Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Tesla Model S Owners Decide To Show How John Broder Should Have Test Driven The Model S

Posted: 16 Feb 2013 05:05 PM PST

The cleantech story of the week has probably been the infamous test drive of the Tesla Model S by New York Times‘ John Broder. Aside from the article linked above (largely a data-packed rebuttal to John Broder’s claims), we’ve posted a couple pieces on this story:

Now, the news is that a handful of Tesla Model S owners have set out on the same trip that John Broder took (and somehow failed to finish) in order to show just how easy the trip is.

The drivers will even stay in the same hotel that Broder stayed in. They’ve also set up a Twitter account for logging their trip(s). Here’s one tweet from 5 hours ago:

Here’s one with a pic of a couple of the owners/drivers:

Why do I have a feeling none of these guys are going to have any problems along the way?

What are the takeaway points of all this? Here are my thoughts and hopes:

1. If Broder decided to drive the Model S to dead on purpose, that was idiotic.

Tesla has a strong following, and the fact that the Model S won 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year doesn’t hurt that. Tesla collects data on test drives (ever since Top Gear misrepresented a drive they took in order to match their storyline). Apparently, Broder asked for Tesla’s data before writing his story. (Hmm, to make sure he knew what he could lie about?) Woops, Tesla had a lot of data and apparently didn’t share enough with Broder for him to avoid saying things that weren’t true according to the data. (Better be careful before you try to pull a scam on the tech innovators.)

Plus, be aware that there are now a lot of Model S owners who absolutely love their top-ranking car. They will defend it. Broder’s reputation is crushed in the eyes of many. The New York Times‘ reputation is, as well. Tesla is getting more press; the car has demonstrated extremely well in other drives along the exact same route; and now a bunch of Tesla Model S owners are providing even more awareness raising to show (again) how easy it is to successfully drive that route.

2. A lot of discrepancies in Tesla’s data and Broder’s claims.

Tesla’s data seemed to show in several instances that Broder went far out of his way to make the car “accidentally” fail. Apparently, many still aren’t sure who to trust. Simple things like Broder turning up the heat when he says he turned it down, driving for circles in a parking lot, and not fully charging the car when it’s clear that the car needs a full charge ring enough alarm bells for me. But hey, everyone is entitled to their own judgement. But also consider these points: Broder has a history of anti-EV articles, and what does a reporter get more attention for than controversy? (I know, if the facts didn’t sway you, that probably won’t, but seriously — think for a second.)

3. This test drive is a great way to get more eyes on electric vehicles, and it should be a launching pad to more action.

The #1 thing holding back electric vehicles today is public awareness. The technology is ready. The costs have come down. And electric vehicles are more convenient than gasoline-powered vehicles the majority of the time. The #1 obstacle is that people don’t understand that, that they’ve been misinformed by dishonest or narrow-minded journalists. I hope that this ride will help to bring more widespread attention to the possibility of owning an electric car today, and I hope it will spur on more and more actions that get people realizing how good of an option EV technology now is. The best way to make that happen is for more people who actually know the story with EVs today to get out there and help inform more of the general populous.

Tesla Model S Owners Decide To Show How John Broder Should Have Test Driven The Model S 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.

Residential PV System Case Study In Italy (VIDEO)

Posted: 16 Feb 2013 07:00 AM PST

Continuing on with our daily series on Leonardo ENERGY videos, here’s one on a residential PV system case study in Italy:

Residential PV System Case Study In Italy (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.

EPIA Challenges European Students To Create Videos To Dispel Solar Myths

Posted: 16 Feb 2013 05:00 AM PST

Pop quiz: Is Germany is sunnier than the USA? Is solar getting more expensive? Are solar panels useless on cloudy days?

For the love, I hope your gut reaction to all those questions was to scream “No!” (Don’t take my word for it — look no further than this infographic for details.)

Alas, myths around solar photovoltaic panels still abound. The  European Photovoltaic Industry Association is challenging students to tackle myths head-on with a video contest addressing these falsities. The contest is part of the “Your Sun Your Energy” campaign.

The video contest is open to all European students enrolled in school or university and aged at least 21 by April 30, 2013, according to EPIA’s website.

After entries are selected by a panel of public affairs and communications professionals, three entries will be put to an online vote at the Your Sun Your Energy Facebook page.

First place takes home a cash prize of €1,500, and is invited to Brussels to present. Second and third place take home €1,000 and €500, respectively.

If I may be so bold as to suggest some resources to the future Werner Herzogs/Roman Pulanskis out there, check out some myth debunking CleanTechnica and friends have done.

