Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

BMW Offers ActiveE Drivers RECs to Offset Carbon Emissions from Charging

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 02:28 PM PDT


Good news for the BMW ActiveE drivers — BMW has partnered with Green Mountain to offer renewable energy options to the drivers of ActiveE. ActiveE drivers can purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from Green Mountain to cover the estimated energy that will be used to charge their electric cars.

"The partnership with Green Mountain is BMW's next step to procure a sustainable mobility future for our ActiveE Electronauts," said Rob Healey, EV Infrastructure Manager at BMW of North America. "We want to ensure all ActiveE drivers have the opportunity to source their energy needs from renewable generation, and this program is the perfect complement to BMW's ActiveE solar offer. Based on their experience in renewable energy, Green Mountain is an ideal partner to support our mission."

"The majority of electricity in the U.S. is generated from non-renewable, fossil fuel sources, so EVs need to be powered with clean, renewable energy to be truly emissions-free," said Scott Hart, president of Commercial Services for Green Mountain. "BMW is a thought leader in electric vehicle innovation, and their desire to ensure ActiveE drivers have the option to support renewable energy further demonstrates the company's commitment to sustainability."

The ActiveE exclusive series is driven by 700 Electronauts across five US states. Each car comes with a two-year lease and BMW also gives opportunity to the drivers to give feedback about the car, which, in turn, is used to develop premium, sustainable vehicle for the future.

Drivers of ActiveE can avail Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for one-time payment of $48 to ensure that the conventional electricity to charge their vehicles during the lease period will be replaced with renewable energy. During the two years lease period, ActiveE drivers will be able to offset 9,900 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions with renewable energy which is equivalent to not driving 11,000 miles in a conventional gas-powered car.

In addition to this opportunity of purchasing RECs from Green Mountain, Electronauts can take advantage of a separate offer by which Electronauts can install solar panels on their homes for 35% discount on the cost of the panels. This is the positive move by BMW which reflects sustainability is the core mission of BMW.

Image: IFCAR/Wikimedia Commons

The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only

Biggest Modernisation of British Rail Since Victorian Era

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 02:20 PM PDT

The UK’s government has announced £9 billion of growth-boosting railway upgrades across England and Wales, called the “biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era,” by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The plans represent faster journey times, more reliable services, and a capacity for more than 140,000 extra daily commutes by train, according to Transport Secretary Justine Greening.

Crossrail, Thameslink, and electrification between London and Cardiff, Manchester to Liverpool and Preston, and across the Pennines, are among £5.2 billion of projects already committed to during 2014-2019 as part of the £9 billion. New schemes that total £4.2 billion that were unveiled on Monday include:

  • Upgrades to stations and tracks creating enough capacity around cities for an additional 140,000 daily rail commutes at peak times. In addition to Crossrail and Thameslink, announced previously, today's enhancements – such as the £350m lengthening of platforms at London Waterloo station – will provide capacity for 120,000 more daily commutes in and out of London and 20,100 extra daily commutes across Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and other cities.
  • Faster journeys and more train capacity from £240m of improvements along the East Coast Main Line from the North East down through Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire to London.
  • The creation of a high-capacity "electric spine" running from Yorkshire and the West Midlands to South Coast ports allowing more reliable electric trains to cut journey times and boost capacity for passengers and freight. This comprises: an £800m electrification and upgrade from Sheffield – through Nottingham, Derby and Leicester – to Bedford, completing the full electrification of the Midland Main Line out of London St Pancras; and electrification of the lines from Nuneaton and Bedford to Oxford, Reading, Basingstoke and Southampton.
  • The landmark decision to take electric rail beyond Cardiff to Swansea, completing the full electrification of the Great Western Main Line out of London Paddington at a total cost of more than £600m, and electrifying the Welsh Valley lines, including Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and the Vale of Glamorgan. These will give two-thirds of the Welsh population access to new fleets of electric trains helping to generate Welsh jobs and growth by slashing journey times and boosting passenger and freight capacity.
  • Completion in full of the "Northern Hub" cluster of rail enhancements with the approval of £322m of outstanding track and capacity upgrades across Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport and across to Liverpool. These are in addition to £477m of Northern Hub schemes already approved across the North of England such as electrification of the North Trans Pennine route between York and Manchester.
  • A new £500m rail link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow allowing direct services to the airport for passengers from the West Country, the Thames Valley and Wales.

