Monday, April 30, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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CO2 Emissions Increasing with Economic Recover — Not Good!

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 11:33 AM PDT

New Worldwatch Institute report stresses the urgent need for cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Although global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) declined slightly in 2009, the beginnings of economic recovery led to an unprecedented emissions increase of 5.8 percent in 2010. In 2011, global atmospheric levels of CO2 reached a high of 391.3 parts per million (ppm), up from 388.6 ppm in 2010 and 280 ppm in pre-industrial times. According to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online project, energy use represents the largest source of global CO2 emissions.

More than 70 percent of CO2 emissions result from the burning of fossil fuels for energy use, such as electricity generation, transportation, manufacturing, and construction. In 2009, electricity generation and heating alone accounted for 41 percent of all energy related CO2 emissions.

“Unfortunately for the future of climate, the global economy remains tightly coupled to fossil fuel combustion and carbon dioxide emissions,” said Worldwatch President Robert Engelman. “We gained a short respite from increases in CO2 emissions—-but only at the cost of an economic downturn. Now we are rebounding economically—-at the cost of once again accelerating the approach of a high-risk warming that the world’s nations have so far been unable to address.”

The report highlights emissions increases in both industrialized and developing economies. Member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of industrialized countries, increased their emissions by 3.4 percent in 2010, while countries outside the OECD saw an increase of 7.6 percent. Although China was the world’s largest overall emitter in 2010 (followed by the United States, India, and Russia), an examination of emissions per capita tells a different story. China ranks only 61st in terms of the CO2 emitted per person. In India—-the world’s third largest emitter—-emissions per capita rank far below the world average. The United States, in contrast, ranks second overall and 10th in per capita emissions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has long stressed the urgent need for cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, according to the Worldwatch report, national governments have largely failed to bring about the needed reductions.

“The Kyoto Protocol is an important achievement because it is the only international instrument that sets legally binding targets, yet it is increasingly becoming symbolic as it now only regulates around 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” says author and Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Research Associate, Xing Fu-Bertaux. Global CO2 levels are now 45 percent above the 1990 level, which serves as the reference base year for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Several Annex I countries—-including the United States, which signed but never ratified the Kyoto Protocol—-will be unable to meet their original reductions targets. Since December 2011, Canada, Japan, and Russia, have chosen not to take on additional emissions targets within the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol in the coming decade.

Further highlights:

  • In 2010, coal combustion accounted for 40 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions, while oil and natural gas represented 37 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Coal generates roughly twice as much CO2 as gas and oil.
  • Carbon intensity—-or the CO2 emissions released per unit of gross domestic product—-varies significantly worldwide, reflecting disparities in economic reliance on fossil fuels in various countries. The highest carbon intensities occur in the Middle East, but low-carbon economies such as Japan highlight the possibility of achieving high living standards with lower CO2 emissions.
  • In 2009, more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions resulted from burning fossil fuels for electricity generation, transportation, manufacturing, and construction.

Image: pollution via shutterstock

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DOE & EPA Launch Tools to Evaluate Solar & Wind Power Potential on Contaminated Land

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 10:00 AM PDT

 
The U.S. has a ton of “contaminated land,” and while that land can;t be used for many things, some of it could certainly be used for wind or solar power projects.

Luckily, the “job-killing” and “useless” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are making it easier for us to use such lands. They’ve “developed and launched new tools designed to test underutilized sites and contaminated land for solar and wind energy potential,” the EPA writes.

“The tools give local communities and landowners ways to evaluate sites for renewable energy potential without the need for technical expertise.”

Tapping NREL’s renewable energy knowledge and the EPA’s experience turning contaminated lands into productive sites again, the tools are sure to boost jobs and clean energy while cutting harmful global warming, water, and air pollution.

“The EPA estimates that nationwide there are approximately 490,000 sites and almost 15 million acres of potentially contaminated properties.”

"Opportunities to install renewable energy systems on vacant properties can be found in every community,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "Tapping sun and wind power at brownfield sites, rooftops, parking lots, and abandoned land could provide untapped gigawatts of clean energy."

