Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

GE Purchase 2,000 Ford Plug-In Hybrids

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 02:23 PM PST

Tuesday saw Ford Motor Company announce that GE will purchase 2,000 Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrids for its company fleet, marking the largest plug-in electrified vehicle fleet sale Ford has made to date.

This marks another step for GE as it moves towards converting half of its global fleet to alternative fuel vehicles. With the addition of the 2,000 Fords, that will bring the number of alternative fuel vehicles in GE’s fleet to more than 5,000, bringing the company 20% of the way to its overall goal.

GE buys 2,000 plug-in hybrids from Ford

"Ford is launching six new electrified vehicles – a big bet that fuel prices will continue rising and lead to more demand for advanced fuel-efficient vehicles," says Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. "We are pleased to partner with GE, a company that is charting a similar course, to promote advanced technology and energy savings."

"At GE, we are focused on providing our customers and our fleet with more economically and environmentally efficient vehicles,” said Mark Vachon, vice president of ecomagination at GE. “The Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid is a great addition to our expanding fleet of alternative fuel vehicles."

In addition to the vehicle purchase, Ford and GE have pledged to work together with researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology to study the driving and charging habits of GE employees in an effort to improve the overall driving and charging performance of the GE alternative fuel fleet. Georgia Tech researchers will use Ford's MyFord® Mobile app to help in the procss.

"Understanding driving and charging habits is key to advancing vehicle and charging infrastructure," says Professor Bert Bras of the Sustainable Design & Manufacturing laboratory at Georgia Tech. "Through access to vehicle data, we can accelerate research and development of new technologies to further improve efficiency, driver satisfaction and environmental benefits."

SEIA Applauds Georgia Power Solar Roadmap (Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative)

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 06:50 AM PST

The following is the Solar Energy Industries Association’s statement on Georgia Power Company’s new solar roadmap:

Georgia Power files largest solar initiative in state historyWASHINGTON, DC – The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) today approved a roadmap put forth by the Georgia Power Company for how the company intends to create one of the nation's largest voluntarily-developed solar portfolios by an investor-owned utility.

To meet the 210 MW target put forth in the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative (GPASI), Georgia Power will add 90 MW of generation over 2013, 2014 and 2015 through a distributed sliding scale program for residential and commercial projects. The company will also add 120 MW of utility-scale generation projects between 2013 and 2015. The completed 210 megawatts of solar electric capacity will be enough to power nearly 20,000 average Georgia households.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association said, "We applaud the Georgia Public Service Commission for approving this plan by Georgia Power to help grow Georgia's burgeoning solar energy market. Approval of the GPASI is a great first step towards Georgia meeting its full solar potential. We're especially encouraged that the PSC and Georgia Power chose to add more distributed generation into this plan than what was originally proposed. This key addition will allow more families and businesses to go solar, while creating jobs throughout the state."

Peter Corbett, president and chairman of Georgia SEIA said, "Georgia SEIA is grateful for the efforts by the Georgia PSC and their staff to make the GPASI a reality. We are very pleased about the amount of distributed generation the PSC has included, which will make great strides in both expanding solar where it's needed most and helping it to become a key component of the energy mix for the rate base."

The solar industry more than doubled the amount of solar installed in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year compared to 2011, with growth continuing in the second half of 2012. Today, the solar industry employs more than 119,000 Americans at 5,600 companies, mostly small businesses, across all 50 states. The top 10 states for total solar electric capacity are (in descending order): California, New Jersey, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York and North Carolina. Georgia is not currently ranked in the top 25 states in terms of installed capacity in the latest Solar Market Insight® reporthowever, the GPASI projects are likely to propel the state much higher on the list in the coming years.


About SEIA:
Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is building a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works with its 1,100 member companies to make solar a mainstream and significant energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy. Visit SEIA online at

Good Energy Introduces 1st UK Local Electricity Tariff

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 06:36 AM PST

In an unconventional move, UK energy company Good Energy announced Monday it new Local Tariff, available for households living within two kilometres of the company’s flagship wind farm, the 9.2 megawatt farm in Delabole (north Cornwall).

Residents within the two-kilometre zone will qualify for the new tariff, which offers a 20% discount on standard electricity prices; enough to save the average Good Energy customer around £100 over a year. The discount will be available to current and new customers from early 2013, and will also pay out a ‘windfall’ credit of up to £50 per household every year that the turbines exceed their expected performance.

Electricity Tariff for Residents Near Wind Turbines

The Delabole wind farm

"I'm proud that Good Energy is leading the UK wind industry with a new model ensuring that people who live near our wind farms share in their success,” Juliet Davenport, CEO of Good Energy, said. ”Wind power has a huge role to play in meeting the UK's future energy needs, and we think that it's only right that our local communities should be recognised for their contribution to tackling climate change and reducing the UK's reliance on expensive imported fossil fuels."

