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May 7, 2013

Solar powered plane completes first leg of transcontinental trip

Solar powered plane completes first leg of transcontinental trip

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

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Solar Impulse, the world’s most advanced solar powered plane has just completed the first of the five legs of its trans-continental journey, flying fuel-free from San Francisco to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, in just over 18 hours.

Flea Hop HB-SIA – Solar Impulse (file image)
Image: Matth1.

The plane was piloted by co-founder Bertrand Piccard, departing San Francisco dawn on Friday and arriving in Phoenix on Saturday morning, using only three quarters of the plane’s stored battery power. “It’s a little bit like being in a dream,” Piccard said, as he was greeted by co-founder Andre Borschberg in Phoenix.

Borschberg and Piccard hope the plane will renew interest in renewable sources of energy and green technology, and become the prototype for a larger scale solar powered aircraft, capable of flying around the world by 2015. “If an airplane can fly day or night with no fuel, just on the sun’s power, of course it means that everybody in daily life can use this technology for his house, for heating and cooling systems, for lighting, for cars, for trucks. There’s so much we can do now to have a cleaner future,” Piccard said.

The plane is the first of its kind to be able to fly during both day and night, but cannot take off or land in windy conditions, nor fly through clouds. The plane is powered by roughly 12,000 photovoltaic cells on the wings, providing 10 horsepower, the same level of power as the Wright brothers‘ first planes, and weighs the same as a car. “One hundred years ago, the planes had to fly in good weather and there was only one person on board,” Piccard said. “Now we have completely new technology, we fly with no fuel at all. But, of course, we need to fly in good weather and we carry only one pilot on board.

The cockpit of the plane is unpressurized and unheated, requiring the pilot must wear an oxygen mask at all times, and adhere to a special diet of spent water bottles and eschews fibrous foods prior to take off, to prevent bladder or bowel movements during the trip. Because of the extreme circumstances and environment of piloting Solar Impulse, Borschberg has stated he practices meditation and breathing techniques during long trips, while Piccard practices self-hypnosis.

Solar Impulse’s journey will continue from Phoenix onwards to Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas, Lambert-St. Louis airport, Dulles airport in the Washington area and New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, with each trip taking approximately 19 to 25 hours with 10 day rests in each city.



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March 26, 2013

Kiribati acquires international funding for solar power

Kiribati acquires international funding for solar power

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Environment
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Solar panel installation in the United States
Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last Tuesday, AusAID Australia and the World Bank’s Global Environment Fund (GEF) reached an agreement to give the government of Kiribati US$5 million (AU$4,779,000, NZ$5,985,000, 3,885,000) to install solar panels around the country capital, located on the Tarawa atoll. According to Business Desk of the Brunei Times, AusAID promised AU$3.2 million in funding, while GEF promised US$1 million. The country was the first in the Pacific to make a deal with the World Bank.

The funding was part of a US$530 million (NZ$635 million) package announced at yesterday’s Pacific Energy Summit in Auckland involving New Zealand and the European Union, Australia, the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the World Bank Group, and the United Arab Emirates. Also at the summit yesterday, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully had announced a national commitment of USD$54,262,000 (AU$51,861,000 NZ$65 million, €42,178,000) to Pacific region energy solutions, of which US$8,348,000 (AU$8 million, NZ$10 million, €6,483,000) would be specifically earmarked for renewable energy and improved energy efficiency in the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu.

A small school maneaba (equivalent to a school hall) in Nabeina, North Tarawa, Kiribati
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Kiribati is heavily dependent on diesel fuel for most of the energy available on the national power grid, which supplies power to half Kiribati’s population of 110,000. In addition, a third of the country’s population lacks access to electricity. Once installation of the solar panels is complete, they are estimated to reduce diesel consumption by 230,000 liters (60,760 gallons) a year and give access to the electricity to some parts of the population that currently have no electricity. The European Union already has committed €100 million to sustainable energy in the region, with €10 million of that coming as a result of an announcement made last week.

