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green@work : Magazine : Newlines : September/October 2006

Actions and initiatives worth noting

GM reveals details about concept car

GM recently announced that the Sequel, a hydrogen fuel-cell concept car unveiled in 2005, has actually been built. Byron McCormick, executive director of fuel cell activities at GM, says, “The Sequel is the car industry’s first fuel-cell vehicle to offer an operating range and performance in line with people’s expectations. That takes us a big step closer to the commercial production of fuel-cell vehicles.”

The new-generation fuel-cell stack developed by GM has given the Sequel a 25-percent increase in power, allowing it to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than 10 seconds. The operating range has also been extended to 300 miles, which is comparable to conventional combustion engines. The Sequel’s fuel-cell propulsion module consists of the fuel-cell stack, hydrogen and air processing subsystem, cooling system, and the high-voltage distribution system. Rather than toxic pollutants, the Sequel emits only steam.

According to GM, the Sequel is still years away from public sale.

Iowa schools using hybrid buses

Two school districts in Iowa have volunteered to join 17 others in becoming the first to rely on hybrid buses to bring students to and from school every day. “Although the hybrid electric drive isn’t really new, it’s never been used in a school bus application before,” said Dennis Kroeger, with Iowa State University’s Center for Transportation Research.

Sigourney School District’s hybrid buses are expected to arrive in late spring. While the outside will look like any other school bus, under the hood is a V-8 diesel engine and electric drive train that captures the energy of braking to recharge its own battery while the bus moves from stop to stop.

Using hybrid technology, the bus is predicted to get 40 percent better mileage and cut the emissions of particular pollutants outside and inside the bus, making it safer for its young passengers. The cost of a hybrid bus is significantly higher than that of a standard bus, but grants will help to defray a portion of the $200,000 cost, bringing the cost down to $60,000 per bus.


Wind energy experiencing rapid growth

Concerns over America’s dependence on foreign oil are beginning to dissipate as sales for turbines, which produce energy from windmills, have grown so rapidly that orders are now being taken into 2008, according to Siemens, one of the largest manufacturers of wind energy turbines. GE has also seen record sales of turbines to the tune of $3.4 billion, and they expect a 30 percent increase in 2007.

Currently, wind farms generate about 0.5 percent of the electricity produced in the United States—and the American Wind Energy Association is asserting that this can be raised to 20 percent. However, experts say that between 6 and 10 percent of the nation’s electricity being derived from wind power is more likely. Why the difference? Wind farms need wind to produce electricity, and sometimes the wind doesn’t blow.

From the Charleston Daily Mail

Ocean power seeing resurgence

With the rising cost of oil, scientists are once again looking to the world’s largest natural resource—the ocean—for electricity generating power.

New projects are looking at ways to use the ocean’s thermal energy, tidal power and wave action. These projects are under way from Maine to Oregon to Hawaii in the United States, and are equally as widespread in Europe. Ocean thermal power plants, which generate electricity from the temperature difference between the tropics’ warm surface water and deep cold water, could be built on land in several hundred locations around the globe’s equatorial zones, and could also be constructed as floating plants.

Although ocean power is still in its infancy, wave and tidal energy technology are at the point where some U.S. commercial projects of limited size are under way. For example, a tidal plant is planned for New York’s East River that will utilize underwater turbines—like wind turbines, but much smaller with slower turning blades—to generate up to 10 megawatts of electricity. This plant should provide enough electricity to power about 12,000 households.

These projects mark a resurgence in the development of ocean thermal energy technology, which has lagged since the 1990s, when the Energy Department ceased operations on an experimental 217-kilowatt demonstration plant at the Natural Energy Laboratory in Hawaii.

From The Honolulu Advertiser

S. Korea, China working together to conserve energy

South Korea and China agreed Tuesday to work together on project that will help to cope with rising global oil prices.

“ The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in their policies related with high oil prices and the issue of global energy supply,” South Korea’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, Chung Sye-kyun, said after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Ma Kai.

Under this agreement, South Korea and China have agreed to pursue joint projects in the fields of renewable energy, oil reserves, electricity and gas. Although they have agreed to exchange technologies in the field of energy conservation, there was no other mention of exactly how the two countries will cooperate.

From the Associated Press

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