Monday, September 26, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Another “Solyndra” Project Sacrificed in Republican Attack on FEMA

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 04:37 PM PDT

The latest casualty of the Republican-held House, in its witch hunt against renewable energy, is a huge distributed solar project that would have doubled the number of solar rooftop installs in the US, while cutting electricity costs to practically nothing for hard-pressed military families, many of whom return home to lives of long term disability and resulting hardship.

In partnership with military housing developers, SolarCity was to have installed as many as 160,000 solar roofs on military family housing, supplying cheaper and cleaner electricity from their own roofs. Its SolarStrong military program would have doubled the number of solar roof installations in the US – there are only 166,000 solar rooftops as of this Spring. Solar City would get a $275 million loan from USRG Renewable Finance for the project, and the Department of Energy would provide the loan guarantee.

But, due to the Solyndra witch hunt, the project has been halted.

Secretary Chu received a letter from the committee on September 20th warning of a slew of new requirements as part of the Solyndra witch hunt. As a result, the Department of Energy contacted SolarCity with the news that it will be impossible to finalize the loan guarantee for the 371 MW SolarStrong project on time. In addition to the red tape,

Then yesterday Republicans clawed back the last funding for “Solyndra” loan guarantees.

The Republicans had been refusing to fund FEMA costs this year unless the funding is offset, preferring to taking the money from renewable energy funding. Growing more renewable energy is the only government policy with a solution to rising FEMA costs, but party policy is not to believe in climate change.

First they attempted to take $1.5 billion from the clean car loan program, to offset disaster relief, but failed to attract enough Democrats who refused to offset disaster relief with $1.5 billion from renewable energy funding to make up for a defection by 48 Republicans in states desperate for FEMA funds this year, and on Friday that vote failed.

On Monday they succeeded in sacrificing the Solyndra loan guarantees. The Republican-held House was able to garner enough votes from its own caucus by stripping $100 million from the DOE loan guarantee program that financed the Solyndra guarantee, as their condition for passing the continuing budget resolution on Monday including key disaster relief funds for the states that suffered from wildfires, floods and tornadoes this year.

Bolstered by the hysteria they have created over the last few months over supposed Solyndra wrongdoing, congressional Republicans have so increased the red tape that nearly all the renewable energy loan guarantees have slowed to a crawl.

But in offsetting disaster funds for the first time in US history, Republicans have set a precedent for conditions on help for those who will be caught in the ever more expensive climate disasters caused by their shortsighted climate policy of “drill, baby, drill”.

Chu: Solar Power on Track For Cost Parity With Fossil Fuels

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 02:30 PM PDT

Energy Secretary Steven Chu discusses the future of clean energy

Even before Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, the U.S. clean energy industry was facing an uncertain future because of the slow economy, low-cost overseas competition, and political gridlock in Washington, D.C. But in spite of these headwinds, Energy Secretary Steven Chu says clean energy cannot be abandoned and is on track for cost parity with fossil fuels.

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, energyNOW! anchor Thalia Assuras discusses the outlook for clean energy funding, the Obama's Administration's plans to advance energy technology, and global competition with Secretary Chu. You can watch the full video below:

According to Chu, competition from China and Western Europe has made the market for renewable energy technology "very competitive" but the U.S. shouldn't abandon efforts to lead the way. When individual companies fail, they could hamper the overall effort, but "while it's a setback, I think you shouldn't give up the fight," he said. "The market for solar energy, for renewable energies of all kind, and for the energy market in general is so vast that we have to hang in there and prevail."

Chu's resolve seems to fly in the face of Congressional Republicans who have slowed federal action on clean energy funding, but he thinks alternative policy avenues exist for President Obama. "There's a few things we can do that cost very little or nothing, for example a clean energy standard" that includes natural gas and clean coal, coupled with a low-cost research and development program, he said.

R&D is key to Chu's vision because technological advances can drive costs down, as evidenced by solar power's march to cost parity. "Its' price has come down 50 percent in the last five or six years, it's going to come down by another 50 percent, and we think there's a chance it could come down by 70 percent," he said. "At that point, you're talking about wholesale electricity at utility scale, at 6 or 7 cents levelized cost per kilowatt hour – that's as much as you would have to spend for any fossil fuel plant without subsidy."

