Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Other Cleantech & Climate News

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 07:31 PM PST

Beyond solar and EV news, here are some more cleantech and climate news & views from around the interwebs:


"Then You Win" Michael Liebreich Youtube Video:

Despite Conservative Attacks, States Continue to Realize the Benefits of Renewable Energy Standards: “States' adoption of renewable energy standards—which require electric utility companies to produce a portion of their electricity from wind, solar, and other renewable sources—has considerably driven clean energy advances in recent years. Though Congress has failed to enact a nationwide standard, policymakers at the state level have enthusiastically filled the void, with 29 states and the District of Columbia adopting hard targets for renewable energy production and another eight states setting renewable energy goals. Standards place an obligation on electricity-supply companies to reach set targets, while renewable energy goals are voluntary for companies—although states might incentivize a utility for reaching a set goal.

“Those mandates have brought a wide range of benefits, ranging from robust clean energy economies to lower carbon emissions and improved public health. Since the beginning of 2009, eight states—CaliforniaColorado, DelawareHawaiiKansas,NevadaNew Jersey, and New York—have increased their standards, while three states—IndianaOklahoma, and West Virginia—have established voluntary goals. Six other states—Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington state—have beaten back attempts to repeal their standards. Most of the states with renewable energy standards on the books are meeting or are close to meeting their interim targets.”

Greece Backs Second Renewable-Energy Tax Increase in Five Months: “Greece's energy regulator approved higher renewable-power taxes for consumers, backing a second increase in five months to bolster funds at market operator Lagie SA.

“The levy, which compensates Lagie for guaranteeing fixed power prices to clean-energy producers, will rise to an average 9.30 euros ($12.35) a megawatt-hour from 7.50 euros, the watchdog said in a statement on its website. The increase is backdated to Jan. 1 and valid for six months.


Danish Bicycle Pioneers: Larry vs Harry:

Danish Bicycle Pioneers: Larry vs Harry from Copenhagenize on Vimeo. The second portrait in the series of Danish Bicycle Pioneers for Bicycle Innovation Lab. The first was a portrait of Carl Georg Rasmussen – father of the modern velomobile. This time it’s Lars Malmborg and Hans Bullitt Fogh - Larry vs Harry - designers of the Bullitt cargo bike. Probably the hottest bicycle on the planet right now. The classic Danish longjohn, which transformed cargo bike culture back in the early 1920s, remained unchanged for more than 85 years. Nobody thought to make it better, lighter, faster. Until Larry vs Harry.”

Cyclists’ Demonstrations – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

Cyclists' protests can be a good thing arising out of a bad thing. Confused? Click the link above.

Wind Energy

Gamesa Secures 10-Year O&M Agreement for 264 MW Wind Farm in Virginia, USA: “Gamesa, a global technology leader in wind energy, has secured a 10-year, full service operation and maintenance (O&M) agreement with NedPower, to service their 264-megawatt Mount Storm Wind Farm in West Virginia, USA. 

“The 264 MW Mount Storm Wind Farm is one of the largest wind farms in operation in the eastern United States, featuring 132 Gamesa G80-2.0 MW turbines.

Video – First Turbine Erected at Tasmanian Wind Farm: “The folk at Hydro Tasmania are clearly chuffed by developments at the 168MW Musselroe Wind Farm project which is under construction in the north-east of the Apple Isle. This week it announced the completion of ‘topping out’ of its first wind turbine, which essentially means putting all the components in place atop an 80m high tower.”

Energy Efficiency

EU Energy Efficiency Directive & Germany: “Kevin Meyerson kindly asked in a comment what Germany could do more on energy efficiency. One simple answer is to point to the recent EU Directive on energy efficiency adopted on October 25 last year.

“This area is actually the one 2020 goal the EU is not firmly on track to achieve. The three goals are 20% CO2 reduction, 20% share of renewable energy, and 20% reduction of energy use. The first two goals will be achieved, energy efficiency will still require some extra effort (EU Commission ‘Citizens' Summary’).”


U.S. Military Gets Serious About Microgrids… Which Is More Exciting Than It Sounds: “The Department of Defense has bases in the U.S. and forward operating bases in theaters of war like Afghanistan. In both cases, providing reliable electricity, a strategic and tactical necessity for an increasingly wired military, is a challenge. One way the military is meeting that challenge is developing microgrids, which are way cooler than they sound.” (Note: we here at CleanTechnica do think microgrids are super exciting — I’ve even considered creating a category for them. If interested, take a stroll through our microgrids archives.)


Geothermal Takes Technological Step Forward: “Geothermal energy developers working on the flanks of an ancient Oregon volcano say they have taken an important technological step toward expanding geothermal energy from a small niche into a potential major source of homegrown power, but more work needs to be done.”

Wave Energy

Utility-Scale Wave Energy Test Facility to be Built in Oregon: “The first utility-scale wave energy test facility in the U.S. will be built in Newport, Oregon. The Pacific Marine Energy Center will supply energy to the local power grid.

“The test facility will be located about five miles offshore, in the same area as the Ocean Sentinel. While providing power to the local community, the PMEC will allow researchers to learn how well the facility can stand up to storm waves in the Pacific and about any environmental or community impacts.”

Natural Gas

The Vile and Evil American Shale Gas Revolution: “John Hanger thinks it is an "American triumph" and the "top energy fact of 2012″ that America has reduced CO2 emissions in the short term somewhat by switching much electricity generation from coal to gas.

“I agree that this is a significant fact. But I don't think it's a triumph. It is a disgrace. The Americans should be ashamed of themselves.

Gas for Electricity is Like Smoking "Light" Cigarettes: In my last post about the "vile and evil" American shale gas revolution I forgot to mention that firing gas instead of coal reduces greenhouse gas emissions only if methane leakage is under control, as Joe Romm points out in detail here.

“There is no guarantee that that is actually happening.

“Joe Romm, being interested in rhetoric, uses the metaphor of a ‘bridge to nowhere’ for gas.

“I came up with another one. Using gas is like smoking a ‘light’ cigarette. It may contain slightly less harmful substances, but it will still kill you. That's why the European Union has a ban in place on using words like ‘light’ or ‘mild’ in connection with cigarettes since 10 years ago.”


What Are The Tar Sands?

Climate Change

Koch-Funded Study Finds 2.5°F Warming Of Land Since 1750 Is Manmade, 'Solar Forcing Does Not Appear To Contribute': “The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) has finally published its findings on the cause of recent global warming. This Koch-funded reanalysis of millions of temperature observations from around the world, ‘A New Estimate of the Average Earth Surface Land Temperature Spanning 1753 to 2011,’ concludes:

“… solar forcing does not appear to contribute to the observed global warming of the past 250 years; the entire change can be modeled by a sum of volcanism and a single anthropogenic [human-made] proxy.

