California and American West Top 2012 State Clean Energy Index

California is the top clean energy state in the United States for the third consecutive year, and the American West region continues to lead the national clean tech economy, according to a new ranking from industry analysts Clean Edge.

The 2012 State Clean Energy Index, the third-annual such analysis, aggregates various industry data into one scoring system. Overall scores are awarded on a 100-point scale based on three categories – installed technology (clean electricity, clean transportation, energy intelligence & green building), policy outlook (regulations & mandates, incentives), and invested capital (financial, human & intellectual).

#1 — California

California dominated the rankings with a 91.1 score, more than 10 points higher than the second-ranked state, even though it lost 4.2 points from 2011. The Golden State “has established itself as the world’s preeminent testing ground for clean technology of all kinds,” and led the country in nearly all aspects of market expansion, including new wind and solar, hybrid and electric vehicles (EV), and green building.

However, the state’s most notable achievement comes in attracting venture capital. California-based clean energy startups saw $9 billion in investment over the past three years, more than the combined total of all 49 other states.

#2 — Oregon

Oregon held onto its second-place rank, gaining 0.5 points for a 79.9 score. Clean Edge credits the state’s success to consumer-driven demand for clean tech products and services, the highest national participation rates for voluntary green pricing programs, the largest concentration of LEED-certified buildings, and one of the highest rates of hybrid-electric vehicles per-capita.

#3 — Massachusetts

Massachusetts jumped 4.3 points to retain its third-place rank with a score of 76.1. Clean Edge attributes the state’s strength to an existing base of energy efficiency measures, a $500-million infusion of venture capital investment in 2011, and the Boston metro region’s network of universities. The index considers this concentration of education and startups second only to Silicon Valley.

#4 — Washington State

Washington State, buoyed by a 9-point increase, jumped from sixth overall in 2010 to the fourth-ranked state in 2011 with a score of 69.0. This ranking was due to newly added wind capacity and strong hydropower output, which helped to generate more than 84 percent of all in-state electricity from low-carbon sources (up from 72 percent in 2010). In addition, the state’s focus on building out an EV charging network could make it an industry epicenter moving forward.

#5 — Colorado

Rounding out the top five was Colorado, which maintained the fifth-overall rank from 2010 with a five-point score increase to 65.1. Clean tech infrastructure continues to grow in the state, especially in green building, wind power, and solar photovoltaics. Interestingly, Colorado also checks in as the third most attractive destination for venture capital investment, thanks largely to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

National trends

Clean Edge also noted four impressive national trends:

  • Six states now generate more than 10 percent of their utility-scale electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal – twice as many as 2010.
  • Nearly two million hybrid cars are now registered in the U.S., and nearly 50,000 all-electric vehicles now ride our roads.
  • The 29 states with renewable portfolio standards (along with Washington, D.C.) now represent nearly two-thirds of the total national generating capacity.
  • Clean energy patents granted to U.S. entities exceeded the 1,000 mark for the first time in history.

Remainder of top ten

The index also highlights interesting factors that helped determine the rank of the rest of the top-ten states:

  • New York State (64.9) ranked sixth, generating more GDP dollars per kilowatt-hours consumed as a result of extensive energy efficiency measures, and the upstate region is a growing hotbed of clean energy R&D.
  • Illinois (59.8) ranked seventh, reflecting rural areas of the state’s focus on agriculture and biofuels development as well as Chicago’s leadership in green building and energy efficiency.
  • New Mexico (58.1) ranked eighth, due largely to the state’s growing importance to the solar industry and importance as a key market for PV deployment and technology development.
  • Vermont (56.5) ranked ninth on the strength of an environmentally minded population, high percentage of hybrid-EV deployment, and energy efficiency measures.
  • Minnesota (54.6) ranked tenth as a notable national leader in wind energy and biofuels. The state was one of only five in 2011 to generate 10 percent of its power needs from wind, and is among the highest national ethanol producers.

Even though national support for clean energy technology may be uncertain, state-level support remains strong and the green economy continues to grow. “The state-level scene shows a diversity that crosses political boundaries and regions,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge managing director. “The next decade will determine which nations, states, and cites lead in clean tech.”

