- LIVE Community Power Project Being Organized In Australia (Solar)
- The Smart Money Is Betting On Smart Windows
- Is An Electric Car Worth The Money?
- New Net-Zero Energy Building In Brooklyn
- A MPGe Smackdown
- Ghana To House Largest Solar Power Plant In Africa
- Wind Power To Reduce Severe Air Pollution In Mongolia
- Minneapolis Local Plan For Climate Action (Video)
- Two-Way Protected Bike Lane Coming To The Heart Of Downtown Chicago
- Toyota November Tops US Electric Plug In Vehicle Sales For November
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 12:22 PM PST
The LIVE Community Power project, part of a non-profit climate change initiative called LIVE, is to be Australian’s first large-scale community solar project, and it is to have an electricity generation capacity of 740 kW (740,000 watts).
The South Melbourne Market building is located in the Victorian state capital. The plan is for one thousand $1,000 AUD ($1,047) shares to be sold to investors.
This LIVE group hopes to attract people who have roofs unsuitable for solar, and who live in rented buildings. The local council is carrying out a feasibility study of the project.
The LIVE Community Power group hopes to complete the project by 2013 and apply this cooperative business model onto other roofs.
Community solar projects can benefit end-users by saving money when they buy and own the solar panels which they are using, because there is no for-profit organization to charge them additional money for the electricity in order to make a profit.
Normally, without community solar, renters who want solar would have to buy the electricity from a centralized solar power plant, which they’d really just be buying through the grid.
To top things off, community solar is large-scale compared to typical residential solar, and this enables it to benefit from economies of scale. The cost of solar really is heavily impacted by the way it is applied.
One should also factor in that buying and owning solar panels “fixes” your electricity cost, because buying solar panels is like buying 30 years of electricity in advance, so the cost of it cannot increase, and your electric bill would be immune to fossil-fuel price increases.
LIVE Community Power Project Being Organized In Australia (Solar) was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 12:12 PM PST
A $3 Million Bet on Energy Efficient Smart Windows
Windows are a massive Achilles’s heel for buildings in terms of energy efficiency, despite some improvements over the years. That puts windows front and center in President Obama’s Better Buildings national energy efficiency initiative, in case you were wondering why the Department of Energy is so interested in windows all of a sudden.
So, here’s the deal. The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a grant of $3 million to researcher Delia Milliron, Deputy Director of the Molecular Foundry, to develop a new electrochromic window coating that adjusts to changes in weather and light conditions (the Molecular Foundry is a project under the auspices of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory that promotes nanoscale research).
The coating serves as a self-regulating interface that prevents too much light and heat from getting into a building. Conversely, the coating admits more light and heat whenever that would enable the building to save energy.
We Built This!
Milliron’s project is a collaboration between the Berkeley lab and a startup called Heliotrope Technologies, which was spun off from the Molecular Foundry into the private sector.
The new coating uses a small jolt of electricity to create variations in the degree a window will transmit visible light and near-infrared radiation, which produces heat. According to Berkeley Lab:
“In this way, the sun's power can be harnessed to permit maximal light and heat to enter in cold weather, while preventing unwanted heating and glare on hot, sunny days. Ultimately, such dynamic windows would be integrated with an intelligent control system to maximize energy savings and make buildings more comfortable.”
The Berkeley team will work with Heliotrope and other researchers to refine the Universal Smart Window coating, which is actually a thin film of transparent nanocrystals embedded in a matrix.
So far, the team has used tin-doped indium oxide and aluminum-doped zinc oxide nanocrystals. The matrix could be a metal oxide that reacts to an electrical current, or it could be a passive electrolyte.
Smart Windows for Everybody
Electrochromic window coatings are not particularly new, but the ones in existence today are expensive and unable to respond to seasonal changes.
Those factors have limited their use. The Universal Smart Window project, in accordance with its name, is aimed at producing a low-cost coating that could be applied to just about any window, anywhere.