Other Cleantech & Climate News was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

EV News: Tesla Model X, 1907 Electric Car With 80-Mile Range, Electric Trains In EU, VIA X-Truck…

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 07:19 PM PST

Beyond our own electric vehicle (EV) stories, here are some topic EV stories from around the interwebs from the past week or so:


Hybrid Trains are the Future: EU to Fit KERS Systems to High-speed Rail

hybrid electric trains europe

Thanks to the success of the Prius and others, hybrids have become a big deal in the automotive universe – so much so that boutique carmakers like Porsche and Ferrari are looking to hybrid technology to stay relevant. Cars aren't the only people-movers moving to hybrid power, of course. Trains are adopting the technology in a bid to reduce harmful emissions and stabilize fuel costs – especially in the European Union.

German Railway Using Renewable Electricity

The German Railway (Deutsche Bahn) is Germany's biggest consumer of electricity. They use about 12 TWh, according to SPIEGEL.

And they are using renewable electricity, since their customers want them to do so.

The latest news is that everybody in a large group of customers will be traveling with 100 percent renewable electricity from April this year. People who are in the ‘Bahncard’ rebate program, people who have a monthly ticket, and people working with companies registered in the corporate rebate program.


Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid Could Get Fake Shifting Software

Today in America more than 90% of new cars are sold with an automatic transmission. The adoption of hybrid and electric cars is only accelerating this trend away from shifting for yourself, though Lotus is hoping to offer customers an electric driving experience that includes fake shifting software that mimics a manual transmission.

Electric Lotus Esprit is the Best Class Project Ever (VIDEO)

What you see above is a group of high-risk teens that built a fully electric Lotus Esprit and drove it all the way across these great United States. It's pretty awesome.

Flashback: The 80-mile Detroit Electric Car From 105 Years Ago

Electric cars have always been around in one form or another, and when the auto industry was still in its infancy, electric vehicles were actually quite popular. To kick off a new series of articles looking at the green cars of yesteryear, we decided to go all the way back to the very beginning of the American car culture, when a little company called Detroit Electric was selling a 100% electric car with an advertised driving range of 80 miles.

NAIAS 2013: The VIA X-Truck, An 800 Horsepower Plug-In Hybrid

The name Bob Lutz is no doubt familiar to those of you who closely follow the auto industry, but for the rest of you, know that he is considered the father of the Chevy Volt. Lutz left GM after a long and storied career, though he now finds himself heading VIA, a plug-in hybrid truck company which recently unveiled an 800 horsepower concept called the X-Truck.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Supplants Ford Fusion As Government's Green Car Of Choice

President Barack Obama pledged to modernize the government fleet, and he has done just that… though, many of these new, fuel-efficient cars aren't American. In fact, 54% of the Obama Administration's fleet of alternatively fueled vehicles come from Asian brands.

Toyota Develops A Sporty Version of Prius C

In Japan, Toyota's Prius C, which is the subcompact version of the Prius, is called the Aqua. Toyota has developed a more aesthetically sporty conceptual version of it called the Aqua  G, with more aggressive styling, an adjusted suspension, and some other things that make it more appealing to young people.

Fisker Hasn't Built A Car In Six Months, Looks To China For New Sales

2012 was not a good year for green car maker Fisker, makers of the Fisker Karma, and the news isn't getting any better. A new report reveals that Fisker hasn't built a car in six months, which is troubling in and of itself. Even worse though, Fisker claims this is no big deal, because they have a "sufficient supply" of Karma hybrids on hand. So why is that bad?

Video: Tesla Model S On The Dyno

In the world of performance cars, the dynamometer (or dyno for short) is a tool used for measuring the horsepower and torque of a vehicle. Usually this is used for tuning purposes, but some people just like to brag about how much power their car does (or doesn't) have. We're surprised it took so long, but someone finally put their Tesla Model S on the dyno…and the results are predictably awesome.

NAIAS 2013: Tesla Model X, Supercharger Make Auto Show Debut

It has been almost a year since Tesla Motors unveiled its Model X SUVto a select group of journalists and bloggers. This year at the North American International Auto Show, Tesla finally trotted out the Model X for consumption by the rest of us lowly peons, and they brought outone of their new Supercharger charging stations as well.

NAIAS 2013: The 2014 Cadillac ELR Brings Luxury To Plug-In Hybrids

We're back, rested, and ready to bring you all the live shots and info from the 2013 North American International Auto Show. While there were many cool, green cars on the showroom floor, we found ourselves gravitating back to one car over and over again; the Cadillac ELR, GM's luxury version of the Chevy Volt.

Seven Sizzling Hybrid and Electric Cars from the 2013 Detroit Auto Show

The 2013 Detroit Auto Show officially kicked off last week and it marked one the biggest years for the show in at least five years. Automakers pulled out all the stops with big debuts like the 2014 Chevy Corvette and Cadillac ELR. This year was also significant as we saw more luxury automakers unveil new electric and hybrid models than ever before. Here’s our list of the top seven hybrid and electric cars that took the stage in Detroit.

Porsche Recognized For Green Tech

Stuttgart's new Green Party mayor, Fritz Kuhn, recently paid a visit to Porsche's manufacturing facility in Germany, where he praised the company's recent efforts to bring clean diesels and innovative hybrids to market.

European EV Sales Will Jump Fivefold by Decade’s End

To paraphrase the old Elvis Presley tagline, more than 800,000 Europeans can’t be wrong. That’s the conclusion of Pike Research, which estimates that sales of electric vehicles in Europe will jump more than fivefold between now and the end of the decade.

Specifically, EVs will account for about four percent of the European new-car market in 2020, up from 0.7 percent last year. That means that about 827,000 EVs will be sold throughout the continent in 2020. Pike acknowledges there are conflicting factors that need to be taken into account when estimating EV growth. While Europe’s higher fuel prices will help push EV sales, the broader prevalence of fuel-efficient diesel vehicles may hamper automakers’ effort to get potential customers to consider EVs.

Better Place’s Second CEO in Four Months Steps Down

Better Place has long promoted itself to the electric-vehicle advocate community as the expert in battery-swapping technology. Turns out, the company is proficient at swapping out its CEOs, too.

Evan Thornley, who became CEO in October, had been chief of the company’s Australia operations before replacing Better Place founder Shai Agassi. Thornley is now out, the company says.

Thornley helped the company “raise the capital it needed to sustain continued operations,” but won’t be leading the company’s effort in expanding its sales and network of battery-swapping stations in countries such as Israel and Denmark. Better Place CFO Alan Gelman will oversee the company until yet another CEO successor is tapped.

EV (+ Some Oil & Nuclear) News from Mr Energy Czar

EV Q&A with Mr Energy Czar #6

Oops, I Lied, We’ve Also Got Some Non-EV Transportation News

100% Renewable Jet Fuel Tested and Proven to Reduce Emissions

There have been renewable, "green" jet fuel tests in the past. However, they were not completely renewable, they were just used in addition to jet fuel to offset petroleum usage. This time, however, the test was completely offset, resulting in an important aviation milestone.

