Buoyed by the potential promise of a green economy, Mr. Klebensberger, who heads the American branch of SolarWorld AG, a company based in Bonn, Germany, is ramping up production of solar cells in a retrofitted factory that had its grand opening last October “” in the teeth of the financial crisis.
SolarWorld’s plant here [Hillsboro, OR], which makes enough cells to fit 1,700 solar panels a day, is the biggest of its kind in the United States….
THE United States lost its status as the world’s leading solar manufacturer in the 1990s as interest surged elsewhere. Now it makes little more than 5 percent of solar panels worldwide….
Thank you Reagan, Gingrich and other conservatives for gutting our leadership in what is certain to be one of the major job-creating industries of the century! (see “U.S. left in dust, having invented solar PV technology” and “Why Anti-wind McCain had to deliver his climate remarks at a foreign wind company” and”Why other countries kick our butt on clean energy: A primer“)
Even as some of the weaker solar companies resort to layoffs, a number of big names “” including Schott, First Solar, SunPower and Sharp “” are building, expanding or looking to build manufacturing plants in the United States. Sanyo, the Japanese electronics company, is building a solar wafer factory in Salem, Oregon’s capital, that is to begin production this fall.
Thank you stimulus, progressive Congress, and team Obama! (see “First quarter cleantech VC funding still hits $1 billion “” green stimulus funds soar to $400 billion“).
Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., have developed a device that will negotiate with the grid to find the best times to recharge electric cars.
The smart charger controller will save car owners money by seeking lower electricity prices and synchronizing car charge times to match those overnight schedules. The device can temporarily interrupt charging when there is elevated stress on the system.
“If a million owners plug their vehicles to recharge after work, it could cause a major strain on the grid,” scientist Michael Kintner-Meyer said. The new devices will make sure the cars divvy up their charge times to relieve power congestion.
“Plug in your vehicle and you forget about it, and next morning it would be fully topped off,” he said.
In places like California, where residents are offered time-based pricing, customers could save up to $100 a year by charging during off-peak hours, Kintner-Meyer said. That could mean lots of savings as automakers like General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. bring new rechargeable vehicles to market as early as 2010.
Previous studies at PNNL, a Department of Energy laboratory, have found that the grid could support the electric conversion of as many as 70 percent of light-duty vehicles if charging is managed.
And from the Department of Not Terribly Reassuring Ideas, the people who gave us Chernobyl are at it again:
Russia is planning a fleet of floating and submersible nuclear power stations to exploit Arctic oil and gas reserves, causing widespread alarm among environmentalists.
A prototype floating nuclear power station being constructed at the SevMash shipyard in Severodvinsk is due to be completed next year. Agreement to build a further four was reached between the Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, and the northern Siberian republic of Yakutiya in February.
The 70-megawatt plants, each of which would consist of two reactors on board giant steel platforms, would provide power to Gazprom, the oil firm which is also Russia’s biggest company. It would allow Gazprom to power drills needed to exploit some of the remotest oil and gas fields in the world in the Barents and Kara seas. The self-propelled vessels would store their own waste and fuel and would need to be serviced only once every 12 to 14 years.
In addition, designers are known to have developed submarine nuclear-powered drilling rigs that could allow eight wells to be drilled at a time.
The Australian government says it will push back a planned carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS) by a year. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the delay was necessary because of the poor economic climate.
But he also suggested that Australia could pursue tougher emissions reductions targets if an international deal was reached. The ETS, which has been criticised by both industrial and environment groups, was due to launch in July 2010.
Business say the scheme will delay economic recovery and lead to job losses. The environmental lobby, meanwhile, says that the targets are not tough enough.
Australia has the highest per capita emissions in the developed world and coal is its biggest export.
The Senate Finance Committee returns to global warming policy this week with a hearing on the auctioning of greenhouse gas emission credits under a cap-and-trade system.
Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will play a major role in writing this year’s climate bill, especially the provisions on how to distribute valuable compliance allowances to industry and what to do with hundreds of billions of dollars in new government revenue that would come back to the Treasury via an auction.
