Saturday, April 21, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Geostellar Plans Solar Power Map of Every Rooftop in the U.S.

Posted: 21 Apr 2012 05:29 AM PDT

geostellar teams with geoeye for rooftop solar power mapDistributed solar power goes wild! Geostellar has teamed its rooftop solar power analytic toolkit with the satellite imaging company GeoEye to help realize its grand plan to assess the solar energy generating potential of every rooftop in the U.S. With this tool in hand, practically anyone with a roof can get a quick preview of whether or not a solar installation is a sound investment for their property.

Geostellar’s solar power calculator

Geostellar’s signature analytic tool essentially stuffs a laborious manual process into a software package, significantly lowering the price of calculating the return on investment for a solar installation (or, for that matter, deciding whether the property is suitable for a solar installation at all).

By helping to lower the cost of planning a solar installation the new partnership dovetails with President Obama’s SunShot initiative, which aims to make solar power cost-competitive with fossil fuels not only by funding research into more efficient solar technology but also by cutting sidebar expenses such as site development and  permitting for distributed solar power installations.

The model takes into account roof slope, shadows, weather patterns, local utility rates and even solar energy subsidies.

A rooftop solar map of the U.S.

So far, Geostellar has applied its model to areas where publicly sourced aerial imagery is available, including Washington D.C., Boston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New Jersey. The partnership with GeoEye will enable it to create a nationwide catalog of both residential and commercial properties.

In addition to being used by individual property owners, the database could provide energy planners with valuable insights regarding the potential for distributed solar energy on all levels, from neighborhoods to whole cities and regions.

Another solar tool in the alternative energy kit

Geostellar’s rooftop solar database could be combined with other emerging energy planning tools, including free online resources such as the interactive building energy map developed at Columbia University, the energy atlas of the U.S. created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Google Earth’s solar power map.

Image: Some rights reserved by joncallas.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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Solar “Death Ray” (VIDEO)

Posted: 21 Apr 2012 04:10 AM PDT


I’m not sure if this is cleantech —  it could certainly be used for good if wished (if it weren’t destroyed in a shed fire… that it probably created), but the idea is a big part of what’s behind concentrated solar power. A Facebook friend actually shared the video with me this week in response to my home heliostats post — thought it made for a fun weekend share. :D

Needless to say, the preface to the video should be “don’t try this at home.” (Otherwise, you might burn down your shed.)

Here’s more info on the solar death ray and future plans from the YouTube page:

The R5800 is my latest and greatest solar creation. Made from an ordinary fiberglass satellite dish, it is covered in about 5800 3/8″ (~1cm) mirror tiles. When properly aligned, it can generate a spot the size of a dime with an intensity of 5000 times normal daylight. This intensity of light is more than enough to melt steel, vaporize aluminum, boil concrete, turn dirt into lava, and obliterate any organic material in an instant. It stands at 5’9″ and is 42″ across.
Unfortunately, the R5800 was completely destroyed in a storage shed fire on December 14, 2010.

music: “hypnothis”
provided under creative commons liscence

Coming spring of 2011:
Sun Runner 3
R23000 (R23K)

Area of dish aperture (elliptical)= (pi x 102cm x 73cm)/4 = 5848 sq cm
Area of focal point (circular)= pi(0.6cm)^2 = 1.14 sq cm
Concentration Power= 5848/1.14 = 5129 then rounded down
Output Power Estimate = 560 watts

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Solar = Money for You

Posted: 21 Apr 2012 04:00 AM PDT

solar panels money investment

I was scanning through my shares on Facebook lately and thinking about what a ‘normal’ (non-cleantech-obsessed) person might get out of them just from scanning the titles (not opening them) —  I like to do this from time to time, since I know a lot more people will simply see the title of the posts than open and read them. While doing this, something crossed my mind — people are basically aware that solar is good for the environment and good for our health, and that solar technology is advancing, and perhaps even that a ton more people are going solar these days, but I bet a lot of people still don’t realize that going solar = money for them.

