- Nanoantenna Solar Cell Efficiency Can Blow Silicon Out Of The Water
- Who Gets the Last Laugh on the Sally Jewell Nomination?
- Other Cleantech & Environment News: Cameron’s Green Economy Speech, Obama Nominates Sally Jewell For US Interior Secretary,…
- Climate Change News: Boston Mayor Calls For Climate Change Preparation, Lisa Jackson Convinced Obama Serious On Climate Action,…
- Transport News: Toyota i-Road Concept, UPS Deploys EVs, 1/3 Of Ford Dealerships About To Be EV-Certified,…
- Wind News: Siemens Launches 4MW Offshore Wind Turbine, Vestas Annual Report Released, Ecotricity To Enter Urban Turbine Market,…
- Solar News: GM Joins SEIA, Suntech Plans $10-Million Factory In Uzbekistan, FiTs Cut,…
- China Accounted For 35% Of Global Onshore Wind Capacity
- IEA Reviews Sweden’s Low-Carbon Successes and Future
- Little Black Box For Big Green Motors Could Save Billions
- Connecting EVs & The Grid — NREL Takes The Lead
- Scoping Out Renewable Energy Technology, Markets, And Barriers
- Coal Cooling Towers Come Crashing Down (VIDEOS)
- Interview With Robert F Kennedy Jr On Environmental Activism, Democratization Of Energy, & More
- Wind Power Breaks Records In Spain — Produces More Electricity Than Any Other Source For 3 Months, & Breaks 6 TWh in January
Posted: 07 Feb 2013 12:00 AM PST
Today, conventional silicon solar cells are 10% to 20% efficient (this means that they generate 100 watts to 200 watts per square metre of cells respectively). These conventional panels are already in use worldwide, and they do work, however, more efficient panels would still be very helpful in multiple ways.
There is a theoretical technology that involves using nano-sized rectenna — or rectifying antenna – which, as the name implies can absorb and rectify solar energy into direct current (DC).
It can achieve a theoretical maximum of 70% efficiency, which is stunning by any standard; only hydroelectric power plants can surpass this level of efficiency. The efficiency of all the other power plants is below 50%, except combined cycle natural gas plants.
Unfortunately, this concept has been limited because scientists do not know how to construct and test it. Researchers at the University of Connecticut may have the answer to this puzzle, however. It is called selective area atomic layer deposition (ALD).
According to Phys.org, ALD is what it would take to finally manufacture a working prototype of this recent type of solar cell.
“In a rectenna device, one of the two interior electrodes must have a sharp tip, similar to the point of a triangle. The secret is getting the tip of that electrode within one or two nanometers of the opposite electrode, something similar to holding the point of a needle to the plane of a wall.”
The integration of solar panels into devices is far cheaper than paying contractors to construct mounting equipment and putting the panels on the roof, and integrated panels that are 70% efficient can power laptops and cellphone on a smaller scale as well. A 60 watt panel of this type could be mounted on a 17 inch notebook computer, for example.
More efficient solar panels are also smaller, and hence can be installed at a lower cost than conventional ones.
Nanoantenna Solar Cell Efficiency Can Blow Silicon Out Of The Water 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 07:34 PM PST
The last time we caught up with Sally Jewell, the CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (better known as REI), she was being interviewed on stage to kick off the 2011 Net Impact conference, where she shared her insights into such things as using energy conservation to boost profits, and how to monitor global supply chain impacts.
Well, a lot has happened since then. Under Jewell’s leadership, REI has stepped up its sustainability profile while boasting a healthy bottom line, and as for Jewell herself, just yesterday President Obama nominated her to be his new Secretary of the Interior.
That’s touched off quite a bit of speculation as to the future direction of the Department of the Interior, especially as pressure mounts from the fossil fuel industry to allow more drilling on public lands. So, let’s take a look and see where things are heading.
REI and Stewardship
REI began life as a buying co-op in the 1930′s, when a group of Pacific Northwest outdoor enthusiasts combined their purchasing power to lay their hands on hard-to-find, high quality gear.
That combination of love for outdoor adventure with commercial smarts is REI’s guiding principle to this day, as described in the company’s website:
“…together we can prepare the next generation of environmental stewards and protect nature’s legacy of trails, rivers and wild lands for years to come. By combining the highest quality outdoor products and staff expertise in a welcoming environment with meaningful programs that encourage outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship, we will be successful in helping to inspire, educate and outfit our members and other customers—from novice to the highly accomplished—for a lifetime of outdoor adventures.”
REI and Sustainability
Customer education is just one element in REI’s sustainability track record. Volunteer conservation projects also play an important role, and the company’s greenhouse gas emissions goals include achieving “climate-neutral” operations by 2020.
Green buildings, sustainable forestry and energy conservation are also key parts of the picture.
Since the economic crash of 2008, REI has proved that retail companies can thrive, even in a major recession, while taking major steps toward more sustainable operations. In its 2011 sustainability report, for example, REI described a strategy that includes climate-neutral company travel policies with more efficient shipping procedures, among other elements. As a result, though the company expanded its stores and sales increased 14 percent from 2009 to 2010, REI measured a climate impact increase of only 7.3 percent.
In more recent actions, REI was among the vanguard of companies eliminating wasteful plastic “clamshell” packaging, and in 2011 it became a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
Sally Jewell, Stewardship and Sustainability
As an outdoors enthusiast and CEO of a successful company that has corporate social responsibility flowing through its veins, Sally Jewell seems like a reasonable choice to guide the nation’s irreplaceable national heritage on a sustainable path to the future.
