Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Chromasun Harvests Sun’s Heat & Photons with Hybrid Concentrated Solar Photovoltaic-Thermal Modules

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 09:53 AM PST

Image courtesy Chromasun

Combining solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar thermal technology to harvest the sun’s energy and generate both electrical power and power for cooling and heating can boost the overall energy conversion of a power system 3x or more. That offers a lot of leeway in terms of market-competitive production and balance of system costs.

Chromasun’s looking to capitalize on these potential energy conversion efficiency gains, most recently with the “the world’s first installation of a hybrid photovoltaic panel coupled with a solar thermal cooling system.” A commercial launch of its MCT Hybrid Collector is expected in 2012.

CHP with CPVT Grid Competitive with Zero Subsidies

The latest field test of Chromasun’s new MCT Solar Thermal Panel Cooling System follows on research and development work Chromasun completed with The Australian National University and The University of New South Wales. Hybrid solar energy receivers were first developed and installed in standard Chromasun MCT Collectors and then mounted for testing and data collection at Santa Clara University’s 2007 Solar Decathlon House in San Jose. The project was announced in September 2010.

“This project is the first of its kind and uses the newly developed Chromasun hybrid photovoltaic panels and solar cooling system. By using the sun’s energy to generate electricity and then diverting waste heat to drive an absorption chiller, Chromasun can deliver more useful energy into the building than has ever been possible before,” Chromasun CEO Peter Le Relieve stated in a news release.

“This is especially useful for facilities with large electricity and cooling loads. While traditional photovoltaic panels may only harvest 15% of the sun’s energy, newer hybrid technologies harvest over 75%. Put simply, your roof can work harder for you.”

A field test and cost-benefit analyst of Chromasun’s MCT concentrated PV thermal technology (CPVT) carried out by a GE Research team in Bangalore, India resulted in them concluding “that PVT-based CHP (Combined Heat and Power) can be grid-competitive without government subsidies.” By taking advantage of government subsidies favoring development and adoption of clean, renewable energy, “this technology can provide electrical power and heating at a significantly cheaper rate compared to the grid.”

With this latest project at SCU, Chromasun’s aim is “to demonstrate how even a small roof area can satisfy a large proportion and variety of energy demands typically found in modern buildings.”

The new MCT Hybrid collectors are connected to both a Yazaki 5RT single effect chiller and a Sunny Boy inverter. Water at 195 degrees F is supplied by the MCT Hybrid panels to the chiller and 250-volt DC electricity is supplied to the inverter. Hot water is collected in a storage tank and is also available for domestic supply and hydronic heating as needed.

“I think the MCT Hybrid project represents the best opportunity that I know for establishing hybrid rooftop concentrators to provide greenhouse neutral energy independence,” said Dr. Vernie Everett from the Australian National University.

“An integrated system comprising several MCT units can provide all the electricity, hot water, space heating, and solar cooling for conventional houses. The range of units developed also has industrial applications for hospitality, food processing, hospitals, and sports centers to name just a few.”

Related posts:

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The Logic of Deployment, Deployment, Deployment, R&D, Deployment, Deployment, Deployment

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:31 AM PST

This is such a gem it requires a full repost. Thanks to Dr Joe Romm for all the work he does on progressing logical clean energy policy!

by Joe Romm

bizarroa world energy policy lomborgThe NY Times, through blogger Andy Revkin, is pushing Bjorn Lomborg's alternative-universe "Post-Pollution" solution to global warming — more research and development (R&D).  Revkin is also misrepresenting a Center for American Progress report, which is why I am going to debunk this too-little, too-late strategy for the umpteenth time.

As Andrew Light, the lead author of the CAP report, explains, "I think Andy read our piece too quickly" and "I'm disappointed to see once again here the false dichotomy" that "somehow an agreement on CO2 is mutually exclusive with a mechanism to grow clean technology and sustainable development solutions.  It's a completely uninformed view."  I'll repost his statement in full at the end.

