Friday, April 6, 2012

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Survey Shows Energy Efficient Lighting Industry Continues to Grow

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 10:27 AM PDT

The energy efficient lighting industry is growing strong, according to a survey by Precision Paragon [P2], an energy efficient commercial lighting manufacturer. The Energy Efficient Lighting Industry survey was distributed to more than 2,900 lighting professionals in the U.S.

Of those who responded to the survey, 69% either met or exceeded their revenue expectations in 2011, and over 80% predicted more opportunities for growth in 2012, both for the industry and for their individual companies.

The survey also finds that LED lighting is growing in popularity. Respondents estimate that 22% of the fixtures they install will be LED-based, up 9% from last year. However, 84% of survey respondents say linear fluorescent will continue be the dominant technology in commercial relighting projects this year.

Read the 2011 Energy Efficient Lighting Industry Survey for the full results.

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It’s Here! Solar, Renewable Grid Parity, or Better, in California’s Latest Renewable Power Auction

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 09:39 AM PDT

Photo courtesy First Solar

Yes, that’s right: grid parity is here, well here being California in this instance. The weighted average highest cost of solar and other renewable power contracts accepted by California utilities in the state’s Renewable Auction Market (RAM) auction amounted to 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for 20-year power purchase contracts, the Vote Solar Initiative reported March 30. Though this doesn’t include transmission costs, $0.089/kWh is well below the average residential electricity cost of 15 cents per kWh in California in 2011, and that’s the weighted average highest cost of the accepted offers to the state’s electricity distributors.

Reaching grid parity– where the cost of electricity generated from solar power equals that from conventional, longstanding grid sources such as natural gas and fossil fuel power plants– has long been held up as a major milestone, and pivotal achievement, in the solar, renewable energy and power communities.

Achieving grid parity has come faster than many expected. The decline in the cost of solar power has been rapid, exceptionally rapid, especially in California, which has been leading the US movement away from using coal and fossil fuels to generate electricity by fostering the development and adoption of renewable energy resources.

A Solar and Renewable Energy Milestone Reached in California

It may have even come too fast. The combination of California’s market-based incentive programs, such as its RAM and Feed-in Tariff (FiT), and its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), along with federal government subsidies and China’s massive manufacturing and export subsidies of crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels boosted both the supply and demand for solar power systems. Sustaining costs at grid parity levels or better poses a stiff challenge to solar power industry participants, as one or more of these struts is removed.

Of course, the cost-of-electricity playing field isn’t level by any means, which actually makes California solar power reaching grid parity an even greater achievement. Coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants have benefited from government subsidies many times the size and for decades more than those that have been granted to comparatively new solar and renewable power producers.

Another significant factor that needs to be considered when comparing the cost of new solar power and other renewable power resources to established conventional power plants is production and transmission infrastructure– coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants have it; solar and other renewable power plants need to build it, or rely on others to build it.

The electricity being produced from existing coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants has been in place for years. The huge, upfront capital costs of building them has been, or is being, amortized. Transmission lines delivering the electricity they produce for distribution is in place and long-established. Being new, that’s not the case with solar power arrays and farms, whose costs are higher and margins lower as a result.

California’s Renewable Auction Mechanism

California’s RAM aims to promote and foster distributed renewable power generation. As explained by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), RAM is “a simplified and market-based procurement mechanism for renewable distributed generation (DG) projects up to 20 MW on the system side of the meter.”

The CPUC has designed and established the Renewable Auction Mechanism to streamline “the procurement process for developers, utilities, and regulators. It allows bidders to set their own price, provides a simple standard contract for each utility, and allows all projects to be submitted to the CPUC through an expedited regulatory review process.” The aim, CPUC goes on is “to promote competition, elicit the lowest cost for ratepayers, encourage the development of resources that can utilize existing transmission and distribution infrastructure, and contribute to RPS goals in the near term.”

With all this in mind, let’s move on and take a look at the RAM results as known so far. California utilities had accepted a total of 145 MW of renewable power offers in the state’s RAM auction, according to Vote Solar’s April 5 update.

