Day: February 1, 2013

One in, two out: Simulating more efficient solar cells

Read the full story from the University of California-Davis.

Using an exotic form of silicon could substantially improve the efficiency of solar cells, according to computer simulations by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and in Hungary. The work was published Jan. 25 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Contractors See Growth in Green Schools Market

Read the full story in Engineering News-Record.

Research recently conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction among contractors working on school projects demonstrates strong growth in green education projects. To qualify for the study, contractors had to have completed new construction or major renovation or improvement projects at K–12 schools or higher-education institutions.

RinkWatch: How backyard skaters are monitoring climate change

Read the full story at Mother Nature Network.

People in Canada and some northern U.S. states have a long tradition of turning their backyards and parks into homemade ice-skating rinks, where everyone can skate or play hockey to their heart’s content. But how will these homemade rinks fare in a warming world? Will people need to adopt new methods to build their rinks, or will they even be possible?
A new website called RinkWatch aims to answer some of these questions — eventually. Created by geographers from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, RinkWatch asks citizen scientists and rink aficionados to record data about their backyard rinks. The information — including data points such as the date the rink is first flooded and the number of weeks that the ice is good enough for skating — will be used to track the progression of climate change in the coming years.

Corn Cobs On Deck for Cellulosic Feedstock

Read the full story in Agricultural Research.

When energy officials proposed using crop residues to produce cellulosic ethanol, concerned soil scientists took to the fields to learn more about how these residues protect soil from erosion and enhance soil quality. Agricultural Research Service soil scientist Brian Wienhold focused on a single component of residue—the corncob.

Energy Department Announces New SunShot Projects to Harness the Power of Big Data

As part of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, the Department today announced seven data-driven projects to unearth new opportunities for reducing costs and accelerating solar energy deployment in the United States. These projects—located in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas—will result in viable methods for dramatically transforming the operations of solar researchers, manufacturers, developers, installers, and policymakers, and speed the commercialization and deployment of affordable, clean solar energy.

“Through powerful analytical tools developed by our nation’s top universities and national labs, we can gain unparalleled insight into solar deployment that will help lower the cost of solar power and create new businesses and jobs,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Projects like these will help accelerate technological and financing innovations—making it easier for American families and businesses to access clean, affordable energy.”

The Energy Department will invest about $9 million across the seven projects announced today. These efforts will help scientists, project developers, installers, and communities work together to discover previously unexplored ways to improve solar cell efficiency, reduce costs, and streamline installation processes.

Harnessing Real-World Data to Solve Industry Challenges

As part of the investment announced today, the Energy Department will provide $7 million to research teams led by Sandia National Laboratories, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Yale University and the University of Texas–Austin. These teams will partner with public and private financial institutions, utilities, and state agencies to apply statistical and computational tools to industry problem-solving and lead regional pilot projects across the country to test the impact and scalability of their innovations.

For example, Yale University researchers will partner with SmartPower’s New England Solar Challenge to design and implement innovative strategies that can increase the effectiveness of community-led bulk solar purchase programs. The team from the University of Texas–Austin will work with complex datasets from six Texas utilities to better understand customer needs and identify opportunities to streamline installation and interconnection. Similarly, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, will lead another project with Clean Power Finance to develop a computational model that will analyze data from over 1,300 solar installation companies to establish new types of community- and regional-scale financing structures.

Charting Market Evolution and Technology Innovation

Additionally, the Energy Department is investing $2 million across three projects led by the University of North Carolina–Charlotte, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and SRI International to analyze decades’ of scientific publications, patents and cost and production data. Through these projects, researchers will be able to obtain a complete picture on the U.S. solar industry, discover methods to accelerate technological breakthroughs, and remove roadblocks to greater cost reduction.

Based in Menlo Park, California, SRI International will develop advanced software that reads and analyzes thousands of scientific publications and patents to discover new ways to speed solar energy technology innovation and commercialization. Meanwhile, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina–Charlotte will apply computational tools to patent, cost, and production data to speed up solar technology cost reductions and better forecast future cost reductions for new energy technologies.

The seven projects announced today will provide new insights that could dramatically accelerate the commercialization of affordable, reliable clean energy technologies. See the full list of projects.

Unity College Makes Climate Change Central Focus

Read the full story from Unity College.

Many institutions of higher education in the United States offer environmental majors.  Additionally, some are also focused on sustainability.  Now one college has tied every aspect of its curriculum to the mitigation of global climate change.

Warmer Soils Release Additional CO2 Into Atmosphere

Read the full story from the University of New Hampshire.

Warmer temperatures due to climate change could cause soils to release additional carbon into the atmosphere, thereby enhancing climate change – but that effect diminishes over the long term, finds a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study, from University of New Hampshire professor Serita Frey and co-authors from the University of California-Davis and the Marine Biological Laboratory, sheds new light on how soil microorganisms respond to temperature and could improve predictions of how climate warming will affect the carbon dioxide flux from soils.