Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Blisteringly Powerful 310 MPH Train Unleashed

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 12:56 PM PST

The JR Tokai (JR Central Railway Company) from Japan has unveiled a MAGLEV electric train that can attain speeds of 310 MPH.

It has been under development for a very long time, and it is still just slated to commence service in 2027, but we can ogle it anyway!

The train will first be implemented on a route between Tokyo and Nagoya. It is expected to take 40 minutes to travel this160-mile route, which cuts the current travel time in half.

According to, it utilizes a 92-foot-long front car, of which 49 feet form an aerodynamic nose section, and JR Tokai plans to expand it to serve Osaka at a total cost of $102 billion.

The train is designed to pull up to 15 cars and transports up to 1,000 commuters.

MAGLEV (Magnetically Levitated) trains operate in a unique manner, and provide the following benefits:

  1. They use no wheels, which eliminates track noise.
  2. They are completely friction-less, although still subjected to drag caused by air.
  3. They operate without batteries (although, wheeled electric trains can too, using overhead power lines, which are actually very common).
  4. They are extremely efficient, unparalleled by any land vehicle.
  5. They can be powered by any fuel, including renewable ones, because they are electric.

Even their motors are not fully mounted on the train. Part of the linear electric motor is on the bottom of the train, and the other part is on the track.

Permanent magnets are mounted on the bottom of the train, and computer-controlled electromagnets on the track push the train forward.

The high speed of MAGLEV trains may have some indirect practical benefits. For example, they should encourage more ridership, because high-speed transportation is greatly appreciated by many that need to get to their destinations promptly (sometimes I wonder how many people are late for work every day).

Source: Inhabitat
Photo Credit: 

Blisteringly Powerful 310 MPH Train Unleashed was originally published on: CleanTechnica

2013 Fiat 500e Recharges The Electric Vehicle

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 12:44 PM PST

Fiat is planning on introducing the all-new 2013 Fiat 500e in the second quarter of 2013, and the company believes that this new small car “electrifies the next chapter of the brand's legacy by embodying the FIAT brand's simple, purposeful and fun-to-drive values – through iconic style, engaging dynamics and an environmentally responsible zero-emissions design.”

Whatever that means.

Fiat 500e Builds a Greener Future for Chrysler

“The Fiat 500e changes the paradigm in an electric vehicle market that’s quickly becoming crowded,” said Tim Kuniskis, Head of FIAT Brand North America. “The Fiat 500e offers iconic Italian design and a great combination of performance and range, with battery technology that delivers consistent performance across all weather conditions.”

Time and time again I’m surprised by my editor’s insistence* that I write these car pieces. Why? you might ask? Because I’m nearly 30 and I still haven’t bothered getting my drivers license. I don’t get cars, but here I am reporting on them anyway.

To be fair, this new little Fiat looks really beautiful and according to the information provided by Fiat it is building towards a much greener future.

The new 2013 Fiat 500e is “designed to be a no-compromise electric vehicle” by building on the early Fiat “Cinquecento's successful small-car formula” by introducing an all-new battery-electric powertrain that is capable of producing 111 horsepower, recharges in less than 4 hours, and delivers nearly 130 kilometres (80 miles) of estimated driving range and over 160 kilometres (100 miles) in the city with no tailpipe emissions.

The 500e also comes with an all-new, world-class chassis and suspension for the new electric powertrain and an increase of 13% in aerodynamics thanks in part to over 140 hours of wind tunnel testing and refinement.

The Fiat press release is filled with hyperbole that simply leaves me baffled, but for those who want to witness the reason some public relations officers are paid more than others, here are a few highlights:

  • The all-new Fiat 500e pushes its iconic Italian design forward with its wind-tunnel-sculpted shape and retro-futuristic dot-matrix styled cues for a cutting-edge look.
  • Inside, 2013 Fiat 500e fuses retro-futuristic design with unique EV technology elements for an environment comprised of simplicity with innovation.


All in all, the new Fiat 500e will be a highlight of the 2013 automotive year and is set to arrive at the FIAT Studios in California sometime during the second quarter of 2013.

Source: Chrysler

*Editor’s note: no writer is ever pressured to cover any particular story; however, a number of stories (regarding different types of cleantech) are throughout the day provided to writers to choose from (if they’re into them). :D

2013 Fiat 500e Recharges The Electric Vehicle was originally published on: CleanTechnica

IBM Helping UK Ministry Of Defence Go Smarter And Greener

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 12:31 PM PST

IBM has partnered with the UK’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to provide the department with its smarter buildings software and services in an attempt to reduce building costs and increase efficiency.

"The award of this contract to IBM represents a major milestone in transforming the Defence Infrastructure Organisation since it will allow us to work smarter in providing a Defence estate, which meets military needs and supports our Armed Forces," said Andrew Manley, DIO Chief Executive.

"IBM analytics technology helps us continue our work in creating a world-class infrastructure to put DIO at the leading edge of the technology transformation process happening right now across the MoD."

IBM Helping UK Defence Go Green

Buildings currently account for 45 percent of all carbon emissions in the UK and the country’s Ministry of Defence has responded by attempting to better utilise their resources, including their many real estate assets.