But we’re not the only ones who are optimistic about President Obama’s choice.
To get a sense of the early feedback we went to Politico.com, a news website that is not particularly identified with liberal or progressive leanings (to say the least). Reporters Andrew Restuccia and Darren Goode note that while Sally Jewell is a board member of the National Parks Conservation Association, she also has a background in the fossil fuel industry, having started her career as a petroleum engineer for Mobil (before the Exxon merger).
In particular, Restuccia and Goode cite Tim Wigley, President of the Western Energy Alliance, who said:
“…her experience as a petroleum engineer and business leader will bring a unique perspective to an office that is key to our nation's energy portfolio."
That’s actually a pretty good sign. Despite its problematic place in the sustainable energy landscape, fossil fuel harvesting did enable the U.S. to grow its economy over more than a century while accommodating a skyrocketing population. Try doing that on firewood, and there wouldn’t be a stick of wood left in all of North America.
Now that new technologies are opening up new energy potentials, fossil fuels will eventually fade into the background, just as firewood and actual four-legged horsepower have done. They are still there, they just don’t dominate.
Under the current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, DOI has emerged as a strong player in the new energy future, for example by partnering with the Defense Department to develop more renewable energy on public land.
DOI has also been instrumental in offshore wind power development, most notably by promoting a consortium of Atlantic Coast states to work together on regional offshore wind power generation, including the massive Cape Wind project.
However, the fact is that right now we’re still in a transitional period. As someone with one foot in the fossil fuel industry and another in a more sustainable future, Sally Jewell seems perfectly capable of keeping that transition on a positive track.
Who Gets the Last Laugh on the Sally Jewell Nomination? 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 03:42 PM PST
Anything to add?
Other Cleantech & Environment News: Cameron’s Green Economy Speech, Obama Nominates Sally Jewell For US Interior Secretary,… 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 03:18 PM PST
Here’s some top global warming and climate change news and commentary from around the interwebs from the past couple days or so (including climate policy stories):
Anything to add?
Climate Change News: Boston Mayor Calls For Climate Change Preparation, Lisa Jackson Convinced Obama Serious On Climate Action,… was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 02:59 PM PST
For those obsessed with clean transport, here’s some top transport news and commentary from the past couple days or so (from CleanTechnica & other sites):
Transport News: Toyota i-Road Concept, UPS Deploys EVs, 1/3 Of Ford Dealerships About To Be EV-Certified,… 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 02:32 PM PST
For the wind-obsessed, here are some top wind energy stories from the past couple days or so:
Wind News: Siemens Launches 4MW Offshore Wind Turbine, Vestas Annual Report Released, Ecotricity To Enter Urban Turbine Market,… 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 02:20 PM PST
For the solar-obsessed, here’s some of the top solar news from the past couple days (incidentally, this is our 3,000th post in the solar energy category):
Solar News: GM Joins SEIA, Suntech Plans $10-Million Factory In Uzbekistan, FiTs Cut,… 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 06:30 AM PST
New figures compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance find that China installed 15.9 gigawatts (GW) of wind power in 2012, a number which accounts for 35 percent of the world’s new onshore wind capacity.
Astonishingly this is actually an 18 percent drop from 2011′s record of 19.3 GW, a drop blamed on grid connection issues.
This is the fourth year in a row since 2009 that China has ranked top of newly installed onshore wind capacity when they took the place from the United States. The US installed 13.2GW in 2012, a record figure for the country, but still 14 percent fewer turbines than China.
Electricity generated by onshore wind has become China’s third-largest energy source behind coal and hydropower, totalling 61 GW of cumulative grid-connected wind energy capacity – 5.3% of the country's total nameplate – and generating 2% of its total electricity.
"2012 was a good year for the Chinese wind industry, considering how tough the environment was," commented Demi Zhu, China wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "The industry faced many problems including a reluctance by the grid operator to buy all the intermittent electricity produced by wind farms, plus stricter permitting requirements, unpaid subsidies and vigorous government efforts to cool down the industry's rate of expansion."
Financial investment for wind energy in China fell by 12 percent to $27.2 billion in 2012 according to data gathered by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, however this has in turn meant that the same dollar amount of investment committed during 2012 financed 10 percent more megawatts than if it had been invested during 2011.
On top of that, Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that a distressing 15 GW was unconnected to the national grid.
"This year however, project approvals have sped up and we forecast a modest recovery in both financing activity and construction in 2013," Zhu said.
Looking forward, Bloomberg New Energy Finance are forecasting 16.6 GW of installations for China in 2013, followed by 17 to 18 GW in both 2014 and 2015, rates of increase which would help the Chinese government reach their end-2015 target of 100 GW of grid-connected new energy capacity a year early. In fact, according to GTM Research's China Wind Market Quarterly, China is likely to shatter that goal by reaching 150 GW by year-end 2015.
"The fact that China wind overtook nuclear as a generation source even in its most challenging year of recent times is a testament to the massive scale and momentum of the industry in this country,” Zhu said. Only 0.7 GW of nuclear was installed during 2012, allowing wind energy to become the third largest source of energy, a figure backed up by the China Wind Energy Association in a new report released late last month.
China is regularly in the news here on Cleantechnica, exceeding new energy installation records and putting to shame industrialised nations. For sure, China has a more immediate problem to solve — a booming population and horrendously pollutant-driven energy generation — and a massive industry to throw at the problem, but it seems to me that nations across the planet could take lessons from the drive behind China’s new energy revolution.
