past fossil fuels. Many of the places that need renewable energy the most don’t have the resources to synthesize millions of satellite photos. 3TIER offers a free look on their web site for consumers and sells comprehensive, custom full site analysis reports, complete with GIS data layers to energy developers.

3TIER says its new solar maps offers three times the resolution of existing industry standards. And while you might have thought sunlight just beams straight down, 3TIER’s solar map displays information on global horizontal irradiation, direct normal irradiation and diffuse irradiation so you can tell how much radiation might actually power your panels. The wind energy map also provides a huge amount of detail and clicking through the wind velocity at elevations of 20, 50 and 80 meters quickly illustrates that higher speed winds are higher up in the atmosphere.

Founded in 1999, 3TIER displays its data using Google Maps, which makes us wonder: What if Google were to acquire 3TIER? It could be a perfect fit. has made investments in solar and wind energy companies which could certainly make use of high-resolution energy maps. 3TIER’s maps could perfectly compliment Google’s recent grant to Southern Methodist University Geothermal Laboratory to update a very similar geothermal energy map. And Google Earth has been adding layers of data about renewable energy for quite some time now. But then again, we’re still waiting for Google to acquire the Earth2Tech portfolio of green maps.

Images courtesy of 3TIER.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sharp to introduce 2nd generation thin film solar cells in U.S.


Expanded product portfolio strengthens Sharp's solar business, offers customers optimal solar technologies for specific applications


Sharp, a world leader in solar cell production, announced today at Solar Power International 2008 that it will introduce next generation thin film solar cells in the U.S. market in the near future. With its thin film solar product, Sharp will be capable of handling multi-megawatt, large-scale utility projects that are best served by a thin film solar solution, and the company is already working with prospective U.S. customers in preparation for these large-scale deployments. Sharp is one of the few companies who can supply customers with a complete solar product portfolio -- including mono-crystalline, poly-crystalline and multi-junction thin film solar cells -- to meet the specific needs of virtually any commercial or residential solar installation.
"For the last fifty years, Sharp has researched and developed advanced, innovative solar technologies, guaranteeing our customers superior performance and excellent reliability from Sharp solar products," said Ron Kenedi, vice president, Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group. "As the U.S. solar market grows, deployments of multi-megawatt utility projects and large-scale commercial installations are on the rise. We are leading the way by expanding our technology portfolio so that we can meet the demands of these customers with an efficient, reliable and cost-effective solar solution of the caliber they've come to expect from Sharp products, whether it's traditional solar modules or thin film PV."
Sharp plans to increase thin film solar production with the construction of next-generation solar manufacturing facilities. Sharp Corporation has just completed installation of a new 2nd-generation thin-film solar cell production line at its Katsuragi Plant (Katsuragi City, Nara Prefecture) using large-size glass substrates measuring approximately 1,000 x 1,400 mm, equivalent to 2.7 times the area of Sharp's 1st generation substrates (560 x 925 mm), and will begin volume production this October. The addition of this new line expands production capacity for thin-film solar cells at the Katsuragi Plant to 160 MW annually.
Last year, Sharp began construction on a thin film and LCD manufacturing plant in Sakai City, Osaka. Slated to become operational in March 2010, the Sakai City factory will leverage Sharp's solar manufacturing success with a similar technology -- Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panels -- to achieve an initial production capacity of 480 MW. The new factory will use an even more advanced thin film technology. Together with the production capacity of Sharp's Katsuragi plant, this will boost Sharp's global thin film solar production to 640 MW; future expansion will bring the capacity at Sakai to 1 gigawatt (GW).
Thin film modules are manufactured with less than 1 percent of the silicon used for crystalline solar cells, allowing for simpler manufacturing and lower production costs. To optimize conversion of different parts of the solar spectrum, thin films can be layered on top of each other to create a more efficient multi-junction product.
Photovoltaic modules fabricated using the 2nd-generation tandem-junction thin-film solar cells manufactured on Sharp's new production line at its Katsuragi plant feature an industry-leading 9% module conversion efficiency and high 128 W power output. It is these modules that will make up the initial offering from Sharp in 2009.
Right Product for the Right Installation
With the addition of thin film as part of its product line-up, Sharp now puts forth a two-pronged strategy for fulfilling the specific needs of all its customers. Sharp is one of the only manufacturers who can offer a PV solution that is ideal for virtually any end user's power needs, be it traditional crystalline or thin film PV. Traditional crystalline PV is the best value for roof-mounted systems and is widely used for residential and commercial rooftop applications that place high value on module efficiency. However, thin film is the preferred technology for multi-megawatt scale utility projects. Thin film promises lower installed cost per megawatt and more megawatt-hours per installed megawatt than crystalline for the end-user, particularly in hot climates. It is also an optimal choice for installations where there is ample land for the system.
About Sharp Solar
Sharp Electronics Corporation is the U.S. subsidiary of Sharp Corporation, Osaka, Japan, a world-leading provider of crystalline solar PV for residential, commercial, industrial, off-grid and satellite applications for almost 50 years. Sharp powers more homes and businesses than any other solar manufacturer in the world, supplying modules for one-quarter of all solar systems installed globally. Last year, Sharp became the first manufacturer to reach 2 GW of cumulative solar cell production -- one-quarter of the world's total production -- since it began mass production of solar cells in 1963.
Sharp entered the U.S. solar market in 2002 and is currently the market leader. Sharp has maintained solar module operations at its 100 MW manufacturing facility in Memphis, TN since 2003, celebrating the assembly of the one-millionth solar module in February 2008. Sharp's suite of residential products includes the breakthrough OnEnergy(TM) solar system, an all-in-one solution that offers enhanced aesthetics; and building-integrated solar modules for a discrete, nearly invisible installation.
Further information on Sharp's commitment to solar energy, its product line and the ways in which Sharp makes it easy to go solar is available online at
Sharp Electronics Corporation is the U.S. subsidiary of Japan's Sharp Corporation, a worldwide developer of one-of-a-kind home entertainment products, appliances, networked multifunctional office solutions, solar energy solutions and mobile communication and information tools. Leading brands include AQUOS(R) Liquid Crystal Televisions, 1-Bit(TM) digital audio products, SharpVision(R) projection products, Insight(R) Microwave Drawer(R) ovens, Notevision(R) multimedia projectors and Plasmacluster(R) air purifiers. For more information visit Sharp Electronics Corporation at
SOURCE: Sharp Electronics Corporation


