Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Preparing For “Cheaper Than Grid” Solar Electricity

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 06:02 PM PST

It started with off-grid locations, places where electricity was either carried in or generated on-site. Then it beat expensive diesel generators. In 2010, unsubsidized solar electricity could best on-grid retail electricity prices of major utilities in Hawaii. In the next decade, residents in metropolitan areas representing 100 million people will watch the biggest solar barrier yet – economics – fall by the wayside.

But cost isn't the only barrier to solar, and U.S. states should carefully consider the lessons learned in Hawaii as solar creeps toward cost parity with the grid.

For one, utilities adhere to archaic limits on local power generation that can severely curtail the expansion of residential and commercial rooftop solar power. For another, local permit authorities can be overwhelmed when cost-effective solar means that as many has half of local building permit applications are for solar installations. And costly electrical upgrades and grid interconnection studies can add thousands to the cost of solar arrays.

Then there are the 3 out of 4 residential and commercial buildings that aren't suitable for solar because of the orientation or shading or because the occupant is a renter, but who could "go solar" by sharing in a community project.

And of course there's the political backlash if the existing incentives for solar don't scale back commensurate with the falling cost of solar, leaving taxpayers holding the bag.

This short presentation outlines the challenges and solutions from Hawaii (and the full details can be found in the report here):

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

Solar Shipments Increased 80% In Japan In 3 Months

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 05:56 PM PST

Solar cell and module shipments increased by 80% in Japan in July, August, and September. The cause was government-initiated incentive programs, most notably an aggressive feed-in tariff.


These new payment rates to support clean energy are anticipated to shoot Japan into a world leader position in solar energy. 42 yen or 53 cents a kilowatt-hour was expected to be one of the payment rates in June, and it was predicted accurately. As previously reported on CleanTechnica, the high rate has also drawn attention from foreign investors. “Japan's new renewable and solar energy feed-in tariff is even attracting solar energy project developers and manufacturers overseas. Spain's Gestamp Solar announced that it is going into a partnership with Japanese energy consultancy Kankyo-Keiei that entails working together to install an initial 30 MW of rooftop solar PV systems, with a longer term goal of installing 10-times that amount.”

The major shift away from nuclear power appears to be moving steadily and successfully forward. This movement is no small feat, and yet, overall, the economic climate around the world is not exactly robust, nor does there seem to be enough awareness of the promising direction. (For example, there are still climate change deniers and those who are skeptical that renewable energy is necessary.)

Nature has been a significant part of Japanese culture for many years, so it seems appropriate that renewable energy will become prominent there. Hokkaido is an area well-known for its natural beauty and solar is even springing up there.

Image Credit: satoshi sawada, Wiki Commons

How Much Does Nuclear Waste Processing Cost The UK?

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 05:51 PM PST

According to the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) 2012 and 2013 budget, of which the information was obtained from its 2012-2015 business plan, “nuclear legacy” issues cost £2.5 billion, roughly 42% of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s total budget.

I was shocked, too. It sounds odd that nuclear waste, or any power plant waste would cost that much money, and taxpayers’ money at that.

£1.6 billion of that budget is spent on managing multiple plants and storage facilities at Sellafield, which is an enormous site in Cumbria that is home to the radioactive remains of nuclear weapons and energy programmes which are more than 50 years old. Sellafield employs 9231 people, according to a new National Audit Office (NAO) report.

Notably, nuclear storage costs have consistently increased over the years, as this Guardian chart shows (interactive version with more details on the Guardian website).

Although the costs of Sellafield are primarily associated with handling waste from old nuclear plants, including postwar weapons programmes, the NAO’s report offers up the question of whether cost estimates for decommissioning future nuclear power plants may also have been underestimated.

It is impossible to determine if this is true. However, a glance at the figures suggests that even if decommissioning and waste disposal costs for future plants were double or triple current government estimates, that wouldn’t significantly change the economics of new nuclear plants (the fact that they’re more expensive than other power options today).

