Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Duo Complete Cross-Country Electric Bike Tour

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 06:00 AM PDT

This is a fun mid-week story to keep your spirits up. Some folks at electric bicycle company Evelo recently completed what was possibly the first-ever coast-to-coast, self-supported journey on two electric bicycles. (Just to be clear, that would be coast-to-coast in the US, not England or Iceland or something.) The duo completed this journey on less than $20 of electricity. Notably, Evelo’s electric bikes get about 1,000 miles for what it would cost to buy one gallon of gas. 1,000 miles per gallon of gas equivalency… yeah, not bad.

Electric bikes used to bike across the country.

But, why travel across the country on an electric bike? Perhaps just for a little fun?

I’m sure that was part of it, but apparently the goal was a bit broader (no surprise). The purpose of the trip was primarily to promote electric bikes as a viable, green, cheap mode of transportation in the United States.

Bicycling So Popular… for Recreation, Not Transportation

Bicycling is insanely popular as a recreational activity. But far too many people don’t seem to catch that they can extend that fun into their daily life by making it their main mode of transport.

Effort & Sweat… Ugh

Perhaps some people are really turned off by having to use their muscles a little bit to get to work or the shop (not exactly a healthy aversion, but very common). Additionally, many who aren’t actually against that extra physical activity are still turned off by the slight inconvenience of having to shower or change at work (and many workplaces still don’t even provide special facilities for that).

The nice thing about an electric bicycle, for those averse to muscle-powered transportation or showering/changing at work, is that you can ride on electricity instead of your muscles, and yet still enjoy the wind in your face and the youthful fun of bicycling.

Sooooo Far

Another obstacle some people face is a long commute to work (6+ miles, we’ll say). A long commute can really require a high level of fitness and dedication that not everyone has.

An electric bike can cut down the time quite a bit in such situations, as well as the effort it takes to cover those longer distances, thus offering a middle ground between a normal bicycle and a car.

EBs Filling a Gap

Basically, EBs (my abbreviation for electric bikes) make bicycling more accessible to a wider range of the people. In all seriousness, if your local terrain, age, or fitness level is holding you back from bicycling for transportation purposes (or from doing so more), perhaps an electric bicycle is worth a trial spin.

As just shown by this cycling duo (that would be Boris Mordkovich and Anna Mostovetsky, by the way), even bicycling across the country on these things isn’t such a challenge….

Anyway, a big congrats and thanks to Boris and Anna! Not only did they ride EBs across the country, but they also stopped in about 15 cities along the way to give talks and presentations and get folks more familiar with these wonderful machines. A big thanks to you two!

Connect with me on Google+ or your favorite social networking site.

Image Credit: Evelo/Trans-American Electric Bike Tour

Ed Begley Jr. Energy Efficiency Tip #1 (VIDEO)

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 04:50 AM PDT

Apparently, Ed Begley Jr. is now an Energy Upgrade CA in LA County spokesperson and is making a number of videos on energy efficiency tips. Below is the first, on cutting the vampire power and switching to energy-efficient light bulbs. I like this great line from the video: “all these accessories constantly take from you, giving you nothing in return” (when plugged in but not in use).

Clean Power Finance Aims to “Streamline and Professionalize” Residential Solar Sales & Financing with New Vice President of Operations

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 04:15 AM PDT

The hot topics in the solar energy sector right now, I would contend, are making the solar marketplace easier to navigate and bringing down the soft costs of going solar. We’ve had numerous posts on big stories in that space in recent months. This is all long overdue and highly needed, so it’s been exciting covering these stories.

The latest such story (perhaps) is from Clean Power Finance. In a news release out today just emailed to me from a representative of Clean Power Finance, it was noted that the company just appointed of Steve Olszewski as senior vice president of operations.

The Clean Power Finance management team Steve Olszewski will be joining.

With a strong background in the consumer financial services sector, the goal is for Olszewski to help the company “streamline and professionalize the residential solar sales and financing industry.”

"With more than twenty years of operations experience in consumer financial services companies and electric power utilities, Steve provides expertise that will not only help us streamline complex solar financing processes to be more intuitive for third-party financiers and consumers, but also make us quickest in the industry at paying our solar professional partners," said Nat Kreamer, CEO of Clean Power Finance. "Most people today prefer to finance their residential solar systems, but true mass adoption of residential solar won't happen until we demystify and professionalize the sales and financing process. Steve will help us move closer to that goal."

