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February 20 2014

14:44

February 19 2014

03:00
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February 07 2014

20:27

Keystone XL vs. Renewable Energy

tar-sands-vs-renewable-energy-main

A head-to-head comparison demonstrates the overwhelming superiority of renewable energy over the Keystone XL. If approved, the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta to the Gulf Coast in Texas. In addition to risks from spills and potential water impacts, the pipeline will facilitate the mass extraction of Canada’s global warming causing tar sands.

The Earth is getting warmer and we know that this will have calamitous costs, we also know that fossil fuels are the principle source of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Increased levels of GHGs have significant harmful impacts on our health, our environment, and our climate.

We are currently on track for catastrophic global warming if we continue with business as usual. If we want to have a shot at keeping global temperature increases under the internationally agreed upon upper threshold of 2 degrees Celsius, we must radically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.

We cannot afford to add more than 310 gigatons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, if we are to keep warming within two degrees C. We have already emitted 530 gigatons of carbon, and according to the IPCC’s latest report we can only add a total of 840 gigatons of carbon, that leaves us with a carbon budget of 310 gigatons. We will not be able to stay within our carbon budget and move forward if we move ahead with the Keystone XL.

To keep global temperatures below this threshold we will need to abandon much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves. This is particularly true of tar sands oil which has a far higher emissions profile than traditional oil.

If we are to meet growing energy needs, we will need to ramp up our use of renewables. While this entails considerable investment, it is far less than the combined costs of a significantly warmer world.

Emissions from the tar sands

If approved the Keystone XL pipeline will be a game changing contributer to climate change causing emissions. According to the NRDC report, tar sands oil emits 81 percent more emissions than conventional oil. If the Keystone XL goes forward a Sierra report claims it will generate 181 million metric tons of carbon, an emission load which is the yearly equivalent of building 51 new coal-fired power plants or putting 37 million additional cars on the road.

The State Department report

The State Department’s latest report on the Keystone XL does a very poor job of detailing the pipeline’s emissions, oil spill risks, and threats to water resources. The NRDC showed how the pipeline would increase U.S. carbon emissions by between 935 million and 1.2 billion metric tons over the project’s 50-year timeline. This is far more than indicated in the State Department’s report.

The Canadian province of Alberta, home of the tar sands, has a long history of pipeline explosions and spills. In the case of the Keystone XL, a spill could jeopardize a number of rivers and the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water and irrigates agriculture in parts of eight states. In 2013 alone, TransCanada, the company charged with building the Keystone XL, had 14 U.S. spills in a single year.

Pipelines are not only dangerous for the environment, they also kill and injure people. Since 1986, according to a ProPublica investigation, U.S. pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000, and cost nearly $50 billion in property damages.

The State Department report claims that Canada’s tar sands will be exploited whether or not the pipeline is built. However, this is refuted by a Sierra article which states that the Royal Bank of Canada believes blocking Keystone XL would significantly inhibit Canada’s tar sands development.

Overview of the benefits of renewable energy

Renewable energy provides substantial environmental and economic benefits, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists this includes:

  1. Little or no greenhouse gas emissions: According to data aggregated by the International Panel on Climate Change, life-cycle global warming emissions associated with renewable energy which includes manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance, and dismantling and decommissioning are minimal. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) explored the feasibility and environmental impacts associated with generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2050 and they found that global warming emissions from electricity production could be reduced by approximately 81 percent.
  2. Improved public health: Implementing renewable energy and transitioning away from fossil fuels will significantly reduce air and water pollution from fossil fuels which lead to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, and cancer. There is evidence to show that replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy can increase worker productivity, decrease premature mortality and significantly reduce overall healthcare costs.
  3. Vast inexhaustible supply of energy: The 2012, NREL study found that renewable energy can supply 482,247 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually which amounts to 118 times the nation’s annual electricity consumption.
  4. Stable energy prices: Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy is providing affordable electricity across the country right now, and can help stabilize energy prices in the future. While renewable facilities require upfront investments to build, once built they operate at very low cost and, for most technologies, the fuel is free. As a result, renewable energy prices are relatively stable over time. Prices will also benefit from the increased competition that is afforded by scaling renewables. Further, renewable would decrease costs to utility companies that currently spend millions of dollars on financial instruments to hedge themselves against fossil fuel price volatility.
  5. Reliable and resilient energy system: Wind and solar are less prone to large-scale failure than fossil fuel powered systems because they are distributed and modular. To illustrate the point, a Renewable Energy World article cites a study which showed how Hurricane Sandy damaged and disrupted fossil fuel powered electricity generation and distribution in New York and New Jersey, while renewable energy projects in the Northeast weathered the storm with minimal damage or disruption. This is of great importance as we expect to experience more extreme weather due to climate change. Unlike fossil fuel or nuclear power, wind and solar do not require water to generate electricity which makes them better able to deal with issues of water scarcity.

Pros and cons of renewable energy

While there are many very serious problems associated with the Keystone XL pipeline and the dirty bitumen it will carry, a balanced assessment of renewables make a strong case for clean energy. As summarized in an EEP article, renewable energy offers a slew of useful benefits.

Wind

Pros: U.S. onshore wind resources have the potential to generate almost 10,500 GW of electricity, 175 times more than the current installed capacity of 60 GW. Based on the average U.S. electricity fuel mix, a one MW wind turbine can displace 1,800 tons of CO2 emissions per year. With a wind power capacity of 300 GW, 825 million metric tons of CO2 emissions could be avoided annually. Most importantly, wind turbines generate very little emissions. Wind emits only 0.02 to 0.04 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: They generate noise pollution and can prove deadly to bats and birds.

Solar

Pros: Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules covering 0.6 percent of U.S. land area could meet national electricity demand. While solar PV modules produce no emissions during operation. Solar emits only 0.07 to 0.2 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: Solar PV modules require toxic substances (e.g., cadmium and selenium) in their manufacturing.

Biomass

Pros: Biomass has low net C02 emissions in comparison to fossil fuels. At combustion, it releases only the CO2 it previously removed from the atmosphere.

Cons: Additional emissions are associated with processing. Land use is another problem as it requires 124 acres of land to generate one GWh of energy per year and using crop land to grow fuel can adversely impact global food production.

Geothermal

Pros: U.S. geothermal power offsets the emission of 22 million metric tons of CO2, 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 110,000 tons of particulate matter from coal-powered plants each year. Geothermal emits only 0.1 to 0.2 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: Some geothermal facilities produce solid waste such as salts and minerals that must be disposed of in approved sites, but some byproducts can be recovered and recycled.

Hydropower

Pros: Electricity generated from hydropower is virtually emission free. Hydroelectric power emits between 0.1 and 0.5 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: significant levels of methane and CO2 may be emitted through the decomposition of vegetation that is flooded by the dam. Other environmental concerns include fish injury and mortality, habitat degradation, and water quality impairment. However there are technologies that can help to minimize some of the adverse consequences including “fish-friendly” turbines and smaller dams.

Overall the pros of renewable energy far outweigh the costs.

Declining cost of renewables

The cost of renewable energy has been steadily declining and as we scale renewables this price will continue to decline. The more we produce the lower the cost. As it stands now wind power is currently competitive with fossil fuels and solar has achieved grid parity with coal. Long-term wind contracts are now more than 40 percent cheaper than they were just three years ago and the average price of a solar panel has dropped almost 60 percent since 2011. The cost of generating electricity from wind dropped more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2012 and more than 80 percent since 1980. The cost of renewable energy will decline even further as markets mature and companies increasingly take advantage of economies of scale. These costs could be further reduced with the help of standards. A 25 percent renewable electricity standard would lead to 7.6 percent lower electricity prices by 2030.

Renewable energy currently provides only a tiny fraction of its potential electricity output in the U.S. But a plethora of studies have demonstrated that renewable energy can be rapidly deployed to provide a significant share of future electricity needs.

