Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Can Electric Vehicles Drive Further with Fewer Batteries?

Posted: 31 Jul 2012 12:00 AM PDT

There are many different lithium-ion battery technologies on the market, and some can charge in 15 minutes.

Most people feel as if the solution to the electric vehicle problem is to improve their range and decrease the cost per kWh of their batteries. Both have been happening, and gradually.

But I think it’s time to think out of the box. I cannot conclude that continuing to push for typical electric vehicle designs is a good idea.

Thinking out of the box showed me that there are alternatives to electric vehicles utilizing enormous and expensive battery banks to achieve long range. The primary alternative I have been thinking about is the use of lower-capacity battery packs, because they cost less. And not only that, but fast-charging ones.

Nissan Leaf

A large contributor to the range anxiety problem, and the range problem of electric cars overall, is that charge time for typical batteries is 30 minutes to 8 hours.

Most people either don’t want to or cannot wait up to 8 hours to charge their vehicle in public if they need to get somewhere promptly. Charging it for 8 hours overnight at home is perfectly fine, but, in public, it’s a different story.

Vehicles can be partially charged in a relatively short period, though, if you just need to get a little further to reach your destination.

Apart from that, when electric vehicles can charge in 15 minutes, this means that there is now a demand for charging stations, because people would actually be willing to wait and charge in public places. Electric vehicle charging stations can be as ubiquitous as gas stations, and they are feasible.

Depending on the type of “charging station” that is to be set up, which could simply be a 240-volt power outlet, it could cost less than $10 (excluding electrician fees), or it could cost $3,000. I should also add that charging stations would not need to provide as much power to vehicles with small battery packs, so they could be smaller and cheaper.

Electric vehicles with smaller battery packs are more efficient, because they are lighter. And, of course, they cost less.

This matters, because battery banks tend to account for a significant fraction of a vehicle’s weight (up to 1,000 pounds for a car, such as the Tesla Roadster, for example, which has a 990-pound pack).

The cost of an electric vehicle battery pack is what makes it more expensive than a similar gasoline-powered car. An electric vehicle with a small enough battery pack costs no more than a gasoline-powered car, even in today’s small production volume. It is a possibility that even better prices could be achieved via economies of scale.

An EV with a small battery pack, such as a 3-kWh one that provides it with 10 miles of range, is far cheaper and smaller than a 24-kWh one, like the one used in the Nissan Leaf, and if it is of the fast-charging type that can charge in 15 minutes, then the issue of range anxiety can be reduced significantly, because the vehicle could easily be recharged in a timely manner.

An ordinary 3-kWh battery bank would cost $1,500, but fast-charging batteries would likely cost more.

This would translate into the setup of a lot more charging stations. If every gas station had a few of these, then people could drive hundreds of miles in their electric vehicles without a problem! So, to answer the question in the title: “Yes.” This is because they could keep recharging.

The cost of these trips would also be lower, because the vehicles would be very efficient.

Feel free to discuss this in the comments section below. I try to ignite the thought process and innovation whenever I can. :D

More: The Brainstorm Project on Kompulsa

Photo Credit: Nissan Leaf via cliff1066 on Flickr

1,000 MW of Solar Milestone Passed in India

Posted: 30 Jul 2012 08:00 PM PDT


A hearty congratulations is in order for India. It has just surpassed the 1,000 MW mark for installed photovoltaic solar power. Were there celebrations? It seems at times we don’t acknowledge the achievements in renewable energy that are taking place. Rather, the general perception seems to be one of attempting to fill up an enormous hole. (David Brower was reputed to have told fellow activists to allow themselves some enjoyment on their journeys, or else they would suffer too much.) These renewable energy achievements are taking place amidst economic struggles around the world, and one might imagine, given the overall gloom, they are not being recognized enough.



Most of the solar capacity is in Gujarat, and there is also an additional 85 MW of off-grid PV solar. Gujarat Solar Park currently has scores of solar installations totaling about 600 MW, and it is planned to soon expand that capacity to about 1,000 MW. The largest individual solar park there is Charanka, with about 200 MW, which is expected to grow to 500. Gujarat might have 10,000 MW in a decade, said one local official, but this estimate may be too optimistic.

For the current fiscal year, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set goals of adding another 800 MW of solar and 2,500 of wind. Also, the overall goal of 20,000 MW of solar by 2022 has been discussed, but even that would be only about 5% of India’s power-generating capacity.

Off-grid solar might swell to 1,000 MW installed per year by 2016.

Replacing diesel generators and coal-burning plants would certainly reduce air pollution, and that would likely to be a better long-term economic strategy. Importing fuel that also pollutes the air is hardly a solution, though it has been common practice.

