Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

BMW, AT&T, & Tendril Hosting EV Hackathon (This Weekend)

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 02:49 PM PST

 
BMW is teaming up with AT&T and Tendril to co-sponsor a joint hackathon in New York on November 16 to 18. Their focus will be developing applications where electric vehicles (EVs) meet mobility service, sustainability, and the connected smart home.

The three-day event is part of the seven-city BMW i Born Electric Tour, which celebrates the unveiling of the hybrid-electric Concept BMW i8 and the fully-electric Concept BMW i3.

BMW Sponsors Hackathon

Registration for the hackathon is now open, where Tendril will be opening APIs of its Tendril Connect platform to developers, allowing participants access to the connectivity, integration and analytics necessary to create applications that will allow consumers to understand the impact of their EVs and better integrate them into the home and grid of the future.
 

 
"BMW i is about far more than just the cars. It allows us to present a holistic view around how energy is viewed and used. A hackathon focused on developing new solutions that connect the smart car, the smart home and smart mobile devices is an exciting venture," said Dr. Dirk Rossberg, head of the BMW Group Technology Office USA.

"By teaming with Tendril and AT&T to open our collective technologies to joint third-party development, we're ensuring that BMW i Brand vehicles and other products from BMW will seamlessly integrate to the grid and the home, while opening the doors to imaginative new mobile access and control applications. We're excited about the technical creativity, talent and ingenuity we'll assemble at this first-of-its kind event focused on app development for electric vehicles, mobile devices and smart homes."

"Hackathons engage developers and provide a catalyst for rapid technological innovation, thereby fueling the development of solutions for the challenges of today and tomorrow," said Alex Donn, senior marketing manager, AT&T Developer Program.

"As the adoption of electric vehicles increases, events like the BMW i Born Electric Tour hackathon can help provide the tangible energy-efficient solutions consumers need to manage the increased electrical demands on the home or grid.”

"This event will showcase the future of consumer engagement—providing consumers with real-time energy information through cutting-edge applications at home, on the road or anywhere in between," said Adrian Tuck, CEO of Tendril. "Together with AT&T and BMW, Tendril is providing world-class developers with the tools they need to build a new marketplace of energy applications and services that will help ease the integration of electric vehicles onto the grid and improve efficiency across all aspects of life. We're excited to be a part of this world-class event."

Source: Tendril
Image Source: BMW


GAO Study Highlights US Governance Challenges At The Water-Energy Nexus

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 02:44 PM PST

 
Sustainable stocks and flows of water and energy are essential to societal health and well-being. Moreover, the two are inextricably linked and mutually dependent. Demand for both continue to rise in the US, with this year’s historic drought emphatically highlighting the economic, social and environmental costs, disruption and hardship dwindling water resources can cause.

US energy demand is forecast to increase 10% between 2010 and 2035, according to the Dept. of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), and growing demand for energy means growing demand for water. In a 2010 report, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that the US energy industry has been the fastest growing consumer of water in recent years. CRS projects that water demand from the energy sector will account for 85% of growth in domestic water consumption between 2005 and 2030, the General Accounting Office (GAO) notes in a report released Nov. 8.

Meeting the challenges at the water-energy nexus is going to require substantive, coordinated policy action by the Obama administration, Congress and federal agencies, the GAO asserts in its report, "Energy-Water Nexus: Coordinated Federal Approach Needed to Better Manage Energy and Water Tradeoffs."


 

 

Improving Policy Process at the Water-Energy Nexus

Climate change, population growth and demographic shifts were identified by sources interviewed and reviewed by GAO analysts as factors that pose significant uncertainties and are "expected to exacerbate the challenges associated with managing both the supply and demand of water and energy." Formulating national policies addressing water and energy resources, capacity, and needs requires taking account of the uncertainties related to both, according to the GAO report.

At a basic level, meeting these challenges requires more comprehensive data and research related to the water-energy nexus, the GAO says. This includes better understanding of hydrological processes, including aquifer recharge rates and groundwater movement. "In the absence of such data and research, developing and implementing effective policies could continue to be a challenge for Congress and federal agencies," the report states.

Such policies need to focus in on the water-energy nexus at local levels, the report continues. How increased biofuel production affects water resources depends on the type of agricultural feedstock and whether or not irrigation is required, for example.

At the same time, adopting technologies and approaches to reduce water usage in energy production is "inhibited by barriers such as economic feasibility and regulating challenges." Congress needs to be aware and factor these into policy-making when "deciding whether to promote the adoption of these technologies and approaches," the report authors continue.

Finally, improved energy and water planning will require better coordination among federal agencies and other stakeholders. Water and energy resource planning and management have traditionally been distinct and separated, or "stove-piped," according to the GAO.

