- Google Tops Cool IT Climate Ranking
- Solar PV Cost Competitive in Middle East, New Analysis Finds
- DOE to Recover 70% of Bankruptcy Loan
- 1st Order of Corning Solar Photovoltaic Glass on Commercial Scale
- Installed Wind Power Capacity Up 21% Globally in 2011
- Electric Car Tops Out Greenest Vehicle List
- Solar Power to Pay Nevada City’s Debt, Government Costs for Decades
- Concentrating Solar Power to Bounce Back
- Stanford Geophysicist: More Environmental Rules Needed for Shale Gas
- Playing the Market: Disclosing Emissions Data Boosts Stock Prices
Posted: 08 Feb 2012 07:30 AM PST
OK, full disclosure, I’m a huge Google fan. I love Google+, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Reader,.. and have you ever tried to do a search in something other than Google?! Additionally, it’s a clear clean energy leader. So, I’m both happy and not surprised at all to see that it is topping Greenpeace’s latest Cool IT ranking of IT companies,… based on how green they are, of course.
Greenpeace released the 5th edition of its Cool IT Leaderboard today, February 8 (India time, since it was released in New Delhi, India). The analysis evaluates 21 major IT companies, and it’s the first time Google has topped the list.
You can see in the graphic above that it Google got big points for its energy impact. No doubt, this was largely due to the numerous big investments it has made in solar and wind energy. It was no laggard in the other two categories either, though (compared to other companies, that is). “Google topped the table for its clear support of stronger US clean energy policy and the strengthening of the EU's current 20% greenhouse gas target of 30% by 2020,” Greenpeace writes. I imagine it also got some points for its support of geothermal energy research in the US.
"Technology giants have a real opportunity to use their power and influence to change how we produce and use energy – Google tops the table because it's putting its money where its mouth is by pumping investment into renewable energy," said Greenpeace International IT analyst Gary Cook. "The IT sector might like to consider itself forward-thinking, but it is keeping far too quiet while the dirty energy industry continues to exert undue influence on both the political process and financial markets."
Yep, I know we all love our new technologies, but the IT industry really needs to step it up in this regard. A big thanks to Greenpeace for making this push.
Some More IT 2012 Leaders
Overall, Google is the clear winner. But, a couple of other companies led in certain sectors.
Meanwhile, Oracle was a huge flop, receiving the lowest ranking overall for not supplying any info on its renewable or dirty energy use. Also, notably absent is a certain company with the odd name of Apple and the world-leading social networking site Facebook (heard of that one?).
Looking forward to seeing how it’s ranked.
Drop in Advocacy
I was expecting this—I haven’t seen almost anything in the news about IT climate advocacy this past year, and Greenpeace took note of that, commenting that it “found a significant drop-off in policy advocacy leadership by IT companies.”
"The IT industry must use its influence, innovative spirit and technological know-how to overcome the dirty energy companies who are holding on to the status quo, and holding us back from a transition to a renewable energy economy," said Cook. "What we're seeing is a lot of talk from companies about moving toward clean energy, but so far, not much of action."
You can see in the graphic at the top that the overall rankings had these companies as the top 10:
Posted: 08 Feb 2012 07:16 AM PST
Andrew wrote a few weeks ago on Saudi Arabia perhaps becoming the next solar hotspot, and we’ve written a few pieces recently on big projects or ideas for projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. A new analysis by the Emirates Solar Industry Association (ESIA) and sponsored by international consultancy firm PwC contends that we may just be getting started with such stories, as solar photovoltaic (PV) power is now “cost competitive” with conventional fossil-fuel-based electricity generation (not even taking into account massive externalities).
This report is titled ”Sunrise in the Desert: Solar Becomes Commercially Viable in the Middle East” and was presented at an ESIA press conference on January 17 at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Factors such as falling costs of solar PV panels, rising costs of fuels used in conventional power generation and excellent fit to demand patterns challenge the prevailing view among many policy makers and utilities in the MENA region that solar is expensive unless heavily subsidised,” Sara Ver-Bruggen of pv magazine writes.
“In the case of some countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, domestic consumption of fossil fuels is steadily rising creating a demand for new sources of electricity.”
Of course, being a hot and sunny region, solar is an ideal source of power at the time of day when the most energy is needed. Thus, it is especially useful for cutting high peak-demand costs.
“With the introduction of 3.5 GW of nominal solar PV capacity the optimal generation mix changes and the use of open-cycle turbines at midday can be replaced by solar generation saving high-cost fuel,” Robin Mills, the report author, noted at the press conference in Abu Dhabi.
