- New Global Solar Industry Organization Formed
- 10,000 Floating LEDs Mimic Fireflies in Tokyo (VIDEOS)
- 76% of Americans Want Clean Energy Instead of Nuclear, Natural Gas, & Coal
- $200 Whole Foods Gift Card (& More) Giveaway, Courtesy the Mitsubishi i
- Clean Energy Standard Could Have Big Impact
- “I Love Windpower” Brings Clean Energy to Mali
- Largest Wind Farm in India Crosses 1,000 MW of Capacity
- Overwhelming Support for Bike-Ped Funding, New Poll Finds
- Lighting News Roundup (9 Stories)
- Bike-Sharing Updates from Around the World
- Advertised vs Real-World Fuel Economy Gap Doubled in One Decade
- The Wind-Mobile: Recharge an EV Battery With a Wind Turbine
- Lots of Solar Power May Reduce, Not Increase, Electricity Prices
- Ontario Feed-in Tariff Prices Drop, Germans Pay Much Less
- SolarReserve Interview: What is Night Solar Power Worth to California?
Posted: 15 May 2012 07:19 AM PDT
The GSC isn’t full of frills and games — it’s got the home page and “Members” page on the top menu bar. The home page, other than a short “About” section, includes recent press releases, white papers, some rotating photos, and the standard contact and legal information. In my opinion, it gives the impression of a focused and powerful body.
From the press release announcing the GSC: “Global Solar Council members will engage with policymakers worldwide to demonstrate the progress towards abundant, affordable and low emissions energy already made possible by the solar industry and to emphasize the importance of a supportive policy and trade environment, which will enable the ongoing development of competitively-priced solar energy, driving job creation and economic growth.
“Through its members, the Global Solar Council brings industry knowledge and insights from all sides of the solar photovoltaic value chain; from the supply of materials to product manufacturing and financing, policy, research and innovation, cross-border cooperation, and grid development and management.”
The GSC will work together with EPIA, APVIA, SEIA, and other such organizations to advance the solar industry worldwide.
From the home page: “The Council aims to expand the use of solar energy in the global energy mix by actively promoting the benefits of solar energy.”
The first inclination of many has been to assume that the GSC was set up in response to the global trade issues between the US and China. Speaking to the matter, GSC says: “Recent media claims that the Global Solar Council (GSC) was set up in response to current dumping claims proceeding through the US Commerce Department process are incorrect. The Global Solar Council is a CEO-led coalition of global companies working to promote a favorable political framework for solar power, unrelated to any active trade disputes, as was made clear by the Global Solar Council's press release, White Paper and media responses.”
Images via GSC home page
Posted: 15 May 2012 07:00 AM PDT
100,000 floating LEDs were recently charged with solar power and designed to mimic fireflies in the city of Tokyo during the Hotaru Festival. “The effect was beautiful, but, like similar art projects, it raises the question of e-waste, but on a massive scale,” Alex Davies of TreeHugger notes. But it was noted by Tim Hornyak of CNET that they were “later reclaimed in nets downstream.” What happened next, we don’t know.
Posted: 15 May 2012 06:30 AM PDT
Yet another recent poll showed that Americans really support clean energy, across political affiliations (though, there’s clearly more support on the left).
The ORC International survey, conducted for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI), found that 76% of Americans (58% of Republicans, 83% of Independents, and 88% of Democrats) want to see ”a reduction in our reliance on nuclear power, natural gas and coal, and instead, launch a national initiative to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency.” (And who knows what the remaining 24% are smoking?)
Not only that, the public has clearly picked up on the fact that corrupt politics is a key reason we don’t have more of that. 82% of Americans (69% of Republicans, 84% of Independents, and 95% of Democrats) agree with this statement: “The time is now for a new, grassroots-driven politics to realize a renewable energy future. Congress is debating large public investments in energy and we need to take action to ensure that our taxpayer dollars support renewable energy– one that protects public health, promotes energy independence and the economic well being of all Americans.”
Wow. I’m shocked that such a high percentage of Americans is behind a “grassroots-driven politics.”
