Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Solar Powered Plane Will Circumnavigate The Globe In 2015 (Can Even Fly At Night)

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 12:00 AM PST

 
The first nonstop solar-powered flight around the world is being planned for 2015. The plane, the Solar Impulse, was designed by Bertrand Piccard, who was the first person to travel around the world nonstop in a balloon back in 1999.

20121205-173327.jpg

The main innovation of the Solar Impulse is its capacity to fly overnight, thanks to its energy-efficient battery system and its light spartan build. For a plane, it’s very light, weighing less than an SUV. It’s powered by 12,000 solar cells covering its very long wings.

Because of its build and battery technology, it’s able to fly nonstop through the dark night skies, potentially staying airborne indefinitely, storing power during the day and using some of it at night.


 
“These cells capture the energy of the sun and transform it into electricity,” Mr. Piccard explains. “This electricity goes simultaneously to the engine and to the batteries. Then we reach the next sunrise, and we capture the sun again, and we can continue, theoretically forever.”

Mr. Piccard, a psychologist and aeronaut, thought up the idea about 13 years ago after he first circumnavigated the globe nonstop in a balloon. That trip required an enormous amount of fuel and resources, so he was motivated to design something more efficient and self-sufficient if he was going to try something similar again.

So, in 2009, after much research and design, Mr. Piccard and his business partner André Borschberg unveiled the Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane independent of any fuel except for the Sun. One year after the plane was unveiled, they demonstrated its effectiveness by performing an overnight flight over Switzerland lasting 26 hours and 9 minutes. In June of this year, the plane made a record international flight from Spain to Morocco.

20121205-173404.jpg

“Videos posted on the Solar Impulse website capture the odd craft slowly taking off and floating through the air,” CS Monitor writes. “It’s ideal flying speed is 30 miles per hour. What it lacks in brute, energetic force, it seems to make up for in quiet grace. ‘Flying’ doesn’t quite capture the plane’s motion, as it appears almost suspended in midair.”

The Solar Impulse is not even close to being market-ready (though, of course, there must be a market for something like this), despite about $100 million of investment over the course of about 10 years. One of the main issues remaining is that, because it is extremely light, storms are particularly dangerous for it. And because of its highly efficient use of energy, the cockpit has no climate control. And the plane also remains prone to stalling at low speeds.

“Borschberg and Piccard hope to complete the first purely solar-powered flight across the US next spring. The entrepreneurs’ plan is for the Impulse to take a 20-day trip around the globe in 2015.”

Source: CS Monitor
Image Credits: solarimpulse.com

Solar Powered Plane Will Circumnavigate The Globe In 2015 (Can Even Fly At Night) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Los Angeles Streetcar Approved By Voters

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 04:35 AM PST

 
A $125 million streetcar running through downtown Los Angeles has been approved by voters. The LA residents voted for a new special property tax to fund the streetcar.

20121205-025026.jpg

The streetcar, which needed a 2/3 majority to pass, received 73 percent of the 2,066 ballots cast. The vote was specifically on a plan to tax property owners near the planned route. The streetcar is currently planned to run along the L.A. Live sports and entertainment hub to the Civic Center along the city’s historic Broadway core.

While this vote isn’t the end of possible debate, it makes it very clear that it’s a project that the public is behind.

"Now that the people have spoken, Los Angeles is well on its way to bringing a modern streetcar back to Downtown Los Angeles. With this critically important local funding approved, we will now work closely with our Washington D.C. representatives to advocate for the federal funding needed for construction," said area Councilmember José Huizar.


 
“The average condominium owner would pay about $60 per year,” notes Guzman, “with the majority of residential units taxed less than $100 annually. Commercial building owners would pay far higher amounts.”

The backers of the project are aiming to complete construction by 2016.

Sources: Planetizen & Los Angeles Downtown News
Image Credit: www.streetcar.la

Los Angeles Streetcar Approved By Voters was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Showtime To Air Top-Notch Climate Change Series With Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Alec Baldwin, James Cameron, & The Terminator (+ More Climate Change & Climate Policy News)

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 04:27 AM PST

 
Here’s some recent climate change, climate policy, and fossil fuel news for you, in case you missed it (a lot going on this past week):

Climate Change, Climate Politics, & Climate Policy

Showtime To Air Climate Change Series From James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger: “‘YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY’ to feature Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Alec Baldwin as first-person narrators on the ground; series also to be executive produced by ’60 Minutes’ veterans Joel Bach & David Gelber.”

2012: Record Arctic Sea Ice Melt, Multiple Extremes and High Temperatures: “The years 2001–2011 were all among the  warmest on record, and, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the first ten months indicate that 2012 will most likely be no exception despite the cooling influence of La Niña early in the year.”

House Committee Leaders Deny Climate Change While Extreme Weather Devastates Their States: “On November 27th, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced the new and returning House committee chairmen (and yes, they are all men). Some of these congressmen will run committees with jurisdiction over federal climate, energy, and environmental programs.  This includes funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Clean Air Act, balancing the use of our public lands between energy production and recreation, and determining the infrastructure needs of a nation that now faces unpredictable extreme weather threats linked to climate change.

“The vast majority of these chairmen voted for legislation that would dismantle EPA's ability to limit industrial carbon pollution, and for retention of special tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas, coal, and electric utility companies have cozied up to many of these chairmen, giving them roughly $3.8 million in campaign contributions over the course of their careers.

