Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Romney Would Take Credit for Obama’s Green Job Growth… Sort of

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 05:37 PM PDT

Ugh, why can’t we have a presidential election between two good candidates focused on addressing perhaps the biggest problem society has ever faced — global warming — while genuinely boosting jobs, the economy, and quality of life in this country?

Why do we have a presidential candidate who, if elected, would kill clean energy programs (for no good economic reason) after taking credit for the jobs created by such programs (thanks to another president)?

Why do we have such an uninformed populace that a presidential candidate can pack a debate full of wrong information and then be considered the debate winner?

Anyway, as we prepare for tonight’s debate, here’s one more absurdity that makes me say “ugh” and wonder how we can improve politics in this country again:

Debate fact-check: Romney trying to take credit for Obama’s green jobs growth. (via Red Green & Blue)

The centerpiece of Mitt Romney's campaign: Obama hasn't created enough jobs, but Romney will create 12 million in his first term. There's just one small problem with that: The claim is utterly and completely fraudulent. There is no actually Romney plan. Glen Kessler, the Washington Post's fact…

Cities Will Greatly Benefit from More Greenery as Urban Areas Rapidly Expand, UN Report Finds

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 05:13 PM PDT

As urban areas of the world continue to grow, there is a great opportunity to improve cities, making them healthier for people, simply by increasing greenery, according to a study released by the UN on Monday.


It’s been estimated that urban areas will more than double in size by 2030. With proper measures in place, this growth can greatly improve the quality of life for those living in cities.

Some of those measures are to increase parks, trees, and rooftop gardens and greenery. These actions can, somewhat surprisingly, go a long way towards decreasing city pollution, as well as helping to protect local plants and animals. This is considered especially important in rapidly growing nations like China and India, where city growth can occur practically overnight.

Rich biodiversity can exist in cities and is extremely critical to people’s health and well-being,” wrote Thomas Elmqvist of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, scientific editor of the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook.

Urban populations throughout the world are expected to dramatically rise in the coming years, from around 3.5 billion currently to over 4.9 billion by 2030, according to the assessment by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

And the area that these cities take up is expected to rise expand by at least 150 percent.

“Most of this growth is expected to happen in small and medium-sized cities, not in megacities,” according to the report, issued to coincide with a UN meeting on biodiversity in Hyderabad, India.

By adding more greenery to cities, significant amounts of pollution and dust can be filtered out of the air fairly well and do some to limit the heat-trapping effects of local carbon dioxide emissions. There has been some recent research that has shown that the local presence of trees can do a decent job of reducing asthma and allergies for children living nearby.

The study also makes the point that cities are currently serving as the environment to a wide assortment of plants and animals.

Incredibly, “more than 65 percent of Poland’s bird species are found in Warsaw. In South Africa, Table Mountain national park, rich in wildlife, is surrounded by the Cape Town municipality. In the United States, Saguaro national park is just outside Tucson.”

“Sustainable urban development that supports valuable ecosystems presents a major opportunity for improving lives and livelihoods,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme.

Increased tree cover in cities also works pretty well to reduce city temperatures during the summers, potentially saving on cooling costs and electricity use for the cities inhabitants.

“Recent studies highlight the importance of even small urban gardens in providing habitat for native pollinators such as bees, which have declined alarmingly in recent years,” the study added.

It’s also easy to argue for the economic benefits of adding greenery. In the United States, “city parks increase the value of nearby residential properties by an average of 5 percent; excellent parks can provide a 15 percent increase.”

And one of the most important reasons for increasing the greenery in cities is that, as urban areas expand, agricultural area is being lost, and there is going to have to be a shift in where agriculture occurs if such growth is to continue.

“For the next 40 years urban growth will consume land approximately three times the size of France … this is often the most prime agricultural land,” Elmqvist said.

Currently, there are many cities that are already taking measures to become greener. “In Bogota, Colombia, residents exercised more after city authorities introduced measures such as closing some roads on weekends and improving bus transport.”

And in Mexico City, a new “Green Roof Program” is planning to create at least 10,000 square meters (107,000 sq ft) of rooftop agriculture every year.

Source: Reuters
Image Credits: Rockefeller via Wikimedia Commons

Clean Energy Scores Highest Documented Rate of Return of Any Federal Program

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 04:51 PM PDT

This article below is reposted with permission from Climate Progress:

By Joe Romm

This excerpt from a 2011 post is relevant again today as advanced battery maker A-123 Systems files for bankruptcy protection…. You can read the Department of Energy response here.

The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2001 that a handful of clean energy technologies returned about $30 billion on an R&D investment of about $400 million. The United States is an amazing venture capitalist when it comes to clean energy R&D.

