Monday, April 16, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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France, Economy, Environment Come Out Ahead in Historic First Offshore Wind Tender

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 07:49 AM PDT

Photo: Corbis

A consortium comprised of France’s EDF and Alstom and Denmark’s Dong Energy were the big winners in a historic first French offshore wind farm tender. Spain’s Iberdrola and France’s Eole-Res also came out ahead in the 3-gigawatt (GW) offshore wind farm tender, winning a contract to build a 500-MW wind farm off the Bretagne (Brittany) coast, French Minister of Industry, Energy and Digital Economy Eric Besson announced April 6.

France plans on installing 6,000-MW worth of offshore wind power by 2020. An initial five contracts totaling 3,000 MW and as many as 6,000 offshore wind turbines spanning five coastal areas were awarded in this first tender.

State-owned Electricite de France (EDF), Alstom and Dong were awarded exclusive contracts to build and operate offshore wind farms with a total rated capacity of 1,428 MW off the Bretagne (Brittany) and Normandy coasts. Joining Iberdrola and Eole-Res in building and operating their 500-MW offshore wind farm is Areva, which will manufacture and maintain the wind turbines used in constructing and operating an offshore wind farm off the coast of Saint-Brieuc.

France, Wind Energy Industry Come Out Ahead in Historic First Offshore Wind Tender

“This decision highlights the experience of our company and of EOLE-RES in developing offshore wind farms, and it firmly establishes the offshore industry in France,” Iberdrola Chairman Ignacio Galan stated. “Equally important is the creation of 2,000 direct jobs during the development and construction of the project and 140 permanent jobs for the park’s 30 years of operation, which will certainly provide a major boost to the economy of Bretagne and the northwest of France”.

Iberdrola’s forging a leading position in Europe’s hotly contested offshore wind farm market, a core facet of EU nations’ plans to shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy resources. The Spanish renewable energy multinational has an offshore wind power pipeline totaling 11,000 MW.

Iberdrola and Eole-Res’s Alas Marinas joint venture company will build and operate the Saint-Brieuc offshore wind farm, which is to include installing 100, 5-MW wind turbines some 20-kilometers (~12 miles) offshore in Saint-Brieuc Bay. The project partners anticipate creating 2,000 jobs in the process.

Alas Marinas JV partners will further analyze technical and environmental conditions at the site over an initial, 18-month period. They’ll also need to establish cooperation agreements with users of the coastal waters in the area.

Joining Iberdrola and Eole-Res in the Alas Marina joint venture are Areva, Technip, STX, Eiffage and Neoen Marine. Having built its energy business around nuclear power, Areva is looking to offshore wind farm development as a growth vehicle and means of diversification. Areva will manufacture the Saint-Brieuc offshore wind farm’s turbines at its factory in Le Havre. It will also be responsible for maintenance.

Technip is to install the Saint-Brieuc offshore wind project’s underwater cables, while Eiffage is responsible for laying the wind turbine foundations and constructing their platforms. Neoen Marine will carry out the environmental studies.

The “Recession-Busting” EU Wind Energy Industry

Spurring development of offshore wind is taking on even greater significance in Europe, as the 17-nation euro zone faces record-high unemployment, its second recession in three years and persistent government deficit and debt problems.

Employment in the EU’s wind energy industry will reach 520,000 by 2020 and 795,000 by 2030 if EU governments continue to keep key renewable energy policies and incentives in place, according to the European Wind Energy Association’s “Green Growth” report.

The EU wind energy industry grew at double the rate of EU GDP in 2010, demonstrating that it is a “recession-busting industry,” EWEA president Arthouros Zervos was quoted as saying at the opening session of EWEA 2012, the industry association’s annual conference, which officially opened in Copenhagen today.

Related posts:

  1. DOE Announces $43 Million Program to Jumpstart Offshore Wind
  2. Wind Energy for the Economy, Farmers, the Environment, and More
  3. Obama Administration Approves Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Farm


Solar Advocates Like Preliminary CPUC Decision to Boost Clean Energy in California

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 07:30 AM PDT

 
solar rooftop california net metering

Below is a news release I received by email on an important California solar energy topic (and an important solar energy topic, in general). The news regards a important clarification of a net metering policy that would increase local solar energy savings and jobs considerably. For more details, read on (bold formatting added by me)….

California solar energy advocates [Thursday] praised a proposed decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that, if approved, will likely boost renewable energy use by homeowners, businesses, and commercial uses and lower energy costs for both solar and non-solar energy ratepayers.

The proposal, put forward by PUC Chairman Michael Peevey, clarifies the methodology to fairly calculate the cap on Net Energy Metering (NEM or "net metering"), a billing arrangement that allows utility customers to offset energy use with their own renewable energy systems (such as electricity-generating solar panels). Net metering works like "rollover minutes," with customers receiving credits on their bills for the excess power they generate that is put back on the grid.

“When we crafted California’s original net metering law, the goal was maximize the amount of clean distributed energy on the grid," said former Assemblyman Fred Keeley, author of California's net metering law. "By proposing this methodology, the CPUC is complying with the original legislative intent and helping California lead the way toward a clean energy economy."

There is a cap on the amount of net metering that must be made available to customers. California's law sets the cap at "5 percent of aggregate customer peak demand," but does not specify how utilities should calculate that number. Consequently, utilities are using a more restrictive methodology that results in almost 50 percent less net metered solar and renewable energy than would otherwise be allowed. Chairman Peevey's proposed decision clarifies that utilities should use the cap calculation methodology that results in more Californians having access to the energy bill saving benefits of net metering.

