Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

US Lawmakers Target Tax Changes For Renewable Energy Projects In 2013

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 12:06 AM PST

 
A new year on the horizon means the potential for change. If a group of bi-partisan politicians on Capital Hill in Washington have it their way, changes to the US tax code could help to boost renewable energy projects.

Last week, Reuters reported that 29 Democrat and Republicans are proposing changes that gives renewable energy projects (including: biofuels, wind, solar, and others) “special” tax treatment through master limited partnerships (MLP's).

Notably, these structures are already often used by various energy companies to help them raise capital:

“The structures allow companies to raise money in the stock market, while having income taxed only at the unit holder level, thus avoiding corporate income taxes.”

The new idea being floated around in the US capital comes at a time when Congress has until the beginning of January to straighten the financial situation or face the impending "fiscal cliff."

Meanwhile, the financial uncertainty due to the fiscal cliff is causing some problems within the wind industry, such as the potential expiration of the Production Tax Credit, which has helped boost the nation's wind industry considerably but may expire on January 1st.

Could this renewable energy MLP idea fly, considering some Democrats would like to have fossil fuel subsidies done away with, and most Republicans are weary about giving any help to renewable energy projects.

Could MLP be a way to boost cleantech investment while limiting government spending?

The group of 29 bi-partisan lawmakers on both sides of the spectrum thinks so.

Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons said in the article that the policy would not hamper oil, gas, or pipeline investment, while helping to support cleantech projects because of the MLP tax structure.

“Why not have a predictable, clear, long-term tax advantage financing vehicle for both, for a genuinely all-of-the-above energy strategy?" Coons said to journalists last week.

Coons, along with Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran and the leading Republican on the Senate Energy committee Lisa Murkowski, are three of the bill's co-sponsors in the Senate.

Meanwhile, a similar bill in the House of Representatives co-sponsored by Democrats Mike Thompson (California), Peter Welch (Vermont), and Republican Ted Poe (Texas) is targeting a similar tax vehicle to advance renewable energy projects.

Whether these bills get through the Senate and the House of Representatives remains to be seen. However, keep your eyes peeled, as this could be one tool that could help move the investment structure of renewable energy forward in the US.

US Lawmakers Target Tax Changes For Renewable Energy Projects In 2013 was originally published on: CleanTechnica

1,200MW Offshore Wind Project Plans Submitted — Could Be Largest Offshore Wind Farm In World

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 06:50 PM PST

 
The East Anglia Offshore Wind (EAOW) could become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, if the plans which were recently submitted are approved and construction is completed. The plans were sent in for review to the National Infrastructure Directorate just several days ago.

Peddars_Way_-_Holkham_Bay.jpgWhen there is enough wind to spin the intended 325 turbines, the farm could power up to 770,000 homes, it has been estimated. The project is backed by Swedish Utility Vattenfall and Scottish power.

“East Anglia ONE is a major project that could make a significant contribution to the UK’s carbon reduction targets, and is larger than any offshore wind farm currently in operation,” said Andy Paine program director for East Anglia Offshore Wind. (Source: Oilprice.com)

Vattenfall and Scottish Power Renewables have been granted the rights to develop up to 7,200 MW (7.2 GW) of offshore wind power off the coast of East Anglia. Though 1,200 MW (1.2 GW) of wind is huge, it still would be just a fraction of the potential that exists there. The area being considered for development is about 6,000 square kilometers, and is about 14 km off the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk.

This area has a low population density, so power would be transmitted to sites like large cities. Norfolk is known as a place with some of the best beaches in Britain, and tourism is a significant part of the economy. Some people say offshore wind can spoil coastal views, but turbines can be located in areas where there are few coastal residents or visitors.

Of course, very large energy infrastructure projects such as these generate many jobs — at least for the construction phase.

Image Credit: Michael Perryman, Wiki Commons

1,200MW Offshore Wind Project Plans Submitted — Could Be Largest Offshore Wind Farm In World was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Solar-Powered Prisons; CSP–Fossil Fuel Integration; EWEA 2013; Duties On China Wind Towers… (Cleantech & Climate News Of The Day)

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 06:34 PM PST

 
Other than our own stories, here’s some top cleantech, climate, and even fossil fuel news of the day:

Solar

Solar-powered prison.

Solar-Powered Prisons in California Represent Big Savings for Taxpayers: “Prisons are a necessary component of modern society, but even the most die-hard "get tough on crime" proponent doesn't want to spend a ton of money on them.  So, where do you keep costs down? Guards? Buildings? Cutting most categories of spending probably also means cutting security at some level; energy, however, represents a significant source of savings without undermining a prison's purpose. California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation may have implemented a model for the rest of the country: a multi-institution solar power purchase agreement.”

DOE to Award up to $20M for Projects Integrating Concentrating Solar Power Systems with Fossil Fuel Plants: “The US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000772) for up to $20 million for the CSP [concentrating solar power] Heat Integration for Baseload Renewable Energy Development (CSP HIBRED) program to support advancement of the hybridization of CSP technologies with existing fossil fuel plants. DOE defines CSP hybridization as thermal and or chemical energy from a CSP system being combined with the thermal and or chemical energy in a fossil fueled power generation system for the production of electricity. A goal of the CSP HIBRED FOA is to catalyze wider CSP hybrid deployment in the power industry.”

More Than a Third of U.S. Solar Installers Say Permitting Requirements Limit Growth: “Clean Power Finance today unveiled a nationwide study of solar permitting and the obstacle it poses to the widespread adoption of residential solar. The study, the largest of its kind to date, provides quantifiable evidence of the negative effects complex permitting regulations have on U.S. solar installers and also on the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), including municipalities and utilities, who oversee permitting processes.”