But the all-Solyndra, all-the-time stenographers of the status quo at the Washington Post put out this context-free nonsense:

That article demonstrates the Post doesn't understand the first thing about venture capital nor have they done even the minimal amount of homework on the myriad major independent studies of the value of clean energy research.

You'd never even know from the article that most private sector VC investments go bankrupt or have no significant positive return. It is a risky business that investors put money into for the few really big wins. You'd never know that VC investments are judged by their portfolio return — and by that criteria you would have to say that federal clean energy investments are wildly successful, as I'll discuss in this post.

The Post makes the briefest passing mention to a key point:

Many policy experts say some of government's biggest energy investment payoffs have come in the small stuff, such as testing the use of magnesium alloys to make lightweight car batteries more efficient or developing ballasts that make compact fluorescent bulbs more efficient.

Actually, it isn't just "many policy experts" who say this, it is the National Academy of Sciences, among others. And their findings invalidate the Post's entire analysis and most critiques of the  will clean energy investment failure. Here's the back story.

I was at the US Department of Energy when the Gingrich gang took over and tried to shut down all of DOE's applied energy research, claiming it was a waste of the taxpayers money. I helped organize a major report documenting the large return to the US taxpayers of federal spending on energy efficiency (and other energy technologies). The once-honorable GAO (formerly General Accounting Office, hypocritically renamed Government Accountability Office) didn't want to meet the same fate as the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, so parts of it became a wing of the Gingrich hit squad.

The GAO tried and failed to debunk the report, but the end result was a request to the National Academy of Sciences to independently verify the stated benefits of DOE energy research. The ensuing report Energy Research at DOE: Was It Worth It? Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy Research 1978 to 2000 was a stunning vindication:

… the report examines 17 R&D programs in energy efficiency and 22 programs in fossil energy funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). These programs yielded economic returns of an estimated $40 billion from an investment of $13 billion.

Three energy-efficiency programs, costing approximately $11 million, produced nearly three-quarters of this benefit. Most significant were advances made in compressors for refrigerators and freezers, energy-efficient fluorescent-lighting components called electronic ballasts, and low-emission, or heat-resistant, window glass. Standards and regulations incorporating efficiencies attainable by these new technologies ensured that the technologies would be adopted nationwide, thus dramatically compounding their impact.

Let me expand on that last point: The handful of energy technologies cited above, developed through funding by my old office, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, have returned some $30 billion on an R&D investment of about $400 million. I defy anybody to identify an independent report from a body as credible as the National Academy showing such a staggering return on investment for US taxpayer dollars.

Of course, you can't know a priori which investments will pay off and which won't, so you need to invest in many technologies, just to have a few winners. The GAO actually argued in a Congressional hearing where I was a DOE witness that if the DOE invested in 10 technologies for $10 million, and nine of the technologies failed, but one of the technologies saved taxpayers $100 million, that the entire effort was a waste of money. Such was the logic of the Gingrich Congress. Such apparently is the logic of the Washington Post.

I would add that the above numbers do not even count the environmental benefit of reducing pollution, although the report notes that, on the whole, the energy technologies in the report avoided "more than $60 billion in damage and mitigation." And even that estimate does not include any benefit from carbon reductions.

Significantly, the way we did the benefit analysis was quite conservative by nature. We did not assume a technology funded by the DOE would never have been commercialized, only that the DOE involvement accelerated the date of commercialization by 5 years.

I have said many times that I do not believe that we need Apollo program aimed at technology breakthroughs to solve our energy problems (See "The breakthrough technology illusion").

But clean energy R&D and demonstration and deployment is going to be severely underinvested in until the full harm to society of fossil fuel use is reflected in its cost (see Economics Stunner: "Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Air Pollution Damages Larger Than Their Value Added"; Natural Gas Damage Larger Than Its Value Added For Even Low CO2 Prices — and Life-cycle study Accounting for total harm from coal would add "close to 17.8¢/kWh of electricity generated").

Energy efficiency is especially underinvested in because the biggest barriers to deployment are not better technology but flawed regulations (see, for instance, "Why we never need to build another polluting power plant"). So we should have an aggressive energy efficiency development and deployment program that is much larger than today. Indeed, in 1997, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recommended doubling the energy efficiency budget from $450 million to $880 million, noting "the return for this portion of the government investment would be on the order of 40 to 1–a cost to the government of about $5 per ton of carbon" with annual fuel cost savings of $75 to $95 billion in 2020, and reductions in oil consumption of 4 to 10 million barrels of oil a day by 2030.