More from Ver-Bruggen:
“In his presentation slides, Mills showed that the cost of solar PV (at USD2.5/W) versus that for gas or oil-fired generation, with solar cheaper than an open-cycle peaking unit at gas prices above USD5/MMBtu, which is equivalent to oil at around USD30 a barrel, but requires USD17/MMBtu to be competitive with baseload combined-cycle power, which is around current LNG prices.”
More info is available on ESIA's website.
Posted: 08 Feb 2012 07:00 AM PST
The Department of Energy (DOE) has been under fire with several investigations for loans to companies that have later filed bankruptcy. The most infamous and largest is with Solyndra, but Ener1 and Beacon Power also received loans. Of these, the situation at Beacon Power presents a bit of a special case. Beacon Power was in the business of providing an energy storage service to our electric grid. Specifically, it had an operating plant in Stephenburg, NY that contained 200 flywheels. Energy can be taken from the grid or added to it in milliseconds using flywheels. A new buyer has now agreed to repay 70% of the DOE loan received by Beacon Power.
Recent regulatory changes will adjust payments in the frequency market to allow payment based upon response time. A gas-fired peaking power plant can come on line to boost grid power (and frequency, which is a test of power levels) within about 15 minutes. A battery backup system can take less than a minute. Flywheels have the shortest response time for the frequency regulation market. In the future, income for frequency regulation by flywheels is likely to at least double.
But this comes too late for Beacon Power. Several flywheel failures at the Stephentown plant created some bad press. Income levels were not enough and Beacon Power seemed to be taking its DOE loan along with flywheel technology and company into the doubt of bankruptcy court. A Monday press release, however, reveals that the private equity firm Rockland Capital will buy the Stephentown plant and most of the company’s assets for $30.5 million in cash, a promissory note, and "additional guarantees and funding obligations to DOE of $6.6 million,"
Beacon Power LLC
The agreement is pending approval but contemplates “a new private company named Beacon Power LLC, wholly owned by Rockland, which will rehire a majority of the current Beacon staff into the new company.” The contemplated new plant in Pennsylvania appears to also be going forward with the new company.
If the DOE is looking good after this sale, the technology is moving forward with the construction of a new plant, and the company is stronger than ever in private hands, who loses? Well, other creditors and stockholders will not be along for the new Beacon Power wave into the future.
Photo Credit: Jeff Sandquist
Posted: 08 Feb 2012 06:18 AM PST
Corning photovoltaic glass? I have to admit, I had to dig through our archives to see if we had ever covered this. And, nope, it’s a new one. Corning Incorporated, a “world leader in specialty glass and ceramics,” has created solar photovoltaic glass that it claims is lighter, more efficient, and stronger than thin-film solar modules. On February 1, it announced the first commercial order of its photovoltaic (PV) glass substrates.
“This milestone order follows three years of development work and extensive customer engagement, resulting in an engineered glass that enables higher efficiency and lighter weight thin-film photovoltaic modules,” the company notes.
In total, Corning says that its new solar technology can “increase current thin-film module efficiency by 20% to 30%.” That’s big!
“Corning's photovoltaic glass substrates are also 50% stronger with less than half the thickness of the glass commonly used today in thin-film PV modules,” the company notes.
“The glass has high transmission, allowing more sunlight into the semiconductor layer. Corning's substrates are also high-temperature tolerant. Because the glass can withstand higher temperature deposition, more uniform semiconductor films may be applied, which increases overall conversion efficiency.”
Is this legit?
Well, the company has gotten a commercial order now. Where it goes from there, we’ll have to see.
"This is just the beginning," John Duke, business director for Corning Photovoltaic Glass Technologies, said. But, I guess, he has to think and say that. Nonetheless, it seems to me there’s definitely a strong, sincere feeling of optimism coming from the company (or I’m just having a good morning).
Here’s more from the company:
"We understand the current market challenges for photovoltaics and the focus on delivering cost-effective solar energy solutions. Clearly, energy conversion efficiency is integral to addressing these challenges. Therefore, we are very excited about this initial deployment of Corning's PV glass substrates and their ability to deliver on such an important need in the advancement of thin-film PV solutions," said Dr. Gary Calabrese, senior vice president, Corning New Business Development. "The substantial efficiency improvement of our glass technology has been demonstrated in lab and customer trials. Now, this order validates the need for engineered glass to drive higher conversion efficiency and can provide module makers with a competitive advantage."
