Electric plane wins $1.35 million prize

Electric plane wins $1.35 million prize

The Pipistrel USA Taurus G4, a four-seat, twin-fuselage aircraft, earned the $1.35 million first prize from NASA.

A Pennsylvania company has won a $1.35 million prize from NASA for developing a highly efficient airplane power by electricity.

Pipistrel-USA.com of State College earned the top prize in the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, NASA announced Monday.

The plane developed by Pipistrel doubled the fuel efficiency requirement for the competition flying 200 miles in less than two hours while using less than a gallon of fuel per occupant or the equivalent in electricity. The winning plane used a little more than a half-gallon of fuel per passenger for the 200-mile flight.

Team Pipistrel-USA.com was one of 14 entrants in the competition, which began two years ago. In total, the 14 teams invested $4 million in the competition, according to NASA.

“Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction,” Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com, said in statement. “Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.”

Second place, and a $120,000 prize, went to Team eGenius of Ramona, California, whose leader, Eric Raymond, congratulated Team Pipistrel.

The winning aircraft, the Pipistrel Taurus G4, is a four-seat, twin-fuselage aircraft powered by a 145-kilowatt brushless electric motor driving a two-blade propeller mounted on a spar between the fuselages. The plane’s wingspan is about 75 feet.

“I’m proud that Pipistrel won. They’ve been a leader in getting these things into production, and the team really deserves it, and worked hard to win this prize,” Raymond said in a NASA statement.

“Electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice,” Joe Parrish, acting chief technologist at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.

The planes flew last week out of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in California. Only three of the 14 entrants made it into the air, according to The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. The airport is home to the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency Foundation, which organized the competition with NASA.

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Osama was in Pakistan and Other “Secrets”

Cleantech’s Quiet Vindication

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Osama was in Pakistan and Other “Secrets”

By Nick Hodge
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Still belittled by the bullies of Internet forums and politicians with other, shall we say, allegiances, renewable energy has yet to be fully appreciated in the United States.

I needed only look at the first page of the comments we get on this website to find the epitome of this sentiment:

Solar power generators will never return the energy that goes into manufacturing and constructing them. It is a con. EAC Reader

The comment was in response to Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) $168 million investment in BrightSource Energy’s 392 MW solar installation in the Mojave Desert. It’s the same project in which NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) invested $300 million last year.

So, thanks for your comment, EAC Reader…

But given Google’s $174 billion market cap, 400% share price appreciation since IPO, utter dominance of the search and online ad market, and NRG’s status as a stalwart utility with 13,820 MW under management in three countries…

I’m going to go ahead and say they did a robust evaluation of energy returned on energy invested (EROI), as well as a thorough calculation of capital and tax expenses and returns.

Comments like those — and the camp of people who ascribe to them — are the energy industry’s equivalent of the “birther” movement.

On a national level, these Trump-esque comments are keeping us from an honest discussion of real energy issues.

I suspect they’re keeping more than a few naïve investors from making smart investment decisions as well.

Open Secrets

Every now and then, something is so obvious that it’s anticlimactic when confirmed.

Mobile devices are tracking us. Shocker.

Osama was in Pakistan. Who knew?

Similarly, the rise of cleantech is an open secret.

Just as we publicly play nice with Pakistan while executing covert military actions inside its borders, dominant energy industries have publicly disputed cleantech’s viability and necessity while simultaneously trying to get a piece of its future profits.

As with most open secrets, the evidence is ample. One need only look at Exxon’s association with anti-climate change and renewable research through donations and partnerships with groups like the Cato Institute and the Institute for Energy Research at the same it’s investing heavily in biofuels research.

The mission of those mentioned groups is clear: To further the business agenda of fossil fuels.

And the business agenda is also clear: Leach every last dollar from a fossil fuel industry in terminal decline, while publicly decrying cleantech’s viability so they have enough time to invest in that, too.

The most expensive sunglasses in the world shouldn’t shade you from this hypocrisy.

Future So Bright

I mentioned over the weekend and Jeff elaborated yesterday on Total’s (NYSE: TOT) $1.38 billion investment to acquire 60% of SunPower’s (NASDAQ: SPWRA) shares.

This was largest investment in a solar company by an independent oil company to date. What’s more, Total paid a 44% premium for its shares of SunPower — $23.25 per share versus the prior day’s closing price of $16.22.

The significance of this event should not go unnoticed. It means:

  1. Major oil companies are ready to invest in renewable in a big way;
  2. They’re willing to pay a premium to get into the market.

