Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Coal Shortages Speed Up China’s Clean Power Plans

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 04:50 PM PDT

The Chinese government continues to expand its clean energy production plans, to replace increasingly expensive coal power that is shutting down coal plants and causing power shortages of at least 16 GW. China’s  twelth five-year plan unveiled this week plans for 70 GW  for wind, and 5 GW of solar by 2015.

Unlike Europe, which is using Feed-in Tariffs to incentivize the addition of more green power to the nation’s grid, China is using competitive bidding to drive down the costs of the new renewable energy generation. This might be a mistake: FITs are a safer bet in the long run for newer more untried energy sources, as generators are paid only for actual production.

China’s first CSP tender generated an average solar power price of CNY0.96 (US$15) per kWh. The price being offered for CSP solar is about double the price of its conventional coal power. Wind is also more expensive, but now increasingly competitive.

A new development, peak coal, has shaken up the plan. Coal prices have risen 75% since 2007, while electricity prices have only been allowed to rise 15%. Shortages of Chinese coal as local mines are depleted are driving up prices for imports (US Coal Companies Reap Windfall From Australian Climate Catastrophe) and China’s coal power plants are now under real financial stress.

“Many coal plants have shut down their generators because the more they produce, the bigger the losses they will suffer,” Li Chaolin, a coal and energy industry analyst at Anbound Group told the Global Times.

As a result, as much as 30 GW of power shortages are forcast as struggling coal power plants in China are unable to stay in business. China intends to build at least 75 GW of new clean energy to help supply new energy demands as its economy grows. But the dramatic loss of coal power was not factored in several years ago.

It is a very difficult situation for China, with the payments for renewable generation starting out higher than those for the (now too expensive) coal. But although the prices it offers for new clean power generation will be higher initially, over the long haul China’s energy costs will become cheaper since wind and solar are fuel-free. So the policy makes sense.

But for China, given the coal shortages driving blackouts, the decision is now sink or swim.

Image:  China Environmental Law

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

Innovative, New Approach to Low-Head, Low-Flow Water Power

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 04:44 PM PDT

by John Saavedra of Look for the Power

Interest and investment in low-head (vertical drop), low-flow hydro power peaked a century ago.  This corresponds to the rise of interest in hydro turbines.  The improved power output of the larger units dictated their priority over traditional stream and water wheels.

There were 25,000 – 30,000 water wheels in use in England in the 1850's, and 33,500 water wheels in use in Germany in 1925.  Most are now rusted and broken, quaint relics of the Industrial Revolution, in both Europe and the USA.

With our current energy needs, this should be revisited.

Consider that the geographic features (high vertical drop and high flow rate) necessary for conventional hydro turbines are all well-known and surveyed in developed countries, and the number of potential new sites is small.  There is a current revival of interest in getting the old wheels back into service, spurred by record-level demand for energy and ever-increasing prices of fossil fuels.

A survey conducted by the Sustainable Energy Research Group at the University of Southampton, England in Feb. 2006 contains these prescient statements:

"Today, the requirement for the utilisation of low head hydro power sources for electricity generation is greater than ever. In developing countries, the rising demand for electricity in combination with large distances means that decentralised electricity generation has a high priority.

"Most low head, low flow hydro power sources however are today not exploited since standard turbines can not be employed economically in such conditions.

"Consequently, there exists a demand for a cost-effective low head hydraulic energy converter, which still could not be met.

"Although stream wheels could be potentially quite interesting since e.g. their application would not constitute a major change of the river, no such wheel has been built for more than 100 years and very little is known about the performance characteristics and design requirements for such wheels.

This is a clear statement made five years ago by a research university that there is an urgent demand which has not been met.  This is an open invitation to both innovation and investment. "Ideas Wanted."

Is there a way, other than traditional stream and water wheels, to harvest and harness the energy in low-head, low-flow streams?

What if a "reverse oar," or "fixed oar," had a length of 100 – 200 ft,

with the oarlock securely mounted on the bank of a low-head, low-flow stream,

with the 'blade' of the oar made of metal, weighing 200 lbs, giving the "oar" a weight of 300 lbs,

with the blade of the oar carried downstream by the forces of the hydro current, while compressing a return spring,

with the return spring lifting and carrying the "fixed oar" back upstream through the air, ready for another "power stroke",

with a shaft at the oarlock mated to a large (8 ft. diameter) pulley,

with this large diameter pulley linked by V-belts to numerous smaller pulleys,

thereby converting the high-torque, low-speed large pulley motion to lower-torque, higher-speed RPM's for the smaller pulleys,

each smaller pulley secured to a permanent-magnet alternator,

producing constant, clean, green, renewable, sustainable electrical power?