Rather than supporting Canada’s exploitation of the tar sands, the U.S. should be resisting their northern neighbor’s reckless obsession with hydrocarbons. In addition to scaling renewable energy, the most important single thing that the U.S. can do is to deny Canada a market for its dirty fuel.

While the rampant exploitation of Canada’s tar sands oil means “game over” for efforts to combat climate change, renewable energy offers a secure, clean, and healthy solution to America’s energy needs.

——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: lamoix, Howl Arts Collective, courtesy flickr

 

The post Keystone XL vs. Renewable Energy appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

00:47

Record Number of Wind Energy Projects Under Construction

Record growth in wind energy construction after an uncertain 2013

For American wind power, 2013 was the best of times, and the worst of times. On one hand, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reports that 1.084 gigawatts (GW) of wind power came online in 2013, down fully 92 percent from the 13.131 GW of new capacity brought online in 2012.

Despite yet another expiration of the Production Tax Credit in Congress, there are a record number of wind energy projects under construtionNot surprisingly, we can thank Congress for the precipitous drop in new wind capacity last year due to uncertainty and delay in dealing with the Production Tax Credit (PTC). We can all recall fondly the looming threat of the “fiscal cliff” that ushered in the start of 2013. The PTC was allowed to expire on December 31st 2012, extended the next day and signed back into law on January 2nd. By then the damage had been done for 2013. According to the AWEA when the PTC is allowed to expire the wind energy industry typically experiences a 70 percent to 95 percent drop-off in new installations. 2013 bore out this historical trend.

Originally enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, Congress has extended the PTC five times and allowed it to expire 5 time, the last time on December 31, 2013. Given the “off” status of Congress’ on-again, off-again approach to energy governance, you may think things don’t look well for 2014 for wind energy growth. Fortunately, part of the American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012, enacted in January 2013, allows eligible wind projects under construction before January 1st 2014 to qualify for the PTC.

Now the good news.

In it’s fourth quarter 2013 report, AWEA reports a record 12,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind energy capacity under construction at the end of 2013. Of that, 10,900 MW started construction in the forth quarter. AWEA also reports at least 60 Power Purchase Agreements for nearly 8000 MW were established between utilities and corporate buyers.

Congress and the PTC –  why bad governance must end

Even with a record number of new projects under construction, Congress needs to stop it’s short-sighted policy for the PTC. Not only does it adversely impact renewable energy development, it hampers overall economic growth. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, wind capacity more than tripled between 2007 and 2012, representing an average annual investment of $18 billion. There are now more than 550 manufacturing plants in 44 states producing 72 percent of all wind turbines and components in the United States. That’s a 25 percent increase since 2006. Furthermore, the cost of generating electricity from wind power has fallen by more than 40 percent in just the past three years.

Now it’s time for Congress to act responsibly on behalf of all Americans and offer long term support of the future of America and the new energy economy.

“Our current growth demonstrates how powerful the tax credit is at incentivizing investment in wind energy,” says AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “Now it’s up to Congress to ensure that growth continues by extending this highly successful policy.”

Let your Senators know you want action to support U.S. wind energy growth!

Image credit: ClarkMaxwell, courtesy flickr

The post Record Number of Wind Energy Projects Under Construction appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

February 04 2014

19:06

Big Returns for Utility Customers Using New Power Efficiency-Battery Storage Platform

Commercial and utility-scale battery storage and systems providers are getting a boost from state government initiatives in California, and, if a new proposal passes legislative muster, in New York. Integrated as part of intelligent demand response/reduction systems, and you may have the missing link that could drive the decarbonization, and decentralization, of US power infrastructure to new heights.

A new breed of smart grid, demand response and energy management systems is emerging in the US, spurred on by, and in turn spurring, fundamental change in the way electricity is produced, distributed, used and priced in US markets. Thanks in large part to financing provided by the Department of Energy via President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Santa Clara’s Green Charge Networks (GCN) is emerging from the margins into the commercial mainstream.

Already boosting power, as opposed to energy, efficiency and smoothing out load profiles among commercial customers including 7-Eleven, Avis and Walgreens, management anticipates demand for its flagship GreenStation intelligent demand reduction system scaling up another notch thanks to new state government grid and battery storage mandates and energy efficiency incentives.

GreenStation power efficiency dashboardA new energy infrastructure emerges

Coupled with a diversified mix of local renewable energy resources and electric vehicles (EVs), smart grid and intelligent demand response systems, a new, clean energy infrastructure is taking shape in the US, one that not only would be the most effective means of mitigating and adapting to a changing climate, but also enhancing the performance and resiliency of US grid infrastructure and providing a green economic boost that would generate good green jobs and boost local and the national economy.

Smart grid and intelligent demand response/reduction systems are an integral part of this emerging new energy infrastructure, and Green Charge Networks (GCN) looks to be very well situated to capitalize on this fundamental shift at the base of the US economy and society.

Formed in 2009 in the wake of the housing crisis and financial industry debacle with a $12 million Department of Energy (DOE) grant that came courtesy of the 2009 ARRA, GCN subsequently landed a partnership role in a $93 million DOE Smart Grid Demonstration Program project.

As a result, GCN, working in collaboration with New York City and Westchester County utility Con Edison, was able to develop its flagship products: the GreenStation intelligent demand reduction system and GCN GridSynergy smart grid energy management system for utilities.

Marking a first in the US, 7-Eleven had a pilot GreenStation system installed in New York in July 2011. GreenStation’s ability to reduce peak power demand, boost power efficiency and deliver savings month after month has since been driving GCN’s transition from bleeding to leading edge, and from pilot stage to commercial scale.

GCN today announced that it had reached a milestone, having signed 1 megawatt (MW) worth of 10-year Power Effiency Agreements (PEA) with customers including 7-Eleven, Avis, Walgreens. The start-up’s client roster is expanding rapidly to include municipalities and universities, as well as other commercial businesses across California as well as New York, GCN founder and CEO Vic Shao stated in an interview.

A Bayesian decision making process

Lying at GreenStation’s core are proprietary, patent-pending software algorithms and service-delivery features, the former Shao likened to stock trading algorithms. Monitoring a client site’s power usage in real-time, GreenStation’s predictive analytics are then able to make forecasts that optimize power efficiency, smooth out load profiles and reduce electricity bills.

The other key aspect of GreenStation is energy storage side. In addition to the client’s electrical system, GreenStation is linked to the latest in Li-ion battery storage packs. Supplied by SAFT, these battery packs discharge and recharge on a second-by-second basis based on instructions from GreenStation’s controller.

“Building loads change minute to minute. We employ stochastic decision-making based on imperfect information to charge or discharge the battery pack on a second-by-second basis to even out demand and flatten out the load profile,” Shao elaborated.

By accumulating and analyzing an increasingly large amount of real-time data on clients’ energy usage and other real-world operating conditions, GCN has been able to realize drastic improvements on the ability of its system to predict power usage and minimize peak power demand charges. GreenStation’s primary cost driver, GCN has been able to reduce the battery storage capacity required installations by one-third.

Reducing peak power demand charges, and costs

The peak demand rates utilities charge large, non-residential customers are based on power – and charged by the kilowatt (kW), as opposed to energy usage, which is based on kilowatt-hours (kWh). The latter have been falling, while the former have been rising at 7-10 percent a year. Hence, commercial, industrial and other non-residential utility customers are seeing peak demand charges growing to account for larger shares of their electricity bills, as high as 70 percent, Shao related.

That makes GreenStation’s ability to boost power efficiency and reduce peak power usage increasingly valuable. Utility peak demand charges during California summers are around $37/kW, Shao continued. “New York, it so happens, has the highest demand charges in the US, at $43/kW in peak summer.”

As a result, GCN and its customers are finding that the capital outlays for GreenStations are attractive even without federal and state subsidies. Electricity bill savings realized by customers in Con Ed territory in New York pay back their GreenStation investments in as little as 1.5 – 2.5 years. The story is similar in California.

