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SPI Solar to acquire 360 MW worth of solar power projects in China

SPI Solar to acquire 360 MW worth of solar power projects in China

Solar Power, Inc. is set to become one of the largest solar developers in China....

Toyota hybrid exceeds 7 million mark in global sales

Toyota hybrid exceeds 7 million mark in global sales

The cumulative global sales of Toyota Motor Corporation’s hybrid vehicle have ex...

Suzlon eyes 2,000 MW of wind energy projects in India over next five years

Suzlon eyes 2,000 MW of wind energy projects in India over next five years

India-based wind turbine maker Suzlon has expressed its intent to build 2,000 me...

Solar power could be leading source of electricity by 2050

Solar power could be leading source of electricity by 2050

Solar power could overtake all other sources of electricity by 2050, according t...

U.N. chief welcomes announcements made in Climate Summit

U.N. chief welcomes announcements made in Climate Summit

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed bold new actions to addres...

Climate Summit sees intiatives and commitments

Climate Summit sees intiatives and commitments

Various bodies and entities on the Climate Summit in New York have announced the...

Climate Rally reaches 310,000 participants

Climate Rally reaches 310,000 participants

The number of people who joined the People’s Climate March this September 21 rea...

Business

Richard Flint, Yorkshire Water CEO, opens self-powered sewage works

Richard Flint, Yorkshire Water CEO, opens self-powered sewage works

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Consuming two years development time and a whopping £34 million investment, Yorkshire’s first self-powered sewage works site has been unveiled in Brad...

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Technology

New polymer materials developed for better solar cells

New polymer materials developed for better solar cells

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have developed new materials for more efficien...

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Politics

U.N. chief welcomes $9.3 billion pledge for Green Climate Fund

U.N. chief welcomes $9.3 billion pledge for Green Climate Fund

Friday, 21 November 2014

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed over $9.3 billion in pledges made by Governments for the Green Climate Fund. The $9.3 billion pl...

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Living Green

How to reduce your pooch’s carbon paw print

How to reduce your pooch’s carbon paw print

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

With an increasing number of people becoming environmentally conscious, there is little wonder that several measures are being taken to bring down the...

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Renewables

IKEA purchases second U.S. wind farm to provide clean energy to their stores

IKEA purchases second U.S. wind farm to provide clean energy to their stores

Friday, 21 November 2014

The IKEA Group has purchased the 165-megawatt Cameron Wind Farm in Cameron County, Texas, from Apex Clean Energy. The Cameron Wind Farm is expected to...

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Low-Carbon

Green energy in business – Five tips for the office

Green energy in business – Five tips for the office

Friday, 21 November 2014

Make your office and employees eco-friendly with simple-to-implement advice on creating a green workplace from the energy experts at Project Lower. As...

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Opinion

Unsustainable urban life: What's next?

Unsustainable urban life: What's next?

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Nutrition plays a critical role in everyone’s chance at a better future. Hunger, said Benjamin Franklin once, is the best pickle. Some say “pickle”...

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Grass genes, computer simulation employed for biofuel productivity

By Katrice R. Jalbuena

Grass genes, computer simulation employed for biofuel productivity

Next-generation biofuel advocates want non-food biomass such as fibrous grasses.

With more and more countries seeking to bring down their emissions by increasing the amount of biofuel in their fuel mix, the race is on to see which biomass feed stock can be the source of a sustainable biofuel industry.

While ethanol is an established biofuel, it has come under criticism for using food-based feedstock such as corn and sugarcane. Advocates for the next generation of biofuel are lobbying for the use of non-food biomass, such as fibrous grasses as well as residue from the wood processing and agricultural industries.

Genes from grass

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Rothamsted Research, with funding from Britain's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Sustainable Bioenergy Centre, have been looking at the genes in grasses and cereal crop responsible for the development of the fibrous, woody parts of grasses such as rice and wheat.

"What we hope to do with this research is to produce varieties of plants where the woody parts yield their energy much more readily - but without compromising the structure of the plant. We think that one way to do this might be to modify the genes that are involved in the formation of a molecule called xylan - a crucial structural component of plants," said Professor Paul Dupree of the University of Cambridge.

Xylan found in grasses is different from other plants. The researchers decided to study the cause of this difference.

They identified a gene found in wheat and rice called GT61 that, when transferred into a plant known as Arabidopsis, allowed it to develop the grass form of xylan.

"As well as adding the GT61 genes to Arabidopsis, we also turned off the genes in wheat grain. Both the Arabidopsis plants and the wheat grain appeared normal, despite the changes to xylan. This suggests that we can make modifications to xylan without compromising its ability to hold cell walls together," explained Dr. Rowan Mitchell of Rothamsted.

The researchers believe that their findings could eventually be used to breed a "multi-use" crop in which the grain could be used for food, while the straw and other woody components could be used to produce energy easily and efficiently.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Computer modeling of the biofuel process

Across the pond, researchers from the University of Illinois also reported on the findings of their research into the sustainability of woody biomass biofuel crops such as switchgrass and Miscanthus, species of fibrous grasses that can grow in marginal land.

Agricultural and biological engineering professor and department head K.C. Ting, with Energy Biosciences Institute research professor Yogendra Shastri and agricultural and biological engineering professors Alan Hansen and Luis Rodriguez, used a computer model to run simulations on the variety of steps needed to transform biomass to biofuel to try and find the best system to minimize the cost of producing biofuel.

The model, called "BioFeed," can be adapted to analyze any region of the world. For the purpose of their research, the U.I. team looked at Miscanthus production in a 13-county region in southern Illinois.

BioFeed found that a major challenge of the emerging biofuel industry in the area would be the need for a vast and steady stream of plant biomass.

"If the biorefinery capacity is 50 million gallons of biofuel per year, you need to deliver roughly 1,500 to 2,000 tons of biomass per day," Mr. Ting said.

While each optimized solution could have its drawbacks, the researchers pointed out, BioFeed would allow those involved in biomass to biofuel production to look and learn from simulations instead of through costly trial and error.

Agronomists recommend that the crop be harvested in January of February, a season of harsh weather in the Mid-West which could increase the expense. BioFeed found that a November harvest would reduce weather-related costs, but would result in higher fertilization costs in the spring.

Next, the researchers are building another model that considers how farmers and other stakeholders are likely to behave given various economic and regulatory factors.

The BioFeed model research, which was funded by BP, is described in papers in the journals Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining; Biological Engineering; Biomass and Bioenergy; and Computers and Electronics in Agriculture.


 



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