Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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New Utility-Scale Solar PV Inverter Technology Could Help Stabilize the Grid (Germany Case Study)

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 06:04 AM PST

utility-scale solar farm germany

New inverter technology for ‘utility-scale’ solar projects can reportedly help (big-time) in stabilizing the electric grid 24/7.

“A new inverter technology allows inverters to act as phase-shift oscillators, thereby providing the grid with reactive power from solar plants even overnight – and lowering the cost of grid expansion considerably in the process,” Heiko Schwarzburger and Craig Morris of Renewables International write.

While I know most of us are more of a fan of decentralized solar power and the societal benefits that offers, this gives another boost to utility-scale solar as a key ingredient in the quick, reliable, and efficient switch to a 100%-renewable energy economy.

“With new central inverters, power plants with a capacity of 4 to 8 megawatts can help keep the regional grid stable,” says Bernhard Beck, head of Germany’s Belectric, one of the world’s largest providers of turnkey solar power plants. “For the past year, we have been using inverters that even provide reactive power at night, which provides us with completely new ways of stabilizing the grid.”

Here are more of the technical details from Renewables International:

The German grid is broken up into four levels. Ultra high-voltage lines have at least 380 kilovolts and high-voltage lines at least 110, whereas medium-voltage lines that regionally distribute power have 20 kilovolts – and local distribution grids (to which retail consumers are connected) have 400 volts and three phases. If too much energy is exported to the grid, the voltage increases along with frequency. Lines then began to overheat, and grid operators provide additional reactive power from central plants. Unfortunately, Germany has less reactive power in the south now that so many nuclear plants have been shut off there.

“But utility-scale solar can do the job,” Beck says. “A solar farm with hundreds of megawatts can produce enough reactive power to offset the grid-stabilizing effect of a nuclear plant.” The new inverter function with software from SMA can also be used in inverters for wind turbines. But small inverters for rooftop arrays cannot perform this function because the equipment would be too expensive.

Germany has a growing share of solar power, wind power, and power from biomass. But increasingly, reactive power – not real power – is turning out to be the bottleneck when it comes to stabilizing the grid. “If a large solar plant in Bavaria produces reactive power, ultra high-voltage lines to the North Sea might even be able to be utilized better,” Beck surmises. “In our estimation, it would then only cost half as much to expand the grid” because local reactive power and high-temperature cables would mean that the amount of power on the grid could be tripled without having to build a single new pylon.

Phases of power shift when the three phases go out of sync. By pushing the three phases back into rhythm, the grid can take up much more power. As Beck explains, “During the day, the solar array affects the phase shift via the energy it produces. At night or when the sky is cloudy, it then takes some of the real power off the grid and puts back a much larger phase shift with very low losses.”

Looks good to me. Thoughts?

Photo: solar PV farm in Germany via shutterstock

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300 New MW of Clean, Renewable Energy for SDG&E

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 05:17 AM PST

clean renewable energy sdg&e

San Diego Gas & Electric (SD&E), a subsidiary of the Fortune-500 company Sempra Energy, has recently confirmed two long-term contracts to purchase a total of 300 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy from 8minutenergy and from Manzana Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, Inc.

Mount Signal Solar Project in Imperial County, CA

8minutenergy will be selling 200 megawatts (200MWac) of solar energy from the Mount Signal Solar project in Imperial Valley, California to SDG&E under a 25-year contract.

“The Mount Signal Solar project is a large, utility-scale solar generation facility sited on 1,940 of low-productivity farmland in the Imperial Valley, Calif,” 8minutenergy writes.

“The Mount Signal Solar project will ultimately create nearly 1,000 direct and indirect jobs in an area with high unemployment, and produce renewable energy that will further SDG&E’s goal of helping the state meet its 33 percent RPS mandate,” said Tom Buttgenbach, president of 8minutenergy Renewables.

This is in an area, Imperial Valley, which currently has an astounding unemployment rate of approximately 30%, one of the highest in the country.

The Mount Signal Solar project is projected to generate enough electricity for 72,000 houses (500 million kWhs per year) and is scheduled to start delivering power to SDG&E in mid-2013.

“This clean solar generation plant will displace the equivalent of approximately 356,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, which is equal to the amount that roughly 15 million trees would displace annually.”

Manzana Wind Project

The Manzana wind project is a 189-MW wind farm currently under construction in the Tehachapi region of California, near Rosamond. The contract with SDG&E is for 100 MW of wind power and goes for 20 years.

