A new compressed natural gas fuel (CNG) station has opened in Orlando, Florida installed by Clean Energy Fuels. The station is located at Orlando International Airport and open to the public and will serve a range of vehicles including passenger cars to airport support vehicles to heavy-duty trucks.
“With over 57 million tourists annually, Orlando is one of the most important tourist destinations in the United States. There is a tremendous opportunity to utilize natural gas in transportation to cut emissions, improving air quality throughout the region,” said Mark Riley, vice president, Clean Energy Fuels.
The CNG station is under a 20-year lease agreement with the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. The station joins Clean Energy’s public-access CNG station located at Tampa International Airport. Clean Energy Fuels cites natural gas can cost up to $1.00 less per gallon than gas or diesel. They also cite that CNG reduces greenhouse gas emissions up to 30 percent in light-duty vehicles and 23 percent in medium to heavy-duty vehicles.
“Orlando International Airport is committed to pursuing and promoting green initiatives that reinforce our reputation as a conscientious community partner,” said Phil Brown, executive director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “This station is an important component of our sustainability effort and is an environmentally responsible way to ensure the natural beauty of Central Florida is protected for future generations.”
The Wind Vision report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is spurring reaction across the wind industry. The report describes a new scenario for wind to reach 10 percent by 2020, 20 percent by 2030, and 35 percent by 2050, and provides a road map for government and industry to get there. Wind industry executives are going on record saying they can and will deliver the goals set forth in the plan.
“We can do this and save you money by doing it,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “This definitive report provides the wind industry with aggressive targets for the growth of wind energy in America, and we stand ready to meet them. It starts with getting common-sense policies in place, so we can double U.S. wind energy in the next five years.”
In response to the report, AWEA along with the Wind Energy Foundation will set forth more than 50 industry executives and professionals to serve as ambassadors to educate Americans and elected officials about wind power benefits. In addition, over 400,000 supporters of wind energy have signed a petition calling on state and federal lawmakers to support the needed policies.
“This report documents how wind energy already provides major economic and environmental benefits to America, including protecting consumers against energy price spikes, and making deep cuts in pollution and water use,” added John Kostyack, executive director of the Wind Energy Foundation. “As wind becomes one of the country’s top sources of electricity, Wind Vision promises even bigger benefits for decades to come.”
Wind Vision envisions how consumers will immediately benefit from more stably priced energy. With more wind energy, electricity prices would be 20 percent less sensitive to fluctuations in the price of fossil fuels, the report finds. Consumers would see $280 billion in economy-wide savings from reduced natural gas prices alone. Investing in more U.S. wind turbines would pay further economic dividends, such as by creating more jobs and causing further reductions in air pollution. The up-front investment to achieve these benefits will cost electric consumers only pennies a month in the early years, the report shows. Continue reading
North Carolina installed the second most new U.S. solar power capacity in 2014 according to the report released this week, “Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review”. America’s 12th state is poised to become the first in the South to exceed 1 gigawatt (GW) of installed solar.
In 2014, North Carolina added 397 megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity, bringing its total to 953 MW – just 47 MW short of cracking the 1 GW barrier. The report also demonstrated that North Carolina’s biggest solar gains came in utility-scale installations. Of the new capacity added, 390 MW were utility scale, 4 MW were residential and 3 MW were commercial. Together, these installations represented a $652 million investment in the state in 2014.
“North Carolina is a case study of how solar works as well on the East Coast as it does on the West Coast – with the Tar Heel State now having more installed solar capacity than Oregon and Washington combined,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “To put the state’s remarkable progress in some context, the 953 MW installed today in North Carolina is more than our entire country had installed by 2007. That’s an amazing achievement.”
North Carolina’s notable solar projects include:
- Apple’s Data Center Solar Farm in Maiden was developed by SunPower. This photovoltaic (PV) project has the capacity to generate 20 MW of electricity — enough to power more than 2,200 North Carolina homes.
- At 20 MW, Capital Partners Solar Project is among the largest solar installations in North Carolina. Recently completed by SunEnergy, this PV project has enough electric capacity to power nearly 2,000 homes.
- Several large retailers in North Carolina have also gone solar, including Verizon, SAS and IKEA.
