Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Our Team… On a Map

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 10:00 AM PDT

 
We’ve added a little feature to our “Our Team” page (which is linked at the top of all our posts and pages). We’ve added a custom Google map that shows where our writers live.

I’ll go ahead and stick the map below, too. For a better view, you can just go ahead and visit the Google Maps page where it’s hosted.


“ebuggy” EV Battery Trailer Blazes a Shortcut to Affordable Electric Vehicles

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 09:02 AM PDT

 
If electric vehicle batteries are the single most expensive obstacle to making EVs more affordable, then one solution is to ditch the battery, right? Well, almost. A German company called ebuggy has come up with an EV battery trailer called ebuggy (what else?).

The trailer arrangement enables car buyers to go for a relatively low-cost EV with a small, lightweight battery for local driving (where range is not an issue). To go on a long trip, all they have to do is stop by the local ebuggy station, hitch up a trailer with a much larger battery, and Bob’s your uncle.

ebuggy trailer extends range of EV batteries

Relay Stations for the ebuggy EV Battery Trailer

Though driving around with a trailer is not everyone’s cup of tea, between private owners, the commercial sector, and government/non-government organizations, there is probably plenty of market to support something like ebuggy.

For that matter, the ebuggy concept is familiar territory to the millions of U.S. drivers who routinely hitch U-hauls, campers, boats, and bike trailers to their cars.

As a one-off range extender, the trailer concept is pretty simple. It only takes a couple of minutes to hook up, which makes it at least as quick and convenient as going over to the local gas station and filling the tank for a long trip.

For even longer trips, ebuggy envisions a network of relay stations where EV drivers can drop off a spent trailer and hitch up a fresh one, also within just a couple of minutes.

That makes things a bit more complicated, but it wouldn’t necessarily put a crimp on the market. In fact, the EV battery relay/exchange concept is already starting to take hold as an alternative to charging stations. The EV battery company Better Place, for example, has been ramping up the introduction of a fully automated drive-through “experience,” where EV owners can switch out their spent batteries in a matter of minutes rather than waiting around for a recharge.
 


 

Freedom for New EV Technology

In terms of EV design, the ebuggy concept offers a higher degree of leeway to EV manufacturers, which would be freed up to devote more talent on developing super lightweight, inexpensive EVs for local driving rather than having to accommodate larger, heavier batteries.

The folks at ebuggy also point out that the trailer concept provides a two-for-one deal, by providing EV owners with both a short-range and a long-range option in one car.

Another option would be to buy that tiny new Emo from Tata and rent a larger car for long-distance drives, but that could prove to be a lot more expensive than simply hooking up an EV battery trailer whenever you need it.

They Built This!

That tight focus on affordability and flexibility is no accident, as ebuggy evidently has its eye on the personal mobility revolution under way in enormous new markets like China and India, as well as Western markets where consumers are thirsting for more economical options.

If U.S. car manufacturers want to compete for those customers, they are not going up against a lone company called ebuggy. They will be butting heads with a full-scale public-private collaborative effort by Germany.

That includes a grant from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, along with the participation of companies AERA GmbH Muhlhausen Germany, BVB INNOVATE GMBH Stuttgart, Germany, and HB Technologies AG, Tubingen, Germany, as well as the ISW Institute of the University of Stuttgart.

Unfortunately, back here in the U.S., a certain presidential candidate continues to push the I built this whole thing all by myself fantasy, which certainly does no good for the U.S. business community… except, maybe, in your dreams.

Image: ebuggy EV battery trailer courtesy of ebuggy.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


California Will Have 25% of US PEV Sales from 2012-2020, New Report Finds

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 08:51 AM PDT

 
A new study from Colorado–based Pike Research suggests that close to one-quarter (25%) of US plug-in electric vehicles sold between 2012-2020 will come from California.

Image Credit: Toyota Plug-In Hybrid via Shutterstock

"PEV sales roughly correspond to population, but other factors, including demographics, socioeconomics, and public policy, have a strong influence as well," said Pike Research senior research analyst Dave Hurst.

"Florida, for example, the third largest market for PEVs, has 60 percent of the population of California, but by 2020 Florida will have only 25 percent the number of PEVs found in California," he said.
 

 
The analysis also noted Hawaii will have the highest penetration rate, thanks to shorter driving distances and higher gas prices.

