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Cleantech News from CleanTechnica: Transparent Solar Cell Sticker Covers Being Developed For iPad

 

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica


Transparent Solar Cell Sticker Covers Being Developed For iPad

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 04:08 PM PST

Ubiquitous Energy, a new startup company, is currently developing a transparent stick-on solar cell for use with theiPad and other tablets. The stick-on solar cell will be able to keep the iPad powered throughout the day. The company states that its technology will revolutionize the use of mobile devices, making them nearly independent from wall-charging.

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The solar cells are designed to only collect wavelengths “at the ultraviolet and infrared end of the spectrum,” allowing all visible light to pass through and leave a completely transparent screen.

“In contrast, most solar cells collect light in the visible portion of the light spectrum, making it impossible for them to be completely transparent. The solar cells are made from several organic layers that are placed, one layer at a time, on the glass screen of a tablet,” Miles Barr, president and chief technology officer of Ubiquitous Energy, explained to MIT Tech Review.

The company is currently still developing the technology. Release dates and pricing have yet to be announced. The current prototype has achieved about 2% efficiency, as well as a “visible transparency” of about 70%. But those numbers are expected to significantly improve before they are ready for release, according to Barr.

Source: Inhabitat
Image Credits: IPad3 via Wikimedia Commons

Transparent Solar Cell Sticker Covers Being Developed For iPad was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Pay-As-You-Go Solar Startup Bringing Cheap, Clean Lighting To Kenya

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 04:04 PM PST

A new pay-as-you-go solar startup in Kenya is aiming to provide a cheap and pollution-free replacement for the ubiquitous kerosene lamps there. Currently, most rural residents in Kenya use kerosene lamps for lighting their homes, which is not only rather expensive, but also creates a great deal of indoor pollution. By offering a clean and affordable replacement for these lamps, the residents in these areas stand to benefit greatly.

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“To help bring fume-free and affordable power to rural Kenya, M-KOPA Solar offers a small solar power system to residents for just a down payment and an ongoing pay-as-you-go agreement, which lets low-income earners get a system for their home or business. The system, from d.light solar, consists of a 4 W solar panel, 3 adjustable lights, a mobile phone charging station, and a base station that manages and displays the user’s credits.”

With the initial deposit being only about $30, and the daily rate hovering around $0.46, the system is within the grasp of many people in the country. The entire unit can also be paid off rather quickly, typically in less than a year. Since kerosene lamps cost, roughly, about $0.70 a day, the M-KOPA system is significantly cheaper. And because of the nature of the pay-as-you-go system, even those without steady employment can benefit, simply using it when they can afford to. And, once paid off, the system is completely free, potentially opening up funds for a level of personal entrepreneurship not typically available to the poorer people in Kenya.

This isn’t the only startup helping to bring solar-powered lighting to the developing world. This is actually a pretty hot cleantech sector these days. Its cost-effectiveness is one clear reason why.

Source: TreeHugger
Image Credits: M-KOPA

Pay-As-You-Go Solar Startup Bringing Cheap, Clean Lighting To Kenya was originally published on:CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed,follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

$17 Million Announced Under DOE SunShot Initiative For Solar Reliability & Grid Integration

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 02:38 PM PST

This article below has been republished from the U.S. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) website (image added):

Ten More Startups for SunShot IncubatorThe Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative recently announced up to $17 million to support the development of innovative, cost-effective solutions to boost the amount of solar energy that utilities can integrate seamlessly with the national power grid. This funding will help utilities develop adaptable and replicable practices, long-term strategic plans, and technical solutions to sustain reliable operations with large proportions of solar power on the grid. It will also support projects aimed at improving the lifetime and reliability of solar modules and electronics.

The funding is being offered through two opportunities. The Solar Utility Networks: Replicable Innovation in Solar Energy (SUNRISE) funding opportunity is making up to $12 million available for projects to enable utilities to develop long-term strategic plans that integrate high levels of renewable energy generation, while ensuring reliable real-time power system operations. Funding is also available for projects to provide technical assistance and build capacity for the planning and installation of utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) systems. The application deadline for the funding opportunity is April 24, 2013. See the SUNRISE solicitation.

