Friday, September 28, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Consider a Radical Stand to Avert Global Warming — And More

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 12:00 AM PDT

 
By Daniel Rirdan, Author of The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse

Get Real is a grassroots organization whose goal is the reduction of our ecological footprint on the planet — to an extent sufficient to avert an eventual collapse of the various ecosystems, and also, indirectly, the caving-in of the manmade world.

It is not just the threat of climate change. It is also eventual water and fossil fuel shortages, unraveling of the ecosystems, and the social and economic aftermath. This century stands to be the grand finale for the last 45,000 years if we don’t do something.
 

 
This is a moment of truth. If we do nothing of real substance, we will go down as the generation that could, but did not, the generation that sold out the future of their own children for the comfort of the moment, for the fear of looking in the mirror, and for the aversion of getting our feet wet and our hands dirty. It is not every century that a generation gets to choose — via their actions or inactions — what is to be written on their collective tombstone.

Unlike most initiatives, the 19 specified targets of Get Real are concrete and as far-reaching as is needed. Get Real does not presume we can negotiate with nature — that is, with the physical reality. Among its set of 19 concrete, quantifiable measures, Get Real seeks to electrify the vehicle fleet within fifteen years, reduce aviation to fraction of its existing volume, and replace fossil-fuel power generation facilities with lower impact ones — and it has viable schemes how we may go about doing these things.


One of Africa’s Largest Solar Plants in Development

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 11:30 PM PDT

 
A 50-MW solar power plant is in the planning stages for Garissa in the northern region of Kenya. It will be one of the largest grid-connected solar power plants in Africa.

Giraffe_-_Skyline_-_Nairobi_-_Park.jpg

It will be curious to see how many homes in the local area it can power. In the United States, a megawatt has been estimated to be enough to power 500 to 1,000 homes. In Kenya, the average home may use quite a bit less electricity.

The city of Garissa has about 65,000 residents. Just for the sake of example, say there are four residents per home, or about 15,000 homes. A 50-MW in this area could meet all the electricity needs, and beyond.

“We are pleased to be a part of Kenya’s push towards clean-tech development and commitment to renewable energy. As a market leader in the solar energy business, JinkoSolar will play a key role in supply Kenya’s growing demand for solar energy. By cooperating with CJIC, we expect this project will provide JinkoSolar with future opportunities in Kenya’s solar power plant industry,” said Mr. Kangping Chen, Chief Executive Officer of JinkoSolar.
 

 
Technical support will be provided to the solar power project by JinkoSolar, and they are the preferred module supplier to Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic & Technical Co, Ltd., which is working on the construction.

Kenya has a very high solar potential. A World Bank document said the country has the equivalent annual solar power potential of 70 million tons of oil.

Solar power is being used on a small scale there. For example, sunlight is being used for charging cell-phones in rural areas. Oil is Kenya’s second largest import commodity. Also, micro-solar has been used to power some schools, and more solar development is being planned.

Image Credit: Magnus Manske, Wiki Commons


Communities Do Change the World

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 11:00 PM PDT

 
"So, you end up respecting everybody." This is what came of Mr. Rich Vanderveen’s ability to get Gratiot's residents to trust his company, Wind Resource LLC, work which required a slow (yet simple) process: talking to lots of people.

This is the largest wind facility in Michigan. Perhaps Vanderveen’s focus on respect is one of the reasons he “is legendary among Midwestern wind power developers.” Certainly, this manifestation was due to genuine concern, which offered education with each conversation. “he has been a leader in bringing communities, citizens, manufacturers, and utilities into a ’21st century way to think about how we make and use energy.’”

And two months later: ”Two months after Michigan's largest wind farm kicked into high gear, local support remains strong for the 133-turbine, 212-megawatt Gratiot County Wind Project, which literally surrounds this small, mid-Michigan farming town.”

A Listening Tour Regarding Models Pioneered by Denmark

Respect may be the heart of this project. It is about the ability to carry through in community due to a certain respect for renewable energy sources and people, hand in hand. This is what good community is all about. Vanderveen's approach compares well with the model pioneered by the world's most successful wind powered nation, Denmark.
 

 
Denmark’s green manifestation in so many areas is enormous, and certainly in this area — it is as if it has conducted practical magic. Many are finding it a wonder worth assimilating, learning about, and imitating. Vanderveen studied the Danes and he was followed the best.

Regarding the fundamental dimension to Denmark's energy transition: “How is it possible to whisk such an initiative through parliament, the courts and company boardrooms in a way that makes the population see its advantages rather than growing weary of it? How do you plant a major technological innovation in people's minds, and how do you distribute it to the electrical outlets of an entire country?”