The Ministry of Defence is one of the UK’s largest landowners, covering some 900 square miles and around 45,000 buildings, 55,000 houses, and 135,000 “single living bedspaces.”

DIO will use IBM technology and software to help meet the Ministry of Defence goals by replacing its outdated legacy IT equipment.

The IBM TRIRIGA solution provides an integrated approach to property management by combining software and consultancy services that will give DIO visibility of all its assets from a central location, and data on how efficiently their assets are being used.

"Having the right data at the right time is essential for DIO," said Dave Bartlett, vice president, Smarter Physical Infrastructure, IBM. "IBM's analytics and smarter buildings software will help provide a new level of intelligence to how the MoD is managing its global real estate portfolio."

Source: IBM

IBM Helping UK Ministry Of Defence Go Smarter And Greener was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Chevy Volt Driver’s Savings After One Year (Getting 980 MPG!)

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 07:00 AM PST

First of all, I’ll just note that these are simply the results of one Chevy Volt driver. Not the best, not the worst. I’ll get to some stats from other drivers after the repost.

After one of our dozens of Chevy Volt posts, a Volt driver dropped us a note that he had bought the car and had a blog going on his experiences with it. I was interested, so subscribed to the blog. Yesterday, “Volt Owner” posted an update showing his stats, including savings, after 1 year of driving the Volt. Here’s his full post:

“I am not going to do a big write-up on this one.  I think the numbers speak volumes.  At the end of the year, I will calculate the yearly average price of fuel (will likely be about 20 cents higher than  he current rates listed) and give a total.  Look for that post around the one year anniversary mark, which will be January 7, 2013.

“If you drive a car that gets 23 MPG (the national average), the yearly savings based on my driving habits and electricity costs are going to be around $3000 PER YEAR.”

volt miles savings

Kudos to this driver, for sure — 980 MPG! (And a savings of about $2000-3000 to reward him for that.)

But some others are actually fairing even better. “Volt Owner” would rank 58th on the Volt Stats site right now, based on MPG. (In actuality, my hunch is that this driver is #54 — @Voltdriver — but that’s just a hunch.)

The current top 10 Volt drivers based on MPG (on that site) are as follows:

  1. Rocky Volt (100% electric so far!) — 15167.95 MPG! (92.45 MPGe)
  2. CT GM-Volt — 9789.12 MPG (92.28 MPGe)
  3. Millenium Falcon — 6565.84 MPG (91.95 MPGe)
  4. Volt — 4534.24 MPG (91.34 MPGe)
  5. PLUG1N — 4375.99 MPG (91.70 MPGe)
  6. Gary and Lisa’s Volt — 3928.43 MPG (90.95 MPGe)
  7. Red-Volt — 3696.61 MPG (90.91 MPGe)
  8. Mike’s Volt — 2966.31 MPG (90.50 MPGe)
  9. MaxVoltage/BudClary — 2774.73 MPG (90.77 MPGe)
  10. TrunkMonkey — 2729.27 MPG (90.84 MPGe)

Pretty amazing ratings, eh? All of those drivers are driving at 99% electric or higher. Of those, PLUG1N has the most EV miles – 19657.43 — while Mike’s Volt has the fewest – 1731.76.

If you love to look at stats (and who doesn’t), check out Volt Stats for other interesting tidbits.

Chevy Volt Driver’s Savings After One Year (Getting 980 MPG!) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Who Needs Third-Party Finance? Loan Programs Offer Low-Cost Direct Ownership Opportunities

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 06:21 AM PST

By Michael Mendelsohn (reposted from NREL)

Direct ownership of solar systems offers an array of benefits generally not available to third-party finance. And new loan programs are making it easier to achieve that goal.

To date, direct ownership has not been a primary driver of small-scale solar deployment. Instead, residential and commercial customers alike appear to strongly prefer third-party ownership—via leases or power purchase agreements—over direct ownership. According to SunRun, 75% of the California market relies on third-party financing [1].

That’s likely due to the immediate cash requirements necessary to invest (a typical 5-kW residential system can cost on the order of $20,000–$35,000, assuming installation costs of $4–$7/W). And if my own experience is any indication, end-use customers are generally not interested in filling out the paperwork necessary to recover the tax credit offered to homeowners (as distinct from the business investment tax credit or 1603) or utility renewable energy certificates (RECs).

With respect to the cash layout, there may be some new opportunities to borrow the lion’s share of the installed system costs, negating most out-of-pocket expenses. And although there is likely more paperwork than in a third-party lease transaction, the benefits of direct ownership may be worth the effort.

One example loan option is the “Step Down” program offered by Admirals Bank. Step Down works directly with installers and developers to essentially promote the program through their client contacts. Step Down is available in every state except for Texas. According to Ryan Wells, Vice President and Director of Renewable Energy Programs for Admirals Bank, the bank is signing up roughly 7 to 10 new contractors every day, and the bank is writing several million dollars in residential solar loans each year [2].

Step Down is a registered program under Title 1, administered by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to HUD, the agency insures eligible private lenders against loss on property improvement loans they make. Loan applicants must have good credit histories and the ability to repay the loan in regular monthly payments.

Title 1 loans are capped at $25,000 for single-family homes or $60,000 for multifamily structures and can have maximum terms of 20 years. Different loan aspects apply for manufactured housing—whether on permanent foundations or not.