I’m actually not going to throw numbers into this post, because details of going solar are so dependent on your home or office and the state you live in, but the bottom line that I wanted to bring a little attention to is that outside of all of its other good points, going solar is an investment that earns you money in the long term. It is one of the safest investments you can make, and in some places, it is one of the most lucrative investments you can make.

Of course, you can invest in a solar power system all on your own (and perhaps even get a discount on solar, depending on your location), but you can also lease a solar power system these days in many places. I know there are lovers of the solar leasing system and those who don’t like it, but I think it’s common sense for an individual to look into both options before deciding how they want to go solar.

There’s also PACE financing and solar hosting if you happen to be in an area that is pioneering one of those options — I think they’re my two favorites. The sweet thing about solar hosting is that it allows renters to go solar! And PACE is just plain awesome.

And, of course, for the DIY types, you can always try putting your solar system together yourself.

No matter which route you go, though, the bottom line (one more time) is that going solar is often good for your bank account.

And, of course, that will only make you love a good solar energy spill that much more!

Image: solar panels & money via Shutterstock

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Sungevity Expands into Australia

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 05:09 PM PDT


Sungevity, a solar leasing company that uses web-based solar analytics and satellite imagery to deliver homeowners with an “iQuote” within 24 hours, is already a leading pay-as-you-go solar company in the U.S. (and, as of recently, the Netherlands). Now, Sungevity has taken a little hop over the Pacific and expanded into Australia with the help of Australian solar company Nickel Energy. Surprisingly enough, the name of the new partnership is Sungevity Australia.

The same pay-as-you-go solar option Sungevity offers in the U.S. is being offered in the land down under, but there it’s being called "RoofJuice."

The “average cost of a five-kilowatt system (the average system size in Australia) is $12,000.” Sungevity is dropping the upfront cost a little bit, to $0, for homeowners who wish to go its route.

Of course, as always, if you’re thinking about going solar, take a look at the details of installing your own system or going with a solar lease — there are benefits with both options. Most Californians now go solar through a lease. The biggest appeal is surely that you don’t have to drop a huge wad of cash on a solar system but are likely to still save money in the long run (but there are other benefits as well). Here are a couple of Australia electricity price graphs from RoofJuice that project, generally, electricity savings through a solar lease there:

The downside (compared to buying a solar power system on your own) is likely to be smaller long-term earnings, but the details really depend on the individual. The bottom line, as I stated above, is that you should really take a look at the details of the options available to you and then decide what’s best for you.

In case you were interested, Sungevity is now in business in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, the Netherlands,… and Australia

Images via RoofJuice

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Drivers To Save $68 Billion by 2030 Under Obama’s 54.5 MPG Standard, NRDC Report Finds

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 04:31 PM PDT

toyota prius

NRDC Report: Drivers To Save $68 Billion by 2030 Under 54.5 MPG Standard

NRDC Ranks Top 20 States for Most Consumer Benefits: TX, CA, FL, NY, NC, GA, VA, PA, TN, AZ, IL, OH, WA, MD, MI, NJ, AL, KY, MO, MN

Drivers will save $68 billion in fuel costs when the Obama administration's 54.5 miles-per-gallon standard is fully implemented in 2030, according to a report released this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Drivers in Texas, California and Florida will save the most in 2030 according to "Relieving Pain at the Pump."

But motorists everywhere right now can find relief from $4-a-gallon gas prices on the showroom floor.  New 2012 models contain substantially more fuel-efficient choices as automakers begin to fulfill requirements under the administration's original 2009 clean cars agreement to raise standards to 35.5 mpg by 2016.

"Drivers today have twice the fuel-efficient car options than just three years ago. The technology — and fuel savings — are only going to improve thanks to even stronger efficiency standards," said Luke Tonachel, senior vehicles analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "As consumers look to trade in older cars over time, they will have the latest in fuel saving technology available to them, putting money back in their pockets."

