Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Pacific Micro-State Tokelau Going 100% Renewable

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 07:21 AM PST


tokelau pacific island 100 percent renewable energyAnd it’s challenging the rest of the world to follow suit. Last week, at the Durban climate conference, Tokelau, a Pacific micro-state (pop. 1,500; cars — 3) announced that it was going to be using 100% renewable energy next year. 90% of its power will come from a $7.5-million solar PV system. The other 10% will come from home-made coconut oil. “‘If all goes to plan, the three islands of Tokelau will formally lead the world in percentage reduction in the use of fossil fuels, will be number one leader in carbon emissions savings per person, and number one renewable energy country,’ said Foua Toloa, the ulu, or head, of the New Zealand protectorate,” the Guardian reports.

More from Toloa: “We stand to lose the most of any country in the world due to climate change and the rising sea levels, so leading the way by making the highest per person investment in the world is a message to the world to do something…. It took me 64 hours to get here. Before I left, my eldest daughter said: ‘Go challenge the world in Durban to match or better the renewable energy targets we have set ourselves and which we will meet next year.’”

Of course, climate change is slightly (but only slightly) more urgent for Tokelau than for the rest of the world. It is already facing issues such as:

  • extreme weather
  • strong storm surges
  • droughts
  • coral-bleaching
  • inundation of land
  • groundwater salination

This was the first year in the islanders’ history when they needed to import water. The had to do so follwoing a 7-month-long drought and several cyclones (hurricanes in US lingo) that caused contamination of underground water supplies.

More from the Guardian: “Tokelau’s switch to renewables is expected to encourage scores of other islands. It expects to save 12,000 tonnes of CO2 over the life of the 1MW solar power plant – around 1,600 times the annual CO2 emissions of the average person in the UK. Tokelau will also have no more worries over changing fuel prices and intermittent supplies. ‘No more noisy generators will disturb the quiet of the islands. We will be an example to the world, even though we have done nothing to deserve this,’ said Toloa.”

While some island states are looking to just abandon their idyllic islands (a hard choice, I’m sure), the islanders of Tokelau don’t want it to get to that point and are set on staying at the moment. “We have no intention of leaving. This is a God-given land, we have a culture, a language, an identity and a heritage. We want to preserve Tokelau for future generations,” Tokelau said. But that means they will have to suffer a lot and will be faced with increasing challenges, especially if the world doesn’t act,.. well,.. immediately.

“My heart is heavy. Climate change does not distinguish between colour or race. It is an everyday reality here. It is our life. If nothing comes from this meeting, then we will continue to suffer.”

Tokelau National Flag via shutterstock

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Wind Scholarship Program Opens for 2012 Scholarship Round

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 07:16 AM PST


wind energy scholarshipsAre you a high-schooler looking to get into a cleantech field (wind energy, to be specific)?

You might want to check out the First Wind Scholarship program. First Wind, “an independent North American wind energy company exclusively focused on the development, financing, construction, ownership and operation of utility-scale wind energy projects in the United States,” just announced the opening of its 2012 scholarship program on Thursday.

The scholarship program, which is in its third year now, “will award 16 scholarships to qualified high school seniors in communities where the company currently has projects in operation or advanced stages of development.”

Locations will include communities in Hawaii, Maine, New York, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Massachusetts (the state the Boston-based company calls home). A little more info from First Wind:

Qualified students enrolling in full-time degree programs focused on sciences or technology are invited to apply. First Wind Scholars recipients will be awarded a one-time $3,000 scholarship for one year. The company also awards one scholarship of $5,000, renewable for up to four years, to the year's single most qualified applicant.

In order to be eligible for the scholarship, students need a GPA of at least 2.75 and must plan to enroll in full-time undergraduate study with a major in the sciences and/or engineering or technology. Applications are open and available online as of today, with all submissions due by February 15, 2012. Applications are evaluated on a number of factors, including academic performance, work experience, school and community activities and a 300-word essay. The First Wind Scholars recipients will be announced in May 2012.

High school seniors who attend a public or private high school near the following First Wind projects, whether operational or in an advanced stage of development, are eligible to apply. (Communities in parentheses are those with high schools where students are eligible for the scholarship.)


