Friday, July 13, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Fed-Ex Testing Nissan’s All-Electric e-NV200 in Yokohama

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 06:00 AM PDT

 
FedEx to Test e-NV200 in Yokohama

The Nissan-FedEx partnership has a new testing ground for Nissan's all-electric e-NV200 commercial van – namely, the Yokohama area, starting this month. The e-NV200, as long-term CleanTechnica readers may remember, is the Leaf-based version of the NV200 cargo van.

Second Verse, Just Like the First (Except Better)

This isn’t the first electric truck on loan to FedEx, but this is the second time FedEx has picked up an e-NV200 or two from Nissan specifically (its first test was in Europe last year), and it’s not the only ones. AEON Retail in Japan (it has giant shopping malls, seriously, and they're all over) and British Gas in Europe are among those considering the practicalities of the e-NV200.

Nissan's view on the e-NV200 is that it's functional and roomy on the inside, versatile and practical, smooth and quiet, and also (of course) that the CO2 emissions level of zero is super awesome. Nissan also says that the cost of ownership is "enviable," which is what most businesses really care about.

The End of the Line (Isn't That Long)

The Yokohama-based FedEx test, specifically, will last for about a month. The single solitary e-NV200 on loan will be used to deliver international air cargo to its final destination. As Yokohama has a number of crowded and sometimes narrow streets (like most major metropolitan areas, particularly in Japan), the electric van should be pretty energy efficient (no idling in traffic!). The relatively short distances for deliveries should also be a perfect fit for the e-NV200.

Ujiie Masamichi, regional vice president, North Pacific, FedEx express noted:

"FedEx has been implementing various environmentally-friendly initiatives all over the world. Since 2005 our goal has been to make our vehicle fleet 20% more fuel efficient by 2020. FedEx is gradually shifting its delivery fleet to more efficient vehicles and increasing its investment in all-electric and alternative drivetrain vehicles. We value this opportunity to provide feedback and contribute to the development of the e-NV200. FedEx is committed to delivering highly reliable service to our customers in an environmentally responsible way."

One electric van does not an environmentally responsible company make – but it does make a starting point. Let us know what you think about the e-NV200 and FedEx's potential commitment to greenifying its business model in the comments, below.

Source: Nissan Global via Treehugger
Image Credit: Nissan Global


Clean Tech Investors Finding Opportunities at Nexus of Energy and IT

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 03:45 AM PDT

 
By Mark Golden

STANFORD, Calif.–U.S. investors in clean energy technology are looking to make only modest financial commitments to startups now, but they still expect nothing less than total passion from entrepreneurs.

Most early-stage investing in clean tech today focuses on energy startups that leverage information technology not currently used in the energy sector, according to several fund managers who spoke at the Silicon Valley Energy Summit at Stanford University. The focus is due in part to a cautious U.S. investment environment, especially in clean tech, which has watched some bets fail and seen government retrench support.

"IT is a big part of all the talk because we are capital light right now. It's hard to get the $1 billion investment," said Josh Green, a general partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures. A typical investment target should need tens of millions of dollars to become cash flow positive, not hundreds of millions, he said, "so the nature of the product we work on is different."

Nevertheless, fund managers look for target companies with leaders who are passionate that their products can be profitable and benefit the environment. The United States alone spends more than $1 trillion annually on energy, so the clean tech market could be worth tens of billions of dollars for even modest gains in energy efficiency.

"If entrepreneurs want to make a boatload of money, then they have to solve a major problem, and there's no bigger problem than our dependence on carbon-based energy," said Dave Graham, a founding partner at start-up accelerator Greenstart.

Good target investments do exist, the speakers said. Graham pointed to car-sharing company Zipcar. "They're making money, and they're changing the world."

For companies earlier in development now, the analogy to Zipcar might be Zimride or Getaround, both of which take an IT approach to reducing the number of vehicles on the road without needing to buy a national fleet of cars.

Some Good Targets

Opower website screenshot.

