- Sunshine State Senator Says US Can’t Compete with China on Solar; Obama: “I’m Not Going to Surrender to Other Countries”
- How Does Solar Energy Work? How Solar Power Works
- Texas & Conservatives Charging Forward on Clean Energy & Climate Action
- Steve Jobs & Clean Tech
- Nissan & GE to “Make EVs Easier”
- Solar Power on US Campuses Surges 450% in 3 Years
- New EV Land Speed Record Set by Torpedo-like Vehicle
- Local Solar Could Power the Mountain West Right Now, All of America in 2026
- Superfast Driving AND Superfast EV Charging on the Autobahn
- Capturing CO2 to Make Fuel: Illinois Research Team Makes Breakthrough in Artificial Photosynthesis
Posted: 07 Oct 2011 12:07 PM PDT
Wow, talk about patriotism. Despite the fact that Ernst & Young identified the U.S as the most attractive nation in the world for solar energy investment this year (by far), and we have seen tremendous growth in solar energy this year, the GOP seems to think we’ve lost to China on possibly the most important global economic market this century, and that we should just give up. Shocking! Here’s more from Jeremy Bloom on sister site Red, Green, and Blue:
Luckily, a rather important figure in the U.S., the president of the United States, doesn’t agree with the GOP at all.
Here’s Obama on that (video and then text):
I heard there was a Republican member of Congress who is engaging in oversight on this. And despite the fact that all of them in the past have been supportive of this loan guarantee program, he concluded, "You know what? We can't compete against China when it comes to solar energy."
Well, you know what? I don't buy that. I'm not going to surrender to other countries the technological leads that can end up determining whether or not we are building a strong middle class in this country. So we're going to have to keep on pushing hard to make sure the manufacturing is located here, new businesses are located here and new technologies are developed here. And there are going to be times when it doesn't work out, but I'm not going to cave to the competition when they are heavily subsidizing all these industries.
Front Page Image via Justin Sloan
Posted: 07 Oct 2011 09:50 AM PDT
For those wanting to know more about solar power and how we obtain energy from the sun, this information from the Photovoltaic Education Network will prove to be of immense use.
Created by Christiana Honsberg and Stuart Bowden, who work at the Solar Power Labs at Arizona State University, they introduce their website with a poignant description of photovoltaics as:
"…a most elegant energy source. Light shines on a crystal and produces electricity. It's as simple as that. There are no moving parts. The fuel source (sunlight) is free, abundant and widely distributed, available to every country and person in the world. At over 165,000 TW the solar resource dwarfs the world's current power usage of 16 TW or even our projected future usage of 60 TW."
The authors describe their site, which was partially funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, as an e-book on PV – a project that evolved from how it was initially distributed via CDs yet still maintains its "ungainly title of PVCDROM."
Here are the contents:
As important as anything else on this site is an invitation to participate in the site and provide improvements. They write:
"Help us improve the PVCDROM. If you find any errors or have suggestions please post to the forums. Clicking on the Discuss link at the end of each page takes you to the forum discussion for that page. Alternatively, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org."
For anyone wanting to know more about solar energy and how PV panels work, this is a remarkably comprehensive place to visit.
And a special thanks to Chittaluru Akil and Jesse Williams whose comments on another post about how PV works introduced me to this site.
Posted: 07 Oct 2011 07:45 AM PDT
No, seriously. This is not April Fool’s Day. Check out this great piece from sister site Red, Green, and Blue:
Front Page Image of Austin, Texas via StuSeeger
Posted: 07 Oct 2011 06:17 AM PDT
Yesterday, when I was hit with the shocking news that Steve Jobs had died, I thought about writing a piece on his extremely innovative spirit and skills and how they relate to our current clean energy revolution. But, I was really in a bit of shock (not because I didn’t think he was approaching that day after his recent resignation, but because I hadn’t read anything about his health getting dramatically worse recently and, probably more so, because the man had such a profound effect on our society). Additionally, it seemed almost irreverent to write about such things to me….
