Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Own Your Personal Solar-Powered Floating Island Home

Posted: 04 Jul 2012 10:43 AM PDT

Have enough money and you can do just about anything these days, including buy your very own solar-powered transportable floating island. The luxury Orsos Island is pretty much a floating home resort and designed to "combine all the positive aspects of mainland real estate and luxury yachts."

Designed for personal use or for the hotel industry, it doesn’t matter, just as long as you have upwards of $4.6 million. Coming in at just over 20 metres wide (65+ ft.) and more than 37 metres in length (121+ ft.), the Orsos Islands have enough accommodation to comfortably house 12 guests.

It is completely sustainable (except for food and drinking water) with recycled water, solar power, and a noiseless wind energy system. It also takes heat from the sea water around you and converts it into power to run the heating and air conditioning. Everything is controlled by an intelligent computer system that monitors the entire process.

If you are one of the lucky few who have a spare $5 million or so to spend, head on over to the Orsos Islands website, where you can find out everything you could ever need to know about your future floating island away from home.

Source: Inhabitat
Image Source: Orsos Islands

Global Smart Meter Market Drops 15 Percent in 1Q 2012

Posted: 04 Jul 2012 10:40 AM PDT


Global smart meter shipments slowed considerably in the first quarter of 2012, most noticeably in North America. While several nations remain installation hot spots, dominated by China, the overall market is cooling off.

15.1 million smart meters were shipped across the world in first quarter 2012, down nearly 15 percent from fourth quarter 2011, reports Pike Research's most recent Smart Grid Deployment Tracker. However, this slowdown was "inevitable," says Pike, noting the "fast pace of deployments was never going to be sustained."

North America trending downward

"The decline in smart meter deployments was particularly noticeable in North America, where a rollout peak was reached last year," said Neil Strother, senior analyst at Pike.

North America's 16 percent smart meter slowdown is largely attributable to the wind down of stimulus funding, concludes the report. In addition, many ambitious utility deployment programs have been completed or are winding down, and a secondary wave of new projects has not appeared on the horizon. Overall, the North American region still accounted for 19 percent of overall smart meter shipments in the quarter.

China slows, still leads world

China, which still dominates global shipments with 70 percent of the market, also saw a noticeable reduction across the first three months of 2012. Pike attributes this reduction from a "frenetic pace" of deployment to a nearly one percent reduction in gross domestic product from 4Q 2011 to 1Q 2012.

Smart Meter Shipments by Region, World Markets: 1Q 2012

While the two largest smart meter markets have declined, several noticeable new deployment announcements were made in the first quarter, somewhat buoying the industry.

  • Japan's TEPCO said it would deploy 17 million smart meters by 2019 in an attempt to cut costs $1.3 billion over the next decade.
  • In Spain, Iberdrola announced it would contact with seven companies to supply one million smart meters by 2018.
  • In the U.S., Michigan utility DTE Energy announced it would deploy an additional 450,000 smart meters by 2013, on top of a previously announced 800,000.
  • The Caribbean Utilities Company announced it would deploy 28,000 smart meters among its customers on Grand Cayman Island by the end of 2013.

North American market breakdown

Pike's analysis also ranked market share for individual vendors in the North American market. While six companies registered a significant percentage of the market, two companies clearly lead the smart meter industry in this region.

Cumulative Meter Manufacturer Vendor Selection Share, North America: 1Q 2012

Landis+Gyr remained the leader among all vendors with 26 percent of cumulative meter manufacturer vendor selection share, mainly on the strength of a contract with Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec through 2017. Itron ranked second with 22 percent of the market, depending largely on contracts with utilities CenterPoint and BC Hydro. GE Energy and Sensus also recorded double-digit market shares at 16 and 15 percent, respectively.

Image courtesy of Itron

Reducing Fuel Use to Create 570,000 U.S. Jobs

Posted: 04 Jul 2012 09:52 AM PDT

A new report has found that up to 570,000 jobs will be created in the U.S. by 2030 as a direct result of the vehicle fuel economy standards that have recently been proposed by the Obama administration.

The study found that 50,000 new jobs in light-duty vehicle manufacturing and assembly alone will be created by 2030 as a result of the proposal, which looks to raise fuel economy on light-duty vehicles built between 2017- 2025, reaching 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) and 163 grams of carbon dioxide per mile (g/mi).



On top of that, the report, entitled Gearing Up: Smart Standards Create Good Jobs Building Cleaner Carswill also save drivers money at the gas pump, open new markets abroad for U.S. auto-manufacturers, and increase wages for middle class workers even faster than jobs growth.

