Friday, March 23, 2012

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Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Good Clean Fun — Electric Scooters from Vectrix Japan

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 09:52 AM PDT

Vectrix Japan

One of the cleaner motorized ways to get around town is on a scooter. Even running on standard gasoline, scooters are fuel efficient and have low emissions. They're also quick and maneuverable, pretty easy to fix if something should go wrong, and they look great. They can be even cleaner, though, with an electric drive.

Enter Vectrix Japan, known for its electric scooters. Its flagship model is titled the Vectrix, and it works fairly well. Yet, the company is improving it as of March 21, with two new models powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Quiet and Quick Two-Wheeled Transportation

Vectrix Japan's flagship model, the VX-1, is equipped with a nickel-hydride battery. It's done fairly well for itself, with a range of 35-55 miles (depending on how you drive it) making it a great little vehicle for the scooter's natural habitat. It does require a motorcycle license (at least in Japan), and has about the same amount of power as a 250cc gas-driven scooter.

The new models, powered by lithium-ion batteries, are both lighter than the original VX-1 and have a substantially longer range. The VX-1 Li boasts a 3.7kWh motor, weighs just 425 lbs., and has a range of up to 60 miles. The VX-1 Li+ has a 5.4kWh motor, weighs 460 lbs., and has a range of up to 85 miles – which is a little more than the range of, say, a Buddy 150cc International on a full tank of gas.

Both scooters are currently only available in Japan, where they'll make a great addition to the crowded and smoggy streets of Tokyo.

Questions or comments? Let us know below.

Source & Image: via Gas2

Related posts:

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  2. Affordable, Powerful Electric Scooters Coming Soon
  3. Central Japan Bent on Developing Electric Micro Cars

Germany Right on Schedule with PV Capacity Growth

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 09:47 AM PDT

Germany Right On Schedule With PV Capacity Growth

Energy from renewable sources instead of limited fossil fuels is the only long-term solution that currently seems viable. In order to make that shift over to depending on the sun and wind, more and more solar and wind farms must be installed. Germany is in the process of meeting its self-defined goals for renewable energy, moving along precisely as scheduled.

The Photovoltaics Task Force of Baden-Württemberg published a press release recently pointing out that Germany's growth corridor for solar power is exactly what's needed for the country to reach its target for renewables. The press release also outlines Germany's master plan to switch to renewables and a roadmap the German government has been producing for the past ten years.

Stick to the Plan

Germany's target for PV capacity is 52 gigawatts by 2020; at the end of last year, the country had around 25 gigawatts already installed. Simple math says that to reach the 52 gigawatt mark, Germany must install 27 gigawatts over nine years (including 2012), or 3 gigawatts per year. Doesn’t look challenging compared to what it’s done so far.

Also part of the renewable energy roadmap is the understanding that, for every two gigawatts of solar power installed, three gigawatts of wind power should balance it out in order to reduce the need for power storage. The PV sector, in other words, relies on the wind sector stepping up and holding up its end of the deal.

Supply and Demand

Solar panels currently have performance guarantees for 25 years. With that in mind, maintaining the PV growth corridor of 3 gigawatts per year would eventually lead to around 70 gigawatts of installed capacity. Since Germany's solar power peaks at around 70% of full capacity, 70 gigawatts of installed capacity makes for about 50 gigawatts of actual electricity on sunny days.

However, production of 50 gigawatts is also close to peak power demand on summer weekends. If the grid is dependent on a single source for that much power, it could be disruptive in terms of long-term grid integration. While this is not specifically addressed in the press release, the demand for more wind power does indicate that they're aware of the potential issue.

Either way, Germany is working hard to ensure it can provide its own energy and have clean sources of electricity for its populace. Any questions or comments? Let us know below!

Source: Renewables International
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Related posts:

  1. Wind Power Growth Rebounds 15% in H1 2011, Capacity Rises ~23%
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  3. Pilot Project with Mini Wind Turbines as Chance for Energy Independence

New Leaf Owner: “more fun than a van full of cheerleaders”

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 09:32 AM PDT

nissan leaf technological revolutions

We received a comment on a post a couple weeks ago from someone (David Stead) who was about to go buy a Nissan Leaf. One of the other commenters requested that he update us from time to time on what it’s like to own and drive the Leaf. David, luckily, agreed to do that and left a wonderful comment the other day that I thought deserved a wider audience. Here’s the full update:

I’ve had the car since last Friday.

It is more fun than a van full of cheerleaders.