But, truthfully, his wonderful successes and spirit should be celebrated. We should celebrate what he offered the world and how he helped to change it. Still feeling a bit uncomfortable writing on such things myself, though, I have read two really good pieces on this that I thought I’d just share here on CleanTechnica. The first is from Bob Keefe of the NRDC, and the second is from Tom Dowdall of Greenpeace. Enjoy.
And, of course, I’m wishing Steve Jobs the best, wherever he is now.
by Bob Keefe, Natural Resources Defense Council
In a previous life, I was a technology reporter who covered a company called Apple Inc. and a guy named Steve Jobs. I was lucky enough to be there in San Francisco when Jobs introduced something called the iPod, the iPhone and a bunch of other iProducts in between and after.
I never really knew what the "i" stood for in all those Apple products. But certainly, it could've stood for "innovation." Steve Jobs was an innovator extraordinaire in the most innovative industry in recent history, the technology industry.
So maybe it's not surprising that a day after his death, it was Jobs who came to mind while I listened to President Obama speak about what could and should be the next great inflection point in American innovation: Clean energy.
Obama was asked at a press conference Thursday about the Solyndra debacle and the Department of Energy loan guarantee program that created by Congress in 2005 (not by Obama or the current White House, mind you) to help get the clean energy industry rolling in America.
Obama's response, at least to me, sounded a bit reminiscent of Steve Jobs.
"If we are going to be able to compete in the 21st century, then we've got to dominate cutting-edge technologies," Obama said.
That's what Jobs did with Apple.
When nobody else could figure out how to (legally) sell music over the Internet, Jobs and Apple did with the iPod. When nobody else could figure out how to make a cell phone with decent Internet capabilities, Jobs and Apple did with iPhone. When nobody else could figure out how to make a tablet computer that everyday folks could want and use, Jobs and Apple came along with the iPad.
Of course Jobs and Apple had stumbles along the way: the Lisa, the Newton, the Cube.
Lots of other tech companies stumbled even more. Remember Commodore Computers? How many people do you know who has a Microsoft Zune? And weren't we all supposed to be driving hovercars by now?
That's the nature of innovation. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you it hit out of the park, sometimes you whiff.
But if you don't try, you never succeed.
And when it comes to something as big and as important as redefining how we communicate, how we get our entertainment or – much more importantly – how we get our energy, we've got to try.
If we don't try to innovate – and if we as a country don't support and encourage innovation, whether through research grants to universities, funding through agencies like DARPA or loan guarantee programs through the Department of Energy – somebody else will.
In the case of clean energy, it will be China and other countries that are already investing much, much more in clean energy development than the United States.
"Part of what's happening is that China, Europe, and others are putting enormous subsidies into these (clean energy) companies and giving them incentives to move offshore … and that's part of the reason why a lot of the technology that's developed here, we've lost the lead in," Obama said Thursday.
"If we don't prepare now, if we don't invest now, if we don't get on top of technologies now … we are not just going to be able to start when all heck is breaking loose and say boy, we better find new energy sources," he said.
Obama, fortunately, realizes the value and the risks of innovation.
Silicon Valley realizes the value and risks of innovation.
Steve Jobs realized it too.
Now if only our lawmakers in Congress and luddites who think we should stay shackled to fossil fuels instead of innovating our way out of high energy prices, pollution, dependence on foreign oil and all the other problems that come with it would realize it as well.
by Tom Dowdall
Like many people, I heard the sad news of the passing of Steve Jobs first thing this morning, shouted up the stairs before I was properly awake. My first thought was the sadness of the news, then about the legacy left by Steve Jobs. While for many, his legacy is in the products they own, for me it is the changes Apple made under Steve's leadership to drive the electronics industry towards a clean future that are well worth remembering.
