Day: June 19, 2013

EPA Recognizes Students for Sustainable Environmental Solutions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that seven university and college teams received the coveted P3 Award for their innovative solutions to some of today’s toughest public health and environmental challenges.

EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award competition was held at the 9th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo. Each award winning team qualifies to receive a grant of up to $90,000 to further develop their design and potentially bring it to the marketplace. Previous P3 award winners have started successful businesses and are globally marketing their technologies.

“This competition plays an important role in inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers to better understand, and through innovation and ingenuity more effectively solve, our world’s complex environmental problems,” said Lek Kadeli, principal deputy administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The P3 program gives this nation’s students the opportunity to apply their creative ideas to real world situations and protect our nation’s environment in a more sustainable fashion.”

Winners of this year’s awards are:

Loyola University of Chicago for developing a greener way, through a wetland and a distillation process, to treat and reuse byproducts of biodiesel.

University of Massachusetts Lowell for creating nontoxic, biodegradable surfactants from fruit peels and algae, and seeing how they are effective.

Radford University for designing a naturally-occurring coating that would allow sand to absorb water pollutants, such as arsenic and cadmium.

San Jose State University for using saw dust instead of plastic to create inexpensive building materials, customized for local climates, with 3D printer technology.

Georgia Southern University for further innovating the Low Temperature Combustion diesel engine, to operate on locally sourced n-buthanol and cottonseed oil; thus designing a diesel engine that could create even lower NOx and soot emissions.

Cornell University for designing a simple, low-cost, lower-maintenance water filtration device for Honduras communities, using a stacked-rapid sand filter.

Cornell University for evaluating and improving cookstove fuel resources in Kenyan communities, by burning solid fuel without oxygen, which can create biochar for soil enrichment.

This year’s competition featured approximately 300 student innovators showcasing their sustainable projects designed to protect people’s health, the environment, encourage economic growth, and use natural resources more efficiently. A panel of expert judges convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science recommended the winners out of 45 teams following two days of judging. The teams that competed this year proposed potential solutions to worldwide environmental problems including in many developing countries.

Every year, the National Sustainable Design Expo features EPA’s P3 competition and also highlights other sustainable initiatives, programs, and technologies developed and implemented by nonprofit organizations, government, and state agencies. This year’s expo was co-sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers and Engineers without Borders, USA.


Subsidies: The Opposite Effect

Read the full story in Water Efficiency.

It’s the persona non grata…the elephant in the room…the “he who shall not be named.”

It’s agricultural water use, and many water efficiency professionals know that when it comes to water resources management, the water that goes to the fields and the orchards is often off limits and out of bounds. And because many farmers find themselves in a “use-it-or-lose-it” allocation system, concerted water conservation and water efficiency is often hard to implement or sustain within the realm of ag irrigation.

Sometimes, the biggest culprit is the infamous farm subsidy. In a recent article for the New York Times journalist Ron Nixon reports that, more often than not, farm subsides often lead to increased water use. Historically, farm subsidies have incentivized the irrigation of larger and larger tracts of land, but even the most recent incarnation of the subsidy have—perhaps inadvertently—led to increased agricultural water use.

Pregnant Pause

Read the full story at Ensia.

A deluge of prenatal advice offers unexpected insights into climate denial.

Food Rethought

Read the full story at Ensia.

How farmers, the food industry and the rest of us can invest in a sustainable future.

Energy Department Announces New Investments to Drive Cost-Competitive Next Generation Efficient Lighting

Building on his strong focus on energy efficiency in his first few days in office, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced today five manufacturing research and development projects to support energy efficient lighting products. The projects will focus on reducing manufacturing costs, while continuing to improve the quality and performance of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). Today’s LED lighting is six or seven times more efficient than conventional lighting and can last up to 25 times longer. The Energy Department’s $10 million investment is matched dollar for dollar by private sector funding.

“This partnership with industry to produce affordable, efficient lighting will save consumers money and create American jobs,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “It’s another example of how energy efficiency is a win-win proposition for our economy.”

According to a new report by the Energy Department, LED lamps and fixtures installed in the United States have increased 10-fold over the last 2 years – from 4.5 million units in 2010 to 49 million units in 2012.  These installations, which include common indoor and outdoor applications such as recessed lighting and streetlights, are expected to save about $675 million in annual energy costs. During the same period, the cost of an LED replacement bulb has fallen by about 54 percent. Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs and reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50 percent. By 2030, LED lighting is projected to represent about 75 percent of all lighting sales, saving enough energy to power approximately 26 million U.S. households.