Wells indicated the bank loans under Step Down carry a fixed simple interest rate of 4.95%–9.95% for most borrowers and are tax deductible. He also argued direct ownership—achievable for many when partnered with a low-cost loan—offers several advantages over a third-party lease, including locked-in payments (some third-party leases escalate annually), a likely appreciation to the home, and ownership rights to alter or move.

I searched for developers that know about Title 1 financing and found several. For example, Black Platinum Solar—serving the Phoenix, Arizona, region—encourages customers to consider a Title 1 home loan. The company—an Admirals Bank client—explains, “[u]nlike a lease, as the property owner you own the PV system, receive any incentive rebates from your utility company, and can take the state and federal tax credits.” Which, as mentioned above, can be a lot of work but may also provide significant cost benefits to motivated homeowners. Other loan specifics include:

  • No equity or appraisal necessary
  • Both secured and unsecured loans available
  • Flexible terms (5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years)
  • Fast pre-qualification process, typically in 24–48 hours
  • 100% up-front funding
  • Low, fixed rates based on current market rates in your area
  • Tax-deductible interest (be sure to consult your tax adviser)
  • No pre-payment penalties.

In fact, a wide range of other government programs are available, including from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Veteran’s Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency [3]. These programs offer customers a wide range of financing opportunities and should speed deployment of solar systems.


[1]: SolarServer (2012), “California Third-Party Owned Solar Exceeds USD 1 Billion Mark,”, accessed August 27, 2012.
[2]: Phone interview with Ryan Wells, Admirals Bank, June 5, 2012.
[3]: See “A Listing of Residential Solar Financing,” Rich Hessler Solar Sales Training,, accessed June 7, 2012.

Who Needs Third-Party Finance? Loan Programs Offer Low-Cost Direct Ownership Opportunities was originally published on: CleanTechnica

UK Energy Bill Unveiled, BP Locked Out From US Govt Contracts, Germany Cuts Grid Expansion Plans (+ More Cleantech & Climate News)

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 05:48 AM PST

Busy week behind us. Here’s a bunch of cleantech and climate news from around the interwebs:

Clean Energy (In General)

Germany Drastically Reduces Forecast For Grid Expansion: “On Monday, the German Network Agency slashed the number of urgently needed power lines needed for the energy transition from 74 to 51. The overall line length was reduced in the process from 3,800 to 2,800 kilometers.”

UK Energy Bill Published – As It Happened: “Reaction, details and analysis on the publication of the coalition government’s energy bill, which promises to both ‘keep the lights on’ and reduce carbon emissions.” (Also see: This Energy Bill Will Fire Up The Renewables Industry)

Solar Energy

Ontario To Proceed With FiT And microFiT Programmes“Further to the draft bill released in August, the Ontario Ministry of Energy has directed the Ontario Power Authority to continue the province's feed-in tariff and microFiT programmes, in order that a pilot programme can be initiated as soon as possible in 2013.

“The directive outlines specific government policy that needs to be implemented with respect to ground-mounted solar PV projects, strengthening community and aboriginal participation, re-launching the Community Energy Partnerships Program (CEPP) and Aboriginal Renewable Energy Fund (AREF) and connecting constrained MicroFIT projects.”

India Initiates Anti-Dumping Investigation Against China, The US, & Others: “The Indian Ministry of Commerce has initiated anti-dumping investigations against China, Malaysia, Taiwan and the US, following a complaint from the Solar Manufacturers' Association (SMA).

“As with the US-led anti-dumping investigation against China, which was resolved earlier this month, the Indian investigation is also against solar cells imported from these countries ‘whether or not assembled partially or fully in modules or panels’. The period under investigation will be between 1 January 2011 and 30 June 2012.”

Desarrollos Fotovoltaicos de Chile Submits Plan For 98MW PV plant: “Desarrollos Fotovoltaicos de Chile, a solar company based in Santiago, Chile, is seeking approval for its proposed 98MW PV facility in the Tarapac√° region in northern Chile and has submitted its plans to the Chilean environmental authority, Servicio de Evaluaci√≥n Ambiental (SEA).”

SunEdison Signs 20 MW PPA With The City Of Riverside: “SunEdison, a leading worldwide solar energy services provider and a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR), [yesterday] announced a new 25 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to deliver 20 megawatts (MW) to Riverside Public Utilities (RPU), the municipal electric utility of the City of Riverside, California.”

LightManufacturing Selects San Luis Obispo-based Power-Save Energy As Supplier Of Photovoltaic Solar Panels For Solar Manufacturing Systems“LightManufacturing’s heliostats (sun tracking mirrors) keep reflected sunlight on a target, providing heat and light for buildings and industry without the use of fossil fuels.

“The firm’s H1 heliostat is marketed as the ‘lowest cost per reflected watt’ heliostat available, in part due to the use of a tensioned reflective membrane instead of glass.

“The firm sells the H1 heliostat as a stand-alone product, and as part of solar plastic molding systems. These systems focus heat from ten or more heliostats onto a metal mold, melting plastic and making useful products like water tanks. No fossil fuels are used to heat the molds, saving money and reducing emissions.”