The nexus of clean tech and IT tends to take two forms, according to Green. The first consists of companies that are software-based, like Opower, which partners with utilities to tell customers how their energy use compares with that of their neighbors and to provide personalized tips for saving energy and money. The second group, said Green, looks like classic hardware startups in Silicon Valley from the 1980's with low capital requirements while already generating revenue. He gave as an example of the second group a company his firm has invested in, Xicato, which manufactures light-emitting diode (LED) modules.

Opower, which has received financial backing from venture investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers drew complements from several members of the investment panel at the annual conference. Two other KPCB investments also garnered positive remarks: Enlighted, which makes advanced lighting control systems; and Nest, which manufactures a thermostat that combines learning software, sensors and Wi-Fi on the inside with a user-friendly design on the outside.

"Digital energy" is how KPCB partner Trae Vassallo describes companies like Opower. "They are companies taking great information technology and using it in how we interact with our environment. My motto is: Now that we have everyone online, let's get everything online. Customers demand more control of their energy use. I'm looking for anything in this theme of getting everything online and of using mobile for green technology."

Investing at the nexus of energy and IT, thinks Vassallo, is just beginning. "We're just now outfitting this old web of stuff to get the data. Nobody's been able to get it before," she said. "Once that happens and we deliver that data to people in a secure way, then we will have a lot of exciting new opportunities.”

Getting data and breaking it up into useful pieces for utility customers does present some prospects, said Larry Kelly, who is managing partner of Kelly Ventures and a member of two angel funds. But, according to Kelly, the breakthroughs still need time. "So many companies are doing it, but none of them are making a real dent," he said. "Probably it will happen on the commercial and industrial side first," rather than with homeowners.

For a while, anyway, IT-energy startups may be a good match for investor appetites.

"The period of irrational exuberance has ended, and now we're in the valley of despair, but we're slowly climbing our way out of it," added Green, who has worked in Silicon Valley for 30 years. "You need to go through these elements of an investment cycle to ultimately get to something of value. Oscillations are particularly severe in a nascent industry, and clean tech is still nascent."

The capital-light environment for venture investing will inevitably come to an end, Green added, and the focus will return to the more intensive area of electricity generation.

Stanford University's Precourt Energy Efficiency Center hosts the annual Silicon Valley Energy Summit, which covers the best practices, technological advances and policy developments related to more sustainable energy use.

(Mark Golden works in communications at the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University.)

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Media Contact: Mark Golden, (650) 724-1629, mark.golden@stanford.edu


1,350 MW of New Wind Power for Argentina by 2017

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 03:45 AM PDT

 

Latin America’s largest wind power project is being planned by Generadora Eolica Argentina del Sur SA. The renewable-energy
company is being assisted by a very hefty three billion dollars in funding from the China Development Bank Corporation.

This organization focuses on the financing of international transactions, infrastructure, and grassroots projects. (It is a large entity, with several thousand employees, and many are located throughout the world.)

The turbines that will be installed in Argentina are also made in China. They are attractive due to their low cost — combined with such an aggressive financing package, they must be hard to resist.

Argentina has a robust wind power potential, some say one of the highest in the world. A study by the Argentine Renewable Energy Chamber found almost seventy percent of the country’s land has wind speeds greater than six meters per second. Average wind speeds of nine to twelve meters per second can be found in Central and Southern Patagonia.

An economic collapse in the year 2001 actually helped pave the way for more openness to developing Argentina’s renewable energy future, in order to help reduce energy prices for consumers, who, at times, were being gouged. National Law 26,190/2006 set a target of eight percent renewable energy for the whole country by 2016. The huge new wind power project will be able to generate four percent of the country’s energy, according to estimates. It should be completed by 2017.

China's Beijing Construction Engineering Group will construct it, with a Chinese company supplying the turbines. Jointly, they will own 25% of the project. The first 150 MW will likely start producing power in 2015.

 Image Credit: Yoavlevy10, Wiki Commons


Electric Car Mass Adoption — How Soon? (Do You Think the Glass Is Half Full or Half Empty?)

