Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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More High-Speed Trains for Britain

Posted: 11 Jan 2012 07:27 AM PST

UK High Speed Rail NetworkA comprehensive network of clean, quick, and punctual trains is a wonderful thing. It also seems to be somewhat rare, but Britain is taking a massive step forward in that respect. The HS2 high-speed rail scheme is meant to improve on the infrastructure of Britain's rail network, connecting London to Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds and using £32.7 billion ($50 billion USD) to do it.

Building the Tracks

The HS2 trains will carry over 1,000 passengers each, some through a number of green tunnels (green because they reduce the amount of earth excavated for construction and, thereby, save money; the environmental benefits are somewhat unclear) in order to preserve picturesque landscapes.

Construction on the tunnels is set to start no earlier than 2017, and the first trains are scheduled to start running in 2026 (no, you cannot buy tickets yet). The entire network is slated for completion in 2033, by which time transport secretary Justine Greening anticipates much quicker travel between major metropolitan areas and also between the north of England and Scotland to London.

Build A New Network or Fix the Old One?

The nearly two-decade plan isn't without its opposition; there are strong feelings on both sides of the fence. Part of the opposition stems from the cost – the high-speed option is roughly 10% more expensive than trying to upgrade the current system – but Greening feels that doing it properly from the outset will have more long-term benefits. Responding to the need for an entirely new system, she told The Guardian:

“At the heart is the need to address capacity shortfall. Unless we take action, by the 2020s the west coast main line will be full. We’ve used the rail network in a way the Victorians would be proud of. But there comes a time when you can’t just patch things up. It’s clear the existing network won’t deliver. We need a new line.”

Not In My Back Yard

Other opponents worry about the construction itself and the potential for the new lines to be an eyesore (NIMBY, as it were). Greening, however, says that the first phase of construction will create 40,000 jobs, which should relieve some of those concerns.

Still, others worry that the money invested in the new system will not be efficiently spent. Railway expert Christian Wolmar spoke to The Guardian about his reservations:

“The government is driving through this project even though the evidence suggests that there are cheaper alternatives well worth looking at that would relieve other overcrowded parts of the network, such as lines out of Paddington and Victoria.”

A more efficient rail network, particularly if the trains themselves can be outfitted with cleaner technology, could go a long way toward reducing both traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. The HS2 project is still a long way from even the final stages of planning, but it is a hopeful step toward greener transportation.

Key points

  • 400m and 1,000+ seats per train
  • 26,000 extra seats for intercity routes
  • 250mph trains
  • travel distance nearly halved on some intercity routes

Source: The Guardian | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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700-MW Wind Farm Planned in Baltic Sea

Posted: 11 Jan 2012 07:23 AM PST

 

sweden wind farms

Eon Nordic is planning a gigantic 700-MW wind farm in the Baltic Sea off of Sweden’s southeastern shores, it was just announced. The Nordic wind farm, located in Södra Midsjöbanken, will be one of the largest offshore wind farms in the world.

The 700-MW wind farm will include 180-230 wind turbines. Eon Nordic is investing about €2.2 million ($2.79 million). The project was unveiled by Swedish journal Dagens Industri, but the German mother company (Eon) does not wish to speak on the project yet “because so many parameters have yet to be clarified.”

Sweden currently has 6 wind farms, and 5 of those are being operated by Vattenfall. But these are much closer to the shore and quite small compared to the Södra Midsjöbanken wind project. The largest of the projects is one by Siemens that has a total power capacity of 110 MW. It has been online since 2008.

In addition to those 6 wind farms, Sweden has over 1 GW of offshore wind power capacity has already been permitted in the country (this project has not, of course).

A lot of work has already gone into this new wind project. “By the end of last year, the company had collected data on wind velocity, direction, and wave heights at a measuring station financed partly by the Swedish government,” Renewables International reports. “At the same time, the firm has also already contracted an environmental impact assessment. At the end of 2011, the firm reportedly also filed for a permit with Swedish authorities.”

Offshore wind has advantages and disadvantages, of course. Winds are steadier and stronger off the coast. However, building wind turbines there is quite expensive at the moment.

Swedish flag via shutterstock

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BP & Sempra Energy Building 2 Giant Wind Farms, Investing over $1 Billion

Posted: 11 Jan 2012 07:01 AM PST

 

bp logo

BP and Sempra Energy have joined forces to build two giant wind farms in the U.S. The wind farms will have a combined capacity of a whopping 560 megawatts (MW) and each will be the largest wind farm in their state.

