Other than our own stories, here’s some top cleantech, climate, and even fossil fuel news of the day:
Solar-Powered Prisons in California Represent Big Savings for Taxpayers: “Prisons are a necessary component of modern society, but even the most die-hard “get tough on crime” proponent doesn’t want to spend a ton of money on them. So, where do you keep costs down? Guards? Buildings? Cutting most categories of spending probably also means cutting security at some level; energy, however, represents a significant source of savings without undermining a prison’s purpose. California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation may have implemented a model for the rest of the country: a multi-institution solar power purchase agreement.”
DOE to Award up to $20M for Projects Integrating Concentrating Solar Power Systems with Fossil Fuel Plants: “The US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000772) for up to $20 million for the CSP [concentrating solar power] Heat Integration for Baseload Renewable Energy Development (CSP HIBRED) program to support advancement of the hybridization of CSP technologies with existing fossil fuel plants. DOE defines CSP hybridization as thermal and or chemical energy from a CSP system being combined with the thermal and or chemical energy in a fossil fueled power generation system for the production of electricity. A goal of the CSP HIBRED FOA is to catalyze wider CSP hybrid deployment in the power industry.”
More Than a Third of U.S. Solar Installers Say Permitting Requirements Limit Growth: “Clean Power Finance today unveiled a nationwide study of solar permitting and the obstacle it poses to the widespread adoption of residential solar. The study, the largest of its kind to date, provides quantifiable evidence of the negative effects complex permitting regulations have on U.S. solar installers and also on the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), including municipalities and utilities, who oversee permitting processes.”
China to Make Regional Adjustments for Solar Power Incentives: “China, the biggest manufacturer of solar panels, will make regional adjustments to the feed-in tariffs supporting solar power based on local “resource conditions,” the latest step to support the industry.
The nation also will offer photovoltaic projects preferential value-added tax policies similar to those made for wind farms, according to a statement today on the central government’s website, which cited a State Council meeting led by Premier Wen Jiabao.”
Hot Solar Tips for 2013: Middle East Rising, PV Leasing, CSP: “Everyone loves solar power. Except maybe Australia’s energy utilities… and some of its state governments… Anyway, we know our readers love hearing about what’s happening in the solar industry, so we thought we’d put together a list of things to look out for in the solar year ahead. Enjoy.”
Zep Solar Signs Supply Agreement with SolarCity: “Zep Solar, Inc., has announced a two-year supply agreement with SolarCity, a national leader of clean energy services, to provide the company with solar installation hardware designed for use with Zep Compatible solar modules. Under the agreement, Zep Solar will manufacture and supply to SolarCity a range of installation hardware solutions for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations for residential and commercial use.”
Array Technologies Wins 268-MW Tracker Contract: “Array Technologies, Inc., a USA-based manufacturer and supplier of solar tracking systems and related products for utility, commercial and residential PV customers, has announced it has been selected to supply its DuraTrack horizontal, single-axis solar trackers for one of the world’s largest photovoltaic plants. The utility plant will be located in California’s Imperial Valley and will have an installed capacity of 268 MW DC.”
Chinese Solar Imports Drop Two-Thirds From 2011: “U.S. imports of solar cells and panels from the People’s Republic of China plummeted in October 2012, even as selling of solar technology revved up for the peak, year-end season, according to federal statistics. The panels from China have been found to be illegally subsidized by regulatory agencies. Total Chinese imports valued at $75 million in October, down from $112.7 million in September, represented a decline of about two-thirds from $213 million in October 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “U.S. Imports of Merchandise” database.”
2012: Solar Revolution in the United States? “Sometimes the biggest stories go unreported. Of all the news that didn’t make headlines this year, the dramatic increase in U.S. solar installations ranks near the top of the list. [Editor’s note: of course, it made plenty of headlines on CleanTechnica.] While we were reading about weak demand for manufactured goods and a slow economy throughout 2012, Americans installed over 3 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems — an unprecedented level, up 71 percent year-over-year. Can you name another industry that grew this much?”
