Friday, November 25, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Solar Homes Popular in Southern California

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 11:39 AM PST

kb home california

KB Homes, one of the largest homebuilders in the U.S., is expanding its solar program in Southern California due to the program’s great popularity there. Solar power systems from SunPower will now be included in almost all of its Southern California communities.

KB notes at least one reason why its solar home options are so popular (an obvious one to CleanTechnica readers, but worth repeating) — the solar power systems “can help KB homeowners reduce their monthly energy bills by as much as 80% and lower their cost of homeownership for years to come.”

"Consumers who buy a Built to Order™ KB home get the value of a custom home-like experience plus the tremendous energy efficiency of our latest advanced building techniques. And now, having solar included is like having the sun help pay their energy bills," said Jeffrey Mezger, president and chief executive officer of KB Home. Fun phrasing there; interesting way to think about it — the sun is actually paying your electric bill!

Of course, for each home design option they offer customers, they show the electricity savings involved. Example:

“… at KB Home's Newbury at the Enclave in Eastvale, Calif., a one-story, four bedroom home without a solar power system has an estimated monthly electric and gas bill of $108. With the expansion of KB Home's solar power initiative, this home will now include a 3.15 kWp system as a standard feature and the estimated monthly electric and gas bill will be $27. Compared to a typical resale home, this new KB home is estimated to save a homeowner about $2,000 annually on energy costs.”

KB Homes started its solar offers in March 2011. At that time, 1.4 kWp SunPower systems were offered in 10 of its communities. Now, the smallest standard solar power option is 1.8 kWp, 28 communities are in the program, and over half of them include a  2.25 kWp or 3.15 kWp SunPower system as standard.

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  3. Solar Power Coming To 90+ California Schools


7 Cleantech Consumer Products

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 10:47 AM PST

I scroll through thousands of articles on dozens of sites so that you don’t have to :D

1. Solar-Powered, Energy-Efficient Homes & the Nissan LEAF

In one of the latest solar-EV team-ups, City Ventures and Nissan offer a green triple combo. From the news release:

How would you like never having to pay for gasoline? With the just completed "Plug Into History" press event featuring the Nissan LEAF with a City Ventures home pre-wired for electric cars, the dream is now realized. Integrated with each residence, City Ventures homes feature solar power and energy-efficient design, bringing energy bills to near net zero. The coupling of high-tech solar home with advanced electric car completes the circuit, allowing low-cost, low-carbon, gasoline-free living. The City Ventures earth-friendly neighborhoods, comprising over 190 homes, represent the largest collection of new, solar, no-gas homes in the United States. They are currently under construction in the California cities of Signal Hill, Santa Barbara and Brea. Prices for these homes start in the high $200,000s.

City Ventures President, Homebuilding Group Herb Gardner (right) plugs new solar-powered townhouse into the Nissan LEAF with Russell Vare, Corporate Planning Manager for Nissan North America (left), making it the first solar home to power an electric car. Santa Ana, California-based City Ventures has more than 190 new homes pre-wired for electric charging stations, the most in the United States. California expects 1 million electric cars on the state's roads by 2020. (Credit: Business Wire)

2. 1st All-Electric Carsharing Service Now Alive

“car2go N.A., LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler North America Corporation, and the City of San Diego [have] officially launched North America’s first all-electric carsharing network, making emissions-free driving a widely available and affordable transportation option for all of San Diego,” Daimler announces.

Credit: car2go.com/sandiego

3. New Electric Bikes

“Kalkhoff, the leading electric bike brand in Germany and the UK, debuts new power assistance systems across their 2012 range,” a news release this week announced. “UK distributor 50cycles.com will supply dealers with Kalkhoff e-bikes for the first time, allowing customers to test ride and buy the latest generation models locally.”

electric city bike

Credit: 50cycles.com

4. Electric Superbike

Italian electric motorcycle company CRP is soon going to start selling its first electric street bike, the Energica. “The bike's 100-kilowatt power plant is built upon a PMAC synchronous motor with permanent magnets generating up to 136 horsepower,” EarthTechling reports. “As you would expect, this setup is a torque monster, delivering almost 116 ft. lbs. on the way to propelling this rocket to a top speed of about 137 mph. CRP boasts that this powertrain delivers 95 percent efficiency and a driving range of almost 95 miles.”

Credit: CRP

5. Small EV from Gordon Murray Wins Award

I wrote about prolific Formula 1 designer Gordon Murray’s switch to green cars about a week ago. The featured vehicle was a super-efficient little electric car called the T27. Apparently, that little car recently won the “Most Energy Efficient Small Car (Prototype)” award in the 2nd-annual Brighton to London Royal Automobile Club Future Car Challenge.

Gordon Murray and two T27s. (Credit: gordonmurraydesign.com)

6. New LED Bulbs from Samsung

Samsung announced the release of 7 new consumer LED bulbs this week. Prices range from $17 to $60.

