Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Governor Signs 3 Bills into Law to Spur More Solar PV Installations in New York

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 10:27 PM PDT

Aiming to create green jobs and make solar energy more affordable for homes and businesses, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a series of bills into effect today, August 17.

Part and parcel of his administration’s NY-Sun initiative to foster solar and renewable energy development and growth across the state, Gov. Cuomo enacted legislation that introduces statewide tax credits for power purchase agreements (PPAs) and solar energy equipment, sales tax exemptions for commercial solar equipment, and an extension of the real property tax abatement for solar power installations in New York City, Capitol Confidential reported.



Solar PV Rising in New York

The governor’s NY-Sun initiative aims to foster installation of twice as much solar power capacity in New York in 2012 as compared to 2011, and quadruple that total in 2013. Ratcheting up NY-Sun-related efforts, Gov. Cuomo just announced $107 million in incentives for the installation of new solar PV systems. Dubbed the NY-Sun Competitive PV Program, grant awards are available to applicants installing large-scale solar PY systems over 50 kW.

"The bills signed today continue to build momentum for the state's NY-Sun Initiative by accelerating the installation of solar power while making it a more affordable option for residents and businesses," Governor Cuomo was quoted in a press release. "Together with other NY-Sun incentives, these bills demonstrate the state's commitment to reducing energy costs, growing our green energy sector, creating jobs, and protecting the environment."

Added Francis J. Murray, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), "Governor Cuomo's NY-Sun Initiative continues to send the message that New York is ramping up its efforts to deploy solar energy and develop the advanced technologies to support the state's growing clean energy economy. New York is focused on expanding and developing its renewable energy resources, ensuring the state maintains a diverse renewable energy portfolio."

The new laws provide statewide tax credits for homeowners who lease or obtain solar power equipment through a PPA with a term of at least ten years. Tax credits top out at $5,000 per annum and can span 14 years. The law takes effect immediately.

Reducing the upfront costs of having a solar PV system installed, solar energy systems leases and residential PPAs have been catching on fast in New York and across the US. Murray noted that, while a typical home solar PV installation might run as high as $40,000, various government incentive programs and tax credits bring that all the way down to around $16,000… and prices continues to decline.

Another new law exempts purchases and installation of commercial solar PV systems equipment from sales taxes and allows cities and municipalities to exclude these costs from local sales tax, Capitol Confidential explains. This law goes into effect January 1, 2013.

Thirdly, Gov. Cuomo signed a bill into law that extends through 2014 the property tax abatement for solar PV generating systems in New York City. Reasonable expenditures for materials, labor costs applicable to on-site preparation, assembly and original installation, architectural and engineering services, and directly related designs and plans are all covered in the new law, which will go into effect January 1, 2013.

Joining legislators supporting the new solar energy legislation, Assembly Member Steve Englebright said, "We can simultaneously create new jobs and achieve the goals set for New York State's electricity needs through clean renewable energy. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we will be doing just that by encouraging large-scale commercial investment in solar energy by eliminating all state sales taxes on commercial solar purchases and installations."

Photo Courtesy: US Solar Institute

Global Warming May Affect Existing Nuclear Power Plants

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 10:20 PM PDT

At a twin-unit nuclear power plant in northeastern Illinois, the weather recently became so hot that the temperature of the cooling pond of the plant exceeded the level permitted, at 102 degrees.

The permitted level was originally 98 degrees, and has been increased to 100 degrees.

The cooling pond is a 2,500-acre (10-square-km) lake in a former strip-mine.

In the situation above, special permission was given to the power plant operators to allow it to continue operation despite the abnormality.

The pond absorbs heat from the power plant to help keep it cool. This is due to the fact that the hotter the weather is, the more saturated the air becomes with heat, and this decreases the amount of heat the air will absorb from the pond.

Global warming causes average global temperatures to increase very slowly and gradually, however, according to Craig Nesbit: "I'm not a climatologist. But clearly the calculations when the plant was first operated in 1986 are not what is sufficient today, not all the time."

This is apparently a new problem which the plant’s pond didn’t have in the 1980s, and this does suggest that the average temperature of the plant’s location has increased. Temperatures at night has been in the 90s, which is too hot to enable the pond to cool off. The pond absorbs heat from the plant, then radiates that heat into the surrounding air.

Another implication that climate change may have for nuclear power plants is drought. Nuclear power plants require a large amount of water to stay cool, and drought causes water shortages. The states of Georgia and Alabama could be affected by this in the future.