BP Wind Energy and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power today announced plans to further expand their strategic relationship by jointly developing the Mehoopany Wind Farm in Pennsylvania and the Flat Ridge 2 Wind Farm in Kansas that represent a combined investment of more than $1 billion,” BP & Sempra announced in a press release yesterday.

“Both wind farms are fully-contracted under long-term agreements, and are expected to be in commercial operation by year-end 2012. The wind farms will have a combined total output of 560 megawatts (MW) and will each be the largest ever built in their respective states.”

The Mehoopany Wind Farm will be 141 MW in size and construction began last November. The power will be delivered to Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. It will use 88 GE 1.6-MW wind turbines. The power will be sold to Associated Electric Cooperative, Southwestern Electric Power Company (a unit of American Electric Power), and a third electricity provider (secured but not yet announced).

The Flat Ridge 2 Wind Farm will be 419 MW in size. 262 GE wind turbines, with 1.6 MW of capacity each, will be used on the farm.

Once fully operational, BP will operate both wind farms.

Does this make BP green? Of course not. But a green project is a green project. And these are two super-huge green projects.

BP logo via visionshare

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We Lose Clean Energy Race without Government Investments

Posted: 11 Jan 2012 06:24 AM PST

 

clean energy investment

This is a Center for American Progress repost.

Continuing and expanding investments in clean energy is the smart choice to meet the next generation of energy challenges and produce a foundation of affordable, reliable, and clean energy alternatives.

by Richard W. Caperton

Budget deficits drove the conversation in Washington in 2011 with the daily news dominated by government shutdown threats, the "super committee," continuing resolutions, and arcane budgeting practices. Unfortunately, this left Americans convinced that government investments in the future are off the table because of large federal budget deficits that need to be reduced.

Americans were misled. As the Center for American Progress points out, the United States can balance our budget, reduce our long-term debt, and make key investments in our future all at the same time. CAP's plan works toward a more vibrant economy where all Americans are better off and clean energy is an integral part of this future. Best of all, the investments that government needs to make are relatively modest and can be paid for by ending wasteful spending in the same energy sector.

There is no doubt that Americans need clean energy because it's vital to our nation's economic competitiveness, security, and health.

There is also no doubt that government will play an important role in making the transition to clean energy.

Why? Because the federal government always has been—and always will be—a player in energy markets. The federal government has made investments in energy for more than a century, by granting access to resources on public lands, helping build railroads and waterways to transport fuels, building dams to provide electricity, subsidizing exploration and extraction of fossil fuels, providing financing to electrify rural America, taking on risk in nuclear power, and conducting research and development in virtually all energy sources. There's no reason that Washington should stop making new investments.

Considering the history, government investment has led to amazing developments, including universal access to reliable and affordable electricity, lasting economic development, and industrial growth. This success story alone could justify continued government engagement of vibrant energy markets.

When we consider that investments in clean energy are investments in America's future, it's clear that the smart choice is to make these investments to meet the next generation of energy challenges and to produce a foundation of affordable, reliable, and clean energy alternatives for future waves of investment and opportunity. At the same time we can no longer afford indiscriminate or wasteful subsidies. It is essential that government's investments in energy be fair, effective, and efficient.

This issue brief examines how the government currently invests in renewable energy, when those investments are effective, and how those investments should work in the future.

Energy and the tax code

The federal government has a suite of tools at its disposal to make investments, including cash grants, regulatory incentives, tax expenditures, and financing supports. When properly designed and targeted, each of these tools plays an important role.

In the energy sector most government investment happens through the tax code. Indeed, for energy companies that receive federal support, the most important day of the year is Tax Day, when they receive a large amount of their government benefits. In fact, 44 percent of energy spending in 2010 was through the tax system, with the remainder through other tools.

There are both good and bad reasons for this. Both companies and the government have an established system for paying and processing taxes, so providing investments through the tax code provides for efficient delivery of incentives by tapping existing infrastructure and rules. More cynically, however, tax expenditures are an expedient that may be at cross-purposes with good government practice because they are held to different budget standards than direct spending. This means that working through the tax code is less transparent and therefore far easier to pass through Congress with reduced budget scrutiny.

These issues are discussed in detail in the CAP report "Government Spending Undercover: Spending Programs Administered by the IRS" by Lily Batchelder and Eric Toder.

Tax expenditures are government spending programs that deliver subsidies through the tax code via special tax credits, deductions, exclusions, exemptions, and preferential rates. While the actual implementation can be complicated, tax expenditures are economically the same as direct spending both for the government and for beneficiaries. With direct spending, the government brings in tax money and then spends it, while with tax expenditures the government simply reduces the taxes that a company owes. Either way, the company has more money and the federal government has less.

