Wednesday, April 11, 2012

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California to Raise Billions/Year from Cap-and-Trade

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 11:46 AM PDT

 

California’s starting a state cap-and-trade system to help address global warming later this year. A new report from the state's Legislative Analyst's Office finds that the program could be raising up to $14 billion.

The money will be raised from CO2 pollution credits. Auctioning begins this fall and it’s expected that $1 billion to $3 billion will be raised in 2012 and 2013 as the program gets rolling.

Currently, the California state budget deficit is at $9 billion. However, even if the surplus from the cap-and-trade program is greater than the deficit, that doesn’t ensure that it will cut the deficit to zero, since the money raised from the program must be used for projects that are themselves related to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Still, Governor Jerry Brown’s budget for the coming fiscal year includes $1 billion in revenue from the program, and a considerable amount of money from the program could go towards California’s ambitious high-speed rail plans.

California, under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, has committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 (below 1990 levels).

Cap-and-trade, originally dreamt up by business interests and used legislatively by the George H.W. Bush administration starting in 1990 to stop acid rain, has been used by Europe and the Northeastern U.S. for years to cut global warming pollution. Programs have also now been implemented or approved in Australia, China, New Zealand, and other places.

The Northeastern U.S. cap-and-trade program under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has been hugely successful, as we’ve written many times here on CleanTechnica. In fact, the biggest problem related to the program has actually been the use of RGGI funds for general state purposes (such as reducing state deficits) rather for the clean energy and energy efficiency programs the money is supposed to go to. Hopefully, that doesn’t become an issue in California. Overall, though, RGGI has shown us that cap-and-trade cuts CO2 emissions, saves citizens money through improved energy efficiency, and creates jobs. California has a lot to look forward to!

Source: Yale Environment 360
Image: California flag via shutterstock

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Commercial PACE Program Comes to Florida (1st of Its Kind)

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 07:20 AM PDT

 
pace program florida

The solar-energy-gifted Sunshine State where I grew up has a ways to go to catch up to solar power leaders like California and New Jersey(!). The good news, however, is that one small town in Florida, Lantana, has just implemented the state’s first commercial PACE program, and hopefully this will open the door for many others to do so soon.

What is PACE?

PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing is one of the best ways to increase solar power adoption to date. Basically, instead of having to put money down or take out a loan for a big energy efficiency project or solar power system, you get the money for the project and pay off the loan by paying a higher rate on your property taxes in the following years. In the end, the majority of people should end up making good money down the road due to the increased electricity savings, and they don’t really have to invest anything but a little time and effort to see those savings.

What if you decide to sell your home? Well, everything is tied to the property, and that’s part of the beauty of the program — any new owners would just inherit the deal and benefit from the long-term energy savings (essentially boosting the resale value of the home).

commercial pace program florida

1st Commercial PACE Program Is in Lantana

“The Florida Green Energy Works Program is the only program to successfully develop and adopt this type of robust, open market alternative for commercial property-owners to invest in and benefit from clean energy,” a news release states.

“Working through existing assessment repayment processes of local governments like the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser and Tax Collector makes repayment easy. The low risk associated with these investments results in low interest rates for every project. Better still, local governments interested in joining this Program have the opportunity to do so.”

The new Florida Green Energy Works program that offers this commercial PACE financing is also open to other cities and counties in Florida, so I hope we’ll see more announcements about municipalities adopting it soon.

“We’ve made a big commitment to our community—residents, business and real estate owners—that we’re going to invest in ourselves, our future and new jobs,” said Lantana Mayor David J. Stewart, Chairman of the Lantana Energy Improvement District. “This program is an essential step to fulfill that commitment.”

Florida Green Energy Works is a program of the statewide Florida Green Finance Authority. For more information, you can contact Mike Wallander at (561) 371-9022.

Florida Green Energy Works is also offering free workshops about the program for businesses and property owners. For more, visit the link above or call (855) 359-6757.

Images via Florida Green Energy Works

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Congress Killed Treasury Grant Program that Supported up to 75,000 Jobs

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 05:27 AM PDT

 
A federal grant program created to boost renewable energy development during the height of the economic crisis supported 75,000 jobs and more than $25 billion in economic activity, according to a new analysis from the Department of Energy.

The grant program was created in February of 2009 as part of the stimulus package. It allowed developers to take a cash grant through the Treasury in lieu of a tax credit, helping thaw out the frozen capital markets and stimulate strong activity in the renewable energy sector.