Image: nuclear power plant in Illinois via Shutterstock

Solar-Powered Wave Glider Latest Step in Stanford Research Team’s Effort to Build a Pacific Ocean Wi-Fi Hotspot Network for Biodiversity

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 08:46 PM PDT

Being scalable and modular is one of the big advantages of employing solar and wind energy technology to produce power. From consumer electronics to utility-scale power plants, solar, wind and other renewable power systems are driving our transition out of the fossil fuel era.

Adding to the environmental, social and economic benefits, scientists are helping drive innovation by employing renewable, clean energy technology in new ways, ways that are helping to measure, monitor and analyze human impacts and the state of the natural environment to a degree never before possible.

Besides being a driving force in determining climate, the world ocean provides habitat for an uncounted number of plant and animal species, as well as nutrition and sustenance for billions of people. Concerns have been growing about our use of the oceans and the sustainability of marine biodiversity and fish stocks in the face of increasingly intense industrial fishing, marine pollution and changing ocean chemistry due to a changing climate, however.

Marine scientists and volunteers have been working to increase our knowledge and understanding of the complex ocean environment and the state of the world oceans, and they’re pushing the limits of new clean technology in doing so. This week, an ocean science research team led by Stanford University Marine Sciences Prof. Barbara Block and team deployed a self-propelled, solar-powered, unmanned Wave Glider near the San Francisco coast.

Wi-Fi Hotspots for Marine Species in “The Blue Serengeti”

Equipped with a bevy of custom-designed and -built instruments, launching the Wave Glider is a big step forward toward realizing Prof. Block’s dream of our being able to create what amounts to a health monitoring system that spans the world ocean. It’s "part of a new network including data receivers on fixed buoys that will pick up signals from acoustic tags on marine animals, such as Great White sharks, passing within 1,000 feet," according to a Stanford University, Hopkins Marine Station press release. The data received will be transmitted to Prof. Block’s shore-based research team.

“Deployment of the Wave Glider is the culmination of years of long, hard work. The long-lasting, relatively inexpensive acoustic tags and the local array of both fixed and mobile ocean transmitters will fine-tune 12 years of insights gleaned from satellite-connected tags used to follow thousands of animals throughout their entire Pacific journeys," the press release from Monterey Bay states.

The solar-powered Wave Glider launched off the San Francisco coast is the first of what Prof. Block and her team hope will grow into an interconnected network of "ocean Wi-Fi hotspots" when combined with similar devices installed on stationary, moored buoys. The data gleaned from such new, innovative scientific devices is already contributing significantly to our knowledge and understanding of the world ocean and Prof. Block’s "Blue Serengeti Initiative."

Dr. Block led the global scientific effort that resulted in the publication of the "International Census of Marine Life (2000-2010)." Following on from the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) project, the Wave Glider launch builds on these efforts.

"My mission is to protect ocean biodiversity and the open sea," Block, the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences, Biology at Stanford, explained. "Our goal is to use revolutionary technology that increases our capacity to observe our oceans and census populations, improve fisheries management models, and monitor animal responses to climate change."

Bringing Marine Life, and Science, to the Broad Public

Scientific research and researchers at times seem divorced from the public and the lives of everyday people. New information and communications technology is helping change that. "Importantly," according to Hopkins Marine’s press release, "the public can now follow the tracking of animals in real-time on a smartphone and tablet computer app."

"People realize this is important, but it's hard for them to connect on a visceral, personal level to the incredible biodiversity in their own backyard," Dr. Randall Kochevar, one of the Stanford University developers of the app, said. "Through this app, we're able to put the Blue Serengeti right in their hands. They can follow individual sharks and learn about their lives and feeding habits."

A new Apple mobile iOS app created by Dr. Block and colleagues with developers from TOPP, EarthNC and Gaia GPS is available free of charge at the Apple app store. It providers users "with a direct, personal connection between the public and wild marine animals to raise public awareness of the ocean wilderness temming with life just off North America’s West Coast."

A collaboration among 75 scientists from five countries, TOPP made use of an array of electronic tags to follow the migrations of more than 4,300 individual marine animals, including sharks, tuna, whales, seals, seabirds, and turtles, Hopkins Marine recounts.

The TOPP project and Wave Glider are profiled in a special on the Discovery Channel entitled, "The Great White Highway." Narrated by long-time actor, ocean environmental advocate and Oceana board member Ted Danson, the program aired Thursday night, Aug. 16, on Discovery Channel’s "Shark Week."

