Friday, December 23, 2011

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Clean Tech Week in Review: 10 Headline News Stories

Posted: 23 Dec 2011 02:05 AM PST

Google made a big news splash this past week announcing that it’s partnering with private equity firm KKR and investing $94 million in four solar power projects owned by Sharp near Sacramento with a total capacity of 88 megawatts (MW), but there was plenty more happening in the clean tech/renewable energy space this week. Following are highlights and links to ten other headline news stories…

1. In addition to announcing approvals for NextEra Energy’s 300-MW Sonaran Solar Energy Project and Iberdrola Renewables’ 186-MW Tule Wind Project, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar also laid out the next steps toward developing the Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Transmission Line, vital infrastructure for development of offshore wind power along the US East Coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opened a public comment period regarding Atlantic Grid Holdings’ request for a right-of-way grant to build a high-voltage direct current (DC) transmission line that would carry electricity produced by wind turbines off the coasts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

2. A global solar industry shake-out continues, as Solar Millennium became the second German solar power company to open insolvency proceedings in German court, Forbes reported. Solar Millennium has a US solar power project pipeline with capacity totaling some 2,250-MW.

In August, it announced its US joint venture, Solar Trust of America, was switching from developing these projects with concentrated solar power (CSP) troughs to solar PV modules. In an effort to stave off looming insolvency, it announced it was trying to sell all of these assets, but couldn’t do so quickly enough. Negotiations and due diligence related to a proposed sale to Solarhybrid are progressing nonetheless, according to a Forbes follow-up.

3. After 40 years, BP is shutting down its BP Solar business, “saying it ‘can’t make any money’ from selling panels at a time when it continues to spend $20bn annually on oil and gas developments,” The Guardian reported. The oil and gas giant’s oft-touted slogan, “Moving Beyond Petroleum,” seems little more than that. BP’s also shut down the London headquarters of BP Alternative Energy, and has all but done so when it comes to carbon capture and storage, another clean tech alternative that’s been highly touted by the oil and gas industry but come to little as yet.

4. BP Solar may be getting out, but other prominent businesspeople and investors are getting in. Warren Buffet-led Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings bought a 49% per cent equity stake in NRG Energy’s $1.8 billion, 290 MW Agua Caliente solar PV project in Yuma County, Arizona. First Solar, which originally owned the project, is using its thin-film Cd-Te solar panels in building the project. Pacific Gas & Electric has agreed to purchase all the electricity produced as per a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA). Agua Caliente is expected to produce enough clean, renewable electricity for 225,000 homes and is due to come online in 2014.

5. The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced that Natcore Technology has been granted an exclusive patent license agreement to develop a line of black silicon products. Natcore and NREL have also entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to develop commercial prototypes based on NREL’s black silicon inventions and patents.

NREL researchers demonstrated the black silicon solar cells, which have been “chemically etched to appear black,” better absorb solar energy. Inexpensive and requiring only one step to produce, the black silicon solar wafers reduce the amount of sunlight lost to reflection to less than 2%, according to NREL.

6. New Jersey solar power project developer KDC Solar closed on its most recent financing for a portfolio of projects in New Jersey. A US Bancorp subsidiary is providing long-term renewable energy tax credit equity financing “for multiple distributed generation, net-metered solar projects, the first two of which total approximately 7 MW,” according to a KDC news release.

On Dec. 13, KDC announced it had closed a $70 million revolving credit facility with Chicago’s Prudential Capital Group, which will be used for construction of non-utility solar PV projects in NJ. KDC has more than 50 MW of “behind the meter” solar projects at businesses and institutions in various stages of construction throughout NJ and expects to have another 12 MW in operation before January 2012.

7. Milwaukee’s ZBB Energy Corp. has been selected by LEMA Construction and Developers to supply a smart, interactive micro-grid that will store and intelligently manage supply and demand of renewable energy from solar PV systems for the City of St. Petersburg Florida Parks Dept. The Smart Grid Integrated Renewable Energy and Hybrid Energy Storage System will be based on ZBB’s EnerSystem, made up of its EnerSection power and energy control center, EnerStore 50 kWh zinc-bromide flow battery module and customer-provided lead-acid batteries.

