Via the delectable Bikocity, here’s some recent news on bicycle infrastructure research and the need to change the bicycle guidelines in transportation planning’s “Bible” (something I’ve been advocating for, after researching the topic, for years) in order to stimulate a bigger boost in bicycle ridership and better public health.
More or less, bicycle infrastructure policy and its relationship to riderships was the topic of my 2007 master’s thesis. It’s been obvious to some of us for a long time that bicycle infrastructure policy needs to change in order to give bicycle ridership a big boost, and public health would of course improve from that, as well. Nonetheless, there was some debate regarding infrastructure, thanks to a rather small but loud group of cycling enthusiasts who thought not having bike lanes was a better policy than having bike lanes, and who especially hated off-road bike paths that intersected with roads. Quite frankly, I’ve always thought that was absurd. Now, it seems that the case has grown strong enough in favor of off-road bicycle paths (or cycle tracks) that Harvard researchers think the “Bible” of transportation planning needs to be updated to encourage off-road bicycle paths over (as in, instead of, not in the space above) on-road bicycle lanes.
My master’s thesis was about the relationship between specific bicycle facilities and bicycle transportation rates. Already, there was a lot of research in support of off-road bicycle lanes, but it was largely “stated preference surveys” (not the best proof) or aggregate studies of large-scale investments in bicycling facilities and concurrent increases in bicycle travel (still quite speculative). My research was much more specific and rigorous, and it was the first (that my advisors and I were aware of) to look at such a wide range of options (i.e. off-road bike paths, bike roads, on-road bike lanes, aesthetics along bike routes, etc.). It included research in Montgomery County, Maryland as well as the city of Delft in the Netherlands.
I’ll highlight some of the key conclusions from my research (which included regression analyses):
In both Montgomery County and Delft, the best possible bicycle travel facilities in respondents’ home neighborhoods were significantly associated with higher levels of bicycle travel, strongly affirming initial hypotheses.
In Montgomery County, the existence of bicycle paths/trails in one’s home neighborhood was significantly correlated with bicycle travel from home to work, and the existence of sidewalks in one’s home neighborhood was significantly correlated with bicycling in or from one’s neighborhood. Sidewalks protected from the roadway by a buffer of parked cars had a particularly strong association with bicycling in or from one’s home neighborhood.
In Delft, the presence of certain bicycle facilities and issues regarding their design were found to be significantly associated with bicycle travel in a number of instances. Bicycle-only roads—the largest and presumably most preferred type of bicycle infrastructure that was examined—in or near one’s home neighborhood were significantly and positively associated with the highest number of dependent variables of any bicycle facility variable—the number of times a respondent bicycled to work, the proportion of times they bicycled to work, and the proportion of times they bicycled to their common destination. This indicates that the better the bicycle facility, the more likely it is to influence bicycle travel. Bicycle lanes were also significantly and positively related to the number of times a respondent bicycled to work, indicating the importance of support travel facilities in auto-dominant urban environments.
Furthermore, the quality of the urban and natural scenery along bicycle travel routes (where they are located) was significantly related to the proportion of times a person traveled to work via bicycle and the number of times they traveled in or from their home neighborhood. Additionally, the entire scale for “design and quality of available bicycle facilities” was significantly associated with the number of times per week a respondent bicycled in or from their home neighborhood, as well as the total distance they bicycled in or from their home neighborhood. This implies that design and quality of bicycle facilities, and, in particular, the environments through which bicycle facilities pass, are very important to their effectiveness in attracting bicyclists and inducing bicycle travel.
Whether or not a person had ever lived in an area with considerably more bicycle facilities was significantly correlated with the proportion of times they bicycled to work, indicating a possible carryover effect of a habit that had been developed in a more bicycle friendly environment.
OK, that’s all I’ll report from my research right now. On to the Harvard study….
Harvard researchers came to similar findings. But they didn’t stop there. They took up the important work of advocating for changes in the most influential book in the transportation planning realm.
From the Harvard press release: “Bicycle engineering guidelines often used by state regulators to design bicycle facilities need to be overhauled to reflect current cyclists’ preferences and safety data, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. They say that U.S. guidelines should be expanded to offer cyclists more riding options and call for endorsing cycle tracks – physically separated, bicycle-exclusive paths adjacent to sidewalks – to encourage more people of all ages to ride bicycles….
“Standards set by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in its Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities generally serve vehicles well but overlook most bicyclists’ needs, according to lead author Anne Lusk, research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH, who has been studying bicycling patterns in the U.S. and abroad for many years. ‘In the U.S., the default remains the painted bike lane on the road,’ she said, which is problematic since research has shown that women, seniors, and children prefer not to ride on roads with traffic.”
Yep. Unfortunately, AASHTO, based on no legitimate evidence, has always considered off-road bicycle paths as dangerous. “According to the researchers, the AASHTO guidelines discouraged or did not include cycle tracks due to alleged safety concerns and did not cite research about crash rates on cycle tracks.”
The Harvard researchers went ahead and did the research that AASHTO had passed over. “This study analyzed five state-adopted U.S. bicycle guidelines published between 1972 and 1999 to understand how the guidelines have directed the building of bicycle facilities in the U.S. They also wanted to find out how crash rates on the cycle tracks that had been built compared with bicycle crash rates on roadways in the U.S. They identified 19 cycle tracks in 14 cities in the U.S. and found these cycle tracks had an overall crash rate of 2.3 per one million bicycle kilometers ridden, which is similar to crash rates found on Canadian cycle tracks and lower than published crash rates from cities in North America for bicycling in the road without any bicycle facilities.”