Richmond, California is acting as a pilot community for these new tools.

Here’s a bit more on the tools’ benefits and uses from the EPA:

Positioning renewable energy on sites can increase economic value of the properties, provide a sustainable land reuse option, create local green jobs and provide clean energy for use on-site or for the utility grid. Using the decision trees, state and local governments, site owners and community members can help identify the most desirable sites for solar or wind installations from both a logistical and economic standpoint.

In addition to opportunities in cities, thousands of potentially contaminated acres in less populated areas across the country could be put to beneficial reuse with renewable energy.

The tools can be used to evaluate individual or multiple sites, such as brownfields, Superfund and other hazardous waste sites, abandoned parcels, landfills, parking lots, and commercial or industrial roofs, depending on the technology.

Learn more on the RE-Powering America’s Land page.

Source: EPA

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Blackest Solar Cell to Date Absorbs 99.7% of Light

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 07:30 AM PDT

 

Natcore Tech and National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) scientists have created the “blackest” solar cell to date, a black silicon solar cell that absorbs an incredible 99.7% of the light that hits its surface. “Today's solar cells absorb about 95 percent of the sun's radiation,” NREL notes.

NREL actually holds the record for a black silicon solar cell — 18.6% — “but they had to make it using a passivation technology that requires thermal oxidation,” Natcore notes. “Natcore will replace that cumbersome step with its LPD oxide process.”

solar cell black silicon

With a very low reflectance (average of 0.3%), Natcore’s black solar cells perform about as well in cloudy weather as sunny weather, a significant advantage. The company has now received signed a Cooperative Research & Development Agreement with NREL, which will investment $150,000 in this project. The goals of the agreement are that Natcore and NREL work together to:

  1. Reduce solar cell costs by 2%-3%, and;
  2. Increase solar panel energy output from 3% to 10% over the course of a day without the aid of a solar tracking mechanism.

“These goals would be accomplished by combining Natcore’s patented liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology with NREL’s technologies for creating a black silicon antireflective layer integrated into high-efficiency solar cells…. The combination of the two technologies could significantly exceed NREL’s record cell efficiency.”

Currently, the agreement is for one year. Hopefully, in that time, or soon after, Natcore and NREL will be able to significantly improve the solar cell efficiency of black silicon cells. That could mean big things in the solar cell industry.

"This technology will play an important role in moving forward the availability of solar technologies," NREL Vice President for Commercialization & Technology Transfer William Farris said. "It is one more step to help bolster the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade."

“Our technology will create a new American industry,” says Natcore President and CEO Chuck Provini. “We’ve been trying for two years to get financial support from the Department of Energy. This is a meaningful first step.”

We’ll see.

In the meantime, here’s a little more from Natcore on what “black silicon” is:

"Black silicon" refers to the apparent color of the surface of a silicon wafer after it has been etched with nano-scale pores. The etching takes place in a matter of a few minutes in a liquid solution at room temperature; the black color is not a color at all but results from the absence of reflected light from the porous wafer surface.

A panel made from black silicon solar cells will produce a significantly greater amount of energy (KwHrs) on a daily basis than will a panel made from cells using the industry standard thin film coating, not only because the reflectance is lower but also because the angular dependence of the reflectance from black silicon is much lower as well. The latter fact means a black silicon panel will perform better during the morning and afternoon hours when the sun hits at an angle and will also outperform standard cell panels on cloudy days. The combination of lower cost and higher energy output per kilowatt of installed array peak power should quickly make black silicon the antireflection control technology of choice in the industry.

h/t TreeHugger
Images: © Natcore Technology

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Small Business Owners: Federal Clean Energy Investment Creates Jobs, Growth; EPA Emissions Regs a Good Thing

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 07:07 AM PDT

Graphic courtesy Small Business Majority

Business media is dominated by news of large, multinational enterprises, but small businesses are the lifeblood of the US economy and jobs growth. You’d think their voices would be heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill. That’s not the case, however. In stark contrast to goings-on in Congress, not only do small business owners favor putting an end to federal oil and gas industry subsidies, they support EPA clean energy standards and believe “government investments in clean energy have an important role in boosting our national economy and creating jobs.”

