Saturday, May 19, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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SB843 Lets California Utility Customers Share Solar Projects

Posted: 19 May 2012 10:57 AM PDT


image via Shutterstock

A revolutionary renewable energy bill could become law in California as soon as this September.

It will allow customers of the big three utilities in California to buy power directly from renewable energy projects developed in their neighborhoods for the first time.

They would get a credit on their regular utility bill for their share of renewable energy delivered to the grid.

SB843 is designed to expand solar power in the state by opening it up to those who would like to go solar but lack the roof space, the credit rating or the home ownership needed.

The policy cleverly leverages the two greatest solar resources of the state: the sizable numbers of urban renters who want to go solar but cannot – and the huge cadre of extremely professional solar developers. (Plus the California sunshine.)

Solar developers would build projects in an economic size range, up to 20 MW, the utilities would handle the billing, the developers would recoup their investment by the shares, and the utility customers would have an easy way to go solar.

There is an abundant supply of young sophisticated urban Californians desperate to go solar, but who rent, or have a teeny roof, or no credit, or too many trees, or have such a small electricity bill that it’s not worth building them a solo system.

Similarly, there’s no shortage of competent solar developers in California. To meet California’s 33 percent by 2020 mandate, the three utilities had so many offers that prices were driven down around the 9 cent a kilowatt hour mark for utility scale solar contracts – and if they were all accepted would have supplied 100 percent of the state electricity from solar.

This bill finally brings these vast driving forces for clean energy development together in a way well calculated to grow solar adoption in the state, in middle sized projects.

According to PV-Tech, these projects would range in size from 1 MW (which takes up about a city block) to 20 MW.

Environmental Entrepreneurs estimates that the bill will generate $6 billion in economic activity from the construction of up to 2 GW of community distributed solar; tax revenues will be boosted by $500 million and 48,000 jobs will be created – all at no cost to the public sector.

The projects built would be in addition to the 33 percent mandate the utilities must meet, says Tom Price, the director of policy and market strategies at CleanPath, a solar project development company in San Francisco. They don’t involve complexities like Renewable Energy Credit (REC) auctions and trading, which people seem to distrust.

“This is very different from RECs, than just buying the credit from a wind turbine,” said Price. “This is 100% brand new energy built for that customer and the RECs are retired on behalf of that customer and they are made so that they cannot be resold and there is no double counting.”

Neither as large as the utility-scale projects in the high desert, nor as small as the home rooftop systems, it fills a void in between. But most importantly they would fill a void in a sense of neighborhood ownership of power.

As our own John Farrel has covered here, studies have found that a sense of local shared ownership goes a long way to eliminating NIMBY issues:

With local ownership of the wind project, 45% of residents had a positive view toward more wind energy (Zschadra├č). In the town with an absentee-owned project (Nossen), only 16% of residents had a positive view of expanding wind power; a majority had a negative view.

But the one huge issue that makes most waver before solar adoption is creditworthiness.

To go solar for no money down with a lease or PPA, you have to have at least reasonable credit, unlike when you sign up for regular electricity (because if you don’t pay your electric bill, your utility can simply turn off your service).

So, if the utilities handle the money side, that removes the need to have creditworthiness.

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Electric Scooter from Smart — eScooter (Ooooh, Yeah!)

Posted: 19 May 2012 08:30 AM PDT

I’ve got a confession to make — I’m increasingly falling for scooters, especially electric ones (of course). I’ve even been getting into electric motorcycles (running into a previous student of mine the other day who now has two motorcycles after falling for them a couple years ago doesn’t help). I don’t know if I’ll ever live someplace where it’s practical/useful to buy a scooter, and I don’t do much non-necessary purchasing, but if I did, this one looks pretty sweet:

Smart’s Electric eScooter is a Go! (via Gas 2.0)

Mercedes' Smart brand has had its starts and stumbles in the US market, but it's finding a niche among the alternative transportation crowd that just wants to get around town and get in and out of a parking space with minimal cost and minimum hassle … just like America's scooterists. Smart'…

