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EU to exceed 2020 green energy target: forecasts

Charlie Dunmore, Reuters
New forecasts suggest the European Union will exceed its target of getting 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources in 2020, the European Commission said Thursday.

The latest national projections submitted by governments to the EU executive suggest the 27-nation bloc could reach an overall renewable share of 20.3 percent by the end of the decade.

“These forecasts show that member states take renewable energy very seriously and are really dedicated to pushing their domestic production,” EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said…
(11 Mar 2010)

Quantum Physics Breakthrough: Scientists Find an Equation for Materials Innovation

Princeton engineers have made a breakthrough in an 80-year-old quandary in quantum physics, paving the way for the development of new materials that could make electronic devices smaller and cars more energy efficient.

By reworking a theory first proposed by physicists in the 1920s, the researchers discovered a new way to predict important characteristics of a new material before it’s been created. The new formula allows computers to model the properties of a material up to 100,000 times faster than previously possible and vastly expands the range of properties scientists can study.

“The equation scientists were using before was inefficient and consumed huge amounts of computing power, so we were limited to modeling only a few hundred atoms of a perfect material,” said Emily Carter, the engineering professor who led the project.

“But most materials aren’t perfect,” said Carter, the Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Applied and Computational Mathematics. “Important properties are actually determined by the flaws, but to understand those you need to look at thousands or tens of thousands of atoms so the defects are included. Using this new equation, we’ve been able to model up to a million atoms, so we get closer to the real properties of a substance.”

…”We needed to find out what we were missing that made the results so different between the semiconductors and metals,” Huang said. “Then we realized that metals and semiconductors respond differently to electrical fields. Our model was missing this.”

In the end, Huang said, the solution was a compromise. “By finding an equation that worked for these two types of materials, we found a model that works for a wide range of materials.”

Their new model, published online Jan. 26 in Physical Review B, a journal of the American Physical Society, provides a practical method for predicting the kinetic energy of electrons in semiconductors from only the electron density. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation…
(26 February 2010)

Solar PV has failed in Germany and it will fail in the UK

The Guardian, George Monbiot
Let me begin with a plea to tone down this debate on feed-in tariffs. Jeremy Leggett and I have addressed each other politely and stuck to the facts. I have no ill feelings towards him; I simply believe that he is wrong about solar power. But the level of viciousness displayed on the comment threads, by email and on other sites has to be seen to be believed.

Where does fury of this kind come from? In my experience it’s often associated with denial. People who don’t like the outcomes dismiss the facts and lash out at the bearers of bad news. Could we, just for once, please try to get past this reaction, and judge the case on its merits?

My own instincts press me to support solar power. Like most environmentalists I believe that small is beautiful. I hate pylon lines and I don’t care for the sight of big power plants of any description, wind farms included. I detest the big energy firms which provide our electricity. I am deeply attracted to the idea of being able to produce my own power, just as I love producing my own fruit and vegetables. But my attempts to find the best means of tackling climate change, which I explain at greater length in my book, Heat, have forced me to put my gut feelings to one side. Our choices must be based on the best possible information. Otherwise we waste our lives chasing chimeras.

Against my instincts I have come to oppose solar photovoltaic power (PV) in the UK, and the feed-in tariffs designed to encourage it, because the facts show unequivocally that this is a terrible investment. There are much better ways of spending the rare and precious revenue that the tariffs will extract from our pockets. If we are to prevent runaway climate change, we have to ensure that we get the biggest available bang for our buck: in other words the greatest cut in greenhouse gas production from the money we spend. Money spent on ineffective solutions is not just a waste: it’s also a lost opportunity…
(10 Mar 2010)