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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Welcome to the New RNN

Some of the headlines you will find at Renewable Now



A Note from Peter Arpin, RNN Founder & President
As we commemorate Earth Day and Earth Week 2017, Renewable Now Network (RNN) honors Planet Earth around the clock and around the year, through our mission of empowering and advancing sustainability as the foundation for global environmental, social and economic change and opportunity.  We here at RNN are extending the officially designated Earth Week through our own March for Science by reinforcing sustainability as the cornerstone to our philosophy, values, and vision and the key to the world's short and long-term success, and by celebrating our own exciting milestones.
Our New Website -  RenewableNowNetwork

First, we are proud to unveil the first phase of our new and enhanced website showcasing an informative and resource-rich platform on anything and everything sustainable, how "green" touches each and every part of our daily lives, and how we can harness the wilderness of opportunity that it presents to all.   The website's wide variety of domains range from Broadcast, Business and Living, to Food, Education, Building, and Transportation, with specific categories falling under each area to highlight thought leadership, events, initiatives and programs across all industry sectors in business, government, academia, philanthropy, and lifestyle. Stay tuned for an ongoing series of updates from me highlighting the multitude of media channels, programs, events, and resources to learn more about anything and everything sustainable. 
 Masters of Sustainability & "The Business Side of Green"

A new program to highlight includes the RNN Masters of Sustainability Webinar Series, presenting leading innovators from different companies and organizations sharing their very applicable lessons on how to incorporate sustainability into your business and life goals, as well as on how to leverage it for capital gain.  Our speakers thus far include the pioneer of an entirely new automotive category, the founder and leader of a solar energy transportation company, and the head of the Climate Action Business Association. Masters of Sustainability is the ideal program for companies to promote corporate social responsibility endeavors, while also engaging with like-minded audience and increasing its own audience's engagement and reach. We also continue to interview these "Masters" and more on my radio show & podcast  "The Business Side of Green." 
We remain actively engaged in our local community and the international community to influence and shape policy, change the conversation, and ignite action.  Most immediately, we are in the process of building out our new offices in Providence, Rhode Island. As we look ahead to the fall, we hope you mark your calendars for the RNN FULL-SWING Golf Tournament for Sustainability on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at Button Hole Golf, in Providence, Rhode Island. For those with early interest such as volunteering, creating a team, or sponsorship opportunities click HERE.

We are always looking for new lessons from leaders around the globe through the plethora of media, business, and entertainment resources available for sustainability gurus. At the top of the RNN Book Club/reading list is Climate of Hope from former Mayor of New York City and world-renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist  Michael Bloomberg and former head of the Sierra Club Carl Pope.  This book promises to not only be a rich and interesting read, but also a source of renewed motivation for meaningful action and change.  Let's discuss this and what's on your reading list, as well as other highly relevant sustainability topics and issues, on our social media channels, so join our conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
Join us in RNN's celebration of Earth Week this week and all-year long, so that this annual commemoration becomes a daily ritual and practice to treasure each and every day.  As we forge ahead disrupting and transforming the path to a clean global economy and the preservation of our beautiful Earth - RNN is here to guide, inspire, and empower you - every step of the way.
Peter Arpin
RNN Co-Founder & President

Monday, April 24, 2017

Apple to start mass production of micro-LED displays by 2018

Another major shift to smaller and more efficient technology.  Apple helps lead the way to LED lighting displays.

Apple to start mass production of micro-LED displays by 2018

Apr 21, 2017: Apple is all set to start production of a small amount of micro-LED displays from a northern Taiwan facility by 2017 end. The company will use them in its new Apple watches.
Apple will start mass production of energy-efficient micro-LED displays at the Taoyuan plant from 2018. According to industry analysts, this will put pressure on its rival display manufactures like Samsung and LG Display.
Apple will test micro-LED displays in its small size Apple watch before it uses them on larger devices like iPhones and iPads. Apple is likely to use micro-LED display on its smartphones after experimenting the panel on the Apple watch.
Micro-LED is a new display technology that is emerging fast. Since Apple acquired LuxVue Technology, a US-based micro-LED display manufacturer in 2014, the company has been investing in it to develop the technology and start mass production.
Although Apple has not revealed any details, the Apple building in Longtan District, Taoyuan was opened in 2015. It is reported that Apple has also recruited engineers to develop the new display technology.
Industry insiders pointed out that if Apple switches to micro-LED panels for its new Apple watch, LG Display, the sole supplier of OLED panels for Apple’s smartwatches, will be affected.
Currently, manufactures of micro-LED displays are making efforts to cut down the production cost. The potential scale of the future micro-LED market could reach US$30~40 billion.

