Green Gadgets for Earth Day

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with some new gadgets?

Got an email this morning from an industrious PR person touting a book called “Fool’s Return” by Lynda Chervil, “a thought leader and green technology advocate.”

Chervil, who studies the science behind green technology, says environmental awareness has ramped up production of affordable goods that can shrink individuals’ carbon footprints. She shares four devices she says would make a nice gift for Mother Earth on her day.

hybrid-lightAmong her suggestions is the HybridLight Solar Flashlight that never needs batteries, “can be charged from any light source, and they always work.”

There’s also the Bedol Water Alarm Clock. “Imagine a water-powered alarm clock that’s loud enough to scare you out of bed! Bedol’s water clocks run strictly on tap water – no batteries, no nothing else.” And the Pama Eco Navigator Satellite Navigation system that helps save gasoline by providing you with the most energy-efficient routes to your destinations, and feedback on your car’s performance.

Last but not least, the iGo Green Power Smart Wall that helps “cut the suck” of the power “vampires” that use electricity whether we’re using them or not – everything from coffee pots to laptops.

Go on – give your Mother Earth a hug today and get a green gadget!

Renewable Electricity Could Reach 16% In Five Years

According to an early release review of the Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (the final report is slated for release on April 30th) published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy could hit 16 percent of the net U.S. electrical generation by the year 2040. This includes biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. But the SUN DAY Campaign challenges these predictions by asserting this could happen in the next five years.

When reviewing EIA’s own published data for the 11-year period January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2013 revealed that the percentage of the nation’s net electrical generation Biomass pelletsrepresented by renewable energy has expanded from less than 9 percent in 2004 to nearly 13 percent in 2013. Given the relatively consistent growth trends of the past decade or longer for most renewable energy sources and their rapidly declining costs, it seems improbable that it will require another 27 years to grow from 13 percent to 16 percent according to SUN DAY Campaign. Thus, EIA’s forecast is not just unduly conservative; almost certainly, it is simply wrong.

If the trends reflected in EIA data from the past decade continue, cite the SUN DAY campaign, renewable energy sources could increase to as much as 13.5 percent of net U.S. electrical generation in 2014, to 14.4 percent in 2015, to 15.3 percent in 2016, and reach or exceed 16.0 percent no later than 2018 — i.e., within five years and not the 27 years forecast by EIA. At worst, they would reach 16 percent by 2020.

“Inasmuch as policy makers in both the public and private sectors – as well as the media and others – rely heavily upon EIA data when making legislative, regulatory, investment, and other decisions, underestimation can have multiple adverse impacts on the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, on the nation’s environmental and energy future,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Consequently, EIA is doing a serious disservice to the public by publishing analyses that are inherently inconsistent with its own historical data and near-term projections.”

The SUN DAY Campaign has published its own full 32-page report that includes the assumptions and projections made, on a technology-by-technology basis, using EIA data. In addition, following the projections provided for each technology is a listing of recent studies and news reports that offer alternative or complementary scenarios – many of which are more aggressive than those provided by the SUN DAY Campaign. These additional studies suggest that even SUN DAY’s analysis may prove to be unduly conservative.

Boy Scouts of America Go Solar

gI_120165_BoyScouts 2 CustomThe Boy Scouts of America’s Capitol Area Council, located in Austin, Texas, has gone solar. The 74.15 kW solar arrays sits atop a 31,400 foot Frank Fickett South Training and Service Center. The solar system is made up of 299 solar modules and can be partially seen from Interstate 35. The project was over seen by Meridan Solar and is expected to save approximately $360,000 in energy savings over 25 years.

For the Boy Scouts, choosing to procure solar energy was an easy choice. Raymond Gray, board president of the Capitol Area Council said, “It didn’t just make financial sense to incorporate solar power; it matched the values we have taught generations of Americans for more than 100 years and continue to believe today. It’s one thing to say we should be ‘green’, invest in new technology and be a good example; it’s another to actually do those things.”

This project was of particular significance to Meridian Solar’s President and Founder, Andrew McCalla. “This organization and its mission are close to my heart, as I am a third generation central Texas Scout. When Meridian decided to partner with the Capitol Area Council to help them capture the benefits of solar energy, I knew that this installation would have benefits well beyond that of lowering the operating costs of the Frank Fickett Center. In addition to freeing up funds to further scouting’s core mission, the installation will serve as an educational platform in the benefits or renewable resources for thousands of present and future Scouts.”

