Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Fisker Lands Another $100 Million in Private Investment for Karma

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 08:00 PM PDT

 
Fisker Automotive hasn’t been quite as successful as Tesla Motors, and it’s run into a handful of problems to date. But it’s still rolling. And aside from getting Justin Bieber, Sean Kingston, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cee Lo Green behind the driver’s wheel, it has also just completed another $100 million in private funding for its Karma.

The $100 million will reportedly be for production as well as marketing of the vehicle. Notably, Fisker is currently looking to expand into the Middle East and China.

Not stated in the Fisker press release is that the Karma isn’t exactly the most fuel-efficient electric car on the market. The Karma gets 54 MPGe on battery and 20 MPG on gas. Compare that to the Chevy Volt, which gets 98 MPGe on battery and 37 MPG on gas; or the Honda Fit EV, which gets 118 MPGe (it’s a pure EV); or the Tesla Model S, which gets 89 MPGe (again, it’s a pure EV).

Nonetheless, the Karma is better than the average car. And let’s hope new models will have better fuel efficiency.




 
Here’s the full Fisker press release about the new funding announcement, expansion plans, and other matters:

Fisker Automotive has completed the initial closing of its current equity financing, representing in excess of $100 million of new funding.

This initial closing will provide the company with funding for continued product development, market expansion and a new global marketing campaign for the Fisker Karma, the world’s first luxury Electric Vehicle with extended-range (EVer™).

Fisker expects to continue to utilize equity financing to support its business plan that combines continued sales of its inaugural Karma model with market expansion into the key Middle East and China markets, along with further development work on its second production model, the mid-size Atlantic sedan.

Since its inception in 2007, Fisker Automotive has raised over $1.2 billion in private equity and borrowed $193 million under the Department of Energy Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. In the last 18 months, the company has raised in excess of $600 million in private equity, with nearly $300 million of this total coming since it brought the award-winning Karma to market in December last year.

Tony Posawatz, Fisker’s CEO said: “This is another major vote of confidence in Fisker’s pioneering technology and business model. We are grateful to both our investors and our initial customers who have supported our company and are quickly becoming our biggest advocates.”

Since being launched in December, nearly 1,500 Fisker Karma sedans have been delivered to customers in the US and Europe, bringing the company a further stream of revenue and helping to attract new investment interest.

Adds Tony Posawatz: “The Karma is already a testament to US automotive innovation and advanced technology and we intend to announce our production plans for the Atlantic and a timeline by December of this year.”

Henrik Fisker, founder and Executive Chairman of Fisker, said: “The latest financing arrangements mark an important milestone for Fisker. We are now poised to invest in the next generation of extended-range battery electric luxury cars and another chapter in the fast-paced expansion of Fisker Automotive, and are demonstrating our commitment to long-term success.”

About Fisker Automotive, Inc.

Fisker Automotive is a new automaker with a mission to build an innovative, eco-driven company that redefines and reshapes how the world thinks about cars. The company is leading the auto industry with its unique Electric Vehicle with extended range (EVer™) powertrain technology, which combines the power and efficiency of electric drive with the range and freedom of a gasoline engine.

Fisker was established in Southern California in 2007 by top auto designer Henrik Fisker and business partner Bernhard Koehler. In 2008 Fisker unveiled the Karma, the world’s first luxury Electric Vehicle with extended range. On sale since December 2011 the Karma was delivered to the market in record time. The Karma is the first and only American car to have won the coveted BBC Top Gear Luxury Car of the Year award, Automobile magazine named it 2012 Design of the Year, and TIME magazine listed the Karma one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2011.

Fisker is headquartered in Anaheim, California and markets its products through a growing network of independent retailers around the world. Fisker Automotive can be found online at www.fiskerautomotive.com

Reposted from ELectric Love! with permission.


BMW i Drivers Can Get 100% Renewable Electricity Package in Germany

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 07:30 PM PDT

 
Almost anyplace on Earth, driving electric vehicles is greener than driving gasoline-powered vehicles. But as is well known, and as cynical people of the world always like to point out, some electricity is greener than others. In particular, you don’t want to be driving your electric car powered with coal electricity. Basically, you want to be powered by wind and solar electricity, the greenest options on Earth.

So, it’s pretty great to hear that BMW and Naturstrom are teaming up to offer all BMW electric vehicle drivers in Germany 100% green, renewable electricity.

bmw renewable energy electric cars bmw i

Of course, Germany is basically the easiest place to do so, since there’s more solar and wind power there than just about anyplace in the world (it may actually be the #1 country when it comes to per capita renewable electricity). From BMW (translated using Google Translate):

“As part of the strategic cooperation BMW i customers will have the opportunity in the future to acquire a customized package for green electricity to run their electric vehicles.” BMW is bringing its first electric car, the BMW i, to market in 2013.