The folks at Berkeley and Heliotrope better work fast, though, if they want bragging rights to the first switchable window coating on the market. Dow Corning, for one, is hard at work on a similar coating based on liquid silicon crystals.
Meanwhile, this could all be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of squeezing extra juice out of windows. A company called New Energy Technologies has been working under a federal grant to develop a transparent coating that turns windows into solar power generators, and UCLA is working on a transparent solar cell that could be used in place of conventional windows.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 07:00 AM PST
Is an electric car worth it? Probably a common question these days. First of all, it’s worth noting that there are many, many factors to consider when determining whether or not an electric car is worth it to you. For example, some of the issues we won’t even address in the calculations below are: 1) the price of global warming and climate change, which is going to be exorbitant, and could even lead to the demise of the human species (I think that’s rather priceless); 2) the price of protecting foreign oil resources (which costs us human lives and trillions upon trillions of dollars in military expenses); 3) the price of air pollution from gasoline-powered cars (which, beyond making our lives worse by giving us everything from cancer to autism — hard to quantify — also costs the US trillions upon trillions of dollars).
Setting all of that aside, though, and looking at the matter purely from a short-sighted, narrow-minded perspective, let’s calculate the cost of driving a couple of comparable vehicles (one electric, one not).
Ford Focus Electric vs Ford Focus S
Due to their clear similarities, I thought I’d compare the Ford Focus Electric and the Ford Focus S. Now, there are three variables in the calculations below that can change considerably from person to person — 1) miles per year, 2) price of gasoline per gallon, and 3) price of electricity per kWh. Even looking at the price of electricity per kWh, that can change dramatically depending on the time of day in some regions, or depending on the total amount of electricity you use in a month.
With all this said, for you to actually calculate the difference in costs between these two cars (or any other two cars), you’d need to use your own numbers (at least the best that you can project them). For my baseline comparison here, I’m using the nationwide average for each of these. The average miles per year is currently 13,476 (though, it’s 15,098 for the average person 20–34 years of age, 15,291 for 35–54 year-olds, 11,972 for 55–64 year-olds, and 7,646 for 65 year-olds and up). The average price of electricity per kWh is 12¢ (though, the average ranges from 7.5¢ in Idaho to 36¢ in Hawaii). And for the ever fluctuating price of gas, I’ve started with $3.50, which seems to be about the average for 2012 so far (given that the price of gas is expected to go up considerably in the coming years, I’m going to show more reasonable projections following this first one).
Based on those first assumptions, here’s what we get (after a $7,500 federal tax rebate):
So, you’d get your money back and start saving money in year 13. (Again, notably, that’s aside from any time or health benefits you gain from not standing at gas stations pumping gas, and from not having your car put pollutants into your driveway, yard, and garage.)
Now, if we change some assumptions up, we get huge differences, of course. With a change to 20,000 miles per year, you see savings starting in year 9:
Keeping avg annual miles at 13,476, but changing the price of electricity to 6¢ per kWh (what one Volt driver who we know gets), savings start to accrue in year 10:
With the average price of gasoline changed to $4.50 for this period of time, the savings again start to kick in during year 9 (change to $5, it would be year 8):
With all three changes above, your savings start to kick in just after year 5 (or, with gas changed to $5, sometime after year 4), and you save about $15,000 by year 10 (or about $20,000 based on the $5/gallon projection):
Now, clearly, I don’t know what your own assumptions would be — even you don’t know what the price of gas and price of electricity will be, nor how many miles you’ll drive. I also don’t know how much importance you give to health, national security, clean air, and the current climate. So, to determine if an electric car is “worth it,” you have to go ahead figure all those things out, or give it your best bet. (If you want to shoot me some numbers, I’d be happy to put them into my spreadsheet for you and shoot back another table… or I could simply share my spreadsheet with you.)
Also worth emphasizing again this is just a comparison between two similar cars. There are many other electric vehicles (and gasoline-powered vehicles) on the market that you could look at more closely (I’m sure you weren’t aware of that). For example, the new Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid could be compared with a standard Honda Accord. Of, if it fits your lifestyle, you could compare an electric scooter with a car!