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1d4mi)

Toyota Prius Now 3rd in World Auto Sales

Toyota Prius has now pulled into third in worldwide auto sales. In other words, that thing is popular! Many probably still think of hybrids as “alternative” vehicles, but apparently they are now very mainstream.

And this is really good news for 100% electric vehicles like the Volt and the Leaf. Why? Well, their first-year sales are looking much better than the Prius’ were, implying that they will one day be on the top of the heap as well (will make it hard for FOX News to rail against them then).

Presumably, rising fuel costs, some new Prius models, concern about global warming, and the fact that the Prius is just a really good car are responsible for its success. And, due to all those factors, the first quarter of 2012 marked the first time the Prius was the third best-selling car line in the world.

“Toyota sold a staggering 247,230 Prius hybrids, beating sales figures for cars like the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf,” Green Car Reports… reports. “In first place for the quarter, selling 300,800 cars was another Toyota, the 2012 Corolla. In second place, just under 30,000 cars ahead of the Prius line, was the 2012 Ford Focus.”

Green Car Reports notes that while there was only one Prius model per year available up until one year ago, three additional models have been offered in the last year — the 2012 Toyota Prius C subcompact hatch, 2012 Toyota Prius V mid-size wagon, and the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

Congrats to Toyota, the folks who work on the Prius models, and all of you who have decided to go and choose a Prius over a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle.

h/t Inhabitat

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1cZZH)

IEA sets out shale gas ‘golden rules’ for cleaner fracking

Green groups have slammed a new report by the International Energy Association (IEA), which set out a set of “golden rules” that could help the world’s fledgling shale gas industry triple the supply of unconventional natural gases to 1.6 trillion cubic metres per year by 2035.

The IEA launched a new report today to help shale gas companies address key environmental concerns about the controversial extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.

However, WWF and Friends of the Earth, warned that a boom in shale gas would prevent countries from reaching the globally agreed goal of limiting the temperature rise to 2°C.

They also highlighted a paragraph in the report predicting an increase in shale gas supply could derail efforts to develop other forms of low-carbon energy, including renewables.

A number of countries including the UK are seeking to expand their supply of shale gas, emulating the success of exploration in North America, where shale supplied 23 per cent of total gas production in 2010.

While the UK’s reserves are nowhere near the size of America’s, it is still estimated to have 200 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in Lancashire alone. But a report by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research last year warned burning a fifth of this would use up 15 per cent of the UK’s carbon budgets to 2050.

Many green groups are also concerned that the process of fracking can contaminate water, while injecting wastewater in deep disposal wells has caused earthquakes.

The IEA’s rules require gas companies to measure and disclose any environmental impacts such as on water quality, as well as restricting venting and flaring to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

If these rules were adopted, the IEA predicts the industry could triple its supply by 2035, allowing gas to overtake coal as the second most important fuel in the energy mix.

IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said adopting the rules could push up the price of energy by seven per cent, but it would also earn the industry a “social licence” to operate.

“If this new industry is to prosper, it needs to earn and maintain its social licence to operate,” he said. “This comes with a financial cost, but in our estimation the additional costs are likely to be limited.”

By contrast, in a case where the rules were not adopted, a lack of public acceptance would allow unconventional gas production to rise only slightly above current levels by 2035.

Significantly, the report warned this scenario would push up carbon emissions by 1.3 per cent compared to a “golden rule” scenario, as gas would be replaced by heavy emitting coal.

However, in both cases emissions would be well above the trajectory required to reach the globally agreed goal of limiting the temperature rise to 2°C, meaning shale could only play one part in reducing global temperature rises.

WWF criticised the IEA’s report for promoting shale gas while at the same time acknowledging that it would fail to reduce the impacts of climate change.

“A golden age for gas is clearly very far from a golden age for the planet. Buried in the depths of this report is the bombshell that a global dash for unconventional gas will condemn us to warming of at least 3.5°C,” said Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK.

“Those who claim that shale gas is some sort of wonder fuel that can tackle climate change are seriously misleading the public – the reality is that it is a dangerous distraction from energy efficiency and clean renewable energy.

