Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Maryland’s Clean Energy Economy: Innovation Powered by Progressive Policy

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 12:00 AM PDT

By Kathy Magruder, Executive Director of Maryland Clean Energy Center

Progressive policy support, entrepreneurial innovation, and advocacy efforts have turned Maryland into one of the strongest clean energy markets in America. This growing strength was on display at the 2012 Maryland Clean Energy Summit, held September 17-19 outside Baltimore.

Maryland's government has created a policy environment that is empowering our state's clean energy industry to grow, generating investments and creating green jobs, despite an overall slow national economic recovery.

Since 2007, more than 150 megawatts (MW) of new solar and wind have been built across the state, and Maryland currently generates 6.7 percent of its energy from in-state renewables. Much of the state's future generation growth is projected to come from wind and solar, and we are on track to achieve a 20 percent by 2022 renewable portfolio standard (RPS), including a two percent solar carve-out.

As our energy mix gets greener, we're also reducing our emissions. The Greenhouse Gas Solutions Act will cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, relative to 2006 levels, and Maryland participates in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), designed to reduce carbon dioxide from electricity generation 10 percent from current levels by 2019.

Maryland is also creating a more efficient energy economy. The EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act targets a 15 percent reduction in per capita energy consumption and per capita peak demand. Peak demand has fallen 9.1 percent since 2007, and state energy efficiency programs have saved residents more than 1.26 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity through 2011.

Through the Maryland Home Energy Loan Program (MHELP), more than 204 loans have directly been made to homeowners for energy efficiency projects. Since 2011, a total of $1.6 million in loans have closed, leveraging $681,000 in additional funds. These projects have saved 775,000 kilowatt-hours (KWh) and created 4,900 full-time employment hours.

Because of these policies, the state's clean energy industry is thriving. A recent industry survey of 500 clean energy businesses registered with the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC) revealed half expected to employ more workers in 2012 compared to 2011, and nearly 40 percent reported more than $1 million in revenue. The most recently available Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis found 87,400 green jobs across Maryland, 3.6 percent of all jobs statewide.

Several Maryland clean energy entrepreneurs were recognized by the Maryland Clean Energy Center for their work in the sector at the recent Maryland Clean Energy Summit, including Ecobeco, a company collecting and distributing home energy efficiency measurement metrics; Fiberight, a company transforming post-recycled municipal solid waste and organic feed stocks into next-generation biofuels; and the Non-Profit Energy Alliance, 60 companies that have pooled their electricity demand to save $511,000 on their utility bills while purchasing 23 million KWh of wind energy.

These innovators, and more clean energy technology startups, are profiled in this video:

Maryland may be a small state, but we are generating big clean energy results that come from a stable policy outlook and entrepreneurial business spirit and we are on the path to a sustainable energy economy that will power green growth for years to come.

Author Bio: Kathy Magruder is executive director of the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC). The MCEC was created in 2008 to help transform the state's energy economy with programs that catalyze business growth, increase green collar jobs, and make clean energy technologies, products, and services affordable and accessible for state residents.

Austria Adopts New Feed-in Tariffs

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 11:30 PM PDT

The Austrian Economics Ministry has announced new feed-in tariffs for solar and wind farms on its website (open it in Chrome or use Google Translate to translate to English).

The feed-in tariffs for wind power were reduced by 0.005 cents per kWh of the electricity generation cost, from 9.5 cents to 9.45 cents per kWh in the second half of 2012. The ministry says that this will provide incentives for the construction of wind farms in “efficient areas.”

Austrian flag.

The Austrian government has set aside €11.5 million for the construction of new wind farms annually.

For photovoltaic solar panels (these are just ordinary electricity-generating solar panels), no support is provided for systems that generate more than 500 kW. This is to prevent large, expensive power plant projects from consuming most of the budget.

Ground-mounted solar panel arrays smaller than 500 kW will be eligible for 16.59 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2013, 10 percent less than the current 18.43 cents. Building-integrated solar panel array projects will receive not only a feed-in tariff, but also an upfront investment bonus. The ministry says that this will encourage more direct consumption of solar power, rather than transmitting it all to the electricity grid.

Building-integrated systems now receive a 19.7 cents per kWh tariff on top of a 30% payment of the total system cost (which is limited to €200 per kW). The ministry says this is equivalent to a feed-in tariff of almost 22 cents.