The Local Tariff will also be available at upcoming wind farm sites as they are developed. Good Energy is hoping to install 110 megawatts of new renewable sites by 2016, and this new tariff will help the local communities benefit further.

"When we researched opinion in the local community, there was a very positive response from residents with 68% of those surveyed saying they would consider switching to a Good Energy Local Tariff once the benefits were explained to them,” explained Davenport. “This response is in line with the many inspiring community projects, such as Gigha in the Hebrides which generates two thirds of its own electricity with three wind turbines which are owned by the community."

And if hearing that the residents are happy from the executives isn’t enough for you, here is Susan Theobald, local Delabole resident: "Renewable energy projects have always been very close to my heart. I feel that people living in close proximity to wind turbines would be more sympathetic to this form of renewable energy if they were to gain some advantage from it, such as a favourable local tariff’.”

Source: Good Energy

Wind Energy Tax Credit Set To Expire At End Of 2012: Details

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 06:21 AM PST


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual and Monthly Electric Generator Report. 
Note: Click to enlarge. 
Note: Data for 2012 planned additions are based on industry data submissions and monthly updates on planned wind facilities. Left-hand axis plots current capacity of existing generators by their initial date of operation. Capacity may change over time as generators are altered. For recent years, these data are synonymous with capacity additions. Early in the time period, this data series may be missing generators that have since retired.

The wind energy production tax credit (PTC), along with state-level policies, has boosted the growth of the U.S. wind industry over the past decade, but the PTC is set to expire at year-end unless legislation extending its provisions is approved. This tax credit was first implemented in 1992, when the United States had less than 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind capacity. By the end of 2011, wind capacity stood at more than 45 GW, about 4% of U.S. power generating capacity, and provided 3% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2011. Wind’s generation share is below its capacity share because wind’s capacity utilization is limited to windy periods. Data reported to EIA for 2012 point to another year of significant wind capacity additions, following a trend of increasing capacity additions in anticipation of a PTC expiration.

Since its implementation in 1992, the PTC has significantly contributed to wind development in the United States by increasing the financial return on a wind energy investment and allowing wind plants to price their generation more competitively. The cycle of expirations and reauthorizations of the wind PTC (see red labels in chart) during the past decade has had a noticeable effect on wind development through its impact on the planning and financing of wind energy projects.

The PTC was first enacted as part of the 1992 Energy Policy Act as a replacement for prior incentives for wind generation under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and an investment tax credit (ITC) first made available under the Energy Tax Act of 1978. The PTC is a credit based on annual production of electricity from eligible resources. The initial tax credit of 1.5 cents per kilowatthour (1992 dollars) for the first 10 years of output from plants entering service by December 31, 1999, included an annual adjustment for inflation and is currently valued at 2.2 cents per kilowatthour (2011 dollars). Although amendments to the original law have expanded it to a wide variety of renewable resources and technologies, the original PTC applied to generation from tax-paying owners of new wind plants, as well as eligible biomass power plants.

In its early years, the PTC had little discernible effect on the industries it was designed to support. By 1999, when the provision was originally set to expire, U.S. wind capacity had begun growing again, and the PTC supported the development of more than 500 megawatts of new wind capacity in California, Iowa, Minnesota, and other states that had implemented policies to support or require renewable generation capacity.

State-level programs encouraged wind power development. For example, the mandate in Minnesota for 425 megawatts of wind power by 2003 was part of a settlement with Northern States Power (now Xcel Energy) to extend on-site storage of nuclear waste at its nuclear facility. In 1999, Texas became the first state to implement a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for a competitive electricity supply market.

Cycles of expiration and reauthorization. From 1999 to 2004, Congress allowed the PTC to expire three times, each time retroactively extending it several months after the expiration deadline had passed. The two-year cycle of expiration and re-extension is apparent (see chart, starting in 1999). In the 12-month period immediately prior to the expiration dates (which, after 1999, were always pegged to the last day of the calendar year), new installations reached high levels as developers rushed to beat the legislative deadline, followed by a substantial retrenchment in the following year as the status of the tax credit was sorted out.

Congress has not allowed the PTC to expire since passage of the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004. In the period from 2005 to 2010, the wind industry experienced a period of consistent year-over-year growth. This growth occurred as the number of states with renewable power requirements increased.

Recession and recovery. The break in this growth streak occurred in 2010, as an echo effect of the financial crisis and recession from late 2008 and 2009. While wind projects were still eligible for tax credits, a lack of investors with sufficient tax appetite, or tax-situation ability to take advantage of the credits, a general decline in the need for new sources of generation, and a decline in natural gas prices that hurt the competitiveness of wind on a cost basis all contributed to slower growth for wind capacity in 2010.

