Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Clean Energy Could Create Over 28,000 Jobs & Save Kentuckians Money, New Study Finds

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 08:30 AM PST

 

kentucky clean energy standard

A new study from Synapse Energy Economics finds that the Clean Energy Opportunity Act (HB 167) introduced by Kentucky Representative Mary Lou Marzian could create over 28,000 jobs (net) in the state over 10 years. Not only that, it’s also projected to keep electric bills lower. Furthermore, it would likely increase Kentucky’s gross state product by $1.5 billion by 2022.

“This study confirms that legislation to diversify our electricity portfolio would be economically beneficial to Kentucky,” said Justin Maxson, President of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). “The bill would allow the state to hedge against increasing rates by making homes and businesses more energy efficient. And it would spur the creation of clean energy jobs installing renewable energy projects and making energy efficiency upgrades.”

Electricity Prices Will Rise

As should be clear to everyone in the U.S. (but probably isn’t), electricity prices are going to rise across the country in the coming years. We’ve got a large fleet of old power plants and aging grid infrastructure. No matter what you replace this with, electricity prices are going to go up. The best options to keep electricity prices as low as possible, however, are clean energy options such as wind, solar, and geothermal.

“The era of cheap energy is coming to an end,” said Maxson, “and it is really a question of whether we in Kentucky take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the clean energy economy of the future.”

Electricity prices could be 8-10% lower than without the Clean Energy Authority Act, the study finds.

What Would the Clean Energy Opportunity Act Do?

The Clean Energy Opportunity Act would put a Renewable and Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) into place. The REPS “would require utilities to get 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable energy and achieve 10.25 percent cumulative savings from energy efficiency efforts by 2022,” a news release on the new study reports.

“The study’s findings are supported by what neighboring states that have passed similar legislation have experienced. North Carolina has seen tremendous growth in the number of clean energy firms operating in their state since passing an REPS in 2007. Ohio built on the strengths of its traditional manufacturing sector to start building clean energy equipment in state, and reap real economic benefits from their 2008 law.”

The full report can be read here: Potential Impacts of a Renewable and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard in Kentucky.

Kentucky flag via shutterstock

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Video Gamers to Tackle Global Warming?

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 07:30 AM PST

 

Wish video gamers would put their amazing passion and skills into solving the world’s global warming crisis a bit more? Who doesn’t! Well, Al Gore and the Climate Reality Team, with the help of some leading designers, are moving some gamers in that direction a bit. Here’s more, a repost from sister site Planetsave:

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SOPA Blackout: What It’s About & How to Take Action

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 07:02 AM PST

 

Well, I probably don’t need to tell you there’s a SOPA blackout today, and probably don’t need to tell you what it’s about. But if you haven’t run into the news when trying to visit a Wikipedia page or reddit, or when googling, below is a quick summary of what SOPA and PIPA are, what they threaten, why Congress is looking at them, and how to take action:

And note that even if you aren’t a U.S. resident, these bills could affect you: “Many of the sites that you may use (e.g. Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, etc.) are all affected by this law and will be required to hide offending domains from you,” reddit notes. “If a non-U.S. site is blocked in the U.S., the site could suffer financially or even be bankrupted by the loss of U.S. traffic and revenue.”

OK, now the repost from Planetsave:

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Obama’s Energy Initiatives Create Over 11 Times the Jobs Keystone XL Projected to Create

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 07:00 AM PST

 

Obama’s energy initiatives create 68,000 compared to the Keystone XL’s ~6,000 (or fewer).

“Two of the Obama administration's clean energy initiatives are poised to create more than 68,000 jobs, and even more temporary jobs, over the next few years,” Think Progress Green writes.

Both initiatives — which include the Environmental Protection Agency's toxic pollution rule and the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program for renewables — are under attack from the right, labeled as job-killing programs. However, the data shows the programs are poised to create far more jobs than the much-touted Keystone XL pipeline numbers. Although pipeline proponents claim it will create ‘tens of thousands of jobs,’ upon closer examination, the pipeline would only lead to an approximate 6,000 temporary jobs:

obama energy jobs keystone energy jobs

 

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CIGS Thin Film Solar PV Starts 2012 Off on the Good Foot with Solar Frontier-EDF Supply Contract

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 05:09 AM PST

Photo courtesy Solar Frontier

Solar Frontier, a subsidiary of Japan’s Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, and France’s EDF Energies Nouvelles yesterday announced the largest deal to date in in the nascent market for thin-film CIGS (Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenium) solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

Solar Frontier is to supply up to 150-megawatts -peak (MWp) of its thin-film CIGS panels to enXco, EDF Energies Novelles’ project development group, which is building the 100+ MW Catalina Solar Project in Kern County, California, according to a company news release. Solar Frontier delivered an initial 26 MWp of its CIGS panels for the Catalina project in 4Q 2011.

