Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Isofoton’s 1st US PV Plant to Start Production in November

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 05:28 PM PDT

More encouraging news on the US solar manufacturing front broke last week as Spain’s Isofoton announced it anticipates commencing production at its first US solar module assembly plant in Napolean, Ohio in November. Emerging concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) manufacturer Semprius expects to open its inaugural manufacturing facility in Henderson, North Carolina this month.

With the capacity to produce an initial 50 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) panels, and plans to expand that to 300-MW, Isofoton management is looking to US demand for solar energy to fuel industry growth over the next 10 years.

Investing some $30 million to build the PV module assembly plant in Ohio, management expects to hire an initial 120 people and focus on hiring returning military veterans, CEO Angel Serrano told Spanish news agency Efe. That would increase to as many as 330 when the plant reaches full capacity.

Isofoton’s new Ohio plant "is an example of our commitment to the U.S. market, and benefits from the support of key partners, including Samsung, Mercedes AMG, Posco, as well as our highly productive R&D and economic development partnership with the University of Toledo, Ohio," Serrano elaborated.

"Our goal is to position Isofoton North America as a strong alternative source of clean and affordable energy to meet the growing energy independence demands of the dynamic U.S. market."



Cutting Edge Solar PV Manufacturing in Ohio

Building strong ties with local communities, universities, and research institutions is an integral part of management’s business strategy. It already has an R&D and economic cooperation agreement with the University of Toledo and is keen to expand on such relationships.

For the moment, the focus is on completing and initiating production at its PV module assembly plant in Napolean. “That plant is already practically finished," Serrano elaborated. "We’ve incorporated cutting-edge technology in automatic machinery and it will be a reality starting in November, when the first two modules will begin to be churned out for our American customers.”

Included is the installation of a selective-emitter solar cell production line with a 100-MW capacity that’s slated to come online in 2013-2014. Solar PV manufacturers are turning to selective-emitter solar cell production lines in a quest to boost PV energy conversion efficiencies.

The technological process involves selective deposition of layers of phosphorous of greater thickness directly under PV cells’ silver contact grids and less in interstitial spaces, thereby improving the ability of PV cells to convert blue/ultraviolet light into electricity.

Its first solar PV plant in the US adds to Isofoton’s already strong solar PV manufacturing presence in Latin America, where it operates in countries such as Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Mexico. Serrano noted that the company is involved in solar energy projects in Latin America that combined have a total capacity of more than 1 gigawatt.

Photo Credit: Isofoton

East Coast Could be Powered by Wind

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 05:20 PM PDT

A Stanford study titled “US East Coast Offshore Wind Energy Resources and their Relationship to Peak-time Electricity Demand” has concluded, theoretically, that the East Coast could be powered entirely by wind turbines. (However, the study does not recommend such a singular approach to powering the East Coast.)

The study pegged the total number of turbines needed to power the East Coast, or about one third of America’s electricity, at 144,000. In order to generate such vast amounts of electricity, each turbine would need to be 5 MW.

Critics of offshore wind power say the turbines are unsightly and spoil the beloved coastal views that many local residents and tourists prize. The study says the best locations for offshore wind turbines are not within eyesight of shorelines, however. One advantage of using offshore turbines is that winds where they would be located often peak during the day, when electricity usage is also highest.

Regional energy generation which takes advantage of local natural resources like abundant wind and sunshine is very sensible, yet apparently there are significant political barriers. It will be fascinating to see if one region could become energy independent, and if that real-world example would cut through the resistance and red tape to the point where it would usher in the clean energy age many advocates of alternatives to fossil fuels have been taking about for decades.

The examples may have to come from abroad, though. Hopefully, wind power development in the UK and Germany (already in place, and growing) will eventually get more eyes opened in America to their own clean energy potential. Hopefully, more voters will then begin to follow through and insist upon renewable energy sources, rather than believing in the short-lived and cynical fossil-fuel course upheld up by Big Oil and Coal propaganda.

