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The latest products, services and cleantech applications and how they are tackling some of our most pressing social and environmental issues.

Boeing, South African Airways Prepare for First Tobacco Harvest for Sustainable Aviation Biofuel

Boeing and South African Airways (SAA) have announced that South African farmers will soon harvest their first crop of energy-rich tobacco plants, an important step towards using the plants to make sustainable aviation biofuel.Boeing and SAA, along with partners SkyNRG and Sunchem SA, also officially launched Project Solaris, their collaborative effort to develop an aviation biofuel supply chain with a nicotine-free tobacco plant called Solaris. In Limpopo province, company representatives and industry stakeholders visited commercial and community farms where 123 acres of Solaris have been planted.Oil from the plant’s seeds may be converted into bio-jet fuel as early as next year, with a test flight by SAA as soon as practicable.

World's First Solar Road Opens in The Netherlands

The world's first public road that includes embedded solar cells has opened in the town of Krommenie in the Netherlands, NPR reports.The crystalline silicon solar cells are encased in two layers of tempered safety glass, set in a concrete housing. The road is a bike commuter path on a special roadway outside Amsterdam. Power generated by the panels will be funneled into the national energy grid.

Boeing Completes World's First Flight Powered by Green Diesel

Boeing has carried out the world's first flight using "green diesel," a widely available sustainable biofuel already used in ground transportation. The company powered its ecoDemonstrator 787 flight test airplane on Tuesday with a blend of 15 percent green diesel and 85 percent petroleum jet fuel in the left engine.Sustainable green diesel is made from vegetable oils, waste cooking oil and waste animal fats. Boeing previously found that this fuel is chemically similar to HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) aviation biofuel approved in 2011. Green diesel is chemically distinct and a different fuel product than "biodiesel," which also is used in ground transportation.

Hyundai Launching First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle in Canada

Hyundai has announced that it will be the first automotive company to make hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles available to the Canadian public.The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) will be available to Canadians on a 3-year lease beginning in early 2015 in the Vancouver area.The vehicle stores hydrogen gas and draws an inflow of air to the fuel cell stack. There is no combustion of hydrogen and the stack has no moving parts. The electrochemical process of combining oxygen and hydrogen in the fuel cell stack creates electricity to power the vehicle's electric motor and charge an onboard battery. The only by-product of the process is pure water vapor, resulting in zero greenhouse-gas emissions.

NRG Energy Sets Ambitious Sustainability Goals, Breaks Ground on Grid-Resilient New Headquarters

NRG Energy, Inc. has announced ambitious sustainability goals as part of its continued corporate growth strategy, in conjunction with the recent groundbreaking ceremony of its new “ultra-green,” grid-resilient corporate headquarters in Princeton, NJ, expected to open in 2016. The second-largest conventional power generation company in the U.S., NRG has achieved significant reductions in CO2 emissions in recent years, but remains a major emitter of CO2. The core of the company’s new sustainability goals is to:

Global Market for Zero Net Energy Buildings to Reach $240 Million by 2018

The global market for zero net energy (ZNE) commercial buildings is expected to grow to $239.7 million by 2018, with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 50.6 percent, according to a new report by BCC Research.

Denmark Sets 100% Renewable Energy Goal for 2050

Denmark has announced an ambitious goal to wean itself off of fossil fuels and power the entire country with renewables by 2050.What sets the Scandinavian country apart from other countries is that it is applying this goal to electrical production as well as transportation. Although some might argue the Danes are being overly optimistic, they are already above 40 percent renewable power on their electric grid and are headed toward 50 percent by 2020.

Booming Solar Industry Failing to Report on Internal Sustainability

Only seven companies representing just a quarter of the total photovoltaic (PV) module market share responded to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition’s (SVTC) Fifth Annual 2014 Solar Scorecard, which ranks manufacturers of solar (PV) modules according to a range of environmental, sustainability and social justice factors.

Why Should Brands Be Involved in the Clean Power Plan?

In our inaugural post on the business-policy nexus, Tom Murray highlighted the implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan as an opportunity for companies to be leaders. Why should companies be motivated to get involved? Because they care about having access to competitive, clean energy and tools and incentives for smart energy management, which will help them meet their sustainability and carbon goals while cutting costs.

Microsoft to Build First Zero-Carbon Data Center

Microsoft, Siemens and FuelCell Energy have come together to build what they claim is the first zero-carbon, waste-to-energy data center in the U.S.Microsoft's data center in Cheyenne, Wyoming uses biogas produced at the nearby Dry Creek facility, which is a byproduct of municipal wastewater treatment. Anaerobic bacteria produce the biogas while stabilizing solids removed from wastewater. The fuel cell electrochemically converts the biogas into electricity to power the Microsoft IT server container. Virtually no air pollutants are released because of the absence of combustion.