False dichotomy is what the do-little crowd traffic in, sadly, and it mucks up the debate — see Study Confirms Optimal Climate Strategy: Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research and Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy.  No, that abbreviated description of the optimal strategy has never been my suggestion for the sequence of investments [!] but for the ratio of spending needed!

See also this post by a leading journalist and climate expert, Robert Collier, noting "The basic message of all these reports is akin to Romm's mantra: Deploy, deploy, R&D, deploy, deploy — but all simultaneously."  Precisely.

We do need a vast increase in clean energy R&D spending, as I have been arguing for more than two decades.  But averting catastrophic warming requires spending several times more on deployment than on R&D.

I would have thought that the recent International Energy Agency report would have made clear to all that aggressive deployment, not R&D, must be where we put most of our money ASAP:

On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.

… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]…. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions."

The IEA is one of the few credible international bodies with a combined global economic and energy model that allows them to come to quantitative conclusions rather than just the hand-waving that dominates most discussions.  And by handwaving, I specifically mean this nonsense from Lomborg (Revkin's comments are in italics at the end):


"In reality, the COP17 negotiations missed an important opportunity to change tracks. Instead of following the same path, that has failed since Rio in 1992 — prescribe large, immediate and implausible carbon cuts to unwilling nations — it should focus on the main problem. As long as green energy is much more expensive than fossil fuels it will always be impossible to get significant reductions. If we instead focused on innovating the green energy price down below fossil fuels. If we could achieve that, we would have solved global warming. Therefore we should rather spend 0.2% of GDP on research and development of green energyThis would be a massive increase of green R&D, have much greater long-term impact and yet much cheaper than any standard climate deal."

I largely agree, noting that developed countries (the United States particularly) should, of course, be doing far more within their borders with efficiency standards, innovation, education and, where appropriate, tightening regulations.

This Lomborg "solution" is bizarre bizarro on so many levels.  First off, it is BS handwaving to simply assert with no supporting analysis that a big ramp-up in R&D would have a "much greater long-term impact" and be "much cheaper than any standard climate deal."  Real analysis, by the IEA and others, makes clear that delay is costly.  While it's true that future clean energy will be cheaper, the cost of building all the wrong infrastructure year after year is staggeringly unaffordable.

Indeed, if we keep listening to the Lomborgs and Revkins, then by 2017, we'll have locked in 450 ppm "unless emitting infrastructure is retired before the end of its economic lifetime to make headroom for new investment. This would theoretically be possible at very high cost, but is probably not practicable politically," according to the EIA.

As many people have pointed out, absent a CO2 price, we're not going to get the cost of new renewables below the cost of existing coal in any plausible timeframe, if ever.  So the R&D-centric strategy means building lots of polluting infrastructure that can only be shut down at great cost.

Second, the "long-term impact" of having emissions keep rising is enormous because of the very long lifetime of carbon dioxide and the increasing evidence that removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will be very expensive – far, far more expensive than mitigation.

Third, renewables have  been dropping sharply in price — but aggressive deployment programs have played a large role, arguably the dominant role, along with huge investments by the Chinese that go far beyond R&D.  It is a false dichotomy to say that a big ramp up in R&D by itself is the key to continuing down the learning curve of renewables.  Many of the keys to cutting costs in renewables come from economies of scale, learning what works in the real world, and non-technological innovations that require large-scale the appointment.  In short, cutting costs requires deployment — see "The breakthrough technology illusion."

It'd be great to spend 0.2% of GDP on clean energy R&D.  I'm all for it.  But we need to spend some 2% of GDP (or more) on clean energy deployment if we want to have a shot at averting catastrophe.

Revkin's piece is titled "A Post-Pollution Path to Global Climate and Energy Progress."  For the foreseeable future, however, we live in a pollution-filled, rapidly-warming world and efforts to minimize that warming will necessarily have to focus on that pollution, particularly carbon dioxide.  As climatologist Ken Caldeira famously said, "Carbon dioxide is the right villain, insofar as inanimate objects can be villains."  As he wrote me in 2009:

Every carbon dioxide emission adds to climate damage and increasing risk of catastrophic consequences. There is no safe level of emission.