Also, the Physics of Reliability: Evaluating Design Insights for Component Technologies in Solar (PREDICTS) funding opportunity is making up to $5 million available for projects aimed at improving the lifetime and reliability of PV modules, concentrating solar power (CSP) components, and the electronic hardware used to operate and connect to the grid. The funding covers two topic areas: identification, evaluation, and modeling of intrinsic failure mechanisms in PV and CSP subsystems and system components; and development of standard testing procedures for the lifetime of microinverters and microconverters. The application deadline is April 29, 2013. See the PREDICTS solicitation and the SunShot newsletter for more information.

$17 Million Announced Under DOE SunShot Initiative For Solar Reliability & Grid Integration was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Two Wind Cooperatives Win DOE’s 2012 Wind Cooperative Of The Year Award

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 02:26 PM PST

This article below has been republished from the U.S. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) website:

The Golden Valley Electric Association developed the 25-megawatt Eva Creek Wind Farm in Ferry, Alaska in 2012. Credit: Golden Valley Electric Association

The Energy Department on February 21 recognized the East River Electric Power Cooperative of South Dakota and the Golden Valley Electric Association of Alaska as the 2012 Wind Cooperatives of the Year. East River and Golden Valley were selected by a panel of experts from the wind industry, utilities, government, national laboratories, and cooperatives.

East River Electric Power Cooperative of Madison, South Dakota, is a wholesale electric power supply cooperative serving eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. The cooperative is regarded as one of the earliest champions in installing the first utility-scale wind turbines in the Dakotas. In 2009, the co-op created South Dakota Wind Partners LLC (SDWP), which is a model for community-based, locally-owned wind development that is fully financed by South Dakota residents. In 2010, SDWP proposed a 10.5 megawatt (MW) addition to the 151 MW Prairie Winds SD1 project and worked with East River to convene investor meetings across the state. This approach helped raise $16 million in just 60 days with investments from more than 600 South Dakotans. The 10.5 MW project has been in operation since 2011, and is a community-financing model for clean, domestic wind power that other providers can emulate.

The Golden Valley Electric Association is focused on generating 20% of its peak load electricity—the power supplied when customer demand is highest—from renewable energy by 2014. As part of this commitment, Golden Valley developed the 25-megawatt Eva Creek Wind Farm in Ferry, Alaska, in 2012. The remote site is located at the end of a 10-mile dirt road, contributing to unique construction challenges. The Eva Creek Wind Farm project is expected to help the cooperative meet its renewable goals ahead of schedule, reduce dependence on oil, and save Golden Valley members as much as $4 million in annual electricity costs by the end of 2013. See the Energy Department Progress Alert and the Wind Powering America website.

Two Wind Cooperatives Win DOE’s 2012 Wind Cooperative Of The Year Award was originally published on:CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed,follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Conergy Completes 14 Rooftop Solar Power Plants Without Subsidies At Sub-Grid Prices

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 01:19 PM PST

Conergy, a photovoltaic solar provider, has reportedly installed 14 photovoltaic solar power plants without subsidies or feed-in tariffs (FiTs) in Spain.

Coenergy residential PV solar panels. Image obtained from Coenergy.com.

Conergy noted that the plants generate electricity at a much lower cost than the average retail price of electricity in Spain, which Conergy said is 15–17 eurocents per kWh.

The solar power plants generate electricity at “just over” 10 eurocents per kWh, which is affordable enough to negate the need for FiTs and any other financial support.

This is a good sign that solar in Spain could reach grid parity nationwide soon. Of course, this is not the first grid party milestone – a First Solar plant in the U.S. has achieved it as well, and some regions (such as the state of Hawaii) are already at solar grid parity — but this is still one of the first reports we’ve seen.

The 14 power plants’ combined electricity generation capacity is 75 kW.

The first of the 14 plants was one on the roof of La Sal Varador, an organic restaurant in Barcelona. The other 13 solar power systems are located on the rooftops of various homes and businesses. The electricity generated from this systems will be used almost 100% on site.

“But,” states Luis Jiménez Gutierrez, managing director of Conergy Spain, “an agricultural business has a different load profile than a restaurant or private household.” As such, Conergy now offers a calculation tool for the design of self-consumption systems without support, which is based on the company’s past experience in this market segment.

“This now allows us to support our partners with the development and realisation of such power plants without any feed-in tariffs and thus advise and support them competently in a changing market.”

