Monthly Archives: May 2012

Could this be powering homes on the Bellarine?

ETI backs Atlantis
ReNews 23 May 2012


The Energy Technologies Institute has chosen consortium led by Atlantis Resources Corporation to receive development support under its Tidal Energy Converter System Demonstrator project.

Atlantis and partners will benefit from an ETI investment of up to £3.2m in the assessment of a variety of tidal system configurations and potential technology choices to identify cost reductions.

If a clear path can be seen to achieving cost of energy targets, then phase one will continue to develop the most promising innovations and architecture in readiness for demonstration.

If successful, the project will progress to a £10m second phase where system and sub-system solutions will be developed towards commercial readiness and demonstrated in a “realistic offshore environment”.

The project will be managed by Black and Veatch and draw extensively on the systems integration and technology skills of Lockheed Martin, ETI said.

Energy minister Charles Hendry, who unveiled the award at the All Energy conference in Aberdeen this morning, said the initiative is part of a wider programme of public support to marine innovation.

Government will plough up to £80m over three years into the sector to drive down costs “to levels comparable to other low carbon systems.”

Achieving a competitive cost of energy will be “critical in accelerating the development and commercialisation of tidal energy converter device arrays,” Hendry said.

EV or not to be … compare traditional and EV models

US gov releases new tool to compare traditional and EV models

By Charlie Osborne | May 22, 2012, 5:57 AM PDT

In a bid to encourage EV purchase, the U.S. government has introduced a payback system on their fuel economy website.

The new section offers a comparison between the fuel costs and MSRP of 12 electronic vehicle models manufactured in 2012. The website states: “Based on MSRP and fuel costs alone, hybrid vehicles can save you money versus a comparably equipped conventional vehicle.” Some of the vehicles available on are the 2012 Honda Insight, 2012 Toyota Prius c One, and 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid.

To use the new tool, you pick a hybrid model and move the sliders to approximate annual miles driven, city-highway driving percentage and the current fuel prices.

After these details have been input, the tool then tells you the vehicle’s MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), and the estimated fuel saving by converting to an EV model weekly, monthly and yearly.

Based on these savings, Fuel economy gives you an estimated time of payback — the time it will take for your original investment to bear fruit for your personal finances.

Insurance, maintenance and resale values are not considered, as the different rates can vary widely.


Image credit: Screenshot C.Osborne/

Reproduced from

Resource recovery NOT waste

Mexico City launches massive composting project

By Lauren Villagran | May 23, 2012, 3:00 AM PDT

CIUDAD NEZAHUALCOYOTL, Mexico – An afternoon wind whips up small tornados of acrid dust across mounds of earth that resemble an ancient burial ground.
Only what’s buried here on 75 acres just outside Mexico City is the capital’s first large-scale compost plant. The city recently shuttered the last landfill it operated and on a piece of unused land at the site, started composting.
City officials tout the facility as the largest in Latin America and one of the largest of its kind in the world.
Each day, tractor trailers filled to the brim with organic garbage – the rinds, peels, pits, meat and bones and other natural materials that amount to the city’s leftovers – dump their cargo here, where the waste is buried, aerated, mixed with microorganisms, monitored for temperature and “cooked” into compost over a period of 40 days.
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard oversaw the closing of the sprawling landfill, the Bordo Poniente, in December. His administration has been working to find alternatives for disposing of the roughly 12,600 tons of trash the city generates daily.
Since the plant came online at the start of the year, the city is now composting roughly 80 percent of its organic waste, according to Ricardo Estrada, who directs the city’s recycling and composting programs.
That’s an important figure, he said, given that 40 percent of Mexico City’s trash is organic. In more developed countries, the trash mix includes far less organic matter and much more dry, inorganic material, such as plastics, aluminum, cardboard and other packaging, he said. Mexico’s trash is very “wet” by contrast.

