Thursday, April 29, 2010

China Cleans Up

China exceeded U.S. investment in clean energy for the first time last year with deployments totaling $34.6 billion. The country still has a long way to go to clean up it's emissions--China surpassed the US as the global leader in C02 emissions several years ago--but they're moving quickly to clean up their act.

Technology Review posted a slide show today profiling some of the new technology they're committing to including offshore wind,  utility-scale solar power, DC transmission lines, massive nuclear deployments, and coal with carbon capture and sequestration.  

I was happy to see vacuum tube solar hot water included in Tech Review's lineup.  Not the most cutting edge technology, but one in ten Chinese people now use these highly efficient heaters for domestic hot water. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mass Save Has New Website for Great Appliance Exchange

Many thanks to WBZ's John Karalis who a just tweeted the following;

"Mass Save system has crashed. Here's the new website to apply for rebates":

My wife and I had been speed dialing and refreshing the crashed Mass Save website for the past hour trying to land a reservation # for the appliance rebate program since it launched 1 hr ago.  The new site was operating without a hitch and showed that $700,000 of the $5.4 million rebate was already gone.  Seems I'm not the only one who found John's tweet.

Update: I just checked again, 1 hr and 10 minutes after the program began and $1.8 million of the $5.4 in funds is already gone.  Better get on it quick!

Update # 2: One hour and 15 minutes after the rebate program began the new site that WBZ tweeted  has also crashed.  Wonder if they are cooking up a third site...

Update # 3: Two hours after the rebate offer began and one hour after Mass Save was able to piece back together a working website for the program, the money is all gone!

Here is the breakdown from at noon;

Program Countdown:
Starting Funds $ 5,455,625.00
Reserved Funds-$ 5,455,625.00
Remaining Funds $ 0.00

Wait List Maximum $ 1,700,000.00
Wait List Allocated-$ 402,000.00
Wait List Remaining $ 1,298,000.00    

There is still a chance participants could get funded through the waiting list, but who knows...

photo credit: wikimedia commons

Monday, February 22, 2010

China's Dino Hunter

I've had the privilege of many a late night call recently with Xu Xing, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing who has described more dinosaurs than anyone else alive.

Xu is a leading proponent of the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs and over the past decade has uncovered a number of really unusual fossils, from a pint sized dinosaur with four wings to a feathered ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex.  You can read my interview with Xu in New Scientist, and find additional illustrations of what these feathered beasts likely looked like here.

Having once worked as a biologist reintroducing California condors to the wild, the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs seemed obvious to me. Condors have hard scales on their feet that, when seen up close, seem to scream out "we stem from an ancient line of reptiles!"

Talking with Xu, however, it seems my observations were only partly correct.  Condors and all other birds do descend from dinosaurs, but the commonly held belief that scales = ancient and feathers = modern isn't so simple.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Solar Shingles Heat Up

Check out a recent story I wrote for Technology Review on a new plug 'n' play solar shingle from Dow Chemical.  Dow plans to release a small test batch of the solar embedded shingles later this year and while they haven't yet announced who will get them, I think they'd compliment my solar hot water system quite nicely.

My guess is this and other attempts to merge solar panels with conventional building materials will initially cost a premium and the technology will likely encounter some hiccups along the way.  But, eventually, I think solar embedded shingles will become a standard part of new roofs. Like one industry analyst told me, "two hundred years ago they didn't build buildings with electrical systems in the walls and wiring buildings was a really expensive retrofit.  Today, its standard practice."

Image Credit: The Dow Chemical Company