Witnesses at this Thursday’s hearing will discuss how to set up an auction for the emissions credits, as well as the broader distributional effects a cap-and-trade program would have on the economy. An official from the European Commission is also expected to testify about the continent’s decision to give away most of the credits for free that are needed for compliance with the early years of an emissions trading system, a Baucus aide said.
Baucus has not given any indication on his preference for dividing up the credits, though past bills that have moved through the Senate have involved a hybrid between auctions and free allowances.
Senate action this year on global warming legislation has largely taken place behind closed doors as staff and members sift through the many complex hurdles standing in the way of a bill’s passage.
At a National Journal Group forum Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was looking to the House Energy and Commerce Committee for guidance on climate legislation, including emission allowances, as it tries to mark up a sweeping energy and cap-and-trade bill before Memorial Day.
“The House is a laboratory for us,” Reid said.
In past years, the Senate has been the primary battleground for climate legislation. And it has largely relied on the Environment and Public Works Committee to do the heavy lifting on cap-and-trade bills.
This time around, Senate committee action is expected from the EPW Committee, as well as the Finance, Energy and Natural Resources, Commerce and the Foreign Relations panels. Senate aides say they plan to begin a much more public rollout of legislative action after the House Energy and Commerce Committee acts on its bill.
But even with all those committees participating, Reid said he is still unsure if he can win 60 votes to beat back an expected Republican filibuster. “I can’t guarantee I can get things done,” he said.
So far, the House panel has not spelled out exactly how it plans to distribute emission credits. Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are trying to convince about a dozen moderate Democrats to support the legislation, with the allowance language seen as a critical piece that can help secure votes.
Headed into the House debate, President Obama said he wanted a 100 percent auction of the credits, with a bulk of the revenue used to pay for the administration’s middle class tax cut. Obama said during a nationally televised press conference in March that he would be willing to back away from a complete auction approach “to take into account regional differences, it has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices.”
Obama’s comments have been viewed as a reflection of support for the electric utility industry’s request for an initial offering of 40 percent of the credits for free to help compensate customers who can expect higher energy bills. Other free credit demands come from domestic, energy-intensive industries, including steel, pulp and paper, who have asked for their own slice as protection from international competitors who won’t face such strict emission regulations.
Petroleum refiners are also pushing for between 5 percent and 30 percent of the credits for free, according to Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas).
Environmental groups support auctioning off as large a share of emission credits as possible, with the new revenue recycled back into climate-themed programs such as adaptation and renewable energy technologies. They also support direct tax rebates for low-income Americans who are most likely to feel a pinch in the pocketbook from the global warming legislation.
The French government is welcoming the “new atmosphere” that the Obama administration brings to international climate negotiations, but is looking for results. Brice Lalonde, France’s chief climate negotiator, sat down for an interview with reporters in Hotel Willard’s Cafe du Parc, following the Major Economies Forum convened this week in Washington, D.C. Lalonde dismissed corporate pressure to block green economy legislation in the United States as an “arri¨re-garde” doomed, in time, to irrelevance, saying that the “economic center is moving.”
It will cost $50 billion to bring the nation’s seven largest rail transit agencies into good repair and billions more annually to maintain them, according to a government report released yesterday.
A Federal Transit Administration study found that roughly a third of the trains, equipment and facilities for the seven systems are in either marginal or poor condition, implying that the assets have either exceeded their expected useful life or will do so soon.
The seven systems — in Chicago, Boston, New York, New Jersey, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington — carry a total 3 billion passenger trips a year, or roughly 80 percent of the nation’s rail transit passenger load.
The systems rely on more than 6,000 miles of track, 1,700 passenger stations and nearly 15,000 rail vehicles. FTA estimated that merely to maintain the systems’ current state would require $5.9 billion annually.
Ted Kulongoski, the governor of Oregon, thinks that Americans will need to scale back their consumerism because it is harming the environment.
“There’s a lifestyle issue involved in this, about our penchant for consumerism and consumption,” he said, while discussing his support for a state emissions cap-and-trade scheme during a recent interview in Portland.
“Other than taxes,” he added, “the hardest thing I find to talk with my constituents and my citizens about is about changing lifestyles.” He singled out the car companies for their production of sport-utility vehicles.
Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten