Monday, June 18, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Clean Power Finance Gets $1.5 Million to Reduce “Soft Costs” of Going Solar

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 06:44 AM PDT

One of the several companies that received funding from the Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the SunShot Initiative last week is Clean Power Finance, an online marketplace for residential solar financing and a provider of solar sales software. The company was awarded two grants for “efforts to build software platforms that reduce the ‘soft costs’ of solar to make distributed solar more competitive with traditional grid power.”

Since I know that most of our readers are big fans of distributed energy (and especially distributed solar) systems, I figured you’d all be pretty happy to learn more about this big news. Also, as we have been noticing more and more, it is the soft costs of installing solar that are increasingly keeping the cost of going solar higher than it needs to be. The cost of going solar (per watt) is actually about twice as much in the US as it is in Germany. Germany, obviously, isn’t the sunniest country in the world, but it’s the top country in the world for installed solar power per capita. It has over 21 times more solar installed per capita than the US. That massive deployment of solar has driven down the cost of installations, and especially the soft costs.

Until we get to that level of solar saturation, innovative efforts to decrease soft costs is critical, so let’s take a look at what Clean power Finance is doing….

“The first grant, for $500,000, will help Clean Power Finance build an online marketplace for operations and maintenance (O&M) services on installed photovoltaic solar systems. The marketplace will allow interested residential solar system owners (particularly third-party financiers) to tap into a pool of service providers who can perform ongoing O&M operations on the systems. By enabling a variety of vendors to bid on repair and maintenance jobs for installed solar systems, the marketplace will ensure that price, quality and speed of O&M servicing remains competitive and accessible. Clean Power Finance and the DOE have agreed to a 12-month deadline for project completion. The total project cost is $1 million: Clean Power Finance will provide the remaining $500,000.”

Sounds good, eh? Basically, the companies offering solar services are going to have to compete against each other on a “solar services shelf” in a virtual store, making it easier for customers to compare and pick the most competitive options (and, thus, driving companies to offer their services for more competitive rates).

On to the second grant…

“The second grant, for $1MM, will help fund an online brokerage for solar companies. The goal of the project is to help interested solar installers access marketing and sales services from companies that specialize in finding end consumers in different geographical areas during different times of the year. Marketing and sales specialists are often limited by the installation capacity and geographical coverage of installation crews; installers are often limited by their sales and marketing capacity to generate project flows at the right time, in the right geographical area. This brokerage will help both sides efficiently connect with one another, focus on their core competencies and enable exchanges between them that will drive growth for both. The total project cost is $2.2MM, of which Clean Power Finance will invest $1.2MM. The DOE and Clean Power Finance have set a maximum timeline of 18 months for project development and roll-out.”

Really, this weak spot in the solar industry has been clear for years. It’s great to see Clean Power Finance filling this void, and it’s great to see the DOE providing funding for it and more companies in the solar soft costs sector.

For more on this and previous news from Clean Power Finance, check out: Clean Power Finance Recognized by SunShot Initiative for Projects to Make Distributed Solar More Competitive with Grid Power.

Image: solar installation via Shutterstock

Beautiful New Wind Video (Must Watch)

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 05:33 AM PDT


I recently received this beautiful new wind energy video via our contact form (linked at the top of our site). I would have to say that it’s one of my favorite videos ever, seriously — I love it. It nails the beauty, ease, wonder, and many benefits of wind, and especially wind energy. I have to admit, it actually gave me chills, a couple times. Check it out, and more importantly, share it with friends!

Also, FYI, the YouTube page notes: “This video tries to strip the politics from wind energy and show the benefits that wind power can bring schools, farms, businesses and communities.”

Also, since it did such a great job with this video, a shout-out to the company behind it, from the YouTube page as well: “Talco is a turn key developer that helps customers install small scale wind turbines on their property.”

Sometimes, things are as simple as they seem — the wind is a clean, renewable energy source that we can easily tap for cheap today. The simplicity and beauty of the video above really is a great reflection of those simple facts.

Oil and Conventional Gas Extraction Can Cause Earthquakes Too

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 04:51 AM PDT

There has been a lot of controversy around the question ‘does hydraulic fracturing of shale to release natural gas cause earthquakes‘. Geologists and politicians have butted heads, unsurprisingly, when scientific fact gets in the way of environmental and energy policy. A new study has found again, however, that yes, fracking does indeed cause earthquakes. However, it doesn’t cause as many earthquakes as conventional extraction of oil and natural gas.

The comprehensive study, released Friday by the National Research Council and entitled “Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies,” documented earthquakes associated with a full range of underground energy technologies, including conventional oil and gas wells, geothermal energy, enhanced geothermal, and carbon sequestration. The researchers found that there was a higher rate of quake when those wells were somewhat drained and injected with water or gas to force the remaining contents back up.

