- New Nest Thermostat Features — Airwave & Energy History View
- National Solar Power Orders Several Million(!) Solar Panels for 700-MW Solar Farm in the Sunshine State
- Da Draft Movie
- Expired Treasury Renewable Energy Subsidy Created as Many as 75,000 Green Jobs, $44 Billion in Economic Output
- True ‘Smart’ Meter Knows Difference between Your Fridge & Your TV
- Kinetic Energy Device Charges Your Electronic Devices with Your Walking, Running, Biking Energy
- Church Saves Money & Environment with Wind Power (VIDEO)
- Clean Links (13 Stories)
- The Road to 2020 (Part II) — States on a New Course
- Where My Taxes Went (& Why You Should Care)
- Halotechnics – Molten Glass Thermal Storage Could Mean 6 Cent Solar
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 08:50 AM PDT
Nest, an innovative thermostat and home energy management tech company from the designer of the iPod & iPhone, just announced some new features of its thermostat. Both software features have been automatically added to purchased Nest thermostats.
Nest’s new “Energy History” view tells people exactly when their heating and cooling systems run throughout the day. It also shows “whether their energy use increased or decreased compared to the previous week, and the cause of that change (your adjustment, Away, or the weather).”
Basically, this helps one to really see how minor changes in one’s schedule or energy use or conservation can make a difference. You can view this info on your cell phone (works with iOS and Android) or on the internet. Looks cool — If I had a Nest thermostat (and used heating and cooling at all), I know I’d be examining my stats!
Airwave obviously has the cooler name, but what is it? Airwave is an automatic feature that automatically saves you money by cutting unnecessary cooling activity. Confused? Here’s more:
Nest User Stats
With the new announcements, Nest popped in some interesting and positive statistics about its users so far. Here those are:
The Nest thermostat is currently available for $249.
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 08:44 AM PDT
National Solar Power (NSP), a “market leader in utility scale solar power solutions” that was just formed in 2010, announced at the end of last week that it had “reached a major milestone in its plans to build solar energy facilities totaling 700 megawatts (MW) in Florida” — it completed an agreement with SolarWorld to order several million solar panels. Can you imagine?
SolarWorld leads the Americas in solar-technology manufacturing, and orders like this make you realize why it has pushed so hard against heavy Chinese subsidies for the country’s solar panel companies.
Of course, one doesn’t take an order for several million solar panels lightly. NSP and Hensel Phelps Construction Co, also involved in the project development, toured SolarWorld’s manufacturing facility in the other corner of the US (in Oregon) beforehand.
"We're very excited about this partnership, which is a great cultural fit between our companies," said James Scrivener, CEO of National Solar, which is based in Melbourne, FL. "We are committed to helping make the United States the world leader in renewable energy, and this partnership gives us the building blocks to produce clean energy domestically. Best of all, we will be using U.S. technology that will create thousands of jobs for Americans and help ensure U.S. energy security and independence."
Florida, as one who grew up there well knows, is “The Sunshine State” — it’s about time the state starts cashing in on that sun and fighting global warming, which is already causing Florida’s coastline to slowly go under. This project is clearly a good boost. 400 MW of solar power capacity are supposed to be built at NSP’s power facility in Gadsden County, 200 MW in Hardee County, and 100 MW in Liberty County.
Hensel Phelps, which was chosen to remodel the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks, is supposed to design, build, and operate the solar farm projects, which will be built in 20-MW phases.
In total, “National Solar has executed power supply agreements for more than 3 gigawatts of solar farms” in the US.
Source: National Solar Power
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 07:56 AM PDT
As the site where I ran across this titled its post, “Making It Cool.”
And I love the 4 imperatives at the end:
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 07:38 AM PDT
A report from the US Dept. of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reveals the impact the Treasury’s 1603 grant program had in supporting growth and development of the US renewable energy industry– wind and solar power in particular– following the near collapse of the US financial system and recession of 2008-2009. Congress failed to renew the program, which expired at the end of 2011.
The Treasury 1603 grant program provided some $9 billion in funds spanning more than 23,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) and large wind (>1 MW) projects with a total generating capacity of 13.5 gigawatts (GW), according to the paper, “Preliminary Analysis of the Jobs and Economic Impacts of Renewable Energy Projects Supported by the §1603 Treasury Grant Program,” which was authored by NREL’s Daniel Steinberg, Gian Porro and MRG & Associates’ Marshall Goldberg.
