Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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BMW & Real Goods Solar Team Up: 35% off Solar for Electronauts

Posted: 08 May 2012 08:25 AM PDT


BMW and Real Goods Solar are the latest to team up and offer an EV-solar tag team. BMW announced yesterday that it and Real Goods Solar are offering BMW ActiveE drivers (aka Electronauts) a solar deal that’s hard to pass up — approximately 35% off a solar installation contract with Real Goods Solar (RGS).

“Lease and purchase options will be available to suit the residential energy and charging needs for BMW's EV drivers. Real Goods Solar will provide a premium offer to design, install and monitor a turn-key solar solution to all ActiveE customers in California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York,” BMW writes.

“Real Goods Power Savings Plans reduce initial investment costs to a minimum and include premium industry products, including modules manufactured in America, and a proprietary online monitoring system, which includes the ability to track the performance of their solar system on the web or through an iPhone application.”

Electronauts can call (855) RGS-EVPV or go to www.realgoodssolar.com/ActiveE to schedule a solar evaluation.

Image via BMW

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White Paper on Benefits of Mass Deployment of Distributed Energy Storage (DES)

Posted: 08 May 2012 07:35 AM PDT

distributed energy storage benefits

The National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries (NAATBatt) last week issued a white paper on “the benefits that would result from widespread deployment of distributed energy storage (DES) systems.” A copy of this white paper was also provided to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in April.

The white paper, "Distributed Energy Storage: Serving National Interests," is 47 pages long. Some of the benefits detailed in the paper relate to system regulation, integration of distributed renewable power generation, mitigation of the impact of power disruptions, transmission and distribution project deferral, and the manufacture of more convenient and less costly electric vehicles.

For more information, check out the white paper, linked above.

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How Much Incandescent Bulbs Really Cost

Posted: 08 May 2012 07:14 AM PDT

With so much misinformation out there, consumers are not being given good information about lighting. There is especially poor reporting about the ongoing elimination of 100w, 75w, 60w, and 40w incandescent lamps from the national inventory. In fact, incandescent lighting is not being eliminated or outlawed, but what is being eliminated are the least-efficient, commonly-used versions. As long as people pick the right bulb for the result they want, in terms of lighting quality and color, the alternatives available right now can do everything that incandescents do while costing much less and consuming far less energy.

A typical misinformed assertion will be that, "a 75w incandescent lamp is less expensive than a CFL [compact fluorescent lamp]." This is irresponsible, given that the statement is true only if you use the incandescent lamp for something like a paperweight. People need to know not the cost of buying one type of lamp or another, but rather the cost of owning and using one type lamp or another. Once people have that knowledge, they quickly realize that the incandescent lamps they grew up with are just about the most expensive there are, not the least expensive.

The table below can also be of value. It compares the ten-year cost of relying on 75w incandescent lighting to the cost of owning three alternatives: a 53w high-efficiency (halogen-filled) incandescent lamp, a 13w CFL, and a 17w LED lamp. As can be seen, the ten-year cost of owning and using a 75w incandescent lamp is more than five times the cost of owning a CFL that produces about the same amount and quality of light.

Keep in mind that the cost of ownership doesn’t consider a number of other costs, such as the additional carbon dioxide and mercury that’s put into the air by coal-fired power plants and by the planes, trains, ships, and trucks used to transport lamps from the factory to a distribution center, then to a warehouse, and then to a store. That's ten times as many trips for conventional incandescents compared to CFLs, and 25 as many trips for conventional incandescents vs. LEDs.

There's also all the extra packaging that has to be manufactured, and all the packaging and spent lamps that wind up in a landfill. If people were simply given the facts, they'd realize that all this fuss about losing incandescent lamps is a tempest in a teapot, based on misinformation. When people stop using conventional incandescent lamps, they lose nothing, they save money, and they're gentler on the environment we all have to share.

Many of the same people who have nothing to say about the significant environmental problems that conventional incandescent lamps cause seem to be extraordinarily concerned about the miniscule amount of mercury in CFLs, as though it were really something for the nation to worry about. Here are some FACTS:

Fact: The amount of mercury in a typical CFL is not enough to coat the head of a pin.

FactThe typical swordfish contains 20 times more mercury than a typical CFL.

Fact: When a CFL is broken, most of its mercury adheres to the glass and does not disperse into the air.

Fact: Coal-fired power plants are the nation's most significant source of airborne mercury.

Focusing on the link between airborne mercury and coal-fired generation of electricity, the truth is that reliance on inefficient incandescent lamps as "freedom of choice" is unacceptable. If my neighbor decides to hoard 100w incandescent lamps and keep using them, my neighbor causes unnecessary generation of electricity. The unnecessary generation of electricity forces me to inhale mercury that would otherwise not be there. What happens to my freedom of choice? What happens to my family's freedom of choice? It's like being forced to inhale second-hand cigarette smoke simply because some people equate freedom of choice with doing what they prefer to do even if it harms others.

The new lighting-efficiency targets require people to give up nothing in terms of lighting quality, convenience, and versatility. The only thing they really require people to do is decide about the kind of lamp they want to use and how much money they want to save, and that is not a bad thing.

Scott Raybin @greensavingsco

Related posts:

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First Solar is the First Solar Inaugurated on Public Lands

Posted: 07 May 2012 10:46 PM PDT


The first solar plant of a 6.5 GW boom in Obama-era projects approved on public lands land was just inaugurated today.

Silver State North began generating electricity to the Nevada grid a mere year and a half after getting its initial approval by the Department of the Interior in 2010 and going on to successfully hurdle the following environmental reviews and get final approvals.

Silver State was the first of 28 other large-scale renewable energy projects approved by the Obama administration on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in a boom for renewable energy not seen before in the U.S. More than 98% of all leases supplied by the BLM before 2009 were for oil and gas drilling, not renewables.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar attended the ceremony in Primm, Nevada, to inaugurate Silver State North.

“This is a landmark day for solar energy and for the nation,” Salazar says. “Silver State North was the first solar project we approved on public lands in Nevada and –18 months later — the first of our priority projects to provide clean energy to the power grid. This is a model of industry and government working together to strengthen local economies, generating good jobs and affordable, reliable and sustainable power."

The Silver State North project is sited 40 miles south of Las Vegas, in the Ivanpah region, where it has a 25 year energy contract to supply power for NV Energy. The 50 MW project was the first of three phases of a project approved for First Solar. A much larger 350 MW Silver State South, to be built in two more phases was to have supplied the California grid, but may not make it.

The 50 MW thin-film solar project was developed by First Solar, but sold to Enbridge in March. When PV prices dropped it squeezed the solar companies such as First Solar or Solyndra that innovated alternatives to traditional PV that were (initially) cheaper.

Thin film is less efficient than PV; which means it takes more space to make the same power. It uses 618 acres of desert land owned by the BLM, in a desert tortoise-rich region currently abused by Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) users, who were among those who had weighed in on the proposed project.


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NREL Lends Legitimacy to Life-Cycle Assessment of Coal v Renewables

Posted: 07 May 2012 08:38 PM PDT


An average of LCAs at the Journal of Industrial Ecology finds that burning coal generates 95% more greenhouse gases than construction projects that generate energy such as solar or wind farms.

The NREL helped consolidate reams of studies of lifecycle assessments (LCAs) of carbon emissions as compared between coal and renewables. They find that renewables emit the same sorts of (negligible) amounts of greenhouse gases that most activities (other than generating electricity from coal) do.

But why there have been so many studies of something that is so obvious, is a mystery. It almost makes it seem that there could be some question that renewables are in any way comparable to coal. Perhaps all these LCA comparisons were commissioned by the coal industry grasping at straws to generate media to the effect that wind, solar emit greenhouse gases too, so nah, nah, nah-nah-nah!

Talk about tilting at windmills.

Here is what is assessed for wind, to calculate its LCA:

  • One-time upstream emissions, which includes emissions resulting from raw materials extraction, materials manufacturing, component manufacturing, transportation from the manufacturing facility to the construction site, and on-site construction.