Nuclear proponents sometimes argue that a unit of reliable nuclear energy is worth more than a unit of intermittent solar or wind energy. But what really matters financially is the full cost of nuclear (including nuclear waste storage) vs the full cost of wind/solar energy backed up by energy storage storage systems or natural gas power plants. In a hypothetical 100% nuclear vs 100% renewable world, it is not realistic to compare nuclear power to renewable power plants that are not backed up (and then use their intermittency against them).

They have to be backed up, and the cost associated with that should be included to be fair. Solar and wind power plants with the right amount of energy storage are more reliable than nuclear, even when they are undergoing maintenance. Batteries keep the lights on, even when the wind is not blowing.

Furthermore, however, it should be noted that up to a certain grid penetration, wind and solar intermittency is not much of an issue. Additionally, with wind turbines and solar panels spread across large geographic area and connected via the grid, the intermittency is often balanced out, making the penetration level at which storage is critical quite high. So, every MW of wind or solar doesn’t require 1 MW of storage or natural gas.

In the end, there’s a reason why 40% of new power generation capacity installed in the past 4 years in Europe and the US has been wind power, and why nuclear power has been anything but a popular option — wind (as well as natural gas) is cheaper than nuclear power.

In the US, according to the Department of Energy (DOE), the median levelized cost of energy (LCOE) from onshore wind is $0.05/kWh while it is $0.06/kWh for nuclear. (However, wind costs are falling and nuclear costs only seem to rise.) Similarly, here’s another chart from the Guardian on the UK’s LCOE numbers:

Source: Guardian

World Bank Report Warns No Nation Is Immune To Climate Change

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 05:18 PM PST

A new report commissioned by the World Bank warns that our planet is on track towards a "4°C world" which will be “marked by extreme heat-waves and life-threatening sea level rise.”

“Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”

Furthermore, the report highlights the affect a warmer planet will have on global food stocks, suggesting that the adverse effects of a warming climate are "tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions,” liable to damage development efforts and goals.

“We will never end poverty if we don’t tackle climate change. It is one of the single biggest challenges to social justice today,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on a conference call on Friday.

World Bank Warms of 4 degree Warming

The report, ”Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” has been reviewed by some of the world’s top scientists and is set for release ahead of the next comprehensive studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013/14.

According to the World Bank, the report ”combines a synthesis of recent scientific literature with new analysis of likely impacts and risks, focusing on developing countries. It chronicles already observed climate change and impacts, such as heat waves and other extreme events, and offers projections for the 21st century for droughts, heat waves, sea level rise, food, water, ecosystems and human health.”

“This report reinforces the reality that today's climate volatility affects everything we do,” said Rachel Kyte, the Bank's Vice President for Sustainable Development. “We will redouble our efforts to build adaptive capacity and resilience, as well as find solutions to the climate challenge.”

The report addresses the rising sea levels, ocean acidification, increasing heat extremes hitting the sub-tropical Mediterranean, northern Africa, the Middle East, and the contiguous United States, fears of lower agricultural yields, and the risk to human support systems.

In what I must only assume is a clear and present attempt to smack the reality of the truth into readers, the World Bank concluded their press release warning us of just what we are facing:

“As global warming approaches and exceeds 2°C, there is a risk of triggering nonlinear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and livelihoods. This would further add to 21st-century global warming and impact entire continents.”

Source: World Bank
Image Source: Kaibab National Forest

All-Electric Garbage Trucks Prove EVs Can Pull Their Own Weight

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 04:58 PM PST

If you ever had any doubt that electric vehicles are officially part of the American mainstream, check out Chicago’s new all-electric garbage trucks. Seriously, not too many vehicles are as essential to the daily commerce of a modern industrialized nation as a garbage truck, so what better way to prove that electric vehicles can work just as hard as their diesel counterparts? And cheaper, too.

According to the brains behind the new truck, Bay Area startup Motiv Power Systems, the new trucks will cut fuel costs and also reduce other operating costs.

Chicago gets first all electric garbage trucks

Why an Electric Garbage Truck is Like a Canary

Last year, the inimitable Rush Limbaugh and other conservative “thought leaders” expended a lot of air time on a campaign to trash the Chevy Volt, creating the impression that EVs are at best expensive toys for the well-to-do and at worst hothouse flowers that wilt under pressure.

