Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

German Electricity Prices Rise as Utilities Increase Their Profit Margin from 1.1% to 8.2%

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 01:30 PM PDT

In my opinion, this is a stunner that should be making headlines around Germany and in energy publications: while everyone shouts and hollers the dubious and all-too-familiar “renewable energy is bringing German electricity costs up” chant, German utilities are raking in almost 8 times more in profit margin than they were in 2007!

Yep, just as solar boomed, driving down the wholesale cost of electricity on many a day (or even turning it negative), and wind boomed, driving down the wholesale price of electricity on many a night, utility companies’ profits boomed!

In fact, as the article below by Craig Morris and Denny Gille of Renewables International notes, wholesale electricity prices in Germany have decreased in the past several years, and are lower than ever in 2012. So, it’s not renewables driving up the price of electricity, it’s utility companies and their growing profits! Not that anyone at the top of the utility industry or their puppet politicians (or global warming and clean energy deniers) will admit that. But this finally explains some things.

Here’s Craig and Denny’s piece in full, reposted from Renewables International:

by Denny Gille & Craig Morris

In the debate about the cost of renewable electricity in Germany, the renewables sector and the governmental authorities are taking a closer look at the matter – and coming up with much different findings.

In November, Germany’s four transit grid operators (the country has around 900 distributor grid operators) will once again determine the surcharge passed on to retail consumers to cover the cost of renewable electricity. The “EEG surcharge” (EEG is the German abbreviation for the Renewable Energy Act) is essentially the result of the cost of all feed-in tariffs minus the price of electricity on the power exchange; media reports estimate that this surcharge could rise by nearly 50 percent next year to more than five cents per kilowatt-hour. For large power firms like RWE and Vattenfall, the reason is obvious: the energy transition is not a free lunch, as they repeatedly tell German media. Vattenfall estimates that consumers face an additional 150 billion euros in costs by 2020.

Admittedly, the retail power rate in Germany (which is not set by the government, but rather by the market; any household in Germany can switch to any power provider) has risen by around 20 percent since 2007. But an analysis by Germany’s Network Agency, which regulates gas networks and power grids, also recently found that the profits of power firms rose during that time from a profit margin of 1.1 to 8.2 percent. The Agency says that the net rate for power could have even dropped since 2009 had power firms passed on the lower cost of wholesale power to consumers; but unfortunately, only the factors that increased prices were passed on.

In 2012, prices on the power exchange are even lower. The main reason is the large share of renewable power, which is largely offsetting more expensive conventional plants only switched on to cover peak demand. Power providers benefit from these lower prices and could pass them on to consumers.

But there is no sign that this will happen. Instead, politicians such as Economic Minister Philipp Rösler want to put an end to renewables to keep prices in check. As he puts it on his party’s website, “Tens of billions in subsidies are going to renewables, and every power customer has to pay the bill. We have to put an end to this.” Rösler and his colleague, Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier, therefore plan to reform the EEG this fall.

From 1970 to 2012, 54 billion euros in subsidies went to renewable energy according to a study recently published by Green Budget Germany (“Was Strom wirklich kostet“). But during the same timeframe, the study found that 430 billion euros in subsidies was devoted to coal and nuclear power. Rösler’s FDP was in power for 21 of those 42 years of subsidies.

What’s more, that 430 billion euros of subsidies for conventional power is equivalent to 10.2 cents per kilowatt-hour; the current 3.59 cents paid for renewable power pales in comparison. Indeed, the EEG surcharge would even be an estimated 0.6 cents cheaper if so many industry firms were not largely exempt from the surcharge; two weeks ago, the Greens discovered that the number of firms that do not pay the full EEG surcharge increased by 250 percent in the first half of 2012 alone. Instead of putting an end to this practice – after all, industry firms are already directly benefiting from lower wholesale prices – the exemptions are to be expanded even further. The Network Agency says it is “concerned” about the trend.

