Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Tesla’s Next Car to Compete with BMW 3-Series

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 02:00 AM PDT

Tesla is rolling out the Model S now, and it’s upcoming SUV, the Model X, is sold out. Now, it has revealed it’s next car! And its ambitions as an EV leader don’t seem to have slowed down at all, with it now looking to create a car that competes with the BMW 3-series. Here are the details from Chris DeMorro of Gas2:

Tesla's Next Car: An Electric BMW 3-Series Fighter (via Gas 2.0)

Unlike many other also-rans, Tesla Motors is succeeding where other electric car companies have failed. And by succeeding, we mean Tesla is actually selling cars, with the Model S sedan reportedly receiving over 10,000 $5,000 deposits to date. At $50,000 after tax credits though, the Model S is still…

Could Securitization Democratize Solar Power?

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 12:40 AM PDT

After Wall Street popularized the term "mortgage-backed securities" in its destruction of the economy in 2008, you could be forgiven for thinking "solar securities" are a pyramid scheme. But, in truth, they may hold the key to democratizing the financing and the ownership of distributed renewable energy.

Right now, financing solar typically means looking for a "tax equity" partner who will provide some upfront cash to build a solar array in exchange for helping to use the federal tax incentives for solar. These are business deals, and the tax equity folks may demand a 30% return on their equity (or more). This means a higher price for solar power that has nothing to do with the cost of producing electricity and everything to do with poor policy design.

But what if a solar developer could borrow money at 6% interest instead, and the savings would be so significant that they could even forgo the federal tax incentives and still produce cheaper electricity?

Enter solar securities (hat tip to Jesse Morris at RMI for this idea).

The basic idea is that a solar project (or any distributed renewable energy project) is a highly reliable source of revenue for a long period of time, e.g. 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year for 25 years, worth 15 cents per kWh. If you had a certificate for the value of this electricity (a security) and bundled hundreds of them together, you'd have an investment-quality product backed by a diverse number of solar energy projects, all with high likelihood of paying out.

Millions of institutional investors and even ordinary Americans put their money in mutual funds every year, comprised of stocks and bonds and many other financial instruments. And many are looking for a low-risk, low-reward instrument, like a solar security.  Instead of Goldman Sachs, think TIAA-CREF.

Here's why it could help the solar market, a lot.

  1. Many renewable energy project owners are unable to use tax incentives (e.g. cities, schools, nonprofits) or limited in their capacity to do so.
  2. The renewable energy market is constrained by the number of tax equity players and the depth of their pockets.
  3. Tax equity is expensive compared to the rates of return for mutual funds or bank debt.

By offering much cheaper financing that is not reliant on tax incentives, solar securities could exponentially increase the available capital for solar financing while simultaneously blowing up the single biggest roadblock to community-based solar energy.

Here's a chart illustrating the difference in the cost of solar when developed with tax equity financing (40% of project equity with a 30% rate of return) compared to one developed with solar securities financing (60% debt with a 6% rate of return):

Solar security financing can lower the cost of solar by nearly 25% even when giving up the 30% federal tax credit.  This could be an enormous boon for public entities like schools and city buildings that would like to go solar but often can't make projects pencil out without federal tax incentives.

If, as Morris mentions in his original post, financiers can combine the tax credits with solar security financing, it could nearly halve the cost of solar power. (Note: my figures differ from his because I calculate the levelized cost (no profit) rather than the cost of solar with a return on investment for the solar project developer).

The financing model doesn't just lower costs, but could pour billions of additional dollars into the renewable energy financing market and, particularly, could lower financing costs for small projects by bundling their value.

There's some evidence that simplifying financing could have big returns. Germany provides very simple, low-cost financing with its feed-in tariff and pays significantly less for solar power (when adjusting for the solar resource quality) than we do in the U.S. A well-regulated solar securities market could put a big dent in the cost of U.S. solar while simultaneously expanding the opportunity for local ownership.

Note: I just came across this analysis that suggests securitization for solar is not yet an easy sell.

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



Electric Airplanes Could Fly Forever on Laser Beams

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 12:00 AM PDT

laser wireless recharging system for aircraft

Lockheed Martin has been collaborating with a Seattle-based company called LaserMotive to “refuel” electric aircraft in flight using laser beams that charge batteries wirelessly, and the latest round of testing not only met but beat expectations. The test took place indoors but if wireless laser battery charging can prove successful in the field, it would lay the groundwork for a new generation of electric aircraft as well as vehicles and robotic systems, too.

