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Posts Tagged ‘China’

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Image: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Next month the United States Department of Energy will release a study finding that China contains huge underground repositories that could be used to store 100 years of carbon emissions. As I write in The New York Times on Thursday:

China has vast underground repositories that could store more than a century’s worth of carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities, according to a report to be released by the United States Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The study, conducted with scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, found that the geologic formations are in close to a large percentage of the country’s power plants.

That could permit “the continued use of cheap, domestic coal within China while supporting CO2 emissions reductions via the capture and geologic storage of the associated CO2,” according to an eight-page summary of the study.

The full report will be released in November.

“A lot of the policy dialogue and technical discussions have this really sharp dichotomy — either you use coal and bad things happen to the environment, or you forgo coal and bad things happen to the economy,” James Dooley, a scientist at the laboratory and an author of the report, said in an interview. “We’re trying to say maybe there’s a third way here.”

Such technology, which remains untried on a commercial scale, comes with high costs, because capturing and storing carbon emissions consumes significant amounts of energy and water. The potential environmental impact of putting billions of tons of carbon dioxide underground also remains unknown.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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Photo: Todd Woody

In my Green State column for Grist on Thursday, I write about Wheego, an Atlanta startup that will soon begin selling an electric microcar called the Whip.

I took the Whip for a spin around San Francisco with Wheego chief executive Mike McQuary riding shotgun but what really grabbed my attention was the fact that the chassis and body are made in China. While U.S. automakers take halting steps toward weaning themselves from the internal combustion engine, the Chinese are positioning themselves to make the great leap forward into the electric age. As I write on Grist:

A traffic jam is developing on the electric highway.

A decade after General Motors killed the electric car, big automakers and startups are revving up to put battery-powered vehicles on the road over the next couple of years. One of the latest entrants is Wheego, an Atlanta company that is about to launch the Whip—a tiny low-speed “neighborhood electric vehicle” that will be upgraded in 2010 to a full-speed, highway-ready car.

Wheego chief executive Mike McQuary brought a Whip to San Francisco last week, and I took the car for a spin around the city. (More on that in a bit.)

You see quite a few neighborhood electrics across the Bay in Berkeley where I live. Their top speed is around 25 miles per hour and many look like glorified golf carts or cast-offs from an East Bloc auto factory, circa 1984. And at the risk of stereotyping, most seem to be driven by the proverbial little old leftist lady in tennis shoes who glides down the hill for the weekly nuclear disarmament rally outside the Cal campus (circa 1984).

The Wheego Whip, on the other hand, looks like a “real” car (PDF brochure). Somewhat similar in appearance to the Smart fortwo or Think City EV, it’s a two-seater microcar sporting all the mod cons—power windows, Bluetooth stereo, iPod/iPhone jack, air conditioning.

Like Coda Automotive’s forthcoming electric sedan, the Whip’s body and chassis are Chinese made—another sign that China is emerging as a player in the nascent electric car industry—while the battery comes from Canada and the motor from Wisconsin (U-S-A! U-S-A!). The Whip will be assembled in California in the Los Angeles exurb of Ontario. Other electric startups are following a similar business plan, making the old Detroit automotive model increasingly look as viable as a Hummer.

You can read the rest of the column here.

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first solar

Photo: First Solar

First Solar became the first U.S. solar company to break into the Chinese market on Tuesday and it did do in a big way when it signed an agreement to build a two-gigawatt thin-film solar power plant in Inner Mongolia. As I write in The New York Times:

Chinese government officials signed an agreement on Tuesday with First Solar, an American solar developer, for a 2,000-megawatt photovoltaic farm to be built in the Mongolian desert.

Set for completion in 2019, the First Solar project represents the world’s biggest photovoltaic power plant project to date, and is part of an 11,950-megawatt renewable-energy park planned for Ordos City in Inner Mongolia.

The memorandum of understanding between Chinese officials and First Solar, the world’s largest photovoltaic cell manufacturer, would open a potentially vast solar market in China and follows the Chinese government’s recent moves to accelerate development of renewable energy.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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CODA Front_hires

photo: Coda Automotive

A new electric car company, Coda Automotive, emerged from stealth mode this week and unveiled a $45,000 sedan that it says will hit the streets in 2010.