Source: PV Magazine

Conergy Completes 14 Rooftop Solar Power Plants Without Subsidies At Sub-Grid Prices was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

“Hyper Low-Cost” High-Speed Rail Service Opening In France

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 01:08 PM PST

The national rail service in France, SNCF, is beginning a new “hyper low-cost” high-speed rail service option with the goal of attracting suburban commuters who currently use cars.

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France has long had a tradition of making cutting-edge rail service available to people across all income brackets. And the new service, OuiGo, continues and expands upon that tradition. Making modern high-speed rail travel available for considerably less than it was before.

“OuiGo brings the aviation low-cost concept to high-speed railways,” Yonah Freemark of the Transport Politicexplains. “In exchange for a cheap ticket, customers will be charged for a second carry-on bag; they’ll pay more for the use of an electrical outlet; they’ll be unable to change their tickets without a fee…. Double-decker trains will seat 1,268 passengers, not because seats have been compressed (unlike the airlines, thank god), but rather because the first class and dining car spaces have been replaced by economy-class areas.”

One of the primary ways that costs will be lowered will be by locating the train stops further from the city centers, which will cut down on operating costs, while also attracting new riders living in closer proximity to those areas.

“It’s an innovative approach to providing train service at lower costs, one that sacrifices convenience to the city center for easy access for suburban automobile users, who, despite France’s rather well-developed transit networks, nonetheless constitute a large portion of the population,” continues Freemark. “For them, an easy-to-access train station in the suburbs — combined with cheaper-than-normal tickets — may be enough to induce them to switch to the train.”

OuiGo has been in the planning stages since 2009, and it seems that the program has really been well designed. And while there is currently some resistance from unions (because OuiGo cuts down on employee numbers), the system seems likely to be successful.

Source: Planetizen
Image Credits: OuiGo via Wikimedia Commons

“Hyper Low-Cost” High-Speed Rail Service Opening In France was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Great German Success

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 01:03 PM PST

Another great post by Karl-Friedrich Lenz, reposted from the Lenz Blog (image added):

Germany solar panels & flag via Shutterstock

The final numbers for Germany’s performance under the Kyoto Protocol have been released recently, and they are fantastic.

Germany has beat its ambitious goal of 21% reduction compared to 1990 by a comfortable margin, getting to 25.5 percent. Take that, Australia!

To be exact, the goal under the Kyoto Protocol was to have the average of the years between 2008 and 2012 lower than  974 million tons CO2 equivalent. Germany has almost reached the goal with 975 million in 2008 and beaten it every year since then, for a cumulative performance of 192 million tons over the Kyoto targets.

Of course, this success is nice to have, but it is only one first small step on the way. Germany and all other countries need to get to zero emissions as fast as possible, and then to negative emissions (by using energy to suck it up).

And while these are fantastic numbers, the real contribution from Germany to solving the global warming crisis was getting the prices of solar energy down massively to the point that all countries now can use that technology to get rid of fossil fuel fast. The ebbing tide lifts all the boats. That has not come cheap, costing about 0.14% of German GDP. But it was the right thing to do, since Germany has a special moral obligation to do as much as possible to counter climate change.

Related post: Great German Failure

Great German Success was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Solar Energy Forecasts Could Boost Industry Outlook

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 12:32 PM PST

Intermittency may be the Achilles Heel of solar energy. Since the Sun doesn’t always shine and utility-scale energy storage isn’t available yet, grid operators have to rely on dispatchable generation like natural gas or coal when clouds cover up solar farms. But that may be about to change in a big way.

Solar panel with clouds

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has launched an ambitious three-year national project to create 36-hour solar energy forecasts. Research from government and university laboratories will be provided to utilities, grid operators, and commercial forecasters across the country.

NCAR’s prototype system will forecast sunlight and predict power every 15 minutes, giving utilities unprecedented ability to accurately plan the amount of solar power they will be able to generate across their system to meet customer demand. The system is primarily funded by a $4.1 million grant from the US Energy Department.

Since the Sun always shines, the project’s focus will be on creating detailed predictions of cloud cover and atmospheric particles that deflect incoming solar energy and affect the ability of solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity.

“It’s critical for utility managers to know how much sunlight will be reaching solar energy plants,” said Sue Ellen Haupt, lead researcher on NCAR’s solar project. “These detailed cloud and irradiance forecasts are a vital step.”

