Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

New U.S. Navy Solar Power Plant at China Lake Saves $13 Million a Year

Posted: 20 Oct 2012 04:49 PM PDT

The U.S. Navy has just flipped the switch on its latest solar power venture, a 13.8-megawatt behemoth at its vast China Lake research center in the Mohave Desert. The Navy’s new China Lake Solar Power Plant is expected to save about $13 million per year in electricity costs, accounting for about 30 percent of the facility’s annual electricity usage. Amazingly, there were virtually no up-front costs for the Navy and the entire thing didn’t cost taxpayers one thin dime.

new navy solar power plant at China Lake saves $13 million

Navy Solar Power for Nothing

If you’re familiar with the commercial solar industry, the Navy’s ability to get “free” solar power is no mystery. The China Lake plant was constructed under a power purchase agreement (PPA) with SunPower Corp. in which SunPower got the right to install its solar panels on Navy-owned land, and in return the Navy agreed to buy electricity generated by the panels.

Under the agreement, the price of the solar-generated electricity is much lower than the price the Navy was paying for grid-supplied electricity, and that’s where the savings comes in.

The new installation uses the SunPower Oasis™ Power Plant product, which is designed as a fully integrated, pre-assembled module. That pretty much accounts for how the plant just broke ground last January and here it is up and running in less than a year.


U.S. National Defense Transitions to Clean Energy

The Navy’s PPA model is the same one that thousands of building owners have been using to get rooftop solar panels installed without paying up-front costs. That’s an ideal arrangement for government properties, since it virtually eliminates the need for politically sensitive taxpayer investments.

In that regard, while China Lake apparently makes the U.S. Navy the first branch of the armed services to complete this type of PPA solar power installation, it is just the first drop in a flood of new PPA projects coming down the pipeline.

Last year, the Army launched the Energy Initiatives Task Force, with the goal of fast-tracking utility-scale, PPA solar power projects and other clean energy ventures on Army property.

That initiative got bumped up to another level just a couple of months ago, when DoD entered into an agreement with the Department of the Interior to conduct a systematic investigation leading to new clean energy projects on military property.

China Lake Comes Into Its Own

According to a Navy article about clean energy innovation at China Lake, SunPower’s new installation is the culmination of more than 30 years of experimentation that began in the 1970′s, when the first major oil supply crisis hit the U.S.

The Navy’s earlier clean energy projects at China Lake included electric vehicles, wind power, trash-to-gas, as well as photovoltaic panels.

In 2002 (yes, under the Bush Administration), China Lake stepped up its clean energy game with the installation of a prototype for regenerative fuel cells, a technology that is finally breaking into commercial use today. A regenerative fuel cell runs on hydrogen and oxygen, which are manufactured by subjecting water to an electric current that is in turn generated by solar panels.

China Lake is involved in the Navy’s biofuel research initiatives and it also boasts a geothermal plant that dates back to the 1980′s.

As an aside, if the name SunPower rings a bell, you might be thinking back to last fall, when Fox News began pushing a storyline that SunPower was headed for a scandal “even bigger than Solyndra.”

That line was quickly dropped, though, perhaps because SunPower happens to be the same outfit that installed the new solar panels on the headquarters of Dow Jones, Fox’s sister company in the Murdoch media empire.

Image: Moneysome rights reserved by 401(K) 2012

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$138 Million Maldives Renewable Energy Project Backed by World Bank Launched

Posted: 20 Oct 2012 04:31 PM PDT

The Energy Authority of Maldives has announced the inception of $138 million renewable energy project which would generate 26 MW of electricity in Maldives.

Island of Male, Capital of Maldives

Abdul Matheen, State Minister for Energy revealed that the project is expected to be completed within five years. Out of a total 26 MW of generated electricity, 16 MW will be supplied to the Male region, which constitutes 30% of the total population of the country. This project is a part of a renewable energy investment plan of the government which has been developed under the Sustainable Renewable Energy Project (SREP) of the Climate Investment Fund. The project would be funded by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and German and Japanese Banks. According to the Energy Authority of the Maldives, the project will be extended to 50 islands to promote the use of renewable energy.

"We are making preparations to commence the project during next month. Under the project, ten islands would run solely on renewable energy. In addition, 30 percent of electricity in 30 islands will be converted to renewable energy," Matheen detailed.

The plan is expected to drive the interest of private companies in the renewable energy sector in Maldives. Under the plan, transformation and redesigning of the present energy systems would take place, about 10 islands are expected to completely transform their current energy systems, 15 islands are expected to redesign their energy systems, 30 islands aim to generate 30 percent of their energy from renewable sources, and around six MW of electricity would be generated from the waste products in four regions of the Maldives within the next five years.

