Top Utilities Grow Solar Power Despite Recession

Top Utilities Grow Solar Power Despite Recession

Utility scale solar continues high growth

Utility scale solar continues high growth

By John Addison (5/28/09).

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA)  whose membership includes 110 utilities issued a new report – “2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings” – which identifies the utilities in the U.S. that have the most solar electricity integrated into their portfolio.

The report demonstrates that the utility segment is making a major investment to increase the amount of solar energy in power portfolios, with many utilities doubling the amount of solar power in their portfolio in just one year. The installed solar capacity of the top ten ranked utilities rose 25 percent in a tough economy, from 711 megawatts to 882 megawatts.

The Top 10 Utilities in cumulative megawatts installed represent six states stretching from California to New York:

#1 Southern California Edison(EIX) – CA (441.4MW)
#2 Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG)  – CA (229.5)
#3 NV Energy – NV (77.9)
#4 San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) – CA (49.3)
#5 Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy – XEL) – CO (28.5)
#6 LA Department of Water & Power – CA (13.6)
#7 Public Service Electric & Gas Co. – NJ (13.2)
#8 Arizona Public Service Co. – AZ (10.6)
#9 Sacramento Municipal Utility District – CA (10.2)
#10 Long Island Power Authority – NY (7.7)

Although the sunny West Coast dominates this year’s list, other states are coming on strong including Florida, North Carolina, and Florida. Yes, the availability of sunlight is one driver in the expanded use of solar. Other drivers include the retail price of electricity, state government initiatives such as RPS, and cap-and-trade of emission credits.

There are two primary solar technologies, photovoltaic and concentrating solar power. Photovoltaic (PV) technologies utilize a photosensitive material to generate electricity direct from sunlight. PV can also be magnified using mirrors or lenses in low- or high-concentrations known as concentrating photovoltaic technology or CPV. Concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies utilize mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight on a point or line and generate high-temperature heat, which is captured to generate electricity in a later process.

Julia Hamm, Executive Director of SEPA, sees strong growth in both PV and CSP. For example, Southern California Edison is planning a massive 1.3GW of CSP with BrightSource. Arizona Power is planning 125MW of PV. Medium- and utility-scale photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal power projects are adding around 20 billion of dollars worth of investment.

Some European nations that aggressively use wind power, such as Spain and Denmark, have demonstrated that intermittency is quite manageable when renewable energy is less than 20% of the mix. CSP can take the mix much higher by storing energy in liquids like molten salt for delivery when demand peaks.

#5 on the list, Public Service of Colorado (Xcel Energy), is already experimenting with vehicle-to-grid (V2G Report),  which will allow the growing population of electric vehicles to provide power to the grid during peak hours. Utilities are experimenting with several forms of large scale grid-storage which will be promising if significant costs are achieved.

Some 30 years ago, solar was dismissed as impractical. Now that PV manufacturing cost is 100 times less than in early days, utilities are taking the lead in the growing demand for solar power.

New Cars that Already Meet 2016 Fuel Economy Standards

New Cars that Already Meet 2016 Fuel Economy Standards

 

President Obama Announces 2016 CAFE Standards

By John Addison (updated 9/7/10).

President Barack Obama announced that automakers must meet U.S. fuel-economy standards that require new cars and light trucks to average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. Several 2010 cars already beat 35.5 mpg such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid, and the Mercedes Smart Fortwo. In 2011, many new hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars will be sold that exceed the 2016 standards.

In Europe, over 100 models can be purchased that meet the 2016 standards, thanks to the popularity of cars that are smaller, lighter weight, and often use efficient turbo diesel engines.

Over the next three years, dozens of exciting cars will be introduced in the United States. Here are some offerings that we are likely to see in the next one to three years from major auto makers.

Ford will extend its current hybrid success with added models. During my recent test-drive of several vehicles that meet the 2016 requirement the midsized Ford Fusion Hybrid demonstrates that you can enjoy fuel economy in a larger car with comfort and safety. The Ford Fusion Hybrid has an EPA certified rating of 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The car can be driven up to 47 mph in electric mode with no gasoline being consumed. Ford will start selling pure battery electric vehicles next year.

In discussing the new standards, Ford CEO Alan Mulally stated, “We are pleased President Obama is taking decisive and positive action as we work together toward one national standard for vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions that will benefit the environment and the economy.”

General Motors plans to be the leader in plug-in hybrids starting with the Chevy Volt. It has a major opportunity to extend its voltage architecture to SUVs and trucks by 2016.

There are almost 40,000 Chrysler GEM electric vehicles in use today. The GEM 25 mph speed limits them to only being popular in fleets, university towns, and retirement communities.  Chrysler’s new major stockholder will bring in exciting smaller cars such as the Fiat 500 and Fiat 500 Electric.

Toyota will expand on the success of the Prius with more new hybrids. Since 2002, I have been driving a Prius that has averaged 41 mpg in real world driving that has included climbing hills with bikes on a roof rack and driving through snow with skis on the roof rack. The Prius will also be made available as a plug-in hybrid – hundreds of these PHEVs are now being tested by fleets. The modestly priced Yaris, which gets 32 mpg, will also be offered as a hybrid that delivers over 40 mpg.

Honda is likely to be the first maker to meet 2016 CAFÉ requirements, building on its historical leadership in fuel economy. Honda now offers the Civic Hybrid and the Insight hybrid. In the future, Honda will offer a Fit Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a battery-electric car.

Nissan’s Altima Hybrid delivers an impressive 34 mpg. Beyond hybrids, Nissan is determined to be the leader in battery electric vehicles and deliver over 20,000 of the Nissan LEAF in 2011. Clean Fleet Report EV Test Drive

Meeting the CAFÉ standards by 2016 will not be easy for all of the automakers, but they will make it.  Historically, CAFE standards have not aligned with the EPA fuel economy determinations used in this article. For better and worse, flexfuel vehicles get artificially high numbers, making it easier for GM, Ford, and Chrysler to meet CAFE targets. Plug-in hybrid and electric car ratings need to be finalized.

Trends to more efficient drive systems are a certainty. With oil prices over double the lows of 2009, these new vehicles bring important relief to every driver who wants to save at the pump.

Biofuel Industry Hopes to Recover with Next Generation Fuels

Biofuel Industry Hopes to Recover with Next Generation Fuels

Miscanthus is a promising energy crop

Miscanthus is a promising energy crop

By John Addison (5/13/09).

Scientists know how to make fuel from prairie grasses growing on marginal land. They know how to make fuel from fast growing trees with root systems that extend 25 feet into the ground, sequestering carbon emissions and enriching the soil. They even know how to make fuel from algae. They do all this in their labs every day. The problem is making cellulosic and algal fuel in large quantities at costs that compete with fuels from petroleum such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

This is my second article (previous article) from the 31st Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals sponsored by NREL. 800 global bioscientists gathered in San Francisco to share their research and showcase their progress.

Their progress with biofuels from cellulosic sources is important. Some corn ethanol plants have closed. Once promising corporations, such as VeraSun, are now bankrupt. Lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for fuel-from-food are being scrutinized. Industry would benefit from biomass that can be grown at much higher yields per acre than corn. Industries such as agriculture, wood, and paper would benefit from making money from waste and from having added revenue sources.

At the conference, Verenium shared their progress. In Jennings, Louisiana, they are producing 1.4 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol. The fuel can be mixed up to 10 percent with our current gasoline, saving us from needing almost 1.4 million gallons of foreign oil each year. Some might be delivered as E85. Instead of using corn, which requires high inputs of energy, nitrogen, fertilizer, and water to produce, Verenium is using a crop that produces eight times the energy required to process it – energy cane, a hybrid of sugar cane optimized as a fuel source not a food source.

Sugarcane and energy cane are part of Brazil’s energy independence, being the source of over 40 percent of their fuel. Now energy cane is being grown in some of the more tropical places in the United States. At a time when project financing is difficult, major partners are critical to financing larger commercial plants. In a joint-venture with BP, Verenium plans to build a 36 million gallon per year plant in Florida.

Dr. Stuart Thomas with DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol outlined their plans to bring a 20 million gallon per year plant on line in 2012. They are evaluating non-food feedstocks with much higher yields per acre than corn, including switchgrass and sorghum. DuPont Danisco anticipates reaching parity with $60 to $100/barrel oil by 2015. The pilot plant will be in Tennessee which is providing $70 million of funding for ethanol from switchgrass.