"Reducing fuel use and our reliance on oil is one of the greatest challenges we face today," said BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster. "High fuel costs deplete Americans' wallets and deplete natural resources. Doubling vehicle fuel economy is a leap forward that will alleviate our dependence on oil at the same time providing significant economic and environmental benefits."

The report supposed the idea that by retooling, expanding, and advancing vehicles and components to produce cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars, more jobs will be created.

"Take all the posturing out of the equation and everybody knows that the only way to deal with high gas prices is to use less gas," said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. "With this new proposal, building on his strong 2016 standards, President Obama has taken the single biggest step of any U.S. President ever to slash our oil dependence, cut greenhouse gas pollution and get our economy back in gear."

“More fuel-efficient cars and light-trucks means less reliance on oil and less carbon dioxide pollution that causes climate change," said Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "These proposed standards— and the standards that preceded them — are bringing huge benefits to America's economy and environment."

Considering that America spends $1 billion day on foreign oil, any move away from dependency on oil is a good thing.

The BlueGreen Alliance has estimated that, by 2030, these proposed standards will save drivers of passenger cars and light trucks approximately $61 billion dollars per year on their gasoline bill, even after accounting for the slightly higher purchase price of more fuel-efficient vehicles. By the time the proposed standards have fully taken effect in 2025, they will save consumers an estimated $4,000 dollars over the life of a vehicle.

“The proposed fuel economy standards create jobs in two ways,” noted ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel. ”First, jobs are created to design and produce more efficient cars, and the parts used in those cars. Second, consumers save money on their fuel bills, and respend those fuel savings in ways that help the economy to grow.”

"The drive to improve fuel economy is paying off for the automotive sector, for the economy and the environment," said United Auto Workers (UAW) President Bob King. "These vehicles require more quality components — creating good jobs — and we are working to ensure they will be manufactured here domestically by union members. By making vehicles that use less fuel and are better for the environment, the U.S. auto industry will continue to thrive."

Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
Image Source: Oldrich / Lenka Horákovi

IF WE Dreams: Chance to Win $15,000

Posted: 04 Jul 2012 07:30 AM PDT

Here’s a fun guest post. Good luck to you if you enter! And happy 4th of July!

"IF WE harvest icebergs, just one could provide half a million people with fresh water for a year." There are parts of the world where economic growth is limited due to limited access to fresh drinking water. Georges Mougin once dreamed of harvesting icebergs to help address this challenge, and with the power of 3DEXPERIENCE, he was given the opportunity to prove that his dream could become reality.

Dassault Systèmes (3DS) is launching a social conversation contest to stimulate the most innovative, ambitious and awesome "IF WE Dreams." The winners will be rewarded with prize values up to $15,000 to bring their dreams to life.

How to participate?

World-changing "IF WE" Dreams are shared by composing a 140-character statement starting with the words "#IFWE" (e.g., “#IFWE harvest icebergs, just one could provide half a million people with fresh water for a year”).

Where can "IF WE Dreams" be shared?

"IF WE Dreams" will be collected on various social media platforms:

  • On 3DS' website
  • On 3DS' Facebook pages
  • On 3DS' blogs
  • On Twitter with a tweet that starts with the #IFWE hashtag
  • On every partner's blog, website, Facebook page, etc. via our Dialog App

The three best "IF WE Dreams" will be selected by a Jury composed of day-dreamers revealed by 3DS’ Passion for Innovation program, and 3DS’ experts in design, sustainability, and digital experiences. The Jury will evaluate and pick the winning proposals on the basis of originality, feasibility, as well as fit with sustainable development. The following prizes will be awarded:

First prize (best IFWE Dream)

  • A trip to the 3DS Campus of your choice (3DS Vélizy Campus or 3DS Boston Campus), including airfare & accommodations
  • One Lenovo Thinkpad W520 laptop computer with selected 3DS software
  • Five days of training (CATIA Fundamentals or equivalent)

Second and third prize

  • One Lenovo Thinkpad W520 laptop computer with selected 3DS software

Also, the first 100 people to submit an "IF WE Dream" will receive a complimentary "Iceberg Project" DVD & Blu-ray Disc bundle!

All "IF WE" Dreams are synchronized in a single discussion: users posting "IF WE" Dreams from a given website or social media platform can see "IF WE" Dreams posted from everywhere.

Here's the link to participate :

GridWeek 2012

Posted: 04 Jul 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Here’s something I’d love to attend if I could — looks interesting and useful. Here’s a description from the folks organizing it:

GridWeek 2012 will tackle the challenge of deriving value from complexity — gathering utility, policy, regulatory, and consumer experts to approach the topic head-on.

