Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

You Can So Drive a Car with a Windmill on It… Almost!

Posted: 14 Aug 2012 11:53 PM PDT

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney once famously said that “you can’t drive a car with a windmill on it,” but he might want to take a trip to Spain before he fully commits to the position that wind-powered vehicles are beyond the realm of the possible. The city of Barcelona happens to be the site of the world’s first electric vehicle charging station attached to a wind turbine, courtesy of a partnership between wind industry leader GE and a company called Urban Green Energy.

windmill powered cars from GE and Urban Green Energy

Wind-Powered Cars, For Real

GE and Urban Green Energy announced the launch of their wind-powered charging station about a year ago with plans to start in Barcelona, New York, and Bejing. Dubbed the Sanya Skypump, the charging station combines the technology behind GE’s WattStation™ and UGE's Sanya hybrid wind/solar street lamp.

The Skypump is designed as a freestanding drive-through station suitable for installation at commercial sites. The first installation in Barcelona went to Cespa, a subsidiary of the transportation infrastructure investment company Ferrovial Servicios.

To ice the green cake, the Barcelona installation includes a green roof to shield vehicles from the elements while charging.

Micro wind turbines combined with residential charging stations can also offer some homeowners the potential to charge an EV directly from their own wind power (the WattStation also comes in a wall-mounted version suitable for new or existing homes).

Purchasing offsets for grid-supplied wind power offers both homeowners and businesses yet another opportunity to charge electric vehicles from wind turbines. The availability of wind power on the grid is growing rapidly according to a new wind industry report from the U.S. Department of Energy.

You Can’t Drive with an Oil Well on Your Car, Either

Mr. Romney’s poke at wind power was good for a laugh, but it’s hard to see how it makes his case for fossil fuels any stronger. In addition to the disconnect with reality, it lacks a coherent argument in favor of petroleum fuels.

Namely, if your only real beef with wind power is the fact that a wind turbine is an awkward thing to strap onto a moving vehicle, then you’ve exposed an essential disadvantage of powering your car with a product that has to be pumped out of the ground and refined into a usable form.

Compared to the idea of dragging an oil well and refinery off your trailer hitch, mounting a wind turbine on your front hood sounds pretty doable after all.

Image: Some rights reserved by Rexburg Historical Society

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Michigan 25 by 25 Ballot Initiative Would Double State’s Green Jobs

Posted: 14 Aug 2012 11:47 AM PDT

Increasing Michigan's renewable energy standard (RES) to 25 percent by 2025 would be a "job-creating machine" that doubles the number of green jobs in the state, according to a new Michigan State University (MSU) study. The 25 by 25 RES proposal, just certified by the state's Bureau of Elections to appear on this year's ballot, would more than double Michigan's renewable electricity target from the current 10 percent by 2015 goal.

The MSU study, "Projected Job and Investment Impacts of Policy Requiring 25% Renewable Energy by 2025 in Michigan," found that increasing the state RES would create at least 74,500 new green collar jobs, and potentially up to 113,850 jobs. Specifically, the RES would create 31,500 construction jobs, 43,000 operations and maintenance jobs, and around 4,200 manufacturing jobs.


Doubling Down, Long-Term

A Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis published in March found that Michigan currently has 80,000 green collar jobs, meaning the RES would at least double the state’s green workforce. In addition, the ballot measure would create more than $10 billion in new investments.

These new jobs would last, too. "Jobs" are defined as full job years in the study, meaning full employment for one person at 2,080 hours in a 12-month span. Operations and maintenance jobs are calculated to last for a 20-30 year duration.

These workforce and economic benefits directly contrast with a study published last month by a coalition opposing the RES, which found it would create $10 billion in higher utility bills. "All the evidence proves the simple fact that increasing Michigan's renewable energy standard will put Michiganders back to work and bring much-needed new investments," said Jim Moran, president of Advanced Energy Group.

Wind’s The Winner

The wind energy industry would be the biggest economic winner of all the renewable energy technologies modeled in the MSU study. A 25 percent RES would directly create 22,450 job years from construction, 14,500 potential job years from affiliated services like land leasing or legal services, 4,650 job years from increased lodging and food services for construction workers, and 1,130 job years to run and maintain the new wind farms for every year they are in operation.

