Tag Archives: renewable energy

U.S. on track to double renewable energy capacity: Biden

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. government stimulus spending has put the country on track to double renewable energy production capacity by 2012 and halve solar power costs by 2015, Vice President Joseph Biden said on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama’s stimulus spending poured $814 billion into the U.S. economy, including more than $100

Reuters – Solar panels sit on the roof of SunPower Corporation in Richmond, California March 18, 2010.

billion for science, technology and innovation projects.

With Energy Secretary Steven Chu by his side, Biden unveiled a new White House report estimating the impact of the Recovery Act funding on American innovation in transportation, renewable energy, broadband, smart electrical grids and medical research.

Biden said the stimulus funding would lead to breakthroughs in many of those areas.

“The government plants the seeds. The private sector nourishes and makes it grow,” Biden said. “And in the process, if we’re as innovative as we’ve been in the past, we launch entire new industries.”

The report outlined a goal of doubling renewable energy capacity from the 28.8 gigawatts of solar, wind and geothermal sources installed as of the end of 2008 to 57.6 GW by the end of 2011, which would be enough to power 16.7 million homes, or 55 million electric cars, for a year.

The manufacturing goal is to double the 2008 level of output of 6 GW of renewable equipment like wind turbines and solar panels to 12 GW at the end of 2011.

Solar power now accounts for less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation, while wind power produces almost 2 percent.

The cost of solar power is expected to be on par with common grid electricity by 2015, while the cost of electric car batteries is expected to fall by 70 percent between 2009 and 2015 and be competitive with common car batteries.

In May, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the U.S. stimulus money put up to 2.8 million people to work and raised U.S. gross domestic product by up to 4.2 percent, but predicted the impact would taper off in 2011 and 2012, after peaking later this year.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Walter Bagley)

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The Differences Between Clean Energy, Renewable Energy, and Alternative Energy

To many people, the differences between “alternative energy,” “renewable energy,” and “clean energy,” might not be obvious. But each term is unique and has its own individual definition. These three terms are not all exactly the same.

Alternative Energy

When we speak of alternative energy, we refer to sources of usable energy that can replace conventional energy sources (usually, without undesirable side effects). The term “alternative energy” is typically used to refer to sources of energy other than nuclear energy or fossil fuels.

Throughout the course of history, “alternative energy” has referred to different things. There was a time when nuclear energy was considered an alternative to conventional energy, and was therefore called “alternative energy.” But times have changed.

These days, a form of “alternative energy” might also be renewable energy, or clean energy, or both. The terms are often interchangeable, but definitely not the same.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is any type of energy which comes from renewable natural resources, such as wind, rain, sunlight, geothermal heat, and tides. It is referred to as “renewable” because it doesn’t run out. You can always get more of it.

People have begun to turn to this type of energy due to the rising oil prices, and the prospect that we might one day deplete available sources of fossil fuels, as well as due to concerns about the adverse effects that our conventional energy sources have on the environment.

Of all the different types of renewable energy, wind power is one which is growing in its use. The number of users who have some form of wind power installed has increased, with the current worldwide capacity being about 100 GW.

Clean Energy

“Clean energy” is simply any form of energy which is created with clean, harmless, and non-polluting methods.

Most renewable energy sources are also clean energy sources. But not all.

One such example is geothermal power. It may be a renewable energy source, but some geothermal energy processes can be harmful to the environment. Therefore, this is not always a clean energy. However there are also other forms of geothermal energy which are harmless and clean.

Clean energy makes the less impact on the environment than our current conventional energy sources do. It creates an insignificant amount of carbon dioxide, and its use can reduce the speed of global warming – or global pollution.

As you can see, alternative energy, renewable energy, and clean energy are very similar. But it is important to know that there are differences.

There are many actions which can be taken, to help reduce the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Some of these steps can be taken in your own home. Many clean energy solutions can can be easily installed, and some kits are quite affordable.

Carbon emissions and other forms of pollution are not only created by heavy industrial factories. They are created in the common household as well. Energy efficiency has become an important aspect of our lives.

It’s important to start making changes now; if we want to save our planet for our children, for the flora and fauna of the Earth, and for the future of mankind. Clean energy, to be exact, can make a big difference.

Learn more about clean, renewable, and alternative energy forms at Alternative Energy.

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Is There a Future For Compressed Air Cars?