One last thing to think about, also, is the value of a car after a number of years. Perhaps you only intend to keep the car for 3-5 years. In the scenarios above, you wouldn’t regain your personal financial investment in that time. However, you’d surely sell the car. Would it be worth more or less if it were an electric car? My bet is that it would be worth more.
All in all, I’m not sure which type of vehicle would have a higher resale value, but I’d lean towards it being the electric car. Perhaps some of our gearheads could chime in with their thoughts on this.
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 04:00 AM PST
Two years ago solar installers walked away from the job of developing a one-of-a-kind solar structure believing it to be infeasible to install solar panels on a triangular-shaped building. Now that building, located in the heart of Brooklyn, is set to open this fall and to serve as a pillar of groundbreaking green urban design.
The five-story Brooklyn building, also known as the Delta project, is set to be one of New York City's greenest structures. The complex will be a symbol for net-zero energy construction whereby the building itself will generate more solar power than it uses. The nearly 80 solar panels situated on two of the building's three sides and hanging above windows like awnings will produce 12 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, roughly 25 percent more than the building will use. As NYC's first net-zero solar structure, the Delta will act as a showcase for cutting-edge green building practices and is expected to have great impact on net-zero energy construction in compact urban areas nationwide.
Visit the Delta Project
The solar complex, costing upwards of $700,000, is located on the corner of Hamilton Avenue and 9th Street in Brooklyn's trendy Carroll Gardens neighborhood. When it opens, the Delta will be home to a bed and breakfast, will host a Philly cheesesteak shop, and will offer educational tours and seminars on green technologies for architects, developers, designers, and students.
The design of the Delta not only includes the installation of solar panels but also sun-deflecting red bricks made from recycled glass and cement that cover the building's front face. Behind the bricks are then layers of cinder blocks and insulation that help to conserve cool air in summer and heat in winter. Thick walls and tightly sealed windows and doors are also used in the construction and add to the building's energy conservation capabilities as they keep out heat and cold. In addition, 40 energy-saving LED light bulbs provide light to the building, a roof-mounted cylindrical wind turbine supplies some of its power, and a solar hot water system offers a green alternative to its hot water supply.
While the Delta complex cost about 25 percent more to build than a normal structure of a similar size, the energy savings from the green technologies could make up the difference in three and a half years. Also, the bulk of the cost of materials, including the solar panels and mounting hardware, will be covered by a combination of city, state, and federal incentives. The Delta project not only defies previous notions of solar building and design, it is sure to redefine the limits of urban design for years to come.
(Photo: Voltaic Solaire)
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 03:30 AM PST
I have long hated MPGe. Miles Per Gallon Equivalent is an often misunderstood rating, that is prominently placed and emphasized by the EPA in its window stickers, and successful in confusing consumers, dealerships, and reporters alike. I have seen many well intentioned dealerships advertise the Volt as a car with a “98 MPG” rating (dropping the ‘e’ altogether). I have seen critics wrongly try to showcase cheaper cars with a higher MPGe as better than the Volt. Competing car manufacturers are using the MPGe metric to make their inferior electric car offerings look better than the Volt. Certain electric hybrid automobile manufactures, with their offerings being short on range but high on MPGe, are playing a game of smoke and mirrors. “Ignore the short range, and put all your attention to our higher MPGe!” The devil is in the details, and I worry that too many consumers aren’t going to understand how to properly evaluate their choices.
What is MPGe?
Well, it is really an efficiency rating. The EPA determined how many BTUs of heat a gallon of gas would put off if you if burned it. Then they calculated how much electricity would be needed to generate to the same number of BTUs. This number is 34 kilowatt hours. Then the EPA determined the range of a car after consuming 34 kWhs of electricity. So, if you see a car that is rated at 95 MPGe, that means the EPA rated that car to go 95 miles on 34 kWhs of electricity. If you see a car rated at 115 MPGe, that means it could go 115 miles on 34 kWhs.
