Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

You Can’t Ignore Climate Change in a Presidential Foreign Policy Debate

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 05:55 PM PDT

This article has been reposted with full permission from Think Progress.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney face each other for the final presidential debate tonight. The conversation will focus exclusively on foreign policy — potentially opening up numerous opportunities to talk about climate and energy issues.

If the last two debates are any guide, the candidates and moderator may ignore the issue of climate altogether. But as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rightly pointed out in a speech last week, clean energy and climate policy will continue to be deeply important to U.S. foreign affairs, and the next president will play a strong role in "shaping the global energy future."

Indeed, almost every major international issue — energy access, international trade, food prices, technology sharing, military operations — have a deeply embedded climate component.

There are a number of different angles that could be explored in tonight's conversation. In a preview of the final debate, Brad Plumer of the Washington Post points out the national security implications of a changing climate:

There have been a whole slew of reports in recent years about how global warming could pose a security threat to the United States. The Pentagon even highlighted climate change in its 2010 defense review. There's the possibility that droughts, floods and water shortages could destabilize key regions, for one. These things aren't certain—here's a more skeptical take on the prospect of "global warring" that I wrote a few years ago—but they're on the minds of plenty of foreign-policy analysts.

Of course, the impact of global warming is, after all, a global issue. After the first debate, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times explained why he thought the final debate was the best place for a discussion around climate, "Global warming, both in its most significant drivers and consequences, remains a global issue."

Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations touched upon this same issue in a post today. He makes a very important point about why climate change why isn't just a single issue that can be separated from others:

Climate change is a really big global problem. You don't need to be convinced of impending doom to believe this – you just need to accept that we're running some pretty large risks. When the moderator of the last debate half-apologized to "the climate people" for not touching on the subject,  she revealed something important: too many people think about climate change as a special interest issue. It isn't, and the candidates' approaches deserve to be debated. This one is simple to tee off: just ask each candidate what he'd do.


Indeed, climate is becoming less of a boutique international policy issue. Even though UN climate negotiations have failed to build a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they have made climate and clean energy deployment a more integrated piece of geopolitics.

Take the recent aviation dispute over the European emissions trading system. When the Europeans decided to penalize international airlines flying into the region for their carbon emissions, it set off a political firestorm within China and the U.S. that many feared would turn into an all-out retaliatory trade war.

"This has demonstrated that climate diplomacy is no longer confined to a discrete set of negotiations," says Andrew Light, an international climate expert at the Center for American Progress. "We will increasingly see examples like this where one country's energy and climate policies influence others. It's important that we know how Obama and Romney might differ on dealing with this issue and others like it."

Light argues that climate change is becoming intertwined with almost every issue on the international stage.

From the industrial boom in the melting Arctic, to extreme weather raising food prices, to international trade disputes over clean energy, America's relationship with the world will increasingly be driven by climate-related issues.

"It's difficult to be a credible international player without doing your fair share on emissions reductions and clean technology development. If a Romney Administration came in and said we're not going to deal with anything climate related, it would be impossible to have a functioning diplomacy," says Light.

That is why climate change must be discussed tonight. Over the coming decade, as the planet continues to warm and countries get more serious about mitigation and adaptation, it is likely that climate will be the central driver of foreign policy discussions. Ignoring it during this election debate series — potentially the first time the issue is avoided since the mid 1980′s — would be a gross oversight.

Middle Eastern Countries Turning to Solar, Wind, Other Renewables — What Do They Know?

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 11:49 AM PDT

This is a great post from a Facebook friend of mine that I thought was worth a full repost. It was originally published on examiner.com and has been reposted with permission:

Theoretical space (red) needed for solar power plants to generate enough power to meet world electric demand. Credits: Sandy Dechert, from Wikimedia Commons (German Center of Aerospace, 2005)

Why do Americans continue pursuing hazardous deepwater oil and fracked gas, when the Middle Eastern members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into power from the sun and other renewable sources?

The situation at first seems to make no sense. With almost 60% of the world’s oil reserves, these countries literally have power to burn. However, it is true, and the United States has a major lesson to learn from it.

Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, told an audience in Poland last year that “Saudi Arabia is blessed with an abundance of sunshine,” making “solar energy a natural, logical focus.” But don’t imagine for one second that the governments of the Middle East are moving toward solar just because they have seen the light about environmental pollution or climate change. The New York Timescites several experts as comparing the growing Arab interest in domestic renewable energy use to a “Don’t get high off your own supply” crack-dealer ethic.