China Accounted For 35% Of Global Onshore Wind Capacity 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 05:30 AM PST
One of the world’s lowest-carbon economies belongs to Sweden, who are seeking to achieve a fossil-fuel-independent vehicle fleet by 2030 and no net greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.
Bold golds in an era where bold is the only way we’re going to see real lasting change.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently reviewed Sweden’s energy policies and determined that the country must now identify viable pathways and technologies to meet these objectives at least cost and with minimum risk to energy security.
Among the key recommendations, the report calls for:
"Sweden is already a global leader in providing low-carbon energy to its people. For Sweden to decarbonise further, it must boost energy efficiency in the manufacturing, transport and buildings sectors; expand the share of renewables in the energy mix beyond 2020; and wean its vehicle fleet off of fossil fuels," said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as she presented the review. "Emission reductions in industry will not come forward without clean energy technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS)."
The report — entitled Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Sweden 2013 Review and which is available for purchase at the IEA Bookshop – commends Sweden for its leadership in energy research and development. Sweden is a world leader when it comes to CO2 emissions per GDP and CO2 emissions per capita, and they are also home to the world’s first Plantagon greenhouse for urban farming.
Sweden has also made strides with it’s renewable electricity certificate system which, according to the IEA, has been increasing renewable energy supply without increasing the cost to customers. The renewable electricity certificate system also includes Norway in a joint market situation which is benefiting both countries.
According to the report, Sweden’s electricity supply is almost completely bare of carbon, with a very low share of fossil fuels in its energy mix thanks to strong energy and CO2 taxation in areas not currently covered by the European Union carbon market. Sweden’s CO2 is relegated to their transport and industry sectors.
Furthermore, Sweden will decommission and replace their existing nuclear reactors when they reach the end of their lifespans.
Such a push for renewable energy independence is vital in Sweden, a country with a very energy-intensive economy, due to a broad manufacturing base, which results in high electricity consumption per capita.
IEA Reviews Sweden’s Low-Carbon Successes and Future 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 04:49 AM PST
A modest looking black box from AC Kinetics, Inc. is a good example of the cutting edge green technology to be showcased at the Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C. on February 25. Inside that box is new software called ACKS, which could lead to the next generation of energy efficient electric motors. Even without taking electric vehicles into consideration we’re talking about a gigantic chunk of U.S. and global energy consumption.
How gigantic? The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been pushing hard for energy efficiency improvements since at least 1993, when it estimated that the U.S. industrial sector was using more than 40 million electric motors which consumed almost 70 percent of all electricity used in that sector.
Billions Saved with Green Technology
Back in 1993, DOE challenged green tech innovators to come up with electric motor energy efficiency solutions that would achieve an annual savings of 5 billion kilowatt hours by 2000. Translated into greenbacks, that would mean about $250 million in cost savings and a 1.2 million metric ton reduction in carbon emissions.
The agency also hoped for broader applications that could result in an annual savings of 100 billion kwH by 2010.
Fast-forward to 2013, and according to AC Kintetics President Dr. Neil Singer the company’s new software results in a savings of at least 10 percent on up to the 40 percent range.
Going by Dr. Singer’s figures, electric motors consume about 45 percent of all electricity globally, about two-thirds of which goes to the industrial sector. The annual “global spend” on that is about $570 billion, so even a ten percent efficiency improvement would translate into a significant reduction in carbon pollution worldwide.
In its press materials, the company anticipates that globally the new software will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 26 million tons (that’s U.S. tons) and reduce electricity consumption by 104 billion kwH.
Software for More Energy Efficient Motors
AC Kinetics’s new software is based on nonlinear optimization theory, which translates into hardware as the production of high performance while reducing waste energy, which would otherwise be released as heat.
In an interesting twist, the high tech software is aimed at alternating current induction motors, the basic technology for which dates back to the early 19th century (induction motors are based on rotating magnetic fields).
AC Kinetics solves one key problem that became apparent for electric motors as the energy efficiency issue was being tackled in the 1990′s. The expense of making further improvements at the hardware end appeared to be prohibitive, at least in terms of direct economic returns.
As a software solution, ACKS runs right around that obstacle. It is designed to be compatible with existing motors across all sectors including consumer and transportation as well as industrial. Yes, that means electric vehicles, too.
Basically, ACKS automatically controls and adjusts the motor in real time so it generates torque (torque refers to force acting on an object, causing it to rotate) with the greatest possible efficiency, while smoothing over unpredictable changes in load and other disturbances.
That’s in contrast to current methods for “tuning” motors more or less by hand, which aside from being a relatively cumbersome procedure involves additional equipment and instrumentation.
According to the company, aside from efficiency improvements leading to lower costs and reduced carbon emissions, ACKS keeps the motor running cooler, which can help extend the life of the equipment and reduce maintenance costs.
Comment Thread is Open!
The last time we covered the Energy Innovation Summit, it was a post titled “Man-Made Wind for the Wind Turbines of the Future,” and boy did we hear from our readers on that one.
We won’t single out anyone, but if you skim through the comment thread you’ll come away with the impression that whoever is running the Energy Innovation Summit lacks a basic knowledge of physics.
That’s kind of funny because the Energy Innovation Summit is run by ARPA-E, DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the technologies that it showcases are selected competitively.
As for Dr. Singer’s rather ambitious allusion to the global reach of ACKS, as it turns out this is not AC Kintetics’s first foray into motor control. Singer’s first invention was designed to reduce noise and vibrations. It was patented by MIT and according to the company it is now in use on “hundreds of millions of machines world-wide,” from computer disk drives to utility cranes.
Image: Energy efficient motor software courtesy of AC Kinetics
Little Black Box For Big Green Motors Could Save Billions 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 04:30 AM PST
Engineers working at the Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility (VTIF) enjoy a stunning view of the Denver skyline. However, some days the view includes Denver’s ‘brown cloud’ — air pollution caused in part by vehicle emissions. While disheartening, the brown cloud helps the engineers focus on future technologies that will drastically reduce — and ultimately eliminate — those emissions.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are advancing a more sustainable transportation future by incorporating advanced electric vehicle technology, expanded use of renewable energy resources for vehicle charging, and grid integration.
“Our goal is to target the key innovations necessary to accelerate the rate of adoption for electric drive vehicles,” said Bob Rehn, group manager for testing and analysis at NREL’s Center for Transportation Technologies and Systems (CTTS). “In addition, our efforts are focused on scenarios that will incorporate expanded use of renewable energy resources to charge those vehicles.”
The Right Tool for the Job
The VTIF, which has been in operation for just over a year, was built with a specific focus on testing electric vehicles, charging options, and grid integration, all of which are critical for expanded transportation infrastructure around plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).
“There are a lot of entities investigating components of electric vehicles, grid integration, or infrastructure,” said NREL Vehicle Systems Engineer Mike Simpson. “There are very few places looking at how they all come together as a much larger, connected system. This facility was designed from the ground up to specifically address that intersection point.”
Capabilities at the VTIF include vehicle energy management within smart grids, vehicle charge integration with renewable energy resources, bi-directional vehicle charge testing and demonstration, and vehicle thermal management. Four test bays at the facility allow for multiple tests to be conducted at once in controlled environments and can accommodate a wide variety of vehicles, including one test bay built specifically to conduct testing on heavy-duty vehicles. An upcoming addition to the facility is an 18-kilowatt solar array, which will be tied directly to vehicle charging and will allow researchers to do expanded work around the use of solar energy to charge electric vehicles within microgrids.
Better Charges and Better Grids
Further advances in how electric vehicles charge — and how they interact with power grids while charging — is critical to the future deployment of PEV technology. Much of the work being done at the VTIF is centered on this effort and is being done in collaboration with efforts at NREL’s new Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF).
“We’re bringing together systems that have never had a reason to talk to one another before,” Simpson said. “There are enormous opportunities to bring value to this intersection of vehicle and grid, which will increase adoption of these technologies.”
Key VTIF research is focused around smart charging. Smart charging involves direct communication between a vehicle and a charging station, bringing information that allows grid operators, charging stations, and potentially the vehicles themselves to decide when and how to charge the vehicle. The average electric vehicle sits, undriven, for 20 to 22 hours out of a day, but only takes 2 to 4 hours to charge using current technology. This makes an electric vehicle a very flexible load on the power grid.
This flexibility creates opportunities for NREL researchers focused on smart charging applications that will leverage the most economical and environmentally sustainable charging options — all while still allowing for on-demand use of the vehicle by the driver.
A four-hour fill up doesn’t quite compete with gasoline engines for on-the-road demand, so engineers are exploring scenarios for fast charging. A fast charge can potentially recharge an electric vehicle in 15 to 25 minutes if the battery is close to empty. This technology employs the conversion of alternating current (AC) grid power to direct current (DC) power, which can be delivered directly to the battery pack. This method allows for faster charges using smaller charging equipment.
Additionally, VTIF researchers are exploring opportunities for bi-directional charging. Bi-directional, or vehicle-to-grid (V2G), charging employs smart charging capabilities but also allows for the vehicle to discharge back to the grid, which turns the vehicle battery into a grid storage device. This capability is of particular interest when combined with microgrids. A microgrid is a potentially self-sufficient segment of the grid that is connected to the power grid at large but has the ability to provide and manage its own energy. In a future scenario where there may be variable production from intermittent renewable sources, readily available storage could buffer that variability. With bi-directional charging, electric vehicles have the potential to play that role, and the vehicle becomes an asset in a smart grid or microgrid. Particular areas of interest for this technology emerge around emergency backup power or the use of vehicle fleets for this purpose.
“We need to be exploring all of the different value streams to enable wider electric vehicle adoption and improved interaction with the grid,” Simpson said. “We can implement all of these different tactics in harmony with one another here at the VTIF. It’s a very exciting opportunity.”
Expanding the Use of Renewables with the Green Signal
The next big step for PEVs is expanding the use of renewable energy as a resource for charging. This involves utilizing enhanced smart charging technology to charge vehicles when the most renewable resources are available on the grid — often at the lowest possible cost to consumers. NREL has developed a specific technique for integrating detailed real-time data into a charge management algorithm, referred to as the ‘Green Signal.’
The Green Signal would monitor the availability of renewable resources, as well as utility market prices. It would charge the vehicle when the renewable resources are most available and at the lowest possible cost per kilowatt hour. This gives consumers the opportunity to ‘buy low’ when their electricity cost is low while at the same time maximizing the use of renewables. The technology also monitors vehicle use times to ensure that the vehicle is fully charged when needed.
