Renewable Energy

Cleantech

Five hot, rockin’ geothermal companies

Cross-posted from Climate Progress. Like the natural gas sector, which has experienced an incredible boom due to new drilling techniques that allow companies to cost-effectively access unconventional gas, the geothermal sector is going through a renaissance that may open up a vast new set of resources. Traditional utility-scale geothermal, often called hydrothermal, utilizes hot water or direct steam beneath the earth to run a turbine and generate electricity. While there’s only about 11 gigawatts of capacity built around the world (the solar photovoltaic industry built 17 gigawatts in 2010 alone), the actual electricity generation from these baseload plants typically doubles …

Three Gorges Dam has serious issues, China admits

When a country commits to any project as monstrous as China's Three Gorges Dam, it is bound to encounter occasional difficulties. The Chinese government, as governments are wont to do, has preferred to gloss over the dam's detriments and emphasize its attributes, like the 84 billion kilowatt hours of electricity it produced last year. But this week the government released a statement acknowledging that the dam has fostered a few "urgent problems" that need addressing. Numbered among those are: the increasing concentration of raw sewage and pollution and of the algae that feeds on it; the threat of landslides; the …

Critical List: Bike to work today; Amazon deforestation rate rose this year

It's Bike to Work day. Now all you bike commuters know how secretaries feel on Administrative Professionals Day: “One DAY? I’ve been doing this day in and day out all year!” The rate of Amazon deforestation has been declining in recent years; this year, it climbed again. The Brazilian government is — rightly — freaking out. The head of Tokyo Electric Power, the company responsible for handling the Fukushima meltdown, resigned today. Rumor has it that BP CEO Tony Hayward has already invited him to join the new, quickly growing Ex-Heads of Disastrous Energy Companies club. (Motto: “We Just Want …

Solar breakthrough could lead to 90 percent efficient panels … someday

A researcher at the University of Missouri is making some eyebrow-raising claims, including that a new technology he has developed could lead to solar panels that convert 90 percent of the sun's energy to electricity. If he's even a little bit right, this would be more than amazing; it would be earth-shattering. So he's probably wrong, unfortunately. But let's suspend disbelief, shall we? The average plant converts about 1 percent of the sun's energy. That's one reason why conventional biofuels are kind of a joke. A good solar panel will convert around 20 percent of the sun's energy into electricity.  …

Critical List: Senate wimps out on oil subsidies bill; solar storms loom

The Senate voted down a bill that would have ended tax subsidies for the five biggest oil companies. The bill had little to no chance of passing the House and becoming law, but the Senate wussed out on taking a stand even on a bill crafted only to score political points. In Maryland, "renewable energy" will come from the sun, the wind, and incinerated trash. We told you last week that the Fish and Wildlife Service was set to move forward on evaluating and listing 251 potentially endangered species, after a court settlement. Psych! The Center for Biological Diversity objected …

Climate & Energy

Bill Gates on energy philanthropy, R&D funding, & why the U.S. will out-innovate China

Bill Gates goes casual at the Climate Solutions breakfast.Photo: nonfictionmediaThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — the richest in the world, with an endowment of $37 billion — doesn’t have plans to focus on clean energy and climate change, Bill Gates said on Tuesday. Speaking at a fundraiser for Northwest nonprofit Climate Solutions, he argued that energy markets and investments are too large for philanthropic money to make much of a dent. But Gates is investing in energy-tech startups himself — he called out nuclear company TerraPower in particular — and he hopes those investments make money that can then …

Critical List: Fracking connected to flammable tap water; eco-friendly paintballs

Remember those people with flammable tap water? Yup, hydrofracking is responsible, according to Duke University scientists. Chile wants to dam two incredible rivers, despite opposition from both locals and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. A judge in Utah shut down Koch Industries' search for the clever people who sent out a fake press release claiming the company had embraced the idea of climate change. A quote from the Kochtopus’ inner monologue: “How dare you, Utah judge? Nobody says Koch Industries believes in science and gets away with it! Nobody!” Angela Merkel is kicking other world leaders' butts on clean energy policy. …

Critical List: U.N. is optimistic about renewables, U.S. studies ‘safe hydrofracking’

The U.N.'s climate change panel reports that, by 2050, 80 percent of the world's energy could come from renewables. The panel also issued this reassuring news: As long as we fulfill the most ambitious of renewable build-out plans and cut one-third of greenhouse gas, it is possible to keep the planet from nosediving into life-altering, irreversible climate change. So, no pressure. For starters, you could seriously just turn the effing A/C down. America's working on that whole clean energy thing, President Obama said this weekend. But China's getting there faster, surprise surprise. Japan wants to shut down another vulnerable nuclear …

Rwanda to power itself with plentiful, domestic geothermal energy

If the first thing you think of when I say "Rwanda" is "Don Cheadle looking worried while a radio booms 'Hutu Power!' in a basso profundo," it's time you updated your thinking. The country is currently looking into meeting its need for electricity by tapping into the hot rocks that underlie much of the country, which is in Africa's geologically active Rift Valley. While countries like India try to fuel their growth with the kind of fossil fuels that destroy air quality and are going to run out anyway, Rwanda is taking a cue from its neighbor, Kenya, which estimates …

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