So the government appears to be a very good venture capitalist when it comes to clean energy. Can anyone in the media get this story right?

Related Posts:

A123 Systems Bankruptcy Is an Opportunity for Obama to Stand Up for Clean Energy Investments

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 04:43 PM PDT

Reposted in full with permission from Climate Progress:

This morning brought a piece of news that some in the press will label an "October surprise" for the Obama campaign.

A123 Systems, a manufacturer of lithium ion batteries used for electric vehicles and grid storage, has filed for bankruptcy protection and reached an agreement to sell two U.S. manufacturing plants to competitor Johnson Controls. The company received $129 million in grants to build its facilities.

Let the political messaging begin.

Journalists will likely paint this another "blow to the White House" over its support for clean energy. The pundits at Fox News are probably busy rehearsing their "crony capitalism" lines with zombie-like discipline. And Mitt Romney is doubtless penciling in a new zinger on "picking winners and losers" for tonight's presidential debate.

Actually, it's a good opportunity for Obama to stand up and defend federal investments in clean energy.

Today's announcement, while certainly unfortunate for a once-promising American cleantech company, is neither a huge surprise, nor the loss of a taxpayer investment.

In fact, the only taxpayer funds provided to A123 Systems were for domestic manufacturing facilities — plants that have now been purchased by Johnson Controls, a leading company in the advanced automobile sector (Already, journalists are reporting that A123 Systems received $249 million in grants. Actually, the company only took down $129 million in grants for building its manufacturing facilities).

"Our interest in A123 Systems is consistent with our long-term growth strategies and overall commitment to the development of the advanced battery industry," said Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Controls' power solutions arm, in a statement.

So an American company purchases manufacturing facilities and other assets from another American company — keeping that advanced battery production in the U.S. — and explains that it's "consistent with our long-term growth strategies."

That's quite an interesting story. But it doesn't exactly make good election-year messaging.

Facts be damned, opponents are lining up to use A123 Systems as a weapon for attacking President Obama and Democrats for their support of clean energy.

"Obama/Stabenow choose badly with $ borrowed from China. A123 goes bankrupt and our kids are left holding the bag," tweeted former Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) this morning.

What Hoekstra doesn't mention is that he co-signed a letter in 2009 requesting funds for a Michigan-based manufacturing facility proposed by A123 Systems. He, like virtually every other lawmaker across the political spectrum, explained that such investments are "vital home-grown technologies and job creation in a new industry essential to jump start the development of a U.S. manufacturing base."

Hoekstra is one of dozens of Republican lawmakers — including Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan — who asked for hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and loan guarantees for clean energy projects in their districts. But that was before it became a political strategy to exploit the failure of innovative companies in order to win an election.

The A123 issue could well come up in the presidential debate tonight between Obama and Romney.

In the last debate, Romney tried to claim that "nearly half" of clean energy companies supported by the stimulus package had gone bankrupt. That absurd claim was quickly debunked and the Romney campaign had to walk it back the next day, saying he was talking only about the loan guarantee program. In fact, out of the dozens of companies that received loan guarantees, only three have gone bankrupt.

Even if the attacks have already gotten absurdly out of proportion, this is still a legitimate story. In 2008, Obama made renewable energy a major part of his campaign. In 2009, he made it a major part of the stimulus package. So when a company fails after getting support from the Administration, it's bound to be brought up.

But Obama should be able to defend his record. And sadly, he failed to do that in the last debate.

A123 Systems is one of 29 companies that have received funding in order to build dozens of manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S. for batteries, new types of engines, and a variety of other components to advanced vehicles.

In addition, since Obama came into office, we've seen

  • a doubling of non-hydro renewable electricity
  • tens of thousands of jobs supported in the sector
  • some of the biggest "first-of-a-kind" wind, solar, and biofuels facilities built
  • new efficiency standards for the automotive sector that will continue to spur new innovations in technology.

And let's not forget: Romney was once an avid supporter of advanced vehicle manufacturing who called for "a joint public-private partnership to invest in new technology related to fuel efficiency as well as new sources of energy."

Polls show the American people still want to see strong federal investments in clean energy technologies. When this issue inevitably comes up tonight, Obama should be able to look confidently at the American people and explain the why he believes they are economically and environmentally important — as well as put the record straight on the accomplishments we've made.

Pittsburgh Can Now Buy 100% Renewables 10% Cheaper Than Standard Utility Rate

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 02:58 PM PDT

Consumers in competitive electricity markets have long been able to choose to have their energy demand met by 100 percent renewable generation, but that option has always come with a higher-than-average price tag – until now.