Tax expenditures should be held accountable for achieving results

The underlying reasons for so much energy spending being done through the tax code are unlikely to change, at least in the short term. Therefore it's important that energy tax expenditures work well. In previous CAP work we've called for regular reviews of all tax expenditures to ensure this spending is effective, efficient, and necessary.

There are some energy tax expenditures that clearly do not meet this standard. Sima Gandhi and I wrote in depth about this issue in "America's Hidden Power Bill," where we described obscure tax credits for the oil-and-gas industry that have existed for more than 80 years and have no demonstrable benefits for Americans. Such tax breaks simply provide windfall benefits to these mature industries at taxpayer expense. We also discussed several tax credits for clean energy that are much better designed.

This issue brief calls for Congress to take action on some of the most important clean energy tax issues in today's policy and political debates: the production tax credit, the investment tax credit, and the Treasury Cash Grant Program. Each of these can be extended in a way that both leads to powerful incentives for investment in our energy future and represents good tax policy.

Finally, it's important to note that each of the three primary issues is significant for a different reason. Because renewable energy sources have different characteristics they require different treatments within the tax code. Simply extending the production tax credit is not sufficient. Neither is extending the Treasury Cash Grant Program nor improving the investment tax credit. Congress needs to do all of these things. If Congress only takes action on one of these, they will in effect be "picking winners" across technologies.

Congress should instead focus on a comprehensive investment package that creates paths for all technologies so that American businesses will invest in the technologies that make the most sense for our country.

Three ways to invest efficiently and effectively

Fortunately, we already know some of the best ways for the federal government to make meaningful investments. Through effective and efficient use of the tax code, the government can continue to help drive deployment of the energy technologies that will be critical to our future.

This section describes the three most important tax issues for the government to consider in encouraging the next wave of strategic energy investment in the United States. They are:

  • The production tax credit
  • The investment tax credit
  • The Treasury Cash Grant

Let's look at each in turn.

The production tax credit

The renewable electricity production tax credit, or PTC, is the most critical tax incentive for renewable energy projects using wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric power technologies, among others. I'll focus on wind here because it's the most prominent, but investment in all of these resources is important.

The PTC is linked to electricity generation from a project. That is, for each kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, the owner of a project gets a tax credit. "Tax credit" means that the owner of the project gets to reduce their tax bill by a certain amount—currently 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour, or kWh—at the end of the year.

Let's look at an example. A typical large wind farm has several dozen turbines that can generate 100 megawatts of electricity. Because the wind conditions are only favorable for part of the year, it won't produce that much power all of the time. Instead, the wind turbines will only spin about 30 percent of the time. This wind farm will generate 262,800,000 kWh each year, which will earn $5,781,600 in tax credits from the PTC.

Let's be clear: This is a $5 million government investment, but it just happens to have gone through the tax code. This tax credit is economically the same as government spending: The government has less money than they would have without the investment, and the project is more profitable. It is also true that the incentive helped stimulate the investment that made both the income and the tax expenditure possible. In short, this investment helped directly create economic activity and growth.

Since its creation in 1993, the government has invested several billion dollars in wind power through the PTC. These have been smart investments. The PTC is intended to incentivize the deployment of energy sources that are more expensive than fossil-fuel sources and whose cost will come down as more of the technology is deployed. This is also known as driving a technology down its cost curve. Since 1980 the cost of wind power has declined by 90 percent.

Declining costs are critical because they allow for more clean energy to be built, which will improve our environment and diversify our power mix. Indeed, the PTC has led to massive amounts of new growth in the wind industry. Since 1993 more than 40 gigawatts of new capacity have come online.

We know this growth is attributable to the PTC. (see Figure 1)

 

Since its creation the PTC has only been extended for two years at a time. When it's not in effect, there's virtually zero investment. When it is in effect, investment is tremendous. There are also more formal economic studies suggesting the positive outcome of the PTC: EconomistGilbert Metcalf, for example, finds that "[T]he data suggest that much of the current investment in wind can be explained by the production tax credit for wind." (For more information on how we know the PTC works, see the CAP report, "America's Hidden Power Bill.")

The PTC also has real benefits for American workers. At least 85,000 people work in the wind industry. These workers are spread all across our country and throughout the industry. We have people making turbines, installing them, and operating them, all in good-paying jobs.

Unfortunately, we don't have as many people working in the wind industry as we could. While the wind-manufacturing sector has grown in recent years, it has historically been crippled by the PTC expiring every two years. Manufacturers know that this on-again, off-again cycle for the industry would leave them with virtually no business every other year, so American wind farms use some imported parts.

