Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

We’re Not Red Or Blue — We’re Purple (+ Cleantech News Bonanza)

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 05:57 PM PST

 
Here’s some more cleantech news from around the interwebs from the past few days or so (enjoy!):

Clean Energy (In General)

Punjab's New Energy Policy Aims For 10% Renewable Energy By 2020: “On Thursday, the Punjab government gave its nod to 'New and Renewable Sources of energy (NRSE) Policy- 2012', which focuses at enhancing new and renewable energy sources' contribution to 10% of the total installed power capacity of the state by 2020.  The policy also seeks to promote renewable energy programs and strategies for fulfilling energy/lighting needs”

Renewable Energy Is Increasingly The “Least-Cost” Option For Grid Expansion: “Last Friday, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published a report comparing the price of renewable power from various sources. The findings indicate that renewable electricity is now not only the best option for people off the grid, but also increasingly for grid expansion.”

German Power Providers Raise Prices 12%… Despite Lower Prices On Power Exchange: “The price hikes far exceed the increase in the surcharge that covers the cost of renewables power. Experts charge that the lower prices on the power exchange are still not being passed on to consumers.” (Note: this is a topic we’ve taken up a couple times before… or more.)

Transportation

Cargo Bikes, Familes, Redefining Material Wisdom: Cargo bikes are the next big part of a US biking revolution (imho). This post takes a look at that transition practically and more philosophically.

ebuggy Wins European Satellite Navigation Competition 2012: “The ebuggy e-mobility project has won the Hessen region's European Satellite Navigation Competition 2012. The award is sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA), the European GNSS Agency (GSA), the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), and Nokia, among others.” (Yes, we’ve covered the ebuggy already… of course. :D )

Solar Power

PV Evolution Labs Introduces New Soiling Measurement System For Solar Photovoltaic Modules: “North America's premier PV module testing lab, PV Evolution Labs (PVEL), [this week] introduced a new Soiling Station program for measurement of power and energy loss due to module soiling in the field. Soiling is the accumulation of dirt on PV modules, which can reduce annual energy output of a plant by up to 10% depending on the site location. Rather than guess about the level of soiling occurring, PVEL customers can now be certain about the performance of an existing site, or the expected performance at a proposed site.”

DOE Awards $2M To Thin-Film Solar Module Company Stion: “Stion, a manufacturer of high-efficiency thin-film solar modules, announced a $2M award from the US Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative to continue pilot production and scale-up of its ultra high-efficiency thin film modules based on proprietary tandem junction technology.”


 

Wind Power

100MW Lake Winds Energy Park Starts Delivering Electricity: Consumers Energy’s first wind park now consists of 56 wind turbines in Mason County, Michigan. “Consumers Energy is the largest supplier of renewable energy in Michigan. The utility is on track to meet a requirement in Michigan’s energy law that by 2015, 10 percent of the electricity it provides to its 1.8 million electric customers will come from renewable sources in the state.”

69MW Oahu-Based Kawailoa Wind Project Starts Delivering Electricity To Hawaii: “The 69 MW project has the potential to power 14,500 Oahu homes and becomes Hawaii's largest wind energy project to date.”

Siemens Received 138 MW Wind Turbine Order From South Africa: “Siemens Energy has secured the order for the Jeffrey’s Bay wind power plant with a capacity of 138 megawatts (MW). This marks the company’s market entry into the South African wind power sector. Siemens has now received a total of 16 orders for more than 270 onshore wind turbines from Europe and South Africa since July 2012. The total capacity of these projects of 730 MW is sufficient to supply 730,000 households with ecofriendly electricity, with 560 MW of this total booked in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012.”

Policy & Politics

We’re Not Red Or Blue — We’re Purple: “Throughout the 2012 election process I have wondered – are we as a people just red or just blue? Is our nation really this polarized? Are we, as some pundits suggest, mortal enemies with other Americans, doomed to repeat this year's obstructionist political gridlock? Or perhaps we are just reacting to compelling and effective extremist propaganda machines, and are victims of a conspiracy to polarize our country?”

Energy Efficiency Bill Gets An Upgrade: “U.S. senators passed a new bill this month called S.3591, the "Commercial Building Modernization Act," that extends and strengthens the existing 179D commercial building tax deduction for energy efficiency improvements in commercial buildings.”