These results came by way of  surveys for the non-profit small business advocacy group Small Business Majority. The SBM on April 24 released the results of a survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research that found:

  • a large majority– 71% –of its members believe government clean energy investments will boost the economy and create jobs
  • 58% say the federal government should continue investing in renewable energy despite the Solyndra bankruptcy
  • 76% support the EPA requiring new power plants to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

"Small businesses are eager for pragmatic, innovative energy policies that can help them develop new technologies and increase business opportunities," said John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, stated in a press release.

"They understand that to survive in this tough economy they need creative solutions to curb costs and increase their competitive edge. These include continued government investments in clean energy and the enforcement of standards that reduce harmful emissions in their communities. Right now, giving small businesses the incentives and tools needed to drive job creation and increase market competitiveness should be a top priority."

Biggest Problems for Small Business Owners: Higher Energy Prices and Materials Costs

Also in stark contrast to rhetoric commonly heard from certain politicians and political parties, 70% of respondents said that it is increased fuel and electricity prices (36%) and higher material and supply costs (34%) that are the biggest problems they face, not stricter government regulations.

Twenty-four percent cited lack of consumer demand as one of their biggest problems, 20% said it was taxes. Only 16% cited government regulations as a primary concern.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said the EPA’s stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions would have an impact on their businesses, including 1 in 4 who said they will have a major impact. Nonetheless, 56% still support the EPA regulating CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, even if it means a possible increase in electric utility rates.

"EPA regulation of carbon emissions would directly affect my business by increasing awareness of companies that embrace clean alternative energy sources," said Jonathan Tobias, President of Michigan Green Cabs in Wixom, Michigan. "Any time we see a shift in our industry's focus there is a surge in consumer consciousness and support for businesses that embrace cleaner technologies."

Other findings include:

  • 82 percent of respondents support EPA rules to reduce the emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases from new and existing power plants. Nearly half (48 percent) strongly support it—that's five times those who strongly oppose it (10 percent)
  • A large majority (73 percent) of small business owners favor proposed rules to reduce smog and soot pollution that crosses state lines (the "Good Neighbor Rule")
  • 58 percent of small businesses believe the government should continue investing in renewable energy technologies like solar and wind despite the failure of Solyndra, a manufacturer of solar cells that went bankrupt after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee
  • Small business owners polled were politically diverse: 44 percent identified as Republican, 38 percent as Democrat, and 10 percent as independent.

Related posts:

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Biogas on a Large Scale: Countries in Northern Europe Proving it Viable

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 07:00 AM PDT

 
In northern European countries such as Finland and Norway, the use of biogas-fueled power plants and vehicles is revealing the true viability of this fuel.

A biogas fueled bus in Norway's Neighbour, Sweden (Uppsala).

Norway, in which 98% of electricity generated is from hydroelectric power plants, is going to have its buses in the capital city of Oslo operate on biogas from garbage (specifically food waste).

Biogas is released by rotten food because it is decaying. Biogas consists mostly of methane, which is normally in gas form and is one of the strongest greenhouse gases causing global warming today. The combustion of biogas from fermentation/decay is actually helpful, where global warming is concerned, because if it was not burnt, the methane it contains would escape into the atmosphere and cause more global warming.

In Finland, cogeneration plants fueled by biogas are being set up as well.

What Is Cogeneration?

Cogeneration plants burn fuel to generate both electricity and heat. This is a very efficient concept due to the fact that fuel-burning generators generate heat and electricity. In typical power plants, the heat generated is substantial (4 times more than the amount of electricity they generate).

This is a huge waste!

The heat could be used to boil water and produce steam for district steam networks, to heat buildings, to heat water, or even for sanitation — and this is how cogeneration plants use it.

In situations where the heat cannot be put to such use, such as if the power plant is in a remote location, the heat can at least be used to boil water and produce steam, which could turn an electricity-generating steam turbine. This is called a combined cycle power plant.


