There's a lot going on today-primary elections, financial regulation debate, the continuing BP disaster in the Gulf, the Blumenthal kerfuffle. I hope you'll take a moment to think about something else important: energy. Let's go.
The people that brought you the post-it have turned their attention to renewable energy:
3M, the company behind Post-it among many other products, has teamed up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to rev up the development of its low cost thin film solar energy and concentrating solar energy technologies. The $7.33 million partnership, which also includes biofuels technology development, is the second big renewable energy announcement by 3M this week.
The company has also announced that will contribute its high efficiency ceramic-fiber and aluminum cables to the ambitious Desertec solar energy project, which envisions a network of solar power plants in Africa supplying renewable energy to Europe. On top of that, 3M execs had some nice things to say about the importance of having a federal government platform to help take the company’s technology to market sooner rather than later. Hey, does that mean corporate giant 3M is for, gasp, socialism?
The University of Texas San Antonio is embracing solar energy:
The University of Texas at San Antonio, led by technical experts from the College of Engineering's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and supported by engineers and project managers from the UTSA Office of Facilities, will receive $1.08 million in Department of Energy stimulus funds distributed by the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) to install solar panels on two buildings at the UTSA Main Campus.
The solar-energy grant is one of four that will enable solar panel installations in San Antonio. The City of San Antonio, St. Philip's College and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio also received funding for solar initiatives.
UTSA will install the solar panels on the roofs of the University Center's recent expansion and the Support Services Building on the Main Campus. The panels are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions up to 273,661 pounds annually, the equivalent of planting 37.2 acres of trees. They also are expected to generate 237 megawatt hours of energy, saving UTSA as much as $64,000 per year.
There have been a few discouraging polls in the wake of the BP oilpocalypse suggesting that Americans still support off shore drilling in large numbers. While this may be true, that doesn't mean the disaster has had no impact:
In what could be very good news for the nascent electric vehicle industry, a survey by the Shelton Group – which polled 1,312 consumers across the US – found that 20.1 percent of Americans say they will "reduce their gas consumption in response" to the news about the oil gushing from the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico.
The combined impact of the oil spill and recent mine disaster in WV has caused over 40 percent of Americans to think about the "human and environmental costs" associated with their own energy consumption, according to the poll.
City workers in Lodi and Santa Cruz California are receiving text messages from garbage cans. No, these workers are not lonely and in need of friends, they're being told by each "Big Belly" solar compactor/trash can when they need to be emptied.
Each Big Belly compactor costs $4,000. The city of Lodi California received stimulus money to purchase the Big Bellys and expect them to start paying for themselves in 2 to 21/2 years.
When the trash cans have compacted enough trash and are at full capacity, they send a text message to city workers that they need to be emptied. The workers can now make better use of their time without having to stop and check each can to see if its full. Philadelphia estimates it will save approximately $13 Mil. over a 10 yr period using the solar compactors.
Some high profile Big Belly customers include: Fenway Park (home of The Boston Red Sox); Boston's Faneuil Hall; Baltimore Inner Harbour; The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas; Chicago Millennium Park; Harvard University; & Walden Pond (of Henry David Thoreau fame).
More green jobs are heading to Nevada:
A solar power company plans to build a manufacturing plant in the Las Vegas area, creating about 300 jobs in what officials say is an emerging industry for Nevada.
The company, Amonix, announced the new facility at a press conference Saturday where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid showed off a solar power generating plant built by Amonix at a Southern Nevada Water Authority facility.
Could plastics be used to fuel our cars? Maybe:
Under the leadership of Yiannis Levendis from Northeastern University, distinguished professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, a team of undergraduate and graduate engineering students developed a waste combustor, which breaks down non-biodegradable plastics to create an alternative source of fuel.
Self-sustainability is the key to the double-tank combustor design. Plastic waste is first processed in an upper tank through pyrolysis, which converts solid plastic into gas. Next, the gas flows to a lower tank, where it is burned with oxidants to generate heat and steam. The heat sustains the combustor while the steam can be used to generate electric energy.
According to David Laskowski, an undergraduate student working on the team, calculations show that the new technology has the potential of replacing up to 462 million gallons of petroleum in the United States alone, if all recycled plastics were to be processed.
If you live in Ohio, or are just interested in the subject, here is a list of the various renewable energy companies in Ohio.
Windmills are coming to the Hudson County skyline:
Five 300-foot-tall windmills could soon anchor the Hudson County skyline and provide clean energy to a portion of the Port of New York and New Jersey and some local neighborhoods.
The Port Authority wants to build wind-powered turbines that will provide a combined 7.5 megawatts of electricity to support an expanded marine terminal on the Jersey City and Bayonne border.
The turbines will also provide surplus electricity that could power hundreds of homes and help the state meet its goal of supplying 200 megawatts of wind energy by 2020, Port Authority officials said Friday.
Here is a handy chart of the various state-level renewable energy standards.
Green jobs are headed to Michigan:
A123 Systems is bringing more green jobs to Michigan with a gigantic new 300,000 square foot factory for its lithium-ion batteries, thanks to a whopping $249 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The move follows a decision a few years back by A123 to start manufacturing in China.
Last August, President Obama announced $2.4 billion in grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for next-generation batteries and vehicles. With a U.S. facility, A123 may find itself in a better position to leverage additional federal grants and contracts, along with more private sector financing. International Battery made a daring move when it located its first factory in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and that is starting to pay off. Within the past few months the company, which focuses large-format batteries Li-ion batteries, has won contracts with the U.S. Army and NASA, and it just secured $35 million in private sector funding to continue scaling up the facility.
