NewEnergyNews More: December 2009

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  • Wednesday, December 30, 2009

    WIND TRENDS 2010

    Wind Power Trends to Watch for in 2010
    Shawna Seldon, December 28, 2009 (American Wind Energy Industry)

    "As the nation looks ahead to 2010, renewable energy will be central to the economic and energy issues that dominate the political agenda. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has identified some trends and indicators…

    "…[1] Wind Power: Second-largest Source of New U.S. Power Generating Capacity for Sixth Year…While wind makes up only about 2% of total electricity supply, it is [expected in 2010 to continue to be] one of the largest sources of new power generation…second only to natural gas…[2] The most important job creation policy that Congress can enact is a national [Renewable Electricity Standard (RES)] which provides the long-term certainty that companies need to invest in new facilities and train workers to make the 8,000 components that go into a modern wind turbine….Whether it is in job legislation or in comprehensive energy and climate legislation…a strong RES is urgently needed…"

    click to enlarge

    "…[3] With shop floors working single shifts or sometimes idling altogether for lack of contracts, U.S. wind turbine component manufacturing lagged in 2009. If an RES is passed early on in the year, however, it will work in synergy with the short-term [Recovery Act (ARRA)] incentives and provide the long-term signal that companies are waiting for in order to invest in new and expanded facilities…[4] With climate and energy legislation or regulation looming, the stakes are higher than ever for the energy sector. Tighter limits on emissions reveal true cost, so efforts to pad climate and energy legislation with subsidies to ensure the survival of the more polluting technologies will continue. Lobbying efforts and spending could surpass [2009] record levels…[A]nti-renewable energy communications campaigns [may] try again to use bogus studies funded by fossil fuel-backed groups…[and] other tactics.

    "…[5] Wind Turbines Get Even More Powerful…Over 1,000 wind turbines larger than 2 megawatts (MW) are already in commercial operation…and the year-end [2.5-MW turbine orders are] the harbinger of a shift [toward even larger turbines]…This forecast assumes [exhausted inventories]…a growing market…[and] a national RES. The trend toward larger turbines is driven by economics: taller turbines…produce more power at a lower cost per kilowatt-hour…[6] While federal transmission policy is under heated discussion as part of pending energy legislation, states and regions are where key decisions are made…Texas and the Southwest Power Pool are beginning to see investment in new transmission lines and infrastructure [because of good policy]…[T]he Midwest Independent System Operator…[may adopt] similarly favorable cost allocation policy."

    Good question. (click to enlarge)

    "…[7] As wind penetrations grow higher in the U.S. and Europe in 2010, utilities and grid operators should become more comfortable with [it]…Several major wind integration studies slated for release in 2010 are expected to add further evidence that wind can be reliably integrated with the grid at low cost…[T]he wind industry will be keeping its eye on…fossil fuel competitors [who may try to] impose new and unfair costs on wind plants…[8] Another year of record growth is expected for the small wind market in 2010 due to a federal Investment Tax Credit that has been expanded to provide an 8-year, uncapped 30% tax credit for small wind systems for homeowners and small businesses…[A new] safety and performance standard will…help consumers compare turbines.

    "…[9] [T]he completion of the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee process (discussions on wind turbine siting held under the Federal Advisory Committee Act with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a broad range of stakeholders) [will] provide the industry with greater clarity on wildlife surveys…the siting process for wind farms…[and the] industry continues cooperative research programs with the Bats & Wind Energy Cooperative, the American Wind Wildlife Institute, and other organizations…[10] Operational and Safety Guidelines…[are being] put in place…and AWEA is doing so on a number of fronts, including workplace safety…[in conjunction] with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)…to promote safety and health within the wind industry. AWEA will also develop best practices and safety awareness training programs…"


    Top 10 environmental moments of the decade
    Constance Cheng, December 28, 2009 (CNN)

    "What a difference a decade makes. Since [2000, there has been]…a marked shift toward all things green in politics, technology and perhaps most importantly, society…[There is a wide] understanding of climate change…[and has] started to change the way more us live our lives…10 environmental developments…defined this…green decade…

    "…[1] In 2001, the Toyota Prius became the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle to be sold worldwide. It heralded the beginning of an era…Industry insiders called it a game-changer…[M]ore than one million Priuses have been sold worldwide, and other major manufacturers [are developing] their own hybrid and electric-only vehicles…[2]
    December's U.N. summit on climate change held in Copenhagen, Denmark garnered unprecedented attention…[T]he accord that was reached fell short of the expectation of nearly every interested party…"

    The 2001 Toyota Prius changed the game forever. (click to enlarge)

    "…[3] Al Gore's 2006 "An Inconvenient Truth" has its place in history. The film was instrumental in spreading the message of climate change…[and] was one of the highest grossing documentaries of all time…[I]t has been maligned by some critics for "fear-mongering." …Yet despite its doomsday scenarios, it explained the basics of climate change to an audience that till then had no access…[and] brought Al Gore…the Nobel Peace Prize…[4] Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) brought environmentalism into the home…[Producers overcame initial objections and early technical problems] and in 2007, sales of CFLs reached record heights worldwide. Australia has already implemented a ban of traditional incandescent light bulbs while the European Union and Canada are also phasing out the old bulbs…[T]he average CFL uses 75 percent less energy…a $30 saving which would pay for itself in 6 months. It was an important coup for the environmental movement, but green groups now say much more needs to be done…

    "…[5] Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a string of deadly hurricanes devastating Haiti in 2008 and the heat wave in Europe in 2003, just some examples that this decade was plagued by wild weather…[C]limate change may…[make] ordinary [or extreme] weather events…more extreme…Recently, the U.N.'s weather agency said that this decade was the hottest on record…[6] Growing awareness for the environment meant that noughties vocabulary included words like "carbon footprint," "carbon neutral" and "greenwashing." Perhaps the most significant step was when they were accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2007…"

    About the time "September 11" is taking its place in history alongside Pearl Harbor and Custer's Last Stand, global climate change may be reaching anthropological proportion. (click to enlarge)

    "…[7] In 2007…in Paris…The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the first scientific consensus on climate change, which included an unprecedented acknowledgement that it was "very likely" that climate change was caused by human activity. The report went on to project a temperature rise of 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius and a sea-level rise of between 28 to 43 cm by the end of the century…[8] [A] healthy mix of existing technologies especially in the renewable energy sector will [likely] be enough to significantly cut emissions. Wind, solar, hydro all saw significant support in the past ten years…In 2008, global power capacity from renewables topped 280,000 MW…That is three times more than what nuclear power plants in the United States currently produce…India and China are now among the leaders in the installation and manufacture of renewable energy. In 2008, China's wind power capacity doubled for the fourth year running…[S]olar technology had a few key breakthroughs including improved energy yields (it now tops 20 percent) and the creation of ultra-thin solar panels…

    "…[9] In 2006, [British economist Sir Nicholas Stern and] former vice president of the World Bank issued a 700-page report calculating the cost of climate change to the world's economy. Green groups called the report a wake-up call for governments…The report estimated that climate change would cost at least 5 percent of global GDP annually, now and forever. The worst case scenario would be 20 percent a year ($7 trillion)…The UN Framework Convention for Climate Change suggests that climate change could cost between $70 to $100 billion by 2030..[10] Carbon trading, also known as "cap and trade," became a hotly debated policy that many hope will help counter climate change. Using free-market principals and government regulation, participants in cap and trade schemes buy and sell permits to emit carbon dioxide. Governments limit the amount of emissions allowed and slap heavy fines on those who exceed those limits. Reducing the amount of permits issued over time should then reduce pollution levels…There are also questions over regulation and accounting…It's a complex and controversial issue but one that looks set to a key feature of mainstream climate change solutions…"


    Carbon Prices Reflect an Uncertain Year
    Matthew Berger, December 29, 2009 (Inter Press Service via Reuters/AlertNet)

    "As what was supposed to be a breakthrough year for action on climate change comes to a close, one indicator of the disappointment surrounding an anti-climactic outcome in Copenhagen and stalled U.S. Senate legislation can be seen on the European Climate Exchange. The main exchange for the carbon emissions allowances that are traded as part of the European Union's Emissions Trading System saw carbon dioxide emissions drop to a six-month low of 12.4 euros in Copenhagen's aftermath and remain around that level since.