"Investment on this scale, in every region of the country, shows how this coalition government is focused on delivering an affordable, reliable and faster railway network that drives jobs and growth,” said Transport Secretary Justine Greening. "These plans to increase capacity and shorten journey times on intercity, commuter and freight services are, alongside our plans for high speed rail, absolutely key to securing our country's prosperity in the decades ahead."

“From Crossrail, high speed rail and now the billions of pounds of investment we are announcing today, this government is committed to taking the long term decisions to deliver growth and jobs,” said Prime Minister David Cameron. "In what is the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era this investment will mean faster journeys, more seats, better access to stations, greater freight links and a truly world class rail network."

Source: British Government
Image Source: James Paul Long

Philippines Introduces New Feed-in Tariff

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 01:52 PM PDT

The Philippines Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) last week approved the introduction of a feed-in tariff (FIT) that will apply to renewable energy generation sources such as hydro, biomass, wind, and solar.

The approved FiT figures are as follows:

  • Hydro — Php 5.90
  • Biomass — Php 6.63
  • Wind — Php 8.53
  • Solar — Php 9.68

Bangui Windmills in Bangui, Ilocos Norte, Philippines

According to the ERC:

The ERC arrived at FiTs substantially lower than NREB’s proposed FiTs for wind and solar after it updated the construction costs of the representative plants for these technologies to reflect the downward market trend of the costs of putting up these plants. It also adopted higher capacity factors for these plants to ensure that only the more efficient plants will enjoy the FiT incentive.

The FiT implemented will be subject to review and possible readjustment by the ERC in three years after the FiT is implemented, “or when the installation targets for each technology as set by the Department of Energy shall have already been met.”

“The ERCs lowered FITs will definitely cushion the impact of implementing the FIT incentive mechanism under the RE Act on the electricity rates, while still being sufficient enough to attract new investments in renewable energy,” said ERC Executive Director Francis Saturnino Juan. ”This is win-win for all.”

Source: Philippines Energy Regulatory Commission
Image Source: Paolo Dala

Britain Surpasses US in 2011 Small Wind Capacity

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 01:19 PM PDT

Following the launch of Britain’s feed-in tariff program in 2010, the country has pushed ahead of the United States in the installation of small wind turbine capacity in 2011, with the same expected for 2012. This is an astounding achievement considering that the US has been promoting small wind for the past two decades, whereas the British FiT program is barely two years old.

Britain saw 23 megawatts of small wind installed in 2011, whereas the US only managed 19 megawatts in the same year. From the introduction of the FiT to 2011, small wind capacity in Britain grew by approximately 50 percent. And though Britain is still well behind the market leaders — USA and China, who have both had programs running for the past two decades — the real surprise is that Britain can get up and surpass the US in terms of new installations with a program barely two years old in.

Wind turbines on London Rooftops

The British FiT program has been based on ”microgeneration,” a system predicated on the “cost of generation plus a reasonable profit” model. In the British program, utilities simply pay a fixed tariff for electricity from microgenerators, and then recover their costs from ratepayers as they do for any other generation.

The tariffs are determined by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Thus, the “tariffs” or prices paid for generation from small wind turbines in Britain vary by size.

Source: Renewable Energy World
Image Source: maistora on Flickr

Spain and America Dominate Solar Thermal Market

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 11:29 AM PDT

Spain and the United States currently dominate the global solar thermal market thanks to the continued soaring of fossil fuels and supporting government policies, according to a new report by GBI Research, a market-leading provider of business intelligence reports.

The GBI Research report, Solar Thermal Power Market to 2020 — Utilities to Drive Future Developments in the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Market, showed that in 2011 Spain was the primary stakeholder in the global CSP market with a commanding 65 percent of the total installed capacity. An astounding achievement considering that Spain did not have a CSP installation until 2007.

The US came in second in the global market with 33 percent of total installed capacity.

SanlĂșcar la Mayor, Spain

Spain built the 11-megawatt-capacity PS10 solar tower in 2007, but since then the country has seen their total installed capacity race to 1,002.2 megawatts, the largest tally in the world by a significant amount.