Ninety percent of the proposals GCN is sending out to prospective customers in the Golden State have ROIs, or payback periods, of 5 years or less. The average is in the 3.5- 4 year range. “The returns are absolutely incredible when you factor in all these rebates and tax credits and so forth. Some really super attractive situations have ROIs in the 1.5-2.5 yr range, about 25 percent of our deal flow,” Shao stated.

Image Credit: Green Charge Networks

The post Big Returns for Utility Customers Using New Power Efficiency-Battery Storage Platform appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 29 2014

00:13

IPOs, Downstream and Solar Lease Funds Highlight 2013 in Solar Finance

The dollar amount of venture capital (VC) investments in the solar power sector dropped sharply in 2013, but public market financings, large-scale project funding and mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) activity jumped sharply higher, indicative of mainstream investors’ increasing level of confidence and a shift in government policies and incentives in key markets around the world, according to Mercom Capital Group’s Solar Funding and M&A 2013 Fourth Quarter and Annual Report.

Solar finance shifts toward mainstream acceptance in 2013Investors’ growing interest in downstream solar (integrators, developers, leasing and installation companies) was apparent in the U.S. market. Downstream solar investments accounted for 45 percent of total VC solar funding last year, garnering a total of $262 million spread across 34 deals, up from $269 million over 26 deals in 2012.

Another 3.34 billion was invested in 22 U.S. solar residential and commercial lease funds, 69 percent more than was raised in 2012 when $269 million was raised via 26 deals. Vivint Solar, SolarCity and Sunrun each raised well over $600 million in capital, with Vivint raising some $740 million from an undisclosed group of investors. Nearly $1 billion was raised in 4Q alone, Mercom’s report authors noted.

2013 in solar energy finance

Breaking VC solar investments down further, $104 million was invested in concentrating solar power (CSP) companies across 17 deals. That compares with $146 million in 15 deals in 2012, a 25 percent decline in dollar-amount invested. A total $104 million in 17 deals was raised by PV companies as compared to $114 million in 17 deals in 2012, an 8.77 percent decline. Investment in thin-film companies dropped the most (77 percent), totaling $72 million last year as compared to $314 million in 2012.

Also highlighting activity in solar energy in 2013, more than $1 billion was raised in seven solar IPOs. In all, public market solar equity financings totaled $2.8 billion spread across 39 deals. That’s more than triple 2012′s total, which came in at $893 million across 23 deals, and $1 billion in 13 deals in 2011.

Solar debt financings totaled $6.2 billion in 38 deals as compared to $6.9 billion in 34 deals in 2012 and $20 billion in 41 deals in 2011. China Development Bank was the single largest provider of solar debt financing, extending credit to five Chinese solar companies, some of the largest of which have been fighting to avoid insolvency and bankruptcy.

9 gigawatts of large-scale solar in development

Credit: Mercom Capital Group
Funding for large-scale solar projects also surged higher, with Mercom tracking 9 gigawatts (GW) of new large-scale project announcements in various stages of development as of 4Q. Some $13.6 billion in 152 deals worth of large-scale solar projects were financed in 2013, a jump of over 56 percent from $8.7 billion in 84 deals in 2012. Activity in 4Q, at $6 billion in 46 deals, was the highest since 2010.

The U.S., far and away, continues to be the predominant market for solar VC funding. U.S. VCs accounted for $432 million of a total $600 million (72 percent) in VC solar funding in 2013 and 68 of 97 transactions (70 percent).

Credit: Mercom Capital Group

Credit: Mercom Capital Group

Mercom recorded 97 VC investments totaling some $600 million in the solar sector in 2013, around 40% less than 2012′s total of $992 million. The deal count dropped just 8 percent year over year, with an average size of $6.2 million, down from $9.6 million in 2012. Average deal size has been falling steadily since peaking in 2010 and 2011, according to Mercom.

Solar M&A activity was nearly 90% higher year over year in 2013, totaling $12.7 billion across 81 transactions, according to Mercom, up from $6.7 billion in 51 transactions in 2012. Deal activity jumped 60%.

On the downside, 28 solar companies field for insolvency or bankruptcy in 2012, with PV manufacturers being the most numerous at 18. Overall solar insolvency and bankruptcy filings were down 12 percent from a peak in 2012.

Image credit: Seth Anderson, courtesy flickr

The post IPOs, Downstream and Solar Lease Funds Highlight 2013 in Solar Finance appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 27 2014

20:03

Renewables Account for 37 Percent of All New Electrical Generating Capacity in 2013

New electrical generating capacity in 2013

According to the just-released Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Office of Energy Projects, 37 percent of all new U.S. electrical generation deployed in 2013 came from renewable sources.

New electrical capacity provides clean power and jobs for AmericansEnergy sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind provided 5,279 megawatts (MW) of new installed electrical capacity in 2013, contrasting with coal, which ramped up only 1,543 MW, or just under 11 percent of total new generation. Oil produced 38 MW of new capacity or just 0.27 percent. Nuclear had no new capacity come online in 2013. Renewable sources of energy coming online in 2013 were three times that of coal, oil and nuclear combined.

Not surprisingly, natural gas provided most new electrical capacity, putting online 7,270 MW in 2013, or a bit more than 51 percent. The balance of new electrical capacity came from waste heat, providing  76 MW or 0.53 percent.

Solar leads renewables

Solar power led the pack among renewables, bringing online 266 new generating “units” for 2,936 MW of capacity. Wind followed with  1,129 MW of new generating capacity from 18 units. Behind solar and wind came 97 new biomass units generating 77 MW, hydro with 378 MW from 19 unites and geothermal with 4 new units producing 59 MW of new electrical generation.

New solar capacity last year grew 42.80 percent over the same period in 2012. In the two-year period from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013 renewable sources of energy provided 47.38 percent of new  of electrical generating capacity, for a total of 20,809 MW placed into service.

Renewable energy totals for U.S. electrical generation

As a whole, renewable energy sources account for 15.97 percent of total generating capacity* in the United States. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Hydro: 8.44 percent
  • Wind: 5.2 percent
  • Biomass: 1.36 percent
  • Solar: 0.64 percent
  • Geothermal: 0.33 percent

The total from renewable sources is now greater the nuclear and oil combined.

Renewable energy continues to expand in the US, providing more clean energy and jobs – a win-win for the environment and the economy

——————–

* Generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources in the United States now totals about 13 percent according to the most recent data (i.e., as of November 2013) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Thanks to the SUN DAY Campaign:  a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Image credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory, courtesy flickr

 

The post Renewables Account for 37 Percent of All New Electrical Generating Capacity in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 21 2014

22:43

U.S. Solar Trade Group Protests China’s Polysilicon Tariffs

chinawtoChina’s Ministry of Commerce on January 20 imposed punitive five-year duties as high as 57 percent on imports of polysilicon – the raw material for solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules – from U.S. and South Korean manufacturers.

An association of U.S. solar energy installers, producers and other businesses that employs some 25,000 Americans, the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) is protesting China’s trade action, asserting that the Chinese government’s action is in retaliation for the U.S. imposing illegal subsidies and anti-dumping tariffs on imports of PV modules made in China, a complaint that was initially filed by CASM’s founding and lead member, SolarWorld Americas in October 2011.

Trade disputes erupt amid booming solar energy growth

Growing at above-average rates, international trade in solar energy technology and equipment has been booming for well over a decade, supported by a variety of incentives and subsidies offered by governments, including the European Union, the U.S., China and India.

Those subsidies have been the source of a growing number of international trade disputes in recent years, particularly between China, the world’s predominant manufacturer and exporter of solar PV cells and modules, the E.U. and U.S., the two largest importers of Chinese PV cells and modules.