In 2013, the feed-in tariffs will drop to 18.12 cents. Future feed-in tariffs will be decreased at a rate of 8% per year.

Small hydroelectric power plant projects have the option to utilize a feed-in tariff of 10.6 cents per kWh for the first 500 MWh of power it generates, or a 30% up front bonus.

Their tariffs will be more than halved if their capacity is in excess of 2 MW and they generate over 7.5 MWh. These rates are to drop by 0.5% in 2013.

Biomass is only eligible for feed-in tariffs if used in cogeneration units. Their tariffs range from 11 to 18 cents per kWh for small units.

Source: Renewables International
Image Credit: Engelbert Hosner/ 

Som Energia — Spain’s Only Renewable Energy Cooperative Now Boasts 3500 Members

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 11:10 PM PDT

some energia energy cooperative spainSpain at last has its own renewable energy cooperative — Som Energia — founded in Girona in the country’s Catalonia region. The group gets involved in profitable renewable energy projects to supply green electricity to its members and partners.

The Cooperative has just surpassed the 3,500 membership mark  (October 2012).

This nonprofit organization allows members to invest directly into renewable energy projects, as is already being done in many Northern and Central European countries, such as Germany. The current economic crisis is really hurting Spain, and that means that many people are looking for alternative ways of living, and joining cooperatives are a great option compared to the large multinational energy companies (which dominate the Spanish energy sector).

The cooperative invests in its own photovoltaic, wind, biomass, biogas, and hydroelectric projects. And the members (who pay a one-off €100 to join ) can then change their energy provider over to Som Energia, therefore receiving purely clean energy. Alternatively, each member can invest into projects directly (investors can get a return of between 3-5% annually and can take out their investment whenever they wish).

People who want to become a Som Energia member only have to fill in a form on the organization's website  ( and provide a €100 signup fee. Investing in the renewable projects isn't obligatory, but welcome, and the cooperative has already received over €1,300,000 in investments from its members.

For anyone who’s curious to learn more, the site does have an English section.

Author Bio: Richard is a keen supporter of clean energy and sustainable building practices. He is senior advisor to Gestor Energetico, Spain’s leading online sustainable building training company.

US DoD to Spend $1.8 Billion on Clean Energy by 2025

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 11:00 PM PDT

According to the latest report published by Colarado-based Pike Research, the US Department of Defense is expected to spend $1.8 billion on clean energy by 2025. The clean energy programs also include conservation measures which are expected to increase steadily over the next 12 years.

The various branches of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) combine to become one of the largest consumers of energy in the world, with consumption of around 3.8 billion kWh of electricity and 120 million barrels of oil annually, totalling $20 billion spent on energy directly per year.

"Changes in energy policy have provided countless opportunities throughout all operations of the DoD, with examples of renewable energy projects that include targets of 1 gigawatt of renewable energy installed capacity each for the Army, Navy, and Air Force by 2025, a target of 25 percent of all energy produced or procured from renewable energy sources by 2025, and development of the Navy's Great Green Fleet Strike Group powered by biofuel, nuclear power, synthetic fuels, and hybrid propulsion systems," says research analyst Dexter Gauntlett. "Most of these initiatives have gained considerable momentum and many of the targets will be achieved."

The report predicts that the DoD is one of the most important drivers of renewable energy in the United States, with an official annual budget of about $800 billion. But, according to the Pike Research, the actual budget is much higher. Pike predicts that DoD expenditures include the procurement of technology, vehicles, aircrafts, and vessels running on cleantech and energy efficient components, and about $75 billion spent on research and development programs.

This Pike Research report, "Renewable Energy for Military Applications," apart from forecasting the DoD expenditures on renewable energy by 2025, also analyses the present status and future plans of renewable energy at DoD and military bases. The report also examines the near- and long-term plans of DoD in research and development, primary drivers of renewable energy for each branch of the military. Analysis of renewable energy programs by technology (including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, waste to energy, hydrokinetic and ocean energy, and fuel cells) is also covered in the report.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration had confirmed the establishment of a new army laboratory aimed at focussing on improving energy efficiency in combat vehicles. Also, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to work together on promoting the renewable energy generation on 16 million acres of DoD land.

Image Credit: USAF/Wikimedia Commons

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

US Energy Policies Surprisingly Dependent Upon Water

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 10:30 PM PDT

You may not be aware of it, but a lot of energy production is very reliant upon there being great quantities of water to help in the process. A new report suggests that increasingly scarce water supplies are a major hidden cost of a “business as usual” approach to generating electricity in the US.

