5 Solar Myths Busted (Infographic)

5 Solar Myths Busted (Infographic)

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 10:51 AM PDT

One of the good folks at PV Magazine recently dropped me a note about a cool new solar infographic the team there created. While I generally love to share a decent solar infographic, this one created by folks focused on the industry every day is better than most, as it bust 5 common myths that anyone who works in this industry runs into all too often. Additionally, rather than focusing on the myths, it focuses on the facts, a good messaging tactic.

We?ve written on some of the source materials before (such as #5 and #6) in the past, and might write on some of the others in the future. Additionally, we try to set the record straight on these 5 points below any chance we get. But sometimes nothing does it like an infographic. Check this one out and share it with friends!

Infographic: Setting the solar story straight
Solar myths infographic by pv magazine

Pacific Northwest Grid Operators Ready US? Largest Smart Grid Trial

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 09:07 AM PDT

In what?s sure to be a closely watched smart grid event, project partners have installed the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project?s transaction control system, which, if all goes well, will dynamically manage electricity demand, supply and grid conditions across interconnected assets of 11 utilities.

?We are in the midst of an impressive transformation of our electric power system. Technological advances are elevating the prospects of a more resilient, sustainable and efficient future power grid. Yet the question remains of how to get us there. What technologies work well? Can we make a business case for a ?smarter? grid that can help, for example, integrate renewable energy that is coming online at a tremendous rate?

?The Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project, or PNW-SGDP, the largest in the nation, is trying to answer some of those questions,? writes Carl Imhoff, who manages the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Energy and Environment Directorates? electricity infrastructure market sector.

Interdependent: Renewable Energy & Smart Grids

Interconnecting and centrally managing grid assets across the region promises finer, more detailed information on grid demand and supply, and enables quicker response times, as well as more accurate, efficient market pricing. The ability of more efficiently integrating intermittent renewable energy resources, such as grid-connected wind and solar energy, is another sought-after advantage, one that could further bring down the cost of clean, renewable energy.

?Integration of renewable energy provides another example of how the transactive system will work. Right now in the Pacific Northwest, we have about 4,000 megawatts of wind energy in the Bonneville Power Administration?s (BPA) footprint,? Imhoff explains.

BPA wind generation capacity is expected to double over the next couple of years to reach some 12,000 MW. That would be equal to the amount of hydropower generated by federal dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers, he continues.

?Our system is capable of incentivizing the consumption of renewable energy, so that the region can benefit from use of its clean natural resources when they are most abundant, and reduce the amount of ?spilled? wind power?excess wind-generated electricity that has to be dumped. Perhaps more importantly, the system engages the responsive assets to help balance the intermittent nature of wind energy and allows optimal operation of generation resources such as the hydro system.?

Multiple Mutual Benefits

Realizing these goals would yield multiple substantial benefits: reducing regional CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as land and water pollution prominent among them. In addition is the potential to smooth out peaks in electricity use, which, along with better renewable energy resource integration, keep a lid on future cost increases, according to Imhoff.

?Our project is a first step towards achieving these objectives,? he writes. ?Last April, we successfully connected key system software and hardware components from the project?s technology partners: 3TIER, Alstom, IBM, Netezza and Quality Logic with Battelle?s Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center (EIOC), and demonstrated communication connectivity to several of our utility partners.

?At the same time, our utility partners are transforming the region?s grid by installing 80,000 smart grid enabling assets such as smart meters, and 12,000 smart grid-responsive assets, which include water heater load controllers, solar panels, battery storage units and backup generators.?

Reliable, secure telecommunications are integral to the success of smart grid projects. Electric, gas and water utilities are increasingly turning to public cellular networks to provide communications for smart grid networks, according to an April research report from Pike Research.

Solar Charger Giveaway for CleanTechnica Readers; IEEE Launches Green Your World Challenge to Inspire Sustainable Living

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 08:59 AM PDT

From recent news reporting a global investment in renewable energy of more than $257 billion, to headlines highlighting green changes implemented by companies across the globe, this past year was a notable era of progress in enhancing the environment?s sustainability. However, as most of us know, there is still much that can be done to further improve environmental health.