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 03:45 AM PDT

 
Editor’s note: This is an article primarily focused on one side of the electric vehicle discussion that I think is worth a read. I’ve inserted my own notes throughout to try to better express what I think the actual situation is today. Basically, while I wouldn’t bet against Elon Musk’s prediction that 50% of new cars will be EVs in 20 years or less, and I think these will take off exponentially in the years to come, it’s clear that there are people in the industry with much less optimism and who may even try to limit EV growth. It’s important to know that this discussion is taking place. But it’s also important to know that a large percentage of any industry is always unready for major shifts in the industry. A shift to EVs is certainly a very major shift, and if it happens very fast, it is going to catch a lot of people off guard.

By Mark Golden

STANFORD, Calif.– Electric vehicles have a long way to go if they are to meet the high expectations of environmentalists, some investors, and the media, according to several automotive industry executives speaking at the Silicon Valley Energy Summit at Stanford University.

Sticker prices must fall, batteries must last long enough for potential buyers to get home without recharging, and charging stations need to become as common as gas stations are today for electric cars to gain a major share of the market, said representatives of Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and consultancy Gartner.

"There are a lot of hurdles, primarily from a consumer point of view, and with infrastructure issues, too, but right now I think there is a little bit too much hype," said Thilo Koslowski, founder of the automotive practice at Gartner.

About 22% of Americans are interested in learning more about electric cars, according to a Gartner survey, but once a realistic price is brought up, the level of interest falls to a small fraction of that, said Koslowski.

For other drivers, the barrier is driving distance.

"The Mercedes customer is very picky. They expect the best and it has to work," said John Tillman, manager of regulatory affairs for Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America. "For the electric vehicle to take hold, the driver has to have a seamless experience." [Editor's note: the experience of Tesla Model S drivers seems to be pretty darn seamless! And it looks like several of them will never buy another luxury car other than Tesla's again. Perhaps Mercedes is actually a bit threatened by that? It certainly doesn't have anything that can compete with the Model S at the moment.]

But solving the problems of price and battery range simultaneously is a challenge, because the better batteries raise costs. Nissan North America's west coast project manager, David Peterson, agreed that "prices are still too high," but he expressed optimism that several manufacturers are expanding production enough that economies of scale will cut costs. Nissan expects its plant in Smyrna, Tenn. to produce 150,000 Leaf model cars a year, as well as 200,000 battery packs.

"Electric vehicles are probably underappreciated by the general public and overhyped by the media. People generally only pay attention when they are shopping for a new car, which on average is every six years," said Peterson. "Nissan takes a long-term view on this. We know we are going to have to do a lot of work on educating the general public." [Editor's note: I wonder what media agencies he is referring to. Clearly, we here at CleanTechnica and some other cleantech and clean car sites are big fans, for reasons far beyond the scope of this article. However, it seems that some of the bigger agencies are aiming cannons at electric vehicles, and even just harp far too much on "range anxiety" concerns that are, frankly, overhyped (in the opposite way as Peterson is implying).]

Major Changes to Infrastructure

At least 90% of Leaf buyers have no complaints about the car itself, Peterson said, though the difficulty in finding charging stations can frustrate them. Since charging takes hours, most consumers need them two places — at home and near work — to consider buying an electric car.

Pasquale Romano, chief executive of Coulomb Technologies, owner of the "ChargePoint" network of charging stations, insisted that the infrastructure is improving rapidly. "We believe that a vehicle has to be able to tell where a charger is and that the charger has to communicate: Okay, I'm up and running," the company's chief executive said.

Most car GPS systems have either outdated information on charging stations or none at all. As a result, Coulomb and its competitors produce a mobile applications to get that information to drivers, at least for their individual networks. Coulomb is trying to include stations owned by other companies to make its application more useful, Romano said, but getting that data is a slow process.

Even if today's infrastructure barriers were overcome, larger ones loom. The new generation of chargers, known as "Level 3," can charge cars very quickly, but the power grid may not be ready to handle the big, instantaneous demand.

Meanwhile, said Koslowski, most buyers of electric cars keep a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle as their "backup car" for when they have trips that exceed their electric car's range. That cost, he said, is a deal breaker for most Americans.

Stanford University's Precourt Energy Efficiency Center hosts the annual Silicon Valley Energy Summit, which covers the best practices, technological advances and policy developments related to more sustainable energy use.