Greenpeace and Apple have history. During our campaigning for a greener electronics industry, Apple and Steve Jobs have been central figures. I never met him, but I think it's safe to say he was never a Greenpeace fan. Despite this, he did make a rare promise in 2007 to be the first computer company to phase out the worst hazardous substances from all Apple products. In 2008 Apple lead the industry with the first computers virtually free of toxic PVC and BFRs. He clearly understood the value to Apple of being the first. Today, all Apple products are free of these hazardous substances and where Apple lead, HP, Acer and others have followed. That alone made Steve Jobs ultimately a valuable ally in the fight for a toxics free future.
There's still much more for Apple and the rest of industry to do to be truly sustainable, both in terms of toxic free products and a clean energy future. But today is a day to reflect that among all of Steve Jobs achievements in the technology industry, one of the less well known ones is one of the most important. We need many more leaders like Jobs at the top of global companies who have the vision, drive and personality to deliver real solutions to the environmental challenges of today.
Rest in peace Steve Jobs, and thank you for leaving the world a greener Apple.
Image via Red, Green, and Blue
Posted: 07 Oct 2011 05:50 AM PDT
Posted: 07 Oct 2011 05:48 AM PDT
Solar photovoltaic (PV) power installations on university and college campuses have surged 450% over the last three years, according to a new database constructed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
A dramatic 40% fall in the installed cost of solar PV systems and the advent of new financing mechanisms, such as solar leasing, has led administrators to invest in renewable, clean solar power as a way of both hedging against rising future electricity prices and reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints, the the AASHE says.
According to the AASHE Campus Solar Photovoltaic Installations database:
• The 137 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity installed on higher education campuses to date is equivalent to the power used by 40,000 U.S. homes.
AASHE developed and publicly opened the campus solar PV database with the aim of building on the success of solar on US campuses to date. It enables users to browse installations and stories by type, size and location.
Examples include the University of San Diego, where 5,000 solar panels have been installed on 11 campus buildings to provide as much as 15% of the campus’s electricity. The university took advantage of federal and state incentives, negotiating a solar power purchase agreement that has resulted in a below-market cost of electricity obtained at a small upfront cost.
In addition to the drop in the installed cost of solar power systems, the median cost per Watt of the electricity being produced by campus solar PV systems has has been falling precipitously — 35% since 2009.
As the AASHE comments, “Any institution that might have ruled out a solar system in 2009 because it didn’t ‘pencil out’ might want to sharpen their pencils and reexamine the business case in light of today’s PV prices.”
Posted: 07 Oct 2011 05:42 AM PDT
Posted: 07 Oct 2011 02:58 AM PDT
The Germans have installed over 10,000 megawatts of solar panels in the past two years, enough to power 2 million American homes (or most of Los Angeles, CA). If Americans installed local solar at the same torrid pace, we could already power most of the Mountain West, could have a 100 percent solar nation by 2026, while enriching thousands of local communities with new development and jobs.
The following map shows what could have happened had the U.S. kept pace with Germany on solar power in the past two years (installed the same megawatts on a per capita basis). Sunshine could power 10 states!
Solar Would Power the Mountain West if The U.S. Kept Pace with Germany
The spread of solar has also been in harmony with environmental goals. Rather than covering natural areas or fertile land with solar panels, 80 percent of the solar installed in Germany was on rooftops and built to a local scale (100 kilowatts or smaller – the roof of a church or a Home Depot store). Solar in the U.S. also can use existing space. The following map shows the amount of a state’s electricity that could come from rooftop solar alone, from our 2009 report Energy Self-Reliant States:
State Potential Rooftop PV:
While the local rooftop solar potential of these states varies from 19 to 51 percent, there’s much more land available for solar without covering parks or crops. Once again, data from Energy Self-Reliant States (p. 13):
Such local solar power also provides enormous economic benefits. For every megawatt of solar installed, as many as 8 jobs are created. But the economic multiplier is significantly higher for locally owned projects, made possible when solar is built at a local scale as the Germans have done.