China & Australia Release Energy White Papers — Huge Differences: “Australia's white paper is largely about our continued obsession with becoming an alternative "Saudi Arabia" of gas. It has a view we should take over as the world's largest exporter of gas before the year 2020…. China clearly views its energy security as the most fundamental feature of its future prosperity. It is building renewable energy industries as fast as is economically and technologically possible, as its major 'nation building' 21st century project. All government departments are focused on achieving the energy goals.”

Gigatonne Gap Is Growing: “Ever since the Copenhagen climate talks broke up in a haze of hot air and recrimination in late 2009, the United Nations has been keeping tabs on what the world says it wants to do and what it is actually doing.

“It doesn't make for pretty reading. What the UN found in its first "Emissions Gap Report" was a 10 gigatonne gap between rhetoric and action. That's 10,000 million tonnes more greenhouse emissions than the world could afford. Two years later, that gap is now around 14 gigatonnes of C02e (carbon dioxide and equivalents).”

Other

Waste To Energy Company Lands Some Big Sales: Blue Sphere Corp. announced this week that “each of its two waste to energy projects – a 5.2 MW plant in North Carolina and a 3.2 MW plant in Rhode Island - has signed a letter of intent with an international compost manufacturing and marketing company at prices of up to $20 per ton of compost.  With a combined daily output of 100 tons, that amounts to $730,000 in annual revenue or $438,000 in annual revenue from the North Carolina plant and $292,000 in annual revenue from theRhode Island plant…. Each project site already has a signed, 15-year power purchase agreement with two of the largest utilities in the United States and an organic feedstock supply agreement pursuant to which the Company will receive $35 per ton of organic waste it receives into each plant.”

10 Cool Things GM Has (Or ‘Have’ If Your British) Done To Reduce Waste: “In October, General Motors published a blueprint for companies to follow to reduce their waste going to landfill.  Buried within it are ten cool things GM has done to reduce its own landfill waste.”

Smart Distribution Networks To Help Germany’s New Energy Policy Succeed: “Siemens Infrastructure & Cities and the municipal utility SWK STADTWERKE KREFELD AG (SWK) are working together to transform the existing power supply system in Wachtendonk on the Lower Rhine in Germany into a smart grid for research and testing purposes. Siemens will supply the necessary components for the smart secondary substations, smart meters, as well as measuring, monitoring, and communication technology. SWK will combine these individual components into a smart system and test them in specially selected low-voltage networks. Other goals include developing and securing a data transmission system from the network to the SWK control center. Through this project, Siemens and SWK will acquire detailed information about the behavior of a distribution network with a disproportionately high number of renewable energy sources. Another goal is to test the applicability of technical components in everyday use in order to obtain insights useful for the further development of the smart grid.”


RGGI Emission Auctions Create $617 Million In Clean Economy Investments

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 04:18 PM PST

 
Fast on the heels of California's successful first emissions auction, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative's (RGGI) 2011 Investment Report finds CO2 trading systems reducing emissions while powering a clean energy economy.

The report states that auction proceeds have created $617 million in total investment for energy efficiency, renewable generation, utility ratepayer assistance, and green collar job training programs across the nine-state system.

RGGI is the nation's first operational greenhouse gas emissions reduction program, and it applies to power sector emissions. The system held its first emissions auction in September 2008, and has sold more than 450 million CO2 allowances in 16 quarterly auctions across a price range of $3.51 to $1.86.
 

 

Investments Across The Clean Energy Economy

Auction proceeds have generated a wide range of environmental and economic benefits. RGGI estimates the overall investments will return $1.3 billion in energy bill savings, offset 27 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity generation, and prevent 12 million tons of carbon emissions. In addition, an independent 2011 study found 16,000 new job-years created by the program.

Emissions fall, economy rises

Energy Efficiency And Utility Bill Assistance

Energy efficiency programs are the largest recipients of RGGI investments. 56 percent of 2011 investments, and 66 percent of cumulative investment to date has gone toward efficiency upgrades. Beyond lowering energy demand and preventing emissions, this funding is creating a robust energy efficiency economy across the region – six RGGI states were recently ranked among the top ten energy-efficiency markets nationwide by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

RGGI proceeds also directly help consumers manage their utility costs. 25 percent of 2011 investments, and 17 percent of cumulative investments to date have funded direct utility bill assistance programs to the tune of $107 million in bill credits for 2.3 million recipients. These credits often target low-income households and typically appear as a credit on the consumer utility bills.

