Archive for April, 2011

What’s next in Hybrid photovoltaic cells?

What’s next in Hybrid photovoltaic cells?

Posted 28 April 2011, by Dattatreya Mandal, Eco Friend,

As we know it:
Hybrid photovoltaic cells can basically be described as a composite of organic materials that consist of conjugated polymers, and inorganic materials (mainly CdSe, ZnO, TiO, and PbS). The function of the polymers is to absorb light as the donor and transport holes (an electron hole is the conceptual and mathematical opposite of an electron). Whereas the inorganic materials in the cell, are used as the acceptor and electron transporter in the structure. The culminating process generates a hole-electron pair on effect of sunlight, which is separated by a potential barrier (such as p-n junction), and hence manages to induce a current flow for production of clean electricity.

Hybrid solar cells have various advantages, especially in relation to their potential for being cost effective. Moreover, some of them incorporate both the PV and Thermal elements onto a single panel, for a photovoltaic thermal (or PV-T) collector. This in turn enables them to mitigate the heat for constant generation of electricity (conventional PV panels typically lose efficiency of up to 0.5 percent per Kelvin degree rise in panel temperature), and also allows for reduced roof space for the total solar installation.

Need for change:
Since their inception, solar cells have been complex and costly to produce. Now hybrid solar cells can provide a solution for the above problems, but on the other hand their relatively low efficiency hasn’t still made them commercially viable. For example, statistically – silicon photodevices have power conversion efficiencies greater of than 20 percent, which is almost 9 times more than the 2.4 percent of the CdSe-PPV system. Other challenges include decaying of carbon nanotube particles (overtime in oxygen), or leakage in the case of liquid organic electrolytes.

What’s Next?

1. Fujitsu’s New Solar Cells Also Harvest Body Heat:

What’s new?
In a fascinating turn of events, the Japanese company Fujitsu has managed to contrive an advanced hybrid solar cell that can not only harness power from indoor lighting system, but also from our body heat. All animals have the ability of thermo-regulation, which biologically keeps their inner body’s temperature intact. This ‘insulated’ heat can be utilized by these solar cells to generate short spurts of electricity.

What difference will it make?
The technology basically utilizes human body as a battery for energy source. So while we are at outdoors, or on a hike, and have a sudden fascination for chatting over our mobiles phones or listening to music; these small devices can be juiced up by our very own body energy, without the need for any electric outlet. A timid version of The Matrix; we must say!

2. Prism Solar develops hybrid solar module:

What’s new?
A new technology named as the Holographic Planar Concentrator™ (HPC) developed by Prism Solar, allows the reduction of silicon required to generate the same amount of energy (in comparison to a conventional solar panel). The hybrid composite material used in the system consists of a unique holographic thin-film coupled with crystalline PV. The thin films actually accentuate upon the diffraction caused by direct and reflected light incident on the PV cell strips.

What difference will it make?
According to the company, these bi-facial modules can generate as much as 30 percent more energy, as the thin-film receives light from both directions. Moreover, the technology can be cost effective in the long run, because of greater volume of electricity produced in the same amount of space.

3. Hybrid Photovoltaic Solar-Thermal Collector:

What’s new?
Turkish company, Solimpeks Corp. have come up with their revolutionary Volther hybrid photovoltaic-solar thermal collector, which can dually generate electricity and hot water. Basically the contraption amalgamates a hybrid PV and solar thermal collector, which in turns allows the PV cells to be cooled by the water flowing around them. The result is a much greater electrical output from the cells and also the production of hot water.

What difference will it make?
Again the whole system is cost effective and requires less space than conventional systems. This is in part because of its duality of function (acting as solar power generating panels as well as solar heater). Moreover because of their characteristic of mitigating heat, the PVs are expected to last a longer life.

4. Argonne touts hybrid PV cell with “homegrown” polymer:

What’s New?
US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Labs have contrived the ultimately exclusive yet convenient form of solar technology, by literally ‘growing’ polymers inside tubes of semiconducting material. The on site fabrication or rather polymerization (By UV method) in this case is done by introducing polythiophene inside Titanium Oxide (TiO2) nanotubes.

What difference will it make?
According to scientists, the efficiency can be 10 times better than hybrid panels infused with premade polymer. But the most important factor would be the substantial reduction of cost in this manufacturing technique.

US’s largest rooftop solar panel project to generate 5 million kwh annually

US’s largest rooftop solar panel project to generate 5 million kwh annually

Posted 30 April 2011, byNiddi Mishrra, EcoFriend,

New Jersey-based industrial and commercial real estate company Avidan Management has revealed a solar panel roof mounted system in Edison, which is being stated as the largest of its kind in the US. Officials from Avidan Management were joined by federal, state and local authorities in welcoming the newly completed 4.26-megawatt solar panel system established on the roof of the company’s distribution facility situated on 145 Talmadge Road in Edison.