Credit: Screenshot of Samsung LED bulbs by Zachary Shahan/CleanTechnica

7. Honda Testing EVs in China

Honda has started demonstration testing of its electric vehicles (EVs) in Guangzhou, China. “For this demonstration testing, Honda's EVs will be driven in a real-world urban transportation environment in the city of Guangzhou to verify the practical convenience of EVs and identify technological issues needed to be addressed to achieve the widespread use of EVs in the future,” Honda reports. “In addition, proposals regarding re-charging infrastructure will be made based on the results of the EV range verification and other relevant information.” Honda plans to start local production in China by 2012.

Credit: world.honda.com

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  2. 10 Cleantech Consumer Products & Services
  3. Cleantech Weekly Roundup


New Cleantech Technology News (Say What?)

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 09:40 AM PST

Aside from the cleantech project, cleantech policy, cleantech consumer product round-ups I’m in the midst of finishing, here’s a round-up of some of the latest news on new cleantech technology:

wind farm mountains

Wind turbines near Grover, Colorado. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

1. Wind Energy Forecasting Technology Saves Millions of Dollars a Year

“The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has developed a highly detailed wind energy forecasting system with Xcel Energy, enabling the utility to capture energy from turbines far more effectively and at lower cost,” the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research reports. “The system, which Xcel Energy formally took over last month, saves ratepayers several million dollars yearly.”

Basically, the new technology gives wind forecasts that are 35% more accurate. This allows the utility to power down costly coal and natural gas power plants more often. In 2010, the technology reportedly saved Xcel Energy $6 million.

The technology is used in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Wisconsin.

2. Gamesa Wind Turbine Setting Records in Spain

“Gamesa’s new 4.5 megawatt G128 has posted a new record at a test field in Jaulin near Zaragosa, Spain,” Renewables International  reports. “On November 7, it generated 97.34 megawatt-hours in a single day with 100 percent availability.” Since the start of 2011, this prototype wind turbine has fed over six gigawatt-hours to the Spanish grid. “With a rotor diameter of 128 meters and an output of 4.5 megawatts, the new G128 has a 120 meter tower and rotor blades whose diameter exceeds 62.5 meters.”

3. Shakeup in Grid Storage Technology Market, 5 Leaders Revealed

OK, grid storage is probably not something most of you go to sleep thinking about, but it’s important, and there’s a lot going on in this field.

The new Lux Research Grid Storage Tracker reveals that the lineup of leading emerging energy storage suppliers is indeed seeing a significant shake-up. Japanese molten salt battery producer NGK Insulators has historically dominated the grid storage market for emerging technologies (excluding pumped hydro, compressed air, and traditional lead-acid batteries). After capturing over 76% of the total market at the end of 2010, NGK's market share plummeted to just 53% of operating grid storage projects as of September 30th of this year, according to Lux Research's Grid Storage Tracker.

2011 Installed Grid Storage
Market Leaders
2011 Market Share
NGK Insulators53%
Xtreme Power10%
Beacon Power7%
International Battery7%
A123 Systems6%
Source: Lux Research

NGK's monopoly withered and allowed other players with a variety of technologies to make waves into the grid storage market, including Xtreme Power's advanced lead acid battery, Beacon Power's flywheels (although Beacon's share will drop after filing Chapter 11 last week), and lithium ion batteries from International Battery and A123 Systems. The strong traction of these players resulted in a 56% increase in the number of installed megawatts in 2011 over 2010. Based upon announced and ongoing projects, NGK's market share will sharply drop by the end of 2012 with A123 Systems capturing nearly one quarter of the market.

4. Virtual Power Plants to Boom

Confused? Read on

Growing investments in distributed energy resources – renewable distributed energy generation, demand response (DR), energy storage, and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) – will require new business and technology platforms to manage the increased level of diversity and complexity in the delivery of electricity to customers.The increasing variability of both generation (from solar and wind) and loads (due to DR and PEVs) will also require more sophisticated and decentralized decision making. As a result of all of these factors, interest in virtual power plants (VPPs) is gaining significant momentum within the industry. According to a new report from Pike Research, VPP capacity will increase by 65% between 2011 and 2017, rising from 55.6 gigawatts (GW) to 91.7 GW worldwide during that period. A more aggressive growth forecast scenario contemplates that, under certain conditions, the capacity growth could be as high as 126% during the same forecast horizon.

"Virtual power plants essentially represent an 'Internet of Energy', tapping existing grid networks to tailor electricity supply and demand services for a customer," says senior analyst Peter Asmus. "They maximize value for both the end user and distribution utility, primarily through software innovations."