China to Make Regional Adjustments for Solar Power Incentives: “China, the biggest manufacturer of solar panels, will make regional adjustments to the feed-in tariffs supporting solar power based on local "resource conditions," the latest step to support the industry.

The nation also will offer photovoltaic projects preferential value-added tax policies similar to those made for wind farms, according to a statement today on the central government's website, which cited a State Council meeting led by Premier Wen Jiabao.”

Hot Solar Tips for 2013: Middle East Rising, PV Leasing, CSP: “Everyone loves solar power. Except maybe Australia's energy utilities… and some of its state governments… Anyway, we know our readers love hearing about what's happening in the solar industry, so we thought we'd put together a list of things to look out for in the solar year ahead. Enjoy.”

Zep Solar Signs Supply Agreement with SolarCity: “Zep Solar, Inc., has announced a two-year supply agreement with SolarCity, a national leader of clean energy services, to provide the company with solar installation hardware designed for use with Zep Compatible solar modules. Under the agreement, Zep Solar will manufacture and supply to SolarCity a range of installation hardware solutions for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations for residential and commercial use.”

Array Technologies Wins 268-MW Tracker Contract: “Array Technologies, Inc., a USA-based manufacturer and supplier of solar tracking systems and related products for utility, commercial and residential PV customers, has announced it has been selected to supply its DuraTrack horizontal, single-axis solar trackers for one of the world's largest photovoltaic plants. The utility plant will be located in California's Imperial Valley and will have an installed capacity of 268 MW DC.”

Chinese Solar Imports Drop Two-Thirds From 2011: “U.S. imports of solar cells and panels from the People's Republic of China plummeted in October 2012, even as selling of solar technology revved up for the peak, year-end season, according to federal statistics. The panels from China have been found to be illegally subsidized by regulatory agencies. Total Chinese imports valued at $75 million in October, down from $112.7 million in September, represented a decline of about two-thirds from $213 million in October 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's "U.S. Imports of Merchandise" database.”

2012: Solar Revolution in the United States? ”Sometimes the biggest stories go unreported. Of all the news that didn't make headlines this year, the dramatic increase in U.S. solar installations ranks near the top of the list. [Editor's note: of course, it made plenty of headlines on CleanTechnica.] While we were reading about weak demand for manufactured goods and a slow economy throughout 2012, Americans installed over 3 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems — an unprecedented level, up 71 percent year-over-year. Can you name another industry that grew this much?”

Solar Power: We Ain't Seen Nothing Yet: “When Mark Twidell was a senior executive at BP Solar in the mid 2000s, his team put together a forecast for Australian PV deployment of 200MW by 2010. ‘We thought we were dreaming,’ he says. And it may have appeared so, because BP Solar was later to close what was then the country's only PV manufacturing facility, only for it to be reopened and then closed again by another party.

“This week, Mark Twidell steps down as head of the Australian Solar Institute – which is being absorbed into the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – after an extraordinary three years of industry development. Already, more than 2,000MW of solar PV has been installed in Australia – mostly on household rooftops. That has engaged the public, and their wallets, but the more significant work has been occurring away from the public eye.”

Small Is Big: Bangladesh Installs One Million Solar Home Systems: “A few months back, Nancy Wimmer told us about Bangladesh's solar success. In one of the poorest countries on earth, a renewable energy company, Grameen Shakti, is busy installing nearly 1,000 solar home systems each day. It turns out all that small-scale solar has achieved something quite big.”

Centrotherm Secures 300 MW Chinese Order: “Centrotherm photovoltaics has won a 300 MW order with CECEP Solar Energy Technology (Zhenjiang) Co., Ltd, based in China. Under the agreement, it will deliver solar cell production systems for anti-reflective coating and phosphorous diffusion.”

BYD Announces 110 MW PV Module Supply Deal with South Africa: “BYD Company Limited has said it will supply 110 MW worth of photovoltaic modules to two projects in South Africa.

“The China-based company has said it will deliver around 458,000 of its photovoltaic modules to two projects, worth 75 MW and 35 MW, respectively, under the first round of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP).”

Spanish Senate Raises Energy Tax: “Along with all producers of electricity in Spain, owners of solar power plants will have to pay an energy tax of 7% on top of their feed-in tariffs. The Spanish industry expects an increase of bankruptcies on the back of the news.”

Wind

Europe’s Wind Power and Energy Future: EWEA 2013: “Chief executives, energy ministers, international journalists and energy experts from all around the world will meet in Vienna at the EWEA 2013 annual event from 4-7 February 2013, to discuss Europe’s energy policy and the future of wind energy. Last year 150 journalists, 10600 visitors and 523 exhibitors from 83 countries attended EWEA 2012.”

Planned Wind Turbine Additions Rise in Advance of Scheduled Expiration of Wind Tax Credit: “Many wind projects are planning to come on line before the end of 2012, in advance of the possible expiration of a federal incentive, the wind production tax credit (PTC). It appears that wind developers are pushing to complete projects in 2012 to qualify for the PTC. Under current law, projects that begin operating prior to the end of 2012 are eligible to receive a 2.2-cent PTC for each kilowatthour of generation over a 10-year period. Similar behavior in the face of previous PTC expirations was discussed in an earlier Today in Energy article describing the history of the wind PTC.”