    "Prices have been volatile throughout the ETS's first five years, but this year they dropped to an all-time low of eight euros in February, following a record high of just under 30 euros the previous July…For cap and trade approaches to greenhouse gas regulation to achieve their ends and provide the incentives that will push companies to invest in cleaner technologies, prices will need to be much higher…The International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook for 2009 said carbon prices should be at 50 dollars (35 euros) a metric tonne in 2020 and 110 dollars (67 euros) in 2030 in order to stimulate investment…"

    click thru for interactive chart

    "A major reason for the downturn in prices this year versus last is the economic recession, which has meant lower production, and thus lower emissions and less need for emissions allowances…But there are other factors at play as well. The price of carbon, as with that of any commodity, is seen as a function of demand…[Current low demand was also brought on] by the lowered expectations for carbon dioxide regulation following the disappointing summit in Denmark and the stalling of climate legislation in the U.S. Senate…

    "…[T]here is growing pressure to allow more [normally lower-priced] offsets into the carbon trading system…[This could show] businesses expect carbon emissions prices to rise…Offsets include the Certified Emissions Reduction credits of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, which allow emitters in rich countries to invest in clean tech ventures in developing countries in exchange for credits to put toward their emissions cuts tallies, as well as programmes where emitters can pay for forests to be conserved or replanted…"

    click thru for interactive chart

    "The U.S. House of Representatives passed a climate change bill…setting up a cap-and-trade system in the U.S. Like the ETS, the proposed U.S. system would limit industries' emissions and eventually force companies to pay for allowances to offset their emissions - or allow them to sell excess allowances if their emissions are lower than expected…The EU system and any future U.S. system are supposed to encourage a movement away from dependence on high-emitting, fossil-fuel[s]…But for businesses to be sufficiently motivated to reduce their emissions they need a price incentive.

    "The non-binding international accord announced by the U.S., China, India, Brazil and South Africa and "taken note of" by the other countries is not likely to raise demand enough…[P]rices in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which caps emissions in 10 northeastern U.S. states, dropped to around two dollars…[S]upply is easily overpowering demand…The EU ETS also faced the early problem of having allocated too many allowances at its start…But low prices…may simply be the unavoidable growing pains…[that] allowed emitters and markets time…[to learn to] operate under a cap…As for the future of cap and trade, currently low prices are not expected to, by themselves, slow the momentum toward a cap-and-trade system in the U.S. or elsewhere…"


    Solar Energy Could Meet 15 Percent of US Electricity by 2020
    December 16, 2009 (Solar Energy Industries Association)

    "Leaders representing the U.S. solar energy industry reported the potential of solar energy to meet 15 percent of U.S. energy needs by 2020…The “Expanding Solar Energy in the United States” briefing was hosted by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and featured U.S. solar industry leaders outlining the Solar Bill of Rights legislation needed to rapidly deploy solar energy to fight climate change and create jobs…

    "In a report released jointly with solar industry groups representing more than 90 countries around the world, SEIA presented an accelerated solar deployment scenario for the United States to meet 15 percent of electricity needs by 2020. Twelve percent would come from solar electric power generated by photovoltaic solar panels and concentrating solar power plants. Another 3 percent of electricity would be offset by solar thermal (solar water heating) systems."

    click thru for the complete presentation

    "The report also noted the key policies needed for the industry to scale up and compete effectively…conveyed in the Solar Bill of Rights…[which] lays out eight basic rights that give the solar industry equal access to the electricity marketplace and levels the playing field with the fossil fuel industries…

    "…[1] The right to put solar on our homes and businesses…[2] The right to connect our solar energy systems to the grid…[3] The right to net meter and receive at least full retail rates…[4] The right to a fair competitive environment…"

    click thru for the complete presentation

    "…[5] The right to equal access to public lands…[6] The right to build and interconnect new transmission lines…[7] The right to buy solar electricity from utilities…[8] Consumers have the right to the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry…

    "The industry estimates that by 2020 more than 880,000 new solar jobs would be created in the US while reducing total energy emissions by 10 percent (nearly 600 million metric tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions would be avoided annually)…"

    Tuesday, December 29, 2009


    Roundup: Climate science in 2009; For climate science, the year 2009 brought significant discoveries and startling controversies
    Kurt Kleiner, 29 December 2009 (UK Guardian)

    [click through to source article for complete scientific journal references]

    "…The year started out with some sobering, if not altogether surprising, news: overall, the Antarctic continent is warming…[The] studies provided the necessary evidence to show that human-induced warming is happening globally…[A]lthough temperatures rose overall during the twentieth century, distinct periods of warming and cooling of about 30 years each were superimposed on the warming trend…We might have entered such a phase in 2001–2002…[but] the Natural Environment Research Council and the Royal Society in the UK issued a statement that the previous ten years were the hottest on record.

    "…In its 2007 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated a maximum sea level rise of 59 centimetres by 2100, but noted it was a low estimate…In March a Climate Change Congress in Copenhagen reported that sea levels could rise as much as one metre by 2100…In September…[researchers reported] that both ice sheets are melting much more rapidly than expected…[and] it's possible that sea levels could rise even higher than one metre by 2100…But the case on sea level rise isn't completely closed…"

    There is no longer any doubt -- both poles are melting. (click to enlarge)

    "Amidst continued discussions on…whether to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at 450 or 350 parts per million, and whether peaking global emissions by 2015 or 2020 will be enough…a group of scientists suggested it would be easier to concentrate on…One trillion tonnes…the limit…on our cumulative carbon dioxide emissions if we are to have a reasonable chance of avoiding warming above 2 °C…[W]e've already released more than half a trillion tonnes since the year 1750…At current emissions rates, we'll reach that number in 40 years…[but] decision-makers [may use this as an excuse to]…put off action…

    "With carbon emissions still rising, and political foot-dragging continuing, some scientists began to consider what the world will look like if we miss the target of limiting global temperature increase to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels…Even if emissions peak in 2015 and decrease by three per cent per year, there's an even chance we'll exceed 2 °C…As a precaution, we should begin planning now to adapt to 4 °C…[which could cause] the destruction of US$1 trillion worth of gross domestic product and displacement of 146 million people if sea levels rise a metre…"

    The weight of climate change will soon come down on us. (click to enlarge)

    "During 2009, geoengineering took a few steps away from science fiction and towards reality. The idea that we ought to consider actively taking control of the climate has previously seemed fanciful, if not downright dangerous. But as emissions have continued to rise, the idea has become less marginalized…In August the UK Royal Society released a report that said geoengineering might soon be our only hope…Man-made aerosols have been thought to counter global warming by reflecting solar radiation…[but research] concluded that they have different effects depending on the types of clouds and regions in which they form…The jury is still out on the overall influence…[A report said] glaciers in the Himalayas are not melting…[and another found] that glaciers are in fact rapidly dwindling…Changes in glaciers seem to vary depending on location and elevation, and there's not enough data to draw a general conclusion…

    "…[T]housands of e-mails and documents were stolen from a server at the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Centre in the UK…'Climategate'…caused delight among climate change deniers and major embarrassment for some climate scientists…What the e-mails do not show, however, is a grand conspiracy to concoct global warming. Instead, they show sincere researchers struggling to do good work in a highly politicized environment — and sometimes losing their tempers…[but as NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt said,] 'Science doesn't work because we're all nice...Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works.'"


