EarthTechling http://earthtechling.com Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:01:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Big solar step: Super-efficient system sets recordhttp://earthtechling.com/2014/12/big-solar-step-super-efficient-system-sets-record/ http://earthtechling.com/2014/12/big-solar-step-super-efficient-system-sets-record/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:01:24 +0000 http://earthtechling.com/?p=138780 A new world record is making the future of solar energy look pretty bright. Researchers in Australia recently developed a solar energy system that can convert more than 40 percent of the sunlight that hits it into electricity the highest efficiency ever reported for a commercially available photovoltaic system.

SunsetCrane

The technology first achieved the record-breaking efficiency in outdoor tests in Sydney, Australia, and later at an outdoor test facility operated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, the primary lab for renewable energy and energy efficiency research in the United States

Martin Green, a professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, led the research group that built the new energy system. This wasn’t the first time Green and his team broke a world record for solar energy efficiency. [Top 10 Craziest Environmental Ideas]

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Saving Our Soils and Climate with Biocharhttp://earthtechling.com/2014/12/saving-our-soils-and-climate-with-biochar/ http://earthtechling.com/2014/12/saving-our-soils-and-climate-with-biochar/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 16:15:02 +0000 http://earthtechling.com/?p=138776 Dear EarthTalk: What is biochar and how can it help reduce my carbon footprint?  – William Jarvis, Bethlehem, PA

Biochar is a naturally occurring, fine-grained, highly porous form of charcoal derived from the process of baking biomass—and it’s been associated with fertile soils for some two thousand years. “Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices,” reports the International Biochar Initiative (IBI), a trade group representing the world’s burgeoning biochar industry. “Intensive study of biochar-rich dark earths in the Amazon has led to a wider appreciation of biochar’s unique properties as a soil enhancer.”

biochar_oconnor

Indeed, researchers have been hard at work perfecting their own methods for manufacturing biochar by baking biomass in giant oxygen-free kilns. The resulting biochar can then be used as a soil amendment to help restore tired, compromised farmland, not to mention contaminated industrial sites, all the while taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. A liquid by-product of the biochar production process can also be converted into a carbon-neutral “biofuel” that can displace other carbon intensive fuels.

Farmers can layer biochar into their fields where it becomes part of the soil matrix and helps retain water and essential agricultural nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. “You can basically think of it as a soil reef upon which abiotic and biotic phenomena happen,” says David Shearer, CEO of Full Circle Biochar, one of a handful of U.S. based biochar start-ups working to commercialize the age-old “technology.” Farmers like the fact that using biochar can lower their water and fertilizer bills as well as yield more and better quality agricultural products—leading to better market performance overall. “This is really a hedge for farmers,” reports Shearer. “It really helps them manage their financial risk and it helps them manage risk into the future around production.”

Beyond agriculture, biochar can also be used to clean up polluted land. “For example, if you have a mine that has contaminated soil adjacent to it, biochar … will allow you to remediate soils,” says Shearer. He adds that biochar also makes for an excellent filtration medium: “We know that activated charcoal has been used for millennia as a filter mechanism, and so there is discussion in the biochar community that maybe the first step is we’ll use it as a filtration media, and then we’ll move to agriculture as the cost of production of biochar comes down.”

As far as environmentalists are concerned, the greater the demand for biochar the better, given the fact that it is a potent storage mechanism for carbon dioxide that would otherwise head into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. “The carbon in biochar resists degradation and can hold carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years,” reports IBI. “We can use this simple, yet powerful, technology to store 2.2 gigatons of carbon annually by 2050. It’s one of the few technologies that is relatively inexpensive, widely applicable and quickly scalable. We really can’t afford not to pursue it.”

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Remote Start Functionality for its Blink Electric Vehicle Charging Stationshttp://earthtechling.com/2014/12/remote-start-functionality-for-its-blink-electric-vehicle-charging-stations/ http://earthtechling.com/2014/12/remote-start-functionality-for-its-blink-electric-vehicle-charging-stations/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 17:08:13 +0000 http://earthtechling.com/?p=138773 Car Charging Group, Inc. (OTCQB: CCGI) (“CarCharging”), the largest owner, operator, and provider of electric vehicle (EV) charging services, announced that it now offers remote start functionality for its Blink EV charging stations via the Blink mobile application (“App”). This feature provides EV drivers with the ability to start an EV charging session directly from the App, which is available for iOS and Android devices.

Once a driver locates and selects the Blink EV charging station on the Blink App, they have multiple options for beginning the charging session, including signing into their Blink Member account or continuing as a Blink guest and entering their credit card information directly into the App. The updated version of the Blink App is currently available on Google Play for Android device and should be available on the App Store within the next few days. Drivers can locate links for the Blink App and become a Blink Member at www.BlinkNetwork.com.