The roof of the Avidan distribution unit spreads over a total area of 656,255 square feet (60, 968 square meters). The last few months saw the installation of 17,745 solar panels on this roof.

The project is slated to generate a total of 5 million kWh of electricity annually. The energy generated by these panels will serve about 50% of the needs of the multiple tenants housed in this building. The facility is also used as an office space and a storage for dry goods and frozen food products. The electricity generated by the solar panel system will be sold to the tenants of the 145 Talmadge Road at a substantially reduced rate under the Power Purchase Agreement arrangement.

An approximate of 3,750 tons of carbon emissions will be reduced per year with this system coming into effect. The functions of the system over its lifetime can be measured equaling the plantation of about 3.5 million trees.

The design and installation of this project was conducted by Solar Nation and Oregon-based SolarWorld manufactured the panels for this project. The installation was financed by the Investors Savings Bank. As part of the federal Recovery Act, Avidan is now eligible to apply for a grant that will pay back a part of the cost of the installation. Avidan Management also undertook a revamp of the facility’s lighting system, which has been upgraded to energy-efficient standards.

A fresh view of lawn and garden

A fresh view of lawn and garden

Classes give seniors new yard-care ideas

Posted 26 April 2011, byDorene Weinstein,,

Shirley Sholten learned everything she knows about gardening from her mom.

But she’s ready to try something different.

“I want to know the best carrots to plant or about heirloom tomatoes. I’m ready to gain some expertise,” says the rural Montrose woman, who raises a wide range of fruits and vegetables from sweet corn and arugula to watermelon and cantaloupe.

Next month, she’ll start a series of four classes offered through Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing all kinds of educational opportunities geared to people age 50 and older.

Classes will cover vegetable gardening, backyard sustainability, low-input lawn care and edible landscaping.

This year’s classes will be held at the Minnehaha County Extension Office for an hour and a half every Tuesday in May.

Chris Zdorovtsov, Extension educator in horticulture, will teach all the classes, approaching the topics with a broad outlook.

“I want it to be practical – teach things that they can do their own yard,” she says.

Backyard sustainability is a hot topic, and Zdorovtsov will explore the ways a homeowner can employ those methods. Yard care using sustainable practices saves money, she says. It puts less pollution into the environment and teaches healthy yard-care strategies.

She will talk about options such as making a rain barrel, putting in a rain garden and controlling pests.

Zdorovtsov will discuss various plant materials and introduce design principles, such as how to use color in your yard. “Some colors can make a landscape look smaller or larger,” she says.

Another focus will be on creating a natural landscape. Grouping plants in odd numbers and not planting in a straight line will give a more organic look to your design. “Just using two plants would look off-balance,” she says.

OLLI typically offers garden-related classes in the spring, says Eileen Butcher, secretary of the program director.

Students pay $50 for a semester or $130 for a year, which consists of three semesters. Students can take as many classes as they want during a single term, she says.

Reach reporter Dorene Weinstein at 331-2315.

How We Can Change Our Laws to Protect the Rights of Nature

Cormac Cullinan talks about his book “Wild Law,” and why we need a legal system that looks out for “the health and integrity of the whole system.”

Posted 26 April 2011, by Brianne Goodspeed, AlterNet,

On April 20, South African environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan took part in a dialogue at the United Nations alongside Vandana Shiva, Riane Eisler, Peter Brown, and Bolivian UN Ambassador Pablo Solón as part of the preparatory process for the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Cullinan, who led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth at the request of the Bolivian government last year, is the author of Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice, 2nd edition (Chelsea Green, 2011), which calls for an Earth-centric, rather than anthropocentric, approach to jurisprudence. Cullinan recently spoke with Chelsea Green’s Brianne Goodspeed about his work and the recently released second edition of Wild Law.

 Brianne Goodspeed: You write that your experience studying law in South Africa during apartheid meant that, right from the start of your legal career, you realized that the relationship between law and justice can be tenuous. How has that influenced your thinking about the relationship between law and the natural world?

Cormac Cullinan: It was clear that laws were one of the main instruments of oppression used by the minority white government, so as a law student in apartheid South Africa, I quickly realized that there’s not necessarily a connection between law and morality or between law and justice. Since I’m a white male, I wasn’t at the receiving end of this legislation until I became in active in anti-apartheid politics as a student and fully understood that so much of what I’d been taught by the society in which I grew up — and the values it espoused — was false and deeply harmful to humanity.