Green Jobs for Rechargeable Robots

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of LaserMotive’s wireless system, consider the implications of wireless recharging for vehicles as well as aircraft and also for the next big thing: robots.

Robotic devices are already commonplace in factories and warehouses, and they are being eyeballed for widespread application in the health care field, too. A wireless recharging system would have obvious benefits in terms of cord-free, flexible performance, and the practical elimination of down time.

Wireless recharging could also have an impact on green jobs for robots, for example in wind turbine and solar panel maintenance where robotic devices can relieve human workers from performing routine or hazardous tasks.

Wireless Laser Charging

According to a recent article in optics.org, LaserMotive’s initial goal was to develop a laser-charging system for a cable-climbing robot, which dovetails with the green jobs angle. However, the immediate aim of Lockheed’s involvement with wireless in-flight recharging has little to do with our sparkling green future and more to do with creating an infinite-flight drone.

To that end, initial testing of the system was conducted on a Stalker UAS (unmanned aerial system), a small surveillance drone that first saw military use in 2006.

As relayed by LaserMotive President Tom Nugent, the laser power system was tested in a wind tunnel and extended the Stalker’s flight time to 48 hours, an improvement of about 2,400 percent.

The flight could have gone on longer but it was halted after the system passed its expected endurance limit, and the battery was found to have store more energy at the end of the test than it had in the beginning. The next step will be a field test outdoors.

Wireless Laser Charging: How it Works

LaserMotive’s system shares some basic characteristics with a solar power array. Instead of sunlight, a high intensity laser beam strikes the photovoltaic cells, which then convert the light to electricity.

The beam could travel to the PV cells through a vacuum or fiber optic cable as well as through plain air.

As for the electricity needed to create the laser beam, that could be generated by conventional fossil fuels or any other source including solar power as well as wind, geothermal, hydropower or any other renewable form of energy.

Among the benefits of wireless charging is the elimination of power lines and the practical elimination of a power transmission infrastructure.

Flexibility can be layered onto the system by designing transmitters to be mobile or transportable, too.

Image: Some rights reserved by DarbyG. Back offshore.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


EADS Astrium to Measure London Carbon Emissions in Real-Time During Summer Olympics

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 11:00 PM PDT

There’s much room, and opportunity, for improvement when it comes to our ability to timely and accurately measure carbon dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Global CO2 emissions continued to rise in 2011, as did the costs of adapting to a more rapidly changing climate.

It makes good sense to test new means and methods of measuring CO2 emissions in cities and metropolitan areas: they account for an estimated 70% of human GHG emissions globally. And that’s just what EADS Astrium and a consortium of scientific organization intends to do during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Using a combination of new stationary, mobile and airborne CO2 measurement instruments, EADS Astrium will carry out a pilot test of its London Greenhouse Gas Emissions Measurement Service (EMS), the aim of which is to measure GHG emissions during the London Olympics “on a city-scale and in real-time.”



Cavity-Ring Down Spectroscopy: Improving Carbon Emissions Measurements

Leading edge GHG emissions technology provider Picarro on July 19 announced that EDS Astrium has chosen to exclusively use Picarro’s cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) equipment in carrying out the EMS pilot test. Picarro’s CRDS instruments have been installed at four locations around London, on a bus that will measure GHG concentrations at road level, and aboard a plane to take measure GHG concentrations at higher altitudes.

"Our City Carbon project during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland proved to be an eye-opening experience because it revealed the wide discrepancies that can exist between emissions assumptions and actual emissions measurements. This made us all the more eager to deploy our instruments in one of the world's largest cities to measure near real-time, per capita emissions during the world's largest sporting event," Picarro CEO Michael Woelk commented.

"We're now delighted to participate in Astrium's consortium and demonstrate once again that our technology can be used to measure urban-scale GHG emissions, and encourage major cities to start measuring rather than self-tabulating their progress towards emission reduction goals."

Measuring Carbon Emissions: A Growing, More Urgent Need

CO2 emissions, the main driver of the Greenhouse Gas Effect, rose 3% in 2011, reaching another record-high of 34 billion metric tons, according to Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) annual “Trends in Global CO2 Emissions” report for 2012. Boding particularly ill for the near future, rapid and fossil fuel-powered industrialization in China has caused CO2 emissions there to come within a 6-19 metric ton per capita range of the major industrialized countries.

