Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica


Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Climate Change Is Already Costing the Global Economy & 400,000 Lives/Year, Finds Report

Posted: 29 Sep 2012 12:00 AM PDT

The economic and human costs of climate change are already here according to a new study; significantly contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people a year and costing upwards of $1.2 trillion a year in economic costs — that’s 1.6% of the annual global GDP.


Developing countries have so far been bearing the brunt of the damage, according to the research. The agricultural production systems there, when damaged by extreme weather, directly cause the deaths of the people depending on them; from malnutrition, poverty, and associated diseases.

Maybe surprising to some people, air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is itself contributing to the deaths of at the very least 4.5 million people a year, the report found.

The new study was titled “Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet” and was just published on Wednesday. The 331-page study was done by the DARA group, a non-governmental organisation based in Europe, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum. More than 50 scientists, economists, and policy experts wrote it; and it was commissioned by more than 20 governments.

By the researchers’ estimate, by 2030, the “cost of climate change and air pollution combined will rise to 3.2% of global GDP, with the world’s least developed countries forecast to bear the brunt, suffering losses of up to 11% of their GDP.”

Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, said: “A 1C rise in temperature [temperatures have already risen by 0.7C globally since the end of the 19th century] is associated with 10% productivity loss in farming. For us, it means losing about 4m tonnes of food grain, amounting to about $2.5bn. That is about 2% of our GDP. Adding up the damages to property and other losses, we are faced with a total loss of about 3-4% of GDP. Without these losses, we could have easily secured much higher growth.”

Even though the damage has been the worst in developing countries so far, major economies will start to see large damage as the extremes of weather intensify: “droughts, floods and more severe storms – could wipe 2% of the GDP of the US by 2030, while similar effects could cost China $1.2tr by the same date.”

Despite the view taken by many governments that climate change is only a long-term issue, a rapidly growing number of researchers are of the opinion that many recent disasters and events are at least somewhat attributable to climate change. The increasingly rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice is the most obvious of these events — the sea ice melt reached a new record minimum this year, and could be gone by the decade’s end if melting continues at a similar rate. And in the US, the severe and ongoing droughts have substantially raised food prices, and the disrupted monsoon in India has led to widespread agricultural destruction.

Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s climate chief, last week said: “Climate change and weather extremes are not about a distant future…. Formerly one-off extreme weather episodes seem to be becoming the new normal.”

Michael Zammit Cutajar, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “Climate change is not just a distant threat but a present danger – its economic impact is already with us.”

Source: The Guardian
Image Credits: Flood via Wikimedia Commons

NREL, University of Massachusetts to Collaborate on Marine Energy Research

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 10:30 PM PDT

The New England Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has partnered with the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to advance research and development activities in the field of renewable energy, mainly energy captured from waves, tides and offshore wind.

According to the announcement made by MREC, research will be conducted for three years. MREC is currently leading a pilot marine energy program in the Muskeget Channel off Nantucket. The testing of tidal energy turbines has already started at the site.

During the initial years of the research program, teams from NREL and MREC will focus on developing the test protocols, and assessing the sites and infrastructure for the development of marine energy in the region.

These implementation and testing standards are crucial to industry development, said Miller, MREC executive director.

“The key (to advancing the industry) is to adhere to the same standards and protocols so someone who wants to develop new technology can get into the ocean as quick as possible,” he said. While development is underway, the industry has many steps to take before it is producing energy in a viable, cost-effective way, according to Miller.

“The devices nearing commercialization now are first generation,” he said. “And we believe the second or third generation will make the industry cost effective.”

Miller described current industry activity as a mix of collaboration and competition with an understanding that venture capital and other funding dollars will likely go to the industry’s leaders.

This collaboration should provide a good research opportunity for the development of marine energy in the region. NREL laboratory is equipped with advanced facilities for testing offshore wind and water power devices, and it maintains a staff of offshore-trained test engineers and technicians who conduct field measurements to verify machine performance and dynamic response.

Image Source: Tony Hisgett

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

Kyocera to Supply 30 MW of Modules for Solar Power Plant in Northern Japan

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 10:00 PM PDT


Kyocera solar panels in Shiranuka, Hokkaido

Artist rendering of the completed 30MW solar power plant in Shiranuka, Hokkaido

Kyocera Solar Corporation, a supplier of solar panels, will provide 30 MW of the solar panels required for a solar power plant under construction in Hokkaido, Japan. There will be 135,000 solar panels at the plant, which will be constructed by Yonden Engineering Co., Inc.

This plant is expected to generate enough electricity to power 9,600 households and offset approximately 11,000 tons of CO2 annually.