Danielle Fong: the scientist who’s making wind and solar power available 24/7

Is there a holy grail in renewables?  What is the next giant step forward in converting unlimited amounts of sun and wind into energy?

Storage, of course,  Capture it when it is there;  deliver on demand.  Get as close to 100% efficient as possible.  Imagine the financial return when you cease wasting so many hours when you can not generate and use power at the same time.

Here we take another step closer to the holy grail.  Innovation is the life blood of our network.  And it is the network of reshaping our global economy.  Behind this will come other holy grails. What will they be?  Who knows.  Perhaps astonishing new delivery systems.  Or combined wind and solar designs that flawlessly integrates both sources of clean energy.  For now we will enjoy the boom around storage.  Let's ride this wave into the next one.

If you ask LightSail Energy’s cofounder and chief scientist, Danielle Fong, she’ll tell you that launching a clean tech enterprise at 20 years old wasn’t her first choice. But it was the only path she could see to solve what industry insiders consider the “holy grail” of green energy issues: inexpensive renewable energy storage.
“I thought I could make a difference,” says Danielle, whose company has the backing of technology power players such as Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla. Now 29, Danielle has been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and Fortune’s 40 Under 40 lists for her achievements.
At a time when wind and solar power are becoming more affordable, the clean energy sector is challenged with making these intermittent resources available whenever people need them – not just when the wind’s blowing and the sun’s shining. Danielle’s solution? Build the world’s cleanest, most economical compressed-air energy storage system.
It’s an ambitious undertaking, but the rising entrepreneur likes a challenge. After all, she enrolled at Dalhousie University in her native Canada at age 12, and graduated with honors in physics and computer science by 17. Her passion for sustainable energy then led her to a PhD program at Princeton University, where she worked on nuclear fusion research. In 2007, she moved to northern California to start a business, launching LightSail Energy less than two years later.
Solar and wind power have become incredibly economical. Unfortunately, solar panels do not work at night, nor well through overcast skies. Wind turbines harness strong winds, but on calm days produce little power. We need economical ways to store the energy for when it is needed most. This is what we are trying to develop.” 
Danielle Fong
Today, LightSail continues to refine its innovative energy storage system and carbon fiber, high-pressure air tanks to bring to commercial market. The company is getting closer to Danielle’s long-term vision for changing the world.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

In Virginia Push for Pumped Storage Hydro, Questions Arise About Viability

As you know there's been lots of talk for the past two months about coal's future.  Or lack of one pushed aside by natural gas, renewables and other, cheaper forms of energy

Here's a good example of why a decline in one source does not have to be a loss of revenue and jobs.  Shifting investments around, even in hard hit areas, quickly regains momentum and pushes innovation across other sectors.  Politics aside, the markets can react quickly.  That is true leadership and examplary public service.

In Virginia Push for Pumped Storage Hydro, Questions Arise About Viability

pumped storage
In a bid to boost the economy in Virginia’s coalfield region, legislation to be signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe seeks to spur the development of pumped storage hydro electric power plants using water from abandoned coal mines.

While the companion bills in both the Senate and House of Delegates drew virtually unanimous support from both chambers, researchers, coal reclamation experts and even some renewable energy advocates say the idea is still unproven. While pumped storage facilities exist in Virginia and elsewhere, no plant drawing water from abandoned coal mines has been built anywhere in the world.

The effort led by Sen. Ben Chafin, Del. Terry Kilgore and Del. Todd Pillion focused on seven counties in the western end of the state. Like much of Appalachia, this region has seen dozens of coal mines close over the past decade, draining local governments of tax revenues to fund schools and other government services.

Pumped storage plants work by using cheap, excess electricity at night to pump water uphill into a higher elevation lake or reservoir. Energy can be recaptured during times of higher demand by reversing the flow and sending the water through turbines to a lower reservoir.
Pumped storage plants are operating throughout the world and have been assessed for abandoned iron pits in Minnesota, where the presence of iron and the threat of rust when water oxidizes threatens operations. In addition to the amount and the quality of the water needed, the coalfield region needs to be geologically stable, said Don Fosnacht, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Natural Resources Institute.

