Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Climate Bill Now Law in Australia

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 02:24 PM PST

The world’s largest coal exporter and per capita emitter of greenhouse gases has just joined the EU, New Zealand, California and the the RGGI states in passing into law legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions. Australian prime ministers have been toppled for a decade in attempting the feat that current Prime Minister Gillard has just barely managed, overcoming the sort of fossil industry stonewalling that has choked sensible climate policy in the US since Al Gore first attempted a BTU tax in 1993.

With the narrow vote in the Senate, Australia will now join in ETS trading with the EU and its neighbor New Zealand which gets 78% of its electricity from renewables already. New Zealand, which includes hydro as a renewable, has a history of tapping renewable power going back to the nineteenth century with a wealth of geothermal and hydropower potential tapped before the fossil industry grew its powerful lobbying arm.

Since passage of its own carbon legislation, New Zealand has revved up renewable power five-fold with the addition of eleven new renewable projects comprising wind (59%) geothermal (26%) hydro (13%) and tidal power (2%) for a single-year record total of 1,340 MW, an extraordinary amount for a nation of four million.

New Zealand initially began its emissions trading in 2008 with its forestry industry, quickly resulting in halting and reversing the deforestation of the previous years. But growing rainforest comes naturally to New Zealand.

By contrast, Australia, nearly stripped bare of vegetation in the nineteenth century, with almost no renewable energy begun before the fossil industry became entrenched, and heavily reliant on coal exports, has made a much tougher decision that took real political courage. At least two Independents from conservative rural Australia put long-term climate policy ahead of their own political survival and Gillard herself is under attack.

The top 500 carbon polluters will pay for every tonne of emissions from power stations, steel mills, coal mining and cement plants, affecting power and fuel prices, helping drive investment toward less polluting gas-fired power plants and renewable energy.

The media in 75% coal-powered Australia has supported the coal industry over the public interest (Rupert Murdoch cut his teeth in the Australian media) resulting in quite a bit of cultivated ignorance about the economic effects. Most Australians did not know that a compensation rebate will reverse any electricty cost rise for all but the very richest households.

Nevertheless, the Gillard Labour government’s carbon price has a real chance to have staying power, partly because the 99% in Australia will now find out from experience that the 1% lied about the disasters that would result.

Opposition leader Tony Abbot (of the confusingly named – very conservative – “Liberal” Party) who represents the coal industry, has vowed a “blood oath” to repeal it if his party wins back power in 2013, but that will be almost impossible, since in Australia the Labour Party and the Greens, who fought for this victory for decades, control the Senate, and polling suggests increases in the next election. After decades of work to get sensible action that will begin to curtail climate catastrophe, the left will not agree to abolish it.

US Coal Companies Reap Windfall From Australian Climate Catastrophe

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Obama Administration Steps on the CO2 Regulations Pedal

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 02:12 PM PST

epa c02 emissions rule proposed

With one of the most anti-science, anti-climate-action, anti-clean-energy political parties in the world (perhaps the most), the United States Congress has been unable to move forward with any significant effort to cut our CO2 emissions. In case you missed it, though, the Supreme Court declared in 2007 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had the right and the responsibility to determine if greenhouse gas emissions were a threat to human health and safety and should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Based on the overwhelming scientific evidence showing that humans cause global warming and the effects of global warming are a huge threat to humanity, the EPA declared CO2 a public danger at the end of 2009, just before the Copenhagen climate conference.

With Republicans in recent set on demonizing and trying to destroy the EPA and any efforts to address global warming, and a Democratic leadership that seems intent on trying to compromise with them, it has taken nearly two years for the EPA to propose regulations for power plants. The EPA was actually supposed to propose these regulation by July 26, 2011 after some environmental organizations sued the EPA for taking so long.

The new rule, "Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Electric Utility Steam Generating Units," has been submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval from.

“EPA will work with OMB throughout the interagency review process and will issue the proposal when this review is complete,” said EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara. “EPA has engaged in an extensive and open public process to gather the latest and best information.”

Coal power is responsible for about one third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. So, without a price on CO2, these EPA regulations will be critical to cutting our emissions and transitioning to clean energy in the process. I’m curious to see what comes out of the OMB review.

Coal Power Plant photo by haglundc

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Cooperative Wind Farm Ownership Beats NIMBYism

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 10:31 AM PST

cooperative ownership wind farms

Cooperatively owned Middelgrunden (or Middle Ground) wind farm off the coast of Copenhagen in Denmark.

I just read an interesting story on Chinese news site Xinhuanet, of all places, on wind power in Denmark and how a cooperative ownership model has allowed the Danes to leap over the NIMBY hurdle that stops or stalls so many wind power projecs (and energy projects, in general).

