Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Department Of Defense Launches Attack On Climate Change

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 11:59 AM PST

The U.S. Department of Defense has been among the most aggressive leaders on climate change action under the Obama Administration, and it has just stepped it up to the next level. Last week, DoD released the new Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, its blueprint for addressing the effects of climate change in a national security context. That includes global impacts such as geopolitical consequences, conflict acceleration and competition for food, water and other life-sustaining resources, as well as increasing demands on DoD resources for humanitarian relief.

Given that DoD does not exist in a vacuum, you can expect the agency’s plans to ripple out and affect other sectors, potentially including the global fossil fuel marketplace.

new DoD report outlines impact of climate change on national securityClimate Change and National Security

For a bit of background, in 2009 President Obama issued Executive Order 13514, which directed all federal agencies to evaluate their climate change risks and vulnerabilities. It also directed agencies to start developing plans for dealing with those impacts.

DoD incorporated those findings in its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, which is a big deal because that document is the mechanism for translating strategy into action. In other words, the QDR results in real-life, potentially dramatic shifts in the way DoD forces and resources are allocated.

So, when the 2010 QDR asserted that climate change has become a significant national security threat, that wasn’t just DoD yelling into the wind, that was DoD putting the wheels of action in motion.

The Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap (CCAR)

Fast-forward to 2013, and now we have the next step, an actual blueprint for action in the form of CCAR.

The direct impacts that CCAR outlines include operational hardships and reduced training opportunities due to increased heat and extreme weather events, reduced access by ground vehicles (due to flooding or melting permafrost, for example), infrastructure degradation leading to increased costs for maintaining roads, runways and utilities, increased energy costs and risks to facilities from wildfires, coastal flooding and other exreme events.

CCAR inventories many more indirect impacts, too. All this is by way of hammering home the main point, which is to acknowledge the reality of the situation and deal with it.

The Department of Defense, in Defense of Science

CCAR basically describes how DoD decision-making will pivot around climate science and related fields, by fully integrating “climate change considerations into its extant policies, planning, practices and programs.”

The first step is to designate an advisory committee that will ensure a direct, nimble exchange of climate related information between DoD and other relevant agencies and authorities.

This reality-based approach is clearly stated in the advisory committee’s first set of goals, which include stressing “the importance of the science-policy interface.”

The emphasis on science continues throughout CCAR, particularly in regard to ensuring that the “best available science” is available to DoD decision-makers.

For the record, let’s also note that DoD hasn’t exactly standing still while working on its blueprint for action.

Since 2009, DoD has been transitioning to sustainable energy on practically innumerable fronts. The initiatives include solar power (both stationary and portable solar power), biofuels, alternative fuel vehicles, smart microgrids and EV-to-grid systems.

Many of these initiatives can easily apply to civilian use and some projects, like the new SPIDERS microgrid, are being developed specifically with widespread adoption by the civilian sector in mind.

DoD and the Keystone XL Pipeline

CCAR also outlines the need for international as well as domestic partnerships, so it has some interesting implications for the fossil fuel industry, including the export market.

In describing how DoD will continue to collaborate with the State Department (and foreign militaries) on climate assessment, CCAR also describes climate change as this:

“…a unique opportunity to work collaboratively in multilateral forums, promoting a balanced approach that will improve human and environmental security in the region.”

That appears to make the case that DoD’s climate-related concerns will interact with State Department policymaking in new and important ways.

In particular, CCAR seems to put another roadblock in front of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from fields in Canada down through the U.S. midwest, to the Gulf Coast for export.


The pipeline requires State Department approval because it crosses the Canadian border, and it has been under a cloud of intense criticism because it would add a heavy dose of “dirty” fuel to the global energy mix.

The potential involvement of DoD is bad news for pipeline proponents, who already had a pretty bad time of it last week.

Among other things, some not-so-positive hints were dropped in a major speech last Wednesday by noted environmentalist John Kerry, who just so happens to be the new Secretary of State.

Image (cropped): Tank by D’oh Boy (Mark Holloway)

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Department Of Defense Launches Attack On Climate Change 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.

Estonia Is 1st Country In The World To Install Nationwide System Of Fast Chargers For EVs

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 10:10 AM PST

This article was originally published on EV Obsession.