(Mark Golden works in communications at the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University.)

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Media Contact: Mark Golden, (650) 724-1629, mark.golden@stanford.edu


Stanford’s George Shultz on Energy: It’s Personal

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 03:45 AM PDT

 
Editor’s Note: This is a truly excellent interview with a true leader. George Shultz, as you’ll catch from the interview below, is an energy security, clean energy, climate change, and distributed energy leader. He also walks the walk. Check this post out if you don’t read anything else this week.

By Mark Golden and Mark Shwartz

George Shultz leads a group preparing to propose a federal tax on carbon to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption, a seemingly unlikely policy from a Republican Party statesman.

George Shultz (left) talking with Admiral Michal Mullen (right). AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies

George Shultz was an economist in the Eisenhower administration, as well as secretary of the Treasury and Labor, and director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Nixon administration. Under President Ronald Reagan, he was secretary of state for almost seven years. Despite the reluctance of his fellow Republicans to embrace action on global warming, Shultz is confident that when the time is right conservatives will support a carbon tax, for a number of reasons. [Editor's note: the time seems very much past right,... it's been right for 20+ years, but anyway....]

For several years, Shultz has worked intensely on energy policy. In 2010, he and entrepreneur Tom Steyer, a Democrat, led the successful campaign to defeat Proposition 23, a California ballot initiative to suspend the state’s ambitious law to curb greenhouse gases. In addition to leading the Hoover Institution’s Shultz-George Shultz ‘Walks The Talk’ On Clean EnergyTask Force on Energy Policy, Shultz chairs the advisory boards of two energy research umbrella organizations: Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative.

Why did you get so involved in energy?

I’ve been worried about our energy problem for a long time. President Eisenhower said that if we imported more than 20 percent of the oil we use, we were asking for trouble with national security. By 1973, I’m secretary of the Treasury and we have the Arab oil embargo. They seek to deny us oil in order to change our policies. I thought then, you know, President Eisenhower knew something.

At that point, people were coming in with ideas on how to reduce oil imports, and some research started. Then the price of oil went down and everything stopped. That’s happened a few times since then. We’ve been on this roller coaster ride. This time it’s important to make it different. I’m really impressed by the research that is being accomplished here at Stanford and MIT and elsewhere, and by the efforts of companies that are attempting to do something about it.

You recently traded in your hybrid car for an all-electric one, which is powered by solar panels on your roof. Can you talk about that a little?

If you speak out about something, you’ve got to walk the talk, you’ve got to do it yourself. The biggest consumer of oil is the automobile, so I’ve been interested in driving a car that is more efficient. My solar panels have long since paid for themselves by the savings in electricity costs. I have my electric car running on electricity from the sun, which costs me nothing and there is plenty of it here. So, I’m driving on sunshine. Take that, Ahmadinejad!

What we do today is going to have a big impact on the future. I have three, soon to be four, great-grandchildren. I’ve got to do what I can to see that they have a decent world. And if we let this go on and on the way it’s going right now, they’re not going to have one. Getting control of carbon is right at the heart of the problem.

How would the carbon tax your task force is developing work?

We have to have a system where all forms of energy bear their full costs. For some, their costs are the costs of producing the energy, but many other forms of energy produce side effects, like pollution, that are a cost of society. The producers don’t bear that cost, society does. There has to be a way to level the playing field and cause those forms of energy to bear their true costs. That means putting a price on carbon.

We’ve studied a variety of ways to do that, and to me the most appealing way is a revenue-neutral carbon tax. That is, you distribute all the revenue from the carbon tax in some fashion back to taxpayers, so there is no fiscal drag on the economy. British Columbia has a revenue-neutral carbon tax. They started low and increased the tax over five years to a much higher level, so people could adjust. The revenue is distributed mostly to individuals, so it’s popular.

To enact this, how would you get enough support from Republicans, who almost unanimously have opposed taking action on climate change?

Historically, Republicans have often protected the environment. President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. We dealt with the ozone layer under President Reagan and with acid rain under the first President Bush, both with bipartisan support. People making careers out of disagreeing with each other is a very recent phenomenon.

