Thursday, February 23, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Tesla CEO Sees EV Batteries Soon Dropping to $200 Per kWh

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 03:18 AM PST

“In the not-so-distant future,” to be exact. The rather famous Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, is someone to listen to when it comes to electric vehicles. He and Tesla have done what no one else was able to (or at least dreamt of or tried) in recent years, and they continue to ‘wow’ us with their strides forward (note Tesla’s upcoming ‘Model X’ electric SUV with falcon doors that just make me think of the batmobile for some reason).

One of the most important things to Musk, Tesla, the electric vehicle industry, and the environment (thus, everyone who needs clean air, clean water, and a livable climate) is cheaper EV batteries. Luckily, Musk sees continual and considerable cost drops in EV battery technology in the near (or ‘not-so-distant’) future. Here’s more from Chris:

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141-MPG Plug-in Volkswagen Golf by 2015

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 02:53 AM PST

141 miles per gallon (mpg) isn’t quite what a bicyclist gets (that would be approximately 984 mpg), but it’s pretty darn good for a car! Despite Greenpeace being very upset with Volkswagen’s lobbying in Europe, I imagine it must be very happy to see Volkswagen coming out with a 141-mpg vehicle. Of course, the plug-in hybrid MkVII Golf is still a concept and a few years off. Here’s more from Chris:

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Kingdom of Tonga Plans for 50% Renewable Energy by 2015

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 12:21 AM PST

Are you familiar with the Kingdom of Tonga (aka Tonga). It is “an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of ocean in the South Pacific,” according to Wikipedia. 52 of its 176 islands are inhabited.

kingdom of tonga

Yeah, not exactly one of your closest neighbors.

Well, despite its small size as distant location, Tonga is providing a bit of inspiration to the world these days. It has set a goal of getting 50% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050 and has set out a plan to do so.

tonga renewable energy

tonga renewable energy resources

I wonder why the island kingdom would be so focused on installing renewable energy?… Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that its islands could soon be covered in water from the effects of global warming. But that’s certainly not the only concern. Additionally, Tonga is heavily reliant on increasingly expensive (and imported) oil for its energy, putting it at great economic risk right now.

“Launched in 2010, the Tongan government laid out its Tonga Energy Road Map (TERM) in order to reduce carbon emissions, improve its electrical grid, and cut its dependence from foreign energy sources,” Zachary Rybarczyk of Climate Progress writes.

“During the oil price spike in 2008, Tonga's economy screeched to a halt. And since then, with oil prices continuing to rise, many consumers are not able to afford electricity at all.”

From a little over a year ago, here’s an Al Jazeera video on Tonga’s power crisis and move to solar power:

From TERM:

The Tongan economy and electricity consumers have been exposed to high and volatile electricity prices linked to oil prices over the last ten years. Between 2001 and 2004, the average price of crude oil increased from around US$25 per barrel to around US$40 per barrel, an increase of 60%. In the next 4 years to 2008, the average price of crude more than doubled to a peak of around US$100 per barrel. In late 2008, crude oil prices dropped and continued fall into early 2009 averaging around US$62 per barrel during 2009. Diesel prices tracked the price of crude oil and led to Tongan electricity rates exceeding TOP1.00/kW-h in late 2008. Crude oil price is expected to increase in the future based on projections from the United States Department of Energy.

Now, Tonga has received grants from New Zealand and technical support from the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Program (REEEP) to move forward with its renewable energy ambitions. And the nation is hopeful it will "a blueprint for other Pacific Island states that are grappling with similar challenges," said Martin Hiller, the Director General of REEEP.

Tonga signed an MOU this January with Masdar (a company best known for its planned super-green city… Masdar) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for a large solar photovoltaic (PV) project on one of its islands. The 500-kilowatt solar PV project, being built on Vava'u Island, is projected to provide electricity to over 13% of Tonga's 110,000 citizens. Another solar project on its main island, Tongatapu, is already being constructed.

Images: Tonga on globe via Wikipedia user TUBS; Tonga island, white-sand beach, and shallow water via shutterstock

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UK’s 1st Employee-Owned Solar Power Plant Installed

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 11:38 PM PST

first employee owned solar power plant in uk

The Eden Project has now completed the first known employee-owned solar power plant in the UK, a 50-kilowatt PV array that includes 200 solar panels.

