Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.



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  • Weekend Video: Obama On Climate Change At The UN
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Heats Up Over Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: Colbert Asks If “This Changes Everything”




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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge


    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here ( Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns


    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart



    Your intrepid reporter


      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.


    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Wednesday, October 01, 2014


    Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools

    September 2014 (The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association)

    Executive Summary

    The impressive and precipitous rise of the U.S. solar industry is well documented. As of the writing of this report, total installed solar electric capacity neared 16 gigawatts (GW), providing enough solar electricity to power over 3.2 million average U.S. households. By the end of 2014, this figure is expected to surpass 20 GW- more than four times the total amount of solar capacity that existed in the U.S. just three years ago. Of the more than 500,000 homes, businesses and public entities that have now installed a solar energy system, over 3,700 of those systems are located on public and private K-12 schools in the U.S.

    While thousands of schools have already realized the cost savings and other benefits of installed solar energy capacity, this opportunity is generally underutilized. The large, flat rooftops typically found on public and private K-12 school buildings throughout the United States make many of these properties excellent candidates for rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) or solar thermal systems. School parking lots can be put to productive use with solar PV canopies, which provide the added benefit of shading parked vehicles on sunny days, and tracts of vacant land on campus can be used to support modestly-sized solar PV farms.

    Taken together, this untapped potential for solar on K-12 schools is immense. If each of the more than 72,000 schools for which solar could represent a cost-effective investment were to install an average-sized system, total PV capacity on K-12 schools would reach 5.4 GW – an amount equal to more than one-third of all the solar PV capacity currently installed in the United States.

    Offsetting energy consumption with increasingly cost-competitive solar electricity, and space or water heating can deliver a significant cost savings to schools and their districts. Over time, solar can serve as a key hedge against projected increases in utility rates. As a clean energy technology, solar can provide deep reductions in greenhouse gas and criteria air pollutant emissions, helping to protect human health and the environment.

    Among its environmental attributes, solar PV on schools can also help to save water, as it uses a mere fraction of the water required to produce electricity by conventional means. Perhaps most importantly, solar installations on schools can provide teachers with a unique opportunity to teach concepts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and pique student interest in these critical subjects.

    With these observations in mind, this report was produced to: (1) help K-12 schools understand the motivations and successes of current solar schools; (2) provide insight into the basic technical and financing aspects of these systems; (3) provide the most comprehensive baseline to date of K-12 schools with solar, providing a means for tracking future solar/school installation progress, and; (4) supply prospective solar school stakeholders with actionable information and lessons learned from previous projects so they can “go solar” with greater confidence.

    Key Findings:

    • An analysis performed for this report found that 450 individual school districts could each save more than $1,000,000 over 30 years by installing a solar PV system. Of the 125,000 schools in the country, between 40,000 and 72,000 could “go solar” cost-effectively.

    • There are 3,752 K-12 schools in the United States with solar installations, meaning nearly 2.7 million students attend schools with solar energy systems.

    • The electricity generated in one year by all 3,727 PV systems represents a combined $77.8 million per year in utility bills ‒ an average of almost $21,000 per year per school. This combined energy value is roughly equivalent to 155,000 tablet computers or nearly 2,200 new teachers’ salaries per year.

    Other Findings:

    • The 3,727 PV systems at all U.S. schools with solar installations have a combined capacity of 490 megawatts (MW), and generate roughly 642,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity each year.

    • More than 3,000 of the 3,752 systems were installed in the last six years. Between 2008 and 2012, solar installations on U.S. schools experienced a compound annual growth rate of 110 percent.

    • Nearly half of the systems currently installed are larger than 50 kilowatts (kW) and 55 schools have systems that are 1 megawatt (MW) or larger. About a quarter of the PV systems at schools are smaller than 5 kW.

    • As schools system sizes increase, so too does the incidence of third-party ownership.

    • Excluding small demonstration systems, the median system size of K-12 school PV systems was found to be 89 kW (approximately equal to 18 average residential solar PV systems).

    • As with the solar industry at large, more schools are going solar as installations cost decrease.

    • The likelihood of a school having a solar energy system increases with grade level due to the correlation with school size. A larger proportion of high schools have gone solar compared with elementary or middle schools.

    • If the 72,000 schools for which solar could be a cost-effective investment were to deploy systems sized proportionally to their student body size, the combined electricity generation would offset greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking approximately 1 million passenger vehicles off the road.

    The database underpinning this report was carefully built between March 2013 and July 2014 from hundreds of public and private sources. Additional database entries were found via web searches of new articles, press releases, school websites, or other sources. To complement the quantitative information derived from the database, executive interviews were conducted with representatives from 15 existing solar schools. These interviews added a qualitative perspective to the report’s findings, capturing challenges and lessons learned from practitioners with first-hand experience in bringing solar to their schools...

    Why Are Schools Going Solar?

    Investments in solar energy provide schools with a number of benefits that appeal to a broad set of stakeholders. Facilities managers recognize the value of solar energy in providing a long-term hedge against increases in utility rates while school boards and administrators are attracted to the technology’s ability to deliver cost savings. Solar also presents teachers with a number of educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Finally, the increased use of clean energy technologies like solar can help significantly reduce emissions of pollutants that can harm human health and the environment. This section discusses schools’ motivations for going solar in greater detail and provides examples of schools that have successfully unlocked these benefits.

    Financial Stability

    One of the most frequently cited reasons schools give for going solar is the opportunity to save money. This has been largely driven by the rapid decline in system pricing over the last several years. From 2010 to the second quarter of 2014, average installed costs for commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have fallen by over 50 percent, from $6.00 to $2.97 per watt-DC (WDC)3, and it is not uncommon for PV systems to be installed in many markets for less than $2.00/WDC. In addition to this price drop, systems have become more accessible and affordable for more customers due to the increased availability of financing options, including third-party system ownership, improved availability of debt financing, and other traditional school financing vehicles such as bonds and tax-exempt lease purchases (for more on financing, see “Understand Solar Financing Options” on page 34).

    Interviews with facilities managers and school administrators across the country show that solar is providing schools with significant cost savings, which has been used to reduce electricity bills, improve education, and retain existing staff and resources in the face of budget cuts. For example, Clovis Unified School District, located just northeast of Fresno, California, funded the installation of 5.9 megawatts (MW) across 19 individual PV systems through a bond measure in 2012. Together, these systems are expected to save the district approximately $2.7 million each year, freeing up space in the district’s general fund that can be used for teacher training, new teaching materials, and facilities maintenance. At Rio Rancho High School and Cleveland High School in New Mexico, district decision makers evaluated several options for reducing utility costs (the district’s second-largest expenditure after personnel), and identified solar as offering the greatest potential for cost savings. The $200,000 in expected annual energy cost savings was originally earmarked for making improvements to existing building systems (e.g., HVAC systems, boilers, etc.), but unexpected budget cuts made it necessary to put this money toward teacher and staff salaries. In rural Utah, a small 10-kW solar energy system at Milford High School is saving this small district approximately $1,500 per year (see the case study on page 11).

