Cleantech News: Solar Energy Financing on Brink of Transformation; Obama Iowa Wind Power Speech; Clean Coal Not a Thing; Greenpeace & Apple Continue to Dance…

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Cleantech News: Solar Energy Financing on Brink of Transformation; Obama Iowa Wind Power Speech; Clean Coal Not a Thing; Greenpeace & Apple Continue to Dance…

Posted: 25 May 2012 11:11 AM PDT

More cleantech news from around:

Solar Energy

US Solar Financing on Brink of Transformation: “Financing of US solar projects is in the midst of a transformation, with new business models, new investors, and new financing vehicles gaining sway, according to new research by specialist research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance commissioned by Reznick Group.

“US solar projects have historically been bankrolled by some combination of energy sector players, banks, and the federal government, but the landscape is rapidly changing. New business models are emerging with an emphasis on third-party financing. New investors, including institutional players, are entering. And new financing vehicles such as project bonds and other securities are being assembled to tap the broader capital markets.”

Welspun Energy Awarded 125-MW Solar Project in India: “Welspun Solar Madhya Pradesh Private Limited (WSMPPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Welspun Renewable Private Limited, has won a 125 MW Solar PV project in Madhya Pradesh State of India…. This is the highest capacity to be awarded to any Indian entity in the solar space to date.”

Recurrent Energy Puts 50 MW of Commercial Solar PV in Operation in Sacramento: “three of its solar photovoltaic projects in Sacramento County have achieved commercial operation. The projects are currently delivering 50 megawatts (MW) of clean electricity to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), the nation’s sixth largest public utility, under a 20-year feed-in tariff (FIT).”

Wind Energy

Obama Prioritizes Extending the Wind Energy PTC in Iowa Speech:

In Iowa this afternoon, President Obama continued to press lawmakers to take action on his To-Do List for Congress.

He traveled to Newton to push for the renewal of a tax credit for companies that produce clean energy. The credit currently supports as many as 37,000 jobs.

His host for the visit was TPI Composites — a company that makes blades for wind turbines and employs more 700 people.

“If Congress doesn’t act, companies like this one will take a hit,” he said. “Jobs will be lost. That’s not a guess, that’s a fact. We can’t let that happen.”

Currently, 20 percent of all the electricity used in the Iowa is generated by wind power, and there are currently more wind power jobs in the state than in any other in America.

Overall, the United States generates enough electricity from wind to power 10 million homes. And there are 500 production facilities in 43 states putting people to work in that industry.

Full Iowa speech here.


£5.4 billion growth in UK green economy in 2011: “Green goods and services valued at £122bn and now employs almost one million people, government figures show.”

Two Large Overseas Investors – Germany’s E.On and Norway’s Statkraft — Slam UK for New Energy Bill: “The German-based E.ON, one of the big six electricity providers in Britain, said national subsidy schemes for renewables such as Britain’s contracts for difference had helped ‘bust’ key European carbon reduction initiatives.

“And Norway’s Statkraft, said on Wednesday it would not be able to press the button on a giant £30bn offshore wind farm on the Dogger Bank until ongoing ‘uncertainty’ was lifted.”

Clean Coal is Not a Thing: “The coal industry plans to spend $40 million this year trying to convince you that coal is good for the country. One thing they’ll tell you is that coal is clean. But we said it before, and we’ll say it now: There is no such thing as “clean” coal. Annual carbon pollution from a single coal plant is equal to the annual emissions from more than 650,000 cars.

“Each year almost 12,000 people are hospitalized because of pollution from coal plants. If pollution from coal plants remains unchecked it could add an astonishing $100 billion to our annual healthcare bill. Does this sound clean to you?”

IMF Oil Price Warning Presses Need for Alternative Fuels: “The Fuel Freedom Foundation says that a new warning from the International Monetary Fund underscores the urgency of opening markets to competition from alternative fuels such as natural gas, ethanol, methanol and electricity. The IMF Working Paper, entitled ‘The Future of Oil: Geology versus Technology,’ predicts that oil prices could permanently double in the next decade.”

Groups Ask Senate to Reconsider NDAA Amendments Blocking Military Use of Alternative Energy: “The Advanced Biofuels Association, the Algal Biomass Organization, Airlines for America, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, and the Pew Charitable Trusts today expressed disappointment that the Senate Armed Services Committee adopted amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act blocking the Department of Defense’s (DoD) use of domestically produced alternative energy.”

Here’s a full statement from the united groups:

“Continued reliance on foreign oil puts U.S. national security at risk. Oil market volatility has already wreaked havoc on military budgets, which came at the cost of new equipment and training for our troops and reduced military readiness. In fiscal years 2011 and 2012, DoD came up $5.6 billion short in its budget for military operations and maintenance because it spent more on fuel than anticipated. Moreover, the United States sends $1 billion overseas each and every day to pay for foreign oil, further draining resources from the U.S. economy.