Rösler and Altmaier have both said they oppose restructuring who pays what for the EEG surcharge. They point out that 800,000 people are employed at energy-intensive companies. Apparently, they are not worried about the 350,000 jobs that depend on the EEG. (Denny Gille / Craig Morris)

Image: bullshit stamp via Shutterstock

Climate Scientists vs Spice Girls & M*A*S*H Characters — Who Do You Trust?

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 01:11 PM PDT

It is ironic that in the very week that Arctic ice levels reached a record low and warnings were made about the amount of methane that might be released from melting ice in the Antarctic, we should be reminded by the climate denialist community that we should reject mainstream climate science on the say-so of Ginger Spice and Hot Lips Houlihan.

You've got to admire them for persistence. I first wrote three years ago about the 31,000 "Oregon petition" – the document promoted as "proof" that there is no consensus about climate science. The document was thoroughly discredited then (as it had been previously), but here it is surfacing again.

It's worth going back through its history, because not only is it an entertaining story, but it is also very informative about the background and the motivations of those who want to perpetuate such nonsense. And here it is back in the mainstream media and on talkback radio.

The Petition Project actually goes back to 1998, when it was first released by the founder and head of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, one Arthur Robinson. It claimed then to have 17,000 signatures from scientists rejecting the findings of the IPCC and the Kyoto Treaty. It was an online petition that invited "scientists" to register their support. Environmental groups had a ball – the petition was so poorly conceived that it was possible to insert the names of the entire cast of M*A*S*H and even Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell, who actually had two entries, one as a Boston-based microbiologist.

"When you get thousands of signatures, there's no way of filtering out a fake," Robinson told Associated Press in 1998.

Ten years later, he was at it again, this time with an even bigger petition, with more than 30,000 signatures, of which 9,000 had PDHs in "relevant" sciences, he told Glenn Beck from Fox News in this interview. Robinson said these scientists all agreed that CO2 was good for the environment, and led to more plants and animals "…and it means American forests are growing faster," he told a clearly impressed Beck.

Robinson is an interesting character. His institute is in fact a father and sons enterprise located in a barn on his property in Cave Junction, Oregon. Robinson's main business is to sell "home schooling" kits that include 22 CDs that cover the entire syllabus of 12 years of schooling. Presumably they learn just enough to be able to understand the instructions of Robinson's other best-selling video, "How to survive a nuclear war." Apparently you need to dig at least eight foot down, but the ventilation can be tricky.

Robinson is typical of the climate denialists' camp. He rails against a hoax conjured up by the UN in its desire for world government and global taxes. The local newspaper, The Register-Guard, says he is a signatory to the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, which promotes Intelligent Design as an alternative to the theory of natural selection. He wants to disband  Social Security, Medicare and environmental regulations, as well as the public education system, because they all bring a "socialist intrusion on personal and corporate freedom."

Robinson is also seeking election to Congress, for the second time. His opponent, the 12-term sitting Democrat Peter DeFazio, describes Robinson as a "pathological nut-job" from a "survivalist compound." This time Robinson tried to rattle his opponent by getting his 24-year-old son Matthew to run against DeFazio in the Democratic primary. Not that his son is a Democrat. He says he own views are "very similar" to his father. At least we know the CDs are effective.

Peter Dykstra, from Mother Nature Network, summed it up this way in 2009:

"The Oregon Institute of Science & Medicine isn't one of those ivory-tower think tanks. In fact, it's run by a father-son team in a barn near Cave Junction, Oregon. Its oft-cited Petition Project is the Magna Carta of climate denial. Originally launched, and immediately discredited, in 1998, the OISM Petition has risen from the dead like the corpse in the bathtub at the end of a Stephen King flick.

"Originally a manifesto claiming the signatures of 17,000 "scientists" firmly opposed to the notion of global warming, Art and Noah Robinson's project took in the names of just about anyone with a science degree — in at least a few cases, fictional people with science degrees: Drs. Pierce, Burns, Hunnicutt, Potter, Houlihan, and O'Reilly signed up to deny the existence of global warming. So did Dr. Geri Halliwell. If you're keeping score, that's most of the cast of theM*A*S*H and "Ginger Spice" from the Spice Girls.