So far, the limited range hasn’t changed my weekend driving. My S.O. drives it to work, 20 miles or so each way, with no problems.

It is quick and quiet. And it’s quiet. I mean, it makes no noise. Did I say that enough?

Pedestrians are a problem. They walk right out in front of the car, even though they should see it. Auditory cues are apparently the dominant safety factor in parking lot situations. Leaf drivers all know this after about one day driving it around. You have to be CAREFUL with pedestrians.

Another issue Leaf drivers realize quickly is the amount of energy used in moving a vehicle down the road. The real-time energy usage gauges are an eye opener.

Abrupt, aggressive acceleration is a watt-killer. This is a lesson that can be crossed over into gas car driving. Ease away from the light, and save a ton of money on gas.

Also, in an electric car, there is no source of heat as a by-product of combustion as in a gasoline or diesel engine, so you have to consume battery power to heat the cabin. We were spoiled by our gas cars. Riding around in a tee-shirt in January is a luxury, it turns out. You have to be stingy in the electric car, and we are already habituated to donning our coats before getting into the Leaf.

No problemo though, as we consider ourselves adventurers with this car.

The Leaf is by far the most fun vehicle I have driven, with the possible exception of my old GSXR1000. It accelerates smartly, and the always-on torque makes the transition from 35mph to 60mph effortless. The normal sensations associated with acceleration, the noise and vibration, the gear-shifts, and the feeling that the car is “diggin-in” are not present. There is instead only a constant gentle push on your back as the car swims through the air as effortlessly as a barracuda through a swimming pool.

My only regret so far is that I wish they had not made all the concessions they made to make it look and feel like a “normal” car.

EV’s are a new paradigm, and I resent being strapped with vestigial things like a shifter and even foot controls. There simply is no reason to operate the car with your feet. An XBOX controller would be a nice operator interface, for example. But the old and the mentally-challenged would be confuddled by a totally new vehicle, and I understand the market imperative of not getting too far out ahead of your potential consumers.

Image: Nissan Leaf courtesy of shutterstock

Related posts:

  1. Chevy Volt Outsells Nissan Leaf for 1st Time
  2. And a Nissan Leaf for All (in the United States)
  3. Nissan’s Leaf Tapped to Make eNV200 — an Electric Commerical Van

Early Days of Wind Power — Looking Through a GE Lens

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 08:13 AM PDT

Since GE is a world leader in wind turbines and wind project investment, I thought I'd follow up on that GE data visualization I wrote about on Tuesday by digging into the annual reports app. I was interested in exploring GE's role in wind power in the "early days" of this still rather nascent industry, while also using this opportunity to reflect on the birth and early growth of the industry overall. (To stroll through GE's interactive timeline of wind power development or development in other sectors yourself, just go to the data visualization, click on the keyword/topic you want to explore, and then click on any of the colorful little squares).

Strolling through that early history, here are some of the interesting wind power milestones GE was involved in, with extra thoughts on the side:

energy efficient wind turbines ge

Early Contract with NASA to Design Wind Generator

In its first mention of wind (in an electricity context) in an annual report, GE noted in 1974 that it had a contract with NASA to design a wind generator. (It also mentioned early work on solar heating and converting geothermal heat to electricity in that section of the report.) Wind has “blown up” in recent years as technology has advanced, and I think it’s hard to imagine all the progress that has gone on since that time, but it’s also a reminder that you have to start somewhere. Imagine if that early work hadn’t occurred; if there wasn’t the forward-thinking and idealistic drive back then to capture the energy of the wind and turn it into electricity — where would we be today?

GE’s First 1.5-MW “Wind Turbine Electrical Generators”

A couple years later, in 1976, GE mentioned that it had been “selected by the Energy Research and Development Administration to build two wind turbine electrical generators of 1.5 megawatts each that will supply power directly to an electric utility system.” Interesting idea, eh? I imagine that early work and governmental collaboration was important to GE’s eventual dominance in the wind turbine sector. (Note: I’m glad we’ve switched to just calling them wind turbines — writing “wind turbine electrical generators” several times a day would get old fast.)

Stealth Mode… or Something

Then, for several decades, it seems GE’s wind turbine work went into stealth mode (or just wasn’t featured in annual reports). It wasn’t yet time for wind’s spot in the sun, apparently. After nearly three decades of hibernation, though, wind burst back into the picture with full force in 2002.

