Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Small-Scale Solar Thermal Capacity Is Equivalent to 245 Nuclear Plants

Posted: 06 Oct 2012 01:16 PM PDT

When solar thermal heat collection systems are factored in, total global solar energy capacity is a whopping 245 GW (2011), which exceeds that of wind energy (not by far, though), which is 238 GW (2011). Photovoltaic solar (these are the solar panels most people are accustomed to) capacity is a small fraction of that total solar amount. Photovoltaic is only 50 GW, while solar thermal accounts for the other 188 GW.

You have probably heard people argue about the fact that solar panels have a much lower power-to-size ratio than nuclear power plants, which can generate plenty of power with even one pellet of uranium.

Here is a more relevant argument: due to the fact that solar panels are the only generators that can be integrated into every shirt, knapsack, laptop, tablet, phone, roof, window, door, curtain, wall, car body, binder, watch, bridge, driveway, and even sidewalks; they can be set up to waste the least amount of land, even compared to nuclear power plants, which require the virtually permanent burial of toxic waste and can’t exactly be built on houses, carports, bags, etc.

This goes to show the paramount importance of how technologies are applied. Application is everything! (Not literally.)

There are two main solar thermal systems in use today:

1) Solar thermal power plants that generate electricity through the use of sunlight to boil water or mineral oil and produce steam, which then drives a steam turbine.

2) Solar thermal collectors that collect heat from sunlight and directly use it to heat water for showering, laundry, dishwashing, etc.

Middlebury College’s Solar Array.

Both the solar and wind industries have exhibited strong growth for years, and according to an IEA (International Energy Agency) roadmap, solar could account for one-sixth of the world’s low-temperature heating and cooling needs by 2050.

Paolo Frankl, Head of IEA's Renewable Energy Division, said: “Given that global energy demand for heat represents almost half of the world's final energy use — more than the combined global demand for electricity and transport — solar heat can make a significant contribution in both tackling climate change and strengthening energy security.”

The IEA's Solar Heating and Cooling Roadmap outlines how best to advance the global uptake of solar heating and cooling (SHC) technologies, which, it notes, involve very low levels of greenhouse-gas emissions. Some SHC technologies, such as domestic hot water heaters, are already widely in use in some countries, but others, like large-scale solar fired district heating, are just entering the wider deployment phase, while solar-powered cooling is still at the development stage.

The IEA roadmap also pointed out that there are industries which require large amounts of heat for their manufacturing processes, which could utilize solar thermal heat directly.

Source: Environmental Research Letters
Photo Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

ContourGlobal to Develop Peru’s First Large-Scale Wind Farms

Posted: 06 Oct 2012 06:12 AM PDT

The Latin America subsidiary of New York–based power generation company ContourGlobal will be the first to deploy utility-scale wind farms in Peru, where the government’s Renewable Energy Resource (RER) program is a core element of a national sustainable development strategy. ContourGlobal Latam SA has begun construction of the two wind farms with a combined nameplate capacity of 114 megawatts (MW) — one Cupisnique in the La Libertad region of the Capasmayo province, and the other in Talara in the Piura region of the Talara province, according to a ContourGlobal news release.

ContourGlobal expects to invest some $250 million to develop the two wind farms, which when completed will be the largest in South America outside of Brazil. Acquired from Energia Eolica SA. The clean, renewable power produced will be sold under Peru’s RER program as per 20-year power purchase agreements denominated in US dollars.



Wind Power to Help Shape Sustainable Development in Peru

ContourGlobal Latam has signed an engineering, procurement, and construction contract with Vestas to build the two wind farms, both of which include a new substation and transmission line to interconnect with Peru’s national grid.

Due to begin producing clean, renewable electricity in 2013′s fourth quarter, 45 Vestas V-100 1.8-MW wind turbine generators are to be erected at the Cupisnique wind farm about 1,095 km (~680 mi) from Lima, Peru’s capital. The Talara wind farm, about 670 km (~416 mi) from Lima, will make use of 17.

