Friday, September 14, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Fears Grow as Battery Manufacturers Face Potential “Ghosn Shock”

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 01:34 PM PDT

If there is one man who knows how to rev up a market, it is Carlos Ghosn, chief of Nissan. Ghosn is renowned for his disruption of Japan’s steel industry — in 1999, he pushed suppliers to bring down prices to assist his corporate recovery plan.

carlos ghosn shock lithium ion batteries

Ghosn’s impact on Japan’s steel industry is thought to have been so scathing that it gave rise to the industry’s restructure and it is from this that the phrase “Ghosn shock” was coined. It is this type of shake-up that battery manufacturers now fear as news surfaces that Nissan plans on engaging Hitachi to supply the company with lithium-ion batteries — this is despite Nissan’s own joint venture with NEC Group, who also manufactures lithium-ion batteries. Hitachi’s lithium-ion batteries are rumoured to be destined for a couple of Nissan’s green vehicles, namely the Altima and Pathfinder models.

It is not surprising that Nissan is looking for ways to reduce the cost of their production of eco-friendly cars, given electric car sales to date haven’t been wonderful. Where there is reduced costs of manufacturing, there is the opportunity for bringing down the retail price, and that could in turn boost consumer interest and turn around the lagging sales trend.

There is little doubt that, should Nissan pursue Hitachi’s cheaper battery option, then other battery suppliers will feel the pressure to reduce their prices to compete, and that could spark an industry-wide shake up. Battery manufacturers have been poised for the eco-friendly car market explosion only to watch on as carmakers failed to realize projected sales. Indeed, many battery manufacturers had a very optimistic view of the type of sales volume they might see as a result of growth in the green car industry, but instead they are facing an oversupply problem and a potential “Ghosn shock” in their sector.

Furthermore, Japan’s government is aiming high with its sights set on 50% market share of storage batteries worldwide by the time 2020 comes around. This would be an additional seventeen percent on their current share of thirty three percent. Whether this goal is realistic or not is yet to be seen. However, battery suppliers the world over are vying for a large piece of the market and are prepared to fight it out over price, with Nissan spurring them on from the sidelines now, it would seem.

Time will tell exactly what it Nissan will do next, but we are certain that every carmaker and battery manufacturer is watching closely with baited breath and even quietly preparing for a “Ghosn shock” reorganization, and perhaps that’s just what the industry needs.

Source: Autoblog Green
Image: Carlos Ghosn, via World Economic Forum

2012 Hottest Year on Record for US

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 10:24 AM PDT

The last eight months have been the warmest of any year on record in the contiguous United States, and this has been the third-hottest summer since record-keeping began in 1895, according to the US National Climate Data Center.

During every one of the last 15 months, the temperatures have been above-average. That has never occurred before in all the 117 years of US record-keeping, said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the data center.

2012′s winter, spring and summer have “all been among the top-five hottest for their respective seasons,” Crouch said, something else that is also unique in the U.S. record. “There has never been a warmer September-through-August period than in 2011-2012,” he added.

“We’re now, in terms of statistics, in unprecedented territory for how long this warm spell has continued in the contiguous U.S.”

These seemingly ‘freak’ heat waves are typical of what climate scientists have been warning would become more likely in a rapidly warmer world.

Alyson Kenward of the non-profit research and journalism organization Climate Central said, in a statement: “Extreme heat is closely tied to climate change, and this summer’s heat wave left a global warming signature in the data, particularly in the ratio of record high to record low temperatures.”

In a temperature stable world, record highs and record lows would balance out, with a ratio of one to one. During 2012, “25 states have had high to low temperature ratios of 10 to one or greater; 14 have had a ratio greater than 20 to one; and three have had greater than 40 to one ratios,” Climate Central said.

Ohio was the highest, with 49 record high temperatures to every record low.

There has also been a very severe drought accompanying the heat, almost 63 percent of the Lower 48 states are currently experiencing drought.

