Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Minnesota’s First Community Solar Project Doubles Down On Local

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 02:54 PM PST

As community solar grows in popularity, an innovative solar project by the Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association in Minnesota highlights the opportunity of merging local ownership with locally assembled solar panels.

Earlier this fall, this cooperative serving communities just north and west of the Twin Cities metropolitan area announced Minnesota's first community solar project. The 40-kilowatt (kW) solar array will be located at the cooperative's headquarters, with members allowed to purchase individual panels in the project for $869 per 180-watt panel. In exchange, members will receive a credit on their bill equal to the electricity production of their portion of the 40kW array.

Participation in the community solar project lowers the payback period for solar, as compared to individual ownership, by 7-12 years.

The project is organized by the Clean Energy Collective, a Colorado-based firm that has already built two community solar projects with rural electric cooperatives in that state and with plans to build several more. Their projects are noteworthy for being the only consistently replicable community solar model, as evidenced by their success. (For more on community solar projects, see our 2010 report).

Partnership is the key to CEC's success, with the company providing cooperatives with "RemoteMeter" software allowing them to handle the accounting part of the community solar project (and a smartphone app to allow participants to track production). They also handle all of the project financing and development, with utilities having merely to market the program to their members and help oversee the project interconnection to their electric grid.

The community solar project provides a good deal for members, for three reasons. Most Minnesotans lack an appropriate, sunny space for a solar array (75% of people rent or have a roof that is unsuitable for solar). With Wright-Hennepin's community solar array, participants can own a share of a local, centralized system that will be maintained by the cooperative, and still get their share of the electricity as though it were on their own rooftop.

The Clean Energy Collective has also negotiated a good rate for solar electricity, with participants receiving a credit of 12¢ per kWh generated by their panels, in comparison to the cooperative's average residential retail rate of 9.3¢ per kWh.

The $4.83 per watt cost for panels is also better than it looks, because the Wright-Hennepin project will use equipment from Minnesota's tenKsolar. Using an innovative, low-cost reflector, the tenKsolar array boosts output by 25% over a traditional fixed-tilt solar array, with an estimated output of around 291 kWh per year from each 180W panel compared to 233 kWh from a traditional solar module. The local sourcing for equipment will also keep more of the cooperative members’ energy dollars in their community.

Investments in the Wright-Hennepin community solar project pay back in 20 years, according to the Clean Energy Collective (our own calculation was 25 years). Either way, it compares favorably to an individually-owned solar project, which would have a payback of 32 years or more. And the Clean Energy Collective warrants the project for 50 years, over which period a participant will have lifetime net savings of nearly $20,000.

Minnesota’s First Community Solar Project Doubles Down On Local was originally published on: CleanTechnica

BrightSource Energy, Alstom Collaborate On 121MW Solar Thermal Power Plant In Israel

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 02:45 PM PST

Megalim Solar Power Limited, a special purpose vehicle of BrightSource Energy and Alstom, has won a tender for the construction of a 121MW solar thermal power plant in Israel that is expected to come online in 2017. It is one of the three projects selected under Israel's Ashalim 250MW tender announced in 2008.

The project will be located in the Ramat Negev Regional Council 3.15 square kilometer site in Nagev Desert of Israel.

The announcement of the contract was made last month by the Israel Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Energy and Water.

Mr. Shaul Tzemach, Director General of the Ministry of Energy and WaterResources, said: “Winning the tender at this time can be seen as a vote of confidence in the Israeli economy, especially in Israel’s renewable energy sector, which, despite all the difficulties, continues to establish itself as competitive, efficient, and innovative at the global level. The Ministry of Energy and Water Resources will continue to act with determination to meet the renewable energy targets set by the government.”

In awarding the project, the agencies noted: “The principal advantage of [BrightSource's] solar thermal technology is its high reliability which enables it to constitute a real substitute to conventional power plants which consume fossil fuels, as opposed to some other renewable energy technologies.”

The project would be set up under the typical BOT model in which Megalim will plan, finance, build, and operate the plant for 25 years and then transfer the ownership to the State of Israel.