    These opportunities are not just in the Southwest – schools across the country have gone solar to save money. A 39.5-kW system at Drury High School in North Adams, Massachusetts has saved the school over $16,500 since it was placed in service in the summer of 2011. While these savings may not appear significant when compared with other examples, they were enough to help the school avoid cuts to programs and teachers in the face of low tax revenues. In the Midwest, Parkway School District in St. Louis County, Missouri expects to save $1 million in avoided energy costs over the next 20 years, reducing the need to reallocate funds from other budget areas (especially those impacting educational quality) to pay utility bills as rates continue to rise over time (see case study below). The Medford Board of Education in southern New Jersey saw a similar opportunity for solar. The district’s combined 2.7 MW of solar PV systems are saving Medford $300,000 a year in utility costs, freeing up funds to help further improve the education students receive.

    As prices continue to fall toward the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative goal of $1.25/W for commercial rooftop PV systems by 2020,4 more schools will be able to leverage solar to their financial benefit. According to an original analysis produced for this report, by the end of 2015, up to 60 percent of all K-12 schools in the U.S. could be able to save money by going solar. More information about this analysis can be found in the “Massive Untapped Potential” section starting on page 25.

    Educational Opportunities

    Solar also provides schools with a much-needed means of expanding educational opportunities for STEM subjects. According to the latest results for the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA 2012), which tests 15-year-old students in 65 countries and economies worldwide (including all 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD) on proficiency in math, reading, and science, students in the U.S. performed “below average” in math and only close to the OECD average in science.5 Students in Massachusetts – one of the strongest performing states in the nation – were found to be over two years behind those in Shanghai, the top-performers in the math portion of the assessment. Looking at the math results more closely reveals that U.S. students have “particular weaknesses” in “taking real-world situations, translating them into mathematical terms, and interpreting mathematical aspects in real-world problems.”

    Solar arrays sited on K-12 schools and designed with education in mind can help students overcome these shortcomings, providing a “real-world situation” for students to sharpen their math and science skills. At Woodstock Union High School in central Vermont, Jen Stainton, a science teacher, led the effort to install a 10 kW solar PV array and has helped incorporate the system into science and math lesson plans. Students have access to system performance data in order to understand how much electricity is being produced, the amount of carbon emissions offset by the system, and how much money has been saved. The school has also incorporated a unit into its science classes designed to teach students about the physics of solar energy and how the technology compares with conventional sources of electricity. This unit incorporates lessons on system tilt angles and orientation and how changes in these variables affect system production, providing students with a real-world situation to further develop their math and science skills. Milford High School seized a unique educational opportunity that arose from complications with the tracking system installed at the school (see case study below). As part of an effort to overcome this technical issue, students devised and proposed their own engineering solutions. Though none of these solutions were ultimately implemented, this unanticipated problem provided students with a unique and valuable STEM educational experience. Finally, teachers at Drury High School plan to build on what students have learned about solar and other clean energy options in the classroom through a summer program in which students will conduct an energy audit of a local homeless shelter and make recommendations to reduce its energy consumption (see the case study on page 13).

    While solar energy has proven cross-cutting educational value that merits much more than a brief mention, there is limited discussion on the technology in the Common Core State Standards6 or the Next Generation Science Standards7 – the most widely referenced and adopted state standards. This limited acknowledgement forces educators to determine for themselves how and when to incorporate solar into their classrooms, as well as how to measure progress against a non-existent standard/benchmark.

    Additionally, any significant inclusions are likely to require exclusions – potentially creating controversy. However, for the motivated solar educator, there are many free, high-quality resources to choose from (see Appendix A for a list of resources). Some teachers have chosen to supplement their lesson plans with energy science education kits and system monitoring software. As part of the agreement with their solar PV installer, Jurupa Unified School District (CA) received a number of high-quality science kits containing PV system components, meters to measure system output, interconnection devices, and water pumps to provide students with a hands-on learning experience and use solar energy as a means of teaching key science and math topics. Still other schools arranged for installation contractors to provide solar monitoring software that students can use to learn about system production and the factors affecting performance, as well as the environmental and economic benefits of solar. Though the capabilities of these monitoring programs can vary widely, all of them provide important basic system information. Examples of monitoring platforms can be found at Drury High School,8 Carlisle High School (PA),9 and Rapoport Academy (TX).10 Environmental Protection

    In addition to economic and educational benefits, using solar energy conserves natural resources and significantly reduces emissions of pollutants that threaten human health and the environment. A 89 kW solar PV system (the median system size from The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Schools Census Database) that receives an average of 5.0 kWh/m2/day of solar radiation will produce approximately 117,000 kWh of electricity in its first year of operation. This translates into more than 80 tons of annual avoided carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the equivalent of avoiding more than 9,000 gallons of gasoline and of the amount of carbon sequestered by 66 acres of U.S. forests.11

    This amount of solar electricity will also reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions – which contribute to ground-level ozone formation and can adversely affect the human respiratory system – by 11 pounds annually. Beyond these avoided air pollution benefits, solar PV systems also use much less water per unit of electricity generated compared with conventional energy sources. Offsetting this amount of electricity with solar PV results in an annual savings of nearly 24,000 gallons of water over the same amount of production from a natural gas combined-cycle plant.

    Resiliency and Emergency Response

    An emerging trend in the use of solar energy at K-12 schools is to provide power during times of emergency or when electricity from the grid is otherwise unavailable. One notable example is the Florida Solar Energy Center’s “Sun Smart E-Shelter” program, a partnership with multiple state agencies, emergency managers, utilities and 42 school districts to install 100 emergency center systems across the state. At 10 kW each, these systems provide 1 MW worth of solar capacity combined with battery backup. Under normal conditions, these systems provide electricity directly to the schools at which they are sited. When the grid goes down, the batteries attached to these systems provide a basic level of power service to the centers.13 Solar energy in an emergency response context took the spotlight during Superstorm Sandy in late 2012.