The city has plans to eventually sell the compost to agricultural producers in and around the city, but so far it’s not up to farming quality. For now, the city is using the compost to fertilize green spaces including parks and medians.
“It’s going to be a resource that we didn’t have before,” Estrada said.
Mexico City dabbled with the idea of composting for nearly a decade before committing to developing a plan two years ago, Estrada said. One obstacle was that the powerful city sanitation workers union couldn’t see the benefit of separating out the organic trash – when they dedicated most of their time to separating out recyclables, which could be sold. Now, at the plant, the city pays each tractor-trailer 50 pesos, or about $3.60, per ton of organic material.
“People weren’t convinced that composting was an alternative,” said Estrada. “All the systems had been focused on recycling.”
Now the city just needs to work out what to do, long-term, with all the trash that remains after the compost and recyclables are weeded out. For now, it’s destined for dumps in nearby Mexico State – at least until those communities decide they no longer want the capital’s waste.
Photos: Lauren Villagran
Reproduced from

The long awaited boost …… for The Bellarine opportunities.

Let it flow: Can venture capital break our cleantech bottleneck?

By Giles Parkinson on 23 May 2012

Australia has long been a rich source of ideas, but a barren land for those seeking venture capital to help develop them. Just to give an example, some $9 billion is funneled into research every year, but only around $100 million is available for commercialisation, creating what Graydon Smith, the manager of venture capital funds at AusIndustry, describes as a “massive hour glass effect.” Little wonder, then, that so many Australian technology developers and IT and cleantech entrepreneurs beat a path to the US, and Silicon Valley in particular.

That bottleneck is about to be eased following a major of injection of new funds into the VC market, specifically for renewable energy and cleantech developments. Southern Cross Venture Partners, the US-Australian VC fund manager which won the government’s Renewable Energy VC mandate with the help of $100 million from China’s Softbank, is expected to announce its first investments in the coming weeks.

Just to confirm the hour-glass analogy, Southern Cross managing director Gareth Dando says the company has been flooded with “hundreds” of applications, proposals and inquiries since the mandate was first announced last December. “There has been an avalanche of interest. People have been waiting on this for a while,” Dando told RenewEconomy in a rare interview. Interestingly, a lot had come from biofuels and waste-to-energy technologies, with a range of others relating to wind, solar, and enabling technologies. “We are seeing a lot of genuine innovation,” he said, before adding: “We have no particular view on which technologies (it would favour).”

The Renewable Energy VC fund will focus on generation, along with hybrid solutions and enabling technologies (such as batteries and grids). But Dando said the size of the fund – $200 million – is significantly bigger than any that have preceded it. “The other funds have not had the capacity to make the investment that we can… so it will change the game in that respect, and give them more certainty about the availability of funding.”

For the complete article, refer

Fuel for thought …….

FedEx closes in on 2020 fleet efficiency goal

By Heather Clancy | May 21, 2012, 10:36 AM PDT

For more detail –

Yes, the year in the headline is correct. Delivery and logistics company Fedex Express reports this month that the company has improved its fleet efficiency by 16.6 percent through fiscal year 2011, compared with 2005.

The company’s goal has been to squeeze 20 percent more fuel efficiency out of its fleet by 2020, and it seems like FedEx could reach that number rather easily based on the numbers it has already achieved. As a result, it plans to study whether or not to move the bar a bit farther, according to Mitch Jackson, FedEx staff vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability.

FedEx has embraced a variety of strategies to drive better efficiency. For example, 20 percent of its diesel fleet complies with standards set out in 2010 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The company also has deployed 43 electric vehicles across its routes and it will almost double that number in the near future — bring the total number of electric vehicles in its fleet to 130. The new vehicles will be put on the road in the next few months in New York, several metro markets in California, several places in Texas, and in Rockville, Md. There’s also a test going on in Chicago.

FedEx is also adding trucks that weigh less than conventional walk-in vans: it is using 114 vehicles that use a Reach composite body and an Isuzu Motors chassis. The design saves up to 35 percent in fuel.

FedEx is also flirting with retrofit technologies that convert standard vehicles into all electric models. It is testing drive trains from AMP, Smith Electric and Freightliner Custom Chassis.

“While we naturally want to improve performance and reduce costs for FedEx, we also want to see all-electric trucks become more affordable and reliable for everyone from your local pizza parlor to other small businesses that deliver,” said FedEx’s Jackson, in a statement. “This is a strategy for reducing reliance on petroleum-based fuels in a much faster, more inclusive and impactful way.”

It should be intriguing to see how much more efficiency FedEx can drive between now and 2020.

There’s nothing black or white about organic agriculture ……..