In 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Congress modified the PTC to address the tax appetite issue. In particular, the ITC was reintroduced for wind and other PTC-eligible technologies at a 30% level. In addition, projects starting construction before the end of 2011 may elect to receive an equivalent-value cash grant in lieu of the ITC (known as a 1603 Grant after its ARRA section number), thus mitigating the need for investors with sufficient tax burdens to be offset by the ITC.

Recent events. In 2011, wind power construction began to rebound from the 2010 retrenchment, largely with projects taking advantage of the 1603 Grant before its expiration. The trend has continued through 2012, with approximately 6 GW of new installations through October and another 6 GW expected to enter service in the last months of the year, as reported to EIA by project developers. If all reported capacity installations are completed as reported to EIA, 2012 would again set a record for new wind installations in the United States. In 2011, installed wind capacity stood at more than 45 GW, and generated almost 120 million megawatthours of electricity, accounting for about 4% of U.S. installed capacity and 3% of total U.S. generation in 2011.

Currently, the PTC is scheduled to expire for new wind generators entering service after the end of 2012. Other PTC-eligible technologies may continue to receive this tax credit for facilities that begin operation during 2013. Eligibility of these projects for the ITC will expire at the same time as eligibility for the PTC (end of 2012 for wind, end of 2013 for other PTC-eligible technologies). Projects that were under construction before the end of 2011 will still be eligible for a 1603 Grant, as long as they enter service prior to expiration of the PTC or ITC for their technology class.

This article was originally published on the website of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Al Gore On Climate Policy, Renewable Energy, Natural Gas, & More (100% Agree)

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 05:44 AM PST

David Roberts of Grist recently had the good fortune to have a good back-and-forth with Al Gore. Great questions and superb answers. To be honest, I was a little surprised to see that I agreed 100% with everything Gore said. There are many complicated issues below, and while I think I’ve studied them in good depth, I know Al has done so to a much greater degree (he’s got a few years on me). I knew we lined up on a few things, but I didn’t realize we were so in line. Anyway, with great pleasure, here’s the full Roberts/Grist repost:

Al Gore (cropped) via World Economic Forum (some rights reserved)

On Nov. 14-15, the Climate Reality Project held its second annual "24 Hours of Reality" marathon, spending an entire day and night live-streaming events and panels around the globe to highlight various aspects of the climate crisis. (This year's theme was "dirty weather.") More than 100 people — elected leaders, scientists, business people, and activists — appeared on panels and millions tuned in to watch.

I caught up with Climate Reality founder Al Gore around hour 18 of his all-nighter and asked him about current U.S. climate politics, carbon taxes, and natural gas.

Q. Did you see Obama's press conference the other day?

A. I heard the excerpts on climate, and [laughs] … oh …

Q. Go ahead!

A. No, I'm not going to go ahead! We have conflicting interests here! [laughs]

Well, I think it's too early to put a definitive interpretation on where he left it with that comment. I was genuinely encouraged that he said, in the first half of his answer, that he was going to conduct a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, etc. Many urged him to do it in the first term and I'm glad that he's pledging to do that now. That could take on a life of its own and have an impact how he thinks about it. And … as I say, I really do believe it's premature to put a definitive interpretation on what it means about his intentions.

Q. Did you hear [White House press secretary] Jay Carney this morning?

A. No, God help us, what'd he say?

Q. He said, "We would never propose a carbon tax, and have no intention of proposing one."

A. I don't think that comes as a big surprise to anyone. Those of us that hold out some hope that we will find a way to get a price on carbon, and know there are multiple ways to do it, have felt that the convergence of the fiscal cliff and the climate cliff could produce some surprising results. And there have been some private comments by some Republicans to that effect. But certainly that's something you wouldn't wanna bet money on in Vegas.

Q. What do you think of this idea of a revenue-neutral carbon tax?

A. I have proposed a revenue-neutral carbon tax for a long time, 30 years. I proposed it in my first book, Earth in the Balance.

I supported cap-and-trade because a lot of folks felt that it offered the opportunity for bipartisan consensus. And by the way, it may yet gain altitude globally — China, as you know, is implementing it in five provinces and two cities. They have indicated that they intend to use these pilots as a model for the nationwide program. Many are skeptical, but they often do follow through with what they say they're going to do. And [cap-and-trade] just started in California yesterday. Australia is now linking theirs to the E.U. system. South Korea's moving, British Columbia, Quebec — there are a lot of parallel developments that could converge, particularly if China does follow through. It's premature to write [cap-and-trade] off, even thought it's has been demonized and so many people are afraid to talk about it.

But from the very beginning, I preferred a carbon tax. (And by the way, I'd be in favor of both; I don't think they're inconsistent at all.) And yet, the political environment in the U.S. has not changed to the point where it's something you'd wanna bet on. But look, we've got to solve this. It's an irresistible force meeting an immovable object, and something's gotta give. I have enough faith in humanity to believe, against a lot of evidence, that we're going to solve this.