  • Kaheawa Wind (Kahului, Lahaina, Kihei and Wailuku, Maui)
  • Kahuku Wind (Laie and Kahuku, Oahu)
  • Kawailoa Wind (Wahiawa, Waialua, Haleiwa and Sunset, Oahu)


  • Bull Hill Wind (Eastbrook, Ellsworth, Hancock and Sullivan)
  • Mars Hill Wind (Mars Hill)
  • Oakfield Wind (Dyer Brook and Oakfield)
  • Rollins Wind (Burlington, Lincoln, Lee, Mattawamkeag and Winn)
  • Stetson Wind I & II (Danforth)


  • First Wind's Headquarters (John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science in Boston)

New York

  • Cohocton Wind (Cohocton)
  • Steel Winds (Lackawanna and Hamburg)


  • Milford Wind I & II (the town of Milford, Beaver and Millard Counties)


  • Sheffield Wind (Sheffield and Barton)


  • Palouse Wind (Garfield, Oakesdale, Rosalia, Saint John, Spangle and Tekoa)

Wind turbines via shutterstock

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Repayment of Energy Efficiency Investments through Utility Bills Getting Popular, Study Finds

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 07:09 AM PST


electric bill savings

“On-bill financing, an innovative tool that allows customers to pay for energy efficiency investments though their utility bills, is becoming more widely available across the country and extending opportunities to historically underserved markets, according to a new study,” the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) notes. (Yes, it was an ACEEE study.) “The study, On-Bill Financing for Energy Efficiency Improvements: A Review of Current Program Challenges, Opportunities, and Best Practices….profiles 19 existing on-bill financing programs in 15 states [and] finds that these programs are poised to address financing gaps that have not been historically addressed by other energy efficiency financing mechanisms.”

Basically, a utility company funds or helps to fund an energy efficiency project and gets its money back over time from monthly utility payments. Of course, the energy efficiency projects reduce the energy use of the customers and their bills are often the same or even lower than before while they are paying off the project. Then, of course, once the project is paid off, they are rolling in savings. Programs are often made to fit industrial, commercial, and residential customers uniquely.

Yes, this is clearly an all-around-winning idea. People save money and help the environment without having to do hardly anything.

"On-bill financing programs can leverage a utility's unique relationship with energy customers improving access to funding for energy efficiency investment, especially for historically underserved markets such as rental, multifamily buildings, and small businesses," said ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel.

“There is also potential for traditionally credit-constrained customers to gain access to financing through modified underwriting that takes bill payment history into account,” ACEEE notes.

Sound familiar? It reminds me a whole lot of the tremendously popular and beneficial PACE programs that were booming before an abrupt shutdown last year.

ACEEE also notes, not surprisingly at all(!), that energy efficiency loan programs are low-risk investment. Of course they are. On-bill programs, reportedly, have a default rate of 2%.

“There is evidence to suggest that customers tend to prioritize the payment of utility bills, which contributes to low default rates, and some program administrators are exploring the potential of bundling on-bill loans with other financial products and creating a secondary market for capital. Creating a secondary market could help bring programs to scale, since many of these programs have participation rates of less than 1% of eligible customers.”

Being a relatively new thing, these on-bill programs have some lessons to learn and naysayers to bypass. “These programs are facing some challenges to adoption and scalability, including funding the upfront costs for utilities with a need to modify their billing systems, a perception by some that utilities need to behave like a financial institution to participate in on-bill financing, and the need for more information on the performance of energy efficiency financing as an asset class.” But the promise is huge.

Have such a program in your region? (If you think you don’t, perhaps look into it and see if you just haven’t heard about it.)

Electricity Bill Savings image via shutterstock

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T3 Electric Vehicle Launched (for Consumers)

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 06:56 AM PST


t3 electric vehicle

T3 Motion, Inc., a producer of clean/green technology, announced the launch of a pretty cool-looking “power sports electric vehicle” at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, California over the weekend. The T3 has traditionally been used by law enforcement, but is apparently ready for consumers now.

“T3 Motion’s initial focus on law enforcement facilitated its expansion into additional professional markets, particularly private security, military, and government,” the company notes.

“There are over 3,000 T3 Motion vehicles in operation, spanning nearly 30 countries worldwide and logging over 20,000,000 miles. These vehicles are currently used by the Pentagon, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), police departments, cities, municipalities, universities, airports, ports, military bases and other high-profile venues.”

Now it’s coming to consumers, with the following bragging rights:

  • operating cost of less than 1 cent per mile
  • 400 mpg
  • a “hot-swappable, plug-and-play battery module design that allows continuous vehicle operation without the downtime normally associated with the charging process”
  • 100% electric
  • charges in less than 3 hours
  • 25-40 miles per charge
  • camera/GPS option

Looks like a fun, nifty vehicle.

(Note: I’m not seeing prices for the vehicle on the site. Let us know if you happen to find them.)