Wind Energy

Vestas Boss Warns UK Government Is Jeopardising Energy Investment: “Ditlev Engel, CEO of the world’s biggest wind firm, condemns UK’s lack of consensus and failure to set decarbonisation target.”

Smaller-Scale Development May Follow ‘Golden Age’ Of Wind“Communities that have been engaged by and in communication with the wind industry may be the best sites for future wind development, speakers said Nov. 15 at the American Wind Energy Association fall symposium in Chandler, Ariz.

“Targeting customers who want wind makes a big difference, said former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver. With many large utilities already meeting state renewable portfolio standards, community wind could be the next market in the second-largest wind-producing state in the U.S.” (h/t NewEnergyNews)


Senators Push Obama To Propose Clean Gasoline Rules: “The lawmakers, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, want the Environmental Protection Agency to propose rules that would slash the sulfur content in gasoline this year and to finalize them next year.”

The Take it to The People Program: “My name is Ron Hatton, and I am a garage-level tinkerer. Just a tinkerer like many others, but one who has actually made a discovery that could literally change the planet.

“I’ve dedicated the last 30 or so years of my life to finding something to release the all the power in a gasoline engine. I’ve seen some pretty cool things happen on my workbench, just like many thousands of people around the world. The difference with me is I actually found something. Something that is truly difficult to believe.”

Climate Change

Extreme Weather Calls For Action, U.N. Climate Chief Says: “Extreme weather from melting Arctic ice to Superstorm Sandy shows snail-paced U.N. climate talks have to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the head of the U.N. weather agency and its climate chief said on Wednesday.”

Developing Cities Must Protect Against Climate Risks: Study: “Time is running out for many developing countries to protect their growing cities against future environmental risks and resource scarcity, a report by engineering and design consultancy Atkins showed on Wednesday.”

Sea Levels Are Rising Much Faster Than Previously Predicted: “Global sea levels are rising much faster than previously estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC), new research has shown. 60 percent faster to be exact, if such a rate was to continue, or even increase as is likely, sea level rise could be very significant by the end of the century, and have important consequences for humans.” (Also see: Study: Sea Levels Rising 60% Faster Than Projected, Planet Keeps Warming As Expected)

The Arctic Lost US-Sized Sea Ice in 2012: “The UN's World Meteorological Organisation has released it's provisional annual statement on the state of the global climate and it shows that, if things keep going as they have for the first 10 months of the year, 2012 will join the ranks of warmest years on record that have been filled by the years 2001 to 2011.”

Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility: ”Ever wonder where the climate deniers stand in the scientific community? Although it is not uncommon to see a news contributor (aka: research scientist) on one of the opinionated news outlets state the long-debunked nonsense that "human-caused global warming is not real," these scientists almost always base their findings upon opinion and not peer-reviewed facts.”

Future Climate Talk Host Poland Needs Big Ambition Now“The UN's choice of Warsaw, Poland as the host city and country of the next UN climate negotiations meeting known as COP19, is unacceptable as long as Poland does not change its level of response required for the climate crisis.” (Also see Greenpeace statement: Poland Must Prove Trustworthiness As Host Of 2013 Climate Talks)

Fossil Fuels

Since Election Day, Big Oil Lobby Dropped $3 Million On Ads To Protect Its Tax Loopholes“On election night, polluter-backed candidates lost in some of the most expensive races targeted by polluters, despite outside ad spending that tallied to $270 million.

“The American Petroleum Institute already has 2014 in its sights, and it is spending aggressively to protect the oil industry's multi-billion-dollar tax breaks. Three weeks since election day, API has spent $3 million on TV ads, according to a ThinkProgress analysis of Kantar Media's CMAG data. That is already $1 million more than what API spent in the final two months of the election, as part of its ‘I'm an Energy Voter’ campaign.”

US Suspends BP Contract Bids Over Lack Of ‘Business Integrity’: “Symbolic gesture or real threat? It’s hard to tell the seriousness for BP of today’s temporary ban from bidding for US contracts.

“What we do know is that BP was taken completely by surprise when the US Environmental Protection Agency imposed a suspension due to the UK company’s ‘lack of business integrity’.”

Discussion: What Do EPA Sanctions Mean for BP's Future? “ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten has been covering BP since 2005, reporting on the company's subsequent $7.8 billion settlement and outlining the potential impact of sanctions early on.”

UK Energy Bill Unveiled, BP Locked Out From US Govt Contracts, Germany Cuts Grid Expansion Plans (+ More Cleantech & Climate News) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Local Community Benefits From Large Solar Power Plants

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 04:47 AM PST

We mentioned a horrid piece of solar power reporting from the LA Times this week. BrightSource Energy has a full response to that piece, reposted below (h/t NewEnergyNews):

Solar Projects Benefit Counties

As other reporters and bloggers have pointed out, Sunday's Los Angeles Times ran a one-sided and misinformed article questioning the economic benefits of utility-scale solar projects on desert counties.