8. Six of Japan’s electric utilities in central and western Japan have agreed to work together and coordinate use of their grids to boost wind power capacity a total of 400 MW, from a current level of about 1,230 MW, Reuters reported. Japan is making a definitive shift toward making greater use of renewable energy in the wake of the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster. A proposed feed-in tariff (FiT) would require utilities to buy clean, renewable energy from producers and allow them to pass the cost on to end users.

The service territories of Shikoku Electric Power and Hokuriku Electric Power have high potential for wind power development, according to the Reuters report, but lack the demand, or power grid capacity, to make use of it all. With this new cooperation agreement, they’ll be able to provide clean, renewable electricity to large cities in southern and western Japan, such as Osaka and Nagoya.

9. German development bank KfW “kicked off” its East Africa geothermal exploration financing facility with a 50 million euro (~$65 million) capital infusion from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the EU, and the signing of an agreement with government representatives from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

“Geothermal energy is very reliable and thereby stabilizes electricity supply, which in East Africa currently comes 60% from hydropower. During droughts there is often inadequate water to generate power. As a quick fix, governments and the energy supplier bridge these gaps by connecting leased diesel power plants to the power grid. This pollutes the environment and is extremely costly,” a KfW news release stated.

10. Philippines-based Energy Development Corp. (EDC) lays claim to being the world’s largest operator of integrated geothermal power plants. This week, EDC announced it had completed due diligence and is proceeding on closing a joint venture deal in which it will acquire 70% of Australia’s Hot Rock’s geothermal power projects in Chile and Peru. The JV agreement covers four projects, the Calerias and Longavi projects in Chile and the Quellaapacheta and Chocopata projects in Peru.

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EU Will Tighten Cap to Fix Carbon Price Collapse

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 06:36 PM PST

The EU now has ten times the solar power of the US, twice the wind, and it dominates the global offshore wind industry.  As a result, and as a mark of the ease in meeting its Kyoto goal and already lowering its carbon emissions 8% below 1990 levels for its first deadline, the price on carbon has plummeted.

Once a carbon reduction goal is met, there is less need to buy carbon permits, so the carbon price in Europe has collapsed. The Commission, which oversees the European Trading Scheme (ETS)  cap and trade markets, over-estimated the difficulty in covering emissions in the 2008-2012 period, resulting in over-supply of carbon permits.

Two possible solutions are under discussion. One is to raise the target and the other is to tighten the cap.

The next goal post, in 2020, was for 20% reductions below 1990 levels. This could realistically be raised to a more ambitious 30% reduction as Europe’s wind and solar sectors mature.

About 60% of the reductions are allowed to be in foreign investment in renewable energy. This is a key reason that an increasing number of third world solar mega-projects like Desertec are getting off the ground. Instigated by Swiss Re, (the insurer of insurers that stands to go bust under a climate disruption scenario) and other German banks and engineering firms, DII as it is now known, the Desertec Industrial Initiative is the visionary plan to provide 15% of the entire continent’s electricity powered by solar from the Sahara.

The other 40% had to be from projects within Europe itself, which led to the EU installing 29 GW of solar in just five years, ten times the amount that the US had, and twice the wind power at 84 GW, as well as controlling 99% of the burgeoning offshore wind industry. (Previous story: 141 GW of European Offshore Wind Under Way.)

(Related: Why DOE-Funded Floating Turbines May Change Future  of Off Shore Wind.)

The other option is to retire carbon permits, an option that was built into the original legislation to deal with a glut. Last week a vote was taken to withhold a “significant” number of permits from the market, to create a shortage and increase prices for the  next round, essentially tightening the carbon limit or cap.

Even just the proposal to retire carbon permits jolted carbon prices 30%, according to Environmental Finance.