Solar Power: We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: “When Mark Twidell was a senior executive at BP Solar in the mid 2000s, his team put together a forecast for Australian PV deployment of 200MW by 2010. ‘We thought we were dreaming,’ he says. And it may have appeared so, because BP Solar was later to close what was then the country’s only PV manufacturing facility, only for it to be reopened and then closed again by another party.
“This week, Mark Twidell steps down as head of the Australian Solar Institute – which is being absorbed into the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – after an extraordinary three years of industry development. Already, more than 2,000MW of solar PV has been installed in Australia – mostly on household rooftops. That has engaged the public, and their wallets, but the more significant work has been occurring away from the public eye.”
Small Is Big: Bangladesh Installs One Million Solar Home Systems: “A few months back, Nancy Wimmer told us about Bangladesh’s solar success. In one of the poorest countries on earth, a renewable energy company, Grameen Shakti, is busy installing nearly 1,000 solar home systems each day. It turns out all that small-scale solar has achieved something quite big.”
Centrotherm Secures 300 MW Chinese Order: “Centrotherm photovoltaics has won a 300 MW order with CECEP Solar Energy Technology (Zhenjiang) Co., Ltd, based in China. Under the agreement, it will deliver solar cell production systems for anti-reflective coating and phosphorous diffusion.”
BYD Announces 110 MW PV Module Supply Deal with South Africa: “BYD Company Limited has said it will supply 110 MW worth of photovoltaic modules to two projects in South Africa.
“The China-based company has said it will deliver around 458,000 of its photovoltaic modules to two projects, worth 75 MW and 35 MW, respectively, under the first round of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP).”
Spanish Senate Raises Energy Tax: “Along with all producers of electricity in Spain, owners of solar power plants will have to pay an energy tax of 7% on top of their feed-in tariffs. The Spanish industry expects an increase of bankruptcies on the back of the news.”
Europe’s Wind Power and Energy Future: EWEA 2013: “Chief executives, energy ministers, international journalists and energy experts from all around the world will meet in Vienna at the EWEA 2013 annual event from 4-7 February 2013, to discuss Europe’s energy policy and the future of wind energy. Last year 150 journalists, 10600 visitors and 523 exhibitors from 83 countries attended EWEA 2012.”
Planned Wind Turbine Additions Rise in Advance of Scheduled Expiration of Wind Tax Credit: “Many wind projects are planning to come on line before the end of 2012, in advance of the possible expiration of a federal incentive, the wind production tax credit (PTC). It appears that wind developers are pushing to complete projects in 2012 to qualify for the PTC. Under current law, projects that begin operating prior to the end of 2012 are eligible to receive a 2.2-cent PTC for each kilowatthour of generation over a 10-year period. Similar behavior in the face of previous PTC expirations was discussed in an earlier Today in Energy article describing the history of the wind PTC.”
U.S. Slaps Duties on China Wind Towers, High-Level Talks Begin: “The United States pressed forward on Tuesday with plans to slap steep punitive duties on wind turbine towers imported from China at prices deemed unfairly low, even as officials welcomed a high-level Chinese delegation for trade and economic talks.”
Siemens Installs Prototype of 4-Megawatt Offshore Wind Turbine: “Siemens Energy has installed the prototype of a new four-megawatt (MW) wind turbine in Østerild, Denmark. The new wind turbine type is a designated SWT-4.0 and is based on the proven technology of the SWT-3.6, the world’s most popular offshore wind turbine. The prototype 4.0 MW turbine is initially equipped with the standard 120 meter rotor of the 3.6 MW turbine but will shortly be upgraded with a 130 meter rotor using 63 meter long rotor blades. Following extensive testing the SWT-4.0-130 will be launched for sale with the 130 meter rotor diameter in spring 2013.”
Minnesota Power Adds 210 Megawatts of Clean, Low-Cost Wind Energy Generation to Serve Its Customers: “Minnesota Power, a division of ALLETE, Inc. (NYSE: ALE) has reached a significant milestone in its energy supply diversification strategy with the completion of phases two and three of the company’s Bison Wind Energy Center. The 210-megawatt (MW) renewable energy installations near New Salem, N.D., are now operational and the commissioning process has been completed.”