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California Rockin’ It with EV Patents & Investment

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 06:49 AM PST

california tesla roadster EV

Move over Michigan, California may be U.S. car central of the future.

California “took in $467 million in global EV venture capital (VC) investment (69 percent of total dollars) in the first half of 2011″ and generated the same number of EV patents as Michigan from 2008-2010, according to a new report.

“California is fast becoming the world’s advanced car capital—our entrepreneurs, savvy consumers, research institutions and our market-driving policies are creating a perfect storm for continued growth,” said F. Noel Perry, businessman and founder of Next 10, the organization that created the report on this. More info available in the report, Powering Innovation: California is Leading the Shift to Electric Vehicles from R&D to Early Adoption, or via the link above. More key findings summarized here (from the link above):

California is a global VC leader in electric vehicles, attracting 69 percent of the world’s EV investment in the first half of 2011.

  • In the first half of 2011, California attracted 69 percent of global investment in EV-related sectors and 74 percent of United States investment in EV-related sectors ($467 million).
  • In 2010, California earned 80 percent ($840 million) of total U.S. and 60 percent of total global VC investment in EV‐related sectors.
  • Investment in this area has grown 712 percent since 2006 in the state, with Silicon Valley and Orange County attracting the most dollars.

California is a national and global patent leader in EV technology.

  • California and Michigan rank first in total EV technology patents in the nation- both generating 300 patents each between 2008-2010.
    • Just two decades ago, California ranked 17th in the nation in this area. This huge leap suggests California is taking the lead over older players in the development of newer technologies.
  • Battery patents dominate California EV patents (86 percent of all patents are for battery technology, from 2008-2010).
  • Globally, California trails only Japan and South Korea in patents but exceeds other top patent developers including Germany, Taiwan and France.

New jobs data shows strong growth in California’s EV sector—going against recessionary trends.

  • During the recent downturn, EV jobs expanded four percent in California, while total employment in the state dropped seven percent from January 2009 to 2010.
    • Los Angeles and Silicon Valley enjoy the largest employment numbers, accounting for nearly half (47 percent) of EV employment in California.
  • Starting with a relatively modest base in the early days of the EV sector, jobs in California increased 142 percent from 1995 to 2010 (growing from 740 to 1,800). Over the same time period, jobs in the overall economy grew by 12 percent.
  • Manufacturing in California’s EV sector is expanding, with a 51 percent increase in employment during the recent downturn (2009-2010).
  • EV business establishment numbers in the state dropped ten percent from January 2009 to 2010 suggesting that possible consolidation in the industry is taking place in the context of the economic downturn and evolving markets related to EVs.

California’s history as an early adopter of new technology, its forward-looking polices and its strong community efforts to spur market growth in clean energy technology all contribute to its role as a market and infrastructure leader in the EV sector.

  • California ranks first in the nation in total charging stations (609) and first in the nation per capita (16.3 charging stations per million residents).
  • California ranks first in the country in total number of electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles.

California-made Tesla Roadster via GS1311

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Leapfrogging to Solar in Africa

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 06:17 AM PST

Just as the developing world leapfrogged landlines (going straight to cell phones), it seems it is leapfrogging some dirty energy options and going straight to clean, renewable energy. Africa's poor, for example, are getting a new line of solar energy products that shoot them forward in a variety of ways. Video below:

And a ToughStuff TV ad for Kenya:

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IKEA Can’t Stop — Installing Solar on 10 More US Locations

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 05:45 AM PST


IKEA will have solar on all of its Southern US locations and 75% of its US locations once 10 newly announced projects are finished, the company recently announced.

ikea sign

Once governmental permits are acquired, installation of these solar projects can begin as early as this winter, and the projects are expected to be completed by Summer 2012.

“Collectively, the nine stores and one distribution center will total 10.7 Megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity, nearly 45,360 panels, and a projected annual electricity output of 15,248,334 kilowatt hours (kWh),” the news release notes.

With 12 solar power systems up on US facilities already, and 11 more underway, these 10 new installations will bring solar to a total of 75% of the company’s US locations, totalling 26.8 MW of capacity. If only more companies were like IKEA!