California’s RAM Results

Here’s a summary of what Vote Solar’s dug out and posted on their blog, along with hyperlinks to the utilities’ original advice letters asking for approval of the 20-year power purchase agreement contracts:

Southern California Edison (SCE):

  • Received 92 offers totaling more than 1200 MW, 91 were for solar PV
  • Accepted 7 offers totaling 67 MW, all solar PV
  • Winning contracts by capacity: two 20 MW;, one 12 MW; one 9 MW; three 2 MW

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E):

  • Received 122 offers from 52 counterparties totaling 1470 MW
  • Accepted 4 contracts with a total capacity of 63 MW
  • Winning contracts by capacity: one 14 MW geothermal power plant; one 9 MW wind power project; two 20 MW solar PV projects

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E):

  • Accepted two offers totaling 15 MW out of a total 32 submitted, most of which were in the 5-10 MW range
  • Silverado is the developer of both
  • Both are solar PV projects

Once approved by the CPUC, project developers have 18 months to bring their projects online.

Related posts:

  1. Beyond Subsidized Solar Power: The Path to Grid Parity
  2. Solar Grid Parity 101
  3. Mapping Solar Grid Parity

Energy Official Pens a Love Letter to Renewable Energy

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 08:58 AM PDT

DOE letter to senate committee outlines new energy loansWhen it comes to explaining the Department of Energy’s loan program for clean energy companies, David G. Frantz, acting director of the agency’s Loan Programs Office ain’t no Shakespeare but he sure has a way with words. In a letter yesterday addressed to Senators Jeff Bingaman and Lisa Murkowski, Frantz made a passionate case for the use of public funds to keep America competitive in the “fierce global race”  for new alternative energy technologies.

The global race for clean energy

Frantz’s letter was a response to a request for an update on DOE’s loan program from the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, of which Bingaman (D-NM) and Murkowski (R-AK) are Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively.

The money quote comes about midway through the letter when Frantz writes:

“From solar energy to wind to biofuels and more, the global market for clean energy technologies reached $260 billion last year and is growing rapidly.  Recognizing the enormous economic opportunities ahead, countries like China, Germany, and others around the world have established programs to provide government-backed financing for innovative technologies and companies.  Such support is crucial because private lenders are often unwilling or unable to absorb the risks associated with financing truly innovative or advanced technology projects at scale until such projects have been proven in the marketplace.”

A bipartisan clean energy investment program

Not so long ago, the need to invest public funds in high-risk new energy technologies was a concept that easily crossed party lines. Frantz is careful to note that the DOE loan program was a component of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 under President Bush, while his administration still enjoyed a considerable measure of support in Congress. Under the heading Section 1703, the loan program was specifically tailored to address new high-risk technologies for which private sector funding was unavailable.

Frantz also notes that the bipartisanship continued under the Obama Administration, when Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed on an additional $170 million in reserve funding to supplement Recovery Act funds that were set to expire, and a separate $1.5 billion loan guarantee authority.

Full speed ahead for DOE clean energy loans

The agreement has enabled DOE to forge ahead with the process under which more than three dozen project sponsors are seeking approval. On the very day that Frantz sent his letter to the Energy and Natural Resources Committtee, the Department of Energy notified the sponsors that they are still eligible for consideration. The total amount of loan guarantees for this group will not be determined until the assignment of a risk level for each of the projects, but Frantz states that the recent Independent Consultants Review of DOE’s loan program has found that overall its loan portfolio is strong.

Clean energy feathers in America’s cap

Frantz winds up his letter with a rousing defense of DOE’s role in establishing a globally competitive profile for U.S. clean energy technologies:

“Over the past three years, the loan programs have invested in some of the world's biggest, most innovative, and most ambitious clean energy projects to date, supporting a balanced portfolio of American clean energy projects that are creating tens of thousands of jobs nationwide and are expected to provide power to nearly three million U.S. households.”

Clean energy for red, blue and you

In selecting a small number of DOE-backed projects to highlight, Frantz also makes the point that from a consumer and labor perspective, the benefits of clean energy cut across party lines. He cites the massive Agua Caliente project in Arizona, a state that is hardly known as a bastion of Democratic party power and the equally grand-scaled Caithness Shepherds Flat wind farm in Republican leaning eastern Oregon (Portlandia, for those of you keeping score, is set in western Oregon).

