NewEnergyNews More: February 2009

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  • Friday, February 27, 2009


    Floating wind turbines to be tested off Portugese coast; Portugese utility sees floating platforms as means of cutting high costs of offshore wind farms
    Tom Young, 24 February 2009 (Business Green)

    "US-based wind turbine developer Principle Power and Portugal's Energias de Portugal (EDP) have agreed to team up on a project to develop a deep-water offshore wind farm off the coast of Portugal using floating wind turbines.

    "The development will use Principle Power's WindFloat technology, which sees turbines placed on floating platforms rather than attached to the sea bed. The company argues that the floating turbines are far more cost effective to install in deep water than conventional offshore wind turbines."

    click to enlarge

    "The project will be developed in three phases – a demonstration turbine, a pre-commercial deployment and a full commercial deployment – in water more than 50 metres deep."

    click to enlarge

    "…[T]he technology could provide a major boost to the economic viability of offshore wind farms, which currently cost over double that of onshore developments…

    "The move is the latest in a seriers of investments from EDP designed to position the company as a major player in the burgeoning global wind energy market…[It] acquired Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy from Goldman Sachs in a €2.15bn deal… [It] paid €8.4m for an 85 per cent stake in Romanian wind power companies Renovatio Power and Cernavoda Power…[It] holds a stake in the €9m [2.25 megawatt] wave-energy Aguçadoura project…off the Portugese coast."


    Singapore's public housing to consume less electricity using solar energy
    February 25, 2009 (Xinhua via People’s Daily)

    "Singapore's public housing estates are expected to consume 10 percent less electricity in the next five years by using solar energy…

    "…[A] scheme named Energy Save Program, initiated by the country's Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National Environment Agency and the Energy Market Authority, has already shown positive results in two trial projects, where solar panels were implemented across 14 HDB blocks."

    click to enlarge

    "…[T]he trial achieved some 40 percent energy savings…[A] 30 percent reduction in energy will save some 36 million Singapore dollars (about 23.6 million U.S. dollars) a year.

    "…[M]ore than 80 percent of Singaporeans live in HDB estates and the households consume energy of some 1.2 billion Singapore dollars (about 0.79 billion U.S. dollars) a year.

    "Since March, 2007, the Singapore government has pledged a total of 350 million Singapore dollars (234.8 million U.S. dollars) in research, development and technology of the clean energy sector."


    China likely to trade emissions by year end
    Michael Wei (w/ Coco Li and Kirby Chien), February 19, 2009 (Thomson Reuters)

    "China's first emissions exchange is expected to begin trading by the end of this year as it works out trading procedures and recruits more member firms, a senior executive of the bourse said…

    "The Tianjin Climate Exchange was established last September, but acceptance has been slow with the smaller Chinese companies that the exchange is trying to attract…The bourse is still working on operational details with central government authorities and potential member companies before trading can kick off…

    "Beijing has long vowed to save energy and reduce emissions, setting a goal to reduce all emissions by 10 percent from 2006 to 2010…But in order to initiate active trading on the country's only emissions exchange, China needs to change the way it allocates emissions credits…"

    click to enlarge

    "Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) [a voluntary market that aims to reduce emissions of gases like carbon dioxide owns] 25 percent of the Tianjin exchange…An asset management unit of China's top oil and gas firm China National Petroleum Co (CNPC) owns over 50 percent of the venture and the Tianjin Property Rights Exchange owns the rest…

    "Emissions credits in China are now allocated by the central government to the provinces, which often ignore environmental regulations to focus on economic growth, which produces tax revenues.

    "Beijing should hand out emissions credits to companies directly, bypassing local officials and, more importantly, giving firms the incentives to bring emission credits to market…"

    click to enlarge

    "The Tianjin bourse now has only about 20 member companies, which include the world's largest bank ICBC, China Construction Bank and Delong Steel, a unit of Singapore-listed Delong Holdings.

    "The Chicago exchange had only 13 members when it began trading in 2003 and now boasts more than 400 member firms…Total trading volume at CCX surged to 110 million tonnes in 2008 from only 2.2 million tonnes in 2003…

    "The new exchange's success could hinge on Beijing's official support for environmental goals, something the Chicago exchange does not enjoy as the United States is still not a party to the Kyoto Protocol."


    Gambia: Wind Power, a Diversification of Energy
    Pateh Baldeh, 25 February 2009 (FOROYAA Newspaper via All Africa)

    "…[T]he recently inaugurated wind mill project in Batokunku is a diversification of the country's energy sector…NAWEC's mission is to provide reliable and environmentally sensitive water and power services to meet customer needs at the required quality and quantity at sustainable prices that will ensure the financial viability of the company and support the social and economic development of The Gambia…their objectives are investment and technical improvement in rural electrification. Their plan is to commence this year in the North Bank, Central and Upper River Regions.

    "The Batokunku project…has several aspects, among them, the provision of sustainable and affordable energy to the community…the Batokunku Turbine project can be the gateway to further development projects in the framework of renewable energy within the Gambia."

    From the website of David Beardsley and Margaret de Wolf of Sifoe in The Gambia (click to enlarge)

    "With the completion of the wind turbine project, a milestone of diversification in the energy sector was laid…The results…indicate that wind energy will be a source of energy which can be harnessed in the Gambia. Wind speeds measured are far higher than initially expected…

    "…[I]n May 2008 a simplified but fully applicable and operational power purchase agreement was prepared and signed…which finally led to the erection of the plant…immediately after this NAWEC executed the connection of the electrical installations to its network…[and] handed over to the community of Batokunku 50 electricity meters which will allow the project to better control the consumption…Batokunku will use the proceeds generated for other development projects…for any excess energy which is injected into the NAWEC network, NAWEC will pay that amount to the community account which is meant to support the village…to further encourage the development of renewable energy projects."

    Thursday, February 26, 2009


    Two Ann Arbor startups advance wind energy as viable energy option
    Nathan Bomey, February 26, 2009 (Ann Arbor Business Review via MLive)

    "Bolstered by concerns that existing wind energy technology isn't sufficient to meet renewable energy needs, two Ann Arbor startup companies are developing new solutions that could turn wind into a dramatically more viable energy option.

    "One of the firms, Accio Energy, is developing a stationary "aerovoltaic" device that would be installed on rooftops, harvest wind and turn it into electricity - without the moving parts associated with wind turbines. Put simply, it would resemble a wind version of a solar panel…"

    click to enlarge

    "The second startup company, WindSight, is a spinoff of Ann Arbor-based Michigan Aerospace, an engineering firm that has gradually diversified its technology portfolio in recent years. WindSight, led by Michigan Aerospace CEO Peter Tchoryk, is set to commercialize a wind-farm site assessment technology solution.

    "Together the two companies, albeit officially unrelated, underscore the Ann Arbor region's budding wind energy technology arsenal."

    click to enlarge

    "Accio President Dawn White, who founded successful Ann Arbor defense tech startup Solidica, said Accio aims to create a wind energy device that would generate double the electricity per square meter of traditional photovoltaic solar panels…[and] could ultimately present a way to harvest wind energy in locations where wind turbines aren't practical…

    "WindSight, meanwhile, is in the midst of raising funds, but Michigan Aerospace CEO Peter Tchoryk said the firm expects to have its system in beta testing by this summer. WindSight's customers would be wind farm developers seeking site analysis tools and ways to optimize turbine performance…"


    A car without a plug is no car at all
    Ken Bensinger, February 26, 2009 (LA Times)

    "An increasing amount of attention has been paid of late to electric and plug-in hybrid cars…Much less scrutiny, however, has been given to a topic that's arguably far more critical to the future of electrified transportation: Where the heck will we plug these things in? …[T]hey need a wide-ranging network of places where they can be recharged. Charging at night in the family garage isn't enough…many people don't have garages to begin with, charging stations are necessary…

    "But developing that infrastructure is a huge challenge, one that would likely cost billions of dollars and require careful planning and standardization. How that issue is confronted, as much as perfecting the chemistry and costs of high-energy-density batteries, is likely to dictate whether electrons will ever truly replace carbon molecules when it comes time to get from point A to point B."

