- 2012 Solar Expectations
- Last-Minute Order Delays Air Pollution Cuts that Would Save 34,000 Lives/Year
- Sustainable Development in Action: UK Charity Brings Solar-Powered Computing to Rural Africans
- 83 MPG Toyota Prius C Now For Sale — POP.U.LAR
- 3 Electric Vehicle Tax Credits Now Gone
- Electric Highway in Washington Breaks Ground
- Another Obstacle Falls as Massachusetts Supreme Court Throws Out Cape Wind Challenge
- Germans Trialing House that Produces Enough Spare Energy to Power a Car
- Post-Durban, Vestas Ends 2011 With Over 6 GW of Orders
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 06:33 AM PST
Expectations cause a lot of problems — without expectations, we couldn’t be disappointed. However, it’s impractical not to have any expectations. So, the important thing is really just not to tie your happiness to your expectations too much. Work hard, be good, but also be flexible when it comes to the results. So, with that said, here are some expectations for solar energy in 2012 — hopefully, the good ones will come true (and you know that we’ll be doing what we can to help them along), but expectations are expectations, and only that.
1. Solar costs will continue to drop. It’s expected that solar costs haven’t hit their lowest point yet and that increasing deployment combined with technological improvements will keep the prices falling in 2012. That means solar hitting grid parity in even more places, even without subsidies that include their tremendous health and environmental savings.
2. Solar companies will merge, collapse, and be bought out. Competition is increasing in the solar industry. That doesn’t mean the industry is failing, as some would like to contend, but that it is maturing. The result, however, is that many companies will have to go. I think 2012 will be a year full of solar mergers, buy-outs, and even collapses. (We’ll be getting ready for the wonderful misinformation campaigns coming out of certain industries, media outlets, and political campaigns as that happens.)
3. Solar will continue to boom on rooftops and elsewhere in the U.S. Solar leasing, group purchasing and discount options, and good old solar incentives will continue to put record amounts of solar power on people’s homes and businesses in 2012. Additionally, huge utility-scale solar projects will keep moving forward and breaking new ground. Dropping solar costs, innovative technologies, and innovative business models make the clean energy option increasingly attractive, in numerous shapes and forms.
4. Attacks on the solar industry will get stronger. With solar’s increasing importance and growth, those in the fossil fuel industry or threatened by it will likely increase their attacks on the budding industry, I presume. Solyndra was just the start. How they will do this when solar remains one of the most popular things in the country (with about 95% of Americans in favor of government support for it and increasing deployment) remains to be seen.
5. More feed-in tariffs will drive fast installation of rooftop solar. In North America and around the world, I think we’ll see more governments moving forward with feed-in tariff policies to support solar. Why? Well, simply put, it’s been the most effective policy for driving solar power installation around the world.
6. PACE comeback. I think we’re finally going to see property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing come back in the U.S. PACE financing was having tremendous success (with no harm to anyone) before Fannie and Freddie Mac inadvertently shut it down. It’s got a strong following of supporters and is a common-sense financing option that has no reason to be sitting on the sidelines.
7. China (& India?) to knock our socks off. China’s solar ambitions have increased dramatically in the last year (more than once). It doesn’t take China long to act and I think we’re going to see tremendous implementation in 2012. India’s future doesn’t seem as certain, but it has tremendous solar power goals as well, solar is now cheaper than diesel there, and many are projecting that it will become a big solar player soon, perhaps in 2012.
“Global solar photovoltaic (PV) module shipments are forecast to grow from an estimated 22.7 GW in 2011 to 43.8 GW in 2015 according to IDC Energy Insights' Worldwide Quarterly Photovoltaic Module Tracker,” IDC Energy Insights reports. “At the same time that module prices are declining at a record-setting pace, large markets like China and India have doubled down on future solar plans and adopted extremely aggressive targets.”
“According to IDC Energy Insights most recent PV Module forecast, Asia/Pacific (including Japan) will grow from 22.9% of global module shipments in 2011 to 49.3% in 2015. Europe, which is expected to receive 66.4% of PV shipments in 2011, will decline to just 38.7% in 2015 (see chart below).”
Any other thoughts on what 2012 will bring? I did leave some notable topics out, as I’m not sure what to expect from them. Those include the solar trade dispute between U.S. & German solar companies and China, and solar policies in the UK and other European countries.
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 05:31 AM PST
On Friday, December 30, a U.S. District Court of Appeals made a last-minute decision delaying an important air pollution rule that was supposed to take effect yesterday, January 1.
Susan and others here on CleanTechnica have written about the rule, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), in depth a few times (see: EPA Sets New Air Pollution Standards for Coal-Fired Power Plants & Obama Wins Cap and Trade War to Cut Ozone Pollution & Obama's EPA Cues $130 Billion Race to Cut Pollution by 2015.) But, basically, the rule is expected to “save up to 34,000 lives, prevent 15,000 heart attacks and prevent 400,000 asthma attacks each year, providing $120 billion to $280 billion in annual health benefits for the nation,” as Reuters reports.
