Saturday, July 7, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Is the Wind Industry Leaving the US due to Congressional Inaction? Yep.

Posted: 07 Jul 2012 07:00 AM PDT


As stated for many, many months now, Congress needs to extend the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power in order to save tens of thousands of US jobs. And it needs to do so, like,… 6 months ago. It seems the industry is already moving out a lot of investment and jobs, or plans for such, due to the slow pace of this dysfunctional Congress.

From Greentech Media:

First Wind, based in Boston, took $211 million plus a $150 million loan from Canadian utility Emera Inc. for 49 percent of Northeast Wind Partners, a partnership which will handle First Wind's eight-project, three-state, 385-megawatt northeastern business. Looking to Canada, where renewable energy retains big mandates and incentives, First Wind said the new partnership could lead to $3 billion in future investment and 1.2 gigawatts of new wind.

EDP Renewables North America, the second biggest wind U.S. developer after NextEra Energy, reportedly wants to sell 707 megawatts of operating wind projects and a 1.4-gigawatt development pipeline and Spanish utility Iberdrola Renovables is reportedly re-evaluating its U.S. strategy.

The town of Gillett, Wisconsin, population 1,256, will lose 45 jobs when Wausaukee Composites, a plastic and fiberglass wind turbine component maker, closes its Gillette factory August 31. Many small businesses in wind's supply chain across the U.S. will soon be following suit.

At Windpower 2012 in June, GE Energy announced recent deals in Turkey, Canada and Brazil, and CEO Vic Abate called Europe, Canada, China, Brazil and India "the growth markets of the immediate future."

For more wind industry trends, check out: Winds of Change: The Wind Industry Is Leaving the US.

Image Credit: wind turbines & sunset via Shutterstock

Orange You Glad I Said Biofuel?

Posted: 07 Jul 2012 06:00 AM PDT

OPEC envisions using orange peels for biofuel and other products

Food waste offers a tantalizing source of renewable biofuel, and orange peels are a perfect example of the potential. According to the American Chemical Society, we are sitting on a veritable gold mine of citrus waste. Global agriculture produces about 15.6 million tons of orange and other citrus waste annually in the form of discarded peels that could be put to use producing biofuels along with bio-based solvents, fragrances, water purifiers and other projects. So… how close are we to this vision of a more citrus-centric planet?

The Exploding Orange Problem

The problem with oranges, and with the citrus industry as a whole, is that approximately half of the harvested product goes to waste in the form of peelings.

This represents a significant environmental liability in terms of disposal. The two main options, burning and landfilling, contribute to directly to greenhouse gas emissions.

As described by Joan Coyle of the American Chemical Society, the current choices for reclaiming orange peels are also not optimal. Large-scale juice manufacturers can process the peels as a source of livestock feed or pectin (a common food additive), but these processes involve additional expenses and increased energy use.

From Orange Peel to Your Gas Tank

To address the problem, an international team of researchers has assembled a partnership rather fancifully named OPEC, for Orange Peel Exploitation Company.

OPEC joins the University of York, the University of Sao Paulo and the University of Cordoba in a “zero waste” biorefinery project that will use high-intensity, low temperature microwaves to extract liquid from the cellulose in citrus peels, rather than depending on mechanical processes or the addition of acids.

Once separated, the cellulose and liquid can yield a number of valuable products aside from bio-ethanol. Allison Jarrell of Inside Science provides a list that includes:

“…limonene, which can be used as a fragrance, in household cleaners and as a solvent holds promise to replace petroleum-derived products; pectin, often used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and in foods like jellies; and cellulose, which is used as a thickening agent or can be converted into a solid biofuel.”

According to the British Science Association, the spongy cellulose could also be used as an absorbent filter, and the microwave process can also incorporate other feedstocks including household waste and paper.

As Jarrell notes, aside from yielding direct bottom line benefits the process could provide juice producers with a way to promote themselves as green, zero-waste facilities, without having to pay local farmers to cart away the peels as cattle feed.