So, why is the car rated at 115 MPGe not necessarily better than the car with a 95 MPGe. There is no doubt that on a given amount of electricity, the car getting the 115 MPGe is going to do more with a given unit of energy. However, if the car getting 115 MPGe can only drive 10 miles on electricity before turning on the gas engine, and the car getting 95 MPGe can go 45 miles before turning on the gas engine, the overall efficiency of the longer ranged, yet inferior MPGe car, is going to best the shorter ranged, higher MPGe car, on all but the shortest of trips.
Looking at this from the abstract. Let’s say I need to hire a worker. I tell that worker that he/she can work up to 8 hours a day.
With option 2, the worker can make a maximum of $36 for 8 hours of work. $32 for the first four hours, then $4 for the remaining 4.
So what can we take from this?
1) Option 1 has the highest hourly rates. The starting rate and secondary rate are BOTH higher than the second option’s rates. BUT FOR A FULL WORKDAY, OPTION TWO WILL PAY YOU MORE.
2) If the person that is going to be hired plans on working 1 hour only, option 1 is the best. The benefits of the second option don’t come into play until after the first hour, so if the worker is only going to be working one hour a day, the first option is obviously best.
3) You have to look beyond just the raw numbers, and see what fits your situation the best.
So, bringing this back to cars… A car that promises a higher MPGe than the Volt, may not be better for you at all. You need to look at the electric range of the car, estimate your daily driving habits, and come up with a combined fuel economy in your situation. This obviously extends to the MPG rating on range extended cars like the Volt and Plug in Prius. The Volt gets about 37 MPG when running on gas, with the Prius at 50 MPG. Ignoring the fact that the Prius will turn on the gas motor even during the initial electric range if the car gets to 62 MPH or if you accelerate too hard, the Prius’s superior MPG shouldn’t matter much to Volt owners. Volt owners use their gas engine so little that the added 13 MPG efficiency of the Prius won’t cut much into the fuel savings.
Despite there being a lot of criticism on this idea, the EPA needs to consider adding other metrics to their label that reduce the bias of MPGe. Given the cheap nature of electricity compared to gasoline, one car being 10-15% more efficient with the power it consumes isnt going to amount to much difference in the wallet of the buyer, but that car only going 11 miles on a charge versus 40 is going to make a big one. It would also be nice to display the potential tax credits for the car. With the Volts much larger battery, it gets 3x the tax credit of the Plug in Prius ($7500 versus $2500). With this difference, the Volt has over 3x the electric range for about the same cost.
One final note… I know for 100% electric vehicles, MPGe is a good metric. It could also be a good ‘tie break’ metric if two cars are identical in range. Its just not a great starting point to evaluate electric cars, and the EPA can do much better.
Editor’s note: I have to admit, we here at CleanTechnica have probably overemphasized MPGe a bit while underemphasizing range, while sister site Gas2 has probably done a bit of a better job keeping a balance between the two. Will try to keep a closer eye on that in the future. Thanks for the insightful post, Volt Owner!
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 03:30 AM PST
The UK’s Blue Energy is the company behind this behemoth of a solar power plant. It has projected that the project will create hundreds of jobs in Ghana (200 permanent jobs and 500 jobs at the height of construction). Additionally, it should boost Ghana’s electricity capacity by 6%.
“Construction on the Nzema project is due to begin near the village of Aiwiaso in western Ghana by the end of 2013, with the installation of some 630,000 PV modules,” the UK’s Guardian writes.
“The power plant, which at the time of planning would be the fourth biggest of its kind in the world, will be the first major scheme to claim payments from Ghana’s feed-in tariff incentive scheme, created by the government in 2011. Ghana has a target of increasing renewable energy capacity from its current 1% of the country’s energy mix to 10% by 2020.”
“Ghana’s forward-thinking strategy puts it in a strong position to lead the renewable energy revolution in sub-Saharan Africa,” Chris Dean, chief executive of Blue Energy, said. ”Nzema is a case study in how governments can unlock the huge potential for solar energy in Africa. We are delighted that it will make a strong contribution to the national economy, provide much needed generating capacity and help develop the skills of the future.”