Let's be perfectly clear – the counties where utility-scale solar projects are being built are benefitting significantly in direct and economic investments, tax revenues and job creation.  For example, our $2.2 billion Ivanpah project is more than 70% complete and is employing more than 2,000 workers on site today.  At its peak, the project employed more than 2,100 workers, and is estimated to generate $250 million in construction wages and $650 million in total wages over its 30-year life.  More than 80 percent of these workers are from the local union halls in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.  Many of these trade workers were unemployed for years following the economic downturn in 2008.  Today, they are earning good wages to support their families and buying goods in their local communities.  You can meet a couple of these impressive construction workers by viewing this video.

The Ivanpah project is also estimated to generate approximately $300 million in local and state tax revenues over its 30-year life.  The wages and taxes generated at Ivanpah only represent the project's direct economic benefits.  The indirect benefits to local businesses are estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.  The Ivanpah project also takes pride in supporting the local community by contributing to High Desert universities and philanthropic organizations, supporting job training opportunities, youth organizations, veteran's services and more.

As a solar developer, we understand that our projects will have impacts on local infrastructure, such as roads and emergency services.  This is why we work closely with local leaders to better understand our impacts, identify ways to minimize them wherever possible and fairly mitigate the county for impacts that cannot be avoided.  We took this approach in San Bernardino County when developing the Ivanpah project and we're currently engaged in similar discussions in other counties for future projects.

The LA Times highlights one such project – Hidden Hills Solar in Inyo County – where we are currently working with local leaders.  The story points out that just five percent of the construction jobs at Hidden Hills would be filled by Inyo County residents.  Yet the story ignores the fact that the primary reason that five percent of the construction workers come from Inyo County is because it has a small population.  According to the most recent census, Inyo County has 18,000 residents.  Compare this with the two million residents in San Bernardino County where Ivanpah is being built.

In fact, according to an independent socioeconomic and fiscal analysis report created for the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff, "Due to extraordinarily high unemployment rates within Inyo County, particularly in the construction trades, it is reasonable to assume that the local labor force will be able to supply all available positions."  In other words, the project could put all of the county's unemployed qualified construction workers back to work.

The story also accepts Inyo County's claim that the project would cost the county $11-12 million during the 30-month construction phase and an additional $2 million a year in public safety and other services, completely ignoring the independent CEC report.  Again, the independent analysis counters these claims and highlights the significant economic benefits of these projects.

The independent report looks at two scenarios – Inyo County's analysis and its own third-party analysis.  Scenario 1 applies the county's analysis of $11-12 million impacts during construction and $1.2 million in annual operations, while Scenario 2 applies the independent report's analysis of $2.7 million in costs during construction and $390,000 in annual operations.  In both scenarios, the net fiscal impacts are significantly beneficial to the county.  Scenario 1 results in a positive net fiscal impact of $61.1 million and Scenario 2 leads to a positive net fiscal impact of $88.2 million.

The bottom line: these projects are providing tens of millions of dollars in positive fiscal benefits to the counties where they are built.  Whether one uses data provided by the county, a solar company or an independent party, the projects are creating jobs, leading to direct investments, indirect spending and tax revenues for the counties.  To argue otherwise ignores the facts and creates false perceptions regarding one of our nation's fastest growing industries.

Local Community Benefits From Large Solar Power Plants was originally published on: CleanTechnica

US Veterans Fight For Wind Jobs As Tax Credit Hits The Cliff

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 04:30 AM PST

Lean, mean, fighting machine. That is what the US military is known for on the battlefield.

Now, military veterans are taking the fight for wind jobs to Washington, DC.

Earlier this week, Operation Free, a group consisting of military veterans concerned about the security risks over climate change and fossil fuel use — along with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado), Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and Representative Jerry McNerney (D-California) — demanded that Congress take action to extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC).

This week, also, veterans met with their local congressional representatives in Washington to drum up further support for the wind energy tax credit.

The PTC has been vital in helping to get the US wind industry off the ground in its infancy and helping to create thousands of jobs (during a time when other industries have been suffering from the recession).

“Our industry is proud to employ so many servicemen and women in our ranks,” said American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode in a statement.

“A diversified energy portfolio that includes wind power is a path to U.S. energy security. Congress needs to act swiftly to protect the 37,000 jobs at stake and restore stability to this critical and broadly supported industry.”

Military veterans, through leadership skills in the battlefield, are also providing those same skills in the wind industry.

“Work in wind energy offers vets the opportunity to use a wide variety of skills they learned in the military, such as risk analysis, problem-solving and contract negotiation, and we’re happy to have them as members of our team,” said the Vice President of Wind Development at NextEra Energy Resources, John DiDonato.

Meanwhile, thousands of veterans have signed a petition to keep the PTC, with 400 of those signatures coming from those working in the industry.

In order to raise further awareness among the public, a new website,, hopes to educate the public further on the importance of the PTC. The new site has fact sheets, along with a video showing how wind energy jobs have helped to boost the US middle class in hard times.

With time ticking away, will US military veterans help sway the tide towards keeping the PTC, while helping to shore up the infant wind industry?

Source: AWEA

US Veterans Fight For Wind Jobs As Tax Credit Hits The Cliff was originally published on: CleanTechnica

China Forecast To Hit 150 GW Installed Wind Capacity By 2015

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 04:00 AM PST

China's wind industry is forecast to reach 150 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2015 — shattering the central government's goal of 100 GW by 2015.

