BOOKS - Sub-compact media: Rethinking the way we publish online


Whether you call it "shovelware" or use fancier words like "skeuomorphic," there's a pretty clear preference on the part of many publishers for creating an online or mobile experience that looks as much as possible like the physical magazine or newspaper it is intended to replace - something Apple reinforces with its Newsstand platform, which has virtual shelves with tiny virtual magazine covers and newspaper front pages. This kind of "paving the cowpath" approach is not surprising, but is it the best way to either publish or consume content? In many (perhaps even most) cases, it isn't. Which is why some of the most interesting experiments in online content are coming from those who are not just thinking outside of the box, but aren't even willing to admit that there is a box.
One approach that has gotten a lot of attention, in part because it comes from former Tumblr designer and Instapaper founder Marco Arment, is an online and mobile magazine called simply The Magazine, which launched earlier this month. The simplicity of the name is reflected in the platform itself: Arment's digital magazine, which is focused on long-form essays about technology and culture, has virtually none of the elements that we've come to associate with online or virtual magazines - it has no masthead or sidebars or boxes with interactive ads, no table of contents or sharing buttons or drop-down menus. In fact, it has virtually nothing but words and links (and some cool hyperlinked footnotes).
The magazine-screenshot
One of the reasons why The Magazine is able to strip down its reading experience so much is that it has no advertising of any kind: the content is subsidized solely by subscriptions, and Arment said recently that it is already financially sustainable - since it is being produced almost single-handedly, and therefore has an extremely low cost structure compared to traditional publishing. In that sense, it approaches what some have called "artisanal" publishing, and there is some good discussion of the pros and cons of that model in a Branch discussion that includes designer Jon Lax and NYT staffer Jeremy Zilar.
Simplify, simplify, simplify
From a design perspective, however, the simplicity of the app is its most interesting feature, in part because Arment seems to have approached it in a way that is the complete antithesis of traditional publishers: as he has described in his posts about the genesis of the project, he started it by thinking about what elements he really needed, and left everything else out. By contrast, most magazines and newspapers seem to ask themselves "How can we take all the stuff we already have and the things we already do, and squeeze them into this new container?" This process is fundamentally broken.
Designer Craig Mod looked at The Magazine and its design philosophy in a perceptive essay entitled "Subcompact publishing," in which he compares what Arment did to the way that Honda disrupted the automotive business in North America, by providing something that fit the minimum needs of a large group of consumers. In a similar way, Mod argues, publishers need to stop thinking about all the things they can cram into a design on the web or a mobile device and start thinking about what developers and entrepreneurs call a "minimum viable product."
"Business skeuomorphism happens when we take business decisions explicitly tied to one medium, and bring them to another medium - no questions asked. Business skeuomorphism is rampant in the publishing industry."
There are already some great examples of content experiences that are trying for a "minimum viable product." The Magazine is one, but so are lesser-known or more experimental features such as Evening Edition, which was created by designer Mike Monteiro and provides a heavily-curated selection of news and features designed to give readers an overview of the world in the same way a newspaper front page does (or used to). Another more recent entrant is a news site called TL;DR - internet slang for "too long, didn't read" - which summarizes top stories in a more approachable way than traditional portals.
Let the content fit the experience, not the other way around
Other similar experiments include Summ.ly, a startup launched by a 16-year-old entrepreneur, which Om wrote about recently. It is also designed in as simple a way as possible, to take advantage of the limited time and screen real estate that mobile users often have when it comes to content consumption - something that is also a driving force behind Circa, the mobile news-aggregation app launched earlier this year by entrepreneur Matt Galligan and funded by Cheezburger empire CEO Ben Huh. And then there is the short-form, mobile reading experience offered by Tapestry, which was recently launched by New York-based incubator Betaworks based on a model pioneered by author Robin Sloan.
It's worth noting that Twitter is a great example of the "minimum viable product" approach, both as a company and as a way of publishing content: not only is the restriction to 140 characters something that keeps Twitter from becoming cluttered with too much verbiage - the way other formats such as blogs can be - but the whole nature of the service itself was so simplified that in the beginning it wasn't even clear to many people what it should be used for. That didn't start to become obvious (even to the company's founders, I would argue) until millions of people were using it, and even then many of the uses that the tool was put to came as a surprise.
This is part of the reason why some Twitter users are so concerned about the future of the platform, as it adds more content through features like its expandable "Cards" and seems determined to layer more and more functionality on top of the service. With any kind of publishing, there seems to be an almost irresistable temptation to continue adding more features and content and doo-dads until the original simplicity of the experience is lost, or at least significantly diluted.
Why aren't more traditional publishers experimenting with features or services that are similar to Arment's magazine, or Tapestry's mobile approach, or a stripped-down experience like that offered by TL;DR or Circa? It's not because they can't - obviously they could if they wanted to. But as Craig Mod suggests in his essay, with reference to disruptive economics guru Clay Christensen, they don't do this for the same reason North American auto-makers didn't compete with Honda: they simply didn't see it as a competitor until it was almost too late, because they had defined their business in the wrong way.
Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Flickr user Arvind Grover

CLIMATE - Polar Ice Sheets Melting 3 Times Faster Than Two Decades Ago


Since the early 1990s melting of the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica has contributed one-fifth of observed sea level rise.


CLIMATE - Researcher predicts more intense North Atlantic tropical storms


Tropical storms that make their way into the North Atlantic, and possibly strike the East Coast of the United States, likely will become more intense during the rest of this century.


CLIMATE - Scientists say 15% carbon emissions cut needed


The chances of hitting the UN's global warming target are diminishing, but the goal can still be met if greenhouse-gas emissions fall by 15 percent by 2020, scientists said on Friday.


EARTH - A Turning Point for Mountaintop Removal Coal?


I first wrote about mountaintop removal mining - the practice of blowing the tops off mountains to excavate coal - about four years ago, and the shock of the reporting is still with me. On one of my first visits to a mountaintop site in West Virginia, I stood on the edge of a vast area under excavation. A mountainside had been rendered like a side of beef. You could spy thin, darker layers of coal amid the thicker shale. Trucks crawled over the makeshift roads, carting boulders to dump in a nearby valley. Suddenly, a huge demolition blast went off; the earth shook under my feet. As a companion and I walked away, noxious-smelling yellow smoke enveloped us. In short: you can't truly understand the total war-like devastation that this does to mountains without being there. And for years, Appalachian communities and environmental groups have waged legal warfare to try to stop the coal companies, with only spotty success.


EARTH - How Do Humans Fit Into the 4.5 Billion Years of Life on Earth? (Video)


In a fun animation, AsapScience outlines the entire evolution of life on Earth, compressed into a 24 hour period. To see where humanity fits in, you'll have to wait until the end.


ECONOMICS - 5 Ways The Consumer 'Interest Graph' Will Transform The Web


Guest post written by Jon Elvekrog


ECONOMICS - Is Instagram the New Way to Buy Second-Hand Clothes?


An ingenious use of the photo-sharing app and mobile technology to shop used without leaving home.


ECONOMICS - Model Moguls


One of these ten models runs a company worth $300 million.


ECONOMICS - The Power of Sharing in the Internet Economy


Being willing to share is not only good, it's also profitable. The Internet revolution has done more than just break down market barriers; it's built a deeply connected society where everyone and everything is discoverable. Through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter; we've created a global community that has rediscovered its love of sharing-from pictures and stories to files and projects-the Internet we have built reflects our human need to be social and connect with one other. The recent recession and a growing environmental awareness have joined forces with our connected society, creating an economic model that is both very old and wonderfully new. Whether you call it 'collaborative consumption' or 'the mesh' or 'web powered sharing', it's a powerful force that is changing consumer consumption.


ECONOMICS - Training the Next Generation of Global Leaders


At Kotter International, our guiding mission is "millions leading, billions benefiting."


EDUCATION - Can Online Tutoring Reverse America's Embarrassing Academic Decline?


Every student who struggles with a subject -- Crotty with geometry, for instance -- longs for special assistance. In my era -- the Proto-Pleistocene Bowie Epoch -- there was no such animal as a paid personal tutor. Or, if there was, it was reserved for either the economically elite or those with learning disabilities. Nevertheless, the U.S. was often near the top of the class in global tests of academic achievement.


EDUCATION - Colleges getting serious about reading, writing, and reputation management


When Pete Kistler was a student at Syracuse University in 2008, a digital doppelganger with the same name and a history of drug dealing kept him from getting an internship. Later, after realizing that it was a Google search that was hindering his career prospects, he and two former classmates launched Brand Yourself, a DIY online reputation management tool that enables anyone to improve their personal search results.
Now, a handful of U.S. colleges are snapping up the program for their own students, to make sure that digital blemishes don't discourage offers from potential employers.
In the last few months, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Rochester and Elon University bought the software for their seniors, in addition to the founders' alma mater, which purchased the program for all of their students (previously they piloted the program with seniors).
College students are slowly waking up to the fact that searchable photos of themselves funneling beer or tweets that were clearly written under the influence aren't going to help them get their first gig. But Mike Cahill, the head of career services at Syracuse University, said Brand Yourself helps students not only become more aware of the impression they make online, it can help them actually change their search results.

A more affordable approach to online reputation management

"It used to be that an error on your resume would put you in the do not consider pile," he said. "Now, if you're further along in the process, your online reputation [can put you there]."
According to a 2010 study from Microsoft and Cross Tab Marketing, 75 percent of human resources departments are required to do an online search before making a hire. And a study this year from Brand Yourself and Harris Interactive found that 42 percent of online U.S. adults that searched for a person online, did so before deciding to do business with them.
It's hardly surprising that individuals' online reputations affect their professional opportunities - and companies like Reputation.com and Integrity Defenders have been providing services for a while that promise to help individuals clean up their digital identity. But BrandYourself's interesting difference is that instead of charging potentially thousands of dollars, it provides a Web-based program that lets people improve their own results through search engine optimization (SEO) - for about $10 a month.
"The software takes you through the process of making search results more friendly for your name," said Ambron, BrandYourself's CEO, and the SEO brains behind the operation.
What's your 'search score'?
To start, users can register for free and get their "search score" (or an assessment of the first page of results for their name). Then they can submit links that they want others to find online (i.e. their LinkedIn profile, About.me page, etc.), as well as receive specific recommendations for boosting the visibility of those links (such as connecting a personal website to profile pages or featuring your name more prominently on a site's URL or page heading). The site lets users submit and receive recommendations for three links but to add more, they have to upgrade to the premium service. This week, the company also launched a Facebook game that lets people compare their search score to their friends' on the social network because users were already sharing their scores online, Ambron said.
Web publishers and others who do business on the internet may be familiar with the basics of SEO, but Brand Yourself is bringing those tactics to individual web monitoring in a way non-techies can actually understand and apply. It's not as comprehensive as Reputation.com, which monitors clients' digital reputation across a broader spectrum of sites and databases and can provide more targeted services. But it's a much more affordable consumer option.
The company initially launched in 2010 as a service for managing online reputations on search and social networks but re-launched early this year with a more specific focus on search. Since then, it's raised $1.2 million (on top of about $300,000 in seed money), won a startup competition at SXSW and grown to include 10 employees. To date, Ambron said, the service has attracted more than 150,000 registered users and more than 3,000 paying members (excluding students at Syracuse, John Hopkins and its other college clients).

