Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Malaysia Aims for 5.5% Renewable Energy Share in Installed Capacity by 2015

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 01:29 PM PDT

 
With a goal to achieve 40% cut in carbon emissions by 2020, the Malaysian government plans to increase the share of renewable energy in the total energy mix to 5.5% by 2015, according to a statement made by the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The government had created support mechanisms and launched a feed-in-tariff scheme which pays a premium rate for generating electricity through renewable sources, Prime Minister Najib Razak said. According to him, renewable energy would make investments worth RM70 billion ($23 billion) and support 50,000 jobs by 2020.clean renewable energy sources

"It will also avoid 42.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions, about a 40 percent reduction, which I promised at the Copenhagen Climate Conference," he added.

"We have pushed renewable energy into the spotlight and now aim to secure 5.5 percent of the total energy capacity from renewable sources by 2015 and 11 per cent by 2020," he said during his keynote address at the official opening of the third International Greentech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia (IGEM 2012).
 

 
He said it is estimated that all the green projects under the Economic Transformation Programme will generate a total gross national income of RM53 billion by 2020.

“I believe that market forces will change people’s buying behaviour. Once there is a clear signal from governments that the low carbon transition is underway, and then markets will start pricing zero-carbon vehicles accordingly and more consumers will start buying them.”

Several fiscal incentives, policy instruments, and institutional mechanisms are in place for the development of renewable energy in Malaysia. The green initiatives would help to contribute to the effort of the Malaysian government to meet the challenges of climate change and increasing power demand of a growing future market.

Image Credit: wind turbine, solar panel, & globe via Shutterstock

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


Spanish Firm to Invest $1 Billion in Japan’s Solar Energy Sector

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 01:23 PM PDT

 
Gestamp Solar, a Spanish developer and operator of utility-scale photovoltaic plants plans to invest around 90 billion yen ($1.16 billion) in solar panels and plants in Japan over the next three years.

The company has signed an agreement with Japan's Kankyo Keiei Senryaku Soken to build and operate solar rooftop plants with a total capacity of 30 MW. According to the Gestamp Solar CEO Jorge Barredo, the two companies plan to develop around 300 MW of rooftop solar power installations and ground-mounted projects within three years. Out of a total 300 MW, 70% of the capacity increase is expected to come from rooftop installations.

“Gestamp Solar has strong background having constructed the largest roof-top projects and parking shelters worldwide, such as 'the Renault project', 55 MW connected in February 2012,” said Barredo.

The Spanish company plans to start the construction of the solar plants from this year, with a goal of setting up the first plant before March 2013, Japanese financial daily Nikkei reported.
 

 
Gestamp Solar is in talks with other Japanese companies as well for the development of solar projects in Japan (apart from its agreement with Kankyo Keiei Senryaku Soken). It is also in talks with the commercial institutions and supermarkets for the installation of solar panels on 40-50 roof surfaces.

Gestamp Solar, a unit of Gestamp Renewables, operates and develops utility-scale solar power plants all over the globe. The company has developed, operated, and maintained photovoltaic installations with a total capacity of more than 450 MW in 13 countries, including the US, Spain, India, South Africa, Chile, and Thailand.

In the wake of Fukushima disaster, several Japanese and foreign companies are looking for investment opportunities in the renewable energy sector of Japan . According to a recent estimate by the government, Japan would require an investment of about $637.4 billion in renewable energy by 2030 to eliminate the country's dependence on nuclear power.

Image Credit: Wayne National Forest Solar Panel Construction by Wayne National Forest (Some rights reserved)

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


Electric Car Club Lets Potential EV Customers Try Before They Buy

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 12:18 PM PDT

 
For anyone on the fence about how cool (or practical) an electric car actually is, a chance to try it before you buy it might be just the right kind of push. A new car club in the UK’s Milton Keynes is providing exactly that service — and it’s not just a car club, it’s an electric car club.

Electric Car Club in Milton Keynes

The new electric car club, called the E-Car Club, just launched with five all-electric Nissan Leafs. Businesses can book one of the cars for £5.50/hr, or sign up for an account (which gives them 20% off and lets them block-book the cars in advance). Company chairman Andrew Wordsworth believes that they’ll be able to significantly help the electric car industry in the UK:

“We believe E-Car is being launched at a very exciting time for motorists as many want to experiment with driving an electric car before they make the decision to own one. We hope to grow the E-Car network over the coming months.”

 

 

Go On, Take It for a Spin

Accessibility to electric cars might do exactly what Wordsworth thinks it will; generate enthusiasm not only for the sake of zero emissions — a sentiment catching hold in Milton Keynes already — but also for the sake of how fun electric cars can be. In addition to offering its own fleet of cars, E-Car will also help businesses electrify their existing vehicle fleets by managing the new EVs on behalf of the businesses.