 
From Cosmas Asam, head cooperation with BMW AG (also translated using Google Translate):

“The BMW AG takes a holistic approach to sustainable mobility. Electric vehicles are a key component in it. We look at the entire value chain.For this purpose, the environmentally friendly production of renewable energy at the sites of the company, innovative vehicle concepts with new materials are also working with the green on the road. With the NATURSTROM AG we have the partner with the best eco-offering on our side. NATURSTROM offers 100% renewable energy with a very high proportion of wind power that is generated mostly in Germany. The future product will be offered joint electricity for our customers in Germany, BMW i an attractive offer.”

Of course, in many situations, owners could go 100% renewable simply by putting solar panels on their roofs and charging only at home. Germany does have the highest solar power capacity per capita, and most of that is in solar panels on people’s roofs.


Visiting the Fabulous Collection of Doctor Renewables

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 07:00 PM PDT

 
I received a tweet this week from Francis Rousseau who asked that I check out his website on renewables.

What an incredible find!

This treasure trove of information on renewables features a remarkable video library of technical and scientific demos addressing a wide range of subject matter. Rousseau’s cache presently houses more than 300 topics, from interviews to demonstrations. The website states that a new video is added daily — a remarkable undertaking.

For anyone interested in the field, this is a good place to begin learning. Topics are incredibly diverse, ranging from NASA and algae to ecotourism to a history of renewables. A site search engine will assist users who browse through this library and short overviews help in understanding what subjects are presented in both English and French.
 

 
Here is a snapshot of some content:

This is just to whet the appetite. Remember, there are more than 300 entries. Take a look and share your thoughts and discoveries.

Francis Rousseau photo: Twitter

Reposted from Green Building Elements with permission.


Green Jobs Growth in the USA: Manufacturing Leads the Way, 3.1 Million Green jobs in November

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 06:30 PM PDT

 
There were 3.1 million "green jobs" in the US as of November 2011. Green jobs are growing faster than overall job growth in the US. They pay well, and there’s an increasingly wide range of them accessible to Americans of every level of education and experience, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s "Counting up to green" analysis of the Labor Dept. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s (BLS) groundbreaking Green Jobs report, which was released Sept. 28.

BLS’ data and report follow on similar studies of green jobs — notably by the Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center – that indicate making the transition to a cleaner, greener, low-carbon US economy and society doesn’t necessarily entail a net loss in jobs — far from it. If the transition gathers enough momentum, it appears that more green jobs will be created faster than jobs in other sectors and activites are lost. Not only did green businesses and activities weather the last US banking systems crisis and recession better than others, green businesses and business activities are growing faster than the broad economy. Moreover, states where commerce and industry are greener have been growing faster.

The manufacturing sector accounted for the most green jobs in the US as of November 2011, according to BLS data, which carries substantial irony, as well as paradox, given that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the party as a whole are doing their best to squash what’s been one of the few persistent bright spots in terms of US employment and economic growth in recent years — the rapid development and growth of the US solar, wind, and broad renewable energy and clean technology sectors. That’s led to a revitalization of US manufacturing after decades of decline, job losses, and job exports.
 

 

Green Growth and Jobs: Redress for US Economic Malaise

Of even greater significance for US society, the drive to build a greener US economy can go a long way toward long-growing and festering socio-economic ills, according to EPI study author Ethan Pollack: the historically large and growing inequality and disparity in US wealth and income distribution.

"The best case for greater and green investments isn't just about jobs, but rather about equity and broader economic growth," Pollack writes. "The ‘dirty economy’ model relies on allowing businesses to push a portion of their costs of production onto third parties [the broad public] without their consent, simultaneously causing harm to people who are disproportionately impoverished and lack political power, and distorting the market by causing an overproduction of pollution-intensive goods at the expense of cleaner goods.”

It also addresses a gross flaw in economic growth and development patterns and policies not only in the US but worldwide: that it’s been based primarily on depleting natural capital — the stock of natural resources and services natural ecosystems provide, benefits that are the foundation for all life on the planet, as well as our economic systems.

"This old economic model relies on depleting the economy's environmental capital stock at an unsustainable rate, depriving future generations of a healthy and diverse environment and harming long-run economic growth (since much of the economy depends on a clean environment and ample stocks of natural resources)," Pollack continues.

"In sum, a dirty economy subsidizes the well-off by taxing the poor and disenfranchised, distorts the market, and short-changes future generations by leaving the world a worse place for them to live. For these reasons alone, the case for transitioning to a greener and more sustainable economy is well justified.”