According to the proposal, which got a clear majority vote in European Parliament’s cross-party environment committee, the European Commission would amend the law to withhold a substantial number of carbon permits from the third phase covering the period from 2013 to 2020. Then a vote would be held at the end of January by the full EU Parliament industry committee, and then it would have to be approved by the whole Parliament and the Council of Ministers, representing all of the member states.

That process might sound impossibly daunting to a US reader familiar with the US congress, but the EU has much better protection of the democratic processes against corporate influence or front groups like the Tea Party lobbying for the fossil fuel sector. Also, the media is less corrupted, the education system is better, and over 80% of Europeans vote, compared with under 50% in the demoralized US.

So it is very plausible that the EU will actually decide to take one (or both) of these two routes to solving the “problem” of its success in meeting Kyoto, that its carbon prices have dropped so low.


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80% of Contracts in Latest Brazil Power Auction Are for Wind Power

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 05:51 PM PST


brazil flag green

This story was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

In Brazil's latest power auction earlier this week — a process in which developers bid for contracts with the country's national electricity agency — more than 80% of contracts were for wind projects. This follows an auction in August that brought in power contracts for wind that were below the bidding price of natural gas plants.

The National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL) signed contracts with 42 new power plants worth 1,200 MW — including 39 wind projects totaling more than 976 MW that agreed to an average selling price of US $55 per megawatt-hour, or 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's a 1.2 cent per kWh decrease over the average selling price in the August auction.

A combination of resources and policy have helped grow Brazil's domestic wind market by more than 50% since 2009. With an import on foreign wind turbines, major manufacturers have set up operations within the country that have helped bring down the cost of developing projects. Brazil's estimated exploitable wind resources are about 143,000 MW of capacity — far surpassing the roughly 100,000 MW of total installed electricity capacity today.

However, wind still only plays a small role in Brazil's electricity mix, representing only 0.5% of generation. The country has historically focused on large hydropower projects, which make up roughly 80% of generation.

But things are picking up. After a slow start to Brazil's wind procurement program, the country has proven itself as a reliable growth market in the last few years. The Global Wind Energy Council projects that an additional 3,300 MW of wind projects will be built in Brazil over the next two years.

Brazil flag via shutterstock

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New Wind Energy Projects (7 More Big Ones)

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 05:34 PM PST


Just finished my new solar energy project roundup of the week, so on to wind…. Here are the 7 big ones I’ve seen this week (other than what we’ve covered.. or are about to cover):

hawaii maui wind project

1. 21-MW Hawaii wind project to lean on 11-MW lithium ion battery bank. A123 Systems, an advanced lithium ion battery developer and manufacturer, announced today that it would be supplying “an 11MW Grid Battery System (GBS) to Sempra Generation for the Auwahi Wind project in Maui, Hawaii.” Rendition of the project above.

2. Wisconsin’s largest wind farm begins operation. “We Energies’ Glacier Hills Wind Park, now the largest wind farm in Wisconsin, was placed into commercial service,” on Tuesday, The Sacramento Bee reports. “Located in Columbia County, the 90 turbines have a demonstrated capacity of 162 megawatts and are capable of producing enough energy to power 45,000 homes. We Energies also operates the 88-turbine Blue Sky Green Field Wind Center in Fond du Lac County.”

3. Northern Ireland plans to deploy over 800 MW(!) of wind power and tidal power offshore move forward. “Plans to deploy up to 800MW of offshore wind turbines and tidal stream devices in Northern Irish waters by 2020 have taken a step forward after the Crown Estate invited companies to bid for projects,” Business Green reports. “The organisation responsible for the seabed launched a leasing round last week, following a design dicussion earlier this year to determine which areas of Northern Ireland’s waters were most attractive for development, and how leasing rights should be awarded.”

4. First Wind secures $210 million for 105-MW wind project. First Wind, a U.S. wind energy company, announced that it had received the money for subsidiary Palouse Wind, LLC, the owner of the 105-MW Palouse Wind project on Monday. The project is to be located in northern Whitman County, Washington. “With financing in place, First Wind will continue on schedule with construction of the largest renewable energy facility in the county with the capacity to generate enough clean energy to power about 30,000 Northwest homes, equal to the total energy load of all of Whitman County,” the company announced.