The new analysis, ”The Hidden Costs of Electricity: Comparing the Hidden Costs of Power Generation Fuels,” comes from the Civil Society Institute. It looks at six fuels used to generate electricity – biomass, coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar (photovoltaic and concentrating solar power), and wind (both onshore and offshore). The six fuels were then analysed for their impact on water, climate change, air pollution, land, and other resources, as well as planning, cost risk, subsidies, and tax incentives.

Water Use Needs to be Brought to Light in Energy Production

The Diablo nuclear power plant in Avila, CA

“The government and energy industries are literally flying blind as they plan for continued reliance on coal, natural gas, nuclear power and industrial biomass to meet our energy needs,” said Grant Smith, senior energy analyst, Civil Society Institute.

“Each of these is water intensive and leads to pollution of water, which is increasingly scarce and in competition for other uses such as agriculture and other commercial uses. The drought intensifies the urgency and the imperative that political leaders in both parties hit the pause button on the headlong rush to support nuclear power and fossil fuel use.”

Examples of the water-related findings in the report include the following:

  • Nuclear power has critical cooling requirements that require huge amounts of water. Roughly 62 percent of U.S. nuclear plants have closed-loop cooling systems. Reactors with closed-loop systems withdraw between 700-1,100 gallons of water per megawatt hour (MWh) and lose most of that water to evaporation. Water withdrawals are even higher at open-loop cooled nuclear plants, which need between 25,000-60,000 gallons per MWh. Most of the water is returned, but at a higher temperature and lower quality.
  • In addition to fouling streams and drinking water through mining and coal-ash dump sites, coal-fired power relies heavily on closed-loop cooling systems which withdraw between 500 and 600 gallons of water per MWh and lose most of this via evaporation. Withdrawals for open-looped cooled coal-fired power plants are between 20,000-50,000 gallons per MWh. Most of the water is returned, but at a higher temperature and lower quality.
  • Under a so-called “Clean Energy Standard,” biomass would become a much larger source of U.S. electricity generation; however, biomass also requires vast amounts of water. The report notes that a typical 50 megawatt (MW) biomass plant could withdraw roughly 242 million gallons of water per year and lose most of this. Adding 10 of these plants in a region would use 2.42 billion gallons of water per year. For dedicated energy crops, water use for irrigation can be considerable. One study estimates water use for most crops between 40,000 and 100,000 gallons per MWh, with some crops exceeding this range.
  • In 2010, EPA estimated that fracking shale wells can use anywhere from two to 10 million gallons of water per well. The water is often extracted from on-site surface or groundwater supplies. Such huge water withdrawals raise serious concerns about the impacts on ecosystems and drinking water supplies, especially in areas under drought conditions, areas with low seasonal flow, locations with already stressed water supplies, or locations with waters that have sensitive aquatic communities.
  • By contrast, wind and solar photovoltaic power requires little water in the electricity generation process. Concentrating solar power requires water for cooling purposes, but new technologies are placing greater emphasis on dry cooling. Solar power plants with dry cooling use only around 80 gallons per MWh – about a tenth of the low-end estimate for nuclear power and one-sixth of the low end estimate for coal-fired power generation.


“In 2005 the Congress mandated a federal water/energy roadmap,” Seth Sheldon PhD, CSI lead water/energy analyst, added. “Nearly eight years later, that roadmap has not been produced and either through bureaucratic inertia or fear of hard political questions, the questions are not even being asked, much less their solutions explored. At a time of significant water scarcity and increasing threats to water quality, we can ill afford to ignore this central question about the future of our energy choices.”

Other water-related data highlighted in the report includes the following:

  • The full picture for nuclear power water use may be even more dramatic. Estimates of lifecycle water use for three European reactors range from 2,600 to 6,900 gallons per MWh, not including cooling water use. (This compares with a lifecycle analysis of a parabolic trough solar thermal power plant at 1,240 with wet cooling and just 290 gallons per MWH for dry cooling.) In addition, nuclear wastewater production ranges from 6.3 to 7.4 gallons per MWh.
  • Coalbed methane recovery of natural gas depletes ground water: one estimate puts total groundwater removed between 1997 and 2006 at an astounding 172 billion gallons.
  • Estimates of the lifecycle water withdrawals from wind projects, including both onshore and offshore projects, range from just 55 to 85 gallons per MWh.