Wind Energy: Fastest-Growing Energy Sector, & Why

In the 2002 annual report, GE noted that wind energy was the “fastest-growing segment of the energy industry” and that it was “receiving strong public and regulatory support worldwide.” Reflecting the strong influence energy policies and public demand have on large corporations like GE, this line is a reminder to me of why it is so important to spread good, accurate news on our numerous energy options and push for strong political/policy support of our cleanest, cheapest sources of energy (which obviously includes wind). Without that governmental and public support for forward-looking technologies, we’d all be stuck with old, inefficient, and harmful options. We still need that support today, perhaps more than ever.

More Efficient Turbines

The image above is a screenshot I took from the GE viz app. On that page, also from the 2002 report, GE mentioned that its research team was working on developing the most energy-efficient wind turbines in the industry, while noting that the industry was growing 15.2% a year at that time.

GE also noted later in the report that it had bought Enron’s wind power assets for $180 million, and that it had used its expertise in other arenas to improve the performance of those wind turbines. I imagine GE looks back on that move with a smile on its face, given where wind energy (and its wind turbines) are today.

It's fun having the opportunity to explore the history of wind a bit more through this interactive annual reports viz. Take a stroll yourself through 120 years of GE's innovations and discoveries. Otherwise, I may yet be coming back to it again in the days or weeks ahead with more interesting historical data to surface.

Related posts:

  1. Wind Lens Triples Turbine Output
  2. GE Data Visualization: Solar Power, Wind Power, & More
  3. Early DOE Funded Wind Start-Up Nordic Windpower Lands VC Funding

Chime in for Solar (& PACE Financing) Today.

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 07:59 AM PDT

Vote Solar wrote up a good post yesterday urging us all, one more time, to put our fingers to work and go ‘speak up’ for solar power — and PACE financing, in particular. I’m just going to repost that piece from Vote Solar, since it’s succinct and packed full of interesting and useful links. First though, I’ll just note (or emphasize) that California Governor Edmund (Jerry) Brown sent in a good one yesterday. Check that out.

Here’s Vote Solar’s full post, Make the case for PACE:

Remember PACE, the popular and promising energy financing model that was launching nationally–until Fannie & Freddie and the Federal Housing and Finance Authority derailed it?

Well, here's your chance to get it back on track.

A federal judge required that the FHFA conduct rulemaking on their actions, and this is our chance to make the case for PACE on its merits.

Can you take a sec to send a letter to FHFA, now?

We've got an easy action page, here.

Alternatively, download a template word doc, here, and send it in yourself.  PACENow also has comprehensive details, here.

You are encouraged to make your letter as personal and individualized as possible–just get it done by Monday, March 26.

You'll be in good company.  Here's the list of comments to date.

The Simon Property Group–the largest real estate company in America —weighs in (pdf).  They represent a couple hundred million square feet of property, ready to upgraded.

From California: Governor Brown's letter (pdf) –short and not so sweet; Attorney General Kamala Harris with the legal case (pdf).

Texas, in on the act (pdf), from the State Representative that authored the successful state bill.

And then there's the National Association of Cities, National League of Counties, and The United States Conference of Mayors (pdf).  Wow.  That's a lot of local leadership, ready develop clean energy jobs and help homeowners lower electric bills, if only FHFA would get out of the way.

You get the idea. There's a reason why the idea has deep bi-partisan support, and the National Journal called it one of the best ideas for jumpstarting the economy without impacting the defecit. Can you join the wave, show that this is a concern for Americans of every stripe?

h/t SEIA on Facebook

Related posts:

  1. Time to Support PACE Financing! (It’s Good for You)
  2. PACE Coming Back?
  3. PACE Push (Two Opportunities to Help Out)

20 Gas Tank Refills, or an Electric Bike?

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 07:40 AM PDT

Personally, while I think electric bikes are pretty cool, I would just go with a normal bike in most situations. But, in really hilly areas or if you’re going a long way, an electric bike might be a good option. Either way, whether electric or non-electric, bikes cost a ton less than cars and are practical for most trips taken within the U.S. (or probably any other country for that matter).

One electric bike company, Kalkhoff, recently put the huge difference in costs in interesting terms though, so I thought it deserved a little attention here on CleanTechnica.

Of course, this all depends on your location, the car you drive, and the bike you buy, but roughly speaking, Kalkhoff noted that you could buy one of its electric bikes with the same amount of money you would spend on 20 refills of your gas (or petrol) tank. Sounds enticing, eh?

