Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Imperial Valley’s Unique Combination of Solar and Geothermal Resources Make it a Hotbed of Renewable Energy Activity, and Controversy

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 09:07 AM PST

Stretching 50 miles from southeastern California’s Salton Sea across the border with Mexico to the Gulf of California, the Imperial Valley is an area of unique desert beauty, one that lies almost entirely below sea level. The area is also somewhat rare in its combination of geothermal and solar energy resources.

The Imperial Valley is fast turning into a hotspot for both geothermal and solar energy development. On Tuesday, the city of El Centro’s Board of Supervisors gave the go-ahead to LS Power’s 275-megawatt (MW) Centinela Solar Energy Project. The solar project proposal has generated controversy in the small, still predominantly agricultural community, pitting local farmer-landowners against one another and either for or against LS Power’s proposal, according to a KYMA news report.

Renewable Energy vs. Agriculture

Land use and environmental impact were at the center of the debate. Some farmers objected to the project being approved, asserting that the project’s potential effects on the area’s agricultural resources, including air and water quality, were glossed over. They questioned approving another solar power project that doesn’t include any guarantees regarding local hiring, as well.

They also noted that approving the project, which is sited on private farmland, effectively does an end run around the Williamson Act. California’s landmark Williamson Act has effectively conserved the state’s agricultural land from property development and other alternative uses for more than 45 years.

Responding to these objections, local landowner Kay Bishop, on whose farmland the project will be built, told supervisors that private landowners have the right to do as they see fit on the land they own. LS Power Development says it will do everything it can to minimize the solar power farm’s effects on the environment, as well as hire as many local workers as possible.

Local job creation was certainly a strong factor working in the project’s favor, according to KYMA’s report. Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have been training in El Centro exactly because of job prospects that will be on offer now that the Centinela project has been approved. Though only ten full-time operational and maintenance jobs will be created once the project is online, more than 300 construction jobs will be created while it’s being built.

Comparative Advantages

Other supervisors pointed out that while farming remains a significant part of the Imperial Valley economy, it does not “keep the country afloat.” They noted that the region’s unemployment rate remains at a very high 20%-30%, which drives many of the younger generation out of the area in search of employment.

Imperial Valley county commissioners and members of the community are looking to renewable energy development to change that. When you consider the relative or comparative natural resource strengths of the area, the Imperial Valley has distinct advantages when it comes to solar and geothermal power. As an agricultural region, it could be considered marginal.

LSV also pointed out that little in the way of crops are being on grown on Ms. Bishop’s farmland at present. Commercial farming wouldn’t be possible at all in the Imperial Valley if it weren’t for irrigation water diverted from the Colorado River as it makes its way to Mexico and the Gulf of California.

In contrast, the Valley receives more than eight hours a day of sunshine in winter months. That’s the most sunlight of any place in the US. It’s also predominantly flat, the combination of which makes it a prime location for solar energy development.

There are five Imperial Valley public land-solar power project applications on file with US Bureau of Land Management as of a December 2011 update. They include AES’ 400-MW PV Imperial Valley Solar, SunPeak Solar’s 500-MW PV Superstition Solar 1, Pacific Solar Investments’ 450-MW Ogilby Solar parabolic trough project, Solar Reserve’s 250-MW Imperial Solar power tower, and San Diego Gas & Electric’s 20-MW PV Ocotillo Sol.

The county is the second-largest geothermal energy producer in the US, generating more than 500-MW of clean, renewable electricity. Geothermal resources surrounding the Salton Sea have the potential to produce more than 2,000-MW, according to the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp.

In September, Simbol Materials started drawing geothermal brine from the Salton Sea as it commenced commercial production of lithium carbonate, an electrolyte used in the manufacture of electric vehicles (EV). Simbol’s producing high-quality manganese and zinc, as well as lithium, at its 500-metric ton facility.

In addition to clean, renewable energy, Centinela and other solar and geothermal energy projects in the area also generate revenue for the local government, which is reinvested in building and maintaining infrastructure, social and educational services.

The Imperial Valley County Commission on Dec. 21 asked an ad hoc committee responsible for drafting solar power project fees for a Public Benefit Program similar to one adopted by Riverside County. The fee package consists of a mix of financial incentives and disincentives for solar power project developers to develop projects on various types of land, hire locally and contribute to community development.

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HUGE Clean Energy Project Moving Forward at Cornell University

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 07:00 AM PST


D-SUN Cornell NYC

A project that involved 1.8 megawatts (MW) of solar power, 500 geothermal wells, and fuel cells could potentially reduce energy consumption at a Cornell University campus by 75%. The campus has the name "NYC Tech Campus" and is a project of Distributed Sun.