Let’s hope so.

Here’s a little more on Olszewski’s background:

“Prior to joining Clean Power Finance, Steve served as a senior vice president at Discover Financial Services, where he led the student loans business through the integration of The Student Loan Corporation and later oversaw the largest portfolio acquisition in Discover’s history. He also managed the six-fold growth in the deposits business, which became the company’s largest funding source. Prior to Discover, Steve led underwriting and servicing operations for GMAC’s auto insurance business and held operations strategy roles at Capital One. He is an alumnus of McKinsey & Company and Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), where he served a variety of clients in the energy and financial services sectors.”

"Clean Power Finance is uniquely positioned to transform residential solar into a mainstream consumer financial service," said Steve Olszewski. "Transparent and timely financing and operations are prerequisites for the widespread adoption of residential solar, and I am confident my experience leading underwriting and servicing operations for highly regarded financial services companies will help Clean Power Finance establish best practices for the industry."

Clean Power Finance offers an online marketplace for residential solar financing and is a leading provider of solar sales software. And it seems to be making a lot of big moves in this arena these days.

Other members of the Clean Power Finance team include SunRun co-founder Robert "Nat" Kreamer; Clean Power Finance co-founder and CPF Tools creator Adam Marsh; former Tioga Energy executive Kristian Hanelt; venture capital veteran Micah Myers; residential solar experts Kirstin Hoefer and Nick Mack; and former IBM global sales executive Robert Prigge.

Former CleanTechnica Owner One Block Off the Grid (1BOG) Is Acquired

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 03:34 AM PDT


Some of our long-time readers may remember a day when all the ads on this site were for One Block Off the Grid (1BOG). Back at that time, CleanTechnica was fully owned by 1BOG (and, for a bit before 1BOG owned us, by the startup Virgance, which also owned the blog network we are a part of  – when it was called Green Options media — after acquiring it from the site and network founder, David Anderson).

Now, apparently, it’s 1BOG’s turn to be acquired. It was announced just yesterday that Pure Energies Group (PEG) has acquired the company, as 1BOG CEO and founder Dave Llorens let me know by email.

“One Block Off the Grid also announced an expanded comparison shopping service designed to empower homeowners to get the best deal on solar power, following a recent round of capital raised from existing investor New Enterprise Associates (NEA),” the news release stated.

PEG Wants More of the North American Solar Potential

Apparently, this is part of a big push PEG is making to expand beyond its Ontario roots into the US home solar market.


“This acquisition affirms PEG's strategy to expand throughout North America, becoming the trusted adviser to homeowners as they evaluate solar power or energy conservation equipment options. As with its initial customer focus on the Ontario Feed in Tariff, PEG will continue to focus on helping consumers achieve the best possible value in implementing solar energy and energy conservation solutions.”

With the US solar market more than doubling last year, and the country consistently ranking at the #1 position for solar energy investment attractiveness, according to Ernst & Young, there’s clearly a rush to capitalize on that potential.

1BOG’s New Comparison Shopping Options

So, what’s this new 1BOG offering all about? According to the news release, “One Block Off the Grid's new shopping service aims to help homeowners secure the best deal on solar power by providing price comparisons that allow consumers to choose from industry-leading solar providers within a specific geographic area. One Block Off the Grid will partner with PURE energies, a subsidiary of PEG, to screen and select providers that offer the best price points and the highest level of consumer satisfaction.”

“We want to give homeowners the best deal possible, by having all the best options in any given geography, and offering the fastest and most painless online sales process you can get,” said Llorens, who will now become its COO. “Getting multiple quotes is a chore. We let the customer skip past that with a one-stop-shop. Becoming part of Pure Energies lets us do that faster, better and in more places.”

This is becoming a very competitive space as the price of solar systems continue to drop rapidly, demand rises, and several companies look to reduce the “soft costs” of going solar by making the installation marketplace more competitive and easier to navigate. (For more on that, just see the numerous DOE SunShot grants recently dished out to bring down such costs.)

Good luck to PEG and 1BOG! And, most importantly, good luck to getting more homeowners to go solar!