There are three major issues raised in the energy area. One is national security. We know that we don’t want to be vulnerable to sources of supply that are uncertain or to send billions of dollars to regimes that are not our friends. Then there’s the economy. Every spike in the price of oil has put our economy in a recession. We want to have more diverse energy resources so our economy won’t be so vulnerable to the oil market.

Then there’s the environment, which has many aspects. One of these is the air you breath, which Tom Steyer and I emphasized in the “No on 23″ campaign. Another is that the globe is warming, which is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact. The arctic is melting. If you could bring together the constituencies concerned with national security, the economy and the environment – both local and global – that would be a potent coalition.

Your task force has not pushed the policy much this year, in part because it’s an election year. Do you think 2013 will be the time to promote the idea?

You never know when an opportunity is going to come. Sometimes it comes when you’re not ready, and it goes away and you haven’t accomplished anything. The thing to do is to be ready. We’re studying this topic carefully: how to put it into effect, how to make it revenue neutral, what we can learn from the case study. So, we will be ready.

Just when the opportunity comes you don’t know, but it will come. A lot of people seem to be scoffing at the idea of global warming, but reality will catch up with them.

What other topics is the task force working on?

Quite a variety. We’re looking at the subject of distributed energy, which is creating energy closer to where you use it. I think that’s going to become more and more important. You know it’s important for the military when you see pictures of fuel trucks being blown up. And we are working with the military and others on boosting energy efficiency.

We are studying the regulatory process, which is a maze of things not at all oriented toward giving people the incentives to do the things we would like them to do, so we are trying to figure out how to do a better job of regulating. Other problems we are looking at include how to deal with spent nuclear fuel internationally, where energy and national security again meet, and how to sustain support for research. We also keep track of technological breakthroughs so we know what policy goals are feasible.

 

Well, your commitment and optimism are impressive.

You’ve got to be optimistic. I’ve had enough jobs in government and elsewhere to know that if you’re not optimistic, you’re not going to get anywhere. If you get the material out there in front of everybody on this issue, it’s a no-brainer. It’s obvious we must act.

 

Mark Golden and Mark Shwartz work in communications at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University.

Media Contact

George Shultz, Hoover Institution: contact Susan Schendel, (650) 725-3493,susan.schendel@stanford.edu

Mark Golden, Precourt Institute for Energy: (650) 724-1629, mark.golden@stanford.edu

Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy: (650) 723-9296, mshwartz@stanford.edu


Flexible Solar Paneling: the Wave of the Future (VIDEO)

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 03:45 AM PDT

American Nobel Peace Prize winner Alan Heeger rode the wave of solar power innovation all the way to flexible panels. Heeger has spent fifteen years developing pliable solar panels and now he’s encouraging businesses to capitalize on the free sunshine streaming through the windows of their skyscrapers.

Be sure to check out the wavy solar paneled bus shelter at the end of the video. It makes waiting for the bus look like nothing you’ve ever seen.


Solar Power Water Purifiers Bring Potable Water to the Remote (VIDEO)

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 03:45 AM PDT

Talk about dedication: Swedish biochemist Petra Wadström spent eleven years developing an easy-to-use solar power water purifier. The purifier can hold ten liters of water and takes about three hours of direct sunlight to create potable water.

For the hundreds of millions of people without reliable access to clean water supplies, Wadström’s purifier could be a lifesaver.


Upcycled Shipping Containers: Chic and Sustainable Design

Posted: 13 Jul 2012 12:00 AM PDT

 
cargo containers hotel

From China to the UK, building swanky hotels and restaurants from recycled shipping containers appears to be the next big design concept. Popular Mexican eatery Wahaca has opened a pop-up restaurant made of eight shipping boxes at the Southbank Center in London, and luxury hotel Xiang Xiang Xiang Pray House Hotel in rural Changzhi has its sights set on opening the doors — er boxes — to guests in August.

Wahaca’s shipping containers stand two-stories tall and center around a glass atrium with room for 150 diners, according to Inhabitat. The brightly colored boxes have large windows cut into them, with some views overlooking the Thames River. The funky establishment is decorated with new and upcycled furniture and distinctive light pieces. Wahaca, which was designed by Softroom, is scheduled to be open for business in about 18 months.

