Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Ube Launches Crowdfunding Campaign To Support Smart Dimmer

Posted: 21 Feb 2013 12:00 AM PST

Disruptive technologies and the emerging crowdfunding platform are becoming more commonplace as not only a marketing and finance tool, but also changing the dynamics of how energy is distributed.

Enter Austin, Texas-based company Ube, who launched their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for their award-winning "smart" dimmer.

UBE SMARTPHONE

Image Credit via PR NewsWire

Unlike in the past where consumers would have to manually shut off their lights, this new product harnesses the power of internet technology to give consumers another energy efficiency option in the market. Customers can disconnect their previous dimmer or light switch, and then install their Ube smart dimmer. Once installed, the new smart dimmer is easily detected by the household WiFi system, which allows users to control the type of lighting they want via a mobile phone app.

While this dimmer has just been released, there are different types of lighting modules that should please everyone.

If you are in a dinner mood, you can set your lighting function in the "dinner" mode. Feeling like a party? If the dinner mode doesn’t fit your need for the occasion, the smart dimmer will allow you to change it to "party" lighting for those festive events.

Homeowners can also choose the "all on" or "all off" modes if they choose too, and if someone is going out for an extended period, the "away" mode gives the perception the lights are on or off at certain times of the day. A good feature if someone is on a vacation or a business trip.

All types of lights based on 120V dimmable bulbs — including LED, incandescent, fluorescent — can be controlled by the new dimmer.

Users can also check up how much energy they save, thanks to sub reporting from each dimmer for each light switch. This will be a handy tool to show homeowners what areas of lighting to cut back on.

Prices are between $49 an $69 and are available to anyone in North America, as the product will ship in June 2013. However, customers can take advantage of a discount during the crowdfunding campaign.

Last October, the company won the $1 million IDG prize and Fall 2012 DEMO People’s Choice Award. The convention is a showcase of emerging technologies, and features people from technology, media, and venture capital sectors. Past winners from this competition included E*Trade VMWare and Tivo.

Ube is hoping to see similar success using the crowdfunding platform that others have had in launching their products. In January, Solar Mosiac successfully sold out four solar projects within 24 hours, totalling $313,000.

It’s easy to see why Ube would use crowdfunding to get their product out in the market, as a disruptive marketing and financing tool that bypasses traditional formats of commerce and boosts the sharing economy at the same time. Hopefully more products using this format to launch will continue to be more commonplace in the future, while helping to provide clean tech alternatives to consumers.

Main Source: PR Newswire

Ube Launches Crowdfunding Campaign To Support Smart Dimmer 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.

Apologies, & News Update

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 06:47 PM PST

I made a big mistake yesterday when I posted about my first update of the Cleantech, Climate, & Other Green News Google Doc. Well, actually, I made a big mistake before that. I didn’t initially make the doc available to the public!

Luckily, a bunch of people requested access to the doc, and I realized my mistake. So, the doc is now available for public viewing.

Also, for those who asked that I share it with them, I went ahead and gave you the ability to comment on the doc. If others would like such access, ping me.

With that now fixed, and today’s news update complete, feel free to peruse the top cleantech/green stories of the day. (Even if you don't read any of the articles, I think a quick browse of the headlines is useful for keeping up to date with important matters in this arena.)

Apologies, & News Update 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.

U.S. Solar Heating And Cooling Alliance Launched

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 06:35 PM PST

Reposted from the website of the Solar Energy Industries Association:

seia_logo[Yesterday] the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) launched the U.S. Solar Heating and Cooling Alliance (SHC Alliance). The Alliance will focus on growing the solar heating and cooling market through reducing barriers and advocating for policies on the federal, state and local levels.

The newly elected leaders of the U.S. Solar Heating and Cooling Alliance are:

- Chairman: Mike Healy, Skyline Innovations
- Vice Chairman: Matt Carlson, Sunnovations
- Treasurer: Eileen Prado, Solar Rating and Certification Corporation
- Rotating members: Les Nelson, International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials; and Ole Pilgaard, Heliodyne

"We're thrilled that this partnership between SEIA and the U.S solar heating and cooling (SHC) industry has been established to focus on securing pathways to greater deployment of solar heating and cooling technologies," said newly elected SHC Alliance Chairman Mike Healy. "This collaboration will empower us to heighten awareness of this technology and the benefits it can provide to families and businesses."