  • Ongoing emissions during the turbine’s operating phase, which includes emissions from maintenance activities such as replacement of worn parts and lubricating oils, and transportation to and from the turbines during servicing.

  • One-time downstream emissions, which includes emissions resulting from turbine and site decommissioning, disassembly, transportation to the waste site, and ultimate disposal and/or recycling of the turbines and other site materials.

Transmission and distribution (T&D) of electricity is sometimes included within the scope of LCAs, either through accounting for construction of the infrastructure or the loss of generated electricity in delivery to the consumer, or both.

But seriously. Other than creating energy from Tinkerbell’s pixie dust, what possible source of energy would not be made out of stuff and moved there? Only something made of thin air would not have some “emissions resulting from raw materials extraction, materials manufacturing, component manufacturing, transportation from the manufacturing facility to the construction site, and on-site construction.”

But we need to compare wind to coal, not to some Tinkerbell pixie dust energy source that we could use instead of wind that’s not made of stuff.  Just like everything we build for long term use, from skyscrapers to bridges, wind and solar is first made from stuff and then moved to the site (where it does generate energy from thin air).

Stories on these findings will tut tut that indeed wind and solar have [some trivial and truly insignificant] carbon emissions, so that therefor they too are “just like coal” even though coal really does have serious civilization-altering carbon emissions.

So you can count on seeing headlines like “Solar, Wind Have Carbon Emissions Too”. For example, intones Phys.org earnestly:

“State and local lawmakers, weighing the merits of a new coal-fired plant versus a wind farm, for example, are eager to know not just the relative financial costs, but the impacts to the environment over the decades the project.”

“Eager to know”? You have to be kidding. “Weighing the merits of a new coal-fired plant versus a wind farm”? Like it might be a tossup?

What is more, I can’t speak for the accuracy of the coal data, but the renewable energy assessment data used in these studies is ridiculously flawed and out of date.

The solar PV data makes one huge error, in assuming that the life of a solar panel ends after 20 or 30 years. But that date is only when manufacturers warranties expire, because after 25 years, solar produces 12% less than the initial rated power, since they could then be sued for it not producing the originally rated power. But in fact solar panels produce (at reduced efficiency) for at least 40 years and we don’t know yet how much longer, because the panels first manufactured 40 years ago are still going.

This would skew the solar results since less power would be recouped to amortize the carbon cost of making them.

Similarly, Notes on the wind data used suggests it was overly weighted towards small wind turbines averaging 600 kilowatts. But in the surge in wind farms that provide the bulk of the U.S. wind industry now turbines under 1.5 MW are virtually never used and certainly will not be used in future installations. In Europe it is more like 3 MW.

Where they found utility scale wind farms with 225 kW – 600 kW turbines is a mystery. Maybe the few in California in the Jimmy Carter era were 225 kW, but they are being replaced.

d This data point represents a mix of (4) 660 kW, (4) 600 kW and (2) 1.75 MW turbines. Therefore, a capacity-weighted average capacity factor was used to allow for harmonization for this step. e The capacity for this data point represents a weighted average of (1) 225 kW, (1) 500 kW, (7) 600 kW, and (1) 1.75 MW turbines. A capacity-weighted average capacity factor was used for harmonization of this step. f The capacity for this data point represents a weighted average of the mix of (7) 600 kW, (4) 850 kW, (10) 1.5 MW, (63) 2.0 MW, (50) 2.3 MW, (30) 3 MW turbines. A capacity-weighted average capacity factor was used for harmonization of this step.

Of course if you assess solar that has to be thrown out in 20 years or wind that has the feeble power of the 1970s, then the LCA will look worse for them compared with coal.

So while the summary is that solar and wind power emit some 5 tons of CO2 for every 100 tons emitted by coal power, I have my doubts.