Familiar with the Eden Project? I wasn’t either…. The Eden Project is apparently an educational charity in Cornwall in the UK, and a pretty cool-looking one at that. Here’s a video of the Eden Project if you want to learn more about that before getting on with the news:

“Ebico, the Witney-based social enterprise that is the UK’s only not-for-profit electricity supplier, lent money to a new company that put 200 panels on the roofs of some of Eden’s storage buildings,” the UK’s Carbon Commentary writes.

“Employees are now able to buy shares in the new business and the proceeds of this unique offer will be used to pay back Ebico. Savers putting in as little as £200 each will share in the feed-in tariff income for the next 25 years. Returns are projected to be over 10% per year for small investors.”

For more info on this project or other potential projects like it, as well as an interesting discussion of the UK’s feed-in tariff program, check out the Carbon Commentary post.

Photo via Carbon Commentary

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Apple to Build Largest Solar Array

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 11:12 PM PST

The creators of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod are going to be building America’s largest end-user-owned, onsite solar array at their North Carolina data center.

Apple's Maiden, North Carolina data center

Apple’s Maiden, North Carolina data center is already one of the most energy-efficient of its kind, earning the LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the highest possible certification from LEED. In typical Apple fashion, they note that they “know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification.”

The energy-efficient design elements of the Maiden facility include:

  • A chilled water storage system to improve chiller efficiency by transferring 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours each day.
  • Use of "free" outside air cooling through a waterside economizer operation during night and cool-weather hours, which, along with water storage, allows the chillers to be turned off more than 75 percent of the time.
  • Extreme precision in managing cooling distribution for cold-air containment pods, with variable-speed fans controlled to exactly match air flow to server requirements from moment to moment.
  • Power distributed at higher voltages, which increases efficiency by reducing power loss.
  • White cool-roof design to provide maximum solar reflectivity.
  • High-efficiency LED lighting combined with motion sensors.
  • Real-time power monitoring and analytics during operations.
  • Construction processes that utilized 14 percent recycled materials, diverted 93 percent of construction waste from landfills, and sourced 41 percent of purchased materials within 500 miles of the site.

Now, though, Apple will be adding to this impressive list a 100-acre, 20-megawatt solar array that will supply 42 million kilowatt hour of renewable energy every year. Apple will also be installing a 5-megawatt fuel cell installation that will be powered by 100 percent biogas and provide more than 40 million kilowatt hours of 24×7 baseload renewable energy annually.

The news was made as part of the release of Apple’s facilities 2012 report (pdf), which outlines the nature of Apple’s facilities across the planet and their environmental impact therein.

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Tidal, Energy Storage, & Smart Grid News (Tidal + Offshore Wind the Coming Soon?; Siemens Betting Big on Tidal Power; Community Residential Energy Storage to Boom…)

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 02:00 PM PST

Here’s some top tidal energy, energy storage, and smart grid news from around (& a bit of wind energy news), other than what we’ve already covered in more depth. Enjoy! (And drop us a link if you’ve got more cleantech news you think we’ve missed.)

Siemens Going “All-In” on Tidal Power

Siemens, a German engineering giant (yep, this is the company that manufactured and laid underwater Atlantic cables between the U.S. and Europe), has taken majority ownership of Marine Current Turbines (MCT). MTC develops and builds tidal power systems. “Back in November 2011, Siemens increased its stake in the company to 45 percent. Siemens is planning to complete the acquisition of Marine Current Turbines in the coming few weeks. Financial details of the deal are not disclosed.”

Tidal Developer Atlantis Looks to Combine Tidal & Offshore Wind Turbines

Looking to maximize the potential and cost-efficiency of offshore renewable energy, Atlantis Resources “is in talks to create a new marine energy farm capable of producing both wind and tidal power, in a bid to cut costs and boost the reliability of intermittent green energy technologies,” the UK’s BusinessGreen reports.

“Tim Cornelius, chief executive of Atlantis Resources, told BusinessGreen that the company is already in talks with suppliers of transmission components, such as cabling and converters, to examine the feasibility of building a combined project from scratch or adding its own tidal turbines onto an existing offshore wind farm.”

Minnesota University to Build Microgrid from Scratch

IEEE has revealed that “the University of Minnesota's plan to build a sustainable community with a Smart Grid overlay, as well as work that will lead to the automated, energy-efficient smart home” in its most recent smart grid newsletter. Sounds like fun!