In other words, build the damn cycle tracks! They are safer than bike lanes.
Lusk, coming from Harvard’s School of Public Health, also made the important link to public health: ”Bicycling, even more than walking, helps control weight and we need to provide comfortable and separate bicycle environments on existing roads so everyone has a chance for good health.” As did the press release: “Encouraging more cycling would be helpful for weight control, heart function, and would boost physical fitness for children and adults in addition to helping to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution from vehicles.”
After over a 1,200 words (this article) and dozens of research papers, the point remains clear: off-road bicycle paths are safer, preferred by most people, and should be encouraged and built.
Bicycle Infrastructure Policy Needs To Change To Increase Ridership, Improve Public Health (Harvard Study & My Own) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
Iowa State engineers have been working on making wind turbines taller and stronger by using concrete instead of steel. Will it stick?
Taller wind turbines are better – really, it’s been confirmed. So, making wind turbines taller and stronger seems like a never-ending goal (though, I imagine it does have its limits). Let’s just hope the concrete that is used is one of the greener and stronger types of concrete being developed.
For more details on the Iowa State research, here’s a full press release from Iowa State University:
Grant Schmitz studies a concrete test panel for signs of cracking under heavy loads. (Click to enlarge.)
Image Credit: Mike Krapfl.
AMES, Iowa – Grant Schmitz, eyes inches from a 6.5-by-12-foot panel of ultra-high performance concrete, studied the smooth surface for tiny cracks. He and other research engineers carefully marked every one with black markers.
Schmitz, an Iowa State graduate student of civil, construction and environmental engineering, and Sri Sritharan, Iowa State’s Wilson Engineering Professor and leader of the ’s College of Engineering‘s Wind Energy Initiative, were trying to answer some basic questions about using concrete panels and columns to build wind turbine towers using prefabricated, easily transportable components.
Could assembled concrete towers be a viable alternative to the steel towers now used for wind turbines? Could concrete towers be a practical way to raise turbine towers from today’s 80 meters to the steadier winds at 100 meters and taller? Which of three ways to connect the columns and panels works best for wind turbine towers?
“We have definitely reached the limits of steel towers,” Sritharan said. “Increasing the steel tower by 20 meters will require significant cost increases and thus the wind energy industry is starting to say, ‘Why don’t we go to concrete?’”
And so, Sritharan and Schmitz watched as Doug Wood, engineering specialist and manager of Iowa State’s Structural Engineering Research Laboratory, typed in the commands for the lab’s hydraulic equipment to push or pull with bigger loads on a full-size test segment of a 100-meter concrete wind turbine tower. With each increase, the segment creaked and thumped.
The goal was to test three column-and-panel segments for the expected loads at the top of a turbine tower. The engineers wanted to see if the segments could handle 150,000 pounds of load, 20 percent over the extreme load at that height.
Sritharan and Schmitz designed the concrete towers to be built in hexagon-shaped segments, with six panels connected to six columns. They tested three methods to connect the panels and columns: bolted connections; horizontal, prestressed connections with cables running through the tower pieces; and a grout connection using ultra-high performance concrete poured into the joints between panels and columns. In addition, the concrete columns were attached to a foundation using prestressing methods.
Aaron Shelman — green shirt, a doctoral student in structural engineering — and Owen Steffens, red shirt, a research associate in civil, construction and environmental engineering — check a concrete panel for signs of cracking. (Click to enlarge.)
Image Credit: Mike Krapfl.
All three versions of the test segments withstood 150,000 pounds of lateral load. The researchers also tested the segment with the grout connections under 170,000 pounds of load, 36 percent beyond extreme load. In each test, the segments performed well with no sign of distress at the operational load of 100,000 pounds. Some distress to the test segments was visible at the extreme load and beyond.
“Panel cracking was expected at very high loads and will be closed upon removal of the load,” Sritharan said. “This can also be avoided if this is requested by the industry.”
After all the testing, Schmitz said, “I definitely think we’re getting close to being able to use this technology in the industry.”
The concrete tower design offers several advantages over today’s steel towers:
“What we have shown is that this system can potentially be deployed to a 100-meter height for a 2.5 to 3 megawatt system,” Sritharan said.
Moving from 80- to 100-meter towers is important for wind energy producers.
Sritharan said wind conditions at 100 meters are steadier and less turbulent. Taller towers also allow for longer turbine blades. Studies indicate all of that can increase energy production by 15 percent.
Sritharan said as turbine size increases, the need for taller towers will be inevitable.
“A lot of people are talking about taller, concrete wind turbine towers,” he said. “And we’ve already established a new versatile concept with multiple construction options.”
Sritharan said the studies of concrete turbine towers will continue at Iowa State. The project has been supported, in part, by a $109,000 grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state economic-development program. Industry partners in the experimental program are Clipper Windpower, a company based in Carpinteria, Calif., with a turbine design and manufacturing facility in Cedar Rapids; Lafarge North America Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and Coreslab Structures (OMAHA) Inc. of Bellevue, Neb.
And Schmitz, who’s describing the project for his master’s thesis, could breathe a little easier after the successful testing.
“There is a lot of preparation for this,” he said. “We started coordinating the tests in August. We had to arrange for the precast and transportation and assembly through the fall. It’s definitely a relief when you see it handling the capacity it has to meet.”