"SEIA encourages all companies and organizations interested in the expansion of the solar heating and cooling sector in the U.S. to join the SHC Alliance," said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. "Solar heating and cooling is an expanding, significant sector of our industry — which is providing affordable, accessible and reliable clean energy technology for our nation while helping us achieve energy independence and security."

The SHC Alliance will be governed collaboratively by SEIA and the Alliance's governing body, the U.S. Solar Heating and Cooling Council. Objectives of the SHC Alliance are:

- To catalyze a common vision and raise awareness with all stakeholders- including policymakers, potential customers, investors and financiers
- To serve as the coordinated go-to voice on industry issues to ensure stakeholder interests are protected
- To energize the industry through collaboration and funding of collective priorities
- To take action to maintain and develop markets for SHC businesses to be a success

Solar and heating cooling technologies comprise a growing proportion of the solar technologies being deployed throughout the U.S. They collect the thermal energy from the sun and use this heat to provide hot water, space heating, cooling, and pool heating for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. These technologies displace the need to use electricity or natural gas. Today, Americans across the country are at work manufacturing and installing solar heating and cooling systems that significantly reduce our dependence on imported fuels. In 2010, the U.S. saw 35,464 solar water heating systems and 29,540 solar pool heating systems installed, heating a total of more than 65,000 homes, businesses and pools.

Solar is the fastest-growing and most affordable, accessible and reliable clean energy technology available today.  America's solar industry now employs more than 119,000 workers at 5,600 companies – most of which are small businesses spread across every state in the union.

Additional Resources:
SEIA Solar Heating and Cooling fact sheet:   http://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-heating-cooling
U.S. Solar Heating and Cooling Alliance: http://www.seia.org/about/seia/special-initiatives/us-solar-heating-cooling-alliance-division-seia

About SEIA®:
Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA and its 1,000 member companies are building a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works to make solar a mainstream and significant energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy. www.seia.org

U.S. Solar Heating And Cooling Alliance Launched 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.

Captured Rainbows, New Possibilities In Solar Energy Thanks To New Material That Slows Light

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 05:18 PM PST

An improved method to capture rainbows has been developed by researchers at the University at Buffalo. The photonics breakthrough could very likely lead to significant improvements in solar energy, stealth technologies, and other areas of research, according to the researchers.

20130218-125945.jpg

The researchers created a “hyperbolic metamaterial waveguide,” that works to separate and absorb every frequency of light at different locations in a vertical direction, as the photo above shows. It’s essentially a microchip that is composed of alternating layers of ultra-thin “metal and semiconductors and/or insulators.” The alternating layers then work to capture the rainbow.

“Electromagnetic absorbers have been studied for many years, especially for military radar systems,” said Qiaoqiang Gan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at UB. “Right now, researchers are developing compact light absorbers based on optically thick semiconductors or carbon nanotubes. However, it is still challenging to realize the perfect absorber in ultra-thin films with tunable absorption band.”

“We are developing ultra-thin films that will slow the light and therefore allow much more efficient absorption, which will address the long existing challenge.”


 
The extreme speed that light photons move at makes them very difficult to “tame.” There had previously been some success slowing the photons by utilizing light cryogenic gases, but that is impracticable outside of the lab. So the researchers started exploring other ways, which is when they came across the utilization of “nano-scale-sized grooves in metallic surfaces at different depths.” That system worked, but still had some limitations, mainly to do with efficiency.

But the hyperbolic metamaterial waveguide is not subject to these limitations, simply being a large area of patterned film that works very efficiently. “It is referred to as an artificial medium with subwavelength features whose frequency surface is hyperboloid, which allows it to capture a wide range of wavelengths in different frequencies including visible, near-infrared, mid-infrared, terahertz and microwaves.”