U.S. Clean Energy Struggling from Policy Uncertainty

According to research from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.S. clean energy sector continues to be buffeted by policy uncertainty with 2013 investment down 9 percent from 2012 to $36.7 billion. The annual report, “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2013,” found that steep declines in the installation of wind overshadowed a record annual deployment of 4.4 gigawatts of solar.

THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS“Lower technology prices have made the small-distributed solar market very competitive, and the United States has been a leader in developing innovative financing models that are spurring steadily increasing deployment,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s clean energy program. “We also remain a world leader in venture capital, biofuels, and energy-smart technologies, like smart meters and LED lighting. Wind, however, has been subject to the vagaries of U.S. energy policy. As Congress debates tax extenders, it should aim to level the playing field, accelerate clean energy deployment, and provide long-term certainty to investors.”

The report found in the U.S. marketplace, solar technology prices have declined 60 percent since 2011, and new financing models have spurred more than $17 billion in investment, a 7 percent increase from 2012. The U.S. continued to garner world-leading financing in the biofuels and energy efficient/low-carbon technology subsectors. It also remained the dominant recipient of public market and venture capital/private equity investment, attracting $6.8 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively.

Although wind investment was relatively stable at $14 billion, U.S. wind installations in 2013 were down more than 90 percent—from more than 13 GW in 2012 to less than 1 GW last year found the report. When the production tax credit was renewed in early 2013, slight changes in the law precipitated deferrals in deployment of new wind capacity into 2014, when a strong rebound in capacity additions was forecast. By comparison, China deployed 12.1 GW of solar and 14.1 GW of wind capacity.

The regional and global market remains dominated by China, attracting $54.2 billion, with the U.S. in second place. Japan was third with $28.6 billion. Globally, clean energy investment fell 11 percent, to $254 billion, and renewable power generating capacity additions declined by 1 percent in 2013. Overall, installed clean energy capacity reached 735 GW.

Natural Gas, Solar Account for Lion’s Share of Adds

eiaAlternative energy sources made for a good showing of new power-generating capacity added last year. This report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows more than half of the utility-scale power generating capacity added last year came from natural gas-fueled plants, with solar accounting for another 22 percent – a significant increase from just 6 percent in 2012. Wind also accounted for another 8 percent of capacity added.
EIAapriladds
Natural gas capacity additions were … 6,861 MW … added in 2013, compared to 9,210 MW in 2012. The capacity additions came nearly equally from combustion turbine peaker plants, which generally run only during the highest peak-demand hours of the year, and combined-cycle plants, which provide intermediate and baseload power.

Nearly 60% of the natural gas capacity added in 2013 was located in California. The state is facing resource adequacy concerns as well as the need for more flexible generation resources to help complement more variable-output renewable resources, particularly solar, being added to the system.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) added 2,193 MW of capacity in 2013, continuing the trend of the past few years of strong growth, helped in part by falling technology costs as well as aggressive state renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and continued federal investment tax credits. Nearly 75% of the capacity added was located in California, followed by roughly 10% in Arizona.

While wind’s numbers in 2013 were only one-tenth of what it did in 2012, (1,032 MW in 2013 compared to 12,885 MW in 2012), EIA attributed this to producers rushing to take advantage of the federal production tax credit at the end of 2012.

Community Solar Arrives in Massachusetts

Community Solar has arrived in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Clean Energy Collective (CEC) has selected RGS Energy as the general contractor for the solar facilities. RSG Energy will provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for two large solar arrays of nearly 1 megawatt (MW) each owned and operated by CEC.

One community solar garden will be located in Hadley, Massachusetts and will serve customers of Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo). The second community Clean Energy Collective logogarden will be deployed in Rehoboth, Massachusetts to serve National Grid customers. Construction has already begun on the two sites, with interconnection planned for the end of June.

“As the first community-owned solar model in Massachusetts, these projects represent a new enabler for increased solar adoption, where owners of individual solar panels can reduce their home or business electric utility bill with solar power, while at the same time reducing their carbon footprint in a meaningful way,” said Kam Mofid, CEO of RGS Energy.

Both facilities will employ 300-watt panels, inverters by Advanced Energy, racking from RBI Solar, and monitoring systems provided by Ambient Weather.

CEC President Paul Spencer stressed the value RGS Energy brings to the solar projects. “RGS Energy is the ideal partner for us in implementing these facilities. With their outstanding systems engineering and deployment capabilities and their national footprint, they can ensure our individual project specifications are delivered on time and to the highest standards.”

