Thursday, May 24, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Ohio’s Energy Efficiency Standard Has Saved Consumers & Businesses $100 Million, & Created Jobs

Posted: 24 May 2012 08:25 AM PDT


A new report out by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) this week finds that Ohion consumers and businesses have saved $100 million in avoided utility costs from the state’s energy efficiency standard. The policy has also created about 4,000 news jobs. And that number is expected to reach 32,300 by 2025 with full implementation of the energy efficiency standard.

"The report makes it even clearer that Ohio's current energy efficiency initiative is also sound economic policy," said Dylan Sullivan, a scientist for Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and co-author of the report. "Not only does Ohio's strong energy efficiency portfolio standard result in cleaner air and healthier Ohioans, it stimulates the creation of new jobs and puts millions back into the pockets of the state's businesses and consumers. Ohio's energy efficiency policy is a common sense measure lawmakers should strengthen and support."

The full report can be downloaded here: Energy Productivity: Efficiency Benefits to Power Ohio Jobs and the Economy.

Here’s a little more from the NRDC’s news release:

The report, "Energy Productivity: Efficiency Benefits to Power Ohio Jobs and the Economy," was authored by respected energy economist John A. "Skip" Laitner on behalf of NRDC and the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC). It assesses and projects energy productivity gains already achieved and the resulting number of jobs created since Ohio's energy efficiency portfolio standard was implemented in 2009. It also forecasts potential gains and job creation through 2025 assuming full implementation of the current standard.

The data show that as Ohio's electric distribution utilities invest in promoting efficiency programs – an estimated $300 million through 2012 – consumer investments in energy efficiency upgrades also increase. For example, in 2012, utility programs leveraged $300 million of investments from consumers, which are projected to reduce energy consumption by an additional 1.1 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). This reduced consumption means big savings. The energy efficiency technologies put in place under the standard will reduce Ohio's energy bill by $3.3 billion by 2025.

Cost-effective efficiency programs redirect money from the job-poor electric utility sector into labor-intensive economic sectors throughout the rest of the state's economy, thus stimulating employment opportunities. Data show that net gains in jobs have risen steadily since the implementation of the state's efficiency program, from 1,800 jobs in 2009 to 4,250 in 2012. By 2025, the program is expected to account for 32,300 jobs.

Image: Cleveland, Ohio via Shutterstock

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Breakthrough Institute Misses the Beat on Climate Economics (Again)

Posted: 24 May 2012 07:30 AM PDT

Frank Ackerman of the Climate Economics Group, writing on Grist, recently had a great post on the errors of the Breakthrough Institute’s attack on carbon pricing (and other things), as well as the errors of those (or at least one person) focusing on carbon pricing too heavily. Worth a read. Check it out:

By Frank Ackerman

Why do those at the Breakthrough Institute insist that everyone else besides them who cares about the environment is wrong, wrong, wrong? Their latest, called "The Creative Destruction of Climate Economics," is a swipe at those misguided souls who think putting a price on carbon emissions would help combat climate change.

Breakthrough, according to its website, aims "to modernize liberal-progressive-green politics" and to accelerate the transition to an "ecologically vibrant" future. It "broke through" into well-funded fame in 2003 with its attack on environmentalists for failing to emphasize the economic concerns of ordinary Americans, such as jobs — thereby alienating the major environmental groups, who had been talking about jobs and the environment for years.

What's wrong with pricing carbon emissions? This particular breakthrough rests on a mistaken reading of an academic paper in the American Economic Review, the most prestigious outlet for mainstream economics. That paper develops a simplified, abstract model of an economy that generates carbon emissions. Unlike some climate economics models, it assumes that public policy can affect the pace of innovation. Its conclusion, in the authors' own words, seems quite balanced:

A simple but important implication of our analysis is that optimal environmental regulation should always use both an input tax ("carbon tax") to control current emissions, and research subsidies or profit taxes to influence the direction of research.

Compared to exclusive reliance on carbon taxes, they continue, "optimal policy relies less on a carbon tax and instead involves direct encouragement to the development of clean technologies."

Nothing has been creatively destroyed here, except for a lopsided position that calls for carbon taxes to do the whole job alone. And note that we're talking about a very simple model, not a study of the U.S. economy. Yet the Breakthrough crowd is ready to run with the claim that another shibboleth of environmentalism has been laid low. After dismissive comments about many advocates of carbon pricing — imagine the chutzpah of Paul Krugman, using his reputation as an economist to support price incentives! — they zoom in on Environmental Defense Fund economist Gernot Wagner.