Cornell Renewable Energy Campus New York City


The project, if it were already built today, would have the largest solar power installation in New York City, the largest geothermal system in NYC, and the largest net-zero building in the eastern U.S.

Cornell University NYC campus

Cornell NYC renewable energy campus

Distributed Sun CEO Chase Weir has this to say about the project:

"This story has so many superlatives. A $2 billion sustainable campus, an anonymous $350 million gift, a new venture fund, the promise to spawn 600 new tech companies, jobs and more jobs, tens of billions in economic impact. We're a small but inspired part of a very big ambition, and our real work has only just begun. Distributed Sun looks forward to working with Cornell to build New York City's largest solar and geothermal systems, and with our friends at Washington Gas to provide the next generation in fuel cells — all delivering innovative power and finance solutions to this visionary project."

cornell university campus nyc building

The whole project is building designed around the Sun, in a way…. "The $1-billion-plus campus is being situated toward the arc of the sun to maximize solar energy potential," Greentech Media writes.

"This is a remarkable testament to the advance of solar in the U.S. and around the world, to have an entire campus and an architectural landmark designed and pointed toward the arc of the sun for maximum solar output," Weir comments.

"That's a good indication of where tomorrow's energy generation is truly headed.”

h/t Greentech Media

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EPA Releases Finalized 2012 Renewable Fuel Standards

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 06:55 AM PST

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the 2012 percentage standards for four fuel categories wrapped up in the  Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS2) yesterday.

The RFS2 program was introduced as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) in an attempt to achieve the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel throughout the country in various transportation industries.

In a press release, the EPA stated that it continues “to support greater use of renewable fuels within the transportation sector every year through the RFS2 program, which encourages innovation, strengthens American energy security, and decreases greenhouse gas pollution.” The program not only supports traditional renewable fuels, but also advanced biofuels.

The renewable fuel volume targets are calculated as a percentage-based standard, which then allows each refiner and importer the ability to determine the minimum volume of renewable fuel they must use in transportation fuel.

The final 2012 overall volumes and standards are:

  • Biomass-based diesel (1.0 billion gallons; 0.91 percent)
  • Advanced biofuels (2.0 billion gallons; 1.21 percent)
  • Cellulosic biofuels (8.65 million gallons; 0.006 percent)
  • Total renewable fuels (15.2 billion gallons; 9.23 percent)

Source: Environmental Protection Agency
Image Source: Sweeter Alternative on Flickr

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Caney River Wind Farm Begins Operations

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 06:47 AM PST

There is something eminently pleasing about reporting on yet another wind farm that has completed construction and been put into operation, as can be said for the Enel Green Power Caney River wind farm in Elk Count, Kansas, which brings the company’s total installed capacity in North America to 986 MW.

The new facility is made up of 111 V-90 wind turbines, each measuring in at 1.8 megawatts, creating a total installed capacity of approximately 200 MW. The farm will generated some 765 million kilowatt hours per year, which meets the annual consumption of around about 70,000 American households and avoids the production of some 580,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

"We pursue our organic growth in the USA fully in line with our schedule" Commented Francesco Starace, Enel Green Power CEO. "Caney River represents a major evidence from EGP to carry out in a limited amount of time power plants of significant sizes in such an important market."

Now that’s all good and well, but a move which is sure to endear the company to many more locals is the 8.5 million dollars which is earmarked to protect the tallgrass prairie in Kansas, specifically establishing environmental restrictions needed to protect over 18,000 hectares, restore another 6,000 hectares, and conduct research on the the Tallgrass Prairie Habitat’s wind patterns and wildlife.

This latest project goes towards many more currently in operation underneath the umbrella of parent company Enel Green Power, which currently generates 22 billion kilowatt hours of electricity “from a well balanced mix inclusive of water, sun, wind and geothermal sources.”

Source: Enel Green Power
Image Source: TradeWind Energy

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Float Your Wind Turbines To Save and Increase Production

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 06:33 AM PST

Researchers have begun to show that a floating axis wind turbine (FAWT) could in fact generate cheaper energy than the more standard offshore horizontal axis wind turbine (HAWT).

As shown in the image above, there are several types of floating wind turbines available, but researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and University of Tokyo have showed that the installed cost per rated power of the floating axis wind turbine (FAWT) is 50% and 57% of those in the referenced HAWT (horizontal axis wind turbine) and guyed VAWT (vertical axis wind turbine) configurations, respectively.