Source: Civil Society Institute
Image Source: Mike Baird on Flickr

EPA Offering to Foster Sustainable Growth

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 10:10 PM PDT

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week its intention to allow communities to apply for technical assistance to foster sustainable growth in their area. As part of that, the EPA is offering tools that can be applied in rural, suburban, and urban areas, including;

  • Smart growth and economic development to help communities get better financial results from public and private investments.
  • Green street strategies for managing polluted stormwater.
  • Land use strategies to protect water quality.
  • Parking audits to make the best use of parking for existing and planned land uses.
  • Bikeshare system planning to create alternative commuting options.
  • Community design for aging populations to ensure residents can live at home as long as possible.
  • Green building toolkit to overcome common barriers.
  • Strategies to help small cities and rural areas develop in ways that retain unique community characteristics.

EPA Helping Communities Grow their Sustainability

Communities desirous to participate in the program would apply for one of the specific tools and, if selected, would find themselves working alongside an EPA-supported team of experts on how to apply those tools during a two-day workshop.

The EPA will select up to 44 communities in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

If your community wants to participate, applications are being accepted between September 26 and October 26, with all the information available at an EPA website dedicated to the program.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency
Image Source: JL Outdoor Photography

British City Replacing Diesel Buses with Wirelessly Charging Electric Buses

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 10:00 PM PDT

The British city of Milton Keynes is replacing the diesel buses on its Nº7 route with eight electric buses that will use wireless charging.

British Buses Going Electric

A five-year collaboration agreement committing to replacing diesel buses with all new electric ones was signed by eight separate organisations, led by a subsidiary of Mitsui & Co Europe. The bus routes should see the electric buses by the summer of 2013.

The wireless charging will allow the buses to charge when power transmitted from a primary coil buried in the road is picked up by a secondary coil on the bus, which needs spend only 10 minutes parked over a coil to replenish two-thirds of the energy consumed by the bus’s route.

Running seven days a week, the eight buses are expected to remove approximately 500 tonnes of tailpipe CO2 emissions per year, as well as 45 tonnes of other noxious tailpipe emissions.

Source: Green Car Congress
Image Source: AndrewHA’s on Flickr

Solar Power Generation from the Windows — See-Through Solar Cells from Sharp

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 10:37 AM PDT

There is a list of reasons why windows are awesome things to have in any room, and Sharp just added to that list: the company has announced the release of see-through solar cell modules designed to act as architectural glass.

Sharp See-Through Solar Cell

Starting October 1st, customers in Japan will be able to buy power-generating windows from Sharp. The idea is to combine solar power generation (always a great thing to have) with lots of natural light (another great thing to have). The new solar cell module does it, and does it fairly well.

Where a standard roof-top installation requires a metal frame and rows of bright blue panels, the new Sharp system consists of what looks like simple smoky dark glass. Sharp suggests that it can be used as standard window glass, balcony railings, on the roof, or anywhere else one would like to see black glass decorating a building.


Light, Power, (No) Heat

With the need for a metal framework eliminated, the see-through system can be installed as a laminated glass structure. Each panel contains rows of solar cells, carefully arranged so that a moderate amount of natural light still shines through to the other side. It even acts as a heat shield, further reducing energy costs.

Sharp claims that the system can be totally integrated with either residential or industrial buildings (and they can be pre-ordered now), but the company doesn’t seem to be offering the product outside Japan. If you want to try your luck: the product number is NA-B095AA and the product name is See-Through Solar Cell Module (shiisuruu taiyoudenchi mojuuru). Sharp also has yet to announce pricing for the new units (the bit where it says suggested retail price simply says "open").

Questions or comments? Let us know below.

Source: Sharp Corporate News (yes, I speak Japanese).
Image Credit: Sharp.

Bank Bailout vs. Chinese Solar Investments vs. US Solar Investments vs. Solyndra Investment (Graphs)

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 10:00 AM PDT

Here’s a totally awesome graph from the folks over at Solar Power Rocks (part of One Block Off the Grid):

solar vs bank bailout infographic

From the Solar Power Rocks post:

Since Dave and I founded SPR 5 years ago, something that comes up in conversation often is how much misinformation there is regarding solar power and how much the U.S. government spends on it. To put things in perspective, we compared the cost of the Iraq war to investment in different energy sources several years ago.