Wagner has, in fact, made some lopsided statements about the possibility of reaching environmental goals through price incentives alone. Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, the Breakthrough authors, are right about a couple of specifics in their response to Wagner: Most of the phaseout of leaded gasoline in the 1970s happened before the introduction of a lead emissions trading system; the same was true for the decrease in the price of sulfur dioxide emissions from coal plants in the 1990s, ahead of the introduction of sulfur emissions trading.

Nordhaus and Shellenberger are wrong to conclude from this, however, that price incentives can be ignored. The European Union's emissions trading system has no effect because the emissions cap is so high and the resulting price is so low — a common defect of recent emissions trading schemes, as it turns out. The early phaseout of lead emissions from gasoline, and of sulfur emissions from power plants, both were driven by old-fashioned "command and control" regulations, a euphemism for "telling polluters to stop polluting."

What should be done to reduce carbon emissions? Climate change actually is a crisis that demands massive, immediate response. Putting a price on carbon emissions, funding research on clean energy, and adopting traditional controls on the dirtiest technologies all seem entirely compatible. We'll need all of the above and more, right away, to stand a chance.

What should be said to those, like Gernot Wagner, who may be overly committed to a single policy choice? As long as it's a desirable policy, as Wagner's is, let's congratulate them on advocating it, and urge them to take an even broader view.

It is so important to work together on this, that the help of Nordhaus and Shellenberger should be welcomed — as soon as they achieve one of those breakthroughs that's normally required in kindergarten, namely learning to "play well with others."

Frank Ackerman is director of the Climate Economics Group at the Stockholm Environment Institute-U.S. Center, an independent research affiliate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass. He is also a founding member of Economics for Equity and the Environment.

Image: missing the target via Shutterstock

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New Inexpensive and More Environmentally Friendly Solar Cell

Posted: 24 May 2012 05:52 AM PDT

Researchers from Northwestern University have devised a new design of a solar cell that minimizes the flaws in conventional solar cells — relatively high production costs, low operating efficiency and durability, and reliance upon toxic and scarce materials.

Dye-sensitized solar cells have already addressed some of these issues, but up until now have been very inefficient. Northwestern nanotechnology expert Robert P.H. Chang, however, challenged chemist Mercouri Kanatzidis to design a solar cell that did not suffer from the same problem as the innovative dye-sensitized Grätzel cell, a low-cost and environmentally friendly solar cell that “leaks” (the main cause of the lost efficiency). Kanatzidis’ solution was to design a new material for the electrolyte that actually starts as a liquid but ends up as a solar mass.

"The Grätzel cell is like having the concept for the light bulb but not having the tungsten wire or carbon material," said Kanatzidis, of the need to replace the troublesome liquid. "We created a robust novel material that makes the Grätzel cell concept work better. Our material is solid, not liquid, so it should not leak or corrode."

Kanatzidis reportedly “knew that scientists at IBM and elsewhere had been developing good solid electrical semiconductors for years” and teamed up with Chang to try one of them, “a fluorine-spiked mixture of cesium, tin, and iodine,” in solar cells.

Chang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Kanatzidis, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, are the two senior authors of a new paper outlining the development of the new solar cell. The paper was published in the most recent edition of the journal Nature.

The solar cell developed by Northwestern exhibits the highest conversion efficiency so far reported for a solid-state solar sell equipped with a dye sensitizer, approximately 10.2 percent (10% is often considered a benchmark for commercial success). This figure is close to the highest reported performance of a Grätzel cell of around 11 to 12 percent, and is much higher than the 6% previously attained by dye-sensitized solar cells.

"Our inexpensive solar cell uses nanotechnology to the hilt," Chang said. "We have millions and millions of nanoparticles, which gives us a huge effective surface area, and we coat all the particles with light-absorbing dye."

For more information on the design and construct of the Northwestern solar cell, check out the paper in Nature.

Source: Northwestern University & ScienceNOW
Image Source: R Walker

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Greener Under the Sun — IKEA Has More Solar-Powered Lamps

Posted: 24 May 2012 05:38 AM PDT

IKEA Solar-Powered Lamps

IKEA, known for producing mass amounts of pre-cut and un-assembled Swedish furniture items, keeps trying to get greener — electric cars and chargers in its parking lots, for example, make up part of its green initiative, as do low-energy bulbs instead of standard incandescent lights and solar panels on its roofs. The company is now looking to greenify not only its own outlet stores but also help its customers easily take advantage of renewable energy.

I'm talking, of course, about the new additions to the Solvinden Summer Season collection. The word Solvinden is a portmanteau of the Swedish words for sun and wind. It's designed by David Wahl, Ola Wihlborg, and IKEA of Sweden and each part works with no cords at all.