“U.S. advanced biofuel producers have made rapid progress toward cost-competitiveness. The per-gallon cost of test quantities of advanced biofuels under DoD contracts has declined more than 90 percent over the past two years and will continue to decline as these technologies scale to commercial production. DoD’s efforts to reduce use of foreign oil and increase use of American biofuels can lead the nation’s effort to achieve energy security.

“We will work with Members of the Senate to restore support within the NDAA for the DoD’s commitment to accelerate production of American-made, advanced, ‘drop-in’ biofuels for use in military jets, ships, and vehicles.”

Greenpeace Supports Apple Pledge to Be Coal-Free, Asks How It Will Get There: “Apple has made a bold claim to make all three of its data centres ‘coal free’ and has doubled the amount of solar energy powering its data centre in North Carolina. Apple’s customers certainly appreciate boldness, and will love the ambition to be ‘coal free.’…

“This is a clear sign that Apple is listening to the 220,000 customers who have asked for a clean iCloud. Apple now needs to show those customers how it will turn that rhetoric into reality, with further action and changes to its plans.”

Wave-Powered Dolphin Speaker May Help Us Talk to Dolphins: “Tokyo University team developed the dolphin speaker, an extremely broadband speaker that can project all the various communication sounds, whistles, burst-pulse sounds, and echo-location clicks that dolphins make and at frequencies from 7 kHz to 170 kHz. For it to operate underwater, the team used piezoelectric materials in its construction so that it will be powered by the bobbing of the waves.”

NYC Flagship Cleantech Incubator Adds 3 New Startups: “The roster of the city’s preeminent cleantech business incubator is set to grow again, as three startup companies join the New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (NYC ACRE at NYU-Poly).

“The newest tenants, Energex TechnologiesEnertiv and HEVO, join 11 companies that have been fostered at NYC ACRE since it was founded in 2009 with a mission to establish New York as a hub for clean energy technology innovation and entrepreneurship. In three years, NYC ACRE startups have raised more than $17 million in capital and created 100 full-time jobs. To date, seven companies have ‘graduated’ from the incubator.”

No related posts.



Microsoft & Ford: Ford Focus Electric’s Technologies “the Future of More Affordable, Efficient Transportation”

Posted: 25 May 2012 10:30 AM PDT


The Ford Focus Electric 2012 offers many of the benefits of other all-electric vehicles (i.e. the Nissan LeafMitsubishi i-MiEVTesla Model S), but it’s also got some pretty sweet extras to show off. For example: “Customers can charge the Focus Electric in half the time of Nissan Leaf due to the car’s higher-capacity on-board charger and at a reduced cost thanks to Microsoft’s value charging technology” and it’s “rated America’s most fuel-efficient five-passenger vehicle with an EPA-estimated 110 MPGe city.”

The Ford Focus Electric is going to be shown off this week at the Future in Review Conference (FiRe), touting those benefits and more, and a news release in the midst of that event was put out by Ford. Here’s more on the what the Microsoft–Ford partnership is offering:

SYNC is one of many technology features available on the gasoline-free 2012 Ford Focus Electric and is shared across Ford’s electrified vehicle lineup. SYNC with MyFord Touch® offers multiple ways – including voice commands – for customers to manage and control their phone, navigation, entertainment and climate functions. Plug-in hybrids and all-electric models have additional options for monitoring information like battery state of charge.

Additionally, Ford Focus Electric customers have access to MyFord Mobile, which is accessible via smartphone or Web-based interface to perform key tasks. This mobile application can monitor a vehicle’s state of charge or its current range, locate charge stations and plan routes.

Off-peak charging

The MyFord Mobile app harnesses the power of cloud computing through another unique capability developed with Microsoft called value charging.

With value charging, the app keeps track of when participating local utilities switch to lower off-peak charging rates, helping to minimize costs by helping owners in the U.S. charge their vehicles at the cheapest utility rates.

Drivers can enable a single setting in the app and then plug in their cars without ever worrying about what time the rates change in their area. The network monitors utility rate schedules and automatically transmits a signal to the vehicle through embedded cellular connectivity to start charging at the lowest cost.

Cool stuff.

Source: PRNewswire

Related posts:

1.Ford Focus Electric: 110 MPGe & Most Fuel-Efficient Car in U.S.

2.       Ford Focus Electric to Go ‘Build to Order’ Route (Like Dell Computers)

3.       Californians Can Now Drive Ford Focus Electric in HOV Lanes



Greener Chemicals: World’s Largest Methanol Producer Expands Wind Energy Use in Chile

Posted: 25 May 2012 06:29 AM PDT

Market leaders in their respective industries, Methanex and Vestas on May 24 announced they are extending a joint effort to identify and develop wind energy project sites in Chile’s wind-rich Magallanes region.

Looking to secure reliable supplies of clean, renewable electricity, Methanex signed a wind energy development agreement with Vestas two years ago when the methanol producer and distributor used Vestas wind turbines to build the 2.55MWCabo Negro Wind Power Plant near its production facility in Magallanes.