Looking to provide policy makers and a broader swathe of stakeholders data and analysis for much more informed decision-making, a host of leading scientific research organizations, along with Picarro, are participating in EADS Astrium’s EMS pilot. Included are France's Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE), the UK's National Centre for Earth Observation, and the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) Centre for Carbon Measurement and Earth Networks.

Aiming to determine CO2 equivalent emissions and identify their sources at a national level, EADS Astrium’s EMS, in addition to CO2, has been designed to analyze atmospheric concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO) and methane (CH4).

“The EMS project in London reflects a growing need among the world's megacities to take actions to reduce GHG emissions. Over half of the world’s population lives in urban centers, which comprise less than two percent of the Earth's landmass; yet cities are responsible for more than 70 percent of global GHG emissions,” Picarro noted in its press release.

Carbon Emissions: More Accurate, Real-time Views

Most recently, Picarro’s City Carbon project in Davos measured carbon emissions before, during, and after the 2012 World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting. Similarly, its CRDS technology “can be leveraged in London to compare measured GHG emissions to baseline inventories, and further encourage civic leaders that have set emission reduction goals yet lack precise, objective measurements to credibly evaluate their progress,” the company states.

The public will be able to climb aboard EADS Astrium GHG EMS bus and get a first-person look at how the data is collected and processed. Visitors to EADS Astrium’s GHG EMS website will be able to see GHG emission levels as measured by the system’s four stationary Picarro CRDS sensors, as well as how they varied over the previous 24 hours.

Also available on the website will be demonstrations of the system’s Global Service, which shows how GHG fluxes and concentrations vary over time; its National Service, which shows how GHG EMS measurements improves on the accuracy of existing GHG emissions inventories; and its City Service, which shows how GHG emissions concentrations vary over time at different locations.

Conservative South Carolina Republican Going Nationwide with Clean Energy Plan

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 10:00 PM PDT


Eliminate subsidies for developing new clean energy technologies while at the same time adding the cost of pollution, global warming, and wars to the price of fossil fuels. It’s a variation on a theme that’s been voiced by energy experts and a variety of others, including politicians — a “grand” political bargain on US energy policy that could prove to be acceptable to more conservative Republicans in the House and Senate, a group that, in large majority, have vigorously opposed the Obama Administration’s renewable energy and clean technology initiatives.

What makes this particular proposal something notably unusual is that it comes from a longstanding Republican and former South Carolina Congressman — Bob Inglis. Inglis presented his energy policy proposal while making the keynote address to attendees of the first ever South Carolina Clean Energy Summit, which was held at the Columbia Convention Center last week, according to a report from The State.

“‘We don't have a true cost comparison,’ for the continued use of fossil fuels versus using new technologies,” writes The State’s Jeff Wilkinson. Were the cost of Middle East wars included in the price of gasoline, Inglis was quoted as saying, “we’d beat a path to the Prius dealership.”



Letting Market Forces Work

Letting market forces work more freely in determining energy prices is a key aspect of Inglis’ proposal, in which case he should also be advocating removing all the subsidies fossil fuel providers have been receiving for decades, subsidies many times more than that afforded clean and renewable energy providers.

Inglis also noted that the costs of climate change are real and increasing. That’s a point that’s likely to hit home, as much of the US — including key Midwestern corn and agricultural producers — finds itself suffering drought conditions.

The USDA recently slashed its estimates of this year’s corn crop, which has prompted concerns about rising prices for a wide range of consumer staples, from livestock feed to meat and ethanol.

Inglis lost his 2010 bid to be the GOP’s Republican candidate for the House of Representatives for South Carolina’s Greenville-Spartanburg district, losing to current Rep. Trey Gowdy, The State recounts. Somewhat atypically for politicians, Inglis held firm to his views on climate change and his support for and agreement with current climate science consensus.

That, he says, led to his defeat, as Republicans moved farther to the right. "It's better to lose a political race than lose your soul," The State quoted.

Inglis intends to go further, taking his clean energy / cost of climate change message and proposal nationwide in a conservative campaign in support of changing US energy policy to promote and foster a level energy playing field and a faster, more intensive effort to shift away from fossil fuels and toward greater renewable energy use and energy efficiency efforts.