Hayes Framme, Gov. McAuliffe’s point person on many energy issues as the state’s Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Trade, said engineers from the state’s Division of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) have been kicking around the idea for several years. While pumped storage has never been tried with water trapped in abandoned coal mines, Tarah Kesterson, a spokeswoman for DMME, said her colleagues believe the iron levels to be below any harmful threshold.

Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association, said a recently-licensed pumped storage project in Southern California by Eagle Crest Energy intends to draw on water from an abandoned mine east of Palm Springs and may bode well for similar approaches in Virginia.

An ‘Intriguing’ Concept
Because pumped-storage can serve as a type of “battery,” it can sometimes be paired with wind systems which often operate best at night when wind speeds in suitable locations are highest. With the strong appetite for renewable sources throughout the PJM power grid that includes Virginia, the low-cost, daytime, electricity could find willing buyers there to offset peak prices, especially on summer days when demand for electricity drives wholesale prices skyward.

The largest such pumped-storage plant in the world happens to be in Virginia in Bath County. There, Dominion Virginia Power has been operating a 3,000 megawatt-capacity plant since the mid-1980s. It has drawn rave reviews as the “world’s biggest battery” and visits by curious engineers and government officials from around the world.

Sen. Chafin and Delegates Kilgore and Pillion visited the Bath County plant in December. They drew up Senate Bill 1418 and paired it with House Bill 1760. The bills, now combined, await McAuliffe’s signature.  Hamme signaled McAuliffe will sign it this spring.
“We think the concept is an intriguing one … enough (not) to stop initial development in its tracks,” Framme said.

Framme and Matt Ogburn, Sen. Chafin’s legislative aide, said most of the attention thus far is on several 50–400 MW facilities which could amount to more than 2,000 MW. There are pairs of reservoirs in Wise and Dickenson counties that appear, at least initially, to be suitable, Ogburn said.

Questions About Who Pays
Unlike any other type of power plant, existing language in both bills declares “construction of these generation and storage facilities … to be in the public interest” and free of many permitting and other rules that utilities and other new plant applicants must submit to.
But therein exists a potential hurdle: how much such a facility will cost ratepayers and the company’s shareholders? While Dominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Power (APCo), as investor-owned utilities, would effectively be offered this streamlined path to approval and full recovery from ratepayers, neither would commit to pursuing such a facility without extensive study.

Fosnacht estimated from two studies he has led that a 100-MW pumped storage facility would likely cost about $120 million.

John Shepelwich, a spokesman for APCo, said, “We’re talking about two possible scenarios here in a combined (APCo–Dominion) study. One is the traditional approach to pumped storage, the other will focus on water trapped in abandoned coal mines.”

As the utility that serves the coalfield region, APCo already has a large, traditional, pumped storage facility to the east of the coalfield region near Roanoke, Virginia at Smith Mountain Lake.

Shepelwich said tapping water from coal mines “might be more of a stretch. We have a bit of a learning curve. That said, there are other parties who may look at that option in the future.”

“Since the Bath County and Smith Mountain Lake facilities were constructed, there have been new applications of pumped storage developed world wide,” said David Botkins, a spokesman for Dominion. “This legislation allows use of these new approaches.”

Beyond such projects’ technical feasibility, among the utilities’ other considerations are the additional transmission lines that would be required to connect the power to their respective networks and to the PJM grid.

Botkins projected: “If constructed, (each) pumped storage facility would create hundreds of construction jobs and 10-15 high-paying, permanent, jobs.”

Ogburn also notes the counties would benefit from additional tax revenue.
Adam Wells, who works on economic diversification initiatives for the Appalachian Voices advocacy group and lives in Norton in the heart of the coalfield region, signaled what’s contemplated would garner significant support if such a facility could be paired with a large wind or solar energy system.

“There’s growing favorable sentiment among elected leaders and county developers for solar. We can remain as an energy-producing region. It’s just that the medium is going to change,” Wells said.

“We’re trying to tackle a whole lot of things all at once,” Ogburn said. “How are we going to diversify the economy; how are we going to create jobs; how are we going to create tax revenue?”

Divine Mercy and Earth Day

We hope Divine Mercy weekend leads to a great Earth Week for you.  Should it?  What is the connection, if any?

Earth Day is 47 years old.  Divine Mercy flowed the first time 2000 years ago.  But it was not fully understood until told in detail many years later to Saint Faustina.  One of the greatest champions of Divine Mercy was Pope John Paul II.  No one radiated love and mercy more than Pope John Paul II.