Construction is slated to start this October, and it is expected to commence operation in March of 2014.

Good news for a country struggling to ween itself off of nuclear and fossil fuel energy.

Source: Kyocera

South Asia’s Largest Solar PV Plant, Powered by Suntech, Commissioned in Thailand

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 05:35 PM PDT

The world's largest producer of solar panels, Suntech Power Holdings Co., has announced the grid connection of South Asia's largest photovoltaic power plant, which has an installed capacity of 44 MW and is located in Bang Pa-In, Ayutthaya, Thailand. The project is called 'Sunny Bagchak' and achieved grid connection on 4th September.

The project is owned by Bangchak Public Petroleum Co., Ltd (BCP), which is engaged in refining and marketing of petroleum products in Thailand. The solar modules for the project were supplied by Suntech, and the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract was undertaken by Solartron Public Co. Ltd.

In order to educate the community and local people about solar energy, an exhibition center has also been built at the site.

Mr. Bundit Sapianchai, Senior Executive Vice President of Bangchak Petroleum Public Co., Ltd, said: “The Sunny Bangchak project represents an important step in BCP’s aim to promote a green environment and sustainable business in Thailand. Our visitor center at the site will be a landmark for renewable education in Thailand. We chose Suntech because of their excellent track record around the world and their high-efficiency panels which are specifically suited to Thailand’s hot and humid climate.”

According to estimates, the project is expected to mitigate 32,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and is expected to reduce import of 40,000 tonnes of coal annually. The project aims to achieve the Thailand government’s goal of meeting 20% of the total energy consumption from renewable energy sources from 2022.

"Thailand benefits from strong year-round solar radiation and immense government support and policies which makes it a viable location for solar power development," said Smiti Mittal, engineer at a leading multinational solar engineering firm. "Many private developers have started investing in solar sector in Thailand. Thai government's incentive program wherein solar power projects receive an adder tariff is driving the interest of companies in solar sector from all over the globe," added Ms Mittal.

The country also houses the largest installation of 73 MW NED plant in the Lopburi district, which when fully commissioned will be one of the largest installations of its kind in the world.

Image Credit: Solar panels via Waynenf

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

First Solar to Build New Mexico Solar Projects Totaling 20 MW for PNM

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 05:31 PM PDT

First Solar announced that it is to construct four solar power plants that will be able to generate a combined 20 MW of AC power for PNM Resources Incorporated. They will be able to power up to 6,700 homes.

These new solar projects are in addition to five projects totaling 22 MW that First Solar completed for PNM in 2011, and they could be operational as early as 2013. Although, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has to approve the project first, which can delay it, but it is supposed to make its final decision in the fourth quarter of 2012.

“First Solar is very pleased to be working again with a leader in renewable energy like PNM,” said Jim Tyler, First Solar Vice President of Engineering, Procurement and Construction. “Our advanced technology and unparalleled experience designing and building solar power plants will help ensure PNM’s customers enjoy many years of clean, reliable solar electricity.”

Note: I’ve started appending AC to my power plant capacity figures because not all power plants and transmission infrastructure are AC, some is DC (but DC is still uncommon). HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) power infrastructure might actually take over one day.

Source: First Solar

Cleantech Link Love

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 07:47 AM PDT

Some more top cleantech news from around the interwebs!

Clean Cars

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive Makes Official, Expensive Debut. “One of the most exciting cars in the electric vehicle world has been the Mercedes SLS AMG E-Cell concept. Well, the official version will be called the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive, and it retains the crazy horsepower, pure-electric power, and insane speeds of the concept.

“And you can only buy it if you live in Europe and can afford to shell out $434,000 $537,000. That ain't cheap!”

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo e-Hybrid Offers 416 Horsepower, 67 MPG. “If any luxury car maker has full-on embraced the potential for hybrid technology, it is Porsche. Their latest concept, the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo (which I assume is German for ‘kickass station wagon’), is propelled by a plug-in hybrid system that offers up to 67 mpg and 416 horsepower. In the words of George Takei, ‘Ohhh yessssss.’”

Looks pretty.

California Legalizes Self-Driving Cars. “Mankind has long dreamed about ‘self-driving’ cars, but oddly enough it may be an Internet company, rather than a car company, that makes self-driving cars a reality. Thanks to Google's lobbying efforts, self-driving cars are now legal in the state of California. The ramifications are huge.”

“Huge,” as in, really, really, really big.

Two Teams Complete Round-The-World EV Journey Days Apart. “The Tesla Roadster driven by Rafael de Mestre managed to complete his round-the-world journey on September 16th. He drove over 16,000 miles in under 80 days, becoming the first person to drive around the world in an electric car.

