Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Verdexchange 2012 Cleantech Conference

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 07:13 AM PST

I spent the day at the Verdexchange conference yesterday on behalf of CleanTechnica and heard a lot of interesting news on topics ranging from ESG reporting to waste-to-energy conversion, and so much in between. Highlights included witnessing the beginning phases of California’s carbon market being developed, hearing Mayor Villaraigosa freestyle at the end of his speech and speak from the heart about his passion for making LA as much a Clean Tech Capital as it is the world’s Entertainment Capital. He’s already done much more than most mayors to clean up our air, just with the Bike Plan alone.

Yes, that photo above is a recent photo I shot of downtown LA from the Hollywood Hills, showing that we’ve still got a long way to go to cut pollution, but utilities like SoCal Edison and the LADWP are certainly doing their part to meet the target set by AB32. If you’re not aware, Assembly Bill 32 requires that statewide GHG emissions reach 1990 levels by 2020.

The only speaker I really saw complaining about AB32 was, understandably, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association. I almost felt as if she was brought in to remind us of what we’re up against. The profundity of the lies she showed on her slides was astounding. Her complaints about CAFE standards were amusing, considering they’re not directed at oil companies. Those regulations are directed at automakers, which have been doing an excellent job of innovating away from petroleum-based powertrains. Yes, Big Oil, you are headed the way of the dinosaurs. It’s only fitting, really.

There will be more detailed posts on the conference once I’m able to process it all. Particularly, posts on the carbon market we’re opening this year in California. There were many interesting perspectives on that…. Verdexchange has videos of all of last year’s panels up on its site, if you want to get into more now, and it will also share the 2012 panels there soon.

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China Returns Fire against US Wind and Solar Investigations

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 07:07 AM PST

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese Government has hit back against a US investigation into the Chinese export of wind turbine towers to the US, saying that the slowly escalating trade disagreement between the two countries is likely to affect global efforts to curb carbon emissions and could also damage clean-energy cooperation between them.

In fact, this is the second time China has hit back against an investigation into their export of clean energy products. As you know if you’ve been following our series of posts on the US-initiated investigation into the Chinese export of solar panels (started late last year).

“This investigation will not only be harmful to the development of Sino-US new-energy cooperation; it will harm the interests of the US industry, and is not in line with global efforts on climate change and energy security,” said the Chinese Ministry of Commerce on it’s website, regarding the wind turbine investigation (quote from the Guardian, which had a better translation than I did from the Chinese-language press release).

The press release also noted that the Chinese government hopes that the US will respect the relevant laws and facts, and abide by the commitments made at the G20 summit in Cannes, which essentially prohibited new protectionist measures.

According to the Guardian, critics of China’s methods are suggesting that the generous subsidies and preferential treatment the Chinese government offers its clean tech firms is tantamount to unfair competition.

US Investigation into Chinese Solar Panel Subsidies

Again, check out our numerous stories on the solar panel trade dispute for more detail, but for those not following it, a summary of that story is as follows:

The US initiated an investigation into whether Chinese-made solar panels were being sold at unfair discounts. China then retaliated with their own investigation into American support for the clean energy sector.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce released this press release, stating that they hoped the US would analyze “in an objective manner on the real causes of the incompetitiveness in some U.S. solar panel enterprises, and avoid abuse of trade remedy measures which may hurt normal trade and mutually beneficial cooperation in new energy between enterprises of the two countries.” [sic]

I’m going to withhold from making any personal remarks, as my understanding of trade relations is not enough to clearly explain what appears on the surface to be an American problem, and not a Chinese one. Your thoughts and comments would be most welcome though.

Image Source: Patrick Finnegan

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Leasing Solar Panels Appeals to Less-Affluent

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:59 AM PST

A new study has found that being able to purchase a rooftop solar panel system is often a privilege of the affluent, but that leasing rooftop solar panel systems is an increasingly popular option for those who simply don’t have the money to pay up front.

Asked time and time again what one can do for the environment, our answers are often dependent upon our income. In most cases, one of the biggest items — like installing solar panels — is for those who earn a lot (and can make a large up-front investment in a system that will earn them money several years down the road).

However, if you have the money to lease a rooftop solar panel system, you’re not only helping the environment, but, within just a year after you start, you can start saving money. On the other hand, for those who have the money to make the initial investment of $10,000 or $20,000, it may take a decade or more to break even. But that’s not even the best part….

The real benefit for those leasing a system is seen over the next few decades of their contract, where third-party companies are touting household savings of up to $10,000 to $15,000 over two decades.


Because as you pay a constant $40 or $50 per month lease on the solar panels, the cost of electricity is going up, saving you money.

The study was conducted by analysts from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), who found that leasing solar panels is surging in southern California and is especially being adopted by those in ‘less-affluent’ neighborhoods where households are earning between $100,000 and $150,000 a year (okay, not exactly poverty-level, but those making complete, up-front purchases are more likely to be households earning over $150,000).