And perhaps more alarmingly, arctic sea ice has fallen to its record smallest ever observed size, and the melting season this year isn’t even done yet. The Arctic, sometimes called the world’s air conditioner, has a large impact on global temperatures and weather patterns.

“As of September 5, the ice on the Arctic Ocean was less than 1.54 million square miles (4 million square km), a 45 percent reduction compared to September conditions in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Source: Reuters
Image Credits: Cracked Earth via Shutterstock

Who’s Going Solar? 20 of the US’ Largest Companies (New List: Top 20 Commercial Solar Users)

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 08:02 AM PDT

The top commercial solar users in the US have been revealed by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Vote Solar. They were revealed yesterday at Solar Power International 2012 in Orlando.

The companies are simply ranked by ranked by cumulative solar energy capacity. I’m a much bigger fan of relative rankings — they do a better job of showing who’s really invested. But I think this list is better than nothing at all, so let’s take a look at it.

The Top 20 companies (in terms of on-site solar capacity deployed) are:

  1. Walmart
  2. Costco
  3. Kohl's Department Stores
  4. IKEA
  5. Macy's
  6. McGraw-Hill
  7. Johnson & Johnson
  8. Staples, Inc.
  9. Campbell's Soup
  10. Walgreens
  11. Bed, Bath & Beyond
  12. Toys 'R' Us
  13. General Motors
  14. FedEx
  15. White Rose Foods
  16. Dow Jones
  17. Snyder's of Hanover
  18. ProLogis
  19. Hartz Mountain Industries
  20. Crayola

As you can see, we’ve covered some of the big boys over the years.

“The data at left demonstrates the percentage of U.S. company stores with solar for a few notable companies. It is not a full ranking, rather a comparison between some of the top solar users that were already part of this report's analysis. It should be noted that smaller companies could well have solar at all of their company locations or could even be net exporters to the grid, meaning companies generate more solar energy onsite than is consumed by their facility.”

“Combined, the Top 20 corporate solar users' installations generate an estimated $47.3 million worth of electricity each year,” SEIA and Vote Solar write.  That’s enough for about 46,500 average US homes. And, in total, all commercial solar installations in the US could power 390,000 American homes.

“Altogether, U.S. commercial solar installations have reduced business' utility bills by hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

Other solar leaders that didn’t make the top 20 include:

"These companies know that solar energy allows them to reliably manage their long-term energy costs and in turn also helps to keep their customer prices low," said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. "Solar helps these top American companies focus on their core business by reducing overhead costs."

Noted Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, "What do all of these major businesses have in common? They know a good deal when they see one, and so they are all going solar in a big way across the U.S."

Of course, the above companies are not done with solar — they’re just getting started. They typically have long-term energy plans that involve a lot more solar than they have on their facilities today.

Some more big stats from the news release:

  • “The companies analyzed for this report have deployed more than 700 individual solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on their facilities in at least 25 states and Puerto Rico.”
  • “More than 1.2 million solar PV panels were used for the Top 20 corporate solar users' installations. Combined, these arrays would cover more than 544 acres of rooftops.”
  • “Walmart and Costco combined have more solar PV installed on their store rooftops than all of the PV capacity deployed in the state of Florida, the Sunshine State.”
  • “The top 10 companies (by capacity) have individually deployed more solar energy than most electric utilities in the U.S.”

With over 100,000 US solar employees at about 5,600 solar companies, it’s clear solar power is an important industry today. And more than twice as much solar was installed in Q2 2012 than Q2 2011 in the US.

For a ton of quotes from the companies listed above, check out the SEIA & Vote Solar news release.

Check out the full report on SEIA’s site.

Connect with me on Google+ or other social media sites.

Yikes! Zombie Solar Projects Could Rise from the Dead!