Indeed, we have more demand for certain turbine parts than we have domestic manufacturing capacity. In particular, U.S. manufacturing capacity is insufficient for gearboxes, generators, bearings, and castings. The lack of consistent policy is clearly contributing to U.S. underinvestment in domestic production of these strategic technologies. Our economic competitors have simultaneously developed robust manufacturing capacity to serve both their growing domestic demand and meet global demand through technology exports. (see Figure 2)

Over the past three years, however, the United States experienced tremendous growth in wind manufacturing, partly because of the relatively stable PTC, which was most recently extended for four years as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the stimulus. In that time new manufacturers set up shop across the country and the composition of domestic parts that each turbine made has steadily increased while our wind energy imports declined. This should be a lesson to Congress: A long-term PTC is more valuable than a short-term extension when we look at the overall impact on jobs and growth.

Instead of allowing the PTC to expire this year, it should be extended for at least four more years to give confidence and stability to investors throughout the supply chain. This doesn't mean, however, that the PTC should be extended indefinitely without review. This is exactly one of the biggest problems with many of the deeply flawed fossil-fuel subsidies. If Congress wants to extend it beyond that timeframe, they should build in a review process to evaluate whether or not the credit should be adjusted in any way.

Congress should review the size of the credit and review whether or not it should be linked to inflation. Ultimately as the industry matures and markets expand, the PTC—like other subsidies that have done their work and grown strong domestic industries—should be allowed to sunset, taking taxpayers off the hook for payments.

The investment tax credit

While the production tax credit primarily benefits wind, the solar industry is the primary beneficiary of the investment tax credit, or ITC. The ITC works a little differently, in a way that makes more economic sense for the type of capital investment required for developing solar energy projects. Instead of the tax credit being spread over 10 years and only awarded as energy is produced, renewable energy developers get an upfront tax credit based on the initial investment in the project. For solar power the credit is worth 30 percent of the initial investment.

So if a building owner spends $6 million to put a 1 megawatt solar energy system on a building's rooftop, the building owner is then awarded a $1.8 million tax credit—but the owner is not allowed to claim any other tax credits over the life of the project.

The upfront, one-time nature of the ITC has some real benefits for solar power. First, solar is a more expensive technology to initially install, so investors have a special need for the investment-based incentive. Second, solar is a younger industry than wind, and the technology isn't quite as proven over the long term. This means that future energy production is slightly less certain with solar power than with wind power, so a production-based incentive would be less valuable.

Just like the PTC, the ITC has been a tremendous success. The solar industry has experienced extremely impressive cost improvements. (see Figure 3)

renewable energy investment drives down costs

Not surprisingly, as costs fall and demand rises, the solar industry now employs more than100,000 people, up from 20,000 just five years ago.

The ITC was extended until 2016 as part of the stimulus bill. The extension provided very valuable certainty to the solar market, but when it expires Congress should also review the size and effectiveness of this credit.

The Treasury Cash Grant in lieu of tax credits

Despite their incredible successes, the PTC and ITC aren't perfect, and they don't provide a complete offering to meet the full range of project-financing needs faced in the emerging renewable energy market. The biggest problem is that most renewable energy projects are structured in such a way that they don't earn profits for the first several years of the project's life. The developer only owes taxes on profits (not revenues), so they may not owe any taxes for years after building the project.

At the same time, tax credits are used to reduce the amount of taxes owed. Thus, if the developer doesn't owe any taxes, the associated credits are worthless. This is a structural limitation of using the tax code to support strategically valuable public investments.

Traditionally, project developers have worked around this problem by bringing in so-called "tax equity investors." These investors—typically large financial institutions— essentially buy the tax credits from a project. This cash from the tax equity investor is extremely valuable and allows developers to monetize the tax benefits without actually owing taxes.

This system worked fairly well before the financial crisis. There was more than $6 billion in tax equity available in 2007. The pool of tax equity capital shrank dramatically, though, when large financial institutions no longer owed taxes, as they lost money in 2008 and 2009.

This shortfall was fixed with something called the Treasury Cash Grant Program. This program, also known as the Section 1603 program because of where it's included in the stimulus bill, does two things:

  • It makes the PTC-eligible technologies also eligible for the ITC.
  • It allows developers to get a cash grant instead of the ITC.

This means that all renewable developers are able to get a cash grant from the Treasury Department for 30 percent of the initial investment in their project. This solved the tax equity market shortfall problem, and allowed renewable investments to continue. Instead of shrinking, the wind and solar industries grew during the recent recession, largely because the Section 1603 program helped with financing.