"The National Academy of Sciences, learning that OISM had published the petition on a cheap knockoff of NAS letterhead, offered an unusually stern rebuke. None of which phased the Robinsons, who also market nuclear war survival kits from the OISM site. They published an updated list of 31,000 scientists, including veterinarians, engineers, and plastic surgeons whose work has apparently revealed the folly of global warming. Through it all, the OISM petition has been unskeptically embraced by talk shows, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Senator Inhofe, and countless blogs."

Why should we bother with this? Well, here it is again, being cited, like yet another Stephen King sequel, in what purports to be serious piece of opinion published in mainstream media and quoted on talkback radio.

The modern petition appears to have filtered out the M*A*S*H cast, the Spice Girls, and Michael J. Fox. But pick any group of names – and some of them are pretty weird – and see if you come up with anything about the scientific degrees when you Google them. You may find a lot of vets and dentists.

But the petition project organisers are unrelenting. The OISM now proudly boasts a list of "experts on global warming" – about 100 actors and musicians, media types, Prince Charles and Richard Branson, most of whom it says had either dropped out of high school or college, or didn't have a science degree. And then it provides a link to the 31,000 "experts" who disagree.

The blogger, Jo Nova, whose article lauding the petition appeared in The Australian last week, and on her website, asked in her article if the word of one climate scientist pushing the anthroprogenic climate change barrow was worth that of 420 "scientists" who disagreed with him or her. Perhaps we should ask whether the word of a climate scientist who has published a peer reviewed paper, and the academies of science that support them and thousands of others, is worth equal weight to the opinion of 420 vets, dentists and Spice Girls. The answer should be pretty obvious to most.

This post was originally published on Renew Economy. It has been reposted with permission.

Image Credit: Spice Girls via Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

Victoria’s Solar PV Tariff Slashed

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 12:16 PM PDT

Via the good folks at Renew Economy:

Melbourne, Australia via Shutterstock

Victoria's Coalition government has announced it is cutting the state's solar feed-in tariff from 25 cents per kilowatt-hour to just 8c/kWh – approximately one third the current retail rate for electricity in Victoria.

The Baillieu government's energy minister, Michael O'Brien, announced the cut – effective January 1, 2013 – on Monday afternoon, following the lead of Liberal Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, who cut his state's solar FiT to 8c/kWh on July 1 this year.

The cut was announced as part of the government's decision to broaden the solar feed-in tariff to include all low-emissions and renewable technologies of less than 100kW – including low emissions generators like fuel cells.

From the beginning of next year, the new tariff will initially provide a minimum of 8c/kWh of electricity exported to the grid. The rate will then be updated each year in line with the adjusted wholesale electricity rate.

Describing it as a backwards step, green group Environment Victoria said that the state's households and small businesses would be worse off under the move, which it said was at odds with the Premier's key election promises.

"Ted Baillieu has dumped his promise to support the Mallee solar farm, he's made it harder to build a wind farm than a new coal-fired power station, and now he's slashed household and business solar support. At the same time he's handing out tens of millions in cash to the big coal companies," said  Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, Safe Climate Campaigner at Environment Victoria.

"It's fair to ask what this government has against clean energy?" she said.

"Slashing support for solar breaks a key election promise that the Coalition government would strongly support feed-in tariffs that provide a fair reward for households willing to invest in solar energy.

"Victorians love solar power, and families have been willing to fork out their own money to help our environment and take control of their energy bills. But now with this decision from the Baillieu Government, from 2013 households who invest in solar power will actually be subsidising the rest of the market," she said.

Environment Victoria said the change to Victoria's solar FiT also jeopardised the state government's promise to generate 5 per cent of the state's electricity from solar power by 2020.

"In Opposition the Coalition actually worked with environment groups to improve Victoria's solar feed-in tariff. Now in government they are breaking promises and have destroyed the feed-in tariff as a means of encouraging solar uptake," McKenzie-McHarg said.

