Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Firms Scramble To Complete Wind Energy Projects Before Year’s End

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 10:44 AM PST

 
As the end of 2012 approaches, firms are scrambling to complete their wind energy projects to prevent the cost of them from spiking when federal wind tax credits expire next year. Wind farm developers have to complete their wind farms before 2013 for the farm cost to be covered (in part) by the tax credit.

Wind turbines via Shutterstock

"Congress, which last renewed the credit as part of the 2009 fiscal stimulus package, balked at an extension this year," New York Times reporter Matthew Wald noted. "The tax credit could be equal to one-sixth to one-half of the revenue from the wind turbine, depending on electricity prices in the area of the generator."

While those that are opposed to the tax credit renewal have focused solely on its costs, wind tax credit supporters "say that the wind production tax credit did not cost the taxpayers any money, because it stimulated economic activity, in the form of manufacturing and construction, that was taxed at the federal, state and local levels."

We previously wrote about a CEO’s comments on the longevity of wind tax credits and the importance of that to the economy. As noted then, a one-year tax credit is not enough to facilitate the completion of projects, and is barely enough even to complete the construction of a wind farm. This short and intermittent wind tax credit causes economic shock because of the large scale of wind power plants, which hire people and then have to fire them as the projects are grinded to a halt due to a sudden loss of funding, which will happen again tomorrow.

The CEO noted above said that it should be extended to 3 to 5 years to prevent this problem from happening, and to give people time to complete their projects.

AWEA’s senior vice president said that the tax credit is likely to be renewed next year, however, he is not certain.

Source: redOrbit

Firms Scramble To Complete Wind Energy Projects Before Year’s End was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Ford Fusion Energi Certified As Most Efficient Sedan

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 10:30 AM PST

 
Ford just keeps on getting the good news for its hybrid and electric vehicles (EV) as the year winds down. The 2013 Ford Fusion Energi, already named “Green Car of the Year” by Green Car Journal, has now landed a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rating of 108 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) in the city, making it the most fuel-efficient sedan in the U.S., according to the company statement. The vehicle received a combined 100 MPGe rating, with a 92 MPGe highway rating.

Sounds pretty good for a vehicle which could help give some underlying support for consumers who are looking to buy an EV. However, it could be the savings in the pocketbook that ultimately entice people to buy.

Ford projects savings of around $6,850 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to a comparable new car. “The Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid is the exclamation point for Ford’s transformed lineup of fuel-efficiency leaders that now beats Toyota across the board,” said group vice president, Global Product Development of Ford Raj Nair.

This is the third Ford hybrid/electric vehicle which has received an EPA rating of 100 MPGe or greater. Ford's Focus Electric has a combined 105 MPGe combined rating (110 MPGe city; 99 MPGe highway), while the C-Max Energi's combined rating is 100 MPGe (108 MPGe city; 92 MPGe highway). Meanwhile, Ford has put out five electric vehicles in just over the past year, which has helped the company rank number one in overall fuel economy.

Perhaps it also helps Ford's artillery that its fleet of hybrid and electric vehicles comes with some cool features, which include: SmartGage with EcoGuide, providing displays for fuel reading, while showing drivers to maximize their fuel efficiency; voice command for phones and entertainment devices; and monitoring battery charge statuses for EVs and hybrids. Another feature that will help drivers is EV+, which uses the GPS from Ford Sync, along with other software, to learn the most travelled destinations of drivers — so the car can drive more in electric mode.

With all the neat, technical features, plus all the recent accolades, it's no wonder the company is bullish on fourth quarter sales for its family of eco-friendly vehicles. Ford projects to have its highest quarter sales for EV and hybrids this quarter, with approximately 19,000 sales projected. C-Max Energi vehicles alone in October and November became the quickest launch for hybrids of any sort, at 8,030 units sold. That surpassed the record held by the Toyota Camry hybrid back in May and June of 2006, when 7,300 passed through sales lots.

“The response to C-MAX really shows the amount of pent-up demand from a specific market for C-segment hybrids,” said marketing manager, Ford Electrified Vehicles C.J. O’Donnell. “Fusion Energi has a different audience in the midsize sedan market, but delivers many of the characteristics and technologies that make C-MAX Energi so great, which is why we’re anticipating a similar positive response.”

Want to learn more about the history of the Fusion Energi? Check out this interesting video about the roots of the vehicle:

Source: PR Newswire

Ford Fusion Energi Certified As Most Efficient Sedan was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Homage To Daniel Inouye As His Passing Brings Rebirth In Funding For Honolulu Transit

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 09:45 AM PST

 
A little over a week ago, at 88 years of age, Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye passed on. As a member in the chamber, he was the longest-serving US senator at the time of his death. He was considered a ‘titan’ senator, and in the wake of his passing comes a tribute to his work. It is a fulfillment to his plans for Hawaii — Honolulu’s new rail system. $1.55 billion in transit assistance from the tribute will help build, at long last, the rail transit project Inouye had advocated for. Inouye referred to the $1.55 billion offered by the FTA as "precious.”