5. 2011 Clean Energy Challenge Finalists Getting Funding

It’s a long road to commercialization, and many don’t make it, but here are some that might:

… several inaugural Clean Energy Challenge finalists have secured more than $9 million in venture funding, expanded operations and furthered the commercialization of new clean energy technology following their participation in the 2011 business competition.

The top prize winner, Clean Urban Energy (CUE), recently closed a $7 million A-round led by Battery Ventures, a Challenge judge. CUE has also hired 10 full-time employees since its win.

NextGen Solar, the second place winner, is currently completing development of its first functional prototype. The company also presented at the prestigious national Renewable Energy Laboratory Growth forum and was a semi-finalist at the Cleantech Open.

Other notable achievements include:

  • Thermal Conservation Technologies was among ten companies invited to present at CTSI Defense Energy Challenge. It hired Dr. Pratek Gupta as its first full-time employee, charged with completing the company's prototype.
  • Intelligent Generation: Presented at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Industry Growth forum and launched a two-phased pilot project with ComEd and PJM.
  • Power2Switch: Hired three full-time employees and launched a new website with energy consumption and analytics functionality.
  • Agentis: Has a live product with more than 78,000 users and is embarking on multiple pilot projects with large utilities.
  • Root3 Technologies: Is conducting a pilot project with the University of Chicago and negotiating an exclusive technology license with Stanford University.
  • Sun Phocus Technologies: Is now generating revenue, conducting two pilot projects, and has partnered with an Israeli manufacturer identified by the Clean Energy Trust.

6. University of Ottawa Students Design New Wind Turbine

“Over at the University of Ottawa, a group of students and professors who dub themselves the ‘Green Engineers‘ have come up with… a wind turbine with two sets of blades each spinning in opposite directions,” Tyler Hamilton of the Toronto Star reports.

They call it the contra-rotating small wind energy converter. Wind tunnel tests on a prototype have shown that the design is up to 40 per cent more efficient and far less noisy than a conventional single-rotor system.

The benefits of having contra-rotating blades are well known. In fact, the design has existed for more than a century and is widely used, for example, in propeller systems of submarine torpedoes. The concept is also used in airplane and boat propulsion systems, not to mention those remote-controlled toy helicopters you can fly inside your house.

Riadh Habash, professor of technology and engineering at the University of Ottawa, says his team decided three years to apply the same approach to wind turbines and are encouraged so far with the results — so much so that they're busy building a second prototype that will be mounted next summer atop a building on the Ottawa U campus.

Why is having two blade systems spinning in opposite directions more efficient?

When the wind blows into a conventional three-bladed, single-rotor wind turbine less than 40 per cent of its energy is converted into electricity. The rest escapes, much of it in the air wake that's created behind the blades. That wake spins in the opposite direction (i.e. counter-clockwise) to those blades.

If a second rotor with another set of blades is right behind the first rotor, and if it is designed to also spin counter-clockwise, it can capture energy from that wake. The end result is a turbine system that harnesses much more energy from the initial flow of wind.

Experiments to date also suggest that a turbine with such a design can operate at lower wind speeds, allowing it to tap into a broader range of wind resources.

The turbine is, apparently, also quieter.

7. Vehicle to Grid Technology to Boom

“Vehicle to grid (V2G) technologies, over time, will represent a more and more favorable alternative to investing in new power generation assets,” according to a news release earlier this week. “By 2017, according to a new report from Pike Research, approximately 90,000 light-duty vehicles and an additional 1,500 medium/heavy duty trucks will be enabled with V2G technologies, creating a strong foundation for V2G-based demand response, vehicle to building, frequency regulation, and other ancillary service applications.”

"V2G technologies are currently in the early pilot phase, with much work left to do before they will be ready for full commercialization," says research director John Gartner. "The earliest adopters will be fleet operators and large consumers of energy where vehicles have established schedules for being plugged in. As the sector develops, V2G will be utilized for an increasing array of grid support services."

8. Ground-Based Wind Turbine

Next-Gen Wind reports:

“Based off the current patents, NGW created a completely novel ground based wind energy super turbine that can increase wind velocity by 79 percent and produce nearly 2x the energy of a traditional wind tower turbine unit with the same swept area (see data Figure 2). NGW’s super turbine increases the velocity of the wind as it travels through the patented funnel shaped wind collection unit. More specifically, the funnel shaped wind ‘collector’ is increasing volume density of the air mass which is then forced through a smaller tunnel where the multi-blade wind energy collection rotors and generators are located. The resulting concentration allows for optimal generating wind velocities, and provides the opportunity to harvest a larger fraction of the kinetic wind energy passing through the system, when compared to a traditional tower-based wind turbine platform.”

9. GE: Hybrid Gas-Solar-Wind Power Plant is the Answer

“General Electric is pinning its hopes on a new hybrid gas and solar energy generator to help drive down the high cost of solar thermal energy and reduce the need for extra power plants to back up intermittent wind power,” Business Green reports.