Santerno Wins 155-MW Contract for Solar Project in California

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 03:10 AM PDT


Santerno has won a supply contract for 155 MW of Santerno skid inverter stations to be installed in a solar plant located in Imperial Valley, California.

“This contract is a milestone for Santerno, as it signals our entrance into the USA Solar Farm Market,” says Guido Tonin, Executive Vice President of Santerno Inc., the North America subsidiary of Santerno Group, located in San Francisco.

“The supply to the Project in California is completely in line with our globalization plans for the Solar Farm market segment,” says Marco Tecchio, CEO of the Santerno Group; “we are glad to announce it, following Santerno’s successful completion of the 124 MW Ravenna (Italy) project end of 2011, Santerno’s supply contract announcement for the 81 MW Kathu project in South Africa (South Africa’s very first solar farm) in May 2012, and Santerno’s commissioning in Europe, and lately, in China and India of over 2.5 GW of solar inverters, the large majority of which were deployed in Solar Farm applications.”

The Imperial Valley solar power project is a huge solar project. It will be one of largest solar photovoltaic (PV) farms in the US. In total, it will be 200 MW in size. As just noted the other day here on CleanTechnica, Abengoa will build this project, which is expected to be up and running in just 18 months.



Santerno is actually a California-based company — it is headquartered in San Francisco — that promotes and distributes Santerno’s inverters for solar, wind, and industrial applications for the North American market.

“The Santerno Group, with over 40 years of experience in power electronics (and 25 years in solar inverter), is a leading company in the Italian solar market (the largest in the world in 2011). To date, Santerno has delivered over 2,500 MW of solar inverters, mostly for Solar Farm applications. The Santerno Group is consolidated in the balance sheet of the Carraro Group, a public company and global leader in off-highway power transmission systems. The Carraro Group has been in business since the ’30s, traded at the Milan stock exchange (Italy) since 1995. In 2011, the Carraro Group Sales Turnover exceeded $1.2 billion.”

Source: PRNewswire
Image Credit: solar power plant via Shutterstock

Major Energy Efficiency Breakthrough for Desalination Plants

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 03:00 AM PDT


GE is introducing what it is calling a major energy efficiency breakthrough for desalination plants. Its new IPER system promises to reduce the energy demands of desalination pumping by at least 10 percent.

Its new Integrated Pump and Energy Recovery (IPER) system is “a major engineering breakthrough that overcomes a significant technical obstacle for larger desalination facilities by reducing the energy demands associated with pumping water by at least 10 percent.”

The announcement of its IPER system was recently made during the 2012 Singapore International Water Week in Singapore.

“Considerable progress has been made in membrane and energy recovery device improvements, dramatically lowering the energy requirement of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plants over the past 10 years. Until now, energy efficient positive displacement (PD) pumps have been able to achieve significant energy savings in smaller desalination operations. Meanwhile, modest improvements to large, conventional centrifugal pumps have been able to deliver only incremental energy savings. However, with IPER, GE is offering a new positive displacement pump system that will significantly lower energy requirements for large desalination plants.”

A pilot version of the IPER system has been installed at the ‘Water and Sewerage Corporation, a desalination facility in Tarpum Bay, Bahamas’, in order to demonstrate the efficiency and reliability of the technology.

"IPER is designed to offer customers reliable uptime for their packaged desalination water treatment plants while reducing their energy costs in a significant and quantifiable way," said Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO—water and process technologies for GE Power & Water. "IPER represents a major economic and technical break-through that is poised to help desalination operators play an even greater role in addressing the world's mounting water scarcity problems."

75% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, but only about 0.8% of it is available for domestic use. About 80% of all diseases and sicknesses are related to water. Water scarcity already threatens one out of five people, and it’s project that number will actually increase to three in five within 20 years.

The IPER system is intended to help drive continued innovation in the global water treatment and reuse, and hopefully enable the availability of cleaner water where it is in scarce supply. Certainly a worthy cause.

Here are some more details on how this technology works and improves upon conventional desalination plants:

“Lower-capacity desalination plants have often utilized PD pumps because of their high efficiency and availability. These small but efficient pumps are based on the use of a fixed geometry and either rotating axial pistons or crank-driven pistons to pressurize water in the chambers. As the size and pumping capacity of these chambers increase, these smaller PD pumps face mechanical challenges. As a result, previous larger PD pumps have either featured a larger crankshaft or high crankshaft speeds to overcome these mechanical challenges. But due to the larger size and operating speeds, these solutions have led to significant vibration and maintenance issues.”