Revkin, however, seems to think that there is somehow a movement away from focusing on CO2 — and that CAP is part of it.  Not!

Revkin writes:

This shift away from CO2-centric emissions debates is also evident in a group blog post by analysts at the Center for American Progress, who propose a "multiple multilateralism" approach on climate that, among other things, seeks quick steps on sources of warming other than carbon dioxide – particularly sooty Arctic pollution and gases already considered under the existing ozone-protection treaty. As with President Obama's efforts outside the treaty, this prescription echoes policies pursued in President George W. Bush's second term.

No, that isn't an accurate representation of CAP's analysis.  What echoes policies pursued in Bush's second term is not CAP's strong push for stabilizing at 2°C, including a high and rising carbon price, strong deployment programs plus, of course, big increases in R&D.

Ironically, what echoes policies pursued in President George W. Bush's second term is the R&D-centric approach of Revkin and Lomborg — see my 2007 post, Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: "Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah." In Bush's 21-minute speech on climate he used the word "technology" 19 times.  He stated Lomborg's basic do-little message well:

Our investments in research and technology are bringing the world closer to a remarkable breakthrough – an age of clean energy where we can power our growing economies and improve the lives of our people and be responsible stewards of the earth the Almighty trusted to our care.

Sound familiar?

And here's Bush in 2008: "We must all recognize that in the long run, new technologies are the key to addressing climate change." Lomborg could have been his speechwriter.

CAP Senior Fellow Andrew Light sent me this response to Revkin's post:

Unfortunately, I think Andy read our piece too quickly.  He's correct that reducing CO2 is certainly not the only thing we're after but it's clearly on both ends of our analysis.  Our path forward to close the international ambition gap this decade wouldn't work at all if it were not for the CO2 pledges which came out of the Copenhagen Accord in January 2010 and then were solidified into the UNFCCC system a year later in Cancun.  It's those pledges which make the ambition gap remotely small enough to be  addressed  by temporarily focusing more effort on other forcers.

On the other side of it, our analysis doesn't only focus on getting other reductions this decade from non-CO2 sources but also anything we can do to get CO2 reductions from the Major Economies Forum (MEF), the G20 and anything else available.  Some of those mechanisms will be technology driven just because some of those forums are more likely to see traction through a more technology focused agenda because they've already been aimed in that direction — such as the MEF's Clean Energy Ministerial process that has now spun off from State and the National Security Council to DOE.  The sweet spot here is that so long as the UNFCCC remains — which is sacrosanct to the developing countries who are most at risk right now to climate change — alternative international solutions outside of it can't step on its toes.  So whatever agreements you get outside of it have to be either on specific sectors or otherwise smaller piece of the emissions pie.

Finally, I'm disappointed to see once again here the false dichotomy, which is ubiquitous in the analysis of Breakthrough affiliated scholars, the Hartwell Paper and elsewhere, that somehow an agreement on CO2 is mutually exclusive with a mechanism to grow clean technology and sustainable development solutions.  It's a completely uninformed view. As we argued in multiple columns and forums throughout the year the most important thing that could emerge from Durban was not the grand bargain about a future climate treaty but pulling the trigger on the governing instrument for the new Green Climate Fund and the associated Clean Technology Center and Network.

The fund will do the bulk of the lift for fulfilling the Copenhagen-Cancun pledge to mobilize $100 billion annually for mitigation and adaptation by 2020.  Obviously, what this money will pay for is not new climate treaties but projects on the ground in efficiency, renewables, and land use change, in other words exactly the kind of technology and development focused agenda that the academic "experts" Andy cites in this post say the UNFCCC is not doing.  If Durban would have blown up over the future of the Kyoto Protocol the Green Climate Fund would have been put on shelf for at least another year and perhaps for good as you drew out the possibility that 194 parties could open up the implementing agreement and pick it apart undoing the work of the 40 finance ministries that cooperated in creating it over the last year.  In part due to the hard line the U.S. took on negotiating this document it now has a larger mandate for mobilizing private finance, which if successful gets you well over $100 billion a year, and the fund will have independence from the UNFCCC so that climate negotiators aren't controlling its agenda.  Nonetheless, those who think the UNFCCC is useless might ask themselves why no other forum was capable of creating something like the Green Climate Fund when the need for something like it is obvious.