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Porsche 918 Hybrid Snapped Testing (PICS)

Posted: 19 May 2012 07:56 AM PDT

The Porsche 918 hybrid supercar is for real. Proof below fro Italy:

Porsche’s 918 Super-Hybrid Caught Testing (spy pics) (via Gas 2.0)

Porsche's 918 hybrid supercar is real, and here's proof: amateur "spy photos" taken at the Nardo high-speed test track in southern Italy. According to onlookers, the 918 prototype "looked like a mobile laboratory, with chopped up 911 bodyparts and fat bundles of wires." Sounds good to me…

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Battery Swapping for Electric Bikes & Scooters

Posted: 19 May 2012 07:52 AM PDT

Some are convinced that battery-swapping is the future for electric vehicles. Others, not so much. The system does clearly offer some benefits at the moment. So, it’s no surprise that even electric bikes and scooters are being targeted in this arena now. Here’s the full story:

Bat’Lib Battery-swap System for Matra Electric Scooters (via Gas 2.0)

One of the mental stumbling blocks most people have with EVs has been the long charge time that interrupts long trips. Granted, even with a 2-hour quick charge system in place, that's a real issue (and if you don't believe that, spend 2 hours at a Flying J truckstop getting ultra-murdered). That…

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Help a Reader Out — Short Survey

Posted: 19 May 2012 07:43 AM PDT


One of our readers recently reached out to me asking if I could help spread the news about a survey she’s conducting. It’s just a 7-question poll on topics such as recycling and alternative energy on college campuses. If you have a moment, help Ashley Halligan of Software Advice out by answering the 7-question poll.

Personally, I look forward to seeing the results of the poll.

Image: Cochise College solar panel field via Shutterstock

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Your Smart Phone Can Help Reduce Food Waste

Posted: 19 May 2012 07:22 AM PDT

Smart phone apps never cease to amaze me. There are so many great apps out there that serve so many good purposes — too bad I don’t have a smart phone to test them out. This one under development would certainly be pretty sweet (no pun intended) if it is built as planned:

Avoiding Food Waste with Your Smart Phone (via sustainablog)

Ever bitten into a piece of fruit or a vegetable and found that it wasn't nearly as fresh and tasty as it looked? Sure, we've all had that happen… and, as we've discussed before, this is a major source of resource waste in our food supply. There's really not a whole lot you can do about it…

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#1 Cleantech or Clean Energy Site (Still)

Posted: 19 May 2012 07:03 AM PDT

OK, I won’t keep updating you month after month about this, but seems that we are yet again (4th month in a row) the most-visited cleantech or clean energy site in the U.S. (based on statistics). So, yet again, Thank You, and keep hitting those share buttons!! :D

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27 Solar Projects Planned by Walmart

Posted: 19 May 2012 06:46 AM PDT


Twenty-seven Walmart stores in Massachusetts will receive photovoltaic installations before the summer is over, if all goes according to plan. The total number of megawatts for the new store solar arrays is expected to be 10.5. These solar projects are in their infancy and still require permits, but if they are constructed, it is expected that between 10 and 15 percent of each store’s energy would be provided by them. Twenty-seven stores is a little over half of Massachusetts’ fifty Walmarts. The big box retailer’s director of energy programs said he is optimistic they will save money in the long term using solar energy.

Connecticut-based Greenskies Renewable Energy LLC will install and operate the 27 Walmart solar arrays. It will receive no support from the government of Massachusetts.

According to the Boston Globe, Walmart was partially encouraged to add more solar arrays to its Massachusetts stores due to a push by the state. Large, flat-roofed buildings present a very favorable opportunity for constructing solar arrays. The state wants to install 250 MW of solar capacity by 2017. Massachusetts currently has about 105 MW of solar capacity.

Walmart’s stores around the country have a solar capacity of about 50 MW. Their stores in California, Hawaii, and Arizona have had solar panels for some time, and they are adding more in Colorado and New Jersey. Last year, they announced 75% of their California stores would be getting solar installations, bringing the total number up to 130.