"After nearly four years of preparation and permitting, we are very pleased to see the Palouse Wind project moving forward, providing a source of clean, renewable energy for Northwest residents and businesses," said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind.

5. Edison Mission Secures $252 million for 3 wind energy projects totaling 204 MW of capacity. “The wind projects in the portfolio include two sites operating in Oklahoma, the Taloga project, commissioned earlier this year with a gross generating capacity of 130 MW and the Buffalo Bear project, commissioned in 2008 with a gross generating capacity of 19 MW,” Edison Mission reported yesterday. ” The third site in the portfolio is the Pinnacle project nearing completion of construction in West Virginia, which will have a gross operating capacity of 55 MW when operational.  The projects sell electricity generated to utilities and public agency customers under long-term power purchase agreements.”

6. 30-MW community wind project moving forward. “EverPower Wind Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of Terra Firma, a leading private equity firm, and OwnEnergy, the leader in Community Wind, announced [Tuesday] that they have closed a transaction where EverPower will acquire and construct Patton Wind Farm, LLC,” OwnEnergy reported on Tuesday. “This is a project that OwnEnergy has been developing from inception with its local landowner partner.”

“The project will be 30 MW and will be fully operational by the end of 2012…. The Patton project is located in Elder, West Carroll, and East Carroll Townships across approximately 2,700 acres of agriculture land. According to EverPower, the project will provide approximately 100 jobs during construction, and up to 10 full-time jobs required to operate and maintain the project over the next thirty years.

“As a Community Wind project, with local ownership of the farm, it enjoys unprecedented local support and will provide incremental economic development for the region. Many of the workers will be drawn from the local labor pool and non-local workers will require lodging, food and other necessities that will be also purchased locally, which will benefit local businesses.”

7. 52 MW of wind turbines ordered for Spanish wind project. Vestas announced today that it had received a 52-MW wind turbine order for the El Gallo wind power project planned for Burgos, in the north of Spain. “The order consists of a turnkey project including civil and electrical works, supply, installation and commissioning of 26 units of the V90-2.0 MW turbine with a 105-metre hub height.”

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New Solar Energy Projects (10 More Big Ones)

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 04:54 PM PST


There has been a LOT of solar project news in the past week or so. The bottom line: solar power continues to blow up around the world (India to China to Germany to France to North America to Peru to Palau). Here’s a run-down of the big projects that I’m aware of (other than what we’ve covered):

1. India’s state Rajasthan has opened bidding for 200 MW of solar energy projects. The state has India’s “second-most solar radiant exposure,” Bloomberg notes. “The state plans to auction contracts for 100 megawatts of photovoltaic plants and 100 megawatts of solar thermal plants, Naresh Pal Gangwar, chairman of the state-run Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corp.“ said by telephone on Monday.

2. Recurrent Energy announced that it had secured $250 million for 200 MW worth of solar projects. The financing will be for 20 solar PV projects in Ontario, Canada. “Recurrent Energy, a leading North American solar project developer, announced that it has secured a four-year construction revolver credit facility of $250 million from Mizuho Corporate Bank. The facility will support the construction of 20 solar photovoltaic (PV) projects throughout the province of Ontario, Canada. The credit facility is one of the largest nonrecourse solar financings for a solar PV portfolio in North America.”

3. Rena Solar completes construction of 20-MW solar project in Qinghai, China. Announcement of completion of the project and its grid connection was made on Monday. “The completion of our power plant in Qinghai marks our foray into the solar electricity generation business in China, where we see potential for high growth in the next few years,” Xianshou Li, ReneSola’s chief executive officer, commented. “Qinghai Province has an abundance of natural resources, including sunshine, through its high elevation on the Tibetan plateau. We continue to be excited by China’s transformation from a manufacturing hub of solar products into an increasingly important end-user market.”

4. 60-MW order made for solar power plants in Germany and France. “REC modules were selected for a 60MW module supplier agreement with the German project developer GP JOULE for solar power plant installations in France and Germany,” REC noted yesterday.

