Sunday, December 4, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Clean Technica’s Week on the Web: China Dumping Solar PV; First Solar’s Desert Sunlight; DoE’s Rooftop Challenge; European Wind Power; Japan Clean Energy Fund, More…

Posted: 04 Dec 2011 09:03 AM PST

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Another event-filled week in the world of clean tech and renewable energy. Here’s a review of some of the goings-on in the world of Clean Technica as reported around the Web:

- The Daily Kos’s DWG reports that the US International Trade Commission found there’s “a reasonable indication that the U.S. solar industry is being materially injured” by dumping of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules in the U.S. DWG punches a gaping whole through the neo-liberal economic myth of “free trade,” arguing that it’s well past time for US government leaders to acknowledge the deep, structural damage so-called “laissez faire” economic policies of US governments past and present have had on the US economy in the name of “globalization.”

- The Desert Sun’s K. Kaufman does a great job profiling early construction and development of First Solar’s 550 megawatt (you read right: 550 MW) DesertSunlight solar PV farm in the Mojave, about 50 miles east of Indio. The first media representative to gain access to the site, Kaufmann’s portrayal highlights the emphasis First Solar is placing on minimizing the environmental impact of the project and ensuring safety, as well as the welcomed and valuable job training and creation and local economic stimulus the project is providing.

- In Minnesota, Dept. of Energy Secretary Chu was joined by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and SunRun president and co-founder Lynn Jurich when he announced $12 million in funding for the 22 winning regional teams in the DOE’s Rooftop Solar Challenge. Looking to make the process of developing and financing solar power projects cheaper, more accessible and more streamlined, the DoE program is “cutting red tape – streamlining and standardizing permitting, zoning, metering, and connection processes,” as well as improving financing options “to reduce barriers and lower costs for residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems,” according to a DoE news release.

- Wind energy industry participants gathered in Amsterdam from Nov. 29-Dec. 1 for the European Wind Energy Association’s (EWEA) annual conference and exhibition. Attendees got a view of the forest and the trees of what’s been happening in the world’s leading wind energy market, according to this report from Revolve. With offshore wind development developing fast in the north and huge renewable energy projects – wind and solar – taking shape in the south, forging a path for the free movement of electricity across borders was one focal point of discussion. An anticipated spike in offshore wind power project development was another. Three gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power capacity is now installed. Another 141 GW are in various stages of planning, a huge increase and a huge challenge for the industry, Revolve reports.

- More leaders of industry, commerce and finance in Japan are getting involved in renewable energy in the wake of the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear plant tragedy. Sparx, a Japanese asset manager, is establishing a clean energy fund that will invest in renewable power generation plants, “such as mega-solar, wind, geothermal, biomass,” and others, CEO and president Shuhei Abe, told Reuters in an interview. The Japanese parliament recently passed legislation that takes effect next July requiring utilities to buy electricity from renewable sources and pass on the cost to customers. Sparx anticipates making its first investments in 2012.

- Spains’s Iberdrola Renovables and Gas Natural Fenosa are leading a 34 million euro smart grid project that will see smart grids installed a 500,000-plus customer service area throughout Madrid’s Henares Corridor. Supported by the Spanish Ministry for Science and Technology through the INNPACTO program, the project group comprises another 22 tech and industrial partners, including research centers, universities and the Spanish grid operator Red Electrica de Espana, Power Engineering reports.

- Already a leading provider of renewable energy, waste-to-energy system development and installation is growing fast. Plasma arc gasification – wherein organic waste is burned at temperatures ranging from 4000-7000 degrees Celsius to produce syngas and a glass-like slag – is one alternative that’s increasingly on urban planners’ radar. Florida’s Dept. of Environmental Protection recently gave real estate developer Jacoby Group subsidiary Geoplasma the go-ahead to to start building a $140 million-$150 million plasma gasification plant in St. Lucie. The 24 MW waste-to-energy plant has a planned waste processing capacity of 600 metric tons per day of waste and is expected to be up and running by the middle of 2013, reports Waste Management World.

