Monday, February 27, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Hawaii’s Largest Wind Power Project Now Under Construction

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 10:44 AM PST

Hawaii’s largest wind power project, the 69-megawatt (MW) Kawailoa Wind project on Kamehameha Schools' Kawailoa Plantation lands on Oahu's North Shore, is now under construction.

location of hawaii's largest wind power project

On the North Shore of Oahu Island, Hawaii

The wind power project will include thirty 2.3-MW Siemens wind turbines, which will produce enough electricity to power approximately 14,500 homes on Oahu Island, approximately 5% of the island’s total electricity demand.

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz, State Senator Mike Gabbard, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, and others hosted a project groundbreaking on Friday.

"This project will not only help the State meet its renewable energy goals, but it will also help preserve and support continued agricultural production for future generations,” Giorgio Caldarone, Regional Asset Manager and Renewable Energy Sector Lead at Kamehameha Schools, said. ”Kamehameha Schools is committed to sustainability and to investing in projects today that will create positive outcomes for future generations. Mahalo to the North Shore community and to everyone else who helped to make this vision a reality."

"This is the largest wind farm in Hawai’i's history, and it shows the progress we are making toward our clean energy goals. This is a great day for Hawai’i. We’ve moved from talking about renewable energy to actually doing it," Lt. Gov. Schatz.

That line above that I bolded really stands out to me. The huge majority of the U.S. population supports and wants more investment in clean energy. Poll after poll after poll shows this. And a lot of folks in highly influential positions talk about supporting clean energy. But support and talk are different from action, and they generally come long before it. It’s exciting to see more and more states, localities, and nations moving forward with clean energy, and I can only hope that the others will quickly move from theoretical support and talk to action. One key reason we featured so many stories like this on CleanTechnica is because I think they inspire others to start and eventually implement such projects, or similar projects that green their world with another clean technology.

But, back to the project, here are some more details you might be interested in:

“In December 2011, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved a power purchase agreement between First Wind and the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), which serves more than 400,000 Hawaii customers. Hawaii state law mandates 70 percent clean energy for electricity and surface transportation by 2030, with 40 percent coming from local renewable sources. Kawailoa Wind will significantly advance the state's progress toward these goals.”

I’m sure that clean energy mandate was a huge part of this project’s fuel. Don’t have such a mandate in your state? Or have one that you think is too weak? Organize some influential and inspirational people and get it going!

For more details on this project and others in the state, check out the First Wind link below.

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Source: First Wind | Image: North Shore of Oahu Island, Hawaii courtesy shutterstock

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EPA’s Green Power Partnership Helps Big Corporations Greenwash

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 10:16 AM PST

While I generally have nothing but praise for the Environmental Protection Agency, its Green Power Partnership program falls short of the agency's usual standard.  In particular, the program – providing media recognition for participating companies who procure renewable energy – inflates the activities of large companies at the expense of businesses whose clean energy transformation is much more meaningful.

Take Wal-Mart, who appears at #3 in the EPA's Green Power Partner rankings with an annual procurement of 872 million kilowatt-hours (enough to power approximately 87,000 homes per year).  The EPA inaccurately credits the super-retailer with getting 28% of its electricity from green power, because the Partnership program allows Wal-Mart to cherry-pick its only two regional divisions that have made any strides on green energy (California and Texas).

Nationwide, Wal-Mart only gets less than 2% of its electricity from renewable energy sources.

But it's not just that Wal-Mart can green its appearance by narrowing the focus to one or two company divisions.  The truth is that many small businesses and towns (and even individuals) can lay claim to much more significant strides on renewable energy.  For example, Oak Park, IL, recently signed a contract for 100% renewable electricity, nearly all of which comes from a wind power facility within the state.  Bighorn Ace Hardware in Silverthorne, CO, gets 25% of its electricity from solar, built right on top of the building.  Even I can beat Wal-Mart, by using Xcel Energy's Windsource to get 100% of my electricity from wind power.

In truth, Wal-Mart's vast size means its green power steps have to be equally vast.  To match the renewable energy commitment of Bighorn Hardware (as a percent of energy consumption), for example, Wal-Mart would have to install over 5,500 megawatts of solar, three times more than was installed in the entire United States in 2011.  And to be 100% renewable, it would have to install 20,000 megawatts, enough solar panels to make a bridge from New York to Los Angeles, 10 times over.