“Meanwhile, many climate-related extreme weather events have severely afflicted Americans over the past two years, including in their home states.  Record-breaking drought and heat waves, severe floods, and heavy storms wreaked havoc for the families living in the chairmens' backyards.  Scientists predict that these weather events will become more frequent and/or severe if the industrial carbon pollution responsible for climate change remains unchecked.”

One Easy Agenda Item On Climate: OMB Should Release DOE Energy Efficiency Rules: “Action on climate change should be one of the first things President Obama takes on in his second term. There are countless steps the President might take, but perhaps one of the easiest things for him to do on that front is to instruct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to release eight Department of Energy (DOE) rules regarding energy efficiency currently under OMB's review. Regular readers will know that OMB is a kind of regulatory purgatory where rules can be held up seemingly indefinitely or sent back to the agencies responsible for them to be reconsidered in light of OMB's widely questioned cost benefit analysis. As Earthjustice and others have noted, President Obama could make substantial progress on climate change by telling his own OMB that it needs to move on the rules…. Some of the DOE rules have been at OMB for well over a year, and the benefits of energy efficiency are being foregone while they are held up.”

Analysis: Rich Countries Spend Five Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Climate Aid: “In 2009, world leaders at the G20 summit agreed that phasing out fossil fuel subsidies should be a top priority. Three years later, with very little progress on actually repealing those subsidies, promises for reform ring hollow.

“Now, as diplomats gather in Doha, Qatar for an international climate summit — an event that experts say will bring very few meaningful commitments — groups are stepping up the pressure on fossil fuel subsidy reform.

“Rich countries spent $58 billion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2011. That's roughly five times the amount they spent on ‘fast start‘ financing for climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, according to an analysis released today at the Doha climate talks by Oil Change International.”

Poll: Superstorm Sandy Linked To Climate Change By 69% Of New Yorkers, Including 73% Of Independents: “In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, New Yorkers overwhelmingly acknowledge that the storm was linked to climate change. A new poll from Siena Research Institute found that voters connect recent extreme storms to a changing climate by a 69-24 percent margin.

“The results are similar throughout the state. In every region of New York, at least 63 percent of voters say that the extreme weather of 2011 and 2012 demonstrates that climate change in action. More than two thirds of independents and nearly half of Republicans also say that Superstorm Sandy was the result of climate change.”

IPCC's Planned Obsolescence: Fifth Assessment Report Will Ignore Crucial Permafrost Carbon Feedback!: “A key reason the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change keeps issuing instantly irrelevant reports is that it keeps ignoring the latest climate science. We have known for years that perhaps the single most important carbon-cycle feedback is the melting of the permafrost.”

Pledges To Fight Global Warming Inadequate, U.S. Off Track, Study Finds: “Major nations’ policies are inadequate to limit global warming and the United States is off track even in carrying out its weak pledge to limit greenhouse gas emissions, a scientific scorecard showed on Friday.”

In Defense Of A Carbon Tax: “Just before Thanksgiving, Grist political blogger David Roberts posted a sharp challenge to carbon-tax advocates, contending that we were, in effect, ascribing "magical" properties to carbon taxes. Roberts spelled out 10 drawbacks to carbon taxes, with this bottom line: any carbon tax legislation that could make it through Congress would likely be feeble and regressive, and perhaps even counter-productive.

“David is arguably the green community's most prolific and astute blogger, particularly on environmental politics. His qualms about pushing for a U.S. carbon tax deserve to be taken seriously. We've reproduced his Grist post, below. Alongside it is our point-by-point response. Let us know what you think.”

Typhoon Kills At Least 283 In Philippines: “Blocked roads and severed communications in the southern Philippines frustrated rescuers on Wednesday as teams searched for hundreds of people missing after the strongest typhoon this year killed at least 283 people.”


 
'Exceptional' Drought Conditions Expand In The U.S., Likely Persisting Through February: “The stubborn U.S. drought that hit the Southeast and Midwest hard this summer isn't letting up. According to the latest drought monitor, conditions have worsened slightly across the country, with ‘exceptional drought’ conditions expanding from 38 percent of the lower-48 states to 42 percent. Those conditions could last into February.”

Rogue 'Ice Islands' Pose New Threat In The Arctic: “Glaciologists were appalled in 2010 when Greenland's Petermann Glacier discharged a slab of ice four times the size of Manhattan into Baffin Bay. They were appalled again when Petermann dropped a two-Manhattan slab in 2012 — understandably so, since these, along with even more gargantuan ice discharges from Antarctica, are a clear signal that the planet is warming fast.

“Derek Mueller is appalled by a more immediate risk, however. After they break off, these enormous slabs of ice — sometimes as much as 300 feet thick — can potentially wander into shipping lanes or slam into drilling rigs before they eventually break up. ‘People have this misguided view that climate change is reducing ice hazards,’ said Mueller, a geographer at Carlton University in Ottawa, said in an interview. ‘But the danger from these “ice islands” is increasing.’” [sic]

Lower troposphere and lower stratosphere 1979-2011 temperature trend (°C/decade) and 12 months running mean global temperature time series with respect to 1979-1998. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

New Evidence Of Human Fingerprints On Global Warming: “It's pretty easy to show that global temperatures are rising, or that spring is arriving earlier than it once did, but since climate has changed plenty of times in the past, that alone doesn't prove anything. Tying climate change to human greenhouse-gas emissions — an area known as detection and attribution, or fingerprinting — is a lot harder.