Anti-ethanol Propaganda isn't 100% Wrong, Just 100% Crazy

Yesterday, I found myself clicking around a website that called itself "smarter fuel future". The distortion of facts to fit fictions and lies by omission committed throughout the site would be laughable, if they weren't so readily accepted by some of the mental midgets (mental little people?) that frequent this site's comments section from time to time.

Higher Court Upholds Decision to OK EPA's E15, Ethanol is Go!

E15 is coming, and federal courts think that is just fine according to a federal appeals court decision rendered Tuesday that denied a request by food and oil lobbyists that it reconsider a decision upholding a federal measure allowing gasoline to be mixed with a higher percentage of ethanol. Known as E15, the ethanol/gasoline mix is expected to reduce dependence on foreign oil while encouraging the development of ethanol-friendly fuel systems and modern, turbocharged engines that can benefit from the increased octane available from ethanol fuels.

Toyota Ups the Carbon Fiber Ante (VIDEO)

Toyota's Lexus LFA supercar program is over – but the lessons Toyota learned from building the light weight, ultra-fast exotics are going to carry forward into the future of Toyota's mainstream cars, if the latest reports are to be believed.

Oil From Algae: The Goal 10,000 Barrels A Day By 2018

Sapphire Energy has built the world's first large-scale farm to grow algae and produce crude oil. If all goes according to plan, commercial production of perhaps 10,000 barrels a day will begin in 2018.


EV News: Tesla Model X, 1907 Electric Car With 80-Mile Range, Electric Trains In EU, VIA X-Truck… was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Solar News: Germany’s Energiewende Misreported, LA Feed-In Tariff Details, German Solar Energy Storage Incentives…

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 03:48 PM PST

Solar panels & globe via Shutterstock

Of course, check out our own solar power stories for the biggest solar news of the past week (if you haven’t read them all already).

But if you’re a super solar lover, for a bit more news, here are some top solar power stories from around the interwebs from the past week or so:


Misreporting of Energiewende: “Over the past few weeks, a number of reports in the international press reveal a lack of familiarity with the situation in Germany. In particular, reports of a sudden collapse of the German PV market continue – despite all facts to the contrary.”

Germany to Provide Solar Power Storage Incentives: Last week, “the German government announced a new market incentive program as proposed last year by the German Parliament. The incentives will, however, only be provided if the storage systems go beyond mere batteries and include energy management tailored to what the grid needs.”

Speculation on Solar Outside the Feed-in Tariff System in Germany: “Bloomberg just published an article about prices for electricity future contracts going down in Germany, which is a continuing trend. Rising shares of solar and wind (which have no fuel cost) of course bring wholesale prices down.

“And that article contained this remarkable paragraph:

‘As much as 18 percent of electricity demand may be replaced by solar panels not connected to Germany's grid, reducing demand for other sources by 6 to 10 percent by 2020, Per Lekander, a Paris-based analyst at UBS AG (UBSN), said in a research note.’”

Ulrich Kelber Interview: “Ulrich Kelber is a leading SPD politician and responsible for energy policy. He makes a couple of interesting points.

“For one, while it costs some money to develop solar and other renewable capacity in Germany, many of the existing fossil fuel power plants would have needed to be replaced anyway. The alternative to paying for sun and wind is not paying nothing, but paying for dirty energy, with rising fuel costs.

“And energy efficiency policy is not successful in Germany, in Kelber's opinion. The law on priority for renewable energy works nicely, but Germany needs to do much more for saving energy.”

Austria Installs 230MWp in 2012: “The budget for solar PV in Austria has been increased from €2.1 million to €8 million through the Green Electricity Act 2012.

“The Austrian PV Association states that 230MWp was installed last year, which is double the installed capacity compared to 2011. The cumulative installed capacity in Austria at the end of 2012 was 420MWp.”

“We No Longer Need Feed-in Tariffs:” Michael Harre, vice president and head of LG Electronics’ solar division: ”The photovoltaic sector is currently undergoing a very difficult time economically. Whoever makes it faces a great future. Solar cells and panels are becoming everyday products, including in combination with batteries. This will soon be taken for granted in a lot of industries and areas of life. Margins and profits will shrink, but greater revenue will make the necessary investments pay for themselves.”

Joachim Simonis, Managing Director at Talesun: “If we take account of all of the costs, Europe has reached grid parity with nuclear and coal power – or is about to. We therefore no longer need feed-in tariffs. But we do need the priority grid access ensured by the Renewable Energy Act. The market will take care of everything else on its own. The further growth of photovoltaics largely depends upon power prices. Conventional power is becoming more expensive in Germany and Italy, as is coal power in Greece, where an old law stipulated that Greek power plants could receive coal for free. This law expires in 2013. In a year and a half, we will be talking about completely different solar markets. The focus will then mainly be on direct consumption and power trading.”

More quotes via the link above.

Solar Cells Hellas Group Hits 20 MW of Installed Solar: “Solar Cells Hellas Group, the biggest PV producer in Greece, connected to the grid in January three new photovoltaic parks of a 3.19 MW total installed capacity.

“The parks have an installed capacity of 1.53 MW, 0.8 MW and 0.86 ΜW each, and are all located in the municipality of Viotia, Greece. They will be generating at least 4.944.500 kWh of energy per year saving the atmosphere over 4.625.500Kg of CO2.”

Trina Solar Supplies 61 MW of Solar Panels for Brandenburg Project: Trina Solar “has supplied PV modules totaling 61MW for the Green Tower project in the German federal state of Brandenburg. More than 252,000 multi-crystalline Trina Solar modules, each with an average output of more than 240Wp, have been installed on the former Preschen airfield in Jocksdorf, Brandenburg. Following a land conversion process, the compound was developed into a giant solar farm with rows of modules extending for more than a kilometre. The PV park that now covers the former military field has been fully commissioned and is considered to be one of the most efficient plants in the world. It provides clean solar power covering the annual energy needs of approximately 17,000 households.”


Andhra Pradesh Aims for 1 GW of Solar: “The Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has invited applications from photovoltaic developers keen to enter the bidding process which it is hoped will see 1 GW of solar capacity installed.

“Applicants have until February 7 to apply to be part of the scheme, which will be the first to feature an online bidding process, according to consultants Bridge to India.”

South America

Canadian Consortium Inks PPA for 50MW PV Plants in Ecuador: “A Canadian consortium composed of renewable energy developers Solexica Energy Corporation, JCM Capital and Radical Energy have signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with electric utility firm Conelec for a 50MW PV plant in Ecuador.”


LA’s Feed-in Tariffs in Context: “Los Angeles adopted a relatively large feed-in tariff scheme this month that has drawn a lot of praise. Seen from Europe, the program certainly has an interesting design, but one wonders at a number of restrictions. Conflicting reports also show that Americans still don’t quite understand the concept. Local solar installers also have mixed feelings but remain hopeful.”