“The company last week received approval from the Turkish government to nearly double the output of the world’s first Integrated Renewables Combined-Cycle plant from 570 megawatts (MW) to 1,080MW, and hopes the expanded facility can provide a template for other low carbon energy projects around the world.”

10. High-Rise Rooftops Can be Wind Farms, Too

“Eastern Wind Power (EWP) is a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup that has developed a 50-kilowatt (kW) vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) called the Sky Farm,” EarthTechling reports. “The VAWT is designed specifically to be mounted on the roofs of high-rise buildings. The company has partnered with Siemens to develop its small wind generator and inverter system. The company erected its first prototype Sky Farm at the Martha's Vineyard Airport in 2010. The turbine is now grid-connected, and producing power for the airport.”

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Ascent Solar’s Flexible CIGS Solar Panels One of TIME’s 50 Best Inventions of 2011

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 09:17 AM PST

flexible solar panels

Ascent Solar Technologies develops innovative, lightweight, flexible, thin-film solar photovoltaic modules (that’s a mouthful, I know — read it again). Ascent’s flexible CIGS solar panels are so innovative they were named one of TIME’s are designed to integrate with limitless applications, transforming unused surface area into a source of clean, renewable energy.50 Best Inventions of 2011, one of only six “green” inventions to make the list this year. The list is featured in the November 28, 2011 issue of TIME (which, somehow, is already online… oh, old media, how you amuse me).

“For each of the past 10 years, TIME has recognized the top 50 breakthroughs in science, technology and the arts,” Ascent notes. “Previous honorees have included the iPad, Nissan Leaf, 3-D cameras, and the world’s first synthetic cells.” Not a bad list of technologies to be associated with.

“TIME refers to Ascent’s solar panels as ‘ingenious’ for their ability to be directly integrated with building materials without the limitations of standard, glass solar panels.”

Ascent Solar’s Solar Panels in Use on Tents

Here on CleanTechnica, Tina wrote, nearly one year ago, how Ascent’s solar panels are being used for portable disaster relief on tents – innovative, useful application, especially in disaster-hit areas. The panels’ flexibility and light weight certainly do allow for more applications than most of us would normally consider are possible with solar, and allow for renewable energy expansion in formerly inaccessible areas and tremendously under-utilized areas.

As the company states, they are “designed to integrate with limitless applications, transforming unused surface area into a source of clean, renewable energy.” Who doesn’t love that? (Other than, perhaps, some solar panel competitors.)

Image via Ascent Solar

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1st Small Wind Turbine Gets AWEA Certification

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 08:46 AM PST

Small wind turbines have been booming, as we’ve reported a few times this year. But, up to now, there hasn’t been much independent evaluation of how well these small turbines perform, or how safe they are. Apparently, that’s changing.

bergey small wind turbine certified

10 kW Bergey Excel 10 Wind Turbine for Homes, Farms, and Small Businesses (Photo: Business Wire)

Bergey Windpower, “the nation's oldest manufacturer of small wind turbines,” announced this week that its “best-selling” BWC Excel 10 wind turbine has now received full "AWEA Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard" certification — it’s the first to get this certification.

"This new standard is the most significant milestone in the history of the small wind industry because it provides, for the first time, third-party verification of real world performance and a highly technical review of a turbine's strength and safety," said Mike Bergey, president of Bergey Windpower and the 2011 president of the Distributed Wind Energy Association. "This is huge for consumers because it addresses the ‘hucksters and hype’ problem in the small wind marketplace. We are very proud to be the first to achieve this game-changing certification." Agreed.

More from the news release:

The Bergey Excel 10 is a 23 ft diameter horizontal-axis turbine designed to provide the annual energy requirements for homes, farms, and small businesses. More than 2,000 Excel turbines have been installed in 46 states and more than 50 countries. It has only three moving parts, requires no annual maintenance, and was the first small wind turbine to carry a 10-year warranty. Excel owners include hundreds of homeowners and farmers, schools, museums, state and federal parks, all branches of the U.S. military, major corporations, and a number of celebrities. One very happy customer is Gus Sansone of Oak Hills, CA, "I installed my Bergey 10 kW in 2001. I haven't paid an electric bill since the turbine was installed and it's paid for itself. It's the best investment I ever made."

The AWEA standard was developed over a five year period by a committee of over 30 individuals drawn from industry, research organizations, universities, retailers, and users. The U.S. standard, which references a number of existing international (IEC) standards, has been adopted in Canada and, with some minor changes, in the United Kingdom. "For consumers the primary benefit is the establishment of a set of easy to understand and accurate ratings that allow, for the first time, direct comparisons of one wind turbine's performance against another. The hype and exaggeration of untested, "innovative" designs have harmed the distributed wind business. Too many consumers have been disappointed. Certification will go a long ways towards fixing that," said Jennifer Jenkins, executive director of the Distributed Wind Energy Association (www.distributedwind.org), the national trade association for small wind.