“That's what makes a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences so important. Using state-of-the-art climate models, Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and 21 colleagues have found what they call ‘some of the clearest evidence to date of a discernible influence on atmospheric temperature.’”

Fossil Fuels

World's Largest Mining Firm: 'In A Carbon Constrained World, Coal Is Going To Decline. And Frankly It Should.': “One of the world's biggest mining firms says that extreme weather caused by climate change is already impacting some of its assets, thus forcing the company to re-evaluate its investments in the coal sector.”

India's Coal Illusion: “The biggest untold story in the world is now out in the open. Despite warnings from the World Bank about the dangers of unchecked climate change the coal industry has a global pipeline of nearly 1,200 plants planned, 2/3 of which are in India and China. India alone has plans to build a coal fleet nearly twice the size of the entire U.S. coal fleet. But if this pipeline has you thinking that a coal fired future is inevitable think again. These grandiose plans are an illusion the coal industry seeks to maintain because the truth is the majority of this global pipeline is nothing but vapor.”

Followup studies after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill call into question the extensive use of chemical dispersants. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New Study Shows Oil Dispersant Makes Oil Up To 52 Times More Toxic To Gulf Of Mexico Microorganisms: “The massive amounts of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after BP's Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded was devastating to marine life, but the dispersant used in the aftermath to try and break down the oil slicks may have been even worse for some species, according to new research done by scientists with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes, Mexico.

“Based on laboratory toxicity tests, the study found that the oil-dispersant mix was up to 52 times more toxic to tiny rotifers, microscopic grazers at the base of the Gulf's food chain.” Of course, many of us knew that at the time, and that the dispersant’s only real purpose was to make the problem less visible to the public.

Trend in atmospheric CO2 levels observed at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, since 1958. Credit: NOAA.

Global Carbon Emissions Hit Record High, Report Finds: “In a development that underscores the widening gap between the necessary steps to limit global warming and the policies that governments are actually putting into place, a new report shows that global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will likely reach a record high of 35.6 billion tonnes in 2012, up 2.6 percent from 2011. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases warm the planet by absorbing the sun's energy and preventing heat from escaping back into space.”

Irony Alert: American Petroleum Institute Calls For Obama To Aid 'Economic Catastrophe' Due To Warming-Fueled Drought: “This summer's historic drought hasn't let up (in fact, it's actually expanding in some areas) and it's causing a lot of trouble in regions whose economies are driven by major bodies of water.

“The drought, coupled with a seasonal dry period, has caused water levels on the Mississippi River to fall to near-record lows, which has hurt the Mississippi shipping industry badly. If water isn't replenished soon (which doesn't look likely, according to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center), the major waterway may be closed to cargo companies in the coming weeks. Right now, the river is about 13 feet deep in many places, which is 15 to 20 feet lower than normal. If it dips to around 9 feet – which National Weather Service hydrologists predict could happen by Dec. 9 – protruding rocks will make it nearly impossible for barges to pass. A closed Mississippi – or even closed portions – would mean companies would have to find other ways of shipping crops, fuel and other goods throughout the country.

“These conditions have caused many members of congress and the business community to call on President Barack Obama to help Mississippi River shipping businesses get back to normal. They want the president to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to dynamite the rocky riverbed near two southern Illinois towns – Thebes and Grand Tower – to deepen the shipping channel, allowing ships to pass through on less water. They also want the Corps to stop reducing water flow from a Missouri River reservoir, which the Corps does each year to conserve water for the spring. Members of congress have sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers and spoken out about the issue, and on Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade groups and organizations sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to declare emergency in the region and calling for ‘immediate assistance in averting an economic catastrophe in the heartland.’

“Ironically, many of these organizations have refused to acknowledge a growing problem behind the Mississippi's water woes. Climate change will impact water levels in the U.S. for years to come: science has shown that a warming earth will likely leadto more frequent and more intense droughts like the one the U.S. is experiencing now.”

Showtime To Air Top-Notch Climate Change Series With Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Alec Baldwin, James Cameron, & The Terminator (+ More Climate Change & Climate Policy News) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

To Obama & EPA: Innovative NRDC Plan Featuring Federal-State Partnership Saves Americans More Than $25 Billion In Climate And Health Costs While Unleashing Billions In Clean Energy Investments

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 03:33 AM PST

 
Experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council today unveiled a groundbreaking proposal to sharply cut carbon pollution from America's power plants, featuring a unique federal-state partnership and flexibility for plant owners that will hold down costs and improve Americans' health.

NRDC's innovative proposal calls for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to set standards for existing power plants—America's largest source of carbon emissions that fuel climate change—that will cut millions of tons of carbon pollution, save thousands of lives and create thousands of clean energy jobs.

The proposal enables states and electricity plant owners to use a wide range of existing technologies, including energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, to meet carbon pollution standards in the most cost-effective way. States would also have broad flexibility to design their own plans to meet the standards.