Monday, October 13, 2008

'Black Silicon' startup SiOnyx could revolutionize solar, imaging


You gotta admit “black silicon” has to be near the top of the most fun cleantech terms of the year. The material, which reportedly is between 100 and 500 times more sensitive to light than standard silicon, has been licensed by Massachusetts-based venture-backed startup SiOnyx from Harvard University. The New York Times and Xconomy have the story (Xconomy’s is far more detailed and actually explains the tech) about the three year old startup, which is backed by $11 million from Polaris Ventures, Harris & Harris, and RedShift. Polaris investor and ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe sits on SiOnyx’s board.

The black silicon technique works like this: shine a very powerful pulse of a laser on a piece of silicon in the presence of the gas sulfur hexafluoride and the result is a piece of silicon marked with tiny cones. Xconomy digs even deeper into the process and explains: “the laser pulses force unusually large numbers of dopant atoms into a thin layer of silicon on the surface of the cones,” and the new structure requires less energy “to knock electrons into the conduction band.” The result is the treated silicon can absorb twice as much visible light as regular silicon and unlike standard silicon is sensitive to invisible infrared light.

The bizarre (randomly found) process can lead to amazing results, and could potentially disrupt any industry that depends on the light sensitivity of silicon. That includes the solar industry, and imaging products like night vision, medical imaging and digital cameras. Solar cells could be made that are more sensitive to light and more efficient at producing electricity, though both stories clearly state that the solar application is far in the future. Much closer is an application in medical imaging, like using less powerful more efficient Xrays, and Metcalfe tells Xconomy that the startup has already negotiated a partnership with a company active in medical imaging.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wattbot launches site to speed up clean energy adoption


Even with all the talk about renewable energy and energy efficiency in Washington, the media and Silicon Valley these days, adoption of such technologies in the U.S. is still very low — solar power made up just 1 percent of the renewable energy consumed in 2007. But two entrepreneurs, Diane Loviglio and Kurt Brown, along with the two dozen members of their team, have created a web site called Wattbot that acts as a sort of middle man for interested consumers and energy providers, which they hope will help speed the adoption of clean power and energy-efficiency tools.

Wattbot is officially launching in beta at the Solar Power International convention in San Diego this week. Here’s how it works: Solar installers, home retrofitters, and other energy providers sign up to be listed on the site and can receive high-quality leads for consumers in their area who are interested in their service. Consumers enter information about the energy products they are interested in and can search through recommendations and listings of the most appropriate providers, pricing options and companies in their area (the consumer section won’t be able available until January). The company says providers cannot directly influence the automated matching service.

Wattbot can cut providers’ sales cycle in half and help consumers navigate the confusing, inefficient energy information out there on the web, Loviglio told us in a phone interview. “We found that solar installers were spending hours educating consumers and qualifying leads,” Loviglio says. They also noted that there wasn’t a good, centralized place for consumers to find intelligent energy information. “We thought there’s got to be a more efficient way,” she says.