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    "…Announced this week by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a sustainability-focused think tank based in Snowmass, Colo., [Project Get Ready is] an initiative designed to coordinate, develop and promote efforts to prepare for a plug-in infrastructure…Among the group's concerns: Who will pay for the installation? How do drivers get billed for charging? And how do we make sure that every car will be able to charge at the same locations?

    "…Project Get Ready [believes]…this matter is best dealt with on a local level…To that end, Project Get Ready has enlisted three cities -- Portland, Ore., Indianapolis and Raleigh, N.C. -- as original members. The cities will keep the group abreast of the work they do to prepare for the arrival of electrified vehicles, and will contribute business plans and other developments to databases on the Project Get Ready site."

    click to enlarge

    "The goal of the organization is to get at least 20 cities to join up, using their collective efforts to develop a benchmark or other certification program…The overriding point here is clearly that local governments must play a role in developing the infrastructure…private industry can and perhaps ought to play a role as well…Portland General Electric, the city's power company…[and] General Motors [are] collaborating…[A]utomakers need proof of a real market for their vehicles before they can truly commit…local governments can [also] play a role -- by pledging to buy plug-in vehicles for their fleets.

    "… Project Get Ready hopes that a million electric and plug-in hybrid cars will be on the road by 2015…To date Tesla has sold about 100 of its electric cars -- the only electricity-powered, highway-legal production vehicle on the market today. Only 999,900 to go!"


    PG&E To Own, Contract For 500 MW Of Solar Power
    Cassandra Sweet,February 24, 2009 (Dow Jones Newswires via CNN Money)

    "California utility-holding company PG&E Corp…. plans to develop 500 megawatts of solar power, both through projects the utility would own and through power-purchase agreements...PG&E plans to spend about $1.4 billion to develop 250 megawatts of solar-panel generation that the utility would own and sign contracts with independent developers for the remaining 250 megawatts, all within five years…

    "Utilities are becoming increasingly active in developing renewable power, prompted by incentives such as a 30% renewable-investment tax credit recently granted by Congress. In addition, expected federal legislation would require greater use of clean-energy sources like wind and solar, and cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change. California utilities are required to use renewable sources for 20% of their retail power by 2010, with pending rules boosting that amount to 33% by 2020."

    PG&E is moving up. (click to enlarge)

    "…the economic crisis has put added pressure on utilities to help move renewable projects forward, as project financing has largely dried up and smaller companies have had difficulty raising money in the capital markets…[A]t some point in the future, PG&E would be interested in providing financing to renewable-power developers to enable them to build new projects. Such financing might include convertible debt, in which PG&E would make a loan with the option to convert the debt repayment into equity…

    "PG&E's solar program will focus on projects from 1 to 20 megawatts in size, with solar panels mounted on the ground or on rooftops, within the service territory of PG&E utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The utility will strive to develop projects on land it already owns, near transmission infrastructure to cut costs and delays associated with hooking up to the state's power grid."

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    "PG&E has signed renewable-power purchase agreements that represent more than 20% of the utility's future power deliveries…

    "Due in part to inadequate transmission capacity, PG&E is unlikely to take actual physical renewable power deliveries worth 20% of its total portfolio by the 2010 deadline. But with state regulations that allow for "flexible compliance" and pending rules that would allow utilities to purchase renewable- energy credits to comply with part of their obligation, PG&E is unlikely to violate any state rules…"


    CFTC Probing United States Oil Fund in Crude Trades
    Matthew Leising, February 26, 2009 (Bloomberg News)

    "The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said it is investigating the involvement of United States Oil Fund LP and other investors regarding an increase in the price difference between two oil contracts this month…The investigation announced today is part of the CFTC’s larger national oil-market probe…

    "The agency is investigating whether the United States Oil Fund and other investors affected the price of (West Texas Intermediate (WTI)] oil on Feb. 6.
    To maintain its holdings in oil futures, the exchange-traded fund sells, or “rolls,” its front-month contracts and buys second-month futures on four predetermined days every month…"

    How do you win in this market? Cheat. (click to enlarge)

    "The United States Oil Fund’s size means the rolls can cause the front-month prices to decline relative to second-month contracts, widening the so-called contango…Market participants can predict this effect and potentially profit by making the same trade before the fund does…

    "WTI prices on Feb. 6 for March, the contract closest to delivery, fell $1, or 2.5 percent, to $40.17 a barrel on the New York exchange, while the April contract rose 39 cents, or 0.9 percent, to close at $46.15. The front-month contract also fell, while the second month rose, on Feb. 4.

    "A call to United States Commodity Fund was not immediately returned."

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009


    TransCanada wins approval for U.S. wind power lines
    Tina Seeley, February 19, 2009 (Bloomberg News via Financial Post)

    "TransCanada Corp. won federal approval of its rate plan for two proposed power transmission lines that would primarily deliver wind-generated energy from Montana and Wyoming to the southwestern U.S.

    "The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington [approved]…the projects -- a 1,000-mile line known as Chinook that would stretch from Montana to Nevada and a 1,100-mile line, known as Zephyr, stretching from Wyoming to Nevada. Both would end south of Las Vegas….

    "The U.S. has inadequate transmission capacity to carry the electricity that wind and solar power projects could produce, according to a report [from the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association]…Wind-power projects waiting to be hooked up to transmission lines could supply 20% of the nation's electricity needs…"

    click to enlarge

    "Each of [TransCanada Corp.’s] transmission lines will be capable of carrying 3,000 megawatts of electricity and aims to serve markets in southern Nevada, Arizona and California. Chinook could be in service by late 2014…

    "The regulatory commission for the first time approved a model that permits half of the capacity of the lines to be reserved by an "anchor customer," instead of having an open season for all of a line's capacity…

    "The US$787-billion stimulus legislation signed this week by President Barack Obama includes at least US$14-billion in tax breaks for wind and solar electricity and establishes a grant program to help finance projects. It also devotes US$11-billion to new transmission lines and so-called smart-grid technology."


    IBM Joins EDISON Project to Build Smart Grid for Electric Cars
    February 25, 2009 (CNN Money)

    "IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced its membership in the EDISON research consortium, a Denmark-based collaborative aimed at developing an intelligent infrastructure that will make possible the large scale adoption of electric vehicles powered by sustainable energy.

    "The EDISON effort
    (Electric Vehicles in a Distributed and Integrated Market using Sustainable Energy and Open Networks) consists of IBM, Denmark's largest energy company DONG Energy, the regional energy company of Oestkraft, Technical University of Denmark, Siemens, Eurisco and the Danish Energy Association. Due to the environmental benefits of the electric vehicle technologies, the research will be partly funded by the Danish government."

    click to enlarge

    "Market introduction and investment plans in Denmark will result in upwards of 10% of the country's vehicles being all electric or hybrid electric during the coming years…To achieve this on a large scale, electric vehicles require smart technologies to control charging and billing and to ensure the stability of the overall energy system…

    "The first step of the consortium is to develop smart technologies to be implemented on the Danish island of Bornholm, designed to function as a testbed. The island has 40,000 inhabitants and an energy infrastructure characterized by a large proportion of wind energy…The studies will be simulation-based…"

    From IBMAdvertising via YouTube.