“His competition meanwhile, two Frenchmen driving the Citroen C-Zero, a modified version of the Mitsubishi i, took 8 months to complete their own 16,000 mile journey.”

Audi Crosslane Concept Is A Sporty Hybrid Coupe Worth Building. “Once boring and easy to passover, hybrid concept cars now represent some of the most interesting machines on the show floor. The 2012 Paris Auto Show has its fair share of hybrids, though on of the most interesting is the Audi Crosslane Concept. Part coupe, part crossover, and part convertible, this stylish hybrid wants to be everything to everyone….

“The electric motor can power the Audi Crosslane Concept 53 miles on electrons only at speeds up to 80 mph for the mpg equivalent of up to 258 mpg, or so Audi claims.”


Solar Power

Communities Purchase Solar in Bulk and Drive Down Costs Together. “Think of it like Costco or Sam's Club for purchasing solar photovolatics (PV). Some savvy folks in Oregon thought it would be a great idea to buy PV in bulk for their neighborhood to get a big volume discount and share the savings with neighbors.

“So they created the Solarize campaign, which over the last three years has helped Portland add "[more than] 1.7 MW of distributed PV and [establish] a strong, steady solar installation economy" [1]. In fact, so successful was the Portland model that several other communities started their own Solarize campaigns, including Washington State; Massachusetts; Vermont; San Diego, California; and multi-city campaigns from One Block Off the Grid and GroupEnergy.”

How to Build a Simple Solar Concentrator: SolarFlower Tutorials Now Online. “Just over a year ago, I wrote a post about the SolarFlower, ‘an open source solar energy device which can be made from recycled materials by anyone anywhere…’ At that point, the concept was largely, well, conceptual, as designer Daniel Connell had built several of these sun-tracking solar concentrators himself, but the designs weren't readily available for someone wanting to either build his/her own, or contribute ideas to the project.

“That changed this month: Daniel's published very detailed tutorials for building a Solarflower.”

The True Cost of Renewable Energy—Reality vs. the LA Times. “Yet again, the Los Angeles Times has published a hit piece on renewable energy masquerading as journalism in a front page article from Friday, ’Taxpayers, Ratepayers Will Fund California Solar Plants.’

“The article cites a Stanford economist for the conclusion that contracts for new large-scale solar projects are locked in at prices three to four times the market price of power: ‘But outside experts, including Wolak, the Stanford economist, estimate that Ivanpah power (a large solar project currently under construction) is priced at $90 to $130 per megawatt-hour — three to four times the cost of electricity in the state last year.’

“This is a highly misleading apples-to-oranges comparison, and Wolak should know better….”

How solar PV is turning utilities against consumers. “It the solar industry ever harboured any illusions about the challenges it is facing in imposing itself on a sector that has been virtually unchallenged for more than half a century, then they were certainly shattered by a series of attacks on their industry from utilities and pricing regulators over the last few weeks.

“It is now clear – if it wasn't before – that Australian energy utilities are moving decisively against the proliferation of solar PV in an attempt to protect their revenues and business models, as we predicted they would back in June. This is the claim of the solar industry, and they point to numerous examples of tariff changes, network impediments and the lobbying and influence over regulators.”

Wind Power

American Wind Manufacturers Lay Off 1,100 Workers In One Month, Citing Expiring Wind Tax Credit. “In just over one month, wind manufacturers in the U.S. have announced layoffs of more than 1,130 workers around the country. The layoffs come in states such as Colorado, Florida, and Iowa that are considered ‘battlegrounds’ in national elections.

“Every company shedding employees has blamed the looming expiration of the production tax credit for wind, which is set to lapse at the end of this year.”

Studies: Offshore Wind Potential is Huge. “The U.S. has lagged behind European countries in capturing offshore wind for electricity, but a spate of recent studies suggest that a bigger push might be in order.”

High-Tech Tools Tackle Wind Farm Performance. “From a distance, a wind farm can seem almost placid, turbines turning slowly, steadily, churning out electricity. But there’s more to it than meets the eye.

“The wind, though it can seem consistent, often has varying degrees of turbulence that impact wind turbine performance. Heating and cooling change the wind over the course of the day. A wind farm’s turbines interact in ways that reduce performance and add to structural loads on the turbines, increasing maintenance costs and the overall cost of wind energy.

“Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are learning how to better understand these issues and are working toward effective solutions for the wind industry. Their goal is to maximize turbine performance and minimize structural loads, which will ultimately result in lower-cost wind energy. Toward that goal, NREL researchers are leveraging the lab’s supercomputing resources and have developed high-tech modeling and simulation capabilities.”

