- 5 Solar Power Facts that Obama and Romney Did Not Debate
- California Moving Towards Large Bike-Sharing Programs
- 2012 NOVA Innovation Competition Finalists Announced
- Solar Industry’s First Comprehensive Solar PV Module Rating Standards System Created
- UK Could Avoid 40% of Energy Demand and Save £10 Billion per Year
- Bike-Friendly Communities Increase Biking (Infographic)
- LED Turn Signals for Your Bike, by a 9th Grader
- Battery & Other Energy Storage Boosted by US Government
- A123 Systems Goes Up in Smoke But Lithium Batteries Rise from Ashes
- 7 Reasons I Love Electric Cars
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 12:27 PM PDT
Solar Fact #1: The U.S. Solar Industry Continues Strong Growth
According to the white paper, the global solar industry has averaged 40 percent growth per year for the past nine years, and the U.S. is up to more than 5,700 MW of installed solar capacity.
A nice chunk of the domestic growth is coming from job-creating public-private solar partnerships for new installations on federal property, especially as the Department of Defense aggressively pursues solar power with strong support from the Obama Administration.
Solar Fact #2: The Cost of Solar Continues to Drop Dramatically
Inovateus also notes that the average cost of solar panels dropped by an “astonishing” 50 percent in 2011 alone.
The installed cost of solar power is also dropping, but at a slower pace. That’s the bad news, since “soft costs” such as permits, installation, and grid connections can account for about half the overall cost of a rooftop solar array.
However, as part of President Obama’s SunShot initiative, the Department of Energy has formed partnerships with the private sector to bring down the soft costs of solar power. Part of that involves a juicy $10 million in prizes for winning DOE’s new “Most Affordable Rooftop Solar competition.
Solar Fact #3: Solar Power Creates Jobs
The white paper totals up more than 100,000 workers in the U.S. solar industry, or more than double the estimated employment in 2009.
That’s a pretty impressive record given the aftereffects of the 2008 economic collapse, and it’s no accident. When President Obama pushed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka “the stimulus”) through Congress in 2009, he didn’t get as much money as he wanted, but he did get enough to pump millions of dollars into solar projects that have created new green jobs, including a program for converting derelict brownfields to clean energy.
Solar Fact #4: Solar Incentives are Only a Fraction of Coal, Oil, and Gas Incentives
Inovateus notes that federal incentives are vital for U.S. businesses to compete in the global market, but current policies fall short.
That’s not for lack of trying. President Obama’s solid support for clean energy incentives such as the wind energy tax credit is well documented, but conservative leadership in Congress has resisted.
Solar Fact #5: Solar is an Essential Part of the Energy Mix
According the white paper, “solar is already the fastest growing energy sector in the US and by 2014 it will likely be the largest source of new electric capacity in America.”
Now, the wind industry might have a bone to pick with the latter part of that statement, considering wind’s epic growth over the past few years, but the undeniable fact is that clean energy is here to stay, and there is practically limitless potential for growth.
In the course of last night’s debate, Governor Romney took issue with what he described as an under-use of federal land for new fossil fuel development, but (aside from bending the facts) he ignored the big picture. The Obama Administration has opened up more federal lands for alternative energy development, so for what it’s worth, there has been and will be more exploitation of public property for energy production.
In the big picture, energy is energy, and if a new form of energy can do a better job than the old, then it’s out with the old and in with the new. Otherwise, horsepower in its literal form would be playing a far bigger role in the U.S. energy mix right now. Not a pretty picture, right?
Speaking of the big picture, clean energy is only one side of the job-creating coin. The other side is the Obama Administration’s pursuit of new federal fuel efficiency standards that create jobs, which did at least get some coverage in the debate.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 10:00 AM PDT
For those that may not know, a common bike-sharing program is a collection of automated stations that are placed at relatively close intervals to each other and allow users who possess a day pass or annual membership to check out bikes simply with a swipe of a card. The checked out bikes can generally then be dropped off at any other vending station once the user has reached their destination.
"Nobody is going to be commuting across the city on bike share," said Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. "It gives them mobility within the destination area for that first-mile, last-mile… it allows people to go out to lunch without having to worry about re-parking."
“Bike advocacy groups, which have long lobbied for making California's streets more friendly to cyclists, are hailing bike sharing's arrival—even if planned improvements to cities' respective bicycle infrastructures remain years away.”
The rapid deployment of bike sharing programs in California is at least in part thanks to the great success that other areas have already had with them.
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 08:00 AM PDT
Out of a field of 168 entries, eight finalists made it through the process in which judges helped select the cream of the crop, the release said.
Some of the judges that selected the last eight range from MIT experts, Webcor, a top building contractor, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the US Green Building Council-Northern California Chapter.