Being born a white South African at that time meant you were born into the class of the oppressors. By doing nothing, you became an accomplice to a crime against humanity. Young white South Africans who became involved in the struggle for democracy had to consciously re-educate ourselves. This left me with the understanding of how important it is to critically evaluate the values of society and how oppressive systems can be established and reinforced by laws which are portrayed as neutral.

That experience made it easier for me to see how law is also used to legitimize and perpetuate the exploitation of nature.

BG: Wild Law is an argument for “Earth Jurisprudence.” What does that mean?

CC: Earth jurisprudence is simply an approach to law and governance that takes the natural order of the cosmos into account and focuses on ensuring the health and integrity of the whole system, rather than being exclusively focused on human interests. It proposes that if we are to govern ourselves in a manner that enables us to participate fully in the Earth community, we need to align our governance systems with natural systems by ensuring, for example, that we keep pollution levels well within the ability of natural systems to absorb and neutralize pollutants. What I refer to as “wild laws” are laws that reflect this approach.

BG: How is wild law different than environmental law or animal rights? Can you give an example?

CC: Wild law is based on an Earth-centric perspective that sees maintaining the health and integrity of the whole Earth community as the best way to ensure the wellbeing of all members of that community, whereas environmental law is part of existing human-centered legal systems, which as a whole, permit environmental destruction provided that necessary authorizations are obtained. The animal rights approach is closer except that wild law doesn’t merely advocate the rights for animals, which would be an important step forward, but goes further and argues that if human beings have inherent human rights by virtue of our existence as humans, so too must all other aspects of the Earth.

EU takes UK to court over environmental law ‘failings’

EU takes UK to court over environmental law ‘failings’

Posted 28 April 2011, by Jonathan Rayner, Law Society Gazette,

The European Commission has referred the UK government to the European Court of Justice (pictured) over its failure to provide an affordable procedure for mounting legal challenges to development plans that might damage the environment.

The ECJ has the power to impose fines of up to €150,000 per day plus a lump sum of up to €20m for non-compliance with the Aarhus Convention on environmental law, which the UK ratified in 2005.

Under the convention, the UK agreed to provide an inexpensive means of challenging development plans.

However, the EC found that government proposals, which included a costs cap of £25,000 for individuals but no cap for environmental groups, which could be exposed to unlimited costs, were not compatible with the convention.

James Thornton, chief executive of environmental law group ClientEarth, said: ‘The EC has finally had enough and is taking the UK to the ECJ for its failure to comply with the Aarhus Convention.

‘The millstone of the EU courts grinds slow, but is ultimately an effective enforcement mechanism.

‘The UK government would be very short-sighted to delay action on its unjustifiable costs rules, given the court’s proven willingness to impose multi-million lump sum fines alongside cumulative fines of hundreds of thousands of euros each day until compliance is achieved.’

Environmental Law Foundation chief executive Debbie Tripley said: ‘Environmental justice is too expensive in this country. More than a third of our clients cite cost as a barrier to bringing a case to a successful conclusion.’

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Justice said the government was ‘considering its response’, adding in a joint statement: ‘The government takes its obligation to comply with EU and international commitments seriously.’

What Bolivia And The Bedouin Have In Common

What Bolivia And The Bedouin Have In Common

Posted 27 April 2011, by Tafline Laylin, Green Prophet,

When Indigenous people rule, nature has rights.

Bolivia will soon pass a law called “The Law of Mother Earth.” Under this law, the government decrees that nature has eleven rights similar to those enjoyed by human beings. The Law of Mother Earth is fully supported by the President, Evo Morales, whose party enjoys a majority in both houses of parliament. This marks the first time in recent history that a politician has acknowledged so unequivocally that nature deserves to be respected not only for human benefit but for its own sake. There is a lesson that environmentalists and rulers in the Middle East can take from this story, and it lies in our indigenous people.

Evo Morales is Bolivia’s first indigenous president from native Aymara descent. His people subscribe to the Andean worldview that all living things have equal rights.

According to Inka Wisdom:

In Andean philosophy, Pachakamaq is the Creator and Originator of everything that exists—including time, nature, the Cosmos, and all things, whether physical or non-physical. Pachakamaq is pure, Potent Energy, unmanifested Divinity. Above all else, Andean Spirituality is UNITY and connectedness among all things. No one is excluded; everyone—and everything—has a specific function and is in a state of continuous evolution.

