President Obama will call for all new federal vehicles - the government owns 600,000 of them - to run on alternative fuels after 2015, according to a preview of a major energy speech he will deliver today at Georgetown University. "We have already doubled the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet," according to a White House fact sheet released this morning. "Today, the President is calling for administrative action directing agencies to ensure that by 2015, all new vehicles they purchase will be alternative-fuel vehicles, including hybrid and electric vehicles." Obama will announce $7,500 tax cuts for consumers who purchase electric vehicles, in pursuit of White House plans to put one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. There will also be grants for communities to purchase electric vehicles and more research and development funding for battery research. The federal fleet burned more than 414 million gallons of fuel in 2010, according to the General Services Administration. The total included about 322 million gallons of gasoline, more than 75 million gallons of diesel, 8.2 gallons each of biodiesel and ethanol.
Bouncing back from the economic recession, renewable energy mergers and acquisitions are up 66 percent in 2010. The recession that crippled the economy in 2008 saw a decline in the renewable energy market. A lack of confidence in the financial sector made it excessively difficult for renewable energy projects to secure financing. However, the renewable energy economy is bouncing back, showing a boom in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in 2010. Renewable energy M&A activity spiked to 530 deals being made in 2010. This marks a dramatic increase over the 319 deals the year prior. Noteworthy deals included nuclear power generator Exelon Corp.'s $900 million acquisition of John Deere Renewables. Also, French nuclear energy company Areva SA acquired U.S. solar thermal energy company Ausra for $200 million, marking Areva SA's first move into the solar power market.The recent spike in renewable energy activity is in large part thanks to increased M&A activity in the U.S., which typically lags behind Europe in the renewable energy marketplace. The U.S. comprised 39 percent of renewable energy deals in 2010, in large part thanks to government-driven energy regulations as well as stimulus packages. The U.S. may well take the lead from Europe in renewables if the trend continues. It's not all good news, however, for the renewable energy market. 2010's M&A activity saw a 32 percent decline in overall value of transactions, falling from $48.8 billion to $33.4 billion according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Qatar has been selected as the sight of the most coveted international sporting event in the world: the World Cup. In 2022, the tiny Middle Eastern country will play host to the world's most elite athletes, but there's just one problem… temperatures in the summer exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). To keep both players and fans cool in the stadium, engineers are designing a solar power artificial solar cloud that will provide shade for the matches. Researchers at Qatar University's engineering school are designing a helium-filled airship that will move via four solar powered turbine engines (think helicopter or hovercraft). Saud Abdul Ghani, head of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Qatar University, says the "artificial cloud will move by remote control, made of 100 percent light carbonic materials, fuelled by four solar power engines and it will fly high to protect direct and indirect sun rays to control temperatures at the open playgrounds." The initial floating cloud for the 2022 World Cup will cost roughly $500,000. However, engineers predict the cloud design will be put into commercial production to be used at beaches, car parking lots and other venues, thus bringing the price down considerably.
The U.S. solar energy industry had a banner year in 2010 with the industry's total market value growing 67 percent from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6.0 billion in 2010, according to the U.S. Solar Market InsightTM: Year-in-Review 2010 released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) and GTM Research. Solar was a bright spot in the U.S. economy last year as the fastest growing energy sector, contrasting overall U.S. GDP growth of less than 3 percent. In total, 878 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) capacity and 78 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) were installed in the U.S. in 2010, enough to power roughly 200,000 homes. In addition, more than 65,000 homes and businesses added solar water heating (SWH) or solar pool heating (SPH) systems. The U.S. PV market made the most significant strides in 2010, more than doubling installation totals from 2009 according to the latest U.S. Solar Market InsightTM report. This expansion was driven by the Federal section 1603 Treasury program, completion of significant utility-scale projects, expansion of new state markets and declining technology costs. The section 1603 Treasury program helped fourth-quarter installations surge to a record 359 MW and was critical in allowing the solar industry to employ more than 93,000 Americans in 2010. Originally set to expire at the end of 2010, the 1603 Treasury program was ultimately extended through 2011. In addition, market diversification was a distinguishing characteristic of U.S. solar energy development in 2010. Sixteen states each installed more than 10 MW of PV in 2010, up from only four in 2007. The top 10 states for PV installation in 2010 were: California, New Jersey, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina and Texas.
Japan's massive earthquake, tsunami, and now nuclear disaster, is starting to shine a spotlight on just how important the country is in terms of clean energy technology, from solar to electric cars. In these early days, two initial assessments have emerged. The supply of materials and parts for solar and EVs could face serious interruptions in the short term. At the same time, the focus on Japan's partially melting nuclear reactors could also bolster solar and other renewable energy development as policymakers and investors reconsider their support of nuclear power. Japan is both a large producer and user of solar energy equipment. The country accounted for more than a fifth of the world's chip production in 2010, according to IHS iSuppli, and many of the same Japanese firms that make chips and electronic gadgets also make solar energy equipment. While factories for making the final products may not suffer serious long-term damage, they might find it difficult to get raw materials and parts in the near term, the market research firm said.