Proof of concept, such as these biogas projects, is important to potential entrepreneurs because — these prove that the idea actually works and makes entrepreneurs more willing to take the risk and construct more of these plants.

And proof of concept, in the case of Oslo, is not just a little pilot project, but an impressive 1/3 of the city’s buses are already fueled by sewage-derived biogas!

That isn’t all — there is potential to produce biogas with the energy equivalent of 4 million litres of diesel fuel each year.

Norway’s energy sector could become almost oil-independent with the expansion of this concept. That is a potentially low-cost and extremely green possibility the country could pursue. Norway is one of a handful of countries which have already taken steps big enough to largely wean themselves off oil, but no need to stop now….

People and countries using biogas can not only clear their conscience, but be proud, because they are helping to keep methane out of the atmosphere. Hopefully we will have more uplifting biogas posts for you soon.

h/t Renewables International
Photo Credit:  paulasofiasimoes

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India Solar Program Driving Solar Prices to Impressive Lows

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 04:30 AM PDT

 

This post was originally published on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s site and has been republished with permission.

India's ambitious national solar program has catalyzed rapid growth in the solar market, driving prices for solar energy to impressive lows and demonstrating how government policy can stimulate clean energy markets, according to a report released this month by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

In only two years, competitive bidding under India's National Solar Mission drove prices for grid-connected solar energy to nearly the price of electricity from fossil fuels, at Rs. 7.49/kWh ($0.15/kWh). During that same period, cumulative installed solar capacity in India surged from 17.8 MW to over 500 MW, as discussed in "Laying the Foundation for a Bright Future: Assessing Progress Under Phase 1 of India's National Solar Mission."

"As the world's second-fastest growing economy, India has sparked a powerful solar market in only two years," said Anjali Jaiswal, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council's India Initiative. "While the National Solar Mission still faces significant hurdles, India has already made important strides to attract new domestic and international players into the market, and lower the price of solar energy faster than most anticipated."

The report from NRDC and CEEW provides recommendations to aid the Indian government, private sector and other stakeholders in overcoming obstacles to achieving the Mission's goal of 20 GW of installed solar capacity by 2022, equivalent in energy capacity to 40 mid-sized coal-fired power plants. These recommendations include:

Encourage Financing: To bolster confidence among financiers and overcome high interest rates in India, the Indian government should diligently enforce Renewables Purchase Obligations, support further development of the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) market, and share additional information on the Payment Security Mechanism, which covers potential defaults on payments. The Reserve Bank of India and the Finance Ministry should work with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) to support solar energy investment, and the private sector should lead by syndicating loans and sharing experiences in India's solar market.

Boost Domestic Manufacturing: India's domestic content requirement (DCR), which was intended to nurture domestic manufacturing for silicon photovoltaic (PV) technology, has instead shifted the market toward thin-film PV, which does not fall under domestic manufacturing mandates and can therefore be imported at a lower cost. The Indian government should consider modifying the domestic content requirement to apply uniformly across all PV technologies or a percentage of PV components, as well as, adopting a different incentive to promote domestic manufacturing without restricting foreign imports. Simultaneously, manufacturers should strengthen existing networks to develop policy solutions that would ease barriers to manufacturing in India.

Create a Conducive Environment: The Indian government urgently needs to increase the information available on the Mission's progress, from requiring solar projects to give periodic updates on their progress, to building confidence among investors with more transparency around technologies and commissioning processes. The central government should also work closely with state governments to facilitate land allocation for solar projects. The solar industry should create a network of solar energy groups, focused on resolving common industry concerns and interacting with government agencies to develop solutions for the entire supply chain.

"As nations race to become clean energy leaders, governments around the world will be closely following the progress of India's National Solar Mission," said Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, CEO for the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, an independent think-tank based in New Delhi. "It's essential that the Indian government adapt its strategies under Phase 2 of the Mission to boost confidence in projects and spur investment from a variety of funding sources and financial institutions."

NRDC and CEEW's report is the first independent, external analysis of the opportunities and hurdles faced by India's National Solar Mission. The report draws from extensive discussions with stakeholders, and research and analysis of national, state and international programs.

