Friday, December 21, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Investments That Uphold The Christmas Spirit

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 02:18 PM PST

Abundance Generation is a UK based company that has built something amazing: a 'democratic finance' platform, allowing ordinary (ie: not rich) people to invest as little as £5 (about $8) in renewable energy. This energy will power communities at more affordable prices, and pays back its investors at a rate that satisfies them. Abundance has just seen total investment in its projects exceed £1 million.

Recently, I caught up with Abundance Director Bruce Davis in a noisy café close to his West London office. In the second half of this article, you'll find the video interviews with Bruce, explaining the social value of democratic finance, of people taking responsibility for their money, and of defining risk.

How do we use our money, and why? For Bruce, an anthropologist, this is the question we should ask ourselves. After helping launch a peer loaning platform called Zopa, Bruce began investigating democratic finance models that could be used to build infrastructure. He teamed up with renewables proponent Karl Harder, and, just over six months ago, Abundance Generation was born.

Since then, two projects have gone into development. As you read this, one of them is powering a community in the Forest of Dean. The other is under construction. Another four projects are in the funding stage, and will one day be powering other communities. In an increasingly commercialised season that's supposed to be about peace, happiness, and goodwill to all men, Abundance Generation's brand of democratic finance is a refreshing tonic.

Reclaim Your Money

Bruce: "[People should] actually have the confidence to make decisions about where [their] money goes, and how it is used, rather than putting it to someone else and saying, 'Right, OK, you make those decisions for me…'"

Bruce Davis explains why democratic finance is important viaThe Eco Experts

Invest In 'Things'

'Invest in things' is one of the pillars of thought on which Abundance is built. Traditional financial models mean that investing in assets is a luxury for the very rich. But with democratic platforms, even students with no money can invest, in amounts of £5 at a time, in a range of renewable projects to protect their investments.

With costs of winter fuel rising (and so long as it's fossil fuels being used, set to rise exponentially), clean energy and the independence it offers is becoming more popular. There is the environmental aspect to consider, but for many, that's a luxury: for the majority, the reasons are ideological or financial. Bruce believes in having the confidence to assume responsibility for one's own money, and not letting institutions continue to disempower you.

Moving Money Out of Banks

Bruce: "99% of what banks communicate – what they call 'trust' – is actually a distrust in yourself. They try to undermine your confidence, to make you reliant on them."

Bruce Davis on switching banks, or even taking money out of banks and into 'things'. via The Eco Experts

Abundance is building a portfolio of investment opportunities along the same lines: renewable energy to communities. Having multiple projects means investors can spread their money around and avoid putting their eggs into a single fate-tempting basket. This is how Bruce explains the concept of risk in finance:

"When we talk about 'risk' what we actually mean is 'uncertainty'… I would say that risk is a good thing because it's when you've quantified uncertainty… Actually what you need is a mix of risks. We've lost the ability to think about risk in terms of managing uncertainty."

As an example, he refers to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which pension plans and other 'safe' investment plans all, mistakenly, placed great trust in.

Bruce Davis defines 'risk' and 'uncertainty' as investment terms. via The Eco Experts

You will hear more about Abundance Generation in 2013. Thanks to Bruce for agreeing to the interview. For more information, visit

About the author:  writes about cleantech, government policy and energy efficiency for The Eco Experts. You can speak to him on Twitter at @theecoexperts


Investments That Uphold The Christmas Spirit was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Wireless Car Charger For The Chevy Volt

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 12:18 PM PST

Excitingly, Momentum Dynamics Corporation has announced that it was able to wirelessly charge a Chevy Volt. The company also proudly noted that it provides the safety and all-weather automatic operation that wireless charging can offer. (The safety benefit is basically only outdoors, where the vehicle would be exposed to water.)

Wireless electric car charger for GM Volt.

Momentum Dynamics was able to provide 20,000 watts of power to the vehicle. Typical 120-volt, 15-amp power outlets cannot provide more than 1,800 watts of power, and typical 240-volt, 13-amp outlets cannot provide more than 3,120 watts of power.

There are 240-volt power outlets that can be set up to deliver 50 amps (12,000 watts), though.

Charge time is limited by both the battery’s current handling capacity, and the power the charge can provide. The charger needs the current handling capacity to deliver the entire 24 kWh (for example) that a battery pack needs.

Improving Charge Time Is Key To EV Proliferation

Charge time is of paramount importance to widespread electric vehicle (EV) adoption.

If your electric car offers 73 miles of range, for example, and you find that you are about to run out of it, then you would normally have to plug in for hours to be able to drive much further again (assuming you are driving a 100% electric vehicle, not a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle like the Chevy Volt).

However, if you could charge the battery in 10 minutes, such as a Toshiba Supercharge battery, this would not be a major issue, and you could be on your way very quickly and easily.

If you could do so wirelessly, that increases the convenience even a bit more.