    The Real Story Behind Solar Energy in 2010
    David Fessler, December 28, 2009 (Money Morning)

    "By the time 2009 is in the books, the record will show that solar energy stocks endured a tough year…Analysts also expect the carnage to continue into 2010…

    "…Analysts first suggest that a "huge" oversupply of polysilicon (the raw material used to make silicon-based panel assemblies)…[But] panel sales are rapidly eating into this oversupply…They [shortsightedly also] predict companies producing panels based on the new thin-film designs [can’t compete] because the oversupply of polysilicon will keep poly-based panel prices too low…[S]ome solar-energy companies will lose money in 2010. Others won't make it at all…[But the] market for solar photovoltaic panels (those that produce electricity) is increasing rapidly. It certainly isn't about to replicate the 1980s, when 400 solar panel manufacturers got whittled down to just five…"

    click to enlarge

    [Ron Kenedi, vice president of the Solar Energy Solutions Group, Sharp Corp:] "We're seeing growth in all segments of solar, starting in the last few months…We've seen growth in the residential sector and new ways for projects to be financed. Utility-scale projects are starting and even mainstream solar is starting. All segments of the solar industry are getting stronger."

    [Zhengong Shi, chairman and chief executive officer, Suntech Power Holdings Co.:] "Last year, the Spanish market was almost half of the global market. Apart from the Spanish market, all other markets grew at 50% to 100%. That's a positive sign…We're excited about the U.S. market because the new administration is positive and supports rules for renewable and solar and there is increased awareness in the general public. We see our market share continuing to gain in the U.S."

    Suntech, one of the powers in the solar industry, is planning on growth. (clikc to enlarge)

    [Jerry Wolfe, CEO groSolar:] "The technology is in place and improving every year…We're finding that residential and commercial buildings are less expensive (with solar panels) than (if powered only by) a utility. People don't understand that. Our biggest problem is that solar requires a cultural change and acceptance. That's our biggest hurdle."

    "…Resistance to change and the adjustment(s) that change requires is part of human nature…It only takes one word to sum up the one real force that is driving the solar industry, both now and in the future: Innovation. It's something that the United States has always prided itself on and that hasn't changed…One year from now, when many solar analysts are stuffed full of crow, the solar industry will still be introducing new products. And many solar companies will be well on their way to continued profitability in this promising sector of the alternative energy space."


    Time for Postal Service fleet to go green, lawmaker says
    Ed O’Keefe, December 17, 2009 (Washington Post)

    "From horse-drawn wagons to stage coaches, trains and 18-wheelers, the U.S. Postal Service has used virtually every mode of transportation to deliver the mail. But a New York lawmaker says it's time for the mail service to start using at least 20,000 electric vehicles to stamp out the agency's environmental waste.

    "The Postal Service said it operates the largest civilian fleet of vehicles in the world, with about 220,000 vehicles traveling more than 1.2 billion miles each year. The agency's entire fleet consumed 121 million gallons of fuel in 2008, costing it roughly $1.3 billion…[V]ehicles average 10.4 miles a gallon since most drive slowly and make frequent stops between mailboxes."

    click to enlarge

    "Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) wants to put the postal fleet to use during off-hours to help alleviate the nation's overworked power grids…[His bill] would give eventually give $2 billion to the Energy Department and Postal Service to convert current mail trucks or manufacture new ones that use vehicle-to-grid [V2G] technology…The technology allows electricity to flow from plug-in electric or battery-powered vehicles to power lines, feeding excess electricity to the vehicles when they're not in use. In this case, postal vehicles would become temporary storage units for electricity. When necessary, power grids could retrieve electricity from the vehicles…[Delaware compensates V2G users] for electricity sent back to the grid at the same rate they pay for electricity they consume.

    "An August report by the Postal Service inspector general said Serrano's proposal would be feasible if the government provided funding. The start-up cost for the project would be $65 million…[The idea has also gotten a nod from organized labor]…The Postal Service knows firsthand about the effect of the "green" movement. Revenue and mail volume have dropped significantly in recent years as Americans opt for eco-friendly, paperless online options…"

    click to enlarge

    "The Postal Service first experimented with electric vehicles in 1899 as it started to phase out the horse and buggy, spokeswoman Sue Brennan said. Serrano's proposal is one of several that would make the postal fleet more eco-friendly, and the Postal Service is testing several electric or hybrid vehicles, Brennan said.

    "Thirty electric vans transport the mail to processing facilities near Serrano's district in New York City. More than 43,000 mail vehicles can run on alternative fuels, and 584 ethanol-powered trucks are in use in Minnesota…Some mail carriers in Arizona and Florida use bicycles to make deliveries, while other carriers in those states, California and the District have tested three-wheel electric vehicles. The T3 battery-powered vehicles can reach speeds of 12 miles an hour and carry a maximum 450 pounds of mail. Mail carriers have also tested hybrid vans produced by Ford and General Motors…"


    As colleges add green majors and minors, classes fill up
    Julie Schmit, December 28, 2009 (USA Today)

    "…Nationwide, more than 100 majors, minors or certificates were created this year in energy and sustainability-focused programs at colleges big and small…That's up from just three programs added in 2005.

    "Two factors are driving the surge: Students want the courses, and employers want the trained students…[T]he Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University… started an undergraduate program in sustainability studies — with a focus on solar — a year and a half ago. It now has about 600 students who've declared sustainability a major…Other schools are also seeing big demand..."

    The President of the University of Arizona explains the importance to the greater community and the nation of their Sustainability program. From gpecgreaterPhoenix via YouTube

    "…Illinois State University in Normal, Ill…[has] 21,000 students [and] 65 majors in renewable energy, a program started in 2008 with help from a $1 million Department of Energy grant. The program has…[more demand than capacity.] Nearby employers, including those in wind energy, hope to hire future graduates…

    "…Massachusetts Institute of Technology… launched a minor in energy studies [in September]. A student survey said 43% of freshmen and sophomores were very or extremely interested in it…MIT's student energy club has 1,700 members, vs. several hundred a few years ago…"

    Professor Kammen explains why students should get into energy studies. From OLLIBerkeley via YouTube

    "…University of California-Berkeley…has seen student interest in its introductory energy class explode. Ten years ago, it attracted 40 or so students. Now, the class runs 270, says Daniel Kammen, director of the school's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory.

    "The Obama administration has estimated that jobs in energy and environmental-related occupations will grow 52% from 2000 through 2016, vs. 14% for other occupations. That's partly why budget-strapped schools are adding energy and sustainability programs even while cutting other majors…"

    Monday, December 28, 2009

    IN 2010, CARS PLUG IN

    Year of the electric car dawns
    Peter Whoriskey, December 24, 2009 (Washington Post via Seattle Times)

    "…As many auto companies tell it, next year may be the year the massive U.S. auto industry really begins to go electric.