According to CASM, the Chinese government has imposed the tariff on U.S. polysilicon imports “to divide U.S. finished-products manufacturers against polysilicon manufacturing suppliers, punish the U.S. government’s adjudication of SolarWorld’s cases in favor of the domestic industry and increase leverage for all manner of trade issues with the U.S. government.”

In addition, the Chinese government not only continues to illegally subsidize Chinese solar manufacturers, CASM says, it has stepped up its financial support in order to stave off defaults and failures and save jobs in companies that, up until recently, have been among the world’s largest manufacturers of PV cells and modules. According to a CASM press release,

“U.S. solar-panel manufacturers continue to suffer layoffs, bankruptcies and other harms and China keeps propping up its own producers as both industries suffer from China’s steps to designate the industry as a strategic target within its Five-Year Planning Process, support its industry with export-directed subsidies, trigger enormous factory overcapacity, price products below production costs in the U.S. market, harvest U.S.- taxpayer-funded solar incentives and enjoy access to the U.S. market, including military bases, while keeping its borders closed to foreign competitors.”

China’s solar trade action violates international law, according to CASM. “China keeps flooding the U.S. market with state-underwritten solar products that increasingly are cited as the source of sharply higher defect rates,” CASM states. “China’s precipitous industry entry and the ensuing rise in faulty panels came in the wake of America’s decades of pioneering and optimizing the industry.

“China’s retaliation against the U.S. industry violates international trade rules,” Mukesh Dulani, SolarWorld Industries America’s president was quoted as saying. The company, a subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld AG, has been the largest manufacturer of PV cells and modules in the U.S. for over 35 years. “Time and time again, these retaliatory cases have been found to be without merit.”

The post U.S. Solar Trade Group Protests China’s Polysilicon Tariffs appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 14 2014

22:25

An Uptick in US Greenhouse Gas Emissions as Utilities Use More Coal

Greenhouse gas emissions rise slightly in 2013

Finalizing its 2013 report on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects an increase of 2 percent for the year, the first in three years. Looking out over the longer term, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been in a downtrend, one that the EIA expects will continue, with emissions from energy generation declining four out of the past six years since their 2007 peak.

2013 national greenhouse gas emissions will come in at slightly more than 10 percent below 2005 levels, according to an EIA press release, “a significant contribution towards the goal of a 17 percent reduction in emissions from the 2005 level by 2020 that was adopted by the current Administration.”

2013 uptick belies longer term downward trend


The EIA attributes 2013′s expected rise in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions to a small increase in coal consumption in the U.S. power sector. With U.S. natural gas prices coming off lows, electric utilities have been using more coal this past year.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reached a peak in 2007. Since then, utilities switching to cheaper natural gas from coal, along with growing use of non-hydro renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, helped drive U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to a historic low in April, 2012, when they were 12 percent below 2005 levels.

The EIA identifies key drivers of a changing U.S. energy landscape in its press release:

  • Weak economic growth in recent years, dampening growth in energy demand compared to pre-recession expectations;
  • Continuously improving energy efficiency across the economy, including buildings and transportation;
  • High energy prices over the past four years, with the exception of natural gas, since about 2010;
  • An abundant and inexpensive supply of natural gas, resulting from the widespread use of new production technologies for shale gas (i.e. fracking);
  • Power sector decarbonization since 2010, as natural gas and renewables displaced coal.

Though coal regained some market share among electric utilities in 2013, the EIA forecasts that the downtrend in national greenhouse gas emissions will continue.

Rising tide of renewables

Renewable energy supply continues to rise in the United States

In its latest “Short-term Energy Outlook,” the EIA predicts that emissions-free hydropower and non-hydropower renewables for electricity and heat generation will grow at a 4.7 percent rate in 2014. Use of hydropower to generate electricity and heat will rise 2.2 percent, while non-hydropower renewables will rise 6.1 percent.

U.S. installed wind power capacity will increase 8.8% in 2014 to reach some 66 gigawatts (GW). The EIA pegs growth in 2015 at 14.6 percent, with total installed capacity reaching 75 GW. Wind-driven electricity generation will increase 2.2% this year and 11.4% in 2015, accounting for over 5 percent of the national total.

EIA also foresees ongoing growth in capacity and use of electricity from utility and end-user solar photovoltaic and solar thermal energy sources.

The EIA doesn’t forecast “customer-sited” solar energy capacity or use, though it does expect this largest segment of the solar power market to continue to exceed that for utility-scale solar power in terms of capacity and use. The EIA does track and forecast utility-scale solar power capacity and use, however. The EIA projects that utility-scale solar will increase through 2014 and 2015, though it will account for just 0.4% of overall U.S. electricity generation.

Utility-scale solar power installations more than doubled in both 2012 and 2013, the EIA highlights. It forecasts the sector will grow another 40% or so between year-end 2013 and year-end 2015, “with photovoltaic (PV) capacity accounting for 85 percent of that growth.”

EIA also highlighted the commissioning of the 280 megawatt (MW) Solana solar thermal power plant in Arizona. Designed and built by Abengoa, Solana is the first utility-scale solar thermal, or concentrating solar, power plant to come online since 2007.

Solana is unique: it’s the only solar thermal plant in operation in the U.S. with integrated storage capacity, which enables the system to store and distribute electricity at maximum capacity for up to six hours. EIA expects more of these to come online in 2014.

All images courtesy of Energy Information Administration

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January 13 2014

23:22

Infographic: Americans Vote for Solar

Americans want residential solar

This infographic from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) underscores how Americans really feel about solar energy. Despite the misleading characterization of solar and cleantech from the likes of 60 Minuets and Fox News, Americans understand the importance of going solar and want more of it.

A recent study by BrightCurrent shows that 91 percent of those with installed solar systems would recommend going solar to their friends. The study also said that residential solar grew dramatically over the past three years, doubling in 2011 and expanding by 60 percent in 2012. According to the research, the biggest challenge for solar is not technology or cost, but how the sector is misrepresented and therefore misunderstood by the general public.

92 percent of American Voters feel it is important we develop and use more solar power

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January 10 2014

23:36

The Cleantech Revolution and 60 Minutes’ Epic Fail

60 Minutes offers an epic fail on the Cleantech sector as this chart demonstratesOn Sunday, January 5th the venerable TV news magazine 60 Minutes aired a segment called the Cleantech Crash. According to the report, the billions of dollars of government money poured into clean energy has essential come to nothing – or very little at best.

Really? At best the reportage from 60 Minutes was narrow and shallow, misrepresenting the real progress in clean energy development. At worst it represents the sort of biased, agenda-driven pablum that is the hallmark of the likes of Fox News – journalism be damned.

Leslie Stahl appeared intent in focusing on the failures, starting with Solyndra, the poster child of cleantech naysayers, which failed several years ago. That’s just lazy. The fact is that three out of four startups in any sector fail. Stahl gave only a half-hearted effort to point to any successful cleantech ventures with what writer Dana Hull called a “token throw away line about Tesla Motors.”

In fact, since the failure of Solyndra, solar and wind energy has expanded exponentially, with continued growth all but assured, bringing jobs and clean, sustainable energy to the United States.

Stahl apparently didn’t think it important to tell her viewers that the Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program has a 97 percent success rate. Hull reports that Jonathan Silver, who formally directed the DOE loan program, spoke to the segment’s producer for over an hour in preparation for the piece. On Monday, after Cleantech Crash aired, Silver tweeted about his conversation with the producer, saying that “facts did not seem to affect his analysis.”

A U.S. Department of Energy report entitled Revolution Now , published last fall, outlines four “technology revolutions that are here today,” including onshore wind, PV solar, LED lighting and electric vehicles.

In the last five years they have achieved dramatic reductions in cost1 and this has been accompanied by a surge in consumer, industrial and commercial deployment. Although these four technologies still represent a small percentage of their total market (e.g. electricity, cars and lighting), they are growing rapidly.

A big part of the success of these revolutions comes from state and federal incentives.