“The PUC’s proposed decision is a positive step in maintaining the growth of solar in California by clarifying the amount of net metering allowed under current law,” said Joseph Wiedman, a partner at Keyes, Fox & Wiedman LLP who represents the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). “If adopted, this decision will ultimately allow more ratepayers to benefit from net metering — creating even more job growth in one of our state’s thriving industries while lowering costs for solar users and all energy customers.”

"Unlike the current cap calculation methodology, which overestimates the amount of solar on the grid, the CPUC proposal is in line with the original intent of California's net meeting law," said Carrie Hitt, Vice President of State Affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). "Adopting this proposal will help to maintain California's place at the top of one of the fastest growing industries in America."

"This is about choice," said Vote Solar Initiative Executive Director Adam Browning. "Do we want to allow Californians to generate their own electricity using clean, renewable power or stay beholden to the utilities? Do we want to allow people to put panels on their own roof and get fair credit for that power?  Schools across the state are already saving $1.5 billion on their electricity bills thanks to net metering. Do we want more of that, or less?  This proposed decision comes down on the side of more."

“This decision is good for our health, good for our wallets, and great news for the California workers who rely on solar installation jobs to feed their families," said Jim Metropulos, Senior Advocate with Sierra Club California. "Now, more California families who want to use the free solar power that falls on their roofs to lower their energy bills can do so, and benefit from the savings."

SEIA, the Vote Solar Initiative, Sierra Club and IREC submitted joint comments in the PUC's cap calculation proceeding.  The proposed decision will be considered by the entire commission at an upcoming hearing, to be held no sooner than 30 days from the issuance of the proposed decision.

Solar is by far the largest and one of the fastest growing segments of California's new green workforce — employing more than 35,000 Californians today, according to a report by the Solar Foundation.

Established in 1995, California's net metering policy has helped make the state the nation's solar leader. Net metering ensures that solar customers receive fair credit for any excess electricity they put back on the grid for the utility to sell to other customers. The policy makes solar more affordable to Californians in low and middle class zip codes, where solar adoption has been largest in recent years.

In place in 43 states nationwide, net metering one of the most important policy tools for empowering homes, businesses, schools and public agencies invest in solar.

Image: rooftop solar installation via shutterstock

Related posts:

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University of Minnesota Energy Storage Invention Licensed to SustainX

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 07:00 AM PDT

 
Here’s the bulk of a recent University of Minnesota story I was notified of via email at the end of last week — looks like an important new energy storage technology:

Perry Li, inventor and mechanical engineering professor in the College of Science and Engineering.

A University of Minnesota invention could help make storage of solar and wind energy more efficient and economical. The invention was licensed to SustainX, a leading global developer of grid-scale energy storage solutions that use patented isothermal compressed air methods to store large amounts of energy cleanly and economically….

SustainX is developing isothermal (or near-constant temperature) compressed air energy storage (CAES) systems that provide bulk energy storage capacity while reducing carbon emissions and increasing the reliability of the electric grid. The conventional method of compressed air energy storage depends on the use of underground caverns, which greatly limits their available locations and practical use. The SustainX solution uses pipe-type air storage, which makes it possible to store energy virtually anywhere.

"This licensing agreement with the University of Minnesota expands SustainX's growing IP portfolio and provides our company with another possible method of implementing our unique isothermal CAES technology," said Dax Kepshire, SustainX vice president and general manager.

The SustainX energy storage solution could also reduce the need for gas-powered peaker plants that operate during hours of peak energy usage.

The technology was licensed to SustainX by the university's Office for Technology Commercialization. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Looks like SustainX is a company we should keep our eyes on.

Related posts:

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  3. Storing Renewable Energy in Boxes of Air


#1 Cleantech or Clean Energy Site — CleanTechnica

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 06:40 AM PDT

 
Compete.com has just released its monthly stats (for websites of all sorts). For the third month in a row, CleanTechnica is the #1 site focused on the topic of cleantech or clean energy (based on the common/default “monthly visitors” metric). There are, of course, some larger sites that cover a broader range of topics (e.g. politics, animal and environmental news, the economy, science news, everything imaginable, and so on) that have more monthly visitors, but for sites completely focused on our cleantech niche, we seem to be holding steady at #1.

Yet again, this offers an opportunity to say “Thank You!” (And to encourage you to keep hitting those sharing buttons!) But it also presents an opportunity to reflect on what CleanTechnica is all about and how it has gotten so popular.

Personally, my vision of how CleanTechnica tries to serve this world is thus:

  • we try to inspire people to make positive changes in their lives (related to everyday activities and consumer technology);
  • we try to inform by providing correct information on important energy and technology topics, especially addressing common myths and misunderstandings;
  • we try to usefully discuss the challenges facing clean energy and other cleantech — technical as well as socio-political challenges — and potential solutions to them.

People want solutions, and I think that’s what we’re all about. We touch on the problems to the extent that I think is necessary, but we don’t live dwelling on the problems. Rather, we live focused on finding and implementing the most helpful solutions.

I think that most people would rather see solutions than problems (though, there are many who are certainly addicted to looking at the problems), and I think that’s one key reason why CleanTechnica has grown as it has.

But maybe I’m off my rocker in my own little CleanTechnica bubble. :D Let us know if the above rings true to you, or if CleanTechnica is about something else to you. I’ll also soon be completing our 2nd annual reader survey and pushing it on you, so that I can learn a lot more about what you all are interested in. But in the meantime, feel free to comment on this post or any other to let us know what you like or what you want to see more of. I think I read every single comment on our site, and your feedback has without a doubt been key to my growth in this field and the site’s as well.