OPEC expects to have a biorefinery up and running soon in York. Meanwhile, over here in the States, a researcher at the University of Central Florida has been developing a method for refining ethanol from orange peels with the help of a tobacco enzyme, so the future of orange peel-to-biofuel is looking pretty sunny.

Image: Some rights reserved by fdecomite.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Green Light for California High-Speed Rail Network

Posted: 07 Jul 2012 05:02 AM PDT


A plan to build a high-speed rail network in California is moving ahead, as state legislators voted to raise $4.5 billion in capital by selling municipal bonds approved by voters. The muni bond sale includes $2.6 billion to build the first 130-mile stretch of the high-speed rail network in California’s Central Valley, according to an AP report.

Passenger rail, in contrast to freight, has been on a long-term decline in the US, even as high-speed rail networks in Europe, Japan, and China are in their second or third generation. California’s high-speed rail plan, though contested by opposing lawmakers, is a step in the right direction, proponents argue — one that will create infrastructure, jobs, and state revenues, as well as alleviate air and road congestion and reduce CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions.


Saved in the Nick of Time

“No economy can grow faster than its transportation network allows,” AP quoted a statement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood applauding the result of the state legislature’s vote. “With highways between California cities congested and airspace at a premium, Californians desperately need an alternative.”

The initial, 130-mile section of the “bullet train” network will link Madera and Bakersfield. Overall, the project envisions high-speed rail links between Los Angeles and San Francisco at a cost of $68 billion.

The “yes” vote comes in the nick of time, as an additional $3.2 billion of federal funding for the high-speed rail project was due to be taken off the table. California Governor Jerry Brown has been supporting the high-speed rail and other infrastructure projects, which he has said will help create jobs in a state with higher-than-average unemployment.

With California weighed down with a large budget deficit, state republicans were strident in their criticism, saying that the money could be used for other purposes, such as keeping schools open, and avoiding other budget cuts. Business leader members of the Bay Area Council, in contrast, cheered the “yes” vote.

State senate leader pro tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento likened the project to the building of the network of dams, reservoirs, and canals in the late 1950s that helped pave California’s growth path — a bill passed during the term of Gov. Brown’s father, then Gov. Pat Brown.

Passage of the bill also includes $1.9 billion of funding to improve regional rail networks. Included is a project to electrify the Caltrain San Jose-San Francisco commuter rail line, as well as making improvements to Metrolink commuter lines in Southern California.

“Not only will California be the first state in the nation to build a high-speed rail system to connect our urban centers, we will also modernize and improve rail systems at the local and regional level,” California High-Speed Rail Authority chairman Dan Richard was quoted as saying. The Authority is to manage the high-speed rail network project.

The news comes on the heels of word that progress is also being made on a plan to build a high-speed rail network in the Northeast.

East Coast High-Speed Rail Network in the Works

Posted: 07 Jul 2012 04:30 AM PDT

US lack of leadership on high-speed rail is worse than our lack of leadership on solar and wind power (we are way behind numerous other countries). But the area of the US with the best rail network at the moment, and with the best hope of developing a “high-speed” rail network, is the Northeast. With a little work, that could even spread down the East Coast. Andrew Meggison of Gas2 has an update for us on the progress of high-speed rail on the East Coast:

An East Coast High Speed Rail Network Is In The Works (via Gas 2.0)

While hopes for a high-speed rail line connecting California cities seem to be on life support, New England could be the new home of a high-speed rail line. Even though Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) faces a $161 million budget deficit this year and another $100 million budget deficit…

GE Halts Construction of Its Colorado Solar Factory

Posted: 07 Jul 2012 04:16 AM PDT

Due to the falling prices of solar panels around the world, General Electric has put its 400 MW cadmium-telluride solar factory in Aurora, Colorado, on hold. This project has been in development for over a year, and was already announced when GE purchased PrimeStar Solar in April 2011.