Self Sufficiency, Please

But beyond doubling the green collar workforce, a 25 by 25 target make economic sense for Michigan's electricity market. As Grist's David Roberts recently noted, the state imports a majority of its fossil fuel resources at a cost of $22.6 billion, but has enough local renewable energy potential to power itself three times over.

Michigan's Public Service Commission found the price of renewable electricity is now cheaper than coal-fired electricity generated in the state – and that's not even considering external costs like asthma, greenhouse gases, or mercury pollution. In 2008, the state had 34 operational wind turbines. Today, it has at least 288, and likely more since energy companies are not required to report new turbines.

As Michigan voters tune into what's at stake this November to determine their vote on the 25 by 25 ballot measure, they should remember that voting yes means economic and environmental benefits. "It's a job creating machine, with the added benefit of cleaner air, improved public health, and healthier communities," said Chris Kolb, president of the Michigan Environmental Council.

Wind turbine engineer image via Shutterstock

New DOE Report Shows Huge Role for Wind Power in U.S.

Posted: 14 Aug 2012 11:44 AM PDT

The Department of Energy has just released its 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report in an epic bit of campaign timing, as President Obama tours the major wind power producing state of Iowa. According to the report, wind power accounted for a “remarkable” 32 percent of all new electric capacity added to the U.S. grid last year while generating thousands of jobs and accounting for $14 billion in new investment along the way.

DOE reports shows wind power growth in U.S.

Wind Power in the U.S.A.

When the wind industry first began building up steam early in the Obama Administration, there was some criticism over the role of overseas companies and suppliers in the domestic market. However, all that is in the past.

According to the new report, only 35 percent of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms came from U.S. manufacturers in 2005. Now that figure has risen to almost 70 percent, including the turbines and supporting towers along with blades, gears and generators.

In addition to creating thousands of new jobs, technological improvements that include bigger turbines and lighter blades have caused the price of wind power to drop precipitously in just the past few years.

According to the Department of Energy, the price of power from new wind projects that came online in 2011 averaged about 40 percent less than in 2010 and 50 percent less than in 2009.


Federal Support for Domestic Energy

Wind industry and government officials alike give most of the credit for this growth to federal tax credits, which President Obama is on record supporting. In announcing the new report, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said:

"The wind industry employs tens of thousands of American workers and has played a key role in helping to more than double wind power over the last four years. To ensure that this industry continues to stay competitive, President Obama has called on Congress to extend the successful clean energy tax credits, which are benefitting businesses and manufacturers nationwide."

On a level playing field, it would make sense to subsidize alternative forms of energy along the same lines that other forms of energy have enjoyed in the past, including oil, gas and nuclear.

However, it seems that wind energy is being singled out for special treatment. Last week, presidential candidate Mitt Romney caused quite a stir when his campaign confirmed his opposition to extending the wind tax credit, and today The Hill reports that his position hasn’t budged an inch.

According to The Hill’s report, the reasoning is that “wind energy should not get taxpayer assistance if it cannot survive in the marketplace on its own.”

Image: Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Hanwha SolarOne Breaks into North American Market with Hanwha SolarEnergy America

Posted: 14 Aug 2012 11:41 AM PDT

Hanwha SolarOne has recently opened up Hanwha SolarEnergy North America in a bid to increase its share in the North American solar market.

The new subsidiary will allow Hanwha SolarOne to expand into operation and maintenance solutions (O&M), financing, development, and engineering procurement (EPC).

The company formed on the basis from Hanwha purchasing Solar Monkey in 2011. The new organization serves both the utility and retail sectors.

Hanwha SolarEnergy will be able to sell their solar panels in North America, with an estimated project pipeline of 1 gigawatt (GW).

"With a thousand megawatts of projects in the pipeline, the newly branded Hanwha SolarEnergy America represents a significant force in project development," said Matthew McCullough, chief executive officer of Hanwha SolarEnergy America, in a statement.

"The full capabilities of Hanwha Solar, from manufacturing to project development to finance, will allow us to become a leading provider of solar energy services in North America," he said.

With the purchase of OneRoof Energy, tenKsolar, and Silent Energy, Hanwha SolarEnergy America will look to capture a good chunk of the North American solar market as one official discussed:

"This development combines three powerful assets: the strength of the Hanwha Financial Network, the manufacturing efficiencies of Hanwha SolarOne and Hanwha Chemical, and the project development expertise of Hanwha SolarEnergy America. Together, it makes us the most dynamic and reliable partner in the North American growth market for turnkey solar solutions," said Mark Bronez, president of Hanwha SolarOne USA. "Hanwha Solar is capable of supplying and carrying a project from concept all the way through to continuing operations and maintenance of a finished installation, offering great value and the highest quality along the way. By making the solar value chain more efficient, Hanwha Solar is committed to working with partners to build a clean energy future in North America and worldwide."