    "Nissan's all-battery Leaf is scheduled to go on sale in November. General Motors will begin selling the Chevy Volt, a primarily electric car (with a small auxiliary gasoline engine that kicks in to boost the car's range). Ford plans to produce an electric commercial van. The Obama administration has doled out $2.4 billion to companies involved in producing batteries and other parts of electric cars…But overshadowing prospects for the transition of the vast U.S. auto fleet to electric — and the billions of dollars the automakers invested in the switch — is the question of whether anyone beyond a sliver of enthusiasts will embrace the newfangled cars."

    click thru for Plug-in America's complete listing of battery electric vehicles and how they are progressing

    "The only major automaker with a fleet of new all-electric vehicles priced for mainstream consumers is BMW, with its 500 Mini E…Electrics pose two primary challenges to convention: When fully charged, they generally cannot travel even half the distance a conventional car can go on a full tank. And once the battery is depleted, there are few places to recharge besides home, and charging can take hours…Still, Department of Transportation data show U.S. drivers travel an average of 29 miles a day, well within the electric vehicles' range…

    "…Mini E drivers are rhapsodic about the car's performance and the promise of environmental benefits…[and pay] $850 a month to lease the cars and have a recharging wall box installed…But when Mini E drivers gather, their talk often turns to the art of maximizing the number of miles they can get with a single charge…They slow down…In a pinch, they turn off the heater or the air conditioner, tolerating a chill or a sweat to get another mile. And they have learned that in extreme cold, they must restrict their travels further. When temperatures dip, the normal 100-mile range can shrink to 80…Car companies…say such difficulties will be minimized soon…[T]he cars, now pricey, will be manufactured more cheaply when produced in greater numbers. Battery innovations will provide greater range at lower cost. The problem of the cold will diminish [with better] heating systems…"

    click thru for more about BMW's Mini E

    "Perhaps most critically, they say, public charging stations will become far more common. There are about 117,000 gas stations in the United States. By contrast, a database of public recharging stations maintained by Tom Dowling, an electric-car enthusiast in California, lists 734 public charging stations, with the vast majority in that state…[But] the comparison to gas stations isn't completely apt because most charging can be done at home. Still…In conjunction with Nissan, a company called ECOtality has a $100 million federal grant to set up about 7,000 stations in Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. More than 2,000 charging stations will be built in the Puget Sound area alone.

    "Given these hurdles, some automakers and environmentalists have cast a wary eye on the enthusiasts…John DeCicco, a University of Michigan lecturer and former senior fellow at the Environmental Defense Fund, said expectations for electric cars were similarly high in the 1990s, after California passed a zero-emissions mandate…Nevertheless, enthusiasts remain optimistic, many hoping to lead the way to weaning the United States from foreign oil…"


    SunEdison, Xcel announce solar project
    December 23, 2009 (AP)

    "North America's largest solar energy services provider and a Western utility are planning to install five photovoltaic solar facilities in southeastern New Mexico.

    "SunEdison and Xcel Energy's Southwestern Public Service Company say the 50 megawatt project will be one of the largest in North America. The five installations will be capable of generating enough electricity to power more than 10,000 homes…"

    Solar assets don’t get much better than New Mexico’s. (click to enlarge)

    "Xcel says the project will bolster rural economies and help the company meet renewable energy standards in New Mexico.

    "The project will be built, financed and maintained by SunEdison under a 20-year agreement with Xcel, which will then buy the power…Officials expect the project to be fully operational by the end of 2011."


    Ocean cable key to attaining energy goals
    Editorial, December 27, 2009 (Honolulu Advertiser/McClatchy via TMC News)

    "Hawai'i is embarking on an enormously complex journey, one that will take uncommon resolve, focus and planning…Destination: a cleaner, more self-sufficient energy future for the Islands.

    "…Initial planning has just begun for an interisland cable linking O'ahu with proposed windfarm turbines on Lana'i and Moloka'i. This moves the state in the right direction…Hawai'i needs an electrical grid networking multiple islands, making service statewide more robust in the face of outages."

    click to enlarge

    "Also key is the need for Hawai'i to wean itself off its reliance on imported oil. This is not only because of mounting global concern about greenhouse-gas emissions but also because it has driven the cost of electricity to double the national average, a continuing drag on the economy. That money, too, would be put to better use by keeping it in state…

    "The state has put out a request for proposals on preparing the environmental impact statement, a crucial planning document…[and] seeking consultants to bid on the contract to prepare the EIS…But it needs to be clear in the review that the cable is an essential element but only part of what's required to make an interisland grid a reality. A series of infrastructure projects and upgrades will be needed to make sure electrical grids on each island can accept the power…[and] the Neighbor Islands need to be brought into the inner circle of planning so that their concerns are not given short shrift…"

    click to enlarge

    "The development does have some federal support in stimulus funds already, but…payments by Hawai'i taxpayers and electric ratepayers are likely to be enormous…But it undeniably will be a worthwhile investment. At some point oil costs will resume an upward trajectory and Hawai'i, which can't lean on neighboring states for support, needs alternatives.

    "The state's aim is to draw 70 percent of electrical needs from renewable sources by 2030…[S]everal different building blocks will be required…Waste-to-energy. Solar. Biofuels. And a robust network of windfarms…The course toward this preferred future is still uncharted, and the right mix of renewable-energy approaches has yet to be discovered…The state is taking a big step in the right direction with the cable project…"


    Smart Grid Technologies; Networking and Communications, Energy Management, Grid Automation, and Advanced Metering Infrastructure
    Jevan Fox, Bob Gohn, Clint Wheelock, 4Q 2009 (Pike Research)

    "The worldwide electrical grid is perhaps the greatest technical innovation of the 20th century, delivering the life blood for more recent technical advances in computing and communications…[T]he days of taking the grid for granted are coming to a close, as economic, technical, environmental, and political challenges call for fundamental changes in how electricity is generated, distributed, and used.

    "The [4 categories of] key market issues driving change in the electric grid…[1]Improved reliability and security…[2] Reducing waste through operating inefficiencies…[3] Responding to the growing imbalances between worldwide supply and demand in power generation and distribution capacity, generation fuels, and the associated price volatility…[4] Reducing the overall electrical system’s impact on climate change…"

    click to enlarge

    "…[Taking] full advantage of the integrated intelligence of the computing and communications technologies that [enable the grid…represents tremendous opportunity to transform the current infrastructure into a Smart Grid that can deliver more efficiency and capacity…[I]mplementing such a large scale transformation… is analogous to switching engines on an airplane mid-flight…[Barriers include] lack of a common vision and/or standards, outdated and fragmented business and regulatory models, and lack of awareness (and often trust) of the consuming public. However, government and industry bodies are coming together with newfound urgency…

    "...Pike Research has found…the Smart Grid [has] three key dimensions…[1] Functional characteristics, including: end-to-end integrated communications infrastructure…[including] integration of distributed, renewable generation resources…and support for electric vehicles…[2] Component technologies, including: smart meters…networking…demand response systems…and vehicle-to-grid technologies…[3] Application use cases, such as: consumer empowerment and incentives…time-based pricing, and utility-based demand controls; net metering for consumer-based renewable (wind, solar) generation…and support for home and mobile plug-in electric vehicles."

    From Pike Research. (click to enlarge)

    "An important goal of the smart grid is to enable informed choices by consumers…[including] the economic realities of peak vs. off-peak generation costs (for example)…Pike Research’s surveys have found that consumers’ willingness to participate in managing their energy use is quite high, within certain constraints…the heart of the smart grid is the communications technology that is required to link everything from high-voltage transmission systems and utility control centers to a consumer’s individual appliances…[C]ommunications ‘silos’ need to be linked into a common, consistent, and flexible communications architecture…[N]ew technologies will make up this infrastructure…[which] can also make it more vulnerable to cyber-attacks unless the proper security technologies are included…high voltage transmission lines, enabled by new materials and voltage control technologies, promise to reduce line losses…as renewable generation plants are often far from consuming population centers…

    "In many ways, the smart grid represents the melding of traditional industrial grid companies, communications equipment and services firms, and IT hardware, software, and services companies. The result will be no less transformative than the integration of the voice, data, and video communications industries that rocked the previous decade…[It] represents a large market opportunity, with worldwide revenues growing from approximately $10 billion in 2009 to a peak of $35 billion in 2013…The transformation, and ultimately the success, of to the Smart Grid…[has risk but] as electricity is the life blood of our modern world, the forces pushing for ultimate success are strong."