"The President put climate change on the national agenda, and NRDC's plan shows how the United States can make big reductions in carbon pollution that drive climate change, with a flexible approach that promotes clean energy investments and delivers big benefits for Americans' health," said Peter Lehner, NRDC's Executive Director. "This year's ravaging heat waves, drought, wildfires and Superstorm Sandy underscore why the nation must tackle head-on the biggest source of dangerous carbon pollution now."

NRDC's proposal shows how the United States can dramatically reduce pollution from power plants that are responsible for 40 percent of the nation's carbon pollution.

"We are overturning the conventional wisdom that reducing carbon pollution through the Clean Air Act would be ineffective and expensive," said Dan Lashof, NRDC's Director of Climate and Clean Air programs, and a principal author of the plan.  "We show that the EPA can work with states and power companies to make large pollution reductions, by setting system-wide standards, rather than smokestack-by-smokestack ones, and by giving power companies and states the freedom to choose the most cost-saving means of compliance.

"The impact is huge: our proposal would eliminate hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution, save thousands of lives and stimulate a surge in clean energy and energy efficiency investments," Lashof said, "all at a lower cost than many would expect."

NRDC outlined its proposal at the National Press Club in Washington. Joining Lehner and Lashof to discuss the power plant plan was Dallas Burtraw, who is Darius Gaskins Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future. Also participating in the event was Franz Litz, Executive Director of the Energy & Climate Center at Pace Law School.  Litz advises states on climate change and energy policy matters, and was instrumental in creating the northeast states' Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Using the same sophisticated analytical tools relied on by both industry and the EPA, NRDC analysis shows the plan would:

  • Cut carbon pollution from the nation's existing power plants 26 percent by 2020 and 34 percent by 2025.
  • Make large reductions in other dangerous pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, from existing power plants.
  • At a cost of about $4 billion in 2020, save Americans between $25 billion and $60 billion in lives saved, avoided illnesses and reduced climate change.
  • Save 3,600 lives, prevent more than 23,000 asthma attacks, avoid more than 2,300 emergency room visits and prevent nearly 1.2 million restricted activity and lost work days.
  • Stimulate investments of more than $90 billion in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources in the next eight years.
  • Create thousands of jobs, boost local and state economies, and move America toward a clean energy, clean air future.

NRDC commissioned ICF International to analyze the proposal using the company's proprietary Integrated Planning Model (IPM®). The utility industry and the EPA often use the IPM® model to determine cost-effective ways of meeting the nation's electricity needs, and to assess the effects of new standards. NRDC provided the depiction of the plan and other assumptions required for the analysis.

Under NRDC's proposal, the EPA would use Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to set state-specific carbon emission rates that reflect the diversity of the nation's electricity sector and fuel mix. Broad compliance flexibility would enable power plant owners and states to reduce emissions through cost-effective means that could be accomplished by:

  • Reducing an individual plant's carbon emissions by improving combustion efficiency, burning cleaner fuels or installing carbon capture and storage.
  • Shifting generation from high-emitting to lower- or zero-emitting plants. Lower emitting sources such as gas, wind and solar would earn credits that other plants could use, to reduce average emissions rates.
  • Expanding energy efficiency. State energy-efficiency programs could earn credits for avoiding power generation and its pollution. Generators could purchase those credits to use toward their emissions targets.
  • States would have additional freedom to adopt alternative approaches–such as those already adopted by California, the Northeast states, and Colorado—as long as they are equally effective in cutting emissions.

NRDC developed its proposal on the heels of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings, in 2007 and 2011, that determined it is EPA's job under the Clean Air Act to curb dangerous carbon pollution from the nation's vehicles and power plants. To date, the Administration has taken important steps by setting fuel efficiency standards for mobile sources such as cars and trucks, and proposing standards for new power plants.  But the biggest pollution source remains the hundreds of existing power plants.

"We know where the pollution is; now we just have to go after it," Lashof said.

The report is posted here: http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution-standards/

This article has been republished from the NRDC website.

To Obama & EPA: Innovative NRDC Plan Featuring Federal-State Partnership Saves Americans More Than $25 Billion In Climate And Health Costs While Unleashing Billions In Clean Energy Investments was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Over 600 MW Of New Solar Installed In Germany In October (YTD = Almost 7,000 MW)

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 03:20 AM PST

 
611.856 MW of new solar power modules were installed in Germany in October. The official numbers were just released by The German Federal Network Agency. Around 19,000 new solar plants were registered last month.

solar farm germany

A lot of new solar in Germany, but not from large solar power plants like this one.

That brings the total for new solar power installations in Germany for the first ten months of 2012 to around 6,839 MW.

Notably, the large majority of October solar installations were under 10 MW in size.

“From the beginning of October, there were no more subventions for PV power plants larger than 10 MW. The transition period ended as of September 30. This fact is reflected in the data provided by the Agency which shows that only four PV parks with capacities over 10 MW located in Neuhardenberg were registered in October. The other registrations were lesser,” pv magazine writes.

The total installed solar capacity from the beginning of 2012 to July 31 totaled 4.9 GW. That has already risen to nearly 7,000 MW.


 
“The feed-in tariffs in December are 17.45 Euro cents per kilowatt-hour for systems up to 10 kW. Rooftop systems up to 40 kW receive 16.56 Euro cents per kWh; systems between 40 and 1,000 kW receive 14.77 Euro cents per kWh. All bigger rooftop systems and solar parks up to 10MW capacity get a FIT of 12.08 Euro cents per kWh. In January the solar subsidies will sink another 2.5%. The degression for the months February to April will be released by the Agency latest end of January next year.”