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Government Support of British Wind Power Leads to 1,000 New Jobs

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 05:23 AM PDT

 
The British Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has allotted funds for the production of foundations designed for wind turbine generators in waters over 30 metres in depth, a development that will lead to the creation of up to 1,000 long-term jobs in the North East.

OGN Groups subsidiary company OGN North Sea will receive £640,250 from DECC's Offshore Wind Component Technologies Development and Demonstration Scheme to build a prototype steel-jacketed foundation which has been designed and developed by its sister company, Aquind, at OGN's Hadrian Yard site in Wallsend, Tyne, and Wear.

"We are delighted to have been selected for this grant by DECC. Government support is especially vital in the early stages of project development,” said OGN CEO David Edwards. “The offshore wind energy market is crucial to Britain's future energy needs and we will do our utmost to ensure that this grant takes the UK into an even stronger role as the lead player in this sector. This grant is important for the development of Aquind, and is fantastic news for Tyneside and the North East."

The construction of the prototype foundation will begin later this year. Aquind's Triton foundation structures are specifically targeted towards supporting wind turbine generators in waters over 30 metres, which — for the UK — represents 70% of offshore wind installations in the third round of developments.

Renewable UK has predicted that offshore wind is likely to account for 17% of UK electricity production by 2020, as the government moves forward on its commitments to halve carbon emissions.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: "The coalition is determined to drive ambitious green growth and this is putting our money where our mouth is. This cash shows we are delivering on our commitment to support innovation and offshore wind. Making wind turbines more efficient is common sense and will help bring down the costs making them more attractive to build and helping us increase the amount of electricity we get from clean, green sources. It's great to see OGN North Sea Ltd stepping up to the challenge to ensure offshore wind energy is produced in the most cost effective way."

Charles Hendry, Minister of State for Energy, in a speech given to investors last year, asserted his support for the offshore wind industry stating that, "getting new capital into projects like offshore wind farms is the difference between getting them off the drawing board and into the water, creating jobs and stimulating growth." While Prime Minister David Cameron said at the same conference, "the UK will remain the world's most attractive offshore wind market for many years to come. We have abundant natural advantages and a world-leading marine engineering base."

Source: OGN Group
Image Source: Vattenfall @ Flickr

Related posts:

  1. British Wind Sector Passes 6 Gigawatts Mark
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  3. U.S. Wind Power Increasingly American-made (Creating U.S. Manufacturing Jobs)


QANTAS Looking to Sustainable Aviation Fuel With First Flight

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 05:15 AM PDT

 
At the time of writing this article, QANTAS flight 1120 is en route from Adelaide to Sydney on a return journey using a new sustainable aviation fuel derived from recycled cooking oil. Prior to launch earlier this morning, QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce announced that QANTAS would be conducting a feasibility study into the potential for an Australian sustainable aviation fuel industry.

The study, expected to start in May of this year and with technical support from Shell and funding from the Australian Government, will explore the conditions needed for the production of aviation biofuel from sustainable sources within Australia, said Joyce.

"Today is a historic occasion in Australian aviation," Mr Joyce said. "We are delighted to be operating Australia's first sustainable aviation fuel flights and to be launching a study into the feasibility of producing such fuel in this country."

"Alternatives to conventional jet fuel are vital to the aviation industry meeting ambitious targets for carbon-neutral growth and emissions reduction.

"Australia has the skills, resources and infrastructure to take a lead in this emerging sector, which the CSIRO has estimated could generate up to 12,000 jobs over the next 20 years. But there are also significant challenges – which is why we need to establish a clear plan.

"Until sustainable aviation fuel is produced commercially at a price competitive with conventional jet fuel, we will not be able to realise its true benefits. This study aims to tell us how that can be achieved in Australia."

Today’s flights were powered by a 50:50 blend of biofuel and conventional jet fuel, supplied by SkyNRG and certified for use in commercial aviation. The blend’s 'life cycle' carbon footprint is around 60 per cent smaller than that of conventional jet fuel.

Source: QANTAS
Image Source: planegeezer @ Flickr

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Expanding Our Knowledge of a Wind Farm’s Impact on Birds

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 05:06 AM PDT

 
As more and more wind farms are installed across the planet in response to governmental aims to curb carbon emissions, our lack of knowledge concerning the impact wind farms have on the surrounding wildlife — particularly birds — needs to be improved. A new study has attempted to partially remedy this by studying wind farms prior to and during construction, as well as after construction.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology’s Editor’s Choice and monitored a range of upland bird species in the UK at 18 wind farm sites. The study compared breeding bird densities and population trends between years before, during, and after wind farm construction. Additionally, the researchers contrasted their findings with paired reference sites acting as controls.

As a result, their findings found that the effect of wind farms on bird densities varies considerably among species.

To quote from the Editor’s Choice:

Of the 10 species they analyse data for, the densities of snipe Gallinago gallinago (L.), curlew Numenius arquata (L.) and red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus (Lath.), are lower during construction compared to pre-construction. While the densities of the latter appeared to recover during the first years of wind farm operation, the densities of both snipe and curlew remained depressed.

Further support for the specific effect of wind farm construction as opposed to operation comes from two additional findings. First, curlew densities were also significantly lower during construction on wind farm sites, when compared to densities on paired control sites. Second, in spite of adverse effects on densities of some species during wind farm construction, the authors find little evidence for longer-term population declines in the years thereafter.

In other words, according to their findings, the construction of the wind farm was more deleterious to the habitat of some species than the actual operation of the wind farm was.

The researchers stress that this study represents, fundamentally, a high variability between species, and “that regulatory authorities and developers should particularly consider the likely impacts of wind farms on large waders.”