Cloud Cover’s Complicated Calculations

Predicting the weather has been a challenge for as long as humans have existed, but estimating cloud cover over specific areas may be the toughest aspect of the equation. Clouds are formed by tiny drops of water and are affected by many factors like wind, humidity, surface temperatures, geography, and airborne pollutants.

Compounding the challenge for solar forecasting, different types of clouds affect solar panel efficiency in different ways. For instance, high-altitude wispy clouds let much more sunlight hit the ground than low-altitude thick clouds.

NCAR will use a wide array of observational tools to forecast conditions, including laser-based lidar for atmospheric measurements, computer modeling, artificial intelligence, and three “total sky imagers” to triangulate cloud height and depth.

The system will be tested across the country, in vastly different geographic regions like the Northeast, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and California to ensure it can be applied nationwide.

Past Results Suggest Success

Even though NCAR’s system may leave some skeptics wondering if it will work, past performance indicates a sunny outlook. NCAR developed a wind forecasting system for Xcel Energy in 2011 that has increased forecast efficiency 35% and saved ratepayers $6 million dollars in just one year at wind farms across several Midwest and Mountain West states.

NCAR research has also boosted the ability of researchers to predict multiple climate change effects. TheirCommunity Earth System Model (CESM) was developed for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to accurately predict changes in severe weather, ocean patterns, and ice sheet melting.

So cheer up, solar industry. Now that NCAR’s on the case, the forecast for solar energy as a stable baseload power source has just gotten a whole lot brighter.

Solar Energy Forecasts Could Boost Industry Outlook was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook orTwitter, or just visit our homepage.

Unplug For National Day Of Unplugging (March 1–2)

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 11:00 AM PST

I have to admit, if I heard about the National Day of Unplugging (I probably did), I forgot about it until just running across this article below from friend and former CleanTechnica writer Derek Markham. Here’s his full piece on this useful holiday, which starts tomorrow, March 1, at sundown (reposted from Natural Papa):

unplugHow bad is your tech addiction?

I’ll confess to mine: Between my desktop computer, my phone, my iPad, and my Kindle Fire, the internet is just a click away during most hours of my day. While I’m not *always* online, and I do have all social media notifications turned off on my devices, I still spend entirely too much time being connected.

And I’m not alone. I see you out at the playgrounds with your kids, staring into your phone, and I see you over there reaching for your phone compulsively, several times an hour.

We’re a wired culture. And while being plugged in may seem really helpful at times, and it may serve to make the world a smaller place sometimes, it can also easily distract us from being present with our family and friends. Instead of interacting with and connecting to real flesh-and-blood humans, it’s all too tempting to Instagram them and share on their Facebook wall.

It’s time to get unplugged for a day. This Friday, March 1st, is the fourth annual National Day of Unplugging. It’s a 24 hour period, lasting from sunset to sunset, when people power down all of their devices. Taking the Pledge and unplugging for a day can serve as a “tech detox” in our overly-connected lives.

What will you do with your time?

“In celebration of the fourth annual National Day of Unplugging (NDU) on March 1, the non-profit Reboot is asking individuals, organizations and schools around the world to publicly share what they do when they’re not using technology.

The “I UNPLUG TO _____” campaign invites people to share their commitment to unplugging by posting photos of what they will do when not using technology to www.NationalDayofUnplugging.com. From the lofty — “build houses,” “register people to vote,” “climb a mountain,” “feed the homeless,” — to personal recharging activities like “relax,” “read” or “bond with family,” the NDU encourages individuals and communities to take a digital detox and rediscover the world around them.”

And if your addiction is so bad that you can’t imagine 24 hours without technology or gadgets or the interwebz, never fear. Take a look at The UNDO List, a free service with ideas for conversation topics, readings, local outings and creative endeavors.

Perhaps one day of unplugging isn’t a big deal by itself, but ideally, we would take our own ‘digital sabbath’ on a more regular basis, perhaps once a week, in order to unplug, unwind, and reconnect with our fellow humans.

This Friday could be your chance to begin a new relationship with technology. Unplug.

Unplug For National Day Of Unplugging (March 1–2) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook orTwitter, or just visit our homepage.

