Archive for December, 2012
The cleantech industry too often gets a bad rap among manufacturers. Critics say the sector has a high concentration of start-ups. Many technologies lack infrastructure. There is a perception that much of cleantech is unproven and stuck in a developmental stage. Still others see the industry as capitalizing on environmental regulations.
This view of cleantech is not an honest one, though. Certainly the green energy sector has had some misses, particularly in the past two years. But there is much more to cleantech than renewable energy. Industrial businesses that step back and see the real value of cleantech will quickly realize that, while the industry faces challenges, there are innumerable opportunities to “ride the wave” and build their businesses. These opportunities go beyond selling into new markets, and include cost savings, efficiencies and improved bottom lines. Read the rest of this entry »
Solar energy research is a field that’s constantly changing and evolving, as new research and technology allow for breakthroughs that might have been unthinkable even a year or two earlier.
Much of the funding for solar research comes from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and recently the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) announced that it was giving grants worth $14 million to eight possibly transformational projects taking place across America.
These grants, given to private companies and universities alike, are part of a larger $130 million DOE investment in cutting-edge research encompassing 11 technology areas in 24 states.
For our purposes, though, the solar research projects are worth a closer look. Read the rest of this entry »
If you drive a hybrid vehicle, you’ll know a few things about it. You’ll know that you’re saving gas and reducing your emissions. You’ll know that it has a high “cool” factor. What you probably don’t know is that you’re driving around on top of roughly 60 pounds of rare earth elements.
Hybrid engines are a combination of a battery-powered electric train drive and a traditional internal combustion engine. Rare earth elements (REEs) are an important component: they are used by the hybrid’s nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery, the electric traction motor and the regenerative braking system (which recaptures energy generated while braking and returns it to the battery).
While the penetration of hybrid electric vehicles hasn’t been speedy, it has been steady. Today, there are more than two million of them on U.S. roads. As gas prices escalate, more Americans will likely turn to hybrid and electric vehicles, which will drive up the need for rare earth elements. The problem is, some rare earth elements are, as the name implies, rare — and getting rarer. Read the rest of this entry »
Some manufacturers are seeking ways to introduce plant-based plastics — bioplastics — into their products. Such bio-materials offer a way to reduce life-cycle environmental impacts and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — and to hedge against cost volatility in the supply of petroleum feedstock. Packaging is emerging as one of the most promising markets for bioplastics, especially in the manufacture of plastic containers.
According to market research firm IBISWorld, the global plastics manufacturing market is worth $779.8 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow to $941.4 billion in 2017. Approximately 28.7 percent of industry revenue is accounted for in North America, 28.5 percent in Europe and 25.5 percent in Asia. Asia’s share has been growing because of development in China, resulting in declining share for North America and Europe. Read the rest of this entry »
The issue of biofuels has been around since at least the early 20th century. According to National Geographic, Henry Ford built his first Model Ts for use with ethanol, and many early diesel engines were designed to run on peanut oil.
But the biggest obstacle with biofuels has been having the proverbial cake and eating it to. More specifically, whatever you do with land, you can’t do something else with that same piece of land. Housing or crops? Crops or grazing? Grazing or housing? It’s a lesson Brazil’s learning these days as well.
As Nature.com wrote recently, in 2007 Brazil was in the midst of a biofuels boom. The country made more ethanol than anybody outside of the United States. Brazil has lots of sugar cane, and they were fermenting lots of it to produce biofuel. Brazil’s experience was being studied as a way to produce biofuels, create jobs and reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Then… well, a few things happened. Read the rest of this entry »
When it comes to the safety of commercial vehicles, nothing is higher priority for Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC. Headquartered in Elyria, Ohio, Bendix manufactures air brake charging and control systems and active safety systems for all markets of commercial vehicles.
Taking care of commercial vehicles and drivers isn’t the only priority for Bendix — the company is also focused on taking care of the environment. According to Maria Gutierrez, Bendix’s health, safety, and environmental manager, all four of the company’s manufacturing facilities are ISO 14001 certified, meaning that they have in place environmental management systems that continuously measure and improve impact. On Nov. 14, Bendix announced an impressive achievement: The company, with 2,700 employees across four locations, had netted a 92 percent waste divergence rate. The success goes beyond just reducing Bendix’s contribution to landfills; it is an integral part of the firm’s new remanufacturing business unit. Read the rest of this entry »
Ever since it first became law in 2006, California Assembly Bill 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions bill, has been embroiled in controversy.
What the law set out to do, as it was originally written, is to craft a plan to achieve the maximum “technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gases by 2020,” the bill’s language says, and to reduce California’s statewide level of greenhouse gas emissions to a level last achieved in 1990.
Compliance with all parts of AB32 are set to take effect in January, but major parts of the legislation are starting to take effect, and a big sticking point for proponents and opponents of the law is the issue of CCAs, or California carbon allowances. Read the rest of this entry »
Sustainability has been a topic of much discussion in manufacturing circles in the last few years, with disciplines like zero waste to landfill and closed-loop systems being mulled if not practiced. Closed-loop resource planning, also known as closed-loop manufacturing resource planning (CLMRP), is a model built on the presumption of returned or recycled products as part of the supply chain. With no new raw materials entering, the life cycle resembles a continuous loop.
Part of a broader movement that is often referred to as the “circular economy,” CLMRP is a concept promising a wide range of benefits, from cost savings to greener and cleaner operations to regulations compliance to alleviating raw materials shortages. Read the rest of this entry »
More companies are aggressively pursuing sustainability in their supply chains, according to Bruce Tompkins, the executive director of the Supply Chain Consortium. Part of their motivation is to get out in front of regulatory requirements. “Companies want to shape the future of sustainability,” Tompkins said recently in a podcast on the topic, “and it’s easier to stay ahead of the game than trying to catch up to regulations.”
In the podcast “Risk, Economics and the Environment – Defining Sustainability and Best Practices for Businesses,” Tompkins tells interviewer Cheyanne Ritz that many sustainability concerns are found in the supply chain. In fact, he says, “about 50 percent of a company’s carbon emissions typically come from [its] supply chain.”
The private sector, he says, is moving forward on issues like climate change in spite of government efforts. In the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now requiring sustainability and carbon emissions reporting, so in fact regulatory requirements are putting pressure on companies to take action. But Tompkins also believes that companies are adopting policies and practices around sustainability to stay ahead of the curve.
“They don’t want to be dictated to, and they want to make and set policy,” Tompkins says. “A lot of the future is in helping to shape where sustainability. I see that as being an important thing.” Read the rest of this entry »