In addition, George Mason University said that it has selected Inglis to lead the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at its Center for Climate Change Communication. The Center’s Energy and Enterprise Initiative intends to bring climate scientists, economists, and national security experts together in a series of forums across the country to discuss the means by which “free enterprise” could solve “the nation’s energy and climate challenges,” Wilkinson reported.

South Carolina’s Clean Energy Business Alliance

Among the sponsors of South Carolina’s first Clean Energy Summit was the South Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance (SCCEBA), which has put together research-based fact sheets on the potential for renewable energy, clean technology, and energy efficiency to revitalize the state’s economy, as well as substantially enhance environmental conditions.

Following are excerpts from SCCEBA’s fact sheets on South Carolina’s Solar Energy, Wind Energy, and Energy Efficiency Potential:

SC Solar Energy Potential

  •  South Carolina could produce 51,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from solar photovoltaic panels – 3X more than all existing generation capacity in the state.
  • South Carolina could generate 3,500 jobs in solar energy manufacturing, if positive federal policies were adopted.

“Nationwide, the solar industry job base expanded 6.8% last year – nearly 10X faster than the overall economy,” SCCEBA notes.

SC Wind Energy Potential

  • South Carolina could produce 70,000MW of electricity from offshore wind energy – 4X more than all of the existing generation capacity in the state.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy estimates South Carolina will install between 1,000MW and 3,000MW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 with the appropriate national wind policies.
  • South Carolina could generate an additional 11,200 jobs by 2025 within the wind manufacturing industry if favorable federal policies are adopted.

SC Energy Efficiency Potential

  • More than 21,000 jobs could be created by 2025 with the development and implementation of additional energy efficiency and water efficiency policies in South Carolina.
  • Geothermal equipment manufacture and installation could provide an additional 5,200 jobs, if favorable federal policies were adopted. South Carolina could be among the top five states in the nation for geothermal equipment manufacturing.
  • In 2010 the green building materials industry supported more than 4,800 jobs in South Carolina and energy-saving building materials supported more than 3,700 jobs.

SCCEBA has also put out the “South Carolina Clean Technology Primer,” a worthwhile read for US renewable energy, clean tech and energy efficiency proponents, particularly those residing in the Southeast.

Photo Credit: Coastal Conservation League

Quebec Set To Add Another 700MW of Wind Energy

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 09:01 PM PDT

Quebec has put out a call to add another 700 megawatts (MW) of wind power in a bid to reach the Canadian province’s target of installing 4,000 MW of wind energy by 2015.

According to a recent Montreal Gazette article, all wind energy developers will be able to bid for the first 450 MW, while the remaining 250 MW will be specifically targeted towards first nations communities.

The wind energy sector in Quebec has provided significant economic windfall to the province. It's estimated that, between 2005-2015, the sector will create over C$10 billion in investments, while creating 37,000 jobs in working hours. Meanwhile, 83% of Quebec citizens are favorable towards wind energy, according to a Ledger Marketing poll.

"This is great news for communities where new projects will be developed. In addition to the significant investment it will bring into the province, new wind energy projects will create new jobs throughout Québec," said Chris Forrest, vice-president of Communications at the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) in a statement.

"We applaud the Quebec government for its vision and leadership in supporting the development of more wind energy to deliver clean electricity, new jobs and regional economic investments" he said.

Sources: Canadian Wind Energy Association/ Montreal Gazette



Ballot Initiative Spurs Wide Support To Boost Michigan Renewable Energy Standard

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 08:30 PM PDT

Michigan voters will vote on a measure to more than double their state's renewable energy standard (RES) this November, thanks to a grassroots ballot initiative launched in January by a coalition of public health, environmental, labor, and clean energy groups.

Michigan fist image via Shutterstock

The coalition, Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs, submitted 530,000 signatures from citizens who supported boosting the state's RES from 10 percent by 2015 to 25 percent by 2025 while limiting utilities to one percent maximum annual rate increases. Michigan law requires 322,609 valid signatures for proposals to appear on the ballot, meaning voters will decide the state's clean energy future this November.

Advocates have presented the ballot measure as a way to match unemployed workers to green collar jobs in one of the states hardest hit by the recession. "Clean energy businesses here in Michigan are using our manufacturing skills to diversify the economy and put people back to work," said Mark Fisk, campaign spokesman. "Increasing our renewable energy standard can strengthen this sector even further and move our economy further."


