- Renault Gets a Twofer with Massive New Solar Arrays
- The Solar Pocket Factory (Video)
- New Alternative Transportation Web Tools From NREL, DOE
- The Most Successful Electric Car Cities (+ Infographic)
Posted: 11 Nov 2012 05:37 AM PST
Renault’s sunny yellow logo took on a new meaning last week when the company began flipping the switch on six gigantic new photovoltaic installations, each located at the site of a Renault production facility in France. Aside from juicing the company’s already formidable green cred, the solar projects illustrate how the unique two-for-one nature of integrated solar power can provide businesses with bottom-line value over and above any savings related to owning the means of clean, renewable energy production.
Renault Prepares for Hail, Can Locusts be Far Behind?
Basically, the six installations double as protective carports for the company’s merchandise. According to Renault’s press materials:
“The initiative is also an innovative way of protecting new vehicles before delivery to the sales network because it limits storm damage. The panels are designed to resist impact and hail in particular.”
As far as threats to vehicles go, hail isn’t necessarily the first thing you think of when thinking of France, but as a matter of fact a severe hailstorm did hit the nation just last spring and destroyed 6,000 acres of vineyards.
Toulouse has also been rocked by hail in recent years, including one 2009 hailstorm which reportedly involved chunks of ice large enough to pierce the body of a car.
Aside from serving as a protective covering for new vehicle shipping and delivery lots, some of the panels were also installed at employee parking lots, which is a nice perk.
Green Cred for a Green Car Company
Even without the solar panels, Renault is poised to become an electric vehicle powerhouse. Aside from manufacturing electric vehicles, that includes taking up the slack for establishing a serious network of public EV charging stations in France.
Renault has also begun to push electric vehicles into high-profile markets beyond the consumer arena, for example by outfitting an all-electric Twizy as a prototype emergency support vehicle and donating it to a Paris firefighter brigade.
That’s all well and good, but the new solar panels Renault can truly put its money where its mouth is. The company estimates that the solar panels will offset about 200 tonnes (that’s metric tons, btw) of carbon dioxide emissions related to the manufacture of electric engines in France.
Renault’s Solar Trip Goes Global
That’s just the tip of the solar iceberg for Renault. The new installations are located at Douai, Maubeuge, Flins, Batilly, Sandouville and Cléon, and the company already plans to add Valladolid and Palencia to the list, along with its Busan site in South Korea.
Renault is also taking a look at its sites in Slovenia, Morocco, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Romania for possible solar installations.
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Posted: 11 Nov 2012 04:00 AM PST
Turning solar panel factories into neighborhood businesses, similar to microbreweries, is inventor Shawn Frayne’s argument as to how to make solar panels cheaper and more accessible to the masses.
Frayne and co-inventor Alex Hornstein created the micro-solar panel “factory” to ease the labor cost of producing small-scale panels (solettes), which he says are two to three times more expansive per watt than large panels. Frayne explains that automating the process in the form of these “printers” — which look more like slicers — could bring down the price by producing 300,000 to one million panels a year.
As narrator Flora Lichtman points out, this factory is small enough to fit on a picnic table in her backyard.
The Solar Pocket Factory has been launched on Kickstarter and received about $70,000 in backing – another example of crowdfunding coming to the rescue.
Frayne says the completed project should be ready by April.
Source: Climate Crocks
Posted: 11 Nov 2012 02:30 AM PST
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has launched a new tool and redesigned DOE's Alternative Fuels Data Center Web site to help fleet managers, municipalities and consumers choose from a wide variety of alternative fuels and energy efficiency strategies for reducing petroleum use, vehicle emissions, and operating costs.
The AFDC's new Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool is an interactive Web application that allows fleet managers to evaluate the benefits associated with five alternative fuels – biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, natural gas and propane – along with a variety of efficiency measures, such as idle reduction and fuel economy improvements.
"Fleets across the country are trying to reduce their vulnerability to spikes in oil prices and are finding themselves increasingly subject to greenhouse gas emissions limitations at the federal, state and local levels," NREL Project Manager Witt Sparks said. "This tool provides valuable information on a variety of strategies that can help them reach their desired and even required outcomes. From a single web page, a fleet manager can explore multiple strategies and know what the energy and environmental impacts will likely be before making any substantial investments."
Users of the Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool can also explore options for fleet improvements by creating "what-if" scenarios based on solid data. For example:
Once a user or fleet manager establishes a set of measurable objectives to meet their desired goals, he or she can save the plan, make adjustments as needed or continue to investigate different scenarios. Easy-to-read charts and tables display annual reductions in emissions, petroleum use and fuel costs. Additionally, each section of the tool links to educational resources that provide background information on each efficiency strategy and alternative fuel.