Improved planning will require federal agencies to work with one another and other stakeholders, such as state and local agencies, academia, industry, and environmental groups. Congress and some agencies have taken steps to improve coordination, but these actions are incomplete or in their early stages. For example, in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a federal program to address the energy-water nexus, but DOE has not done so.

Graphic courtesy “Energy-Water Nexus,” GAO, 2012


First-Of-Its-Kind Wireless Electric Bus Of The Future Debuts In Utah

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 11:08 AM PST

 
The great state of Utah can now lay claim to the first and only wirelessly charged electric bus designed and developed exclusively by a North American research organization, namely Utah State University. Under the somewhat pedestrian monicker Aggie Bus (we prefer Shazam!, but whatevs), the new vehicle is also the first of its kind in the world to achieve key performance standards for a wirelessly charged vehicle.

Utah state University invents wirelessly charged electric bus

World’s Top-Performing Wirelessly Charged Bus

The breakthrough prompted Robert T. Bhunin, the Utah State University Vice President of commercialization and regional development, and apparent Master of Understatement, to state that the Aggie Bus is “a historic achievement and a great leap forward in the science and engineering related to electric vehicles.”

Given the facts at hand it’s hard to disagree with that. Last year, the USU research team had already demonstrated that it could achieve an impressive electrical transfer efficiency of 90%, for five kilowatts over a gap of ten inches.

The new electric Aggie Bus demonstrates that wireless charging is a viable option at least for vehicles that make scheduled stops at pre-determined locations, which in this case consists of bus stops.

The bus simply stops over a pad in the ground to recharge its batteries, and Bob’s your uncle. Without wireless capabilities, the driver would have to get out of the bus to plug in manually, which aside from losing time would complicate things from a safety perspective.

USU also notes that, in terms of maintenance, the wireless system involves significant savings over plug-in systems, since it involves no moving parts and virtually no wear and tear. The system is also weatherproof and it eschews unsightly wires, too.


 
With a reliable network of frequent recharges at hand, the Aggie Bus can run all day without having to charge up a full load of heavy, expensive on-board batteries. That makes it the equal of any standard diesel or compressed natural gas bus.

Wireless Bus is Ready to Roll

More to the point, the electric Aggie Bus is no hothouse flower. It’s a “robust prototype” for a commercially viable vehicle. If that seems like a bit of a stretch, consider that similar wireless electric bus technology is also being introduced in London.

As a matter of fact, the Utah Transit Authority has committed to a partnership for launching a full scale demonstration of the new technology by the middle of next year, consisting of a 40-foot transit bus on a public transit route through the campus of another state institution, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Extend that out beyond the campus, open it up to any vehicle with a wireless charging feature, and suddenly Utah could have bragging rights to the nation’s most advanced electric highway. West Coast Electric Highway, move over!

We Built This!

It does without saying that Utah State University is a public institution (#1 in the West, according to its website), and so is the University of Utah, which purchased the bus. The whole electric bus project is a creature of the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative of the Utah state legislature, which pumps public funds into academic institutions in support of the state’s tech sector. So, the taxpaying citizens of Utah get to pat themselves on the back for this breakthrough.

But hey, we in the other 49 states can give ourselves a pat on the back for the wireless electric Aggie Bus, too. The demonstration project is being funded mainly through a $2.7 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Image: Wireless electric bus, courtesy of USU via prnewswire

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey


Used Volt Batteries Converted Into Microgrid Energy Storage System

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 10:50 AM PST

 
General Motors (GM) and ABB have successfully converted used Chevy Volt batteries into a modular microgrid energy storage system that can support distributed generation and provide emergency backup power.

Microgrid energy storage system

Other microgrid energy storage systems have recently come online, but this one is the first to revolve around batteries from electric vehicles.

The system, comprised of five used Volt batteries, can provide 25 kilowatts (kW) of power for about two hours for a total energy capacity of 50 kWh. This capacity could provide enough electricity to power three to five average American homes for two hours.
 

 
Chevy Volt battery packs hold around 16 kWh of electricity when first installed, but over time lose capacity and are unable to meet the electric vehicle's needs. This new breakthrough could extend the life of batteries and make their manufacturing more profitable.

"When an EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used," said Pablo Valencia of GM. "This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications."

Backup Power for Homes and Businesses

GM and ABB demonstrated the system during GM's Electrification Experience, with the repurposed batteries providing 100% of the power used by the off-grid demonstration facility. The system will work autonomously in a "remote power backup" mode, but can also be manually dispatched by a utility or other owner.

A similar application could power a group of homes or small commercial businesses during a power outage, store excess power during off-peak periods at low-price periods to sell back to the grid for a profit during peak demand, or balance intermittent supply from wind or solar generation.