    Midtown Community School serves the community of Bayonne, New Jersey not only as a combined elementary and middle school, but also as a community emergency evacuation center. With these dual roles in mind, the school facilities manager looked to solar not only to offset utility bills through its daily operation, but also to provide a source of backup power in the event of a loss of power from the grid. Rather than connecting the solar array to a bank of batteries to store energy until it is needed, the Midtown system was specially designed to work in tandem with the school’s diesel generator. When the grid goes down, the solar energy system automatically begins providing power to the school’s emergency systems, reducing the workload of the diesel generator and helping stretch the available supply of fuel which can be in short supply during emergencies…

    More information on these topics is available or by contacting The Solar Foundation at


    MONEY MOVING TO OCEAN WIND Investors warming up to German offshore wind plants

    Christoph Seitz (w/ Keith Weir), Sept. 25, 2014 (Reuters)

    “Germany's offshore wind parks, once seen as only for brave investors because of high costs and operational risks, are attracting fresh money after laws were passed to ensure ambitious renewables targets are met…British investment firm Laidlaw Capital bought its second German offshore wind park project two weeks ago, following a landmark German offshore wind acquisition by Canadian energy group Northland Power…[For the country's ‘Energiewende’, which moves Germany towards alternative energy sources after a decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022…Germany needs at least 20 billion euros ($26 billion) to achieve its aim of expanding offshore wind capacity to more than 10 times its present capacity by 2020…

    “As part of the country's new renewable law, investors can now look forward to guaranteed feed-in tariffs of 19.4 euro cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) over a period of eight years for offshore, better returns than for solar and onshore wind power…Simultaneously, network connections for about 7.7 GW of offshore capacity are to be built by the end of the decade, removing uncertainty over whether there will be sufficient lines to connect parks to the onshore power grid…Costs stand at about 145 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), compared with 81 euros/MWh for onshore wind and 138 euros/MWh for solar…This is expected to drop to 95 euros/MWh by 2025…less than the 100 euro/MWh seen for solar…” click here for more

    GEOTHERMAL ADVANCES Geothermal resources used to produce renewable electricity in western states

    Fred Mayes, Sept. 26 2014 (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

    “Geothermal energy…[provided] 0.4% of total U.S. generation in 2013…mostly in California but increasingly in other western states…[Virtually emissions free, dispatchable, baseload] electricity is generated from conventional geothermal resources by tapping underground reservoirs of [steam or] hot water [to generate electricity]…This process requires plants to be able to access high-temperature fluids from deep, naturally permeable rock formations…

    “…[E]nhanced geothermal systems (EGS) are engineered reservoirs created to produce energy from otherwise noneconomic geothermal resources. EGS plants fracture impermeable rock formations to access hot fluids…The high-pressure hydraulic fracturing inherent in many EGS projects has in the past caused seismic events…similar to induced seismicity caused by shale gas production…Such events are rare…[T]he U.S. Department of Energy has developed a protocol to deal with seismicity issues. EGS plants are currently being developed in several countries, and the first commercial-scale plant in the United States, the Desert Peak East pilot project in Nevada, began operating in 2013…There are currently 64 operating conventional geothermal power plants in the United States, accounting for nearly 2,700 megawatts (MW) of total capacity at the end of 2013…EIA projects that geothermal electricity generation could more than quadruple between 2012 and 2040…to over 67,000 GWh…” click here for more

    PEROVSKITE COULD BE SOLAR’S NEW SILICON New solar panels from old car batteries

    Sept. 18, 2014 (CNN)

    “Old car batteries are being converted into long-lasting solar panels by researchers at MIT. The new applications are riding the current wave of popularity with perovskite-based solar cells…Original designs for perovskite technologies use lead as part of their overall design. But this use of lead means toxic residues are leftover from its extraction…Angela Belcher and her team at MIT used recycled lead from car batteries as an alternative source of lead and as the perovskite materials are just micrometres thick, the amount of lead needed is minimal. Lead from a single car battery could produce enough solar panels to provide power for 30 households…According to the Battery council international, more than 98% of all battery lead is currently recycled, mainly into new batteries. As cars change and demand declines for new batteries, increasing demand for perovskite panels could provide a new primary outlet and further enhance the green stamp on the technology.” click here for more

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014


    Solar Power Jobs: Exploring the Employment Potential in India’s Grid-Connected Solar Market

    August 2014 (Council on Energy, Environment and Water, Natural Resources Defense Council)

    Executive Summary

    Solar energy projects create green jobs and provide a boost to India’s developing economy. In a country where keeping up with the growing population’s increasing energy demands is daunting, harnessing this clean and renewable energy source can help meet energy needs in a sustainable way while providing new economic opportunities.1 Solar photovoltaic (PV) is recognized as creating more jobs per unit of energy produced than any other energy source; thus it potentially represents a much needed solution to unemployment in the face of India’s burgeoning population and labor force.

    Currently a dearth of data exists on jobs created by the solar energy market in India. Unlike international counterparts, Indian solar companies do not report job creation numbers in press releases. An analysis of solar job creation thus far shows that this information gap needs to be addressed to reveal the full range of benefits of a successful solar PV market in India. Employment generation numbers can encourage broad political and public support for stronger solar financing and policies.

    India experienced early success with the launch of its National Solar Mission (NSM or Mission), with solar PV power’s installed capacity increasing from 17.8 megawatts (MW) in early 2010 to approximately 2,650 MW in March 2014.3

    As India ramps up its solar installations at a rapid rate during the second phase of its Mission, an opportunity exists to increase public support for this potentially transformative energy resource. One easy way to demonstrate the local benefits of clean energy is to publicize job creation numbers.

    This report examines available data about employment generation in the Indian solar sector and analyzes the results of an industry employment survey distributed to solar companies. This report also examines existing solar policies and draws connections to employment to make specific recommendations on how best to shape policies to leverage the employment opportunity presented by the solar PV market in India.

    Key Findings

    1. Solar energy creates employment opportunities in India. Based on our initial primary research, we estimated that the solar market generated 23,884 cumulative jobs in the solar industry from 2011 to 2014 (solely from commissioned projects currently producing electricity). The construction and commissioning phase generates the most employment for a PV project.

    2. India’s policy framework has led to increased solar deployment, creating jobs and increasing energy access. Smaller projects up to 5 MW in size may provide the most employment opportunities per MW. Targeted policies and clearer objectives may be more effective to accomplish diverse goals—solar deployment, job creation domestic solar manufacturing & human resource development.

    3. Companies need to support the solar market by providing their projects’ job creation numbers. By tracking and reporting solar energy jobs numbers, business and policy makers can formulate better policies and programs and demonstrate the importance of renewable energy to the local economy.

    Our research and analysis confirm that solar energy projects create many local jobs in India—both one-time jobs during the pre-commissioning construction phase and permanent operations and maintenance positions over the multi-decade life of the solar plant. Supporting the growth of the solar industry and the reporting of jobs numbers by local businesses can continue this promising trend. A robust solar market is instrumental in creating jobs in India’s developing economy in addition to providing renewable energy and increasing energy access.

    The Indian Solar Market: An Overview

    In 2010, the Indian central government launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM) to strive to make India a global leader in the solar energy market. The mission had multiple aims, including addressing India’s energy security challenges by creating a robust solar power market, and establishing India as a leader in the solar PV manufacturing industry.