Focusing on individual action is an effective starting point. It?s often surprising to learn the extensive impact we each have on the planet ? it?s estimated every person produces 4.3 pounds of waste daily! While people seem interested in pursuing sustainable lifestyles more than ever, actually implementing changes can be difficult and overwhelming.

A great place to begin is by committing to just one activity that reduces your environmental impact and can be easily integrated in your day-to-day life. To get started, you can make a commitment, and invite your friends to do the same, by participating in the IEEE Green Your World (GYW) Challenge, which is a fun Facebook app that asks you to support or create an eco-friendly pledge.

IEEE, the world?s largest technical professional organization, recently launched its GYW Challenge in an effort to encourage and inspire more sustainable living.

To get started, log in to Facebook (if you aren?t logged in already) and ?like? the IEEE GYW Challenge page.

After you ?like? the page, you will have the opportunity to create your own green challenge, support someone else?s challenge, or create a drawing that shows what a greener world looks like to you. You can share the challenge on Facebook and invite your friends.

If contributing to a greener world isn?t incentive enough, readers of CleanTechnica will have the chance to win a USB device solar charger, courtesy of IEEE, when you participate in the GYW Challenge. How to do so is below.
Solar Charger Giveaway

To enter the CleanTechnica Solar Charger Giveaway, just follow these three steps:

1.Go to the IEEE Green Your World (GYW) Challenge page and submit a challenge (make sure to ?like? the IEEE GYW Challenge page first).

2. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, or Reddit.

3. Let us know in the comments below (just one comment, please) what your challenge was and where you shared the post.

The winner will be selected next Wednesday, June 27.

If you want to go above and beyond the giveaway requirements, you can get the latest updates on the GYW Challenge by following @IEEEorg on Twitter, and you can share your green ideas for the challenge by tweeting them using #GreenYourWorld.

What will you pledge to do for the IEEE GYW Challenge? What are some of the actions you regularly take now to contribute to a more sustainable future?

California Grid Hit Record Solar Peak

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 04:10 AM PDT

The Californian power grid hit a record peak of solar generation on June 8, according to Stephanie McCorkle, Director of Communications of the California Independent System Operator, with 849 megawatts of solar generation on the system.

McCorkie noted, in a conversation with Greentech Media, that ?the solar record would continue to be broken as the days get longer? (moving towards the summer solstice).

McCorkle explained, ?With solar, you have a gradual ramp with a peak when you need it at AC [air conditioning] rush hour,? adding that ?solar is a nice peaking resource? without the fluctuations of wind power.

This comes on the back of an announcement made by Germany?s renewable energy organisation that stated that ?under a cloudless sky? on May 25, German solar generation reached 22,000 megawatts, which amounts to approximately half of Germany?s peak afternoon load, depending on the time of year.

Dr. Norbert Allnoch of the IWR noted that there is no other country on earth with solar plants capable of producing over 20,000 megawatts of electricity.

Also, for those interested, the cumulative amount of solar installed in the U.S. at the end of Q1 2012 was 4.943 gigawatts, according to GTM Research.

Image Source: Walmart

Carbon Sequestration?s Got an Earthquake Problem, Too

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 04:01 AM PDT

stanford links carbon sequestration to earthquakes

Fossil fuels seem to be running out of places to go. Back in March, officials in Ohio put new restrictions on the natural gas drilling method called fracking after seismologists linked it to earthquakes, and last Friday the National Research Council issued a report detailing the impact of conventional gas and oil drilling on seismic events, along with other underground activity including carbon sequestration. Now a whole new report focuses squarely on the risk of earthquakes from underground carbon sequestration. That apparently closes the door on what was supposed to be an effective way to manage greenhouse gas emissions? or does it?
Carbon in, carbon out?

The new report was prepared by Mark D. Zobackand and Steven M. Gorelick of the departments of Geophysics and Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford University. Aptly titled ?Earthquake triggering and large-scale geologic storage of carbon dioxide,? it is a response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2005 proposed underground carbon sequestration as a viable strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning power plants and other industrial sources.