Well, there’s nothing like a 52,000-pound garbage truck to prove that all-electric vehicles can pack as much good old fashioned American horsepower as anything else on the road.

As the vehicular counterpart to the proverbial canary in the coal mine, if EV technology can survive a full garbage route on the streets of Chicago and come back for more, that’s a good indication that EVs can handle pretty much anything else the road throws at them.


America’s First All-Electric Garbage Trucks

Motiv believes that Chicago will be the first city in the nation to get a fleet of all-electric garbage trucks. The $13 million, five-year contract will put 20 electric trucks to the test alongside the city’s existing fleet of 600.

Before settling on the EV technology, Chicago field-tested a hybrid electric garbage truck and also considered a compressed natural gas truck, but neither proved to be cost-effective.

Motiv won out based on the performance of a pilot all-electric bus that it’s been running in California since last March (not to be confused with Utah’s wireless electric bus). The bus uses five battery packs and the trucks will use the same system, but scaled up to 10 battery packs, enough to power the drive train and the hydraulic system.

Motiv’s pilot bus reduced operating costs from 80 cents per mile down to 10 cents per mile, which could translate into an operating cost savings of up to 50% over eight years.

From Electric Bus to Electric Truck

Scalability is the key to Motiv’s system, with it calls ePCS (for electric Powertrain Control System).

The ePCS consists of packs of off-the-shelf batteries and motors, which Motiv configures in different pairings to match the size of a conventional chassis.

One advantage of the mix-and-match approach is that the ePCS powertrain is not tied to any one particular battery. As new battery technology emerges, fleet owners can upgrade their batteries.

The ePCS batteries also work in concert with sensory and diagnostic systems that can ease the load on individual batteries to prevent wear and tear, and  predict maintenance issues before they affect the vehicle’s performance.

For the new trucks, Motiv’s partner Detroit Chassis will provide the chassis and Loadmaster will chip in with the bodies.

Image (cropped): Courtesy of Motiv via prnewswire.com

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

GE Celebrates Installation Of 20,000th Wind Turbine

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 04:41 PM PST

Last Wednesday, GE celebrated the installation of it’s 20,000th wind turbine. All combined, these 20,000 turbines have the capacity to power the cities of Hong Kong and London.

"We couldn't have achieved this milestone without our development partners," said Vic Abate, vice president of renewable energy for GE. "Together, we have advanced wind to its current status as a relevant, reliable, competitive source of energy."

40% of new power generation installations across the US and Europe over the last four years have been wind, and this has been led in part by the efforts of GE.

In November of 2008, the company hit its 10,000th turbine. And in February of 2011, it reached 15,000.

GE Installs 20,000th Wind Turbine

GEs partners have lined up to offer their congratulations on this milestone:

"We congratulate GE on this impressive achievement," said Jim Shield, Invenergy’s executive vice president and chief development officer. "Our longstanding association has resulted in the installation of more than 2,000 GE wind turbines at Invenergy projects across the United States. As America's largest independent wind power generation company, we look forward to a continued, successful relationship with GE in the years to come."

"Congratulations to GE on reaching this milestone. From our vantage point, it appears to be the culmination of working with customers, driving down prices, continuously advancing technology and then backing it all up with responsive service," said David Boyce, chief executive officer of Wind Capital Group. "I would expect that winning combination to serve them well into the future."

There does not appear to be any mention of just where the 20,000th turbine was installed, but given that "more than 70 percent of GE's wind turbine deals so far this year have been overseas” (GE General Manager Matt Guyette in a recent interview), it could very literally be anywhere throughout Europe, Asia, or North America.

Source: General Electric
Image Source: General Electric

Automated Logic To Automate World’s Greenest Skyscraper

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 04:17 PM PST

Construction is currently underway on The Tower at PNC Plaza, the new headquarters for PNC, one of the nation’s largest diversified financial services organizations, and last week Automated Logic were awarded the contract to provide the building with automation systems.

