Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Beautiful Electric Pedal-Assist Bike

Posted: 31 Jul 2012 10:00 PM PDT

This is one of the most beautiful bikes I’ve seen in awhile. Jo Borras does a wonderful job covering it over on Gas2, so I’ll just repost his (always-entertaining) words…. And I have to agree on the line about what it feels like when an ebike’s electric motor kicks in:

Faraday’s Porteur eBike Gets Real (via Gas 2.0)

Introduced last year at the Oregon Manifest bike competition (which it won), the Faraday Porteur is finally (almost) coming to market. All they need now is $100,000. The bike itself is a pedal-assisted ebike that Porteur likens to having an "electric tailwind" everywhere you ride. Having ridden…

Lloyds Bank Poised to Make More than $500 Million in Clean Energy Investments

Posted: 31 Jul 2012 05:51 PM PDT


UK-based Lloyds Banking Group is poised to invest one-third of a total £1 billion ($1.57 billion) in renewable energy projects, with offshore wind, solar power, and biomass projects the leading candidates. The £333 million ($519.5 million) is capital Lloyds’ allocated for additional infrastructure projects in support of the Cameron government’s UK Guarantees program, according to a BusinessGreen report.

Lloyds is the latest multinational money center banking group to announce it intends to ramp up its clean and renewable energy investments. Managing director and global head of project finance Chris Heathcote yesterday told Bloomberg Lloyds is looking at up to “nine social and infrastructure projects, three conventional power plants, and up to 12 clean energy projects.”


Offshore Wind, Solar Power and Biomass Plants

Lloyds has its eyes on offshore wind, solar power, and biomass plants in particular, he elaborated. “The areas that seem to be doing the most at the moment are offshore wind, including the off-take connections, and biomass is looking interesting, but I’m slightly cautious as it’s still early days for biomass.”

The UK has set a goal of renewable energy resources meeting 15% of national energy consumption by 2020. They accounted for 9.4% of power generation and 3.8% of overall energy consumption in 2011, Bloomberg noted in its report.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne on July 18 announced the Cameron government will provide loan guarantees for up to £40 billion in infrastructure projects as per its new UK Guarantees program. Low carbon infrastructure projects could be eligible for as much as £50 billion of the government assistance package, BusinessGreen reported.

The UK Guarantees program “could be a game-changer for infrastructure financing,” global business/accounting consultancy KPMG says. "Some commentators have rushed to say it won't be a big deal but they need to step back and see what it might unlock,” KPMG’s UK head of infrastructure, building and construction Richard Threlfall stated in a press release.

“We are promised the creation of the Pension Infrastructure Platform in January, providing potentially significant amounts of institutional liquidity for infrastructure projects. Pension funds don't like Greenfield construction risks, but UK Guarantees provides a basis to take that problem away. Put UK Guarantees and the Pension Infrastructure Platform together and you have the basis for a radically new financing model."

Looking to boost economic activity by enhancing infrastructure, projects will need to meet the government’s criteria, which includes being able to start work within a year’s time. Those proposing projects will also have to show that they would not be able to raise the capital required without the government’s loan guarantee.

Renewable energy proponents have been critical of the Cameron government’s mixed messages regarding government support for the sector. “On the one hand the Treasury wants to bring about growth in energy infrastructure, with its new Guarantee scheme,” BusinessGreen quoted UK Renewable Energy Association CEO Gaynor Hartnell. “On the other hand it is directly hampering it, by preventing the planned publication of the financial incentives for renewable electricity projects from 2013.”

Alactraz Island Now a Shining Solar Example

Posted: 31 Jul 2012 02:13 PM PDT

Previously on CleanTechnica, the plan to transition Alcatraz Island to some degree of solar power, and off of diesel generators, was discussed. That was about two years ago, and now that plan has come to fruition. Previously, about two thousand gallons of diesel fuel were being used per week to generate electricity on the small island.

Now, they have a 307-kW photovoltaic solar system, and their own microgrid. What used to be the main cellhouse building, containing dangerous criminals, is now the site of many solar panels. Next to the new solar power plant is a two-megawatt-per-hour lead-acid battery for storing surplus energy. (The development of a solar system on the island coincided with declining solar technology costs and rising diesel prices.) All of the island’s electricity demand can be met by the solar system, but diesel generators are used to fill in when needed.

Before the solar power microgrid was completed, the island’s electricity cost the National Park Service about $0.76 per kWh. Now that cost is about $0.71 per kWh, including the cost of the solar plant’s construction.