Frantz also describes a DOE-backed wind project in Hawaii that used components manufactured in Iowa and Texas before tossing in a couple of solar projects in California almost as an afterthought, then moving quickly along to list several states that have benefited from a boom in solar construction including Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee among others.

Also of interest to those of you keeping score at home, Frantz’s background includes a long career in private sector project finance beginning with ten-year sting for Gulf Oil, as well as postgraduate work at the alma mater of both President Barack Obama and candidate-for-president Mitt Romney, Harvard University.

Image: Some rights reserved by charlottel.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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How Renewable Electricity Generation in Germany Has Changed (Chart & Statistics)

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 07:30 AM PDT

I can’t remember where I ran across these — I think a reader shared them with me — but I started going through a bunch of old drafts of articles I wanted to write but never got to last night (Spring cleaning, I guess) and ran across them again. Basically, the image and tables below show how renewable electricity generation has changed over the years. Visit the German website I got all this from for more.

germany renewable electricity generation

As you can see, up until the late 1990s, the only renewable energy source for electricity generation that was at all significant was hydro power.

In the middle to late 1990s, wind power started growing and had grown to a significant share of the electricity supply by the early 2000s. In 2003, it surpassed hydro power for the #1 renewable energy source for electricity, and has held that position up until today.

Biomass has also grown a lot in the 2000s, and it passed up hydro in 2007.

Solar started growing later, but you can see that its big boom in 2010 and 2011 has resulted in it becoming a major player now, as well.

Of course, the chart also shows Germany’s significant renewable energy growth (in the electricity sector) overall.

For more details, here are tables to go with the image:

Interesting stuff. Let me know if more thoughts pop into your head from looking at this. And let me know if you have similar charts and stats for other countries that you think would be worth a share!

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

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Wind Farms to Blow Earth off Orbit? (VIDEO)

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 07:00 AM PDT


I know, this really should have gone up on Sunday, but we skipped April 1 this year for some reason. Plus, a reader shared this video on our April 2 solar energy spill piece (too late for April 1). I think it’s already a classic within green and cleantech circles, but I don’t think we ever shared it here on CleanTechnica, so I’m finally getting to that! If you haven’t already done so, check out this great Onion video above on how wind farms might blow the world off orbit, how they could make the Earth spin so fast that humans could fly right off it, how wind is blowing into some communities’ water supplies (and could get into kids’ brains), about solar energy sucking our sun dry, and… coal snack bars. Enjoy!

Not exactly the same humor, but this video also reminds me of Mr. W, one of my favorite videos ever. Here’s that one:

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US Solar Markets Map

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 06:30 AM PDT

us solar markets info

Apparently, I saved this 1BOG solar markets map awhile back to share it with you all and I never got to it. I was almost inclined not to even take a screenshot of it, since it’s an interactive map with all the value coming from your interaction with it. Basically, just go click around. If you still want to read a bit more first, the deal is that the map includes the following points:

  • a solar policy grade for each state;
  • info on # of people who want to go solar in each state;
  • info on # of jobs better state incentives could create;
  • county-level information on # of people interested in going solar.

Again, check it out.

[Full disclosure: this post is sponsored in absolutely no way --- just think that's a cool resource.]

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Chinese Coal City Switching to Solar

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT


The Chinese city Datong, despite being known for its coal resources, is transforming into a solar power center.

“During the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) period, we have 432 projects with a total investment of 536.4 billion yuan ($84.8 billion) to help the city’s transformation from a high-carbon city into a low-carbon one,” said Geng Yanbo, mayor of the city.

Solar Power Projects in Datong

By the end of 2015, Yanbo intends to have the city getting 25% of its electricity from clean energy. One 20-MW PV solar power plant has been under construction since late 2011. Golden Concord Holdings, one of the world’s largest polysilicon manufacturers, is also looking to build a 500-MW and a 300-MW solar power plant, the second with Foxconn Technology Group.