In a press release about the news, Kiribati President Anote Tong was quoted as saying, “Kiribati faces big challenges it is remote, it is at risk from the effects of climate change, and it is vulnerable to economic shocks. […] Shifting Kiribati’s focus to reliable solar energy will provide a more secure, more sustainable power source for the country’s people.” Radio New Zealand International quoted Tong as saying, “It’s the first time we are doing this. We’re excited at the prospect of even substituting fossil fuel to a small extent at this stage. What the system being envisaged will only produce around 500 kilowatts, but this is the beginning of what I hope will be a pattern, the trend in the future.”

The European Union’s Fiji-based head of operations for the Pacific region, Renato Mele, supported alternative energy solutions like solar power for the region, but said that solar power had limitations because climate and environmental conditions sometimes meant batteries required to power the panels had a life of only 12 months, compared to other climates where batteries normally last five years. This created the potential to drive up standard operating costs. Mele has also noted these additional costs though are still lower than the cost of diesel power.

One News Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver noted, “Governments will be able to put the money they (currently) spend on diesel into things like education and health.”



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October 12, 2012

USA raises tariffs on inexpensive Chinese solar panels

USA raises tariffs on inexpensive Chinese solar panels

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Friday, October 12, 2012

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The official USDC seal

This Wednesday, the United States Department of Commerce issued a ruling to set tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels ranging from 18% to 250% for different solar panels manufacturers. China protested against the new tariffs on Thursday claiming that they make export of solar panels to the USA unprofitable.

A US-German company SolarWorld and a group of other companies complained and initiated the tariffs change. Some manufacturers claimed China’s subsidies are an unfair advantage for the Chinese solar panel manufacturers, and challenged whether China’s economy is a free market.

Wang Shuai, a spokesman for the Yingli solar energy company, commented that 30% tariffs are unprofitable. He claimed that in the solar industry, gross profit margins are about 10 percent. “A tax rate of 30 percent is the same as 200 percent. Both of them mean the door is closed for exporting to the United States. No one does business to lose money.”

The tariffs would not go into effect until the International Trade Commission confirms the Chinese pricing hurts the U.S. solar industry.

The tariffs occur as the Chinese solar panel manufacturers have reported losses this year of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to AP.



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October 11, 2012

USA raises tariffs on inexpensive China solar panels

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

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The official USDC seal

This Wednesday, the United States Department of Commerce issued a ruling to set tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels ranging from 18% to 250% for different solar panels manufacturers. China protested against the new tariffs on Thursday claiming that they make export of solar panels to the USA unprofitable.

A US-German company SolarWorld and a group of other companies complained and initiated the tariffs change. Some manufacturers claimed China’s subsidies are an unfair advantage for the Chinese solar panel manufacturers, and challenged whether China’s economy is a free market.

Wang Shuai, a spokesman for the Yingli solar energy company, commented that 30% tariffs are unprofitable. He claimed that in the solar industry, gross profit margins are about 10 percent. “A tax rate of 30 percent is the same as 200 percent. Both of them mean the door is closed for exporting to the United States. No one does business to lose money.”

The tariffs would not go into effect until the International Trade Commission confirms the Chinese pricing hurts the U.S. solar industry.

The tariffs occur as the Chinese solar panel manufacturers have reported losses this year of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to AP.



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October 7, 2012

Electric vehicles can be less green than classic fuel cars, Norwegian study finds

Electric vehicles can be less green than classic fuel cars, Norwegian study finds

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Science and technology
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A Nissan Leaf electric car recharging at an on-street public charging station in Amsterdam

A Norwegian University of Science and Technology study released Thursday found electric vehicles have a potential for higher eco-toxicity and greenhouse impact than conventional cars. The study includes an examination of the electric car’s life cycle as a whole rather than a study of the electric car’s environmental impact during the use phase.

The researchers conducted a comparison of the environmental impact of electric cars in view of different ratios of green-to-fuel electricity energy sources. In the case of mostly coal- or oil-based electricity supply, electric cars are disadvantageous compared to classic diesel cars with the greenhouse effect impact being up to two times larger.

The researchers found that in Europe, electric cars pose a “10% to 24% decrease in global warming potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles”.

The researchers suggest to improve eco-friendliness of electric vehicles by “reducing vehicle production supply chain impacts and promoting clean electricity sources in decision making regarding electricity infrastructure” and using the electric cars for a longer time, so that the use phase plays a more important role in the electric vehicle life cycle.