EV Conversion Project For High Schoolers — Help A Brother Out!

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 06:00 AM PST

This article was originally published on from EV Obsession.

I have to admit, I wasn’t up to very useful after-school projects when I was in high school. I always feel quite a bit of respect for high schoolers (or younger) who are engaged in significant projects. A young man from Oakland, California, who is turning a gas-guzzling pickup truck into an electric vehicle is one of those people.

Thanks to crowdfunding site IndieGogo, he’s also hoping to get a bit of support for his EV project. He has a target of $15,000 of support.

Here’s a quick rundown of what he’s done so far:

Went to Santa Cruz on a Sunday to pick up an electric conversion kit (3 hours and for $2000)

Contacted over 20 people and looked at three cars before finding the white pick-up truck pictured ($725)

Went to the DMV to complete auto registration ($80)

Removed the engine, exhaust, and gas tank (8 hours)

 

And here’s a quick rundown of what the money would be used for:

Now I am fundraising because we need more money to make this interest of mine a reality. We will need at least $15,000 to make our car work and to be presentable as my senior project as well as my Maker Faire project. In addition to the costs above, with the money we raise from contributors I will buy:

Batterypack – $5,000

Suspension parts (leaf springs) – $500

Metal (to build the structure to hold the battery) – $300

Additional tools (a welder and an engine hoist) – $500

Brakes – $150

Car repairs (paint, bodywork, broken door hinges, damaged seats) – $2,000

Adapter plate (connects the electric motor to the transmission) – $1,100

Charger – $2,000

Carport tent (for rainy days) – $200

And, as a final motivator, here’s a short excerpt on the potential impact you can have by donating via the IndieGogo page:

If you help fund this project, you will make a huge impact on me. Your support will give me motivation and allow me to prove to myself that I can have a career in automotive industry and to prove to people that there are many opportunities in Oakland to help students succeed. You’ll also help me prove the sterotypes about Oakland wrong — many great people can come from where they’re least expected. If I succeed in this project, I might start my own company for car conversions and help make our community more environmentally-friendly.

If we raise more money than our goal, we will give the funds to the school’s Robotics Class so that they can also think big like me and see their projects succeed.

Do the kid a favor — contribute now:

And if you’re looking for another super cool cleantech project to help crowdfund, check outPay as You Go Solar: a Promising Model for Developing World Electricity?

EV Conversion Project For High Schoolers — Help A Brother Out! was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Affordable EV Ownership Gets A Cross-Border Workout In Europe

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 05:26 AM PST

Right around the same time that a New York Times reporter managed to bungle a simple city-to-city electric vehicle test drive along an East Coast charging network, earlier this year a consortium in Europe launched a new three-year, multinational project to take the whole thing to the next level. The new project will be both a showcase for the reliability of Europe’s growing cross-border EV network, and a demonstration that affordable EV ownership is here, now, and happening.

Europe to test affordable EV ownershipAffordable EV Ownership (in Europe, at Least)

Until now, EV marketers have been focused on the immediate payback of EV ownership, which includes the driving experience, the convenience and the fuel savings. The sustainability attraction also comes into play.

The new project, called the RheinMobil showcase, focuses on a much more down to earth matter, which is the reality of owning a car of any type for about three years. That basically comes down to a bummer in terms of paying out for maintenance as well as fuel.

For a bit of context, consider that the up-front cost of purchasing an EV is still relatively high primarily because EV batteries are still extremely expensive compared to, say, a fuel tank. But on the other hand, an EV drive train is more efficient and typically requires less maintenance compared to an internal combustion system.

That’s why the RheinMobil partners are convinced that EVs will prove to be a better buy over the long run, simply in financial terms aside from all the other goodies.

As an aside, the whole battery cost issue could become a moot point in the future, when advanced EV battery research bears fruit. However, for the here and now the consortium’s head-to-head test promises to demonstrate that EVs are an affordable alternative to liquid fuel vehicles.

Partnering Up for EV Affordability

RheinMobil is actually just one of about 40 projects currently under way in Germany’s Baden-Württemberg “LivingLab BWe mobil” electric mobility showcase, which involves more than 100 public-private partners.