- Oklahoma Gas & Electric and Oklahoma State University have signed an agreement that will power OSU’s Stillwater campus with wind energy. Savings over the 20-year life of the agreement will enable OSU to phase-out a 62-year-old on-campus co-generation facility and replace it with a new, more efficient boiler/chiller plant, according to OG&E. The wind power agreement is a significant addition to OSU’s clean, sustainable energy portfolio, which includes an all-CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) campus/community bus fleet and an energy efficiency program that’s saved $17.5 million across the Oklahoma land grant university’s state-wide network of campuses.

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Size Does Matter — More Massive Offshore Wind Turbines for Europe

Posted: 03 Dec 2011 03:07 PM PST


Siemens 6MW offshore wind turbine
Scotland and 2B Energy aren't the only ones in Europe making waves with massive off-shore wind turbines – electronics giant Siemens introduced its new SWT-6.0 turbine this week. The SWT-6.0 is a larger version of Siemens' 6MW wind turbine with a diameter just shy of 400 feet and using a magnet-driven generator.

Most wind turbines currently in use are land-based, which are relatively easy to set up and maintain. However, since wind inland is relatively unpredictable, they usually generate no more than 2MW of power.

Take It Offshore

Ocean breezes are another matter; wind offshore is often strong and steady, which on the surface seems like a pretty good bet. The problems come while installing and maintaining large pieces of machinery in the hostile environment offshore. Siemens' solution is use of a direct drive generator in order to reduce the number of parts (fewer things to break!) and lighter materials (easier to install).

Siemens cited one further advantage to having fewer parts – more room for the technicians who have to go out and maintain the turbine:

"The nacelle, or housing behind the rotor and blades, is particularly spacious and gives technicians easy access to important components."

Siemens hopes to have up to 50 of its new turbines installed off the shores of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.K. over the next two years.

Source: CNET | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Solar 1/3 of World Energy Supply in 2060? Conservative IEA Thinks So

Posted: 03 Dec 2011 03:04 PM PST

 

solar growth globally

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

The International Energy Agency is notoriously conservative on projections for renewable energy. The agency has embraced the need for more clean electricity and fuels to address climate change and peak oil, but its outlook for the future is usually far more conservative than how reality plays out.

So when an official at the IEA says we could get up to one third of our global energy supply from solar photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and solar hot water by 2060, that's a fairly big piece of news. But even that projection may be conservative.

Speaking to Bloomberg News, the head of IEA's renewable energy unit explained said he thought the target is feasible:

"The strength of solar is the incredible variety and flexibility of applications, from small scale to big scale," Paolo Frankl, the agency's head of renewable energy, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Economic activity will shift toward the sunnier zones around the equator by 2050, making solar energy a viable power source for most of the global economy, the report said. Those regions will be home to almost 80 percent of the human race by the middle of the century, compared with about 70 percent today, and their energy needs will be higher as living standards in countries such as Brazil and India approach those of the U.S. and Europe.

The IEA is clearly responding to the fast-changing world of solar energy. It has released a new publication, Solar Energy Perspectives, that mirrors one of its flagship research products, Energy Technology Perspectives.

But in its recent World Energy Outlook, IEA barely gave solar much attention. The organization predicted fairly modest growth in the solar PV and CSP sector through 2035, with a projection that it would only make up 4.5% of electricity supply.

While solar only makes up a fraction of the global electricity supply today, the downward cost curve of technologies is pushing it toward a breaking point. By sometime in 2012, the installed cost of a crystalline-silicon solar PV system over 1 MW in the U.S. could dip to around $2.50 a watt. At around 2$ a watt we could cost-competitively meet around 30% of global electricity supply, says solar expert and Carbon War Room CEO Jigar Shah.

Shah believes solar can reach a 5% penetration level in the U.S. by 2020, with cost reductions coming mostly from innovations in hardware and installation, not dramatic improvements in the lab.

While the IEA is far less ambitious in its projections, the agency seems to agree that a "systems-based approach" to manufacturing and installation will be the key driver to reaching high penetration levels of different solar technologies. And rather than focus on specific subsidies for solar in the long-term, IEA says the most important incentive will be a price on carbon.

Solar is clearly proving itself without a price on carbon. With an effective pricing regime in place, a 30% penetration would almost certainly be low.

JR:  I'm not quite sure I agree with the IEA that "Economic activity will shift toward the sunnier zones around the equator by 2050."   They seem to have forgotten global warming, which is going to make many of those sunny areas increasingly uninhabitable by mid-century (see "An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces"). Fortunately, you can string high-voltage DC power lines from the deserts.