In any event our approach to this will all be clearer when we publish our full multiple multilaterialism report early next  year.  As we indicate in the post, the piece Andy is reacting to is just a teaser so you can't see all the different mechanisms we'll unpack.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Revkin continues to push his vague R&D-focused "energy quest" and criticize those of us (including the National Academy of Sciences) who push for strong emissions reductions starting now.  Since Revkin refuses to tell us what level of concentrations he thinks the world should aim for – even a broad range, say 450 ppm to 550 ppm — he retains the luxury of attacking those who are willing to state what their target is while maintaining a faux high ground that they are being politically unrealistic while he can pretend his do-little strategy is scientifically or morally viable, which it ain't.

Let me end with the words of Jigar Shah, a solar-industry rock star who founded the pioneering solar company SunEdison and has led the Carbon War Room.  In the first Climate Progress podcast, he candidly shared his views on why doubters of today's renewable energy technologies are so wrong:

It depends on the person … but often they're just too ignorant to know better. For some people, technology is not their sweet spot. They have other skills. And so when someone tells them, "technology is not ready," they just eat up those words … hook, line and sinker and then decide that's what their talking points are going to be. And with those people it's just sad that they don't read more.

Then there are actually people who are diabolical…  This is by far the most interesting way to foil the progress of new technologies. That is, by saying that they're not ready. You know, you see this with the big oil companies. They'll say: "we need all of the above." Or they say: "we are huge supporters of solar and wind if only their costs would come down by 20%. Then, you know, if there were big breakthroughs in the technology, we'd be huge supporters."

No, that actually just means that they don't love solar and wind. It actually means that they hate those technologies and that, in fact, they are trying to figure out, using white lies, how to undermine those technologies. So we just have to call their bluff, as opposed to saying: "oh my god, they're our friends because they said something that seems to resonate with me." They're not your friend. They're actually trying to figure out how to play a nice PR trick to marginalize you.

Jigar actually thinks we could reduce CO2 emissions about 50% cost-effectively with existing technologies, but that by the time we finished doing so in a couple of decades, we'd have another array of cost-effective strategies to take us down another 50%.

The time to act is now.  Anyone who says otherwise doesn't know what they are talking about — or is intentionally deceiving you.

Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research & Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy.  Simultaneously.

Related posts:

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Super-Efficient Scooter (132mpg Scooter) from Yamaha

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:21 AM PST

One more fun scooter post and interview from Susanna’s recent trip to the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, CA. As she notes, 132 mpg is ‘mind-boggling’. Not quite the 984 mpg of a bicycle, but it beats most other transportation options. Check out the full Yamaha scooter repost:

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Efficient Scooters from BMW

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:15 AM PST

To be quite honest, those vehicles below look like motorcycles to me, not scooters… but I guess I’m no scooter/motorcycle expert. Susanna Schick of Gas2 is, however, and she’s got a lot more info on these rather green machines from her recent trip to the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, CA and her interview with BMW Mottorad Vice President Pieter de Waal (video and all). Check it out:

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Gas Prices Up, Transit Use Up

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:09 AM PST

It’s happened before, as gas prices rise more people switch to transit. (Imagine if Americans paid the true cost of gas — oil wars, health costs, global warming costs, and all!) Here’s a full repost of a good story from Andrew Meggison of Gas2 on a recent study on the link between gas prices and transit use:

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Cool Cleantech Stories (1 Not Cool One)

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 06:03 AM PST


Some more good cleantech stories of the pastw week or so:

1. The City 2.0 Wins 2012 TED Prize. For the first time, the TED prize didn’t go to a person but to an idea. Of course, City 2.0 includes a lot of cleantech and other green-friendly features.

