- Republican-Majority House Votes Trade War against Europe
- Clean Green China? Maybe
- Airborne Wind Turbines Win Award
- Growing Pains for Electric Vehicle Manufacturers
- Solar Power: Highest Return on Investment of Renewable Energy Options
- Wind Energy Driving Down Consumer Electric Rates
- 60-90% of UK Electricity Could Come from Renewable Energy
- Greece Looking to Repay Debts with.. Solar Power
- $40 Million for Floating Wind Turbine in UK
- Maine Solar PV Growing in Popularity… Why?
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 04:44 PM PDT
While we may take a keen interest in politics, such events may not always enter the realm of clean tech. Studies have shown that you are more likely to die of airline pollution than a plane crash. Recently passed house bill HR2594 specifically tells airlines to break the law (of Europe) in order to do nothing about such pollution.
NRDC’s Switchboard reports that International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – the U.N. coordinating body for international aviation — tried to develop regulations for 15 years to reduce carbon emissions. Frustrated with their failure, the EU unilaterally decided to incorporate aviation emissions into their existing cap-and-trade system and extend it to include reductions from all airlines using European Airports starting January 1, 2012. If an airline exceeds the cap, allowances must be purchased from EU member states or other airlines.
We have similar carbon concerns in the US that lack national redress for global climate issues. Cities and states have enacted their own policies. This sort of unilateral law-making is not without precedent elsewhere. The US also requires road vehicles here to meet certain safety and pollution standards and pass tests not seen in other parts of the world. This is one of the reasons why we don’t have European-style diesel vehicles in the US.
The European law has been reviewed and is considered legal. This is the version of events offered by the Environmental Defense Fund. It is clear that there is focus in the US on wealth and the economy, while in Europe there is more concern with quality of life, but new action by the House of Representatives, and promoted by the airlines, seems to go too far. They specifically focus their attention on a problem that is killing people… and consciously decide to do nothing.
NRDC’s Switchboard tells us this Republican House, by passing HR2594, directs:
Sometimes, what is left out is as important as what is included. In this case, what is not as mentioned is this provision of the bill:
… this does not sound particularly fair that US carriers should pay money to the EU if they operate non-compliant flights outside the EU… in America. But international law “requires that you apply a common standard to all flights that use your airports.” The US may not want US carriers to pay into the European trade if that puts the airlines at a disadvantage to theoretical companies who do not fly to Europe. But all airlines that do fly to Europe would be at a disadvantage if the US is exempt.
The bottom line for the Europeans is to reduce carbon. I am sure they would have been happy if the UN body accomplished this in the last 15 years. It is beyond the scope of this article to review the politics of that lack of decision. The unilateral action that has been taken is legal. There is a mandate to apply it evenly. Studies have shown that a majority of people in the US would favor more action on climate change. But what is right or just is not always similar to the existing lines of power and control.
Airlines have lobbied for relief. The EU has said that they will stand firm on this issue, as it is part of a much larger scope of environmental regulations. So, at a time of economic distress, this Republican House is interested in starting yet another war. This one economic. There is a very easy solution. The US could enact similar legislation which would then exempt it from the European scheme. Like a child looking for its sugar fix, this Republican House seems unable to let go of its carbon addiction, as it continues to be the Republican House that only “knows” how to say “NO.”
More information on Airport Carbon Accreditation News
Photo Credit: wikimedia commons
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 04:35 PM PDT
China is taking another step toward being greener and cleaner. While recycling technology continues to improve, efforts to curb and perhaps even reduce greenhouse gas emissions are well under way, according to the Xinhua news agency.
The Xinhua news agency is state-backed, which makes it a little suspect as an objective source of information regarding the Chinese government. Still, the detailed plans to set binding regional caps on energy consumption do sound promising.
Energy consumption caps have been mentioned before — the Chinese government has announced plans to reduce its carbon intensity by at least 40% before 2020, and the consumption caps are reportedly an integral part of the current 5-year phase of the longer-term plan.
As reported by Business Green:
No hard numbers have been released, through the Xinhua news agency or any other source, but the head of the planning department for the National Energy Administration, Jiang Bing, has been quoted as saying that the caps would apply only to energy derived from fossil fuels. In other words – solar, wind, and hydro power remain unlimited (increasing the Chinese market for solar panels, perhaps?).
While the Chinese government has promised what's been called "draconian legislation" with regard to its energy targets, the sheer amount of plans released make those quotas a little hard to track. Also according to Business Green, reports emerging in the last thirty days include a resource tax on oil, gas, coal, and other scarce raw materials, a higher renewable energy target, and tighter air pollution standards.
Any personal exposure to China and how green it is or isn't? Let us know in the comments, below.