Blue Energy created subsidiary Mere Power Nzema Ltd. to complete the project. Development of the project began back in 2010. The company has not yet determined the source of the solar modules, but intends to have a competitive process for determining that in the coming months. “The project is currently expecting to use a single supplier,” Mere Power Nzema project director Douglas Coleman says.
Coleman adds: “The location was chosen for three reasons. One is stable irradiation levels, which are very good in the region generally. The stability of the network which is adjacent to the project, 30 meters away, with sufficient capacity available in the network to allow us to inject the load. And finally close proximity to the deep water port of Takoradi, in the west of Ghana, given that the majority of components will be imported, because there is very little domestic manufacture or the components that we'll need.”
Ghana To House Largest Solar Power Plant In Africa was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 03:00 AM PST
Energy demand in Mongolia is rising by about ten percent each year. Continuing to burn raw coal, and using coal in power plants, is not going to work, so alternatives like wind power are being explored. (Over 80% of Mongolia’s power is now supplied by old coal plants built in the 1970s).
The Salkhit Wind Farm will be coming online soon and has a capacity of 50 MW. General Electric turbines will generate the power, which will meet five percent of the country’s total demand. Mongolia has good wind potential, large open spaces for installations and about 300 days of sunshine each year for solar power as well.
A 300 MW wind farm is being considered in the Gobi Desert, and if it becomes operational, it would meet about 30% of national demand, when there are sufficient winds.
Image Credit: Public Domain, Wikipedia
Wind Power To Reduce Severe Air Pollution In Mongolia was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 02:30 AM PST
Brendon Slotterback, Minneapolis sustainability program co-ordinator said the city's action plan is a response to goals of local city council on this pressing issue. He said the Climate Action Plan aims to cut local greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2025, while 15% by 2015.
Here’s the video:
Worth highlighting, Slotterback notes that the city plans to take a three-point plan of attack in addressing carbon emissions, tackling the following areas:
While other cities have been getting more attention, Minneapolis is like a little gem that no one talks about enough. Congrats to the city for the neat stuff it has already accomplished and its intentions to do more.
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 02:00 AM PST
The protected lane is in Downtown Chicago.
The benefits of bicycles and bicycle lanes are not just convenience and respect, they are a necessity. They enable cyclists to ride separately from cars so that they can avoid deadly collisions.
Biking is often the cheapest and the fastest way to travel in a city. It’s also been declared the most efficient mode of transportation.
Formerly slower modes of transportation such as cycling are now faster than cars in such cities. In all seriousness, what good is the high speed of cars if you have to crawl all the time?
Bikes take up far less space than automobiles, even less parking space. In cities where each square foot of pavement is worth a fortune, this really adds up.
Bicycles, as well as trains and buses, are all part of the solution to reducing congestion, pollutants, and CO2 emissions, as well as transportation spending. All economies can benefit from saving money, especially if it is tens of thousands of dollars per person. It’s good to see Chicago taking this mode of transport seriously and creating its first two-way bike lane.
Two-Way Protected Bike Lane Coming To The Heart Of Downtown Chicago was originally published on: CleanTechnica
Posted: 06 Dec 2012 02:00 AM PST
Meanwhile, Nissan's Leaf gained some traction in US sales. It finished second, with 1,539 vehicles sold, a 129% increase from November 2011. This is the first time the Leaf has outsold the Volt since January. However, January to November sales for the Leaf moved slightly southward compared to January 2011 to November 2011 sales, by 4.5%. It had sold 8,330 vehicles through November 2012, down from 8,720 units leaving car outlets in the same period last year.
And 172 Ford Focus Electrics (the total through November was 518). Here are some more, interesting numbers from Green Car Congress:
Next year’s plug-in electric vehicle competition should get a lot more interesting, with the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid and other plug-in vehicles entering the market, and with the market more mature overall.
Toyota November Tops US Electric Plug In Vehicle Sales For November was originally published on: CleanTechnica
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