“We are very excited to be the first power company to enter the wind generation market in Peru,” ContourGlobal president and CEO Joseph C. Brandt stated. “Cupisnique and Talara bring us into the dynamic and fast growing Peruvian economy whose continued impressive growth requires an increasing supply of reliable and low cost electricity.

"These two projects tap into Peru’s vast renewable resource potential and complement our regional generation and renewable footprint in Brazil and Colombia. We also welcome this opportunity to expand our collaboration with Montealto which will be constructing the wind farms with Vestas and has advanced the projects from early development to groundbreaking.”

Renewable Energy, Natural Capital and Economic Growth in Peru

The effects of climate change, notably the rapid shrinking of glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca, poses serious problems and challenges for Peru, whose natural capital is being depleted to fuel natural resource, export-driven economic growth. The same is true for Peru’s Andean neighbors, who also rely heavily on Cordillera Blanca glacial melt, not only for hydro power, but to meet the growing domestic demand for water for agriculture and growing urban populations.

Hydroelectric power plants provide more than 50% of Peru’s total power output. Fortunately, it has a lot in the way of renewable energy potential. It's estimated that the Andean nation is currently tapping into just 4.7% of hydro energy potential, 0.65% of wind energy potential, 6.1% of biomass potential, and only 1% of solar energy potential.

Peru’s Legislative Decree 1002 of 2008 established renewable energy resource development as a national priority, setting a 2015 renewable energy target of 5% of electricity generation.

Photo Credit: Vestas

SolarCity Increases New York Presence

Posted: 06 Oct 2012 06:01 AM PDT

SolarCity, one of America's top renewable energy service providers, this week announced expansion of its New York operations.

The company has just opened up shop in both Long Island and Westchester County. The announcement goes hand in hand with another expansion SolarCity had recently announced, new operations opened in July in Albany, New York.

"Under Governor Cuomo's NY-Sun program, we are dramatically increasing solar energy installations all across New York. Today's announcement by SolarCity shows that NY-Sun is not only good energy and environmental policy, it is also good for business and the economy of the State. We are proud to welcome SolarCity to Westchester and Long Island," said Robert M. Hallman, New York Secretary for Energy and the Environment, in a press release.

At a time when solar prices continue to fall, many people remain concerned that solar energy is too expensive for them.

Image Credit: SolarCity vans by BrokenSphere (some rights reserved)

However, even if you’ve got nothing or close to nothing to put down on a solar power installation, thanks to SolarCity's unique business operations, which allows business and homeowners to have free solar installation, and then pay less for solar electricity than they would under a normal utility contract. This model makes solar electricity more affordable for those who would normally not been able to use solar energy.

Meanwhile, according to the release, the new 32,500 square foot operation center will be headed in Elmsford, New York, a part of the Westchester County area. The center will be a training center hub for SolarCity's East Coast operations, while allowing for services within the New York region.

Pending approval from the Long Island Power Authority, the company hopes to have its first solar lease option available to Long Island residents soon.

"This expansion brings new jobs and cleaner power to New York," said SolarCity's Northeast Regional Vice President Ed Steins.

“Installers, electricians, construction managers and field sales are good local jobs that can't be outsourced," Steins said, mentioning the job potential with some of the jobs available at SolarCity.

The company can especially thank the NY-Sun initiative, which was signed into legislation by New York state lawmakers this past August to spur further solar investment and jobs.

The company has already filled 100 full-time jobs (and 30 more are still open) in the New York area. If interested, you can apply for one or more on the SolarCity website.

New York Metro homeowners who are looking to get a free solar consultation at no obligation can call 1-888-765-2489 (1-888-SOL-CITY) or go to the website for further help.