Additionally, “greater weight should be given to the effects of construction on wildlife in impact assessments than at present. Mitigation measures during construction, including restricting construction activity to non-breeding periods, should be considered and tested as a means to reduce these negative effects.”

The researchers also make it clear that this study simply highlights the need for more studies of a similar nature, specifically those that look at a variety of locations combined with control sites.

Source: Journal of Applied Ecology
Image Source: Graeme Maclean

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SolarKindle Now On Sale

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 04:30 AM PDT

solarkindle solar-powered kindle

We gave some giddy mention to the SolarKindle a couple times in January. News is the SolarKindle, which won the CES 2012 Innovation Award and guarantees 3 months of unplugged reading time, is now on sale. SolarFocus, the creator of this solar-powered e-reader cover, has also announced a new Facebook Mother's Day Promo Campaign in which people can wind Amazon gift cards worth $200.

Here’s some more info on the SolarKindle:

  • Solar powered e-reader cover with flexible, lightweight solar panel built into the cover.
  • Dual-charging (USB/solar) reserve battery greatly extends reading time.
  • 3-month guarantee for unplugged Kindle use under normal sunlight environment.
  • LED reading lamp turns on with one touch release.
  • Integrated reserve battery runs the LED lamp for up to 50 hours continuously without using the Kindle's main battery.
  • Integrated reserve battery can also transfer energy to the Kindle's main battery to extend reading time.
  • Integrated solar panel collects and converts solar energy "on the go" — one hour under direct sunlight can provide up to 3 days reading time.

And here’s more information on the Facebook/$200 giveaways:

“Starting from April 1st – May 31st, SolarFocus will be giving away monthly Amazon gift cards worth up to $200. To enter, ‘Like’ the SolarFocus official Facebook fan page at: http://www.facebook.com/solarfocus, then post a photo of yourself reading with SolarKindle on your Kindle, tag ‘Solar Focus’ on your picture and share it on Solar Focus' Facebook wall. The person with the most ‘Likes’ on his/her photo will be chosen each month to receive an Amazon gift card worth $200.”

You can now buy the SolarKindle on the SolarFocus website for $79.

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Green Transition Scoreboard Finds $3.3 Trillion Invested in Green Transition Since 2007

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 04:00 AM PDT

 
The Green Transition Scoreboard, a time-based, global tracking of the private financial system for all sectors investing in green markets, has found that private investments in green markets (or “the green transition”) have totaled $3.3 trillion since 2007.

“As investment funds shift away from more speculative sectors such as hedge funds, private equity and commodity ETFs, as well as other fossilized sectors, and redeploy at least 10% of their portfolios directly in companies driving the global Green Transition, the $10 trillion by 2020
goal is well within reach,” the latest report states.

“With the data in the GTS, security analysts can update their strategic asset allocation (SAA) models to highlight green markets, as now recognized in the report by Mercer which suggests 40% of portfolios should be in green sectors – half to hedge against climate risk and half to capitalize on these opportunities.”

The tracking and the report are divided into 5 sectors:

  • renewable energy
  • green construction and efficiency
  • cleantech
  • smart grid
  • corporate R&D

Notable, some rather large potential sectors — nuclear, biofuels, and “clean coal” — are not tracked/included at all due to “controversy or lack of consensus that they will make a long-term contribution to sustainability.”

“Companies, organizations and the sources of financial data included in the GTS are screened by rigorous social, environment and ethical auditing standards. Data sources include the highly respected Cleantech Group, LLC, many United Nations, European and NGO reports, and traditional reporting sources such as Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance, Reuters and individual company reports.”

One notable finding so far is the amount of leapfrogging to green technology that is occurring in developing countries. This, of course, is something I focused on in my CNBC & Harvard Business Review “Energy Opportunities” interview last year, and I think it’s something that will be a more and more important economic and energy theme in the years to come.

For much more information on the sectors tracked and the data to date, check out the latest Green Transition Scorecard [PDF] or related pages on the Ethical Markets website.

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Nuclear Sunset — The Last Straw of the Nuclear Lobby?

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 12:38 AM PDT

 

Where is the Positive Image of Nuclear Energy Coming From?

Despite the problems and disasters of the past and present, nuclear power is still being praised for being a cheap, abundant, and clean form of energy production by many politicians. Of course, it’s also “safe” and without any kind of “waste management problems” (due to future developments that would make energy out of dangerous nuclear waste), but those slogans are a little harder to sell today, so the focus is usually on “clean” and “cheap”.

While there is overwhelming proof that these pro-nuclear arguments are questionable at best, it’s a strange tradition that the pro-nuclear voices always seem to oversell their favourite product and try to turn this decade-old technology into some kind of silver bullet that fixes the problems of present and future generations alike. It’s even stranger or outright alarming that critical voices are often ignored or portrayed as making unfounded or unscientific claims. As the scale of the disaster in Fukushima became apparent, this schizophrenic nature of the public discussion on nuclear energy took a turn to the absurd.

When the German government announced that it would review it’s nuclear policy and [return to (!) a] phase-out of nuclear power as a result of the worst human and economic nuclear disaster of the past 25 years, the international and domestic media were suddenly flooded with articles about something called “German Angst”. There was little or no information about the background behind this decision. The fact that it was forced upon a pro-nuclear government by a well informed public due to a long-lasting anti-nuclear grassroots movement was simplified into an election gamble. Instead of reporting the issues and risks that were raised by anti-nuclear activists (airplane impacts, terrorist attacks,…), the decision was based on  ”German Angst”, case closed.

