Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Bird and Wildlife Charity to Erect Massive Wind Turbine (The Message: Wind Turbines Better for Birds than Fossil Fuels)

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 08:30 PM PDT

There’s a common myth that wind turbines are much worse for birds that conventional, fossil-fuel power plants. As an indication that they certainly aren’t, a leading bird protection charity in the UK is actually going to have a huge wind turbine for its headquarters!

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK announced plans earlier this year to erect a massive wind turbine at its headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire. The 100-metre wind turbine would be installed, at the earliest, in the autumn of 2013, upon the requisite approval being granted.

"We are keen to promote the use of wind energy where it does not result in unacceptable impacts to wildlife and we are confident that this is a suitable location to do so,” Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director said.

"All of us have a part to play in helping to meet the UK Government's target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, and this turbine will be one more step along the way.

"We need a revolution in the way we generate and use energy – but we want that revolution to take place in harmony with the natural environment.”

The RSPB noted that it believes “renewable energy is an essential tool in the fight against climate change, which poses the single biggest threat to the long term survival of birds and wildlife.” As a result, they are taking steps to reduce their own carbon footprint by generating their own electricity from renewable sources.

The RSPB is joining with green energy company Ecotricity to submit its planning application for a meteorological mast to be erected close to the charity's head offices at The Lodge nature reserve, the first step towards determining the site as suitable for a wind turbine. But this is not the first step the organization has taken, having already done numerous tests to determine the suitability of the site.

"It's essential that wind energy projects provide their vital environmental benefits with the minimum environmental impact,” said Dale Vince, Founder of Ecotricity. ”To ensure this, we conduct detailed studies on up to 27 different areas of potential impact such as health and safety, cultural heritage and wildlife. Our aim is to ensure that any wind project we build will be a good neighbour, for people and for wildlife, for the entire lifetime of operation. ”

"We know that with the right design and location wind turbines have little or no impact on wildlife,” said Harper. “The RSPB has commented on over 1,500 wind farm applications. In the small number of cases – around six per cent – where we feel there is likely to be a significant impact on wildlife we have lodged an objection. In many of these cases the developers have listened and redesigned their plans to make sure they do not threaten wildlife.”

"We hope that by siting a wind turbine at our UK headquarters, we will demonstrate to others that with a thorough environmental assessment and the right planning and design, renewable energy and a healthy, thriving environment can go hand in hand."

Source: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Image Source: Graeme Maclean

SolarEdge and Zep Solar Launch Power Optimizer

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 08:00 PM PDT

Power optimization company SolarEdge Technologies, in conjunction with PV mounting and grounding specialist Zep Solar, has announced a joint-designed power optimizer that can be seamlessly integrated with the frame of any Zep Compatible solar module and can be installed without the need to run grounding wire.

Zep Solar installation in Brattleboro, Vermont

"We have joined with Zep Solar to develop a solution that will better serve our customers' needs," says John Berdner General Manager of SolarEdge North America. “Installers who currently enjoy the flexible design and maximum space utilization enabled by the SolarEdge solution, will now benefit from an easier installation and a reduction in labor time."

SolarEdge power optimizers already on the market provide a 99.5% peak efficiency and 98.9% weighted efficiency, maximizing energy production for each individual module, offering greater energy yields in both shaded and unshaded scenarios. On top of that, module-level energy monitoring provides full visibility of system performance and allows for remote troubleshooting.

Thus, the SolarEdge Zep Compatible power optimizer can be connected to PV modules on the ground, allowing the mounting hardware, power optimizer and module to be installed on the roof at the same time.

"The Zep Compatible ecosystem is a place where the benefits of great new technologies combine to offer new levels of efficiency," said Jack West, CTO of Zep Solar. "The addition of SolarEdge's cutting edge solution further contributes to this trend and enhances the growth of the Zep Compatible platform."

Zep Compatible solar modules are available today from leading module makers such as Trina Solar, Yingli Solar, Canadian Solar, Sharp Solar, Upsolar, and ET Solar among others, and were showcased at the recent Intersolar North America solar trade show in San Francisco.

Source: SolarEdge
Image Source: Zep Solar

Audi’s New e-Bike

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 07:30 PM PDT

Showing off its latest concepts at the Wörthersee Tour, Audi has showcased the Audi e-bike Wörthersee, a sport bike that Audi says “does not fit into any of the usual categories. It is neither a pedelec nor a conventional bike, but is best described as a high-end pedelec.”

The Audi e-bike’s frame is made from ultra-light carbon-fibre and weighs in at only 1,600 grams (3.53 lb). The bike implements material reinforcements only at points on the bike that will encounter load, and the swinging arm for the rear wheel is made from carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer.