Hanwha SolarEnergy America has already recently completed projects in various cities across California, including: Los Angeles, San Clemente, Temecula, Valencia, South Gate, and Fresno.

Only time will tell how this South Korean based company will stack up here in the North America against other companies.

Source: Business Wire
Image Credit: Mojave Desert solar panel image via Shutterstock

Could Minneapolis Get Cleaner Energy With a Utility Takeover?

Posted: 14 Aug 2012 11:27 AM PDT

As we spoke to legislators and activists roaming the halls of the State Capitol this past legislative session, it became increasingly clear that Xcel Energy and other utilities are calling the shots for our energy future.

They decide which bills will be heard and, ultimately, which will be passed into law. Not coincidentally, a champion of clean, local energy was denied a seat on the Public Utilities Commission by the Legislature.

Republished from

Minnesota spends more than $20 billion a year on energy — primarily importing polluting fossil fuels — and the state’s utilities typically lobby against decreasing our dependency. This hampers our economy and harms our environment.

Fortunately, cities don’t have to rely on the Legislature to stand up for more-efficient and cleaner energy use.

Consider Minneapolis. The city’s residents spend $450 million per year on electricity and gas services. As in most communities, these services are delivered by utility companies that have a “franchise.”

This 20-year legal agreement gives each utility a monopoly to deliver electricity or gas to homes and businesses in exchange for an annual fee to the city (about $23 million a year, taken right off the energy bills of Minneapolis customers).

Over the next several years, these franchise agreements will expire. Minneapolis has a choice to make. Its two big utilities — Xcel Energy and Centerpoint Energy — will send their fleets of lobbyists across the river from the Capitol to ask the city of lakes to sign away its energy options — and $9 billion in revenue — for the next 20 years.

We know that Minneapolis residents and businesses would like to install more local renewable energy and reduce energy use. Utility programs have come up short.

There has been only a tiny amount of local energy development in Minneapolis. Xcel has typically opposed policies like a solar energy standard, among others, that would make it easier and more cost-effective to install solar energy, generate local electricity and create local jobs.

Energy savings also have been hard to come by; Xcel and Centerpoint have little incentive to promote them when their bottom lines grow along with electricity or gas sales.

Meanwhile, states like New Jersey and our provincial neighbors to the north in Ontario have installed more than 500 megawatts of solar power. They have built more solar power in a single month than our utilities have installed in their entire histories.

Every megawatt of solar can power 200 homes with free, clean sunshine, and every megawatt installed in Minneapolis could mean more jobs and dollars in the local economy.

As city residents, we need to make sure our next franchise agreement paves the way to an energy future that includes reliable, efficient and local renewable energy. Our leaders need to understand that 20-year franchises are confining when energy technologies are changing dramatically.

Almost no one had a cellphone 20 years ago, and most of us were excited to tape our favorite television programs on VHS. It made more sense to sign 20-year franchises with big utilities when there were few economical energy alternatives.

This time it’s different. The McKinsey research group recently found that the United States could reduce energy consumption by nearly 25 percent and save money.

The cost of renewable energy is falling dramatically (50 percent in five years for solar). Minneapolis doesn’t have to settle for 20 more years of rising energy use, rising costs and minimal local clean energy.

At least the city could buy time with a short-term agreement of two to three years while it studied alternatives. It also could negotiate franchises that require the utilities to make big investments in conservation, energy efficiency and local renewable energy.

Even better, Minneapolis could join Los Angeles, San Antonio and other large cities and consider becoming its own utility. A city-owned utility could funnel those energy dollars into big investments in energy savings and capture the economic opportunities as local energy generation becomes remarkably cost-effective.

Already one in seven Americans are served by a municipal electric utility, retaining control over their energy futures.

The City of Lakes could sign franchise agreements with its two big utilities, their polluting power plants and their shareholders for another 20 years. They would be happy to oblige. But we believe that the world is changing and that we should keep our options open.

Ken Bradley is director of Environment Minnesota. John Farrell is senior researcher specializing in energy policy for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Both are members of the Minneapolis Energy Option coalition.

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