One can only speculate why 60 Minutes chose to misrepresent the Cleantech sector so egregiously. Clearly they have the resources and expertise to provide sound journalism. Instead they ignored the whole truth in favor of a slanted, misleading report on one of the most promising sectors in the American economy.

Fail

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January 03 2014

16:26

Top U.S. Green Economy Trends and Predictions for 2014

While the overall outlook is good, there is a mixed bag of trends, predictions and problems that will directly impact sustainability, renewable energy, greenbuilding and cleantech in 2014.

Many feel we've turned a corner in cleantech. What are the trends for the green economy in 2014?Sustainability

The year to come may prove a challenging one for sustainability. According to an Ecova report, the growth of sustainability in 2014 will be complicated by increased energy and resource prices. The report titled 2014 Energy and Sustainability Predictions: Findings from Leading Professionals is based on a survey of 500 energy and sustainability professionals.

The combination of cost cutting pressures and environmental disclosure will push firms to develop a total energy and sustainability management strategy to remain competitive and meet resource management needs, says Jeff Heggedahl, Ecova president and CEO.

A total of 70 percent of respondents predicted that water will emerge as the top sustainability initiative in 2014. The report indicates that water is percieved as a significant opportunity for savings and improvement. The survey states that water concerns are second only to energy. Ford’s 2014 Trend’s Report concurs with the Ecova assessment that water will be the priority issue this year as does a Credit Suisse report titled Water: The Next Challenge.

The Ecova report also states that benchmarking regulations will contribute to an increasingly complex environment. However, it further indicates that peer benchmarking is another area where there are opportunities to capture additional costs and energy savings.

Renewable energy

While there is both good and bad news for the U.S. renewable energy industry in 2014, overall, the skyward trend continues. As reported in Renewable Energy World, on December 20 Credit Suisse released a highly favorable report that predicted unprecedented growth for renewable energy in the US.

They attribute their bullish forecasts to a combination of state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and cost competitiveness of renewables when compared to conventional power generation including natural gas. Their report predicts that renewable energy will meet 85 percent of future power demand growth through 2025. This translates to a forecast of 100 GW of new renewable capacity with wind and solar market share more than doubling from 2012 to 2025, accounting for approximately 12 percent of US electricity generation.

Despite these positive predictions for renewable energy, a new report called America’s Power Plan points to problems associated with outdated utility business models in the U.S. As it stands now, utilities are being rewarded for building and maintaining fossil-fuel plants and this is having a deleterious effect on U.S. renewable energy. The report suggests that these problems can be addressed with the right shift in policy.

Kevin Wedman, Vice President of Power and Utilities, Bureau Veritas North America, believes that the biggest obstacle to the development of utility scale renewable energy comes from the absence of adequate transmission infrastructure to support renewable energy projects.

George Danner of the Business Laboratory indicated that he is concerned about the fact that electric utility companies use dated models to predict demand. While Brian MacCleery, Principal Product Manager, Clean Energy Technology, National Instruments, believes it’s time to reward utilities for switching to renewable energy.

Solar 

At utility scale power levels, economies of scale have driven down the cost of solar. Due in part to these price declines, the Credit Suisse report anticipates that U.S. solar will increase 11 times and account for 20 percent of the growth in renewable energy between 2012 and 2025. Higher efficiency and the declining price of technology has brought solar into the range of price parity with natural gas. The costs of solar are expected to continue falling for the next several years.

Mercom Capital Group, an Austin, TX-based clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its solar industry outlook for 2014. Their report predicts that new U.S. installations will total 6 GW in 2014 adding to the country’s current total of 10.25 GW.

The report says utility-scale projects and leased residential projects have been the main drivers of U.S. growth. With more than $3 billion in solar lease funds to finance installations, third party-financed residential installations have been the catalysts of growth in 2013.

Mercom predicts that in 2014, the U.S. will install more solar power than Germany, India, Italy and the UK. Only China and Japan are expected to install more solar energy than the U.S. in 2014.

Wind

The Credit Suisse report projects that wind power will double and account for about 80 percent of U.S. renewable energy growth from 2012 to 2025. Wind energy is becoming much less expensive and much more effective at harnessing power and making electricity.

One of the unknowns that will directly impact the future of renewables in the U.S. is the fate of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which expired at the end of 2013. It remains to be seen what Congress will do when it resumes in January. It is important to note that the PTC has been allowed to expire only to be subsequently resurrected many times in the past.

Green Building

Green building in North America will continue its strong growth in 2014. This is but one of a number of predictions made by Jerry Yudelson, an author and leading green building consultant. He attributes this growth to the confluence of commercial real estate construction along with government, university, nonprofit and school construction.

In 2014, the focus will increasingly be on the greening of existing buildings. He anticipates that we will see growing interest in energy efficiency in all types of buildings involving automation for energy efficiency using cloud-based systems. He calls 2014, “The Year of the Cloud.”

He sees zero-net-energy buildings as the next logical step for building design and development. He further predicts that there will be much more competition for LEED, including the Green Globes rating system offered by the Green Building Initiative.

Other trends that he predicts will continue are Green Building performance and disclosure, healthy building products, disclosures and declarations as well as “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern. Solar power use in buildings will also continue to grow alongside water awareness and conservation.

Cleantech

Cleantech is expected to do well in 2014. This is due to a broad cleantech recovery and the rise of crowdfunding. However, electric vehicles may not perform as well as many had hoped and there are some surprises in store for the rare earth elements (REEs) industry. These are some of the salient predictions from cleantech guru Dallas Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech research and advisory firm.

Despite some speculation to the contrary, Kachan believes the term “cleantech” will remain through 2013. He succinctly defines cleantech as shorthand for environmental and efficiency-related technology innovation.

The forecasts offered by Kachan & Co.’s 2014 cleantech predictions are far more optimistic than last year’s assessment or the year before. In 2014, they see an overall upward trend in metrics like corporate, private equity and family office investment, venture debt, project finance, mergers and acquisitions, and new innovation.

While Kachan is bullish about cleantech, he is downright negative about electric vehicles (EVs) for 2014. He anticipates slower-than-expected growth of EVs due to improving efficiency innovations for the internal combustion engine and fuel cell vehicles.

Kachan further predicts that REEs will not generate the huge returns that some had anticipated. He also suggests that this will be due to growth in REEs recycling in 2014.

Kachan’s optimistic assessment is in part derived from an earlier report which compares investments in cleantech with other technology booms. Whether we are talking about dot coms, networking, biotech or the PC, there are parrallels that bode well for the future of cleantech. In all of these technological revolutions there were periods of rapid growth that ultimately gave way to corrections, after which we saw more stable growth. This appears to be where cleantech is at in 2014.

As explained by the Kachen report, “we believe the world turned an important corner in cleantech in 2013.”
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Artis Rams, courtesy flickr

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December 27 2013

01:35

Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013

In 2013, concerned people, organizations and companies in the U.S. and around the world helped move environmental causes forward. From new legislation to the protection of habitats and ecosystems, here is a sampling of U.S. environmental achievements in 2013.

The environmental achievements  of 2013 show that we can act as good stewards of the planetEnvironmental success stories

A new study showed that a solid majority of Americans accept the reality of global warming and are calling for action on climate change.

U.S. President Obama launched the most ambitious government wide climate action plan in the history of the nation. In the summer of 2013, Obama said, “As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” The President’s Climate Action Plan includes limiting pollution from power plants, new standards for energy efficiency on public lands, doubling renewable energy, and working on leading efforts to forge international action.

The EPA’s new standards to reduce emissions from U.S. power plants are of great importance as these plants produce approximately 40 percent of American greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The U.S. joined the U.K. and the World Bank in a decision to limit financing to coal power plants around the world. The U.S. Treasury Department indicated that except for some rare circumstances, it will not finance any new coal projects.