Taller, Stronger Wind Turbines From Concrete was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
Around 85,000 households in the Northwest could be powered every month by the energy that could be stored deep underground in the region’s porous rock, according to new research. By utilizing such an energy storage solution, the region’s substantial wind energy resources could be put to full use.
The work, done by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Bonneville Power Administration, has identified two practical methods for putting this energy storage approach into practice, and also two very well-suited locations in Eastern Washington.
The compressed air energy storage solution is an extremely appealing one for the region because of the abundant wind energy potential there. This energy is often generated at night when the winds in the region are strongest. Unfortunately, energy demands are lowest at that time. So, a means of being able to produce maximum amounts of energy when the potential is highest and simply save this energy for later use is very appealing. One significant advantage of the compressed air solution is that such plants can be designed to switch between energy storage and power generation very quickly — within minutes.
“With Renewable Portfolio Standards requiring states to have as much as 20 or 30 percent of their electricity come from variable sources such as wind and the sun, compressed air energy storage plants can play a valuable role in helping manage and integrate renewable power onto the Northwest’s electric grid,” said Steve Knudsen, who managed the study for the BPA.
The press release gets into the details:
All compressed air energy storage plants work under the same basic premise. When power is abundant, it’s drawn from the electric grid and used to power a large air compressor, which pushes pressurized air into an underground geologic storage structure. Later, when power demand is high, the stored air is released back up to the surface, where it is heated and rushes through turbines to generate electricity. Compressed air energy storage plants can re-generate as much as 80 percent of the electricity they take in.
The world’s two existing compressed air energy storage plants — one in Alabama, the other in Germany — use human-made salt caverns to store excess electricity. The PNNL-BPA study examined a different approach: using natural, porous rock reservoirs that are deep underground to store renewable energy.
Interest in the technology has increased greatly in the past decade as utilities and others seek better ways to integrate renewable energy onto the power grid. About 13 percent, or nearly 8,600 megawatts, of the Northwest’s power supply comes from of wind. This prompted BPA and PNNL to investigate whether the technology could be used in the Northwest.
To find potential sites, the research team reviewed the Columbia Plateau Province, a thick layer of volcanic basalt rock that covers much of the region. The team looked for underground basalt reservoirs that were at least 1,500 feet deep, 30 feet thick and close to high-voltage transmission lines, among other criteria.
They then examined public data from wells drilled for gas exploration or research at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington. Well data was plugged into PNNL’s STOMP computer model, which simulates the movement of fluids below ground, to determine how much air the various sites under consideration could reliably hold and return to the surface.
After taking all of this data into account and analyzing it — two sites in Eastern Washington stood out for their potential. The Columbia Hills Site on the one hand, located just north of Boardman, Oregon, on the Washington side of the Columbia River. And the Yakima Minerals Site on the other, located around 10 miles north of Selah, Washington.
The Yakima Minerals Site is quite a bit different, though. Since it doesn’t have access to gas, the researchers had to come up with a different type of design — one relying on geothermal energy. This design works by extracting geothermal heat from deep down, which is used to run a chiller that cools the facility’s air compressors, thus improving efficiency. The geothermal energy could then be used to re-heat the air as it is returning to the surface.
“Combining geothermal energy with compressed air energy storage is a creative concept that was developed to tackle engineering issues at the Yakima Minerals Site,” said PNNL Laboratory Fellow and project leader Pete McGrail. “Our hybrid facility concept significantly expands geothermal energy beyond its traditional use as a renewable baseload power generation technology.”
The researchers note that such energy storage systems could also be used to store the excess energy that is often produced during the spring by the region’s hydroelectric plants, as a result of melting snow.
The next step for those involved will be to do an in-depth analysis, quantifying the benefits that such systems could provide to the region. After that, a commercial compressed air energy storage demonstration project will hopefully be started by one of the region’s utility companies.
In closing, here’s a brief overview of the two potential projects:
Columbia Hills Site
• Location: north of Boardman, Oregon, on Washington side of Columbia River
• Plant type: Conventional, which pairs compressed air storage with a natural gas power plant.
• Power generation capacity: 207 megawatts
• Energy storage capacity: 231 megawatts
• Estimated levelized power cost: as low as 6.4 cents per kilowatt-hour
• Would work well for frequent energy storage
• Continuous storage for up to 40 days
Yakima Minerals Site
• Location: 10 miles north of Selah, Washington
• Plant type: Hybrid, which pairs geothermal heat with compressed air storage
• Power generation capacity: 83 megawatts
• Energy storage capacity: 150 megawatts
• Estimated levelized power cost: as low as 11.8 cents per kilowatt-hour
• No greenhouse gas emissions
• Potential for future expansion
Compressed Air Energy Storage In The Northwest — Enough Wind Energy To Power 85,000 Homes For 1 Month Can Be Stored In Porous Rocks was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
Here’s an exciting story about a promising-looking solar cooker that could significantly improve (and even save) the lives of people in the developing world, via Solar Love.
A new solar cooker design, capable of cooking food, purifying water, and powering small electronics, has just been developed by researchers at Cranfield University and COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad.
The new design is based around the use of “a system of mirrored strips tilted at different angles to concentrate sunlight onto an ‘absorber’ which converts the sun’s energy into useable heat. The process is known as ‘concentrating solar power’ (CSP)” — a process very familiar to those with an interest in solar energy technology. Cranfield University is widely considered to be home to the best CSP research team in the UK.
In addition to being able to cook food and purify water, the new solar cooker is capable of storing heat and could generate electricity — potentially powering mobile and small-scale electronic devices, such as periodic air conditioning.