Getting a Handle on Green Jobs

Green jobs studies have come under criticism, and much of that has been centered on how green jobs are defined and counted. More on this, and the report’s findings, is to come in a subsequent post. At the top, most general level, however, BLS defines green jobs as:

  • Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
  • Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

The Brookings and Pew Center studies broke new ground in their attempts to do so, as does the BLS’ latest effort. The process is evolving and ongoing. No doubt, refinements and improvements need to and will be made.

This process will generate criticism, debate, and some conflict. That’s natural. More importantly, that the Dept. of Labor and BLS are undertaking such an effort shows they’re doing their jobs. The renewable energy, clean technology, and energy efficiency and environmental service sectors are growing fast. The Labor Dept. and BLS are providing an extremely valuable public service in their efforts to measure and understand what’s happening in these sectors when it comes to employment, not only to researchers such as those at EPI, but to all those looking for jobs and to build rewarding careers.

Graphic Credits: The Green Market Oracle; Ethan Pollack, Economic Policy Institute, based on US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 report data


1960s Muscle Car–Inspired Train Could Be a Beautiful High-Speed Train in Australia

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 10:58 AM PDT

 

The Aussies are making everyone else look slower, older, and clunkier with the design for a new muscle train between its main cities. The train would move at a top speed of 250 mph. It would make the 545-mile journey between Sydney and Melbourne in just over two hours. Today's current trains are limited to just 100 mph.

What Public Transportation Should Be, Could Be

Australia-based international design firm HASSEL designed this high-speed train to lend a quick means of clean transportation to some of the 8 million-plus people who travel between Australia's two largest cities regularly.
 

 
Who is not tired of claustrophobic drives into and out of the city with 6, 8, 10, and in some cases (such as this one) 16-lane highways and endless traffic? No one enjoys this.

Instead, imagine traveling hone while relaxing with a book, apple, or quick shut-eye instead of feeling claustrophobic in stop, go, stop lanes on highways. Imagine traveling in what seems like the speed of light on a clean muscle train.

This would be a double-decker train concept that could revolutionize the way Aussies travel, and all of us should follow suit.


First Solar Teams Up with Kiran Energy and Mahindra Solar for Rajasthan Power Plant

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 10:43 AM PDT

 
First Solar has teamed up with Kiran Energy Solar Power and Mahindra Solar One to provide thin-film solar modules for two solar photovoltaic power plants to be constructed in India’s Rajasthan state.

The two plants will total 50 megawatts upon completion, when they will be one of India’s largest photovoltaic installations. They will generate an average of more than 85,000 megawatt-hours of clean electricity per year, which in India is equivalent to the annual electricity needs of more than 97,000 average households, and enough to displace more than 80,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

First Solar Putting Solar into India

The two projects are part of the second round of utility-scale solar projects being built under India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM), which aims to install 20,000 megawatts of new solar electricity generating capacity by 2022.

First Solar has been contracted to supply more than 585,000 of its thin-film solar modules for the two projects, with construction planned to begin later this year and planned to be completed in the first quarter of 2013.
 

 
“First Solar looks forward to working with two leading companies like Kiran and Mahindra Solar One to support India’s renewable energy goals, and we are pleased they selected our technology as the best solution for the high ambient temperatures and diffuse sunlight conditions here,” said Sujoy Ghosh, First Solar’s India Country Head.

“This is a very exciting project for us,” said Pramoda Karkal, Chief Operating Officer of Kiran Energy, “especially so because Kiran Energy, as well as our joint venture, Mahindra Solar One, will own the largest solar power plant aggregation in a single location in India. We are also very happy about our partnership with First Solar, which is providing its world-class PV technology. This will enable us to create a high-quality solar plant that could rank among the best in the country in terms of quality, uptime and output.”

Source: First Solar


Clean Tech and New Energy Awards 2012

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 10:39 AM PDT

 
The magazine The New Economy has released its list of Clean Tech and New Energy Award winners for 2012, celebrating “companies who have pursued new thinking for existing technologies.”

“The award winners represent a large spectrum of intelligent ideas for the creation and saving of energy and resources. From better ways to preserve water to creating power via hydroelectricity, The New Economy has evaluated the projects that will serve and impact on the way of life well into the next century. The winners represent the companies who are delivering progress in this area while considering our relationship with the environment at the same time.”

The full announcement along with articles on some of the winning technologies can be found in the Autumn edition of The New Economy, currently on sale, but a full list of the winners is copied below.
 