ted prize 2012 city 2.0

2. Electric Vehicle & Smart Energy System Teaming Up. Electric transportation and storage technology company ECOtality, Inc. is teaming up with Silver Spring Networks to mesh ECOtality's Blink electric vehicle (EV) charging stations with the Silver Spring Smart Energy Platform. The integrated product will be for sale on the global market. “The companies demonstrated product interoperability at Grid-Interop 2011 [last] week,” ECOtality reports. “The joint development agreement will provide another option, in which the Blink station leverages Silver Spring's Direct-to-Grid communications to securely connect to a utility's Silver Spring smart grid network. Silver Spring utility clients can also deploy Silver Spring's UtilityIQ Demand Response Manager, a robust demand response management system that includes smart EV charging. The application enables utilities to offer their customers EV charging options, schedule charging for off-peak times to reduce customer bills and control load for grid reliably, and collect EV-specific consumption data for billing.”

3. Australia & Sweden Ordering More Wind Turbines. “Vestas has received a firm and unconditional order for 56 units of the V90-3.0 MW wind turbine for Australia,” the company noted last week. The project they’ll be going to is the Musselroe Wind Farm in Tasmania, Australia, which will total 168 MW of power capacity. “Delivery of the wind turbines will begin during the fourth quarter of 2012 and the project is expected completed by June 2013.”

Sweden also ordered a heap of turbines from Vestas recently, 96 MW worth of them for its Lemnhult project

4. Industrial Distributed Energy Generation Expected to Increase 46-85% by 2016. “The industrial distributed generation (IDG) market landscape is evolving to include new technologies, systems, business models, and service providers that are altering how traditional transmission and distribution systems are controlled and operated,” a news release from last week notes. “As a result, according to a recent report from Pike Research, the IDG market is poised for significant growth over the next five years. Under a "low growth" forecast scenario, the market intelligence firm forecasts that total IDG capacity in the United States will increase by 46% between 2011 and 2016, rising from 91 gigawatts (GW) to 133 GW during that period. A more optimistic forecast scenario, which assumes a more favorable regulatory environment for IDG and more robust U.S. economic growth, foresees the market expanding to as high as 168 GW of capacity during that period, an 85% increase over 2011 levels.”

5. 76% of Religious Americans Want Global Warming Pact. “A new University of Maryland poll finds that 76 percent of Catholics and evangelicals support a global pact reducing the pollution that causes global warming, much like the one on the table in Durban, South Africa,” Think Progress reports.

6. Rick Perry Calls Solyndra a Country (and Calls It ‘Solynda’). Oh my. Think Progress notes, “the Solyndra story is a manufactured scandal Republicans have kept alive to try to smear the Obama administration.” Apparently, they’ve even gone as far as turning the company into a country and changing its name (ok, accidentally).

7. Solar Greenhouses in Ladakh, India. “These people have the timerity to produce energy and food – without BP, without a grid, without giant power plants, without giant corporations,  without coal, without oil. And they didn't have to kill anyone,” Peter Sinclair notes. “That would never win you the Iowa GOP primary.” Probably not. Here’s more on these solar greenhouses in Ladakh, India:

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Solar Energy From the Sahara Desert Could Power the World – But Will It?

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:52 AM PST

Desertec - solar power from Africa - 1The African desert is hot. It gets a lot of sun. These are facts that we all know, even if we have no personal experience (and for those of you who haven't been there, let me assure you, it's true). It seems intuitive that the intensity of the sunlight pressing down on that desert makes the area ideal for generating solar power, and indeed – such plans were conceived in 1913 (by American engineer Frank Shuman), and again explored in 1986 (by German particle physicist Gerhard Knies).

Both Shuman and Knies strongly believed desert solar energy was necessary; Shuman believed that humanity would revert to barbarism without it, and Knies felt that it was the only way to avoid dirty and dangerous fossil fuels. Knies even went so far as to say that the desert received enough energy in a few hours to power the world for a year. While Shuman was thwarted by a world war, Knies spent two decades working to develop desert solar power as a viable energy source, and his efforts resulted in the project "Desertec."

What is Desertec?

map of desertec stations and power linesDesertec is a set of plans for a massive network of solar and wind farms stretching across the Mena region and intended to connect to Europe via high voltage direct current transmission cables (which are supposed to only lose 3% of their electricity per 1000km, or 620 miles).