“The solar cooker was developed by COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad, with expertise from Cranfield University. It was funded by the Government of Pakistan, who recognised the need to improve the lives of those living in the remote regions of Pakistan.”
New Solar Cooker Could Greatly Improve Health In ‘Developing World’ was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a big deal. It was the first carbon-focused cap and trade program implemented in the US, and it covers several key Northeastern states. There’s a big vote coming today in New Hampshire. Here are more details from a New England Clean Energy Council press release:
New Hampshire Senate expected to vote later today on bill to strengthen RGGI Business leaders available for comment and reaction CONCORD, N.H., May 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — New Hampshire senators are expected to vote today on a bill to strengthen the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) considerably…
Future Of RGGI Vote Today was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
Restaurants use more energy per square foot than any other commercial business. However, saving energy is possible, as Trish Appleby has demonstrated in her restaurant Donatelli’s Homemade Italian in White Bear Lake, MN.
Donatelli’s cut energy use with low-cost recommendations: turning off the exhaust hood more frequently, installing water saving aerators and pre-rinse spray valves, insulating hot water lines, adding motion detectors in the bathroom fans, and fixing broken gaskets on refrigeration units which were allowing warm air to leak in.
Appleby started thinking about energy improvements because of rising energy costs. “It was easy to see that energy costs keep going up, so we needed to get a handle on how to control our usage and be more efficient,” said Appleby.
Donatelli’s was the first business to enroll in a City of White Bear Lake energy efficiency program for food service businesses, the program that we highlighted in last week’s Local Government Energy Action publication. The program provides an audit with recommendations for energy-saving opportunities and ongoing technical support. This program was funded with federal money through an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (a program funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA). The City of White Bear Lake applied through a competitive grant process to receive EECBG funds administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources.
Getting that help was the impetus Donatelli’s needed to focus on energy efficiency. According to Appleby, “Energy efficiency isn’t rocket science, but it’s important to find a partner to help you identify opportunities and draw the road map. It’s too easy to put off making improvements because you’re not sure which one is the best to start with.”
Donatelli’s started with low-cost recommendations: turning off the exhaust hood more frequently, installing water saving aerators and pre-rinse spray valves, insulating hot water lines, adding motion detectors in the bathroom fans, and fixing broken gaskets on refrigeration units which were allowing warm air to leak in.
But Trish didn’t stop with low-cost actions; she took energy savings seriously and decided to make some strategic investments. These included: replacing an open case refrigerator with an efficient unit with doors, installing a packaged rooftop heating and cooling unit, and replacing much of their lighting with efficient alternatives. She is currently considering retrofitting their kitchen exhaust hood with a control system that slows down the fan speed when cooking loads are light.
“The cost savings have been the biggest benefit for our business,” says Trish, “I’ve been surprised with how much of an impact the small changes we’ve made have had. If every business did this, it’d make a big difference in terms of the environment and our quality of life.”
The energy savings are really adding up for Donatelli’s. Over the two years of energy tracking, Donatelli’s has reduced their gas use by over 16,000 therms, and their electric use by almost 30,000 kWh (a 21% reduction in energy use overall). That’s like taking 20 cars off the road. And the financial benefit is big, too. Donatelli’s saved over $15,000 during 2010 and 2011—savings that will continue each year going forward.
Other White Bear Lake Success Stories: Donatelli’s is not the only restaurant in White Bear Lake that has been benefiting from energy efficiency improvements. Click here to learn about the efforts of other White Bear Lake restaurants >>
For more information, and for resources, tools and tips visit http://food.mncerts.org.
Follow Donatelli’s lead by placing an order for low-cost pre-rinse spray valves and faucet aerators through the Make A Splash program – visit http://splash.mncerts.org.
Restaurant In White Bear Lake, MN Reduces Energy Use By Over 20% was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
If it were April 1, I’d think this was a joke. It’s not April 1, and it’s not a joke. Electric bikes are apparently illegal in the state of New York. And the fine in New York City has just been doubled, rising to a whopping $1000. All I can say is, WTH? Here are more details from Andrew Meggison of CleanTechnica sister site Gas2:
The fine for riding an electric bike in New York City has increased from $500 to $1,000, preventing New Yorkers from adopting these bike/scooter hybrids. The increased fee was announced by city council member Jessica Lappin, who called these bikes a “scourge.” Tell us how you really feel, Jess.
Electric bikes have been illegal in the entire state of New York since 2004. The reason that NYC is stepping up the fine is due to supposed numerous complaints of pedestrians nearly being hit on the congested NYC streets, and bike lanes, by delivery men using electric bikes which can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour. David Pollack from the Committee for Taxi Safety went so far to say the bikes “a menace to little children” and a “menace to society”.
New York City is not the only major city to ban electric bikes. The Chinese city of Shenzhen has banned electric bikes in downtown areas to reduce related traffic accidents. The problem is that these bikes utilize bike-only lanes, despite being more akin to scooters. While plenty of other cities have found ways to handle the problem, New York’s outright ban is short-sighted at least; electric bicycle sales are set to skyrocket in the next few years.
Electric bike riders in NYC are, as expected, not very pleased with this increased fee and plan to find ways around it. The easiest loophole is to simply turn the electric engine off and ride the bike normally around law enforcement. Other options include buying certain electric bikes with “stealth” engines on the frame.
If any readers live in NYC, we would love to hear if you have had any electric bike encounters and what you think of the current NYC situation. Sound off in the comments below!