Unfortunately, it looks like this strategy could be a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease. According to the report, underground sequestration is highly likely to trigger earthquakes, which would crack open the formation and enable the carbon dioxide to leak out to the surface.

The problem, as identified by the working group, is that most rock formations under continental land masses are too brittle.

Their conclusion:

?Because even small- to moderate-sized earthquakes threaten the seal integrity of CO2 repositories, in this context, large-scale CCS is a risky, and likely unsuccessful, strategy for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.?

Not the end for carbon sequestration

The report doesn?t rule out any underground storage, but it does suggest that appropriate sites are not as widespread as previously supposed.

One avenue of exploration is the use of depleted gas reservoirs. While not entirely risk-free, these formations once stored gas, so they could be more likely to have the potential for holding a firm seal.

This past January, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory reported that a demonstration gas reservoir project undertaken in Australia has been successful so far, but further study is needed before putting the practice into widespread use.

Image: Some rights reserved by martinluff

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Summer Solstice Solar Survey: Consumers Around the World Think Their Country Has the Most Solar Power Installed

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 04:00 AM PDT

All countries in blue are expected to have hit solar grid parity by the end of 2012. Light blue countries were expected to hit grid parity by this time just one year ago ? a lot has changed in that time.

Applied Materials puts out an interesting Summer Solstice Solar Energy Survey annually. While it covers a range of topics, one of the most interesting findings this year, in my opinion, is that consumers of various countries think their country is the solar leader (when it is not).

?Respondents of each country believed their country has installed the greatest number of solar panels. Almost six in 10 (57%) Americans say the U.S. has installed the most solar panels, 43 percent of Chinese think it is China, and half (52%) of India thinks it is their country,? Applied Materials writes.

Pretty hilarious.

Only 17% of respondents responded that Germany was the world leader.

Of course, as CleanTechnica readers know, the top countries in absolute numbers (MW of installed solar power) as of the end of 2011 were:

1.Germany ? 24678

2. Italy ? 12754

3. Japan ? 4914

4. Spain ? 4400

5. USA ? 4383

6. China ? 3093

7. France ? 2659

8. Belgium ? 2018

9. Czech Rep. ? 1959

10. Australia ? 1298

But those rankings change when you look at installed solar power in relative terms (i.e. per capita, per GDP, and relative to electricity production).

Other highlights from the survey include the following:

§ ?Nearly half of consumers (46%) believe that growth of solar will positively impact the job market by creating jobs. The U.S. is most optimistic with nearly six in 10 (58%) responding as such. Every country, city and community has the potential to directly benefit from the growth of the solar power industry with on-the-ground jobs in system integration, installation, sales and marketing, and project development.?

§ ?Over half (55%) understand that when compared to the cost of traditional energy sources, like coal, solar energy is less expensive.?

§ ?Nearly six in 10 (58%) consumers in China believe that the projected rate of solar energy adoption to15 GW by 2015 is too slow of an adoption rate. And when respondents in India were asked about the government?s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy?s goal of increasing the contribution of renewable energy to six percent of India?s total energy mix by 2022, more than half (51%) voiced concern that the rate of adoption was too slow.?

Expanding on that last point, Applied Materials writes:

?The reality is that the cost of solar has fallen dramatically over the last year. Today, PV module prices are below $1/Watt, which means that in many countries solar power has reached a point where it is cost competitive with retail energy prices ? that is, that solar is at parity with grid power. Last year, we reported that 28 countries would be at grid parity at the end of 2012. Today, that number has surpassed 100. To put that in perspective, these 105 countries make up 98% of the world?s population, account for 99.7% of the world?s GDP and consume 99.2% of the world?s energy related to CO2 emissions. We?ve graphically illustrated this and encourage you to share it to help raise awareness.?

Images via Applied Materials

Twitterstorm Calls for End of Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 03:12 AM PDT

twitter storm fossil fuel subsidies

The popular social media network, Twitter, has been host to a massive 24-hour campaign aimed at pressuring leaders at the Rio+20 summit to cut fossil fuel subsidies. The #EndFossilFuelSubsidies campaign started at 8am GMT yesterday and hopes to call attention to the issue so that it will be addressed at the summit.