Of course, beyond saving money, bikes (and even electric bikes) help people to improve their health and enjoy the fresh air a bit more. 'The most rewarding part of our business is that our products are literally life changing for many of our customers and on a national level they help reduce congestion on the roads and motivate people to get active whilst travelling instead of sitting in traffic burning fuel and putting on the pounds,” Scott Snaith, director of, notes.

Here are a few more pics of Kalkhoff’s e-bikes (which seem to be on sale at the moment):

Have an electric bike? Want one? Drop us a comment! I’ve only ridden one once, and it was just an an athletics track, so I’d be up for hearing about more people’s experiences with them.

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What are Solar Feed-in Tariffs & Incentives for, Really?

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 07:04 AM PDT

solar power incentivesA common statement we hear in discussions about solar energy evolution and solar energy incentives in the U.S. is that the solar industry just needs a few more years of government incentives and it can be broadly cost-competitive without any government support. While this is likely to be true, I think this line of thinking skips over some very important points and creates some long-term dangers for the solar industry — and what’s happening in Germany these days is a good preview of where such statements lead.

Before getting into that, though, here are a few thoughts on the purpose of solar power incentives, in my mind:

  1. Solar incentives are awarded to help advance and promote a clean energy option that will address tremendous health costs of dirty energy not accounted for in the price of electricity from those sources, also known as market externalities (that would be about $500 billion a year from coal power, for example).
  2. Similarly, these incentives help to address grid externalities.
  3. Solar power is a great job creator. Incentives for solar return to society in the form of more jobs and tax revenue.
  4. Solar power is a domestic energy source that can help relieve international tension and war costs.
  5. Other energy sources, such as fossil fuels and nuclear, have gotten government subsidies for decades, and sometimes even more than a century. It seems only fair to give solar comparable lifetime subsidies.

Now, as reported last June, a study very conservatively calculating the true value of solar power found that government incentives in place today are justified simply because of how they correct for market failures (the issues above).

The bottom line: solar incentives are not just in place for the arbitrary reason of bringing solar to grid parity; they are in place to correct for market failures and improve society (improve public health, grid efficiency and security, the economy, and more).

So, saying, or even just implying, that the purpose of solar incentives is to bring solar to grid parity is incorrect… and it can also be dangerous….

The Story in Germany

In Germany, as you may recall from Bloomberg’s Golden Goal chart, solar power has hit grid parity. Unfortunately, a lot of people there and in EU leadership were under the impression that the purpose of solar incentives was to get to that point, and they can now be cut.

Craig Morris of Renewables International tore that argument apart in an article published today, and also added a little more context to the situation in Germany. Here’s some more historical context:

For years, even representatives of the solar sector itself have quite foolishly been saying that the goal of feed-in tariffs was grid parity. Major politicians and energy organizations have taken these people at their word and are now arguing that feed-in tariffs were simply a startup mechanism for solar, which is now mature and should be able to stand on its own. EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger is one good example, and Maria van der Hoeven – executive director of the International Energy Agency – stated as much this week as well when she wrote specifically of the recent cuts to feed-in tariffs in Europe:

"Renewable energy is swiftly coming of age, reducing the need for public support…. the cuts are a sign that some renewable energy technologies are coming into their own and moving towards a stage where public support will no longer be necessary."

Yes, not necessary, but they are still warranted!

Going on, Morris notes some of the reasons why feed-in tariffs are still warranted, even if they are unnecessary:

… there is always going to be a need to:

  • ensure that all renewable power generated is paid for (priority on the grid),
  • prevent excess payments for such power (the retail rate will soon be far above FITs for solar in Germany, so the lower rate should continue to be paid – just as has always been done for wind power and power from biomass),
  • make sure that subsidies continue for renewables for at least the next 200 years – after all, we are still forking it over to the coal sector, which has been profitable for at least the past two centuries.

In calling for an end to governmental support for photovoltaics, we are merely leaving subsidies up to the conventional energy sector – can you think of anything nuttier?

Anything nuttier? I can think of a few things, but not in the energy sector.

Image credit: solar hot water panels and PV electric panels courtesy shutterstock

Related posts:

  1. Feed-in Tariffs Responsible for Three-Quarters of World's Solar PV
  2. 1.8 GW of Midsize German Solar Installations Due to Feed-in Tariffs
  3. Feed-in Tariffs or Solar Renewable Energy Credits — Which are Cheaper?