    Sunday, December 27, 2009


    Hungry polar bears resorting to cannibalism; But Inuit leader disputes starvation is cause
    December 3, 2009 (CBC News)

    "The late formation of Arctic sea ice may be forcing some hungry and desperate polar bears in northern Manitoba to resort to cannibalism…Eight cases of mature male polar bears eating bear cubs have been reported this year…

    "Four cases were reported to Manitoba Conservation and four to Environment Canada.
    Some tourists on a tundra buggy tour of the Churchill wildlife management area on Nov. 20 were shaken and started crying after witnessing a male bear eating a cub…In recent years, Manitoba Conservation has received one to two reports each year about bear cannibalism."

    Dislike this image of a polar bear eating a cub? Demand that Congress support New Energy and Energy Efficiency. (click to enlarge)

    "Retired Environment Canada biologist Ian Stirling, who has studied bears all over the arctic, said evidence suggests the cubs are being killed for food, not just so the male can mate with the sow. The Hudson Bay sea ice, which the bears use to get at the seals they need to fatten up for winter, isn't appearing until weeks later than it used to…[Jose Kusugak, President, Kivalliq Inuit Association] in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut said the incidents are non-events and that it's wrong to connect the bear's behaviour with starvation…[though] Kusugak admitted some communities are having polar bear problems because warmer than average temperatures means sea ice hasn't yet formed properly…[He does not think polar bear] numbers are dwindling or that polar bears are in other danger because of climate change.

    "Infanticide occurs among all species of bears but can become accentuated among polar bears when they run low on fat reserves and become hungry enough to resort to cannibalism, according to Polar Bears International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of polar bears and their Arctic habitat."

    Dislike this image of a polar bear eating a cub? Demand that Congress support New Energy and Energy Efficiency. (click to enlarge)

    "Scientists predict that with later formation of ice in the fall and earlier breakup in the spring because of climate warming, polar bears in places like western Hudson Bay will have to survive on land for longer on their diminishing fat reserves instead of hunting seals… The average date of breakup of the sea ice in western Hudson Bay is about three weeks earlier than it was 30 years ago, although there is a lot of variation between years…In 2008, the breakup was later, in early August, so the bears came ashore in better condition than in most recent years…But that advantage has been lost due to the current delay in freeze-up…This year may be an even longer wait for the bears to return to the sea ice to hunt as the current long range forecast calls for above average temperatures in the region until the second week of December…Twenty years ago, the average date the bears returned to the ice was Nov. 8…"

    [Stirling, biologist and 35-year Hudson Bay polar bear researcger, Environment Canada:] "At this time of year, polar bears are hungry because they have been surviving on their stored fat reserves since the ice cover of Hudson Bay broke up a few months ago. Thus, days they spend waiting for the sea ice to return, they are losing weight and eventually get quite hungry…During the summer and autumn, polar bears lose up to 30 per cent of their body mass because they burn up to one kilogram of stored body fat every day while they are waiting for the ice to freeze…We have observed that the average body condition of the western Hudson Bay polar bears has been declining for almost 30 years. By mid-to-late November, if they can't get on the sea ice to feed on seals, males may seek out alternate food sources."


    Energy office director: Renewable energy industry will see explosive growth
    Jim Groth, December 27, 2009 (Las Vegas Sun)

    "By 2020, solar and alternative-energy-related businesses will surpass gaming and mining as [Nevada’s] growth industries…[The state] currently produces 100 megawatts of solar energy. Over the next 10 years that will multiply by 1,000 percent.

    "The state could come to resemble Detroit during its boom after World War II, when the auto industry took off. Developing solar, particularly in Southern Nevada, will attract equipment manufacturers. That will, in turn, attract other job-creating industries."

    Nevada has some of the best solar assets in the nation. (click to enlarge)

    "The state [which now imports 38% of its 8,000 megawatt power consumption] should begin to export some of its [New Energy] to California or Oregon…That could lead to more stable power bills for homeowners, who now face 3 percent to 4 percent increases in their energy bills.

    "…Geothermal power generates 400 megawatts, most of it in Northern Nevada. By 2020, that should expand to 1,200 megawatts…Wind power will also develop…[but] winds in Nevada are gusty…"

    Nevada's geothermal assets are so good they virtually obscure the state on this map. (click to enlarge)

    "Traditional power plants will still be needed [through 2020 but efficiencies will streamline use]…Homes will have computer units that alert owners when lights are on and a person is not in the room. More existing and new homes and businesses will be retrofitted to use solar, geothermal and wind power. Most vehicles will be hybrid or electric…

    "All this will cost money, and that’s the key question on whether this all happens…The $17.5 million solar power project that will produce energy for three National Guard bases…is one example of how to pay…The state isn’t putting up a dollar. The company, Sierra Solar LLC, is building the project using federal tax breaks and other incentives. The National Guard will pay 15 cents a kilowatt hour for 20 years, thus avoiding an expected rise in its power bills far beyond 2020."


    Big plans for small wind
    Christopher Bjorke, December 27, 2009 (Bismarck Rtribune)

    "Wind power has been adding to North Dakota’s power generation capacity in multi-megawatt surges as turbine towers spring up across the landscape.

    "But apart from major wind farms, individuals can pull a couple of kilowatts from the air on a smaller scale with “small wind,” a niche power source that grew by 78 percent in the United States last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association…[ Art Mariner, owner of ND’s GR-8 Country Wind Power] installs an $18,000 to $19,000 tower and turbine unit about every two months, and expects to sell more in the spring…[mostly] on farms and ranches…"

    One thing North Dakota has is wind. (click to enlarge)

    "…[P]ower generation capacities [of] around 2.4 kilowatts an hour…take out a chunk of electricity expenses…Government tax incentives also will take out a chunk of an investment in small wind. The federal government provides a tax credit for 30 percent of the cost, up to $4,000. North Dakota income tax offered credit for wind power installation until the ND-2 individual tax form was phased out this year, but it still offers an incentive for business filers [and]…Property owners in the state can get a five-year exemption for the value of a wind tower on tax assessments…

    "Mariner, who also owns a construction company, said he became interested in wind power not so much out of an interest in green power, but in part because wind towers have become such common sights on the North Dakota horizon. He believes the same thing is driving customer interest…"

    The small wind market is growing all over the country. (click to enlarge)

    "Kay Fried and her husband Marv installed a turbine on their ranch north of Bismarck this past summer. She said she has had a fascination with wind turbines…[though they are not greens]…[The] turbine provides about 300 kilowatts a month, about a third of their electricity…[and] is quieter than the nearby road or the jets that fly overhead…

    "…Height and lot-size requirements prevent construction on most [Bismarck] residential lots…but some of the rural subdivisions would allow towers…Generation capacity for [most GR-8 small wind towers is]…around 2 kilowatts…[They] vary from 33 to 45 feet…[and output] depends a lot on location. Homes can draw power from a turbine while the wind is blowing and switch to the regular energy grid when it is calm. If a turbine generates more power than a home can use, the excess is put back on the grid, and utility companies reimburse owners…[O]il billionaire Harold Hamm [recently] inquired about using portable turbines to power his oil wells in the Bakken Formation…"


    Oregon Iron Works to build PowerBuoy for Reedsport
    4 December 2009 (Wave and Tidal Energy News)

    "The contract to build first commercial wave energy [Ocean Power Technologies] PowerBuoy® system in North America has been awarded to Oregon Iron Works…[This] represents Phase One of an expected 10-PowerBuoy Reedsport wave power station which will generate approximately 1.5 megawatts of electricity. The nine additional PowerBuoys will be constructed and installed under Phase Two of the project."

    [Oregon Governor Kulongoski:] “The partnership that we are developing with OPT and other Oregon companies fits perfectly with our goal of providing jobs for Oregon’s green economy…It’s exciting to see that Oregon has the chance to play a leading role in the development of this global industry and help achieve our national goals of energy security and reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels.”