“IPER solves these problems by eliminating the crankshaft and replacing it with a unique hydraulic drive system for both functions. This hydraulic drive powers three double acting pistons in the water displacement unit and does this at very slow cycle speeds as compared to traditional PD pumps.”

“These innovations allow larger SWRO systems that today use less efficient centrifugal pumps to incorporate IPER positive displacement pumps in the future. Since positive displacement pumps are typically used on systems with a capacity of less than 1,000 m3/day, this offers opportunities for any plant of 1,000 m3/day or larger to achieve substantial energy savings. IPER is the latest solution to join GE's industry leading desalination platform, which also features innovative membrane technologies that transform seawater and brackish water into fresh water for drinking, irrigation and industrial applications. GE's versatile, energy efficient SWRO and electrodialysis reversal technologies produce water reliably and affordably while accommodating a range of sizes, across continents, for almost any salt or brackish water source.”

“Since RO facilities typically require 53 percent less energy than thermal desalination facilities, IPER's introduction underscores how GE is committed to helping desalination operators reduce their energy costs during both the filtration and pumping stages.”

Whatever you think of giant multinational corporations, GE certainly has some decent bragging rights in this arena.

Another key way to increase water availability, of course, is to switch to renewable energy technologies that use much, much less water. Better desalination and water purification technologies combined with a renewable energy transition will hopefully turn the water scarcity trend in the other direction and help people all over the world.

Source: GE

Just Energy Independence or Clean Energy Self-Reliance?

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 02:17 AM PDT

In Thomas Friedman's latest column, he praises Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts because he "took one for the country."  Friedman sees that "America today is poised for a great renewal" if only it can get some "big, centrist, statesmanlike leadership."

Logically, there would be some renewable (energy) in America's renewal, right?

Wrong.  Here's Friedman's vision for America:

Our newfound natural gas bounty can give us long-term access to cheap, cleaner energy and, combined with advances in robotics and software, is already bringing blue-collar manufacturing back to America. Web-enabled cellphones and tablets are creating vast new possibilities to bring high-quality, low-cost education to every community college and public school so people can afford to acquire the skills to learn 21st-century jobs. Cloud computing is giving anyone with a creative spark cheap, powerful tools to start a company with very little money. And dramatically low interest rates mean we can borrow to build new infrastructure — and make money.  [emphasis mine]

I'm generally a fan of Thomas Friedman. He's got an everyman way of writing about big issues, with a passion for practicality, especially when it comes to rebuilding America. But for a man who regularly talks of the opportunity of 21st technology, this is a very 20th Century vision.

Here's an alternative:

The stodgy National Renewable Energy Laboratory says that renewable energy like wind and solar can meet at least 80% of our electricity needs by 2050. (Note: most forecasts of renewable energy generation by "reputable sources" lowball it, by a lot). This isn't just long-term energy, it's infinite. There are no refills on natural gas like there are from renewable energy sources.

Two thirds of American states have the local resources to meet their entire electricity needs with renewable energy like wind, water, and solar. Within a decade, 100 million Americans in the largest metropolitan areas will be able to get cheaper electricity from solar on their rooftop than from their utility.

And what about the economy? Solar and wind create several times the jobs per megawatt of electricity capacity (data below from Putting Renewables to Work published by UC Berkeley). Local ownership of distributed renewable energy resources can double and triple, respectively, the jobs and economic impact of our energy generation.

Big, centrist, statesmanlike leadership isn't found in last century's energy sources. We aren't going to frack our way to a cleaner, brighter future. We need a bold, 21st century vision for energy.

If President Obama wants to lead on energy, he should declare independence from a fossil fuel past and give Americans a vision for clean energy self-reliance.