To be built in two phases, an the first 60 MW of capacity is due on-line by year-end 2012. When the anticipated second phase of construction is completed by June, 2013, the Catalina Solar Project will have a capacity of 100+ MW, enough to supply some 35,000 homes with clean, renewable energy, offsetting some 74,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Landmark Deal for CIGS Thin Film PV

"This is a landmark moment not only for Solar Frontier but the CI(G)S industry as a whole," Gregory W. Ashley, Solar Frontier Americas chief operating officer, stated. "We have demonstrated successfully that the unique characteristics of CIS technology are compelling to major customers by delivering more KWh over the lifetime of a project for a lower cost.

“We see this project as a launch pad for ever greater CIS achievement in the United States and across the world. We are pleased to work with enXco, which has shown its commitment to the industry by continuing to develop and build utility scale solar projects."

Though more efficient in terms of converting sunlight’s energy into usable electricity, improvements in both crystalline silicon and thin-film cadmium-telluride (Cd-Te) PV technology and balance of systems costs, along with the sharp, rapid increases in supply, have raised the competitive bar and made it more difficult for thin-film CIGS solar PV technology to break-in and carve out a share of the growing solar power market.

Solar Frontier’s products are the result of more than 30 years of solar PV research and development on the part of Shell Showa Sekiyu, Japanese academic research institutions and the Japanese government, a testament to their determined, longstanding commitment to developing solar PV.

Form, Function and Flexibility

With the 2011 commissioning of its a 900-MW Kunitomi Plant in Miyazaki, Japan, Solar Frontier is the world’s largest manufacturer of thin-film CIS modules, an achievement Solar Frontier notes is “bringing us to gigawatt class production levels and enabling us to meet worldwide demand for a new standard in affordable solar panel performance.”

Thin-film CIGS modules coming off a pilot production line at Solar Frontier’s new factory have attained 17.2% conversion efficiency on a 30cm x 30cm sub-module, which is comparable to that being achieved by market leader First Solar with Cd-Te thin film PV modules. CIGS modules also free of cadmium and lead, heavy metals with potentially toxic environmental and health effects.

Higher solar energy conversion efficiency and the form flexibility and manufacturing efficiency of roll-to-roll thin film production are the main selling points for CIGS thin film as compared to monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar PV technology.

Solar Frontier field data show 10% or more greater efficiency in terms of hourly and peak power output consistently compared to polycrysatalline silicon PV panels, according to the company, while manufacturing CIS PV modules requires 60% less energy than crystalline silicon panels. This translates into a payback time of around one year as compared to more than 1.5 years for polycrystalline silicon PV panels and close to 2.5 years for crystalline silicon PV panels.

While achieving high energy conversion efficiencies and economies of scale in manufacturing are cornerstones of developing a mass market, demand eventually needs to catch up. Solar Frontier’s supply contract with EDF Energies Nouvelles starts off 2012 on ‘the good foot.’

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Ford, REPREVE to Recycle 2 Million Plastic Bottles Back into the New 2012 Focus Electric and Other Vehicles

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 05:00 AM PST

 

plastic bottles to be used in Ford Focus Electric

Using REPREVE®, Ford intends to divert 2 million plastic bottles from landfills and oceanic garbage patches by recycling them and using the plastic to manufacture vehicles, starting with the 2012 Ford Focus Electric.

Ford is collecting bottles at various events, including the North American International Auto Show and Consumer Electronics Show, and using them to make fibers that are then used to make fabrics. Each Ford Focus Electric contains 22 bottles worth of recycled fibers.

