Saturday, December 3, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Wind Turbine Noise Hurdles for Proposed SC Johnson Plant

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 07:59 PM PST

Making renewable wind energy part of a company's energy portfolio is not as easy as it might first appear.

Wisconsin-based home products manufacturer SC Johnson has set out to prove proposed wind turbines at its Waxdale manufacturing plant will not create overwhelming noise pollution for the residents of Mt. Pleasant, WI.

While staff members and officials from Mount Pleasant traveled to Fond du Lac County on Fri., Nov. 11, 2011 to measure wind turbine noise, residents who were also invited didn't make the trip.

The purpose for the trip was to measure noise levels of wind turbines like those being proposed at the Waxdale plant. The Brownsville, WI, location has 86 wind turbines over 12 square miles, with one tower less than 500 feet from a landowner who leases his land for the turbines.

According to Planning Director Ron Meyer, measurements were taken at 800 and 1,200 feet away from a geared turbine. The SCJ turbines would actually be gearless and probably a bit quieter.

SCJ has proposed two or three wind turbines of between 300 and 400 feet tall to generate some of the electricity needed to power the Waxdale plant. Predicted to produce about 15 percent of the total energy needed, the turbines are part of SCJ's plan to generate 100 percent of Waxdale's energy needs on-site with 60 percent coming from renewable energy sources.

"At 800 feet, measurements came in at 46 – 47 decibels, and at 1,200 feet it was less than 40 decibels," Meyer said. By comparison, Meyer said a passing car on the paved road came in at 62 decibels. "The readings could be on the higher side as the corn stubble and hedge row created ambient noise."

"Today nearly 40 percent of the company's worldwide electricity comes from renewable energy, and we're committed to making even greater progress," said Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of the company. "Wind turbines at Waxdale, right here in the backyard of our corporate headquarters, is one of the many ways we are working to further reduce our environmental footprint."

The wind turbines are the latest in a series of investments at Waxdale that together will enable the site to produce 100 percent of its electrical energy on-site with approximately 60 percent of it from renewable sources. The company expects the wind turbines will produce approximately 8 to 10 million kilowatt hours (KWH) of electrical energy per year or approximately 15 percent of the electrical energy used at Waxdale.

Some Mt. Pleasant residents have expressed concerns about the turbines on several levels: noise, sun flicker, aesthetics, property values and deaths of flying wildlife.

"I wish residents could have made the trip," said Trustee Gary Feest in one article. "I think a lot of their fears would have been put to rest."

According to SC Johnson, the remaining approximately 85 percent of Waxdale's electrical energy requirements will be produced by two co-generation units installed during the last decade that produce electrical energy and steam. Approximately 27 million KWH per year or 45 percent will be renewable energy from landfill gases used by co-generation unit one; the remaining 23 million KWH or 40 percent will be from clean natural gas used by co-generation unit two.

Chart Source: GE Global  Research, National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Related posts:

  1. The Wind Turbine Noise Debate
  2. Ultra-Quiet Rooftop Wind Turbine Arrives in United States
  3. New Micro-Wind Turbine Company Makes Owning Wind Power a Breeze

Obama’s Better Buildings Bonanza! (Video, Facts, & More)

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 04:22 PM PST


better buildings

1st definition of “bonanza” in Merriam-Webster dictionary: “an exceptionally large and rich mineral deposit (as of an ore, precious metal, or petroleum).” OK, it’s a stretch, but who doesn’t love alliteration?! And, seriously, the Better Buildings initiative the Obama administration and former president Bill Clinton just launched is going to save the country some serious money, and is going to keep a lot of fossil fuels in the ground.. where they belong!

better buildings initiative

2nd definition of bonanza: “something that is very valuable, profitable, or rewarding.” Take a look at the numbers below and see what you think.

Some details on the initiative:

  • The U.S. government will put $2 billion into retrofitting federal buildings in order to make them more efficient. (For anyone who knows anything about energy efficiency, this is clearly going to save the government a huge boatload of cash in the long run.)
  • Over 60 companies, organizations, institutions, universities, mayors, governors, and union leaders have signed on to the Better Buildings energy efficiency program and will invest another $2 billion. These energy efficiency leaders (who can, apparently, do simple math) are planning to cut energy use in their buildings by 20-25% by 2020.
  • Businesses are projected to save a total of about $40 billion a year from the energy savings from this initiative.
  • Tens of thousands of jobs are estimated to be produced from the initiative. (Or, 114,000 if the full initiative is implemented, according to a study by the independent Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and supported by the Real Estate Roundtable and U.S. Green Buildings Council. But that would require some legislative action.)

“Upgrading the energy efficiency of America’s buildings is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, cut down on harmful pollution and create good jobs right now. But we can’t wait for Congress to act. And, if they won’t act, I will,” said Obama. ”So today, I'm directing all federal agencies to make at least $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next 2 years – at no up-front cost to the taxpayer.”