Abatement, Adaptation, Renewables

Allowance revenue is also being directed toward emissions abatement and climate change adaptation. Nine percent of 2011 investments and five percent of cumulative investments have gone toward advanced transportation, industry emissions reduction, sustainable farming and land-use, and severe weather and sea level rise planning. Overall investment in this sector will prevent 2.3 million tons of CO2 pollution and save $690,000 in electricity costs.

Last but not least, auction revenue is making the region's electricity portfolio cleaner by funding new renewable energy generation. Five percent of both 2011 investments and cumulative investments to date have paid for new clean energy capacity through grants or low-interest financing for on-site generation at homes, businesses, schools, and government facilities.

Boosting Economy By Cutting Emissions

Allocation of RGGI auction revenue is up to each individual state in order to address each state's policy needs and circumstances. For instance, Maine and New Hampshire both push over 90 percent of their revenue toward energy efficiency programs, while Maryland and Connecticut direct their revenue into clean energy investment funds.

RGGI Investments by Program and Category

RGGI investments by program and category

It's hard to dismiss the overall impact RGGI's auctions have had on the regional economy and environment. By reducing emissions, boosting renewables, and cutting energy use, the system has helped speed the transition to clean energy future.

"RGGI investments have turned a triple-play that delivers significant economic, environmental, and consumer benefits to businesses and families in the region," said Collin O'Mara, Secretary of Delaware's Department of Natural Resources.

Top Image Credit: Carbon tax image via Shutterstock


Sunny Crowd Claims To Be 1st Crowdfunding Platform For Renewable Energy

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 03:58 PM PST

 
I know there are a number of folks working to create cleantech-focused crowdfunding sites, but I’m not sure if any are actually up yet. Sunny Crowd may be the first. Here’s more from Solar Love:

The English translation (from German) of the homepage of sunnycrowd.com says that it is “the first crowdfunding platform for sustainable energy, in which each with a small amount of renewable energy projects can participate online.” I’ll take that to mean that anyone with any size clean energy project can submit a proposal and try to get it crowdfunded. (Yes, for me, clean energy = renewable energy… natural gas, ‘clean’ coal, nuclear, etc not included.)

Further along on the site, there’s the following note: “Each project is reviewed by Sunny Crowd on security, stability, future potential and legality before we present it to our members.”

The folks at Sunny Crowd also note that you can expect a good return on your investment (ROI), which makes sense given that solar and wind power are increasingly the cheapest electricity options around the world, and especially in Germany (where Sunny Crowd is focused/based).

From the looks of it, that’s all there is to know for you. The actual crowdfunding doesn’t seem to be starting yet. We’ll keep our eye on the initiative and see where it goes. I’m certainly excited to get a first look at some of the first projects, and would be more than eager to invest my money into some clean energy projects!

My impression is that the site will include crowdfunding projects beyond Germany, but it’s not entirely clear. I’ll ping the folks over there as soon as I publish this and see if I can get them to let us know of their full plans.


Faroe Islands Demonstrate The “World’s First” Smart Grid

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 01:03 PM PST

 
The Faroe Islands archipelago (group of islands), which are 540 square miles (1,400 square miles) in area, are demonstrating the “world’s first” smart grid, and large-scale utilization of wind power.

The purposes and the anatomy of a smart grid is a mystery to some, but I will explain that.

The Purpose of a Smart Grid

First: Most power plants (especially steam plants such as coal, natural gas, and nuclear) cannot scale their electricity production much to match electricity demand, because they take too long to do so. As a result, they operate quite inefficiently as well.

This causes utility companies to use inefficient and costly grid sustenance systems such as peaking power plants to prevent brief blackouts.

Wind and solar power plants have a different but similar issue — they are not constant power providers without energy storage. Battery energy storage, for example, makes them fully scalable — they can respond to changes of power demand instantly, at their optimum efficiency, and you don’t even have to wait for them to start.

Unfortunately, batteries tend to be expensive. However, there are potentially cheap ways around that, as well as alternatives to batteries, including pumped hydroelectric storage.
 