China wind turbine

These findings come from the first installment of GTM Research's China Wind Market Quarterly, released with market analysts Azure International. The report predicts steady government support and rising demand will keep the country far ahead of the renewable energy economies of America, Europe, and India.

While China was not immune to the financial slowdown that has gripped the world in recent years, its clean energy output has boomed in recent years, led by the wind industry. Already the international leader in installed nameplate capacity, China installed 18 GW of new wind capacity – a 40% growth rate from 2011 – to pass 50 GW of grid-connected and more than 70 GW total wind capacity at the end of Q3 2012.


New Installations Gusting Forward

Wind energy keeps growing in China, at an exponential rate. In 2006, it had roughly 3 GW of installed capacity, good for 4% of the global share. Since then, it has reached approximately 35% of installed global capacity – a 25-fold increase, while the rest of the world only expanded by a factor of 2.6.

Current and planned China wind power

The nation shows no signs of slowing down the pace, either. China added 2.9 GW new wind capacity in Q3, and is on track to add another 9 GW in Q4 to reach 80 GW total capacity. China consumed 50.4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind power in the first six months of 2012, currently supplies a quarter of all wind energy supplied to the grid worldwide, and will soon become the largest wind energy generator of any country in the world.

Curtailment’s Strong Headwinds

However, wind's rapid expansion has come with problems. Growth has been concentrated in several northern and western provinces, with Inner Mongolia boasting twice the capacity of the next highest province, Hebei.

Like in many parts of the U.S., these regions with massive generation potential are sparsely populated, cannot absorb all the locally generated wind power, and see their wind farms subjected to curtailment when generation outstrips grid needs and transmission capacity.

The issue is arguably the highest hurdle for China to clear in realizing its full potential. Curtailment is caused by challenges like limited local demand, undersized transmission infrastructure, inflexible coal-baseload generation, and wind cycles that often run counter to demand.

Wind curtailment in China

The three highest-generating regions of the country all experienced more than 22 percent of generation curtailed from 2009-2011. And, in 2011, 15 terawatt-hours (TWh) of wind power were curtailed – 17% of all generation and an economic loss of RMB 5 billion (about $802 million).

Even though China is planning the world's most ambitious grid upgrade and Inner Mongolia began a power exchange to replace local coal generation with wind, GTM forecasts curtailment issues are likely to persist.

Two Growth Jetstreams: Rising Demand and Constant Government Support

Regardless of nagging curtailment issues, China's wind growth is remarkable, and an output of unique circumstances: skyrocketing demand and consistent (if inefficient) government support at the national and local level.

China's electricity demand has mirrored the country's economic rise, growing 15 times higher than 1980s levels. The government forecasts demand to rise from 5 trillion kWh in 2012 to over 8 trillion kWh in 2020. Rising power demand means more demand for wind turbines – especially along the densely populated coastal regions, which expect to install 3 GW of offshore wind by 2015.

China government wind installation targets

Government policies have been nothing if not ambitious. Wind installation targets have been a part of China's five-year development plans since 2000, laws mandate the grid must accept all power from renewable generation, feed-in tariffs have been functioning since 2009, businesses receive a 50% discount on the value-added tax of wind-generated electricity, and seven provinces have wind generation targets and local feed-in tariffs.

No Windbreakers In Sight

Ultimately, while China's wind energy industry faces notable challenges, GTM's report finds the sheer volume of projects in the development pipeline and scale of demand means the country will lead the world far into the future. "China's wind industry retains its leadership position worldwide, whether looking at policy targets, overall installation numbers or innovation," said Scott Clavenna, CEO of Greentech Media.

Image Credits: China wind turbine image via Shutterstock; All charts and graphs courtesy GTM Research

China Forecast To Hit 150 GW Installed Wind Capacity By 2015 was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Smart City San Diego & Mayor Jerry Sanders Unveil Completed Solar-To-EV Project At San Diego Zoo

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 03:29 AM PST

Smart City San Diego and the mayor of San Diego unveiled their completed solar-powered electric vehicle charging project this week.

It is called the “Solar-to-EV” project, and it directly charges electric vehicles in the San Diego Zoo.

Using ten solar canopies, this system generates 90 kW (90,000 watts) of electricity, and then it stores the electricity in a 100kW battery bank. (The system has the electricity generation capacity to power up to 59 homes.) The project also includes 5 electric vehicle charging stations.

This project has unique qualities and benefits.

Even when solar panels are used to charge electric vehicles, which already have their own (usually) lithium-ion batteries, they are usually set up to simply sell their excess solar electricity to utility companies using the common net metering approach. Electric vehicles then draw their current from the electricity grid in the same way that almost everyone else gets their electricity.

One unique quality of this project is that it puts electricity into a battery that supplies the solar power to the electric cars, instead of drawing it from the grid, so the electricity really is coming from solar panels.

Notably, however, when the batteries are completely full, excess electricity is put onto the electric grid, “to improve reliability and benefit the surrounding community.”

If you’re curious what Smart City San Diego is, here’s a description from the “Smart City San Diego is a collaboration that combines the resources ofSan Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), City of San Diego, GE, UC San Diegoand CleanTECH San Diego to drive projects forward that improve the region’s energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and assert San Diego as a clean energy leader.”