Unless you’re like that EAC reader above — whose ideological and political preferences have clouded his judgment so much, he believes the world’s biggest companies are investing in a fruitless technology — you should be interested in getting into this market as well.

I’ll turn once again to two of my favorite charts. And I challenge anyone to find an industry with a more prosperous outlook:

Global Installed Solar Capacity 2000-2020

That’s 393% forecast growth for solar installations.

Global Installed Wind Capacity 2000-2020

And 217% forecast growth for wind installations…

This at a time when the global consensus seems to be oil reserves are a finite and declining resource.

Rest assured, the incumbent energy establishment does itself no favors by talking up the credentials of renewable energy. It knows renewable energy is the way of the future, but it also knows maximum profits can only be had by using fossil fuels as long as possible.

Sooner or later, they’re going to have to make a play for the future. Total tipped off the game last week.

It was no secret Osama was in Pakistan. It was no secret Apple and Google were tracking users.

It’s no secret that oil companies will invest billions in clean energy companies…

And they’ll deny they’re investing in companies like this even as they do it.

Call it like you see it,

Nick Hodge

Nick Hodge
Editor, Energy and Capital

Memphis included in electric vehicle project

Memphis included in electric vehicle project
By Daniel Connolly, Wayne Risher
Posted February 22, 2011 at 11:43 a.m.

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Officials announced today that Memphis will be included in the EV Project, which will establish a network of commercial and residential vehicle charging stations in the state to prepare for electric vehicles.

Today’s announcement at The Peabody follows reports that West Tennessee had been cut out of the demonstration project. It’s unclear what changed, but a conference to encourage local businesses to have charging stations installed at their sites was ongoing this morning.

“There’s no reason why Memphis cannot lead the way in this effort,” Mayor A C Wharton said to those gathered.

Jerry Collins Jr., head of Memphis Light, Gas and Water, cited this month’s upheaval in the Middle East as an example of why the U.S. needs to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. He said the new Blink charging stations would be installed by September of this year.

The EV Project, managed by ECOtality, is working on establishing a network of 15,000 commercial and residential vehicle charging stations in 17 cities in six states. Blink is a trademarked brand of charging stations.

Memphis officials cried foul last year when they learned the project covered Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga, but not West and Northeast Tennessee.

The company on Friday announced informational forums in Memphis today, Knoxville on Thursday, Chattanooga on March 22, and Nashville on March 25.

Project partners include Nissan North America, which is building the plug-in electric Leaf at its Smyrna plant, the state of Tennessee, TVA and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The Department of Energy has provided $114.8 million in federal stimulus grants for the project, and private investment is expected to bring the total to $230 million.

Solar goes Hyper in the U.S.

Solar goes Hyper in the U.S.

Wed, Feb 09 2011 at 3:08 PM EST
read the original article here

HyperSolar magnifying film can increase solar panel efficiency by up to 300%, making solar competitive with fossil fuels.

As the U.S. government continues to heap billions in subsidies to the world’s wealthiest coal and oil companies, the solar industry has been struggling to make it in the United States. This is sad for many reasons, not the least of which is that we’re missing out on one of the biggest growth industries in the world.

Currently there are 16 gigawatts of installed solar power globally. That number will grow to about 1,800 gigawatts in the next 20 years, making it one of the best job creators. U.S. engineers invented the solar panel, and the U.S. should be dominating that market. Instead, foreign manufacturers (particularly in China) have taken our IP and run with it, as we become increasingly dependent on foreign oil and dirty coal operations to meet our power needs.

Fortunately HyperSolar, a new U.S. company, offers a ray of sunny hope on the clean energy frontier.

The company does not manufacture solar panels. It makes them ultra-efficient using a field of science called photonics. Similar to a microchip that moves individual bits of data around at hyperspeed, HyperSolar’s thin magnifying film routes and separates specific light spectrums, delivering them exactly where they’re needed to make an array of PV solar cells ultra-efficient.

I saw an early prototype for such a magnifying optical layer a few years back, but the company was “dark” at the time, so I couldn’t write about the innovation. But I’m as excited now as I was then for good reason — HyperSolar’s optical layer can increase PV efficiency by up to 300 percent!

Theoretically that means cutting the installation cost of a solar array in half. Instead of a home solar system costing $30,000 (or more) it would only cost $15,000 (or less), making the upfront investment much lower and payback periods much quicker.