    An OPT PowerBuoy. (click to enlarge)

    [Mark Draper, CEO, OPT:] “OPT has identified the Oregon Coast as one of the world’s top sources for future wave energy development, and Governor Kulongoski’s leadership has helped to enable the realization of its potential to create green jobs and prosperous coastal communities. We are committed to responsible development of renewable energy resources, and look forward to playing our part in that positive future. ”

    "… OPT is in the advanced stages of completing its first PB150 in the UK for deployment in the Orkneys, Scotland mid next year. The technology development for this device will also be applied for projects in North America."

    A PowerBuoy on its side reveals there will be plenty of work for Oregon Iron Works. (click to enlarge)

    [Terry Aarnio, Chair, Oregon Iron Works:] “Our workers are helping the Pacific Northwest become the center of excellence in green tech/clean tech manufacturing and we are proud to continue that tradition of leadership in American manufacturing by building the world’s best renewable ocean energy devices for OPT…This project demonstrates that Oregon intends to enhance its environmental reputation by building an economy on the leading edge of the green wave…”

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009


    Stewards of the Earth: Congregations reduce carbon footprint
    Mark Collins, December 22, 2009 (Daily Camera)

    "…Boulder Mennonnite Church in South Boulder had vegetables growing on church property as part of a neighborhood farm…Congregation Bonai Shalom in Boulder celebrated Hanukkah…using energy from wind turbines…[and served] a Shabbat meal using compostable cutlery and plates…Unity Church of Boulder will be celebrating Christmas 2010 in a solar-powered building [if funding works out].

    "All three groups are among a growing number of local religious organizations that believe lowering carbon footprints is part of walking a spiritual path…"

    click to enlarge

    "…[After hearing Rabbi Marc Soloway’s Rosh Hashanah] green sermon… Debbie Garelick… organized the Bonai Shalom Green Team. In recent years, Garelick has taken input from congregants, and spearheaded several eco-friendly initiatives at the synagogue…In addition, the synagogue uses energy-efficient lighting, gets all its electricity through Xcel Energy`s wind-energy program and worshippers employ zero-waste practices during weekly meals…

    "…Unity is in the midst of a fund-raising campaign to fund a $130,000 solar-panel project. Pastor Jack Groverland said he believes the campaign goals will be met in the spring, and the church will run on solar energy sometime in 2010…Unity is trying to meet the financial burden of purchasing and installing a solar-energy system by collecting used cellphones and inkjet cartridges [for recycling, for a fee]…The church also encourages recycling and composting…[and] has an ongoing campaign where people can donate used goods…that are taken to an Indian reservation at Pine Ridge in South Dakota…"

    click to enlarge

    "Garelick said her faith calls her to find ways to live sustainably…Likewise, pointing to verses in Genesis and in the Gospel of Luke, Groverland said there is Biblical support for humankind to take care of the environment…Phil Metzler, a trustee at Boulder Mennonite, says the small church has looked for ways to green its facility…

    "Metzler approached Kipp Nash, the farmer who founded Community Roots…St. Andrew Presbyterian also allows Nash to use a plot in its community garden, where he donates 10 percent of the harvest, as do other gardeners who use it. Nash says church land can be a good resource for producing food…Metzler of Boulder Mennonite says the partnership has worked well. Church members feel that the land is going to a useful, community enterprise. And the garden works as an outreach effort, too…"


    World's largest solar project prompts environmental debate
    Paul Rogers, December 22, 2009 (San Jose Mercury News)

    "…[Solargen Energy of Silicon Valley] is proposing to build [in the Panoche Valley in rural California] what would be the world's largest solar farm — 1.2 million solar panels [at a cost of $1.8 billion] spread across an area roughly the size of 3,500 football fields…

    "…In a refrain being heard increasingly across California, [critics — including some environmentalists — say] the plan to cover this ranch land with a huge solar project would harm a unique landscape and its wildlife…[while] green energy supporters are frustrated that a state that wants to lead the green revolution is facing roadblocks…[T]he Panoche Valley…20 miles from the nearest town…has 90 percent of the solar intensity of the Mojave Desert. Five willing sellers…have signed options to sell [Solargen] 18,000 acres. And huge transmission lines run through the site, negating the need to build the kind of costly and controversial new power lines that have stalled similar projects…The project would produce 420 megawatts of electricity, roughly the same as a medium-sized natural gas power plant, and enough to power 315,000 homes…"

    click to enlarge

    "But in recent weeks, the Santa Clara Valley, Monterey Peninsula and Fresno chapters of the Audubon Society have opposed the project…Among their primary concerns: Panoche Valley is home to several endangered species, including the San Joaquin kit fox, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard and the giant kangaroo rat. Additionally, an estimated 130 species of birds have been observed in the valley, including the bald eagle, golden eagle and prairie falcon…[Many in the groups support] renewable energy. But not here…

    "Several nearby residents also are fighting the project…[saying] vast solar arrays would alter the character of the area…[Some say] Solargen, founded in 2006, has never built a solar farm, and is pursuing the project primarily for the huge federal subsidies now flowing to renewable energy…Two large solar proposals in San Luis Obispo County near the Carrizo Plain — a 250-megawatt project proposed by SunPower of San Jose, and a 550-megawatt proposal from First Solar of Arizona — also are facing environmental opposition…"

    Where sheep can graze, these guys should thrive. (click to enlarge)

    "…U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., …introduced a bill to establish two new national monuments on federal land in the Mojave Desert. If approved, the measure would all but kill 19 large solar and wind farms proposed for the area…[Senator Feinstein] wants no large-scale solar or wind energy on former railroad lands that the federal government acquired a decade ago and that are prime habitat for bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and other wildlife…[though] she supports solar energy, and her bill requires the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies to identify other desert areas suitable for solar.

    "But others argue that prohibiting solar developments in vast portions of California doesn't make sense…[with Governor Schwarzenegger’s new] executive order requiring 33 percent of California's electricity to come from renewable sources such as solar and wind…[and] President Barack Obama's stimulus plan…It would pay for 30 percent of Solargen's project…if ground can be broken by Dec. 1, 2010…Julia Levin, a member of the California Energy Commission and former Audubon California policy director, said large solar projects are needed because residential rooftop solar, while important, costs more and takes longer to ramp up than big commercial installations…If work started by next December, [the Panoche Valley solar project] would be finished by 2016…[The] solar panels would be on racks, 3 feet off the ground, so sheep could graze underneath, and wildlife could move under them…[And the project] would create jobs and tax revenue for the tiny county…"


    Wave and tidal power growing slowly, steadily
    December 2009 (Electric Light and Power via HydroWorld)

    "Proponents of wave and tidal power have compared the state of this area of the renewable energy sector with the early days of wind power. The technology has great potential but still must prove itself…

    "Wave energy technology uses the movement of ocean waves to generate electricity from turbines…[T]idal power…is based on extracting energy from tidal movements and the water currents that accompany their rise and fall…[T]idal energy’s advantage lies in its predictability. Wave energy could be more abundant than tidal energy while still being less intermittent than wind or solar power…Conditions along coastlines or on the ocean surface, however, can be hard on wave and tidal installations…"

    click to enlarge

    "…The extent to which this will prove practical to harness [wave energy] will depend upon the successful development of near-shore and deep-water technologies…The most energetic wave resources are along the coasts of the Americas, Europe, Southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand…The [European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) at Scotland’s Orkney Islands] is one of the world’s foremost proving grounds for wave and tidal technologies and has collected more than 100 wave energy concepts, with many still at the research and development stage…[They] can be three to four times more expensive than wind power per megawatt…The United Kingdom remains one of the largest state sponsors of wave and tidal power…