While Wal-Mart receives good press on its minor commitment to green power, neither Bighorn Ace Hardware nor Oak Park will make the EPA's Top 50 list of Green Power Partners.  That's because EPA ranks businesses by the total size of their purchase, not their relative green-ness.  The agency may as well list the Fortune 500 in order of electricity consumption.

It would be far more honest to rank companies by a meaningful metric of green power progress, like their green kilowatt-hours per dollar of sales.

The shame is not just that EPA employs the wrong measure of green, but that companies with big energy bills and small commitments to green power get great publicity at the expense of cities, colleges, and businesses that have made real clean energy strides.  EPA's Green Power program could help highlight high-achievers in clean energy, but until its methodology changes, there will be a lot of entities on the list whose green thumbs are overshadowed by enormous energy footprints.

Note: see this excellent series at Grist for more on Wal-Mart’s greenwashing efforts.

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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Groups Look to Locally Grown Solar Power to Revitalize Ohio Communities

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 08:22 AM PST

Cupertino, CA-based Locally Grown Power and IdealPV are partnering with Mansfield, Ohio’s North End Community Improvement Collaborative (NECIC) to launch the first of what it believes can be a series of local, community-centered and vertically integrated solar photovoltaic (PV) businesses.

Photo courtesy: First Solar

Private and public in nature, NECIC and Locally Grown Power’s initial proposal to the Richland County Commission was met with enthusiasm, as it addresses several critical issues faced by communities across the county: job creation, local government fiscal problems, and the rising overall and true cost of energy amongst them.

Locally Grown and Consumed Solar PV: The Potential to Revitalize Communities

NECIC and Locally Grown Power are proposing a public-private partnership that would see the establishment of a solar PV assembly plant and installation program based on Ideal PV’s low cost, patent-pending solar PV technology. The partners say that the initiative would cut local, municipal government’s (and hence the community’s) energy costs by one-third; this at a time when Mansfield’s government is considering shutting down the city’s street lights due to budgetary shortfalls.

Extended to include voluntary solar PV installations in the community, the savings would be extended to local residents and businesses. Local government would start realizing cost savings immediately upon installation. Local residents and businesses would then realize the same savings as the initiative moved ahead with the installation of solar panels on homes and businesses across the community for those who opt in to the plan. The solar panels could be installed at very low, or even no cost, with cost savings on utility bills initially dedicated to repaying project financing.

The locally grown solar PV project would also give a much needed boost to the community in terms of job creation. More than 440 jobs would be created, offering gainful, socially and environmentally beneficial, and productive employment to displaced, under- and unemployed local residents, according to the project partners. Additional economic stimulus would result from sourcing solar PV components locally, the project partners note.

Moreover, NECIC and Locally Grown Power’s project has the added advantage of a quick start. It would take about 4-1/2 months to get the program operational and one year to reach the project’s initial energy savings goals.

“We could be more energy independent, and we’re visualizing what (would happen) if every home in Richland County that wanted it had solar panels on its roof,” NECIC community organizer Jean Taddie told Richland County Commissioners in their initial February meeting, according to a Mansfield News Journal report. “We see it as a long-term impact to drawing interest in our housing.”

A Solar-Powered, Public-Private Partnership

NECIC and Locally Grown Power’s proposal envisages a public-private partnership that would buy a 30,000-square-foot building and the equipment required to assemble the solar panels. The $6.2 million in start-up costs would be raised through a combination of funding sources, including municipal bonds, government grants, and private investment.

“The operation would employ 440 people in living-wage jobs and provide solar panels to homes and government facilities at low or no cost, organizers said. Energy savings, renewable energy credits, tax credits and other diverse revenue streams would cover operating costs,” according to the report.

Richland County Commissioner Ed Olson noted that a three-phase, $3-million energy retrofit project at county facilities has saved enough in energy costs for the county that it will pay for itself in five years.

The Richland County proposal is the result of discussions NECIC has been having with Locally Grown Power and IdealPV, two companies founded by successful inventor and entrepreneur Kent Kernahan and based in Cupertino, CA.