“REC will supply 60MW for free field solar power plants managed by the project developer GP JOULE. REC Peak Energy Series Modules will be installed on a 20MW free field installation in Germany and on one 40MW installation near Bordeaux, France. The first delivery will take place already in December and the rest over the next six months.”

5. Solar power project to be built on site of former airport in Germany. “On December 20, 2011, Gehrlicher Solar AG began the construction of the Perleberg Airport Solar Park with a symbolic start of the project,” Gehrlicher Solar announced on Tuesday.

“The largest solar power system in the company’s history, with a peak power capacity of 34 megawatts, is intended to produce yearly about 32.7 million kilowatt hours of solar power. This amount is sufficient to cover the needs of around 9,300 three-person households.”

The project is being built on 87 hectares of land in Brandenburg about halfway between Hamburg and Berlin where the previous military airport of Perleberg was. It’s expected the clean energy power plant will be connected to the grid in May 2012.

6. Solar project to go up on former gas power plant site. Okay, this isn’t a huge project, but it’s a cool one. “On the former premises of a gas power plant now more than 4,900 modules quietly produce clean energy. The 1.2 MWp installed capacity will cover the annual electricity need of 370 households,” SunEnergy Europe notes.

“SunEnergy Europe GmbH's CEO, Hartwig Westphalen, has a vision of his own when it comes to regional and decentral energy production, seeing them as pulse generator for the energy transition ahead of us: ‘As early as seven years ago we successfully demonstrated that it is possible to turn something that costs money into something that brings money to the commune by building a PV Power Park on a former landfill in Lower Saxonian Neu-Wulmstorf. Given, areas like these are not the easiest to develop a project for, but benefits like we have in Gera show that it is well worth the effort.’”

7. TransCanada buying 86-MW solar project portfolio from Canadian Solar. (Yes, THAT TransCanada.) TransCanada is buying the portfolio for $470 million Canadian dollars. “Under the agreement, CSSI will provide TransCanada with 9 fully-operational and commissioned utility-scale solar projects across the Province of Ontario which are expected to come into service between late 2012 and mid-2013,” Canadian Solar announces.

“These projects are all contracted assets under Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff Program. In addition to securing construction finance, CSSI will provide turnkey engineering, procurement and construction services as well as being the supplier of major components to the projects. All solar PV modules used in the portfolio will be manufactured at Canadian Solar’s manufacturing facility in Guelph, Ontario.”

“We are proud of our association with TransCanada, one of North America’s strongest and most successful energy infrastructure companies, which have chosen to partner with us for their entry into the Solar PV space,” Dr. Shawn Qu, chairman and chief executive officer of Canadian Solar Inc. said.

8. Largest solar facility in New England completed. A new solar projected just completed in the Indian Orchard section of Springfield, Massachusetts is the largest solar facility in New England. “The facility features 8,200 solar panels and produces 2.3 megawatts (MW) of electricity,” Western Massachusetts Electric Company reported yesterday. Okay, 2.3 MW isn’t huge,.. but it’s New England!

“Seven months ago we were standing on a remediated brownfield site. Today, this site is now a tax-generating property and is home to the largest renewable energy facility in New England,” Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said at the event celebrating the facility’s completion.

9. 44-MW solar project in Peru gets $145 million in funding. T-Solar “has signed three loan agreements for a total of $145m to finance two photovoltaic power plants with an aggregate capacity of 44 MW in Peru,” the company reported today.

“The two plants will be the first large-scale solar photovoltaic energy projects in Latin America. 113,600 thinfilm amorphous hydrogenated-silicon modules produced by T-Solar's Orense, Spain factory will be deployed over 206 hectares of land in the Arequipa region in southern Peru. Isolux Cors├ín, T-Solar's parent company, has been retained as EPC contractor and will carry out construction works.

“The two solar plants are expected to produce 80 GWh a year, enough electricity to supply 80,000 people. Project construction will generate over 160 direct jobs amongst the local population. The plants are expected to be connected to the national grid by the second semester of 2012.”