NREL will be exploring the Green Signal in the coming years using a fleet of electric vehicles plugged into onsite vehicle charging stations, which have been equipped with modified software to add this functionality.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to bring more renewables into the equation in a cost-competitive way,” Rehn said. “This software will allow us to enhance charging with solar or wind when it is at a cost that is equivalent to, or less than, that of conventional sources. By having a fleet of vehicles, we will be able to investigate doing this at a reasonable scale, being able to control individual chargers and vehicles at different times as the available resource is available, and we’ll be able to develop the algorithms needed to evaluate when and how it makes the most sense to utilize this charging method.”
Expanding Vehicle Range with Enhanced Thermal Management
Once an electric vehicle is charged and disconnected from the grid, the next important step involves maximizing the vehicle’s range between charges. PEV range can be reduced 30% to 45% due to heating and cooling, so NREL engineers are investigating opportunities to change this dynamic and increase range via vehicle thermal testing and analysis.
“Our focus is on improving the thermal efficiency of efficient electric vehicles, with specific emphasis on climate control,” said NREL Senior Engineer John Rugh, who serves as task leader for the vehicle thermal management work taking place at the VTIF. “The impact of climate control on an electric vehicle can be huge, and we are working with industry partners to conduct these tests and assess technologies that will reduce climate control loads for both heating and cooling of the vehicles.”
These tests, which take place outside on the VTIF’s test pad, involve two heavily instrumented electric vehicles. The instruments measure temperatures on the interior and exterior of the vehicles during a ‘thermal soak’ when the vehicle is sitting in a parking lot or during a cool-down cycle after the vehicle has been powered. The temperatures are fed into a data acquisition system and recorded for future analysis. In addition, an onsite weather station immediately adjacent to the vehicles provides accurate weather data.
“One of the biggest concerns with electric vehicles is range,” said Rugh. “The battery of an electric vehicle is a finite energy source at the beginning of a drive, so reducing loads related to climate control allows more of the battery capacity to go toward vehicle range. If we can accomplish that while at the same time maintaining or improving occupant comfort, it can go a long way toward increasing the range of the vehicles and hopefully lead to expanded adoption of these vehicles by consumers.”
Plugging Into our Transportation Future
NREL researchers are keeping their eyes on the future and how the VTIF’s increased capabilities could impact how we power transportation.
“We’re very proud of this new facility and the potential impact that it can have,” Rehn said. “It gives us an opportunity, working in collaboration with our industry partners and DOE, to better understand how all of these issues work together. This will lead to putting more electric vehicles on the street with a reduced cost of ownership and will allow them to be charged using the maximum possible amount of sustainable energy resources.”
Learn more about NREL’s Center for Transportation Technologies and Systems and VTIF.
— David Glickson
Another Angle on Transportation Fuels Reduction — Heavy-Duty Vehicles
Research at NREL’s Vehicle Testing and Integration Facility (VTIF) will have a significant impact on the reduction of fuel use and vehicle emissions in another arena — heavy-duty vehicles.
The focus is on idle reduction for long-haul trucks, which use approximately 685 million gallons of diesel fuel in the United States each year for rest-period idling. This is about 6% to 7% of their total fuel use. One of the primary reasons for this idling is operating climate control and cabin comfort systems when the truck is not being driven.
“We’re helping the heavy-duty vehicle industry reduce their fuel use,” said NREL Senior Research Engineer Jason Lustbader, task leader for the heavy-duty vehicle climate control work taking place at the VTIF. “Our goal is to achieve at least a 30% reduction in climate control loads for these trucks with a three-year or better payback period for the industry by 2015.”
Using test truck cabs located on the VTIF outdoor test pad, researchers are investigating a wide variety of cab thermal management technologies in collaboration with their industry partners. Electronically powered idle-reduction climate control systems in the cabs allow the engineers to look at the impacts of different technologies on the climate control loads.
A specific area of interest is paint. Research has shown a significant reduction in power needed for rest-period climate control just by switching the cab color from black to white. Engineers are investigating advanced paints that may look one color but behave and perform thermally like a different color. This could potentially allow trucking companies more flexibility when selecting paint colors — without sacrificing efficiency. This advanced paint work is currently being quantified through modeling and additional testing.
Another focus of this work is advanced insulation for truck cabs. Working with industry partners, researchers have shown a 34% reduction in the electrical power required for air conditioning by using advanced insulation materials.
“The VTIF is a perfect location to do this work,” Lustbader said. “The south-facing test pad has no obstruction or shading and was designed specifically to facilitate this type of cab thermal management research.”
The opportunities for consumer benefit by reducing costs of long-haul trucking are significant. Almost everything we purchase, from groceries to office supplies to fuel for our own vehicles, arrives via truck. So reducing the transport costs in any significant way will have an impact on the cost of those goods.
“We have an opportunity to make a real impact with these projects, an opportunity to reduce our national level fuel use and impact how we’re using that fuel, in a way that can have a direct positive impact for industry and consumers,” Lustbader said. “And we get to do some really fun engineering, too, solving complicated problems and helping move solutions forward to the point where it makes good sense for them to be used in the real world. That’s what this type of research is all about.”
This article was originally posted on the NREL website.
Connecting EVs & The Grid — NREL Takes The Lead 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 03:30 AM PST
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Systems Analysis Program (IEA-ETSAP) has released the first set of ten – count ‘em, 10 – briefs in what’s likely one of the most comprehensive international efforts to date to scope out and analyze the rapidly evolving renewable energy technology landscape.
Spanning bio-ethylene, bio-methanol, biomass co-firing, concentrating solar power (CSP), desalination using renewable energy, electricity storage, heat pumps, liquid biofuels, thermal storage, and solar photovoltaics (PV), each brief "provides technical background information on the technology and analyzes the market status, potential and barriers as well as insights for policy makers," the report producers explained in an announcement. All are available for download.