Unfortunately, this program drew to a close at the end of 2011. After creating the program in 2009, Congress extended it for one year at the end of 2010. Now they should extend the program for at least one more year, and ideally change it to run concurrently with the underlying PTC and ITC, always matching their expiration dates. This is especially important because there's not expected to be enough tax equity available to meet the demand. In 2011 the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance estimated that there was a total of $7.5 billion available through tax equity and the Treasury Cash Grant. They project that there will only be $3.6 billion in tax equity available in 2012, which is far less than recent history suggests will be needed. (see Figure 4)

The cash grant program makes the PTC and ITC more effective, more efficient, and more transparent. It makes absolutely no sense to have this beneficial program on a different schedule than the tax credits it improves.

In addition to overcoming a simple shortfall in investment capital from the tax equity market, the cash grant program has several benefits that make it superior to a tax credit.

First, the cash grant is more economically efficient. In a best-case scenario, the tax equity investor is going to buy tax credits at a slight discount (it makes no sense to pay full price because then there's no possible profit for the investor). In real life, however, there's evidence that tax equity investors buy tax credits at a much deeper discount. The Bipartisan Policy Centerfinds that even though a tax credit and cash grant may have the same face value to the government, the tax credit is only half as valuable as the cash grant to the project developer and thus is dramatically less effective at producing clean energy outcomes.

Second, the cash grant is much more transparent. When a developer claims the ITC, all they do is check a box and write in a number on a tax form. When they claim the cash grant, however, they submit much more information, such as details on the project and the number of jobs that will be created with the investment. And while tax information is strictly confidential, the Treasury publishes a list of every project that has received a Section 1603 cash grant.

If Congress does choose to extend the cash grant program to always match the PTC and ITC extensions, thus making this public spending more efficient for taxpayers, they should also evaluate the size of the tax credits. The overwhelming popularity and the evidence of the cash grant's economic efficiency seem to indicate that the ITC could be made smaller if it is always offered as a cash grant.

Expanding the investment tax credit for offshore wind

In addition to the three key policies described above, there is a fourth way that the tax code could be improved to boost renewable energy. For many years the technologies eligible for the PTC and ITC have remained unchanged. But there's no reason that new developments in renewable energy technology shouldn't be accounted for with modifications to the tax code. Most importantly Congress should place technologies within the PTC or ITC (or both) depending on the unique characteristics of each technology and their specific capital investment needs.

The offshore wind industry is poised to take off in the waters off of America's East Coast. Unfortunately, as Michael Conathan and I wrote in "Clean Energy from America's Oceans," "More than 40,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy capacity have been permitted around the globe, yet the United States accounts for barely 1 percent of that, and we have yet to generate our first watt of electricity from this abundant, carbon-free source of power."

There's no shortage of interest in building offshore wind farms and several projects are moving forward with permitting and siting. The right government investment can provide critical support for leveraging private capital investment in these projects to accelerate the growth of this new American industry.

In many ways, offshore wind looks more like solar than it looks like onshore wind. For instance, the technology has extremely high upfront costs. These are expected to rapidly decline over time, but they are currently a significant barrier to investors entering this market.

Further, the offshore wind technology is largely unknown and unproven in the eyes of American investors and returns are therefore discounted in the capital market. Because the future production from an offshore wind farm is less certain than with onshore wind, the value of the production tax credit is also unpredictable.

Congress should address this issue by making offshore wind temporarily eligible for the ITC, which better suits this emerging industry. As the industry grows and more closely resembles onshore wind, the technology should shift back to the PTC.

Conclusion

Clean, renewable energy is a bright spot in the U.S. economy. This industry is a success story that has resulted in job creation, scientific innovation, cleaner air, and a stronger manufacturing sector.

Yet this is still a young industry and it still needs significant public investment. Importantly, this investment should be structured in a way that supports the entire industry in an efficient, cost-effective manner. When the government invests in clean energy, they need to match the tools available to the specific technologies and businesses that they're supporting.

In this issue brief we have explained why the production tax credit should be extended. This is the fundamental tool that the government uses to invest in renewable energy, and it has been a tremendous success. But extending the PTC is not sufficient to support the whole industry.

Other technologies require an investment tax credit, which can be made more effective when issued as a cash grant, as in the Section 1603 Treasury Cash Grant Program.

Finally, there are new types of renewable energy that are not properly treated in existing law. Offshore wind power is much better suited to the ITC than the PTC, and Congress acknowledged this by making offshore wind specifically eligible for the ITC.

This strategy of strong investment in renewable energy, with the investment channeled through a mix of tools, will make America a better place. Congress should start 2012 by making this happen.

Richard W. Caperton is Director of Clean Energy Investment at the Center for American Progress. This piece was originally published at the Center for American Progress website.