We Must Look at Complete Life-Cycles

A new study published in Environmental Research Letters pours some cold water on those who think that compressed air cars are the future. The technology does sound very good on paper: Simpler than fuel cell vehicles and electric cars and there are no tailpipe emissions. But if you dig a bit deeper than this and look at the whole picture, the picture becomes less rosy…

The problem is that compressing air isn’t very efficient (a lot of the electrical energy used to run the compressor is lost as heat). From the ERL study:

Even under highly optimistic assumptions the compressed-air car is significantly less efficient than a battery electric vehicle and produces more greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional gas-powered car with a coal intensive power mix. However, a pneumatic-combustion hybrid is technologically feasible, inexpensive and could eventually compete with hybrid electric vehicles. […]
The life-cycle analysis of the compressed-air car, however, showed that the CAC fared worse than the BEV in primary energy required, GHG emissions, and life-cycle costs, even under our very optimistic assumptions about performance. Compressed-air energy storage is a relatively inefficient technology at the scale of individual cars and would add additional greenhouse gas emissions with the current electricity mix. In fact, the BEV outperforms the compressed-air car in every category. Uncertainty in technology specifications is considerably higher for CACs than for BEVs, adding a risk premium.

And while batteries are still being improved and new chemistries are being tried, compressed air tanks are probably not going to improve at the same rate. Advanced materials can probably help store air at a higher PSI than we do now, but the limits are probably closer than with batteries (and hypercapacitors).

This doesn’t mean that R&D on air cars should be stopped, or that they will never be a good idea. But it looks like they’ll have a limited part to play in the green(er) transportation landscape of the future.

For more on how air cars work, check out: HowStuffWorks: How the Air Car Works.

Via ERL

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada, http://www.crosspollinate.com, Treehugger, A Discovery Channel, November 23, 2009.

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Wells Fargo Forms Clean Tech Investment Group

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) became the latest in the banking community to form a clean technology investment group.

The San Francisco-based company said in a statement Wednesday that its new clean technology group will be located in Palo Alto, Calif. and will “offer customized commercial banking products and services to businesses that manufacture, market or develop clean technology products and services, such as solar and wind power, energy and water efficiency, electric and low-emission vehicles, and smart grid applications.”

Wells Fargo has already been lending money to clean-technology companies, but wanted to make this sector a priority, as Wells Fargo expects it to grow.

The bank said it has contributed $5 billion in financing for “environmentally- friendly business opportunities,” including $1.6 billion for solar and wind projects and $3 billion to support buildings constructed according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building standards.

Wells Fargo also wants to reduce its own impact on the environment. It said last month that it had implemented a company-wide goal for a 20% emissions reduction by 2018.

Puon Penn, former senior vice president of Wells Fargo Commercial Banking, will head the new group, the bank said.

The bank couldn’t be reached for comment.

Wells Fargo overall has $1.2 trillion in assets.

Shares of Wells Fargo closed up Wednesday 49 cents, or 1.73% at 28.86 on the New York Stock Exchange.

By Sari Kreiger, Dow Jones Clean Technology Insight; Sari.Kreiger@ dowjones.com

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Greening the Las Vegas Strip

The resorts along Las Vegas Boulevard sit not just in the middle of a desert, but at a crossroads where conspicuous consumption meets scarce resources.

Las Vegas wouldn’t be what it is if not for Hoover Dam and the Colorado River water impounded behind it. On average, the city receives just four inches of rainfall a year, relying instead on Lake Mead for 90 percent of its water needs.

Making matters worse, the city and surrounding region have been gripped by drought for much of the last decade. In October 1999, the elevation of Lake Mead at Hoover Dam stood at 1,212 feet; 10 years later, it barely reached 1,093, a drop of almost 120 feet.

Las Vegas also sucks up an inordinate amount of energy — in July, electricity usage hit 5,586 megawatts, a peak for 2009. Approximately 90 percent of the city’s power is generated from non-renewable resources, including oil and natural gas.

So, when it comes to sustainable design, the Strip is not likely the first place that comes to mind. The flashing lights, the flowing fountains, the air conditioning by the acre — the place doesn’t exactly scream conservation.

And yet, sheer size aside, the resorts along the Strip are actually leading the conservation charge.

Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns Bally’s, Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas, among others, has spent $60 million on conservation projects over the last six years. In Las Vegas, major efforts include a multi-resort laundry facility that cuts water use by 30 percent — despite a 40-percent increase in capacity — and a five-megawatt cogeneration plant at the Rio that generates enough electricity to power one of the hotel’s two towers.

“We’re an unusual suspect for conservation efforts,” admits Gwen Migita, Harrah’s director of corporate social responsibility. “People come here for the gaming and the experiences, so we take care of the bigger impact issues behind the scenes.”

CityCenter, MGM Mirage’s 67-acre resort complex set to open two weeks from now, was built green enough that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has declared four of its properties LEED Gold certified, its second-highest designation. The property will feature, among other things, a cogeneration plant that will provide 10 percent of electricity needs and use the waste heat to warm the resort’s water supply, low-flow fixtures that will cut indoor water usage up to 45 percent, and glass and sunshades that let in light but deflect the desert heat, cutting down on lighting and air-conditioning.