ASX-listed Ceramic Fuel Cells has welcomed the broadening of the tariff to include technologies like its BlueGen gas to electricity generators, which are already eligible to receive feed-in tariffs in Germany and the UK – although both of these markets have recently announced increases to their feed-in tariffs.

The tariff in Germany is equivalent to approximately 14 Australian cents per kilowatt hour, while the total tariff in the UK is up to around 26 Australian cents per kilowatt hour.

Intro to Solar Decathlon 2013 Teams

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 11:54 AM PDT

Via the DOE:

While many students are getting ready for school this month, teams of university and college students around the globe have been hard at work this summer creating solar-powered houses as part of the Energy Department's 6th biennial Solar Decathlon.

In January, we announced the 20 teams for the 2013 competition. More than six months later, the teams are in full swing designing and building energy-efficient, solar houses that will compete in 10 contests to gauge houses' energy consumption, affordability, and ease of living. For most contests, we will have to wait for the judging in October 2013 to learn how teams are doing. But the Communications Contest provides an inside look at how teams are progressing.

From team websites and visuals to public tours and audience engagement, teams are judged on how well they educate others about their houses and their experiences during the competition. Some teams are going beyond the contest requirements and engaging people through different social media channels. Below are highlights of each team's house and how to follow their every move during the next year and a half.

  • AZ State/New Mexico: Arizona State University and The University of New Mexico are teaming up to create a solar-powered house that adapts to the extreme climate in the Southwest without harming the landscape. Follow the team's progress on Facebook.
  • Czech Republic: Students from Czech Technical University are creating the "AIR House" — an affordable, innovative, and recyclable house — that will react to outside conditions. Learn about the team through updates on Facebook.
  • Kentucky/Indiana: Inspired by a tornado that devastated a small town in Indiana, the University of Louisville, Ball State University, and University of Kentucky are joining forces to design a house that can be a permanent solution for disaster relief. Cheer on the team onFacebookTwitter, and Google+.
  • Middlebury College: With the mission of "living close to home," students from this Vermont school believe their house will help create a more sustainable future. Stay close to Middlebury College's progress on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.
  • Missouri S&T: Missouri University of Science and Technology students are working on the "Chameleon House" — the school's fifth Solar Decathlon entry. Watch the team's house change on FacebookTwitter, and the team's blog.
  • Norwich: Norwich University students — going by the unofficial name Team Delta T90 — are building a house that will stay comfortable even in Vermont's cold winter season. Follow the team from the comfort of your home on Facebook.
  • Santa Clara: With the guiding motto "solar for all," Santa Clara University's team is designing a house that balances the three E's: efficiency, elegance, and economics. Watch their every move on FacebookTwitterGoogle+YouTubeFlickr, and WordPress.
  • SCI-Arc/Caltech: Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology students are working together on a house that will embrace Southern California's climate.
  • Stanford: Stanford University students hope their "start.home" will revolutionize sustainable living by providing easy customization. Start following Stanford now on FacebookTwitter,YouTube, and the team's blog.
  • Stevens: Stevens Institute of Technology students are designing the "Enlighten House" — a house with smart technology that adapts to occupants' behavior. Keep apprised of the team's progress on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Tumblr.
  • Team Alberta: Students from the University of Calgary are working on "Borealis" — a house that is integrated into the local ecosystem, affordable for the working population of Canada, and easily transportable. Be wowed by Team Alberta's progress on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Team Austria: The Vienna University of Technology team is designing "LISI," which they are marketing as the "house of the future." See what the future holds for Team Austria's house onFacebookTwitterFlickr, and Vimeo.
  • Team Capitol DC: Students from Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and American University are collaborating on "HARVEST" — a house that produces as much energy as it uses. See how much energy the team is reaping on Facebook andTwitter.
  • Team Ontario: Queen’s University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College students are teaming up to make a house for the next generation of homeowners. Follow the team onFacebook and Twitter.
  • Team Texas: The "ADAPT" house is a joint effort by The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College to create a new standard for sustainable living in the southwest desert. Learn about the team's progress on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Tidewater Virginia: Hampton University and Old Dominion University are taking a step toward universal design no matter an occupant’s physical limitations with the "Canopy House." Stay up to date with the team on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Las Vegas: Students from the University of Nevada Las Vegas are making the "Desert Sol" — a house that is inspired by the Mojave Desert to use solar and water resources responsibly. Keep up with the team on Facebook and Twitter.
  • North Carolina: The University of North Carolina at Charlotte team is creating "AIM" — a house that is adaptive, integrated, and modular — as a way to merge designs of the past and future. The team will be sharing its progress on Facebook and Pinterest.
  • U of So Cal: The University of Southern California team's "fluxHOME" will meet the needs of its occupants in a fast-changing world. See how the team's house is transforming on Facebookand Twitter.
  • West Virginia: Using the unofficial name Team Peak, students from West Virginia University will create a house that brings the outdoors inside. Follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.