The first nationwide system of fast charging stations for electric vehicles has now been completed in Estonia. The nationwide system was installed in order to speed the adoption of EVs in the country, and to help reduce the country’s carbon emissions.

ev fast charging network nationwide estonia

The system consists of 165 fast chargers that were built and installed by the engineering firm ABB. The installation and construction was financed “from the government’s sale of 10 million surplus CO2 emission permits to Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation,” Reuters reports.

As part of that deal with Mitsubishi, the Estonian government also received more that “500 electric cars and the financing of a subsidiary system for people to purchase electric cars,” Reuters adds.

“Now is the time to really press the pedal and move forward in electrical mobility. We have proved that there is a real possibility to set up a network in a country, and there are no technical barriers,” said Jarmo Tuisk, the head of the program that set up the plan for the network.


 
“The network of fast chargers strategically placed along roads and in towns means that users need not worry about running out of power during their journeys. It also features a nationwide unified payment system.”

Now that the country has such a comprehensive fast charging network, the already significant benefits of EVs should seem even more appealing. The government in Estonia is hoping for the number of privately owned EVs in the country to double by the end of the year.

Image Credit: ABB

Estonia Is 1st Country In The World To Install Nationwide System Of Fast Chargers For EVs 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.

LEDs Without Heavy Metals, Silicon Nanocrystal Multicolor LEDs Created

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 09:52 AM PST

LEDs that are completely free of heavy metals have been successfully created by researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto. The highly efficient and heavy-metal-free LEDs were made by utilizing silicon nanocrystals that are only a few nanometers across. The silicon-based light-emitting diodes (SiLEDs) should eventually be able to take the place of any currently used LEDs, but without having the same environmental impact and at far cheaper costs.

20130223-002019.jpg

It’s been common knowledge, for awhile now, that regular silicon is unsuitable for LEDs, but on the nanoscale this isn’t true. Tiny silicon nanocrystals are very capable of producing light, and have great potential thanks to their high efficiency. And now, researchers have successfully made use of some of that potential, manufacturing highly efficient LEDs from silicon nanocrystals consisting of only a few hundred to thousand atoms.


 
As of now, the manufacture of SiLEDs is “limited to the red visible spectral range and the near infrared,” the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology writes in a press release — the institute is already #1 in the world for the efficiency of silicon diodes emitting red light. "Controlled manufacture of diodes emitting multicolor light, however, is an absolutely novelty," however, says Florian Maier-Flaig, scientist of the Light Technology Institute (LTI) of KIT and doctoral student of the Karlsruhe School of Optics and Photonics (KSOP). The color adjustments are made by separating the nanoparticles by size. "Moreover, our light-emitting diodes have a surprising long-term stability that has not been reached before.” The reason for the increased lifespan is because of the use of only one nanoparticle size per LED, which improves the stability.

"With the liquid-processed silicon LEDs that may potentially be produced on large areas as well as at low costs, the nanoparticle community enters new territory, the associated potentials of which can hardly be estimated today. But presumably, textbooks about semiconductor components have to be rewritten," says Geoffrey A. Ozin, who is presently working as a KIT distinguished research fellow at KIT's Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN).

One of the most significant advantages of these new SiLEDs, though, is that they do not contain heavy metals, and rely only on cheap, highly abundant materials.

The new technology will be explained in detail in the journal Nano Letters.

Image Credit: F. Maier-Flaig, KIT/LTI

LEDs Without Heavy Metals, Silicon Nanocrystal Multicolor LEDs Created 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.

2012 Solar Predictions Reviewed

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 07:00 AM PST

It took me awhile to get to this one, but this article by Rosana Francescato (originally published on the PV Solar Report) gives a pretty thorough overview of how various 2012 solar predictions fared. Of course, when reviewing predictions from numerous sources, there’s going to be quite a bit of variation (as Rosana notes at one point), but I think she did a good job. Here’s the full piece:

By Rosana Francescato

Yogi Berra might have been referring to the solar industry when he said, "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." But that never stops people from trying! As we look back at the many predictions about the solar industry for 2012, it's instructive to see how they stacked up to reality.

The beginning of the year brought a mixed bag of forecasts, as the industry looked forward to continuing growth coupled with serious risks — an oversupply of panels, diminishing subsidies in the U.S. and Europe, and a trade war with China.

Predictions for 2012 were numerous and all over the map. But some clear trends emerged.

Global predictions

We'll see consolidation as the industry matures.