Spearheaded by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the RheinMobil showcase includes two industry leaders, one of which is Michelin. As a longtime global leader in tire technology, it’s not obvious what kind of skin Michelin has in the EV game, but Christian Metzger, who manages Michelin’s plant in Karlsruhe, Germany explains the broader values expressed in the company’s corporate culture:

“Michelin does not only develop and sell tires, but is also committed to viable mobility…If electric mobility is to have a future, we have to bring electric vehicles onto the roads and make them visible.”

The other industry partner is Siemens, which is a pretty obvious choice based on the company’s leadership in alternative energy technology. Though perhaps best known in the U.S. for its advanced wind turbines, Siemens is also heavily invested in the electric highway of the future. Among other projects, it recently partnered with Ford and Duke under a Department of Energy grant to develop advanced EV charging technology.

A Practical Test of EV Affordability

The two companies also have a nuts-and-bolts reason for getting behind the showcase, because their employees commute frequently between facilities in Germany and France.

That brings up one important feature of the showcase. It aims to show that EVs making frequent long-distance trips are just as affordable as their conventional counterparts. That makes EV ownership particularly attractive for companies with large fleets as well as for individual owners with intensive driving habits. For casual drivers with short commutes, though, the savings would not pile up at the same rate.

 

The demonstration will involve teams of EVs commuting from Karlsruhe to Alsace and Haguenau in France. A startup called e-MotionLine will supply the vehicles, coordinate the charging infrastructure and train the drivers.

To ensure charging network reliability between Germany and France the partners will also coordinate with another project spearheaded by KIT called the CROss-border Mobility for EVs (CROME) project.

Image: EV charging network, courtesy of CROss-border Mobility for EVs

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Affordable EV Ownership Gets A Cross-Border Workout In Europe was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Mini Nuclear Reactors Earn Golden Fleece Award For Government Waste

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 03:00 AM PST

Are mini nuclear reactors the future of high-end energy development — or a wasteful SimpsonsNuclearReactorgovernment boondoggle?

While it may or may not be great that profitable companies like Babcock & Wilcox and Toshiba are researching these mini or even micro reactors (don’t worry, they won’t fit in a suitcase, or even in your basement), the group Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) has dinged the program as its recipient of the 2013 Golden Fleece Award, for sucking down potentially half a billion dollars in taxpayer money.

“The nation is two days away from the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration,” notes Ryan Alexander, president of TCS. “But at the same time we are hearing the Department of Energy and the nuclear industry evangelizing about the benefits of small modular reactors. In reality, we cannot afford to pile more market-distorting subsidies to profitable companies on top of the billions of dollars we already gave away.”

Indeed, at a time when that much money could pay for some substantial  progress in growing fields like biofuels or solar power, you have to wonder why companies like Babcock & Wilcox need any help from the government at all. 

Possible benefits of the reactors:

§ Smaller and cheaper, so could be used to replace coal-fired plants. ”We’re not trying to build a Rolls Royce; we’re trying to build a Ford.”

§ Self-contained and “plug and play”, so maybe safer.

§ Can be a painless source of off-grid power.

§ Could be 100% made in America.

But the TCS says the possible drawbacks are legion:

§ The energy they generate just won’t be cost-effective.

§ And that’s at current estimates — nuclear companies are notorious for over — estimating benefits and under-estimating costs.

§ Before anything can be built, it’ll take years for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to evaluate these new designs.

§ Each of these new reactors would be a potential terrorist target, multiplying the security nightmare.

§ And we still have no way of dealing with nuclear waste.

“The nuclear industry has a tradition of rushing forth to proclaim that a new technology, just around the corner, will take care of whatever problem exists,” says Autumn Hanna, senior program director for TCS. “Unfortunately, these technologies have an equally long tradition of expensive failure. If the industry believes in small modular reactors and a reactor in every backyard – great – but don’t expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab.”

Mini Nuclear Reactors Earn Golden Fleece Award For Government Waste was originally published on:CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed,follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Lincolnshire Adopts New Target To Reduce Carbon Emissions By 22% By 2018

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 02:00 AM PST

UK’s Lincolnshire county council has set an ambitious target to reduce its energy costs and carbon emissionsover the next five years. The council has already achieved a reduction of 9% in its carbon emissions and now plans to cut the emissions further, by 22% by 2018. The council hopes to save up to £7 million every year by 2018.