EDUCATION - On online learning site Udemy, quarter of approved teachers earn $10k or more

Earlier this summer, online learning startup Udemy said the top earning instructors in its marketplace were making six-figure earnings. But, apparently, it turns out that a fair number of their peers aren't doing so badly either.
The San Francisco-based startup told GigaOM that a quarter of its approved instructors will close out the year with at least $10,000 in income from courses purchased on its site. The company declined to share the total number of instructors offering classes on Udemy but said the figure has climbed 300 percent in the last year. About 60 percent of all instructors on the site are "approved," meaning their courses meet a checklist of standards and can be searchable by students online. The site has attracted about 400,000 registered students, which is about a 520 percent increase from last year.
"[Teaching] doesn't just have to be a service that is hourly work," said Dinesh Thirupuvanam, VP of marketing for Udemy. "It can have more scale and that can reach more people."
On Udemy, anyone can create a video-based course on a range of topics - from web design and entrepreneurship to yoga and photography. Instructors can choose to offer them for free, but the average price for a course is $19 to $199. Many of the top classes draw about 500 students, with some reaching students in the low thousands. For each class, Udemy takes 30 percent of the earnings.
Thirupuvanam said dozens of instructors in all kinds of disciplines are making upwards of $10,000 but the highest earners tend to teach more technical topics (Microsoft Excel and Python, for example) or business and entrepreneurship. The most popular instructors, he continued, are especially passionate and knowledgeable about their material. And they put in about 30 to 40 hours or more to prepare the curriculum, produce high-quality video and interact with students via message boards. Instructor Victor Bastos, for example, has earned $325,000 over the past 12 months from his class on web development. But even a class on the "art of black and white photography," taught by photographer David Nightingale, has made $31,000 in just four months.
Still, success Depends on several factors, including demand for topic, the experience of the teacher, student reviews and, importantly, the instructor's own marketing efforts. Udemy's algorithms will flag classes that are gaining traction on the site and then the startup will promote them to students via email and better placement in the marketplace. But it's on the instructors to take early steps to get the first few students and reviews.
Earlier this week, New York based peer-to-peer learning marketplace Skillshare similarly reported impressive earnings for instructors of its online classes. Both platforms offer online video-based classes on professional and creative skills, but Skillshare also includes offline classes and even its online classes offer students live interactions with instructors and peers. And on Thursday, CourseHero, a startup offering different online education tools from flashcards to study guides to courses, also launched a marketplace enabling subject matter experts to make money from their knowledge.
As online education grows, it's encouraging to see not just platforms like Udacity and Coursera that let professors and educational institutions reach millions more online, but learning marketplaces that allow all kinds of people with expertise to earn compensation for teaching. And the growing success of sites like Udemy and Skillshare point to a future of more open education and opportunities for lifelong learning.
Udemy, which was launched in 2010, has raised about $4 million from 500 startups, Lightbank and MHS Capital, as well as individual investors like Yelp cofounder Jeremy Stoppelman and Square COO Keith Rabois.


ENERGY - Profitable Clean Tech: THiNKnrg Takes Holistic View of Energy Tech


THiNKnrg CEO Zachary Rubin was helping to sell a new energy-efficient heating and cooling technology in South America, when he came to a realization: One energy-efficiency technology just wasn't enough.


ENERGY - Scientists discover tobacco tree that could be used as biofuel


Researchers at Royal Holloway have been awarded a grant from the European Union, after identifying a tobacco tree that could produce biofuels.


ENERGY - U.S. Senate Sets The Stage For Big Military Biofuel Fight


It ain't over 'til it's over, but yesterday the Senate took a big step toward freeing up the Department of Defense to go full steam ahead with its ambitious biofuel initiatives. The move is especially significant because along with the expected Democratic supporters, the vote in favor of biofuels included a whopping 11 senators from the Republican side of the aisle. That's no mere token representation from the party that has been known for digging in its heels against alternative energy for the past several years. Now the stage is set for a showdown in committee, when the House and Senate work out their differences.
senate votes to lift ban on military biofuel

Who's Afraid of Military Biofuels?

For those of you who are new to the issue, of all the branches of the Armed Services, the U.S. Navy has been the most aggressive early adopter of biofuels including next-generation feedstocks like algae, which it showcased in the launch of a Green Strike Force last July.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has made no secret of his goal, which is to use the Navy's purchasing power to help kickstart a competitive, commercial market for next-generation biofuels.
Last spring, Republican legislators pushed new rules aimed at blocking the Navy from purchasing significant quantities of biofuel, or any alternative fuel that is more expensive than conventional fuels. The Navy was also blocked from building its own biorefineries.

Military Biofuels Forge Ahead
Despite the roadblocks, the Obama Administration has enabled the Navy to keep at least some forward momentum going. Last July, the Administration announced a $62 million biofuel initiative partnering the Navy with the departments of Energy and Agriculture.
Later that same week, the Pentagon announced a $420 million biofuel initiative to build biorefineries with private sector partners, and in August the departments of the Interior and Defense signed a memorandum of understanding that frees up military lands for alternative energy projects.
That's pretty much how things stood this month, when the National Defense Authorization Act came up for debate.
Yesterday's action in the Senate resulted in the 62-37 passage of an amendment introduced by Democratic Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, along with Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), that clarifies the Defense Department's ability to continue purchasing next-generation biofuels.

Errr...New Mexico and Military Biofuels?

New Mexico is hardly the first state you might think of when you think of biofuel-producing states, but take a look at the emerging algae biofuel industry and you'll see why two senators from that state went out on a limb for military biofuel.
According to Senator Udall:
"With these amendments, we are ensuring New Mexico is a leader in the 21st century clean energy economy, and at the forefront of the national security achievements being made at our national labs and within the defense community. Our biofuels amendment is especially important to national security and businesses in our state so I'm glad we were able to get one over the finish line today."
And then there's Senator Bingaman:
"The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the most important bills for New Mexico because it helps fund our national labs and our military installations. I am especially glad that the Senate adopted our amendment to allow the Pentagon to invest in all types of fuels - including biofuels - for its fleets. The Defense Department is a major consumer of fuel, and the more homegrown, cleaner-burning fuel it purchases the better off we will be."

More Hurdles for Military Biofuels

So, now all we have to do is wait and see what the House and Senate work out in committee.
Success is definitely not a foregone conclusion, but as the senators from New Mexico demonstrate, biofuels have been building a constituency far beyond the comfort zone of the corn belt. At least the prospects for increasing bipartisan support look better than they did just a few months ago.
[Update: Our friends over at The Hill report that yesterday the Senate followed up by passing another amendment that removes the restriction on constructing biorefineries.]
Image (cropped): Navy biofuel by Official U.S. Navy Imagery
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
U.S. Senate Sets The Stage For Big Military Biofuel Fight was originally published on: CleanTechnica


ENERGY - UK Energy Bill Unveiled, BP Locked Out From US Govt Contracts, Germany Cuts Grid Expansion Plans (+ More Cleantech & Climate News)


Busy week behind us. Here's a bunch of cleantech and climate news from around the interwebs:

Clean Energy (In General)

Germany Drastically Reduces Forecast For Grid Expansion: "On Monday, the German Network Agency slashed the number of urgently needed power lines needed for the energy transition from 74 to 51. The overall line length was reduced in the process from 3,800 to 2,800 kilometers."
UK Energy Bill Published - As It Happened: "Reaction, details and analysis on the publication of the coalition government's energy bill, which promises to both 'keep the lights on' and reduce carbon emissions." (Also see: This Energy Bill Will Fire Up The Renewables Industry)

Solar Energy

Ontario To Proceed With FiT And microFiT Programmes: "Further to the draft bill released in August, the Ontario Ministry of Energy has directed the Ontario Power Authority to continue the province's feed-in tariff and microFiT programmes, in order that a pilot programme can be initiated as soon as possible in 2013.
"The directive outlines specific government policy that needs to be implemented with respect to ground-mounted solar PV projects, strengthening community and aboriginal participation, re-launching the Community Energy Partnerships Program (CEPP) and Aboriginal Renewable Energy Fund (AREF) and connecting constrained MicroFIT projects."
India Initiates Anti-Dumping Investigation Against China, The US, & Others: "The Indian Ministry of Commerce has initiated anti-dumping investigations against China, Malaysia, Taiwan and the US, following a complaint from the Solar Manufacturers' Association (SMA).
"As with the US-led anti-dumping investigation against China, which was resolved earlier this month, the Indian investigation is also against solar cells imported from these countries 'whether or not assembled partially or fully in modules or panels'. The period under investigation will be between 1 January 2011 and 30 June 2012."
Desarrollos Fotovoltaicos de Chile Submits Plan For 98MW PV plant: "Desarrollos Fotovoltaicos de Chile, a solar company based in Santiago, Chile, is seeking approval for its proposed 98MW PV facility in the Tarapacá region in northern Chile and has submitted its plans to the Chilean environmental authority, Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental (SEA)."
SunEdison Signs 20 MW PPA With The City Of Riverside: "SunEdison, a leading worldwide solar energy services provider and a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR), [yesterday] announced a new 25 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to deliver 20 megawatts (MW) to Riverside Public Utilities (RPU), the municipal electric utility of the City of Riverside, California."
LightManufacturing Selects San Luis Obispo-based Power-Save Energy As Supplier Of Photovoltaic Solar Panels For Solar Manufacturing Systems: "LightManufacturing's heliostats (sun tracking mirrors) keep reflected sunlight on a target, providing heat and light for buildings and industry without the use of fossil fuels.
"The firm's H1 heliostat is marketed as the 'lowest cost per reflected watt' heliostat available, in part due to the use of a tensioned reflective membrane instead of glass.
"The firm sells the H1 heliostat as a stand-alone product, and as part of solar plastic molding systems. These systems focus heat from ten or more heliostats onto a metal mold, melting plastic and making useful products like water tanks. No fossil fuels are used to heat the molds, saving money and reducing emissions."

Wind Energy

Vestas Boss Warns UK Government Is Jeopardising Energy Investment: "Ditlev Engel, CEO of the world's biggest wind firm, condemns UK's lack of consensus and failure to set decarbonisation target."
Smaller-Scale Development May Follow 'Golden Age' Of Wind: "Communities that have been engaged by and in communication with the wind industry may be the best sites for future wind development, speakers said Nov. 15 at the American Wind Energy Association fall symposium in Chandler, Ariz.
"Targeting customers who want wind makes a big difference, said former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver. With many large utilities already meeting state renewable portfolio standards, community wind could be the next market in the second-largest wind-producing state in the U.S." (h/t NewEnergyNews)


Senators Push Obama To Propose Clean Gasoline Rules: "The lawmakers, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, want the Environmental Protection Agency to propose rules that would slash the sulfur content in gasoline this year and to finalize them next year."
The Take it to The People Program: "My name is Ron Hatton, and I am a garage-level tinkerer. Just a tinkerer like many others, but one who has actually made a discovery that could literally change the planet.
"I've dedicated the last 30 or so years of my life to finding something to release the all the power in a gasoline engine. I've seen some pretty cool things happen on my workbench, just like many thousands of people around the world. The difference with me is I actually found something. Something that is truly difficult to believe."

Climate Change

Extreme Weather Calls For Action, U.N. Climate Chief Says: "Extreme weather from melting Arctic ice to Superstorm Sandy shows snail-paced U.N. climate talks have to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the head of the U.N. weather agency and its climate chief said on Wednesday."
Developing Cities Must Protect Against Climate Risks: Study: "Time is running out for many developing countries to protect their growing cities against future environmental risks and resource scarcity, a report by engineering and design consultancy Atkins showed on Wednesday."
Sea Levels Are Rising Much Faster Than Previously Predicted: "Global sea levels are rising much faster than previously estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC), new research has shown. 60 percent faster to be exact, if such a rate was to continue, or even increase as is likely, sea level rise could be very significant by the end of the century, and have important consequences for humans." (Also see: Study: Sea Levels Rising 60% Faster Than Projected, Planet Keeps Warming As Expected)
The Arctic Lost US-Sized Sea Ice in 2012: "The UN's World Meteorological Organisation has released it's provisional annual statement on the state of the global climate and it shows that, if things keep going as they have for the first 10 months of the year, 2012 will join the ranks of warmest years on record that have been filled by the years 2001 to 2011."
Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility: "Ever wonder where the climate deniers stand in the scientific community? Although it is not uncommon to see a news contributor (aka: research scientist) on one of the opinionated news outlets state the long-debunked nonsense that "human-caused global warming is not real," these scientists almost always base their findings upon opinion and not peer-reviewed facts."

