- Attractive Options for Modular Energy Architecture: the Bloom Energy Server
- Snowmobile Ride Around Wind Power Project
- Renault Zoe EV Could Have 220-Mile Range & Low Price
- David Roberts: “no struggle between philosophies happening in U.S. climate politics, only a struggle among economic interests.”
- Clean Links (Solar, Wind, Wave, Clean Transportation, Energy Efficiency, Clean Energy Policy, & Cleantech Innovation Link Party)
- Renewables Now Cheaper than Coal in Michigan, Could Be $5-Billion Industry
Posted: 28 Feb 2012 11:21 AM PST
Bloom Energy Server provides continuous onsite electricity from wide range of renewable or traditional fuel sources
Hardly more than two years ago in Sunnyvale, CA, Bloom Energy Corporation, founded in 2001, announced its commitment to changing the way people generate and consume energy. To accomplish this, it offered the Bloom Energy Server, a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology reputed to offer "a cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable alternative to both today's electric grid as well as traditional renewable energy sources."
In attendance at this event held at eBay Inc. headquarters were former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, General Colin Powell, and several of its early customers, including Cox Enterprises, Bank of America, eBay, and Google, among others. The company continues moving forward, along with its customers. Earlier this month, Cox Enterprises announced the installation of five fuel cells at its San Diego subsidiary. The fuel cells join nine previous alternative energy projects in California. Combined, Cox’s 14 alternative energy installations in California are preventing some 15,500 tons of carbon emissions from entering the environment.
Bloom's fuel cell technology is fundamentally different from the legacy hydrogen fuel cells most people are familiar with. The Bloom Energy Server is distinct in four primary ways: it uses lower cost materials, provides unmatched efficiency in converting fuel to electricity, has the ability to run on a wide range of renewable or traditional fuels, and is more easily deployed and maintained.
More important, unlike traditional renewable energy technologies, like solar and wind, which are intermittent, Bloom's energy server can provide renewable power 24/7.
Specifically, each Bloom Energy Server – roughly the size of a parking space – provides 100 kilowatts (kW) of power. Translated in terms of capacity, each system can generate enough power for approximately 100 average U.S. homes, or a small office building. Modular architecture allows customers to start small and "pay as they grow," states Bloom.
Customers buying Bloom's systems are told to expect a 3-5 year payback on their capital investment from the energy cost savings.
"Bloom Energy is dedicated to making clean, reliable energy affordable for everyone in the world," said Dr. KR Sridhar, principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy. "We believe that we can have the same kind of impact on energy that the mobile phone had on communications. Just as cell phones circumvented landlines to proliferate telephony, Bloom Energy will enable the adoption of distributed power as a smarter, localized energy source. Our customers are the cornerstone of that vision and we are thrilled to be working with industry leading companies to lower their energy costs, reduce their carbon footprint, improve their energy security, and showcase their commitment to a better future."
History & How it Works
Bloom Energy can trace its roots to the NASA Mars space program. For NASA, Sridhar and his team were charged with building technology to help sustain life on Mars using solar energy and water to produce air to breath and fuel for transportation. They soon realized that their technology could have an even greater impact here on Earth and began work on what would become the Bloom Energy Server.
The Bloom Energy Server converts air and nearly any fuel source – ranging from natural gas to a wide range of biogases – into electricity via a clean electrochemical process, not combustion.
This animation on how a solid oxide fuel cell works is useful. We look forward to hearing much more about advances in renewable energy from Bloom Energy.
Photos: Bloom Energy
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Posted: 28 Feb 2012 08:05 AM PST
Basically, snowmobilers will meet at First Wind's wind power project at Sheffield Mountain and will get to tour the wind turbines up-close while also enjoying the beautiful natural scenery of the area and a barbecue lunch.
Here’s a (sort of sales-y) video on the Sheffield Wind project via First Wind, which basically nails some of the biggest benefits of wind energy and wind farm development everywhere:
First Wind also noted in its announcement about this snowmobile ride that it will make a $1,000 donation to VAST – the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers.
More details are available at First Wind if you are in that area and interested in participating in the snowmobile ride.
Photos by Harman Clark via First Wind
Posted: 28 Feb 2012 07:48 AM PST
Put in other terms, the Renault Zoe EV would have a similar range as the Tesla Roadster or base Model S, but it would be about 3 times cheaper. And, as Chris notes, 200 miles is plenty satisfactory for most driver’s needs.
How is Renault doing it?
“The secret is that, unlike Nissan and its Leaf, Renault leases the battery to customers, rather than sell the whole package, at a cost of €100, or about $125, per month,” Chris notes.
We’ll see if this sparks such policies from other companies offering electric vehicles (and which companies aren’t these days).
Posted: 28 Feb 2012 07:23 AM PST
David Roberts of Grist posted a wonderful critique of climate policy debate terminology on Grist yesterday. He tackles the myth that carbon pricing is a liberal policy, as well as the myth that there’s a huge difference between carbon pricing and a carbon tax. Here’s the full post:
by David Roberts
Ezra Klein had an interesting post last week about the arbitrary nature of what gets coded "left" and "right" in today's policy debates. He mentions cap-and-trade, which was the subject of bipartisan consensus from 2000 to 2008, at which point it abruptly became socialist.