U.S. Slaps Duties on China Wind Towers, High-Level Talks Begin: “The United States pressed forward on Tuesday with plans to slap steep punitive duties on wind turbine towers imported from China at prices deemed unfairly low, even as officials welcomed a high-level Chinese delegation for trade and economic talks.”

Siemens Installs Prototype of 4-Megawatt Offshore Wind Turbine: “Siemens Energy has installed the prototype of a new four-megawatt (MW) wind turbine in Østerild, Denmark. The new wind turbine type is a designated SWT-4.0 and is based on the proven technology of the SWT-3.6, the world’s most popular offshore wind turbine. The prototype 4.0 MW turbine is initially equipped with the standard 120 meter rotor of the 3.6 MW turbine but will shortly be upgraded with a 130 meter rotor using 63 meter long rotor blades. Following extensive testing the SWT-4.0-130 will be launched for sale with the 130 meter rotor diameter in spring 2013.”

Minnesota Power Adds 210 Megawatts of Clean, Low-Cost Wind Energy Generation to Serve Its Customers: “Minnesota Power, a division of ALLETE, Inc. (NYSE: ALE) has reached a significant milestone in its energy supply diversification strategy with the completion of phases two and three of the company's Bison Wind Energy Center. The 210-megawatt (MW) renewable energy installations near New Salem, N.D., are now operational and the commissioning process has been completed.”

Electric Vehicles

Plug-In Hybrids, EVs Not Holding Resale Value Compared To Conventional Cars, But…: “Anyone who has ever bought a new car knows that the second you drive it off of the lot, it has lost thousands of dollars in value. That is why automakers often tout the high resale value of their cars, hoping to convince some buyers that they'll see a decent return on their investment down the road. But a new study shows that buyers of EVs and plug-in hybrids may have to settle for a little less than they hoped for…. Of course it isn't all bad news. If you take into account the $7,500 federal tax rebate available to both the Leaf and the Volt, all of the sudden things like pretty peachy for early adopters and used car fans alike. If those resale values hold true, it means you could buy a Nissan Leaf for under $8,000, and a Chevy Volt for around $13,000 in just a few years time. Not too shabby!” (Also, note the reader comment over there… just 1 at the moment.)

ChargePoint and DBT USA to Showcase Joint Electric Vehicle Charging Station Innovation at the Consumer Electronics Show, 2013: “ChargePoint, the world's largest network of independently owned EV charging stations and DBT USA, the Chicago-based subsidiary of European EV charging infrastructure leader DBT will showcase a joint EV charging station innovation at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show. With more than 10,000 charging stations installed in 32 countries and three continents across the globe, DBT will make a major step in the US EV charging station market with a new product to be announced during CES. The companies will showcase the joint solution on January 8-11, 2013 inside the GoElectricDrive Tech Zone, booth #2826 (LVCC North Hall) and DBT USA booth #2931 (LVCC, North Hall).”

Icelandic Electric Vehicle Association Founded Today, Wants to Import 350 EVs in 2013: “It’s no secret that Gisli Gislason wants to bring electric vehicles to Iceland. A year-and-a-half ago, he struck a deal with Amp Electric Vehicles to send 1,000 EVs to the island nation. That won’t happen now. He’s also navigated a $39-million deal for 150 EVs, with similar results. Undeterred, Gislason’s and his cohorts today founded the Icelandic EV Association. It’s the latest move to make Iceland one of the most EV-ready countries in the world.”

IBM & Green eMotion Project on EV Roaming: “A new IBM project in Europe is intended to enable EV roaming—i.e., simplifying electric vehicle (EV) charging and payment for consumers, regardless of their location. The B2B Marketplace operational demonstration will allow energy providers, car manufacturers, and charging point owners to share and integrate services on one common IT platform. This will create a network of EV charging services that are compatible regionally in Europe.”

Renault’s Australian EV Launch Delayed by Better Place Issues: “Better Place continues to be a bit of a misnomer as issues with the electric-vehicle battery-switching network have delayed Renault’s plans to debut its Fluence Z.E. electric vehicle in Australia, Car Advice reports.”

First Chevy Volt Owner Averages 459 MPG: “The Chevy Volt has received more than its fair share of criticism, but as sales continue to climb, more success stories from Volt owners seem to be coming out. Retired pilot Jeffrey Kaffee, the first person to buy a Chevy Volt outside of auction, has reportedly used just 26 gallons of gasoline in two years of owning his Volt. With more than 12,000 miles on the odometer, that works out to an average of 459 mpg.”

VW Will Expand PHEV Offerings from Porsche in 2014: “Volkswagen is two-pronging its approach to alt-fuel vehicles by expanding its stable of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) starting in 2014 while continuing to boost its push for more sales of its clean-diesel vehicles.

“Europe’s largest automaker is adding PHEV versions of the Porsche Panamera and 918 Spyder to the electric-drive vehicles set to debut in 2014, Reuters reports, citing an interview with VW electric-car head Rudolf Krebs.”

Toyota offering up to $7,500 incentices for RAV4 EV; some customers will pay just $32,000: “Nationwide Insurance tries to attract potential customers on its so-called ‘vanishing deductible.’ Toyota is offering a somewhat similar ‘vanishing price tag’ on its battery-electric RAV4 EV.

“The Japanese automaker, which recently started selling the all-electric ‘ute in California, is offering a limited number of customers $5,000 cash back plus $2,500 in ‘loyalty cash,’ Plug In Cars reports, citing this Toyota dealer website. But wait, there’s more. Customers who buy by January 7 can also get zero-percent financing.”