According to the report, Treasury grants supported 23,000 projects across the U.S. and helped add more than 13,000 megawatts of wind and solar capacity to the grid.

Between January of 2010 and December of 2011, the solar market grew 176% — driven in part by the availability of grants. The wind sector, which took a deep nosedive after the financial crisis, was able to develop more than 12,000 MW of projects with the support of the program.

In spite of this success, Congress failed to extend the program last year.

The incentive was also offered to biomass, landfill gas, hydro and geothermal technologies; however, the majority of grants went toward wind and solar. The Department of Energy report only tracked job creation and development figures for those two sectors.

It is difficult to isolate the exact influence that grants had on each installation. Some projects may have gone forward without the grant, others may have not. But the analysis does show that the gross economic impact was substantial, particularly along the component supply chain:

  • Construction- and installation-related expenditures are estimated to have supported an average of 52,000–75,000 direct and indirect jobs per year over the program's operational period (2009–2011). This represents a total of 150,000–220,000 job-years. These expenditures are also estimated to have supported $9 billion–$14 billion in total earnings and $26 billion–$44 billion in economic output over this period. This represents an average of $3.2 billion–$4.9 billion per year in total earnings and $9 billion–$15 billion per year in output.
  • Indirect jobs, or jobs in the manufacturing and associated supply-chain sectors, account for a significantly larger share of the estimated jobs (43,000–66,000 jobs per year) than those directly supporting the design, development, and construction/installation of systems (9,400 per year).
  • The annual operation and maintenance (O&M) of these PV and wind systems are estimated to support between 5,100 and 5,500 direct and indirect jobs per year on an ongoing basis over the 20- to 30-year estimated life of the systems. Similar to the construction phase, the number of jobs directly supporting the O&M of the systems is significantly less than the number of jobs supporting manufacturing and associated supply chains (910 and 4,200–4,600 jobs per year, respectively).

The findings of this Department of Energy report are line with previous analyses. One report from EuPD Research concluded that an extension of the Treasury grant program through 2015 would create an additional 65,000 jobs in the solar industry alone.

However, Congressional leaders have shown no willingness to extend the successful program. In addition, a key tax credit for the wind industry, the Production Tax Credit, is set to expire at the end of the year. That could destroy another 37,000 jobs in the wind sector, according to industry estimates.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

Image: green good job sign courtesy shutterstock

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Clean Energy is Republican Political Wedge, Pew Poll Finds

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 05:16 AM PDT

 
Energy has turned into a contentious campaign issue in 2012, pitting "drill-baby-drill" against "clean energy now." But multiple polls now make clear that the clean energy issue is a winning one for progressives.

The way the media and cable TV frame the national debate may make it seem like there's an even split between supporters of fossil fuels and supporters of renewable alternatives. However, a new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that clean energy has far more support than fossil fuels support across the political spectrum — except among conservative Republican males.

The poll illustrates how clean energy has become a wedge issue among Republicans moving into the presidential election. This is precisely what has happened on climate (see "Independents, Other Republicans Split With Tea-Party Extremists on Global Warming").

Pew found that 52% of Americans believe "alternative" resources are the most important energy priority for the country. That's still a substantial increase over oil, coal and gas, which received preferential support from 39% of respondents.

This poll shows that clean energy still has very strong bipartisan support. But that support has shifted in the last year, with an increase in Americans saying domestic production of fossil fuels should be a top priority. With previous polls showing support for offshore drilling increasing as gas prices climb, that shift isn't much of a surprise. (It should be noted that multiple analyses, including one from the Associated Press, have shown no correlation between lower gas prices and more drilling.)

The poll showed a shift in favor of domestic fossil fuel production among a variety of voters. But the most striking change was among older, conservative Republican males:

Over the past year, there has been an increase in the percentage of Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans, who view the expansion of exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas as a more important priority for addressing the nation's energy supply than the development of alternative energy sources.

Conservative Republicans now prioritize traditional energy sources over alternative sources by a 65% to 26% margin; a year ago they were divided (47% oil, coal, natural gas vs. 43% alternative energy).

In the current survey, men 50 and older say it is more important to expand exploration from traditional energy sources, by 51% to 37%. A year ago, older men prioritized the development of alternative energy sources by a comparable margin (54% to 35%).