Ashalim’s 250MW tender includes two solar thermal plants and one photovoltaic plant. When commissioned, the projects are expected to generate 2% of Israel's total installed capacity and will help move towards the nation's goal of generating 10% of its total energy from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Image Credits: CSP plant via Shutterstock

The views presented in the above article are the author's personal views only

BrightSource Energy, Alstom Collaborate On 121MW Solar Thermal Power Plant In Israel was originally published on: CleanTechnica

New European Battery Consortium, SmartBatt Aims To Develop Lighter EV Batteries

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 02:05 PM PST

SmartBatt is a European Battery Consortium that believes that what electric vehicles need is a lightweight battery technology. You’ve probably heard this already, but it really is of paramount importance. Lighter battery technology facilitates longer range because the batteries add less to vehicle weight, and lighter vehicle weight translates into lower energy requirements.

Lower energy requirements mean that a battery of a given capacity will be able to power the vehicle over longer distances, because more energy is available to do so. Lighter vehicles can also achieve a shorter braking distance, and they are less likely to roll over when cornering.

Autoblog Green writes:

“SmartBatt is made up of nine partners from five countries – corporations in manufacturing and technology along with research organizations, including Volkswagen, the Ricardo engineering and consulting company, the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, the Austrian Institute of Technology and the Vehicle Safety Institute.

“The team says that it’s dedicated to bringing experience and skill sets to cover all aspects of developing advanced battery technologies – vehicle competence, electrics, electronics, batteries, lightweight design, engineering, materials, safety, testing and validation. Whew. Results will be distributed through a project website, papers and training sessions, as well as face-to-face workshops and meetings with OEMs.”

So far, SmartBatt is working on a 20 kWh battery that is 15% lighter and can continuously deliver 36 kW of power.

Source: Autoblog Green

New European Battery Consortium, SmartBatt Aims To Develop Lighter EV Batteries was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Tesla Motors Will Assemble & Distribute Vehicles In Holland For European Market

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 01:56 PM PST

California-based Tesla Motors plans to open its European Distribution Centre in Tilburg, Holland, The Netherlands later this month.

It will be 200,000 square feet and will employ 50 people. Production of the European left-hand-drive Tesla Model S electric vehicles will start next March.

This is an assembly plant, a vehicle distribution centre, and also a service centre. It will be the Tesla Motors European parts and service headquarters.

Source: Autoblog Green

Tesla Motors Will Assemble & Distribute Vehicles In Holland For European Market was originally published on: CleanTechnica

India Identifies 54 Solar Cities, Drivers In UK Sleeping In Cars To Save Fuel, Raleigh 1st US City To Adopt Wireless EV Charging… (Cleantech News Of The Day)

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 01:42 PM PST

Other than our own stories (and have a few more of those coming shortly), here’s some top cleantech and climate news from the past day or so:

Solar Power

Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems Selected to Lead U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Project: “The Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) has been selected to receive project funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.  CSE’s 5-year, $11.7M research project focuses on the development of “plug and play” solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that can be purchased, installed, and connected by homeowners without the need to engage outside consultants or contractors.  This project is part of a larger $21M DOE investment aimed at developing technology solutions that reduce the “soft” costs of residential solar PV systems – the non-module hardware costs that now account for a majority of the total cost of residential systems, and represent a significant barrier to wider adoption of solar power in the United States.”

Ontario Opens Window For PV Rooftop Permit Applications: “The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) today ended a long period of uncertainty over its FIT plans when it opened the application window for small photovoltaic projects, with capacities of 10 to 500 kW.”

India Identifies 54 Solar Cities; Releases JNNSM Figures: “It has been announced that 54 cities in India will be designated ‘Solar Cities’. In related news, grid connected photovoltaic projects worth 1.04 GW are said to have been commissioned under the first phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM).”

WBHO Building Energy Sign Module And Inverter Deals For 81MW South African Project: “WBHO Building Energy, a construction firm in Southern Africa, has inked two separate module and inverter supply agreements for its 81MW Kathu Solar Facility.”

National Coal Mining Museum Fits Solar Panels: “If you had informed Arthur Scargill that solar panels were to be fitted to a building connected with the coal mining industry twenty eight years ago, at the height of the national miner's strike, the former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers would have, at very least, probably laughed at you.

“Well, that is exactly what has happened and there has yet to be a mutter of indignation from Mr. Scargill.”