Energy Storage

More than 700 Energy Storage Projects are Announced or Operating around the World, According to Pike Research Tracker: “Energy storage projects are increasing steadily, both in terms of the project pipeline and the number of projects deployed and operating. Two factors are influencing that expansion: first, demand for energy storage is increasing as utilities learn more about energy storage technologies and become less risk averse, and second, as the economic outlook brightens, companies are more willing to invest the capital frequently required for energy storage.”

Invenergy & Xtreme Power Launch JV for 1.5 MW Grid Energy Storage System: “Invenergy LLC, a Chicago-based renewable energy generation company, and Xtreme Power, a provider of real-time power management and energy storage solutions, launched a joint venture to deploy a fast-acting energy storage system in Illinois.”

Climate

New Video: Climate 2013 – the View from AGU: “I talked to a whole lot of scientists at this year's American Geophysical Union Conference, and a number of them took time for interviews.  I'll be building videos around these in the coming year, but for now, here is a sampling of perspectives on what we know now, and what we're looking for in 2013.”

Newtown: Tragedy, Empathy, and Growing our Circle of Concern: “I have sons not too much older than the children killed in Newtown, Conn., on Friday. They go to schools with no metal detectors or armed guards, watched over by teachers who have never seemed more human and fragile. Like everyone else, I've spent the last few days in a state of semi-shock, crying along with the president and getting angry about guns in America. This is a tragedy every parent — everyone who knows and loves a child — fears above all else. It is intensely personal for me.

“This is what it means to be a social animal: We feel for those in whom we see ourselves. It is a response of the gut, not the head, as much biochemical as intellectual. That surge of empathy brings out much that is best in us, as the outpouring of support for Newtown has shown.

“Morality begins there, but it cannot end there…”

From Sandy to Sandy Hook: The Moral Urgency For Action Even When It Appears 'The Politics Are Too Hard': “I have a daughter almost as old as those who were senselessly killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school, so my heart goes out to all the victims.

“She is also why I fight so hard for climate action. As Obama said in his powerful speechat the Sandy Hook interfaith prayer vigil….”

Halfway To Hell (And High Water): 333rd Month In A Row Global Temperatures Exceed Long-Term Average: “Okay, NOAA's State of the Climate Report for November isn't the Mayan meteorological forecast. And the Apocalypse isn't quite ‘now.’ But this part of the NOAA report is kind of ominous:

“Including this November, the 10 warmest Novembers have occurred in the past 12 years. The 10 coolest Novembers on record all occurred prior to 1920. November 2012 also marks the 36th consecutive November and 333rd consecutive month with global temperature higher than the long-term average. The last month with a below average temperature was February 1985, nearly 28 years ago.”

Climate Already Altering U.S. Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Report Says: “Climate change is causing plant and animal species across the U.S. to shift their geographic ranges and life events — from flowering to migration — are being transformed at a faster rate than observed even a few years ago, a new analysis by 60 scientists says. According to the report, "Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services," some terrestrial species are moving up in elevation at rates 2 to 3 times greater than previously believed, while the range shifts for some marine species have been even greater. These rapid changes in ranges, distributions, and life cycles are forcing species to interact in ways that they never have before and could alter the timing and availability of natural resources critical to biodiversity and ecosystem health.”

Heeding Public Outrage, Pfizer Drops Climate Denial And Tobacco Front Group Heartland Institute: “The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE) has confirmed that it will no longer support the Heartland Institute, a political advocacy group that questions the science of climate change and tobacco smoking. Forecast the Facts, which is leading the campaign calling on corporations to drop Heartland, was informed of the decision by Pfizer's Corporate Secretary Matthew Lepore. Pfizer was a major donor to Heartland, giving $45,000 in 2012 alone.”

Sun & Climate Moving in Opposite Directions, Says Leaked IPCC Report: “Last week, blogger Alec Rawls leaked a working draft of the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). One section of the IPCC report examines the role of the sun on climate change and concludes that since 1980, solar activity has decreased and had a slight cooling influence on our climate. Over the last few decades of global warming, sun and climate have been moving in opposite directions.”

Fossil Fuels

Group Sues Obama Administration Over Offshore Oil And Gas Leasing Program: “A lawsuit has been filed against the Obama administration over the economic claims that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) made in their 5-year plan to open up new areas around the United States to offshore oil and gas leasing.  The suit, filed by the Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE), says that the administration not only grossly exaggerated the economic benefits of increased energy exploration, but also that they failed to take all costs into account.”

Big Banks Admit No Keystone XL = Limited Expansion of Tar Sands Development: “Want to know how the Keystone XL will drive up climate emissions? Just ask the banks that are needed to fund dirty tar sands pipeline projects and they’ll tell you straight out: no KXL means no substantive development of the tar sands, one of the world’s largest pools of carbon and a sure-fire way to cook the planet.”

Coal Exports Emerging As Major Climate Fight In The Pacific Northwest: “In the Pacific Northwest, activists and their allies are ramping up for a full-throttle battle over a proposal to haul coal across the west for export to China. Big Coal's latest master plan promises to generate a second epicenter of climate-change resistance—our very own Keystone XL pipeline showdown.”

Other

E-waste Recycling — At Whose Expense? “Computers, tablets and mobile phones are all popular consumer products. The lifespan of these devices is usually short, between two to four years. Shakila Umair, researcher at KTH, travelled to Pakistan to see how these common electronic devices are dismantled and recycled. She investigated the harsh living conditions of people working with e-waste.”