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 08:00 AM PDT

The impending Zombie Apocalypse is real and it’s coming to a solar power project near you! At least, that’s what a group of four conservative organizations is saying in a new statement. The foursome is concerned that the proposed “No More Solyndras Act” does not go far enough to choke off federal support for new energy projects that are already in the Department of Energy’s loan pipeline, enabling the survival of “a number of the ‘zombie’ projects that would be allowed to live.” Sounds like the elevator pitch for a Grade B zombie flick, right? And what’s all this about No More Solyndras not going far enough?

groups say no more solyndras should go farther

No More Solyndras Doesn’t Go Far Enough

For those of you new to the issue, the No More Solyndras Act is a Republican-sponsored proposal coming up for a vote this week.

The bill would put an end to the Department of Energy’s successful Loan Guarantee Program for new energy projects, but it would, reasonably enough, allow for the completion of projects that are already in the pipeline.

That doesn’t go nearly far enough, say the usual suspects! The four groups issuing the statement are Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Heritage Foundation, the National Taxpayers Union, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. They claim that these “zombie” projects could be “even more costly to taxpayers than the widely publicized Solyndra loan-guarantee failure.”

The remedy, according to National Taxpayers Union VP Andrew Moylan, is to amend the bill to cut the Loan Guarantee program off sooner rather than later, thus ensuring that “these ‘zombie’ projects don’t draw any more blood from taxpayers.”

So… How Much Blood from Taxpayers?

It seems that the anti-zombie crowd is a little misinformed about the nature of the Loan Guarantee program, and is more than happy to spread that misinformation around.

The Loan Guarantee program was implemented under legislation dating back to the Bush Administration. From the get-go, it was designed with the expectation that some of the ventures could fail, since it involves private sector investment.

Sure enough, although some of the investments have failed, including the Solyndra company (which, by the way, came into the Loan Guarantee pipeline during the Bush Administration, not the Obama Administration), an independent audit has confirmed that the overall DOE Loan Guarantee portfolio is strong and successful.

The program, in fact, is credited with spurring billions more in private investment, to say nothing of new green jobs.

Spark Notes version: Private sector investors can lose out if one of the Loan Guarantee projects fails, but taxpayers have nothing to fear (well, except for fear itself. And spiders).

Image (cropped): Zombie. Some rights reserved by welovethedark.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

$10 Million SunShot Prize for Cheap Rooftop Solar

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 07:40 AM PDT

The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot program has just kicked off a new round in a $10 million solar power competition designed to lower the cost of solar power, pretty much down to where a small rooftop solar installation could be a reasonable investment for practically anyone in the country. If you’re thinking that means building a better solar cell, that’s not it. Instead, the Most Affordable Rooftop Solar Prize is aimed at encouraging the solar industry to figure out ways to lower the “soft costs” of solar power.

new sunshot prize for cheap rooftop solar

Hard Cost of Solar Going Down…

Overall, the Department of Energy estimates that the cost of solar cells and other hardware has dropped by a whopping 400% in the past four years. Even more savings are in store as new high-efficiency solar innovations come on line, along with new low-cost solar cell manufacturing processes.

…But Soft Cost of Solar Stays Up

The sticky wicket has been soft costs, in the form of licenses and permits, installation procedures such as connecting to the grid, and routine maintenance. Those typically account for more than half the cost of a small-scale rooftop solar installation (and why solar is almost twice as cheap in Germany as it is here in the U.S.).

Cutting soft costs might seem relatively easy compared to coming up with the next cutting-edge solar cell breakthrough, but according to the DOE, soft costs have remained “stubbornly high.”

The DOE hopes the temptation of cash prizes will break the logjam. The goal of the new competition is to push soft costs down by more than 65 percent, which will put the solar industry on track to bring soft costs for small-scale residential solar systems down to about 60 cents per watt by 2020.

At that price point, small-scale rooftop solar systems will be competitive with fossil fuels (at wholesale electricity prices).

So, Who Wins the Prize?

The Most Affordable Rooftop prize will go to the first three teams that can hit two benchmarks ending in 2015.

In the first phase, qualifying teams must install 5,000 individual small scale rooftop systems of between 2 and 15 kilowatts, with an average of $1.00 (or less) in soft costs.

The second phase is designed to ensure that the qualified teams have a sustainable business model. It calls for an additional 1,000 installations.

