NewEnergyNews More: September 2010

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  • Wednesday, September 29, 2010


    DOE: Big Utilities Can Get Reliable Power from Small Solar PV Arrays
    Sara Stroud, September 28, 2010 (SolveClimate via Reuters)

    "Massive utility-scale solar projects under development in the deserts of California and the Southwest have been in the spotlight in recent months as they win slow approval from state and federal regulators. But a study released in September by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that smaller solar photovoltaic (PV) installations may collectively offer similar promise for increasing the amount of renewable power on the grid.

    "Traditionally, the reliability of small PV systems’ power output has been a concern for utilities, project developers and grid operators, since all it takes is a few clouds to disrupt the power flow of a small array. But [
    Implications of Wide-Area Geographic Diversity for Short-Term Variability of Solar Power by Andrew Mills and Ryan Wiser] suggests that when PV plant arrays are spread out over a geographic area, the variability in power output is largely eliminated…This means that for utilities, the distributed generation of small PV arrays could mean increased efficiency, reduced costs and a quicker path to a cleaner energy portfolio."

    click thru for the complete slide presentation

    "…The power output of a PV plant can fluctuate more than 70 percent in less than 10 minutes on a partly cloudy day, according to the report. That makes it difficult for grid operators to maintain a balance between power generation and demands…Following the model set by wind energy…the LBL study looked at synchronized solar data from 23 sites in Oklahoma and Kansas located between 20 kilometers and 440 km apart. It found that variability of solar output [for sites 20 km apart] was six times less than that of a single site…[and at] sites that were 50 km apart, the variability of solar was virtually identical to that of wind over time scales of five minutes to 15 minutes…"

    click thru for the complete slide presentation

    "The report’s findings could also have implications for the cost of managing the integration of more solar power into utility grids by lessening the need for energy storage…Geographic diversity reduces [variability and] costs of generation…For utilities, especially those that are required to meet state renewable portfolio standards, figuring out how to integrate renewable power into the grid…and understanding how siting projects will affect output is critical…

    "In California, where utilities are required to get 33 percent of their power from renewables by 2020, a lot of PV growth has come from utility programs…While many of those are large-scale centralized projects, two of the state’s biggest utilities have launched widespread distributed generation initiatives that are expected to produce more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) through rooftop and ground-mounted PV arrays…[I]n early 2010 the New York Power Authority launched an initiative to deploy 100 MW worth of rooftop and ground-mounted solar installations across the state…"


    Study: Reduced CO2 Emissions Should Start With Electric Cars
    Gabriel Perna, September 28, 2010 (International Business Times)

    "A comprehensive study has concluded the best way to reduce U.S. oil demand and carbon emissions would be an aggressive push towards electric vehicles.

    [Energy Market Consequences of Emerging Renewable Energy and Carbon Dioxide Abatement Policies…] from the Baker Institute Energy Forum was comprised of several academic papers on a variety of topics pertaining to reduction of carbon emissions. Among them were carbon pricing, the wind industry, global U.S. carbon and energy strategies, and renewable energy research and development…"

    click to enlarge

    "Among the studies there were none that addressed electric cars specifically; what the researchers did was look at the greatest carbon reductions and try different methods of getting there. Electric cars were found to be the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions in the shortest time. The study found if there were a mandate requiring 30 percent of all vehicles to be electric by 2050, it would reduce U.S. oil use by 2.5 million barrels a day.

    "This would be in addition to the three million barrels-per-day savings already expected from new corporate standards for average fuel efficiency. The switch to using that many electric cars would cut emissions seven percent, while the proposed renewable portfolio standard for other kinds of energy use would only cut it by four percent…"

    click to enlarge

    "…James Coan…[of the Baker Institute said researchers] are eager to see whether the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, two newer electric cars on the market, sell well. There are two factors holding back widespread adoption of electric cars: cost of ownserhip and infrastructure.

    "…Coan said if manufacturers can figure out a way to design the electric car with lower costs then it should become more attractive to consumers. He said regulatory policies that favor electric vehicles from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will also help…"


    Marine renewable energy research gets $1.5M in funding
    Beth Perdue, September n24, 2010 (New England Business Bulletin)

    "…[Massachusett’s] Marine Renewable Energy Center [MREC] has received $1.5 million in federal funding to continue its research into wind, tidal and wave energy sources. The grants, from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, include $750,000 for annual operations and $750,000 for studying advanced techniques for assessing offshore wind and hydrokinetic energy.

    "The research project, a combined effort of four universities and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute [WHOI], has identified a new test site for wave and wind research in addition to an already targeted tidal test site…[T]he National Offshore Renewable Energy Innovation Zone, the new site is located about 30 miles south of Muskeget Channel…"

    click to enlarge

    "MREC partners, in addition to WHOI, are UMass Dartmouth, UMass Amherst, the University of Hawaii and the University of Washington. Dr. Eugene Terray, from WHOI, is the project's technical leader.

    "MREC is also working to create new training programs for repairing offshore wind turbines, learning from its European counterparts the importance of this position…Although some turbine manufacturing companies already train technicians, working on offshore wind farms [several hundred feet in the air over open ocean] has special requirements…"

    click to enlarge

    "…MREC is working with the state, community colleges, Massachusetts Maritme Academy, and the Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board to create training programs [for work that could be an employment alternative for out-of-work fishermen]…[but has not yet obtained] funding for developing coursework…

    "…MREC recently moved its headquarters from the Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center in Fall River to the Quest Center in New Bedford…New Bedford's geographic location and port capabilities…[make it a] logical place for deployment of offshore wind industry products and services such as those related to the Cape Wind project…[T]he economic impact on the city could be significant…Bremerhaven [on the German coast] is a city of similar size and background to New Bedford that, once it became the deployment site for German wind projects, saw its jobs grow by 700 in a three-year period…"


    The Challenge of Storing Energy on a Large Scale
    Erica Gies, September 29, 2010 (NY Times)

    "Renewable energy sources like solar power and wind have been in the spotlight lately, as have ways to improve control of the power distribution system through information technology…[Now] incentives from the Energy Department, increased interest from venture capitalists and policy shifts at the state level, where utilities are regulated, are laying the groundwork for bringing energy storage capability to the electricity grid… [G]rid-scale storage technologies…include pumped hydroelectric energy; air compression systems; flywheels; and even superlarge batteries…

    "Grid operators must keep power flowing reliably to users, a task known as frequency regulation…[That is complicated by] solar and wind power…[which] can change output rapidly if external conditions shift: a cloud crossing the sun or a drop in the wind…Aside from these minute-to-minute changes…the sun does not shine at night, and in many places, wind is calm during the day…"

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    "Utilities have generally used the more controllable output from fossil fuel power plants to compensate for intermittency. But if renewable sources are to contribute a greater share of the energy mix — California has a target of 33 percent by 2020 — the declining proportion of fossil fuel power available to smooth out the peaks and troughs of output will make storage technology essential… Recent research suggests that storage technology could respond faster to supply and demand shifts than fossil fuel plants…

