- Awesome Graphs — Today’s Relevance of Solar and Wind Power in Germany
- Top Solar Power Countries (Per Capita, Per GDP, Per TWh of Electricity Produced, & in Total)
- REN21, UNEP Reports Highlight Challenges Amid Record Renewable Energy Growth
- New Robot Mimics a Fish Behaving Like a Boy Scout
- 10 Interesting Solar Power Graphics
- Support Clean Energy & Jobs in New York (More Ways to Help)
- Help Make New York a Solar Leader (The Hulk / Mark Ruffalo Is Supporting It)
- Japan: Ignorance and/or Dishonesty of “Energy Experts”
- Local Solar Could Solve ‘Massive Supply-Demand Imbalance’ in Renewable Energy Financing
Posted: 12 Jun 2012 09:46 AM PDT
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) is the largest institute of applied science specialized on solar energy utilization in Europe. It was founded in 1981 and has been the source of innovation and scientific breakthroughs ever since.
Some Outstanding Graphs
The first image showcases the awesome complementary nature of wind and solar power generation over a monthly period. This is something very important one has to keep in mind, especially when people suggest a “technology neutral” policy of incentives/subsidies aimed at introducing renewable energy generation into the power mix. Knowing about this complementary nature makes arguments like “we should only support cost-efficient (wind) methods of power generation” sound rather silly, at least when the goal is a 100% renewable energy system.
The second image shows the first week of 2012 when windpower basicly created a 7-day weekend for fossil/nuclear power plants.
The third image shows the record breaking week in May when solar power produced as much electricity as 20 nuclear power plants during peak hours.
Not enough data visualization for you? Then you can access the complete set of charts here.
Posted: 12 Jun 2012 06:01 AM PDT
The solar power figures are based off of data from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association’s Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics until 2016 report just published in May. Country population, electricity production, and GDP statistics were retrieved from the same Wikipedia pages used for the wind power posts and rankings (i.e. they are the same numbers).
For 10 more charts (a bit prettier) from the Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics until 2016 report, check out: 10 Interesting Solar Power Graphics. Or, for much more information and depth on solar power in any of these countries, check out the EPIA report.
After the graphics and lists of the rankings, I add a little commentary on some of the leading countries (and one not-leading country).
Before getting to the rankings, I’ll just note that there may be some countries not included here that should be — I’m not aware of any in particular, but if you have 2011 solar installation data for a country that you think should be included and is not, send the data to me and I can update these charts and lists. (Note: I’m only including countries with over 1 MW of total installed solar power.)
Of course, solar is a fast-growing energy sector and there might be some big changes once 2012 numbers are in (e.g. India is sure to jump up a bit in the rankings). I’m already looking forward to doing this for 2012, but, unfortunately, that will have to wait another year or so.
On to the rankings, you say? OK, let’s go!
(Note: to enlarge any of the images, click on the image below, and then click on the image again on the next page and you can then zoom in and out from there.)
Top Solar Power Countries Per Capita
Total/Cumulative Solar Power per Capita (end of 2011):
Country — Total Installed Solar Power per Million People (MW):
New Solar Power per Capita (2011):
Country — Total New Solar Power per Million People (MW):
Posted: 12 Jun 2012 05:51 AM PDT
The drive to develop and deploy renewable energy worldwide is no ‘blip on the radar screen,’ but rather a sustained, increasingly broad and diverse effort that’s central to international initiatives aimed at making the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy–driven “green” economies. The cumulative magnitude and effects of growth in renewable energy are laid out in two industry standard reference reports released yesterday: the United Nations Environment Programme’s “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012” and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century’s (REN21) 2012 “Renewables Global Status Report.”
Renewable energy continued to grow strongly across all end-use sectors — power, heating and cooling, and transport — increasing 37% in 2010 and 17% in 2011 to a reach a record $257 billion. That’s a six-fold increase over 2004′s total and 94% higher than that of 2007, a year that saw the onset of the “Great Recession.” Even more impressively, the gains have come despite strong economic, and in some cases, political headwinds, according to UNEP’s report, which is based on data provided by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Developing economies accounted for 35% of 2011′s $257 billion renewable energy investment total, with developed countries accounting for 65%. The US closed the gap on word-leader China as renewable energy increased 57%, to $51 billion. India exhibited the fastest growth among the largest national renewable energy markets, with investment surging 62% to $12 billion.