Posted: 08 Feb 2012 05:52 AM PST
This represents an increase of 21 percent with an increase in the size of the annual global market of just over six percent.
Approximately 75 countries currently have commercial wind power installations, of which 22 have already passed the 1 gigawatt level.
"Despite the state of the global economy, wind power continues to be the renewable generation technology of choice," said Steve Sawyer, GWEC Secretary General. "2011 was a tough year, as will be 2012, but the long term fundamentals of the industry remain very sound. For the second year running, the majority of new installations were outside the OECD, and new markets in Latin America, Africa and Asia are driving market growth."
China remains the global market leader with a cumulative capacity of more than 62,000 megawatts, despite analysts believing the country has suffered a tough year.
"2011 was not an easy year for the Chinese wind industry. However, in the end, the industry has come out quite well, not only surviving the year, but also becoming more resilient to the various challenges. In the coming year, the industry will adapt to the government's new requirements as well as those of the market. We expect the industry will grow stronger and more competitive in the next year," commented Li Junfeng, Secretary General of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA).
Installations throughout 2011 pushed India’s total installed capacity to just over 16,000 megawatts.
"India reached another milestone with adding over 3000 MW of wind power installed in 2011. This is likely to go up to 5000 MW per year by 2015. Ongoing initiatives of the Indian government to create new policies will attract large quantities of private investments to the sector," said D.V. Giri, Chairman of the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association.
The European Union
Across the European Union, a total of 9,616 megawatts of wind energy capacity were installed throughout 2011, bringing its overall total up to 93,957 megawatts, which is enough to supply 6.3 percent of the EU’s electricity, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
"Despite the economic crisis gripping Europe, the wind industry is still installing solid levels of new capacity, commented Justin Wilkes, Policy Director of EWEA." But to achieve the EU’s long-term targets we need strong growth again in future years. A commitment from the European Union to put in place a binding renewable energy target for 2030 would send a very positive signal to potential investors."
The United States
The wind sector in America bounced back in 2011 after a tough 2010, installing more than 6,800 megawatts of wind energy.
“We have installed more than a third of all new American electric generation in recent years and are well on our way to providing 20% of America's electricity by 2030 as projected by the Bush Administration. Our 2011 installations alone provide enough electricity to power almost two million American homes," says Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.
"Wind energy in Canada enjoyed a record year in 2011, surpassing the 5000 MW milestone. Canada, and in particular Ontario, is emerging as a very competitive destination for wind energy investment globally. Maintaining that position will require continued commitments to aggressive targets for wind energy development and a stable policy framework. As Canada continues to renew its electricity generation resources, wind energy will play an ever-increasing part in delivering reliable, economic and clean electricity," said Chris Forrest, Vice-President of Communications & Marketing of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
Latin America experienced a good 2011 for installed wind energy, totalling more than 1,200 megawatts, and was led by Brazillian installations.
"Brazil reached the 1 GW milestone during 2011, and has a pipeline of more than 7,000 MW to be completed before the end of 2016," said Pedro Perrelli, Executive Director of the Brazilian Wind Energy Association (ABEEOLICA). "The Brazilian wind sector has attracted significant investment, facilitated by the policies of the BNDES (Brazilian National Sustainable Development Bank), but a new policy framework with clear rules for the future is increasingly necessary to keep the pace of growth strong.”
Looking Forward to New Markets
"We look forward to more new markets opening up in Africa, Asia and Latin America in 2012 and we expect to see some of the new markets in Latin America beyond Brazil start to approach critical mass,” Sawyer concluded. “But at the end of the day we will be hard pressed to keep the industry's growth up to its potential without a global price on carbon and other measures to account for the real costs to society of conventional power generation.”
Posted: 08 Feb 2012 05:34 AM PST
The Mitsubishi i-MIEV battery electric vehicle claimed the top spot from the Honda Civic Natural Gas which, up until this year, had held the top spot for 8 years running. The i-MIEV scored a high score of 58, the highest Green Score ever awarded since the ACEEE rankings were started back in 1998.
The Mitsubishi i-MIEV managed a combined city and highway fuel economy of 112 miles per gallon equivalent.
"Even taking into account the emissions generated from the electricity used to power the i-MIEV, it still handily outscores other vehicles on the market today," said ACEEE lead vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan.
The remainder of the top 12 is made up of hybrids, which occupied half of all spots, as well as more conventional but highly efficient gasoline vehicles, which claimed three of the top spots.
