- EU Clean Energy Sector Passes 1 Million Jobs
- San Diego Solar Energy Provider Closes $47mm Project Fund
- 1st Universal Metric for Measuring Sustainability across Resources Launched
- Yikes, SunPower Sues SolarCity
- Obama’s Budget Proposal a Win for Those Who Care about Clean Air, Clean Water, Livable Climate, & Jobs
- Aluminum Smelting Inspires Hot New Battery
- Cleantech Startup Accelerator Starts 2nd Program
- Students Cutting Energy Usage Up to 17%
- We Need an iCar, Market Experts Conclude
- How Distributed Solar Can Reduce Electricity Prices
Posted: 14 Feb 2012 09:43 AM PST
Clean energy jobs in the EU have now passed the 1 million milestone. According to a new report [PDF] out by the European Commission, The State of Renewable Energies in Europe, 1.14 million people were working in the clean (or green) energy sector in 2010, after a 25% increase in jobs in that sector that year (compared to 2009).
Yes, I know, such landmarks are much less exciting when they are reported 1-2 years after the fact, but these are the latest figures on this massive industry, adn were just released today.
In addition to the big jobs increase in 2010, clean energy revenue increased 15% that year, reaching €127 billion ($167 billion).
Of course, clean energy grew tremendously in the EU in 2011 again, so the number of jobs in the field are sure to be much more than 1.14 million, and I’m sure revenue is far more than €127 billion.
Where Were the Clean Energy Jobs?
The solid biomass power sector was the largest employer in Europe in 2010, providing 273,000 jobs. Next was solar photovoltaic (PV), providing 268,110 jobs. Third was wind power, with 253,145 jobs.
According to country, the top green jobs providers were:
A news release on the report is available from EurObserv’ER, or you can download the full report. The report is in several different languages and is quite extensive—it includes a lot of information on several green energy sectors, and also includes case studies of several regions at the end.
Posted: 14 Feb 2012 07:49 AM PST
San Diego solar PV system designer, installer and project developer Borrego Solar today announced the closing of a new $47-million fund with US Bank and East West Bank, the purpose of which is to finance solar energy projects for corporate, education and municipal customers.
Among the projects the new fund will finance is 6 MW of solar energy systems in California that includes ten projects for three school districts. Also included are two Massachusetts solar power installations, one of which — of 4.7 MW — is expected to be the largest of its kind in the state. Taken together Borrego’s solar energy projects are expected to create some 400 local jobs while generating clean, long-term renewable energy for nearly 2,000 homes.
The new fund builds on previous success the two banks have had with Borrego and financing its solar energy projects. The two banks partnered with Borrego last June to finance nearly 9 MW of solar projects for customers, including the city of Easthampton, Mass., the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ, Edwards Air Force Base and Santa Clara County, Calif.
Borrego’s Integrated Solar Power Purchase Agreement
"Borrego Solar has consistently identified, developed and executed some of the strongest and most financially-viable solar energy projects, and this latest round is no exception," commented Darren Van't Hof, U.S. Bank director of renewable energy investments.
"Despite recent skepticism around the expiration of the [US Treasury] 1603 Grant, we remain confident in the importance and long-term viability of renewable energy, and we're excited to move these projects forward."
"We're excited about this investment, as it will allow us to deliver on more projects, help organizations go solar with zero up-front costs, and create new jobs," added Borrego Solar CEO Mike Hall. "As we continue to build our portfolio of solar projects across North America, we are assisting organizations in finding innovative ways to implement energy savings programs that allow them to focus their investment dollars on other core operating expenditures. We are thrilled to have passionate and committed partners like U.S. Bank and East West Bank. Their support has been invaluable."
Borrego offers customers its own power purchase agreement (PPA), which entails it building, operating and maintaining solar energy systems for customers, then selling the electricity back at a reduced, fixed rate. This generates immediate savings and positive cash flows for cash-strapped customers unable to meet up-front capital costs, along with enabling them to benefit from a long-term supply of clean, renewable electricity.
