Let’s Go Fly A Tidal Kite

This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen.com, and is reprinted with permission.

May 4, 2010 – Jessica Shankleman, BusinessGreen.com – Swedish start up Minesto secures fresh funding and announces plan to install first prototype tidal kite device off North Ireland coast next year.

Minesto Tidal KitesThe world’s first tidal kite could soon be “flying” off the coast of Northern Ireland, after renewable energy start up Minesto today secured over €2m in new capital investment to help test its prototype device. The Sweden-based firm, which was spun out of auto manufacturer Saab in 2007, is pioneering the development of a tidal kite, which will operates underwater in a manner similar to wind kites.

Dubbed “Deep Green”, the system consists of a light weight turbine, generator and rudder attached to a fixed point on the seabed with a tether. The system can then move in the ocean to catch the best currents and maximize power output from the tides. According to Minesto, the technology has the potential to increase the potential tidal energy market by up to 80 per cent as tidal kites can theoretically operate in deep water sites with low tidal velocities that are unsuitable for other forms of tidal energy generators.

The company announced today that it will install its first prototype at undisclosed location off the coast of Northern Ireland in 2011 after securing 20m SEK (€2.08m) from a group of investors including Saab, Midroc New Technology and BGA Invest, as well as a number of unnamed private investors. Chief executive Anders Jansson told BusinessGreen.com that although the initial prototype will not be connected to the grid, the firm plans to roll out a 200 to 500kW pilot project by 2013 and already has an agreement in place to connect to the grid in Northern Ireland from 2012.

Jansson said he then hopes to deploy projects across the Irish Sea, connecting to the main grid in Wales and Ireland, as well as Northern Ireland. “One of the major advantages of this kind of technology is that it operates in low velocity depths of 60 metres,” he said. “We’re alone in those areas so there’s no competition.” He added that the relatively high tides and large areas of available sea bed made the Irish Sea an ideal location for the technology. However, Jansson admits that the road to commercializing this lightweight technology still faces a number of barriers. The company has yet to be granted consents by the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland, and Jansson said that the company still faced a number of technical challenges if it is to make the system sufficiently robust and reliable.

“There’s also the psychological challenge,” he admitted. “When people see a new concept they tend to dismiss them as they haven’t been done before.”

[youtube width=”480″ height=”270″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qCDRj8TE9Y[/youtube]


European Union Proposes Speed Limiters For White Van Man

This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen.com, and is reprinted with permission.

May 4, 2010 – BusinessGreen.com Staff, BusinessGreen.com – New strategy aims to cut emissions from vans and light trucks.

Very interesting idea out of Europe that will save fuel, reduce carbon emissions and increase highway safety. It would be tough to get this to fly in the US but it’s something to think about.

White VanThe European Union is actively considering imposing mandatory speed limiters on vans and light trucks in an effort to curb carbon emissions from the vehicles, according to a draft report leaked to news agency Reuters.

The draft report sets out the European Parliament’s position on new rules designed to reduce emissions from vans and features a range of proposals, including plans to automatically limit vans and light trucks to speeds of 120km per hour (74.6mph).

“One … way to tackle the problem would be to have mandatory speed limiters for light commercial vehicles,” says the document, which has been seen by Reuters.

In an attempt to head off the likely protests from haulage firms and van operators, the report defends the proposal insisting that it is a safe and cost-effective way of cutting emissions and improving fuel efficiency.

“These vehicles are almost exclusively used for commercial purposes and do not need to exceed 120 km per hour,” the report states. “The technology is available to do this; it is a cheap and effective way of immediately lowering emissions and many commercial organisations retro-fit them to their vehicles.”

The proposals will contribute to the latest round of negotiations between the European Parliament and European Commission on new rules for governing emissions from vans and light trucks.

In an echo of the long-running row that preempted the introduction of mandatory emission standards for cars last year, the Commission and Parliament appear divided on the level at which to impose emission standards on vans and, according to the document seen by Reuters, the Parliament is moving to water down the Commission’s original proposals.

The Commission had said that it wants manufacturers to cut average emissions from vans and light trucks by almost a third on 2007 levels to 135 grams per km by 2020. But the parliament report recommends a less demanding target of 150 g rams per km, while also proposing that the financial penalties imposed on those manufacturers that breach the standard are reduced.


US Agencies Toughen Up Energy Star Standards After Embarrassing Lapses

This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen.com, and is reprinted with permission.

