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Recession has taken toll on alternative energy

David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle
Worldwide sales of solar cells, biofuels and wind turbines soared 53 percent last year to hit $115.9 billion before the global recession started sapping their strength, according to an annual report issued Tuesday.

The report by the Clean Edge research firm shows the alternative energy industry at a turning point in 2008.

After years of rapid growth fueled by rising oil prices and fears of global warming, the industry was finally making serious cash. Green businesses were hiring, with solar and wind companies accounting for a total of 600,000 jobs worldwide, according to the report.

But as 2008 wore on, the world slid deeper into recession, the oil market crashed and banks stopped lending to green startups. As a result, the report’s authors expect the industry’s sales to flatline or fall slightly in 2009. And some green-tech companies won’t live to see 2010.
(11 March 2009)

Canals and rivers to lead micro-hydropower revolution

Adam Vaughan, Guardian
Britain’s canals and rivers have already been heralded as a low-carbon way to tranport Tesco groceries, a test-bed for hydrogen boats and a opportunity to build more wind turbines. Now they’re being billed as a chance for micro hydropower to flourish under new plans unveiled today by British Waterways, which maintains 2,200 miles of the country’s canals and rivers.

In partnership with The Small Hydro Company, British Waterways said it intended to build 25 small-scale hydro-electric schemes with a capacity of 40MW, enough to power 40,000 homes.
(11 March 2009)

Locavolts or Super Grids? Where to Source Clean Energy?

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
Should clean energy be distributed energy made locally and connected to a smart grid, or should it be gathered from the windiest and sunniest places on the planet and shipped to us in giant new super grids? The answer may prove critical to solving our greenhouse gas problems.

… There are many benefits to building a smart, distributed energy system. One problem with distributed energy is that is people don’t necessarily live where clean energy resources are most abundant; another is that wiring together many different parts can impose regulatory costs that could make deploying distributed energy more difficult, and can be a hassle for homeowners (one of the reasons various schemes to rent or lease people home solar power packages remain popular).

That’s why some smart folks argue for putting the power generation where the power resources are and then building a new international grid of transmission lines to carry that clean energy from wind farms and solar fields to distant cities.

… Given the severity of the crisis we face, when presented a choice between two approaches to providing clean energy, the answer must be “both, please.” But in this debate, as in every other, there are trade-offs, and it’s worth thinking about when we want our volts local, and when being hooked into the super grid makes the most sense.
(7 March 2009)

Warnings Grow Louder About Global Data Center Power Crisis

Bill Paul, Energy Tech Stocks
Apparently they’re like warnings on cigarette packages – clearly visible and pretty much ignored, often until it’s too late.

The latest warning about the data center power crisis that threatens to disrupt global business as early as 2011 comes from Siemens AG (Symbol SIE), which found in a new survey of major companies that less than half are working toward improving the energy efficiency of their data centers.

“If we do not start looking closely at our data centers now, 70% of the world’s data centers will have tangible disruptions by 2011 and the systems will experience world-wide brownouts over the course of the next five years,” Siemens warned.
(9 March 2009)