The hashtag did manage to become a Trending Topic on Twitter by mid-morning, though it fell off eventually, despite numerous posters continuing to use the tag.

?This world has a few problems where a trillion dollars might come in handy ? and we?d have a few less problems if we weren?t paying the fossil fuel industry to wreck the climate,? said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, one of the groups organizing the Twitter campaign.

Taxpayers shouldn?t be in the business of funding fossil fuel corporations. #EndFossilFuelSubsidies

? WWF (@WWF) June 19, 2012

Imagine if I was scolding my kids not to pee on the toilet seat while paying them per-dribble. I?m just saying. #endfossilfuelsubsidies

? David Roberts (@drgrist) June 19, 2012

Fossil fuels are subsidised 12 times as much as renewable energy. Let?s turn that around! bit.ly/Ns0aeJ#EndFossilFuelSubsidies

? richardbranson (@richardbranson) June 18, 2012

Image: twitter bird via Shutterstock

Solar Mosaic Receives $2 Million for Solar Financing Platform

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 03:06 AM PDT

A sort of ?Kickstarter for solar power,? Solar Mosaic has received $2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, which the company believes will help take them mainstream.

The company is building an online crowdfunding platform that Americans will be able to use to create and fund solar projects, and is part of the SunShot Initiative that Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu described as similar to President Kennedy?s ?Moon Shot? challenge. In short, the SunShot goal is to get the cost of solar below $1 a watt by 2020. ?Financing is a major part of getting the cost of solar down. There is a huge difference between borrowing at 12% vs. 10% vs. 8%,? Secretary Chu said.

One of Solar Mosaic?s projects, The Asian Resource Center in Oakland, Calif.

The $2 million grant ? along with the $2.5 million they have raised from venture capitalists ? will allow Mosaic the opportunity to expand and scale their model.

?Our mission is to create shared prosperity through clean energy,? said Mosaic?s President, Billy Parish. ?Mosaic is the place where people can create clean energy, local jobs, and make a massive impact together.?

Mosaic plans to allow Americans the opportunity to finance solar projects in communities around the country, something that will not only increase the amount of solar installations in the wild, but will also increase jobs in the sector and help stimulate local economies. Pushing the cost of solar installations down by allowing others to help pay will make solar a more reasonable option for more homeowners.

For other recent SunShot announcements, check out:

1.EnergySage Awarded $500,000 SunShot Grant

2. Clean Power Finance Gets $1.5 Million to Reduce ?Soft Costs? of Going Solar

3. $10 Million Prize for Companies that Can Install 5,000 New Rooftop Solar Panel Systems for $2/Watt

Source: Solar Mosaic

EnergySage Awarded $500,000 SunShot Grant

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 03:03 AM PDT

Renewable energy consulting firm EnergySage announced last week that they had been awarded $500,000 from the Department of Energy as part of the SunShot Incubator investment scheme. EnergySage hopes to use the investment to develop and implement a web-based solar photovoltaic comparison-shopping platform.

The platform will aim to provide pricing transparency and facilitate open market interactions between property owners and solar PV installers.

?EnergySage is thrilled to receive this SunShot award,? said Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of EnergySage. ?By making it easier for consumers to navigate the solar PV system purchase process, we are lowering customer acquisition costs, lowering prices, helping installers improve profitability, and ultimately, expanding the market exponentially.?

The comparison-shopping product allows commercial and residential property owners to solicit multiple price quotes from an extensive list of pre-screened, high-quality solar PV installers. Quotes are then displayed in a standardized format that allows consumers to easily evaluate and compare quotes to select the best option. This helps consumers get the best price for solar PV systems from the best installers, while saving significant time and effort through automation. The comparison-shopping product will be fully integrated into EnergySage.com?s existing suite of free educational and analytical tools and its interactive peer-to-peer community, simplifying and expediting the clean energy system purchase process. The resulting EnergySage platform will be a one-stop-shop for consumers to gain the knowledge and confidence they need to execute a purchase.

