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Saturday, Jun 25th

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Challenging conventional wisdom on renewable energy's limits

Offshore_wind.jpgIn making the case for a rapid conversion away from heavily polluting energy sources like coal and nuclear power to cleaner generation, renewable energy advocates often confront the argument that their scheme is impossible due to the intermittent nature of sun and wind.

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Low-cost, more efficient solar cells mostly plastic

By growing arrays of silicon wires in a polymer substrate, researchers have demonstrated what they say are flexible solar cells that absorb up to 96 percent of incident light.

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) researchers said the wires are made up of 98 percent plastic, potentially lowering the cost of photovoltaics by using just 1/50th the amount of semiconductor material used today. In tests, the experimental solar cells demonstrated over 90 percent quantum efficiency, compared with 25 percent for the best silicon solar cells.

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U.S. says wind could power 20 percent of eastern grid

Wind energy could generate 20 percent of the electricity needed by households and businesses in the eastern half of the United States by 2024, but it would require up to $90 billion in investment, according to a government report released on Wednesday.

For the 20 percent wind scenario to work, billions must be spent on installing wind towers on land and sea and about 22,000 miles of new high-tech power lines to carry the electricity to cities, according to the study from the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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Recharging and other concerns keep electric cars far from mainstream

For now, the only major automaker with a fleet of new all-electric vehicles priced for mainstream consumers is BMW, with its 500 Mini E electrics in what the company describes as a test of the technology. To judge from interviews with drivers and more than a dozen of their blogs, it has also proved to be a test of consumer adaptability.

The electrics pose two primary challenges to convention: When fully charged, electric cars generally cannot travel even half the distance that a conventional car can go on a full tank. And once the battery is depleted, there are few places to recharge besides home, and the charging process can take hours.

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Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

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PG&E Wants Rate Hike for Efficient Energy Users

In a recent application to the state, Pacific Gas and Electric asked to raise service rates by 5 percent for their best energy-conserving customers, typically smaller households.

The reason? To give price breaks of 2.5 to 5.7 percent to their biggest energy clients who use between 131 and 300 percent or more than the baseline monthly average.

PG&E uses a five-tier system to differentiate their customers. The system is supposed to promote efficiency by charging lower rates to customers who use the least amount of energy.

But the company, with  profits up 4.6 percent in the third quarter of this year, said they’re just trying to be fair.

TVNL Comment: Meet America's real enemy!

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EIA: a tiny agency with a big role in energy debate

As energy increasingly dominates the economy, a quiet little agency in Washington holds the responsibility for tracking the particles that conduct, fuse, blow, heat, combust and convert the earth, wind and water into the energy that makes our society run.

The man behind the quiet data-crunching enterprise is Richard Newell, a Duke University economist and energy enthusiast. He sits in a glass-walled office a block off the National Mall, between the president who hired him and the congressional lawmakers who hammer his numbers into policy.

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