The overall winner gets $7 million and bragging rights to the “America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar” name, which of course could be worth much more as a promotional tool.

The real winners, though, are the thousands of U.S. workers who stand to gain from the green jobs generated by the small-scale solar power industry.

Image: Dollars. Some rights reserved by AKZOphoto.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

Hanwha Solar Reaches Partnership Distributor with AEE Solar

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 07:30 AM PDT

Hanwha Solar has recently reached a partnership with nationally recognized wholesale solar distributor AEE Solar.

Announced at the Solar Power International conference in Orlando, Florida, the new partnership allows Hanwha Solar to increase and firm up its market share in the residential solar market. In October, AEE Solar will add Hanwha Solar's HSL60 poly module to its distribution arrangement, according to the release.

Image Credit: Hanwha SolarOne

"The next generation of solar PV systems will be highly efficient, flexible and reliable. Hanwha Solar and its partners are on the vanguard of this evolution," said president Mark Bronez, of Hanwha SolarOne North America.

"Faced with tremendous pricing pressures, solar companies must differentiate with innovative products that maximize value for customers. Hanwha Solar will continue to build strategic partnerships across the value chain to solidify this company as the most innovative, trusted partner in solar."

Meanwhile the Hanwha Solar is showing off three new products, including the OptiMax, a PV module with advanced design that is highly efficient; the OptiMax Wave, a commercial rooftop PV system that has very high energy density; and SunBank, an entire energy storage and solar system combined.

Another interesting product being showcased by Hanwha Solar is the Epi Thin-Silicon Technology module. This technology will cut  manufacturing costs up to 50%, thanks to processing directly from gas to module, the statement said.

"Epi Thin-Silicon technology will pave the way for cost-effective solar power on a global scale," said Chris Eberspacher, Chris Eberspacher, chief technology officer of Hanwha SolarOne said in the statement.

"We have just begun to activate our partnerships with innovative companies across the value chain, like Crystal Solar, tenKsolar and Silent Power. Hanwha Solar will continue to develop new technology that meets evolving customer needs."

The Epi Thin Silicon module should initially hit the market in 2013, with increased volumes expected a year later, the company noted.

Source: Business Wire

National Plug In Day Offering Free iPads & Free Events

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 07:00 AM PDT

The U.S. National Plug In Day is set to go off with a bang this year. On September 23, people from 60 cities across the country are getting together to enjoy ride 'n drives, rallies, tailgate parties, charging-infrastructure demos, EV-readiness awards, and best of all, FREE iPads!

National Plug In Day With Free iPads and Free Fun

The National Plug In Day website has information for various cities — what will be happening, where, and when. Some of the plug-in vehicles that will most likely be available for ride ‘n drives include:

Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi iMiEV, Plug-in Prius, Ford Focus Electric EV, Honda Fit EV, Fisker Karma, BMW ActiveE, Coda, Zero Motorcycles, and such legacy leaders as the Tesla Roadster and Toyota RAV4 EV.

The day is based around the idea of celebrating plug-in vehicles, and highlighting the fun that can be had with them, as well as the clean-air benefits and cost-savings.

And did I mention the free iPads? Plug In America will be giving away one 3rd-generation Apple iPad at 10 separate National Plug In Day Events. It’s a relatively simple process, and all you have to do is visit this Facebook page for all the details on how to enter.

Source: National Plug In Day

Bicycling Renaissance Underway in U.S.

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 06:30 AM PDT

Jumping on bikes, gliding down streets, lobbying for more paths — more Americans are cruising bike paths, streets, and roads on two wheels. Between 1977 and 2009, the total number of annual bike trips more than tripled in the US. Meanwhile, bicycling’s percentage of all trips rose from 0.6% to 1% in that time period. Twice as many people are biking to work in 2009 as in 2000. What of 2012? Where are we now?



