Kyoto Protocol Extended

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Kyoto Protocol ExtendedPosted: 08 Dec 2012 02:53 PM PST

Via one of our friends, the big news of the day is that the Kyoto Protocol is being extended (full repost, with image added):


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks during the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the high-level segment of the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha December 4, 2012. (Credit: Some rights reserved by MINAMPERU ? 2011)

In breaking news (Saturday, December 8, 11:30 a.m. EST), the United Nations climate change conference has reaffirmed the world?s intention to curb carbon emissions by extending the historic Kyoto Protocol.

This move confirms that most of the world appears ready to attack the growing threat of climate change in a positive way. Though Kyoto is not as robust a framework as many are calling for, its passage signals that we may yet find a way to avoid almost certain climate rearrangements and extinction of species, possibly our own.

The chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, which are most vulnerable to projected sea level rise, reacted to the decision:

“This is not where we wanted to be at the end of the meeting, I assure you. It certainly isn’t where we need to be in order to prevent islands from going under and other unimaginable impacts. We will know in the next two years, after which the opportunity to avert the worst impacts of the crisis may be irrevocably lost, whether [world leaders] have delivered on this most basic function of leadership.”

The Responding to Climate Change organization attributes the last-minute adoption of the protocol to a reversal of Poland?s stance regarding excess carbon credits, which is shared by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. A huddle of European Union delegates followed. Also, a number of EU countries and Australia appear to have forgotten to submit their paperwork. Qatar itself may have been instrumental in brokering the deal.

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (which represent over 25% of the world’s proven oil reserves and 12% of its gas) have committed to submission of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions. They have not yet tied down the scope or timing of these actions. Despite noting that high economic reliance on hydrocarbon production may conflict with national development objectives, the four nations have moved away from the previous tradition of the Gulf states.

Agreement on black carbon emissions and substantial financial pledges from the EU preceded this late development. Litigation due to loss and damage remains an issue for the U.S. However, according to Harjeet Singh, the word “compensation” has been removed from the text after talks among the U.S., EU, African Group, Least Developed Countries, and Alliance of Small Island States.

More news from Qatar will follow.

Award-winning science writer Sandy Dechert is covering the UNFCCC meeting in Qatar for (See companion articles recommended here.) Previously, Sandy reported on public health and environmental ramifications of the 2012 U.S. elections and extreme weather disasters over the past few years.

Kyoto Protocol Extended was originally published on: CleanTechnica


Grid Parity In Sight For New Low-Cost Solar CellPosted: 08 Dec 2012 08:29 AM PST

That light barreling down upon us from the end of the tunnel is solar power as cheap as fossil fuels. The latest breakthrough is a low-cost solar cell manufactured with the help of Gallium Arsenide, a compound of the “poor metal” gallium and arsenic.It definitely does not sound like something you’d want to eat, but a recent laboratory demonstration shows that the resulting solar cells have the potential to produce electricity at a cost as low as 45 cents per watt, far below the grid standard of $1 per watt.


Another Road to Cheap Solar Power

The breakthrough comes courtesy of New Jersey?based Global Photonic Energy Corporation (GPEC) and its research partner, Dr. Stephen R. Forrest, Vice President for Research at the University of Michigan.

The new thin-film solar cell is based on organic photovoltaic (OPV) technology that uses carbon (conventional solar cells use silicon).

Engineering a more efficient solar cell is one key to cutting costs, but commercial-scale manufacturing plays another critical role in the overall cost of solar power. Greater efficiency does not necessarily march in lockstep with lower manufacturing costs, so the trick is to find a balance between the two.

That’s where the partners concentrated their research. The result is a new low-cost manufacturing process that involves using one Gallium Arsenide wafer to produce many solar cells.

Gallium Arsenide is used in conventional solar cell manufacturing, but until that process involves using the same wafer only once or twice, which puts a significant drag on manufacturing costs.

We Built This!

Solar cell efficiency is still a key part of the equation, and this is where GPEC’s decades-long research into “small-molecule” systems has come into play.

However, translating that efficiency into marketable products involves a different skill set, and that’s where the University of Michigan came in. Last year, Dr. Forrest won a grant of $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to incorporate GPEC’s propriety molecules into a “stacked architecture” that combines high efficiency and high reliability with low-cost manufacturing.