6-MW Offshore Wind Turbine Goes Up (World’s First)

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 05:43 AM PDT

repower 6 mw offshore wind turbine

The world’s first 6-MW offshore wind turbine went up in the North Sea this week. Wind company REpower and C- Power NV, a Belgian offshore development company, installed the wind turbine, the first of 48 for the Thornton Bank II wind farm, which is being constructed approximately 28 kilometers off the Belgian coast.

The wind turbine is actually rated at 6.15 MW and is the first turbine of phase 2 of this offshore wind project — REpower has an interesting interactive image on its site where you can explore its 11 main features. “In the early hours of 21 March the rotor star was connected to the nacelle by a team of C-Power and REpower engineers and the crew of Neptune, the installation vessel of GeoSea (DEME group) carrying the components for the turbine,” REpower writes.

Here are more details for you detail-lovers:

The offshore turbine REpower 6M has the dimension of two family homes and the rotor star has a diameter of 126 metres, with a swept area greater than two football pitches.

The installation of the first 30 turbines for phase 2 of the wind farm is planned for 2012, and a further 18 are designated for installation during a third extension stage by mid-2013.

Thornton Bank Wind Farm 1 in Belgium.

Phase 1 of the Thornton Bank II wind farm was constructed in 2008 and 2009. It includes 5-MW wind turbines. More details: “The offshore wind farm, located around 28 kilometres off the Belgian coast in waters between twelve and 27 meters deep, was officially put into operation at the end of June 2009. Since it started operation, Thornton Bank generated almost 350,000 megawatt hours of electricity.”

Belgium intends to get 13% of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Related posts:

  1. Germany, Denmark’s Renewable Energy Transition Empowering Offshore Wind (Part of Largest Infrastructure Investment Program in Europe Since World War II)
  2. World’s Largest Wind Farm Has 1st (& 2nd) Turbine Up
  3. Vestas to Unveil Design of 6-MW Offshore Wind Turbine Next Month

I-GO (Chicago Car-Sharing Nonprofit) Adds New EVs to Fleet

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 04:54 AM PDT

i go leaf i miev

As you probably know from my post yesterday, Zipcar has added a handful of Chevy Volts to its Chicago fleet. I-GO, Chicago’s nonprofit car-sharing organization, also announced yesterday that it was adding 3 new EVs to its fleet, all-electric EVs. I-GO has added the Mitsubishi i MiEV to two locations and the Nissan Leaf to another one. It’s also got a useful-looking general page on EVs and using EVs in its program, as well as guides for the i MiEV and Nissan Leaf. They make me really eager to pop on over to Chicago and go for a test spin!

No related posts.

The Green Button

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 04:36 AM PDT

green button programI think I saw dozens of news releases come in yesterday about utilities’ or other companies’ participation in the new Green Button program. The reason was there was a big “Powering the People 2.0” event at the White House. I’m not going to run down how each of these companies is getting involved in its own unique way, but for anyone not familiar with the Green Button, I thought it would be useful to run down some of the key points of this program.

“Green Button is the common-sense idea that electricity customers should be able to securely download their own easy-to-understand energy usage information from their utility or electricity supplier,” the Green Button website notes. “Armed with this information, consumers can use a growing array of new web and smartphone tools to make more informed energy decisions, optimize the size and cost-effectiveness of solar panels for their home, or verify that energy-efficiency retrofit investments are performing as promised. Consumers can even use fun innovative apps that allow individuals to compete against Facebook friends to save energy and lower their carbon emissions.”

While the Green Button came about through a White House call-to-action, it is an industry-led initiative. It’s also a common-sense way of improving how consumers understand and interact with their energy usage using the world’s increasingly sophisticated computer technology and software.

Adoption of the Green Button across the nation “allows software developers and other entrepreneurs to leverage a sufficiently large market to support the creation of innovative applications that can help consumers make the most of their energy usage information.”

It helps.

Simple Energy and eMeter (a Siemens Business), two companies involved in the initiative, emailed me yesterday to let me know about a new white paper of theirs entitiled The Engaged Customer: How data standardization leads to empowered customers and successful Smart Grid deployments. The Simple Energy Customer Engagement Platform, the first 3rd-party application to offer full integration with Green Button data, has helped the average consumer in its demonstration program in San Diego ”to save an average of more than 20% on their energy consumption, with the top performer in the program achieving nearly 50% in savings.” In other words, this stuff works!

Voluntary but widespread use.

No one is being forced to implement the Green Button, but it’s clear that utilities and smart grid companies are eager to jump on board and show their green leadership.

