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Renewables - Aug 15

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Prof. Paul Alivisatos on Nanotechnology and Renewable Energy
JE, private communication
I attended the lecture at the U.S.G.S. in Menlo Park, California, last Tuesday. Paul Alivisatos, a professor of chemistry from Berkeley, talked about solar power and nanotechnology. He said the biggest problem with photovoltaic is efficiency. Current low-end cells are about 12% efficient. Plastic coatings are about 5% efficient. Some research has produced efficiencies up to 50%, but the technology is expensive. Nanotech could produce much higher efficiencies. He said the payback for current solar cells is about twenty years. Researchers and engineers would like to lower that to one year.

Here's some other things he had to say:

  • The U.S. currently consumes about 3.3 terawatts of power per year of which about 1% is from gasoline.
  • The cost of one watt of electricity from solar cells is about $18. At that rate, it would take about $50 trillion to satisfy U.S. needs.
  • The sun provides enough energy on the earth in one hour to satisfy the energy needs of the U.S. for one year.
  • There are about 70 research groups working on nanotechnology related to solar energy.

(14 Aug 2006)
Related articles:
Solar cells change electricity distribution
New Hybrid Solar Cells Combine Nanotech with Plastics (2002)


Boatload of Biodiesel Shipping Today

Lloyd Alter, Tree Hugger
Today is an important milestone in the history of biofuels; the first 60,000 tonne load of palm oil based biofuel leaves Malaysia for Germany. The government is proud, and is working on cloning and replanting strategies to increase yield to one tonne of fresh fruit bunches per hectare and 26% extraction rate. Demand (and prices) are climbing . Meanwhile, 87% of deforestation in Malaysia was due to the creation of new palm oil plantations. Brazil is being turned into a soybean plantation Canada is going sea-to-sea canola. Biodiversity is trampled and food costs soar to keep our cars running as if nothing has changed. As of today it has- cute local Bio-willie or grow-your-own biofuel has gone big business. ::Malaysia Star
(15 Aug 2006)


San Francisco's clean energy revolution is here

Susan Leal, SF Chronicle
San Francisco took a historic step last week toward creating the city's first Green Power Community on the site of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, where developer Lennar BVHP is about to begin construction of more than 1,600 new residential units and retail space. Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced an effort to provide reliable, renewable energy directly to the new residents and businesses there.

Certainly, the effort to bring green power to Hunters Point will be a great benefit to a neighborhood blighted by polluting power plants and toxic industries. But just as important, it is a watershed moment for the city's energy leadership. San Francisco is not just "talking the talk," but taking real action to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and power our city through clean, renewable energies.

...A city-powered entirely by clean energy from the sun, wind, water and waste -- what may once have seemed an excerpt from science fiction could well become reality in San Francisco. Certainly, there will be unexpected costs, setbacks and bumps along the road. But the path towards a brighter future of renewable energy is clear. The clean energy revolution is here, and for San Francisco, there's no turning back.

Susan Leal is the general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
(14 Aug 2006)
Related article from the SF Chronicle: Hunters Point Development plan runs on sunshine.

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