“I see renewable energy sources as…helping to prolong our continued export of crude oil,” Ali al-Naimi, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, elaborated more recently. In other words, petroleum producers in the region are turning to solar to increase their profits from, and the longevity of, the sale of their abundant reserves of oil and gas.

Rather than using conventional flat-panel solar cells, which require considerable water, explains Esam Mansour, Oman‘s Director-General of Knowledge for Advanced Technologies, desert nations are concentrating heavily on concentrated photovoltaic solar cells, which use optics (lenses or curved mirrors) to capture a large amount of sunlight in a small area of PV cells. High-concentration photovoltaics reach intensities of 100 suns, or more.

The United Arab Emirates, home of Abu Dhabi’s new zero-carbon city of Masdar, pioneered clean technology development in the Middle East. Over the past four years, solar construction on a massive scale has begun throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Solar technology is now cost-competitive there, according to a 2012 Pricewaterhouse Coopers report.

Saudi plans. In 2010, Saudi Arabia produced and exported more petroleum liquids than any other nation in the world and was the world's second- largest crude oil exporter, behind Russia. The Saudis, whose hydrocarbon operations are dominated by the state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, now want to fill one-third of their domestic power needs with solar energy. A growing portion of this power goes toward air conditioning. The oil-rich nation plans investments of $109 billion to reach 41 GW by 2032.

Another factor in the Middle East’s fast development of solar energy: the region’s recent alarm at the crushing potential impacts of global warming in the desert states. In 2009, the Arab Forum for Environment and Development found that one meter of sea level rise could erase over 25,000 square miles (41,500 square kilometers) of coastal land in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE. A 5-meter rise would cost the immensely wealthy but low-lying nations of Bahrain and Qatar 13.4% and 6.9%, respectively, of their surface area.

Solar isn’t the only renewable technology receiving serious attention in this part of the world. Wind energy is also viewed as having tremendous potential. An expert at the Iranian power-generation company Mapna Group interviewed by the Wall Street Journal estimates Iran’s cost of producing wind energy at $1,800 per kilowatt, compared to $3,000 kilowatt for solar. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Tunisia have invested in wind energy, and Iran is working on a geothermal project.

Rob Sobhani, president of Caspian Group Holdings and author of a biography of 88-year-old Saudi King Abdullah, wondered out loud through CNN about the possibility of the U.S. exploiting Middle East green energy potential. Sobhani noted that in just the last two years, the cost of producing a megawatt of solar energy using American technology dropped to $2 million from $3 million and smart grid technology, an American innovation, also fell in price.

Great. New marketing opportunities for the United States in the Middle East! But shouldn’t we start by acknowledging the underlying premise: that oil and gas are nonrenewable and increasingly limited resources for energy production? The petro giants of the Arab world are betting their own profits on a more reliable provider: the sun.

The Kepler Motion Hybrid 2.5-Second Supercar Hits the Road

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 11:15 AM PDT

In 2009, Kepler Motors announced a hybrid electric supercar that would offer a combined 800 HP. At the time, it was to be powered by Ford’s new 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine and a pair of electric motors. The car is called the Kepler Motion hybrid.

Kepler Motion hybrid sports car.

Now, 3 years later, Kepler just released video footage of the vehicle.

The Kepler Motion hybrid is supposed to accelerate from zero to sixty mph in 2.5 seconds, and attain speeds of over 200 mph. This can be partly attributed to the monocoque carbon fiber chassis.

The 550 HP 3.5-litre Ford engine turns the rear wheels, and two electric motors turn the front wheels totaling 250 HP, augmenting the mechanical power up to 800 HP.

One characteristic that sets this apart from other hybrids is the use of electric motors in the front, which are separate from the gasoline engine in the back. Other hybrids, such as the Prius family, operate by using an electric motor and gas engine in parallel to jointly turn the front wheels. These are “parallel hybrids.”

The Kepler is more like a “series hybrid.” A series hybrid electric vehicle operates by using a gas engine to charge batteries while one or more electric motors propel the vehicle by themselves.

There is another type of vehicle that closely resembles series hybrids and can be confused with them. It is the Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (EREV). An example of an EREV is the Chevy Volt. It operates on electricity all the time. It does not use a gas engine to turn the wheels, and it also does not use a combustion engine–powered generator to charge batteries.