Whether one likes Walmart or not, it is clearly trying to move towards having more renewable energy, and if it provides any customer education about its solar projects, it would promote solar to a huge number of people.

Image Credit: Cape Cod Sunset by PapaDunes

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It’s Official: 100% Renewable Energy for Massive Apple Data Center

Posted: 19 May 2012 06:41 AM PDT

renewable energy for apple data center in maidenNews has slowly been leaking out about renewable energy plans for Apple’s data center in Maiden, North Carolina, and now the whole shebang is up on the Apple website. Apple has confirmed that the gigantic facility will run entirely on renewable energy. When running at full capacity the data center draws a whopping 20 megawatts, so that’s a pretty impressive feat – especially since Apple has declared that it will go 100 percent renewable before the end of the year.

Solar power for Apple

Apple’s website makes it clear that the data center will be “using entirely renewable resources,” which of course doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the energy will be produced on site. Loosely speaking, “using” could also refer to purchasing offsets.

Be that as it may, Apple states that it will be generating about 60 percent of the power on site, partly with two solar installations that will produce about 84 million kilowatt hours annually.

Fuel cells and biogas

The other part of Apple’s on site renewable energy is a huge array of fuel cells, which the company confirms will run on renewable biogas, presumably harvested from landfills or from North Carolina’s booming hog industry.

This is where the definition of “on site” gets a little vague. The fuel cells are located at the data center but the energy needed to run them could be generated by hogs who reside elsewhere (unless the facility has its own in-house hogs, which is doubtful) – however, that’s beside the point.

Wherever the gas is coming from, it is renewable, and Apple states that all of its renewable energy sources are regionally if not locally sourced.

Green jobs and guilt-free iPads

Apple has similar plans for a new data center under construction in Prineville, Oregon, which will have access to enough local wind, hydro and geothermal sources to fill its energy needs.

That’s good news for communities that support the construction of renewable energy infrastructure. They get the benefit of creating green energy jobs while also attracting new employers that are seeking to boost their corporate social responsibility profile.

In that regard, Apple has some catching up to do in the clean energy race (Google is dabbling in hog biogas, too, by the way), but it has been ramping up its efforts, and it is also beginning to tackle other social responsibility issues regarding its overseas labor and supply chain.

Image: Some rights reserved by kyz

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

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India May Soon Approve Its First Offshore Wind Project

Posted: 19 May 2012 06:32 AM PDT


The Indian government may soon allow project developers to set up the first offshore wind energy projects in the country. The initiative by the government has been taken after several project developers expressed willingness to set up offshore projects which may deliver higher revenue compared to onshore projects.

Some of the leading companies in India, like ONGC Limited, have asked government agencies to let them set up offshore projects. While the government is believed to have started work on formulating an allocation or auction policy for potential project sites, the actual implementation may take a significantly longer time.

Onshore projects in Tamil Nadu, the leading state in wind energy generation, have been grappling with lack of transmission infrastructure. Some project developers have even moved their projects out of Tamil Nadu due to power evacuation issues.

While there are a number of technology providers in India which can provide integrated services for offshore projects, installing transmission lines could be a big task.

There could be security issues as well. According to media reports, the government has been talking to the Indian Coast Guard about this issue. There have been reports that the large wind farms pose security issues due to complications with radar imaging. India claims to have increased vigilance along its coastline since the 2008 Mumbai attacks and it surely doesn’t want to take a step backwards.

Nonetheless, project developers seem attracted to offshore projects, as most of the high-wind-density onshore sites have already been used up. The eagerness of the project developers to venture into offshore projects is a testament to the increased confidence and risk appetite of companies in the wind energy sector.

The government recently withdrew a major tax incentive enjoyed by wind project developers, but new companies have still entered the sector and attracted millions of dollars in investments. Also, domestic lenders are much more comfortable providing debt to the wind energy sector, which has the best track record of all renewable energy sectors in India. Thrust in the wind energy sector has also been propelled by the introduction of Renewable Purchase Obligation policy in India.