Providers are able to enter their company information on the site now, but leads won’t be available until February. Pricing ranges from $20 to $200 per lead, depending on how qualified the lead is and what products/services the consumers have signed up to learn about. For the launch, providers can sign up for free between now and Dec. 31, 2008. Wattbot will deposit a $500 credit in their account, so they can try out leads at no cost. Providers can also register with a Solar Power 2008 code (GFT286) to get an additional $250 credit. In March, Wattbot will also start offering market intelligence (geographic and demographic clean power data) to providers for an annual subscription.

The site is free for consumers, and starting in January it will offer detailed information about services, providers, pricing and options in their area (between now and January consumers can sign up but won’t be able to sift though listings.) At that time users will be able to enter their address as well as info about their site, structure, occupancy, energy, finances and goals to discover the best options. “When they are confident in the financial analysis of each recommendation, and feel comfortable with why Wattbot recommended particular products, services, and financing plans, they can click to be connected with the best-matching providers,” Loviglio wrote in an email to us.

Wattbot also has some other nifty features, like a clean energy density map, a clean energy pin map, and community features, which will be more valuable when the site starts bringing in users. Wattbot was founded in 2007 and financed by undisclosed angel investors.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

MDI's "AirCar" officially becomes the FlowAIR

MDI's "AirCar" officially becomes the FlowAIR

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MDI's compressed air vehicle has been unofficially known as the AirCar for years now, but it looks like the company is now finally putting a stop to that, and officially bestowing the decidedly less catchy "FlowAIR" name on the car. What's more, it's also gotten official with no less than four different vehicles based on the technology, including the One FlowAIR open-top model, the Mini FlowAIR three-seater (pictured above), the City FlowAIR truck-type vehicle, and the Multi FlowAIR urban public transportation concept, all of which have been making the rounds under various guises for some time now. From the looks of it, the One FlowAIR will be the first out of the gate in 2009 (in France, at least), with the rest to follow over the next few years.

[Via AutoblogGreen]
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GE builds an OLED printer, hopes to challenge light bulbs in 2010

GE builds an OLED printer, hopes to challenge light bulbs in 2010

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Maybe the incandescent light bulb has been sitting in its socket-shaped throne for too many years -- GE thinks so, anyway. GE R&D guys have produced a machine that prints OLED materials newspaper-style onto 8-inch sheets of metal foil in hopes that the sheets -- which can be pinned to just about any surface -- will start the process of home lighting biz regime change in 2010. Picture, if you will, wallpaper or window blinds that provide soft, diffused lighting for the living room after dark -- no need for special fixtures, just a wall plug. OLED lighting isn't yet cost-efficient for the average consumer, but GE hopes that will change soon. In the meantime, expect to see these sheets in a trip-out Flaming Lips concert in the somewhat-near future.
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Friday, October 10, 2008

SkyFuel unveils the SkyTrough(TM): the world's highest performance, lowest cost utility-scale solar power system


