Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

MidAmerican Solar Acquires 579-Megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects From SunPower

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 03:24 PM PST

 
We’re barely three days into 2013 and already the solar industry is making big news, particularly with the announcement that MidAmerican Solar will be acquiring the 579-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects (AVSP) from SunPower.

The two projects — located in Kern and Los Angeles Counties in California — will form the largest solar photovoltaic power development in the world, creating an estimated 650 jobs during the construction phase.

MidAmerican Solar Acquires Antelope Valley Solar Project from SunPower

Antelope Valley

“We are pleased to be working with SunPower on this project. MidAmerican Renewables, a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, has a total portfolio of more than 1,830 megawatts of owned assets, including wind, geothermal, solar and hydro assets,” said Bill Fehrman, president of MidAmerican Renewables.

“We are excited about these projects because they support our core business principle of environmental respect. We are very proud to add SunPower technology to our portfolio of projects.”

The construction of the solar installation is expected to begin early this year and is hoped to be completed by year-end 2015. Upon their completion, the AVSP will provide renewable energy to utility Southern California Edison (SCE) under two long-term power purchase contracts which have been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

“The Antelope Valley Solar Projects mark a historic milestone for the energy industry,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president. “We are delivering highly reliable low-cost renewable energy at a very large scale. SunPower is proud to partner with MidAmerican Solar and SCE, recognized leaders in clean energy development, bringing critically needed jobs and economic opportunity to California and helping the state achieve its renewable portfolio requirement.”

“SCE appreciates the opportunity to work with SunPower and MidAmerican Renewables to meet California’s renewable energy goals,” added Nicole Neeman Brady, SCE’s director of contracts, renewable and alternative power.

MidAmerican Solar Acquires Antelope Valley Solar Project from SunPower

The SunPower Tracker will follow the path of the sun, increasing solar energy generated

The Antelope Valley Solar Projects have been developed by SunPower over the past four years at a 3,230-acre site. In a mouthful of ‘press-speak,’ the press release states that “SunPower will install the SunPower Oasis Power Plant product, fully integrated, modular solar technology that is engineered to rapidly deploy utility-scale solar projects while minimizing land use.” All of that just to say that this specific installation will be made up of high-efficiency solar panels that will be mounted to follow the movement of the sun as it traverses the sky. This allows the panels to capture an additional 25 percent sunlight than a standard stationary installation.

The AVSP, according to estimates provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to offset more than 775,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. That’s the equivalent of eradicating three million cars from California’s highways over the 20 years of the plant’s projected operation (though, it’s likely to actually run longer than 20 years).

Now, if only we could also get rid of three million cars — then we’d be doing pretty well!

“We are pleased to be working with SunPower on this development and look forward to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with Southern California Edison as our customer for energy generated by this project,” said Paul Caudill, MidAmerican Solar’s president.

“As we have done at our other solar project locations, we will work hard to establish positive and productive relationships with community and county neighbors and stakeholders.”

SunPower will act as the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the project and will operate and maintain the facility under a multiyear services agreement.

Source: SunPower

MidAmerican Solar Acquires 579-Megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects From SunPower 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.

Latin America & Caribbean Solar Markets To Explode

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 09:08 AM PST

 
A new report from solar energy market research company NPD Solarbuzz has predicted the demand for solar photovoltaic (PV) energy across Latin America and the Caribbean is set to explode over the next few years, with a forecasted compound annual growth rate of 45 percent.

Already, Mexico, Chile, and Brazil are emerging as regional leaders as a result of net-metering, Renewable Portfolio Standards, and other policies implemented across the three countries.

The forecasts expect these three countries to have almost 70 percent of PV demand within the region by 2017.

Solar Markets in Latin America and Caribbean set to boom

"Historically, PV demand was confined to rural off-grid and niche applications, but new renewable energy policies and incentive programs are now opening up the region for strong PV deployment,” said Chris Sunsong, an analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

“Set against a backdrop of strong economic growth, expanding energy demand, and increasing electricity prices, the conditions for PV adoption appear particularly attractive."

NPD Solarbuzz reported that by the end of 2012 energy regulators will have received in excess of 6 gigawatts worth of PV project applications.

The report adds that by 2017 the ground-mount segment of the solar industry will provide 60% of the demand, though commercial and residential segments are set to see increased adoption from 2015 as prices begin to decline.