Nissan’s fleet sales director, Barry Beeston, is enthusiastic about the EV rental idea in general and the choice of the Leaf in particular:

“We welcome the launch of E-Car as it makes LEAF accessible to a number of consumers and business users who previously may not have had access to an electric vehicle. E-Car has some excellent corporate services set up which are increasingly important as companies aim to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Questions or comments? Let us know below!

Source: Business Green
Image Source: Nissan


Solar-Powered Electronics More Feasible with New High-Voltage Solar Cells

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 11:14 AM PDT

 
A new, relatively high-voltage solar cell that can charge the li-ion batteries of portable electronics such as e-book readers and cellphones in partial shade has been created by the University of Warwick and Molecular Solar.

This type of solar cell is called an organic solar cell, plastic solar cell, or organic photovoltaic cell (OPV).

Professor Tim Jones of the University of Warwick

Professor Tim Jones, one of the lead researchers at University of Warwick, along with Dr Ross Hatton and Professor Mike Shipman, said: “We have taken a big step towards cheap-to-make solar chargers which can top up your devices whenever they are being used — both indoors and out.”
 

 
“A small light-weight solar charger no bigger than a credit card can be fitted to the battery of an e-book reader for example, and constantly top it up with power while you are reading it — even if you are sitting inside on the sofa,” Shipman added.

"Alternatively, this kind of solar cell could be ideal for outdoor use as it is light-weight and portable.

"The next step is to extend this technology outside the laboratory to make cheap OPV chargers available on a commercial scale through Molecular Solar."

Solar Cell Voltage

The voltage (electromotive force) of solar cells is dependent on the amount of sunlight available, and when the weather becomes cloudy, the voltage of the cell decreases, and if it decreases below the voltage an e-book reader battery requires to charge, then it simply won’t charge at all, even if the cells are capable of generating the necessary current (by the way: wattage = voltage x current).

Normally, the performance of typical silicon solar cells is better than that of organic cells. However, these organic cells generate a higher voltage, which means they are more capable of continuing to charge batteries in cloudy weather, despite generating less electricity.

Normally, multiple small solar cells have to be connected in series to achieve the necessary voltage, but the required 4.2 volts can be achieved with only one organic cell.

How Solar Panel Voltage is Regulated

Solar power systems normally operate by using enough solar cells to generate a voltage which is much higher than necessary, so that even during cloudy weather, when the voltage decreases, the voltage will still be higher than necessary, which is good in this case.

A voltage regulator then maintains the exact voltage required by the battery, and it actually stays at that same voltage regardless of how much the weather fluctuates, as long as the voltage is above the minimum required by the regulator.

This is why voltage regulators are an essential part of solar power systems, and any other system of which the voltage fluctuates.

For more on this research above, the paper “Ultra-high voltage multijunction organic solar cells for low-power electronic applications” has been published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

Source: University of Warwick

Reposted from Solar Love with permission.


Vibrant Protection for Cyclists, Runners, Pedestrians at Night — Visibelt!

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 10:37 AM PDT

 
I love the way this attention-getting, eye-catching, visibelt for cyclists, runners, pedestrians, and any night-time traveler is made of energy-efficient LED lightsspinning out from one’s body like an aura. I want one. It would go great with an actual “Aura” system on my wheels when biking at night. This visibelt will bring bright notice of me or you as the “other” (less armored) traveler sharing the road.

What exactly is visibelt? Visibelt is a light with huge surface area that wraps around your body or backpack to make sure you get seen. Using just two LED lights combined with the innovative plastic light-carrying tube means battery life is still competitive with smaller, less eye-catching alternatives — like under-seat, rear LED bike lights. Vizibelt has three light modes — fast flash, normal flash, and constant light.
 

 
Visbelts will be bringing light into any driver’s view. Too many accidents are occurring in an age when the number of cyclists are increasing and cyclists need to be seen. As one roams around the night-time wilderness or urban spaces, or travels home from school or work, this is a must-have for being seen. As a biker or runner goes flying across an intersection (all the while using good safety measures such as lights, stop signs, etc.), one will have another measure of protection — light, light, light.

Check out all the styles and this video from vimeo:

More styles can be seen on Indiegogo.

Reposted from Cycle Love with permission.


Air Force Wind Turbines at Radar Station Convert Nay-Sayers to Cheerleaders

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 09:19 AM PDT

 
Here’s a crazy lede from a press release about Air Force wind turbines that came out earlier this week: “Change is blowing into Cape Cod Air Force Station as the 6th Space Warning Squadron receives two new wind turbines.” Crazy, because just a couple of years ago the U.S. Department of Defense expressed serious national security concerns about radar interference from wind farms, and now here they are plunking down a couple of wind turbines right in the middle of a radar station. However, before the alarm bells go off, take a look at what’s changed over the past couple of years.

Air Force wind turbines for radar station

 Air Force Wind Turbines Save Money

First off, let’s note that the full lede in that press release goes like this:

“Change is blowing into Cape Cod Air Force Station as the 6th Space Warning Squadron receives two new wind turbines here saving an estimated $1 million in annual energy costs.”