Starting last week, homeowners in Duquesne Light's Pittsburgh utility service territory have the option to purchase wind and solar energy generated in Pennsylvania at a 10 percent cheaper cost than the utility's default rate.

Pittsburgh 100% Renewables

This clean energy breakthrough comes courtesy of Community Energy's entry into Duquesne's competitive electricity market. The utility is a leading supplier of renewables in Pennsylvania, having sold the first wind energy products to commercial and industrial consumers in the state and developed many of the state’s first solar and wind farms.

100 percent renewable offerings typically come at a higher cost, but the competitive market allows suppliers to price their electricity at current rates, instead of when the incumbent utility last sought bids for generation to meet its customer demand. In these types of utility markets, consumers have the option to purchase their power from multiple suppliers on the basis of what's important to them, be it cost or makeup of the utility's generation portfolio.

Duquesne's last power auction was two years ago, and reflects the higher market prices of that time while only comprising four percent renewables. Comparatively, Community Energy’s 100 percent wind product reflects the current low wholesale electricity market rates.

"Regular residential customers of Duquesne Light pay 9.89 cents per kilowatt-hour for generation or $69.23 per month (assuming 700 kilowatt-hours) but would pay 8.99 cents per kilowatt-hour for a 100 percent wind power product," said John Hanger, former Pennsylvania Secretary of Environmental Protection.  "Monthly savings are $6.29."

Pennsylvania is one of the country's better examples of competitive electricity market success, with more than 1.8 million consumers choosing an alternative supplier since January 2011. Competition also enabled the Cincinnati 100 percent renewables switch earlier this year, and has been cited as a main force behind renewables integration and smart grid innovations in multiple states across the country.

So now, Yinz guys in Pittsburgh don't have to make the choice between saving money on your electric bills, breathing cleaner air, or supporting renewables. Consumers can make the choice to have all three – in about the same time it takes to order and eat one of Primanti's famous sandwiches!

Pittsburgh skyline photo via Shutterstock

Smog-Eating Pavement Featured in ‘Greenest’ Street

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 02:48 PM PDT

The Chicago Department of Transportation has publicly announced what it says is the greenest street in America. It features the use of photocatalytic cement, which has the capacity to remove nitrogen oxide gases from the air. This form of air pollution is emitted from vehicle exhaust. In the presence of sunlight and the new cement, nitrogen oxide gases can be reduced.

Nitrogen oxides are a health hazard because they can penetrate into deep parts of the lungs when inhaled. There they cause inflammation and aggravate existing health conditions like bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and heart disease. They might even be related to premature deaths. The elderly, children, and asthmatics are most impacted by them, according to the EPA.

A two-mile section of Cermak Road and Blue Island Avenue is where the green street is located. It also has 30 percent recycled content in its sidewalks and 60 percent of construction waste was recycled.

A new system for diverting stormwater is supposed to prevent up to 80 percent of overflow during heavy rains from entering the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Some of that water is contaminated with human-made toxins and winds up in the Mississippi River.

The new street is also more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. If Chicago can implement these advanced features, there should be no reason why other cities can’t follow suit. Infrastructure projects can stimulate local economies. They can also be supported and enhanced with more bicyclists and pedestrians, as research has shown.

Image Credit: Payton Chung, Wiki Commons

The Life-Saving Benefits of Solar Power in Developing Countries

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 10:39 AM PDT

Solar power is fantastic. Here at Cleantechnica, we’ve talked a bit in the past about how solar power has affected nations worldwide, from developing to developed nations, and we’ve taken a look at some of the new and exciting ways to use solar energy. Today, we’d like to call your attention to British international development charity SolarAid – it’s chronicling how solar power literally saves lives in Africa.

Solar Power Saves Lives

SolarAid is promoting solar power in place of kerosene, which has a number of drawbacks as an energy source (it’s heavy and hard to transport, it’s extraordinarily flammable, and it gives off toxic fumes). Solar power does and is none of this. As Sami grover of TreeHugger writes:

“Take Brave Mhonie, for instance, who has experienced first hand the everyday hardships of living without reliable light, and seen impacts ranging from the inconvenient to the tragic. He’s had to run 10km just to buy kerosene. He’s had to curtail conversations with family early because there was no light to talk by. He’s been hospitalized from the impact of kerosene fumes. And he’s seen members of his community die for lack of light.”

Here’s a neat video on all this as well:

For more, check out SolarAid or the TreeHugger post mentioned above.

Image Source: SolarAid

Presidential Debate Energy/Environment Hangout Replay

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 10:34 AM PDT

Last week, the Important Media network hosted a Google+ hangout on the topic of the presidential debate and the 2012 presidential election, in general. In particular, the hangout was focused on how the presidential candidates approach energy and the environment.