Plug-In Hybrids, EVs Not Holding Resale Value Compared To Conventional Cars, But…: “Anyone who has ever bought a new car knows that the second you drive it off of the lot, it has lost thousands of dollars in value. That is why automakers often tout the high resale value of their cars, hoping to convince some buyers that they’ll see a decent return on their investment down the road. But a new study shows that buyers of EVs and plug-in hybrids may have to settle for a little less than they hoped for…. Of course it isn’t all bad news. If you take into account the $7,500 federal tax rebate available to both the Leaf and the Volt, all of the sudden things like pretty peachy for early adopters and used car fans alike. If those resale values hold true, it means you could buy a Nissan Leaf for under $8,000, and a Chevy Volt for around $13,000 in just a few years time. Not too shabby!” (Also, note the reader comment over there… just 1 at the moment.)
ChargePoint and DBT USA to Showcase Joint Electric Vehicle Charging Station Innovation at the Consumer Electronics Show, 2013: “ChargePoint, the world’s largest network of independently owned EV charging stations and DBT USA, the Chicago-based subsidiary of European EV charging infrastructure leader DBT will showcase a joint EV charging station innovation at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show. With more than 10,000 charging stations installed in 32 countries and three continents across the globe, DBT will make a major step in the US EV charging station market with a new product to be announced during CES. The companies will showcase the joint solution on January 8-11, 2013 inside the GoElectricDrive Tech Zone, booth #2826 (LVCC North Hall) and DBT USA booth #2931 (LVCC, North Hall).”
Icelandic Electric Vehicle Association Founded Today, Wants to Import 350 EVs in 2013: “It’s no secret that Gisli Gislason wants to bring electric vehicles to Iceland. A year-and-a-half ago, he struck a deal with Amp Electric Vehicles to send 1,000 EVs to the island nation. That won’t happen now. He’s also navigated a $39-million deal for 150 EVs, with similar results. Undeterred, Gislason’s and his cohorts today founded the Icelandic EV Association. It’s the latest move to make Iceland one of the most EV-ready countries in the world.”
IBM & Green eMotion Project on EV Roaming: “A new IBM project in Europe is intended to enable EV roaming—i.e., simplifying electric vehicle (EV) charging and payment for consumers, regardless of their location. The B2B Marketplace operational demonstration will allow energy providers, car manufacturers, and charging point owners to share and integrate services on one common IT platform. This will create a network of EV charging services that are compatible regionally in Europe.”
Renault’s Australian EV Launch Delayed by Better Place Issues: “Better Place continues to be a bit of a misnomer as issues with the electric-vehicle battery-switching network have delayed Renault’s plans to debut its Fluence Z.E. electric vehicle in Australia, Car Advice reports.”
First Chevy Volt Owner Averages 459 MPG: “The Chevy Volt has received more than its fair share of criticism, but as sales continue to climb, more success stories from Volt owners seem to be coming out. Retired pilot Jeffrey Kaffee, the first person to buy a Chevy Volt outside of auction, has reportedly used just 26 gallons of gasoline in two years of owning his Volt. With more than 12,000 miles on the odometer, that works out to an average of 459 mpg.”
VW Will Expand PHEV Offerings from Porsche in 2014: “Volkswagen is two-pronging its approach to alt-fuel vehicles by expanding its stable of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs) starting in 2014 while continuing to boost its push for more sales of its clean-diesel vehicles.
“Europe’s largest automaker is adding PHEV versions of the Porsche Panamera and 918 Spyder to the electric-drive vehicles set to debut in 2014, Reuters reports, citing an interview with VW electric-car head Rudolf Krebs.”
Toyota offering up to $7,500 incentices for RAV4 EV; some customers will pay just $32,000: “Nationwide Insurance tries to attract potential customers on its so-called ‘vanishing deductible.’ Toyota is offering a somewhat similar ‘vanishing price tag’ on its battery-electric RAV4 EV.
“The Japanese automaker, which recently started selling the all-electric ‘ute in California, is offering a limited number of customers $5,000 cash back plus $2,500 in ‘loyalty cash,’ Plug In Cars reports, citing this Toyota dealer website. But wait, there’s more. Customers who buy by January 7 can also get zero-percent financing.”