The city isn’t only looking to get its power from clean energy, though — it’s also looking to become a major solar component manufacturer. “Construction of a polysilicon factory with an annual production capacity of 25,000 tons” is starting this month, China Daily writes. This is another Golden Concord project. In total, Golden Concord is investing 14.68 billion yuan in five solar energy projects in Datong.

Of course, Datong is rich in solar energy potential. All in all, it’s projected to have about 10 GW of solar potential. The city “is located on the northeast side of the Loess Plateau at an altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 meters and enjoys on average 2,800 hours of sunshine a year.”

Solar Decathlon Coming to Datong

Datong will also hold a Solar Decathlon in August. Yes, the US Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Solar Decathlon — “During President Hu Jintao’s visit to the US early last year, China’s National Energy Administration signed an agreement with the US energy department and decided to hold a Solar Decathlon in China for the first time.”

US-China Solar Trade Issues

And what does Geng think about the US anti-subsidy and anti-dumping investigations and their potential impact on Chinese solar companies like Golden Concord? He;s not phased, and even sees it as an opportunity.

“The cost of polysilicon has been falling in recent years and the scale of solar panel exports is being harmed by the anti-subsidy and anti-dumping investigations started by the United States. But these factors will help open up the domestic market,” he said. “It is a good time and opportunity for industry insiders and policymakers to think again about the domestic solar power market.”

Image: Yungang Caves in Datong, China courtesy shutterstock

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New Solar Panel Kit Could Make Solar Easier for Homeowners

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 05:30 AM PDT

Below is a guest post about a new solar panel plug-n-play kit. The post comes from our friend Kriss Bergethon of Solar Sphere. Enjoy!

There’s a new solar panel kit for homeowners out there. It's a new system that simply plugs into a 230V wall plug and provides power for your home. We interviewed Jim Greene, founder of SpinRay Energy (the company that’s created it), to learn more about this exciting new development.

Could you briefly describe the SolarPod?

The Mouli Engineering SolarPodTM is a modular; quick connect-to-grid, PnP-ready and scalable solar PV electricity-generating system.  The SolarPodTM offers features for quick change pitch angle, simple snow removal, and easy deployment for flat roof, ground mounting and gabled roof tops. The light-weight prefabricated SolarPodTM design minimizes on-site installation time. The easily configurable SolarPodTM can be placed in service to both utility-scale projects and to low-volume residential and commercial solar panel installations, with the lowest cost to the consumer end-user.

What inspired you to create this?

Respecting our planet and how I can produce something from natural resources. We live in a home that is powered by the sun for all of our electricity needs for the whole year.

As an engineer, I like to solve real problems. Our present problem is that our rate of consumption far exceeds the rate of replenishment of natural resources on our planet. Using new technology and innovative engineering, this overconsumption can be checked. Solar is one solution that I believe in.

A prefabricated solar PV system that seamlessly integrates all components into an existing facility with the lowest installation cost will make it more affordable for all. Lower costs also make it possible to move away from rebates eventually.

When did you first build a prototype?

Prototypes were designed in the late part of 2009 and early 2010.

What is your background?

My educational qualification and credentials include a PhD from UW-Madison, Professional Engineer since 1997, Certified Energy Manger, and North American Board Certified PV Installer.

My skills and talents include nearly 20 years of experience in product engineering and helping one of the largest semiconductor companies to develop state-of-the-art digital technologies in applications such as cell phones, super computers and consumer electronics.

When did you start manufacturing the SolarPOD?

The concepts of the SolarPodTM as plug-n-play solar with modularity was developed in early 2010.

How exactly does it work? 

In simple terms – "Just plug it in to a dedicated branch circuit."

How do you install the SolarPod?

The SolarPodTM can be installed on flat roofs, ground mounts and gabled roof.

The SolarPodTM arrives in a palette. It comes in four main parts; two bottom frames and the top two solar mounted frames. They join using splice bars. The bottom frame is fastened to the flat roof, ground or rafters through anchors.

Is this system UL compliant?

All components are certified to UL.

Can it be used in any home in the US or Canada?

It can be installed in any home or business in the US and Canada.

