Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

198 MW Of Wind Power Comes Online In China

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 01:05 PM PST

 
Four wind farms in China have become operational, totaling 198 MW of capacity.

Wind_farm_xinjiang2.jpg

In October, a large loan was obtained from China Development Bank, and the company had already secured 111 of the 132 wind turbines for the project. The project was begun in the Fall of 2011 in the Heilongjiang Province. The four wind farms are managed by Huadian Power International Co., but two are associated with Hebi Huadian Yuzhou Wind Power Co. and two with Ningxia Ningdong.

Currently, only about one percent of China’s energy is generated by wind power, but that figure could easily increase to 17 percent. One estimate indicated China could have 1,000 GW of wind power by 2050.

China is the world’s largest wind market, but there’s indication that it may slow down until 2015.

Image Credit: taylorandayumi


2,000-MW Solar Power Plant To Be Built In Kazakhstan

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 06:54 AM PST

 
We wrote yesterday that 2,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power have now been installed in Australia. If you thought that was striking, I think you’ll find this especially striking. The organization Fonrocheenergie SAS has signed an agreement with Kazakh ZhambylGidroEnergo to construct a 2,000 MW (2 GW) solar power plant in Kazakhstan. 2 GW is big, really big! That’s 2 billion watts.

Kazakhstan sunshine

The project is to be located in the southern region of the country, and the first €80 million phase of it will be 24 MW. This translates to a cost of €3.33 per watt of the first phase of the project.

The construction of this plant is slated to begin next year.

Source: PV Magazine
Image: Kazakhstan via Shutterstock 


34-MW Wind Farm In Hancock County, Maine Completed

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 06:43 AM PST

 
A 34-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Hancock County, Maine has now been completed, ahead of schedule, actually. Construction commenced earlier this year. The Boston-based First Wind wind farm consists of 19 wind turbines, and is capable of meeting the average energy requirements of 18,000 homes.

With the facility now operating, Hancock County and Eastbrook are to receive average aggregate tax payments of about $100,000 annually for 20 years to come, and an additional $240,000 annually in community benefit payments, for a total of more than $7 million.

Source: Boston.com
Image: First Wind wind farm via First Wind


How Do We Lower Solar Installation Costs And Open The Market To Securitized Portfolios: Standardize And Harmonize

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 05:34 AM PST

 
This article was originally published on the website of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Soft costs can be pretty tough. The cost of solar installations can be generally separated into “hard” costs — representing primary components such as modules, racking, inverters — and soft costs including legal, permitting, and financing. While the former group — particularly modules — have dropped dramatically over the last several years, the latter have not. According to a recent NREL analysis, these costs represent roughly 30% of both residential and utility installations (slightly less for commercial-host systems). See Figure 1.

Figure 1: Solar PV system installation costs

In fact, soft costs are so critical to the overall success of solar adoption, their reduction is a primary focus of the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to make solar energy cost-competitive. In order to reduce the cost of financing, NREL recently completed and continues to work on various efforts to tap public capital marketsand enable other vehicles that securitize project portfolios.

Doing so requires standardized contracts, interconnection agreements, and other relevant documentation so these projects can be easily aggregated with a consistent set of risk factors. Unfortunately, a myriad of unique state renewable portfolio standards (RPS), interconnection protocols, and/or permitting processes prevent the possibility of solar projects becoming routine.
 

 
Last year, SunRun issued a report that local permitting costs $0.50 / watt, or roughly $2,500 for every residential installation. Further, every state has unique rules by which RPS requirements are implemented and renewable energy credits (RECs) are bought and sold. According to Paul Kuehn of Deutsche-Eco, a developer with projects in New Jersey, Tennessee, and other eastern states, the array of rules and protocols surrounding the sale of RECs, and the financing of solar projects, is particularly complex. “For a solar project developer, it can be a difficult and expensive process to maintain the legal and analytic expertise and effort to play in each state market. States with policies that provide the market with consistent signals — such as New York, Connecticut, and Tennessee — improve the situation, but much more work needs to be done to streamline the requirements.” [1]

Importantly, unique state regulations not only increase costs, they limit the opportunity to package projects into one of several securitization mechanisms, such as asset-backed securities used for auto loans or covered bonds frequently used for municipal debt. Asset-backed securities (ABS), including securitized auto loans and mortgages, have an average size of $800 million. An initial solar ABS — under consideration by SolarCity — was expected to be much smaller, in the range of $75-$100 million, but is expected to get much larger. [2]

Assuming 75% of the installed cost of residential solar project are sold into the securitization pool and a 5 kW average system size, a $100 million fund can source roughly 4,700 systems. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly the entire number of “pipeline” projects under development in New Jersey [3], the second most active state in the country (which likely includes some projects of much larger size). In effect, residential-only projects from less active states could benefit from standard contracts, evaluation practices, and other protocols to enable access to public capital markets. [4]

So, what can be done? NREL is initiating an effort to build consensus among industry players to standardize contracts, develop datasets to assess performance and payment risk, and harmonize public utility commission regulations to foster a common set of requirements across state jurisdictions. The effort, funded by DOE, is designed to bring the renewable development, finance, utility, and regulatory communities together, standardize the development and contracting efforts of solar facilities, and in turn, enable the market to access low-cost capital through easily tradable securities. Along those lines, NREL recently developed a “contracts library” to enable the industry to compare and contrast and build consensus on standard versions.