While a 307-kW solar system on a small island in the San Francisco Bay may seem like ‘small potatoes’ to some, consider the fact that over one million visitors are there each year. Of course, a big part of the Alcatraz experience is the educational aspect focused on the history of the prison and who the inmates were. Now, a portion of what visitors learn about is clean energy, and that educational component will be in place for many years to come.

Image Credit: BLuP1, Wiki Commons

Ford’s New App Keeps Track of the Explosion in New Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

Posted: 31 Jul 2012 06:00 AM PDT

Ford has just released an app for smartphones that keeps track of the rapidly growing number of electric vehicle charging stations across the U.S. The app is updated daily and contains the location of more than 9,400 public charging stations. The app also allows owners of Ford vehicles to remotely manage charging and view their current battery level.

“MyFord® Mobile is an app developed by Ford engineers that can only be used with Ford Focus Electric and the soon-to-be-available C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids. In addition to locating charging stations, the app allows customers to manage remote charging, view current battery status and plan trips,” a news release emailed to CleanTechnica stated.


“The charging station locator is powered by MapQuest® and provides important details about charging stations in close proximity to the owner's vehicle, such as street address and hours of operation. Stations are popping up all over, too – from local grocery stores in Pittsburgh, churches in Austin, Texas, and hospitals in Portland to places like McDonald's, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Walgreens, Target, Cracker Barrel and Walmart.”

"As more stations join the grid, MyFord Mobile users will be among the first to know because information about charger locations is constantly being culled from various sources to provide the most up-to-date data," said Mike Tinskey, Ford's manager of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure.

Rapid updates are important because of the rapid growth of new stations — there are now 9,445 public stations in the U.S., according to current U.S. Department of Energy numbers. In 2009, there were only around 2,500 public charging stations in the U.S.

"In addition to having innovative features that allow customers to minimize their transportation costs and maximize their EV driving range, MyFord Mobile also is the only mobile app that integrates up-to-date charge station locations real-time within the application," said Tinskey.

"I cannot recall another time in our history when there was so much momentum and resources around an energy shift for transportation," he says. "Not only are these charge stations a boost for consumers thinking about a plug-in hybrid vehicle, but they also provide a glimpse of how things will likely take shape in the future."

The rapid rise in the number of charging stations is because people see electric vehicle adoption “as a foregone conclusion,” says J.R. DeShazo, director of UCLA's Luskin Center for Innovation, ”with the only remaining question pertaining to how quickly adoption takes place.”

"As automakers like Ford meet drivers' needs, excite drivers – and at the same time provide them with vehicles that lower refueling costs and provide greater environmental and social benefits – the quicker we're going to see these important technologies and important vehicles adopted."

More information about Ford's electrified vehicle lineup – including press releases, technical specifications and other related material – can be found on the Ford website.

Ireland Orders 24 MW of Wind Power from Vestas

Posted: 31 Jul 2012 05:43 AM PDT


Vestas will provide 24 megawatts of new wind power for Lisheen, Ireland.

Bord Gais, the local state-owned energy utility has placed the order for 12 V90-2.0 MW turbines from the wind energy giant, according to a recent statement.

The new wind turbines will add to the existing 18 V90-2.0MW turbines that were installed in 2009 at the Lisheen wind farm.

The turbines are expected to be sent in the first quarter of 2013.

President of Vestas Northern Europe, Klaus Steen Mortensen, was happy with the recent announcement for more wind power being ordered in Ireland.

"We are very pleased to announce the 2nd phase of the Lisheen wind farm project. This is a tremendous opportunity for Vestas to strengthen our presence in Ireland and confirms our leading position in the wind industry worldwide. Being the only global company focused solely on wind technology, we are fully committed to ensure our customers the best return on investment in each wind project."

Source: Vestas

Image Credit: Ireland wind turbine via Shutterstock

New Financing System Could Boost Residential Solar Installations

Posted: 31 Jul 2012 05:00 AM PDT


America enjoyed record-high solar photovoltaic installations 2011, spurred by low module prices and favorable government funding mechanisms. But the expiration of the U.S. 1603 Treasury Program complicated financing for new residential solar projects and left the industry with a cloudy investment outlook.

Fortunately for installers and consumers, a new financing mechanism from Clean Power Finance (CPF) may help harness the potential of solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) to bridge the growing financing gap and continue America's residential solar power surge.

CPF's Capital and Trading service will allow investor partners to take advantage of SREC systems in states like California and New Jersey, where renewable portfolio standards mandate utilities obtain a percentage of their electricity from renewable resources. Each state's market has its own set of rules, which may slow investors looking to take advantage of solar carve-out programs across multiple states.