More Details on LA’s Feed-in Tariff: “The pricing for the program, which begins at $0.17/kWh and will drop by one cent per kWh each round, does not have an escalator attached to it. For each 20 MW increment, 4 MW will be reserved for smaller projects between 30 and 150kW. The total capacity of small projects can exceed this limit, but the total capacity of projects in the 151 kW-3 MW range cannot exceed 16 MW for each 20-MW round.

“If a round goes undersubscribed, the pricing will roll over but the capacity will not. For example, if contracts for only 8MW of the first 20 MW round are awarded at pricing of $0.17/kWh, the next round will still only award 20MW of contracts, but the first 12 MW will receive pricing of $0.17/kWh while the balance of the round will drop to $0.16/kWh. This policy is designed to prevent a spike in workload for the staff of the FIT program, avoiding delays and ensuring that the program can progress on schedule. If at the end of the program there is a significant amount of capacity left unsubscribed, it is possible that LADWP will consider releasing an additional program to fill it.

Solar News: Germany’s Energiewende Misreported, LA Feed-In Tariff Details, German Solar Energy Storage Incentives… was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Why The Climate Bill Failed (Op-Ed With Some Strong Evidence)

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 03:06 PM PST

The post below by Dr Joe Romm is, as you will see, a response to a 142-page “report” (i.e. opinion piece) on “why the climate bill failed” (despite broad public and corporate support). Romm has written about this topic extensively, but I think this is his best piece on the matter (and it seems he benefited this time around from some additional insider information… which simply reinforced his initial arguments on the matter). Check it out:

What Theda Skocpol Gets Wrong About The Climate Bill Fight

Who Is To Blame For Failure Of Climate Bill in 2009, 2010? Hint: The People Who Opposed It, Ignored It Or Undersold It!

A lengthy new study opinion piece aims to pin the blame for the failure of the climate bill on the environmental community. It has already resulted in head-exploding headlines like this one in the Guardian:

First, if we're going to truly learn from this epic failure, let's frame the issue fully, something Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol fails to do in her incredibly long, but oddly incomplete essay, "NAMING THE PROBLEM: What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight against Global Warming."

As readers know, I think the opponents of action — the fossil fuel companies, the disinformers, the right wing media, and the anti-science, pro-pollution ideologues in the Senate – deserve 60% of the blame.  The lame-stream media gets 30% for its generally enabling coverage — see "How the status quo media failed on climate change" and The media's decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress." Then the "Think Small" centrists and lukewarmers get 5% for helping to shrink the political space in the debate (see here and here).

So we are divvying up the remaining 5% of blame between team Obama and environmental groups (along with Senate Democrats, scientists, progressives, and everyone else, including me, and the American public). I'm not sure how much can be learned from the climate bill failure if your main focus is the elite environmental community. Skocpol does spend a lot of time discussing the Tea Party driven extremism of the GOP, but, I think, drawing the wrong lessons.

Second, for that last 5% blame, the lion's share has to go to Obama (see "The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2"). He is the agenda shaper. He has the biggest megaphone by far. He made most of the decisive blunders (see below). But not according to Skocpol. She asserts:

To hold a "failure of leadership" by Obama responsible for the ultimate shortfall for cap and trade, we would have to imagine that, in the spring of 2010, the President could have done something better or different than the USCAP leaders or Senate bargainers to satisfy Rahm Emmanuel's realistic demand to "get me some Republicans." We have to picture Barack Obama being more persuasive with leading Republicans than, say, Environmental Defense Fund honcho Fred Krupp, who had successfully cajoled votes out of GOP Senators in the past. I do not find that plausible. Presidential arm-twisting and sweet-talking were not the issue. Developments in the two parties, especially among Republicans, were pivotal.

Now, if that rings true to you, you don't have to keep reading this blog post. You can dive into Skocpol's 142-page PDF.

But skip the PDF and keep reading if — like one senior Congressional staffer involved with the bill who I ran that quote by — you think it is absurd to claim that the head of a medium-sized environmental group is more persuasive, indeed a more important leader, than the most powerful person in the free world.

Note that such questionable assertions/opinions are not rare in Skocpol's paper, but very common. It isn't peer-reviewed nor do I think could pass peer review, for reasons that will become clear. It is kind of a mini-book — an oral history overlaid with a bunch of opinions. But the opinions are just that and not inherently more valid than yours or mine merely because they come from a well-regarded scholar.

Obama's failure of leadership extends far beyond "arm-twisting" and "sweet-talking." Here are the key failures, as I see them (feel free to add your own):

  • Pushing health care reform first when the climate bill was already moving andfar more important for the future of the nation and the world.
  • Pushing health care reform in such an incompetent fashion it took a full year, lost public support for that reform and sweeping pieces of legislation in general, energized the opposition, and generally further poisoned a poisonous political atmosphere.
  • Failing to insist that the climate bill be able to be passed through the reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes and prevents a filibuster — in retrospect, this was almost certainly the single biggest strategic mistake (though not Obama's alone).
  • Never keeping Democratic Senators in line, and, for instance, never making clear that there was definitely going to be a vote on the climate bill, as they knew there would be for health care. This allowed moderate Democrats to publicly bad-mouth the bill and say that there was no path to 60 votes, which essentially sent the message to moderate Republicans crucial to the bill's passage that they would be taking a massive political risk supporting any bill.
  • Never giving one single major national speech on the most important issue of our time, and even muzzling his Cabinet and Administration from talking about climate. Obama demonstrated with, for instance, the fiscal cliff, that the bully pulpit can move public opinion or at least solidify opinion that is broad but perhaps not deep.
  • Insisting on a communications strategy for everyone involved in pushing the climate bill that rejected any talk about the problem the climate bill was designed to address — see "The Sounds Of Silence: Team Obama Launched The Inane Strategy Of Downplaying Climate Change Back In March 2009."

Skocpol misses the importance of most if not all of those. If you fail to recognize these blunders, it is implausible that you'll figure out what to do right next time, which is one of the main purposes of Skocpol's paper. To be clear, though, I think the environmental community made some very serious mistakes, but mostly different ones than Skocpol identifies.

Because the paper is not peer-reviewed, Skocpol can use anonymous quotes whose interpretation cannot be verified, and she can cite sources who don't actually agree with her conclusions. For instance, she writes:

I have also relied heavily on The Climate War, an interview-based account of the cap and trade effort that was published in mid-2010 by Eric Pooley, who was at that time a journalist and has since become a Senior Vice President at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Strange then that this is what Pooley believes based on his interviews:

We need to get to 60 [Senators] to get it done. And so far we have not been able to do that. Now why haven't we been able to? I believe the most important reason is that the President of the United States has not gotten in there and fought for a bill….

He has not led on three levels: the level of a sustained deep communication to the American people explaining why we need to do this; why we need to transition to clean energy and how we're going to get it done; why a carbon cap is so important — he hasn't really made that case….