Revival and Celebration of Freedom in Travel

Bicycling continues to grow, in the spirit of a magnetic revival and celebration of freedom in travel, with Copenhagen as a mentor. There is more need for growth and change. However, a lot of local support is presently shifting urban transit patterns. Chicago’s effort to appeal to young professionals in open-air transit is one positive example: Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to make Chicago “the bike friendliest city in the country“. There is also the Boston bike-share program, DC biking programs, NYC’s huge bike-sharing program and growth in bicycling, and the East Coast Greenway running the eastern seaboard north to south.

Bike Renaissance

It is time for this bike renaissance, and even though we have more to do, we do not lack inspiration. ”From coast to coast, cities across the United States are experiencing a rise in bicycling. Local governments are leading the peloton, with cycle-friendly policies and increases in government funding spurring a municipal pedal pursuit,” Planetizen writes.

For all of us contemplating biking in cities around the world, it is good to understand the subtle even esoteric link to natural time and catch up with RioSao Paolo, as well as Copenhagen, of course. As one gentleman from the Netherlands has pointed out to me, “we have a peace beyond cars.” He quietly explains: "Time, we have time in this part of the world."

Image Credit: bicycle portrait in NYC by JPH – Juleskills

4,000-MW New Mexico Solar Project Researched

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 05:30 AM PDT

If you look at the Arizona Governor’s Office of Energy Policy website, there is an entry for a huge 4,000-MW solar power project, which is under investigation for potential development. It says the Navajo Hopi Land Commission (NHLCO), Navajo Nation received over $300,000 for the conducting of a feasibility study for the development of 4,000 MW of solar power in 22,000 acres of Paragon-Bisti lands in northwestern New Mexico.


An document about the proposed project says the annual insolation average is 6.58 hours per day for this area. The main goals of the project would be to develop the renewable energy potential of the lands so the local tribes could have clean energy and reap the financial benefits of being energy independent. Constructing such an enormous solar capacity would also create jobs and many trainings for new workers. The long-term goal would be to generate enough power to sell some to the regional grid systems and develop enterprises based on that commerce.

Some tribes in America have unemployment rates of 50% or higher. Furthermore, the potential for economic growth is low, so the cycle of poverty continues. “She ticks off a list of what revenue from the plant would mean for her community: a day-care center, programs for senior citizens and veterans, better roads, more efficient wells for drawing water, language-preservation programs and scholarships for youngsters,” a journalist from Richmond Times Dispatch writes. ’She’, in this quote, is Delores Apache, the president of a local economic development organization.

Sometimes hearing about these very large-scale projects when they are at the very initial phase of exploration is frustrating because there may be so many impediments that they don’t come to fruition. Especially when they appear to be an ideal solution to a number of social problems as well, there can be a great deal of frustration and disappointment when they don’t materialize quickly. However, they also can be seen as the positive direction to take for the future, and one that is somewhat inevitable over the long term.

Image Credit: Department of Energy

Riverside County Home Energy Renovation Program Yields Energy Bill Savings, Local Jobs, Carbon Emissions Reductions

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 05:21 AM PDT

Energy experts have long been touting residential solar PV installations and home energy efficiency renovations among the most straightforward, cost-effective ways of cutting home energy costs, boosting energy conservation, reducing residential carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and stimulating local economies and job creation.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs are designed with realizing those aims foremost in mind. More specifically, they help make residential solar PV and energy efficiency improvements more affordable by enabling municipalities and other local government authorities to raise investment capital via bond issues. Those funds are then provided to qualified homeowners to carry out solar PV, other clean energy, and energy efficiency projects. To service and repay the bonds, PACE financing recipients agree to pay higher property taxes over the course of 20 years.

Thing is, residential PACE financing has been held up in something of a state of limbo since 2011, the result of federal mortgage finance providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s refusal to finance or guarantee mortgages with PACE liens on them.

Progess is being made, nonetheless. Indicative of the potential high level of demand for PACE finance, Riverside County’s new HERO (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity) program has already approved more than $45.5 million in clean energy financing for 1,500 residential projects. They range from upgrading windows and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) systems to whole-home PV solar installations," according to a Riverside Press-Enterprise report.