Maldives is likely to face the brunt of climate change and rising sea levels. The island nation has taken many significant steps to ensure its economic growth has a much less adverse impact on the environment. The country has set a target to become carbon neutral by 2020 (Maldives Stock Exchange became carbon-neutral in 2010); the government is planing to implement a tax on tourism to raise funds for adaptation and mitigation plans; and while preparing for the worst case scenario, the government also purchased a ‘floating’ island off the coast of Dubai.

Image Credit: Shahee Ilyas via Wikimedia Commons

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

Congressional Inaction Threatens Record Wind Energy Growth

Posted: 20 Oct 2012 03:58 PM PDT

US wind-generated electricity capacity exceeded 50,000 megawatts (MW) in this year’s third quarter (3Q 2012) –enough clean, green renewable energy to power some 13 million homes, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has announced in a press release. Some 4,728 MW have been added so far this year, with another 8,430 MW currently under construction.

The federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC) has been a big factor in spurring wind and clean energy development in the US, but a persistent Congressional stalemate and the politics associated with the 2012 national election are likely to leave the US wind industry twisting in the wind. The federal wind energy PTC is due to expire at year-end.



A Change in Wind Energy Momentum Due to Congressional Inaction

Activity in US wind energy development is slowing down markedly in advance of the wind energy PTC’s expiration, as projects take a fair bit of advance planning and preparatory work. Key players, including wind turbine manufacturer Vestas and other companies along the supply chain, have announced job cuts recently and noted that they are due to uncertainty related to the PTC renewal.

The US Congress just can’t seem to get its act together when it comes to acknowledging the increasingly urgent need for a US energy policy focused firmly on a sustainable, renewable energy path that takes us away from reliance on fossil fuels. All hope of an extension hasn’t been lost yet, however.

"The PTC incentivizes over $15 billion a year in private investment in U.S. wind farms,” the AWEA states in its Third Quarter 2012 Market Report. "A proposal to extend the tax credit for projects that start construction next year won bipartisan support from the Senate Finance Committee on Aug. 2, as part of an overall ‘tax extenders’ package. It now awaits action by the full Congress, expected in its lame duck session after the election."

AWEA’s 3Q 2012 report highlights factors that have been driving record growth in US wind energy capacity. They include:

  • Greatly expanded U.S. manufacturing, which now makes up nearly 70 percent of the value of U.S.-installed equipment, cutting transportation costs.
  • Technological advances, such as higher towers and longer blades, which make turbines more efficient and further drive down costs.
  • The fact that more electric utilities are locking in 20- to 25-year contracts for lower-priced wind power, to the benefit of their consumers.
  • The federal Production Tax Credit for renewable energy, which has been kept continuously in place since 2005 and currently extends to the end of the year.

"This is what a successful policy looks like when it's working, but whether wind will continue to be a bright spot in the U.S. economy now depends on whether Congress acts to extend the Production Tax Credit by the end of the year," said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA.

Several studies have shown the negative consequences of the US Congress and federal government’s de facto "stop-and-go, boom and bust" policy actions when it comes to enacting strong, proactive wind and renewable energy legislation. The issue has become a "hot button" issue during the Presidential election campaign.

Assessing the situation in Congress, Bode said: "We have the bipartisan support to get the job done, but it is up to Congress to bring it to a vote or else lose 37,000 jobs by the first quarter of next year."

That’s the number of direct wind energy jobs that would be lost if the wind energy PTC isn’t renewed, according to an analysis conducted by Navigant Consulting. "Thousands of layoffs have already begun in wind energy measurement, development, and U.S. manufacturing, even as the construction sector remains busy on this year's projects," the AWEA notes.

Looking Back…

The situation looks much rosier when looking back at what’s been a record period of growth for U.S. wind energy. Some 1,833 MW of new capacity were installed in 3Q, bringing total US wind energy capacity to 51,628 MW as of Oct. 1, according to AWEA. There are more than 40,000 wind turbines installed across the U.S., with enough generating capacity to power all the homes in Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada combined.

Total newly installed capacity came to 4,728 MW year-to-date in 2012—40% higher than it was at the same time in 2011. The average size of turbines continues at around 2 MW.