Independent economists have estimated a 25 percent RES in Michigan will create $10 billion in new investment and more than 56,000 jobs – on top of the existing 20,500 jobs and $5 billion in economic activity already supported by the state's clean energy industry. State analysts estimate the current RPS has spurred $100 million in economic activity and made new renewables cheaper than coal generation.

This clean energy transition is creating clear benefits to the state economy – most likely, the reason an overwhelming majority of Michigan small businesses support an increased RES. A recent poll showed 79 percent of small businesses backed the ballot measure as a driver of new economic growth, even if it means an increase in utility costs, and more than 120 business leaders have publicly endorsed the effort.

But it's not just small businesses that back the measure. More than 140 Michigan academics and scientists have signed an open letter in support of increasing the RES for economic and environmental benefits. "By boosting our use of renewable energy, we can keep in state more of the approximately $1.4 billion we spend every year to import coal to fuel coal-fired power plants that pollute our environment and hurt our health," said Sean Huberty, professor at Lansing Community College.

So, with such widespread support, the 25 by 25 RPS seems like a slam-dunk, right? Wrong.

The state's two largest utilities, which would bear the financial brunt of building more renewables, and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce have rolled out a campaign to defeat the measure. The CARE for Michigan Coalition says an increased RPS will create $10 billion in higher utility bills. That seems highly unlikely — “real-world experience and numerous non-partisan research organizations [have shown] over and over again that state-level renewable energy targets have not substantially driven up electricity rates,” Stephen Lacey noted in December. “In fact, the data shows that the presence of a state-level renewable energy standard has a virtually zero statistically-significant impact on how much electric rates changed from 2000 to 2010.”

Stakes will be high for the future of clean energy in elections across the country this November, starting with the presidential race. But, what happens in states matters, and Michigan voters will have their chance to make a major statement to fossil fuel interests that a true sustainable economy starts and ends with clean energy.

Navy’s Green Strike Group is All That and Energy Efficient, Too

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 08:00 PM PDT

Biofuel fans have been following the bio-powered ships and aircraft of the Navy’s Green Strike Group as it tools around the Pacific in this year’s Rim of the Pacific maritime exercise, but advanced biofuel isn’t the only green innovation on display. The Navy is also using the Green Strike Group to show off its new energy efficiency technologies at RIMPAC, which is the largest exercise of its kind in the world.

Biofuel for Navy Green Strike Group

The Navy’s New Energy Warriors

Three of the ships in the Green Strike Group earned prizes for energy efficiency before they even set off for RIMPAC, through a program called Incentivized Energy Conservation

i-ENCON is based on rewarding behavior changes that lead to energy conservation, and rewarding innovation from the bottom up.

Aside from saving energy, this kind of approach can have a ripple effect that improves well being. One recent example is the replacement of the humming, flickering old fluorescent bunk lights with high-quality LED lighting. That program began when a sailor reported that the old lights were interfering with rest, and the new lights have been credited with providing a more healthful environment.

The program launched in 1993 and continued under the Bush administration. Under President Obama, it has expanded to embody the “energy warrior” mindset that is beginning to emerge throughout the armed services.

Smarter Ships for the U.S. Navy

Other key energy efficiency elements in the Navy’s Great Green Fleet program are a “smart” Energy Dashboard system that enables the crew to respond more quickly to changing energy demands, and a “Smart Voyage Planning Decision Aid” that advises ships on routes that combine safety with energy efficiency.

A new compressor maintenance system will eliminate the need to burn fuel when engines are shut down and restarted, and ship hulls have been modified to reduce drag and turbulence.

Incandescent bulbs are also on the way out (sorry, Michele!), as ships in the Green Fleet will have lighting provided by energy-efficient LED’s, with a particular focus on replacing incandescent lights as well as older, less-efficient fluorescent lights.

Navy Biofuels in Action

The Navy has been field testing biofuels with great success over the past year, but RIMPAC marks the first major demonstration that military operations can be carried out using biofuel, with no loss of performance.

The RIMPAC tests have been conducted on a 50-50 blend of conventional fuel and algae biofuel supplied by the company Solazyme, as well as biofuel made from used cooking oil supplied by Dynamic Fuels (a Tyson Foods venture with Syntroleum Corporation).

In addition to the performance of biofuels in aircraft and ships, the RIMPAC tests have also been designed to demonstrate the integrity of the fuel infrastructure on biofuel.

That includes refueling a destroyer under way, refueling aircraft in flight and on deck, and the first ever arrested landing of an aircraft onto a carrier using biofuels.