Now, after being annoyed enough that the House of Representatives are so brazen as to not just write, but pass a "No More Solyndras" bill, it was high time to provide some more much needed perspective.

There’s more on the post linked above.

That graph above actually made me think of a post one of our readers contributed last year on how much solar we could have deployed for what we spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Interestingly, Solar Power Rocks also made a graph on that way back in 2007 — linked in the quote above, and also reposted here:

More from the 2007 post that came from:

These figures are in millions. The source for energy R&D expenditures is from the National Council for Science and the Environment. Take a look here.Though the war in Iraq now costs about $120B a year, two authors (one a Nobel prize winner) estimates thetotal cost of this war exceeds 2 Trillion Dollars.

"Accrued liabilities for U.S. federal employees' and veterans' benefits now total $4.5 trillion. Indeed, our debt for veterans' health and disability payments has risen by $228 billion in the past year alone…The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the interest payments on the money borrowed to finance the Iraq war will total $264 billion to $308 billion."

That $2,000,000,000,000? Well, that amount of money could've built solar thermal plants here that would have provided energy for 2/3rds of our nation's energy demand.

My guess is that number is a bit higher today. Meanwhile, solar is a lot cheaper, especially in countries that have made it a priority to get a lot installed.


Arctic Sea Ice Extent Concludes Summer Shrinkage at Record Minimum

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 07:00 AM PDT

How many posts will you see decrying the minimum sea ice extent of the Arctic Sea this year? My best bet is approximately 36, give or take three on either side. For CleanTechnica’s part, this should be our last, as the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has released its preliminary report on 2012′s sea ice extent minimum.

According to NSIDC, “on September 16, Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its minimum extent for the year of 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles).”

This puts 2012 as the lowest seasonal minimum extent in the satellite record, which began back in 1979, despite the year being less extreme than 2007, when climatic conditions actively favoured summer ice loss.


The minimum extent — a preliminary result, given the possibility of a shift in wind patterns leading to a period of late season melt pushing the ice extent even lower — was reached three days later than the 1979 to 2000 average minimum date of September 13.

This year's minimum was 760,000 square kilometers (293,000 square miles) below the previous record minimum extent in the satellite record, which occurred on September 18, 2007, and 49 percent below the 1979 to 2000 average.

Overall, there was a loss of 11.83 million square kilometers (4.57 million square miles) of ice since the maximum extent occurred on March 20, 2012, which is the largest summer ice extent loss in the satellite record, more than one million square kilometers greater than in any previous year.

NSIDC suggests that “the primary reason for the large loss of ice this summer is that the ice cover has continued to thin and become more dominated by seasonal ice.” What they mean is that instead of ice that has survived several summers and grown thick and strong, the ice that is melting each year is only formed the winter previously.

For more on the Arctic death spiral, check out this Arctic death spiral post from March, this post on Arctic ice melt projections for the coming years, this post on 2011′s Arctic sea ice minium (source of the image just above), this post on a range of climate science topics and how they’re misrepresented by Richard Linzen, or the NSIDC post linked below.

Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center

China Solar Inc. Trade Battles Intensify; State Bank to Boost Financial Support for Largest Players

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 04:33 AM PDT

News regarding international trade in the fast-growing, hotly contested markets for solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels is coming in hot and heavy this week as the number of international trade and domestic legal actions filed against the Chinese government, solar PV manufacturers, and PV exports continues to mount.

In Europe, the EU ProSun group of solar PV manufacturers Sept. 25 added to a WTO anti-dumping petition that the European Commission (EC) announced it would investigate on Sept. 6. The second EU ProSun petition asserts that the Chinese government is specifically and directly subsidizing PV manufacturers’ exports in such a way as constitutes a "predatory" practice prohibited by WTO rules.

Adding further to China’s growing WTO solar power caseload, news reports say that Indian PV manufacturers are lobbying their Commerce Ministry to launch its own investigation into Chinese dumping of PV cells and panels and solar PV subsidies proscribed by WTO rules.

In the US, Oregon Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley on Sept. 24 introduced two bills that would prohibit the US federal government and taxpayer-funded programs from purchasing Chinese PV panels. The Investment Tax Credit Integrity Act (S.3610) proposed prohibiting granting of the solar investment tax credit (ITC) to project developers intending to purchase Chinese PV panels.