The Better Buildings initiative is part of Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign, which is a campaign to find ways to go around an unhelpful Congress in creating or stimulating jobs across the U.S. Obama is still pushing for Congress to pass a large jobs bills, but until a breakthrough occurs in Congress, his administration has to find other ways to drive that job growth.

As Obama and Clinton both note, investment in energy efficiency is one of the greatest job creators out there. (And it’s also one of the best things we can do to address global warming.) Why Republicans in Congress won’t get behind it… well, we all have our theories (mine is that their #1 goal is not to help the country, but one of the following: to make Obama a one-term president; or to do everything they can to help the rich get rich, even if that means holding the U.S. hostage).

More from Obama (in text):

It is a trifecta, which is why you've got labor and business behind it.  It could save our businesses up to $40 billion a year on their energy bills – money better spent growing and hiring new workers.  It would boost manufacturing of energy-efficient materials.  And when millions of construction workers have found themselves out of work since the housing bubble burst, it will put them back to work doing the work that America needs done.  So this is an idea whose time has come.

And from the White House’s press release:

 This announcement builds on a commitment made by 14 partners at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in June to make energy upgrades across 300 million square feet, and to invest $500 million in private sector financing in energy efficiency projects.

In a move the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has recognized as critical to job creation, today's Presidential Memorandum calls for fully implementing existing federal authority to utilize Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) in order to promote energy efficiency and create new jobs. Under the ESPC program, new energy efficient equipment is installed at Federal facilities at no up-front cost to the government. The cost of the improvements is paid for over time with energy costs saved on utility bills, and the private sector contractors guarantee the energy savings.

When you get the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, greenies, and the heads of numerous cities, states, companies, and universities behind something, you know you’ve got a big win-win-win initiative.

More info on the initiative and initial partners is available via the White House.

Your thoughts?

Related posts:

  1. Obama’s Energy-Efficient Buildings Initiative Will Create 114,000 Jobs, New Report Finds
  2. Columbia University Gives the Big Apple a Running Start on Better Buildings
  3. Obama Highlighting How Energy Efficiency Legislation Creates Green Jobs

DIY Biomass

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 01:29 PM PST

This is an interesting post on sister site sustainablog on how to, perhaps, go a bit greener with DIY biomass. It’s not something I would have spent much time thinking about if it hadn’t popped up on sustainablog, but I think it’s worth a share. Check it out:

Related posts:

  1. EU Looks to Develop Biomass Markets for Energy Production
  2. 3 Good Ways to Go Solar Today
  3. Scientists Develop Ultra-Efficient Biomass Charcoal Heater

BMW & Toyota Team Up

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 01:14 PM PST

Yes, not a duo I would have predicted, but apparently it’s true — BMW & Toyota are teaming up. And, the good news is, they’re teaming up to help each other produce greener vehicles. Here’s more from Chris DeMorro of sister site Gas2:

Related posts:

  1. Toyota’s New Hybrid Travelling Twice as Far
  2. Tesla and Toyota to Collaborate on Building the Affordable Electric Car
  3. Stealthy Combo Tesla + Toyota Sneak Out a Surprise: the RAV4 EV!

Wireless Charging for Infiniti’s Compact EV

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 01:06 PM PST

We’ve written about wireless charging for electric vehicles a few times. While it’s not in broad use yet, it seems like it may be a popular option for future electric cars. The latest car to announce it might go wireless is Infiniti’s planned compact EV (Infiniti’s Nissan Leaf). Here’s more:

Related posts:

  1. Google Tries Wireless EV Charging from PluglessPower
  2. London: Home of 1st Electric Vehicle Wireless Charging Trial
  3. 10 Minutes or Less: Another New Charging System from Nissan

America and Germany Getting Their Clean Energy Just Desserts

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 12:41 PM PST

Germany is the unquestioned world leader in renewable energy.  By mid-2011, the European nation generated over 20 percent of its electricity from wind and solar power alone, and had created over 400,000 jobs in the industry.

The sweet German success is no accident, however, and the following pie chart illustrates the results of a carefully crafted recipe for renewable energy.

As the chart illustrates, more than half of Germany’s enormous renewable energy generation is in the hands of “ordinary people,” according to the German Renewable Energy Agency.  This outcome is more than golden in color, but has been a gold-clad economic opportunity for the German people, who have used the opportunity to become renewable energy producers and improve their economic security in a time of world economic crisis.

The policy recipe behind this golden success is called a feed-in tariff and its basis premise is that anyone can become a renewable energy producer.  Under a feed-in tariff, electric grid operators are required to buy all renewable electricity under a long-term contract, and to offer a price for the renewable electricity that provides a modest return on investment.  The feed-in tariff is responsible for two-thirds of the world’s wind power capacity, and nearly 90 percent of the world’s solar power.

