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Green energy investment hits new record
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) July 7, 2011

Technique can 'harvest' energy in the air
Atlanta (UPI) Jul 7, 2011 - U.S. researchers say energy transmitted by radio and television transmitters, cellphone networks and satellite systems can be captured and harnessed.

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology say scavenging the ambient energy all around us could provide a new way to power networks of wireless sensors, microprocessors and communications chips.

"There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it," said Manos Tentzeris, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "We are using an ultra-wideband antenna that lets us exploit a variety of signals in different frequency ranges, giving us greatly increased power-gathering capability."

Communications devices transmit energy in many different frequency ranges, or bands, that the researchers' scavenging devices can capture and convert from AC to DC and then store in capacitors and batteries, a Georgia Tech release said Thursday.

Experiments utilizing TV bands have already yielded power amounting to hundreds of microwatts, and multiband systems are expected to generate one milliwatt (one-thousandth of a watt) or more -- an amount of sufficient to operate many small electronic devices, including a variety of sensors and microprocessors, the researchers said.

The scientists say they have already successfully operated a temperature sensor using electromagnetic energy captured from a television station a third of a mile away.

Investment in renewable energy last year amounted to a record 211 billion dollars, a rise of 32 percent over 2009 and 540 percent over 2004, a UN-backed report said on Thursday.

China, investing 48.9 billion dollars, up 28 percent, accounted for more than a fifth of the total, marking a year in which developing countries for the first time outstripped rich economies in renewables investment, it said.

A combination of factors were behind the global surge, said the report.

They included stimulus money earmarked after the 2008 financial crash that was now finding its way into the market, sustained prices for fossil fuels, and government perks such as feed-in tariffs for cleaner power.

The report, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011, is a collaboration of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Germany and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

If large hydro dams are excluded, renewable power comprised 8.1 percent of total world power generation capacity in 2010, compared with 7.1 percent in 2009, said the report.

Despite this small share of the mix, renewables accounted for 34 percent of additional capacity brought online last year.

The report made these points:

-- The most mature technology, wind, continued to dominate the renewables sector, accounting for 94.7 billion dollars of investment projects in 2010. Solar investment was 26.1 billion and biomass and waste-to-energy projects amounted to 11 billion.

-- But solar very nearly catches up with wind if small-scale installations, such as rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels, are included.

Small-scale solar sector doubled in value last year, helped by feed-in subsidies especially in Germany, France, Italy and the Czech Republic.

These subsidies are now being pared back by governments, but even so the market "is likely to stay strong" in 2011, says the report.

-- The cost-effectiveness of wind and solar has risen enormously. The price of PV panels per megawatt (MW) has fallen by 60 percent since mid-2008, and that of wind turbines by 18 percent.

"Further improvements in the levelised cost... lie ahead, posing a bigger and bigger threat to the dominance of fossil-fuel generation sources in the next few years," says the report.

"The tipping point where renewables becomes the predominant energy option now appears closer than it did just a few years back."

-- Investment growth in the Middle East and Africa was up 104 percent to five billion dollars, while India saw a rise of 25 percent to 3.8 billion dollars.

In Asian countries outside India and China, there was a rise of 31 percent in investment to four billion. South and Central America, meanwhile, had an increase of 39 percent, to 13.1 billion.

-- Government research and development rose by 120 percent to more than five billion. But corporate R&D fell by 12 percent.

The report counted all biomass, geothermal and wind generation projects of more than one MW, all hydro projects of between 0.5 and 50 MW, all solar projects of more than 0.3 MW, all marine energy projects and all biofuel projects with a capacity of one million litres or more per year.

It did not not include "energy-smart" technologies such as smart grid, electrical vehicles and power storage.

By early 2011, the report added, 119 countries around the world had policies or targets in place to support renewables, more than half of them in the developing world.

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Austria boosts renewable energy funding
Vienna (AFP) July 7, 2011 - Austria's parliament passed a bill Thursday hiking government funds for renewable energy as the anti-nuclear country seeks to cut itself off entirely from atomic power.

With the new law, approved by all parties except the opposition far-right Freedom Party, government funding to renewable energy will reach 550 million euros ($790 million) by 2015 from about 350 million euros now.

"Austria will halt its reliance on nuclear power imports by 2015 at the latest and will become an electricity exporter again," Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner said in a statement after the vote.

Nuclear power imports currently cover 6.0 percent of Austrian demand.

Under the bill, the government will increase its subsidies for new renewable energy projects to 50 million euros from a current 21 million euros, although the sum will gradually drop to 40 million euros after 10 years, to be divided mainly between wind power and biomass, but also solar and hydro-electric power.

The government will also free up some 80 million euros for wind power and 28 million euros for solar power projects currently on hold, in the hope of dramatically increasing production.

With this new law, Austria will source 85 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2020, from a current 68 percent -- putting it in a leading position in Europe -- Mitterlehner said.

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Pollution risk of CFL bulbs studied
Jackson, Miss. (UPI) Jul 6, 2011
Mercury vapor released from broken compact fluorescent light bulbs can be higher than the amount considered safe for human exposure, U.S. researchers say. Researchers at Jackson State University in Mississippi say once broken, such bulbs can continuously release mercury vapor into the air for weeks or even months, and the vapor can exceed safe exposure levels. Since the amount of ... read more

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