One thing everyone from GigaOM to Renewable Energy World to the New York Times seemed to agree on for 2012 was that the solar industry was due for a lot of consolidation — which was only to be expected in a competitive emerging industry. This bid for survival of the fittest, many argued, would lead to a stronger industry with clear winners, those who could provide the best products at the best prices.

VERDICTmostly sunny Predictions were close.

Bankruptcies and consolidations have indeed continued in 2012. But the shakeout is far from over. A Green Tech Media report released late last year predicted that another 180 solar panel makers will likely go out of business or be bought by 2015. In fact, at the end of 2012 China announced it's encouraging consolidations and letting some of its weaker manufacturers go out of business. That's likely a positive move on the part of China, one that will result in a stronger manufacturing industry overall. Consolidation is also expected to continue with downstream players. And we're seeing panel manufacturers get into the development business, either on their own or with partners — which some consider key to the future of Western solar manufacturing. We'll watch these trends in 2013, as the industry's evolution continues to play out.

19 – 29 GW will be installed globally, 2.8 GW in the U.S.

While Energy Trend forecast only 19 GW in global installations for 2012, most others had higher expectations. HSBC predicted a flat market with 25.5 GW of global solar installations in 2012, down from 2011's 27.4 GW, whileIMS Research expected 26–29 GW of new PV capacity in 2012. A good year was expected in the U.S., with total installations forecast at 2.8 GW. CleanTechnica didn't provide specific figures but predicted record amounts of solar installations in the U.S., for both homes and businesses.

VERDICT: mostly cloudy Predictions were mostly off — but in a good way!

Solar installations both worldwide and in the U.S. exceeded expectations. The SEIA/GTM 2012 Q3 report forecast 31 GW in global demand, and as more information became available IHS reported that totals reached 32 GW. For the U.S, the SEIA/GTM report forecast a total of 3.2 GW of PV installed in 2012, up from 1.9 GW in 2011.

CleanTechnica was likely not surprised that numerous stories appeared last year about well-known corporationslike IKEA, Walmart, Costco, FedEx, Kohl's, Crayola, Apple, and Google going solar in the U.S. Schools and government agencies, including the Department of Defense, also increasingly found that solar made sense for them.

What does this all mean? We're talking 70% growth in the U.S. installation market over 2011, with an expected growth rate of 14% worldwide. That's not too shabby for an industry experiencing so many challenges.

We'll face an oversupply of panels.

An oversupply has been predicted since 2009, and last year was no exception. This wasn't a controversial prediction, given that it was really about a continuation of an already existing situation. By the middle of 2012, Bloomberg New Energy Finance was forecasting that demand for solar will not match supply until at least 2014.

VERDICT: sunny Predictions were spot-on.

The end of the year found us with a continued oversupply, which many feared would weaken the industry. There's a bright spot, though, in addition to cheaper prices for installers and consumers: China's response to the oversupply has been a decision to add 10 GW of solar generating capacity in 2013 and possibly get to 40 GW by 2015, in part to help their manufacturers. One thing to watch will be how successful they are in connecting all that solat to their grid. But in any case, the huge supply of panels has lowered the cost of solar, already resulting in more installations worldwide — that's a good trend to keep going.

Asia and other markets will become more important.

Speaking of China, that country was expected to add between 2.8 and 5 GW of solar as Asia's role increased in 2012, making up for declines in European markets. Some predicted that India would also become a major solar player. Outside of Asia, other markets such as the Middle East and Latin America were predicted to grow.

VERDICT: mostly sunny Predictions were close.

Of note was that China installed even more solar generating capacity than expected, coming in at 7 GW, more than double the 2011 figure. India's solar industry, meanwhile, is experiencing some growing pains – that doesn't mean that growth won't continue, but it may have been slower than expected for 2012. Other Asian countries are adopting feed-in tariffs and other programs to accelerate solar adoption, while Latin America is still talked about in terms of potential. 2012 brought some surprises, among them Saudi Arabia — a country whose desire to make profits from importing oil rather than using it at home is leading it to invest $109 billion in solar, with the goal of generating a third of its power from solar by 2032.

The trade war with China will adversely affect the market.

As a decision was awaited on the trade complaint filed by some American manufacturers, analysts pointed out that the trade war could hurt the solar industry, that there's no winner in a trade war, and that there might be more cons than pros to imposing tariffs.

VERDICT: rainy Predictions were off, at least for 2012.