Even though the crystalline cells are superior in terms of efficiency rates, cadmium-telluride held a lot of promise on larger scales, as they are significantly cheaper, especially when silicon prices are up.

However, the costs of solar panels have dropped significantly recently, largely due to Chinese manufacturers such as Suntech, Yingli, and Trina increasing their production.

Focuses on Next Generation Cadmium-Telluride Solar Cells

GE states that it will move its focus towards improving the technology of cadmium-telluride thin-film solar cells:

"Over the last six months with all the changes that have happened in the industry resulting in this 50% drop in module prices, given those dynamics we are putting our plant on pause essentially and we're focusing our efforts on developing the next generation of cad-tel module technology so that we can reach higher efficiency levels and a more competitive cost position," said Danielle Merfeld, GE's general manager for solar technologies, told Forbes on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, General Electric has had to lay off many of its employees with just two months notice as a result of the construction halt.

Source: Forbes 
Image Credit: Greentech Media/SEIA via CleanTechnica

Double-Sided Solar Cells from BSolar Produce Up to 50% More Energy

Posted: 07 Jul 2012 03:34 AM PDT

Double-sided (otherwise known as bifacial) solar cells are capable of generating electricity from sunlight received on their front size, but also from leftover sunlight that diffused and/or reflected by using the back side (second side) of the cell.

Solar panels of this type have been under development for decades, but they have generally been too expensive to compete with conventional solar panels. BSolar, however, recently announced that it has developed double-sided solar panels that produce 50% more power than conventional panels in vertical installations. It says that they are also more affordable than traditional double-sided panels.

According to the company, these monocrystalline panels”provide 10-30% higher energy per KWp installed in standard applications, and up to 50% in vertical installations, resulting in an equivalent cell efficiency of 21%-24% in standard applications and a total module power of 280-325 Watts for 60-cell modules.

According to GigaOM, the secret to these double-sided solar panels is the use of boron instead of aluminium. According to TreeHugger, BSolar has been able to bring the cost of these double-sided solar cells down to a competitive level, because their cells generate more electricity per square metre.

BSolar has already been called upon to provide 730 kW of panels for an installation in Japan. Several solar cell manufacturers are going to use BSolar cells in their panels, as well.

For more of the basics of how solar panels work, you may want to check out Glenn’s primer on that (linked above).

Source: TreeHugger
Photo Credit: Bsolar

World’s Largest Solar Bridge Is Halfway Complete

Posted: 07 Jul 2012 03:22 AM PDT

At the Brackfriars train station platform, London’s largest photovoltaic solar panel array is being constructed. This is also to be the world’s largest solar bridge. This project will consist of 4,400 solar panels from Solar Century that are expected to generate 900 MWh per year.

Brackfriars Solar Bridge Project

Solar Century is the UK-based company that is constructing this project. This project is expected to meet half of the Brackfriars station’s electricity requirements, and avoid 511 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from traditional power plants.

“Blackfriars Bridge is an ideal location for solar; a new, iconic large roof space, right in the heart of London,” said Solar Century chief executive Derry Newman in a statement.

“Station buildings and bridges are fixed parts of our urban landscape and it is great to see that this one will be generating renewable energy every day into the future. For people to see that solar power is working is a vital step towards a clean energy future.”

This is one of the types of solar projects I admire most, primarily due to the fact that the solar panels are being put to use in more than one way. They don’t just generate electricity, but they also shade the bridge, and they thus enable people to be far more comfortable, and even turn their air conditioning off, when waiting in slow traffic, which can save a lot of fuel.

Another benefit of this type of setup is that it utilizes existing roof space above the bridge which would not otherwise be used, so land is not being wasted on the solar panels.

Other resource conservation systems are being set up at Brackfriars, as well, including sun pipes to provide natural sun lighting instead of using electric lighting.

“The Victorian rail bridge at Blackfriars is part of our railway history,” he said. “Constructed in the age of steam, we’re bringing it bang up to date with 21st century solar technology to create an iconic station for the city.”