Today there are millions dedicated to the preservation of both our physical and spiritual homes.  In so many ways we have destroyed both.  Is it because we are cavalier about our gifts and blessings?  Do we not cherish our natural beauty and the beauty of our untarnished souls?  Is there a faith element to our hopes, dreams of building a sustainable future.

Undoubtedly, yes.  Love of nature is missionary.  Giving more than you take is benevolence.  Grace is building a cleaner future others.  Most of whom you will never meet or know.  And the work of saving the planet and souls is done in community...not alone...together.  Not one but many.  Billions of hands restore water and soil.  Billions of prays restoring souls.

These challenges make us all students again.  We don't know it all.  We make lots of mistakes.  We misjudge.  We depend on the wrong principles and people at times.  We over consume which gets us into trouble on both sides.

Yes, these journeys of restoration are true gifts from God.  They offer us redemption.  They inspire us, fill us with warmth, ignite our hearts and bring unbridled happiness.  Not just happiness.  They shower us with grace and mercy.  They open doors to new friends.  They build trust.  Mostly they rekindle, so it overflows, our faith.

Perhaps there is no greater time in life to celebrate Earth Week and Divine Mercy.  Our lives are full of promise.  Our opportunities to excel seem endless.  We can move mountains.  We can move at warp speed.

What, then, stands in our way?  Selfishness, arrogance, a failure to offer global social and economic unwillingness to listen, to be humble, to find common ground.  Those times we fail to collaborate dooms us to failure.

The US is a hotbed for being guardians of our eco system and converts to Divine Mercy and consecrations to Blessed Mother and Holy Spirit?  Coincidence?  No.  Both take armies of believers.  There is massive transformation required in each to change the world.  Education, promotion, extolling to the masses is key on both fronts.  Believers need a vision.  They must wait a very long time for rewards.  Patience.

What is the single greatest common theme?  Health?  Short term, long terms, eternity.  Health of the mind, body, spirit soul.  People and Earth in balance.  Living clean.  Carrying the goals of Earth Day and Divine Mercy beyond a few days is a very tough fight.  There will be many dark days along the way.  But when you get to the light, the radiance of success, life will indeed be eternal.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Crystalline Material Could Replace Silicon to double efficiency of solar cells

More good news from our main site and from the solar industry.  One of the questions we have, seeing cells doubling their production levels, is, in addition to selling a lot more new panels, will current users retrofit their systems?  Is so that bodes well for a renewed explosion of sales and jobs within the industry.

A new material has been shown to have the capability to double the efficiency of solar cells by researchers at Purdue University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Conventional solar cells are at most one-third efficient, a limit known to scientists as the Shockley-Queisser Limit. The new material, a crystalline structure that contains both inorganic materials (iodine and lead) and an organic material (methyl-ammonium), boosts the efficiency so that it can carry two-thirds of the energy from light without losing as much energy to heat. In less technical terms, this material could double the amount of electricity produced without a significant cost increase.

 Enough solar energy reaches the earth to supply all of the planet’s energy needs multiple times over, but capturing that energy has been difficult – as of 2013, only about 1 percent of the world’s grid electricity was produced from solar panels. Libai Huang, assistant professor of chemistry at Purdue, says the new material, called a hybrid perovskites, would create solar cells thinner than conventional silicon solar cells, and is also flexible, cheap and easy to make. “My graduate students learn how to make it in a few days,” she says. 

The breakthrough is published this week in the journal Science. The most common solar cells use silicon as a semiconductor, which can transmit only one-third of the energy because of the band gap, which is the amount of energy needed to boost an electron from a bound state to a conducting state, in which the electrons are able to move, creating electricity. 

Incoming photons can have more energy than the band gap, and for a very short time – so short it’s difficult to imagine – the electrons exist with extra energy. These electrons are called “hot carriers,” and in silicon they exist for only one picosecond (which is 10-12 seconds) and only travel a maximum distance of 10 nanometers. At this point the hot carrier electrons give up their energy as heat. This is one of the main reasons for the inefficiency of solar cells. Huang and her colleagues have developed a new technique that can track the range of the motion and the speed of the hot carriers by using fast lasers and microscopes. “The distance hot carriers need to migrate is at least the thickness of a solar cell, or about 200 nanometers, which this new perovskite material can achieve,” Huang says. “Also these carriers can live for about 100 picoseconds, two orders of magnitude longer than silicon...."

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