The two turbines are expected to slash electricity costs at the station in half and pay for themselves in about twelve years. After that, they will provide the station with free electricity for up to 13 years, assuming they reach their 20-25 lifespan.


 
The press release is a bit vague on the details but apparently the station currently receives electricity from an oil-fired power plant. From that benchmark the Air Force expects that the two turbines combined will cut carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide emissions by 2,000 metric tons per year.

 Wind-Friendly Radar Stations

So, what’s changed? In this instance, perhaps nothing. There are different kinds of radar systems for different purposes. This one is for “space situational awareness” and for tracking sea-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as satellites, and it’s possible that wind turbines don’t make a difference for that kind of system.

In general, though, wind turbines are recognized as a threat to radar operations, and by the mid-2000′s it became obvious that the growing wind industry in the U.S. was on a collision course with military radar systems. In response, the Department of Homeland Security commissioned a study on radar interference from wind turbines that was released in 2008.

The study noted that the conventional solution was location-based, meaning simply that wind turbines could not be located anywhere near a radar station.

That’s a rather primitive approach to solving a high-tech problem, and sure enough the study recommended exploring technological rather than geographical solutions.

Fast-forward just three years and you’ll see that one is at hand, at least in the UK. Within the past year, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has worked out a big deal with wind farm developers that has “unlocked” 4 gigawatts (GW) worth of blocked wind farms.

Wind Power for the U.S. Military

Something must be up in the U.S., too, because just last August the Department of Defense signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of the Interior to explore the potential for wind power and other forms of alternative energy on millions of acres of land at western military bases.

Meanwhile, a U.S. company called Aveillant has come up with a new radar system for air traffic control at airports that it calls a Holographic Radar, which uses 3-D imagery to distinguish between airplane wings and turbine blades.

In any case, if radar systems can be redesigned to coexist with wind turbines, perhaps a technological solution will soon be at hand to ensure that wind turbines can coexist more safely with birds, too.

Image: Radar station courtesy of U.S. Air Force

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey


Solar Energy System Approvals Surge Following Launch of Japan’s Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 05:12 AM PDT

Approvals for new solar and renewable power capacity in Japan look set to exceed a projected fiscal 2013 total of 2,500 megawatts (MW). They’re on pace to do so by the end of 2012 as opposed to end of March, 2013 (the conventional fiscal year-end for Japanese government and business), however.

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced it has approved a higher than expected 725 MW of non-residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems alone in the two months ending in August, according to a Denki Shimbun report.

Enactment of a higher than expected government solar energy feed-in tariff rate of 42 yen ($0.525) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in July has prompted a surge in solar PV systems permit applications at METI. METI had approved new renewable power capacity of 1,300 MW as of the end of August.

Besides approving a total 725 MW of non-residential solar PV systems in the first two months to end August — the first two months the feed-in tariff was in effect — METI also approved 306 MW of residential solar PV systems. In addition to the solar approvals, 262 MW of new wind power installations, 1 MW of small- and medium-scale hydropower systems, and 6 MW of biomass power systems were approved, according to Denki Shimbun’s report.

Japan’s Feed-in Tariff Leads to Solar Power Surge

METI’s non-residential solar PV systems approvals have surpassed an initially projected 500 MW fiscal year total in just two months following the introduction of the national renewable energy feed-in tariff. New large-scale, non-residential solar PV systems approvals accounted for some 80% of the 725 MW of total new solar PV approvals METI has made in the first two months of the feed-in tariff.

The unexpectedly high solar feed-in tariff rate means manufacturers "can earn more money as they produce more modules," an industry source told Denki Shimbun. It has also prompted Japanese banks to aggressively pursue financing opportunities.

Indicative of the surging interest and investment in Japan’s renewable energy market, Softbank, Japan’s third-largest mobile phone company announced plans to build a massive wind farm in northern Japan that would make it the country’s largest provider of wind power. The planned 500-wind turbine facility on Hokkaido island is to produce as 1 gigawatt (GW) or clean renewable power, according to a Bloomberg News report. Softbank and Mitsui Co. also plan to build the country’s largest solar power plant.

Japan’s new renewable and solar energy feed-in tariff is even attracting solar energy project developers and manufacturers overseas. Spain’s Gestamp Solar announced that it is going into a partnership with Japanese energy consultancy Kankyo-Keiei that entails working together to install an initial 30 MW of rooftop solar PV systems, with a longer term goal of installing 10-times that amount.


That Light at the End of the Tunnel Might Not be a Train

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 04:49 AM PDT

 
Here’s a follow-up post from the CleanTechnica reader who supplied us with “Not Crashing Our Boat — Finding Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis” (be sure to read that first post before proceeding):

As I reported a couple weeks ago, US CO2 emissions, after ring for many years, reached their highest level in 2005, and have fallen since.