As we get ready for the second presidential debate, which is later tonight, here’s a replay of that Google+ hangout courtesy of our friends over on sustainablog:

Portable 50kW Wind Turbine Unveiled (Video)

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 09:27 AM PDT

Uprise Energy has developed a wind turbine that is portable and easier to maintain in numerous ways. It is called the Uprise Portable Power Center. By portable, the company means that it can actually be moved without digging it out of the ground and completely pulling it apart, but it’s still quite a beast.

Uprise Portable Power Center

Normally, wind turbines have to be assembled from many parts and then mounted with their bases in the ground or on a sturdy surface. In order to move them, they are either demolished due to their almost permanent installations (for large-scale turbines), or they have to be dug out of the ground, or unbolted from their surfaces.

What makes this new turbine stand out is the fact that it can literally fold itself back into a container the size of a standard 40′ ISO shipping container and be driven to its destination with a tow truck.

When it reaches its destination, contractors can put the blades on at ground level, and then it erects itself.

Wind turbine can erect itself.

The electricity generation capacity (often called nameplate capacity) of the turbine is 50 kW, or 50,000 watts. The manufacturer claims that it is efficient and can generate electricity at a lower cost than American utility companies normally charge for it (the nationwide average is 11 cents per kWh).

The Uprise Portable Power is optimized for operation in environments with low, steady, or gusty winds. It rotates 360° to face the wind in order to maximize performance, and it also adjusts the blade speed and pitch (this involves adjusting the blades’ position while they are on the hub).

When the wind speed is high enough to damage it, the portable plant actually lays the turbine down, unlike other turbines which activate their brakes to prevent the turbines from turning too fast, because it isn’t drag that breaks them, but inertia.

This turbine can actually be maintained on the ground so that service technicians do not have to go on top of the turbine 40 feet above the ground. This might reduce the labour cost.

The turbine also includes power storage of some kind. “Excess power is stored and power delivery is stabilized,” the company writes. “When wind power exceeds demand, energy is stored. When wind energy is low, the Uprise machine draws on the stored power.”

It is refreshing to see unique designs, especially when they are so innovative. Whether or not they are viable, it is possible to learn from unique/new designs sometimes. You can get some good ideas from a bad design!

It’s not clear at this point if this turbine will be competitive or not. What are your thoughts?

Source: Uprise Energy Website

Ongoing Sharp Drop in Solar PV Cost Overlooked Amidst Trade Wars & Insolvencies

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 09:04 AM PDT

Lawsuits, insolvencies, price wars, intensifying international trade disputes, disruption of highly regulated power markets and the business of utilities — all these headline-grabbing current events miss the most important point when it comes to solar photovoltaic (PV) power technology, systems, and markets, asserts Giles Parkinson in a RenewEconomy blog post yesterday. That critical, overlooked point is that solar PV costs continue to fall, and sharply.

Parkinson points out a key, neglected point in an announcement made by the troubled Suntech, China’s and the world’s largest manufacturer of crystalline silicon PV cells and panels: its manufacturing costs are expected to fall another 30% in 2012, to 55 cents per kilowatt (kW), excluding the cost of raw, solar-grade silicon. This year’s drop is in addition to a 75% fall in the previous two years.



Intense Competition Driving Innovation, Downward Shift in PV Costs

Intense competition — private and government sector — to gain a dominant share of the fast-growing global market for solar PV is driving manufacturers and businesses all along the supply and value chain to do all they can to lower prices, and that’s leading to innovation, Parkinson points out.

He also notes that in a solar PV industry report last week, Deutsche Bank managing director and senior analyst Vishal Shah wrote that "the cost of utility-scale solar is coming down so quickly that developers are in a position to sign power purchase agreements of less than 10 cents/kWh. This was not expected to occur until closer to the end of the decade."

Yes, headwinds persist, Shah continues. They’re considerable when it comes to deploying rooftop solar, including resistance and political lobbying by well established, highly regulated, and well funded electric utilities. Regulatory hurdles shield these utilities from competition and rising nationalist protectionism.

While Shah remains "very cautious" about investing in solar energy stocks, innovative retail financial models, such as third-party ownership and community solar investments, combined with rapidly declining retail costs are driving rapid growth. "Although we agree solar is starting to become competitive with conventional power generation sources in several regions worldwide, it may be still too early to step in," Shah was quoted as saying. "The key reason is that while costs are falling, so too are prices," Parkinson adds.