In accordance with this basic philosophy, an earlier, shorter version of the Law of Mother Earth guarantees nature the following rights:

– The right to life including the integrity of ecosystems and natural processes, and the necessary conditions for regeneration

– The right to biodiversity which should be preserved without genetic modification

– The right to water in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain life, protected from pollution

– The right to clean air

– The right to equilibrium through “maintain[ing] or restor[ing]] the interrelation, interdependence, complementarity, and functionality” of all parts of the Earth

– The right to restoration of ecosystems damaged by human activity

– The right to live free of pollution including toxic and radioactive waste

It is not only in Bolivia that indigenous people enjoy a closer relationship to nature and internalize the concept of interdependence. Cameron Davidson from the Arava Institute notes that contrary to popular belief, Bedouin women are very knowledgeable about water – sources of it, and its importance.

Meanwhile, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) reports on a joint initiative near Libya between the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology and the University of Cairo. With both knowledge and species of desert plants declining, the center harvests longstanding Bedouin knowledge.

Despite our sophisticated scientific gains, and the tireless work of conservation groups and environmentalists around the world, we have been unable to convince major corporations and even individuals divorced from natural cycles that it is not only wrong to destroy nature for short-term gain, but that it is stupid.

As evidenced by Bolivia’s historic ruling, ancient architectural methods, and even ancient culinary practices, indigenous people intuitively trump our shallow understanding of nature. But with people like Evo Morales, who intends to extend Bolivia’s law beyond its own borders, and Polly Higgins, who has taken important strides to realize “Ecocide” – a law that makes it illegal to destroy ecologically-sensitive places – a more respecting and ultimately smarter relationship with nature may be in sight.

More on indigenous knowledge in the Middle East:

Lamu’s Muslim and Indigenous People Demand Natural Justice

Stunning Resort in Abu Dhabi Will Celebrate Bedouin Architecture

Ethical Foraging Saves Native Flora

Finding Permaculture Through Flower Power

Finding Permaculture Through Flower Power

Posted 21 April 2011, by T.R. Witcher, Weekly Seven,
 Gaia flower and gift shop is in Las Vegas’ Arts District on East Charleston Boulevard, but it feels like it belongs in a place like Portland, Ore. The homey, funky space is more like an art gallery. An assortment of arts and crafts crowd against the walls, and the overall atmosphere is bright, airy and colorful.

The most foreign element of the 2-year-old shop, though, is that it specializes in eco-friendly flowers. In Vegas, that’s probably a head-scratching notion. After all, when you envision efforts to green the planet, you don’t usually think about flowers. They are, so to speak, already green. Right?

Not so fast. As Gaia owner Peter Frigeri explains, the flower industry, just like any other large industry, does more than its share of environmental damage. “The amount of pesticides used to grow a perfect rose is pretty shocking,” he says.

So Gaia works with floral watchdogs to make sure its flowers come from environmentally friendly fields and that workers who are cultivating those flowers are paid a fair wage. It’s small steps like these that contribute to the sustainability of planet Earth and, let’s be honest, make Las Vegas kind of a cool city.

More than an organic flower shop, Gaia specializes in inventive floral arrangements. “We use locally found arrangements,” Frigeri says. That might mean flowers placed in a petal-shaped vase made by a local artist, embellished with small river stones, branches, moss or dried petals. You’re not just getting a pretty flower; you’re getting a small work of art.

Frigeri also showcases a group of local artists whose work “reflects mindful contemplation.” Kelly Fowler uses recycled fabrics to make small, charming bags. Architect Kasey Baker makes small rings and such out of nuts and bolts. Leslie Rowland decorates old artillery shells with messages from and pictures of famous peaceniks such as Jesus, Buddha and Mother Theresa.

In addition, Frigeri, along with half a dozen others, started the Las Vegas Permaculture Guild about a year and a half ago. Conceived by a biologist in Australia in the 1970s, permaculture is a combination of sustainable practices in agriculture, architecture and land use. “It’s a very holistic way of looking at how your community interacts with its environment,” he says, “whether it’s a village or a house or a farm.”

Permaculture in Las Vegas could be as simple as residents tending to their gardens with minimal water usage and without pesticides—by, perhaps, having chickens near a garden to eat bugs instead. On a larger level, Frigeri hopes the city might create curb cutouts to capture irrigation water that would otherwise evaporate in the desert, and use more native materials in city streetscapes and parks. In the meantime, Frigeri has started implementing his permaculture philosophy at the Tonopah Community Garden in downtown Las Vegas.

In addition to pushing Las Vegas toward a more sustainable tomorrow, Frigeri is bringing people together. Gaia hosts auctions and fundraisers, and stages workshops on subjects as varied as Christmas ornaments and beekeeping. “We also try to build community,” he says. And as everyone in this desert town knows, that is the most precious resource we have.