Ford EVs to come with household solar-panel option

Ford and solar-panel maker SunPower have created a solar-powered electric-car package. Buyers of Ford's electric vehicles will have an option to have SunPower's rooftop solar panels installed for about $10,000 after a federal tax rebate. The companies estimate that the 2.5-kilowatt array will generate enough juice, about 3,000 kilowatt-hours a year, to fuel acar for about 1,000 miles a month of driving. The "Drive Green for Life" program means drivers can cut the cord on fossil fuels by generating power during the day and charging at night, according to the companies. Ford plans to release an all-electric Ford Focus and its C-Max Energy plug-in hybrid in 19 states next year and in Europe in 2013.

The dangerous side of solar and wind power projects

They can look benign from a distance - solar panels glistening in the sun or turbines gently churning with the breeze to produce electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes. But building and maintaining them can be hazardous. Accidents involving wind turbines alone have tripled in the past decade, and watchdog groups fear incidents could skyrocket further - placing more workers and even bystanders in harm's way - because a surge in projects requires hiring hordes of new and often inexperienced workers. Last year, the solar industry grew 67 percent and doubled its employment in the U.S. to 100,000 workers, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The wind industry supports more than 75,000 jobs. "We're hearing about more and more incidents," said Lisa Linowes, executive director of watchdog organization Industrial Wind Action Group. "One of these days, a turbine's going to fall on someone." Many wind turbine technicians work in a bathroom-size space 20 stories above ground surrounded by high-voltage electrical equipment. Some inspect turbine blades while suspended alongside them, on sites whipped by strong winds. Components can weigh more than 90 tons.

Solar power glass house helps pump oil

The sun's energy will replace natural gas as the fuel for drawing more oil from the ground in Oman. GlassPoint Solar yesterday announced that it has signed a deal to install a 7-megawatt solar power system for Petroleum Development Oman to aid oil extraction. The solar system, which is essentially a glass house with solar concentrators, will generate the steam needed to pump oil from existing fields. In many existing oil wells, there is a substantial amount of oil underground, but it has become more expensive to pull out. In an enhanced oil recovery field, steam is pumped into wells to free that trapped oil. Typically, natural gas is burned to make the steam. GlassPoint Solar's system creates steam using trough-shaped mirrors about 20 feet wide that concentrate light onto a tube carrying water. When heated by the concentrators, the water turns to steam. The solar system will supplement Petroleum Development Oman's current natural gas system and use its steam pipeline. Using solar energy instead of natural gas will allow it to use the gas for other purposes--or export it, according to the company.  

Cleantech VC investing tanks in Q2

According to a report out on Wednesday morning from Dow Jones VentureSource, with analysis by Ernst & Young, cleantech venture capital investing dropped 44 percent to $1.1 billion, compared to the same quarter a year ago. The number of cleantech VC deals were also down by 12 percent to 68 for the quarter. Similar numbers were reported by the Cleantech Group last month, which found that cleantech VC investing had dropped by a third in the second quarter compared to the same quarter last year.  The second quarter fall follows some mixed signals for cleantech VC investing from the first quarter of the year, but also some solid signs that cleantech investors have been pulling back on new investments. While the first quarter of the year produced an almost record amount of cleantech VC funding according to numbers from the Cleantech group, a deeper dive into those numbers revealed that the bulk of those fundings were follow-on rounds for capital-intensive companies like Miasole, BrightSource, Fisker Automotive, and Bloom Energy. However, Dow Jones VentureSource reported first quarter numbers more conservatively than the Cleantech Group, at actually 8 percent lower than today’s second-quarter numbers.

Obama unveils sharp increase in auto fuel economy

Several major auto makers on Friday embraced the Obama administration's proposal to push the industry further away from once-dominant gas guzzlers to more lean and efficient vehicles. The proposal, which is the result of months of negotiations between the Obama administration and auto makers, would require the companies to reach an average fuel efficiency across their U.S. fleets of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. "This agreement on fuel standards represents the single most important step we've ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Obama said at an event announcing the new standards. Flanked by top auto maker executives, Obama said the new rules would lower the country's oil use by 2.2 million barrels a day over the next 15 years. The rules will cut more than 6 billion tons of carbon emissions for the duration of the program.