Powered by Sun and Wind

The Solvinden collection is an array of lamps, each of which is designed to look cute during the day (while soaking up solar energy) and then light up beautifully at night. In other words, solar-powered lamps. Each product works best when able to soak up direct sunlight, making them excellent for outdoor living (you want lamps hanging in your trees, right?) but not so good to put in that darkish corner of your kitchen.

The deco lights part of the new collection consists of a cactus, a flamingo, and a rabbit, each of which glow fluorescent at night. I'm less of a fan of these, as I'm not fond of neon signs. On the other hand, they're pretty colorful and might be just what you want in your front yard. The hanging lamp addition is bright pink, yellow, and white — and it spins in the wind. I like that one quite a bit (seriously, how much fun would it be to hang these from trees in your front yard??). The final new item IKEA offers is a solar-powered serving bowl. Yes, you read that correctly. Put it in the light, and it will light up when it gets dark (this also seems obnoxiously fun).

Kooky and fun, or a little too weird for you? Either way, I love that IKEA is selling lights running on renewable power, but let me know what you think in the comments below the gallery.

IKEA Solar-Powered Lamps IKEA Solvinden-2 IKEA Solvinden-3 IKEA Solvinden-4

Source | Images: IKEA

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Oregon School Districts Not Taking Advantage of Energy Efficiency Programs

Posted: 24 May 2012 05:30 AM PDT

In 1999, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill (SB 1149) that created a 3% surcharge on electricity bills to fund energy conservation programs in schools. From 2009 to 2010, 815 eligible schools received a total of $15.7 million for energy efficiency measures. Being eligible meant that an energy audit had to be performed prior to any upgrade in lighting, HVAC, or insulation.

During a 2010 audit, the Secretary of State found that the school districts did not consistently implement the most cost-effective measures to realize the greatest energy savings. The Auditors estimated that 111 school districts could have collectively saved $40 million in their utility bills and reduced energy use by 70 percent over the lives of the measures.

Many of the buildings that consume the most energy had few measures implemented. Of the total measures identified for these high-energy-usage buildings, about 29% were implemented. Additionally, school districts chose some measures that had longer payback periods than their expected lives.

Furthermore, some districts have been slow to use their energy surcharge funds, accumulating balances exceeding 60% or more of the funds they have received. As of December 2010, the balance of unused SB 1149 funds with no measure claims pending totaled approximately $14.4 million for all school districts.

The full audit is available for free here.

Scott Raybin @greensavingsco

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New Jersey Community College Building Largest College Solar Project in America

Posted: 24 May 2012 05:23 AM PDT


A community college just outside New Jersey's state capitol recently announced it is building the largest distributed solar installation of any college campus in the United States. This announcement is the latest in a long line of renewable projects at American colleges and universities.

When completed late this year, 33,500 American-made solar photovoltaic panels will stretch across 45 acres of the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) campus in West Windsor, NJ. The 8-megawatt (MW) array is being built at MCCC as part of an innovative 15-year lease-purchase between the school, county government, and solar installer SunLight General Capital.

Through the agreement, MCCC will pay SunLight General for electricity generated from the array at a discounted rate of 3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), compared to the 14-cent kWh rate it currently pays to incumbent utility PSE&G. The Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA) helped finance the project and will maintain the project title.

Once operational, the array will offset 70 percent of the school's annual electricity demand, saving MCCC an estimated $750,000 in utility costs and preventing 7,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Electricity generated on-site will first meet MCCC demand, and then be provided back to the grid through a net metering arrangement with PSE&G.

A rendering of the proposed array on MCCC's campus

While extensive, the array's benefits are not limited to cost and pollution savings — MCCC will also use the project to help train green collar workers. Students will study real-time energy output and gain hands-on learning training on PV technology as part of the school's alternative energy and sustainability curriculum. New Jersey has the nation's second-largest solar market, and more than 76,000 green jobs exist across the state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Such learning opportunities will break new ground in community college education, preparing students for a world that is moving further away from expensive, dirty fossil fuels and closer to clean, renewable sources of energy," said Dr. Guy Generals, vice president for academic affairs.

MCCC's lease-purchase agreement may help maintain the project's value, even as the solar industry faces strong headwinds in New Jersey. Austerity measures have forced the state to consider cutting back solar subsidies, and the state solar renewable energy credit (SREC) market has created an oversupplied market, reducing anticipated payments many public entities relied upon to finance their projects. By avoiding dependence on either the SREC market or state incentives, the MCCC solar array should power cost savings and green job training far into the future.