The Santa Monica, Calif., startup is an offshoot of Miles Electric Vehicles, a maker of low-speed neighborhood runabouts. The CEO is Kevin Czinger, a veteran of Goldman Sachs (GS), Fortress Investment Group and dot-com era online grocer WebVan. Goldman Sachs’ Mac Heller serves as co-chairman and the board includes John Bryson, past chairman and chief executive of Edison International (EIX). Coda has raised $40 million from the Angeleno Group and other investors.

Green Wombat took a spin in the car, called the Coda, earlier this week in Southern California. As I wrote in my Green State column on Grist:

Open one of those minimalist black boxes that contain a shiny new iPod and you’re greeted by five words—“Designed by Apple in California.” In much smaller print would be the phrase “Made in China.”

That, in a nutshell, describes the strategy of the latest entrant in the electric car sweepstakes: Santa Monica-based Coda Automotive. At a defunct Wilshire Boulevard Jaguar dealership on Wednesday, the startup emerged from stealth mode and CEO Kevin Czinger literally pulled the cover off the Coda, a $45,000 battery-powered sedan set to go on sale next year in California. Coda is an offshoot of Miles Electric Vehicles, a maker of low-speed “neighborhood electric” runabouts.

The Coda sedan, which resembles a previous-generation Honda Civic, is a highway-ready, 80 mph five-seater that will travel 90 to 120 miles on a charge, according to the company.

And it is likely to be the first Chinese-made car to hit American roads. The car’s 333-volt lithium ion battery pack comes from the Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint-Stock Co., a huge state-owned corporation that supplies batteries to Apple and other consumer electronics companies.  Coda has established a joint venture with Tianjin Lishen to design and sell batteries for transportation and utility storage. The sedan’s design, brand and intellectual property will be owned by Coda, but it will be manufactured and assembled in China by Hafei, a state-owned automobile and aircraft manufacturer.

Read the rest of the column here.

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img_1216_1photo: Todd Woody

The numbers are in, and as expected 2008 set a record year for the worldwide wind industry as new wind farms generating a total of 27,000 megawatts of greenhouse gas-free electricity came online, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

The quick-click headline was that the United States overtook the world’s green superpower, Germany, by installing 8,358 megawatts in 2008  – a 50% jump from the previous year and enough wind energy to power two million American homes. But the big story this year will be China’s rapid emergence as the next global wind power.

China last year doubled its wind energy capacity – for the fourth straight year – adding 6,300 megawatts of new electricity generation for a  total capacity of 12,210 megawatts.  A third of the world’s new wind capacity last year was installed in Asia, with China  accounting for 73% of that power. China reached its 2010 target of generating 5,000 megawatts of wind-powered electricity in 2007 and is expected to hit its 2030 goal of 30,000 megawatts years early.

“In 2009, new installed capacity is expected to nearly double again, which will be one third or more of the world’s total new installed capacity for the year,” Li Junfeng, Secretary General of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association, said in a statement.

Of course, 30,000 megawatts of wind is but a flicker in a country with more than 300,000 megawatts of coal-fired energy online but it’s huge by world standards and has spawned both a burgeoning domestic wind industry and growing investment by overseas companies. Denmark’s Vestas, the world’s largest turbine maker,  will open its fifth factory in China this year and it received orders for another 200 megawatts’ worth of turbines at the end of 2008. General Electric (GE), one of only two U.S. turbine makers, also operates a factory in China and in January the company announced a joint venture with China’s A-Power Energy Generation to make turbine gearboxes. In a separate deal with A-Power, GE will supply the company with 900 turbine gearboxes starting next year.

As the financial crisis slows growth in the U.S. and Europe, India is another potential wind power. It ended 2008 with 9,645 megawatts of wind energy and added more capacity that year – 1,800 megawatts – than former world leaders Germany and Spain. Indian turbine maker Suzlon also has been moving onto European turf, relocating its international headquarters to Denmark and acquiring German turbine manufacturer REPower.

Installed global wind capacity now stands at 120.8 gigawatts with the 2008 turbine market worth $47.5 billion, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

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