Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Amtrak Accelerating Its High-Speed Rail Service

Posted: 01 Dec 2012 04:48 PM PST

Amtrak ridership on its four Illinois routes has surged by 75% (totaling 2.1 million users) in only six years. This might be why it has decided to increase the speed of its high-speed rail service between Chicago and St. Louis, which is aimed at reducing travel time by up to an hour (20%).

This would be good for the busy holiday season!


Ridership on the Chicago–St. Louis route alone has actually doubled in this time period.

"This next generation rail system gives passengers a safer, more reliable way to travel across Illinois and connect with family this holiday season," Illinois Governor Quinn said in a news release on the matter. "Today's announcement demonstrates significant progress on this major transportation initiative that will continue to boost Illinois' economy and make sure our state has the best rail system in the nation."

The Chicago–St. Louis route is 284 miles, with trips currently taking 5 hours.

On a 15-mile stretch, the train increases its speed to 110 MPH, and it maintains a speed of 79 MPH for most of the remaining distance.

The increase of travel speed actually improves throughput because more trips can be made in a day, so more people can be picked up.

In other words: reducing travel time by half theoretically means that Amtrak can make approximately twice as many trips, and hence, transport twice as many people.

Apart from that, higher speeds make mass transit more attractive to potential riders.

Amtrak’s services have also been undergoing other smaller upgrades, such as improved signaling systems, as well as other miscellaneous technological and safety advancements.

Hopefully, Amtrack doesn’t increase its rates to compensate for any efficiency degradation that may have been caused by the speed increase.

Source: Inhabitat
Image: Amtrak Train via spirit of america /

Amtrak Accelerating Its High-Speed Rail Service was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Green Jobs & Solar Power At Night: Abengoa’s 280 MW Solana CSP Plant Nearly Ready

Posted: 01 Dec 2012 04:35 PM PST

Solana — Abengoa’s concentrating solar power project (CSP) not far from Phoenix — is 80% complete, the Seville, Spain–based sustainable energy developer announced November 28. With a rated power generation capacity of 280 megawatts (MW), Solana — located about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona — will be one of the world’s largest solar power plants. With molten salt solar thermal storage capacity of about six hours, it will also be able to reliably supply clean, renewable electricity at night and during cloudy periods, helping meet peak electricity demand across the region.

As a clear demonstration of the multiple benefits and advantages large-scale solar power projects can bring to local communities, states, and the nation, more than 2,000 workers are on-site at Solana installing the 32,000 parabolic trough solar collectors of which the finalized project will consist. A workforce of 85 permanent staff will see to Solana’s ongoing operation and maintenance once it’s completed. The project is also generating indirect jobs in the local economy. All told, Abengoa’s initial estimates of job creation for the project have been exceeded, the company reported.

Projects like Solana are doing a lot to improve the ecological footprint of the U.S. energy landscape. Solana will produce enough clean, renewable electricity to power the equivalent of 70,000 homes, reducing CO2 emissions by some 475,000 tons per year, according to Abengoa. Projects such as this are helping green the U.S. energy value chain and helping realize state, national, and international goals regarding renewable energy and climate change mitigation.



Green Power, Jobs, & A Big Economic Boost

In addition to green jobs and the local economic boost, Solana will also yield substantial tax revenue to cash-strapped governments. Another leading CSP industry player, BrightSource Energy, this past week published a riposte to an LA Times article critical of large-scale solar power projects. As BrightSource states, "the counties where utility-scale solar projects are being built are benefiting significantly in direct and economic investments, tax revenues and job creation."

To get a better idea of what’s involved in constructing large-scale solar projects, Abengoa briefly described Solana’s supply chain. It spans 27 states coast to coast, including Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, and Oregon. Contracts have been signed with 90 companies.

"As a result, a new workforce is being trained that will contribute to the needed cost reductions in an industry that contributes to keeping the United States competitive in the 21st century," Abengoa states in its press release.

The federal government pitched in with critical support for the project. Abengoa benefited from a Dept. of Energy (DOE) federal loan guarantee of $1.45 billion "that facilitated the financial close with the Federal Financing Bank (FFB) and to begin the plant’s construction," the company recounted.

Abengoa has three similar CSP projects in the works — one in the US and two in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. The Seville-based renewable energy systems developer has gotten a total of 743 MW of rated capacity up and running around the world and has another 910 MW under construction.

Photo Credit: Abengoa

Green Jobs & Solar Power At Night: Abengoa’s 280 MW Solana CSP Plant Nearly Ready was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Hail, Caesar! New JCESR Projects Aims For Revolution In EV Battery Research

Posted: 01 Dec 2012 04:23 PM PST

The Department of Energy has announced a major new initiative designed to rocket the U.S. EV battery industry into global leadership, vastly improving the prospects for average car buyers to wrap their hands around the steering wheels of affordable, long-range EVs some time in the not too distant future. The $120 million, five-year program is called JCESR for Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. It combines the high-tech research “firepower” of fourteen national laboratories, universities, and private companies with no less of a mission than to revolutionize EV battery performance.

DOE launches JCESR battery research initiative

Energy Independence Means Battery Independence

JCESR builds on an 2010 Obama Administration energy storage initiative aimed at supporting a “web” of EV battery manufacturers in the former U.S. Rust Belt, anchored by cities like Holland, Michigan.

Part of the Recovery Act, the battery initiative had two goals. First and foremost was to kickstart job creation in a region reeling from the 2008 financial crisis and long-term economic malaise.

Second, the aim was to build a foundation for long-term sustainability in the domestic vehicle manufacturing sector. As of 2010, the U.S. was providing just 2% of the global automotive battery market. Without a boost for domestic battery manufacturing, future growth in the emerging U.S. EV sector could be hobbled by dependence on overseas battery suppliers.

A Big Boost for EV Battery Research

Spearheaded by Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, the JCESR team will be headquartered in a new facility at the lab’s campus, built with the help of $5 million from the state Illinois Jobs Now! construction fund.

As the nation’s Energy Storage and Research Hub, JCESR will coordinate existing research projects as well as launching new ones.

It’s also possible that JCESR could hook up with research projects at the new Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory at TARDEC, the Army’s tank and vehicle research center in Michigan.

Along with EV battery development, research on grid-integrated energy storage is another essential part of the JCESR mission, leading to the introduction of more wind and solar energy into the nation’s mainstream energy supply.

Another interesting trend that could develop out of JCESR is the use of active and spent EV batteries as multi-purpose energy storage devices.

Ford has already launched a pilot project using spent EV batteries in conjunction with a 500kW solar installation at its Michigan Assembly Plant, the Department of Defense is looking into integrating EV batteries into demonstration microgrid projects, and several EV owners reportedly hacked their vehicle batteries to power their homes after Hurricane Sandy took millions of people off the grid last month.


We Built This!

Not to belabor a point from the last election, but what the heck, it’s worth belaboring. The new partnership is yet another demonstration of a core technology that has been developed with a heavy dose of public funding.

Aside from Argonne, the list of JCESR partners includes Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, and University of Michigan.

The four industrial partners are Dow Chemical Company; Applied Materials, Inc.; Johnson Controls, Inc.; and Clean Energy Trust.

That’s just the battery and energy storage hub, by the way. This is the fourth such public-private energy innovation hub supported by the Obama Administration. The other three deal with nuclear reactors, energy efficient buildings, and photosynthetic fuels. A fifth proposed hub will deal with critical materials research.

And don’t even get us started on the President’s public-private Advanced Manufacturing Initiative….

Image: EV parking by Paul Krueger

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Hail, Caesar! New JCESR Projects Aims For Revolution In EV Battery Research was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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