The redesigned Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) is recognized as the go-to source for sustainable transportation decision-makers. It provides a vast collection of information, data and tools that facilitate the deployment of alternative fuels, advanced vehicles and fuel economy improvements. The AFDC is part of a suite of resources provided by the Energy Department's Clean Cities program, an initiative to reduce petroleum use in transportation through local public-private partnerships.
Among the features on the new site is a large library of maps and data, which users can view and customize through interactive charts and graphics. Featured data sets cover a wide range of transportation topics, including alternative fuel use trends, driving habits, hybrid vehicle availability, biofuels production, transportation regulations and incentives and vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the AFDC's most popular tools is the updated Alternative Fueling Station Locator. This application allows drivers and fleet managers to find stations that offer electric vehicle charging, E85, biodiesel, natural gas, propane and hydrogen. Users can sort by fuel type, find all stations near a given location, or map a route with stations identified along the way. The tool also identifies the number of available stations by state and technology across the nation. As part of the tool's new design, users can now easily embed the Station Locator into their own websites. Once embedded on another site, the tool will continue to access and display the most current station location data available on the AFDC.
In addition to tools and data, the AFDC also features a large collection of case studies in alternative transportation deployment, in both written and video formats.
"These stories serve as road maps for fleets and drivers, so they can learn how others overcame barriers and found success," AFDC Manager Trish Cozart said. "Users can find real-life examples of fleets that run on biodiesel, cities that have developed electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and school districts that power their buses with propane."
Clean Cities is the deployment arm of the U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Program. Through the work of nearly 100 local coalitions, Clean Cities brings together stakeholders in the public and private sectors to deploy alternative and renewable fuels, idle-reduction measures, fuel economy improvements, and emerging sustainable transportation technologies.
NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.
Posted: 11 Nov 2012 12:00 AM PST
Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly popular, as people and cities all over the world have started recognizing their advantages and introducing initiatives to promote the use of the plug-in transport option. Although EVs are still largely considered to be somewhat “cars of the future,” there's a rising global movement committed to making existing electric cars a reality of today. In a major recent study, the International Energy Agency (IEA) analyzed this trend and found that only 16 cities and regions in the world account for a staggering one-third of all the EVs in use today.
The most successful EV region is the Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan. Of all registered cars in the area, 2,183 are electric. The local authorities aim to have 3,000 EVs on the road by the end of 2013, which is a modest objective considering that more than 3,000 hybrids were sold within the first five years of their introduction to the market.
Rotterdam is the most successful electric car city in Europe, with 1,100 EVs on the road. When considering the ratio of electric cars to petrol-fueled vehicles, the Dutch city is even the most successful electric car hub in the world with 532 EVs per every 100,000 registered vehicles. These statistics might be a thorn in the side of Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who aims to turn Britain's capital into the “EV capital of Europe.” London did not make it into the top 16 electric car cities in the world, unfortunately.
The IEA study took an in-depth look at the energy infrastructure, travel patterns, and initiatives of 16 cities and regions all over the world. It found that all of these areas are actively pursuing development goals through different innovative policies and programmes. While some of the approaches are tailored to each city, many of the strategies are common. For example, drivers of electric cars are offered a mix of financial and non-financial consumer incentives, such as tax credits, purchase subsidies, discounted tolls, free parking, and access to restricted highway lanes. The strategies also include specific projects such as sightseeing EV taxi service in Hakone (a town in the Kanagawa Prefecture). Other cities ahead of the game include Amsterdam, where the Car2Go that allows members of the public to pick up and drop off pay-as-you-go electric cars all over the city was introduced; and Barcelona, where owners of electric motorbikes can charge their vehicle for free at hotels and university campuses.
Some of the projects also have an international focus. Shanghai is leading the Electric Vehicle Initiative (EVI) that plans to build a demonstration base for exploring sustainable development of urban transportation, organize automotive enterprise clubs, and set up international communication platforms. Part of that initiative is the Test Drive/Ride Centre of China, set up to educate the public about EV development, history, and future trends as well as to promote the environmental benefits of electric cars. This initiative was presented in the United States at the Clean Energy Ministerial and received positive response from France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, South Africa, and Portugal.
All of the top electric car cities and regions participating in the study have big plans for the future and aim to introduce even more EVs. That goal is supported by their national governments. By 2020, China and the United States jointly forecast sales of 2.5 million electric cars. The European Union has more optimistic numbers and predicts 20 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2020.
Whether this ambitious goal can be achieved within the next eight years is not sure yet, but the International Energy Agency study on the top EV cities and their initiatives indicates that we are definitely on the right track.
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