    "…Utilities must also build systems capable of meeting peak demand, which arises at different times of the day, week and year. For this purpose, utilities have traditionally relied on bringing additional fossil fuel generating plants into action…But fossil fuel plants run most efficiently at full power. And the marginal plants turned on to meet peak demand are often less efficient and more polluting than the power generators that run around the clock…Using stored energy to meet peak demand could eliminate the need to switch on dirtier, more expensive plants."

    click to enlarge

    "Depending on where storage is sited, it could also reduce the need for transmission lines…That would be a boon because utilities often struggle to get rights of way to build transmission lines. As a result, they usually overbuild after they get permission…Storage can also help utilities get the best price for the energy they generate, using a strategy called ‘time shifting.’ Energy managers can store lower-cost energy produced at night, then release it to the grid during peak demand when it is more valuable. With both traditional power plants and wind farms, much more energy is produced at night than can be used…

    "The Energy Department is supporting a variety of storage projects…The venture capital world has taken note…The most common technology already in use for grid storage is pumped storage hydroelectricity, in which managers use electricity to pump water up into higher elevation reservoirs at night, then release it at times of peak demand…Another large storage option is compressed air…Electricity is used to force air under pressure into a cavern. To extract it, operators heat the compressed air with natural gas, then push it through turbines to generate electricity…Flywheel systems use electricity to drive a motor, which accelerates a massive disc, storing electricity in the increased momentum. When the stored power is needed, the flywheel is used to drive the motor in reverse…Batteries have not yet reached grid scale for the most part…Many experts think batteries hold the most promise because they are scalable and can be used anywhere…"

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010


    Obama's climate push for 2011
    Juliet Eilperin, September 28, 2010 (Washington Post)

    "President Obama hasn't given up on climate and energy legislation altogether, according to a new Rolling Stone interview…with the magazine's editor, Jann Wenner…Obama said he would make passage of ‘an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our over-reliance on fossil fuels’ one of his ‘top priorities’ for 2011…"

    [President Obama:] "We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation. But we're going to stay on this because it is good for our economy, it's good for our national security, and, ultimately, it's good for our environment…We've not made as much progress as I wanted…It is very hard to make progress on these issues in the midst of a huge economic crisis."

    click to enlarge

    "While Obama has identified reducing greenhouse gases and promoting renewable energy as among his top priorities in the past, the administration failed to make a major push in the Senate on legislation after the House passed a comprehensive bill…The House bill passed on a largely party-line vote, and its backers in the Senate failed to win over any GOP support for a cap on carbon…Wenner asked Obama if he would launch a lobbying campaign similar to the one on behalf of health care last year…"

    [President Obama:] "…Not only can I foresee [a similar lobbying campaign], but I am committed to making sure that we get an energy policy that makes sense for the country and that helps us grow at the same time as it deals with climate change in a serious way."


    Study finds huge wind energy potential off Eastern U.S.
    Scott Malone (w/Matthew Lewis), September 28, 2010 (Reuters)

    "The densely populated U.S. East Coast could meet close to half its current electric demand by relying on offshore wind turbines…North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia offer the most potential for easily captured wind energy, according to [Untapped Wealth: Offshore Wind Can Deliver…], which estimates that the 13 coastal states could together generate 127 gigawatts of power.

    "That represents the potential for far more wind power than the United States currently generates… At the end of 2009, the nation's land-based turbines…[produced] some 35,000 megawatts of power -- enough to meet the needs of 28 million typical American homes."

    click to enlarge

    "Investment in new wind turbines has surged in recent years…However, all the U.S. wind farms built so far are on land. Advocates of offshore wind installations, led by backers of the Cape Wind facility proposed off the Cape Cod beach area in Massachusetts, have been working for almost a decade to try to win approval to build [the nation's first offshore wind farm]…Opponents of Cape Wind argue that it could harm fisheries as well as sully views. [Developers are also working on projects off Rhode Island, Delaware and New Jersey]…

    "Oceana argues that wind offers an attractive alternative to offshore oil and natural gas drilling, particularly in the wake of the April BP Plc rig explosion, which led to an undersea leak that poured oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico for 153 days…Oceana [also] argued the electricity generated by wind off the East Coast would save $36 billion in energy costs over a 20-year period and create 133,000 to 212,000 installation and maintenance jobs a year…"

    click to enlarge

    "Hitting the 127 gigawatt number could mean installing 30,000 to 50,000 of the spinning turbines along the U.S. East Coast. That would be the equivalent of more than 200 projects the size of Cape Wind [but that estimate could well decline as turbine sizes increase from today’s 2.5 megawatts to 4 megawatts]…

    "Oceana's analysis…leaves out the New England states of New Hampshire and Maine [and the West Coast], because their shorelines drop away quickly to deeper waters where it would be more difficult for developers to install turbines…"


    Electric Vehicle Information Technology Systems; Vehicle, Smart Grid, and Utility IT Systems for Data Analytics, Smart Charging Management, and Customer Information Management
    John Gartner and Clint Wheelock, 3Q 2010 (Pike Research)

    "…The second comeback of the electric vehicle (EV) in little more than a decade has a much greater likelihood of success and will have a transformative effect on driving habits as well as the automotive and electric power industries. Automakers are planning to produce hundreds of thousands of vehicles per year that plug in starting in 2012. By 2015, Pike Research forecasts that more than 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and EVs will be sold annually around the world, and during that year, more than 3 million EVs sold to date will be plugging in to recharge their batteries.

    "EVs can draw power via standard 110 V outlets, but the vast majority of charging sessions are expected to occur via electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE) that will monitor power quality and can deliver power much faster than a standard outlet when Level 2 (up to 6.7 kW) charging is utilized. Both residential and commercial EVSEs monitor power quality and contain intelligence that enables charging to be scheduled based on the time of day, grid conditions, or the cost of electricity. Investments in EVSE have begun in advance of EV sales, and are expected to be sold on a greater unit basis than the vehicles. By 2015, more than 4.7 million charge spots (residential and commercial) will be installed."

    click to enlarge

    "The majority of EVSEs will be networked and managed via IT and communications systems that aggregate power demand and enable a coordinated response to changing grid conditions…EVs will not immediately impact utilities' ability to keep up with the aggregated demand, the impact on distribution assets that deliver power to customers could be immediate in some areas…EVs are expected to be purchased in clusters around neighborhoods that have historically seen high adoption of hybrid vehicles…As thousands of EVs begin to plug in daily, peak demand at the conclusion of the work day could be increased if intelligence is not built into the charging process…