RIP Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, WWII veteran

If the recent Honolulu mayoral election had gone differently, and if Inouye weren’t so observant, this project might never had gotten funding. Mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano wanted to scrap rail plans in favor of bus rapid transit. Sen. Inouye saw through Cayetano's idea, saying the BRT plan "would force Honolulu to the back of the line, adding years upon years of continued traffic gridlock," since they would have to start from scratch to secure federal funding. Daniel Inouye's legacy and hopes for Honolulu manifest in the wake of his passing.

At the tribute to Inouye, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood signed a full funding grant agreement. Inouye's widow’s presence brought his love and life to the memorial as she stood at LaHood's side witnessing her late husband's hopes being made real as the Secretary committed the federal government to $1.55 billion in transit assistance.

Hawaii's First-Ever Rail Transit System

This will be Hawaii's first-ever rail transit system, with 21 stations along a 20-mile stretch, and is expected to relieve traffic on Interstate H-1, "one of the most congested highways in America," according to LaHood. In the 1960s, some suggested building a new freeway to relieve congestion on H-1, but the population rebelled. Fifty years later, their much better idea — rail transit — is finally inching closer to fruition. More than 60 percent of Oahu's population and 80 percent of its employment is located in the designated transit corridor, according to civic affairs journalism website Honolulu Civil Beat.

Breaking Barriers, Serving the US in WWII, Iran-Contra Hearings, Mass Transit, & More

The signers of the FTA grant agreement left a poignant blank space where Inouye's signature would have gone. However, the breath of his story is wide: it is one of a WWII hero who broke barriers, led in diversity, and also proved his dedication to this project.

Thank you to NPR for a wonderful interview with the man, and a tribute covering his work, which extends far beyond WWII, mass transit, and Honolulu. In Congress, he kept a low profile until the Watergate hearings made him a star. When scandal caught up with another Republican president in 1987, Inouye was on TV again, this time chairing the investigation of Iran-Contra – the secret deal by members of the Reagan anministration to sell arms to Iran to fund right-wing fighters in Central America.

Hawaiins Fight For Rail

Inouye isn’t the only one who demonstrated his dedication to this project. The people of Oahu have signaled their own commitment by voting a half-cent tax to fund two-thirds of the new line’s construction. A big thank the taxpayers of Oahu for this bold choice.

Together, we are going to build a modern public transportation system that lives up to the vision of Senator Inouye and serves generations of Hawaiians long into the future. Hawaiin solar, wind, geothermal, and other green initiatives should help, as well.

Image Credits: Former Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii by roberthuffstutterSenator Inouye by kepanok

Homage To Daniel Inouye As His Passing Brings Rebirth In Funding For Honolulu Transit was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Top 10 Solar Power Stories Of 2012

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 03:45 AM PST

 
What were the top solar power stories of 2012? Here’s my list — chime in below if you think differently or have anything to add.

Concentrating solar thermal power plant. Credit: BrightSorce Energy

10. Giant US CSP power plants move along as planned, ready for completion in 2013.

While we didn’t see any big CSP power plants go online in 2012, a lot of work was going on behind the scenes, setting the stage for a boom in such utility-scale solar power plants in 2013. As noted less than a month ago:

  • The BrightSource Energy Ivanpah project in California is progressing on schedule, with the project (392 MW) coming online in stages during 2013.
  • Abengoa's Solana 280 MW Generating Station in Arizona is over 75 percent complete and expected to be online in summer 2013.
  • SolarReserve continues power purchase agreement (PPA) discussions with Tri-State and Xcel for its 200 MW Saguache project in Colorado.
  • The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously approved an amended PPA for BrightSource's 200 MW Sonoran West Project.

 

Nano-flowers, newly created structures composed of germanium sulfide (GeS), have the potential to open the door to next-generation solar cells and energy storage devices.”

9. Research, research, research.

There are several stories each month on interesting and potentially breakthrough solar advancements. As just a sampling, here are some top recent stories (noted in Renewable Energy Big Pic Part II)::

 

Solar panels & globe via shutterstock

8. Solar trade war grows.

While 2011 saw the start of the US–China “solar trade war,” 2012 saw the bulk of the activity (so far). Beyond US-initiated actions against Chinese solar companies, China retaliated with challenges to US solar policies, European companies initiated action against Chinese solar companies, India launched . Here are some of the most notable posts of the year in this arena:

EU–China

 
US–China

 
India vs US & China

 

7. Obama wins election, guaranteeing another 4 years of good solar power support from the most powerful person in the country (and, some say, in the world).

