Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Polysilicon Solar Cheapest Over Next 2 Years Say Analysts

Posted: 22 Nov 2011 07:39 PM PST

The global supply of polysilicon is hurtling towards 500,000 tons by 2014, almost doubling today’s supply within 2 years, from 266,000 tons this year, analysts at Macquarie Group Ltd have told Bloomberg News. The ricochet in solar prices as demand and supply have in turn pushed and pulled at the solar PV market have created a dizzying seesaw over the last few years. Currently polysilicon prices are in a sheer drop, and taking out solar companies, not just in the US – like Evergreen and Solyndra were – but around the world.

Even Chinese manufacturers are hurting. About 90 percent of China's polysilicon plants may suspend production because of the price slump, Xie Chen, an analyst at the China Nonferrous Metals Industrial Association, which acts as a conduit between industry and government, told Bloomberg.

The price drop hits smaller producers hardest, but with the enticement of the potential profit margins over 40%, these dizzying lurches between supply and demand are not going to ease up soon either.

The initial squeeze and resulting lurch into glut began in 2004, when European nations such as Spain first began introducing subsidies for clean energy to meet the Kyoto Accord climate regulations about to go into effect in 2005, requiring clean energy from sources like solar and wind. Spain offered an initially overly generous Feed in Tariff, that fed the development of a record supply of solar power for the country, in the process catapulting the Spanish energy firms such as Abengoa to solar world leader status.

From $30 in 2003 before the renewable policies, prices soared to $475 in 2008, as demand far overshot supply. Then as pentup demand finally pushed new supplies on-stream, prices dropped again. By 2009, solar companies were looking at a glut again, and currently prices are back down below the $30 a ton mark that preceded the first run on polysilicon to supply the European solar sector awakened by the Kyoto Accord.

Before the serious introduction of solar power in 2004 in Europe, polysilicon was only used for computer chips, in much smaller amounts. Although the Carter administration developed the first solar in the US, it languished as soon as the next administration dumped the subsidies, bankrupting the world’s first utility-scale solar company in the 1980s. The demise of Luz reduced the incentive for any new private solar investment, although the solar farm it built was bought out and has been supplying the California grid for 30 years.

(Related: Luz Rises Again as BrightSource)

Then, due to the 2009 Recovery Act under the Obama administration, with its $30 billion in renewable incentives (such as the $1/2 billion government guarantee of some of the private loans that Solyndra got from silicon valley VCs) now it is US demand that has shot up to EU levels.  The resulting surge in US solar development squeezed supply pressures again, and now a second glut promises to keep polysilicon prices at this level at least until 2014.

With so much supply coming on-stream, polysilicon prices will fall back into the $25 range within three weeks and will likely remain near that level for at least two years, analysts at Ticonderoga told Bloomberg. That is back below where they were when only computer chips needed polysilicon, in 2003.


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NBA Players on Lockout (World Peace & Ebanks) Switch to Promoting Solar Energy

Posted: 22 Nov 2011 04:31 PM PST

It looks like NBA players are taking owners to federal court to try to get more money for their work. The result, of course, is that the NBA season may actually be cancelled, and there are a lot of job-less players. Well, Sungevity recently teamed up with a couple of them, Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) and Devin Ebanks, to promote solar energy in the Los Angeles region.

World Peace and Ebanks are joining Sungevity’s “Rooftop Revolution” campaign, “marking the first time out-of-work NBA stars are putting their energy into the nation’s hot solar market and emerging green economy.”

solar power world peace ebanks

What exactly will World Peace and Ebanks be doing? They’ll be driving around in Sungevity’s solar-powered, bio-diesel ice pop truck; passing out free, all-natural treats; and promoting “the ease and affordability of residential solar panel installation.” Sounds like a fun job.

“Sungevity’s ice pop truck includes specially-installed iPads to introduce consumers to the company’s innovative iQuote process – the solar industry’s easiest and most efficient process for getting customized information about going solar,” the news release says. “The iQuote, which is available at www.sungevity.com, generates a firm proposal that is sent directly to consumers within 24 hours without the necessity of a home visit.”

solar goodies truck world peace ebanks will be driving

“Without basketball or dancing on my schedule, I need a job!” joked Metta World Peace.  “Sungevity is about positive, renewable energy, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my time than interacting with the fans and promoting the power of the sun to the city of Los Angeles.”

“While we share Los Angeles’ hopes of seeing Metta and Devin back on the Staples Center court soon, we’re thrilled to have them on our team promoting solar energy as the key to minimizing utility costs and gaining energy independence,” said Sungevity founder Danny Kennedy. “Between our fast, free iQuote process and the LADWP solar rebate program, there has never been a better time for Los Angeles residents to go solar.”

