Friday, January 28, 2011

Latest From : CleanTechnica

Latest From : CleanTechnica

Hey Ohio! FirstEnergy Desperately Needs to Buy Your Rooftop Solar SRECs!

Posted: 28 Jan 2011 08:51 AM PST

Ohio utility FirstEnergy Corp claims it cannot meet the state mandates to get 25% percent of its electricity from solar projects or credits within the state by the end of 2024.

When solar developers build solar projects in the state, or even homeowners in Ohio add solar panels to their own roofs, they can sell the credits to the utility (even if they use the power themselves) as Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs).

But FirstEnergy says that there are not enough developers or homeowners offering solar credits to the utility to meet that mandate. So FirstEnergy has filed a request with the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to “declare a shortage of credits”. If they do, the mandate to get the power is vacated. It wants a SREC shortage declared by the Ohio PUC, which would let them off the hook.

Ohio must get 50% of its electricity from solar projects or SRECs by the end of 2024. Half of that must come from inside the state.

Another Ohio utility has had no trouble finding the solar projects it needed to meet the mandate. American Electric Power has signed a power purchase agreement to buy all the power from a small local 12 MW solar array in Wyandot County, and has plans for getting a 500 MW project online by the deadline. So it does not need to buy SRECs.

FirstEnergy is not going the power purchase route. It is relying on SRECs. It claims that they could only find 125 SRECs, despite hiring a consultant. Of these, 85 come from solar developers, and 40 come from homeowners.

There are only 8 homeowners in Ohio making solar off their roofs and selling the 40 SRECs that they generate to FirstEnergy.

Each SREC represents 1 Megawatt-hour of electricity generated in a year. An average home array will generate about 4 to 8 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity a year, depending on how big your system is.

So a typical home solar array could generate 4 to 8 SRECs each year, and each SREC sells for $300 to $400 in Ohio,  so the annual passive income you could expect to generate off an average Ohio rooftop would be somewhere between $1,200 to $3,200 every year.

SREC earnings vary from state to state. New Jersey SREC earnings are the best.

Even though you sell your credits, of course, solar also cuts or eliminates your own utility bill, so the financial benefit is doubled in the states where you can sell SRECs to your utility.

The credits are just a piece of paper indicating that someone in that utility district is contributing clean power for the grid. Makes no difference who uses it. (Off-grid solar on your log cabin upstate would not qualify as a SREC, because it has to be on the public grid for everyone.)

How much does this Ohio utility need to buy?

In a filing this week with the PUCO, FirstEnergy said it is unable to find the 3,170 credits it needs to buy from in-state sources. This includes SRECs from homeowners and professional solar developers. It can also buy SRECs from Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania or Michigan.

But half have to come from instate. That is where the Ohio shortage is acute. “And we are interested in talking to developers of any renewable energy project in Ohio that would generate credits toward meeting the state’s goals,” said spokeswoman Ellen Raines.

Image: Green Energy Ohio

First Continent to Raise a Tax to Cover the Costs of Climate Change

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 04:54 PM PST

Australia’s new Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just levied a tax to pay for the catastrophic flooding of the last two months that drowned areas larger than France and Germany combined.

The Australian floods temporarily shut the coal mines that are most responsible for climate change but they also washed away the rail lines to carry that coal to market, and damaged bridges and roads and destroyed thousands of buildings across three major states. Total damage is estimated at over $10 billion.

The Australian government itself faces another $5.6 billion in flood costs. Gillard’s new tax will run for two years and flood victims are exempted.

The tax brings up the question: just how are nations in the future going to pay for the increase in frequency of catastrophic damage as the result of climate collapse?

Australia seems to be about a decade ahead of this continent in the effects of climate change. It has already had 14 years of drought, with state-wide wildfires as a result, followed now by monsoon-like rains, which began unpredictably in what used to be the dryer season this year.

But these kinds of climate disasters are in our future too. These are exactly the kinds of events that climate scientists (from Jansen in the early eighties on) have been saying will become more common here too, as carbon dioxide levels rise.

How are we going to pay for the damage from an increasing number of droughts, wildfires, floods, hurricanes and below-zero blizzards due to Arctic melt, all the result of climate change?

Insurers are getting increasingly skittish about the odds. The insurance industry relies on predictable risk levels.

Florida coastal property insurance costs are already up 6-fold. After Britain’s 1,000 year floods, the Association of British Insurers has suggested that property insurance may not even be available in the future.

In the past, America has had a more public-spirited consensus on sharing the burden of disaster costs, and FEMA helped. But FEMA could be quickly overwhelmed by the scale of events towards the end of this century. In the face of survival, public generosity seems to be strained to breaking point.

Indeed, as if to head off such a responsibility in the future, already Republican Senator Mike Lee has just called for the end of FEMA.

Under the GOP plan, states would be on their own to fend for themselves in disasters like Katrina and and the 500-year Iowa floods that drowned Cedar Rapids in the record breaking Great Flood of 2008 and again in 2010.

The GOP Senator said that FEMA is not in the Constitution, so it must be dismantled. But money must come from somewhere in a crisis.

