Monday, February 6, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Solar Company Silverado Power Focusing on Small-Scale Solar

Posted: 06 Feb 2012 07:53 AM PST


silverado power solar power

As I just wrote a few moments ago, people love solar, but they especially love solar projects that don’t come with wildlife concerns and aren’t too imposing. Smaller-scale projects are also easier to locate and easier and quicker to get built without running into various regulatory or mitigation hurdles. One solar company has taken all that to note, quite seriously, and is building its business around “small-scale” rather than “utility-scale” solar projects. And it seems to be doing quite well for itself.

The company, Silverado Power, has been granted 355 megawatts worth of solar projects in the Southwest, where it is focused, and expects to have approximately 500 megawatts more in the pipeline soon.

“Silverado Power has 16,000 acres of land under site control and approximately three gigawatts of interconnection positions allotted to it across the U.S., largely in the Southwest,” Herman Trabish of Greentech Media writes. “It has been granted 355 megawatts of use permits in the region and expects to soon have some 500 megawatts more.”

In 2010, SCE awarded it 100 megawatts worth of power purchase agreements (PPAs) for under-20-megawatt projects.

Aside from its projects being relatively small, the company gets in touch with the communities it wants to work with early to identify the best sites for its projects.

Silverado Company History

Silverado Power has some experienced solar power players on its team—it was founded by former executives of Recurrent Energy and Renewable Ventures (just in 2010). And the company “is backed by Portugal's Martifer Solar, which has recently been installing solar at the rate of 100 megawatts a year, according to Silverado Manager of Business Development Chris Wiedemann.”

Here’s more on Silverado’s strategy and where it developed from:

Antelope Valley was one of the company's first targets, Wiedemann said. But the company was aware of the mitigation controversies swirling around Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One, the 230-megawatt photovoltaic undertaking First Solar bought from NextLight in 2009 and is now building for Exelon, which it sold to last year.

Drawing on the experience of "other players in the community who have had varying response to community outreach," Wiedemann said, Silverado chose to aim for smaller, lower-profile projects. "Our focus in that region is between five and 20 megawatts" and is "interconnection-driven," he continued.

Avoiding Community Controversy

Essentially, Wiedemann notes, its approach "takes the controversial issues out of the picture." I’m all for it, and a bit surprised we don’t hear of more companies taking this approach.

"Our hope is to maintain a strong relationship with the local groups and interests," he says. "What we hope will not happen is being [viewed as] guilty by association with some of these other projects that are sited in less optimal areas. That's the larger risk. Our process and our siting strategy will hopefully prevail: Smaller projects, lower profile and siting away from sensitive biological and cultural resources and local landmarks."

Source: Greentech Media | Silverado solar power project via Silverado Power

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UK Groups Push for the Grassroots Solar & Wind Energy Route

Posted: 06 Feb 2012 07:22 AM PST


wind farm uk

Solar power is blowing up. And that’s expected to continue for many years into the future. While I’m all for solar power expansion of any sort, like the majority (or even over 90%) of people are, I (like most) prefer to see the myriad benefits of solar going to the little guy, the common citizen, rather than yet another mega-corporation or energy company.

One way to make that happen is with community-owned solar projects. As I said, a lot of people are behind this. In fact, civil society groups in the UK representing approximately 12 million people said last week that this was the country’s best opportunity for switching to a low-carbon economy, and that such projects should get more government support. Such groups include the Co-operative, the National Trust, the Church of England, and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

As I’ve noted before, such projects are extremely helpful in overcoming knee-jerk NIMBY reactions to big solar or wind farms.

UK Not Leading the Way

The organizations calling on more government action, clearly, are not that happy with the way the UK is going about decarbonizing itself.

“Many other European countries are way ahead of the UK, as we found out when visiting German communities last year,” Patrick Begg, director of rural enterprise at the National Trust, said. ”Germany produces over 20% of its electricity from renewable sources, with communities generating about a quarter of this. In the UK, less than 1% is generated by our communities, a figure this [civil society] coalition wants to dramatically increase by 2020. We are asking the government to support us in this.”

“The WI has been active on renewable energy since the 1970s,” Ruth Bond, chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said. ”We see community energy as people working together, not having schemes imposed on them. This is a great opportunity for our 7,000 WIs across the UK to tackle climate change and leave a legacy for the next generation.”