Taxpayer-Funded Lobbyism

When looking at the history of the nuclear industry, it becomes very obvious where the pro-nuclear voices come from and who formulated the talking points. Since the early beginnings in the 1950s, the propagated image of nuclear power has never been the result of an open, scientific, ethical, public, and economic discussion. It has always been the product of special-interest-driven public relations campaigns. Starting with the famous “Atoms for Peace” initiative and the nuclear programs of the UK and France  (resulting in nuclear weapons), nuclear energy turned into a manufactured consensus.

Furthermore, a strong web between politics, business, and science was established and resulted in many international and national institutions. The IAEA, EURATOM, or the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) are just some of these taxpayer-funded institutions that were designed to push the nuclear future of our energy supply. They love to be portrayed as neutral and objective institutions that assist policymakers with their knowledge, but they are biased by design.

“To assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. To provide authoritative assessments and to forge common understandings on key issues as input to government decisions on nuclear energy policy and to broader OECD policy analyses in areas such as energy and sustainable development.”
Mission Statement of the  Nuclear Energy Agency 

In fact, organisations like the NEA are very frank about their lobbying activities. They provide governments and opinion leaders with pro-nuclear arguments and studies. They promote their publications throughout their member countries and at importantant policy events. (See: The Strategic Plan of the NEA 2011-2016)

The Nuclear Renaissance that Was Not

Most nuclear reactors that are in operation were built in the 1970s or 1980s. That means that the bulk of these highly subsidized power plants are nearing the end of their life and need to be decommissioned. If the nuclear lobby doesn’t manage to turn this situtation into a necessity to build new reactors, the nuclear age in the field of electricity production will come to an inevitable end.

The arguments of the nuclear lobby to achieve the necessary public support for this goal are easily summed up: Nuclear is Clean, Cheap AND there is no alternative!

It’s easy to show that all three arguments are wrong and it has been done countless times. But nonetheless, the web of politics, business, and science that is being spun by institutional lobbyism has had some success at framing their nuclear product as “clean” in recent years (in terms of CO² emissions).

Today, these arguments are in fact falling apart in front of our very eyes and the renaissance might end before it started. Fukushima has put a huge question mark on the argument that nuclear is “clean” — hundreds of thouseds of tons of contaminated soil and the constant threat of contamination of the food supply are difficult to put aside.

Plans to build new nuclear reactors face increasing difficulties due to the high and rising intital investment costs. According to studies and recent estimates, the costs for decommissioning the aging fleet of reactors are also skyrocketing. This puts an even bigger question mark on the argument of nuclear energy being cheap energy.

And last, but not least, the big energy lie  is being unmasked by the large-scale introduction of renewable energy sources around the globe. The technologies required to harvest the abundant natural energy potentials from renewable resources are proving to be more than enough to supply even our growing energy needs of today, despite being at the beginning of their technological development.

Myth-Based Opinions & A Call for Subsidies

Despite all this, the nuclear lobby is still propagating its gospel of the atom — its “nuclear is cheap and there are no alternative” arguments. As the widespread talking points about “German Angst” have shown, the public discussion is still very much dominated by myths instead of honest discussion.

At this critical moment of a fading nuclear power industry, pro-nuclear governments of France, the UK, Poland, and the Czech Republic seem to have embarked upon a mission to save the future of nuclear energy. According to a leaked letter to the European Commission, they have voiced their wish that nuclear energy should be on par with young renewable energy technologies, thus making their struggling nuclear projects eligible to receive EU subsidies. This comes at a time when the EU is about to start the debate about 2030 goals for CO2 reductions and the future introduction of renewable energy sources.

While this push by pro-nuclear EU governments will hopefully end up dead on arrival, their mission has already accomplished an important task:

With their call for financial support, they did prove once again that nuclear power is not and never has been a cheap and economical way of producing electricity. Even after 60 years of development, research, and subsidies, nuclear requires large subsidies to survive.

Image: Nuclear power station over sunset courtesy shutterstock

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Mexico Emulates Neighbor California With 35% Clean Climate law

Posted: 15 Apr 2012 04:13 PM PDT

 

image via Hannah Gleghorn/Shutterstock

Joining world leaders in climate laws, Mexico just passed new legislation that catapults the poor neighbor to the south of the U.S. to a leadership role on a par with its northern neighbor, California.

Mexico’s General Law on Climate Change was just passed by an 128-10 overwhelming vote in its 500 member Chamber of Deputies, and moves to the Senate. Since that body passed a preliminary version already, its chances of becoming law look excellent.

Just as investment in clean energy soared in California following passage of its clean climate laws starting in 2006 with the first Renewable Energy Standard and following up with AB32, its climate law.

California’s 33% clean energy by 2020 target received enough offers from solar and wind developers to make 100% of its energy from these two sources, for example. Mexico boasts the same abundant solar and wind resources and could easily achieve the same goals as California.

The bill that passed the House would include provisions to:

  • Set the target of emissions reduction of 30 percent below business-as-usual emissions by 2020 and 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2050.
  • Develop incentives to promote renewable energy, to be designed by the Ministry of Finance and of Energy.
  • Increase renewable energy generation to 35% by 2024.
  • Create a high-level climate change commission to oversee national climate policy over sustained Administrations. This alone would set stable climate policy – making Mexico more like Europe. Unlike the U.S. which totters back and forth in gridlock, with clean energy held hostage by the GOP – dropping the wind PTC every other year, for example – the EU and China have set, stuck to, and achieved long range goals. Calderon established an inter-ministry panel, but this law would ensure that high-level multi-ministry engagement occurs even after his term is over.
  • Require mandatory emissions reporting for the largest source of global warming pollution in the country, an essential aspect of managing them.
  • Support the development of a domestic emission trading system - the bill wouldn't mandate the establishment of  a cap & trade plan for energy and cement production, the biggest emitters, although that might be handled using trading. Another way to get to the targets might be a simple mandate, like the Renewable Energy Standards requiring utilities to add more renewable energy or buy credits for customers who do so (or pay a penalty) they way the SREC market works in New Jersey.