The battery system also includes an inverter to convert direct current from the batteries to alternating current for use from conventional wall sockets, further expanding its potential use.

Balancing Community-Scale Energy

While GM and ABB first demonstrated the ability to store and distribute electricity through an EV battery last year, this is the first real-world test of a technology that could revolutionize community-scale energy systems.

"The ABB-GM Volt battery system is the world's first use of car batteries as possible back-up power for homes and other commercial uses," said Allen Burchett of ABB. "We will be installing it on the grid soon… and this will tell us what smart grid applications are possible."

Regardless of the ultimate applications, the GM-ABB system is a major step toward making two of the most important clean energy technologies – advanced batteries and renewable generation – more cost-effective and reliable.

You can learn more about the potential of converting used EV batteries into energy storage systems in the interview below:

Image via Green Car Congress


8,521 MW Of Wind Power Achieved In Texas (Record)

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 10:24 AM PST

 
Texas, a state better known for oil production, just hit an all-time record of 8,521 MW from wind power (sent to its largest grid). 8,368 MW sent to the grid from wind power was the previous record. It was achieved twice this year, as well. The day when 8,521 was achieved was the last of a three-day run with an average of about 5,000 MW.

 texaswindpower.jpg

Critics of wind power point to government subsidies, but many forms of energy have received such support, including fossil fuels. But the State of Texas website explained: “As early as 1916, the federal government instituted income tax incentives to encourage individuals and corporations to drill for oil. During the 1930s, federally financed dams created hydroelectric power. From the 1950s onward, the federal government financed research into nuclear power. More recently, the federal government has provided research funding and other financing to expand the availability of renewable energy sources. 2 Virtually all U.S. energy resources have received or currently receive subsidies.”

 

 
A recent CleanTechnica post described how wind power in Texas is both sensible and efficient. The huge southwestern state has the best wind power potential in the U.S. and could have 1.9 million wind turbines installed, according to one estimate. This wind power trend isn’t only good for Texas.

New transmission lines could be built to send power out of the state. “The next real frontier for the renewable industry is to try to fix the transmission grid so you can connect what are natural markets that want the stuff with natural areas of production like the Panhandle in Texas," said CEO Mike Garland.

An intra-state transmission line might be able to send 18,500 MW from rural to metro areas.

 Image Credit: Leaflet, Wiki Commons


SwRI To Demonstrate Use Of EVs As Part Of Backup Power Microgrid Under US Army SPIDERS Program

Posted: 16 Nov 2012 12:30 AM PST

 
The United States Army Corps of Engineers awarded a team including the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) a $7 million contract to demonstrate the use of electric vehicles with diesel generators and solar arrays for supplying emergency power. The demonstration project will take place at Fort Carson, Colorado.

The team is led by Burns and McDonnell Engineering Company, which is based in Kansas City, and will construct a microgrid out of existing electrical infrastructure at the Army post, integrating a 2-megawatt solar panel array, diesel generator sets (this just means diesel generators), and electric vehicles to provide a self-contained, energy sustainable capability during power supply interruptions.

U.S Army solar panels on top of a closed landfill at Fort Carson, Colorado.

This project is called the SPIDERS (Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security) program.

"The goal for the SwRI portion of this 18-month effort is to demonstrate the ability of electric vehicles to serve as energy storage devices in support of a microgrid and provide grid ancillary services, such as peak shaving and demand response, during non-microgrid operation," said Sean Mitchem, SwRI project manager and a principal analyst in SwRI's Automation and Data Systems Division.

"Unique challenges of this project include using electric vehicles to absorb excess generated power from the base's photovoltaic array and reduce the base's energy bill by integrating vehicle energy storage into the energy management strategy, all the while continuing to serve as an active part of the base vehicle fleet," said co-researcher Joe Redfield, a principal engineer in SwRI's Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division.

"This project will be one of the first large-scale demonstrations of the new Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standard-based DC fast-charge technology," Redfield said. "As such, we expect to provide input to SAE for future fine-tuning of the standard."
 

 
The use of electric vehicles to store energy from the electricity grid and back it up when electricity demand spikes has been proposed in the past. This is because electric vehicles have very large energy storage systems (usually batteries).

A Nissan Leaf, for example is equipped with a 24 kWh battery pack. This means it can provide 1,000 watts of power for 24 hours.

Another reason for this program is national security. Generating electricity at the Army base, while minimizing petroleum imports from the Middle East, is an important national security need.

Note that this isn’t the Army’s first solar project. In fact, there are multiple others. Solar power seems to be a key focus of the U.S. military these days.

Source: Business Wire
Photo Credit:  U.S. Army Environmental Command


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