Here are some of the most recent stats:

“Initially launched in January, utilities committed to provide Green Button capability to nearly 12 million households in 2012. Two utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric — have implemented live functionality on their websites. Recently, nine major utilities and electricity suppliers signed on to the initiative, committing to provide more than 15 million households secure access to their energy data with a simple click of an online Green Button. In total, these commitments ensure that 27 million households will be able to access their own energy information, and this number will continue to grow as utilities nation-wide voluntarily make energy data more available in this common, machine-readable format.”

You can see lists of all the utilities and companies involved on the Green Button adopters page.

The Department of Energy also just yesterday announced “an Apps for Energy contest to spur the invention of tools and services that will help consumers gain information, take action, and save on their utility bills. The contest complements $8 million in grant funding  that is helping consumers use new smart-grid technologies to better manage their energy consumption.”

Many uses.

I’m sure, with the many creative minds out there and app developers, there will be many interesting ways of using Green Button data. Here’s a list of ways in which the Green Button crew are encouraging people to get involved with their data right now:

  • Insight: entrepreneur-created web portals that can analyze energy usage and provide actionable tips;
  • Heating and Cooling: customized heating and cooling activities for savings and comfort;
  • Education: community and student energy-efficiency competitions;
  • Retrofits: improved decision-support tools to facilitate energy-efficiency retrofits;
  • Verification: measurement of energy-efficiency investments;
  • Real Estate: provision of energy costs for tenants and/or new home purchasers; and
  • Solar: optimize the size and cost-effectiveness of rooftop solar panels.

Have Green Button data and apps? If so, let us know of your thoughts and experiences!

Related posts:

  1. Green Taxi Service, Green Tomato Cars Makes Waves in the UK
  2. Green Grid Announces New Guidelines for Data Center Energy Efficiency
  3. Almost Half of U.S. Consumers Would Choose a Green Cell Phone

Weather Model Optimizes Offshore Wind Farm Placement

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 03:43 AM PDT

A team of engineers from Stanford University have used a sophisticated weather model to plan the optimal placement of four interconnected wind farms planned for the east coast of the United States.

"It is the first time anyone has used high-resolution meteorological data to plan the placement of offshore wind grid," said senior author Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. "And this sophistication has provided a deeper level of understanding to the grid plan."

The region in question accounts for 34 percent of the country’s electrical demand and creates 35 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. Optimizing the placement of a renewable energy source such as wind farms is the natural next step.

But why bother? What optimization is there to do?

Wind doesn’t blow consistently all the time. There are times when it drops off, and, in those instances, there is suddenly no electricity being generated. So, what happens when there’s that lack of wind during a hot summer day when everyone wants their air conditioning working?

For the east coast of America, this is especially tricky, as a meteorological phenomenon known as the Bermuda High — a high-pressure center that affects winds along the entire east coast — brings with it a dearth of storms and strong winds.

"In some areas, like Massachusetts, the Bermuda High boosts sea breezes," said Mike Dvorak, the lead author of the study and a recent PhD graduate in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford. "But south of Long Island, NY, where one offshore grid has been proposed, the Bermuda High has the opposite effect and often hinders sea breezes."

"Until recently, large scale wind resource assessments have neglected the aspect of time. We matched peak productivity with peak demand at specific times of day and year," said Dvorak. "Our analysis matches production to demand."

How they did it

The engineers started out with 12 energetic potential locations along the eastern coast of the US and then narrowed that number down to the four in play at the moment. The four sites are outlined in red in the image above, and the farms planned for those locations would each have approximately 100 turbines delivering an individual maximum capacity of 500 megawatts, making for an interconnected grid of 2000 megawatts. That’s approximately the same yearly capacity of one and a half conventional coal-fired power plants.

"Two thousand megawatts and four farms are somewhat arbitrary figures. The sizes and locations could be adjusted for economic, environmental, and policy considerations," said Jacobson.

"An offshore grid as an extension of the onshore grid in this region will improve reliability, while reducing congestion and energy price differences between areas," said Dvorak.

Technical challenges

"The farms had to be in waters less than 50 meters deep to allow use of bottom-mounted turbines and near urban load centers like Boston and New York," said Jacobson. "And, we wanted to smooth power output, ease hourly ramp rates and reduce hours of zero power."

So, the engineers decided on an interconnected grid of offshore farms.