Even as solar FIT incentives are reduced and eventually fade away, however, solar power is becoming competitive enough in the country that it can keep on growing.

Source: PV Magazine
Image Credit: Belelectric

Over 600 MW Of New Solar Installed In Germany In October (YTD = Almost 7,000 MW) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Tesla Model S Price Increase Coming; Honda Accord PHEV Now Most Efficient PHEV On Market; Beautiful Japanese Electric Chopper (+ More Clean Transport News)

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 03:18 AM PST

 
Here are some more big clean transport stories from the past week or so for you:

Bikes & Motorbikes

Bicycle Culture By Design: “Mikael Colville-Andersen is a world-leading urban planning / transportation planning consultant. His focus is on human-powered transport, especially the bicycle, and humanizing cities (at least, that's how I would summarize it). His blog, Copenhagenize, is one of the few urban planning blogs I follow, and I am pretty much always eager to check out his new posts. Recently, he was a speaker at a TEDx conference in Germany. Of course, it was an interesting presentation and I think well worth a watch.” (Commentary on the video via the link above.)

Lighted Bike Safety Zone Created With Bike Light Concept: Bike lights are great, but they're rather small and can sometimes be easily missed. Wouldn't it be great if the lights gave a better message to drivers to watch out and give the biker his or her deserved space? Heck yeah!

We Can Dream: Above's a cool idea/image I recently ran across on reddit. We can dream….

NextBike bike-sharing station in the Wrocław city center. (Credit: Zachary Shahan)

Seven Ways to Make Bike-Share More Accessible: “Bike-sharing has been one of the most rapidly spreading transportation innovations in American cities over the past few years; scarcely a month goes by without a new city announcing its intentions to develop a system. And with good reason: Bike-share doesn't cost much to install and operate, and it's healthy — for cities and people…. But one cloud looming over this happy development is that not all residents have benefited equally from bike-share, which has tended to generate a disproportionately affluent ridership.”

Electric Delivery Bike/Trike From Matra: “Electric bikes have taken off a bit… as I predicted (about 5 years ago) they would. While I think normal bikes must be better for people in 90-99% of cases, I do think electric bikes are pretty cool and have their place. One place electric bikes might make a good fit is as delivery vehicles.”

The Elf: “Here comes the cleanest, most efficient vehicle on the planet. The ELF is a solar/pedal hybrid vehicle suitable for commuting, deliveries, and other local transportation needs. This three-wheeled electric assist velomobile fills the niche between a bicycle and a car and offers advantages over both.”

Credit: Bicitoro

Credit: Badger Gears

10 Great Examples of Winter-Friendly Bike Gear: “Fair weather cyclists be warned: Winter cycling gear here is so great you may be tempted to get your bike out of winter hibernation. Or how about the perfect holiday gift?”

An Electric Chopper Straight Out Of Japan: “With shows like American Chopper highlighting just how much time, money, and effort goes into the highly-customized motorcycles with long handlebars and low ground clearance. Yet as American as choppers may seem, over in Japan choppers are even more popular. Well-known custom shop Shiun Craft Works recently rolled out an all-electric chopper that is as green as it is awesome.”

Electric Cars

Tesla Increases Model S Price To $59,900: “While many of us seeing an automobile price increase might get critical and spiteful. However, a little logical analysis (by Tesla) shows that the price increase is actually less than it ‘should’ be….”

GM Opens Research Center In China, Unveils Sail Springo EV At China Auto Show: “GM made a couple of big EV announcements in the past couple weeks. The automobile giant announced on Thursday that it had opened a global research center in China. The research center's focus is on electric vehicles…. About a week before the above announcement, GM unveiled the Sail Springo EV at the Guangzhou Auto Show in China. This is the first EV developed by Shanghai General Motors.”

2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid Now Most Efficient Plug-In Hybrid On The Market, 115 MPGe: “In October, we noted that the Ford C-Max Energi Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) had become the most fuel-efficient PHEV on the market. It has a combined rating of 100 MPGe. Well, the 2014 Honda Accord PHEV has just trounced that, with an EPA rating of 115 MPGe. (Note that the popular and trendsetting Chevy Volt has a 98 MPGe rating, and the Prius Plug-In landed a rating of 95 MPGe.)”

Ford: November Should Be Best Hybrid Month To Date, Market Share Increases 5x In One Year: “It's no secret: electric vehicle (including hybrid electric vehicle) sales are expected to rise a ton in the coming years. So, we can expect to see many record-breaking months, but I certainly haven't gotten tired of them yet, and the increases noted by Ford below are pretty impressive.”

car2go Finishes 1st Year Of EV Carsharing In San Diego, Adds 30 Charging Stations: “car2go (which is part of Daimler North America Corporation) has just finished its first full year in San Diego (its home base). car2go is North America's first all-electric carsharing service.”

Ford's New Hybrids Falling Far Short Of MPG Expectations: “As the only American automaker to avoid the much maligned government auto bailout, Ford has found itself in a strong position to gain market share and credibility with consumers. So far, Ford has done a great job with arguably its strongest product lineup ever…but nothing good can last. There's a bit of trouble in paradise over the real-world fuel economy of the Ford C-Max Hybrid and 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, which are delivering less-than-expected mpg numbers for many consumers and reviewers.”