History will show that Republicans and their Astroturf sub-party the Tea Party, both in the pay of the fossil energy industry, actively caused climate collapse, by preventing policies that grow clean energy to prevent it.

But, it seems that now they do not want pay for it. It will be costly. Someone will have to pay. Australia is the first government to retroactively raise a tax, on everyone, to cover the costs of just one year’s event. But there will be more years like this.

We are entering interesting times.

Image: London, from Postcards From The Future

Ben & Jerry Factory in the Netherlands Powered by Ice Cream (Sort Of)

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 04:34 PM PST

A new Ben & Jerry’s factory in the municipality of Hellendoorn in the Netherlands is soon going to generate energy from waste products such as milk, cream, syrup, and pieces of fruit. It will use a bio-digester to do so.

“Unilever, the global corporation that owns the Ben & Jerry’s brand, recently announced that it has started the construction of a Paques bio-digester at its Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Hellendoorn, the Netherlands,” Beth Buczynski of Crisp Green writes. “Unilever opted for a new type of bio-digester, the BIOPAQ AFR (Anaerobic Flotation Reactor), in which 24 quadrillion – or 24,000,000,000,000,000 – natural micro-organisms ‘eat’ waste products and convert them into biogas.”

The bio-digester is expected to cover “40% of the factory’s green energy requirements.”

Construction started on this new bio-digester in Fall 2010 and it is supposed to be operational by mid-2011. Unilever is one of the first companies to use this new type of bio-digester, which is unique in that oil and fat can be treated and “digested” in a single compact reactor rather than having to be separated and then go through multiple processing stages.

Ben & Jerry Opposing Citizens United Ruling

While Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, may not be involved in such decisions anymore, it is good to see the company is keeping a bit of an innovative green focus. Meanwhile, Ben and Jerry are constantly on the leading edge of other important matters. They are apparently working hard to oppose the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that gives companies even more influence over politicians in the U.S. now. Yes, businessmen Ben and Jerry understand the problems with giving too much power to businesses and oppose this undemocratic decision. Here’s more from the Wall Street Journal:

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, have organized a coalition of like-minded businesses to protest a Supreme Court ruling that struck down limits on corporate campaign spending in candidate elections.

"Business for Democracy" will stage its first-ever event on the one-year anniversary of the court's decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission. The group opposes the controversial ruling, which allows companies to spend money from their general treasuries on political activities and rolled back a ban in the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform that set limits on when the money could be spent.

Members of "Business for Democracy" believe "the decision is inconsistent with the basic ideal of 'government of the people, by the people, for the people,'" according to a release touting its creation. The coalition also supports a last-ditch push by the group Public Citizen to pass a constitutional amendment that seeks to restore some of the limits on corporate campaign contributions that were waived by the Citizens United decision.

"Business for Democracy" includes other politically involved companies, including Patagonia, Stonyfield Farms and Honest Tea.

Anyway, good to see that both the company and the founders are working to improve our world a bit in their own ways.

Photo Credit: implusivebuy

Eco Private Jets and Guidelines for Green Tech

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 03:53 PM PST

We’ve passed the final frontier for greenwashing! I was astonished recently as a friend pulled up the homepage of a company touting carbon offset “eco” private jets. I am not buying it. As much of a Google, Apple and renewable energy fan boy as I am, there is no reasonable argument for this, and there should be structured limits in how we think about green tech. Why? Because there is already an innovation that increases the efficiency of planes 100x and it is a simple one. Adding 99 more seats.

With estimates that air travel is responsible for 14% of greenhouse gas activity and the threat of catastrophic climate change looming, we cannot afford the luxury of (semi-mythical?) carbon offsets and need to take the obvious wins that stem from resource sharing. Of course, the benefits of public rail and telecommuting could be even greater.

This got me thinking about my own personal guidelines for thinking about clean tech, which yielded the list below.

  • Stress Natural Systems: My parents Prius is a huge improvement over their last car, but at the same time a human walking gets about 360 MPG and a bike gets 60 MPG. That is a full order of magnitude improvement, and humans are 100% biodegradable. When possible, use natural systems directly and practice biomimicry.
  • Less is Better: I was recently pricing new speakers for my Macbook Pro, looking especially at low-watt options because I live off grid. Of course, I already had a pair of nice Bose headphones and pretty good laptop speakers. By far, the most eco of my tech options: use those.
  • Share When Possible: At Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage where I live and work we pooled resources and bought an eco friendly commercial washer for the whole community. In most cities in the US, 40 people would have had at least 20 washers, even accounting for laundromats and multi-person families. Again, the power of clean tech can be leveraged a full order of magnitude by sharing.
  • Old Tech is Clean Tech: For many tech options, most of the eco costs are sunk into production, so one way we can have clean tech is to buy used, piece together old parts, upcycle, and take good care of the tech we have.

These four guidelines are a key part of how I think of clean tech, and working them consistently I feel much better about my used ipod touch. What guidelines do you use?


Brian Toomey lives and works at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, is tech lead over at for their green tech store with Birkenstock Florida Sandals and 10k other eco products, as well as being a sustainable business consultant for outdoor equipment and eco garden fountain store

Photo Credit: gnackgnackgnack

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