Friday, July 27, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Cable Car System Opened Over London River with Throughput of 50 Buses

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 07:30 PM PDT

In London, a cable car system that transports people over the London river has been commissioned.

Emirates Air Lines sponsored the project, which was designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects. The cable car system provides spectacular views of the London skyline at 90 meters in the air as it efficiently connects visitors traveling from the city’s Olympic venues to existing public transit lines.

London’s first air tram.

This project was conveniently completed just one month before the Olympics, and can help alleviate congestion due to it’s efficiency (speed, in this case).

Tickets to take this cable car are £4.30 for adults and £3.20 for those who use Oyster pay. This tram’s operating hours are 9 AM to 9 PM on Sundays, 8 AM to 9 PM on Saturdays, and 7 AM to 9PM on weekdays.



This project took 2 years to complete. Plans started in 2010. Cyclists can also carry their bicycles onto the cable cars to shorten their trips, or if they just want to relax.

It takes 5 minutes to cross the river in a cable car and, because of it’s height, you will be able to see views of London that you could not normally see in a bus or car. It has the throughput of 50 buses.

I don’t know how economical this is compared to conventional modes of transportation, but infrastructural projects do often provide the benefit of job creation, because they are labour intensive (people have to actually build infrastructure, it isn’t automated).

This tram is one of many ways to transport people across a river. One benefit of using vehicles such as trains and trams that utilize one car per track, for example, is that they can be built lightweight and very cheaply. They mainly just need to sustain the weight of the people, which is nothing compared to the weight of even a small road car, and protect them from rain. And, of course, they don’t get into collisions like road cars do, so they don’t need to be prepared for that.

Source: Inhabitat

In Parts of India, Wind Energy Proving Cheaper than Coal

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 07:00 PM PDT

Due to the cost of rising coal prices and a decrease in the cost of wind power (which has dropped considerably in recent years), the cost of wind power in some parts of India has fallen below that of electricity from coal power plants (not even taking health or global warming externalities into account).

A wind farm in Maharashtra, India

The cost of wind power is primarily dependent on the average wind speed in the location where wind turbines are to be installed. It is also dependent on the cost of labour required to install and maintain the wind turbines. Another factor that affects the cost of wind farm electricity is the initial price to buy the turbines.

This cost improvement mentioned above is due to increased turbine efficiency in recent years, and the increasing viability of generating electricity at lower wind speeds, according to Greenko Group Plc.



"Today we're able to supply energy below the cost of conventional power," said Mahesh Kolli, president of Greenko, which is building wind projects with General Electric Co. in India. "That's the key development for this year."

According to Renewable Energy World, this wind energy cost reduction means that new wind farms in India using these improved turbines can survive and flourish without a state subsidy (or a price on CO2 and other pollutants).

Greenko started operating its first wind project in Ratnagiri in Maharashtra state this year, using 1.6-MW General Electric wind turbines, and "achieving efficiencies never before seen in India." That wind farm reportedly achieves a 30% capacity factor*. New wind turbines can achieve a capacity factor of over 50%.

In India, 57% of their power plants’ power generation capacity is coal power plants, and 31% of it renewable power plants, including hydroelectric plants. Hopefully this tipping of the scales gets a lot more renewable energy on the grid soon.

Source: Renewable Energy World
Photo Credit: Jeet Ghosh

*A 30% capacity factor just means that the power generated by the wind farm averages out to 30% of its maximum power generation capacity.

Germany — 26% of Electricity from Renewable Energy in 1st Half of 2012

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 03:33 PM PDT


During the first half of 2012, the share of renewable energy sources in the electricity supply has risen significantly in Germany, rising to a sensational 25.97%. That's a massive increase compared to 20.56%, the percentage during the same period in 2011, and 18.3% in H1 2010.

PV-Solar Contribution Increases 47%

In total, renewable energy sources produced 67.9 TWh (billion kWh). While all renewables have increased their share, there has been a significant change in the ranking of the different technologies, with PV-Solar(!) coming in 3rd, ahead of hydropower and right behind biomass (1% behind it).

Here’s a breakdown of the 26% between the different technologies and the changes compared to 1H 2011:

  1. Wind power with a share of 9.2% (+19.5%)
  2. Biomass with a share of 5.7% (+7.5%)
  3. PV-Solar with a share of 5.3% (+47%)
  4. Hydropower with 4.0% (+25%)
  5. Other Renewables 0.9% (+10%)

Of course, a part of the massive increase has been weather-related. For example, January was very windy compared to the last few years, and a bit more rain is the only reason hydropower increased its share. But, overall, the trend is clear, and all of these sources are here to stay.