While cheap panels from China have certainly fueled much of the industry's growth, the November imposition of tariffs by the ITC happened too late in the year for many effects to be felt yet — plus some Chinese panel makers have thwarted the objectives of the tariffs by routing exports through Taiwan and other locations. Tensions mounted late last year amid rumors that Europe was also getting into the trade war action with China, but as of early this year, an EU trade war seems to be off the table. This will be one to watch in 2013. The question remains whether the industry can continue its upward trajectory without an infusion of cheap panels. But other factors will play into that, such as attempts to reduce soft costs, and additional feed-in tariffs in some areas.

The financial scene

Diminishing grants and subsidies will hurt the industry.

In the U.S., the 1603 Treasury grant program was not extended into 2012, causing concerns that without this incentive, many solar projects would not happen. Meanwhile, feed-in tariffs in Europe were facing reductions, leading many to wonder about the fate of solar in Italy and Germany.

VERDICT: rainy Predictions were off.

The expiration of the 1603 program hasn't yet had far-reaching effects — that may be because projects qualified for the grant if panels were purchased in 2011, as some astute observers noted even early in 2012. In addition, many other factors, including the decreasing costs of solar, might mitigate this effect. That can also be said of areas where feed-in tariffs are on the decline. While feed-in tariffs have been shown to quickly boost an area's solar industry, some countries that once strongly supported them are moving to broader adoption of other models, such as PPAs. In addition, other markets have taken up the slack for Europe, as noted above, and some countries are still introducing feed-in tariffs.

The solar market will be flat at best, with shrinking revenues likely.

Oversupplies and price declines, coupled with weak economies and cuts to tariffs and subsidies in some regions, were expected to shrink revenues or keep them flat in spite of growth in megawatts installed. EnergyTrend expected no rapid growth till 2013.

VERDICT: sunny Predictions were spot-on.

While this year brought considerable growth in terms of GW installed, revenues (system prices multiplied by total GW installed) did not fare so well. According to IHS research, revenues fell from $94 billion in 2011 to $77 billion in 2012. The good news is that they're expected to pick up by 2014 — this will be another trend to watch.

Solar will get cheaper, helping more areas achieve grid parity.

Most expectations were that prices of solar technologies would drop, and that falling prices coupled with rising electricity rates would encourage installations even where subsidies were ending. SunRun put numbers to this, predicting a 20% drop in price. And according to John Farrell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, solar has already reached grid parity in many areas, a trend that he expected to continue in 2012 and beyond.

VERDICT: sunny Predictions were spot-on.

A report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed that costs of solar systems in the U.S. continued to decline in 2012. And the SEIA Solar Market Insight Report found a decline in average installed costs of 19.3% – making SunRun's prediction quite close. While this is great news for installers and consumers, lower costs are putting pressure on manufacturers. But many analysts believe that this will help the industry in the long run — and when you look at the increases in installations worldwide, it's hard to disagree with that.

Solar will get more expensive.

Okay, this one may be an anomaly, but it just shows how hard it is to find "agreement parity" when it comes to analyzing solar. A forecast for the year in Renewable Energy World strayed from the crowd, arguing that prices have to increase to a healthy level and predicting that they would do so by the end of 2012.

VERDICT: rainy Predictions were off.

As noted above, prices continued to fall in 2012. It will be interesting to see if 2013 brings a price increase in the U.S., as tariffs are imposed on Chinese panels. On the other hand, decreases in soft costs could offset that. Time will tell!

New financing options will become more prominent.

PPAs and solar leasing options were expected to become more widespread in 2012. SunRun estimated that leases would account for about 75% of the California solar market.

VERDICT: sunny Predictions were spot-on.

In fact, Tom Kimbis of the SEIA attributes the growth in solar installations in 2012 to financial innovations. And leases and PPAs, though not new in 2012, became more widespread. By March, these options already accounted for 73.4% of residential solar installations in California. For those who can't get solar on their own roof, we're also seeing growth in crowdfunding and impact investing options — another trend to watch in the coming year.

More jobs will be created in the solar industry.

I was surprised not to see more predictions on solar jobs for 2012. But a few sources did note that there wasbound to be an upswing, not surprising since that correlates with predictions for industry growth. The 2011 National Solar Jobs Census predicted installation firms in the U.S. would add 13,000 jobs in 2012, while manufacturing and sales would account for another 9,500 jobs.

VERDICT: mostly sunny Predictions were close.