EREVs utilize a combustion engine–powered generator to power the electric motor(s) in the event that the battery is discharged. These backup generators are not meant to be used heavily, especially not in the case of the Chevy Volt because it is not efficient. These vehicles are charged by plugging them in just like you would a fully electric vehicle.

EREV vehicles are for people who want the unparalleled efficiency of an electric car plus the ability to drive hundreds of additional miles for those occasional visits to grandma, for example.

Source: Gas 2.0

On the Way to 1 Million Solar Roofs: Los Angelenos Can’t Get Enough Solar Power

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 11:02 AM PDT

Los Angeles homeowners have been signing up for rooftop solar power installations in droves — so much so that the overwhelming volume of applications threatened to overrun the program’s budget and prompted the LA Dept. of Water and Power’s (LADWP) to actually shut the program down for five months last year.

Participants in the city’s Solar Incentive Program had 22 megawatts (MW) of rooftop solar power installed in the DWP’s 2011-2012 fiscal year, up from 9 MW the previous year and 5 MW in 2009-2010, Chris Clarke reports in a Rewire blog post.

“If the pace we are seeing today continues, by this fall, we will exceed 100 MW of net metered solar capacity that is either built or in the queue to be built,” Aram Benyamin, Senior Assistant General Manager of the LADWP Power System, was quoted as saying.



The Drive for 1 Million Solar Roofs

Serving some 4 million residents, LADWP is the largest publicly owned utility in the US. It’s able to draw on some 7,200 MW peak of power. Providing an idea of just how much solar energy potential there is in LA, sunlight could generate as much as 5,500 MW of electric power in the City of Angels, according to UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, Clarke notes on Rewire.

Aiming to help meet the goals of California’s SB 1 "Million Solar Roofs" legislation, LADWP’s Solar Incentive Program was reopened and is open to residential applicants. The new budget limit for non-residential applications was reached in August, prompting LADWP to close the program down, at least until July 2013 when it is slated to reopen.

For those who qualify, the incentive program covers up to 75% of project costs for residential, government, and non-profit installations, and up to 50% of commercial installations. The maximum rated capacity for a rooftop solar PV system to be eligible for the program is 5 MW, with the minimum set at 1 kilowatt (kW).

In its search for the most effective means of boosting solar PV in LA, LADWP in July launched a pilot Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program, an alternative type of an incentive program. The FiT Demonstration Program allows third-party solar power producers to sell as much as 10 MW of solar power directly to LADWP and its electric grid.

The city utility received 26 applications for the FiT Demonstration Program during a 1.5-month bidding period, with short-listed projects expected to undergo interconnection studies in August and September. Final contracts are expected to be signed this month and next, with winners chosen based on proposed price per kilowatt-hour and project feasibility.

A Defining Moment…

LADWP is also signing long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with utility-scale solar PV project developers. LADWP signed agreements with two solar power project developers to bring as much as a whopping 460 MW of clean, green, renewable solar power into its grid in early October.

"In the next decade, LADWP will completely replace over 70% of its power supply to eliminate coal through a combination of increased energy efficiency, expanding renewable energy to 33% by 2020, completely eliminating the use of ocean water cooling at its three coastal power plants and balancing the new energy mix with cleaner and more efficient natural gas, all while maintaining system reliability," LADWP states in its press release.

Its latest two solar power purchase agreements are with K Road Moapa Solar for up to 250 MW, and another 210 MW from Sempra Energy’s Copper Mountain Solar 3 project near Boulder, Nevada. The K Road solar PV facility is on land owned by Moapa Band of Paiute Indians north of Las Vegas.

"This is a defining moment for our City's economic and environmental future. Not only will these commitments create hundreds of green jobs, they will further bolster Los Angeles as a national leader in making the successful, cost-efficient transition to renewable energy.

“If you want proof that environmental progress and economic growth go hand in hand, look no further than today's decision, " said Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. "We are shaking our fossil fuel addiction.”

“Through projects like this, the Department of Water and Power is on track to reduce its reliance on coal power and increase its supply of solar and other renewable energy,” said Councilmember José Huizar, Chair of the City Council Energy and Environment Committee. “Altogether, these solar projects will prevent about 955,000 metric tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere each year. That is equivalent to removing 184,000 cars from the road annually. All Angelenos should take pride in knowing we are rebuilding our power system into a cleaner, greener and environmentally sustainable mode."