Solar power image courtesy of Shutterstock

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500-MW Solar Plant to Be Built in Morocco

Posted: 24 May 2012 04:23 AM PDT

A 500-MW solar complex at Ouarzazate, in the south-central region of Morocco, should be finished by 2015. The first phase will be a 160-MW parabolic trough facility. Photovoltaic modules and CSP towers will follow, and those projects are under development. When construction begins, hundreds of jobs are expected to be created.

The 500-MW complex is part of Morocco’s overall plan to develop 2,000 MW by 2020. What is driving the potential investment of nine billion dollars is an increasing demand for power. By 2020, that demand may double, and by 2030 it may quadruple. Currently Morocco relies too much upon the importation of fossil fuels for its power, which has left it with a large trade gap.

If the new solar plants are combined with the construction of wind power facilities as well, the amount of fossil fuel oil saved annually could be 2.5 million tons.

The main administrator of the push for solar development is the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN). This organization is a publicly funded company, established in 2010. The World Bank has reportedly contributed $297 million for the 500-MW portion of the project.

When completed, the Ouarzazate solar facility is expected to eliminate about 240,000 tons of CO2 production each year from fossil fuel-based energy. Morocco has excellent solar potential, with 3000 h/year of sunshine, and the radiance of around 55 KWh/ft²/day.

It also has high potential for wind power development.

Several consortia will compete to build the first phase — Abeinsa ICI, Abengoa Solar, Mitsui is one; Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. Enel, ACS SCE is the second; and International Company for Water and Power (ACWA), Aries IS and TSK EE is the third.

Image Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, Wiki Commons

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Likelihood of Contamination from Severe Nuclear Reactor Accidents Higher than Expected

Posted: 24 May 2012 04:10 AM PDT

A new study has revolutionised our understanding of the likelihood of nuclear accidents such as the core meltdowns in Chernobyl and Fukushima, suggesting that these catastrophic accidents are likely to happen every 10 to 20 years, some 200 times more than had been estimated previously.

The researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz also determined that, in the event of such an accident, half of the radioactive caesium-137 would be deposited over an area of more than 1,000 kilometres away from the nuclear reactor, well beyond national boundaries. Only 8 percent of the caesium-137 would be deposited within an area of 50 kilometres around the accident site, with another 25 percent expected to spread beyond a range of 2,000 kilometres.

Subsequently, their research showed that Western Europe — where the density of reactors is particularly high — is likely to be contaminated approximately once every 50 years by more than 40 kilobecquerel of caesium-137 per square meter (the measurement by which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) determine an area to be “contaminated”).

The citizens in the southwestern part of Germany run the worldwide highest risk of radioactive contamination, due to their close proximity to the numerous power plants situated near the borders between France, Belgium, and Germany, and when coupled with the dominant westerly wind direction.

If a single nuclear meltdown were to occur in Western Europe, approximately 28 million people would be affected by contamination. Naturally, this figure is higher in Asia where the populations are much more dense, where a major nuclear accident would end up affecting around 34 million people. The figures for the east of America and East Asia would be between 13 to 21 million people.

Nogent sur Seine Nuclear Power Plant, France

“Germany’s exit from the nuclear energy program will reduce the national risk of radioactive contamination. However, an even stronger reduction would result if Germany’s neighbours were to switch off their reactors,” says Jos Lelieveld. “Not only do we need an in-depth and public analysis of the actual risks of nuclear accidents. In light of our findings I believe an internationally coordinated phasing out of nuclear energy should also be considered,” adds the atmospheric chemist.

To quote the Max Planck Institute on the researchers’ methodology, “to determine the likelihood of a nuclear meltdown, the researchers applied a simple calculation.”

They divided the operating hours of all civilian nuclear reactors in the world, from the commissioning of the first up to the present, by the number of reactor meltdowns that have actually occurred. The total number of operating hours is 14,500 years, the number of reactor meltdowns comes to four—one in Chernobyl and three in Fukushima. This translates into one major accident, being defined according to the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), every 3,625 years. Even if this result is conservatively rounded to one major accident every 5,000 reactor years, the risk is 200 times higher than the estimate for catastrophic, non-contained core meltdowns made by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1990. The Mainz researchers did not distinguish ages and types of reactors, or whether they are located in regions of enhanced risks, for example by earthquakes. After all, nobody had anticipated the reactor catastrophe in Japan.