Japan Reaches 1.4GW Of PV Installed Capacity: “Japan's renewable energy capacity has reached a total of 1.443GW, according to figures released by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

“From 1 April until 30 November 2012, solar PV accounted for 1.398GW, an increase of 272MW from the previous month.”

US & Australia Inject US$83 Million In Collaborative Solar Research: “The funding — which was announced by the Australian Solar Institute (ASI), the Australian Minister for Resources and Energy, and the US Ambassador to Australia — has been made available as part of the ASI's United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration (USASEC).

“Commenting on the investment, ASI's Chief Executive Mark Twidell said: ‘Our funding unites the complementary strengths of both nations to fast track the commercialisation of new solar technologies by lowering costs.’”

Solar Crowdfunding In California: Part 2, Everybody Solar: “Youness Scally founded Everybody Solar in 2011. Its mission is to help nonprofits go solar, thereby benefitting not only the environment but also the nonprofit's budget. By reducing its power bills, a nonprofit can focus resources on its programs instead of on operating costs. And that helps the community the nonprofit serves. Everybody Solar focuses on local nonprofits that work to help the people with the greatest need in the community or who are doing environmental work.”

Solarcentury Gets Green Light For Eastleigh Solar Farm: “Solarcentury is racing to complete a 6.3MW solar farm near Southampton, after receiving planning permission for the project from the local council.

“The company confirmed late last week that it has received consent from Eastleigh Borough Council to install 25,632 photovoltaic panels at Chalcroft Farm, West End.”


Bikeyface Cartoon Illustrates Traffic Laws: “You know the rules of the road when you're out riding. Maybe you even teach bike skills as a League Cycling Instructor. But do you know all the bicycling laws in your state?

“Since coming to the League in August, I've reviewed more than 2,000 laws related to bicycling. From planning and taxation to funding and traffic, I dusted off and dug in to statutes and administrative codes in each and every state. By researching those primary sources and tapping into great resources compiled by bicycling organizations and agencies, I was able to pull together a comprehensive database of laws. Click here to view bike laws in your state.

“So, while we're all fans of the Bikeyface cartoon, I was particularly excited to see a recent post that does a great job of giving context to traffic laws.” [Click link(s) above to see cartoons]

The Bike-Sharing World — Mid-December 2012: “There’s a lot going on in the bike-sharing world in December. Read on [link above] for an update from around the world.”


Rinspeed Thinks THIS is the Future of Cars – It's Not: “These aren't the cars Gen-Y is asking for, these are the cars that a bunch of aging baby-boomers think kids want. They don't really understand a youth that's 2 or 3 generations removed from them, at this point, and that came of age in a credit-driven recession that saw many of their parents lose savings, pensions, homes, and (you guessed it) cars.”

Evatran’s Plugless Power wireless EV charging system.

Raleigh, NC Becomes 1st US City To Adopt Wireless EV Charging Project: “Raleigh, NC has become the first US municipality to join the Apollo Program, which tests wireless electric vehicle chargers made by Evatran. The Virginia-based company’s Plugless Power chargers were, as of September, being tested by entities such as Google and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, in addition to Hertz, Duke Energy and the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research.”

The City of Sacremento Brings Evatran’s Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging Trial to the West Coast: “Evatran™, the developer of Plugless Power wireless electric vehicle charging technology, announced today that the City of Sacramento has joined its Apollo Trial Program to test wireless charging technology on its own electric vehicles (EVs). Sacramento will round out the previously announced list of Apollo participants including industry leaders such as Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, Duke Energy, Google, DTE Energy, and The Hertz Corporation.”

Ford's Math On Hybrid Fuel Economy: Standing By The C-MAX EPA Ratings, Acknowledging Large Real-World Variance: “Basically, Ford is standing by the ratings as determined by the current testing protocols, Nair said, but added that ‘we absolutely agree with EPA that hybrids are far more variable in the test cycle compared to real world driving conditions in conventional vehicles. We are working closely with the agency to determine if any changes are needed for the industry relative to hybrid vehicle testing.’”

Kansas City Says It’s More Than Ready For Plug-In Cars: “San Francisco, Boston, Austin, Los Angeles and the Raleigh-Durham region are among the US metropolitan areas most often cited to be the most electric-vehicle ready in terms of charging infrastructure. Now, Kansas City wants to be added to that list.