Once up to scale, the new Li-ion battery facility in Michigan will bring A123’s global assembly capacity to over 360 megawatt hours. The company has just signed new contracts with Eaton Corporation, Navistar, and Fisker Automotive so it looks like the assembly line will be humming along. As for the prospect of a healthy market for electric vehicles and new battery technology, British Petroleum’s debacle of unimaginable consequences in the Gulf of Mexico is already making more drivers take a long look at where their gasoline is coming from, which could mean that more car buyers will be willing to give electric vehicles and other alternative fuels more than a second glance the next time they go out shopping for a new car. If it says Made in the USA, so much the better.
Senator Lisa Murkowski has been a real pain in the ass as of late, both on the BP spill and climate change in general. There's been talk recently that she will soon bring up her resolution to gut the EPA's power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. I was concerned about this, but after reading this article, not so much. Bottom line: it will never pass.
Wisconsin will soon get its largest windfarm:
Crews will begin site preparation next week for the largest wind farm in Wisconsin, after state regulators finalized plans for the Glacier Hills Wind Park northeast of Madison.
We Energies of Milwaukee said it will erect 90 turbines at the wind farm, two more than it installed on its first large wind farm, near Fond du Lac, in 2008.
The cost of the Glacier Hills project came in at $367 million, utility spokesman Brian Manthey said. By comparison, the 88-turbine Blue Sky Green Field wind farm that opened two years ago cost $295 million.
So, there was once a plan to build a huge coal-fired power plant in South Dakota, named Big Stone II. The plant was scrapped for various reasons, whether it be EPA regulation or strong action from Minnesota. Well, new transmission lines had already been installed for the coal plant. Fortunately, those lines won't go to waste:
The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator has identified about 1,900 megawatts, enough to power some 500,000 homes, of potential wind projects that could jump on board an upgraded transmission system.
One project accepted into the Midwest ISO study is Dakota Wind Energy, a 300-megawatt wind farm planned for Day, Marshall and Roberts counties, just south of the North Dakota border.
"They're creating more of a backbone transmission line that will serve not just one generator but a number of wind farms in the area," said Ben Kerl, a senior wind developer with Dakota Wind Energy's managing partner National Wind LLC.
Chevron is investing in solar energy:
Chevron Energy Solutions, the clean spot on the face of oil-and-gas giant Chevron Corporation, announced on Thursday that it had broken ground on what the company says will be the largest concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) power plant in the United States.
The 1-megawatt plant is being built in Questa, New Mexico. It will consist of 175 solar panels covering 20 acres and creating enough solar electricity to power 700 New Mexico homes.
In a way, the plant represents Chevron "cleaning" up after itself. The site for the CPV array was once mined for molybdenum by the Chevron Mining Co., and is now an otherwise unusable brownfield. Brownfields and other toxic or contaminated sites in cities nationwide are prime candidates for solar arrays. Most are close to transmission lines, have plenty of exposure to sunlight and can’t be used for much else without extensive cleanup. This is why several advocacy groups are pushing to get solar power onto these sites.
Yosemite National Park is going green:
Yosemite National Park will install solar panels in June to create the largest solar energy project in the national park system.
The $4.4 million project, funded by the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act, will be installed at El Portal administration center.
It will generate approximately 800,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, resulting in a 12 percent savings on electricity, Yosemite officials said. Upon completion, the park will double the electricity produced through renewable energy for the Pacific West Region of the National Park Service, which consists of 58 sites. At 13 cents per kilowatt hour, the park is projecting a yearly savings of up to $104,000.
Solar panels will be mounted on rooftops of existing buildings and on newly-constructed shade structures.
Uh-oh. Better keep all sharp instruments away from James Inhofe:
Oklahoma, the state that gave the world Senator James "global warming is a hoax" Inhofe (R-Big Oil), has just passed a proposed 15% by 2015 Renewable Energy Standard, in the House. The Oklahoma Energy Security Act would have to pass its Senate too, to be the law. Or, as Senator Inhofe has described clean energy legislation; be "a job-killing agenda."
If it does pass the state Senate, this would make Oklahoma a trailblazer among most Southern states, in passing legislation to add clean renewable power, albeit as a "goal." The bill is unusual in that it encourages the development of natural gas, not normally considered a "renewable" source, but still one that has about half the global warming properties of coal.
In the 35 states that now have a Renewable Energy Standard (RES), greenhouse gases have been lowered, compared with states that have no legislation, and green jobs created by adding more renewable power.
Hawaii is offering incentives to embrace electric cars:
It’s been a whirlwind of EV news for Hawaii recently. As we already knew, they’ll be getting Better Place’s battery swapping technology, an electric car factory and they were just listed as one of the first areas you’ll be able to buy a Nissan LEAF when it goes on sale at the end of this year.
Now potential plug-in customers in the island nation have another huge reason to celebrate: a cash rebate worth 20% of the price of a new, highway-capable, battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle... up to $4,500 total.
So any electric vehicle over $22,500 will qualify for the full amount? I’m sold.
The state is also offering a $500 rebate towards the installation of a charging station, on top of the 50% tax credit offered by the federal government (up to $2,000 for residential and $50,000 for business).
When you combine the Hawaii rebate with the federal tax credit of $7,500, that's a $12K reduction in price. Using the LEAF as an example, with a base sales price of $32,780, you could get a fully electric ride for about $21,000.
Other states that offer incentives to buy electric cars include California ($5,000 tax credit), Oregon ($1,500 tax credit), and Georgia ($5,000 tax credit), just to name a few.