Sleek and futuristic, the bike allows users to switch between pedalling or electric, reaching speeds of up to 80 km/h (50 mph) with a peak output of 2.3 kW, a new high point for e-bikes. All in all, the bike weighs a total of 21 kg (46.30 lb), equivalent to a power-weight ratio of 9 kg (19.84 lb) per kilowatt, or 7 kg (15.43 lb) per horsepower.

The rider of the Audi e-bike Wörthersee can choose between five programs; these either support use of the pedals or permit electric-only travel.

In the 'Pure' mode the rider only propels the bike by means of the pedals. In the 'Pedelec' mode the rider is assisted by the electric motor…  In the 'eGrip' program the Audi e-bike Wörthersee can be ridden with the electric motor providing all the necessary power…

In 'Wheelie' mode the power flow is electronically controlled in order to assist the rider when the front wheel is in the air. Alternative operating modes are available, and can be selected by smartphone or directly at the e-bike: either 'Power Wheelie' with an adjustable wheelie angle for less skilled riders, or 'Balanced Wheelie' for those with more experience.

I’m not 100% certain that this sort of bike is of any value to real aficionados of the bicycle. But, for those who don’t mind being laughed off the ramp or want to make their leisurely ride a little more leisurely, this might be just the thing.

Source: Audi

Easier, Cheaper Solar Panel Installation

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 07:00 PM PDT

A sure-fire way to increase investments in solar panel rooftops? Make ‘em easier to put together and cheaper to install. Many shy away from solar power because of costly labor and complicated installation, but two new products claim to put those complaints to rest.

Prefab Paneling

SOLON SOLquick arrives on site fully assembled on custom-designed shipping pallets.

Solar company Solon has rolled out a couple of photovoltaic products, including SOLfixx and patent-pending SOLquick, which the company claims arrive fully configured and can be installed solely by hand. Solon says both products are shipped directly to the designated work site and do not require staging.

SOLquick is intended for non-metal commercial roofs; SOLfixx for rooftops that can bear less weight. Both require flat roof surfaces.

Decreased Panel Weight

Solon advertises the SOLquick panels as frameless and lightweight, about 2.8 pounds per square foot. The SOLfixx is listed at 12.9 kilograms per square meter.

Once in place, SOLON’s innovative quick click U-bolt mechanically interconnects units.

The reduced weight also plays a role in easier installation — no heavy machinery is heeded to hoist and situate the solar paneling.

According to Solon, the SOLquick roof can be installed in ten units per man hour, cutting the mechanical installation time by 85 percent and cutting the electrical installation time by 50 percent.

Those are some pretty huge time (and, thus, cost) savings.


SOLquick is prerun with simple electrical interconnects. Electrical is connected by clicking together one unit with another.

Neither paneling system requires roof penetration in most instances. The SOLquick brochure, however, does list a caveat that roof penetration may be necessary in certain cases due to seismic activity, snow and wind loads, or due to the height of the building.

Tool-free installation, lighter weight materials and snap together construction makes adding solar panels to commercial rooftops much more appealing to business owners of all stripes.

Source & Image/Caption Credits: SOLON

Costs of Energy Technologies More Transparent with New NREL Database

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 06:22 PM PDT

This is a pretty awesome new offering from NREL. And, as far as we here at CleanTechnica can tell, the data looks as accurate as anything we’ve seen. However, one thing to note is that renewable energy costs are dropping fast, and nuclear and fossil fuel costs are generally rising. So, the averages here and the lows/highs tend to unfairly favor fossil fuels and nuclear more than renewable energy, I think. Was there a good way around that? Probably not, and I’m highly thankful for what NREL has put together and imagine I will be referencing it repeatedly in posts and discussions in the comments sections below posts. But I think that is worth realizing, and I’m very curious to see how things change in the next few years!

Here’s a full news release from NREL on what I’m talking about (following a screenshot of the LCOE page of the Transparent Cost Database):

Levelized Cost of Electricity comparison

LCOE comparison via NREL.

A new web application collects cost and performance estimates for electric generation, advanced vehicles, and renewable fuel technologies and makes them available for utilities, policy makers, consumers, and academics. The Transparent Cost Database (TCDB) app provides technology cost and performance estimates that can be used to benchmark company costs, model energy scenarios, and inform research and development decisions.

In keeping with the Obama Administration’s commitment to open and transparent data, the TCDB provides cost comparisons to make it much easier to view the range of estimates for what energy technologies such as a utility-scale wind farm, rooftop solar installation, biofuel production plant, or electric vehicle might cost today or in the future. The new database will help companies and investors make informed decisions supporting the commercialization and deployment of clean energy.