Recently a survey found India to be ranked number one in sustainable behaviors. Hopefully that will lead to a lot more solar.

Image Credit: Uday Parmar

Unirac Awarded 110-MW Solar Contract

Posted: 30 Jul 2012 07:30 PM PDT

North America’s largest provider of solar mounting structures for residential, commercial, and utility solar power systems, Unirac, has been awarded a contract by Bechtel Power Corporation to supply the ground mount system for the 110-MW AC Catalina Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Project in Kern County in Southern California, one of the largest photovoltaic ground mount installations in North America.

The project will cover 1,100 acres and produce enough energy to power approximately 35,000 home. It is scheduled to be completed by 2013.

"We are excited to work with Bechtel, a global leader in engineering, procurement and construction, on this important landmark project," said Peter Lorenz, CEO, Unirac. "Unirac has long been a leader in the residential and commercial markets. This award demonstrates that we have become the partner of choice for large, complex utility projects."



"Close collaboration with our customers, superior engineering, and a commitment to execution allow us to reduce the total installed cost of utility projects," said Tony Borck, Senior Director for Commercial and Utility Group, Unirac. "Our team will ensure delivery over a three month period on a just in time and at the right time basis as demanded by our customer's schedule."

Source: Unirac

Solar3D Successfully Fabricates Initial Prototype

Posted: 30 Jul 2012 07:00 PM PDT

Solar3D announced earlier this month the successful fabrication of an initial prototype of its breakthrough 3D solar cell technology, which is designed to maximize conversion of sunlight into electricity. The fabrication was done using commercially available equipment from Panasonic.

Image of the end view of the Solar3D prototype captured with a scanning electron microscope

"We are pleased to announce the successful fabrication our initial prototype,” said Dr. Changwan Son, Director of Technology at Solar3D. “After the rigorous research and analytical effort of completing an optimized design of our high efficiency 3D solar cell using advanced semiconductor software, our next challenge was making a working prototype.

“Often times, good computer designs do not translate into devices that can be fabricated in the real word at acceptable costs. Since the beginning of this project, we always designed with manufacturability in mind."



"We spent the past several months completing our fabrication process methodology," continued Dr. Son. Now, we have put that process to the test and successfully fabricated a meaningful area of precise 3-dimensional photovoltaic nanostructures on the surface of a silicon wafer. We accomplished this task using commercially available equipment at the state-of-the-art Nanofabrication Facility at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)."

Solar3D’s design is a single-wafer silicon solar cell based on a 3-dimensional design with two very powerful and unique features: high conversion efficiency and wide-angle light collection. The simulated design efficiency of the design was over 25 percent, which equates to an increase of over 50 percent above commercially available silicon solar cells.

According to the company, “the special wide-angle light collection feature on the cell surface can capture more light in the morning and evening hours, as well as in the winter months when the sun is not directly overhead.”

"This is a major accomplishment for Solar3D,” Jim Nelson, CEO of Solar3D, said. ”The great challenge for us was to create a design that could be manufactured economically.

"Since we launched Solar3D a few years ago, we have seen an increasing number of researchers around the world experimenting with light trapping solar cell designs, confirming that we are on the right track. Many of the new developments are in academia using non-commercial fabrication processes and technologies. We have made important breakthroughs using commercial mass production equipment and processes. We believe that conventional flat 2D solar cell designs are a thing of the past. The next level of performance will be found in 3D, which will finally unleash the full potential of converting sunlight to electricity for the benefit of the world," concluded Mr. Nelson.

Source: Solar3D

Hawaii Sails Past Solar Grid Parity, Surprised by Additional Roadblocks

Posted: 30 Jul 2012 06:07 PM PDT

Solar has crossed a major threshold in Hawaii. The state's homes and businesses can cut their electric bills with unsubsidized solar power, but are also discovering that cheap solar is not a panacea. As the tide of solar costs has receded, a number of unexpected barriers have emerged.

An island state reliant on imported oil for 83% of its electricity generation, Hawaii is fertile ground for solar power. The recent combination of rising oil prices and falling solar prices created a dramatic shift toward people generating their own electricity. With solar economics virtually unmatched in the U.S., Hawaii's situation begs this question: when unsubsidized solar competes favorably with grid electricity, can anything stand in its way?

Unfortunately, yes.

Hawaii residents and businesses have unearthed the complexities of shifting from an electricity system where everyone is a consumer to one where many people are self-reliant energy producers. While the economics of solar continue to improve, a number of unexpected barriers have arisen. ¼ of homes seeking solar require expensive electrical upgrades. Local governments are struggling with the tidal wave of permit requests for building solar – as many as 70% of permit applications in Honolulu are for solar power!

