Thursday, December 1, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

High-Speed Trains Can Save More Energy, with Moving Platforms

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 03:38 PM PST

Green Government Buildings One Way to Save Taxpayers Money

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 03:34 PM PST

LEED Working to Make Green Buildings More Bird-Friendly

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 03:31 PM PST

Chicago Car Sharing Program I-GO Launches Largest Solar-Powered EV Project in U.S.

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 03:20 PM PST

solar ev canopy i-go

I-GO Car Sharing, a nonprofit car sharing organization in Chicago that I keep a close eye on (due to its leadership in the field), has now launched a $2.5-million electric vehicle (EV) project that will be the national leader in solar power for EVs (for now, at least). It’s adding 36 all-electric vehicles to its fleet, and it’s adding 18 solar-powered charging stations to power those cars. This will be the largest electric vehicle fleet in the Midwest, and, as indicated above, it will use more solar power to charge EVs than anywhere else in the country.

“Each solar charging station will form a canopy that covers four parking spaces and will be able to power two electric vehicles,” I-GO reports.

“Two spaces will be reserved for I-GO at each location, and the others will be available to the public. Each canopy will be topped with 44 solar panels, for a capacity of 10 kilowatts. In aggregate, the canopies will produce about 200,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually, which will power as much as 600,000 miles driven per year. As a result, I-GO and its members could save as many as 17,000 gallons of gasoline each year.”

The locations of 11 of the solar-powered charging stations, for anyone in or visiting the Chicago region, include:

  • several JEWEL-OSCO stores,
  • the Illinois Institute of Technology,
  • the Village of Oak Park,
  • the City of Evanston, and
  • Uncommon Ground restaurant.

7 more locations will be announced soon.

The canopies will all go up early in 2012, and will be installed by 350Green.

"We are committed to serving our customers in the greenest way possible, and providing solar-powered electric car sharing is a fun and innovative way for us to achieve that goal," said JEWEL-OSCO President Brian Huff.  "With I-GO and the accompanying charging stations, many of our customers who do not own cars will have a convenient way to take their groceries home, while also lowering their carbon footprint by using solar-powered electric vehicles."

Never heard of I-GO? Want to learn more? No problem, here are some more details:

  • I-GO was formed in 2002.
  • It currently has 15,000 members.
  • It’s got cars at over 200 locations in 35 neighborhoods & four Chicago suburbs.
  • “Members pay for cars by the hour (around $8.50), and gas is included in the hourly fee (as is insurance). A typical I-GO member spends about $2,520 per year on transportation, roughly $5,000 less than what the average American spends annually to own, operate, and maintain a car.”
  • “I-GO offers a joint smart card with the CTA that allows a seamless transfer between public transit and an I-GO vehicle. The Chicago Card Plus I-GO card is the only one of its kind in the nation. Seventy-three percent of I-GO members either sell a car or postpone a decision to buy one after joining I-GO.”
  • More details at (No, this isn’t a sponsored post and I have no relationship with I-GO,… I just love what it offers.)

The last time I owned a car was over 7 years ago. The first city I lived in without a car was Chapel Hill, NC. While I didn’t really feel like a needed a car that often there, there were times when one was really useful. I used Zipcar, another car sharing company, and have loved the concept ever since. Many places in the U.S. are built with the car in mind (and sometimes ONLY the car in mind), but it’s also completely easy to get around without a car MOST of the time in many places (and healthier, cheaper, and more fun, I might add). Car sharing helps to fill that very little part of the time when a car is still helpful. And if it’s offering solar-powered EVs, all the better!

I encourage you to check out I-GO if you’re in the Chicago area or to check out other car sharing options if you’re in other regions.

EV Solar Canopy image via I-GO

Related posts:

  1. 1st Solar-Powered Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station in NYC
  2. Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Coming to a City Near You?
  3. Mobile Clean Energy, Water Purification, & Telecommunications Solutions (+ Solar-Powered EV Charging Stations) from SSI

China: Yet Another Strong Renewable Energy Push

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 06:08 AM PST

It’s no secret, China is pumping money into clean, renewable energy like Americans are pumping money into McDonald’s and Walmart. The latest big announcement is that it is going to double the surcharge on power sales to further subsidize renewables.

“The National Development and Reform Commission said on Wednesday that the government would increase the surcharge on power sales from December 1 to 0.008 yuan per kilowatt hour from 0.004 yuan per kwh,” Reuters reports.

“A doubling of the renewable energy surcharge should benefit mostly wind,” said Min Li, a Yuanta Securities renewable energy analyst. “Assuming half of the funding is used, we estimate the doubled surcharge can support at least 70 gigawatts of wind power capacity in the near term.”

70 gigawatts! Installed wind power capacity, worldwide, was 197 gigawatts just at the end of 2010.

Of course, this has sent a boost to Chinese renewable energy companies on the stock market.