Subsequently, the researchers determined the geographic distribution of radioactive gases and particles around a possible accident site using a computer model that describes the Earth’s atmosphere. The model calculates meteorological conditions and flows, and also accounts for chemical reactions in the atmosphere. The model can compute the global distribution of trace gases, for example, and can also simulate the spreading of radioactive gases and particles. To approximate the radioactive contamination, the researchers calculated how the particles of radioactive caesium-137 (137Cs) disperse in the atmosphere, where they deposit on the earth's surface and in what quantities. The 137Cs isotope is a product of the nuclear fission of uranium. It has a half-life of 30 years and was one of the key elements in the radioactive contamination following the disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Source: Max Planck Institute
Image Source: flo21 on Flickr

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World’s First Carbon-Neutral Higher-Speed Locomotive

Posted: 24 May 2012 03:54 AM PDT

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) announced Tuesday plans to create the world’s first carbon-neutral higher-speed locomotive.

The plan is simple: “create the world's cleanest, most powerful passenger locomotive, proving the viability of solid biofuel and modern steam locomotive technology.” The CSR, a collaboration of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the nonprofit Sustainable Rail International (SRI), plans to put its technology to the test by attempting to break the world record for steam locomotive speed.

The locomotive is set to run on torrefied biomass (biocoal) — a biofuel created through an energy-efficient processing of cellulosic biomass. Biocoal has the same energy density and material handling properties as coal, but is a carbon-neutral fuel, contains no heavy metals, and produces less ash, smoke, and volatile off-gasses. The successful use of biocoal in this manner has implications well beyond the locomotive industry, with possible uses in the developing world.





"Participation in the Coalition for Sustainable Rail has enabled our team to pursue one of the more exciting and potentially groundbreaking research projects in the history of IonE," said Rod Larkins, Special Projects Director of IonE's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment. "Once perfected, creating the world's first carbon-neutral locomotive will be just the beginning for this technology which, we hope, will later be used for combined heat and power energy in the developing world as well as reducing the United States' dependence on fossil fuels."

The preliminary research shows that CSR’s test locomotive will cost less to maintain and less to fuel, and will exhibit greater train-handling performance than any diesel-electric locomotives available today.

"This project presents a novel approach to U.S. locomotive development, looking to technologies of the past to inspire solutions for today's sustainability challenges," said SRI President Davidson Ward, a 2010 graduate of the School of Architecture in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. "I'm confident that the leading energy researchers we're working with at the University of Minnesota, along with our team of engineers, will be able to bring this technology to the forefront of America's energy and transportation conversations."

In November 2011, SRI acquired a large test bed steam locomotive through a transfer of ownership from the Great Overland Station Museum in Topeka, Kan. This locomotive, built in 1937 for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, will be reconfigured by SRI's locomotive modernization experts, then tested as part of CSR Project 130.

Source: University of Minnesota
Image Source: Coalition for Sustainable Rail

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1/3 Households Own a Smart Meter

Posted: 24 May 2012 03:47 AM PDT

Electric utility companies have been making good progress upgrading their customer base with smart meters, and a new study shows that nearly one in three households now have a smart meter, up from one in four households just last September.

The Institute or Electric Efficiency (IEE) produced a report May with the results, and it projected that by mid-decade more than half the households in the US will have a smart meter.

"Our results show that electric utilities are committed to upgrading their customers' meters as part of the industry's overall goal to modernize the nation's electric grid,” said Lisa Wood, IEE's Executive Director. “By the end of this year, we predict that 22 electric utilities in 16 states will have smart meters installed system wide. The new smart meters are already benefitting customers."

Susan Story, Southern Company Services' CEO said, "With smart meters, we know when a customer doesn't have power. Receiving this information in real time allows us to expedite our power restoration efforts and get the power back on sooner."

The Benefits of a Smart Meter

Smart meters provide two obvious benefits — power notification and outage management — but they also provide benefits for the customer that may not be initially obvious.

For example, smart meters and smart rate plans set in place by Oklahoma Gas & Electric help manage peak demand and have deferred the need for an additional power plant.

"Smart meters have changed the way we interact with our customers, and how our customers view and use electricity,” Peter Delaney, Oklahoma Gas & Electric's CEO, said. “Last year, over 90% of our customers on SmartHours, a peak sensitive time-of-use plan, saved money. Plans like SmartHours help us better manage peak demand and can defer the need for a new power plant this decade."

Electric utilities are also providing customers the chance to use their smart meter to conserve electricity, set spending and usage goals, and receive notifications when their electricity usage is high.

"In parts of California and in Texas, for example, homeowners can go online to see how much electricity their home used in the previous day. This awareness prompts consumers to take steps to conserve," said Wood.

Customers of NV Energy can now set usage or dollar amount thresholds and be notified when they go over. Initiatives such as this allow customers to better understand the electricity they are using and go a long way to helping conserve electricity.

"This is a voluntary industry effort to create a standard format for energy consumption data recorded by smart meters. As of May 2012, 21 utilities and electricity suppliers have committed to bringing the Green Button to 30 million customers. Today, about 10 million customers have access to their energy consumption data in the Green Button format," said Wood.