Obstacles Still to Overcome

The report is clear, however, to remind that there are still a variety of technical, economic, and political obstacles to overcome.

"PV connection and integration procedures are not yet clearly defined, and there are concerns about grid stability as PV contributions come online," noted Sunsong. "Electricity subsidies in Mexico and low natural gas prices in Peru are also delaying the onset of PV grid-parity for some end-user categories, while import tariffs across the region are keeping PV system costs on the high side."

Engendering further PV growth in the Latin America and Caribbean region is vitally important in the face of softening demand across Europe and uncertainty in PV markets across the United States, China, and India.

"Having a successful market-entry strategy for Latin America is now essential for leading PV suppliers before key markets develop in the region and supply-chains and purchasing channels are established," concluded Sunsong.

Source: NPD Solarbuzz

Latin America & Caribbean Solar Markets To Explode 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.

MyCityWay To Integrate With BMW’s DriveNow EV Fleet In San Francisco

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 09:03 AM PST

 
The CEO of city guide developer MyCityWay has announced a partnership with BMW to integrate its “location based situationally-aware” mobile application into BMW’s fleet of 70 DriveNow BMW ActiveE electric vehicles currently in place in San Francisco.

MyCityWay Teaming Up with BMW DriveNow

Puneet Mehta, CEO of MyCityWay, was speaking at the Content and Apps for Automotive Conference hosted by Telematics Update in San Diego when he announced the partnership.

“The telematics industry is moving from a car-centric model to a user-centric model,” Mehta said. “What MyCityWay provides through DriveNow is the ability to connect the dots on their daily needs across various verticals, access to real-time information and a personalized view of a driver's surroundings – all of which are key to the consumer experience.”

The press release, put out through Bloomberg, says that the “MyCityWay integration will focus on providing situationally-aware local discovery and relevant information based on location, needs and other real-time factors.” Included in the information provided will be weather, traffic, parking, nearby events, dining and nightlife options, public transit updates, and more.

MyCityWay believe that including all of these facets together in one application will give drivers the benefit of being able to not only search for a restaurant but also find directions, the fastest route based on traffic patterns, and locate the best parking nearby to where they want to eat.

"DriveNow's partnership with MyCityWay dovetails perfectly with BMW's overarching goal to become the leading provider of premium mobility services," said Rich Steinberg, CEO of DriveNow. "The localized services and connectivity provided by MyCityWay will serve to enhance the driver experience for our customers and make finding their way around San Francisco easier and more enjoyable."

MyCityWay To Integrate With BMW’s DriveNow EV Fleet In San Francisco 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.

ECOmove’s Third Prototype EV Unveiled

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 09:01 AM PST

 

ECOmove has released a third prototype of its Qbeak electric city vehicle, and it says that this time it is “very close” to the finished version, which is to be ready in 2014.

This version of the Qbeak is lighter than its predecessors, which should translate into increased range, provided that its battery capacity and efficiency were not reduced.

The Qbeak is to come in a variety of models, with driving ranges from 125 miles to 190 miles per charge.

Source: Autoblog Green

ECOmove’s Third Prototype EV Unveiled 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.

Vestas & Gamesa Get Big Boost From U.S. Wind Tax Credit Extension

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 08:54 AM PST

 
The United States wind PTC (production tax credit) which was on the verge of expiring, causing firms to rush their wind energy projects has been extended late last night.

DONG Energy and Vestas Team Up on New Wind TurbineVestas is headquartered in Denmark, but the U.S. is a very significant market for the wind turbine leader. Based on the positive wind power news, shares in the Aarhus-based company increased by as much as 13%, the most in five weeks. As of 12:52pm Copenhagen time, they were up 8.7%, at 34.64 kroner.

Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA, another big wind turbine company (this one based in Spain), jumped as much as 7.8%, which was the most in four months. And German wind turbine company Nordex SE (NDX1) saw its shares increase by 4.8%.

"It's really good news for Vestas, because the American market and how it develops is extremely important," Chief Marketing Officer Morten Albaek said today in a phone interview. "It's a good way of starting the new year."

Source: Bloomberg.com

Vestas & Gamesa Get Big Boost From U.S. Wind Tax Credit Extension 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.