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison
Electric Bikes Illegal In New York — WTH? was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
As operators of utilities desperately clinging to their WWI-vintage business models prepare their Maginot Line defences of altered tariffs and higher connection fees, it might pay them to pull out the periscope and peer over the trenches to see what exactly is about to come their way.
Last week, the top executive team from the US-based solar company SunPower held an all-day analysts briefing – their first for a few years.
It was fascinating stuff about the future of the multi-trillion global electricity market. And if they are right, the flood of panels on rooftops, and pooled together in large scale solar plants, may be the least of the problems for the utilities. The solar industry is not just intent on hitting the industry on the flanks, it intends to come right over the top of the present incumbents.
There were a couple of key points that were made, and we’ll go through them one by one. If anyone is interested in seeing their slide-pack, and listening to their briefing, they can find it here.
The first point made by CEO Tom Werner is that the solar industry has barely scratched the surface of the $2.2 trillion global energy market (that’s an annual figure by the way).
Sure, it’s recorded spectacular growth through the “first mover” market that has been mostly been subsidised. “We are just at the beginning of a fundamental transition,” Werner said. “We are going to have huge market opportunities. The non-incentivised market is way bigger than the early adopter market.”
To flesh out that point, Howard Wenger, the firm’s president of regions, presented this graph below. It highlights just how nascent the solar technology is. There is an “addressable market” of 23,000TWh in the world, or which less than a third is made up of buildings (homes and businesses). So far, SunPower has just 0.01 per cent of that market, and just 0.02 per cent of the utility market.
The key point is that because of grid parity, which has been reached in numerous countries over the last few years, the solar industry is now able to attack that market with gusto. “We are just at beginning,” Wenger said.
Grid parity already exists in many market – not just at the “socket”, where electricity from rooftop panels is far cheaper than grid-sourced power – but also at utility scale, in competition with fossil-fuel plants. And solar will continue to increase its competitiveness.
SunPower boasts the world record on efficiency with 21.5 per cent from its commercial modules. It expects that to grow to 23 per cent over the next few years, which will translate into a fall in costs of 35 per cent – even after the dramatic falls in recent years.
“There will be fundamental change over next 3 years,” products chief Jack Peurach said. “We will be on offence on LCOE (levellised cost of electricity). That’s the foundation of this technology.”
To illustrate that point, Peurach presented this graph below about the LCOE of rooftop panels. Even though SunPower’s upfront costs are higher than the “commodity market”, its higher efficiency (40 per cent above the rest) and reliability means that its long term costs are lower. (This is something that most consumer buyers of household appliances understand, but seems to escape most of our large utilities and pricing regulators).
This is the key, because it marks an important evolution of the solar industry. Werner noted that over the last 10 years, the company has moved rom selling solar cells, to selling solar modules and then solar systems.
Within three years, however, that will change again. It won’t be just energy, it will be energy management solutions. That will include storage and the smart controls to allow homeowners and businesses to manage their energy production and consumption. That’s a whole new ball game, it’s what the utilities have been doing for the 100 years and presumed they would continue to do.
One of the reasons that is happening is that in most markets outside the US, the value of rooftop PV is found by consuming on site. That’s because, as in Australia, the utilities pay little (or in some cases nothing), for the energy that is exported back into the grid. And they want to hit the solar households even harder with higher network costs.
This may suit the utilities now, but it is a dangerous game, because it invites the solar industry to find other solutions – such as adding storage and smart controls.
“Storage will be economical in the very near future,” Peurach said. “When it is, it will become a vital part of the solar PV system, and storage systems will easily integrate into the energy management platform.”
It should be noted that SunPower has recently bought a stake in Australian retailer Diamond Energy, and Australia is one of the seven key country markets that it is targeting – along with the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan. It will be fascinating to see how that evolves, and the impact on the market.
SunPower says it was the first company to build a 10MW utility scale solar PV system – that was less than 10 years ago – and it is currently building the world’s largest again – the 579MW Antelope Valley solar farm in California. It has a total of 2GW in contracted and constructed projects, and says it has another 6GW in the pipeline.
SunPower says one of the advantages of its technology is its modularity. It developed in 2010 a standard system, the Oasis 1.5MW “power block”, that is simply repeated over and over to meet the specifications of a particular plant.
The company says this has helped in the reduction of balance of systems costs – installation, maintenance, financing etc – which one of the key targets for the solar industry beyond the actual cost of the modules.
According to SunPower it has achieved a 50 per cent reduction in BoS costs in just the last two years, and is well ahead of its plans. (See graph below)
SunPower says this power block is standardized and bankable. And it sees a sweetspot in the global market of 10MW to 50MW installations. That’s what is being touted as the idea size for Australia in coming years.
Interestingly, France will be its focus for new growth this year (French oil giant Total is its major shareholder), and it is already laying claim to 10 per cent of the burgeoning Japanese market. Its relationship with Total could also give it inroads into the Middle East and north Africa markets, which are looking seriously at utility scale solar. It already has 1.5GW in the pipeline from MENA countries.
Solar – It’s Barely Scratched Surface Of $2 Trillion Market was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
Under the Community Solar Gardens Act, which was implemented last year in Colorado, REC Solar completed the first of four community solar projects.
This is the first community solar project completed under Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Community program, which allows Xcel Energy’s customers to purchase electricity directly from “solar gardens” off site.
Andy Noel, director of utility-scale EPC at REC Solar, said: “This innovative model expands solar access to all Xcel Energy customers who are interested in the carbon-reducing and cost-savings benefits of solar, regardless of location or income.”
