Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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The Beautiful Thing about Offshore Wind & Solar Combined

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 11:21 AM PDT

Wind and solar, on their own, each have wonderful qualities, qualities that make them the two most popular electricity choices and that make them two of the cleanest. However, something that I think doesn’t get nearly enough attention is that solar and wind complement each other greatly.

Solar energy and wind energy peak at different times.

Offshore wind is an especially good match because it peaks later in the day than solar, after the hot sunshine has soaked into the earth and stimulated a breeze offshore, but while electricity demand is still peaking.

"When heat builds up on land along the coast with the cold ocean next to it, there is a natural updraft and a down draft at sea," State University of New York atmospheric sciences researcher Richard Perez says. "The wind comes in. Inland a few miles, there will be no wind but on the coast and immediately offshore there will be. If you have been on the beach on a hot afternoon, you will know this."



Getting more specific, here are some general peak times for solar and offshore wind:

"The sun will peak at noon," Perez says. "Offshore wind will peak at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., and the load peaks at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. in big cities like New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., so the wind and solar are really complementary."

Here are 3 graphs further making this point:

In Conclusion: Offshore Wind & Solar Are a Match Made in Heaven

"What we found out," Perez said, is that "the more you put those two technologies on the grid, the bigger the synergy effect. At very low penetration, like 1 percent or 2 percent, PV does very well alone; it doesn't need wind. But as you gradually penetrate from 2 percent all the way to 40 percent, the synergy between them grows. When you reach that 30 percent or 40 percent penetration, you see that solar absolutely needs wind, because you need to address that later part of the peak in the day."

The researchers' modeling showed, as other modeling has, that there is "almost twice the capacity value with wind and solar than you would get with solar alone at 30 percent penetration. And compared to wind alone, it is huge, maybe five or six times."

Source: Greentech Media

New Solar Tracking & Energy Storage Solution

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 08:56 AM PDT


Solar tracking technology and energy storage technology are two things that help make a lot more usable electricity out of the solar energy that hits our planet. Neither is anywhere near its potential, but improvements certainly aren’t easy to come by. Luckily, DEGERenergie has made some progress in this arena recently.



“The system combines high-performance solar modules, DEGERenergie MLD ‘maximum light detection’ tracking technology, and a battery storage management system. For storage solutions, DEGERenergie has coined the term MSS, ‘Maximum Solarpower Storage.’ Approximately 6,000 kilowatt hours can be generated each year by combining the MLD and MSS technology.”

Looks interesting and exciting! Read more at: Combination of Solar Tracking and Energy Storage Solutions in World Premiere.

Turn Signals for Bicyclists! (DIY)

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 08:35 AM PDT


Why didn’t someone come up with this a long time ago?! Turn signals for bicyclists would be very useful and could go a long way towards reducing bicycle-vehicle collisions.

From lifehacker:

Unfortunately, few people know hand signals anymore, so Instructables user CTY1995 decided to make his own wearable turn signals that he could put on his arms and turn on by lifting his arm up from his side.

The beauty of these turn signals is that they use a mercury tilt switch and some electroluminescent (EL) panels that light up to show big bright arrows every time he lifts up the arm that corresponds with the direction he wants to move. Combined with some Velcro and armbands, the panels make a comfortable, wearable gadget that can make your bike ride much safer. Best of all, the tilt switch is sensitive enough that you don’t have to start waving your arm wildly in the air to turn it on—just a slight lift will do the trick, and everyone around you will know where you’re going.

Learn more about the DIY bicycle turn signals and how to create them on this Instructables post: Automatic Activated Blink Signal.

Renault Delivering Free Electric Vehicle Chargers in France

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 08:22 AM PDT

French car company Renault isn’t happy with the slow pace of electric vehicle charger deployment in France, so it’s taken matters into its own hands… it is installing electric vehicle chargers around the country that are free to use.

“A century after French tiremaker Michelin issued road signs to help early motorists find their way, Renault and Japanese affiliate Nissan are preparing to hand out charging stations for installation in public spaces,” Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume of Reuters write.