The researchers are very excited about it, because of its wide range of potential uses, which could lead to advancements in solar panel technology, “being especially useful in mid-infrared spectral regions as thermal absorber for devices that recycle heat after sundown.” And it’s myriad range of potential uses in stealth technologies, which could help to make objects invisible to radar.

The research on the new method was just published February 13th in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: University at Buffalo

Captured Rainbows, New Possibilities In Solar Energy Thanks To New Material That Slows Light 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.

3-D Solar Cells May Receive Big Boost Thanks To New Semiconductor Nano-Shish-Kebabs

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 05:00 PM PST

A new type of nano-sized structure, looking something like a “nano-shish-kebab,” has been developed by researchers at North Carolina State University. The seamless three-dimensional structure, consisting solely of germanium sulfide (GeS) crystals, could be useful in the development of 3-D solar cells, next-generation sensors, supercapacitors, and photodetectors.

20130219-182054.jpg

Looking like a row of nano-sheets run through by a nano-wire, it is actually one solid, shared, crystalline structure. The researchers say that this is the first engineered nano-material to consist of one-dimensional and two-dimensional structures while having a shared crystalline structure.

“Combining the nanowire and nanosheets into a single ‘heterostructure’ creates a material with both a large surface area and — because GeS is a semiconductor — the ability to transfer electric charges efficiently. The nanosheets provide a very large surface area, and the nanowire acts as a channel that can transmit charges between the nanosheets or from the nanosheets to another surface.”



 
“We think this approach could also be used to create heterostructures like these using other materials whose molecules form similar crystalline layers, such as molybdenum sulfide (MoS2),” says Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. “And, while germanium sulfide has excellent photonic properties, MoS2 holds more promise for electronic applications.”

According to Cao, the process is especially interesting because “it is inexpensive and could be scaled up for industrial processes.”

The nano-shish-kebabs were created by, first, making a GeS nanowire about 100 nanometers in width; then, exposing it to air, which causes nucleation sites to form on the wire surface via weak oxidation; and then, after that, exposing the wire to GeS vapor, resulting in the formation of “two-dimensional nanosheets at each of the nucleation sites.”

Source: North Carolina State University
Image Credits: North Carolina State University

3-D Solar Cells May Receive Big Boost Thanks To New Semiconductor Nano-Shish-Kebabs 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-Powered Planes In Russia — Solar Being Considered As Replacement For Jet Fuel

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 04:40 PM PST

Solar energy may be replacing fossil fuels as the power source of the Russian civilian aircraft industry not too far into the future, based on where some of the country’s funding is going.

What happens to the aviation industries of the world as fuel prices continue to rise? What are the alternatives? Russia's Ministry of Industry and Trade (Minpromtorg) seeks to answer these questions by ordering several new studies into possible fuel alternatives for its civilian aircraft industry. Among the most prominent of those alternatives is solar energy. A considerable amount of money has been allocated for this research, RUB628 million ($21 million).

20130218-133057.jpg

In a recent statement from the Minpromtorg, it was stated that new research on this subject is a necessity as Russia's domestic airline industry expands and increases its fuel requirements. The ministry mentions that reducing fossil fuel use will have other benefits in addition to reducing costs, including helping to cut down on emissions.

Minpromtorg says it intends to make RUB628 million available for the studies. The ministry is expected to select successful companies, via a tender process, to conduct the research by this March. The results are then scheduled to be presented in 2015. If successful, they will then be shared with Russia's aviation companies. This is the second project dealing with the use of solar energy in aircraft, undertaken by the Russian government. The first was initiated by Russia's Ministry of Defense, and investigated the use of solar energy in light aircraft. However due to unsatisfactory results, the project was stopped in 2010.


The problem of what happens to the aviation industry when fossil fuels start becoming prohibitively expensive for civilian flight is one that needs to be addressed. Without alternatives fuel sources, will flying simply become something that is only for the rich and the military again?

Electric aircraft have been around for quite some time already, with the first flight of an electric aircraft being back in 1957 (and a disputed claim of a flight in 1909) — the primary choices being between those powered by batteries, solar cells (such as the Solar Impulse), or power beaming. But, so far, none of the technologies available could really support the same functions that fossil fuel–powered aircraft currently support. New research and technology will be a necessity if the large scale civilian use of airplanes is going to continue into the foreseeable future, as the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade seems to know.