Community & Residential Energy Storage Investment to Reach $4.2 Billion by 2022

Following up on Charis’ post today on potential energy storage growth in the U.S., Pike Research projects that community and residential energy storage systems around the world will see a surge in investment in coming years in a new report released today. “According to a new report from Pike Research, total worldwide installed capacity for community and residential energy storage systems will reach 780 megawatts by 2022, with an annual market value of $872 million. Cumulative investment in CRES systems over the same period will total $4.2 billion, the cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts.”

All images via Siemens

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Community Choice Aggregation Lets Cities Buy (Cleaner) Electricity in Bulk

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 01:00 PM PST

In 30 states, citizens have just one choice for their electricity service.  It’s like the old communist truism: “you can have any color car you want, as long as it’s red.”  What if citizens could collectively shop around for electricity in bulk to get lower prices and cleaner, local power?

In six states, they can, with community choice aggregation.

Community choice aggregation is an alternative to (or complement to) electricity deregulation, allowing residential and commercial customers to choose a different electricity provider.  The linchpin, and difference from traditional deregulation, is that community choice aggregation allows municipalities to aggregate their customers and bid on their behalf, obtaining lower prices by buying in bulk.  It also allows for local determination of electricity supply without requiring a city to buy the distribution grid of the utility (although Boulder, CO, and some Massachusetts towns are considering that step).  Under community choice aggregation, the municipality is the electricity purchaser, but the utility retains control of the grid.  (It should be noted that while community choice is a step shy of full retail deregulation, every state with a CCA law has experienced full retail deregulation).

Community choice aggregation can provide a community a lot of power: to choose local electricity generation over remote, to choose local ownership over absentee, and to choose clean energy over dirty. And without having to finance and buy the local grid, it can come at a much lower financial and political cost.

So far, six states have authorized municipalities to be community aggregators, but the option has only been exercised in five of the six states (see map below):

In its history, community choice aggregation has largely been used to obtain long-term contracts for electricity at lower prices than the incumbent utility provides.  But it can do much more.

For example, the town of Oak Park, IL, recently signed new contracts for electricity, paying 2 cents per kilowatt-hour less than incumbent utility Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) provided, and with sufficient renewable energy credits to be 100% renewable (compared to ComEd’s 6% renewable power).  Other aggregators, including NOPEC in Ohio and REAP in Rhode Island, have likewise saved their ratepayers millions in electricity costs, while Marin Energy Authority in California offers customers a chance to get 100% clean electricity.

Since community choice aggregators can choose their electricity providers, they could choose to get their clean energy locally, too.  Using a feed-in tariff, for example, a municipal aggregator could acquire local solar power using a standard contract with small residential and commercial property owners, much like the Gainesville municipal utility has done in becoming a solar leader (per capita).  Since the projects would be local, the economic benefits would multiply: a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that locally-owned renewable energy projects have twice the jobs and 1.5 to 3.4 times the economic impact of absentee-owned projects.  Unlike a traditional utility, the economic bottom line could be factored in to the electricity purchase for a municipal aggregator.

There’s more to consider, like the unique value of distributed renewable energy to the electricity system, as well as the way that feed-in tariffs can use long-term contracts to drive down the cost of clean energy.

Community choice aggregation isn’t without detractors.  In California, where deregulation was suspended (see: Enron), incumbent monopoly utility PG&E spent $40 million on a ballot initiative to effectively gut the state’s community choice law.  This experience hints at the likely reception for community choice aggregation laws in other states with regulated utility markets.

Even with the potential opposition, there are still eight states with deregulated markets lacking community choice aggregation laws and another six that have experimented with deregulation in the recent past.  With lower prices and cleaner power, as well as a chance to juice local economies with local clean power generation, more states should consider enacting community choice aggregation.

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project.

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DOE Report Shows Shift to Energy-Efficient Lighting

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 12:39 PM PST

Recently the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released The 2010 U.S. Lighting Market Characterization report, which examines the current conditions and broad trends in the U.S. lighting market. The report included many promising trends, of which a shift to more energy-efficient lighting was perhaps the most important.

The new report updates a similar DOE model of the 2001 U.S. lighting market inventory. During the intervening decade, two trends emerged. First, there is push toward energy-saving lighting. Second, there is a continued increase in the demand for lighting, with most of the growth occurring in the residential sector, primarily because of an increase in the number of households, which increased from under 107 million in 2001 to more than 113 million in 2010.

