Thursday, December 8, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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8 Ferraris, 1 Lamborghini, 3 Mercedes Crash — Prius Survives

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 07:19 AM PST

Sorry, but this story is too funny not to share. Apparently, a mega-crash in Japan on Sunday (no worries, no one was killed or seriously injured) took down (i.e. crushed) 8 Ferraris, 1 Lamborghini, and 3 Mercedes. In other words, some of the 1% had a few of their toys damaged.

prius

BUT, what caused the crash? Reportedly, the cause of the mega-accident was a Ferrari trying to pass a Toyota Prius and then hitting a guardrail. And, most interestingly, the Prius rode away nearly unscathed, only suffering a bit of rear bumper damage.

If, like me, you are wondering why so many 1% cars were driving together, here’s the story from Yahoo!: “The group — which Japanese police officials called "a gathering of narcissists" — were driving to a supercar meet-up in Hiroshima, where about 100 vehicles were expected to show.” The cars were going about 80-100mph at the time of the crash.

What a world!

h/t Grist | Toyota Prius photo (not the one from the crash) via Beth and Christian

Related posts:

  1. Drag Racing in a Prius? Maybe With the G Sport
  2. Plug-in Prius Hybrid Stands Up to Curvy Vermont Roads, Tops 100 MPG
  3. Toyota Overwhelmed by Demand for Prius in India


Chevy Volt Gets Highest Satisfaction Rating in Consumer Reports

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 06:50 AM PST

 

The Chevy Volt has been having a bit of a rough time lately, but the news you probably haven’t heard is that the Chevy Volt got the highest consumer satisfaction rating in Consumer Reports’ annual ownership survey. 93% of Volt owners said they would buy the vehicle again.

The Porsche 911 and Dodge Challenger tied for second with a score or 91%.

chevy volt image

Some notes of caution, however:

  1. due to the Volt not being out for long, Consumer Reports was only able to survey a small number of Volt owners;
  2. and it “cautioned that early adopters of new technology tend to be more enthusiastic (although the same qualification is true for sports car aficionados), and that other new eco cars, such as the Smart ForTwo, debuted on the market with rave reviews from owners, only to see customer satisfaction scores fall once the honeymoon period was over,” Liane Yvkoff of CNET notes.

While there is the fire issue, GM’s response has been pretty savvy — offering vehicles on loan to current owner — but only 33% of owners have even opted for that, and there are no reports so far of any such issues with bought vehicles.

h/t CNETChevy Volt image via suzi54241

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  3. Chevy Volt Outsells Nissan Leaf for 1st Time


New Solar Rebate Launches for Arizona Homeowners

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 05:29 AM PST

 

arizona solar

One Block Off the Grid (1BOG), an organization that aims to help people go solar (which previously owned CleanTechnica), has announced that it is offering its new and unique rebate for homeowners that want to go solar in Arizona.

The rebate is offered to participants based on the total number of Arizona households that purchase solar installations within a 90-day period.

“There are already some strong solar rebates in Arizona, but we wanted to create a tipping point,” said 1BOG CEO (and occasional CleanTechnica contributor) Dave Llorens. “So, in addition to solar rebates from APS, SRP, and TEP, now there’s a solar rebate that grows according to the real-time level of consumer interest in solar in Arizona.”

For each eligible household, $100 will be placed in a community chest account, to start with, and each time someone in Phoenix, Tucson, Glendale, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria, Mesa, or Sierra Vista goes solar, the company will place an additional $10 in each account from now until March 2012.

After this three-month program ends, homeowners that lease or purchase solar panels will receive a rebate check funded by the community chest account mentioned above.

This new idea was tested in San Diego in 2010 and was found to be very effective. Over the last two years, 1BOG’s membership has grown by a whopping 98.4% due to increases in the cost of electricity and blackouts that took place in September 2011.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented level of interest in energy independence among homeowners,” said Llorens. “Solar payback periods are coming down as electricity bills go up, so we recommend homeowners get a solar estimate at least once every six months, especially in places like Arizona where multiple incentives are in place.”