 

Australasia/Pacific

Best Clean Energy Company, Australasia/Pacific
Verve Energy

Best Renewable Energy Company, Australasia/Pacific
Trina Solar

Best Emerging Renewable Energy Company, Australasia/Pacific
Infigen

Best Clean Energy Investor, Australasia/Pacific
Tsing Capital

Excellence in Innovation, Australasia/Pacific
Solar Sailor

Best CEO, Australasia/Pacific
Jifan Gao, Trina Solar

Europe

Best Clean Energy Company, Europe
Iberdrola

Best Renewable Energy Company, Europe
SolarWorld

Best Emerging Renewable Energy Company, Europe
iRES Enerji

Best Clean Energy Investor, Europe
Goldman Sachs

Exellence in Innovation, Europe
DESERTEC Foundation

Best CEO, Europe
Thiemo Gropp, DESERTEC Foundation

Middle East/Africa

Best Clean Energy Company, Middle East/Africa
Kahramaa

Best Renewable Energy Company, Middle East/Africa
Masdar

Best Emerging Renewable Energy Company, Middle East/Africa
Qatar Solar Technologies

Best Clean Energy Investor, Middle East/Africa
QDB

Excellence in Innovation, Middle East/Africa
Tigi Solar

Best CEO, Middle East/Africa
Omran Al Kuwari, Green Gulf

North America

Best Clean Energy Company, North America
Next Era Energy

Best Renewable Energy Company, North America
First Solar

Best Emerging Renewable Energy Company, North America
Finavera

Best Clean Energy Investor, North America
Goldman Sachs

Excellence in Innovation, North America
SolarCity

Best CEO, North America
Lyndon Rive, SolarCity

South America

Best Clean Energy Company, South America
Neoenergia

Best Renewable Energy Company, South America
Renova Energia

Best Emerging Renewable Energy Company, South America
Acciona

Best Clean Energy Investor, South America
BNDESPAR

Excellence in Innovation, South America
Subsole

Best CEO, South America
Mathias Becker, Renova Energia

 

Source: The New Economy via PR Newswire


Report: Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Industry Could Create 70,000 Jobs, Generate Billions in Revenue

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 10:31 AM PDT

 
According to an industry-sponsored study, the development of 7,000 MW (7 GW) of wind farms offshore in the Mid-Atlantic region could create 70,000 jobs from the states of Virginia to New Jersey. That’s enough power for up to about 2.3 million homes.

This development could have a combined economic impact of $19 billion on the states mentioned and increase local, state, and federal revenue by $4.6 billion.

This study was conducted for the Atlantic Wind Connection and released during AWEA’s annual conference in Virginia Beach.

Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm.

It wasn’t explicitly stated whether the 7,000 jobs would be permanent. However, the study said that “50,000 jobs would be created by the effect of added economic activity — restaurants and groceries, for instance.”

While the study report lacks details, there are some key notes worth mentioning.

There are quite a few different jobs involved in getting a wind farm to an operational state, including wind turbine assembly line operators (which build the turbines), installers, transport workers, and more. Here’s a look at a handful of these jobs:

  • Employees of steel, aluminium, copper, and fiberglass factories which prepare these raw materials for use in wind turbine factories.
  • People that load turbines onto trucks and drive them to their destination.
  • Inspectors that inspect the safety of the turbines.
  • Contractors that assemble the wind farms.
  • Transmission line contractors that construct the power transmission lines required to transmit the wind power from the offshore wind farms to land.
  • Painters.
  • Meteorologists that study offshore areas and determine which are best for wind farms.

The study said those jobs would be created by a new “industrial base” which is required to manufacture, build, operate and maintain wind farms, and an additional 40,000 jobs would be needed to serve the supply chain.
 

 
The job growth would be realized over a 10-year buildout of the offshore industry.

"These findings highlight the unique opportunity our nation has for stimulating a brand new industry by developing this limitless, yet untapped, resource," said Bob Mitchell, CEO of Atlantic Wind Connection.

As is the case with all “studies,” this study is based on various assumptions. The report results were just published in the Washington Post today. We’ll see if anything else comes out of it.

Source: Washington Post
Photo Credit: offshore wind turbine by NHD-INFO (Some rights reserved)


How the U.S. Is Getting More Hydropower without Building a Single New Dam

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 10:12 AM PDT

 
The U.S. has 2,400 hydropower dams, many of which sport out-of-date generating equipment that is, well, generations old. That’s the bad news. The good news is, it all adds up to the potential for a massive energy efficiency upgrade program that could significantly boost U.S. hydropower generation without the monumental expense and environmental disruption involved in new dam construction. In fact, the first round of hydropower upgrades is already underway at an average cost of less than 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

DOE energy efficient hydropower upgrades get more power from same dams

A Hydropower Upgrade for Boulder, Colorado

The Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric Facility in Boulder, Colorado is a case in point. Dating all the way back to 1910, the facility just underwent an overhaul that replaced two older turbines with one new energy-efficient unit. The new unit alone can generate 30% more energy than both of the older turbines combined.


 
The upgrades can also cut the energy required to run hydropower facilities. At Boulder, the $1.18 million project included new transformers, storage tanks, and wiring, along with remote operating equipment.