With local ownership, making America a 100% solar nation could create nearly 10 million jobs, and add as much as $450 billion to the U.S. economy.
The Germans have found the profitable marriage between their energy and environmental policy. It’s time for America to discover the same.
Posted: 07 Oct 2011 02:46 AM PDT
The power company E.ON installed the first DC quick-charge stations in Germany on a highway in Bavaria on August 24th, with more to come. EVs with a charge capacity of up to 50kW will be able to fully charge their batteries at the E.ON stations in 20 – 30 minutes. Compared to the current charging stations – AC chargers able to handle 3.5kW charging capacity in about 6 hours – they're a vast improvement.
The new stations also support the CHAdeMO protocol, a single standard for EVs and chargers. EVs available in Germany which also support the CHAdeMO protocol include the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Peugeot iOn, the Citroën C-Zero and the Nissan Leaf.
Charging 5 Euros inclusive per use (about $6.82 USD) during the test phase, E.ON is moving toward operating public quick-charge stations only. Klaus Dieter-Maubach, head of research and technology, explains that the quick-charge trend is of particular interest: "The only way to interest both consumers and power suppliers is to have charging times of a few minutes, instead of several hours," he says.
Ruth Werhahn, responsible for e-mobility at E.ON, has a few other ideas. "Quick-charge stations clearly expand an EV's operational range," she says. "They enable drivers to go beyond commuting from work to home and charging overnight – we can go between Munich and Salzburg (90 miles) or Frankfurt and Stuttgart (130 miles) in a single trip."
The stations are even supplied by green energy sources – the majority of their electricity will be generated by German hydropower plants – making them attractive not only to the driver without a garage to house a personal charger, but to the environmentally conscious as well.
Posted: 06 Oct 2011 11:07 PM PDT
We’ve been reporting on the efforts and strides being made by energy researchers around the country to reduce CO2 emissions and produce clean energy by mimicking photosynthesis. Well, a research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently overcame a major obstacle in efforts to use CO2 emissions to produce liquid fuel.
University of Illinois professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Paul Kenis and his research team succeeded in lowering the potential energy needed to convert CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO), a big step forward in creating energy-efficient ‘artificial photosynthesis’.
In artificial photosynthesis, electricity produced from clean renewable sources, such as solar PV cells or wind turbines, is fed to an electrochemical cell — sounds like something akin to a fuel cell — to convert CO2 “to simple carbon fuels such as formic acid or methanol,” which are then refined further to make ethanol and other fuels, a EurekaAlert report explains.
If the artificial photosynthesis process can be scaled up and improved further, it would eliminate having to go through the process of collecting biomass and converting the sugars they contain into biofuels. That would be a much more efficient and environmentally friendly way of both removing CO2 from the atmosphere and producing fuel. It would also address the issue and criticism of using farmland to produce energy crops, which puts upward pressure on food prices.
“The key advantage is that there is no competition with the food supply,” Richard Masel, the founder of the research team and CEO of Dioxide Materials, told EurekaAlert. “And it is a lot cheaper to transmit electricity than it is to ship biomass to a refinery.”
The team’s key breakthrough came as a result of using an ionic liquid catalyst to speed up and significantly lower the energy required to convert CO2 into CO, a hurdle that has made the cost of artificial photosynthesis prohibitive.
“It lowers the overpotential for CO2 reduction tremendously,” Prof. Kenis explained. “Therefore, a much lower potential has to be applied. Applying a much lower potential corresponds to consuming less energy to drive the process.
“More work is needed, but this research brings us a significant step closer to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels while simultaneously reducing CO2 emissions that are linked to unwanted climate change,” Kenis was quoted as saying.
A similar process is actually being put to the test by FuelCell Energy as it moves forward with a DOE-supported project to capture and eliminate 90% of CO2 emissions at a coal-fired power plant and use them to produce clean electricity.
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