?We believe that evaluating and investing in a solar PV system should be as easy as buying any other home appliance,? said Aggarwal. ?We expect the EnergySage platform will do for the solar PV market what LendingTree has done for the mortgage market.?

This platform, if it works as reported, could provide solar with the next big step it needs for proliferation in the US. Combined with some of the other big SunShot Initiative awards, such as a similar award for Clean Power Finance, the US may one day take the lead in solar power again.

Source: EnergySage
Image Source: A Siegel

Oil Price Swings Don?t Touch EVs (Graph)

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 05:11 PM PDT

Here?s a pretty awesome graphic on an issue we don?t actually touch on much when discussing EVs. Clearly, the price of oil is very volatile, due to a variety of factors (?the whims of OPEC, hurricanes, and instability in the Middle East,? as Max Baumhefner of NRDC writes). Fortunately for anyone who decides to switch to a clean electric vehicle, the price of electricity is not. Here?s the graphic for a visual representation of that:

Yet another reason to buy an electric vehicle next time you?re in the market for a car. (Thanks to a reader for passing this on to me.)

6 Corporations Control 90% of the Media

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 04:52 PM PDT

Here?s a reminder of one reason why we do what we do ? that is, bring you independent news on important topics that doesn?t go through the filter of a megacorporation that is saturated with plenty of other interests. Thanks to one of our awesome readers for passing this infographic on to me:

Source: Frugal Dad

Gmail Users Spend $110 Less than Yahoo Mail Users Each Year on Electricity

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 04:31 PM PDT

This is an odd an interesting news item that crossed my desk recently. Apparently, ?Yahoo Mail users will spend $110 more this year on electricity,? Opower reports.

?Based on the company?s cutting-edge behavioral science and patent-pending data analytics, Opower found that, on average, Yahoo Mail users consume 939 kilowatt-hours (kWh) more than Gmail users, or about 11% more electricity per year ? a sizeable, statistically significant difference in usage.?

Here are some more details from Opower on the data used and what the company found:

By analyzing consumer energy information derived from their work with more than 70 utility companies ? including 8 of the 10 largest in the U.S. ? and containing data from 40 million homes, Opower looked at the correlation between email address and electricity usage across 2.8 million American households around the country. About 1.15 million of those households are Gmail or Yahoo users, and are spread out across 23 states and several distinct climate zones.

According to Opower, the reason Gmail users consume less energy than those with Yahoo Mail has to do with the users themselves. Opower?s data indicates that Yahoo Mail households are more likely to live in larger residences and also use more electricity per square foot. In contrast, Gmail users tend to live in cities, where dwellings are often more compact and energy-efficient. In addition, Opower found that Gmail users are more likely to sign up for an in-depth analysis of their home energy usage.

Very interesting, and, I have to admit, not all that surprising. Moderating thousands upon thousands of comments, one begins to get a sense for patterns in different types of email accounts.

Of course, while some of the changes needed to bring Yahoo Mail users to the same level as Gmail users are quite large, others are very simple and do-able. Some of the suggestions Opower offers up are ?turning off computers at night, getting a programmable thermostat, or upgrading a heating system.?

Of course, averages are averages ? some Yahoo Mail users might have already done all of the above, might live in energy-efficient homes, and might beat the average Gmail user in this arena. Basically, everyone should consider the above suggestions and other ways to save energy in their homes and elsewhere.

All images via Opower.

Floating Wind Turbine Installed off Portuguese Coast

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 04:13 PM PDT

We?ve been following the Principle Power and Vestas offshore floating wind turbine and floating WindFloat foundation for awhile. The exciting news is that today it was finally announced the the floating turbine was inaugurated on Friday, June 16.

“Full-scale WindFloat Prototype with Vestas v80 2.0MW being towed to site offshore of Portugal.”

?In addition to being the first offshore wind turbine in Portugal, this is the first offshore wind turbine to be installed without the use of any heavy lift vessels or piling equipment at sea,? Principle Power announced today. ?All final assembly, installation and pre-commissioning of the turbine and substructure took place on land in a controlled environment. The complete system was then wet-towed offshore using simple tug vessels.?