This is a great example of a disruptive technology that could get us to the holy grail of “grid parity” — meaning that solar would be as affordable as other sources of energy like coal and natural gas. And no more polluting coal mines or fracking for natural gas! The sun (for at least the next 5 billion years) will provide free and abundant energy. It’s up to us whether we want to invest in that technology or continue to destroy our beautiful landscapes for a few more years of “cheap” (i.e. heavily subsidized) coal.

Innovations like this make several recent reports ring true. If we have the political will to overcome the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry on our nation’s energy policy, we could become 100 percent renewably powered in a 2030-2050 time frame.

Check out these two reports and a new study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) about how large-scale wind power is now cost-competitive with natural gas:

So, what do you think? Can we kick the fossil fuel habit?

The Bloom Box: A New Way of Powering The Planet

‘This Is Brand New’
The CEO of Bloom Energy on a new way of powering the planet.

Paul Sakuma / AP
Click here to read the original article

Bloom Energy CEO K.R. Sridhar displays a stack of his company’s fuel cells at a news conference.
K. R. Sridhar spent years building technologies for NASA that could sustain life on Mars. Now, as CEO of Bloom Energy, he’s trying to perfect a device that could improve life on Earth. His company builds fuel cells—small power plants, essentially, that can power anything from a single home to a whole city. NEWSWEEK International editor Fareed Zakaria spoke with him about these “Bloom boxes,” which convert gas, biomass, and other fuels into electricity.


Tell me about your transition from working on the Mars mission to this.

It became obvious to me that on Mars, if you give me a few molecules of oxygen, I can create everything else human beings need: fuel, heat, electricity, plastic, food, water. So I started looking for someplace where I can make an impact in a realistic time frame, as opposed to something far in the future. It dawned on me that if we don’t solve the energy issue, we will have significant problems.

Why is Bloom so important in terms of the future of energy?

Look at what distributive computing did to computing. We wouldn’t have millions of software engineers if computing relied purely on mainframe computers hooked up to dumb terminals. Why? Too expensive. Access is limited to the privileged. Distributive power is real democracy.

So this is really a big bet on the power of decentralization?

Absolutely. If you go to Google or Microsoft or Amazon, they all have huge data centers. Inside, there are actually small servers ganged up in groups of hundreds and thousands. Our fuel cells are exactly the same thing. I can cluster our energy servers and build an energy farm. Or I can take the same technology to a little village and create a microgrid.

But you still need to get the fuel from a centralized source.

That is true today. But the same technology I am using today to turn chemical energy, like natural gas, into electrons, can be used with an intermittent source, like solar or wind.

But don’t you need to then store the energy somewhere?

Think of it as being able to spin in two directions. In one direction, I take the solar energy during the day, and I break water up into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is stored locally in very low-pressure bladders. And at night, when the sun stops shining, you take this hydrogen, run it through the fuel cells, and produce electricity.

How can you ever be more efficient than a big power plant?

The question to ask is, in a traditional power plant, is there a Moore’s law kind of learning that can happen? The answer is no. There are 100 years of history associated with that [technology]. Whereas we have shown in the last five years that, every year, we are able to improve upon the physics and the chemistry to get more value out of the same material that we put in.

And because you can distribute fuel cells everywhere, you don’t lose much due to long transmission lines?

That is absolutely true. Also, in a fuel cell you are going from chemical energy directly to electrical energy, with no in-between steps. In the other forms of electricity generation, whether it is coal or gas, you burn the fuel first. And the laws of thermodynamics say that if you convert energy from one form to another, you will have losses.

Your capital cost is high, something like $7 or $8 per watt.

Right now we are only economical with subsidies.

Why do you think this will be viable without subsidies in the future?

If I build a large automobile plant, and I have just put out the 30th car, do you expect me to be profitable? Ask anybody in manufacturing: for every doubling in volume, you will see a 10 to 15 percent reduction in cost.

How long before you scale to the point where you can have a transformative effect?

Within this decade we’ll be a significant player in this field. That’s a very short time frame, if you think about the market and how static it has been. We are not just creating a company—we are creating an ecosystem. There is no supply chain right now. This is brand new.

What do you think the world of energy will look like in 10 years?

Energy is the capacity to do work. We’ve got 2 billion starving people on this planet, and they want to climb the economic ladder. Without creating significantly more energy than we consume today, we’ll face the threat of social and political unrest. But I’m an optimist; I see this as the biggest opportunity.


Bloom Energy in the News