The council adopted the Carbon Management Plan in 2006–07 through which it had aimed to reduce its carbon emissions by 20% by March 2012 from the 2006–07 baseline. Some of the measures that had been identified to reduce emissions included implementation of energy efficiency measures in buildings; car-sharing programs and increased use of public transport; use of biodiesel in fleet vehicles; and use of biomass for heating purposes. Together, these steps have the potential to save over 5,100 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Lincolnshire County Flag

Schools account for two-thirds of the energy consumed in the council. The council’s energy bill has increased from £3 million in 2007 to £10 million in 2011. During this period, the energy distributors increased energy prices significantly.

Some of the measures being considered to reduce energy consumption in schools include using energy-efficient lighting systems, optimising use of street lights, and use of solar panels to generate electricity.

The council has already funded a £500,000 project to install solar PV power systems at 16 fire stations across the county. The project would save £100,000 per year in energy costs. All these proposed measures could help the council reduce its emissions by over 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

The actions proposed by Lincolnshire county council are similar to those that had been implemented and discussed by other counties across the UK. The UK Committee on Climate Change has urged local authorities to do more to reduce their carbon emissions. The UK has a legally binding target to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels. David Kennedy, the committee’s chief executive, stated that the local authorities have a critical role in achieving that target. The committee calculates that collective action from the local authorities can result in the reduction of carbon emissions by up to 15 million tonnes per year, or approximately 3% of the UK’s carbon emissions.

Another reason for these measures is the increase in carbon emissions by almost all the local authorities in the UK. Between 2009 and 2010, 97% of the local authorities reported increases in their carbon emissions. Only 12 of the 406 local authorities reported falls in their carbon emissions in 2010. This was a complete reversal from the situation in 2009 when only 4 local authorities reported increases in annual carbon emissions.

The views presented in the above article are the author’s personal views only.

Lincolnshire Adopts New Target To Reduce Carbon Emissions By 22% By 2018 was originally published on:CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed,follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Got Solar? Want More? Tough! Rules Designed To Promote Solar Stop Australians From Buying More

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

A small Australian solar installation.

Increasing numbers of Australians are finding their desire to add to the amount of rooftop solar they have blocked by rules that were originally meant to help solar power expand. While nearly a million Australian households have benefited from these policies, increasing numbers of Australians are in the unfortunate situation of finding that the rules have become a dead albatross around their necks. It stinks, and it just won’t fly.

To understand how we got into this mess, you have to understand that there are only two types of people in Australia: those who own roofs and those who don’t. More than two thirds of Australian households own their own roof, which is a lot. Of course, our roof ownership rates aren’t nearly as high as in Bulgaria, but then Bulgarians are the masters of roof ownership. Trying to beat Bulgarians on roof ownership is like trying to beat Canadians on moose-related injuries. Go to a random house in Bulgaria, knock on the door, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll find someone living there who owns the roof. Go to the next house and knock on their door and you know what? They’ll own the roof too. Keep doing it and you’ll find that just about everyone happens to own a roof. And the really amazing thing about Bulgaria is you can keep this up for an astonishingly long time before they actually get around to arresting you.

Among Australians who own roofs, there are only two types of people, those with rooftop solar and those without. Wait a minute, didn’t I say there were only two types of people in Australia just before? That can’t be right, because now I have a total of three types of people in Australia and I haven’t even divided them into those who like My Little Pony and those who don’t yet. Forget what I said about there only being two types of Australians, there are all types. And, of course, we’re all wonderful. Even the horrible, nasty, misanthropic ones. We’re all wonderful somewhere deep down on the inside, even though it may take an organ donor card for this fact to be of use to anyone.

When it comes to rooftop solar installations, Australians have a little problem. While the penetration of rooftop solar is high, with about one in ten homeowners enjoying it on the roof, our average installation size is, quite frankly, tiny. While there are Australians who have erected large installations of up to 10 kilowatts, most are a teeny weeny 1.5 kilowatts or less. As a result, I’m quite envious of the Germans whose large Teutonic installations commonly dwarf our meager antipodean ones. And since the average roof size in Australia is larger than in Germany, it makes our tiny little systems look even smaller than they are, which just compounds the embarrassment.

Now this place is really trying.  If they could have found some triangular panels to fill in those gaps they would have had the most solar on the block.

