.: Solar Without Subsidies: Installations Grow to 38.3 GW :.

Solar installations will stall this year, but make rapid strides in emerging markets and find sustained growth without government subsidies, says Lux Research.

After recent explosive growth capped by a 66 percent surge to 26.5 GW in 2011, solar installations will grind to a near halt this year — adding a mere 0.4 GW, totaling 26.9 GW of new installations — while industry revenues drop from $110 billion in 2011 to $92 billion in 2012 due to crashing prices. However, new installations rebound to 38.3 GW in 2017 as the industry learns to navigate a global market fast losing its subsidies, according to a Lux Research report.

A supply glut, caused mainly by Chinese manufacturers, speculation of incentive cuts in Europe, and the end of the 1603 Cash Grant in the U.S. fueled the sharp growth in installations last year. “The solar industry’s storied history has created a massive misperception of technology maturity and commodity status,” said Matthew Feinstein, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report.

“Opportunities remain and extended success is possible for stakeholders, but the market’s shifting geographic profile – combined with a forced withdrawal from subsidy addiction – means strategic, surgical moves are needed,” he added.

 Lux Research analysts ran a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis in 156 separate geographies, accounting for 82 percent of the world’s population, calculating internal rates of return, to determine the viability and competitiveness of solar in each market. That model and methodology is part of the Lux Research Solar Demand Forecaster. Among their conclusions:

* Emerging markets more than quadruple in size

* Utility-scale application segment grows

* Oversupply still a possibility

* Securitization boosts smaller installations

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.: Businesses Gaining Optimism about Economic Outlook :.

Inflation and rising costs of energy and raw materials remain a concern

** In a reflection of recent upbeat economic news, American business owners are increasingly optimistic about the economic outlook for their businesses, according to the most recent Sage Business Index survey.  Sage, a leading provider of business management software and services to more than 6 million small and mid-sized businesses, conducted the study among 10,000 businesses worldwide, including over 1,900 businesses in the U.S.

When asked about the prospects over the next six months for their businesses, American respondents were overwhelmingly positive with an index value of 61.07, a size-able increase from the 55.31 index value from the summer of 2011 (indexes are based on a scale where zero to 50 is negative and 50 to 100 is positive). In comparison, businesses in Canada and the U.K. also showed a positive trend in confidence for their own business, while those in Germany remain unchanged and those in France, Austria, and Spain were less confident compared to last year.

Additionally, American business owners have become more positive about the economic prospects for the U.S. overall in the next six months with an index value of 49.28 compared to 41.57 in the summer of 2011. American business owners are less upbeat about the outlook for the global economy with an index result of 42.72, marginally above the 41.53 result from last summer.

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.: First Wind Celebrates Anniversary of Mars Hill Wind Project :.

Maine’s first utility-scale wind energy facility has generated more than 627,000 megawatt-hours of energy since 2007, and revenue has reduced local taxpayer burden by up to 20 percent

** First Wind, an independent U.S.-based wind energy company, is marking the fifth anniversary of successful commercial operations of its 42 MW Mars Hill Wind project, which supplies clean, renewable energy to local ratepayers in northern Maine.  Since it began commercial operations on March 27, 2007, Mars Hill has produced more than 627,000 megawatt-hours of energy and generated approximately $2.5 million in tax revenue for the town of Mars Hill.

The Mars Hill project, which cost about $90 million to develop and build, generates enough power for an average of 20,000 Maine homes each year. New Brunswick Power purchases all of the power and it is distributed to homes and businesses in Northern Maine. Reflecting the cost-competitiveness of wind energy with traditional fossil fuel sources, New Brunswick Power was recently able to offer a 10-20 percent discount in its standard offer service in the Mars Hill service territory.

“As the first utility-scale wind project here in Maine and New England and our second project to achieve commercial operations, Mars Hill is a special project to us. Since it went online in 2007, we have built three more projects in the state and have several others in development,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. “More broadly, we’re heartened to see how far wind in Maine has come in the last five years, benefiting ratepayers, reducing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels, and furthering economic development.”

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.: New Scholarship for the Bard MBA in Sustainability :.

** We are pleased to announce a special benefit for participants in the 2012 Wall Street Green Summit. Conference registrants are eligible to nominate one person for consideration for a $20,000 scholarship to Bard’s MBA in Sustainability.

The new MBA program is one of a handful of programs around the world that fully integrates sustainability into a rigorous business curriculum.

