Thursday, October 30, 2008

Forget Joe the (Unlisenced) Plumber: Here's Troy the Wind Turbine Builder

Cross-posted from WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

Here's the voice of just one of millions of new, clean energy jobs we can create if we spark a new energy economy. Barack Obama has said it's his top priority if elected, so we should expect more people like Troy the wind turbine builder to find well-paying, dignified work that helps put America back on track.

Hat tip to Clean Tech and Green Businesses for Obama.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski Unveils Clean Energy Agenda for 2009

Cross-posted from WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski unveiled the ambitious clean energy agenda he hopes to see implemented by the 2009 Oregon Legislature on Monday. Following up on a landmark 2007 legislative session that saw the Beaver State enact an ambitious renewable energy standard, expand tax credits for clean energy, and enact new standards for energy efficiency, Governor Kulongoski isn't resting on his laurels.

"Climate change is the most important environmental and economic issue of our time," Kulongoski said as he laid out his proposal for new clean energy tax incentives and ambitious goals he wants the 2009 Legislature to adopt.

On Monday, Governor Kulongoski said it's time to redouble the state's commitment to a clean energy future. "In 2009, we must be bolder, more comprehensive and even more visionary," Kulongoski said. Right on!

According to the Oregonian, Kulongoski's proposals include:

• Greenhouse gas reduction: Authorizes regional cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions; sets limits on emissions from the state's largest sources; sets low-carbon standards for all new electricity generation

• Energy efficiency: Establishes energy performance certificates for new homes or commercial buildings, similar to MPG ratings for new cars; sets goal of zero-emission new buildings by 2030; allows 50 percent tax credit for large-scale energy efficiency projects, up to $20 million

• Renewable energy: Sets up pilot program to pay for energy produced from solar projects; establishes tax credit for residents who donate to a renewable energy incentive fund

• Transportation: Offers $5,000 credit for purchase of new plug-in hybrid or all-electric car; authorizes new low-carbon fuel standard similar to those in Washington and California
His plans to implement a cap and trade program, joining with other states in the Western Climate Initiative, will likely draw the most opposition. Groups representing industrial energy consumers are already lining up in opposition. But it's clear that Governor Kulongoski, who faces his last legislative session as Oregon's governor, has decided to pin his legacy on efforts to make Oregon a clean energy leader and tackle global warming.

More on Kulongoski's clean energy plans at the Oregonian

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Solyndra Introduces Cylindrical Panel PV System; Announces $1.2 Billion in Multi-year Orders

Solyndra, Inc. today announced a new solar photovoltaic (PV) system for the commercial rooftop market. Solyndra's PV system is designed to generate significantly more solar electricity on an annual basis from typical low-slope commercial rooftops with lower installation costs than conventional PV flat panel technologies. Commercial rooftops represent a vast, underutilized resource and huge opportunity for generating solar electricity. Since its founding in 2005, Solyndra has been developing technology and ramping manufacturing capacity to produce its proprietary CIGS-based thin film PV system. Solyndra is currently shipping its systems, comprised of panels and mounting hardware, to fulfill more than $1.2 billion of multi-year contracts with customers in Europe and the United States.
Solyndra's panels employ cylindrical modules which capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. This self-tracking design allows Solyndra's PV systems to capture significantly more sunlight than traditional flat-surfaced solar panels, which require costly tilted mounting devices to improve the capture of direct light, offer poor collection of diffuse light and fail to collect reflected light from rooftops or other installation surfaces.
Conventional flat PV panels must be mounted at an angle and spaced apart for optimum energy production. The sunlight striking the spaces between the panels is not collected and thus is wasted. Solyndra's panels perform optimally when mounted horizontally and packed closely together, thereby covering significantly more of the available roof area and producing more electricity per rooftop on an annual basis than a conventional panel installation.
To meet rooftop wind loading requirements, conventional flat solar panels must be anchored to commercial roofs with either ballast or rooftop penetrations, which are inherently problematic. Together with the need for tilting, the resulting complex mounting systems require significant investment in labor, materials and engineering. Conversely, because wind blows through Solyndra panels, no rooftop anchoring is required. Further, the low weight of the Solyndra system enables the installation of PV on a broader range of rooftops.
For typical conventional PV installations, a solar panel is only half the cost of a complete installation; the other half includes additional expenses such as installation, cables, and inverters. The horizontal mounting and unique air-flow properties of Solyndra's solar panel design substantially simplify the installation process for Solyndra's PV systems. The ease of installation and simpler mounting hardware of Solyndra's system enables its customers to realize significant savings on installation costs.
"By eliminating the need for roof-penetrating mounts and wind ballasts, PV arrays with Solyndra panels can be installed with one-third the labor, in one-third of the time, at one-half the cost," said Manfred Bachler, Chief Technical Officer at Phoenix Solar AG, one of the largest solar power integrators in Europe and a Solyndra customer. "For commercial rooftops, PV module installation time can now be measured in days, not weeks. For flat commercial rooftops this is game-changing technology."
According to Solyndra founder and CEO Chris Gronet, "Solyndra's system uniquely optimizes PV performance on commercial rooftops by converting more of the sunlight that strikes the total rooftop area into electricity while also providing for a lower installation cost and lower cost of electricity."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Time for A Green Bailout? Van Jones Says Clean Energy Investment Can Solve Our Economic and Ecological Challenges