Q. Does this idea of a carbon/income tax swap make you nervous? The income tax is one of the only places we have progressivity in the U.S. tax code.

A. I have not proposed doing it on the income tax, I have proposed doing it on the payroll tax. I am also friendly to the notion of a rebate scheme, though I doubt they'll do that. It needs to be progressive — the rising inequality in the country is too serious to run the risk of worsening that.

Q. Do you worry that you getting out in front of this might brand it in a certain way —

A. Well, they come after anybody who speaks up in favor of doing something on climate. It's not going to surprise any of them that I'm in favor of it. I've said it on practically a daily basis for years and years.

Q. One thing that pops up every time you enter this debate is this notion that you've made a bunch of money off your green investments. I remember you saying to Congress that you've donated that money to your climate group.

A. I have. The question was about Kleiner Perkins [a venture-capital firm in which Gore is an investment partner]. I have given, and do give, every year, 100 percent of my salary and 100 percent of distributions from Kleiner Perkins to the Climate Reality Project. There is absolutely no income of any sort from Kleiner Perkins that I do not give completely and totally to the Climate Reality Project.

Q. The political climate in the U.S. seems stuck [on the climate issue]. What's your take on how it's developing in other countries?

A. First of all, I don't agree that it is stuck in the U.S. I really don't. I think there is a great deal of movement beneath the surface. I run into people all the time who are former deniers, former opponents of doing anything on climate who are saying, "Look, this is just getting too weird. It's clear that this is going on, we've got to do something." Now, we're not at the tipping point, but we're much closer than we have been.

I've said this before and I really do believe it's true: Changes like this don't occur in a linear way. The potential for change builds up, unmanifested, until it reaches a critical mass. You don't always see it coming. There are plenty of examples of that. I believe we're seeing just that kind of movement just beneath the surface here in the U.S.

States are moving. Local governments are moving. Business is moving thanks to the happy discovery by so many businesses that initiated sustainability changes for branding reasons that it makes them money. It's not a cost, but a benefit. By now, that's pretty widely known in the business community. News Corp, for goodness sakes, is CO2 neutral.  They don't brag about it. They do it because it saves them money.

I'm not saying we're right on the tipping point. I know better than that. But neither do I think it's accurate to say that we're stuck in neutral. I don't think we are.

But to get to your real question, I think that what happened in Australia was hugely significant. What's going on in China is quite significant. The fact that the E.U. is hanging tough and some member states are actually torquing up their commitment is very significant. I think Mexico is significant; we'll see what [Mexican President-elect Enrique] Peña Nieto does when he takes over in a couple of weeks, but they've made a commitment for 75 percent reduction and they've got a broad societal consensus. I think what Hawaii is doing is enormously significant. You know, a lot of countries around the world are looking at their hold cards, they're looking at the damage, and it is now translating into a set of commitments that are meaningful and will continue.

Q. The federal level is blocked up, but there's this movement underneath the surface. What's the right way to take advantage of that movement?

A. The sooner we can increase the scale of renewable installations, the steeper the cost down-curve is going to be. We've kind of got a Moore's Law Jr. underway on [solar] PV. Wind is not as steep as PV. Efficiency is probably steeper than both, or comparable to PV. So there are a lot of trends moving in the right direction. Any policies that accelerate the movement to scale will help.

In many areas, renewables, particularly solar and wind, are competitive. Not everywhere by a long shot, but in a growing number of areas. That in itself drives a certain tipping point, because when utilities are confronted with a better bargain, even with all the regulatory morass, they do make changes. We've seen 166 coal plants close. Yes, [natural] gas is a big part of it, but so is the impact of renewables on the margin. And that margin's getting wider and wider all the time.

Q. What's your take on the natural gas revolution that's happening?

A. I'm concerned about methane leakage — the fact that it's a valuable commodity and they have an incentive to capture it hasn't stopped the leakage. Particularly in the fracking process, when they pull the fluids out, there's just a huge outgassing. There are still leaks throughout the production and distribution chain, and the magnitude may well be sufficient to outweigh any CO2 advantage that you would otherwise gain.

The fact that [then-Vice President Dick] Cheney exempted [fracking] from [the Safe Drinking Water Act] really put the whole industry in such a privileged position, it disadvantages the advocates of the public interest, which was the intention. But it does mean that there are a lot of legitimate questions that need to be run to ground, no pun intended.

If you assume for the moment that those questions can be answered, then I think it's responsible — only in that circumstance — to view gas as a short- to medium-term bridge fuel, substituting for coal, to buy some time for getting to scale and riding the cost down-curve on renewables.