Certification of the Excel 10 turbine was granted by the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC – www.smallwindcertification.org), an independent organization funded by several states and the U.S. Department of Energy. "SWCC was set up to ensure that the reviews and the granting of small wind turbine certifications were held to the highest standards, so that consumers could be confident in the results," said Larry Sherwood, executive director of the SWCC. "It's a big burden for manufacturers, but it's something the states with rebate programs have wanted for years – a way to ensure that the public's money goes towards effective equipment. We have 27 turbine models from 24 manufacturers in line for certification, so I think manufacturers recognize the value of certification." California, New York, Oregon and Wisconsin, which provide substantial rebates for small wind turbines, now require partial or full certification to the AWEA standard and a number of other states plan to do the same.

"I think SWCC has done a great job with the labeling. All of the complexities of testing, performance prediction, and noise production have been boiled down to an easy to understand set of ratings. It's like the EPA Estimated Gas Mileage for wind turbines," noted Mr. Bergey. "How much power? How much energy? How much noise? These are the questions consumers have, but haven't always gotten straight answers for until now." The AWEA standard sets the rated wind speed for turbines so that they can be accurately compared and it establishes a more revealing and valuable performance rating, the AWEA Rated Annual Energy (RAE). "Our Excel 10 carries an AWEA RAE of 13,800 kWh. A potential customer can now compare that with a competing certified turbine's RAE and know that it will produce a certain percentage more or less energy at their site. They could never do that confidently before." Details of the Bergey Excel 10 certification and ratings are available at http://www.smallwindcertification.org/applicant-turbines/bergey-excel.

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Renewable Natural Gas from CO2, Water, & Sunlight

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 08:23 AM PST

HyperSolar has filed a patent application for a “breakthrough technology” that creates renewable natural gas from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.

natural gas from sunlight co2 water

“This renewable natural gas is a clean, carbon-neutral methane gas that can be used as a direct replacement for traditional natural gas to power the world, without drilling or fracking, while mitigating CO2 emissions,” the company reports.

Well, it certainly sounds good.

Is it legit?

We’ll have to wait to find out, but here’s more from the news release:

“Inspired by the photosynthetic processes that plants use to harness the power of the sun to create energy molecules, HyperSolar is developing a novel solar-powered nanoparticle system that mimics photosynthesis to separate hydrogen from water. The free hydrogen can then be reacted with carbon dioxide to produce methane, the primary component in natural gas.”

The company certainly thinks it’s on the money. "We intend to focus all our energies and resources on commercializing this breakthrough technology," HyperSolar CEO Tim Young announced.

Good luck to the patent reviewers — the title is "Photoelectrochemically active heterostructures, methods for their manufacture, and methods and systems for producing desired products." The patent application “discloses the company's novel low cost manufacturing techniques, nanostructure innovations for high efficiency, and the use of freely available sunlight, waste water and carbon dioxide to produce hydrogen, methane, and other valuable chemical products,” the company reported in a second news release.

More from Young:

For almost a century, scientists have tried and failed to 'split water' cost effectively to produce hydrogen and oxygen. Our process does not produce oxygen (O2), which has no significant value and is an expensive and slow reaction. Unlike conventional electrolysis, where hydrogen and oxygen atoms are completely disassociated using a large voltage, we designed our reactions to use a very small voltage and only produce hydrogen (H2).

By elegantly engineering the reaction kinetics toward hydrogen generation in conjunction with wastewater, our nanoparticles function as one-way machines that detoxify wastewater, and produce clean water and pure hydrogen in the presence of sunlight…. No other energy source is required, making this an extremely economical and commercially viable approach to hydrogen production – hence, renewable natural gas production.

The whole process occurs at a normal temperature and pressure.

“To achieve world scale operation, HyperSolar envisions acres of very inexpensive reactors installed on vacant, non-productive land, producing massive amounts of carbon neutral methane that can be piped into the existing natural gas infrastructure for everyday use in homes, power plants, factories, and vehicles.”

Breakthrough? Might be. I’ll be keeping my eye on HyperSolar.

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New Solar, Wind, Wave, EV, & LED Projects (10 Stories)

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 07:32 AM PST

I go through dozens of sources and thousands of articles so you don’t have to :D

Here’s some cool clean energy, EV, and LED project news from the past week or so:

1. 3 New Wind Projects in U.S. Order Wind Turbines

“Vestas has received a 59 MW order from Exelon Wind for 33 V100-1.8 MW turbines for the Harvest II Wind Project in Huron County, Michigan, USA,” Vestas announces. “The contract includes delivery and commissioning along with a 10-year service and maintenance agreement. Delivery is scheduled for mid-2012, and commissioning is expected in late 2012.”