Source: Smart City San Diego

Smart City San Diego & Mayor Jerry Sanders Unveil Completed Solar-To-EV Project At San Diego Zoo was originally published on: CleanTechnica

U.S. Senate Sets The Stage For Big Military Biofuel Fight

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 03:08 AM PST

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but yesterday the Senate took a big step toward freeing up the Department of Defense to go full steam ahead with its ambitious biofuel initiatives. The move is especially significant because along with the expected Democratic supporters, the vote in favor of biofuels included a whopping 11 senators from the Republican side of the aisle. That’s no mere token representation from the party that has been known for digging in its heels against alternative energy for the past several years. Now the stage is set for a showdown in committee, when the House and Senate work out their differences.

senate votes to lift ban on military biofuel

Who’s Afraid of Military Biofuels?

For those of you who are new to the issue, of all the branches of the Armed Services, the U.S. Navy has been the most aggressive early adopter of biofuels including next-generation feedstocks like algae, which it showcased in the launch of a Green Strike Force last July.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has made no secret of his goal, which is to use the Navy’s purchasing power to help kickstart a competitive, commercial market for next-generation biofuels.

Last spring, Republican legislators pushed new rules aimed at blocking the Navy from purchasing significant quantities of biofuel, or any alternative fuel that is more expensive than conventional fuels. The Navy was also blocked from building its own biorefineries.


Military Biofuels Forge Ahead

Despite the roadblocks, the Obama Administration has enabled the Navy to keep at least some forward momentum going. Last July, the Administration announced a $62 million biofuel initiative partnering the Navy with the departments of Energy and Agriculture.

Later that same week, the Pentagon announced a $420 million biofuel initiative  to build biorefineries with private sector partners, and in August the departments of the Interior and Defense signed a memorandum of understanding that frees up military lands for alternative energy projects.

That’s pretty much how things stood this month, when the National Defense Authorization Act came up for debate.

Yesterday’s action in the Senate resulted in the 62-37 passage of an amendment introduced by Democratic Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, along with Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), that clarifies the Defense Department’s ability to continue purchasing next-generation biofuels.

Errr…New Mexico and Military Biofuels?

New Mexico is hardly the first state you might think of when you think of biofuel-producing states, but take a look at the emerging algae biofuel industry and you’ll see why two senators from that state went out on a limb for military biofuel.

According to Senator Udall:

“With these amendments, we are ensuring New Mexico is a leader in the 21st century clean energy economy, and at the forefront of the national security achievements being made at our national labs and within the defense community. Our biofuels amendment is especially important to national security and businesses in our state so I’m glad we were able to get one over the finish line today.”

And then there’s Senator Bingaman:

“The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the most important bills for New Mexico because it helps fund our national labs and our military installations. I am especially glad that the Senate adopted our amendment to allow the Pentagon to invest in all types of fuels – including biofuels — for its fleets. The Defense Department is a major consumer of fuel, and the more homegrown, cleaner-burning fuel it purchases the better off we will be.”

More Hurdles for Military Biofuels

So, now all we have to do is wait and see what the House and Senate work out in committee.

Success is definitely not a foregone conclusion, but as the senators from New Mexico demonstrate, biofuels have been building a constituency far beyond the comfort zone of the corn belt. At least the prospects for increasing bipartisan support look better than they did just a few months ago.

[Update: Our friends over at The Hill report that yesterday the Senate followed up by passing another amendment that removes the restriction on constructing biorefineries.]

Image (cropped): Navy biofuel by Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

U.S. Senate Sets The Stage For Big Military Biofuel Fight was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Fiat 500E Debuts, Toyota EVs, & More (LA Auto Show Inside Look)

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 02:02 AM PST

Susanna Schick of sister site Gas2 is at the LA Auto Show pumping out several posts on EVs and such. Here are four of those:

LA Auto Show: Fiat 500E Debuts To Combat Global Warming, Start Global…Hotness?

Fiat 500e, so cute you just want to pinch her cheeks. Photo courtesy Katherine Tessier

Once again bringing overpowering sex appeal to the LA Auto Show as only Italians can, Fiat delivered some very steamy videos to promote their latest offerings. The 500c Cabriolet video was especially thrilling and tastefully done. The 500E video was charming, but between the woman being in the passenger seat, and the overdose of analogies to Viagra by the announcer, it could've been better. Yes, you want to make a sexy electric car. We get that. But Tesla and Fisker have already been doing so for years now.

On the other hand, the Fiat 500E is a sexy affordable electric car (granted, pricing hasn't been announced yet). If you ask me, the 500E  is cute, well dressed, and rides like a real champ, but I'd hardly call any Fiat 500 "sexy". Even having had the most fun I've had on 4 wheels in the one I rented in England….

LA Auto Show: We Talk The Toyota RAV4, V6 Engines, And EVs With Toyota (Video)

Toyota Rav4 EV Photo courtesy of Toyota

I managed to catch Toyota's Environmental Communications Manager, Jana Hartline, while her Rav4 EV was out being tested, and we had a lovely chat about Toyota's plans for the future. As the full range vehicle manufacturer with the highest fleet MPG, they know a thing or two about building efficient vehicles….