The Buy Fairly Trade Goods Act of 2012 (S.3611) would prevent government offices and agencies from buying "unfairly traded products that are subject to trade remedy tariffs." In addition, it would prohibit the federal government from contracting to buy solar or wind-generated electrical power from suppliers that use PV panels or wind turbines manufactured by companies in countries subject to unfair trade tariffs or duties.


China State Bank “Doubling Down” to Save Nation’s Largest PV Players

All this comes as the China’s Securities Journal, an official state publication, released a report saying that the state-owned China Development Bank is recommending to strengthen financial support for 12 Chinese solar power companies (including Suntech Power Holdings, Trina Solar, and Yingli Solar; three of the largest PV manufacturers in the world).

"This is important to the industry that only 12 selected companies can receive state support, indicating the government's intention to speed up industry consolidation," commented Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Jessica Ng in Beijing. "It seems like Suntech, Trina, and Yingli will survive from this with, while LDK may be struggling to get on the list," Bloomberg News reported.

Notably absent from those mentioned is LDK Solar, said by anlaysts to be the weakest of China’s largest PV manufacturers. LDK’s latest financial results show "a company teetering on the brink of collapse," according to one news report. LDK is said to have hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to help find a buyer for LDK, which is a Chinese state-owned company.

Having ramped up production capacity and exports tremendously in recent years, China’s PV manufacturers continue to struggle to clear a mountain of inventory, selling prices that leave no or little margin for profit and increasingly burdensome debt loads.

The EU economy, China PV manufacturers’ largest export market, is sputtering as it suffers under the burden of sovereign debt issued to prop up ailing banks and property markets. ProSun’s decision to add an illegal subsidy petition to its previously filed petition claiming dumping of PV cells, wafers, and panels adds significantly to China’s solar industry woes. The European Commission WTO legal investigation finding in favor of ProSun’s illegal subside petition could result in the imposition of countervailing duties on Chinese imports.

Teetering on the Brink of Collapse?

US WTO authorities — the Commerce Dept. and International Trade Commission (ITC) — have already preliminarily found in favor of similar illegal trade petitions against the Chinese government and solar PV manufacturers. Countervailing duties are now being imposed on Chinese PV imports to the US based on 12 categories of Chinese subsidies. Preliminary import duties to counter Chinese dumping are also being levied in advance of final rulings on both petitions; expected to come from the Commerce Dept. in mid-October.

Representing "the majority of EU solar industrial production," EU ProSun and "the Sustainable Energy Initiative for Europe" group president Milan Nitzchke stated: "Chinese government subsidies are only available to Chinese companies. Massive subsidies and state intervention have stimulated overcapacity more than 20 times total Chinese consumption and close to double total global demand.

"Hence, more than 90% of Chinese production had to be exported. Irrational overproduction on this scale cannot generate profits. Chinese subsidies shield manufacturers from insolvency, and are pumped into solar companies even if they are unprofitable. Most Chinese solar companies would have gone bankrupt a long time ago if not for endless government subsidies. Meanwhile, over 20 major European solar manufacturers have become insolvent in 2012 alone."

Seemingly harming their own efforts to contest illegal subsidy charges is the news contained in the China Securities Journal report. Government-owned China Development Bank has extended 12 Chinese PV manufacturers some $43.2 billion in credit lines since 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which enabled Suntech, Trina, Yingli, JA Solar, and LDK to greatly and rapidly increase production to the point where they are now the largest PV manufacturers in the world.

China’s governing State Council has raised national goals for new solar power installations several times recently, the latest being installing 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2020, from its present 3.6 GW or so. China Development Bank is to submit a report on its recommendations to the State Council shortly. It may well contain information regarding how the state bank intends to support and help achieve the national government’s solar power installed capacity goals.

At the same time, China Development Bank’s recommendations include more strictly controlling lending to other domestic solar companies, and it won’t provide financing solely for capacity expansion, Bloomberg reported. It will also lend financial support for larger solar PV companies to acquire smaller competitors, which falls into line with central government policies aimed at realizing industry consolidation and rationalization.

Still No Solar Panels on White House

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 04:11 AM PDT

It has been over twenty years since the White House roof had solar panels. President Carter had them installed in 1979 to heat water. President Obama said in 2010 that new solar panels would be added in 2011. They weren’t.

At the time of the announcement, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said: “This project reflects President Obama's strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home. Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

President Carter didn’t seem to have too much problem getting solar panels on the White House decades ago. Today, we live in the Information Age, where technology is embraced and used in many facets of life. It seems it would be even easier in this era to get the project finished. Plus, solar power technology has advanced considerably, and is being put up in huge amounts in some countries.