Support Our Troops on Biofuel

In a statement announcing the successful tests, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said that “the ability to use fuels other than petroleum is critical to our energy security, because it will increase our flexibility and reduce the services’ vulnerability to rapid and unforeseen changes in the price of oil.”

Unfortunately, instead of cheering for this latest enhancement to our national security, Republican leaders in Congress have spent the months leading up to RIMPAC in an all-out war against the Navy’s biofuel program.

Evidently, the old saw about listening to the generals on the ground doesn’t apply to admirals on the water.

Image: Courtesy of U.S. Navy (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran).

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


German Producers Lead European Offshore Wind Growth

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 07:30 PM PDT

Even though the title is pluralized, Siemens is the most influential German wind turbine manufacturer, by far. It accounted for 74% of European offshore wind turbines in the past 6 months.

Siemens, REpower, and Bard were the only companies to connect wind turbines offshore in Europe in that time. Not a close second to Siemens. REpower installed a little less than a quarter of them (22%). Bard, in third place, installed 4% of them.

Blythe Offshore Wind Farm. (Photo Credit: zabdiel, CC BY- 2.0 license)

Maybe the United States could learn how the Europeans managed to install only European turbines offshore in the past 6 months, literally 100% of them.

These wind companies were most active in the United Kingdom, where they installed 422 MW worth of wind turbines (114 turbines), according to EWEA (European Wind Energy Association).

In Europe, the amount of wind power generation capacity installed was 50% more than it was at the same time last year.

Christian Kjaer, chief executive of the EWEA, said: “Offshore wind power is increasingly attracting investors, including pension funds and other institutional and corporate investors, but it would be good to see more activity in southern Europe, where jobs, investments and growth are desperately needed.”

The EWEA is projecting another record year for wind industry growth, which is partly impeded by connection delays caused by weather, as another 650 MW of wind power generation capacity is awaiting connection.

The average size of wind turbines over the past six months has grown, as well. It grew 14.2% to 4 MW. Wind turbines have been getting bigger for years because larger turbines generate a larger more consistent supply of power per square metre of turbines. This applies to taller turbines in particular. This is basically due to the fact that wind speeds tend to increase with altitude.

Source: Reuters



Leading Academic Institutions in India, US Cooperate to Deliver Low-cost Solar Power

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 07:00 PM PDT

Some of the leading academic institutions in the United States and India have joined hands to develop and, ultimately, deploy low-cost clean energy technologies. The initiative is part of the $125 million US–India Initiative for Clean Energy which was announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in 2009. Under the initiative, grants would be awarded to US and Indian academic and research institutions which will work in pairs to develop clean energy technologies.

Photo Credit: glennharper (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Recently, Washington University in St. Louis has been paired with the Indian Institute of Technology–Bombay for the development of low-cost solar PV modules and power systems. Significant technical support is expected to be provided by MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc.



Together, the Washington University and IIT–Bombay partnership has established the Solar Energy Research Institute in India and the United States (SERIIUS) to help coordinate their efforts. One of the research areas will involve study of elegantly arranged proteins plants used to harvest light and funnel the light to reaction centers. The fundamental knowledge gained in this intensive effort to understand how nature harvests light will guide the effort to improve next-generation solar technology.

The second research area involves development of processes for the production of solar cells that are lower cost and scalable, probably by switching to a material such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) that is easier and cheaper to process than silicon. The third research area will be concentrated on storage of solar power generated during the day to be used during the night or overcast days.

Several American companies have played a significant role in India’s recent rise as a major solar power market. Some of the leading companies, like SunEdison and FirstSolar, continue to make major contributions in the Indian solar energy market.

The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only

New Electric Airplane Speed Record Set (VIDEO)

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 05:59 PM PDT

Unsatisfied with electric motorcycle speed record alone, Chip Yates now holds an electric airplane speed record. Here’s more, including a video on the news, from Chris DeMorro of sister site Gas2:

Video: Chip Yates Sets Electric Airllane Speed Record (via Gas 2.0)

Some people are born to go fast. For whatever reason, these human beings are wired in a way that compels them to chase speed, and Chip Yates is just such a person. Already holding the electric motorcycle land speed record, last week Yates set his sights on another record; that of electron-powered flight…

Rooftop Solar Now on Over 750,000 Australian Homes

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 05:51 PM PDT

Here are some awesome stats and graphs on Australian rooftop solar, via REnew Economy:

The latest data from the Australian Clean Energy Regulator shows that more than 750 000 homes in Australia are now equipped with solar PV panels totalling almost 1.7 GW of installed capacity says the Sustainable Energy Association of Australia (SEA).