“Ford is committed to delivering vehicles with leading fuel efficiency while targeting at least 25 percent clean technology in interior materials across our lineup,” says Carol Kordich, lead designer of Sustainable Materials for Ford. “The Focus Electric highlights this commitment as Ford’s first gas-free vehicle, and the first in the automotive industry to use branded REPREVE.”

“After decades of education, the United States PET bottle recycling rate is only at 29 percent, about half the rate of Europe,” said Roger Berrier, president and COO of Unifi Inc. “We hope this recycling initiative with Ford will help raise visibility around the importance of recycling with a goal to drive recycling rates to 100 percent, diverting millions of plastic bottles from entering the waste stream and potentially back into REPREVE-branded fibers.”

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) took place in Detroit on Jan. 9-10 and the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) took place in Las Vegas on Jan. 10-13.

Using REPREVE also conserves energy by reducing demand for oil. Plastic comes from oil and, therefore, recycling a plastic bottle (reuse) means that oil will not be required to manufacture that bottle.

“We aimed to make the Focus Electric the most overall sustainable vehicle available to consumers, from using clean technology to overall vehicle efficiency,” said Kordich. Another point they could have made is that the electricity required to power electric vehicles does not usually come from oil in the United States, but from nuclear, hydroelectric, natural gas, and coal power plants, all of which have a higher efficiency than gasoline-powered vehicles, which are 10%-15% efficient (not to be confused with the efficiency of the engine itself which is 20%-25%). Therefore, using electric vehicles reduces oil demand, and reducing oil demand decreases oil prices. This is beneficial to the economy overall, so the financial savings are not just enjoyed by the owners who eliminated their gasoline bills, but everyone that uses oil.

Based on its statements, it seems as if Ford believes that environmentally sound vehicles should be all-inclusive and not only be energy-efficient. This makes the Focus electric more appealing to environmentally concerned people especially, as well as anyone else who would like to be greener.

A little more insight into plastic waste:

Source REPREVE | Photo Credit: marc e marc

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Slash Electricity Bills by Tinting Windows

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 04:30 AM PST

Here’s a good, common-sense solution for those in hot climates (I can feel the heat coming in Florida windows now, just thinking about it, nearly 8 years after moving out of Florida) — window tinting. It’s probably not something most people think about, but can apparently save a lot of energy and money that would have been used for cooling a building. Here’s more from sister site Ecopreneurist:

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Offshore Wind Needs a Little Love from Congress

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 04:00 AM PST

 

Following up on the offshore wind power stories I shared yesterday, here’s a great post from Richard Caperton, Michael Conathan, and Jackie Weidman of the Center for American Progress on U.S. offshore wind today and how it could actually be a something tomorrow:

Congress Needs to Push Targeted Incentives for Offshore Wind

More than a decade ago, Denmark built the world's first offshore wind farm near Copenhagen. Since then offshore wind has been added to the energy portfolio of nine other countries in Europe and Asia. The East Coast of the United States, from the Mid-Atlantic region north through New England, possesses some of the world's most favorable environmental conditions to tap into this massive renewable energy resource. And even though public opinion throughout the region strongly supports such development, we have yet to begin construction on even a single turbine.

With a stronger commitment from Congress, Atlantic coastal states could advance projects that simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower our dependence on foreign oil, and create jobs and industrial innovation from Maine to the Carolinas.

Yet to take off

2011 was pretty good for advancing the U.S. offshore wind industry in many ways. The Cape Wind project proposed for the waters off Massachusetts received its final permits from the Department of the Interior, theoretically paving the way to begin construction on America's first offshore wind farm. The Obama administration advanced its "Smart from the Start" initiative, designating wind energy areas off the coasts of five Atlantic coast states, and it is actively pursuing leases with potential developers. And projects in state waters off New Jersey, Texas, and Ohio took important steps and cleared hurdles in the planning and permitting stages.

Unfortunately, as has been the case throughout the history of offshore wind in this country, it soon became another example of three steps forward, two steps back. Less than a month after Interior gave Cape Wind the green light, the Department of Energy informed the company it would not be eligible for a loan guarantee. Then, in the waning days of the year, another offshore wind pioneer, NRG Bluewater Wind, announced that it would back out of a three-year-old power-purchase agreement with Delmarva Power because it couldn't generate sufficient investor interest.