ARVADA, Colo., Oct 10, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- SkyFuel, Inc. today secured its position as the leader in the rapidly growing concentrating solar power (CSP) industry by unveiling the SkyTrough(TM): the highest performance, lowest cost utility-scale solar power system of any kind for generating electricity. With glass-free mirrors, a highly engineered space frame that allows compact transportation and rapid field assembly, and new more efficient drive & control systems, the SkyTrough(TM) cuts the cost of the parabolic trough concentrator by 35 percent compared to other commercially available systems. The SkyTrough(TM) is the solar collector system at the heart of several large solar thermal power plants currently planned for the southwestern United States.
The SkyTrough(TM) is 375 feet long, twenty feet tall, and features the largest parabolic trough modules ever built. It was developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and with a grant from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardon's Energy Innovation Fund for SkyFuel's research partnership with the University of New Mexico.
SkyFuel CEO, Dr. Arnold Leitner, and chief technology officer (CTO), Randy Gee, hosted a ceremonial unveiling and reception at SkyFuel's research & development center in Arvada to present the SkyTrough(TM) solar collector assembly. More than three hundred invited guests including power industry leaders, renewable energy financiers and government officials attended the event.
"SkyFuel has harnessed two of Colorado's greatest resources: our state's solar energy potential and our educated workforce. The company is a great example of how Colorado is building a new energy economy and becoming a national and international leader in renewable energy," said Colorado Governor, Bill Ritter.
Advanced Materials & Innovative Design
The SkyTrough(TM) is a breakthrough design patterned after the best of the previous utility-scale parabolic troughs with several critical innovations that improve performance and significantly reduce cost. Chief among those improvements is the use of ReflecTech(R) Mirror Film: a low-cost, highly reflective and shatterproof silvered-polymer film, jointly designed by SkyFuel CTO, Randy Gee, and scientists at NREL to replace the expensive, heavy and fragile curved-glass mirrors, which are still used in all other parabolic trough designs used for electric power generation.
In the SkyTrough(TM), ReflecTech(R) Mirror Film is laminated to thin aluminum sheets to form light-weight, yet highly accurate mirror panels. This allows for larger and fewer panel segments than in previous trough designs that still use curved glass. In the SkyTrough(TM), ReflecTech(R) Mirror Film cuts mirror costs by approximately 50 percent compared to the price of using glass. ReflecTech(R) Mirror Film is also easily manufactured at high volume thus eliminating one bottleneck that has slowed the deployment of other solar power systems.
The SkyTrough(TM) space frame is another major advance in parabolic trough design. The all-aluminum tubular structure is 30 percent lighter per unit of mirror area than even the best of the previous utility-scale parabolic collectors -- a critical aspect in a world of rising commodity prices. The SkyTrough(TM) space frame has 40 percent fewer parts and requires no welding in the field resulting in significantly faster construction time and reduced labor costs. In addition, all ready-to-assemble components of the 375-foot long SkyTrough(TM) will fit onto one flat bed truck, an important advantage with transportation fuel costs on the rise.
Top Technology Team
For SkyFuel Chief Technology Officer, Gee, the SkyTrough(TM) is the culmination of three decades on the leading edge of solar power design. "I've had the privilege of working with many of the pioneers and great innovators in the solar industry," said Gee. "At SkyFuel we've built a team of CSP veterans and highly skilled innovators from other fields. The result is the best hardware in the solar power business."
The careers of key SkyFuel technology team members add up to well more than 100 years' of experience in mastering the design and deployment of solar thermal power systems. "By combining this deep experience with new talent we have created an enthusiastic 'can-do' team. This superb team has delivered a home run with the SkyTrough(TM)," said Gee.
-- Randy Gee, Chief Technology Officer: Prior to joining SkyFuel, Gee was Director of Research, Development and Deployment for Solargenix (now Acciona) where he designed the parabolic trough collectors for the 64 MW Nevada Solar One plant commissioned in 2007.
-- Dr. David Kearney, Senior Technical Advisor: As vice president of Advanced Technology in the US subsidiary of Luz International, Kearney helped prove the commercial applicability of CSP with the deployment of the SEGS plants in California's Mojave Desert which are still operating.
-- Coleman Moore, VP Research & Technology: Before joining SkyFuel, Moore designed the control systems for the 64MW Nevada Solar One plant.
-- David White, VP, Engineering and Manufacturing: Prior to SkyFuel, as principal researcher, he led a team of engineers and subcontractors on multiple concentrating solar R&D efforts in partnership with the Department of Energy's National Laboratories and private companies.
-- Adrian Farr, VP, Structural Engineering: Farr is a specialist in the design of aluminum space frames. Prior to joining SkyFuel, he was a Senior Structural Engineer with Conservatek Industries, a world leader in the design and deployment of aluminum geodesic dome structures.
-- Dr. Randy Brost, VP, Engineering Science: Brost is a top analyst and designer of complex automated manufacturing systems. He joined SkyFuel from Eastman Kodak where he oversaw special projects in the company's commercial copier division. Prior to his work at Kodak, Brost led a team at the Sandia National Laboratories researching computerized robotics.
-- Robert Hawkins, VP, Quality Engineering: Hawkins carries over experience from Oracle where he oversaw product lifecycle management from pre- to post-sales for a broad array of the enterprise software giant's products. At SkyFuel, Hawkins focuses on enhancing the efficiency and manufacturability of the company's solar thermal power designs.
At the SkyTrough(TM) unveiling, SkyFuel founder and CEO, Dr, Arnold Leitner put his company's work in context: "Despite stunning amounts of funding and media attention for a variety of other, purportedly exotic, solar thermal technologies, parabolic trough remains the world's only utility scale design that is commercially proven and bank financeable. The SkyTrough(TM) builds on the success of projects such as Nevada Solar One, but dramatically reduces cost while solving some of the most vexing and costly problems such as glass mirrors that shatter in the desert winds. Today's unveiling truly marks The Sunrise of Solar Power(TM) toward being a major source in the world's energy mix."
SkyFuel, Inc. is a solar power technology provider with headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and research and development facilities in Arvada, Colorado. SkyFuel is emerging as a world leader in the design and deployment of concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. The Company designs turnkey large-scale solar fields that produce steam for power generation and industrial application.
SOURCE SkyFuel, Inc.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ericsson unveils wind-powered cell tower


Telecommunications provider Ericsson is putting some wind power into its network with a new radio communications tower unveiled today. The Swedish telecom partnered with turbine maker Vertical Wind AB and Uppsala University in Sweden to incorporate a vertical-axis wind turbine into the tower that houses radio base stations and antennas. The tower is now undergoing trials to see if the design will enable low-cost mobile communications to spread throughout remote regions with minimal environmental impact.

The rig is a conceptual riff on Ericsson’s energy-lean Tower Tube design. Ericsson has greatly reduced the station’s power demand, eliminating the need for feeders and cooling systems and slashing energy consumption up to 40 percent, the company says.