Utilities are also reluctant to give up their market dominance. Only recently did solar advocates succeed in overcoming the antiquated 15% rule that limited interconnections of solar power to 15% of grid capacity. The revised rule may expand the limit to 25%, but that still only accommodates half of the state's solar potential on rooftops alone.

These low limits meant that, in recent months, nearly 90% of commercial solar projects were told by the islands' utilities that they face a costly and lengthy interconnection study to come online. “The most common response to running into the specter of triggering a… study is for the customer to give up on their ambitions for renewable energy," says a local solar developer.

The issue of cost hasn't completely evaporated, either. Prospective solar producers can still get federal and state tax credits that considerably shorten the payback period for solar power. Political backlash led to a compromise bill for reducing the state incentive, which failed in the final minutes of the 2012 legislative session. It could go poorly for the industry if it doesn't pass soon, since the value of going solar comes from taxpayers' pockets.

The post–grid parity lessons from Hawaii will be crucial for cities and states on the mainland from San Diego to New York City to Phoenix. In all, 100 million Americans will live in cities (these and others) that the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) forecasts will reach solar grid parity in the next decade.

Will cheap solar open the floodgates or will poor policies and reluctant utilities hold it back? The Aloha State provides some answers.

You can read more about them from ILSR's new report: Hawaiian Sunblock: Solar Facing Unexpected Barriers Despite Low Cost.

Clean Energy on the High Seas: Solar-Powered Trimaran Sets Off on Eastern US Circumnavigation

Posted: 30 Jul 2012 05:17 PM PDT


Cheaper, more efficient and more powerful than ever before, more and more Americans and people around the world are turning to solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to provide clean, renewable, and local electrical power for their homes. Adding significantly to the growing portion of America’s electricity that’s generated from solar energy are power utilities, more and more of whom — spurred on by state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), other government incentives, and new regulations — are getting involved in US solar energy markets.

Though gains have been more difficult and slower to come by, substantial progress is also being made in terms of weaning US vehicles, motorists, planes, and maritime vessles off petroleum fuels. Accounting for 28.1% of total US energy consumption as of 2010, the transportation sector accounted for 29% of total US and over 5% of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the Dept. of Transportation Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting’s 2010 report to Congress.



Solar Power: On Land, in the Air, and on the Water

The Obama Administration has made notable strides in greening transportation in government. Notably, that includes significant initiatives and sizable investments by the US Armed Forces, the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world. In the private sector, venture capital, private equity firms, and more traditional banking and finance industry enterprises are increasingly driving a US clean, renewable energy transition.

Yet more encouraging, a lot’s happening at the small-scale, grassroots level, as well. A wave of alternative fuels and clean tech innovation and entrepreneurship is being unleashed in the US, where evolution and growth in hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles and technology, as well as that for next-generation biofuels and waste-to-fuel energy innovation, is paving the way forward to greener ways of transport.

What’s happening in terms of land and airborne transportation is also happening on the water. US fuel consumption for water-borne transportation totaled 6,716 million gallons in 2010, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Of the total, 4,206 million gallons of residual fuel oil, 1,343 million gallons of distillate/diesel fuel oil, and 1,167 million gallons of gasoline were consumed in water transport.

Sailors have long looked to harness wind energy to propel their vessels. In modern times, solar panels and small wind turbines are almost standard equipment for generating electrical power for equipment operations on sail and motor vessels. Yet more recently, sailors have been mounting and incorporating solar PV panels on and into hulls and even sails for propulsion.

Taking advantage of continual advances in PV generating and battery storage, the first commercial maritime vessels began operating on waterways in the 1990s, mainly around inland waterways, recounts the UK-based Electric Boat Association (EBA). Built by the Swiss company MW-Line, the Solifleur has been working on Lake Neuchatel since 1994.

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SolarEdge Wins Intersolar 2012 Innovation Award

Posted: 30 Jul 2012 04:00 PM PDT

SolarEdge Technologies was awarded the 2012 Intersolar Award for Innovation in the Photovoltaic category, according to the company, which provides end-to-end solar power optimization systems and monitoring solutions.

The Intersolar Award honors solar companies for innovative ideas and technological breakthroughs. Regarding its award-winning technology, the company noted:

“The SolarEdge next generation power optimizer, empowered with a new independent optimization technology (IndOP™) is designed utilizing a new set of semiconductor chips, developed by SolarEdge, which allow for a much smaller product with increased reliability, durability and efficiency.”