Falling Solar, Wind Energy Costs and a Mixed Energy Policy Landscape
In addition to strong gains in both renewable energy investment and installed capacity, falling technology costs were “one of the dominant features of the renewable energy landscape in 2011,” UNEP noted. Solar PV module costs dropped nearly 50%, while the cost of onshore wind turbines fell by around 10%.
Another prominent aspect of the diverse renewable energy sector was the enactment of government policy support for renewable energy in developing countries, evidence of which is clear in the 35% of total global renewable energy investment that was made in developing countries in 2011. More than 118 governments enacted renewable energy policies in 2011, with more than half of them developing countries. The same cannot be said for policy trends in developed nations, however.
Government support for renewable energy in the key US and European Union (EU) markets is fading as banks continue to sag under the weight of bad debts accumulated during the property and real estate boom of the early 2000s and governments under the weight of still-growing emergency bailouts.
Government policy support is a critical element in helping develop sustainable, cost-competitive new renewable energy industries. It seems we’re at the cusp of real change.
Sustainable Energy for All: On the Cusp of Change
Extraordinary progress has been made in the past decade, but a lot remains to be done in order to make a transition from economies driven by fossil fuels to renewable energy alternatives and business practices that account for social and environmental as well as financial costs and returns.
Governments continuing to maintain subsidies and other financial support for fossil fuel consumption and production is one of, if not the, major obstacle to bringing the cost of renewable energy alternatives down further.
It’s estimated that fossil fuel subsidies exceed those for renewable energy five or six to one, if not more. It’s clear, and increasingly imperative, that pressure be brought to bear to counter the extravagantly well-funded political lobbying and campaign funding, as well as the pernicious misinformation and disinformation campaigns, of fossil fuel industry media and public relations machine.
Included among the REN21 and UNEP reports’ highlights:
Posted: 12 Jun 2012 05:05 AM PDT
Boy Scouts, well known for helping that apocryphal little old lady cross the street, have become the inspiration for a new kind of rescue robot that will help guide fish away from oil spills and other aquatic hazards. The new robot-fish is under development by an interdisciplinary team of scientists from the applied technology institute NYU-Poly in New York City.
Plenty of other robotic fish in the sea
The new mechanical fish adds an interactive twist to a growing list of small aquatic robots under development.
Until now, these devices, such as a jellyfish-like robot (aptly named Robojelly), robotic bubbles, and a new fish-shaped device recently deployed in Spain, are generally not designed to call forth particular behaviors in live sea creatures.
Their primary functions are underwater exploration, surveillance, and environmental monitoring. Their resemblance to fish and other aquatic life, if any, derives from design requirements related to durability, agility, and propulsion.
Biomimicry and interactive robotic fish
The NYU-Poly robot takes the biomimicry angle up a level by attracting live fish to itself and stimulating them to follow its lead.
For its latest study, the research team designed an oversized zebrafish of about six inches in length, compared to one inch for a typical adult zebrafish.
They painted the robot with the lengthwise stripes that give the zebrafish its name, and to guarantee attractiveness they gave it proportions that mimic the come-hither look of a fertile female, which among zebra fish is appealing to both genders.
As the experiments revealed, though, color cues and sexual availability are just two of several variables that can influence the behavior of live fish.
Earlier experiments had shown that live fish will follow a robot based simply on the motion of its tail, which creates an attractive wake. To eliminate that variable, in this new set of experiments, the team segregated the robotic fish in its own compartment.
Some of the results were fairly straightforward. When separated by a barrier, the live zebrafish preferred to swim near the robot rather than disperse around their part of the tank, clearly indicating that they would respond to visual cues without the creation of a wake.
Second-best proved to be no substitute for the real thing, though. When a new, live zebrafish was introduced to another compartment of the tank, the other zebrafish quickly deserted the robot for its flesh and blood rival.