 
Smart grids are intended to match electricity demand with production to minimize the amount of electricity that is wasted, and also to augment electricity production if possible in order to meet demand in the most efficient way possible, hence the term “smart.” They use advanced information and communications technologies “to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.”

In the case of the Faroe Islands, surplus electricity is transmitted across the islands in a matter of seconds to whoever needs it, using: Yes, you guessed it! Computers.

A computer is a tremendously powerful tool, unparalleled by any other.

Source: BusinessGreen


Samsung & LG Producing World’s Most Energy Efficient Televisions

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 05:51 AM PST

 
In the first ever SEAD Global Efficiency Medal competition for flat-panel televisions, Samsung and LG took the top awards for producing televisions 33 percent to 44 percent more energy efficient than similar competitors.

SEAD stands for the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment initiative, which is seeking to “transform the global market for efficient equipment and appliances.” The global awards program seeks to encourage the production and sale of highly energy-efficient technology, and aims to spur innovation among manufacturers as well as encourage consumer adoption of highly efficient appliances.

The first competition identified the most energy efficient and commercially available flat-panel television in three size markets, as well as one television which is the most energy efficient emerging technology. The awards were given to televisions that use 33 percent to 44 percent less energy than their technologically comparable competitors, while the emerging technology winner is 59% more efficient than comparable televisions on the market today.

“We have seen drastic improvements in TV energy efficiency over the last years, but the winning manufacturers demonstrate that the potential for improvement remains large,” says Peter Bennich of the Swedish Energy Agency.

SEAD Global Winners

  • The Samsung UN26EH4000F received the SEAD Global Efficiency Medal in the small-size (less than 29 in.) category.
  • Two Samsung models, the UE40EH5000W and UN40EH5000F, tied as the global winner in the medium-size (29 in. to less than 42 in.) category.
  • The LG 47LM670S received the SEAD Global Efficiency Medal in the large-size (42 in. and above) category.
  • An LG 47-inch backlit LCD prototype TV won the SEAD Global Efficiency Medal in the emerging technology category

 

 
SEAD also recognized regional winners. In North America, the most energy efficient TVs commercially available are:

  • Samsung UN26EH4000F in the small-size category;
  • Samsung UN40EH5000F in the medium-size category; and
  • LG 47LM6700 in the large-size category

Source: SuperEfficient.org via PR Newswire
Image Source: LG


Carbon Pricing Could Help Reduce European Deficits

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 05:45 AM PST

 
A new study published by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy shows that carbon pricing has the capacity to raise revenue in European countries and reduce their fiscal deficits more effectively than other taxes.

The new policy paper, entitled ”Less pain, more gain: the potential of carbon pricing reduce Europe's fiscal deficits” and authored by Professor Michael Jacobs and several co-authors looked at a new analysis conducted by Vivid Economics of the potential impact of energy and carbon taxes, as well as the changes to the European Union Emissions Trading System. The paper outlines how energy and carbon taxes raise as much revenue as other forms of taxation while having the added benefit of enacting reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and causing less damage to economic growth.

The paper concludes: "Many European countries are running high annual fiscal deficits and have high debt liabilities, and are looking at options for raising tax revenues. While energy-carbon taxes have generally been considered to be instruments of environmental rather than fiscal policy, it is time to reconsider that view."

Professor Jacobs’ analysis suggests that energy and carbon taxes are capable of having a smaller impact than other taxes, such as labour taxes, on gross domestic product (GDP) and employment.

For example, an energy tax package introduced in Spain which included an increase in duties on transport fuels has the capacity to raise more than 10 billion euros each year by 2020, while similar packages implemented in Poland and Hungary could generate approximately 5 million euros and 1 billion euros a year, respectively.

The paper points out that the evidence shows that energy and carbon taxes "currently play too small a role in the tax portfolio of many European countries." It adds: "This evidence is not widely known, which perhaps is why energy-carbon taxes do not fulfil their potential role in fiscal strategy."

It states: "Unlike the taxation of labour or consumption via VAT, there is an appropriate minimum level of energy taxation. This minimum reflects the costs energy consumption imposes on society. Those costs are primarily proportional to the carbon content of energy (more precisely, its contribution to global warming)."
 