Trains, Smart Growth, & Helicopters(?)

VYCON Wins $3.6 Million Contract To Capture Braking Energy Of Trains With High-Speed Flywheel Technology: “Electric cars aren't the only electric vehicles out there. And, arguably, electric trains are a whole 'nother level of awesome. While still not the norm, capturing the braking energy of trains and turning it back into electricity has been growing in popularity. The latest news along these lines is that VYCON (‘designer and manufacturer of environmentally friendly, high-speed energy storage flywheel systems’), to do just that, ‘has been awarded a $3.6 million contract by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to install a Wayside Energy Storage Substation (WESS) at the L.A. Metro Red Line Westlake / MacArthur Park Station.’”

Credit: San Diego Chapter of the American Planning Association

EPA Honors 7 Outstanding Community Sustainability Projects: “[Last week], the US Environmental Protection Agency announced seven winners of its 2012 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement. As I have noted in the past, the smart growth awards are given for creative, outstanding initiatives that protect the health and the environment of our communities while also strengthening local economies.”

NoOpe! Do Not Want: Single-seat Electric Helicopter (w/ video): “There are lots of things that might seem dangerous to people, that just aren't. Riding a bike through city traffic, for example, can be perfectly safe if you're not an idiot and you obey the traffic laws and wear a helmet. Motorcycles and scooters are the same way – I've never heard of anyone dying on a motorcycle in high-visibility clothing with a full face helmet and proper body armor. It doesn't happen. Shark diving? Even that might seem safe to someone. This single-seat electric helicopter?… No. Thank. You.”

Tesla Model S Price Increase Coming; Honda Accord PHEV Now Most Efficient PHEV On Market; Beautiful Japanese Electric Chopper (+ More Clean Transport News) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Proposed Solar Zone Could Be Coming To California

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 03:10 AM PST

 
A proposed “Solar Zone” could be coming to California, if the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has it's way.

According to PV-Tech, the US BLM just released its last Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed California Desert Conservation Plan Amendment, and suggested creating a solar zone in Imperial County, California (West Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation Area).

If approved, the proposed solar zone would have to go through environmental reviews, along with development restrictions in ecologically sensitive areas and river banks.

Solar zones are quite like special economic zones (SEZ's), geographical areas where development is encouraged through incentives. These solar zones are helping to boost renewable energy production in the US.
 

 
A US BLM official in the article pointed to striking the right balance between clean energy production and environmental conservation, which will be critical for the success of this project:

"We want to make sure that we're developing energy in the right way and in the right places on our nation's public lands," said BLM-California State Director Jim Kenna. "This thorough environmental review and public process helps identify, on a landscape-level, the areas that make most sense for renewable energy development in this part of the desert."

The Obama administration is setting aside 20,762 acres for both wind and solar projects on land that's managed by the BLM.

Meanwhile, 19,162 acres of US federal land near Niland, California will be used for the testing and development of geothermal energy.

The proposal follows an announcement this summer by the US Department of the Interior (DOI) to speed up 285,000 acres of public land in the US Southwest for solar projects.

Proposed Solar Zone Could Be Coming To California was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Sunrun Bringing $0 Upfront Home Solar To Long Island

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 03:00 AM PST

 
Sunrun, one of the largest home solar companies in the nation, is expanding its $0 upfront solar program to residents in the Long Island area. That’s great news for those in the region who are interested in going solar but not able or willing to take the plunge themselves.

Sunrun’s efforts to offer solar service to more homeowners was successful with the cooperation of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), which opened doors to such solar service so that more homeowners could access clean power while supporting local jobs.

Sunrun bringing $0 down home solar to long island

Long Island residents will be offered what is called third-party-owned solar, which is normally like a lease agreement. Sunrun owns the solar system and works with local partners to install it on a customer's roof.

The homeowner will just pay a low rate for the power, while Sunrun monitors and maintains the system “for free” (i.e. for no additional charge). In some cases, the residents will be able to get solar with no upfront payment.

"LIPA's decision supports consumer choice, makes solar more attainable for families of all incomes and demonstrates a strong commitment to job creation," said Sunrun co-CEO Lynn Jurich. "Sunrun looks forward to a successful, cost-effective program for scaling equal access to home solar on Long Island."

Previously, homeowners could only use LIPA incentives if they could afford to purchase a solar system for thousands of dollars. Now, those who choose solar service to eliminate high upfront costs can also participate in LIPA's rebate program. Homeowners prefer solar service over cash purchase in the nation's top solar markets.

"This opportunity helps further Governor Cuomo's clean energy goals for New York while benefiting the local economy," added Jurich of Sunrun.



 
The Long Island area suffered a lot damage from Hurricane Sandy — this may help generate some much-needed revenue for their economy. Programs that offer equal treatment for all home solar choices, third-party-owned and cash purchase, have a proven track record of success.

In California, solar service has brought over $1 billion to its economy, since Sunrun introduced it in 2007. So this may be a much-needed win-win situation for Long Island.