Meanwhile, California will have four of the top ten US metropolitan areas in terms of PEV sales between 2012-2013. These areas include: Los Angeles/Long Beach area, San Francisco/Bay area, San José, Santa Clara region, and Sacramento, the report noted.

Source: Pike Research


Romney Gets a Wind Power Tax Credit Smackdown from Starbucks, Yahoo!, & Others

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 08:20 AM PDT

 
The last thing presidential candidate Mitt Romney needs this week is a bit of piling on by some of American’s top corporate icons, but that’s exactly what went down on Tuesday in the form of a wind power advocacy letter to Congress signed by Starbucks, Yahoo!, Ben & Jerry's, Johnson & Johnson, the Portland Trailblazers, and 14 others. The letter urges Congressional support for extension of the wind power tax credit.

Et tu, Portland Trailblazers? That’s right, even pro basketball is represented in the mix of major U.S. companies arrayed against Romney, whose campaign has confirmed that he is against the popular wind power tax credit. Talk about running against the wind!

Starbucks and 17 others urge support for wind tax credit

A Wind Power Tax Credit Message for You, Romney

Most of the companies that signed onto the letter belong to BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy), a project of the sustainable business advocacy organization Ceres.

Aside from the aforementioned signatories, the others run the gamut from some of America’s oldest and best known brands, like Levi Strauss & Co., to up-and-comers like Clif Bar.

That includes Akamai Technologies; Annie's, Inc.; Aspen Skiing Company; Jones Lang LaSalle; New Belgium Brewing; The North Face; Pitney Bowes; Seventh Generation; Sprint; Stonyfield Farm; Symantec; and Timberland.
 


 
The gist of the letter is that the Production Tax Credit signed into law by George H.W. Bush has begun to deliver on its promise of building a competitive market for renewable energy, as evidenced by a 90 percent drop in the cost of wind power since 1980.

Put that against the backdrop of global fossil fuel price trends (which are up), along with grid stability and supply issues, and it’s clear that U.S. companies have a strong bottom-line interest in wind power, over and above the broader public health and employment benefits to the consumers who populate the domestic marketplace.

The picture is best summed up by New Belgium Brewing, which states that it “has made investing in renewable power a strategic priority because it’s the right thing to do for the environment, for our business, and for clean energy employment.”

Coffee, Beer, and Basketball for Wind Power

Domestic energy security is one thing, but U.S. companies also need access to more wind power as a marketing tool that will enable them to compete in the global economy.

A pair of studies commissioned by the Danish wind turbine company Vestas indicates that, globally, more companies are voluntarily investing in wind power  and a majority of consumers prefer products that are manufactured using wind power.

The mere threat of allowing the U.S. wind tax credit to expire has already caused the domestic wind industry to slump this year, after setting an impressive growth record in previous years. If Congress does allow the tax credit to expire, that would not only blow up one of the few bright spots in U.S. industry since the 2008 financial crisis, it would also kneecap any number of other U.S. companies that need every edge to compete in the global marketplace.

As Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, puts it, “the Production Tax Credit helps every business that purchases renewable power: It's just that simple.”

Simple, that is, if you have the best interests of the U.S. business community at heart.

And yes, President Obama gets the wind power thing, in case you’re wondering.

Image: Starbucks. Some rights reserved by CarbonNYC.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


Boston Mayor to Solarize Own Home

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 08:04 AM PDT

 
boston picture

Lead by example. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino is doing exactly that by participating in Solarize Mass, a SolarCity and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center partnership to encourage Boston residents to install solar. Menino is slated to have solar panels put on his own home, according to a recent SolarCity press release.

Mayor Menino said Boston is looking to have 25 megawatts of solar power installed in Boston by 2015.

SolarCity — which has been on a hiring binge – said that, before the Solarize Mass project began, there were 101 residential solar installations in Boston; 40 new customers have since signed up for the tiered savings program.

Image: Boston Skyline via Shutterstock


Power from the People (Book Review)

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 07:58 AM PDT

 
It had me at “foreward by Van Jones.”

Greg Pahl’s book Power From the People, how to organize, finance, and launch local energy projects starts off with a punch as Jones makes the case that the world is in dire straights, both in energy and economy matters. Jones calls on all of us to create a “social uplift environmentalism that can fight poverty and pollution at the same time.”

Now that we’re all pumping our fists to Jones’s sermon, enter Pahl (stage right). Pahl leads readers on a journey through the how-tos of local energy projects and what the implications have been for those communities. Spoiler alert: Communities that source their own energy through clean means end up with green jobs and greater energy resilience.