With 8 million homes in Australia and existing growth trends, more than 10% of homes will have installed solar panels within the next couple of months.

rooftop solar australia

Figure 1. Cumulative number of solar panels (as measured by SGUs).

Installation rate of solar has slowed slightly from 2011 when more than 860 MW of solar PV was installed, but based on current trends an additional 600 MW of small scale solar capacity is likely to be added in 2012.

solar australia

Figure 2. Cumulative capacity of solar panels (kw – as measured by SGUs).

Forecasting installation rates forward, Australia is likely to have a million homes with solar in around 12 months time, bringing installed capacity of small-scale solar to over 2.3 GW.

Average system size continues to grow, with systems recorded for June 2012 averaging 2.84 kw, but with changes in feed-in tariffs occurring around Australia, this trend looks set to reverse.

Figure 3. Average size of solar panel installations (kw – as measured by SGUs). 

Changing policy

Changes in the solar multiplier led to an accelerated installation up to June 2011, and with further staggered perturbations to the market caused by changes in feed-in tariff policies in different states.

Figure 4. Number of solar panel installations by month (as measured by SGUs) (April – June 2012 data excluded as preliminary)


Figure 5. Capacity of solar panel installations by month (as measured by SGUs) (April – June 2012 data excluded as preliminary).


Figure 6. Average size of solar panel installations by month (as measured by SGUs).

Feed-in tariff policy is expressed in sudden changes in the average size of installed systems. The most dramatic impact of this seen in Western Australia where the termination of a solar feed-in tariffs were announced without warning.

Queensland now has the largest amount of installed solar in the nation with over 475 MW.

Table 1. Preliminary numbers and installed capacity of solar, as measured by Small Generation Unit (SGU) certificates to 30 June 12 by State. (Note figures will continue to rise for 2011/12 due to a 12 month creation period of SGU certificates.)

Professor Ray Wills is chief adviser to the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA)

Solar Prices Continue to Drop Despite U.S. Tariffs on Chinese Equipment

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 03:00 PM PDT

It seems two new U.S. tariffs on solar panel makers haven’t stymied market prices or demand. While the import tariffs have caused Chinese manufacturers to buy more expensive supplies, the price for solar panels has actually continued to fall.

Solar panel image via Shutterstock

The new tariffs make up about 35 percent of solar equipment from China. The U.S. applied the new duties because of illegal dumping of inventories into the American market.

Chinese manufacturers and others have complained that the tariffs will hamper the industry by increasing the cost of solar panels.

Canadian Solar Chief Financial Officer Michael Potter said: “It’s not like it’s costing a lot more today compared to what the prices used to be, but there’s certain to be a price difference now.” Canadian Solar makes most of its panels in China. The company has been buying solar cells from Taiwan in an effort to avoid the duties.

As the U.S. looks to install more than 3 gigawatts in the next year, most Chinese solar panel makers are still looking to keep their claws in the American market, but are looking to buy materials outside of China.

According to the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), U.S. solar imports from China decreased by 45 percent in May, compared to a year ago. Imports are on the rise from Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

The price for solar panels is also dropping: 78 percent in the last week, as reported by PV Insights. Panel prices have shrunk by about 20 percent at this point in 2012. Prices dropped a total of about 50 percent by the end of 2011.

Some, like David Kurzman, are calling the tariffs too little, too late. Kurzman, a renewable energy expert and portfolio manager at Leuthod Weeden Capital Management, said that in the next two years, Chinese manufacturers will have the tariffs beat by moving work to other countries.

Source: Reuters



Chevy Volts are Driven in Electric Mode 2/3 of the Time

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 04:30 AM PDT

Chevy Volts have driven a total of 100 million miles, and, as anticipated, have provided some important statistical information already.

Chevy Volt. (Photo Credit: DrivingtheNortheast, CC BY 2.0 license)

The Chevy Volt is one of the two earliest electric cars that were produced for average consumers, and it, along with the Nissan Leaf, are going to enable General Motors and Nissan to gather information on the vehicles’ shortcomings and strengths, make improvements, and hence pave the way for improved electric vehicles in general.