As the name implies, “One Block Off The Grid” is a community-oriented organization that encourages people to go solar using community-funded rebates.

h/t PR Newswire
Photo Credit: davduf

Related posts:

  1. Homeowners With Prime California Sun Could Go Solar For $10,000 With 1BOG
  2. One Block Off the Grid Expands with Solar Leasing
  3. 1 Block Off The Grid Launches Low Cost Solar Program in San Diego


Global Nuclear Power Generation Capacity Decreases

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 05:25 AM PST

nuclear power

Nuclear power plant that uses gas pressurized reactors, hence the absence of cooling towers.

A new analysis from the World Watch Institute indicated that there is a global nuclear remission (opposite of resurgence) caused by the rising cost of nuclear power plants as well as the safety issues associated with them.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is part of the reason. Last year, nuclear power generation capacity attained a record high of 375.5 GW (375,500 MW), and this year, in March, the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan (which was out of control for months) convinced many people that they are not prepared to effectively contain a nuclear disaster due to the failure of Japan to do so long.

This may be one of the main reasons why nuclear power generation capacity decreased to 366.5 GW (a 2.4% decrease) this year. The World Watch Institute attributed this decrease to a significant decline in the demand for nuclear power.

Most of the decline in installed nuclear power capacity is due to the halt of reactor construction.

There is the possibility that there may be another nuclear resurgence in the future, but that is not as likely to happen as the last nuclear resurgence because nuclear electricity has become much more expensive in the past 8 years. It doesn’t compete economically with cheaper and cheaper wind and solar energy (and natural gas, which is increasing in price but is still very cheap).

According MIT’s 2009 Nuclear Power Summary, the cost of nuclear electricity increased from $0.067/kWh in 2002 to $0.084/kWh in 2009 and most of the cost of nuclear electricity is actually due to the capital cost of the reactors, which has been increasing at an average rate of 15% per annum.

The cost of fuel (uranium) is high (normally greater than $50 per pound, and can exceed $100 per pound), but due to the fact that nuclear power plants consume very small volumes of it, that doesn’t matter as much.

h/t World Watch Institute (via email)
Photo Credit: Ernest W Adams

Related posts:

  1. Global Renewable Capacity Has Now Exceeded Nuclear
  2. India's Renewable Energy Generation Capacity Could Reach 48 GW by 2015
  3. Geothermal Sources Could Add Significant Power Generation Capacity


New Record: Thin-Film Manufacturer Soltecture Produces Its First 100-Watt Solar Modules at 13.4% Efficiency

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 05:00 AM PST

 

thin film solar record

Soltecture, a German manufacturer, has announced that they attained a new CIGSe solar efficiency record of 13.4% (not a worldwide record), and they are producing their first 100-watt solar panels.

CIGSe means Copper Indium Gallium Selenium. CIGSe solar cells are manufactured using a more energy-efficient process than that of traditional silicon wafer solar cells. Thin film solar cells can be printed onto glass and plastic surfaces, and they can also be used to manufacture flexible solar panels. However, their efficiency is relatively low, and low efficiency translates into a greater footprint, which increases their cost of installation.

"Today's peak results are a very clear confirmation of our technology roadmap,” explains Nikolaus Meyer, CEO and founder of Soltecture. "With our development work, we are on the best track to reaching the next milestone we have set for ourselves: 14 percent efficiency!” Meyer says the company will reach that efficiency by mid-2012 at the latest.

"We will, of course, continue to increase the efficiency of our modules," says Meyer. "Our research department continues to work full speed on optimization of the manufacturing process. The concrete projects needed to reach a 16 percent goal have already been tackled and drafted."

With its new broken record, Soltecture continues its success in the solar energy field. When its first thin-film modules were introduced to the market in 2005, their performance peak was 45 watts.