Clean Energy, Manufacturing, and the Economic Multiplier

The two California companies’ core motivating principles are based on “Inventor Nationalism,” and American ingenuity as applied to the design, engineering, and manufacturing of low-cost, patent-pending solar photovoltaic (PV) panels for the benefit,  first and foremost, of the local communities in which they are built.

Kernanhan and partners have been using a set of criteria to search for a US community willing and able to put its Locally Grown Power concept to the test. If successful, the model is one that can be replicated across towns and cities in the Midwest and across the US.

In looking for candidate sites for Locally Grown Power, the following criteria were considered, Kernahan explained:

  • Complete manufacturing workforce from management through quality.
  • Structural unemployment due to change in industrial base or outsourcing.
  • Willingness to improve economic conditions by direct action.
  • Effective community organization in place.
  • Demonstrated interest in alternative energy.
  • Existing Renewable Energy Certificate program.
  • Local supply chain for components.

Mansfield and Richland County, Ohio qualify on all counts. The “hollowing out” (read loss) of manufacturing companies and jobs has been hurting residents for decades now. The project partners see the proposal as the means to counteracting and reversing that trend.

Investment in manufacturing has a greater positive economic impact on communities than equivalent service sector investments, or any other type of investment. That’s the linchpin for Locally Grown Power’s public-private sector business model, and it’s an attribute that Pres. Obama and his team have picked up and are trying to capitalize on in the recently announced “Blueprint for an America Built to Last.” Amplifying this would be the effect of leveraging residential solar PV to produce and consume power locally. That would keep dollars within the community economy that otherwise would be ‘exported’ outside it.

Related posts:

  1. Locally Produced, Consumed Solar Power & Inventor Nationalism: A New Model to Spur US Manufacturing & Job Growth
  2. Infographic: Power the Economy and Grid with Local Solar Power
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World’s Largest EV Bus & Taxi Fleet Gets 1,500 Vehicles Larger

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 06:42 AM PST

Can you guess where the largest electric bus and electric taxi fleet is?

electric vehicle byd taxi fleet

electric bus byd

If you guessed Kalamazoo, Michigan, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong (why you would have guessed that, I don’t know). However, if you guessed Shenzhen City, China, you were right on point (and I guess you probably knew that).

Previously, the fleet included “200 of BYD's all-electric eBUS's and 300 of BYD's all-electric e6's (a 5 passenger sedan that serves well as an eTaxi).” The expansion will add 1500 pure electric K9 buses and e6 taxis (1000 of the buses and 500 of the taxis).

"Shenzhen is the first city in China to implement a subsidy for new energy vehicles and the first city to launch consumer sales of the BYD e6," Shenzhen Development and Reform Commission (SDRC) Director Xiangzhen Lu says.

world's largest electric vehicle bus & taxi fleet byd

“SDRC cited rising oil prices and growing environmental pressures as key reasons to transform the public transportation system,” a news release on the electric vehicle fleet expansion notes.

“Shenzhen City believes electrified transportation offers the most effective way to simultaneously stimulate economic recovery while restoring the environment by lowering CO2 emissions.”

Beyond boosting this public transportation fleet, the city is looking to stimulate more private EV purchasing and use with new policies on the topic. These new policies are broad and extensive:

The SDRC announced that Shenzhen is formulating measures to impose fees on emissions from gasoline cars while rewarding alternative energy vehicle drivers based on distance traveled. Other incentive policies include allowing pure electric drivers to use the public bus lane during rush hour, insurance privileges, and free annual maintenance checks. China's Southern Power Grid Company has agreed to install free-of-charge, two electric vehicle charging poles for each Shenzhen EV driver — one at the home or apartment of the driver and another near the EV driver's place of business. Shenzhen City continues to offer extremely affordable peak and off-peak electricity prices for new energy vehicle users, reducing nightly charging costs to only 0.3yuan RMB per KWh (~$0.04 USD/KWh equivalent).

The short-term hope is that 3,000 more private EVs will be on Shenshen’s streets in 2012, accompanied by 6,000 more EC charging stations.

No complaints here.