Most, if not all, prospective electric vehicle manufacturers will eventually learn from the Volt’s failures and successes.

Some of the statistical information released so far is that Chevy Volts in use over the past year or so have been driven in electric mode 2/3 of the time, meaning that they didn’t burn gas 2/3 of the time, but used electricity instead.

Some electricity does come from coal power plants, but that is less than half of US electricity these days (actually, less than 40%). The rest comes from nuclear, natural gas, geothermal, and other power plants that produce less CO2 and other toxic air pollution than gasoline-powered vehicles normally would.



The Volt is only a very small part of the effort to reduce overall CO2 and other emissions. Importantly, coal power plants will continue to be replaced with nuclear, geothermal, solar, wind, natural gas, and maybe hydroelectric power plants. And other EVs and clean forms of transport (i.e. bikes, trains, buses) should pick up the slack in the transport sector. But the Volt certainly has an influential part to play.

Electric vehicles actually complement solar and wind power plants because they contain a large amount of energy storage in the form of batteries (assuming their battery management system is built for this), and can help tolerate the variability and intermittency of solar and wind energy.

Electric vehicles can be, and eventually will be, true ZEVs (Zero Emissions Vehicles) because of this.

Some people have the impression that the Chevy Volt would have to burn gas nearly all the time because the driving range per charge is estimated to be only 38 miles. 38 miles is not long, but most people don’t drive nearly this far per trip. This new statistic shows that EV mode is dominating by a wide margin.

This statistic means that the Volt achieves an impressive 98 miles per gallon equivalency (MPGe) 2/3 of the time. Not bad. It probably does have the potential to be better than 2/3, because not everyone realizes that fuel economy is only 37 mpg when relying on the built-in generator, and might be using it more liberally than they would otherwise.

One should also keep in mind that cars, in general, whether gasoline powered or not, are not economical for long trips lasting hundreds of miles. That is partly what public transportation is for!

Statistics such as the average distance driven are very important to determining how electric vehicles should be made. They enable manufacturers to decided on what size battery bank to use.

Electric vehicles are not like gasoline-powered vehicles that can cheaply be equipped with large gas tanks, just in case you want to drive very far, so range has to be considered very carefully and limited. The smallest possible bank of batteries need to be used to keep vehicle costs down.

This electric-mode statistic is only one of many that need to be gathered and calculated to help manufacturers improve their vehicles further. Heard of any other interesting stats yet?

Source: TreeHugger

Portuguese Police Adopt 8 Nissan Leaf Electric Cars

Posted: 23 Jul 2012 04:00 AM PDT

Portuguese police recently purchased 8 Nissan Leaf BEVs (battery electric vehicles). They are to be operated by Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP), which is responsible for policing large urban areas in the country.

According to Nissan, it is the first police force in the world to utilize a fleet of electric vehicles.

Portuguese Nissan Leaf Police Car.

These vehicles will be used primarily for the Safe School programme, but they will be decked out with flashing blue lights, sirens, and Policia markings, so they are ready for crime fighting, if or when necessary.

“We pride ourselves in being the first police force in the world to incorporate cars with zero-emission technology as part of our 5,000 vehicle fleet,” said superintendent Paul Gomes Valente, national director of PSP.

“We want to continue reducing pollution in large urban centres and the introduction of the 100 per cent electric Nissan LEAF sets a new benchmark for our fleet.”

Portugal was actually the first country in Europe in which the Nissan Leaf was sold (starting in 2011), and it has influenced the construction of charging stations (also called charge points) in major cities.

Thinking of the potential benefits and drawbacks of this revealed that:

  • Due to the silence of electric vehicles, the police could use them to ambush criminals without being heard.
  • As electric vehicle sales and usage increases in the police force, the need for charging stations increases, and that leads to the construction of charging points eventually.
  • Due to the fact that people tend to pay attention to other people’s new cars, and especially police vehicles, more people will actually see the Nissan Leaf, and it may change their view of electric vehicles for the better. This could help to prove stereotypes wrong.

This could prove to be a relatively thorough test for the Leaf, that will help to reveal what Nissan needs to tweak to enhance it further. The Leaf is also important to the entire existence of electric vehicles and prospective manufacturers in the electric vehicle industry, because they can learn from the mistakes that Nissan made with the Leaf, or its successes.

New industries always have plenty to learn. This is only the beginning!

Source: BusinessGreen
Photo Credit: Nissan



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