Obama’s win was a clear plus for US solar power among other things. As noted in November, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that he championed, broad and varied support was provided to solar energy (and all sorts of other cleantech). Furthermore, Obama has ordered the largest energy consumer in the nation, the US government, to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 28% by 2020; he has proposed eliminating fossil fuel subsidies (something that would help solar); he has fast-tracked the cleantech patent application process; he has overseen the quadrupling of clean energy on public land; he has created solar energy development zones on public lands in order to greatly boost solar power while also doing so in an environmentally sensitive way; and he has done much more to support this nascent industry.

Beyond the Obama success, clean energy champions across the US overwhelmingly won their races. While clean energy wasn’t necessarily the top factor in all of those races, it certainly was the top factor for some voters in each of them. And some of these candidates (such as Chris Murphy, Sherrod Brown, and Elizabeth Warren) are clear clean energy leaders who were running in tight races. Surely, being supportive of clean energy, which the vast majority of Americans support, helped them in their races.

Shams I

6. Largest single-unit solar power plant in world is completed in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

At the end of November, Masdar corporation announced that it was about to finish the largest solar power plant in the world (or, to be more accurate, the largest single-unit solar power plant in the world — there are some “solar power plants” that consist of multiple solar projects that are larger). Shams 1 in Abu Dhabi “a generation capacity of over 100 MW of power, and was built with the stated purpose of providing 20,000 homes in the region with electricity,” as Nathan reported at the time. “The project will be followed shortly thereafter by Shams 2 & 3, which are planned to generate similar levels of electricity.”


 

5. Solar panel and solar power prices continue to drop.

As reported on December 11, solar panel prices have continued to fall at a good clip over the last year.

  • "Average residential system prices dropped quarter-over-quarter from $5.45 per watt to $5.21 per watt nationally while average non-residential prices declined 15 cents per watt, falling to $4.18."
  • "Average utility system prices, which are currently at $2.40 per watt, continue to see the greatest reduction in prices of the three market segments covered, falling by 30 percent since third quarter last year."

 
Some solar companies (and certainly customers) have benefited from the falling price of solar, while others have been squeezed out of the business as a result. Overall, the solar industry needs these price drops, but that doesn’t mean this process doesn’t hurt some companies and, thus, people.

The quotes above are for the US, but similar trends have been seen around the world.

4. US growth continues to be strong, best year ever.

As a result of falling prices, innovative financing models, governmental policies, and clear individual and corporate interest in clean energy, solar power growth continued strong in 2012. In fact, 2012 is sure to be the biggest year of solar growth in the US.

As indicated in the charts above, 684 MW of solar PV were installed in the US in the 3rd quarter, up 44% from the 3rd quarter of 2011. In fact, 2012 3rd quarter installations were the third best ever, only behind the 2012 2nd quarter and the 2011 4th quarter (note that the 4th quarter tends to be the best quarter each year). And the 4th quarter installation total is projected to be huge. Cumulative 2012 installations at the end of Q3 hit 1,992 MW, more than 2011's annual total of 1,885 MW.

3. Japan implements generous feed-in tariff, sparks huge solar power growth.

Japan, an early leader in the solar industry, sparked a solar installation surge for the record books this year. The country enacted a higher-than-expected government solar energy feed-in tariff of 42 yen ($0.525) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in July. It installed 725 MW of non-residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and 306 MW of residential solar PV systems in just in July and August.

And remember that the US has almost 2.5 times more citizens than Japan.

2. Australia — hidden decentralized solar giant — sees strong solar growth and better than grid parity solar prices.

Australia doesn’t get nearly the attention that Germany, the US, and China get when it comes to solar energy, but the land down under has developed one of the most attractive solar markets in the world.

While residential solar subsidies were cut in Queensland and Victoria in the middle of the year (resulting in boom–bust period), the falling cost of solar has kept the market alive and strong… in some respects, stronger than ever. The price of solar hit an all-time low in November, the same month that Australia reportedly passed 2,000 MW of installed solar PV capacity.

In October, Giles noted that “Australia now sports a rooftop array on one out of every 10 households.” That figure is 1/5 in South Australia.

Solar is so cheap in Australia that it makes sense for many homeowners and businesses to install solar without subsidies, and even home energy storage + solar may soon be viable, something that certainly threatens Australia’s big utilities (despite the fact that it offers them some financial benefits, too). Leading solar panel company Yingli has stated that Australia could be the first solar PV mass market.