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Source: Business Wire | Images: BYD

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Floating Wind Farm Feasibility Study Launched in Cornwall (UK)

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 05:59 AM PST

A floating wind farm feasibility study has been launched off the coast of Cornwall in the UK.

The new study will try to determine if a popular wave energy test site off the coast of Cornwall (or, to be more specific, Hayle) is a good location for a floating wind farm demonstration project. The feasibility study is being conducted by the UK’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI). The research hub where the testing will occur is the world’s largest wave energy test site (Wave Hub) — it was completed in 2010.

“We have a particular advantage in that the offshore grid infrastructure and onshore substation are already in place, and we also have a team that has experience of managing the design, consent and installation of offshore energy projects,” Wave Hub general manager, Claire Gibson, said.

“We clearly need to consult with a wide range of groups and other sea users about this opportunity and this forms an important part of the study.”

If the study leads to a go-ahead for the project, ETI and Wave Hub will start by installing one floating wind turbine and then evaluating its performance.

“The concept for the floating platforms is to be able to access near-to-shore, high wind speed sites off the west coast of the UK, which would bring down the cost of generating electricity, so the Wave Hub site offers some interesting possibilities,” Dr. David Clarke, ETI’s chief executive, said.

Floating Wind Turbines — A Nascent Technology

Floating wind farms, from Fukushima to Malta to Portugal, are in the news more and more these days, but they’re still a relatively young technology and much needs to be done to better understand how to make them more efficient, more cost-effective, and more competitive with onshore or non-floating offshore wind farms. I know we’ve got at least one reader who is highly critical of current designs. We’ll see where this project leads and keep you updated as the news rolls in.

Connect with me on Google+, Twitter, or the little-known social networking site referred to as ‘Facebook.

Source: BBC | Image: Floating wind turbines via qayaq

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Solar Garden for Mars Chocolate (M&Ms Maker) Unveiled

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 05:32 AM PST

Mars Chocolate has unveiled a new solar garden (aka solar farm or solar power project) at its Henderson chocolate factory in Nevada. Mars Chocolate produces M&Ms, as you may well know, as well as Las Vegas’ Ethel M chocolate and numerous other chocolate and candy options.

mars solar garden las vegas chocolate factory

The new solar project provides the chocolate factory with 100% of its electricity. On Thursday, state and local government officials, executives from NV Energy, juwi solar Inc. (JSI), and Mars Chocolate North America leaders cut the ribbon on the new solar garden (just sounds nicer, doesn’t it?). Here are some details on the project:

  • It includes 2,112 ground-mounted solar panels on 4.4 acres.
  • The solar project “generates 1,258 megawatt hours of zero-emission electricity each year, offsetting 867 metric tons of greenhouse gas – the equivalent of removing approximately 170 vehicles from the road.”
  • Put another way, it produces enough energy to power 115 Nevada homes.
  • It is “the largest solar installation by a food manufacturer in Nevada.”

It’s not the largest solar project in the world, but it does what it needs to do and cuts a slice out of some overabundant greenhouse gas emissions.

Mars’ Commitment to Solar & Other Renewable Energy Sources (Considerable)

This isn’t Mars’ first foray into solar energy, of course. As I reported back in 2009, Mars turned on a solar garden at its headquarters in New Jersey back in November of that year. I remember a commenter getting on me for not including a photo of that project at that time — luckily, Mars released a photo of this new solar garden with the announcement in Vegas.

“At Mars Chocolate North America, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the world,” said Mike Wittman, vice president of supply. “We are proud of the investments we are making to ensure we are using the earth’s resources responsibly. This newest solar garden moves us closer to our goals of eliminating our carbon footprint at our sites by 2040 and using 100 percent renewable energy.”

No matter what you think of prepackaged chocolate, you have to appreciate that goal and this new solar project.

More on Mars’ Nevada Solar Garden

Additionally, over 700,000 annual visitors to the adjacent Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden will be able to view the solar garden from a special vantage point dedicated to that. That’s one thing we sorely need — more eyes on live solar projects. It inspires others to follow suit, or at least helps to plant the idea in their heads.

Here are a few more details on the project:

“Mars will purchase all of the energy generated by the solar garden and JSI will own the project and its associated energy credits. Mars worked closely with NV Energy to ensure that the new installation met net metering requirements, enabling Mars to receive energy offsets from the utility based on the amount of energy their solar panels will produce.”