Source: Business Green | Image via Wikimedia Commons
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 04:27 PM PDT
Tall, white wind turbines with long blades are not the only ones out there. People are working on wind turbines of all sorts to try to help solve our climate, energy, and environmental problems. Ben Glass, CEO of Altaeros Energies, and Adam Rein, co-founder of Altaeros Energies, are developing wind turbines that float up high with the rainbows, hundreds of feet above the ground. The turbines, called Altaeros Airborne Wind Turbines, can be deployed in 24 hours, and they just won the 2011 ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, awarded jointly by ConocoPhillips and Penn State.
The wind turbines are like “stationary blimps” and are able to take advantage of the consistent, high-speed winds that exist so high up in our blue skies. Hence, even despite their small size, they can each produce 100 kilowatts of clean, electrical power.
“These floating wind turbines can be used in remote areas where they arrive in a box and, once inflated with helium, rise into the air, tethered by a conducting cable,” Penn State Live reports.
The small turbines can remain up in the air for months without replacing the helium.
“While initially the company plans to sell these elevated turbines for remote uses such as military applications, emergency power and other remote installations, eventually they will form the basis of offshore, deep-water wind farms floating high above the waves.”
More on these small, airborne wind turbines or the runners-up for the 2011 ConocoPhillips Energy Prize is available on Penn State Live.
Images via Penn State Live
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 11:38 AM PDT
One estimate says more than 600,000 EVs could be on U.S. roads by 2014, but that's a speck in the rear-view mirror compared to the 140 million passenger cars Americans already drive. And, high vehicle costs combined with range anxiety makes many consumers leery to get off gasoline. So is the EV industry accelerating or running out of juice?
energyNOW! correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan looked at the independent carmakers and big auto companies trying to charge up the transition to EVs and convince American drivers that going electric is really worth it. You can watch the full segment by clicking the video below:
Electric vehicles hold great promise for reducing both emissions and our dependence on foreign oil. Almost 30 percent of America's energy use is for transportation, and almost all of that comes from oil, costing $300 billion per year. When compared to an Electric Power Research Institute estimate that running an EV costs 20 percent filling up a car with gasoline, and EPA's estimate that EVs are half as carbon-intensive as gas-powered vehicles, the benefits of electric are clear.
But many potential EV owners are concerned about the higher up-front price of electric cars (despite them being cost-competitive or cheaper in the long term) and their limited range compared to gasoline-fueled models. Buying an EV can cost anywhere from $32,000 to $120,000, a tab somewhat mitigated by the $7,500 federal tax credit. And, most EVs get about 100 miles on a single battery charge, compared to 400 miles per tank for internal combustion engines. A recent study from Deloitte found that only 20 percent of U.S. drivers say they would buy an EV with a 100-mile range.
Perhaps no company embodies the EV industry better than Tesla Motors. Despite a successful launch of its Roadster model, the company was running on fumes until a Department of Energy low-interest loan enabled it to raise $600 million in private capital, build a massive factory, and launch its second vehicle, the Model S. "This is the first car that will have over 300 miles of electric range," said JB Straubel, CTO and co-founder of Tesla Motors.
Several other notable EV manufacturers weren't as fortunate as Tesla over the past year, however. Fisker Automotive had several delays in launching its extended-range EV, and both Modec and Think Automotive declared bankruptcy. Major automakers like Nissan and Chevrolet debuted their EV models this year, but have only sold half as many Volts and Leafs as expected.
These difficulties aren't a surprise to Straubel. "It's an extremely hard activity," he said. "The tooling required, the investment, the years of engineering and validation, it's all very, very difficult."
But a brighter future may be just around the corner for America's EV industry. At least five new EV models will debut from automakers like Ford, SmartCar, and Mini. And as more models hit the road, collaboration is occurring between manufacturers, which drives down costs. Tesla currently makes battery packs and chargers for Daimler AG and Mercedes, and will soon make the motor for Toyota's electric RAV4.
"Our vision is to drive down the price of electric vehicles and the technology that makes them possible, relentlessly," said Straubel. "Everything we're doing internally is reducing the cost of battery packs, reducing the cost of motors."
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 11:26 AM PDT
Solar power, as I’ve reported more times than I can count, has seen rapidly dropping costs in recent years. Also, with a lot of suppliers elbowing for a place in the market, prices have come down even more. A new report released by SBI Energy finds that solar power has the best return on investment (ROI) of any renewable energy option. (Reminds me of the 1BOG NJ solar power versus stock market ROI infographic below from 2010.)
The cost of solar power is projected to reach $1 per watt by 2020 and the payback time for a typical solar power installation has come down to 3-5 years (from 7-10 years not long ago).