"It's increasingly obvious that automakers are fully invested in providing consumers with the widest possible array of vehicle choices. Earning a spot on the "Greenest" list is proving to be a real challenge for automakers given the variety of vehicle technologies on the market and the proliferation of highly efficient conventional vehicles. Just using the latest technology does not guarantee a top spot," said Vaidyanathan.
As an example, several new hybrid options were released by Hyundai, Kia and Infinity, but none of these broke into the top twelve.
Since the beginning of the process, the scores are based on measurements that include unhealthy tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and emissions of gases that contribute to climate change. This year, however, additional measurements were included to give a better picture of a vehicle’s impact on the environment, with improved emissions estimates for the vehicle manufacturing process, changes reflecting current natural gas extraction practices, and consideration of upcoming shifts in the generation mix for the electricity used to power electric cars.
With any Best list comes the necessary Worst list, and this year saw a number of heavier ‘light-duty’ vehicles as the highest emitters.
The list also provides a ‘Best in Class’ list which can be seen below—not surprising to see the Toyota Prius at the top of the Midsize category.
Posted: 08 Feb 2012 05:27 AM PST
Boulder City, Nevada is best known as the home of Hoover Dam, once the largest hydroelectric power plant in the country. But the rapid expansion of solar power projects is quickly making a name for the city as the first solar-financed town in America.
A solar power building boom is happening in the community, located about 25 miles south of Las Vegas. This boom will soon generate enough revenue to eliminate Boulder City's municipal debt and stabilize its financial needs for years to come, according to Mayor Roger Tobler.
The city is already home to Copper Mountain Solar 1, the largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the U.S. at 58 megawatts (MW), and Nevada Solar 1, a 65-MW concentrated solar power facility. But local officials, sensing a unique opportunity to expand renewable energy in their community, set aside 8,000 acres to develop an "energy zone."
All 8,000 of those acres will soon be generating about 1.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy—enough to power 420,000 homes. In addition to two planned expansions of Copper Mountain Solar 1, and an expansion of Nevada Solar 1, the city has entered into lease agreements for three new solar power projects within the zone.
All of that solar power adds up to much more than just clean energy—it adds up to stable revenue for decades to come. The combined lease payments for the solar facilities will total at least $12 million a year, and through the life of the contracts, the city will collect around $480 million in rent.
But solar power's economic impact in Boulder City goes far beyond future lease payments. Two of the companies currently developing new solar facilities contributed $8.5 million in upfront payments, and the third contributed $500,000 to build any type of renewable energy project on public buildings. Construction is expected to generate up to 3,000 local jobs, and the city has set aside land for the University of Nevada Las Vegas to build a solar energy technology demonstration site.
Boulder City's example won't work in every community, but it does provide a good example of how to build a clean energy future and stable economic base. "Our solar lease revenue has helped us maintain our levels of city services and programs during a very difficult financial time," said Mayor Tobler.
Considering the 2011 municipal budget was roughly $25 million and the city had $96 million in debt, solar power has made Boulder City's economic future very sunny indeed.
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal
Posted: 08 Feb 2012 04:28 AM PST
Posted: 08 Feb 2012 04:11 AM PST
We recently decided to team up with Stanford in order to get more of their valuable work and resources out to the public. This first piece is not a typical subject for CleanTechnica, and it’s a highly controversial one. For the most part, we’ve torn into the problems associated with natural gas production today. The following piece is a much more gas-friendly one, but it’s also promotes taking a cautious approach to natural gas production (something that looks like it’s going to happen whether we like it or not) and is focused on the opinions of a true natural gas expert and scientist not associated with any natural gas companies. I almost passed on publishing this one, but I think it is really worth a read, so check it out:
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama praised the potential of the country’s tremendous supply of natural gas buried in shale. He echoed the recommendations for safe extraction made by an advisory panel that included Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback. The panel made 20 recommendations for regulatory reform, some of which go well beyond what the president mentioned in his address.
The topic is controversial. Breaking up rock layers thousands of feet underground with hydraulic fracturing has unleashed so many minuscule bubbles of methane that shale gas now accounts for 30 percent of U.S. gas production, an increase in supply that has pummeled the commodity’s price. The gas industry will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade, Obama said.
But environmental concerns about the technology behind the boom – specifically hydraulic fracturing – receive near daily news coverage, with opponents saying that toxic additives in the water used for the fracturing have found their way into household tap water, among other concerns.