“Our survey is a call to action: Americans across the political spectrum think that it is time for decisive action toward a renewable energy future that will protect public health and provide reliable and cost effective energy,” Pam Solo, founder and president, Civil Society Institute, said. ”They are ready for leadership and, when offered choices in energy futures, choose an energy path that will protect public health and not sacrifice the quality of our air and water. Americans believe the partisan gridlock can only be challenged by a grassroots-driven process that challenges the undue political influence of the fossil fuel and nuclear power interests.”
Now, the question is just this: how do we get this going?
Posted: 15 May 2012 05:30 AM PDT
Mitsubishi’s got a classy and super affordable new electric vehicle (EV) that I’m sure you’re all aware of. But to try to bring a little more attention to the beauty, and also to give one of you EV lovers a little reward for your green vehicle love, the company is offering our readers an exclusive prize package consisting of:
Summarizing some of those stories linked above, the Mitsubishi i site states: “Shortly after being named the EPA’s fuel economy leader, the 100% electric Mitsubishi i was recognized as ‘The Greenest Vehicle of 2012′ by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Thanks to an astonishing 112 combined MPGe, this EV is the most efficient car in production—beating the Nissan Leaf and, well, every hybrid or gas car in America.”
Additionally, “the Mitsubishi i is the most affordable electric vehicle in the entire United States. And considering there’s a host of federal and state tax incentives for EV drivers, it’s never been easier on the budget to own an electric car (and especially this one) than it is right now.”
The MSRP for the vehicle is $29,125, the net MSRP* after the federal tax credit is $21,625 for the standard ES model, and the net MSRP* after the federal tax credit $23,625 for the SE version.
Some more info:
The i is available in some markets now and will be available nationwide in January 2012.
Mitsubishi i Giveaway
So, now, to enter the giveaway, you just have to do one thing: comment on this post telling us what you think most rocks about the Mitsubishi i, or even why you’re pre-ordering a car!
*Includes federal tax credit of up to $7500. Retail MSRP of ES starts $29,125 and SE starts at $31,125
Full disclosure: CleanTechnica gets nothing from this post other than the opportunity to have one of our readers win the prize package above.
Posted: 15 May 2012 05:00 AM PDT
A Clean Energy Standard could reduce power sector carbon dioxide emissions
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, National Energy Modeling System.
EIA recently released an Analysis of Impacts of the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012, pursuant to the request of Chairman Bingaman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. According to EIA’s analysis, the proposed policy would reduce electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions 44% below EIA’s Reference case in 2035 (see chart above). National average delivered electricity prices would increase 18% above the Reference case by 2035. However, for years before 2025, the national average electric power price increase due to the proposed policy is less than 5% above Reference case values.
A clean energy standard (CES) is a policy that promotes the use of clean energy in the electric power sector by requiring electricity providers to supply a specified share of their electricity sales from clean energy resources. CES policy specifications can vary substantially, including—but not limited to—factors such as the targeted clean energy level required, the types of energy resources that qualify as “clean”, the credit level allocated to each qualifying resource, the exemption of certain types of electricity providers from the requirement, the extent to which generation from previously-existing capacity receives credits, and the inclusion of an alternative compliance payment mechanism.
The scenario specified in the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 (BCES12) awards full credits for renewable electricity generation online since 1992, and awards partial credits, according to the carbon intensity of generation, for plants that emit carbon dioxide at a rate lower than that of a supercritical (modern, efficient) coal plant. Generation from nuclear and hydropower plants built prior to 1992 does not receive credits, but is removed from the sales baseline when calculating a utility’s required clean energy share. Small utilities are exempt from the CES requirement.
According to EIA’s analysis, the BCES12 policy results in a significant reduction in electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions. They are 20% below the level in the Reference case by 2025 and 44% lower by 2035. Total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are 8% below the level in the Reference case in 2025, and 18% lower in 2035 under the BCES12. The policy also results in a significant shift in the long-term electricity generation mix, with coal-fired generation in 2035 falling 54% below the Reference case level. The significant increase in coal retirements under the BCES12 policy is primarily offset by increased natural gas-fired generation through 2020, while increased nuclear and non-hydropower renewable generation plays a larger role between 2020 and 2035. In addition, total electric power generation falls slightly under the BCES12 policy.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, National Energy Modeling System.