    "Utilities view EV IT systems as key to maximizing the use of renewable power, such as wind energy, which is generally strongest at night when demand is low. Through a smart charging system, EVs can absorb excess renewable power, and also be used as a replacement for fossil fuel power plants for grid services…EV IT systems that enable customers to schedule charging based on price signals, allowing EV owners to reduce their cost of charging and specify the use of only renewable energy will prompt future EV sales…"

    click to enlarge

    "Investments in EV IT systems are initially focusing on collecting data and presenting it to consumers, with $125 million invested globally in 2010. By 2015, we forecast that annual investment will grow by more than tenfold as data analytics and integration with utilities' internal information systems becomes paramount. Investments in EV IT in the United States will grow to $371.9 million in 2015, representing 24.5% of the global market ($1.5 billion). The Asia-Pacific region, led by China, will be the largest market by far for EV IT…

    "By 2013, utilities will begin investing in EV IT systems and services so that the aggregated load of EVs can be managed as an asset and integrated into their demand response (DR) and other energy management systems. The focus in investment will shift towards data analytics and integration applications, making up more than half of EV IT investment globally by 2015…The lack of standards today will encourage many companies to hold off on investment until interoperable products are released…The strong regulation of utilities in the United States will also slow adoption of EV IT
    Systems…The understanding of the benefits of EV IT across all aspects of grid operations including load management, the use of renewable power, and being able to avoid capital investment in generation and transmission equipment, are not well known today. Greater knowledge of the lifetime value of EV IT systems including the financial benefits from reducing carbon emissions would make it easier for utilities to justify the investment…"


    Mass Arrests in DC: We Shall No Longer Be Crucified Upon the Cross of Coal
    Jeff Biggers, September 27, 2010 (Huffington Post)

    "Over one hundred protesters from the Appalachian coalfields were arrested in front of the White House…defiantly calling on the Obama administration to abolish mountaintop removal mining. As part of the Appalachia Rising events, the coalfield residents took part in a multi-day series of events to bring the escalating human rights, environmental and health care crisis to the nation's capitol.

    "Kentuckians for the Commonwealth leaders Teri Blanton and Mickey McCoy, the first arrested in today's nonviolent act of civil disobedience, were joined by allies from around the country, including NASA climatologist James Hansen. Meanwhile, protesters led by the legendary Rev. Billy Talen staged a nearby sit-in at the office of the PNC bank, which remains one of the last major financiers of coal companies engaged in this extreme form of strip-mining in Appalachia…"

    She knows why she's fighting coal. (click to enlarge)

    "In a stark reminder of the national connection to the coalfields, the Obama administration officials looked on from their White House offices, as their electricity came from a coal-fired plant generated partly with coal stripmined from Appalachia.

    "As a litmus test of the administration's commitment to science and the rule of law, Appalachian residents are calling on the EPA to halt any new permit on the upcoming decision over the massive Spruce mountaintop removal mine…Mountaintop removal coal only provides, in fact, less than 10 percent of all coal production."

    "You shall not crucify us any longer upon a cross of coal." (click to enlarge)

    "Fed up with the regulatory crisis and circumventions by outside coal companies, coalfield residents have been rising up against reckless strip-mining practices against the country, from Alaska to Alabama to Arizona…In southern Illinois, scores of black crosses were found at coal mines, strip mines, coal-fired plants, coal ash piles, and at the Southern Illinois University Coal Research Center."

    "Citing Illinois as the birthplace of the coal industry, and 'ground zero in the Obama administration's plan to dangerously experiment with carbon capture and storage technologies for coal-fired plants,' a new Black Cross Alliance campaign announced plans to construct symbolic black crosses at coal mining and coal-burning landmarks in the state and across the nation to serve as a public warning [that it] is no longer acceptable for the Obama administration--and state and regional government officials---to be complicit in maintaining deadly coal mining and coal-burning communities as shameful national sacrifice areas in 2010 [and declared: You shall not crucify us any longer upon a cross of coal]…"

    Monday, September 27, 2010


    Ocean Power Technologies Completes First-Ever Grid Connection of a Wave Energy Device in the US
    September 27, 2010 (Business Wire via MarketWatch)

    "Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. [OPT]…has completed the first-ever grid connection of a wave energy device in the United States at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii [MCBH], in conjunction with the US Navy. This connection demonstrates the ability of OPT's PowerBuoy(R) systems to produce utility-grade, renewable energy that can be transmitted to the grid in a manner fully compliant with national and international standards.

    "The PB40 PowerBuoy is part of OPT's ongoing program with the US Navy to develop and test [OPT]'s PowerBuoy wave energy technology. The project began as a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Key program goals include demonstrating system reliability and survivability, and the successful interconnection with the grid serving MCBH."

    The PowerBuoy (click to enlarge)

    "The PowerBuoy was deployed on December 14, 2009 approximately three-quarters of a mile off the coast of Oahu in water depth of 100 feet…[It] has operated and produced power from over 3 million power take-off cycles and 4,400 hours of operation. The PowerBuoy grid interface was certified in 2007 by an independent laboratory, Intertek Testing Services, as compliant with national and international standards, including the safety standards UL1741 and IEEE1547, and also bears the ETL Listed mark."

    How it connects (click to enlarge)

    "The system has numerous on-board sensors that monitor a wide variety of system performance variables, external conditions and lifecycle parameters. Data collected by on-board computers is transmitted to a shore-based facility via a fiber optic cable embedded in the submarine power transmission cable and then transmitted via the Internet to OPT's facility in Pennington, New Jersey….[OPT] engineers have collated much of this data and compared it to…proprietary models which analyze the performance given actual in-coming wave conditions. This information has provided a strong correlation between the 'actual' and 'expected' system performance, which serves to confirm OPT's models for its higher output PowerBuoys, including the PB150.

    "The wave power project at MCBH underwent an extensive environmental assessment by an independent environmental firm in accordance with the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) that resulted in a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The FONSI is the highest rating assigned. The project has utilized local Hawaiian subcontractors…for the installation, test and servicing of the systems…"


    California OKs tougher renewables target
    Sarah McBride (w/Carol Bishopric), September 23, 2010 (Reuters)

    "California regulators voted…to boost the state's renewable energy target to 33 percent by 2020, which could provide a big boost to the alternative-energy industry in the nation's most populous state…But the goal, approved in a vote by California's Air Resources Board, faces significant challenges.

    "Industry veterans say this goal is more achievable than a prior target of 20 percent by 2010, but will require faster approvals for plants and continued government help for developer financing…"

    The stronger the New Energy requirement, the more the state's economy benefits. (click to enlarge)

    "Hitting the increased objective - the highest in the nation - will require more investment in infrastructure and transmission, and a shorter lead time for projects…The approval process in California now takes years…Given the state of credit markets, financing for plants remains a major issue. Currently developers can tap into government help, but…developers complain about the slow pace of review for Department of Energy loan guarantees. And…[the popular] Treasury Department grant for up to 30 percent of the cost of renewable-energy projects…expires at the end of the year.