China’s top wind turbine maker Sinovel Wind Group Co Ltd was up nearly 5 percent by midday Thursday, while Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co Ltd and Xiangtan Electric Manufacturing Co Ltd each gained more than 3 percent.

Wafer and polysilicon maker GCL Poly Energy Holdings Ltd gained 8 percent in Hong Kong, while Solargiga Energy Holdings Ltd was up 6 percent and Comtec Solar Systems Group Ltd was up 6.7 percent against a 5.85 percent surge in the Hang Seng Index.

U.S.-listed Chinese solar panel makers Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd, JA Solar Holdings Co Ltd, Trina Solar Ltd and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd soared more than 10 percent on Wednesday.

China passed up the U.S. as the leading installer of wind energy in recent years. And it has also started pumping a lot more into solar. Earlier this year, it doubled its 2015 solar power capacity target from 5GW to 10GW.

Note that China passed legislation in 2006 that requires power companies buy all of the power generated in their jurisdiction by renewable energy projects. (Note, though, that this new surcharge rate does not increase the amount of money power companies pay for each unit of power produced — it just increases the pool of money available for supporting clean energy.)

China & Renewable Energy image via shutterstock

Related posts:

  1. China Could Create 9.5 Million Green Jobs with Clean Energy Push, Influential Report Finds
  2. China Grows Wind Capacity to Top World Ranking
  3. Renewable Energy Now Growing Faster than Coal in China

Fuel Cell System Saves the Day in Connecticut in Wake of Winter Storm Alfred

Posted: 01 Dec 2011 04:32 AM PST

The unexpected, early arrival of ‘Winter Storm Alfred’ – a classic example of a Nor’easter – hit New England hard. Residents of the state of Connecticut were particularly hard put: on Oct. 29, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy estimated that as many as 500,000 residents were expected to be without power and that the outages were likely to be prolonged, according to a Windham Today news report.

That number was quickly increased to a historic 831,000 left in the dark, as Connecticut Power & Light president and COO Jeff Butler became the target of acerbic, scathing verbal attack. By the end of it, nearly 1 million of an estimated total 1.8 million power outages across the New England region occurred in Connecticut. Compounding the problem was the reluctance of work crews to respond to outages as they hadn’t been paid for the emergency work they did for the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, another “freak” storm that affected the Northeast this year.

Fortunately for many, some emergency shelters, government offices, shops and businesses had fuel cell systems in place. When grid power failed, emergency response mechanisms kicked in, with fuel cell systems supplying critical electrical power, as well as heat and hot water.

Winter Storm Alfred Hits South Windsor, Ct.

Occurring as it did in the fall, leaves were still on the deciduous, as well as evergreen, trees that still characterize the area, providing plenty of surface area for wet, heavy snow to accumulate. In many cases, the weight of the snow caused widespread damage to power lines, as branches and trees snapped off or collapsed on them.

The “freak” October snowstorm was likely the worst in living memory for residents of the Hartford County town of South Windsor, Ct. – population approaching 26,000 – South Windsor High School facilities manager Patrick Hankard told Clean Technica. Hankard served as State Forester and Superintendent of Streets for Hartford, the state capital, before taking up his current job at South Windsor High.

Hankard estimated that some 85% of the South Windsor community were without power for a week or more in the aftermath of Winter Storm Alfred. “It ranks right up there,” Hankard said when asked to rate the severity of the storm for Connecticut and South Windsor residents. “I’ve seen blizzards and ice storms…I’d say this was number 3 for me, but I’m sure it’s number 1 here for the local community.”

UTC Fuel Cell System Keeps Lights, Heat On, Hot Water Running

Like many public schools, 250,000 square foot South Windsor High works double duty, serving as a community shelter in emergencies. Serving in this capacity, South Windsor High ran for nine consecutive days and nights in the aftermath of Winter Storm Alfred. Emergency workers housed, fed and provided hot showers for between 400-600 area residents and others per day during the period, Hankard recounted.

“At one point we had to ration power…” At the peak of operation, those staying in the shelter had to stop using curling irons and blow dryers, which apparently prompted some griping.

Much more significant – which afforded the luxury of complaining about the lack of power for blow dryers – was the performance of South Windsor High’s UTC PureCell fuel cell system. “The fuel cell system saved the day and performed flawlessly,” Hankard told CleanTechnica.

South Windsor’s UTC PureCell Model 200 fuel cell system is not an auxiliary power system, nor does it only provide electricity. It’s a primary combined heat and power (CHP) system that on normal days augments grid power by supplying around 50% of the facility’s electricity needs, as well as its heating and hot water.

The UTC PureCell Model 200 CHP system was purchased with funds from Connecticut’s clean energy fund, to which all the state’s electricity users contribute a small monthly fee, according to Hankard.