"We are very pleased with this official recognition of our quality management," explains Henrik Kruepper, Soltecture's Chief Sales Officer. "We will use the guidelines of the certification to continuously improve our products and solutions and to streamline business processes throughout the entire company. In this way, we will remain adaptive and able to offer the highest degree of service to our clients. Unlike other thin-film module manufacturers, Soltecture has more than a decade of business and client experience. Continuous technological advancement, intelligent system solutions, and efficient production processes elevate the company to the highest rung of players in the thin-film market.”

Solecture says that 16 percent efficiency is within reach, and, of course, if I see that, I will let you know either on Twitter or by writing another article here on CleanTechnica.

h/t Businesswire | Photo Credit: Solecture

Related posts:

  1. New Thin-Film Solar Module Efficiency Record Set
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  3. Prism Makes $1 a Watt Unique Solar Hybrid of Holographic Thin-film Strips AND PV


Solar Power Less Expensive than Analysts Purport

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 04:31 AM PST

 

(Editor’s note: this is NOT even taking health, energy security, and environmental costs into account — not what this study is about — and it STILL finds that solar has reached grid parity in many places!)

The real cost of implementing solar power is being deliberately hidden from the public according to a study conducted at Queen's University in Canada.

"Many analysts project a higher cost for solar photovoltaic energy because they don't consider recent technological advancements and price reductions," says Joshua Pearce, Adjunct Professor, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. "Older models for determining solar photovoltaic energy costs are too conservative."

In addition, Dr. Pearce is certain that solar photovoltaic systems are near a 'tipping point' at which point they will be able to produce energy for approximately the same price as traditional sources of energy, and are at that point in places.

"It is clear PV has already obtained grid parity in specific locations," according to the study, "and as installed costs continue to decline, grid electricity prices continue to escalate, and industry experience increases, PV will become an increasingly economically advantageous source of electricity over expanding geographical regions."

When analysts attempt to determine the cost of solar photovoltaic systems, they include the costs of installation and maintenance, finance charges, the system's life expectancy, and the amount of electricity it is able to generate.

However, Dr. Pearce notes that studies currently out there are simply ignoring the 70 percent reduction in the cost of solar panels since 2009.

Another key point Pearce and his team brought up is that the lifetime of a solar installation is far longer than 20 years (what has been used in previous LCOE analyses). Pearce says, “"we should be doing our economic analysis at least on a 30-year lifetime."

Additionally, Dr. Pearce says that research now shows that the productivity of top-of-the-line solar panels only drops between 0.1 and 0.2 percent annually, rather than the much higher 1 percent drop used in many cost analyses.

Ignoring system and installation costs — which Dr. Pearce notes can vary widely — equipment costs are determined on dollars per watt of electricity generated. One study released in 2010 estimated that the equipment cost of solar photovoltaic systems was $7.61, while in 2003 another study set the amount at $4.16.

According to Dr. Pearce, the real cost is now under $1 per watt for solar panels purchased in bulk on the global market.

Source: Queen’s University
Image Source: Living Off Grid

Related posts:

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Trillionth Dollar Invested in Clean Energy & Tech, Surpassing that for Fossil Fuel Power

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 10:48 PM PST

Photo courtesy First Solar Inc.

Renewable energy investments are surpassing investments in new fossil fuel power for the first time ever, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance as reported by Joe Romm on ThinkProgress. Adding to the encouraging news, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that the trillionth dollar has been invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency and smart energy technologies.

Wind, solar, wave and biomass energy attracted $187 billion of investment capital in 2010 compared to $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s latest data and calculations. A faster pace of wind and solar power installations, along with oversupply in various wind and solar power plant inputs, is driving installed costs lower, making these clean, renewable alternatives more competitive with coal using conventional cost and return on investment measures and methods, even given their increasingly glaring inadequacies.

Trillion Dollar Baby

Annual clean energy investment has increased nearly five-fold, from $52 billion in 2004 to $243 billion last year, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29%, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance statistics. That’s forecast to double over the next eight years, to reach $395 billion a year, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported Nov. 16.

On Dec. 6, the clean energy and tech market research firm reported that more than $1 trillion has been invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency and smart energy technologies since the firm began tracking data in 2004.

