June 23, 2010 – Volume 13, Issue 5
I N · T H I S · I S S U E


Local Water Solutions

Energy news of late strongly suggests that we’ve got to “keep it in the hood.”

We have a history of going far afield for energy resources. Armies and armada have been used to secure oil. Now we get a bit closer to home with offshore oil and wind exploration, problematic too. No one can seem to cap the leak at the bottom of the sea. Oil continues to surge into the Gulf. Islanders are upset about Cape Wind. Crises.

It’s tough to watch a deep water oil derrick burn and sink, even harder to ponder the disastrous effects of its massive and ongoing spill, initially a thick crude area the size of Jamaica. Bad metaphor. Think of pristine Pensacola beaches pocked by waves of oil and tar. How do you clean crude out of a marsh on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana?

The Deepwater Horizons drill rig was located 50 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana. It exploded at 9:45 on a Tuesday night, April 20th as methane surged up from the well head at the sea floor and ignited the rig. Initially, 11 crew were missing, now pronounced dead. The balance of the 115 men and women were evacuated by lifeboats and airlifted by helicopter, of which 17 were hurt in the blast.

The rig burned for 36 hours out of control until it sank. Initially, experts thought the blow-out prevention equipment had sealed the well. But no, the news has been worse and worse with 1.5 – 2.5 million gallons of oil leaking each day into the Gulf. Blame is being passed around like a hot potato for this worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. President Obama wants to know whose rear to kick.

But you know what? “It’s on us,” every one of us that uses gasoline. This is not BP’s leak in the Macondo Prospect. We all own it. Everyone who uses gasoline, and especially those that drive a lot and/or drive inefficient cars, must take a look in the mirror. This is the result of the risks that we take to fulfill our addiction to oil and carbon-based mobility. I read that the amount of oil spilled thus far is about what Americans consume every three hours and 43 minutes.

So the debate rages on. Should there be a moratorium on offshore drilling? One expert said that we’d be naïve to think this won’t happen again; others rally for more drilling to fulfill our thirst for hydrocarbons and jobs. The Gulf’s thousands of oil wells provide just less than a quarter of total U.S. oil use. The loss of jobs, tourism, and wildlife in the Gulf are prices that we’re paying for gasoline. The more we use, the more we spill.

In other offshore news, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in May that the controversial Cape Wind project would be approved. It’s the nation’s first offshore wind facility, a $1 billion effort that has pitted respected leaders. It’s up to us all. Everyone who uses power is responsible for Cape Wind. We consume and demand reliable, cheap, now clean power. It’s so easy to criticize a development. “Not in my backyard, please.”

The win-win solutions are even closer to home, actually about taking action “in the hood.” Our energy, water, and food resources can be supplied locally with compelling benefits. Our home produces over 90% of our power consumption thanks to 18 Sharp PV panels. When I think of more reactors, coal plants, dams, wind farms, and other centralized solutions, I want to add more panels. When I watch the Gulf on fire, I want to add more panels and buy an EV, retiring my once highly efficient hybrid. And you?

The Size of the Problem

The Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm

EcoMoton reported in January on the impending decision on the nation’s first offshore wind project (see EcoMotion Network News V13#1). In April, and in what is seen as the final federal government approval of the project, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved Cape Wind. Salazar expects Cape Wind to be the first of many up and down the Atlantic Coast. It may well usher in a new revolution in American power.

Promoted by Cape Wind Associates, the Horseshoe Shoals project had been held up for years, most recently by the Wampanoag Native Americans on the grounds that it might disturb spiritual sun greetings and possibly ancestral artifacts and burial grounds on the sea floor. “While we strongly support renewable energy, no amount of mitigation [will change our position],” stated the Wampanoag chairman.

The project has been through nine years of legal review by state and federal government. Now, barring further litigation, 130 turbines will be rooted in monopoles sunk 80 feet into the sandy sea floor in the Nantucket Sound between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island. Over 1,000 people will be involved in construction that could begin within the year; Cape Wind claims that 150 permanent jobs will be created.

Despite the project’s clean energy capacity, and its strategic location in federal waters and outside state jurisdiction, its development has been a struggle with green-thinking citizens pitted strongly in favor and against the project. Senator Teddy Kennedy spearheaded the opposition, echoed by his replacement Senator Scott Brown who fears its negative effect on fishing and tourism industries. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has been strongly in favor and Senator John Kerry maintains that, “This is jobs and clean energy for Massachusetts.”

The turbines will be laid out in a grid that covers 24 square miles – larger than Manhattan -- within a row the turbines will be about six football fields apart. Rows will be about nine football fields apart, allowing ample spacing for small craft that cross the shoals. The towers for the will rise 258 feet; the tips of the blades will be 440 feet above sea level.

Each turbine will produce up to 3.6 MW of power, with a total nameplate capacity of 468 MW. The plant will generate 170 MW on average, about 75% of the power requirement for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. While opposed for environmental, aesthetic and spiritual reasons, Cape Wind claims that the project is further from populations than any other power plant in the State of Massachusetts, being over 5 miles off the Cape, 9 miles from Martha’s Vineyard, and 13 from Nantucket.

Now the controversy continues. Wal-Mart, the nation’s leading retailer and a major National Grid customer, is leading a charge with 19 other major accounts and stating that the price being paid for the Cape Wind power is too high. Although touting their own green initiatives, they object to the National Grid power purchase agreement with Cape Wind that begins at 20.7 cents per kWh in 2012 with an automatic price escalator of 3.5% for 15 years.

Chinese Luxury Autos

The Beijing Auto Show reinforces an automotive reality: It’s all about luxury.

