Saturday, September 17, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Obama’s EPA Cues $130 Billion Race to Cut Pollution by 2015

Posted: 17 Sep 2011 01:35 PM PDT

The EPA will shut down an estimated 20% of the nation’s coal plants through the ground-level ozone rule (the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) ) through cap and trade that is about to be implemented in January 2012. Opponents of the Obama administration’s “over-reaching” EPA say these are costly regulations. Financial analysts estimate that the cost of this rule will be $130 billion by 2015. But if that figure is correct, that’s good news for the US economy.

Because there is another way of looking at that $130 billion “expense”. One industry’s expense is another industry’s sales bonanza. For the coal industry’s balance sheet, it is an expense, but think about who is going to perform this $130 billion cleanup – fairies? Hardly. This is a job for real American industries.

In the most depressed economy since the Great Depression, a slew of US companies will be selling the clean energy solutions (and adding employees to manufacture them) as coal companies must begin a race to have the least polluting coal plants.

Why do they have to race eachother? Simple. Cap and trade is a sort of a plutocrats’ sack race:

In January, all electricity plants that emit pollutants (solar and wind electricity won’t be affected) must begin trading emissions among themselves under the EPA ozone trading rule.  The electricity plants that outcompete the dirty ones will be the beneficiaries.

The race will be between companies to be cleanest. The fastest to retool in this survival of the fittest, is the winner. Last one to clean up is the loser. It’s not as if coal plants have had no warning that this race to cleaner energy was about to begin.

But from an economic  point of view, a $130 billion injection in the US energy innovation industry will greatly outweigh the costs to just one sector. That is because this will be new money coming into the US economy.

A hand-full of coal industry plutocrats are simply not able to inject $130 billion into the US economy just taking cruise trips around the Mediterranean or whatever it is that they do with the profits that they don’t spend cleaning up.

Susan Kraemer

Best Buy to Feature Home Energy Management Products

Posted: 17 Sep 2011 10:10 AM PDT

New energy management products can make homes more efficient

For those wanting a one-stop shop for home energy management products, add consumer electronics retailer Best Buy to the list. The company has announced plans to start selling home energy management products in stores later this year that introduce consumers to emerging technologies that can improve energy efficiency.

According to Kris Bowring, senior director and platform head for home energy at Best Buy, three stores will lunch a trial, providing dedicated areas to demonstrate a number of home energy technologies. The announcement was made September 13 at the GridWeek conference in Washington D.C.

Featured products will range from simple whole-house energy monitors to a combination of a home security service and smart thermostats. The products are geared at helping people improve home efficiency and get remote control to their homes from a Web portal or smart phone.

“This technology is coming. It’s here. The energy monitoring and management–the understanding and capabilities are there. In fact, some of the systems deliver more information than the utilities could ever dream of,” said Bowring.

Trial stores will be located in San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago.

Best Buy is targeting providing home energy products to more than the small group of energy conscious people today seen as early technology adopters. In research leading to the launch of this program, Bowring said consumers may want to be energy efficient but don't understand how their energy usage compares to others, whether their homes were operating efficiently, or what tools to use for measurement.

According to Martin LaMonica from Green Tech, Best Buy research shows many people want to remotely control their homes so they can adjust thermostats, lights, and appliances. One product expected to be part of the trial is the Nucleus energy management system from General Electric. It collects energy usage information and allows consumers control thermostats and connected appliances.

Smart outlets that measure the power demands of various appliances will also be featured. These outlets can be used to set schedules for lights or electronics.

Bowring said that Best Buy intends to have a utility presence in stores to give consumers specific advice for making energy management products work appropriately.

Photo:  agingTroll





Oil & Peak Oil Infographic

Posted: 17 Sep 2011 08:29 AM PDT

I received this great infographic on Monday when I was in London for a CNBC/Harvard Business Review “Energy Opportunities” interview. So, after catching up on things over the past few days, I’m just now getting it up. It is really a great one, laying out where oil comes from, who’s using it, what we’re using it for, and the ever-important topic of… peak oil. Check it out (CLICK TO ENLARGE):

Peak Oil infographic

Infographic by Carsort


Q&A on Solyndra, Clean Energy, & Green Jobs

Posted: 17 Sep 2011 07:38 AM PDT

A probe into Solyndra's bankruptcy filing may spread to the White House and other clean energy companies.

Here’s yet another great response to the Solyndra debacle and all the attacks on clean energy and green jobs that have followed. It’s part of an email I received from the Natural Resources Defense Council last night. Check it out (and please share it):


Q. What are the facts on Solyndra?

A. Solyndra builds lightweight, advanced solar panels that generate electricity from sunlight. Its products have been installed in more than 1,000 facilities worldwide. Earlier this month, the company laid off its staff of 1,100 production workers, saying it would seek protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The company said its business was being hurt by foreign competition and the global credit crunch, which has made it hard for the company’s customers to finance new projects.