That 13.5 GW of clean, renewable electricity generation capacity represents “roughly 50% of total non-hydropower renewable capacity additions in 2009-2011. Total private, regional, state and federal investment in these projects is estimated to exceed $30 billion. The solar PV and large wind projects accounted for approximately 94% of the total capacity of projects funded via the Section 1603 grant program and 92% of total payments.
Where the Green Jobs Are
Republicans, including House leader John Boehner have been hammering Pres. Obama on his administration’s clean energy policy and asking where the job creation is. The report should go a long way toward responding to the rhetorical diatribe.
Independent studies have shown that renewable energy investments and projects can create as many as 3x the number of jobs as equivalent investments in fossil fuels. More Americans are now employed in “green jobs” (some 2.7 million) than in the US fossil fuel industry, and that’s occurred in extraordinarily short order. Added to this are the much more socially and environmentally beneficial aspects of federal government support for clean energy as opposed to fossil fuel energy.
“Furthermore, it has played a critical role in building the infrastructure that America will need to continue to compete globally in clean energy for years to come, ensuring we do not cede the industries or the jobs of the 21st century to countries like China. And it has supported tens of thousands of jobs across the country. That is why President Obama has called on Congress to extend the highly successful 1603 program.”
Treasury Section 1603 Grant Program: 75,000 Green Jobs, $44 Billion in Economic Output
Here are the authors’ findings regarding estimated gross jobs, earnings and economic output of the solar PV and large wind power projects supported by the Section 1603 grant program:
The authors succinctly explain the root motivation and rationale for enacting the program in the paper’s executive summary, the former being the ‘dramatic decrease’ in tax equity investors in the wake of the near collapse of the banking system and recession of 2008-2009.
NREL’s 1603 Grant Program Analysis
They also point out the mismatch, and unsuitability, of investment and production tax credits as a subsidy vehicle. “Both the ITC and the PTC provide financial incentives for development of renewable energy projects in the form of tax credits that can be used to offset taxes paid on company profits,” the authors explain.
This leaves relatively young, developing renewable energy companies reliant on third-party tax equity investors who want to reduce their tax liabilities. Working through investment bank intermediaries, who tailor and package ITC and PTC tax credits, these companies then purchase the ITCs and PTCs, which provides renewable energy companies with the cash they need to develop.
The Treasury then stepped in following the collapse in the tax equity market and created the Section 1603 Treasury grant program, which was enacted upon passage of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. The program enabled renewable energy project developers to opt for an up-front cash grant equal in value to the 30% of total eligible ITC and PTC costs, thereby removing the need for project developers to find tax equity investors.
Creating and retaining jobs was another near-term goal of the Treasury 1603 grant program, the authors note. Gathering and analyzing “green” jobs creation and retention numbers that resulted lead to the production of the report, which employs “the Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) models to estimate the gross jobs, earnings and economic output supported by the construction and operation of solar photovoltaic (PV) and large wind (greater than 1 MW) funded by the Section 1603 grant program.”
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 06:30 AM PDT
Another fun cleantech startup for you — Navetas. This company has a technology that should actually make your ‘smart meter’ smart. It learns about your home or building energy usage and disaggregates it so that you can see exactly where your energy is being used… in real time,… and it does so without any help from you at all. Not only that, the company contends that the price of its technology is comparable to that of conventional smart meters currently on the market.
Sensus, a smart meter giant, has reportedly now invested in and partnered up with Navetas. It has put £5 million ($7.9 million) into Navetas, and it now has an exclusive licensing agreement to trial Navetas’ smart meters in the US.
Here’s a little more detail on the technology:
And here’s a video on the technology:
You can demo the device on the Navetas website.
“Navetas is already piloting its technology with three U.K. utilities as part of that country's push to deploy home energy management systems to link up with the 53 million smart meters it's planning to deploy over the coming decade,” Greentech Media writes.
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 05:15 AM PDT
What do you need to do to make this thing work? Not much — just stick it in your bag, backpack, briefcase, or such and it charges itself. As you move around, it will recharge using natural movement vibrations. It’s called a “passive kinetic energy charger” or a “vibration harvesting” charger.
“The nPower® PEG is a smart device which automatically senses your activity, adapts to it, and optimizes energy harvesting,” the company writes.
“For example, the PEG has optimum power output within a frequency range. And it also has the ability to harvest ambient vibrations that are experienced in daily life, such as riding in automobiles and trains or riding a bicycle. nPower’s® electrical output correlates directly to the physical size of the device.”