Providing a mix of in-depth panel discussions, value-focused case studies, and a forward look at how the ever-changing energy landscape will impact the electrical grid, GridWeek will explore three key themes:

  • Stakeholder value: A look at the value of grid-modernization efforts for diverse stakeholders, including utilities, consumers, government and more.
  • Managing complexity: Discussions on managing complexity of the ever-changing energy landscape — from the integration of microgrids to the growing importance of natural gas — as well as the challenges in handling increased volumes of data through analytics, building secure networks, managing expectations on privacy and more.
  • Smart energy policy: In an election year, it's hard to ignore the impact of politics on the energy industry. GridWeek will gather top political minds to discuss how election results could alter the path we're on — or even provide a clearer road map.
  • Greater international focus: As part of the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration's International Buyer Program (IBP), GridWeek will gather more international stakeholders than ever before — weaving the theme of the global energy market throughout conference discussions.
  • Plug-In: For the first time, the Plug-In, which initially launched at Grid-Interop 2011, will make an appearance at GridWeek, with a focus on demonstrating how interoperating devices can yield value for a range of stakeholder groups.

The event is October 2-4 in Washington, DC. For more details, check out the GridWeek website. And if you’re able to attend, I’d love to hear feedback during or after the event.

Here’s a Tiny Solar-Thermal System for Your Tiny House

Posted: 04 Jul 2012 05:32 AM PDT

reseacher develops PVT solar system for tiny roofs

Tiny houses don’t have much room on their tiny roofs, and that’s a problem when it comes to finding space for solar panels, let alone a combined solar power system that can generate both electricity and heat. However, help is on the way in the form of a new compact photovoltaic thermal energy system under development at Michigan Technological University, and it could help make off-grid solar power more cost-effective for larger buildings, too.

Rooftop Real Estate and Solar Power

The installed cost of solar power would be substantially lower with an integrated system that maximizes all of the available solar potential in a relatively small space.

The good news, according to MTU, is that commercially available solar systems are already highly cost-efficient at collecting solar energy for heat and hot water.

The bad news is, thermal systems are not as popular as they could be, because all you get is the heat and hot water. For electricity you need photovoltaic panels, and since conventional solar panels can easily take up all of the available roof space, that leaves the thermal system out in the cold.

A New Silicon Solution for PVT Systems

Lead researcher Joshua Pearce focused on thin-film silicon technology, which is far cheaper than conventional solar cells based on crystalline silicon. For rooftop applications, it also has a weight advantage.

However, thin-film technology faces a major obstacle. Its efficiency can degrade significantly after prolonged exposure to light, an effect called the Staebler-Wronski effect.

Pearce’s solution, developed in collaboration with the company ThinSilicon and Queen’s University in Canada, basically involved creating thicker thin-film cells that can be applied directly to a solar thermal energy collector.

The thicker cells essentially overcame the Staebler-Wronski effect, and the research team also found that they could even boost their electrical efficiency by about 10 percent, by “baking” them in near-boiling temperatures once a day (a process called spike annealing).

Distributed Solar Power and SunShot

Aside from helping to spread the solar love around to more building owners, a high-efficiency, low-cost PVT system could have important implications for the Obama Administration’s national energy policy.

One element of the policy is the transition to smart grid technologies that rely more on distributed energy, including rooftop installations. Along with supporting more clean energy and energy efficiency, the distributed energy model will help to reduce the threat of widespread power outages in an era of increasingly erratic weather.

Another key element is the SunShot Initiative, named after the iconic 1960′s era Moon Shot program that rapidly vaulted the U.S. from an also-ran to the winner of the race to the moon.

The aim of SunShot is to bring the cost of solar power down to parity with fossil fuels, while propelling the U.S. back into the leadership position it once held in the global solar energy market.

Part of the SunShot effort relies on increasing the efficiency of solar cells, but equally important is its focus on simply lowering the cost of installing solar systems, and that’s where Pearce’s integrated PVT system could offer the most significant savings.

Image: Some rights reserved by freddie boy.

Follow on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Is Coal a Dead Man Walking & Is Über-Extreme GOP Leadership on the Ropes from Court Ruling on EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions Regulation? (4 Key Notes)

Posted: 03 Jul 2012 01:39 PM PDT

As you’ve probably read, a United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last week upheld the EPA’s right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in the US. There are several big things to note about this ruling that you may not have caught, however.

1. The three-judge panel unanimously shot down every single challenge to the EPA’s relatively new authority. Politico notes, “several observers said the appellate court would at the very least ask the agency to tweak its approach.” But it didn’t. “Instead, it upheld them all.”