CASE Applauds Bloomberg for Defending Solar Industry

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called U.S. tariffs on solar panels harmful to the American public during his comments at Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit held in New York. In his remarks, Bloomberg called tariffs on solar panels and solar cells imported from China protectionist policies, pointing out that, “the Chinese have done us this enormous favor of selling us solar panels below the price that we can make them.”

CASE-logo“I applaud Michael Bloomberg for speaking out against U.S. tariffs on solar products and for exposing the misguided protectionism that is currently resulting in higher prices of solar energy to consumers,” said Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy President Jigar Shah. “The overwhelming majority of U.S. solar companies have embraced the global nature of our highly-specialized industry and are successfully leveraging cost savings to create over 140,000 American jobs – most of which are in installation on American rooftops. Higher tariffs only mean higher prices, which ultimately leave U.S. solar companies unable to compete on cost, and deny the American public access to affordable solar energy.

Shah continued, “This topic is extremely relevant since we‘re in the midst of a second trade case, calling for additional tariffs on imported solar panels and cells from China and Taiwan. Continued uncertainty and rounds of legal cases are not the paths to sustainable growth for the U.S. solar industry. As Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) also noted during his remarks at the Summit on Monday, ‘a lack of predictability can hurt our nation’s clean energy investment.’ I agree with Senator Wyden, and note that the damage caused by uncertain solar trade barriers creates the same uncertainty that changing government programs and tax policies have on the broader renewable energy industry. Now is the time to negotiate an equitable solution to the solar trade petitions that will bring confidence back to the market and lay the groundwork for the U.S. solar industry’s continued success.”

Mexico Soon to be Home of Major Solar Project

Weymouth, Massachusetts based Vertex Companies is partnering in the development of a 30 megawatt solar electric power plant located in Zacatecas, Mexico. When complete, this project will be one of the largest of its kind in Latin America.

The announcement was made during the Massachusetts – Mexico Innovation Partnership Mission. The joint announcement was made by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Zacatecas Governor Miguel Alonso Reyes.

Vertex ZacsL solar projectVERTEX has operated for over a decade in the Mexican market as Vertex Ingenieros Consultores, S. de R.L. de C.V., completing dozens of energy and environmental projects in a variety of industries. In Zacatecas, VERTEX is collaborating with local Mexican partners to develop the first utility-scale solar PV project in the state and one of the largest in Latin America overall. The 30 MW ZacSol 1 project is the first phase of up to 90 MW that will be installed near the municipality of Guadalupe over the next several years. With an estimated $92 million investment in Zacatecas that will create approximately 400 construction and operational jobs, this first phase represents a significant step forward for Mexico in realizing their solar potential.

Mexico has progressive renewable energy policies, high fossil-based electricity prices, and the third highest solar insolation in the world. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, Mexico has a potential for 45 GW of solar energy. SENER, Mexico’s Energy Department, recently reported that solar PV projects are profitable without government subsidies with Northern and Central Mexican projects typically breaking even after only two years.

Hemp Facilities Secured by Wind & Solar Energy

The Industrial Hemp and Medical Marijuana Consulting Company (IHMMCC) has acquired an interest in alternative energy company Liberated Energy. Per the agreement, IHMMCC, a subsidiary of Hemp Inc., will provide consulting services to help Liberated Energy market and distribute their products.

guard-lite-photo-131x300The Guard Lite Security Lighting System is patent-pending and uses wind and solar energy to power its security system, which consists of High Tech LED Lighting WiFi HD Camera with 2 way audio Infrared and Motion Technology. According to Liberated Energy, the Guard Lite is self-powered and will use only approximately 10 percent of its maximum rated wind and solar energy. One of the company’s objective is to make small wind and solar turbine technology a significant contributor to the global clean energy supply portfolio for both businesses and consumers.

“We are thrilled and looking forward to this new venture. After researching the industry and weighing our options, it was a no-brainer to collaborate with Hemp, Inc.’s Industrial Hemp and Medical Marijuana Consulting Company, Inc. to create new marketing and distribution capabilities for our Guard Lite Security Lighting System for the medical marijuana and industrial hemp industries,” said Frank Pringle, CEO of Liberated Energy, Inc.

With several states legalizing medical marijuana, the hemp market is in need of cost efficient energy sources to meet the growing demand – especially in states where hemp cannot be grown outside year round. Companies are also looking to convert hemp to biofuels.

Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc. noted, “Liberated Energy’s move into the industrial hemp and medical marijuana industries could not have come at a better time. The demand is expanding for growers and dispensaries to ramp up security for their operations with more comprehensive surveillance and monitoring, especially since most of these operations are high-volume, cash-based facilities.”

Ecoppia Unveils E4 Robot Cleaned Solar Park

Ecoppia has announced that the Ketura Sun solar park in Israel’s Negev desert is now the world’s first autonomously-cleaned solar energy production facility. The 8-hectare facility, producing 9 million kilowatt hours per year, is cleaned nightly by a fleet of almost 100 water-free, energy-independent Ecoppia E4 robots. The solar park is jointly owned by Siemens AG and Arava Power.

An impediment to solar energy production is soiling, or the dust and dirt that accumulates on solar panel surfaces. Soiling that reduce panel energy output by up to 35 percent. ECOPPIAKentura Sun is situated between the Gulf of Aqaba and the southern tip of the Dead Sea and suffers from sand storms and little rain. With cost and lack of water as barriers, the panels were only cleaned several times a year and could take up to five days.

“We conducted a thorough worldwide search for a cleaning solution that could deal with the challenging weather conditions in our solar parks,” said Jon Cohen, CEO at Arava Power. “Only Ecoppia’s solution showed actual significant uplift in production, while offering an extremely appealing business model. We are proud to be their partners.”

Following a successful pilot where Ecoppia’s solution effectively removed 99 percent of panel dust daily, E4 robots were deployed over the entire Ketura Sun field in less than three months. Today, nearly 100 centrally-controlled E4 robots clean the entire field every night, ensuring maximum production efficiency during sunlight hours.

Ecopiian says the E4 robots are cost effective efficient and energy-independent. They use a soft microfiber and air flow cleaning system to remove 99 percent of dust each day, applying zero load on the panel surface, keeping panels continually performing at optimal production. Utilizing a robust control unit and sensors that drive the robotic system along each solar panel row, E4 is fully remotely managed, monitored and controlled.

“We’re pleased to facilitate this important first step towards effectively growing solar park energy output,” said Eran Meller, CEO of Ecoppia. “With E4, Ketura Sun maximizes its energy generation, without the expense and negative ecological impact of water-based cleaning solutions.”

Yanir Aloush, VP operations at Arava Power, added, “Ecoppia has changed the way we run the Ketura Sun field. Less guesswork about when to clean, less downtime since there’s no need for on-site cleaning crews, less external personnel on the ground – we are very excited by the potential upgrade Ecoppia’s solution offers us.”

Award for Solar-Powered Remote Weather Monitoring

vantageconnectA solar-powered system to remotely monitor the weather has been recognized for its use in the bioenergy and agriculture industries. California-based Davis Instruments picked up a Gold Award for Remote Monitoring at the 2014 Connected World Conference in Chicago for its Vantage Connect.

“With the growing need to manage water resources, protect crops from frost and mitigate damage to our environment, we believe that remote weather data is more important than ever.” said Susan Foxall, Marketing Director, Davis Instruments.

Solar-powered, Vantage Connect does not require an external power source and uses the cellular network to transmit weather data to the Internet. Real-time alarms for specific weather conditions alert users via text and email messages to changing conditions, allowing them to identify and manage potential problems.

The Connected World award was one of two awards Davis won, also picking up honors for CarChip ConnectR, Davis’ telematics solution for fleet monitoring.

Solar Leads U.S. in Clean Energy Jobs in 2013

Solar power generation operations led the U.S. in the number of clean energy jobs announced in 2013. The nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) says solar was the top sector of the 78,600 clean energy and clean transportation jobs last year with 21,600 jobs announced.

Solar Farm in Las Vegas Photo- Joanna Schroeder“Our report makes it clear. When we invest in clean energy and clean transportation, we put people to work in every corner of the country. Whether it’s a new wind farm in Iowa, an energy efficiency retrofit in Massachusetts, or a utility-scale solar array in Nevada, these projects require American ingenuity and labor. The sector is helping stimulate our economy,” said E2 Executive Director Judith Albert.

“As a business owner, I see a strong need for long-term policies that can stimulate private investment in clean energy and energy efficiency. Businesses in this sector create jobs, save consumers money, and help our environment.

“But ongoing regulatory uncertainty takes a serious toll. Elected officials shouldn’t be holding back economic growth – they should be encouraging it,” said Geoff Chapin, CEO of Next Step Living, a Boston-based energy efficiency company.