Van Jones is one timely man. With the economic crisis spurring a new search for ways to revitalize and rebuild our flagging economy, Van Jones, the founder and president of Green For All, is ready with answers: "a national commitment to green economic development as a way to address our environmental and economic crises at once."

That's the message of Van's new book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems (due out in bookstores October 7th), as well as the nationwide Green Jobs Now! day of action organized by Green For All last weekend. He couldn't have picked a better time for the book release and the day of action.

The $700 billion economic bailout plan passed last Friday by Congress may get Wall Street back to square one. But Americans on Main Street want more than a bailout. We want a real plan to move forward. We want a plan to create a more sustainable, prosperous and secure future for ourselves and our loved ones.

In a piece in Huffington Post last Friday (reprinted below), Van points out that investments in a 'green bailout plan' - a series of timely, strategic investments to ignite a new clean energy economy and restart our ailing economy - is our best hope, perhaps the only strategy that can move our troubled nation forward into a new era of shared prosperity. This quote from the intro to The Green Collar Economy sums it up well:
"[W]e cannot drill and burn our way out of our present economic and energy problems. We can, however, invent and invest our way out. Choosing to do so on a massive scale would have the practical benefit of cutting energy prices enough—and generating enough work—to pull the U.S. economy out of its present death spiral."
I look forward to cracking open Van's book this evening (I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy), and I encourage you to pick up a copy for yourselves (you can order a copy here). If there's one question that should be on everyone's mind right now, it's how do we get our economy back on track, kick our dirty energy addiction and ignite a new, clean energy economy. I'm sure Van has some answers.

I'll try to post a review of the book once I've read more of it. For now, here's Van's piece from HuffPost (reprinted with permission from Green for All):

"Now For A Green Bailout: Twice The Bang, Half The Bucks"
By Van Jones

Maybe the Wall Street bailout package is a good idea.

But the only thing I know for sure is this: even if we avert a total economic meltdown, we will still be in a recession. Millions of Americans still will be without jobs -- or in real fear of losing their job. Worse, we will still be dependent on dirty fuels like oil and coal, which are draining our monetary resources and cooking the planet.

The Earth and everyday people will still be suffering.

I wrote a new book to propose elegant solutions for our economic and environmental crises. The Green Collar Economy offers a green cure for the dilemmas we face and the financial messes we are in.

At this point, I am willing to concede that Wall Street and the big bankers need some propping up. But while we are at it, we should find a way to bail out the little people -- and the planet, too.

So how about a green bailout -- to help both? We already took an important step in that direction today. Perhaps the only thing in the whole bailout package that is inarguably good is the support for the U.S. clean energy sector.

After unconscionable delays, Congress finally gave a boost to our wind power industries and our solar power industries by extending the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the Production Tax Credit. The price tag was about $9 billion, but the cost was entirely offset, mostly by changes that were made to oil and gas tax rules.

What does America get for that no-net-cost shuffling of the tax code? Plenty. The 8-year extension of ITC alone will create 440,000 jobs. And $230 billion of private investment would be created in the solar and other industries, according to a recent report by Navigant Consulting.

Green Bailout: Half The Money, Twice The Impact

That's a good start. Let's keep going. An all-out "green bailout" could give America TWICE the bang ... for half the bucks.

We just found $700 billion. Let's find another $350 billion. That's half the price tag of the Wall Street rescue - which has no guarantee of success. But with $350 billion investment, we absolutely and positively could retrofit and repower America using clean, green energy - and create millions of new jobs, in the process.