People have assumed that the drop is due to the very significant economic recession we have experienced. First, let's remember that the peak was in 2005 and the economic crash occurred in mid September 2008, with over 2½ years of a booming economy in between. CO2 dropped slightly, and certainly didn't rise further, for two plus years during a booming economy.

Was, as some insist, the drop in CO2 due to a lower US GDP? Certainly not during 2006 and 2007. Let's look at the data to see if GDP decline following 2008 supports that position. (And I'll throw in electricity generation and oil consumption at the same time to save space.)

Nope, GDP post 2005 is higher every single year.

Is it because we quit making as much electricity? Nope, we're making a bit more.

The one thing that does track CO2 output is oil consumption. Oil consumption in 2010 was 10.1% less than what it was in 2005. So, did the economic crash pull down CO2 emissions via less oil consumption?

Possibly, but US oil consumption stopped increasing after 2005 and it's unlikely that the Fall crash of 2008 was early enough in the year to have accounted for all the 2008 drop. It's not like everyone crawled under their beds and didn't get on the roads. As I recall, major job losses did not start until late 2008, and extended into 2009.

In fact, US oil consumption hit a plateau in 2004 and did not increase in the ensuing 3¾ years in which the economy was in party mode.


 

 
What caused the oil consumption drop?

In 2010, miles driven was down 2% from 2005, and miles flown was down 1.6%. Together, they do not account for a 10.1% drop in consumption.

The next reason suggested was that oil in other applications dropped due to the recession.

Here we find a mixed bag….

Residential, electric power, railroad, vessel bunkering, on-highway, and off-highway are down. Industrial, oil company, and farm use are up.

On-highway: that 2% less driving mentioned earlier.

Electric power: a switch to renewables and natural gas. (Remember, electricity generation is up.)

Railroad and vessel bunkering: possibly due to lower economic activity resulting in less freight. But freight is down only 2.7%, 2007 to 2011. (Not cherry-picking, just the data I found without putting lots of effort into that question.)

Residential: and here let's remember the claim that "it's due to warm winters in 2010 and 2011."

Residential heating oil consumption peaked in 1996 and began falling. In 2006, the year after the CO2 peak, heating oil consumption took a major drop. This was two years before the recession and four years before the "warm winters" explanation.

Is this drop due to warmer winters or more efficiency and fuel substitution? I didn't take the time to research that. If it interests anyone, they can take on that project. The important thing is that CO2 levels are down and part of the reason seems to be less oil usage for heating and transportation.

(It might be worthwhile to point out that while our winters are warming, so are our summers, and we've had to work against rising air conditioner and refrigeration demand.)

While some of the post-2008 usage drop in driving, flying, and heating oil might be due to economic crimps, it is not safe to make that assumption without supporting data. It is also likely that some or all of the drop is due to higher efficiency and a decision on the part of the public to drive and fly less.

Here are a couple of graphs on our increased fuel efficiency (data from the Research and Innovative Technology Administration):

About a 40% improvement in passenger vehicle gas mileage. Over a 30% improvement in light truck mileage.  Just think how those numbers will soar as we add more EVs and PHEVs.

In 1980, the CAFE standard was 20 mpg. By 1985, that requirement had risen to 27.5 mpg. It stayed at that level until 2010. The subsequent rise following 1985 is probably due to the retirement of pre-CAFE requirement vehicles. Gas prices (constant dollars) fall slightly until the mid 2000s (see graph above).

Gas prices take off around 2004. So does average vehicle mileage. The average mileage moved into the mid/high-30s by 2010, which argues that the price of oil drove people into more efficient vehicles.

How do I summarize all this?

1) US CO2 emissions peaked in 2005 and have fallen since.

2) The amount of fall was likely aided by poor economic conditions, which to some extent must have reduced driving, flying, shipping, and home heating, but since the reductions started prior to the country’s financial problems, it is likely that efficiency has also played a significant role.

We could probably replace the 2% drop in oil usage (on average, driving, flying, and shipping were each down about 2%) during a recovered economy without returning to previous CO2 emission levels, since in the intervening years we have continued to implement efficiency measures. We've replaced older, less efficient vehicles with more efficient vehicles and we've weatherstriped and insulated homes. We've increased non-hydro renewable grid share from 2.2% in 2005 to 4.1% in 2010, while cutting coal share from 49.6% in 2005 to 42.4% in  2011. (And, apparently, below 35% for the first half of 2012.) We've replaced some of the coal generation with natural gas, and while natural gas does bring its own set of problems to the table, it does lower CO2 emissions.  (Additionally, natural gas generation, being dispatchable, will be easier to reduce than coal.)

In my view, we have passed a milestone. CO2 emissions in the US are dropping. We may have received a helping hand from an economic downturn and warmer winters, but we should accept that help and make more of the effort-based reductions. We should acknowledge our increased efficiency and renewable generation, and use that to encourage ourselves to increase our efforts further. It seems that what we have done has made a difference.