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  • The study (“Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles”, Journal of Industrial Ecology)
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August 16, 2011

Japan to use renewable energy

Japan to use renewable energy – Wikinews, the free news source

Japan to use renewable energy

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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A new law which seeks to utilise reusable energy and minimise cost impact on consumers is under development in Japan. The new law, which would be effective from July 1 next year, would seek to reduce Japan’s dependency on nuclear power.

The new legislation would urge power utilities to cut costs by purchasing renewable energy from outside companies and private businesses. Japan’s decision has been referred to as opening the door on renewable energy, which currently only contributes to six percent of Japan’s energy sources.

Politicians have amended the bill, allowing the revised bill to pass through parliament later this month. Prime Minister Naoto Kan who is pushing for the bill to be passed in return for his resignation, has stated that the ‘feed-in-tariff on renewable energy will be set at a fixed price so that utilities are limited to purchasing electricity from renewable power generators. Kan hopes that this will encourage more business and private corporate partners to enter into the renewable energy market.

“As a medium-term revolutionary energy and environmental strategy, we have decided to start a thorough review of nuclear power policy and draw a roadmap for a reduction of the dependence on nuclear power” Mr Kan said.

Large companies are concerned about the new legislation as it will continue to affect profit margins which are low due to power shortages and high priced exports. The bill was changed to reduce the surcharge for large power companies after complaints from the Japanese steel industry. If the scheme is launched then consumers will face an increase on electricity bills as utilities can pass their costs onto end-users. Despite the governments promise to cap the surcharge for the next ten years, there is no reference to it in the revised bill.

Lawmakers hope that by adding a provision requiring utilities to streamline their operations, the impact on consumers will be minimized.

A third party group will be set up within the under the Agency for National Resources and Energy to ensure that the setting of fixed prices are fair and just.



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May 15, 2011

Solar-powered airplane makes first international flight

Solar-powered airplane makes first international flight

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Solar Impulse during its first flight on December 3, 2009
Image: Matth1.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse touched down at the Brussels National Airport late Friday night, after completing a 13-hour flight from its home base in Payerne, Switzerland. It was the first international flight by a fully solar-powered aircraft.

The experimental aircraft was piloted by André Borschberg, co-founder and chief engineer for the Solar Impulse project, which hopes to circumnavigate the globe using only the sun’s energy in 2013. “Our goal is to create a revolution in the minds of people…to promote solar energies — not necessarily a revolution in aviation,” Bertrand Piccard, the group’s other co-founder, said in an interview after the flight.

The aircraft collects energy from the sun using 12,000 extremely thin solar cells affixed to the wings and tail section. An on-board battery can store enough electricity to fly all night, allowing the Solar Impulse to stay aloft indefinitely. This allowed the aircraft to maintain a holding pattern over the Brussels airport as other flights landed and conditions were right for the Solar Impulse to land. Because the aircraft weighs only about 3,500 pounds and has a wingspan of 200 feet, it is extremely sensitive to wind and needs calm conditions to land safely.



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  • “Solar-powered plane completes 26-hour flight” — Wikinews, July 8, 2010

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October 21, 2010

Scientist demands end to US \’addiction to oil\’

Scientist demands end to US ‘addiction to oil’

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Deepwater Horizon disaster
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Oil  spreading north-east from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico

A scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, Doug Inkley, has criticised what he described as America’s “addiction to oil”. Inkley stated it is ultimately responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster earlier this year.

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist working for the National Wildlife Federation, said that [the United States of] America’s “addiction to oil” was responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster six months ago.
Image: Flcelloguy.

Inkley commented on the incident, six months after the explosion which killed eleven rig workers and resulted in over 170 million gallons of crude oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico causing damage to marine wildlife habitats as well as the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries.

Inkley is a senior scientist working for the National Wildlife Federation. He stated, “Looking back at what we knew six months after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska illustrates the danger of too quickly drawing conclusions about the full impacts of the Gulf oil disaster.”

“Six months after the Exxon Valdez disaster,” he continued, “the herring stocks in Prince William Sound seemed like they’d pull through. It wasn’t until the fourth year after the disaster that herring stocks collapsed due to a delayed population effect of the oil, devastating the people and wildlife that depended on them. Today, more than two decades later, this once-vital fish still hasn’t recovered.”