    "… researchers from IBM Denmark and from IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory will develop smart technologies that synchronize the charging of the electric vehicles with the availability of wind in the grid…

    "While various companies have announced initiatives in Denmark that will contribute to the overall adoption of an electric vehicle system, EDISON will address the entire end-to-end process to make the system possible… ensuring overall grid stability and supporting the increased use of renewable energy…IBM is working with clients in nearly 50 Smart Grid engagements … "


    Solar Energy Performance With Plastic Solar Cells Improved With New Method
    February 25, 2009 (Science Daily)

    "The University of Alberta and the National Research Council's National Institute (NINT) for Nanotechnology have engineered an approach that is leading to improved performance of plastic solar cells (hybrid organic solar cells). The development of inexpensive, mass-produced plastic solar panels is a goal of intense interest for many of the world's scientists and engineers because of the high cost and shortage of the ultra-high purity silicon and other materials normally required."

    click to enlarge

    "Plastic solar cells are made up of layers of different materials, each with a specific function, called a sandwich structure…One layer absorbs the light, another helps to generate the electricity, and others help to draw the electricity out of the device…

    "After two years of research, these U of A and NINT scientists have, by only working on one part of the sandwich, seen improvements of about 30 per cent in the efficiency of the working model…

    "The team estimates it will be five to seven years before plastic solar panels will be mass produced but…when it happens solar energy will be available to everyone…the next generation of solar technology belongs to plastic…"


    Ethanol, Just Recently a Savior, Is Struggling
    Clifford Krauss, February 11, 2009 (NY Times)

    "Barely a year after Congress enacted an energy law meant to foster a huge national enterprise capable of converting plants and agricultural wastes into automotive fuel, the goals lawmakers set for the ethanol industry are in serious jeopardy.

    "As recently as last summer, plants that make ethanol from corn were sprouting across the Midwest. But now, with motorists driving less in the economic downturn, the industry is burdened with excess capacity, and plants are shutting down virtually every week."

    click to enlarge

    "In the meantime, plans are lagging for a new generation of factories that were supposed to produce ethanol from substances like wood chips and crop waste, overcoming the drawbacks of corn ethanol. That nascent branch of the industry concedes it has virtually no chance of meeting Congressional production mandates that kick in next year.

    "The decline in fortunes has been extreme…Only months ago, refiners in some regions were buying up as much corn ethanol as they could…But since the summer, oil and gasoline prices have plunged, while the price of corn, from which virtually all commercial ethanol in this country is made, has remained relatively high…

    "The government’s Energy Information Administration recently projected that the industry would fall short of the targets for expanded use of ethanol and other biofuels that Congress set in a 2007 energy law…"

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    "VeraSun Energy, one of the nation’s largest ethanol producers, has suspended production at 12 of its 16 plants…Renew Energy, Cascade Grain Products and Northeast Biofuels have filed for bankruptcy protection. Pacific Ethanol said it would suspend operations…

    "…Congress mandated a doubling of corn ethanol use…[and]the use of an additional 21 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels produced from materials collectively known as biomass…it is becoming clear that even these modest targets will not be met…"

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009


    New Berkeley Lab Report Shows Significant Historical Reductions in the Installed Costs of Solar Photovoltaic Systems in the World
    Alan Chen, February 19, 2009 (News Center/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

    "A new study on the installed costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems in the U.S. shows that the average cost of these systems declined significantly from 1998 to 2007, but remained relatively flat during the last two years of this period.

    "[Ryan Wiser, Galen Barbose, and Carla Peterman] at [the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of the] Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) who conducted the study say that the overall decline in the installed cost of solar PV systems is mostly the result of decreases in nonmodule costs, such as the cost of labor, marketing, overhead, inverters, and the balance of systems…"

    click to enlarge

    "[Tracking the Sun: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998–2007] examined 37,000 grid-connected PV systems installed between 1998 and 2007 in 12 states. It found that average installed costs, in terms of real 2007 dollars per installed watt, declined from $10.50 per watt in 1998 to $7.60 per watt in 2007, equivalent to an average annual reduction of 30 cents per watt or 3.5 percent per year in real dollars.

    "…According to the report, this trend, along with a reduction in the number of higher-cost “outlier” installations, suggests that state and local PV-deployment policies have achieved some success in fostering competition within the industry and in spurring improvements in the cost structure and efficiency of the delivery infrastructure for solar power…"

    click to enlarge

    "Other information about differences in costs by region and by installation type emerged from the study. The cost reduction over time was largest for smaller PV systems…Also, installed costs show significant economies of scale…Installed costs were also found to vary widely across states…

    "…[A]verage costs range from a low of $7.60 per watt in Arizona, followed by California and New Jersey, which had average installed costs of $8.10 per watt and $8.40 per watt respectively, to a high of $10.60 per watt in Maryland. Based on these data, and on installed-cost data from the sizable Japanese and German PV markets, the authors suggest that PV costs can be driven lower through sizable deployment programs. The study also found that the new construction market offers cost advantages for residential PV systems…"

    click to enlarge

    "…[D]irect cash incentives provided by state and local PV incentive programs declined over the 1998-2007 study period. Other sources of incentives, however, have become more significant, including federal incentive tax credits (ITCs). As a result…total after-tax incentives for commercial PV were $3.90 per watt in 2007, an all-time high…Total after-tax incentives for residential systems, on the other hand, averaged $3.1 per watt in 2007, their lowest level since 2001.

    "Because incentives for residential PV systems declined…the net installed cost of residential PV has remained relatively flat…At the same time, the net installed cost of commercial PV has dropped…32 percent, thanks in large part to the federal ITC…"


    Dear Mr. President
    Governor Chet Culver (D-IA) and Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), February 23, 2009 (Governors Wind Energy Coalition)

    "…We write today to begin a partnership with your Administration to address some of the nation’s most pressing needs — jobs, energy, and climate —through the use of domestic renewable energy resources.

    "As a bipartisan group of 23 governors from diverse regions of the nation, we share a common concern that our dependence on imported energy sources too greatly risks the nation’s energy and economic security. We offer our assistance…

    "Wind energy is a clean, abundant, and affordable source of energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, with the right policies and investments, the United States can generate 20 percent of our electricity demand through wind and other renewable sources by 2030…"

    Costs & benefits of getting 20% of U.S. power from wind. (click to enlarge)

    ...There are a number of policy options that your new Administration and Congress should consider…including:

    "[1] Adoption of a National Renewable Electricity Standard…requiring utilities to provide a minimum of 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources…

    "[2] Support for the construction of New Interstate Electric Transmission Capacity… implementation of this policy will also substantially increase the overall reliability of the nation’s power system, reducing electricity costs to consumers.