“It is not our job to install chargers, but somebody has to kickstart the market,” Thierry Koskas, head of Renault’s electric vehicle program, told Reuters. “This cannot be a long-term policy.”

Right now, the plan is for the company to install 1,000 fast chargers, at a price of about €5,000 ($6,300) each. Most of the chargers will be in France, but some will be in other countries.

“The freebies will go to car parks, supermarkets and other high-visibility public spaces under private ownership.”

For more, check out: Renault backs electric cars with free chargers.

Updated i3 and New i Pedelec Electric Bicycle Unveiled by BMW in London

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 08:15 AM PDT


BMW certainly wasn’t first to get into electric cars and electric bikes, but it’s good to see the powerful company getting into them a bit now. Recently, BMW unveiled an updated version of its coming i3 electric car, as well as a new i Pedelec electric bicycle (both just concepts at this point).

“The updated i3 is based on the original concept that was unveiled at last year's Frankfurt International Motor Show, but with updates to the interior,” Marc Carter of Inhabitat writes. “The i Pedelec (Pedal Electric Cycle) is set up as the perfect complement to the BMW i3. It can be folded up almost in the blink of an eye and there is room for two of them in the trunk of the BMW i3.”

For more, including several more pics, check out: BMW Unveils Updated i3 and New i Pedelec Electric Bicycle in London.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are 5 Times Larger than Wind Energy Subsidies (12 Times Larger than Renewable Energy Subsidies)

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 07:58 AM PDT


Ah, FOX News and GOP politicians at the federal level will harp on clean energy subsidies all day… but won’t drop fossil fuel subsidies for anything (note: many local- and state-level Republicans are actually supporting clean energy industries). But the fact remains: fossil fuel subsidies are much larger than clean energy subsidies.

International Energy Agency figures show that government subsidies for fossil fuels are 12 times greater than those for renewable energy,” the Guardian notes.

Julian Scola of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) writes: “It makes me wonder — how do politicians and media can get away with talking  about removing subisidies from renewables without even mentioning the existence — let alone withdrawal — of much larger subsidies for much more established energy technologies? It is hard to understand.” [sic]

It is a wonder. Julian goes on to point out the difference between fossil fuel and wind power subsidies:

… public subsidies for wind power are dwarfed by those channelled to fossil fuels and nuclear. OECD figures show that coal, oil and gas in the UK were subsidised to the tune of £3.63 billion in 2010, while onshore and offshore wind received only £700 million in the year to April 2011 — that's more than five times less than fossil fuels.

Moreover, International Energy Agency figures show that coal, oil and gas subsidies in 37 countries received a total of $409 billion in 2010, compared to $66 billion for renewables.

Shockingly different, eh?



And, another critical point is that fossil fuel industries are largely mature industries, which shouldn’t be receiving subsidies, while clean energy industries are largely nascent industries that should be receiving subsidies!

Government support has already played an important role in expanding Europe's use of wind power. And while the industry aims to be competitive in a fully liberalised market, wind power needs subsidies to get it on a level playing field with dominant fossil fuels which have received subsidies for decades.

The industry is working hard to become fully cost-competitive with fossil fuels. And that is setting aside the fact that much of the environmental and human health cost of extracting, transporting and burning fossil fuels to make electricity is not included in the cost of fossil fuels. Costs have already fallen over recent years — largely due to improved turbine design and the increased efficiency of blades and other components. A recent report by the Grantham Research Institute found that onshore wind power will be cost competitive with fossil fuels by 2016 in the UK. Meanwhile, the biggest and best-sited wind farms in the world are already cost competitive, and onshore wind is already considerably cheaper than nuclear power.

In some places, wind power is actually now cost competitive with or significantly cheaper than fossil fuels.

Source: Renewable Energy World
Image Credit: oil refinery storage tanks with wind turbines in the background via Shutterstock

Lower Subsidies = Larger Solar Power Plants in UK?

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 07:38 AM PDT

Interesting turn of events in the UK — cutting solar feed-in tariffs, strongly opposed by the solar energy industry there, seems to be leading to larger solar power plants.

“Solar-energy companies are applying to build the U.K.'s biggest projects, sidestepping a cut in state subsidies aimed at limiting new power plants by relying on a decade-old incentive program and tumbling panel prices,” Businessweek notes.

“The market for utility-scale projects, stymied since the U.K. lowered feed-in tariffs paid to generators in August, may as a result see as much as 600 megawatts of plants built through April, the Solar Trade Association said. That's about four times the level of such installations now operating in the country.”

Very ironic turn of events.

For more on the story, check out: U.K. Solar Industry Sidesteps Tariff Cut to Build Biggest Plants.

Who’s Really Paying for Energiewende (and Increasing Natural Gas & Coal Prices)?

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 07:32 AM PDT

germany energiewende electricity prices

Paul Hockenos of Renewable Energy World had an interesting post recently on who’s really paying for Energiewende (the renewable energy revolution/program in Germany). Paul busts a couple big myths along the way, too.

Here are a few key quotes from the piece, with some commentary from myself:

  • “While it is true is that the costs of privileging renewable energy in the overall energy mix is reflected in electricity prices, these costs have been sinking for years as planned, and recently even faster than planned because of the plummeting costs of photovoltaic technology. But while the price of clean energy has been steadily declining, the cost of coal has doubled since 2000 and gas has tripled in price, according to Germany's Statistical Office. What's made electricity prices shoot up everywhere in the world are the market prices of gas and coal.” (Emphasis mine.) Shhh, no one’s supposed to know that it’s coal and natural gas now drive up electricity prices in Germany (and elsewhere).
  • “It was one of the first moves of the present Merkel government to exempt large-scale industry from those parts of the Renewable Energy Law (EEG) that indirectly tack the costs of renewable energy generation onto the bills of energy consumers.” (In other words, Big Industry is getting off the hook… and for no legitimate reason, as Paul explains further on in that section.)
  • “The Prognos Institute found huge differences in the prices that industry, SMEs, and consumers pay for electricity. While the mechanical engineering branch pays 14.75 cents for a kilowatt of electricity in 2011, the steel industry pays only 7.31 cents. Small businesses pay 17.8 cents and private households dish out 25 cents per kilowatt. It's numbers like this that have associations representing small and medium enterprises up in arms—and their venom isn't directed at the Energiewende.” Bottom line? Households and small businesses are paying far more than their fair share for electricity. Or, as Paul puts it, “In other words, private consumers and smaller businesses are paying for big industry's profits.”
  • And, one final point for the time being: “One more factor (which I'm going to deal with more extensively at another point): The costs charged by the grid operators have also been climbing and, again, the heavy industries get off much easier than the average guy with a toaster.”

Ah, democracy (controlled by big business) at work….



Source: Renewable Energy World
Image Credit: German electricity bill via Shutterstock

BrightSource Probable Winner of 500-MW Solar Trust Project

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 06:48 AM PDT

BrightSource Energy — solar utility juggernaut — appears to have won the bidding on an auction for the 500-MW Palen solar project in California, which was being sold by Solar Trust of America LLC after the company filed for bankruptcy in April.

Sources suggest that BrightSource Energy was the winning bidder for the project, and that the company is now awaiting court approval for the deal. Since those early repots, Bloomberg News has said BrightSource had confirmed that it was the highest bidder.

Unsurprisingly, the financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

Existing solar thermal system at Ivanpah, California

The Palen project was set to be be built in Southern California and planned to use solar thermal troughs to generate up to 500-MW of power. But Solar Trust has recently been looking to sell the rights for the project — as well as its plans for the 1-GW Blythe project in California and the 500-MW Amargosa Valley project — after one of its parent companies, German firm Solar Millennium, filed for insolvency.