Spanning a decade (more than 300,000 days) of tracking and monitoring these marine animals, the TOPP team demonstrated that the West Coast of North America is an important hotspot for animals ranging throughout the Pacific," Hopkins Marine states. Included among the diversity of marine species tracked were "bluefin tuna, white and mako sharks, sooty shearwaters and leatherback sea turtles, elephant seals and blue whales on a seasonal basis that reaches a peak in later summer and early fall."

Websites and Mobile Apps for the World Ocean

Dr. Block and her research team are now busy wiring up their ocean Wi-Fi hotspot network. The effort includes deploying acoustic detection buoys in key locations known to be areas where Great White sharks have been found to congregate during the time they spend close to shore, a region the Hopkins marine research team has dubbed the “White Shark Cafe.” The mobile app receives detection data from these buoys and notifies users when a shark passes within 1,000 feet or so of the device.

Customizable, interactive maps enable users to explore Pacific Ocean regions frequented by northern California white sharks in real-time. A media gallery includes photos, videos, historical tracking data, and 3D interactive models.

Dr. Block and team are also working to obtain United Nations World Heritage Site status for regions of Pacific where the California Current flows. She likens the importance of these oceanic regions to "the vast African Serengeti plains because of its vital diversity and abundance of life." "This place is one of the last wild places left on Earth" she was quoted as saying.

Photo Credit: The Discovery Channel, “Shark Week”

Is that Matthew McConaughey? I Think it is… (It is!)

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 07:47 PM PDT


He’s got one of those voices: little bit southern, jovial, relaxed. A voice you don’t recognize immediately, but realize after a listen (or two or three) that it’s him! It’s really him! Who’s him? Mr. Matthew McConaughey, and he’s in the new Reliant Nest ads.

Nest, of course, is the creator of the smart, learning Nest thermostat.

Check out McConaughey’s voiceovers here:

Source: Nest
Image: Featureflash via Shutterstock

Zero-Carbon Stadium Nominated for Engineering Award

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 07:41 PM PDT

The 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar Showcase is already exciting. Arup Associates‘ stadium, one of the stadiums to be used for the big soccer event, has been nominated for World Architecture News’ 2012 Engineering Award.

The zero-carbon stadium, which has a distinct futuristic look, runs on solar power, is capable of storing solar energy in batteries, uses biofuels during times when solar energy needs to be supplemented, has a retractable roof, and has cooling devices under seats to avoid pumping out costly air conditioning.

Sounds like everyone wins in this FIFA tournament.

Source: inhabitat
Image: Arup Associates

Adding Batteries to Solar Homes to Ease Grid Pressure

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 06:25 PM PDT

Solar panels are swell and dandy, except when they aren’t enough. And they aren’t enough when homeowners with solar panels are not able to utilize excess energy accumulated earlier in the day during peak sunny hours. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is trying out a program, called SolarSmart, that attaches batteries to homes to store energy that can be accessed when residents are consuming more power, like late afternoon on a hot day.

The lithium batteries are about the size of mini fridges and can be attached to one home or shared by a couple. The shared batteries can produce 30 kilowatts and store 30 kilowatt-hours. The single batteries can produce 10 kilowatts and store 8.8 kilowatt-hours. At this time, 27 homes are sharing three batteries and 15 homes have their own.

The SMUD battery program costs about $5.9 million. All the batteries are wired for monitoring so SMUD and residents can learn about the pattern of consumption and storage for their home and neighborhood.

Allowing homes and neighborhoods to support themselves with their own stored solar is expected take the pressure off the power grid and reduce the price of power for residents, making solar panels swell and dandy again.

Source: Earth Techling
Image: esbobeldijk via Shutterstock 

Ford Goes Big on Electric Vehicles, Future Looks Bright for Wind-Powered Cars

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 06:04 PM PDT

The idea of wind-powered cars sparked a bit of humor in the presidential campaign earlier this week, but two powerful trends are converging to make it a reality. One is the strong growth in the U.S. wind power industry within the past couple of years. The other is the domestic auto industry’s increased attention to electric vehicle technology, as illustrated by Ford’s new Advanced Electrification Center.

Ford invests in EV technology

Transitioning to an EV Future

GM has been grabbing lots of headlines with its top-rated Chevy Volt, but Ford promises to give it some stiff competition as the potential EV leader of tomorrow. To that end, Ford has repurposed its massive Advanced Engineering Center in Dearborn to focus on EV technology under the name Advanced Electrification Center.