Aside from this big announcement, Sungevity also announced at the end of last week that it is expanding into Europe. It has taken an equity stake in new Dutch solar company, Zonline.

Images via Sungevity

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Texas Schools Get Huge Improvements from Wind Farm Revenue

Posted: 22 Nov 2011 03:52 PM PST

blackwell texas wind turbines

The large number of wind farms in Texas (and West Texas, in particular) drive a lot of revenue to the locals there. And a recent article in The Texas Tribune reports that they have driven hundreds of millions of dollars to Texas schools.

Focusing in on the benefits accrued to one school district, Morgan Smith, Axel Gerdau, and Ryan Murphy write:

By the 2018-19 school year, Gott's district will have received about $35 million from a deal it brokered with a wind farm company in 2005. On the school grounds, $15 million from a combination of bond and wind farm revenue has paid for a new football stadium and academic complex attached to the original school building. About $28 million sits in a foundation earmarked for scholarships; graduates receive $3,000 for each year they have spent in the district, which they can put toward any type of professional advancement, from a beauty school certificate to a bachelor's degree. The influx of wealth has also enabled the district to buy an iPad for every student, starting in the seventh grade.

Wow. That’s nothing to laugh at, makes (bad) jokes about, or call miniscule or insignificant.

"What I wanted is, if you grew up in a town of 350 people in West Texas, that should not work against you," Abe Gott, the school superintendent at Blackwell in West Texas, said. "We can send you to Harvard, we can send you to Baylor, we can send you to Texas Tech — we can send you anywhere because we have the pathway to get there." (Note that Blackwell even highlights its wind turbines in pictures on its website.)

69 school districts in West Texas are cashing in on a clean-energy- and education-friendly policy, and doing their best to make the most use of their new funds. The policy is “a Chapter 313 agreement, which allows districts to offer breaks on property taxes for select manufacturing, technology and renewable-energy projects as part of the Texas Economic Development Act, which the Legislature passed in 2001.”

Roscoe, Texas, not far from Blackwell, which has the largest wind farm in the world, has a wind company that is only paying taxes on $10 million, rather than the $378 the property was estimated to be valued at in 2009.

Now, a supposed loophole in the legislation is what allowed some schools to “get rich” on their wind farm projects, but apparently that time is over.

In 2009, the Legislature closed a loophole that allowed districts to negotiate unlimited side deals in which they received direct cash payments in lieu of taxes based on the savings companies received from the state economic incentives.

The side deals — and the inequity they perpetuated — led to a public outcry, and now such agreements are held to about $100 per student each year. To put that in perspective, school districts across the state spend an average of $8,572 to educate a student, according to a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman.

Nonetheless, numerous schools now have serious funds from wind projects that they are trying to maximize for the good of their students.

Additionally, schools or school districts can still benefit from partnering with wind power companies, just not as much. To read more details or to read about how some schools are utilizing their money, check out the full Texas Tribune post.

One of the first things that come to my mind about this story is actually doesn’t concern wind farms, specifically. It just made me think, “Wow, imagine how much better our schools could be if we put more of our tax money into education!”

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China Could Create 9.5 Million Green Jobs with Clean Energy Push, Influential Report Finds

Posted: 22 Nov 2011 03:09 PM PST

china green jobs growth

A report released last week by the China Council of International Co-operation on Environment and Development found that China could net 9.5 million jobs over the coming 5 years if it gave dirty energy the shaft and replaced it with clean, renewable energy and other “green businesses” instead.

The head of the China Council of International Co-operation on Environment and Development is Li Keqiang, likely to become the next prime minister, and also includes over 200 domestic and overseas experts. It is an influential group.

The council recommends dishing out 5.8 trillion yuan ($911 billion) on energy-saving and cleantech policies. It estimates the results would be 10.6 million new jobs, 8 trillion yuan in added GDP, and 1.4 trillion yuan in energy savings. The costs? Only 950,000 jobs and 100 billion in lost output. Can you say “Huge net benefit.”

Of course, the story is the same anywhere in the world — investment in clean energy in place of dirty energy is an economic winner.

The report was apparently 3 years in the making and also took a harsh view of China’s extreme pro-growth policies over the last several years, emphasizing that the health and environmental costs were not taken into account enough.

“It suggests the introduction of a carbon tax and new pricing mechanisms that would encourage more efficient use of scarce resources such as water,” the Guardian reports. “The central government says it is also trying to rebalance environmental quality with economic quantity, partly by setting new goals to reduce pollution.”

