Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Latest From : CleanTechnica

Latest From : CleanTechnica

IKEA Jumps the Gun on Light Bulb Phase-Out

Posted: 04 Jan 2011 07:00 AM PST

ikea stops selling incandescent lightsRetail giant IKEA got a running start on the impending phase-out of standard light bulbs in the U.S., with today’s announcement that it has stopped selling all incandescent light bulbs. The move is in response to the Energy Independence Act of 2007, which mandated an end to the energy-sucking lights starting in 2012. And if you didn’t know that there was such a thing as the Energy Independence Act, you’re not alone: In IKEA’s own survey, more than half of the respondents had no idea that the U.S. Congress had ever passed a law that would put an end to America’s love affair with incandescent light bulbs.

Light Bulbs and Public Awareness

IKEA’s survey revealed an interesting thing about buying behavior. Law or no law, more than half of the respondents said they had already changed most of the bulbs in their homes. In fact, the proportion of those who had changed (59%) was just about equal to the proportion of those who had no idea that incandescent bulbs are on the verge of being phased out by law (61%), which seems to indicate that Congress should not be afraid of putting the force of federal law behind common sense changes that save money. They are popular!

Fluorescent Lights and LEDs

Despite some naysaying by critics, the majority of respondents were not concerned about the aesthetics of energy saving light bulbs: lighting intensity, light color, or the use of dimmer switches. The response bodes well for public acceptance of new lighting technology that saves even more energy than compact fluorescent bulbs, as LEDs make the shift from industrial and commercial use into home use.

Light and Goodness

One of the more interesting results of the IKEA survey is that a whopping 81% of the respondents were aware that energy saving lights are “a good environmental practice.” It’s probably safe to assume that none of the  1,011 adults surveyed have seen documentaries like Kilowatt Ours, which illustrates in graphic detail the connection between inefficient lighting and blowing up the Appalachian Mountains for coal, but they do know enough to make the connection between energy and the environment. Again, what is Congress afraid of?

Image: Light bulb by kevygee on flickr.com.

One Day Those Wind Chimes Will Generate Clean Energy

Posted: 04 Jan 2011 04:00 AM PST

cornell researcher developing low cost wind energy device with piezoelectricityWind power conjures up images of giant turbines spinning gracefully out somewhere in the cornfields, but one day it could be as close as those wind chimes hanging from your porch. An undergraduate research group at Cornell University is developing a compact  low-cost device for converting wind into electricity. Instead of blades turning on a rotor, it consists of a rack of flat panels that capture the vibrations from wind.

Wind Power Goes Domestic

Actually, for a growing number of people, wind power conjures up images of small-scale wind turbines in their own backyard or rooftop – that is, if the neighbors don’t object. If they do, the Cornell project offers some aesthetic flexibility that could offer an alternative solution. It could also enable more urban homeowners to squeeze wind power into tight spaces such as apartment balconies.

Clean Energy from Vibrations

The Cornell project is based on an effect called piezoelectricity, in which a charge is generated by certain crystalline structures that are subjected to stress. With the right materials, you can generate a piezolectric charge from a wide variety of surfaces that vibrate or experience traffic, including highways, dance floors, machinery – and wind. As an alternative, the team is also exploring the use of electromagnetic coils.

Harvesting the Wind

The Cornell Vibro-Wind Research Group is dedicated to making wind power more accessible, so it is concentrating on a device that costs less, takes up less space, and generates electricity from even tiny breezes. The group also includes an architecture team that is working on integrating the device into building elements. If the concept proves cost-effective, the prototype’s bare-bones rack of oscillating foam blocks could be replaced by far more attractive materials. In that case, it has the potential to become as common as  wind chimes – but without the noise.

Image: Wind chimes by Dr. Starbuck on flickr.com.

Could Ohio Rival Finland With Heavy Industry Co-Generation?

Posted: 03 Jan 2011 04:12 PM PST

By the end of 2011, an Ohio paper mill will have cut its coal power use by half, by more than 50,000 tons annually, by installing combined heat and power to generate its own electricity, according to Industry Week.Instead, it will sell its excess power to the grid.

Instead of coal, SMART Papers will power its own on-site electricity with boilers converted from coal-fired boilers to ones burning cellulosic fuel pellets made of the non-recyclable paper and biomass materials that it used to have to send to landfill. Any excess energy it makes can be sold to the grid, to clean up the heavily coal-dependent Ohio energy supply on the grid.

Last year, under its Democratic Governor Strickland, Ohio was one of the most recent states to pass a Renewable Energy Standard to get 25% of its power from “alternative” sources by 2025. This means only 12.5% has to come from renewable energy like wind or solar, for example.

But that very flexibility is a good thing for the many coal-dependent heavy industries in the state. Co-generation meets that “alternative” energy requirement. It cleans up heavy industry – normally reliant on coal power – and thus the grid.

The bill deviates from most state renewable energy requirements in that the standard allows for power produced from customer-located co-generation systems, which produce both heat and electricity and advanced waste-to-energy plants, such as the SMART paper mill project.

In Finland, the country depends on the electricity supplied by co-generation from companies like this one, that make forestry products and paper, for 30% of the electricity on the national grid.