- Apple has installed one of the largest corporate PV systems in the state with 20 MW of solar capacity at its location in Maiden.
The residential market began to show some promise in 2014 with installed system prices dropping again – and down a total of 49 percent since 2010. But the big driver in the state’s solar market has been in utility-scale installations. A recent study by Duke University found that North Carolina now has 150 utility-scale solar facilities, with another 377 facilities planned. “Our assessment of the North Carolina utility-scale solar value chain finds that at least $2 billion in direct investment has been made in the state, affecting at least 4,307 direct jobs in 450 companies,” the report stated.
A new paper released from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance has found that North American utility companies focused on two sectors in 2014: advanced energy storage and solar. Analysts tracked 52 clean energy requests for proposals (RFPs) released in 2014, and found that solar dominated the field with more than 27 RFPs, and that Western states sought the most capacity. The white paper details several trends including:
- Solar dominated the market, both in capacity (1.8GW) and quantity (27 RFPs). There was also a significant amount of interest (at least 12 RFPs) in energy smart technologies, particularly energy storage.
- Western states represented the biggest region for RFPs, with 1GW being requested. The Southeast was the second-largest region in terms of capacity requested, almost all of it solar.
- Wisconsin-based Alliant made the biggest splash in capacity sought with a single RFP.
- Collectively, the US armed forces issued seven RFPs.
Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, companies issuing RFP’s.
“The data reveals particularly strong interest in energy storage,” said Will Nelson, head of analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance in North America. “Interestingly, most storage RFPs are looking for a relatively small amount of capacity, evidence that these may be initial experimental forays into a rapidly changing sector.”
Nelson said RFPs are a leading indicator for trends in the utility industry because they are solicitations issued by companies to potential vendors. The issuers of RFPs specify the products or services they are seeking. In response, bidders submit proposals, competing against each other on the basis of pricing, capabilities, and other factors. In the world of clean energy, RFPs could involve procurement for renewable electricity-generating capacity or for technologies to make the grid more flexible or resilient.
“For project sponsors and equipment vendors, RFPs are the lifeblood of their business development efforts,” added Mark Taylor, product manager for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “They also give an early but concrete glimpse into which sectors are catching the eye of the market, and about the strategic direction of utilities and other energy-consuming organizations.”
Several researchers have come a step closer to producing solar fuel using artificial photosynthesis. The Lund University team has successfully tracked the electrons’ rapid transit through a light-converting molecule. The goal of the study is to discover a way to make fuel from water using sunlight, similar to photosynthesis. Researchers around the world are attempting to borrow ideas from photosynthesis in order to find a way to produce solar fuel artificially.
“Our study shows how it is possible to construct a molecule in which the conversion of light to chemical energy happens so fast that no energy is lost as heat. This means that all the energy in the light is stored in a molecule as chemical energy,” said Villy Sundström, professor of Chemical Physics at Lund University.
Today solar energy is harnessed in solar cells and solar thermal collectors. Solar cells convert solar energy to electricity and solar thermal collectors convert solar energy to heat. However, producing solar fuel, for example in the form of hydrogen gas or methanol, requires entirely different technology. The idea is that solar light can be used to extract electrons from water and use them to convert light energy to energy rich molecules, which are the constituent of the solar fuel.
“A device that can do this – a solar fuel cell – is a complicated machine with light-collecting molecules and catalysts,” said Sundström. Continue reading
A paper recently published in the March 2015 edition of Electricity Journal argues that the value of geothermal energy as well as other baseload renewables need to be better recognized as current options for electricity. Authors Ben Matek with the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) and Karl Gawell, GEA executive director, write, “Misinformation about baseload renewables has distorted the discussion about the least-cost future renewable energy mix. There are renewable baseload power sources with generation profiles that can economically replace other retiring electricity sources megawatt for megawatt, thereby avoiding incurring additional costs from purchasing and then balancing renewable intermittent power sources with storage or new transmission.”
The article asserts that while there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the renewable energy sector will need to reevaluate the values of baseload renewables (traditionally, baseload power has been generated by nuclear, coal and natural gas) to address today’s power challenges and the dangers of climate change. These power options, argue the authors, provide numerous benefits that seem to have all but disappeared from the renewable energy conversation, including lower cost, better grid security, and a more optimal use of transmission infrastructure, they assert.