This latest acquisition — if true — will boost the BrightSource reputation as one of the world’s leading solar thermal developers.



Source: Business Green
Image Source: BrightSource Energy

Low-Income Housing Receives Free Solar Panels Under Innovative Scheme

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 06:44 AM PDT

Sullivan Solar Power is one of California’s largest solar power companies, and it recently launched the Chula Vista Solar Program, which not only resulted in 204,412 watts of solar power deployed in the city, but also provided 29 solar panels to three low-income houses in the city.

The Chula Vista Solar Program “has been created to encourage the creation of a strong solar community within the City of Chula Vista. Participants are able to go solar for as little as $0 upfront with a monthly payment equal to or less than current electric bill rates.”

The program expired on October the 24th, but offered businesses and homeowners the opportunity to receive substantial cash-bank incentives, incentives greater than that of the state rebate.



There were 29 participants who received a total of more than $60,000 and, according to Sullivan Solar, “helped build a stronger solar community less dependent on nonrenewable resources like unreliable nuclear power and imported fossil fuels.”

But the Chula Vista Solar Program also made one solar panel per participant and donated it to three low-income households who wanted to go solar.

"We decided to go solar because of the environmental benefits, and we wanted to save money on our electricity bill," said Elizabeth Yescas-Beitia, resident of one of the three houses that volunteered. "Our family is grateful to have solar for free through the GRID Alternatives program, and we are appreciative to all the Sullivan Solar Power customers in Chula Vista who helped make it happen."

The Yescas Family

The project is a 2,485-watt solar installation and will end up saving the family more than $18,000 over the warranty lifetime of the system.

“Partnering with GRID Alternatives aligns with our solar programs which are designed to help entire communities go solar," said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power. "Not only did Chula Vista residents get paid to go solar for their new solar projects, they helped their neighboring families like the Yescas enjoy the same energy savings."

Source: Sullivan Solar Power
Image Source: GRID Alternatives

A Power Quality and Energy Storage Cube for the Residential Market

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 06:36 AM PDT

The future of sustainable power sources will reach peak efficiency when power storage and redistribution is available to every household. Axion Power International has made a first step towards such a future, in conjunction with the Rosewater Energy Group based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as they plan to create a variety of energy storage and conversion products for the high-end residential market.

The two companies signed a Letter of Intent which memorializes a strategy to create a series of technologies based on Axion’s advanced lead­-carbon PbC batteries and energy storage systems.

The project calls for the incorporation of Axion Power’s PbC batteries, and technology know how, into a product package that offers distortion-free secure home power; an ability to store energy from renewable sources and from the electric grid; an ability to sell energy back to the electric grid; an opportunity to protect some, or all, of the residential circuitry and to prioritize these circuits.

The PbC battery referenced are hybrid batteries made by Axion that combine the standard lead acid battery positive electrode and a supercapacitor negative electrode that is made of activated carbon. The whole scientific understanding of the differences between standard batteries and Axion PbC batteries can be found here, but in short, the PbC battery experiences fewer “acid concentration swings from the charged to discharged state which reduces grid corrosion on the positive electrode and leads to longer life of the positive electrode.”

Clover Lane plant

“We have seen the value of PbC technology, as a secure energy storage source, while working with Axion CUBE designs, and other products, over the past two years,” said Rosewater Energy Group Managing Director Joseph Piccirilli. “We believe this technology has tremendous value for entertainment technologies, and a range of home upgrades that will enable residential owners to have a previously unattainable sense of both power quality and energy security in their homes.”

The basic premise behind the battery is the same at any level. Axion recently commissioned a .5MW/.25MWH PowerCube at its Clover Lane plant in November of 2011, but the same building block technology is used in the construction of the smaller cubes as well; 100kW all the way down to 10kW.

The residential cube, a 10kW/12kWh battery, will provide home owners with power quality, uninterrupted power back up, and the ability to store energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind. In addition, the unit has the ability to be grid connected, so that, on either a regular or an occasional basis, a home owner can participate in demand response and/or power curtailment.