Of course, China is seeing tremendous solar and wind energy growth following massive investments in clean energy. Earlier this year, it actually doubled its solar power capacity target for 2015 from 5 GW to 10 GW. But it’s also adding a ton of coal and a ton of cars. So, it’s also becoming a bigger and bigger global polluter. Hopefully this new report indicates it will continue improving its clean energy and energy conservation targets and won’t add so much dirty energy and greenhouse gases.

China flag photo via Magalie L’Abbé

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Polish Metro Trains Turn Braking Energy into New Energy for Other Trains

Posted: 22 Nov 2011 01:49 PM PST

warsaw metro trains energy regenerative braking

Capturing and using braking energy from trains or other vehicles isn’t new, but it still isn’t in wide use. So, when I saw that they were going to start capturing and using the braking energy from trains in Warsaw, Poland (the country I now live in) to help power other, accelerating trains, I figured it was as good a time as any to revisit this cool idea.

The term is regenerative braking. We’ve written about the use of regenerative braking in Philadelphia subway trains, garbage trucks, buses, electric vehicles, and probably more. It’s a common-sense source of energy. Rather than letting it go to waste, why not capture and reuse it?

Gavin Hudson of ABB (and formerly an editor on our network) writes that the energy that will be recovered from a single, decelerating Polish metro car is enough to power a 60-watt light bulb for more than a week. However, as mentioned above, this energy will be used to give accelerating trains a boost. The key technologies used in this project will be supplied by ABB. They include substations and an energy storage system that is based on double-layer super-capacitors.

More from Gavin:

“While a more detailed explanation is available, the gist of the technology is this: Regenerative braking charges the super-capacitor bank located in one of the seven traction substations as the train decelerates. The stored energy can then be re-injected into the line and will be picked up by an accelerating train.”

This project is supposed to be completed by the end of 2013.

Warsaw metro & train via foTOmo

Follow me on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook if you love cleantech and other green news and commentary.

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Gainesville (Florida) Bigger Per Capita Solar Producer than California

Posted: 22 Nov 2011 11:40 AM PST

Advocates for feed-in tariffs (FITs) have long claimed that the policy is the fastest, most efficient method for deploying renewable energy. One need only look at the rapid adoption rates in European countries to see their effectiveness.

FITs require utilities to purchase renewable electricity from system owners over a certain period of time, typically 15-20 years. The rates are calculated to ensure a specific rate of return for different technologies. By providing a guaranteed contract for the electricity over the life of the system, project financing is often simpler and less expensivethan a tax-credit or renewable energy credit system.

Here's one more experience that advocates say favors FITs: In just three years since Gainesville, Florida adopted the policy for solar PV, the city has deployed almost 7.3 megawatts of systems.That means that this city of 100,000 people has more solar deployed per capita than California — a state with solar incentives in place for more than a decade.

FIT expert Paul Gipe put together this chart showing where Gainesville stacks up with other areas of the world:

gainesville solar feed-in tariff

Officials at the municipal utility running the program, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), say that by the end of the year, cumulative installed solar capacity will be generating about 1.5 million kilowatt-hours per month. That's enough electricity to service roughly 1,600 average American homes.

Some continue to criticize FITs, saying they're too inflexible to match market conditions quickly. Indeed, in some countries and provinces, rates have been set too high, leading to unsustainable development and grossly high profits for project developers. But in most cases, like in Germany, rates have been adjusted downward to reflect the changing economics of the technology.

Oddly, even though this is exactly how a FIT program is designed to work, people within the industry react negatively to these changes.

To some critics, Gainesville's program has been just that — a program, not a market. The popularity of the FIT causes a burst of activity when GRU starts taking applications. The program quickly becomes over-subscribed and is halted for months while the projects are completed.

However, one need only look at the ups and downs in states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania — states with tradeable credit mechanisms that were supposed to create a sustained market — to see that similar problems can occur with a floating market-based approach to incentives.

Over the years, states have opted to develop credit-based programs over FITs. But if the city of Gainesville continues to put up impressive numbers and show that it can support a sustainable industry, perhaps the mechanism will get more attention from U.S. regulators.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

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Jay Leno Gets 2,365 MPG in Chevy Volt

Posted: 22 Nov 2011 11:05 AM PST

5 More Cleantech Consumer Products

Posted: 22 Nov 2011 08:37 AM PST

5 more new cleantech consumer product stories:

1. Volvo recently released a series of videos on Volvo’s new C30 Electric, which is now on the roads of Europe. The first video, ”A Milestone in the Automotive Industry,” is above, and the next 9 are on the C30 Electric’s: “Battery System,” “Electrical Architecture and Electrical Safety,” “Electric Motor and Power Electronics,” “Software Development,” “Climate Systems,” “Safety,” “Testing,” “Fleet Management System,” and “Research Program.”