75% of the people they interact with can’t put solar on their homes and business? That’s an enormous percentage! This is partly due to the fact that some of them do not own their homes outright, but rent them. Others live in multifamily buildings and don’t have control over what’s on the roof. And others simply have heavily shaded or otherwise inadequate roofs.
If you are such a person and you don’t have the community solar garden option, however, how do you address such a situation?
One possibility is to start approaching home owners which rent their houses out with a plan tailored to suit them. I know I would love to rent a solar-powered house as opposed to one that isn’t.
The rent could be increased to compensate for the cost of the solar system, since the system would result in much lower or no electric bills.
Of course, more community solar garden legislation in other locations would certainly help.
REC Solar Completes 1st Community Solar Project in Colorado was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
tenKsolar has announced that its RAIS® XT solar solution, which improves commercial solar panel system performance, is now available.
tenKsolar PV Solution.
Image Credit: PR Newswire.
The RAIS® XT addresses the issue of significant performance impeditions caused by shading, hot spots, and other issues due to the series connections of conventional solar panels.
“We have worked to address every shortcoming of commercial-scale rooftop solar,” said tenK Founder and CTO Dallas Meyer. “Generating up to 44% more energy per roof than typical rooftop solar systems, the RAIS XT delivers unmatched value and performance.”
If one solar cell in a solar panel is shaded, it significantly reduces the power output of the solar panel. This issue is usually addressable by installing the panel where there is no shading, or by removing the plants and whatever other objects cause shading. However, tenKsolar’s new system makes such issues less of a problem.
“Failure modes and risks of conventional solar modules including hot spots, potential induced degradation and high voltage arcs are rendered impossible with tenK’s technology,” continued Meyer. “And with our newly published energy production study, the data clearly backs up the tenK advantage.”
tenKsolar Announces Its RAIS® XT Performance Enhancement Is Available was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
The US electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors announced this week that it has paid off its federal clean energy loan years earlier than required, and brand new Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz could not resist a little celebration at the expense of the loan program’s critics. In one of his first press releases since taking office, Moniz used the Tesla loan success to make the case that his agency’s portfolio of 30 loans, all aimed at cutting edge energy technologies, was “delivering big results for the American economy while costing far less than anticipated.”
That reminds us, after the 2009 auto industry bailout some of those aforementioned critics lauded Ford for its refusal of federal funds…so what do you call the $5.9 billion (yes billion, not million) DOE loan the company got to retool its factories?
Dollar bill by Marck Turnauckas
Tesla Motors is the US electric vehicle company co-founded by Elon Musk of PayPal and SpaceX fame. It received a DOE loan of $465 million back in June 2009, less than a year after the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 left the US auto industry deprived of private sector financing and on the verge of imploding.
Tesla used the loan to transition its business model from building high-end roadsters (which probably would have done quite nicely, if 2008 had not happened) to accelerate the development of its relatively affordable Tesla Model S sedan.
The rest is history. Aside from one misguided “test drive” earlier this year, the car has gotten rave reviews, sales are strong compared to other EVs in its price range, and Tesla Motors finally turned a profit this year.
Earlier this week, Musk announced that Tesla had repaid the full remaining balance of the loan five years early, though by DOE’s calculation the Tesla loan was repaid nine years earlier than required.
It’s also worth noting that the development of advanced EV battery technology, which is also supported by DOE, will bring the price of EVs down even farther into the affordability range, opening up new markets for Tesla and other EV manufacturers.
The DOE loan program actually dates back to the Bush Administration, but it took a heavy beating in the early years of the Obama Administration as critics focused on the demise of one of the loan beneficiaries, the solar company Solyndra.
However, the key thing to understand is that risk was built into the loan program from the get-go, and it was designed to absorb a reasonable amount of loss without hitting taxpayers in the pocket. The whole idea was to get beneficial, cutting edge technology off the ground and into the hands of the public, when private sector financing was unwilling or unable to provide the seed money.
With that in mind, let’s look at Moniz’s rundown of the loan program to date, as detailed in Wednesday’s DOE press release:
“More than 90 percent of loan loss reserve Congress established remains intact, while losses to date represent about 2 percent of the overall $34 billion portfolio. The other 98 percent of the portfolio includes 19 new clean energy power plants that are adding enough solar, wind and geothermal capacity to power a million homes and displace 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year – roughly equal to taking a million cars off the road.”
Breaking it down a little more, the loan program has supported some of the world’s largest solar power and thermal energy storage facilities and one of the world’s largest wind farms.
In addition to supporting Tesla as the first all-electric vehicle manufacturer in the US, the loan program has also supported Nissan’s all-electric US manufacturing.
As for Ford, though you could make the case that the company was not “bailed out” by the federal government through the same financial pathway as GM, the fact is that DOE provided a $5.9 billion loan to Ford, enabling it to modernize 13 factories and boost the fuel efficiency of its fleet (thanks in part to the very interesting C-Max Energi hybrid EV series).
Tesla’s Early Loan Repayment Gets Props From Energy Dept was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
There’s no denying it — there are tons of poor farmers around the world. It’s a wonder that those growing one of the essentials of life are often unable to make a decent living. So, naturally, any story about using solar power (one of the coolest… or hottest… things on the planet) to help low-income farmers is one that makes my heart warm. Throw in crowdfunding and it’s a grand slam, or hat trick, or pick your favorite sport metaphor. Thanks to Priti Ambani of CleanTechnica sister site Ecopreneurist for this find and article.