Election 2012

At the heart of Obama's plan: Clean energy (Romney, not so much). “The two candidates are up with dueling ads today – both feature the candidate talking directly to the camera, and by extension to the American people. Both lay out their vision and their agenda for the next four years. But both couldn't be more different.”


GridWeek Explores Smart Policy as Enabler of Smart Grid Value. “Empowered energy consumers. Renewable integration. Greater energy reliability. These Smart Grid value propositions are achieved with the right combination of technology, leadership and policy, which will be addressed at GridWeek, Oct. 2-4, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

“Next week, 100+ speakers will explore how to achieve Smart Grid value – for consumers, utilities, and the environment – from an increasingly complex industry landscape. Discussions will center on Smart Grid drivers, utility business issues and opportunities, and lessons from current projects.”

The Demonization Of Clean Tech: The Five Biggest Myths. “The case for technologies that harness renewable resources, improve efficiency, and reduce emissions has never been stronger, and the industry known as clean tech continues to grow at a staggering pace – global revenues for the ‘Big Three’ sectors of wind power, solar PV, and biofuels hit $246.1 billion in 2011 after a decade of annual growth averaging more than 30 percent. But such an all-encompassing classification – spanning clean energy, advanced transportation, advanced materials, and clean water technologies – has lately made the industry an easy target for opposition, especially in the U.S., where divisive national politics have made pragmatism a rare commodity.

“As a longtime analyst at clean-tech research firm Clean Edge and contributor to the recently published book Clean Tech Nation (coauthored by Clean Edge colleagues Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder), I should be on the front lines defending the clean-tech moniker. But given the noticeable intensifying of false debates surrounding clean tech in the last year, it's worth taking a moment to examine ways in which the industry's far-reaching identity has opened the door to some misplaced antagonism.”

Busted, Part Deux! Fracking Chemicals Found in Wyoming Water Supply

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 06:55 AM PDT

With the release of a new study on water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming the U.S. Geological Survey has just put its two cents into the debate over whether or not the natural gas drilling method called fracking puts water supplies at risk. The results do not look good for the natural gas industry. The findings, which appear to confirm an earlier study of water contamination in Pavillion by the U.S. EPA, provide more hard evidence that the chemicals used in fracking are getting into drinking water supplies.

usgs finds fracking chemicals in pavillion wyoming water

Fracking, Water Contamination and More

Fracking involves pumping a chemical brine underground in order to shake natural gas loose from shale deposits. The water supply at issue in Pavilion is groundwater, or water from wells used by residents, but groundwater contamination from drilling is only one of several water issues linked to fracking.

Another issue is the potential for surface water contamination caused by fracking fluid escaping from the drilling operation, from trucks, from the large lagoons used to store spent fracking fluid, or from the illegal disposal of spent fluid.

That could affect nearby properties, including residential grounds and conservation areas as well as farmland, streams and rivers

The use of injection wells to dispose of spent fracking fluid has also given rise to a connection between earthquakes and fracking, including earthquakes that are large enough to be felt on the surface.


Fracking in Wyoming and Beyond

Fracking is not a particularly new method of drilling, but until recently it was mainly confined to underpopulated areas. Evidence of water contamination, other than anecdotal evidence, was nearly impossible to collect because the gas industry had won exemptions to standard federal regulations that would have required it to disclose the substances used in fracking fluids.

That explains why, for example, the residents of Pavillion have been reporting a suspected link between nearby fracking operations and polluted drinking water wells since the mid-1990′s with no action from federal agencies.

That has been changing under the Obama Administration, which has been steadily putting pressure on the industry to identify the chemicals in fracking brine.

Another change has come with the development of vast, newly accessible gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale formation, which cuts across high-population areas, including parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, where isolated episodes could more easily swell into the public radar.

USGS Fracking Report and Gas Exports

The USGS report comes at an especially bad time for the gas industry. New supplies in the Marcellus and elsewhere are competing with traditional gas states in the Midwest, and legislators from that region have been furiously lobbying Congress to expand the market by allowing them to increase exports overseas.

Our friends over at The Hill have been following the legislative aspect of the story closely and they report that another group of lawmakers is lobbying just as hard for more study of fracking risks before any increase in exports is allowed.

The Hill’s Zack Coleman notes that in a letter this week to the Department of Energy, the group stated its concern that more exports would not only come from conventional wells, but from increased fracking activity, “thus threatening the health of local residents and jobs.”

The legislators raise the issue that to accommodate the export market, farms and local property values would be threatened, and domestic consumers and manufacturers would pay higher prices for electricity.

Encana, the Canadian company that owns the Pavillion wells in question, pushed back hard against EPA’s findings last year, so stay tuned for its response to the USGS report.