Source: EPIA

EPIA Challenges European Students To Create Videos To Dispel Solar Myths 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.

Macquarie Group: Rooftop Solar Is Unstoppable

Posted: 16 Feb 2013 04:00 AM PST

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy:

The fundamental transformation of energy markets brought about by the growing incursions of renewables such as wind and solar has been underlined in a new report by the European energy analysts at Macquarie Group, who have concluded that the plunge in costs for rooftop solar PV has fallen to such an extent that its continued rapid deployment may be unstoppable.

In an analysis that broadly reflects the conclusion of UBS energy analysts about how rooftop solar PV is heralding an energy revolution, Macquarie notes that many existing fossil fuel generators in Germany are losing money and could go out of business. And even steep subsidy cuts to renewables would not reverse the trend.

"Traditional wisdom suggests that steep subsidy cuts can bring the solar build-out under control again," the Macquarie analysts note. "We disagree, though, as the ever-increasing prices for domestic and commercial customers as well as rapid solar cost declines have brought on the advent of grid parity for German roofs. Thus, solar installations could continue at a torrid pace."

Here are some key graphs to illustrate its point. Macquarie notes that wholesale prices in Germany have fallen 29 per cent over the last five years, while retail prices have risen 31 per cent – both movements at least partly due to the impact of renewables. But those movements pale in comparison with the dramatic fall in the cost of rooftop solar PV.

(Click the image to see a larger version).

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 8.51.46 AM

Macquarie says rooftop solar generation in Germany currently costs between €0.12kWh and €0.14/kWh (assuming 85 per cent debt financing and 4 per cent interest rate). These compare favourably with retail grid electricity prices of €0.28/kWh (even at just 50 per cent on-site self-consumption). But solar PV can even offer savings at industrial and commercial grid prices which are even lower at €0.11-0.17/kWh.

"Consequently, solar installations could continue at a rapid pace even without subsidies," Macquarie notes. "Ultimately, this would threaten the role of coal-fired generation as the price setter in wholesale power price formation."

Macquarie says that these effects seem self-reinforcing and hard to stop, unless there is a total power system overhaul. That, though, is unlikely. "We cannot see political will for such an overhaul. Quite to the contrary, German Environment Minister (Peter) Altmaier proposed in October 2012 to lift the country‟s 2020 renewable energy target to 40 per cent" (and its 2030 target to 80 per cent).

Moreover, in an election year that is likely to see the Social Democrats elected, either in coalition with the Greens or a "grand coalition" with Chancellor Merkel's party, the pace of renewables expansion is likely to increase.

And as this story we published this week tells us, support in Germany for its "energiewende" (energy transformation) program remains strong. (It would be interesting to see how this corresponds in Australia, because utilities here appear to be simply taking matters into their own hands, by changing tariff structures or refusing and delaying solar connections).

As we highlighted nearly a year ago now, in our story of Why generators are terrified of solar, Macquarie has its own illustrations of what is happening to the energy market. It makes mention of key milestones on May 25, when solar contributed more than 20 GW of capacity into the German grid for the first time – accounting for one-third of peak demand – and on September 14, when wind and solar combined to produce more than 31.5 GW (solar 16.1 GW plus wind 15.4 GW) in the early afternoon.

Macquarie's examples compare typical days in May and in March – the changes to the price curve are even more dramatic than that highlighted by the Melbourne Energy Institute's Mike Sandiford in the case of South Australia last week.  The loss of the curve represents a loss in revenue.

Here is the example from May:

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 9.12.35 AM

And here is the example for March:

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 9.12.40 AM

Again, the gap between the black and red lines represents lost revenue for generators.

And while the proliferation of renewables is proving to be a painful experience for utilities, it is forcing the energy industry to challenge their traditional baseload/peakload approach to energy supply. The alternative is now viewed – even by the major generator companies – as non-flexible and flexible generation, with the dispatchable energy produced by gas plants, or at a later date storage technologies, filling in the gaps between renewables. Germany is also reportedly about to announce a new tariff to encourage battery storage deployment for solar PV.

Still, the transition period promises to be problematic.

Macquarie does highlight some perverse impacts of this situation – the fact that cleaner gas-fired fuel is being priced out of the market, while lignite – what we know in Australia as brown coal – survives, and that ageing gas-fired generators are not being replaced by state-of-the-art modern plants.

However, it notes this has as much to do with the plunging carbon price in Europe, which has effectively removed the pollution price signal on dirtier fuels in the energy market, as well as the high cost of gas – most of which has to be imported from Russia. It notes that the current cost of new-build gas is nearly 50 per cent above average wholesale prices, and recently announced demand management initiatives, such as load shedding, are removing another major part of the market. That load shedding will result in up to 1,500 MW of demand to be switched off in a matter of seconds, and up to 3,000 MW within15 minutes.