Image: United Nations Photo via Flickr/CC

The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only.

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Solar News Roundup

Posted: 18 May 2012 02:47 PM PDT

Some more solar energy news from around the net to wrap up the week:

SolarCity & Clean Currents have teamed up to offer fixed-price Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for solar power with as little as $0 down and long-term electricity discounts/savings.

The largest city-sponsored solar financing program in the U.S. has relaunched in Phoenix, Arizona. The program “will allow up to 1,000 Arizona homeowners access to affordable solar power” and “Secretary Chu formally recognized the program as an ideal national model of private solar funding that can be easily replicated in cities across America…. Solar Phoenix 2 allows qualifying homeowners throughout Arizona who are within the APS (Arizona Public Service) and SRP (Salt River Project) service territories, to install a solar system on their home with no upfront investment. Homeowners simply pay monthly to lease the equipment and enjoy the clean solar electricity the system generates.” It’s expected that homeowners in the program will see 10-15% savings on their electricity bills from this.

JinkoSolar has introduced new, high-efficiency “WING” Series solar modules.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) of India has set solar capacity addition targets of 800 MW of grid-connected solar power generation capacity in FY2012-13.

MNRE has also release solar city masterplans for 6 Indian cities — Agra, Chandigarh, Aizawal, Kalyan-Dombivili, Kohima and Thane.

JCM Capital has “launched a $10 million solar development capital fund that will invest in early-stage photovoltaic (PV) projects installed on large commercial and industrial buildings across Ontario, leveraging the Province's Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program. The aim of the fund is to target application-ready projects to be submitted into the upcoming Ontario Power Authority's (OPA) application window, and as such, assist with early-stage development costs such as FIT application fees, structural engineering assessments, FIT security deposits and grid connection impact assessment (CIA) costs. The fund will also invest in Ontario-based FIT contracted projects that have not yet reached commercial operation.”

Want to build a solar-powered lawn mower? TreeHugger’s Alex Davies has a “how to” slideshow for you on just that topic.

In India, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Limited recently “disclosed plans to install over 300 MW capacity of solar power projects across the country,” Climate Connect notes. “India’s leading thermal power generator has plans to install large capacity solar PV and solar thermal power plants in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka.”

Researchers at the University of Turku have written in the International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management that dye-sensitised solar cells (DSCs) are about to become a ubiquitous source of energy. “They point out that the rapid increase in research into novel solar energy conversion technology looks set to revolutionise the industry making electricity generation accessible to all without government or other subsidies.”

Credit: ACS

The first artificial leaf was “a milestone in the drive for sustainable energy that mimics the process, photosynthesis, that green plants use to convert water and sunlight into energy,” the American Chemical Society writes. Now, a “detailed description of development of the first practical artificial leaf” is being published in the ACS journal Accounts of Chemical Research. “The article notes that unlike earlier devices, which used costly ingredients, the new device is made from inexpensive materials and employs low-cost engineering and manufacturing processes.”

Harry Atwater of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Albert Polman of the Dutch Research Institute AMOLF have won the ENI Renewable and Non-conventional Energy Prize “for their research on high-efficiency solar cells based on nanophotonic design,” Caltech noted yesterday.

Clean Power Research this week “introduced industry-leading SolarAnywhere® High Resolution irradiance data and newly patented fleet analysis methodologies that together provide unprecedented insight into the impact of distributed PV on grid operation,” the company reports.

Skyline Innovations has expanded into the California solar heating market with the completion of solar water heating systems for three multifamily buildings in the Los Angeles area. “William Holdings will receive solar hot water at a 25 percent fixed discount to their utility rate for water heating. The Golden State projects mark Skyline's 31st project for multifamily housing and the expanded availability of its innovative financing solution to businesses and multifamily buildings in California.”