In spite of some layoffs last year, the Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census 2012 reported that 119,016 Americans were employed in the solar industry as of mid-November 2012, representing an employment growth rate of 13.2% over the previous 12 months — compared to a rate of 2.3% for the overall economy. In fact, solar accounted for 1 out of every 230 jobs created in the U.S. last year.

The solar stock market will be a mixed bag, with stocks going up but solar IPOs remaining rare.

GigaOM was not alone in predicting a slow year for IPOs, noting that after a rough 2011, most companies would wait to see a few successful solar IPOs before attempting it themselves. Meanwhile, some analysts expectedsolar stocks to be on the rise.

VERDICT: sunny Predictions were spot-on.

March saw the Enphase IPO, while Brightsource withdrew from their expected IPO soon after. But by the end of the year, solar stocks had benefited from a post-election boost and SolarCity had managed an IPO. It's worth noting that the IPOs brought in less capital than hoped for. But it's a start, and 2013 started with a surge in solar stocks, when a Warren Buffet company bought two solar power plants.

Surprises

As hard as it is to make predictions, while we're focused on making the attempt, events we never anticipated are in the works. 2012 brought a few interesting surprises — and even some of the negative events of the year bode well for the future of solar.

Americans support solar and other renewables.

In spite of a lot of negative media, Americans love solar! A study in May found that the average American is willing to pay 13% more a year for power to support a national clean-energy standard. And a September poll of likely voters showed that 92% of Americans support developing more solar, and a majority even want the government to support solar with tax credits and other financial incentives.

A major coal company admitted climate change is real and coal is on the outs.

When even coal companies admit there's a problem with coal, you know there's change in the air. And that's just what happened in 2012, when BHP Billiton announced it would retrofit one if its coal-exporting facilities against significant weather events. BHP executive Marcus Randolph even said, "In a carbon constrained world where energy coal is the biggest contributor to a carbon problem … I suspect the usage of thermal coal is going to decline. And frankly it should."

Superstorm Sandy brought attention to climate change.

And what more evidence did we need than Sandy? For those not convinced by a coal company's pronouncement, the images of Sandy's devastation should serve as a wake-up call. If that's not enough, there's the bill. With some estimates for its costs as high as $71 billion, Sandy provides further evidence that an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure, making solar all the more attractive. And the Solar Sandy Project was just one example of how solar can come to the rescue in disasters.

Looking ahead

Even in a rough year for solar, we saw significant increases in installations globally, and the U.S. industry is booming. People are realizing that solar makes economic sense — the main motivation for so many businesses and schools to be jumping on the solar bandwagon. Couple that with the public's increasing awareness of climate change, and the climate looks good for solar.

The Economist, a most rational publication, goes so far as to predict that renewables, especially solar, will become the new normal. They're expecting that trend to start taking root this year. And of all the predictions and trends, that will be the most interesting to watch. We'll check back in a year to see how this year's predictions fare, and to see how far along we are on the road to solar as the new normal.

2012 Solar Predictions Reviewed 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 Megafactory Video

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 06:48 AM PST

National Geographic recently produced a 45-minute video on the Tesla “megafactory” in Fremont, California. Of course, it’s also a video on Tesla as a whole, the Model S, Elon Musk, and a potential electric vehicle revolution. It’s worth a watch. In fact, as Chris Demorro of Gas2 writes, “this is a must-watch for any Tesla or EV fan.” Really, I think it’s a must-watch for anyone who is interested in the future of the world or cars in general. Check it out here:

Tesla Megafactory 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.

Solar Frontier Predicts 50% Cut In Price Of Its Thin-Film Solar Modules

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 05:00 AM PST

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy:

Showa Shell, the Japanese subsidiary of global oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, has predicted that its solar unit Solar Frontier will be able to cut production costs of its solar modules by half in the next few years as it seeks to emerge as one of the world's biggest solar module manufacturers.

Some pundits are convinced that the dramatic price plunge that has accompanied a glut in solar panels will be reversed once the market returns to balance, but such predictions ignore the ongoing cost reductions being achieved by solar module manufacturers.

Last week, US manufacturer SunPower (majority owned by another international oil major, Total) said it had reduced costs by 25 per cent in 2012 and expected reductions to continue this year.

Showa Shell, which owns Solar Frontier, said it expected the cost of its thin-filmed CIGS (copper, indium, gallium and serenium) solar panels to fall by half by 2017. Last month, the company announced it had gained an energy conversion efficiency record of 19.7 per cent, breaking a 10-year record for thin-film modules, and without the use of cadmium.