Quite aside from its effect on climate, the new law could completely upend the interconnection between the U.S. and Mexico, reversing their relationship to each other.

Formerly seen as the source of undocumented “alien invasion” by the poor South (although somewhat eroded by the recession) Mexico will now become itself the focus of clean energy investment, lifting its economy and bolstering its long term energy security in the same way that clean energy investment has done with California’s.

This law puts Mexico on a par with the EU as well as California, and will no doubt have very interesting geopolitical effects that shake up the status quo.

The EU signed Kyoto in 1997, and passed laws to lower emissions by 2005. Five years later it had double the wind power of the US, and ten times the solar power.

Related posts:

  1. New Mexico Passes Climate Bill 4-3, Will Join Western Climate Initiative
  2. Mexico Finalizes Climate Bill to Cap Carbon
  3. California's Early Actors on Clean Energy to Benefit Under Today's Unveiled Fed Climate Bill


Wind Energy Facts from AWEA 2011 Annual Market Report

Posted: 15 Apr 2012 04:12 PM PDT

 
awea wind power facts

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released its 2012 annual market report on wind energy at the end of last week. For a succinct look at some of the industry’s key stats and facts, here’s a bullet-point list of them I’ve put together for you (more wind power lists at the bottom of this post):

  • 5 states now get over 10% of their electricity from wind power (South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wyoming).
  • South Dakota has over 20% of its electricity coming from wind.
  • Iowa has over 15% of its electricity coming from wind.
  • 7 states have at least 4,000 wind jobs (Iowa, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, California and Michigan).
  • 75,000 wind jobs have been created in the U.S., 30,000 in the manufacturing sector.
  • Kansas has the most wind power under construction.
  • Only 5 countries (including the U.S.) have more wind power installed than Texas.
  • In the past 5 years, wind power projects and manufacturing (and supportive wind power policies) have brought in as much as $20 billion annually in private investment in the U.S.
  • 35% of all new U.S. power capacity in the past 5 years has been from wind power.
  • A typical U.S. wind turbine now generates 30% more electricity than a typical wind turbine 5 years ago.
  • Nearly 500 new American manufacturing facilities have been built in the past 5 years.
  • 6,816 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity were installed in 2011, 31 percent higher than 2010.
  • There are now 46,916 MW of wind power capacity installed in the U.S.
  • There are more than 8,300 MW of wind power capacity under construction.

Why the big focus on the past 5 years above? Because there has been stable, bipartisan policy support for wind power for the past 5 years. Unfortunately, that support is now under threat.

"This shows what wind power is capable of: building new projects, powering local economies and creating jobs," said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. "Traditional tax incentives are working. This tremendous activity is being driven by the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) – which leverages as much as $20 billion a year in private investment and supports tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

"But we will lose all these consumer benefits and a brand new, growing manufacturing sector if Congress allows the Production Tax Credit to expire. Businesses need certainty. That is why it is urgent that Congress extend the PTC now, or risk losing a bright new manufacturing sector."

One report we’ve mentioned several times now, by Navigant Consulting, found that wind power jobs in the U.S. would be cut approximately in half if the PTC is not extended, costing the U.S. approximately 37,000 good jobs. One third of those jobs would be in manufacturing. In fact, we’re already losing jobs due to the polciy uncertainty.

On the other hand, “extending the PTC will allow the wind industry to grow to almost 100,000 American jobs in just four years and stay on track toward supporting 500,000 American jobs by 2030,” AWEA notes.

Here’s some more info on progress to extend the PTC:

A House bill seeking to extend the existing Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy (H.R. 3307, the "American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act") has garnered the support of 90 cosponsors including 20 Republicans. Extension legislation was introduced in the Senate on March 15 by seven Senators including three Republicans.

PTC extension efforts have received the endorsement of a broad, coalition of more than 370 members, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Edison Electric Institute, the Western Governors' Association, the United Steelworkers and many members of the environmental community. A PTC extension also has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the bipartisan Governors' Wind Energy Coalition comprised of 23 Republican and Democratic Governors from across the U.S.

Now, for those of you who have stuck through the important policy segment, here are some more fun lists for you:

Top 10 states for wind jobs (of all types):

  1. Iowa: 6-7 K
  2. Texas: 6-7 K
  3. Illinois: 6-7 K
  4. Ohio: 5-6 K
  5. Colorado: 4-5K
  6. California: 4-5K
  7. Michigan: 4-5K
  8. Pennsylvania: 3-4K
  9. Florida: 2-3K
  10. Oregon: 2-3K

Top 13 states for wind generation as a percentage of their portfolio:

  1. South Dakota: 22.3%
  2. Iowa: 18.8%
  3. North Dakota: 14.7%
  4. Minnesota: 12.7%
  5. Wyoming: 10.1%
  6. Colorado: 9.2%
  7. Kansas: 8.3%
  8. Oregon: 8.2%
  9. Idaho: 8.2%
  10. Oklahoma: 7.1%
  11. Texas: 6.9% (8.5% on ERCOT)
  12. New Mexico: 5.4%
  13. Washington: 5.3%

Top 10 states for wind projects under construction in 2012:

  1. Kansas: 1,189 MW
  2. Texas: 857 MW
  3. California: 847 MW
  4. Oregon: 640 MW
  5. Illinois: 615 MW
  6. Pennsylvania: 520 MW
  7. Iowa: 470 MW
  8. Oklahoma: 393 MW
  9. Michigan: 348 MW
  10. Washington: 331 MW

For more information, check out AWEA’s news release on the report or the report itself.