The 54.5 mpg by 2025 standard, set to be finalized in August, will double today's average level of fuel efficiency. This will save individual drivers $4400 over the life of the vehicle, after considering the cost of the fuel saving technologies. NRDC quantified savings in all states in 2030, giving the more efficient vehicles a chance to penetrate the roadways.

The top 20 states where drivers would save the most from the 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency standards are listed at the bottom of this release.

The NRDC analysis also found there are 57 fuel-efficient models available in showrooms today, rising from 27 models in 2009.  Automakers have introduced a plethora of fuel-saving features in some of the more popular, conventional gas-powered cars as a result of the 35.5 mpg standard. This gives consumers fuel-saving vehicle options in addition to buying a hybrid or electric vehicle.

"This study should put to rest any notion that drivers have to sacrifice anything for to get more miles to the gallon," said Alan Baum, principle with Baum and Associates who contributed to the analysis.  "From pickups to SUVs to minivans to cars, automakers are squeezing more out of vehicles with conventional gasoline engines than ever before. The internal combustion engine is far from dead; it's just going through a major makeover. "

The report can be found online here

Luke has more details about the report in his blog here:

The top 20 states where drivers would save the most from the 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency standards are:

  1. Texas — $7.750 billion
  2. California — $7.270 billion
  3. Florida — $6.683 billion
  4. New York — $2.959 billion
  5. North Carolina — $2.797 billion
  6. Georgia — $2.564 billion
  7. Virginia — $2.179 billion
  8. Pennsylvania — $2.004 billion
  9. Tennessee — $1.958 billion
  10. Arizona — $1.887 billion
  11. Illinois — $1.853 billion
  12. Ohio — $1.664 billion
  13. Washington — $1.547 billion
  14. Maryland — $1.529 billion
  15. Michigan — $1.520 billion
  16. New Jersey — $1.452 billion
  17. Alabama — $1.271 billion
  18. Kentucky — $1.207 billion
  19. Missouri — $1.207 billion
  20. Minnesota — $1.162 billion

These state rankings are a net savings, reflecting the actual fuel savings at the pump and the incremental costs associated with fuel-saving technologies in the new vehicles, according to the report.

Image: Toyota Prius & Chevy Volt via Shutterstock

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Earth Day — Say What?

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 02:55 PM PDT

earth day

For those of us writing about the environment every day, Earth Day is a bit of a strange concept. Every day is Earth Day. That may sound cliche, but it really is like that for us (as I imagine it is for many of you readers). But while it’s easy to creep into a kind of cynical “the world doesn’t get it” mood when this day rolls around (especially when getting green pitches that are flat-out ridiculous), I think the day does offer opportunities.

Generally, I treat it as a day to sit back and reflect on things, and to push myself forward when it comes to things I’ve been putting off or not doing well.

Overall, though, it’s clear that a few things related to our daily habits are the biggest contributors to global warming, and most other environmental issues. And it’s clear if we want to protect our Earth (i.e. our water supply, food supply, air, and climate), we need to get to work revolutionalizing these things. These few things are:

Clearly, we tackle #2 and 3 on that list a lot every day here on CleanTechnica. But as I said, I think Earth Day offers a unique opportunity to give a little extra nudge. So, I think it’s worth using this coming Earth Day to encourage people to actually make that leap and go solar and/or switch to an electric car, electric motorcycle, scooter, electric bicyclebicycle, or transit (serious financial savings available with those last two options).

It’s easy to say you’ll do something eventually. But sometimes we let “eventually” go on for too long, while getting a bit complacent in our routines and with “how thing are.”

So, what do you think? Up for taking a big step forward with your main mode transportation or your electricity supply this Earth Day?