The serendipitous (or logically planned) benefit of the PEG is that it charges when you’re on the move, and when you’re on the move is when you most need a portable battery charger.
Aaron LeMieux, the founder and inventor of the PEG, has spoken at TEDX about it if you want to learn more about the details and history of the green technology, as well as some potentially bigger future plans:
Now, however, nPower is saying that a “new, more powerful version of the nPower® PEG” will be launching at the beginning of Earth Day weekend — Thursday, April 19 — at the green technology EcoFocus event in NYC. It will also be featured at “Earth Day On The Mall” on April 22 in Washingon, DC.
What do you think of this mobile, consumer tech product?
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 04:43 AM PDT
Wind power helps protect our fragile environment, but as advanced as it is today, it also helps people to save money. As I wrote last week, Cape Wind could save residents of its region $7.2 billion compared to what they’d pay for conventional energy in the coming years.
A new video about a D.C. church that has switched over to wind power, Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, gives us another fun wind power story. Check it out:
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 04:28 AM PDT
1. Fort Hood and Universal Services Fort Hood Inc. have turned on a solar field of nearly 3,000 photovoltaic solar panels. “The four-acre solar field, near Liberty Village community, will generate one million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy annually for 300 single-family homes.” Photo above.
2. The 230-megawatt photovoltaic solar power project called Antelope Valley Solar Ranch has gotten its first loan advance. “First Solar is constructing the 230-megawatt photovoltaic power project — one of the largest such projects in the world — in northern Los Angeles County and will operate and maintain the project for Exelon. As Exelon and First Solar previously announced, the first portion of the project is expected to come online in late 2012, with full operation planned for late 2013.”
3. Hollywood gets solar feed-in tariff. “Los Angeles City Council has granted the city's utility, the biggest municipal utility in the U.S., the power to enter into contracts with solar power producers at above retail rates.”
1. BP and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power have announced that “the Flat Ridge 2 wind farm has moved into full construction” in Kansas. “The facility, located on a 66,000-acre site about 40 miles southwest of Wichita, represents a combined investment of more than $800 million and will have the capacity to produce 419 MW of electricity, enough to light more than 125,000 homes.”
1. Mercedes-Benz S 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY wins 2012 World Green Car Award. Surprised me.
2. Minneapolis and St. Paul (the Twin Cities) have a number of new clean transportation projects in place or in the works — a light rail line, an intermodal transit hub, and a bus rapid transit system — all funded by a $0.0025 sales tax that was approved in 2008. (h/t Planetizen)
Energy Efficiency News
1. 'The Longest Furniture Store on the Eastern Shore!' has switched over to a new LED illumination system for its 180,000-square-foot facility that will save it $100,000 yearly electricity savings.
2. Philips Lumileds has launched its first white, mid-power LED. “Intended for office and other distributed LED lighting solutions, Philips Lumileds uniquely specifies CCT, CRI, and R9 for each of its new mid-power emitters.”
3. U.S. industrial companies have to get into energy management more in order to remain globally competitive, a new report has found.
Other Cleantech News
1. A new iPhone & iPad app was built to help mariners avoid collisions with “critically endangered” right whales.
2. The UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change has launched a £20 million Marine Energy Array Demonstrator scheme (MEAD). “This scheme will support up to 2 pre-commercial projects to demonstrate the operation of wave and/or tidal devices in array formation over a period of time. Organisations across the UK will be able to bid for a share of the £20million announced last summer helping spur on growth in this exciting new sector. ”
3. The Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government's development finance institution, has “approved $250 million in financing to help India's premier infrastructure lender expand its lending to renewable energy and infrastructure projects, providing much-needed long-term capital to the country's effort to keep pace with the sectors' massive potential.”
4. “An Austrian study compared different ways of using biowaste and found that the production of biomethane of natural gas quality is the most efficient in terms of energy balance and the greenhouse effect,” Renewables International writes.
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 02:12 AM PDT
A New Focal Point
In the first part of this “Road to 2020″ series of posts, I looked at how the pro-nuclear & renewable-sceptical center-right federal government of Germany made a 180° turnaround in terms of energy policy back in 2011. While this was good news, it’s of course very questionable if all the politicans of the government coalition had a complete change of heart over night. What is certain though is that the debate about the future of the energy supply seems to be finally over. All political parties in Germany are now officially supporting the end of nuclear power and a complete transition to a 100% renewable energy system. A goal that has overwhelming public support.