Managing Renewable Energy Ebbs and Flows with Demand Using REstore

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 09:30 AM PDT


To be well-rounded renewable energy warriors, we have to admit some downfalls of green power, and how to solve those issues. One of the issues facing Europe’s renewable energy sector (and eventually America’s) is the intermittent nature of wind and solar power and the impact that variability can have on a power grid during peak demand times.

REstore, however, is one (of many) companies offering technology that can “analyze, predict and adjust power-using devices to balance out those minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour fluctuations,” as reported by Greentech Media. REstore utilizes cold storage — and a technician manning some computers — to balance the oscillation of power supply and power demand to avoid blackouts.

Check out the full article above for some interesting details on how REstore is dealing with the varying amount of power needed for electric vehicles tapping into a grid at any given moment.

Source: Green Tech Media
Image: PhotographyByMK via Shutterstock 

New Measurement System Could Improve Solar Energy Efficiency

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 08:30 AM PDT

A versatile new measurement system has been devised that can accurately and quickly measure the electric power output of solar energy devices. These abilities are very useful to the development and manufacture of next-generation solar energy cells.


Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created the new system hoping to aid in the development of machines that will more efficiently and cost-effectively convert sunlight, something greatly needed if a quick reduction in carbon pollution is going to occur.

Source: NIST
Image Credits: NIST

Free Solar PV Technical Training Sessions at SPI Orlando

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 06:30 AM PDT



Raising standards. Promoting confidence.

11 sessions presented by SEI and NABCEP for “installers, sales personnel, and others interested in expanding their PV solar business” will be available for free in Orlando very soon. Business Wire, Solar Energy Internationale, and NABCEP are all involved in getting the word out.

The training sessions are taking place September 10-13 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, as part of SPI '12. SPI '12 is North America's premier business-to-business event for professionals in solar energy.

I hope that a caravan of earnest clean energy seekers come along to join the savvy professionals. As a planet, we all have to gain from that.

Read more on the SPI 2012 website.

Scotland Opens Renewable Energy Skills Training Academy

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 05:30 AM PDT

A Renewable Energy Skills Training Academy (TRESTA) is being opened in Scotland to provide training for those in the green energy industries, helping to address “a looming skills gap.”


There will be sixty apprentices the first year of TRESTA, they will be trained in a wide variety of useful skills, from welding to first aid. The program will be run by Steel Engineering in Renfrew, near Glasgow.

“The trainees entering this exciting centre can expect to become fully equipped to be an integral part of Scotland’s renewables revolution,” Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond is quoted as saying.

Source: Business Green
Image Credits: Windmills via Wikimedia Commons

Aerogenerator X 10-MW VAWT Upgrade in the Works

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Wind Power Limited has released its plans for a new and improved Aerogenerator vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT). The company is saying that the new prototype can generate two times more power than the original, while only weighing half as much.


According to the company, “the Aerogenerator X is the result of of an 18‐month feasibility study (called the NOVA project), and is a viable and cost-effective solution for offshore wind power in the UK. The newest version is anticipated to generate twice as much power as their initial design, and because the sails (blades) are made from carbon fiber, to only weigh half as much.”