Source: PV Magazine 
Image Credits: Airport via Wikimedia Commons

Solar-Powered Planes In Russia — Solar Being Considered As Replacement For Jet Fuel 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.

Tesla’s/Elon’s Final Post On The NYTimes/Broder Story

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 04:02 PM PST

Elon Musk — Tesla’s Chairman, Product Architect, & CEO — yesterday published his final take on the NYTimes/Broder story. I’m reposting it in full below. This may also be our last post on the story. However, I do have a few more in line that I’d like to write up if I can get to them in a timely manner. Here’s Elon’s post:

By Elon Musk

tesla model so

[Monday], The New York Times reversed its opinion on the review of our Model S and no longer believes that it was an accurate account of what happened. After investigating the facts surrounding the test drive, the Public Editor agreed that John Broder had "problems with precision and judgment,” "took casual and imprecise notes" and made "few conclusions that are unassailable."

We would like to thank Margaret Sullivan and The New York Times for looking into this matter and thoughtfully considering the public evidence, as well as additional evidence provided on background. A debt of appreciation is also owed to other media outlets, such as CNN, CNBC, and Consumer Reports, who repeated The New York Times test drive at normal highway speeds and comfortable cabin temperatures without ever running out of range.

But, most of all, we would like to thank our customers, who rallied immediately to the defense of Tesla and the electric car revolution, sending hundreds of heartfelt letters of support to The New York Times in the space of a few days! Entirely of their own volition, several customers spent the past holiday weekend recreating the Broder test drive route and showing that it can be done easily using the Tesla Supercharger network on the East Coast. You guys are awesome!

The bottom line is that the Model S combined with Supercharging works well for a long road trip, even in a cold, snowy winter. Nonetheless, we will keep increasing the number of Superchargers, improving the software in the car (via over the air updates), and the technology behind the Supercharger itself. Without people even having to think about it or Tesla having to physically touch the car, the free long distance travel enabled by our Superchargers will steadily improve with each passing month.

Elon

Tesla’s/Elon’s Final Post On The NYTimes/Broder Story 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.

14% Of Household Electricity Consumption From Solar In Belgium; 3% Of Total Power Consumption

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 04:00 PM PST

Reposted from Solar Love:

Belgium, like many other countries across the world, just saw another solid year of solar power growth. 2012 didn’t come close to its record solar growth in 2011, and it was just a bit shy of the 528 MW it added in 2009, but 2012′s 525 MW now bring it up to a total of 2,600 MW of solar power capacity.

According to a translation from the APERe (Belgian Renewable Energy Association) website, “With 2600 MW installed to date in Belgium, [photovoltaics] can cover 14% of Belgian housing consumption (3500 kWh / year), or 2.8% of consumption total electricity (80 TWh / year).”

Here’s a chart of Belgium’s annual and cumulative solar power growth over the past 6 years:

belgium solar power growth

14% Of Household Electricity Consumption From Solar In Belgium; 3% Of Total Power Consumption 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.

PACE Funding In Florida Gets $500 Million Boost

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 10:00 AM PST

Reposted from Solar Love:

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funding (or financing) is one of the most attractive solar policies in the world (imho). Very basically, instead of receiving a loan to pay the upfront cost of a solar power system, you have the amount of the system added to your property taxes. You pay off the cost of the solar system over time while you save on electricity (you generally have a 15- to 20-year time period set for incrementally paying of the loan). So, you’re basically saving money from day one while also not giving away the profits of going solar to the bank or a solar leasing company. (Note: PACE financing can also be used toward energy efficiency improvements or other renewable energy projects in many cases.)