Clean energy image at top via shutterstock

 

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NRG Showcases Largest Gadget Ever at CES 2012

Posted: 11 Jan 2012 06:10 AM PST

The Consumer Electronics Show is on in Las Vegas at the moment and NRG is there, showing off the largest gadget ever; the Reliant Smarter Home on Wheels.

"Consumers have the power to move clean energy forward," said Jason Few, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer of NRG. "We are making solar power and electric vehicle charging easy and affordable. We're empowering consumers with information, tools and plans to help them manage the electricity that runs all the incredible innovations at CES. With our investment in large-scale solar generation and repowering our generation fleet with cleaner technologies, we are forging a more sustainable energy future."

The NRG booth at CES features:

  • The Reliant Smarter Home on WheelsTM: This innovative smart energy home on wheels from Reliant, one of NRG's retail electricity businesses, shows consumer smart energy technology in action. The smarter home – complete with interactive representations of a living room, kitchen, laundry and office – shows how home network technology, intelligent thermostats and Reliant e-Sense® smart energy solutions, including home energy monitors and mobile apps, work together to put consumers in control, giving them the power to make more informed decisions about the electricity that they use for their homes and electronics. In the spring, the Smarter Home on Wheels will start a tour across Texas to bring more information about cleaner, green electricity choices to consumers.
  • Solar for Consumers: Solar panels from NRG – the nation's largest developer of solar energy – on top of the Smarter Home on Wheels show how solar is working – today. NRG and its retail businesses provide consumers with options that make solar easy, affordable and convenient without a large upfront investment as well as options that allow consumers with solar installations to sell electricity back to the grid.
  • Electric Vehicle Charging at Home and On the Road: NRG is building the nation's first privately funded, comprehensive electric vehicle charging network. The eVgo network gives electric vehicle owners new freedom and range confidence. It makes the promise of electric vehicles a reality with home charging docks and fast network charging stations located at major retailers throughout eVgo cities, all on an affordable, fixed-rate monthly plan. The eVgo home charging unit allows consumers to charge on demand or preprogram to charge when energy costs are lowest.
  • The Human NRG Backyard: Visitors to the NRG booth and the Facebook pages for NRG, eVgo and Reliant will be able to put their energy to use by running, gliding and clicking to raise money for Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit that provides free rehabilitation and critical repairs to the homes of low-income Americans, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The Human NRG effort will kick off at noon Pacific Time on Tuesday, January 10 with the launch of an online sweepstakes for the chance to drive the prototype DeLorean DMCev automobile.

For a whole host of photos from the floor of CES check out Reliant Energy’s Flickr set.

Source: Business Wire
Image Source: Reliant Energy

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Nissan’s Leaf Tapped to Make eNV200 — an Electric Commerical Van

Posted: 11 Jan 2012 06:03 AM PST

Ever wanted a commercial van designed like a Nissan Leaf? Of course you have! So, check this out:

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UAE’s Dubai Launches 1-Gigawatt Solar Power Project

Posted: 11 Jan 2012 03:03 AM PST

huge solar power plant planned for dubai

Photo courtesy Khaleej Times

Looking to diversify its energy mix and economy by increasing use of renewable energy, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler and vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched a 12-billion UAE dirham (Dhs) ($3.27 billion) solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) project on January 10.

Named in his honor, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will employ both PV and CSP technologies. It is planned to grow to 1 gigawatt (GW) of clean, renewable power-generating capacity, according to a Gulf News report.

Renewables to Diversify the UAE’s Energy Mix

Implemented by Dubai’s Supreme Council of Energy, the solar power plant is to be managed and operated by state-owned power utility Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa). An initial Dhs 120 million (US$32.4 million) will be invested in the first, 10-MW phase of the project, which is due to be completed in 4Q 2013. Final completion is scheduled for 2030. The solar power park will rise on a 48-square-kilometer (~18-square-mile) plot of land.

All of Arabian Gulf Coast Dubai’s energy production comes from oil and natural gas. Dewa’s total installed capacity amounts to 7,361 megawatts MW (7.361 GW). Peak demand falls well below 6,000 MW. The best known of seven Arabian emirates that form the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 calls for renewable energy to supply a very modest 1% of the state’s energy by 2020 and 5% by 2030. Currently, in Dubai, 4.5-MW of electrical power is produced via solar energy.

Neighboring Abu Dhabi’s Masdar has announced a Dhr 2.2 billion (US$600 million), 100-MW solar PV project, Noor 1. Masdar has awarded a tender for a 100-MW CSP plant to Spain’s Abengoa and France’s Total. Abu Dhabi has set a 7% renewable energy target for 2020.