Axion Power Chairman and CEO Thomas Granville commented: “We are very pleased to be expanding our work with Rosewater Energy Group. The high-end residential market is a natural for this technology, because it allows homeowners to enjoy 100% clean undistorted power for all applications, including home entertainment systems. It can also provide power during blackout conditions and can be fully grid tied.”

“We believe this product line can quickly become the gold standard for upscale homes,” Granville added. “We look forward to kicking off the product line at the CEDIA Expo right after Labor Day, and believe that Rosewater Energy, with their previous long history selling into our target market, is the right distributor for our residential energy product.”

Source: Axion Power International

San Francisco and LA County Launch PACE

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 06:28 AM PDT

The Florida Green Finance Authority has partnered with the C40-Clinton Climate Initiative and leading communities, San Francisco and Los Angeles County, to launch the Commercial Clean Energy Financing Alliance in an effort to share best practices and bring prudent standards for PACE (property assessed clean energy).

"PACE by its very nature is a local government initiative that leads to significant energy savings and the creation of construction and engineering jobs," said Scott Henderson, Director of Finance, C40-Clinton Climate Initiative. "We believe the Alliance's PACE program – and its standardized use of model practices – will be more attractive to building owners, capital providers and contractors as they work across jurisdictions."

The Florida Green Finance Authority continues to represent a growing number of communities throughout the State and shares the Alliance’s commitment to PACE as an “open market” program. According to the Florida Green Finance Authority, “such programs give building owners flexibility to hire any qualified contractor and obtain financing from any qualified investor to complete custom-tailored clean energy projects.”

Furthermore, "open market" programs respect the rights of existing mortgage holders by requiring their consent to PACE assessments. This approach makes banks important partners to PACE project development.

"The Commercial Clean Energy Financing Alliance's approach has potential for positive change as a way to promote energy efficiency retrofits of commercial properties," said Wayne Seaton, managing director Wells Fargo's Sustainable Public Infrastructure group. "Wells Fargo's environmental commitment is cultivated in part from an appreciation of the ways in which we can help our clients and our communities achieve environmental goals."



Source: The Florida Green Finance Authority

140 MW of New Wind and Hydro for Costa Rica by 2015

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 06:22 AM PDT


In the next two and half years, Costa Rica is planning to add 100 megawatts of wind power and 40 from hydroelectric.

While this amount is a fraction of the 1,000 MW of wind power Uruguay is trying to add in the same time frame, it is still an ambitious plan.

It also meshes well with Costa Rica’s overall  plan to become carbon neutral by 2021. Planting trees to offset its carbon emissions, combined with creating more clean energy, is the country’s basic approach to having a net contribution to climate change of zero.



“In the case of electricity, the aim is to stop burning petroleum derivatives. The projects included in this process will contribute to this objective of carbon neutrality,” said Ulises Zuniga Blanco, an employee of  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, Costa Rica's government-managed utility.

The new wind power farms could all be operational by 2014, and the hydroelectric project by the following year.

In 2011, Costa Rica generated about 73% of its power from hydroelectric, but just 4% from wind power. Wind power potential there is said to be good, with many rural areas experiencing winds of 15 to 20 mph.

Currently, Costa Rica’s energy comes from hydroelectric, geothermal, cane products, sustainable timber, biomass, wind, and solar. If the Central American country is the first in the world to become carbon neutral, the publicity could cement their status as a world leader in conservation. The small country has about five percent of the world’s plants and animals, and is known for rich ecologically-oriented tourist opportunities.

No new fossil fuel plants are planned to be constructed after 2015.

Image Credit: Dirk van der Made, Wiki Commons

Turmoil in Australia: Queensland Government Announces Drastic Cuts to Solar Bonus Feed-in Tariff Scheme

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 06:08 AM PDT


The Queensland state government has announced that its Solar Bonus Feed-in Tariff scheme will be reduced to 8c per kilowatt-hour for those who submit applications after midnight 9 July 2012. The scheme currently offers solar system owners 44c for every kilowatt-hour of solar electricity that they feed into the power grid, making it the most generous in Australia.