“We want nothing less than a clean energy revolution, with communities controlling and benefiting from their own renewable energy,” Paul Monaghan, head of social goals at the Co-operative, said. ”Talk of a new dash for [shale] gas, which could see up to 3,000 wells installed across the UK, highlights the choices we face – more and dirtier sources of fossil fuels or clean energy owned and controlled by communities.”

It’s clear there’s a groundswell of demand for more community-oriented solar and wind power projects. Will the UK government deliver?

Source: The Guardian | Community wind farm via shutterstock

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Zero-Energy Building Market to Hit $1.3 Trillion by 2035

Posted: 06 Feb 2012 06:44 AM PST

net zero home

Following up on the Las Vegas net-zero house story Charis just wrote, it looks like such stories about net-zero homes may get really common in the coming years (sorry, we might not cove them all). A new report published by Pike Research finds that the net-zero buildings market should hit a whopping $1.3 trillion by 2035.

“As green building practices become more commonplace in the global construction industry, the goal of designing zero energy buildings, or buildings that consume as much energy as they produce through on-site and renewable energy systems, has emerged as the next major frontier,” associates at Pike Research write. “A number of countries and regions have already established long-term targets and regulations requiring zero energy building construction that will come into effect over the coming years, some as soon as 2016.”

Worldwide revenue from the market is projected to hit $690 billion by 2020 and then will nearly double by 2035. “That represents a compound annual growth rate of 43%, with much of that growth occurring in the European Union.” (Suprised?)

"Following the surge in LEED and other green building certifications worldwide over the last few years, zero energy building has emerged as the 'holy grail' in green building design," says research analyst Eric Bloom.  "Technically, zero energy building design is feasible for many building types in many regions, but concerns about the upfront cost continue to impede it in the market."

Europe Leading the Way (Again)

Well, it’s no secret that the European Union (EU) is leading the way in global warming action and progressive energy policies. In this arena discussed above, the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is driving force. The EPBD “governs building codes” and “will require nearly zero energy construction in public buildings by 2019 and in all new construction by 2021.”

The good news is that the U.S. and Japan are said to be following in the EU’s footsteps and are in the process of developing similar requirements.

Of course, as we’ve written more times than you can imagine here on CleanTechnica, renewable energy and energy efficiency building practices may have a larger upfront cost, but they pay themselves off down the road. So, these new building regulations should result in pretty tremendous energy and financial savings for hundreds of millions of people around the more in the coming decades.

Pike Research Report

Want more info on this matter?

“Pike Research's report, ‘Zero Energy Buildings’, provides data on the size and growth of the market for zero energy building markets, including HVAC systems, glazing systems, wall and roof construction, renewable energy systems, and construction soft costs, from 2011 through 2035.  The study also includes a qualitative assessment of major drivers and trends for zero energy buildings in key markets, including both commercial and residential zero energy buildings.  It also provides a discussion of the individual technology elements associated with zero energy building, as well as the design challenges that the AEC (architecture/engineering/construction) service providers will face in delivering zero energy buildings.”

If you don’t want that much more info, you can read the executive summary.

Source: Pike Research | Solar on home via shutterstock

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Net-Zero-Energy Home Unveiled in Las Vegas

Posted: 06 Feb 2012 06:06 AM PST

A number of energy-efficient homes and communities are currently in the process of being tested, but a Los Angeles-based company is going one small step farther. KB Home presented its first net-zero-energy home in an event in Las Vegas, and it's not just experimental. The home, called the ZeroHouse 2.0, is available to consumers (in certain areas, including Vegas).

ZeroHouse 2.0 is the natural extension of KB Home's standard building practices, which all comply with the EPA Energy Star Standards. The company claims that the ZeroHouse 2.0 can eliminate the electric bill altogether; in the ridiculously hot weather of Nevada, that's quite a feat.

This continues a strong trend for the national home builder, which has been rolling out solar-powered and net-zero homes across the country in recent months (including in Southern California and Florida).

Everything Is Interconnected

Even energy-efficient homes are difficult to keep cool with the sun beating down mercilessly and unceasingly. Rob McGibney, executive VP of KB Home's Vegas division, explains KB Home's vision with the ZeroHouse 2.0 and how it helps lighten the load on the grid:

"When the temperature hits triple digits here in Las Vegas, as it often can, many homeowners see their monthly bills reach well into the triple digits too. That's why KB Home has focused on building energy-efficient homes and why our homebuyers can now select a ZeroHouse 2.0 that is estimated to lower their energy utility costs to nearly zero. This home represents the latest evolution of our Built to Order experience that puts the homebuyer in greater control of their monthly electricity costs, while letting them personalize a new home that suits their lifestyle, budget and taste."