Q. Why is the company under investigation?

A. In 2007, Solyndra applied for assistance from a Department of Energy program that promotes renewable power. In 2009, the DOE awarded the company a $535-million loan guarantee. By the end of last year, the DOE recognized financial troubles at Solyndra and, over the next several months, restructured the terms of the deal to try to reduce the chances taxpayer money would be lost. The bankruptcy, though, has put that money at risk. The Department of Justice is investigating.


Q. Why are some politicians so worked up about this?

A. Anytime taxpayer money is at risk, we need to know the facts. If there was wrongdoing, those responsible must be held to account.

But the world is moving toward cleaner, safer more sustainable sources of energy like solar power. Trillions of dollars are at stake over the coming decades. We’re not going to turn our back on that opportunity every time an emerging industry experiences growing pains. That’s now how America rolls.

We didn’t pull the plug on Edison when the first light bulb blew out. We didn’t close up shop when the first Ford got a flat tire. And we’re not about to give up on the solar industry and the vital jobs it creates.


Q. How big is the solar industry in our country?

A. Solar energy is growing rapidly in this country and the future for this renewable energy source is bright.

Solar capacity has had annual growth topping 45 percent every single year since 2005. Last year it doubled and it grew 66 percent in the first quarter of 2011 – despite the tough economy, according to the Solar Electric Industries Association.  We now generate enough solar electricity in our country to power every home in a city the size of Philadelphia. Additional construction is already underway to increase that output by one-third, in offices, on rooftops to power highway road signs and elsewhere. We need to build on that progress.

Q. How many jobs has solar industry created?

A. About 100,000 Americans now work in the solar power and solar heating industry, which includes 5,500 companies around the country. These are good jobs for engineers, manufacturers, electricians, plumbers, physicists, chemists and others, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The world’s leading producer of solar electricity is Germany – which gets about as much sunlight as Alaska. The United States ranks fourth.

But look at a map. Think about energy costs. Think about growth. Within a few years, the United States is likely to become the world’s leading market for solar equipment, installation and operation. The question is who will build, install and operate the gear. The answer must be American workers. We have the knowledge. We have the skills. It’s our market. We need to own it.


Q. Why don’t we?

A. Our biggest competitor is China. Five years ago, China didn’t make solar panels. Now it controls half the global market. About 95 percent of its panels are exported, mostly to the United States, Germany and other countries.

A number of American companies are competing, based on advanced technologies and design. It’s in our long term national interest to support those companies every way we can.


Q. What is China doing that we’re not?

A. China treats solar power as a strategic industry. China’s goal is to dominate the world market for solar equipment, much as Japan became an auto export giant. The Chinese are well on the way.

Beijing provides Chinese solar companies with competitive advantages that dwarf anything the DOE might provide American firms. Through low-interest loans and other subsidies, the government provides Chinese solar makers with billions of dollars in direct aid. It provides land for manufacturers. And wages are low: $2,640 a year for an engineer, according to the New York Times.

Bottom line: China has identified solar exports as a national priority, and it has tailored national policies and devoted national resources to achieving that goal. The strategy is working – at the expense of U.S. companies and American workers.


Q. It sounds like we’re falling behind.

A. The risk is that we become reliant on China for equipment that is fast becoming essential to an efficient economy, much as we’ve long been dependent upon countries like Saudi Arabia for oil. There’s got to be a better way.


Here’s our view.

Countries all over the world are working to move beyond fossil fuels. They won’t last forever. They’re getting harder to find, riskier to develop and more expensive to buy. They’re destroying our planet and threatening our health.

Solar technology is part of the answer. It’s rapidly reshaping the global energy future. Trillions of dollars are up for grabs over the coming decades. We cannot stand by and cede that future to our competitors – in China or anywhere else. We must invest in our future, put Americans back to work and strengthen our economy going forward.

Q. Sounds good. But I hear some politicians say that green jobs – solar or otherwise – just aren’t happening.

A. That’s just dead wrong. Here are the facts.

In 2009, there were 2.2 million green jobs in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By July of this year, the number was 2.7 million, according to the Brookings Institution. That compares with 375,000 jobs mining coal, producing oil and gas and turning fossil fuels into consumer products.

The green economy is strong and growing, even as the country struggles with a jobless recovery from the worst recession since World War II. Green jobs are poised for even greater growth once our economy gets back on its feet. Meanwhile, it’s more than holding its own.