Pooley has a lot more disagreements with Skocpol, which he lays out here.

She cites Robert Brulle's work extensively, but doesn't appear to see how that work undercuts her main thesis. She writes:

Throughout the 2000s decade, Brulle, Carmichael, and Jenkins show, GOP Congressional votes and arguments against environmental bills were associated with declining public concern, while statements from Democratic politicians about the rising threat of global warming and the need to deal with it raised the level of public concern. Remember, these findings come from quarterly measurements of both dependent and independent variables, so the findings are unusually powerful.

Well, yes, but that's why Brulle wrote two years ago, "By failing to even rhetorically address climate change, Obama is mortgaging our future and further delaying the necessary work to build a political consensus for real action."

It is kind of baffling Skocpol repeatedly cites Brulle's work but then hand-waves away elsewhere the importance of Democratic politicians talking about the rising threat of global warming. Remember, Obama himself wasn't just mostly silent on the climate threat —  he muzzled his administration and other Congressional leaders (and much of the environmental community), too!

Coincidentally, Yale University's Institution for Social and Policy Studies just came out with a study "Stasis and Movements: Climate Legislation in the 111th Congress," which found, unsurprisingly:

Through comparison with the Affordable Care Act and the history of U.S. environmental policymaking, the second section suggests three political forces that might have helped strength the climate campaign: public opinion, grassroots mobilization and presidential leadership.

I hesitate to say, "Duh." But, seriously.

This is an unavoidably long post given the length and, I think, importance of not learning the wrong lessons of the past. But hey, Grist's Dave Roberts already has onetwothree posts on the subject! And I've been on travel else I'd have written something sooner.

UPDATE: Skocpol responds in the comments, and I reply to her.

Let's explore the reconciliation issue a bit more, because Skocpol mostly ignores it even though it was, in retrospect, probably the single biggest blunder. Certainly if you could ask most participants in the process what is the one thing they would change — if they could — it would be the reconciliation decision. Yes, I am aware that this is a counterfactual, but Skocpol's entire essay is built around multiple counterfactuals — what the environmental community could have done differently to achieve success. As an aside, her answer — rally around the (too weak, business unfriendly) cap-and-dividend bill — was neither politically nor environmentally viable and Dave Roberts expresses his doubt here.

But reconciliation was at least theoretically possible since Senate majority leader Reid apparently supported it and team Obama had gotten it for health care.

Skocpol's essay was released with a companion piece by Petra Bartosiewicz and Marissa Miley, "The Too Polite Revolution: Why the Recent Campaign to Pass Comprehensive Climate Legislation in the United States Failed." While Skocpol says "I have been fortunate to consult with journalists Petra Bartosiewicz and Marissa Miley, who have done a superb job of interviewing most participants in the immediate battles and describing and assessing what happened in 2009 and 2010," she ignores one of their key points:


Many Senate staffers we spoke with said the climate bill was doomed from the start because it was not slated for reconciliation, which would have provided immunity to filibustering and enabled the bill to pass with a simple majority of fifty-one votes rather than the standard sixty votes needed to bring it to a vote. Gaining those sixty votes became even more difficult in January 2010 when Republican upstart Scott Brown won a special election to fill Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat. After that, any Senate cap-and-trade bill would have to have at least one Republican backer to pass the Senate.

As Eric Pooley recounts in The Climate War, Reid indicated in a March 2009 meeting with Duke CEO Jim Rogers and EDF's Fred Krupp that he might try to pass the climate bill through reconciliation but that Rogers and Krupp managed to persuade him not to take the that route. (By contrast, reconciliation was used to bring amendments to the health care and education reform bills to a vote in 2010, since elements of each act had been put into the annual federal budget.) Kent Conrad (D-ND), who, as chairman of the Senate Budget committee, oversaw whether to include reconciliation instructions in the budget resolution, opposed putting climate through reconciliation. "It doesn't work well for writing major substantive legislation," he said at the time.

Talk about blunders.

As the Yale study "Stasis and Movements" points out:

Polarization and political geography have such a large impact only because of the 60-vote, filibuster-imposed threshold on passing nearly all legislation; dropping that threshold to 51 would have completely changed the political dynamics and greatly enhanced the probability of victory. That is, the filibuster can either be understood as simply part of the basic political conditions under which the climate movement operated or as the single most important cause of the climate bill's defeat.

In fact, or, rather, in a counterfactual, the filibuster is not a given. Far from it.

Indeed, as Pooley explains in his book:

With the backing of the White House, the Senate decided to reserve the right to use a parliamentary shortcut called budget "reconciliation" to pass a health-care bill, but ruled out the maneuver for the climate bill. Using this fast-track process for the cap, Emanuel said, would be "a bridge too far"– another reminder that Obama wanted healthcare reform more than climate action.

Even so, Pooley describes the meeting between Reid and Rogers and Krupp this way.

Looking directly at Rogers, he said "I don't think we're going to get a strong bill unless we do this through budget reconciliation"– a maneuver that would allow Reid to pass a bill with fifty-one votes instead of the sixty needed to override a filibuster. "I may try to get it done that way."

Rogers blanched– the sixty vote threshold was his insurance that the bill would meet his specifications….

I apologize for failing to warn you to put on your head vise.

If it is true that reconciliation was a legitimate possibility because Reid wanted it — and that team Obama chose to push reconciliation for health care reform rather than climate — and that key members of the business-environmental coalition backing the bill didn't push for it (and actually argued against it), then it is very straightforward to say that this was the single most important (plausibly changeable) cause of the climate bill's defeat.

Skocpol has a long discussion of the rise of the Tea Party, the polarization of the GOP, but she somehow blames environmentalists for not figuring out how to respond to that as wisely as the people pushing healthcare reform. Skocpol writes (incorrectly):

As both health reformers and global warming warriors geared up, there was a key difference. One set of reformers looked to learn from past failure, while the other wanted to extend partial successes. Looking back at the "Health Security" debacle of 1993-94, would-be health reformers concentrated on learning from mistakes made when Democrats last controlled both the White House and both houses of Congress. They set out to do better at policy specification, expert preparations, and political coalition-building. Meanwhile, climate change reformers prepared to extend and recapitulate what they saw as earlier accomplishments….

That is just not true. The health reformers only needed Democratic votes and in fact they ultimately required reconciliation to get the bill they wanted (and the Administration spent a lot of time persuading liberals that this was the best bill they could get rather than a sellout to the insurance companies). Also, by making clear that all the Dems knew a vote was going to happen — and having  reconciliation in their back pocket — the White House was making clear to Senators that opposing the bill would not accomplish anything (except get the Democratic base and Democratic donors pissed with them) and hence that their best strategy was to negotiate the best deal for their constituents.