The first PACE program was implemented in Berkeley, California in 2008. The idea seemed poised to take off nationally. However, following the US housing crisis and financial crisis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2010 decided not to back mortgages with PACE liens on them. Here’s a good, concise summary of the blockade and its “rationale” via Wikipedia:

“Several problems have been raised regarding PACE. Foremost amongst the problems is the issue of involuntary subordination. Property taxes are superior to all other obligations, including mortgages. In case of default, taxes are paid before other creditors. Since the PACE loan is made after a mortgage is taken out, this in effect acts as an involuntary subordination of the lender’s security. While this point is widely disputed, for this reason both FHFA and OCC have issued guidance that has stopped residential PACE finance programs in most locations. Commercial PACE is, however, still being introduced in a number of jurisdictions. Residential PACE financing is available in eight states, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Wisconsin, and is on hold in twenty others, pending resolution of the Freddie MacFannie Mae objection.[12]

As you can see in that paragraph above, PACE financing is still available in Florida. Furthermore, as noted in the title, the Florida agency funding PACE projects recently received a nice infusion of cash.

florida pace funding

Florida PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) Funding Agency has announced that it has secured up to $500 million in funding through Samas Capital, LLC (Samas) to provide business and residential property owners with financing for energy-related and wind-hardening improvements in counties that choose to participate,” the Florida PACE Funding Agency noted in a press release published earlier this month.

Here’s more info on this specific PACE program:

“Florida PACE Funding Agency was established as a special purpose unit of local government to provide voluntary, low-cost financing to property owners for energy efficiency, renewable energy and wind resistance improvements. Improvements are to be repaid over time by property owners through a voluntary special assessment added onto the owner's property tax bill. The Florida PACE Funding Agency has the legal authority to issue $2 billion in bonds for the purpose of funding property improvements, without liability, to any subscribing county or city.”

"By using the Agency's innovative interlocal subscription model, local governments will be able to quickly and easily implement a PACE program without burdening local government staff and without incurring uncertain and enormous costs and liabilities associated with a stand-alone program," said Mike Steigerwald, Executive Director for Florida PACE Funding Agency. "For property owners, this will mean expedited access to funds for protection of their properties from Florida's hurricanes, mitigation of rising energy costs through energy efficiency improvements, and increases in property value related to the improvements."

The press release added that “Samas has been active with PACE financings in California and will bring that knowledge and expertise to Florida property owners through the Agency's scalable statewide program.”

Of course, through greater demand for construction materials, greater demand for private sector construction and cleantech workers, and the ramifying economic effects, this PACE program and its recent funding boost will help the economies of individual counties and municipalities within Florida as well as the Florida economy as a whole.

Funding for this program is expected to begin within the next 50 days.

For more information or to subscribe to the program, contact Project Manager Jonathan Schaefer at (866) 558-3180 or schaeferj@floridapace.gov.

Image Credit: Florida PACE Funding Agency

PACE Funding In Florida Gets $500 Million Boost 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.

SunPower Quoting Utility-Scale Solar For 7–10c/kWh

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 07:00 AM PST

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

Auctions of solar power contracts in the Indian state of Rajasthan have produced some remarkably low bids, with the lowest bid coming in at Rs6.45/kWh, equivalent to A11.6c/kWh, according to press reports in India. The tender of 100MW of solar power is one of a number being held in India, both as part of the National Solar Mission, which aims to install more than 20GW of solar in the next decade, and individual state initiatives.

According to  Hindu Business Line, the lowest bid was made for a 10MW solar PV plant, while the highest bid came in at Rs8.25/kWh (A14.9c/kWh).  In all, 23 bids representing 185MW of capacity were submitted, but under the rules of the tender, all winning bids will be asked to match the lowest tender.

This is not actually the lowest result produced this year. A similar tender in Tamil Nadu saw a bidder (Mohan Breweries) quote Rs5.97/kWh, but that tender had a 5 per cent annual escalation for 10 years. The auctions are being held along similar lines as that in South Africa, which has already allocated more than 1.6GW of wind and solar energy developments, and in the ACT last year, when FRV won a tender to build a 20MW solar PV plant for 18c/kWh, which converts to around 15c/kWh when indexing is taken into account.

sunpowerSunPower sees utility scale solar at 7c/kWh

While some analysts wonder if the "era of cheap solar" may be coming to end as the market oversupply corrects itself, and China aims to install 10,000MW in 2013 alone, evidence from elsewhere suggests they will continue to fall.