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Solar Infographic: A Look at Solar Growth in the US

Posted: 07 May 2012 07:03 PM PDT

This infographic on solar growth in the US sheds interesting light (pun intended) on just how rapidly this renewable energy market has been growing (hold ‘ctrl’ or ‘command’ and click the ‘+’ key to enlarge):

Infographic Courtesy: SpheralSolar.com

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US Solar Industry Could Employ 200,000 to 430,000 by 2020

Posted: 07 May 2012 06:52 PM PDT

Last year, we wrote about the US solar industry surpassing 100,000 jobs. With the industry expected to grow many times over in the coming years, especially with strong policy support, that number could grow substantially. A new independent research report released last week (while I was on my first little vacation in a couple years) has found that the industry could support hundreds of thousands of US jobs by 2020 (200,000 to 430,000 depending on various factors).

The report, “Assessment of Incentives and Employment Impacts of Solar Industry Deployment,” was conducted by the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Commenting on the report, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) noted: “according to the report, diffusion of solar energy technology in the energy markets is very similar to the paths that many American industries have traveled to become mainstream. Unlike more mature technologies, however, that continue to receive subsidies, solar energy is currently in a very early phase of its growth trajectory.”

The small but loud group of individuals, industries, and politicians opposed to solar like to act as if solar is getting unfair subsidies from the government. This is completely absurd for many reasons, as I recently discussed, but one of the reasons I didn’t focus on in that article was actually the focus of this new report: historically, the US government has subsidized the energy sector and this has been important for the nation’s economic growth, and its support for solar is just continuing that trend. “We find that solar energy is following the same incentive-driven path as other traditional energy sources before it, consistent with the government's decision to incentivize energy production for a variety of policy purposes,” the report states. Of course, this support offers many rewards. “We also conclude that the federal investment in solar energy could bring about a number of tangible benefits, including increased employment, global business opportunities, and energy supply diversity.”

Here are a few good charts from the report:

Will this report change the minds of the coal industry, nuclear industry, natural gas industry, or the politicians in their pockets? I don’t think so. However, it’s yet more independent guidance encouraging us to continue giving solar the boost it deserves.

Some more good comments and summarizing from SEIA:

The report finds that traditional fuels have been subsidized for decades – some like coal and oil for a century – and followed similar growth trajectories toward majority adoption.  According to the Baker Center report, every significant energy resource deployed in the U.S. today has had approximately 30 years of innovation and early adoption before beginning rapid growth that brought about mainstream adoption.

The report also finds that solar energy has yielded significant public benefits in exchange for federal support.  Earlier federal energy policy has helped maintain competition, provide for national security, promote economic development, meet public health and environmental quality standards, and increase energy security.

Additionally, the report points out that solar energy benefits the U.S. energy portfolio by decreasing the impact of supply disruptions and price volatility of other sources of energy. It is also notes that solar power is most efficient during periods of high demand, providing lower cost peak power rates for consumers.

Let’s keep supporting solar so that we can look back on the 100,000+ Americans employed today at 5,600 solar energy companies as just the beginning, and so that the record-breaking solar growth we are seeing continues at such a fast pace!

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Why New Clean Energy Bill Cuts More CO2 than Climate Bill

Posted: 07 May 2012 05:13 PM PDT


Retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman has introduced another of his Clean Energy Standard (CES) bills aimed at attracting the needed Republican support to pass. Here’s why this one might work, and why it doesn’t matter that it is so loose in what is allowed.

Utilities would have to get CO2 emissions below .82 ton per megawatt hour. Coal emits about 1.4 tons of CO2 per megawatt hour now, so about half that, like modern natural gas plants emit now.

By including hydro, nuclear, natural gas and (potentially) clean coal (once carbon capture is perfected) along with renewable energy sources like solar and wind means that, after his ten or so attempts to pass a more pure renewable standard over the last decades, this one has what it takes to pass.

The clean energy requirements would start with requiring utilities get 24% of this “clean” energy by 2015, and that would be raised 3% a year for the next twenty years.

Utilities that fail to comply would be levied a 3 cents per kilowatt hour fine for every kilowatt hour of electricity sold that does not meet the requirements, similar to the fines due to failures to meet Renewable Energy Standards in more than half the states now.

What would count as “clean” energy? Quite a lot. As long as a source emits under .82 tons of CO2 per megawatt hour, coal with carbon capture, coal mine methane, nuclear, hydro, biomass and natural gas. Of course most states will choose the renewables: solar, wind, ocean, current, wave, tidal, and geothermal energy.