Stated differently, if an oar, 200 feet long, weighing 300 lbs, were mounted with its oarlock on the bank of a stream, would you want to be the guy bolting it to an 8-ft diameter pulley?  Wouldn't the low-speed, high-torque rotational force of the oar be more than enough to cause serious bodily harm if my arm got in the way?

Consider this logical progression:

In the 4th and 5th centuries BC, Athenian triremes like the one below gave Greece naval superiority.  They were rowed by human power:

Today, such a boat would be powered by a diesel engine.

A diesel engine can power an electrical generator.

Therefore, could oars also be used to power an electrical generator?

Question — What is missing in these logical progressions?

Answer — basic research into the design, materials, sizes and sites for the concept.

One in four people now living on Earth lives off of any electrical grid.   This idea may be of particular interest to those who may also live near a low-head, low-flow stream of water. Living off the grid closely correlates to poverty, illiteracy, disease, hunger, unsafe drinking water, infant mortality, and other problems.

There is a website – lookforthepower.com – that describes this and several other projects.

Your comments, feedback, reactions, and suggestion are all welcome.


Energy Impact of Light Bulbs (Infographic)

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 04:15 PM PDT

I recently received this Energy Impact of Light Bulbs infographic from Well Home Energy Audit. I thought it was a fun one, and a clear fit for CleanTechnica, so here it is:

energy impact of light bulbs


Falling Solar Panel Costs are Great for Buyers, Bad for Producers (sort of)

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 04:04 PM PDT

A recent industry analysis by Lux Research projects the amount of solar power installed is to grow 15.5 percent per year, but revenues are to stay flat, until 2016. A report from Navigant Consulting discovered that the price of solar panels is down almost 20 percent as of August 2011. The information derived from these two reports show that the consumer is poised to benefit from the price reduction, while manufacturers can expect an almost flat profit margin for the next few years.

Manufacturers of solar panels are in a constant price competition. This boils down to shaving prices-per-watt by pennies in order to beat out competitors. The reports mentioned above mean shrinking profit margins with concerns over demand for panels staying strong. Manufacturing capacity for solar hardware is increasing, but the unknown factor is if there will be enough buyers to consume the increased output.

Consumers stand to benefit from the softening in prices, as it translates into more solar capacity for the same amount. The lower prices give rise to the idea that solar leasing, an alternative to purchasing panels outright, may gain more traction. However, lower prices go beyond that. A solar industry analyst feels there is an ultimate benefit in the falling prices. It makes solar power leasing viable in states that have been written off in the past.

Solar power leasing is designed to provide an alternative to purchasing a solar panel array upfront. Instead of buying the solar panels, consumers pay a monthly fee that reduces their electric bill. In a lease situation, a predetermined fee is set for 20 years. The consumer can also participate in a power purchase arrangement; the consumer buys power from the solar panels. A purchase arrangement is cheaper than buying from traditional grid suppliers.

A consumer can expect to pay $30,000 for the purchase and installation of a complete rooftop solar power array. A 30 percent federal tax rebate and possible state incentives serve to lower the cost. The solar panels make up less than half of the total price, with the rest of the cost going towards labor and necessary hardware. Consumers are going to see little, if any, benefit in the price competition from producers. The price change is going to be seen mainly by installers and solar power lease companies.

It is thought that solar power has the potential to reach what is known as “grid parity,” wherein the paid cost of solar power is cheaper than traditional grid suppliers (not taking into account health, environmental, and other externalities that already make solar power cheaper than fossil fuels). This theory can become reality if the price of solar panels continues its precipitous drop.

Lux Research projects that grid parity will reach commercial solar panel installations first, and that ten countries will reach that point by 2016. For the time being, state subsidies and the cost of retail power are key to allowing solar power to undercut grid power. Anticipated increases in the cost of wholesale and retail electricity will serve to increase demand for solar power.

Kriss Bergethon is a solar expert and writer from Colorado. Visit his solar panels site for more information.

Photo courtesy Sharp solar


Cheap, Portable Solar Light from LuminAID

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 03:05 PM PDT

No Risk From EPA Coal Plant Shutdowns Grid Operator Says

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 02:32 PM PDT

In contrast to recent widespread corporate media scaremongering about the lights going out because the Obama administration EPA is now finally forcing the dirtiest coal plants offline, a just-issued new report by the nation’s largest regional transmission operator PJM Interconnection says… Nu-uh.

Our power supplies are not threatened by the closings spurred by EPA ‘s finalized Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and proposed National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), according to Clean Energy Report.

The two utilities that have squealed loudest about having to shut down old coal power due to “meddlesome EPA rules”, will have to shut down 7 GW by 2015. This will be the oldest and dirtiest power on the grid, long grandfathered-in under the more lenient EPAs of past administrations.

Because of the lousy cost/benefit ratio of trying to retrofit the very dirtiest oldest plants to meet EPA rules, American Electric Power, which already supplies the PJM grid, has to close 6 GW  and Duke Energy, which comes under PJM control by the end of 2011, will shutter 1 GW.