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

Top image credit: dolanh

Echo Solar Electric + Thermal Systems Now Available ($0 Down)

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 02:05 AM PDT

I wrote about Echo’s combined solar thermal and solar electric systems in May when they became available with some North Carolina homes. The Khosla-backed EchoFirst solar systems are now available for leasing, for as little as $0 down, across the US.

echo solar power heating

“The newest Echo solar system builds on the success of the Echo+ solar system, which has been installed in over 1,000 homes,” an email I received from an Echo representative noted. “While basic solar electric or ‘PV’ systems only provide electricity, Echo and Echo+ provide electricity and thermal energy.”

Basically, as you well know, the sunlight that hits solar PV panels is turned into electricity. But, the heat that hits them is lost. Solar thermal panels capture the heat for use, but they have not become as widespread. I’m definitely in the group, however, that thinks combined solar systems that offer electricity, hot water, home heating, and home cooling are going to become a big player in the market.

Yep, Charis just wrote about such systems becoming available (from a different company) in Japan this year.

More details from Echo on its system:

“The latest product includes patented technology that make it even more powerful – Echo delivers up to 25% more thermal energy than the industry's leading flat plate collectors. Integrating solar electric and solar thermal energy capture in the same system means dramatically increased energy capture when compared to existing solar electric only systems. And the system is engineered to be easy to install on existing homes, so now even homeowners with small or difficult to install-on roofs can realize significant energy savings on both their electricity and water heating bills.”

"We're bringing more than a technology breakthrough to the market," said Vikas Desai, the CEO of EchoFirst. "We're bringing superior financing solutions to our customers as well. The newest Echo solar system is powered the Echo CompleteLease, the only residential solar lease that also harnesses the power of solar thermal technology for added utility savings. The Echo CompleteLease translates both electricity and thermal energy to savings, so homeowners can realize all the benefits of Echo in a lease. And with a dedicated fund of $50 million, just as our first step, we've got the financial strength to service our customers across the country."

I’m sure lease haters aren’t going to like that. And I’d certainly like to see the systems available for outright purchase, too. However, one has to recognize that solar leasing has blown up wherever it’s been offered. It’s getting a lot of people to go solar. While an outright solar purchase might be better for homeowners in the long term, most homeowners are apparently more attracted to the leasing model for such systems. Maybe that will change with time, but I imagine that if I was bringing a solar product to market, I’d be pretty darn interested in offering it up in the way that attracts the most customers.

Here are some closing words from Adam Evans, co-founder of Sunpro Solar in Wildomar, CA (from the received email):

"We've been in solar and electrical contracting for 10 years and this is clearly the most powerful, most advanced product we've every carried. In addition to superior performance, Echo includes the features my customer's really value, like performance monitoring. And when I demonstrate features like Echo's Remote Thermostat Control, which lets them control their home thermostat from their mobile phone, it shows how much more technologically advanced Echo really is."

"Echo is really a superior value for the homeowner in every way," continued Desai. "Homeowners can trade in their utility bills for a no-money-down new Echo solar system and start saving immediately. And they can save with confidence, because the Echo CompleteLease includes our 100% performance guarantee, solar system insurance, and free repairs or replacement for all major system components for the full 20 years. And, when the lease ends, customers can upgrade to the latest Echo technology, buy the system, or simply end the lease. It’s the smart way to go."

To learn more, head on over to the EchoFirst website.

Hybrid Solar System to Go Online in Chiba

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 02:01 AM PDT

Hybrid Solar System To Go Online In Chiba

Japan has jumped on the bandwagon and started using its summer heat as a force for good instead of evil. How so? Well, one of the main reasons solar cells lose efficiency is heat — the temperature rises, and the process doesn't work quite as well. As heat is part of the sunlight package, one way of approaching the problem is to turn that thermal energy into electricity as well, which is exactly what Hibiya Engineering and NTT Facilities have done.

The prototype hybrid solar system will go online in Noda City, Chiba Prefecture this month. It's supposed to have a rated power output of 2.4kW. Based on the results of the current test run, the goal is to commercialize the system by the end of next year.



Hybrid Solar FTW?

The hybrid system is another version of a double-sided solar panel. The front is a perfectly normal solar panel, but heat acquisition modules are affixed to the rear. The effect is supposed to be three-fold. First, overall conversion efficiency should be up to 40%. Second, power loss due to rising temperatures in the solar cells should be mitigated. Third, energy from the heat is expected to be directly applicable to demands for hot water and climate control. In other words, solar panels plus solar water heaters makes a hybrid solar system.