No related posts.
Posted: 14 Feb 2012 06:54 AM PST
How Energy Points Works
Here’s more from Energy Points on where the inspiration for the metric system came from, and what types of information it includes:
“According to the 2011 Sustainability & Innovation Global Executive Study and Research Project by MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group, 68 percent of companies said their focus on sustainability increased in the past year, while 66 percent of respondents stated that it was necessary to be competitive1. Despite this belief, there is no universal standard for measuring sustainability in an actionable way. While some companies measure it in terms of overall cost reduction, others measure Greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Taken separately, these are laudable goals, but they do not account for the variables that can impact sustainability, including different fuel sources, geographic locations, electricity generation and more. To make impactful and measurable decisions, Energy Points provides executives with a universal metric that generates a comprehensive and uniform view of how different sustainability initiatives impact an organization.
“Energy Points provides a true measure of environmental sustainability by converting all domains (including electricity, water, transportation, etc…) into a single common unit of measurement. This enables businesses, utilities and energy service companies (ESCOs) to make comparative, intuitive and fact-based decisions across all business locations, generating a greater financial and environmental return. Businesses can also measure their exposure to the changing energy market, estimate its environmental footprint and compare sustainability performance against competitors.”
Even for someone who cares about the environment, or is obsessed with it, figuring out environmental measurements and labels can be a challenge. Energy Points tries its hand at providing a simplified front end for users that presents the net effect of all sorts of environmental data as a simple metric, Energy Per Gallon (EPG). ”We all understand what a gallon of gasoline does in our vehicles and equipment,” Energy Points comments. I’m sure everyone doesn’t have a sense for what one gallon of gasoline equates to, but it’s probably as good a measurement as you can come up with to try to reach the broadest possible audience these days.
Of course, the behind-the-scenes work that goes into presenting that simple figure is not so simple. It is based on “years of development work and validation by leading faculty and researchers at Boston University and MIT,” the company informs us.
“The EnergyPoints platform combines a unique analytics algorithm with GIS data that normalizes all sustainability information to provide the true value of the natural resources being consumed. These measurements are computed across an entire organization and are based on the local mix of energy resources and resource scarcity (such as water). The platform provides further measurement across regions, states, cities and even specific facilities to get a true account on the impact of an organization's sustainability initiatives.”
1st Round of Financing Secured
The company also announced yesterday that it had secured an initial round of financing, totaling $3 million and led by Plan B Ventures.
"We believe that Energy Points will change the way sustainability decisions are made – providing businesses with the tools to make decisions based on their true organizational impact," said Barbara Goldman, partner at Plan B Ventures. "We look forward to supporting the company's growth and the establishment of the Energy Point as the defacto sustainability standard."
As part of the financing deal, Goldman is joining Energy Points’ board of directors.
Looks like an interesting metric system for measuring corporate or project sustainability more comprehensively. Something I’ll be keeping an eye on.
Source: Energy Points
Posted: 14 Feb 2012 06:07 AM PST
Two of the largest and most successful solar power companies in the world are getting into a scuffle now, news broke today. SunPower, a solar panel efficiency world record holder and the most popular solar panel company in California last time I checked, is suing SolarCity, the clear leader in residential solar installations in the U.S.
What’s the lawsuit over? Well, SunPower asserts that five ex-SunPower employees who now work for SolarCity stole confidential information from SunPower, committing computer fraud. Additionally, it asserts that SolarCity is aware of this and “knowingly” accepted the information.
SunPower’s temporary restraining order shows that the defendants in this case are SolarCity, Tom Leyden, Matt Giannini, Dan Leary, Felix Aguayo, and Alice Cathcart.
“Aguayo had accessed his company email account after he was terminated [and] had forwarded customer information, price lists, and market reports to his personal email address on or about November 18, 2011,” the legal document claims.