Friends of the Earth’s energy campaigner Tony Bosworth also urged governments to focus their efforts on growing renewable supplies.

“Drilling for shale and other unconventional gas would put the world on course for catastrophic climate change – incomprehensible when we have clean energy solutions at our fingertips like wind and solar power,” he said.

Source : Business Green

China to Spend $27 Billion on Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency This Year

Just confirming the easy bet Goldman Sachs is putting on cleantech (which I just wrote about), China is reportedly going to spend $27 billion this year alone on cleantech (energy efficiency and conservation, clean energy, and emissions reductions).

“The country’s finance ministry said it wants to promote energy-saving products, solar and wind power and accelerate the development of renewable energy and hybrid cars,” the Guardian reports.

hong kong china

Of course, this comes on the heels of a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) showing that China’s rapid growth was a key factor in bringing annual CO2 emissions up to a record and very concerning level in 2011, despite carbon emissions reductions in the US and EU. Nonetheless, as noted there, China’s carbon intensity has actually dropped 15% (from 2005 to 2011) due to its tremendous cleantech investments.

“In the long term, China is targeting to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45% by 2020, compared with 2003 levels and aims to boost its use of renewable energy to 15% of overall energy consumption,” the Guardian piece adds.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1cKhh)

New Inexpensive and More Environmentally Friendly Solar Cell

Researchers from Northwestern University have devised a new design of a solar cell that minimizes the flaws in conventional solar cells — relatively high production costs, low operating efficiency and durability, and reliance upon toxic and scarce materials.

Dye-sensitized solar cells have already addressed some of these issues, but up until now have been very inefficient. Northwestern nanotechnology expert Robert P.H. Chang, however, challenged chemist Mercouri Kanatzidis to design a solar cell that did not suffer from the same problem as the innovative dye-sensitized Grätzel cell, a low-cost and environmentally friendly solar cell that “leaks” (the main cause of the lost efficiency). Kanatzidis’ solution was to design a new material for the electrolyte that actually starts as a liquid but ends up as a solar mass.

“The Grätzel cell is like having the concept for the light bulb but not having the tungsten wire or carbon material,” said Kanatzidis, of the need to replace the troublesome liquid. “We created a robust novel material that makes the Grätzel cell concept work better. Our material is solid, not liquid, so it should not leak or corrode.”

Kanatzidis reportedly “knew that scientists at IBM and elsewhere had been developing good solid electrical semiconductors for years” and teamed up with Chang to try one of them, “a fluorine-spiked mixture of cesium, tin, and iodine,” in solar cells.

Chang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Kanatzidis, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, are the two senior authors of a new paper outlining the development of the new solar cell. The paper was published in the most recent edition of the journal Nature.

The solar cell developed by Northwestern exhibits the highest conversion efficiency so far reported for a solid-state solar sell equipped with a dye sensitizer, approximately 10.2 percent (10% is often considered a benchmark for commercial success). This figure is close to the highest reported performance of a Grätzel cell of around 11 to 12 percent, and is much higher than the 6% previously attained by dye-sensitized solar cells.

“Our inexpensive solar cell uses nanotechnology to the hilt,” Chang said. “We have millions and millions of nanoparticles, which gives us a huge effective surface area, and we coat all the particles with light-absorbing dye.”

For more information on the design and construct of the Northwestern solar cell, check out the paper in Nature.

Source: Northwestern University & ScienceNOW
Image Source: R Walker

Pedal-Powered Lives & Businesses: 5 Top Stories

The Pedal Powered Business: Turning Human Power into Profit

Pedal powered business – we’ve done that before.  From food delivery torecycling pick-up to musical tours, we’ve seen multiple examples of businesses that use bicycles as their sole means of transportation. But the energy transferred from biker to bike doesn’t necessarily have to create forward motion: it can be put to other uses (as we tried to do a couple of years ago). A few entrepreneurs around the world have seen the profit potential in pedaling: here are a handful of businesses powering themselves at least partially by human power.