Production Tax Credit For Wind Power Saved, For One Year

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 05:42 AM PST

 
Supporters of the production tax credit for wind power can breathe a little easier, at least for now. Whatever else anybody says about the “fiscal cliff” legislation drama, in the end, our friends over at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) are sure in a celebratory mood. The final bill, signed by President Obama late last night, includes a provision that extends the production tax credit for wind power for one year.

Not only that, it changes from providing tax credits only to projects completed by the end of the year, to providing tax credits to any project started by the end of the year. AWEA fought specifically for that definition since it usually takes more than a year, and often up to two years, to develop a new wind farm.

production tax credit for wind extended by one year

Saving the Production Tax Credit for Wind Power

The tax credit was set to expire at the end of 2012. Without a prior guarantee that it would be extended, new activity in the U.S. wind industry had already slowed to a crawl, and many wind power workers had been laid off.

According to a press release issued by AWEA late last night, the future looks far brighter, at least for 2013:

“America’s 75,000 workers in wind energy are celebrating tonight over the continuation of policies expected to save up to 37,000 jobs and create far more over time, and to revive business at nearly 500 manufacturing facilities across the country. The extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), and Investment Tax Credits for community and offshore projects, will allow continued growth of the energy source that installed the most new electrical generating capacity in America last year, with factories or wind farms in all 50 states.”

Last-Minute Drama for Wind Power

Until yesterday, the picture was all gloom and doom for the wind industry. Operation Free, a military veteran-backed organization lobbying for wind power, was especially pessimistic. As recently as December 29, TheHill.com quoted Operation Free’s policy director, Michael Wu:

"Everything in a stopgap package would be geared toward keeping taxes from jumping on the middle class, which is why the AMT (alternative minimum tax) and payroll tax would likely be in but the PTC (production tax credit) wouldn’t."

However, given the longstanding tradition of taxpayer subsidies for energy production of all types, extension of the tax credit for wind should never have been in doubt.

Part of the reason for subsidizing energy has to do with national security, and since renewable energy will play a key role in future security, bipartisan support is practically guaranteed (more on that later).

It’s also worth noting that the wind industry has adopted a leadership position in promoting wind jobs for military veterans, many of whom possess skills and training that fit a variety of careers in the wind power field.

More to the point, wind energy is not the exotic creature it was up until just a few years ago. It has broken into the mainstream of America’s energy landscape. Even as coal-fired power plants are shutting down, wind power nudged out natural gas for the most new generating capacity installed last year.

Wind power is also projected to provide about 20% of the country’s electricity needs by 2030.

Bipartisan Support for Wind

President Obama has been a strong advocate for public investment in alternative energy, including wind power, and practically all Democratic legislators favored extending the tax credit.

A number of key Republican legislators and governors also supported the tax credit, and last fall they participated in several high-profile lobbying efforts alongside Democrats.

Among the notables was Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a strong and early advocate for wind power. In a recent interview with the Toledo Chronicle, Grassley said:

” … [A]s much energy as possible, both traditional and renewable, should be produced at home to create jobs and strengthen national security. Wind energy is a free resource, and it’s abundant in many places around the country … [A] clean renewable source like wind is not dependent on far-away countries with leaders who are hostile to the United States even as they take our energy dollars.”

…Or Not

Unfortunately, last year, many other Republican leaders in the legislature and in the pundit world took a vociferously negative stance against extending the wind power tax credit. It went all the way up to then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose campaign repeatedly affirmed his opposition to extending the credit.

In the end, while the new “fiscal cliff” bill passed the Senate with overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle, it did not even win close to a majority of the Republican votes in the House.

Nevertheless, with a large majority of Democratic legislators voting in favor, the bill passed. And while many Republican legislators in the House failed to support it, they may have some ‘splaining to do in their districts back home, at least to the thousands of Americans — from turbine cowboys to hundreds of U.S. turbine manufacturers — whose livelihood depends on the wind industry.

Image: Wind farm by kevin dooley

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Production Tax Credit For Wind Power Saved, For One Year 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.

Survey Shows Support For Clean Energy, Opportunity For EVs & Smart Grid

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 05:24 AM PST

 
American consumers continue to show strong support for renewables and alternative-fuel vehicles, while apathy toward smart grid technologies may represent a golden opportunity for smart meter advocates.