Sound also proved to be a factor. In a darkened tank, the noise from the robot's motor disagreed with the live fish, much like a snoring partner can make things disagreeable in bed, and they decamped to an empty compartment (which, apparently, stood in for the living room couch).
Next steps for robotic zebra fish
According to Maurizio Porfiri, associate professor in the NYU-Poly Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the noise of the motor is a significant design obstacle, and developing a silent means of propulsion will be priority as the project moves forward in development.
This early version of the robot also lacks the autonomous behavior capabilities that are rapidly being developed in advanced robotics.
Autonomous behavior is particularly important for rescue robots, which are deployed in environments that humans cannot navigate or survive in.
For example, the Navy is developing a firefighting humanoid robot that will respond to hand signals and other cues from a live person who provides directions to the general area of a fire. The robot can then act autonomously to draw closer to the source and deploy fire-suppressing agents.
According to Porfiri, future versions of the robotic fish will include sensory interfaces and artificial intelligence, in order to provide for autonomous interaction between the robot and its live charges. Once endowed with artificial intelligence, the fish could also be adapted for use in a related field of advanced robotics, in which "swarms" of small devices are designed to coordinate their behavior autonomously.
The results of the study are available in the academic journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, under the title “Zebrafish Response to Robotic Fish: Preference Experiments on Isolated Individuals and Small Shoals.”
Image: Courtesy of NYU-Poly
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Posted: 12 Jun 2012 05:04 AM PDT
There’s a lot more information and a number of additional graphics worth a scan in that report as well. In particular, it has detailed info for dozens of countries. But, for now, here are 10 of my favorite graphics from the report:
1. Regional and country solar PV capacity relative to inhabitants
2 & 3. New and cumulative solar PV capacity segmentation (ground mounted vs. commercial/industrial vs residential) in leading European countries — a lot of variation
4 & 5. Projected solar PV annual growth and cumulative capacity under different policy scenarios (moderate vs policy-driven)
6. Cumulative installed solar PV capacity leaders at end of 2011 (globally)
7. Projected global solar PV annual growth under different policy scenarios
8. Solar PV dominated new power generation capacity in the EU in 2011; wind and natural gas also high; nuclear dumped
9. Another look at EU electricity production changes in 2011 — solar PV and wind accounted for 47% of new electricity
10. Change in net electricity generation capacity 2000-2011 — natural gas, wind, and solar PV dominate
Posted: 12 Jun 2012 03:31 AM PDT
Importantly, his message included a different way to support a “solar jobs bill” in New York — he linked to a Change.org petition on the matter:
Go ahead and sign that petition to support more solar, wind, geothermal, etc. in New York, and the US as a whole!
Via the Change.org petition page, here’s the full letter to Governor Cuomo (another letter is also sent to 23 others when you sign):
Dear Governor Cuomo,
Like you, we want to revitalize the economy of New York State (NYS). We want to encourage businesses that will create JOBS. We also want to protect NYS from the ongoing challenges of rising fuel costs and changing climate.
Feed-in tariffs (FITs) have proven again and again to be the most efficient way to promote rapid development of renewable energy, job growth, and business investment in jurisdictions ranging from cities to countries. As explained in our brief, clearly written, illustrated brochure at http://bit.ly/nyfeedin, FITS are neither taxes nor direct subsidies. They are long-term (usually 20-year) contracts in which a utility such as the New York Power Authority (NYPA) promises to pay a fixed rate for electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass or biogas. The rate differs for each type of renewable energy; it is based on the cost of production plus a reasonable (5-10%) profit. The stability of FITs permits electricity producers at all scales, from homeowners with a few solar panels to large wind farms, to easily obtain financing to initiate their projects–and thus to get the economy moving.
As an example of economic stimulation, Ontario Province, our neighbor, generated more than 20,000 new jobs and brought in more than $20 billion in new investments since starting its feed-in tariff program in 2009. In the process, it generated so much renewable energy that it’s on track to eliminate its last coal-fired generation plant in 2014.
