Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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2-MW WindFloat Towed To Atlantic Site off Portuguese Coast

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 08:13 AM PST

A Portuguese utility, Energias de Portugal, and Seattle-based offshore wind energy developer and Principle Power, Inc.  have deployed a full-scale 2-megawatt WindFloat off the coast of Agucadoura, Portugal.

The project is the first offshore wind deployment worldwide which didn't require the use of any heavy lift equipment offshore. Instead, assembly of the wind turbine occurred on land in a controlled environment before being towed to its offshore site. Officials say this is the first offshore wind turbine in open Atlantic waters, and the first deployment of a semi-submersible structure that supports a multi-megawatt wind turbine.

According to the companies, this offshore installation represents "the beginning of a new sector in the offshore wind industry." This You Tube animation provides a view of the semi-submersible system.

Following onshore work on the system at the Lisnave facility near Setubal, Portugal, the WindFloat was towed offshore some 350 kilometers. Principle Power’s enabling product, a floating wind turbine support structure called WindFloat, allows for locating of offshore "wind turbines in water depths greater than 50m." Offshore wind installations in these water depths have historically not been feasible due to economic and technological limitations.

Over the next few weeks the turbine will undergo commissioning, testing and startup procedures.

In a press announcement, Alla Weinstein, CEO of Principle Power, said: "We look forward to future business and success in this and global offshore wind markets with our innovative WindFloat.”

“The (deep) ocean is the next big energy frontier,” added Antonio Vidigal, CEO of EDP Inovacao.

“Deep offshore wind technology, in particular the WindFloat, will allow us to harness stronger and more stable winds, and in the medium term deliver sustainable energy into our electrical system.”

EDP SA is an energy utility, focused on generation, distribution and commercialization of electricity and gas. Currently present in 13 geographies with over 12,000 employees, EDP is developing Europe’s largest hydro generation project and is currently the third largest wind developer in the world.

Animation and Photo: Principle Power

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Nissan LEAF Wins Japan Car of the Year

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 06:19 AM PST


Announced on Saturday at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Nissan LEAF has been awarded Japan's Car of the Year award.

Tokyo Motor Show 2011 : Nissan Leaf NISMO RC

This is the first such award for Nissan since the early 1990s, and according to Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga, it is representative of both the hard work of staff and the growing global consciousness about zero emission potential.

“I think this is a big challenge for Nissan, to make a zero-emission, mobile society,” he said. "This (award) as a first step — I am so glad, so happy, to receive this 2011-2012 Japan Car of the Year award."

Here are two videos on the news:

Source: Nissan | Image Source: 246-You

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Wind Energy Corp Introduced WindSail Turbine that “Likes Turbulence”

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 05:45 AM PST


Wind Energy Corp has introduced an innovative new wind turbine called the WindSail. The wind turbine is meant for on-site electricity generation. On-site usually refers to people or businesses generating their own electricity instead of power plants doing so and then selling the electricity to its consumers.

The WindSail is designed for commercial buildings and is claimed to react fast and efficiently to the turbulence created by buildings. It is meant for urban areas and is intended to generate supplemental power for buildings.

Where aesthetics are concerned, Wind Energy Corp says that you can customize the turbines to suit your aesthetic taste in graphics, logos, or any colour that you like.

It is said to be a low-speed and high-torque design that does not spin faster than 80 rpm (revolutions per minute). Torque is actually a force that turns an object around an axis, rpm is just a measure of the speed at which it rotates.

The low rpm of 80 is normally compensated for by using either an overdrive gear arrangement, which utilizes a large 80-rpm gear that turns a small gear at a much higher speed (but with less torque) or a gearless generator that is designed for low-rpm and high-torque operation.

The WindSail, according to Wind Energy Corp, starts generating electricity at wind speeds of 7 mph. It is shut down at 40 mph to prevent damage to the unit, and it is said to survive wind speeds of up to 120 mph.

Its various models generate 5.5 kW (5,500 watts) to 12 kW (12,000 watts) and it says the turbines are customizable to the available wind resource. Note that the amount of electricity a wind turbine generates is not what the manufacturer advertises, but is largely determined by the average wind speed in the project area.

