Friday, September 16, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Reports of the Death of Solar are Highly Exaggerated (Take Action)

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 06:50 PM PDT

“The solar company Solyndra filed for bankruptcy last month, which media reports have depicted as the end of solar power in the U.S. This is like saying there is no future for the internet because Netscape went out of business.”

Love this. This is the intro to a great email I received from Vote Solar yesterday. There’s more worth sharing, and it was really so well-written I don’t see the point in changing or adding much, so here’s more:

The teeth-gritting irony of it all is that Solyndra was the victim of a big success. The price of solar power has fallen rapidly, making more expensive technologies like theirs uncompetitive – but more importantly making solar power a real player in the U.S. energy economy.

Read our thoughts on the matter here.  If  you don’t like the negative framing that most press outlets are leading with, we *highly* encourage you to take matters into your own hands and write a letter to the editor.  It's easy and quite satisfying.  Contact Rosalind if you'd like some help or statistics to make your case.


Tracking the Sun (covered yesterday on CleanTechnica by Andrew)

In related news, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs just released its latest edition of Tracking the Sun, an annual report of solar PV costs in the US.  Takeaways?

  • The cost of going solar fell significantly for consumers over the past 18 months. The average pre-incentive cost of residential and commercial solar PV systems decreased 17 percent in 2010, the most significant annual reductions since Lawrence Berkeley National Lab began tracking data. Costs declined another 11 percent in the first half of 2011.
  • Market-building policies are effectively driving costs down. Reductions in the costs of installation labor, balance of systems, overhead and other non-module costs fell 18 percent from 2009 to 2010. This is significant because, unlike module costs, which are largely determined by the global market, non-module costs are most readily impacted by state and federal policies that accelerate deployment and remove market barriers.
  • U.S. solar incentives are delivering an increasing return on investment.  As a result of lower per watt costs, the average size of direct cash incentives from states and utilities as well as dollar-per-watt value of the federal tax incentive have both steadily decreased since their peak.
  • Increased market scale would likely achieve additional near-term cost reductions. The average installed cost of small residential PV installations in 2010 was significantly lower in Germany ($4.2/W) than in the United States ($6.9/W), where cumulative grid-connected PV capacity in the two countries through 2010 totaled roughly 17,000 MW and 2,100 MW, respectively.

Details here.  The report, along with a PowerPoint briefing and associated data file, can be downloaded here.


Who Says Solar is too Expensive?

California utilities have signed contracts for over 8 gigawatts of solar…and over half of that comes in at prices less building new natural gas plants.  The US solar industry has reached a seminal turning point.  Details here.


Get Some Sun
We've got new webinars for your edification and pleasure.  Details and registration here.

Mid-term PV Progress Report
An assessment on the current state of the industry, updates on international PV markets, and prognostications on what it all means for 2012
with Paula Mints of Navigant Consulting, September 21, 10 AM PDT (1 PM EDT)

Collaborative Purchasing: Making Solar Simple, Affordable and Social
Research shows the solar is contagious — can group purchase models drive demand and lower costs?
with Jessie Denver of Group Energy, September 28, 10 AM PDT (1 PM EDT)

Tracking the Sun: An Historical Summary of the Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the US from 1998 to 2010
with Galen Barbose of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, October 5, 10 AM PDT (1 PM EDT)

Community Choice Aggregation: How can it drive local renewable development?
with Dawn Weisz, Marin Energy Authority, and Megan Maston, LEAN Energy US
October 12, 10 AM PDT (1 PM EDT)

Utility Solar Business Models: What's driving the growing engagement of utilities in the U.S. solar market?
with Bianca Barth of SEPA and Lindsey Rogers of EPRI
November 16, 10 AM PDT (1 PM EDT)



  1. Take action.
  2. Don’t fall for the myths the fossil fuel industry and Tea/Republican Party try to spread.
  3. And get more informed, if needed.

Image Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Living Off Grid


Toshiba Introduces Voice-Controlled AND Energy-Efficient Air Conditioner

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 04:00 AM PDT

Toshiba Home Appliance of the Toshiba Group has introduced the world's first voice controlled air conditioner – the Daiseikai VOiCE NDR Series. There are 13 models with a variety of functions and colors. As with most Japanese A/C units, it is meant to be mounted on the wall and controlled via remote control. Having lost my remote control countless times, the voice activation feature seems pretty handy. From Toshiba's point of view, they developed the voice command system to introduce simplicity and an intuitive user interface to a multifunctional and potentially confusing home appliance.

The VOiCE NDR uses a new dual compressor unique to Toshiba which allegedly increases efficiency so much that the A/C uses only as much energy as an electric fan – on the lowest setting. A number of technical changes in the internal construction (mostly having to do with the dehumidifying aspect of air conditioning and the plumbing therein) also help to maintain functionality and reduce the amount of energy used to 45W (again, this is the lowest setting). Toshiba estimates the cost as approximately one yen per hour (about 1.3 cents American), which adds up to just under $10/month.

The voice control function is performed by – what else? – the Voice Controller, which can recognize 21 different words and phrases, such as stop (chuushi), start (unten), hot (atsui), cold (samui), and power saving (setsuden). Another memorized phrase, "cool breeze" (suzukaze), dials the machine down to a lower setting to conserve energy.

A final note on the VOiCE NDR's energy efficiency: the voice command "power saving" has settings for both the heating and cooling functions. If the A/C feature of the unit is active, it automatically sets the temperature to 32°C (90°F), and if the heating function is active, it sets room temperature to 17°C (63°F).