Although Desertec has been widely regarded as nothing more than an unattainable dream for most of its history, it's been gaining some momentum over the past two years. A number of significant German corporations – including E. ON, Munich Re, Siemens, and Deutsche Bank – have all signed on with the project, forming the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii). Germany's decision to speed up the schedule to dismantle its nuclear power plants earlier this year has also helped generate more German support for Desertec, and the first phase of construction is set to begin in Morocco next year.

The Dii isn't entirely German, although half the corporate representatives at its annual conference in Cairo last month hailed from that country, and the main component of the current technology (glass troughs, see below) are only made by German companies. Paul Van Son, Dii's CEO, claims the project is international in nature. According to the Guardian, he said:

“Yes, the initiative came from Germany. But there are 15 different nationalities involved, including companies such as HSBC and Morgan Stanley. This is just the start.”

As noted in one of our roundup posts last month, the French (a big energy player, of course) are also getting on board the Desertec project now.

How It Works

solar trough (built in israel)Most of the solar energy would come from "concentrated solar power" plants, or CSP plants. The CSP plants use both natural gas and solar panels when generating electricity. Each plant holds a number of parabolic troughs – several yards tall – containing receiver tubes above a parabolic mirror and filled with an oil-like heat transfer fluid.

The fluid is heated to 400C (750F) and then used to heat steam in a standard turbine generator. The fluid is then cooled before it is returned to the receiver tubes. During the day, the energy to heat the fluid is all solar; natural gas may be used at night to continue the process. However, the amount of energy produced by fossil fuels is legally limited to 27% of total output.

So What's the Problem?

One of the difficulties in maintaining CSPs is the harsh desert itself; while damaging sandstorms are relatively rare, the troughs must be tilted away from the wind if it reaches a certain speed. Bodo Becker, operations manager at a German company specializing in building CSP plants designed for desert use, says that if the troughs are not moved away from high winds, they act like giant sails. (That's definitely not good for the equipment.)

Keeping the troughs clean isn't easy, either; dry cleaning technology is being developed, but it doesn't quite work yet. Currently, water is used both to cool the heat transfer fluid and clean the array. It's a lot of water, according to Becker, as reported by the Guardian:

“Due to the dusty conditions, we are witnessing about 2% degradation every day in performance, so we need to clean them daily. We use about 39 cubic meters [10,300 gallons] of demineralized water each day for cleaning across the whole site.”

The total cost of completing the project is a barrier, too – it's currently estimated at over $500 billion USD. A number of recent climate conference attendees focused on the question of how Desertec could be financed; EU subsidies, tariffs added to European energy bills, and bank loans were all the subject of speculation.

What Does Africa Think?

mena region, where solar plants are plannedThere's a pretty clear idea – particularly in Germany – of what Europe wants from Desertec, and even the beginnings of a plan to get there. The final question – which should perhaps be the first – is how Africa stands on the project. Specifically, those countries making up the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region – as that's where the solar plants would be located – should have their say.

Daniel Ayuk Mbi Egbe of the African Network for Solar Energy is skeptical of the project in general, fearing that it smacks of exploitation. He is not alone in this reaction, as other MENA-based speakers at the conference raised similar concerns. According to the Guardian, Egbe said:

“Many Africans are skeptical [about Desertec]. [Europeans] make promises, but at the end of the day, they bring their engineers, they bring their equipment, and they go. It’s a new form of resource exploitation, just like in the past.”

Another concern is how much of the energy will be available locally and how much will be sent abroad. Most of the MENA region lacks universal access to electricity, and the need is expected to grow in the near future. The electricity available now is largely foreign, which is an unpalatable situation.

Obaid Amrane, a board member of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, said that 42% of the electricity should be from renewable sources by 2020. "We will build extra capacity beyond what Morocco needs if someone wants us to," he said, "but we will need a big share of the electricity produced by these projects."

At Least We're All Focusing on Renewable Energy This Time

While Desertec and its plants are moving along, other sources of green energy are also gaining momentum in Africa (and Europe, and the United States, and Asia…). Wind turbines and photovoltaic panels both have their supporters in countries such as Jordan, as both are less water-intensive than Desertec's SCP plants, and solar towers with hundreds of pivoting mirrors also have staunch supporters.