You can learn more about the turbine at Wind Energy Corporation.

h/t Businesswire | Photo Credit: Sarah Grice

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Massive Battery System Captures The Wind

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 05:39 AM PST

AES Battery Storage System

These containers hold 1.3 million batteries

One of the biggest challenges facing wind energy is intermittency. Wind often blows strongest when power demand is lowest, and weakest when electricity is needed the most. Because today's power grid needs electricity to be consumed the moment it's generated, that means wind turbines send energy to the grid half as often as an average coal plant.

But what if wind farms could store the power that isn't needed right away and sell it later when demand is high? energyNOW! correspondent Patty Kim recently visited a monumental new energy storage system recently built alongside a wind farm in the heart of coal country. The full video is available below:

Wind energy has come a long way in the United States. It's a multi-billion dollar industry that employs 75,000 people in 42 states and generates about 2 percent of the nation's electricity. And, the Department of Energy says that number could grow to 20 percent of America's electricity by 2030.

That potential is far from reality, though. And, in order to reach 20 percent, one in five new turbines will have to be built offshore where the wind is faster and more consistent, and offshore wind is yet to be stalled in this country.

Intermittency is a commonly cited problem for renewable energy options, but intermittency is only a problem because the energy industry hasn't come up with an efficient way to store electricity on a large scale – until now, perhaps.

A massive new battery storage system has sprung up in the heart of coal country, and it could change wind energy forever. AES Corporation, a global power project developer, has built a wind farm of more than 60 turbines spread across twelve miles of West Virginia's Laurel Mountains. The farm generates enough power for 20,000 homes, and feeds power into the PJM Interconnection regional grid.

But the really impressive aspect of this wind farm is a series of white shipping containers, nondescriptly nestled into the hills, containing 1.3 million lithium ion batteries. Each battery is about the size of a typical C or D cell, and together they provide frequency regulation to the grid. Grid operators at PJM send signals to the battery system every four seconds, telling it to either send the electricity generated by the wind farm onto the grid, or store it for later use when the wind isn't blowing. "It's a level of control over power that we haven't seen," said Praveen Kathpal, Vice President of Market and Regulatory Affairs for AES Energy Storage.

The storage system technology is impressive, but, for now, its impact is relatively small. The West Virginia project can only hold enough electricity at any one time to power about 5,000 homes for 15 minutes.

"Projects like these are the beginning of a long wave of energy storage projects to come," said Kathpal. AES says they're taking the next step in West Texas, where they want to build a second battery project, roughly three times larger than the West Virginia system.

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Solar-Powered Air Conditioning for Cars

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 05:16 AM PST

Solar-powered car -- not a car using the solar-powered air conditioning system discussed below.

Solar Powered Car (Corvair) -- not a car using the solar-powered air conditioning system discussed below.

PolyU’s department of electrical engineering, in collaboration with Green Power Industrial, has developed an air conditioning system for cars that utilizes a photovoltaic solar panel to power the air conditioning system when the engine is off.

The solar panel is made of a flexible material so that it can conform to the shape of the car roof, and it charges a battery which, in turn, powers the standalone air conditioning system.

Traditional vehicles use the engine to turn the air conditioner compressor on via a clutch, and the alternator to power the fans. When the air conditioning system is turned on, the clutch (which is attached to the compressor’s rotor) is pressed by an electromagnet against a wheel that is always being turned by the engine (via a belt) and the clutch then turns,… and the clutch finally turns the engine.

One of the touted benefits of this solar-powered setup is reduced air pollution and reduced fuel consumption, because people tend to keep their engines on (in order to keep the A/C on) when waiting in parking lots for their child to get out of school, or maybe while a friend is grabbing a few things in a store, and so on.

Of course, when idling, your fuel economy is actually 0 mpg, since you are burning gas but not actually going anywhere, so all of it (except what is used for the air conditioning) is wasted and lowers your average fuel efficiency.

This system received two awards from the 39th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva this year and the developers of the system claim that they expect widespread deployment of it.

h/t ResearchSea.com | Photo Credit: Corvair Owner

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200-MW Solar Farm to be Established in Hardee County (Sunshine State)

Posted: 06 Dec 2011 05:04 AM PST

solar panels farm

National Solar Power has announced that it plans to construct a 200-MW (200-million-watts, 200,000-kW, 0.2-GW) solar power plant in Hardee County, Florida.