(Australia faces a potentially similar issue because, while it has a carbon price, the main brown coal generators, at least for the moment, have been largely insulated from this by the generous compensation package, and the emergency funds provided by the government. And Australia also faces increasing gas prices).

Macquarie goes as far as to say that the German energy market is "kaput." "Without radical overhaul, we conclude the German power system is structurally broken," they say. The analysts note that in the normal course of events, up to 20 GW of conventional capacity would be shut down, but authorities would likely prevent 10 GW to retain structural integrity to the market.

Still, despite the closure of nuclear facilities, Macquarie estimates that production from thermal generators (gas and coal) would likely fall by 40TWh by the end of the decade – a reduction of 10 per cent in current output – as solar (18 GW) and wind (9 GW) continued their capacity additions.

German authorities are currently trying to get their head around a new design for the market, one that rewards not just renewables but provides the right incentive to retain the capacity that is required to usher in that transition.

One radical proposal came from the former Head of the Federal Network Agency, who proposed to temporarily shut off, without recompense, renewable energy sources during times of excessive peak production. But Macquarie said it was difficult to imagine how this would work, as it would be difficult to decide exactly at which times the market is excessively supplied. "Moreover, it would require retroactively changing the subsidies for renewable energy plants, which would presumably not just lead to lawsuits against the German government in international courts, but also weaken general investment confidence into Germany."

Macquarie Group: Rooftop Solar Is Unstoppable 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.

100% Renewables Plan For Western Australia Pushed By Greens

Posted: 16 Feb 2013 02:01 AM PST

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy.

The Greens Party has unveiled an ambitious new document that outlines possible pathways to turn Western Australia – one of the most energy-intensive states in the world – into one where its stationary energy needs are powered 100 per cent by renewable energy sources in less than two decades.

The Greens offer two principal scenarios to transform the coal and gas-dependent grid known as the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), which includes the capital Perth and the most populous regions. The first involves a heavier reliance on solar thermal and storage technologies currently deployed in Spain, the US, and elsewhere, while the second relies more on currently cheaper technologies such as wind energy and solar PV. Both are supported by biomass and pumped hydro.

According to Scott Ludlam, the WA-based Senator whose office anchored the report with the help of specialist consultants, the plan seeks to make two important points – one, that it is feasible, and two, that it will not cost much more than business as usual (BAU).

Indeed, even using somewhat conservative technology cost forecasts for the various forms of solar, and to allow for a safety-first approach to capacity requirements, the study concludes that the levellised cost of electricity in the various renewable scenarios ranges from $208/MWh to $221/MWh by 2029. (We go into detail further down.)

The levellised cost of electricity in the BAU case is not much cheaper – $203/MWh. While it has lower upfront capital costs – $20 billion vs $60 billion, the balance of the BAU scenario bill will be paid in fuel costs, which for gas and diesel customers in WA is already proving expensive and forcing those on isolated and remote areas in particular to already consider solar alternatives.

Ludlam says the plan was released in the context of both the federal and state election campaigns.

In the federal context, it was because the Coalition has vowed to ditch not just the carbon price but also the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, one of the key initiatives of the Greens into the negotiations for the carbon price. Ludlam, like most in the industry, says an institution like the CEFC is vital to build the solar thermal power stations and bring down the costs. WA is considered to be one of the best places to do that and the most cost effective, given the excellent solar resources and the high comparative cost of grid electricity.

The second is the state election, to be held in a few weeks, where the politics are even worse. The WA coalition government has ditched the previous government's emissions reductions targets, slashed its climate change unit,  wants even the Renewable Energy Target to be dumped, and is committed to up to five new coal-fired generators.

Its refurbishment of the dirty Muja coal-fired power station is blowing out in costs, and its capacity market is encouraging the construction of consumer-funded diesel fuel peaking generators that may never even get switched on. Even WA Labor leader Mark McGowan said on Sunday he did not support the Federal government's carbon price, although he did support an emissions trading scheme.

"This is a make or break year for us," Ludlam says. "We have got an investment vehicle up and running that could get some of these plants built. But if it is demolished, that will set us back a long way.

"This study demonstrates that it is possible: the only barrier to a masssive increase in clean energy here in Western Australia, is political inertia."

The document was drawn together by Ludlam's team, but the detailed technology scenarios were put together by an engineering team from Sustainable Energy Now, and drew on previous work by the likes of CSIRO and Beyond Zero Emissions.