To be a little more specific, KB Home redesigned the entire concept of the house—there's more insulation, better HVAC systems, dual-pane windows, and finally a roof covered in solar panels. The display home at the event in Vegas also showed off an energy monitoring system (good for figuring out where you're using the most electricity) and even automated home controls.

Green as the New Normal?

The Vegas event also played host to a number of students from a nearby elementary school. The kids were encouraged to explore the ZeroHouse 2.0 and participate in a quiz-show type game. In thanks for participation (and the chance to plant the idea of energy efficiency into the malleable minds of the nation's youth), KB Home presented the school principal with a $2,400 check—the amount of money that a ZeroHouse 2.0 owner would not be paying to the electric company.

Clark County Commissioner, Susan Brager, the co-host of the event, walked away with no regrets—either about the home itself or about the company creating it. She commented:

"After touring KB Home's new ZeroHouse model, I was impressed by not only all the incredible new technology in place, but by how comfortable the home feels and how great it looks. The Clark County board and I are honored that KB Home chose our master planned community of Mountain's Edge to showcase this net-zero energy option along with its already incredibly efficient and affordable new homes."

Questions? Opinions? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: Business Wire | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Obama Administration Approves Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Farm

Posted: 06 Feb 2012 05:55 AM PST

mid-atlantic off-shore wind project

Offshore breezes are strong and steady—ideal for consistent wind power generation. Actually, building the wind farms in several feet of water is the tricky part, but the Obama administration is moving forward with plans to do just that. The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) announced that the new plan is "smart-from-the-start," protecting the environment while quickly finishing the building process.

The new wind farms will be built off the shores of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia; the advantage these states all have in common is that the regulatory approval process is supposed to be quicker. The states in question will also receive the benefit of (potentially) thousands of new jobs from this mid-Atlantic project and lots of clean electricity to boot.

Smart From the Start

Just tramping into the water and erecting massive wind turbines is difficult enough without adding extra variables to the mix, but the mid-Atlantic project will be doing exactly that. The turbines will be placed where they won't disrupt the local ocean ecosystems and wildlife, in accordance with the National Ocean Policy in place since 2010.

Published by the NRDC itself is a statement from Kit Kennedy, Clean Energy Counsel at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

"Harnessing the wind blowing off our shores will allow us to power American homes with clean, domestic energy – and create tens of thousands of badly-needed jobs in the process. By developing these resources in a way that's smart from the start, the administration can give this budding industry the boost it needs to start delivering the economic, health and environmental benefits it promises. It's time to capture this untapped potential and for the offshore wind industry to take flight in the Mid-Atlantic.

"NRDC will be carefully reviewing the documents released by federal authorities today to ensure that appropriate environmental protections and mitigation measures have been incorporated and will continue to advocate for smart siting of offshore wind projects."

This project follows several other recently-announced offshore wind farms in Europe, and precedes a big North American offshore wind power conference one of our writers will be attending.

Questions? Opinions? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: NRDC | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Twin Solar Thermal Plants Commence Operation in Spain

Posted: 06 Feb 2012 05:36 AM PST

solar thermal power plants spain

Valle I & Valle II solar thermal power plants now in operation in Cadiz, Spain.

Two identical 50-MW solar thermal power plants just went into operation in Spain in January. They, the Valle 1 and Valle 2, are located in San José del Valle in Cadiz (in the South of Spain). They are being operated by Torresol Energy, and the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract for the two projects, as well as 100% of the technology and engineering, were provided by SENER, which now has 24 solar thermal power plants representing 1,500 MWe of power installed or under construction in Spain, US and India.

These are the second and third solar power plants Torresol Energy is operating, following Gemasolar’s start in October.

“Construction on Valle 1 and Valle 2 began in December 2009, and was completed in December 2011,” Torresol Energy writes. “In January 2012 the plants were connected to Spanish national grid for commercial operations. Roughly 4,500 workers worked over 2,700,000 hours to build and launch the twin projects during the two construction years.” Nothing to scoff at.

Here are some more facts on the new solar thermal power plants:

  • They will each “produce 160 GWh of power per year, equivalent to the amount of power consumed by 40,000 households.
  • They will “cut CO2 emissions by approximately 90,000 tons/year” (together).
  • They can produce electricity for up to 7.5 hours without a trace of sunlight due to their energy storage capabilities.