More than 700 Energy Storage Projects are Announced or Operating around the World, According to Pike Research Tracker: “Energy storage projects are increasing steadily, both in terms of the project pipeline and the number of projects deployed and operating. Two factors are influencing that expansion: first, demand for energy storage is increasing as utilities learn more about energy storage technologies and become less risk averse, and second, as the economic outlook brightens, companies are more willing to invest the capital frequently required for energy storage.”
Invenergy & Xtreme Power Launch JV for 1.5 MW Grid Energy Storage System: “Invenergy LLC, a Chicago-based renewable energy generation company, and Xtreme Power, a provider of real-time power management and energy storage solutions, launched a joint venture to deploy a fast-acting energy storage system in Illinois.”
New Video: Climate 2013 – the View from AGU: “I talked to a whole lot of scientists at this year’s American Geophysical Union Conference, and a number of them took time for interviews. I’ll be building videos around these in the coming year, but for now, here is a sampling of perspectives on what we know now, and what we’re looking for in 2013.”
Newtown: Tragedy, Empathy, and Growing our Circle of Concern: “I have sons not too much older than the children killed in Newtown, Conn., on Friday. They go to schools with no metal detectors or armed guards, watched over by teachers who have never seemed more human and fragile. Like everyone else, I’ve spent the last few days in a state of semi-shock, crying along with the president and getting angry about guns in America. This is a tragedy every parent — everyone who knows and loves a child — fears above all else. It is intensely personal for me.
“This is what it means to be a social animal: We feel for those in whom we see ourselves. It is a response of the gut, not the head, as much biochemical as intellectual. That surge of empathy brings out much that is best in us, as the outpouring of support for Newtown has shown.
“Morality begins there, but it cannot end there…”
From Sandy to Sandy Hook: The Moral Urgency For Action Even When It Appears ‘The Politics Are Too Hard’: “I have a daughter almost as old as those who were senselessly killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school, so my heart goes out to all the victims.
“She is also why I fight so hard for climate action. As Obama said in his powerful speechat the Sandy Hook interfaith prayer vigil….”
Halfway To Hell (And High Water): 333rd Month In A Row Global Temperatures Exceed Long-Term Average: “Okay, NOAA’s State of the Climate Report for November isn’t the Mayan meteorological forecast. And the Apocalypse isn’t quite ‘now.’ But this part of the NOAA report is kind of ominous:
“Including this November, the 10 warmest Novembers have occurred in the past 12 years. The 10 coolest Novembers on record all occurred prior to 1920. November 2012 also marks the 36th consecutive November and 333rd consecutive month with global temperature higher than the long-term average. The last month with a below average temperature was February 1985, nearly 28 years ago.”
Climate Already Altering U.S. Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Report Says: “Climate change is causing plant and animal species across the U.S. to shift their geographic ranges and life events — from flowering to migration — are being transformed at a faster rate than observed even a few years ago, a new analysis by 60 scientists says. According to the report, “Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services,” some terrestrial species are moving up in elevation at rates 2 to 3 times greater than previously believed, while the range shifts for some marine species have been even greater. These rapid changes in ranges, distributions, and life cycles are forcing species to interact in ways that they never have before and could alter the timing and availability of natural resources critical to biodiversity and ecosystem health.”
Heeding Public Outrage, Pfizer Drops Climate Denial And Tobacco Front Group Heartland Institute: “The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE) has confirmed that it will no longer support the Heartland Institute, a political advocacy group that questions the science of climate change and tobacco smoking. Forecast the Facts, which is leading the campaign calling on corporations to drop Heartland, was informed of the decision by Pfizer’s Corporate Secretary Matthew Lepore. Pfizer was a major donor to Heartland, giving $45,000 in 2012 alone.”
Sun & Climate Moving in Opposite Directions, Says Leaked IPCC Report: “Last week, blogger Alec Rawls leaked a working draft of the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). One section of the IPCC report examines the role of the sun on climate change and concludes that since 1980, solar activity has decreased and had a slight cooling influence on our climate. Over the last few decades of global warming, sun and climate have been moving in opposite directions.”