It’s not clear how much of the tower’s energy needs will be fulfilled by the turbine but it will likely need to be grid-connected to ensure a stable signal, because of wind’s intermittent nature, although it could use an energy storage system in far-flung locals. Still, the idea of greening our communications networks with windmills makes a lot sense. If we’re putting up these tall towers anyway, why not slap a turbine on them? We just hope it works as well as it sounds.

The turbine has five-meter long blades and uses a direct drive system, as opposed to a complicated gear box. Since direct drive turbines have fewer moving parts, they can be cheaper, quieter and easier to maintain. Northern Power, an American wind turbine maker, just raised $37 million to scale up its direct drive turbine development.

This project is part of Ericsson’s ongoing Communications Expander campaign, under which the company is boosting efficiency and using solar and wind energy when possible to power its network. Aside from the environmental benefits, Ericsson says this will cut operation costs and make telecommunications available to more people in more parts of the world.

Images courtesy of Ericsson.


Silver-Zinc Batteries Coming in 2009 With 40% Better Run Time Than Lithium-Ion [Power Up]

Silver-Zinc Batteries Coming in 2009 With 40% Better Run Time Than Lithium-Ion [Power Up]

Lithium-ion is, by far, the most common form of rechargeable battery found in today's mobile devices. However, a shift towards silver zinc may be looming on the horizon thanks to a new product in development by ZPower, Inc. Ross E. Dueber, president and CEO of the company is scheduled to address attendees at the Batteries 2008 conference in Nice, France starting tomorrow, where he will tout the advantages of his silver-zinc technology scheduled to launch in "a major notebook computer in 2009." Whether we will find out the identity of this "major notebook" in the coming days remains to be seen, but the impending release does offer some hope for consumers frustrated by the battery life of their precious portable gadgets.

First and foremost, silver-zinc can offer up to 40 percent more battery life than traditional lithium-ion batteries and 200 + cycles at 100% discharge. ZPower claims that their product contains no toxic chemicals and is up to 95% recyclable—which I would assume means that they have addressed the problem of mercury leakage that plagues silver-zinc batteries at the end of their life-cycle. They also noted that the batteries feature a water-based chemistry that is completely non-flammable (unlike lithium-ion that has a reputation for the occasional explosion). The one major drawback of silver-zinc is the cost of the silver itself, but word is that ZPower is planning on a trade-in recycle policy that will help to offset c! osts. So unds good, but we will have to wait and see if the notebook coming out next year will be important enough and affordable enough to drive sales.

Dr. Ross Dueber to Discuss First Silver-Zinc Battery
for Mobile Consumer Devices at Batteries 2008 in Nice

CAMARILLO, October 7, 2008 – Dr. Ross E. Dueber, president and CEO of ZPower, Inc., will discuss the industry's first silver-zinc battery technology for consumer electronics at the Batteries 2008 conference in Nice, France, starting October 8th. His presentation will address the performance, environmental, and safety advantages inherent within ZPowerTM silver-zinc batteries, scheduled to launch in a major notebook computer in 2009. The annual event will be held at the Acropolis Convention Centre on October 8, 9, and 10. Batteries 2008 is a worldwide exhibition focused on power supply, with more than 400 attendees.
Dr. Dueber will discuss the next replacement for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and what power source can take mobility into the future. "At the heart of the $55 billion global battery market is the chemical conundrum of power supply," said Dueber. "Today's consumer has the ability to watch an entire movie on a palm-sized device—but portable power technology has not kept up. Engineers admit that they are hitting the wall on lithium polymer and lithium-ion performance. Unstable lithium-ion batteries have resulted in a high number of product recalls by manufacturers of notebook computers. These market trends are creating a pressing need for a better battery."

Silver-zinc battery chemistry is currently poised to move into the commercial marketplace for use in consumer electronics. This new silver-zinc battery chemistry uses the latest in advanced polymers, nano-technology, power electronics and processing methods to create a battery that surpasses other rechargeable batteries for notebook computers, mobile phone and consumer electronics applications.

The advantages of silver-zinc! batteri es can be summed up as follows:

High Performance – Up to 40% more run time than traditional lithium-ion batteries. And with recent improvements in battery cycle life, silver-zinc batteries achieve 200 + cycles at 100% discharge and thousands of cycles at intermediate discharge.

Clean Technology – Over 95% of key battery elements can be recycled and reused. The raw materials recovered in the recycling process of silver-zinc batteries are the same quality as those that went into the creation of the battery. Environmental impact is lessened since the need to mine for new materials is minimized.

Safe – Silver-zinc batteries contain no lithium and are inherently safe. They are not subject to the recent FAA air travel restrictions now placed on lithium-ion batteries. Silver-zinc batteries feature a water-based chemistry that is not flammable. The battery is therefore free from the problems of thermal runaway and fire.