Image: Drinking water. Some rights reserved by @bastique.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


Denmark Renewable Energy Generation 40.7% of Electricity Produced in 2011, Wind Energy 28.1%

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 05:15 AM PDT

The Danish Energy Agency announced earlier this week that consumption of renewable energy had increased in 2011 by 2.5% thanks in part to a big push in wind-power production. Based on the European Union method of calculation, Denmark saw renewable energy account for 23.6% of energy consumption in 2011, at the same time that electricity production based on renewable energy accounted for 40.7% of domestic electricity produced in the country.

Wind power accounted for 28.1% of electricity produced in 2011.

Denmark Renewables Account for 40 Percent

Observed energy consumption actually dropped in 2011 by 6.4%, bringing it back almost to the levels it had been at back in 1990. Considering that the 2008 energy agreement Denmark signed called for a drop in adjusted gross energy consumption of just 2% from 2006 to 2011, the full 6.6% drop is truly marvellous.

Another interesting fact to pull out of the numbers is that, while the national GDP grew by 0.8% in 2011, energy efficiency improved by 1.7% over the same period. Subsequently, energy efficiency improvements over the past two decades have allowed for each unit of GDP to require 28.5% less energy in 2011 than in 1990.

The amount of observed CO2 emissions caused by energy consumption in the country fell in 2011 by 10.6% to just 44.3 million tonnes. This is a great improvement, with a fall of 19.5% based off the baseline year of 1990/95.

Finally, Denmark proved itself to be the only EU member state to be energy self-sufficient in 2011. Denmark was able to produce 110% of its energy needs in 2011, compared with 121% in the previous year.

Source: Danish Energy Agency
Image Source:

Georgia Power to Boost Solar Portfolio to 210 MW over 3 Years

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 05:06 AM PDT

Georgia Power, a subsidiary of one of America’s largest generators of electricity, announced Wednesday that it has filed a new solar initiative — the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative (“GPASI”) — with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), which would see Georgia Power acquire 210 megawatts (MW) of additional solar capacity through long-term contracts over a three year period.

Georgia Power files largest solar initiative in state history “We believe the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative will encourage new opportunities for solar development in our state and catapult us to the forefront of this clean, safe energy technology,” said Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers. “This initiative builds upon our record of maintaining not only one of the nation’s safest and most reliable electric systems at rates below the national average, but one of the most innovative as well. We will continue to build a diverse generation portfolio that utilizes the most cost effective and advanced technologies to benefit our customers.”

According to Georgia Power, it “would purchase 60 megawatts annually for three years through a competitive request for proposal (RFP) program with projects ranging in size from 1-20 megawatts. By as early as 2013, a Distributed Scale program would provide opportunities for up to 10 megawatts per year of smaller solar projects with specific reservations for Small Scale (less than 100 kW) and Medium Scale (100-1,000 kW) projects.”

Georgia Solar Energy Association (GSEA) Executive Director Jessica Moore is closely following the Public Service Commission’s deliberations on this proposal.

“We are glad to see Georgia Power recognize solar as a viable, cost-effective method of delivering electricity to its customers. This is a good first step toward increasing Georgia’s solar infrastructure,” Moore said. “Solar creates jobs, keeps rising energy rates in check and makes Georgia more self-sufficient when it comes to meeting our energy needs.”

“We look forward to working with Georgia Power to ensure a straightforward and simple process for interested Georgia businesses and families who want to install and provide solar to Georgia Power,” says Pete Corbett, President of the Georgia Solar Industry Association (GASEIA).

Source: Georgia Power and GASOLAR

Ivy League Brains Figure Out How to Make Biodegradable Plastic from Greenhouse Gases

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Two graduates from Princeton University and Northwestern University have developed a process for converting greenhouse gases from sewage treatment plants, landfills, and power plants into a biodegradable plastic called AirflexTM. Under the auspices of their company, called Newlight Technologies, LLC, the technology counts as a way to capture methane and carbon dioxide, and in a sustainability twofer it could also help cash-strapped cities and towns capture some revenue from their wastewater treatment plants.

Newlight makes biodegradable plastic from greenhouse gases


Making Biodegradable Plastic from Greenhouse Gas

As described by Newlight, the process for making AirflexTM breaks down into a few simple steps. First, a mix of gases, including methane and carbon dioxide, is funneled into a reactor. Next, carbon and oxygen are separated out, and then they are reassembled into a long-chain thermopolymer (aka: a form of plastic).

That’s the basic AirflexTM. With further tweaking, AirflexTM can be processed into different grades of plastic, including substitutes for polypropylene, polyethylene, and polystyrene that perform just as well as their petroleum-based counterparts.