Upon completion, The Tower, located in downtown Pittsburgh, is expected to surpass Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum status, the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC®) highest rating, and become the world’s greenest skyscraper.

Automated Logic Automating Greenest Skyscraper for PNC

"We applaud PNC for their commitment to sustainable development," said Lauren Kolb, president of Automated Logic. "Automated Logic has been a proponent of energy efficiency and sustainability for decades, and we are excited to be a part of a project that could set the standard for future office buildings."

Automated Logic's WebCTRL building automation system (BAS) is the heart of this new building, linking into numerous systems to ensure a comfortable environment for the building’s expected 2,000 occupants.

The project will monitor more than 10,000 points, and will integrate with third-party systems such as lighting, fire alarm systems, indoor environmental monitoring, and natural ventilation interfacing with automatic windows.

The tower’s sustainable design allows the use of natural ventilation systems which will minimise the impact on the environment, decreasing the need for mechanical cooling systems. However, the WebCTRL system will also interface with weather monitoring stations to detect external conditions, such as temperature, humidity, wind speed, rain intensity, and barometric pressure, and use this information to determine when to use natural ventilation versus mechanical cooling. On top of that, the WebCTRL system will connect with outside weather agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to determine future heating and cooling needs.

Source: Automated Logic
Image Source: The Tower at PNC Plaza

Eco Wave Power Signs MOU With Ocean University Of China

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 04:14 PM PST

In a decision that will see wave-prone regions of China start to develop wave technology, a senior delegation from the Ocean University of China recently arrived in Israel to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Eco Wave Power that will see the wave power developer implement their technology across a wide-range of locations in China.

The agreement dictates that the Ocean University will secure full funding for Eco Wave Power’s first commercial-scale project, and will conduct the related research and development works.

New Focus for Wave Energy

Eco Wave Power’s 10kW Power Plant, operational in high and low waves.

“The cooperation between EWP and OUC was made possible thanks to the Road Show to China that was organized by MATIMOP — The Israeli Industry Center for R&D and the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Trade and Labor,” said David Leb, the founder of Eco Wave Power.

Elaborating, Merav Tapiero, the Program Manager of the Israel-China Industrial R&D Cooperation Framework at MATIMOP, explained that “a delegation of Seven Israeli companies was chosen to participate in a clean energy Road Show to China, during mid September. Eco Wave Power, which specializes in wave energy generation, was one of the companies that took part in this activity.”

“The uniqueness of Eco Wave Power is in its innovative idea to develop and implement different floaters shapes for every location of implementation. Moreover, as opposed to offshore wave energy solutions, Eco Wave Power came up with an energy conversion system that is located outside of the water, thereby improving reliability.”

According to Eco Wave Power, “the EWP technology is especially suitable for implementation in China as it has 18,000 km of coastline, and at least 6000 islands.”

Source: Eco Wave Power via PR Newswire

Google Investing $75 Million Into New 50MW Wind Farm

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 02:27 AM PST

Google is continuing to show its commitment to development of a renewable energy economy, investing $75 million dollars into a 50MW wind farm in Rippey, Iowa.


Google has invested a ton into clean energy in recent years, benefiting from the financial savings gained by doing so as well as the good PR (while doing its best to “do no evil”). In particular, it has put most of it’s money into wind and solar power projects.

“The Mountain View behemoth keeps writing checks, and the latest one is The $75 million dollar investment is for an undisclosed stake in a 50-megawatt wind farm that’s located about an hour from Des Moines,” TreeHugger‘s Michael Graham Richard writes.


“The Rippey wind project, which is currently operational, was developed by RPM Access and should generate enough energy to power over 15,000 homes. The turbines were made by Nordex USA at their Jonesboro facility in Arkansas.”

This latest investment now brings Google’s total investments in renewable energy up to $990 million. I wonder if there will be some ceremony of sorts when it hits $1 billion.