    Despite significantly growing installed solar capacity in 2013 to a total of more than 2.6 gigawatts (GW), India’s solar market is slowing.5

    Delays in both NSM’s Phase 2 and state solar allocations have chilled the market. International trade disputes and anti-dumping duties on U.S. and Chinese solar imports are also contributing to the slump.6

    Even with the delays, enthusiasm for the solar market remains high. Prospective project developers submitted projects worth more than 700 MW for the 250 MW allocation for the Phase 2, Batch 1 auction in late 2013. In July 2014, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) announced a second Phase II, batch 2 auction for solar PV power.7 Ambitious plans have also been announced for four mega solar plants totalling 15,000 MW, though state government concerns may stall these plans.8

    The solar ecosystem created during the NSM’s inaugural phase is continuing to incubate industry growth. Following the renewed momentum created by Phase 2’s strong launch, now is the time for strong leadership to reenergize the domestic solar market and recognize the spectrum of benefits that could result from a robust solar market ecosystem—included much needed employment opportunities in India.


    NAT GAS, SOLAR, WIND LEAD 1H 2014 NEW BUILD Natural gas, solar, and wind lead power plant capacity additions in first-half 2014

    April Lee, September 9, 2014 (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

    “In the first six months of 2014, 4,350 megawatts (MW) of new utility-scale generating capacity came online, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration…Natural gas plants, almost all combined-cycle plants, made up more than half of the additions, while solar plants contributed more than a quarter and wind plants around one-sixth…Utility-scale capacity additions in the first half of 2014 were 40% less than…in the same period last year. Natural gas additions were down by about half, while solar additions were up by nearly 70%. Wind additions in the first half of 2014 were more than double the level in the first half of 2013…Florida added the most capacity (1,210 MW), all of it natural gas combined-cycle capacity. California, with the second-largest level of additions, added just under 1,100 MW, of which about 77% was solar and 21% was wind, with the remaining additions from natural gas and other sources. Utah and Texas combined for another 1,000 MW, nearly all of it natural gas combined-cycle capacity with some solar and wind capacity in Texas…” click here for more

    COOLER PANELS COULD HEAT UP SOLAR Solar cells that keep their cool

    Sept. 18, 2014 (CNN)

    “Solar cells can easily reach temperatures as high as 55 degrees Celsius when the sun's rays beat down on them. These racing temperatures not only reduce their efficiency when converting the sun's energy into electricity but also lower their lifespan…Shanhui Fan and his team at Stanford University have developed a layer of silica glass which is specially patterned to deflect unwanted heat radiation when added onto the surface of regular solar cells…Miniscule pyramid and cone-shaped structures are embedded into the glass and redirect any infrared radiation which causes heat, preventing the solar cells from heating up. But visible light rays can still pass through to generate electricity…The team are creating prototypes and experimenting their efficiency with hopes of demonstrating them outdoors soon.” click here for more

    OFFSHORE WIND, PROMISE AND POLITICS Renewable energy: Wind power tests the waters; The United States has plenty of strong winds offshore, but it has struggled to harness them for energy.

    Gene Russo, 24 Sept. 2014 (Nature)

    “…[In the United States], efforts to tap the power of coastal winds have gone nowhere because of environmental concerns, bureaucratic tangles and political opposition. That may soon change. Ecological studies indicate that carefully planned wind farms should not significantly harm birds or marine mammals. And business and politicians are increasingly interested in exploring and investing in offshore wind power…Including harder-to-reach deep-water sites, the offshore territory of the United States has the capacity to generate an estimated 4,200 gigawatts of electricity, enough to supply four times the nation’s current needs…

    “…Cape Wind has already broken new ground by being the first US offshore wind project to complete a major environmental assessment [and is near construction]…For developers, the big question is whether it makes economic sense…[E]xtra effort associated with meeting environmental regulations or preparing for severe storms will increase the cost of construction, at a time when wind farms have to compete with a bounty of cheap natural gas…Experts say that the environmental and technical challenges for offshore wind are surmountable. The biggest barrier at the moment is the tangled fabric of policy rules that slow projects and provide insufficient certainty for developers and investors…” click here for more

    Monday, September 29, 2014


    Two degrees of separation: ambition and reality; Low Carbon Economy Index 2014

    September (PricewaterhouseCoopers)

    Heading for four degrees?

    The PwC Low Carbon Economy Index (LCEI) calculates the rate of decarbonisation of the global economy that is needed to limit warming to 2°C. We base our analysis on the carbon budget estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for 2°C.

    Emissions per unit of GDP fell in 2013 by 1.2%, marginally better than the average decrease of 0.9% since 2000. But with such limited progress in decoupling emissions growth from GDP growth, the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running. The average annual rate of decarbonisation required for the rest of this century for us to stay within the two degree budget now stands at 6.2%. This is double the decarbonisation rate achieved in the UK during the rapid shift to gas-fired electricity generation in the nineties.

    While negotiations focus on policies to limit warming to 2°C, based on the decarbonisation rates of the last six years, we are headed for 4°C of warming in global average temperature by the end of the century, with severe consequences identified by the IPCC for ecosystems, livelihoods and economies.

    The mounting challenge of decarbonisation

    PwC’s Low Carbon Economy Index (LCEI) has looked at the progress of the G20 economies against a 2°C global carbon budget since 2009. Currently, economic growth is closely coupled with carbon emissions and increased greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations. The IPCC’s latest assessment report (AR5) has reinforced the message that, without the rapid decoupling of GDP and emissions, climate change will present widespread threats to business and society.

    AR5 sets out four carbon budgets that correspond to different degrees of warming by the end of the 21st century. The current consensus target by governments, convened under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is to limit global average temperature increase to 2°C. To meet this warming scenario (known as RCP2.6 in AR5), cumulative fossil fuel CO2 emissions between 2010 and 2100 need to be no more than 270GtC (or around 990GtCO2).

    But while all governments at the UNFCCC reiterate the goal of limiting warming to 2°C, implementation has fallen short of this goal. Current total annual energy-related emissions are just over 30 GtCO2 and still rising, a carbon ‘burn rate’ that would deplete the carbon budget for the entire century within the next 20 years. The IPCC has warned that our current trajectory will lead to warming estimated to range from 3.7 -- 4.8°C over the 21st century. It anticipates severe adverse impacts on people and ecosystems through water stress, food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts and species extinction on land and sea. At the higher levels of warming, the IPCC states that these impacts are likely to be pervasive, systemic, and irreversible.

    Against this backdrop of gloom, the decarbonisation results reported in this years’s LCEI bring a glimmer of hope, with growth in absolute emissions of only 1.8%, the slowest rate of emissions growth since 2008-2009, when carbon emissions fell as a result of the global recession. The reduction in carbon intensity is also the highest since 2008, standing at 1.2%, compared to 0.8% in 2012. Nevertheless it is still only one fifth of the decarbonisation rate required. Currently, the LCEI shows the global economy would need to cut its carbon intensity by 6.2% a year, every year from now to 2100, more than five times its current rate.