21 May 2012, 2.09pm AEST



Verena Seufert   PhD Student at McGill University


Is organic better? That depends.Jeff Krauss

Food is an emotional topic. Everyone cares about what they eat. Food often has a strong cultural, religious or even political meaning attached to it. Organic food is no different in that respect. People buy organic out of hedonistic values of pleasure and health as well as out of altruistic values of environmental sustainability, social justice and animal welfare.

In addition, organic food is also part of the political debate on how to feed the world sustainably today and into the future. Agriculture is currently one of the major threats to the environment. We know that some drastic changes in our food system are needed if we want to ensure that the many hungry people on this planet have access to sufficient nutritious food and at the same time reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.

Organic agriculture is often proposed as a solution to some of these challenges. It promises to produce food in a more environmentally friendly way and to provide accessible means of increasing yields in smallholder farming systems in developing countries.

For full article –

Refer also the following extracts from Join the conversation

1. In reply to Tim Scanlon, about 7 hours ago


Ian Donald Lowe

Seeker of Truth (logged in via email

I watched the video, so that I could reply to you in context with all the information that you have supplied.

I am not anti farmer. In fact I have worked on farms in many parts of Australia (WA, SA, Vic, NSW and Qld)and in my time I have worked with agricultural chemicals as well. I have usually got on well with the farmers I have worked with and for. We share a common language and history in many cases. Being naturally cautious, I have never poisoned myself but I have been subjected to exposure of some spray drift and chemical residues on occasion, so I also have direct personal experience with one of the major downsides of chemical use in agriculture.

Tim, good for you for supporting your industry but this is not really a competition. Organic agriculture will still need skilled and hard working farmers to make it work. It will also need the support of scientists, engineers and other support industries to really reach full potential. So I promote organics in my small way but I try very hard not to denigrate farmers for doing what they do. I know what they do and why and in most cases their intentions are to look after the land, their families and produce the best crops that they can. I respect that.

Some of your comments, such as "organics are relying on work that is 50 years old", or "they are essentially running on outmoded production technologies, hence the yield gap", or "Organic farms tend to be low input, which degrades nutrition profiles in many instances" are fairly anti-organic and are also basically wrong. (I could explain why but I feel it would be wasted energy)

It seems like you are more interested in denigrating the organic movement than you are in supporting farmers sometimes, so I have wondered about your motivations at times (this isn’t the only site I have seen you post on recently) and where that motivation comes from. Big chemical companies are the only real losers if organic farming were to become the norm, so that is why I asked the question. You have answered and I will take you on your word. I apologise and I will not insult you in that way again. But please don’t insult my intelligence by spouting garbage about organics, okay


about 1 hour ago


Marian Macdonald

(logged in via Twitter)

I’ve often wondered whether we should work towards becoming an organic farm but two things have held me back: first of all – animal welfare. I’d hate to tell the vet I won’t use a treatment that will help one of my cows get better and let her suffer instead. We don’t allow antibiotic residues into our milk as the article implies however! That is totally illegal.

Second, I don’t want to see our precious land wasted.

In our aim for sustainability, we plant at least a thousand trees each year, use antibiotics only when needed, have built soils high in organic matter and minimise the use of chemicals on farm. We’re not organic but I’m not sure that’s 100% ethical either.

Edible landscapes – ideal for The Bellarine.

This article touches on the very essence of what is so very special here on The Bellarine …… green space.

Could planting trees be the next crime control strategy?