A study published this summer suggested that global warming may have slowed somewhat over the past 15 years. The observed slow down may be at least partly attributable to a global phase out of potent greenhouse-trapping gases called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The eradication of CFCs is attributable to the Montreal Protocol. This finding can be interpreted as evidence that international agreements can be effective at reducing climate change causing GHGs.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another GHG have largely replaced CFCs and these are also being phased out. President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, forged a new historic agreement that outlines critical steps both nations will take to end the use of HFCs. Other world leaders are following suit.

The WWF highlighted a dozen environmental success stories in 2013. Here is a their summary of U.S. achievements:

  • People are getting involved with events designed to raise awareness and increase actions that will help reduce our environmental impacts. One such event was Earth Hour. On March 23, 2013, Americans joined hundreds of millions of people around the world who switched off their lights for one hour to show their commitment to the planet. American cities are among the 60 cities worldwide that are participating in the 2013 Earth Hour City Challenge. This challenge involves quantifiable actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand renewable energy, and/or increase energy efficiency.
  • The U.S. is also taking action in support of native people’s land and animal stewardship. One such initiative is the first tribal national park for Oglala Sioux in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This park will more than double the number of Bison stewarded by the tribe.
  • Responsible forest management and trade practices were adopted by International Paper. This brings the number of companies and communities involved in the WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network to 200 worldwide.
  • In Alaska, Royal Dutch Shell shelved a plan to drill for oil and gas in mammal-rich Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2013.
  • In July, U.S.-based multinational Coca-Cola renewed an agreement with the WWF through 2020 that will help to conserve the world’s freshwater resources and measurably improve Coca-Cola’s environmental performance across the company’s value chain. This includes agriculture, climate, packaging and water efficiency impacts.
  • President Obama is working to address wildlife crime including poaching and trafficking around the world and in Africa in particular.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Denver crushed six tons of illegal elephant ivory tusks, trinkets and souvenirs. This event highlighted U.S. intolerance to ivory trafficking and wildlife crime.

Here is a summary of the Sierra Club’s list of 10 clean energy success stories in 2013.

  • The American Electric Power announced it would add enough wind energy to power 200,000 homes in Oklahoma while providing substantial savings to customers.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed into law new legislation that will double the state’s renewable energy standard. Under the new law, 20 percent of the state’s energy will from clean sources.
  • In Minnesota, comprehensive legislation passed the state legislature that will boost the state’s solar electricity from 13 megawatts (MW) to 450 MW by 2020. This represents an increase of more than 1,200 percent.
  • Facebook announced that its Altoona, Iowa data center will be fully powered by wind by early 2015 due to a 138 megawatt wind farm in Wellsburg.
  • Nebraska’s huge wind potential is being tapped after Governor Dave Heineman signed progressive wind energy legislation.
  • The Nevada state legislature passed legislation to retire the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant and bring an end to the importing of coal power from Arizona. The state will also expand local clean energy development.
  • California’s growing solar industry reached a major milestone with more than 150,000 homes and businesses with rooftop solar installations.
  • Environmental groups and Georgia’s Tea Party teamed up to create the Green Tea Coalition. The group pushed for the Georgia Public Service Commission to approve Georgia Power’s proposal to retire 20 percent of its coal plants and add 525 MW of solar power to Georgia by 2016.
  • The Long Island Power Authority is investing in 100 MW of new solar power on the island, and they have plans to add an additional 280 MW of renewable energy. This is the single largest investment in renewable energy in New York history. New York City also announced a 10 MW project at Staten Island’s Freshkills Park, once known as the world’s largest landfill.
  • Maryland is moving forward with clean energy legislation known as the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 and Prince George’s County Council voted to require renewable energy in all new and renovated governmental facilities.

The Wilderness Society is at the forefront of efforts to protect forests, parks, refuges and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Here is thier summary of their environmental success stories for 2013.

  • President Obama designated 5 new national monuments in March.
  • California’s Pinacles National Park, was upgraded from national monument status.
  • Washington state legislature passed a bill that protects 50,000 acres of land in the Teanaway River Valley, east of Seattle.
  • Sensitive areas in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska gained protection from oil and gas drilling when the Department of the Interior issued a final management plan that will protect 11 million acres of “Special Areas.” The BLM also announced a strategic plan to clean up more than 130 abandoned oil and gas well sites.
  • Utah’s red rock lands were protected by a federal judge who struck down a management plan that prioritized off-roading over Utah’s wildlands.
  • Yosemite National Park was removed from a logging bill after a public outcry.
  • A ban on new uranium mining was upheld by the court’s ruling on the Greater Grand Canyon
  • In Montana a bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is moving forward. The bill will add 67,000 acres to protected areas in that state’s eastern fringe of the existing Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas.
  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is safe for another year despite repeated efforts by Governor  Parnell (R-AK) to launch seismic testing to search for oil and gas in the refuge. All three of Parnell’s attempts were rejected by the Interior Department.

Taken together, these victories give us reason to hope that we are capable of acting more responsibly to defend the planet for future generations.
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Chauncey Davis, courtesy flickr

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December 24 2013

18:11

Gifts That Keep On Giving: Pledges to Mosaic’s “Put Solar On It”

Christmas and the year-end holidays mark a season of giving in the U.S. and around the world. In that spirit, Mosaic – the pioneering solar energy energy provider whose “crowdsourcing” online investment platform enables individuals to earn income by directly investing in residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) projects – is launching a campaign to “Put Solar On It.”

A 2014 New Year’s resolution campaign for the Oakland-based solar energy company, anyone can use “Put Solar On It” to pledge to put a solar PV system “on a local home, school, place of worship, business, or other property,” Mosaic explains in a press release.

Mosaic SolarPledging to Put Solar PV on a Rooftop

Mosaic’s “Put Solar On It,” New Year’s resolution campaign for 2014 has garnered some celebrity interest. Actor Mark Ruffalo, who played The Hulk in the Avengers film version of the comic books, has pledged to put a solar PV system on his children’s elementary school – Stephen Gaynor Elementary in Manhattan, NYC.

As Ruffalo explained,

“I’m helping put solar on my kids’ school to save the school money and free up resources that will be aimed at their education instead of fossil fuels. We can also demonstrate the shining future that is now within our grasp. I love that Mosaic is making it possible for all people to participate in an economy meant for all — the solar economy. We are powerful.”

In turn, the Make It Right foundation has pledged to put solar PV on a home for a family living in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. Pledges have come in from across the nation, Mosaic relates, including from Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Maui, Pittsburgh, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Woodbury, Minnesota.

With budgets tight and concerns about jobs, energy costs and its environmental impacts figuring prominently in the public media, 2013 was another record-setting year for solar energy in the U.S. As Mosaic highlights,

“In 2013, a solar installation was installed every four minutes throughout the US and the price of a solar dropped to 60 percent of 2011 prices, according to the US Solar Energy Industries Association and Greentech Media Research. The nation installed more clean energy than coal, oil, and nuclear combined, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. According to the Solar Foundation and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the solar industry is creating jobs at four times the rate of the economy at large.”

“This year, President Obama put solar panels on the White House, Mayor Bloomberg committed to putting solar on New York City’s largest landfill, and Walmart reached a solar generating capacity greater than the solar generating capacity of 38 states. On the investment side, Warren Buffet invested over $7B in solar.”

Mosaic president and “Movement” team leader Billy Parish explained that the company’s vision is “to build a powerful and purpose-driven membership community dedicated to accelerating humanity to the inevitable transition to 100% clean energy.

“In the past year, thousands of people have invested in solar through Mosaic. We’re now crowdsourcing other aspects of the solar development process. We’re building a movement to power the world with 100 percent clean energy and this movement is people powered.”