The fact is that climate change reformers — who, again, I have many issues with — learned two key lessons from the failure of the BTU tax during 1993-1994. The first was not to push a tax (how times change!). The second was not to try to pass something without business support. But Skocpol says that second strategy was a mistake. Her opinion may be valid, but my opinion is that getting the support of the electric utility industry was not a mistake and that her preferred approach, the cap-and-dividend, wouldn't even have gotten close to a majority of Democrats in either the House or Senate because the business community would have been against it.

Again, if we are going to do a counterfactual, then it is pretty obvious that the single change that should have been made in the overall strategy was to get the right to use  reconciliation for the climate bill. And if that meant not getting it for the health care bill, so be it. Frankly, if the White House had not managed to healthcare bill so incompetently they wouldn't have even needed reconciliation!

Removing the filibuster option and requiring only 51 votes would've changed the entire political dynamics of the climate bill, as the Yale analysis noted. It was, in retrospect, the optimal response to the rise of the Tea Party that Skocpol spends so much time discussing. I and many others I have spoken to think we would've gotten a serious bill if we'd only needed 51 votes.

Now you may hold the opinion reconciliation was not possible for the climate bill, but it was certainly more possible than cap-and-dividend — or more possible than rapidly setting up a grassroots movement, another key omission by the environmental community according to Skocpol and the Yale analysis. Again, I think that a real grassroots movement would have been valuable — as Bill McKibben has shown. But if the goal was passing a climate bill during the brief, shining moment that was possible in 2009 (and 2010), I'd rather have had reconciliation than the grassroots mobilization (or, I should say, rather than the modest grassroots mobilization the environmental community had been able to achieve in 2009). Of course, both would be ideal.

I think, in retrospect, failure of White House leadership was a major reason reconciliation was not an option. It also appears the business-environmental community also played a counterproductive role. But again if the choice was aggressive White House leadership (i.e. not making the mistakes listed at the top) and no change in the business-environmental strategy for the bill, or the same non-leadership from team Obama and a better business-environmental strategy, I'd take the former in a heart beat.

Why The Climate Bill Failed (Op-Ed With Some Strong Evidence) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Obama Gets Real On Climate Change & Our Clean Energy Future (VIDEO)

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 10:47 AM PST

Obama has decided, for one reason or another, that it’s time to finally get serious about the biggest challenge facing humanity today (and probably in all of history) — global warming. He also focused on the key point that the countries that lead the clean energy transition will lead the global economy, that clean energy is the future whether we like it or not, and if we don’t put our all into it, we will lose our economic and political power. It’s common sense to anyone who closely follows the energy industry, the economy, or global politics, but it’s something a large number of US congresspeople are still unwilling to acknowledge.

Below is a video of Obama’s full inauguration speech, followed by quotes and more commentary on some of his key statements regarding these topics.

Yep, Obama noted the need to address climate change. And, not only that, he emphasized the need for action on this topic to a greater degree than he probably has in the past 4 years. Does that mean he’s serious about it? We’ll see. For now, though, let’s just dig into his statements and what they really mean.

We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

It’s one thing to acknowledge global warming and climate change, but it’s another to speak with one of the largest microphones in the world about the simple fact that not addressing it is a true betrayal of our children, grandchildren, and future generations (not to mention our own well-being).

Beyond the words, this line above was one of his most forceful of his whole speech — he put a lot of energy into it. And it garnered one of the largest applauses of the whole speech. I hope that first part is a sign that he is genuinely making it a priority this term. And I hope he and his team recognize the second part, the public support behind strong climate action.

“Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”

Great messaging here. First of all, Obama does what we should all — make it obvious that the fringe group of people who still deny climate change are in denial about settled science; make it obvious that it’s clear the world is warming, and it’s clear humans are the cause of that warming.

Next, Obama draws the link between climate change and the extreme weather we are all seeing. This is a critical link that makes it more obvious to people that the costs of climate change are considerable, catastrophic, crippling. He could have made it more obvious by noting that the US just saw its hottest year on record, that the country’s worst drought in over 50 years is costing the country tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars, that the American Southwest is headed toward permanent drought, and that the cost of inaction is tremendously higher than the cost of climate action. But hey, he did alright, so we’ll just keep pushing him to make some of these other points in future speeches.

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise.”

And here’s where we get to the topics on which CleanTechnica is most focused. The simple fact is, beyond the obvious need for the US to do its part in working to stop global warming, there are a variety of reasons why the whole world is going to transition to a clean energy economy (i.e. pollution, dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, global warming, and more). The EU realizes this, China realizes this, Australia realizes this, the Middle East realizes this, India realizes this, South Korea realizes this, Japan realizes this, Brazil realizes this, and pretty much every other country on Earth realizes this. But about half of the United States Congress won’t admit this, and is limiting the future success of the country every single day.

I hope that, following Obama’s speech, more Americans will understand this, more Americans will demand a clean energy transition, and obstructionists in Congress will soon be booted out of office (or change course, but I’ve got less hope in that).

Even today, millions of people are employed in solar and wind industries around the world. And that number is going to grow tremendously in the coming years. Some of those jobs will be in the US, but if we don’t focus on supporting these (and other green) industries, we will lose hundreds of thousands (perhaps even millions) of good jobs.

“That's how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

President Obama didn’t stop there, though. He came back to the important point that, if we don’t grow our clean energy industries, we will lose many of the natural wonders of our country and our world, as well as the basics of life. Tapping into his own religion’s teachings, and those of most people, he also points out that Christianity’s teachings include taking care of the Earth.

Those are my comments on Obama’s second inaugural speech. Here are some more from a couple of top clean energy organizations:

Clean Energy Organizations Chime In

From Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA):

“We praise the President for emphasizing that a transition to sustainable energy sources is vital – and that the U.S. must lead it. Solar is the fastest-growing and most affordable, accessible, and reliable clean energy technology available today. It’s not only powering our nation, it’s an engine of economic growth. The number of U.S. solar jobs has jumped 13.2 percent in the last year alone, and doubled over the last three years.

“In the last four years, the amount of solar powering U.S. homes, businesses, and military bases has grown by more than 500 percent – from 1,100 megawatts to more than 6,400 megawatts today.  Over the next  four years, solar will grow to be the largest new source or energy, and employ more than a quarter million Americans."

From BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster:

“We congratulate President Obama for elevating the urgency to take immediate steps on climate change and underscoring the connection between solving this increasingly serious environmental problem and our economic future.

"We can address this problem with a broad bipartisan, national strategy that solves climate change and creates millions of jobs. This strategy must include the EPA's continued efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, must address the nation's serious infrastructure deficit – something that was demonstrated during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – and must emphasize economic fairness for all.

"As President Obama said today, we must respond to the threat of climate change and protect the planet for our children and for future generations. We must do that in a way that creates good jobs for the American people. Now, let's get to work."

Obama Gets Real On Climate Change & Our Clean Energy Future (VIDEO) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

How To Squeeze More Biofuel From Willow: Give It A Twist

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 05:45 AM PST

Just last month we noted in passing that researchers at the U.K.’s Imperial College London have been developing a new way to unlock the full biofuel potential of ordinary willow, and now the school has released more details on the willow biofuel project. After observing that willow can yield far more biofuel when it grows at an angle rather than straight up, the team has identified a genetic trait linked to the effect.