How does it work with net metering? Will this system actually push power back through the grid?

The meter installed on the facility should be a digital meter that is programmed by the utility company for distributed generation. By law, all utilities must comply with a customer's request to place a digital meter.

As soon as you plug in the SolarPodTM to a dedicated branch circuit, and the meter is installed by the utility company, you are now pushing power back to the grid in the day and purchasing back during the night.  Limits are present on how much solar you can install and these vary by each state.

Do customers need utility approval before installation? What about building permits?

In order to benefit from net metering, it is best to inform and obtain approval from your utility company. If no rebates are expected from the utility, you can just plug the SolarPodTM and start making solar power. Additional paperwork may be required by the utility company if they provide rebates.

Permitting requirements vary from between cities and also where the SolarPodTM is installed. If they are installed in rural areas (farms), permitting may not be required. However, in cities, please contact your city building inspection department. TheSolarPodTM exceeds code requirements and we can help answer additional questions on paperwork and code compliance.

How much does the base unit cost? Product options?

The base unit is $3,999.99 + shipping.

We do give a monitoring option at $500 additional cost. With purchase of 4 or more systems, the monitoring cost is free. The monitoring is for a lifetime and no additional charges are present.

How can people find out more?

Visit our website at

Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado, visit his site at solar panel kits.

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Can the Newcomers Club Help Clean Energy Lead Economic Recovery in N. Nevada?

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 05:00 AM PDT

solar, wind and biofuel

Solar, wind and biofuel clean energy formats

Since the economic downturn, community leaders have gathered in numerous forums across northern Nevada to determine the best solution for economic recovery. Conferences held by the Chamber, EDAWN, and several by the RGJ, with their Reno 2020 program, have all identified clean energy as a key ingredient.  Political leaders echo the virtues of clean energy for job creation and for transitioning from a consumption to a production economy. But, so far, progress has been slow. Like knowing what to do, but not knowing exactly how, given state finances and political ideologies.

Solar operations in the south are doing exceptionally well, with the latest massive Crescent Dunes CSP project in Tonapah as example. Geothermal is a rousing success in the north, making Nevada among the highest per capita conversion to electricity in the country. And the City of Reno launched a $20-million clean energy retrofit and energy efficiency project in 2008 to put Reno on the map as a renewable energy leader.

Here’s the big however. Clean energy companies that develop solar, wind, or biofuel technologies continue to play a very small role in the economic development (ED) plans in the north. Many innovative, worthy start-ups are stuck for lack of funding and risk disappearing. Seriously. To re-invent a western phrase, there's a new sheriff in town. In fact, there are several. Three of the ED agencies in the north have new leaders — newcomers — and all of them will be guided by the new ED plan from Governor Sandoval, also a relative newcomer. Here's a run-down on the players:

• Steve Hill is Executive Director of the new Governor's Office of Economic Development and has been on the job for about six months. Now known as GOED; it replaces the former NCED.

• Mike Kazmierski is President and CEO of the Economic Development Agency for Western Nevada (EDAWN). He moved here from Colorado and just celebrated his first 100 days.

• Christopher Baum is President and CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA). He was imported from Detroit and, likewise, is only a few months on the job.

• Rob Hooper is Executive Director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA). So while he is one of two veterans, he will be guided by the new set of ED plans from the GOED. More on this below.

• The other veteran, Dave Archer, is President and CEO of  the independent Nevada's Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. While not exactly a state agency, NCET and each of the above state agency executives cross-pollinate on each others committees, to achieve common goals.

According to the State ED plan for 2012-14, just published from Governor Sandoval and Steve Hill’s offices, targeting key industry sectors is one of five major objectives. And clean energy is one of the four "targeted sectors" that will get increased staff attention over the next three years. The overall mission is to attract, retain and develop "high-quality jobs for Nevadans." The state plan is here.

You are never disappointed being cynical, especially if past performance warrants it. But there is reason to believe that Nevada's "newcomers" — and the new ED plan — can make a real difference this time. First, there's that natural excitement that accompanies new high-paying positions for these professionals, plus the pressure that all political, business, and media eyes are on you. But there's more. In a series of interviews, here are some insights into their resolve:

Mike Kazmierski, EDAWN

• EDAWN’s overall ED strategy has three components: attraction, retention and supporting entrepreneurial and start-up ventures. "Entrepreneurship" support and development includes clean energy companies.