It was revealed earlier this months that First Solar has contracted to deliver electricity from a 50MW solar PV plant in New Mexico for US5.8c/kWh. But while that was assisted by tax credits, its biggest rival in the US-market, the California-based SunPower, is now suggesting that it can produce utility scale solar for between 7c/kWh and 10c/kWh, cost competitive with coal in areas with good sun.

In an analyst briefing with Deutsche Bank this week, the company said the production cost of panels fell 25 per cent in calendar 2012, and it expected the cost of panels to continue to fall in 2013. This echoes an earlier briefing where Chairman and CEO Tom Werner said: "I think our innovation pipeline to get cost out is as strong as it's ever been as we look to 2013 and 2014." SunPower expects up to half of its revenues to come from utility scale solar, where it has already installed 700MW of capacity.

Image Credit: Sunpower

SunPower Quoting Utility-Scale Solar For 7–10c/kWh 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 Fracking Reports: Gas Bubble About To Bust

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 05:40 AM PST

Two new fracking reports came out earlier this week, and they reveal some serious new cracks in the booming natural gas industry. Fracking, the drilling method that involves pumping a chemical brine underground, has already been linked to the risk of water contamination, significant methane gas leakage, and even earthquakes. The two reports add another angle of risk, making the case that the gas boom hides a financial bubble that is headed for a bust of epic proportions.

new fracking reports show natural gas bubble could burstWhat We Know About Fracking

For those of you who are new to the issue, anecdotal evidence of fracking impacts is becoming plentiful, but establishing a direct connection in specific cases is difficult because the gas industry is exempt from federal Clean Water Act disclosure regulations.

Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. EPA has been slowly but steadily prying out information about the hundreds of different ingredients in fracking brines. That includes a national fracking study designed to address the impact on water resources.

A report on the study’s progress was released last December, with a final report due out in 2014.

In the meantime, the aforementioned episodes of water contamination and earthquakes are piling up. A Cornell research team has also produced a study showing significant amounts “fugitive methane” escaping into the atmosphere from gas fields, and a new University of Pennsylvania study has raised concerns over the potential for bringing ancient brine containing traces of barium and radium to the surface.

New Fracking Reports Reveal Financial Risk

Environmental and public health risks aside, if the gas boom turns out to be a bubble  there will be devastating results when it pops.

Last year, Rolling Stone ran an in-depth story on the precarious financial footing of the natural gas industry, focusing on industry leader Chesapeake Energy Corp.

More recently, The Wall Street Journal has been charting Chesapeake’s travails and taking note of persistent weakness in the natural gas market.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also been investigating Chesapeake and other gas companies, to assess the accuracy of their calculations about the long term profitability of gas wells.

The two new reports, “Drill, Baby, Drill” and “Shale Gas and Wall Street,” are available on shalebubble.org (a project of Earthworks, Energy Policy Forum and Post Carbon Institute).

“Drill, Baby, Drill” analyzes shale oil (not to be confused with oil shale) and tar sands in addition to shale gas, and here is the money quote:

“Shale gas production has grown explosively to account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. natural gas production; nevertheless production has been on a plateau since December 2001–80 percent of shale gas production comes from five plays, several of which are in decline.”

Now add this piece of insight from “Shale Gas and Wall Street:”

“In 2011, shale mergers and acquisitions (M&A) accounted for $46.5B in deals and became one of the largest profit centers for some Wall Street investment banks. This anomaly bears scrutiny since shale wells were considerably underperforming in dollar terms during this time.”

Basically, the two reports build on the concerns of regulators, laying out evidence that the furious pace of natural gas drilling has not been driven by demand, but by the need for gas companies to maintain profitability in the face of a natural gas glut and a steep decline in recovery rates for existing wells.

Don’t Hold Your Breath on that Bubble Thing

That bubble might be a long time in coming, though. The natural gas glut in the U.S. won’t last long if more of that gas could make it into overseas markets.


In that regard, it’s little wonder that U.S. representatives from several states have already been lobbying hard for the Obama Administration to approve more natural gas exports.

Approval would be great news for the gas industry, its investors and its workforce, but not so great for everybody else. With the export market wide open, gas prices in the U.S. will increase, and with no let-up in drilling the risk of serious negative impacts will continue to grow.