Combining the solar power from these two projects with a third, new, 250-MW facility owned by LADWP will bring enough solar power to LA to meet the needs of some 283,000 households, according to the public utility. Added to that, the publicly owned utility is installing and operating rooftop solar PV systems on municipal buildings and facilities.

School District to Save $300,000 Annually Thanks to Solar Shade Canopies

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 10:35 AM PDT

The Hemet Unified School District will save $300,000 annually in utility costs thanks to the construction of 17 solar electric systems provided by Tioga Energy.

Hemet USD elementary, middle, and high schools will benefit from 4.4 megawatts of solar electric canopies over parking spaces and playgrounds across the district.

US School District Saves $300,000 with Solar Canopies

Tioga developed and will operate and maintain the systems as they sell the generated electricity to Hemet USD over the next 20 years at rates much lower than local utility rates, saving the school district approximately $300,000 per year.

"Tioga Energy's expertise and unswerving dedication were critical to making this project possible," said Vince Christakos, Assistant Superintendent, Business Services for the Hemet Unified School District. "From securing the very last of the best available incentives to providing an on-site presence at every installation site, the Tioga team worked hard to ensure our needs were being met."

"The Hemet Unified School District does an excellent job with monitoring its energy consumption, and its vision for further managing costs with solar was clear from the beginning," said Paul Detering, CEO of Tioga Energy. "Because of the District's dedication, it is able to focus school resources on the ultimate prize: quality student education."

These systems are the first to be developed under a master financing agreement between Tioga Energy and De Lage Landen (DLL), a global provider of high-quality asset-based financing products and supporter of sustainable clean technology. Additionally, Wells Fargo & Company participated in the projects as a construction lender and tax equity investor alongside DLL's tax equity investment to further broaden the scope of the Tioga-DLL financing facility. Johnson Controls delivered all engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) solutions for the project.

Source: Tioga Energy
Image Source: Hemet Unified School District

Toyota Prius Best-Selling Vehicle in California

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 10:27 AM PDT

Bloomberg has reported on numbers provided in the California New Car Dealers Association’s California Auto Outlook report, which show that the Toyota Prius hybrid has passed Honda’s Civic and Accord vehicles to become the best-selling vehicle in California.

According to the report, the Toyota Prius sold 46,380 models in California over the first 9 months of 2012.

Toyota Prius Number One Selling Car in California

"Gas prices are up 80 cents per gallon in California over the national average," said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, California. "That's really driving up the appeal of hybrids, as well as plug-in vehicles in California."

Californian drivers have bought 1.25 million new cars and trucks so far this year, totalling about 11 percent of the U.S. total of 10.9 million. Californian Prius sales made up 25 percent of the 183,340 Prius liftbacks, plug-ins, v wagons, and c subcompacts sold in the U.S.

Source: Bloomberg via California New Car Dealers Association (PDF)
Image Source: Toyota

Canadian Wind Power Capacity Expected to Advance 20% in 2012

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 09:41 AM PDT

Canada's wind industry has added a lot more clean power to the nation's power supply this year. At a recent conference in Toronto put on by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), it was announced that the industry expects an increase of 20% of new wind power, or 1,200 megawatts (MW), thanks to various new projects across Canada.

Pincher Creek, Alberta Canada wind turbines via Shutterstock

According to CanWEA, around C$2.5 billion in investments from 1,000 MW of new wind power are helping to give clean electricity for approximately 300,000 homes, with 10,500 “person-years” of employment also provided.

“Wind energy continues to prove it is a reliable and affordable partner as provinces seek to diversify and clean their electricity supplies and avoid the high costs and cost overruns associated with some other forms of energy,” said president of CanWEA Robert Hornung, in a news release.

“Ontario’s wind energy industry continues to create good new jobs for Ontario’s manufacturing sector in places like Hamilton, Niagara, Chatham and Tillsonburg, but we are really just getting started. With political leadership and continued policy stability, wind energy will deliver on its promise of providing the clean, safe electricity that Canadians want.”

Quebec, in 2012, will create more than 60% of the new Canadian wind energy capacity, CanWEA said.

Canadian provinces leading the way in new wind energy projects this year besides Quebec include: British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, PEI, are seeing new requests for wind energy projects also, with particular attention to community wind development in Nova Scotia.

