Energy

Electric vehicle battery technology is usually of the lithium-ion chemistry, and it costs $400 to $500 USD per kWh, down from $1,000 a few years ago. They have certainly made strides, and they are set to make even bigger strides in the near future, possibly to $100 per kWh of batteries.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain. Tesla's Gigafactory could make electric vehicle batteries cheap.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain.
Image Credit: Kompulsa.

Tesla Motors has aimed to reduce the cost of lithium-ion battery technology by 30% via their Gigafactory. However, Elon Musk thinks that is conservative, and said that he would be disappointed if he didn't achieve a battery cost of $100/kWh within 10 years. The Tesla Gigafactory will also hire up to 6,500 people.

The Tesla Gigafactory Could Make Electric Vehicles Cheap

The Tesla Gigafactory should reach its full capacity of in 2020, which is 35 GWh of lithium-ion cells, and 50 GWh of battery packs per year, enough to produce 500,000 electric vehicles per year.

The Tesla Gigafactory's cost reductions could lead to a Nissan Leaf battery pack that costs only $2,400, as opposed to the $5,500 it costs now (after a $1,000 discount for turning in the old pack). Nissan Leaf vehicles could cost as little as $18,410 after federal tax rebates at that price!

Also imagine a Tesla Model S 85kWh (265 miles on average) battery pack that costs only $8,500. Compare that to the (estimated) $17,000 to $21,250 that it costs now. Please note that $21,250 translates to an unusually low cost of $250 per kWh.

That $12,750 cost reduction could reduce the cost of the 85 kWh model from $79,900 to $67,150, and that is an awfully nice car.

This cost reduction is likely to lead to the use of larger capacity batteries to extend electric car range to a few hundred miles.

That Much Additional EV Range Isn't Necessary - It's Time To Be More Fair To Electric Vehicles

Gasoline-powered vehicles can achieve over 300 miles per tank on average, but that doesn't mean that they must have that much range. Electric vehicles do not need that much range either.

Most people drive less than 30 miles per day, so most of the electric vehicles on the market can cover that range, including the (relatively) low-priced Fiat 500e and the Nissan Leaf vehicles.

Electric vehicle owners wake up to a full 'tank' every morning: Gasoline-powered vehicles cannot refill their tanks automatically every night like electric vehicles can. You have to drive to a gas station and sit their until it refills.

Electric vehicles can charge overnight while you're fast asleep.

Think about the average range a Tesla Model S could get per day, compared to that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. People don't want to visit odorific gas stations frequently, so they wait until they're running low on gas to stop by.

Most of the time, gasoline-powered vehicles have only a fraction of their 300-mile range, because their tanks aren't kept full.

Source: Green Car Reports.

Brainstorm Project

The operation and maintenance (O&M) cost of solar-power plants is very low compared to that of fossil-fuelled power plants in general, and this has had a significant impact on the energy market in some regions (such as Texas, United States). The article pertains to that effect and how it could apply to solar-powered planes (especially passenger jets).

Solar-powered planes (which are electric) don't require fuel (unless they're hybrids), therefore, the only other recurrent cost incurred by the planes is maintenance (apart from employee wages and salaries). Longer trips increase fuel consumption as well as wear-and-tear on traditional fossil-fuelled jets, so longer trips tend to attract a higher fee.

My Theory

The distance of a given flight in a solar-powered plane could affect the cost of travel far less than it would in a fossil-fuelled one due to the lack of a fuel cost. Only the maintenance cost, as well as the working hours of flight attendants and pilots would be increased.

I should note that airlines might still set airfare based on distance.

Potential Implications

The cost of fuel affects our decisions profoundly in multiple ways. We can't work too far away from home, or regularly shop at distant malls/plazas. We can't just casually fly to Australia or Europe for a meeting, as that wouldn't be feasible for most people.

This means that if the non-existent fuel cost of solar-powered planes influenced airfares as much as it could, the cost gap between long and short-distance trips would shrink substantially. If airfares aren't too high, people could end up making far more trips around the world to countries that they would otherwise have never seen in their lifetime (for example: More Americans may visit Australia, Korea, New Zealand, and other geographically distant countries), increasing the likelihood of international business ventures, tourism, greater family unit, and even the creation of new families internationally.