During the testing phase, Hibiya expects the system to be able to work more efficiently than a standard system. Overall conversion efficiency will be evaluated, along with the power generation capacity and the potential hot water supply. The system is expected to be particularly useful in summer (and Japanese summer, if nothing else, is ridiculously hot).

Brilliant or redundant? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: Kankyo Business
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Grid Storage Battery Cost to Fall to $500/kWh by 2022, Lux Research Projects

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 02:00 AM PDT

Market research firm Lux Research is projecting that lithium-ion and molten-salt battery costs will get down to around $500/kWh by 2022. The bad news, if Lux Research is right, is that $500/kWh is twice the targeted $250/kWh.

wind power energy storage

“Technology developers make bold claims about performance enhancements and economies of scale that will lead to dramatic cost reductions. Lux Research's baseline scenarios for grid-tied systems indicate that by 2022 Li-ion batteries will reach $506/kWh; sodium nickel chloride, or ZEBRA, batteries will approach $473/kWh; and vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) will hit $783/kWh.”

Note, however, that those are baseline scenarios.

"Molten-salt batteries hold the most potential to be the cheapest large-scale systems, with manufacturing improvements playing the largest role, accounting for 95% of the cost reduction," said Brian Warshay, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report, Grid Storage Battery Cost Breakdown: Exploring Paths to Accelerate Adoption. 

"Li-ion batteries are dependent on cost reductions from mass production," he added, "while molten-salt batteries and VRFBs rely on long discharge durations to reduce costs."

Here are some more key points from Lux Research, and a quick summary of how it came to its conclusions:

To gain an understanding of the key cost components for each technology, Lux Research analysts built production cost models of Li-ion, ZEBRA, and VRFB systems for small- to large-scale grid storage systems, and assessed drivers that will facilitate cost reduction and constraints to innovative material and manufacturing approaches. Among their findings:

  • Cost of Li-Ion batteries will dip 45% by 2022. Li-ion batteries may lose market share to cheaper molten-salt batteries for large projects but will remain the system of choice for space-constrained projects because of their high energy density.
  • ZEBRAs need productivity gains. ZEBRA battery manufacturing accounts for between 50% and 60% of the total system costs, primarily because of the cost of processing its key raw materials. Improved manufacturing productivity and better capacity utilization will account for 95% of the expected reduction in costs by 2022 to $473/kWh.
  • Vertical integration is key to VRFB costs. Vertical integration and exclusive supply agreements will be key to managing the cost of vanadium pentoxide, a metal with a widely variable historical market price and uncertain future. Future cost estimates for vanadium pentoxide range from $15/kg to $30/kg, from the current $13.20/kg. At the upper end of the range, VRFB cost will actually increase to $1,205/kWh.

Let’s hope these projections are a bit off (on the high side).

Source: Lux Research
Photo Credit: A123 Systems

Energy Storage Company & Solar Company Team Up in Oz

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 01:30 AM PDT


Solar energy is getting cheaper and cheaper. It’s an excellent choice for homeowners around the world. It can cut electricity bills dramatically and deliver up some pretty sweet long-term savings. But things get really exciting when you let it play with a cheap, home energy storage system. OK, I’m not sure if there’s a truly “cheap” system out there yet, but prices are falling for those as well, and a decent energy storage system with a solar power system is a match that utility companies probably don’t want to see.

Recent news is that energy storage company Greensmith Energy Management Systems has teamed up with South-Australian solar developer ZEN Energy Systems in the land down under.

“In the agreement, Greensmith will provide software licenses for its Battery Operating System to ZEN, who will market and deliver a line of energy storage products in Australia.”

This could be big news.

The partnership can actually benefit utilities too, though. Here are some more details:

Greensmith, previously a provider of turn-key energy storage systems, has started a shift towards a stand-alone software and controls business. In this partnership, ZEN will use the Greensmith Battery Operating System and associated software applications as the core computing technology inside a new line of energy storage systems.

These applications include a wide variety of functions for customers on both sides of the meter; for instance frequency regulation for utility customers, and cost optimization around on-peak and off-peak periods for behind-the-meter customers. ZEN will also use Greensmith’s proprietary Battery Management System to ensure optimal management of each electron.