Used on a large-scale for a wide variety of industrial and commercial purposes, methanol is viewed by some as a better alternative to ethanol and hydrogen as a replacement for petroleum-based fuels and chemical feedstock. As Methanex points out, methanol can be found in everything “from windshield washer fluid to recyclable plastic bottles, plywood floors to the paint on your walls, silicone sealants to synthetic fibers.”

The Methanol Economy: Alternative to Petroleum?

Demand for methanol has been growing fastest in the energy sector, however. Methanol’s increasingly being used as an alternative to petroleum-based transportation fuels, as well as plastics and petrochemicals. Methanol demand from the energy sector now represents about 1/3 of total global methanol demand, according to Methanex. “There has been strong demand growth for methanol for direct blending into transportation fuels and for the production of dimethyl ether (DME) and biodiesel. Methanol is also used to produce methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline component,” the company notes.

Methanex is the largest producer and distributor of methanol to international markets, operating plants in Alberta, Canada; Chile, Egypt, New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago capable of producing more than 9 million metric tons per year. It also operates a worldwide network of storage sites and the world’s largest methanol tanker fleet.

Located 28 kilometers (17.36 miles) north of Punta Arenas on the Straits of Magellan, Methanex’s plant at Cabo Negro is the production and distribution hub for its Latin American operations. From there, Methanex ships methanol throughout Latin America, as well as to North American, Asia-Pacific, and European markets.

Cabo Negro is also the center of Chile’s petroleum and natural gas industry. It’s also world famous as a region unique and stunning in natural beauty, ecosystems, flora and fauna.

Natural gas, by a long stretch, continues to be predominant feedstock used to produce methanol. The simplest type of alcohol, methanol can be produced from a wide variety of feedstock with an equally wide range of pollutant and CO2 emissions profiles, however, including CO2 captured from flue gas as well as coal bed gasification.

Methanex Looks to Magallanes Wind for Cleaner, Cost-Effective Renewable Energy

Methanex operates four separate methanol plants with combined capacity of 3.8 million metric tons per year at Cabo Negro. The Vancouver-based company’s been operating only one plant at Cabo Negro, and that at around 50% of capacity, constrained by natural gas supply, however.

“We expect short-term pressure on gas supply in southern Chile to continue,” Methanex management reported recently. “We continue to believe that there is upside potential for Methanex in the region, as gas development and drilling activity in southern Chile has been accelerating.

“While we remain committed to supporting gas development in Chile, we are also evaluating other options to create value from our Chile operations, including capacity relocation and installing coal gasification as an alternative supply source.”

Methanol production’s an energy-intensive process. The Cabo Negro wind farm is “plugged” into the internal generating system at the Methanex plant complex, augmenting its base 36 MW of power generation capacity.

Looking for alternatives to natural gas has also led Methanex to consider much cleaner, less polluting and renewable ways of producing energy to power its operations. As it turns out, the Magallanes region is also rich in wind energy resources. That’s led to the construction of the 2.5 MW Cabo Negro wind farm and its 2010 wind energy project development agreement with Vestas.

The Cabo Negro wind farm’s capacity factor in 2011 was 53.5%, which means it was producing clean, renewable electricity 53.5% of its up-time. That’s much higher than the 25%-30% that serves as a rough guide average for the wind energy industry, the result being that Methanex has been avoiding about 12,204 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.

“The agreement between Vestas and Methanex defines the framework for further cooperation between both companies to establish a baseline for the development of future wind projects in/or around Methanex´s global production facilities; to support and advise Methanex in the development of new wind projects around the world; and to help build a robust renewable energy regulation in the Magallanes Region – contributing to the diversification of its energy mix,” according to aVestas press release.

Chile’s Environmental Ethic, or Lack Thereof

Paul Schiodz, General Manager, Methanex Chile, says: “The success of our wind energy farm in Magallanes demonstrates the role that wind energy can play in the regional energy matrix. The agreement with Vestas should contribute to establish a robust regulatory framework to incentivize wind energy in the region”.

Blessed with large-scale hydropower resources, Chile’s government hasn’t been proactive when it comes enacting strong renewable energy incentives and policies. The fact that a major industrial and commercial chemical supplier situated in the heart of the country’s petroleum and natural gas region has chosen wind power testifies as to how far wind energy economics have improved.

As Chileans organize, speak out and demonstrate in favor of stronger environmental protections and conservation, it also testifies to a growing environmental ethic and the positive effects public outreach and education can have in striking a healthier, more sustainable balance between economics and human use of environmental resources.