 
The paper suggests: "It is crucially important for the future low-carbon competitiveness of the EU to get the taxation of the major fuel types – petrol and diesel – right. Currently, EU countries collect less revenue from diesel than they could, with negative implications for the fiscal balance."

"The solution is to agree a collective increase in diesel tax rates. Of course, rates which have for so long remained differentiated cannot be raised overnight, because the public would not accept it. Yet, a gradual programme of alignment would be worthwhile for all countries and for each individually."

Source: Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
Image Source: Karsten Hitzschke (some rights reserved)


“Super-Sensitive,” Mobile Methane Detection Device A Boon For Public, Natural Gas Providers: PG&E Now Using It

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 05:36 AM PST

 
Natural gas is the largest source of human methane (CH4) emissions in the country. A greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, methane leaks also pose a range of other environmental health and safety risks, from the effects of chronic exposure, to that of explosions. New mobile equipment from Picarro is providing natural gas providers and others the ability to detect the origin and nature of methane leaks much more precisely and on the fly with unprecedented sensitivity.

Researchers recently used a mobile cavity-ring-down CH4 analyzer to map methane emissions across all 785 road miles of natural gas pipelines in Boston. Publishing the results in a report in the Feb. 2013 edition of Environmental Pollution, they found 3,356 methane leaks with concentrations up to 15 times higher than that of global average background levels.

The cavity-ring-down CH4 spectrometer also allowed them to analyze the isotopic CH4 "signatures" of the methane leaks from a subset of all they identified. These strongly indicated "a fossil fuel source rather than a biogenic source for most of the leaks," concluding that "repairing leaky natural gas distribution systems will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase consumer health and safety, and save money."
 

 

PG&E Puts Picarro Surveyor to Work in California

San Francisco-based utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) says it’s the first power utility in the world to put the Picarro Surveyor to use on a wide-scale basis. On Oct. 1, PG&E announced it was expanding its collaboration with Santa Clara-based Picarro and would deploy six Picarro Surveyor devices to detect natural gas leaks throughout its Northern and Central California service area.

The new, "super-sensitive" devices are some "1,000 times more sensitive than traditional leak detection equipment, capable of detecting leaks down to one part per billion in ambient air while reducing false positives from biological sources of methane," according to the companies.

They will be mounted on PG&E vehicles, enabling field staff to detect and precisely identify the sources and nature of methane leaks while on the go. This will be a big improvement: not only are the devices more sensitive and precise, analyzing the isotopic chemical composition of leaks can be performed and communicated via the Internet, in real-time.

Walking the Lines

This type of work previously required PG&E field staff to walk miles and miles of natural gas pipelines in search of leaks, using hand-held emissions detection devices much less sensitive and powerful in terms of their analytical capabilities. That should translate into sizable cost savings for PG&E, as well as greater environmental health and safety for workers and the public.

"Picarro Surveyor allows us to not only locate hard-to-find leaks with greater accuracy that we didn't have before, but it also has the ability to distinguish between natural gas in PG&E's system and naturally occurring methane," stated Steve Redding, director of gas maintenance and construction for PG&E.

"By deploying this technology in our service area, we are better equipped to manage our pipeline network and enhance the safety of our customers and employees. We have felt all along this technology would be a breakthrough in our goal to be the safest utility in the U.S., and now that we are using the instrument in the field, it is exciting to see how it enhances our gas operations."

On Nov. 1, PG&E announced that PG&E field crews using Picarro Surveyor devices mounted on company vehicles in Northern California had located and identified two potential natural gas leaks that the crews had spent months trying to find.

PG&E crews conducted walking surveys, lengthy permitting processes, and seven separate investigative digs. The team was equipped with the mobile Picarro Surveyor located one in Northern California’s East Bay. It proved not to be a natural gas leak, but "a natural breakdown of petrochemicals unrelated to PG&E’s system," according to a press release.

PG&E began testing Picarro Surveyor devices mounted on two company electric vehicles around nine months ago. "They've proven to be so powerful that we are committing to rolling out this innovative technology across our service area," Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E's executive vice president of Gas Operations, commented.

"And because Picarro Surveyor will allow us to conduct more frequent and comprehensive surveys, we expect to support the deployment with the hiring of more leak detection and remediation professionals. We're making every effort to ensure that PG&E is the safest utility in the United States, and Picarro's technology is a cornerstone to making that happen."


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