Meanwhile, Australia’s new carbon tax doesn’t hurt, either. As Josh reported in October, “the intensity of the country's electricity generation emissions has fallen since the introduction of the carbon price in July.” Here’s a chart on that note:

Australia passed 2000 MW of installed rooftop solar power in November 2012. With a population of just 22 million (compared to 312 million in the US), that makes US total solar PV capacity of 5,900 MW look quite weak.

With solar and wind doing so well in Oz, the country is bullish that renewables can supply 40% of its energy demand by 2035 and 85% by 2050.

1. Germany’s wicked growth and new records.

While Australia did beat Germany in rooftop solar installations in 2011, Germany still reigns supreme in most solar categories. For example, even at the end of 2011, Germany was #1 in total solar power capacity (by far) and solar power capacity per capita. I say “even” because the spread is likely to increase once 2012 data come in. Germany installed a staggering amount of solar power this year, breaking record after record.

Meanwhile, Germany’s government, which currently leans conservative, has been working with big utilities (who are losing considerable market share to households) and fossil fuel interests to challenge the evolution of the country’s clean energy success story.

Here are just a handful of the tremendous German solar power stories of the year:

German Solar Capacity & Electricity Production

 
German Solar Prices 

 
Energiewende

 
Prices Down, Prices Up — Huh?

 
Small-Town Success

 
Other

 
What do you think — correct order? Did I miss any big stories? Have a few cents to add?

If you’re interested, also see:

 

Top 10 Solar Power Stories Of 2012 was originally published on: CleanTechnica

Top 10 Wind Power Stories Of 2012

Posted: 31 Dec 2012 03:36 AM PST

 
Following our list of the top 10 EV stories of 2012, here are what I’d consider to be the top 10 wind power stories of 2012:

windfloat floating wind turbine keeps a better balance

WindFloat floating wind turbine platforms.

10. Floating wind turbines take several steps forward. In various ways, it’s clear that a lot of work is still being put into research and development of wind turbines. Floating wind turbine news was particularly noteworthy this year. Here are several notable floating wind turbine stories from 2012:

 

9. Wind turbines made of fabric; wind turbines made of wood; bigger & bigger turbine — wind turbine technology moves forward. Some other top wind technology stories this year that were good examples of wind turbine innovation include:

 

8. Obama administration shows strong support for wind power. Obama’s crew at the Department of Energy, Department of Interior, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management helped wind power along in several ways this year. Here’s some of the top news on this front:

 
cape wind farm

7. Cape Wind gets closer to actually being built, likely to be 1st offshore wind farm in US. Here are some top Cape Wind stories from the year:

 

Australia wind turbines via Shutterstock

6. Australia implements carbon pricing, driving more wind energy growth in the country. Technically, Australia passed its carbon tax legislation in 2011, but it was implemented in mid-2012. As a result of that and wind power’s low and falling costs, installed wind power has surged this year.

 

Japan flag via Shutterstock

5. Japan implements attractive wind energy feed-in tariff. Perhaps even more significant than the Australian pricing legislation, Japan’s feed-in tariff for wind (not to mention for solar or geothermal) is geared at stimulating some serious wind power growth.

 

wind turbine prices low

Wind turbine in process of installation via Shutterstock

4. Wind power costs keep dropping — cheapest option for new electricity in many places. Wind power is now the cheapest option for new electricity in many regions of the world, thanks to years of technological improvements and market maturation. Meanwhile, the continual improvement of wind power technology is projected to keep reducing the price of electricity from wind for years to come. Quite frankly, wind is a winner, and it is going to keep on winning. Here’s some 2012 news along this front:

 
It’s also worth remembering that, due to merit-order pricing, wind power drives down the price of electricity on the wholesale electricity market. Here are some stories along those lines from 2012:

 


 

largest offshore wind farm

Walney Wind Farm via Moggy443

3. Largest wind farm after largest wind farm — wind farm records set throughout the year. From Europe to… well, mostly in Europe, there’s been quite a bit of news this year regarding record-breaking wind farms.

 

2. Wind power growing by leaps & bounds around the world. Beyond those record-breaking wind farms above, there has been a ton of other wind power development across this world this year. Here’s a sampling of stories that highlight wind power’s tremendous growth:

 

Image Credit: U.S. Air Force/Lance Cheun

1. US wind power PTC is… going to be extended? We think and hope so, but the extension has been delayed for many months due to GOP extremists in Congress, sacrificing thousands or even tens of thousands of US jobs.

Some key stories on these and related topics from throughout the year:

 
Any more ideas for top wind power stories of 2012?

If you’re interested, also see:

 

Top 10 Wind Power Stories Of 2012 was originally published on: CleanTechnica

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