Looking Back & Forward

While this new record share of renewables is just another step on the road towards a 100% renewable energy system, it's with no doubt a big one. Not only did more than one quarter of all electricity come from renewable energy sources, but 22% of the entire electricity supply came from what was once called "alternative energy sources".

Almost one decade ago, at the end of 2002, their share was just 3.8%. Back then, most renewable energy technologies were quite underdeveloped by today's standards. Except for the wind power industry, the entire renewable energy industry was still in its infancy. One decade later, wind, biomass, and solar energy technologies have matured significantly and their contribution to the German electricity supply has increased by more than 18%.

Today, energy storage, the “missing link” of the 100% renewable energy system, is a lot more developed than solar power was in 2002. While research and development into the next generation of storage technologies has increased dramatically, investments do already pour into the commercialization of the latest existing technologies. A wide variety of companies and corporations have already started to invest heavily in the mass production of energy storage solutions, and huge battery factories are being opened around the globe.

Considering all this, how high will the share of renewable energy sources in Germany be by 2022?

In my opinion, 40% would be a very conservative estimate.

Solar Analysis Tools Now Available Through Geostellar

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 02:34 PM PDT

For the multitude of property owners wanting to take the renewable energy plunge into solar, but still wondering about its feasibility from cost and operations perspectives, a new set of analysis tools are now available from Martinsburg, WV-based Geostellar. This company, which markets itself as a provider of "advanced geomatic technology," launched today the first-ever online platform for property owners to instantly analyze the potential value of solar energy on their rooftops.

West Virginia will serve as the first region in the company's nationwide rollout. Company officials state they plan to launch in additional key markets over the remainder of 2012.



The Geostellar technology utilizes 3D simulations in assessing a property's rooftop solar energy generation potential, including details such as overall environmental benefits and financial savings. On the company website, interested homeowners and commercial facilities managers can enter their address. The property's rooftop is then analyzed on factors including shading, slope, orientation, incentives, and utility rates.

"Geostellar makes the solar energy experience illuminating and enlightening, taking the burden of solar energy adoption off the property owner and facilitating a stress-free browsing experience," said David Levine, Geostellar's CEO in a press announcement. "We dedicated countless hours to collecting 3D imagery, running solar simulations and analyzing financial models so property owners and managers can easily reach the best solar decisions for their homes and businesses."

Through the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot program, the "Rooftop Solar Challenge" awarded $12 million in funding to 22 regional teams to improve financing options, reduce barriers, and lower costs for commercial and residential solar energy systems. Geostellar received $500,000 to assist with mapping its home state.

"West Virginia is a longtime leader in domestic energy feedstock. Today, Geostellar is helping the state to continue this proud tradition by diversifying its portfolio to include clean solar energy," said Gregory Adolfson, Sustainability Officer for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Sources: Business Wire, Geostellar
Photo: Geostellar

Public Transport Makes Dollars and Sense (Infographic)

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 09:07 AM PDT

Ready for some math that will stun your abacus? Check out this Credit Donkey infographic below about the benefits of public transportation.

To whet your appetite and pull out some of the big ones for me, check out these facts and figures thanks to public transport:

  • 102.2 billion fewer miles traveled
  • 340 million gallons of fuel saved due to less congestion
  • 37 million metric tons of CO2 are not released

The infographic makes it totally clear that using public transport saves us dollars and makes sense. Here it is:

public transportation infographic

Source: Planetizen

Nissan Leaf Limo, First of Its Kind

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 08:43 AM PDT

Riding with 7 of your friends EV-style just became a reality. Nissan has created it’s electric Leaf limo, which seats 8 adults, including the driver.

Nissan said the limo is still the same Leaf, with 400 added pounds to increase seating. There’s still only one battery, but it’s been moved to the back for balance purposes. The Leaf limo has increased it’s luxury by adding mirrors, leather and cedar paneling.

Source: Nissan News
Image: Courtesy of Nissan



Sub-500 kW (Small) PV Projects Booming in US

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 07:33 AM PDT

The large-scale photovoltaic solar projects are often the ones that will gain the most attention, but according to a recently released NPD Solarbuzz report, 40% of solar projects currently in progress in the United States come in under the 500kW size.

"These smaller projects have a considerable impact on the communities where they are being built, providing much-needed employment and energy cost reduction," said Christine Beadle, Analyst for NPD Solarbuzz. "They also represent a significant opportunity for downstream balance-of-systems component suppliers and PV systems integrators within the United States."

The NPD Solarbuzz report, United States Deal Tracker, provides a comprehensive insight into projects between 50kW and 500kW from across the country. They found that, currently, more than 1,300 projects fall into this category, generating a cumulative amount of 200 MW.

California currents accounts for over a quarter of the total US project pipeline in this category, thanks to the state’s 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard target. The next five states are New Jersey, Massachusetts, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii.