Emergency Load-Shifting Dance

Facilities management staff at South Windsor High “end up doing a bit of a load-shifting dance with our fuel cell to make sure it doesn’t exceed its capacity” when grid power’s lost and the system kicks into emergency mode, Hankard explained.

A total of 85 separate steps occur per the system’s preprogrammed, but adjustable, emergency protocol when grid power cuts out and the system switches to “grid-independent mode.” The freezers and refrigerators are turned off and the kitchen cook line circuits are turned on when meals are being served, which then shifts to the dish washing equipment and then back to the freezers when meals are finished, he elaborated.

Lighting is actually relatively low on the fuel cell system’s grid independent power mode protocol. Emergency communications and response systems, such as fire alarms and communications, have priority, then comes heating (in winter). Providing power for lighting follows.

Besides providing power and heat on ‘normal’ days and emergency power and heat when needed, the fuel cell system is also part of Windsor High’s curriculum. Classes on fuel cell and power systems basics, design and operations are on offer, Hankard added.

Related posts:

  1. Pepperidge Farm Opens Largest Fuel Cell Plant In United States
  2. First Fuel Cell-Powered Passenger Ship Launching Later This Year
  3. Fuel Cell Technology Moves a Step Forward

Not Dead Yet: BoA-Merrill Lynch Steps Up, Revives Billion-Dollar SolarCity SolarStrong Project

Posted: 30 Nov 2011 10:44 PM PST

Image courtesy Solar City

Some heartening news broke yesterday, at least if you’re a fan or supporter of clean energy and solar power. SolarCity and BoA-Merrill Lynch announced that they have agreed to terms on financing SolarStrong, a billion-plus dollar SolarCity project – the largest in US history – that could double the number of residential solar installations in the US by installing solar power systems on privatized US military housing communities across the country.

SolarCity is partnering with the leading privatized military housing developers in the US to install, own and operate rooftop solar power installations and provide electricity at a lower cost than utilities. The five-year project plan call for as many as 120,000 installations on military housing units expected to produce up to 300 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity. That would easily make SolarCity the largest provider of solar photovoltaic (PV) power in US history, according to a media release.

Thousands of full-time and temporary jobs will be created as a result of SolarStrong being revived, and SolarCity intends to offer as many as possible to military veterans and family members. SolarCity has hired 1,200 new, full-time employees since the onset of the global recession in December, 2007 – more than one new job per workday, the company points out.

SolarStrong Revival

The news is particularly encouraging given growing worries that the global financial system is on the verge of another collapse due to ongoing sovereign debt problems in the Eurozone. BoA-Merrill Lynch stepping in to provide financing validates the assertion, and provides further real-world evidence, that large, private sector financial institutions are looking to add to their clean energy and tech investments, and that government backing can indeed leverage private sector capital resources.

"This project demonstrates the long term viability of large-scale, distributed solar generation," said Jonathan Plowe, head of New Energy and Infrastructure Solutions at BofA Merrill. "We are excited to see the project through with SolarCity and extend our expertise and financing capabilities to propel residential solar to the next level."

Originally set to move forward with financial backing from the Dept. of Defense (DoD) and Dept. of Energy (DOE), SolarStrong looked like it was headed for the waste bin amidst all the hullabaloo over the Solyndra bankruptcy.

With the media buzzing about the Solyndra “scandal,” House Republicans launched a campaign to cut and claw back federal funding and financial assistance for clean energy. Caught up in the furor, an anticipated partial DOE Section 1705 loan guarantee fell by the wayside as the DOE notified SolarCity that it would not be able to process the application in time to meet a stipulated program deadline.

With BoA-Merrill Lynch stepping up and providing financing, it appears this chapter of the SolarStrong project can now be brought to a heartening close.

"BofA Merrill never wavered when the loan guarantee wasn't finalized and worked with us to create a financing structure that works without it," commented Lyndon Rive, SolarCity's chief executive officer.

"SolarStrong makes affordable clean energy available on a much greater scale. This is uncharted territory for residential solar. The fact that SolarStrong can move forward without a federal loan guarantee is a clear indication that long-term incentives such as the investment tax credit are working."

Now revived, the project will be a big boost to flagging economic and job prospects, as well as to an embattled US solar industry divided by the anti-dumping case being brought before the US Commerce Dept. and International Trade Commission by CASM (Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing), an association of US-based solar industry participants, against China and Chinese solar PV manufacturers.

“This is a groundbreaking transaction that represents a key milestone for the U.S. solar industry,” said Tim Newell, managing director for USRG Renewable Finance, an arm of US Renewables Group, a private equity firm that’s been advising SolarCity on the project since its early planning days. “We're proud to be part of this project that will invest in military communities across the United States."

Related posts:

  1. With DoE, DoD Backing SolarStrong Aims to Double US Residential Solar Power Installations
  2. SolarCity to Launch Largest Residential Rooftop Project
  3. Another “Solyndra” Project Sacrificed in Republican Attack on FEMA

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