    "[3] Expansion of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Work with States and the Wind Industry to Accelerate Innovation…

    "[4] Adoption of a Long-Term Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit. This credit is currently the primary federal incentive for wind energy development and should be extended to provide a stable incentive…

    "The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition stands ready to work with you…"


    Scottish & Southern in marine energy deal
    Andrew Bolger, February 24, 2009 (Financial Times)

    "Airtricity, the renewable energy arm of the Scottish and Southern Energy utility group, has signed an agreement aimed at developing sites capable of hosting 1,000MW of marine energy by 2020…with Aquamarine, the only UK marine energy company developing both wave and tidal power devices simultaneously, which has secured test berths for both technologies at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney."

    click to enlarge

    "Both companies will enter into a 50:50 joint venture to develop wave and tidal energy sites in the UK and Republic of Ireland. They aim to deploy Aquamarine’s Oyster wave energy converter and its Neptune tidal device…

    "Airtricity was acquired by SSE last year for £1bn and the combined Airtricity/SSE team has developed 40 wind farms across Europe and North America, generating more than 1,500MW."

    click to enlarge

    "Edinburgh-based Aquamarine was founded in 2005, and is currently seeking to raise more than £50m of funding …

    "Aitrtricity is currently developing two of the world’s largest windfarms, a 504 MW project at Greater Gabbard, off the Suffolk coast, and a 456MW onshore wind farm, located in the Upper Clyde Valley."

    U.S. TO MAKE CO2 $$ BY 2012

    U.S. budget to have CO2 revenues by 2012 – White House
    Jeff Mason (w/Doina Chiacu) 24 February 2009 (Reuters)

    "U.S. President Barack Obama's budget accounts for revenues from an emissions trading system in 2012, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said…when asked whether a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases would be in place in time for revenues to be generated by 2012…

    "During his presidential campaign Obama laid out plans for a trading system that would set limits on greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and allow factories to trade permits to pollute more.

    "The European Union is anxious for the United States to develop a trading system to hook up with its own established scheme."

    November 17, 2008. From ChangeDotGov via YouTube.

    "Obama has not released any details about his plans for such a system since taking office, while his administration focused on lifting the country out of recession and shoring up the banking system.

    "The president has made clear, however, that investments in renewable energy would be part of the economic recovery process…

    "The White House Web site says Obama plans to implement an 'economy-wide cap-and-trade program' to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050."

    Monday, February 23, 2009


    US Senate to tackle renewable energy grid in weeks
    Ayesha Rascoe (w/ Marguerita Choy), February 23, 2009 (Reuters)

    "…U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he plans to introduce legislation [February 26] aimed at facilitating the development of an electricity grid that can deliver power generated by clean energy sources from remote locations to urban populations.

    "Reid's bill would require the president to designate areas that have the potential to produce significant amounts of clean energy. Planning for the grid would then begin in those selected areas. Reid stressed, however, that the federal government would have authority to complete transmission lines without the approval of local governments…"

    click to enlarge

    "'We cannot let...state regulators hold up progress,' Reid told reporters at the National Clean Energy Project event he hosted along with the Center for American Progress...Reid said state regulators would have opportunities to try work out a plan for the grid, but as in the cases of other national projects such as building railroads and interstate highways, 'there may come a time when the federal government has to step in.'

    "Once Reid's bill is introduced, the bill would go to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee…Separately, the energy committee's chairman Senator Jeff Bingaman said… he hopes to have a package that would deal with energy efficiency and renewable energy power generation on the Senate floor in four to six weeks.

    "Bingaman has already begun holding hearings on the possible energy legislation, that is set to include a measure that would require utilities to produce a certain amount of electricity from clean energy sources…"We'll proceed as rapidly as we can," Bingaman told reporters…Bingaman said he hoped to be able to fold Reid's proposal into the energy committee's package. Climate change proposals that would begin to regulate carbon dioxide emissions will not be included in this upcoming legislation…Reid said the Senate will tackle global warming issues later in the year…"


    Electric Cars: What if There’s a Blackout?
    Kate Galbraith, February 23, 2009 (NY Times)

    [Kate Galbraith, NY Times]: “…I attended a panel discussion on the future of the electric cars…I emerged with some questions…about how exactly driving around in a plug-in vehicle that has a range of only 100 or so miles would work…Better Place aims to create networks of electric cars, which can be recharged at home or at work over the course of several hours. Much like cellphone subscription plans, drivers will be able to choose when and how much to recharge. When the battery is nearly drained and drivers have no time to wait for a recharge, they will be able to stop at a “battery exchange” station and, in a five-minute procedure, swap out the battery…what if I need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night and my car battery is nearly drained?”

    [Sven Thesen, Better Place]: “…your batteries won’t ever be drained down to zero…People…will always have a certain amount of range…in their batteries…a mid-sized city [will provide] two to two-and-a-half charge spots per vehicle…Obviously one at home or in the parking garage when you park your car…A city would also contain a couple of hundred battery exchange stations…exchange stations will be sited perhaps every 20 miles or so along the major highways…”

    click to enlarge

    [Kate Galbraith, NY Times]: “…[W]hat if my car battery is low and I get stuck in a big traffic jam, inching along and using a disproportionate amount of energy?”

    [Sven Thesen, Better Place]: “You don’t actually use a disproportionate amount of energy at low speeds…The electric car network seems potentially well-suited to commuters, who travel short, predictable distances each day. For driving long distances…battery exchange stations… provide an opportunity to get out of the car and stretch the legs.”

    [Kate Galbraith, NY Times]: ‘[What about the hassle of stopping every few hours to swap out the battery while driving from, say, New York City to Nashville[?]”

    [Sven Thesen, Better Place]: “Given that it’s such a huge distance, you might rent a car. But for 99 percent of your driving, a battery exchange station is fine.”

    Better Place. From twenny12 via YouTube.

    [Kate Galbraith, NY Times]: “[W]hat if there is a blackout?”

    [Sven Thesen, Better Place]: “What happens if we had a major earthquake and all the pumps and the gasoline stations stopped working? …[D]isasters can affect oil as well as the electricity system…A long blackout is unlikely.”

    [Kate Galbraith, NY Times]: “…[W]hat’s to stop people from turning in a faulty battery to the battery-exchange station?”

    [Sven Thesen, Better Place]: “We’re the ones that own the battery, so we’re going to do our best to ensure its longevity…If anything happens to the battery…Better Place will know…”

    click to enlarge

    [Kate Galbraith, NY Times]: “…[W]hat about thieves?”

    [Sven Thesen, Better Place]: “[A battery is] 400 pounds…We’re going to have communication with it in the form of LoJack.”


    New solar cells you can bank on
    Conrad Walters, February 24, 2009 (Sydney Morning Herald)

    "…Prototypes of a new generation of flexible solar cell have been produced using equipment built to print Australia's polymer banknotes.

    "The breakthrough, conceived by the [Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)], has the potential to enable mass production of solar sheeting at a far lower cost than traditional silicon-based cells.

    "A trial of the technology was conducted successfully…at the facilities of Securency International, north of Melbourne, where the nation's currency is printed…"

    Schematic of a DuPont version of the thin film "printing" process. (click to enlarge)

    "The new generation of solar cells is still relatively inefficient at converting the sun's rays into usable power. A CSIRO project leader, Dr Gerry Wilson, put the figure at 3 per cent. Normal photovoltaic solar cells are typically 25 per cent efficient…

    "Dr Wilson was confident this would improve [to]…7 per cent efficiency by next year and double digits after that. But he said the main benefit of the flexible sheets of solar cells was the ability to mass-produce them…[for] the roof of a house or…walls of a commercial building…

    "'Ultimately we want to print these at 200 metres a minute," said Dr Wilson, the speed used to print banknotes. 'If you could produce a 10 per cent efficient solar cell … in about five months you would have enough solar cells to produce one gigawatt of power. That's about the size of a nuclear power station. But in this case, we're using that big, free nuclear power station in the sky.'"

    "Dr. Wilson…[hopes the] solar cells would be in production for general use in about five years."


