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TMCnet GreenTech Week in Review
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October 06, 2012

TMCnet GreenTech Week in Review

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

In green technology news this week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is waving the red flag at certain “green” applications for trademarks, the global solar industry continues to suffer from an oversupply of polysilicon, Massachusetts has topped ACEEE’s Energy Efficiency Scorecard, and a coalition of bio-renewable fuel stakeholders is defending America's Renewable Fuel Standard.

The U.S. Trademark Office has adopted a new prosecution policy that requires federal applications that include the word “green” to contain a statement of “environmental friendliness” in the description of goods or services.  This is a new requirement. The primary concern seems to be to prevent “greenwashing.” While the Trademark Office has not yet published this policy change, trademark examiners have begun denying non-compliant applications.

An ongoing oversupply of silicon worldwide has driven pricing of solar cells and modules downward, decreasing margins and profitability. In addition, a combination of high-module inventory and low demand is hitting the industry hard.

Indeed, the “Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly Report” on Q3 results for this year from NPD Solarbuzz finds that most polysilicon producers have been operating at a loss. What’s more, polysilicon capacity is expected to grow 22 percent in 2012 and a further 18 percent in 2013.

For the second consecutive year, Massachusetts has topped the “State Energy Efficiency Scorecard” produced by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).  The Bay State surpassed California last year, based largely on compliance with its Green Communities Act of 2008, which requires utilities to save a large and growing percentage of energy every year through efficiency measures. Following Massachusetts and California in the top ten are New York, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland and Minnesota. The three most improved states are Oklahoma, Montana and South Carolina.

A coalition has come out in defense of America's Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Called Fuels America,  the group is taking an active role in lobbying for “the economic, employment, domestic renewable energy and national security benefits that [bio-renewable fuel] provides,” even as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers a request to waive the RFS. Among the members are: 25x25, Abengoa Bioenergy, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Advanced Ethanol Council, and American Coalition for Ethanol, American Security Project, Biotechnology Industry Organization, (BIO), DuPont, Growth Energy, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers, Novozymes, POET Ethanol Products and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

With the announcement earlier this week of a second wave of fuel cell installations at 28 facilities in California and Connecticut, AT&T (News - Alert) has become Bloom Energy’s largest non-utility customer. The new Bloom Boxes will produce 9.6 megawatts (MW) of power, bringing the total amount of fuel-cell energy at AT&T’s U.S. facilities up to 17.1 MW, including the 7.5 MW that the telecommunications provider installed last year at 11 California sites.

ECOtality ‘s Blink Chargers have been used to repower residential electric vehicles (EV) more than one million times—for an industry first. In addition, Blink also has achieved two more key milestones – 40 million miles of driver data recorded and over 1.7 million gallons of gas saved. ECOtality is the project manager of The EV Project, a research initiative launched in 2009 to help build America’s EV infrastructure. To date, The EV Project has gathered over 40 million miles of EV driver data that will serve to support the deployment of EVs in key markets. The data are collected from both the vehicle and the charging unit, including energy used, and time and duration of charger use.

UPS plans to deploy 40 new hydraulic hybrid vehicles (HHV) – 20 in Baltimore and 20 in Atlanta. The HHVs have been jointly developed by Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) and Parker Hannifin. When compared to traditional diesel-powered vehicles, which use automatic transmissions in stop-and-go applications, these cars can attain up to 35 percent improved fuel economy and up to 30 percent reduction of CO2 emissions.

Grants from the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program support both deployments.

Solar energy is the “diva” on the renewable energy stage today – receiving more than double the news coverage of either hydropower or geothermal power, according to findings just released by High Beam Research, a paid search engine. The analysts looked at the number of media mentions received over the past year and the results came in as follows: Solar energy led the way by a landslide with 8,703 media mentions; wind trailed behind solar energy with 5,046 mentions; electric vehicles came in a close third with 4,711 total mentions; hydroelectric power took the fourth spot, with a total of 4,108 mentions; and geothermal technology took fifth place, with just under 4,000 mentions

Wind farms are a fast-developing source of clean and green power, but “intermittency” remains a major obstacle – that is, the tendency of wind to go from full-blast to a feeble breeze in just moments. But now, researchers at Johns Hopkins University are leading a multi-institution team dedicated to developing more efficient wind farm designs and better methods of moving distributed power into a community’s power grid. To address these challenges, the National Science Foundation, has awarded two grants totaling $6 million to JHU’s researchers and their collaborators.

Worldwide sales of smart appliances will climb rapidly – reaching just under 45 million units per year in 2020 – according to a report just released by Pike Research (News - Alert). Smart appliances are household devices – such as refrigerators, washers and dryers – that use embedded intelligent power management to optimize the residential load on the power distribution grid, as well as reduce energy costs.

More than 100 VerizonWireless Communications retail shops have received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s coveted Energy Star certification – the highest number of stores of any wireless retailer to date. The Basking Ridge, New Jersey-based wireless provider remains committed to achieving Energy Star certification at least once for all eligible stores. 

Lastly, the developer of a virtually waterless cleaning machine has its sights set on the North American market. British company Xeros is testing its machine at Sterling Linen Services, a company based in Manchester, New Hampshire. This uses polymer beads, drastically cutting down on the total amount of water needed for the overall cleaning process. Apart from saving on water, the cleaner uses 50 percent less cleaning chemical and 50 percent less energy, making it a real darling to Mother Nature.

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