• Mike has further stated: "Renewable energy is an important part of our future as a community and we are incorporating a focus on the attraction, retention and entrepreneurial growth of clean energy jobs in all of our programs at EDAWN. We will be pushing for a renewed emphasis on sustainability by the entire community as that will also help to create additional opportunities in the clean energy sector."

Christopher Baum, RSCVA

• As senior vice president of the convention & visitors bureau in Detroit, Baum created a national marketing campaign "Detroit 3.0" that promoted green tech as one of the region’s growth industries.

• To attract meetings and conventions to N. Nevada, he plans to approach green energy associations (solar, wind, geothermal, etc.) to investigate convention opportunities.

• "Green energy is good business and good citizenship, but it's also good for us and our families, so it's a win-win," according to Chris.

Rob Hooper, NNDA

• Generally, NNDA’s goal is to help new or start-up renewable energy companies launch and grow. Rob spoke enthusiastically about helping cogeneration company Elite  Energy get established in Carson City.

• To compete with neighboring states that offer location cash grants, NNDA points out that business taxes and other costs in these states end up costing more over time. Also, and similar to what EDAWN practices, NNDA performs analysis of all costs of running a business over time and demonstrates that, after approximately 10 years, cost of operation in Nevada is cheaper.

Dave Archer, NCET

• Dave believes "Nevada is poised to become the clean energy capital of the world, and clean energy will be a major factor in Nevada's future economic growth.  We'll see more and more companies choose to locate here, as have Advanced Refining Concepts, ElectraTherm, Gradient Resources. And, we'll see a growing number of companies install geothermal, wind and solar generating plants in Nevada, joining Enel Green Power, Ormat Technologies and Sempra."

There is now a new formal ED plan in place from Governor Sandoval's office that directly supports Clean Energy as one of four "target sectors" for development.  Combine that with solid credentials, commitment, public and peer pressure on our "newcomers," and it looks like there is a chance of achieving Dave Archer's hope of becoming the energy capital, and a realization of Senator Reid's often quoted promise that Nevada will become the "Saudi Arabia of renewable energy." But it will only happen if we all do our part.

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Brazil World Cup Stadiums to Be Powered by Solar Energy

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 04:30 AM PDT

Nearly two years ago (wow, time flies), I wrote about transit planning that was already underway for the Brazil World Cup in 2014. I’m sure those plans are much further along now, but today there’s some exciting solar news about the upcoming World Cup. Brazil will be powering several of its stadiums to a good degree with solar power. (Not that surprising, given that Brazil intends to triple its renewable energy use by 2020.)

The Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasília (Source: Castro Mello Arq. Esportiva)

All 12 of Brazil’s stadiums for this event are supposed to achieve a minimum sustainability standard, and 10 out of 12 have already applied to the US Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status. One of the stadiums, Mané Garrincha stadium in Brazilian capital Brasília, is seeking LEED Platinum status, which would make it the first soccer stadium in the world to achieve that.

Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasília, possibly to be the first LEED Platinum soccer stadium in the world. (Source: Castro Mello Arq. Esportiva)

Mané Garrincha stadium will include a roof sporting an array of solar PV panels with 2.5 MWp of capacity. Much of the time, this solar array is expected to surpass the stadium’s power needs and will feed electricity back into the grid. During pick energy consumption, it’s expected to provide the stadium with about 50% of its power needs. Yearly, the solar system is expected to save the stadium R$7 million ($3.78 million). Other stadiums will also be equipped with solar:

  • Maracanã stadium in Rio is supposed to sport a ring of solar panels on its roof. It may have a solar power capacity of 3.3 MWp.
  • The Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto in Belo Horizonte (aka the Mineirão) will have a roof with up to 1.5 MWp of solar panels.
  • The Pituaçu Stadium in Salvador will feature a 403-kWp PV solar system on its roof. (World Cup matches won’t actually be played at this stadium, but it will host training sessions.)
  • The Pernambuco Arena in Recife will include solar heating for changing rooms, toilets and kitchens.
  • Other stadiums are expected to reveal solar energy plans soon, as well. So far, at least 7 of the stadiums are committed to using solar to some extent.