ArkX Investment Management analyst Tim Buckley doesn’t believe solar PV prices will rise even when the price wars end. "We're not going to see a price rebound," Buckley told RenewEconomy. "Margins have been crunched to zero, but Suntech shows that dramatic cost reductions are still coming through system – whether it is the manufacturing system, or installation cost, or even on silicon. That still leaves double-digit price deflation as base case for the next 2 to 3 years."

Graph Credit: IMS Research

Honda Hybrid Vehicles Surpass 1 Million Units Sold

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 08:55 AM PDT

Honda hybrid vehicles just surpassed the one million mark in sales at the end of September. According to Green Car Congress, this milestone took the Japanese car manufacturer nearly thirteen years (12 years and 11 months, to be exact) since its first hybrid car hit the roads of Japan in November 1999.

Honda Jazz Hybrid via Shutterstock

Back 13 years ago, the first Honda hybrid vehicles were tops in fuel economy, at 35 kilometers a liter, based on a 5 MT vehicle with a 10-15 mode, Green Car Congress noted.

It took Toyota just 10 years to reach 1 million hybrids sold — the company reached that goal back in 2007. Furthermore, in the 5 years since that time, Toyota has sold four million more hybrid cars.

Honda now sells eight hybrid models globally in fifty countries, while three are specifically sold in Japan.

As hybrids become more popular globally, Honda is also expanding its production on a global scale. It started producing the Jazz Hybrid in Thailand this past July. Honda also expects to start production in Malaysia later this year, the article said.

Meanwhile, the US has benefited from Honda expanding its global production scope, as the ILX Hybrid is being produced in the US.

Honda's recent milestone in reaching its 1 millionth hybrid vehicle sale shows that there is strong demand for greener cars, and gives some encouragement to the electric vehicle market.

Source: Green Car Congress

In-Wheel Electric Drive — FTW!

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 08:00 AM PDT

We’ve covered the idea of in-wheel electric drive or electric motors once before. Clearly, there isn’t a lot of news in this space. But I think this is a super interesting cleantech solution with a lot of potential. Reposted from Electric Love, here’s a company betting its money (and tens of millions of dollars from investors) on in-wheel electric drive:

Electric vehicles are very different from gasoline-powered vehicles, as we all know. But one unique thing about electric cars that might not have crossed your mind is that the wheels of an EV could potentially receive their power directly from electric motors.

Protean Electric, which has received tens of millions of dollars from Chinese and US investors, is reportedly working on building a manufacturing facility in China for such a technology.

Notably, Protean Electric’s CEO is a certain Bob Purcell, the "father" of the EV-1 (the world's first modern electric vehicle) at his former employer, General Motors (GM).

“The Protean Drive™ system can improve vehicle fuel economy, add torque, increase power and enable improved vehicle handling to both new and existing vehicles,” Protean writes.

“The direct-drive configuration reduces part count, complexity and cost, so there is no need to integrate traditional drivetrain components such as external gearing, transmissions, driveshafts, axles and differentials.

“Direct-drive, in-wheel motors require no gearboxes, driveshafts or differentials thus giving far greater flexibility to vehicle designers while substantially reducing drivetrain losses. The reduced drivetrain losses mean less energy is wasted (during both acceleration and regenerative braking), resulting in more of the energy from the battery pack being available to propel the vehicle.”

Sounds pretty darn tasty.

With such a system, each individual wheel can actually be controlled separately, with better performance being the result.

Since an announcement of $84 million in venture funding back in July 2012, Protean hasn’t released any big news. However, its site states: “Prototype manufacturing will begin in early 2013 with volume production in 2014, out of Protean's new manufacturing facility in Liyang, China”

Here’s a video for more on the technology, followed by the company’s full statement on the technology’s benefits:


Protean’s system can increase fuel economy by over 30 percent depending on the battery size and driving cycle. It is also powerful enough to be the only source for traction on a variety of vehicles. Its ease of integration can simplify the adoption of hybrid and electrified powertrains across a broad range of vehicles.

Protean’s in-wheel motors have the highest torque and power density of any of today’s leading electric propulsion systems. Each Protean Drive™ in-wheel motor can deliver 81 kW (110 hp) and 800 Nm (590 lb-ft), yet weighs only 31 kg (68 lbs.) and is sized to fit within the space of a conventional 18- to 24-inch road wheel.

Protean Drive™ also has superior regenerative braking capabilities, which allow up to 85 percent of the available kinetic energy to be recovered during braking. This can increase driving range up to 30 percent and contribute to the reduction of battery size and cost.