Mosaic intends to follow “Put Solar On It” with a series of announcements throughout 2014 regarding its efforts to develop and provide tools to help spur solar energy adoption and use in the U.S. and around the world. The first of these is to be an announcement of Mosaic expanding internationally to take place on January 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

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December 23 2013

23:50

Infographic: State of Solar 2013

U.S. solar market grows 30 percent in 2013

The infographic prepared by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM research reveals another banner year for solar energy in the United States. The continued growth in solar power is summed up by Shayle Kann of GTM:

“We are on the cusp of an unprecedented shift in the U.S. solar market, and by extension the entire electricity market”

The state of solar power for the US in 2013

Thanks to the EnergyCollective 

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December 10 2013

23:31

EPA Launches 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 5 released its 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan as it looks to build on four years of efforts to streamline operations, cut expenditures, and reduce waste and the carbon footprint of federal government operations.

The inaugural Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan for the federal government was produced in October 2009 in the wake of President Obama issuing Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, which set “aggressive targets for reducing waste and pollution in Federal operations by 2020,” according to an EPA press release.

The EPA launches its Strategic Sustainability Performance PlanThe Federal government’s Green Economy leadership

Strengthening the federal government’s leadership in forging a “greener,” more dynamic economic model, the President this past June launched the nation’s first Climate Action Plan.

Coincident with the release of EPA’s 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, the President on December 5 issued a Presidential Memorandum that further reduces federal government waste and pollution by setting a target of more than doubling the amount of renewable energy consumed to 20% by 2020.

The 2013 Strategic Sustainability Plan adds impetus to and seeks to realize the aims of these initiatives, providing “an overview of how the agency is saving taxpayer dollars, reducing carbon emissions, and saving energy.

“Meeting this renewable energy goal will reduce pollution in our communities, promote American energy independence, and support homegrown energy produced by American workers,” the EPA stated.

As the EPA highlighted, in just the past four years, the Obama Administration’s waste, energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives have:

  • Reduced energy use by almost 8 percent; allowing EPA to avoid $1.5 million in utility costs annually. Compared to the 2003 baseline, EPA has reduced energy by more than 25 percent
  • Used renewable energy and purchased Green Power Renewable Energy Credits equal to 100 percent of its conventional electricity use. Use of Green Power, coupled with energy conservation and fleet management efforts, reduce EPA Scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas emissions by nearly half from FY 2008 levels.
  • Reduced annual water use by more than 25 percent – that’s more than 30 million gallons per year.

The principal goals the EPA aims to achieve in the 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan include:

  • Pursuing reconstruction of key EPA research infrastructure. Projects completed at the Cincinnati, OH, A.W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center, EPA’s second largest research center, have already reduced energy use by more than 30 percent.
  • Consolidating the Research Toxicology Laboratory in Durham, NC into the Main laboratory at Research Triangle Park, NC. This project will reduce agency rent costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and result in a net reduction in EPA space without impacting research capacity.
  • Continuing work on EPA’s award winning water conservation program.

The EPA has published Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans for federal agencies online.

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December 05 2013

00:16

Diversified Renewable Energy Base Emerging in the US Northeast

A mix of renewable energy sources are emerging in the US Northeast

Renewable energy initiatives and investments in the northeastern US are producing results and paying dividends economically, socially and environmentally, according to a report from ACORE, the American Council on Renewable Energy.

Northeast region state governments have been at the leading edge of the drive to craft and implement policies to foster development and use of a distributed, diversified mix of renewable energy resources. With supportive policies in place in nearly every state in the 12-state region, the Northeast ranks second in the US for both solar and biomass power capacity. This progressive policy framework, which includes establishment of the pioneering Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is driving renewable energy deployment and driving down costs to the point where they are competitive with fossil fuel power, ACORE’s “Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” the third in a four-part series of reports on renewable energy conditions and prospects nationwide.

As the ACORE report authors highlight:

“Renewable energy is steadily becoming more cost competitive in the Northeast. Three large utilities in Massachusetts recently signed long-term contracts to purchase renewable energy at less than $0.08 per kilowatt hour, below the cost of most conventional sources. If the contracts are approved by state regulators, they would save customers between $0.75 and $1.00 a month.5 Likewise, if it doubles the amount of wind power it plans to build, the PJM Interconnection could actually reduce wholesale energy market prices and save nearly $7 million per year in the mid-2020s.”

Renewable Energy Resource Diversity: The Northeast’s Strength

“Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” ACORE

Heavily dependent on imported energy and affected by retirements of fossil fuel power plants, Northeastern states have good reason to develop and deploy local renewable energy sources, ACORE notes in its latest regional report. Supportive state and local policy initiatives are proving instrumental in helping residents, businesses and the public sector realize the economic, social and environmental benefits that renewable energy resource development, along with greater energy conservation and energy efficiency, offer.

Eleven of the 12 states profiled in the report have instituted renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that mandate power utilities increase their use of renewable energy resources. Vermont, the 12th, has instituted a standard contract program along the lines of a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT), the first of its kind in the US, ACORE highlights in its report. Established to spur clean energy and energy efficiency investments across the region and reduce the regional greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling climate change, the RGGI, is also helping fund New York’s $1 billion Green Bank, the report authors note.

With less in the way of large, utility-scale wind and solar farms, the US Northeast ranks lower overall than other regions profiled in ACORE’s “Renewable Energy in the 50 States” series. It’s comparatively strong when it comes to local, distributed renewable power capacity, as well as the diversity of renewable energy resources available, however.

“An array of policies and incentive programs, including feed-in tariffs, renewable energy credits (RECs), green banks, and rebates, support the development of renewable power, heat, and fuels in the Northeast.

“Many Northeastern states have set targets for solar energy generation, which, coupled with financial incentives, are largely responsible for driving more solar power capacity in the Northeast than in the Midwest or the Southeast. In fact, ISO New England, the regional transmission organization serving six Northeastern states, anticipates distributed generation installations within its territory to increase from 250 MW in 2012 to 2 GW by the end of 2021, with generation forecast to be mostly solar power.”

Moreover, most of the states in the region are working to produce clean energy from waste and biomass by  making use of municipal solid waste, wood waste and landfill gas. They’re also looking to produce more and make greater use of biodiesel and ethanol to reduce reliance on petroleum, an area where they have lagged other regions.

“To reduce reliance on expensive heating oil, some states, such as New Hampshire, have set goals for renewable thermal energy use. With the availability of wood waste from the forestry sector, homes in New England use wood for space heating, water heating, and cooking at nearly twice the national rate, and growth in this sector is expected to continue.”

Large-scale hydropower has and will continue to play a large role in the Northeast region’s energy mix. Meanwhile, recent developments suggest that offshore wind power could play a significant role in fueling renewable energy growth.

“The Northeast’s wind power market has grown more slowly than other regions’, but this fact could change soon,” the report authors state.

“Coastal states in the region have identified immense offshore wind power potential, and developers are in the advanced stages of planning what would be the first offshore wind projects in the country. In August 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior held the nation’s first offshore wind lease sale off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the scale of which could support enough turbines to power one million homes.”

“Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” ACORE

 

Main and featured image credit: All Earth Renewables

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November 29 2013

19:13

Geothermal Energy can be a Potential Source of Green Energy to Mitigate Global Warming

Geothermal energy has room for growth for US energy production. Overall, growth remains strong for renewable sources of energy production and electricity generation

By Stephen Roshy

Geothermal energy is one of the most exciting and cheap source of green energy. It comes from the heat generated below the surface of the earth. Geothermal energy has great potential as a source to slow down and control the increasing global warming. It is a completely natural source and is environmental friendly. Many countries including the USA, China and Japan have already started using geothermal energy for different purposes.

Geothermal energy for electricity generation

Geothermal energy can be used to generate electricity especially in those regions that are tectonically active. Geothermal energy is produced when wells are drilled down in to a geothermal reservoir that generates hot water, which is consequently converted into electricity that is used to run industrial power plants, etc. The hot water in the reservoir and steam created is the carrier of geothermal energy.

Using geothermal energy to produce electricity is environmental friendly and can help curb global warming to a certain extent. As geothermal energy doesn’t use a lot of water, which is otherwise required to generate electricity, it is a sustainable way of producing electricity for huge power plants and projects.