The full report and fact sheet can be found online here :http://www.nrdc.org/international/india/national-solar-mission-ph1.asp

Read more about the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in Anjali Jaiswal's blog: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ajaiswal/

Related posts:

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Copenhagen Superhighway Opened… for Bikes (+ Cool Bicycling Video)

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 04:00 AM PDT

 

Copenhagen is well known for being one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, perhaps the most bike-friendly city. Adding to its bike awesomeness, it opened a bicycle superhighway network this month. Originally, 13 routes were planned, but now that is up to 26. In total that will come to 300 km (186.4 miles) superhighway bike routes.

Some of the routes will simply be upgrades to existing bike paths, and others will be completely new. The first route is the 17.5-km Albertslund Route, running through Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Albertslund and Rødovre.

For more details on some of the routes, including some info and a bunch of pictures from a ride along the first one, check out Copenhagenize’s post on that.

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Domestic UK Solar Power Finance: ‘Free Solar’ Alternatives

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 02:00 AM PDT

 
Editor’s note: this looks like a great UK solar financing option and I’m happy to give Jarrah the platform to write about it here — check it out:

solar panels money investment

Recent developments in the United Kingdom have detrimentally affected one of the most popular methods of domestic solar PV finance. The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have both issued public warnings to property owners that the ’Free Solar’ approach could result in issues with re-selling and mortgage applications. To overcome this, a new approach has surfaced that offers property owners zero-outlay solar installations with full ownership throughout the process. This article explores this development.

First of all, let’s summarise how the existing ‘Free Solar’ scheme worked in order to understand how it has been effectively shunned.

Free Solar, or the Rent-A-Roof Scheme

The ‘Free Solar’ scheme worked by allowing a home owner to install a solar power system on their roof for no cost and utilise the energy produced around the home to lower their bills. A finance company would contract and pay an accredited solar installer to then install a system on the roof. The finance organisation would own the system and a small amount of space around it through a contract with the roof owner and use the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) payments to reimburse their outlay.

With the FiT’s guaranteed for 25 years, the finance institutes made a healthy profit out of the system whilst the homeowner had no ongoing concerns and simply saved on energy. As far as alternative energy upgrades go, it has been one of the most advertised in the UK throughout the last six months due to this accessibility. Thousands of domestic properties have installed solar PV in this way, indicating the impact that the canceling of this scheme could have on the domestic installation market.

The Ownership Dilemma

The CML and RICS have agreed that the primary issue with the scheme was the transfer of ownership regarding the roof area. As soon as the property owner enters a contract that splits up the ownership rights of any part of the property, mortgage lenders and property sellers are from this point going to have justifications to refuse their services and consideration of the site.

So how to overcome this? Despite the falling procurement costs the UK alternative energy industry has seen, the upfront investment with solar PV is still in the thousands of pounds. The obvious advantages to a zero-outlay solar PV approach is that it is accessible to anyone with the credit and collateral to become involved. In the chasm that has opened up, we can move on to a new approach for solar power finance that has arisen. An approach that overcomes these issues of system ownership and mortgage applications by using the 25-year guaranteed FiT as the security for a loan.

Solar Selections and Cash Flow Positive Finance

Solar Selections is spearheading a campaign to offer a UK-wide finance service for people considering solar power for their homes and small businesses. Different from the 'Free Solar' approach, this unique method involves customers purchasing the system for a deposit of £250 and then paying off the system's value with their feed-in tariff income.

Available for all domestic installations under 4kWp, this solar PV finance utilises the 25-year guarantee on the feed-in tariff as security for repayments. The mortgage situation is not an issue as the customer owns the system during the entire process. By choosing a repayment plan in line with their tariff income, the approach works just as well as the 'Free Solar' method as it involves no negative financial position being reached.

Some more information on this offer is outlined below.

Recent articles on planning permission victories are indicators that not all institutions are against the industry and, with applied efforts, the market can continue to grow. This is just one example of how the industry can adapt and continue to prosper despite the hurdles placed before it via council and government restrictions on solar installations.