    "Scottish firm Pelamis Wave Power…launched a project in Portugal called the Agucadoura wave farm. The project consisted of three of the company’s P1-A Marine Energy Converters…In September 2008, the company installed the energy converters 3 miles off the coast of northern Portugal. In mid-November 2008, all units were removed from the ocean when leaks were discovered…By March 2009, Agucadoura was taken offline indefinitely with about $13 million spent on the project [but]…In February, Pelamis won an order from British renewable company E.ON for the next generation of Pelamis Marine Energy Converters…"

    click to enlarge

    "Despite the cancelation and scaling back of some projects following the economic crisis, there are still wave and tidal projects taking shape…In November, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) won a $61 million grant from the Australian government for a utility-scale project…[T]he 19-MW project is expected to begin by the second quarter of 2010…OPT’s PowerBuoy floats freely with the rising and falling of offshore waves. The resulting motion is converted with a power take-off to drive a generator. The generated power is transmitted ashore via an underwater power cable…A 10-MW OPT power station would occupy about 30 acres of ocean space. The technology is scalable up to 100 MW…

    "Irish tidal energy company OpenHydro won…[is developing] a 16-meter [1 MW] Open Center Turbine, Subsea Base and Installation Barge…[to be] on the seabed below the ocean waves. Invisible from the surface and silent, the turbines generate up to 1 MW of electricity… Oyster Wave Energy Converter [from Aquamarine Power] has been tested and deployed at the New and Renewable Energy Centre near Newcastle, England…to capture the energy found in near-shore waves…Wavegen…produces [an oscillating water column] shoreline wave energy conversion unit called Limpet…connected to Scotland’s power grid since 2000…The 18.5-kW modules are meant for use in breakwaters, coastal defenses, land reclamation schemes and harbor walls…"


    Finding flaws in hybrid-car study
    Reader letter, December 23, 2009 (Washington Post)

    [Robbie Diamond, president and chief executive, Electrification Coalition:] “The Dec. 18 editorial "Cash for clunkers" referred to -- and relied heavily on -- a recent study by the National Research Council. Unfortunately, several of the assumptions that drove that study's conclusions were flawed. The NRC report assumes battery costs that are far higher than current industry estimates. The coming GM Volt, for example, has reported battery costs of $500 and $625 per kilowatt-hour, significantly less than the NRC's estimate of $875 per kilowatt-hour.”

    An independent study suggests battery sales will quickly be high enough to drive economies of scale and create much lower costs than the NRC study found. NewEnergyNews did not report on the NRC study because it seemed skewed in several ways. (click to enlarge)

    [Robbie Diamond, president and chief executive, Electrification Coalition:] “Perhaps worse, the report underestimated expected reductions in cost as battery technology continues to improve and economies of scale come into play. The Energy Department reports that a plant capable of producing 100,000 battery packs per year will have costs that are 38 to 44 percent less than a 10,000-unit plant. Yet the NRC seems to ignore these economies of scale. The NRC has done much important work over the years. In this case, however, its assumptions are badly out of line with industry and government estimates, and its conclusions -- and unfortunately, those of the Post editorial that relied on them -- suffer as well.”

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009


    Solar Thermal With Molten Salt Energy Storage: SolarReserve Heads to Nevada
    Jeff St. John, December 22, 2009 (Greentech Media)

    "…SolarReserve says it can [store solar energy using molten salts] and it's landed a project with NV Energy to prove it…[I]t has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Nevada utility to buy power from a 100-megawatt solar-thermal plant to be built near the town of Tonopah, Nev.

    "SolarReserve, which last year raised $140 million in a Series B round let by Citi's Sustainable Development Investments and Good Energies, said it intends to start construction next year, though the Nevada Public Utilities Commission still needs to sign off on the deal."

    click to enlarge

    "Central to SolarReserve's plans is the molten salt energy storage system it has licensed from United Technologies. Like many solar-thermal systems, SolarReserve uses a field of mirrors, or heliostats, to focus the sun's heat on a tower to heat a liquid to power a turbine."

    A solar power tower. (click to enlarge)

    "…[The] liquid is a molten salt that is then pumped into a closed-loop system to generate steam to power a turbine. It's the same technology tested out by the Department of Energy in the landmark Barstow, Calif. solar thermal pilot project known as Solar Two back in the 1990s.

    "SolarReserve also hopes to build a 150-megawatt solar thermal and molten salt storage project east of Palm Springs, Calif., and has a longer-range goal of building up to 5 gigawatts of plants in the coming years."


    Fact Finder: Wind Power; A closer look at how the TCLP turbine has performed
    Diana Fairbanks, December 22, 2009 (NBC25 Connect MidMichigan)

    "…Recently Traverse City Light and Power agreed to buy energy from a wind farm in McBain. A viewer wrote us asking how the wind turbine TCLP already has, right outside of Traverse City, has performed over the years…

    "…[It was] the first utility grade wind turbine in the United States and it was put into service in 1996…[The M-72 turbine] cost of $650,000…[and] has brought in $1,030,000 over its lifetime…[W]hen the wind is really blowing it can power up to 110 homes…It was expected to put out 600 kilowatts of electricity and…[has done so] on a regular basis…"

    click thru for a brochure about the TCLP wind turbine

    "…[P]lanning studies showed the location two miles outside of Traverse City to be a good spot because of both its elevation and its proximity to TCLP, but…[current standards would call for] a little higher in elevation [like that if nearby McBain, Michigan]…"

    Wind power is coming. (click to enlarge)

    "…TCLP signed a 20 year contract to use power from 5 turbines [twice as potent as the Traverse City turbine] at Heritage Stoney Corners Wind Farm [in McBain] at the end of next year…That's 10 megawatts of energy.

    "It's part of the effort by TCLP and all electric utilities in Michigan to meet a new state mandate of 10% renewable energy by 2015…Right now, even with the M-72 turbine, more than 99% of TCLP's energy is from coal generation…[But TCLP’s] longer term goal…[is] to go from 99% dependant on coal down to 60-70% by 2020…"


    Sandia Labs Creates Fashionable Glitter-Sized Solar Cells
    Clay Dillow, December 22, 2009 (Popular Science)

    "Suburban rave-goers, women of Jersey Shore, and Elton John, take note: your lives just got a little bit greener. The sartorial risk-takers over at Sandia National Labs have created glitter-sized photovoltaic cells that could revolutionize solar energy collection the way Liberace revolutionized the dress code for concert pianists.

    "Made of crystalline silicon and fabricated using microelectric and microelectromechanical systems processes commonly found on electronics manufacturers' production floors, the tiny cells hold great potential for better perfomance and efficiency as well as reduced cost…[Thinner] than a human hair…they are 10 times thinner than normal 6-by-6-inch brick cells and use 100 times less silicon, yet the difference in their performance is negligible…[and] because of their flexibility, they have myriad applications going far beyond fashion that larger, static PV cells just can't compete with."

    click to enlarge

    "For starters, the cells could be integrated into flexible substrates and used as textiles in everything from clothing to cargo gear to tents and shelters turning anyone spending a good deal of time outdoors -- hikers, soldiers, hunters -- into a walking recharge station for small electronic devices. They could also potentially be used to wrap irregular surfaces on everything from buildings to seafaring vessels to automobiles to create a solar harvesting panel just about anywhere."

    click to enlarge

    "What's more, they can be cut from silicon wafers of any size; if one cell proves faulty during the fabrication process, the rest of its tiny cousins can still be harvested, whereas in larger brick cells a fautly unit could mean the entire wafer is unusable. The tiny glitter cells could have intelligent controls and even storage built into them at the chip level, simplifying the process of transmitting the power, not to mention the permit and grid integration processes…

    "…[B]road application may not be too very far away. While large-scale solar projects may not become glittering fields of micro-cells overnight, it's a pretty solid wager that there's a soldier out there somewhere with plenty of sun and no working batteries that could benefit from a little glam. Turns out Elton John really did have the electricity all along…"


    RI picks Chevron for Narragansett wind project
    Eric Tucker, December 22, 2009 (AP)

    "Rhode Island has selected Chevron Energy Solutions to develop and maintain several onshore wind turbines in the coastal town of Narragansett…

    "Chevron's proposal beat out bids from three other firms. It plans to finance the site work and turbine construction without funding from the town or state…Current plans call for the turbines to be built on four sites owned by either the town or the state. The first turbine could be finished by the end of next year…Each turbine could cost somewhere between $3 million to $3.5 million…The precise number of turbines hasn't been determined, nor has their height or capacity…"

    What the Chevron turbines will look like. (click to enlarge)

    "The state initially selected five sites for the turbines in Narragansett — a coastal town in southeastern Rhode Island — but withdrew one and now plans to proceed on four properties, including at a wastewater treatment facility near Scarborough State Beach.