Francis Fukuyama, a Stanford professor, describes Denmark as "a mythical place" known for its outstanding political and economic institutions. "It is stable, democratic, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and has extremely low levels of political corruption. Taming the wind, the Danes influenced Vanderveen and he influences Michigan.”





Wind is not the whole answer. However, it is a viable and hugely important part of the solution. This work beckons: ‘please, no more big oil rigs, white turbines instead; no more suffering from oil wars, white turbines instead.’

Wind power is positive growth.

And listening, listening is key: “We did a listening tour, finding out what peoples' values are," Vanderveen said. "It's important to remember that we are invited guests, and we can't impose anything.”

How truly refreshing — this is good to news in a world of difficult issues.


Energy Harvesting and the End of Disposable Batteries (video)

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 11:00 PM PDT

 

Phasing out disposable batteries is on the horizon with super thin flexible solar panels harvesting ambient energy in your home — and we’re not talking about some home of the future with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, but normal windows with average amounts of light streaming in.

In this episode of Fully Charged above, solar panels that harvest enough ambient energy to power bluetooth keyboards or remote controls are highlighted as alternatives to batteries. These solar films can also provide energy while electronics are in stand-by mode — and we all know how costly vampire energy can be.

The video takes us inside a factory making rolls of thin, flexible solar films with easy-to-understand explanations about how the panels are made and the energy used to make them. Very interesting, indeed.


Suntech to Help Power Congo Hospital

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 10:30 PM PDT

 
Suntech, one of the world's top solar manufacturers, recently announced at the Clinton Global Initiative that it will help power the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The hospital battles to deliver essential health services in the region (including obstetrics, pediatrics, and internal medicine), all while it services 334 patient beds, and it struggles to do so thanks to a lack of reliable energy.

However, Suntech will provide up to 300 kilowatts of panels to the hospital, which will allow it to have more secure energy sources while relying less on more costly diesel generators and firewood.

“With a quarter of the world’s population in developing countries lacking access to basic electricity, it is critical that developed nations and corporations around the world collaborate to solve this issue now,” said Suntech's founder, Executive Chairman, and Chief Strategy Officer, Dr. Zhengrong Shi.

“Our mission is to provide reliable access to solar energy to everyone, especially in developing countries, and by creating a commitment with the Clinton Global Initiative, we hope to alleviate energy poverty in remote communities around the world that lack basic electricity.”

This is just one of various other partnerships Suntech has done in helping to cut energy poverty, which is vital as developing nations try to increase their living standards. Other initiatives the company has supported were conducted in countries such as Lebanon, Haiti, and Tanzania.

Source: Suntech
Image Credit: Suntech


Masdar: The City of the Future (Video)

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 10:00 PM PDT

 

A city completely powered by renewable energy is an environmentalist’s dream come true. And they’re making it come true in Masdar, Abu Dhabi. That’s right, with a combined approach of concentrated solar power, local sourcing of materials, a construction scrap recycling center, and pedestrian friendly planning, Masdar is looking to become totally dependent on sustainable energy by 2025.

Check out the video above from Fully Charged to see how Masdar is going about researching, designing, implementing, and marketing technology based on renewable energy.


Kyocera Solar Modules Show Only 8.3% Performance Degradation After 20 Years

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 02:12 PM PDT

 
945-watt solar panels from Kyocera that were first installed in 1992 by Hespul were recently tested by Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission (which is connected to the State Solar Research Institute INES — and the certification laboratory CERTISOLIS) to determine how much their performance had degraded.

20-year-old installation of Kyocera solar modules in France still performs with a high power output level (Photo: Business Wire)

The evaluators found that, after 20 years, the panels’ power production declined by only 8.3%. The electricity generation capacity of solar panels gradually decreases with time, of course, as the sun beats down on them. But the general projection is that they degrade a lot more in 20 years than this test shows — almost all evaluations of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of solar panels use a 20-year lifespan (which assumes they will be out of use after 20 years).

Due to the gradual nature of deterioration, this means that the panels could last many more years before becoming useless.
 

 
Further illustrating their high quality and reliability, Kyocera’s solar modules were the first in the world to be certified by TUV Rheinland’s Long-Term Sequential TestTUV is an organization that provides technical, safety, and quality certification services.

Source: Business Wire


US Senate Passes Bill to Evade EU Airline Emissions Law

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 01:48 PM PDT

 
Republican Senator John Thune has sponsored a bill intended to protect the United States from paying the European Union’s tax on flights to that region.

The bill was passed unanimously and it blocks US airlines from paying the European Union for their aviation carbon emissions.