This is a purely theoretical article forecasting what the future of aviation may have in store for us. This article is apart of Kompulsa's Brainstorm Project, which aims to spark discussions on important issues we all face today. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Originally published on Solar Love By Nicholas Brown.

The US Department Of Commerce has introduced new tariffs via a June 2 ruling on solar panels imported from China. GTM Research’s research paper states that it will increase the cost of modules exported to the US by 14%. Chinese suppliers have historically lowered solar panel prices in the US by as much as 25%, helping the solar industry to grow. However, there is more to this than meets the eye.

The research paper is titled The 2014 U.S. China Solar Trade Dispute: Status, Strategies and Market Impacts, and it states that this ruling may cause suppliers to not only increase the cost of delivery to the US, but seek alternative value chain strategies.

According to Greentech Media:

If the eventual margins, including both the countervailing duty and antidumping components, exceed the preliminary countervailing duty margins of 27 percent on average, suppliers are unlikely to preserve their previous shipment strategies. GTM Research expects that some suppliers will elect to ship all-China products into the U.S. and pay the under-order import tariffs imposed in the 2012 solar trade case, while others will sell via internal or OEM manufacturing in locations such as India, South Korea, Poland or Mexico.

Chinese companies supplied 31 percent of the modules installed in the U.S. in 2013, and more than 50 percent in the distributed solar market. The report finds that non-Chinese suppliers are likely to gain share as a result of the erosion of Chinese price advantage in the U.S. market. Likely beneficiaries include REC, SolarWorld, Suniva and LG Solar in the distributed solar market, and First Solar in the utility market.

While a 7 percent to 20 percent increase in module prices from Chinese suppliers will have reverberating effects throughout the U.S. solar market, it will be most disruptive in the highly cost-sensitive utility solar market. GTM Research expects some projects to seek alternate module suppliers, while others may fail entirely.

Was The Government Right To Impose These Tariffs On Chinese Solar Panels?

Foreign policy is a very complicated, sensitive, and controversial matter, so i’ll leave you with my thoughts and you’ll decide.

I do think that the tariff will increase the cost of Chinese solar modules, it might negatively affect America’s relationship with China, and it will make solar panels more expensive to purchase overall. However, another side of me wants to invest in the US economy more and stimulate it.

How can these two views coincide?

First, the money spent on Chinese solar panels goes to China’s economy, not the US economy, so despite the fact that Chinese solar panels are cheaper, they would not provide the same job creation benefits for Americans as locally manufactured solar modules would.

When faced with decisions like these (buying American vs Chinese-built solar panels), it is imperative that we understand the flow of money. If you purchase solar panels from an American company that has their panels manufactured in China (this is the most common scenario at the moment), then the American company and their employees will benefit from that. However, some of that revenue has to go to the Chinese factories that built them.

If you purchase from an American company that manufactures in the US, the American company will enjoy all of the above benefits mentioned, and to top it off, it would stimulate manufacturing job creation in the US.

There’s one other very important point as well: if these tariffs drive up costs much (which it seems they are doing), that will result in lower demand and fewer jobs in the solar installation and other downstream solar markets. Many have argued that the job losses in these markets are great than the job gains in the manufacturing market.

Apart from that, the potential of these new tariffs to negatively affect US-China relations should be taken into consideration. The tough question is: Is this tariff worth it?

If you have anything to add to this debate, sound off in the comment section. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Originally published on Green Building Elements By Nicholas Brown.

The US Green Building Council of Kentucky has awarded LEED Silver certification to The Nucleus building of the University Of Louisville in downtown. This is decent, as the LEED certifications are Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum (remember that certifications in general are not common).

The building, which is located at 300 E. Market St., has environmentally friendly features such as a smart Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, energy management systems, motion-sensing lights, and motion-sensing plumbing in all restrooms.

Motion-sensing plumbing saves water because people tend to leave pipes on until they have finished washing their hands. Motion-activated taps shut off while people are soaping up their hands and come back on when they put their hands back under them for rinsing, so water is only used when it is actually needed.