10. Republic of Palau International Airport gets island nation’s largest solar power project. Kyocera, which supplied the solar panels, notes: “the 226.8kW solar installation is the largest to be completed on the island nation located roughly 500 miles east of the Philippines. The design and implementation of the parking lot solar project was a joint collaboration between Kyocera and Wakachiku Construction Co., Ltd., which was realized with funding by the Japanese government's Official Development Assistance (ODA) to help contribute to the country's growth.” Again, not a HUGE project, but a noteworthy one….

Solar power at Palau International Airport


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Obama Administration Approves 2 Huge Renewable Energy Projects

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 01:36 PM PST


Other than the tremendously needed toxic pollution standards announced yesterday, the Obama administration has made three more big announcements this week that should make anyone who values clean air, clean water, and a livable climate happy. A 300-MW solar PV project in Arizona and a 186-MW wind project in California were approved for construction on public lands. Additionally, the “first step” of a major offshore wind transmission line (or ‘superhighway’) in the Atlantic Ocean — the one Google has invested in — went forward.

Together, the Sonoran Solar Energy Project and the Tule Wind Project will create enough power for nearly 150,000 homes and will create 700 jobs at peak.

“Salazar's announcements are the latest in a series of solar, wind, geothermal and transmission facility approvals resulting from Interior's renewable energy program that has focused the Department's resources to prioritize and process existing applications in a coordinated, focused manner with full environmental analysis and public review,” the Department of the Interior notes.

“In the past two years, Salazar has used this approach to approve 25 major renewable energy projects on public lands. When constructed, the projects are expected to create nearly 12,000 construction and operational jobs and produce nearly 6,200 megawatts of energy, enough to power 2.2 million American homes. These projects include 15 commercial-scale solar energy facilities, three wind projects and seven geothermal plants.”

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar commented: “Together, these projects will produce the clean energy equivalent of nearly 18 coal-fired power plants, so what's happening here is nothing short of a renewable energy revolution."

sonoran solar power project

Sonoran Solar Energy Project. Click to enlarge or click the link in the text below.

Here’s more on the three announcements made this week, from the Department of the Interior:

  • Salazar approved the Sonoran Solar Energy Project, proposed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, making it the first-ever project approved for construction on public lands in Arizona. The photovoltaic panels are expected to generate 300 megawatts, or enough to power 90,000 homes. The solar project will create over 374 jobs through construction operation and maintenance. For a fact sheet on the project, click HERE. Click HERE for a map.
  • Salazar approved the Tule Wind Project, located 70 miles east of San Diego, California, that will produce 186 megawatts of electricity via 62 wind turbines sited on public lands, or enough to power up to 65,000 homes. Proposed by a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, the project is expected to create 337 jobs. For a fact sheet on the project, click HERE. Click HERE for a map.
  • Salazar announced the next steps toward developing a Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Transmission Line. Atlantic Grid Holdings, LLC has requested a right-of-way grant to develop a high-voltage direct current line that would collect power generated by wind turbine facilities off the coasts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The line would enable up to 7,000 megawatts of wind turbine capacity to be delivered to the grid. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management today opened a public comment period on the potential environmental effects of the proposal, and is also asking whether other developers are interested in constructing transmission facilities in this area in order to determine whether there is overlapping competitive interest. For more information on the announcement, click HERE.


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CleanTechnica Writers Could Use a Tip

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 12:43 PM PST


If you love CleanTechnica and appreciate the work our writers do, you can give them the gift of a little (or big) tip this year using our new donations page! I can guarantee you no one here is getting rich on the work we do and I think you can tell that our writers are in this job because they have a passion for clean tech that can (and does) help the world.

You can donate to our team as a whole, if you wish — the donation would be split using the standard metrics we use for splitting revenue — or you can indicate the specific blogger(s) you are donating to.

‘Pay a Blogger Day’ was just a few weeks ago, and while we didn’t ‘participate’ by posting about it, I thought about doing so and liked this video created for the day:

It’s true…

Thanks for your support! Whether you donate or not!