"The goal is to even out the peaks and valleys in production," said Dvorak. "In our model, expensive no-power events — moments when individual winds farms are producing zero electricity — were reduced by more than half from nine percent to four by connecting the farms together."

Over the space of a year, the interconnected grid was able to yield a 48 percent capacity factor, meaning that it could reliably produce close to 1000 megawatts on average across the whole of the year.

"Generally, with wind farms, anything over 35 percent average capacity is considered excellent," said Jacobson.

Source: Stanford University
Map: Mike Dvorak, Stanford School of Engineering

Related posts:

  1. LEGO Owners Put $500 Million into Offshore Wind Farm in Germany
  2. Obama Administration Approves Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Farm
  3. North Sea Offshore Wind Farm Good for Local Fauna, Study Finds

Arab Cellular Companies Look to Advance Clean Technology in the Middle East

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 03:31 AM PDT

A new report from an advisory group in the Middle East suggests renewable energy generation linked to cell phone tower companies is expected to increase over the next few years in the region.

According to the Arab Advisors Group, a quarter of cellular operators are expected to provide 590 renewable energy and hybrid generators between 2012 and 2013. Meanwhile, the generator set market for regular cellular operators is pegged at $107.6 million, while photovoltaic systems is at $143.9 million. That will bring the total for clean energy power generation systems provided by cellular carriers to $251 million.

"The Middle East is best known for its oil, but the region has a tremendous natural resource in the form of solar energy. Cellular operators in the region are waking up to this potential and are in the midst of a large scale-up of photovoltaic system deployments," said senior consultant Rebecca Mayer of Arab Advisors Group in a press release.

"Photovoltaic systems are, by far, the most widely accepted renewable energy technology by Arab cellular operators," Ms. Mayer added, "compared to small wind turbines, fuel cells, or alternative fuels."

The Arab Advisors Group completed the survey between July and November, 2011. The survey included responses from various countries within the Arab world, including: Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, Morocco, Lebanon, Sudan, Palestine, Kuwait, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The poll represented about 87 million cellular subscribers and 13 of the 52 operators within the Arab region.

Image: cell tower & solar panels courtesy shutterstock

Related posts:

  1. Solar PV Cost Competitive in Middle East, New Analysis Finds
  2. Small-Scale, Homemade Solar Panels & Wind Turbines in the Middle East (Under Threat)
  3. British Newspaper Releases Top 10: The Hottest Clean Technology Companies in Europe

3.1 Million Green Jobs Across America

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 03:05 AM PDT

Workers install rooftop solar panels

Green jobs employed 3.1 million people across the United States in 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Thursday.

This figure represented 2.4 percent of all jobs nationwide that year, was spread across the country by location and sector, and is the first set of solid federal data defining the size and scope of "green jobs," which until now have been quantified only by individual states or policy organizations.

Beyond comprising a major slice of the US economy, green jobs also dwarfed fossil fuel industries. National Journal reports there were only 783,000 jobs in the oil, gas, and coal-mining industries during January 2010 (the most recent month available from BLS).

BLS broadly defines green jobs under the category of Green Goods and Services (GGS) as those "found in businesses that produce goods and provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources." The GGS survey includes 120,000 businesses and government entities across 333 industries.

The private sector, by far, had the largest number of GGS jobs, with 2.3 million total jobs evenly distributed across four major sectors — manufacturing, construction, professional services, and administrative or waste services. Manufacturing represented the greatest number of GGS jobs with 461,000, construction was second with 372,000, professional services was third with 349,000, and administrative or waste services had 319,000 jobs.

The public sector had 860,000 GGS jobs, or roughly four percent of total government jobs. Local governments made up more than half the public sector total with 476,000 jobs, followed by mass transit systems with 229,000 jobs and the federal government with 157,000 jobs.

GGS jobs were widely spread across the country, and largely followed population trends. Six states had more than 100,000 GGS jobs: California with 338,000, New York with 249,000, Texas with 230,000, Pennsylvania with 182,000, Illinois with 140,000, and Ohio with 127,000. Vermont had the highest percentage of GGS jobs in the country with 4.4 percent, even though its total was just 12,884 GGS jobs.

Green jobs have been a theoretical concept until now, and subject to disagreement and doubt. But the BLS findings leave little margin for conjecture, and firmly establish that green economy is a sizable — and growing — part of our national economic future.