Future Climate Talk Host Poland Needs Big Ambition Now: "The UN's choice of Warsaw, Poland as the host city and country of the next UN climate negotiations meeting known as COP19, is unacceptable as long as Poland does not change its level of response required for the climate crisis." (Also see Greenpeace statement: Poland Must Prove Trustworthiness As Host Of 2013 Climate Talks)

Fossil Fuels

Since Election Day, Big Oil Lobby Dropped $3 Million On Ads To Protect Its Tax Loopholes: "On election night, polluter-backed candidates lost in some of the most expensive races targeted by polluters, despite outside ad spending that tallied to $270 million.
"The American Petroleum Institute already has 2014 in its sights, and it is spending aggressively to protect the oil industry's multi-billion-dollar tax breaks. Three weeks since election day, API has spent $3 million on TV ads, according to a ThinkProgress analysis of Kantar Media's CMAG data. That is already $1 million more than what API spent in the final two months of the election, as part of its 'I'm an Energy Voter' campaign."
US Suspends BP Contract Bids Over Lack Of 'Business Integrity': "Symbolic gesture or real threat? It's hard to tell the seriousness for BP of today's temporary ban from bidding for US contracts.
"What we do know is that BP was taken completely by surprise when the US Environmental Protection Agency imposed a suspension due to the UK company's 'lack of business integrity'."
Discussion: What Do EPA Sanctions Mean for BP's Future? "ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten has been covering BP since 2005, reporting on the company's subsequent $7.8 billion settlement and outlining the potential impact of sanctions early on."
UK Energy Bill Unveiled, BP Locked Out From US Govt Contracts, Germany Cuts Grid Expansion Plans (+ More Cleantech & Climate News) was originally published on: CleanTechnica


FASHION - Greenpeace's Anime Video Wants You to Help 'Detox' the Fashion Biz (Video)


Encouraged by a viral campaign, young people are joining Greenpeace campaign to push for toxic-free fashion.


FASHION - Natural Fish Slime Fabric Sounds Gross, But At Least It's Renewable


From Canada's University of Guelph comes the interesting news that fashionistas of the future may find themselves sporting fabrics derived from fish slime. Hagfish slime, to be precise.
hagfish slime as a renewable fabric
It's ironic that the hagfish could play a major role in an industry characterized by constant change, since this ancient eel-like species has undergone very little change itself for the past 300 million years. However, in the search for renewable fabric alternatives to nylon, Kevlar and other petroleum-based products, the hagfish seems to be on track to come out on top.

Silk vs. Slime for the Renewable Fabric of the Future

When you think about it, wearing fish slime on your back is hardly any more gross than wearing the worm secretions known as silk.
The advantage of hagfish over silkworms is partly one of sheer productivity. When an Atlantic Hagfish is threatened it can spit out quarts of slime in a matter of mere seconds, which seems to be at least enough to make a nice scarf. Try that with a silkworm!
Of course, the raw slime is not exactly fit for use. Hagfish slime is partly composed of mucous, which we're not interested in. The part that is really intriguing consists of tens of thousands of protein threads.
According to the University of Guelph, the threads are classified as an "intermediate filament." Each is 100 times thinner than a human hair, but has "remarkable mechanical properties that rival those of spider silks."

A Slimy Path to Artificial Spider Silk
Spider silk is outrageously strong for its weight, so much so that it has the potential to outperform petroleum-based products like Kevlar.
But, of course, unlike silkworms, spiders are notoriously hard to motivate for commercial-scale silk production. That's where the hagfish could come in.
Researchers have been studying ways to create artificial spider silk from more cooperative renewable sources, but hagfish offer the prospect of cutting out the middleman and going straight to the source.
The research team, headed by Atsuko Negishi with co-authors from Guelph as well as McMaster and Dalhousie universities, has just published a paper showing that protein threads isolated from hagfish slime can be purified and spun into fibers. That leads to the possibility of using similar slimes from other animal proteins:
"This work is just the beginning of our efforts to apply what we have learned from animals like hagfishes to the challenge of making high-performance materials from sustainable protein feedstocks."
So far, the researchers have found that higher levels of protein concentration yield materials with potentially useful properties. The next step is to find efficient ways to spin fibers, leading to commercial-scale production.

Big Demand for Alternative Fabric

It's not like hagfish slime is ready for its Top Model moment any time soon, but when it does break through, it could find a whole range of uses as a renewable alternative for petroleum-based products.
Ford, for example, is pushing hard to introduce renewable and recyclable materials in upholstery and other automotive fittings that are typically made from synthetic petroleum-based materials.
The sporting goods industry is another area in which lightweight, high performance petroleum alternatives would find an eager market.
Image: Hagfish courtesy of NOAA, via wikipedia
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
Natural Fish Slime Fabric Sounds Gross, But At Least It's Renewable was originally published on: CleanTechnica


GARDENS - Farming on the Rooftops of Brooklyn


A video profile of a food rebel turning the concrete jungle into a working farm.


HOMES - 400 Square Foot Loft Digs Down For Extra Space


If you can't go up, why not go down?


HOMES - The Compact Kitchen of the Future: Who Needs A Built-in Stove?


Graham Hill did this in his LifeEdited Apartment; Here is an idea that does a bit more.


PEOPLE - Native Americans and Northern Europeans more closely related than previously thought


Using genetic analyses, scientists have discovered that Northern European populations-including British, Scandinavians, French, and some Eastern Europeans-descend from a mixture of two very different ancestral populations, and one of these populations is related to Native Americans. This discovery helps fill gaps in scientific understanding of both Native American and Northern European ancestry, while providing an explanation for some genetic similarities among what would otherwise seem to be very divergent groups. This research was published in the November 2012 issue of the Genetics Society of America's journal Genetics.


PLANTS - A digital portrait for grapes indicates their ripeness


Researchers at the University of Seville (Spain) have developed a technique for estimating grape composition and variety using computer imaging. They have also put forward an index for identifying the ripeness of seeds without the need for chemical analysis. This new method can help to decide the best moment for picking.


SCIENCE - Can a car engine be built out of a single particle?


(Phys.org)-As physicists work on miniaturizing devices, they will eventually run into the ultimate limit: the atom. A fundamental question in this area is whether it's even possible to scale down a macroscale engine such as a car engine to the single-particle level, while retaining the same working principles. In a new study, a team of physicists has proposed a scheme to build a heat engine that consists of a single trapped ion that can perform a quantum version of the Otto cycle, the basis of the common four-stroke car engine. If realized, the single-ion engine has the potential to enter the quantum regime and become a tool to investigate how quantum effects alter a nanoengine's efficiency.


SCIENCE - Diamond-like coating improves electron microscope images


(Phys.org)-Coating the surface of a material with a single layer of diamond-like crystals greatly improves images of it taken with an electron microscope, according to a study led by scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.


SCIENCE - Modern-day cleanroom invented by Sandia physicist still used 50 years later


(Phys.org)-When Willis Whitfield invented the modern-day cleanroom 50 years ago, researchers and industrialists didn't believe it at first. But within a few short years, $50 billion worth of laminar-flow cleanrooms were being built worldwide and the invention is used in hospitals, laboratories and manufacturing plants today.


SOLAR - Costa Rica's 1st Solar Power Park Completed


Given Costa Rica's green cred, I'm quite surprised that this is its first solar park. Nonetheless, it's good news to see that the solar power park is completed and generating clean electricity. More from sister site Ecopreneurist:

Costa Rica Launches First Solar Powered Plant (via Ecopreneurist)

Authorities in Costa Rica have opened the country's first large-scale solar power plants, built with a donation of $ 10 million Yens. President Laura Chinchilla and the director of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), Teofilo de la Torre, inaugurated the solar park in Bagaces Miravalles...

Costa Rica's 1st Solar Power Park Completed was originally published on: CleanTechnica



SOLAR - Denmark Moves To Cool Its Red-Hot Solar Energy Market


Denmark's energy minister introduced legislation earlier this month that would cool the country's red-hot solar market. The new rules trim generous subsidies that in conjunction with the falling price of panels had triggered exponential growth in the number of residential solar energy systems added to the grid this year.


SOLAR - Local Community Benefits From Large Solar Power Plants

We mentioned a horrid piece of solar power reporting from the LA Times this week. BrightSource Energy has a full response to that piece, reposted below (h/t NewEnergyNews):

Solar Projects Benefit Counties

As other reporters and bloggers have pointed out, Sunday's Los Angeles Times ran a one-sided and misinformed article questioning the economic benefits of utility-scale solar projects on desert counties.
Let's be perfectly clear - the counties where utility-scale solar projects are being built are benefitting significantly in direct and economic investments, tax revenues and job creation. For example, our $2.2 billion Ivanpah project is more than 70% complete and is employing more than 2,000 workers on site today. At its peak, the project employed more than 2,100 workers, and is estimated to generate $250 million in construction wages and $650 million in total wages over its 30-year life. More than 80 percent of these workers are from the local union halls in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Many of these trade workers were unemployed for years following the economic downturn in 2008. Today, they are earning good wages to support their families and buying goods in their local communities. You can meet a couple of these impressive construction workers by viewing this video.
The Ivanpah project is also estimated to generate approximately $300 million in local and state tax revenues over its 30-year life. The wages and taxes generated at Ivanpah only represent the project's direct economic benefits. The indirect benefits to local businesses are estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. The Ivanpah project also takes pride in supporting the local community by contributing to High Desert universities and philanthropic organizations, supporting job training opportunities, youth organizations, veteran's services and more.
As a solar developer, we understand that our projects will have impacts on local infrastructure, such as roads and emergency services. This is why we work closely with local leaders to better understand our impacts, identify ways to minimize them wherever possible and fairly mitigate the county for impacts that cannot be avoided. We took this approach in San Bernardino County when developing the Ivanpah project and we're currently engaged in similar discussions in other counties for future projects.
The LA Times highlights one such project - Hidden Hills Solar in Inyo County - where we are currently working with local leaders. The story points out that just five percent of the construction jobs at Hidden Hills would be filled by Inyo County residents. Yet the story ignores the fact that the primary reason that five percent of the construction workers come from Inyo County is because it has a small population. According to the most recent census, Inyo County has 18,000 residents. Compare this with the two million residents in San Bernardino County where Ivanpah is being built.
In fact, according to an independent socioeconomic and fiscal analysis report created for the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff, "Due to extraordinarily high unemployment rates within Inyo County, particularly in the construction trades, it is reasonable to assume that the local labor force will be able to supply all available positions." In other words, the project could put all of the county's unemployed qualified construction workers back to work.
The story also accepts Inyo County's claim that the project would cost the county $11-12 million during the 30-month construction phase and an additional $2 million a year in public safety and other services, completely ignoring the independent CEC report. Again, the independent analysis counters these claims and highlights the significant economic benefits of these projects.
The independent report looks at two scenarios - Inyo County's analysis and its own third-party analysis. Scenario 1 applies the county's analysis of $11-12 million impacts during construction and $1.2 million in annual operations, while Scenario 2 applies the independent report's analysis of $2.7 million in costs during construction and $390,000 in annual operations. In both scenarios, the net fiscal impacts are significantly beneficial to the county. Scenario 1 results in a positive net fiscal impact of $61.1 million and Scenario 2 leads to a positive net fiscal impact of $88.2 million.
The bottom line: these projects are providing tens of millions of dollars in positive fiscal benefits to the counties where they are built. Whether one uses data provided by the county, a solar company or an independent party, the projects are creating jobs, leading to direct investments, indirect spending and tax revenues for the counties. To argue otherwise ignores the facts and creates false perceptions regarding one of our nation's fastest growing industries.
Local Community Benefits From Large Solar Power Plants was originally published on: CleanTechnica

SOLAR - New Technology Uses Nanoparticles to Convert Solar Energy Directly into Steam


A revolutionary "solar steam" technology can convert solar energy to steam - even from nearly frozen water.