German Cabinet Agrees to Expand Power Grid Faster: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed on Wednesday to accelerate the construction of 2,800 km of new high-voltage power lines to push forward the country’s shift to renewable energy.”

Experts: High-MPG Vehicles to Continue Racing Ahead in 2013: “According to industry analyst Alan L. Baum, principal of Baum &Associates, and Luke Tonachel, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior vehicles analyst, U.S. consumers will be the big winners in 2013 as a result of strong growth in sales of electric and hybrid cars … a wide range of available fuel-efficient midsize vehicles and pickups … lower prices for a number  of the vehicles with the highest MPG ratings … and a greater emphasis on diesel-powered vehicles and affordable new tech. In addition, Baum and Tonachel say the auto industry will remain on track to meet higher federal fuel efficiency standards.”

Czech Republic, Hungary Get EU Approval for Carbon Schemes: “The European Commission has approved state aid of 1.88 billion euros for the Czech Republic and 56 million euros for Hungary in the form of free carbon allowances, it said on Wednesday.”

French Government ‘Concerned’ about German Energy Transition: “In September, the French Center of Strategic Analysis produced a paper listing its concerns about its neighbor’s transition from fossil and nuclear to renewables. While the study is not without its flaws, it nonetheless reflects what Germany’s biggest neighbor feels – and may be a good general indicator of how some of Germany’s neighbors feel left out.”

Smart Transportation

Smart-Transportation Spending Will Quadruple to $102 Billion by 2018: “Let’s just say the smart money’s on smart transportation. A recent study by MarketsAndMarkets found that global spending on so-called smart-transportation initiatives will quadruple to more than $102 billion in 2018 from almost $27 billion this year. Spending on communication systems that do everything from conveying local traffic levels to providing parking and traffic-ticketing information, all of which will be designed to make the roads safer and more efficient, will jump by about 24 percent a year during the next few years, the study says.”

OriginOil Removes up to 99% of Bacteria in Harvested Algae, Solving Key Barrier for Multi-Billion Dollar Industry: “OriginOil, Inc. (OTC/BB: OOIL), the developer of a breakthrough energy production process for harvesting algae and cleaning up oil & gas water, announced today that its algae harvesting process reduces bacterial concentrations by as much as 99%. This could extend the shelf life of liquid algae concentrate from hours to days, addressing a key problem standing in the way of the multi-billion dollar algae industry. The results were achieved in lab tests under an independent university research program.”

Climate Authority Gives Green Light for Boom in Big Renewables: “The large-scale renewable energy industry can now get down to business and begin the rollout of around 8,000MW of wind farms and solar farms over the next eight years after the Climate Change Authority delivered its final decision on the much contested Renewable Energy Target.”

Solar-Powered Prisons; CSP–Fossil Fuel Integration; EWEA 2013; Duties On China Wind Towers… (Cleantech & Climate News Of The Day) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Simple Software Update Increases Tesla Model S Range By Up To 56 Miles Per Week

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 07:43 AM PST

 
Modern electronics usually use a little bit of electricity while they are switched “off,” often for the sake of convenience so that you don’t have to set the time or retain settings or wait awhile for something to start up. However, the settings bit is unnecessary, as they can be (and often are) stored using EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory).

Normally, the Tesla Model S does not completely switch off when you turn it off, but the company is making some improvements in that area.

White Tesla Model S

Unfortunately, for every day that a Tesla Model S is parked, it loses up to 8 miles of driving range while it is not even in use. That is a whopping 56 miles per week, or a staggering 240 miles per month.

Tesla Motors said that soon an update will be available to solve that problem by powering the vehicle electronics off.

Here are some notes from the press release regarding the new “Vehicle Sleep” feature:

“With this release, Model S will power off the display and vehicle electronics each time you exit, transitioning to a ‘sleep’ state. When you return to Model S, you’ll note a modest increase in the time it takes the touchscreen and instrument panel to wake from this energy-saving state.

“Model S will initiate the startup process the moment the key is recognized nearby. You can only begin driving once both displays are ready.”

The driving range of the Tesla Model S depends on the chosen configuration. It can be 160 miles with a 40 kWh battery, 230 miles with a 60 kWh, or 300 miles with an 85 kWh pack (all at a speed of 55 mph*).

If you have the 40 kWh version, and tend to leave it for weeks without driving or charging it, you will want this update.

Source: Autoblog Green

*The faster you drive, the shorter range will be because efficiency decreases as speed increases due to increased drag. This unfortunate rule applies to all types of vehicles.

Simple Software Update Increases Tesla Model S Range By Up To 56 Miles Per Week was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Prehistoric Flowback Adds Fresh Trouble To Fracking Woes

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 07:35 AM PST

 
A group of researchers from Penn State University has uncovered a new issue for fracking, the natural gas drilling method that involves pumping a pressurized mix of water, chemicals, and other substances thousands of feet underground. Until now, one major focus of concern has been fracking water contamination from chemicals in the original fluid. The new twist, according to the research team, is that the spent fluid comes back laden with a brine containing elements that have been locked beneath the earth for hundreds of millions of years dating back to the Paleozoic era. With elements like barium and radium in the mix, the end result could be costly new regulations for the transportation and disposal of fracking brine, and new headaches for the fracking industry.

prehistoric elements many contaminate fracking brine

Fracking and Water Contamination

Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. EPA has been moving toward tighter regulations for the fracking industry. Progress has been slow partly because fracking was exempted from federal regulation under the Clean Water Act, and drillers were entitled to keep the ingredients in fracking fluid a secret.