A new report just released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors says that we can create over 4 million green jobs if we aggressively shift away from traditional fossil fuels toward alternative energy and a significant improvement in energy efficiency.

Another report just released by the Political Economy Research Institute and the Center for American Progress shows that the U.S. can create two million jobs over two years by investing $100 billion in a green economic recovery plan. The report also shows that this investment would create four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.

Green For All and its partners are proposing a Clean Energy Corps that includes a revolving loan fund to finance the ambitious retrofitting of the nation's building stock. An investment of less than $3 billion per year would provide financing and can be expected to create close to 120,000 green jobs a year and 600,000 over five years, while also lowering home heating and electricity bills for homeowners and small businesses.

Clean Energy Corps: Retrofitting & Repowering America

The United States should have a Clean Energy Corps, combining community service with green-collar job training. Such a program could get hundreds of thousands of people ready to go to work, greening the nation's infrastructure.

The New Apollo Program is a comprehensive economic investment strategy developed by the Apollo Alliance to build America 's 21st century clean energy economy and dramatically cut energy bills for families and businesses. It estimates that the investment of $500 billion over the next 3 years and create more than 5 million high quality green-collar jobs.

It will accelerate the development of the nation's vast clean energy resources and move us toward energy security, climate stability, and economic prosperity. And it will transform America into the global leader of the new green economy.

A massive green economic stimulus package like this could even pay for ITSELF in energy savings and in tax dollars generated by new jobs and businesses.

As Thomas Friedman says, "We don't just need a bailout. We need a buildup." In my new book, The Green-Collar Economy, I spell out other green remedies for our economy.

Friedman: Not Just a Bailout, A Buildup

The bottom line is: we can't base a national economy on credit cards. But we can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart bio-fuels and massive, a program to weatherize every building and home in America.

Rather than giving platinum parachutes to those who wrecked the economy, let's throw a green lifeline to the ordinary people who want to rebuild it. We can't drill and burn our way out of our present mess. But we can invent and invest our way out.

Our present economy is based on consumption, debt and environmental destruction. The next U.S. economy should be based on production, smart savings and environmental restoration. You can't have a stable economy based on unregulated greed at the top. But you can have one based on unleashing green, at the bottom.

Millions of green jobs would be a Main Street solution to the Wall Street meltdown.

America's number one resource is not oil or mortgages. Our number one resource is our people.

And it is time to put our people back to work - retrofitting and re-powering America.

That's what my book is all about.

Tax Credit Extension Ensures Strong Future for Solar Industry

By a vote of 263-171, the U.S. House of Representatives passed historic legislation that extends the 30-percent federal investment tax credit for both residential and commercial solar installations for 8 years.
This legislation will:

  • Extend for 8 years the 30-percent tax credit for both residential and commercial solar installations;
  • Eliminate the $2,000 monetary cap for residential solar electric installations, creating a true 30-percent credit;
  • Eliminate the prohibition on utilities from benefiting from the credit;
  • Allow Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) filers, both businesses and families, to take the credit; and
  • Authorize $800 million for clean energy bonds for renewable energy generating facilities, including solar.

Read SEPA`s statement about how this will impact utiliies` engagement with solar energy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

CPV Industry Consortium Formed to Steer Rapid Growth in Solar Industry

Founding Members Include Concentrix Solar, Emcore, ISFOC, Isofoton, and SolFocus

Founding members announced the establishment of an industry organization -- the CPV Consortium -- focused on supporting the development and optimizing the success of concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) as a mainstream energy source. The CPV Consortium is a global organization comprised of members from all segments of the CPV industry, which uses mirrors and lenses to concentrate sunlight onto high efficiency solar cells in order to generate more solar electricity from dramatically less photovoltaic material. Membership is open to all companies and institutions that have a vested interest in advancing the CPV industry. Founding members include Concentrix Solar (Germany), Emcore (USA), ISFOC (Spain), Isofoton (Spain) and SolFocus (USA) who have been working on the creation of this organization for the past 12 months.
Developments in the CPV area have been extensive in the past few years, fueled by the efforts of innovative companies contributing to all aspects of this emerging next generation photovoltaic technology. "Today CPV is on the cusp of delivering on its promise of low-cost, reliable solar-generated electricity that will be cost competitive with traditional energy sources," explained Nancy Hartsoch, Director of the CPV Consortium and VP of Marketing for SolFocus. "The challenge now is to assure that a proper foundation and infrastructure is in place to support CPV, which is why we are pleased to have a broad and expanding membership which will include cell and material suppliers, panel suppliers, tracker companies, integrators, power generators, universities and government organizations, among others." Veeco and 3M, leading equipment and materials suppliers to the CPV industry, have also joined the Consortium as charter members.
Dr. Pedro Banda, Director General of founding member ISFOC commented on the organization. "The CPV consortium is a key instrument to allow for this growth, bringing together all key industrial and R&D players. It is with this type of commitment that we all can ensure the future of this technology, becoming a major trend and providing global solutions for the deployment of renewable energies. ISFOC is committed together with the industrial players to support their technology and product developments and serve as their test bed. This consortium will help bringing CPV up to the pace at which the PV market is growing across the world."
"With its outstanding efficiencies CPV technology has an immense potential for lowering costs of solar electricity," commented Hansjorg Lerchenmuller, CEO of Concentrix Solar. "In order to fully exploit the potential of the technology we need to join forces throughout the whole CPV industry."
Membership is available at several levels including Charter Membership which includes a seat on the steering committee, General Membership, and Informational Membership. Governmental, University and non-profit memberships are available on an invitation-only basis. Interested parties should contact the Consortium at for more information.
"It is crucial for the companies participating in the CPV industry to collaborate and ensure that this technology meets and exceeds the cost and performance requirements of the global energy market. The CPV Consortium is the mechanism where the industry leadership will partner to ensure Concentrating PV systems reach their full market potential," explained David Danzilio, VP and GM for Emcore's Space and Terrestrial Solar Products. Vincente Diaz, CPV Business Manager for ISOFOTON S.A. added, "CPV technology means a cost effective and reliable product in the PV sector. The mature technologies present in CPV allow big improvements in terms of system efficiencies. It is the right moment for joining in a powerful team that could boost CPV technology market presence in the short term."

Home energy efficiency specialist Sustainable Spaces secures financing

Sustainable Spaces, a national leader in the growing field of home energy efficiency and health, announced it has closed its Series A funding. The company secured $6 million dollars from RockPort Capital Partners and Shasta Ventures. The infusion of funding will enable the company to invest in building its infrastructure to meet the exploding demand for its services.
Sustainable Spaces brings homes up to today’s high standards of energy efficiency, health and comfort by applying building science to conduct home energy audits and retrofit projects. Existing homes currently account for almost 21% of the U.S. carbon output, more than all the cars, trucks, and buses combined. Energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective avenues for improving energy security, reducing energy bills, and addressing the important issue of global climate change—all while creating green collar jobs and growing the economy. Since 2004, the company has performed over 400 home retrofits in the San Francisco Bay Area, lowering homeowners’ energy usage and expense by an average of 40%, while improving indoor air quality and thermal comfort.
"We are very pleased to be working with investors who understand the value proposition and market potential of our business and are committed to successfully growing companies that can make a real impact on global climate change and the emerging green economy," said Pratap Mukherjee, CEO of Sustainable Spaces. "There are more than 70 million single-family, owner-occupied homes in the U.S. and they typically use one and a half to two times the energy required to achieve the homeowners’ desired level of comfort. Finding the causes of wasted energy in homes and fixing the underlying problems represent the single most potent and cost-effective measure we can take to combat global warming."
"Sustainable Spaces has created a compelling value proposition for homeowners," said Chuck McDermott of RockPort Capital Partners. "By addressing each individual homeowner’s concerns and constructing an improvement roadmap customized to that customer, they can work within any homeowner’s budget to reduce their bills and make an impact on global climate change. Our investment enables the company to further increase the tremendous results they have seen in their local market and expand their programs into new markets."
"There’s a massive opportunity to create the trusted brand in home performance to help homeowners sort through the dizzying array of green products and services in the most cost-effective way possible," said Tod Francis of Shasta Ventures. "Sustainable Spaces has been leading the way with a track record of providing a very high quality service enabled by leading building science know-how. We are very excited to be working with the company on the ground floor of this growing sector."
Founded in 2004, Sustainable Spaces has been a national leader in creating the home performance industry. The company is committed to its employees, and has created more than 40 positions in living wage jobs with a full benefits package. The company is also closely involved in local green collar jobs programs, and is committed to giving back to the communities in which it does business.