The book’s 14 chapters are partitioned into four parts. These four parts are straightforward, logical, and — most importantly,  (in my opinion) — interesting.

Part one, “Setting the Stage,” is as exactly as it sounds. Pahl takes us on a mini time traveling trip, reviewing American energy policy as it has been applied to renewable and nonrenewable sources over the last few decades. If I would’ve been told the first three chapters were going to be a numbers-heavy, policy examination, then I’m ashamed to say I would’ve glossed over it. But, I didn’t know it beforehand, so I didn’t skim my way into chapter four and — to my shock and awe — I was not bored to tears in the least. Quite the opposite, actually. Pahl walks us through the realities of what the policies have done to our economy and makes some estimations as to what’s in store for us if we don’t dramatically shift towards renewables, with an emphasis on conservation.
 

 
I appreciated the unpretentious (and speedy) way Pahl overviewed all the sources of energy, including oil, coal, and natural gas. He simply notes the advantages and drawbacks to each source, forecasting what the next 20 or 50 years looks like for each of those. After reading the quick descriptions of each, I feel much less embarrassed to throw my two cents around about renewable energy at the next cocktail party where I’m looking to impressive eco-conscious guests.

Part three is the meat of the book. Pahl gives us a good number of case studies for each renewable resource that is successfully operating in communities across the US, along with a shout-out to the little German village that could, Wildpoldsreid.

My major quibble with “Power From the People” is when Pahl oscillates between providing readers with a brief explanation of funding options and then, in other situations, bogs readers down with financial mumbo-jumbo. (Confession: I was known to scan portions that seemed dense on financial aspects.)

Part four is the swan-song of “Power From the People” — a reminder that desperate times are ahead if we don’t pony up to renewables pronto, but with a little of a (not quite as elegant) Van Jones–style call to action.

After finishing “Power From the People,” are you going to be prepared to present the ins and outs of financing a biogas project to your local city council? No way. Is it still a worthy read? Definitely.

Image courtesy of Chelsea Green Publishing


Desalinated Water via Solar Still

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 07:45 AM PDT

 

Most of us take our coffee pots for granted, thinking nothing of how that technology can be applied to bringing potable water to the masses. Italian designer Gabriele Diamanti has taken the concept of an upside coffee maker and turned it into a solar desalinator called the eliodomestico. Here’s how it works:

And that bottom water collector is just the shape to be balanced on the head.

Diamanti says the eliodomestico can produce up to five liters of water a day and costs about $50 to make, but he’s aiming to keep the solar desalinator an open source project so families in need can have it free of charge.

Images: Courtesy of Gabriele Diamanti
Source: TreeHugger


Tanzania’s Largest Solar Power Project Moves Forward

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 07:42 AM PDT

 
The 2,000 solar panels for Tanzania’s largest solar power contract to date have arrived. About 600 batteries and accessories (like inverters) have also made the journey to Tanzania based on the $4.7 million contract that was signed in March.

Once assembled, the solar technology will bring clean energy to the Kigoma region of Tanzania. The town of Kigoma is located in western Tanzania near Lake Tanganyika. About 135,000 people live there.

Besides providing clean electricity to replace diesel generators and kerosene, the solar power project will provide training opportunities for local workers. It has been estimated that adding a solar power plant will benefit 10 health centers, 45 secondary schools, 120 dispensaries, and 25 village markets. Also, a number of beach units will store power in batteries and provide LED light for fisherman at night.
 

 
The Kigoma region has one of the lowest per capita income levels in the country, so adding a renewable energy facility should help the local economy. About 60% of Tanzanians don’t have access to electricity. The solar power potential of Tanzania has been estimated to be very good.

Image Credit: Ikiwaner, Wiki Commons


Smith Electric Vehicles Preparing for IPO & Good Cashflow

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 07:40 AM PDT

 
20120918-095736.jpg

Smith Electric Vehicles is finally going public. Its IPO is expected to contain 4.45 million shares, roughly between $16 and $18 a share. It is expecting the IPO to bring in around $76 million, most of which will be used to pay down debts.

The Kansas City, MO–based company primarily makes electric delivery vehicle supply trucks that it provides to clients such as FedEx, Coca-Cola, and DHL.
 