Group Sues Obama Administration Over Offshore Oil And Gas Leasing Program: “A lawsuit has been filed against the Obama administration over the economic claims that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) made in their 5-year plan to open up new areas around the United States to offshore oil and gas leasing. The suit, filed by the Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE), says that the administration not only grossly exaggerated the economic benefits of increased energy exploration, but also that they failed to take all costs into account.”
Big Banks Admit No Keystone XL = Limited Expansion of Tar Sands Development: “Want to know how the Keystone XL will drive up climate emissions? Just ask the banks that are needed to fund dirty tar sands pipeline projects and they’ll tell you straight out: no KXL means no substantive development of the tar sands, one of the world’s largest pools of carbon and a sure-fire way to cook the planet.”
Coal Exports Emerging As Major Climate Fight In The Pacific Northwest: “In the Pacific Northwest, activists and their allies are ramping up for a full-throttle battle over a proposal to haul coal across the west for export to China. Big Coal’s latest master plan promises to generate a second epicenter of climate-change resistance—our very own Keystone XL pipeline showdown.”
E-waste Recycling — At Whose Expense? “Computers, tablets and mobile phones are all popular consumer products. The lifespan of these devices is usually short, between two to four years. Shakila Umair, researcher at KTH, travelled to Pakistan to see how these common electronic devices are dismantled and recycled. She investigated the harsh living conditions of people working with e-waste.”
German Cabinet Agrees to Expand Power Grid Faster: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed on Wednesday to accelerate the construction of 2,800 km of new high-voltage power lines to push forward the country’s shift to renewable energy.”
Experts: High-MPG Vehicles to Continue Racing Ahead in 2013: “According to industry analyst Alan L. Baum, principal of Baum &Associates, and Luke Tonachel, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior vehicles analyst, U.S. consumers will be the big winners in 2013 as a result of strong growth in sales of electric and hybrid cars … a wide range of available fuel-efficient midsize vehicles and pickups … lower prices for a number of the vehicles with the highest MPG ratings … and a greater emphasis on diesel-powered vehicles and affordable new tech. In addition, Baum and Tonachel say the auto industry will remain on track to meet higher federal fuel efficiency standards.”
Czech Republic, Hungary Get EU Approval for Carbon Schemes: “The European Commission has approved state aid of 1.88 billion euros for the Czech Republic and 56 million euros for Hungary in the form of free carbon allowances, it said on Wednesday.”
French Government ‘Concerned’ about German Energy Transition: “In September, the French Center of Strategic Analysis produced a paper listing its concerns about its neighbor’s transition from fossil and nuclear to renewables. While the study is not without its flaws, it nonetheless reflects what Germany’s biggest neighbor feels – and may be a good general indicator of how some of Germany’s neighbors feel left out.”
Smart-Transportation Spending Will Quadruple to $102 Billion by 2018: “Let’s just say the smart money’s on smart transportation. A recent study by MarketsAndMarkets found that global spending on so-called smart-transportation initiatives will quadruple to more than $102 billion in 2018 from almost $27 billion this year. Spending on communication systems that do everything from conveying local traffic levels to providing parking and traffic-ticketing information, all of which will be designed to make the roads safer and more efficient, will jump by about 24 percent a year during the next few years, the study says.”
OriginOil Removes up to 99% of Bacteria in Harvested Algae, Solving Key Barrier for Multi-Billion Dollar Industry: “OriginOil, Inc. (OTC/BB: OOIL), the developer of a breakthrough energy production process for harvesting algae and cleaning up oil & gas water, announced today that its algae harvesting process reduces bacterial concentrations by as much as 99%. This could extend the shelf life of liquid algae concentrate from hours to days, addressing a key problem standing in the way of the multi-billion dollar algae industry. The results were achieved in lab tests under an independent university research program.”
Climate Authority Gives Green Light for Boom in Big Renewables: “The large-scale renewable energy industry can now get down to business and begin the rollout of around 8,000MW of wind farms and solar farms over the next eight years after the Climate Change Authority delivered its final decision on the much contested Renewable Energy Target.”
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