Other benefits include:

  • Can deliver hybrid and electric vehicle technology faster and with fewer new parts, less complexity, and at a lower total cost than other leading electric drive systems
  • Can be developed as a retrofit application for existing fleets as well as for new vehicles
  • Does not require external gearing, drive shafts or differentials
  • Each motor has a built-in inverter, control electronics and software
  • Does not require a separate motor power electronics module to be fitted to the vehicle
  • Can be added to FWD, RWD or AWD platforms regardless of the fuel type
  • Avoids costs of unique hybrid drive tooling changes to chassis, bodies and transmissions
  • Can help create a hybrid vehicle with fewer changes to the base engine systems and components and is less disruptive in the assembly plant
  • Can be a common system for HEV, PHEV and EV vehicles on the same platform

Mitt Romney’s Winners & Losers

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Here’s a great post by perhaps the best Congressperson in office today, Bernie Sanders, on Mitt Romney’s relationship to energy (h/t Grist):

The Big Energy industries (oil, coal and gas) along with their political allies like Mitt Romney are waging war against sustainable energy and efforts to transform our energy system and reverse global warming. In many instances, they are aided and abetted by the very powerful nuclear power industry.

One of their main lines of attack (used repeatedly by Romney in his first debate with President Obama) is that the federal government is picking energy "winners and losers." Romney says he will not invest in "chasing fads and picking winners and losers" among energy technologies and will instead allow the free market to determine energy development.

Romney is right about one thing: The government does pick winners and losers in the energy sector. What Romney has not told the American people, however, is that the big winners of federal support are the already immensely profitable fossil fuel and nuclear industries, not sustainable energy.

As a member of both the Senate energy and environment committees, I am working to stop the handouts to the fossil fuel industry. I have introduced legislation called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) filed the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Our measure calls for the elimination for all subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries. Using the best available estimates from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and other budget experts, we found that over $113 billion in federal subsidies will go to fossil fuel corporations over the next 10 years. These subsidies benefit some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, including the five largest oil corporations, which made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade. Unlike sustainable energy incentives, many of these fossil fuel subsidies are written permanently into the tax code by industry lobbyists, which means they never expire.

Let me give you just a few examples of outrageously strong federal support for Big Energy companies:

  • BP, after causing one of the worst environmental disasters in the modern history of America, was able to take a large tax deduction on the money it spent cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Coal companies are able to sign single-bid sweetheart leases to mine on federal lands without paying fair value in royalties to the taxpayers of this country.
  • In 2009, ExxonMobil, one of the most profitable corporations in this country, paid no federal income taxes, and in fact received a rebate from the IRS. Many other large and very profitable oil companies also have managed to avoid paying federal income taxes in certain years.

But it is not just fossil fuel companies. The nuclear industry also benefits from massive corporate welfare. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reports that the nuclear industry has received over $95 billion (in 2011 dollars) in federal research-and-development support in the last 65 years. Nuclear corporations currently have access to billions in federal loan guarantees to build new plants and enrich uranium. They also have federal tax incentives for mining uranium, producing nuclear electricity, and even decommissioning plants.

Perhaps most significantly, the nuclear industry would collapse tomorrow without a huge nuclear insurance program from the federal government. The Price-Anderson Act could, in the event of an American nuclear disaster, force taxpayers to pay out tens or even hundreds of billions in damage claims. Nuclear power is so risky that none of Mitt Romney's Wall Street or free-market friends will provide that type of insurance.

Let's be clear. The war against sustainable energy by the Big Energy companies has been extremely successful. During the last year, with almost unanimous Republican opposition, Congress has not been able to extend a very successful program, the 1603 grant program, which had supported over 20,000 sustainable energy projects and tens of thousands of jobs. Congress also has been unable to extend the production tax credit that primarily supports wind energy. The result has been significant layoffs and cancelled projects in the wind industry.

What has not been often enough pointed out is that despite all of the opposition, despite all of the lies coming from fossil-fuel-sponsored think tanks and the right-wing media, this country has made significant and important progress in moving toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

That progress is critical in the fight to reverse global warming, which the vast majority of scientists who study the issue consider to be one of the greatest threats to our planet. With strong federal intervention, we have made some good progress in recent years, but clearly much more needs to be done. Let me just mention a few energy success stories.

As a result of the stimulus package, and legislation that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and I introduced called the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants program, billions of dollars have gone to every state in the country for local projects. The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that over 70 percent of its member cities have installed new energy-efficient LED lighting with block-grant funds. Many cities have also invested in public-building retrofits that save taxpayers money.