According to Ford’s press materials, the 285,000-square-foot building already houses hundreds of engineers working on EV and hybrid R&D. Last year, the company also filled 60 new engineering positions on its electrification team and plans to hire several dozen more this year alone.

A lot of the new research focus is going into new EV battery technologies, and Ford plans to double its battery test beds by next year. In a related effort, the company has also been developing an EV battery recycling demonstration project at its Michigan Assembly Plant, which uses spent EV batteries to store renewable energy from a 500-kilowatt solar power installation.

Ford is also heavily engaged in developing new, lightweight materials that will help increase battery range, including bio-based materials such as a dandelion rubber substitute.


Electric Vehicles and Sustainable Transportation

Cranking out more and better EVs is all well and good, but it is not a standalone solution to the long-term management of greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation.

In Ford’s sustainability statement, executive chairman William Clay Ford describes a scenario in which progress on the vehicle manufacturing end is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new drivers entering the car market. According to Ford, the 1 billion vehicles currently on the road worldwide could expand to about 4 billion by mid-century.

To meet that challenge, EVs will need to be integrated into a broader transportation strategy. As Ford’s sustainability statement explains:

“We believe a truly sustainable long-term solution will require a global transportation network that enables wireless communication among vehicles and infrastructure…bringing all modes of travel into a single network that links together public and personal transportation. Pedestrian walkways, bicycles, buses, airplanes, trains, automobiles – in our vision of the future everything would be fully integrated to save time, conserve resources and lower emissions.”

Image: Ford EV License Some rights reserved by
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Leasing & Finance Company to Invest Nearly $700 Million in Japan’s Solar Power Market

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 12:44 AM PDT

Japanese finance and leasing company Orix Corp. plans to make 54 billion yen ($680 million) of solar power investments over the next three years. Some 30 billion yen will be invested in solar power farms, while another 24 billion yen is to be invested in leasing rooftop space and installing solar panels on factories and warehouses, Bloomberg News reports.

The Japanese government last month launched a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT) program that subsidizes solar, wind, and other renewable energy installations by paying above-market rates and paying for them via consumer surcharges. Japan’s solar FiT has been set at 42 yen-per-kilowatt-hour for 20 years, which is about three times the amount industrial consumers paid for electricity in the 12 months ending in March 2012, according to Bloomberg’s report.


Solar Feed-in Tariff Spurs Solar PV Investment

Introduction of the FiT is attracting a growing number of investors and renewable energy project developers to Japan’s solar energy market. In total, Orix management expects to bring some 200 MW of clean, renewable electrical power online. The finance and leasing company may increase its investments to as much as 100 billion yen in order to add some 400 MW of solar power capacity to Japan’s growing total, Orix spokeswoman Tamaki Shibata told Bloomberg.

Earlier this month, Orix announced it might allocate as much as 80 billion yen ($1 billion) to make private equity investments in China’s water, machinery, and renewable energy sectors over the next two years. Solar power and sewage treatment plants are prospects for Orix’s China investments, according to news reports. Three months ago, Orix announced it would purchase a 14.5% equity stake in Hong Kong-based China Water Affairs Group.

Last October, Orix subsidiary Orix Rentec Corp. announced it was launching testing services and performance evaluations for renewable energy equipment, including solar PV panels, at a newly established Kobe Testing Center. Along with testing renewable energy equipment, Orix Rentec intends to help customers enhance product performance and reduce installation costs. In addition to solar PV panels, Orix will test storage battery recharging and discharging and reliability.

Free Wind Technology Certification Training Continues

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 12:38 AM PDT

The North American Wind Research and Training Center at Mesalands Community College will again offer a one-semester Occupational Certificate in Basic Wind Energy Technology, free for individuals that meet the specific qualifications as a result of New Mexico State funding from the New Mexico Wind Center of Excellence.

The college is already this week graduating another batch of students who have obtained the Occupational Certificate, bringing the total number of graduates to 28, many of whom have gone on to acquire jobs in the wind industry.

The North American Wind Research and Training Center is powered by the College’s 1.5-MW wind turbine adjacent to the new facility.

One recent graduate, who Mesalands Community College has highlighted, is 43-year-old Orlando Encinias, who graduated the one-semester program in May, and is now the Site Supervisor at the High Lonesome Wind Farm of New Mexico, overseeing eight full-time employees and 40 wind turbines, as well as any contractors or repairs at the wind farm.