Willow might not be the first crop you think of when you think about biofuel, but its significance could be extraordinary not only in the U.K. but here in the U.S. as well.

Imperial College finds willow at an angle yiels more biofuelWind and “Reaction Wood”

What researchers had previously observed, was that willow trees cultivated in naturally windswept areas were producing more biofuel than willow in relatively non-windy areas.

The team cultivated willows at a 45 degree angle under controlled conditions, and compared their genetic traits with trees growing naturally at severe angles in an extremely windy site in Scotland.

The key finding was that growing at an angle, under duress, activates a genetic trait that tries to counteract whatever force is pushing the tree sideways.

The end result is that the sugar molecules in the stems of the willow are strengthened into higher-energy sugars, which can be processed into biofuel through fermentation more efficiently than sugars from unstressed trees. The yield is about five times greater for stressed willow than for their non-stressed counterparts.

As research co-leader Dr. Nicholas Brereton explains:

“We’ve known for some time that environmental stresses can cause trees to naturally develop a slightly modified ‘reaction wood' and that it can be easier to release sugars from this wood. This is an important breakthrough, our study now shows that natural genetic variations are responsible for these differences and this could well be the key to unlocking the future for sustainable bioenergy from willow."

Willow Biofuel in the U.S.

Willow is already grown widely throughout the U.K., and the new finding could help transition more willow crops to marginal lands that are unsuitable for growing food or animal feed.

Willow could also help the U.S. resolve the food-or-fuel issue. New York State, for example is avidly pursuing willow biofuel research through a major project at Cornell University. As a drought hardy, fast growing, pest resistant biofuel crop, willow requires little or no fertilizer to thrive.

In New York alone, researchers estimate that there are more than one million acres of marginal land available to grow shrub willow for biofuel.

In addition to providing a badly needed cash crop for farmers in economically depressed part of the state, willow biofuel would provide property owners with an alternative to selling or leasing their land for the natural gas drilling method known as fracking, short for hydrofracturing, which has been linked to negative impacts including poor health, water contamination and earthquakes.

Fracking is a particularly urgent issue for New York  because, while the state sits on the gas-rich Marcellus shale formation, it also hosts reservoirs that provide drinking water for 8 million people in New York City and the surrounding communities.

More Trees for Better Biofuel

Willow isn’t the only tree that is being pressed into service as a new cash crop for marginal lands. Poplar trees are also emerging as a potential biofuel crop, with China, Israel and the U.S. among the countries racing to develop faster-growing varieties.

Poplar could also provide a sustainability twofer when grown on brownfields and other classified lands. As another tool in the phytoremediation toolkit, poplar is known for its ability to suck toxic substances out of soil.

Meanwhile, a research team in China is using poplar as a biomimicry inspiration, to develop a new “cool roof” coating that mimics the way poplar leaves release heat.

Image: Willow by Walter Baxter from, via wikimedia commons

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey


How To Squeeze More Biofuel From Willow: Give It A Twist was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Black Silicon Can Lead To More Efficient Solar Cells, New Breakthrough Shows

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 05:09 AM PST

A significant breakthrough has been made in the light absorption and surface passivation abilities of silicon nano-structures (such as black silicon) by researchers at Aalto University in Finland.


The improvements were made by the application of an atomic layer coating, which works to improve light absorption and to make it more resistant to impurities (improved surface passivation).

The researchers think that big improvements in solar cell efficiency will be possible because of this work, as it addresses two of the main problems with black silicon: poor surface passivation, and limited light absorption.

“This method provides extremely good surface passivation. Simultaneously, it reduces the reflectance further at all wavelengths. These results are very promising considering the use of black silicon (b-Si) surfaces on solar cells to increase the efficiency to completely new levels,” said Päivikki Repo, a researcher at Aalto University.

Black Silicon solar cells are an exciting technology, as they allow the absorption of infrared light in addition to the visible spectrum. Eventually, they should lead to ultra-high-efficiency solar cells, and they have been experiencing a lot of progress in that regard recently. Just back in October, a new efficiency record was set that was nearly double what the previous record was.

This research was recently published in the Journal of Photovoltaics.

Source: Aalto University
Image Credits: Aalto University

Black Silicon Can Lead To More Efficient Solar Cells, New Breakthrough Shows was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

New Thin-Film Solar Cell Efficiency Record Set, 20.4%

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 05:05 AM PST

A new conversion efficiency record of 20.4% has been set for thin-film solar cells by researchers at Empa and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.


The new record of 20.4% is a big improvement over the previous record achieved by this team (18.7%) in May 2011.

The new flexible solar cells are based on state-of-the-art CIGS technology. CIGS is a semiconducting material composed of: copper, indium, gallium, and (di)selenide. CIGS is known for its potential to generate very cost-effective solar power, but has yet to used or produced on a truly commercial scale.

Besides a high conversion efficiency, CIGS solar cells have the significant advantage of containing much lower levels of the toxic metal cadmium, and of the rare-earth metal telluride.

The improved efficiency was obtained by “modifying the properties of the CIGS layer, grown at low temperatures, which absorbs light and contributes to the photo-current in solar cells.”

The improved efficiency is making thin-film solar modules even more attractive as a form of power supply. Their best quality, though, is still their potential to be produced using “continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing processes” that will go a long way to cut down on manufacturing costs and lead to low-cost solar cells.

Source: EMPA
Image Credits: EMPA

New Thin-Film Solar Cell Efficiency Record Set, 20.4% was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Toyota Leads Green Tech Patent Growth For Third Consecutive Quarter

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 03:00 AM PST

Toyota is moving and shaking in clean energy patents, leading green-tech patents for the third consecutive quarter. The US Patent and Trademark Office approved 798 clean-tech patents during the third quarter of 2012, including 71 from Toyota.

2012 Toyota exhibit via Shutterstock

According to the Clean Energy Patent Growth presented by the Cleantech Group Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C., Toyota’s patents were primarily in fuel cell technology, with 45 from that category, which is up 13 compared to 2012′s second quarter.

The third quarter number of patents is the highest on record, and was 199 patents higher than the same period in 2011. The most popular patents? Fuel cell technology led all patents with 282; solar patents came in second at 222.

Toyota has been showcasing some exciting products recently, like this all-electric SUV,  or this sporty version of the Prius C, and this crazy Bat-Mobile-esque ride.

Go, Toyota, go!

Source: Environmental Leader

Toyota Leads Green Tech Patent Growth For Third Consecutive Quarter was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Chinese Solar Imports Drop But Prices Continue To Fall

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 02:00 AM PST

The cost of crystalline silicon (c-Si) photovoltaic (PV) panels in the US continues to fall despite the imposition of anti-dumping and illegal subsidy tariffs on imports from China. US imports of crystalline silicon solar cells and panels from China fell to their lowest level in at least two years even amid the peak, year-end selling season based on federal government data, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) yesterday announced in a press release.