Picking Up the PACE on Home Energy Improvements

PACE legislation has been passed in more than 28 US states since the PACE concept was conceived and first proposed in the Monterey Bay Regional Energy Plan of 2005, according to statistics compiled by non-profit PACENow. The nation’s first PACE program — the BerkeleyFIRST climate program — was launched in Berkeley, California in 2008. California legislators followed that up with the launch of the CaliforniaFIRST PACE financing program for commercial, industrial and multi-family projects.

Energy efficiency renovations yield savings for homeowners by reducing energy consumption and hence energy bills. Greater energy conservation also results in lower carbon and CO2 emissions reductions, a social benefit of global proportion. Similarly retrofitting homes with solar PV systems can save homeowners money and reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprints. It also makes them more energy self-reliant while at the same time taking electrical load off energy grids.

Looked at narrowly from the individual homeowner’s perspective, the benefits may seem small and inadequate. Viewed from the broader, aggregate perspective, the individual, local, and even global benefits stand out in their scope and scale. Heating, cooling, lighting, and otherwise providing energy for buildings accounts for 49% of total US energy consumption, and 75% of total electricity consumption.

PACE financing provides US homeowners with the ability to make substantial dents in those figures, and that yields significant carry-over benefits. Moreover, PACE project financing also benefits homeowners and communities by boosting local economies and creating jobs.

Riverside County’s HERO to the Rescue

Launched in December, 2011, Riverside County’s HERO PACE progam is a public-private partnership between Renovate America and the Western Riverside Council of Governments. Some 360 local contractors are participating in the program. For them, the 1,500 local residential clean energy projects HERO’s helping finance mean more work, more income, and more hiring, all while helping homeowners save on energy bills and improve the environment and living conditions by reducing carbon and GHG emissions.

As reported in the Riverside Press-Enetrprise, HERO financing is also contributing to California’s drive to meet mandated state reductions in GHG emissions, for which it’s garnering national media attention. Based on the success to date, HERO’s founding partners are looking to expand the program nationwide.

Photo Credit: Habitat for Humanity
Map courtesy PACENow

USDA Reaches $250 Million Goal to Support Smart Grid Infrastructure

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 04:30 AM PDT

The USDA recently announced it has obtained its $250 million goal to improve US rural smart grids.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on a tour in North Carolina noted that taxpayers will see very little cost for smart grid infrastructure investment for the rural US, thanks to the USDA reaching it's $250 million investment goal.

“Grid modernization and deployment of ‘smart grid’ technology will increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power generation,” said Vilsack in the statement

“Providing reliable, affordable electrical service contributes to stronger rural economies and is the backbone for a prosperous rural America. These loans will help ensure that rural areas can retain existing businesses, support new ones and have reliable, up-to-date infrastructure.”

The investments are just a part of the US Administration's attempts to upgrade the electric grid in order to avoid blackouts in the future due to increased demand, along with external factors like extreme weather events, including the derecho storm that hit parts of the USA late June this year.

It's hoped the new investments by the USDA will push integration of renewable energy into the electrical grid, cut the need for more coal power plants, and spur innovative entrepreneurship, the statement noted.

Well-known examples of smart grid technologies the USDA mentioned include: smart phone apps that allow you to check your thermostat, and websites showing energy savings to household owners.

Here were some of the beneficiaries of the funding:

Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation ($21.5 million) & Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership ($6.4 million) in North Carolina. Both companies plan to use the loans to upgrade current grid infrastructure, and support installation of automatic meters.

Agralite Electric Cooperative ($5.19 million loan) in Minnesota. The cooperative aims to improve their distribution lines with the loan as well as smart grid projects.

North East Missouri Electric Power Cooperative ($30 million) in Missouri/Iowa. The company plans with the investment improve 24 miles of transmission line and build three substations. The Missouri–based cooperative also plans to use $500,000 of the loan for various smart grid projects.

For more on the other beneficiaries, you can go to the USDA website.