Critics say this equation is based on subsidies and renewables can't be cost-competitive without them, but Chu thinks they will soon be able to stand on their own. "Oil and gas subsidies have been continued for about a hundred years," he said. "I think we can pull the plug on renewable energy way before that, another 10 or 15 years, because of the driving need to get to this clean energy transition."

Even though Chinese investment threatens America's success in a clean energy economy, it also holds lessons for the U.S. to learn. China "sees a great economic opportunity, because of these huge markets," Chu said. "They're generating within their own country the largest renewable market in the world, in their own country," he said. "That creates manufacturing in their country, and that manufacturing can be used for export."

America needs to take note of China's march, concluded Chu. "10 and 20 years from now, the world's going to need this (clean energy and infrastructure). Are we going to be buying or selling? We'd rather very much be selling."


Rome Welcomes EVs With Toshiba Smart Grid

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 02:21 PM PDT

The city of Rome, Italy is poised to welcome electric cars to its streets, according to Toshiba. The electronics giant announced this week that its Italian subsidiary Ansaldo Transmissione & Distribuzione S.p.A (Ansaldo T&D) won a contract to supply a smart grid distribution system to ACEA Distribuzione S.p.A (Gruppo ACEA), one of Italy's leading public utilities. The system will include a solar power array and storage batteries, as well as a control unit and smart meters.

Ansaldo T&D will start the installation in December (2011) in Raffineria, an ACEA substation, with ACEA scheduled to start operations and maintenance the following spring (2012). Once operational, the system will supply power to a network of EV charging stations – considered an integral part of a smart grid.

The solar power system to be installed is a 10KW array, and the storage batteries are Toshiba's 45KWh rechargeable batteries (SCiB). The smart meters – provided by another Toshiba subsidiary, Landis+Gyr – will provide real-time data pertaining to the array's power status and the battery charge levels, as well as the demand at the EV charging stations.

Points to Rome for promoting not only low/no-emission electric (and hybrid) cars, but also using a green energy source to do it!



Walmart Will Deploy Solar Panels on 60 More Stores in California

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 08:27 AM PDT

Walmart will add solar panels to 60 California stores

A commitment to renewables like solar energy is working quite well for Walmart. The retailer has announced it plans to expand its renewable energy rooftop solar electricity program by additional solar panels to another 60 stores in the state of California.

Kim Saylors-Laster, energy vice president for the company, said Walmart has reduced its energy expenses by nearly a million dollars through its solar energy program.
In addition, she says the solar panel green energy program will avoid producing about 21,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Translated into petroleum calculations, this amount is roughly equivalent to eliminating 4,100 cars annually.

When completed, Walmart’s total solar commitment in California is expected to create about 70 million kWh of clean, renewable energy per year. That amount represents enough energy to power some 5,400 homes.

The amount of electrical energy provided by he solar panels is expected to meet 20 to 30 percent of each facility’s total electric needs.

"California presents a great opportunity for Walmart to make significant progress toward our sustainability goals by installing solar power on more than 130 store rooftops throughout the state," said Kim Saylors-Laster in the press announcement. "Walmart has reduced energy expenses by more than a million dollars through our solar program, allowing us to pass these savings on to our customers in the form of everyday low prices."


Photo: Walmart

Westinghouse Solar Introduces Low-Cost, DIY Home Solar Power Kits

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 07:11 AM PDT

Image credit: Westinghouse Solar

The price of solar photovoltaic (PV) power modules has fallen drastically over the past year and more. Looking to capitalize on that trend, Westinghouse Solar announced today the introduction of “all-in-one,” do-it-yourself (DIY) solar power system kits for the home.

The kits’ low cost and ease of installation make them “very appealing to contractors and do-it-yourself (DIY) homeowners who, until now, have been put off by the high price of a rooftop system,” according to a Westinghouse Solar press release.

Each kit includes Westinghouse Solar AC panels with integrated racking and inverters, roof flashings and panel splices. Customers need only add wiring to the rooftop and a circuit breaker in the home’s electrical service panel to start producing clean, renewable power. Though its targeting the DIY homeowner, as well as contractors, Westinghouse recommends that a licensed professional electrician take care of the wiring to ensure that it’s safe and up to code.