The Sewage Gas Gold Rush

As far as sewage gas goes, it seems like the new operation could fit seamlessly into many modern wastewater treatment facilities that handle household sewage. Municipal sewage treatment is a natural process in which microbes digest organic material, venting copious amounts of methane-rich biogas as they chew along.

In the past, the gas was simply flared off. Nowadays, there is more interest in capturing methane biogas from wastewater plants and reclaiming it to power equipment at the site.

That can help to offset the cost of grid-supplied power. In addition, wastewater treatment plants are already beginning to harvest revenue from biogas, by piping it offsite to the conventional natural gas supply grid.

Waste Gas Comes Into Its Own

Newlight notes that its waste gas-to-plastic process can apply to other kinds of operations that produce waste gas, including landfills and power plants.

Other companies are also beginning to churn out liquid fuels and other substitutes for petroleum product from waste gas. For example, industrial operations are another potential source of raw materials for ethanol, as demonstrated by the New Zealand company LanzaTech.

Biogas from food processing and beverage operations, including biogas from breweries, is another potential feedstock that can sub in for fossil fuels.

Another emerging trend is capturing biogas from livestock operations for use on site or for sale to the grid, a technology that can be scaled down to serve undeveloped communities as well as large farms.

Image (cropped): Courtesy of Newlight.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

UK Energy Industry by the Numbers

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 04:41 AM PDT

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change released their quarterly Energy Trends report on the statistics on energy in the country. The report includes tables, charts, and commentary covering all major aspects of energy.

UK Energy Statistics

Wind Turbine on Scout Moor, Lancashire.

The main points to come from the second quarter in the UK are as follows:

  • Indigenous production of fuels in the UK fell by 10.1% in the second quarter of 2012 compared with a year earlier. Oil production fell by 12.2% and natural gas production fell by 13.9% — these falls were due to maintenance activity and slowdowns on a number of fields.
  • Total primary energy consumption for energy uses rose by 6.3%. However, when adjusted to take account of weather differences between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, primary energy consumption rose by 0.8%.
  • Final energy consumption rose by 5.1%, with domestic consumption up 32.8% – domestic consumption in the second quarter of 2011 was particularly low due to warmer weather last year.
  • Total deliveries of the key transport fuels were down 6.3% when compared to the same period last year. Motor spirit deliveries fell by 10.6%, with deliveries in April 2012 particularly low following a substantial increase in March 2012 in anticipation of a potential tanker drivers' strike.
  • Of electricity generated in the second quarter of 2012, gas accounted for 29.8% (its lowest second quarter share in the last fourteen years) due to high gas prices, whilst coal accounted for 36.1% (its highest second quarter share in the last fourteen years).
  • Renewables' share of electricity generation increased to 9.6% from the 9.0% share in the second quarter of 2011. Hydro generation decreased by 31.3% on the second quarter of 2011 as a result of low rainfall. Over the same period, offshore wind generation increased by 46.7%, whilst onshore wind generation fell by 11.4%. Overall, renewable generation was up 6.5% compared to the same quarter in 2011.
  • Domestic electricity prices, including VAT, were 5.5% higher in real terms than in the same period last year, whilst domestic gas prices were 13% higher.


The full report can be viewed at the DECC website here in PDF form, with articles covering topics such as:

  • Renewable electricity in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the regions of England in 2011.
  • Combined Heat and Power in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the regions of England in 2011.
  • Running hours during winter 2011/12 for plants opted-out of the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD).
  • Estimates of heat use in the United Kingdom in 2011.
  • Home insulation levels in Great Britain – methodological changes.
  • Feed-in Tariff statistics.
  • National Grid operational metering data and renewables.
  • New Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) table.
  • Number of properties benefitting through receipt of insulation measures and energy efficiency products from Energy Supplier obligations.

Image Source: Gidzy on Flickr

Smartphones + Shared Electric Scooters in San Francisco (Scoot)

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 04:28 AM PDT

Need to rent a hip electric scooter for short jaunts around San Francisco? Want to causally zipin and out of all your runs for errands and feel the breeze causally on your commute. Here’s how: get your iPhone (or other smartphone, if you have one), look for a scooter, zoom in and pick one, reserve it, go to your scooter, dock your phone on the scooter, your smartphone connects to and unlocks the scooter, and you are good to go — what a smartphone does nowadays!

Scoot Scooters

The Wonders of Smartphones and Scooters

We use smartphones for transportation, maps, looking for routes, plans for buses, talking to our friends, etc. Now, explains Michael Keating, “we just built the smartphone directly into our service of fast easy light transportation.”