“In court, opponents attacked EPA’s entire chain of decisions – and got no support at all from the judges. In an 82-page decision, the judges rejected every argument brought by the petitioners, including states,” Aol Energy writes.

“EPA’s interpretation of the governing (Clean Air Act) provisions is unambiguously correct,” the judges wrote.

2. The chief judge in this decision was a very conservative judge, Reagan-appointed David Sentelle. “And not just any Reagan appointee,” Legal Planet notes. ”Sentelle is probably the most right-wing judge on the circuit.  A former associate of Jesse Helms, he pulled the strings to extend the Whitewater investigation and get Ken Starr appointed as independent counsel.

“Memo to state and industry petitioners, who have hired some of the best legal minds in the country: if you've lost David Sentelle, you'd better reconsider your legal strategy.”

Gone over the edge? It seems so, even according to some very conservative and powerful people.

3. The judges (including über conservative Sentelle) mocked the ridiculousness of some of the challenges. US politics has become… well,… not what it was meant to be. The off-the-edge GOP leadership (note: I’m not saying all or even most GOP voters fall into this box) is even getting mocked by its own these days. Concerning the idea that the EPA shouldn’t base its regulations or decision on Nobel-prize-winning IPCC research supported by every national science academy in the world, the ruling stated that building on past scientific research "is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question." That last line wasn’t needed, of course, but it drives home an obvious point that some people don’t want to accept.

4. Coal may really be a “dead man walking.” “Industry analysts say the GHG rules proposed so far effectively bar any new coal plants in the US, at the same time that other EPA rules, especially the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, may be the last straw forcing many older coal plants to shut,” Aol Energy states.

Very notably, however, “EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said the GHG rules are following the market, not leading it.” New coal just simply isn’t competitive anymore. In the US, the market is showing that.

Big decision? Yes. Obviously correct decision? Yes. Are obviously correct decisions generally what our country leadership implements? Certainly not. So, I’d say this is a huge win… especially given points #2 and 4 above.

Thanks to Peter Sinclair for putting together the roundup that led to this post.

Image Credit: wooden gavel via Shutterstock

Swedish Wind Energy Developer Will Install GE’s 2.75-Megawatt Wind Turbines on West Coast

Posted: 03 Jul 2012 01:38 PM PDT

2.75-103 wind turbine

GE has announced that Swedish energy developer Triventus Wind Power AB will use GE wind turbine technology to power a planned 27.5-megawatt wind farm project to be built near Falkenberg on Sweden's west coast.

Through the agreement, GE will deliver 10 2.75-103 wind turbines to Triventus. When operations begin, the wind farm will generate enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of 7,500. It will also provide ongoing maintenance via a five-year service agreement.



In a press announcement, GE and Triventus officials indicated the Triventus project is being supported through the country's green certificate support system. This is similar to how other Swedish wind farms are supported.

Currently, nuclear power plants and hydroelectric facilities produce most of Sweden's domestic energy. But in order to comply with the European Union's Renewables Directive, the country has been expanding its wind farm installations, states the Swedish Wind Energy Association.

"Given Sweden's need to expand the role of wind energy, GE's wind turbine technology has a proven track record of reliability and efficiency to ensure our project is successfully implemented on schedule," said Linda Pålsson, MD of Triventus Wind Power.

GE Energy will deliver its wind turbines to the project site during the first and second quarters of 2013. The wind farm is scheduled to begin commercial service in the second quarter of 2013.

The Triventus project is located close to two other wind farms that also are also powered by GE wind turbines.

In its press announcement, Stephan Ritter, GE's general manager for renewable energy in Europe, said, “With the 2.75 turbine, Triventus is investing into a technology that is built on the proven 2.5 platform. The solid design of this platform ensures high availability rates and with that supports the country's renewables targets in the long run."

GE can add the Triventus project to its growing list of wind projects in Sweden. In 2011, GE announced that Stena Renewable Wind Energy Company would deploy 40 of GE's 2.5-100 units for four new wind farms in the southern Swedish municipalities of Laholm Boxholm and Mjölby. Also, GE and Göteborg Energi began installing a 4.1-113 offshore turbine in the Gothenburg harbor in Risholmsvägen in 2011.

Source: Business Wire, GE
Photo: GE

5 Things We Learned about Day 1 of the Australia Carbon Price…

Posted: 03 Jul 2012 12:58 PM PDT

If you are reading this item now then it means that the world did not end with the introduction of the carbon price. Sadly, neither did the political posturing.