Image: Bubble by mjtmail (tiggy)

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New Fracking Reports: Gas Bubble About To Bust 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.

Jamaica’s Solar Industry To Receive A Major Boost From USSolar

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 03:10 AM PST

Jamaica is an island in which the solar panel industry is small, but the Jamaican government’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) have implemented some policies that would provide solar panel owners and prospective buyers with more options to lower their electricity bills.

Solar Panels Under Blue Sky - From Shutterstock

Solar panels under a gorgeous blue sky. Image obtained from Shutterstock.

One of the key policies is net metering. Residents are now able to connect their own solar panels to Jamaica’s electricity grid so that the panels supply electricity to the grid, helping to supply the nation with electricity.

One benefit of solar is that solar panels generate the most electricity when it is needed most, and that is during the afternoon, and Jamaica is particularly sunny. It enjoys 4,443 hours of sunshine annually.

Electricity demand is particularly high during the afternoon, and that can be partially attributed to hot weather. Air conditioners have a very high power consumption, and they consume the most power during hot weather as their users turn them up to stay cool.

Where USSolar Comes In

  • Jamaica needs solar inverters suitable for its unique electricity grid, and USSolar is working on that
  • USSolar offers specialized training to help develop a local solar workforce which carries out the installation of solar systems
  • Jamaica needs solar panels that can operate efficiently and tolerate the humid climate, so USSolar found the right panels for it

Why Jamaica Needs This

Residential solar electricity costs about $0.10 per kWh, assuming a capacity factor of 25%, while Jamaicans pay the US equivalent of about $0.40 per kWh, and Jamaica’s climate happens to be sunny, which means that capacity factors can be much higher here.

Source: RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Jamaica’s Solar Industry To Receive A Major Boost From USSolar 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.

Tools To Bring Down Solar Soft Costs

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 02:00 AM PST

This article was originally published on Solar Love.

It’s no secret that soft costs have not come down as fast as solar module costs (in the U.S.). Solar module costs have come down about 75% in the past 3–4 years. But soft costs haven’t moved nearly as much. As the story linked above shows, there are a number of reasons why that’s the case.

A handful of companies, university researchers, and government agencies are working hard to find ways to bring soft costs down. Clean Power Research is one of those.

In a short article on the matter, Clean Power Research writes, “Module prices, which three or four years ago made up 50% or more of total system costs for residential customers, are now often less than 25% of total system costs. Soft costs have barely budged in absolute terms, and have increased from 25% or so of system costs just a few years ago to close to half of system costs today.”

NYSERDA-Graph


 
Also in that post, Clean Power Research notes some of the tools it offers to help bring down soft costs:

“Our Clean Power Estimator and QuickQuotes products have been helping companies lower the costs of customer acquisition for many years. Our PowerClerk software has dramatically reduced the administrative costs associated with incentives across many states, and we're currently expanding the PowerClerk lineup to include capabilities that will help reduce the costs associated with interconnection.”

From an initial glance, these tools look highly useful.

In a separate article, Clean Power Research also brings up how PowerClerk has helped to advance solar growth in California and bring down costs:

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) – the nation's largest municipal utility – processed 400% more solar incentives in the 2011-2012 fiscal year after implementing a new, more efficient program management solution from Black & Veatch and Clean Power Research.

As a result of the new program, LADWP:

  • Provided incentives for approximately 1,900 solar projects totaling 21.8 MW of generation, up from 8.8 MW the previous year – more than doubling electric generation from its Solar Incentive Program.
  • Reduced application review time by approximately 65%.
  • Doubled their rate of payments.

A key feature of the streamlined solution was the integration of PowerClerk, a self-service online tool that makes it easy to apply for an incentive, and allows program administrators to efficiently process applications.

Learn more about how LADWP is using PowerClerk directly from Kenneth Pritchett, engineering associate at LADWP and manager of the Solar Incentive Program:

Tools To Bring Down Solar Soft Costs 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.

