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Alternative Energy

  • How the Sunflower can Revolutionise Solar Power Plants

    Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants are probably the most technologically advanced and efficient form of generating solar energy on a large scale. Currently there are only a handful in the world (although that number is expected to grow) and one of them (inventively called PS10) majestically stands in Andalucia, Spain. It is 100 metres tall and surrounded by rows of giant mirrors (heliostats), each roughly the size of half a tennis court. The heliostats reflect the sun’s energy onto the central tower where it is then converted into enough electricity to power 6,000 homes. CSP’s could potentially generate enough clean,…

  • Who Will Survive the Coming Solar Energy Meltdown

    “Without these subsidies … ‘On-grid PV,’ would be virtually non-existent. It only exists because the solar industry lobbied government officials to compel citizens to purchase this otherwise non-economic energy source.” “Included in the list of failed solar companies is Solon of Germany whose corporate slogan was ‘Don’t Leave the Planet to the Stupid.’ Fortunately for taxpayers, it appears Solon will be leaving the planet.” A recent Wall Street Journal article, Dark Times Fall on Solar Sector (December 27, 2011), surveyed the latest solar industry fallout, as well as overviewed the financial condition of the surviving companies. But the article seems…

  • Investment in Clean Technology Set to Reach Record Levels in 2012

    The clean-tech sector is primed for a record-setting year of investments in 2012, following robust growth in 2011 despite difficult conditions, according to the Cleantech Group. Global clean technology venture and corporate investments totalled $9 billion in 2011, a 13% increase over 2010, according to the analysis firm’s preliminary 2011 data. This is just shy of 2008’s record of $9.5 billion. Clean-tech mergers and acquisitions reached record highs in 2011 with 391 deals and a dollar volume of $41.2 billion, up 153% over 2010. “Despite some of the well-publicised headwinds, venture capitalists continue to invest in clean-tech,” said Sheeraz Haji,…

  • Why Africa Needs to Embrace Bamboo Charcoal

    In the developed world where a flip of a switch or twist of a knob starts food heating the idea of gathering dung, wood or making charcoal for food preparation is a nearly horrifying thought. But for billions of humans, that procedure is a daily routine. It isn’t possible for people to join in the world of trade, increasing incomes and raising living standards to the developed world’s condition without getting through the food gathering and preparation needed at far more productive time scales.  Increasing human population is making the food issue even more complex, and much of the forests…

  • Expiration of Cash Grant to Affect Biomass & Wind More than Solar

    The expiration of the 1603 US cash grant programme is likely to slow but not stop the solar industry’s fast march toward grid parity, as solar costs continue to decline rapidly, said industry experts. However, preserving government subsidies for other renewables remains critical as they try to reach parity with traditional energy sources, experts said. The Section 1603 Treasury grant programme expired on 31 December after an effort to include an extension in must-pass legislation failed. Solar industry advocates were the strongest supporters of an extension and have vowed to keep pushing for the programme to be retroactively renewed. One…

  • Once Derided as an Expensive Folly, China’s Three Gorges Dam Goes From Strength to Strength

    China’s Three Gorges Dam Project was launched in 1993 with a $27.69 billion budget. While the Three Gorges construction finished in late 2008, its final six additional turbines in the underground power plant only started generating electricity last year. Located on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River in Hubei Province, the Three Gorges Dam is now the world's largest water control and hydropower project, consisting of a 7,661 foot-long, 594 foot -high dam, a five-tier ship lock, with 26 hydropower turbo-generators generating 20,300 megawatts. Only Brazil’s Itaipu dam produces more electricity. In addition to generating electricity, the Three Gorges Dam controls…

  • Move Aside Corn Ethanol - Sweet Sorghum Being Engineered as a New Biofuel

    This is one to take seriously.  A deal has been made by Pioneer Hybrids, the corn seed company started by the Vice President back in one of Roosevelt’s terms, Henry A. Wallace who introduced hybrid corn seed and started the green revolution we and billions of other people rely on for food today.Sweet Sorghum at an Oklahoma State U. Test Plot. Now a division of DuPont, Pioneer has entered into a deal with NexSteppe for collaboration in developing sorghum varieties.  The expectation for expert observers is that the collaboration is meant to bring a new high-yield crop to growers, or…

  • Football Pitch-Sized Batteries Could Change the World of Renewable Energy

    2011 saw huge advances in solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, and these advancements will continue into 2012. In fact 2012 could be the year that renewable energy sources start to seriously compete with traditional fossil fuels, at least that is the hope in the battle to reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on dwindling oil stocks. However a major problem with renewable energy sources is that they can rarely provide consistent power levels, due to a myriad of factors outside of human control. Eric Wesoff, an industry analyst with Greentech Media, explains that, “A wind farm only works…

  • BP Closes its Solar Business After 40 Years

    After 40 years, BP exits its solar business in the face of fierce competition. Are they to blame? If "BP" is short for Beyond Petroleum, it will have to change its name to just "P" now after it officially shut down its solar business last month, a key division in its quest to develop cleaner sources of energy. After 40 years, the final decision to shut the door on solar mostly comes from the impossible competition faced from China. With the growth of Chinese manufacturing, a global surplus of panels and the subsequent collapse in prices, many solar companies have…

  • A Look at Some of the Obstacles Facing Wind Energy in the U.S.

    In the United States, we have been working on scaling up wind energy but not getting very far. In 2010, wind energy supplied only 2.3% of electricity purchased. Such slow progress seems strange for a product that seems to have such great promise. It can reduce CO2 emissions. It doesn’t require fuel. It is at least partly US made. The popular view is that it could eventually replace gasoline, but that view is very optimistic because electricity is very different from gasoline, and because of the scalability issue.Figure 1. Wind energy (dark green) is barely visible in a graph of…