Solarbuzz make an interesting point with regard to the popularity and ease of these smaller projects:

Smaller PV installations often have a greater impact on communities than larger ones, as they become much more than just a supply of electricity. Smaller projects cost less to install, are easier to gain permit approval, and have fewer barriers for project financing. And these projects are often installed at no cost to the host. Schools, municipal buildings, zoos, hospitals, and even retail stores such as IKEA are typically the host of these smaller installs.



Solar, Agriculture, and Sheep

Currently, land that was once used as agricultural land throughout the United States is in some places being converted to create renewable energy when the financial rewards outweigh those generated by agricultural uses. On top of that, there are some colleges throughout the country that have recently started using sheep to maintain the grass under their solar installations.

Currently, a test market is under construction in North Carolina for a 4MW installation to be used as a sheep and lamb farm, and monitored for herd movement.

"While PV arrays are often criticized for taking land away from agriculture and farming, the combination of sheep farming and PV power generation is a great solution in many areas, as farmers can benefit from two sources of income," added Beadle. "And while the concept of sheep herding in the same field as a PV array is still in its infancy, it certainly shows a great deal of promise."

Surely, everyone can get behind solar power when even the sheep are benefiting from it. Right?

Source: Solarbuzz

US Creates Zones to Boost Solar Energy Development

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 06:00 AM PDT

This week, the Obama Administration announced a plan that would allow access to public land in six US south-western states to speed up solar energy development, while still protecting environmentally sensitive land.

The plan, according to the Department of Interior (DOI) news release, would cover 285,000 acres of public land across the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The US government would like to advance large solar power plants in the hopes of increasing cleaner electrons to homeowners and businesses through the electrical grid.

"Developing America's solar energy resources is an important part of President Obama's commitment to expanding American-made energy, increasing energy security, and creating jobs," said Steven Chu, U.S. Energy Secretary, in a statement.

Notably, there were 0 (zero) solar projects permitted on public lands when President Obama took office. However, since 2009, the DOI has approved 17 utility-scale solar energy projects. When completed, these solar projects will have nearly 5,900 megawatts of capacity, “enough to power approximately 1.8 million American homes.”



Fast-Tracked Solar Projects Will Lead the Way

"This new roadmap builds on that commitment by identifying public lands that are best suited for solar energy projects, improving the permitting process, and creating incentives to deliver more renewable energy to American homes and businesses,” Chu said.

Large-scale solar projects in these specialized economic-type zones are believed to have the best chance of succeeding, according to the DOI and DOE.

Around 19 million acres of land in which other solar projects would be built, yet would not get fast-tracked permits, were also identified by the US Administration during the announcement on Tuesday. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will oversee the projects.

Compromises Made to Protect Natural & Cultural Resources

Environmentalists did not like the plan originally, fearing that it would harm pristine land. However, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pointed out that officials worked very hard in order to address the concerns of environmentalists. The final plan included approximately 40% of land that officials originally considered for rapid solar energy development.

"This blueprint for landscape-level planning is about facilitating faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on America's public lands,” he also said in a statement.

The final deal was pleasing to environmentalists, as National Audubon Society’s Mike Daulton pointed out in a statement:

“The BLM solar plan demonstrates that we as Americans don’t have to choose between clean alternative energy and a healthy environment.”

"Interior's final solar program culminates two years of a lot of hard work and commitment by many diverse groups," said Helen O'Shea, director of NRDC's Western Renewable Energy Project. "I'm hopeful that the plan will establish a roadmap that provides a balanced approach to addressing the climate change challenge and protecting wildlife and critical lands while moving our nation closer to meeting our clean energy goals."

The US Government expects about 23,000 megawatts of solar power developed from the permitted areas, powering around 7 million homes. Meanwhile, the plan blocks development on 78 million acres of federal land to protect “natural and cultural” resources.

The final plan restricts 78 million acres of federal land to protect "natural & cultural” resources from development.

Sources: US Department of the Interior

1,000 GW of Wind Power Could be Generated in Atlantic

Posted: 26 Jul 2012 12:00 AM PDT

According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), offshore wind power in the Atlantic has the potential to generate 1,000 GW of power. The US does not have any commercial offshore wind power farms currently, though.

The fact that the US is such a wealthy and technologically advanced country with some environmental awareness and regulations but has such a glaring absence of offshore wind power is beyond shocking.

Meanwhile, it has been estimated the European offshore wind capacity could grow to 150 GW by 2030, in just eighteen years. (Where will the US be by then?) From the first of half of 2011 through the first half of 2012, Europeans have experienced a fifty percent increase in offshore wind.