The long-term potential for biofuels may not be in ethanol, but in renewable gasoline, biodiesel, bio-jet fuel, and biocrude. All contain more energy than ethanol, which only delivers 84,000 BTU/gallon. Gasoline delivers 114,000; biodiesel 120,000.

With better microbes and fewer process steps, Chief scientist Dr. Steve del Cardayre with LS9, presented plans to produce industry standard biodiesel from energy cane. The plant should be able to compete with oil at today’s prices by also producing other valuable outputs, such as chemicals which can be used to make detergents. Synthetic biology competitor, Amyris, is moving even faster in building process plants to convert energy cane into renewable hydrocarbons and bio-jet fuel.

Indeed, creating multiple products from a process plant is likely to be critical to having a profitable industry. Oil refining is profitable because fractional distillation creates many valuable products at one refiner:

·    Naphtha which can be processed into chemicals and plastics
·    Gasoline
·    Jet fuel
·    Diesel
·    Heavy oils which can be processed into lubricants and asphalt

Gevo will build plants with mass efficiency of over 40 percent that can produce multiple products including:
·    Bio-jet fuel
·    Bio-diesel
·    Isobutanol for other products

Gevo sees opportunities to buy existing moth-balled ethanol plants and retrofit for $30 million per plant, a fraction of building a cellulosic plant from scratch. Gevo’s yeast fermentation process produces heat and steam which would be valuable if co-located with industrial processes that benefit from combined heat and power.

By converting wood waste to next generation fuel, Mascoma has a significant potential to co-locate with existing paper mills and wood processing operations. The same is true for Range Fuels.

Enerkem is being paid to covert municipal solid waste into fuel as it targets 2011 to bring live a 9.6 million gallon per year plant in Edmonton, Canada, and a 20 million gallon per year plant in Pontotoc, Mississippi.

Beyond the cellulosic sources for fuel, covered in this article, is the potential for fuel from algae. A future article will examine the near-term challenges and long-term potential of algal fuel.

As this Symposium took place in California, in Copenhagen, Greenpeace protesters stopped all buses because they use biofuel from food sources. In the future, they may welcome biofuel from wood and waste sources as an alternative to gasoline from tar sands and jet fuel from coal.

This December, the leaders of the world will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to develop a framework for a more promising sustainable future. In Denmark they will be able to visit a new cellulosic ethanol plant developed by Inbicon. The feedstock will be an agricultural waste product – wheat straw. The plant will process 24 metric tons per day of wheat straw, ten times more than a demonstration plant that Inbicon only a few years ago. The plant will be more efficient and come closer to competing with refined oil because the operation will have three products creating three revenue streams:

1.    5.4 million liters ethanol year
2.    8,250 MT biofuel which will displace some coal used by a power plant
3.    11,250 MT of molasses which will be used to feed cattle

Can such operations displace all our need for petroleum? No, but in five years we will see commercial scale next generation biofuel operations. If oil is selling for $100 dollar per barrel, then cellulosic biofuels may lower our cost of fuel. In ten years, all such operations could displace 20 percent of our petroleum use and represent an important step towards energy independence.

Cellulosic ethanol is not the only sustainable solution that world leaders will see in Copenhagen. They will see at least 40 percent of the population commuting on bicycles, demonstrating an immediate and very cost-effective way to reduce our need for oil. Many delegates will ride on electric light-rail from the airport and notice the wind farms that deliver the electricity. Some will ride in electric cars that further demonstrate transportation that uses renewable energy.

Next generation biofuels promise to be part of a portfolio of solutions to our current climate and energy problems.

Biofuel Industry – No Money, No Respect

Biofuel Industry – No Money, No Respect

Ethanol Bankruptcies

Ethanol Bankruptcies

By John Addison (5/8/09).

For the moment, the price at the pump is reasonable. A spike in demand or a terrorist disruption, however, will quickly remind us that we are desperately dependent on oil as we continue to consume 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year. Even in these recessionary times of moderate demand, we are running out of easy to extract oil from dessert sands. We are turning to sources of unconventional oil, such as tar sands in Canada, to produce oil with ever increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

For a while corn ethanol looked like a promising way to end our addiction to oil. Now we are like the character in a Woody Allen comedy who explains, “I used to be a heroin addict; now I’m a methadone addict.” At a time when a billion people go hungry, many as a result of disappearing water on this heating planet, fuel from food is not the answer.