Electricity prices are projected to increase under the BCES12, though the impact compared to the Reference case is not projected to exceed 5% until after 2025. By 2035, however, average delivered prices are projected to be 18% above the Reference case. Since electricity retailers with sales under a given level are exempt from the BCES12, the national average price impact does not reflect the potentially considerable divergence between the price impacts for customers of exempt versus non-exempt electricity providers. In addition, it does not capture the regional variation in price impacts, which may be significant based on factors including availability or scarcity of low-cost clean energy resources, current generation mix, existing local policies that already promote renewable energy, and the local regulatory structure for that region. Price impacts, as well as additional details about the BCES12, are provided in the report.
Posted: 15 May 2012 04:30 AM PDT
"If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say identity," says Piet Willem Chevalier, owner and operator of I Love Windpower. "On my first trip to Mali, I saw this group of people that were really shy, that didn't want to ask questions, they had no confidence. After we made that first turbine, we threw a party and it was quite amazing to see how this sense of identity grew."
One day Piet literally drove off the road, transfixed by a set of wind turbines. He couldn't have known at that time that this incident would change his life. In a few years he would be bringing wind power to Mali where the poorest communities often pay the highest rates for energy.
One thing led to another and Piet started working as an engineer for Siemens wind. After about a year he discovered the work of Welsh engineer, Hugh Piggott. Mr. Piggott is the inventor of an open-source, affordable, small-scale wind turbine design. Piet invited Hugh to come and teach a workshop in the Netherlands. It took some convincing, but Mr. Piggott finally agreed.
That workshop taught Piet how to build these turbines, and in doing so it changed Piet's life. Piet knew that he needed to take this new skill and technology to a place where it would be most beneficial and he could pass it on. One of his best friends was from Mali and he figured that Mali was as good as anywhere else to get started. He founded I Love Windpower. Designing a course that was easy to teach, transcended language barriers and used readily available materials, Piet flew to Mali. In two weeks, he and a team of 10 people, five who couldn't read or write and five who couldn't speak any French, built a better turbine than Piet himself had done.
The windmills deliver energy to local homes, but they also had some unexpected impacts. Two men participating in the workshop were from different tribes that for the last 20 years had not spoken to each other. During the workshop the two men became great friends, and now the tribes are talking again. The sense of identity and ownership derived from this windmill project has been remarkable.
"This is something that I never realized when starting this. Even if this project is going to fail completely and they never make a business out of it – which I still believe is possible and just takes some more time – every investment has accomplished so much from a social and identity perspective."
Recent events in Mali have threatened I Love Windpower's projects – not only because of the military coup and the rebel unrest, but also due to an impending food crisis. Piet recently wondered whether his little amount of money would be better used feeding people. After much debate with his team, they decided to keep the project running. They thought giving these people something to be proud of, and which one day may become a financially sustainable business, was deemed equally important.
Piet is now also working with Wind Empowerment, a group dedicated to small turbine development across Africa and the globe. He will be attending Rio+20 and setting up windmills around the conference. Some of his volunteers have taken the skills gained with Piet even further, and in one case started the Tanzania branch of I Love Windpower.
As for the Mali project, it is too early to see where it will go, but one thing remains certain, small-scale windmills are helping build community and identity while providing much needed electricity to Mali.
This blog post is Part 2 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden. Next Amrit Singh Thapa, an engineer from Nepal who has a big wind energy vision. Last week: Roman Juriga in the Czech Republic.
Posted: 15 May 2012 04:00 AM PDT
Suzlon Group recently announced that its Jaisalmer wind farm, the largest in India, crossed 1,000 MW (or 1 GW) of capacity. It actually crossed that number on April 1 of this year (reaching 1,064 MW of capacity at that time).
"We credit this success to the support from the Government of Rajasthan, our customers and local communities," said Suzlon Group Chairman Tulsi Tanti.