The study shows that, in 2010, lighting used roughly 700 terawatt-hours (TWh), or almost 19% of electricity produced in the United States. The commercial sector accounted for almost half of total energy used for lighting, even with 4 billion fewer light bulbs installed than the residential sector.

2010 DOE Lighting Report

The predominately incandescent residential lights show an area for huge improvement.

The average system efficacy of installed lighting increased from 45 lumens per watt in 2001 to 58 lumens per watt in 2010, due mainly to a move from incandescent to compact fluorescent lamps in the residential sector, and from T12 to more-efficient T8 and T5 fluorescent lamps in the commercial and industrial sectors.

Download the report (PDF) for the full findings.
Image Source: DOE

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UK Could Lead World Forward in Wave and Tidal Power

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 12:30 PM PST

According to a new report from the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, the UK could become one of the leading exporters of wave and tidal power equipment and expertise, but only if the UK Government adopts a more visionary approach to developing marine renewables.

The UK is already the world leader in the development of wave and tidal energy technologies, home to seven of the eight full-scale prototype devices installed worldwide. The report notes that this success is in part a result of the abundant natural resources that are specific to the UK, a long history of academic research, world-class testing facilities, and a strong skills base in other maritime industries.

The report suggests that up to 20 percent of the required UK electricity budget could be generated by wave and tidal power.

“Britannia really could rule the waves when it comes to marine renewable energy,” said Tim Yeo MP, Chair of the Committee. “We are extremely well placed to lead the world in wave and tidal technologies, which could potentially bring significant benefits in manufacturing and jobs, as well an abundant supply of reliable low-carbon electricity.

“A more visionary approach from the Department of Energy and Climate Change could help to boost confidence and drive the pace of development.”

The desire to become a world leader is not only based in being good environmental stewards, though. The report states that there could be economic benefits to the UK if it became a true world leader in wave and tidal power. (Of course.) Homegrown companies could export equipment and components for marine devices to other markets, as well as provide specialist skills and expertise.

But the report warns that other countries less afraid of taking risks could leap ahead of the UK if the government takes an overly cautious attitude. The report points to the country’s failure to capitalize on its 80s lead in the wind turbine market. Once the leader in terms of research and testing of wind turbines, the UK failed to establish a domestic manufacturing industry and lost out to Denmark, which now controls the lion’s share of the worldwide industry now.

“In the eighties the UK squandered the lead it had in wind power development and now Denmark has a large share of the worldwide market in turbine manufacturing,” said Yeo. “It should be a priority for the Government to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of developments in this technology and does not allow our lead to slip.”

Source: UK Parliament
Image Source: Luis Argerich

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EV Home Charging Stations – Now Easier to Install

Posted: 22 Feb 2012 12:00 PM PST

Home Charging Station Standards

Electric vehicles are pretty neat (understatement), and they definitely have the potential to be one of the cleanest types of transportation around. Integrating them into the market, however, isn't always an easy task. One of the issues is the hardware necessary to recharge EVs and plug-in hybrids at home, and getting a green light for that equipment can require cutting through a lot of red tape.

The US Department of Energy (DOE), however, recently took steps to standardize permission and inspection procedures in different regions. (Note: this is not the same as Japan's CHAdeMO standard, which is using the same plug for EVs from different manufacturers.) The DOE's first step was a 6-page template to help local governments set up their permission/inspection procedures. The idea is that, by giving everyone the same template, the same standards will be enforced (we'll see how well that goes).

GITT – Working To Put an EV in Everyone’s Garage

The driving force behind the DOE's action is the Grid Interaction Tech Team (GITT), which was established in 2009 to help commercialize electric vehicles. On the team are entities such as USCAR, the Electric Power Research Institute, EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) installers, the DOE, national laboratories, and utility partners. Their main focus is the market success of EVs. In other words, they're supposed to figure out how to get you to like and eventually buy an electric car (I'm on board with this).

One of the issues GITT identified was the inconvenience of getting home chargers installed. Nobody likes having to wait for appliances, and something like a home charging station (as we mentioned above) has a lot of red tape involved. GITT is trying to make that process much, much easier.

Home charging station installation is, of course, not the only issue faced by EVs in today's market, but it's that extra bit of added hassle that can make even the most enthusiastic potential buyer back down. If local and regional governments can effectively use GITT's template for installation and inspection requirements, and electrical contractors and inspectors can be competently trained according to these requirements, the market will be one step closer to mass integration of electric vehicles.


Comments or questions? Let us know below.

Source: USCAR | Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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