On top of that, the estimated cost of the electricity produced in a FAWT-style farm would be approximately 25% lower than that of the base HAWT.

The researchers published their results in the journal Environmental Letters and outlined the major merits of FAWT:

(1)The float supports the weight of the turbine and most of its axial load. The bearing rollers swivel like swivel casters of a desk chair. It allows relative heave motion of the rotating float to the bearing mechanism so that only the thrust force of the turbine is on the bearing mechanism. The thrust force of a wind turbine is less than 1/10 of the weight of the VAWT mechanism.
(2)Power output from the turbine is obtained from torque of the rotating float by rollers contacting on the cylindrical surface of the float. Since the drive train is not in a limited space like the nacelle of a HAWT or the shaft of a VAWT, restrictions on the weight and size of the mechanism are lighter than those in other turbine concepts.
(3)Non-firm support of the turbine axis avoids concentration of the load. Since the weight and bending moment of the turbine are not directly on the drive train, the configuration leads to lighter structural requirements. Gyroscopic moment of the turbine and the float stabilizes the direction of the turbine axis in wind fluctuation.
(4)FAWTs inherit the simple mechanism and low maintenance cost of VAWTs.
(5)Installation of FAWTs does not require floating cranes and other specifically designed service vessels.

“We have to reassess the costs of renewable energy and explore new possibilities of energy generation which can be substituted for a part of the present share of nuclear power,” the authors write. “In Japan, wind power is one of the prospective candidates. However, in Japan, flat land and shallow water area available for the construction of new wind farms is very limited. Therefore, there is an urgent need for low-cost offshore wind turbines that are applicable to deep water regions.”

The authors are well aware that their hopes may run into difficulties and unknown challenges, but they are confident that the FAWT will help them find a way to create low-cost offshore wind power.

Source: Environmental Research Letters via Energy Matters

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Wind Turbine Wall Decals – I WANT

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 06:29 AM PST

I’m fully aware that Christmas is over, and it is a long way until my birthday hits, but nevertheless, I really want these fantastic wind turbine decals designed and sold by Hu2 Design.

Though I think maybe my landlord may have a mild issue with it.

Made from a PVC-FREE self-adhesive which is free of chlorine and plasticizers, these decals will not only add a bit of ‘cool’ to your light switches (or wherever you put them) but they’ll also help you to remember to switch that power off when it doesn’t need to be on.

So fire up your browser and head on over to their Etsy store and buy me yourself this fantastic decal.

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Scotland on Track for Record Renewable Year

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 06:26 AM PST

If only we could all be like Scotland, which, according to the latest Energy Statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, are on track for its highest ever renewable energy output. In fact, Scotland could produce almost a third of its electricity needs from renewable sources by the end of this year.

Jealous much?

“2011 has been an exceptional year for renewable energy in Scotland. These figures show that it is on course to be truly the best year yet,” said Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.

“We have seen momentous progress towards our goal of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables and more from other sources by 2020, with enough renewable energy capacity installed to more than meet our interim target of 31 per cent” (a target that was not long ago moved from 2025 to 2020).

According to the latest energy statistics, Scotland managed to produce, in the first three quarters of 2011, 94 percent of 2010′s overall total (24.1 percent of produced electricity), and 83 percent of the previous record year, 2009, which saw 27.4 percent of total electricity demand in Scotland delivered by renewables. With a full quarter of statistics left, it is unsurprising Scotland authorities are so confident.

“This year projects were switched on representing 750 million pounds of investment in renewables, and a staggering 46 billion pounds of investment is in the pipeline,” Mr Ewing said.

But most importantly we have taken real steps to ensure that communities all over Scotland will benefit from the renewable energy generated in their area, with a community benefit register which will help empower communities, as well as loans projects to help them develop renewable energy projects of their own.”

These 2011 statistics were released alongside the overall figures for 2010, which showed renewable installed capacity in Scotland reached an all time high of 4.3 gigawatts over the year. Scotland also continued to be a net exporter of electricity, exporting 21 percent of electricity generated throughout 2010.

Source: Scotland Government
Image Source: Martin Abegglen

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Can Video Games Solve Energy and Environmental Issues?

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 06:13 AM PST

Video games are a huge part of life today. Advanced gaming technology now means anyone can immerse themselves in warfare, become a rock star, or win the World Series, albeit virtually. But what if video games could also teach people about energy technologies and environmental concerns?

energyNOW! correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan plugs into several video games that could help people make better energy choices and potentially create real-world energy solutions. The full video is available below:

Video games have come a long way from Pong and Atari, and today's technology has become a way of life for Americans young and old. But a trend is growing among video game developers and players to use games to teach about the impacts of energy use on our cities and environment.