I do worry that we could make such a legacy investment in gas infrastructure that the nation's appetite for making a second conversion would be severely diminished. But I weigh that against the inherent market power of the cost down-curve for solar and wind reaching the point where utilities — and homeowners, and business owners — simply can't say no to it, even if we're in the middle of the bridge substitution strategy.

Q. Right now the activist community is taking on two big fights — one is against the Keystone pipeline, the other against coal export terminals in the Northwest. Where do you stand on those? Is it possible tokeep some of the coal in the ground?

A. I know the realpolitik and business perspective is to say, "It's gonna come out no matter what," but I don't buy that. We have a planetary emergency. I know it drives some people nuts when I say that, but dammit, that's what we face. We have to take that reality on board.

I'm going to support [Washington] governor-elect Jay Inslee. He is my close friend and I think he is going to handle this extremely well. The folks around the Northwest ports have their own reasons for being concerned about what's planned. I'm going to support those who are skeptical about this giant export strategy of coal.

And let me answer the first part of that question — you're probably not in as much suspense about that one. I am strongly opposed to that tar-sands pipeline. I think it's crazy. Again, you have the realpolitik/business logic, but I just think it is morally wrong for us to open a brand new source of even dirtier carbon-based energy when we are desperately trying to bend down the curves.

I understand why a lot of people think it's unrealistic in the extreme for one of these things to be slowed down or stopped. But you know, if you take that position, then you are inherently saying, "Well, it's not that unrealistic to destroy the future of human civilization."

New Solar Energy Technology Can Create Steam Without Even Having To Boil Water

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 05:10 AM PST

This article has been reposted from Solar Love with full permission.

A revolutionary new way to create steam simply by using sunlight, has been discovered by researchers. The method is able to bring an entire container of fluid to boiling point, even a container of icy cold water.

The new method has many potentially very useful applications. These include the creation of very inexpensive and compact devices that can purify water, the sterilization of medical equipment, sewage treatment, and more energy-efficient alcohol distillation.

“This research opens up a revolutionary new application of nanoparticles in solar energy,” said Paul Weiss, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of ACS Nano, the journal in which the new study was published. “The authors show that sunlight can be used to create steam with virtually no wasteful heating of the surrounding liquid. The potential societal benefits are staggering. They include more energy-efficient distillation of alcohol, a new and highly practical strategy for desalination and water purification and compact solar-driven sources of steam for sterilization and sanitation in resource-poor locations,” said Weiss.

The method is based on the use of metallic nanoparticles that can absorb very large amounts of light, which results in a significant rise in their temperature. That’s a very useful ability, and has generated a lot of interest amongst researchers. Other potential applications include cancer treatment, “laser-induced drug release,” and enhanced bio-imaging.

Previous research on the potential uses of nanoparticles in solar power technologies has focused almost entirely on using them to increase the ability of fluids to conduct heat. There hadn’t been any research done on the abilities of nanoparticles that are mixed into fluids. But as the new research shows, by mixing them directly into a fluid you can create very interesting effects.

“The new report explains that nanoparticles illuminated by light can quickly rise to temperatures above 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the boiling point of water. Steam forms around the surface of each nanoparticle, billons of which can be placed in water or other fluids. Eventually, the vapor escapes from the particle, forming nanobubbles that float to the top of the surface and escape as water vapor or steam, vapors of ethanol in the case of distillation of alcohol for beverages or fuel, or other vapors.”

The report documents, in detail, the varying amounts of steam that are generated in sun-exposed water solutions containing different types of nanoparticles. The two types experimented with were a silicon dioxide/gold type and a carbon type. Both solutions began producing steam in 5-20 seconds after being exposed to sunlight. “The gold nanoparticle solution produced steam in small ‘microexplosive’ bursts. The scientists used the gold nanoparticles to distill alcohol from water and got higher yields of alcohol than would have occurred by boiling the solution.”

The efficiency of the technology is one of its most impressive qualities, over 82 percent of the sunlight that was absorbed by the nanoparticles went directly to generating steam. The overall energy efficiency of the process was 24 percent, and that is without any kind of effort to optimize it.

“These results clearly indicate that solar steam generation is a process that has significant potential for use in a wide variety of energy- and sustainability-relevant applications,” the report states. “Solar-driven, stand-alone waste processing or water purification systems could be developed based on this process. High-temperature (about 240 degrees F. and above) steam produced directly using sunlight could also be used for compact sterilization or sanitation purposes, from the processing of medical waste to the cleaning of medical or dental equipment, minimizing the resource, time and input chemical requirements demanded by current methods. With further development, this approach may be adaptable to higher pressures and other working fluids to drive turbines in solar energy harvesting applications. This approach may also be modified to harvest radiant energy from sources other than the sun, for instance, for the capture of waste energy from geothermal, residential or biological sources.”

The new discovery was just outlined in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal ACS Nano.