Still, while life-cycle costs are attractive, the initial price of LED and OLED lighting is currently higher than the price of traditional lighting. The projects announced today will help achieve significant cost reductions in manufacturing equipment and processes, while improving lighting quality and performance:

Cree Inc. (Durham, NC; $2.3 million DOE investment) – This project will develop a modular design for LED lights that can link together multiple units to fit larger areas. The design will also use less raw material, reducing manufacturing costs while ensuring high lighting quality and efficiency. Cree’s approach will design and manufacture the different components of an LED fixture — including electrical, mechanical and optical systems – as one, seamless product, helping to further reduce assembly costs and ensure strong performance.

Eaton Corporation (Menomonee Falls, WI; $2.4 million DOE investment) – The Eaton project will develop an innovative manufacturing process that streamlines the LED fixture design and removes unnecessary materials and parts. With this approach, the LED chip can sit directly on the heatsink, improving heat transfer within the design and increasing LED efficiency.

OLEDWorks, LLC (Rochester, NY; $1 million DOE investment) – Organic LEDs, or OLEDs, are typically assembled through transfer or screen printing. The OLEDWorks project will develop and demonstrate new spray printing equipment that reduces overall manufacturing costs and could help support cost-competitive mass production. This technique will give manufacturers greater spray control to take full advantage of expensive organic materials and maximize the visible light produced from this material.

Philips Lumileds (San Jose, CA; $1.8 million DOE investment) – Most LEDs are grown on a sapphire substrate. Through this project, Philip Lumileds will develop an alternative to the standard flip-chip device that grows an LED face-down on the sapphire substrate. Before light can shine through, this substrate must be carefully etched off the device. The Philips Lumileds device will treat the sapphire substrate so that removing the substrate is not necessary – reducing manufacturing costs without compromising lighting quality.

PPG Industries, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA; $2.3 million investment) – Organic LEDs are typically printed on a high-quality glass substrate and then attached to various conductive layers. The PPG Industries project will develop a cost-effective manufacturing process to help commercialize an integrated substrate that includes the glass foundation as well as the other necessary layers. The project will also use standard grade glass, lowering costs while maintaining performance. Commercially-available and low-cost integrated substrates will help build a reliable, high-quality supply chain for this emerging industry.

The announcement made today represents the fourth round of Energy Department investments in solid-state lighting manufacturing projects since 2010 and supports broader Department efforts to accelerate domestic manufacturing and technical leadership in energy efficient technologies, helping to create jobs, boost exports and strengthen America’s role as a global leader in the clean energy race.

Find more information about the energy efficient lighting manufacturing awards made today and learn more at

Driving for $1.14 Per Gallon

The Energy Department today launched the eGallon – a quick and simple way for consumers to compare the costs of fueling electric vehicles vs. driving on gasoline.  Today’s national average eGallon price is about $1.14, meaning that a typical electric vehicle could travel as far on $1.14 worth of electricity as a similar vehicle could travel on a gallon of gasoline.

“Consumers can see gasoline prices posted at the corner gas station, but are left in the dark on the cost of fueling an electric vehicle. The eGallon will bring greater transparency to vehicle operating costs, and help drivers figure out how much they might save on fuel by choosing an electric vehicle.  It also shows the low and steady price of fueling with electricity,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.  “Not only can electric vehicles save consumers on fuel and reduce our dependence on oil, they also represent an opportunity for America to lead in a growing, global manufacturing industry.”

On, consumers can see the latest eGallon price for their state and compare it to the price of gasoline.  Over time, consumers will notice that the eGallon price will be far more stable and predictable than gasoline prices.  That’s because the eGallon price depends on electricity prices, which historically are very stable; gasoline prices depend on the global oil market, which can be very unstable and are often influenced by unpredictable international events.

The eGallon provides a metric that is easily comparable to the traditional gallon of unleaded fuel. That comparison is made by calculating how much it would cost to drive an electric vehicle the same distance as a similar conventional vehicle could travel on a gallon of gasoline. For example, if gasoline costs $3.60 per gallon in your state and the eGallon price for your state is $1.20, that means that for $1.20 worth of electricity you can drive the same distance as you could for $3.60 worth of gasoline.  The eGallon price varies from state to state based on the price of electricity.

In just the last couple years, significant cost reductions and improvements in vehicle performance have had a dramatic impact on the U.S. automotive market.   Sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) in the U.S. tripled in 2012, with more than 50,000 cars sold.  Sales are growing significantly again in 2013.  Last year, the Chevy Volt PEV topped Consumer Reports’ annual owner-satisfaction survey for the second straight year, while the Tesla Model S was awarded the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year.

Does Energy Benchmarking Actually Lead to More Efficient Buildings?

Read the full story in Governing.

Cities across the country require commercial buildings to track and publicize their energy and water use in an effort to reduce it. A recent report, however, suggests it may not be working.

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