Airplane taking off via Shutterstock.

Nearly all airlines have complied with the law, but India and China strongly oppose it. China threatened to impound European planes out of retaliation if they are punished for failing to pay the EU tax.

John Thune said that the new legislation sent a “strong message” to the European Union that it cannot impose taxes on the United States.
 

 
“The Senate’s action today will help ensure that US air carriers and passengers will not be paying down European debt through this illegal tax and can instead be investing in creating jobs and stimulating our own economy,” said Thune.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a similar bill, and may work out the differences between its bill and the Senate’s, or accept the Senate’s bill.

Source: The Guardian


EV Charging Etiquette

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 01:32 PM PDT

 
While National Plug In Day has come and past, Ford has put out an interesting infograph and video relating to "EV etiquette" (basically EV charging etiquette) for your viewing pleasure. It's something that I have not thought about, but considering we are going to be seeing more of these in the future, maybe its something to consider if you purchase an electric vehicle.

Both the infograph and video are below.

Image Credit: Ford


Not Crashing Our Boat — Finding Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 01:06 PM PDT

 
This is a special guest post from one of our regular readers. It’s an attempt to bring some light to the dire situation we are in globally, and to show how we can inch our way out of total societal collapse. Included in the email to me with this were some very apt lines (nothing conveys a point better than a good metaphor):

“I spent a few years living on a sailboat and there are times when you’re headed into a dock a bit faster than is comfortable and realize it’s time to back off.  You throw the prop into reverse and give it full throttle.  For a while you keep closing on the dock but then you realize that sweet feeling of slowing down and starting to back off.”

And also this line: “It seems that a tale can be told that we seem to have turned the corner thanks to the ‘good  witches’ of renewables and travel efficiency and some help from the ‘grey witch’ of natural gas.”

Here’s the full piece:

1. CO2 peaking by 2020 and cutting 9% of emissions per year should save us from runaway climate change.

In 2009, the German Advisory Council on Global Change released the following graph. It illustrates how much we would have to cut our CO2 emissions per year once we reach peak output. Clearly, we missed the 2011 point and are fairly certain to miss the 2016 point. But if we can peak, worldwide, by 2020 or sooner, we can limit CO2 emissions to 750 billion tonnes between  2010 and 2050.

2) US CO2 emissions seem to have peaked and dropped to late 1990s levels. The highest CO2 emission year was 2005.

CO2 emissions:

  • 2005 = 6,029 million tonnes. (Metric tons, 2,200 pounds.)
  • 2010 = 5,634 million tonnes.

CO2 emissions decreased 395 million tonnes or 6.6% from 2005 to 2010.

2005 was the year of peak CO2 emission and 2010 is the most recent year for which we have final data.  Preliminary 2011 data finds CO2 down a bit lower, to approximately 1998 levels. First quarter 2012 CO2 levels were roughly equal to first quarter 1992 levels.

"It's the recession, stupid. Of course we released less CO2, our economy has crashed and we've cut way back on electricity generation and driving."

Let's look at the pre-recession peak year of 2005 vs. 2010, the most recent post-recession year for which we have complete data, and unofficial 2011 numbers.

Was it because our economy is in worse shape as measured by gross domestic product (GDP)? Below is what has happened post 1990. Plotted are percentage changes from 1990 levels. 2011 numbers are not "official" numbers and may be revised when the final 2011 report comes out later this year.

GDP increases every year over 1990 with a small dip in 2009. CO2 rises slowly until 2005 and then falls.

  • 2005 GDP — $12,623.0 million
  • 2010 GDP — $14,526.5 million

Dollar amounts are normalized. GDP increased $1,903.5 million or 15.1% from 2005 to 2010. So, no. CO2 emissions fell 6.6% and GDP rose 15.1%.

Was it because we generated less electricity? Again, let's start with 1990 and see how the amount of electricity generated and CO2 released fared on a percentage from 1990 levels progressed.

Electricity generation increased to about 2007 and then more or less leveled out, with a downward blip in 2009.  CO2, as we've seen before, peaks at 2005 and then starts downward. (Once again, 2011 number may be revised in the final 2011 report.)

  • In 2005, electricity generated was 4,055,421 thousand MWhs.
  • In 2010, electricity generated  was 4,127,647 thousand MWhs.

Electrical generation increased 72,226 thousand MWhs, or 1.8%, from 2005 to 2010. So, no again, answer not discovered. In 2010, we generated 1.8% more electricity while CO2 emissions fell 6.6%.

Might it be how we generated electricity?