Related posts:

1.Wind Energy News (Humungous Crossroads Wind Farm Complete; 70-MW Wind Farm Planned for Northern Chile; Steel Winds II Expansion Complete; Vestas Lands Big Orders from Italy & US…)

2.       Leaving the Fossil Fuel Era with Methanol

3.       US Becomes Largest Wind Power Producer in the World



Cost of Lighting Infographic (Guess Who Wins)

Posted: 25 May 2012 05:54 AM PDT

Sister site sustainablog shared what looks like a great little “True Cost of Lighting” infographic yesterday. I would have done a few things a little differently if I created it, but I still think it’s worth a big share, so here’s a repost from sustainablog:


What’s the Real Cost of Your Lighting Choices? [Infographic] (via sustainablog)

Gotten into an argument about lighting recently? Since the passage of the 2007 energy bill, it’s become an increasingly ideological issue: that law set efficiency standards which current 100 watt incandescent bulbs couldn’t meet. There phase-out has been put on hold by Congress, but it’s coming…


Related posts:

1.Green Jobs: Fun Infographic & More

2.       Cost Analysis Tool Helps Cities Switch to LED Lighting

3.       U.S. Electricity Costs & Consumption Infographic



Co-Locating Wind & Concentrated Solar Power Can Improve Total Capacity Factor

Posted: 25 May 2012 05:44 AM PDT


Somehow, I missed a study by NREL and Ohio State University back in March titled Transmission Benefits of Co-Locating Concentrating Solar Power and Wind. Thanks to New Energy News for posting on it this week.

The study finds that co-locating wind and concentrating solar power (CSP) “can improve the capacity factor of the combined plant and the associated transmission investment.” Logical, but you know that we always need studies to prove this kind of thing.

Here’s more from the study:

“This is because of two synergies between wind and CSP. One is that real-time wind and solar resource availability tend to be slightly negatively correlated. The other is that low-cost and highly efficient thermal energy storage (TES) can be incorporated into CSP. TES allows solar generation to be shifted and used to fill-in excess transmission capacity not being used by wind. Adding TES in a transmission constrained system can reduce, but not eliminate curtailment, especially during periods of extended high wind output and high solar output.”

To read the full study, click on the link at the top of this post.

Related posts:

1.Co-Locating Solar and Wind Power Farms: Can Two Renewable Energy Sources Be Better Than One?

2.       Giant $1.4 Billion Solar Project Will Almost Double Total U.S. Capacity from 2010

3.       Concentrated Solar Power Could Generate 25% of the World’s Electricity by 2050



Germany Pushes (Again) for Stronger EU Carbon Emissions Cuts

Posted: 25 May 2012 05:34 AM PDT


Back in April, Poland killed an effort to increase the EU’s carbon reduction target from 20% by 2020 to 30% by 2020, despite the fact that such a policy change would result in a net benefit for Poland! Perhaps hoping that Poland would come around following the report showing that to be the case, or perhaps just being a super enthusiastic renewable energy champion, Germany has put a discussion of stronger EU emissions cuts back on the agenda.

“Germany asked for it (a deeper cut) to be added to the environment council agenda,” an anonymous source told Reuters.

“It will be debated as part of discussion on the transition towards a competitive, low-carbon economy.”

The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme has dropped to record lows due to the EU’s rapid adoption of clean energy and, thus, low demand for renewable energy investment: “its collapse to record lows means that it is having the opposite effect and has been driving investment in coal-fired generation rather than gas, which is the cleanest of the fossil fuels, analysts and utility companies have said.”

Currently, the carbon price is €7 and an ideal price is projected to be €20-50.

Image: oil/globe question mark via Shutterstock


Related posts:

1.Report: Stronger EU CO2 Target Would Benefit Country that Blocked It, & Cost EU Citizens a Few Cups of Coffee on Average

2.       Carbon Capture and Storage Goes Online in Germany

3.       Danish Maersk Lines Cuts Shipping Emissions 50%



HUGE Cut in 2020 UK Solar Target (Nearly 50% — from 22 GW to 11.9 GW)

Posted: 25 May 2012 05:18 AM PDT


As many in the UK solar industry and elsewhere have claimed for months, the UK’s sharp and rapid cuts to its solar Feed-in Tariff (FiT) policy is projected to make it nearly impossible for the country to hit its 2020 solar target. In fact, amidst the positive news that the country is delaying its next round of solar FiT cuts and is making the whole program more predictable, it apparently tried to sneak through the fact that it has cut its 2020 solar forecast from 22 GW to 11.9 GW.

The change was included in the government’s impact assessment of the FiT cuts released yesterday (but, for some reason, was not trumpeted in the news release).

“The figures are significantly lower than those the government released when it launched the subsidy review in February, which forecast capacity would hit 22GW by 2020, with 3.3 million installations,” Business Green reports. Here’s more:

The February review based its ambitious predictions on a report by consultancy Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB), which said capital expenditure costs for new installations were likely to fall 10-30 per cent by the end of 2012, with further falls of 5-25 per cent in 2013-14, and smaller on-going reductions in 2015 and beyond.

At that time, solar insiders raised doubts about some of PB’s conclusions, including the rate at which capital costs would fall over the coming year. They also expressed concern that the report was rushed out over a few days in January, and as such offered only a snapshot of the industry.

The government’s new impact assessment (IA) now confirms the initial PB report had overestimated the rate at which costs will fall, leading to a lower central deployment forecast.