“The development of the wind park was initiated by Suzlon in August 2011 and comprises of Suzlon’s entire wind portfolio – ranging from the earliest 350 kW model to the latest S9X-2.1 MW series. The first S9X wind turbine in India was commissioned at the Tujeva site in Baramsar, Jaisalmer,” Climate Connect writes.
“The wind park comprises of a cluster of wind farm sites within Jaisalmer including Amarsagar Badabaug, Tejuva and Soda Moda among others. The wind park houses projects of various companies including Mytrah Energy, Hindustan Zinc Limited, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Rajasthan State Mines & Mineral Limited, Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited and Rajasthan Gums Limited.”
Posted: 15 May 2012 03:30 AM PDT
A recent telephone poll of 1,003 Americans conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates and commissioned by America Bikes finds that 83% of Americans think bike-ped funding should be increased or, at the least, maintained. 47% stated that current funding levels should be increased.
"From this day forward, we can say with total confidence that this issue has bipartisan support and is in the national interest," said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists.
And, notably, support was pretty even across political lines. “Among self-identified Republicans, 80 percent still favored maintaining or increasing bike-ped funding, compared to 88 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Independents.”
It was also fairly even across geographic, demographic, and economic boundaries.
"Every way you cut the numbers, it makes it all the more perverse that a few members of Congress would be opposed to this," Clarke told Streetsblog. (Bike-ped funding has been consistently attacked by certain leading members of one political party — can you guess which one that would be?)
For more information, check out the full Streetsblog post.
Image via AmericaBikes
Posted: 15 May 2012 03:00 AM PDT
1. TerraLUX Inc. announced that “its award-winning Line Voltage Linear LED Engine and coordinating Retrofit Kit have received UL1598C Classification and are now shipping.”
2. AEG Power Solutions (AEG PS) announced “an LED power supply engineered for a life expectancy exceeding that of the LEDs themselves and even the life of the application they are used in. The EP100D Series of long-life, high-reliability, high-performance LED drivers has the highest life expectancy on the market today.”
3. GE unveiled and LED replacement for the 100-watt incandescent light bulb. The LED “packages 27 watts of input power in a standard "A-19" bulb shape. The GE Energy Smart® 27-watt LED bulb incorporates proprietary synthetic jet technology that was enabled by GE's collaboration with ecomaginationSM Challenge winner Nuventix, creator of LED cooling technologies for energy-efficient lighting.”
4. The Philips EndurLED 100-watt-equivalent is expected to be released this Fall. “The company will add to its EnduraLED line with a lamp that gives off almost 1,700 lumens, or about the amount of light as a 100-watt incandescent, and consumes 23 watts. The product will be available this fall. Philips did not disclose the price but it is expected to be in the $40 to $50 range.” This follows the release of its LPrize LED winner.
5. Carmanah Technologies Corp. has launched the EG145 solar outdoor street lighting system, the company's latest addition to its most cost-effective solar-powered outdoor lighting system series to-date. With the addition of this next-generation EG-series system, which provides freeway-level light output from a compact form designed to withstand extreme elements, Carmanah now provides a complete range of solar-powered outdoor lights that address the needs of cost-sensitive markets requiring powerful standalone lighting solutions.
6. Switch Lighting has announced the availability “the only liquid-cooled LED A-lamps that can be used in any fixture, any orientation, and anywhere — indoors and out.” The lights are now in production and were on display at Lightfair 2012.
In addition to its 40-, 60-, 75-, and 100-watt-equivalent lamps, Switch unveiled the “SWITCH3-Way, a 25/50/75 watt-equivalent LED incandescent replacement A-Lamp for use in three way fixtures.”
The company also introduced “technology for a 220/240V driver to expand their full family of LED A-Lamps beyond U.S. borders to the international market. The 220/240V driver lamps are expected to be released in late 2012.”
7. Vanderbilt researchers have boosted the fluorescent efficiency of white-light quantum dots to 45 percent (the original efficiency when they were discovered 7 years ago was 3%).