Report: Cost of Fighting Climate Change Manageable, Must Cut Emissions to Zero by 2100

Governments can keep climate change in check at manageable costs but will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2100 to limit risks of irreversible damage, according to a new UN report, as reported by Reuters.The 40-page synthesis is a summation of 5,000 pages of work by 800 scientists already published since September 2013, and says global warming is now causing more heat extremes, downpours, acidifying the oceans and pushing up sea levels.

Former Cigarette Plant to Produce Batteries for Solar and Wind Energy Storage

The Philip Morris cigarette plant in Concord, North Carolina is switching to produce batteries to store energy for wind and solar farms, Fortune reports.The plant used to manufacture a billion cigarettes annually, but a reduction in the number of Americans smoking took its toll and Philip Morris stopped producing cigarettes at the plant several years ago.

Team at MIT CityFARM Growing Food 3-4x Faster, with 90% Less Water

A team consisting of engineers, architects, urban planners, economists and plant scientists at MIT has set out to shift traditional farming from the distributed, water- and energy-intense practices of the present to a high-performing, affordable, urban agricultural system with the potential to feed many people.

New Commercial-Scale Carbon-Capture Facility Will Turn GHGs Into Solid, Usable Products

Skyonic Corporation has opened the world’s first commercial-scale carbon capture and utilization facility in San Antonio, TX.Located at Capitol Aggregates, an existing cement plant, the $125 million Capitol SkyMine will have a total carbon impact of 300,000 tons annually, through the direct capture of 75,000 tons of carbon dioxide and transformation into solid, usable products such as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), bleach and hydrochloric acid (HCl).Using Skyonic’s patented, groundbreaking SkyMine® technology, Capitol SkyMine is expected to generate approximately $48 million in revenue and $28 million in annual earnings — all from greenhouse gas emissions that previously would have been released into the atmosphere.

MGM Resorts' New Solar Array Pushing Las Vegas in a More Sustainable Direction

With its ongoing water struggles, the vast amounts of energy and resources going toward recreating cities such as Paris and Venice, and its bawdy reputation as a party town, sustainability is the last topic that comes to mind when thinking about Las Vegas. But Sin City is drenched in sun, and the ample roof space throughout the city offers the local hospitality sector opportunities to reduce costs via solar power and demonstrate it can be a more responsible industry. To that end, MGM Resorts International announced last week it has completed the installation of what it’s calling the world’s largest rooftop solar array on a convention center.

Abengoa Opens First Commercial-Scale, Next-Generation Biorefinery

Abengoa Bioenergy has announced the official grand opening of its second-generation cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas, roughly 90 miles southwest of Dodge City. The biorefinery finished construction in mid-August and began producing cellulosic ethanol at the end of September with the capacity to produce up to 25 million gallons per year.

Swedish Scientists Develop Renewable, Recyclable Battery from Alfalfa and Pine Resin

Rechargeable lithium batteries, used in everything from portable electronic devices to electric cars to large-scale energy storage, are convenient and efficient but less than stellar when it comes to resource and environmental impacts. Now researchers at Uppsala University’s Ångström Laboratory have come up with an entirely new battery concept based on recovery and renewable biological material, with an energy content corresponding to that of current lithium-ion batteries.

B Lab Announces First Nationwide Clean Energy B Corporation

Washington, D.C.-based clean energy company Arcadia Power has become the first nationwide clean energy B Corporation after meeting the rigorous social, environmental and legal standards of B Lab.Driven by a mission to democratize clean energy, Arcadia Power allows businesses and individuals to upgrade their offices or homes to 100 percent clean energy without any additional equipment, for just a 1.5 cents per kWh premium. The company’s proprietary software connects online utility accounts with a clean energy purchasing platform, imports all the energy data, and displays it in a web dashboard with information on rewards, savings and impact.

New LED Lighting at Ford Manufacturing Plants Expected to Save $7M a Year

Ford Motor Company has begun installing 25,000 new LED fixtures to replace traditional high-intensity discharge and fluorescent lights, at its manufacturing facilities across the globe. The new fixtures, valued at over $25 million, are expected to reduce Ford’s energy use at manufacturing facilities by 56 million kilowatt-hours annually – enough to power more than 6,000 average-sized homes per year, and an up to 70 percent reduction in lighting energy consumption compared to traditional technologies. Annual energy costs are expected to be reduced by approximately $7 million.

Southwest Agrees to Purchase 3 Million Gallons of Biofuels Annually

Southwest Airlines has signed an agreement with Red Rock Biofuels (RRB) to purchase approximately three million gallons of low carbon renewable jet fuel per year.The biofuels are made using forest residues that will help reduce the risk of destructive wildfires in the Western United States. RRB’s first plant will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass feedstock into at least 12 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel and naphtha fuels.The blended product will be used in Southwest’s San Francisco Bay Area operations with first delivery expected in 2016.

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