April 14 News: Clean energy loan program lives on; Bloomberg, Clinton join forces to fight climate change

Federal clean energy loan program lives on

A federal program to support the development of clean energy technologies escaped the budget ax this week and the Energy Department wasted no time announcing major commitments to fund two of the world’s largest solar projects.

SunPower Corp received a conditional commitment on Tuesday for a $1.187 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to finance a 250-megawatt photovoltaic power plant in central California that will generate enough electricity to power 100,000 homes.

That announcement came a day after the government finalized a $1.6 billion loan guarantee for privately held BrightSource Energy Inc’s 392 MW Ivanpah solar thermal project.

In February, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would have cut most of the funding for the DOE’s loan guarantee program for innovative green technologies.

Bloomberg, Clinton join forces to fight climate change

The mayor has combined forces with a former president to combat climate change.

Appearing together at Gracie Mansion Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton announced the merger of their global climate groups.

The new organization will combine C-40, the mayor’s group of major cities, and the Clinton Climate Initiative.

The mayor said the partnership will streamline the work both agencies do to cut carbon emissions in major cities.

“Cities consume 75 percent of the world’s energy and produce 80 percent of its greenhouse gases, so even as national governments regrettably all too often dither and delay, cities around the globe must lead the change in addressing climate change,” said Bloomberg.

Solar-powered washing machine puts smart grid to the test

Using smart grid technology, the machine allows users to select the most favorable time for using energy.

In cooperation with power company Greenchoice, grid operator Enexis will install over 300 smart devices in sustainably-designed homes in the Dutch city of Breda. If they accept the devices, residents will then participate in a two-year test to see whether people are ready to use smart grid technologies.

One of the most interesting installations will be solar-powered washing machines. In this smart network, the washing machine is logged into an online weather channel so that it knows exactly when the sun shines or when the price of power on the energy exchange APX -ENDEX is most favourable. For example: it could be more efficient to do your laundry at night and not in the evening. Or maybe it’s best to do it during the day, when solar panels produce power.

The project involves 246 apartments with woodstoves and solar panels and 57 houses with heat pumps and solar panels, to be completed in 2012. In each home, smart devices like a smart electricity meter or a smart washing machine will be installed, connected to a smart energy computer. Besides giving residents information about the energy they use and produce, it collects their preferences and controls all devices as efficiently as possible.

EPA budget deal slams state, regional programs

The spending deal brokered last week by President Obama and Congress to avert a government shutdown would balance most its $1.6 billion in cuts to U.S. EPA’s budget on the backs of state regulators and local environmental projects, according to details of the bill that were released by appropriators early this morning.

Three-quarters of the cuts, totaling $1.19 billion, would come from State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG), which mainly fund water infrastructure upgrades and state plans to comply with new federal rules. That includes a $997 million cut from a pair of revolving funds that finance local drinking water projects and efforts to clean up polluted bodies of water.

With total funding of $3.77 billion, the STAG programs make up less than half of EPA’s $8.7 billion budget under the pact. Though the president proposed a similar cut to the revolving funds in his fiscal 2012 budget request, his pact with Republicans would now pull funding for the water infrastructure projects a year early.

The budget deal also includes a $191 million cut to regional programs, such as Obama’s own Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Those programs would now get almost exactly as much as Obama requested this year for projects in the Great Lakes, as well as the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound.

Doc Hastings makes haste on offshore drilling plan

Rep. Doc Hastings says it’s too soon to enact safety-reform legislation in response to last year’s Gulf of Mexico spill “” but not too soon to push for an expansion of offshore drilling.

“Drilling is safe,” said the Washington state Republican, adding that the Obama administration has acknowledged as much by its actions. Otherwise, it “wouldn’t have issued the permits down there.”

The pro-drilling strategy is not new for Hastings or other Republicans, who continue to argue it is necessary for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. But his reluctance on the reform front is giving Democrats more ammunition in the growing partisan rift on energy policy, as record gasoline prices and other pressures weigh on lawmakers.

