First Takes: Boom Times for Renewables, Buick's First Hybrid Hits the Road, and More...

First Takes: Boom Times for Renewables, Buick's First Hybrid Hits the Road, and More...

Boom Times for Wind: In the wake of news last week showing precipitous declines in cleantech investment, there's a large number of stories about how renewables are getting bigger and better. First up, the American Wind Energy Association cautions that, although wind power is quickly growing in capacity, a soon-to-expire tax credit could dampen that growth. And the NYT reports that wind turbines are getting ever more powerful: "One model made today by Vestas, a Danish turbine manufacturer, can produce 300 times as much power as a turbine sold 15 years ago ... But experts say that vast improvements in wind technology still lie ahead -- which makes sense for an industry that is about 100 years behind, say, that of the automobile."

Solar Lights up Home Prices: Solar power has its own share of good news as well: According to a study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, California homes with solar power installed sold for a premium in the last decade, adding $5.50 per watt -- or between $16,000 and $50,000 -- to the sale price of a home. And in Australia, an incentive program for home solar installations has been a big success, with some areas getting 14 percent adoption rate, compared to the average 3 percent in the region.

Glymes Get EPA Scrutiny for Toxic Impacts: If you've never heard of glymes, you're not alone -- but in this case, what you don't know may well hurt you. Jane Kay writes in Environmental Health News that the EPA "plans to clamp down on these little-known ingredients used by a broad array of industries. Used mostly as solvents, glymes are found in lithium batteries, inkjet cartridges, brake fluid, paints and carpet cleaners. They are also widely used to make prescription drugs, printed circuit boards and microchips... [Three types of] glymes pose a 'high concern to workers, consumers and children' because they may have reproductive or developmental effects. A U.S. study more than a decade ago found links to miscarriages among workers in semiconductor manufacturing."

Chicago Climate Exchange Closing Shop? From Business Green's James Murray: "The embryonic US carbon market has received another blow after global exchange operator Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE) reportedly confirmed that it is to close the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange early next year ... 'The US has not enacted carbon cap-and-trade legislation, and changes to the EPA acid rain programme have reduced trading activity,' ICE said in [a] notice. 'Accordingly, Chicago Climate Futures Exchange volumes are down substantially and the exchange is operating at a loss.'"

Buick Raises Curtains on First Hybrid Pricing, Mileage: Buick is selling its first hybrid car, the 2012 Regal with eAssist. The near-luxury sedan is not a full hybrid, but instead features Buick's eAssist Belt Alternator Starter system, which gives an estimated 28 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the standard model. The Regal with eAssist will sell for $29,530, $2,000 more than a non-eAssist model, and is estimated to get 25 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway.

Levi's to Sell Bike-Friendly 'Commuter Series' Jeans: With reflective tape on the cuffs, nanotech-enhanced stain-resistant fabric and a utility belt for the waistband (so you can keep your u-lock out of your pocket), Levi's new 511 (bike) commuter jeans sound like a great first step for mainstream adoption of bike-friendly jeans. But I agree with Triple Pundit's Nick Aster: I hope the next step is making the same jeans in non-hipster-skinny styles...