    "Yet another question is whether the 33-percent regulation will even stay on the books. An initiative on November's ballot aims to overturn the law that authorizes regulators to create the 33 percent target…[And the] state's governor has the right to suspend provisions of the law, including the new target, for up to a year. Republican candidate Meg Whitman has said she would do this…"

    The stronger the New Energy requirement, the more the state's economy benefits. (click to enlarge)

    "Even if the regulation stands, utilities' track records on meeting their targets has been less than excellent. Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison each will end this year at 18 percent renewable energy…San Diego Gas and Electric, which was hit hard by transmission issues, will end the year at 14 percent…[To push them along,] California regulators have approved almost 2,000 megawatts of solar power…

    "Problems with reaching the earlier 20-percent target included utilities signing contracts with alternative-power developers whose projects never acquired the necessary financing…Other projects turned out to be technologically impractical…or required new transmission lines that were not built. Now, the transmission issues are being resolved…"


    Virtual Power Plants – Demand Response, Supply-Side, Mixed Asset, and Wholesale Auction VPPs: Market Analysis and Forecasts
    Peter Ausmus and Brian Davis, 3Q 2010 (Pike Research)

    "…Virtual power plants (VPPs) rely upon software systems to remotely and automatically dispatch and optimize generation or demand-side (or storage) resources in a single, secure web-connected system. In the United States, VPPs not only deal with the supply side, but also help manage demand and ensure the reliability of grid functions in real time through DR and other load-shifting approaches…VPPs represent an ‘Internet of Energy,’ tapping existing grid networks to tailor electricity supply and demand services…

    "Without any large-scale fundamental infrastructure upgrades, VPPs can stretch supplies from existing generators and utility demand reduction programs…When compared to the fossil fuel based central station power plants that dominate electricity markets worldwide, the primary advantages of VPPs are…[1] They can react quickly to changing customer load conditions…[2] They are dynamic…[3] They deliver value in real time..."

    click to enlarge

    "VPPs and microgrids share… an 80% commonality…Yet, there are some defining differentiators…[1] Microgrids can be grid-tied or off-grid (VPPs are always grid-tied)…[2] Microgrids can “island” themselves from the larger utility grid…[3] Microgrids typically require some level of storage…[4] Microgrids are dependent upon hardware innovations…whereas VPPs are software dependent…[5] Microgrids encompass a static set of resources in a confined geography…[6] Microgrids typically only tap generation resources at the retail distribution level…whereas VPPs…[are] a bridge to wholesale markets)…[7] Microgrids still face regulatory hurdles…

    "Developing market forecasts for a nebulous technology category of “virtual power plants” is…[full of] complexity and uncertainty…The market forecasts in this report divide the VPP universe into four distinct segments…[1] DR-based VPPs: This is the largest commercial segment in the United States …[2] Supply-side VPPs: Europe, particularly Germany, has led the world in this category…[3] Mixed asset VPPs: This is the ultimate goal of the VPP. This segment brings distributed generation and DR together…[4] Wholesale auction VPPs: Unique to Europe, VPP auctions have been used in the region as a condition of mergers…"

    click to enlarge

    "Pike Research has developed market forecasts for each of these four segments. All told, the VPP capacity worldwide in 2009 was 19,428 MW. The largest segment is wholesale auctions (exclusively in Europe), which represents 51% of the total VPP market. The next largest segment is the DR-based VPPs, which dominate the North America market, with 44% of the total global capacity. The supply and mixed asset segments split the remaining 5% of the VPP market virtually equally.

    "Over time, it is expected that many supply-side VPPs will morph into mixed asset VPPs as more cost-competitive storage enters the market and as DR resources continue to grow…Ultimately…the lines between the DR-based, supply-side and mixed asset VPPs profiled will blur… Pike Research estimates that the total revenue from VPPs worldwide is almost $5 billion, with the vast majority (90%) of that revenue stream captured by the wholesale auction VPP segment."


    Today’s Energy Standards for Refrigerators Reflect Consensus By Advocates, Industry to Increase Appliance Efficiency
    September 27, 2010 (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy)

    "Advocacy groups and appliance manufacturers hailed a 25 percent increase in energy efficiency for most new refrigerators, starting in 2014, thanks to new efficiency standards that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced…continuing a 40-year trend of improving energy efficiency for this essential home appliance.

    "The groups said the new standards are the first step in the department’s implementation of the recommendations they proposed to DOE in July for new minimum efficiency standards, tax credits, and ENERGY STAR incentives for smart appliances affecting six major categories of home appliances…"

    click to enlarge

    "According to the proposed rule, a typical new 20-cubic-foot refrigerator with the freezer on top would use about 390 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, down from about 900 kWh/year in 1990 and about 1,700 kWh/year in the early 1970s. On a national basis, the new standards would, over 30 years, save 4.5 quads of energy, or roughly enough to meet the total energy needs of one-fifth of all U.S. households for a year. Over the same period, the standards will save consumers about $18.5 billion. DOE will finalize the standards by year’s end, and they take effect in 2014…

    "Based on
    the July agreement, home appliance manufacturers and efficiency, environmental and consumer advocates have agreed to jointly pursue with Congress and the Administration new standards for six categories of home appliances (refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers and room air conditioners), a recommendation that ENERGY STAR qualification criteria incorporate credit for Smart Grid capability and a package of targeted tax credits aimed at fostering the market for super-efficient appliances…"

    click thru for more info

    "While DOE or Congress can act on the standards, the extension of the manufacturers’ tax credit for super-efficient appliances requires new legislation. EPA and DOE will consider the recommendation to jump start the Smart Grid through incentives for the deployment of smart appliances through the ENERGY STAR program.

    "As part of the new refrigerator standards, ice maker energy consumption also will be reflected in product energy-use ratings, giving consumers a better way to gauge actual energy use when making a choice among refrigerators…Several prior refrigerator standards, including those put in place in 1993 and 2001, are also the result of joint industry/advocate agreements…"

    Sunday, September 26, 2010


    Offshore Farm Pushes U.K. Wind Power Past 5 Gigawatts
    Alex Morales and Marc Roca, September 26, 2010 (Bloomberg News)

    "Britain’s capacity to generate electricity from the wind passed 5 gigawatts, enough for 2.7 million homes, as Vattenfall AB opened the world’s biggest offshore turbine farm southeast of England.

    "The 300-megawatt farm near Thanet means the U.K. has 1,341 megawatts of installed offshore wind capacity, more than the rest of the world combined…Britain also has 3,715 megawatts of onshore wind…Wind power now accounts for 4 percent of U.K. electricity consumption. Offshore facilities play a ‘make-or-break’ role in the U.K.’s goal to derive 15 percent of energy from renewables by 2020…"

    click to enlarge

    "…[T]he growth of the offshore industry…[is expected to] create jobs as companies including General Electric Co., Siemens AG and Clipper Windpower Plc plan and build turbine plants in the U.K…[To advance such economic benefits, UK wind advocates want] the government to protect from spending cuts 60 million pounds ($94 million) earmarked to upgrade ports…[even though offshore] turbines are at present about three times more expensive to erect and connect to the grid per megawatt…"

    The key to growth is having infrastrucutre in place; for offshore wind that means ports. (click to enlarge)

    "The Vattenfall [offshore] farm was built at a cost of 900 million- pounds ($1.6 billion), and includes 100 Vestas Wind Systems A/S V90 wind turbines…

    "…[T]he goal for onshore wind is to reach an installed capacity of 13 to 14 gigawatts by 2020. For offshore wind, farms with 4 gigawatts of capacity have planning permission or are being built and in January, the government awarded licenses for 32,200 megawatts…"


    Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and Keahole Solar Power partner for 5 megawatt concentrating solar power project
    September 16, 2010 (Keahole Solar Power)

    "Keahole Solar Power, LLC signed a lease agreement with the State of Hawaii, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) for land in Kalaeloa. The land will be used as the home for Hawaii’s largest Concentrating Solar Power project the 5 Megawatt 'Kalaeloa Solar One.'"