Whichever way it goes, the move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy is heartening. Let us know what you think of the push for green energy from Africa, in the comments, below.

Source: The Guardian | Images: Wikimedia Commons

Related posts:

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  2. DESERTEC $555 Billion Renewable Energy Project Moving Forward
  3. Desertec (HUGE Solar & Clean Energy Project) Moving Forward

U.S. Awards Rural Energy Funds to Hydro Projects in Four States

Posted: 14 Dec 2011 05:36 AM PST

Columbia River Hydroelectric Dam

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded more than $8 million to hydroelectric power plant projects in Connecticut, Oregon, Utah, and Vermont under the Rural Energy for America Program.

“The Obama administration is assisting small businesses, including farmers and ranchers, as they work to reduce their energy costs,” Rural Development Deputy Undersecretary Doug O’Brien said of the awards, which went to numerous technologies. “When energy costs are reduced, American rural businesses become more competitive, allowing them to expand and create jobs.”

More details on these four projects:

$7.2 Million Granted to Oregon Hydro Project

This is the largest project by far awarded money, by far, and received $7.2 million of the $8 million awarded to all the projects. The money went to EBD Hydro LLC, which is constructing a 5-MW (5,000-kW), 45-mile project that translates into a capital cost of $1.44 per watt (if this is how much the project actually costs).

This project consists of a single turbine-powered generator that is expected to generate 18.126 GWH of electricity per year. It will utilize irrigated water from the Deschutes and Crooked rivers.

$500,000 Granted to Utah Project

The USDA awarded $500,000 to BMB Enterprises Inc to construct a 650-kW (0.625-MW) Six-Mile Creek hydroelectric power plant.

BMB actually received a license to carry out this project in 1987, but it was delayed until now because of interconnection agreements, rights of way, property acquisition and permit issues.

This project consists of 4 hydroelectric turbines, a diversion structure, and transmission lines (not all power plant projects include transmission lines, sometimes they are constructed separately).

$275,000 Granted to Putnam Greenpower’s Connecticut Project

Putnam Greenpower LLC received a $275,000 grant to fund its 875-kW (0.875-MW) dual-turbine Cargill Falls project in Quinebaug River, Putnam, Connecticut. This project is expected to generate 2.523 GWh annually.

$49,325 Granted to Vermont Candelora Hydroelectric Project

Green Mountain Environmental Consulting project was awarded $49,325 to construct a 65-kw (0.065-MW) hydroelectric power plant on Roaring Branch Brook in Bennington, Vermont.

h/t Renewable Energy World | Photo Credit: Ron Schott

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How Much Do I Need? An Answer to the Most Common Question in Solar Power

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 03:43 PM PST

We have the pleasure of working with hundreds of people every day that want to reduce their energy bills, go green and jump on the solar power bandwagon. And the question we see over and over again is: Just how much do I need and what will it cost? We'll tackle that question here and show you how we calculate system size and cost. We have simple solar calculators that can do this on our website but so many people have asked how this is actually calculated that we thought we'd give a quick solar design lesson.

Start With the Consumption

We spoke to someone just yesterday who wanted solar panels on a 8'x22' trailer. We asked him what his usage was, and his answer floored us. He was using 7000 kilowatt-hours per month, about 6 times the average household consumption. As it turns out, the trailer was an enormous ice maker. This illustrates that homes and buildings of all sizes vary widely in their energy consumption. A 1200-square-foot house in Florida might use 3 or 4 times what a similar house in Missouri uses because of air conditioning and different types of HVAC units.

So, when planning a solar system, you have to know what you use. The easiest way to do this is to simply look at your power bill. You'll want to look at the "kw-hrs" number, which is short for kilowatt hours. A kilowatt hour is 1000 watts running for 1 hour. This number will determine just how many watts are required to almost completely eliminate your power bill.