FITs are supported entirely by small charges to electric ratepayers. Ontario’s successful program is costing ratepayers approximately the price of one Tim Horton’s donut per month (http://www.wind-works.org/FeedLaws/Canada/OntarioFITsCreatingSolarJobs.html).
The Niagara Group of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, the United Steel Workers, the United Auto Workers and many others feel that a pilot FIT project in Western New York (WNY) would rapidly demonstrate the desirability of instituting FITs throughout New York State.
We think you agree, because on April 19 you announced your NY-SUN Initiative, which includes a pilot FIT for solar development on Long Island.
We are proposing a similar, but broader (including wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass and biogas, as well as solar) FIT pilot project in WNY. We hope that, by January 2013, you will direct NYPA to issue FIT contracts for electricity from renewable sources within NYISO Zone A, which includes all or parts of 11 New York counties, all in WNY. We suspect that, within a year or two, the advantages of such a broad FIT program will have become obvious to all stakeholders, and you will then wish to extend the program to all of NYS.
Posted: 12 Jun 2012 03:16 AM PDT
There’s apparently a push to make New York a true solar leader, but it needs your help.
“After nearly three years of hard work – lawmakers in Albany are just steps away from passing legislation that would unleash thousands of megawatts of local solar and make New York a real solar powerhouse,” Vote Solar writes. “And now we're racing against time to get it done before they break for the summer.”
Notably, Mark Ruffalo (i.e. the Hulk) has gotten on board for this noble effort. Here’s a video of him speaking about the matter:
As Ruffalo points out, solar isn’t just for the environment. Policies to support solar help create jobs, boost the economy, and improve our health!
You can help push legislators in New York to pass the solar jobs bill by taking action here or here (if you live in New York).
More from Vote Solar:
Support solar, jobs, health, and the environment in New York today!
Posted: 11 Jun 2012 12:37 PM PDT
Since the tragic and ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant began, Japan has been plunged into an intense energy policy debate. Currently, the main focus is on the struggle about whether or not to restart two nuclear reactors at the Ōi Nuclear Power Plant, which has a combined capacity of 2.2 GW of electric power.
Those forces in favor of a nuclear comeback proclaim that there would be no alternative to a restart. According to them, reactivating two nuclear reactors is the only way to ensure the stability of the power grid in the Kansai region, Japan's second-largest industrial area.
In order to convince the public, industry leaders and the government of this so-called existential necessity, the so-called "nuclear village" bombards the discussion with doomsday scenarios about how dangerous blackouts are – how they risk lives and the economy — as well as trying to reestablish the perception that nuclear power would be the cheapest form of electricity generation.
Considering that the so-called "nuclear village" of Japan finds itself in the unfamiliar situation of an uphill battle to regain trust and favorable public opinion, it is trying everything it can to change the odds in its favor once again.
Weapons of Disinformation
The most common item in this process of manipulating the public discussion in favor of a vested interest has been the publishing of studies and reports by private "scientific" institutes. These papers by so-called "energy experts" are disguised as objective scientific assessments of the current situation and future developments.
Studies and other papers published by these institutes might seem like quality work at first, but people with some background knowledge soon notice irritating errors and a strong bias in a certain direction. The so-called "energy experts" who write these papers are utilizing rather unsound methods of arranging selectively collected data and quotes from other studies (some of which were conducted in the same way) in order to reach a pre-determined conclusion.
I call these kinds of studies weapons of disinformation because their sole purpose is to convince the public and industrial and political leaders who might not have enough subject knowledge to notice the bias.