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4 More Cleantech Policy Stories

Posted: 03 Dec 2011 02:57 PM PST

Some top cleantech policy stories from around this week:

1. Clean Energy Standards Create Clean Air & Water with No Cost to Economy

The U.S. is sorely in need of a clean energy standard. A recent post by Richard Caperton, Director of Clean Energy Investments at the Center for American Progress, points out the following: “EIA analysis finds that Senator Bingaman's clean energy standard would reduce carbon emissions by 43% and lower GDP growth by just .02 percent.

clean energy standard 2035

2. South American Cleantech Policy May Trump the U.S.

It’s no news to anyone that U.S. cleantech policy is hampered, stalled, and sometimes even killed by the traditional energy lobby and the politicians it can influence. Well, a recent piece on Greentech Media ventures into the possibility that more cleantech companies may postpone investment in the U.S. in favor of investment south of the border. Some of that piece:

… multinational developers, weary of fighting U.S. policy and regulatory resistance, are starting to take note of untapped renewables riches in Latin America’s emerging economies.

In both wind and solar, Latin America has "an enormous resource potential," according to Global Energy Network Institute (GENI) President Peter Miesen, as well as "policies in place" to drive development.

There is already incipient growth, Miesen said in an Agrion Global Network for Energy presentation. In addition, established manufacturers and developers, especially those in Spain who share both a language and a cultural history, may have a unique opportunity in Latin America. He was suggesting, but did not name, Spanish multinational renewables powerhouses like Iberdrola, Gamesa, and Acciona.

From the middle of the last decade, growth in Latin America's installed wind capacity has been greater than that of any of the world's leaders except China. There is now, Miesen said, a cumulative 2,500 megawatts of wind power, largely in Brazil and Mexico, with some development in Costa Rica and Argentina.

"Just a toe in the water" is how Miesen described Latin America's approximately 200 megawatts of installed solar capacity. "The region is blessed with solar [resources] but nobody has taken up the charge." There is also, he said, little solar manufacturing capability, and what is there is essentially limited to Mexico and Argentina.

latin america wind energy

3. Shutting Down Coal Plants Doesn’t Hinder Reliability

David Roberts of Grist had a couple of good posts recently on how the shutting down of coal power plants will NOT hinder electric grid reliability. Here’s just a piece of one of his pieces:

First, as Inside EPA reports, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade group for investor-owned utilities, has done its own internal study on coal-plant shutdowns. Now, you have to keep in mind that EEI and other industry groups have, inpublic anyway, been making hysterical predictions about a huge wave of immediate plant shutdowns that will cast whole regions of the country into darkness. So what do they find when they study the matter internally?

    • There will be far fewer shutdowns than industry shills are predicting — around 321 plants, or 48,000 megwatts’ worth (roughly 14 percent of current coal capacity, or 5 percent of total generation capacity).

 

    • The shutdowns will take place over a much longer period of time than industry shills are predicting — over a decade rather than in the next two or three years.

 

  • Most of the closures are happening for other reasons, unrelated to EPA rules — the plants are old, they’re uneconomic to run, they’re getting beat by cheap gas.

So the fear mongering of right-wingers and industry PR flacks is belied by the industry’s own estimates. For lots more on this, I recommend John Hanger’s blog posts here and here.

Second, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) has just released its own in-depth study [PDF] on the reliability question. It’s interesting because DOE deliberately analyzed a worst-case scenario, a “Stringent Test Case” that the agency acknowledges is more severe than what’s actually anticipated when the rules are implemented.

Even using that extreme case, DOE found that “the overall supply-demand balance for electric power in each region examined would be adequate,” and furthermore, that “mechanisms exist to address such reliability concerns or other extenuating circumstances on a plant-specific or more local basis.” This is more or less what other analysts have found as well.

4. Wind Turbine Owner Can’t Connect It to His Home

One of the challenges still blocking the adoption of renewable energy in some places are grid connection policies that make it hard for people to connect their solar panels or wind turbines to the grid. However, in some places, it can be hard even to connect them to their own home. Jay Nygard of Orono city in Minnesota is the owner of a small wind turbine he wants to connect to his home, but Orono doesn’t have any ordinances on the books for home wind turbines, and it believes that the wind turbine “violates several ordinances.” However, many other localities around Minnesota and the country have developed ordinances to evaluate and allow small wind turbines, and Nygard believes that, if Orono would establish one, his turbine could be hooked up. I’m sure this is, and will continue to be, a challenge facing people around the country — many localities are slow to implement ordinances for new ideas and technologies like this.