“The forensic analysis established that shortly before leaving SunPower, defendants Leyden, Giannini, Leary, Aguayo, and Cathcart connected personal USB devices and used them to steal tens-of-thousands of computer files containing SunPower confidential information and non-confidential proprietary information,” it also states. “These files included at least quotes, deals, proposals, contracts, and files containing forecast analysis, market analysis, and information downloaded from the www.salesforce.com database.”
This all occurred on defendants’ last days of work at SunPower.
Going on: “Leyden also copied highly confidential data from the SunPower database…the data included information about major SunPower customers accounting for $100 million of sales throughout 2011…this information allowed Leyden to recruit SunPower employees, including Leary, Aguayo, and Cathcart.”
The lawsuit asserts that Leyden actively recruited the other SunPower employees to work for SolarCity as the startup engaged in a big commercial sales push.
“In addition to civil damages and injunctive relief, SunPower also wants to hold the ex-employees criminally liable for violating a California law prohibiting unauthorized computer data access and fraud.”
Check out the entire legal complaint for more.
SolarCity actually looked set for an IPO within weeks, a story on Reuters reported this month, something we were set to cover. Looks like that may be a bit delayed.
Posted: 14 Feb 2012 05:12 AM PST
Oil and other fossil fuel companies, which have seen tremendous, unprecedented profits in recent years, are the darlings of many Republican political leaders, and their billions/year in subsidies have been protected without hesitation by those politicians (and by some Democrats, to be fair). The wacky idea is that not giving them billions more to stick in the bank and sit on, they would cut jobs and America would suffer—absolute rubbish! What would happen is they wouldn’t see record profits year after year and a continuously expanding savings account.
The good news is that Obama, in his new budget proposal, has included $39 billion of subsidy cuts for the fossil fuel industry over the coming 10 years.
"Repealing fossil fuel tax preferences helps eliminate market distortions, strengthening incentives for investments in clean, renewable, and more energy efficient technologies," the budget plan states.
“On the other hand, the budget does include funding for the Department of the Interior to boost oil and gas production, particularly on public lands in the west,” Jeremy notes. “That will be partly balanced out by $450 million to preserve public lands and $28 million for new inspectors to make sure that we don't have a repeat of the BP Gulf Oil disaster.”
Renewable energy and energy efficiency, of course, continue to get good support from President Obama. This has certainly been his strong suit over the past few years, in my opinion.
The EPA doesn’t get axed, but it also doesn’t get a boost.
Transportation proposals please the American Public Transit Association (APTA) and all transit lovers and riders, as well as bicyclists and high-speed train lovers.
"On behalf of the 1,500 members of the American Public Transportation Association, we are pleased that President Barack Obama released a six-year transportation bill that increases funding for public transportation by over 100%,” APTA writes. “We support the efforts of the Administration to move this proposal forward because investing in public transit is essential to creating American jobs and boosting our economy.”
But, as Jeremy aptly notes, GOP politicians aren’t particularly interested in having the economy bounce back while Obama’s president, since their #1 goal (as stated by leaders in the party) is to make Obama a one-term president. So, Jeremy’s statement on this is a little more pessimistic (or realistic, you might say):
“Despite some flaws, the president’s budget is a big net plus for the environment, and we urge Congress to embrace the positive aspects of it,” said Elgie Holstein, senior director for strategic planning at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and a former associate director of the Office of Management and Budget for Natural Resources, Energy and Science, after praising the oil and gas company cuts but lamenting EPA and Farm Bill conservation cuts.
“Look at it this way: environmental conservation is cheaper than environmental cleanup, just like preventive medicine is cheaper than emergency room treatment. We applaud the President’s support of job-creating, clean energy programs.” Well put. That’s an analogy we should use more often!
And, at a glance from the EDF (note that the EDF is probably the most corporate-friendly green organization in the country):
Overall, it’s better for the environment than it is bad. Now, we have to support those critical good parts as the Senate and House GOP try to hack them up or incinerate them.
Check out this complete overview of the budget from the White House for more.