Image Credit: AWEA

Related posts:

  1. AWEA Reaches Out to Public Urging Extension of Key Wind Power Incentive
  2. Small Wind Turbine Market Sees Strong Growth (2010 Market Growth Report)
  3. 2011 U.S. Solar Market Report — Top 7 Findings & Charts


Renewable Energy & Clean Technology: Keys to a Revitalization of US Manufacturing & Job Creation

Posted: 15 Apr 2012 02:43 PM PDT

 

Graphic courtesy US Energy.gov

The term “green” manufacturing can be looked at in two ways: the manufacturing of “green” products, particularly those used in renewable energy systems and clean technology equipment of all kinds, and the “greening” of manufacturing — reducing pollution and waste by minimizing natural resource use, recycling and reusing what was considered waste, and reducing emissions.

Revitalizing US manufacturing has grown to “rallying cry” levels in recent years, with rapidly growing renewable energy and clean technology investment at the thin end of the wedge. Proponents tout the economic and social benefits of a strong US manufacturing sector while urging government policy makers to enact policies that promote and foster its ongoing development and growth.

At the heart of such calls lay manufacturing’s potential to be an engine for long-term job creation and a primary means of assuring US competitiveness across globalized markets in which the US competes with state-managed, “non-market” economies.

US manufacturing has been on the decline as a percentage of GDP for decades. In the 2000s, according to a March 2012 research report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, “U.S. manufacturing suffered its worst performance in American history in terms of jobs. Not only did America lose 5.7 million manufacturing jobs, but the decline as a share of total manufacturing jobs (33 percent) exceeded the rate of loss in the Great Depression.”

Advocates of developing and enacting stronger US government policies and incentives, including the report’s authors, lament such statistics and believe it is essential that this trend be reversed. They are coming out publicly, urging leaders to enact policies and take actions to revitalize US manufacturing, firm in the belief that it would be enormously beneficial socially as well as economically. In fact, there’s a lot to build on.

The Biggest Manufacturing Country in the World

Despite its decline relative to the services sector, the US manufacturing sector “produces $1.7 trillion of value each year, 11.7% of US GDP,” according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Of late, manufacturing and exports have been a comparative bright spot in a halting, still fragile US economic and jobs recovery.

You might find it surprising, but the US remains the world’s largest manufacturing economy, producing 21% of global manufactured products. China is second at 15% and Japan is third at 12%, according to NAM. Pillars for the advent of 21st-century “green” and “zero-carbon” economies, rapidly growing renewable energy and clean tech sectors are considered among the best opportunities to realize this goal.

President Obama and his administration are responding. Spurring a renewal of US manufacturing, and fostering growth in renewable energy and clean technology, are central planks of the President’s “Blueprint for an America Built to Last” strategic plan.

The first comprehensive empirical studies of renewable energy and clean tech manufacturing (and of “green” job creation) lend support to this belief. The most often cited of these have probably been those produced by the Pew Research Center and the Brookings Institute. CleanTechnica’s been on the trail as well, having covered this topic pretty extensively. It’s one we’re sure to continue to follow, so keep an eye out for our continued coverage of this important issue.

In the meantime, you might want to read some of CleanTechnica’s many articles on green manufacturing and green jobs.

Green Manufacturing: Reducing Resource Use, Waste and Emissions

There’s a lot of buzz, hype, and real progress being made when it comes to our second definition of green manufacturing, as well. Growing numbers of businesses are finding that reducing resource use, waste, and pollution, along with recycling and reusing what was formerly looked at as waste, yields benefits not only in terms of an improved bottom line, but in terms of employee motivation, morale, and public relations.

Corporate and business leaders at the forefront of redesigning, restructuring, re-engineering, and retooling operations and processes to be more environmentally and socially sustainable are finding that doing so produces measurable results that others can and would like to emulate, even leading to new business lines and a notable recognition for their efforts.

New ways of thinking about manufacturing, both broadly and narrowly, are having a big impact on manufacturers worldwide. Such efforts are intimately entwined with a movement toward taking on, or accepting, greater corporate social responsibility (CSR). One such driving force has been the development of systems analysis, which has evolved into the growing field of industrial ecology.

The Ecology of Industry: Cradle-to-Cradle Design, Production, and Manufacturing

One notable aspect of applying this systematic way of viewing and analyzing manufacturing operations and processes has led to the concept of cradle-to-cradle product design and production. Simply put, cradle-to-cradle manufacturing calls for products to be designed and produced with an eye towards minimizing, or even eliminating, resource use, waste, and pollution — factoring in how a product will be disposed of into the manufacturing process. The process goes from initial product design right on through to production, distribution, disposal, and perhaps reuse (or rebirth).

Spurring them onward, governments, international and non-profit organizations, and business and industry watchdogs have all been urging manufacturers and other businesses to clean up their act and take greater responsibility for resource use, waste, and pollution.

The drive to reduce fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions, and other greenhouse gas emissions has been at the forefront of this movement, though similar initiatives spanning use of water, forest, and mineral resources are also having an impact on the way business is being done across economic and industrial sectors.

International organizations such as the United Nations and World Bank are being joined by a host of public, non-profit, and private sector organizations, such as the Carbon War Room and Carbon Disclosure Project in making notable progress when it comes to driving forward green manufacturing, green business methods, and green practices. Prominent environmental organizations and businesses are even bridging the divide that separates them, joining in efforts to conserve natural resources, natural habitats, and biodiversity.

There’s scads of good reporting being done on the topic of green manufacturing, and we think we’re doing some of the best. Keep an eye on CleanTechnica for more on this topic.