SOLAR - Solar Graph Porn


This article has been reposted from Solar Love with full permission:
Someone recently passed along these great graphs from a German website (you can see an English translation of the webpage they came from here). The overall message: solar PV prices in Germany have dropped considerably in the past few years (as installation has boomed), and the prices are pretty darn low these days.
More specifically, note that the graphs are not for the same time period - they are sequential. So, basically, the price just dropped and dropped and dropped and dropped. (The same thing is happening in the US, just not as fast, since installation isn't happening as fast and because of some other factors, like balance of system or "soft" costs and subsidies.)
Take a look at the graphs below and let me know if anything else comes to mind for you (note: prices are per kWp for plants up to 100 kWp solar power plants):

October 2012
Amazing, isn't it?
And here's the price history in list form (again, prices are per kWp for plants up to 100 kWp solar power plants):
MonthPV Price
January 2009€ 4,110
February 2009€ 3,930
March 2009€ 3,820
April 2009€ 3,740
May 2009€ 3,500
June 2009€ 3,500
July 2009€ 3,390
August 2009€ 3,230
September 2009€ 3,110
October 2009€ 3,050
November 2009€ 2,950
December 2009€ 3,060
January 2010€ 3,040
February 2010€ 2,970
March 2010€ 3,030
April 2010€ 2,930
May 2010€ 2,890
June 2010€ 2,840
July 2010€ 2,580
August 2010€ 2,610
September 2010€ 2,540
October 2010€ 2,500
November 2010€ 2,510
December 2010€ 2,470
January 2011€ 2,480
February 2011€ 2,390
March 2011€ 2,350
April 2011€ 2,390
May 2011€ 2,370
June 2011€ 2,300
July 2011€ 2,210
August 2011€ 2,170
September 2011€ 2,120
October 2011€ 2,090
November 2011€ 1,960
December 2011€ 1,950
January 2012€ 1,990
February 2012€ 1,960
March 2012€ 1,990
April 2012€ 1,900
May 2012€ 1,870
June 2012€ 1,740
July 2012€ 1,720
August 2012€ 1,630
September 2012€ 1,610
October 2012€ 1,600
Solar Graph Porn was originally published on: CleanTechnica


SOLAR - Tariffs? No Problem. China's Yingli Wins Contract For Huge California Solar Project


So much for those tariffs against Chinese solar panel manufacturers.


SPACE - Astronomers clash over the distance to the famed North Star


(Phys.org)-The North Star (Polaris) has played an important role in human history, yet knowledge of its fundamental parameters is unsatisfactory. That problem is attributable in large part to uncertainties tied to the star's distance, which have now been resolved in a paper by David Turner and colleagues.


SPACE - Everybody chill, NASA says: No Martian organics found


Relax everyone. There are no little green men or even a hint of organics on Mars... not yet, anyway.


SPACE - First-ever hyperspectral images of Earth's auroras


Hoping to expand our understanding of auroras and other fleeting atmospheric events, a team of space-weather researchers designed and built NORUSCA II, a new camera with unprecedented capabilities that can simultaneously image multiple spectral bands, in essence different wavelengths or colors, of light. The camera was tested at the Kjell Henriksen Observatory (KHO) in Svalbard, Norway, where it produced the first-ever hyperspectral images of auroras-commonly referred to as "the Northern (or Southern) Lights"-and may already have revealed a previously unknown atmospheric phenomenon.


SPACE - New radio telescope could save world billions


A small pocket of Western Australia's remote outback is set to become the eye on the sky and could potentially save the world billions of dollars. The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope, unveiled today, Friday 30 November, will give the world a dramatically improved view of the Sun and provide early warning to prevent damage to communication satellites, electric power grids and GPS navigation systems.


SPACE - The beginning of everything: A new paradigm shift for the infant universe


(Phys.org)-A new paradigm for understanding the earliest eras in the history of the universe has been developed by scientists at Penn State University. Using techniques from an area of modern physics called loop quantum cosmology, developed at Penn State, the scientists now have extended analyses that include quantum physics farther back in time than ever before-all the way to the beginning. The new paradigm of loop quantum origins shows, for the first time, that the large-scale structures we now see in the universe evolved from fundamental fluctuations in the essential quantum nature of "space-time," which existed even at the very beginning of the universe over 14 billion years ago. The achievement also provides new opportunities for testing competing theories of modern cosmology against breakthrough observations expected from next-generation telescopes. The research will be published on 11 December 2012 as an "Editor's Suggestion" paper in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.


SUSTAINABILITY - Making sustainability policies sustainable


Sweeping environmental policies come with hidden challenges - not only striving to achieve sustainability and benefit the environment - but over time ensuring the program itself can endure.


TECH - 3D Printers Could Make Tools from Moon Rock


In future moon missions, astronauts could use 3D printers to make the objects and tools they need on site.


TECH - App Wanted: How Smartphones Could Cut Energy Use


You're probably wasting energy right now. According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Sustainable Energy, most homeowners could make changes to save energy, but don't know which changes would make the biggest difference.


TECH - Audiophile's Retro Hi-Fi Speakers Are Refurbished by Hand


Vintage design gets revived in these recycled hi-fi speakers that are upgraded tech-wise on the inside.


TECH - IBM Helping UK Ministry Of Defence Go Smarter And Greener


IBM has partnered with the UK's Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to provide the department with its smarter buildings software and services in an attempt to reduce building costs and increase efficiency.
"The award of this contract to IBM represents a major milestone in transforming the Defence Infrastructure Organisation since it will allow us to work smarter in providing a Defence estate, which meets military needs and supports our Armed Forces," said Andrew Manley, DIO Chief Executive.
"IBM analytics technology helps us continue our work in creating a world-class infrastructure to put DIO at the leading edge of the technology transformation process happening right now across the MoD."
IBM Helping UK Defence Go Green
Buildings currently account for 45 percent of all carbon emissions in the UK and the country's Ministry of Defence has responded by attempting to better utilise their resources, including their many real estate assets.
The Ministry of Defence is one of the UK's largest landowners, covering some 900 square miles and around 45,000 buildings, 55,000 houses, and 135,000 "single living bedspaces."

DIO will use IBM technology and software to help meet the Ministry of Defence goals by replacing its outdated legacy IT equipment.
The IBM TRIRIGA solution provides an integrated approach to property management by combining software and consultancy services that will give DIO visibility of all its assets from a central location, and data on how efficiently their assets are being used.
"Having the right data at the right time is essential for DIO," said Dave Bartlett, vice president, Smarter Physical Infrastructure, IBM. "IBM's analytics and smarter buildings software will help provide a new level of intelligence to how the MoD is managing its global real estate portfolio."
Source: IBM
IBM Helping UK Ministry Of Defence Go Smarter And Greener was originally published on: CleanTechnica


TECH - Micro Fuel Cell Made from Glass Could Power Our Gadgets


The tiny fuel cell is long-lasting, low-cost and could power our tablets and smartphones with clean energy.


TECH - Staples to Introduce In-Store 3D Printing


This makes so much sense, as long as they get good machines and staff who know how to use them


TECH - Why Amazon thinks big data was made for the cloud


For Amazon Web Services Chief Data Scientist Matt Wood, the day isn't filled performing data alchemy on behalf of his employer; he's entertaining its customers. Wood helps AWS users build big data architectures that use the company's cloud computing resources, and then take what he learns about those users' needs and turn them into products - such as the Data Pipeline Service and Redshift data warehouse AWS announced this week.
Matt Wood
Matt Wood
He and I sat down this week at AWS's inaugural Re: Invent conference and talked about many things, including what he's seen in the field and where cloud-based big data efforts are headed. Here are the highlights.

The end of contstraint-based thinking

Not so long ago, computer scientists understood many of the concepts that we now call data science, but limited resources meant they were hamstrung in the types of analysis they could attempt to do. "That can be very limiting, very constraining when you're working with data," Wood said.
Now, however, data storage and processing resources are relatively inexpensive and abundant - so much so that they've actually made the concept of big data possible. Cloud computing has only made those resources cheaper and more abundant. The result, Wood said, is that people working with data are undergoing a shift from that mindset of limiting their data analysis to the resources they have available to one where they think about business needs first.
If they're able to get past traditional notions of sampling and days-long processing times, he added, individuals can focus their attention on what they can do because they have so many resources available. He noted how Yelp gave developers relatively free rein early on the use of Elastic MapReduce, saving them from having to formally request resources just "to see if the crazy idea [someone] had over coffee is going to play out." Yelp was able to spot a shift in mobile traffic volume years ago and get a headstart on its mobile efforts because of that, Wood added.

Data problems aren't just about scale

Generally speaking, Wood said, solving customers' data problems isn't just about figuring out how to store ever greater volumes for every cheaper prices. "You don't have to be at a petabyte scale in order to get some insight on who's using your social game," he said.
In fact, access to limitless storage and processing is a solution to one problem that actually creates another. Companies want to keep all the data they generate, and that creates complexity, Wood explained. As that data piles up in various repositories - perhaps in Amazon's S3 and DynamoDB services, as well as on some physical machines with a company's data center - moving it from place to place in order to reuse it becomes a difficult process.
Wood said AWS built its new Data Pipeline Service in order to address this problem. Pipelines can be "arbitrarily complex," he explained - from running a simple piece of business logic against data to running whole batches through Elastic MapReduce - but the idea is to automate the movement and processing so users don't have to build these flows themselves and then manually run them.
aws_data_pipeline_console_1 copy

The cloud isn't just for storing tweets

People sometimes question the relevance of cloud computing for big data workloads, if only because any data generated on in-house systems has to make its way to the cloud over inherently slow connections. The bigger the dataset, the longer the upload time.
Wood said AWS is trying hard to alleviate these problems. For example, partners such as Aspera and even some open source projects enable customers to move large files at fast speeds over the internet (Wood said he's seen consistent speeds of 700 megabits per second). This is also why AWS has eliminated data-transfer fees for inbound data, has turned on parallel uploads for large files and created its Direct Connect program with data center operators that provide dedicated connections to AWS facilities.
And if datasets are too large for all those methods, customers can just send AWS their physical disks. "We definitely receive hard drives," Wood said.

Collaboration is the future

Once data makes its way to the cloud, it opens up entirely new methods of collaboration where researchers or even entire industries can access and work together on shared datasets too big to move around. "This sort of data space is something that's becoming common in fields where there are very large datasets," Wood said, citing as an example the 1000 Genomes project dataset that AWS houses.
DNAnexus's cloud-based architecture
DNAnexus's cloud-based architecture
As we've covered recently, the genetics space is drooling over the promise of cloud computing. The 1000 Genomes database is only 200TB, Wood explained, but very few project leads could get the budget to store that much data and make it accessible to their peers, much less the computation power required to process it. And even in fields such as pharmaceuticals, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels told me during an earlier interview, companies are using the cloud to collaborate on certain datasets so companies don't have to spend time and money reinventing the wheel.

No more supercomputers?

Wood seemed very impressed with the work that AWS's high-performance computing customers have been doing on the platform - work that previously would have been done on supercomputers or other physical systems. Thanks to AWS partner Cycle Computing, he noted, the Morgridge Institute at the University of Wisconsin was able to perform 116 years worth of computing in just one week. In the past, access to that kind of power would have required waiting in line until resources opened up on a supercomputer somewhere.
The collaborative efforts Wood discussed certainly facilitate this type of extreme computation, as does AWS's continuous efforts to beef up its instances with more and more power. Whatever users might need, from the new 250GB RAM on-demand instances to GPU-powered Cluster Compute Instances, Wood said AWS will try to provide it. Because cost sometimes matters, AWS has opened Cluster Compute Instances and Elastic MapReduce to its spot market for buying capacity on the cheap.
But whatever data-intensive workloads organizations want to run, many will always look to the cloud now. Because cloud computing and big data - Hadoop, especially - have come of age roughly in parallel with each other, Wood hypothesized, they often go hand-in-hand in people's minds.
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user winui.

URBAN - Artist Recycles 65,000 CDs as Shiny, Floating "Water Lilies"


Cast adrift on the pond of a botanical garden, this artist's installation of thousands of salvaged CDs is an eye-catching delight.


URBAN - Imagining Cities That Can Save The Planet: Alex Steffen Talks About Carbon Zero


Acclaimed futurist Alex Steffen has described optimism as the true radicalism. If that's true, his latest work is an exercise in sticking it to the man. We sat down with him to find out more.


WIND - China Forecast To Hit 150 GW Installed Wind Capacity By 2015

China's wind industry is forecast to reach 150 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2015 - shattering the central government's goal of 100 GW by 2015.
China wind turbine
These findings come from the first installment of GTM Research's China Wind Market Quarterly, released with market analysts Azure International. The report predicts steady government support and rising demand will keep the country far ahead of the renewable energy economies of America, Europe, and India.
While China was not immune to the financial slowdown that has gripped the world in recent years, its clean energy output has boomed in recent years, led by the wind industry. Already the international leader in installed nameplate capacity, China installed 18 GW of new wind capacity - a 40% growth rate from 2011 - to pass 50 GW of grid-connected and more than 70 GW total wind capacity at the end of Q3 2012.

