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Germany invests in green jobs in America - SolarWorld opens North America's largest solar cell plant in Oregon

SolarWorld

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A solar cell factory has sprouted in Oregon’s Silicon Forest amid the region’s old-growth semiconductor plants. Bonn-based SolarWorld AG officially flipped the switch on the United States’ largest solar cell plant. (See the Fortune video here.) The company, the world’s fifth largest solar cell manufacturer, has recycled a former Komatsu factory built to produce silicon wafers for the chip industry. The new plant is expected to reach a capacity of 500 megawatts (MW) and employ 1,000 people by 2011. The solar industry is expected to grow to $74 billion in 2017 from $20 billion in 2007, according to Clean Edge Inc., a market research firm focused on clean technology.

SolarWorld  read more »

Canola-oil-powered, 72-mph/70-mpg car wins alternative-fuel race from Berkeley to Vegas, over 800 miles & 3 days

Sharon Westcott, left, and Jack McCornack arrive in Las Vegas, winners of the Escape From Berkeley race

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Wayne Keith, a hay farmer from Springville, Ala. (population 3,000), pulled into Berkeley last week driving a lime-green pickup truck that runs mostly on wood chips but sometimes cow dung, too. Keith, who wore dirt-flecked overalls and a trucker's cap, was in town to compete in the first Escape from Berkeley race, a kind of mini Cannonball Run to Las Vegas for drivers of vehicles that run on anything but petroleum. Two other racers relied on vegetable oil, one on alcohol and one on steam power to run his carriage (mostly for show; after a few miles, it was put on a trailer to traverse some of the dicier terrain).

Shannon O'Hare made final adjustments to his vegetable-oil-fired, steam-powered vehicle, a highly modified horse cart  read more »

The next Silicon Valley? A look at 6 technology launching pads across the US, from Pacific Northwest to Virginia

Bellevue, Washington

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Bellevue, Washington
With Microsoft's Redmond headquarters just five miles from downtown, Bellevue attracts a wealth of talented software engineers. (Hitachi and Sun Microsystems also have facilities in the area). The city hosts a number of successful startups, such as Expedia.com, dreamt up by former Microsoft employees, as well as a growing community of videogame developers. Other thriving local industries include telecommunications and wireless technology. For these industries, one of the city's main attractions is investment firm Trilogy Equity Partners, which was co-founded by John Stanton, Western Wireless founder and former CEO of T-Mobile USA, also based in Bellevue.

Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon
Some people call it Silicon Forest. That's because the Portland metropolitan area has done an impressive job of attracting entrepreneurial tech talent, thanks in part to the presence of Tektronix, IBM and Intel. In fact, many of the city's computer-technology companies were started by former employees of these tech giants, focusing on areas such as open-source and educational software. But Portland isn't just about computer technology. Over the years, the city has earned a reputation for progressive energy policies, attracting a large sustainable-technology community, as well as the U.S. headquarters of Vestas, the world's largest wind-turbine manufacturer. Support for the Portland tech scene comes from organizations such as Oregon InC, a state-funded venture dedicated to nurturing Oregon's innovation economy.  read more »

Monastic doors open for travelers in Europe, monks and nuns become hoteliers in economically challenging times

those staying at the Monasterium Poortackere in Ghent, Belgium, can choose between luxe and the spartan

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When Kathleen Mazzocco was researching places for an affordable family vacation in Italy back in 2002, booking a room in a convent was “like shooting in the dark.” The guidebook to religious lodgings that Ms. Mazzocco used had no photographs, and she wasn’t sure the information was up-to-date. But by the time Ms. Mazzocco, a public relations consultant from Lake Oswego, Ore., returned to Italy last year, making a reservation at a monastery was not so different from booking a regular hotel. She found the cliffside Monastero S. Croce, in Liguria, on the Internet, viewed photos of it on the monastery’s own Web site, sent an e-mail message asking about availability, heard back promptly, and, at the end of her stay, paid with a credit card. “They’d entered the modern age,” she said.

Friar Fausto tends Monastero S. Croce's bar

For centuries Europe’s convents and monasteries have quietly provided inexpensive lodging to itinerants and in-the-know travelers, but now they’re increasingly throwing open their iron-bound doors to overnight visitors. They’ve begun Web sites - many with English translations and detailed information about sampling monastic life for a night - and signed on with Internet booking services. Some have even added spa offerings. Occupancy has shot up at many places, and some of the more centrally located are often fully booked.  read more »

In addition to environmental issues, bottled water may be no purer than tap - contaminants found to be similar

how pure is bottled water?

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Bottled water sold in markets and convenience stores may be no more free of pollutants than the water that pours from the kitchen tap at a fraction of the cost, said an environmental group that tested samples. Ten top-selling brands of bottled water contained a total of 38 pollutants including fertilizer, industrial chemicals, bacteria and the residue of drugs such as Tylenol, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group based in Washington, D.C. The bottled water showed an average of eight pollutants in each sample.

Americans drank more than twice as much bottled water in 2007 as they did in 1997, guzzling 8.8 billion gallons at a cost of $10.3 billion in 2007, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp., a research and consulting firm based in New York. Although commercials often show pristine mountain springs, the reality is that bottled water often comes from city water supplies, said Renee Sharp, an Environmental Working Group senior scientist. "If you're going to pay 1,500 times more for bottled water than for tap you'd expect that you'd be getting a cleaner, better product," said Sharp. "And that's not necessarily true."

display put up by San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission to urge people to switch from bottled water to tap  read more »

Jet plane to fly on algae-based fuel by 2010? Europe’s algae bloom aims for feasible alternative to fossil fuel

algae

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"It's exciting because it's achievable," says Peter van den Dorpel, as he looks over the big plastic tubes full of various shades of green algae. His company has designed, produced and marketed the crop in its bid to be the first to provide the aviation industry with a feasible alternative to fossil fuel. In an enormous greenhouse near Roosendaal in the south of The Netherlands, most of the greenhouse is growing tomatoes with impressive efficiency, with one corner dedicated to the cultivation of algae - in a similarly efficient way, according to Mr van den Dorpel. "It's actually like growing tomatoes; the algae need similar things," he says.

algae into biodiesel

This crop uses the warmth, light and a steady feed of carbon dioxide and nutrients to reproduce faster than any other plant on earth. The amount of algae in these tubes can double daily. And that is both the attraction and the problem with algae as a commercial crop. What Algae-Link's system claims to crack, possibly for the first time, is the problem of clogging. A patented internal cleaning system keeps the set-up harvesting twenty-four hours a day.

algae could provide a viable alternative to fossil fuel  read more »

Royal giggles and Google Doodle - Queen Elizabeth II visits Google's UK headquarters, view laughing baby video

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reacts while talking with Google employees, during a visit to the company's United Kingdom headquarters in London

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LONDON (AP) - She sent her first e-mail in 1976. She has her own Web site. And on Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II uploaded video to YouTube during a visit to Google's British headquarters. The company celebrated the queen's visit by creating a special version of its google.co.uk home page, which featured a silhouette of her head as the second "G" and a regal crown atop the "E" in their logo.

The queen, 82, herself has a presence on YouTube - she launched the Royal Channel in December. There are 54 videos on the channel, which range from the Queen's 1957 Christmas message to a day in the life of Prince Charles. On Thursday, she uploaded archive footage to the channel of a 1969 reception at Buckingham Palace for British Olympians. The monarch has reigned since 1952. According to the Buckingham Palace Web site, the queen sent her first e-mail from a computer on an army base, well before the widespread use of the Internet.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Google logo to mark her visit to the offices of Google London  read more »

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