    [Kaulana H.R. Park, Chair, Hawaiian Homes Commission:] “This partnership…[is a result of the] Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative…Kalaeloa Solar One will incorporate the latest generation in solar technology, provide income revenue rent for the department, and a portion of the lease rent proceeds will fund an educational renewable energy program for native Hawaiians. This project will also support the Hawaii economy by creating local jobs…”

    The Keahole Solar Power concentrators (click to enlarge)

    "Concentrating Solar Power is a very unique approach to solar power generation. The technology uses mirrored reflectors and optics to intensify solar energy, which raises the system’s energy efficiency. The solar panels track the sun through-out the day which increases the amount of kilowatt hours the system produces annually and the field includes thermal storage which enables energy to be produced during clouds or at night."

    [Edward Lui, Board of Directors member, Keahole Solar Power:] “KSP’s goals are to bring 30 megawatts of solar power to Hawaii by 2015…[W]e believe the low cost and thermal storage benefits found in Concentrating Solar Power technology are especially good for Hawaii’s ratepayers and the Smart Grid…”

    Kalaeloa Solar One (click to enlarge)

    "The project is expected to break ground late 2010 and is estimated for completion by 3rd quarter of 2011.

    "In 2009, Keahole Solar Power inaugurated “Holaniku at Keahole Point,” Hawaii’s first Concentrating Solar Power. That facility, based on the Big Island of Hawaii, produces 2 megawatts of thermal energy and incorporates 2 hours of thermal energy storage. Energy from Holaniku is sold to the Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) grid under a Power Purchase Agreement approved by the Public Utilities Commission…"


    On the Level: Geothermal Heat Pumps and Energy Efficiency
    Jim Rooney, September 26, 2010 (The Capital)

    "…[It is wise to be wary [about the efficiency and reliability of geothermal heat pumps but] I have inspected these heat pumps as part of performing home inspections and have attended all-day seminars…[and] I can tell you that the simple answer is yes - they are mechanically reliable IF they are designed and installed properly…

    "…The track record is good, but they tended not to have been installed in homes at any great rate due to simple parameters, mostly surrounding initial price and site conditions. When I first began looking at them they were most advisable for owner-operated buildings of 10,000 square feet or more…schools, municipal buildings, health facilities and the like…Ground zero for geothermal heating - also known as ground source heat - in the U.S. was out in the Midwest…"

    click to enlarge

    "The basic energy exchange mechanism [for geothermal heast pumps] is via buried lines, either through trenches dug to a specific depth or vertical wells into which sealed plastic pipes are filled with a liquid - like anti-freeze - running through them to affect the thermal exchange. In some instances the lines can be placed into a water source such as a large pond if the depth is enough…[S]ystem design is very dependent upon site conditions…

    "The move toward energy efficiency at all levels has begun to make them more attractive to homeowners. I have read that geothermal systems have even been employed in some Habitat for Humanity homes…Ikea is installing a [130 500 ft. deep] geothermal system in a new 450,000 sq. ft. building in Colorado and claims of efficiency are nothing short of astounding over traditional heating and cooling…"

    click to enlarge

    "I have begun to see TV spots for geothermal installation…If we still see the ads after a long stretch of time then that's a good indication they are selling…[The spots also indicate] there is now a population of folks who know how to work on them…[but my] sense is the heart of the system, the heat pump, will last longer than a common air-medium employing system.

    "I can't give you an exact payback period for a geothermal heating and cooling system over the traditional air exchange heat pump, but I know they use less energy so they'll lower electric bills and you can get tax credits for putting one in…I've seen claims by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association that some payback periods are as short as three years. I [dubiously] considered the source of that claim…"


    A new idea for clean energy in Kern County; But some air activists object to projected pollution.
    Mark Gross, September 18, 2010 (Fresno Bee)

    "A $2 billion power plant in Kern County using notoriously dirty coal and petroleum coke conjures images of soot pouring into a brown skyline -- an idea seemingly dead on arrival in one of the nation's worst air basins…

    "…Imagine 2,600-degree heat in a sealed chamber vaporizing coal and petroleum coke -- hard, black leftovers from refineries -- to extract a highly prized fuel: hydrogen…[T]his proposed project west of Bakersfield would be the state's first large, hydrogen-fired electricity project…[T]here is no similar project of this size anywhere in the nation."

    The chemistry is sound...(click to enlarge)

    "The main stumbling block: It would produce more ozone-making gas than comparable natural gas-fired plants, which would be a deal-breaker for many environmentalists…[P]roject owner Hydrogen Energy California of Long Beach says the problem would be cleared up in the first two years…{The] joint venture of global energy giants BP and Rio Tinto, put up nearly $700,000 to help reduce nearby farm and city pollution during that time. It hopes to open the plant in 2015...The California Energy Commission's initial report released this year was positive…Valley air quality officials think the company can control the ozone-making gas…

    "Activists are not satisfied…[and] do they like the idea of the pollution coming from rail transportation of coal from Utah or trucking of the petroleum coke from Los Angeles or other areas…The nonprofit Association of Irritated Residents in Kern County is opposing the plant's state permit, which is the last major permitting hurdle…Kern is a good location, close to trucking and rail lines to bring in the coal and petroleum coke, Hydrogen Energy officials said. The established oil fields nearby provide a convenient and safe place to bury climate-warming carbon dioxide from the project…"

    ...the problem is that capturing the CO2 the process produces is too complicated and costly to make the chemistry worth doing. (click to enlarge)

    "…The plant, proposed on 473 acres in an isolated place seven miles west of Bakersfield, would produce about 250 megawatts, funneled into California's electric grid. It could provide power for about 150,000 homes…The construction phase would create 1,500 jobs for three years…After construction, the plant would provide 100 to 150 skilled jobs…Hydrogen Energy also promises a lot of environmentally friendly features. Aside from extracting hydrogen cleanly from dirty fuels, it would capture 90% of the carbon dioxide produced in the process.