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) this month released its 2012 Solar Scorecard, which ”ranks manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules according to a range of environmental, sustainability, and social justice factors.” The top scorers this year were: China's Trina (94), the USA's SunPower (93), and Germany's SolarWorld (91). Companies evaluated in the Solar Scorecard represent 51.1% of the PV market share.

SolarPod (which we wrote about in April) has conducted field tests of its 1st Gen SolarPod for one full year in Minnesota and Wisconsin and found that it performed better than HIT Sanyo and SunPower installations. Mouli Engineering has released a white paper on this (linked above).

The UK’s solar sector has reportedly shrunk by 25% since the government implemented strong cuts to the country’s solar feed-in tariff program. “The research found more than 6,000 jobs had been lost.”

On April 1 the Coalition Government slashed the FiT rate at which homeowners are paid for generating solar power from 43.3p to 21p. Changes to the scheme were initially announced in the autumn of 2011.

And the Government is currently consulting on further reductions in July and again in October. Options for the July cut stand between 13.6p and 16.5p.

However, a survey of just under 200 UK solar businesses suggests that cuts to the tariff so far have had a devastating effect on the industry.

SolarCentury’s new boss has outlined plans for the company’s increased international expansion and recently discussed them in an interview with Business Green.

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Wind Energy Roundup

Posted: 18 May 2012 02:31 PM PDT

Some more top wind energy new from around the internet:

Western Wind Energy Corp. is acquiring a whopping 4,000 MW of wind energy projects from Champlin/GEI Wind Holdings. “Cost of the acquisition is $20 Million US, payable by the issuance of 8 Million common shares at a deemed value of $2.50 per share US.”

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) of India has set wind capacity addition targets of 2,500 MW of wind energy capacity during the current financial year.

Vestas recently signed “15-year service contracts for ten wind power plants in Italy for a total capacity of 268 MW, including 126 units of V90-3.0 MW and V90-2.0 MW wind turbines.” The contracts were signed with ERG Renew and represent half of ERG Renew's total installed wind power capacity. “The wind power plants produce approximately 572,000 MWh per year, which is enough to meet the residential electricity consumption of more than 500,000 persons in Italy and save the environment from about 222,000 tons of CO2 on an annual basis. Installed between 2002 and 2011, these power plants are located in several provinces of the Campania and Apulia regions.”

Vestas has also won a 90-MW wind turbine order in Ukraine.

Iberdrola, a leading wind energy company, was recently “selected as the Spanish company with the best corporate governance practices, according to the publication World Finance.”

Spanish wind energy leader Gamesa, meanwhile, has made an important offshore wind power step forward. It has started “the permitting process for the installation of its first offshore prototype, the G128-5.0 MW (50 Hz), at Arinaga Quay in Gran Canary Island (Canary Islands, Spain)…. Gamesa expects to begin the installation of this prototype in the second quarter of 2013, with a view to achieving certification in the following months, to permit the installations of the pre-series turbines in an offshore wind farm towards the end of 2013 or early 2014.”

A recent study from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) points out the following: “In 2010 the wind energy sector – both directly and indirectly – contributed €32.43 billion (bn) to the EU's GDP, 0.26% of the EU's total GDP for that year. The contribution of the wind energy sector is higher than the contribution of the footwear industry (0.21%)…. In 2010 the increase in the wind industry's contribution to GDP, at 4.1%, was twice as high as the growth of GDP itself. Between 2007 and 2010 the wind energy sector increased its contribution to GDP by 33%. The wind industry is growing faster than the EU's economy as a whole and this will remain the case over the next two decades.”

An offshore floating wind turbine test is soon to start off of Kabashima island — one of the Goto Islands — in the Nagasaki Prefecture of Japan. “The trial turbine is a small 100-kilowatt model with three 11-meter blades. The turbine is hollow, allowing it to float, while ballast keeps it upright and wires anchor it to the seafloor.”

A recent article in The Engineer takes a detailed look at offshore wind turbine platforms and offshore wind power for Germany — interesting read.