Source: Institute or Electric Efficiency
Image Source: Mark Florence

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Seven Wind Farms, 433 MW of Vestas, Suzlon Wind Turbines for South Africa

Posted: 23 May 2012 10:30 PM PDT

News is filtering out of the renewable energy manufacturers that stand to benefit as a result of the conclusion of South Africa’s second-round Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Program (REIPPP) auction. The South African government awarded preferred bidders contracts to develop seven large-scale wind power projects to end its second-round auction on May 21, the latest step forward in its strategic plan to diversify its energy base through the production of clean, renewable energy.

Wind power project awards make up 562.5 MW out of a total 1,043.9 MW of renewable energy capacity South Africa’s Dept. of Energy awarded. Denmark’s Vestas and India’s Suzlon are among the wind turbine manufacturers who will play a big part in helping South Africa realize its renewable energy, as well as broader social, economic and environmental goals.

Vestas, Suzlon Wind Turbine Winners in South Africa’s Renewable Energy Auction

The worlds’ fifth-largest wind turbine manufacturer, Suzlon has been chosen by South Africa’s Exxaro Resources and India’s largest power utility, Tata Power Co. Ltd. as the preferred supplier for their Cennergi joint venture’s 138MW South African wind farm.

Terms that still need to be finalized call for Suzlon to deliver 66 of its S97-2.1MW wind turbines for the project, part of a full engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement. If all goes well, construction of the Cennergi wind farm is expected to begin in early 2013.

Vestas came out a big winner as a result of the second-round contract awards. The world’s second-largest wind turbine manufacturer has been selected as the supplier to five South African wind energy projects with a combined capacity of 297MW:

  • West Coast 1, 94 MW, Developer: GDF Suez/IPR
  • SA Tsitsikamma, 95.33 MW, Developer: Cennergi (Pty) Ltd.
  • Grahamstown, 24.60 MW, Developer: EDF EN France
  • Grassridge, 61.50 MW, Developer: EDF EN France
  • Chaba, 21.53 MW, Developer: EDF EN France

These add to the two first-round Renewable Energy IPP Program wind energy projects for which Vestas is supplying wind turbines. Vestas has now been chosen as the preferred supplier of wind turbines for 36% of the wind power contracts– totaling 435.1MW– awarded by the South African government to date.

Advancing SA’s Clean Energy Economy Plans

Both Vestas and Suzlon South Africa executives highlighted the wide-ranging benefits of helping build South Africa’s wind and renewable energy infrastructure.

“Our objective is to provide not only clean and green energy, but also to create many jobs. This venture shows how a South African Black empowered developer (Cennergi) partnered with a South African Black empowered manufacturer (Suzlon) can ensure that the Government’s commitments on wind energy are realized," commented Suzlon South Africa CEO Silas Zimu.

"We see yesterday's news as further proof of our focus on building the wind energy industry in South Africa and ensuring that we contribute to the social and economic development of South Africa and its people," stated Vestas South Africa sales manager James White.

"The tender process puts a strong emphasis on local content. “These projects will not only deliver clean energy, but also benefits to the communities where these projects will be built,” White stated.

“This includes skills development through Vestas' integrated education, training and career opportunity structure that will help to develop and train a workforce that meets the skills requirements of the promising renewable energy industry in South Africa."

The wind turbine suppliers have six months to complete financing of the wind and renewable energy projects. During this period, Vestas and Suzlon need to negotiate and finalize turbine supply, service and maintenance, and construction contracts.

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Vermont Pioneers 10-Day Rooftop Solar Permits

Posted: 23 May 2012 02:59 PM PDT


One of the avoidable costs of going solar is the current unnecessary bureaucratic delays in getting the solar permits.

When we went solar in 2010, it only took half an hour for the solar salesperson to convince us to go solar, but then it took another long eight months for our city building inspector to bring himself to believe that industry leaders (SunRun/Petersen Dean/Yingli panels/SMA inverter) knew what they were doing in designing our installation.

Having agreed to go solar in February it was mid October before our roof began shipping its clean electrons into the California grid. The building inspector kept putting off a decision due to uncertainty and inexperience with solar, so it was not a cut and dried decision with any kind of template for decision-making as there is with building codes that he was used to following.

As you can imagine, this kind of delay wastes a lot of time and money for the solar industry, adding to the hassle factor of going solar in a way that could be changed.