 
Source: Green Auto Blog
Image Credit: Smith Electric Vehicles


Romney & Gang Keen to Kill 37,000 US Wind Energy Jobs

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 07:30 AM PDT

 
This is sad, and it’s also hugely important for countless people across the country, and around the world. That’s why we’ve reported on the potential death of the wind production tax credit many times, including the finding of one study that such a death would cost the US 37,000 wind energy jobs, and the fact that numerous jobs have already been lost due to the uncertainty (and politicizing) of the PTC. Here’s more on the matter from sister site Red, Green, and Blue:



Romney’s policy on wind energy is a real job-killer (via Red Green & Blue)

You hear the GOP call just about anything they don't like a job-killer. Especially regulations – the kind that keep power companies from poisoning your kids with mercury, keep oil companies from running unsafe rigs that blow up and dump millions of gallons of crude into our oceans and rivers…




University of Florida to Go Solar by November

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 07:20 AM PDT

 
According to The Gainsville Sun, the University of Florida will “go solar” by November in order to reduce energy costs, and the solar panels are also to serve as a teaching tool for professors and students.

The university is building a 100-kW power plant which is expected to supply the university with 157,000 kWh of electricity per year. An average home uses 9,000 kWh to 14,400 kWh per year (750 kWh to 1,200 kWh per month).

University of Florida Cancer and Genetics Research Complex

Whenever the size of a solar panel array is mentioned, it is normally the maximum electricity generation capacity of it, but not the average amount of power that can be derived from it.

How the Gators Landed Their Solar Panels

The solar panels will actually be provided free of charge by Progress Energy through its SunSense Schools program. This program offers solar panels to up to ten public K-12 schools and one post-secondary public school annually.

The University of Florida was selected because of its commitment to renewable energy education and research, as well as the number of students attending the school and the amount of energy the school consumed.

University of Florida Solar Project Installation

Preparation of the grounds for the solar panel installation will begin this week, according to Dustin Stephany, a UF Physical Plant Division coordinator.
 

 
The ground-mounted panels will be installed at three places on and near the school’s campus. The largest will be a 78-kilowatt system at the university's Energy Research and Education Park on Southwest 23rd Terrace.

The rest of the panels will be located near the school’s microbiology and cell science building, also between Rinker Hall, and Broward Hall on the school’s campus.

Source: The Gainsville Sun
Photo Credit: greatdegree from Flickr.


Wind Power in Texas Keeping Out New Natural Gas Power Plants

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 07:09 AM PDT

 
CPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby recently wrote an op-ed blaming wind farms for impeding the commission of new natural gas–fired power stations.

To many, it is difficult to guess why wind farms would make it more difficult to construct gas power plants. Let’s dive in.

Wind Farms Generating Cheap Electricity

Modern wind farms generate electricity at a low-cost of $0.097 per kWh (9.7 cents) without subsidies. (This is an average — as wind speeds at wind farms increase, the cost of wind power decreases because the ratio of power generated to the cost of developing the wind farms decreases. Some wind farms, of course, produce electricity much more cheaply than others.)

Add in subsidies for this young technology, and the price drops further.

Now, additionally, it’s worth noting that, while winds are blowing, wind farms can bid to sell their electricity for about as cheap as they need to — because their fuel is free, so it doesn’t really cost anything extra to produce electricity once the wind farms are built. For this reason, we’ve seen wind farms bring the wholesale cost of electricity down to $0 some nights (yep, $0.00).

In the most recent Fall, Spring, and Winter, wind farms generated such a large amount of cheap electricity in Doyle’s region that they undercut natural gas power plants during all three seasons (although only 2.5% of the time). At wind speeds of 21 mph, the average cost of wind power drops to as little as 2.6 cents per kWh.

Texas is a Wind Power Behemoth

According to Gov. Rick Perry’s officials report (page 10), wind energy growth has been tremendous in Texas and it would rank 6th in the world if Texas was a country, with a total wind electricity generation capacity of 10,394 MW (10.4 GW).

That is almost a quarter of the United States total, which is 46,919 MW.
 

 

Wind Farms Don’t Need Much Land

For those concerned about wind farm “sprawl” wasting land, the study also made some good points about that (also on page 10).

Wind farms require as much land as they do because their blades need to be substantially spaced to permit efficient turbine operation. This is why wind farm ground space is mostly unused or farmland, and the blades are literally hundreds of feet above the ground — this is also why wind turbines are fairly quiet.

Most (if not all) wind farms can be used for farming, so the land does not have to be wasted. When the land is put to use, wind turbines end up using the least space of all types of power stations because the only space they actually occupy on land is equal to the width of their towers, which are not very wide.