The news is a major blow to Queensland’s — not to mention Australia’s — solar industry, which has been subject to sudden stop-start government support across most of its states and from the federal government as well. The most notorious case was the abrupt slashing of New South Wales’ Solar Bonus Scheme — customers were left with 12 hours to submit applications to connect for the generous 60c/kWh gross tariff scheme that was in place at the time.

The Queensland Solar Bonus Feed-in Tariff Scheme is the ‘last domino‘ to fall since the election of Queensland’s conservative Liberal Party candidate Campbell Newman as Premier and his subsequent gutting of numerous state clean energy initiatives. (The Solar Bonus Scheme is also the last domino in a different way, being the last truly generous Solar Feed-in Tariff scheme standing in the country.) The state’s Solar Bonus Scheme was supposed to be left untouched, but the Premier seems to have changed his mind with the announcement.



The Queensland government had the following to say about the impending cut in a press release:

Customers who wish to access the 44 cent rate will need to lodge a network connection application before midnight on 9 July 2012 in order to be considered for the existing 44 cent tariff. This provides a notice period of 10 business days for people who have already purchased their PV system on the basis of the 44 cent tariff, but have not yet applied for the Scheme.

Importantly, existing Scheme customers will continue to receive the 44 cents tariff provided they maintain their eligibility for the Scheme.

Eligible customers that apply to join the Scheme from 10 July 2012 will receive 8 cents per kilowatt hour for energy exported to the electricity grid.  The 8 cents tariff will be reviewed by 1 July 2013, and end on 1 July 2014.

The Queensland Government will also task the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) to review and make recommendations by early 2013 on a subsidy free “fair and reasonable” solar feed-in tariff for Queensland. This is similar to approaches taken in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. QCA recommendations will inform Government’s mid 2013 review of the Scheme.

For further information please visit the Department of Energy and Water Supply website or call the Queensland Government Customer Service Centre
on 13 43 87.

For more information: Queensland State Government — Solar Bonus Scheme

Image Credit: Australia solar stamp via Brendan Howard / Shutterstock.com

Significant Potential for Plug-in Electric Vehicles in US Housing Stock

Posted: 26 Jun 2012 05:20 AM PDT


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey.
Note: Excludes the 11.2 million households without a vehicle.

The housing stock in the United States could support significant numbers of plug-in electric vehicles. Of households that own at least one car, an estimated 49% (49.6 million housing units) park within 20 feet of an electrical outlet, based on recently released responses to a new question from the 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS).

Certain housing characteristics limit potential for electric (either plug-in hybrid or all-electric) vehicles, especially the type of housing. Excluding households without cars and those where the respondent did not know whether an electrical outlet was accessible, 60% of respondents in single-family detached houses park within 20 feet of an outlet, as opposed to only 14% of respondents in apartments. Most electric vehicles can be charged using the same outlet as a home appliance.  However, some electric vehicle manufacturers recommend installing a separate charger that can charge the vehicle faster.

Housing stock in some regions is better suited to support electric vehicles. In the Northeast Census region, less than 40% of all respondents in single-family houses park their car within 20 feet of an electrical outlet. In contrast, for single-family houses in the Midwest region, more than 60% of respondents park their car within 20 feet of an electrical outlet.

Newer houses tend to provide better access to electrical outlets. Differences based on the age of the housing unit exist, but the major increase in outlet access did not occur until the 1990s. Income and location in an urban area also influence accessibility of outlets for charging vehicles. About 65% of respondents from single-family detached housing units with incomes greater than $80,000 per year park with access to an electrical outlet (see chart below). Only 47% of respondents from urban areas have access compared to 55% from rural areas, reflecting the prevalence of apartments in the urban housing stock.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey.
Note: Excludes the 11.2 million households without a vehicle.

This article was originally published on the EIA website.

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