Source: Rice University
Image Credits: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Red State Renewable Alliances Aims To Republicanize The Wind Industry

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 05:09 AM PST

I want to apologize straight off the bat for using a term such as ‘Republicanize’ but it seems the most applicable term for what the Red State Renewable Alliance aims upon its launch last week. Its hope is to promote the wind energy industry and its capacity for creating jobs throughout states that are predominantly conservative in nature.

Quoting from the press release put out by the Red State Renewable Alliance via PR Newswire:

“The mission of the Red State Renewable Alliance is simple: to tell the full story of the success of clean renewable wind energy in traditionally conservative areas of the country and emphasize the importance of incorporating this resources as part of an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy in the United States.”

Red States to Hear about Wind Energy

Moonrise behind the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm.

For those who have been around the Republican traps for awhile now, the name John Feehery might be well known to you. Feehery is a well-known Republican strategist and the former spokesman for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Tom DeLay. Feehery is also the Executive Director of the Red State Renewable Alliance, a firm believer in the wind energy industry, and he’s doing something about it.

“I am delighted to work hard to save jobs in the heartland of America, and to help preserve ‘all of the above’ as the energy policy of the United States.  Studies show that the wind energy production tax credit pays for itself, cuts utility costs for consumers and we all know that it is a clean energy resource,” said Feehery. ”We at the Red State Renewable Alliance will tell the story of wind energy and the wind PTC in new and innovative ways, and we will convert the doubters out there.”

The Red State Renewable Alliance aims to promote wind energy and extend the wind energy production tax credit in an attempt to maintain America’s leading position in the wind industry, a position that has it representing more than 20% of the world’s installed wind power, with nearly 500 facilities across 44 states manufacturing for the wind industry.

Source: Red State Renewable Alliance via PRNewswire
Image Source: Chuck Coker (some rights reserved)

Kazakhstan Will Launch Emissions Trading System In 2013

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 05:00 AM PST

Another day brings another major emissions reduction effort announcement, this time from mighty Kazakhstan.

Following in the footsteps of the European Union, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, California, Thailand, and Vietnam; the former Soviet republic will institute a greenhouse gas emissions trading system on businesses emitting more than 20,000 tons of CO2 annually, starting January 1, 2013.

This emissions trading system, KazakhCarbon, is part of Kazakhstan's goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 15 % by 2020 and 25% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels and driven by the Kyoto Protocol.

Only 180 businesses are expected to exceed the emissions cap, but they represent 80 percent of all emissions in Kazakhstan. These large emitters will be required to submit an emissions accounting to the country's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP). Companies that exceed their quota will have to purchase additional emissions allocations or risk losing their business license to operate in the country.

While being forced out of business may sound harsh, the Kazakh government will reward extra allocations to those businesses that reduce their emissions. Extra allocations can then be sold to companies that exceed their allotment, and become a revenue stream for the more efficient businesses.

The trading system is expected to increase demand for clean energy technologies and supplement existing laws that support renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy conservation markets.

Kazakhstan's effort is significant for two reasons, beyond the imperative of slowing global warming. First, the country is already experiencing climate change "in the form of expansion of desert and semi-desert areas, depletion of water resources, and intensified floods." Second, the oil and gas industries represent a major portion of the country's economy and are expected to grow in importance in coming years.

Faced with the choice of increasing emissions and climate change as industry increases, or using economic growth to spur a green economy comprised of energy efficiency and renewables, Kazakhstan is choosing the more sustainable path.

The Kazakh system also demonstrates a growing global market for emissions reductions, and the potential for international linkages to strengthen more mature systems like those in European Union, Australia, or even California.

Image Credit: Kazakhstan flag via Shutterstock

Dow Corning Developing Impressively Functional & Efficient Windows

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 02:52 AM PST

Tints block out excess sunlight during the summer, but continue to block it out when it is needed during winter, so Dow Corning is developing a controllable window which enables you to switch between a clear window and a translucent tint with the flick of a switch.

During the winter, you can let in plenty of warm sunlight, and during the summer, you can block it out.

opening a window

Opening a window via Shutterstock

The company intends to achieve this using liquid crystals of silicon which are arranged using an electric current to partially block sunlight, or to let it all pass through.

“Buildings account for 40 per cent of total energy consumption globally, while heating and lighting account for 50 per cent of the energy consumed in a buildings,” Elisabeth van den Berg, global business builder at Dow Corning’s business and technology incubator in Belgium, told BusinessGreen.

“Smart glazing has the potential to decrease by 30 per cent the amount of energy consumed in a building by being properly combined with an automated building management system.”

You have heard of the sunlight blockers such as window blinds/shutters, frosted windows, awnings, and curtains. While all of these offer considerable benefits, such as blocking out heat and protection from flying glass in the case of a broken window, they all block sunlight from getting into the room.