One of the greatest fractions of the average person’s energy usage is due to waste (especially because they didn’t remember to turn off devices such as light bulbs, TVs, air conditioners, heaters, stereos, computers, fans and much more).

A typical 16″ to 18″ fan will consume 50 to 100 watts, while a 30″-40″ tv will consume over 100 watts. Add the 60 watts your computer consumes, a few hundred watts for the light bulbs throughout the house, and you’ll see the problem.

Motion-sensing lights are activated only when people are in the room, as people tend to leave lights on when they aren’t using them. “The LEED designation for The Nucleus follows gold LEED certification for U of L’s newly completed student recreation center on the Belknap Campus. The university has eight LEED-certified buildings, according to the release, and another two are expected to receive LEED certification.”

“Responsible growth continues to be our goal at U of L,” university president James Ramsey said in the release, “and having these buildings achieve LEED certification shows the university’s commitment to long-term sustainability, carbon-footprint reduction and environmentally friendly development.”

Source: Louisville Business First.

Originally published on Cleantechnica By Jake Richardson.

A 2.3 MW solar array will be built in West Nyack, and will be the first landfill with a solar plant in the state of New York. OnForce Solar will own the project and operate the plant. The six million dollar bill will be covered by the company, too. Over the course of its lifetime, the clean power plant is expected to save taxpayers about $4 million dollars. (The West Nyack landfill is capped and has been decommissioned.)

Rooftop solar panels

Rooftop solar panels in Indooroopilly, Brisbane, Australia.
Image obtained with thanks from Micheal Axelsen on Flickr.

CEO of OnForce Solar, Charles Feit, remarked, “We are gratified the Town selected OnForce Solar to execute this project from a very strong list of competitors through a rigorous vendor selection process. Repurposing the closed West Nyack Landfill to create clean energy is a precedent setting project for the State of New York and we expect will act as a catalyst for further development of landfills across the state.”

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) also provided financial support for the project. Clarkstown, New York will use electricity generated by the new plant when it is completed in the fall of 2014.

Repurposing a landfill almost sounds like an oxymoron because such a facility is full of what was thrown away. Turning a landfill into a solar power plant is creative, and serves an example to us of how its our thinking that sometimes locks us into limiting beliefs. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is preparing a white paper to help other municipalities develop their own solar power plants.

Clarkstown is one of about 600 cities and towns to sign the United States Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement to reduce CO2 emissions. The 84,000 resident town is located about 34 miles northwest of New York City

OnForce Solar has headquarters in the Bronx and offices in Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Vermont. It was founded in 2007 and is the only solar company in the Bronx.

Originally published on Green Building Elements By Nicholas Brown.

NORESCO’s Sustainability Services group guided a Green Build terminal expansion at SDIA (San Diego International Airport), earning it a LEED (Leadership In Energy And Environmental Design) Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC®), which is the highest LEED certification there is. That means that relatively speaking, this is a stupendously energy-efficient structure!

NORESCO managed Terminal 2 West during its design and construction phases. This project, which is the airport’s largest upgrade yet, comprises 10 new gates, a 460,000 square-foot expansion of Terminal 2, and an additional 1.3 million square feet of space for taxiing and aircraft apron.

Other enhancements include high-performance glazing, an efficient baggage management system, increased natural lighting which saves energy by reducing the need for electric lighting, materials selection, landfill waste reduction (from construction) in excess of 90%, a commitment to monitor energy usage, and improved views on top of their existing award-winning recycling program.

Apart from that, Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC, said, “San Diego International Airport’s LEED certification demonstrates tremendous green building leadership. The urgency of USGBC’s mission has challenged the industry to move faster and reach further than ever before, and the Green Build serves as a prime example of just how much we can accomplish.”

This demonstration of leadership is proof of concept as well. Other airports are probably more likely to undergo this expansion now that it works (provided that it didn’t cost too much). Being the first to make a major investment is risky, so everyone else waits for someone else to take the risk first so they can learn from it.