Based in New York City, the MBA also features a unique “weekend residency” structure, accommodating the needs of working professionals. Classes are held once each month over four days, beginning Friday morning and ending Monday afternoon. Students also attend online classes Tuesday and Thursday evenings during the semester. A key component of the Bard MBA curriculum is NYCLab. During the first year of study, teams of students consult for New York–area businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits.

Faculty teaching in Fall 2012 includes sustainable business pioneer Hunter Lovins, MBA Director and economist Eban Goodstein, and leadership expert Don Carlson.

The Bard MBA curriculum provides a firm foundation in core business competencies with a focus throughout on the integrated bottom line: economics, environment, and social equity. From courses on leadership to operations, marketing to finance, and economics to strategy, the program builds sustainability in from the ground up.

The Wall Street Green Summit Scholarship of $10,000 each year for two years, equaling a third of the program’s total tuition, is available for a student enrolling in the MBA in the Fall of 2012. The scholarship will be awarded to the student judged most likely to have a career advancing the ideals of the Wall Street Green Summit.

To learn more about the Bard MBA in Sustainability, please click here.

To nominate an applicant for the scholarship, please send a letter of nomination to mba@bard.edu.

.: Preventing Contamination in Recycling :.

New study examines ways to prevent accumulation of impurities in the recycling of aluminum

Aluminum has long been the poster child of recycling. About half of all aluminum used in the United States is now recycled, and this recycling has clear and dramatic benefits: Pound for pound, it takes anywhere from nine to 18 times as much energy to produce aluminum from raw ore as from recycled material.

Because it works so well, aluminum recycling continues to expand. But this expansion could run into problems, a new MIT analysis shows, unless measures are put in place to reduce impurities that can build up as aluminum is recycled over and over again — everything from paint and labels on cans to other metals that are accidentally mixed in. Such impurities will continue to add up, the MIT researchers say, unless extra measures are taken during the sorting of the recycled goods, or during their molten processing.

MIT researchers Randolph Kirchain and Elsa Olivetti, of the Materials Systems Lab, along with Gabrielle Gaustad of the Rochester Institute of Technology, published their findings in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

A major aluminum producer requested this analysis to help decide whether to install improved separation systems to prepare for impurities that could become more serious over time. “They couldn’t make the business case based on what’s happening today,” Kirchain says — but his team’s analysis showed that it would indeed make sense to install such systems in anticipation of future changes.

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.: Lux Research Releases Top 10 Innovative Companies :.

** Leading emerging technology research firm Lux Research profiled 262 companies across 12 different emerging technology domains in the fourth quarter of 2011 as part of its ongoing intelligence services.  Drawing on the deep domain expertise of its analysts, Lux Research uses primary research to provide detailed information and critical analysis of firms developing emerging technologies that are poised to impact global megatrends like sustainable energy and infrastructure, sustainable health and wellness, and materials revolutions.

Each quarter the Lux Research team of analysts identifies the 10 most compelling companies profiled across all its coverage areas. Each firm gets a “Lux Take” that ranges from “Strong Caution” to “Strong Positive,” to provide a bottom-line assessment of its prospect, with a “Wait and See” rating  for companies that still face too much uncertainty for a definitive call. The top 10 from Quarter Four 2011 are:

* 1. Diamon-Fusion International

Positive – Advanced Materials

With its transparent silicone film used to coat silica-based substrates, Diamon-Fusion is one of the few startups in the protective coatings space with strong technical and business execution track records.

* 2. Proterro

Wait-and-See – Bio-based Materials and Chemicals

Proterro is commercializing a strain of photosynthetic organism that produces sugars at levels ten times more productive than sugarcane, and in a configuration that could deliver the holy grail of ”five cent” sugars (i.e. five cents per pound), but it will need funding and downstream partners to scale its potential breakthrough technology beyond a lab prototype.

* 3. Topell Energy

Positive – Alternative Fuels

Working with German utility RWE, Topell Energy scaled its first commercial torrefaction facility in 2011 to convert wood waste into bio-coal pellets. Topell is a leader in the torrefaction space and is positioned to capitalize on healthy incentives in the EU for coal/bio-coal co-firing.

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.: Fossil Fuel Emissions Found on Alaska’s Glaciers :.

An Ancient but Modern Source of Carbon

** A new study concludes that fossil fuel emissions are likely contributors to a substantial amount of organic carbon found on glaciers in Alaska.