The 50 per cent cost reduction target was outlined by Showa Shell president Jun Arai this week as part of a five-year management plan that aimed to elevate Solar Frontier to among the leading solar manufacturers in the world, reclaiming a position that Japanese solar firms once dominated in the 1990s before the emergence of German and then Chinese manufacturers. "Once we gain a foothold in Japan, we want to gain ground in the international market," Arai told the briefing. Solar Frontier is regarded as one of the closest competitors to thin-film industry leader, the U.S. based First Solar.

Solar Frontier thin film panels at Coober Pedy airport in Australia.

Solar Frontier thin film panels at Coober Pedy airport in Australia.

The latest push is being supported by Japan's newly introduced feed-in-tariffs for solar following the Fukushima nuclear crisis that is expected to create the world's third biggest market in solar panels in 2013, with demand of around 4,500MW. The Japanese manufacturer Sharp has similar ambitions.

Solar Frontier has recently completed a new 900MW module factory in Kunitomi that produces panels with a 13 per cent efficiency and is looking at upgrading a recently closed 60MW plant to take account of recent technical developments. Showa Shell began research on solar panels in 1978 and investigating CIGS modules in 1993. It posted revenue of $833 million in 2012 and recorded its first positive quarterly income in the fourth quarter.

Under the heading "Mega solar market in Japan is booming!", Showa Shell said in its recent annual report that it is currently building seven solar PV installations of between 1MW and 5.3MW, all of which will be completed    this year, and is installing rooftop panels on 2,000 stores of one major Japanese retailer. It also formed a joint venture with Belectric, a German group which this year said it was looking to build its first solar PV plant in Australia.

It is also working on developing CZTS (copper, zinc, tin, sulfur, and selenium) thin-film solar modules, which it describes as the "next-generation" solar module technology, and recently claimed an energy conversion efficiency of 11.1 per cent with that technology.

Solar Frontier Predicts 50% Cut In Price Of Its Thin-Film Solar Modules 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.

The External Costs Of Fossil Fuels Are Large

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 04:30 AM PST

daniel weissThe following is the testimony of Daniel J. Weiss before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements (PDF), reposted from the Center for American Progress Action Fund:

Chairman Lankford, Ranking Member Speier, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on "The Effects of Rising Energy Costs on American Families and Employers."

When considering energy prices, there are three primary considerations.

  1. Fossil fuel prices do not include the costs of their side effects such as air pollution and the associated health care costs for premature deaths or asthma attacks.
  2. The Obama administration has adopted important policies to reduce energy costs for middle- and lower-income families.
  3. Expanding domestic oil production in protected lands and waters will not lower gasoline prices, but high gasoline prices yield high oil company profits for companies receiving huge tax breaks.

Fossil fuel-generated energy has real external costs

  • When assessing the effects on rising energy costs, it is essential that this evaluation also include their external costs—and who pays them. This includes the following expenses:
  • Mercury and toxic pollution from power plants threaten children, senior citizens, and the infirm with brain impairment or respiratory illnesses. Reducing these pollutants will return $3 to $9 in health benefits for every $1 in cleanup costs.
  • Coal-fired power plants produce one-third of all the climate pollution in the United States.
  • Climate change has real costs to our economy. The National Journal, for instance, reported that the drought will reduce Mississippi River barge traffic, resulting in "losses of about $7 billion through the end of January, according to the barging industry."
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that in 2011 to 2012 there were 25 floods, droughts, storms, heat waves, and wildfires that each caused at least $1 billion in damages. Together, these severe events caused 1,100 fatalities and up to $188 billion in total damages.
  • Pollution reductions internalize some of these costs of pollution so that they are paid for by the fuel users rather than by everyone.

The Obama administration has adopted important policies to reduce energy costs

  • Doubling the fuel economy of passenger vehicles will reduce gasoline purchases by $8,000 over the life of a 2025 car. It will be like getting $1 off the price of a gallon of gasoline.
  • The Department of Energy set efficiency standards for nearly 40 different appliances that together will "save consumers nearly $350 billion on their energy bills through 2030."
  • The Weatherization Assistance Program weatherized its 1 millionth home in 2012. The Department of Energy estimates that this saves "a family up to $400 a year on heating and cooling costs."
  • I agree with Mr. Trisko that those concerned about the impact of energy prices on lower-income households should restore the recent funding cuts in the Weatherization and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs. Eliminating special tax breaks for the big five oil companies would provide $2.4 billion annually to offset them.