If you would like to participate in the standardization and harmonization effort, please let us know.

References:

[1]: Conversation with Paul Keuhn, August 29, 2012.
[2]: “Solar ABS Deal on the Way”, Securitization Intelligence, May 27, 2011.
[3]: Solar Installation Projects as of July 31, 2012. http://www.njcleanenergy.com/renewable-energy/project-activity-reports/installation-summary-by-technology/solar-installation-projects, accessed September 4th, 2012.
[4]: Schwabe, P., Mendelsohn, M., Arent, D., Mormann, F. (2012) “Mobilizing Public Markets to Finance Renewable Energy Projects: Insight from Expert Stakeholders”, NREL, https://financere.nrel.gov/finance/publications


68% Of US Voters See Global Warming As ‘Serious Problem’

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 05:13 AM PST

 
This article was originally published on Climate Progress. It has been reposted with full permission (image added).

Polls have consistently shown that Americans' understanding of global warming grows with an increase in extreme weather events. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, that number continues to grow.

According to a new Rasmussen poll conducted a day before the election and released this morning, 68 percent of American voters said that global warming is either a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem. This represents a major increase over the last few years. In 2009, Rasmussen reported that only 46 percent of Americans believed that global warming is a problem. (Interestingly, while more people say they are concerned about the problem, there was a drop in the number of people who say it's human caused).

The Rasmussen poll backs up others showing an increase in concern for global warming. An October poll from George Mason University and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication showed that 74 percent of Americans understand that "global warming is affecting weather in the United States" — an increase of 5 points from a March 2012 survey. The Yale/George Mason poll also found that a majority of respondents said global warming made the summer heat wave and Midwest drought worse.

In February, a poll released by the Brookings Institute showed a 7 percent increase in the number of Americans who say that the planet is warming — with that increase influenced by extreme weather events.

The last two years have brought a stunning series of extreme weather events: two record heat waves, an historic drought, above-average destructive wildfires, and two powerful hurricanes that slammed into the East Coast. From January through August of 2012, the U.S. experienced the most extreme period for weather ever recorded, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 

 
The world's largest reinsurance firm, Munich Re, released a report last month concluding that the growing number of weather extremes are a "strong indication of climate change."

"Climate­-driven changes are already evident over the last few decades for severe thunderstorms, for heavy precipitation and flash flood­ing, for hurricane activity, and for heatwave, drought and wild­-fire dynamics in parts of North America."

"In all likelihood, we have to regard this finding as an initial climate-change footprint in our US loss data from the last four decades.Previously, there had not been such a strong chain of evidence. If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible, all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing," said Peter Höppe, the head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research unit.

The increase in violent weather is also having a political impact. Although the presidential candidates did not discuss climate change in the final weeks of the debate, the destruction from Superstorm Sandy was the main reason why New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama:

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be – given this week's devastation – should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

When I step into the voting booth, I think about the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there. The two parties' nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America….

One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.

After the election, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated that he will try to make climate a bigger issue during Obama's second term.

Last week, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg backed Reid's comments up: "We will keep fighting for real climate change solutions, such as investments in clean energy, public transportation, and resilient infrastructure that protects communities from extreme weather."

In his election night speech, President Obama also indicated that he might make climate change a bigger priority.

"We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet," said Obama to his supporters during a victory speech.


Conergy To Build Two Solar Parks In Thailand With Combined Capacity Of 21 MW

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 04:20 AM PST

 
Thai Solar Energy Co Ltd has partnered with Conergy for the supply of equipment for two solar parks in Thailand, and to provide engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) for these Thai solar parks, which have an aggregate capacity of 21 MW.

Conergy will develop the solar parks at two locations in Thailand, Suphan Buri Province and Kanchanaburi Province, Thai Solar Energy announced.

Solar parks will cover an area of approximately 500,000 square meters. Collectively, these parks will generate 29,500 MWh electricity per annum, enough to power 14,000 households. Both solar parks are expected to be commissioned by February 2013. Together, the parks will reduce CO2 emissions by 15,700 metric tonnes per year, a Conergy public relations officer said.