Key Benefits:

  • Ownership of the solar power system is retained the entire time.
  • Small deposit of £250.
  • Installation of a solar panel system (<4kWp) by our dedicated MCS- & REAL-accredited installation team at zero cost.
  • Above-industry standard 5-year workmanship and post-installation service provided by experienced installation company.
  • Insurance underwriting available.
  • Spreading the cost of the system means the tariff income alone covers all repayments.
  • First payment is deferred for 12 months.
  • The property benefits from electricity savings throughout the repayment process.
  • Choose to borrow from 1 year to 25 years — pay the remaining amount off at any time.
  • Choose from a range of accredited panel and inverter options.
  • Credit available to most, >95% success rate.

Cash Flow Positive Example with No Outlay

As can be seen from the below table, the first 12 months require no payments and allow the customer to build up a small net profit. By using these savings as a buffer as the payments commence a cash flow positive position can be maintained and no out-of-pocket expenses experienced besides the initial £250 deposit. That way the best solar panels can be installed via the MCS accredited team, yet the cost does not drag customers into any negative cash flow during the process.

Example* for a 4kWp system Financed over 10 Years

Year

Avg. 4kWp Income/month

Repayments/month

Cumulative Net Profit

1

£64.47

£0.00

£773.69

2

£66.41

£81.00

£598.59

3

£68.40

£81.00

£447.40

4

£70.45

£81.00

£320.83

5

£72.57

£81.00

£219.63

6

£74.74

£81.00

£144.55

7

£76.99

£81.00

£96.37

8

£79.30

£81.00

£75.92

9

£81.67

£81.00

£84.00

10

£84.12

£81.00

£121.49

11

£86.65

£0.00

£1,161.27

12

£89.25

£0.00

£2,232.24

13

£91.92

£0.00

£3,335.34

14

£94.68

£0.00

£4,471.53

15

£97.52

£0.00

£5,641.80

Note: These figures do not include the bill savings made through installing a 4kWp system on your home. A 4kWp solar power system will save approximately £220 (assuming 50% consumption) in year 1.

*This is for example purposes only — repayment amounts will change depending upon system selection, credit rating, etc. Repayments may be slightly lower or higher. Terms and conditions apply and eligibility is limited.

For more information on the finance offer in this article, contact Solar Selections on T: 0844 567 9835 or sales@solarselections.co.uk

Written by Jarrah Harburn

jarrah@solarselections.co.uk

T: 0844 567 9835

© 2012 Solar Selections Ltd for Cleantechnica.com

Image: solar panels & money via Shutterstock

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Americans for Prosperity Putting $6.1 Million on Ad to Attack Green Jobs

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 01:30 AM PDT

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

by Stephen Lacey and Rebecca Leber 

After pouring more than $8.4 million into bogus energy attack ads since November, the oil industry front group Americans For Prosperity announced yet another major ad buy of $6.1 million in eight states.

The latest ad is based on a set of mistruths about green jobs that have been widely debunked.

In the ad, AFP explains that "billions of taxpayer dollars spent on green energy went to jobs in foreign countries," and uses four examples that supposedly prove that Obama's clean energy stimulus created foreign jobs instead of domestic ones.

All four examples are either mostly or completely false.

1. The ad claims that $1.2 billion is being used to create solar jobs in Mexico. This point was completely made up by a random conservative blogger and has been repeatedly called out as a lie. This $1.2 billion loan guarantee was issued for a large, first-of-its-kind solar plant in California being developed by NRG. However, the blogger falsely wrote that the money was being used to create manufacturing jobs in Mexico.

In reality, the jobs created in Mexico had absolutely nothing to do with the loan guarantee. The only connection to Mexico was that some of the solar panels would be coming from a manufacturing plant located there. And even though the source of the panels had nothing to do with the decision to issue the loan guarantee, the company providing the panels, SunPower, explained that most of the panels were coming from America anyway.

2. The ad claims that a loan guarantee for an electric vehicle manufacturer went to jobs in Finland. This is also a made up story pushed by Fox News and conservative bloggers. In fact, all of the money used through the loan guarantee went toward building a U.S. manufacturing facility.