    Living With Limits
    Rudy Baum (Editor-in-Chief), February 9, 2009 (Chemical & Engineering News)

    "The Global financial crisis and recession is providing those who do not want to address global climate change another excuse for inaction. It is a familiar refrain. It is also a tired one.

    "It seems that whenever a concrete proposal that would limit the amount of CO2 being poured into the atmosphere is floated—whether it's California's effort to limit tailpipe emissions from cars or the Supreme Court ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency should regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act—someone is sure to respond, "We just can't afford to do that. It will put us at an economic disadvantage." Now it is the recession…"

    click to enlarge

    "…CO2 is unique among greenhouse gases in that climate change as a result of CO2 emissions is largely irreversible on a 1,000-year time scale… [A National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration paper:] "Among illustrative irreversible impacts that should be expected…are irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions in several regions comparable to those of the 'dust bowl' era and inexorable sea level rise." …

    "…According to the [Monaco Declaration of 155 ocean scientists from 26 nations], ocean acidification is under way, it is already detectable—the pH of ocean surface waters has dropped…and it is accelerating. Severe damages to marine organisms is imminent because of acidification. It will have socioeconomic impacts …By the end of this century, if atmospheric CO2 is not stabilized, the level of ocean acidity could increase to three times the preindustrial level. Recovery from this large, rapid, human-induced perturbation will require thousands of years…"

    "This is an emergency, folks. We have to begin the painful and difficult process of ceasing to treat the atmosphere and the oceans as a carbon dioxide sewer…And here's the hard truth: To do it, we're going to have to live with less, and we are going to have to accept some limits on our endless acquisition of goods because we cannot afford all the material stuff we produce and consume…[W]e are not paying the full cost of the material goods we consume. The only way that will change is through imposition of a carbon tax or a CO2 cap-and-trade system that will internalize the cost of burning fossil fuels into the products we consume. That is not going to be painless…[I]t has to be done. And done soon…"

    Sunday, February 22, 2009


    Obama EPA to Act on Global Warming Emissions from New Coal Plants; Decision Will Overturn Unlawful, Last-Minute Bush Administration Effort to Block Action on Global Warming
    Virginia Cramer and Josh Dorner, February 17, 2009 (Sierra Club)

    "President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today took the first step toward regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. EPA, under the new leadership of Administrator Lisa Jackson, granted a petition from the Sierra Club and other groups calling for reconsideration of an unlawful, midnight memo issued by former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson which sought to prohibit controls on global warming pollution from coal plants. EPA announced in a letter to the Sierra Club that it will publish a proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register and seek public comments on the decision in the near future.

    "Today's decision is consistent with a previous ruling by the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) in the Bonanza case, which found that there was no valid reason for the Bush administration's refusal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired power plants. The so-called Johnson Memo sought to unlawfully overturn that decision…"

    From 350org via YouTube.

    "…David Bookbinder, Chief Climate Counsel for the Sierra Club[:] "Today's victory is yet another indication that change really has come to Washington, and to EPA in particular. This decision stops the Bush Administration's final, last-minute effort to saddle President Obama with its do-nothing policy on global warming…Not only does today's decision signal a good start for our clean energy future, it also signals a return to policy based on sound science and the rule of law, not deep pocketbooks or politics…With coal-fired power plants emitting more than 30 percent of our global warming pollution, regulating their carbon dioxide is essential to making real progress in the fight against global warming… Today's announcement should cast significant further doubt on the approximately 100 coal-fired power plants that the industry is trying to rush through the permitting process without any limits on carbon dioxide. New coal plants were already a bad bet for investors and ratepayers and today's decisions make them an even bigger gamble.”


    Nations to Write Treaty Cutting Mercury Emissions
    Juliet Eilperin, February 21, 2009 (Washington Post)

    "More than 140 countries have agreed to negotiate a legally binding treaty aimed at slashing the use of the metal mercury (Hg), with the goal of reducing people's exposure to a toxin that hampers brain development among infants and young children worldwide.

    "The agreement, announced at a high-level United Nations meeting of environmental ministers in Nairobi yesterday came after Obama administration officials reversed U.S. policy and embraced the idea of joining in a binding pact. Once the administration said it was reversing the course set by President George W. Bush, China, India and other nations also agreed to endorse the goal of a mandatory treaty…

    "'Only a few weeks ago, nations remained divided on how to deal with this major public health threat which touches everyone in every country of the world,' [Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program] said. 'Today, the world's environment ministers, armed with the full facts and full choices, decided the time for talking was over -- the time for action on this pollution is now.'"

    How mercury (Hg) invades. (click to enlarge)

    "'The United States will play a leading role in working with other nations to craft a global, legally binding agreement that will prevent the spread of mercury into the environment and improve the health of workers, pregnant women and children throughout the world,' said Nancy Sutley, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality…

    "...[A]ctivities, including the production of chlorine and the burning of coal, release mercury, which then falls to the earth and the sea in precipitation. The neurotoxin accumulates in fish and marine mammals in the form of methylmercury, which poses a threat to humans when consumed…

    "'For six or seven years, the Bush administration had absolutely blocked any attempt to create a legally binding instrument,' [Environmentalist Susan Egan Keane, a policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council ]said. 'The Obama administration, within three or four weeks of inauguration, was able to put that into reverse.'"


    Kent BioEnergy, With Decades of Algae Experience, Predicts Biofuel Innovation Will Come From “A Guy on a Tractor”
    Bruce V. Bigelow, February 20, 2009 (Xconomy)

    "…Jack Van Olst and Michael Massingill are co-founders of San Diego-based Kent BioEnergy, a startup that has developed a variety of proprietary algae technologies over the past 37 years…Kent BioEnergy…holds a variety of patents and exclusive licenses for aquaculture wastewater treatment systems, algae-based water recycling systems, and algae-based environmental remediation technology. It also has patents pending for making algae easier to harvest, methods for maintaining algae monocultures (ensuring that a pond has just one species of algae), and for genetically modifying algae to enhance algal production of valuable oils that can be used to make fuels.

    "While many algae-based energy technologies have just begun to develop system designs, Kent BioEnergy has been refining its systems development under Massingill since he joined the company in 1980…The company also has worked since the mid-1980s with Clemson University researchers to develop a variety of proprietary processes for efficiently growing and harvesting algae. Van Olst says harvesting in particular is…not a trivial issue…because algae basically have the same density as the water where they grow. You can’t just use a net to scoop out the algae. (It’s possible to use a centrifuge to separate the algae, but Van Olst says it is too costly.)"

    click to enlarge

    "…Kent BioEnergy has adopted a multipurpose strategy that emphasizes a systems approach and seeks to maximize efficiencies by using algae in many different ways. For example, algae can be optimized to produce methane gas in an anaerobic digester, and the leftover biomass sludge can be used as livestock feed or as an agricultural soil amendment. Because algae absorbs carbon dioxide, Van Olst also is intrigued with the concept of developing techniques for using algae ponds to capture carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pumped out by coal and gas-powered power plants.

    "So hypothetically, at least, algae could produce the methane gas used to fuel a power plant and also absorb at least some of the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions.