Lop Buri Solar Park in Thailand

Conergy continues to dominate the solar EPC market in Southeast Asia. Conergy believes that the commissioning of these solar parks will strengthen Thailand's position as a leading solar energy nation in Southeast Asia. These solar parks represent the fifth and sixth solar park Conergy has undertaken in ThailandThai Solar Energy Co. Ltd currently operates one solar park in Kanchanaburi Province.

“The Thai government wants to meet one quarter of the country’s energy requirements using renewable energy sources by the year 2022. This is providing a baseline of support to the development of a solar energy market in Thailand,” stated Alexander Lenz, President Asia & Middle East for Conergy.

“The country currently still imports around half of the national energy needs at high costs. Each new solar installation contributes to the gradual reduction of both dependence on energy imports and their costs for the government.”
 

 
Thailand benefits from strong year-round solar radiation and immense government support, which makes it a viable location for solar power development. Recently, South Asia's largest solar PV plant was commissioned in Thailand. The power plant has a generation capacity of 44 MW and has been commissioned by Solartron Public Co. Ltd. for Bangchak Public Petroleum Co. Ltd.

Image Credit: Conergy

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


Republican Governors Breathe New Life Into Wind Tax Credit

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 04:18 AM PST

Well, that didn’t take long. Barely three weeks after the lobbying group American Energy Alliance vowed to make the wind tax credit “too toxic” for Republican legislators to support, two Republican governors joined with two Democratic governors to come through with a message of their own for Republican legislators. Spearheaded by longtime wind tax credit supporter Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), they held a press conference yesterday to “express optimism” that Congress will agree to extend the wind tax credit before it expires at the end of the year. Translation: “Extend the damn tax credit already, or take the blame for killing jobs in our states!”

Republican governors support wind tax credit

Job-Killing Republican Legislators

In particular, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s prepared statement in support of the press conference was pretty brutal. Governor Branstad laid the recent loss of at least 500 wind power jobs in his state squarely at the feet of Congress, due to “the PTC not being extended earlier” this year (translation: due to Republican legislators dragging their heels).

Specifically, Branstad cited 400 workers laid off at a Siemans plant in Fort Madison, and 100 layoffs at a Clipper Wind Power facility in Cedar Rapids.

Soft Criticism from Hard Core Wind Supporters

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas was a little more reticent but still got his digs in at the press conference. According to Zack Coleman of thehill.com, Brownback said:

"It's just that I think there's a more prudent ground to go here than just to end this [credit] that's been a key thing to us solving our fiscal problems in this country. … This helps grow the economy."
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As for Senator Grassley, he blew up in spectacular fashion earlier this year when then-presidential Republican candidate Mitt Romney declared his opposition to the wind tax credit (“just like a knife in my back” were among the words Grassley saw fit to express in public). However, like Brownback, he was somewhat more circumspect in his prepared criticism of the aforementioned foot-dragging:

"In addition to jobs being lost, an important source of domestic, renewable energy was hurt. The wind-energy production tax credit is designed to level the playing field against coal-fired and nuclear electricity generation.  The credit has been tremendously successful for renewable energy development and job creation.”

A Lot More Wind Supporting Governors Where Those Came From

Now, yesterday’s press conference might not seem like such a big deal for bipartisanship considering that only two Republican governors stepped up with Senator Grassley.

However, one of those two, Governor Branstad, happens to be chairman of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which includes a pretty decent mix of red and blue states.

At last count, the current membership included Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington.

Note to the American Energy Alliance: Look who’s toxic now!

Image: Wind, Martino!, Flickr

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey


Surprise: Analysis Suggests More Extreme Warming, On The Upside Of Climate Predictions

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 02:24 AM PST

 
With climate change back on the minds of North Americans after Hurricane Sandy, and the threats extreme weather posed by our changing climate, another report recently suggests (surprise!) more extreme drought and warming.

A recent Climate Progress post dissected a report from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) on this matter.

NCAR's report mentions climate models that show a greater increase in temperature will be more accurate than those on the lower end.

The analysis also suggests increased global temperature would impact society through more droughts, heatwaves, and higher sea levels, along with other concerns that come with a changing climate.

NCAR noted, depending on various models and dryness, that we should expect to see temperatures globally rise greater than 7F from a doubling of carbon dioxide.

This is one example of the report that the mainstream media has often not been able to communicate well to the public, according to Joe Romm in the Climate Progress post:

So the study didn't find, as the Post and other media outlets assert, that "the world could be in for a devastating increase of about eight degrees Fahrenheit by 2100." The study  found the "global temperature rise for doubled carbon dioxide of more than 7 degrees F."

The temperature rise we would see in 2100 would depend on how much beyond (or below) 550 ppm we are at that time plus the impact of the various feedbacks not incorporated into the ECS. If we hit 1000 ppm, warming would likely exceed 11 degrees F — possibly by a few degrees!