While this looser standard makes it easier to get the needed Republican votes to get a standard passed, it means it will cost coal states more than a straight renewable energy standard. The EIA says the CES would raise electricity rates after the first decade once carbon capture of CO2 emissions from coal would be likely a reality (but expensive), and historically expensive nuclear plants were included.

But here’s the thing. The only states that would likely choose these less renewable alternatives are some of the eight heavily coal-dependent states that now prevent us from having any national renewable standard at all, (Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming) but even some of them, like Wyoming and North Dakota are defecting to wind now.

At most, it will be these eight states that get more than 80% of their energy from coal that would the ones that will see prices rise if they switch to more expensive alternatives like clean (CCS) coal and nuclear, rather than cheap wind or natural gas.

That is because the states that are most heavily coal-dependent tend to be much more inclined to embrace nuclear than renewable energy. Till now, these states have prevented any renewable energy standard nationally.

So if these states do cut their CO2 emissions – even if it’s with nuclear or clean coal or other source that more renewable-friendly states would never choose – then the U.S. as a whole would still see a big drop in emissions.

In particular, including and encouraging new (more environmentally sensitive) hydro is key, as many red states have hydro.

That is why, paradoxically, the looser standard would cut emissions more than the (un-passed 2009) climate bill’s projected cuts of 14% by 2020. According to the just-published Energy Department analysis, (if enacted) the CES would reduce projected CO2 emissions to fall 4% more by 2020.

Under the EIA "reference" case scenario, which assumes that current energy laws and regulations remain unchanged, annual electric sector CO2 emissions would only fall 12% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 26% in 2035.

By contrast, the CES would reduce 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 44% below that level in 2035 – mostly by cutting coal-fired generation by 54%.

Under Bingaman's bill, the EIA estimates more than 80 GW of nuclear capacity would be added by 2035, compared to less than 10 GW if current policies were to continue, boosting nuclear generation by 62% by 2035, and keeping the U.S. ahead of China, which has the most ambitious nuclear plans in the world.

Both wind and biomass would also see a 42% boost from business-as-usual levels by 2025, the analysis says. But since new wind generation is booming, while nuclear is nearly stagnant, these relative percentages are not as conducive to nuclear expansion as they look.

All “clean” electricity sources installed after 1991 would count towards the 24% requirement, as well as efficiency upgrades to pre-1991 nuclear or hydro plants.

Within three years, additional resources that reduce electric energy loads would be assessed for inclusion,  including energy efficiency, biomass converted to thermal energy, geothermal energy collected using heat pumps, thermal energy delivered through district heating systems, and waste heat used as industrial process heat. The waste-to-energy is extremely comprehensive:

''(6) QUALIFIED WASTE-TO-ENERGY.—The term 'qualified waste-to-energy' means energy produced—
''(A) from the combustion of— ''(i) post-recycled municipal solid waste; ''(ii) gas produced from the gasification or pyrolization of post-recycled municipal solid waste;

''(iii) biogas; ''(iv) landfill methane; ''(v) animal waste or animal byproducts; or ''(vi) wood, paper products that are not commonly recyclable, and vegetation (including trees and trimmings, yard waste, pallets, railroad ties, crates, and solid-wood manufacturing and construction debris), if diverted from or separated from other waste out of a municipal waste stream.

Although the bill is modeled on the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) as a simple mandate, with punishment for failure, it also includes elements of cap & trade, like the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and auctions currently used by the ten RGGI Northeastern states.

Utilities could meet the requirements by buying credits from other producers of clean energy, like the market auctions that rapidly propelled New Jersey (population 9 million, GDP half a trillion) to the #2 solar state in the nation after California (population 33 million, GDP $2 trillion). REC auctions are thus already in use and familiar to utilities in ten Northeastern states.

Unlike the acid rain reduction cap & trade markets that utilities already participate in, that are administered by the EPA, this market would be administered by the energy secretary. Utilities would need to submit clean energy credits, which could be “traded” (bought for cash from complying utilities) to comply with the standard.


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