In other words, most of the mass of a wind turbine is well above ground and out of the way, so the size of wind turbines does not have to be a space issue at all.

Conclusions

The basic conclusions are that wind is so cheap that it is even driving natural gas production out of some areas, and it is extremely efficient when it comes to land use.

Source: My San Antonio
Photo Credit: Paul Moseley, McClatchy-Tribune News Service / Fort Worth Star-Telegram


Extreme Reminder: Extreme Weather Record Set, U.S. Experiences Most Extreme 8-Month Period on Record

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 06:00 AM PDT

 
Here’s another reminder why we do what we do, to tag onto 2012 being the hottest year on record so far in the US and Arctic sea ice reaching its lowest recorded extent – a full repost from Climate Progress:

The period from January to August 2012 saw the most extreme weather in recorded history throughout the contiguous U.S., according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency's Climate Extremes Index, which tracks the top 10 percent extremes in drought, precipitation, and temperature, was more than double the average value since the index was started in 1910.

extreme weather record us 2012

The eight-month period between January and August was also the warmest on record for the lower 48 states, according to NOAA's State of the Climate report. The report shows that the summer of 2012 was the third warmest ever recorded for the U.S. — only .2 degrees F lower than the summer of 1936, during the height of the Dust Bowl.

Our climate system, juiced by carbon pollution, is smashing old records faster than a baseball player on steroids.


Romney Advisor Wants EVs — Does It Matter?

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 03:30 AM PDT

 
You may have seen that one of Romney’s top advisors is a big electric vehicle (EV) fan. But the fact that Big Oil is funding much of Romney’s campaign probably trumps that, in my opinion. Nonetheless, this is a somewhat interesting conundrum in the Romney camp. Here’s more from Chris DeMorro on the matter:



Romney Advisor Dan Senor Pushing For EVs (via Gas 2.0)

I think it is fair to say that Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney is not feeling the love for electric cars (even though he once did). The Romney/Ryan Energy Dependence Plan calls for more drilling, fewer regulations, and eliminating green energy subsidies, but not oil subsidies. Yet there is one man…




85% of Global Consumers Want More Renewable Energy

Posted: 19 Sep 2012 02:00 AM PDT

 
Two recent studies commissioned by Vestas show there is a strong appetite for renewable energy across the globe.

According to the Global Consumer Wind Energy Study put out by TNS Gallup, which gauges consumer tastes on energy, 85% of global respondents want more renewable energy in the market.

Image Credit: Power In Nature via Shutterstock

The survey also noted 49% of those surveyed would be willing to pay more for renewable energy, while 45% believed climate change is one of the big three challenges facing the globe .

Other responses included that 62% of those asked would buy products from companies who use wind energy, while 74% of consumers would feel more positive if companies used wind as its primary source of energy.

"The evidence presented by the surveys is extremely encouraging, clearly showing that consumers are demanding more renewable energy in the grid and are showing a willingness to pay a premium price for products made with renewable energy," said Vestas Group Senior Vice President of Marketing, Communications, and Corporate Relations Morten Albaek, in statement.

The survey was done in 20 countries with 24,000 respondents taking part.

Meanwhile, the Corporate Renewable Energy Index (CREX) written by Bloomberg New Energy Finance looks at what companies are doing voluntarily for renewable energy production.

Their results found global investments are advancing in new renewable energy capacity ($237 billion), more than fossil fuels ($223 billion).
 

 
Adding on top of that, businesses are showing a firm commitment to on-site renewable energy generation, including responsibility for 40% of 2011 renewable energy purchased, the index noted.

CREX is also an analyst tool used by various groups including, non-government organizations, consumers and policy makers, the release said.

While consumers play a vital role in supporting renewable energy, corporations, according to Vestas, can play a big role in supplying the world energy needs without ramping up global carbon emissions.

"The trend of private companies investing in renewable energy is very positive," said Albaek.

"We have already seen many companies such as IKEA purchasing wind turbines as part of a commitment to get all of its energy from renewable sources, and recently Aviva, the UK's largest insurance group invested in a wind power plant in Spain as they wanted a low risk, strong yield investment."

“The findings of the CREX report show corporations are taking an active role in purchasing their own renewable energy directly. However the pace of growth in companies’ use of renewable energy will depend on the level of political and regulatory support, and on further progress in the cost-competitiveness of these technologies," Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

Source: Vestas


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