Meanwhile, developers in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Norway, China, South Korea, and other countries are proving that offshore wind is a viable economic model. They have permitted more than 40,000 MW of offshore wind energy capacity. The United States has only issued permits for 488 MW. (see table)

Not only does this delay reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and our transition to renewable energy sources, but it also prevents American innovators from taking advantage of the design, manufacturing, and construction jobs that go along with it. In Europe, where more than 4,000 MW of offshore wind capacity is already installed, developers expect to create 169,000 jobs by 2020 and 300,000 by 2030.

offshore wind power nations

Public support isn't the problem

According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Civil Society Institute, about 7 in 10 Americans (71 percent) support "a shift of federal support for energy away from nuclear and towards clean renewable energy such as wind and solar." In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, undeveloped land is difficult to find. That means renewable energy developers have to look further afield—in this case, to sea.

In the early days of offshore wind, the obstacles to development in the United States were largely borne of ignorance—concerns that offshore turbines visible on the horizon would destroy property values; that noise, or safety, or storage of lubricating fluid for the turbines would pose unacceptable risks. As other countries around the world have moved ahead with offshore wind development and seen no ill effects from those factors, however, such concerns have dramatically abated.

Support from coastal residents is fundamental to the potential success of offshore wind projects. After all, these wind farms will effectively be built in their backyards. And recently, poll after poll has shown that coastal residents are highly supportive of offshore wind energy. According to a poll of New Jersey residents, offshore wind production is extremely popular among voters and its support cuts across party and geographic lines. The analysis demonstrates that 78 percent of all New Jersey voters and 77 percent of the state's shore residents surveyed support the development of wind power 12 to 15 miles off their coast.

Public support is strong in Delaware as well. According to a University of Delaware poll, general statewide support for offshore wind in Delaware is 77.8 percent, compared with an opposition of only 4.2 percent.

In Maryland The Baltimore Sun reported in October 2011 that 62 percent of Marylanders favor wind turbine construction off the coast of Ocean City and would be willing to pay up to $2 more per month on electricity bills. Mike Tidwell, head of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said, "Marylanders understand that the benefits of offshore wind are more than worth a modest initial investment."

This view is backed by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, but as The Washington Post reported earlier this week, his efforts to make his state a leader in offshore wind appear to be in jeopardy. Monday's article quoted Democratic Del. Dereck E. Davis saying, "The situation has gotten worse — not better — for offshore wind since the last time it was up for debate."

So what has changed?

Congress holds the key

The answer lies in part in NRG Bluewater Wind's fate. NRG was unequivocal in the reasoning behind its decision to cancel its power-purchase agreement. The company's press release stated that it was "unable to find an investment partner." Specifically, NRG placed the blame for this outcome squarely on the shoulders of Congress:

Two aspects of the project critical for success have actually gone backwards: the decisions of Congress to eliminate funding for the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program applicable to offshore wind, and the failure to extend the Federal Investment and Production Tax Credits … which have rendered the Delaware project both unfinanceable and financially untenable.

While the challenges facing this project are big, they're solvable. As NRG alludes to, targeted, efficient incentives from the federal government would allow this project to move forward.

The production tax credit

Currently, offshore wind projects are eligible for the production tax credit. This is a credit based on how much electricity a wind turbine generates, and is currently worth 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. Unfortunately, this credit expires at the end of 2012, and a long-term extension of the credit is uncertain. CAP has called on Congress to extend the credit for four more years, which will provide needed policy certainty for investors in wind projects.

The investment tax credit

While NRG Bluewater Wind would clearly benefit from a production tax credit extension, other incentives may be more useful for this project. For onshore wind projects—with relatively predictable performance over the life of the project—the production tax credit is very valuable. For offshore wind, however, the credit is less valuable to the project developer. Because offshore wind turbines are relatively new technology and are deployed in environments that have never been used for energy generation, developers can't predict how much power a turbine will generate as accurately as they can with onshore wind. Thus, developers aren't as certain about how big their tax credits will be, which affects the profitability of the project.

Congress could fix this problem by making offshore wind eligible for the investment tax credit. Instead of getting a tax credit as power is generated, the investment tax credit would allow offshore wind developers to get an upfront credit for 30 percent of their initial investment, encouraging more to invest. This is much more useful for technologies with more performance uncertainty—like offshore wind—and would be a smart example of matching the tax code to the unique circumstances facing innovative industries.