Vestas has also received orders for two First Wind projects, in Washington and Maine, that total to 139 MW. 77 V100-1.8 MW turbines were ordered for the 104.4-MW Palouse Wind project in Whitman County, Washington (58 wind turbines) and the 34.2-MW Bull Hill wind power plant in Hancock County, Maine (19 turbines).

2. Apple Switching from Coal to Solar in North Carolina

“Apple, ranked the least green of the big tech companies earlier this year, is moving quietly to repair its reputation by switching its vast east coast data centre from coal to solar power,” the Guardian reports. “Local officials in North Carolina say the company is preparing to build a solar farm adjacent to its $1bn data centre in Maiden.”

3. Tower Bridge is Going LED

Tower Bridge in London is about to get a lot prettier.. at least to us Greens. The 117-year-old bridge is going LED and is going to cut its electricity usage by about 40%! h/t Crisp Green

4. Arizona’s Largest Wind Farm Almost Done

“Coconino County’s first wind farm, the state’s largest, plans to begin generating electricity in December,” azdailysun.com reports. “Contractors building these turbines are from all over, including Florida, Texas, Iowa and Minnesota.” (Clean energy doesn’t create jobs, right?) The project includes 62 wind turbines, each 398-feet-tall, and has an installed power capacity of 99 MW. It can supply power for about 29,000 homes when running at peak, and 8,700 homes on average. “The wind farm is to operate from this December or January 2012 into 2042 or beyond.”

The wind turbines will most likely replace electricity provided by burning natural gas. Coconino County officials expect to plan and build more wind power projects after this one is complete. “State regulations set by the Arizona Corporation Commission require utilities to supply 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and Arizona Public Service is now getting about 3 percent of its electricity from renewable resources.”

5. Navajo Homes Get Solar- & Wind-Powered Electricity

An off-grid solar and wind power generator now provides electricity to 200 Navajo Homes in New Mexico. CNET has more, & pictures.

6. 1st Commercial Wave Power Plant Is Up (.. or Under) in Spain

Voith Hydro Wavegen handed over its “first grid-connected marine power plant to the Basque Energy Board in the north of Spain” last week, Business Green reports. “The 300kW wave power plant comprises 16 turbines and is housed within a breakwater at the port of Mutriku. The plant has produced 100MWh since generating its first power in July, and is expected to provide enough electricity to power 250 homes during its 25-year life.”

7. Global Solar PV Installations to Hit 24 GW in 2011

A new report out by IMS Research finds that global solar PV installation will hit 24 GW in 2011, rising 24% from the 19 GW hit in 201o. However, European installations will only rise 3%. Other notable findings from the report are that:

  • Italy will pass up Germany as the world’s leading PV market;
  • over 8 GW of solar PV were installed in the first half of 2011, while about 15 GW are projected to be installed in the second half;
  • Asia and the Americas will account for 80% of the global growth in 2011 (and a similar trend is expected in 2012);
  • you can also see in the second chart below that a lot of the growth is in the utility-scale market, but there’s also significant growth in the large and medium commercial market and in the residential market.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

8. Poland Getting Its Largest Rooftop Solar Array

“Photon Energy will take part in the construction of a 311 kWp rooftop PV installation in Ruda Slaska, Southern Poland,” Solarbuzz reports. “When completed in mid 2012, it will be the largest rooftop solar power installation in Poland…. It will be will be located on the roof of the Upper Silesian water utility company – Górnośląskie Przedsiębiorstwo Wodociągów S.A. (GPW), the largest water supplier in Poland, which will also act as an investor in the project.”

9. 3 EV Charging Stations Now at Indianapolis Airport

They are GE WattStationTM Wall Mount EV charging stations. “An ongoing collaboration between Purdue University and GE Energy is at the heart of the new airport charging option,” GE reports. “Purdue acquired the units with funding from Energy Systems Network through a grant from the Indiana Office of Energy Development.”

“Purdue's faculty and students will collect data from the airport chargers to use in electric vehicle and smart grid research," Eric Dietz, associate professor of computer and information technology and director of Purdue's Homeland Security Institute, said.

But, there’s a lot more green going on at the Indianapolis Airport than that, actually:

Additional sustainability initiatives at the airport include IAA's recent completion of relighting projects in its parking garage and at the Indianapolis Maintenance Center that produce combined yearly savings of more than $250,000 and annually reduce CO2 emissions by 5,233 metric tons, equivalent to removing more than 1,000 gasoline-powered cars from the city's roads each year.

IAA also has announced plans to develop one of the largest airport-based solar farms in North America, which will annually produce more than 15 million kilowatt hours of power, enough to meet the electrical energy needs of more than 1,200 average American homes for a year. The renewable power it generates will prevent approximately 10,700 tons of CO2 from being released into the environment each year, roughly equivalent to removing 2,000 gasoline-powered cars from the road annually.