Of course, the first 7 F  would devastate civilization, but, even so, 14 F would still be unimaginably worse — rendering large parts of the planet's currently habited and arable land uninhabitable, superheated dustbowls and rendering large parts of the ocean, superheated, acidic dead zones.

As Hurricane Sandy showed, the perils of ignoring climate change through extreme weather should not be ignored, as costs of these types of events will only increase, as noted by a Munich Re report last month.

NCAR's findings give further credence of the challenges our planet awaits this century, while only increasing the need to advance a clean energy policy.
 

 
We are starting to see that in the US after the recent election. Talk of implementing a carbon tax, thanks Sandy's damage and the impending fiscal cliff could become reality, albeit a long shot.

The question remains: will global action start moving before what NCAR predicts becomes reality, or will the costs of extreme weather linked to climate change continue to pile on? Only time will tell.


Solar Energy Conversion And Storage Breakthrough, New Way To Split Water Molecules Into Hydrogen And Oxygen Created

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 02:12 AM PST

 
A new way to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen by using just the sun and ultrathin films of iron oxide (rust) has been developed by researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. This technological breakthrough will almost undoubtedly lead to more efficient, and less expensive, ways to store solar energy.

20121113-170844.jpg

By using the sun to split water molecules and create hydrogen-based fuels, the energy of the sun can then be used at any time and in any place, rather than just those that are conducive to direct solar power. The researchers think that this could be a major factor in the replacing of fossil fuels.

"Our approach is the first of its kind," says lead researcher Associate Prof. Avner Rothschild, of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. "We have found a way to trap light in ultrathin films of iron oxide that are 5,000 times thinner than typical office paper. This is the enabling key to achieving high efficiency and low cost."


 
Iron oxide, also known as rust, has many clear benefits as a semiconductor material; it is very common, very inexpensive to produce, stable in water, and, in contrast to other semiconductors, it “can oxidize water without itself being oxidated, corroded, or decomposed,” a news release from American Technion Society notes. There are challenges to working with it, though, the largest of which is its poor electrical transport properties. “Researchers have struggled for years with the tradeoff between light absorption and the separation and collection of photogenerated charge carriers before they die out by recombination.”

"Our light-trapping scheme overcomes this tradeoff, enabling efficient absorption in ultrathin films wherein the photogenerated charge carriers are collected efficiently," says Prof. Rothschild. "The light is trapped in quarter-wave or even deeper sub-wavelength films on mirror-like back reflector substrates. Interference between forward- and backward-propagating waves enhances the light absorption close to the surface, and the photogenerated charge carriers are collected before they die off.”

This creates the potential of making inexpensive solar cells that can combine both ultrathin iron oxide photoelectrodes and conventional photovoltaic cells. Simultaneously producing electricity and hydrogen, these solar cells would be able to efficiently store energy for use anytime, 24 hours per day, which is a significant advantage compared to conventional photovoltaic cells. One of the primary criticisms of solar power is its inability to produce electricity when it is very cloudy, but this new technology could remedy that.

And since the new technology uses only very common materials, it could go a long way towards reducing the use of expensive rare earth elements in solar panels, most of which is imported from geopolitical competitors, reducing the use of rare elements like Tellurium and Indium by up to 90%, with no loss of performance.

The new research was just published in the journal Nature Materials.

Source: American Technion Society
Image Credits: Zonne


A Policy That Unlocks Community Renewable Energy

Posted: 14 Nov 2012 02:00 AM PST

 
Net metering is a common distributed renewable energy policy in the United States, allowing individuals to "turn back" their meter (and reduce their electric bill) by generating on-site electricity. But utility accounting systems typically prevent people from sharing the output from a single, common “community” solar or wind project.

Virtual (or group or neighborhood) net metering is the solution. This rule allows utility customers to share the electricity output from a single power project, typically in proportion to their ownership of the shared system. For community renewable energy projects, typically relying on offsetting electricity at the retail price, virtual net metering is essential.

The following map illustrates which states (as of August 2012) support virtual net metering.

There’s some hope for expansion. The California legislature recently debated expanding virtual net metering to all customers, but the bill failed in late 2012. Other states have also considered virtual net metering legislation.

There are other solutions, too, that get away from net metering entirely. Under a CLEAN Program, distributed renewable energy projects have a separate meter, so that consumption and production are independent. In 14 states, individuals or groups can install a community solar project, get a good price for their electricity and share the revenue (rather than, as with virtual net metering, sharing electricity bill credits). All participants pay for their own electricity use separately, as do regular utility customers.
 

 
A CLEAN Program has some other advantages, but when it comes to simplifying the path for community renewable energy, virtual net metering is a good step in the right direction.

This post originally appeared on ILSR's Energy Self-Reliant States blog.


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