    "Chevron Energy Solutions, a clean energy company based in San Francisco, is a subsidiary of energy giant Chevron Corp…[Rhode Island Governor Don] Carcieri praised the company as a "proven leader in renewable energy" and said wind was the proven best source available for renewable energy…[Chevron said] it was pleased to have been selected and looked forward to helping the state and town meet their energy goals."

    Naragansetters don't object to wind like the Back Bay snobs to the North. (click to enlarge)

    "The turbines are separate from a larger [offshore] wind farm that Carcieri has proposed building miles off Block Island with the goal of generating about 15 percent of the state's electricity. His administration has selected Hoboken, N.J.-based Deepwater Wind LLC for that project.

    "Last summer, the town and state sent 34-question surveys to around 800 randomly selected Narragansett residents to measure public reaction to the proposal. More than three-quarters of respondents reacted favorably to the proposed turbines…John Torgan, of the environmental group Save the Bay, said his organization embraced wind energy but that it was imperative that sites for turbines be selected in as transparent a method as possible…"

    Monday, December 21, 2009


    First Solar eyes Blanquefort for French plant
    Matt Daily and Laura Isensee (w/Dave Zimmerman), December 21, 2009 (Reuters)

    "Solar module maker First Solar Inc…and partner EDF Energies Nouvelles [are] in the final stages of talks to build a new manufacturing plant in Blanquefort, France.

    "First Solar, which has previously announced it would work with EDF, said the new plant is expected to begin construction in the second half of 2010…The news follows the Tempe, Arizona-based company's forecast for [a stronger] 2010…"

    click to enlarge

    "The plant in France, which will create up to 400 jobs at the town near the city of Bordeaux, will cost about $150 million and is expected to reach full production annual capacity of 100 megawatts in early 2012.

    "Earlier this month, First Solar, said it planned to add eight more production lines to its existing operations in Malaysia, and it would reach a total output capacity of about 1.8 gigawatts in 2010."

    click to enlarge

    "First Solar also announced…[the start of] commercial operations at the 21-megawatt solar power plant that the company developed in Blythe, California -- about 200 miles east of Los Angeles…

    "First Solar is one of the world's largest producers of photovoltaic cells, which turn sunlight into electricity. Its production costs are the lowest in the industry, although its thin-film cadmium telluride cells are not as efficient in capturing sunlight as more traditional silicon-based cells…[Nasdaq shares] of First Solar were up 0.88 percent at $136.87…"


    Wave Wind catches the wind energy wave
    Thomas Content, December 20, 2009 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

    "As economic development officials await word on whether a European wind power company will invest in Milwaukee, an Asian firm is planting some roots in Wisconsin.

    "Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea is expanding into the wind power business and is working with Wave Wind LLC of Sun Prairie to establish itself in North America…Wave Wind is a company that formed in mid-2007 as a joint project of Tim Laughlin and Robert Heinemann. Laughlin came from the heavy crane [wind construction] industry…[and] Heinemann owns and operates Wave Communications, a cell-phone tower construction firm…[They aim to] fill a niche market building small to medium-sized wind farms of one to 50 turbines…dealing with the challenge of oversized equipment like wind turbines, blades and towers…The jobs are huge and the logistics are oversized as well…"

    Here’s how it’s done. From ecotricity via YouTube

    "After experiencing record growth in prior years, the wind power market stalled in 2009. A rebound is forecast in 2010, but whether that will kick in before midyear is up in the air, Laughlin and Wilkinson said…[A New Energy policitical push in Congress for a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) is helping]…Wisconsin is one of 26 states with a renewable energy mandate…[requiring] that 25% of the state's electricity come from renewable sources of energy by 2025…

    "The 45-employee firm has been most active in Texas, Oklahoma and other states where wind power development has been active…[focusing] on transportation and logistics of moving massive pieces of equipment - from trains to staging areas to trucks to project development sites…The construction work - hundreds feet in the air - requires the use of giant cranes and other types of oversized equipment…"

    Wisconsin has wind assets. (click to enlarge)

    "The partnership with Hyundai is moving Wave Wind's focus closer to home, as the company branches beyond construction and maintenance and into wind farm project development…The company is looking to tap local suppliers for its six-turbine Hyundai project, hiring Manitowoc-based Tower Tech Systems to build the wind towers…

    "Some states have been ahead of Wisconsin in landing key suppliers to the wind industry, including Pennsylvania, Colorado and Iowa…But Wisconsin is poised to catch up. More than 70 companies are part of a statewide coalition of businesses that are getting involved in supplying the wind industry…"


    L.E.D. Holiday Light Sales Boom
    Leora Broydo Vestel, December 21, 2009 (NY Times)

    "Gillian Gillett, a San Francisco resident, loved the energy-efficient, light-emitting diode holiday lights that she purchased for her Christmas tree last year. This year, she bought more and draped them around a tree in front of her home…

    "…[D]ecorative L.E.D. holiday lights appear to be catching on in homes across the country. With the nation’s most iconic Christmas trees lighting the way — the White House and Rockefeller Center trees are decked out in L.E.D.s — retailers are reporting brisk sales for the lights this holiday season, despite the rough economy…Home Depot…is seeing a triple-digit increase in L.E.D. holiday light sales compared to 2008. And Christmas Lights Etc., an online retailer, announced a 200 percent boost in L.E.D. sales over last year…"

    L.E.D. lights in D.C. (click to enlarge)

    "Jagdish Rebello, an electronics market analyst at iSuppli, said that L.E.D.s will account for an estimated 25 to 50 percent of total holiday light sales this year in retail channels, despite prices that can be two to three times higher than traditional incandescent holiday lights…Over 100 million decorative light strings are expected to be sold in the United States this year…

    "While L.E.D.s have been used as indicator lights in electronics products for many years, manufacturers only recently began using them in household lighting products. And until L.E.D. holiday lights came along, incandescents had the Christmas lighting market cornered…[According to] Energy Star, a government energy-efficiency rating system for lighting and other products…L.E.D.s use up to 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light, and can last up to ten times longer."

    L.E.D. lights in Rockefeller Center. (click to enlarge)

    "…[H]oliday [L.E.D.] lights transform only about five percent of the power that they use into light, while the rest gets emitted as heat. Colored incandescent holiday lights are even less efficient, with as little as one percent of the energy getting converted to light…

    "L.E.D.s have other selling points…such as the availability of solar-powered outdoor holiday lights, which use rechargeable batteries, but no electricity. And, unlike incandescents, a problem with one L.E.D. light does not affect the rest of the string…[but] most consumers have yet to look to L.E.D.s as replacements for standard incandescent light bulbs. Success in the holiday lighting category may help to change this…[T]he relative inexpensiveness of L.E.D. holiday lights [may] create low-cost expectations for other types of L.E.D.s…"