TCDB was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) through a grant from DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It provides “a first-cut estimate of current and projected costs and performance characteristics for vehicles, biofuels and electricity generation,” with a current focus on renewables, NREL analyst Austin Brown said.

TCDB displays DOE estimates and targets in a place that is easy to find and update, Brown said. Until now, those estimates and targets typically have been found in program-planning or budget documents that, while public, are difficult to find and collect. In support of the Administration’s goals to increase data transparency, DOE is collecting this planning data in one public resource for the first time.

The TCDB provides access to published historical and projected cost estimates for electricity generation, biofuels, and vehicle technologies. The cost data are sourced from published studies and the Department of Energy’s internal planning documents. DOE works closely with private companies to accurately estimate technology costs. This information helps DOE plan research and development.

The new database will soon allow experts to contribute reliable new information to continually expand and validate the cost information available to the public. The data are arranged so users can see a range of cost and performance numbers as well as reports on potential improvements. All data will be viewable and downloadable from DOE’s Open Energy Information platform,, a virtual clearinghouse for information about energy.

NREL analysts collected the first batch of data by reviewing publicly available reports and collaborating with technology experts at DOE. In the near future, data will also be suggested by expert users and continually refreshed by the NREL project team.

The database currently contains thousands of estimates from more than 100 reports. The web interface allows the user to look at current estimates and future projections, and to filter the data of interest. The exact report referenced in each data point is just a few mouse clicks away.

TCDB is fully integrated into OpenEI and is available at The project is still under development. Users are welcome to submit suggestions for additional functionality to

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

Solar Energy Industries Association Statement on Abound Solar Hearing

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 04:02 PM PDT

There’s a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs hearing on the bankruptcy of Abound Solar coming up, of course… and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has put out an excellent statement on the matter, of course. Context, context, context. Context is key. And I’m afraid that will be lacking big-time at the hearing. Let’s hope that enough context gets discussed tomorrow to show how much the Abound story is an unfortunate exception in the US solar industry today.

Here’s SEIA’s full statement on the matter:

WASHINGTON – In anticipation of tomorrow's House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs hearing on the bankruptcy of Abound Solar, Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®), issued the following statement:

"The closure of any American factory is troubling. However, it is important to remember that the U.S. solar industry is a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish economy.

"Over 100,000 Americans have jobs in solar, more than double the amount from two years ago.  Costs of solar products to consumers continue to drop, while the deployment of solar systems across the U.S. increased by 85 percent over the last year.

"Today, as a result of the DOE's Loan Guarantee Program, thousands of construction workers are building or operating 11 utility-scale solar projects with guaranteed revenue streams that will generate enough energy to power more than 630,000 homes.

"We hope as the subcommittee conducts its oversight, they take an even-handed approach and do not kill a program that is delivering results – world-renowned utility-scale solar projects, thousands of American construction jobs, and hundreds of megawatts of clean, renewable power.

"America invented solar technology, and I have every conviction that our companies can and will continue to thrive in the global marketplace. It would be short-sighted to cede this ground to our competitors in Asia and Europe and let a $10 billion, high-tech industry slip away as the U.S. did with flat screen televisions. Let's keep the leadership, the jobs, and the industry here in America.

"The solar industry looks forward to working with Congress and the Administration to consider ways to improve the competitiveness of American manufacturers, starting with a robust Loan Guarantee Program."

Background Materials:

High-Speed Rail Investment in U.S. Would Result in $26.4 Billion Net Benefits by 2040

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 07:00 AM PDT

The main argument against building high-speed rail in America is that it’s too expensive. Fortunately, that is simply not true. The net benefits far exceed the cost, as is explained in a new report just released at a Congressional briefing by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

high speed train

Image Credit: Maglev high-speed train via Wikimedia Commons

The report, titled "Opportunity Cost of Inaction: High-Speed Rail and High Performance Passenger Rail Service," details how building a high-speed rail program in the U.S. will result in $26.4 billion in net benefits over the next 40 years.

Anti-rail protesters, politicians, and media critics get one of their central arguments wrong, time and time again. While the upfront costs of high-speed rail may look big, the long-term benefits far exceed the costs.

For APTA’s full news release on this matter, jump on over to Page 2.

U.S. Air Force Gets Solar Power from SolarCity, Continues Clean Energy Push

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 06:31 AM PDT

U.S. Air force gets solar powered housing

When the Department of Defense privatized military housing back in the 1990′s, little did it know that those homes would become the platform for the largest residential solar project in American history. Well, they did.