Fossil fuel emissions, which contain organic carbon, can speed up the rate of glacier melt when deposited on glacier surfaces. In addition, the organic molecules associated with these deposits can be transported in rivers and streams, affecting downstream aquatic ecosystems. Knowledge of the source and age of organic carbon in glaciers allows for a better understanding of these and other impacts.

Prior research suggested that the main sources of organic carbon in Alaska’s glaciers were from forests and peatlands overrun by glaciers as far back as ten thousand years ago. While old soil and plant material are still possible sources of glacial organic carbon, new research indicates that human-created, or anthropogenic, sources are also important.

“We knew the organic carbon present in Alaska’s glaciers was old, but identifying the sources of this material has been difficult due to the lack of chemical data,” said United States Geological Survey (USGS) scientist George Aiken.

While extensive burning of fossil fuels is, geologically speaking, a relatively modern practice, the fuels themselves and the resulting carbon emissions are ancient. This is because the fuels are formed from plants and microorganisms that lived millions of years ago.

“Now we know that a substantial amount of ancient organic matter associated with these and other glaciers is of anthropogenic origin,” continued Aiken.

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.: The Bloom Box: Fuel Cell Technology :.

EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature 2: Fuel Cell Technology from Bloom Energy

** California-based Bloom Energy is developing a different approach to power generation that has already had a profound impact on the way electricity is produced around the world.

Bloom Energy’s technology relies on fuel cells, which use an electrochemical process in which oxygen and fuel (natural gas or biogas) react to produce small amounts of electricity. When these fuel cells are stacked upon each other and arranged into large modules called Bloom Energy Servers™ or “Boxes,” they produce up to 200 kW of on-site power.  This is enough power to meet the baseload needs of the average office building or 160 average homes.

Furthermore, this approach has the potential to reduce customers’ CO2 emissions by 40-100 percent compared to the U.S. grid (depending on fuel choice) and virtually eliminate all SOx, NOx, and other harmful smog forming particulate emissions. It enables the possibility of affordable on-site, user-owned power generation that is constant and reliable and  provides an attractive economic payback for customers.

“This kind of technology is a win-win economically and environmentally; one from which all sectors stand to benefit.  The Bloom Energy Server also makes the micro-generation concept feasible. Imagine subdivisions, apartment complexes, or neighborhoods with their own carbon-free (if powered by renewables), mini power plants,” said Jim Marston, Vice President of EDF’s Energy Program.

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.: Campbell’s to Ditch BPA from Soup Cans :.

** Campbell’s Soup has agreed to stop using the chemical BPA in the lining of its cans, joining a host of other brands moving away from using the substance.

Campbell’s Soup Co. spokesman Anthony Sanzio said the company has been working on alternatives for five years and will make the transition as soon as “feasible alternatives are available.”

The move comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is poised to decide by the end of March whether to ban the chemical’s use in all food and beverage packaging.

Consumers have petitioned Campbell’s for the move away from BPA, or bisphenol A, because of worries about the chemical. BPA, used to make hard, clear plastic, has been linked in human and animal studies to heart disease, early-onset puberty, behavioral problems, diabetes, and breast and prostate cancer, especially at low doses.

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.: Transportation Fuel from Under Our Ground :.

Energy Security: Everyone is talking about it, but Byron Elton, CEO of Carbon Sciences, is doing something about it.

** “I was watching the Republican debates and every candidate was talking about energy security,” Byron said recently during a break from a convention at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Elton is a tall, very charismatic advocate not only for his company, but also for the idea of energy independence as a reachable, imperative national goal.

He went on to note that 25% of our trade deficit is due to imports of oil at $1 billion a day, and that $4.00+ a gallon at the pump is heavily subsidized by tax dollars through subsidies for oil, military incursions and other externalities. What Carbon Sciences is doing is developing a unique process for turning CO2 (carbon dioxide), combined with methane or natural gas, into a “drop in” fuel.  By “drop in” he means that it works with existing pumps and doesn’t require its own infrastructure, a drawback of liquid or compressed natural gas as a transportation fuel.

** Technology

According to Carbon Sciences, there are four methods for turning gases into a liquid (syngas) that can be used as a transportation fuel:

  • Steam Reforming – Energy intensive, consumes lots of water
  • Partial Oxidation– Consumes pure oxygen, a capital intensive and potentially hazardous feedstock
  • Autothermal Reforming – Partial oxidation with some help from steam
  • Dry Reforming – Consumes abundant and often negative value CO2, but requires a robust catalyst that can sustain the reaction at an industrial scale.

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