By the end of 2012, there will be more than 6,200 MW of installed wind power across Canada, according to CanWEA. The top provinces include:

  • Ontario — 2,000 MW
  • Quebec — 1,600 MW
  • Alberta — 1,000 MW

In 2013, CanWEA predicts a record year for the Canadian wind industry, with Quebec and it fourth tender call for new projects leading the way again.

Hornung also had this to say on the future potential of Canadian wind energy, and what provincial governments can do to advance further goals:

“There are many examples of leadership in supporting renewable energy across Canada, but we must see more action by governments in British Columbia and Alberta to capitalize on those provinces’ enormous wind energy potential. Canada can be a world leader in producing clean energy that reduces our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Hornung. “This is not about tomorrow or some future that we can dream about. This is about taking responsibility today.”

Here is hoping Canada's wind industry will continue to grow and flourish across the country, and make Canada one of the global leaders in wind energy.

Source: Canadian Wind Energy Association

3,000 MW of Solar to be Added by 2015 for Indian State

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 09:30 AM PDT

The southernmost state of India, Tamil Nadu, is aiming to develop 3,000 MW of solar by 2015. A new energy policy would require all industries to have solar hot water heaters to replace ones currently using fossil fuels. (Note: about 90% of Israeli homes have solar hot water heaters.) Solar hot water heaters installed in Tamil Nadu that meet technical requirements specified by the Indian government are eligible for a subsidy.

Tamil Nadu has the second-largest of the Indian state economies and a large business community. It is also a leading state for agricultural production.

paddy fields

If it achieves its goals, Tamil Nadu will become a regional solar energy hub. Currently, it generates most of its energy from nuclear, hydro, diesel, lignite, wind, natural gas, bagasse, and biomass.

The Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency explained its renewable energy commitment on its website: “There is an ever increasing demand for energy in spite of the rising prices of oil & other fossil fuel / depletion of fossil fuels. Energy demand, in particular electricity production has resulted in creation of fossil fuel based power plants that let out substantial green house gas/ carbon emission into the atmosphere causing climate change and global warming.”

Air pollution levels in Chennai, the most populous city in the state, are very high. There may not even be an effective monitoring system for air pollution, so the levels might be higher than currently reported. Renewable energy development therefore has great potential for reducing air pollution and improving public health.

Though it is just one state, Tamil Nadu has a population of about 72,000,000.

Image Credit: w:user:PlaneMad, Wiki Commons

Green Technologies Help Companies Meet Sustainability Goals, Improve Bottom Lines

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 09:14 AM PDT

By Badal Shah, CEO Flareum Technologies

As businesses strive to meet their sustainability goals while meeting their obligation to their own bottom lines, it is becoming increasingly clear that these two goals are not in conflict, but in fact are complementary. A recent deal completed by my company, Flareum Technologies, illustrates just how going green can do more than improve a company's reputation: it can also save them money.

A few weeks ago, Flareum Technologies completed installation of a solar-powered air conditioning system to cool the Bangalore offices of Siemens. This 10 TR system uses the sun's rays and an innovative vapor absorption technology (as compared to the vapor compression technology used by traditional air conditioners) to produce 200 kWh of cooling power while reducing the carbon footprint of the office by 30,000 tons of emissions annually. Installing this system will help Siemens meet its goal of becoming a greener company and also save the company more than $12,000 annually.

And Siemens is not the only company to discover that going green can save. A recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund found that decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at major multinational corporations such as Nike, IKEA, and Walmart weren't driven by prospects of regional or global carbon pricing, but saving money. The report describes several best practices corporations are employing to reduce carbon emissions and improve bottom lines, including shifting cargo from planes to ships, or from trucks to trains, leveraging partnerships, even with competitors, to collaboratively distribute goods and improving the energy efficiency of warehouses and distribution centers.

Public entities both within the U.S. and beyond are saving money through renewable technologies as well. More than 500 schools across the U.S. are using solar power to reduce their energy bills. At Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad, India, a solar cooking system from my company uses steam generated by solar power to replace traditional firewood and gas-fired cooking, and saves approximately $37,000 each year in fuel costs while reducing annual carbon emissions by 72,000 tons.

In these economic times, as it becomes clearer that individuals, families, companies, and public entities can save money through investments designed to decrease their carbon emissions (while achieving important environmental goals), demand for innovative, green technology solutions will increase. And companies like mine stand ready to deliver.