    The stakes are high

    The physical impacts of climate change will vary from country to country, and some countries may find that the impacts within its own borders are relatively limited or in some cases benign. But in a highly globalised economy, no country is likely to be spared as the impacts of climate change ripple around the world, affecting interdependent supply chains and flows of people and investment.

    Indirect impacts of climate change

    The UK, for example, will face adverse domestic impacts in the form of extreme weather events such as flooding, storms and heat waves, as well as some negative impacts on agricultural production. It is also projected to see some benefits, through increased agricultural yields for some produce, and lower winter mortality. But the international impacts of climate change to the UK could be an order of magnitude larger than domestic threats and opportunities. The UK for example, holds around £10 trillion of assets abroad, with the flow of investment by the UK into other countries exceeding £1 trillion in 2011 alone. Physical or economic damages in the countries that the UK has invested in will therefore flow back to the UK – and some of the sectors that the UK has invested in have already identified vulnerability to climate impacts, for example food and beverages, mining and power generation. Many of the UK’s largest retailers are now conducting risk assessments of long-term climate trends and the implications for their supply chains and business operations. Other sectors, such as manufacturing and financial services, could be affected by both the physical impacts of climate change and regulatory pressures on carbon-intensive assets. Extreme weather-related events beyond UK borders in the past year alone have shown that these losses can be significant.

    Progress in 2013

    In last year’s LCEI we calculated that the global economy needed to reduce carbon intensity (the amount of carbon emissions per unit of GDP) by 6.0% a year to limit warming to 2°C. Overall, we have fallen far short of the global target for the sixth successive year, achieving only a 1.2% reduction in 2013. Having failed to achieve the global decarbonisation rate of 6.0%, the global challenge we face going forward is now tougher still. The path to 2100 requires an annual global decarbonisation rate averaging 6.2%. But the global result masks striking variations in performance at the national level.

    An unexpected champion surpassed the decarbonisation target – Australia recorded a decarbonisation rate of 7.2% over 2013, putting it top of the table for the second year in a row. Three other countries – the UK, Italy and China – achieved a decarbonisation rate of between 4% and 5%. Five countries, however, increased their carbon intensity over 2013: France, the US, India, Germany and Brazil.

    One glimmer of hope lies in the performance of emerging markets, with this year seeing the reversal of an emissions trend between the G7 and E7 economies. Since LCEI analysis started, the G7 has consistently outpaced the E7 in reducing carbon intensity, but in 2013, for the first time, the E7 averaged a 1.7% reduction in carbon intensity, while the G7 managed only 0.2%. This indicates the possibility of the E7 maintaining economic growth while slowing the rate of growth in their emissions. As the main manufacturing hubs of the world, the E7 economies currently have total carbon emissions 1.5 times larger than that of the G7, a figure expected to grow. This possibility of the E7 decoupling of growth from carbon is vital for global progress towards carbon targets.

    Ups and downs: Analysing the results…Can renewables compete with coal by the 2020s?..

    Promising three degrees…How the pledges currently stack up…Commitments vs. progress by the largest emitters…Weak G7 progress towards 2020 targets…Continued rising carbon emissions from E7…Politically not scientifically driven…

    Delivering two degrees

    So what is needed?

    The international negotiations leading up to Paris 2015 are a critical chance to ensure collective agreement on targets to keep temperature increases within 2°C. The foundation of a successful deal will be a set of emissions pledges that are adequate to maintain global temperature increases below 2°C.

    The IPCC, and others such as UNEP, have estimated the required carbon emissions levels under the different concentration pathways. The IPCC’s latest report on mitigation has also put forward, based on a range of models, a possible breakdown of the carbon budget by regions14. The UN initiative referred to as the Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project also considered plausible decarbonisation pathways for 15 countries15.

    What does this look like in more detail?

    The LCEI takes these breakdowns as a basis to outline the potential reductions required by these countries, and their ongoing decarbonisation rates. The challenge is considerable.

    Overall, to stay within the global carbon budget, annual energy-related emissions by the G20 bloc need to fall by one-third by 2030 and just over half by 2050. Much of the debate in climate negotiations has centred on responsibility and how to share the burden between developed and developing countries, as defined in 1992 in the UNFCCC. Regardless of how the carbon budget is split, it is clear that both developed and emerging economies face the challenge of growing their economies whilst radically curbing emissions.

    The timeline is also unforgiving. The IPCC and others have estimated that global emissions will need to peak around 2020 to meet a 2°C budget. This means that emissions from the developed economies need to be consistently falling, and emissions from major developing countries will also have to start declining from 2020 onwards.

    Specifically, to stay within a 2°C budget, the G7 needs to further reduce its absolute carbon emissions by 44% by 2030 and 75% by 2050 compared to 2010 levels. Even if the 2020 pledges are met, this means its carbon intensity needs to fall by 5.9% from 2020 to 2030, and by 6.0% from 2030 to 2050.

    For the E7 economies, meeting the 2020 pledges is just the first step. The required carbon emissions reduction from 2020 to 2030 will have to be sharp and immediate, equivalent to a carbon intensity reduction of 8.5% per annum. If this is achieved, then further carbon intensity reductions of about 5.3% a year to 2050 could take the E7 to emission levels compatible with limiting climate change to a 2°C warming. In this case, carbon intensity levels will be comparable to those of the G7 by 2050…

    G7 (incl EU) historical energy-related emissions and targets…G7 carbon intensity reality and ambition…E7 historical energy-related emissions and targets…

    Betting on Paris 2015…Expectations and necessity…The critical role of national targets…

    Smoke signals to look for before Paris

    With timing of the essence, there are a number of developments to watch out for ahead of the climate talks in Paris 2015 that look to be preconditions of success:

    • Big footprint leadership: The outcome of the New York UN Climate Leaders’ Summit, hosted by Ban Ki-moon on September 23 2014, will be highly influential. Strong attendance by heads of state, and strong calls for increased ambition and action – whether jointly or individually – will provide legitimacy to the efforts of their negotiating teams in Lima and beyond, while encouraging governments to put forward more ambitious targets.

    • INDC pledges: The emissions reduction pledges submitted by countries by March 2015 are the building blocks of a deal. How the renewed pledges add up will shape the likely carbon emissions trajectory for the world for the next decades. These pledges can be increased after Paris, and a new UN process would likely be introduced to enable this, but the INDCs will demonstrate the short-to-medium term willingness of governments to decarbonise.

    • ‘Draft decisions’ papers: laying down the policy foundations: Specific policies, what’s in and what’s out, will be the battleground for negotiators in the next months. The more that is locked down before Paris, for example in the 2014 summit in Lima, Peru, the more likely it is that there could be an international deal. Draft decision papers that secure at least a high level policy consensus will therefore be critical. Working groups of the UNFCCC process are gearing up activities by making public some possible options for the Paris 2015 deal.