“At 11.9GW the central 2020 deployment projection is considerably less than the central estimate in the draft February [impact assessment] at 22GW,” the impact assessment states. “This is largely because PB’s estimate for the cost of large-scale PV installations is significantly higher than in their February report, and PB projects much slower reductions in installation costs from 2014 onwards than previously estimated.

“Furthermore, it is assumed that investor hurdle rates are higher than before, leading to less uptake at a given tariff.”

Figures from the solar industry reacted angrily to the news, accusing the government of attempting to conceal its downgraded forecast for industry growth.

This news again hurts many people’s confidence in the UK government’s honesty and predictability when it comes to solar as well as other industries.

However, solar industry leaders noted that they were still happy about yesterday’s announcement and the increased predictability that came with it.

Additionally, Paul Barwell of the Solar Trade Association noted that the cuts are coming not because of solar industry failures but because of their great successes in reducing the costs of solar.

“It is vital consumers understand tariffs can come down because the costs of solar have come down – there is a faulty perception out there that cuts mean solar doesn’t pay. In fact, solar offers similar returns today as when the FIT scheme began because the industry has been so successful at reducing technology and installation costs,” Barwell said.

Image: British flag via Shutterstock

Related posts:

1.EU Exceeds Target for 20% Renewable Energy by 2020

2.       US Dairy Industry to Help USDA Meet 25% by 2020 Copenhagen Target

3.       Europe Will Exceed 2020 Renewable Energy Target



China to Spend $27 Billion on Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency This Year

Posted: 25 May 2012 05:02 AM PDT


Just confirming the easy bet Goldman Sachs is putting on cleantech (which I just wrote about), China is reportedly going to spend $27 billion this year alone on cleantech (energy efficiency and conservation, clean energy, and emissions reductions).

“The country’s finance ministry said it wants to promote energy-saving products, solar and wind power and accelerate the development of renewable energy and hybrid cars,” the Guardian reports.


Of course, this comes on the heels of a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) showing that China’s rapid growth was a key factor in bringing annual CO2 emissions up to a record and very concerning level in 2011, despite carbon emissions reductions in the US and EU. Nonetheless, as noted there, China’s carbon intensity has actually dropped 15% (from 2005 to 2011) due to its tremendous cleantech investments.

“In the long term, China is targeting to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45% by 2020, compared with 2003 levels and aims to boost its use of renewable energy to 15% of overall energy consumption,” the Guardian piece adds.

Images: Chinese Yuan & plant and Hong Kong via Shutterstock

Related posts:

1.China Now Spending $9 Billion a Month on Renewable energy

2.       China’s Multi-Billion Dollar Renewable Energy Program Set for Launch Soon

3.       Renewable Energy Investment Attractiveness: China #1, US #2, Germany #3



Goldman Sachs Investing $40 Billion More in Clean Energy

Posted: 25 May 2012 04:49 AM PDT

Not even a couple weeks ago, Mridul wrote that Goldman Sachs–backed firm ReNew Power Limited was investing Rs 6,000 crore (over $1.1 billion) to build 1 GW (1,000 MW) of wind power projects across India. Apparently, Goldman Sachs has much bigger plans than that, though.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc reportedly plans to put $40 billion towards renewable energy projects over the coming 10 years. Why? well, if you know anything about Goldman Sachs, you know it’s all about the money. Renewable energy is “an area the investment bank called one of the biggest profit opportunities since its economists got excited about emerging markets in 2001,” Reuters reports.

It sees China, Brazil, India, Europe, and many other countries implementing strong renewable energy policies. Combined with dropping renewable energy costs from mass deployment and continued technological advances, renewable energy is a winning bet as far as Goldman Sachs is concerned.

That said, this new announcement actually more or less continues the bank’s current trend. ”In 2011, it helped finance $4.8 billion in clean technology companies globally, and co-invested more than $500 million in that area,” so $4 billion a year is actually a bit of a decrease in annual investments. Still, this is far more than the $1 billion it committed to in 2005. Perhaps if more countries implement strong climate change and cleantech policies, we can look back on this $40 billion (still a considerable amount) as Goldman Sachs testing the waters.

“The bank’s new $40 billion target applies to investments and financings for solar, wind, hydro, biofuels, biomass conversion, energy efficiency, energy storage, green transportation, efficient materials, LED lighting and transmission,” Reuters writes.

Goldman has also pledged to reduce its own net carbon emissions to zero by 2020.

Stuart Bernstein, head of Goldman’s clean technology and renewables investment banking group, compared the opportunity to technology investments in the 1990s or investing 10 years ago in fast-growing countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China, for which Goldman economist Jim O’Neill coined the term “BRIC” in 2001

Enthusiasm for renewables was high in 2006 and 2007 as oil prices soared. But enthusiasm waned after the financial crisis cut energy demand and cash-strapped governments reduced subsidies for alternative energy programs.