ZEN will market the products, manage the supply chain of batteries and inverters, and deliver the final products to its local customers in Australia.

Greensmith has previously provided turn-key systems in conjunction with solar projects. The company recently released a case study about their project with leading CPV developer Amonix. Greensmith continues to take orders for turn-key systems outside of Australia, but over time will focus primarily on the computing side of the business, with future revenues coming primarily from software licenses.

In addition to the operating system and software applications, Greensmith will provide a hosted user portal and analytics services to tune the operation of individual units. With countless sensors tracking data every 1.5 seconds, this is clearly a Big Data optimization opportunity which Greensmith has recognized.

Through the online user portal, customers with multiple units will tap into centralized fleet management, a timely offering for utility customers with a mounting interest in asset management systems.

Looks interesting. We’ll see what kind of cost figures this results in.

The residential systems (5 kW / 20 kWh) will be available to the general residential marketplace in fall 2012, the company states. It will also be offering commercial and utility-scale energy storage systems.

I wasn’t initially clear on what the rating above referred to, so went and got a little clarification from the crew. Here’s what they said: “It’s a unit rated for 5 kW of power at 4 hours of duration, for 20 kWh total energy capacity. Should a customer use less than 5 KW of power (which is likely), it will last longer than 4 hours. For our Australian customers, this is expected to last a full day off-grid.” Looks good. Hopefully the price is right.

Image Credit: Greensmith

36 Organizations Push for Strong 2030 Renewable Energy Push

Posted: 10 Jul 2012 01:00 AM PDT


36 leading organizations recently teamed up to “fight for a new American Clean Energy Agenda and create a renewable energy reality by 2030,” anti-nuclear organization NIRS (Nuclear Information and Resource Service) states. And it’s about time, isn’t it? Many of these organizations have been fighting for clean energy for a long time, actually, but it’s good to see them forming a united squad. And we can only hope that the number of organizations in the squad will grow rapidly.

Here’s a little more on the impetus for this, from the one of the press releases:

“Fed up with the undue influence of the energy companies, utilities, lobbyists and other interests that are making it impossible for Washington to move forward decisively in achieving America's clean energy future, Nuclear Information and Resource Service and 35 other citizen organizations with more than 1.1 million combined members are joining forces to advance a nine-point ‘American Clean Energy Agenda’ and to push for a serious renewable energy agenda no matter who is the next President or which party controls Congress.”

The group was organized by Civil Society Institute (CSI) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The American Clean Energy Agenda can be read online, and I think it’s worth a read, but here’s a quick summary of what it is pushing for:

…phasing out nuclear power, natural gas, coal and industrial biomass in favor of efficient use of renewable, non-polluting resources; opposition to a "clean energy standard" that includes coal, nuclear, oil, gas and unsustainable biomass; retooling federal "loan guarantees" to make smarter investments in renewable energy; greater emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency  programs; and avoiding a future in which Americans suffer the consequences of mountaintop mining for coal and fracking of shale gas that is then exported for use in other nations.

Read the full agenda above or the full press release here.

Image Credit: American flag and wind turbines via Shutterstock

Island with Netherlands’ 1st National Park to Have “Europe’s Cleanest Bus Fleet”

Posted: 09 Jul 2012 05:55 PM PDT

Six BYD electric buses have been ordered for the city of Schiermonnikoog in the Netherlands. Reportedly, this will give the city “Europe’s cleanest bus fleet.” Here are some more details from a BYD news release:

An island which is home to the Netherlands' first National Park is about to launch Europe's cleanest bus fleet. The city of Schiermonnikoog in the province of Friesland, Netherlands is nestled on this 16 km long island and is virtually car-free. While home to about 1000 residents, over 350,000 people visit the island every year and will now ride on six new, long-range, all-electric BYD buses set to launch on Schiermonnikoog in early 2013. In a European legal tender and open bid supported by four major bus manufacturers, BYD came out on top. BYD scored the highest in meeting program goals and won not only an order for the six electric buses, but also a 15-year maintenance contract.