And Happy Holidays to You! (We will probably take one or two days off this weekend. :D )

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Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction for Dummies: Or, Laziness Will Kill Us All

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 12:06 PM PST

Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction for DummiesThe European Cyclist Federation (ECF) published a study this month evaluating how well bicycles can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, the ECF's report deals with greenhouse gas emissions directly or indirectly caused by traffic and transportation. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the ECF determined that bicycles are the greenest vehicle it's possible to own.

The European Union has a stated goal of 60% emissions reduction from 1990 levels by 2050, and the ECF doesn't think the EU is going to meet its goals with technological advances and fuel efficiency alone (a conclusion also reached by the European Environment Agency). In fact, the ECF thinks that increased fuel efficiency and more efficient use of motorized vehicles can only go so far – and by "so far," they mean "20% below 1990 levels by 2050."

It's A Numbers Game

Bicycles aren't quite zero emission – the ECF took into account the carbon emissions from manufacture and maintenance of the vehicles. They also accounted for fuel – in the case of a bicycle, it's the sandwich the cyclist has for lunch in order to have the energy necessary to keep pedaling. Even so, the ECF determined that bicycle emissions are over 10 times lower than that of a passenger car.

The ECF evaluated the bicycle-riding habits of citizens throughout the EU over a number of years; they found that the most bicycles were ever ridden was in Denmark in 2000 (about 1.6 miles a day). Pay attention to that, because they repeat it over and over again (although it should be noted the Danes did not maintain their high bicycle use). They then compared the emissions from the cyclists to those from using cars, buses, and electric bicycles and mopeds.

The verdict? If all the EU citizens pedal as hard as the Danes did in 2000, 26% of the EU emissions goals would be met right there. "Take that up to 3 miles a day, and that's half the goal right there," said study author Benoit Blondel, ECF speaker for Environment and Health, to

Don't We Have Green Vehicles On The Roads Now?

Blondel has an answer for that too, as reported by

"The potential that bicycles have to help us meet emissions goals is considerable. There's very little effort required to get people onto bicycles, and it's more economically sound than putting more electric cars on the street. If we really want to reach the [emissions reduction] goal, we have to change our behavior. It doesn't mean we travel less – it's about the way we travel, and the transportation choices made possible by our government."

The problem with Blondel's glib statement is that the amount of effort required isn't "very little." Behavioral changes aren't easy when self-determined, and trying to get an entire population to abandon their beloved, comfortable, and convenient personal passenger car for a bicycle – particularly when it's cold, hot, raining, snowing, or the weather is in any other way unpleasant – isn't going to be a simple matter. Motivation is the key, and the ECF's report doesn't address that question.

Key Points

  • Bicycle-caused greenhouse gas emissions are 10 times lower than passenger-car-caused emissions. (Yes, the fact that cyclists probably eat more was also included in the calculations.)
  • Bicycles of any variety can replace 56% of daily commuting passenger car use.
  • Bicycles of any variety can replace 39% of non-commuting passenger car use.
  • Bicycle lending programs have the capacity to replace 50%-70% of motorized transport, reducing emissions even further.
  • Cycle like the Danes in the year 2000 to immediately account for 26% of the EU emissions reduction goal.
  • Cycle like the Danes in the year 2000 to reduce EU crude oil imports by 10% (assuming standard crude oil import of 955 million barrels per year).
  • A combination of technological improvements, fewer carbon-rich fuels, more efficient use of vehicles, and more efficient traffic systems will only reduce emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2050.
  • The EU emissions reduction goal cannot be met with technology alone. Ambitious programs aimed at shifting away from personal motorized transport are necessary to meet the goal.

Would you be willing to buy and ride a bicycle to help your country meet emissions goals? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Charging for Charging: Saitama, Japan Tests EV Infrastructure

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 12:04 PM PST

Saitama Works On Getting EV Owners to Pay For Their PowerEV infrastructure experiments and pilot programs are popping up all over – this week's new program is taking place in Saitama City, Japan. A number of companies, including NTT Data, NEC, and Hitachi are banding together at the behest of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism and its 2011 initiative, the Promotion of Urban Environmental Project Grants.