[ZPower! ]


Cylinder Solar Panels Generate More Energy For Less Cost [Solar]

Cylinder Solar Panels Generate More Energy For Less Cost [Solar]

Solyndra, a California-based solar start up, says it's figured out a way to make solar panels cheaper to install and better at producing energy—rolling them up. The company's solar panels are comprised of rows of cylindrical solar cells deposited on glass tubes, a new type of shape that purportedly lets them absorb more light during the day.

The shape also offers less wind resistance than conventional flat panels, making them cheaper and easier to mount on roofs. These advantages ultimately reduce the cost of generating power from the sun, though Solyndra couldn't give a direct answer on how much.

Considering that everyone, from Google to the Vatican, is installing a solar roof these days, Solyndra's innovations could mean a serious boost for the industry. But what's with not actually giving figures? That seems a little... shady. [Technology Review via Dvice]


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Konarka claims 1GW in organic PV production


Konarka Technologies Inc. said Tuesday it has opened a plant that could produce up to 1 gigawatt per year of its organic photovoltaic "power plastic" material by the start of next decade.

Konarka is one of a handful of companies exploring thin-film solar cells that use organic materials. Organic materials are carbon-based substances that are used instead of silicon, cadmium, copper and other minerals that can be found in commercial solar cells today.  

But whether the Lowell, Mass.-based company will find buyers for that much organic photovoltaic material remains to be seen, given that it still isn't as efficient at converting sunlight into electricity as its inorganic thin-film competition, analysts said.

Other organic solar cell makers, such as Dyesol, Heliatek and G24 Innovations, contend that their products can make up in low cost what they lack in efficiency (See Does Going Organic Require Exaggeration?).

Tests conducted by the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which solar companies turn to for validation of their technologies, showed that Konarka's cells can reach 5 percent efficiency, said Konarka spokeswoman Tracy Wemett.

The company's goal is to reach 10 percent to 15 percent efficiency to compete with mineral-based thin-film cells now on the market, she added.

Konarka's new plant in New Bedford, Mass., formerly owned by Polaroid Corp., has converted Polaroid's printing systems to deposit the organic materials. The equipment prints the semiconductors onto flexible backings, Wemett said.  

Konarka has received more than $100 million in equity investments to date, Wemett said. In October 2007 it landed $45 million in private equity from the likes of Mackenzie Financial Corp., Good Energies, Pegasus Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Low cell efficiencies have limited the appeal of organic solar cells, said Lawrence Gasman, principal analyst with NanoMarkets in Glen Allen, Va. Conventional polysilicon cells, which are widely used for solar panels on the market today, can reach efficiencies of more than 20 percent.  

NanoMarkets in May predicted that the organic photovoltaic market will generate about $1 billion in revenues by 2015 � respectable, but a tiny sliver of the photovoltaic solar market overall, Gasman said.

"I would be really, really surprised if they're saying they're going to be shipping a gigawatt of material in the near future," Gasman said of Konarka's plans.

Still, Konarka believes it will find a market for its plastic material. But instead of targeting utilities or builders of home and business solar power systems, the material could be used to turn portable consumer products - such as backpacks, umbrellas and tents � into mobile power generators.

The U.S. Army also is interested in Konarka's technology, and has given the company  $1.6 million to develop materials for soldiers in the field, Wemett said.

Nathaniel Bullard, a senior analyst at U.K.-based research firm New Energy Finance, said Konarka's strategy to capture what he called the "trickle charge" market could pay off down the road.

G24 Innovations began licensing another solar-cell technology developed by Konarka in 2006 to make small panels for charging cell phones and other electronic devices.

Konarka didn't disclose the cost of its New Bedford plant or how much its power plastic will cost to manufacture.

In other solar news, thin-film market leader First Solar (NSDQ: FSLR) broke ground Monday on a factory-expansion project on its Perrysburg, Ohio facility. The project will boost the plant's capacity to about 192 megawatts.

Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar pleased the market in July by reporting a 57 percent jump in net income and tripling of revenues in the second quarter of 2008. (See First Solar Posts Blockbuster 2Q.)

But it and other solar companies have seen their shares slide this week amidst a deepening financial crisis that many fear may lead to a drying-up of credit for new solar facilities (see VCs to Solar Startups: A Deal You Can't Refuse.)

Shares of First Solar fell $31.71, or nearly 20 percent, to close at $128 per share on Tuesday.

First Solar, which has delivered strong financial performances, will likely to weather the financial storm, Bullard said.

"I think there may possibly be a flight to safety effect, with the best listed companies continuing to perform the best" in raising capital for expansions, he said.