SDIA proves it is possible for atypical buildings to achieve the highest levels of LEED, setting an example for the aviation industry to promote resource conservation. “Involvement in this prestigious achievement with SDIA has been extraordinary,” said Troy Walters, vice president and general manager, NORESCO Sustainability Services. “SDIA is paving the way for other airports to reach for excellence in sustainability and operational efficiency.”

The team initially aimed to exceed the LEED Silver rating, but they ended up blowing past it!

Source: Aviation Pros

Originally published on Cleantechnica By Nicholas Brown.

In an effort to utilize renewable energy more, General Motors (GM) will install three acres of solar PV panels at two of its facilities in Michigan. These facilities in Flint and Swartz Creek will each be equipped with a 150 kW array which is expected to collectively generate 400,000 kWh annually, which is equivalent to the energy consumption of 25 homes.

These arrays, which were mentioned in Boston during the annual PV America East Expo, are ground-mounted solar canopies which provide shade. Solar canopies are an old, but brilliant idea because they not only make GM's use of PV panels somewhat noticeable (which is good for PR), whoever parks in GM lots will appreciate it and they will help their vehicle interiors last longer (I have seen multiple car interiors destroyed quickly just from sitting in sunny driveways).

According to GM-Volt.com, GM explained OnStar and energy service company TimberRock Energy Solutions, Inc. partnered to use aggregation software and solar charging canopies with integrated storage to manage the flow of solar power to benefit the electric grid, operated by PJM Interconnection.

Ever since our first solar array in 2006, GM has realized the benefits of renewable energy, said Rob Threlkeld, GM global renewable energy manager. Not only does it reduce our emissions and lessen our dependence on petroleum, it makes a statement about the role businesses can play in securing a cleaner energy future.

Agreed. Proof of concept that solar panel can work for big businesses is popping up everywhere (on the roofs of Walmart, and IKEA for example).

People have a tendency to wait for someone else to try major investments before they do. That enables them to learn from other peoples' mistakes without bearing the potentially high cost of failure.

PV panels are not a risky investment. The cost and performance of the canopies can be verified long before construction has begun, my point is that proof of concept really helps the solar industry to move forward. More solar success stories leads to increased confidence in solar power.

Originally published on Cleantechnica By Tina Casey.

Just in time for the 2014 Go Further With Ford auto trend conference in Dearborn, here comes news that Ford’s new super-efficient EcoBoost 1.0-liter engine has just been named International Engine of the Year for the third year in a row, and it also garnered the honor for Best Engine in the under 1.0-liter class. That’s according to a survey of 82 automotive journalists at Engine Expo 2014 in Stuttgart.

We were just talking about a bigger version of the EcoBoost, which is standard on that all new 2015 Ford Edge crossover SUV. The 1.0 version is in the Ford Fiesta available now and it will be available later this year on the 2015 Focus.

The Ford EcoBoost Engine

We happened to be visiting Dearborn (okay, so we were invited by Ford) last December and we caught a hands-on look at the Ford EcoBoost engine, so here are a few more details about the 1.0.

For starters, the three-years-in-a-row achievement is unprecedented. It brings the 1.0 EcoBoost up to 13 awards, including a Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics and a Ward’s 10 Best Engines award in the three-cylinder class, which is a first for any automaker.

Performance-wise, the 1.0 liter EcoBoost has a compact turbocharger that clocks in at a maximum rpm that compares to 2014 Formula 1 engines. We don’t really know what that means in terms of the numbers but we had a chance to experience it on the road when a Ford staffer offered us an “enthusiastic” spin in a Fiesta around the high-speed track at Ford’s Dearborn facility.

For those of you in the know, we’ll admit there’s a 70 mph limit on the high-speed track but hey you can still feel the burn.

Of more interest to the clean tech angle are the efficiency refinements. Some of them relate directly to fuel efficiency, and others help enhance life cycle factors that have more to do with general resource conservation.

As Ford describes it, the 1.0 liter can fit into an airplane overhead luggage compartment, but packed into that space is a system for cooling exhaust temperatures that provides for an optimal fuel-to-air ratio.

Here’s some more green goodies:

An innovative flywheel and front pulley design delivers improved refinement compared with traditional three-cylinder engine designs.