As can be seen in this graph, the percentage of electricity generated using coal was in the low 50% range during the 1990s, but began to start falling in the 2000s. In 1990, coal produced 52.5% of our electricity. By 2010, its contribution was down to 42.4%, and unofficial numbers for 2012 have coal in the 30% range.

Natural gas, while presenting its own problems of methane leaks and groundwater contamination during fracking, does produce about half the amount of CO2 as does coal when producing a unit of electricity.

And, from 2005 until 2010, non-hydro renewables (wind, geothermal, and solar) rose from a 2.2% to a 4.4% generation level.

Was it that we traveled less and burned less oil?

In  2005, Americans drove 8,190 millions miles per day. In 2010, they drove 8,127, a decrease of 63 million miles, or only 0.8%.

Airline "seat miles" fell from 1,029,244 in 2005 to 991,929 in 2010. That was a decrease of 37,315 units, or 3.6%.

Oil consumption in 2005 was 20,802 thousand barrels per day. In 2010, the US was consuming 19,180 thousand barrels per day. Oil consumption dropped 1,622 thousand barrels per day, or 7.8%.

We drove about the same (-0.8%) and flew somewhat less (-3.6%) but cut our oil usage by 7.8%. That should tell us where some of our lower oil-produced CO2 emissions came from — about half from decreased usage and half from higher efficiency.


 
Overall, the US has cut CO2 emissions over the last 6-7 years. Some from burning less coal and making more electricity from natural gas and renewable sources. Some from flying a bit less, but as much or more than that from driving and flying more efficiently. It seems that we are on the right track — now it's time to speed things up.


Captivating Movements of London Bikes in Electric Blue (Data Mapping Video)

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 06:25 AM PDT

 
Take a moment to be captivated by amazing data-mapping in the video below by Jo Wood. The video is of the first 5 million trips made using Boris Bikes, London’s bike-sharing program (or scheme, as they call it there). Electric blue lines curve from starting points to destinations. These are mesmerizing moments as one realizes people are biking and we are watching their movements with iridescent lights.






9 out of 10 Americans Think Solar Has Increased Role to Play in US Energy Mix

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 05:51 AM PDT

 
A new poll suggests nearly 9 out of 10 American adults think solar energy should play a bigger role in the energy supply mix.

Image Credit: PR Newswire

The Ipsos-Reid Poll done for Sungevity recognized 89% of respondents favor more solar power in the US energy supply.

Meanwhile, 81% of those surveyed (see infograph) said that, despite whatever political stripe is in power, solar energy should be used in state and federal residences.

Image Credit: PR Newswire



 
Other key statistics from the Ipsos-Reid survey included:

  • 80% of those surveyed want their elected representatives to support solar energy.
  • 81% of respondents said decreasing dependency of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) is good for the economy and the environment.
  • 80% of US adults said financial benefits, including decreased electricity costs (60%), are the biggest benefits of solar. Other popular mentions regarding those financial benefits are: relying less on fluttering fossil fuel costs (26%), state & federal tax credits (21%), and higher home values (12%).
  • 72% believe solar industry jobs are better than their fossil fuel counterparts for the economy and the environment. 4 out of 10 Americans in the survey also think solar jobs would boost local economies and reduce energy costs.
  • 70% of Americans want more info about renewable sources, while 48% are bewildered on the types of solar options available for consumers. (Here’s a good list of options for going solar.)




“The continued uptake of solar power can drive considerable economic growth for the American economy and provide critical long-term benefits to the environment,” said co-founder of Sungevity Danny Kennedy, and author of the new book Rooftop Revolution, How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy – and Planet – From Dirty Energy.

“It’s clear that Americans support and see the bottom-line benefits of solar power. I’d encourage anybody with an interest in saving money, creating jobs, and powering their home with clean energy to discover the ease and affordability of incorporating solar energy into their daily lives,” he said.

However, despite the survey, there are some challenges that face the solar industry in making it more appealing to consumers. Of those asked why they would not use solar energy, 47% said installation doubts were the biggest obstacle. Other challenges noted in the survey included: lack of solar options in the area (16%), not generating enough energy (19%), and customers not living in a very sunny place (12%) — of course, none of those were majority answers, but misconceptions (such as the last one) and obstacles still need to be addressed.

“The survey makes it clear that solar companies must do a better job communicating how easy and affordable it is to incorporate solar power into your home,” said Kennedy in the statement.

“Whether it’s the ability to design a solar system through our Sungevity website or getting a system installed for no money down through our solar lease program, companies like Sungevity are trying to make the customer experience with going solar as easy as possible.”