The notorious case of drinking water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming is one example of the difficulty faced by EPA investigators in confirming the connection between fracking and specific instances of water contamination. However, anecdotal evidence has been steadily mounting that contaminants in the original fracking fluid, as well as escaped gas, have been entering drinking water wells.

The Penn State team looked at another aspect of the operation, which is what happens to the spent fracking fluid after the drilling operation.

Prehistoric Elements in Fracking Brine

The research paper is available online at Applied Geochemistry. It covers flowback from fracking operations in the Marcellus region, which covers heavily populated areas in the Northeast including Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.

The research team used four different sources of data covering Marcellus wells, primarily in Pennsylvania. That included one group of conventional oil and gas wells, and three groups of gas fracking wells.

According to the study, in a typical fracking operation, only about one-quarter of the original fracking fluid returns to the surface. The study found that a major component of this fluid was a highly saline brine, which was not consistent with the salinity of the original fracking fluid.

The high levels of salinity, though, were consistent with deposits during the Paleozoic era, which also include naturally occurring barium and radium.

Though the ancient elements are highly diluted, the study concludes that the levels are high enough to be out of compliance with drinking water standards, with consequent implications for the safe handling and disposal of flowback water.

The Hidden Cost of Fracking

Fossil fuels are popular because they are relatively cheap. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch. When public health and environmental issues are factored in, costs begin to mount and the luster begins to fade.

In addition to water contamination issues, a recent study by Cornell University suggests that the fracking industry will eventually need to address the amount of greenhouse gas emitted during fracking operations, in the form of methane gas leakage.

Earthquake risks are another consideration, as are other local effects including new traffic patterns (primarily due to heavy truck traffic) and the potential loss of value for farmland and other nearby properties.

Fracking is nothing new, by the way. It has been flying under the radar for years, primarily because it was mainly located in sparsely populated areas.

Now that fracking is taking place in heavily populated regions, more people are immediately affected and public awareness is growing.

A recent documentary by Josh Fox on fracking in Pennsylvania called Gasland has helped to push the local effects of fracking into the spotlight. Director Gus Van Sant’s soon-to-be released major motion picture Promised Land (also set in Pennsylvania) will most likely intensify the focus, thanks partly to the star power of leads Matt Damon, John Krasinski, and Frances McDormand.

(Note: For those of you keeping score at home, the dinosaur pictured above is not from the Paleozoic era.)

Image: Dinosaur by InfoMofo

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Prehistoric Flowback Adds Fresh Trouble To Fracking Woes was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Win A Trip To Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Write A Blog Post About Water-Energy Nexus

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 06:37 AM PST

 
Here’s a pretty big opportunity some of you might be interested in: the chance to be invited to Abu Dhabi as VIP media in order to cover the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which is January 13-17. (This is a big event: the organizers expect 30,000 people from 150 countries to attend Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.)

In particular, Masdar writes that the winner “will be selected for an all-expense paid trip to Abu Dhabi (January 13-17) and hired as Masdar's VIP blogger for the week, posting regular updates throughout Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, and receiving a modest stipend for their efforts.” Sounds pretty good, eh?

How To Enter

Eligibility to enter the blogging contest is a piece of cake: just be at least 18 years old. (Yeah, I know, you don’t have much control over that, but I know that the large majority of you do meet that requirement.)

The topic of the blogging contest is a big one (and quite an underrated one, in my humble opinion): the connection between energy and water, and solving increasingly important issues regarding both. The exact question bloggers are asked to address is: "What steps can individuals, businesses or world leaders take to address the most pressing and often interrelated water and energy challenges?"

Your entry for the "Engage: The Water-Energy Nexus" blogging contest must be 400-600 words. In your entry, you also have to be sure to mention the contest and link to www.masdar.ae/engage.

Once your blog post is published, submit the link in a comment on the contest page. (Do this by December 31, 2012.)

If your post meets all required criteria, it will be featured on the Masdar Engage page, where it can be voted on by you, your friends, your family, and others. Voting closes January 3, 2013.

If you don’t happen to have a website/blog to post on, we might be up for posting your entry as a guest post on CleanTechnica, or you can simply email it to to: press@masdar.ae (drop me a note via our site contact form if you’re interested in the first option).

Full contest rules can be found here.

Selecting The Winner

The winner will be selected by a panel of judges based on quality of the work and social media shares (e.g. facebook likes, tweets, etc).

The winning entry will be featured on the Masdar website, and the winner will be notified by email.

Some Stimulation

As a bit of intellectual stimulation, here are some interesting water and energy facts shared by the folks over at Masdar:

  • The water-energy nexus is the relationship between how much water is used to generate and transmit energy, and how much energy it takes to collect, clean, move, store, and dispose of water.
  • 40% of the world's population is expected to live in water-scarce regions by 2025.
  • 27% of the urban population in the developing world does not have piped water in its house.
  • Globally, we use 70% of our water sources for agriculture and irrigation, and only 10% on domestic uses.
  • Total electricity consumption of the water and wastewater sectors will grow 33% in the next 20 years.
  • 99.7% of all the water on earth is not available for human and animal consumption.
  • 52% of total global water desalination occurs in the Middle East.

 

Enter, Seriously!