Here's the chart:

While there's clearly a partisan gap between Republicans and Democrats over fossil fuel production, this poll shows that it's really the Tea Party crowd that is the primary factor widening that gap. Support for fossil fuels hasn't grown nearly as much among moderate Republicans and Independents.

These findings back up what we already know: The only voters who may get turned off by clean energy — conservative Republican males — would likely never support a progressive candidate anyway. So talking about clean energy and pushing federal clean energy policies, which still has solid support among the rest of the electorate, can only be a political positive, making it a classic wedge issue.

This article was originally published on Think Progress and has been reposted with permission.

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European Wind Industry to Employ 520,000 by 2020

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:30 AM PDT

 
The European wind power industry is expected to see more than half a million people working for it by 2020, increasing it’s contribution to the EU economy threefold over the same period.

Wild flowers in the Suwałki wind park

This news comes courtesy of a report to be presented on Monday the 16th of April at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) 2012 Annual Event in Copenhagen. The report — Green Growth: The Impact of Wind Energy on Jobs and The Economy — analyses the sector’s contribution to GDP and job creation now and in the future, with forecasts for 2020 and 2030.

The EWEA 2012 Annual Event will be opened in Copenhagen by the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, with 10,000 participants expected to come.

Denmark’s Energy and Climate Minister Martin Lidegaard will chair a debate on the EU Energy Roadmap to 2030, with Presidents and Chief Executive Officers of Acciona Windpower, Dong Energy, GE Renewable Energy, Iberdrola Renewables, RES Group, Siemens, Vattenfall, and Vestas participating.

More than 100 journalists from all over the world have registered so far. The Global Wind Energy Council will publish its latest Global Market Report while Chief Executive Officers of wind energy associations from Europe, the US, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Japan will explain the latest wind power industry developments in their countries.

Source: European Wind Energy Association
Image Source: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

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Fish and Wind Farms Living in Harmony (Marine Life Thriving!)

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:20 AM PDT

 
Fish are living happy and content lives — in fact they are thriving — in and around one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms in Denmark, according to a new report from the National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Denmark.

The Horns Rev 1 wind park off the coast of Anholt in Denmark is nearly ten years old, located in shallow water no deeper than 20 meters, and was visited by researchers from DTU Aqua (National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Denmark) even before the park was built so that they could conduct a survey of the fish life in the area.

Seven years later, biologists have compared the data from then to now in an effort to determine the effect the park has had on the marine life.

“Our study showed that the turbines have not adversely affected fish life in the area," says biologist Claus Stenberg from DTU Aqua.

Thriving, and introducing new species

The more than 80 turbines installed at Horns Rev 1 are sunk deep into the seabed and surrounded by a massive collection of stones, which prevents the sea currents eroding deep trenches in the sand around the turbines.

But these stones aren’t just providing protection for the turbines, but the fish as well.

The study suggests that these stone structures are now acting as artificial reefs. There’s an abundant supply of food and shelter from the current, and the rocks make for an attractive location for those fish who like a rocky bottom.

“Species such as the goldsinny-wrasse, eelpout and lumpfish which like reef environments have established themselves on the new reefs in the area — the closer we came to each turbine foundation, the more species we found,” says Claus Stenberg.

The researchers were also intent on determining how fish species that live on large fine-grained sane banks would be affected by the introduction of the turbines, species that include the sand eel, a very important fish for the Danish fishing industry.

“The study shows that wind farms have not been a threat nor of particular benefit to the sand eel. The sand eel is dependent on the fine sand, in which it buries, to live, and the mills did not affect either the sand grain size on the bottom nor had any impact on the number of sand eels,” the DTU Aqua biologist concludes.

Horns Rev 1 is not necessarily typical of other wind farms, but in a good way

Researchers do not believe that the conditions they found at Horns Rev 1 will necessarily be replicated at the other 11 wind farms located throughout Danish waters; they believe that those other farms will fair much better.

“Horns Rev is situated in an extremely tough environment with strong wave action, which means for example that seaweed forests, together with the small fish that live in them, cannot establish themselves. We would therefore expect the positive reef effects to be even greater still in a park located for example in the more sheltered Kattegat,” says the DTU Aqua scientist.

Another interesting turnabout is that Horns Rev 1 has now become a sort of mini protected area since the area has been closed off to all fishing activities. It’s too small to have any significantly positive effects on local fish stocks, but in the future, interconnected farms may change that.