Image Credit: SeduisantRedux, Wiki Commons

Lights, Camera, Beautiful Bike Films

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 07:30 AM PDT

If you love film, crave rhythm and motion, long to break out of the status quo (even just momentarily), then take a look at these films and revel with the folks capable of taking another path, route, and road. Thanks to Pro Walk Pro BikePro Place, three talented, local filmmakers have brought to screen snippets of their documentaries and can share the stories of cyclists and bicycling progress in Southern California.

Check out the trailers below…

The following film starts by explicably depicting stopped life as it examines the inside of vehicles in stopped traffic, the claustrophobic quality of being on a slow-moving highway, and then culture shift. Life changes — on to the rest of your life and the rest of this film in open air, lively motion, and the mindful way other families in the world move without suffocating in armored cars and steaming pavement. Reminds me of the end and beginning of the film The Gods Must Be Crazy — in contrast, there is frenetic waste of time, energy, and want of a nervous system; then there is freedom with lyrical peaceful movements.

My favorite bike films are still the following two, which we have mentioned before.

Elegant, classic, and vibrant:

Cycying for Everyone — an Organic Epose

Wild, vibrant, even psychedelic — naturally, of course:

Burn Cycle, Felliniesque Bike Celebration

2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid Electric Car to Get 100 MPGe

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 07:08 AM PDT

Honda’s the latest to turn one of the most popular cars in the world into an electric vehicle for the masses. Like the Chevy Volt, this one is a plug-in hybrid electric car. Here’s more on the 2014 Honda Accord PHEV from Gas2:

2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid Debuts With 100 MPGe (via Gas 2.0)

Last week, Honda pulled the covers off of the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, and perhaps some people wish they would have left it on. While it may not be the prettiest belle at the ball, the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid does offer some impressive numbers that will make it a real contender in the…

Recycling Nuclear Waste to Power Deep Space Exploration

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 07:00 AM PDT

The British Sellafield nuclear reprocessing facility in Cumbria is working to harvest americium-241 from the nuclear waste of the country’s nuclear reactors in the hopes of turning the material into a feasible means for powering long-range spacecraft built by the European Space Agency.

Nuclear Waste to Power Space Exploration

Sellafield Reprocessing Plant

The idea is based upon designs already used by the United States in powering their Voyager probes, which launched in 1977, and the later Cassini-Huygens probe in 1997.

The same design is also in effect by the latest Mars rover, Curiosity. Due to the fact that nuclear material gives off heat for many years, the waste can be used to keep a craft warm — and thus from freezing in the deep of space — or converting the same heat into electricity to power onboard systems.

The British National Nuclear Laboratory has already harvested some americium-241 from the plutonium waste left over from the production of nuclear weapons. The Sellafield facility — an offshoot from the original nuclear reactor site at nearby Windscale — reprocesses plutonium, uranium, and other fissionable materials from spent nuclear fuel.

The European Space Agency (ESA) would love to find a replacement for plutonium-238, as the material is currently only available from the United States and Russia. The agency believes that americium-241 would make a good choice.

Each nuclear battery would only need around 5 kilograms of the material, meaning that the British nuclear program could supply all the ESA needs for the foreseeable future.

On top of providing batteries for exploratory space missions and journeys to other planets, the nuclear batteries could also be used in long term undersea probes, or in buoys designed to monitor ocean conditions.

Image Source: Visit Cumbria

UCLA/UC Berkeley Law Schools Release Report on Actions Necessary for Long-Term Mass Adoption of Electric Vehicles

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 06:30 AM PDT

A new policy paper on the actions necessary on the federal, state, and local levels to ensure that California establishes a long-term mass adoption of electric vehicles by 2025 has been released by the environmental law centers at UCLA and UC Berkeley.


The authors of the paper argue that the future of the electric vehicle market is at stake if these actions aren’t taken. 11% of the annual, new national market in electric cars occur in California, and well over 20% of the conventional hybrid vehicle market occurs in this state.

"With such a significant market share and volume of cars, California can help launch a sustainable and more robust electric vehicle market, with the country and world benefitting as a result" the paper — "Electric Drive by '25: How California Can Catalyze Mass Adoption of Electric Vehicles by 2025" — suggests.