First of all, like similar scenarios drawn up by international groups such as the International Energy Agency, and the Prime Minister's own task force, it draws heavily on energy efficiency, and estimates that one third or the anticipated energy demand in 2029 can be removed through smarter ways of using energy.

As for the production of energy, the first scenario relies on large-scale solar concentrator fields with storage (3,500 MW) to provide the bulk of the dispatchable electricity on the grid with the balance being provided by large-scale dispersed wind generators, solar PV, and a smaller number of biomass, wave and geothermal generators (see images below).

Backup electricity in the event of several consecutive days of low wind and solar incidence would be provided by biomass co-firing at the solar plants, pumped hydro storage, and a small number of mid-tier biomass plants. Its estimated capital costs were $62 billion, translating into an LCOE of $221/MWh.

The second scenario relies more on more wind energy (3,000 MW) and more solar PV (3,000 MW) meeting peak demand, backed up by biomass and pumped hydro. Its capital cost estimates are put at $56.9 billion, with an LCOE of $208/MWh.

The third scenario is business as usual, without carbon capture and storage or energy efficiency/waste reduction gains. It assumes that Western Australia develops a heavy reliance on on-shore gas and continues to build coal-fired power stations. The capital costs here are estimated at $20.6 billion, but the 16 years of additional fuel costs takes the LCOE to $203/MWh. This figure does not include the cost of duplicating the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas pipeline, or the lost agricultural productivity due to unconventional gas fracking, or any of the associated costs of unmitigated climate change.

One thing that struck RenewEconomy was the conservative estimates on technology costs. The calulations are made with a levellised cost of wind energy at $91/MWh in 2029 for wind – yet Bloomberg New Energy Finance last week said wind energy was already around $80/MWh in Australia, cheaper than coal and gas.

Likewise, the average LCOE for solar thermal with storage is estimated at $187/MWH – far above the Australian Solar Institute and CSIRO estimates of around $100-120/MWh by 2020. Solar PV is put at $147/MWH, while Ratch Australia, which is looking to replace the Collinsville coal fired power station in Quenssland with solar PV, estimates its cost at $120-$150/MWh. The ACT solar auction – where a 20MW plant is to be built – puts the cost at around $150/MWh now.

And, the report notes, there is potentially a lot of redundant capacity, with Ludlam saying the engineers took a conservative estimate on how much capacity will be needed to ensure constant supply.

"This is a worse case scenario," Ludlam says. He admits that even the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis, which shows wind energy costs already below coal and gas in Australia, and others following soon, "took him by surprise."

"The plans we have mapped out are price sensitive and they will need a lot of work. Don't buy the idea that it is not possible, or that the Greens will not be able to influence this. We have the CEFC, we are in a position to do these things."

Here are some images you may find interesting.

The first is the technology deployment and costs in the first scenario, which relies most on solar thermal (CST) and storage:

Western Australia solar plans


The second is where these renewable energy plants may be deployed:

western australia solar map


And the last is where WA is heading right now:

western australia

100% Renewables Plan For Western Australia Pushed By Greens 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.

100% Renewables Could Be Closer Than We Think

Posted: 16 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy (image added).

The stunning set of data, cost profiles and market analysis produced in the first few weeks of calendar 2013 have confirmed what many had long suspected – that the global energy markets are changing faster than anyone had thought possible.

The implications for the incumbent energy industry – be they generators, network operators or retailers – couldn't be more significant. The business models that supported the ageing infrastructure are broken, and if they can't adapt to the new environment, they may soon be out of business. The idea of a rapid change to a largely renewable energy grid no longer seems aspirational, it could be inevitable.

Consider what we have learned this month:

The price of wind energy (and in some isolated cases solar PV), is already cheaper than coal and gas in Australia. This gap is likely to widen considerably in the coming decade.

-  By the time new baseload capacity is required in 10 years time, other technologies, including solar thermal with storage, and concentrated solar PV, will also be cheaper than coal and gas. Marine energy and geothermal could be close to parity.

-  But not only do we have "grid parity" at the utility level, we also have socket parity, which means that homeowners and businesses can lower their cost of electricity by installing solar panels on their roof.

-  The growing impact of large scale renewables, the self consumption market driven by rooftop solar and battery storage, and the impact of energy efficiency schemes, is reshaping the profile of the energy market and the dynamics of the industry. Sometimes in the most dramatic way. Coal and gas fired generators are getting priced out of the market.

As investment bank UBS recently noted, we are facing a "solar revolution" in the energy industry, and another is on the way with battery storage. As we suggested last year, the change is so profound that existing business models appear broken. According to Macquarie Bank, the German energy model is already "kaput".