Finland passed a law in the 1950s that utilities have to buy power from any entity that generates surplus power with co-generation. Now, heavy industry in Finland supplies almost one third of the country’s electricity – with co-gen.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

San Francisco Wind Developer Sells Power to Idaho Utility

Posted: 03 Jan 2011 02:13 PM PST

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved a sales contract drawn up between local utility Idaho Power and a San Francisco wind farm developer, Idaho Winds LLC. Idaho Power will buy a little under half the output from six small wind farms in the Mountain Home area of the state. Each farm has a nameplate capacity of 23 MW. Totally, they are expected to generate 303,648 megawatt hours each year, according to NAW.

Each of the projects has a nameplate capacity of 23 MW, but because wind is intermittent, the agreements call for delivery of an average 10 MW per project per month to Idaho Power. At times when the projects exceed an average 10 MW, Idaho Power may accept but will not pay for the excess, according to filings with the CPUC.

Idaho has great wind potential, but little local demand.

Under current law the utilities must accept the power generated from small wind projects for the same price they would buy electricity for on the open market, or at the cost to produce it themselves.

Under the contract, Idaho Power will pay $61.93/MWh (six cents a kilowatt hour) for the power in 2013, gradually rising to $121.76/MWh – twelve cents a kilowatt hour – by 2032, which is the expected comparable energy on the open market cost.

This rule governed the terms for this contract for the output from the six wind farms, Cold Springs, Hammett Hill, Mainline, Ryegrass, Two Ponds and Desert Meadow.

But now the utility is asking the PUC to set a moratorium on most future new small wind projects.

With 200 MW in wind power on the grid now, and 1,000 MW expected by 2013, once the six farms are running, this meets its minimum electricity load, at least during off seasons.

It is unfortunate that the states that are empty – partly because they are so windy – are the states with unused potential to generate wind power. It is hard to ask a state to make more wind power than it needs. And building the transmission to get that “stranded wind” out of there, to where it is needed is almost impossible, given the almost impossible to fix Balkanization of our transmission grid.

Perhaps that’s why, this week, the wind farm developer, Idaho Winds LLC,  asked California regulators if it would buy Renewable Energy Credits that could be generated by these six and two other wind farms in Idaho.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

Eight Idaho Wind Farms Hope to Sell Renewable Energy Credits to California

Posted: 03 Jan 2011 12:31 PM PST

Should we let Idaho earn money from selling us wind credits and yet keep their energy there? That is the question for California regulators to decide this month.

Eight wind farms in Idaho want to sell the renewable energy credits that could be generated by their wind energy to California utilities who are mandated to add more renewable energy to the grid. Idaho utilities have no such requirements, so wind farms in Idaho really can’t get a fair price for building new clean wind power infrastructure locally.

It is a completely novel idea.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) spokeswoman Barbara Connors told the SF Chronicle that the suggestion is unique, but a lot of things have yet to be tried in the renewable energy industry.

Basically, they’re saying to us, ‘This is how we read things and do you see it the same way?’” Connors told The Times-News. “If this had happened before, they probably wouldn’t be asking us.”

Idaho Winds LLC petitioned FERC Dec. 15 to approve the plan that involves selling wind energy and related Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to a third party.

When you sell RECs, you don’t actually have to supply the energy itself to your customer.

What you sell is just a credit, a proof, indicating that renewable energy is produced. The energy can still be used by the entity making the energy and selling the credit.

An example of how RECs get used twice is how solar homeowners in New Jersey can earn cash from the power made on their roofs, even though it simultaneously lowers their own electric bill. Basically utilities that must buy renewable energy credits are paying to have renewable energy made somewhere. Its all good.

So the wind power would still be used in Idaho. But California would be responsible for helping make it cost- effective to build new energy infrastructure in Idaho. And given that we do need to add more environmentally sustainable renewable energy to the world grid, does it matter who gets to use it?

Idaho’s novel request brings up an interesting question for the California Public Utilities Commission to decide this month.

The CPUC is reconsidering regulations concerning renewable energy credits bundled with energy, according to commission spokesman Andrew Koch, who said the commission is meeting January 13th to vote on a change to allow both bundled contracts that include energy and renewable energy credits, and credit-only contracts.

“We’re going to see if we can refine the whole process,” Koch said. “This may open up a different avenue.”

Should California restrict utilities to producing the renewable energy, that they are mandated to produce, locally here in California? Some would say yes. Building new renewable energy infrastructure here keeps the economic benefits in California, (and green jobs are a major benefit here: the one bright spot in an anemic jobs picture) and the CPUC works for the state; so it should decide the case in a way that benefits California job seekers.

But there is an argument the other way too. If successful, the petition could lead to other Idaho renewable energy companies to attempt the same thing. This would lead to the growth of more renewable energy in Idaho. Otherwise, with no Renewable Energy Standard pushing utilities to add more renewable power there, it’s not going to happen. And every state that adds clean energy benefits me and my descendants – not just the state that I live in.

It’s kind of the REDD question. Don’t we all benefit when developing countries add more renewable energy?

So for myself; I’m leaning towards a vote to allow the wind farms in Idaho to sell their RECs to California utilities, while keeping the clean power they generate right there in Idaho. What do you think? How do you think our CPUC should vote on January 13th?

Image: Wolfgang Staudt

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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