Klein is right that the ideological coding of the climate debate is peculiar, but he's barely scratching the surface. The left-right alignment on climate is completely scrambled, in part because the real battle, as we shall see, is not ideological.
On the same day, Brian Merchant had a post on Treehugger about "the right-wing case for a carbon tax." Technically it should have been called "the right-wing case for carbon pricing," since it cites a Washington Post op-ed from Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and two of their former Republican colleagues that advocates either "a market mechanism such as the sale of carbon allowances or a fee on carbon pollution." Merchant also notes that legendary conservative economist Arthur B. Laffer — father of the Laffer Curve — came out last week in favor of a carbon tax as part of a "tax switch" that would reduce income tax rates. (Laffer is "agnostic" on climate change but he really, really wants to reduce the income tax.) As Joe Romm notes, in 2011, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation funded the work of six groups across the ideological spectrum to develop deficit plans. Of the six, only one did not include a price on carbon: the hacktastic Heritage Institute.
I'm not sure I would call carbon-pricing solutions right-wing, but I do think it's fair to characterize them as conservative. Conservative economic thinking prefers a minimum of government intervention in the economy. Sending a carbon-pricing signal via a tax or cap is a minimalist intervention, as technology and industry agnostic as policy can be. If the revenue is used to reduce the deficit or other taxes (income or payroll), then the policy is even more solidly conservative, as both are conservative priorities.
Not that there's anything wrong with that! Just because carbon pricing is conservative doesn't mean it's bad or undesirable. I, like virtually everyone who's thought seriously about the problem (which excludes Heritage), see a substantial role for carbon pricing. I'm just saying it is a solution designed to align with conservative principles, endorsed by both Chicago school and neoliberal economists.
So what would liberal climate policy be? As I see it, liberal climate policy would involve more planning — developing and deploying new energy sources, new technologies, and new urban forms on purpose, as part of a plan to remake the economy along sustainable lines. There are obviously many varieties and gradations of planning, from the Chinese approach all the way down to, say, building codes. Public investment, performance standards, industrial policy, job training programs, mandates, tariffs, and a variety of other regulations would qualify as liberal, in that they represent more active government shaping of the economy.
The odd thing that's happened in climate circles in the last few decades is not just that the (generally liberal) environmental community has fervently championed "market-based" solutions like carbon pricing, but that the activist left in particular has adopted a carbon tax as its cri de coeur. Especially during and since the climate bill fight, the debate among climate hawks is often framed such that cap-and-trade is the "right" choice and a carbon tax is the "left" choice. That doesn't make any sense at all on the merits — the only differences between the two, economically speaking, come in the design and implementation, mainly in what's done with the revenue. As I said, both are basically conservative in their approach.
Nonetheless, that's the odd situation we are in today: an intra-left battle between two conservative policy solutions. The climate left is now aligned with think tanks and intellectuals on the right for a carbon tax and against cap-and-trade. Politicians on the right offer nothing and politicians on the left shy from cap-and-trade because it's coded too liberal. Meanwhile, the only policies doing any real work now — broadly liberal policies like renewable energy standards, feed-in tariffs, loan guarantee programs, and advanced energy research — get remarkably little public attention unless they are being attacked by Republicans.
It's a mess. There really is no coherent left vs. right on climate, at least not in terms of economic ideology.
But that just goes to show that the real battles around climate have nothing to do with principles of governance. The central battle, the one that shapes all others, is the one between those aligned with the status quo — fossil-fuel development, sprawl, and unfettered carbon pollution — and those who seek to change it. There is nothing "left" or "right" about the status quo, it's simply a set of rigged rules and institutions meant to support certain financial interests. Commitment to preserving the privileges and advantages of status quo interests is not a philosophy at all. It does not submit to placement on an ideological spectrum. (It is thus a dark irony that the term used to describe those most committed to this purely instrumental approach to governance is "centrists.")
There are other sub-battles: The battle over science and education. The battle over communications and framing. The battle over activism and its targets. But these are fights over epistemology, psychology, and social change — none of them divide neatly into left and right. The terms "liberal" and "conservative" are often used around climate, but they are used in a purely tribal sense, to designate some group or coalition. In actual fact, there is no struggle between philosophies happening in U.S. climate politics, only a struggle among economic interests.
David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist. You can follow his Twitter feed at twitter.com/drgrist.
Carbon tax image via shutterstock.
Posted: 28 Feb 2012 07:05 AM PST
Average prices for crystalline-silicon solar photovoltaic (c-Si PV) modules have fallen below $1/W now. Well, actually, they did so in January, when average prices for c-Si PV modules hit $0.96/Watt in January 2011 and were seen as low as $0.80/W. Note that these prices were for modules from Chinese Tier-2 suppliers. (Related image above.)