“The Danish cooperative model involves private persons in the ownership of wind turbines, because you want the project to be accepted, and also to avoid the NIMBY or, ‘Not In My Back Yard’ effect,” said Hans Christian Soerensen, board member of the Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Cooperative.

Very logical. Want someone to not complain about a major, noticeable change in the area? Bring them into the project!

–>You might also like: Cooperative South Dakota Wind Farm Nets 600 Local Owners

In the story, they look at a specific case study to better show how the process works. They summarize the development of the Middelgrunden, or Middle Ground wind park, which includes 20 wind turbines off Copenhagen’s east coast that can power 40,000 Copenhagen households, on average.

“The idea for the park was raised as far back as 1993, and consultation with local people and non-governmental organizations about where and how to place the wind-turbines started soon after,” Yamei Wang of Xinhuanet wrote.

Eventually shares of the project were opened up to residents, and the project was completed in 2000. “As a shareholder, you buy a share for 4,250 Danish kroner (around 571 euros) and in the beginning you get about 600 kroner (80.6 euros) back in revenue every year, which means about 14 to 15 percent return,” said Soerensen.

“But today, after more than 10 years, we have all the money back and you get about seven percent every year on invested capital. People are quite satisfied with this because it is much better than having it in a bank, and at the same time, you are doing something positive for the environment.”

Yes, that is a serious win-win.

The 48-million-euro ($65-million) wind farm now has 8,856 shareholders, and those shareholders are free to sell their shares to others. DONG, the biggest energy and utilities company in Denmark, owns 10 of the turbines, built the wind park, and operates it.

Cooperative ownership is apparently something that comes natural to the Danes (wish it did to Americans.. but maybe it is beginning to). Other than wind farms, which have used cooperative ownership since the 1970s, banks, dairies, and abattoirs have had long success using cooperative ownership models.

Denmark is a world leader in wind power, and it wants to use wind power to provide its citizens with 50% of their electricity by 2020. Cooperative ownership sure makes getting those wind turbines installed, and giving back to the people — or democratizing the electricity grid — is certainly a nice this to do.

Middelgrunden Wind Farm Photo via Stig Nygaard

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Australia’s 1st Utility-Scale Solar Farm Now Under Construction

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 06:44 AM PST

Australia largest solar power farm

As Susan wrote back on September 1, GE Energy Financial Services, Verve Energy, and First Solar have teamed up to build a large (“utility-scale”) solar farm in Australia. The farm will be 10 times larger than any other solar farm in Australia to date. Construction on the 10-megawatt AC Greenough River Solar Farm, located 50 kilometers south of Geraldton, started on Monday.

In total, construction of the solar farm is supposed to take 9 months. The First Solar PV modules, 150,000 of them(!), are projected to be installed in March 2012.

GE and Verve Energy, a state-owned power utility for Western Australia, will each own 50% of the Greenough River Solar Farm. The project is expected to generate millions of dollar for the City of Greater Geraldton’s economy.

“First Solar aims to maximise local hiring and enable the project to make a meaningful and lasting contribution to regional communities,” said Jack Curtis, Vice President, Business Development & Sales for First Solar. “We are also building our in-country supply chain network by procuring as many materials as possible from local suppliers at all stages of the construction process.”

As reported about a month ago, Australia’s Parliament recently passed a huge, influential carbon tax. That has now been finalized (more on that from Susan shortly). Additionally, Australia’s first community-owned solar farm is supposed to begin construction shortly. I think Australia is ready to put itself on the solar and clean energy map.

First Solar seems to agree. “Developing a local capability to install utility-scale solar projects, together with stable government policy, will greatly improve the industry’s long-term outlook,” Curtis noted.

Image via Solar Choice

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Nissan & SunPower Team Up

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 06:11 AM PST

nissan leaf sunpower emissions

In the latest effort to educate people about the tremendous advantages of combining electric vehicles with solar power, Nissan and leading solar panel company SunPower are teaming up to help electric vehicle owners (well, Nissan LEAF owners) learn how a solar panel system (from SunPower) can help them to both cut CO2 emissions and control their EV charging costs.

The companies are offering some basic online info and a video on how solar power works and how it reduces global warming pollution.

More from Nissan:

“Nissan LEAF owners are conscientious about their energy use, and it makes sense for them to understand how they can offset the power that their all-electric LEAF requires with clean, renewable solar power generated from their own rooftop,” said Brendan Jones, director, Nissan LEAF marketing and sales strategy, NNA. “SunPower is the leading manufacturer and installer of residential solar power systems in the United States, and offers the most efficient solar power technology on the market today. For example, a 2.5-kilowatt SunPower rooftop solar system may offset the power required to drive a LEAF about 10,000 miles a year. We are pleased to work with SunPower on this initiative, and look forward to a long partnership.”