US consumer clean energy opinion

These promising findings come from Pike Research's most recent Energy & Environment Consumer Survey, which polled 1,000 Americans during the third quarter of 2012. This is Pike's fourth annual consumer survey on clean energy.

Even though support is generally high for all forms of clean energy, a slight but steady downward trend has become apparent across all energy technologies. Pike notes that while Americans have likely already formed strong opinions about specific technologies and are unlikely to show widespread change in attitudes, negative media coverage may be taking its toll.

Solar’s Bright Outlook

The sun kept shining for solar power in 2012, as it once again ranked highest in favorability for all clean energy technologies. 69% of all consumers polled had either a favorable or very favorable opinion of solar power, compared with its “unfavorable” rating of just 7% — the lowest of any topic.

US consumer support for solar

Solar energy has now had the highest favorability rankings of all energy and environmental topics for four consecutive years. Pike attributes this leadership to solar's long market history, variety of applications, and non-intrusive nature. Interestingly, solar was most popular among respondents with the highest education and income levels, and gains popularity with each older age bracket.

However, overall favorability is down 7% from 2011 and 12% from 2009, which Pike believes is due to negative media attention toward solar energy firm failures in the U.S., despite overall plummeting installation and module costs.

Gusts of Support for Wind

Strong tailwinds guided wind power into the second overall ranking for the fourth year in a row, just slightly less popular than solar energy. 66% of American consumers viewed wind energy either favorably or very favorably, with just 10% saying they had a somewhat or strongly unfavorable opinion of wind power.

Wind power's demographic support also trended toward the older, richer, and better educated, but the technology was most popular among consumers with electric bills higher than $200 per month. Unfortunately wind energy was not immune to the overall lowering of support for energy technologies, declining 5% from 2011 and 13% overall since 2009, despite leading the U.S. in new power capacity installations.

US consumer opinion of clean energy over time

Regardless of the decline over time, Pike thinks solar and wind are here to stay.

"Since these two concepts have retained their most favored status year over year, Pike Research asserts that consumers consider these renewable energies to be important pieces in the power generation portfolio of the future."

Shifting Support Toward Alternative Vehicles

Alternative vehicle technologies combined to form a solid second tier of support among all topics, after solar and wind power, indicating ever-higher gasoline prices and a growing electric vehicle market may be shifting Americans toward a cleaner transportation system.

US consumer hybrid vehicle opinion

Hybrid vehicles received the third-highest overall percentage of positive responses, with 54% responding either favorably or very favorably, as well as the third-fewest neutral/not familiar responses at 32%. Support was highest among the well-educated, those who characterized themselves as technology early adopters, and those with electric bills in excess of $300.

Electric vehicles and natural-gas-powered cars tied for the fourth overall most popular concepts, with 49% favorable or very favorable responses. However, EVs saw nearly twice the amount of unfavorable responses, with 17% somewhat or strongly unfavorable compared to 10% for natural gas vehicles.

This last point is interesting to consider, as higher negatives may reflect that significant numbers of EVs are hitting American roads, while natural gas vehicles are not yet commercially available and can only be conceptually considered by drivers.

Smart Grid’s Dumb Outreach

Just as sentiment for clean energy and alternative-fuel vehicles stands out for its high support and low negatives, consumer apathy and lack of understanding toward smart grid technology stands out as an opportunity for customer outreach by utilities integrating smart meters across their systems.

US consumer smart grid opinion

More than half of all consumers had either a neutral or no opinion of smart meters and smart grid technology, the highest of any polled clean energy technology. In addition, both smart meters and the smart grid had a greater than three-to-one ratio of favorable/unfavorable responses (36%–8% for smart grid, 39%–9% for smart meters).

Taken together, Pike's findings show that when consumers understand smart grid technology, they overwhelmingly support them. However, despite the fact that more than 23% of all U.S. electrical customers have smart meters, more than half have no opinion of them. Clearly, utilities have their work cut out for them if they hope to avoid opt-out lawsuits and regulations.

Understanding = Support

All in all, Pike Research one again reiterates the potential for consumer adoption of clean energy technologies. As Americans learn about the benefits of smarter energy systems, they overwhelmingly support them. Now, it's on policymakers and industry advocates to tell the story in a compelling way.