There were some jobs created in Finland during final assembly of the vehicles, but that was announced up front in 2009 when the loan guarantee was issued. According to the Department of Energy, all of the money set aside for Fisker's next-generation vehicle manufacturing was issued for American operations.

3. The ad claims that tens of millions of dollars went toward building traffic lights in China. This is another murky claim that doesn't hold up. In 2010, because of the lack of domestic manufacturing, the Department of Energy allowed some LED lighting technologies for stimulus projects to be sourced from overseas companies:

Federal agencies may waive the "buy American" requirement if they determine that a needed item is not available from domestic sources in sufficient quantities, that it would inconsistent with the public interest to comply, or that the cost is unreasonable.

The agency says that all of the investments made for lighting projects followed the Buy America requirements established in the stimulus package. To make the spin worse, the ad implies that the stimulus money went to install traffic lights within China. That is totally false.

4. The ad claims that $2.3 billion in clean energy stimulus incentives went to overseas firms. This figure is based on a 2010 Washington Times piece borrowing from an investigative storyfrom American University that found stimulus dollars going to foreign companies developing projects within the U.S. The piece raised questions about how many jobs were being created overseas to build the technologies being deployed in the U.S.

After publishing that piece, investigative reporter Russ Choma told FactCheck.org that the numbers showed more jobs being created in the U.S.:

It should be noted there were no farms that we could find that used turbines entirely built in China, so we can't say for sure how much of this stimulus money went to create jobs in China. Some money definitely did, but it is safe to say more money went to creating jobs in the U.S. and Europe.

This latest ad brings the total amount spent by pro-fossil fuel groups to more than $24 million in just the first few months of 2012, based on a ThinkProgress analysis.

Jobs in green goods and services accounted for 3.1 million jobs in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, a study found that every dollar put into clean energy creates three-times as many jobs as investing in fossil fuels.

Watch AFP's ad:

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Liquid Solar Cells that Can be Painted onto Surfaces

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 01:00 AM PDT

 
New research out of the University of Southern California (USC) advances the development of “cheap, stable solar cells made from nanocrystals so small they can exist as a liquid ink and be painted or printed onto clear surfaces.” This is exciting stuff, in my opinion. Here’s more from USC:

A USC scientist treats a glass slide with nanocrystals. Photo by Dietmar Quistorf.

The solar nanocrystals are about four nanometers in size – meaning one could fit more than 250 billion on the head of a pin – and float them in a liquid solution, so "like you print a newspaper, you can print solar cells," said Richard L. Brutchey, assistant professor of chemistry in USC Dornsife.

Brutchey and USC postdoctoral researcher David H. Webber developed a new surface coating for the nanocrystals, which are made of the semiconductor cadmium selenide. Their research is featured as a "hot article" in Dalton Transactions, an international journal for inorganic chemistry.

Liquid nanocrystal solar cells are cheaper to fabricate than available single-crystal silicon wafer solar cells but are not nearly as efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. Brutchey and Webber solved one of the key problems of liquid solar cells: how to create a stable liquid that also conducts electricity.

In the past, organic ligand molecules were attached to the nanocrystals to keep them stable and to prevent them from sticking together. These molecules also insulated the crystals, making the whole thing terrible at conducting electricity.

"That has been a real challenge in this field," Brutchey said.

Brutchey and Webber discovered a synthetic ligand that not only works well at stabilizing nanocrystals but actually builds tiny bridges connecting the nanocrystals to help transmit current.

With a relatively low-temperature process, the researchers' method also allows for the possibility that solar cells can be printed onto plastic instead of glass without any issues with melting, resulting in a flexible solar panel that can be shaped to fit anywhere.

As they continue their research, Brutchey said he plans to work on nanocrystals built from materials other than cadmium, which is restricted in commercial applications due to toxicity.

"While the commercialization of this technology is still years away, we see a clear path forward toward integrating this into the next generation of solar cell technologies," Brutchey said.

The National Science Foundation and USC Dornsife funded the research.