Source: USDA
Image Credit: Smart Meter via Shutterstock

Airbus Unveils Latest Vision for Sustainable Aviation

Posted: 13 Sep 2012 04:00 AM PDT

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus recently released its latest installment of the “Future by Airbus” report, its vision for a sustainable aviation industry in 2050 and beyond. For the first time, the report looked at how the aircraft is operated both on the ground and in the air.

Airbus Looking to Sustainable Future of Aviation

"Our engineers are continuously encouraged to think widely and come up with ‘disruptive' ideas which will assist our industry in meeting the 2050 targets we have signed up to,” said Charles Champion, Executive Vice President Engineering at Airbus.

“These and the other tough environmental targets will only be met by a combination of investment in smarter aircraft design and optimising the environment in which the aircraft operates. That is why our latest Future by Airbus Smarter Skies concepts focus on not just what we fly but, how we may fly in 2050 and beyond."

Airbus Anticipating Needs

Airbus Anticipating Needs

Airbus noted that there are already steps that could be taken today to enhance the sustainability of flight times. If the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system and technology on board Airbus aircraft was optimised, they found that flights in Europe and the US could on average be approximately 13 minutes shorter, and the same could be said for flights elsewhere.

Subsequently, take the average 30 million flights per year for Europe and the US, such a reduction in flight time would mean a saving of 9 million tonnes of excess fuel annually, equating to over 28 million tonnes of avoidable C02 emissions and a total saving of 5 million hours of excess flight time.

And with continued improvements to aircraft design, alternative energy sources, and new ways of flying, these improvements can only increase over the following decades. Airbus is already working on these sorts of innovative solutions in the hopes of meeting the targets they have set themselves and signed up for.

The Future by Airbus concentrates on just that and the Smarter Skies vision consists of five concepts which could be implemented across all the stages of an aircraft's operation to reduce waste in the system (waste in time, waste in fuel, reduction of CO2). These are:

Aircraft take-off in continuous 'eco-climb'

  • Aircraft launched through assisted take-offs using renewably powered, propelled acceleration, allowing steeper climb from airports to minimise noise and reach efficient cruise altitudes quicker.
  • As space becomes a premium and mega-cities become a reality, this approach could also minimise land use, as shorter runways could be utilised.

Aircraft in free flight and formation along 'express skyways'

  • Highly intelligent aircraft would be able to "self-organise" and select the most efficient and environmentally friendly routes ("free flight"), making the optimum use of prevailing weather and atmospheric conditions.
  • High frequency routes would also allow aircraft to benefit from flying in formation like birds during cruise bringing efficiency improvements due to drag reduction and lower energy use.

Low-noise, free-glide approaches and landings

  • Aircraft allowed to take free glide approaches into airports that reduce emissions during the overall decent and reduce noise during the steeper approach as there is no need for engine thrust or air breaking.
  • These approaches would also reduce the landing speed earlier which would make shorter landing distances achievable (less runway needed).

Low emission ground operations

  • On landing aircraft engines could be switched off sooner and runways cleared faster, ground handling emissions could be cut.
  • Technology could optimise an aircraft's landing position with enough accuracy for an autonomous renewably powered taxiing carriage to be ready, so aircraft could be transported away from runways quicker, which would optimise terminal space, and remove runway and gate limitations.

Powering future aircraft and infrastructure

  • The use of sustainable biofuels and other potential alternative energy sources (such as electricity, hydrogen, solar etc) will be necessary to secure supply and further reduce aviation's environmental footprint in the long term.  This will allow the extensive introduction of regionally sourced renewable energy close to airports, feeding both aircraft and infrastructure requirements sustainably.

"We know people want to fly more in the future and our forecasts support this. We also know that they don't want to fly at any cost," says Charles Champion. Our focus at Airbus is on meeting this continuous growth in demand, keeping the passenger, our customers and the environment at the centre of our thinking. The future of sustainable aviation is the sum of many parts and success will require collaboration amongst all the parties who are passionate about ensuring a successful prospect for aviation."

Source: Airbus

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