Cleantech

The future of green computing is dunking your computer in mineral oil

As seemingly every aspect of our lives moves online, the giant building-size computers that power the web suck up ever more energy. Cooling can eat as much as a third of the energy required to run these "data centers," so fixing their heat problem (modern processors produce a lot of it) isn't just a matter of reducing carbon emissions. Enter Green Revolution Cooling. You might as well just watch the video, above, because it is too weird for words. Their technology — dunking servers in mineral oil in order to cool them — works precisely because mineral oil is not …

Like the desert mouse, PepsiCo’s factory to survive on the water in the food it consumes

Some animals don't drink water — and now some factories might not, either. The potatoes that PepsiCo turns into Walker's Crisps — those sinisterly addictive potato chips that people in the UK can't seem to get enough of — arrive at the factory containing as much as 80% water by weight. So why not harvest it rather than sending it up the chimney as steam? PepsiCo's new efforts aren't motivated solely by a desire to spruce up its corporate image: Water, an increasingly scarce resource, costs real money. The company believes it can save up to $1 million a year by …

Boeing to build recyclable 787’s with 100% renewable energy

The 10 acre roof of the new Boeing 787 airplane factory in North Charleston, South Carolina will be covered with enough thin-film solar panels to provide a fifth of the plant's power. The rest will come from a nearby biomass facility, which will be powered by shrub and tree waste. The key to keeping costs under control for the project is the unique nature of thin film solar panels — the vinyl siding of the solar world — which are a plastic laminate and are much cheaper than the traditional "crystalline" solar panels most of us think of when we …

Visiting a house in Germany that generates more energy than it uses

During my trip to Germany last week, one of my hosts from the Böll Foundation and I took a morning commuter train up to Borgsdorf, north of Berlin, to visit an experimental passivhaus built by architect Oliver Jirka for his own family. Here’s your faithful correspondent on the scene: Digital readouts show hourly/daily/weekly output of solar panels.The house has been the subject of several news stories (here’s one in English). The first thing that struck me is that it looks like a house — sleek and modern, but nothing particularly wacky or unusual. I only note that because energy-wise it’s …

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 …

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 …