The White House receives about 1.5 million visitors each year. Solar panels could have been added at the beginning of the administration’s first year, to take advantage of the large number of visitors and set an example for the whole country. Energy efficiency and independence are issues that affect the national economy and our foreign policy.

At this point, it is too late to make excuses for the glaring absence of solar technology at the White House. Even George Bush had some solar presence at the White House, as The Atlantic reports: “The Bush administration has installed the first-ever solar electric system on the grounds of the White House. The National Park Service, which manages the White House complex, installed a nine kilowatt, rooftop solar electric or photovoltaic system, as well as two solar thermal systems that heat water used on the premises.”

Update: via one of our great readers/commenters:

Image Credit: Public Domain

Map of the Economic Impacts of Cycling

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 04:00 AM PDT

Biking is awesome. Nearly anyone, anywhere can pedal. And the economic benefits of bicycling are positively impacting communities across the country. Check out this map for the evidence (click that link for a larger version):

Some of my favorite tidbits:

  • In Indianapolis, a home’s value increases by 11 percent just from being a half-mile closer to the Monon Trail.
  • In 2011, Iowan commuter and recreational biking generated $400 million in economic activity.
  • In 2009, Minnesotans on bikes spent $261 million on cycling goods and services.

Source: League of American Bicyclists 

Saudi Arabia to Build Its 1st Solar Power Facility (in Mecca)

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 03:56 AM PDT


One of the sunniest places in the world is taking a significant step into solar power. Saudi Arabia is building a 385-GWh power plant that will include 100 megawatts of solar power capacity.

The plant will be built in Mecca, a city that attracts millions of religious tourists every year.

Renewable Energy World reports that, in January 2013, the Saudi government will choose from at least 20 bidders for construction and operation of the facilities. The government has stipulated that solar will definitely be a part of the power plant, with wind and biomass as other possible renewable components.

Image: July Flower via Shutterstock 

Kyocera Invests in Smart Home & Energy Technology Research

Posted: 26 Sep 2012 03:50 AM PDT

The Kyocera Corporation announced last week their participation in a state-of-the-art, international smart-grid demonstration project which aims to assist with the wider implementation of renewable energy and the promotion of energy conservation through the use of smart-grid-related technologies.

In conjunction with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) of Japan, amidst a number of other companies, research institutes, and local governments, Kyocera will be involved in the project which will see data collection take place at the project sites, and analysis through to March 2014.

Kyocera Invests in Energy Technology Research

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on September 17 for the project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, at one of three sites in Los Alamos and Albuquerque that make up the project.

Kyocera is involved in two of the three sites, the Smart-Grid Demonstration and the Smart House Demonstration in Los Alamos.

On top of that, Kyocera has been commissioned to lead the Evaluation of Distributed Energy Resources (photovoltaics, etc.) within the Collective Research portion of the overall project.

The Smart-Grid Demonstration in Los Alamos involves a power supply micro-grid which uses power distribution lines from a large-scale solar power plant to utilize related technologies and performance, and to minimize the effects of power output fluctuations.

Kyocera supplied a 910kW multicrystalline silicon solar module array that is part of the 1MW solar generating system. The remaining 90kW is comprised of 9 other 10kW systems, in order to compare the performance of different types of solar modules.

Kyocera was also involved in the installation of the site, given that it is built over a reclaimed waste disposal landfill and Kyocera has expertise “in selecting and installing base mounting optimized for dynamic soil conditions.”

Kyocera Invests in Energy Technology Research

The Smart House Demonstration in Los Alamos gave Kyocera the opportunity to construct a hybrid energy management system which is using a 3.4kW residential solar power generating system, a 24kWh lithium-ion storage battery, and a heat storage unit.

The Smart House Demonstration will utilise a Home Energy Management System (HEMS) equipped with communication equipment and sensors in an effort to optimize energy usage from the solar power generating system, storage battery, power grid, and smart appliances installed in the home.

"In this project, we will demonstrate how a smart house can play an important role from the demand side in a smart grid, where renewable energy such as solar power will be significantly implemented in the future," stated Kyocera Corporation Vice President and General Manager of the company's Solar Energy Group, Tatsumi Maeda, during a speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"This smart house project was established to demonstrate the next generation of energy management by using the newest technologies."

Source: Kyocera

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