Solar, U.S.

Cheaper Solar Technology Attracts More Homeowners

October 7, 2007: (Wall Street Journal Online) – When Bill and Margaret Oliver decided to take the plunge into solar energy earlier this year, the retired Long Beach, Calif., couple searched for months to find someone who could install 35 newfangled solar panels atop their three-bedroom home.

Despite the hassles — and though the panels cost them $39,000, after government rebates — the Olivers say they’re ecstatic to be escaping power bills that had soared to almost $400 a month. The panels contain a relatively new technology for the home called “photovoltaic cells,” which convert direct sunlight into electricity. With the installation complete, their latest monthly bill totaled just $1.34.

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Biodiesel, Biofuels, Crude Palm Oil, Transportation, U.S.

Vegetable Oils may Slip on Biodiesel Slowdown

September 26, 2007 (The Economic Times) – Vegetable oil prices are likely to come down by next year with an expected slowdown in biodiesel production, according to London-based economic consultancy LMC International managing director James Fry. Speaking at a seminar in Panaji, Mr Fry said there is a cyclical uptrend in palm oil production and if the US government slashes export subsidies on biofuels, the prices of vegetable oil will be moderately bearish.Biodiesel producers in the US bring their production to ports and blend 1% of fossil fuel to claim a $300 per tonne subsidy. The fuel is then shipped to Europe where it is again subsidised through tax incentives. “The subsidies were meant to encourage biodiesel consumption in US and not to export it.

However production has now increased to over 100,000 tonnes a month which has helped lift vegetable oil demand which is a distortion that is helping the market,” he said.

Palm oil prices have been rising as the oil is diverted in making biodiesel. Mr Fry said there has been a lot of speculation and the prices of vegetable oil in both US and Europe have risen. But local biodiesel producers without the export subsidies are losing money with margins becoming negative and this is expected to slow down biodiesel production.

Clean Energy, Solar, U.S.

Display Technology Promises Cheaper Solar

October 2, 2007: (Technology Review): The big manufacturing equipment that has helped bring down costs for flat-screen TVs based on liquid-crystal-display (LCD) technology may soon bring prices for solar electricity more in line with prices for electricity from the grid. Applied Materials, a company based in Santa Clara, CA, that supplies manufacturing equipment to LCD makers, as well as to major microchip makers, has converted its equipment to produce thin-film silicon solar cells that are cheap enough to compete with more conventional solar cells. This may eventually lead to much cheaper solar power.

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Australia, Renewable Energy, Solar, U.S.

Ausra Announces a Gigawatt in Solar Thermal Projects

September 27, 2007 ( – Ausra, a solar thermal specialist from Australia, on Thursday said it will try to build solar power plants in the U.S. over the next seven years that collectively will generate a gigawatt worth of power. Three hundred megawatts worth of that capacity is already committed to FPL Group, a utility concentrated in Florida, according to Ausra.

Another likely customer is Pacific Gas & Electric. The California utility has committed to signing contracts for a gigawatt worth of solar thermal power over the next five years. PG&E is talking to a number of solar thermal companies about this, including Ausra.

These plants, along with the other solar power plants in the planning stages, will greatly expand the footprint for solar thermal power. Solar thermal plants concentrate sunlight onto mirrors to collect heat, and then use the heat to create steam or gas from an enclosed liquid. The pressure from the gas then turns a turbine to create electricity. Continue reading

Biodiesel, Biofuels, Carbon Credits, Clean Energy, Cleantech venture capital, New Zealand, Renewable Energy, U.S.

New Zealand Biofuel Trial to Start in October

Solid Energy’s biodiesel arm is “quietly confident” it will get enough cropping farmers to plant oilseed rape for a 1500ha biofuel trial in the South Island.

August 24, 2007 (The Press) – Its operating division, Biodiesel New Zealand, plans to have the first crop sown in mid-October. Contract rates will vary depending on where the crop is grown, and incentives are being introduced to make it competitive with autumn-grown rotation crops.