The NOVA Innovation competition will take place in 2012 in San Fransisco at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo on November 15, 2012.
There is much at stake, both financially and opportunity-wise, for the winners. First prize will grab $50,000, second place is worth $25,000 and third $10,000. However, all Nova participants will have the opportunity to work with the Nova External Venturing Organization in looking at possible ideas to develop.
Nova officials are really looking forward to these crop of participants for this year’s event.
“This year’s NOVA Innovation Competition has attracted our largest field of entrants yet. And it’s no wonder; word has finally gotten out that Saint-Gobain offers startups tremendous value in providing access to a global market along with the support, resources and expertise that comes from the building materials industry leader,” said director of NOVA External Venturing and Northboro R&D Center, (Saint-Gobain’s largest R&D Center in North America), Rakesh Kapoor, in the statement.
Here is the list of finalists who will be pitching their ideas in mid-November:
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 07:10 AM PDT
PSI PV Module Ratings were designed so that solar customers could easily make informed and fact-based decisions between different PV modules.
"Until now, there was no accepted standard for comparing the critical characteristics of PV modules between different manufacturers, or even across a single product line," says Matthew A. Thompson, Ph.D., executive director of the Principal Solar Institute. "The PSI Ratings elevate the solar industry in a rigorous approach similar to the financial sector, which turns to Standard and Poor's Ratings for investments, and the air conditioning industry, which relies upon SEER Ratings. We are closing the gap in the solar power industry's urgent need for a method to uniformly evaluate PV modules in order to make technologically and financially optimal decisions."
Photovoltaic modules are able to create electrical power while under a very wide variety of environmental conditions. These conditions, such as: irradiance, nominal operating cell temperature, and other ambient conditions exert considerable influence over how much electrical power is generated. Even if two different modules have the same nameplate wattage, they may react to different conditions very differently. “The PSI PV Module Rating is a comparative number that can be used with pricing information, providing power plant designers and buyers with a consistent basis for choosing a particular PV module.”
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 05:09 AM PDT
These are the findings from a new report published Tuesday by the Green Alliance and WWF-UK (PDF) that highlights research commissioned by the Government which found that effective measures to reduce electricity could result in huge savings for the consumer and the environment.
The potential savings currently available to the UK over the next seventeen years add up to the equivalent of 15 nuclear power plants.
Sadly, the draft Energy Bill currently contains nothing to plug the existing gap in the UK energy sector. Rather, it puts in place policies that pay for new low-carbon supply and contains no potential for reducing electricity demand.
"The Coalition can show it cares about hard pressed families by making sure the energy system rewards energy saving as much as energy production,” said Green Alliance's director, Matthew Spencer.
“An electricity efficiency feed-in tariff is the simplest way of doing this, and evidence from the USA suggests that it will incentivise a wave of new energy saving amongst business and households. The Energy Bill offers the opportunity to support negawatts as well as megawatts, and to do so at a lower cost to the UK economy."
The report published Tuesday looked at three ways that the government’s Electricity Market Reform could help reduce national electricity demand:
It found that an electricity efficiency feed-in tariff (EE FiT) — a new financial incentive for energy saving — would be the most effective option to save consumers on their energy bills.
“Energy efficiency is the obvious 'win-win' in the upcoming reform of our electricity market; keeping a check on rising energy bills while also reducing our dependency on fossil fuels,” said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK. ”Thus far the draft Energy Bill has failed to recognise this gilt-edged opportunity, and energy efficiency is conspicuous only by its absence.
"The Green Alliance/WWF report released today demonstrates that the case for implementing an Electricity Efficiency Feed-in tariff in the Bill is overwhelming. WWF urges Government to ensure that when the Energy Bill is published it includes options to adequately incentivise energy efficiency.”
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 05:02 AM PDT
No real surprise there.
The League of American Bicyclists subsequently created this infographic outlining the growth of bicycle commuting rates:
Source: League of American Bicyclists
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 05:00 AM PDT
In such a day, Instructables user Adambowker98 is going to be well pleased with himself as he sees bikers zipping back and forth with his turn signals attached to the back of their bikes.
I’m going to take some journalistic license here and assume that the young man’s name is Adam Bowker and he was born in 1998. Either way, he’s created a dead-simple way to create your own turn signals to stick to the back of your bike, so that those few drivers left on the road will know when you’re turning.
Check out the full page on Instructables with ingredients and step-by-step instructions on how to make your own turn signals (and stay tuned for the video he’ll be posting soon).
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 04:57 AM PDT
The six agencies — the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) — required $1.3 billion over the fiscal years from 2009 to 2012 and supported a variety of technologies, uses, advancement activities, and goals.
The funding provided through the six agencies was available to several types of recipients, such as private industry, universities, and federal labs, through contracts, grants, and other mechanisms.