Also on Tuesday, Germany solar panel maker SolarWorld said it had opened its second U.S. manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore. The former silicon chip plant, bought from Japan's Komatsu Group last year for $40 million and upgraded with more than $400 million, will have a capacity of 500 megawatts, the company announced.

In July, SolarWorld opened a 100-megawatt plant in Camarillo, Calif., that produces silicon solar panels and silicon ingots for its U.S. plants in Vancouver, Wash. (See Intersolar Sparks Solar News).

SolarWorld's chief financial officer Philipp Koecke told Bloomberg earlier this month that the private company had raised $800 million in cash and had $10 billion in orders.


Solyndra tubeular solar panels to improve efficency


A low cross-section gives the tubes resistance against wind, lowering install costs.

Solar panel manufacturer Solyndra has announced a new photovoltaic technology employing tube-shaped modules. The tubes, resembling fluorescent light bulbs, are coated on the outside with a solar cell layer. The cylindrical shape is designed to both improve efficiency and lower installation costs. Traditional solar panels function best when sunlight strikes them at a right angle, so for peak efficiency they must be tilted to face the sun. A cylinder is able to more effectively capture light without being steered towards the sun, letting it also capture light reflected off roofs and surrounding land. Since wind flows around the tubes rather than catching them like a sail, they can be installed with lighter-weight hardware, at a corresponding lower cost.

[Via Slashgearby Stephen Schenck


Ohio University algae tech to move into market


A technology developed at Ohio University to grow algae in efficient bioreactors has been licensed by Atlanta-based startup Green Bios Technology, the university said this morning. The developer of the algae bioreactor, Ohio University Professor of Mechanical Engineering David Bayless, told us that the reactor and light transmission design can increase algae growth by 20 to 50 percent compared to more traditional bioreactors. Bayless, who has been working on the technology for a good 11 years, told us this morning that it’s been a long road and he felt like a proud parent now that the tech was going to reach the market.

Bioreactors are closed environments that house the elements that stimulate algae to grow, including water, CO2 and sun light. Some companies grow their algae in open ponds, which is cheaper, but bioreactors enable algae-growers to closely control the process. In his lab Bayless has been able to deliver increases in productivity by tweaking the light management, fluid transport and reactor architecture.

The reactor just delivers algae, and Green Bios Technology will now have to find the best applications to commercialize the innovation. Green Bios CEO Joe Bajjani said in the release that the company plans to design a larger commercial-scale version of Bayless’ bioreactor within the next year that would be an “off-the-shelf” technology. Applications could include municipal waste treatment, water reclamation and biofuels.

Investing in algae production for biofuels has been a major trend, and its advocates say it can be more sustainable and more efficient than the first generation of biofuels being created now, which are based on corn and soybeans. Algae fuel is also getting a ton of investment — in the third quarter the sector brought in a record $95 million. About half of that went to Sapphire Energy and half to Solazyme.

Photo credit: Rick Fatica, Ohio University.


Lockheed set to tap ocean thermal energy with DOE funds


The world’s oceans are an energetic place, and military-industrial giant Lockheed Martin said today it has been granted $1.2 million by the Department of Energy to demonstrate that ocean thermal energy conversion is possible. Although the ocean often doesn’t feel very warm, the temperature gradient between the warm, sun-soaked surface and the frigid, dark depths provides enough of a differential to run a heat engine. The idea has been kicking around for over a century but has never been scaled. Lockheed Martin helped build the largest ocean thermal energy conversion system to date back in the 80s, but it only ever produced 50,000 watts, or .05 megawatts.

For those who aren’t so up on their thermodynamics, whenever you have a temperature gradient, there is accessible energy to be had. Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) works best when there’s a temperature difference of at least 20 degrees Celsius. Waters of two different temperatures are pumped through a heat exchanger which vaporizes and then condenses the water, producing energetic steam in the process.

Lockheed will work on the problem of getting that cold, deep water up to the surface. The small-scale OTEC system Lockheed had previously help design in Hawaii used a polyethylene pipe that was 2,150 feet long and 2 feet in diameter to draw up cold water. Under terms of the grant, Lockheed will demonstrate cold water pipe fabrication using modern fiberglass and low-cost composite material manufacturing methods.

Harnessing ocean thermal energy is likely farther out than both wave and tidal energy systems. But if scaled, it could provide consistent base-load energy and help tropical islands, like Hawaii, attain energy independence, a serious issue in a world of petropolitics.

Images courtesy of NREL


Monday, October 6, 2008

Semprius stamping out thin-film solar


For researchers at the University of Illinois, the key to a good solar panel is all in how you slice the silicon. John Rogers and his team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have figured out how to slice monocrystalline solar wafers thin enough to be flexible and partially transparent but still maintain their high solar efficiency. The findings were published this weekend in Nature Materials. The slender silicon slices are then imprinted onto a substrate using Rogers’ patented microtransfer printing process, the technological process that is the basis for his startup Semprius.