“In Brazil in 2014 the sustainability of the tournament will be the best so far achieved, incorporating new approaches to this issue,” Claudio Langone, co-ordinator of the Chamber of the Environment and Sustainability for the 2014 World Cup, said.

Yingli, which drew a lot of eyes and talk in 2010 as the first Chinese and the first clean energy company to sponsor a World Cup (it was a sponsor at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa), has signed up to be a sponsor in Brazil as well (seems the marketing investment paid off), and there’s word that it is in confidential talks regarding installations at Brazil’s soon-to-be-solar-powered stadiums.

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

Source: Renewable Energy World

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Urban Bike Glows with LED Lights

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 04:00 AM PDT


This is a cool bike our friends over at WV Outpost recently shared with me — it’s an urban bike with a glowing LED-lit frame that is super stylish while also utilitarian. The company behind the bike is Teague, an established design firm.

Teague writes: “Equal parts gym membership, fashion statement and Kyoto pact contributor, Pulse is a transportation solution in synch with the needs of today’s urban denizen.”

Here are some more pics and quotes from the company (to enlarge the images, hold ‘ctrl’ or ‘command’ while clicking ‘+’):

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Terrafugia Soars with Mass Interest at the NY Auto Show

Posted: 06 Apr 2012 03:36 AM PDT


They are at the entrance to the 2012 New York International Auto Show, their first auto show, with only one vehicle, but what a vehicle. Terrafugia is a Massachusetts company sure to become increasingly known as the people who make vehicles that can fly to more than 5000 public airports and then be driven home to a garage. Foul weather can ground the pilot of a light aircraft but with the “Transition” the sport pilot’s license gives way to a driver’s license and the journey continues. Even without a storm, landing for a quick stop in town seems more practical. The plane becomes as useful and gives as much freedom as a car.

The Niche:

In biology, we say that each organism has a niche in the ecosystem. Vehicles also fill a role in our transportation system. Electric vehicles, to a large extent, may be best around town and for less than 50 to 100 miles of travel. The Terrafugia Transition is a vehicle at another extreme and more suited to 50 to 500 miles of travel. With its 23 gallons of premium automotive gasoline it can reach highway speeds of about 65 mph with 35 mpg. In the air, its maximum speed is 115 mph with a 5 gph fuel usage. The “ceiling” for the vehicle is about 10,000 feet. The NY Daily News reports that in two states, “Alaska or Montana, … pilots are allowed to use roadways as runways.” These vehicles may encourage more of these regulations.

What Makes It Possible:

Why does such a vehicle appear now? In 2004, the FAA added the “Sports Pilot License.” Becoming licensed requires half the time. Newer materials like carbon fiber allow a vehicle to be lighter (970 lbs.) but still strong. New engines (Rotax 912 ULS 112HP) allow the vehicle to combine power and light weight with a cleaner fuel. Because the vehicle must travel in the air, some ground-level exceptions have been allowed in parts for the windshield, wheels, airbag configuration, and the electronic stability control.

A Test Pilot’s Perspective:

Col Phil Meteer, USAFR (Ret.) is clearly a dedicated and devoted test pilot who was able to tell us a bit of his association with Terrafugia. From a young age, he had dreamed of and sketched flying cars. He kept his interest through 18 years with the Airforce and discovered that in the Massachusetts town next to his home a company was building a vehicle that could travel on roadways and in the air. He liked what he saw and approached Terrafugia with a plan to take the Transition through the certification process. He speaks with a passion and intense interest in the project that shines through the video below.


There are about 75 flights that must be accomplished to complete the certification process. Vehicles can then start being delivered late in 2012 or early next year. There are presently orders for over 100 vehicles. A $10,000 deposit is required but a show special was announced at the press conference on Thursday that would reduce this to $2500. But then you’ll also have to come up with the balance to meet the final price of $279,000. You can reserve yours on the Terrafugia website.