“Momentum Dynamics has surprised many people in the industry by the amount of power that can be safely delivered without the use of cables, and by its low-cost relative to plug-in chargers,” said company CEO and co-inventor Andy Daga.”

“We do for EV charging what systems like E-ZPass® have done for automated toll collection — except in this case it’s about more than reducing toll gate congestion — we are actually enabling the growth of an international industry,” said Daga.

This type of charger is probably most convenient in the parking lots at peoples’ offices, since they are sure to park there often but probably don’t have the ability to plug in like in their garage.

Another use for this type of charger is range extension. One concept is to place it on roads (especially at stoplights) so it charges cars at least partially to extend their range.

We’ll see where the company goes with this and if it is implemented in some of the above ways.

Source: ADVFN

Wireless Car Charger For The Chevy Volt was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Tesla Announces European Pricing — Same As US (Only Different)

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 11:54 AM PST

Fresh off the announcement of Tesla Motors’ first positive cash flow earlier this month, the groundbreaking US-based electric car company has just put out word of its European prices for the Tesla Model S. As we’ve learned to expect the unexpected with Tesla, though, in typical brash fashion it is breaking with convention and has tweaked its pricing structure so there won’t be any unaccounted-for differences between its US and European prices.

Tesla Motors Announces European Tesla Model S Prices

One World, One Tesla Price

Tesla’s announcement makes it clear that there won’t be a one-for-one equivalence between the price of a Model S in the US and Europe, due to shipping costs, import duties, and other variables that are unrelated to manufacturing costs. The $7500 federal tax credit in the US is another key factor in the resulting differential (for a full pricing schedule, visit Tesla’s European websites).

However, aside from all that, the European Tesla Model S prices conform to Tesla’s global philosophy:

“Our goal is to make the same level of profit per car no matter where it is ultimately delivered around the world. We do not think it is right to seek higher profits from customers in some countries just because other companies do.”

Tesla Motors, from Red to Black

Tesla launched in 2003 and has had its share of critics over the years, partly from within the automotive community and partly from political conservatives as the result of a hefty Department of Energy loan it received back in 2009.

However, as of this fall, Tesla was reportedly in shape to make early repayments on the loan, and as we head into winter, the company has finally made it into the black, as we noted above.

Aside from building good will among future customers in Europe and elsewhere with its one-world pricing structure, Tesla is also taking a proactive approach to building customer loyalty here in the US.

The company went ahead and designed its own name-brand, solar-powered charging stations, called the Tesla Supercharger, which it just unveiled in September in California. The solar panels are included in a carport set up by SolarCity, and the whole thing goes next to minimarts, shopping centers, diners, and other places where drivers normally plan on stopping for a while (a half charge takes only half an hour).

The first six Tesla Superchargers are already online, and that’s just the beginning. According to Tesla: ”By next year, we plan to install Superchargers in high traffic corridors across the continental United States, enabling fast, purely electric travel from Vancouver to San Diego, Miami to Montreal and Los Angeles to New York.”

Tesla is looking at a network of over 100 stations in North America alone by 2015, with more planned for Europe and Asia.

With the Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year award for the Model S in its pocket, it looks like Tesla Motors has some pretty good reasons to be confident that the future is black.

Image: Courtesy of Tesla Motors

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Tesla Announces European Pricing — Same As US (Only Different) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Plug & Save – New DIY Solar Systems from Germany

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 10:14 AM PST

Some call them "Balcony Power Plants." They represent the first generation of what may be the future of micro/small residential solar systems. They are off-the-shelf DIY solar systems that require little to no technical skills nor any permits for their installation.

"It's as simple as putting together IKEA furniture," says Holger Laudeley, the engineer who developed this new kind of modular all-in-one solar system.

Sun Invention Plug & Save – Balcony Mounting System

The radical new concept is as simple as it is brilliant. It consists of a rather regular-looking 195W solar panel that has all the necessary electrical equipment (inverters, wiring,…) mounted to its back. Up to 18 of these modules can be linked to form a 3.51kW solar system. The only thing the owner of new system has to do is: 1) point the panel toward the sun, and 2) plug it into a normal socket in the house or apartment.

One More Thing

Laudeley’s new solar concept is marketed under the label "Sun Invention — Plug & Save," and the best part of this story is: there are already two "Plug & Save" products available in solar PV online shops here in Germany (delivery time 5-7 days).

Direct Marketing in front of a DIY Store

"Plug & Save – Optimus" includes a 0.25kWh lithium-ion battery pack (+ battery management system), whereas "Plug & Save – Light" comes without a storage component. Additionally, there are several different mounting systems available for the DIY installation on flat roofs, on the ground, on walls, or as a balcony power plant.

The Price

In one online shop, they offered a 0.975kW / 0.5kWh balcony-set (2xOptimus + 3xLight-modules) for €2,805 (excluding the German VAT: €2360). That's $3–3.60/W for a system that even includes storage.