Americans' concerns over nuclear power have spiked in the wake of Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis, but how the events will affect the long-term discussion over sources of energy is still unclear. In a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted with 1,004 adults last week, about 70 percent of American's said that they are now more concerned with a nuclear disaster occurring in the U.S. In that same poll, 47 percent of respondents said they oppose construction of nuclear power plants in the U.S, compared to 44 percent who favor it. A survey done before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami found that 57 percent either strongly or somewhat supported "the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity for the U.S.," with 38 percent strongly or somewhat opposed. Support for nuclear energy peaked last year, with 62 percent voicing support. Overall, support has been over 50 percent for most of the last decade and is higher now than it was a decade ago. In its analysis, Gallup said that short-term worries over nuclear disasters may not affect Americans' support for nuclear energy over the long term. Still, a look at the media coverage and discussion during the crisis shows that the incidents have served as an unhappy reminder of the risks of nuclear energy, which will likely cause regulatory reviews of nuclear safety at a number of U.S. plants. The nuclear crisis also appears to have rekindled people's awareness of radiation and the sources of the country's energy, all of which have trade-offs.
There’s a lot of reasons why most homes in America do not have their own wind turbines — high costs, permitting issues, and just plain aesthetics. But there’s a wave of entrepreneurs trying to change that, including James Post, who has developed the SmartWind RidgeBlaster and submitted the concept to GE’s Ecomagination challenge. Watch the video (complete with music that would make the Techno Viking proud) below for a comprehensive description of the idea. It’s a wind turbine that stretches horizontally across the ridge of a gable roof, and has a diameter of 22 inches. The wind is meant to sweep up the roof through the turbines and the design is supposed to be able to utilize wind at any angle. According to GE’s materials on the concept, the customer would pay around $4,000 for a 1.8 kW, plus the cost of a 3 kW grid-tied inverter.
The world will see a significant increase in the use of geothermal as an energy source between now and 2020. That's according to a report released this week by Pike Research. The research analyst constructed several scenarios based on an estimated 10.7 gigawatts of geothermal capacity in existence throughout the world in 2010. That 10.7 gigawatts equates to about 67 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, with the U.S., which currently possesses 3.1 gigawatts of installed geothermal systems, as the world's leading user. In fact, 88 percent of the world's geothermal energy systems currently in operation are used in only eight countries, according to the report. Peter Asmus, the senior analyst on the report, emphasized that geothermal is currently one of the world's least-tapped opportunities for alternative energy. In the report's high-growth forecast, geothermal capacity increases 134 percent to 25.1 gigawatts. In the report's most conservative forecast, Pike estimated that world geothermal capacity will grow to 14.3 gigawatts by 2020.
Back in 2004, Danish wind turbine technologist, Vestas, launched its first Skyrocket sailing vessel, in an attempt to break the Outright World Speed Sailing Record. As part of this mission, the Sailrocket team has just launched its second-generation speed sailing boat from East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. According to the company, SailRocket 2 is designed to be "significantly faster than its predecessor". Over the last 15 months, Vest'as Sailrocket team has been focused on building a better, safer and - above all - faster boat at Vestas Technology R&D's facilities on the Isle of Wight. The culmination of this work was yesterday's launch of Sailrocket 2. "Since we started pursuing the Outright World Speed Sailing Record 9 years ago, the record has been raised by exactly 9 knots. The current record holders, the kite surfers, have taken it out of the reach of all the previous contenders and it is going to take a very special boat to get it back. Vestas Sailrocket 2 is a boat that aims high. The only satisfactory outcome for us is the outright record," Paul Larsen, pilot and project leader from the Sailrocket 2 team says. With the record raised to the current level, the ambitious team behind Sailrocket is even more eager to develop a boat to break the Outright World Speed Sailing Record (average speed of a craft between two points set 500 metres apart). In order to do that, conventional design has been left behind and everything is pushed to the limit.
Batteries made of lithium metal are preferred over lithium ion technology, but because lithium metal reacts with water. But it hasn't really made any sense to try to use it until now. One California-based company called PolyPlus created a lithium-water battery that is making quite a splash. The underlying technology is a bit counter-intuitive, considering lithium reacts violently with water. To get around this though, PolyPlus found a way to protect the lithium metal with a membrane, so the ions could slip through and maintain a charge. ARPA-E director Arun Mjumdar describes the new water battery technology as.. a fish in a glass tank. For demonstration purposes at the ARPA-E conference, PolyPlus put the membrane-covered lithium pack into a glass of water and showed that it could produce enough energy to make an LED light glow. The technology works like this: The battery reacts with the oxygen that is dissolved in water. And you know what? The water battery can produce 1,300 watt-hours per kilogram of electricity, according to Scientific American.
