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Cleantech news you might have missed: 23 Jan. 2009

newspapersFollowing are some of the top headlines yesterday from the world of cleantech:

  • Technology developed at the University of Chicago might soon land in the marketplace in the form of a new and more efficient plastic solar cell for portable electronics. Solarmer Energy Inc. says it expects to have a commercial-grade prototype ready later this year. The eight-square-inch (50 square centimeters) plastic cell has an efficiency of 8 percent — compared to the current industry average of 5 to 6 percent — and a three-year lifetime.
  • How small can you make a working fuel cell? Chemical engineers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have developed a cell that’s just 3 millimeters across. The design dispenses with some of the energy-consuming features of typical fuel cells — pumps, pressure sensors and electronics — in favor of a simple, four-component structure: a water reservoir, a chamber of metal hydride, a thin membrane that separates the two and a set of electrodes below the hydride chamber.
  • Lots are now available in Toyota Smile Life Inc.’s new residential community, Azabu no Oka. The development, which will eventually feature 204 homes, will have all-LED outdoor lighting as well as interior LED lights … and an energy consumption footprint for lighting that’s 75 percent less than standard developments.
  • For the first time ever, the US in 2007 saw more new energy come from renewable sources than traditional ones. In its “Electric Power Industry 2007: Year in Review,” the US Energy Information Administration reported that the total net capacity of renewable energy in the peak summer months increased by 8,673 megawatts last year, with wine energy accounting for the bulk of the increase (5,186 megawatts).
  • Define irony. How about finding that the new supercomputer you’ve just acquired to study climate change in the UK is itself a massive source of greenhouse gases? RedOrbit reports that the Met Office’s new IBM supercomputer, set to begin its number-crunching later this year, is expected to generate some 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually … 4,000 tonnes more than the office’s current computer. Don’t despair, though: Alan Dickinson, the Met Office’s director of science, says the new computer’s brainpower will more than offset its footprint with the mitigation measures it will be capable of conjuring up for other industries.
  • The BBC reports that Sainsbury’s is “fast-tracking” a plan to divert all food waste from its 28 Scottish stores to a biomass plant rather than to landfills. Those stores now generate some 42 tonnes of food waste each week, and each tonne turned into biofuel is expected to produce enough electricity for 500 homes, according to Alison Austin, the company’s environment manager. Sainsbury’s plans to enact similar measures for all its UK stores by this summer.

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