Factor in Your Location

We also have to account for where you live. We deal with many customers who live in extremely sunny locations like the Southeast and the Caribbean. But we also get calls from the Northern Territories in Canada, where sun exposure is far less. A 10,000-watt system in Atlanta will generate much more power in a year than a 10,000-watt system in Alaska. The same is sometimes true of locations that are geographically much closer to each other. For instance Spokane, Washington has almost twice the sun exposure of Seattle, Washington.

To account for sun exposure, weather patterns, and latitude, we use a number called 'full sun hours'. This doesn't mean the hours that the sun is in the sky, but is a weighted number that helps us determine how a solar panel system will typically perform in a given area. Most of the US has a number between 3 and 5. Some areas close to the equator have a number closer to 7. A solar exposure map with more detail is below:

solar exposure world map

Now Calculate Wattage Produced

So, now we have the basic information that can help us get a rough idea of what a system will look like. Here's a simple formula that will get you close to your number:

Monthly Consumption (kw-hrs) = Rough solar kilowatts

(30 x Sun-hours for your area x .80 to account for efficiencies)

Now, an installer will tell you that does not account for things like shading, the angle of solar panels, etc., and they would be right. But, for rough calculation, this will suffice.

Now Calculate a Rough Installed Cost

We have determined a general system size, so let's crunch some numbers to see what this will cost. Installed solar costs vary widely across the country, but a good rule of thumb these days is equipment and installation for a standard grid tie, roof-mount system will cost between $4 and $5 per watt. So, if we take the average of that number and the result of the previous calculation:

Rough solar kilowatts x 1000 x $4.50/watt = Rough solar cost estimate.

Now, the installed cost per watt can vary for any number of reasons:

  • Difficult installation
  • Higher labor rates
  • Inadequate roof space
  • Remote location
  • Travel time for installers
  • Special equipment requirements
  • Special building code requirements

But, for most people, this will give them a good idea of what solar power will cost for grid tied systems. And, of course, this does not account for incentives at the local, state and federal level. In many areas where installation is more expensive (such as both the East and the West coast) incentives are also higher.

Now you can take on the next important question: Where am I going to put all these solar panels?

Kriss Bergethon is a solar expert and writer from Colorado, visit his solar panels site for more information.

Electric meter via shutterstock

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Third Gigantic Solar Roof in US – Apple Gets Visionary Headquarters

Posted: 13 Dec 2011 02:37 PM PST


A just released update for the plans for the new Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley shows a modification to include solar panels covering the entire roof. ARUP North America and local engineering firm Kier & Wright will collaborate on the Foster + Partners plans  to convert the new headquarters to a solar powerhouse.

Sustainable architects Foster + Partners are no strangers to visionary design concepts; their work includes the first ever port for commercial space travel. On the Apple building  almost all of the 750,000 square foot building, as well as possibly a good part of the parking garage (another 320,000 square feet) will be sport a 5 MW solar array, enough power to supply nearly all the power needs of the huge campus.

The only comparable installations are a pair in New Jersey – which is home to the most favorable solar SREC market in the US. New Jersey SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Credits) essentially make it possible to earn a guaranteed profit off of a solar roof for the next 20 years, at much better rates than the stock market.

The two are for Toys’r'Us  - which has put up a 5.38 MW system on the roof of a distribution center, and Avidan Energy Systems which has a 4.26 MW system. In New Jersey, if utilities do not add a certain amount of renewable energy every year to the grid to meet their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) the utilities must buy a SREC certificate showing that some one else is shipping that much power to the grid.

Some solar is a requirement. Utilities must put over 200 MW of solar power onto the grid, or 3 percent of the energy they sell by 2020 (and that rises to 5 percent by 2026) or buy SRECs showing that someone else has done so. So Toys’r'Us and Avidan are making are fortune off selling their SRECs showing how much solar energy they are putting on the grid each year.

Apple also plans to solar-power a building in Maiden, North Carolina where it has 174 acres of usable space – enough for a fair bit of power – to supply a  $1 billion data center. While you only need about as much (roof) space as a decent-sized living room to power the average home, commercial data centers have much more intensive energy needs.

Related posts:

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