“As the largest owner, operator, and provider of EV charging infrastructure, we continue to work to eliminate the barriers that have existed among EV Charging networks and improve the overall charging experience for EV drivers,” said Michael D. Farkas, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of CarCharging. “In addition to offering new functionality for the Blink Network and its EV charging stations, we plan to expand the functionality of the Blink App to include paying and initiating charging sessions for all public Blink, GE, and SemaConnect EV charging stations. In addition, we also plan to continue our efforts with other EV charging hardware and network providers to integrate their systems with the Blink Network.”

Along with the Blink App, EV drivers will continue to have the ability to initiate charging sessions through the touch screen of the Blink EV charging stations or by contacting Blink Customer Support.

About Car Charging Group, Inc.
Car Charging Group, Inc. (OTCQB: CCGI) is a pioneer in nationwide public electric vehicle (EV) charging services, enabling EV drivers to easily recharge at locations throughout the United States. Headquartered inMiami Beach, FL with offices in San Jose, CA; New York, NY; and Phoenix, AZ; CarCharging’s business model is designed to accelerate the adoption of public EV charging.

Through its subsidiary, Blink Network, CarCharging also provides residential EV charging solutions for single-family homes.  For more information, please visit www.BlinkHQ.com.

CarCharging has strategic partnerships across multiple business sectors including multifamily residential and commercial properties, parking garages, shopping malls, retail parking, and municipalities.

For more information about CarCharging, please visit www.CarCharging.com,www.facebook.com/Car.Charging, or www.twitter.com/CarCharging.

Forward-Looking Safe Harbor Statement:
This press release contains forward-looking statements as defined within Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. By their nature, forward-looking statements and forecasts involve risks and uncertainties because they relate to events and depend on circumstances that will occur in the near future.  Those statements include statements regarding the intent, belief or current expectations of Car Charging Group, Inc., and members of its management as well as the assumptions on which such statements are based. Prospective investors are cautioned that any such forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties, and that actual results may differ materially from those contemplated by such forward-looking statements. The Company undertakes no obligation to update or revise forward-looking statements to reflect changed conditions.

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Report Misses Link Between California Drought and Human-Caused Climate Changehttp://earthtechling.com/2014/12/report-misses-link-between-california-drought-and-human-caused-climate-change/ http://earthtechling.com/2014/12/report-misses-link-between-california-drought-and-human-caused-climate-change/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 17:30:48 +0000 http://earthtechling.com/?p=138768 mmannJust a couple months ago, I critiqued a pair of studies that disputed any linkage between human-caused climate change and the exceptional 2014 California drought. Now comes yet another study (“Causes and Predictability of the 2011-14 California Drought”) with the imprimatur of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announced with great fanfare (a NOAApress conference), drawing yet again the same conclusion. My criticisms of the latest study are yet again basically the same, but for reasons I explain below, that conclusion is even more implausible now than it was just two months ago.

I fear that the dubious claims by this latest report simply complicate prospects for having the very important and necessary conversation about what measures California will need to take to deal with what is likely to be a steadily worsening water crisis. Photo credit: Shutterstock

I fear that the dubious claims by this latest report simply complicate prospects for having the very important and necessary conversation about what measures California will need to take to deal with what is likely to be a steadily worsening water crisis. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Let me start by noting that this latest report (unless I’ve missed something?) doesn’t appear to be an actual peer-reviewed scientific article, but rather, an internal NOAA report. That causes me some concern, as the claims have not yet been submitted to the independent scrutiny of the larger scientific community in the manner it would have if it were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

That having been said, my main concerns are far more fundamental. The methodology used in the current article, in my view, is deeply flawed because it doesn’t properly account for a number of potentially important factors behind the record California drought.

First of all, there is the role of Pacific sea surface temperature (SST). Despite what the authors claim, the Pacific SST patterns underlying the ongoing drought-favorable conditions may be partly forced, and not simply a result of natural climate variability. The IPCC “CMIP5″ climate models which the authors quote in their defense may not be getting these patterns right because of flaws that persist even in many state-of-the-art climate models involving the physics underlying El Nino and decadal tropical Pacific climate variability. One recent study suggests that climate change does in fact favor an SST pattern in the North Pacific that increases the incidence of the atmospheric circulation pattern responsible for the current rainfall deficit.

Secondly, the approach taken in this latest study doesn’t account for  the potential influence of decreasing Arctic Sea Ice. Studies going back more than a decade show that reduced Arctic sea ice may also favor the atmospheric circulation pattern underlying the current pattern of California drought. More recent work by Jennifer Francis of Rutgers provides independent support for that mechanism.