10. Maui Looking to be EV Leader

“Chalk up Maui as the next hot spot for electric vehicle infrastructure. This month the Maui Electric Vehicle Alliance was launched with the support of the University of Hawaii Maui College, Hawaii State Energy Office, Honolulu Clean Cities from neighboring Oahu, and a host of other partners from government and business,” Greentech Media reports. “With the help of a $300,000 from the US Department of Energy, the group’s goal is to design a plan to prep the island for large-scale EV use through increased EV infrastructure development.” (Note that I also wrote about a leading smart grid demo project in Maui last week.)

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Only Way to Stop Greenhouse Gas Emissions is to Use Clean Electricity, Study Finds

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 05:51 AM PST

Only Way To Stop Polluting is to Use Clean Electricity, Study SaysIs it possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 emissions levels by 2050? Maybe, according to a study done in (of course) California. The study was jointly conducted by consulting firm Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (E3) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and focused on using current technology to meet the emissions goals.

The study implies that electricity is the way out of excessive greenhouse gas emissions – specifically, moving away from oil and toward carbon-free electricity generation. Snuller Price, co-author of the study and a partner at E3, explains that “…this study means that our electric utilities will be the central players in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the long term."

Green Sources for Reduced Emissions

Dr. Jim Williams, lead author of the study and chief scientist at E3, feels that the only way to achieve reduced emissions is with clean electricity:

“Absent dramatic changes in people’s behavior, or an unforeseen breakthrough in new technology, we found that there is only one way to meet the GHG goal” of 80% below 1990 emissions levels by 2050. Meeting the goal requires unprecedented levels of energy efficiency, completely decarbonizing electric generation, and switching almost all fossil fuel use to electricity.”

Of course, transportation in the United States is currently heavily dependent on oil and fossil fuel, and responsible for a significant percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. The study takes that into account, calculating how grid infrastructure would need to be changed as well as energy use, CO2 emissions, and cost. Smart EV charging and better vehicle batteries are also necessary for meeting the emissions target, according to Dr. Williams:

“We built a physical representation of infrastructure and the electric grid to get a more realistic picture of emissions reductions. For example, if we have millions of electric cars in California, the timing of when their batteries charge is linked to what kinds of power plants we need on the grid, and other infrastructure we need to maintain reliability."

We Can Do It! (Probably, But Not Cheaply)

The study authors estimate that the annual cost of reducing emissions to the stated goal (whose goal? No idea) would be approximately $1,200 USD per person compared to a "business as usual" case. (Keep in mind that fluctuating oil prices do affect the "business as usual case" and make it difficult to predict the base line here.)

The clearest message coming out of the study is don't procrastinate. According to Price: “This study isn’t only about what the world needs to look like in 2050, it’s about the pathway and what we need to do now. We have to improve key technologies this decade before we need them to be widely commercialized in 2020 and beyond.”

To put it as simply as possible, the only way to stop dirty emissions is to start using clean energy and then keep using it. It seems clear and obvious on the surface, but is it worth the potential cost? You tell me, in the comments below.

Source: PR Newswire | Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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Africa at the Energy Crossroads: AfDB Finances Historic Renewable Energy Projects in South Africa, Morocco

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 12:33 AM PST

Photo courtesy AfDB

Hot on the heels of participating in the financing of Morocco’s 500 megawatt (MW) Ouarzazate concentrated solar power (CSP) project, the African Development Bank (AfDB) announced the signing of two historic loans totaling $365 million to South African electric utility Eskom to finance the state-owned power provider’s first large-scale renewable wind and solar energy projects.

AfDB also announced that it was pledging $498 in financing for renewable energy projects in Morocco, giving a big boost to the North African nation’s Solar Power Plan. Launched in 2009, the goal of the $9 billion plan is to deploy 2000 MW of solar power generation capacity nationwide by 2020. A final decision on the loans is anticipated from AfDB’s board of directors by the end of this year.

Africa is a continent of 54 countries and approximately 15 percent of the world's population. However, it contributes only 4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions “and therefore is a minimal contributor to climate change and global warming,” the African Development Bank notes.

That makes the announcements all the more encouraging as they have the potential to set Morocco and South Africa on a path of clean energy and sustainable economic development, one which may foster and spur more environmentally and socially conscious economic development and good job creation by avoiding the use of fossil fuels.

"The two initiatives are the first of their kind in a region where they are seen as a test case and catalyst for larger-scale delivery of power using renewable technologies to displace considerable future CO2 emissions," stated Hela Cheikhrouhou, Director of the AfDB's Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department, in a media release.

In addition to financing, the World Bank Group institutions are providing Eskom and Morocco’s solar energy development agency MASEN with technology transfer, operational and technical management expertise and market and business development skills and know-how.