The cost of solar power is projected to be cut in half from 2020 to 2030, as well, making it $0.5 per watt by then.
Now, does that mean one should wait to install a solar power system? I certainly wouldn’t say so. Current government incentives may be dropped in the future, and if you wait to go solar, you might also miss out on the money you could be making in just a few years time.
But this is a global report, and the best thing you can do to determine your best choice right now is look into the solar energy government rebates available to you, see if you have group discount options (UK option, if you live there) or other innovative solar buying options in your area, and figure out what you would pay and how long it would take you to get that money back (from your much lower electricity bills or even payments from your utility company to you).
“During 2011-2012, we expect a short-term lull in the European Union PV market, primarily due to FiT rate cuts and regulations on farm land usage for ground mount installations,” states Arun Kumar, SBI Energy analyst and author of the report. “But this will be offset by installations in the high growth markets of North America and Asia, and China in particular.”
The new solar power report — which covers the PV component market (including a detailed analysis of PV cells, modules, wafers, polysilicon and inverters), historical developments in PV inverter markets, as well as growth, size, volume of business, and general trends in technological developments in the market – is titled Global Solar Inverters Markets.
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 10:56 AM PDT
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Wind energy is more affordable than ever, and new installations across the country are saving consumers money on their electric bills, as utilities rush to lock in long-term favorable rates.
"This is what a successful business looks like with stable tax policy. Utilities are locking in a great deal for their electric customers while it's available. We're keeping rates down all across the U.S., even in the heart of the South," said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), pointing to recent wind power purchases by the Southern Company in Alabama, Austin Energy in Texas, and Xcel in Colorado as examples.
The U.S. wind industry installed just over 1,200 megawatts (MW) in the third quarter, and about 3,360 MW on the year so far – but has more than 8,400 MW under construction. That is more than in any quarter since 2008, as the federal Production Tax Credit has driven as much as $20 billion a year in private investment.
"This shows what we're capable of: adding new, affordable electric generation," said Bode. "Traditional tax incentives are working. There's a lot of business right now, people are employed, and manufacturers are looking to expand here in the U.S."
The third-quarter results released today by AWEA indicate the year will finish strong, somewhere between the industry's high point of 2009 and the recent dip in 2010 amid turmoil in federal tax policy.
Years of technological innovations and an influx of U.S.-based manufacturing have driven down the cost of wind energy and saved further on transportation. Including incentives, which all forms of energy get, U.S. wind is now close to cost-competitive with all other energy sources – even shale gas at today's unsustainable prices.
Even so, policy uncertainty has many leading wind developers saying they have no projects scheduled for 2013, which is starting to threaten both development companies and the U.S. wind energy supply chain.
"In hard economic times we're delivering affordable power to ratepayers," Bode stressed. "A lot of people will be surprised by how inexpensive wind energy rates are now, because it's happened so fast." But she cautioned, "We could lose all these consumer benefits and a brand new, growing manufacturing sector if Congress allows the Production Tax Credit to expire."
Bode said she'll be asking lawmakers, "Do you want to raise rates on consumers in a bad economy by raising taxes on wind? Do you want to be the one to say that we just shut down a new manufacturing sector, and an industry that could support 500,000 jobs in less than 20 years, just as it was getting a foothold in the U.S. market?"
Other highlights of the U.S. Wind Industry Third Quarter Market Report 2011 that AWEA released today include:
State success stories:
ALABAMA: Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, recently signed their first wind power purchase agreement with the Alabama Public Service Commission finding that wind was lower cost than procuring energy from its own resources:
"Specifically, the delivered price of energy from the wind facility is expected to be lower than the cost the Company would incur to produce that energy from its own resource (i.e. below the Company's avoided costs), with the resulting energy savings flowing directly to the Company's customers… In Staff's view, this information demonstrates that the Chisholm View PPA reflects an opportunity to procure rights to a cost-effective renewable energy resource that can be expected to yield positive net benefits to customers over its term."
TEXAS: Austin Energy was recently approved for new wind projects and authorized to negotiate for additional wind project contracts, which now have comparable costs to current natural gas power.
"The Austin City Council today approved two new wind contracts totaling 291 megawatts (MW) and authorized Austin Energy to negotiate a third wind contract of an additional 200 MW…. The new projects are priced in the $35 to $45 per megawatt-hour range which is comparable to current and near-term pricing for natural gas power. These prices reflect a significant drop in power prices in general and in wind since 2008."