Status Report on 10 Renewable Energy Technologies
Clean Technica will be delving into the reports individually, but devoting a bit of time to elaborate a bit of background first seems a worthwhile effort.
IRENA’s been on a roll since announcing it’s establishing its global headquarters in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week this past month, publicly releasing a string of reports on renewable energy growth and development (see here and here).
Whereas IRENA was established in 2011, IEA-ETSAP was formed in 1976. Under the IEA-ETSAP umbrella, a consortium of member country and invited teams covering nearly 70 countries actively cooperate to establish, maintain, and expand a consistent multi-country analytical framework and capability spanning energy, economy, environment and engineering (4E).
The analytical framework IEA-ETSAP has developed is based mainly "on the MARKAL/TIMES family of models, permitting the compilation of long term energy scenarios and in-depth national, multi-country, and global energy and environmental analyses," the multilateral organization explains.
IEA-ETSAP meets twice a year, inviting local experts to participate in information exchanges and sharing of experiences in an effort to further diffuse and enhance its methodologies and practices. The next IEA-ETSAP meeting is to be held in Paris June 17-18 just before the IEA Workshop 2013.
Scoping Out Renewable Energy Technology, Markets, And Barriers 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 02:30 AM PST
As clean energy options like wind and solar grow around the world, coal-fired power plants are being shut down. Perhaps the most deadly industry in the history of humankind (one of the deadliest, at least) is losing to clean wind and clean solar in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. Capturing that in a unique way, here’s a wonderful slow motion video of some coal-fired power plant cooling towers getting blown up (thanks to Peter Sinclair for the share):
Of course, this video immediately made me think of this even cooler video of coal and nuclear towers (made to look like living beings) coming crashing down:
Coal Cooling Towers Come Crashing Down (VIDEOS) 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 01:30 AM PST
This article was originally published on RenewEconomy:
In January, RenewEconomy had the opportunity to do an exclusive interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr – son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, veteran environmental activist, lawyer, and renewable energy advocate.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr is head of the Riverkeepers (which has 17 groups in Australia), is the senior counsel for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and is an appointee as director of Australian renewable energy group CBD Energy, currently in the process of merging with Westinghouse Solar. As a partner in VantagePoint, he has been involved in green technology investments for more than a decade, including as an investor in electric car manufacturer Tesla and the 2.7GW solar PV power plant in the Mojave Desert.
You can read our report on the interview here. Bobby Kennedy is typically robust, and touches on his environmental summit with JFK (his uncle), the disparity in subsidies, the desperation of the fossil fuel industries to burn their "unburnable carbon", how solar and other renewables can help "democratise" both politics and the energy industry, and his own renewable investments.
Here is an edited transcript.
RE: How did you first get involved in environmental activism?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: I was interested in it from when I was little. When I was eight years old, I wrote my uncle (John F Kennedy), who was in the White House. I wanted to talk to him about pollution and he invited me into the Oval Office. I spent part of the morning with him – I brought him a salamander as a present, which actually died, and we spent a lot of the meeting talking about the salamander's health, with him saying it doesn't look well, and me insisting he was just sleeping. I told him then I wanted to write a book about pollution, and he sent me to Stewart Udall (then Secretary of Interior), and (conservationist) Rachel Carson. I interviewed them both and took a tape recorder. But I didn't get around to writing the book until I was 29 years old. I have also been kayaking since the same age, training and racing homing pigeons from when I was seven, and training hawks, which I continue to do.
So, I have been involved in the outdoors and always seen pollution as a theft of the commons. It's always a subsidy, always somebody stealing part of the commons to enrich themselves by disposing of their waste into the public waterways and the public air. I believe in free market capitalism, and I believe in democracy, and pollution is an affront to both of those things. It's inconsistent with free markets because pollution itself is a subsidy, an externality – it's a way that corporations can eliminate the cost by putting it on to the public. In a true free market a company has to pay for the cost of bringing a product to market and that includes the cost of cleaning up after itself.
RE: But so much of the push back against environmental legislation is that it interferes with the free market.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: I think the opposite is true. First of all, the incumbents are the most heavily subsidised industries in the world. Coal is by far the most heavily subsidised industry, and oil, and if you look at their externalities, if you force them to pay for mercury discharges, for acidification, for acid rain, for ozone particulates, which in the US alone kills 60,000 a year – 20 times the number of people killed in the World Trade Centre – to say nothing of carbon, which is threatening the globe. The (IEA) recently identified that the global subsidies, the direct subsidies from governments to the fossil fuel industry, stood at more than $585 billion a year, whereas the subsidies to renewables are a less than $80 billion.
Why should the oil industry, the most profitable industry in the history of the planet, be getting half a trillion in subsidies a year? A country may want to support an immature industry, some nascent industry they are trying to grow, or for some other national security regions, or cultural reasons, to support, to give subsidies to maybe small farmers, as we did in our country – to grow the auto industry, the steel industry. When they first started we used them to build railroads, canals, but at some point those subsidies stopped.
But the rules by which energy is regulated were written to favour the most poisonous, destructive and addictive fuels from hell, rather than cheap, clean, green, safe, abundant and patriotic fuels from heaven. We need to reverse that dynamic, it's in our national interest to do so – of Australia and the US. It's in the global interest of humanity to do so.