A “Balcony Power Plant” in northern Germany

In Germany, this system is expensive compared to multi-kW, roof-mounted systems, even small ones below 10kW. But it's still a great offer with a lot of value for all those who don't own a roof.  Especially since this system could generate electricity below the residential electricity rate in Germany (roughly $0.32/kWh – including 50% taxes & fees).

And, of course, there are many other reasons to install solar, that go far beyond a simple cash incentive. For example, the simple concept of self-reliance, taking marketshare away from energy corporations, and protecting the enviroment / future of human kind. Small things….

But since money rules the world, here’s a little "What If" graphic putting the generation costs of this system into an American context.

Plug & Save – New DIY Solar Systems from Germany was originally published on: CleanTechnica

National High-Speed Rail Still Moving Forward, Says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 09:23 AM PST

The eventual goal of a national high-speed rail network is still moving forward, according to the Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.


When he was speaking before a congressional committee earlier this week, he clarified that the administration is going to continue to invest in “its signature transportation project. We're not giving up on high-speed rail," said LaHood. "The president will include funding in his budget. I think we'll get there with public money, but in the absence of that we'll get there with private money."

So far, there have been more than 150 new proposals received and funded to various degrees. The new projects have been concentrated along the East and West Coast and in parts of the Midwest.

There are some members of Congress that think that the administration needs to start increasing the speed of implementation.

"I'm not convinced that we know how to do it because we haven't done it," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) said. "There will be huge criticism of the administration for having nothing to show for its efforts in five years."

"We need to get started," Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.) said. "I know when the interstates were being built there were areas that didn't want them. Who doesn't want a highway now?"

Several other countries around the world have high-speed rail networks and trains that are blisteringly fast compared to US trains. For many in the US, rail may  be an invisible option for long-distance travel, but it is the top, most modern option in several other developed and even developing countries.

Source: Planetizen
Image Credits: High-Speed Rail via Wikimedia Commons

National High-Speed Rail Still Moving Forward, Says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was originally published on: CleanTechnica

ReCycle Bikes, Bicycles Made From All Recycled Aluminum

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 09:20 AM PST

The bicycle company ReCycle is getting close to releasing its first full run of 100% recycled aluminum bikes. In addition to the appeal of a bike created out of 100% recycled aluminum, the bike features some nice improvements that really help to make it stand out. Some of the models will feature belts instead of chains, for example, and the grips and saddles will be made be made from cork. The company is currently looking to fund this first run via a Kickstarter campaign.


The one downside, though, is that the bikes are going to be a bit on the expensive side. The Moshi Moshi model is $2000, and the Mudmaste and mBula models will be somewhere around there also.

“The price tag may put some buyers off, but it’s not crazy for a high-end bike, much less one fashioned out of recycled aluminum,” Amanda Koozer of CNET notes. “If the company gets off the ground, it’s hoping to eventually implement a program through which customers can bring in used aluminum items and have them turned into a new bike. Better start saving up your Red Bull cans.”

The bike clearly has a bit in common with a recently viral cardboard bike, but it also has some clear differences. For example, the price tag for the cardboard bike is reportedly $5-12. What do you bike lovers think of this new ReCycle bike?

Source: CNET
Image Credit: ReCycle

ReCycle Bikes, Bicycles Made From All Recycled Aluminum was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Upsolar & RSEnergy Team Up For 2MW Greek Solar Farm; Greece Hopes To Become Major Solar Player

Posted: 20 Dec 2012 02:00 AM PST

Upsolar, a well known global solar manufacturer, and Greek company RSEnergy are teaming up on a 2 megawatt (MW) solar farm in Igoumenitsa, in Northwestern Greece.

The new deal adds to Upsolar's 55MW of solar energy located within the country since 2010.

An Upsolar official is very keen they can continue to see solid solar growth within Greece for their product.

"As customers in Greece seek new methods to secure strong, long-term investments, the country's solar market has the potential to become a major global player in the coming years," said Upsolar Greece Country Manager Ioannis Markatatos.

"Thanks to our partnerships with reputable partners like RSEnergy, Upsolar is poised to achieve significant market share across the region,” he added.

Meanwhile, CEO of RSEnergy Müller-Polyzos said customers are very pleased with the high quality of Upsolar's product, while providing a quality investment for investors.

"RSEnergy has constructed projects with Upsolar PV modules all over Greece. The installations show very high yields. Our customers are extremely satisfied with the quality components deployed."

"In addition to the very high electricity production, Upsolar provides security to the investors by means of the PowerGuard insurance. The PowerGuard insurance is backed up by industry-leading insurance companies with A ratings. This provides investment security to our customers over the whole lifetime of the project," Müller-Polyzos said.

Source: Business Wire

Upsolar & RSEnergy Team Up For 2MW Greek Solar Farm; Greece Hopes To Become Major Solar Player was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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