Source: Business Wire
Image Credit: joncallas

Sunrun Bringing $0 Upfront Home Solar To Long Island was originally published on: CleanTechnica

SunPower Extend Solar Deal With Toshiba Until 2018 (For Another 100 MW)

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 02:40 AM PST

 
SunPower Corporation, along with Japanese electronics giant Toshiba, are extending their mutually beneficial solar panel deal until 2018.

With the expanded partnership, SunPower will give more than 100 megawatts (MW) of its highest efficiency residential solar panels to Toshiba to sell in the Japanese market, a news release stated.

Under the agreement which has been in place since 2010, SunPower has provided more than 150 MW of high-efficiency solar panels to Toshiba.

“Our strong partnership with Toshiba has been instrumental in our rapid growth in the Japanese residential market,” said SunPower Corporation president and CEO Tom Werner.

“Extending our partnership through 2018 provides further certainty in a region that values our high-efficiency, high reliability, guaranteed performance solar panels.”
 

 
Meanwhile, Toshiba officials are also is excited about continuing the partnership with SunPower, which offers arguably the best solar panels on the market.

“Toshiba has become a leading provider of high efficiency solar systems to the Japanese residential market and this extended agreement means we will continue to deliver the most reliable photovoltaic systems in the country for years to come,” said Takeshi Yokota Toshiba Executive Officer, Corporate Vice President.

“We greatly value our partnership with SunPower and the opportunity to market their premium product systems.”

Source: PR Newswire 

SunPower Extend Solar Deal With Toshiba Until 2018 (For Another 100 MW) was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Nest Energy-Efficient Thermostat’s Arrive In Canada, Eh

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 02:30 AM PST

 
One month after Nest's second-generation thermostat hit the shelves of Best Buy in the US, both Nest's first- and second-generation products are hitting the Canadian shelves, just in time for old man winter.

Image Credit: Nest

According to the company website, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Amazon.ca will sell the second-generation energy-efficient thermostat for C$249. Amazon.ca will also sell the first generation product for C$199.

Some of the all important features that come with NEST's thermostat's include: scheduling a specific time for a specific temperature, heat pump balances, and filter reminders.

Technical support will be available for French and English Canadian customers.

However, the most important part that Canadian customers (like myself) are glad to know, is that the thermostats will work in Celsius.

With success in the US, expect Nest to fly high in Canada, also.

Source: Nest

Nest Energy-Efficient Thermostat's Arrive In Canada, Eh was originally published on: CleanTechnica

GE Developing New Wind Blades Made Of Fabric To Reduce Wind Energy Costs

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 02:00 AM PST

 
One of the best ways to lower the cost of wind energy is simply to lower the cost of building the wind turbines. With that in mind, GE has partnered with Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to rethink the way wind blades are designed, manufactured, and installed.

The initial capital investments made in the wind turbines themselves account for most of the cost for electricity. With this new technology, the cost of electricity could lower the cost of wind-produced electricity dramatically. (And, notably, wind power already has the second-lowest median cost of electricity in the U.S., only behind hydropower.)

"GE's weaving an advanced wind blade that could be the fabric of our clean energy future," said Wendy Lin, a GE Principal Engineer and leader on the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) project. "The fabric we're developing will be tough, flexible, and easier to assemble and maintain. It represents a clear path to making wind even more cost competitive with fossil fuels."

GE is estimating that, with the new blade design, the price of wind energy could be reduced by 25% to 40%! The best part is that this is without using any government subsidies. Here are some more details from GE:

“GE's research will focus on the use of architectural fabrics, which would be wrapped around a metal space frame, resembling a fishbone. Fabric would be tensioned around ribs which run the length of the blade and specially designed to meet the demands of wind blade operations. Conventional wind blades are constructed out of fiberglass, which is heavier and more labor and time-intensive to manufacture.

“Advancements in blade technology will help spur the development of larger, lighter turbines that can capture more wind at lower wind speeds. Current technology doesn't easily allow for construction of turbines that have rotor diameters exceeding 120 meters because of design, manufacturing, assembly, and transportation constraints. Wider, longer wind blades are tougher to move and maneuver, and molds which form the clamshell fiberglass structure cost millions of dollars to acquire. GE's new fabric-based technology would all but eliminate these barriers.”

One advantage to this new design is that components could be built and assembled on site, meaning design engineers no longer have to concern themselves with manufacturing and transportation limitations. If you added all this together, it means lower startup costs and a much lower cost of wind-generated electricity in general.

“It's estimated that to achieve the national goal of 20% wind power in the U.S., wind blades would need to grow by 50% — a figure that would be virtually impossible to realize given the size constraints imposed by current technology. Lighter fabric blades could make this goal attainable,” the GE news release noted.


 
"Developing larger wind blades is the key to expanding wind energy into areas we wouldn't think of today as suitable for harvesting wind power. Tapping into moderate wind speed markets, in places like the Midwest, will only help grow the industry in the years to come," Lin stated.

Although this is a first for wind turbine blades, GE has begun using this space frame/tension fabric design in the construction of wind towers for better aesthetics, cost, and protection. The use of fabrics to improve cost-effectiveness and reduce weight dates back to World War I, when the military used them on airplanes.

“The $5.6M ARPA-E project will span three years. GE's blade architecture will be built to achieve a 20 year life with no regular maintenance to tension fabrics required.”