COLORADO: Xcel Energy's recent testimony on their Limon II wind power purchase agreement found that:
"The net benefit (cost savings) of the Limon II PPA, over the entire 25 year term on a nominal basis, is projected to be nearly $278 Million, or nearly $102 Million on a net present value ("NPV") basis... These savings are a direct result of the very low wind prices currently available due to the expected expiration of the federal Production Tax Credit at the end of 2012…Since wind energy primarily displaces natural gas generated energy, reducing the quantity of natural gas purchases (displaced with fixed price wind purchases) acts as a hedge against future volatility of natural gas prices. By displacing natural gas with fixed priced wind energy, the Company has less exposure to potentially volatile natural gas pricing."
The third quarter market report can be found here: http://www.awea.org/
This post comes to us from AWEA. AWEA is the national trade association of America’s wind industry, with more than 2,500 member companies, including global leaders in wind power and energy development, wind turbine manufacturing, component and service suppliers, and the world’s largest wind power trade show, WINDPOWER, to be held next in Atlanta, June 2-6, 2012.
Photo Credit: www.CGPGrey.com
 Supplemental Direct Testimony & Exhibits of Kurtis J. Haeger, Public Service Company of Colorado. September 19, 2011. http://www.awea.org/newsroom/
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 10:31 AM PDT
“By using this amount of renewable energy, we can decarbonise the power sector without resorting to new nuclear power. We will also be able to maintain system security – that is, provide enough electricity at all times to make sure there's never a risk of the 'lights going out',” the report states.
Like the US, the UK has many “aging” power plants that will soon be decommissioned. These power plants produce about 25% of the UK’s electricity. With a directive from the Climate Change Act to be carbon-free by 2030, this poses a challenge but also a great opportunity to lead the world in renewable energy.
Here’s more from WWF UK’s executive summary on the new report:
More details here: Positive Energy: how renewable electricity can transform the UK by 2030.
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 10:09 AM PDT
Sunny-lucky Greece has not been doing well financially, as I think you know. But it’s looking to tap into that solar treasure chest in order to pay back some of its financial saviors, such as soon-to-be-nuclear-free Germany.
EU's energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger, the director general for energy Philip Lowe, and the head of the EU's Athens task force Horst Reichenbach have been discussing this idea in recent weeks.
Apparently, not many EU nations or companies have been gung-ho about this right off the bat. Germany is the core potential client at the moment. But Philip Lowe has now been asked to look into the potential here in more detail.
"Several German companies have expressed interest in the idea but it would clearly be more interesting if several member states were involved," EurActiv reports.
Interesting facts at the moment:
Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, mentioned this potential trade with Greece while calling for German solar subsidies to be reduced at the beginning of October. And Philipp Rösler, Germany’s economy minister, further promoted it in Athens.
"In the spirit of solidarity, it is the task of all Europeans to help Greece get back on its feet economically," Rösler said. "And we want to take German firms to Greece."
We’ll see what comes of this. It’s definitely an interesting proposal that could solve a number of problems facing Greece, the EU, and the world.
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 09:28 AM PDT
We’ve written about floating wind turbines a few times here on CleanTechnica. Key benefit of these is that they can go in deeper waters, where there’s often more consistent and stronger winds. Key downside: they are still costly. But a new £25 million ($40 million) investment from Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is looking to cut those costs.
The investment is in a floating wind turbine platform I’ve written about before. ETI, a public-private organization, is now looking for someone to develop, install, and commission a completely operational, full-scale demonstration project. It wants the demo project to be in place by 2016.
Note: video above is Dr David Clarke, ETI Chief Executive, talking about ETI and floating wind turbines in 2010.
"Offshore wind must be affordable and cost competitive with alternatives and although large, floating turbines will have high capital costs, they can access near-to-shore, high wind speed sites off the west coast of the UK which overall brings down the cost of electricity generation for the long term,” Dr Clarke said for the announcement today.
"Our studies have shown that access to high wind areas which are close to shore should be an attractive investment compared to some existing UK sites which are further from the coast in areas of lower wind. We also expect there is likely to be a considerable global market for floating wind turbines which can be developed in the UK.”
The UK is especially likely to benefit from floating wind turbines, as it has near-shore, deep-water areas with good wind resources.
The ETI news release on this reports that the demonstration project “will be operated for at least two years to show it can generate high levels of electricity, be maintained without using specially designed vessels and to verify the predicted technical and economic performance.”
A Request for Proposals (RfP) was released today. The deadline for submitting a proposal is January 6, 2012 and the closing date is January 27, 2012.
Here are some more details:
Source: Energy Technologies Institute
Posted: 25 Oct 2011 08:37 AM PDT
QUICK NEWS: Solar PV is blowing up in Maine. A recent piece in Maine’s Portland Press Herald gives some explanation as to why, as does the video above.
This is not unique to Maine, as solar has been blowing up across the country. But this is a fun micro-example of what’s going on. More on the Maine story here: Solar rising with tax credits, lower costs.
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