Green Roofs Boost Solar Panel Performance

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 04:46 AM PDT

 
Green roofs and solar panels go really well together, as we’ve covered once before here on CleanTechnica. This repost below from Green Living Ideas gets into that topic again. It also adds a couple of beautiful pictures of solar panels on living, green roofs. Check it out:



How Living Roofs Improve Solar Panel Performance (via Green Living Ideas)

Both green roofs and solar panels have their own set of unique benefits making them well worth consideration on their own. Now with new financing models in place homeowners can go solar with minimal upfront costs. Green roofs have been used for many decades now and benefits like absorbing rainwater…




Energy Efficiency Could Save Southwestern Consumers $20 Billion, Study Finds

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 04:37 AM PDT

 
Big savings are available in energy efficiency upgrades and energy efficient behavior. A new study by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project concludes that 6 Southwestern states could save a whopping $20 billion from utility programs focused on energy efficiency. Here’s more from sister site Green Building Elements:



Study: Energy Efficiency Could Save Southwestern Consumers $20 Billion (via Green Building Elements)

Utility programs that save energy could create an economic windfall of $20 billion for six southwestern states, according to a major new study. The study, The $20 Billion Bonanza: Best Practice Utility Energy Efficiency Programs and Their Benefits for the Southwest, was released today by the Southwest…




Live More Sustainably & Have Fun Using iPhone App JouleBag

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 04:31 AM PDT

 
Ah, free iPhone apps that help green our lives — have to appreciate them. This one featured below looks like a ton of fun and can save you hundreds of dollars a year, if not more (and, of course, that also translates into good environmental savings). The scoring, based on the video below, seems a little arbitrary — it seems that greener acts should get more points (i.e. biking somewhere should get more points than drinking local beer or using a reusable water bottle) — but it’s not my app, so I guess I have to accept that. Check out more via this Ecopreneurist repost:



iPhone App JouleBug Encourages Sustainable Behavior And Saves You Money (via Ecopreneurist)

JouleBug is a free iPhone app that helps you cut out energy waste and save more than $200 a year. JouleBug was designed to encourage sustainable living through gaming and social interaction making it fun and simple!  JouleBug combines the best parts of mobile gaming, social media, and educational…




Wind Power Lowers Electricity Prices, And How

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 04:15 AM PDT

 
Editor’s note: We’ve covered the some of the topics below several times (check out our World Wind Power page for a bit more on this), but given how much misinformation there is out there about wind power, we could hammer this home every day and it probably wouldn’t be enough.  For now, check out this wonderful piece, “How Wind Power Helps Lower Electricity Prices,” from Richard Caperton of Think Progress:

by Richard W. Caperton

Here's something that shouldn't surprise anyone: A company that benefits from high power prices is lobbying for policies that would raise power prices for consumers. What should surprise everyone, however, is the sheer audacity of their effort: using a deeply flawed study to argue that tax incentives for wind power are "distortionary" while arguing for the exact same incentives for their preferred technologies.

Earlier this summer Exelon Corporation, a large U.S. power generator and utility operator, began quietly lobbying against extending the production tax credit for wind energy. Its effort gradually became more public, and has now erupted into a full-scale war on the wind industry. In fact, the American Wind Energy Association terminated Exelon's membership in the association. And Exelon is now touting a study by the NorthBridge Group, an economic and strategic consulting firm, that purports to show that the production tax credit is deeply harming consumers by—get this—saving them too much money.

Exelon's argument is strange but has gained some traction among wind energy opponents on Capitol Hill. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), for example, just penned an editorial in The Wall Street Journal parroting NorthBridge's claims. Fortunately, though, the facts are on the side of wind power.

This issue brief will show how the wind production tax credit benefits our economy, while also shedding light on Exelon's efforts against the wind industry by:

  • Explaining the anticonsumer motives behind Exelon's antiwind arguments
  • Showing some of the serious flaws in the study that Exelon claims justifies their arguments
  • Describing how nuclear power—Exelon's primary power source—could be substituted for wind in Exelon's arguments, which shows that their concern is really wind power and not market distortions

Let's begin with the benefits for consumers.
 

 

Consumers benefit from cheap power but Exelon doesn't

It's critical that we keep Exelon's fundamental motivations in mind. Exelon is in the business of selling power, and would prefer that power to be expensive.

Studies show that wind energy lowers power prices in wholesale markets, so it's perfectly rational for Exelon to oppose wind power. But Exelon's argument about the production tax credit hurting consumers is deeply misleading. Before digging into their argument, however, we need to review how wind power drives down prices.

Much of Exelon's power is sold in competitive wholesale power markets, which allow power generators (like Exelon) to sell power to local distribution utilities, which in turn sell that power to businesses and homeowners. Competitive markets all operate on a "single clearing price" basis, which means that all generators get paid the same amount for their power, no matter how much it costs to produce. This auction method ensures that every generator bids in the lowest price they're willing to accept for their power.