Any costs in upgrading coal power plants or shutting plants down are supposed to be more than made up for in the health benefits. Some electric company CEOs have gone out of their way to counter opponents of the rule by writing that the overall benefits to U.S. citizens outweigh the costs and that such regulations create jobs (something we sorely need right now).
Nonetheless, some top polluters are concerned about their profits more than the country’s well-being. And the appeals court that received their challenge decided, at the very last minute, that it was strong enough to grant an order delaying implementation of the clean air regulation. Unfortunately, this means more health problems for countless U.S. citizens.
“The pollution reductions at stake are some of the single most important clean air protections for children, families and communities across the eastern half of the United States,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel for Environmental Defense Fund. Again, these are some of the figures on lives saved and serious health problems averted from implementation of the rule:
Looks like those savings will have to wait.
Boy about to use asthma inhaler via shutterstock
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 04:43 AM PST
Isolated villages in rural Africa lack many of the trappings of modern life: electricity, telephones, and, often, even decent roads. This isolation retards development and keeps the poor poor, by separating them from trade.
Another thing that rural Africans usually lack, of course, is computing. That might sound like an odd thing to prioritise when there’s a shortage of electricity or medical supplies. But access to the internet can be vital for development, providing farmers with access to information on the prices their goods can fetch, and aiding education.
At least, that’s what the UK-based NGO Computer Aid believes. And it’s tackling the problem with an innovative recycled, solar-powered computing station it calls the ZubaBox.
Named for the word for ‘sun’ (Zuba) in the African language Nyanja, the ZubaBox is a shipping container containing refurbished computers — donated to the charity by businesses — and powered by solar panels. Access to the internet is provided by a satellite link.
So far, Computer Aid has sent eight ZubaBoxes off to various remote rural locations in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. The ZubaBoxes, which cost around $25,000 to build, are given to villages free, but locals pay the $1000-a-month cost of the satellite link. One farmer in the Zambian village of Macha raises the funds by charging other villagers for access. As BusinessGreen reports:
The ZubaBox roof contains six solar panels generating a maximum of 1400 MW of power. Its maximum consumption is just 485 MW, enabling it to store excess power in four battery cells to run at night-time and during the rainy season. (Here’s a fact sheet with more technical details.)
Here’s a video the BBC technology program ‘Click’ made about the ZubaBox project.
So far, ComputerAid has funded its ZubaBoxes through sponsorship by UK IT companies, who donate old computers and provide additional funding. But it says it’s struggling to attract enough donations and have occasionally had to buy refurbished computers to meet their needs. So, if you’re a UK-based IT manager or you know someone who is, you might want to consider donating a PC or five. They also accept donations from individuals.
For more on solar power in poor countries, see Cheap Solar Home Systems Bringing Light, New Opportunities to Millions in Rural Bangladesh.
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 04:35 AM PST
Well, it’s for sale in Japan. Nonetheless, given its obvious popularity,.. unexpected popularity,.. perhaps it will be for sale in other parts of the world sooner rather than later (note: it’s U.S. release is planed for later this year). More on this car (including a caveat on the mpg figure above) from sister site Gas2:
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 04:25 AM PST
It doesn’t come as much surprise — this Congress has set the record for its anti-environmental efforts — but if you haven’t heard, Congress has let three tax credits for electric vehicles expire… to “save the government” money, presumably (as if keeping us addicted to oil saves us any money). Here’s more:
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 04:19 AM PST
We’ve written about electric highways of various sorts a few times here on CleanTechnica. The latest story under this broad category is out of Washington and concerns a highway perfect for electric vehicles (EVs). Here’s more:
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 04:09 AM PST
The seemingly never-ending saga of Cape Wind continues to pack in the twists and turns. After years of debate, the massive offshore wind project near Cape Cod in Massachusetts — intended to be the US’ first offshore wind farm — was finally approved in 2010, and its funding was secured by a major purchase agreement with energy utility National Grid, which agreed to buy half its output.
But the project’s implacable opponents, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, weren’t taking that lying down. In September 2011, they went to Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court to argue that the deal between Cape Wind and National Grid was unconstitutional. The Alliance, along with other Cape Wind opponents like the Associated Industries of MA and the New England Power Generators Association, claimed that the deal unfairly restricted interstate commerce because National Grid didn’t undergo a competitive bidding process involving out-of-state providers. “The contract sets a risky precedent by allowing utilities to negotiate expensive power agreements outside of the competitive bidding process and to allocate the costs of those contracts unfairly to residential and commercial customers,” the Alliance said in September.
Well, the Court disagrees. On Wednesday, it upheld the power purchase deal, declaring that the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities was right to approve it earlier in the year. The court said that the DPA’s review was “thorough” and dismissed the constitutional arguments.
The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound called the decision “a blow to ratepayers, businesses, and municipalities who are being asked to bear billions of dollars in new electricity costs when other green energy alternatives are available at a fraction of the cost.”
It’s just the latest phase in the long-running battle between Cape Wind and the Alliance, which, as its name suggests, is concerned about the impact of the proposed wind farm on the wildlife and scenery of the area. At least, that’s the theory… in practice, some of the Alliance’s backing comes from fossil fuel executives, not least a certain oil heir you might have heard of named William Koch.