Source: PR Newswire


Chevy Volt Case Study: Cheaper & Cleaner

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 01:30 AM PDT

 
Scientific American recently ran an interesting post on a Chevy Volt case study, examining whether or not the car was really cheaper and cleaner than others. Bottom line: yes and yes. But if you want more, here are the key excerpts (by the way, thanks to a CleanTechnica reader for passing this along):

“As of Wednesday, when I looked up the information, my parents had traveled 10,102 total miles in their Volt, 9,186 (90.9 percent) by electricity and 916 (9.1 percent) by gas. They had used 2,437 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 24.4 gallons of gas. They can usually get about 43 miles on a full battery; my dad's office was 19.5 miles away from home, so he could usually get to work and back on one charge.

“For individuals, the cost per mile is an important measurement. The car came with a full tank of gas, so my parents have only bought 18.9 gallons of gas for a total of $66.70 (my mom jots down the amount of gas and price whenever she refuels). For the other 5.5 gallons, we'll use $3.50 per gallon as an estimate for the typical premium gas price for the area in October 2011, giving us another $19.25 of gas costs for a total of $85.95. They have a 12-month fixed rate energy plan. Their rate has changed a little bit in the time that they have had the Volt, but on the more expensive plan, they paid $0.0885 for each additional kWh. Using that price, we get $215.67 spent on electricity. That brings us to a grand total of $301.62 for the 10,102 miles they drove, or three cents per mile. For comparison, with an estimate of $3.50/gallon gas, a 2012 Prius that gets 50 miles per gallon costs seven cents per mile, and my 2004 Saturn station wagon costs 14 cents per mile on a good day.




 
“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, energy in Texas is 45.4 percent natural gas, 36.5 percent coal, 10 percent nuclear and 7 percent renewable, with small contributions from other sources. Using the EPA estimates on carbon emission, this energy mix means that every kilowatt-hour of electricity generates 1.336 pounds of carbon dioxide. For my parents' electricity usage so far, that's 3,256 pounds of CO2. The EPA estimates that each gallon of gas releases about 19.59 pounds of carbon dioxide, so the Volt has also emitted 478 pounds of carbon dioxide from gasoline for a total carbon footprint of 3,734 pounds of carbon dioxide. If they had driven the 10,102 miles using only the 37.5 mpg gas engine, the Volt would have released about 5277 pounds of carbon dioxide. A Prius would have generated 3,958 pounds of carbon dioxide over the same number of miles.

“With their typical driving, my parents pay less per mile than they would in a traditional hybrid or gas-powered car. They also emit less carbon dioxide. Overall, they are happy with the car, and we had a lot of fun running the numbers together. Thanks, Mom and Dad!”


Green Companies on the Hire!

Posted: 27 Sep 2012 01:00 AM PDT

 
This article is reposted from our partner in crime good green job options, TheGreenJobBank. (Reminder: if you’re looking for a green job, go ahead and search for one using our green jobs widget on the left sidebar of our site!)

green jobs partnershipWe’ve recently seen an unusual increase in the number of green jobs that TheGreenJobBank has indexed. Even in a period of economic uncertainty, a number of green employers have added many new positions, proof the green economy is more resilient than many others.

  • Energy Management company EnerNOC is one of them. They’ve added 19 new open positions this week alone, to bring the total to 61. These new jobs are in a wide variety of occupations,including sales, marketing, software development, and administrative/management.
  • Environmental company AECOM has added 20 jobs, for a total of 65. New green jobs at AECOM include Air Quality Scientists, Environmental Engineers, and waste/water treatment technicians.
  • Another environmental company, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) added over 30 jobs last week, bringing the total open positions to 172!
  • And, of course, our darling green employer, SolarCity added a stellar 64 jobs this week alone, and 14 last week, bringing its total to 129!21 of its open positions are solar site auditors. As described by SolarCity, “The Site Auditor will provide professional site auditing services to obtain and communicate the necessary technical data to the SolarCity design team for the preparation of permit ready documents needed to facilitate the installation of solar photovoltaic systems. This person will also function as a project manager, field technician, and permit technician when assigned to do so.“And it’s not a surprise that SolarCity also has many openings for sales reps and solar PV installers.
  • Although not at the top of the list for its total open jobs (50), highly respected organization The Nature Conservancy added over 30 jobs last week, which is remarkable for a non-profit organization.

 

 
Although not as high as the number of weekly new jobs we saw in January and February (between 2,000 and 2,300 per week), last week’s number of 1,722 is a good number in an economy that has regrettably slowed down in the past few months. However, it is somehow reassuring to see the companies listed above are on a hiring spree, in various segments of the green industry.


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