While the question of “renewables vs nuclear” is finally settled in Germany, this victory for renewables only means that the “frontlines” have moved. The new conflicts, debates, and political struggles have a different focal point. The sides of this new phase of the struggle for a fast “Energiewende” are split between proponents of “centralization” and “de-centralization” of renewables energy generation.
Until now, the “Renewable Energy Sources Act” enabled all sorts of people and businesses to invest and become an active part of the solution to the energy crisis of the 21st century. The system they’ve been building is growing rather naturally to utilize the potential of renewable energy sources in an efficient distributed way, close to the consumers themselves and utilizing synergy effects like combined heat and power generation. It’s a system with more than 1 million independent energy producers at this point and it is increasingly focused on values like regional energy autonomy, democratic participation, self-determination, and economic common sense under the banner of “local value creation“. This spirit is being supported by the current political framework which was designed to empower people to invest in renewables and become active participants.
The successes of this framework are obvious — rapid growth of renewables, a growing awareness of energy efficency’s value, macroeconomic benefits, and overwhelming public support despite the microeconomic downside of slightly higher electric bills. While tweaks & improvements of the legal framework are of course necessary at times, the continuation of the current “spirit” is paramount to ensure further fast, efficient, and cost-effective development toward a 100% renewable energy system.
Berlin Taps the Brakes
Unfortunately, it has become more and more obvious that the current federal government based in Berlin wants to change the political framework of the “Renewable Energy Sources Act” to favour centralized renewable energy projects (primarily offshore wind), disenfranchise small and medium investors, and oversee an “orderly transition”. This development started with the formation of the current center-right coalition government after the 2009 elections.
Fortunately, clean energy does have a very strong standing in Germany today and a complete rollback is almost impossible now. That’s a little miracle in and of itself, because the German Renewable Energy Sources Act would have been suspended if the current center-right government had won a majority in the 2002 or 2005 elections. Today, there are entire industries with hundreds of thousands of jobs and even more industries that depend on them. That means that even a rather critical federal government that dislikes the design of the law due to ideological reasons can not simply dismantle the “Renewable Energy Act” openly.
16 States = 16 Agendas
Just like the United States, Germany is a federal republic. That means that each of the 16 “Länder” (states) has its own independent government with its own set of goals and motivations. Unlike in the US, the German state governments have a direct role in federal politics and they control about 40% of the total government spending. The states also have control over most of the critical regulations that are highly important when it comes to building renewable energy projects. This includes regulations about land-use, granting permits, and arbitrary restrictions that can affect the profitability of projects (like restrictions concerning the height of wind turbines). This makes the states very powerful players when it comes to shaping the expansion of renewable energy systems.
This level of control in combination with rather renewable-sceptical governments also explains a very uneven level of growth in renewable energy capacity from state to state. This has been particularly true for inland states in the west and south. The populous coal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the central german state of Hesse (HS), as well as the two southern industrial powerhouses Baden-Württenberg (BW) and Bavaria (BY) actively blocked renewables throughout the last decade.
States on a New Course
I bet this sounds very familiar, but there is hope. Over the course of the last 1-3 years, there have been significant political changes in both NRW and BW. In both states, recent elections brought coalition governments of the center-left Social Democratic Party and the Green Party to power, the parties that created the “Renewable Energy Sources Act” 12 years ago. After a historic vote last year, the conservative stronghold of Baden-Württenberg is now actually governed by a prime minister from the Green Party!
While Hesse and Bavaria remain under strong conservative control, both face the question of how to replace 50% of their electricity generation within the next 10 years due to the nuclear phaseout. Since the economic benefits of “local value creation” are indisputable in terms of jobs, prosperity, and tax revenue, those state governments also have made a radical transition of their own:
“From an active hindrance to active supporters of renewables in their states.”
In my next post in this “Road to 2020″ series, I will look at the actual renewable energy goals of the states and how this interacts with the “35% by 2020″ goal of the federal government. While I don’t want to spoil too much, the range of policy goals ranges from 20%, 38%, and 50% by 2020 to actually ambitious goals of becoming renewable energy exporters with 200-300% of electricity generation coming from renewables by 2020, or a 100% renewable energy supply by 2030.