The reason why Australia is in this self-esteem sapping situation is due to how our solar subsidy system used to work. You see, in the good old days (two months ago) the first 1.5 kilowatts of rooftop solar received twice the subsidy as the rest of the system. As solar panels used to cost a lot more than they do now, many people opted to only install 1.5 kilowatts or less. And now that the cost of solar is so much cheaper, many people have realized they can benefit from installing more solar, but are unable to do so because of the way the rules for our solar feed-in tariffs work.

Hundreds of thousands of households are in the position of not being able to increase their amount of rooftop solar because if they did they would loose their high feed-in tariff that was locked in when they had their system installed, and which has since been cut to a fraction of what it used to be. Since the cost of solar has dropped so dramatically, it’s perfectly reasonable that people not receive the old feed-in tariff for any extra capacity that they add. However, with the way the rules are, it’s not possible to expand capacity without losing the old tariff, and that simply makes installing more solar not worthwhile for many Australians. Because the rules didn’t take people wanting to increase their capacity into account, a system that was meant to help expand solar power in Australia is now holding it back.

The state of New South Wales has recently taken steps to allow people to expand their rooftop solar without losing the feed-in tariff on their old system. Unfortunately, while they deserve a kudo or two for trying, they are doing it in a very stupid way, as they require a new electricity meter to be bought for the expansion. Buying and installing a new meter increases the cost of adding more solar to the point where it’s simply not worthwhile to many people, so this is definitely a sub-optimal solution. It also means that people wouldn’t be able to plug all their solar panels into a single new inverter, which could cause problems if the old inverter gives up the ghost.

A much better solution would be to look at how much electricity a person with an old feed-in tariff is exporting, use that to estimate how much electricity they would export until their old feed-in tariff would normally expire, and then determine how much this should be worth as a lump sum right now. The amount could be reduced slightly to account for paperwork and then some more could be subtracted to account for moral hazard. And then the money that remains could simply be given to people who want to cash in their old feed-in tariff and receive the new, low feed-in tariff for any electricity they export to the grid. This method allows people to expand their rooftop solar; it prevents them from having to buy an unnecessary new electricity meter; they can use a single inverter if they want; and it gives them money they can use to expand their solar capacity if they so desire. All over, a huge improvement on the current situation.

A possible objection to this idea is, what about people who know they are going to increase their electricity use, or people who know their systems are on their last legs, or who want to knock their house down, or burn it down, or eat it, or something? Won’t they be tempted to cash-in their old feed-in tariff and effectively get paid for electricity exports they never intend to make? The answer is: Yes, they would be tempted to do this. Except perhaps for the people burning down or eating their houses, as they may not be sane enough to work out the whole ‘money good’ thing. Reducing the payment to cover moral hazard solves this problem, at least in an accounting sense. (It won’t stop the house eaters from being crazy.) But I don’t think these things will be large problems. While some people may increase their electricity use, overall, Australian households are decreasing electricity use due to improved efficiency. Rooftop solar is very reliable, and only a tiny fraction of systems would fail before their old feed-in tariff would expire anyway. If someone actually knows that their system is on its last legs, it’s possible they deserve a reward for paying attention. If a house is being knocked down, then the solar system would normally be removed and installed somewhere else, so it’s capacity shouldn’t disappear. And as for arsonists and crazy people, well our society has other ways of dealing with them. (Sometimes by electing them.)

One other possible problem is that people might slack off on conserving electricity once their feed-in tariffs go from high to low, but any increase in electricity consumption would be far surpassed by the expansion in rooftop solar capacity that would result.

Letting people cash in their old feed-in tariffs would be a lot more efficient way of doing things than the current system of giving people a huge financial incentive not to expand their solar capacity, or making them pay for unnecessary new electricity meters. Since Australian households are still improving the efficiency with which they use electricity, it should overall be cheaper to let people cash-in their old solar feed-in tariffs than let them expire normally.

Got Solar? Want More? Tough! Rules Designed To Promote Solar Stop Australians From Buying More was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Wind-Powered Seawater Desalination (VIDEO)

Posted: 28 Feb 2013 12:10 AM PST

Continuing on with our daily series on Leonardo ENERGY videos, here are two on wind-powered seawaterdesalination (fun topic):

Wind-Powered Seawater Desalination (VIDEO) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feedfollow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

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