Thursday, 21 February 2008

Micro Energy Technologies

Green Microfinance and MicroEnergy International (ME) of Germany announced the launch of Energizing India at the recent 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting. The microfinance institution, Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF), has contracted with Energizing India in its endeavor to provide micro energy products for its 232,310 clients (micro-businesses and families) in four Provinces in south India.

Energizing India will provide clean energy products to ESAF's clients and will establish working relationships among ESAF and various renewable energy providers.

GMf will assist in structuring micro loans for local enterprises and for low-income consumers. Such micro-financing will encourage the development of affordable and efficient renewable energy systems, not only for the quarter-million ESAF clients, but throughout a network of microfinance institutions in India.

An estimated total of 75 million Indian families are not on the national grid, including over two-thirds of all rural families. Rural families buy kerosene for lighting and gather and/or purchase firewood for cooking. For example, off-grid Indian families consumed over 180 million tons of wood in 2001.

Energizing India is part of a global network, Energizing Microfinance, formed by Green Microfinance and MicroEnergy in 2007. It is led by microfinance specialists and energy engineers, who are experts on micro energy systems, which include solar, micro-hydro, micro-wind, and village-scale biofuel systems, which uses biomass not produced on productive forests, grassland or cropland.

"By providing loans for environmentally sustainable products to their low income clients, microfinance institutions can substantially contribute to greener communities, and to increased family business revenue. Most importantly, by working with organizations such as ESAF, we are directly nurturing and growing millions of green micro-businesses," Elizabeth Israel, co-Founder and President of Green Microfinance said.

Source - solardaily

Monday, 11 February 2008

51 Things We Can Do to Save the Environment

1. Turn Food Into Fuel
By Alice Park

Are corn husks better than corn for producing energy? Ethanol is the alternative fuel that could finally wean the U.S. from its expensive oil habit and in turn prevent the millions of tons of carbon emissions that go with it. The Department of Energy has doubled its 2005 commitment to funding research into biofuels—any non-petroleum fuel source, including corn, soybean, switchgrass, municipal waste and (ick) used cooking oil. Already, half of the nearly 11 billion bushels of corn produced each year is turned into ethanol, and most new cars are capable of running on E10 (10% ethanol and 90% gas).

Yet the eco-friendly fuel is beginning to look less chummy of late. Some of the 114 ethanol plants in the U.S. use natural gas and, yes, even coal to run the processors. And ethanol has to be trucked. Existing gas pipelines can't carry it because it corrodes iron. Then there are the economics. Producers depend on federal subsidies, and increasing demand for corn as fuel means the kernels keep getting pricier.

That's why researchers are prospecting for more alternatives, preferably ones that don't rely on food crops or a 51 cents-per-gallon tax break. Municipal waste, wood pulp and leftover grain and corn husks are all quite attractive; they can produce something called cellulosic ethanol, which contains more energy than corn. But they don't give up their bounty easily, so for now they're more expensive than corn-based ethanol to produce. Undeterred, researchers at several cellulosic-ethanol plants are developing innovative enzyme concoctions and heating methods to make the process more economic. Nothing like haste to make something out of waste.

2. Get Blueprints For a Green House
By Laura Locke

Reducing your impact on the earth is not just a question of what you drive but also of what you live in. Residential energy use accounts for 16% of greenhouse-gas emissions. If you begin thinking green at the blueprint stage, however, low-tech, pragmatic techniques will maximize your new home's efficiency. Installing those systems from the ground up is cheaper than retrofitting. "Doing simple things could drastically reduce your energy costs, by 40%," says Oru Bose, a sustainable-design architect in Santa Fe, N.M. For example, control heat, air and moisture leakage by sealing windows and doors. Insulate the garage, attic and basement with natural, nontoxic materials like reclaimed blue jeans. Protect windows from sunrays with large overhangs and double-pane glass. Emphasize natural cross ventilation. "You don't need to have 24th century solutions to solve 18th century problems," Bose says. Next, consider renewable energy sources like solar electric systems, compact wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps to help power your home. When you're ready to get creative, will help you find bamboo flooring, cork tiles, and countertops made from recycled wastepaper.

3. Change Your Lightbulbs
By Maryanne Murray Buechner

The hottest thing in household energy savings is the compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL), a funny-looking swirl that fits into standard sockets. CFLs cost three to five times as much as conventional incandescent bulbs yet use one-quarter the electricity and last several years longer. They are available virtually everywhere lightbulbs are sold. Most labels don't say "CFL" (GE calls its bulbs Energy Savers), and in some cases the telltale twist is enclosed in frosted glass. The wattage gives them away: many 7-watt CFLs are comparable to a regular 40-watt bulb, 26 watts is the typical CFL equivalent of 100 watts and so on. Or just look for the Energy Star label.

CFLs have come a long way since they were first introduced in the mid-'90s (they don't flicker as much when you turn them on, for one thing), but because each bulb still contains 5 mg of mercury, you're not supposed to toss them out with the regular trash, where they could end up in a landfill. So the bulbs are one more thing for you to sort in the recycling bin.

Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs (see item 4), don't have this problem, but they can require a bit of DIY rewiring. LEDs work great as accents and task lights, and you can also buy LED desk and floor lamps. But if you're just looking to put a green bulb in your favorite table lamp, CFL is the way to go.