Hastings told POLITICO, in an interview for the video series “Powering America’s Future,” that he’ll move ahead with safety legislation once investigations into the spill wrap up.

Hybrid bulbs combine CFL and halogen bulb features

Another complaint against compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) will have to go by the wayside with the introduction of a new hybrid bulb from GE that is able to come to immediate full brightness as soon as it is switched on. As with cars, where hybrids combine the best properties of two transport technologies, hybrids are now an option for light bulbs, combining immediate brightness of halogen with the energy savings of a compact fluorescent.

The bulb itself is in a conventional incandescent-shape. Inside that is a now-familiar coil of compact fluorescent tubing. But, at the center of that is a small halogen capsule. When the light is turned on, both the halogen and the CFL come on, so that the bulb has full brightness immediately available. Once the CFL has reached its full brightness, the halogen portion automatically turns off, so that the life of the bulb is conserved.

The hybrid bulbs have an expected lifetime of 8,000 hours, about 8x as long as incandescent bulbs, and close to the expected life of regular CFLs. Additionally, these hybrid bulbs have a lower level of mercury than most currently available CFLs. The hybrid bulbs contain just 1 mg of mercury, while most current CFLs have 1.5 to 3.5 mg of mercury.

International Renewable Energy Agency to live in UAE

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which includes 148 member nations and the EU and was created in 2009, has decided to set up its official home now, and it is doing so in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This reportedly marks the first time an Arabian nation will become home to a truly international organization.

With what could be the world’s largest concentrating solar power plant, what could be the world’s first carbon-neutral city “” the quite famous Masdar City, and a growing clean energy push, the UAE is a logical location for such an agency. Still, it might be a shock for some to realize that rather than choosing the U.S., China, or Europe, the world’s renewable energy agency is going to be located in the Middle East.

The decision was finalized at the historic first session of IRENA on April 4, 2011. This session “gathered 800 delegates from 150 nations and was attended by more than 90 ministers,” Business Wire reports. At the meeting, Adnan Amin was also named the Director General of the Agency (he was already the Acting Interim Director General).

Solar Junction claims cell efficiency record

Solar Junction, a Silicon Valley solar start-up, said today that its solar cell has been measured at a peak efficiency of 43.5 percent, topping previous records.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company said that the efficiency mark was verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Measurement and Characterization Laboratory.

To achieve the 43.5 percent mark, Solar Junction designed a multijunction cell made of multiple layers of photovoltaic material. Each layer is optimized to convert a different portion of the light spectrum to electrical energy.

To boost the amount of sunlight that goes into the very small, 5.5-millimeter square cells, light is concentrated with mirrors. The 43.5 percent efficiency was reached at a concentration of 400 suns and maintained that level up to 1,000 suns, Solar Junction said.

17 Responses to April 14 News: Clean energy loan program lives on; Bloomberg, Clinton join forces to fight climate change

  1. Lionel A says:

    Just picked up on this HT to Grist, a blade starts to look stressed at about 0:15-0:16 into this video judging by the bulge that appears as oscillation sets in about a third the way out from the hub of the blade that points to about half past one:

    Windmill/turbine going wild and finally break

    Having seen aircraft and helicopter blades fly apart (aircraft carrier flight decks) I can understand the problems of stressing to account for strong and gusty direction changing winds.

    Could this become a more common issue as climate change alters wind patterns and strengths?

  2. GFW says:

    Does anyone know why cells like those in the last story don’t melt when sunlight is concentrated 400-1000 times on them? If they’re converting 43%, and maybe reflecting a little, something like half the sunlight hitting them goes to heat. At 1000 suns, that’s a lot of heat!

  3. Anne van der Bom says:

    The houses in Breda do not get an old fashoned wood stove as the link in the article suggests. That is not environmentally friendly as they emit a lot of fine particles. And people throwing in all kinds of stuff (wet wood, painted wood, paper), too much can go wrong.

    The appartments will have a central biomass fired heater.

