Smart electric metering and smart grid technologies are transforming the management of electric power worldwide — and creating a huge cleantech market in the process. But could the same thing happen in the world of water? Is a “smart water grid” beginning to emerge, along with a market for products to support it?
I put that question to Colin Walsby, vice president for strategic solution development at Sensus, a Raleigh, N.C.-based provider of infrastructure solutions for utilities, including water-metering products and information systems. He told me that “smart water network” is probably a better term, although “grid” is being widely used to describe the increasing efforts of utilities to apply advanced technologies to better manage and conserve water. Read the rest of this entry »
These days, when we talk about renewable energy, we mostly talk about wind and solar, followed by various biofuels, hydrogen, and geothermal. We almost never hear anything about hydropower, despite the fact the fact that hydropower is by far our largest source of renewable energy, providing a full 7 percent of our electricity needs.
That’s because most of the action has been in these other areas which have experienced enormous growth rates, starting, as they have, from humble origins. Read the rest of this entry »
At the end of April the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted a report on the environmental lifecycle assessment of the lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles, with an eye to helping battery manufacturers choose safer materials and processes. The report, in the words of EPA officials, “also reviews the potential impacts of a nanotechnology innovation that could improve battery performance.”
Developed in partnership with the Dept. of Energy, the lithium-ion battery industry, and academics, the report is part of the EPA’s under-radar Design for the Environment (DFE) Program. The program was established in 1992 to “encourage businesses to incorporate environmental concerns into their business decisions,” according to the EPA study. Read the rest of this entry »
It is the rare bill in Congress that gets strong bipartisan support right out of the gate.
But two weeks ago, in a move that didn’t garner all that much national attention (probably because it had nothing to do with Guantanamo Bay, Obamacare, or a national tragedy), a bill was introduced in the House and Senate that has leaders on both sides of the aisle vociferously praising their support.
It’s called the Master Limited Partnership (MLP) Parity Act, and it has been championed by Democratic Senators Chris Coons of Delaware and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, as well as Republican Senators Jerry Moran (Kansas) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). The bill also has bipartisan support in the House, with GOP Reps Ted Poe (Texas-02) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.-19), and Democratic Reps Peter Welch (Vt.) and Mike Thompson (Calif.-05) introducing the bill there on April 24 as well. Read the rest of this entry »
The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DoE) announced Friday that it has awarded $16 million to 88 small businesses for technologies that support or enhance energy systems. In a statement released last week, the DoE said the funds “highlight President Obama’s focus on small businesses as leaders in an economy built to last.”
According to the statement, the technologies were chosen based on having a “strong potential for commercialization and job creation” and added that the funds “will help small businesses with promising ideas that could improve manufacturing processes, boost the efficiency of buildings, reduce reliance on foreign oil, and generate electricity from renewable sources.” Read the rest of this entry »
The management of water on the Earth is an increasing challenge, as global population grows and consequently puts greater demand on a limited resource. According to the GreenFacts Initiative, freshwater accounts for only 2.5 percent of water on the planet, and most of that is frozen in glaciers and ice caps. Only a small fraction is available on the surface for use by living things, including humans.
Water is an essential resource for economic activity, and industry is a substantial user of water. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that industry uses 18.7 percent of available water globally and 43 percent in North America. The U.N.’s World Water Development Report says that “Water scarcity is viewed as an increasing business risk, with industrial water supply security dependent on sufficient resources,” a problem that is compounded “by geographic and seasonal variations, as well as water allocations and competing water needs in a given region.” Read the rest of this entry »
Four years ago, American LeMans kicked off its first green racing season. The program, which requires teams to use alternative fuels such as ethanol blends (E10 or E85), clean diesel, or isobutanol is going strong today. Sponsored by U.S. Dept. of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), it is an attempt to raise the visibility of environmental issues to an audience that might not otherwise be interested. They also wanted to show that green renewable fuels did not necessarily mean a sacrifice in performance or fun. Race winners are selected based on a score that combines how clean, fast, and efficient the car is, throughout the race. Read the rest of this entry »
Fracking allows us to extract untold riches of previously unrecoverable natural gas and oil, which is lowering their prices and reducing the cost of things that use natural gas in production. Opponents of the procedure say there are serious environmental concerns, particularly with the materials used, which could seep into the groundwater or bubble up to the surface, contaminating the ground.
Hydraulic fracking shoots a highly pressurized mixture of water and sand or ceramics into an oil or gas reservoir several thousand feet below the surface of the earth, “often with the help of a small percentage of additives that aid in delivering that solution down the hatch,” explains Halliburton, which drilled the first fracked well in the 1940s, on its website. Read the rest of this entry »
The state of Oregon boasts many great opportunities for manufacturers: Friendly legislation and tax breaks, fairly inexpensive land (compared to other states), and a level of corporate taxes that aren’t too burdensome.
Oregon’s attitude toward business and manufacturers has led to major corporations like Nike, Adidas, and Intel deciding to do business there, along with major solar companies like SolarWorld and SoloPower.
But Business Oregon, the economic development agency of the state, feels like it’s losing ground to states like California when it comes to attracting businesses, and even though manufacturing accounts for the largest share of the stats’ gross domestic product (GDP), the agency is trying to do more. Read the rest of this entry »
Few things have had as big an impact on modern technology as rare earth elements (REEs). Sometimes called rare earth metals (REMs), these are a group of 17 related elements which, despite their name, can be surprisingly abundant. They are found in a huge swath of technologies, including smartphones, TVs, light bulbs, glass, hybrid and electric vehicle batteries, steel and aluminum (as strengthening agents), medical and dental devices (including x-rays, MRI machines, and surgical lasers), wind turbines and other clean technologies, and so much more.
As ubiquitous as REE usage is, the supply chain for them is fairly limited. With fears of a possible shortage looming in the near future, researchers and businesses are looking for ways to cost-effectively reclaim and recycle REEs. Read the rest of this entry »