The use of hydraulic fracturing technology to access abundant supplies of natural gas in the United States and elsewhere has also undermined alternative sources of energy.

“Obviously we recognize this is not the easiest of times in the clean energy market but nevertheless the underlying thesis as to why cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy need to scale up still holds true,” Park said.

For more, check out: Goldman sets $40 billion clean energy investment plan.

Image: Goldman Sachs building in NYC via Shutterstock

Related posts:

1.Goldman Sachs-backed Firm to Invest $1.1 Billion in Indian Wind Energy Sector

2.       Clean Tech Private Equity Firm Reaches & Exceeds $1 Billion Target for Clean Tech Fund!

3.       BP & Sempra Energy Building 2 Giant Wind Farms, Investing over $1 Billion



Liquid Metal Battery Startup from MIT’s Don Sadoway Gets $15-Million Boost, Investments from Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, & Total

Posted: 25 May 2012 04:31 AM PDT



“Professor Donald Sadoway and Materials Processing Center Research Affiliate David Bradwell observe one of their small test batteries in the lab. The battery itself is inside the heavily insulated metal cylinder at center, which heats it to 700 degrees Celsius.” (Photo: Patrick Gillooly; Source: MIT)

We’ve written about Don Sadoway’s liquid batteries, a potential breakthrough energy storage solution that could help make renewable energy explode even more than it already is, and shared a TED talk of Sadoway discussing the technology. The latest news in this story is that Sadoway’s team has received $15 million more of investment, including money from world-famous cleantech investor Vinod Khosla’s firm Khosla Ventures.

“Until we find a technology that is low-cost, highly scalable, and long-lasting, ubiquitous grid storage won’t be possible,” Andrew Chung of Khosla Ventures said. ”The all-liquid battery’s elegant materials design and simple assembly process makes it the best chemical option we’ve seen for storing the grid at massive scale.”

Liquid Metal Battery Corporation (LMBC), the name of the startup, received its next round of funding, $15 million, from Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates and energy company Total.

The startup has reportedlz moved from the R&D stage to the commercialization stage (for large-scale grid implementation).

Good news.

Read more at: Sadoway’s MIT Liquid Metal Battery Startup Adds $15M and Khosla Ventures as Investor.

Related posts:

1.Donald Sadoway Liquid Batteries TED Talk

2.       Top ARPA-E Funding Goes to Renewable Storage in Liquid “Battery”

3.       World’s First Chlorophyll Organic Battery Runs on Any Liquid



UK Government Delays Solar FiT Cuts & Puts Scheme on More Predictable Path!

Posted: 25 May 2012 04:18 AM PDT

After months and months of controversy, it seems the UK government has finally come up with a solution to its Feed-in Tariff (FiT) saga that makes people in the solar industry and wanting to go solar a bit happier than they have been. It has delayed the next round of cuts to August 1, and the plan after that is much more predictable than it has been. However, all still isn’t peaches and cream.

“We remain very concerned that the market has stalled, and the recession certainly hasn’t helped,” said Paul Barwell of the Solar Trade Association. “However, today’s announcement means we can now be confident that even when tariffs are adjusted on August 1, solar will still offer attractive returns to consumers – certainly when compared to other investments currently available.”

“We are pleased that ministers have listened to the deluge of complaints from the solar industry about the scale and speed of the cuts proposed in their consultation document earlier this year,” said David Hunt, a director at Eco Environments. “But we are also disappointed that the Government still seems hell-bent on making life very difficult for the solar industry… While the return on investment remains attractive at around six per cent, by reducing the FIT lifetime by five years consumers will earn approximately £20,000 less than they would have done if the 25 year term had been left in place.”

Here’s the full announcement on the solar FiT changes from the DECC:


DECC is introducing regulations today to put the Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) scheme on a more predictable, certain and sustainable footing for householders, businesses and the solar industry.

Following detailed consultation with industry and consumers, the Government is introducing a range of changes to the FITs scheme with effect from 1 August to provide better value for money and allow businesses and householders to plan with confidence.   This is good news for the industry and for consumers and will ensure that as many people as possible benefit.

The tariff for a small domestic solar installation will be 16p per kilowatt hour, down from 21p, and will be set to decrease on a 3 month basis thereafter, with pauses if the market slows down.  All tariffs will continue to be index-linked in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) and the export tariff will be increased from 3.2p to 4.5p.

The new tariffs should give a return on investment (ROIs) of over 6% for most typical, well-sited installations, and up to 8% for the larger bands.

The industry has been very successful in bringing solar technology costs down swiftly over the last two years and the improved scheme will reflect this trend as well as recognise the increasingly significant place solar PV can now have in local renewable electricity generation.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: “Today starts a new and exciting chapter for the solar industry. The sector has been through a difficult time, adjusting to the reality of sharply falling costs, but the reforms we are introducing today provide a strong, sustainable foundation for growth for the solar sector.

“We can now look with confidence to a future for solar which will see it go from a small cottage industry, anticipated under the previous scheme, to playing a significant part in Britain’s clean energy economy.