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Carbon Credits, Clean Energy, Climate Change, Emissions Reduction, GHG, Renewable Energy, U.K., U.S.

Trade in Greenhouse Gas Permits and Credits up 45%

August 16, 2007  (Environmental Finance) — Volumes in the world’s carbon markets were up 45% year-on-year to 1.2 billion tonnes in the first six months of 2007, according to research from Point Carbon.Carbon allowances and permits worth €15.8 billion ($21.2 billion) were traded in the first six months of 2007 compared with €22.5 billion in all of 2006, an increase of 41% in annualised terms, according to the Oslo-based analyst company.

The European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) saw two-thirds of the traded volume, with the equivalent of 775 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2e) changing hands at a financial value of €11.5 billion.

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Energy Efficiency, U.S.

Data Centers Sucking Energy

EPA report says energy consumption by servers, data centers has doubled since 2000.

August 3, 2007 ( – Energy consumption by servers and data centers has doubled since 2000 and is set to nearly double again by 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a report released Friday.

The report, prepared at the behest of Congress and led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that data centers and servers gobbled up 61 billion kilowatt-hours in 2006, adding up to a whopping $4.5 billion electricity bill.

As paper records increasingly become a thing of the past, demand for data processing and storage is skyrocketing, sucking up 1.5 percent of the total electricity consumption in the U.S. in 2006, an amount roughly equivalent to that consumed by 5.8 million average American households, by the EPA’s estimate. The federal government’s server farms and data centers alone account for 10 percent of that overall energy consumption and cost taxpayers $450 million a year, the report found.

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Mechanical Energy, Renewable Energy, U.S.

MIT Duo see People-powered “Crowd Farm”

Plan would harvest energy of human movementJuly 25, 2007 – ( Two graduate students at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning want to harvest the energy of human movement in urban settings, like commuters in a train station or fans at a concert.

The so-called “Crowd Farm,” as envisioned by James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk, both M.Arch candidates, would turn the mechanical energy of people walking or jumping into a source of electricity. Their proposal took first place in the Japan-based Holcim Foundation’s Sustainable Construction competition this year.

A Crowd Farm in Boston’s South Station railway terminal would work like this: A responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps would be installed beneath the station’s main lobby. The slippage of the blocks against one another as people walked would generate power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current.

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Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Traditional Energy, U.S.

House Shifts $16 Billion Toward Renewable Energy

August 5, 2007 – WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday passed a Democratic rewrite of U.S. energy policy that strips $16 billion in tax incentives away from Big Oil and puts it toward renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

The 786-page bill, passed in a rare Saturday vote, was a top priority for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and is an amalgam of bills assembled by about a dozen of the chamber’s committees in recent months.

Republicans called it a “no-energy bill” because it lacks new drilling incentives, and they derided the new emphasis on renewables as “green pork.” The White House threatened to veto the bill on concerns that it could boost energy prices.

House Republican leader John Boehner said the bill “cuts the lifeblood of our economy off at the knees by increasing taxes to pay for green pork projects,” referring to billions of dollars of “energy conservation bonds” that would finance renewable projects.

The bill, the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act and the related tax title would spur a massive redistribution of federal incentives to wind, solar, geothermal and away from producing energy from oil, natural gas and coal.

“It’s an historic turn away from a fossil fuel agenda and toward a renewable energy agenda for America,” said Rep. Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat. “It has been a long time coming.”

The bill sets new standards for appliances and building efficiency codes, and spurs possible renegotiation of faulty Gulf of Mexico drilling leases signed by the Clinton administration that left about $2 billion on the table.


The House voted 220-190 to add a controversial amendment that would require U.S. utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2020. Utilities in Southeast and Midwest states that lack wind currents needed to justify new wind turbines would have to pay billions of dollars in penalties to comply with the rules.

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