Hydropower Upgrades and Green Jobs, Too

The Boulder upgrade was supported by the Department of Energy through the Recovery Act, as part of DOE’s larger hydropower upgrade program.

DOE launched the program in 2009 as a $30.6 million, seven-dam hydropower upgrade package, the highlight of which is the installation of modern new turbines that are far more energy efficient and more fish-friendly, too.

In announcing the program, Energy Secretary Steven Chu underscored the three-for-one benefits of investing federal taxpayer dollars on local hydropower upgrades:

“One of the best opportunities we have to increase our supply of clean energy is by bringing our hydropower systems into the 21st Century. With this investment, we can create jobs, help our environment and give more renewable power to our economy without building a single new dam.”

Squeezing More Juice from the Same Package

In terms of the national grid, the DOE program is relatively modest. All together, the seven projects will increase hydropower generation by about 187,000 megawatt-hours per year, or enough to power 12,000 homes.

Keep in mind, though, that the program was designed as a showcase for the potential to boost energy production at hundreds of other dams around the U.S. for just pennies per kilowatt-hour.

Another thing to keep in mind is the potential to boost generating capacity even further, by piggybacking hydrokinetic turbines onto existing dams. These turbines can run on the ambient flow of water just below a dam, rather than requiring pressurized water like conventional turbines.

More Energy, Less Disruption

The concept of adding more energy production to a pre-built environment is rapidly becoming a hallmark of the new alternative energy landscape.

Retrofitting existing buildings with solar panels and micro wind turbines is another aspect of that trend.

On a broader scale, concept of more energy production without new disruption also echoes one of the Obama Administration’s green jobs programs, called Re-Powering America’s Land, which is designed to find sites for new alternative energy operations on brownfields and other classified lands that have already been developed (and then abandoned) for industrial use.

Image: Dam (Some rights reserved by USACEpublicaffairs)

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey


Common Questions for Solar Panel Installers (Top 18)

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 04:00 AM PDT

 
Our friends over at leading solar company One Block Off The Grid recently published a post where CEO Dave Llorens answers the 18 most common questions that they receive while working with their customers.

You can find their answers to the top 18 questions homeowners ask about solar here. Here are the first three videos as a taster:

1. Does my solar power work if the power goes out?

2. How long does solar power take to install on my house?

3. Should I buy American made solar panels?


 


If you have any interest in installing a solar power system, I recommend you take a look at the rest.

Source: One Block Off The Grid

Full disclosure: One Block Off The Grid and CleanTechnica have a financial partnership.


Australia’s Solar Field of Dreams

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 03:55 AM PDT

 
To borrow an old saying, if you have seen one panel you have seen them all. In the case of the Greenough River solar farm, this seems to be quite true.

There are 150,000 of them spread over 80 hectares of private land, about 50kms south-east of Geraldton, in one of the richest solar regions in the country. And the panels all seem perfectly identical – all 60cm by 20cm, black, mounted in Geelong and trucked over to WA, and installed at a 25 degree angle. They all face north.

Dotted amid the field of panels are 16 small buildings, each housing 720kW inverter systems supplied by German group SMA that converts the electricity generated by the solar cells from direct current into alternating current so it's compatible with the grid.

Australia now sports a rooftop array on one out of every 10 households. As Ray Wills points out today, there is as much, or even more, rooftop capacity as this farm spread across rooftops in localities such as Mandurah. But Australia has never seen anything like this, row upon row of panels stuck in the middle of the paddock. The question is: how much more will we see it?

One energy industry executive quipped the other day that it was not so long ago that solar was regarded as tax on people who couldn't do math. In the case of rooftop solar, that is certainly no longer the case, because it can clearly compete with the cost of electrons at the socket.
 

 
Utility-scale solar has a more challenging task – it has to match the cost of coal-fired generation, or at least the price that prevails through daytime hours, which tends to be higher than that in the evening.

For First Solar, which accounts for more than half of the utility-scale solar farms being built, this is the first time it has acted as the main EPC contractor outside of North America. It has placed its future on being a vertically integrated company, rather than just a module manufacturer, which CFO Mark Widmar says – pointing to the experience of the Chinese manufacturing market in particular – is merely a commodity.

One of the remarkable things about the Greenough River project is that site work only commenced last November, with the first panels installed in April. It has been operating at pretty much full capacity for the last two months. And the results have been good – it now stands to produce 20GW in its first year, a capacity factor of 26 per cent. "Only in Chile will you get better solar resources," says Jack Curtis, vice president, business development and sales.

Such excellent solar resources means that Curtis is confident that the cost of utility-scale solar PV will fall to between $100-$140/MWh by 2016. That means it will be competitive with wind, because Curtis says utilities will be willing to pay $10-$40/MWh premium for solar PV over wind energy, because it can deliver predictable power during the day, which will command premium rates. Curtis says the experience so far from Greenough River shows a solid bell curve of delivered electricity, but most important predictability for the network operators.