SunPower President and CEO Tom Werner, in his statement about the new partnership, was apt to point out that he owns a Nissan Leaf and a SunPower solar system, also adding that the combo saves him trips to the gas station and cuts his electricity bill (nice personalization there)

You might recall that SunPower and Ford also teamed up back in August to promote the installation of solar panels to help charge the upcoming Ford Focus EV, which is now pre-selling for $40,000.

Who will SunPower’s next car company partner be? Or will another solar power company jump in to compete with Ford, Nissan, and SunPower?

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Europe’s Largest Solar Power Park to Open This Year

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 05:46 AM PST

solar panels germany

QUICK NEWS: German solar PV firm Q-Cells has announced that one of its projects, which will be the largest solar power park in Europe, will be completed and sending electricity to about 22,500 Germans near Berlin by the end of 2011.

The solar park is a 91-MW facility with 383,000 solar modules and is located on what was once the Brandenburg-Briest airbase. (Makes me think of this wonderful guest/reader post from last month: Cost of War.. Spent on Solar Power Instead.)

The 383,000 solar modules will be installed on three sites on the former airbase.

Q-Cells started producing silicon solar cells in the first half year of 2001. It had 19 employees at that time. It now employs over 2,000. The company’s head office is in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany.

Solar Panels Image via Q-Cells

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Buffalo Bills Join NFL Stampede for Micro Wind Power

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 05:15 AM PST

buffalo bills install new micro wind turbinesThe Buffalo Bills football team has just installed a set of new micro wind turbines at Ralph Wilson Stadium, to harvest clean, renewable energy from Buffalo’s notorious winter winds. Though the installation is fairly modest compared to the Philadelphia Eagles’ new wind turbines, it does demonstrate how professional football has joined NASCAR, major league baseball, hockey, and other popular sports in a kind of stealth campaign to promote public support for alternative energy.

Sports and Sustainability

It’s safe to say (hopefully), that alternative energy is no longer mainly associated with alternative, off-grid lifestyles, and part of the credit has to go to the professional sports industry. The NFL in particular has been introducing the public to sustainability concepts for years with its green Superbowl, one of the highest-visibility sporting events on Earth. In short, millions of Americans are getting exposed to alternative energy right where they feel most at home – a far more effective approach than any ad campaign could have.

Showcasing Wind Power

The Buffalo Bills’ micro wind turbine installation may disappoint some wind power fans, since it consists of only a few turbines, and they are only scheduled to be in place for about a year and a half. That pales in comparison to the Eagles, who rimmed the top edge of their stadium with 80 permanent, futuristic looking micro turbines. However, the Bills’ installation is located right below a large scoreboard, squarely in the spot where all eyes will turn every few seconds. It might be a modest installation but the team is getting a lot of bang for its buck, and that may encourage other outdoor sports venues to get into the wind power game at least on a small scale.

Clean, Renewable Energy for All

President Obama has committed federal resources to achieving solar and wind power as cheap as fossil fuels, and more Americans in the armed services are experiencing alternative energy in many forms, from permanent installations at bases to portable solar-in-a-backpack kits for field use. As the benefits of wind power and other renewables reach more people, arguments in favor of continuing our fossil fuel dependency are crumbling.

Image Credit: Buffalo Bills football, some rights reserved by Ed Yourdon.

Twitter: @TinaMCasey


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Rob Yourself: Commute a Long Distance (Infographic)

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 05:01 AM PST

Yes, commuting is one of the most costly things most of us do. If you want to rob yourself (and your family), waste a lot of time driving to and from work. This infographic & article has the details:

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Best Buy Opens Home Energy Learning Centers

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 04:54 AM PST

best buy energy efficiency learning center

Best Buy has been a green leader for awhile. It has pushed for strong climate change and clean energy legislation, and it has been rolling out more and more clean tech and energy efficiency programs. This all makes me quite happy, since best Buy was probably my favorite shop as a teenager, I’m a clean tech enthusiast (believe it or not), and, whether you like big businesses or not, they are critical to us solving our climate crisis.

Best Buy’s latest green step forward is the launching of Home Energy Learning Centers. From sister site Green Building Elements:

Have you been interested in increasing your home's energy efficiency, but aren't sure how to go about doing it? If so, Best Buy has a new in-store and online Home Energy management learning center that can help you decide how to best satisfy your energy efficient needs. The centers provide a myriad of different services, including tools for self-assessments of your home's energy use, home energy surveys and audits, and product installation.

"Our role is to help consumers make the most of the technology in their lives, and the Home Energy concept is our latest experiment that will demonstrate the knowledge and expertise of our employees, and how our brands and our channels can help consumers understand how to own, use, and maintain energy efficient technologies," said Neil McPhail the senior vice president of new business customer solutions at Best Buy.

More on Green Building Elements: Best Buy Launches Home Energy Learning Centers (page 2)

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