Many people I know suffer from the “I’m not good enough” syndrome. If nobody ever refrained from trying something due to that feeling, I can’t even imagine how much better this world would be. I know many of you are highly informed on energy, climate, and water issues. And I also know that many of you will nonetheless say to yourself that you haven’t got a chance of winning, and that could be a huge impediment to you deciding to enter. My sincere advice is that you ignore that voice and enter the contest (if you’ve read this far, my guess is that you know enough about the issues to submit an entry). So, assuming that you will now enter, good luck to you! (And let us know if you win. :D )

Win A Trip To Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week: Write A Blog Post About Water-Energy Nexus was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Live Conversation With Energy Secretary Steven Chu & Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) On Future Of US Wind Industry

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 05:48 AM PST

 
Update: The conversation is over. We’ll post a video of it as soon as possible.

Want to hear what Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) think about the future of the US wind industry? Have questions you want to ask them? Today’s your opportunity.

At 4pm ET on energy.gov/live, the two clean energy leaders “will discuss the progress of wind energy and the importance of robust policy support to ensure continued American leadership in the sector,” the Department of Energy (DOE) writes. “The event will be livestreamed on energy.gov/live, and we'll be taking questions from both in-person and online audiences.”

You can submit questions a few ways:

 
Join in. Have fun.

Live Conversation With Energy Secretary Steven Chu & Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) On Future Of US Wind Industry was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Chart: German PV Capacity = 50% Of Peak Summer Demand; US PV Capacity = 0.5% Of Peak Summer Demand

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 05:36 AM PST

 
Yikes, that’s a bit of a humiliating stat, isn’t it? I’ve covered this sort of thing previously, when comparing solar power capacity of various countries to TWh of electricity production, to GDP, and per capita. At the end of 2011, Germany had over 39 times more solar power capacity per TWh of electricity production than the US, and it was second only to Italy. Relative to GDP, Germany had almost 24 times more solar power capacity than the US, and was second only to the Czech Republic. And per capita, Germany was #1 in the world, with about 21.6 times more solar power capacity per citizen than the US.

But, after seeing my Renewable Energy Big Pic: Part 2 post (Part 1 & Part 2 were full of graphs and charts), the good folks over at Energiewende Germany tweeted me this great chart (which seems to have been created by the German Energy Transition folks, using REN21 statistics):

germany italy spain us solar PV capacity compared to electricity demand

I’m  not going to lie, I love writing about the more or less exponential growth of solar power capacity in the US, but I’m also well aware of the fact that Germany is light years ahead of us in this arena. On the one hand, it’s a bit depressing. On the other hand, however, it’s inspiring and good proof that we could install a ton more solar power in the US without any major technical issues.

As pointed out several times now, solar power in Germany is much cheaper than solar power in the US, and studies have shown how that’s due to soft costs. The underlying problem is considered by some to be US solar incentives (good argument for that at that link) and just the fact that we have a much less mature market (as is obvious from the chart above).

How do we get to the level at which Germany now sits? I would probably agree with Jigar Shah that current US solar incentives are more of a hindrance than a help, and need to be cut. I would strongly support feed-in tariffs and PACE programs in more of the US. And I would simply say that solar companies need to invest more in creative, effective advertising that shows people it pays to go solar, it’s easy to go solar, and it feels good to go solar.

That’s my 2 cents. What do you think?

Chart: German PV Capacity = 50% Of Peak Summer Demand; US PV Capacity = 0.5% Of Peak Summer Demand was originally published on: CleanTechnica

World’s Megacities Face Extreme Flooding As Sea Levels Continue To Rise & Storms Increase In Intensity (Large Percentage Of World GDP At Risk)

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 04:50 AM PST

 
The megacities of the world are facing the reality of very likely having to deal with increasingly powerful super storms and rapidly rising sea levels as the effects of climate change worsen. Many of these already vulnerable urban areas are rapidly growing and expected to continue to do so into the foreseeable future. These coastal urban areas are also often economic hubs where trillions of dollars of businesses, industry, infrastructure, and banking is based.

megacity flooding climate change

By 2050, the severity of all of these problems may combine to make Hurricane Sandy seem like a minor occurrence. Major adaptations are an absolute necessity to limit the likelihood of extreme destruction to the large coastal urban cities of the world. Even with large investment, it will be impossible to stop all of the effects of climate change. To those that say that large-scale investment to solve these problems isn’t possible, it was large-scale investment in fossil fuel powered infrastructure, deforestation, and the gas-powered automobile that got us here — it can be done again.

By 2070, the most vulnerable of the world’s megacities will be New York City, Miami, and Guangzhou (China), according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “In all these cities, sea level rise will meet a tide of urbanization in the coming decades and set the scene for storms with ever-more catastrophic consequences.”

“Some of those cities with the most at-risk assets now — Tokyo, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Nagoya — will, over the next 50 years, be surpassed by Calcutta, Shanghai, Mumbai, Tianjin, Bangkok, Ningbo, and Ho Chi Minh City, booming Asian coastal metropolitan areas where trillions of dollars in economic assets will be vulnerable. So will many millions of these cities’ residents, most of them poor and living in low-lying areas.”

In the same way that many modern banks have grown “too big to fail,” many of these megacities are expected to become “too big to flood.” But they will flood, unless massive infrastructure projects designed to stop the rising seas and increasingly powerful storms are undertaken, many researchers have said. Think about something like the dikes in the Netherlands, but much larger, and also addressing the effects of intensely powerful storms.

“Based on the conservative assumption that sea levels will rise by only 18 inches by 2070, the OECD finds that total assets vulnerable to flooding and storm surges of just 10 of these cities could account for some 9 percent of the world’s GDP. But many climate scientists and coastal experts note that sea level rise forecasts by groups such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not factor in the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. When they are taken into account, these experts say that global sea levels could well rise 3 to 6 feet this century, leaving scores of cities and massive amounts of economic infrastructure dangerously exposed.”