The feed-in tariff is Germany’s complete energy policy recipe because it’s an incentive for generating renewable energy, but also has a democratizing effect – broadening the source and ownership of energy production. Crucially, the feed-in tariff builds a political constituency for more renewable energy production in a way that America’s half-baked energy policy does not.

The following chart illustrates a recent study of support for more nearby wind power in two German towns, each with a local wind farm.  The difference is ownership, with one adjacent wind farm absentee owned and the other locally owned; and the difference is a massive shift in public support for more wind power.  (I’ve generalized this to renewable energy).

The political importance of democratizing participation in the energy system can be boiled down to a simple example: a residential solar installation may add 3-5 kilowatts of new renewable energy to the grid, but more importantly it adds two new solar voters to the rolls.  It may be marginally less cost-effective to allow a broad base of residential solar installations under their clean energy policy, for example, but the Germans have realized that the political payoff far outweighs the fractions of a cent added to electricity bills.

In practical terms, it explains why Germans are ahead of their targets for renewable energy production and can consider replacing their entire nuclear power industry with clean power while the United States lags behind, mired in a debate about extending the federal cash grant program and with an energy market balkanized by 50 distinct state policies.

The success of Germany’s renewable energy policy, in contrast to America’s, is a case of just desserts.  Germany’s policy expands the energy pie and also divides it more evenly among its citizens, resulting in a groundswell of public support for more renewable energy.

American energy policy is half-baked, and its energy future is less appetizing.

The dominate energy policy in the U.S. is federal tax credits, policies that prevents vast swaths of America from being energy producers simply because they lack sufficient tax liability and forcing public institutions like cities and schools into awkward public-private partnerships to access them.  The use of the tax code leaves the renewable energy industry heavily reliant on large financial institutions to help them sop up the credits, siphoning off scarce dollars to pad Wall Street accounts and effectively capping the growth of the industry.  Marshal Salant, managing director of Citigroup Global Markets Inc., said in a recent interview: “There's more demand for tax equity to finance renewable energy projects than we will ever have in the way of supply.”  And Wall Street banks don’t love clean energy, only money.  Unlike citizen energy producers, the banks won’t provide crucial political support when renewable energy policy is before the Congress.

Critics that contrast a feed-in tariff with other energy policy options like tax incentives, REC markets, or renewable portfolio standards miss the point.  The latter are ingredients in a clean energy future, but the former is a complete recipe for the political, economic, and financial future of the renewable energy industry.  Without a similar comprehensive approach in the United States, our energy future may not be so sweet.

Related posts:

  1. America’s Energy Future a Battle Between Entrenched Utilities and Clean, Local Power
  2. Simple, Transparent Feed-in Tariff Policy Responsible for Most Renewable Energy
  3. New York City’s Solar Windfall Illuminates America’s Clean Energy Future

AWEA Reaches Out to Public Urging Extension of Key Wind Power Incentive

Posted: 02 Dec 2011 10:40 AM PST

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has launched a new website that aims to reach out and better inform Americans about how the lack of consistent clean energy policy at the federal level is holding back economic growth and job creation. More specifically, provides facts, figures and tools to urge Congress to pass a four-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) before it expires year-end 2012.

The wind power industry is one of the fastest growing manufacturing sectors of the US economy. Some 75,000 are employed in the industry and analysts foresee that growing to as many as 500,000 in less than 20 years, according to the AWEA. This economic and job growth is consistently put in jeopardy, however, by Congress, which continues to be unable to enact a clear, consistent, proactive clean energy policy.

Congress has allowed the PTC to expire in the recent past. Wind installations dropped between 73% and 93% when it did, the AWEA notes in a news release.

The AWEA’s new website depicts this boom-and-bust cycle graphically. The site also features a minute-and-a-half video that explains how government support of wind power boosts job creation, and how the PTC has been integral to it, creating wind power jobs in all 50 states.

Also on the SaveUSAWindJobs website is a PTC fact sheet and primer that shows how, with sound policies like the PTC, the US can meet 20% of its electricity needs with wind power.

The site also provides the means by which supporters can take action. It provides those interested in supporting extension of the PTC and stronger US clean energy policy the ability to identify and contact their Congressional members and urge them to do so.

"The SaveUSAWindJobs website is a powerful tool for the overwhelming majority of Americans who say they want more wind power," said Denise Bode, AWEA CEO. "The need for a PTC extension is urgent. I ask everyone who supports more clean, homegrown wind power and more American manufacturing jobs to engage their Members of Congress by tapping into this valuable resource."

Related posts:

  1. The "Unlimited" Potential of American Wind Power: AWEA
  2. 369-Member Coalition Calls on Congress to Save US Wind Jobs
  3. U.S. Wind Power Increasingly American-made (Creating U.S. Manufacturing Jobs)

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