“When completed in late 2012, the project will be comprised of 126, 1.5 MW wind turbines spread across 4,600 acres,” SDG&E notes. “The project represents a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions comparable to removing more than 21,500 cars off of California’s roads for one year.”

“These contracts continue the significant momentum SDG&E has built over the past decade in acquiring valuable green energy resources,” said James P. Avery, senior vice president of power supply for SDG&E. “In 2011, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric represented more than 20 percent of the power provided to our 1.4 million electric customers. This is a terrific accomplishment given the fact that we had just one percent renewable power in our portfolio 10 years ago and about 12 percent renewables in our power portfolio in 2010. We are well on our way toward meeting the state’s goal and attaining 33 percent of our power from renewable sources in 2020.”

Photo: solar panels via SDG&E

Related posts:

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  3. The Renewable Landscape: A Look at Clean Energy in Asia

“Hot Pot” Bacteria Could Make One-Pot Biofuel

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 05:11 AM PST

ornl scientists find biofuel bacteria in yellowstone hot springs

The search for a cheap, simple one-pot process for making biofuel is taking researchers to some mighty strange places. In the latest development, scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been scouring the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park on the lookout for bacteria that could help break down biomass for biofuel naturally, and now they think they have found their man – er, make that microorganism.

Some like it hot

The researchers settled on a bacterium called Caldicellulosiruptor obsidiansis, which thrives in scalding temperatures and is capable of breaking down leaves and sticks. The trick is to find out exactly how the bug digests that stuff while people like us can’t even get a toothpick down, and it appears that C. obsidiansis gets a bit of a turn-on from switchgrass

According to Morgan McCorkle of ORNL, switchgrass stimulates the microbe to “express an expanded set of proteins that deal specifically with the hemicellulose content of the plant,” hemicellulose being part of what makes tough cell walls in woody biomass so tough to break down.

One more step to low cost biofuel

Now that key proteins and enzymes have been identified, the next step is to integrate these findings with other disciplines. McCorkle cites genomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics as other key elements that will enable researchers to develop an integrated model of how organisms function within a biofuel processing system, rather than picking proteins in isolation.

One biofuel to rule them all…

…or not. As the ORNL research demonstrates, replacing petroleum with low cost biofuel has given rise to a torrent of new research that could have impacts far beyond energy production, while providing many different new methods of generating liquid fuel other than simply pumping it up out of the ground. The search for new biofuel bacteria is just part of it. Other areas that could lead to low cost biomass include prepping the biomass (for example the biofuel “coffee roaster” dreamed up by the University of Leeds), finding a way to grow  oil-rich algae while conserving energy and water, or simply combining commercially available biomass pellets with a few new high tech twists.

Image: Yellowstone Park hot spring. License Attribution Some rights reserved by BG³Photo.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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Trina Solar Gets $100-Million Loan for High-Efficiency “Honey” Solar Cell Launch

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 04:55 AM PST

trina honey solar panel

Back in September, Andrew wrote on Trina Solar setting a “new world record for electricity produced by a multicrystalline solar PV module” using Trina’s unique “Honey” solar cell technology. Now, the company has apparently impressed Standard Chartered Bank China enough to get a $100-million, 3-year loan to launch the product. If needed, the loan could be extended for another 2 years.

“The three-year loan from Standard Chartered will support the company’s East Campus project, which is expected to add about 500MW of solar cell and module production capacity,” the UK’s Business Green writes.

Due to greater surface area, reduced resistance, and being less reflective than traditional solar panels, Trina Solar claims its product has an efficiency of nearly 16%.

Source: Business Green
Photo Credit: Trina Solar

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Floating Wind Farm for Malta

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 04:28 AM PST


malta floating offshore wind farm

The Swedish company Hexicon, which has developed an innovative type of floating wind farm or two, may soon supply Malta with 9% of its electricity needs via one of these floating wind farms.

malta floating wind farm

While the EU already has about 20% of its energy coming from renewable energy, the small island nation of Malta has lagged a lot with only 1-2% of its electricity coming from renewable sources.

“As an EU member Malta is required to produce at least 10% of its energy from renewables by 2020,” Susan Kraemer writes on Green Prophet (one of the other sites she contributes to). The new floating wind farm is apparently a key to the nation’s plans to quickly achieving that target.