Though the Shaikh Mohammad solar power plant will be 100% state-owned, the Dubai government says that private sector companies are prepared to invest in future projects. Solar power development will take the form of both ground-mounted solar power and rooftop solar PV systems.

Engineering consulting bids for the plant’s initial 10-MW of capacity are currently being evaluated by. Tenders for developers are due to open in June.

For more recent news regarding large solar power projects, check out: 115-MW Solar Power Project (+ 5 More Large Solar Power Projects).

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Obama Administration Fast-Tracks 2,500 MW Wind Project in Wyoming

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 10:19 PM PST

largest-wind-farm-north-america

By far the largest wind project ever built in North America is expected to get final approvals by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) within the next few months.

At 2,000 to 3,000 MW, the ChokeCherry/Sierra Madre Wind Project will dwarf anything built to date on this side of the Atlantic. This is much bigger than the Roscoe Wind Farm in Texas; the largest so far, at 781 MW.

The BLM says that the proposed 1,000 turbine project is sited on two areas approximately nine miles apart within the Wind Site Testing and Monitoring Application Area – the Chokecherry site and the Sierra Madre site – located on 222,689 acres of federal, private, and state lands.

Only a portion of the total land area would be used for, or disturbed by, the project or the access roads, underground electric gathering lines, and overhead transmission line that its developer, Power Company of Wyoming is building as part of the proposed project.

The farm consists of approximately 1,000 wind turbine generators with a nameplate capacity ranging from 1.5 to 3 MW and substations to interconnect the generated power to the electric grid.

At 2,000 to 3,000 MW, the project represents about a third of 7,000 MW worth of renewable energy projects scheduled for approval this year on public lands.

The BLM has already approved a record number of projects during the Obama administration, quadrupling the amount of renewable power permits ever approved on public land.

Prior to this administration, the only renewable energy on public lands was mostly geothermal, and little of that was recent.

But if the 6,600 MW (6.6 GW) that the Obama administration has already approved represented a quadrupling of renewable power (from 1,600 MW in 2008 to 6,600 MW in 2011) this year’s approvals will double that, with another 7,000 MW (7 GW) of renewable energy permits, for a total of 13.6 GW.

The BLM manages over 245 million acres of public lands, and for the last few centuries, has used these lands for oil and gas leases, not solar and wind. Clean energy projects such as this giant Wyoming wind farm are completely new on public lands.

This could be the end of the renewable boom on public lands, because with the now legal control of US elections by the richest industry on the planet as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizen United, a return of power to Republican control is likely next.

But no matter what happens after 2012, we will still have 13.6 GW of renewable energy as a result of this administration’s fast track policy over these years. That is enough power for 5% of all US households to get 100% of their electricity from renewable energy on public lands for the next thirty years.

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Doomsday Clock Moved to 5 Minutes to Midnight, Focus on Global Warming & Energy

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 04:57 PM PST

 

doomsday clock now at 5 minutes to midnight

The Doomsday Clock, a symbolic clock focused on how close we are to tremendous global catastrophe… or doomsday, was moved from 6 minutes to midnight to 5 minutes to midnight today.

Reasons for Moving the Clock Forward

A handful of reasons were provided for moving the Doomsday Clock’s hands for just the 20th time since it was unveiled in 1947, including increasing worry regarding the original topic of the clock’s concern — nuclear proliferation. One of the growing concerns over the years, however, has been global warming, and our inaction on this topic, combined with some politicians complete rejection of science on this matter, was a key factor in moving the clock forward today.

"The scientists also noted how Republicans seeking the GOP nomination were trying to outdo each other in denying climate science," The Guardian reports.

“It is five minutes to midnight,” the scientists said. “Two years ago it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats we face. In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed.”

“A cross-cutting issue through the entire discussion is the worrisome trend to reject or diminish the significance of what science says is the characteristic of a problem,” said Robert Socolow of Princeton’s Environmental Institute. “There is a general judgement among us that we need the political leadership to affirm the primacy of science.”

Tell us about it!

Additionally, the nuclear disasters in Japan last year contributed greatly to the clock’s most recent tick.

“They warned that the Fukushima meltdown once more exposed the dangers of nuclear power – not just because of technology but because of management failures.”

Suffice it to say, we here at CleanTechnica agree with the scientists, and it is largely why we do what we do.

In addition to the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuel energy and the concerns of nuclear energy, the unsustainable nature of reliance on oil, coal, and other limited resources was also cited. If only we could harness power from the sun, wind, and water….