RE: But that is a very hard thing to do, because the incumbent industry that will protect itself and seems to have political support, particularly in the Conservative camp.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: That is the problem. I always say wherever you see large-scale pollution, you will also see the subversion of democracy, you will see the compromise of public officials, the capture of the agencies they are supposed to protect, they become sock puppets of the industries they are supposed to regulate. You see that in the political system, the kowtowing of the politicians who become indentured servants in the US and in Canada. The industry is the biggest contributor to political parties, they are able to raise an argument that they are somehow necessary to national security, and economic security, but the opposite is true.
RE: David Crane (CEO of NRG, the large US generation company) and you wrote a letter to the editor about the democratisation of energy, and the desire to put a solar panel on every rooftop. What is democratisation of energy and why is it important?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: From a reliability standpoint – it's much more resilient. It's easier for a terrorist to blow up a single power plant, or a coal-burning power plant but it's really hard to blow up a million houses with solar panels on their roof. It is a more resilient source of energy because it is diverse.
It also tends to democratise – the political system tends to reflect the organisation of the financial systems it governs. So if you have a financial system that is controlled by a few large players, you're going to tend to see the political systems will devolve into plutocracy, away from democracy. But if you have an economic system in which there are millions of participants, the political system will reflect that.
In the case of coal and oil, we see in our country the Koch brothers, the largest privately controlled oil company in the world, contribute something like $200 million to the recent election campaigns – they didn't do that because they love the US of A, they did that because they believed that capturing and making indentured servants of our political representatives would make them wealthier.
Thomas Jefferson, who was the iconic figure in American democracy, he warned against large aggregations of wealth. He said that was inconsistent with democracy. He opposed industrialisation, because he thought it would create concentrations of wealth and power that would be inconsistent with democracy. And he wanted to spread out the economic wealth, to give American a vested interest in the economic system, so we would all have a vested interest in democracy.
RE: So you see parallels of that with the energy industry?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: Right now the energy industry is controlled by a handful of global players, global multinationals. They control the oil fields and the coal fields. If, instead, we said we are not going to have a system like that, but we are going to be powered by the sun, or the wind, it is hard for a single corporation to control that. It is in the hands of everyone.
RE: It is interesting that David Crane shares those views, wouldn't he benefit from the status quo?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: David Crane is energy agnostic. As a CEO in the service of shareholders, he's agnostic as to where he gets his energy. NRG controls nuclear plants, coal plants, a lot of gas, as well as wind and solar. What he has said is that the price of solar has come down so far that it is cheaper than even gas – in the US we have $2 gas – so if he has $100 million to spend, in at least 20 states the best investment he would make is in solar, because it is the cheapest way of providing electrons to his clients.
RE: You work with Vantagepoint, which has invested in BrightSource and Tesla – both disruptive energy technologies. When will the tide turn for clean energy investments, because it's been a brave person to put their money there?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: Governments have got to get it right. A lot of people have hopes in Australia for Prime Minister Gillard – that she will give us the kind of dependability that we need. One of the problems with wind and solar is that we need market certainty, like any business in the nursery stage that has relatively small margins. If you’re going to have a business plan, you need reliability.
In the US we have some of the same problems that you have in Australia, but much worse. We have renewable energy credits, but we don't get certainty with them. The incumbents know they can't publicly come out against wind and solar, because that's unpopular, but they can undermine wind and solar by undermining business reliability. What we really need is long-term faith in some of these government programs. And the incumbents have their subsidies, we are just trying to level the playing field.
If we could get rid of all subsidies, I would do it in a second. If the subsidies for the incumbents disappeared, we would drown them in a marketplace with a level playing field. They have the advantage of incumbency, the advantage of political control, and they are able to regulate the political system, to continue to externalise their cost and get huge subsidies from the government. Even in Australia, which has much a better program than the United States, it's unclear whether your renewable energy standards will stay in place. Our industry, like any industry, needs certainty.
RE: You have accepted the offer of a board seat with CBD Energy/Westinghouse Solar. What is the attraction?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: I've been associated with Westinghouse for a while. I think the merger makes sense because of the synergies. Westinghouse has got an inventory of technology and patents that will make solar installation safer and quicker to install, and make it more efficient and more reliable. Westinghouse will profit from the diversity that CBD has. Having a much larger customer base, synergistic diversification across geographic lines is the place that renewable energy industry has to go if it is to survive. We are seeing global consolidation in both the solar and the wind industry – companies that can bridge national borders and can share technology and diversify themselves will come out of this current ferment.
RE: It is, though, a very tough industry.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: If you look at the automobile industry in the US – in early 20th Century there were hundreds of hundreds of companies making automobiles. Within a few years they would consolidate, eventually into the big four. You will see a lot of the same consolidation with wind and solar – particularly with globalisation, as we face austerity budgets throughout Europe. It's the companies that are able to diversify and consolidate that are the ones that will survive.
RE: Won't we then face the same problems we have now, of an industry dominated by a few companies, just a different group of companies?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: It's a different kind of industry than coal or oil. You are going to see a lot of large-scale solar and large-scale wind, but it is not susceptible to the kind of unique control that oil and gas are. Rockefeller owned 80 per cent of the world's (oil resources) at one point – you won't be able to do that now because people will be able to source solar on their own roofs. Everybody has access to it. Not everyone has an oil well in their backyard and not everyone has a coal field in their backyard. It is, fundamentally, a more democratic industry.