While the details are extremely complicated—the rules for the market that operates in the mid-Atlantic area are more than 2,000 pages long, for example—the basics are fairly straightforward. Every generator in the market tells the market operator how much power they're willing to provide and at what cost. At the same time, every distribution utility tells the market operator how much power they need to buy. The market operator then stacks up the generators from lowest to highest bid.

Then, starting at the lowest bid, the market operator adds up all of the bids until they have enough power to meet the distribution utilities' demands. The last bid accepted becomes the "clearing price"—the price the distribution utilities pay for all of their power, and the price that every generator receives.

To see how wind impacts power markets, consider the hypothetical examples displayed in Figure 1. Say a market has five different generators: a wind farm, a nuclear reactor, a coal-fired power plant, an efficient and modern natural gas power plant, and an older and less efficient natural gas plant. Each of these plants will offer to sell power at the price that covers their operating cost. On the other side of the market, distribution utilities need to buy 3,000 megawatts of power. This means the market operator will then stack up the bids from lowest to highest and then add up the bids until enough power can meet the 3,000 megawatts of demand.

In the first example the market will clear at $50 per megawatt-hour of electricity. Now, consider what happens to this market if someone builds a new 500-megawatt wind farm, as shown in the second example. The need for power hasn't changed at all, so the cheapest 3,000 megawatts will still determine the clearing price. In this case, the market now clears at $30 per megawatt-hour of electricity.

This effect of wind power driving down wholesale prices is known as "price suppression" or the "merit order effect," and its benefits are well known.  A recent study of the Midwest Independent System Operator, for example, found that large amounts of wind could save consumers $200 per year.

While the benefits for consumers are clear, existing generators lose some profits. In the original scenario, the nuclear reactor—let's say it's owned by Exelon—was making $40 per megawatt-hour more than their operating cost. (This isn't technically "profit," since some of this $40 goes toward covering fixed costs.) In the latter scenario, the reactor is only making $20 more than their operating costs.

Of course, while Exelon makes $20 less, consumers save $20 on their power bill.

The production tax credit is not "distortionary"

Exelon knows that saying wind power is bad because it saves money for consumers is hardly a winning argument, so they've made a slightly different argument to avoid the real issue. They are now touting a September report by the NorthBridge Group, which concludes that "[production tax credit]-driven negative prices directly conflict with the performance and operational needs of the electric system and with federal energy policies supporting well-functioning competitive wholesale markets." What they mean by this: Wind farms are paying grid operators to take their power, which is reportedly distorting electricity prices in wholesale markets.

NorthBridge has identified the rare occurrence of negative power prices—when power generators pay someone to take their power—and have used that as the basis for a full-scale attack on tax incentives for wind energy.

There are two questions here. First, is the production tax credit the main cause of negative power prices? And second, are negative power prices a bad thing?

Negative prices are a reasonable response to these market conditions. Market operators could avoid negative prices by implementing an arbitrary price floor of $0, but this would be economically inefficient and could lead to challenges with figuring out which power sources to use. If there are more generators willing to give away power than there is demand for power (at a time of low usage during off-peak hours), a market without negative prices would have no way to determine which power source to use, and would probably select generators at random. Negative pricing fixes this problem.

To answer the second question, negative power prices are not necessarily bad. There are a few reasons why a generator would pay a customer to take their power. If a nuclear power plant shuts down, for example, it can take days to restart, so the operator would rather pay someone to take the plant's power for a short period of time rather than turn off. A hydroelectric facility may face penalties if they don't allow water to go through the dam for fish, and will avoid those penalties by paying people to take the facility's power.

Wind power is different. Not only does wind power have zero operating costs, but wind turbines earn a $22 tax credit for each megawatt-hour of electricity they produce. Thus, the rational response for a wind turbine owner would be to pay someone just under $22 per megawatt-hour to take the turbine's power.

Negative prices aren't a very big issue

Let's be clear: negative power prices are a very rare occurrence. NorthBridge would have you believe that wholesale power prices are negative as much as 10 percent of the time in some parts of the country. Indeed, the implications of this would be large, although still not necessarily bad for consumers.

But other data sources differ with NorthBridge's conclusions. According to the Energy Information Administration, no competitive market sees negative prices as much as 0.1 percent of the time, which means Northbridge overstates the problem by about a hundredfold.

The difference is probably methodological, and it appears that the Energy Information Administration's methodology is much more comprehensive. Their data are based on looking at the price over every single location on every single market operator's system. (For reference, the California Independent System Operator has about 3,000 locations with unique prices.) Because of transmission constraints and other physical realities of the grid, prices can be different at each node, and there is no single, systemwide price for power.

Each node has a price for every hour of the year, or 8,760 unique prices. This means that the Energy Information Administration looked at roughly 25 million data points for the California system alone. Of all of those data points, fewer than 0.07 percent had a negative price—and this is by far the highest rate of negative prices of any system in the country.