Cquote1.svg The aftershocks of the Gulf oil disaster will continue to cast a long shadow of uncertainty on the Gulf ecosystem and the livelihoods of those who depend upon it for years to come Cquote2.svg

—Doug Inkley, National Wildlife Federation scientist

His remarks echo those issued by another environmental organisation in July. Greenpeace demanded that BP, who the United States Congress has blamed for the disaster, take a “new direction” and end an “obsession with high risk, environmentally reckless sources of oil.”

A spokesperson for Greenpeace said, “[t]he moment has come for BP to move beyond oil. Under Tony Hayward the company went backwards, squeezing the last drops of oil from places like the Gulf of Mexico, the tar sands of Canada and even the fragile Arctic wilderness […] The age of oil is coming to an end and companies like BP will be left behind unless they begin to adapt now.” Statistics show that the United States is by far the largest consumer of oil, using 20,680,000 barrels every day. Its closest rival, China, consumes only 7,578,000 barrels per day.

Inkley said incidents in the past showed there can be far-reaching effects. “The Exxon Valdez disaster was not simply one ecosystem earthquake – the aftershocks have continued to this day,” he said, citing the 1989 disaster which occurred when an oil tanker ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska.

“What tremors are still to come in the Gulf? The aftershocks of the Gulf oil disaster will continue to cast a long shadow of uncertainty on the Gulf ecosystem and the livelihoods of those who depend upon it for years to come,” pointed out Inkley. Adding, “[a]s I look back on my days in Louisiana’s wetlands wading through thick black oil in prime pelican habitat, I continue to wonder: How long must we wait for lawmakers to act to prevent future disasters? How many more lives, livelihoods and animals must be claimed by our addiction to oil?”



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April 30, 2010

Controversial wind farm approved by US government

Controversial wind farm approved by US government

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Friday, April 30, 2010

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A map which shows the best wind power for the Cape Cod region

The US government today approved plans for a controversial wind power project off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, which, if built, would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

The company responsible for the project, Cape Wind, received a permit from the federal government to commence construction of the wind farm, which was announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Boston. Salazar said in statements at the event that he was “approving the Cape Wind project,” which would “be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast.” Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick said that “America needs offshore wind power, and with this project, Massachusetts will lead the nation.” He also commented that “Cape Wind is good for our environment and good for our energy needs,” despite opposition from some groups.

Construction of the wind farm in the near future is not certain, as there are additional regulatory procedures the company must complete, and opponents have threatened to take the project to court. According to the leader of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a group opposed to the wind farm’s construction, numerous permits related to the project were being appealed, and close to a dozen parties intend to sue the project, claiming it violates environmental regulations.

Supporters of the project say that it will provide up to 75% of the power for the region, and will benefit the environment by providing a clean and renewable source of power, as well as providing hundreds of new jobs in the area during construction of the wind farm. Opponents, which included deceased US Senator Ted Kennedy, claim it will destroy the natural beauty of the region, and will raise the costs of electricity in the area.



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February 2, 2010

Controversial Brazilian dam gets preliminary approval

Controversial Brazilian dam gets preliminary approval

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Xingu river.
Image: בן הטבע.

The government of Brazil has granted a licence allowing the controversial construction of what would be the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world, in the Amazon rainforest, which environmental groups say will threaten the survival of indigenous groups, as well as cause major devastation of a large area of rainforest.

The $17bn Belo Monte dam will, if a developer is found, be situated on the Xingu river, a tributary of the river Amazon, and has been surrounded in controversy since the 1990s, when the initial plan for the 11,000 megawatt dam was rejected amid global protests. The Brazilian government says that fears had been taken into account before approving the environmental licence. Whoever wins the bidding process will have to meet forty conditions, as well as pay $800m in order to protect the environment.

Critics state that diverting the flow of the river will damage fish stocks and part of the Amazon ecosystem, as 500 square kilometres of land would be flooded — as well as affecting forty thousand people, of which twelve thousand would be displaced. 48 of the 500 square kilometres already flood for half the year due to the rainy season.


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