The stimulus also invested in weatherization, which is the low-hanging fruit in terms of saving energy. We know this from experience in Vermont where, on average, families whose homes are weatherized save $916 a year on their fuel bills, while cutting carbon emissions. We have now weatherized over 1 million homes nationwide thanks to the stimulus weatherization investment. Significantly, these projects are also creating many new jobs for construction workers installing insulation and manufacturing workers producing energy-efficient products and materials.

But it is not just weatherization and energy-efficiency technologies. We also have made great progress with solar. Prior to the stimulus, at the end of 2008, we had about 1,500 megawatts of solar and fewer than 50,000 solar jobs in America. The cost of solar was $7.50 per watt installed. Today, less than four years later, we have more than tripled solar energy to 5,700 megawatts installed. We have more than doubled jobs, with more than 100,000 solar energy jobs at 5,600 companies in the United States. And we have cut the cost of solar by more than half, down to $3.45 per watt installed.

Further, there are exciting new breakthroughs in solar technology. For example, a 30-megawatt solar project in Alamosa, Colo., developed by a company called Cogentrix, uses advanced concentrated solar panels that produce double the power of a conventional panel. The Alamosa solar project created jobs for dozens of construction workers and is providing power for 6,500 homes in Colorado.

In California, the Ivanpah concentrated solar thermal plant has created 2,100 construction jobs. Ivanpah is scheduled for completion in 2013. This huge 400-megawatt solar plant, a little less than half the size of an average nuclear plant, will provide power for 140,000 homes.

In Yuma County, Ariz., First Solar has installed a 250-megawatt solar project that is now the world's largest operating solar photovoltaic plant in the world. Using advanced thin-film panels, which can cut costs, the project created hundreds of construction jobs and will power about 100,000 homes.

Each of these projects in Colorado, California, and Arizona received financing support from the stimulus. Other similar projects are under construction and in development. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has estimated that just with solar projects like these in the Southwest on federal public lands, we could generate enough electricity to meet 29 percent of the nation's residential electricity needs.

The story is much the same with wind energy. At the end of 2008, we had about 25,000 megawatts of wind energy, and now we have more than 50,000 megawatts, equivalent in capacity to roughly 50 nuclear plants. Some 75,000 Americans work in wind energy. We have over 470 wind manufacturing plants. And the cost of wind energy has dropped from 8.4 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2008 to about 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt-hour today.

Far from being a "fad" as defined by Romney, wind has added more capacity in the last five years than nuclear and coal combined, and has provided 20 percent of the electricity in states like Iowa and South Dakota. The stimulus has supported one of the largest wind farms in the world, operating now in Oregon. The Shepherds Flat wind farm employed over 400 construction workers and has 845 megawatts of wind energy installed, enough to power 235,000 homes.

As a nation we must continue this progress. It is not about whether government is picking winners and losers, because clearly government has been doing just that for years, with the fossil fuel and nuclear industries being the big winners. What is necessary to reverse global warming and create jobs is that we pick the rightwinners — the technologies that will transform our energy system and protect the environment.

U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) is a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee. He is chair of the Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee.

Image Credit: Bernie Sanders

30 Romney Lies Nailed in 1 Video

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 04:00 AM PDT

As we prepare for the Romney–Obama presidential debate tonight, I think this is a must-watch video on Romney’s debate approach — lying. Here are 30 flat-out lies (or completely misinformed comments, if you want to be nice) Romney made in the first presidential debate on October 3:

h/t Red, Green, and Blue

South Korea Doubling Its Emissions Reduction Target for 2013

Posted: 16 Oct 2012 12:30 AM PDT

The South Korean government has recently announced that it will be requiring businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by double this year’s target next year, in preparation for carbon trading beginning in 2015.


The government’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy said that industrial and power sector businesses will have to reduce emissions by at the very least 3 percent in 2013, twice the 1.4 percent reduction target for 2012.

This significant move is designed to boost the country’s international competitiveness and to get big emitters ready for the introduction of a carbon trading platform in 2015.

“The three per cent target for next year equates to a reduction of 17.2 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent, across 377 large businesses and other carbon intensive corporations,” Business Green reports.

“The government expects that industrial and power entities will account for around 97 per cent of the country’s total emissions next year, which is expected to be around 589.8 million metric tonnes of CO2e.”

The most carbon intensive firms are being given very specific targets. As examples, the steelmaker POSCO is being required to reduce emissions by at least 2.48 million tons, “[Hyundai Steel is] facing a reduction target of 487,000 tonnes, and Ssangyong Cement [is] having to cut emissions by 443,000 tonnes.”

Firms that don’t meet their quotas will be fined.

Source: Business Green
Image Credits: Seoul via Wikimedia Commons

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