Breaking out 3Q data regionally, AWEA found:

  • Top states for installed new wind capacity during the third quarter include Kansas, on track to install more than double the state's previous wind capacity this year, with 473 MW added; Oregon (333 MW); Texas (281 MW); Oklahoma (229 MW); and Nevada (152 MW).
  • Nevada's wind project was its first, making it the 39th state with utility-scale wind installations.
  • Across 29 states and Puerto Rico, there are currently more than 8,430 MW under construction, a record for this time in the year.
  • Texas leads the nation with 1,291 MW under construction, followed by California (1,022 MW); Kansas (836 MW); Oklahoma (734 MW); Iowa (597 MW); Colorado (496 MW); Illinois (480 MW); and Michigan (472 MW). In total, 10 states are on track to add at least 500 MW of wind this year, with Texas, California, Kansas, and Oklahoma on track to add over 1,000 MW each.
  • Utilities are locking in more wind power on long-term contracts. Over 80 percent of the new capacity coming online or under construction is covered by a long-term power offtake agreement, either through a power purchase agreement between a utility and a wind developer, or through direct utility ownership. In fact, projects online through the third quarter and under construction are either owned by or have contracted power with 68 different utilities.

Saudi Arabia Unveils Plan to be Powered Entirely by Renewable Energy

Posted: 20 Oct 2012 03:45 PM PDT

Saudi Arabia recently revealed that it is planning to be powered 100% by renewable and low-carbon forms of energy.

One of the state’s main spokesmen, Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, said that he was hoping that Saudi Arabia would be powered completely by low-carbon energy within his lifetime. He made the groundbreaking statement during the Global Economic Symposium in Brazil. He did acknowledge, though, that it was likely to take longer, as he is already 67.


Realistically, the process would take at least a few decades, and that’s if the country is serious about it. There have been some observers expressing skepticism about the purpose of the announcement, suggesting it may just be greenwashing.

The Saudi prince expressed that the country was most definitely moving forward with investment renewables, nuclear power, and other undefined alternatives to fossil fuels. Noting that their vast oil reserves would still be in demand for their use as plastics and polymers.

“Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source,” he said. “If we can get to the point where we can replace fossil fuels and use oil to produce other products that are useful, that would be very good for the world. I wish that may be in my lifetime, but I don’t think it will be.”

Joss Garman, political director of Greenpeace, said: “It speaks volumes that a Saudi prince can see the benefits of switching to clean energy sources when [UK chancellor] George Osborne seemingly cannot, but Saudi Arabia will only truly be a green economy when it leaves its fossil fuels in the ground.”

Currently, Saudi Arabia’s energy is provided nearly completely by burning fossil fuels, nearly two-thirds from oil and the rest from natural gas. It produces around 12 million barrels of oil every day. That’s more than 12% of the entire world’s production, and the country has at least 1/5 of the world’s proven oil reserves, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration. And because of how artificially-low oil prices are kept within the kingdom, the per capita energy use there is quite high.

As noted by Prince Turki, though, the kingdom has an equally vast potential for solar power. “The cost of solar energy is now 15% of what it was 20 years ago,” he noted.

Source: The Guardian
Image Credits: Solar Plant via Wikimedia Commons

Green Roofs & Green Walls Market Expected to Surge to $7.7 Billion by 2017

Posted: 20 Oct 2012 03:35 PM PDT

The rapidly-growing market for green roofs and green walls is expected to surge to $7.7 billion by 201. Installations of green roofs will rise 70% by then, to 204 million square meters. Their rise is expected to be limited somewhat by “costs and lack of validation,” according to Lux Research.


Green roofs and green walls have been shown to be an excellent way to combat environmental problems such as air pollution, the heat-island effect, and the general lack of green spaces in cities. As a result, many cities around the globe have been providing incentives and creating mandates to drive their use, which will create a $7.7 billion global market by 2017, says Lux Research.

This market surge is expected to present “a $2 billion opportunity to suppliers of polymeric materials such as geosynthetic fabrics and waterproof membranes. Green walls will swell to a $680 million market, using $200 million worth of materials such as self-supporting polyurethane foam growth media.”

"The environmental benefits of building-integrated vegetation (BIV) remain hard to monetize, and many wonder if it's just a green curiosity," said Aditya Ranade, Lux Research Senior Analyst and the lead author of the report titled. "But with key cities around the world putting incentives in place, a significant market opportunity is emerging."

The report by Lux Research is titled "Building-Integrated Vegetation: Redefining the Landscape or Chasing a Mirage?" It examines the key drivers and the barriers for growth in this newly emerging market.

One of the primary barriers is ‘value proposition’. Green roofs and green walls have a great many benefits, but their installed cost – “$300/m2 to $500/m2 for green roofs and $900/m2 to $1,100/m2 for green walls” – is much higher than the alternatives.

Adoption so far has been driven by just a handful of cities, all in the ‘developed’ world. Because of this, for growth to continue, it will depend almost entirely on the global economic environment.

Source: Business Wire
Image Credits: Caixa and Green Roof via Wikimedia Commons

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