Hexicon has now submitted a project description statement (PDS) with Maltese authorities, and the location of the wind farm has been identified. The farm would include 36 turbines sitting on a hexagon-shaped, 460-meter-wide platform (see the images above) and would have a power capacity of 54 MW. The platform would be anchored to the sea floor with cables but would be able to turn a full 360 degrees in 30 minutes.

“Hexicon’s technology for large-scale, floating platforms for wind and wave power was analysed and reviewed by the Swedish Energy Agency, the Malta Resources Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment of the Republic of Cyprus,” Malta Today writes.

The hexagon shaped platform will be constructed on the basis of offshore oil rig platform technology.

The patented “fagerdala hull system” provides the Hexicon platform with a composite outer protective layer. The hull system thus reduces the need for maintenance and extends the lifespan of both the platform itself and all equipment installed. This would result in less expensive energy the company claims.

The company claims that its platform has an expected lifespan of 50 years while the turbines have a life expectancy of 25 years.

“If its application succeeds, along with the funding for it through the EU cap & trade scheme (via Ner300), the plant could start operations in June 2014,” Susan notes. Adding this on to Malta’s existing 1-2% from renewable energy, the country would meet its 2020 target several years early despite a late start.

It’s also projected that this project would create electricity at a more competitive rate than currently dominant oil-based power generation on Malta.

Sources: Green Prophet & Malta Today

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Tesla Not Letting Journalists Drive Model S before Release,.. and Why

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 03:53 AM PST

Tesla apparently isn’t following common practice and giving a bunch of its Model S electric vehicles to auto journalists to drive before they go on sale. Conspiracy theory and paranoia are rampant these days (I’m planning to write a post or series of posts on that on sister site Planetsave) and a number of folks are up in arms about this and joining that paranoid crowd. Chris DeMorro of sister site Gas2 brings some common sense to this decision, though. Check it out:

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GE “Forcing” Employees to Use Chevy Volts

Posted: 21 Feb 2012 03:46 AM PST

Sorry, I couldn’t really up Chris’ title for this one. Looks like GE and GM are teaming up a bit — good stuff. While GE’s in a bit of trouble with the American public for not paying any taxes, it’s looking to up its green brownie points with a pretty aggressive green car push. For more, check out the full piece from Gas2 reposted here:

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Carbon Trust, GE Launch $5-Million Clean Tech Business Incubator Fund

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 04:39 PM PST


The UK-based Carbon Trust announced today it would work with General Electric (GE) to establish a $5-million business incubator fund designed to boost low-carbon infrastructure technologies. The fund is targeted toward European clean tech start-up businesses, and will not have a cap on the size of possible investments.

Both companies will work together during the initial 18-month partnership to selectively identify promising companies, offer management advice, and allocate capital funding. Carbon Trust will administer the program, and the funding will come from GE's $200 million ecomagination Challenge. GE has committed $134 million from the fund to date in start-up investments and commercial partnerships across the globe since it launched in 2010.

Carbon Trust is a non-profit organization that provides guidance and finance to businesses seeking to reduce carbon emissions reductions, and says it has helped its customers prevent 38 million tons of carbon emissions and save £3.7 billion in energy costs.

"Clean tech has the capacity to be a strong growth driver for Europe given its strong research capability and track record," said Tom Delay, chief executive of Carbon Trust. "However, there is increasing evidence that other parts of the world are catching up and overtaking the region."

Recent data seems to support the imperative for new sources of clean tech capital in Europe. In 2007, 42 percent of the world's clean energy investment took place in Europe, compared to just 25 percent today, according to a recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. By comparison, Asia Oceania has nearly doubled its share of clean tech investment during the same period, and North America accounted for almost 66 percent of total clean tech venture capital investment during fourth quarter 2011.

Austerity measures by governments across Europe have also taken their toll on the clean tech industry. Renewable energy powerhouses like Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom have all recently announced feed-in-tariff reductions, and Carbon Trust will lose its core government grant funding this April.

Cutbacks may be most acute in the UK, but could ironically create partnership opportunities for the private sector. GE's Innovation Barometer, a survey of 2,800 businesses in 22 global markets, found one of two businesses saw the UK as a challenging environment for innovation but 84 percent of UK businesses said partnerships and collaboration with a combination of organizations was key to success. And, almost 90 percent of UK businesses think start-up businesses can maintain their innovative edge as bigger companies – provided they receive seed funding and business support.