“Forty-five percent is as high as the efficiency of some commercial phosphors which suggests that white-light quantum dots can now be used in some special lighting applications,” said Sandra Rosenthal, the Jack and Pamela Egan Chair of Chemistry, who directed the research which is described online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. “The fact that we have successfully boosted their efficiency by more than 10 times also means that it should be possible to improve their efficiency even further.”
“We calculate that if you combine our enhanced quantum dots with the most efficient ultraviolet LED, the hybrid device would have a luminous efficiency of about 40 lumens/watt,” reported James McBride, research assistant professor of chemistry who has been involved in the research from its inception. “There is lots of room to improve the efficiency of UV LEDS and the improvements would translate directly into a higher efficiencies in the hybrid.”
8. Lighting Science Group last week unveiled a new “ultra-efficient J5 security light [that] integrates video sensing with Wi-Fi operation and streams real time imaging to home computer or mobile devices….”
It also introduced the “Definity Motion Activated PAR 30 is 80% more efficient than the 65-watt halogen lamp that it replaces and integrates both motion and ambient light sensing directly into the lamp, eliminating the need for separate controls. User configuration options built into the bulb include time delay, dimming range, and motion and distance sensitivity. Setting a new standard in advanced lighting control, the bulb won the top LIGHTFAIR International 2012 Judges Citation Award.”
And its 4-inch, 9.5-watt Glimpse LED downlight “was selected as a 2012 Next Generation Luminaires (NGL) Solid State Lighting (SSL) Indoor Competition winner. The competition is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Illuminating Engineering Society, and the International Association of Lighting Designers.”
9. The Empire State Building, which requires a team of workers spending 7 hours changing light fixtures every time the building ‘needs’ to change colors, is getting an upgrade. “Thanks to a new, custom LED system created by Philips Color Kinetics, however, the façade and mast of the Empire State Building will now be able to change lighting scenes in real-time, without wasting a ton of energy,” Beth Buczynski of Crisp Green writes.
Impressive. Empire State Building image via Shutterstock
Posted: 15 May 2012 02:30 AM PDT
May 2, 2012 brings back Bysykkel to the streets of Drammen, Norway after a long multi-year hiatus. This time 140 bikes and 15 stations are available for use in the city with the purchase of a kroner 90 ($15 US) subscription online. Drammen Bysykkel was one of the first automated bike-sharing systems when launched in April 2001. Installed by Clear Channel just three years after its Vélo à la Carte in France, the system originally had 250 bikes and 28 stations. After the 2009 season, Bysykkel was suspended during negotiations between the City and Clear Channel. With everything settled, bike-sharing has returned to Drammen.
This month brought the consolidation of bike systems in Switzerland with the purchase of Velopass by PostBus. Starting in 2009, Velopass began offering automated bike-sharing in Switzerland. Today it has 80 stations with 800 bicycles in 20 cities with 11,000 subscribers.
PostBus started service in August 2011 with PubliBike at rail stations to give passengers transport options. There are currently six locations with more planned for this year. The company’s goal is to establish a system that integrates many cities so users may easily borrow bicycles with an electronic card valid across a national network.
Huangyan Public Bicycle Development Company in Huangyan District of Taizhou is debuting the design for its new integrated Bus-Bike station to be used in the expansion of this 5-month old program from 1,000 to 2,500 bicycles. The concept is to make seamless connections between the bike-sharing service and the bus service. Huangyan is not the only city integrating bus and bike stations. Yinchuan City which is in the process of planning a 4,000-bicycle bike-share system for early summer 2013, calls for constructing 200 integrated bus and bike stations. City governments throughout China with either older or newer bike-sharing systems are looking for totally integrated transportation systems with regular bus, bus rapid transit, and subways.