Pop-up hotel Xiang Xiang Xian Pray House was fashioned out of 35 shipping containers that serve as luxurious 50 or 100 square feet rooms. Guests can also spend time in the boutique hotel’s lobby or restaurant, which are also housed in shipping boxes. The hotel was designed by Tonghe Shanzi Landscape Design and took a mere three months to complete.

The Wahaca and Xiang Xiang Xiang Pray House designs pay tribute to the industrial nature of the countries’ pasts. Last year China imported 3.2 million shipping containers; the port of London handles 45 million tons of cargo annually.

The use of upcycled shipping containers as housing is an excellent example of temporary structures that can be easily transported from city to city and employed effectively during times of disaster.

Image: cargo containers via Shutterstock


Scandic Hotels Cut Cost and Waste with Green Strategies

Posted: 12 Jul 2012 11:58 PM PDT

Hotels are notoriously wasteful energy consumers, guzzling resources in an effort to keep guests happy. Scandic Hotels have taken a different route in the lodging business: informing customers of how they can be a part of an environmentally friendly lodging system.

In the video above, Jan Peter Bergkvist, developer of green hotel policies, discusses how cleaning without chemical detergents and turning dining room food scraps into biofuel for Stockholm city buses has cut costs and waste.

Here’s to hoping more hotels follow suit.

In a related story, you might also want to check out how guests at a hotel in Copenhagen help to power the by riding exercise bikes.


Cut a Rug on this Dance Floor for Sustainable Energy (VIDEO)

Posted: 12 Jul 2012 11:53 PM PDT

Grease that pompadour and lace up your platform shoes because it’s time to shake your groove thang for renewable energy. Michel Smit has come up with the energized dance floor that transfers your fancy footwork into electricity.

As explained in the video, repeated movement on the floor activates a generator, which can be used to power anything from lights to doors. Smit estimates that 100 people dancing can create 3000 watts.

Smit has taken the dance floor around the world to publicize the application of energy cells. In the future, Smit hopes the energized floor could be used in high traffic pedestrian areas like airports.

No word on whether the foxtrot or mashed potato produces more wattage.


Waterhouse, a Hydroelectric Restaurant in London (VIDEO)

Posted: 12 Jul 2012 11:49 PM PDT

Foodies and green living aficionados should head to London’s Waterhouse, a hydroelectric restaurant situated on the bank of Regent’s Canal. This fully functional hip restaurant specializes in seasonal dishes, with a decent wine listing and plenty of vegetarian options.

Waterhouse, opened in 2008, uses its hydroelectric kilowatts to power the deep friers, stove top, and heating and cooling system. Watch the video above to see hydroelectric restaurant developer Phil Morgan give a tour of the eatery, including exactly where the water comes out of the canal. Morgan assures potential patrons that the restaurant isn’t just an ecofriendly endeavor, but a satisfying dining experience.

Shoreditch Trust is the charitable organization behind Waterhouse, committed to “working to address the causes of disadvantage in the most deprived areas of Shoreditch.” Shoreditch is in the Hackney borough of London.


‘Flat Pack’ Turbine Aims to Boost City Wind Power

Posted: 12 Jul 2012 11:45 PM PDT

Vertical Axis Wind Turbine on Liverpool Front.

Keele University recently had a new “flat pack” wind turbine installed on its campus. It is intended to address the problems that wind turbine setups have in urban areas.

McCamley UK installed the turbine, which is the first of that product line to be installed in the UK, but previously, a prototype of the turbine was installed in Bulgaria. It is a vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT) that has an electricity generation capacity of 1,000 watts (1 kilowatt).

 

 

The chief executive of McCamley, Scott Elliot, said that he hopes this new wind turbine would be able to fill a gap in the wind industry for wind turbines that operate in towns and cities.

Field trials have shown that the turbine starts generating electricity at a low wind speed of 1.8 metres per second (4 mph, or 3.5 knots), and a self-regulating system enables the turbine to safely operate at high wind speeds as well without damage caused by excessive stress.