4. Light Up Your City
By Maryanne Murray Buechner

Cities can save energy—and money—by illuminating public spaces with LEDs, or light-emitting diodes. Last December Raleigh, N.C., turned one floor of a municipal parking garage into a testing ground for LEDs (see the before-and-after photos at The new white, brighter fixtures use 40% less electricity than the high-pressure sodium bulbs they replaced. Although they cost two to three times as much, they can go five or more years without upkeep. Traditional bulbs must be replaced every 18 months. Other types of LEDs are already at work in traffic lights, outdoor displays (like those in New York City's Times Square) and stadiums; airports even use LEDs on their taxiways. If your city is still burning tax money on old lights, ask the mayor why.

5. Pay the Carbon Tax
By Bryan Walsh

Everyone agrees that it's necessary to reduce carbon emissions around the world. There is less agreement over exactly how nations should go about achieving a more carbon-free planet. Hence, the environmental equivalent of Elvis vs. the Beatles: cap-and-trade carbon emissions, or impose a carbon tax on all users? With cap-and-trade programs, governments limit the level of carbon that can be emitted by an industry. Companies that hold their emissions below the cap can sell their remaining allowance on a carbon market, while companies that exceed their limit must purchase credits on that market. Carbon taxes are more straightforward: a set tax rate is placed on the consumption of carbon in any form—fossil-fuel electricity, gasoline—with the idea that raising the price will encourage industries and individuals to consume less. At the moment, cap-and-trade has the upper hand, since it serves as the backbone of the current Kyoto Protocol, and helped the U.S. reduce acid rain in the 1990s—but don't write off the tax just yet.

6. Ditch the Mansion
By Bryan Walsh

Oversize houses aren't just architecturally offensive; they also generally require more energy to heat and cool than smaller ones, even with efficient appliances. And in the U.S., big houses are becoming the norm, even though a relatively inefficient small house consumes less energy than a greener large house and uses fewer building materials, which expand the carbon footprint. A typical new single-family home in the U.S. is nearly 2,500 square feet today, up from about 1,000 square feet in 1950, even as the average household has shrunk from 3.4 to 2.6 people.

If you really want to live small, visit Jay Shafer. The former art professor dwells alone in a home fit for a hobbit, 100 sq. ft. in northern California that he designed and built himself in 1999. Shafer now runs Tumbleweed Tiny House and sells custom designs for miniature dwellings that range from 70 sq. ft. to 350 sq. ft. He made his move because he felt guilty about the size of his residential carbon footprint, and now prefers life tiny and tidy. "If I throw my jeans down on the floor, I can't get across the room."

7. Hang Up a Clothes Line
By Bryan Walsh

You could make your own clothes with needle and thread using 100% organic cotton sheared from sheep you raised on a Whole Foods diet, but the environmental quality of your wardrobe is ultimately determined by the way you wash it. A recent study by Cambridge University's Institute of Manufacturing found that 60% of the energy associated with a piece of clothing is spent in washing and drying it. Over its lifetime, a T shirt can send up to 9 lbs. of carbon dioxide into the air.

The solution is not to avoid doing laundry, tempting as that may be. Rather, wash your clothes in warm water instead of hot, and save up to launder a few big loads instead of many smaller ones. Use the most efficient machine you can find—newer ones can use as little as one-fourth the energy of older machines. When they're clean, dry your clothes the natural way, by hanging them on a line rather than loading them in a dryer. Altogether you can reduce the CO2 created by your laundry up to 90%. Plus, no more magically disappearing socks.

Source -time

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Organic Solar Cells

Organic Solar Cells: Electricity From A Thin Film

ScienceDaily (Feb. 6, 2008) — Teams of researchers all over the world are working on the development of organic solar cells. Organic solar cells have good prospects for the future: They can be laid onto thin films, which makes them cheap to produce.
Solar Cells, world, thin films, Japan, Cheaper

Established printing technologies should be employed for their production of the future. In order to achieve this goal of suitable solar cell architecture as well a coating materials and substrates have to be developed. “This method permits a high throughput, so the greatest cost is that of materials,” says Michael Niggemann, a researcher at ISE.

Nevertheless, organic solar cells are not intended to compete with classic silicon cells – they are not nearly efficient enough to do that just yet. Because they are flexible, however, they can open up new fields of application: Plastic solar cells could supply the power for small mobile devices such as MP3 players or electronic ski passes. Another possibility would be to combine solar cells, sensors and electronic circuits on a small strip of plastic to form a self-sufficient power microsystem.

At nano tech in Tokyo, the Fraunhofer experts will be presenting a flexible solar module that is as small as the page of a book. It was produced by a method that can easily be transferred to roll-to-roll technology – a vital step en route to mass production.

Source - Sciencedaily

Fresh Water For The World's Poorest

ScienceDaily (Jan. 9, 2008) — Lack of water causes great distress among the population in large parts of Africa and Asia. Small decentralized water treatment plants with an autonomous power supply can help solve the problem: They transform salty seawater or brackish water into pure drinking water.

Large industrial plants for the desalination of seawater deliver 50 million cubic meters of fresh water every day – particularly in the coastal cities of the Middle East. However, the technology is complex and consumes large amounts of energy. It is not suitable for the arid and semiarid regions of Africa and India, though these are the very places where it is becoming increasingly difficult to supply drinking water, particularly in rural areas.

“The regions have a very poor infrastructure. Quite often there is no electricity grid, so conventional desalination plants are out of the question,” states Joachim Koschikowski of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg. In various EU-funded projects over the past few years, he and his team have developed small, decentralized water desalination plants that produce fresh drinking water with their own independent solar power supply

Source - scienedaily