US imports of c-Si cells and modules from China totaled $50.5 million in November, down from $75 million in October, and less than one-fifth the $278 million from October 2011, according to the Census Bureau’s "US Imports of Merchandise" database, CASM reported. Silicon PV cell and module imports from China are expected to be about one-third lower in 2012 than they were in 2011. Imports from China totalled about $1.7 billion through November this year, down from $2.4 billion in the year-ago period.

Solar PV system costs continued their seemingly inexorable decline all along the value chain in 2012, according to industry data.

Graph credit: IMS Research

Cost Reductions Continue Amid Trade Battles

An association of 231 US solar PV industry participants employing some 18,268 American workers, CASM was successful in bringing WTO dumping and illegal subsidy complaints before the US Commerce Deptartment and International Trade Commission (ITC). Duties ranging from around 24% to more than 250% went into effect December 7 — though, duty margins won’t be finalized for more than a year, according to CASM, as the initial tariff rates are based on 2011 import pricing and production costs.

"The tide of the Chinese government's intervention in the U.S. solar market is showing signs of receding," Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., the lead party in the WTO petitions, was quoted as saying in the press release.

"The relief could not come too soon. Workers for most manufacturers have suffered widespread cuts, and the finances of Western and Chinese companies alike have fared poorly. Unlike Chinese counterparts, however, the strongest non-Chinese operators cannot depend on their government to prop them up as they endure the consequences of China's illegal trade practices."

CASM’s unfair trade petitions sparked controversy, discord, and strident criticism within the US solar industry. Though imports from China have dropped substantially, the sharp rise in prices foreseen by some have yet to materialize.

The unsubsidized cost of renewable power produced from solar and wind energy will be no more expensive than that from oil, natural gas, and coal by the end of the decade, Energy Secretary Steven Chu predicted during a speech at a Pew Charitable Trusts event late March before the Commerce Deptartment and ITC had made their final determinations on Chinese import duties. Chu pegged installed solar PV grid parity at around $1 per watt.

This would mean reducing the cost of solar modules, or panels, to around $0.50/W, with corresponding reductions in remaining balance-of-system (BOS) costs of solar PV system installations. A GTM research report from late July forecast that this will happen a lot sooner, by 2016.

Prices for solar PV modules and panels have been falling fast from 2008 right on through 2012, according to industry data. The marginal weekly spot price of silicon solar modules (panels) was $0.654 per Watt, with a low price of $0.54 and a high of $1.00 per Watt as of January 16, 2013, according to PV Insights data.

The median installed price of residential and commercial PV systems in California dropped between 3% and 7% during the first six months of 2012, following year-over-year reductions of between 11% and 14% in 2011, according to the most recent Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s “Tracking the Sun” report.

Overall, installed costs for home solar PV panels for all of 2012 ranged between $1750 and $2500 per kilowatt (kW), or $1.75–$2.50 per watt, according to Renewable Green Energy Power data.

Chinese Solar Imports Drop But Prices Continue To Fall was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Japanese Industrial Giant Ramps Up Offshore Wind Activities

Posted: 22 Jan 2013 01:00 AM PST

Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi Corporation is ramping up activities in the offshore wind energy sector. At a time when Japan — as well the EU, the US, China, and countries around the world — are increasingly turning to wind, solar, and other clean, renewable energy resource development to fuel sustainable growth, news this week indicates that Mitsubishi Corporation – "a global integrated business enterprise that develops and operates businesses across virtually every industry" — apparently sees promise in owning and developing offshore wind power projects.

Mitsubishi Corporation is taking a 50% equity stake in the Netherlands’ 129 megawatt (MW) Eneco Luchterduinen project, which is due to begin construction in the Dutch North Sea July 2014, according to a January 21 Bloomberg News report.

Last week, news broke that Mitsubishi will invest some €576 million ($770 milliion) to help build critical grid interconnections for offshore wind farms in Germany. Back home, Mitsubishi is one of 11 leading Japanese industrial corporations taking part in a pioneering effort to build the world’s first large-scale floating offshore wind farm off Fukushima, the locus of the 3/11 tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster.

Graphic credit: Mitsubishi Corp.

Offshore Wind Energy Development: Mitsubishi’s Growing Presence

By investing in the 129 MW Eneco Luchterduinen offshore wind farm, Mitsubishi will be contributing to the Netherland governments’ goal of increasing the share of the country’s electrical power produced from renewable sources to 16% by 2020, a new, higher target set by the Dutch cabinet, which took office in November. Eneco Luchterduinen is slated to be commissioned sometime after summer 2015.

Vestas Wind Systems is to supply 43 of its model V112 wind turbines for the offshore wind farm. Once up and running, Eneco Luchterduinen will produce enough clean, renewable energy to meet the needs of some 150,000 households, according to the Rotterdam-based power utility, which has been reported to be investing as much as €500 million ($650 million) in the project.

"Mitsubishi Corp. will continue to seek other opportunities to expand its participation in environmentally friendly infrastructure projects worldwide," Bloomberg quoted Mitsubishi executive vice president for global environment and infrastructure business development Nobuaki Kojima as saying.

Last week, Netherlands grid operator Tennet, which is playing a key role in the realization of Germany’s ambitious plans to phase out and replace all its nuclear power plants with renewable power generation capacity by 2022, announced Mitsubishi is investing €576 million ($767 million) for a 49% ownership share of a €2.9 billion ($3.77 billion) high-voltage cable that will link four German offshore wind farms to the German grid.

Situated more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) offshore, the four offshore wind farms have a total power generation capacity of 2.8 gigawatts (GW), more than that of two nuclear power plants. Tennet has contracted to link a total of ten offshore wind farms to the German grid and needs to invest some €5.8 billion ($7.55 billion) in doing so, according to a Huffington Post news report.

Developing Offshore Wind Power in Japan

In Japan, Mitsubishi is participating in a pioneering effort to construct the world’s first floating offshore wind farm. Led by project integrator Marubeni, the project plans call for construction of three floating wind turbines and one floating power sub-station to be tethered to the sea floor off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture in Japan’s Tohoku region northeast of Tokyo.

"We believe that creating a practical wind farm business scheme through this experimental project could lead to the deployment of large scale floating wind farms in the future," Mitsubishi Corp. elaborates on its website.

"Moreover, taking advantage of the experience and knowledge gained through this, the world’s first floating wind farm, this business could be expanded on a global basis and lead to the development of a new Japanese export industry.”

Launched last year, the first phase of the project calls for one 2 MW floating wind turbine, the world’s first 66 kilovolt (kV) floating power sub-station, and undersea cable to be installed, according Mitsubishi Corp’s project profile.

Japanese Industrial Giant Ramps Up Offshore Wind Activities was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

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