Drastically lower solar PV prices combined with federal and state solar incentives translates into a payback on investment that’s shorter than it’s ever been, and customers wind up with free electricity for many years thereafter, noted Westinghouse Solar CEO Barry Cinnamon.

“What has been lost in the recent news about the solar industry is that solar panels are less than half the price they were just two years ago. These cost reductions are terrific news for consumers. Now, paybacks in many states are less than five years — after which homeowners get free electricity from their system,” Cinnamon said.

Cheaper than Ever to Go Solar

“What these dramatically lower prices mean is that ‘going solar’ is now a terrific investment and, like in Germany, the rooftop solar industry has the potential to grow faster than any other market segment.”

As an example, Cinnamon offered the case of a home installation in Hawaii, where a “simple, four panel installation” costs less than $1,500 after federal and state incentives. At an electric rate of $0.40/kWh (kilowatt-hour), the “all-in-one” solar PV system saves the homeowner $660 a year in electricity expenses and pays for itself in two years.

A similar system in New York will cost the homeowner $900 after federal and state incentives, save $230 a year at $0.20/kWh and pay for itself in four years. In California, the system would pay for itself in five years.

Westinghouse Solar has been testing the “all-in-one” solar PV home system in the retail market for about two years, partnering with Lowe’s Home Improvement stores.

“There was a lot of interest from both homeowners and contractors — usually electricians and home improvement specialists,” recounted Jeff Kiel, executive vice president of Sales and Marketing. “What we learned was that the two key issues were, obviously, cost — but also ‘out of the box’ simplicity.

“Equipment costs are literally half of what they were two years ago, so we have made terrific progress on that front. Moreover, our second-generation AC panels are now packaged in a complete kit with all the mounting hardware needed for a typical rooftop system. It’s like buying a ready-to-assemble furniture kit from Ikea. Everything you need except wiring and ordinary tools is included.”

The Westinghouse solar power for the home kits come in three sizes: a 20-panel contractor kit that provides enough electricity for about 70% of a homeowner’s needs; a 4-panel starter kit, and a single-panel kit for those who aren’t sure about solar power for the home and want to experiment on a very small-scale.

Westinghouse Solar kits are available from home improvement retailers, electrical distributors, contractors and local solar installers. Check out Westinghouse Solar’s website for more information and where they’re available.

Solar Jobs & Residential Solar Income (Reader Comments)

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 04:00 AM PDT

solar job growthI thought I’d highlight a couple of nice reader comments from the past week today to give them more eyes. Check out these two comments from Andrew’s “U.S. Solar Industry Adds at 6.8% Pace” piece, if you haven’t already seen them over there:

“When you buy a car for $40,000, it never pays you back. The rate of return on money invested [in solar] is usually 15-30%, WAY higher than any stock market investment or other investment return rate…. Even if it took 15 years to pay back, it is worth it to insulate yourself from utility rate hikes.”


Lets see, 6.8% job green growth versus 2.0% fossil fuel job lose.

Math looks simple, drop the $4 billion in special tax breaks the US goverment gives to oil each year. And use that to put PV panels on all the flat roofs of goverment buildings. Say the panels have to have a certain portion of US content. The installers are all local. If you run out of goverment building rooftops, then start adding them to public schools. Include energy efficiency projects on the federal buildings and schools.

Cost neutral, but creates jobs! Who could not support that?

Yes, I would be more agressive than that, would add a greenhouse gas emitters tax. But that will not fly in today’s DC environment.

Thanks, guys. Love to see such clarifying and progressive comments helping to move us along.


Cleantech Investment, Green Economy Board Game

Posted: 26 Sep 2011 02:50 AM PDT

clean tech board game

A friend of CleanTechica, Scott Cooney of, has developed a green economy board game, which will be launching for the holiday season later this year. In the game, players are impact investors shooting for the best triple bottom line return on their investments in the state of Hawai’i, where, currently, 90% of the state’s electricity comes from burning diesel fuel.

