Cleantech

Meet the world’s most high-tech bike

It's pretty impressive that we're still chugging along on human-powered vehicles only a step more high-tech than a velocipede — olde-tyme bikes look basically like the ones we've got today. Why improve on perfection, right? Well, maybe just for the sheer badassery of it. At least, that seems to be the theory behind the Alpha, a high-tech bike designed by UPenn students that is basically a jetpack on wheels. The Alpha is an engineer's wet dream. Among its features: Lightweight carbon-fiber frame (lighter than a steel frame, even with all the added gadgetry) Onboard computer and handlebar display with real-time …

Solar Power

On Coachella’s solar stage

It was a sunny year at the 2011 Coachella Music Festival, and the stage is set for the town’s new concentrating photovoltaic farm.Photo: Paige K. ParsonsAn interesting solar development got buried by Thursday’s big news that French fossil fuel conglomerate Total had agreed to acquire a majority stake in SunPower, the Silicon Valley photovoltaic panel maker and power plant development. That $1.37 billion Total is spending on SunPower naturally overshadowed the Southern California desert community of Coachella’s announcement that it had flipped the switch on a 420-kilowatt concentrating photovoltaic farm at its water reclamation plant. Don’t yawn. Here’s why the …

Is the future of solar centralized or distributed?

Solar power produces only a tiny fraction of America's energy, but that hasn't stopped greens — who are always up for expending at least as much energy fighting each other as fighting fossil fuels — from commencing a debate that we'll probably be having for decades, if not centuries to come: Is it better to build gigantic, centralized solar power plants that function like the fossil fuel-powered plants they're designed to replace, or should we do something more radical and create a distributed power generation system, in which solar photovoltaic panels are sited as close as possible to the users …

Holy crap: giant oil company buys giant solar company

What's Exxon going to do with this years' record-breaking profits? If you said "buy a 60 percent stake in America's largest solar panel manufacturing company," you have wildly underestimated the degree to which its CEO would find that profoundly emasculating. Cheese-eating surrender-monkeys have no such qualms, however, which is why French oil giant Total just dropped $1.38 billion on SunPower, a "stalwart U.S. solar manufacturer in Silicon Valley." This isn't the first time a foreign company captured a large swath of the assets of a U.S. renewable energy firm. As Todd Woody reports, it happens all the time: European energy …

Cleantech

What’s next for the enviro-business coalition that defeated California’s Prop 23?

Now that we’ve put together some green muscle, what will we do with it?Photo: Denis GilesMuch of the green movement has been mounting a rearguard fight in Washington to fend off attempts to gut the U.S. EPA in the wake of the Republican sweep of the 2010 elections. California, as usual, is heading down a different road. The enviro-business coalition that defeated Prop 23, Texas oil companies’ attempt to derail the state’s global-warming law, is stepping up effort to push lawmakers to expand California’s climate-change efforts. First, the No on 23 campaign led by billionaire hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer resurfaced …

Cleantech

Wellinghoff hypes IT for electricity

In his vision of an America transitioning away from fossil fuels, Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, sees information technology as the basis for tremendous financial and employment opportunities. And with the right policies and incentives, this could happen soon. But in our current political reality, it feels like light years away. Speaking on the future of American energy in the United States at Princeton recently, Wellinghoff got into the details of the technologies, many sitting on the shelf today, that could change individuals’ use of electricity and fuel — and would change some of how America does …

Sustainable Food

A star Silicon Valley investor puts his money where his mouth is for sustainable ag

Ali Partovi: Investing green in green ag.As antidote to those who argue that the future of food is all about technologies like genetic engineering and new pesticides, I refer you to entrepreneur Ali Partovi (full disclosure: Ali and I are acquaintances) who has an Earth Day post over at Silicon Valley’s Techcrunch, one of the most influential tech-entrepreneur blogs around. Partovi, a former Microsoftie, is a cofounder of the music recommendation service iLike and was an early-stage investor in such online successess as Zappos, Dropbox, and that social network site a few folks use, Facebook. And now, as evidenced by …

Self-healing plastic lets gadgets take a licking and keep on ticking

Here’s a good way to cut down on waste: Stop breaking sh*t. To that end, scientists are working on self-healing materials that can extend the life of your belongings. One new polymer, developed by scientists in Switzerland, can heal deep scratches just by being exposed to ultraviolet light. It's like an immune system for your gadgets. Thanks to metal ions embedded in the plastic, UV light heats and melts it a tiny bit, just enough for it to fill in scratches and cracks. Right now, it only works when the material is thin enough to be translucent — the display …

How green is your iPhone?

Carbon emissions? Energy overuse? Sketchy labor relations? There's an app for that, and it's all of them. This infographic from Geekaphone (there's way more, it's huge — click on our excerpt to see the rest) illustrates that the iPhone, like basically any modern convenience, is probably going to kill us all sooner or later. (What up, Skynet?) There's some good news, though. Reductions in packaging for the iPhone 4 have led to a 14 percent reduction in the amount of fuel used for shipping, and the phone itself emits 18 percent less carbon than the earlier model. And while iPhone …

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