Engine friction is reduced by specially coated pistons, low-tension piston rings, low-friction crank seals and a cam-belt-in-oil design.

A variable-displacement oil pump tailors lubrication to demand and optimizes oil pressure for improved fuel efficiency.

Engines With Benefits

As Ford describes it the 1.0-liter EcoBoost delivers “big-car benefits from a small engine.”

That goes to the heart of a conversation we’ve been having about the future of liquid fuel. While first-generation biofuel has some serious ball-and-chain issues in terms of sustainability, the emergence of next-generation sources means that gasmobiles have the potential for a sustainable supply chain far into the future, even as the electric vehicle market grows.

Efficiency enhancements like the EcoBoost series and the advent of new lightweight materials will also contribute to that trend.

Speaking of contributing, the EcoBoost is the result of an intensive collaborative effort involving more than 200 Ford engineers and designers.

Collaboration also emerged as a running theme throughout the Go Further with Ford conference, and we’ll have more details on that in a later post.

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Originally published on Green Building Elements By Nicholas Brown.

The US House of Representatives passed two energy efficiency bills, one of which is to better assist schools with energy-efficient enhancements, and the other instructs the Department of Energy to research the effect of insulation on energy and water usage on federal buildings.

The School Energy Efficiency Bill – H.R. 4092

This bill creates an office within the Department of Energy to “coordinate federal, state and local programs” which will help schools reduce their energy usage, according to The Hill. Schools struggle to keep their energy bills down because the staff and students aren’t the ones paying the bills. People unfortunately tend to be more careless at others’ expense than their own.

Students and sometimes staff members leave lights, air conditioners, computers, fans and more running all the time. Students’ parents then end up struggling to pay for this in the form of school tuition in the future. Energy is one of the highest expenses that schools have to bear, second only to wages, salaries, and other personnel costs at a whopping $6 million per year.

“Well-designed energy efficiency and renewable energy can reduce or stabilize these costs,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). True, especially the implementation of motion sensing lights, air conditioner and fan timers which switch units off after school hours.

“Members of both parties said the legislation would make it easier for schools to navigate the programs within one office, instead of across all levels of government.”, according to The Hill.

The Federal Energy Efficiency Bill – H.R. 4801

This bill directs the US DOE to research the effect of thermal insulation on energy and water usage, so the government can make more informed decisions on their energy efficiency enhancements. “This bill would ensure that the Department of Energy quantifies those potential savings so that the federal government can make commonsense energy efficiency investments,” said John Sarbanes.

Source: The Hill.

Originally published on Cleantechnica By Nicholas Brown.

Last year, the Edison Electric Institute predicted that the widespread adoption of renewable energy (especially on-site electricity generation) is going to destroy the traditional utility business model that power companies have been using for all these years. New research says: not so much.

People do not want to have to pay electricity bills for eternity anymore. With net metering, incentives, and new solar panel technology which is cheaper than ever, they can now seriously cut if not eliminate their electricity bills. That doesn’t sound good to electricity/utility companies.

Fortunately (for utility companies), a report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy suggests that this ‘death spiral‘ won’t happen after all. It says that national electricity sales would decrease only 10% by 2040 (at most), translating to an annual decline of only 0.4%.

In addition to that, utility companies have been fighting tooth and nail to suppress on-site electricity generation, further reducing the probability of rapid decline.

According to Green Car Reports:

If sales remain flat, the report’s authors recommend that utilities offer optional energy-related services to customers–including technical help and financing for larger customers installing and operating high-efficiency combined heated and power systems.

They also recommend that regulators adjust rates to allow companies to recover fixed costs more easily, incentivize increased energy efficiency, and modify the rules governing rates and services for added flexibility.

The report also advises utility companies to curtail the expansion of their infrastructure for now, unless they clearly foresee a rise in electricity demand.

Some utility companies may take their advice, although it is likely that many of them will continue business as usual and continue to fight rooftop solar and distributed energy storage (which helps people get off the grid altogether and drop utility companies for good).

Do you think the utility business model will be destroyed soon, or will it gradually transform as the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy said?

Sound off in the comment section below.

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