This solar farm project is the company’s second — the first was located in Gadsden County, Florida. The farm is expected to cost $700 million USD and the Hardee County Commission recently approved it.

At a cost of $700 million dollars, a 200-MW solar farm costs $3.50 per watt, including construction.

Solar farms of this size are very uncommon — they are usually less than 100 MW. This project will consist of ten 200-acre solar farms, which are to cost $70 million each.

The project is expected to create 200 jobs during the 5 year construction process, and up to 50 permanent jobs afterwards. It will be located 3 1/2 miles from Avon Park Executive Airport on Holly Hill Grove.

National Solar Power said that each 20-MW portion of the project will employ a three-person maintenance crew, an engineer, and security personnel, and the average salary for the permanent jobs mentioned above is expected to be $40,000 per year.

Bill Lambert, Hardee County Economic Development Director said:

"Hardee County welcomes National Solar to the heart of the Sunshine State. This breakthrough approach to photovoltaic energy production and innovative financial structure provides confidence in the project’s success along with affordable and significant energy solutions for everyone. The approach taken by National Solar stands in a unique category indicating a Rosetta Stone solution to effective, efficient solar energy production. We remain excited and eager to assist with the advancement and realization of this project."

National Solar Power also recently launched Green Infrastructure Partners, LLC to help fund renewable energy projects.

Once the local and state approval process is completed and the construction crew break ground, the plant is expected to be up and running within six to seven months.

h/t Businesswire.com | Solar panels via shutterstock

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Group Purchase Gets Residential Solar to Grid Parity in Los Angeles

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 01:45 PM PST

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project.

Back for a second round, the Open Neighborhoods organization in Los Angeles has organized another group purchase of residential and commercial solar PV, bringing the lifetime cost of solar well under the cost of grid electricity even for individual homeowners.

The savings from the group purchase are enormous.  With prices are around $4.40 per Watt installed for solar, Open Neighborhoods gets residential solar for $2.00 cheaper than the average residential-scale solar prices reported by the Solar Energy Industries Association for the second quarter of 2011.  That equates to a 6 cents per kilowatt-hour savings on solar over 25 years.  Even though solar power is typically cheaper in California than elsewhere in the U.S., the group purchase promises savings of as much as 33% on a residential solar array.

The low group purchase price means that those who go solar will have cheaper electricity from their rooftop panels than average grid electricity by 2015 (assuming retail grid prices rise by 3% per year).  If the solar user is on a time-of-use pricing plan, they’ll have cheaper electricity from solar on day 1, during peak hours.  The comparison assumes the homeowner accesses both federal tax incentives, the 30% tax credit and the depreciation bonus (possible through a lease or power purchase arrangement).

The following chart illustrates the cost of power from a group-purchased rooftop solar array versus grid electricity over the next 25 years.

solar group purchasing prices LA

The results are promising and show that economies of scale can be achieved even with residential solar, if folks work together.

Unfortunately, not all residential customers can get this grid-beating price.  There are two federal tax incentives, a 30% tax credit and a depreciation tax deduction.  The latter can’t be used by homeowners who own their solar array, making the economics for them a lot less favorable than for those who lease their system.  The following chart illustrates how much of the cost savings from solar are lost when a residential customer can’t access the depreciation benefit.

solar group purchasing chart

The potential cost reductions from group solar raises hopes for more distributed solar power development, but residential solar may not flourish as it could without changes to federal solar incentives.

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Gasoline Fuel Cell Would Boost Electric Car Range

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 12:15 PM PST

Fuel Cell Powered Chevrolet Equinox

Introduction to the Problem

You, like most people, may already be familiar with the fact that electric vehicles have a relatively short driving range compared to traditional gasoline powered vehicles.

Most people do not need to drive more than 80 miles per trip, but range anxiety is a problem helping to prevent the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

People, in general, would like to have a driving range significantly more than the distance they usually drive, just in case they have to drive far, which is perfectly understandable.

This issue can be addressed, albeit with consequences, using a backup electricity generator that can either charge the electric vehicle’s batteries, directly power the vehicle’s electric motor if the battery dies, provide additional power to the motor if necessary, or all of the above.