    • A change in the carbon rhetoric? Above all, as some renewables appear to approach cost parity, and as the costs of climate inaction – from flooding to food insecurity - appear to grow, the strongest determinant of success will be the broadening of the emerging recognition by both business and political leaders that taking decisive action to mitigate climate change is not a cost, it is a pre-condition for sustained economic growth.

    The next two annual UN climate summits in Lima and Paris will indicate the direction in which the world is headed on climate change. Where we are now is clear: inadequate pledges, inadequately implemented. If these four indicators above of success are met, though, the picture could start to look different. The stage is then set for one meeting to take us off the path to 4°C, beyond the present promises of 3°C, towards a policy framework for a future where warming is limited to 2°C.


    PRES SAYS YES TO CLIMATE ACTION, SENATE STUCK Obama gives good speech on climate change, and Congress shrugs

    Greg Sargent, Sept. 23, 2014 (Washington Post)

    “At the United Nations today, President Obama gave a decent speech about climate change. He hit a number of key points…[saying that climate change is ‘the most important and consequential issue of the 21st Century’ and though the science is undeniable], we are dangerously close to condemning the next generation to a future that is ‘beyond our capacity to repair’ …[and, more importantly, acknowledging that] ‘there will be interests that will be resistant to action’…[and concerns that] ‘if we act and other countries don’t, that we will be at an economic disadvantage’…[the U.S. will act but it] can only succeed in combating climate change ‘if we are joined in this effort by every nation, developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass…’

    “…And yet, because any international climate treaty requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate, the administration is reduced to exploring ways of pursuing a treaty that isn’t legally binding and wouldn’t require Senate ratification…Environmentalists have worked hard to prove that climate can matter in electoral politics, but…[the Senate] will probably be unstable and closely contested, with very narrow majorities in either direction, for years to come…” click here for more

    FLAWED NEW PLAN FOR NEW ENERGY IN CALIF Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan released

    Sammy Roth, Sept. 23, 2014 (The Desert Sun)

    “…[The 8,000 page] long-awaited Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan…could reshape the desert's energy landscape and set aside millions of acres…The plan is likely to transform how solar, wind, geothermal and transmission projects are sited across the desert. It designates zones for renewable energy development and conservation across more than 22.5 million acres of public and private land in the Mojave and Colorado/Sonoran deserts, spanning seven California counties…The plan's ‘preferred alternative’ sets aside more than 2 million acres for renewable energy development in an effort to provide space for up to 20,000 megawatts of new generation by 2040. Solar, wind and geothermal projects would be fast-tracked…[through] streamlined environmental review and permitting processes…

    “…[It also] designates more than 6.1 million acres as federal conservation lands, on top of the more than 7.6 million acres of pre-existing conservation lands within the study area. Renewable energy development would be prohibited or extremely limited in these areas…[The plan outlines] six potential roadmaps [including a preferred alternative] for land use in the desert…[Few areas were opened to new wind overall and could end wind development in the state, according to California Wind Energy Association Director Nancy Rader, while environmental groups asked if 20,000 megawatts of new renewable energy development in the desert will be needed]…” click here for more

    SOLAR PANELS GET BETTER Panels that never lose their focus

    Sept. 18, 2014 (CNN)

    "The high-cost and low efficiency of solar cells could partly be overcome with new designs by Glint Photonics which focus and capture more incoming sunlight to generate electricity…[S]elf-tracking solar concentrators can change their reflectivity depending on the direction of incoming sunlight. As the sun moves and the direction its rays come in from also changes, the concentrators track this…and remove reflectivity in just that region of their surface, enabling the light to…be concentrated and trapped to reach a solar cell…[This is usually done] with specially constructed and placed mirrors and lenses which need to be constantly moved as the sun rises and descends across the sky…Removing their need and increasing the amount of sunlight captured could dramatically reduce the cost of solar power…The design is currently a proof-of-concept and the team are working on improving efficiency…” click here for more

    Saturday, September 27, 2014

    Obama On Climate Change At The UN

    From Bloomberg News via YouTube

    Jon Stewart Heats Up Over Climate Change

    From Comedy Central

    Colbert Asks If “This Changes Everything”

    From Comedy Central

    Friday, September 26, 2014


    New Analysis Shows Global Exposure to Sea Level Rise

    Sept. 23, 2014 (Climate Central)

    “Every global shore touches the same ocean, and the ocean is rising…147 to 216 million people live on land that will be below sea level or regular flood levels by the end of the century, assuming emissions of heat-trapping gases continue on their current trend. By far the largest group — 41 to 63 million — lives in China…But even these figures may be two to three times too low, meaning as many as 650 million people may be threatened…[Using more state-of-the-art methods], we found that global elevation data led to [underestimates by a factor of 3 to 4], whereas global population data led to overestimates by a factor of 1.6 to 1.8. The net effect of global data was underestimation by a factor of 2 to 3…[That could mean] 300 to 650 million people live on land that will be submerged or exposed to chronic flooding, by 2100, under current emission trends. Higher-quality global data — and in particular, elevation data — is needed to help resolve those figures…” click here for more


    Moroccan energy farm to use GE wind turbines

    Hannah Raven, Sept. 23, 2014 (Construction Week Online)

    “General Electric Company will supply wind turbines for a renewable energy project in North Africa. Developed by Energie Eolienne du Maroc (EEM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nareva Holding, the 100MW wind farm will be located near Akhfennir, southern Morocco…The 56 wind turbines will help meet the country’s renewable energy goals, while offering EEM economic returns…The contract complements the government of Morocco’s [Renewable Energy Law and] Integrated Wind Energy Project, which aims to generate 2000MW of wind power by 2020…Authorities have earmarked $3bn for the project…The power generated by the plant is intended to support industrial companies under Morocco’s Power Purchase Agreement…Akhfennir is one of the wind farms in the first phase of the Moroccan Integrated Wind Energy project to produce over 720MW…Five new sites are being planned to utilise Morocco’s strong potential in wind power, estimated at 25,000MW…” click here for more


    India Plans an Upgrade of Its Solar-Energy Infrastructure; New Delhi to Work With State Governments to Develop Solar Parks

    Biman Mukherji, Sept. 21, 2014 (Wall Street Journal)

    “…[India’s] federal administration in New Delhi and five state governments will work to set up 25 solar parks, which could increase the total installed solar capacity by nearly 10 times nationwide to about 20,000 megawatts…At least 10 of the parks are likely to be set up over the next year, along with supporting infrastructure including transmission lines, while the remaining 15 are expected to be completed in the next four or five years…Blessed with an abundance of sunshine, India has accelerated its solar-power plan since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who oversaw one of the country's most successful solar programs in the western state of Gujarat…Solar power accounts for about 1% of India's energy mix, according to the government, and faces challenges including land acquisition. Power generation costs exceed those of thermal coal, though they have fallen sharply over the past three years. With its plans to develop solar parks, the government is betting that removing some of the pain of buying land will attract investors…” click here for more