Image Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

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Futura’s Patented Structurally Integrated Solar Roofing System

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 01:02 PM PDT


One of our most active commenters let me know about this interesting idea below. After a bit of a back-and-forth with the man behind it, Futura Solar’s founder Patrick O’Leary, I solicited this guest post from him on it. Check it out:

by Patrick O’Leary

Every building standing today is a solar collector anyway Whether we intend it to be, design it to be, build it to be, or equip it to be. If we sit it in the broad daylight, it will catch some rays.

Do we put that energy to good use, or do we let it go counter-productive? This idea below is about productivity and rework. The least expensive way to do anything is to do it right the first time. It does cost money to harvest all that free solar energy, but it costs more to use fossil fuels to get rid of it and also to replace it. Standard roofing had better be as cheap as possible — it is running up electric bills over the 20-year life of the roof!

If we let it go counter-productive, we will end up using fossil energy to get rid of solar energy that comes through in the form of heat. Flat built-up deck roofing collects solar energy — put your hand on it during the day to test that idea. That heat is energy, and we routinely pay good money for that.

Every roof intecepts solar gain, but how many put it to good use? How many can put it to good use? Sawtooth roofing harvests some and delivers it to the business inside in a usable form. Our computer printers now scan, fax and copy in addition to printing. Why doesn't our air conditioning equipment heat domestic water? Why dump useful heat into the atmosphere and then pay to replace it? We are all in the solar energy business and solar is part of all of our budgets. Whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we accept it or not.

The Futura Solar Roofing System

The Futura Solar system (see images above) harnesses solar loading to heat air while taking advantage of the tendency of hot air to rise and move air to draft air behind itself, thereby powering the system. The hot air generated can be used for process air (for heating, drying, or cooking), for space conditioning, or simply dumped back into the atmosphere with no net thermal pollution. Daylighting the business beneath the roof immediately reduces facility lighting costs. Solar water heating (SWH) and photovoltaic electricity (PV) are then available as add-on options. Excess PV can be net metered or even put in a dedicated building circuit.

Sawtooth Solar Daylighter prototypes have proven the utility of the Futura Solar design and have established system baseline performance. This system will handle all of the solar loading on a building roof — of any size.

The Futura system prevents internal temperatures from rising by drafting warm air from the ceiling through the roof into the air heater. This design allows the system to cope with infiltration and internal heat loads, whether from people or machines.

The patented design integrates known technologies in a new way. The Sawtooth represents 'game changing' technology when applied to 'zero net energy' growth policies, or mandates connected to greenhouse gas emission reductions. This system's energy efficiency / renewable energy capability represents a significant reduction in energy demand for low profile, commercial, industrial, institutional, or agricultural buildings.

The sawtooth design combines existing SWH and PV technology with building space framing technology. This allows bright diffused daylight to enter the building, offsetting the costs of electric lighting and immediately reducing a building's energy cost. The use of SWH and/or PV means that additional building cost reductions occur by allowing the sun to do what it does best. Excess PV can even contribute to grid demand if net metering is allowed in the region.

Building end-use efficiency, especially for existing structures, is of importance in terms of reducing energy demand and improving energy utilization. Offering a new alternative technology concept to building end users will effectively restructure the market. This creates an 'eco-advantage', a term coined by Esty & Winston of Yale University. The technologies comprising the SISRS are all proven, 'recovered' technologies, integrated into a structurally holistic system.

The most cost-effective way to gather this rooftop energy is to do it right the first time — when a building is built from the ground up. Buildings undergoing re-roofing are another way to improve the built infrastructure. This means there are opportunities to bring efficient, cost-effective solutions to problems of expensive lighting, process air, heating and cooling or electric energy by rethinking rooftop energy capture and utilization. Helping regional markets to reduce both peak electric demand and natural gas demand directly addresses fuel consumption, and indirectly addresses energy cost, whether for electricity generation, heating, or transportation. This also permits continued economic growth within infrastructure constraints. The Sawtooth technology will contribute towards reduction of air pollution by directly reducing fossil fuel consumption in commercial buildings.

Patrick O'LearyPatrick O’Leary is the founder of Futura Solar, LLC

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