Sunday, December 18, 2011

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Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Fuel Cells: A Clean Energy Alternative at New World Trade Center, New York City’s Octagon

Posted: 18 Dec 2011 09:56 AM PST

Photo courtesy UTC Power

Our posting of UTC Power’s February 2011 inforgraphic comparing the energy conversion and green tech attributes of their 400 kilowatt (kW) model PureCell with that of the equivalent solar and wind power systems generated a number of comments and criticism.

Looking to clarify matters and respond to readers’ comments, including adding information about the inforgraphic’s underlying assumptions and data sources, I got back in touch with UTC Power’s marketing and communications manager Mike Glynn with the help of the MSL Group’s Mary McCeney. I believe it pays to keep an open mind when considering clean, green energy alternatives.

In the process, I learned about two high-profile applications of UTC Power’s PureCell fuel cell systems. First, 12 UTC Power PureCell Model 400 fuel cell stacks are now on site at the new World Trade Center in downtown New York City. Providing 4.8 megawatts (MW) of clean power when operational, the combined systems will rank as one of the largest fuel cell installations in the world, according to UTC.

In a second installation, solar and fuel cell power are both providing clean energy at The Octagon, a mixed-use residential and commercial building complex on Roosevelt Island in midtown Manhattan. A 50kW solar power array and a PureCell Model 400, 400kW system are supplying 50% of the building’s power needs.

Leading the Way to Clean Energy Independence

Turning to the infographic, UTC Power’s Mike Glynn provided the following regarding readers’ comments and criticism:

The intent of this infographic is to communicate that solar, wind and fuel cell technology can co-exist and are three vital components to help pave the way for energy independence and a sustainable, clean and secure energy future. Other notable technologies include geothermal, biomass and hydropower.

The figures shown in the infographic were derived from publically available sources and calculated/published in Feb 2011 based on equivalently-sized applications (normalized to 400 kW) and installation in the northeast United States (where many of our customers/installations are). Each facility and application is, of course, unique and there are many types of solar, wind and fuel cell solutions available.

The information conveys that fuel cells are an important part of the energy equation and may make the most economic sense for certain applications with a significant 24/7 electric and thermal energy demands.

I should add the following:

  • the payback calculations include the cost of operations and maintenance
  • subsidies and incentives were omitted to facilitate apples-to-apples comparison as they vary so widely and from state to state
  • to reiterate, the Northeast was chosen because that’s where UTC Power calls home. Hence payback calculations are based on the average regional cost of grid power, the Northeast’s grid power coming primarily from coal and natural gas.
  • the estimated lifespan of 25 years is a fair, somewhat conservative average estimate in light of current data and system warranties

Fuel cells really come into their own in terms of efficiency and environmental benefits when they are used to provide both heat and electrical power, Glynn pointed out. “If you just utilize the electrical output, fuel cells top out at around 42% of conversion efficiency, but you can bump that up as high 90% when you use the heat,” he said, “and that’s where it really varies by application.

“We’re upfront about that with our customers. The real gains come when fuel cells are not only used for electricity, but when you process as much of that thermal energy as possible. That’s where you get the 3-4 year payback – with heat integration and incentives.”

Fuel Cells at Freedom Tower, The Octagon

As mentioned, Glynn also cited two high-profile UTC Power projects that illustrate the benefits of fuel cell systems as a clean energy alternative.

The New York Power Authority selected UTC Power to provide 12 PureCell Model 400 fuel cells that will be used in the new World Trade Center (the "Freedom Tower") and three other new towers under construction at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. The 12 fuel cells will provide 4.8 MW of power for the towers. Combined, the systems will rank as one of the largest installations of fuel cells in the world.

Three PureCell Model 400 fuel cells will be installed in each of the four new World Trade Center towers. The first six were delivered and installed in the basements of the towers in 2010, and an additional three earlier this year. The remaining three will be delivered in the coming months based on construction progress.

The project and delivery of the fuel cells was covered in a Wall Street Journal article and video.

UTC Power’s PureCell Model 400 system is also being used to provide clean power in concert with a 400kW solar power array at The Octagon, a Becker & Becker Associates’ residential and commercial building on Roosevelt Island in New York City. The combined systems are providing 50% of the building’s electrical power.

As UTC announced in May, the Octagon was the first residential building in New York City to make use of fuel cells.

The Octagon received the largest initial award of New York State Green Building Tax Credits. It was recognized with the “Green Apple Award” for leadership in applying sustainable design principles to residential development at the New York City Green Buildings Competiton and has also earned an LEED Silver rating.

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Students Show Off Solar Car at Tokyo’s Eco Products 2011 Exhibition

Posted: 18 Dec 2011 07:58 AM PST

SeaTwirl Offshore Turbine with 1 Moving Part, & It Stores Energy with Seawater

Posted: 18 Dec 2011 07:55 AM PST


Illustration of SeaTwirl Wind Turbine

SeaTwirl has created a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) that is both direct-drive and stores energy using seawater. It also uses water as a bearing, which has the advantage of low friction.