California Requiring 50 MW Of Energy Storage For Local Requirements

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 01:10 AM PST

Last week the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously approved a long-term procurement decision that orders Southern California Edison (SCE) — the primary supplier of electricity for much of Southern California — to procure between 1,400 and 1,800 megawatts of energy resource capacity in the Los Angeles basin to meet long-term requirements by 2021.

The good news is that, of those numbers, the CPUC instructed that at least 50 MW be procured from energy storage resources, as well as up to an additional total of 600MW of capacity required be procured from preferred resources — which now include energy storage resources.

In his introduction before the dais, Commissioner Michel Peter Florio, the Assigned Commissioner responsible for the CPUCs long-term procurement planning rulemaking, expressed the rationale for the “monumental” decision during the CPUC’s discussion, stating “we need to move beyond paralysis by analysis with respect to energy storage.”

The CPUC’s final decision included a need for energy storage resources to be considered “along with preferred resources” including energy efficiency, demand response, and distributed generation.

Janice Lin, Executive Director of the California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA) and Managing Partner of Strategen Consulting, LLC, said that “this landmark decision represents a major breakthrough for energy storage market development in California and nationwide.”  According to Lin, “required energy storage procurement under this decision provides a much needed market signal that energy storage will be considered as a key asset class to help California address its long term local reliability needs.”

Energy storage will become a critical component of many renewable energy solutions as the industries develop, especially for intermittent generation methods — like wind and solar — so as to keep supply regular. For the moment, however, investments by government bodies in energy storage as a viable alternative is vital to the growth of the technology.

Source: California Energy Storage Alliance

California Requiring 50 MW Of Energy Storage For Local Requirements 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.

German Solar PV In January — €1.52/Watt

Posted: 20 Feb 2013 12:30 AM PST

Reposted from Solar Love:

German solar PV power prices continue to fall. According to the latest data, the price of solar power for solar power plants with up to 100 kW of capacity has dropped to €1.52 per watt (or $2.03 per watt). Here’s a chart on solar’s long price drop in Germany, via a German PV website:

PV-Preisindex - Photovoltaikumfrage.de - photovoltaik-guide.de - Januar 2013

And below’s a German PV price history from the site, followed by information on the source of the data:

Photovoltaic Price History:

Month PV Price
January 2009 € 4,110
February 2009 € 3,930
March 2009 € 3,820
April 2009 € 3,740
May 2009 € 3,500
June 2009 € 3,500
July 2009 € 3,390
August 2009 € 3,230
September 2009 € 3,110
October 2009 € 3,050
November 2009 € 2,950
December 2009 € 3,060
January 2010 € 3,040
February 2010 € 2,970
March 2010 € 3,030
April 2010 € 2,930
May 2010 € 2,890
June 2010 € 2,840
July 2010 € 2,580
August 2010 € 2,610
September 2010 € 2,540
October 2010 € 2,500
November 2010 € 2,510
December 2010 € 2,470
January 2011 € 2,480
February 2011 € 2,390
March 2011 € 2,350
April 2011 € 2,390
May 2011 € 2,370
June 2011 € 2,300
July 2011 € 2,210
August 2011 € 2,170
September 2011 € 2,120
October 2011 € 2,090
November 2011 € 1,960
December 2011 € 1,950
January 2012 € 1,990
February 2012 € 1,960
March 2012 € 1,990
April 2012 € 1,900
May 2012 € 1,870
June 2012 € 1,740
July 2012 € 1,720
August 2012 € 1,630
September 2012 € 1,610
October 2012 € 1,600
November 2012 € 1,570
December 2012 € 1,590
January 2013 € 1,520

Since 2009, we identified on the basis of our online survey the current prices of turnkey photovoltaic systems up to 100 kWp. Explore the development of asset prices over the last five years.

Up to 300 solar power system operators take part in our monthly poll. The prices are based solely on the information of our subjects / participants. When the prices are net prices (Euro / kWp) for turnkey solar systems up to 100 kWp. We take no responsibility for the accuracy of this data. Errors and omissions excepted.

Have your say in our online survey “Prices of solar power systems in Germany” part and assist you with your participation in the Photovoltaic Price Index.

German Solar PV In January — €1.52/Watt 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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