Expanding domestic oil production into protected lands and waters will not lower gasoline prices, even though the United States is already producing the most oil in 15 years

  • Oil prices are set on a world market not really affected by domestic production. Two-thirds of the gasoline price is based on the oil price. Therefore, higher U.S. oil production has little effect on gasoline prices here.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that federal lands and waters produced 2 billion barrels of oil from 2009 to 2011, and only 1.8 million barrels from 2006 to 2008—13 percent more.
  • The Associated Press tested whether more U.S. drilling would lower gasoline prices. After analyzing 36 years of monthly U.S. oil-production and gasoline-price data, the Associated Press found "no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump."
  • High oil and gasoline prices do benefit the big five oil companies: BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell. They made a combined profit of $255 billion in the last two years—an average of $1,000 in profit for each vehicle on the road.
  • Yet these big oil companies retain their special tax breaks, which annually are worth $2.4 billion, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Conclusion

To protect American families and businesses from high energy prices, we must:

  • Reduce the pollution caused by fossil fuel use
  • Continue to improve efficiency of vehicles, appliances, and buildings
  • Fully fund the Weatherization and Liheap programs
  • Eliminate unnecessary tax breaks for the big five oil companies, which are already swimming in profits

Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The External Costs Of Fossil Fuels Are Large 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.

America Isn’t Always #1 (Future360 Video)

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 04:14 AM PST

The United States prides itself on being “#1.” Unfortunately, we actually aren’t number one on a long list of things, and we’re pretty far down there on some important indices.

In this video and post below, Sarah Backhouse of Future360 runs down a few of the cleantech categories in which we aren’t #1:

Operation Cleantech pt 3: America the Loser

By Sarah Backhouse

In part three of Operation Cleantech, we ask everyday Americans how it feels like to lose. While trying not to get punched in the face in the process. America has always been a world leader. We put man on the moon. We invented flight, light and the iPad. But when it comes to cleantech, we’re trailing behind the rest of the world.

Here are some sobering facts: China gets 15% of its energy from renewables, where we only get 8%; Israel ranks higher than the US on the Global Cleantech Innovation Index; Brazil is kicking our butt with biofuel production; and even Finland is out innovating us with green design.

This was news to our friends in downtown LA, who were eager to get off oil and gas, and push forward on cleantech like the rest of the world.

America Isn’t Always #1 (Future360 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.

Nice Graphs: Sunrise

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 04:04 AM PST

This article was originally published on Renew Economy.

The California energy market operator has a fantastic new graphic display that tracks the daily (and hourly) contribution of wind, solar and other renewables to the state's electricity market, which we are highlighting as today's graph of the day.

The data is hosted by the Independent System Operator (ISO), whose motto is "shaping a renewed future" (an idea, perhaps, for the AEMO), and is providing important data as the state ramps up its renewables target from its current levels of around 20 per cent to 33 per cent by 2020.

This graph of the day below is the latest provided by the ISO's Daily Renewables Watch, and the second graph is a random one from December. Both are notable for the inclusion of solar thermal, and the ability of new storage technology in extending the solar thermal output into the evening hours will be interesting to watch – as will the results in the northern summer months to come.

(Most of the solar in the Californian electricity market comes from utility scale installations – which is why they are visible on the market operator's calculations. Most of Australia's solar generation comes from rooftop solar, so is more or less invisible to the grid operator, except as negative demand).

People can scan the various days' output on the ISO site – some times a lot of wind, some times a lot of solar, some times a lot of both, or not a lot of either, and their relationship with demand flows to help prosecute whichever argument they want to make about renewables.

But the mix of biomass, geothermal, hydro and wind and solar presents an interesting graph. When they get to 33 per cent – and more storage is brought on line – it will be fascinating to see how it impacts on the peaks and on other generation – fossil fuel and imports.

sunrise california

sunrise graph california

Nice Graphs: Sunrise 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.

Bulk Solar Electricity Production (VIDEO)

Posted: 23 Feb 2013 12:10 AM PST

Continuing on with our daily series on Leonardo ENERGY videos, here’s one on the topic of “bulk solar electricity production” (or, more specifically, CSP and CPV):

 

Bulk Solar Electricity Production (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.

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