As we have seen in Australia, the increase in renewables is pushing down wholesale electricity prices, forcing the closure or mothballing of 3,000 MW of fossil fuel capacity. In Germany, the closure rate is so rapid that the electricity authority has had to step in to slow them down.

The more retailers and network operators seek to recoup their investment in the face of lower demand, the more customers will be tempted to look after their own energy needs. Even halting all subsidies for rooftop solar will not stop it, said Macquarie. "The ever-increasing (grid) prices for domestic and commercial customers as well as rapid solar cost declines have brought on the advent of grid parity for German roofs. Thus, solar installations could continue at a torrid pace," it notes. The same applies for Australia.

So what does this mean?

As Michael Liebrich, the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, suggested: "The fact that wind power is now cheaper than coal and gas in a country with some of the world's best fossil fuel resources shows that clean energy is a game changer which promises to turn the economics of power systems on its head."

Consider the situation in Australia. The utilities and the energy market operator have told us that no new baseload is needed until 2020. Now we know that when new capacity is required, technologies such as large-scale solar PV and solar thermal with storage (dubbed as better than baseload) will likely be cheaper, along with wind.

Coal-fired power stations will not get built, for reputational and economic reasons, and gas – the much touted transition fuel – may also not get a look in. "Costs are just falling so quickly and the cost of fossil fuel are so much higher than public perception," said Kobad Bhavnagri, head of clean energy research for BNEF  in Australia. "We could leapfrog gas as transition fuel."

Bhavnagri said that by 2020 the "world could look quite different." The market operator and system will be more experienced and adept at handling intermittency. "The case for gas is not as strong as people assumed a few years ago."

The upshot of that analysis is that the plants we will be building in the 2020s will be – because they are the cheapest options – large-scale solar with storage and other dispatchable renewables. The economic case for existing fossil fuel generators will be further undermined.

This explains why the fossil fuel industry in Germany, and in Australia, have been trying to halt the expanse of renewables. The primary policy goal of generators and fossil fuel industry for the past decade or more has been one of delay – to push back the build up of renewables long enough to extract maximum value from their existing assets, and even to create space so they can build more assets. The extractive industries have the same, simple plan.

All the major Australian utilities made clear in their submissions to the Climate Change Commission that allowing the renewable energy target to stand – and more wind farms and large-scale solar PV to be built – would reduce the profits of their generators, quite dramatically. Yet diluting that target would allow them to build more gas-fired generation.

This is also why the utilities have also argued against the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, because it is designed to help usher in those technologies such as solar thermal and ocean energy that will be competitive in a decade's time. But they can't be competitive if none are built, and installation and manufacturing costs are reduced.

Many European markets are now at critical junctures with high penetration of wind and solar. This includes Germany, Italy, Denmark, Spain and Portugal. Australia, should it maintain its current renewable energy target, will follow soon enough. Germany, while reducing subsidies, is still increasing its renewables targets – 40 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2030.

Its biggest challenge is to figure out how to redefine the market rules so that it can provide enough economic incentive to prevent too many closures of fossil fuel plants, and to encourage existing gas to stay open rather than coal. It needs these gas plants to assist with the transition.

But it is instructive to see how the big utilities are responding. In Germany, also in an election year, they are faced with a government which is absolutely committed to its targets, and an opposition that will likely accelerate it. In Australia, the utilities appear to have the alternative government singing from its own song book, and still stuck to the outdated notion that renewables are expensive and intermittent, and therefore of little use.

As frustrating as the position of the utilities and the network operators is, they will argue that they are acting in the interests of shareholders. But given the analysis produced by the likes of UBS, HSBC, and Macquarie in the past few weeks, long-term investors such as asset managers may well be wondering how these executives are positioning their company for the long-term future, rather than short-term returns.

Again, the situation in Germany is instructive. Its biggest generation company, E.ON, has fought ferociously against the government's nuclear phase-out and the pace of the rollout of renewables. Now it concedes its gambit is lost, and so its strategy for the future is simply to transform itself towards a generator focusing on distributed energy and renewables as quickly as it can.

As Rob Passey, from the UNSW, commented on our article on the UBS report, the network operators would be best served by embracing the new technologies rather than fighting against them. "It seems that the only way network operators can remain solvent over the longer term is for them to actively participate in this market themselves," he said.

The sooner all Australian generators and utilities come to the same conclusion, the better for everyone – shareholders, consumers, and citizens. The question should not be how quickly we can move to 100 per cent renewables, but to ensure we don't hang on to antiquated policies and business practices designed only to slow it down.

100% Renewables Could Be Closer Than We Think 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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