Obama said natural gas producers will have to reveal the chemicals they add to the fracturing slurry of water and sand when they are working on federal lands. The Secretary of Energy’s seven-person advisory group on shale gas, of which Zoback was a member, called for such disclosure by shale gas operators on all lands. The advisory group further recommended that data on a well-by-well basis be posted on publicly available, searchable websites.
“The problem is that the president only has jurisdiction over federal lands, while states regulate development on private land, where most of the shale formations are found,” Zoback said. “The so-called ‘Halliburton exclusion’ passed by Congress says gas companies don’t have to disclose the chemicals in fracturing fluids. That was a real mistake because it makes the public needlessly paranoid.”
Real Problem: Dealing With Used Water
The chemical additives used during hydraulic fracturing are really not a serious issue, Zoback said at the Precourt Institute for Energy‘s weekly Energy Seminar. The problem lies elsewhere: Once operators inject water into the shale, it can pick up naturally occurring selenium, arsenic and iron, a lot of salt and even radioactive particles. Thus, when this water flows back up the well, it must be disposed of properly. What gas companies do with that water is a serious regulatory problem. Typically, they either reuse it or inject it into deep saline aquifers, Zoback said, and regulators must monitor the safe disposal of the water.
“In western Pennsylvania, the gas companies initially said that recycling water used for hydraulic fracturing couldn’t be done economically,” Zoback said. “But because there were really no good options for safe disposal, they now recycle 95 percent of the water used, and it’s not a big deal.” Scientists and engineers still have much to learn about the rapidly expanding technology, Zoback said.
“I think it is fair to say that the bigger producers have no problem with our 20 recommendations. The question is whether state regulators will implement them and whether small companies will be forced to follow them as well as large ones,” Zoback said. “That’s of great concern to us.”
Federal R&D Funding Success
Obama cited shale gas development as justification for federal investments in clean energy technology, which have been under attack since the bankruptcy of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, which received federal loan guarantees on about $500 million it borrowed.
“Public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground,” the president said. “Payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.”
If well regulated, the enhanced gas supplies could cheaply supplant coal as the main source for electricity generated by burning fossil fuel, which would go far in reducing the threat of climate change, Zoback said. Gas produces half the carbon dioxide of coal per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. And major oil companies are investing heavily to develop natural gas liquids to displace gasoline and diesel fuel in transportation, which could improve economic and national security.
“Gas is the bridge fuel to a decarbonized future, not a way of sustaining business as usual,” Zoback said.
Mark Golden works in communications at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University.
Photo credit: Ruhrfisch
Posted: 07 Feb 2012 02:31 PM PST
A new study finds that companies that voluntarily reported data about their greenhouse gas emissions saw stock prices increase in value $10 billion dollars over a 10-year period. In the two days immediately after announcements, stock prices jumped nearly half a percent, compared to the two days before announcements. Comparatively, companies that did not voluntarily release emissions information saw no statistical change in their stock values over that period.
Smaller companies saw an even larger increase in stock value, 2.3 percent, compared to larger companies and the overall mean. The report attributed this advantage to analysts and investors tracking the smaller companies less closely than larger companies, making their disclosures more valuable to the stock market.
The study "Going Green: Market Reaction to CSR Newswire Releases," was conducted by University of California researchers and compared 172 press releases about emissions data by 84 American companies from 2000 to 2010.
The report could lend new credibility to the efforts of so-called "activist shareholders" who push companies to reduce their environmental footprint and disclose emissions data. Last year, a record 111 shareholder resolutions were filed with 81 U.S. and Canadian companies on climate change, fossil fuel production, and sustainability risks.
"When a company makes a voluntary disclosure of this kind, it signals to the investment community that this is a firm that is environmentally responsible," said Paul Griffin, report co-author and UC Berkeley professor. "Investors are saying they would prefer to invest in an environmentally responsible firm."
Once companies decide to benchmark their environmental impact, they often set aspirational goals to reduce their footprint. That decision may then have a ripple effect on their supply chain. Another recent report showed the number of multinational companies that planned to end vendor relationships within five years for suppliers missing sustainability goals hit 39 percent in 2011.
U.S. companies are currently not required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to report greenhouse gas emissions, but companies are required to disclose information material to stock value. This UC report echoes a 2011 study of companies on Standard and Poor's 500 Index that showed high levels of greenhouse gas emissions could depress a firm's value. If this trend of emissions being tied to stock value holds up, companies could soon be forced to report their emissions.
"Companies should not be as reluctant as they have been to provide this information because we show that it can be shareholder-positive," said Griffin. "Our message is that it pays to be green."
Source: The Daily Climate
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