Posted: 15 May 2012 02:00 AM PDT
Gap Between Advertised And Real World Fuel Economy Doubles In A Decade (via Gas 2.0)
On some level, we all know that automakers advertised fuel economy numbers are a bit…optimistic, shall we say. So while there may be a glut of 40 mpg compact cars on the market right now, there has been some hearsay that the real world numbers rarely align with the advertised numbers, no matter how…
Posted: 15 May 2012 01:30 AM PDT
There are a number of alternative energy sources for cars — whether that’s fuel (like ethanol or some other sort of biofuel) or a fuel cell (yay hydrogen) or even a creative way of charging an EV battery (solar cars are fun!). One more has been added to the list — a farmer in China has built a wind-mobile.
Tang Zhenping from Peking put together a (sort of) wind-powered electric car, and he's been making headlines with it around the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition. It's not a production car, and it wasn't made by a professional automaker, but the little wind-mobile seems to function fairly well all the same.
Looks Great, But Does It Work?
Since wind energy is on the rise as a potential source of reliable renewable power (particularly the offshore type), it was only a matter of time before someone tried sticking a propeller on the front of a car. Tang Zhenping seems to think that using the wind generated by the car as it drives down the road will help charge his electric battery — the wind turns the turbine, the turbine works a generator, and the generator charges the battery. The battery, of course, is attached to the car’s electric motor.
The car, of course, is not a perpetual motion machine; the propeller doesn't produce enough power on its own to recharge the batteries, but it apparently does help cut down on time between trips to the charging station — every little bit helps, and the propeller seems to produce a little more power than drag. The car itself is 118" long and just 39" tall and has a top speed of 87 mph. Although, there has been no report of actual practical battery range. It was apparently built in just three months, and cost less than $1600 to put together.
If nothing else, the car is certainly visually striking and definitely a conversation starter — let us know what you think in the comments below.
No related posts.
Posted: 15 May 2012 01:00 AM PDT
The story comes from Germany, where a decade of consistent policy has resulted in thousands of megawatts of distributed solar installed on urban rooftops and rural barns. This year, it was noted that the surge of “solar PV was cutting peak electricity prices by up to 40%.” The following graphic of prices on the German electricity exchange — which Craig Morris calls “the afternoon dip” — illustrates the effect. The left view is 2008, showing steady, high prices in the market throughout the afternoon. The chart on the right shows the same time period in 2012, where an abundance of solar has sharply cut afternoon power costs.
What’s happened is the “merit order effect.” Because utilities have purchased all this solar capacity on long-term contracts, there is effectively zero marginal cost to taking the solar electricity onto the grid. And, in Germany, there’s enough solar electricity on sunny afternoons to completely offset the traditional spike in electricity demand created by air conditioning. So, instead of taking electricity from expensive gas peaking power plants or diesel generators, utilities have low-cost solar filling the gap, undermining the previous price peaks.
The fall in wholesale power costs from so much solar represents a delicious irony. For years, solar advocates have justified high prices as necessary to help the market mature and — because solar is such a small part of total power generation — that solar will cost the average ratepayer very little. The truth is that the impact of solar may be large, but in the opposite direction.
Posted: 15 May 2012 12:00 AM PDT
As a bit of background, Ontario's feed-in tariff gives wind and solar producers (and many other technologies) long-term contracts at premium prices to support deployment of new renewable energy. In a unique marriage of environmental and economic goals, the province also provides price bonuses to community-based projects and requires wind and solar projects to source much of their labor and materials within Ontario (for more on this, see our 2011 report).
Modeled after Germany's landmark program, Ontario is starting to see the price declines as their renewable energy market matures. Here's a quick look at how the new prices stack up against world-leader Germany, as well as against two of the prominent feed-in tariff programs in the United States, Vermont and Gainesville. The prices for all programs have been changed to U.S. dollars, adjusted to the same contract length of 20 years, and to an equivalent solar insolation (for Gainesville, FL). Prices for U.S. programs were also increased by 30% to account for the federal tax credit, which is usually taken in addition to the feed-in tariff contract price. More on the methodology can be found in this post.
For solar, Ontario pays a rate comparable to other North American jurisdictions, but all of them pay much more than Germany. Germany pays half of what North American feed-in tariff programs do for the same size solar project.