Q. Where are the green jobs?

A. Besides solar, let’s look at wind. About 87,000 Americans now support their families by designing, building or installing wind turbines, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, we’re getting 3.3 percent of our electricity from wind, according to August data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Texas, the oil capital of the world, is getting 8 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, and they’re helping to keep ranchers and farmers viable as well.

What about green construction, building sustainable workplaces? In 2005, that work was worth $3 billion a year. Today it’s about $54 billion. In 2015, this will be a $145-billion market, according to McGraw Hill Construction. By then, green construction will support as many as 8 million American jobs, according to estimates by Booz Allen.

These are good-paying jobs for Americans who have the skills to do the work. Construction managers, carpenters, truck drivers, the whole gamut.

The fact is, our world is changing, and our workforce is changing with it. That’s what American progress is all about.

Q. If green jobs are doing so well, why do we need taxpayers to pitch in?

A. We’ve got a jobs problem in this country. We’ve had unemployment rates of 8 percent or higher for nearly three years. Right now, 14 million Americans can’t find work. That needs to change, and we all need to pitch in to make it happen.

Part of the answer, and an important part of the answer, is to invest in our future. There is no greater opportunity, and no more urgent imperative, than for us to invest in a sound and secure energy future. That means efficiency. It means wind, solar and other renewable power sources. And it means sustainable communities.

All of that creates American jobs – more than 2.7 million to date, and growing.

Compare that with other parts of our economy.

Over just the past decade, American manufacturers have shed 4.4 million jobs. Those jobs are gone, they’re not coming back and we can’t change that.

What we can do is to replace those lost jobs with the jobs of the future. That’s how we’ve always moved forward as a nation. We need to make up our minds, as a nation, to do that, then roll up our sleeves and get the job done.

Q. But isn’t government especially bad at picking winners and losers? Why not let the free market sort all that out?

A. From the moment of its founding, our country has rallied around strategic goals then summoned the collective resources to achieve them.

George Washington called us to build great canals that linked markets and ports to factories and farms. Lincoln believed in the power of rail stretching from sea to shining sea. Roosevelt electrified the rural South. Eisenhower built the interstate highway system. Kennedy sent us to the moon, a mission that ushered in the technological beginnings of computers, smart phones and the Internet.

Each of these national achievements, and more, began with a common vision of what this nation might become and where the American people, together, might go. No single person or political party took us there. We arrived by working together, and that’s what we must do now.

We can build energy efficient cars, homes and workplaces. We can create communities that give us more choices in how we live and commute. We can harness power from the wind and the sun. And we can compete with the best in the world.

We must make up our minds to do so, then gather the means to prevail. This isn’t about picking winners and losers. It’s about winning. Winning in the race for the jobs of tomorrow, creating those jobs today, and putting our future on solid ground for generations to come.

Image Credit: energyNOW! Solyndra video


Solar Bottle Bulb (Part II)

Posted: 17 Sep 2011 05:40 AM PDT

I covered this technique for bringing good light to homes using plastic soda bottles and water awhile back. But the technique has been getting more attention and Priti Ambani of our sister site Ecopreneurist has written about it in more depth, and found a good new video showing how to install the lights and calling for support to help spread the word via MyShelter Foundation Inc.’s "Isang Litrong Liwanag” (or “A Liter of Light”) Project. Check out Priti’s piece here:


Combining Solar Power and Your Electric Vehicle — Too Practical to Pass Up (Reader Comment)

Posted: 17 Sep 2011 04:00 AM PDT

We recently got the following reader comment on a post of Andrew’s on electric vehicles, the smart grid, and residential solar power. It’s a great one, so I thought I’d highlight it further with a quick repost here. Check it out:

May I please emphasize this?

“A small, 1.2-kilowatt solar system priced at around $4,000 will cover charging costs for an electric vehicle for up to 40 years.”

For $4,000 you can buy your ‘gas’ for the next 40 years.

For the next forty years you will be producing the power for your EV for $8.33 a month. Those are fixed dollars, not dollars that will rise with inflation, the $8.33 per month is locked in.

The $185 per month that ICEV owners will be paying for gas? In forty years, based on past inflation, will cost you $1,027.

Let’s use historical inflation rates to look forward to forty years from now…

Price for gas now = $185.
Price for electricity now = $8.33.

Price for gas forty years from now $1,027.
Price for electricity forty years from now $8.33.

Forty years from now $8.33 will have the buying power of $1.44 in today’s dollars. For less than the price of a latte, you charge your EV for a month.

On an annual basis, $12,324 for gas, $100 for electricity.

What’s not to love about that?

(Yes, curmudgeons, there may be some inverter repair necessary along the way, and a tree might need to be trimmed back. Thank you in advance for grousing.)

Image Credit: SunPower


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