As the paper notes, there are some major challenges remaining before electric vehicles will achieve mass adoption. With a lack of consumer awareness and accurate information, many consumers are unfamiliar with electric vehicles and their performance, and many harbor misperceptions about vehicle types, and their safety, range, and potential monetary savings.

The solutions that the paper offers are: “[To educate] the media and elected officials through a simple and effective outreach campaign about the benefits of electric vehicles. Reduce fees, taxes and upfront costs for electric vehicle owners and invest in battery research. Create federal and state tax incentives and lower fees and insurance payments for EV owners; distributing revenues from the sale of low carbon fuel standard credits to EV owners to provide them a revenue stream; develop battery financing programs; strengthen funding for EV battery R&D; develop alternatives to the gas tax to fund infrastructure; clarify the technical and cost requirements for vehicle to grid services; encourage the purchase of used EV batteries for grid operations.
Plan for and facilitate deployment of a well-planned and easy-to-use charging infrastructure network.”

Source: Green Car Congress
Image Credit: Tesla via Wikipedia Commons

China to Double 2015 Solar PV Target to 40 GW

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 06:28 AM PDT

China has a habit of increasing its solar power targets. I think it’s done so 3 times in the past year and a half. Its initial 2015 target of about 5 GW has been quadrupled to 21 GW in that time (see the link above for more info on that). Now, Giles Parkinson and Sophie Vorrath of Renew Economy indicate that China’s doubling its solar PV target yet again:

solar energy investment china

China & Solar Panel via Shutterstock

China is about to double its targeted installation rate for solar PV for the second time in as many months, and now expects more than 40GW to be installed by 2015.

According to Deutsche Bank, this target was confirmed by a source "familiar with the matter", and added that an officer at the National Energy Administration, who also confirmed that there will be no caps on the new added capacity, as had been speculated elsewhere.

The new forecast is in fact the fourth upgrade of the target for solar PV for China's 12th five-year plan, the country's official economic blueprint. Just 18 months ago, it was set at 5GW, but that is expected to be the rate of installation in calendar 2012 alone. It was doubled to 10GW, then to 20GW, and now 40GW.

The upgrade to China's 2015 forecast means that its 2020 forecast will also have to be lifted, most likely to at least 100GW from its current level of 50GW.

That would represent a more than three-fold increase in its forecasts for 2020 made just a year ago, but it reflects the fact that the cost of solar PV continues to fall sharply, and is now a cheaper option in China than peaking power plants, and at the retail and commercial level. Chinese government officials have said that solar PV will offer cheaper wholesale prices – and energy security – than coal or gas by the end of the decade.

The higher forecast for 2015 shouldn't come as a surprise. China's installation rate is estimated by some to be around 7GW this year. If that rate was continued until 2015, that would mean at least 30GW by then, even without an increase.

The Deutsche Bank report, quoting the same sources, said that China will focus on large-scale on-grid solar plants, which will be mainly constructed in the Qinghai, Gansu, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia regions. Some projects have already been canvassed that could comprise facilities of 1,000 megawatts or more.

NREL Shows Heavy Duty Hybrid Trucks Deliver on Fuel Economy

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 06:00 AM PDT

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (a part of the United States’ Department of Energy), an evaluation of hybrid electric tractor trailers has revealed that the hybrids achieve considerably better fuel economy than conventional non-hybrids.

12% Reduction in Fuel Costs

"During our 13-month study, the hybrid tractors demonstrated 13.7 percent higher fuel economy than the conventional tractors, resulting in a 12 percent reduction in fuel costs for the hybrids," NREL Senior Project Leader Michael Lammert said.

Hybrid Electric Walmart Trailer.

Additional Test Information

This project is called the Coca-Cola Refreshments Class 8 Diesel Electric Hybrid Tractor Evaluation. The vehicles were class 8 diesel-electric hybrids operated by Coco-Cola refreshments.

In addition to fuel economy and fuel costs, the NREL also collected vehicle maintenance and other performance data.