    "The production of carbon dioxide is unavoidable, officials say. It occurs when the coal and petroleum coke are broken down with high heat in a process called "gasification" to harvest hydrogen…[It] is needed because hydrogen isn't readily available in pure form. It must be separated from such sources as coal and petroleum coke, both of which are rich in carbon…To dispose of carbon dioxide, industries around the globe have been injecting it into the ground. In the Kern project, the carbon dioxide will be converted to a liquid under high pressure and injected thousands of feet below the Valley floor."

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010


    Proposition 23 Threatens Our Health, Our Jobs
    Ian Kim, September 21, 2010 (Asian Week)

    "…[S]pecial interests are trying to hijack California’s state ballot to enrich themselves…[T]wo large Texas oil companies [are pushing] Prop. 23…[and it] is a direct threat to [Asian Pacific Americans’] health and our jobs…Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp., the Texas oil giants behind Prop. 23, have already spent nearly $8 million and are expected to spend millions – maybe tens of millions – more…They claim they’re doing this to protect California jobs…Do they really expect us to believe that a group of big oil companies…are spending millions of dollars on a California ballot campaign out of the goodness of their hearts?

    "Prop. 23 will block a landmark clean energy law in California, keeping us addicted to oil and other dirty energy sources…[T]hat means more pollution and more asthma and other lung diseases. And…it won’t save jobs – it will kill them…Studies have found a clear link between the air pollution caused by dirty energy and higher rates of respiratory illness. That’s why health organizations…oppose Prop. 23."

    Multiple studies, like this one, show climate policies like AB32 boost growth. (click to enlarge)

    "Asian and Pacific Islanders face particular challenges when it comes to health…[T]wo thirds of Asian Pacific American children live in areas that fail to meet federal clean-air standards…[I]n California…Asians are the only racial group for whom the leading cause of death is cancer, with higher cancer death rates than any other group…[Prop 23 is] a dirty energy policy that will keep our kids breathing polluted air…[and] though it’s being sold as a mere “pause” in implementation of our state’s clean energy policy…Prop. 23 sets the bar so high that it would essentially be a permanent repeal.

    "…[T]he oil companies…whole central claim, that Prop. 23 will save jobs, simply isn’t true…The clean energy economy is growing faster in California than any other state, mainly thanks to the very same clean energy law Prop. 23 seeks to block, known as the Global Warming Solutions Act or AB 32."

    AB 32 would cut pollution; Prop 23 would allow it to grow, worsening health and adding to health costs. (click to enlarge)

    "For businesses that want to retrofit homes for energy efficiency, make solar panels or build electric cars, the law has provided assurance that there will be a growing market for their products and services…[They have created] over 500,000 new jobs…[and] clean-tech investment in California has skyrocketed, surpassing all other states combined. This is the only sector of our economy that steadily gained jobs during the recession…

    "…[T]he proponents of this dirty energy initiative are so shameless that they’ve continued citing a UC Berkeley study as “proof” that AB 32 threatens millions of jobs, even after the authors of the study wrote in the Los Angeles Times that their report “says no such thing.” In fact, the researchers added, our clean energy law “will have a small but positive effect on the state’s jobs.” …The Texas oil companies don’t care about jobs; they just want to protect their profits…Don’t be fooled by the lies. Vote NO on 23."


    Novatec Biosol: “More transparency needed on solar field cost and performance”
    Rikki Stancich, 17 September 2010 (CSP Today)

    [Martin Selig, founder, Novatec Biosol:] “…[We must] have a close look at the cost of efficiency of various CSP technologies. We need to look at the parabolic trough field, at the power tower systems - only the solar fields, and assess the specific costs of solar thermal energy. That is the key. This cost has to come down…I do not see too many solar field manufacturers offering guarantees and key performance indicators for their solar systems. This is something we are waiting for. This would make it much easier to compare one system with another.”

    [Martin Selig, founder, Novatec Biosol:] “…We have to be able to generate steam at as low a cost as coal and gas…[Novatec] can generate steam using solar energy at a lower cost than could be achieved with fossil fuels on the basis of oil prices, and at a similar cost based on natural gas prices…People should be aware of the cost-competitiveness of CSP compared with steam-generated power from fossil fuels…Now it is up to the power plant engineers to figure out suitable power plant designs to making the best use out of this opportunity…There is also a new opportunity to integrate a solar system into existing or new power plants to substitute (at least during day time) the same or more expensive fossil fuels.”

    A Novatec Biosol linear fresnel system. (click to enlarge)

    [Martin Selig, founder, Novatec Biosol:] “Water prices in [MENA] countries do not reflect the real cost, because they are highly subsidised. For this reason it is very important to have a solar technology that has low water requirement…[As to siting difficulties,] there should be some gigawatts out there [that] are generated via the integration of solar boilers with existing plants…”

    Schematic of the Novatec Biosol concentrating system. (click to enlarge)

    [Martin Selig, founder, Novatec Biosol:] “…[Northern Africa] countries face a huge ramp up and have a huge requirement for new installed capacity. Given the recent growth of wealth and population, I think that these countries are looking at building new power plants…[T]here will be markets for new CSP plants and for retrofitting older ones. There will be a robust market for both, most definitely…In Algeria they are favouring the integrated solar combined cycle model…Morrocco, on the other hand, is looking to build real solar power plants…”

    [Martin Selig, founder, Novatec Biosol:] “In the United Arab Emirates, some of the power plants are directly linked to the desalination plants. During winter they still have a high water demand but much lower electricity demand, so they have difficulties in matching both demand curves…[D]e-coupling power from desalination by using a solar boiler to power these desalination plants during winter could be a real option…When it comes to desalination, you are talking about coastal areas where typical land values are much higher than in the desert…Our Nova1 system is able to generate 30% more solar thermal energy than a parabolic trough solar field, on the same amount of land…”


    “Cascading” Geothermal Energy Could Revive Small Towns with New Green Jobs
    Tina Casey, September 21, 2010 (Clean Technica)

    "Part of a new U.S. Department of Energy grant for innovative geothermal technology is going to fund a project that could help small towns and mid-sized cities generate low cost local power, cut their carbon footprint, create new green jobs, and even develop local sources for fish and produce. The technology is called “cascading” geothermal because it uses and re-uses the same fluid in a series of applications…

    "…[A] religious community called I’SOT…in Canby, California provides a textbook example…[It] is under development in partnership with the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In 2006 the community began operating a geothermal heating system that provided heat and hot water for 34 buildings, but the effluent from that operation was simply filtered and discharged to a river…"

    Schematic of "cascading" geothermal from Northern Arizona University (click to enlarge)

    "Under the new project, the highest-temperature fluid will be used to generate electricity. After that, energy can still be extracted for additional space heating and hot water, operating up to ten acres of greenhouses, heating up to four 30-foot diameter aquaculture tanks, and for melting snow. The system may also provide enough energy to operate a new food storage and laundry facility…

    "The Modoc Contracting Company – also of Canby – won the DOE grant…That $2 million is a modest amount compared to the impact it could have on communities across the U.S., as DOE estimates that in the west alone there are about 1,500 possible well sites in small towns and mid-sized cities with the potential to develop cascading geothermal projects. That in turn could create new green jobs in local aquaculture and greenhouse-based agriculture operations…"

    Schematic of "cascading" geothermal from the International Gothermal Assoc (click to enlarge)

    "If the concept of urban fish-farming seems a little far fetched, at least one expert has been successfully raising food grade fish in the middle of New York City, so cascading geothermal projects may have potential in larger cities where space is hard to come by. The possibility of developing add-ons and tie-ins with other forms of renewable energy could also help maximize the use of space…

    "…[A] greenhouse operation powered by geothermal energy could converge with algae biofuel production, and an aquaculture pond could double as a platform for a floating solar energy installation."