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Vespa Retro Coming to Market

Posted: 03 Dec 2011 02:25 PM PST

Our Vespa giveaway post was quite popular, and I’m actually a pretty big fan of these things, even though I’m generally not that into motorized vehicles in general, so here’s a post from sister site Gas2 on a pretty green retro Vespa you might be interested in:

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Land Speed Record for Veggie Oil Truck Crushed

Posted: 03 Dec 2011 02:02 PM PST

It seems like land speed records for alternative vehicles or alternatively fueled vehicles are set nearly every week these days. Here’s news on the latest broken record, which was, interestingly, broken by some first-timers!

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Cleantech Biz & Products News

Posted: 03 Dec 2011 01:57 PM PST

Other than our own stories, here are 8 notable cleantech business and product stories:

1. Gamesa Opens 6th Factory in China

Gamesa, a large wind turbine company from Spain, has opened its 6th wind turbine factory in China now. Ad it’s already got some deals lined up: “It will provide 48 MW to Datang in Liaoning in 2012. In recent months, Gamesa has also signed deals to deliver 348 MW to three leading local power companies, including the first G97-2.0 MW to be sold in China” In total, Gamesa has over 1,000 MW of production capacity in China now.

2. Energy Audit Software Company Stepping Forward

A startup company focused on making energy audits much easier and quicker (which would help to improve the energy efficiency of many more buildings), Retroficiency, recently announced that it has raised a few million in series A funding to boost its software and sales. From CNET:

Retroficiency’s software draws on a database of about 10,000 energy audits to quickly create a snapshot of a building’s energy use. Energy auditors or facility managers fill out a survey with data such as the age of the building, hours it’s occupied, and utility bills to generate the profile. That replaces a process of spending weeks or even months to measure heating and cooling data and enter that into energy models, said founder and CEO Bennett Fisher, who previously worked in commercial real estate.

“Once you give us 10 data points, we can infer very accurately all the minutia that you don’t want to collect manually,” he said. “In 10 minutes, we can be more than 90 percent accurate.”

Photo Credit: Retroficiency

3. Econet Solar Home Power Station Launched in Africa

From the news release:

Econet Solar, a company which designs and sells a range of solar-powered electronic and lighting products, today unveiled the Home Power Station, a revolutionary, standalone electricity solution designed for those in areas where there is no access to the grid or a source of sustainable, reliable power – around 70% of Africa.

The first generation of Econet Solar's new product will provide lighting, and power to charge cell phones, on a pre-paid basis, using the same systems and in the same way airtime is purchased for mobile phones. This mechanism removes the requirement for high upfront costs which have until now prevented hundreds of millions of people across Africa benefiting from solar powered lighting systems in their home. 96% of mobile subscriptions in Africa are on a pre-paid/pay as you go basis, a payment method with which African people are familiar.

4. Delorean Electric Vehicle Takes One Step Forward

Epic Electric Vehicles and DeLorean Motor Company, Inc. teamed up to create a “new lightweight resin infused composite body for the new DMCEV.”

"It was important for the DMCEV to not just have an advanced drivetrain but to also decrease the weight and improve the safety of these new vehicles," said DeLorean CEO Stephen Wynne. "We had aggressive targets for this new body structure and Epic EV exceeded those by a wide margin. We can't wait to provide our customers with new DMCEV's that utilize this new advanced composites technology and the fact that the original DeLorean cars can also be retrofitted with this new composite body structure further broadens the appeal."

epic ev delorean

Photo Credit: Business Wire

5. Offshore Wind First in Sweden

From GE:

GE (NYSE: GE) and Göteborg Energi have started installing the first 4.1-113 Offshore Turbine in the Gothenburg harbour, the two companies announced at the European Wind Energy Association's EWEA Offshore 2011 in Amsterdam. The new turbine will produce enough electricity to supply 3,000 Swedish homes per year and reduces 15,000 tons of CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to the emissions of 7,500 cars per year.