Author Bio: Badal Shah, managing director and CEO of Flareum Technologies, has more than a decade of experience in clean energy. His career in the clean tech sector began in 1997 when he formed Reality Energy Limited, a solar energy company based in Mumbai. He joined the Oxford Office of Ecosecurities in 2000 and later worked as a consultant for the Clean Air Capital Fund in London. In 2005, he founded Enion Management Ltd., which provides consulting services related to climate change, green buildings and renewable energy. Two years later, he invested in several clean tech startup companies, including Flareum Technologies.

Mr. Shah has received numerous awards for his leadership in the clean tech field, including Outstanding Entrepreneurship in Alternate Energy from the Mayor of Los Angeles in 2010.

He has spoken at many conferences including RENEWTECH India 2011, where he served as session chairman. He has also served as a delegate for the UK's Climate Change Project Office (CCPO) Trading Mission to numerous countries.

17,536 MW of Crop-Waste Power Potential in India

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 09:02 AM PDT

India has an estimated 17,536 MW of energy potential from the burning of crop waste, which is about equal to the power produced by 16 nuclear power plants. As an example of this potential, Punjab Biomass Power Ltd. is planning 96 MW of rice-straw-fueled plants to be developed by 2017.


In some of the areas where these biomass plants could operate, there are ample supplies of plant residues. Lakhimpur District has over 50,000 tons of surplus rice straw each year, according to a research study.

In another study, researchers found that, in Punjab, 100 million tons of rice straw are currently produced each year, and 75% of that is burned. So a surplus of 70-80 million tons of waste residues could be available for use in biomass plants.

This mass of useful material is from one crop and only from Punjab, which is one of 28 states, and there are seven additional territories.

Burning crop waste raises particulate matter levels. Particulate matter in air can contribute to health conditions like asthma, and even premature death. Weather conditions also can trap particulate matter in the air where the burning takes place. So converting these waste to feedstock for biomass plants seems to be a sensible solution.

In Rajasthan, a poor area, farmers started selling their crop waste to a biomass plant there in 2007. Previously, it had no commercial value.

Ludhiana, a city in Punjab, was declared one of the most polluted cities in the world due to the use of diesel and kerosene in vehicles for fuel. Electric scooters may replace their gasoline cousins in these very polluted cities because they produce far less air pollution. Generating electricity locally with existing materials would also lessen dependence on foreign oil.

Image Credit: Green, Wiki Commons

New Campaign Against “Toxic” Wind Tax Credit Could Backfire

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 04:32 AM PDT

A lobbying group called the American Energy Alliance (AEA) has reportedly unleashed a campaign to make the wind tax credit too “toxic” to win the support of Republican legislators. That’s a pretty tall order considering that wind power has a broad constituency that cuts clear across party lines. About 81 percent of Congressional districts with the best wind capacity are currently represented by Republican legislators, and wind farms are an economic success story for rural communities, where there is generally more support for Republican legislators. So, how exactly does AEA expect to make a rational case against extending the wind tax credit?

AEA lobbies agains wind tax credit

The Halloween Case Against the Wind Tax Credit

Short answer: it doesn’t. Judging from a recent editorial by AEA president Thomas Pyle, AEA’s strategy is not so much an argument against the wind tax credit as it is an exercise in fragging any Republican legislator who supports wind power.

First up on the chopping block is Senator Chuck Grassely (R-Iowa), one of the wind tax credit’s earliest and strongest supporters. As Pyle describes it:

“The Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy is fast becoming the zombie of taxpayer nightmares.  Every time you think this special interest giveaway is dead, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and his alliance of subsidy-hunting policymakers conduct a legislative séance and conjure it from the great beyond.”

Other than advancing the idea that any Republican who supports the wind tax credit is a witch, Pyle’s editorial does not present an actual argument. He only points out that wind and coal have both been used to generate electricity for more than a century, leading him to conclude that by this time “you would think that wind would be ready to stand on its own without special favors from the federal government.”

Since Pyle makes coal disappear from the equation, he can ignore coal’s long history of federal subsidies. What’s left is a sleight-of-hand enabling the reader to assume that wind mooches off the federal dime while coal stands on its own.


Anti-Wind, Anti-Heartland

AEA might have been able to steamroll this logical fail into a lobbying victory just a few years ago, but it’s quite a different matter now that rural communities have gotten a taste of wind power’s benefits (come to think of it, presidential candidate Mitt Romney might want to reconsider his position with Election Day 2012 looming ahead; when last heard from, Romney opposed extending the wind tax credit).