Paul Polak is an internationally acclaimed social entrepreneur who wants to eradicate poverty using business and technology. He is the author of the book Out of Poverty and founded International Development Enterprises, an NGO that ended poverty for 17 million people. Now, Paul and his team is working on empowering low-income farmers with reliable irrigation systems.
Did you know that there are a billion people in the world that make just $2 a day? The vast majority of the families who live this reality are farmers in the developing world with small plots of land. They make just enough to survive and have difficulty investing in labor-saving equipment.
To break out of the poverty cycle, poor farmers need to grow cash crops to increase their income. Cash crops are irrigation intensive and farmers need a reliable, low-cost water pumping system to grow the extra food they need to make a poverty-busting profit.
Irrigation systems are expensive and incur maintenance costs. In addition diesel or electric pumps are both expensive and unreliable. Electric pumps can alternatively be powered with solar energy, but current systems can cost $5,000 or more, which is way out of the reach of poor farmers.
Paul Polak is working with a team of experienced design, construction and solar professionals. They want to build a cost effective solar water pump and system that will help improve the lives of 50 million people in developing countries. The solar pump is the key component of a complete water-to-crops irrigation system that is being designed by leading experts in the fields of irrigation, systems engineering, and solar energy. Using a method proven by Paul Polak, the system will be sold to farmers in some of the poorest regions in the world, enabling the farmers themselves to break their poverty cycles.
The team has the designs, the prototypes, and the motivation. Now they are crowdfunding to build a production model to take to field tests – Read more about the project here support the efforts- http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sunwater-affordable-solar-powered-pumps-for-poor-farmers
Crowdfunding Solar Pumps For Low-Income Farmers was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
As solar and wind power grow, rich but out of date industries such as the coal and nuclear industries are beginning to quiver. Naturally, with buildings full of money, they’re also fighting back and paying others to fight back. They’re struggling to survive. One way they are doing so is by attacking every incentive for clean, renewable energy that they can. State renewable energy policies have been a particular focus of attack as of late. One of the closest battles along these lines was recently held in North Carolina. Luckily for us, renewable energy won. Here’s an email I just received from the Solar Energy Industries Association (image added & two notes included at the end):
Image Credit: North Carolina flag via Shutterstock.
This wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of solar supporters in North Carolina and around the nation — and the Solar Power Advocacy Network, which deserves a special shout out. Your voices make a huge difference. Please encourage your friends and collegues to join now. We want to express our sincere appreciation to everyone who took time to call, write or sign our online petition.
Because of smart policies like North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS), solar offers real hope for the future by reducing our nation’s dangerous dependence on fossil fuels and by helping to fight pollution.
Sadly, these policies are under assault in state capitols around the nation. But working together, we can – and we will – make a real difference for America.
Today, solar is generating enough electricity to power more than 1.2 million American homes – and right now a solar-powered airplane is making the first ever coast-to-coast flight in U.S. history.
Who would have believed that just 10 years ago? That’s an easy answer: people like you.
On behalf of the 120,000 workers and 5,600 companies which make up the solar industry in the United States, thanks for everything you do to help make solar a great American success story!
Vice President, Communications
Solar Energy Industries Association
P.P.S. — More can be read about the North Carolina bill’s failure on Solar Server.
Anti-Renewable North Carolina Bill Defeated! was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
Tesla Motors announced late in the day yesterday that it has now completely paid back its Department of Energy loan. It also noted that it is the only American car company (of any kind) to have fully repaid the US government. It’s been somewhat sad and somewhat hilarious watching anti-EV (i.e. pro-oil) media companies, politicians, and their followers try to bash and belittle the electric car revolution and its prime pioneer, Tesla. As Tesla succeeds more and more, however, the bashing has been turning to praise in some corners. I guess that’s simply how progress works. More commentary on the announcement below is coming soon, via CleanTechnica Senior Reporter Tina Casey. In the meantime, here’s the full announcement from Tesla Motors (obtained via email, image added):
Palo Alto, CA – May 22, 2013 — Tesla Motors announced that it has paid off the entire loan awarded to the company by the Department of Energy in 2010. In addition to payments made in 2012 and Q1 2013, today’s wire of almost half a billion dollars ($451.8M) repays the full loan facility with interest. Following this payment, Tesla will be the only American car company to have fully repaid the government.
For the first seven years since its founding in 2003, Tesla was funded entirely with private funds, led by Elon Musk. Tesla brought its Roadster sports car to market with a 30% gross margin, designed electric powertrains for Daimler (Mercedes) and had done preliminary design of the Model S all before receiving a government loan.
In 2010, Tesla was awarded a milestone-based loan, requiring matching private capital obtained via public offering, by the DOE as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program. This program was signed into law by President Bush in 2008 and then awarded under the Obama administration in the years that followed. This program is often confused with the financial bailouts provided to the then bankrupt GM and Chrysler, who were ineligible for the ATVM program, because a requirement of that program was good financial health.
The loan payment was made today using a portion of the approximately $1 billion in funds raised in last week’s concurrent offerings of common stock and convertible senior notes. Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive officer and cofounder, purchased $100 million of common equity, the least secure portion of the offering. “I would like to thank the Department of Energy and the members of Congress and their staffs that worked hard to create the ATVM program, and particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate,” said Elon Musk. “I hope we did you proud.”