Durham, N.C.-based Semprius, founded in 2005, is working on applying that microtransfer printing process to the manufacture of a number of electronics including LCDs, OLEDs, radio devices and large sensors. The company has also been developing a multijunction gallium arsenide cell for a concentrator module for the past year and a half, Semprius’s VP of Photovoltaics, Bob Connor, tells Earth2Tech. The company’s patent portfolio, as licensed from the University of Illinois, does include the possible use of monocrystalline silicon, but Rogers tells us that there are no immediate plans to commercialize his research in silicon. However, Rogers says he has already seen interest from larger solar players, and Semprius could license the monocrystalline silicon application to a third-party developer.

The potential of monocrystalline silicon being used in thin-film solar is exciting because until now it has always come in relatively thick, brittle wafers that were inflexible and expensive. That’s why thin film startups have been looking to other materials for photovoltaics. Nanosolar is working with copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), First Solar has succeeded with cadmium telluride and OptiSolar is looking to scale amorphous silicon, monocrystalline silicon’s less-efficient but more malleable cousin.

However, while commercial monocrystalline silicon cells can top 20 percent solar efficiency, thin-film solar players are often struggling to reach 10 percent. John Rogers says that his team’s cells can hit 12 percent efficiency, and they’re still in the lab. With silicon prices coming down, microtransfer printing could be the key to cheap, mass producible silicon-based thin-film solar.

The key to the microtransfer printing technology is that it fundamentally separates semiconductor fabrication from the fragile substrate. After the “hot” process of semicom fab, a stamp picks up tens of thousands of cells at once and “prints” them onto a “cool” substrate, either flexible plastic or architectural glass. The result is a highly efficient, highly flexible solar cell that the researchers claim will be cheaper than existing silicon cells.

The company raised $4.7 million in Series A funding in April of 2007 from from Arch Venture Partners, Intersouth Partners and Illinois Ventures. In July of that same year, Applied Ventures joined with an undisclosed strategic investment in the solar startup. Connor says the company is currently seeking a new round of funding.

Images courtesy of Semprius and John Rogers.


Air Breeze off-grid wind turbine improves upon popular Air-X


Air Breeze by Southwest Windpower

If you've heard of the popular Skystream 3.7 by Southwest Windpower, then you're probably familiar with their smaller wind turbine called Air-X.  Air-X was introduced in ~2001 and flew off shelves, selling over 100,000 units.  Building on the success of Air-X, Southwest Windpower recently released Air Breeze, its next iteration of the successful small wind generator.  I first noticed an ad for Air Breeze in Natural Home Magazine last September and have since seen news of it popping up everywhere.  Air Breeze was engineered to be quieter, more efficient, and more effective at lower wind speeds ...

Depending on which version you get (12 or 24 VDC), Air Breeze ranges in price from ~$600 - $800.  For that, you'll get a small wind generator that can crank out 200 watts at 28 mph.  Here are some specs, for those that are interested: 

  • Rotor diameter: 46 inches
  • Weight: 13 pounds
  • Start-up wind speed: 6 mph
  • 38 kWh/month at 12 mph

So clearly, the Air Breeze isn't going to power all your electrical needs, unless you're living on hardly anything, but it can supplement what you're doing.  Southwest Windpower is marketing the turbine as a way to prepare for that rainy day -- and that's not too bad of an idea, I think.  Why not prepare for a rainy day?  Why not approach off-grid in the way we live?

[+] Find an Air Breeze dealer and buy one

Air Breeze Model

Air Breeze Parts

Air Breeze

By the way, in case you didn't hear, a small wind provision was included in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, aka the Bailout.  The credit lasts from President Bush's signing of the bill to December 31, 2016.  For residential users, there is a credit of the lesser of $4000 or $1000 per kw of capacity.  For commercial users, there's an uncapped 30% credit.  As a result, expect this legislation to fuel investments in small wind tech over the next few years. 

Photo credits: Air Breeze. 


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pininfarina-designed B0 electric car debuts at Paris Motor Show

Pininfarina-designed B0 electric car debuts at Paris Motor Show

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Pininfarina said it was going to build an electric car and, go figure, it's actually built one. As we had heard earlier, the car, now dubbed the B0, is the result of a collaboration with the Bolloré Group, which was mostly responsible for the car's lithium metal polymer battery pack. Pininfarina, for its part, seems to have handled just about everything else, and it sure looks to have gone all out, with the car promising a range of 150 miles and a reasonable top speed of 80 mph, plus some suitably nifty touches like two LCD screens for instrumentation, and even some solar cells on the roof to help top off the battery (most of the charging while driving is done with regenerative braking). Pininfarina is also apparently still ticking to its 2010 roll-out date, with mass production set to begin in late 2009 -- no promises on a price just yet though.
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