LA Auto Show: Smart Goes Electric and Grows Wings

In the future, your car and your shoes will have wings. Photo Courtesy of Smart

Today at the L.A. Auto Show, Smart had two new cars to show off- theirfully electric Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, and their electric Smart ForJeremy concept, which was launched last night at a fabulous party we weren't invited to. But that's ok, because these cars are still pretty cool.

The Fiat 500 has become the classic fashionista car overnight, popping up in every parking lot in the garment district here in LA. Their ad campaign for the Abarth proved sex does indeed sell. So what's the smaller, more efficient, and thoroughly practical  Smart supposed to do to compete? Smart has launched a concept car designed byJeremy Scott, an American fashion designer known for his outrageous, fun, colorful designs, targeted to appeal to a more fashion-forward, individualist customer than Fiat's Gucci partnership….


LA Auto Show: Fisker Karma Phones It In Via Google

Photo courtesy Katherine Tessier

I'm not sure what it takes to get a time slot in the jam-packed schedule at the LA Auto Show media days, but I think having something new to announce is pretty much a requirement. So it's no surprise that Fisker chose to have a Q&A on Google Hangout livestreamed via YouTube instead of the usual fanfare. This actually makes more sense for a company still experiencing severe growing pains.

Fiat 500E Debuts, Toyota EVs, & More (LA Auto Show Inside Look) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Susan Rice, Top Secretary Of State Candidate, Owns $300,000–600,000 Of Transcanada Stock ($1.25 Million in Canadian Oil Companies)

Posted: 30 Nov 2012 01:38 AM PST

This articles has been reposted from Climate Progress with permission.

Most of the attacks against Susan Rice, Obama's supposed top pick for Secretary of State, have come from Republicans. But now the left — mainly groups opposed to developing Canadian tar sands — may have some reasons to question Rice.

According to a report from OnEarth Magazine, Rice has millions of dollars tied up in top Canadian energy companies — including TransCanada, the company pushing for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline would pipe carbon-intensive tar sands crude from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Because the pipeline crosses international borders, its approval falls under the jurisdiction of the State Department. That means Rice — or any other candidate tapped to head the State Department — would be responsible for approving or rejecting the project.

Here's what the OnEarth investigation of Rice's finances found:

Rice's financial holdings could raise questions about her status as a neutral decision maker. The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.

Beyond that, according to financial disclosure reportsabout a third of Rice's personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel — including companies with poor environmental and safety records on both U.S. and Canadian soil. Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada's eight leading oil producers, as ranked by Forbes magazine. That includes Enbridge, which spilled more than a million gallons of toxic bitumen into Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010 – the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

Rice also has smaller stakes in several other big Canadian energy firms, as well as the country's transportation companies and coal-fired utilities. Another 20 percent or so of her personal wealth is derived from investments in five Canadian banks. These are some of the institutions that provide loans and financial backing to TransCanada and its competitors for tar sands extraction and major infrastructure projects, such as Keystone XL and Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would stretch 700 miles from Alberta to the Canadian coast.

And also this:

According to her most recent financial disclosure reports, along with her TransCanada investments, Rice and her husband own at least $1.5 million worth of stock in Enbridge (Canada's No. 3 oil producer, according to Forbes), Cenovus (No. 7), and Encana (No. 8), as well as at least $1.25 million in Imperial (No. 2), $50,000 to $100,000 in Suncor (No. 1), and $15,000 to $50,000 in Canadian Natural (No. 6). (TransCanada is ranked at No. 5 by Forbes.) The couple has at least $1.25 million invested in Transalta, Alberta's largest coal-fired electricity power producer, and at least $1.5 million in Canadian Pacific Railway, which transports coal, oil, and gas and has been a major financial beneficiary of the North American energy boom.

Calling development of the tar sands "game over" for the climate, environmental groups are making the Keystone XL pipeline their number one fight after the election. Although Rice has had no connection to the decision making process around Keystone XL, her finances raise more concerns from environmental groups working to shut down the pipeline.

Over the past 18 months, a number of questionable relationships between State Department officials and TransCanada have been uncovered.

In July of last year, WikiLeaks released a diplomatic cable from the State Department's energy envoy written in 2009. In that cable, the official said he had "alleviated" the Canadian government's concerns about getting tar sands crude into the U.S., and instructed them on how to improve their "oil sands messaging" by "increasing visibility and accessibility of more positive news stories."

Last October, it was revealed that the State Department contractor performing the environmental assessment of Keystone XL was deeply connected to the pipeline's developer, TransCanada. Also in October of 2011, emails obtained from the State Department showed that officials in the agency were coaching TransCanada about how to navigate the regulatory process, raising questions about the coziness of the relationship between the two parties.

And in December of 2011, four members of Congress were called out by the Sunlight Foundation for owning shares in TransCanada while also pushing legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

"The State Department has been rife with collusion with the Canadian pipeline builders, and it's really distressing to have any sense that that might continue to go on," said Bill McKibben, one of the activists leading the fight against Keystone XL, toOnEarth.

If Rice eventually becomes Secretary of State, she could recuse herself from any decision on Keystone XL. The White House has not yet commented on Rice's financial stake in these Canadian energy companies.

Susan Rice, Top Secretary Of State Candidate, Owns $300,000–600,000 Of Transcanada Stock ($1.25 Million in Canadian Oil Companies) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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