"Our analysis identified key variables on trucking routes—such as idle time, kinetic intensity, and average speed—that, if taken into consideration, can help Coca-Cola Refreshments optimize the use of its hybrid vehicles on routes where they offer the greatest fuel economy benefits," Lammert said.

This is reminiscent of the fact that the way in which vehicles are driven, and the routes that are taken for trips, both affect fuel efficiency considerably. The more time you spend driving on a highway, and the less time you spend on city driving, the more fuel you save.

This is because city driving requires much more frequent braking, acceleration, and cornering (which also requires braking and acceleration) than highway driving. All these require extra energy, and braking costs drivers momentum by dissipating it as heat.

“We see cost as the number one barrier to companies using advanced technologies," Lammert said. "Testing like this helps companies understand whether these vehicles are going to save them money over the long run.”

Photo Credit: Flickr user Walmart Stores

Prius Owners Most Likely to Go for the Chevy Volt

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 05:33 AM PDT

Electric vehicles are clearly the new kids on the block. Some people are more likely to make friends with new kids than others, as we all know. And, clearly, early adopters of the Prius hybrid are such people. Just as they led the way on hybrids, these drivers are now showing that they’re more likely to go make friends with a Chevy Volt than anyone else around. More from Gas2:

Former Prius Owners Turning To Chevy Volt (via Gas 2.0)

The Chevy Volt doesn't get a lot of love from the right-wing, and Monday's biased Reuters article claiming each Volt costs GM up to $49,000 certainly doesn't help. But there is one group of car owners who are turning to the Volt in high numbers, and it is just the customer GM is hoping to attract…

7 of 17 Fastest Growing Cleantech States Are Swing States, 5 of Them Lean Republican

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 05:09 AM PDT

Here’s a nice find from the good folks over at Think Progress. This could be a powerful factor in the coming election, as presidential and vice presidential candidates Romney & Ryan go 100% against clean energy on their campaign, and as other Congressional Republican leaders relentlessly attack clean energy. Full repost below:

Here's more evidence that green jobs may play a role in national elections. According to analysis from DBL Investors, seven of the top 17 fastest growing states for cleantech jobs are swing states. In addition, five of those top states lean Republican.

Using earlier data from the Brookings Institution showing 2.7 million jobs in America's "clean economy," DBL matched up growth rates with the political leanings of various states. The report found that Republican states lead in the top ten states with the largest percentage of green jobs. It also found that the top three states have more green jobs than the entire U.S. coal mining sector.

"The on-the-ground reality of the economic importance of clean tech should serve as a reminder to journalists, pundits, policymakers and even politicians campaigning for office," write the report authors Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar. "Politi­cians who play polit­i­cal foot­ball with clean tech increas­ingly do so at their own risk, while those that pro­mote green job growth score big points with vot­ers and work­ers alike."

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has called green jobs "imaginary" and labeled investments in clean energy "boondoggles."

e-XIV Plug-in Hybrid from SsangYong Unveiled

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 04:47 AM PDT

SsangYong (yeah, I’ve never heard of the company either) has unveiled a pretty interesting-looking new hybrid electric plug-in, the e-XIV. Find out more about the vehicle, what SsangYong means, what e-XIV stands for, and where SsangYong is based in the Gas2 post below (unless you happen to already know all of the above).

SsangYong e-XIV Plug-in Hybrid Debuts Ahead Of Paris Auto Show (via Gas 2.0)

The rise of South Korea as an economic powerhouse has led to the growth of its domestic auto industry. While most of us are familiar with Hyundai and Kia, there are other innovative automakers on the Korean peninsula.. Korean automaker SsangYong, which means "double dragons," is bringing a new…

Over 6,000 Toyota Prius Plug-ins Sold (in Just 6 Months)

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 04:35 AM PDT

The Toyota Prius Plug-in has come off the blocks quite fast, much faster than its top competitors — the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. My guess is that this is due to the brand’s familiarity. As noted earlier this year, the Prius has become the 3rd-most popular vehicle (of any type). Here’s more on the Prius Plug-in’s fast (but quiet) start from Chris over on sister site Gas2:

Toyota Prius Plug-in Breaks 6,000 Units Sold In Six Months (via Gas 2.0)