    Masdar Buys Half Statoil Stake in U.K. Offshore Wind Farm

    Alex Morales, Sept. 24, 2014 (Bloomberg News)

    “Masdar Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co. agreed to buy half of Statoil ASA’s stake in the 402-megawatt Dudgeon wind project off the coast of eastern England as it steps up its investments in wind power…[Masdar will have] a 35 percent stake in the project valued at 525 million pounds ($860 million)…Statoil, which will operate the plant, retains a 35 percent stake, and fellow Norwegian company Statkraft AS owns the remainder…Dudgeon is the second offshore wind investment for Masdar in the U.K., where it also owns a 20 percent stake in the 630-megawatt London Array…

    “Statoil and Statkraft said on July 1 they would proceed with the 1.5 billion-pound Dudgeon project after the government awarded it a contract guaranteeing the power price the wind farm will get. Offshore construction is due to begin in 2016, with the project set for commissioning the following year…Britain is the biggest offshore wind market, with more installed turbines at sea than the rest of the world put together. The government says capacity may grow to 10 gigawatts by 2020 from about 3.6 gigawatts now, and it’s relying on the technology to help bring down emissions and meet its European Union target…” click here for more

    Thursday, September 25, 2014


    Companies Are Taking the Baton in Climate Change Efforts

    Justin Gillis Sept. 23, 2014

    "With political efforts to slow global warming moving at a tortuous pace, some of the world’s largest companies are stepping into the void, pledging more support for renewable energy, greener supply chains and fresh efforts to stop the destruction of the world’s tropical forests…Forty companies, among them Kellogg, L’Oréal and Nestlé, [just] signed a declaration…pledging to help cut tropical deforestation in half by 2020 and stop it entirely by 2030. They included several of the largest companies handling palm oil, the production of which has resulted in rampant destruction of old-growth forests, especially in Indonesia…At a United Nations climate summit in New York this week, companies are playing a larger role than at any such gathering in the past — and issuing a blizzard of promises.

    “Several environmental groups said they were optimistic that at least some of these would be kept, but they warned that corporate action was not enough, and that climate change could not be solved without stronger steps by governments…The corporate promises are the culmination of a trend that has been building for years, with virtually every major company now feeling obliged to make commitments about environmental sustainability…[Companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Cargill, and Unilever] have found that pursuing such goals can often help them cut costs, particularly for energy…” click here for more


    U.S. schools quickly climbing learning curve in solar power

    Daniel Cusick, Sept. 19, 2014 E&E Publishing

    The 3,752 solar-equipped K-12 U.S. schools’ 490 megawatts of installed capacity is the result of (1) a 53% average system price drop between 2010 and Q2 2014, (2) schools’ high daytime load and plentiful rooftop and grounds space, and (3) champions like the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the National Solar Schools Consortium, according to a new report from The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Between 40% and 60% of the 125,000 U.S. schools could profit from installing solar, the report found, and 450 U.S. school districts could each save more than $1 million over 30 years with solar, including some that could save tens of millions of dollars to invest in new teacher hires and educational materials. The National Solar Schools Consortium’s goal is to have 20,000 solar installations producing at U.S. K-12 and post-secondary schools by 2020. click here for more


    Meet Stella, the Electric Family Car That Goes 500 Miles on a Charge and Is Powered by Sunshine; We take a ride in the road-ready solar sedan built by a team of Dutch students.

    Todd Woody, Sept. 23, 2014 (TakePart)

    “…The Stella [is a tadpole-shaped electric sedan covered in and powered solely by solar modules and] can go nearly 500 miles on a single charge. That’s almost double the range of the [Tesla] Model S…[Y]ou rarely would even need to plug the car into an electrical outlet given that its 1.5 kilowatt solar array continuously charges the lithium-ion battery pack—as long as the sun is shining…A [suburban rooftop] solar panel system typically generates three to five kilowatts…

    “…[The Stella] is billed as the world’s first solar-powered family car, carrying four people in a low-slung cabin. Lift up the solar panels on the car’s fishtail trunk, and there’s room for groceries. The Stella, which has a top speed of about 75 miles per hour, is packed with high-tech novelties such as a steering wheel that expands in your hands to signal that you’re exceeding the speed limit or contracts when you’re driving too slow. To activate the turn signals, you just squeeze the appropriate side of the steering wheel…[Built by a group of students at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, the Stella] meets Dutch safety standards…[T]he team drove the car from Los Angeles to San Francisco…powered almost entirely on sunshine…” click here for more


    Solar power with a view

    Sept. 18, 2014 (CNN)

    “A new solar concentrator has been developed which can be placed over windows to create solar energy -- without obstructing your view. The most efficient solar cells to date are often colored to absorb the sun's rays more efficiently, but if made transparent they could become a lot more versatile…[B]eing developed by Richard Lunt's team at Michigan State University…[t]he solar harvesting system uses small organic molecules which absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of sunlight such as ultraviolet and near infrared. These in turn are made to 'glow' at another wavelength in the non-visible infrared which is guided to photovoltaics on the edges for conversion into electricity, whilst maintaining transparency…The technology is at an early stage and very little energy is currently converted into electricity, but it has the potential to be scaled…” click here for more

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014


    Going Local: Connecting the National Labs to their Regions for Innovation and Growth

    Scott Andes, Mark Muro, and Matthew Stepp, Sept. 2014 (Metropolitan PolicyProgram at Brookings)


    Since their inception in the 1940s, the Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories have been in the vanguard of America’s global research and development leadership. However, the national innovation system has changed in the past 70 years. Today, much technology development and application occurs in the context of synergistic regional clusters of firms, trade associations, educational institutions, private labs, and regional economic development organizations. Unfortunately, legacy operating procedures limit the DOE labs’ ability to engage fully with the regional economies in which they are located. This lack of consistent engagement with regional technology clusters has likely limited the labs’ overall contributions to U.S. economic growth.

    This brief argues that, in order to improve the impact of the national labs, DOE, states, and Congress should:

    ➤ Improve the labs as an economic asset

    ➤ Open labs to small- and medium-sized businesses

    ➤ Increase labs’ relevance to regional and metropolitan clusters

    ➤ Provide greater flexibility in oversight and funding


    U.S. economic prosperity revolves around the competitiveness of the nation’s advanced industry sector: innovation- and science-technology-engineering-mathematics (STEM) worker-intensive industries focused on advanced production and services.1 Central to the competitiveness of these critical industries is the U.S. innovation ecosystem, which functions most dynamically in U.S. metropolitan regions. Cities and their surrounding metro areas support innovation through concentrated knowledge flows, specialized workers, and dense supply chains that improve firm productivity through highly adaptive and specialized technology clusters.2 As such, the nation’s regional clusters are important sources of national problem-solving, innovation, and prosperity.