Here’s more info on the 10 projects just announced:

  • Atlanta, GA – opened in 2005; store size: 366,000 SF on 15 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 129,800 SF at 1,038 kW; 4,326 panels generating 1,421,300 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 1,080 tons of CO2, 192 cars' emissions or powering 122 homes

  • Charlotte, NC – opened in 2009; store size: 356,000 SF on 25 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 126,500 SF at 1,011 kW; 4,214 panels generating 1,330,000 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 1,011 tons of CO2, 180 cars' emissions or powering 114 homes

  • Frisco, TX – opened in 2005; store size: 310,000 SF on 28 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 114,000 SF at 912 kW; 3,879 panels generating 1,336,300 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 1,016 tons of CO2, 181 cars' emissions or powering 115 homes

  • Houston, TX – opened: 1992; new store built: 2004; size: 300,000 SF on 15.6 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 116,400 SF at 931 kW; 3,962 panels generating 1,317,500 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 1,001 tons of CO2, 178 cars' emissions or powering 113 homes

  • Orlando, FL – opened in 2007; size: 309,000 SF on 22 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 120,900 SF at 967 kW; 4,115 panels generating 1,421,500 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 1,080 tons of CO2, 192 cars' emissions or powering 122 homes

  • Round Rock, TX – opened in 2006; store size: expanding to 306,000 SF on 22 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 203,700 SF at 1,629 kW; 6,932 panels generating 2,398,000 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 1,822 tons of CO2, 324 cars' emissions or powering 206 homes

  • Sunrise, FL – opened in 2007; size: 293,000 SF on 20 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 132,100 SF at 1,056 kW; 4,494 panels generating 1,554,600 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 1,181 tons of CO2, 210 cars' emissions or powering 134 homes

  • Tampa, FL – opened in 2009; store size: 353,000 SF on 29 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 148,700 SF at 1,189 kW; 5,061 panels generating 1,792,300 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 1,362 tons of CO2, 242 cars' emissions or powering 154 homes

  • Woodbridge, VA – opened in 2001; 325,000 SF on 11.5 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 63,900 SF at 511 kW; 2,128 panels generating 644,500 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 490 tons of CO2, 87 cars' emissions or powering 55 homes

  • Savannah, GA Distribution Center – opened in 2007; size: 750,000 SF on 115 acres

SOLAR PROGRAM: 187,500 SF at 1,500 kW; 6,250 panels generating 2,029,500 kWh/year

Equivalent to reducing 1,542 tons of CO2, 274 cars' emissions or powering 175 homes

IKEA sign via twicepix

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Renewable Energy Has Grown a Ton Since 1970 in the US, but…

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 05:33 AM PST

David Roberts of Grist recently shared a couple of interesting graphics (in particular, when compared) from Black & Veatch. Here are Roberts’ succinct notes on renewable energy projects visible on the first map (below), which is of renewable energy projects in the U.S. up to 1970: “One, there weren’t very many! Two, they weren’t very big. And three, they were all biomass. In other words, in 1970, renewable energy in the U.S. was effectively nonexistent.”

renewable energy US 1970

And some of Roberts’ apt comments on the next, much different graphic: “The point the B&V analyst takes from that is that Solyndra is a sideshow. It’s not going to stop the march of renewables in the U.S. And that’s undoubtedly true. The point I take, of course, is that this growth is impressive but not nearly fast enough. In 10 years, I want the gray U.S. map to be invisible beneath a blanket of multi-colored dots. Get on it, people!”

renewable energy US 2011

Click to Enlarge

I don’t think there’s much to add — renewable energy growth has been tremendous in the U.S. in the past few decades, but it needs to be MUCH MORE tremendous in the coming decades. (Have you gone renewable yet? Have you pushed your Congressman to support renewable energy yet?)

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COP17 Results — Summaries

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 05:15 AM PST

Following up on Susan’s summary of the last-minute deal made at the COP17 climate conference in Durban, I’ve got a summary of summaries post here (below) that I published over on Planetsave. The first part lays out what I think most everyone sees as the pluses and minuses of the deal. Check it…

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Acting Now Is Fiscally Conservative

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 04:53 AM PST

co2 emissions cuts nowQUICK NEWS: Over on Climate Progress, Dr. Elizabeth Sawin and Dr. Lori Siegel had a nice post (or repost) recently on the cost of ambitious CO2 emissions cuts now versus the cost of pushing the ball down the road. Graph from that above. The summary:

“Postponing commitment to ambitious targets until after 2020 would commit countries to rates of CO2 emissions reductions in decades beyond 2020 that exceed those typically seen in the current generation of energy system models, making future efforts to limit temperature increase to 2°C more expensive and disruptive than needed. Without deeper reductions than are currently pledged by 2020, future generations will have sustain very rapid rates of reduction in emissions.”

I think this is common knowledge now, but perhaps it is not so common amongst our political leaders or they just don’t care since those higher costs will come in several years, once they are out of office. Check out the full piece for more.


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