Enel Green Power has signed a 12-year financing agreement for 180 million euros for “wind farms Zephyr I in Romania, with an installed capacity of 120 MW, Caney River in the USA, 200 MW, and Cristal in Brazil, 90 MW.”

The UK’s EDF has joined Dutch power company Eneco in plans to build a large offshore wind farm off the south coast of England. The wind farm is projected to generate enough electricity for over 800,000 homes. “The joint venture will develop the Navitus Bay Offshore Wind Project in a 50-50 partnership which could ultimately deliver 900-1200 megawatts of capacity, enough power to supply up to 820,000 homes when generating at full capacity.”

Onshore wind power was worth about £500 billion to the British economy in 2011 according to a recent report. “Onshore wind provided thousands of jobs and was worth over £500 million to the UK economy in 2011, according to the findings of a joint industry and Government report…. The publication of the report, commissioned from business consultancy BiGGAR Economics by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and industry body RenewableUK, coincided with Government approval for the Pen-y-Cymoedd onshore wind development in South Wales. When completed, the scheme will have the highest generating capacity of any onshore wind farm in England and Wales.”

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Energy Efficiency Roundup

Posted: 18 May 2012 02:25 PM PDT

Some more top energy efficiency news from around the internet:

Lighting Science Group has completed the first phase of a relighting project in Washington, D.C. that will “save the city tens of thousands of dollars each year in energy costs” (and a lot of energy). ”Already results show these new light fixtures are saving energy — 57 to 60 percent — compared to the old mercury vapor and high pressure sodium lights,” said Mayor Gray. “Imagine how much energy we could save if we expand this program to all 70,000 street and alley lights across the District. That would be a great down payment on a truly Sustainable D.C.”

Dr. Sanjoy Banerjee, Director, CUNY Energy Institute, shows the Institute's prototype zinc anode battery system located in Steinman Hall on The City College of New York campus.

A new battery system the CUNY Energy Institute has been developing could reportedly save buildings a lot of energy. The system uses “low-cost batteries that are safe, non-toxic, and reliable with fast discharge rates and high energy densities” and large-scale commercialization of the battery is supposed to start later this year.

Nest Learning Thermostats are now available at 500 Lowe’s stores across the U.S. (Have any of you picked one up yet?) There are also in-store Innovation Displays you can play around with.

Also, The Nest Learning Thermostat won the Gold in the Smart Systems category at The Edison Awards. Switch Lighting’s SWITCH75 LED bulb won the Silver.

Albeo Technologies’ H-Series LED High Bay recently won the Best in Class High Bay in the “indoor” category of the Next Generation Luminaires Award, sponsored by the Department of Energy, and was presented with the award at Lightfair International 2012 (LFI). “The Albeo H-Series LED High Bay was honored for its modular design that provides an industry leading lumenrange of 5,840 to 82,893, and the capacity to replace  the majority of fluorescent and HID high bay lighting products currently on the market.”

Intematix recently released the ChromaLit XT for LED lights. “Improving on the conventional approach where phosphor coats the blue LEDs directly, ChromaLit offers glare-free, diffuse light, high color rendering and consistent light quality.  By only using a blue LED engine instead of binned white LEDs, production is streamlined and inventories are reduced.  Furthermore, system efficacy is increased up to 30%, reducing lighting system material cost and power consumption.”

Intematix also recently released ChromaLit Contour. “Intematix's ChromaLit remote phosphor can reduce LED costs by 25% compared with conventional LED light bulb designs while offering precise color matching and exceptional light quality.  ChromaLit Contour exceeds Energy Star and China Quality Certification lighting requirements.”

The Department of Energy has released new energy efficiency standards for residential clothes washers and dishwashers projected to “save consumers $20 billion in energy and water costs” (in total, not per person :D ). “The new standards for both clothes washers and dishwashers were informed by important feedback from manufacturers, consumer groups, and environmental advocates, producing significant savings while retaining consumer choice. The clothes washers standard… will save households approximately $350 over the lifetime of the appliance, while offering consumers a variety of more efficient machine choices, and as a result of the standards for dishwashers, home dishwashers will use approximately 15% less energy and more than 20% less water, directly providing consumers with savings on monthly bills.”