By Claire Lambrecht | May 20, 2012, 3:28 PM PDT
Downtown Baltimore, Md., from a pagoda in Patterson Park. (Phil Gold/Flickr)
“Ugliness is so grim,” urban beautification advocate Lady Bird Johnson once said. “A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.”
Though criticized for her efforts (some suggested her projects were merely “cosmetic”), Lady Bird Johnson may have been on to something after all. Trees, according to a new study published in Landscape and Urban Planning, don’t just beautify neighborhoods; they also reduce crime.
The study, funded by the Forest Service and the National Science Foundation, compared crime data to tree cover in particular neighborhoods across Baltimore and Baltimore County, Md, between 2007 and 2010. The results, which could serve as a 21st century counterpart of the “Broken Windows“ theory introduced in 1982 by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, demonstrate a striking correlation between criminal activity and the number of trees in a neighborhood.
“In the tree world, we call it the ‘empty tree pit’ theory,” said J. Morgan Grove, one of the study’s co-authors in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. “If you have trees in the pits … they’re symbols of the fact that the neighborhood is cared about. … If they see you breaking into someone’s car, they’re going to call the cops.”
Having that tree cover, and the neighborhood presence that comes along with it, can mean striking changes from one neighborhood to the next. In one area, for example, a 10 percent increase in the density tree canopy went hand in hand with a 12 percent drop in reported crime. These statistics are a far cry from comprehensive crime-control strategy. They do, however, deliver welcome support for advocates, like the late Lady Bird Johnson, who saw the compound interest that could be derived from “something that is lovely.”
( Baltimore Sun)

In architecture, is 3D printing the new normal?

By C.C. Sullivan | May 17, 2012, 3:45 AM PDT

Another inspirational article from Smart Planet -

  • A model made with 3D printing by Jerde Partnership, courtesy 3D Systems

    When it comes to computing, the buzz at this year’s AIA convention is all about three-dimensional process: 3D CAD, building information modeling (BIM), and — more than ever before — 3D printing.

    The big question architects, do firms need 3D printing to succeed? Is it indispensable, like mylar drafting film was back in the day?

    The downside is still cost. Even the consumer-targeted Cube from 3D Systems runs $1,299 to get started, and it makes dinky 5.5-inch-square solids. For five material cartridges, add $219 — and you’ll be going back to the proverbial inkwell often.

    The price of pro printing

    Professional 3D printers are far more costly, but they have the high resolution and detail that architects need to make a convincing building model — and the hardness that allows for normal handling, assembly and transport. The baseline model ProJet 1500 builds models up to 9 inches at about a half-inch an hour, and it’s a $15,000 investment with plenty of maintenance and material costs.

    3D printing is thinner and faster — but still costly. A model by Rietveld Architects using an Objet printer.

    With the American Institute of Architects’ national firm billings index flirting with negative territory, very few architects are looking to drop tens of thousands on 3D printing. While business remains anemic, an old-fashioned chipboard models will do just fine, thanks.

    For now, that is.

    Plus some early adopters feel like guinea pigs. Surprisingly, 3D printing still isn’t all that well integrated with 3D programs likeArchiCAD and Revit.

    “Now that we have our design drawn in a software package that can handle 2D and 3D representation, wouldn’t it be great if we could hit ‘3D print” and have our design 3D printed to scale?” asks New York based architectural designer and 3D expert Piet Meijs with Rietveld Architects, which uses a 3D printer from Objet.  ”That would be great, but unfortunately the technology isn’t there yet.”

    Even small firms can use this: the ZPrinter 850 from 3D Systems.

    Throw it to the printer

    Firms are finding limitations on the exporting of stereolithography (STL) files from common BIM and CAD platforms. Some are using alternative routes, says one architectural IT leader, like exporting to 3D DWG and make the STL out of solids engines like Autodesk’s 3ds Max, instead of Revit.

    Most important, making a great model to show the client takes more than mere printing.

    One experienced architect says that firms have to estimate the time required for all the related tasks that come with 3D printing: “How much setup time, prep time, preprinting time, and postprinting time depends on how nice of a model you want.” That little massing model is no problem — but if you need a high-quality presentation model to wow the crowds, you need training on an STL editing program as well as all the fine assembly techniques after the machine stops humming: “gap-filling, element resizing, slicing and pinning the model as required to assemble it after the fact,” he explains, plus the cavity cleanout and other tasks after printing.

    But the Cube Hero is just for fooling around at home.

    Another issue is what you can’t print. Thin ceilings, fine mullions and other delicate shapes may break due to the weight of the printing powder itself. In many cases, the rendered model can’t print small detail shapes that really make the building design sing. Objet boasts a very fine line, with machines that can print super-slender walls 0.6mm thick and even thinner still.

    The true believers

    Still, here we are in Washington, D.C., at the AIA convention and the Expo2012 show floor has nice, shiny machines that architects are drooling over.