“Like the recent birth of the world’s seven billionth baby, it is impossible to pinpoint with certainty the one trillionth dollar of investment. However it is almost certain it took place during the last two weeks of November, probably somewhere in the developing world,” according to Bloomberg’s news report.

The latest statistics indicate just how resilient clean energy, clean tech and smart energy economic sectors are proving to be. Significant headway continues to be made despite a fragile economic recovery, ongoing sovereign debt problems in the EU and US, and mercantilist trade policies that raise the threat of a trade war. Added to all this is the pessimistic outlook that a global treaty to succeed or extend the Kyoto Protocol to cut global greenhouse gas emissions will be concluded at the UNFCCC’s COP 17 conference in Durban, South Africa.

“The trillionth-dollar milestone shows that the world is not waiting for a deal on climate in order to start turning the super-tanker away from fossil fuels," said Bloomberg New Energy Finance chief executive Michael Liebreich.

"It should serve as a message to the UN and all those in Durban to stop obsessing about a binding deal to cap carbon emissions, and to think much harder about how to speed up investment in the solutions. Another five years of investment growth at the same compound rates, and the world will have broken the back of emissions growth."

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  3. Clean Tech Private Equity Firm Reaches & Exceeds $1 Billion Target for Clean Tech Fund!


Buffett’s Mid-American Buys First Solar’s 550 MW Topaz Solar Power Project

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 09:32 PM PST

Photo courtesy First Solar

Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway have been known to come swooping in and making big investments in companies and sectors where values have been driven down. News broke yesterday that Berkshire’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings has agreed to buy First Solar’s 550 megawatt (MW) Topaz Solar Farm. Having been valued at $2 billion, it’s likely that MidAmerican is acquiring Topaz at a discount given tough conditions prevailing in the US solar power market. Financial terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed, according to CNN’s report.

First Solar broke ground last month on the Topaz project in California’s San Luis Obispo county. At a planned capacity of 550 MW, it’s one of the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power projects in the world. Upon completion, slated for 2015, Topaz will supply clean, renewable electricity to some 160,000 homes.

First Solar’s Mega-projects

With legislation requiring that 33% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 California continues to lead the nation in renewable energy investment and project development.

The Topaz project is supported by a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). Community benefits include the creation of as many as 400 jobs over the three-year construction period, additional tax revenue for San Luis Obispo County, and indirect benefits to dozens of area businesses.

First Solar has several solar power mega-projects in development. Difficult economic and solar market conditions have prompted management to sell its ownership stakes in them recently, however. Doing so provides cash that can be reinvested in new project development, though recurring, long-term cash flow streams associated with owning the solar power farms are given up. First Solar typically continues to earn income from these asset sales, however, as the builder and operator, as well as by providing maintenance.

In addition to Topaz, First Solar’s in the early stages of building the 550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in Riverside County’s Chuckawalla Valley. Desert Sunlight was sold to NextEra Energy Resources LLC and GE Energy Financial Services at the end of September. The solar power farm will generate enough clean, renewable electricity to supply some 160,000 California homes and displace some 300,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. As many as 630 people are to be employed in building Desert Sunlight, and the project will generate nearly $200 million in wages over its minimum 25-year operating life.

Economic benefits to Riverside County are estimated to be $336 million over the 25-year life of the two supporting PPAs, one with Southern California Edison and another with PG&E. Some of the thin-film solar PV modules for the project are being manufactured at First Solar’s plant in Mesa, Arizona, where the company employs some 600 people.

First Solar’s also in the midst of building the 230 MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One solar power farm on 2100 acres of former farmland in Los Angeles County. Chicago-based Exelon, one of the largest power utilities in the US, acquired ownership of Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One at the end of September. Exelon expects to invest up to $1.36 billion in the project, which it anticipates will be “accretive to earnings” and free cash flow starting in 2013, when the project is due to come on-line.