If those cost metrics can be met, the fact that solar PV farms can be installed relatively quickly, do not attract the controversy of wind power, and will be supported by banks, means that solar PV could be displacing wind projects by 2016. That means a big fight for the market created by the renewable energy target, presuming it remains untouched. Curtis believes that solar PV could deliver between 3,000 and 5,000MW of utility-scale capacity by 2020. That's a lot of panels.

Reposted from Renew Economy with permission.


Australia’s 1st Utility-Scale Solar Farm Now On!

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 03:50 AM PDT

 
At about 11am local time near the Western Australian town of Geraldton this morning, Australia's first-utility scale solar farm was officially switched on.

It was a suitably sunny day (blighted by three million flies) and although just 10MW in size, and built courtesy of funding from the local government, a state-owned utility and by one of the wealthiest companies on the planet, it may presage a dramatic change in the way this country produces energy.

For the last 100 years or so, Australian power companies have produced energy by burning something – mostly coal, sometimes gas, and occasionally sugar cane and other agricultural or forestry waste – to create steam and drive a turbine. Even with the advent of wind energy, this is the first large-scale energy plant that does not involve a rotating machine. It does not need water either, and it makes no emissions.

The 150,000 solar photovoltaic panels installed at the Greenough River solar farm, about 50km south-east of Geraldton, converts sunlight into direct current electricity via thin-film PV solar cells made by First Solar, which is then converted by inverters into alternating current suitable for feeding into the grid.

While this is the first utility-scale solar PV farm in Australia, and 10 times bigger than the next biggest solar installation in the country, the country trails far behind Europe, North America, China and other parts of Asia in the rollout of these sorts of plants. If it had been built in 2005, this plant would have ranked as the biggest in the world, but such has been the pace of development in the solar industry that Greenough River does not even rank in the top 200 solar farms in the world.
 

 
Nevertheless, solar PV is expected to become one of the critical sources of energy in the future in Australia.

"It seems amazing that a  country this size has taken this long to install its first solar plant," said Verve Energy CEO Jason Waters at the opening ceremony. "It certainly won't be last given success of this project."

Verve Energy, which owns a bunch of coal-fired generators, as well as gas and is investing in wind farms, said the Greenough River Solar Farm demonstrated that "renewable technologies can contribute to meeting Australia's future energy needs on a sustainable, cost-competitive basis." Waters  said: "This is a positive first step in validating the bright future that large-scale solar represents in Australia."

Matt O'Connor, managing director of GE Energy Financial Services, which invests $2-$3 billion a year in energy projects each year, agrees. "We see incredible investment opportunities in Australia and look forward  to expanding on this successful project and applying our expertise to help the country's renewable energy market grow."

How much will that be? The recent technology assessment by the usually conservative Bureau of Resource Economics and Energy said solar PV would be unequivocally the cheapest form of new-build generation by 2030, and even now the best sites might be cheaper than coal or gas.

In light of these forecasts, it will be interesting to see what the Energy White Paper predicts in its scenarios when that document is released later this month. Its draft version, relying on technology cost estimates that proved hopelessly wrong, predicted only a 3 per cent role by 2050.

Private forecasts suggest that solar PV could provide 20 per cent more of the country's electricity in a zero carbon scenario (the rest would come from an equal amount of solar thermal – with storage, with about half coming from wind and the rest in the form of gas-fired generation). That would require some 20,000 to 30,000MW of solar PV installed across the country over the next few decades. Jack Curtis from First Solar says there could be 3,000MW to 5,000MW of utility-scale solar by 2020. (see separate story)

The International Energy Agency – in its Solar Energy Perspectives document produced last year – said solar could form the backbone of the world's electricity market, and said solar PV could account for 20 per cent of global capacity by 2050 – or about 12 million MW (12,000GW). That compares to around 40GW now.

The joint owners of the Greenough River Solar Farm are already considering expanding the project to 40MW. GE Financial Services and Verve Energy say, however, that no decisions have been taken. It will rely on a power purchase agreement being signed by the local utility, which is using the 10MW first stage as a contribution to the energy needs of its desalination plant, and it would likely need banks to get involved.

The good news is that one Australian bank, the Commonwealth Bank, last week provided its first loan for a solar project in Australia, albeit a small one, for the 1MW Uterne solar PV tracking facility in Alice Springs. Mark Widmar, the CFO of First Solar who flew out to Geraldton for the opening, told RenewEconomy that having met representatives of all four major banks in Melbourne this week, that the appetite was there. "They clearly want an opportunity to play in this market, " he says. And Greenough River will provide crucial data for those financing assessments.