Posted: 09 Apr 2012 01:54 AM PDT
As you can see, the greatest percentage goes to national defense, accounting for practically 1/4 of our taxes. A large portion of that ‘defense budget’, from what I’ve gleaned, is actually for wars and a military presence related to our country’s addiction to oil. Meanwhile, probably the top threats to human civilization (including U.S. civilization) today and in the foreseeable future — global warming, water insecurity, and food insecurity — are all but ignored. ‘Natural Resources, Energy, and Environment’ (which would also include dirty energy, of course) get more than a dozen times less funding, less of our tax money, than ‘National Defense’.
Disheartening? Yes, I think so.
We are facing a societal existential threat, and instead of addressing that with full force — wiping out the problem before it wipes us out — we are unwilling to bump up that 2% just a tiny little percent. Meanwhile, we get into trade wars with China for its clean energy subsidies.
Instead of saying, ‘hey, we should probably do something significant to make sure our climate stays within human livability, we have one side of the political spectrum making one solar company failure into a supposed scandal (ignoring the thousands of successful solar power companies that are providing the U.S. with over 100,000 jobs). We have those same folks turning an innovative car, winner of the 2012 European Car of the Year Award, into a political punching bag over what is essentially not even worthy evening news.
These analogies have been used many times, but I think they are worth repeating:
If a giant asteroid were flying towards Earth, we would do everything in our power to stop, avert, or destroy it.
If a powerful foreign army were threatening to attack us, destroy our cities (as natural disasters will), disrupt our water supply (as we’re already seeing happen in large portions of the U.S.), disrupt our food supply, and so on, we would pump some serious money into defending ourselves (and probably more).
Why are we so slow to address the similar threat of global warming and its resulting water, food, economic, and national security ramifications?
To wrap up, I’ll just drop this classic cartoon here:
Posted: 08 Apr 2012 01:40 PM PDT
Halotechnics, an early-stage solar-thermal startup and ARPA-E recipient, has developed two radical new materials for storing solar heat energy, using new kinds of salts and even a new kind of glass.
These allow much higher temperatures than have been used to date to store the heat in solar thermal power plants so they can produce power at night. This will greatly improve the efficiency and lower the costs for solar thermal power.
This is a first. While practically every other day we hear about efficiency innovations that will lower the costs of PV solar, this is a major innovation for solar thermal.
Unlike solar PV which makes electricity directly, solar thermal makes heat that runs turbines driven by steam. So, unlike solar PV, it has the potential for night time solar generation, because thermal is steam-turbine-driven energy, so it can store the days heat in molten salt solutions for tapping later as needed. This evening peak hours flexibility is its advantage over (now) cheaper PV.
Improving energy storage would reduce the cost per kilowatt-hour of the electricity produced by a solar-thermal plant, because the turbines and generators can produce power for more hours, more cheaply, if the temperatures can be kept high enough. Being able to store energy at higher temperatures is the key to cutting the costs of solar thermal, and that is what Halotechnics has pioneered.
“To hit that six-cent goal, or get close to it, you have to go to a higher-temperature system,” says Mark Mehos, manager of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Concentrated Solar Power program, in Golden, Colorado. ”The systems that are commercial today are limited to about 565 °C—that’s the molten salt tower plants,” says Mehos. “The tower and optics themselves can hit higher temperatures, but you’re limited by the salt temperature right now.”
Halotechnics was a spin-out from a chemical screening company Symyx (now a part of Accelrys). And that is key to its success, because to find the perfect material to allow the heat to be raised in solar energy storage, Halotechnics was able to comb through nearly 18,000 mixtures using this type of high-throughput chemical screening process. It was an ARPA-E grant recipient ($3.3 million) last year as a result.
“Without an amazing ability to screen samples, it’s an intractable problem. That’s what we’re trying to do with our high-throughput technique,” says Justin Raade, CEO of Halotechnics.
The materials they have devised, which include new mixtures of salts as well as new forms of molten glass materials, could be key to making solar-thermal power plants cheap and reliable enough to compete with fossil fuels on a large scale.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative has the goal of reducing solar costs to six cents per kilowatt-hour. Last year it gave the start-up a $1 million NREL subcontract with the goal of developing thermal energy storage that could operate at 700°C.
Halotechnics not only met but surpassed that 700°C goal: one of their new molten glass materials can work at temperatures up to 1,200 °C, says NREL’s Mehos.
According to MIT:
Operating at such high temperatures, however, will bring engineering challenges, including finding relatively inexpensive materials to contain the extremely hot molten glass. Commercialization of this technology could be many years away.
Or perhaps its time to go searching through anouther 18,000 combos to devise that perfect material to build the container!
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