Source: SolarCity

Wind Industry Benchmark to Help Measure Success Created by Sandia Labs

Posted: 06 Oct 2012 05:50 AM PDT

The second annual 2012 Wind Plant Reliability Benchmark was just published on October 1st by Sandia National Laboratories, the results of which will give the rapidly growing wind industry in the US an important wind power benchmark, allowing for an accurate understanding of its performance and the best ways to improve productivity.


There hasn’t been, until now, a way for the owners and operators of wind farms to objectively compare their farms’ productivity with the productivity of similar farms. In order to do this, in 2010, the DOE commissioned Sandia to create a database, the Continuous Reliability Enhancement for Wind, or CREW. It’s the first time a comprehensive, ‘operator-independent’ dataset has been created to accurately portray the performance of the US wind fleet, creating a benchmark for the reliability of US wind farms and identification of the major causes of downtime and failures.

For this year’s report, there were more than 800 wind turbines studied, producing electricity, or able to do so, 97% of the time, that’s up considerably since 2011, when it was 94.8%.

The DOE/Sandia National Laboratories press release continues:

In 2008, a DOE collaborative published “20% Wind Energy by 2030.” The report suggests that by 2030, wind could supply 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, compared to less than 1 percent in 2007 and 3 percent in 2011. The report also discussed industry-wide risks related to lower-than-expected reliability and growing costs of operations and maintenance.

“Our assignment from DOE is to objectively characterize the national fleet,” said Valerie Peters, CREW lead reliability analyst. “We’re looking across technologies, locations and companies to create benchmarking statistics for the entire U.S. wind turbine fleet.”

Major turbine systems include a set of three blades, rotor, shaft, generator and gearbox, and all of those components might break or otherwise need maintenance. Sandia’s team is working to determine which components are the most vulnerable and help industry address those concerns to prevent downtime. The costs associated with a turbine going offline add up quickly. The owner not only loses productivity, but the cost of hiring a crane for repairs can be upward of $250,000. Since only a few cranes in the nation are large enough to handle turbine heights and component weights, it may be months before the turbine is up and running again.

Four wind plant owner/operators are participating in the development phase of the CREW project: EDF Renewable Energy (formerly enXco Service Corporation), ShellWind Energy, Wind Capital Group and Xcel Energy. The CREW team taps into turbines’ existing Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) industrial control systems, and Sandia researchers are able to collect high-resolution data from key operating parameters such as wind speed, ambient temperatures, blade angles, component temperatures and torques. Every few seconds, a wind turbine’s SCADA system captures a complete picture of how the turbine and its components are performing, compared to a defined operating environment.

Each plant is providing SCADA data to Sandia through a software tool developed by Strategic Power Systems (SPS). SPS developed the automated data collection software originally to collect high-volume data from steam and gas turbines. SPS reengineered its Operational Reliability Analysis Program, or ORAP®, tool to ORAPWind®, which collects data from wind turbines and creates detailed event logs for all non-operating time, in addition to daily summaries of operating time.

Sandia’s CREW database contains data for more than 800 turbines, which have generated two terabytes of raw data, about 20 percent as large as the entire print collection of the Library of Congress. Sandia’s Enterprise Database Administration Team is processing this enormous dataset into a usable database that can readily support a wide range of rapid queries.

All of this gathered data is being used for a variety of different analyses — this includes the annual public benchmark reporting and various DOE reports. One of the main uses that the DOE has for the data is to help to direct future research towards the most effective paths and to identify good development investments.

“We’re excited about the results so far and look forward to the next few years as we make an important contribution to our industry to improve reliability through a component-level focus,” Ogilvie said. “It’s an important project that will help encourage increased use of a low-carbon power source, and it could not have succeeded without the outstanding support and leadership of the wind industry and DOE. Together we can share our expertise to help shape the future of the nation’s wind energy generation.”

Source: DOE/Sandia National Laboratories
Image Credit: Offshore wind turbines by Mariusz Pa┼║dziora (some rights reserved)

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