In 2010, CleanTechnica profiled one rural Missouri community that was already reaping the benefits of wind power with new income for farmers and new revenue for local governments, despite the continued fallout from the 2008 financial crisis.

The wind industry has seen tremendous growth since then and for an update of the impact of wind power on rural communities you can go to Nebraska’s KearnyHub.com, which recently profiled the Broken Bow wind project, part of which has just been completed in Custer County. Here are some of KearnyHub.com’s key points:

- The 14,000-acre wind farm will provide average annual tax revenues of approximately $600,000 over the next 25 years in property taxes and state income taxes.

- Local landowners will be paid an average of $540,000 per year in lease royalties.

- The wind farm will provide seven permanent jobs in the Broken Bow area.

- During its peak construction, the Broken Bow LLC project employed approximately 100 people.

- The project contributed approximately $5.6 million to the state in sales tax revenues.

As for any future benefits, KearnyHub.com ruefully notes that “the Custer County project could be the last or next to last wind farm built in Nebraska for a while, given uncertainty about the future of a federal tax credit for electricity produced from large-scale wind turbines.”

Image (cropped): Toxic chemicals by healthserviceglasses (some rights reserved)

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Portable Electronics Can Be Far Greener (Tips for You)

Posted: 22 Oct 2012 04:21 AM PDT

The point of this article is to suggest ways in which you can reduce the environmental impact of your electronics by simply making them last longer. Portable electronics may be small, but in some homes they can still contribute more to the electronic waste problem than even large appliances because they last only a few years — many don’t even last 2 years.

The frequent replacement of portable electronics due to their short lifespan adds up to a significant amount of electronic waste.

iPhone in a case.

Portable electronics don’t stop working sooner than non-portable ones because they are built to be less durable, but because they are dropped more often. Electronics malfunction for multiple reasons. Some of them are technical and out of your control, while others are addressable by end-users. I will list both.


For End Users

Impulse to Buy Newer Electronics

When a new phone or tablet is released, try to stick with your older one as long as you can. Give it a chance to get old.

When you upgrade annually, you are contributing to one of the biggest environmental problems, because the older models you replaced are eventually thrown away, so even if you keep them now, they pile up, and you will have a box full of electronics to throw away eventually.

Even if you recycle or sell your old phone (which you should try to do), there’s an environmental footprint there and there’s no guaranteeing it will be fully recycled or used for long by the new user.


Shock waves caused by dropping devices such as cellphones, laptops, and tablet PCs onto hard surfaces are a major contributor to their malfunction. People sometimes buy protective cases for them and find that they are still damaged easily. This is because the design of the case almost wholly determines how easily damaged the devices are.

There are two important problems with protective cases which you can address:

  • Buying the wrong case, or the difficulty of finding an easy-to-use case that you think will fit comfortably. Carrying your device to the store and fitting cases to it, trying them out for a moment to ensure one is precisely what you want, is so much easier than guessing. This is one good way to avoid buying an inadequate case.
  • Buying the wrong case, one with not enough protection. This time, the issue is buying a case without suitable padding. Hard cases, thin plastic-only cases, and sleeves are usually not helpful. Check the case for adequate padding by squeezing it a little. It should be as thick as you can tolerate.

Hard cases transmit shock waves to your devices because they don’t absorb it well. Spongy cases absorb much of it and they can make a tremendous difference. The underlying physics of this concept is the same reason why people use foam, sponge, or other elastic devices to cushion their falls.

Please buy a case that you will use the phone or tablet in. It is common for people to drop these devices while they are using them, and while they are taking them out of their pockets.

Low-quality Electronics

Don’t buy low-quality electronics. They tend to be fragile, unreliable, and hence need frequent replacement. If you save a little on a phone or tablet but it needs replaced 1-3 years sooner than a more expensive alternative, you probably aren’t saving any money, and the environment is losing out, as well.

Issues for Manufacturers to Address

Of course, it’s not all on consumers to reduce electronic waste. Manufacturers still have work to do. Here are a few ways for manufacturers of consumer electronics to be greener:

  • Improve durability of the devices.
  • Stop squeezing as much as you can out of undersized electronic parts — they operate at high temperatures, and that greatly reduces their lifespan.
  • Allow customers to replace their batteries.
  • Offer and promote good product recycling options.

Photo Credit: iPhone in case by miranda.granche (some rights reserved)

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