Torresol Energy & Masdar Power Looking to Expand into Other Sunny Regions

Not stopping there, Torresol expects to start work on new concentrated solar power (CSP) projects in other countries “located in what is referred to as the sun-belt region,” Enrique Sendagorta, President of Torresol Energy, said.

"It is worth mentioning that, due to the financial strength of Torresol Energy's partners, SENER and Masdar, the Valle 1 and Valle 2 projects werefinanced through seven Spanish commercial banks in 2009 for a total financing of EUR 540 million, despite the global financial crisis,” General Manager of Torresol Energy, Alvaro Lorente, said. “This operation was awarded the Project Finance Deal of the Year 2009 in the Clean Energy Sector by EuroMoney."

Masdar Power, another partner in the project, notes that it now has power plants with 200 MW of solar thermal power capacity in production. It is also interested in developing new CSP projects in other regions (especially the Middle East North Africa, or MENA, region).

"With the UAE's visionary leadership and support, in just five years Masdar has become a prominent player in the renewable energy with several projects under its belt locally in the UAE and globally,” Masdar's CEO Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber said. ”Valle 1 & 2 are two additional milestones in Masdar's portfolio of Concentrated Solar Power plants as a result of the joint venture with SENER. We are proud of this partnership with SENER and will continue making investments in utility scale projects in renewable energy, especially in solar and wind energy as they are the most relevant to the UAE."

Source: Torresol | h/t REVE

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Grass Clippings to Solar Panels — Biophotovoltaics

Posted: 06 Feb 2012 03:54 AM PST

bio photovoltaics

This post was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

It's chore day. You've raked the leaves, taken out the recycling, and emptied out the old junk in your garage. But wait — don't toss it all out! You have all the ingredients for your very own homemade solar system.

If new advances in "biophotovoltaics" research are any indication, you may someday be able to create your own solar "goo" from plant matter and apply it to metal or glass.

A group of researchers has found a way to break down plant matter, isolate photosynthetic molecules, and then spread those molecules on a metal or glass substrate. So theoretically, you could take a bag full of leaves and grass, pour in a mixture of chemicals to break them down, and then finish your chores by painting the liquid on your windows to produce electricity. Not bad for a day's work.

Researchers have been working on biophotovoltaics for many years, only to be hindered by low efficiencies, rapid degradation, and difficulties in spreading the photovoltaic "goo" onto a substrate. But nine scientists have just published research on new advances that boost performance and may allow for inexpensive substrates like recycled glass and metal to be used:

To improve photovoltaic performance we increased the light absorption cross-section without changing the footprint by departing from the traditional flat electrode geometry in favor of mesoscopic, high-surface area semiconducting electrodes (TiO2 nanocrystals and ZnO nanowires). Finally, we showed how high affinity peptide motifs10 bioengineered to promote selective adsorption to specific substrates can enhance photovoltaic performance. These materials, geometries and design resulted in simple, robust biophotovoltaic devices of unprecedented performance.

In short, the researchers have created a method to stabilize the photosynthetic molecules. And by coating a substrate with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanowires, they can now turn any sort of glass or metal material into a working solar cell with efficiencies better than ever before.

It's a fascinating discovery. But don't get too excited yet. Efficiencies are still extraordinarily low — only at .01%. They'd need to be about 10 times that in order to power a light or charge a cell phone. So for the foreseeable future, don't expect to be painting your house with a bag of grass clippings.

However, as research advances and performance continues to improve, MIT physicist Andreas Mershin says it could be perfect for remote applications in developing countries. In the video below, Mershin explains the significance of the findings:

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Capitalizing on Green Construction Boom with an Accredited Online MBA Program

Posted: 06 Feb 2012 03:48 AM PST

green building opportunities

After writing on online solar training courses last week, I received a proposal to share a post on green building and green MBA programs. Seemed like a good fit, even if it’s not what we typically write about (or especially because it’s not what we typically write about). So, here it is:

Sustainable construction and green building projects have boomed in recent years, even as other areas of construction have suffered due to the economic decline. The boom is expected to continue for at least the next five years, making this an optimal time for aspiring green tech professionals to pursue careers and position themselves for advancements in the market. Degrees in green building development through accredited online MBA programs should provide a new generation of green entrepreneurs with a way to capitalize on the growth in green and sustainable construction.