Road-able Aircraft vs Flying Car:

While it has been referred to as a “flying car,” Carl Dietrich tells us it is actually a “road-able aircraft.” You want to be in the air flying straight to your destination, avoiding traffic and the restriction of following a roadway while enjoying the view from the air. If it were only an electric aircraft … it could also be whisper silent.

Photo Credit: An airplane at a car show, Terrafugia Transition at NYIAS, by author (all rights reserved).

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  3. Tokyo Motor Show: Daihatsu Presents Three Super-Cute Electric Prototypes

The Road to 2020 (Part I) — Energiewende

Posted: 05 Apr 2012 05:17 PM PDT


Political Fallout

In the summer of 2011, the conservative federal government of Germany passed a law that will phase out nuclear power in Germany by 2022, and they proclaimed the so-called "Energiewende." This announcement was made with a lot of pathos and was accompanied by even more talk about the historic nature of this brave decision and the gigantic task that lies ahead.

Despite the fact that this certainly did sound very nice, the close observer of German energy politics knew that the amount of pathos was a means to overshadow the fact that the very same government was hell-bent on a nuclear renaissance a short time ago.

Only a few months before the Fukushima meltdown, during the fall of 2010, the government under the leadership of chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated its biggest (and only) political "accomplishment" to that date. The center-right coalition government extended the operating time of nuclear reactors in Germany until the middle of the century. Its push to re-establish nuclear power as a centerpiece of the German energy policy was an event more than a decade in the making, a rather dogmatic goal that was pursued despite massive public dissent and opinion leveled against the move. Not only did it violate the 2000 nuclear phase out plan, formulated as a bilateral state treaty between the government and the energy corporations, it also endangered the expansion of renewable energy sources throughout Germany.

Reports and complaints that the extension of the lifespan of nuclear reactors would seriously harm the interests of regional utilities and all the other economic parties that were heavily investing in renewable energy sources and decentralized structures were ignored and accepted as collateral damage by the federal government. With the second decade of the 21st century dawning, everything seemed to be set for legal disputes, massive protests (200,000+ people), and a year of highly politicized energy debates.

But as we know today, Fukushima changed everything and we witnessed a rapid political turnaround and the proclamation of the "Energiewende."


The term "Energiewende" is often translated as "energy turnaround," which might be a valid translation, but it falls (very) short of capturing the true meaning. The term was originally coined by an environmentalist think-tank back in 1980. It originally described the complete transformation from an fossil- and nuclear-based economy to a 100% renewable-energy-based economy.

The word "Wende" describes a significant social-political change and is commonly used as a synonym for the peaceful revolution that took place in East Germany during the years of 1989/90 and led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification. So, it seems to be safe to say that a  more accurate translation of “Energiewende” is "Energy Revolution."

One doesn't have to be an expert of German politics or  history to understand that a "revolution" (of any sort) isn't exactly the kind of thing that a conservative government would usually encourage, envison, or actually understand at all.

“Ambitious Goals”

As the former pro-nuclear & traditionally anti-renewable-energy government coalition ventured out to become or at least portray itself as an energy revolutionary, it also presented the world with "ambitious goals."

  1. The share of renewable energy sources in electricity consumption shall double from 17% in 2010 to 35% in 2020.
  2. The share of renewable energy sources in final energy consumption shall rise from 11% in 2010 to 18% in 2020.

Many domestic and international media outlets did choose to follow the spirit of the official press releases of the government and called the goals very ambitious and difficult to accomplish. Many even went as far as calling them unrealistic and some even said it would be impossible. Almost no one asked the simple, yet very important, journalistic question:

“Why are the official goals that were part of the Renewable Energy Sources Act since 2008 suddenly incredible ambitious and unrealistic?”

In my next "The Road to 2020" post, I will look at encouraging developments on the state level here in the Federal Republic of Germany. There's a lot of potential to shake things up quite a bit and the nuclear adventures of Berlin politics has had an unintended but important role in this.

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. Tough Road Ahead for Nuclear Power
  3. Germany: Talk of the Cleantech Town this Week

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