Needed is fuel from wood and waste, not food and haste. Some of the world’s best minds are focused on fuel from cellulosic and waste sources, in some cases from biological sources that remove CO2 from the air and enrich depleted soil. I am writing this article from the 31st Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals sponsored by NREL. 800 global bioscientists have gathered in San Francisco to share their research and showcase their progress.

Many at the conference expressed concern and discouragement. Companies that were once darlings of Wall Street have gone bankrupt. Dozens of ethanol plants have closed as oil prices dropped. Many promising second generation plants cannot get built due to lack of project financing. People with the money see the risk as too high.

There continue to be zero commercial scale (20-million gallon per year and bigger) cellulosic ethanol plants, despite past glowing press releases that declared that they would now be running.

The biofuels industry is also under attack due to food-from-fuel and land use issues. Over one billion people are hungry or starving. Agricultural expert Lester Brown reports, “The grain required to fill an SUV’s 25-gallon tank with ethanol just once will feed one person for a whole year.” Scientific American: Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?

Europe, now California, and soon many U.S. states, now insist that land use must be considered in evaluating biofuels.

During the middle of the conference, a workshop for the media was held. The theme of the workshop quickly became clear – the industry problems were the fault of regulators and we the press.

Professor Bruce Dale, Michigan State University, dismissed corn/soy land use change as an “emotional issue.” He continued, “The California Low Carbon Fuel Standard is intellectually bankrupt.” To demonstrate the flaw of land use, he stated that replacing a gasoline powered vehicle with an electric vehicle would only increase the demand for coal power and therefore do nothing to reduce greenhouse gases.

The example is quite flawed. Automakers consistently tell me that their gasoline powered vehicles are about 15 percent efficient and their electric vehicles are 60 to 70 percent efficient. EVs need much less energy.  Even if you could find an EV powered purely with coal, it would produce less lifecycle emissions than a comparable gasoline or corn ethanol fueled vehicle. According to the latest figures published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), non-hydro renewable sources of electricity enjoyed double-digit growth during the past year while coal was down by 1.1 percent. Incremental demand for electricity is bringing more renewable energy on-line.

In fact, the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is based on the peer-reviewed work of scientists using Argonne National Labs GREET model. The work, industry comments, and findings are all available at http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/lcfs.htm

The LCFS encourages the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy delivered to the wheels of vehicles. The scientific analysis behind the LCFS includes these examples of grams of CO2e emissions per mega joule of energy:

Ø    Gasoline    Oil Refined    92
Ø    Diesel    ULSD Refined    71
Ø    Diesel    Coal-to-Liquid    167
Ø    Biodiesel    Midwest Soy    30
Ø    Ethanol    Corn with Coal Electricity    114
Ø    Ethanol    Cellulosic from Poplar Trees    -12
Ø    Electricity    California Average    27

If the biofuels industry sees a future in biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol, the industry should be encouraged by the findings of the scientists contributing to the LCFS. On the other hand, if the industry is only betting its future on corn ethanol, then the regulation is a threat.

LCFS will not help the expansion of E85 stations for flexfuel vehicles. For the 2009 model year, the best rated car running on E85 in the United States was the Chevrolet HHR, with a United States EPA gasoline mileage rating of 26 miles per gallon, and an E85 rating of only 19 miles per gallon – and that’s the best from Detroit with mileage on all other U.S. flexfuel vehicles being worse. In other words, if you passed on using E85 and drove a hybrid with good mileage, you would double miles per gallon and produce far less greenhouse gas emissions than any U.S. flexfuel offering. Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans for 2009

While the press was being scolded and air regulators were being metaphorically burned at the stake, most conference attendees had an afternoon to enjoy San Francisco. Many traveled using electric-powered buses and the hydro powered BART rapid transit system that carriers 100 million riders annually. So much for the press conference dismissing electric powered transportation as not being feasible.