Image of Obama via White House
Posted: 14 Feb 2012 05:04 AM PST
Old and new technologies often bump into each other as we head into a new energy era, and a new liquid battery system under development at MIT provides an interesting example of that dynamic. The new battery was inspired by the process of aluminum smelting, which was developed in the early years of the 19th century.
Energy storage for a new energy future
The energy storage problem isn’t a new one (ever wake up freezing when your campfire goes out overnight?), but it’s especially bedeviling when the energy source is an intermittent one, namely solar power or wind power. When used in mobile devices or electric vehicles, other make-or-break factors come into play including size, durability, weight and efficiency, so it’s pretty evident that new breakthrough technology is required.
The aluminum inspiration
As explained by MIT’s David Chandler the new liquid battery was inspired by the electrochemistry of aluminum smelting. The process takes place at extremely high temperatures, which would seem to be counter-intuitive as far as batteries go (exploding laptops, anyone?), but the smelting industry’s long history demonstrates that the process can be conducted safely, on a large scale.
The liquid battery solution
According to lead researcher Donald Sadoway, the liquid battery system could operate at almost 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. So far the research team has found promise in a battery consisting of three relatively common, inexpensive materials that naturally separate into three distinct layers in a liquid state: magnesium, a salt mixture, and antimony.
Large-scale solutions for solar and wind storage
The next step is scaling up the system to a useful size, with the ultimate goal of using it for utility-grade energy storage. That might take a while — the research team started with a battery the size of a shot glass. Reducing the
operating temperature is another goal along the way and there are other kinks to be worked out, including hitting a price point that makes the new battery competitive with other large-scale energy storage systems such as pumped hydro or molten salt.
Old material, new solutions
Though much of the excitement in new energy tech is over exotic materials and new chemical (and biochemical) processes, it’s worth nothing that a workhorse material like aluminum still has a significant role to play, especially in terms of getting the cost of renewable energy down to parity with fossil fuels.
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Posted: 14 Feb 2012 04:34 AM PST
I love it when I’m planning to cover a story and then see someone on one of our sister sites already has. In this repost below, Priti Ambani does a great job covering Greenstart, “the first startup accelerator exclusively designed for the cleantech industry.” Check out the post and video below for more:
Cleantech Startup Accelerator ‘Greenstart’ Begins Second Program For Eco-entrepreneurs (via Ecopreneurist)
Posted: 14 Feb 2012 04:14 AM PST
"This is extremely positive news for America, which makes up just 5% of the world’s population but consumes 24% of the world’s energy," says Peg Watson, Founder and President of the Green Schools Alliance (GSA).
The GCC now covers 116 schools across 22 states who are all competing to reduce their electricity consumption during peak winter energy usage, between January 18 to February 15.
"From California to Florida, students and school campuses are modeling technologies and behaviors that save energy, money and the environment during the GCC and beyond," says GCC Program Director Katy Perry.
And there are dozens of different stories, representing strategies that range from the simple and low-tech to the higher end of environmental technology.
The Green Schools Alliance has outlined stories from three separate schools—The Latin School of Chicago, Saint Paul’s in Clearwater, Florida, and the New Roads School in Santa Monica, California—which can be seen on its website here.
"By making ethical decisions about how we use energy throughout our facilities, we can use our campus as a classroom for our students," says Peter Brown, the Latin School of Chicago’s Director of Facilities and Operations. "This is a great opportunity for students to see how a green roof can help reduce cooling costs.”
Brown has seen his school make a reduction of 8.2% in energy consumption so far thanks to a series of changes Brown has initiated over the past few years. Brown installed solar PV panels on the Upper School’s roof in 2009, and on the Middle School building in 2010, along with a new bird-friendly wind turbine and a solar hot water heating system.
You can also keep track of how many pounds of carbon dioxide the school has kept out of the atmosphere as a result of using solar energy, thanks to a public website found here.