The researchers are currently working to complete a fully operational 50-kW prototype demonstrator. They will use it to gain a better understanding of the engineering performance and aerodynamic behavior of the design when it’s in use.

Wind Power Limited is planning to complete full tests of the unit in an offshore environment before it begins work on a planned 10-MW version. And it is expecting the demonstrator should be operational by October 2012.

“Wind Power Limited also announced that it is in the process of entering a Memorandum of Understanding with Arup to help continue with the development of the project.”

The 18‐month NOVA project feasibility study was a collaboration by Cranfield University, QinetiQ, Strathclyde University, Sheffield University, and Wind Power Limited. It was funded by the Energy Technologies Institute (a public private partnership comprising BP, Caterpillar, EDF, E.ON, Rolls‐Royce, Shell, BP, EDF, EON, Caterpillar, the UK Government, and Wind Power Limited).

Source: TreeHugger
Image Credits: Wind Power Lmtd. & Grimshaw

1 out of 5 Top Japanese Firms Want Exit from Atomic Power by 2030

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 04:30 AM PDT

A recent Reuters poll showed that many of Japan’s big firms want to see the share of nuclear power in electricity reduced by 2030.

One in five big Japanese firms, following the Fukushima nuclear disaster (and amidst it, since it is ongoing), reportedly want exit from atomic power by that time.

Tetsushi Kajimoto and Izumi Nakagawa from TOKYO shared more on the poll results: “underlining concerns about a rise in energy costs without atomic power, the rest of the respondents supported a continued role for nuclear energy, with the biggest group opting for a share of 15 percent.”

Is it always simply a numbers game?

“The government is considering three options for its energy portfolio: reduce nuclear power’s role to zero as soon as possible, aim at 15 percent by 2030, or seek a 20-25 percent share by the same date.”

Clearly, nuclear energy has become a very big political issue. “Energy policy has become a major headache for Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan, its ratings battered ahead of a general election likely to take place in November and give the ruling party a drubbing.”

Lobbyists, one wonders, do they help to confuse the matter? “It’s unrealistic for Japan to ditch nuclear power in 15 years or so,” one rubber company said in the survey. “It should inevitably become around 15 percent while we seek alternative energy sources for overage reactors.”

In the Reuters poll, 19 percent of big firms sought to cut nuclear power’s role to zero, but 39 percent called for 15 percent by 2030, as a majority of companies brace for slower economic growth as reliance on nuclear energy declines.

The poll contrasted a government survey of nearly 300 people which showed almost half — by far the largest group — favored the zero option.

Google Maps Creates Voice-Guided Navigation for Cyclists

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 04:00 AM PDT

During the last couple of years, Google Maps has been expanding its services to the bicycling community. Throughout the U.S. and Canada, its improving services have been helping cyclists to travel safely and efficiently to their destination. And now, in a major upgrade, it’s going to start providing turn-by-turn directions and navigation to Android phones. You’ll be able to mount your phone to your handlebars and receive voice-guided directions to your destination.

This improvement is following shortly after the recent expansion of Google’s cycling route maps to 10 new countries — Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

“We know there are lots of ways to get from here to there, which is why in 2010, we added biking directions to Google Maps in the U.S. and Canada, and continue to work to bring more biking features to more places,” writes Google’s Larry Powelson, in a blog post. “Today, there are more than 330,000 miles (equal to more than 530,000 kilometers, or half a gigameter) of green biking lines in Google Maps.”

What do you think? Will you try out Google’s audio bicycle directions next time you’re biking somewhere and you’re not sure of the way?

Source: TreeHugger
Image Credits: Google

Affordable Solar Making Its Way to More Local Markets

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 03:30 AM PDT

Solar Universe Network, based in California, has partnered with Sunrun to make solar more affordable and accessible for more homeowners.

"This really changes the landscape and creates a new leader in the solar energy category," said Joe Bono, CEO of Solar Universe. "Nobody can compete with our local reach, and now, we can offer our customers a superior alternative to grid power that is less expensive."