“The Kansas City metropolitan area, whose 14 counties straddle the Kansas-Missouri border and have about 2.7 million people, has both enough EV charging stations in operations and in the pipeline to meet any type of forecasted growth for electric-drive vehicles, says Electrify Heartland, an advocate for vehicle electrification in the Kansas City area.”

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Hybrid Gets Driven (w/ Video): “I'm a writer, which means I'm also kind of a jerk. It's true – I actually believe that my opinions are so valid, so compelling, and so correct that you, dear reader, absolutely need to be exposed to them. I'm willing to accept that I'm kind of a jerk, but you have to give me this: the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Hybrid is the sexxxiest luxo-barge in the automotive universe, green or not.

“The Pana Sport Turismo (which, by the way, should be an espresso drink of some kind) is the latest in Porsche's increasingly green line-up of sporting cars, following in the footsteps of the high-mpg Cayenne Diesel SUV, the flywheel-hybrid GT3 R racer, and the upcoming 918 uber-exotik speedster; and, with more than 400 combined horsepower available from its multiple powerplants (about the same as a first-gen Dodge Viper), this sleek, Teutonic wagon has more than enough "go" to wear the Porsche badge proudly.”

Renault Delivers 1st ZOE EV: “Renault has presented the keys of the first ZOE electric vehicle to Arnaud Montebourg, French Minister of Industrial Recovery. The first delivery of ZOE comes ahead of further deliveries set for between now and the end of 2012 and mass launch in the Renault network in first-quarter 2013.”

Wind Power

Wind Power Sells at World's Lowest Rate in Brazil Auction: “Four energy developers agreed to sell power from 10 proposed wind farms in Brazil at the cheapest rates ever.

“Enerfin Sociedad de Energia SA, Renova Energia SA (RNEW11), EGP- Serra Azul and Bioenergy Geradora de Energia Ltda. won contracts to sell electricity to distributors for an average price of 87.94 reais ($42.16) a megawatt-hour, Brazil's national energy agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica said in an e-mail [last week].”

Climate Change

Climate Science Research From Last Week: Over a dozen climate science papers published in the last week.

Can The Oyster Industry Survive Ocean Acidification? “For four frustrating months in 2007, Mark Wiegardt and his wife, Sue Cudd, witnessed something unsettling at their Oregon oyster hatchery: tank bottoms littered with dead baby oysters. Usually, the larvae are grown until they’re three weeks old and a quarter of a millimeter in size — 10 million bunched together are roughly the size of a tennis ball. Then they are shipped to 50-some growers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. But that summer, the oysters died before they were ready to ship. Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery struggled to fill a third of its orders.”

Climate Change Taken Seriously By Insurance Industry, Study Says: “Paying out billions of dollars here and billions of dollars there has made the global insurance industry a believer in climate change, according to a new study that shows insurance companies are staunch advocates for reducing carbon emissions and minimizing the risk posed by increasingly severe weather events.”

The Water Gap: Interior Department Warns Of Water Shortages In The Colorado River Basin Due To Climate Change: “Climate change and population growth will have serious effects on the water supply in the Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years, according to a newly-released federal study.”


Drivers In The UK Are Sleeping In Their Cars To Cut Fuel Costs: “In a bid to cut back on fuel costs in an economy that seems more and more people finding lower-paying jobs, many people in the UK have taken to sleeping in their cars between shifts.”

India Identifies 54 Solar Cities, Drivers In UK Sleeping In Cars To Save Fuel, Raleigh 1st US City To Adopt Wireless EV Charging… (Cleantech News Of The Day) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Boeing SUGAR Volt: Electric Airplane

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 12:13 AM PST

NASA asked 2 Boeing-led teams to examine what airplanes are going to look like in 3 generations beyond the current transport fleet, and the most intriguing under the goals set by NASA is the SUGAR Volt.

SUGAR stands for Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research and is the overarching project name for several concepts designed by the Boeing subsonic team, which includes BR&T, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, General Electric, and Georgia Tech.

h/t Climate Denial Crock of the Week

Boeing SUGAR Volt: Electric Airplane was originally published on: CleanTechnica

RE-volv Seeking Funding To Initiate Revolving Solar Seed Fund

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 12:10 AM PST

Spend any time on the internet these days and you’ll inevitably come across an advertisement for a crowdsourced funding proposition using Kickstarter or Indiegogo. One of the latest such projects looks to initiate a revolving community-based solar investment program that embodies the idea of ‘paying it forward.’