  4. Ziyu says:

    What’s the cost per watt for this new solar panel? What would be the cost and efficiency of the solar panel if all the recent advances in cost saving and efficiency were incorporated into one panel?

  5. David B. Benson says:

    If the loan guarantee for the central California solar PV covers the full construction costs, then the construction cost is but 4.748 cents/kWh, very impressively good for solar PV. It is so good That I suspect there is something amise in the news article.

  6. David B. Benson says:

    I meant 4.748 cents/kW, of course. Checking via NREL’s simplified LCOE calculator with some reasonable assumptions, that leads to an LCOE of 25.4 cents/kWh, which is believable.

  7. paulm says:

    Do people include the cost of nuclear clean up like these in the cost of nukes?

    “There’s nothing like this, on this scale, that we have ever attempted to do before”, Robert Alvarez, a former assistant secretary in the US Department of Energy, told the Los Angeles Times. And Victor Gilinsky, a former member of the US Nuclear regulatory commission, added that it would be a “bigger job” than a similar clean-up operation planned at Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation at a cost of $100 – $130 billion.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    paulm @10 — Cleaning up the Fukushima Dai-ichi site is projected to require about a decade with operations beginning as soon as the site can be rendered safe. That, unfortunately might itself require years.

    The entire cost will be in the billions, but I assure you that it will be far less than tthe total Hanford cleanup bill, now thought to be complete in the 2040s; see the wiki page on the Hanford site.

    I don’t know how decommisoning costs are done in Japan, but in the US a reserve fund is contiually added into over the reactor’s life; this fund is to be used for the decommisioning.

  9. paulm says:

    11 David, yes, but does the unit cost of electricity generated from nukes real have these cleanup costs included in it? Its seems to me they dont. It means that nuke electricity is even more expensive than the typical figures bounded about are.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The scam with nuclear ‘decommissioning’ is that the initial estimates of the cost are fatuous understatements, designed so as not to startle the plebs. It’s a lot like the Irisn bank bailouts, where the total keeps growing and growing, but is only revealed bit by bit. The total amount that the Irish people will have to fork out, ie how long and how deep will be the depression, is a moveable famine, and the news just keeps getting more and more wretched. So, too, with Hanford and Fukushima. I’d say that both will end up costing trillions, or be abandoned half-done when the money runs out.

  11. Anne van der Bom says:

    Ziyu #7,

    It is hard to mention a single price for solar panels. Prices depend on efficiency and quality. Solarbuzz has up-to-date pricing information.

    Cheapest c-Si modules are currently $1.84 per W. The current prices have all the cost savings incorporated. It is a competetive market. The manufacturers are continuously pushing cost down by about 5-10% per year.

    Be aware that module cost is about half the system cost. You need to add the inverter, materials and installation.

    In general, the larger the system, the lower these extra costs. Larger inverters cost less per W, system installation cost do not increase linearly with system size.

  12. Jason Kim says:

    The gap between what governments spend on subsidizing fossil fuels and clean energy should narrow considerably in years ahead. Support for renewables and biofuels will grow as funds for clean energy accelerates and the amount governments such as China spend to keep fossil fuel prices artificially low. Simply put, less government support is needed to make these dirty sources of energy more affordable to populations around the globe – Jason Kim.

  13. David B. Benson says:

    paulm @12 — The busbar (wholesale) price of the power generated includes building up a reserve fund which is supposed to cover the decommissioning costs at the end of the reactor’s useful life. I don’t know whether it actually does, but the reserve fund for Three Mile Island was hardly started when the mishap there happened. I’m not sure just how the almost one billion dollar cleanup costs were paid; surely there is info about that.

    As for the cleanup in Japan, it will be comperable, per reactor, to the TMI effort after adjustment for inflation and some additional for the extra complexity. Supposing that is a factor of 3, then cleaning up the entire site will run around 18–20 billion US dollars, very much less than the entire Hanford cleanup which started over 40 years ago and has about another 30+ years to go.