The obvious advantage of abundant sunshine combined with impressive government support has seen CSP boom in Spain. In 2005 the country's government enacted an ambitious plan for its renewable sector, the Renewable Energy Plan (PER). This plan outlined particular attention to the solar power industry, and as the Spanish government has declared a commitment to adhere to the European Union 2020 agenda on emissions and renewable energy shares, the Spanish solar thermal sector is expected to have a strong future.

The US on the other hand installed its first solar thermal plant back in 1985, becoming the first country to produce solar thermal electricity with commercial viability.

Growth has been relatively slow since then, with the country’s total installed capacity only reaching 508.5 megawatts by 2011. But GBI Research believe that over the next eight years this number will explode, growing to 25,815 MW by 2020, climbing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 63 percent thanks to plans to commission numerous major CSP including the La Posa Solar Thermal plant and the Ranegras plant – both based in Arizona.

Source: GBI Research
Image Source: Wim Hertog

A Mighty Wind Blows through Romney Campaign

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 11:27 AM PDT

Romney comes out against wind tax credit extension

Last month, presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign staff hinted that he would end the federal wind energy tax credit, and now the cat’s out of the bag: he will. As reported by the Des Moines Register earlier this week, a spokesperson for the campaign in Iowa declared that if elected President, Mr. Romney will “allow the wind credit to expire.”

As far as campaign missteps go, this one is a doozy. The reaction has been swift, merciless, and bipartisan. Campaign strategists could not have kicked up a bigger storm if they sent their candidate all the way to London to dis the city’s preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and…wait, never mind.

Republicans React to Romney Wind Policy

Though Republican leaders have taken care to blame the campaign and not the candidate, they have not been shy about criticizing elimination of the wind tax credit.

U.S. Reprepresentative Tom Latham of Iowa came out with a statement the same evening, duly reported by the Register:

"I'm disappointed that the statement by Governor Romney's spokesperson shows a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation. It's the wrong decision. Wind energy represents one of the most innovative and exciting sectors of Iowa's economy.”

Republican senators from Iowa, Arkansas, and Massachusetts weighed in along similar lines and the Republican governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, followed up with an interview on Radio Iowa in which he blamed “a bunch of east coast people” for Romney’s position.

Wind Power and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

With the help of the tax credit, the U.S. wind industry has established a solid track record of creating thousands of jobs in manufacturing, shipping, installation, maintenance, and repair. That’s particularly true of Iowa, which has emerged as a wind industry leader according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The wind industry is also creating new high quality jobs in research and development. That includes the new Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory at the University of Iowa, a new wind turbine testing facility at Clemson University in South Carolina, and a new facility at Texas Tech University, all in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.

In addition, wind power is just one form of alternative energy that is beginning to play a pivotal role in rural economies, beyond the generation of clean energy (biomass and biogas are two other good examples).

In his radio interview, Branstad pointed out that Iowa farmers are making good money collecting rent from wind turbines on their property, which could turn out to be a lifeline for local economies in this year’s historic drought.

A new wind farm in Missouri also illustrates how new tax revenues from wind farms are going toward community-wide economic development projects, and Kansas’s plan for exporting wind energy to other states shows how wind power can bring new revenues to the statewide economies as well.

To sum it all up, in an otherwise lackluster economy the wind industry has been a success story, and anyone who is serious about job creation should be laying plans to keep things humming along the same track. Like they say, if it ain’t broke…

Image: Some rights reserved by Theodore Scott.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


Want 220 mph Amtrak Trains? Gotta Shell Out $151 Billion…

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 11:23 AM PDT

NYC to DC in under 100 minutes. Trains reaching 220 mph. Customers clamoring to book tickets on this beautiful beast of modern transport. It sounds like a dream, and it’ll probably remain in fantasy land with the nightmarish price tag of $151 billion.

The Chicago Tribune reported that by 2040 high-speed trains could be hurtling up and down the east coast, making trips between New York, Boston, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia much more palatable time-wise. Amtrak has proposed a great improvement plan, but getting state and federal funding of that magnitude seems highly unlikely.

Source: Tree Hugger
Image: redstone via Shutterstock 

Oil & Gas — Over 13 Times More in Historical Subsidies than Clean Energy

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 07:00 AM PDT

You know the line — “Renewable energy shouldn’t receive government support. If it can’t stand on its own in the free market, it doesn’t deserve to grow.” The answer — total freakin’ hogwash, horsefeathers, balderdash!

First of all, as you might have gathered from the title, fossil fuel’s historical subsidies are like skyscrapers next to single-family-renewable-energy-subsidy homes. This is, notably, without including the massive indirect subsidies the oil and gas industry receive in unchecked externalities that wreak havoc on our health, our quality of life, and the potential viability of the human species after climate change is done with us.

You can see in this chart below that historical oil and gas subsidies are over 13 times larger than renewable energy (not including biofuels) subsidies:

Over the first 15 years of these energy sources’ subsidies, oil and gas got 5 times what renewables got (in 2010 dollars) and nuclear energy got 10 times as much.

"Nuclear spent an average of about $3.3 billion a year, oil and gas about $1.8 billion, and renewable energy just under half a billion," DBL Investors Managing Partner Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey recently wrote in “What would Jefferson do?

You can also look at subsidies as a percentage of the federal budget in this chart:

And oil and gas support hasn’t gone away. In fact, in some ways, it still trumps support for renewables. From Greentech Media:

“The oil and gas industries have Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Pfund said, two low-capital-cost ways of financing infrastructure now rapidly expanding in the financial services world. Neither is available to renewables investors, Pfund said, and both cost less than the tax equity funds derived from solar's Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and wind's Production Tax Credit (PTC).”

"The U.S. government has also played a huge role in subsidizing natural gas infrastructure and technology," Pfund added. "The combustion turbine was developed for aircraft and heavily subsidized. It was later reapplied to the gas sector."

Now, furthermore, there are several reasons renewable energy should be subsidized today. Here are 3 big ones:

  1. Clean energy subsidies actually benefit the economy! "A new study," Pfund noted, "shows the ITC, when you look at it over the life of the credit, by creating these solar leases, provides a 10-percent return to the federal government. They are actually making money through this incentive through the revenues from all the companies in the solar supply chain." Cutting the wind energy PTC means cutting 37,000 jobs out of the US economy, jobs that create good tax revenue.
  2. We need clean energy subsidies (stronger than the ones we have today) or an adequate price on pollution to address the fact that pollution from fossil fuels is killing us.
  3. Historical subsidies for fossil fuels, as noted above, dwarf historical subsidies for clean energy. It’s only fair that clean energy get to play on a level playing field, with the same level of support that fossil fuels and nuclear have gotten.

It’s pretty simple, actually. Once you look at the facts.


So, next time someone comes to you saying that renewable energy subsidies need to be cut off, please refer them here!



Hypermilers/Ecodrivers, 1-Million-Mile Driver, & More (VIDEOS)

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 04:00 AM PDT

One of our readers was recently featured in a series of videos on “hypermilers” — folks who take energy-efficient driving to a level most of us never dreamed of.

Our reader, Neil Blanchard, is featured in this first video. His vehicle is decked out with all sorts of improvements to increase its mileage per gallon. In total, he gets about 50 mpg, 20 more than his vehicle’s EPA rating of 30 mpg. The video also features a man who has driven his car for over 1,000,000 miles.

This next video features a guy who runs his BMW on propane, a Nissan Leaf driver (Neil’s sister), an efficient EV Neil is working on, and the Fisker Karma:

In this one, Hobbit, Neil, and Chang show us more hypermiling:

And in this last video, solar-powered cars get their time in the sun:

Interesting videos. What do you think?

Solar LED Lights to Boost Productivity in Developing World

Posted: 03 Aug 2012 01:00 AM PDT

As has been clear for awhile, cleantech provides some wonderful opportunities for leapfrogging in developing countries. We’ve written about this several times with regards to solar (and that was one of the key points of my CNBC “Energy Opportunities” interview), but we haven’t given it much (or any?) mention when it comes to LEDs. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg does an excellent job of covering this over on sister site sustainablog:

Solar LED Lights: The Key to Developing World Productivity? (via sustainablog) Imagine you couldn't simply flip a switch to produce light after dark. What would that keep you from doing? Reading? Writing? Depending on your lifestyle, there are probably many activities that would be limited. Now imagine you could get the light for these…

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