Friesland Provincial Executive Director Johannes Kramer stated, “Friesland province leads Europe in green transportation now. We will soon have a fully-electrified public transportation service with these six BYD electric buses. This is good for Schiermonnikoog, good for tourism, and great for the environment!” The BYD buses are comparable to the buses now servicing Schiermonnikoog in terms of size – they are 12 meters long (40 feet) and can accommodate 60-70 passengers. However, the BYD electric bus can be charged at night and with a range of over 250-300 Km per charge ( > 180 miles ), they can provide service all day without needing another charge.

This project supports Friesland province's stated goal to be fully independent of fossil fuels. They have identified that over a third of CO2 emissions in the province are the result of traffic and transportation pollution; therefore, they have chosen to electrify public transportation. As the province adopts more and more renewable sources of energy, the benefits are immediately realized in reduced public transportation emissions with electric buses.

Source: BYD

Spray-On Lithium-Ion Batteries Can Turn Any Surface Into a Battery

Posted: 09 Jul 2012 05:29 PM PDT

Rice University researchers have developed an unusual type of lithium-ion battery. It is a liquid that can be painted or sprayed onto any surface.

Spray-Painted Li-ion Battery Diagram.

The research team mixed various paints to determine which were best for the construction of the 5-layered components of a lithium-ion battery. Those components are:

  • Two current collectors
  • Cathode
  • Anode
  • Electrolyte/Separator which allows lithium ions to pass through it
After finding the correct materials, the batteries were then sprayed onto surfaces such as glass, flexible plastic, stainless steel, ceramic tiles, and even a beer stein to determine how they would bond to the surfaces.

“In the first experiment, nine bathroom tile-based batteries were connected in parallel. One was topped with a solar cell that converted power from a white laboratory light,” according to Rice University. ”When fully charged by both the solar panel and house current, the batteries alone powered a set of light-emitting diodes that spelled out ‘RICE’ for six hours; the batteries provided a steady 2.4 volts.”

The batteries worked and with a consistent capacity, but they also survived 60 charge cycles. which caused only minor deterioration.



While most people don’t need to spray batteries onto surfaces, this is still a step in the right direction, because manufacturers can now easily integrate lithium-ion batteries into any device of any shape.

A patent has been filed for this new technology. However, as is the case with most new technologies, this cleantech battery option requires much more research and development.

Source: TreeHugger
Photo Credit: Neelam Singh/Rice University

City of Sydney, Australia Builds Separate Bike Lane, Bike Usage Explodes by 82%

Posted: 09 Jul 2012 05:24 PM PDT

The city of Sydney, Australia recently constructed a separate lane for bicycle riders, which enables them to avoid the dangers of automobiles. Following the roadway addition (and some other measures), bike ridership skyrocketed by an impressive 82%.

Results from a new Sydney study showed that people are much more likely to ride bikes if they have separate lanes and don’t have to worry about being hit by automobiles or other people’s doors.

The Australian government is in the process of implementing its 2030 blueprint for a greener city. So far, as part of that, it has implemented a lot more bike lanes — 200 km (125 miles) worth. This approach is very different from that of the United States federal government, which, rather than building infrastructure, is mostly trying to green its transportation by setting minimum fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

The Australian government surely realizes that bikes are very important to reducing its carbon dioxide and air pollution footprint, since bicycles emit nothing, require minor and low-cost maintenance compared to automobiles, and require no fuel. They are actually the most efficient main mode of transportation.

To top it off, bicycles are made with less material than automobiles. Automobiles require roughly 3,000 pounds of mostly finite materials such as steel, aluminium, copper, plastic, iridium, platinum, and many more materials (for their control electronics too). I’m sure bicycles require a small fraction of that.

So, from a material sustainability point of view, bicycles are also important.

Sydney’s government is also spearheading a program that increases ridership among its citizens in other ways — it wants 10% of the metropolis riding bikes by 2030. It is now in the process of building 55 km of bike lanes as part of that effort. Additionally, it has ”decreased speed limits and extensive junction redesigns which give cyclists priority and improve visibility,” the Guardian notes.



One important element in the promotion of public transportation and bicycle reliance is safety. Public transportation vehicles such as buses and trains need to be adequately guarded and safe enough to give users peace of mind and keep them and their property secure.

Similarly, bicyclists should not have to ride among much larger automobiles, which often speed carelessly about. It is great to see Sydney addressing this core issue.

Source: TreeHugger
Photo Credit: Sydney colored bike lane by Sydney Tweed Ride

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