“Our studies suggest that the Horns Rev 1 is too small to function as a true marine protected area (MPA), because over their lifecycles the fish utilize a much greater area than just the wind farm. But presumably several parks located close to one another could have a combined positive effect on spawning and the survival of fish fry, as wind farms which are located downstream of each other can act as a kind of dispersion corridor for eggs and larvae,” says Claus Stenberg.

Source: DTU Aqua, National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Denmark

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Connecticut Installs Energy Monitoring System

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 04:11 AM PDT

 
A new monitoring system will allow facilities managers at up to 100 state buildings to achieve cost savings by identifying and addressing inefficiencies in energy use associated with building operations. Installation of the EfficiencySmart Insight service from EnerNOC, will give state facilities managers and EnerNOC technical advisors access to real-time energy data, "allowing for specific and timely actions to reduce energy consumption.”

The new system will detect, for example, if lights are left on overnight, if building temperatures are too high or low, or if HVAC units are kept running over the weekend in unoccupied facilities. In this way, the system will inform decisions on equipment upgrades or changes in occupant behavior that will reduce energy use and reduce operating costs for the state. The monitoring system is being installed as part of a new state program, called Lead by Example, a partnership between the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). Lead by Example demonstrates the economic benefits of energy efficiency by achieving energy savings in state buildings.

"The state of Connecticut spends more than $100 million a year to provide heating, cooling, and electricity for its buildings," said DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty. "Lead by Example will help us bring that bill down providing real savings for taxpayers, reducing the environmental footprint of state government, and proving to municipalities, businesses and property owners that energy efficiency is a sound investment."

"Knowing more about the state's energy consumption provides a very real opportunity to better manage our facilities, achieve efficiencies, and save money," said DAS Commissioner Donald DeFronzo. "In this time of tight budgets, we need to do more with less and this new system will help us do just that."

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Pennsylvania Considers Raising Renewable Energy Target after Solar Demand Surge

Posted: 11 Apr 2012 03:51 AM PDT

Graph courtesy PSEIA

Residential and small business demand for solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar hot water systems grew so fast in Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2010 that the state’s $100 million PA Sunshine Solar Program ran out of rebate money.

With the program in “Waiting List” mode since August 2011, state legislators are now considering a bill that would speed up the rate at which utilities are required to add solar power capacity to their distribution systems in an effort to avoid a “boom, bust, boom cycle,” the York Daily Record’s Stephanie Reighart reported.

Pennsylvania’s 2004 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act set a solar power goal of 41 MW for 2012. With 2012 now here, Pennsylvania finds itself with 150 MW of installed solar power capacity, according to solar installer I Need Solar president Mike Barnes, the majority of which comes from net-metered residential solar PV systems.

Modulating Solar Market Conditions: HB 1580

Pennsylvanians are still installing solar PV and solar hot water systems, but at a rate far lower than what’s been the case when the rebate program was active. Moreover, the value of Alternative Energy Credits (AECs), aka Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) issued under the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) is dropping. That, along with the suspension of the PA Sunshine Solar rebate program, has those who have installed solar energy systems looking at longer payback periods, in some cases from 10 or so years out as far as 15, according to the York Dispatch.

The PA Sunshine Program continues to accept rebate applications while in waiting list mode, but the state’s solar energy businesses, having ramped up to meet the surge in demand, are now hurting. “The increased supply flooded the market and now, as a state, Pennsylvania is way overbuilt,” Barnes told Reighart.

In an effort to boost demand for solar power, the Pennsylvanians legislature's House Consumer Affairs Committee is considering House Bill (HB) 1580, a bill proposed by House Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester) that would increase the rate at which the state’s electric utilities add solar power capacity to their distribution systems, according to the York Dispatch report.

Enacted in 2004, the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requires all Pennsylvania electric utilities to purchase 0.5% of their annual electricity supply from solar energy by 2020. HB 1580 would speed up the process by increasing the interim solar power targets utilities are required to meet.

Energy Policy as Political Fodder

Pa. Governor Tom Corbett and House Committee chair Rep. Bob Godshaw (R-Montgomery) both oppose HB 1580, concerned about increasing consumers’ electricity bills. The proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s AEPS included in HB 1580 would add only 4 cents to residential ratepayers’ monthly electric bills, according to Ron Celentano, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association (MSEIA).

The Pennsylvania chapter of MSEIA puts the number of solar PV installations in the state at 5,500, with a total capacity of more than 130 MW. There were around 300 in 2009, the year the PA Sunshine Solar program was established.