The grant was awarded through President Obama’s SunShot Initiative, which launched last year with the mission of bringing the cost of solar power down to fossil fuel parity within a few years.

Part of SunShot involves support for new, high-efficiency solar cells, including organic solar cells.

SunShot also places a heavy emphasis on reducing the “soft costs” of solar power (installation, permits, grid connections, etc), which DOE estimates can account for about half the overall cost of a solar array.

Location, Location, Location

Speaking of soft costs, when you talk about the installed cost of solar power, it?s also important to account for how it will be used. In the case of GPEC, the new flexible sheets seem to be aimed initially at the market for mobile and off-grid locations, including military equipment and satellites, where installation issues and other soft costs are quite different from those involved in the solar power market for buildings and other permanent structures.

However, the company also has a broader market in mind. Aside from layering the new solar cells onto plastic sheets, GPEC is looking at building-integrated applications such as spray-on solar “paint” and transparent solar windows. The company also envisions using the new technology for solar vehicle paint, solar covers for recharging portable electronics, and solar fabric.

Image (cropped): Coins by MoneyBlogNewz

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Grid Parity In Sight For New Low-Cost Solar Cell was originally published on: CleanTechnica


ABB Wins $225 Million Order For Two South African PV PlantsPosted: 08 Dec 2012 08:17 AM PST

ABB South Africa, a top power and automation technology firm, has won a contract to develop two PV solar power plants in South Africa.The plants will be turnkey solar power plants designed, engineered, installed, and commissioned by ABB.


South Africa flag via Shutterstock

ABB will also supply the inverters, protection equipment, switchgear, dry-type transformers, controllers, and the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.

“The orders were awarded by two special purpose entities, Core Energy and Erika Energy, whose primary stakeholders include SunEdison, a leading global solar energy services provider,” ABB said on Tuesday.

The solar panels used in this project will be supplied by the Chinese firm Flint.

According to ABB: “The two plants will have a generating capacity of 33 MW and 31 MW respectively and will be among the first utility-scale PV power plants to be built in phase one of the South African government’s long-term renewable energy programme.”

Both plants are projected to generate 130 GWh per year, which is enough to light 36,000 homes and ?displace around 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.”

“We have a strong relationship with ABB and are excited to be working with them on this project,” said Pashupathy Gopalan, Sun Edison Vice President and Managing Director of South East Asia and Sub Saharan Operations.

Source: PV-Magazine

ABB Wins $225 Million Order For Two South African PV Plants was originally published on: CleanTechnica


Kuwait Aiming To Get 15% Of Its Electricity From Renewables By 2030Posted: 08 Dec 2012 08:00 AM PST

Kuwait is now aiming to get 15% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, which is a good thing considering how rapidly electricity use has been rising in Kuwait and other Gulf countries, as the graph below shows. 

The country is currently on target to get 1% of its electricity from solar and wind energy by 2015, according to the Emir of Kuwait, Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

“Kuwait relies heavily on oil for power generation but according to the International Renewable Agency (IRENA), the country has approximately 70MW of installed renewable energy capacity. Of this capacity, PV accounts for 10MW and concentrated solar power accounts for 50MW. The remaining 10MW is accounted for by wind.”

There have been several Middle Eastern countries moving towards renewables recently. Kuwait, like the others, is likely seeing the value in a more varied energy supply, and also in opening up more of its oil supply for international sales, as the price of oil very likely rises in the coming years. Qatar recently announced that it will get 16% of its electricity from solar by 2018. And Saudi Arabia recently disclosed that its long-term goal it to be powered entirely by renewable energy.

Source: PV Tech
Image Credits: IRENA

Kuwait Aiming To Get 15% Of Its Electricity From Renewables By 2030 was originally published on: CleanTechnica


British Airways Biofuel Plant Set For LiftoffPosted: 08 Dec 2012 07:51 AM PST

Airline giant British Airways earlier this week announced that, under the GreenSky project in London, it has signed an exclusive agreement to build a state of the art biofuel site on an undetermined site.Once the facility is up and running, the plant could turn 500,000 tons of garbage into 50,000 tons of green airplane fuel, thanks to Solena’s synthesis gas technology that turns it into a liquid hydrocarbon. After the waste gets turned into a gas, it will then get treated through Fischer-Tropsch reactors, which are patented by Oxford Catalyst.