Formed in 2001, not long after Cape Wind was first proposed, the Alliance has been fighting the project through the courts and other means for over a decade. It looked like it might have succeeded in blocking the project in January 2010, when the National Park Service announced Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. But that didn’t prevent US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar from approving the project in April 2010 or granting it a lease in October.
Of course, while this latest decision leaves half of Cape Wind’s funding secure, it still needs to find a buyer for the other half of its output. In October, it rather cheekily suggested that two local energy utilities, NStar and Northeast Utilities, should have to agree to buy the other half of the project’s output as a condition of their proposed merger. There’s also the small matter of Federal Aviation rules. In late October, the US Court of Appeals overturned a decision by the Federal Aviation Authority declaring Cape Wind safe for aircraft. No construction is likely to take place until that decision is reviewed.
Posted: 02 Jan 2012 04:02 AM PST
If this doesn’t sound like a dream come true, I don’t know what does. The German government is testing a new design for a low-energy home packed with renewable energy generation systems, dubbed the Efficiency House Plus. If the design works as it should, it’ll not only produce enough electricity to meet all its own needs, but it’ll produce enough spare juice to charge a family car.
The 1400-square-foot house generates all this power using a combination of solar panels and heat storage systems. At the same time, advanced energy management technology helps keep consumption down and ensures the house’s energy use is in line with what the energy of the weather provides. As SmartPlanet reports:
The current prototype is situated in West Berlin and, as you can see, it’s a handsome piece of architecture. It’s also completely recyclable. Seriously, what’s not to like?
Designed by a team at Stuttgart University, the house is designed to store excess energy in batteries, but can also use it to power electric cars parked outside. Over the 15-month trial beginning in March, a family of four will live in the house and run an electric car on the spare energy. Opel, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and BMW will take turns providing an electric car for three months to support the trial. (Shotgun going to visit during the BMW period.)
The trial was launched in December by none other than Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, herself. "This house shows what is already possible today," she told the crowd. "Energy-efficient buildings and electric mobility are major keystones for speeding up the implementation of our energy strategy. There is still a lot of potential in both sectors. I am delighted that we are testing ground-breaking innovations in everyday conditions here."
Before the test family moves in, in March, there’ll be a public viewing period, so if you’re in Berlin in January or February, pop in and let us know what you think.
For more on low-energy living, see DOE Weatherization Assistance Cuts Energy Bills, Lowers Usage for 600,000 Low-Income Homes.
Posted: 01 Jan 2012 07:54 PM PST
The company ended 2011 with a total 6.2 GW of orders, and said that late orders coming in will be included in its annual report due early February, which are expected to take the total over 6.5 GW.
The flurry of orders came a month after international climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, delivered a surprise stipulation that every nation has agreed to, to share binding, international cuts in greenhouse gas emissions within just 8 years.
The unequal requirements of the precursor agreement, the Kyoto Accord, which cut developing nations a break, had long prevented US agreement, and its elimination has resolved a longstanding dispute that prevented international agreement on carbon reductions. Some of these formerly “developing” nations, like Brazil, are now among the world’s highest emitters of greenhouse gases.
Like other European renewable energy companies that grew to world domination because Europe adopted tough Kyoto Accord rules that required that Europe use clean energy, Vestas is likely to be a beneficiary of the new agreement. Over the next eight years, all nations will need to rush to get their clean energy in time for the changed climate rules, ready or not.
Some nations simply have never had clean energy and are not yet prepared to approve clean energy proposals in a timely manner. Fortunately for these nations, Vestas’ contracts include supply, installation and commissioning of the turbines as well as a service agreement with an availability warranty.
Even in the “old Kyoto nations” of the EU, used to complying with the rapid deployment of responsible energy needed to forestall climate destabilization, wind farm development can take a few years to pass environmental reviews, NIMBY opposition and bureaucratic hurdles that vary from place to place.
The Kyoto Accord rules were extended at the Durban climate talks for another 6 to 8 years to provide continuity during the intervening period before the full international agreement begins in 2020.
The “old Kyoto nation” orders are for wind farms in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Sweden.
An Italian farm took 19 of the 2.0 MW turbines. France got 24 MW-worth of the 3 MW turbines for a farm near Orleans. Sweden’s Jädraås wind park bought another 23 of the 3 MW for a 69 MW order in addition to an earlier order totaling 129 MW at the same farm.
Two of the orders are for mysterious unnamed customers. One customer from the UK snapped up 18 of the 3 MW size, or enough electricity to power a small township of 30,000 average homes. A very similarly sized order, 17 of the 3 MW turbines went to another unnamed customer in Poland.
Pakistan took 50 MW worth of a more modest size turbine, 1.8 MW. The largest of the last minute orders went to Brazil, with an order for 127 of the 2 MW machines for farms in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, following another 254 MW order earlier in the week.
Neither Pakistan nor Brazil were included in the original Kyoto Accord which was the precursor to the Durban Platform agreed to in South Africa last month, because under the original agreement, developing nations were not required to develop clean energy. In eight years, they will be.
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