The GAO was requested to complete the study on behalf of US Representative Ralph Hall, Chairman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; and Andy Harris, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. It was asked to:
The “GAO found that initiatives were fragmented and had overlapping characteristics but did not find clear evidence of duplication.” And though there were some overlap in terms of what the funding went towards, in most cases this overlap was mission- or agency-specific.
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 04:22 AM PDT
Romney and Obama Trade Barbs over A123 Bankruptcy
As always, our friends over at The Hill have done a great job of keeping up with the political action. Under the header “Romney pounces,” The Hill’s Ben Gemen quotes presidential Mitt Romney claiming that the A123 Systems bankruptcy represents a "disastrous strategy of gambling away billions of taxpayer dollars." Gemen is careful to note, though, that the 2009 loan was supported by Republicans in Congress as well as Democrats.
Gemen followed up a few hours later with another piece under “Obama parries,” in which an Obama campaign spokesperson points out that all together, the President’s support for federally funded clean energy initiatives including the wind energy tax credit, solar power, and advanced manufacturing has added up to thousands of new jobs while leading to savings for consumers.
That’s backed up by the Department of Energy, which asserts that fueling costs for electric vehicles are currently the equivalent of $1.00 per gallon. That marker is expected to drop even farther as new technologies come on line.
So Long A123 Systems, Hello New Batteries
From its inception under the Bush Administration, the DOE loan program was structured to absorb a reasonable element of risk, and as it turns out, U.S. taxpayers might not be so much on the hook for the A123 bankruptcy. The four-star global technology company Johnson Controls has already agreed to keep A123′s automotive battery operations humming along, and A123 is optimistic that its other assets will be picked up, too.
Returning to that football metaphor, what the A123 bankruptcy demonstrates is that the U.S. clean tech sector is growing and maturing to the point where some companies have the resources to catch others when they stumble. In other words, a small measure of failure is proving the success of a much broader policy, part of which involves building up the U.S. battery manufacturing sector.
As to where that ball is going to fall, keep an eye on the price of lithium, which is a key factor in the overall price of electric vehicles. Currently, the domestic battery industry relies heavily on imported lithium, but new lithium extraction technologies and new lithium plants in the U.S. could turn that situation around and bring prices down.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
Posted: 17 Oct 2012 04:00 AM PDT
1. Electric cars are better for the environment (and thus, your health). Almost anywhere they charge, electric cars are better for the climate, air quality, and other key facets of the environment. Given that we all rely on a healthy environment to be healthy and live a high quality of life ourselves, this is a huge (often underrated) win for us.
2. Electric cars cut our reliance on oil from foreign countries that don’t like us. US oil production peaked decades ago, and it has peaked in many other developed countries as well — it seems quite likely that it has even peaked globally. For now, though, oil use in the US (and many other countries) is dependent on imported oil (about $1 billion a day) from quite unstable and US-unfriendly nations. From the link above: “Ten of the countries who we import a lot of oil from are also on the State Department's Travel Warning list: Algeria, Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.”
3. Electric cars can be hooked up to solar panels! If you wanted to make your electric car even a lot greener than the standard, just hook your house up to some solar panels and charge your car at home as much as possible! Of course, there are also public charging stations hooked up to solar panels in some places. And renewable energy is growing fast across the country and the world in any case, making charging of electric cars cleaner and cleaner.
4. Electric cars have some serious torque. If you like the thrill of getting off the line super fast, an electric car is for you. Electric cars have constant torque. Even an old Datsun can become the world’s fastest car with a good electric setup — check out the White Zombie for proof.
5. Electric cars have relatively stable (and super low) fuel costs. Compared to the wicked price swings of oil, electricity prices are super stable. And again, as noted above, if you go solar and go electric (for your car), your situation is even more stable. (That is, your fuel costs are $0 or close to $0 for decades.) And those relatively stable fuel costs, pretty much anywhere you charge, are also considerably lower than the fuel costs of a gasoline-powered vehicle.
6. Electric cars are super quite. Unlike the roar of gasoline engines, electric cars are super silent. Noise pollution, especially from cars, is really a big stressor on society today. But if we were all driving electric cars, that could be nearly eliminated. (For safety reasons, they need to make a bit of noise, but that noise is added and can be chosen, so it doesn’t have to be so… noisy.)
7. Electric cars are cheaper! Simply with the fuel cost savings, many electric cars are cheaper than your standard gasoline-powered car. Of course, plenty of factors come into play here to determine such comparisons — length of ownership, differences in gasoline and electricity costs where you live and drive, how efficiently you drive, etc — but this is the case overall. Notably, though, if you also factor in health costs (a little harder to do, but worth doing), the scale is even further tipped towards electric cars (in a good way).
What do you think of those 7 reasons? More you’d like to add?
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