One of the consequences of including a generator in an electric vehicle is that it will increase the vehicle’s weight, and hence degrade efficiency as well as performance. Another consequence, and the most important one, in my opinion, is that the generator is very expensive, so it increases the price of the vehicle.

However, the point is that the backup generator can extend driving range to several hundred miles. Chevrolet did this with the Volt.

Volt owners enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they can drive even farther than they could in a traditional gasoline-only vehicle, which provides a range of only a few hundred miles.

Now, back to reality: Backup generators are too expensive, and they are also too inefficient (despite being more efficient than a hybrid gasoline engine).

New Generator Could Address Range Issue Efficiently

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a type of generator that they say would boost the driving range of electric vehicles (with the help of some fossil fuels) and keep carbon dioxide emissions low. Some key points:

  • The generator uses solid-oxide fuel cells, which can be powered by some readily available fossil fuels, such as natural gas, diesel, and gasoline (unlike hydrogen fuel cells).
  • The key reason this could boost range is because the energy density of gasoline is very high (12,500 Wh/kg).
  • The researchers developed a new electrolyte materials and changed the cell design a bit in order to make it more compact than traditional solid-oxide fuel cells. Traditional solid-oxide fuel cells are too large for vehicles, but the researchers say this new one produces ten times more power for its size. This means that it could be ten times smaller than a traditional gasoline engine and produce just as much power, making it a much more suitable candidate for electric vehicles.
  • Another problem with traditional solid-oxide fuel cells is that they have to be heated to very high temperatures of 900 ⁰C  in order to function correctly (this is the operating temperature). The researchers say that they lowered the operating temperature by hundreds of degrees to 650 ⁰C, which is not only a cheaper and easier temperature to maintain, but cheaper materials can be used. (Higher temperature materials tend to cost more money.)

This improvement is impressive, but it still needs work. Turning it on and off with each trip would cause too much wear and tear, shortening it’s life, so the car would need to include a battery pack that it would keep charged. Also, these fuel cells still use fossil fuels — so, even though they could help to facilitate the adoption of more efficient electric vehicles, they would still rely on economically and environmentally unsustainable fossil fuels a bit.

h/t Technology Review | Photo Credit: svacher

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Why Build Houses When You Can Build an EV Instead?

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 12:02 PM PST

LIXIL wooden electric carOne might think that exhibition booths at the Tokyo Motor Show are only available to the automotive industry. One would be wrong. At least one booth belongs to the housing manufacturer LIXIL, which will be spending the week showing off a rather unusual short-range EV. For the past several months, LIXIL has been working with a number of other companies (including Tostem, INAX, Shin Nikkei Co., Ltd., and Sun Wave Corporation) to make the allegedly actually-running single-seat electric car.

We Will Not Disturb the Environment

One might wonder, as I did, why LIXIL felt the need to build an EV – but it turns out it's less about the car and more about the lifestyle, or at least about the idea of the lifestyle. Under the broad umbrella of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association's theme for this year's auto show – Smart Mobility City 2011 – LIXIL has grabbed the idea of harmony with nature and run with it.

Boy, did they run with it. "This is a house where life and car meet, a midterior bound together in the mobile lifestyle," LIXIL says in their booth, further explaining that they're proposing a way to live harmoniously with nature. Given the way nature has been pounding Japan this year, I can see why that would be an attractive idea.

But Where Are The Wheels?

In order to be relevant at the auto show, LIXIL did have to bring a car. They developed and built what is being billed as a "furniture-esque" EV, which either looks like the return of the 20s or the treehouse out back with wheels on. It seats one, and that’s all the information there is. There's been no word on how the car actually performs or how long it takes to charge, nothing. What LIXIL has said about the car follows:

"Based on the philosophy of building a house, we have made a vehicle which is friendly towards the environment. We are using it to promote smart mobility as not only a lifestyle, but a way of thinking."

It is rather eye-catching, but I'm not entirely sure that a wooden EV is the answer to harmony with nature. But what do I know? I live in the city – there’s no nature here. Let us know what you think in the comments, below.

Source | Image: Response.jp

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