NorthBridge's methodology isn't clear, but it appears to be talking about any hour in which at least one node has a negative price. NorthBridge also tries to directly link negative prices to wind power, but that's not necessarily the case, either. As the Energy Information Administration states:

The [system] with the highest number of instances of negative prices in 2011 was the California ISO (CAISO). The resource mix in CAISO is highly dependent on nuclear, hydro, and wind generation. Also, typically in the late spring, California imports significant quantities of excess hydroelectric generation from the Pacific Northwest.

To summarize, Exelon, with the help of the NorthBridge Group, is arguing that negative prices are a serious problem, and that they're caused by wind power. But that fact is that more than 99.9 percent of power prices are positive, and that even the less than 0.1 percent that are negative are caused by a multitude of factors, not solely wind power.

Exelon still faces challenges

Exelon's attacks on the production tax credit are misguided, but the company still faces challenges. Consider the 99.9 percent of prices that aren't negative. Those prices are largely set by energy sources other than wind power, and in much of the country, the majority of prices are determined by natural gas (as in the rough example in Figure 1).

Let's be clear: negative power prices are a very rare occurrence. NorthBridge would have you believe that wholesale power prices are negative as much as 10 percent of the time in some parts of the country. Indeed, the implications of this would be large, although still not necessarily bad for consumers.

But other data sources differ with NorthBridge's conclusions. According to the Energy Information Administration, no competitive market sees negative prices as much as 0.1 percent of the time, which means Northbridge overstates the problem by about a hundredfold.

The difference is probably methodological, and it appears that the Energy Information Administration's methodology is much more comprehensive. Their data are based on looking at the price over every single location on every single market operator's system. (For reference, the California Independent System Operator has about 3,000 locations with unique prices.) Because of transmission constraints and other physical realities of the grid, prices can be different at each node, and there is no single, systemwide price for power.

Each node has a price for every hour of the year, or 8,760 unique prices. This means that the Energy Information Administration looked at roughly 25 million data points for the California system alone. Of all of those data points, fewer than 0.07 percent had a negative price—and this is by far the highest rate of negative prices of any system in the country.

NorthBridge's methodology isn't clear, but it appears to be talking about any hour in which at least one node has a negative price. NorthBridge also tries to directly link negative prices to wind power, but that's not necessarily the case, either. As the Energy Information Administration states:

The [system] with the highest number of instances of negative prices in 2011 was the California ISO (CAISO). The resource mix in CAISO is highly dependent on nuclear, hydro, and wind generation. Also, typically in the late spring, California imports significant quantities of excess hydroelectric generation from the Pacific Northwest.

To summarize, Exelon, with the help of the NorthBridge Group, is arguing that negative prices are a serious problem, and that they're caused by wind power. But that fact is that more than 99.9 percent of power prices are positive, and that even the less than 0.1 percent that are negative are caused by a multitude of factors, not solely wind power.

Nuclear power also has a production tax credit

It's worth noting the irony of Exelon, a large nuclear plant operator, complaining about a production tax credit. Since 2005 new nuclear plants have been eligible for a production tax credit of $18 per megawatt-hour. This, of course, is on top of at least $185 billion in federal subsidies the nuclear industry has received since 1947.

And it's also worth noting that nuclear power, especially when combined with a production tax credit, could also lead to negative power prices. Given the significant costs incurred by shutting down and restarting a nuclear reactor, these plants may already offer to sell their power at negative prices. Adding the production tax credit—which is only available to new plants and not those that are currently in operation—would simply reduce the price they're willing to accept by another $18 per megawatt-hour.

Conclusion

The production tax credit is a government investment success story. Since the creation of the credit, wind energy deployment has boomed while costs have come down an astonishing 90 percent. With a stable investment environment enabled by a long-term extension in 2009, the amount of wind energy used in this country has doubled in the last four years. This has helped the wind manufacturing sector take off, with more than 60 percent of the value of a turbine now added domestically.

But the production tax credit is under attack by companies that are harmed by wind power, which has serious implications for our economy. Wind is helping to drive down power prices, which benefits consumers. Wind is also helping put people back to work, and these jobs are at risk if the credit is allowed to expire. According to Navigant Consulting, expiration would put 37,000 people out of work, and we're already seeing the beginnings of these layoffs.

Unfortunately, some companies—like Exelon—that benefit from higher power prices have decided to argue against the production tax credit. Their arguments are flawed, however, and should not convince policymakers to do the wrong thing and let the credit expire.

Richard W. Caperton is the Director of Clean Energy Investment at the Center for American Progress.


“The Greener the Industry, the Higher the Job Growth Rate over the Last Decade,” Report Finds

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 03:47 AM PDT

 
Editor’s note: this repost from Climate Progress is a follow-up to Andrew’s post yesterday on this same report. There’s a lot of good info in this report, and we might have even one more article on it in the coming days.