Here are more technical details and comments from Principle Power:

The WindFloat is equipped with a Vestas v80 2.0MW turbine capable of producing enough electricity for 1,300 households. The system is located 5km off the coast of Aguçadoura, Portugal, and has already produced in excess of 1.7 GWh. The WindFloat ushers in a new era in the offshore wind industry permitting utilities to target the highest quality wind resources, independent of water depth. In addition, projects can realize significant cost and risk reductions as a result of the onshore fabrication and commissioning scheme.

The successful installation and on-going operations of the WindFloat in Portugal is the result of hard work and foresight on part of the WindPlus joint venture, comprised of EDP, Repsol, Principle Power, ASM, Vestas Wind Systems A/S and InovCapital including a subsidy from the Innovation Support Fund (Fundo de Apoio à Inovação ? FAI). Additionally, over 60 other European suppliers, 40 of them Portuguese, supplied key components to the project. Repsol has recently joined the Windplus JV as a significant shareholder bringing additional offshore experience and operational capabilities to the project team.

Congratulations to the many companies involved in getting this floating wind turbine up and running. I look forward to reporting more news on this project, commercialization of floating turbines, and future projects in the future.

Images & caption via Principle Power.

$10 Million Prize for Companies that Can Install 5,000 New Rooftop Solar Panel Systems for $2/Watt

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 03:45 PM PDT

solar installation prize

As part of the US Department of Energy?s SunShot Initiative, the DOE is offering $10 million prize to companies that can install 5,000 new rooftop solar panel systems for an average price of $2/watt or less.

The first place prize is $7 million, second place is $2 million, and third place is $1 million. The rankings will be based on how low the installers can get their prices.

?Each of the 5,000 required installations must have a power range between 1 and 15 kilowatts. (The average U.S. home used the energy equivalent of 1.3 kilowatts per hour in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.) They must also be installed between Aug. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2014,? LiveScience writes.

?Limits exist on what entries count for the SunShot Prize competition, because the rooftop solar panels must sit on buildings inhabited by humans. That excludes sheds, doghouses and small scale solar farms, but a garage attached to a home would count.?

In addition to the above, the DOE has awarded another $8 million in its latest round of Sunshot announcements, including the $1.5 million awarded to Clean Power Finance that I discussed earlier today and the $500,000 EnergySage received ?to develop and implement a web-based solar photovoltaic (PV) comparison-shopping platform that will provide pricing transparency and facilitate open market interactions between property owners and solar PV installers? that I mentioned in our last Solar Energy News roundup. We might be featuring some more of the winners in the coming days as well

Notably, the SunShot Incubator program has been getting $30 in private investment for every $1 of government funding ? pretty good, eh?

Image: solar installation via Shutterstock

How to ?Hot-Rod? an Electric Car

Posted: 18 Jun 2012 02:40 PM PDT

When we think electrical cars, we are usually trying to be practical, grounded to the Earth? or trying to save it. Some cars are mostly for show. Others are tuned for performance. This Youtube video below posted by Car and Driver is just plain fun. They raised the question of what could be done to a stock Nissan Leaf to make it drive more like a Porsche 911 Carrera S. The goal was to try to get 1.0g out of the electric vehicle as they pressed it around a skid pad. For that they needed some sticky tires, and they tried lots of them.

Gone is any concern of economy, the environment, or where to get that next drop of oil. Here we?re only looking at an electric vehicle for the performance that it offers. Similarly, the White Zombie EV can perform very well on a drag strip, helped by no need for a transmission or slowing up for gear changes. Gear changes are necessary for a petrol engine because the maximum torque is usually limited to a range of about 3000 rpm to 5000 rpm. The White Zombie uses a special double electric motor for its amazing results:

What is crucial for both of these situations is the electric vehicle?s immediate torque from 0 RPM that pulls the vehicle with seat-pressing acceleration. Tires are important, but there is no use ?sticking to the road? if the vehicle can?t move. You can find other video?s of the White Zombie on the Plasma Boy website.

Photo Credit: The Lightning Car produced by Envirotech