Cities are not usually very windy, and this makes it difficult for wind turbines to pay for themselves in these locations. McCamley claims their new turbine design addresses this issue.

Buildings tend to obstruct wind, and cities tend to be populated with many buildings. Despite this, buildings can, in some cases increase wind speed via the Venturi effect. The Venturi effect takes place when a high-pressure fluid, such as air, is forced through a pathway that reduces its pressure, but increases its velocity (speed).

A simple example of the Venturi effect is a squirt nozzle. It basically exchanges pressure in favour of velocity. The stream of the fluid that is subjected to the speed increase is actually narrowed in the process.

“Wind energy has huge potential in the UK, but the traditional wind farm models are just not effective and are certainly not suitable for urban environments,” said Elliott. ”This leaves a huge gap in the market where businesses, residential blocks and other organisations could be benefiting from clean energy.”

VAWTs are normally less economical than HAWTs (horizontal axis wind turbines). There is the possibility that this could change, but if so, we’ve got a long way to go. Still, VAWTs can tap wind on smaller scales and be useful to individual homeowners or businesses without the resources or space to install a HAWT or more.

This turbine arrives in “flat pack” storable parts and does not have to be installed using a mast.

Source: Keele University
Photo Credit: Sarah Grice


China Leads as Global Clean Energy Investment Jumps 24 Percent in Q2 2012

Posted: 12 Jul 2012 02:30 PM PDT

 

Global clean energy investment, which has been buffeted by government austerity and policy uncertainty, rebounded in a major way during the second quarter of 2012 – led, of course, by China.

New clean energy investments totaled $59.6 billion across Q2 2012, up 24 percent compared to Q1 2012, but still well below the near-record amount of $72.5 billion from Q2 2011, according to research published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

China’s critical role

China surged ahead in investment during the April-June period, up 92 percent from Q1 2011 to $18.3 billion, led by several large solar photovoltaic and wind farm projects each representing hundreds of millions worth of financing. Europe and the United States also gained, but at a slower rate. Clean energy investment rose 11 percent in Europe to reach $20 billion, and 18 percent in the U.S. to reach $10.2 billion.

The central role China plays in the global renewables market is apparent in the Q2 results. "China has recently quadrupled its domestic goals for solar installations, and it has been by far the biggest market for wind turbines," said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF. "Its torrent of supply-side investment was one of the main reasons renewable energy costs have been plummeting; we are now seeing China creating enough demand to start mopping up some of the resulting over-capacity."

Solar leads the way, small-scale projects grow

Solar projects represented more than half of all new clean energy investment, securing $33.6 billion over the quarter to increase 19 percent compared to Q1. Wind projects accounted for nearly all the remaining investment, with $21.6 billion, up 47 percent from Q1 2012.

Several large projects in the United Kingdom, U.S., and China led the Q2 charge. The UK's 270MW Lincs offshore wind farm received $1.6 billion in investment, while the 419MW Flat Ridge Wind Farm in Kansas secured $800 million. Two Chinese projects stood out, with the 250MW Guodian Shanxi Qinyuan Taiyue wind farm locking down $317 million and the Shanlu & Shengyu Bayannur Wuyuan PV plant scoring $316 million.

However, small-scale projects like rooftop PV installations were worth $21.5 billion – more than a third of all Q2 investments, up 13 percent compared to Q2 2012. "Small-scale projects are becoming an increasingly important part of the world's energy mix," said Liebreich. "Germany and Italy remain the largest markets, but small-scale PV is broadening its geographic base with installations in the US, Japan, and China all growing strongly."

Funding sources continue to shift

While growing overall investment is a positive trend, shifting investment sources may underpin a seismic shift in future clean energy funding. Public market investment was just $1.2 billion in Q2 2012. While double the Q1 amount, it was 75 percent Q2 2011's amount. The same trend showed up in venture capital and private equity investment, which totaled only $1.5 billion – down 28 percent from Q1 2012 and 39 percent from Q2 2011. Asset finance rebounded to pick up the slack, reaching $35.9 billion – up an impressive 50 percent on Q1 2012.

China clean energy image via Shutterstock


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