    "… few competitors developing algae-biofuels technologies have been working at the same scale as Kent BioEnergy. The company, which now has 26 employees in San Diego and Imperial County, operates algae production ponds on a 250-acre desert site near Mecca, CA, and it has acquired an additional 350 acres along the western shore of the Salton Sea. But Massingill says making algae biofuels economical will likely require expanding algae production to an agricultural scale that could require 10,000 acres of algal growing ponds…"


    Pace of global warming speeds up
    Randolph E. Schmid, February 15, 2009 (AP via Cape Cod Times)

    "Despite widespread concern over global warming, humans are adding carbon to the atmosphere even faster than in the 1990s, researchers warned…Carbon emissions have been growing at 3.5 percent per year since 2000, up sharply from the 0.9 percent per year in the 1990s, Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    "Past projections for declines in the emissions of greenhouse gases were too optimistic, he added. No part of the world had a decline in emissions from 2000 to 2008."

    click to enlarge (Support President Obama to reverse)

    "Anny Cazenave of France's National Center for Space Studies told the meeting that improved satellite measurements show that sea levels are rising faster than had been expected…Rising oceans can pose a threat to low level areas such as South Florida, New York and other coastal areas as the ocean warms and expands and as water is added from melting ice sheets…[T]he fastest rising areas at about 1 centimeter — 0.39 inch — per year in parts of the North Atlantic, western Pacific and the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica…

    "…[E]fforts to curb carbon emissions through the use of biofuels may even backfire…Demand for biologically based fuels has led to the growing of more corn in the United States, but that means fields were switched from soybeans to corn, explained Michael Coe of the Woods Hole Research Center…[O]ther countries, such as Brazil, increased their soy crops to make up for the deficit…Brazil created more soy fields by destroying tropical forests…Instead [of absorbing CO2] the forests were burned, releasing the gasses into the air…[swamping] any declines recorded by the United States… if crops like sugar and oil palm are planted after tropical forests are burned, the extra carbon released may be balanced by lower emissions from biofuel in 40 to 120 years, but for crops such as corn and cassava it can take hundreds of years to break equal…"

    Friday, February 20, 2009


    Green giants herald power revolution
    Jeremy Watson, 15 February 2009 (The Scotsman)

    "…The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed out to the 12-mile British territorial limit, will tomorrow award "exclusivity agreements" to a range of power companies to develop 10 offshore wind farm sites.

    "The sites will be split evenly between the west and east coasts. Those in the west are expected to be in the relatively sheltered Irish Sea and Solway Firth areas off the south-west coast. In the east, they are likely to stretch in a line from Wick in the north to the Berwickshire coast in the south…they are forecast to produce 6.4 gigawatts of power, more than doubling the amount of electricity produced by renewable forms of energy in Scotland…"

    click to enlarge

    "The companies involved are understood to be some of Britain and Europe's biggest utility companies, which are likely to form consortia to exploit offshore wind power. They include Scottish and Southern, ScottishPower, Centrica, Swedish-owned Vattenfall, Germany's E.on, France's EDF, Danish company DONG, Npower and Ramco…

    "The rising value of the euro means construction projects in the UK are now far cheaper than was previously the case for international consortia."

    click to enlarge

    "The wind farms will use undersea cables to transport their power ashore and connect to the national grid…[The] agreements are designed to allow developers to begin initial surveys and consultations on the sites, while the Scottish Government conducts an assessment of the environmental implications…The emphasis on generating wind power is now switching offshore because of the difficulties of getting onshore wind farms through the planning process…

    "The new generation of offshore farms will be sited several miles out to sea, ending most objections about visual intrusion in rural areas, although developers will have to overcome concerns about wildlife movements and incursions on airport flight paths.

    "As the seabed owner, the Crown Estate will earn up to 2% of the value of the electricity generated, providing a lucrative annual windfall for the Treasury…"


    China's Chery Auto unveils electric car: company
    February 20, 2009 (AFP)

    "China's largest independent carmaker Chery Automobile rolled off its first plug-in electric car this week, the latest Chinese automotive company to produce an alternative energy vehicle.

    "The all-electric car, S18, can go up to 150 kilometres (93 miles) on one charge and has a maximum speed of 120 kilometres (72 miles) an hour…The battery can be fully charged within six hours using a 220-volt home outlet, while 80 percent of the battery can be charged within 30 minutes…[It’s] unclear when the car would be available to buy."

    The S18 (click to enlarge)

    "Unlike another Chinese carmaker, the BYD Co, which began selling its plug-in electric hybrid car in China in December, the Chery has not given the S18 the option of running on petrol…

    "Domestic manufacturers of clean vehicles are likely to get a boost from the government in the form of a policy package to help the car industry through the global economic crisis…China's Ministry of Finance [plans]…to subsidise purchases of alternative energy vehicles to expand domestic demand, boost the domestic car industry and reduce pollution emissions."


    Feed-in Tariffs: Ontario’s Experience
    John Lorinc, February 10, 2009 (NY Times)

    "Less than three years after the Ontario government introduced North America’s first feed-in tariff policy to promote small-scale renewable energy, [a Canadian environmentalist has suggestions]…for decision-makers in the United States…Several states and cities in the United States are considering a set of energy rate-setting policies that are regarded as pivotal in the growth of green energy in countries like Germany.

    "Feed-in tariffs — also known as “standard offer contracts” — guarantee long-term preferential rates to small renewable energy developers so they can compete on price with conventional (and less costly) forms of power."

    click to enlarge

    "Beginning in March 2006, Ontario agreed to price small-scale hydro, wind and biomass projects at 11 Canadian cents ($0.9 U.S.) a kilowatt-hour, and 42 Canadian cents ($0.34 U.S.) for solar — compared to about 5 cents for nuclear, coal, gas and large hydro. The rates were guaranteed for 20 years.

    "So many local wind and solar developers — as well as homeowners looking to install photovoltaic panels — applied for Ontario’s standard offer that the government’s 10-year target cap of 1,000 megawatts was exceeded within a year...The province…is expected to reintroduce a modified feed-in tariff [with its]… new green energy legislation…"

    click to enlarge

    "…Keith Stewart, an energy analyst at World Wildlife Fund Canada [suggests]…1) Don’t cap a feed-in tariff program. Governments should rely on such tariffs as the primary procurement method for green energy…2) Create a monitoring process. Under the terms of Ontario’s standard offer, developers had three years to line up financing, obtain approvals and build their projects…3) Underwrite a smart grid. To fully exploit the potential of renewable energy, transmission networks need to be re-engineered to accommodate smart meters and intermittent energy flows from solar and wind projects…

    "An expert task force convened by Ontario’s electricity market operator released a report last week recommending $1.6 billion Canadian ($1.3 billion U.S.) in smart grid investments."


    Coalition demands end to coal use
    JP, February 13, 2009 (Asia News Daily)

    "…[ Greenpeace ] has demanded that the government stop using coal to generate electricity in the country, saying its adverse effects outweighed its benefits…

    "Greenpeace said the people around Cilacap coal-fired power plant in Central Java had suffered from respiratory problems and loss of income from the damage to rice fields and the decline in fish populations."

    click to enlarge

    "They demanded the power plant be shut down immediately…[A Greenpeace survey showed] almost 90 percent of respondents living near the power plant suffered acute respiratory infections, especially children and old people…

    "Greenpeace, the Anti-Coal Coalition and the Cilacap People’s Aspiration Committee (KAM Cilacap) ended a two-day event in Cilacap on Thursday, aimed at promoting clear energy in the region.

    "The Cilacap plant started operating in 2006 with a capacity of 600 megawatts. It supplies the Java-Bali electricity grid…[Negotiations] for compensation for damages caused by the coal power plant in three villages and the Griya Kencana Permai housing complex [where locals claim suffering] have not been fruitful…"

    Thursday, February 19, 2009


    How to Use Solar Energy at Night; Molten salts can store the sun's heat during the day and provide power at night
    David Biello, February 18, 2009 (Scientific American)

    “…[M]ore than 28,000 metric tons of salt is now coursing through pipes at the Andasol 1 power plant. That salt will be used to solve a pressing if obvious problem for solar power: What do you do when the sun is not shining and at night?