The new plant is all a part of the goals for the airline to have “Carbon Neutral” growth from 2020, while British Airlines Environmental Head Jonathon Counsell could make up 2% of the company?s fuel.

Meanwhile, according to one key official, expect more of these projects to heat up in the near future as the race to make flying more sustainable becomes important. reports:

“Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, chief executive at NNFCC, which has providing technical consultancy on the GreenSky project, said he expected many new plants to be built in the coming years.

“‘Biofuels are the only low carbon alternative to fossil fuels in the aviation sector and as a result GreenSky London is likely to be the first of many similar projects built in the years to come,’ he said. ‘Every new market needs a pioneer and it is pleasing to see the U.K. take a leading role in its development.'”

British Airways, which is already committing $500 million over ten years to buy the fuel, is just another in the growing list of airlines and other commercial aircraft carriers which are looking to make the air transportation industry more sustainable. Other well-known companies taking the dip include: KLM, United Airlines, and Lufthansa.

British Airways Biofuel Plant Set For Liftoff was originally published on: CleanTechnica


Color Vision At The Nanoscale, New Tool Developed To See In Color At The Nanoscale And Improve Solar-Energy TechnologyPosted: 08 Dec 2012 07:21 AM PST

Until now, objects on the nanoscale have only been viewable in black and white, but a newly created microscopy tool is now going to change that. With the new tool, it becomes possible to learn much more about the chemistry that occurs on the nanoscale and how different materials interact with light. 

The new tool was created by researchers at the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). With it, it becomes possible to see the most minute chemical details, many of which have remained undetected until now. The researchers designed the tool specifically to help them learn more about solar-to-electric energy conversion at the nanoscale, but the technology has great promise for use in every area of nanoscience research.

“We’ve found a way to combine the advantages of scan/probe microscopy with the advantages of optical spectroscopy,” says Alex Weber-Bargioni, a scientist at the Molecular Foundry, a DOE nanoscience center at Berkeley Lab. “Now we have a means to actually look at chemical and optical processes on the nanoscale where they are happening.”

The researchers used their new tool to investigate indium-phosphide nanowires. Because they have a nearly ideal band gap of 1.4 electron-volts, these nanowires are “perfect” for converting the Sun?s light to electricity. What the researchers found was something of a surprise. The nanowires have varied optoelectronic properties along their length, not what had been previously thought. This difference could have a substantial effect on how sunlight gets converted to electricity. The researchers also discovered that the relationship between light and electricity, called photoluminescence, “was seven-times stronger in some parts of a nanowire than others. This is the first time anyone has measured these events on such a small scale.”

Weber-Bargioni says: “Details like this about indium-phosphide nanowires are important because if you want to use these suckers for photocatalysis or a photovoltaic material then the length scale at which we?re measuring is where everything happens. This information is really important to understand how, for example, the fabrication and surface treatment of nanowires influences these charge recombination velocities. These determine how efficiently a solar device can convert photons into usable electrons.”

Co-author James Schuck, a nano-optics researcher at the Molecular Foundry, adds: “We realized that this is really the optimal way to do any kind of optical experiment one might want to do at the nano scale. So we use it for imaging and spectroscopy but we anticipate many other uses also.”

The paper, “Mapping local charge recombination heterogeneity by multidimensional nanospectroscopic imaging,” was just published in the journal Science.

Source: DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Image Credits: DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Color Vision At The Nanoscale, New Tool Developed To See In Color At The Nanoscale And Improve Solar-Energy Technology was originally published on: CleanTechnica


Chevy Volt After 10,000 Miles & After 1 Year, Chevy Volt As Back-up Power, Chevy Volt Awards (VIDEOS)Posted: 08 Dec 2012 07:08 AM PST

If you?re curious about the Chevy Volt beyond what you can learn from reading about it, perhaps you’ll enjoy these videos below from one of our readers, Mr. Energy Czar.This first one is a run-down of his Volt usage and thoughts after 10,000 miles driving it:

This one is from the one year anniversary:

And this one runs down the awards the Volt has won, quite a long list (hadn’t realized it had won so many awards):

And this last one is how to use the Volt for back-up power:

Chevy Volt After 10,000 Miles & After 1 Year, Chevy Volt As Back-up Power, Chevy Volt Awards (VIDEOS) was originally published on: CleanTechnica