History of the Doomsday Clock

For those interested in a little more history, the clock was first put into use in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago. They have maintained the clock ever since. The clock has ticked forward or backward 20 times in those 65 years. The furthest it’s ever been from midnight was 17 minutes (after the break-up of the Soviet Union 20 years ago) and the closest it’s ever been is 2 minutes from midnight (in 1953, after the US’ and Soviet Union’s testing of their first thermonuclear devices). In 2010, the clock was moved backwards to 6 minutes to midnight out of optimism over global leader’s positions on key issues, but lack of action has led to greater concern.

More history on the Doomsday Clock, including all changes, can be found on Wikipedia, of course.

Clock at 5 Minutes to Midnight via shutterstock

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Why Electric Cars Are Awesome

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 02:45 PM PST

 

Why EVs Are AwesomeMost of you reading this are already inclined toward green-type technology, whether that's clean power generation, electric transportation, or more efficient ways to do things. Today, I'm going to give you one more reason to stop supporting – or at least vocally dislike – big gas and big oil.

Yes, We've All Heard About This

There are a number of people who will happily speak at length about dependence on foreign oil and how it leads to American troops being sent over to oil-rich hotspots to make sure we can still get affordable gas at the pump. There was a pun a while back about how Operation: Iraqi Freedom should have been called Operation: Iraqi Liberation (or O.I.L.), for example. I'm not really one of those people, but I listen when they talk.

Oil is not cheap; from the cost of importing oil to the cost of filling up your car, and everything in between, that's been covered in depth. How do we reduce that cost? Not using oil would be one way, I would think.

Of Course I Will Now Bring Up the Electric Car

If you've read my pieces here or on Gas2, you know that I'm a big fan of the electric car. (If you haven't, well, I like electric vehicles.) Whatever their limitations in range or top speed, or the inconvenience of having to wait several hours to recharge the batteries, the massive advantage of an electric vehicle is that it does not use oil.

However, we're hearing a lot about how the Chevy Volt caught fire three weeks after crash tests (note how many times a year gasoline-powered cars catch fired — in next section). There's been a massive amount of media attention given to this. Please remember, the media is not impartial, okay, the big news networks are not impartial, everything is bought and paid for; and while this also means that you should take what I'm telling you with a grain of salt, please keep in mind, also, that I'm not being paid by an industry that's sending our citizens to fight and die for cheap gasoline. But I'm talking about the negative attention given to the Volt and the Leaf here, and how that influences your perception.

What, Exactly, Defines Failure?

Both USA Today and Yahoo! Finance have been calling the Volt and the Leaf flops and failures, although they've been selling fairly well. This seems to be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy — the more we hear about how the Volt and the Leaf are doing poorly, the less we want to buy one, and the fewer end up on the road. Only 17,000 of both vehicles combined were sold, said USA Today.

But let me tell you something else – how often do you see a Prius rolling down the street? I see two or three parked near where I live all the time. They seem to be pretty successful. But they sold less than 6,000 their first year. According to the numbers quoted above, that would have been indicative of market failure.

That's not even the most frustrating part of the whole mess. Gasoline-powered cars catch fire nearly 200,000 times a year! Two. Hundred. Thousand. We're not talking about crash tests. We're not talking about in a laboratory, under safe and controlled conditions. This is on the road, in your neighborhood or somewhere very like it. Gasoline is flammable. It catches fire. A car running on a flammable substance may catch fire in a crash. This is not new, this is not news, this is accepted as a fact of life.

So why is it suddenly terrifying and horrible that an EV battery might potentially burst into flames under conditions of massive stress? (And it wasn't even during the crash itself; it was afterwards.) I'll tell you why – because the mass media is telling you that it's horrifying, and the mass media is funded by big oil.

Electric Cars Aren't Perfect Yet, Either

I'm not saying that EVs are perfect, or that they're a super easy solution. They're expensive. They take time to charge. They've got limited range. But they allow for far less dependence on foreign products (particularly considering how recycling technology to reclaim rare earth metals is improving), and they're better for public health and the environment. Even without the foreign policy issues, EVs have the potential to be really clean transportation.

It's not just a matter of not spewing out carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, fine dirty particles that damage the cardiovascular system, although that's the first and most obvious way that EVs are clean. It's also not production or recycling, because, to be honest, EVs aren't significantly cleaner to produce or recycle than traditional cars (batteries, in particular, are kind of hard to dispose of). But the energy that powers an EV has the potential to be green, too – you don't have to charge your EV with electricity from coal or a nuclear power plant; you can run it with energy from a wind turbine, a solar power generator, or geothermal energy. The EV doesn't care. It just needs electricity, and that can be cleanly generated.

Any questions, comments, opinions? Let us know in the comments, below.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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