News Updates for the Week of April 25 - Energy Watch News

News Updates for the Week of April 25

1. UD Collaborating With LG Innotek On Advanced Solar Cell Research – The UD solar institute, a U.S. Department of Energy University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaic Research and Education, recently won a three-year, $780,000 contract from LG Innotek to pursue pioneering research on wide band-gap solar cells, which absorb less sunlight, but produce a higher voltage than solar cells currently on the market. LG Innotek is among the top-10 electronics manufacturers in the world, producing LEDs used in flat-screen TVs, semiconductors for automobile motors, and camera sensors for mobile phones, including Apple’s latest iPhone, lighting, among other products.

2. DOE Publishes Updated SSL R&D Plan – The DOE has published the March 2011 edition of the Solid-State Lighting (SSL) R&D Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP). The report provides a description of the activities the Department plans to undertake over the next several years to implement its SSL mission, and informs the development of annual SSL R&D funding opportunities. The document reviews SSL technology status and trends for both LEDs and organic OLEDs, and offers an overview of the current DOE SSL R&D project portfolio. Significant updates to the Technology Research and Development Plan include revised efficiency projections, priorities, task descriptions, and metrics to align DOE targets with progress made to date and industry trends. To download a PDF copy of the updated Plan, see

3. Housing Starts in U.S. Increased to 549,000 in March, Exceeding Forecasts – A gain in March housing starts failed to make up for ground lost the prior month, as U.S. home builders continue to struggle almost two years into the economic recovery. Work began on 549,000 houses at an annual pace, up 7.2 percent from the prior month and exceeding the 520,000 median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. 4/19 Bloomberg News

4. Existing Home Sales Gain Raises Cautious Hope – Home resales volumes bounced back in March, a hopeful sign for recovery in the housing market, but prices continued to decline. The housing market is struggling to find its footing as a wave of foreclosed properties keeps supply up but prices down. The housing sector led the economy into its worst recession since the 1930s in 2007-2008 and is now lagging recovery in the broader economy. Existing home sales in March rose 3.7 percent from February to an annual rate of 5.10 million units, the National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday. Economists had expected a smaller increase to a 5.0 million-unit pace. 4/20 Reuters

5. Leading Indicators Point to Strengthening Economy – US leading indicators up in March for 9th straight month, but consumers worry about inflation. The Conference Board, a private research group, said U.S. economic growth should strengthen by summer, but cautioned that consumer concerns over rising gas and food prices could drag on the expansion. Its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.4 percent in March. The index, which is a measure of future economic activity, has increased for nine straight months. 4/21 AP

6. Transparent Photovoltaic Cells Turn Windows Into Solar Panels – A new class of transparent photovoltaic cells has been developed that can turn an ordinary windowpane into a solar panel without impeding the passage of visible light, scientists said Tuesday. The cells could one day transform skyscrapers into giant solar collectors, said Richard Lunt, one of the researchers on the project. Previous attempts at transparent solar cells have either failed to achieve high efficiency or blocked too much light to be used in windows. But the new cells, based on organic molecules similar to dyes and pigments, are tailored to absorb only the near-infrared spectrum and have the potential to transform that light into electricity at relatively high efficiency. The largest challenge in developing commercial applications for the new solar cells will be longevity. The cells could be packaged in the middle of double-paned windows, which would provide protection from the elements. But the longevity of the cells would still need to approach the life span of the windows themselves, which would not be replaced for decades. 4/20 NY Times Green

7. University of Hawai’i Community Colleges Selects Johnson Controls to Implement $58 Million Energy Savings Program – University of Hawai’i Community Colleges (UHCC) and Johnson Controls today announced the start of a comprehensive energy efficiency and conservation program projected to save the university more than $58 million in energy and operational savings over the life of the 20-year performance contract. Solar hot water, energy efficient air conditioning and lighting retrofits are among the solutions provided by Johnson Controls. 4/21 PRNewswire

8. Appalachian Power to Launch Energy Efficiency Incentives and Rebate Programs – Appalachian Power, engaged in the generation, transmission and distribution of electric power, has announced that it is launching a series of energy efficiency incentive and rebate programs to help West Virginia residential and business customers offset rising electricity costs and become better consumers of energy. The SMART Lighting Program offers customers the opportunity to buy compact-fluorescent light bulbs at reduced prices. The program also offers discounts on other forms of smart lighting. For commercial and industrial customers, the Prescriptive Program is designed to generate energy savings for all commercial and industrial customers through the use of high efficiency lighting, HVAC and motors. 4/21 Datamonitor

9. KU Asks to Expand Energy Efficiency Programs – Kentucky Utilities has asked the state Public Service Commission for permission to expand its energy efficiency programs. If approved, the request would create three new offerings and tweak five existing ones. To learn more about existing energy efficiency programs:

10. Financial results: Philips, Cree – LED products accounted for 14% of Philips’ lighting sales in the last fiscal year. Meanwhile, shares in Cree and SemiLEDs have been hit by poor recent performance. Packaged LED sales by Philips Lumileds represented 45% of total LED product sales, or around $717 million, for the year ending March 2011. Sales of LED lamps and luminaires accounted for around $876 million. Philips’ lighting sales $10.9 billion in the 12 months representing growth of 6%. The company expects that the global lighting market will grow at a CAGR of 7-9% during 2010-2015. Cree, Inc. has announced revenue of $219.2 million for the quarter ended March 27, 2011. This is 6% down compared to revenue of $234.1 million for the same quarter last year, and a 15% decrease compared to the previous quarter. For its fourth quarter of fiscal 2011 ending June 26, 2011, Cree targets revenue in a range of $225 million to $245 million. 4/20 LEDs Magazine

11. Energy Saving Light Bulbs ‘Contain Cancer Causing Chemicals’ – Fears have been reignited about the safety of energy saving light bulbs after a group of German scientists warned that they contain cancer causing chemicals. Their report advises that the CFL bulbs should not be left on for extended periods, particularly near someone’s head, as they emit poisonous materials when switched on. Peter Braun, who carried out the tests at the Berlin’s Alab Laboratory, said: “For such carcinogenic substances it is important they are kept as far away as possible from the human environment.” British experts insisted that more research was needed and urged consumers not to panic. Dr. Michelle Bloor, senior lecturer in Environmental Science at Portsmouth University, told the Daily Express: “Further independent studies would need to be undertaken to back up the presented German research.”

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