New Installations Gusting Forward

Wind energy keeps growing in China, at an exponential rate. In 2006, it had roughly 3 GW of installed capacity, good for 4% of the global share. Since then, it has reached approximately 35% of installed global capacity - a 25-fold increase, while the rest of the world only expanded by a factor of 2.6.
Current and planned China wind power
The nation shows no signs of slowing down the pace, either. China added 2.9 GW new wind capacity in Q3, and is on track to add another 9 GW in Q4 to reach 80 GW total capacity. China consumed 50.4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind power in the first six months of 2012, currently supplies a quarter of all wind energy supplied to the grid worldwide, and will soon become the largest wind energy generator of any country in the world.

Curtailment's Strong Headwinds

However, wind's rapid expansion has come with problems. Growth has been concentrated in several northern and western provinces, with Inner Mongolia boasting twice the capacity of the next highest province, Hebei.
Like in many parts of the U.S., these regions with massive generation potential are sparsely populated, cannot absorb all the locally generated wind power, and see their wind farms subjected to curtailment when generation outstrips grid needs and transmission capacity.
The issue is arguably the highest hurdle for China to clear in realizing its full potential. Curtailment is caused by challenges like limited local demand, undersized transmission infrastructure, inflexible coal-baseload generation, and wind cycles that often run counter to demand.
Wind curtailment in China
The three highest-generating regions of the country all experienced more than 22 percent of generation curtailed from 2009-2011. And, in 2011, 15 terawatt-hours (TWh) of wind power were curtailed - 17% of all generation and an economic loss of RMB 5 billion (about $802 million).
Even though China is planning the world's most ambitious grid upgrade and Inner Mongolia began a power exchange to replace local coal generation with wind, GTM forecasts curtailment issues are likely to persist.

Two Growth Jetstreams: Rising Demand and Constant Government Support

Regardless of nagging curtailment issues, China's wind growth is remarkable, and an output of unique circumstances: skyrocketing demand and consistent (if inefficient) government support at the national and local level.
China's electricity demand has mirrored the country's economic rise, growing 15 times higher than 1980s levels. The government forecasts demand to rise from 5 trillion kWh in 2012 to over 8 trillion kWh in 2020. Rising power demand means more demand for wind turbines - especially along the densely populated coastal regions, which expect to install 3 GW of offshore wind by 2015.
China government wind installation targets
Government policies have been nothing if not ambitious. Wind installation targets have been a part of China's five-year development plans since 2000, laws mandate the grid must accept all power from renewable generation, feed-in tariffs have been functioning since 2009, businesses receive a 50% discount on the value-added tax of wind-generated electricity, and seven provinces have wind generation targets and local feed-in tariffs.

No Windbreakers In Sight

Ultimately, while China's wind energy industry faces notable challenges, GTM's report finds the sheer volume of projects in the development pipeline and scale of demand means the country will lead the world far into the future. "China's wind industry retains its leadership position worldwide, whether looking at policy targets, overall installation numbers or innovation," said Scott Clavenna, CEO of Greentech Media.
Image Credits: China wind turbine image via Shutterstock; All charts and graphs courtesy GTM Research
China Forecast To Hit 150 GW Installed Wind Capacity By 2015 was originally published on: CleanTechnica


Earth Portation News November 28th

AIR - Air Pollution Linked To Autism
Without a doubt, autism is receiving more and more scientific and popular attention as we move further into the 21st century. A new study has added to our knowledgebase by showing that various sources of air pollution are associated with autism.

Air Pollution Linked to Autism
The study, published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry and headed by Heather Volk, Ph.D., assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and investigator in the Division of Research on Children, Youth and Families at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, demonstrates for the first time that exposure to traffic-related air pollution during pregnancy and during the first year of life is associated with a more than two-fold risk of autism.
Additionally, exposure to regional pollution consisting of nitrogen dioxide and small particles is also associated with autism, even if the mother lives nowhere near a busy road.

"This work has broad potential public health implications," said Volk. "We've known for a long time that air pollution is bad for our lungs, and especially for children. We're now beginning to understand how air pollution may affect the brain."
Volk's research is the first to look at the amount of near-roadway traffic-pollution that individuals have been exposed to and combine that statistic with the measure of regional air quality. Volk notes that the research builds upon previous work she and colleagues conducted, looking at how close subjects lived to a freeway.
"We took into account how far away people lived from roads, meteorology such as which way the wind was blowing, how busy the road was, and other factors to study traffic-related pollution," she said. "We also examined data from air quality monitors, which measure pollution over a larger region that could come from traffic, industry, rail yards, or many other sources."

The study looked at data on 279 autism cases and 245 control subjects enrolled in the California-based Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study. Based on the addresses of mothers, the researchers estimated exposure during each trimester of pregnancy and the first year of life.
Source: Keck School of Medicine of USC
Image Source: Thomanication (some rights reserved)
Air Pollution Linked To Autism was originally published on: CleanTechnica

AIR - New Online Tool Helps Calculate Benefit Of Reducing Air Pollution
Abt Associates launched a new online tool this week that allows large and medium-sized cities the opportunity to calculate the health benefits and monetary value of implementing air quality improvements.
AirCounts is an interactive website that enables anyone to discover how many premature deaths could be avoided as well as the additional economic benefits from reducing emissions.
New Online Tool Determines Benefits of Reducing Air Pollution
"As cities across the globe begin establishing climate change policies and programs that include improving air quality, they will need to answer questions about which health benefits and corresponding economic value can be realized from those programs," said Mike Conti, vice president of the Environment & Resources Division of Abt Associates, adding "AirCounts can deliver those answers."
Abt Associates conducted a case study of Mexico City using the new tool, which can be seen in full here.
The results found that eliminating 2.8 tonnes of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) would result in the prevention of one premature death at a cost of $1.8 million USD.

Conti said AirCounts framework can be used to calculate such public health benefits as decreased cardiovascular and respiratory problems, also associated with PM2.5 emissions. In addition, Abt can develop customized analyses for virtually any geographic area and can incorporate time as an analytical dimension.
Source: Abt Associates
New Online Tool Helps Calculate Benefit Of Reducing Air Pollution was originally published on: CleanTechnica

BIRDS - 50 Forgotten Bird Songs Play in a Sydney Alley
An art installation in Australia reminds us of the destructive force of urbanization.

BIRDS - Light Pollution May Actually Help Some Migratory Birds
According to new research, coastal light pollution may help migratory birds forage for food during their typically lean wintering period.

BOOKS - ITN amplifies 'citizen' video journalism with TruthLoader
From the producer behind the UK's biggest nightly commercial TV newscasts, comes an interesting experiment leveraging online networks and amateur video.
ITN Productions, which makes ITV News and Channel 4 News, has launched TruthLoader - a YouTube channel that will showcase amateur footage from hotspots around the world and whose own investigations will be led by discussion in a subreddit (group) on the Reddit community.

TruthLoader, the latest online video channel launched by the traditionally TV-led news agency, is funded by YouTube's originals program (which gives UK producers up to £500,000) and brings a video spin to a "citizen journalism" construct that has conventionally been focused on text and still images.
"Citizen" video contributions are identified by Storyful.
Presenter Phil Harper will also host a weekly live video debate with citizen journalists over Google Hangouts and Skype.
TruthLoader's challenge will be to bring a degree of measure, fact and balance to much of the raw footage it gets, for example, from protest spots in the Middle East, where some video footage nowadays attempts to paint a misleading picture of events and which large news organizations spend time validating. Often, footage is not just from "citizens" but active participants in stories.

Release (via Journalism.co.uk).

BOOKS - NYT editor unsure if reporters are print or digital - and that's a good thing
The executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, does not fetishize print newspapers and says the NYT's editorial integrity is as strong as ever. Her remarks suggested that, despite financial hiccups and a mini-contretemps over a new CEO, the celebrated publication's day-to-day operations are in good hands.
Abramson, who has been in the job for a year, made the remarks during a freewheeling interview with Henry Blodget at Business Insider's Ignition conference in New York Tuesday. She offered a frank and confident appraisal of the Times and the evolving business of news.
In response to a question about how the Times divides up the newsroom between print and digital reporters, Abramson says most staff no longer fit into one category or the other. She does not oversee "the paper" or "the web" but rather a global product she calls simply "the news report."
"There was too much focus in the past on the print product," said Abramson. "[We] now make sure energy is 24/7 and not focused on newspaper deadlines and rhythms."
This is a relief to hear because, from a business perspective, the Times has recently been relying on price hikes to its print paper to make up for cratering ad revenue. The price increases, however, provide at best a medium-term solution. Abramson acknowledged as much, noting that when she taught journalism classes at Yale, none of her students read paper newspapers.
Abramson's pragmatism improves the Times' chances of developing the right longterm digital strategy which, for now, relies heavily on an imperfect paywall model. Her presence may also help the Times preserve its role as a news authority at a time when many once-mighty news brands are rapidly waning.
The interview also provided some personal color. Abramson, who grew up on New York's Upper West Side with parents who had two NYT subscriptions, said she is regularly accosted by fellow dog walkers over the Times' Sunday Review.

CLIMATE - Arctic sea ice larger than US melted this year
(AP)-An area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the United States melted this year, according the U.N. weather agency, which said the dramatic decline illustrates that climate change is happening "before our eyes."

CLIMATE - Everything You Need to Know About Global Climate Negotiations in a Video and a Chart
Watch, look, and be up to speed.

CLIMATE - New study shows how climate change could affect entire forest ecosystems
The fog comes in, and a drop of water forms on a pine needle, rolls down the needle, and falls to the forest floor. The process is repeated over and over, on each pine needle of every tree in a forest of Bishop pines on Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of Santa Barbara. That fog drip helps the entire forest ecosystem stay alive.

CLIMATE - Scientists develop new approach to support future climate projections
Scientists have developed a new approach for evaluating past climate sensitivity data to help improve comparison with estimates of long-term climate projections developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

EARTH - Ancient Microbes Survived 3,000 Years Without Light or Air
Researchers in Antarctica have found an ancient bacteria thriving in one of the continent's least hospitable ecosystems, a discovery that may change our understanding of what's needed to support life.

ECONOMICS - Digital Business: How Technology Will Support Growth
By Mark P. McDonald and Andy Rowsell-Jones

EDUCATION - Have an idea for a great guest post? Here's what you need to know
While most of the pieces that we publish on GigaOM and paidContent are staff-written, every week we run a handful of posts by guest contributors. The authors are at the center of the industries and trends we cover - they are corporate executives, technologists, VCs, entrepreneurs and thinkers - and they offer fresh and timely insights about emerging technology topics. These pieces are an important part of what we offer readers, and they often stir up great discussion on and off the site.
So how do these guest posts come to be? Every week, we get dozens of emails asking us that very question. Some of the emails include story pitches, others simply want to know more about the process for contributing articles. So, below, we've provided answers to the most commonly asked questions. Take a minute to read through this - hopefully it will clear up any confusion. We look forward to seeing your submissions.
The purpose of guest posts
Similar to op-eds, guest posts are unpaid, bylined articles by our readers. They're a place for you and other industry experts to discuss what keeps you up at night - and gets you going in the morning. What are you most optimistic, or concerned, about right now? What do you find yourself excitedly talking about over beers with your colleagues? Which new technologies do you think will change the world? And how will they have this impact? This is what we want to hear about.
CEOs, VCs and startup founders look to our guest posts to have their own ideas challenged, to discover new technologies or better solutions to their business problems, and to learn something that they couldn't learn elsewhere. They're not interested in hearing the conventional wisdom on well-covered issues (no matter how masterfully crafted the piece is). So stop haranguing your spouse and co-workers with your brilliant idea, and share your contrarian viewpoints with us.
What to include - and not include - in a guest post
Aim for about 800 words. That's not a lot of room, so stay focused on one main idea. Clearly make your case in a sentence or so in the first or second paragraph. And then back it up throughout the rest of the post, with examples, data points, anecdotes or other evidence. To put it bluntly, our readers have a really high bullshit detector. So your article needs to provide fresh, well-articulated insight into a topic that is important to them.
Guest posts should not be overly formal. Avoid jargon, acronyms and highfalutin words. Cut out the middleman (sorry, publicists) and write in your natural-speaking voice. It's your name in the byline - it should sound like it was written by you.
No self-promotional posts
We want to hear your insider take on things, but we won't run anything that is either explicitly or implicitly self-promotional. Guest posts aren't a platform to tell us how great your company or industry is - the purpose of the posts is to enlighten readers and provoke them to think about important and topical issues/questions in new ways.
We're very strict about all potential conflicts of interest. If you (or the company that you work for) have had any relationship - paid or unpaid - with any company mentioned in the story, you need to clearly disclose the nature of that relationship within the post and in the two- or three-sentence bio at the end of the piece. This includes (but is not limited to) partners, customers and advisors.
We prefer to receive guest posts as .txt or Word docs, with any links to outside sources pasted below the relevant paragraph.
Is there an editing process?
Yes, guest posts go through our regular editing process. We'll add comments and questions to your first draft. We might move a few paragraphs around, so that the ideas flow better, or change the wording here and there to add clarity. We will send you the final text before we publish the piece to make sure that we didn't alter your meaning in the edits. We never publish an article without getting the author's approval first. Please note, however, that we do not fact-check guest posts, so you are solely responsible for the factual accuracy of the post.
After we get your okay, we will slate it for publication. GigaOM retains all publishing rights to contributor posts, and we ask that the content not be published elsewhere - either before or after we publish it.
But your role doesn't end when we hit publish. Like all posts on GigaOM and paidContent, our guest posts are meant to be part of an ongoing conversation. After the post is published, we expect you to jump in and engage with readers.
How to pitch a post
Send your pitches to guestpost@gigaom.com. If your guest post is connected to a news story, or is time sensitive for any other reason, please say so in the subject heading. Because of the volume of pitches we get, we can't respond to all of them. If you don't hear back from us within two weeks, you can assume that we won't be taking the piece, and we'll understand when you run it with a different publication.
If you've already written the post, of course, include it in the pitch. If you haven't, please include the following information in your pitch email:
1.A sentence or two - or short paragraph - explaining the point of the piece.
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A sentence or two with your bio, including where you currently work and your relevant background. Why should people listen to what you have to say about the proposed topic?


