Business & Technology

Google antes up $100 million (more) for advanced wind farm

Google's latest investment in wind power is much more than just the latest chapter in the company's support for renewable energy. It's part of a larger strategy that could see the search giant turn into a (very profitable) behemoth in the world of energy. According to Katie Fehrenbacher, veteran renewable energy reporter at Earth2Tech: The Shepherds Flat wind project, into which Google is pouring $100 million, will be the largest wind farm in the world, covering 30 square miles in Oregon Wind power is a great investment for businesses (like Google) smart enough to understand it. This isn't charity: Google's past …

Energy Policy

Germans pay extra for clean energy — is it worth it?

Germany has become a world leader in renewable power thanks in part to its Renewable Energy Act (EEG), which came into force in 2000. It established a feed-in tariff program that guarantees producers of carbon-free power an above-market rate of return for 20 years. EEG pays tariffs to solar PV, concentrated solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower, and landfill or sewage gas. The tariffs vary according to capacity and level of technological development; they drop every few years based on the latest costs and level of penetration. German electrical ratepayers fund the program through a small fee that amounts to about 15 percent …

What if the $152 billion to clean up Fukushima were spent on geothermal instead?

Here's a crazy idea: why not use the enormous geothermal resource under Japan — which is after all sitting on a "ring" made of "fire" — as a source of nearly always-on baseload power? I asked Alex Richter, an Icelandic financier of geothermal energy projects, how much geothermal energy $152 billion would buy. (That's the projected total cost of the cleanup of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, and doesn't even include the cost of building and maintaining it in the first place.) Using a conservative scenario — namely the cost of geothermal power in the U.S., which is more expensive …

Physics breakthrough could mean solar panels made of nothing but glass

Exploiting an effect previously thought too small to be worth anyone's time, a bunch of researchers at the University of Michigan have figured out how to exploit the magnetic properties of light in a way that could ultimately lead to solar panels made entirely of glass or transparent ceramics. "We've all been taught that this doesn't happen," professor Stephen Rand told Michigan Today. "It's a very odd interaction. That's why it's been overlooked for more than 100 years." The research is nowhere near the point of application — currently, lasers are required to generate the effect — but the boffins …

The ultimate hippie mobile: An electric VW bus

Volkswagen has unveiled an electric concept vehicle based on the classic VW bus. The Bulli has a driving range of 184 miles, so if it goes into production, it could get you and your friends to Bonnaroo from as far away as Atlanta. It's smaller than the original bus, but it still seats five — room for Shaggy, Velma, Fred, Daphne, and Scooby.

Wind Power

Texas to install world’s largest wind energy storage system

The Notrees wind farm.Photo: Duke EnergyThey like to do things big in Texas, so it’s no surprise that the Lone Star state will launch the world’s largest wind battery storage project. Duke Energy is not a Texas company, but it owns the aptly named Notrees wind farm in the Texas panhandle. The North Carolina power giant is teaming up with an Austin area startup called Xtreme Power to install a 36-megawatt battery at the 153-megawatt Notrees Windpower Project near Kermit, Texas. That’s one big battery. Such technology is likely to become crucial as wind farms become ever larger but erratic …

CFLs are not a significant source of mercury, says EPA

If you've heard that CFLs are lousy with mercury, you've heard wrong. In the past 10 years, "reductions in the most used types of fluorescent lighting have decreased [mercury] content over the last decade by 60 – 80 percent," says Melissa Klein of the EPA. Plus, Americans are recycling more of them than previously reported. A couple weeks ago we blogged a piece from the San Jose Mercury News declaring that CFL recycling rates in the U.S. were abysmal — around 2 percent. Turns out that actually, no one knows how often these bulbs are recycled. Your neighbors could be …

What if the $152 billion to clean up Fukushima were spent on solar instead?

The projected cost for the management of the Fukushima crisis is $152 billion. And that doesn't even include the cost of building and operating the plant in the first place. What if all that scratch had been spent on solar panels instead? It would be amazing, that's what. Read this infographic and weep. (Click here for a larger version. Brought to you by solar buying club 1 Block Off the Grid.)

Solar Power

Australia announces big solar project — at a coal plant

The Kogan Creek Power Station.Photo: Kogan Solar BoostAustralian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday appeared at giant coal-fired power plant to announce that the Southern Hemisphere’s largest solar project would be built in Queensland. Why, you may be wondering, would the PM travel to a remote 750-megawatt coal power station to make a big renewable energy news pronouncement? Well, coal is king in Australia, and the 44-megawatt solar thermal project to be built by Areva Solar at the Kogan Creek Power Station will generate additional steam to drive the coal plant’s turbines. “By using energy from the sun with Areva’s …

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