Related posts:

  1. Tax Credit Extension Crucial to US Clean Energy Growth, Manufacturing & Jobs Revival
  2. Manufacturing Green Technology
  3. 1st World Ranking of Clean Energy Technology (CET) Sales — CET to Become 3rd Largest Global Sales Sector by 2020


Some Happy Volt Drivers (Volt Owner Comments)

Posted: 15 Apr 2012 12:53 PM PDT

 
chevy volt

I recently featured the comments of a Nissan Leaf owner here on CleanTechnica. The Leaf owner started off his comments by saying that the Leaf “is more fun than a van full of cheerleaders.”

Now, on a post about Chevy Volt sales being way up in March, some Volt owners have also dropped some comments on our site about how much they love their Volts (matching up with the news last year that the Volt had the highest satisfaction rating in Consumer Reports). While not quite as colorful as the Leaf owner’s, I thought I’d feature them here on CleanTechnica as well, so here they are:

Don in CT:

“Been driving my Volt since September. A remarkable vehicle in every way. Too bad it has become a political piƱata. It’s a truly great American achievement. Don’t miss the chance to take a test drive. The car sells itself.”

dlapid:

“Love my 2012 Volt! Best car I’ve owned!”

Tina Dignon:

“My Volt has almost 15,000 miles and has averaged 120 MPG over those miles. The car has been completely problem free. I’m spending $330/year on electricity and saving $2000/year on gas. Since I was looking at buying a car in this price range anyway, these are immediate savings. Of course the car is quiet, has plenty of pep, and is very well appointed.”

Looks like it’s a pretty nice vehicle — no wonder its European sister, the Opel Ampera, won the 2012 European Car of the Year award.

For more on the Chevy Volt, check out some of our Volt posts, such as:

Image Credit: GM

Related posts:

  1. Chevy Volt Sales Way Up — March Its Strongest Sales Month to Date
  2. Chevy Volt Gets Highest Satisfaction Rating in Consumer Reports
  3. Chevy Volt Outsells Nissan Leaf for 1st Time


Renewables Driving Electricity Prices below $0 Some Afternoons (& Cutting into Baseload Power Plants’ Market Share)

Posted: 15 Apr 2012 12:36 PM PDT

 
Renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind have been outstripping the electricity supply of traditional baseload (coal, nuclear, and some natural gas) power plants during daytime, especially afternoons, in some renewable-leading countries of late. One reason for this is: electricity demand tends to increase during the sunniest (the hottest) hours, and solar power plants generate more electricity when it is sunnier, which is right on cue.

Not perfectly, but solar power production tends to follow electricity demand. This is especially true in the warmer temperatures, since air conditioners (which consume a lot of electricity) are turned up to compensate for the hot afternoon weather.

Importantly, as solar power plants outstrip the power production of baseload power plants, electricity is sold for a lower price than baseload power on the spot market. On April 1 of this year, not even that hot of a day, the price of electricity on the European Electricity Index (ELIX) actually dropped to -0.01.

ELIX Spot Market Prices at End of March & April 1

Solar Power Generation on April 1

As you can see in the graph above, solar power production is highest during the most sunny late-morning and early afternoon hours, starting at 9 AM. This translates into more power for air conditioners just when they need it most. And as you can see in the table above, it was towards the end of solar’s peak on the afternoon of Sunday, April 1 that solar power actually helped to drive the price of electricity to a negative amount.

Chart of Wind Power Production in Germany on April 1

Importantly, wind power generation, complementary to solar, is greatest at night, and is at its lowest in the morning. Wind starts to increase in this graph at 10 AM, and starts to taper off after 10 PM. The greatest period of wind power generation shown in this graph is from the early afternoon to 10 PM. This helps to back up solar panels because solar power production decreases when wind power generation is increasing, and wind farms generate the most electricity when solar panels generate the least, which is at night.

And, as you can see, the crossover point in the early afternoon, when both energy sources are going fairly strong, is when electricity dropped to a negative price on ELIX on April 1.

Baseload Weaknesses

Most baseload power plants take a long time to adjust, which means that they are not able to adjust quickly to unexpected fluctuations in electricity demand, despite the fact that the amount of electricity a power plant produces should to match electricity demand as closely as possible.

If power plants generate too little, there will be shortages. If they generate too much, electricity goes to waste because it is not used, and is not stored. And, in some extreme cases, we see such cases as that one above, in which electricity can go below the price of $0.

That traditional baseload power plants are not able to adjust their power production much to compensate for spikes and dips in electricity demand is a real weakness of those power generators, because unlike wind and solar, their fuel costs money to burn. So, when fuel-free supply increases and drives down the price of electricity, these power plants can’t cut their generation and have to sell electricity for a considerable loss.

Making More Use of Solar & Wind’s Complementary Nature

As helpful as the complementary electricity generation patterns of wind and solar power plants can be, it is possible to benefit from this pattern far more by planning and programming appliances to perform tasks which do not have to be done at specific times (i.e. washing clothing, drying clothing, washing dishes, heating water for various activities, and more) for times when wind and solar power generation are greatest.

This form of what I would call ‘advanced load balancing’ may be the key to reduced energy storage requirements for wind and solar power plants, and could offer great benefits to society.

h/t Renewables International
Images: Solar Power Plant via Bert van Dijk; other images via EEX

Related posts:

  1. Electricity Generation Share from Renewables Up in US
  2. German Solar Power Production Surges 60%; Renewables 20% of Total Electricity Supply
  3. Solar Silicon Prices to Continue Falling as Asian Bigs Ramp Up Capacity in Bid to Gain Market Share


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