The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) and the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General's Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) recently “outlined specific commitments by participating countries and private sector leaders which will promote improved energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies, and increased energy access around the world.”

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Clean Transportation Roundup

Posted: 18 May 2012 02:22 PM PDT

Some more top clean transportation news from around the internet:

bmw electric cars

BMW, Siemens, Daimler, the Technische Universitaet Muenchen and many others are working together on joint research project called Visio.M to “develop concepts to produce electric cars that are efficient, safe, and inexpensive,” BMW reports. “Lead manager of the project is BMW AG. The project has a total volume of 10.8 million euros and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF)…. The mobility concept deriving from these visionaries will be a vehicle with a power of 15 kilowatts and a maximum curb weight of 400 kg (without battery), meeting the requirements of the European regulatory category L7e.”

Windsor, Ontario has reportedly made a deal to purchase 10 electric buses from Chinese EV leader BYD.

The buses are 40-foot long and powered by BYD Iron-Phosphate batteries which, according to the company, “contain no heavy metals, toxic electrolytes or use caustic materials in their production [...] This makes the BYD batteries the most environmentally friendly batteries available in the market.”

The city is also working on a plan to repurpose the batteries into fixed energy storage systems when they are retired from the road after 12-15 years (that’s a lot of miles on a bus…).

QHotels is reportedly rolling out electric car charging stations across its 20 hotels by the end of 2012.

Siemens seems to be looking at an interesting solution to polluting trucks. “Plans are being made to do a proof-of-concept test on Siemens' eHighway of the Future along one of the filthiest sections of freeway in the Los Angeles basin,” Herman Trabisch of Greentech Media writes.

“Mini-hybrid buses” have debuted on the streets of Cincinnati.

The new 40-foot buses have an advanced thermal cooling system technology which provides benefits, including:

•           Fuel economy improvement up to 10%
•           Up to 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
•           Reduction in maintenance costs
•           Increased safety through the elimination of hydraulic fluid leaks

The term "mini-hybrid" is used by the manufacturer, Engineered Machined Products (EMP), to refer to the advanced "electric" fan cooling system that replaces the hydraulically driven fan. EMP's innovative technology provides benefits similar to that of a traditional hybrid, but with additional advantages, including:

  • A cost savings of about $240,000 per bus compared to a traditional hybrid
  • Efficiencies, which save Metro about $2,000 a year per bus in fuel savings and improved operational performance

Winners of NREL’s solar, hydrogen, and lithium ion fuel cell car races were recently announced. 104 teams from 23 Colorado schools competed in the competitions.

Ferrari’s set to launch its first ever hybrid electric car at the end of this year. The Guardian reports that “the price will probably exceed the €660,000 (£527,000) cost of the Enzo and will be the carmaker’s most powerful model – combining two electric motors with a 12-cylinder gas engine, allowing for a 40% cut in fuel use.”

IBM and Hertz on Demand, a global car-sharing club, have teamed up for a pilot program in Germany that aims “to advance electric vehicle (EV) mobility and user adoption through intelligent recharging solutions.”

Hertz on Demand has now also launched electric vehicles in London:

Porsche’s upcoming 918 Spyder Hybrid will have over 770 horsepower and get 78 mpg. Deliveries should start by the end of 2013.

TreeHugger’s Lloyd Alter was recently in Milan, apparently, and took a look at the city’s interesting shaft-drive bicycles in its bike-sharing program known as BikeMi. Another very interesting observation from Lloyd was this: “The bikes are evidently not used for recreation; on Sunday, every rack was full and I never saw one in use. However at 7:00 AM on Monday morning, the streets were full of people on yellow bikes going to work.” Surprising, given how popular Wroclaw’s bike-sharing program is on weekends.