Encinias says he attributes his new career to the training he received at the Wind Center. “I will put it this way; I don't think I would have ever gotten this position if I didn't go to that school," Encinias said. "This program really helped me.”

“Matter of fact, I'm looking to hire one of the guys that was in class with me. I don't know him personally; I was simply impressed with his troubleshooting abilities, knowledge, and his intensity. I just happened to be in a position to be able to hire him and I 'm trying to get him hired right now."

Encinias said one of the major advantages to this program was having the opportunity to climb the college's turbine. He said that companies feel more comfortable hiring students that have hands-on experience.

The Mesalands Community College has a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine that allows students hands on experience. The college regularly shut the turbine down to offer realistic hands-on training and troubleshooting experience. Students also learn wind turbine technology, turbine maintenance, tower safety, and wind economics.

"The positive response to the new short program is indicative of the need for job training and employment. It is very rewarding to provide this training and then see the graduates have the opportunity to be competitive in obtaining employment in the wind industry," Jim Morgan, Director of the North American Wind Research and Training Center said.

Source: Mesalands Community College
Image Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Construction of World’s Largest Concentrating Solar Power Plant Reaches Halfway Mark

Posted: 17 Aug 2012 12:34 AM PDT

Construction of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) — the largest concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in the world — has reached the midway point and remains on schedule to begin delivering what’s due to be a net 370 MW of clean, renewable electricity to consumers in California come September, 2013.

Developer of the $2.2 billion ISEGS project, BrightSource is installing its LPT system at the project site in California’s Mojave Desert. Ivanpah’s design calls for more than 173,000 heliostats to focus sunlight on three solar towers, where the concentrated solar power will turn water to steam to drive conventional steam power generators.

Some 2,100 construction workers are at work on the ISEGS site. They have erected three steel tower structures, installed more than 10,000 steel pylons, and mounted almost 50,000 heliostats, according to a US Dept. of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) press release.


Green Jobs, Growth and Carbon Emissions Reductions

"Large-scale solar projects like Ivanpah create thousands of construction jobs and provide clean, renewable power to help meet state renewable energy goals,"commented NRG Solar CEO Tom Doyle, an equity investor in the project. "We believe that encouraging public and private investment in our domestic clean energy industry through successful projects like Ivanpah ultimately will pay dividends by helping to secure our country's economic future."

One of the solar energy projects in Pres. Obama’s SunShot Initiative, completion of Ivanpah will almost double total US CSP power capacity. Bringing together public and private sector solar energy industry and market participants across the value chain, the SunShot Initiative aims to reduce the installed cost of solar energy systems by some 75%.

It’s estimated the ISEGS project will add $400 million in local and state tax revenues and produce $650 million in wages over its 30-year life. The majority of the equipment used to construct the solar thermal power generation plant is being sourced domestically, creating additional jobs and money flows around the country.

In addition to creating jobs, stimulating economic activity, and adding to state treasury coffers, ISEGS will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 400,000 tons annually, according to BrightSource. That’s equivalent to taking more than 70,000 cars off the road.

BrightSource has designed the plant to minimize its impact on the natural environment. Flexible heliostats enable project builders to build around the land’s natural contours and areas of sensitive vegetation, the company explains. Being built in a desert, an air-cooling system converts the steam back into water in a closed-loop cycle so that it can be reused. BrightSource’s air-cooled condenser uses more than 90% less water than older parabolic trough technology.

Once up and running, the clean, renewable electricity ISEGS produces will power more than 140,000 California homes and businesses. Power purchase agreements have been secured with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE). Joining the federal government and BrightSource in investing in the project are NRG Solar and Google. BrightSource’s ISEGS project qualified for a federal loan guarantee per the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, a federal program that Republicans have been criticizing and trying to bring to an end.

Multinational engineering company Bechtel is leading the construction effort.

"The scale and complexity of the Ivanpah project presented first-of-a-kind construction challenges that required innovative thinking and execution at every level," Jim Ivany, president of Bechtel's Renewable Power business, stated.

"We created lean approaches to multiple phases of the project, including heliostat assembly installation and construction of the project's steel towers, each topped with 2,200-ton solar receiver steam generators. The processes we developed enabled the team to successfully advance the project to support electricity generation in 2013."

DoE has put up an interactive "Ask an Expert" feature that those interested can access to inquire and find out more about Ivanpah. The SunShot Solar Technical Assitance Team (STAT) yesterday conducted an online seminar covering solar technology options, how they work, and how to determine appropriate locations for particular solar energy technologies.

Photo Credit: BrightSource

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