These scooters are for short trips around the city, replacing the bus, taxi, etc. All you need is a CA driver’s license and you can rent one. Getting around the city used to be a trouble, but not now.

Because scooters are so small, parking in the city now will be easy and perfect for errands. One’s daily commutes will be quite relaxed compared to the stress of finding parking and maneuvering cumbersome vehicles. Scoot's on-demand service means no more waiting for a ride. 
Time is saved by the quick action of your smartphone, and now the time is yours to enjoy. The initial locations will primarily be in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood, and are aimed at both residents of the neighborhood and others who work there. There will be 50 scooters in the initial deployment.

Many Reasons for Scooters

San Francisco is Committed to Environmental Economy

"San Francisco is committed to making the Bay Area the center for the EV market, reducing our reliance on foreign oil, and boosting our green economy," said Mayor Lee. "Scoot’s launch combines the innovation of San Francisco companies with our City’s commitment to a green economy to provide yet another clean alternative mode of transportation for everyone."

Electric Scooters Made in America for China (10,000,000 a year)

As the video above notes, electric scooters are being made in huge quantities for China. This makes them affordable for us, replacing gas-chugging cars for quiet trips around the city.

From Keating: “Right now to use Scoot's network it costs $10 to sign up, $5 per month, and $5 per hour. There's also a $10 per day option (that seems like a steal), and a $25 per month package that includes four half day rides. Additionally there's an option to rent out your own personal Scoot for $185 per month.”

The company recently closed a $550,000 round of funding with several high-profile angel investors, including Tim Young (, Socialcast), Lisa Gansky (Ofoto, The Mesh), & Jerry Fiddler (Zygote Ventures, Wind River). Scoot is also an alumni of the Greenstart accelerator program in SF, where it was selected as part of the top 2% from a pool of 165 startups and received a $115,000 investment from that.

Again, how Scoot works:

  • Sign Up Online: New users sign up on the website and pay $10 to join the service.
  • Orientation: Scoot gives new members a quick orientation that covers how to safely ride a scooter, along with some hands-on training.
  • Find a Scoot and ride: Members can take a Scoot out from any one of a number of locations across the city simply by plugging their phone in the Scoot's smartphone dock. Once the scoot is started, the phone becomes the dashboard, providing members with a map, speedometer and battery gauge.
  • Payment: Members pay by the hour ($5/hr), or a flat fee for round-trip commutes ($10/commute) during the week.

Source: gigaom

40 MW of Wind Power to be Installed in Northern Poland

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 02:39 AM PDT


Not to be outdone by their wind-power-loving neighbor Germany, Poland is set to harness 40 MW of wind with 20 Vestas wind turbines by the end of 2013.

The turbines are going to dot the skyline of Wicko on the Polish coast of the Baltic Sea, about 50 miles away from Gdansk. Vestas reports that “Poland has the potential of reaching 7 GW of installed capacity by 2020.”

Aldesa Nowa Energia Sp. z o. o. is the engineering and construction contractor; Tauron Polska Energia S.A. will own the Wicko wind farm.

Source: Vestas
Image: Polish flag via Shutterstock

No Brainer — Commercial Buildings Should Save Money by Becoming More Energy Efficient

Posted: 28 Sep 2012 02:00 AM PDT

Many owners and managers of commercial buildings are already enjoying significant savings with some very low-cost energy conservation methods (ECMs). In fact, with the right service provider, buildings can achieve significant savings on their energy bill right away. Such is the case with SunScience's retrofit of the Airport Gardens offices in Reno. A real no brainer,… but more on this case study at the end.

Commercial building energy efficiency strategies (or energy efficiency strategies for any building) can be quick and easy, or can be more focused on the long term — but there are options to save significant money every step of the way.

Airport GArdens offices

Airport Gardens mid-sized office building

Oddly, not all building owners are aware – or even care about — the savings. Here are some industry facts that should motivate commercial building owners to become more energy efficient:

  • Savings of 5-20% on their energy bill can be achieved with little to no investment. Even more savings are achievable with small investments and hiring an energy service provider. Up to 75% savings are possible with financed capital improvements.
  • Upwards of 30% of building costs are attributed to energy expenses.
  • Commercial buildings account for 35% of electricity consumption, 45% of which is coal produced.
  • And for those environmentally minded, commercial buildings consume 20% of all energy used, contributing proportionately to greenhouse gas emissions.



Why isn't everyone on board?

Let's look at some of the reasons — and rebuttals — why energy saving hold-outs are overlooking the advantages adopting ECMs. (You might be among them.)