1. Harvesting Energy from the Gym

Fitness centers and gyms are kind of a no-brainer on the pedal power front: there’s already plenty of kinetic energy being generated. It wasn’t until a few years ago that engineers and entrepreneurs began exploring how to harvest that energy. Human-powered gyms are now up and running in Hong Kongand Portland, Oregon.

pedal powered fitness center the green microgym in portland oregon

Image credit: The Green Microgym on Facebook

2. The Pedal Powered Movie Theater

The Magnificent Revolution’s Cycle Cinema concept “uses 8 bikes and 16 legs to power a 4000 Lumen projector and 500W of audio equipment for screening films or projections.” The idea’s catching on: a food co-op in Canberra, Australia is currently raising funds to install their own system for their occasional movie nights. MR is a non-profit, but no reason this concept couldn’t be profitable.

3. Human Powered Coffee

That morning cup of coffee gives us the energy to get going: in Davis, California, entrepreneur Alex Roth returns the favor by putting his own energy back into the roasting and delivery of single origin organic coffee. At The Pepper Peddler, Roth roasts his beans with a combination of peddle power and propane (so, not totally clean, but pretty close). The company also delivers those beans to customers by bike. Check out the roasting system itself at Popular Mechanics (which included it as one of seven ways peddle power will change the world), as well as these videos from local news stations (which, unfortunately, aren’t embeddable).

4. Pedal Powered Lights

About a year ago, I took at look at Nuru Light, a Canadian company that’s designed a lighting system for people in the developing world that don’t have electricity. These small light modules can be used for activities like reading and cooking after dark, and even hooked together for more light when needed. The LED-based modules can be recharged on a pedal powered generator that the company developed , and which provides a service business opportunity for the entrepreneurial. The video below gives more insight into the concept; Africa Review recently took a look at how Rwandan fisherman Daniel Ntibaziyandemye is using the Nuru Light.

5. Pedal Powered Smoothies

Like to fire up the blender for breakfast? British company Real Food Works likes to show how that morning shake can be “people powered” with its Cool Green Smoothie Machine. The company itself exists to demonstrate more healthful ways to live, and shows off the machine at events to which it’s invited: no word on plans to manufacture the Machine.

Good businesses are always looking for ways to cut unnecessary costs –pedal power not only works on that front, but also (clearly) is still an attention grabber. If you know of other businesses running parts of their operations with pedals, share them with us.

Featured image credit: Screen capture from “Cycle In Cinema – Magnificent Revolution

Source = Clean technica

Generate Electricity Working Out (It’s a Growing Trend)

Exercise to Create Renewable Energy

By Lynn Fang

  If you walked into an energy-generating gym, you might not notice at first. You’d see your regular sweaty, toned bodies on sleek workout machines, but there’s a special icing on the cake here — these machines are hooked up to batteries that generate electricity. Essentially, kinetic energy from your workout is converted into DC, then converted into AC, the form of electricity used by most homes and appliances today. So your workout could potentially power the building, or even sell it back to the grid.

You can exercise to create renewable energy, what a novel concept.

The Concept Behind Exercising for Energy

The concept is not new since a gym in Hong Kong has created renewable energy since 2007, but the trend is growing. An increasing number of college campuses are installing gyms that generate energy, giving students a visceral, real-life example of just how renewable energy can be created. While the actual power output is still fairly low, the gyms serve a very valuable educational service, creating awareness, and inspiring creativity about how energy can be harnessed from the most unlikely places.

Who’s Using this System?

Florida-based ReRev uses converters on elliptical machines. A 30-minute workout on an elliptical will generate around 50 Watts of power, which is enough to power a CFL bulb for 2.5 hrs. So far, ReRev has installed converters at over 180 machines around the country in universities and local gyms.

Now, there are even outdoor gyms generating electricity. The Great Outdoor Gym Company uses your human energy to power light installations for evening gym use. According to CoExist, an outdoor gym in northeast England generates enough power to light the gym at night. They hope in the near future that it will be possible to charge cell phones and music players, and even send some energy back to the grid.

People say it feels good sweating and working out for a larger goal — one of creating clean energy. I certainly would love to work out there!

{workout photo via The Great Outdoor Gym Company}

What do you think? Would you want an energy-generating gym in your town?

Source: Green Living Ideas (http://s.tt/1csi1)