“I want to send a very clear message today. UK solar continues to be an attractive proposition for many consumers considering microgeneration technologies and that having placed the subsidy support for this technology on a long-term, sustainable footing, industry can plan for growth with confidence.”

Alan Aldridge, Chairman of the Solar Trade Association said: “We broadly welcome many of the Government’s decisions for how solar PV will be treated in the FITs scheme and wholeheartedly welcome the inclusion of Solar in DECC’s updated Renewables Roadmap; this should reassure consumers and solar companies alike that the Government recognises and stands behind a major role for the solar industry.

“Despite the currently slow market, the industry can have some confidence that the new Tariffs are tight but workable. Householders should be reassured the new Tariffs will provide more attractive returns than can be found elsewhere today. The STA is now keen to work with Government to get this positive message out.”


Tariffs for solar pv installations to be reduced from 1 August:

§ 16p/kWh for household scale solar pv installations to reflect fall in cost of the technology, delivering a return of about 6% for a typical installation.

§ Tariffs for larger installations also to be reduced to reflect cost reductions but with most tariff cuts lower than proposed in February.

§ Reductions to apply to new installations from 1 August, instead of 1 July as proposed, in recognition of low uptake from 1 April and providing time for industry to adapt.

Multi installation tariff increased to 90% of standard tariff

§ Organisations with more than 25 solar pv installations will get 90% of the standard applicable tariff, increased from 80%, reflecting new evidence on costs involved for these projects.

Reduction in tariffs over time in line with uptake of FITs scheme

§ Ensuring solar PV is not over subsidised.

§ Average tariff reductions of 3.5% every 3 months, reductions will be bigger (up to 28%) if there is rapid uptake.

§ Tariff cuts will be skipped (for up to 2 quarters) if uptake is low.

§ Uptake in 3 different bands (domestic (size 0-10kW), small commercial (10-50kW) and large commercial (above 50kW and standalone installations) will determine the quarterly reductions within those bands.

Increase export tariff from 3.2p to 4.5p/kWh

§ To better reflect the real value of electricity exported to the grid.

RPI index-linking of generation tariffs to be retained

§ Reflecting the high value investors place on this element of the FITs scheme.

Scheme lifetime reduced from 25 to 20 years for new solar installations

§ Reducing the lifetime costs of the scheme and bring solar in line with most other technologies supported under FITs.

Tariffs for installations which do not meet the energy efficiency requirements will mirror the tariffs for standalone installations

§ Ensuring energy efficiency is still encouraged as tariffs are reduced.


Government sees a bright future for solar here in the UK and expects to reflect the growing role of solar power in the UK’s energy mix in its updated Renewable Energy Roadmap later this year.  Uptake by 2020 will however depend on when solar PV becomes viable with little or no subsidy and 22GW by 2020 is an achievable ambition if industry can get its cost down quickly.  That is why Government has also launched a solar PV cost reduction taskforce in partnership with industry to help drive down costs down faster while maintaining safety and standards.

DECC is also pleased to welcome plans being brought forward by Cornwall Council and the Building Research Establishment to set up a National Solar Centre in Cornwall.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: “I am very happy to see a proposal for the creation of a National Solar Centre in Cornwall, led by the Building Research Establishment.”

Cllr Alec Robertson, Leader of Cornwall Council said: “The FITs scheme allowed many people across Cornwall to learn about renewable energy, especially solar power, and Cornwall would welcome the establishment of a new National Solar Centre that  will be at the heart of the bright future for PV in the UK. We’re pleased that DECC has announced changes that improve the predictability for the FITs scheme”


Decisions following the consultation on the other technologies under FITs will be announced in the summer.

Image: Solar panels on England row houses via Shutterstock

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New Graphene Solar Cell Efficiency Record

Posted: 25 May 2012 04:06 AM PDT


Woops, another day, another two solar records (not just the MiaSole solar record just announced). Researchers in the University of Florida’s physics department have reportedly set a new record for graphene solar cell efficiency. Here’s more from the University of Florida:

Graphene solar cells are one of industry’s great hopes for cheaper, durable solar power cells in the future. But previous attempts to use graphene, a single-atom-thick honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms, in solar cells have only managed power conversion efficiencies ranging up to 2.9 percent. The UF team was able to achieve a record breaking 8.6 percent efficiency with their device by chemically treating, or doping, the graphene with trifluoromethanesulfonyl-amide, or TFSA. Their results are published in the current online edition of Nano Letters.

“The dopant makes the graphene film more conductive and increases the electric field potential inside the cell,” said Xiaochang Miao, a graduate student in the physics department. That makes it more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. And unlike other dopants that have been tried in the past, TFSA is stable — its effects are long lasting.

Exciting. Makes me think that we’re going to have so many types of solar technology cost competitive one day that the energy wars will be between different types of solar rather than different types of dirty energy (or dirty energy and renewables).

Read more here: University of Florida Physicists Set New Record for Graphene Solar Cell Efficiency.

