Earth Portation News November 30th

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

ENVIRONMENT - Susan Rice's holdings of Canadian oil stocks raises conflict of interest


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


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