Image Source: Matt Montagne
Posted: 14 Feb 2012 04:11 AM PST
100 industry experts were polled by financial services firm Ernst & Young last week on what the electric vehicle market really needs, and somehow the answer coming out was: "The market needs an iCar."
Apple Does Not Make an Electric Car
The poll didn't come out and specifically ask the ghost of Steve Jobs to design and market an electric car, but one can't help but think the idea wasn't far from their minds. After all, Apple has demonstrated tremendous success, largely by hanging back until someone comes up with a product, and then figuring out how to put their own colors on it and make it look cool (an Apple OS is basically Linux with a pretty skin, for instance).
The conclusion reached by the mass of industry experts was that the electric car industry needs to create an EV with "mass appeal." This seems so incredibly straightforward that I'm really not sure why they needed a panel of experts to reach this conclusion; consumers want range and low cost up front, as well as somewhere to charge their EVs when they're not using them (according to a poll published not long ago). Once EV technology can meet those demands, sales are likely to improve.
Electric Car = Consumer Electronics?
Ernst & Young's report also pointed out something rather clever, in the midst of stating the obvious; electric cars are one step closer to becoming a consumer appliance. In Japan, they're regarded as giant mobile batteries that could be equally useful in a disaster scenario or during wilderness camping (not that there's much of that in Japan) when taken out of the context of a passenger vehicle. In that light, a massive push toward creating an image of the EV as something cool and desirable (much like an iPhone) might create some different and positive associations in the public eye.
Electric vehicles are currently closely associated with renewable energy, zero emissions, and reducing the carbon footprint—none of which are particular hallmarks of Apple (hello, factories in China) or indeed consumer electronics in general, and none of which help generate mass appeal. However, common standards, innovative business models (something like car sharing, which is currently available in many places, or battery leasing), and clearer subsidy systems are also mentioned as necessary to brighten the outlook of the electric vehicle market.
Questions or comments? Let us know!
Source: Business Green | Image: Wikimedia Commons
Posted: 13 Feb 2012 01:56 PM PST
What if installing more solar could reduce electricity prices? It’s already happening in Germany, world leader in solar power, and it’s likely to happen in the U.S., too.
Right now, the idea of solar reducing electricity prices seems silly. After all, when subsidies aren’t factored in, the cost of residential solar will be higher than residential retail electricity prices in all but 3 states until after 2016. But solar has two key factors in its favor:
The following chart shows how PG&E (a California utility) charges significantly more for electricity during the afternoon hours when demand is high, and how a south-facing, fixed-tilt solar array can produce a lot of electricity during those peak hours.
Solar output can actually match this peak curve better, if the panels are angled toward the southwest rather than due south, resulting in more late afternoon output.
Either way, however, solar adds electricity to the electricity system when it needs it most. And when that happens, it supplants electricity that was previously supplied by the dirtiest and most costly fossil fuel “peaking” power plants. In Germany, the sharp growth in solar power output (from 3 gigawatt-hours in 2007 to over 18 gigawatt-hours in 2011) reduced the cost of electricity during their mid-day peak period by 40%, almost completely eliminating the price differential between peak electricity and the base cost.
The process where solar supplants expensive peaking power is called the “merit order effect.” It works because utilities buy solar power on long-term contracts and there is zero marginal cost to take solar electricity at any particular time (they’ve already paid for it). The peaking plants, on the other hand, tend to sell their power on the spot market. Therefore, every megawatt of additional solar on the grid during a peak period supplants a megawatt of peaking power, eventually putting those costly plants out of the picture. Ultimately, it means that during periods of high solar PV output, there won’t be peak power events with higher electricity prices.
Admittedly, the U.S. has a ways to go. Solar produced enough electricity for as much as 17% of peak demand in Germany in 2011, while one of the U.S. leaders in solar per capita – Gainesville, FL – only serves about 1.5% of its peak demand with solar.
But solar is growing at an exponential rate in the U.S., just as it did in Germany. And since solar can provide power when the grid needs it most, there’s a lot more to its cost than cents and kilowatt-hours.
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