Cindy Ortega, senior vice president of energy and environmental services for MGM Mirage, said even the biggest projects can be good for the environment: “Yes, we could’ve built it smaller and stayed within the same code and had the same environmental impact. Or we could’ve pursued LEED certification, made it harder on ourselves and built it the way we did. That’s what we chose to do.”

Ultimately, the issue comes down to what constitutes true sustainability.

“Is sustainability about being less bad than you might have otherwise or is it about being regenerative?” asks Jim Nicolow, director of sustainability at the architecture firm of Lord, Aeck & Sargent. “I don’t doubt that [MGM Mirage] is making legitimate improvements to what would be practice as usual, but is developing 70 acres in the desert the direction the world needs to go?”

Philosophical debates aside, the resorts along the Strip have all made major moves to improve energy efficiency. “If they can have that spark and sizzle with less energy consumption, you get the best of both worlds,” says Mark Severts, project communications director for NV Energy, the state’s primary supplier. “It’ll still look like, ‘Wow, Las Vegas,’ but they’re not spending as much money as people think they are.”

Which, it turns out, plays directly into the idea that the Strip wastes natural resources willy-nilly. “The Strip is a place of images and illusions,” says Nicole Lise, public information coordinator for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, “but the illusion isn’t limited to the clubs and the shows; it’s also about the use of water and energy. The reality is that the resorts on the Strip only use about six percent of our water.”

As for building bigger rather than smaller, both Nicolow and Ortega agree that big projects, and by extension big business, play a crucial role in the evolving arena of sustainability.

“If you want to change markets and have a faster and more comprehensive solution, then big business is the answer,” says Ortega. “CityCenter has fundamentally moved the needle on sustainable design.”

By Rob Lovitt, MSNBC.com, November 17, 2009.

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Can Alternative Energy Save the Economy and the Climate?

BRIGHTON, Colo. – The low-carbon economy has already arrived on the windy prairie north of this fast-growing Denver ‘burb. It’s here that Danish wind-turbine giant Vestas converted 298 acres of hayfield into the West’s largest turbine factory – and turned Brighton into a magnet for “green” energy companies.

It’s part of a $1 billion investment by the company in the United States, what Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter touts as a “new energy economy.”

“We have a caseload of 56 prospects. Of those, a majority are energy-related industries,” said Raymond Gonzales, president of the Brighton Economic Development Corporation. “People are looking. They’re not slowing down. And they’re aggressively looking at the United States.”

Some say these efforts – not the upcoming Copenhagen climate treaty talks – provide the most promising route to energy independence, climate change mitigation and job creation.

Regardless of whether delegates emerge next month with a comprehensive replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, industry’s full-throttle acceleration toward a low-carbon future will continue, they say.

Vestas isn’t the only company spending millions of its capital. Several utilities are investing some $1 billion on an industrial-scale carbon capture and storage tests at coal plants in Wisconsin, West Virginia and Oklahoma. The race to perfect the batteries that will power the next generation of automobiles and buses has manufacturers in Europe, the United States and China scurrying to build plants and research centers.

“The vast majority of the utility industry (has) pretty much accepted the reality that CO2 is something they have to cope with,” said Revis James, director of the energy technology assessment center for the Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI, a California-based nonprofit that helps drive long-range development and is coordinating carbon capture experiments at coal plants in the Midwest and Southeast.

Failure in Copenhagen won’t “substantially stop what’s going to happen,” James added. “The utilities have to deal with (carbon emissions). They have to respond one way or another.”

Many business leaders and policy analysts counter the status quo – a piecemeal, federated approach to carbon and energy emissions – doesn’t carry enough of a signal to produce the revolution required of our economic and energy sectors.

Private-sector investments and regional and local government efforts to boost “green” technology are good, they say. But that’s just the down payment: The transformative change necessary to avoid the worst warming won’t come until the international community firmly sets a global standard in place.

“What you want is something sustainable, predictable and long-term,” said Roby Roberts, spokesman for Vestas Americas. “That’s what you want out of the climate rules, but that’s going to be a few years away.”

Article Continued at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=copenhagen-consequences-investments-low-carbon

Scientific American, November 13, 2009.

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Saul Griffith’s Kites Tap Wind Energy

In this brief talk, Saul Griffith unveils the invention his new company Makani Power has been working on: giant kite turbines that create surprising amounts of clean, renewable energy.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/saul_griffith_on_kites_as_the_future_of_renewable_energy.html

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