SunRun estimated in a study done last year that permitting adds an average cost of $2,500 to each solar installation and that just streamlining that process would create the equivalent of a $1 billion stimulus to the solar industry over the next five years. The extra cost – $500 per kilowatt – is caused by wide permitting variations that are completely unconnected to safety, variable fees, and by simple procrastination by city officials.

Vermont has pioneered a solution. They began by prescribing that every install under 5 kW can be permitted after just 10 days, following a simple, free, and pre-determined process to get a solar permit, which they appropriately and pleasingly named a “Certificate of Public Good.”

This week they expanded their program that cuts paperwork and uncertainty to cover more projects – up to 10 kW in size, which is large enough to cover virtually all home solar systems.

The new process replaces all permitting for ground or roof-mounted solar systems 10kW and smaller with a single basic registration form outlining the system components, configuration, and compliance with interconnection requirements.

Then the local utility has 10 days to raise any interconnection issues, otherwise a permit is granted and the project may be installed.

The Department of Energy has begun to attempt to reduce these sorts of “soft costs” of solar, on a nationwide basis. What Vermont has done is to show how straightforward that can be.

"We think the Vermont registration process could be a real model to follow nationally," said President and General Manager of SMA America Jurgen Krehnke of the program earlier this year. But that might not be so easy.

Unfortunately, as with many other clean energy and energy efficiency issues, there are vast differences in states’ building and permitting codes, for a reason.

Solar power production on your roof may seem like an obvious “Public Good” to a blue state like Vermont, but to coal-powered states in the South, whose utilities make more money when their customers use more dirty power, the prospect of easy solar installs could be construed as anything but.

Image: home solar roof via Shutterstock

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Study: Wind Power Can Save Midwestern Consumers $3 to $9.5 Billion Annually by 2020

Posted: 23 May 2012 02:30 PM PDT


Economic analysis finds households would save $65 – $200 per year if more wind were added to the power mix; savings far exceed cost of new transmission to tap wind in the Midwest

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Adding more wind power to the electric grid could reduce wholesale market prices by more than 25 percent in the Midwest region by 2020 according to a new analysis conducted by Synapse Energy Economics on behalf of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid.  The report found that wind power could drive down the wholesale price of power by $3 – $10 per megawatt hour (MWh) in the near term and up to nearly $50 per MWh by 2030. Those savings would be passed along to consumers through lowering retail electricity prices by $65-$200 each year.

The analysis also found that new transmission is needed in the region to tap wind power; however, investments in transmission are small compared to the savings they would reap, providing more than a 2 to 1 return on investment throughout various scenarios.

"This analysis illustrates a basic fact about our power system – building transmission to unleash cheaper, domestic resources makes strong economic sense," said John Jimison, Managing Director of the Energy Future Coalition and Americans for a Clean Energy Grid. "Transmission makes up the smallest sliver of the electricity bill, but can make power markets more competitive and drive down costs for everyone. Midwestern states where some of the most valuable and abundant wind power can be found have a real opportunity to capitalize on these findings and continue investing in the infrastructure they need to facilitate additional generation of clean power."

Midwest Power Market

The study, titled "The Potential Rate Effects of Wind Energy and Transmission in the Midwest ISO (MISO) Region," evaluated the electric power market in the upper Midwest including all or most of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and parts of Montana, Missouri, Kentucky, and Ohio.

The report states that wind as an electricity supply resource has been getting steadily cheaper, and its performance characteristics continue to improve as larger turbine sizes and higher hub heights capture both economies of scale and more of the passing wind. Simultaneously, the projected cost of coal-fired power has begun to climb; the increasingly global coal market has given rise to higher coal prices with new EPA environmental controls contributing to the move away from coal.

These trends are particularly relevant in MISO where more than half of the generating capacity consists of coal-fired units. MISO also contains inexhaustible supplies of the lowest-cost, most economic wind power available in the U.S. Over the past five to 10 years, this low-cost energy resource has begun to be tapped in ever-increasing quantities. As of December 2011, wind installed in the MISO region had risen to 10 gigawatts (GW).

More Wind, Lower Electricity Costs

Synapse's analysis indicates that the effect of introducing greater levels of wind resources into MISO would depress the average annual market price, relative to a baseline case of no additional wind generation beyond the existing 10 GW in place in MISO today. Since wind energy's "fuel" is free, once built, wind power plants displace fossil-fueled generation and lower the price of marginal supply—thus lowering the energy market clearing price. Wind power could drive down MISO's wholesale price of power between $3 and $10 per MWh in the near term and up to nearly $50 per MWh by 2030.

These market price declines will lead to reduced overall energy costs. In one scenario, prices were $3.9 billion to $7.9 billion per year lower than baseline costs with the addition of 20 GW of wind, and from $6.1 to $12.2 billion per year lower than baseline costs with the addition 40 GW. These cost savings will exceed the annual costs of transmission improvements needed to integrate this level of wind power.

