Archive | Electricity

Prius Siblings Unveiled at Detroit Auto Show

Toyota introduced its new family of Prius models Monday at the Detroit auto show, debuting a new wagon, a plug-in, and a compact Prius.

The new Prius hybrid siblings are part of an effort to restore the Japanese automaker’s formerly pristine reputation in the wake of last year’s series of mass recalls.

“We are honored and humbled that Toyota was the number one retail brand in the US last year, regaining the highest consideration among consumers,” said Toyota president Akio Toyoda, according to AFP.

“These achievements during a difficult year were made possible through the outstanding efforts of Toyota associates, dealers, and suppliers, and the support of loyal customers all across America.”

“We intend to continue to earn that customer loyalty with even greater dedication to quality, safety, and customer care.”

The auto manufacturer unveiled the Prius v wagon, an updated version of the original Prius with more cargo space.

The new plug-in vehicle will be able to run 13 miles on electric power before the gasoline engine kicks in.

The compact Prius c will be priced much lower than the original Prius and will be targeted at younger drivers, AFP said.

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Electric Cars Would Cause Added CO2 Emissions in Certain Countries

Electric cars are commonly hailed as eco-friendly alternatives to harmful gasoline-burning vehicles, but a study by Oxford University’s Reed Doucette and Malcolm McCulloch suggests that the adoption of electric cars may actually accelerate global climate change.

The results of the modeling exercise, which were published in Energy Policy last Fall, indicate that developing countries would emit more, not less, CO2 if electric cars were to eclipse gas-based vehicles.

Researchers assessed the emissions of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and internal combustion engines (ICEs) in various countries. They found that countries with high CO2 intensities – like China and India – failed to see a decrease in heat-trapping gases from the adoption of BEVs.

China and India rely on dirty power supplies, so the generation of energy for BEVs would still be environmentally harmful, and could actually lead to higher CO2 emissions.

“Given the state of their power generation mixes in 2010, the case for widespread adoption of [electric vehicles] in both China and India solely on the basis of potential CO2 emissions reductions is not too compelling, especially when the generally higher capital cost of [electric vehicles] relative to [gasoline]-based vehicles is considered,” Doucette and Malcolm McCulloch concluded.

Posted in Air Pollutants, Electricity, Global Warming & Climate Change0 Comments

Light Bulbs: IKEA Pulls Plug on Inefficient Incandescents

IKEA announced Tuesday that it has stopped stocking incandescent light bulbs in U.S. stores, instead offering energy-efficient alternatives.

The Swedish-based home decor and furniture retailer began phasing out the bulbs in August and says it is the first seller to remove the lights from its shelves completely.

The announcement comes ahead of a federal legislation that will phase out the incandescents from 2012 to 2014. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will mandate light bulbs that are 30% more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

“Eliminating incandescents is just one simple way for IKEA customers to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases,” U.S. IKEA president Mike Ward said in a statement Tuesday.

The company plans to offer compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) along with LED, halogen and solar-powered lamps.

CFLs consume up to 80 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescents, AP reports.

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U.S. Approves 'power Tower' Solar Project

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) — The United States has approved the first large-scale solar energy project on public lands that will use “power tower” technology, government officials said.

The proposed project, to be located in San Bernardino, Calif., could produce up to 370 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power 111,000 to 277,500 American homes when it is completed in 2013, a U.S. Department of the Interior release said Thursday.

“Power tower” technology uses fields of mirrors to focus solar energy on tower receivers near the center of each array. Steam from solar boilers in the towers drive a turbine that generates electricity for the transmission grid.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System after an extensive review that significantly altered the proposal in response to public comments in order to minimize environmental impacts.

“I am pleased with the changes we have made to improve this project,” Salazar said. “It is important that we learn from our experience to ensure that environmentally-responsible clean energy is developed wisely and in the right places.”

“Ivanpah is one of several renewable energy projects in the pipeline that will help California and this nation build a clean energy economy,” Salazar said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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S. Africa Looks to Solar, Nuclear Power

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Sept. 29 (UPI) — South Africa, subject to electricity rationing and rolling blackouts, says it will invest in a solar power farm to meet increasing electricity demands.

The solar park will be built in the Northern Cape Province and generate 5,000 megawatts of energy, about 11 percent of the country’s current power production, the BBC reported.

South Africa has been rationing electrical power since 2008.

Presently, most of the country’s electricity is generated by coal-fired power plants.

The country, which also supplies electricity to a few neighbors including Zimbabwe, needs to increase its energy production by 40,000 megawatts during the next decade, the energy department says.

The Northern Cape was the ideal location for the park, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said, and the project would create 12,300 construction jobs and more than 3,000 maintenance and operations positions.

The country is also considering a nuclear plant, which would be its second such installation, officials said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Calif. in Aggressive Push for Solar Power

SACRAMENTO, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Solar projects on track for approval by California will double the state’s ability to generate electricity from solar power, state officials say.

Since August, four major solar projects including a 7,000-acre solar farm billed as the world’s largest have won approval from the California Energy Commission, which is expected to OK two more this week, USA Today reported Wednesday.