The Chevy Volt has garnered a lion's share of the attention when it comes to plug-in hybrids, both positive and negative. Meanwhile, Toyota has quietly released their own Prius Plug-in to the masses. This week the Japanese automaker announced that in the first six months the Prius Plug-in had sold…

City-Owned Buildings in Toronto to Install Rooftop Solar Power Projects

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 04:30 AM PDT

The City of Toronto and Toronto Hydro have signed an agreement through which 8,800 solar panels will be installed on city-owned buildings across the city. The construction for the project has already started with the installation of panels on Mimico Arena, York Mills Arena, and Goulding Park Community Centre/Arena.

The panels will generate about 2600 MWh of electricity annually for 20 years and can power approximately 215 households. The project is expected to cut 480 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

solar installation

The generated power will be fed into Toronto Hydro-Electric System's electrical grid, which is expected to generate gross revenue of over $16 million for 20 years. The electricity will be purchased under the feed-in tariff contract scheme of the Ontario Power Authority, a program that encourages project developers to invest in renewable energy generation, transmission, and distribution so that even more renewable energy sources can be incorporated into Ontario's electricity system.

The panels will be installed at ten different locations in Toronto, for which about 60% of the panels will be manufactured locally, thus helping the growth and development of solar energy sector in a region. Several international companies, like Trina Solar, have entered the Canadian solar power market as they see significant opportunity growing there.

“This is a great opportunity to make use of underutilized City roof space and generate revenue for the City,” said Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40 Scarborough-Agincourt), Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee in a press release. “Reducing environmental impacts for communities and improving air quality for our residents is another step in the right direction.”

“We have an important role interconnecting renewable projects to the distribution grid; we have connected hundreds of distributed generation customers totalling more than 90 megawatts (MW), of which 13 MW are renewable projects,” said Ivano Labricciosa, Vice-President, Asset Management, Toronto Hydro. “And, in addition to supporting our customers’ renewable programs we have two solar projects of our own that generate over 900 MWh and displace approximately 165 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility strategy.”

Similar projects have been implemented in many places across Ontario. Like Toronto, Belleville has a 20-year contract with the Ontario Power Authority. After the contract expires, the electricity generated by the solar panels will power the individual buildings.

"By far, most of the rooftop and solar installations that are being developed are by private developers on privately-owned buildings," said Rob Maxwell, manager of the Toronto Renewable Energy Office.

Photo Credit: SolarCity

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

Thermal Energy Storage in US Likely to Triple by 2020

Posted: 18 Sep 2012 04:00 AM PDT

According to a recent report published by Pike Research, increasing interest in thermal storage systems (TES) could be seen in the coming years in the US.

Currently, installed solar thermal capacity in the US is 2.7 GW, which is expected to increase up to 7.2 GW by 2020 (i.e. approximately, a tripling of today’s capacity), according to Pike Research. The annual US market for thermal energy storage capacity accounts for $268 million, with 246 MW of new capacity installed in 2011, particularly in five market segments (i.e. packaged air conditioning, chiller thermal energy storage systems, district energy, residential heat energy storage, and commercial heat TES).

"With the exception of pumped hydroelectric storage, which dwarfs the installed capacity of all other commercially available energy storage technologies, TES is currently the most common form of storage available," says research director Kerry-Ann Adamson. "Although other storage media, especially batteries, are expected to grow significantly faster than TES, TES revenue will continue to increase with global revenue from new TES installations forecast to surpass $3.5 billion by 2020."

As per the Pike Research forecast, the thermal energy storage market in Europe is expected to see the strongest growth because of EU's heavy emphasis on energy efficiency initiatives and increase in volatile renewable energy generation, which is anticipated to continue.

Thermal energy storage is not a new concept and has been used for centuries. TES offers great advantages. It reduces the time or rate mismatch between energy supply and energy demand, and it plays an important role in energy conservation. Storage improves the performance of a power generating plant by load levelling. The higher efficiency would lead to higher conservation and improve cost effectiveness.

Image: US NARA/Wikimedia Commons

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

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