Apart from the Greenough River solar farm, and its anticipated expansion, First Solar also has a contract to supply panels to the 159MW project being built by AGL Energy at Nyngan and Broken Hill in NSW, although this project, with funding from the now defunct Solar Flagships scheme, will not begin construction until 2014.

The next new solar PV project to be built in Australia is expected to be the 20MW solar farm to be built by Spanish group FRV, after it won the ACT government's reverse tender last month. Infigen Energy is building a 1MW project near Bungendore, the first to combine solar PV and battery storage in a plant recognised by the National Electricity Market, while Infigen, the Moree solar consortium and other groups have applied for funding from the newly established Australian Renewable Energy Agency is scaled down versions of the flagships applications. The investment bank Investec is also considering a solar PV project in WA, which enjoys the richest resource of solar in the country, and the highest energy costs.

It is ironic to note that the Greenough River farm was developed because WA government was determined to have a slice of the Solar Flagships scheme, but its plans did not qualify. The Rudd government wanted only massive projects of 250MW, later diluted to a slightly more palatable 150MW. That would not have been possible in regional WA because of grid issues. The irony is that this project is built, while construction on the flagships projects will not commence for another two years. It highlights what a wasted opportunity the flagships program was.

Even so, the WA government is not quite as excited about the opportunities as it might have been. WA Premier Colin Barnett is opposing the 41,000GWh fixed renewable energy target, and energy minister Peter Collier, while praising solar at the opening of the Greenough River Faarm today, was also hedging his bets about the future of the LRET. WA has nearly doubled its renewable energy penetration from around 5 per cent to just over 9 per cent, but it would need to do a lot to meet 20 per cent. But he did notice the swarms of flies. "They must all be greenies," he quipped.

Reposted from Renew Economy with permission.


British Firms Look to Invest in Kenya’s Renewable Energy Sector

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 03:03 AM PDT

 
To promote the development of green energy projects in developing countries, British firms are looking for investment opportunities in the renewable energy sector of Kenya. Around 20 British companies are looking to invest and develop in Kenya's nascent renewable energy sector.

A meeting was held in Nairobi this week between the investors, led by British Energy Minister Greg Barker and Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to discuss the country's production potential, which largely remains unexploited so far.

Addressing investors during the meeting, Odinga said: "(Our) nation declared to go green three years ago but was yet to exhaust energy production from hydro, wind, solar and geothermal to bridge the power deficit in the country."

“We are concerned about the cost of energy because we appear less attractive for industrial ventures compared to our competitors like South Africa and Egypt,” Odinga said.

Barker says that, with Africa’s largest wind farm in the Lake Turkana region already in the works and set for completion in 2014, Kenya has set out a clear path for its growth in Vision 2030.

“You’ve got probably the world’s largest single source for geothermal in the Rift Valley. There are companies from Britain that are ready to participate,” he said.
 

 
According to Barker, Kenya’s geothermal industry has the capacity to produce enough energy to power its own and its neighbour’s needs. The estimated potential of geothermal energy is about 10,000 MW, with development cost of around $4 million per MW.

“This would only be achieved within a reasonable time frame with private sector participation. Under Vision 2030 Kenya aims to generate 5,000 MW of low-carbon energy from geothermal resources at an estimated cost of $20 million (Sh1.7 billion),” Energy Permanent Secretary Patrick Nyoike said during a network event hosting the British firms.

Kenya is heavily dependent on hydro power and currently only 30% of the population is supplied with electricity. Development of renewable energy is imperative in Kenya to meet the growing demand in energy and to reduce import expenditures on crude oil and other petroleum products.

Image Credit: geothermal energy by Joy of Seth (Some rights reserved)

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


Voltage Cycles, Stylish Electric Bikes

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 03:00 AM PDT

 

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Voltage Cycles, the popular maker of electric bikes, is releasing a new line of very ‘stylish’ electric bikes.

The new models from Voltage Cycles are expected to sell for around $4,400 for the fully-optioned ones, so it’s certainly designed for the luxury market. The bicycles are certainly very distinctive looking, and will probably carve out a niche for themselves.


 
“With a maximum e-assist range of 34 miles, the 48-volt battery is said to be good for at least 1,500 recharges. It will certainly help getting up hills, though there is no mention of top speed. That said, you don't need to go fast to look awesome on a bike like this. Lesser models will cost as little as $1,000, which is much more palpable in these tough economic times.”

Read more over on Gas2.


Kandi Technologies Will Sell First 5,000 Electric Vehicles to Hangzhou, China for Just $6,300 Each

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 02:30 AM PDT

 
Kandi Technologies’ Vehicles Co. division, which was previously awarded what has been called the “largest-ever electric-vehicle distribution agreement in China” (in July), has finalized a price and delivery date for the first run of 5,000 urban electric vehicles.
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“The Kandi division reached a ‘definitive sales contract’ to sell the 5,000 EVs to the city for about $31.6 million – which comes to around $6,317 a pop.”