Image Credits: Google; Google Maps Screen Capture (via TreeHugger)

Bamboo Bikes, Build Your Own At Bamboo Bicycle Club’s Monthly Courses

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 01:54 AM PST

The Bamboo Bicycle Club, a bicycle company located in east London, is now offering monthly courses where they will teach you how to build your own custom bamboo bike. And for comparatively cheap, too — the total expenses are only £389 for the full weekend course and bike frame. That’s compared to the £1,199 or so for an entry level Bamboo Bikes frame. Or the £1,868 to £3,650 for a top of the line Calfee bike.


For the more DIY types, this sounds like a great deal. The £389 gets you a computer-designed custom frame and a full weekend of learning the craft of building a bamboo bike from the owners/engineers, James Marr and Ian McMillan. Here’s a description of the process from James Stewart of the UK’s Guardian.

“On day one, the boys show you how to select bamboo for strength – not only its diameter but that proposed cuts will fall between nodes – and how to mitre joints before tubes are epoxied lightly in place on the jig: first the front triangle composed of 40mm diameter bamboo; then the thinner, more fiddly seat and chain stays. Chromoly tubes are inserted for the handlebars, forks and seatpost and stainless steel dropouts are slotted into the chainstays.

“With its jigs and power tools and design plans, the course is a leap of faith for someone whose idea of DIY is flatpack assembly. Accurate mitring for a clean joint can be tricky, for example. Yet James and Ian buzz cheerfully between workbenches, supervising every cut, triple-checking every joint, and will take over if a task seems insurmountable.

“Sunday is a more relaxed day of building the lugs. Or rather, wraps: hemp webbing wrapped around the joints and dropouts then epoxied to form a strong bond that disperses loads evenly throughout the frame. With a final polymer coating for waterproofing, the bike is ready for wheels, brakes, gears, saddle etc; and the club offers gear packs at discounted prices.”


If you’re worried that a self-built bike will be of inferior quality to one that you can buy, the owners are quick to address your misconception. Ian has ridden his bike for over a year on a 16-mile commute without any damage, and James attempted to and failed to destroy his bike while off-road over three months of testing. “To be honest, our bikes are over-engineered – we use larger diameter tubes and over-thick layers of hemp – but I prefer it like that,” James says.

Before settling on the idea to show people how to build their own bikes, the owners of the company had been planning on just creating a boutique bike store. But “we realised we didn’t want just to sell frames. We wanted to share the joy of making something; the craft of creating something unique and sustainable,” James explains.

So they created the Bamboo Bike Club, more of a community than a traditional company since its opening in September.

“Some people love the build, but for me these workshops come together when the bike is on the road,” James says. “They’re so light, so effortless to ride. So much fun to ride too – take a Harley-style retro bike, add 10 and you’re still not close.”

Image Credits: BambooBicycleClub.org

3,725 MW Of Renewable Energy Sought By South Africa

Posted: 19 Nov 2012 01:47 AM PST

The South African Energy Department is seeking well over 3,700 MW of renewable energy project bids through tits Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. Recently, an American solar company, SolarReserve LLC, obtained $586 million in financing for the construction of two 75 MW solar farms in South Africa.


The country has a very large solar power upside. “Of all renewable-energy sources, solar energy is likely to have the biggest potential in South Africa, owing to the country having one of the highest and the most stable solar radiations in the world. The variable is around 3%, which means that, on a good day, solar radiation in South Africa is 100%, and 97% on bad days. These conditions are extraordinary," explained Subsolar Energy employee Dick Berlijn. There is also much unused land in the northern part of the country.

A target of 42% of new electricity from renewables by 2030 has been set. Wind, solar, biomass, and biogas are at the top of the list for new projects. Of course, feed-in tariffs are part of the strategy for expanding renewables. There is significant potential for wind power as well, though north Africa has more. Geothermal in South Africa has not been developed much yet, but there is some interest. The mining industry already digs below the 4,000 foot level where deep pockets of hot water are located. Additionally, there are about 87 warm natural springs which may have some geothermal potential for communities located in rural areas.

South Africa’s main source of energy currently is from burning coal. But, in 2006, it was estimated about 200,000 households there were employing photovoltaics, and that number is surely growing.

Image Credit: Jean-claude, Wiki Commons

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