Thumbs up wind power

Image Credits: Charts & table via Pike Research; Engineers thumbs up for wind power via Shutterstock

Survey Shows Support For Clean Energy, Opportunity For EVs & Smart Grid 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.

China Announces Large-Scale Overhaul Of Its Solar Panel Industry

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 05:05 AM PST

 
The government of China has announced a major overhaul of its solar panel industry. It will be actively encouraging mergers among producers of solar panels, reducing government support, and “blocking” local leaders from “supporting domestic producers.” And there has even been some talk that some producers will be allowed to go bankrupt.

20130101-164204.jpg

The overhaul is designed to simultaneously strengthen the industry, which has suffered some setbacks recently, and also to address the concerns that the US and Europe have raised about the Chinese government violating trade rules. The Chinese solar panel industry has recently experienced large losses as a result of price-cutting wars between the producers and excessive production capacity.

The statement that the government released didn’t specify any details, but it did clarify that it views solar power as one of many “strategic emerging industries” that it considers important to develop.


 
“Chinese solar manufacturers have reported hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this year due to lower prices and slower sales following the 2008 global financial crisis,” the AP noted.

So far, the industry there has racked up debts of around $17.5 billion dollars, based on a report released in 2012 by a New York financial firm, Maxim Group.

The US, Europe, and India have initiated or completed investigations into unfair Chinese subsidies for Chinese solar firms. While China has denied this, the country and its solar companies have not convinced US investigators, and probably won’t convince European and Indian investigators. Thus, it is not surprising to see the country cutting its support for its solar firms.

Source: US News
Image Credits: Photovoltaics via Wikimedia Commons

China Announces Large-Scale Overhaul Of Its Solar Panel Industry 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.

Foldable Electric Cars Will Begin Use In German Carsharing Network This Year

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 04:30 AM PST

 
A foldable electric car, produced by the company Hiroko, will begin test use this year as part of a carsharing network in Berlin.

20130101-160830.jpg

Hiroko has come to an agreement with the operator of the German railway network, Deutche Bahn, to begin testing their new EVs within a car-sharing network associated with their rail network. As a rep from Deutche Bahn has said, Hiroko is an “ideal partner to complement its extensive railway network.” If everything goes well, the program will expand to a much larger scale.

“Hiroko consists of a Basque consortium of auto suppliers and engineers from MIT. The company, whose name loosely means ‘from the city’ in Basque, has about an $87 million budget and has built about 20 vehicles for testing purposes, the New York Times reported in August. The Fold is the first of three versions that will be put out by Hiroko. There are also plans for the Alai (convertible) and Laga (truck).”

“The car is about eight feet long, about a foot shorter than Daimler’s Smart Fortwo, in regular form, and can be folded to a length of about five feet. The car’s four wheels can also rotate at a 60-degree angle.”

Source: Autoblog Green

Foldable Electric Cars Will Begin Use In German Carsharing Network This Year 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.

Geothermal Industry Happy With Last-Minute Congressional Action

Posted: 02 Jan 2013 03:37 AM PST

 
After months and months of delay (what’s new with Congress these days), important clean energy decisions were finally made by our Congressional representatives just before midnight. The most notable was probably the extension of the wind power production tax credit (PTC) — an article on that is coming in a few moments. However, there’s also some important news regarding the geothermal industry. Here’s a full statement from the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) on that:

The Geothermal Energy Association applauds Congress for adopting today, as part of bi-partisan tax legislation, important changes in the underlying terms of the federal tax incentives for new geothermal and other renewable power projects. The modification adopted, which allows projects to qualify for the production tax credit based upon being under construction, represents an approach to renewable tax incentives that will work more effectively for geothermal and other renewable power technologies that have longer development lead times.

"The Geothermal Energy Association estimates that new geothermal power projects in as many as a dozen states could be stimulated to move forward this year as a result of this change," said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. "Congress' action will spur significant new employment and sustain geothermal industry growth.   Consumers and utilities will benefit, as well, because developers will have greater certainty about whether the credit will be available for their project."

Gawell continued: "We applaud the support demonstrated by Congress and the Administration for policies to support growth in geothermal power, and look forward to working with both as they examine longer-term policies to sustain innovation and growth in this emerging industry. In particular we wish to applaud the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Leadership for initiating this important change in the Production Tax Credit."

Geothermal Industry Happy With Last-Minute Congressional Action 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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