Related posts:

  1. Local Leaders Join First Solar in Dedicating 250MW Thin-film PV Factory in Mesa, Az.
  2. Largest U.S. Solar/Wind Hybrid Project Proposed for Antelope Valley
  3. First Solar Buys NextLight for $297 Million


UNEP Asks for End User Input in Building Global Solar & Wind Energy Atlas

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 08:23 PM PST

Graphic courtesy altE Store

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners are developing a “Global Atlas for Solar and Wind Energy,” and they’re looking for input from end users to help them do so. The Atlas is designed to “facilitate the deployment of renewable energy technologies and enhance investment by sharing the necessary information on resource potentials and related socioeconomic and policy conditions, by means of a unified public domain dataset,” UNEP explains.

Those interested in taking the 10-minute on-line end user survey, as well as checking out UNEP’s Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA) data and tools can do so at http://umfrage.ded006.cyberlink.ch/index.php?sid=53352&newtest=Y&lang=en

The Atlas can be used for market screening that can help investors raise money for more detailed assessments by commercial service providers, UNEP notes. It stops short of providing the more detailed, higher resolution spatial and temporal data and “bankable” information required for project development that private companies involved in carrying out high-resolution resource assessment provide, however.

Surveys can be completed anonymously, unless respondents choose to disclose their identities, and the “aggregated assessment of responses will not allow for attributing specific answers to individual respondents.” All feedback is treated confidentially, UNEP points out.

Related posts:

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Arizona to Cut Solar Rebates – Because Utilities Add a Percent of Renewables Annually???

Posted: 07 Dec 2011 07:05 PM PST

When Arizona went from the bluest of governors to the reddest, its renewable policy was sidelined accordingly. When the state’s new Governor Brewer (R) moved in to the governor’s mansion, she immediately nixed the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative that former Governor Janet Napolitano (D) initiated and governors of California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington signed in 2007, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their five states.

Now she is exiting the state’s extremely modest Renewable Energy Standard, as well. The Arizona Corporation Commission is now preparing to consider reducing solar incentives because the utilities are on track for meeting the requirement, that was begun in 2006, of beginning to add about a percent of renewable energy annually to get to 15% by 2025.

The order recommends setting the residential solar incentive at $0.85/watt, with an automatic trigger that would cut it to $0.70/watt if 45 percent of the funds are reserved by June 30, 2012. For non-residential projects, staff recommends cutting the incentive from $1.75/watt to $0.85/watt. This would reduce the homeowners discount on a solar roof to about $850 -off the upfront cost of a 1 KW solar roof.

In Europe, when utilites exceeded their initial target early on, talk turned to making a new higher target, not a lower one! The entire point of clean energy policy is to add more of it, because it is the solution to climate change, along with more immediate health and clean air benefits. There is no downside to getting 100% of our energy from renewables, and if a small beginner target is achievable, the common sense next step should be to raise the bar a little, nudging progress along.

But Arizona’s ACC is nevertheless preparing to gut 2012 implementation plans for Arizona Public Service and other investor-owned utilities under the state’s renewable energy standard (RES) program, with the goal of reducing the requirement. As a result, homeowners will get almost no help in the sunny, and  state in putting up a solar roof.

 

Since the law has been in effect, it has survived almost never-ending court challenge by the Goldwater Institute (previous: Arizona Renewable Energy Standard Under Attack From Right.) The biggest coal power producer since 1992, Arizona Public Service (APS) owns 4 GW of coal capacity, including the oldest 3 units at the Four Corners coal power plant: dating back to the 1960s.

Since 2006, the modest RES, and the now-dismantled membership in Napolitano’s WCCI spawned a host of solar projects and helped make Arizona the third-ranking state in the number of solar-industry jobs. In fact, local solar investors are beginning to aquire some real political clout to oppose the fossil industry as I noted in  Big Solar Kills Kill-Solar Bill.

Stay tuned.

 

Related posts:

  1. Layman’s Guide to Arizona Solar Rebates
  2. Arizona Renewable Energy Standard Under Attack From Right
  3. Arizona Solar Markets Potentially Losing Focus on Residential and Commercial Solar Projects


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