When including the effects of transmission, the net savings ranges from $3 to $6.9 billion per year for the 20 GW wind addition scenario, and $3.3 to $9.4 billion per year for the 40 GW wind addition scenario.

For an average MISO region residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month, this translates to a net savings that would range from $63 to $147 per year in 2020 (for the 20 GW wind addition scenario), and from $71 to $200 per year for the 40 GW wind addition scenario.

Transmission Investments Have Small Effect on Retail Rates

However, the inadequate capacity of many segments of MISO's transmission grid, coupled with the inflexibility of much of the baseload generation has given rise to operational complexities and system constraints. This leads to costly congestion and uneconomic curtailment, or spilling, of available wind. To relieve the bottlenecks and capture the economic and environmental benefits of more electricity from wind, investments need to be made in the region's transmission system.

The MISO region recently developed a new type of transmission project, labeled Multi-Value Projects (MVPs), to address reliability, economic, and policy needs. Among other things, these projects address congestion on the transmission system, reliability constraints, and clean energy mandates. According to MISO, the 17 approved Multi-Value Projects will provide economic benefits exceeding their costs, and will enable the delivery of at least an additional 41 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of wind energy per year.

In order to efficiently operate wind turbines that produce lower-priced power, the Midwest must invest in transmission infrastructure to move this electricity from where it is produced to where it is used.  Synapse found that building out the transmission system will have a small impact on retail rates – i.e., an increase of approximately 0.1 to 0.5 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2021, but the modest increase would be dramatically offset by the greater price savings achieved from adding wind generation to the electric system.

About Americans for a Clean Energy Grid

Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG), a project of the Energy Future Coalition, brings together diverse stakeholders to support policies to improve the way in which the electric grid is developed, planned, and financed, with the aim of ensuring our nation has a more robust, reliable, and secure network that supports the expansion of clean energy, competitive power markets, energy efficiency, and 21st-century technologies, and helps lower costs for consumers.

For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @CleanEnergyGrid.

Images: Midwest wind turbine & Midwest wind farm courtesy Shutterstock

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64 High School Students (with Support of Mayor & Police) Suspended for Biking to School

Posted: 23 May 2012 01:56 PM PDT

Updated: the principal has apparently apologized, as has the superintendent (see the links in the comments).

I’m sorry, but this is a total WTF? I’m in shock. And I think the principal should be fired. Anyway, here’s the full story:

64 Kenowa Hills High School Students Suspended for Riding Bikes to School (via Green Living Ideas)

With rising oil prices, global warming, rising obesity, and lack of exercise among Americans, it would seem harmlessly riding bikes to school would be celebrated, perhaps even promoted as a new normal. On the second-to-last day of school, seniors rode their bikes to school under police escort, rendering…

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Stanford Opens Renewable Energy Certificate Program

Posted: 23 May 2012 01:46 PM PDT


As the race to meet the world's escalating energy needs heats up, Stanford University is responding by offering a new professional certificate program in renewable energy. The online program, Energy Innovation and Emerging Technologies, explores emerging technologies that can transform how we obtain, distribute and store energy.

"Determining which technologies work and can be brought to market mass-scale is an urgent challenge for engineers and businesses," says Michael McGehee, associate professor of materials science and engineering and the academic director of the certificate program. "This is an exciting time to be in the energy field." McGehee is joined by professors Yi Cui, Mark Zoback, and other lead faculty from the schools of engineering and of earth sciences.

Program participants, including engineers, product developers, product marketing managers, investors and policy makers, will gain a greater understanding of the entire energy landscape and the fundamentals of how emerging technologies work. They will also learn about opportunities to develop and market new technologies. The program requires the completion of four courses from a portfolio of six or more courses covering topics including photovoltaics, solar energy, biofuels, batteries, and shale gas.

Stanford is a recognized leader in distance learning delivered by the Stanford Center for Professional Development. Courses can be taken by viewing the streaming video assets and completing course requirements and exams. Participants who successfully complete the program receive a professional certificate in Energy Innovation and Emerging Technologies. For more information and to enroll:

About the Stanford Center for Professional Development

The Stanford Center for Professional Development connects working professionals worldwide to the research and teaching of Stanford University faculty in the School of Engineering and related academic departments. Qualified individuals may study for master of science degrees on a part-time basis, pursue graduate and professional certificates, take individual graduate and professional courses, and view free online seminars and more. Courses are delivered online, on the Stanford campus in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and at the work site.

This article was originally published on Business Wire
Image Credit: Stanford 

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