But PJM notes that the 7 GW loss is not a concern.

"even with almost 7,000 MW less coal capacity clearing for the 2014/2015 Delivery Year, PJM estimates the RTO will carry a reserve margin of 19.6 percent for the Delivery Year, including the demand and capacity commitments of [Fixed Resource Requirement] FRR entities."

The report forecasts adequate — even improved — capacity margins, as dirty power is replaced by cleaner energy resources including wind, solar and natural gas.

One of biggest new resources cited is the creation of a little-noticed new FERC rule we covered last year by the Obama administration on “negawatts,” or new energy-efficiency agreements with large users such as demand response.

Large commercial users, who use as much as 17 million commercial customers use 40% of the power on the nation’s grid, can make a deal with their utility – and have big deductions in their electric bills in return – by agreeing to turn their electricity off for a few minutes, on demand, in order to shave peak demand, when it is necessary, such as on hot afterneoons. These rolling off-switches have virtually no impact on operations, because they are spread among big users.

Last year the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled that power not generated or "negawatts" are to be paid as much money per megawatt reduced as generated electricity is, per megawatt on electricity markets nationwide.

This new equal pay rule is revolutionizing the nation’s electricity markets, by giving utilities even in the “dirty states” incentives to save, rather than waste, energy – for the first time. Previously, Public Utilities Commissions have incented utilities to save energy only in progressive states like California.

Previously, utilities in many states, typically those with the dirtiest power, actually encouraged customers to waste energy, by charging big customers who save energy higher rates than those who waste energy. The new Obama administration FERC rule has reversed that incentive.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

Vertical-Axis Wind Turbine Looking for Crowdfunding

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 02:28 PM PDT

When inspiration and innovation are held back by the lack of funding what can be done?

A company, D.C. Revolutions, has found an answer in creating a Crowdfunding Campaign in partnership with Indie GoGo.

Indie GoGo was established in 2008 and is available to help up-and-coming companies that present sustainable concepts that need financial support of the public to become implemented. These campaigns are crucial and the public should be involved because all sustainable issues should be a concern for everyone because they ultimately affect everyone.

D.C. Revolutions is a startup company in Palo Alto, CA and was founded by Durell Coleman, CEO in partnership with Dean Young, COO, and Matt Hart, Power System Integrator. They are focused on redesigning renewable energy starting with a vertical axis wind turbine.

Read more on sister site Green Building Elements: D.C. Revolutions' Wind Turbine Prototype Seeks Public Funding


Efficient, 60-Watt LED Light Bulb for Under $15 Unveiled

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 02:22 PM PDT

First Large-Scale Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage Facility Under Construction

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 02:00 PM PDT

ADM drill rig in Decatur

It's not the biggest step, even though it's a first step at capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide emissions.

Last week, ground was broken in Decatur, Il on construction of this country’s first large-scale industrial carbon capture and storage facility that aims to demonstrate that CO2 emissions can be stored permanently in deep underground rock formations.

The Decatur facility being is designed to capture and store approximately 2,500 metric tons of CO2 a day and sequester it in the saline Mount Simon Sandstone formation at depths of approximately 7,000 feet. Researchers say this sandstone formation can potentially store billions of tons of CO2, including more than 250 million tons produced each year by industries operating in the Illinois Basin region.

Ironically – both from food pricing and less-than-stellar fuel perspectives – the CO2 to be sequestered is a byproduct of processing corn into fuel-grade ethanol at a biofuels plant adjacent to the storage site run by Archer Daniels Midland Company, which is leading the project as part of the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium.

Drilling on this 207-acre project site began in February 2009. A ceremonial groundbreaking occurred last week. The next step of the project, involves construction of a CO2 dehydration/compression facility near the biofuels plant. Following that, a 3,200' pipeline will feed the CO2 to the well. Carbon capture and storage operations are not expected to commence until late summer 2013.

The Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, which received US $141 million in Recovery Act funding, manages the project. It also received another $65.5 million private sector cost sharing.

“Illinois is at the forefront of helping ensure the U.S. remains competitive in the global clean energy economy, creating new jobs while reducing carbon pollution,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a press announcement

The project will also include the formation of an educational and training facility called the National Sequestration Education Center at nearby Richland Community College in Decatur.

Photo: Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium

National Clean Energy Summit (Live Streaming)

Posted: 30 Aug 2011 01:17 PM PDT

For those of you not able to attend, here’s live streaming video of the National Clean Energy Summit. As I’m publishing this, there’s a break in the summit and what is playing is a reply of this morning’s speeches. The summit and live streaming will resume at 1:30pm PST, though.

Watch live streaming video from nationalcleanenergysummit at livestream.com

h/t Global Warming is Real

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