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|Articles - June 2012|
|Tuesday, May 29, 2012|
Page 1 of 4
BY LINDA BAKER
1. FOOT SOLDIERS IN THE SOLAR ARMY
“Solar energy is one of the most expensive energy sources right now. So every aspect of solar cells is being scrutinized to see how it can become more efficient and cheaper,” says Scott Weaver, chief business strategist at CSD Nano, a Corvallis startup that makes anti-reflective coatings for photovoltaic cover glass.
The Holy Grail for solar energy advocates is grid parity, in which electricity from solar costs the same or less than power from fossil fuels. CSD Nano, which is using nanotechnology based on the anti-reflective retina of a moth eye, is just one of many technology companies working on driving down costs. “It’s very exciting,” Weaver says. “We’re part of manifest destiny.”
Shannon Boettcher, a UO chemistry professor, is another pioneer, although he approaches the problem from a different angle. Solar energy is an intermittent power source, so figuring out how to store energy from the sun and make it a stable reliable energy source is crucial to achieving grid parity, says Boettcher. His research focuses on converting electricity from the sun into chemical bonds such as hydrogen that can be stored for later use. “We know how to do this using expensive exotic materials that are highly engineered. The challenge is to develop a process using earth abundant elements we can put together in low-cost scalable ways.”
An international contingent is working on this approach, Boettcher says. “Because if we want to displace all of our fossil fuel energy use, if we want to stop using coal, then we absolutely have to store renewables.”
2. THE LED ELIXIR
LED lights are about five times more efficient than conventional incandescent light bulbs. They are also up to 20 times more expensive and lack the warm light typical of the conventional bulb, which keeps consumers from buying them. If everyone transitioned to LEDs, consumers would potentially save 190 terawatt hours annually — the equivalent of lighting over 95 million homes. Pacific Light Technologies, a Portland startup, is developing a new process aimed at mainstreaming the high-efficiency LED. The technology involves quantum dots — chemically created microscopic semiconductors — that provide better light output “tunable to different hues,” says Pacific Light CEO Ron Nelson. The dots, now being tested with major lighting manufacturers, will also reduce the cost of LEDs by at least 50% and enable replacement of the phosphors currently used in LED lights, reducing industry dependence on the rare earth compounds. “We believe we have found the elixir,” says Nelson.
3. THE SMARTER FARMER
In recent years, buying food from your local organic farmer has become all the rage. But most local farmers still struggle to compete against big agribusiness. Smart phones are coming to the rescue, helping small and mid-size farmers practicing sustainable agriculture differentiate themselves from the pack.
“If you’re a medium-size farmer and you’re trying to reposition yourself out of the commodity market, you might tell your distributor you’re certified for environmental stewardship but that story isn’t told to other links in the supply chain. So people are working on Internet technologies to empower farmers to tell what’s unique. You put a QR code on your package and the customer can access the rich information. This is combined with traceability tools that help midsize produce growers satisfy increasing traceability requirements for food safety. It’s about putting tools in the hands of farmers.”
-Scott Exo, former executive director of the Food Alliance, a Portland nonprofit that certifies sustainable agricultural and food-handling practices
Thursday, July 24, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
Remember the naysayers? Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle? Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
BY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER
When I say, “Your Employee is Always Right,” I do not mean “right about the facts,” but rather “right about how they feel” and “right about how they want to be led.”
Monday, August 18, 2014
Portland is in the middle of another construction boom, with residential and office projects springing up downtown, in the Pearl and Old Town. OB Web Editor Jessica Ridgway documents the new wave.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY DEBRA RINGOLD | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Why has six years become an acceptable investment in public undergraduate education that over-promises and underperforms?
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Tom Cox interviews Pete Friedes, author of "The 2R Manager," about becoming a Best Boss.
Friday, August 22, 2014
BY CLIFF HOCKLEY | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
When business intersects with family, a host of situations can arise. Without a clear vision and careful planning, hard-earned investments can become stressful burdens.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
BY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER
Tom Cox interviews Steve Balzac, author of "Organizational Psychology for Managers."
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