Most inexplicable of all, though, is the fact that the authors pay only the slightest lip service to the role of surface temperature in drought, focusing almost entirely on precipitation alone. That neglects the fact that California experienced record heat over the past year, and this anomalous heat certainly contributed to the unprecedented nature of the current drought. Another article published just a week ago in one of the premier peer-reviewed journals in the field, Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), preemptively critiqued the present study, by stressing the importance of looking at the role of extremely high surface temperatures as well as precipitation in assessing the factors behind e.g. the 2014 California drought.

And most ironic of all, just days ago, another article in GRL concluded that the record heat played a role in making the current California drought the worst such drought in at least 1200 years! (see also this discussion by Peter Gleick).

The authors of the new report would really have us believe that is merely a coincidence and has nothing to do with the impact of human-caused climate change? Frankly, I don’t find that even remotely plausible.

I’m sure this latest study was done in good faith, and I don’t question the intentions of the authors. But I’m troubled by the fact that the findings were announced with such fanfare (how many studies, let alone non peer-reviewed ones, get the benefit of a NOAA press conference?), when the conclusions are so flimsy, are contradicted by so much other peer-reviewed scientific work and involve a matter of tremendous societal importance. I fear that the dubious claims by this latest report simply complicate prospects for having the very important and necessary conversation about what measures California will need to take to deal with what is likely to be a steadily worsening water crisis. That is no small matter.

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Getting Kids Into Environmental Activismhttp://earthtechling.com/2014/12/getting-kids-into-environmental-activism/ http://earthtechling.com/2014/12/getting-kids-into-environmental-activism/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 23:24:47 +0000 http://earthtechling.com/?p=138765 Dear EarthTalk: Do you have any tips for helping me get my kids involved in environmental protection advocacy? – Jeanine Black, Charlotte, NC

There’s no time like the present to teach kids to respect their environment and be willing to stand up to protect it. Of course, any good environmental education starts at home: parents should always keep in mind that they are role models for their kids, and should act responsibly. And most schools today incorporate issues of sustainability into their curricula. But kids who want to do more can sync up with one of any number of nonprofits focused on getting young people involved with volunteering and advocacy on behalf of the environment.

One of the best places to start is Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!), a nonprofit that runs a national speakers’ and workshop tour around the U.S. and beyond as well as summer camps devoted to teaching kids how to take action on behalf of the environment. The group also runs JAMs, bringing together “young changemakers” from local communities to brainstorm ideas for solutions to local, national and international environmental problems. The YES! website features information on a wide range of environmental topics as well as videos focusing on organizing and coalition building around shared environmental goals.

Another great resource is the Center for Biological Diversity’s Generation Wild program, designed to help kids learn about and help protect local wildlife. The program’s website offers kids tips on things like how to write an effective and compelling “letter to the editor” for publication in a local newspaper, creating a backyard wildlife sanctuary, encouraging teachers and schools to undertake projects that help local wildlife, and spreading the word via social media.

Meanwhile, Earthforce, Inc. helps kids ages 10-14 develop citizenship skills and address both local and national environmental problems. Participants get hands-on, real-world opportunities to learn about the issues and develop skills that can help them become lifelong leaders in addressing them. Another leading youth environmental group is Tree Musketeers, which empowers kids to use innovative approaches in launching their own environmental campaigns where they live. Through its Young Executive program, the group provides resources to help kids learn the practical, logistical and personal skills to lead environmental actions and spread the word about the need to live more sustainable lifestyles.

Yet another nonprofit vehicle that helps kids get active is SustainUS, which focuses on sustainable development. Its Agents of Change program sends youth delegations to United Nations conferences on climate change, sustainable development, women’s issues and biological diversity—and its Lead Now Fellowship trains and supports young people in becoming leaders in advancing sustainable development.

Last but not least, TakingItGlobal is an international network of young people working to tackle global environmental challenges. Its Digital Youth Engagement, Global Education and Social Innovation programs focus on creating the next generation of environmental leaders around the world.

Young people can also get involved in environmental protection efforts right in their own backyards even without the support of a non-profit. Examples include organizing a local e-waste recycling drive, asking schools and businesses in the area to refrain from using noxious chemicals for landscaping, and coordinating carpools to reduce traffic-related greenhouse gas emissions. Likewise, kids can learn a lot by finding a local green group and volunteering to help canvass for funds, clean-up a beach or waterway, or lobby local officials to take sustainability into account. Indeed, our common future may well depend on i

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Wind Tower is Another Step Toward Profitable and Sustainable Energy Productionhttp://earthtechling.com/2014/12/wind-tower-is-another-step-toward-profitable-and-sustainable-energy-production/ http://earthtechling.com/2014/12/wind-tower-is-another-step-toward-profitable-and-sustainable-energy-production/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:23:49 +0000 http://earthtechling.com/?p=138760
SheerWind announced their newest innovation as part of their Industry changing INVELOX technology. The bold technology integrates three turbines in a row or series and increases the electrical power output for a single tower. SheerWind’s INVELOX™ system is a large funnel that captures, concentrates, and accelerates wind before delivering it to turbines safely and efficiently located at ground level. By placing three turbines in a series in an INVELOX system, additional 120% power may be generated compared to a single turbine.
SheerWind How it Works

Recent reports state technologies have allowed some markets in renewable generation to be competitive with coal or natural gas. This is good news, however, renewable energies intermittency and massive size challenges will continue without industry changes. SheerWind’s INVELOX attends to the intermittency and size issues by combining the best traditional wind technologies with a unique wind delivery system that produces more efficient and powerful wind generation machines.