POD Point, a London-based electric car charging company, “aims to have around 620 chargers nationwide freely available on a pay-as-you-go basis by the end of 2012, with a view to more than trebling the size of the network to 2,000 charge points by the end of the following year.” This is the UK’s first pay-as-you-go electric vehicle charging network.

Image Credits: BMW; BYD; Porsche; Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Related posts:

  1. Transportation News Roundup (8 Top Stories)
  2. Clean Transportation News
  3. Clean Transportation News (10 Stories)

TXU is First to Offer Free Night-Time Electricity Rate Plan

Posted: 18 May 2012 12:49 PM PDT


TXU Energy in Texas is offering the first free energy rates in the nation, between 10 PM and 6 AM. Its daytime rates are 11 cents.

Wind power tends to be greatest in the wee hours. Texas wind power sometimes has to be curtailed or wasted because there’s no one to use it at night. The more wind power on the grid the more this happens, as it already has in Texas, and in the Pacific Northwest.

All electricity must be used right away, as generated, or generators must be turned off, or curtailed. Grid storage is being considered by utilities, to try to move the time of wind’s energy to the time customers need it – by day.

But rather than move the energy to the day, TXU Energy is trying to move the customers into the wee hours of the night. And with so much automation – it could be a huge advantage for Texas customers, where the smart grid is enabled so that consumers could take advantage of free night time power.

Delay timers on dish washers and clothes washers is one thing. The utility estimates that if customers can shift just 10 percent of electricity use from doing laundry or running the dishwasher, they can save about $200 per year, or just a few bucks a month.

But why stop at that. Buy an electric car and you’d have free night time energy to power it. That would mean driving with no cost at all for fuel.

Fill up a Steffes type of thermal storage electric heat sink at night, and release that heat as needed next day. That would mean home heating with no cost at all for fuel.

North Dakota-based Steffes manufactures in Minnesota, and has been shipping their thermal storage units for 25 years.

Their thermal energy storage units are programmed to use power at off peak hours to heat up electric coils surrounded by ceramic bricks in a sealed unit, that can store that heat for about 24 hours, and release it on demand for home heating. They also have units that heat hot water.

They have a thriving business in the surrounding cold and windy states, that have incentives to use night time wind power. Consumers in these states pay about 4 cents a kilowatt hour in off peak night time whereas daytime use is around 10 cents a kilowatt hour.

I called them to see what they thought of the TXU rates. Free is actually a very good deal for utilities, according to Jim Deichert at Steffes.

“There are hours during the night when there’s more supply than there is demand, and a utility has just a few options,” Deichert told me. “One option is to make that energy very attractive, as TXU has done, but in some areas in some cases they actually have to pay somebody to take that energy and so selling that for free is certainly better than having to pay somebody to take it”

The other option is for wind to be curtailed, but this gets “mucky” as Deichert puts it, referring to the legal actions that have ensued between wind developers and state power authorities. This is why the Obama administration FERC has been providing incentives to create more distributed storage.

Distributed energy storage can be deployed both by residential ratepayers, and by commercial sites like hospitals, hotels, commercial and industrial users, as California’s hospitality industry now does.

"This is a rate plan that has a lot of carrot attached to it," says Jennifer Pulliam, director of product innovation at TXU Energy. "What we're trying to do is create sustainable customer behavior."

As I wrote in 2010 about thermal energy storage, this kind of consumer controlled distributed storage is the next step. With the first utility to provide the incentive for it in the form of free power for energy storage by individuals, it could be that Texas leads us there.

And if Texas ratepayers have less need than Minnesotans for heat, they could store their free power in an Ice Energy unit to freeze ice at night, and use it by day for free air conditioning. (Make Ice at Night to Store Wind Energy)

Related posts:

  1. More Incentives for Thermal Energy Storage for Night Time Wind
  2. Siemens Figures Out What to Do With Night Wind
  3. School District Revisits Making Ice at Night to Reduce Energy Use

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