The upfront costs of going solar are gone thanks to Sunrun. The company owns and maintains the photovoltaic system on a customer's roof. This does away with their regular fuel/electricity costs and gives people lower rates with natural energy. It’s an easy and smart financial gain.

The new partnership will service homeowners in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

For more information on the companies above or their new partnership, visit www.solaruniverse.com or www.sunrunhome.com.

ESolar’s Modular Solar Power Towers with Storage

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 03:00 AM PDT

ESolar’s CEO puts it directly: "Our objective is to compete straight up with the best-in-class PVs."


"What is so unique about our technology is the modular nature of it and the scalability," explained eSolar President/CEO John Van Scoter. "Instead of one-size-fits-all," he said, "we can literally build these up just like building blocks and adapt to different customer requirements."

Besides the company’s streamlined and clear sculptural look, at a quick glance, it seems it has attracted some big business partners. It has partnered up with General Electric (GE) and Babcock & Wilcox, two major energy sector multinationals. And it has a roadmap for scaling its cost down and reaching outward.

Besides competing “straight-up with the best-in-class PVs on an ongoing basis,”  it also has “the advantage of being dispatchable with storage.”

And its affect on water consumption is notable. ”The company has also streamlined the system's power electronics, cabling installation and robotic heliostat cleaning. The first two will reduce costs and the third, Van Scoter said, "will reduce water consumption by an order of magnitude."

It seems that this is a company is one to keep an eye on. What do you think? A potential game-changer? Potential, but not sure yet?

Add a Shot of Green to that White House Beer Recipe

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 02:59 AM PDT

President Obama finally okayed the release of the much sought-after White House Beer recipe over the weekend, and you can practically hear the yeast bubbling as home beer brewers celebrate across the country. The news is likely to generate interest among a whole new generation of home brewers, too, and we’re guessing they could probably use some advice on conserving water and energy while they enjoy their new hobby. So, we’re offering up some tips we’ve gleaned from the ‘tubes, and if you’d like to add your own please contribute to the comment thread.

green your white house beer recipe

How Green Was My Beer Then?

While an interest in sustainability has motivated many an enthusiast to take up home brewing, the process is only as green as you make it. You’ll still be using energy, water, and raw materials as well as buying manufactured equipment and supplies, same as any other brewer.

It may be the case now that, on balance, homemade beer has a smaller footprint than its mass-produced cousins, but the status quo might not necessarily hold for long. Small and large brewing companies alike have been stepping up their green beer game in terms of supply chain, recycling, water conservation, and use of alternative energy.

Also, global beer giant AB-InBev is venturing into brewery waste reclamation processes that involve green technology beyond the reach of a typical home kitchen, at least for now.

Green Brewing Advice

Here are a few drops of green brewing wisdom resulting from a quick search of the Internets:

Glorioushomebrew.com suggests re-using water left over from cooling, cleaning, and washing up in a variety of ways, including from doing your laundry or watering your plants.

The same folks also recommend composting spent grains, or using them to make tasty dog treats.

The forum at northernbrewer.com provides some tips along similar lines, with the additional suggestion of looking for domestically and locally sourced raw materials whenever possible.

Triple Pundit ran a post earlier this year with some great advice for new brewers. The list includes joining a brewing community to learn more about the process, which will help avoid wasting supplies due to mistakes.

Learning how to brew beer in kegs and growing your own hops (apparently, easier than it sounds) also make the cut.

The Chronicle of Higher Education offers up a profile of one dedicated home brewer whose home includes solar panels. Depending on the size of the installation, solar or wind power could pretty much make the energy consumption issue a moot point.

If you’re in a good position to invest in alternative energy for your home, taking up home brewing will provide you with a really good excuse to go ahead and do it.

Green Beer, Green Jobs

Due to the timing of the White House Beer announcement, some media outlets, such as the Washington Post and ABC News, have speculated that it’s all part of a ploy to win over working class voters (seriously, like nobody else drinks beer?).

On the other hand, release of the White House Beer recipe could very well put more people to work, by helping to grow the market for beer making kits and home brewing supplies. That’s a good thing, right?