For wind power, Ontario pays less than Vermont (which caps wind projects at just 1.5 megawatts), but still more than Germany's mature wind market. Unlike its North American counterparts, Germany's tariff adjusts based on the quality of the wind regime. In the reference scenario (~6 meters per second wind at a height of 50 meters), Germany's price paid is a full 2 cents per kWh less than American producers. In a high-wind scenario (7 meters per second wind), Germany pays even less. Only in a low-wind regime does Germany's tariff price compare to Ontario.
Ultimately, the test of success for Ontario’s clean energy program is its outcomes and public support. Despite public outcry about high prices paid to renewable energy producers, the prospect for over 43,000 jobs and nearly 5,000 megawatts of clean energy sustained feed-in tariff supporters in the recent government election and the program will continue.
Posted: 14 May 2012 11:46 PM PDT
SolarReserve can operate potentially 24 hours a day, because its solar tower technology can bank the sun’s energy stored as heat – for as long as two months – which can be used to drive a turbine to make power at any time.
At the CPUC site that lists the 110 big contracts the three California utilities have signed with solar developers, I noticed that SolarReserve contracts – and Abengoa's – were priced “above the MPR" but BrightSource is below.
MPR is the Market Price Referent, sort of an amalgamated price that reflects all the different types of generation; sort of a blended average rate (of natural gas in California, plus, presumably, nuclear, wind, geo, hydro and solar). New contracts must be (on average) at or below that price to avoid costly electricity contracts.
So I talked with Tom Georgis, the Senior Vice President of SolarReserve – to see if the higher price allowed by the CPUC for the SolarReserve contracts was because there is an added value in its inherent storage as well, since it includes molten salt storage – meaning the potential for solar night and day.
Are the SolarReserve contracts listed by the CPUC over MPR because of the value of the storage that you include?
Well, yeah. We internally have been looking at the value of storage but there are several independent groups that are looking at the value of storage, looking at quantifying the value.
The benefits of storage are, we don’t require augmentation from natural gas power plants and so late afternoon when PV is dropping off, and direct steam and trough are dropping off – in the evening hours, you’re going to have to fire up natural gas facilities to augment and supplement those intermittent resources.
Whereas with Solar Reserve technology we don’t require any supplemental from fossil fuels, either within the facility or from other fossil fuel generation assets.
What is that value per kilowatt hour?
The current research there is being lead by NREL; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. They're estimating that the value of storage (depending on the cost of the alternative is – so where the price of natural gas and where the PV panel price is) can be anywhere from 1.6 cents to up to 4 cents a kilowatt hour.
So certainly a lot more work needs to be done on quantifying that. It's also geographical; so California has numerous stakeholder processes that are ongoing that are looking at the cost of intermittency projects without storage like Abengoa and Brightsource and PV – versus projects that have an inner storage, such as ours. The only kind of metric that we really have right now, that's public, is that NREL number in terms of quantifying the value of storage.
Didn't BrightSource also add storage last year?
Yes, they announced that they have but I don't believe… well the Ivanpah projects don't have storage, those are just direct steam. I think they are attempting to reduce their price by adding storage to their PPAs that are being amended and going through the CPUC process right now.
So that has the effect of reducing their price? – or is it just more bang for the same buck?
I don't know their economics and how they are looking at it, but my presumption is that yes, they've reduced their price, but I can't confirm that but I think that's what they've done. So, I don't know if that's around having storage, I think from the press release and what they've intimated, that by adding storage they're able to increase their output, therefore reduce their price.
But storage costs money to put in, though? Isn't that why yours and Abengoa's were above MPR?
It does, (but actually Abengoa does not have storage on their California project. Their California project is just trough. Their Arizona project has storage but not their California project).
But in our case you know, yes, it does cost more. Solar reserve does PV as well, so we understand the price point: where PV projects are, and where our solar thermal with storage is, in the pricing range – but we think its a premium product, and deserves a higher price than an intermittent resource, because we can operate like a conventional power plant.
We can operate when it’s cloudy; we can operate at night. We can deliver very valuable electrons during the peak periods. And certainly the California utilities have Time of Day pricing and so we can obviously take advantage of that by delivering the megawatt hours when they need it most.
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