    Sharp to buy solar developer Recurrent Energy; Sharp to pay up to $305 million for solar company
    Sarah McBride and Poornima Gupta (w/ Carol Bishopric), September 21, 2010 (Reuters)

    "Sharp Corp…plans to buy solar power company Recurrent Energy for up to $305 million, expanding Sharp's footprint in the solar field.

    "Privately-held Recurrent Energy, which is majority owned by Hudson Clean Energy Partners, focuses on small-scale projects of up to 20 megawatts. It has a pipeline of more than 2 gigawatts of projects planned in the United States, Canada and Europe."

    click to enlarge

    "Sharp is one of the world's biggest solar cell producers. It is counting on Recurrent to help it expand its business in the photovoltaic area…from developing and producing solar cells and modules to developing and marketing power generation plants…"

    click to enlarge

    "For Recurrent…[Sharp ensures continued growth with] credibility and access to capital markets…"

    "Acquisitions activity in solar energy has lagged other fields such as technology. Issues such as declining prices for solar panels and uncertainty over the fate of government subsidies in alternative energy have dampened enthusiasm for the once red-hot industry…[This] acquisition is expected to close by the end of this year."

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010


    A Bipartisan Bill on Renewable Energy
    John Collins Rudolph, September 21, 2010 (NY Times)

    "In a rare show of bipartisanship, a group of Democratic and Republican senators introduced legislation…that would require utilities nationwide to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar and biomass by 2021…[It] was introduced by Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, and Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas…

    "The bill counts two other Republicans as co-sponsors: Susan Collins of Maine and John Ensign of Nevada…[but] may need several more Republicans on board to clear the 60- vote hurdle to end debate in the Senate…as some Southeastern and Midwestern Democrats may be likely to oppose the measure."

    "Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said in an interview with the news service Energy and Environment Daily that she could not support a renewable electricity standard unless the Obama administration’s moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, set to expire on Nov. 30, was lifted…A standalone renewable electricity standard would not have her support, she said…

    "The Democrats Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Evan Bayh of Indiana are also considered potential ‘no’ votes on the measure. Ms. Lincoln and Mr. Nelson have expressed doubts about such standards in the past, and Mr. Bayh voted against a renewable electricity standard in a 2009 committee vote."

    Finding bipartisan Senate support should be easier with this kind of bipartisan voter support. But will voters support the weaker measure? (click to enlarge)

    "A nearly identical electricity mandate was drafted by Mr. Bingaman and passed by the Senate Energy and Environment Committee in 2009 but faced opposition from renewable energy groups and Democrats inclined toward a more ambitious target. But with cap-and-trade legislation all but dead in the Senate, and the prospect looming that no clean energy or climate legislation at all will be passed this year, some of those who previously opposed the measure have hopped on board."

    [Marchant Wentworth, spokesperson, Union of Concerned Scientists (former opponents of a 15% RES):] “The R.E.S. passed by the Senate Energy Committee in 2009 is not as strong as it should be, but it would establish a first-ever national framework for increasing the use of renewable electricity…That is a crucial step toward a lower-carbon economy, and we must take it now.”


    Pattern Energy plans Texas wind-power export path
    Eileen O’Grady, September 20, 2010 (Reuters)

    "West Texas wind power could reach Atlanta if Pattern Energy Group is successful at building a 400-mile transmission line to create an export path for electricity from the nation's No. 1 wind state…[but] 9,300 megawatts of capacity…is trapped in Texas due to the state's grid configuration.

    "Pattern's proposed Southern Cross transmission line would maintain Texas' grid independence while opening a route by 2016 for wind power to be sold into the U.S. Southeast, a region that lacks large-scale wind and solar potential…Texas is spending $5 billion to expand its grid to allow Texas wind output to double to 18,000 MW by 2013…"

    click thru for more info

    "In Texas and across the nation, new wind-farm development slowed dramatically this year due to tight financial markets, lack of a strong national mandate to cut greenhouse gas emissions and a drop in wholesale power prices linked to cheaper natural gas…Pattern Transmission Director David Parquet said the Southern Cross project could keep Texas wind development on track to 18,000 MW despite current market obstacles…

    "At a price tag of more than $1 billion, the Southern Cross line would be a high-voltage, direct-current line stretching from east Texas to northeastern Mississippi, where up to three 500-kilovolt alternating-current lines could deliver power to utilities serving 10 states in the South…Pattern officials have discussed the project with the Tennessee Valley Authority, Southern Co and Entergy Corp…"

    click thru for more info

    "While Texas has exceeded its renewable power target, Southeastern states have yet to set targets to boost use of renewable power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fueled power plants…Some utilities, however, expect federal mandates in the future. TVA, for example, built the first wind farm in the Southeast and seeks to buy 2,000 MW of wind generation over the next few years. Its 1,300 MW of wind power under contract so far will come from Illinois, Kansas, Iowa and the Dakotas…

    "While Parquet said he expects a federal renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, down the road, he said the Southern Cross project can succeed without one…The project will not go forward unless FERC rules that it does not raise jurisdictional issues for Texas…"


    CSP industry heads for consolidation
    Jason Deign, 17 September 2010 (CSP Today)

    "…In an industry that has seen more than its fair share of mergers and acquisitions in the last couple of years, [solar power plant developer] SkyFuel’s position as an independent player is becoming something of a rarity…

    "…A good example of the vertically integrated corporations…[taking over independents] is Siemens, Europe’s largest engineering conglomerate, which other than producing steam turbines had little to do with the CSP market until last year…Then, in March 2009, it bought 29% of the Italian solar company Archimede Solar Energy, followed by the acquisition of Solel Solar Systems for US$418 million in October…"

    Building this stuff is expensive. (click to enlarge)

    "…Other recent examples of large corporations entering the CSP market include Chevron and Alstom partnering with BrightSource, MAN Ferrostaal joint venturing with Solar Millennium, and Areva’s February 2010 acquisition of Ausra for a reported $200 million…"

    Whose logo will end up on this technology and when? (click to enlarge)

    [Jenny Chase, a solar energy analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance:] “There is a realisation that solar thermal will need pretty heavy engineering and heavy commitments from banks…That will require support from massive engineering firms that can offer performance guarantees. Big companies like Areva are playing to these strengths and have also got big investment horizons…You are probably not going to make great profits out of CSP in the next two years unless you get a plant in Spain.”