 
“Even assuming that protection levels will be high in the future,” the study states, “the large exposure in terms of population and assets is likely to translate into regular city-scale disasters at a global scale.”

The majority of the very rapidly growing coastal cities of today’s world have no protection, or close to none. And importantly, and something that is almost always forgotten, many of these coastal regions are sinking. Though this process is to a degree ‘natural’, it has been occurring much more quickly in recent times as a result of large-scale groundwater extraction in these regions.

“If you’re going to live in these places you’re going to spend significant resources protecting your people and your assets,” says Nicholls, co-leader of the Cities and Coasts Research Program at the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “How long can you depend upon having the capacity to bounce back?”

As the researchers note, “a major paradox of this century is that we are concentrating more of the world’s wealth and population in vulnerable coastal areas, just as sea level rise and more powerful storms put them at greater risk.”

By the projections of the OECD, more than $35 trillion of the world’s assets will be dependent on these coastal cities by 2070. If these regions suffered large-scale disaster it could seriously damage the world’s economy. And as everyone should know by now, these sorts of disasters are “becoming increasingly endemic.” But there is still “a surprising resistance to looking at what can be done, even among those most familiar with the problems.”

“Society reacts to events,” he says. “Studies don’t trigger action. Floods trigger action.”

Source: The Guardian
Image Credits: Katrina New Orleans via Wikimedia Commons

World’s Megacities Face Extreme Flooding As Sea Levels Continue To Rise & Storms Increase In Intensity (Large Percentage Of World GDP At Risk) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

1,000 MW Of New Solar Power Plant Applications In Brazil

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 04:20 AM PST

 
Applications for the construction of nearly 1 GW (1,000 MW) of new solar power capacity have recently been received by Brazil’s national electricity regulator, ANEEL. A total of 21 new requests have been received by the agency in recent weeks.

20121219-010740.jpg

Among these applications are: 7 new PV plants in the central state of Minas Gerais, including the 30MW Patos de Minas solar project, the 30MW Tupaciguara project, the 30MW João Pinheiro project, and a 30MW project in Araguari.

“The remaining three plants planned for the region are 30 MW Caprichosa 1 and 30 MW Caprichosa 4 in Jaíba municipality by CEI Solar Empreendimentos Energéticos; and 30 MW Jaíba 1 in the same municipality by Solares Empreendimentos Energético. Solyes Geradora de Energia submitted five requests to build photovoltaic plants in the north eastern state of Bahia. The plants include: 29 MW Sol do Sertão II; 15 MW Sol do Sertão IV; 29 MW Sol do Sertão VI; 29 MW Sol do Sertão IX; and 10 MW Sol do Sertão XIV.”


 
Northeastern Brazil looks as though it may also receive 3 different 30MW projects in the São José do Belmonte municipality in the state Pernambuco.

“In Piauí, another northeastern Brazilian state, Sertão Solar Energia is planning to build 30 MW Sertão 1 and 30 MW Sertão 2 in João Costa municipality, while developer Sobral Solar Energia informed ANEEL of its plans to install 30 MW Sobral 1 and 30 MW Sobral 2 in São João do Piauí municipality.”

“The remaining two applications were received from Araguaina Serviços Administrativos, which wants to develop 30 MW Iguatu in a municipality of the same name in Ceará state, while Universo Serviços Administrativos applied to build 30 MW Uruaçu in the state of Goiás.”

Source: PV Magazine
Image Credits: anonlinegreenworld (some rights reserved)

1,000 MW Of New Solar Power Plant Applications In Brazil was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Europe’s Largest Onshore Wind Farm Now Online

Posted: 19 Dec 2012 04:16 AM PST

 
Europe's largest onshore wind farm is now up and running. Located in the heart of Dobregea Constanta County in Romania, the 600-megawatt (MW) Fantanele/Cogealac wind farm is being run by CEZ Romania, a branch of the largest Central European utility, the CEZ Group.

The project is using 240 of General Electric's 2.5MW wind turbines, with the last turbine coming online in November.

"We chose GE because of its proven technology and the extensive experience of its project teams. The 2.5-megawatt technology offers the efficiency, availability and energy performance that will safeguard our success," said CEZ project manager Ondřej Šafář in the release.

"Thanks to the Fantanele/Cogealac wind farm, CEZ is making a major contribution to increasing Romania's renewable energy generation. Before this project, Romania's installed wind capacity was only 14 megawatts."

While the wind farm is located in Central Europe, much of the project has a global United Nations feel to it. Brazil, Germany, Denmark, China, Poland, and the Czech Republic made the towers and turbines needed for the wind farm.

What is even more interesting is the large scope of this wind project, requiring stringent planning in transporting all of the equipment:

“Twelve modes of transportation were needed to move all of the components for each wind turbine from the port of Constanta on the Black Sea to the project construction site. At peak times, 25 cranes were in action at once at one of the largest building sites in Europe.”

Stephan Ritter, GE General Manager, reiterated the challenges in getting the equipment into the area and the rewards it has provided: "Detailed planning, clear processes and a lot of dedication ensured that the project was completed on time…. We were able to feed the experience we gained during the construction phase straight back into the project. We are very proud of the outstanding achievement of our project team."

This recent project only adds to GE's solid wind energy portfolio. Earlier in 2012, the company declared its group of 2.5MW wind turbines has gone past 2 gigawatts of global installed capacity, providing up to 1.4 million European homes with renewable energy.

Source: GE

Europe's Largest Onshore Wind Farm Now Online was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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