    ”The answer: store sunlight as heat energy for such a rainy day…Part of a so-called parabolic trough solar-thermal power plant…Because most salts only melt at high temperatures…and do not turn to vapor until they get considerably hotter—they can be used to store a lot of the sun's energy as heat…use the sunlight to heat up the salts and put those molten salts in proximity to water via a heat exchanger. Hot steam can then be made to turn turbines without losing too much of the original absorbed solar energy."

    storage schematic (click to enlarge)

    ”The salts—a mixture of sodium and potassium nitrate, otherwise used as fertilizers—allow enough of the sun's heat to be stored that the power plant can pump out electricity for nearly eight hours after the sun starts to set…Using mirrors to concentrate the sun's energy is an old trick—the ancient Chinese and Greeks both used it to start fires—and modern power plants employing it might provide a significant source of renewable energy without any greenhouse gas emissions…engineers have tried a number of different technologies to store the sun's energy…

    “The Andasol 1 power plant, which cost around $380 million (300 million euros) to build, is the first to actually use the technology, so it remains to be seen how it will work in commercial practice. But U.S. government laboratories—NREL as well as Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M.—have already proved the technology can work in demonstration projects that employed it, like the Solar Two power tower outside Barstow, Calif…

    “Solar Millennium is so confident the technology will work that a twin solar-thermal power plant (Andasol 2) is already near completion…And Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) has contracted with Abengoa Solar to build a 280-megawatt solar thermal power plant—dubbed Solana or "sunny place"—70 miles (110 kilometers) southwest of Phoenix…thermal energy storage at Andasol 1 or power plants like it costs roughly $50 per kilowatt-hour to install..Electricity from a solar-thermal power plant costs roughly 13 cents a kilowatt-hour…"

    solar power tower (click to enlarge)

    “As efficient as solar-thermal power plants using parabolic troughs with molten salt storage systems like Andasol 1 or Solana are, they don’t capture as much of the sun's heat as is possible…To allow the salts to get hotter, some companies, such as SolarReserve in Santa Monica, Calif., are developing so-called power towers—vast fields of mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto a central tower. Because of the centralized design such a structure can operate at much higher temperatures—up to 1,000 degrees F (535 degrees C)—and use molten salts directly as the fluid transferring heat in the power plant…But such a power plant…would cost as much as $800 million for a 200-megawatt power tower.

    “…researchers are also looking into salts that could be used instead of the oil in parabolic trough power plants…long-term research projects are looking at other thermal storage technologies, such as storing heat in sand or creating single-tank molten salt storage…Ultimately, it will come down to how much value policymakers and consumers put on electricity that is renewable and emissions-free.


    Wyo., Mont. wind projects undeterred by recession
    Bob Moen, February 17, 2009 (AP via Forbes)

    "The recession may have taken the wind out of the sails of some wind energy projects around the nation, but that's not the case in Wyoming and Montana.

    "Officials in both states say they have not heard of any wind projects being delayed. If there are projects being delayed, they say there are plenty of others still going forward…"

    click to enlarge

    "Chantel McCormick of the Montana Department of Commerce's Energy Promotion and Development Division, said her office is tracking more than 50 wind projects in various stages of development…

    "The recession has slowed demand around the country for wind turbines, siphoned off available financing and put many projects on hold, forcing turbine manufacturers to lay off workers recently. The $787 billion stimulus package passed by Congress contains money to help revive the industry…"

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009


    Energy blowing in the wind
    Mary Tutwiler, February 16, 2009 (The Independent Weekly)

    "With a new green initiative as part of the Obama administration’s plan for sustainable energy, wind power looks like a breath of fresh air. However, a new study, released last week by regional transmission organizations, says it could cost $50 billion to $80 billion to upgrade the electrical transmission grid to accommodate wind power…Those figures are the cost of adding up to 15,000 miles of new extra-high-voltage lines to the regional power grid east of the Rocky Mountains [and]…does not cover the $700 billion cost of building wind farms. Currently the Southwest Power Pool, which handles transmission issues for utilities in Louisiana and nearby states, has not had an application from wind harvesting businesses in Louisiana."

    If it's so unaffordable, why does Europe have 24 offshore installations? (click to enlarge)

    "Despite the cost, wind entrepreneur Herman J. Schellstede, CEO of Wind Energy System Technologies, in New Iberia, has been pushing to build wind farms offshore in Louisiana for years. New Orleans utility company Entergy, however…thinks Schellstede is tilting at windmills.

    "Entergy Corp. does not think offshore wind power is promising because turbines would require laying underwater transmission lines and the windmills could be destroyed by hurricanes."

    And why is Europe building more? (click to enlarge)

    "Herman J. Schellstede, chief executive of the New Iberia company Wind Energy System Technologies LLC, which plans to open a wind farm in early 2011 on a 11,355-acre lease seven miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas, says Entergy’s concerns are “ridiculous.”

    "After collecting 19 months of wind data, Schellstede said WEST will be ready to install its first turbine this spring. By the end of the year, he hopes to have orders for 62 platforms of turbines…[Schellstede’s] company has filed two applications to build wind farms off the coast of Louisiana: one at Port Fouchon and one off of Venice…"


    Measure B Shaping Up to be March’s Big Ballot Brouhaha; Bringing Solar Power to City Buildings Raises Questions
    Linda Coburn, February 16, 2009 (San Fernando Valley Business Journal)

    "Business and civic leaders are of two minds when it comes to Measure B, the so-called solar initiative that will appear on the March 3 {Los Angeles] ballot…On the one hand, nobody wants to be seen as being anti-solar, but some have expressed concerns about some of the specific provisions of the proposal, the haste of its development and a lack of transparency and information.

    "If approved by the voters, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will install, maintain and own solar installations within the city and at city-owned airports to produce at least 400 megawatts by 2014."

    click to enlarge

    "The Valley Industry and Commerce Association formally came out against the initiative…both the Los Angeles Daily News and the Los Angeles Times have reported on stark differences between [the independent detailed cost analysis by Huron Consulting Group] and previous information provided by the DWP…the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee has had additional meetings to review it.

    "The LADWP has already moved forward with a variety of initiatives to help them meet state-imposed mandates to increase the use of renewable energy sources…it has already been valuable by creating debate and stimulating conversation about a problem that has been neglected for far too long in the region…"

    click to enlarge

    "Vijay Kapur…president of International Solar Electric Technology in Chatsworth said that on the whole he thinks the measure will be a positive…But job creation is a question for some, with a much-debated element of the measure being a proviso that only IBEW union members who are LADWP employees will be authorized to perform installation of the panels on city buildings.

    "The president of the Valley Economic Alliance, Bruce Ackerman, said that while the organization had not taken an official position, he was concerned about that restriction.

    "Lee Alpert [chairman of the LADWP board of commissioners] dismisses that argument, saying that jobs are jobs, whether they are held by union members or not…He added that there is a provision in the measure to give preference to purchasing the various components that make up the solar installations from local firms..[and] there was a lot of other work that would likely come out of the program, including things like retrofitting some buildings to accommodate the panels."


    ZAP Cheers Electric Car Tax Credits in Stimulus Act
    February 18, 2009 (CNN Money)

    "Officials from ZAP say the Stimulus Act signed into law by President Barack Obama yesterday carries a provision in which buyers of its electric cars and trucks can receive a 10 percent tax credit up to $2,500.