Regardless of your politics, drink up! And don’t forget to share your favorite sustainable home brewing tips in the comment thread.

Image: Green beer. License Some rights reserved by piervix.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

California Community Solar Bill Dies in Assembly Committee

Posted: 03 Sep 2012 02:50 AM PDT

California’s community solar bill died in state Assembly Committee late Friday. Intense, "late-session" lobbying by utilities Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) led to the bill’s failing, according to a San Jose Mercury News report.

The community solar bill, Senate Bill 843 (SB 843), aimed to add another 2 GW of clean, renewable power in California by enabling residents to join forces and collectively buy power from shared solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small hydro power systems. Geographically, the bill would have covered the service territories of PG&E, SCE, and San Diego Gas & Electric, the state’s three largest utilities.

Solar Power… for Renters

It’s estimated that some 44% of Californians rent as oppose to own homes, one of the lowest rates of home ownership in the country. That excludes them from being able to have solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on their rooftops.

Per the bill’s terms, utility customers would have been able to sign contracts with solar and renewable power project developers for the electricity produced. They would receive a credit for their share of the clean, renewable power produced that would have been applied to their utility bills.

“This is the next step in terms of making solar available to the largest number of people possible, including small businesses who lease their buildings, renters and people who live in apartments,” State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), the bill’s sponsor, said in an interview. “In a collective and cooperative way, it allows people to take advantage of economies of scale.”

Per SB 843′s terms, the solar power thus purchased wouldn’t qualify and help the utilities meet state Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) quotas. That was one of the main points of contention for the utilities. They also argued that being forced by law to offer low rates to communities and poorer homeowners would have added to the costs borne by electricity customers who have not installed solar power systems.

Utilities’ Objections

"PG&E estimates that SB 843 would shift $4 billion in statewide costs from participating to nonparticipating customers over its life – $1.7 billion for PG&E customers," PG&E senior vice president for energy procurement Fong Wan wrote in an Aug. 30 Sacramento Bee op-ed. "Effectively, this bill would require PG&E to procure power at high renewable prices, but not allow PG&E to count the power toward California’s 33 percent renewable goal."

The utilities also objected to an item in the bill that would have allowed customers producing their own clean, renewable energy to reduce or even zero-out their utility bills.

"Programs that allow self-generating customers to reduce or zero-out their utility bills allow these customers to rely on an electric system paid for by other customers without contributing their share of the costs necessary for its maintenance," Fong wrote. "For example, we estimate that our non-solar customers already bear approximately $200 million per year of additional costs, an amount that will grow to $700 million per year in 10 years."

Finally, the three utilities said that the bill should be applied to all the state’s electricity suppliers, including municipal utilities, not just them, and that it was far too complicated to administer effectively in a cost-efficient way.

For and Against

Some state senators don’t agree, arguing that currently unaccounted for costs of producing power from fossil fuels needs to be accounted for, and that the community solar bill would have opened up the possibility of installing solar power systems for a large, untapped population.

"Unfortunately, PG&E and Southern California Edison control the committee," San Jose Mercury News’ Dana Hull quoted Sen. Wolk from a statement released late Friday.

"There was an agreement between the Assembly Speaker, the Committee Chair, and me that would have scaled the bill down to a pilot program under the Public Utilities Commission's guidance and oversight. That agreement wasn't honored and the bill died in committee, depriving the public of innovative energy policy in line with Governor Brown's initiatives."

PG&E spoke out in defense of its position and performance regarding solar and renewable energy. "PG&E has and will continue to support our customers’ desire to access renewable energy," Fong wrote in his op-ed. "PG&E looks forward to working with the Legislature and other interested parties to develop residential and community renewables projects that are good for the environment and fair for all customers.

"We recently proposed a voluntary program to let customers pay for and receive 100 percent renewable power. We have close to 30 percent of all rooftop solar installations in the country – more than any other utility by far – and are well on our way to meeting California’s 33 percent-by-2020 renewable power goal."

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