Chinese auto sales now far exceed U.S. sales, with 13.6 million cars sold this past year in China compared to the U.S. 10.4 million rate. And China – with 1.3 billion 2008 population – has a huge thirst for more. China, according to one auto expert, has become the “engine of our industry.”

While most Chinese cars sold are for the masses – economy models relatively cheap to buy and operate – an article about the Beijing Auto Show made me hold my head. Striking models stand next to the 573 horsepower Mercedes SMS-AMG. Audi has a 500 hp A8 LW12 Quattro “designed for the Chinese mogul.” It also comes in a hybrid version. (Compare that with the Prius 78 hp gasoline/67 hp electric motor, and the Honda Civic Hybrid’s 2010 110 horsepower.) Reportedly, Ferrari’s 599 GTO is selling like hot cakes, with 220 units sold in 2009, 20% of which were sold to women.

In China, luxury sales are up 60% in the first quarter of 2010. Mercedes-Benz reports that its sales have doubled when comparing this past quarter to the prior year. BMWs luxury 7 series – with prices up to $326,000 –was a big hit. In 2009, BMW sold 17,000 units in China, only 9,000 in the United States. China – continues to focus on style and prestige. And with nearly a million, millionaires (875,000), there is little end in sight.

Cash for Cars and Appliances

The $2.878 billion “cash for clunkers” program – officially called “CARS” -- resulted in the trade-in off 690,114 cars, a staggering success in getting car owners to take action. The average incentive was $4,170, resulting in an average miles per gallon upgrade of 9.2. Another benefit, over 450,000 SUVs and light duty trucks which lacked electronic stability control and other modern safety equipment were taken off the road.

Now the U.S. Department of Energy has launched the $300 million Cash for Appliances program, targeting aging appliances and replacing them with Energy Star labeled ones. The program is administered by each state. The rebates can be combined with rebates offered by manufacturers, retailers, and utilities. In some states, consumers have to prove that their old appliances have been returned to a certified recycler.

In Massachusetts, the $6.2 million program was launched on Earth Day with electronic applications and rebates ran out in two hours. The same thing happened in Iowa. In Florida, a $17.6 million program lasted a day. In California, the $31.68 million program launched on Earth Day with $200 incentives for qualifying refrigerators, $100 for washers, and $50 for room air conditioners. As of this morning, 43,559 applications have been received, and nearly $23 million is still available. California’s relatively slow program start may have been due to the limited number of eligible program products.

Somewhat related, what a time for Energy Star! The heretofore uncontested labeling program has recently incurred the scorn of a March sting operation managed by the Government Accounting Office. It set up fictitious companies and applied for 12 Energy Star labels – including a gasoline-powered alarm clock and air purifier (a space heater with feather duster on top!) -- all of which were approved.

Solar Field Notes

The City of San Antonio’s municipal utility, CPS Energy, offered a 27 cent feed-in tariff pilot program. EcoMotion, representing a client there, camped overnight to be first in line with a 500 kW program application. The utility joins Gainesville, Florida and SMUD for recent FIT programs. CPS will take only 5 MW of projects this year.

Customer-owned solar installations in Florida tripled this past year, from 537 to 1,590 from 2008 to 2009. Of these all are PV except nine solar thermal projects. Other customer owned systems include eight wind generators, and methane digester. All told, the PSC reports that customer-owned generation has reached 13.1 MW in the state.

“Modules under towering wind turbines” is how the Palm Springs 14 MW Mountain View Solar Plant is characterized. The plant planned and developed by AES Solar Energy will be the first “utility-scale solar” system in Palm Springs, located on 77 acres just south of Interstate 10 that now is home to ten wind turbines operated by AES Wind Power.

Solar Toledo? The home of First Solar which employs 1,000 workers there in a 900,000 square foot facility. University of Toledo, a leading school for solar energy research, even has a solar energy business incubator. The local community college has trained over 250 installers. Stay tuned from this center for high tech research and production. The industry there now employs over 6,000.

So far, 2008 was the best year ever for solar. That year, the industry sold nearly 20 billion dollars worth of panels. Despite annual worldwide PV installations rising from 5.8 in 2008 to 6.6 GW in 2009, the PV market value dropped 15% in 2009 as panel prices fell precipitously. The U.S. market was up 6%, with installations of 469 MW of PV in the country in 2009.

So what California city has installed the most solar? Depends, and while not quite “blasting past net zero,” Nipton, California now gets 85% of the town’s electricity needs from the sun. Thanks to an 85 kW concentrating solar plant developed by Skyline Solar, and a population of 38, Nipton has had a true solar makeover! (Albuquerque has announced the nation’s first solar farmers market.)

And in Boulder City, Nevada, Sempra Energy has activated the first 8 MW block of its 48 megawatt PV farm at Copper Mountain solar facility. As blocks are installed they will be activated under 20 year contracts with Pacific Gas and Electric. All are expected to be on-line by the end of the year. Located 40 miles from Las Vegas, the Copper Mountain facility is being engineered and built by First Solar.

Counting CFLs!

Sales of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) rose from 5.9 million units 1999 to 21 million in 2000 to 397 million in 2007! What progress, and there’s much more opportunity for savings. Of the 4.7 billion light sockets in the United States, only a billion – about 20% -- now house CFLs. (That’s way up from the 2% penetration documented by the Lighting Research Center at Renssalaer in 1999.) Now IKEA has announced that it will begin to phase out sales of incandescent lamps in August, a year ahead of the federal mandate to do so in 2012.

Meanwhile, LEDs are now coming on strong in niche and mass markets . They now constitute 52% of the traffic signal market, and 88% of the exit sign market. At IKEA, LEDs are sold that provide savings of 70% of a typical bulb and last 20 times longer. The retailer will also begin offering a halogen lamp for standard light sockets that cuts power use by 30%.