From April 16, 2010 – James Murray, BusinessGreen.com – Undercover investigators gain Energy Star accreditation for phony gas-powered alarm clock.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy this week announced emergency measures to tighten the procedures governing the award of Energy Star certification after undercover investigators revealed the current system was so flawed that made up products were able to attain accreditation.

Energy StarAccording to a report released late last month, investigators with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) were able to obtain Energy Star accreditation for 15 out of 20 fake products that they submitted under the energy efficiency labeling scheme.

The phony products included a gas-powered alarm clock and a “room air cleaner “, which was displayed in mocked up photos showing an electric space heater with a feather duster attached to it.

The GAO report, which was commissioned by Republican Senator Susan Collins, said the practice of approving products based on energy savings data presented by manufacturers themselves left the scheme “vulnerable to fraud and abuse”.

The agencies responsible for the scheme moved this week to address the issue, announcing that effective immediately all manufacturers applying for Energy Star certification would have to submit complete lab reports and results for review and approval by EPA prior to labeling.

The tightened procedure replaces the previous automated approval process that would dish out certification to any product that appeared to meet the necessary criteria.

Gina McCarthy, EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, said the new rules would help to restore confidence in the scheme. “The safeguards we’re putting into effect are essential for the millions of consumers who rely on Energy Star products to help save energy, money and the environment,” she said.

The EPA added that the approval process would be further tightened at the end of the year when new rules will be introduced requiring all manufacturers to submit test results from an approved, accredited lab for any product seeking the Energy Star label.

However, it remains to be seen if the crack down will help restore the scheme’s badly bruised credibility.

The Energy Star scheme covers a huge range of products, including white goods, computers and building materials, and is meant to promote products that are between 10 and 25 per cent more efficient than minimum federal standards.

But it has been widely criticized over the years for failing to adequately police the scheme and update standards as technologies improve – a scenario that in some cases has seen Energy Star labels carried by virtually every product in a market.

The EPA launched a crack down on products that should not be carrying the label at the start of the year, claiming its first victim when LG was ordered to stop using the label on a number of fridges that failed to meet required energy efficiency standards in independent tests.

But the reforms did not come quick enough to halt the latest embarrassing revelations and the EPA is likely to require much more widespread testing if it wants to restore confidence in the scheme.


Google Leads Coalition Urging Obama To Support Universal Smart Meters

This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen.com, and is reprinted with permission.

April 6, 2010 – James Murray, BusinessGreen.com – A group of over 45 energy, investment and IT firms, as well as a number of green NGOs have joined forces this week to call on US president Barack Obama to explicitly support the roll out of advanced smart meter technologies for every household and business in the US.

In an open letter to the president orchestrated by the Climate Group and backed by a host of big name technology and energy firms, such as Google, AT &T, Intel, GE, HP and Verizon, the coalition asks the administration to ” adopt the goal of giving every household and business access to timely, useful and actionable information on their energy use”.

“By giving people the ability to monitor and manage their energy consumption, for instance, via their computers, phones or other devices, we can unleash the forces of innovation in homes and businesses,” states the letter. “At the same time, we can harness the power of millions of people to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and save consumers billions of dollars.”

Specifically, the group recommends that the administration launch a White House-led research programme to work out the best way of providing consumers and businesses with energy use information, while establishing effective privacy rules.

It also called for the administration to direct federal agencies to ensure that the availability of energy data forms part of a wide range of existing low carbon and energy projects, such as Obama’s home weatherisation, energy efficiency grants, appliance standards, home and commercial building programs, and clean tech R&D funding programmes.

The group added that there was a strong commercial case for supporting the roll out of smart meters and smart appliances capable of automatically turning off when not in use, noting that studies have shown they can help to cut household energy use by around 15 per cent.

Writing on Google’s official blog, the company’s Energy Policy Counsel Michael Terrell said that the group, which hosted its first event in Washington DC yesterday, would now work together to develop policy proposals that could help improve the availability of energy use data.

Most of the companies signed up to the group have a vested interest in the development of new smart meter and smart appliance technologies, with Google, for example, investing heavily in its recently launched PowerMeter online toolset.

The Obama administration has repeatedly signaled its support for smart grid technologies, earmarking large chunks of the stimulus package for investment in large-scale smart grid trials. However, the president has stopped short of emulating a number of European governments by setting a target date for the universal roll out of smart meters.

Jubbling’s Take: Having real-time access to your homes energy consumption is the equivalent of having a speedometer in your car. We consider this a Jubbling no-brainer.