ENERGY - A startup that squeezes electricity out of city water
The water that sloshes through city pipes can both quench your thirst and generate electricity. However, the latter is far less common. But that's the proposition from startup Rentricity, which has developed equipment that uses water pressure to produce electricity and helps water suppliers reduce their energy costs.
The New York City-based company was the runner-up for the grand prize in this year's Cleantech Open competition and has seen its technology installed at two water treatment plants in the Pittsburgh region and one in Keene, New Hampshire. Its biggest project, its fourth one, is scheduled to come online in the first quarter of 2013 in the Palos Verdes area of Los Angeles County.
Finding multiple uses for the same resource is a good thing. It maximizes resources and reduces waste, especially if the resources are difficult to come by or finite. More advanced natural gas power plants, for example, use waste heat from gas turbines to generate steam and produce more electricity on site. Some solar technology also uses waste heat produced by solar cells to heat up water.
Rentricity's technology makes use of the highly pressured water that flows through pipes to be delivered to neighborhoods. After leaving the treatment plant, water typically goes through the water utility equivalent of substations (concrete underground regulator vaults) where the flow and pressure are reduced as the water gets ready to enter the smaller pipes of homes and businesses.

The company's technology includes a reverse pump, a generator, and controllers that would typically be installed at a water treatment plant or underground vaults. The pump harnesses the highly pressurized water and sends that through the generator to produce electricity. The controllers monitor and manage the valves and make sure the electricity moves on to the grid.
"We can monitor, control and optimize the pressure in the system so that we can get the most electricity potential out of the system," said Frank Zammataro, the company's CEO and founder.
The gear is designed to handle pipes from 10-inch to 36-inch in diameter; the generators range from 30 KW to 350 KW. Rentricity also has designed equipment in the 5-30 KW range in a partnership with water pump and treatment equipment maker Xylem. The two companies are looking at demonstrating the new gear in two sites, located in Pennsylvania and Nova Scotia, Canada.
Rentricity's intellectual property lies in the control system, Zammataro said. Rentricity also can install flow and pressure sensors that collect data and detect leakage for water utilities, particularly if the water treatment systems are located in remote areas.
The company is targeting selling its technology to water utilities at the moment, though it would like to see its equipment installed at industrial sites that use a lot of water, such as pharmaceutical plants, food and beverage factories or mining operations.

Knowing that the upfront financing is often a hurdle for new infrastructure technology - especially for municipal water utilities - Rentricity began offering financing options to customers earlier this year. The financing makes the company the sole or co-owner of the power generation equipment for the 30-40 years of expected lifespan of the gear or until the water utilities pay to own it. In return, Rentricity gets a share of the revenue from selling the electricity. Zammataro said he's talked with three fund managers who are interested in providing the money for the installations, but he declined to name them.
Rentricity has signed a letter of agreement to finance a 100 KW system with the city of Albany, New York, Zammataro said, and is now in the process of doing due diligence. The company hasn't finalized the budget for the project but estimates that it could cost somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million.
Rentricity, the name of which is a mash up of "renewable" and "electricity," was founded in 2003. But the company was a "part time project" for the three co-founders, Zammataro said. It wasn't until 2008 when the company began to market its technology to water utilities in earnest, he said, that the project became a full time gig. Rentricity has been self-funded and raised $1.5 million from friends, family and government grants. The company is working on raising a $3.5 million round.

ENERGY - Breakthrough could help optimize capture of sugars for biofuels
(Phys.org)-Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) combined different microscopic imaging methods to gain a greater understanding of the relationships between biomass cell wall structure and enzyme digestibility, a breakthrough that could lead to optimizing sugar yields and lowering the costs of making biofuels. A paper on the breakthrough, "How Does Plant Cell Wall Nanoscale Architecture Correlate with Enzymatic Digestibility?" appears in the current issue of Science magazine.

ENERGY - Off-The-Grid Mansions
From geothermal systems to solar panels, these "green" abodes offer owners the opportunity to unplug from the electrical grid.

ENVIRONMENT - Fracking in Michigan: Researchers study potential impact on health, environment, economy
University of Michigan researchers are conducting a detailed study of the potential environmental and societal effects of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial natural gas drilling process known as fracking.

HOMES - D*Haus Designs D*Dynamic, Origami-Inspired, Shape-Changing House
Yeah, that title could be a little confusing. But it probably also gives you a sense of the unique awesomeness that's about to come....

D*Haus' D*Dynamic Origami-Inspired Shape Changing House (via Green Building Elements)
Architecture in origami form is a remarkable concept which is hard to envision but D*Haus has come up with a house design that follows the very dynamics of the paper folding art. D*Haus' transformation house, D*Dynamic, has yet to be built but the conception is likely to take hold. They have designed...

D*Haus Designs D*Dynamic, Origami-Inspired, Shape-Changing House was originally published on: CleanTechnica

HOMES - Designer Lives and Works in 271 Square Foot Brooklyn Apartment
It's based on Disneyland's Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. Really.

MUSIC - The Power of Diversity: Innovation In A Song
The next time someone questions the value of diversity, tell'em to go whistle up a tune; Autumn in New York to be specific. This rather modest "jazz standard" is a microcosm of how diversity adds to the creativity of a society.

PEOPLE - For Winning The Nobel Prize, Niels Bohr Got A House With Free Beer
Niels Bohr is one of the greatest scientists who ever lived and a personal hero of mine. He was also a favorite of his fellow Danes when he lived in Copenhagen. Today, however, I found out just how much they loved him. Apparently, after he won the Nobel Prize in 1922, the Carlsberg brewery gave him a gift - a house located next to the brewery. And the best perk of the house? It had a direct pipeline to the brewery so that Bohr had free beer on tap whenever he wanted.

PERMACULTURE - How to Use a Raised Garden Bed as a Compost Bin
This neat little trick is an efficient way to keep fallow garden beds fertile.

PLANTS - Tiny algae shed light on photosynthesis as a dynamic property
Many of the world's most important photosynthetic eukaryotes such as plants got their light-harnessing organelles (chloroplasts) indirectly from other organisms through endosymbiosis. In some instances, this resulted in algae with multiple, distinct genomes, some in residual organelles (nucleomorphs). To better understand why nucleomorphs persist after endosymbiosis, an international team including researchers at the DOE Joint Genome Institute collaborated to sequence and analyze two tiny algae. Their report appeared online Nov. 29, 2012 in Nature.

SCIENCE - New experiments challenge fundamental understanding of electromagnetism
(Phys.org)-A cornerstone of physics may require a rethink if findings at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are confirmed. Recent experiments suggest that the most rigorous predictions based on the fundamental theory of electromagnetism-one of the four fundamental forces in the universe, and harnessed in all electronic devices-may not accurately account for the behavior of atoms in exotic, highly charged states.

SCIENCE - Unexpected data from the Large Hadron Collider suggest the collisions may be producing a new type of matter
Collisions between protons and lead ions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have produced surprising behavior in some of the particles created by the collisions. The new observation suggests the collisions may have produced a new type of matter known as color-glass condensate.

SOLAR - Cost Of Solar Systems In US Continues To Decline
A new report from the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has shown that the installed price of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems across the United States fell substantially in 2011 and continued the decline through the first half of 2012, supplanting solar as an integral part of the American economy and mindshare.
The news was reported in the latest edition of Tracking the Sun, an annual PV cost-tracking report released by Berkeley Lab.
The report found that the median installed price of residential and commercial PV systems which were completed in 2011 fell by approximately 11-14% from the year before.
The Installed Price of Solar Photovoltaic Systems in the U.S. Continues to DeclineAdditionally, prices in California fell by an additional 3-7% within the first six months of 2012.
The drop in price for installed systems is due in part to the massive reduction in PV module prices, which have been falling dramatically since 2008, and part of the reason why balance of system manufacturers are now accounting for 68 percent of the total costs for the average PV project.
Even though balance of system is making up a higher percentage of project costs, overall prices have fallen. The report notes that non-module costs such as balance of system, labour, marketing, overhead, and inverters have all fallen significantly over time.
"The drop in non-module costs is especially important," notes report co-author Ryan Wiser of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division, "as these costs can be most readily influenced by local, state, and national policies aimed at accelerating deployment and removing market barriers."
The median installed price of PV systems installed throughout 2011 was $6.10 per watt (W) for residential and small commercial systems less than 10 kilowatts (kW) in size, and was $4.90/W for larger commercial systems of 100 kW or more in size, whereas utility-sector PV systems which are larger than 2,000 kW in size averaged $3.40/W in 2011.
Report co-author Galen Barbose, also of Berkeley Lab, stresses the importance of keeping these numbers in context, noting that "these data provide a reliable benchmark for systems installed in the recent past, but prices have continued to decline over time, and PV systems being sold today are being offered at lower prices."
The authors of the report also believe that US PV prices will continue to drop as a result of large-scale deployment programs, but that other factors are also important in achieving installed price reductions.
There were variations in the PV system pricing when compared across states. The median installed price of PV systems less than 10 kW in size that were completed during 2011 ranged from $4.90/W to $7.60/W depending on which state they were being constructed in.
Additionally, the report shows that PV installed prices are good indicators of economies of scale, with the median price for systems smaller than 2 kW coming in at $7.70/W while the median price for a large commercial system greater than 1,000 kW in size was only $4.50/W. Utility-scale systems larger than 10,000 kW were even lower, with most systems ranging from $2.80/W to $3.50/W.

Sadly, as the cost of installed PV systems have fallen, so have the incentives. According to the report, the median pre-tax value of such cash incentives ranged from $0.90/W to $1.20/W for systems installed in 2011, depending on system size. But these numbers have decreased by roughly 80% over the past ten years, and by a massive 21-43% from just 2010 to 2011.
The report, Tracking the Sun V: An Historical Summary of the Installed Price of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998 to 2011, by Galen Barbose, Naïm Darghouth, and Ryan Wiser, may be downloaded from: http://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/LBNL-5919e-REPORT.pdf.
Source: Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Cost Of Solar Systems In US Continues To Decline was originally published on: CleanTechnica

SOLAR - MIT Researchers Propose Solar Energy Funnel to Produce More Electricity from Sunlight
The concept would use an exceptionally thin stretched material to capture a broader spectrum of sunlight's energy.