A Clean Energy Turning Point for Eskom, South Africa?

Africa’s largest power producer, Eskom produces approximately 95% of South Africa’s electricity, and makes up around 60% of all the electricity produced on the African continent. It ranks among the top seven electric utilities in the world in terms of generation capacity and top nine in terms of sales. It’s also top of the list on the African continent in terms of environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, ranking 13th in the world.

The AfDB loans come at critical, potential turning point for Eskom and the future of clean energy and economic development in South Africa and beyond. Eskom’s long relied on thermal coal for the bulk of its electricity generation. It also operates nuclear and gas turbine power plants and produces electricity from hydroelectric and pumped hydro storage.

That’s set to change signifcantly with financial assistance from AfDB, other members of the World Bank Group and other international agencies. The South African government’s latest Integrated Resource Plan, introduced early this year calls for increasing the country’s clean energy production to 42% by 2030. Eskom has announced plans to develop a 100 MW CSP plant at Upington and the 100 MW Sere wind farm near Koekenaap in the Western Cape province.

The South African government last month announced it will enact an emissions cap and new energy industry regulations in an effort to spur development of alternative, clean and renewable energy and mitigate climate change. The new regulations will penalize heavy polluters that don't comply with greenhouse gas emission limits with fines.

AfDB’s $365 million in loans will help finance both projects. Once up and running, some 5 million tons of CO2-equivalent will be avoided over the projected 20-year life span of the Sere wind farm and another 9 million tons of CO2-equivalent avoided from the Upington solar power plant.

The two loans consist of a $265 million from AfDB’s own resources and a $100 million loan from the Clean Technology Fund, another agency of the World Bank Group. The loans are guaranteed by the South African government, in compliance with AfDB’s lending rules.

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Bangkok Becomes First Megacity to Mull Move to Higher Ground

Posted: 24 Nov 2011 10:44 PM PST

After another year marked by months of epic flooding in the capital city of 12 million, this month AFP reports that lawmakers in Thailand have submitted a parliamentary motion to begin discussions of building a second capital or moving Bangkok to higher ground.

Sataporn Maneerat, a Puea Thai party MP, told AFP Thailand should think about moving the capital or looking to another city for future developments and investments.

“Another 19 Puea Thai MPs and I have signed and submitted a motion to parliament to seek approval to set up a committee, to consider whether the capital should be moved or if Thailand should have a second capital,” he said.

“Bangkok is sinking every year. The capital will face more and more problems from natural disasters and the environment,” he said, adding that the current capital was “over its peak”. Maneerat told AFP that the options for relocating the kingdom’s capital would be in the eastern and northeastern provinces.

According to a World Bank estimate in 2009:

Adapting to Climate Change to Cost US$75-100 Billion a year
New global estimate for cost of adaptation to climate change in developing countries

Bangkok/Washington, September 30 2009 – The costs of adaptation to climate change in developing countries will be in the order of US$75-100 billion per year for the period 2010 to 2050 according to preliminary findings in a new global study from The World Bank.

Like New Orleans, Bangkok is a low-lying coastal city built on swampy ground. Unlike New Orleans, Bangkok is a megacity with a population of 12 million, with an annual average GDP growth rate around 7%: that has doubled its housing stock in the last decade, according to the World Bank.

The rapidly developing capital is gradually overwhelming the marshy ground, unable to support the weight of the burgeoning megacity above, and is sinking. Epic floods this year approached Bangkok in July and have now had the capital largely underwater for months.

Climate scientists have warned that the recent increase in flooding events are merely a foretaste of a grim future, as climate change makes its impact felt in heavier monsoon rains in Thailand.

In April a record breaking four feet of rain hit Thailand in a week. Since then heavier than normal monsoon rains have overwhelmed the country. By October, rice production was totaled by the nation's worst flooding in five decades after months of heavy monsoon rains. More than 1,000 industrial suppliers had been shut down. Now, 562 people have been killed across the country and the disaster is rated as the worst in a half century.

Climate change has definitely contributed to the recent unprecedented flooding taking place in Thailand, Thai Deputy Chief Negotiator for UNFCCC Dr. Sangchan Limjirakan said earlier this year. A report from the World Bank on the impact of climate change to coastal megacities said:

“in Bangkok in 2050, the number of persons affected (flooded for more than 30 days) by a 1-in-30-year event will rise sharply for both the low and high emission scenarios—by 47 percent and 75 percent respectively— compared to those affected by floods in a situation without climate change”.

More bluntly, if no action is taken to protect the city, “in 50 years… most of Bangkok will be below sea level,” Anond Snidvongs, a climate change expert at the capital’s Chulalongkorn University, told AFP earlier this month.

The world’s first ever proposal to consider moving a national capital city comes up for a vote next month by Thai lawmakers.

Image: Official U.S. Navy Imagery

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