1. Leased or rented buildings and offices often pass along utility costs (electricity, gas, water) to their tenants. Landlords may believe there's no upside to investing in saving tenants on their energy bill. Rebuttal:

  • Being more energy efficient increases marketability of rental or leased space, especially when occupancy is low and lease rates are competitive, like now.
  • In cases where the landlord charges a "flat fee" to tenant that includes utilities, margins can increase in direct proportion to energy funds saved.
  • Increases value of property at resale.
  • Lowering tenants' energy bill may increase occupancy retention, loyalty, tenant comfort, and productivity.
  • Even if the owner does not have "green" aspirations, the press likes to support these efforts (i.e. potentially free PR).

2. Many building owners, who see the value in greater energy efficiency, are daunted by not knowing where to begin. Suggestions:

  • Even before hiring a service provider, there's an in-house assessment that can be done. This includes examining the age, operating condition, and service records of HVAC units, burners, fans, thermostats, meters, and other equipment. Make repairs as necessary.
  • Review lighting fixtures such as outdated and inefficient incandescents, replacing T-12 with T-8 fluorescents, or even upgrading to LED retrofits.
  • For tenants who control their own thermostats and lighting, find out what they are doing so to make behavior "efficiency" suggestions.
  • Determine a "model" of what you want to achieve, such as reducing your carbon footprint, reducing kWh, or just shaving off your energy bill.

3. The aforementioned can effect savings of 5-20%, depending on the building, and are often covered within existing operating budgets. (Turning off lights and HVAC systems when not in use can immediately save at least 2%.) The building manager may want to hire an Energy Management System (EMS) expert, or may follow these steps on their own. Here is the sequence:

  • Benchmarking — create an energy usage starting point with the Energy Star model as a standard. This will give you the criteria and steps needed for your type of building.
  • Auditing — initially, you may want to see improvements monthly, but after assurance that savings are real, quarterly or semi-annual will suffice. This can be done manually or with readily available software — some proprietary — offered by many EMS professionals. (Some of these companies are identified below.)
  • Implementation — to optimize energy savings at lowest outlay, it's important to do the steps in sequence, such as repairing existing HVAC equipment, effecting tenant energy behaviors, and turning off equipment and lighting when not in use. Then benchmarking. Then auditing.

4. Capital improvements that can achieve energy efficiencies upwards of 75% are usually financed. These heavy investments must be carefully analyzed in terms of cost/reward, ROI, and expected payback. These are the subject for another article, but are summarized here:

Selecting an EMS service provider

There are literally hundreds of providers to chose from, but, fortunately, they tend to cluster in three general markets. For example:

1. For small-to-medium sized commercial buildings, the choices are fewer, are more attractively priced, and offer much shorter ROIs. Some "contract providers" are able to provide the benchmarking, auditing, and upgrading of basic equipment at minimal upfront cost. (Providers are paid from what they save the client on their energy bill).

  • Basic equipment may include smart thermostats, wireless energy sensors in key locations and attached to key devices, and web-based (cloud) communications. The key is the connecting software for both monitoring and control. Some contractors are working toward doing this for less than the amount saved from the customers’ energy bills, based on multi-year contracts. This means potential break-even after less than one year. Here are some of the companies in this mid-market space.
  • EnTouch Controls, GreenLogic (in the UK), Incenergy, Powerhouse Dynamics, Temsco, and SunScience Corporation (SSC). The case study referenced at the beginning of this article, that I'm personally familiar with, is the EMS project at the Airport Gardens office complex in Reno. The office complex hired SSC to save money on its monthly energy bill. While still in beta, actual results are pending, here are the contractual goals:
    - Install a "control" system to manage HVAC equipment and monitor power consumption to identify peak power consumption.
    - Use existing and installed equipment to mitigate peak billing rates.
    - Wattage and BTU savings goal is a minimum of 25%.

2. For large industrial, commercial, or government energy users. These EMS projects are almost always heavily financed with high margin contracts involving long payouts (years). As you would expect, large established companies are dominant here, such as:

  • Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Schneider Electric, IBM, Evolve, TelcoNet, EnerNoc, Tridium, and AristaPower. (This is a fractional list.)

3. At the other end of the spectrum is the residential or consumer market,which is potentially huge — however, very uniformed. Of course, there are early adopters, but most of this market is budget restricted and apathetic. Major players include:

  • Honeywell, Schneider Electric, Fujitsu, Meile, Samsung, AT&T, and even Honda. Residential is a very competitive market with low penetration — that is, marketing-intensive and expensive to enter.

While the battle wages in Washington and among private investors over funding for clean energy solutions such as solar and wind, it is good to know the "low-hanging fruit" of energy conservation is alive and well.


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