In order for EV usage to become widespread, a proper charging infrastructure is paramount. Saitama is testing a model infrastructure for user convenience second, and for how to get customers to pay the proper amount first (charging for charging, as it were). To get the experiment under way, the three companies named above have networked their computer centers together – a first in Japanese history.

How It Works

Saitama City has a total of 57 EV charging stations already installed – 13 rapid charging stations and 44 normal stations – all of which follow the CHAdeMO standardization protocol. Those 57 stations give Saitama CIty the highest density of EV charging stations in the country.

When a test phase participant goes to charge their vehicle, they must insert their personal IC card. (100 of these cards will be distributed before the test phase begins.) The card will authorize the user to use the station. No card, no dice.

During the test phase, information will be gathered; how often each station is used, how often each user charges their car, how much power is needed by each station and so on. The monitoring system was developed by Hitachi Solutions, but NTT Data and NEC are (as we said) also networked into it. The system has been designed under the assumption that first, the project will be a success, and second, that more companies will get on board and join the network.

While EV drivers are concerned with when and where and how to charge their cars, automakers, electric companies, and charging equipment manufacturers are concerned with how to get the customer to pay their bills. The new project is trying to address both issues.

Worried about the bottom line or trying to give green technology a shot – what do you think the Saitama project's motivation is? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: Eco Japan | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Rent an Electric Car? No Problem!

Posted: 22 Dec 2011 12:03 PM PST

Rent An Electric Car….if you live in either Vienna or Sylt, that is. (Or if you go to Paris.) The largest car rental agency in Europe, Europcar, has recently made a few EVs available in Vienna, and this week they announced 5 rentable electric Citroen C-Zeros in Germany's largest North Sea island: Sylt.

Renting a C-Zero in Sylt isn't prohibitively expensive; one to two days will cost the customer 49 euros/day ($64USD). Take the car for more than two days and the price goes down ($39 USD per day for 8 days, for example). Europcar also charges about 10 cents a mile (USD) to cover the cost of electricity but the car can be charged for no cost to the consumer at a charging station or brought back totally empty.

Rent Electric?

Vienna and Sylt aren't Europcar's first foray into electric mobility; the company has done some testing in Algaeu with the Luis4U and in Rhine-Ruhr with a Renault Fluence. Now, however, seems to be the right time to offer electric vehicles to the public, and the Citroen C-Zero seems to be the right car to do it with.

Roland Keppler, CEO of Europcar Autovermietung GmbH in Germany, spoke very enthusiastically about the future of electric cars to

"We like to think of ourselves as an innovative mobility service. That means we also have to push forward with new mobility solutions as they hit the market. By introducing the Citroen C-Zero, we're clearly one of the first to move toward electric mobility in the car rental industry. We're sending a clear signal here in terms of sustainability. Electric cars are the way of the future, and we want our customers to be able to experience them."

Why Sylt?

As a tourist destination, Sylt has a diverse and changing population. It also already has a number of EV charging stations with parking spots attached, with more on the way. All the electricity available at those stations is guaranteed to be 100% emission-free from all renewable sources. While most stations are the standard type that take approximately 6 hours to charge the C-Zero, there is also one rapid-charging station that will put the battery at 80% in just 30 minutes.

Tim Ohler, project leader for electric mobility at Europcar, told why Sylt made such an attractive choice:

"Sylt is a closed test market with a broad mix of people – that's fantastic. It has a well-designed infrastructure, making it possible to travel comfortably on the island, and it's also easy to charge the EVs. In addition, Sylt is a market for innovation. Europcar can offer an emission-free clean mobility solution here, introducing electric vehicles to tourists and residents."

For anyone in the area or heading in that direction, the C-Zero is all electric, has zero emissions and is completely silent. It has removable lithium ion batteries powering a 47kW motor. It has a range of just over 90 miles and a top speed of 81mph. It seats four, and of course, has all the requisite safety equipment.

Would you rent an electric car to see how they work before buying one, or just because it's something different? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: | Image: Citroen.

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