Last November, the solar installer SolarCity announced that it would build about $1 billion in solar projects for military housing under a project it calls SolarStrong, and now the company is following up with a new round of solar installations for the U.S. Air Force in partnership with the global company Lend Lease.

The Solar Powered Force of the Future

It’s no secret that Republican leaders in Congress have tried to monkey-wrench DoD’s efforts to transition to solar power and other forms of renewable energy that are cleaner, safer, and more reliable than fossil fuels. However, DoD has been finding ways to work around those obstacles.

The Navy is forging ahead with a $62-million biofuel research and development project under the force of a 1950′s-era law, and DoD has just announced a $420-million public-private partnership to build commercial-scale biorefineries for aviation biofuel and biodiesel.

The Army has topped them all with the Energy Initiatives Task Force, a planned $7 billion series of public-private solar power partnerships based on the same statutory authority that privatized military housing.

In support of this initiative, the Army Corps of Engineers envisions utility-scale projects at Army facilities that would generate renewable solar, wind, geothermal, or biomass energy. They would be built under power purchase agreements, in which the Army provides the real estate for facilities owned and operated by private sector energy companies.

SolarCity and SolarStrong

According to information provided to CleanTechnica this week, SolarCity’s new project will cover more than 850 military homes at the Los Angeles Air Force Base and two bases in Colorado Springs, Peterson AFB and Schriever AFB.

All together, the installations will total about 18,000 solar panels generating about 6.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. That’s enough to provide up to 60 percent of the electricity used in each community, and it will help reduce strain on the grid during the summer peak use series.

Lend Lease and a Solar Powered Military

All of the properties are managed by Lend Lease, which has been building a solid track record in sustainable construction. Its projects for DoD include the two biggest solar communities in the country at Davis-Monthan AFB and Army Hawaii. Lend Lease’s solar thermal project at Camp Lejeune is also the biggest installation of its kind in the U.S.

Other large military solar projects by Lend Lease include two previous partnerships with SolarCity, for the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

Clean Power and Green Jobs for Veterans

It’s worth noting that SolarCity has recently begun ramping up its efforts to recruit veterans into its workforce. According to SolarCity, in addition to holding job fairs, it has partnered with other veteran recruitment programs,


including the '100,000 Jobs Mission' of JP Morgan Chase & Co., Swords to Plowshares, The California National Guard, The California Conservation Corps, and  Veterans Green Jobs.

Just recently announced here on CleanTechnica, it currently has over 300 job openings across the U.S.

Image: Courtesy of U.S. Air Force.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Solar Power Resources & EV Driving Potential Estimated with Free Solar App (iPhone & Android)

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 05:35 AM PDT


You can now use the screen of your smartphone to simulate the active surface area of a solar panel, and receive an estimate of the solar resources in that position.

In addition to that, the free app, available for iPhones or Android phones, also gives you information such as “hours of light generated, CO2 emissions avoided and even the distance traveled by an electric car with the energy generated by the PV installation!”

All you have to do is place the smartphone in the same position that your installation would be. The results will vary depending on the inclination and rotation used, so you can compare different setups and locations. Here’s more from the solar blog:

Isn't it extraordinary that an installation measuring just 10 m2 can, over the course of a single year, generate enough electricity to power an electric car for more than 10,000 km?

In order to make these calculations we have developed a simple, intuitive photovoltaic-estimation tool which is available for free on our website and can be used on any device.

For a better understanding of the results, the app translate the estimated energy into hours of light, electric car mileage and CO2 emissions avoided thanks to the clean energy generation.

Onyx Solar app is available on both Apple and Android devices and completely free. Thus, it can get downloaded from Apple Store or Android Market.



You can learn more here.

You can get the android version or iPhone version now.

If you check it out, let us know how it compares to the solar panels suitability app we recently wrote about!

Source: Onyx Green Building

Vermont & Wisconsin Battle for Biking Bragging Rights

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 05:08 AM PDT


Since May 1, Burlington cyclists have pedaled almost 200,000 miles, putting them at the top of the National Bike Challenge. Vermont is also ranking #1 in the state rankings.

Wisconsin won’t go down without a fight, though. The Cheesehead state is sitting pretty with five of the top 10 cycling communities in this year’s challenge. The states and their bicycle-loving communities will duke it out until August 31.

Keep up with the latest action and rankings over on the National Bike Challenge website. The Leaderboard includes rankings of individual riders, teams, workplaces, communities, and states!