Considering this environment, GE's funding could be a shrewd investment in the future of Europe's clean tech industry. "We are increasingly focused on identifying new businesses, technologies, and human talent in this area," said Mark Elborne, chief executive of GE UK. "GE sees the business benefit but also the potential these new technologies offer in delivering overall economic growth and improved resource efficiency."

Source: BusinessGreen
Image courtesy of GE ecomagination

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Report: Global Biofuels Market Could Double To $185.3 Billion By 2021

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 04:14 PM PST


A new report from Pike Research predicts the global biofuels market will double over the next decade, from $82.7 billion in 2011 to $185.3 billion in 2021. Even with this rapid growth, however, significant hurdles remain and could prevent the industry from meeting government mandates.

The new report, Biofuels Markets and Technologies, estimates steady growth though 2016 but rapid production increases between 2017 and 2021 as a result of higher oil prices, emerging mandates, new feedstock availability, and advanced technologies. Total global biofuel production is projected to reach 65.7 billion gallons per year (BGPY) by 2021, and ethanol is expected to maintain its dominance over the industry, with nearly 50 BGPY compared to biodiesel's 16.2 BGPY.

Several key markets are driving industry growth. Blending mandates now exist in at least 38 countries and 29 states or provinces around the world. The United States, Brazil, and European Union are the three largest markets, and represented 85 percent of global production in 2010. North America led the world in biofuel production with 48 percent of the global market, while the EU accounted for 49 percent of global biodiesel production.

Even with this rapid growth, the industry still may not meet total market needs by 2021. Production volumes are expected to fall short of the estimated 71.8 BGPY biofuels market demand because of a lack of access to inexpensive feedstocks and difficulty obtaining financing.

This failure to meet demand may be more of a reflection on the immense global transportation fuel market than the validity of biofuel technology. Pike Research estimates that by 2021 the global gasoline market will reach 375 BGPY, the global diesel ground transportation market will hit 427 BGPY, and aviation and marine fuel demand could add 200 BGPY to the global market.

Even if the biofuels industry does double current production levels, which hit 29.4 BGPY in 2011, they would still only represent seven percent of the total transportation fuel market.

The technological maturation of first-generation biofuel sources (such as corn, sugarcane, rapeseed and soy), combined with a second generation of fuel sources could increase production estimates even further. "The emergence of advanced conversion pathways and non-food feedstocks could unlock considerable production potential throughout the world," says the report.

According to Pike, the combination of maturing investments, growing demand, and industry consolidation mean a bullish future for biofuels. "Given the scale of development to date and the crystallization of interests… widespread biofuels commercialization is no longer a question of if but when."

Source: Green Car Congress

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Clean Energy Could Supply U.S. with 70% of Electricity by 2030, NOAA Director Says

Posted: 20 Feb 2012 03:13 PM PST

solar wind

A director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was in Vancouver on Friday for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual convention and mentioned in a talk there that clean, renewable energy (not even including hydroelectric) could cheaply supply 48 states of the continental U.S. with 70% of its electricity demand by 2030. The other 30% would be half from fossil fuels and half from nuclear and hydro.

Wow. I mean, we know it’s possible. A piece by Mark Z. Jacobson (professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program there) and Mark A. Delucchi (a research scientist at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis) has shown how the world could actually be 100% powered by clean, renewable energy by 2030. But getting more top researchers to show its possibilities in the near future, at a cheap price, is big.

The lead researcher and speaker was Sandy MacDonald, who is director of the earth system research lab at NOAA.

NOAA’s Research

“NOAA embarked on the renewables project three years ago, collating 16 billion pieces of weather data derived from satellite observations and airplane observations and weather station reports,” Scott Simpson of the Vancouver Sun writes.

“Then it designed a program to filter the information to remove unlikely venues for wind or solar power arrays – such as national parks and urban areas – and came up with a map showing robust wind resources in the middle of the continent and decent ones in the northeast Atlantic states, as well as strong solar production areas in the desert southwest.”

But here’s where the NOAA researchers stepped beyond the good to the great, research-wise: they balanced potential power production and electricity demand to determine, how, where, when, and to what extent clean energy could produce the electricity we need. The end result — 70% of electricity demand — is huge (although, not much of a surprise to CleanTechnica readers, I imagine).

Big thanks to Scott Simpson for quickly getting a piece up on this, but I look forward to reading more when NOAA puts out more information on the research.

Source: Vancouver Sun
Image: Solar photovoltaic panels & wind turbine via shutterstock

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