Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Eni-MIT energy center focuses solely on the sun

MIT is stepping up its research into solar energy, hoping to finally make sunlight an affordable, efficient power source.

In a new research center officially opened last week, 21 Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty members and dozens of students are working together to make advances in solar technology. Called the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center, it is funded largely with a grant from Italian energy giant Eni, which recently provided $2 million in equipment for two new labs, in addition to a $5 million annual commitment for the next five years.

Moving away from fossil fuels is essential for global security, to meet growing demand for energy, and to protect against further climate change, MIT president Susan Hockfield said after a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The center, she said, aims to “fundamentally transform how the world produces and consumes energy.’’

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Solar panels are not just for the wealthy

By Mardina Graham

When you think of homeowners with solar panels, you probably don't think of me: a retired postal worker and grandmother who has lived in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood for nearly 50 years.

I know I didn't think of me when I thought of solar power. I was interested in going solar, but it seemed like something expensive that only companies in Silicon Valley or well-to-do homeowners in Marin could afford.

So that's what caught my attention in 2006 when I attended a neighborhood meeting. Someone from the San Francisco Department of the Environment spoke about a program with the nonprofit GRID Alternatives. It was all about helping lower-income households in Southeast San Francisco take advantage of solar energy.

Certainly it was appealing to do something that was good for the environment, but I was also eager to reduce my very high electric bills.

So the idea of installing solar was great, but what would it cost me? Turns out, nothing, except for the hot dogs I decided to prepare for the workers and volunteers.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/opinionshop/detail?&entry_id=63038#ixzz0nLK5wGSM

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bacteria may aid solar energy technology

CORAL GABLES, Fla., May 5 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they are studying the light harvesting properties of purple bacteria in hopes of adapting their natural designs in solar technologies.

University of Miami scientists said purple bacteria are single-celled microscopic organisms that live in aquatic environments, such as the bottom of lakes and in sea corals. They said the bacteria's natural design seems the best structural solution for harvesting solar energy.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Google Aims to Produce Cheap Renewable Energy

Google continues to invest in companies and research with the goal of producing renewable energy cheaper than coal, according to its "green energy czar." Google has touted its environmental consciousness, with CEO Eric Schmidt even pushing a national energy plan designed to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half by 2030.

Google is aiming to produce renewable energy cheaper than coal, both through its own research and by investing in outside companies, with the goal of having such a system operational within a few years.

"In, you know, three years, we could have multiple megawatts of plants out there," Bill Weihl, green energy czar for Google, said in an interview with Reuters. "We’ll see whether we or us in combination with other people are prepared to fund much, much bigger facilities, or if we want to get a few more years’ experience before we really start to scale it up."

Google has invested in advanced geothermal, wind and solar thermal; the latter involves concentrating solar energy via mirrors in order to power steam-turbines.

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Report: ‘Green’ job growth surges in U.S., Minnesota

Building and installing wind generators and solar panels, replacing inefficient windows and lighting and insulating homes are among the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune

Building and installing wind generators and solar panels, replacing inefficient windows and lighting and insulating homes are among the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The nonprofit group on Wednesday released the results from a national study that shows U.S. “clean-energy jobs’’ grew 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2007, much faster than the overall national job growth of 3.7 percent.

The study found that in 2007 there were 770,000 jobs at more than 68,200 businesses across the U.S. under the definition of clean energy. That compares to about 1.27 million people working in fossil fuel-related businesses such as coal mining and oil refining.

In Minnesota, the study found that clean-energy jobs grew 11.9 percent between 1998 and 2007, six times faster than the state’s overall job growth of 1.9 percent.

The report said green-energy job growth certainly slowed with the overall economy in 2008, for which employment statistics aren’t yet available, but probably kept its lead over other sectors.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

A solar plant that's worth its salt

By Peter Pae
May 29, 2009

Just past Barstow on Interstate 15, Las Vegas-bound travelers can eye a tower resembling a lighthouse rising out of the desert encircled by more than 1,800 mirrors the size of billboards.

The complex is often mistaken for a science fiction movie set, but it is actually a power plant that once used molten salt, water and the sun's heat to produce electricity.

Now a storied rocket maker in Canoga Park and a renewable energy company in Santa Monica are hoping to take what they learned at the long-closed desert facility to build a much larger plant that could power 100,000 homes -- all from a mix of sun, salt and rocket science once believed too futuristic to succeed.

The Santa Monica-based energy firm SolarReserve has licensed the technology, developed by engineers at Rocketdyne.

"Molten salt is the secret sauce," said SolarReserve President Terry Murphy.

It is one of at least 80 large solar projects on the drawing board in California, but the molten salt technology is considered one of the more unusual and -- to some energy analysts -- one of the more promising in the latest rush to build clean electricity generation.

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Solar energy comes to tribal clinic

A new solar energy system is providing about half of the electricity needed to power the Pyramid Lake Tribal Health Clinic in Nixon.

The 30-kilowatt photovoltaic array was made possible by a combination of donated labor and materials, and a program created by the Nevada State Legislature to encourage Nevadans to use renewable energy.

A dedication ceremony took place Friday.

Labor and materials were donated by the nonprofit Black Rock Solar, and costs for the solar panels were offset by a $138,000 rebate from the SolarGenerations program, which is managed statewide by NV Energy.

The panels were installed on the ground in a fenced area next to the clinic and are expected to generate approximately 60,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, or roughly half the clinic’s annual electricity consumption. This will reduce the clinic’s annual electric bill by approximately $7,200 or $180,000 over the expected 25-year life of the panels, said John Hargrove, project manager for SolarGenerations.

Since the start of the program six years ago, over 2 megawatts of solar energy have been installed statewide, and over $8 million in financial incentives has been paid out.

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