Industries that support a higher number of "green" workers who are making goods and services more environmentally friendly have experienced a higher rate of growth over the last decade than industries with fewer green jobs.

That's according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute, which analyzed data on the green workforce from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS data, which was released in March,documented 3.1 million green jobs nation-wide in renewable energy, water management, recycling, and various positions that help improve the efficiency and environmental footprint of a company or institution.

BLS defined green jobs as:

Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources; or, jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or ensuring that they use fewer natural resources.

The agency's figures were given little attention in the mainstream press and were ridiculed by Republicans for including a broad array of positions in transportation, manufacturing, and waste services.
 

 
However, Ethan Pollack, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Economic Policy Institute, believed there was more to the data set. So he looked at how environmental and efficiency initiatives were impacting job growth in various sectors.

Pollack found that for every percentage point increase in the "green intensity" of a particular industry, annual job growth in that sector increased by 0.034 of a percentage point between 2000 and 2010.

Pollack also compared the green intensity of industries with BLS employment projections through 2020, finding that industries working to make their processes more efficient and their products more environmentally-friendly will likely see a 0.019 percentage point increase in employment over industries that do not.

"The conversation around green jobs has become polarizing," said Pollack on a conference call today. "But the concept of green jobs should not be polarizing. We're trying to depoliticize this issue and show that green jobs are all around us."

The analysis also found that states with a higher penetration of green jobs saw slightly faster economic recoveries after the recession than states with fewer green jobs. However, this trend is heavily influenced by stimulus funding, which played a major role in continuing investment momentum in the clean energy industries.

This is consistent with last year's Brookings Institution green jobs study, which found that the "clean economy" grew by 8.3 percent during the height of the U.S. economic downturn between 2008 and 2009 — almost double the overall economy during that period.

Traditionally, green jobs been defined strictly within the clean energy sector. But that industry is only one piece of the overall shift toward a more sustainable economy. In their respective reports, Brookings and BLS report tried to define those jobs as providing a broader array of goods and services that make operations more environmentally-friendly — offering a better representation of how businesses and institutions will make the transition.

This latest report from EPI shows that the deeper the "greening" goes in industries, the more jobs are created.


Cardboard Bike that Holds 485-Pound Person for Just $9-12 ($5 for Kid Bike)

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 03:13 AM PDT

 
The Alfa weighs just 20lbs, yet supports riders up to 24 times its weight. It's mostly cardboard and 100% recycled materials. It uses a belt-driven pedal system that makes it maintenance free. And, maybe best of all, it's projected to be manufactured at about $9 to $12 per unit (and just $5 for a kids version), making it not only one of the most sustainable bikes you could imagine, but amongst the cheapest, depending on the markup. Here’s a pic and video of the cardboard bike:

Read more at Co.Design

Reposted from Cycle Love! with permission.


Nano-Flowers Made from Semiconductor Material Will Allow Next-Gen Energy Storage & Solar Cells

Posted: 12 Oct 2012 02:36 AM PDT

 
Nano-flowers, newly created structures composed of germanium sulfide (GeS), have the potential to open the door to next-generation solar cells and energy storage devices. These ‘flowers’, created by researchers from North Carolina State University out of a semiconducting material, feature an enormous surface area, thanks to being covered in many extremely thin petals.

20121011-230200.jpg

“Creating these GeS nanoflowers is exciting because it gives us a huge surface area in a small amount of space,” says Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. “This could significantly increase the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, for instance, since the thinner structure with larger surface area can hold more lithium ions. By the same token, this GeS flower structure could lead to increased capacity for supercapacitors, which are also used for energy storage.”

 
The flower-shaped structures were created by researchers through a process that begins with heating GeS powder in a furnace so that it vaporizes. After that, the vapor gets blown into a cooler area of the furnace, “where the GeS settles out of the air into a layered sheet that is only 20 to 30 nanometers thick, and up to 100 micrometers long. As additional layers are added, the sheets branch out from one another, creating a floral pattern similar to a marigold or carnation.”

“To get this structure, it is very important to control the flow of the GeS vapor,” Cao says, “so that it has time to spread out in layers, rather than aggregating into clumps.”

GeS behaves similarly to graphite, settling into structurally organized layers and sheets. It’s considerably different than graphite with regards to its atomic structure though, GeS is an excellent material for creating solar cells, very effective at converting solar energy into electricity. GeS also happens to be relatively inexpensive and is non-toxic, another huge plus when it comes to solar cells. Currently, many of the manufacturing processes used by solar cell producers are ‘expensive’ and make use of toxic materials, though there have been continuing improvements in these areas the last few years.

The research paper, called “Role of Boundary Layer Diffusion in Vapor Deposition Growth of Chalcogenide Nanosheets: The Case of GeS,” was just published in the journal ACS Nano.

Source: North Carolina State University
Image Credit: North Carolina State University

Reposted from Solar Love with permission.


No comments:

Post a Comment