The government said it was an economic reform that reflected fundamental Labor values. Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the government didn't do it for opinion polls (clearly not), but for the nation's future, even though it is clear to most that were it not for the independents and the greens and a hung parliament we would still be sitting in a tent listening to a People's Assembly. So, while Labor sent a minister to Whyalla in a cringe-worthy stunt to prove that the city still exists, the Coalition launched a new advertising campaign that suggested Armegeddon would be drawn out like a TV mini-series, rather than a single, Biblical event.

Radio shock-jock Alan Jones told a 150-strong crowd in Melbourne that climate science was witch-craft, 300 businesses said the carbon price was a terrific and essential reform and said the economy could not afford to do without it, and the minerals industry lamented the fact that some 18,000 jobs that did not actually exist now would not exist in the future. This statement was less existential than it seemed, and – given the industry's commitment to cost and job reductions through automation, such as driver-less trucks – we anticipate the next innovation will be a software program to manage their lobbying efforts and make their peak bodies redundant.

Treasurer Wayne Swan issued a press release featuring one of those useless statistics often used in carbon abatement, saying cutting Australia's emissions by 159 million tonnes by 2020 (the 5 per cent target), would be like taking 45 million cars off the road. No matter that Australia doesn't have 45 million cars, because most of the reductions will likely take place overseas, where they have lots of cars (and cheap emissions reduction projects), which must have been the point of the statement. Which means that by 2020 we will all be driving a wind-powered electric vehicle or riding a solar charged bus. Don't sell your bicycle.

A policy debate on semantics

The debate about climate change policy in Australia has not been more about semantics and alliteration – axe the tax, ditch the witch, etc – than it has about carbon pricing and emissions reduction targets. Julia Gillard certainly blundered by describing the carbon price – an emissions trading scheme with a fixed price to start with – as the tax she promised not to implement. Tony Abbott has vowed to axe that tax, but the question that should really be put to him is: Will he Ice the Price?

The chances are that he won't, or can't. But he could do a number of things to make it look like he's acting to protect jobs and the cost of living, and not doing stuff that he said he wouldn't do under a government he leads. That could be by slashing the fixed price, or even accelerating the move to an emissions trading scheme, a move that would be guaranteed to bring the price down by at least half, and remove the tax label. But he won't ice the price, business won't let him.

Finding the right price

So, working on the assumption that the carbon price was introduced to encourage clean investment, and not just to cause Labor to lose power, what price is needed over the long term? One of the more astute observers of policy and of the politics, Deutsche Bank's Tim Jordan, suggests that Australia may be forced to seriousy look at a managed price beyond 2015 to create a reliable signal for low-carbon investments, because it is the forward carbon price that will determine its success.

Jordan says Australia's carbon policy has been confused by twin goals. Originally, it was just to meet Australia's emissions reduction targets in the most flexible and cost-effective way, but now it was to put to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions in a way that encourages investment in clean energy. Jordan says those two objectives are now in conflict, but it is important to remember why the clean energy investment is necessary: it's needed to ensure that future abatement is cheap. Emissions reduction targets do not end in 2020 (and neither should renewable energy targets for that matter), and locking in a higher carbon path now simply means a more costly adjustment down the track for the likes of future prime minister such as Wyatt Roy.

Carbon Sunday and Bailout Friday

If the first day of the new financial year was dubbed carbon Sunday, then surely the last working day of the 2011/12 financial year should have been known as Bailout Friday. First, the federal government announced it was disbursing money to Alcoa's Point Henry smelter, to ensure that 600 jobs were protected for at least two years (and maybe so the floor didn't fall out of the wholesale electricity market), and was also making a handout to Energy Brix, ostensibly to protect jobs but possibly to ensure that the company could last another two years so that then the government could pay more money to close it down under the contracts for closure scheme.

Its signals on these buyouts are confusing – the government is handing out compensation with one hand, to ensure the generators stay open, and making an offer to buy them out with another, to ensure that some of them do actually close down. Unhappily, the compensation package has caused some of these generators to have an inflated view of their own worth. On Friday, however, the government was able to hand them the latest forecasts by AEMO and suggest they stick that into their business models. That process is likely to take a few months.

The one project not to benefit from an extension, surprise, surprise, was the $1.2 billion solar thermal project Solar Dawn. That lost its funding from the state government after it failed to obtain a power purchase agreement from the state-funded utility. This, in turn, forced the hand of the federal government – who can now look back at the Solar Flagships project as a total and predictable farce. Thankfully, the funding will now be in the hands of the independent Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

And how the carbon price compares to mobile phone spending and other taxes

A wee bit of context always helps. This graph below from The Australia Institute highlights how the carbon price compares to revenue from the GST, fuel excise and other taxes, and how it compares to household spending on mobile phones, fast food and other things. It's fairly self-explanatory.

This article was originally published on REnew Economy.

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