Better Place, which offers battery service for electric vehicles, opened today its first European retail station in Copenhagen, Denmark. Better Place stations offer battery swaps for electric vehicles as an alternative to waiting to recharge the batteries. Commercial stations are already running in Israel and Japan. Until now, though, Better Place had only been testing pilot stations in the U.S. and Europe. Most of the stations offer fast-charging plug-in spots for EVs, as well as battery swaps for subscribing members. The battery swap is a convenience for drivers because it takes only a minute to make the switch, according to Better Place. The swapped batteries are then recharged and used in other cars. It takes 15 to 30 minutes to recharge an EV battery pack to 80 percent capacity from a rapid-charging station depending on the vehicle.
Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. a leading wave energy technology company,announced the completion of the first of its new generation utility-scale PowerBuoy® device, the PB150. The PB150 PowerBuoy is the largest and most powerful wave power device designed by OPT to date, and builds on the Company's 15 years' innovation and in-ocean development experience of producing such systems. With a peak-rated power output of 150 kilowatts - equivalent to the energy consumption of approximately 150 homes - the PB150 is designed for use in arrays for grid-connected power generation projects worldwide. The development of the device, built and assembled at Invergordon, Scotland, has utilized the skills of local firms and represents a multi-million pound sterling investment in the region. It is currently being prepared for ocean trials at a site approximately 33 nautical miles from Invergordon, off Scotland's northeast coast. The sea trials are expected to commence as soon as weather conditions permit. The Company is seeking additional financing for the commercial utilization of the buoy after the trial phase is completed including its possible deployment at various potential sites. A second PB150 is already under construction in the US for a proposed utility-scale project in Oregon, and the Company is involved in other planned projects in Australia, Japan and Europe that may utilize the PB150.
The growth of Canada's wind energy industry is contributing to the increase in high quality jobs for Ontarians and injecting millions of dollars into communities hosting wind energy developments, Canadian Wind Energy Association president Robert Hornung said in a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade. Mr. Hornung outlined the environmental, economic, industrial development, and employment benefits wind energy developments bring to Ontario - and urged all levels of government and political parties to learn the facts about the opportunity that wind energy represents. "Wind energy is well established in many European countries and has a long history in the United States, but it's still a relatively new contributor to Canada's electricity supply," said Mr. Hornung. "Wind energy's contribution in Canada is steadily increasing - and with this growth we see the evolution of a new and vibrant industry that is delivering manufacturing jobs, revitalizing rural economies, and generating emissions-free power." Ontario is the largest market for wind energy in Canada, with 1,598 MW of installed capacity today and more than 1,500 additional MW already contracted to be built in the next few years. Last year alone, 9 new wind farms came on line in Ontario, representing about 300 MW of new installed capacity. The Ontario government announced February 24 contracts for four new wind farm projects, totaling 615 MW of coming on line around 2014.
Solyndra has found a second use for its solar collector as a shade for greenhouses. The company on Monday said that that its solar collectors, which are an array of solar cell-covered glass tubes, are being tested at agriculture research centers in Italy and the University of California, Davis. A conventional flat solar panel would block essentially all light, but Solyndra's collectors allow for light to pass through the glass tubes, which are coated with thin-film solar cells. That provides a diffused light conducive to greenhouse plant growth and allows growers to use their available space for power production, the company said. "We are pioneering this new agricultural solar solution in Italy, where extensive shaded agriculture operations combined with strong insolation and a favorable feed-in tariff are driving strong interest and demand," Clemens Jargon, the president of Solyndra in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia is the world's largest exporter of oil. But as experts and WikiLeaks previously detailed--the country's oil supply may be fast dwindling and that has made renewable energy options, such as solar, that much more appealing. Just this week the country announced that construction of its largest solar power plant will be completed by September--and this just days after WikiLeaks reports about exaggerated oil quantities from the country hit the news. "The solar market in the Gulf region is still in its infancy," said Klaus Friedl, general manager of Phoenix Solar, the firm contracted to build the new solar plant. "There is, however, a huge potential for solar power plants in Saudi Arabia." The concern over oil shortages is no longer limited to supplying foreign countries--the rate of domestic consumption in Saudi Arabia is set to triple in the next 20 years to 120 gigawatts, which means that Saudis could foreseeably consume all of their oil just for themselves. "It's really a preservation decision using solar for domestic consumption and keeping your oil for more lucrative export markets," said Vahid Fotuhi, Middle East director of BP Solar. "Right now, out of the 8 million barrels per day they produce, over 3 million barrels per day are consumed domestically, mainly for power generation. That figure is growing 8 percent per annum," said Fotuhi.
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