Take the recently released ANNO 2070, set 60 years in the future in a world changed by global warming and rising sea levels. Players are put in charge of building cities and are responsible for choosing different renewable and fossil energy technologies to generate power for their populations. As the game progresses, players witness the outcomes of their choices.

But this isn't the first video game to address energy and environmental issues. The urban planning simulation game SimCity has incorporated power generation choices throughout multiple editions of the game for decades. As cities grow, players can decide to build power plants from a variety of fuel sources based on price and pollution to supply electricity.

Some say SimCity has given gamers a greater appreciation of their energy footprint. "It makes you educate yourself more about what's going on in a city environment, power-wise," said Sean Hagler, general manager of Atlanta video gaming hotspot Battle & Brew. "It makes you think and it makes you realize what your impact is on energy."

While gaming can help individuals learn about energy use, researchers say the larger world of networked gaming enables players to work together on real-world energy solutions. "What games allow us to do is try things, to rehearse things," said Celia Pearce, a video game designer and Georgia Tech professor. "They allow us to engage with dynamic systems in an interactive way."

Pearce says gamers aren't afraid to experiment and fail because that's how they succeed at video games. One example of this theory was demonstrated earlier this year when researchers turned a struggle to map an AIDS/HIV enzyme into Foldit, an Internet-based video game. Within weeks, players had cracked the code.

"Energy is one of those themes that really lends itself to a collaborative game – we're all involved in our own way," said Ken Eklund, the developer of a game called World Without Oil, an online interactive game that simulated a worldwide oil shortage in 2007. "Any sort of solution is going to be a collaborative, widespread solution."

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Solar Lighting Project to “Increase the Security” at a Nuclear Power Plant

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 04:00 AM PST


Carmanah's EverGEN 1530 Solar Outdoor Light

Solar power is being used at oil wells to power drilling operations these days. Apparently, it is also being used at nuclear power plants, ironically.

"In an order valued at nearly $400,000 USD, a large US power utility in the Southwestern United States has selected the EverGEN 1530 solar LED outdoor lighting system for the second installment in a perimeter fence security lighting project," Carmanah, the developer of the solar LED outdoor lighting system reports.

As noted in the title, the reason for going solar is "to increase the security… by providing backup safety lighting in the unlikely event of power failure, allowing the facility to maintain critical security functions that are mandated by Homeland Security"

As noted above, this is the second installment. The two together total an investment of $1.5 million in solar lighting.

And, one of the key factors (probably the key factor) in choosing solar lighting as opposed to a grid-tied system? Cost.

"The utility's decision to use solar powered lighting is supported by a lower installation cost versus grid-based systems as no trenching or cabling is required. Including time and installation, the utility company anticipates saving an estimated $2 million."

In other words, the cost of the project is less than half what it could have been if solar weren't an option. Good thing the company that owns the nuclear power facility doesn't hold any prejudice against solar power (or, if it does, that it lets common sense trump that).

Image via Carmanah

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Disaster Zone Dutro — Hino Motors Sends Hybrids North for Rebuilding

Posted: 27 Dec 2011 11:57 AM PST

Disaster Zone DutroThe northern part of Japan is still a disaster area – high levels of radiation, towns in ruins, and people displaced. More than eight months after the earthquake and exploding reactors, serious reconstruction efforts are under way. The rebuilding project is, among other things, an opportunity to display some altruism – and there are a few entities more than willing to make that leap.

Hino Motors, best known for producing light trucks and cars (called kei trucks and kei cars in Japan), has more or less donated nearly 60 little trucks to the disaster relief efforts. The trucks they sent up there are their fairly new Dutro Hybrid models.

Free Hybrids

Local governments in four prefectures benefit from Hino Motors' generosity (13 trucks in Iwate, 20 trucks in Miyagi, 15 in Fukushima (yes, that's the one with the exploded nuclear plant), and 10 trucks in Ibaraki). The trucks will stay with the local governments for a year at no cost, and when Hino Motors says no cost, they mean it. The company is not only sending the trucks themselves free of charge, but they're also paying the cost of registration, maintenance, and fuel.

The cost of fuel, of course, is far lower for the diesel hybrids than it would be even for the standard Dutro; the little hybrids are about 50% more fuel efficient than a traditional diesel truck, making them ideal for a disaster area where resources are limited to begin with.

It's no coincidence that Hino Motors gets to show off how well their trucks work in difficult circumstances as well as help the relief efforts – which makes it win/win all around in my book.

Source: | Image: Hino Motors

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