Instead of just looking at short-term least-cost criteria, broader questions need to be asked when choosing between technologies, the authors state in the article. “To determine the best path forward, a number of system-wide issues need to be addressed. First, what combination of technologies really produces lowest system-wide costs when considering emission profile and reliability? And second, what mix of electricity sources will have the lowest cost considering both replacement costs and operation and maintenance costs over a period of several decades?”
The article concludes that when a path to go forward is chosen, renewables such as geothermal power, must be in the mix. In addition, the value of diversity should be recognized and integrated into the planning process.
A new study, “Offshore Wind in Europe: Walking the tightrope to success,” finds that the European offshore wind energy industry can compete with coal and natural gas by 2023. The Ernst & Young (EY) reports states that for this to occur, however, the industry must significantly reduce costs over the next five years.
Cost savings can be achieved in several ways including deploying larger turbines to increase energy capture (9%); fostering competition between industrial players (7%); commissioning new projects (7%); and tackling challenges in the supply chain such as construction facilities and installation equipment (3%). These actions, coupled with strong, long-term regulation will enable offshore wind energy to compete.
Parallel to release of the report, three of the biggest names in offshore wind have initiated a joint declaration – called ‘United Industry‘ – as part of a commitment to reducing costs in the sector. Dong Energy, MHI Vestas and Siemens Wind Power and Renewables have pledged to undertake joint and individual actions across the whole of the value chain to deliver “major long-term and tangible advancements.”
Michael Hannibal, CEO Offshore of Siemens Wind Power and Renewables, said, “Cost reduction remains a top priority of the offshore wind industry. We need to create profitable investments for offshore projects independent of subsidies. In a united industry, all stakeholders across the whole value chain are equally responsible to contribute and deliver. Siemens takes full ownership of this challenge. If we all do that, we will win.” Continue reading
The latest U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review has been released and solar had another banner year. Newly installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity for the year reached a record 6,201 megawatts, more than 30 percent higher than in 2013. An additional 767 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) also came online during 2014. Solar accounted for 32 percent of the nation’s new generating capacity in 2014, beating out both wind energy and coal for the second year in a row. Only natural gas constituted a greater share of new generating capacity. The report was released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The solar industry broke the gigawatt (GW) level in 2011 and in 2014, 3.9 GW of utility-scale sized solar power projects came online with an additional 14 GW under contract. The commercial segment in the U.S. also first installed more than 1 GW in 2011 but has not shared the same success as the utility-scale segment. In 2014, the commercial segment installed just over 1 GW, down 6 percent from 2013. The report notes, “Many factors have contributed to this trend, ranging from tight economics to difficulty financing small commercial installations.” But GTM Research expects 2015 to be a bounce-back year for the commercial segment, highlighted by a resurgence in California.
The U.S. residential segment’s 1.2 GW in 2014 marks its first time surpassing 1 GW. Residential continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S., with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50 percent annual growth.
“Without question, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has helped to fuel our industry’s remarkable growth. Today the U.S. solar industry has more employees than tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter combined,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “Since the ITC was passed in 2006, more than 150,000 solar jobs have been created in America, and $66 billion has been invested in solar installations nationwide. We now have 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity – enough to power 4 million U.S. homes – and we’re helping to reduce harmful carbon emissions by 20 million metric tons a year. By any measurement, the ITC has been a huge success for both our economy and environment.”
GTM Research forecasts the U.S. PV market to grow 31 percent in 2015. The utility segment is expected to account for 59 percent of the forecasted 8.1 GW of PV.
According to a new report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), consumers and businesses are becoming increasingly vulnerable to higher electricity bills due to increased natural gas bills. As such, USC calls for more energy efficiency and renewable energy resources like solar and wind to be integrated into the U.S. grid. This would help insulate against economic risks tied to one energy source, while diversify the power energy mix.
“The Natural Gas Gamble,” finds that the power sector is leading the country into a danger zone by favoring natural gas over renewables and energy efficiency options.