The Solar Decathlon

Here are 5 of the entries in this years Solar Decathlon for your interest and enjoyment. More to come in future issues. These students have earned the support of us all. Thanks for giving us your view of the future!

Solar Thermal 101

We've cobbled together some great factoids from the Apricus website to create this overview of Solar Thermal systems. Why are we not using this technology on every home that is exposed to the sun?

Smart Grid Communications: Layers and Players

There are a myriad of communications players (technologies) that can be deployed across the smart grid applications layers. The "best fit" technology for any one layer or overall system. The first thing to drive the communications technology decision is the objective for the system. Add in the risk profile of the company and the communications requirements start to take shape.

Biopower - Global Market Size, Feedstock Analysis, Regulations and Investment Analysis to 2020

GlobalData has released its research on the Alternative Energy Industry. Please see below for key findings from the study.

The Zebra Breakthrough

Our strategy is focused on being close to the market. For the last 25 years the photovoltaic sector has operated mainly in a horizontal fashion. Now the time for vertical integration has come, and we are well positioned for this change. With this in mind, the recent joint venture Espe-SunParc will allow Silfab to be completely involved in every segment of the downstream market, including Solar Farms.

SolarCity to offer solar-powered EV chargers

SolarCity said today that it will begin to offer installation services for solar-powered EV chargers compatible with any electric vehicle currently on the market. To do so, the company is partnering with EV charger manufacturer ClipperCreek, which will supply chargers that use the standard SAE-J1772 charge cable. Installation of a 240-volt Level II charger, which typically charges an EV battery to full capacity in about four hours, for a home or business will start at $1,500 including the price of the charger, according to SolarCity. SolarCity said the offer is not just an add-on for customers who have the company install solar panel systems, but that it's also willing to install a standalone EV charger.

DEGERenergie: Strong demand for MLD tracking in the USA

The worldwide renewable energy boom continues. Now, the euphoria has also arrived in the American solar market. This is what DEGERenergie reports from the Intersolar North America. What surprises recently is the diversity of the demand in the United States. Not only potential investors and solar park operators were interested in information about the most efficient technology DEGERenergie offers for medium and large-scale solar projects – more than ever, specific inquiries also came from individuals wanting to benefit from the advantages of MLD tracking. Michael Heck, Vice President Marketing & Sales at DEGERenergie, puts it like this: "The issue of self-supply is rapidly gaining importance – not only in Germany."

The Groupon for solar looks nationwide

A startup offering Groupon-style group discounts for solar panel roof installations is now looking to connect with potential solar customers nationwide. On Monday One Block Off the Grid (1BOG) plans to expand access to its group solar discounts, installer recommendations and solar information services to another set of almost two dozen states across the U.S. 1BOG works by using the power of the group to leverage a low-cost solar deal in certain areas. Similar to Groupon, 1BOG collects a critical mass of interested solar customers in a given area and uses the volume of people to make deals with local solar installers. Think of the service as a way for entire neighborhoods to go solar in one fell swoop.

GM, ABB rewire Volt battery for back-up power

General Motors and grid equipment supplier ABB this week showed an early version of an energy storage system using battery packs from the Chevy Volt electric car. The two companies are partnering to build a prototype which they say can be used either for large-scale grid storage or back-up power for consumers. They estimate that 33 repurposed Volt battery packs could supply 50 U.S. homes for four hours during an outage or brownout. Batteries lose their storage capacity over time, but used car batteries are still viable for grid storage. GM estimates that once used car batteries have 70 percent of their initial charge, they can still be suitable for grid storage. Finding a viable method to repurpose used EV batteries after seven to ten years of driving isn't just a question of consumer convenience and driving range. Because batteries are the most expensive component of electric cars, car companies and battery makers are trying to ways to draw more money from that asset with grid storage.

Harnessing solar power, on a small scale

No thicker than a piece of paper - because it practically is a piece of paper - a solar panel created by an MIT researcher can be shoved into a pocket or made into a paper airplane, and it will still create energy when exposed to sunlight. The trick is in the way it is made. The panel is printed like ink onto a sheet of paper. Even folded up like a letter, it retains its ability to convert light to electricity. With her colleagues, Karen Gleason, a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published a paper last week in the journal Advanced Materials, demonstrating how they created a solar panel by printing tiny, lightweight layers of electrodes and semiconductors on a piece of paper.

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