Published in the journal Energy Policy, the study hopes that if what proves true in southern California proves true for the rest of the US, leasing rooftop solar power could prove a tempting offer for an additional 13 million Americans living in the bracket of a household earning between $100,000 and $150,000 per year.

"What is so interesting about the southern California data is that the strong decrease in PV prices – from lower retail costs and stronger federal incentives – didn't pick up a new demographic. But the new business model – leasing – did pick up a new customer demographic," NREL's Easan Drury, the lead author of the report, said.

Repackaging the value of photovoltaics as a simple savings on the monthly bill is an attractive alternative to the pitch that it will pay for itself in a decade, he said. "If someone comes up to you and says you can make money next month and forever, that totally changes how people see the value of solar."

Among Drury's other findings:

  • Third-party leasing usually eliminates the need for home-equity-style financing and, thus, the need for significant equity in the home. Without the hurdle of financing, more people can adopt solar, Drury said.
  • Along with the lower income threshold, Drury found a surge in solar leasing in neighborhoods with younger families.
  • In the Los Angeles and Orange county markets, customer-owned PV was five times more prevalent than third-party owned in 2009. In 2010, the ratio had dropped to 2 to 1. And for the first quarter of 2011, the ratio was almost even.

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Image Source: Allan Henderson

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US Geothermal Industry Looking for New Ways to Move Industry Ahead

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:54 AM PST

Debating how the US geothermal industry can best take advantage of California's superb renewable energy rules, and working for extending the geothermal federal tax credit, were the two hot topics at the fourth annual Geothermal Energy Association Finance Forum in San Francisco, California recently.

"While analysts projected continued growth for the industry in the US and worldwide, the industry still struggles with the overall poor economy and federal and state policies that don't match industry development needs," said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell.

Much of the talk at the forum centered about imbalanced government policy in the US at the state and federal levels. One problem was that California's transmission processes and utility attainment does not match the long lead times for geothermal projects, despite the state requiring a large amount of new renewable energy production in the future. At the federal level, there are clear concerns about the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit for geothermal projects, set to expire in December, 2013.

Despite these challenges, California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas emphasized at the forum the need for moving geothermal energy forward as part of the state's energy strategy. "As we move toward our long-term goals, we can't think about renewable energy as all being the same, because a system that has a balanced mix of geothermal, biomass, solar thermal, PV and wind will function very differently and will be able to fill the needs we see in our infrastructure in a much different way than a system that's covered by intermittent resources alone. We need to think about how we meet the needs of our electricity that allows us to deliver reliable electricity and this is where geothermal power is our bread and butter," she said at the conference.

California requires itself to have at least one-third of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. Additionally, the state's climate law will need further renewable energy use by 2030.

In addressing the challenges being faced in California, Gawell said the Geothermal Energy Association plans to work with Governor Jerry Brown's office, along with the California Energy Commission, to make sure policies will boost California's geothermal industry, where they already have 34 projects with over 1,400 megawatts (MW) of power capacity. Gawell also suggested creating a California geothermal task force, similar to the one in Hawaii, to look at how to improve the sector and make further recommendations. Hawaii's geothermal task force suggested the state go with 100% geothermal energy use.

While there were some excellent recommendations on what California could do to boost their state policies, Gawell said, at the federal level, the renewable electricity production tax credit should be extended to 2016 to  make sure many of the projects get off the ground (so to speak), while advancing the industry at the federal level.

"While our technologies are not literally at their tax incentive cliff – they have until December 21, 2013 to put new projects into production — for all practical purposes the production tax incentive is having declining effect. A utility-scale project starting today would find it nearly impossible to be completed by the end of 2013.  To spur continued growth in geothermal, and build on the success of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, we would urge Congress to extending tax credits through at least 2016 for geothermal," said Gawell.

The finance forum also addressed other various subjects, including: feed-in tariffs, insurance schemes, and praising SNC Lavalin for its completion of 60,000 MW worth of geothermal projects worldwide. "The involvement of leading global companies, like SNC Lavalin, in the geothermal industry is a positive sign for its future outlook," Gawell said.

Photo Credit: Conserve Energy Future

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NHTSA: GM Volt Poses No Elevated Fire Risk

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:38 AM PST

Chevrolet Volt - Obtained from Dave Pinter on Flickr.

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) says that the Chevrolet Volt EREV (Extended-Range Electric Vehicle) is no more likely to cause fires than other vehicles.

“Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles,” the administration said in this statement.

According to the NHTSA, there have not been any real-world electric vehicle fires; all the fires were caused by intentional testing. They also noted that there are precautions that should be taken  to prevent fires, just to be safe, such as draining the battery after accidents to ensure that the current from the batteries doesn’t ignite anything.