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Germany, Denmark’s Renewable Energy Transition Empowering Offshore Wind (Part of Largest Infrastructure Investment Program in Europe Since World War II)

Posted: 23 Mar 2012 02:17 AM PDT

Photo courtesy: C-Power

Activity in Europe’s offshore wind sector continues to increase, as European government and industry continue to follow through on plans to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Offshore wind installations are a big part of Germany’s groundbreaking plans to phase out nuclear power, while world wind energy leader Denmark intends to increase its already high percentage of wind power by tapping more offshore wind energy.

Wind turbine costs have been declining and their energy conversion efficiency increasing while fossil fuel costs have been rising. Nonetheless, high up-front capital costs, the challenges of deploying and maintaining wind turbines in harsh offshore environments and the cost, time and difficulties of constructing and maintaining offshore-to-grid connections has lead to criticism and questioning of Germany and other European countries’ historic and ambitious offshore wind energy targets.

Stronger and more consistent than winds on-shore, offshore winds hold tremendous energy potential. Oil and gas companies have been operating offshore in environmentally sensitive, harsh conditions for decades now, and government offshore wind power and industry proponents believe the challenges can and will be surmounted, however.

Germany & Denmark: Blazing the Offshore Wind Power Trail

Germany’s plan to phase out all 17 of its nuclear power plants — which have met around 20% of its electrical power needs — and shift to renewable energy by 2022 is the largest infrastructure investment program in Europe since WW-II and the Marshall Plan, Bloomberg News reported recently. The Merkel government’s energy plan calls for building offshore wind farms covering an area six times the size of New York City and building power lines “that could stretch from London to Baghdad,” according to the report.

Germany’s offshore wind and renewable energy drive is stimulating investment and sales across a wide range of alternative energy providers, including Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the largest maker of wind turbines, while also prompting radical restructurings at utilities, such as Germany’s RWE AG (RWE) and EON AG.

With wind energy supplying about 1/5 of its electricity, Denmark is the world leader when it comes to wind power’s contribution to national electricity demand, but the Danish government sees even greater gains ahead, particularly with regard to offshore wind.

Danish legislators on Thursday approved construction of two offshore wind farms with a total rated capacity of 1,000 MW, Reuters reported. Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building Martin Lidegaard announced that a 400 MW wind farm will be built at Horns Rev in the North Sea off the west coast of Jutland, while a second, 600 MW wind farm will be built at Kriegers Flak in the Baltic Sea between Denmark and Sweden.

Management at Denmark’s Dong Energy said the pioneering offshore wind energy provider will invest 10 billion kroner ($1.8 billion) a year in offshore wind projects “to offset a ‘challenging’ environment for gas plants as it ceases to build new power facilities,” according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report.

The sharply rising costs of fossil fuels and declining profitability of even the most efficient combined-cycle natural gas turbine plants and the drive to cut CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions is leading Dong and other major European power utilities to make radical, fundamental shifts in their business strategies.

Dong management intends to fund its offshore wind and other renewable energy investments– which also include converting coal-fired power plants to biomass–using retained earnings and selling shares in existing projects, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Dong recently agreed to sell a 50% stake in German wind power park to Kirkbi A/S, the Lego Group’s parent company.

Belgium: Home to World’s Most Powerful Wind Turbine

German energy company RWE Innogy and partners are installing the world’s most powerful wind turbine in waters about 30 kilometers (~18 miles) off the Belgian coast. With a rated capacity of 6.15 MW, the offshore wind turbine is expected to generate enough clean, renewable electrical power to meet the needs of some 6,000 people a year.

As one of an array of 30 such offshore wind turbines comprising the 48-turbine Thornton Bank wind farm, it will contribute to an anticipated rated maximum of 325 MW of electrical power, enough electricity to meet the needs of some 600,000 people a year.

Manufactured by REpower Systems, the wind turbine’s nacelle is the size of a two-family house, the rotor has a radius of more than 400 feet and it sweeps a surface area equivalent to two football fields, according to an RWE press release. Project plans call for 30 of these turbines to be installed at the Thornton Bank wind farm site by September, with the final 18 to be installed in 2013. A 40-km (~24 mile) cable will connect the wind farm to to Belgium’s grid.

RWE Innogy owns 26.7% of the Thornton Bank project, the world’s largest project-funded offshore wind farm, according to the company. Eight European banks, including the European Investment Bank and the German and Danish Export Credit Agency, are providing 900 million euros worth of financing to develop Thornton Bank, which has been generating renewable power since 2009. A total 1.3 billion euros is being invested in the project.

Related posts:

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  3. World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Opening Today

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