Source: The Guardian
Photo Credit: Solar Century

2015 Toyota Prius Needs to Innovate to Stay on Top

Posted: 07 Jul 2012 01:00 AM PDT

As noted not too long ago, the Toyota Prius has risen to #3 in world auto sales. But, with numerous super-efficient electric vehicles and hybrids entering the market, it is facing more competition in its high-efficiency niche (an important niche to be in these days). How will it stay on top? Gas2 has run across some rumors:

2015 Toyota Prius Rumors Start Surfacing (via Gas 2.0)

The Toyota Prius has remained at the front of the MPG pack for more than a decade now, and in that time it has garnered a reputation as a reliable, cost-effective solution to high gas prices. Toyota has expanded the Prius lineup to include a compact and a larger minivan, but rivals are closing the…

IEA Forecasts 40% Growth in Renewable Power Generation in Next 5 Years

Posted: 07 Jul 2012 12:05 AM PDT


Power generation from renewable resources — hydropower, solar, wind and others — will increase more than 40% to nearly 6,400 terawatt-hours (TWh) over the next five years, roughly 1.5 times total electricity generation in the US, according to a new report from the International Energy Association (IEA).

Renewable electricity generation will expand by 1,840 TWh globally between 2011-2017, nearly 60% higher than the 1,160 TWh of renewable power capacity added between 2005-2011, according to IEA’s “Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2012,” which marks the organization’s initial effort to measure and analyze renewable energy markets worldwide over the medium-term.


Creating a Virtuous Cycle

Emerging markets, as opposed to those in developed OECD member countries, will become the primary driver of growth in renewable power capacity over the course of the next five years, OECD forecasts. Expanding renewable power capacity in non-OECD countries will account for 2/3 of growth worldwide, as some 710 GW of new renewable electricty generation capacity is added. China alone will account for nearly 40% of this increase.

Growth in renewable power capacity will be broad-based, however, according to the OECD’s outlook, which also foresees “significant deployment” in the US, India, Germany, and Brazil.

It’s a combination of technological innovation, fast-track commercialization and supportive government policies that underlie and provide the foundation for the expansion OECD forecasts. Rapidly increasing energy demand — again, driven in the main by emerging markets — along with growing concerns and focus on energy security and environmental sustainability “are creating a virtuous cycle of improved global competition and cost reductions,” the OECD states in a press release.

"Renewable energy is expanding rapidly as technologies mature, with deployment transitioning from support-driven markets to new and potentially more competitive segments in many countries," IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said during the report’s launch gathering.

"Given the emergence of a portfolio of renewable sources as a crucial pillar of the global energy mix, market stakeholders need a clear understanding of the major drivers and barriers to renewable deployment. Based on these factors, this report forecasts global renewable development and, in so doing, provides a key benchmark for both public and private decision makers."

IEA’s report covers renewable energy generation and capacity for eight technologies in 15 key markets accounting for some 80% of renewable electricity generation over the ensuing five years: hydropower, bioenergy for power, onshore wind, offshore wind, solar photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar power (CSP), geothermal and ocean power. The focus of this initial medium-term study is electrical power, though thermal heating is also covered. Developments that may emerge in other important markets are also covered.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Hydropower continues to account for the majority of renewable generation and it registers the largest absolute growth (+730 TWh) of any single renewable technology over 2011-17, largely driven by non-OECD countries.
  • Non-hydropower renewable technologies continue to scale up quickly. Between 2011 and 2017, generation from these technologies increases by over 1 100 TWh, with growth equally split between OECD and non-OECD countries.
  • Onshore wind, bioenergy and solar PV see the largest increases, respectively, in generation after hydropower. Offshore wind and CSP grow quickly from low bases. Geothermal continues to develop in areas with good resources. Ocean technologies take important steps towards commercialization.

A copy of Ms. van der Hoeven’s remarks is available on-line, as is a presentation by Didier Houssin, OECD director of energy markets and security.

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