The state’s solar power capacity today is already more than 3x that of what’s required by the AEPS in 2020. The price of AEPS solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) has plummeted 90%, which has “drastically slowed down new project installations, and has caused hundreds of Pennsylvanian jobs to be lost in just the last few months,” according to PSEIA.

Moreover, HB 1580 includes a cost cap that would limit rate increases, a mechanism that isn’t part of the AEPS Act today. It would also extend SRECs to qualified solar hot water systems, further reducing the cost to ratepayers, PSEIA explains.

The trade-off to enact HB 1580 appears to be well worthwhile. For an additional 4 cents/month, Pennsylvanians would keep both the drive to replace polluting fossil fuel with clean, renewable energy and the emergent solar/renewable energy job creation engine going.

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Zero Carbon Cement Production with Solar Thermal

Posted: 10 Apr 2012 06:37 PM PDT

zero-emissions-cement

In a study published in a recent issue of , a team of researchers from Virginia’s George Washington University explain a revolutionary way to make lime cement that releases zero CO2 emissions – and costs less too.

After coal-powered electricity, cement manufacture is the next biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, because cement is ubiquitous in modern life.

It is needed for virtually all skyscrapers, bridges and freeway overpasses and many other buildings and structures including nuclear power plants. The world consumes about 3 trillion kg of cement annually.

Pound for pound, kilogram for kilogram, ton for ton, every 10 units of cement will release 9 units of CO2. So it is a huge problem for the increasingly unstable climate we are creating for ourselves.

Of the two ways that making cement releases carbon dioxide, separating the lime from the limestone (decarbonation, or removing the carbon atom and two oxygen atoms in limestone (CaCO3) to obtain lime (CaO) with CO2)  accounts for 70% of the emissions.

The other 30% is because it takes a lot of heat to heat the kiln reactors, burning fossil fuels.

Solar thermal power would be used. And not just to heat the limestone – but also to help in electrolysis. This would produce a different chemical reaction without a carbon dioxide byproduct.

In electrolysis, a current applied to the limestone changes the chemical reaction so that instead of separating into lime and CO2, the limestone separates into lime and some other combination of carbon and oxygen atoms, depending on the temperature of the reaction.

When electrolyzed below 800°C, the molten limestone forms lime, C, and O2. When electrolyzed above 800°C, the product is lime, CO, and ½O2.

Instead of a CO2 byproduct, their reactions produce useful industrial chemicals. Their carbon monoxide byproduct (in the higher temperature reaction) can be used to make fuels, purify nickel, and form plastics and other hydrocarbons.

This makes it cheaper than current lime production which costs $70 a ton, because the CO can be sold.

The researchers’ rough analysis shows that the total cost of the limestone material, solar heat and electricity is $173 per ton of lime and 0.786 tons of carbon monoxide (0.786 tons of carbon monoxide are produced for every ton of lime).

The market value of carbon monoxide is $600 per ton, or $471 per 0.786 tons. So after selling the carbon monoxide, the cost of the lime production is actually a negative number. $173 – $471 = minus $298 per ton.

No carbon emissions. Cheap. And even better, it has wide applications.

Nearly all of the other heaviest emitters could similarly be stripped of their greenhouse gas problem with this technology, the scientists say.

(Among other industries, these industrial processes include purifying iron and aluminum, making glass, paper, sugar, and agriculture, cleaning smoke stacks, softening water, and removing phosphates from sewage.)

The next step would be is simply scaling up the fairly straightforward process for commercialization. “Although the process itself is entirely new” coauthor Stuart Licht, a chemistry professor at George Washington University, told Phys.org.”the individual components (solar towers, 24/7 operation storing solar energy with molten salts) are already in place. Solar energy can be used to efficiently make products without carbon dioxide, and at solar energy efficiencies higher than in photovoltaics."

The timing is perfect: a burgeoning Asia is about to build the new mega cities of the 21st century. And super hot solar thermal heat is ready: Halotechnics Molten Glass Thermal Storage Could Mean 6 Cent Solar.

In the electrolysis process alone, even without solar power, but using fossil heat source, “worst case scenario” says Licht,  ”the products are lime, graphite and oxygen; there is still no CO2 product, but CO2 would be used in the energy to drive the process."

Stuart Licht, et al. "STEP Cement: Solar Thermal Electrochemical Production of CaO without CO2 emission." Chem. Commun., DOI: 10.1039/C2CC31341C

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