Source: Eco Japan


Study: Natural Gas May Not Provide Immediate Global Warming Improvement

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 03:30 AM PDT

natural gas power plant

Natural gas is considered an important part of the energy mix by many on the right and left because it can not only provide baseload power (generate a consistent amount of electricity reliably all the time), but natural gas can be used to fuel peaking and backup power plants which can be started quickly enough to backup malfunctioned power plants and avoid long blackouts in the event of a power shortage.

Natural gas can also beneficial to solar and wind power plants because it is a low carbon emissions source of electricity that can back up those power plants during low wind and cloudy periods instead of the more expensive gasoline which also pollutes the air more.

A study, however, states that replacing 50% of coal’s electricity supply with natural gas would not help global warming much due to the fact that natural gas power plants do not emit the significant amount of sulfur dioxide that coal power plants do, and sulfur dioxide is believed by some to cool the planet.

I cannot attest how helpful or harmful sulfur dioxide is where climate change is concerned, but it is a toxic substance.

Another issue with natural gas is the fact that it is 95% methane, and methane is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, which has a global warming potential of 1.

Methane, however, has a much shorter half life in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. I will try to confirm how much methane is released into the atmosphere due to natural gas production, though (and update this post when I can do so).

The study, conducted by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), will be published next month in Climatic Change Letters.

h/t Technology Review

Image Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Deacon MacMillan


The Japanese Plan Offshore Wind Farm

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 02:00 AM PDT

Middelgruden Offshore Wind Farm in Denmark.

Off the coast of Fukushima, the Japanese Agency for Natural Resources and Energy plans to construct a wind farm. An official from the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said: ”Building wind power turbines on land would be more difficult, because of the problems of noise pollution and city planning regulations”. That actually surprised me a little, due to the fact that setting up wind turbines offshore is more difficult technically.

The $261 million USD funding for this will be earmarked from a special extra budget which is to help rebuild the disaster stricken area, and the Japanese Agency for Natural Resources and Energy says that this wind farm is part of the reconstruction. The wind farm is envisioned as six 2-MW turbines that float offshore and it is hoped to be commissioned in 2015.

The Fukushima disaster has sparked widespread fear of nuclear power plants in Japan. (Plus, wind turbines did quite well throughout the earthquakes and tsunami.)

The government expects the country’s major wind turbine makers (such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Fuji Heavy Industries, and Japan Steel Works) will take part, he added.

The Fukushima power plant that was shut down due to the disaster had a generation capacity of 4.7 GW, which is enough to power 1,424,000 homes. In other words, that many homes relied on it if it operated at full capacity, so now that has to be replaced with other types of power plants because Japan does not plan to construct any more nuclear power plants for now.

Electricity has to be conserved due to a lack of electricity generation capacity and solar power plants are being constructed to compensate for this. One example of these efforts is a 7,000 kW photovoltaic solar power plant that was constructed last month by TEPCO.

The person from the Agency for Natural Resources and energy said that he hopes Mitsubishi Heavy, Fuji Heavy, and Japan Steel Works will take part in the project.

h/t: Times Live

Image Credit: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by United Nations Photo


Record Cost Reductions in US Solar Power Spurs Growth, in Green Jobs Too

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 10:25 PM PDT

Photo credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

The average cost of installing residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the US dropped a record 17% in 2010 and it continues to drop in 2011, an additional 11% through June, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s “Tracking the Sun IV”report.

Slowly but surely, the US market for solar PV power is growing and developing. Actually not so slowly. The US solar power market continued to grow at a record-breaking 66% pace in 2011′s first half. Domestic solar manufacturing rose 31%, while 1.1 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar power is under construction, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) “US Solar Market Insight.”

Green jobs are growing as well. Some 93,500 Americans worked in the US solar industry in 2010, and more than half of the country’s solar companies are planning to expand hiring in 2011, according to
The Solar Foundation’s “The National Solar Jobs Census.”

“The solar power industry is the fastest growing industry in America. We are delivering strong economic returns and good jobs at increasingly competitive prices, as this National Lab report shows. This report is further proof of what Americans from across the country already know: smart solar policy creates jobs and economic growth for communities hit hard by the recession,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO.

The drastically lower cost of solar PV modules has been a big, but not the sole, factor in spurring growth. Costs outside of modules, which make up a significant percentage of overall costs, have been dropping as well, the report authors note.

Government support and public-private collaboration have been key to the success. The cost of labor for installation, overhead, balance of systems and other non-module costs decreased 18% year-to-year in 2010. While module costs are driven by global supply and demand, non-module costs are “most readily impacted by state and federal policies that accelerate deployment and remove market barriers,” they write.

"The impressive cost reductions highlighted in this report did not happen by accident. It took business innovation and market-building policies at all levels of government to achieve the necessary economies of scale,” commented Adam Browning, executive director of the grassroots Vote Solar Initiative.

“There has never been a better time for customers or utilities to harness the sun for power. It's time to double down on our nation's investment in this job-creating, homegrown energy resource."

US solar power incentives are also delivering greater returns for investors, while government and industry incentives are falling, the researchers found. The average size of direct cash incentives from states and utilities, as well as dollar-per-watt value of the federal tax incentive “have both steadily decreased since their peak,” according to the Berkeley National Lab’s report.

Additional cost reductions in solar PV costs over the near-term are likely to be realized, given that current initiatives and support are sustained, the report authors conclude.

Germany has built the world’s leading solar market and industry, both on the supply and demand side. At $6.9/Watt, average installed solar PV systems costs in the US is significantly higher than in Germany, where the average cost to install a residential or commercial solar PV system was $4.2/W. Germany’s cumulative grid-connected solar PV capacity far surpasses that in the US — 17,000MW vs. 2,100MW.

The full report and supporting materials are available for download on the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab website.


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