    Located throughout the country, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) 17 national labs (labs) stand as potentially pivotal institutions in many metropolitan economies and for overall national innovation, growth, and competitiveness. As centers of basic and applied technology research and development (R&D), the labs are well-positioned to serve as unique focal points for technology exchange among regional firms, universities, and economic development intermediaries. However, to date, the labs have made neither technology commercialization nor regional cluster participation a top priority.3 As a result, they have been unable to optimally connect to the broader U.S. innovation ecosystem and deliver on their responsibility to contribute to national economic growth.

    Recently, though, a number of lab system leaders—as well as policymakers—have become increasingly interested in optimizing the role of the labs as engines of national and regional growth. Congress has taken up bipartisan legislation to enhance lab flexibility when engaging with the private sector.4 Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has made lab reform a priority.5 And a congressionally-mandated commission is assessing potential areas of reform, including technology transfer, lab management, private sector engagement, and budget consolidation.6 What these developments have in common is a new recognition that regional economic development can (and ought to) be an important adjunct to- and expression of—the lab system’s larger national mission.

    In keeping with these discussions, this report describes several barriers to—and opportunities for – DOE lab engagement within regions and suggests a number of possible policy responses to improve the labs’ connections to metropolitan economies. To be sure, the current level of regional engagement varies from one lab to the next, particularly given their diverse research missions; as such, not all critiques outlined here apply universally. Nevertheless, it would be generally beneficial overall for DOE, Congress, and state governments to take steps to ensure that the entire system becomes more attentive to those economic regions where the labs are located. As they did in the years following World War II, the labs must pivot once more to embrace a new mission that includes more active engagement with regional innovation systems within which they are located. Such engagement will not substitute for the labs’ critical national mission, but will instead complement and advance it…

    Moving Forward

    Making progress on this agenda will not be easy, but it should be possible if all relevant actors are enlisted. To that end, DOE leadership, lab managers, Congress, and state and regional governments should all rethink their approach to the lab system in order to facilitate better engagement with the nation’s regional clusters.

    Many of this paper’s administrative recommendations can be addressed by DOE. In particular, DOE should clearly prioritize the economic development mission of the labs and consider system-wide incentive structures for regional engagement. DOE management is also well positioned to scale technology transfer best practices amongst labs and streamline contracting procedures to better align with the economics of small firms.

    At the same time, Congress is ultimately responsible for the funding silos that remain a binding constraint on the lab system, and will need to address them accordingly. Without better funding mechanisms that free lab managers to coordinate research efforts with regional technology clusters and work with SMEs and regional firms, the labs will likely remain inflexible and largely disconnected from their regional economies.

    For their own part, lab managers do retain significant discretion in the overall direction of lab research. Some lab operators have prioritized regional engagements and actively worked with state and regional governments to create opportunities for researchers to support local businesses. Others, by contrast, have tended to discount calls for regional collaboration, claiming each lab is too distinct to learn from system-wide best practices. Given that, progressive managers should continue to develop new ways to situate lab research within a regional economic context (and seek greater discretion to do so), while other operators should take a new look at some of the emerging best practices.

    Finally, state and local governments can do a lot to “pull” technologies out of the labs. By working with their labs to establish microlabs near local universities or business incubators, or by developing their own voucher programs, states can proactively partner with labs in their regions to amplify the exposure of lab research to the private sector.


    DOE and the national labs have a history of excellence in meeting national missions, making revolutionary scientific discoveries, and developing breakthrough technologies. However, the structures, incentives, and cultural norms that define the nation’s lab system must be updated to meet the new realities of the 21st-century innovation economy. In the years following World War II, the national labs were considered to have met their objective by producing technologically superior weapons for the United States and its allies. Yet, instead of closing their doors as war-time relics, the United States doubled down on the labs as national assets of innovation and economic advantage. Today, the labs must pivot once more to embrace the new economics of geography and engage more in the innovation systems within their home regions.



    Sept, 2014 (Rockefeller Brothers Fund)

    “…[In 2010, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF)] board of trustees approved a commitment of up to 10 percent of the endowment to investments…[in] clean energy technologies and other business strategies that advance energy efficiency, decrease dependence on fossil fuels, and mitigate the effects of climate change…Given the RBF’s deep commitment to combating climate change, the Fund is now committing to a two-step process to address its desire to divest from investments in fossil fuels. Our immediate focus will be on coal and tar sands, two of the most intensive sources of carbon emissions…[W]e are committed to reducing our exposure to coal and tar sands to less than one percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014…[We] will work with the RBF Investment Committee and board of trustees to determine an appropriate strategy for further divestment over the next few years…[O]ur divestment from fossil fuels, which is now underway, will be accomplished through a careful process of evaluating our exposure and a phased approach that proceeds as quickly as is prudent…” click here for more

    BOLD $8BIL WIND-WIRES-STORAGE PLAN Duke Energy joint venture part of $8 billion bid to supply green energy to Southern California

    John Downey, Sept. 23, 2014 (Charlotte Business Journal)

    Duke Energy’s Duke-American Transmission will join with Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, Magnum Energy, and Dresser-Rand to propose a ground-breaking $8 billion wind energy and wind storage system for the Southern California Public Power Authority. The plan calls for Duke to ante up $1.3 billion and build a 525 mile, $2.6 billion, high voltage transmission line to Utah for Wyoming wind energy-generated electricity, where an existing line can deliver the power to Los Angeles and, through California’s transmission system, across the state. Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy will build a $4 billion, 2,100-megawatt Wyoming wind farm and Pathfinder, Magnum Energy, and Dresser-Rand will build a $1.5 billion, 1,200 megawatt, 41 million cubic foot compressed air energy storage (CAES) facility in four salt formations in Utah. CAES has been used for wind energy storage in Germany since 1978 and in Alabama since 1991 and projects are planned or under construction in Texas, the UK, and Iowa but it has yet to be proven economically practical. click here for more

    CALIF TARGETS 1.5MIL 0-EMISSIONS CARS BY 2024 California Leading on Emissions as Brown Signs New Laws

    Michael B. Marois and Alison Vekshin, Sept. 23, 2014 Bloomberg BusinessWeek

    California Governor Jerry Brown signed 11 new bills into law and announced a new goal to get 1.5 million zero-emission cars on California’s roads in the next ten years. California had 709,766 hybrids in 2013, up from 337,881 in 2009, and, thanks to a $5,000 state tax rebate for electric and zero-emission cars, now has 60,988 electric vehicles, 40% of the U.S. plug-in fleet, and has spent $158 on rebates since 2010. Polls show Brown in a very strong position for re-election and an unprecedented second two-term governorship. California’s 2002 law requiring a cut in vehicle carbon dioxide after 2009 set a standard subsequently enacted by the federal government in 2012. Zero-emission vehicles are: battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel-cell-electric vehicles. click here for more