Ultimately combining technologies will allow us to achieve the necessary power generation capacities to transform wind energy into a reliable base-load power source. This includes reducing intermittency issues by producing power at lower wind speeds, placing turbines safely covered at ground level allowing installation close to the end user. This could be the beginning of transforming wind power into the base-load power source that coal has been since the early 1900s.

Multiple turbines in a single INVELOX tower means nearly zero operational downtime because maintenance can be done on one turbine while the others continue producing energy. With INVELOX capacity factor at 60–90% and turbines installed safely and conveniently at ground level, maintenance costs and failure is greatly reduced. See video.

Benefits of multiple turbines in single tower

  • 120% additional power output at minimum added cost of turbine-generators
  • Reduced capital expenditure per kilowatt
  • Increased production capacity
  • Gain in output without increasing footprint
  • Offers upgradability to meet increase in power demands
  • Minimizes operational downtime

“This is a great achievement, for the first time in wind industry history three turbines may run in series in a single tower to produce more energy. This means customers can gain an increase in output from a single INVELOX tower —reducing cost per kilowatt—all without additional structure or land use,” said Steve Hill COO of SheerWind, “Plus increased capacity allows production in areas previously limited by low wind speed, size or land constraints.”

About SheerWind:
Founded in 2010 in Chaska, MN, SheerWind is changing the course of power generation. Its patented INVELOX wind funnel technology brings wind energy production to ground level. By capturing, concentrating, and accelerating wind energy, ultimately reducing costs, while solving major problems that have plagued the industry, including low turbine reliability, intermittency issues, and environmental impacts. SheerWind is poised to turn wind power into a major power source for the globe. For more see: SheerWind or SW facebook

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What State Wants to Bail Out Big Coal?http://earthtechling.com/2014/12/what-state-wants-to-bail-out-big-coal/ http://earthtechling.com/2014/12/what-state-wants-to-bail-out-big-coal/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 16:46:44 +0000 http://earthtechling.com/?p=138741 What next, Ohio? You’ve rolled back your renewable energy standards, you’ve gotten sued over your reckless fracking regulations, you’re considering banning green LEED standards for public buildings and you’re trying to weaken Lake Erie water withdrawal rules that would jeopardize the multi-state Great Lakes Compact and an international treaty with Canada. What else do you have in your bag of environmentally unfriendly tricks?

CoalPLant

Ohio’s big utility companies want customers to pay more to keep these inefficient, polluting facilities running. Photo credit: Shutterstock

How about making utility consumers pay to subsidize costly aging coal plants? Check! That’s precisely what three big Ohio utility companies want to do. Columbus-based American Electric Power (AEP), Cincinnati-based Duke Energy and Akron-based FirstEnergy have asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to let them raise rates to cover the cost of keeping these obsolete, polluting facilities in use. In essence, they want customers to guarantee a continuing flow of income for old, inefficient coal-fired plants. This despite the fact that aPublic Policy Polling survey in August found  that 56 percent of those polled felt Ohio should be investing in renewable energy sources vs. 36 percent who felt the investment should be in traditional energy sources.

“These monopoly utilities are trying to ditch free market principles and make Ohio electricity customers pay for outdated, polluting, dead-end coal plants,” said Allison Fisher of consumer organization Public Citizen. “Coal is becoming less and less competitive, and it’s unfair to force Ohioans to pay for something they don’t want.”

Luckily, the Sierra Club has just relaunched its “No Coal Bailouts” campaign in the state, throwing some muscle behind the thousands of petitions and letters PUCO has already received, including a letter from 12 big businesses such as Lowe’s, Costco, Macy’s and Staples, calling the proposal “unfair to shopping customers and harmful to competitive markets.”

To prod consumer awareness of what they could be asked to pay for, Sierra Club is launching a new fusillade of ads exposing the big utilities state utilities for trying to offload the cost of the old coal-fired plants onto customers’ bills. The campaign includes statewide radio ads, direct mail pieces, online ads and animated web gifs, along with curbside kiosk ads in downtown Columbus. The advertising will continue throughout the holiday season to help assure that consumers don’t get coal in their stockings while the big utility companies make off with the gold.

To see the ads or listen to the radio ad, go here.

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