SOLAR - New Concentrating Solar Power Storage Material From Yara
Yara International is a Norway-based company focused on sustainable environmental and agricultural solutions. The company recently made an announcement about a breakthrough technology used in concentrated solar power. Below is an interview with Emilio Iglesias Sola, a Yara business manager.
YaraPorsgrunnBulkWhat about your use of potassium calcium nitrate is new and unique?
This is the first time that potassium calcium nitrate has been used in the concentrated solar power (CSP) market, and therefore opens up many opportunities for utility-scale growth.
Calcium nitrate is not new; it has been used in other industries and application for years. What is unique is that our new potassium calcium nitrate grade - patent-pending - has been specifically developed to meet the performance demands of the solar thermal power industry. Our researchers identified a challenge related to heat storage using existing molten salts available in the market, and applied Yara's chemistry expertise to overcome this obstacle.
At its core, this reflects what Yara does every day. With over 100 years of experience in nitrogen-based applications, we provide products and integrated solutions using nitrogen - one of the building blocks of life - and help make the world a better place by optimizing industrial processes and environmental compliance. For instance, our diesel exhaust fluid helps abate harmful nitrous oxides from heavy-duty trucks.
What practical advantages are there to using it and the way you are using it?
In addition to cost advantages, the new potassium calcium nitrate offers plant engineers and operators technical advantages:
First, the properties of potassium calcium nitrate bring down the melting point of the molten salt mix, a huge improvement for all CSP technology. For plants using parabolic trough technology with thermal oil and thermal storage, the current temperature range is 290ºC to 390ºC. Thermal oil's maximum temperature is 400ºC. The new ternary salts using potassium calcium nitrate have a wider Tª (131-560ºC). The wider temperature range and significantly lower melting point means plants have more storage time and require less molten salt to function. In addition, the lower melting point helps owners prevent blockage caused by molten salt solidification, which can be very costly in terms of plant down-time and repairs.
We've also seen the market develop a trend to avoid thermal oil as a heat transfer fluid (HTF) for several reasons, including thermal oil is more expensive, not environmentally friendly and requires an (often expensive) heat exchanger between the oil and the molten salt. The broader temperature range of the new ternary salts using potassium calcium nitrate allows for new lower working temperatures, and provides a higher turbine yield when working at higher temperatures.
Finally, our new potassium calcium nitrate is much less corrosive than common calcium nitrate grades. It also contains fewer impurities than common grades of calcium nitrate. More pure and less corrosive, Yara's synthetic molecule helps reduce corrosion of plant components, related maintenance costs and safety issues.
Your use of potassium calcium nitrate is said to be more cost effective, how much more cost effective is it and why?
The price of Yara's new potassium calcium nitrate is more competitive than that of potassium and sodium nitrate, offering significant CAPEX reductions in the purchase of the nitrates during plant construction. Not only is potassium calcium nitrate very competitively priced, but given the wider temperature range noted earlier, less salts need to be purchased overall.
As the world's largest nitrates producer, our global scale and production efficiencies mean we can provide the product to our customers at an even lower rate than our competitors to anywhere in the world.
Based on size of the plant (which determines the volumes of molten salts required during construction) and the current price of potassium and sodium nitrate, we can estimate a wide range of total capital expense savings. Additionally, due to the potassium nitrate (KNO3) and sodium nitrate (NaNO3) price trends, we anticipate savings for customers using our potassium calcium nitrate will increase over the coming years.
It is these cost savings, along with operational expenses, that we believe will make solar thermal more profitable for plant operators and investors, significantly improving the commercial viability of CSP.
Is your new technology currently operating in CSP facilities, if so, where, and if not, where might it be employed soon?
We have advanced negotiations with several companies, although due to Non-Disclosure Agreements I am not at liberty to share more. That said, the product is ready for sale today and we anticipate the first plant running our proposal will come out of field tests in 2014.
In which parts of the world do you expect it to be used first and why?
The United States and Spain, the countries with the most advanced CSP development, will be the places where this technology is first implemented.
Going forward, we anticipate the next large area of CSP growth to come from the US for several reasons:
  • First, the US has the potential to offer better yields than Spain. Land availability and better radiation locations will allow plant managers to develop larger, more-efficient CSP plants which will lower costs and produce better yields.
  • Secondly, the US currently has a renewable energy pool policy, which is a good political and social environment to develop CSP plants.
How long can potassium calcium nitrate be used before its storage potential is exhausted?
Thermal storage using nitrates lasts the whole lifetime of the CSP plant, which is about 30 years.

Are there limits to how much you can produce?
As the world's largest nitrates producer, Yara can produce more than enough potassium calcium nitrate to meet the needs of the solar thermal market. Although the volumes of molten salts needed for the CSP sector are set to surge, they remain only a fraction of Yara's production capacity. Our global production platform and international supply chain can currently support the US and Spanish CSP markets, as well as future CSP markets in China, North Africa, India and Australia.
What is the future of concentrated solar power and what does this breakthrough development mean for the global solar power industry?
Two things have always plagued the utility-scale adoption of solar power: storage and cost. Concentrated solar power technology solved the first issue, by providing a way to store thermal energy and provide on-demand, reliable electricity from the sun, even after dark, when demand for electricity peaks. This allows CSP to be baseload, something PV and wind power cannot achieve in any scalable way at the moment. It also will enable CSP to achieve grid parity with its traditional gas, coal and nuclear counterparts.
The next generation of molten salts using Yara's potassium calcium nitrate address the second and final barrier, making utility-scale CSP plants less costly to construct and more profitable for plant operators and investors - for the first time, CSP will be commercially viable.
How did Yara's commitment to innovation lead to the identification of this new grade of CN, developed specially for heat storage and transfer applications?
Through ongoing R&D, we identified a new grade of potassium calcium nitrate with promising thermal properties, and developed it specifically for heat storage and transfer applications. We then tested the CSP application in partnership with Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain.
As noted earlier, Yara has over 100 years of experience in nitrogen-based applications. Ongoing R&D is an important part of our commitment to "shape" the industry, and as the market develops in the coming years, we will continue to follow this track.
Image Credit: Yara International
New Concentrating Solar Power Storage Material From Yara was originally published on: CleanTechnica

SOLAR - New Way To Create Electricity Out Of Sunlight Discovered, A Solar Energy Funnel
The discovery of a revolutionarily different way to generate electricity from sunlight has been made by researchers at MIT. The new technology, which is essentially a solar energy funnel, is able to use a much broader spectrum of sunlight's energy than conventional solar does, by utilizing materials under elastic strain.
"We're trying to use elastic strains to produce unprecedented properties," says Ju Li, an MIT professor and the lead author of a paper describing the new concept.
The 'funnel' in this case is a metaphor, though - it is electronic forces creating the funneling effect, not gravity as in a literal funnel. "Electrons and their counterparts, holes - which are split off from atoms by the energy of photons - are driven to the center of the structure by electronic forces." But, interestingly, as the process occurs, the material actually assumes a funnel shape. The material is a stretched sheet of "vanishingly thin" material, pushed down at a center point with a microscopic needle, producing a curved shape similar to a funnel.

The pressure from the needle creates an elastic strain that increases toward the needle point. Because of the variation in the strain, the atomic structure is changed to the point where different sections are 'tuned' to different wavelengths of light. Making it possible to make use of not only visible light, but also the rest of the spectrum, most of which is invisible. The majority of the energy in sunlight is invisible.
The material used is a thin layer of molybdenum disulfide, which is a semiconductor that can form a film just a single molecule in thickness. And it possesses a 'crucial characteristic' called bandgap, which allows it to be formed into solar cells. But unlike the material used in most solar cells, silicon, "putting the film under strain in the 'solar energy funnel' causes its bandgap to vary across the surface, so that different parts of it respond to different colors of light," the MIT press release notes.
"It turns out that the elastic strain, and therefore the change that is induced in electrons' potential energy, changes with their distance from the funnel's center - much like the electron in a hydrogen atom, except this 'artificial atom' is much larger in size and is two-dimensional."
The funnel will also lead to better charge collection, the researchers think. In typical solar cells, the excitons randomly move throughout the material after they've been generated by photons. But in the funnel, the characteristics of the material direct them to the collection site at the center, which should lead to more efficient charge collection.
"People knew for a long time that by applying high pressure, you can induce huge changes in material properties," Li says. But more recent work has shown that controlling strain in different directions, such as shear and tension, can yield an enormous variety of properties.
The work was just published this week in the journal Nature Photonics.
Source: Massachusetts Institute Of TechnologyImage Credits: Yan Liang; Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license
New Way To Create Electricity Out Of Sunlight Discovered, A Solar Energy Funnel was originally published on: CleanTechnica

SOLAR - Solar Power Installation Prices Fell Up to 14% in Past Year, Even More in California
New stats show that there have been significant declines in the cost of installing solar power last year, with large regional variations.

SPACE - Astronomers measure most massive, most unusual black hole
Astronomers have used the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory to measure the mass of what may be the most massive black hole yet-17 billion Suns-in galaxy NGC 1277. The unusual black hole makes up 14 percent of its galaxy's mass, rather than the usual 0.1 percent. This galaxy and several more in the same study could change theories of how black holes and galaxies form and evolve. The work will appear in the journal Nature on Nov. 29.

SPACE - Incredible raw image of Saturn's swirling north pole
Ok, are you ready for this? I know... WOW.

SUSTAINABILITY - The Sustainability of Tablets (Infographic)
This infographic describes the pros and cons of the tablet devices that have taken over the gadget scene.

TECH - 10 Incredibly Simple Things You Can Do To Protect Your Privacy
These are the really, really simple things you should be doing to keep casual intruders from invading your privacy.

TECH - Just Like Social TV, Big Data Is Coming To The Movies [Infographic]
When Nielsen bought SocialGuide a few weeks ago, it left little doubt that Social TV metrics have become an important tool for networks to assess their shows' impact. But is the same true of their cousins over on the silver screen?

TECH - People trust the internet but lie to it anyway
Most people view the internet as a place of free-flowing information where people go to learn, develop their business opportunities and can share scientific discoveries. It's a place where passwords can be shared among family and friends and people don't use services to cloak their identity, yet it is also where almost half of us lie about relevant personal information. All of this and some other contradictions have emerged from the Internet Society's Global Internet User Survey.
The Internet Society is an organization that tracks the use and influence of the web and releases policy recommendations associated with online access. For its annual survey it asked more than 10,000 people in 20 countries their thoughts on a series of questions. The results in some cases were surprising. For example, the U.S. had the highest percentage of people who never used audio/visual conferencing online, with 56 percent saying they never used services like Skype or WebEx. Globally, only 27 percent said they never used an IP-based web conferencing tool.
U.S. respondents also were the second most likely to avoid instant messaging, with 42 percent of Internet users saying they didn't use an IM service compared to 16 percent globally. Only Germans were less likely to use IM - 47 percent said they don't use instant messaging services. And while a majority of the respondents were concerned about their online privacy and took some steps to control access to their online profiles or turning off location tracking on occasion, a surprising large percentage did little else to safeguard their data or to preserve their legal rights.
For example, even when users know they are sharing personal data with a site or service, four out of five users do not always read privacy policies and 12 percent never read privacy policies. Only 47 percent of the respondents reported that they always use separate passwords for sensitive data, and only 13 percent said they never share permissions with family or friends.
Maybe we hope to mitigate some of our trusting nature by giving out false information - more than half of those surveyed give incorrect personal data when creating an account at least some of time. But, a staggering 44 percent say they always provide correct personal data. Apparently we are large and contain multitudes.
A good example of this can be found in the chart below, which compared the U.S. response on two questions with the global average and three other countries. When asked if the government should ensure people's right to access the Internet, the U.S. was surprisingly reluctant to agree with that statement when compared to the rest of the surveyed countries. Yet, like most other people, the U.S. sees the Internet as a source of knowledge. Apparently we recognize that the internet is awesome, but aren't willing to ensure everyone has access to it.
Opinions on the Internet