The Chevy Volt is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, and li-ion battery packs have a good fire-safety track record. They are in laptops, cellphones, pocket PCs, tablet PCs, mp3 players, and more, and they almost never catch fire. Even if they catch fire once, that is why it ends up on the news, because it is rare. The Volt is no exception to this rule.

Some people were alarmed when a Chevy Volt caught fire three weeks after a crash test. The fire was caused by the ignition of crystallized coolant by electric current from the batteries.

One of the arguments used by electric vehicle opponents is that they are a major fire hazard, and the Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle that also includes a gasoline-burning generator, but as this overarching highway traffic safety organization confirms, the Volt poses no more hazard than gasoline-powered vehicles.

Although no vehicle can be made without fire risk, what matters is how likely a fire is. Fortunately, science has reduced the fire risk of vehicles, in general, to a miniscule level.

h/t Cnet and NHTSA | Photo Credit: Dave Pinter

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AfroPop Documentary Series Features Solar Light Entrepreneur in Mali

Posted: 23 Jan 2012 04:20 PM PST

The documentary, Burning in the Sun will be featured on this TV series

The story of people the world over who live without electricity is heartbreaking. But in the day and age of renewable energy, more good stories are beginning to emerge. Here is one of them: a young entrepreneur in Mali is building a business to turn lights on for the approximately 99 percent of his countrymen who have no power.

The core of Daniel Dembélé's business model involves buying broken and scrap solar panels and reassembling them into working solar panels.

A documentary on Daniel Dembélé, Burning in the Sun, shows the positive impacts solar power has had for the people of Mali. The program will air Sunday, January 29 on public television stations on the World Channel. It is part of the series AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange, which runs throughout Black History Month.

Funnyman Wyatt Cenac, correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, will host the fourth season of AfroPoP. The documentary film series premieres on Sunday, January 22 and introduces viewers to films profiling men and women from across the African Diaspora.

AfroPoP is produced by the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) and distributed by American Public Television (APT).

Cenac will introduce viewers to a number of independent films that comprise this season of AfroPoP. Episodes include Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, a film narrated by Laurence Fishburne that tells the tale of black inner-city youth in Los Angeles who became leaders of a punk rock music revolution (Sunday, January 22); Burning in the Sun, an inspirational portrait of a 26-year-old's efforts to combine entrepreneurship and solar energy in Africa (Sunday, January 29); That's My Face, the story of one New Yorker's quest for self-discovery in Brazil (Sunday, February 5); and Calypso Rose: Lioness of the Jungle, the tale of beloved singer Calypso Rose, a minister's daughter who became a pioneer of calypso music (Sunday, February 12).

"AfroPoP is a wonderful example of the unique ability of television to entertain and enlighten a large number of people, and I'm glad to be a part of that," said Cenac in the press announcement.

Photo: Thabi Moyo.


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South West of England to Create Marine Energy Park

Posted: 23 Jan 2012 03:07 PM PST

The British Climate Change Minister Greg Barker named the South West of England as home for the UK’s first Marine Energy Park on a visit to Bristol today.

The South West Marine Energy Park will stretch from Bristol through to Cornwall and as far as the Isles of Scilly, which, to those of you (like me), who don’t live in the UK, looks like this:

From Bristol (right) to the Isles of Scilly (left)

"This is a real milestone for the marine industry and for the South West region in securing its place in renewables history as the first official marine energy park. The South West can build on its existing unique mix of renewable energy resource and home-grown academic, technical and industrial expertise,” Barker said.

The project will bring together the national and local government, along with Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter, and members of industry including Cornwall’s Wave Hub. Their aim will be to speed up the progress of marine power development.

St Ives Cornwall

Why the focus on wave power?

Because, in the UK, they have the potential to generate up to 27 gigawatts of power by 2050! That’s the equivalent of 8 coal-fired power stations, without the emissions.

"Marine power has huge potential in the UK not just in contributing to a greener electricity supply and cutting emissions, but in supporting thousands of jobs in a sector worth a possible £15bn to the economy to 2050,” said Barker.

The Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Vivien Pengelly, said:

"The opportunity for growth and increased commercialisation in marine renewable energy, which underpins the ethos of the South West Marine Energy Park, represents a major opportunity to help Plymouth's economy generate investment and jobs. Plymouth has world – class research and development expertise in this field along with a strong marine business base and advanced manufacturing sector and looks forward to working closely with its private and public sector partners to make the South West Marine Energy Park a success."

Source: Department of Energy & Climate Change
Image Source: Paul W 1108

Related posts:

  1. World’s Largest Solar Park to be in South Africa?
  2. South Korea Plans to Create 1.5 Million from Clean, Green Energy by 2030
  3. China's 1st System of a Giant 10GW Marine Energy Project

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