In fact, the greatest risk of earthquake does not come as a result of drilling into the earth, or cracking it with pressurised water and chemicals, but rather when the wastewater from those operations is pumped back down into deep sandstone or other formations for permanent disposal, instead of storing it topside.

Circles indicate the location of earthquakes that were caused or "likely related" to energy technologies. The larger the circle, the larger the quake. "Secondary recovery" means fluids injected underground to force oil or gas out of wells.

Wastewater injection is believed to be responsible for earthquakes that took place in Youngstown, Ohio, on Christmas Eve and again on New Year’s Eve, measuring 2.7 and 4.0 on the Richter scale respectively.

The report found that technologies aimed at balancing the amount of fluid removed or injected — such as conventional oil wells — induced fewer earthquakes than those that involve net injection of extraction.

"The two techniques with the largest imbalance are carbon sequestration and wastewater injection," said Murray Hitzman, professor of economic geology at the Colorado School of Mines and chairman of the committee that wrote the report, at a press briefing today. The two techniques increase subsurface pressure across large areas, so there is a greater chance of running across a fault, which could lead to an earthquake, Hitzman said.

What the committee was most troubled by was the almost complete lack of industry “best practices” for minimising the risk of earthquakes. They strongly recommend that energy companies work with the U.S. Department of Energy to establish a set of “best practices” to minimise the likelihood of further earthquakes.

Source: Scientific American
Image Source: National Research Council

Cost Reductions Could Make Offshore Wind Competitive

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 04:43 AM PDT

A new UK study has demonstrated that significant reductions in the cost of offshore wind energy can be achieved prior to the governmental 2020 target, delivering 18 GW of offshore wind capacity and meeting the target set by the government in the 2011 Renewables Roadmap.

The study, conducted by The Crown Estate and employing the involvement of over 100 companies and organisations over a 9 month period, has demonstrated that the cost reductions are possible. Delivery on the promises will require developers and the supply chain to work closely with the government, which must provide long-term certainty for offshore wind investors.


According to the study, meeting these goals will be a big prize indeed, providing a world-leading industry in the UK, jobs, and inward investment, not to mention the obvious achievement of reaching low-carbon, clean energy targets.

There were four separate pathways identified to achieve cost reduction for the offshore wind industry, through combinations of  improvements in technology, growth of the supply chain, and reductions in the cost of finance.

Overall, the study shows that the cost of offshore wind energy could be cut to below £100 per megawatt hour or less through three of the identified pathways, provided at least 17-18 GW of capacity is built out by 2020.

The study highlights seven key opportunities for cost reduction:

  1. Introduction of larger turbines with higher reliability and energy capture and lower operating costs.
  2. Greater competition in key supply markets — turbines, foundations and installation — from within the UK, Europe and the Far East.
  3. Early involvement of suppliers and improved wind farm design.
  4. Economies of scale and standardisation.
  5. Optimisation of installation methods.
  6. Mass produced deeper water foundations.
  7. Attracting lower costs of capital through de-risking construction, and operations and maintenance.

Rob Hastings, Energy & Infrastructure Portfolio Director said: “We believe that there is no single solution to reduce the cost of offshore wind and all participants in the sector need to play their part. We’ve facilitated the production of this authoritative Pathways Study which identifies a highly credible way forward for industry and government to create a commercially sustainable offshore wind industry providing both environmental and social benefit. We welcome the industry-led Cost Reduction Task Force report, set up by DECC, who have applied the evidence of the study. The Crown Estate looks forward to working with the programme board, industry and Government on delivering the action plan as set out in the Task Force report.”

Andrew Jamieson, chair of the Cost Reduction Task Force said: “I welcome this in-depth Pathways Study as it confirms offshore wind can reduce its costs significantly down to £100/MWh by 2020. This study has been used by the Cost Reduction Taskforce, also reporting today, as critical evidence in exploring what needs to be done by industry and government to achieve cost reduction. The detailed work facilitated by The Crown Estate has been hugely valuable to creating a comprehensive view of the challenges ahead, and I congratulate them on taking such an important initiative as we all look to the continued success of this world leading industry.”

Maria McCaffery MBE, RenewableUK Chief Executive, said: “These ground-breaking reports from The Crown Estate and the Offshore Wind Cost Reduction Task Force work represent a crucial step forward. Both studies show that driving down costs is much more than a mere aspiration – the industry is working closely with key stakeholders such as The Crown Estate to chart the course ahead, laying out action plans which are credible and achievable. This will enable the sector to grow from strength to strength – not only generating low-carbon electricity and giving us a secure supply of energy, but also creating tens of thousands of jobs and revitalising manufacturing throughout the UK.”

Source: The Crown Estate
Image Source: Kim Hansen

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