The generator is of the permanent magnet type. This means that it partially utilizes magnets (magnetic materials such as neodymium) to turn the rotor. The other type of generator (induction) utilizes electromagnets (coils of copper wire) completely.

When the wind speed decreases, the seawater that was drawn into the structure through the shaft and into the torus by centrifugal force is used to maintain turning momentum, acting as a flywheel. The turbine actually collapses its blades to reduce drag so it can spin as a flywheel  and then generate as much electricity as possible.

Traditional power-generating flywheels are often, literally, heavy wheels that are spun by an electric motor (which could be powered by wind turbines) up to a certain speed.

When the wind speed has slowed down so much that the wind turbines don’t generate enough electricity, the flywheel’s heavy weight causes it to keep spinning for a very long time (this is caused by inertia) and it turns a generator which could either be the same motor that turned it, or a separate generator.

A flywheel is “charged” by powering the electric motor that spins it, and it is “discharged” by drawing current from the generator that the flywheel itself is spinning.

"The concept is very simple, with effectively only one moving part," says chief executive Daniel Ehrnberg. "There is no need for a conventional transmission based around a Cardan [drive] shaft, gearbox or roller bearing." The latter, he adds, is not needed to take the weight of the turbine, "as the water does this".

A model of the concept, which was partially inspired by spinning wooden tops used in traditional games, was initially tank-tested at Gothenburg University, Sweden in 2007.

Then a prototype that was four meters tall was built and moored (fastened to the floor) in a lake in Småland, Sweden, to prove the water-as-roller-bearing concept.

"Scaling up this concept 100 or 1,000 times will make the ratio between energy-storage capacity and surface area affected by friction increase by 1,000," notes Ehrnberg. "This means that large-scale models could spin for much longer and hold much more energy.

Ehrnberg is optimistic that this turbine can be scaled up to 10 MW, which he said would be “an economic, efficient industrial size”.

h/t Recharge News | Photo Credit:

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Cleantech Policy News (7 Stories)

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 05:59 PM PST


cap and trade results

1. Cap & Trade “has created 3,800 jobs and nearly $500 million in economic activity for Massachusetts since 2008.” That’s the verdict of a recent study on the matter, Inside Climate reports. Nothing surprising to those who follow the effects of cap & trade, but would probably surprise a ton of people who don’t. h/t Climate Progress

2. Richard Caperton, director of clean energy finance at the Center for American Progress, discussed the ins and outs of feed-in tariffs and how to make a good one over on Climate Progress. This is something we’ve covered numerous times on CleanTechnica, and John Farrel, in particular, gets into the topic a lot (you might recall his recent post showing that feed-in tariffs are responsible for most renewable energy in the world). Caperton’s piece is a good summary of the policy and includes very good recommendations on construction a feed-in tariff.

3. UK public overwhelmingly supports solar and wind power. “YouGov poll for Sunday Times finds over half of people want more wind turbines, while nearly three quarters support increased solar panel rollout,” Business Green reports.

4. Feed-in Tariffs in Malaysia drive super fast solar adoption. “After only a few hours, the budget for solar feed-in tariffs in Malaysia had been used up. By 2020, more than a gigawatt of PV is to be installed in the country,” Renewables International reported on Monday.

5. Carbon tax getting discussion/promotion in Bloomberg Businessweek (h/t Climate Denial Crock of the Week): “The best instrument for coordinating climate-change efforts is the price of carbon. The impact of any carbon-abatement plan — emission quotas, cap and trade, carbon taxes — can be measured by its effect on this price. The aim should be to equalize worldwide a gradually rising price of carbon.

“As a matter of practical politics, this flexibility is essential. It would allow governments to more easily tailor their climate-change policies to political and economic circumstances, altering them on the run if need be. The price of carbon would provide an international gauge of their abatement efforts, so that peer pressure could be brought to bear.”

6. 17,000 push for UK Prime Minister David Cameron to save solar subsidy program (and industry). A petition containing 17,000 signatures was handed to Downing Street urging Cameron to intervene in the feed-in tariff fiasco on Tuesday.

7. EU energy commissioner calling for 2030 renewable energy targets. “The EU’s energy commissioner has called for renewable energy targets that go beyond 2020 to be negotiated in the next two years to help businesses plan ahead,” Business Green reports. “Günther Oettinger was speaking at the launch of the EU’s long awaited Energy Roadmap to 2050, which details how the bloc plans to virtually decarbonise its energy infrastructure by the middle of the century.”