Example from Japan
While doing research on the energy debate in Japan, I stumbled upon a recent report by the "Institute of Energy and Economics, Japan." The report is titled "Summary and Evaluation of Cost Calculation for Nuclear Power Generation by the "Cost Estimation and Review Committee" and was authored by Matsuo Yuhji, an economist and nuclear energy “expert” at the IEEJ. In it, he comments on the reevaluation of the cost of nuclear power and other forms of power generation by the Japanese government in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. At the end, he comes to the “surprising” conclusion that nuclear power is still the cheapest form of power generation in Japan at 7.3 – 8.9 Yen/kWh. ($0.092–0.112 | €0.073–0.089 Cent)
As a Sidenote: Isn’t it interessting how nuclear power is always the cheapest form of energy but the cost per kWh is so different around the world? In Germany, it’s supposed to be 1-4 ct / kWh. Mhh…
At the end of the report, Matsuo Yuhji critically comments on the estimated development of generation costs from solar energy given by the Japanese government. It should be noted that even the government estimates of current and future solar energy costs are very outdated and “conservative.” In this light, it’s remarkable how the “energy experts” of the IEEJ even go out on a limb to question those highly conservative projections.
The author goes on to point out that these “estimates” of future costs of solar energy are based on a study by Greenpeace and the European Photovoltaic Industry Assosciation. According to him, such a cost decrease due to increased production capacity seems unlikely because of contradicting IEA estimates.
Living Under a Rock?
Everybody who reads CleanTechnica from time to time knows that the numbers and estimates given by both the Japanese government and the criticism by the IEEJ “expert” are shockingly overstating the present cost of solar energy.
It doesn’t even take any scientific or journalistic effort to show that the IEEJ report is ignorant of the reality at best and possibly purposely dishonest at worst.
What ever it might be, it certainly is a showcase of “scientific” incompetence, since the estimates of the future cost of photovoltaic systems are basically a look into the past. The installation cost for rooftop solar energy in Germany has already fallen to 1776€ per kW or 178 thousand Yen per kW during the first quarter of 2012.
According to a recent report by the Fraunhofer Institut of Solar Energy Systems (ISE), the current power generation cost of small residential solar systems in Germany is at 14-20 Yen / €ct per kWh. Considering that Japan has solar conditions similar to Southern France or Spain, this puts the possible current generation costs of small solar systems in Japan at 10-14 Yen /€ct per kWh.
While it is of course a precondition to mobilize the domestic market for renewable energy technologies in order to achieve the same low prices as in Germany, there can be no doubt nor a mere “possibility” that similar low prices are possible in Japan. What’s possible in Germany is certainly possible in Japan, especially since Japanese solar modules are also being sold at price-point in Germany.
Last time I checked, it’s 2012 and not 2030 in Germany, so why is the IEEJ and apparently even the Japanese government living more than a decade in the past when it comes to recognizing today’s potential for renewable energy technologies?
Posted: 11 Jun 2012 12:09 PM PDT
It's not a shortage of solar panels or the cost of turbines. Rather, it's a problem of the perverse nature of federal incentives for renewable energy. Right now, the owner of a solar or wind energy project can get a federal tax credit based on the value of the project or the electricity it produces. But many owners don't have enough tax liability to make use of the entire credit, and their search for a "tax equity" partner has created a logjam in the renewable energy market.
The following graphic (from the article) illustrates this matter:
A big part of this big money problem is a focus on big projects (and technologies that can't economically be done at a small scale):
That's a small-scale solution to a big problem. There may be a handful more folks who can invest $500 million than $2 billion.
But there are millions more Americans who could invest a few thousand dollars in community-based solar and wind power. In 2009, American taxpayers cumulatively paid $865 billion in federal income taxes. If just 1 in 100 could invest in a renewable energy project, it would nearly quadruple the tax equity market (from $3.2 billion to ~$12 billion). And since 1 in 3 Americans will be able to get electricity from rooftop solar for less than their utility provides in the next decade, policy makers should find a way to open the small investor floodgates.
The answer is community-based solar and wind projects, for three reasons:
But there are three policy solutions needed to enable community power:
Some of these policy solutions are already in play. As many as eight states already offer community net metering. The federal 1603 cash grant (now expired) was one of the best tools for community-based projects (like this one); President Obama has proposed another solution.
The U.S. could spend the next few years letting wind and solar power development lag because of artificial financing constraints. Or policymakers could use two or three carefully crafted tools to open the floodgates to a massively democratic investment in local, clean energy.
This post originally appeared on ILSR's Energy Self-Reliant States blog.
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