Growth in this industry is expected to climb annually by 23 percent, peaking at $245 billion, a recent study found. The number of green construction jobs is expected to rise to well over 8 million. The same study also estimated that green construction saved $1.3 billion in private business energy costs. This number is expected to rise to $6 billion by 2013. Some may wonder how the industry has pulled off such an impressive entrepreneurial sleight-of-hand during historically rough economic times.

Still reeling from the Great Recession and the collapse of the real estate and housing markets, the green tech industry has managed to harness the public sentiment regarding energy efficiency and sustainability, as well as federal incentives and subsidies, in order to create a verdant market in total building construction. This includes efforts to refurbish building codes in order to encourage energy-efficient construction practices and retrofitting commercial properties.

Industry lobbyists also say that they’re raising the bar on the LEED program and further instantiating the government’s Energy Star program. The green construction industry is expected to experience an additional financial boom when the real estate market returns to pre-Recession levels and the demand for new buildings and housings picks up volume.

Taking Advantage of Green Building Opportunities

What does this mean for aspiring professionals who are interested in green technology and sustainable business models? These developments could make the present a better time than ever to pursue an accredited online MBA degree. The Master of Business Administration degree, which is a popular cross-disciplinary degree, acts as an introduction to the fields of accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, and a variety of other disciplines. An MBA program normally takes about two academic years to complete, but there are accelerated, part-time, executive, dual, mini and blended programs as well.

With the rise of online programs, MBA degrees have received an accelerated boost that many people are taking advantage of as a way to put themselves on the track to a career in business without going too deeply into debt. Since this degree prepares students for a variety of fields related to finance, business, and resource allocation, it’s perfectly suited to assist people interested in joining the green construction revolution. Whether you want to work on the business aspect of a prospective enterprise or the funding or marketing, an MBA degree is often a prerequisite.

An impressive slate of schools are out there right now that offer accredited online MBA degrees. Liberty University Online, Post University, Grand Canyon University, Kaplan, Walden, and South University are just a few. Many of these programs are regionally accredited by organizations like the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and other groups. Some schools are even offering special "Green MBAs" that allow you to pursue a Concentration in Sustainable Green Building Development. Programs like this aren’t yet universally available in online programs. But in lieu of the recent trend toward green construction and sustainable business, you can expect virtually all MBA degrees to soon tailor their programs for people who want to focus on Renewable Energy, Energy Policy, Natural and Organic Resources, and other progressive fields of business.

Green building icon in hand via shutterstock

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US Army Awards $61 Million Worth of Energy Contracts

Posted: 06 Feb 2012 02:20 AM PST

It was just announced last week that the U.S. Army awarded three Energy Savings Performance Contracts in December totaling $61 million, including a contract that will result in the largest renewable energy project put into place by the U.S. Army.

Together, the three projects will save the Army a total of 267 billion BTUs annually and provide the Army with 8.2 megawatts of renewable power capacity.

At Fort Carson, Colo., the Army partnered with a local energy provider to build a photovoltaic solar array on top of a closed landfill. The White Sands Missile Range project in New Mexico, awarded last December, will provide the Army with 4.44-megawatts of installed photovoltaic capacity saving 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity and $930,000 annually. When finished, the White Sands project will be the largest renewable energy project in the Army, more than double the size of this two-megawatt array at Fort Carson.

White Sands Missile Range

The first project was awarded to Siemens Government Technologies to provide the Army with 4.44 megawatts of installed photovoltaic capacity at the White Sands Missile Range. The $16.8 million contract will generate more than 10 percent of the installation’s electrical needs via solar energy by the end of this year, saving the Army 10 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, a total of $930,000 saved a year.

When the installation is completed, this project will result in the largest renewable energy project in the Army, more than double the size of the current contender, the 2-megawatt array at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Fort Bliss, Texas

This project will see Johnson Controls Inc. save the Army $42 million in energy costs over 25 years by purchasing energy produced by 5,500 solar panels for Fort Bliss, Texas, without the Army actually owning the equipment. The $16 million project was awarded to offset peak afternoon energy demands when utility rates are at their highest, and to get around potential brown-outs which are prone to occur.

Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico

John Controls was also awarded a $34-million contract to instal wind and solar photovoltaic systems, LED lighting, energy management control systems, and other energy conservation equipment and processes at Fort Buchanan and 11 Army Reserve Centres on the island of  Puerto Rico. This project is expected to save the Army more than $65 million over the life of the 16 year contract.

Source: U.S. Army

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