Loan guarantees

Uncertainty around offshore wind turbines' operational performance also makes it difficult to finance these projects. When a bank evaluates a wind farm, it predicts how much power the turbines will produce each year and will only "count" the power that they're extremely confident will be produced. With an innovative technology like offshore wind, this could mean that only half of the turbines' expected output is "bankable." This affects whether or not a bank thinks the developer will pay back a loan, and ultimately influences whether or not a bank offers a loan.

This is a significant problem for offshore wind developers. But the federal government can solve this problem by guaranteeing a loan to a project developer. In this case the government agrees to pay back a loan if the developer is unable to. This puts banks at ease (after all, the U.S. government has a perfect track record of paying back loans) and will allow financing to flow freely.

Congress has two simple ways to create a loan guarantee program for offshore wind. They can create a Clean Energy Deployment Administration, or "Green Bank," which would offer financing tools like loan guarantees for innovative technologies. Or they can allocate funding to cover the cost of new loan guarantees for offshore wind under the existing Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program. Either way forward would help drive investment in the burgeoning offshore wind industry.

Somehow, the bright outlook from just a few years ago—moving the United States toward energy independence—has fogged over despite overwhelming evidence from statewide polls that demonstrates sustained support for proposed projects. Congress has the power to support constituents' interests in the innovative clean energy and economic opportunities offshore wind can produce to move us out of the energy Stone Age and into a sustainable future.

Richard W. Caperton is the Director of Clean Energy Investment, Michael Conathan is the Director of Ocean Policy, and Jackie Weidman is a Special Assistant for the Energy Opportunity team at American Progress.

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Atmosphere Stability Affects Wind Power Generation

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 01:58 AM PST

 

Researchers continue to increase our understanding of our wind resources and wind turbines:

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Report: Power Plant Emissions in RGGI Region Fall to Lowest Level Yet

Posted: 18 Jan 2012 01:27 AM PST

Emissions from power plants located within the states served by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) have fallen to their lowest levels since the CO2 auction program launched in 2009, according to a new report from Environment Northeast (ENE).

Through the first three quarters of 2011, emissions totaled 96,127,957 tons, a 10.7 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2010. Based on average fourth quarter emissions from 2009 and 2010, ENE projects total 2011 emissions will fall to 34 percent below the RGGI regional cap of 188 million tons CO2 emitted. ENE's analysis is based on emissions data provided by RGGI's allowance tracking system.

RGGI is a cooperative, market-based cap-and-trade system designed to reduce carbon emissions across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. Nine states currently participate in the system (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont). A tenth state, New Jersey, withdrew itself from the program in 2011. It is America's only functioning cap-and-trade emissions reduction program.

The program applies to all fossil-fuel-burning power plants 25 megawatts (MW) or greater in size. RGGI's cap has two phases: stabilization at the initial level for 2009-2014, and then a 2.5 percent reduction per year from 2015-2018 for a total 10 percent reduction.

RGGI went into effect on January 1, 2009 and has conducted 14 auctions to date. The most recent auction, in December 2011, sold 27 million allowances at $1.89 each, generating $51.5 million in proceeds. Auction proceeds are returned to participating states, and have totaled $952 million to date. A 2011 report estimated member states have invested 80 percent of auction proceeds into renewables, energy efficiency, and energy assistance programs.

ENE attributes the reduction in emissions to several factors, including power plants switching from fuel oil and coal to natural gas, increased generation from renewable energy sources, a doubling of energy efficiency investments since RGGI began, mild weather, and weak economic conditions in the region.

Emissions have also decreased without significant investment in new generation capacity. Electricity sales have grown across the region, with only modest growth in wind capacity and natural gas additions. The report's authors suggest that this means emissions can be reduced at a low cost within a market-based program.

According to the report, the consistent trend of these factors through RGGI's first three years of operation suggests "a long-lasting structural change in the regional electric system that will keep emissions significantly below the existing cap level for the foreseeable future."

A second regional cap-and-trade auction program is expected to go into effect in 2013 through the Western Climate Initiative (WCI). The WCI, which includes California, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, will hold its first quarterly emissions auction August 15th. California and Quebec recently announced plans to host a joint allowance auction.

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