TECH - Report: Mobile hardware will be a $500-billion industry by 2015
We already know mobile is a big and rapidly growing industry, but research firm IHS iSuppli has painted a picture of just how expansive mobile communications has become. This year mobile equipment revenues globally will be $374 million, and in the space of three years wireless devices and infrastructure will be a half-trillion-dollar industry, a new IHS study found.
Despite crappy economic conditions, the mobile equipment market - which IHS defines as not just consumer handsets and tablets but also cellular network equipment - is growing 13 percent this year and will experience an 18 percent spurt in 2014, growing to $444 billion, the firm projects. IHS chalks up the coming boom to mobile broadband, particularly the growing adoption of LTE technologies.
The LTE infrastructure market is still quite small, accounting this year for only $8 billion and a mere $4 billion in 2011. But the LTE ecosystem has a long tail. Device revenues are increasing due to the growing number of smartphone and tablet sales., which take advantage of 4G's increased bandwidth. What's more those same mobile broadband trends are increasing wireless semiconductor sales, increasing demand for more powerful applications processor, more advanced radio silicon and a bevy of different device sensors.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock user Reno Martin

TECH - Spain's carriers unite on Joyn - is this the future of mobile?
It's finally here: the saviour of the mobile industry, Joyn, also known as Rich Communications Services or RCS. Industry body the GSMA said back at Mobile World Congress in February that all the big carriers would be backing it, and now Spain's big three - Movistar (Telefonica), Orange and Vodafone - have launched it for their customers.
Joyn (let's just call it that, given it's the brand name) lets customers IM each other and 'enrich' voice calls by tossing each other videos and files mid-conversation. It's operator-agnostic, in the sense that you only need to be on an operator that offers it, regardless of the country, and Spain's the first country in the world where the biggest operators all offer it.
Vodafone Germany also has it, as will Deutsche Telekom from December. In the U.S., MetroPCS has also introduced Joyn.
The GSMA says VoIP and IP video-calling is on the horizon too, as a function of Joyn. Here's some marketing from GSMA chief marketing officer Michael O'Hara:
"This initial implementation of a new technology clearly required a major effort and strong leadership in the alignment of the ecosystem of manufacturers, developers and integrators, and operators. Consumers across the world will benefit from the leading efforts of these three operators in Spain."
Still struggling to envision what sort of thing we're talking about? Here's a perky video that demonstrates the file-sharing capabilities of Joyn:

All this is based on the same embedded-deep-in-the-network IMS architecture as Voice over LTE. You need a special Android app to use it at the moment, although there should soon be 'Joyn-embedded' devices coming onto the market in early 2013. As it's IP-based, of course, you can use Joyn services through the cellular network or through Wi-Fi.
Those Joyn-embedded handsets have to undergo rigorous interoperability testing and, once they've passed, you will know them by the bright yellow Joyn logo that shows up when you power the handset on. The same logo will be displayed next to contacts' names in your phonebook.
In case you can't already tell, all this represents a severely major effort on the part of the carrier industry to get its act together. Why? Because the operators want to stay relevant.
The question is, are they already too late?
The last year or two has seen all sorts of seemingly self-defeating apps come out of major carriers - T-Mobile USA's Bobsled, Telefonica's Tu Me and, most recently, Orange's Libon. These apps all offer free voice and messaging, and they offer it to any customer of any network.
In every one of these cases, the aim has been to stop customers thinking of services like WhatsApp and start remembering their operator again. The carriers have belatedly woken up to the fact that their customers increasingly think of them as flat-rate data providers, and that scares the living daylights out of them. There's no differentiation anymore.
Now, the industry may just be pulling itself together. That fact alone betrays their desperation - it's not like some players haven't tried this sort of thing before (for a stunningly downbeat assessment of IMS's chances a couple of years back, check out this 2010 post from Disruptive Analysis's Dean Bubley).
The fundamental problem is that users already have these services. People are already invested in WhatsApp and Skype. The operators are now counting on Joyn becoming so ubiquitous that late adopters pick it up en masse, and it becomes a new standard in terms of usage as well as installation.
Do they themselves believe in it? Maybe. One might even look at Tu Me, Bobsled and Libon and see these 'over-the-top' services as a sign that the operators launching them don't really have faith that Joyn will take off.
This is not to say that Joyn won't be a success. These are huge companies we're talking about, and if they manage to keep their my-enemy's-enemy alliance together, they've got a lot of clout. But, in the worst-case scenario (for them), we're looking at a last gasp.

TECH - The Big Green Opportunity: Transforming Clean Tech Into "Main Tech"
This guest post was written by Vinod Khosla, the founder of Khosla Ventures and a leading Silicon Valley clean tech investor.

TECH - The One-Sided Problem of Oversexualization in Video Games
image thumbnail - see full story for attributions
I've been reading about this recent rather fantastic Twitter trend among the gaming crowd, #1reasonwhy, over the past few days. It was sparked by Luke Crane of Kickstarter who asked why there were so few female game developers in the industry. That set off a chain of responses from many, many

TECH - The Times Are Changin': The Evolution Of Enterprise Software
Guest post written by Brian Murray

TECH - The future of the internet is intelligent machines
An internet revolution is upon us.
As we know it today, the internet has been largely about connecting people to information, people to people, and people to business. Monetization strategies range as widely as the options available, and for all the success, there are more failures. While many of the advancements have been extraordinary - even unthinkable a short time ago - too often we're still left asking, "to what end?"
The internet can give consumers nearly anything with just a click, but global economies remain challenged. The internet has become the biggest library in the world, but education is just now beginning to take advantage and change. The internet can provide businesses with unprecedented data, but true insight remains contentious and change is slow.
The real opportunity for change is still ahead of us, surpassing the magnitude of the development and adoption of the consumer internet. It is what we call the "Industrial Internet," an open, global network that connects people, data and machines. The Industrial Internet is aimed at advancing the critical industries that power, move and treat the world.
There are now many millions of machines across the world, ranging from simple electric motors to highly advanced MRI machines. There are tens of thousands of fleets of sophisticated machinery, ranging from power plants that produce electricity to aircraft that move people and cargo around the world. There are thousands of complex networks ranging from power grids to railroad systems, which tie machines and fleets together.
This vast physical world of machines, facilities, fleets and networks can more deeply merge with the connectivity, big data and analytics of the digital world. This is what the Industrial Internet Revolution is all about.
Productivity Revolution
The Industrial Internet leverages the power of the cloud to connect machines embedded with sensors and sophisticated software to other machines (and to us) so we can extract data, make sense of it and find meaning where it did not exist before. Machines - from jet engines to gas turbines to CT scanners - will have the analytical intelligence to self-diagnose and self-correct. They will be able to deliver the right information to the right people, all in real time. When machines can sense conditions and communicate, they become instruments of understanding. They create knowledge from which we can act quickly, saving money and producing better outcomes.
As an example, we have pushed the boundaries of physical and material sciences in our aircraft engines to the point where these engines are more powerful and efficient than ever. We will continue to improve them physically, but at the same time we can use software, monitoring and big data analytics to attack the $284 billion in annual waste in the airline industry that is caused by fuel inefficiency, unscheduled aircraft maintenance, and delayed flights.
Consider that just a one percent improvement in aircraft engine maintenance efficiency can reduce related costs by $250 million annually. A similar one percent fuel savings in power generation could add more than $4 billion annually to the global economy.
Whether in terms of operations, performance or maintenance excellence, all industries are looking for their next major productivity gains. Health care is burdened by a system where doctors and caregivers have to go searching for vital information; it is inefficient at best and life threatening at worst. We need to make the data more intelligent and integrated, more predictive and proactive, so information finds the doctor instead of the other way around.
Intelligent data flows speed up care delivery and can prevent chronic conditions by getting the treatment right the very first time. Similarly, in terms of health management costs, "intelligent" hospitals are deploying systems that behave like air traffic control for medical staff and devices, and provide a full detailed view of hospital resources. Better utilization cuts capital expenses. Better asset location leaves nurses more time to focus on patients. Better management improves patient flow, cuts operating costs, and saves hospitals millions.
There are similar scenarios in every other major industry, and the economic benefit can be huge. Assuming growth similar to what prevailed during the internet boom, the Industrial Internet revolution will add about $15 trillion to global GDP by 2030. That's the equivalent of adding another U.S. economy to the world.
The amazing aspect of this growth is that it stems from what appears to be minor productivity improvements. At GE, we have 5,000 software engineers and another 9,000 IT engineers. We're focused on mining for just one percent gains in productivity. The potential is irresistible.
Roadmap to the Revolution
In the near future, I expect nothing short of an open, global fabric of highly intelligent machines that connect, communicate and cooperate with us. This Industrial Internet is not about a world run by robots, it is about combining the world's best technologies to solve our biggest challenges. It's about economically and environmentally sustainable energy, curing the incurable diseases, and preparing our infrastructure and cities for the next 100 years.
To do this industry and government need to work together on two critical areas: standardization and security. We need to establish common standards so that innovative minds can develop the best solutions for the machines and systems that move our world. Just as the advancement of mobile devices and operating systems have brought forth a prosperous "app" economy, a standard language for machines will unleash waves of innovation that will truly change how the world works. This is a critical step and needs government policies that favor advancement.
Attaining the vision set forth for the Industrial Internet will also require an effective internet security regime. Cyber security should be considered in terms of both network security (a defense strategy specific to the Cloud) and the security of devices that are connected to the network. We need industry to effectively secure facilities and networks and governments to enforce a regulatory regime that promotes innovative solutions and international standards.
The Industrial Internet era has already begun. And during a time when the global economy is recovering but remains volatile and where resources are constrained for people, governments, and companies, what we need most is to not lose sight of a real opportunity to create meaningful change around the world.
After all, this is what revolutions are all about.
Jeff Immelt is the chairman and CEO of GE.

URBAN - A Visit to the World's Only City-Sanctioned Homeless Camp
Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon, is not your typical municipal solution to homelessness. It just might be better.

URBAN - Adventures in Engineering: ARUP and the Metropol Parasol
The design by Jürgen Mayer H. is pretty amazing, but so is the engineering that holds it up

URBAN - Light therapy at bus stops to cheer north Sweden commuters
Bus stops in the northern Swedish town of Umeaa have been fitted with light therapy panels to help commuters fight off the winter blues, the energy company behind the move said Tuesday.

WATER - Australia urged to 'bank' its water
Australia should prepare now for dry times ahead by 'banking' its water underground when rainfall is plentiful, according to an important new scientific study.

WATER - New Biocatalyst Technology Improves Water Quality in Wastewater and Sewage Canals
A biocatalyst containing microorganisms and enzymes could be the answer to improving the quality of water from sewage and wastewater in the developing world.

WIND - MISO Wind Output Blows Past 10,000 MW
Overnight on Friday November 23rd, Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator Incorporated (MISO) made some serious headwind by blowing past the 10 gigawatt (GW) mark for wind energy produced. Production topped out at 10,012 megawatts (MW) during that faithful evening, according to a statement from MISO.
The organization, which watches over the high-voltage system and offers open-transmission assistance over 11 states in the Midwest United States and the Canadian province of Manitoba, yesterday announced the milestone.
This is quite significant, considering during the same period that day, wind output represented 25% of the energy being used within the MISO region.
Officials have been supportive of wind energy's upward trend as an energy solution in the Midwest US and Canada.
"Wind represents one of the fuel choices that helps us manage congestion on the system and ultimately helps keep prices low for our customers and the end-use consumer," said MISO's Executive Director of Real Time Operations Joe Gardner in the release.
"When we have significant quantities of wind being generated, we use less of other, more expensive, generation types to keep the system in balance."
Since 2006, wind capacity in the region has rapidly advanced, with the organization watching over 12,000 MW of registered wind capacity this year, in comparison to just 1,112 MW six years ago.
MISO is one of the largest energy markets in the world, grossing $23.6 billion in energy market transactions annually. The organization covers 11 states, including: Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and the Canadian province of Manitoba. MISO's headquarters are located in Carmel, Illinois, and the company has centers both in Carmel and in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Source: MISO
MISO Wind Output Blows Past 10,000 MW was originally published on: CleanTechnica

WORK - So You Hate Your Job: 5 Things You Can Do About It
Many of us feel stuck. We're creative, ambitious, and paying our dues, but the final payoff is far from guaranteed. At many firms, there is a constant threat of layoffs looming. And that might be the best case scenario. Companies don't have the staying power of decades anymore. Big names can blow up: think BearSterns, Dewey & LeBoeuf.

WORK - The Top 10 Cities For Green Jobs

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