Tesla Motors’ (NASDAQ: TSLA) goal is to accelerate the world’s transition to electric mobility with a full range of increasingly affordable electric cars. California-based Tesla designs and manufactures EVs, as well as EV powertrain components for partners such as Toyota and Mercedes. Tesla has delivered more than 10,000 electric vehicles to customers in 31 countries.
Tesla Pays Off Government Loan 9 Years Early was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).
The electricity supply industry has resumed and intensified its efforts to change the tariff system for rooftop solar households, in a bid to protect revenues that are falling and their business models that are eroding because more customers are producing their own electricity.
A new discussion paper was released this weekend, “exclusively” to News Ltd newspapers which enthusiastically took up the chance to demonise the cost of renewables once again.
The upshot of the paper is that households with rooftop solar are “avoiding” network costs, and these in turn are being passed on to other users, which the electricity supply industry says are mostly less wealthy households.
The ESAA estimated the current total of “avoided” costs at $340 million, or around $30 per household.
To put this into context, this sum is – according to the ESAA’s own data – just one eleventh of the cross-subsidy paid by households with no air conditioning.
The ESAA estimates these air con network costs at $330 per household, and it is certainly not “hidden”, because it has been one of the key reasons why networks have been “supersizing” their grids over the last few years, at an aggregate cost of nearly$40 billion.
And herein lies the contraction in the ESAA position. Does the ESAA suggest that air conditioning households should be hit with higher fixed tariffs to pay for network extensions? No, of course not, because the increased use of air conditioners adds to the revenue pool of the electricity industry, and they want to get a return on their grid investment.
The use of solar, however, detracts from the incumbents because rooftop solar households draw less electricity from the grid – leading to the now well documented “death spiral.”
The ESAA wants to arrest this spiral by lifting fixed charges or introducing tariffs for solar households to maintain the revenue pool and protect its business model. This has already begun in several states, and to make itself look like an innocent bystander, the industry has brought the violins to play a song of woe on behalf of the least well off. But this is not about protecting less wealthy households, it is about protecting the business model of the utilities.
What seems inevitable however is that the industry will one day soon need to change its business model of face the same decline as fixed priced telephony or printed photos. They are fast approaching their Kodak moment.
The ESAA complains that rooftop solar households can cut their network charges by 62 per cent (not to mention their overall energy costs), and says the costs of providing the network are “mostly the same or even more expensive as a result of rooftop solar energy”.
But they need not be. It could, for instance, be more effective to encourage the use of battery technology that would smooth out the output of solar panels, and extend that output into and across the early evening peak. Germany recently introduced a feed in tariff to encourage battery storage. It is the first country to do so.
Solar is causing problems for traditional utilities because it is taking revenue away from the day-time peaks. Extending rooftop solar’s reach into the early evening, and combining it with smart technology, would remove the evening peak as well – and with even more revenue from the incumbent generators, network providers and retailers. But it would certainly reduce costs for customers.
And this is the problem facing the incumbent utilities, as we point out in the article today from SunPower’s analyst briefing last week. Basically, SunPower is saying that the solar industry has barely scratched the surface of the $2 trillion global electricity industry, but intends to “change the game” by introducing battery storage and energy management systems. SunPower, incidentally, owns a share in a small Australian renewables-focused electricity retailer, Diamond Energy.
The Edison Electric Institute, the US equivalent of the ESAA, said in a recent report that solar is changing turning the incumbent electricity industry on its head. It noted that the ability of rooftop solar, battery storage and energy efficiency programs to reduce demand from the grid would likely translate into lower prices for wholesale power and reduced profits. Worse still, customers were just as likely to “leave the system entirely” if a more cost-competitive alternative is available.
The ESAA, on the other hand, seems to ignore this, and simply rails against what it sees as added costs, while refusing to acknowledge the benefits of rooftop solar and distributed generation – both real, as the Melbourne Energy Institute’s Mike Sandiford has pointed out, or potential, such as the $15 billion of savings outlined by the likes of the Institute of Sustainable Futures.
ESAA’s paper, for instance, also reported that the cost of feed-in tariffs is costing around $680 million, which when added t the “avoided” network costs, adds up to a nice round evil number of $1 billion.
The reality is that the retailers have actually done quite well out of the feed-in tariffs, as even the pricing regulators have noted, and they have accelerated this “death spiral” by profiting from a 25 per cent mark-up on the cost of renewable energy certificates, and from being able to sell electrons bought from one households for 6c/kWh to the neighbouring household for four or five times the price.
The retailers, as RenewEconomy noted last month, are also profiting handsomely for mark-ups to electricity bills that allow them “headroom” – or more revenue – so they can offer discounts elsewhere. Even IPART concluded that this meant that households were paying $138 a year more than they needed to. As Kodak and so many other industries can tell us, short term greed is not helpful to long-term business models.
The Clean Energy Council, which is partly funded by some ESAA members, noted on Sunday that the ESAA proposal is like suggesting 20 years ago that people using email should chip in for stamps, the solar industry said today.
“It is no surprise that some of the big players in the traditional power industry are clutching at straws … to try and discourage the competition they are facing from the emerging solar industry,” said CEC deputy chief executive Kane Thornton.
“It is ridiculous to single out solar power users, who are only one part of a nationwide movement by consumers to take control of their power use and save on the cost of living.
“Suggesting that people who have responded to government incentives to install more efficient appliances or generate their own clean energy are somehow cheating the system is a self-interested grab from old energy businesses looking to turn back the clock to preserve their out-dated business models.”
Utilities Want Higher Charges To Shade Business Model From Solar was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook (also free!), follow us on Twitter, or just visit our homepage (yep, free).