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February 09, 2013

TMCnet GreenTech Week in Review



In the 1950s, the cautionary phrase, “Save your energy,” referred more to people than power. Instead of the outdated meaning—sit down and relax—today those same three words are meant to mobilize consumers and businesses alike to cut energy usage.

For example, a start-up company is claiming that its software can reduce electricity usageby about 104 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) by means of a next--generation motor control that is set to debut at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington DC, February 25-27. AC Kinetics asserts that it can eliminate 26 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the environment each year.  “We have developed several algorithms for electric motor control that reduce energy consumption by 10 percent to 40 percent, while simultaneously improving motor performance,” said Neil Singer, president of AC Kinetics. The company adds that its motor control is compatible with existing AC induction motor drive hardware and is now available for licensing. Its first motor control technology was invented by Singer and patented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Are businesses in Minneapolis “burning the midnight oil”—and is that a good thing? The city is about to find out.

About 630 commercial buildings—those with a capacity of 50,000 square feet or more—are targeted to participate in a new energy benchmarking initiative beginning next June.  The proposal, unanimously passed on January 28 by the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee, would make Minneapolis the first city in the Midwest to annually measure and report energy consumption data for its commercial structures. It will go before the full City Council for adoption this week on February 8. It took more than two years of work to craft the ordinance, modeled after similar policies adopted in such major cities as New York, San Francisco, and Austin, Texas; and under consideration in Chicago. According to Minneapolis’ Sustainability Program Coordinator Brendan Slotterback, “The intent of this ordinance is to use market force — not performance or design mandates — to increase energy efficiency in existing commercial and city-owned buildings. It’s also intended to provide consistent, transparent reporting on energy and water use data— not just to owners and managers, but to tenants, potential tenants and the public at large.” The benchmarking and reporting would start on the following schedule: City-owned buildings, in 2013; buildings 100,000 square feet and over, in 2014; and buildings 50,000 square feet and over, in 2015.

What’s the “state of play” in energy today? It’s easier to find out than ever, using the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s interactive online site, which has just been enhanced with even more public information. At the end of January, EIA added its State Energy Data System (SEDS) annual time-series data to the agency's application programming interface (API), first launched in October 2012. EIA's SEDS data library comprises 1.4 million data points, summarizing, by U.S. state, energy production (crude oil, natural gas, coal and ethanol); energy consumption by source and by sector (residential, industrial, commercial and transportation) ; energy costs and expenditures by source and sector; and GDP (gross domestic product) and population.

There’s good news for cleantech companies: The U.S. Departments of Energy and the Treasury has announced the availability of $150 million in Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits for clean energy and energy efficiency manufacturing projects across the United States. This funding represents remaining tax credits that were never fully utilized by previous awardees. In its initial round, the Section 48C Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credit—made available under the American Recovery Reinvestment Act of 2009—provided a 30 percent investment tax credit to 183 domestic clean energy manufacturing facilities, valued at $2.3 billion. The program’s goals are to fortify America’s global competitiveness in clean energy manufacturing, bolster the nation’s energy security, and creating new jobs and opportunities for U.S. workers. The remaining tax credits will be allocated on a competitive basis. Projects will be assessed by the Department of Energy (DOE) based on the following criteria: commercial viability, domestic job creation, technological innovation, speed to project completion, and potential for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. DOE also will consider additional factors, including diversity of geography, technology, and project size, and regional economic development. The IRS has posted the full solicitation, Notice 2013-12. The application period for certification begins on February 7, 2013, and ends on July 23, 2013.

Finally, who wants to use those commercial hand dryer, which not only blow hot germs in your face, but leave your hands damp and ready to be wiped on the nearest piece of clothing? After seven years of research and development, Dyson has done it again—only this time, the inventor has improved hand dryers instead of vacuum cleaners. The Dyson Airblade Tap Hand Dryer features one of the world’s smallest fully-integrated 1400W motors. The motor is powerful enough to draw in and blow out 28 liters of air per second at 420 mph, allowing your hands to dry in just 14 seconds. In a world where we want everything faster, that’s a major difference as opposed to the 43 seconds conventional dryers take. The Dyson Airblade is also the most hygienic hand dryer available and uses HEPA filters that remove 99.97 percent of bacteria from the air used to dry your hands.  When compared to a traditional paper towel dispenser, not only is the Airblade hand dryer greener, it’s also more cost-effective. The cost of a paper towel could cost up to $1,500 a year, but the Dyson Airblade will only have a yearly maintenance fee of $50. 




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