    The plug-in tax credit in the Stimulus Act can be applied for on vehicles purchased starting today. The tax credit applies towards ZAP's Xebra sedan (MSRP $11,700) and truck (MSRP $12,500) as well as its new low-speed vehicles, the ZAP Shuttle (MSRP $14,700) and ZAP XL Truck (MSRP $14,500)."

    From freestylewalka via YouTube

    "The tax credits were initially slated to have an effective date starting January 1, 2010, but ZAP argued that the tax credits would meet the spirit of the Stimulus Act if started immediately. CEO Steve Schneider expressed appreciation to Congressman Mike Thompson (California 1st District) who successfully argued for immediate implementation…

    "ZAP has been a leader in electric transportation since 1994, delivering over 100,000 vehicles to consumers in more than 75 countries. ZAP manufactures a line of electric vehicles, including electric city-cars and trucks, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and ATVs… and is developing a freeway capable electric vehicle called the ZAP Alias…"


    U.N. urges G20 leaders to back “Green New Deal”
    Daniel Wallis (w/David Clarke), 16 February 2009 (Reuters)

    "World leaders meeting in London in April should kick-start a "Green New Deal" to fight climate change and revive the crippled global economy on a sustainable basis, a major U.N. environment meeting was told…

    "The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) says political efforts to curb pollution, protect forests and avert global warming have failed, and the world needs to learn from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's response to the Great Depression…A U.N. report presented…at the conference in Nairobi called on G20 leaders to consider proposals for a "Green New Deal", and develop framework ideas towards securing a global climate change agreement at talks in Copenhagen in December…"

    Just the book the UN needs to read. (click to enlarge)

    "More than 190 nations have agreed to negotiate a new global deal by the end of 2009 to succeed the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, which sets carbon dioxide limits for 37 industrialised nations…huge banking bailouts had been mobilised in weeks, but the response to climate change had been lethargic…

    "[T]he world was reeling from multiple crises, and people were worried about food security, jobs and their savings. An "environmental thread" ran through the story…Soaring food prices last year had brought intense focus not just on agriculture and trade issues, but on the inflationary role of biofuel production…"

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009


    Wind power must be managed to ensure electric supply
    Jim Fuquay, February 13, 2009 (Fort Worth Star-Telegram via Energy Current)

    "…[N]early a year ago…a sudden drop in the wind out in West Texas played havoc with the state's biggest electricity grid…The state has added even more wind power in the meantime, but simply having a lot of wind power doesn't necessarily foretell reliability problems…the recent experience of Spain with its wind power is an example of how wind power can fit into a power grid…

    "Wind power recently accounted for about 45 percent of the off-peak electricity load in Spain, briefly providing nearly 11,000 megawatts of the 25,000 megawatts being used at the time. Spain, which narrowly trails Germany as Europe's biggest wind power producer, had about 16,000 megawatts of wind capacity installed as of Dec. 31. That's twice the approximately 8,000 megawatts of capacity that Texas recorded as of the end of 2008. Thursday afternoon, those wind farms were generating about 3,000 megawatts of power, or about 10 percent of the power being used at the time on the state's largest electrical grid, the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT.

    click to enlarge

    "Although Spain's wind power makes up a much larger share of the national generating capacity, it…[manages] intermittent power…and Texas ERCOT should be able to do the same.

    "This year, the Public Utility Commission of Texas approved about $5 billion worth of new power-transmission projects to bring wind power from West Texas and the Panhandle to urban consumers. Those projects are expected to take five years to complete, after which there should be enough transmission capacity to carry all the expected wind power generated. Today, those wind farms are curtailed roughly every other day by transmission constraints…


    Dow Chemical plans to sell solar shingles by 2011
    February 15, 2009 (AP via Chicago Tribune)

    "Dow Chemical Co. says it aims to start selling power-generating roof shingles by 2011...The Midland [Mich]-based chemical giant has been at work for the past year on a $50 million project called Dow Solar Solutions.

    "The company's scientists and engineers are working to develop a product to sell thermoplastic solar roof shingles throughout North America."

    click to enlarge

    "Dow Chemical is collaborating with three home builders -- Lennar Corp. of Miami, Pulte Homes Inc. of Bloomfield Hills and Prost Builders Inc. of Jefferson City, Mo. -- and with Tucson, Ariz.-based Global Solar Energy Inc., a maker of flexible materials

    "The researchers have conducted numerous tests in preparing the shingles for market…At the center of the project is a $2.5 million injecting and molding machine nicknamed "The Beast" that produces the solar cell-imbedded shingles.

    "The marketing for solar shingles will be shaped by government subsidies and utility policies…"


    The Electric Car Battery War; U.S. and Asian rivals are rushing to hone lithium-ion technology. Should the feds get involved?
    Pete Engardio (w/Kenji Hall, Ian Rowley, David Welch and Frederik Balfour), February 12, 2009 (BusinessWeek)

    "…Most experts agree that lithium ion, which can be used to create batteries that weigh far less and store more power than those in today's hybrids, will be the dominant [battery] technology…The big question is whether [any]…U.S. battery maker will be a major player by the time a mass market develops for electric cars, which could take a decade. The field is already crowded…U.S. companies claim to have prototypes…They include [Ener1], A123 Systems…and…Johnson Controls-Saft, which has snared contracts with Ford Motor, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz…But the Americans face Asian rivals with deeper pockets and far more lithium-ion experience…

    "…Whoever prevails, some lithium-ion batteries will likely be assembled in America. The bigger stakes are over which companies will control the key technology—the lithium-ion cells stacked inside the batteries and the design of the car power system…Asians are counting on their dominance in lithium-ion devices for computers and appliances and on their ties with the hybrid programs of Toyota Motor and Honda Motor…"

    Li-ion schematic (click to enlarge)

    "Should Uncle Sam provide billions in loans and grants to a promising but unproven business? Or should the government wait for the market to sort things out before it backs a U.S. company? The risk is that by then another major industry could go the way of memory chips, digital displays, the first solar panels, and the original lithium-ion batteries used in notebook PCs and cell phones. American scientists, funded by federal dollars, were at the forefront of each of those. Yet the industries—and the high-paying manufacturing jobs that go with them—quickly ended up in Asia. U.S. labor costs and taxes drove many operations abroad, but often industries fled simply because Asian governments, banks, and companies were more willing than Americans to risk big capital investments.

    "This time federal help could be on the way…Lithium ion is regarded as a core enabling technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles, which, unlike most current hybrids, can be recharged with normal household current and run much longer on electricity before a gas-powered engine takes over. Lithium-ion cells can store up to three times more juice and generate twice the power of the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in today's hybrids. The T-shaped lithium-ion battery for the Chevrolet Volt, due in 2011, will contain 200 such cells…

    "General Motors and Ford both assert that a domestic lithium-ion industry is vital if the U.S. is to be a major player in green cars…Besides, lithium-ion technologies can be used to help electric utilities manage their grids more efficiently—a potentially bigger market than cars…"

    Li-ion batteries being tested for GM's Volt. (click to enlarge)

    "Panasonic supplies 90% of the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in today's hybrids…China has more than 10 manufacturers—Beijing has declared lithium ion a strategic industry. Mainland battery giant BYD Auto, in which Warren Buffett holds a 10% stake, turned heads at the Detroit car show with a small plug-in hybrid sedan…

    "Analysts say no U.S. or Asian contender has solved all of the challenges of producing lithium-ion car batteries that are safe, reliable, and affordable…The U.S. is still in the race…Lithium-ion car batteries are an exciting technology. Whether they will generate an exciting U.S. industry is anyone's guess."