RE: But what about the costs?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: You are going to see the kind of technology growth curves that you saw in the computer industry. Not so much in wind, because wind relies more on big infrastructure, lots of steel and poured concrete – those will have stable costs but they are just not going to drop so much. But solar panels are much more akin to computer chips: the more we make, the cheaper they will get. The more technological innovation, the more they will integrate with the industry. And costs will drop further. Those are drops that we see now. But those drops will continue, we will be seeing drops of over 30 per cent. Even if the Chinese slow down production, you will see that continue.
RE: Are you optimistic about the world's environmental outcomes?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: I think anyone who is a realist will say that the planet… we're on a trajectory to creating a planet that is a science fiction nightmare. I would urge you to read Bill McKibben's article in Rolling Stone on the arithmetic behind global warming. It's one of the best articles ever done. It simplifies it. One of the principal points he makes is that two degrees is what all scientists agree is the maximum we can endure for a world that is roughly recognisable. And that in order to stay in 2°C, the maximum carbon we can add to atmosphere is 500 gigatonnes of CO2. However, the oil industry and coal industry have on their books proven reserves five times that amount – the value of those companies that has already been paid for by investors, that has been traded, borrowed on and mortgaged, etc, is based on the assumption that all of those reserves are going to get burned. If they do that the planet will heat by 11°(F) which will make most of it uninhabitable. If you look at it that way, it's hard to imagine them as anything other than criminal enterprises willing to destroy the globe for their own greed. It is not radical stuff that I am talking about, it is proven science. It's math. That's what we are fighting, that's what we are up against.
RE: OK, so how do we get there?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: I believe we have the technology, if we can rationalise our free market economy, so that we have truly free market capitalism, where everyone is forced to internalise their costs. The market place decides what the cheapest form of energy is. Then we can quickly eliminate coal and oil, because they are so much more expensive than any other fuel. We only have the illusion that they are cheap because they have garnered, through their political clout, so many subsidies.
RE: Is it best to use mechanisms like a carbon price, or other means?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: We need to price carbon. Australian does have a carbon tax which we do not have in the US. And we also have to give incentive for good behaviour by utilities. Utilities make money by burning oil and gas, and as much as possible to create electrons from that, so the CEO from that utility has to make a decision every morning about whether he is going to serve the interests of his shareholders or serve the interests of humanity and civilisation. We shouldn't be be putting CEOs in that position. We should be able to say to them, we are going to design free market rules that allow you to make money by doing good things, rather than forcing you to make money by doing bad things. We did that in California, and there the utilities are make money by installing renewables, and being energy efficient. As a result of that, Californians use half the energy than other Americans use. They use 6,000kWh per year, the rest of America average about 13,000kWh. You can rationalise the system by helping people make money by doing good things, rather than making money doing bad things.
RE: So how is this going to end up?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: In the next decade there will be an epic battle for survival for humanity against the forces of ignorance and greed. It's going to be Armageddon, represented by the oil industry on one side, versus the renewable industry on the other. And people are going to have to choose sides – including politically. They will have to choose sides because oil and coal, they will not be able to survive – they are not going to be able to burn their proven reserves. If they do, then we are all dead. And they are quite willing to burn it. We're all going to be part of that battle. We are going to watch governments being buffeted by the whims of money and greed on one side, and idealism and hope on the other.
RE: One last thing that I forgot to ask before, do you have solar at your home?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: My home is a power plant – it produces more energy than it uses – virtually every day of the year. I have a geothermal system, and I have two state-of-the-art solar systems. We get a lot of sunlight in New York (state), not as much as in Australia, but two out of three days it is sunny. There is a book about it – The Kennedy Green House. It was designed by my late wife, who was a green architect.
RE: Mr Kennedy, thanks very much for your time today.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr: It's been a pleasure.
Interview With Robert F Kennedy Jr On Environmental Activism, Democratization Of Energy, & More 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.
Posted: 06 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST
Denmark, the US, and Germany aren’t the only countries breaking wind power records these days. Spain is also a notable leader seeing strong wind power growth. In fact, it just saw its wind farms produce more electricity than any other source for a 3-month time period, for the first time ever.
"Since Nov. 1, wind has been the top technology in the electrical system," the Spanish Wind Energy Association (SWEA) was quoted as writing on its blog.
Additionally, data from grid operator Red Electrica de Espana concluded that 6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity had been generated from wind in January, another first for the country. "The last time any technology exceeded 6 terawatt-hours of monthly generation was in 2010, when it was combined-cycle gas turbines," SWEA added.
In total, SWEA noted that 6 TWh of electricity was enough to power “enough to cover the electricity consumption of the majority of Spanish households” and that it “could cover the annual electricity consumption of countries like Honduras and Bolivia.” Pretty astounding. Wind power has certainly come a long way in the past decade or so!
One more interesting fact from the SWEA blog is that the Spanish economy has gained €3 for every €1 of wind power incentives it has given. In other words, while Spain is suffering through some difficult economic times, wind power subsidies have had a positive net effect that has kept the country in a better situation than the one in which it could have landed.
While Spain hasn’t hit 30% of electricity consumption like Denmark, it’s now up to about 25%, and it aims for 40% by 2020.
Two final stats of the day: 1) on the whole, 70% of Europeans think that renewable energy sources should get priority in the coming 30 years; and 2) 81% of Spaniards think so (only behind Portugal, and tied with Germany, Denmark, and Austria).
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Wind Power Breaks Records In Spain — Produces More Electricity Than Any Other Source For 3 Months, & Breaks 6 TWh in January 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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