I N · T H I S · I S S U E
What's Up With That?
So much going on in the green space! Let’s bounce:
Have you heard about wireless electric vehicle (EV) charging? The Car Charging Group in Miami has filed for patent protection, an induction bumper and the ability to charge multiple EVs in a lot at the same time. Another system design is subterranean; both use a wireless “power and pay” system. At first, it sounds dangerous: “Hey, don’t step there!”
Downsizing the National Renewable Energy Laboratory seems untimely: But NREL is doing so because of budget cuts. NREL is offering a voluntary separation package to its 1,350 U.S. DOE employees to shrink its workforce of 2,600 by 100 - 150 professionals. This despite the national imperative to accelerate the development of renewables throughout the country.
Himalayan Solar? The Saudi Arabia of solar? Two Japanese scientists, and MIT’s Kotaro Kawajiri, point to the opportunity for solar power production far from the hotbeds of the deserts, in “loftier” and colder areas including the Himalayas, the Andes, and Antarctica. Takashi Oozeki and Yutaka Genchi find that these regions can produce more solar energy, especially for PV modules most thermally sensitive. In the heat of the deserts, say 40 degrees C, a 10 – 15% drop in efficiency can take place. And at higher, cooler, altitudes, there is most direct radiation of light and energy.
Republic Solar Highways, a California company, has a more local solution, using land in highway interchanges for power production. Republic has the backing of CalTrans – the State’s Department of Transportation – and seven systems planned along Highway 101 from San Jose to Gilroy. Scaling up: The wind industry has overtaken the aerospace industry in the United States as the leader in the use of advanced composite materials. Wind turbines are getting really big: Deepwater Wind plans to buy 5, six-megawatt turbines from Siemens for its planned wind farm near Block Island.
PRV Hydro? In California, there may be 250 – 500 MW of microhydro potential from the Pressure Reducing Valves embedded in the State’s infamous and energy-intensive water system. This “in-conduit” capacity has now been allowed by the CPUC to be eligible for the Self Generation Incentive Program.
The failed Solyndra loan guarantee and its repercussions are disturbing, tarnishing the solar industry and government support for renewables. The $535 million subordinated Solyndra deal was mismanaged, poorly structured, and unfortunately concluded. The rush to both financing and implication in presidential politics shroud the issue. There has been a history of government support for energy – from coal, to oil, gas, and nuclear -- and considerable taxpayer misfortune along the way. This is not about solar.
Speaking of loan guarantees, while the focus has been on politics, there’s a much larger energy loan guarantee being brokered. Georgia citizens are seeking information on DOE’s “proprietary” $8.33 billion loan guarantee planned for two additional nuclear reactors at Southern Company’s Vogtle complex in Burke County. Units 3 & 4 are projected to cost $14 billion. Units 1 & 2 were built in the late 1980s. Their initial $660 million cost skyrocketed to $8.87 billion due to post-Three Mile Island regulations.
On a brighter note, the number 153. That’s the number of coal-fired power plants that Sierra Club’s “coal campaign” has helped to close or cancel. Sierra Club’s Michael Brune, “We’re putting our faith in local communities to protect public health and promote clean energy.” Far from Washington, Sierra Club acknowledges hundreds of thousands of people around the country, talking too their neighbors, community leaders, media outlets, and decision-makers.
But there are 500 more coal plants to reckon with, many serious polluters. In July, New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg, through Bloomberg Philanthropies, committed $50 million over four years to support the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal effort. Its goal is to retire one-third of the national aging coal fleet by 2020. The infusion of money has been called a campaign “game-changer” as operations now ramp up to 45 states. A critical step in averting climate calamity, the Sierra Club is committed to replacing hundreds of the nation’s most intensive carbon polluters with clean energy technologies.