The Capital and Trading service will create a new platform for investors looking to provide capital for solar marketers to cover the cost of installing third-party residential and business solar systems. Unlike SREC brokers who just match buyers and sellers, CPF will be taking ownership of the SRECs to provide liquidity to the market and reduce exposure for solar investors.

"We see CPF as a multi-million dollar/year opportunity over time as we buy and sell SRECs to truly create a market," said Kristian Hanelt, CPF senior vice president of renewable capital markets. Hanelt added the system "will provide solutions to reduce the commodity exposure for our funds and financing customers."

CPF is an interesting model, one well suited for today's evolving solar industry. Its online residential solar finance marketplace offers business-to-business solutions to solar professionals who want to offer competitive finance options to residential customers. Through a variety of power purchase agreements (PPAs) and leases, CPF helps to lower the upfront costs of going solar.

The model seems to be working. CPF facilitates as much as $1 million in residential solar project financing every day, and last year 40 percent of all residential solar systems in the U.S. were sold using CPF tools. Incredibly, today, over a third of all residential solar deal flow in the U.S. happens within CPF's online solar sales platform.

So, is CPF’s Capital and Trading system the future of America's solar industry? California has enjoyed an 80 percent surge in third-party residential solar installations, driven largely by lower-income communities. The Sunshine State hints at a much larger non-affluent population that wants solar power but can’t afford it themselves. If CPF can provide a stable investment outlook, it may just realize its goal of mass-market adoption of residential solar.

Solar installer image via Shutterstock

Mirror, Mirror, Make Me a Kayak…out of Sunlight

Posted: 31 Jul 2012 04:37 AM PDT

LightManufacturing's solar powered plastic rotomolder

Talk about cutting out the middleman! A California company called LightManufacturing has figured out a way to fire up a plastic molding process with a concentrated solar power system, and the kicker is the system has no solar cells to generate electricity. Instead, heliostats (aka mirrors) provide all the direct solar thermal energy needed to melt plastic pellets into a kayak, lawn furniture, or other plastic product.

Roto-Molding and Fossil Fuels

The molding process itself, called rotational molding or spin casting, is a standard industrial process that consists of heating plastic pellets in mold affixed to a rotating device, which sits in an oven-like space. When exposed to heat, the melting pellets coat the inside of the spinning mold to a uniform thickness.

The process is economical as far as manufacturing systems go, but it is energy intensive. LightManufacturing estimates that energy to heat the ovens can add up to 30 percent to the final cost of a product.

Conventional roto-molding poses a particular dilemma for manufacturers of green products, such as recycling bins and water barrels. The typical roto-molding oven is heated with natural gas, and that involves the manufacturer in a raft of unsavory issues associated with the natural gas drilling method known as fracking.

That includes water contamination, methane emissions from drilling sites, earthquakes, and other phenomena best avoided by companies trying to build a socially and environmentally responsible image.



Heliostats and Solar-Powered Manufacturing

A roto-molding system that operates on alternative energy would eliminate all of that negativity, and heliostats provide a cost-effective means of obtaining clean energy from the sun.

In a conventional concentrated solar power system, an array of heliostats focuses sunlight on a central tower. Heat from the tower is eventually transferred to a turbine that generates electricity.

In LightManufacturing’s molding process, the heliostats focus sunlight directly on the ovens. The end result is a system that costs less than typical gas-fired roto-molding systems.

Part of the savings is due to the heliostats themselves, which were selected for their low price, efficiency, and durability. They can be flat-packed, which also saves money on shipping.

Another part of the savings comes from a wireless control system that enables the heliostats to catch the maximum amount of light as the sun moves across the sky. The software can be run from any laptop, which provides another layer of efficiency and mobility for facility managers.

Also helping to save costs is the system’s scalability. Since no central tower is involved, the heliostat array can be scaled down enough to fit on or near the property of a small manufacturing facility, or scaled up for larger operations.

Manufacturing the Future

LightManufacturing’s system dovetails neatly with President Obama’s manufacturing initiatives, which are designed to help the U.S. manufacturing sector compete in a future defined by alternative energy, energy efficiency, and advanced systems, including wireless technology and robotics.

Also boosting the system’s green cred is its adaptability to different plastic feedstocks, including recycled plastic, biodegradable plastic, and bio-plastic, as well as conventional pellets.

Image: Courtesy of LightManufacturing.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

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