RE-volv is a non-profit organisation hoping to initiate what they’re calling a ‘revolving fund’ called the Solar Seed Fund which will keep paying forward more and more solar projects.

The idea is brilliantly simple:

  • RE-volv will invest $30,000 into a community-based solar energy installation for a community centre such as schools and non-profits
  • Using the savings brought about by all of a sudden running a solar energy system, the community centre will pay RE-volv back over time
  • The money returning to RE-volv will allow them to fund (in this case) three more solar energy installations

And as you can see, with three more similar models working, the next round of installations will themselves create opportunities for even more solar installations.

As with all community-funded projects using Kickstarter and Indiegogo, there are incentives for donating:

By supporting this campaign you have a number of amazing perks to choose from including access to events, a certificate or photo of the solar you helped install, and a choice of amazing books about solar energy and the future of environmentalism.

The lowest donation capable of receiving a ‘Perk’ is $10, for which you’ll receive “a  personal thank you email with pictures of the first solar installation, and a virtual high five,” and the rewards go up from there.

Head on over to the Indiegogo page and donate, or simply learn more about what RE-volv is trying to do.

RE-volv Seeking Funding To Initiate Revolving Solar Seed Fund was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Next-Gen Electric Vehicles Could Be Home Grown, In More Ways Than One

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 12:07 AM PST

The US Department of Agriculture has just kicked off a $10 million bioproduct and biofuel research project aimed at the automotive industry, and in case you’re wondering why the USDA is involved in auto manufacturing, just look at that word bioproducts again. Part of USDA’s mission is to help the agriculture industry develop new markets, and a recent USDA study confirms what we’ve been noticing, which is that auto manufacturers are using more bioplastics and other biobased materials. We’re not exactly looking to a future where cars grow on trees, but at least there will be more sustainable car parts made from sources other than petrochemicals.

USDA funds sustainable car part research

Rural Economies Get a Bioproduct Lift

At the very least, bioplastic, biofuel, and other crop-based products provide a long-term incentive for farmland and water supply preservation.

In the context of the natural gas fracking “gold rush” that is pouring money into rural communities while putting water resources at risk and creating earthquakes, among other hazards, bioproduct crops present a more sustainable path to local job creation.

To cite just one example of the potential scale of the economic impact, DuPont’s new biorefinery in Iowa alone will recruit 500 local farmers to keep it supplied with corn stover, the leaves and stems left over from harvest.

USDA Gives $10 Million for Sustainable Car Parts

The new grants were awarded by USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. The funds will be spread among more than two dozen research institutions across the country, primarily in public universities.

The goal is to develop regional systems for producing sustainable biofuels and biobased products.

Unlike the fracking boom, USDA’s bioproduct grant initiative is pre-planned for sustainable growth. Job creation and reducing dependence on foreign oil are only two challenges in the competitively awarded grants.  Awardees must also develop systems that fit within existing agricultural frameworks, and achieve net positives for community and environmental health.

Car Parts and products

The automotive bioproduct boomlet is being spurred along partly by the emergence of electric vehicles and tighter energy efficiency standards, in which weight is a critical factor.

Bioproducts not only offer a chance to reduce weight, there is also some potential for them to achieve greater strength and durability than their petrochemical counterparts.

Ford has been particularly active in the trend away from petrochemicals, which includes recycling, along with the development of new bioproducts. Ford’s recent endeavors include soy foam seat cushions, recycled denim and carpeting, wheat straw filler for storage bins, and a collaboration with Weyerhaeuser to develop a tree cellulose substitute for fiberglass.

Ford is also developing a dandelion-based rubber substitute that could be used for other interior parts like floor mats and cup holders.

Other areas of investigation in the automotive industry have ranged into some pretty strange territory, including coconut husks, cow bones, and chicken feathers.

Image: Wheat spikes by Dag Endresen

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey


Next-Gen Electric Vehicles Could Be Home Grown, In More Ways Than One was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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