    [Rick LeBlanc, President/CEO, SkyFuel:] “In the wind industry, which is very mature, what happened is indicative of what will happen in utility-scale solar…“As the industry matured, three companies owned the market: GE, Siemens and Vestas. The reason is its large capital expenditure; it requires big balance sheets. A 120MW project for us is a $200 million order, and that is not technology venture capital, it’s production.”


    Sparks fly as Volt and Leaf pick up speed
    Bernard Simon, September 20, 2010 (Financial Times)

    "Patrick Wang and Ken Muir are both electric car enthusiasts. But when it comes to buying one, Mr Wang, manager at a search-engine marketing agency in San Francisco… has decided on General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt… Mr Muir, a quality engineer in nearby San Jose… has gone for a Nissan Leaf…[in] what is shaping up as a fierce and closely watched battle between the first two electric cars aimed at the mass market…

    "The Leaf, due to go on sale in December in the US and Japan, will be powered entirely by a battery. Nissan claims that it will have a range of 100 miles before it needs recharging…The Volt, more accurately described as an extended-range plug-in hybrid, will run on battery power alone for 40 miles. After that, a small petrol engine will provide power to the generator, giving it a total range of about 340 miles…Existing hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, use a battery and an internal-combustion engine in tandem…"

    (from the Financial Times - click to enlarge)

    "The Volt is designed to address what the industry has termed “range anxiety”, widely seen as one of the biggest hurdles facing widespread acceptance of electric cars, especially given the initial scarcity of battery recharging stations. The vast majority of early buyers are expected to recharge their cars overnight at home…[Wang also] was initially concerned about buying a car from a Detroit-based company with a less-than-stellar image for quality and reliability [but has concluded the technology is sound]…

    "Mr Muir says that he and his wife like both the Leaf and Volt technologies [but went for the zero-emission Leaf]…The couple estimate they have made only seven road trips of more than 100 miles over the past three years…[and, unlike Wang,] own a second car…"

    A change is coming (click to enlarge)

    "The Volt carries a price tag of $41,000, well above the Leaf’s $32,780 recommended price. GM hopes to deflect attention from the price gap by promoting a lease option of $350 a month over 36 months…[Both vehicles] qualify for government subsidies – in the US, a $7,500 federal tax credit. Some US states have also pitched in to encourage electric-car purchases. California will offer a rebate of up to $5,000 per vehicle. Tennessee – where Nissan has its North American head office – announced earlier this month that it would provide a $2,500 rebate on the first 1,000 electric vehicles bought in the state.

    "GM has not been shy about bashing the competition…Nissan rejects the criticism and says the two vehicles are like apples and oranges…The two carmakers can quibble all they like but ultimately the customer will decide as the vehicles start selling from dealer forecourts in 2011."

    Monday, September 20, 2010


    Manufacturers think state will diversify sources
    Trent Johnson, September 20, 2010 (Traverse City Record-Eagle)

    "Some Michigan businesses and organizations are banking on the state becoming more heavily reliant on wind energy to reduce energy costs."

    "The Michigan Manufacturers Association in April launched a program — Wind Energy Community — to help push along the concept, said Chuck Hadden, the lobbying group's president…[He] cited some benefits of wind energy: It won't dirty the air or emit pollutants like other energy sources, which means less smog, less acid rain and fewer greenhouse gas emissions; wind energy is cost-competitive with other fuel sources such as natural gas, and it's the least expensive of all renewable energy sources."

    click to enlarge

    "Turbines convert wind's kinetic energy into mechanical or electrical power. Modern commercial turbines produce electricity by using rotational energy to drive a generator. Smaller wind turbines can provide power to individual homes…Wind energy can provide low cost and clean energy quicker due to low operating costs and short construction times, Hadden said."

    click to enlarge

    "Drawbacks for some may include location of turbines near residences and the impact they may have on animals…[ Norm Saari, chief of staff for state Sen. Jason Allen (R)] believes wind energy is an important component of the state's energy mix…[He] said the utilities will provide an incentive for marketers because wind projects keep more energy dollars in communities where projects are located and provide income through lease payments to the landowners…Wind projects also pay property taxes and state taxes and create local jobs, he said.

    "Wind energy production is scattered throughout Michigan, mainly in the Lower Peninsula, including the Thumb and Traverse City area…"


    Go Solar, Mr. President
    Jeremy Schere, September 20, 2010 (Matter Network via Reuters)

    "Recently, outspoken environmentalist Bill McKibben tried and failed to convince the Obama administration to reinstall a solar panel on the White House roof that Jimmy Carter had originally put there in the late 1970s…[but] Carter's solar panels are more than 30 years old…[President Obama] should indeed install a solar system on the White House-a brand new one showcasing the latest and greatest in solar PV technology."

    "That's the thrust of a citizen action campaign called
    Globama, led by the solar energy company Sungevity, which has offered to donate and install a photovoltaic array on the White house at no cost…Before deciding, Obama might consider what happened…in 1979 [when] Jimmy Carter unveiled a thermal hot water solar system bolted to the White House roof…"

    click to enlarge

    [President Carter, 1979:] "A generation from now…this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people-harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil."

    "…Carter's solar panels have in fact become a museum piece. In 1986, then-president Ronald Reagan had the panels removed during routine White House roof maintenance and never bothered replacing them…[T]he system was donated to environmentally minded Unity College, in Maine…[One] is on display at the Carter Presidential Library…[It is] a cautionary tale. Any president who puts some attention-grabbing, trendy technology on the roof of one of the world's most famous buildings is merely providing his successor the opportunity to score political points by tearing the thing down."

    click to enlarge

    "But there's another side to the story…For Carter in 1979, the solar panels were a symbolic gesture meant to garner support for his proposed $100 million "solar energy bank" initiative, with a goal of generating 20 percent of U.S. power from alternative energy sources by 2000. To fund the plan, Carter urged Congress to pass a "windfall profits" tax on the domestic oil industry and approve subsidies to encourage [solar] developers…[It] worked. Stories and op/eds in the days following the rooftop press conference were largely supportive. The few dissenting voices criticized Carter for not doing enough…[which] was characteristic of mounting interest in clean, renewable energy technologies during the energy-panicked 70s.

    "…[T]he Iran hostage crisis scuttled both Carter's bid for reelection and his plans for a solar-powered America. Reagan's landslide victory in 1980, his hands-off approach to energy policy (he tried, unsuccessfully, to dissolve the newly established Department of Energy) and falling oil and gas prices largely quashed public interest in solar energy…[S]hould Obama go that route? …[Y]es…[T]he time is ripe for Obama to throw the full weight of his support behind solar and other renewable energy technologies…[T]oday's energy challenges are all too real, and many people around the world seem ready to envision an energy future beyond fossil fuels…[P]utting a solar array on the White House won't solve our energy problems…But it would be a potent symbol…And given the fact that our many energy-related problems are here for the long haul, it won't be so easy for Obama's successor to rip the panels down."