California topped the overall list of jobs announced that also includes building efficiency and public transportation. A strong fourth quarter helped Texas finish second in the report.

Solar Investment Paying Better than Subsidies

MIL_Solar_Farm_Nellis_AFB_lgDespite critics who have harped on solar energy as not being efficient and economical enough to stand on its own without government subsidies and being too pricey for regular folks, the sun’s power is proving stronger than the shadows of myths being cast about the clean energy source. This blog post from the New York Times says solar is more affordable than ever and can stand on its own without the subsidies.

The average price of a solar panel has declined an estimated 60 percent since the beginning of 2011, and this year the total photovoltaic capacity in the United States is projected to reach 10 gigawatts, the energy equivalent of several nuclear power plants. (By one estimate, photovoltaic costs crossed over to become cheaper than electricity generated by new nuclear plants about four years ago.)

In both Europe and the United States, generous public subsidies including tax breaks and feed-in tariffs requiring utilities to buy back consumer-generated electricity that feeds into the grid have allowed solar photovoltaics to achieve vastly lower unit costs. But these subsidies are dwarfed by historical taxpayer support of both fossil-fuel and nuclear-generated electricity. The International Energy Agency warns that continuing fossil-fuel subsidies contribute significantly to global environmental problems.

The big news is that solar photovoltaics are now cost-effective in many European countries even without public support. A recent article in The Financial Times quotes Jason Channell of Citigroup as saying: “We’re at a point now where demand starts to be driven by cold, hard economics rather than by subsidies, and that is a game changer.”

The post also points out the 143,000 solar workers in the United States in 2013 is a nearly 20 percent increase over employment totals from 2012.

Clean Jobs Increase 19% in 2013

Ecotech Institute Clean Jobs IndexThe Clean Jobs Index shows 2013 ended with a 19 percent increase in clean jobs. The study also shows more than 3.5 million clean jobs were available in 2013 with a 57 percent increase in solar jobs. Published by Ecotech Institute, the Clean Jobs Index was created to provide objective job information about the renewable energy industry. In addition, the index looks at various sustainability factors including alternative fueling stations, LEED projects and total energy consumption across the U.S.

The index found large growth in clean jobs when compared to 2012 job postings, with solar jobs increasing 57 percent, wind jobs up 20 percent and renewable energy jobs increasing 9.3 percent. The report also looked at states with the most incentives for sustainability and renewables: Minnesota, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Indiana, Colorado, Florida, New York and Iowa.

“Renewable energy is the future and this data proves that more than ever,” said Kyle Crider, Ecotech Institute’s Program Chair and Manager of Environmental Operations. “With solar jobs up 57 percent and clean tech jobs up overall nearly 20 percent, it’s definitely an exciting time in the sustainable energy industry.”

Veterans Move Into Solar Industry Jobs

According to a new report released jointly from Operation Free and The Solar Foundation, veterans are employed within the solar industry at higher than average rates. The report finds that for a group facing high unemployment, the solar industry is one of the best industries for jobs.

The report, Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future, highlights the contributions of veterans to the solar industry, using data derived from The Solar Foundation’s annual National Solar Jobs Census 2013. The findings show that America’s Veterans in Solarsolar industry has grown by 500 percent since 2008, providing more than 13,000 veterans with job opportunities as of November 2013. Veterans represent nearly 10 percent of all solar workers at a time when more than 15 percent of veterans aged 18-24 are currently unemployed. The report also discovered that the growth in the industry is continuing with nearly 62 percent of solar companies that employ veterans plan to add more solar workers within the next 12 months.

Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52), said of the news, “Our servicemen and women have made great sacrifices for our country and it is our responsibility to ensure that when they return home there are high-skill and well-paying jobs available. The solar industry offers our veterans a unique opportunity to use the knowledge they learned serving our country in a rapidly growing sector that is vital to both our national security and economic future.”

According to Operation Free and The Solar Foundation, this is the first time that the significant contributions of veterans to the solar industry have been documented. The two groups intend to amplify these findings in an effort to help more veterans enter into careers in the solar industry.

“This report highlights the ways solar strengthens the US economy and our national security,” added Nat Kreamer, CEO of Clean Power Finance and a former Intelligence Officer, Special Forces, US Navy. “Veterans are over represented in the solar industry because we know first-hand that clean, affordable domestic power makes America and the world safer.”

In addition to examining employment numbers, the report also suggests next steps to expand opportunities for veterans, including the creation of a tool for employers to translate veterans’ skills into language reflecting solar companies’ hiring needs.