Image: graphene 3D rendering via Shutterstock


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MiaSolé Sets New World Record for Flexible PV Module Efficiency

Posted: 25 May 2012 03:53 AM PDT

Another day, another solar world record set. I think I need to start a page of solar world records — would be a useful resource, I imagine. The latest is from MiaSolé, which has set a new world record of 15.5% area efficiency for flexible PV solar modules. Here’s more info from MiaSolé:

“MiaSolé, the leading manufacturer of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic solar panels, today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has confirmed a 15.5 percent aperture area efficiency on commercial size flexible PV module (total area 1.68m2).  MiaSolé’s record represents over 2 points of improvement compared to the previous world record for flexible PV of 13.4 percent set earlier this year.”

Read more here: MiaSolé Sets Flexible PV Efficiency World Record at 15.5 Percent.

Image Source: MiaSolé

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Eco Wave Successfully Test Two Wave Energy Devices

Posted: 25 May 2012 03:19 AM PDT

Eco Wave Power has successfully completed its April test of a medium-scale wave energy power plant in the Black Sea made up of two different floater shapes, the “Wave Clapper” and the “Power Wing”.

“The Black Sea provided Eco Wave Power with real-life conditions necessary for the testing of EWP’s wave energy devices under uncontrolled wave heights and wave periods,” Eco Wave said in their press release.


The test put both the Wave Clapper and the Power Wing to test in extreme conditions, including a storm during the 18th and 19th of April where wave height reached 5 metres, which left both styles of wave energy device suffering no damage.

The examination also completed tests “measuring of the KW output in different wave heights and periods, measuring the influence of side waves on the floaters and the connections, connecting the floaters to electric devices and showing an electricity supply (with and without an accumulator), examining the influence of floaters in proximity to each other, examining the option to unite both floaters to one electric grid and charge a common accumulator, as well as -examining the floaters’ storm-protection Mechanisms.”

The results showed that 2 medium-scale wave energy devices are sufficient for the production of electricity for 6 to 10 households. Next for Eco Wave will be to move the medium-scale power plant to a different coastal structure to show potential clients that the wave generation systems can be easily connected to almost any ocean structure. Following that, EWP plans to build its first commercial-scale Sea Wave Power Plant.

Source: Eco Wave Power

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Commercial Trucks that Save 20x More Fuel than 100mpg Car

Posted: 25 May 2012 03:10 AM PDT

Wrightspeed reports that its Route™, “a retrofit electric drive powertrain with an on-board generator engineered for the surprisingly large medium-duty commercial fleet market,” saves 20 times more fuel than a 100mpg car.

“For electric drive to make economic sense, you have to displace enough fuel to pay for the technology,” says founder and CEO, Ian Wright. Because commercial trucks use so much fuel, switching to electric saves fleet managers a lot more money than normal car drivers.

Notably, the setup includes an on-board generator that probably uses not-completely-clean energy, but it looks like the technology still offers a significant net benefit for the environment (and certainly for fleet managers’ budgets). Here’s more on the Wrightspeed Route retrofit powertrain, designed specifically for such customers:

By preserving existing truck chassis and bodies, Wrightspeed avoids the capital costs, time, and pitfalls of learning how to make trucks as cheaply and as well as the established vehicle manufacturers. It also frees Wrightspeed to address more than the new medium-duty truck market; because their trucks run so many miles (an average of 30,000 miles annually), the fleet industry is accustomed to regularly replacing powertrains.

Unlike a pure battery powertrain, the Wrightspeed Route™ does not restrict fleet operations with range limitations, because it has an on-board generator that charges the 40 mile battery in the field. Unlike in a conventional hybrid, the efficient electric motors are always producing the variable torque necessary to turn the wheels. This frees the generator from having to perform over the entire speed-load map, and allows it to operate at its most efficient point to charge the small, high-power battery. Wrightspeed calls this system architecture a Range-extended Electric Vehicle (REV) powertrain.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Wrightspeed’s marketing manager, Maya Giannini. “The Route™ combines the efficiency of an EV with the unlimited range of a mild parallel hybrid. And our generator fuel system can be fitted to run diesel, compressed natural gas, or landfill gases; so, the Route™ is really the best of all three worlds.”

Wrightspeed has retrofitted an Isuzu NPR with their Route™ powertrain. The NPR holds 70% of the world’s cab-forward box truck market. With its conventional diesel powertrain, the NPR averaged about 12 miles per gallon in testing with a metro drive cycle. With the Route™, under the same test conditions, Wrightspeed measured 44 miles per gallon (on a cost equivalent basis), a more than 300% improvement.

“The measured miles per gallon will vary widely with drive cycle. We are modest in our calculations, because fleet operators are looking for a new technology they can trust to reduce their bottom line.” says Giannini. “They carefully track their fuel usage, and inflated efficiency numbers do nothing to further their trust in the clean tech industry.”

What do you think?

Source: Wrightspeed

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