This project marks the first commercial application of GE's 4.1-113 technology, which was introduced in March of this year at EWEA's 2011 conference in Brussels. The four megawatt-class wind turbine is designed to bring a new level of reliability to the offshore wind industry.

6. IKEA Adds 3 More EV Charging Stations in San Diego

IKEA continues its implementation of cleantech projects. On Tuesday, the company announced that it had plugged in 3 Blink Pedestal electric vehicle charging stations at its San Diego store in coordination with ECOtality. “This initiative represents the third such project for IKEA in the United States. Installation also is planned at six other IKEA stores in the Western U.S. To charge an EV at IKEA San Diego, drivers pull into a designated parking spot, swipe their Blink InCard (RFID card), plug the charger into the EV, and then shop and eat at their leisure in the IKEA store while the vehicle is charging. Drivers can get a Blink InCard at www.blinknetwork.com.”

Photo Credit: Business Wire

7. ABB Installs EV Fast Chargers at BP Stations

ABB, a leading power and technology automation company, is installing EV fast chargers at some BP stationsin the Netherlands. “ABB recently deployed the first two direct current (DC) Terra systems in the central city of Utrecht…. Another charger will be installed at a BP service station in Rotterdam in December, with two more to follow at locations to be identified early next year…. ABB's Terra stations can recharge an EV battery in as little as 15 to 30 minutes.”

8. French Firms to Participate in DESERTEC

The humongous, potentially half a trillion dollar DESERTEC project is looking more and more like it will actually get built. Recent news is that France is getting involved more. “[In November], an agreement was signed in Brussels for greater cooperation between German and French firms in the project to produce solar and wind power in northern Africa for export to Europe.”

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Fox News Bites NewsCorp’s Nose to Spite Solar Power

Posted: 03 Dec 2011 10:09 AM PST

fox news vs solar power, SunPower and Dow JonesThe U.S. solar energy company SunPower is the latest target of Fox News’s apparent campaign to paint the U.S. solar industry as a doomed-to-fail enterprise, only this time Fox has put the bite on Dow Jones, one of its own sister companies in the NewsCorp media empire. According a report in Think Progress, Fox news recently slammed SunPower as a “failing” company, but Dow Jones picked that very company to build a huge solar installation at its New Jersey headquarters, which it touted as a one of the “smart solutions for the future of our business.” So, did Fox News just call Dow Jones stupid?

NewsCorp Squeezed by Solar Power

Intra-corporate squabbling is probably the last thing embattled NewsCorp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch needs right now, what with the phone hacking scandal and all, and this could be just the start of another big headache. Dow Jones is the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, the business community’s paper of record and a comfortable home for conservative-leaning commentary. When a mainstream corporate citizen like Dow Jones says solar is a smart investment, and another media company under the same umbrella insists on the opposite, something’s got to give.

Fox News vs. Solar and Auto Industry, Too

SunPower is not the first target of Fox’s anti-solar push, which gained steam this fall with the Solyndra bankruptcy. Since the Solyndra investigation failed to reveal any systemic problem, Fox moved along to find the next poster child and landed on SunPower. That bumps Fox right up against the U.S. auto industry. Namely, Ford Motor Company and SunPower announced a major initiative just a couple of months ago, to pair SunPower’s home solar installations with purchases of Ford’s new Focus electric vehicle, which will have its manufacturing home right here in the U.S.

Fox News, Solar Power and Support Our Troops

On top of all that, Fox is also butting heads with a population sector that it has traditionally staked out as home ground, members of the U.S. military. SunPower just announced a contract to build a solar energy installation for the U.S. Department of Defense, which has been aggressively pursuing solar power and other forms of alternative energy.The agency has started a slow but inevitable transition out of fossil fuels for strategic, tactical and logistical reasons, including the urgent need to reduce troop deaths and injuries related to guarding fuel convoys. Just as the military has traditionally relied on strong federal support for key domestic industries such as petroleum, automotive, aviation and nuclear, it stands to reason that the success of DoD’s solar energy mission will depend heavily on federal support in a wide variety of forms.

Please note correction: Rupert Murdoch is Chairman and CEO, not president as referred to earlier.

Image credit: Fox, some rights reserved by Harlequeen.

Follow on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

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