Sources: Endomondo and League of American Bicyclists
Image Credit: Burlington bicyclists via the League of American Bicyclists

Solar Water Heating Just Got Easier

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 04:57 AM PDT


DIY-ers will be happy to hear that a solar hot water system with simplified installation has hit the market.

The Liberty-Box has been developed without the extra pipes, pumps and holding containers that were traditionally needed to adapt pre-existing water heaters.

From Derek Markham of TreeHugger: “The Liberty Box, from EDS USA, uses the electricity generated from several photovoltaic solar panels to heat a second heater element in an existing water heater, instead of heating the water in secondary thermal collectors. The system is said to be able to provide 100% of the hot water needs of a family of four in the summer time, and 75% of the water heating demand for the winter time, with no batteries needed, no chance of pipes freezing or leaking, and no moving pieces (such as pumps) vulnerable to breakage or failure.”

The upfront cost? $4,000 for kits that include solar panels, or $1,000 for kits without them. (Though, the system does qualify for a 30% Federal Tax Credit, and there may be incentives in your state, county, or city that it also qualifies for.)

For more info on the kit, check out the Liberty Box brochure from EDS USA.

U.S. Military Adding Solar Roofs to More Base Housing

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 04:42 AM PDT


Great news on solar power: More eco-friendly military housing is on the horizon. Today, SolarCity announced that three more solar panel rooftop projects will be added to Air Force bases in California and Colorado later this summer. The additional bases are a part of SolarStrong, a $1-billion solar installation project.

SolarCity, partnered with property developer Lend Lease, plans to provide solar power to more than 850 privatized military homes in Los Angeles and Colorado Springs. The five-year project is aiming to create up to 300 megawatts of solar power for as many as 120,000 military housing units across the U.S. If completed, SolarStrong would be the largest solar project in America.

Solar power projects are already underway or completed at Hickam Communities at Joint Base Pearl Harbor and Soaring Heights Community at Tucson's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, pictured above.

About 4 megawatts of solar power will be installed at Hickam Communities by 2013 — we’ve got more on that project coming in a few hours.

Davis-Monthan AFB installed 6 megawatts of solar power in December 2010 in the form of ground mounts and rooftops. Another 14.5 megawatts will be generated by solar panels covering 130 acres of land at two locations around Davis-Monthan.

Reduced Waste, Increased Savings

Fitting homes and underutilized land with solar panels is a progressive energy and financial strategy for the Department of Defense. While politicians quibble over how to reduce government spending, the Department of Defense — the single-largest energy consumer in the U.S. — is heading in the right direction with renewable energy sources like solar panels.

An exciting example of increased savings from solar is at Davis-Monthan: “The solar PV project is expected to provide approximately 35 percent of the base electricity requirements, reducing base utilities cost by an average of $500,000 annually.” Sounds like the Tucson Air Force base is meeting its goal to “Think green, build green, and fly blue.”

Source: SolarCity
Image: Lend Lease

Could the U.S. Cut Household Electricity Use by Two-Thirds?

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 04:03 AM PDT

Your mind-blowing chart of the day, courtesy of Arne Jungjohann at the Heinrich Böll Foundation. To be fair, there’s little need for air conditioning in Germany compared to the United States, but air conditioning only accounts for about 20% of U.S. household electricity consumption. Leaving it out makes it 9,200 kWh vs. 3,100 kWh.


Source for U.S. use; source for German use; used U.S. average household size of 2.6.

This post originally appeared on ILSR's Energy Self-Reliant States blog.

IKEA Plugs in Largest Solar Energy System in Michigan

Posted: 17 Jul 2012 03:57 AM PDT

Swedish furniture heavyweight IKEA has plugged yet again into solar energy, this time with Michigan's largest solar system to date, located on its Canton, Michigan store, near Detroit.

The new system consists of 122,200 square feet, made up of 4,160 solar panels.

The Canton store’s solar PV system is the 20th solar project for IKEA in the US, while another 19 locations are in the planning stages, the release said. The new solar array will  produce 1,114,943 kilo watt hours (kWh) annually, taking out 769 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

IKEA also chose to team with SoCore, one of the largest solar developers in the Midwestern USA, to help build the project for the Detroit-area store.

The recent development for the Canton, Michigan store has manager Anton von Dongen really excited.

"We are thrilled at how this solar energy system furthers our commitment to sustainability at IKEA Canton."

"IKEA has a never-ending job where most things remain to be done that encourages us always to ask ourselves how we can improve what we do today for a better tomorrow," he said in the statement.

Source: Business Wire
Photo Credit: Canada Newswire

1 comment:

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