2. Of course, GE is in the news again. It has now teamed up with REC Solar — a provider of home, commercial and government solar electric systems in the United States — to  distribute the GE WattStation electric vehicle (EV) charger. “GE's WattStation is an easy-to-use Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) charger designed to help accelerate the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles by significantly decreasing time needed for charging – delivering a full charge in just four to eight hours compared with standard overnight charging that can take as much as 12 to 14 hours. Its smart grid-enabled technology could also help utility companies manage the impact of EVs on the local and regional grids. As a distributor of the GE WattStation, REC Solar will make it easier for its thousands of commercial, government and residential customers to incorporate EV charging capabilities. The WattStation is the ideal complement to the growing trend towards solar carports, but its simple installation makes it suitable for any type of solar installation.” That’s the word, at least.

3. This is one of those stories I was saving for awhile in order to write a full post on it but never got around to. It’s “pay-as-you-go solar” from IndiGo. Here are two videos on IndiGo and then more from New Scientist, via Climate Denial Crock of the Week:

Pay as you go is a common way of paying for calls on your cellphone. Now the idea could help make solar power a more realistic option for families in Kenya and other African countries.

The system, called IndiGo, consists of a low-cost flexible plastic Movie Camera 2.5W solar panel that charges a battery. This is connected to a USB mobile phone charger and an LED lamp that provides around 5 hours of light from one day's charge.

Developed by solar energy firm Eight19, based in Cambridge, UK, IndiGo costs $1 a week to run, though the unit itself must be leased for an initial $10 fee. Users add credit by buying a scratchcard that they validate by sending a text message from their phone.

IndiGo is being trialled in Kenya and will be tested in other countries in the next few months. Eight19 hopes the device will go on sale early next year. The company also plans to offer higher-power systems as demand for solar energy increases, such as a 50W system that could power a small TV.

4. Tests of a low-cost, solar-powered tablet I wrote about last year, the I-Slate, have gone well, and it is now moving on to full-scale production. The I-Slate “is being developed by researchers at the Institute for Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID), a joint program of Rice University in Houston and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore,” Rice University reports. “When mass-produced, the solar-powered I-slate is expected to cost less than $50 (64 Singapore dollars).”

5. Neo, a toilet-powered motor cycle from Japanese toilet maker Toto, may not be for sale this Christmas, but perhaps some day. Neo “runs on eco-friendly biogas produced from sewage — and recently completed a journey of more than 1,000 km (600 miles) across Japan,” Reuters reports. “The biogas used as fuel for the Neo is produced from a combination of household sewage and livestock waste, broken down and fermented, company spokesman Kenji Fujita said.” OK, that may never be for sale, but who knows?

bike runs on sewage toilet seat

Toilet bike image via Toto

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16 Companies, 2 Trade Associations Offer to Put Solar on Bill O’Reilly’s House

Posted: 22 Nov 2011 06:58 AM PST

Following up on my post yesterday about Fox’s Bill O’Reilly thinking there’s no one available to put solar on his house on Long Island, I’ve got some news from Vote Solar.

First, the actual quote from O’Reilly: ”I want to buy solar or wind for my house this winter. Can you tell me where to do that? There’s no where, no one.”

Now, some stats on how many solar installers are actually out on Long Island and how many Long Islanders have gone solar: Hundreds of solar companies operate in NY and over 4,000 Long Islanders have already gone solar.

Is Bill O’Reilly completely off his rocker? Does he actually believe that there is no one willing to install solar on his Long Island home?

Anyway, Vote Solar went to work on Friday evening and “put out a quick call for NY solar companies interested in helping Mr. O’Reilly go solar.” By the end of the
weekend, 16 companies and 2 trade associations representing dozens more told Vote Solar they’d be happy to.

Here’s the full letter from Vote Solar and the signatories:

Dear Mr. O'Reilly,

We hear you are ready to go solar pending your ability to locate a solar provider. We represent some of the hundreds of solar companies currently operating in New York State. We would be happy to help you get started with your investment in solar so you can join the many New Yorkers who are already saving money on their monthly utility bills by generating their own power.


Clean Power Finance

Community Energy


Energy by Choice

ETM Solar Works

Innovated Energy Solutions

KPS Solar

Mercury Solar Systems

One Block Off the Grid

RH Innovation Inc



Sunrise Energy Concepts


Suntech America

Trinity Solar

Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY) – representing 20 companies with solar operations in New York.

Long Island Solar Energy Industries Association (LIPA) – representing 25 solar electric contractors on Long Island.

While I’m all for the cause, why do I have the feeling O’Reilly is still going to take all this and try to turn it into something negative?

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