In this interview, I had the chance to ask Scott about the game, which is heavily built on cleantech entrepreneurship and investment.

Before the interview, though, Scott is doing fundraising for the game right now and you could help him out a ton by donating on Kickstarter:

And here’s a quick video about the game created for Kickstarter:

Scott and crew are doing a live demo of the game on Tuesday, 9/27 at 3 PM PST, 6 EST, and Thursday 10/6 at 6 PM PST/9 EST. All you need to do is mark your calendars and go to the conference page at that time, and enter the web conference as “guest”.

Now, on to the interview…

ZS: Can you give us a walk-through on the game, how it’s played, how the winner is determined, etc., and talk to some of the cleantech elements in the game?
SC: Players are impact investors who can invest in green businesses across the state of Hawai’i, such as geothermal plants, bike shops, organic farms & CSA, waste oil biofuels processors, and the like. The businesses themselves help employ green collar workers and offset waste, barrels of oil, and imported/processed food. They also pay their investors dividends. So, essentially, the players are getting a triple bottom line return. The player with the best overall triple bottom line return on their investments wins.

As for cleantech, players are able to invest in algae biofuels companies, wind farms, sea water air conditioning projects, energy efficiency consulting services, and the like (see some of the cards above). Many of them are based on real businesses, such as the 30 MW Puna Geothermal project on the big island, and what is being termed “Big Wind,” a 100-MW wind farm slated for development in Maui county with an undersea cable to send the power to Oahu, where most of the state’s population lives.

ZS: Is it a fairly complex game?
SC: As far as gameplay, it’s pretty straightforward, but there’s a lot of strategy involved.

ZS: Such as?
SC: Well, you can build an empire in clean tech or green building or sustainable food. Or you can diversify. It’s a risk/reward thing. Put all your eggs in one basket and you might get lucky or you might get hosed. There’s a new public policy card that gets flipped over every turn, and sometimes they help one particular industry and sometimes they are really detrimental to a particular industry.

ZS: What are some of the policy cards?
SC: There’s one where the state promotes a feed-in tariff (which Hawai’i just did recently), and green builders and solar installers get a big boost. There’s an OPEC oil embargo card, and clean energy producers and alternative transportation companies get a hefty profit because of rising oil prices. But there are a lot of negative policies, too, such as one where a Tea Party politician calls LEED a “jobs killer,” and the state starts promoting suburban sprawl and withdraws support for urban planning, bike lane development, and public transit.

ZS: I see you had some fun with this.
SC: Definitely. But the funny part is, most of the policy and random events that occur throughout the game are based in reality… sometimes scarily so. There’s a set of modern day robber barons in the game, which is a piece on the board called the “oil industry lobbyists.” Last year, when Oahu was trying to add a fee on single-use plastic bags, these guys descended en masse and derailed the bill. While they’re here, they also push other bad policies, and that’s reflected in the game, too. Whichever county the oil industry lobbyists are in, green businesses only pay their investors half their regular dividends until the lobbyists leave.

ZS: You’re on crack. In a good way, I mean. Where did you get the idea?
SC: I was playing Settlers of Catan last October and just saw how wrapped up people got in it. They were learning things, sure, but they were just really into the game. I thought that if we could make a ridiculously fun, entertaining, and engrossing game about sustainability, that people would probably learn a ton about the green economy and come away not just a supporter, but with a realistic sense of the challenges, obstacles, and opportunities that exist.

ZS: How do people find out more?
SC: We’re currently pre-selling the game on our Kickstarter campaign. ( There’s a video there that describes the flow of the game and shows some of the preliminary design. For $60 pledges (taxes/shipping included), we’ll ship the game anywhere in the US or Canada in time for the holidays.

ZS: Oh, and, what’s the name of the game?
SC: Well, it was Angels of Hawai’i, to reflect the players being angel investors, but we ran into some legal issues recently on that from a group with a similar name. So we’re playing with a few ideas for names, but if anyone has something amazing, feel free to send it along! People can email us directly at info [at] or through our Facebook fan page,

ZS: I really look forward to getting my copy in the mail.
SC: And I look forward to playing the game with you at some point, preferably over an organic beer.


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