Geothermal energy reduces carbon footprint

Geothermal energy essentially produces no carbon dioxide, or extremely low levels of it. Carbon dioxide is known to be one of the most considerable gases that stimulate global warming. Global warming has increased with time as industries generate electricity and the waste produces lets off carbon emissions and other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Geothermal energy helps to reduce the carbon footprint hence helps to mitigate global warming.

Geothermal energy uses less land

Geothermal energy uses less land to generate energy and electricity with the help of hot water from the surface of the earth. Out of all the sources used for electricity production such as wind, hydro power, nuclear energy, solar energy, natural gas, etc, geo thermal uses the least amount of land per generated power over a period.

The use of geothermal energy has great potential to mitigate global warming as it releases the least or no amount of toxic gases that accelerate global warming and eventually have a negative effect on the habitat of the earth. The increasing use of geothermal energy in America has enabled homeowners to install geothermal heating and cooling systems in order to create a greener environment, mitigate global warming and save on thousands of dollars on bills and costs in the end. Many companies provide geothermal systems for homes to ensure hot and cold water is available at all times. Find out more about the nuts and bolts of geothermal systems.

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Author Bio: Stephen Roshy is a professional writer and he writes quality and informative content on Ground Source Contractors. You can find him on Facebook , Twitter and Google+

 

The post Geothermal Energy can be a Potential Source of Green Energy to Mitigate Global Warming appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 20 2013

20:36

The Benefits Of Converting A Pool To Solar Power

The benefits of converting you pool to solar power are manyBy Grant Weaver

A pool can add tremendous value and create joy for your family, but the costs of an indoor or outdoor pool may be equally tremendous. Neil Anderson Associates calculates the cost of heating a 5 feet deep, 525-square foot pool between one hundred dollars in the summer time and one thousand dollars in the winter. If you want to cut down on the costs of your pool heating bills, solar panels may be the ideal solution for hefty utility fees.

Solar Vs Gas

A gas pool heater may be less expensive than filter and chemicals, but this does not make it cheap. The Department of Energy suggests that most heaters may run about two thousand dollars if the pool is not adequately covered. Solar Swim calculates that it takes around half a million BTUs of energy to heat a pool, which is about the energy requirements of an entire house. By installing a solar grid, you can cut down on the energy output by a huge amount.

Buying Solar

According to Solar Heating For Dummies, a single 4×20 foot solar panel costs a little over two hundred dollars, a steep discount from a decade ago. What’s more, most pool supply stores sell solar panels and grids, so that you need not deal with a contractor to buy and install a grid for your own pool. If you install solar grids in and around your pool, you need only worry about larger objects that block the path of the sun.

Heating Efficiency

The amount of power that a solar grid creates will depend on the amount of sun that it can soak up. When you start to think of installing solar grids, plan to uproot any and all trees or shrubs around a pool that can interfere with solar collection. You can check out which areas of the country have the most sunny days in order to determine cost efficiency. The National Renewable Energy Laboratories created a graphic that shows which areas of the country get the highest yields; the southwest and Great Plains states rank highest, while the Pacific northwest and Alaska rank lowest.

Energy Efficiency For A Pool

In addition to installing a solar grid, pool owners can take other steps to cut down on the amount of energy their pool requires. The pool covering as well as its liners will minimize the heat lost and ensure better efficiency. PoolProducts.com inground liners cut down on the heat loss of a pool by insulating the water from the cold cement. What’s more, you can install these liners yourself and save money in the process.

The post The Benefits Of Converting A Pool To Solar Power appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 01 2013

14:19

U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013

The U.S> solar industry makes great strides in 2013The U.S. solar industry has logged one of the strongest quarters ever and it has already eclipsed last year’s record breaking growth. The U.S. is riding the crest of a solar tsunami that is sweeping around the planet. Declining photovoltaic (PV) prices along with attractive incentives in Asia (Japan and China) are helping to power solar’s global growth in 2013. Around the world solar PV added 30.5 Gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in 2012 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that we will see 36.7 GW of additional PV capacity worldwide in 2013. The growth of solar power is so strong that it is outpacing wind energy for the first time this year.

Growth of solar 

In 2012, the U.S. brought more new solar capacity online than in the combined totals of the three previous years. In the first quarter (Q1) of 2013, solar power production was 537 megawatts (MW) of the 1,880 MW of utility power brought online. This represents about 30 percent of the new generation capacity. In Q2 Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that the U.S. installed 832 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar power which represents a 15 percent increase over Q1. This is the second largest quarter in the history of U.S. Solar. It is worth noting that these numbers reflect only the larger generating facilities and not systems on homes or small businesses.

As of the end of Q2 2013, the cumulative commercial solar deployment totaled 3,380 MW and was located at more than 32,800 facilities across the country representing an increase of more than 40 percent over 2012. According to data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as of August 2013, the U.S. had already surpassed the year end totals for utility-scale solar installations in 2012 (1,774 MW compared to 1,476 MW).

The solar electric market will have another record year in 2013, with a projected year end total of 4,400 MW of PV (which represents 30 percent growth over 2012 installation totals) and over 900 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP). Together PV and CSP total energy output is equivalent to the energy required to power 860,000 American homes. Cumulative PV capacity is projected to surpass 10 GW by years end.

Drivers of solar

The most powerful driver of solar growth is declining prices. We have seen an 11 percent decrease in PV over the past year. Over the past two years PV prices have fallen by nearly 40 percent, and over the last three years the average price of solar panels has declined by 60 percent.

Other factors are also at play and they include renewable portfolio standards and renewable energy credits that have forced utilities to add in more solar. Businesses are looking to reduce their environmental impacts and cut energy costs. Across the board solar is being accepted as an increasingly mainstream and less esoteric form of energy.

Solar is an abundant source of energy, if only 1 percent of global landmass were covered in solar panels we could power all of the world’s energy needs. Solar is also a very popular energy source in the U.S. As revealed in a 2012 poll, 92 percent of American voters support developing more solar energy.

Economy and Employment

Solar is not just good for the environment it is also a powerful economic driver. According to the Solar Foundation, as of 2012, 119,000 Americans were already employed in the solar industry, this represents a 13.2 percent increase over the preceding year.

There are a total of 6,100 businesses operating across the U.S. In 2012 the total value of solar electric installations was $11.5 billion, compared to $8.6 billion in 2011 and $6 billion in 2010.

Business

SEIA and the Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar) released their annual Solar Means Business report on October 15, they found that some of the biggest corporate entities in the U.S. Are helping to drive the growth of solar energy power production. The top 25 U.S. companies have deployed 445 megawatts of solar capacity, a 48 percent increase from one year ago.

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said solar is,  “helping to create thousands of American jobs, boost the U.S. economy and improve our environment.  At the same time, they’re reducing operating expenses, which benefits both their customers and shareholders.”

Solar proves a competitive business advantage for some of America’s largest corporations. However, it is not just well known corporate behemoths like Walmart that are getting in on the action. A restaurant called Pizza Port in California has also installed solar panels into its operation, and the chain of five restaurants and breweries, expects to reduce energy costs by as much as $30,000 annually.

“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner.’ Well, solar has turned the corner, and found itself on Main Street, USA. These companies – titans of American business – may have vastly different products, business models, and geographic locations, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one, and they are going solar in a big way,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.

Surprising States

There are several states that are well known solar players, they include California, Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina. However, as pointed out by GTM Research, there is a surprising amount of solar power anticipated from unlikely places with “hidden growth opportunities.” They include Minnesota, Virginia, Washington D.C., Louisiana and Georgia. GTM Research projects a total of over 1 GW of solar PV demand in these markets between the second half of 2013 and 2016.

Solar is providing an ever growing amount of energy to utilities, businesses and homes. Despite retrenchments due to oversupply and resultant low prices, U.S. solar will continue to shine well into the future.
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Lance Cheung, courtesy flickr

 

The post U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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