Green Trends

Did you Know that:

Over its lifetime, one single compact fluorescent bulb prevents 2,000 pounds (1 ton) of carbon dioxide from heating the atmosphere. It will also prevent the emission of 8-16 pounds of sulphur dioxide

Breakthrough in Thin-Film Solar Cells

Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have come out with positive news about increased efficiency of thin-film solar cells. As we know that scientists are trying to increase the efficiency of the solar cells so that they can be considered as serious alternative to the fossil fuels. Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) too are working at this angle.

They opted for the computer simulations to probe deeper into the indium/gallium combination to increase the efficiency of Copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) thin-film solar cells. Till now CIGS has shown only about 20% efficiency though theoretically they can attain the efficiency levels of 30%.

CIGS cells are cheaper than their counterpart silicon cells due to lower material and fabrication costs resulting in lowered manufacturing costs. CIGS has direct band-gap material therefore they exhibit a very strong light absorption tendency, and only 1-2 micrometers of CIGS is enough to absorb most of the sunlight.

Conventional silicon photovoltaic cells are rigid but CIGS cells are flexible. Thin-film solar cells are slowly topping the popularity chart of solar market.

Fuel Additive Production Takes the Green Route

Research is on for the organic production of isobutene (isobutylene). Thomas Bobik, Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology and David Gogerty, a doctoral student are doing pioneer research for producing isobutylene with the help of a new but natural enzyme rather than from the traditional petroleum-based products. The enzyme is awaiting patent process completion.

Role of isobutene:
Isobutene is generally used as fuel additive and also for producing some chemicals like plastics, synthetic rubber, and adhesives. This is used in place of MBTE (methyl tert-butyl ether) as fuel additive (after being converted to isooctane); until now, obtained from petroleum products. Isooctane has been proved to be more beneficial than MBTE to the vehicles.

Converting glucose to isobutene:
The research has been focused on identifying a new natural enzyme. This new enzyme – called Bobik’s enzyme – is capable of converting glucose found in plants to produce isobutene. Actually this is an enzyme found to occur naturally in fifty percent of all organisms found all over the world.

Positive influence of the enzyme:
The impact of this enzyme – identified as capable of aiding in producing fuel additive organically – can be tremendous in the bio-fuel production field. Though it is still initial stages, the expectations are running high about the positive influence of isobutylene special features.

The advantages of bioconversion:
Bio-fuel industry will benefit greatly cost-wise with this biological process to manufacture isobutene. This will be an eco-friendly process, beneficial to the environment. In the traditional ethanol production, cost of separating ethanol from water is quite prohibitively high. But the new conversion process produces isobutene in the gas form and so biofuel purification process will be cheaper and more efficient.

Current limitations:
Presently, the enzyme takes a lot of time for conversion of glucose into isobutene and so commercially not very cost competitive. The research is on for making the enzyme expedite the production of isobutene.

Directed enzyme evolution:
Directed enzyme evolution is an effort to contrive a speedy and cost-effective production of isobutene with the help of the enzyme. Science is giving nature a helping hand in production of isobutene.

Smart Window Maker Soladigm to Site Factory in Mississippi

The company claims its windows can curb power consumption in buildings. Soladigm will open a factory in Mississippi to see if a decades-old green building technology can finally take flight.

The company specializes in electrochromic windows which change tint when an electric current is applied. The idea is that building owners can turn down air conditioners and save energy on hot days by tinting the windows and blocking solar heat. Alternatively, office lights can be dimmed in the morning by keeping the windows clear.

“You can think of it as building with sunglasses,” said CEO Rao Mulpuri.

Electrochromic windows also won’t block or disturb views, like window shades or permanently tinted windows, he points out. The EU and some other jurisdictions have already passed regulations requiring window shading for efficiency, opening the market for these kinds of windows.

Cue harsh reality. Companies like Sage Electrochromics have been working on electrochromic windows since 1989 and the products are just now coming to market. The culprits? Cost, complexity and performance concerns.

Mulpuri (and execs at Sage) say that many of these problems have been conquered. Soladigm’s active ingredient is coated onto the inside surface of the outer pane of glass in its double-paned windows. The company exploits techniques developed in the semiconductor market to apply the chemical.

Wiring the windows is fairly easy with prefab construction techniques and the windows will function property for 30 years to 50 years. Unlike those photo grey glasses in the ’70s, the windows won’t devolve into a permanent shade of gray.

Soladigm’s windows cost more, but the difference will more than be made up through energy savings. Air conditioning accounts for an inordinate amount of power consumption in the U.S. Along with window makers like Soladigm, a number of start-ups — Ice Energy, Optimum Energy, Chromasun, BuildingIQ, Smart Cool Systems — have emerged to tackle the problem.

The state of Mississippi gave Soladigm a $40 million loan and $4 million grant. The new factory in Olive Branch will employ 300 people. It’s the second greentech victory for governor Haley Barbour this year. In April crazy-secretive solar power company Twin Creeks Technologies — which has raised over $65 million — announced a plant in Senatobia.

Soladigm has been in semi-stealth mode for quite some time. It was founded by Paul Nguyen and was previously called Echromics. It started in Santa Rosa but moved to Milpitas, and has raised around $24 million in a few rounds last year.


Scottish government to establish three offshore wind clusters

The Scottish government has unveiled plans to establish three offshore wind clusters, which it claims will require £223m ($347m) of investment, while creating 5,000 jobs and generating nearly £300m in annual revenue.

The government says such a clustering system – which will comprise 11 ports across the country – is cheaper than building three single-site hubs, and spreads the expected economic windfall over a wider swath.

Under such a system, Scotland could produce 750 offshore wind turbines a year, according to First Minister Alex Salmond.

Comparing the clusters to Germany’s approach in Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven and Emden, Salmond says individual ports will focus on manufacturing, logistics or storage.

The proposed “Forth/Tay” cluster would include Dundee, Leith and Methil; the “Moray” cluster copmrises Nigg and Ardersier; and a more geographically dispersed “West Coast” cluster would yoke Arnish, Kishorn, Hunterston and Campbeltown.

A potential fourth cluster could be formed around Aberdeen and Peterhead, though their location offers poorer access to projects allocated under the Round 3 and Scottish Territorial Waters leasing rounds.

A fifth cluster, dedicated to wave and tidal energy, will eventually be needed in the Pentland Firth and Orkneys.

Financing Solar Power in the Developing World

One of the most unique aspects of renewable energy – its distributed nature – makes it a perfect solution for areas of the world where the general population does not have access to electricity. There are currently a host of solar projects bringing light and power to these more removed regions of the world, a handful of which were recently highlighted at Intersolar in San Francisco, in mid-July.

At the show, presentations were made by participants in the Solar For All contest, which sought “innovative low-cost photovoltaic systems and customer financing schemes,” according to the organization’s website.  The contest, which was sponsored by Canopus Foundation of Freiburg, Germany, closed on April 30th.

Several of these entrepreneurial projects were focused on the development of centralized battery charging stations, others involved the sale of solar lights or individual panels, and at least one was based on tracking the carbon footprint reduction of its solar customers.

While all these developing world solar projects still rely on market-based sales for revenue, they vary in terms of the way their organizers are seeking capital to initially fund the projects.

If carbon credits alone were more broadly utilized in such ventures, some $8 billion worth of funding could be harnessed for micro-financed clean technology, according to April Allderdice, the CEO of Microenergy Credits. Unfortunately, the U.S. market for carbon credits is still being formulated, but thankfully, Europe is leading the way in this initiative.

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