“There’s a well-documented history of volatility in natural gas prices,” said Jeff Deyette, senior energy analyst at UCS and report co-author. “Increasing demand, extreme weather events, and uncertainties about available gas supplies can cause prices to spike dramatically. For example, last winter when the Polar Vortex brought bitter cold to much of the U.S., prices in some regions jumped 10- to 12-times higher than recent lows. Despite the recent surge in natural gas production, these trends could continue and leave consumers that rely on natural gas paying the price.”
The analysis also found that if renewables made up a much greater share of the U.S. electricity mix and were combined with investments in energy efficiency, electricity prices would stabilize and consumers would ultimately pay less for their energy. Factoring in the limit on carbon emissions and strong renewable energy and energy efficiency policies at both the federal and state levels, by 2040 renewables could make up nearly 40 percent of the electricity mix and consumers would see an annual net savings of $59 billion (in 2013 dollars).
“Businesses and shareholders may also see their bottom lines negatively affected if utilities continue to expand natural gas in their electricity mix,” Deyette added. “Cleaner-burning natural gas can help in the transition away from coal to cleaner electricity generation sources. However, simply substituting dependence on one fossil fuel for another is a dead end that ultimately limits our ability to slow climate change and safeguard consumers.”
The UCS report concludes that as the nation moves away from coal, enacting a breadth of policies to ensure a diverse supply of low-carbon power sources—made up primarily of renewable energy and energy efficiency, with a more balanced role for natural gas—would protect consumers’ pocketbooks and the environment.
The El Cielo Winery in Baja, California is soaking up the sun with the addition of a 53.9 kW solar system. The rooftop and carport system is comprised of 220 Kyocera 245 watt solar modules and is expected to offset nearly 75 percent of the winery’s energy needs, saving the between $1,000-$1,200 per month.
“The use of solar energy must be a priority not only for wineries, but also for all businesses,” said Gustavo Ortega, general director of El Cielo. “We chose Kyocera panels because of their longstanding, proven reliability and local production right here in Baja. In this way, we keep more jobs here in our own state.”
The winery and its associated restaurant have also adopted energy efficient LED lighting with automated motion sensors, thermal materials, solar tubes and reclaimed water for landscaping as further examples of how environmental impact can be minimized. Ortega said that his goal is the bring best practices to the wind industry in the U.S. and Mexico.
Solar was a crucial element for El Cielo according to Ortega. Just one year into operations, the winery is one of the region’s most popular, with a photovoltaic system that includes both rooftop panels and a carport to shade vehicles while simultaneously producing renewable energy from the region’s abundant sunshine.
“El Cielo represents best practices in the wine tourism industry, proving that being environmentally friendly can enhance a winery’s popularity and profitability,” added Cecilia Aguillon, director of marketing for Kyocera Solar Inc. “Kyocera enjoys a special relationship with Baja California, having manufactured solar modules in Tijuana for more than a decade. We’re honored to support this important project in the region.”
The Deepwater Wind Block Island project will be proceeding. Alstom, the company that will provide five Haliade 150 6MW offshore wind turbines, said they have received formal notice to proceed from the developers of the project with the announcement that the project is now fully financed. The Haliade operates without any gearbox (using direct-drive), due to its permanent-magnet generator.
“This is a major milestone and the confirmation that this project, the first commercial offshore project in the United States for Alstom, will now materialize, ” said Yves Rannou, senior vice president wind for Alstom.
Alstom will supply, install and commission the five Haliade 150 turbines for the project and provide 15 years of operations and maintenance support. The turbines, capable of producing approximately 125,000 MWh of electricity annually, will provide about 90 percent of Block Island’s power needs.
Anders Soe-Jensen, vice president of Alstom Wind Offshore added, “Securing final financing for this ambitious project is an exceptional achievement for Deepwater Wind. We believe this project will highlight both the commercial and technological viability of offshore wind in the US and we are proud to be part of the team making it happen. This is the start of a new chapter in sustainable energy for the US.”
Wind turbine, foundation and electrical interface engineering is advancing on schedule to meet Deepwater Wind’s project specifications, including installation of the five foundations during summer 2015. Located about three miles off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, the Block Island Wind Farm is scheduled for commercial service in the fourth quarter of 2016.