"We are very proud to be recognized for our innovation," said Guy Sella, CEO, Chairman and co-founder of SolarEdge. "As a market leader for distributed solar power optimization, this award affirms our belief and knowledge that mainstream use of module-level electronics is the right direction for accelerating the pace towards grid parity."



The Intersolar AWARD is given out annually by an independent panel of judges in the categories of Photovoltaic, Solar Thermal Technologies, and PV Production Technologies. More than 3,000 solar companies submitted products to be considered for award in the industry's flagship honor that draws worldwide public attention.

Source: SolarEdge

Advertising Watchdog Comes Down on Anti-Wind-Farm Critics

Posted: 30 Jul 2012 03:53 PM PDT

The UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has upheld three complaints leveled against campaigners opposed to a Yorkshire wind farm, forcing the withdrawal of adverts criticising the project.

“The ad must not appear again in its current form,” said the ASA in their findings. “We told Bridwindfarm not to make claims unless they could be substantiated with robust evidence.”

The ads were featured in the Bridlington Free Press opposing a wind farm application at Fraisthorpe. Part of the advert featured in the circular claimed the following;

“Did you know an application has been submitted to erect 9 wind turbines at Fraisthorpe, which will dominate Bridlington Bay for decades to come? The natural beauty of the coastline will be ruined forever if planning permission is granted. The turbines will be 427 feet tall, which is 5 times higher than Flamborough Lighthouse and will dwarf the existing ones at Lissett.”

TCI Renewables, the developer of the proposed 27-MW Fraisthorpe wind farm, challenged whether:

  1. the images in ads (a) and (b) accurately represented the visual effects of the proposed wind farm;
  2. the claims about the height of the turbines in ads (a) and (b) could be substantiated; and
  3. the claim “The natural beauty of the coastline will be ruined forever if planning permission is granted” in ad (a) was misleading.

The ASA responded by saying that the advertising was both misleading and that the claims they made could not be substantiated with any proof.


This is a great result, not for the financial benefit of TCI, but rather in combating the negative sentiments so often and willfully spread by anti-wind-farm campaigners. My personal pet-peeve is the regular claims that wind turbines will affect “the natural beauty of the coastline,” given that, in my opinion, they barely intrude at all and, when they do, there is a certain knowledge displayed in their existence that is very natural; we’re generating renewable natural energy, after all.

Image Source: SandMonster on Flickr

Chargepoint Announces New Mobile App

Posted: 30 Jul 2012 03:47 PM PDT

Chargepoint, the largest online global charging network, which connects drivers of electric vehicles to charging stations throughout 14 countries, has announced its latest mobile application for all iOS and Android smart phones. The app will include a variety of social network options.

The mobile app will continue providing users the ability to locate and check charging station availability and make reservations. It will also still provide detailed station information, which includes pricing and the ability to view your home charging station and its status.

Being added in this revision is the social network access, which will allow drivers to directly access their Facebook and Twitter accounts, make check-ins, and comment on Facebook from the more than 10,000 charging spots in the United States.

Additional ChargePoint features include:

  • Quick-loading maps that look sharp and detailed. Drivers can switch between map view and list view for simple navigation.
  • The ability to add, remove, and recall your favorite places to charge.
  • The ability to create a new ChargePoint account directly from your phone.
  • New menus have been reorganized to provide quick access to your favorite functions.

“The ChargePoint mobile app provides an easy way to access the world’s largest EV charging network, with features to locate stations near a specified address, get turn-by-turn directions, and even start and stop a charging session directly from a smart phone.”

Source: ChargePoint


200-MW Solar Plant Planned for Oman

Posted: 30 Jul 2012 03:42 PM PDT


Oman has one of the highest solar energy densities in the world. A study has estimated the country could generate all its electricity from solar power. Using just a tiny percentage of desert land for solar collectors could satisfy all its energy needs.

Investing in solar power could help the country export more oil, and therefore increase revenues. It could also enhance the country’s green image and have a positive impact on foreign tourism. Currently, the government relies almost entirely on fossil fuels for energy. An oil slump in the late 90s brought attention to the fact that diversifying the economy might be advantageous.

For these reasons, and others, the Oman Power and Water Procurement company is researching the possibility of constructing a 200-MW photovoltaic and concentrating solar power plant. If the project is approved by the Council of Ministers, it will go to the stage of sending out requests for proposals. It has been reported that approval is expected, and in this year.

The Middle East has abundant sunshine and much open, flat land, so it is clearly a prime location for solar power. Saudi Arabia has already stepped up as a leader in renewable energy investment.

Image Credit: Darwinek, Wiki Commons