Source: GE
Image Credit: GE

GE Developing New Wind Blades Made Of Fabric To Reduce Wind Energy Costs was originally published on: CleanTechnica

New Detonation Engine Could Slash Fuel Costs

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 01:00 AM PST

 
Researchers in the U.S military, General Electric, and other companies are developing a new type of engine (actually, a new family of engines) which can be built to burn hydrogen or fossil fuels. The engines are called “detonation engines.”

Combustion engines in general can already be built to burn hydrogen, but this one is up to 25% more efficient when used in gas turbine power plants, airplanes, and ships.

Airplane via Shutterstock

The benefits of more efficient combustion engines are not just for the fossil fuel industry, but they have the potential to help the wind industry significantly… if combustion engines were to become reasonably efficient.

Wind turbines can be used to power simple electrolyzers which produce hydrogen and oxygen from water. The hydrogen can be stored in high-pressure tanks and burned in the efficient engines to generate electricity.

When wind speeds fluctuate, the hydrogen system acts as a buffer for the wind energy because, technically, the electricity for end-users is being generated by the combustion engine, so the fluctuations in wind energy just affect the hydrogen levels in the tank, while power production is completely stable.

There would be absolutely no variation or interruptions with such a system. Wind power is already a low median LCOE (cost of electricity) of $0.05/kWh. “The only energy source that beats that is hydropower ($0.03),” Zach reported in July.

An efficient engine would render breakthrough energy storage and natural gas backup completely unnecessary. A hydrogen engine this efficient could excel where conventional engines and hydrogen fuel cells failed.

This detonation engine project has already been planned, and now it is in the prototype development stage. The full-scale prototype development is expected to cost $62 million.

The U.S Navy estimated that these engines could save them $300 million to $400 million in annual fuel costs if they retrofitted their ships with them.
 

 
At the moment, Navy researchers are using simulations to advance a version of it that could make it practical.

The purpose of the detonation concept is to increase air pressure inside combustion chambers, which manufacturers of typical combustion engines would like to do (except that it is too impractical).

A detonation engine utilizes shock waves to achieve the desired pressure increase, which can be up to 10 times more than that of conventional combustion engines.

Unfortunately, it could take a decade to commercialize this technology.

Source: Technology Review

New Detonation Engine Could Slash Fuel Costs was originally published on: CleanTechnica

500 Farmers Recruited For Gigantic Iowa Biofuel Plant

Posted: 05 Dec 2012 12:30 AM PST

 
DuPont is building one of the world’s largest cellulosic biofuel plants in Nevada, Iowa; and it’s going to take a lot of corn stover to keep this baby humming, to the tune of 30 million gallons of ethanol per year. Corn stover is the leaves, stems, and anything else left over from harvesting the edible part of the corn harvest. The facility won’t be up and running until mid-2014, but DuPont is already looking ahead to contracting with more than 500 farmers to keep the stover coming. Aside from providing some extra income, the project could also help local farmers resolve some sticky crop management issues.

DuPont builds Iowa cellulosic biofuel plant

Corn Stover Means More than Biofuel

As a next-generation biofuel feedstock, corn stover fills multiple roles. First and foremost it piggybacks on a food crop, so at least theoretically it crowds out zero acres of land for human or animal feed.

Secondly, the use of corn stover as a feedstock can help farmers achieve more efficient crop management.

According to DuPont, corn stover is a “major challenge” for many corn farmers, because it can harbor pests, contribute to nitrogen depletion, and interfere with the next planting.

Generally, leaving some residue after harvest is good for soil preservation, but too much of a good thing can be a headache.

The new facility will collect about 375,000 dry tons of stover annually, from about 190,000 acres in a radius of 30 miles from Nevada (Nevada, Iowa that is).


 

Taking Iowa Biofuel to the Next Level

Cellulosic biofuel is the dream that biofuel researchers have been chasing for a generation. In breadbasket states like Iowa, it means a second life for harvest leftovers. In other states, you could see marginal lands planted with perennial biofuel crops like shrub willow and poplar trees.

The challenge is to find a cost-effective way of breaking down the tough cell walls to get at the sugary goodness inside.

For DuPont, that involved building a ten-year project culminating in a pilot plant in Tennessee to shake down the process. That experiment has proved so promising that the capacity of the new facility exceeds the original estimates.

We Built This!

You can mark down James C. Collins, the president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences, as another corporate leader who recognizes the value of partnering private enterprise with public funds to benefit the general welfare. At the groundbreaking, Collins said:

"And we didn't get to this point alone. We've built an incredible partnership with the state of Iowa, Iowa State University, entrepreneurial growers and a whole host of partners around the country who share our vision of making renewable fuels a commercial reality."

It’s pretty clear that Collins is not in agreement with certain U.S. legislators who have been heard to complain about the government picking energy “winners and losers.” It stands to reason that the government’s job is to set policy (why else have a government?), which by nature involves making informed choices.

For the Iowa state government, this is one choice that preserves farmland, provides additional income to local farmers, creates new jobs (DuPont estimates 60 full-time jobs at the plant and 150 seasonal jobs at harvest time), and contributes to the domestic fuel supply with renewable alternative to petroleum.

Not a bad pick.

Image: Courtesy of DuPont

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

500 Farmers Recruited For Gigantic Iowa Biofuel Plant was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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