Thin curtains block a little, so the room is still lit during the day but not as hot thanks to the diffused sunlight. Awnings are convenient. These are a very effective solution to hot patios, and they keep direct sunlight out of verandas, too. However, they are also permanent.

Elisabeth van den Berg didn’t indicate when the product will be available, nor what it will cost, but said the technology would provide a prompt return on investment (once available).

Source: Business Green

GM Aims For 500,000 Electrified Vehicles By 2017

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 02:36 AM PST

General Motors (GM) senior vice president of Global Product Development told media attending the GM Electrification Experience in San Francisco this week that the company hopes to have up to 500,000 vehicles driving the roads with some sort of electrification by 2017. (Note: we’re not talking 500,000 vehicles that are 100% powered by electricity.)

"The plug-in offers a unique opportunity to change the way people commute," Barra. "Plug-based solutions will play a significant role in our technology portfolio going forward."

GM Aims to Sell 500,000 EVs by 2017

GM will be focusing on plug-in technology such as the Chevrolet Volt, introduced in 2010 and now a mainstay in the company’s electric vehicle space.

"What started out as a technology proof point… has turned into a real-world starting point to push EV technology further and faster than we thought possible five years ago," said Barra. "The unique propulsion technology pioneered in the Volt – the same technology that will be featured in the Cadillac ELR – will be a core piece of our electrification strategy going forward."

Future releases such as the Chevrolet Spark EV are benefiting from the lessons learned from the Volt, and will hopefully reach markets in 2013. "We'll meet requirements set by certain regulatory agencies, but we're not building the Spark EV to check a regulatory box," Barra said.

GM is already on track to sell more than 50,000 electrified vehicles this year, including the Volt and vehicles with eAssist light electrification technology such as the Buick LaCrosse, Regal, and Chevrolet Malibu. "Our commitment to eAssist is unwavering," Barra said. "In fact, our future portfolio calls for eAssist to be on hundreds of thousands of GM vehicles annually by 2017."

Source: General Motors
Image Source: HighTechDad (some rights reserved)

UK Aims To Save 22 Power Stations-Worth Of Power By 2020

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 02:26 AM PST

The UK government has launched a new strategy entitled the ‘Energy Efficiency Strategy’ that aims to save the equivalent of 22 power stations-worth of energy by 2020.

Published last week by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Strategy “is aimed at changing the way energy is used in sectors such as housing, transport and manufacturing over the coming decades.”

UK Saving 22 Power Stations-worth by 2020

The Strategy also includes immediate actions that the government hopes will help “kick start a revolution in UK energy efficiency.” Some details:

  • £39 million to fund five centres examining business and household energy demand. The five End Use Energy Demand Centres, funded by the Research Councils UK and project partners and led by leading universities, will look at what drives energy demand and how to change future behaviour.
  • An energy efficiency labelling trial with John Lewis. DECC and John Lewis will introduce a product-labelling trial next year that shows the lifetime running costs of household appliances. A similar trial in Norway showed that this information led to consumers purchasing goods that are more energy efficient.
  • A drive on financing energy efficiency for business and the public sector. As well as a guide to help public sector organisations cut their energy use, the government will fund a nationwide rollout of RE:FIT, the Mayor of London's award winning programme to improve public sector energy efficiency. The government is also working with ENWORKS in the North West to understand how best to finance and upgrade to more energy-efficient equipment in commercial and manufacturing businesses.

"We have put energy efficiency at the very heart of the Government's energy policy,” said Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker. ”Using energy more wisely is absolutely vital in a world of increased pressure on resources and rising prices. Not only can energy efficiency help save money on bills and cut emissions, it can support green jobs, innovation and enterprise.”

"This is Britain's first comprehensive Energy Efficiency Strategy and sets out the action we are taking now, as well as what we will do in the future to ensure the UK continues to be a global leader in reducing energy use," Barker added.

DECC's Energy Efficiency Strategy, the customer insight report and the Public Sector guidance report are all available on the EEDO webpages.

Source: Department of Energy and Climate Change
Image Source: Clean Energy Resource Teams

Apartment Upgrades In Windom, Harmony, and Buffalo Offer Savings For Residents

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 02:20 AM PST

From the 1960s to the 1980s many affordable housing projects were developed. As these units have begun to age, they require frequent repair and upgrades to address health, safety, and energy efficiency concerns. The Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP) found that incorporating energy efficiency measures into its housing accommodations was a win-win plan.

Projects focused on updating lighting, weatherization, and HVAC improved three apartment complexes in MN

Projects focused on updating lighting, weatherization, and HVAC improved three apartment complexes in MN

SWMHP is a non-profit community development corporation serving thirty counties in rural Minnesota. The organization's goal is to build strong and healthy places to live so that communities in southern Minnesota can thrive.