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Source: Mars

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Why Solar Energy (VIDEO)

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 05:10 AM PST

I forget why, but when I created the “Why Solar Energy / About Solar Energy” video for our page on that topic, I decided not to put it on YouTube. When I went into Screenr to create the first “Green News Daily” video for Planetsave today, however, I decided to also transfer that solar energy video to YouTube, to make it easier to share. Since I just did that, I thought I’d drop it here as well in case you haven’t seen it or want to share it around:

Thanks for the support!

Connect with me on Google+, Twitter, or the little-known social networking site referred to as ‘Facebook.

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Green News Daily (VIDEO)

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 04:58 AM PST

I’ve just started a new thing on sister site Planetsave, a daily video and post quickly summarizing top green news. In the first video, news on global warming politics and climate science is included, but I also summarize some of the top clean energy and electric vehicle stories of the past few days. I think it provides a good wrap-up of some of CleanTechnica‘s top stories, while also covering broader green topics that influence these sectors. Being Monday, this first video covers the past few days, but tomorrow’s will just cover today’s news. Below is a full repost of this first video and roundup article, in case it interests you. Enjoy!

Connect with me on Google+, Twitter, or the little-known social networking site referred to as ‘Facebook‘.

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BIL Follows TED For a Weekend of Adventure Into Space

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 04:49 AM PST


Photo courtesy of vissago via creative commons license

BIL (Benevolence. Inspiration. Life.) is a tounge-in-cheek name for a great un-conference to the TED conference happening in Long Beach this week. After a week of being inspired at TED, TEDsters and the rest of us can make our way to the Queen Mary to be inspired and amused at BIL, at a fraction of the price.

The list of speakers just on its "Space Stage" reads like a who's who of the space travel industry. Here you can find the full list of speakers, which span from rocket scientists to environmental activists, and so much more. From its website:

Most of you have heard of TED or watched the talks online, but do you know about BIL, the quirky, populist, unconference taking place nearby? Open to the public and fully participant powered, BIL features a wild mix of technologists, scientists, artists, hackers, and those with a passion for community awareness.

If you’re in SoCal, check out this exciting unconference! I’ll be there covering it for this blog and others.

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Breaking Down Crab Shells Could Improve Solar Technology

Posted: 27 Feb 2012 04:43 AM PST


Solar technology is continuing to expand, showing us that solar power has many, varied potential applications. From solar-powered phones, to gadget chargers, and to water heaters, there are many practical, cost-effective applications for solar power out there today. But there is still much room for improvement in solar technology, and what we are learning in many areas of science is that the answer to the problem might, in fact, lie in nature. Research and development of solar technology is a huge area of the R&D field. One of the biggest problems researchers are working on is creating a flexible panel that does not lose efficiency as it is exposed to heat.

At Kyoto University in Japan, researches have found an interesting composite that might just meet these requirements in an unlikely place — a crab shell. A crab shell was put through a number of different chemical washes and was broken down into a material called chitin. The chitin is combined with a resin to create the desired compound. This material can then be formed into a flexible sheet that could have applications in solar panels, improving the efficiency of the technology. Researchers also believe that this chitin/resin material could also have many applications within the electronics community.

The chitin/resin panel is not only flexible, allowing for, well, flexibility in the use of these panels, but it maintains its efficiency, even when hot. The traditional composite currently used in most panels has been shown to lose well over half its conductivity when heated to a certain temperature. The chitin/resin panel can withstand far higher temperatures without any reduction in efficiency. This might seem like the perfect solution to improve solar technology, however, there is a limited supply of chitin.

Researchers propose that waste from seafood factories and the use of chitin that can be derived from a number of different sources could be used to create these panels. But a major impediment is not only the finite nature of this resource, but the acidification of the ocean, which is causing big changes in the ocean environment, as well as the shells of crabs and other crustaceans. It is interesting to note that some think that the increased acidification of the oceans is at least, in part, as a result of the development of electronics and the resulting chemicals and effluent waste that often makes its way from manufacturers to the ocean.

Image Credit: Tropic~7

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