In the United States, 2,434 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean may be auctioned by the federal government to wind farm developers. If the auctions go through, wind farms might be installed about ten miles off the shores of six states. Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Massachusetts could have new coastal wind farms, but given the delays, it is hard to say when. The auctions might take place at the end of the year, but a precise date has not been set yet.

Most of the potential lease areas are off the coast of Massachusetts. They are located five miles further out than the proposed Cape Wind project, so ruining views from the coasts will not be an issue.

Whatever federal stimulus initiatives that were attempted several years ago might have included offshore wind development. Clean energy projects generally seem uplifting and connected with going forward, and can create some jobs in construction, even if they are not long-term.

Image Credit: Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Denmark Aims to Generate 50% of Electricity from Wind by 2020

Posted: 25 Jul 2012 10:30 PM PDT

After already generating a massive 26 percent of its energy requirements from wind power, Denmark is increasing its commitment to a greener future by planning to produce 50 percent of its electricity generation from wind power by 2020.

This comes as part of the country’s plans to phase out total use of fossil fuels by 2050, and will work alongside a second target to increase carbon dioxide cuts to 40 percent by 2020.

You’d think that maybe the populous wouldn’t be so happy; that’s certainly the case in other countries, like Australia and the United States. But you’d be wrong. 91 percent of respondents to a public opinion survey conducted by the Danish Wind Industry Association said that the country should expand its use of wind power, and 85 percent of those surveyed said it should happen in their own local area.

Good job, Denmark!

Source: Reve
Image Source: Nathan Siemers 



New Technologies Will Cut Cost of PV Metallization by up to 50%

Posted: 25 Jul 2012 10:00 PM PDT

Metallization of solar cells is a process by which metal electrodes are laid down on a non-metallic object to collect the electricity generated by the sunlight. But it is a costly process, due in large part to the soaring cost of the silver that is normally used. However, according to a new report by Lux Research, emerging technologies, like copper metallization, nickel phosphude, and non-contact printing techniques, are likely to reduce the costs of metallization.

Innovation in the field has the potential to bring costs down by up to 50 percent and improve the yields for the three major technology categories — crystalline silicon (x-Si), copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS), and cadmium telluride (CdTe).

"Tomorrow's PV winners will be those companies that can reduce their production costs in $/W and maintain sustainable profit margins. Metallization is a key materials-driven driver for higher efficiencies, reduced production costs and improved yields," said Fatima Toor, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report, "Key Issues and Innovations in Photovoltaic Metallization."

Lux Research analysts studied emerging innovations in metallization to determine their impact on solar cell production. Among their findings:

  • Drive to reduce silver use is inevitable. Over the past decade, silver prices have risen six-fold to about $30/ounce, necessitating lower usage and other work-arounds. Applied Materials' double-printing tool reduces silver usage by 30% relative to conventional screen printing and improves absolute cell efficiencies by 0.3% to 0.5%, offering the nearest term bang for the buck. But the technology roadmap won't stop there.
  • Copper pastes are the logical metallization winner. Copper is the leading contender to displace silver, given its abundance and established use in the semiconductor electronics industry. But copper pastes need further development because they lag in cell performance and long-term durability; Napra and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) are blazing the trail but others will enter to open a path to practical copper metallization for both x-Si and CIGS PV.
  • Nickel phosphide (Ni2P) will be the widely adopted back contact for CdTe metallization. Ni2P has shown durability, anneals at high temperature and does not require expensive materials. It can slightly trim costs and significantly improve yields.

Source: Lux Research (PDF)
Image Source: Mike Baker Photography



Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, LA to San Francisco in 30 Minutes

Posted: 25 Jul 2012 09:10 PM PDT

He’s brought us PayPal, and the Tesla Model S electric car. He wants to take astronauts to the International Space Station, and humanity to Mars. And, now, Elon Musk wants to get people “from downtown LA to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes.”

The trip currently takes an hour by plane (not to mention the buffer on either side as you traverse the airports) or six hours by car. But Musk’s new plan, the Hyperloop, would never crash, ignores the weather outside, and would travel twice as fast as a plane.

A concept rendering for Aeromovel, similar to Musk’s Hyperloop

“This system I have in mind, how would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes 3 or 4 times faster than the bullet train… it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do,” Musk asks. “You would go from downtown LA to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes. It would cost you much less than an air ticket than any other mode of transport.

“I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There’s a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries. Yes, this is possible, absolutely.”

Musk hasn’t given us many details on what his Hyperloop would look like, though he’s made it known that he’ll provide details to ”anyone who can make a credible case that they can do it.” He also cited Aeromovel as a similar design, suggesting that the Hyperloop could take advantage of a similar pneumatic transportation guideway.

Needless to say, there are many residents in LA and San Francisco who would greatly appreciate a safe, efficient, and cheaper method of getting from a to b.

Source: The Atlantic



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