China is pushing its solar companies to increase polysilicon and solar cell production despite there being a glut in the market. This is sure to drive down solar prices further, but some say it’s bad for the industry in the long term.
Cuts to the German feed-in tariff for solar power have been proposed in the last week. “The changes to feed-in tariffs for photovoltaics announced late yesterday are even more drastic than expected earlier in the day – and if adopted in their current version, they will almost certainly lead to legal uncertainty and lawsuits,” Renewables International noted last week.
Denmark has received solar panels for its largest solar PV project to date, from solar panel company Canadian Solar. 2,800 solar modules for a rooftop solar PV system in the Danish city of Virum were shipped last week.
JinkoSolar has established a new PV module testing lab with UL.
Clean Energy Policy
Congressman Ed Markey and Henry Waxman and a couple of their Republican colleagues in Congress are trying to reignite the idea of putting a price on carbon dioxide in the United States. We’ll see where that leads. (Highly needed!)
A new report on Greece’s clean energy goals and policies notes that the country is committed to getting 40% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2020, and that most of that would be coming from wind and solar energy.
8 power companies in the EU have stepped up to the plate to bat for more ambitious EU global warming legislation. They want the EU to raise its 2020 carbon dioxide reduction targets from 20% to 30% and/or raise its 2050 target to 80%.
30 countries are now saying they will take some form of action to oppose an EU law that states their airlines have to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions when flying in and out of the EU. Some of the largest countries in that group include the U.S., China, and India.
An anaerobic digestion (AD) plant startup, Tamar Energy, has gotten the financial backing of Prince Charles, financier Jacob Rothschild, and supermarket giant Sainsbury to build 40 AD plants around the UK.
TXU Energy & the City of Dallas have teamed up to install a number of EV charging stations in Dallas.
Envia Systems, a new lithium-ion battery company, indicates that it can extend EV range and lower EV costs at the same time. Astounding, if it’s true. GM, one of the startup’s investors, is already trying out the batteries.
Streetcars are getting popular again in the U.S. Old streetcars have been restored and put back into service in New Orleans, Philadephia, and Portland in recent years, for example, as Government notes.
CoolPlanet Biofuels recently publicized that it can get 12 times more biofuel yield per acre than corn ethanol. Sounds promising.
Wind turbine company Vestas has received a 102-MW wind turbine order from the U.S. (most details have not been provided at the customer's request).
SDE Energy has been named the #1 company in the world for sea wave energy technologies by a team of international scientists (as well as 6th for tidal energy and river energy technologies, and in the top 100 for clean energy technologies).
A new report out by Vita Energia Solutions finds that UK industrial and manufacturing firms are losing £1.4 billion (~$2.2 billion) a year due to their continued use of old, inefficient lighting technology.
Denmark has been named the top country in the world for cleantech startup creation, according to the first ever Global Cleantech Innovation Index, Coming Clean: The Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2012, produced by Cleantech Group and WWF.
Posted: 28 Feb 2012 05:56 AM PST
New renewable energy generation is now cheaper than new coal generation in Michigan, and could be a $5-billion annual industry for the economically hard-hit state. So say two recent reports analyzing the state's progress toward renewable energy goals.
While both findings are impressive, new renewables falling below the cost of new coal is a more important long-term trend. The analysis comes from a Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) report detailing implementation costs of meeting the state's 10 percent renewable energy standard.
Renewables 10% Cheaper Than Coal
New wind, biomass, landfill gas, and hydroelectric generation all cost less than new advanced-supercritical pulverized coal plants with a 40-year life cycle, according to the report. PSC staff estimated in 2009 that electricity generated from new coal plants would cost $133 per megawatt-hour (MWh), and reiterated that estimate, saying "new coal capacity would likely require significant capital costs (and potentially increase rates for customers)."
By comparison, the report finds "the cost of all renewable energy technologies is less than the coal guidepost rate" of $133/MWh, especially in the service territories of the state's two largest utilities. The combined average levelized renewable energy contract prices for Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison from 2009-2011 are at least $12 cheaper per MWh compared to coal, and "the actual cost of renewable energy contracts submitted to the Commission to date shows a downward pricing trend."
So, not only are renewables cheaper than coal, but that gap is widening, and competitive costs are driving new investment. This trend is shown by the $100 million in advanced energy projects investments the PSC reported between 2008-2011, with 1,000 megawatts of new wind capacity since the RPS took effect.
Key To Long-Term Economic Recovery?
That growth could ultimately wind up being a $4.9-billion annual industry in Michigan, support 20,800 jobs, and generate $163 million in tax revenue by 2015, according to a recent report from the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (MEIBC). Those figures could rise even higher, to $6.2 billion and 26,000 jobs, in an ideal scenario, perhaps if the state increased its RPS target to 25 percent by 2025.
Considering manufacturing employment in the state dropped 42 percent between 2001 and 2010, these new clean energy jobs could be exactly what Michigan's economy and environment needs to thrive in the 21st century.
Source: John Hanger's Facts of the Day
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