The cheap price on the vehicles is partly because they don’t include the batteries, though. Those are contracted to be provided separately by China Aviation Lithium Battery Co., and it’s planned that the electricity will be supplied for free by local utility companies.


 
The agreement made in July was for 20,000 EVs to be purchased by Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, as the beginning of its vehicle-to-grid testing program. Though the first 5,000 have now been scheduled for delivery in the coming months, there has been no mention yet of when the other 15,000 electric vehicles will be bought.

“Deliveries of the EVs, which have a top speed of about 25 miles per hour and weigh about 1,600 pounds, started last week and will continue through the end of the year.”

Source: Autoblog Green
Image Credits: Marc Chang


Abraham Lincoln Was on to Wind Power Long Before the Rest

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 02:11 AM PDT

 

During an election season, it’s easy to find huge faults in every politician, so let’s take a look back on one former president that we can all be proud of, Mr. Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was forward thinking on many national policies, including (way ahead of his time) his prescient stance on wind energy.

In his own words:

“Of all the forces of nature, I should think the wind contains the largest amount of motive power—that is, power to move things. Take any given space of the earth’s surface— for instance, Illinois; and all the power exerted by all the men, and beasts, and running-water, and steam, over and upon it, shall not equal the one hundredth part of what is exerted by the blowing of the wind over and upon the same space. And yet it has not, so far in the world’s history, become proportionably valuable as a motive power. It is applied extensively, and advantageously, to sail-vessels in navigation. Add to this a few windmills, and pumps, and you have about all. … As yet, the wind is an untamed, and unharnessed force; and quite possibly one of the greatest discoveries hereafter to be made, will be the taming, and harnessing of it.”

h/t Climate Crocks
Image: Abe Lincoln via Shutterstock


Puma Launches Line of Biodegradable Shoes & Clothes

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 02:06 AM PDT

 
Puma, the well renowned German sportswear company, recently announced the launch of a range of biodegradable shoes and clothes.

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The company has continually been praised in various reports by the United Nations as being a corporate leader in the development of sustainability, and making a real effort to limit environmental damage. We’ve covered a couple of Puma’s notably green efforts, as well.

Puma also announced at the press conference unveiling this new line that it will be widening its “accounting for the costs of its air pollution, greenhouse gases, waste, land and water use.”

“We want to contribute to a better world. At the same time, we also want to carve out our competitive advantage,” the company stated.


 
The new biodegradable collection will be on the market in 2013. The line of 22 products will include biodegradable shoes and shirts as well as completely recyclable plastic track jackets and backpacks. After the consumer has decided to throw away the product, it can simply be returned to stores for re-processing.

“The sole of the sneaker, for instance, would be made of biodegradable plastic and the upper of organic cotton and linen. After going through a shredder, it could become compost in six to nine months.”

Koch made sure to stress that “biodegradable” doesn’t mean a lack of durability. “You can’t just dispose of it in the garden at home, dig a hole and hope that a tree is going to come out,” he said.

Puma has also begun to rate the individual environmental impacts of specific products. Helping to specify where the $188 million that they caused in damage to nature in 2010 occurred (according to a 2010 study).

“A new biodegradable T-shirt, for instance, would have environmental costs of 2.36 euros in terms of greenhouse gases, water, waste, air pollution, and land use associated with its production, compared to 3.42 euros for a conventional T-shirt.”

The idea is to allow consumers to be more aware of the environmental impact they have and to potentially guide them to “less damaging options.” To clarify, though, Puma does not add the environmental cost to its sales price.

“In the long run I think all of this should be standardized, just like we are used to seeing calories on our food products,” Jochen Zeitz, chairman of Puma, told Reuters.

The company also highlighted “that 100,000 pairs of biodegradable sneakers, for instance, would fill 12 trucks of waste during production and disposal against 31 trucks-worth for the same number of normal Puma suede shoes.”

Zeitz conceded that “a lot of people call it a risk” to mention pollution when trying to sell a product. “I think it’s a risk not to talk about it,” he said. “It’s our opportunity as businesses to be transparent.”

The leader of the UN’s Green Economy Initiative from 2008 to 2011, Pavan Sukhdev, regularly mentioned Puma as a leader in sustainability, and that it has done “a great job in transparency, measurement and disclosure” of the environmental costs of its business.

Currently, according to Sukhdev, the only companies that have created ways to estimate the damage they cause to the environment are those “whose turnover makes up less than five percent of the world economy.”

Source: Reuters
Image Credits: Puma via Wikimedia Commons


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