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NFL Legend Jerome Bettis (The Bus) Advocates for Lifesaving Clean Air Standards

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 05:45 PM PST


jerome bettis clean air friend

On Thursday, retired National Football League (NFL) legend Jerome Bettis met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Lisa P. Jackson and members of Congress. Why? He was meeting with them on behalf of the Clean Air Council (CAC) to help advocate for the EPA's newest clean air rules.

As an asthmatic, Bettis spoke on “the health benefits of clean air in advance of the release of EPA's Utility MACT or Mercury and Air Toxics Standards,” a news released announced.

“The rule, which would require the first nationwide reductions of hazardous emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic, and acid gases from coal-fired power plants, would save up to 17,000 lives and prevent 120,000 cases of aggravated asthma a year, according to the EPA.”

Other than Jackson, Bettis met with Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), and Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA).

Miniature of Jerome Bettis

"I am excited to join the Clean Air Council, whose mission is to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air, in meeting with elected officials to talk about an issue that I am so personally connected to," said Jerome Bettis. "I've been involved with asthma education for a number of years. When I learned how vital the clean air rules are to people's health, and realized how polluted air exacerbates my asthma, I knew I had to speak out. The Toxics Rule will save thousands of lives, including the lives of children, across the country – I can't imagine a more worthy cause."

More stats on the rule’s projected health effects:

“According to the EPA, the rule will also avoid 12,000 hospital visits, 4,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, 11,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 12,200 hospital and emergency room visits, 220,000 cases of respiratory symptoms and 850,000 days when people miss work annually. In Bettis' native Michigan, 1,056 pollution-related deaths, 487 hospital admissions and 1,097 heart attacks will be avoided through the implementation of EPA's clean air rules. In his adopted home state of Pennsylvania, the numbers are even more staggering, with 2,510 pollution-related deaths, 1,016 hospital admissions and 2,298 heart attacks being avoided.”

Jerome Bettis photo via DHHS | Miniature Jerome Bettis photo via John-Morgan

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Poor, Out-of-Date State Gas Tax Policies Costing U.S. $130 Billion/Year, Study Finds

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 05:25 PM PST

gas tax report

QUICK NEWS: 50-state study finds U.S. states losing “over $10 billion in transportation revenue every year, contributing to an estimated $130 billion drain on the economy resulting from higher vehicle repair costs and travel time delays.”

More from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which produced the report:

The report, Building a Better Gas Tax: How to Fix One of State Government's Least Sustainable Revenue Sources shows that the average state has not increased its gas tax rate in over a decade, and fourteen states have gone twenty years or longer without an increase. As the cost of paving roads and building bridges rises, the tax that's designed to pay for them keeps shrinking.

Adjusting for construction cost growth, the average state's gasoline tax rate has effectively fallen by 20 percent, or 6.8 cents per gallon, since the last time it was raised. Diesel taxes have fallen by a similar 18 percent, or 6.0 cents per gallon.

Building a Better Gas Tax offers three policy recommendations for modernizing state gas taxes:

1. Increase gas tax rates to (at least) reverse their long term declines.

2. Restructure state gas taxes so that their rates rise automatically alongside the inevitable growth in the cost of transportation construction projects.

3. Create or enhance targeted tax credits for low income families to offset the impact of gas tax reform.

Full Report, with 50-State Data in the Appendix

Executive Summary with Key Findings

Press Release

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Ethanol Industry & Food Prices after Coming End to Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 05:09 PM PST

Andrew Meggison of sister site Gas2 takes a closer look at speculations and stances following the coming end to the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) in this repost below. I’ll just note that aside from ethanol production, extreme weather (likely worsened by global warming) has also had a noticeable effect on food prices in recent years. For sure, the record wet/dry extremes in the U.S. last year added a chunk to the the price increases mentioned on the bottom of this post.

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Solar Energy for Water & Space Heating — Global Overview

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 04:51 PM PST

I’m a huge fan of Lester Brown. He’s one of my favorite people out there, I think. Sister site sustainablog regularly posts stuff from him and the Earth Policy Institute. In the latest piece posted over there, Lester delved into the topic of solar energy for water and space heating. Check out the full article reposted below:

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Compressed Air Vehicle, miniCAT — Coming to India in 2012

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 04:45 PM PST

Over on sister site Planetsave, Michale Ricciardi just took a bit of a closer look at the miniCAT, a compressed air vehicle coming to India in 2012. I’m no car expert, so let me know if we’re missing something here, but this looks pretty promising:

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Cleantech Project News (12 Stories)

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 03:40 PM PST


1. Solar power systems to be installed at 15 Kaua’i schools in Hawaii. “The Hawaii state Department of Education is working to significantly reduce the cost of school operations and, as a first step, has awarded a Power Purchase Agreement contract to install photovoltaic systems at 15 Kaua’i schools,” Solarbuzz reports. “Under the agreement, the installation of the PVs at the schools will be completed at no cost to the state.”

i-go charging station

2. Solar-powered charging stations for I-GO EVs at Chicago transit stop approved. As a follow-up to my post on Chicago’s new, nation-leading solar-powered electric vehicle charging station project, here’s some more news from I-GO: “The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has approved the installation of an I-GO Car Sharing solar-powered charging station for two electric vehicles at the park and ride lot adjacent to the Brown Line Kimball El station. This is the first solar-powered charging station announced on CTA property.”