    Hand models — the quaint old days of 3D printing. Courtesy 3D Systems

    The most likely winner is 3D Systems Corp.’s ZPrinter 850, endorsed by architects like Wesley Wright at Pelli Clarke Pelli and other firms using them in schematic design, design development and even project delivery.

    It’s almost accessible — just a few thousand deposition layers away.

    We’ve even heard about the future of printing actual hardware and otjer building elements — and entire houses, as revealed by my colleague Sun Joo Kim’s article on a 3D-printed house in Denmark.

    OK, that’s just a dream. But will we all wake up one day soon to see a big 3D printer in the corner of your modeling shop?

    Start your week smarter with our weekly e-mail newsletter. It’s your cheat sheet for good ideas

  • U.S. slaps hefty duties onto Chinese solar panels

    By David Worthington | May 17, 2012, 7:10 PM PDT

    Read this and related articles on –


    SolarWorld Industries led a coalition of U.S. solar manufacturers in trade complaints against China last year. (Image credit: SolarWorld)

    The United States has slapped hefty tariffs onto Chinese solar panels after concluding that China has engaged in unfair trading practices to the detriment of U.S. manufacturers. Chinese companies have called for the U.S. to advert a “solar trade war.”

    Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced its preliminary decision on a minimum 31 percent, 90-day retroactive, tariff on Chinese made panels as a remedy for China’s “dumping” goods into the U.S. market. Chinese PV maker Suntech Power Holdings issued a statement taking issue with the decision for not reflecting the “reality of a highly-competitive global solar industry” and vowed to convince the U.S. to back off.

    “As a global company with global supply chains and manufacturing facilities in three countries, including the United States, we are providing our U.S. customers with hundreds of megawatts of quality solar products that are not subject to these tariffs,” said Andrew Beebe, Suntech’s chief commercial Officer.

    “Despite these harmful trade barriers, we hope that the U.S., China and all countries will engage in constructive dialogue to avert a deepening solar trade war. Suntech opposes trade barriers at any point in the global solar supply chain. All leading companies in the global solar industry want to see a trade war averted. We need more competition and innovation, not litigation,” Beebe continued.

    The Department imposed a separate tariff of up to 4.73 percent on Chinese PVs to remedy Chinese government subsidies in March. In October, a coalition of U.S. PV panel makers raised trade complaints with government officials, sparking a row between East and West.

    A month later, a Chinese solar manufacturing trade group asked China’s Ministry of Commerce to investigate U.S. manufacturers for selling below cost and requested action against U.S. government subsidies. China cut its subsidies substantially earlier this month.

    Thus far, only China has been found to be in violation of international trade rules. China’s rationing of rare earth minerals used in the production of high tech and renewable energy products, such as PV panels, has run afoul of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Trade law expert UCLA law professor Richard Steinberg, stated that the behavior was, “It was Chinese mercantilism at its best: a straightforward, illegal, aggressive effort to manipulate the global market for raw materials, and they lost appropriately.”

    The European Union, Japan, and United States filed a separate trade dispute with the WTO over China’s export restrictions on rare earths in March. The process could take years to yield any results.

    Related on SmartPlanet:

    · U.S., allies seek rare earth trade resolution

    · China cuts solar subsidies

    · U.S. places tariffs on Chinese solar panel makers

    · WTO rules against China’s rare earths stockpiling

    · U.S. solar manufactures back cheap Chinese imports

    Kev Carmody … a must listen to podcast

    Broadcast date: Friday 11 May 2012

    Kev Carmody

    Great singer songwriter Kev Carmody grew up mustering cattle and cutting cane, and listening to old 78 records of country and classical music.

    Kev Carmody has become known as the ‘Aboriginal Bob Dylan’ for his story songs that encompass so much human drama.

    Many of his songs are regarded now as Australian classics, and have been recorded by other artists like Paul Kelly, The Waifs and Missy Higgins.

    Kev is spending a lot of time in his beloved vege garden these days, but he’s also in his recording studio, putting together some new CDs – from unrecorded songs he’s written that go back to the sixties.

    These new CDs will hopefully be released by the end of this year.

    For the audio –

    You can either listen to each Conversations interview by clicking on the audio or you can download each interview as an mp3 by right clicking on the blue heading under the audio.

    To subscribe to the Conversations podcast, paste                  to your podcasting application or visit our podcasting page.