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Finalists in DOE’s 1st Ever Clean Energy Business Plan Competition to be Announced

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 12:00 AM PDT

 
clean energy business competition

The Department of Energy (DOE) this year launched its first-ever business plan competition for clean energy. The first such competition, First Look West (FLoW), has been coordinated with Caltech and is looking to spotlight the best young innovators in the country. Top innovators have a chance to win $100,000, $60,000, or $40,000 as well as “mentoring programs, legal start-up packages, and the opportunity to pitch to investors who can help student entrepreneurs transform innovative ideas into commercial reality.”

The competition’s 30 or so finalists (out of 83 teams from 34 universities) will be announced today and tomorrow at Caltech. These finalists will all be “automatically accepted into the Green Technology Entrepreneurship Academy (GTEA), offered by the Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, at UC Davis, June 25 – 27, 2012.”

The top 3 FLoW finalists will be semifinalists in the 2012 Cleantech Open competition.

“The FLoW competition is one of six awarded regionally as part of a three-year, $2 million DOE program,” the clean energy competition’s website states. “The winning teams from six regions will compete at a competition held at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. in June 2012.”

I’m curious to see the proposals/ideas of the 30 or so finalists. Keep an eye on the FLoW page to check them out yourself.

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Report: China Doing Most Global Warming Abatement, World Still Far Behind Necessary Target

Posted: 29 Apr 2012 03:51 PM PDT

 
climate change policyThe DB Climate Change Advisors has released its latest Global Climate Change Policy Tracker report [PDF], its fourth. The report has quite a bit of interesting info in it. Most important, from a global perspective, is that “the best case global outlook” based on potential current targets still leaves us is with “a 5.8Gt ‘gap’ compared to a 450ppm stabilization pathway.” And even 450ppm is way to high according too top climate scientists.

The good news is the report shows that a lot of progress has been made in the past few years, since the Copenhagen Accord was adopted. Here’s a look at how much the estimated emissions gap has been cut over these past two and a half years (to enlarge, hold down ‘ctrl’ or ‘command’ and click the ‘+’ key):

And here’s the report’s top 10 list of policies/targets based on abatement potential:

But the overall story is that we’re still far behind the 450ppm target even under a best case scenario.

China — Largest Emitter, but Biggest Source of Abatement

The report projects that emissions will peak in 2016 after growth in developing countries slows down a bit. While China is projected to stay the world’s largest emitter up through 2020, even if it is able to hit all of its policy goals (which could be challenging), DB Climate Change Advisors notes that “China’s energy intensity target (i.e. efficiency) remains the largest source of abatement globally.”

Germany — Even with Increased Emissions, is a World Leader

“The phase out of nuclear power in Germany will most likely negatively impact emissions out to 2020 on its own,” DB Climate Change Advisors notes, “but in context of all policies Germany still reduces emissions substantially and achieves their emissions targets.”

Conventional wisdom is that Germany’s emissions will go up die to the nuclear phase-out. Some, however, have faith that this phase-out will only speed up a transition to decentralized renewable energy. Even if the former is true, though, Germany is so far ahead of most of the world in its emissions cuts that it is still a model for the world when it comes to global warming policy.

Improvement, but Need More from Many Countries (Including US)

The report shows continued policy improvement since the Copenhagen Accord was made. However, it seems clear that we need a significant bump in strong climate change policy to avoid considerable climate catastrophe that could threaten the existence of human civilization.

In an email from someone at DB, a couple of the key takeaway points they saw were:

  • China, Germany, Brazil and many of the Nordic countries have strong policy regimes in place to meet their mandates, whilst the rest of the EU and other emerging economies' policy regimes remain mixed.
  • The US and Italy in particular remain challenged in meeting their clean energy mandates. However, in terms of emissions, an aggressive coal to gas switch can have a valuable effect in the US.

I primarily agree. However, in light of recent research on natural gas, I think more emphasis needs to be placed on growing out the US’ truly clean energy economy.

Overall, though, the message of this report is quite similar to the IEA’s recent annual report — yes, we’re moving forward, but we’re still moving way too slowly.

Source: DB Climate Change Advisors

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