A new addition to this overarching goal is a commitment to sustainable housing practices. The SWMHP was working on a portfolio of projects called Zedakah, which included seven properties in their service area. At first the SWMHP was looking at HOME (Home Investment Partnerships Program) funding, but found that this grant did not fit all its needs and researched additional funding sources.

When they heard about the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program, they were pleased to find that it supported their plans for energy efficiency rehabilitation of several Zedakah properties. SWMHP also determined that money saved in the long term would outweigh the cost of the project for both parties involved (the SWMHP and the residents), allowing the housing partnership to invest the savings into future repairs and upgrades, and allowing residents to put the savings toward other basic needs.

This project encompassed energy upgrades to apartment complexes in Windom (Windom Apartments), Harmony (Harmony Manor Apartments), and Buffalo (Woodmere Apartments). The Windom Economic Development Authority (EDA) was a conduit for communication on the project, with Windom serving as the lead city throughout the project.

Several different funding sources came together to help with various aspects of the rehabilitation and energy efficiency upgrades. The total cost of the project was $1,528,870, of which $166,000 was EECBG-funded. The EECBG money was used at all three properties, and covered projects from window replacement to HVAC renovation. Other sources of funding came from HOME, Community Action Agencies, and Neighborworks America.

SWMHP Chief Operating Officer, Lisa Graphenteen, noted that there were some logistical challenges to implementing such a wide-scale project. "The funding sources did not always line up in regards to commencement and completion date requirements, so a contractor who could have completed all the work [earlier] needed to come back when a funding source became available," she said. Graphenteen also noted that having three different communities at which to simultaneously coordinate projects was difficult at times.

When asked what worked well, Graphenteen reported, "Minnesota Department of Commerce staff was flexible. When all the dollars were not needed on the original properties (Windom and Harmony), they helped figure out how to utilize the funds with the property in Buffalo."

Projects completed at the three apartment complexes addressed a variety of energy efficiency shortcomings. At the Windom apartment complex, old boilers were replaced with 94% efficient ones and controls were installed to better distribute heating. Furthermore, attic bypasses were sealed and the attic was reinsulated. Windows and doors were also weather-stripped to prevent drafts.

The Harmony building saw the replacement of 20 T12 lamps using magnetic ballasts with T8 25W lamps using electronic ballasts, 20 incandescent lamps with CFL bulbs, and new LED exit signs were installed. At least 25 windows in the complex were replaced and the attic was reinsulated to diminish draftiness. Changes took place on a smaller-scale level as well: ENERGY STAR–rated refrigerators replaced old units and temperature controls were installed in each of the apartments throughout the building.

The Buffalo apartments went through major window renovations as 140 windows were replaced with U-0.35 new windows.

While final energy savings data won't be available until the end of 2012, SWMHP has set a new precedent in the area of energy efficiency for affordable housing units. With the help of EECBG funding, SWMHP has begun to hold itself to a high standard in providing healthy, affordable, and efficient living at its properties.

Cost Breakdown:

  • EECBG: $166,000 used at three sites.
  • Community Action Agencies: $171,126 for weatherization in Windom and Harmony.
  • Neighborworks America: $69,684 was used on two properties: Harmony and Buffalo. The funds for the Buffalo property (Woodmere Apartments) were used for doors, insulation, A/C covers, CO2 and smoke detectors, boilers, and water heaters.
  • HOME: $1,122,060 covered rehabilitation and energy efficiency of the parking lot, cabinets, roof, carpet, paint, appliances, elevator, mechanical, smoke detectors, siding, plumbing, and windows in Buffalo and Harmony.

About the Local Government Energy Action Series:

Local Government Energy ActionThis year-long effort tells the stories of nearly 50 Minnesota municipalities, counties, and schools and the tangible results of their energy-saving efforts in order to inspire others to take their own actions. See all stories in this series >>

Local Government Energy Action is brought to you by the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources.

5 Green Jobs For College Grads

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 01:30 AM PST

Another cross-post from sister site Ecopreneurist, check out these 5 green jobs that are currently on the upswing:

Up-and-Coming Green Jobs for College Graduates (via Ecopreneurist)

While most college students are suffering from understandable trepidation when it comes graduating and starting the job search in a recession, those that have their eye on eco-industry will be happy to hear that fields focused on reducing pollution, consumption, and waste, as well as creating sustainable…

8 Green Apps

Posted: 21 Nov 2012 01:00 AM PST

Who doesn’t love them some good green apps. (Who would understand what the heck I was talking about if I said that 10 years ago?) Check out this list of 8 green apps from sister site Ecopreneurist:

Green Apps That Can Help You Live More Sustainably (via Ecopreneurist)

Here are a few apps that can help you save money, energy and live a healthier happier life. 1) greenMeter: Fuel savings on the road. greenMeter is an app you can download on your iPhone and position it as a GPS device. It is common knowledge that smoother driving with gradual acceleration, breaking…

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