3. Iberdrola begins work on 1st wind farm in Asturias. Spanish wind leader Iberdrola continues its good, clean wind energy work: “IBERDROLA has started to build what will be its first wind farm in the Principality of Asturias, the El Candal facility, with an installed capacity of 38 megawatts (MW).”

4. SolarCity helping to put solar on multi-family affordable housing in DCSolarCity, William C. Smith + Co., a local real estate development and management firm, and the D.C. Housing Authority announced “completion of a 429-panel, 103-kilowatt solar power installation on a new affordable housing complex within Sheridan Station, a major redevelopment project in the district's reemerging Ward 8 community” on Monday.

5. Duke Energy buys two Arizona solar farms. “Duke Energy now owns two large-scale solar farms in Arizona – the company's first in the American West,” Duke Energy reported on Monday. “Duke Energy Renewables, a commercial business unit of Duke Energy, purchased the Ajo Solar Project and Bagdad Solar Project from Recurrent Energy in August. Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) will buy all of the output from both solar farms from Duke Energy Renewables under the terms of two 25-year power purchase agreements. (APS originally signed these agreements with Recurrent Energy.)”

6. TATA moves forward on 25-MW solar project. “Tata Power, India’s largest private power company, which is developing a 25 MW solar photovoltaic power project at Mithapur, Gujarat, under the state's Solar Power Policy 2009, through its subsidiary, Tata Power Renewable Energy, announced the completion of the signing of financing agreements” on Tuesday.

7. Siemens planning a £210-million wind turbine factory in Hull, England. “Proposed factory, built by Associated British Ports, is set to create 700 jobs manufacturing 6MW turbines,” Business Green notes.

8. Marine Scotland identifies 15 new areas for offshore Scottish wind farms. “The new areas could support a further 10 Gigawatts of development and are additional to the plans already in place for 10 Gigawatts of offshore wind around Scotland,” Argyll News reports.

9. Tuscola County township unanimously approves 63-turbine offshore wind farm. “Before a standing-room-only audience of about 130 people Monday night, leaders of this Tuscola County township approved — with conditions — a plan to build 63 electricity-producing wind turbines,” MLive reports. “The Gilford Township Planning Commission voted 4 to 0 — with member Kent A. Houghtaling abstaining — to grant a special-use permit to Florida-based NextEra Energy, which proposes a $250 million Tuscola Bay Wind Energy Park.”

10. Kimberly-Clark distribution center receives one of the largest solar rooftops in U.S. “Expanding on the 100 kilowatt solar array installed in 2009, the 4.9 megawatt (DC), or 3.5 megawatt (AC), solar installation now covers 350,000 square feet of roof space,” Kimberly-Clark notes. “The renewable energy generated from this rooftop solar array will produce up to 6.6 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year, will offset approximately 4,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, and provide enough electricity to power approximately 925 average Southern California homes a year.”

11. Soitec purchases manufacturing facility in San Diego to locally produce CPV modules for the U.S. renewable energy market. “Soitec (Euronext), a world leader in generating and manufacturing revolutionary semiconductor materials for the electronics and energy industries, has purchased a manufacturing facility in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., within San Diego City limits, and will soon begin fitting the factory to produce its concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) modules for the U.S. renewable-energy market,” Soitec reports. “The site, acquired from Sony Electronics Inc., will enable a manufacturing capacity of 200 megawatts (MW) of Soitec’s fifth generation Concentrix™ CPV modules and with future expansion to double the capacity to 400 MW per year. This major project for Soitec represents an investment of more than $150-million and will create 450 on-site jobs ─ including employees for the joint venture ─ in the City of San Diego and more than 1,000 indirect jobs at full capacity (200 MW).”

12. Kohl’s Department Stores piloting electric vehicle charging stations at 33 stores. “Each participating Kohl's store will have one to four parking spaces reserved for EV drivers to charge at no cost while they shop,” a news release by Kohl’s announced on Thursday. “Charging stations can be activated by EV drivers in various ways including radio frequency identification (RFID) cards available at Kohl's customer service desk and via phone numbers provided on the charging stations.” Kohl's is partnering with ECOtality and Coulomb Technologies ”on the installation of these charging stations and as a participant in their respective EV infrastructure pilot programs funded partially through the U.S. Department of Energy.” ECOtality announced on Thursday “that it would  install Blink® Pedestal electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at 14 Kohl's locations nationwide.”

EV Solar Canopy image via I-GO

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