Although attacking regulators, environmentalists, and advocates for the hungry will not save the biofuel industry, the federal government may save it. As the conference unfolded in California, a major announcement was made in Washington, DC, by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu when he announced that $786.5 million would be made available to accelerate advanced biofuels research and to help fund commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects.
One irony for the biofuel industry is that as oil prices increase, their economic model improves, but consumer demand for fuel moderates as consumers drive fewer miles, use more public transportation, and soon switch in growing numbers to electric vehicles. For decades, however, fuel will be in demand for many passenger vehicles, heavy-vehicles, long-distance goods movement, ships and airplanes. The opportunity is ripe for delivering fuel with lower lifecycle emissions. Promising cellulosic biofuel companies will be covered in my next article.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. He is the author of a new book about the future of transportation – Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Zipcar Launches “FastFleet” First Integrated Service for Public Sector Vehicle Fleets

Zipcar Launches “FastFleet” First Integrated Service for Public Sector Vehicle Fleets

FastFleet by Zipcar

FastFleet by Zipcar

(5/6/09) Washington D.C. first to optimize fleet programs allowing managers to eliminate cars, save money and reduce emissions

PRNewswire — Zipcar today announced FastFleet by Zipcar, a new service that enables government and other fleet managers to save money, reduce risk and promote sustainability. With FastFleet, for the first time, fleet operators may leverage the same technology that powers Zipcar’s consumer fleet. Washington, D.C., which is the first city in the country to adopt the system, estimates it has saved more than $300,000 during a four month pilot of FastFleet. As expansion plans are underway, the District of Columbia estimates it will save more than $1 million in the first 12 months.

“I believe that technology can be used to create efficiency and save taxpayer money,” said Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. “FastFleet has allowed us to better optimize our fleet and we will continue to evaluate our existing fleet and look for additional cost saving opportunities.”

Nationally, approximately 4 million vehicles currently are deployed across thousands of fleets within local, state and federal governments. Typically, fleets are sized to meet peak demand, which means on a daily basis thousands of these cars and trucks sit idle. FastFleet’s smart, secure vehicle access enables fleet administrators to easily transition from inefficient, dedicated vehicles, to high efficiency shared vehicles with no reduction in availability for drivers. Additionally, FastFleet-equipped vehicles can be located in a distributed network of locations, instead of a centralized “depot”. Employees use an intuitive reservation system over the web, phone or mobile device, to select and reserve vehicles. A swipe of a wallet size access card unlocks the doors of a reserved vehicle, courtesy of an integrated card reader mounted under the windshield.

“At a time when governments across the country are being asked to do more with less, FastFleet makes it easy for them to quickly and easily reduce costs while still meeting the mobility needs of their employees,” said Scott Griffith, Zipcar’s chairman and CEO. “FastFleet by Zipcar is a new model of efficiency, cost savings and environmental benefit for fleet managers. This is a national roll-out of a new Zipcar line of business.”

“Sharing a fleet of small, new, fuel-efficient cars helps keep pollutants out of our air and water,” said George S. Hawkins, Director of the District Department of the Environment. “And, as Zipcar users already know, every quart of oil, set of tires and pair of wiper blades has an environmental cost. Using fewer vehicles will lower that cost.”

FastFleet mirrors Zipcar’s car-sharing model with one key difference: FastFleet does not supply the vehicles. Instead, client fleet administrators determine the numbers, types and locations of vehicles, which are then equipped with FastFleet’s in-vehicle technology, wirelessly linking them to a dedicated FastFleet server. While FastFleet makes reserving and driving a vehicle a snap for employees, the benefits to fleet managers are even more significant. FastFleet’s administration console enables unprecedented visibility and control over the vehicles in the fleet.

With FastFleet, fleet administrators may:

* Design and configure their fleet footprint in real time for optimal utilization
* Locate and track vehicles through a global positioning system
* Manage hundreds of critical activities including preventive maintenance, fueling, billing, and fleet distribution, just to name a few
* Analyze usage and diagnostic data, automatically captured during every trip
* Utilize FastFleet’s robust, experience-driven analytics to stay on top of trends, ahead of situations and in control of their fleet

Zipcar is the world’s leading car-sharing service with 275,000 members and 6,000 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses throughout 26 North American states and provinces as well as in London, England. As a leader in urban transportation, Zipcar offers more than 30 makes and models of self-service vehicles by the hour or day to savvy city residents and businesses looking for an alternative to the high costs and hassles of owning a car in the city.