The solar farms, which use mirrors to concentrate the sun’s power to produce heat and generate electricity, could eventually produce enough electricity to power 675,000 homes, the newspaper said.

California has ample sunshine and will need it to meet its big renewable-energy goals. Last week state regulators passed measures requiring one-third of electricity sold in California to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The size of the projects shows how aggressively the state is embracing solar power.

“These are the first projects of this size in the U.S.,” Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, says. “They’re a sign to the rest of the country that solar is here, not a technology of the future.”

California’s aggressive push for solar is also being driven by an approaching federal deadline for stimulus funds.

Renewable-energy projects must be started by Dec. 31 to get federal cash grants in lieu of tax credits equal to 30 percent of the projects’ costs, USA Today reported.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Other, Solar0 Comments

Italian Towns Profit from Green Energy

TOCCO DA CASAURIA, Italy, Sept. 29 (UPI) — More than 800 communities in Italy are making more power than they use with wind and solar installations, and many are making a profit from it, officials say.

One such community is Tocco Da Casauria, where selling excess renewable energy has meant the town has no local taxes and charges no fees for services like garbage removal, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

In the town of 2,700 people in Italy’s poor mountainous center, wind turbines sprout from its olive groves while solar panels generate electricity at its cemetery and sports complex as well as at a growing number of private residences, the newspaper said.

“Normally when you think about energy you think about big plants, but here what’s interesting is that local municipalities have been very active,” Edoardo Zanchini of the environmental group Legambiente said. “That this can happen in a place like Italy is really impressive.”

Like many towns, Tocco was motivated to become an early adopter of renewable energy because Italy has some of the highest electricity rates in Europe, nearly three times the average in the United States.

Tocco is now generating 30 percent more electricity than it uses. Production of green electricity earned the town more than $200,000 last year.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Other, Solar, Wind0 Comments

Wind Power Green but Costs More Green

LONDON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Wind power, while good for the environment, carries a price tag twice that of a natural gas- or coal-fired power station, British researchers say.

A report by the U.K. Energy Research Center said Britain’s massive expansion of wind farms, both offshore and on land, was based on underestimated costs of wind power in the mid-2000s, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.

Over the next 10 years, the British government plans to build up to 10,000 new wind turbines to meet tough climate change targets, the newspaper said.

Instead of the predicted falling costs, in the last five years the cost of buying and installing turbines and towers at sea has gone up 51 percent, the report said.

Once the bill for building and maintaining an offshore wind farm is spread over the 25-year lifespan of a typical installation, each kilowatt hour of electricity costs 24 cents.

That’s nearly twice as expensive as electricity from conventional coal and gas power stations, which costs 13 cents, and more than nuclear, which costs 16 cents, the report said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Natural Gas, Other, Wind0 Comments

Scientists Create Solar-power 'leaves'

RALEIGH, N.C., Sept. 24 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say flexible, water-gel-based “solar leaves” could be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than silicon-based solar cells.

Researchers at North Carolina State University say the bendable devices are composed of water-based gel infused with light-sensitive molecules coupled with electrodes coated by carbon materials, a NCSU release reports.

The molecules get “excited” by the sun’s rays to produce electricity, similar to the way plant molecules get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow, Orlin Velev, a professor of chemical and bio-molecular engineering, says.

The team hopes to “learn how to mimic the materials by which nature harnesses solar energy,” Velev says.

Now that they’ve proven the concept, the researchers will work to fine-tune the water-based photovoltaic devices, making them even more like real leaves.

“The next step is to mimic the self-regenerating mechanisms found in plants,” Velev says.

“We do not want to over-promise at this stage, as the devices are still of relatively low efficiency and there is a long way to go before this can become a practical technology,” he says.

“However, we believe that the concept of biologically inspired ‘soft’ devices for generating electricity may in the future provide an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies,” Velev says.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Electricity, Engineering, Other, Solar0 Comments

Conservationists Oppose Laos Dam Plans

VIENTIANE, Laos, Sept. 24 (UPI) — Laos says it rejects calls for a dam moratorium on the Mekong River because it wants cheap power to develop its economy despite threats to fish habitats.

The Southeast Asian nation moved this week to secure regional approval for the first major hydropower plant on its stretch of the lower Mekong in the face of protests from international conservation groups, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Friday.

The country’s proposed hydropower plant threatens the habitat of the giant Mekong catfish, which can weigh up to 650 pounds, the newspaper said.

Catfish as long as small cars and stingrays that weigh more than tigers are threatened by the proposed 2,600-foot dam, but the government said the economic benefits outweigh the environmental risks.

“We don’t want to be poor anymore,” Viraphone Viravong, director general of the country’s energy and mines department, said. “If we want to grow, we need this dam.”

In a submission to the Mekong River Commission, Laos said it wants to build a hydropower plant at Sayabouly in northern Laos to generate foreign exchange income.

If approved, about 90 percent of the electricity would be sold to neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Sayabouly is the first of 11 proposed dams on the lower reaches of the Mekong, a river already heavily dammed upstream in China, the Guardian said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Cars, Conservation, Electricity, Fish, Other0 Comments

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