Tag Archive for 'renewable energy'

US and South Africa Moving Toward Giant Solar Projects!

Hey SuperForest

It’s a good news week for solar energy!

First up, California:  the U.S. Department of the Interior approved yesterday the 1GW Blythe Solar Power Project to be situated on 28.4 square kilometers of desert managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) west of Blythe, California – the largest solar energy project ever to be built on U.S. public lands (factsheet available here). According to the DoI, when constructed, the Blythe Solar Power Project will produce enough electricity to power 300,000 – 750,000 homes.  Negotiations continue with the US Department of Energy to secure federal loan guarantees, but the company is confident that the project will begin before the end of 2010 – and if the political will is there, then I’d anticipate that the guarantees will follow.

The project will use parabolic trough technology, where long rows of curved mirrors concentrate sunlight onto a fluid in a central receiver, which is then used to heat water vapor, which in turns drives a turbine (diagram!).

A project of this size will clearly have an impact on the local habitat – to mitigate this the project has been subject to extensive environmental review and BLM is requiring the developers to provide funding for more than 8,000 acres of desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep and Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat.

This announcement comes on the heels of the approval earlier this month of the first five renewable energy projects ever on public lands – Imperial Valley Solar Project, Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System and the Calico Solar Project, all in California; and the Silver State North Solar Project in Nevada.  As BLM Director Bob Abbey says:

“With the approval of the Blythe project, the solar projects approved on BLM public lands in the last few weeks have the potential to generate up to 2800 megawatts of renewable energy. That’s enough to power up to 2 million homes … We have truly arrived at America’s new energy frontier.”

And! in more good news, the Guardian reports that South Africa is to unveil plans this week for what it claims will be the world’s biggest solar power plant – a 5GW project using giant mirrors and solar panels across an initial 9,000 hectares of state-owned land in the Northern Cape province.  The project would aim by the end of its first decade to achieve an annual output of 5GW of electricity – currently one-tenth of South Africa’s energy needs.  In a country which is currently dependent on coal-fired stations for most of its power, and one in six people still lacks electricity, this is a huge deal!

An estimated 200 foreign and domestic investors will meet this week in Upington, Northern Cape, with a view to funding the hugely ambitious solar project. A master plan will be set out by the US engineering and construction group Fluor. This follows a viability study by the Clinton Climate Initiative, which described South Africa’s “solar resource” as among the best in the world.

One of the sunniest 3% of regions in the world, the Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest province – and one of the poorest – but the hope is that the solar park would create a “solar hub”, regenerating the local economy.

We’ve seen the eye-opening infographic showing the surface area required to power the world via solar power alone. As Jonathan de Vries, the project manager and a special adviser to South Africa’s energy minister, said:

Solar power isn’t a panacea that will cure all but it’s a part of the solution, and a very important part.

State projects on a large scale are surely an important step toward that solution. And a little friendly international competition to invest the most in solar energy? That’s something I could get behind.



Weekly ReNEWSables – Incentives to Adopt Solar Energy, Investment in Wave and Tide Tech

Good Day SuperForest!

I hope you are all having awesome weekends! At some point I’ll probably resist the compulsion to attempt to pun on the inclusion of the word “news” in “renewables” but until then I can offer you only a sheepish apology.  I like to follow developments in the renewable energy sector and wanted to offer a small selection of bitesize treats for you – a balanced meal of things we can do in the first person in our own homes with our own resources and a side order of larger scale industry-wide investments:


California to Subsidize Your Solar Water Heaters:

California regulators have approved a $350 million program to subsidize the installation of solar water heaters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The program will allocate $250 million for the replacement of hot water heaters fueled by natural gas and $100.8 million for those powered by electricity with solar water heaters (a nifty storage tank and solar array using the sunny sun to warm the water) and “customers of California’s three big investor-owned utilities will receive rebates of up to $1,500, or about 30 percent of the cost of replacing a residential natural-gas hot water heater with a solar system”.

UK Government Announces “Feed in Tariffs” for Your Investment in Home Renewable Energy:

The UK government has announced its plan to provide financial incentives (“Feed in Tariffs”) for small scale adoption of solar power!  The Guardian breaks it down here but, in short, “the government has finally agreed to reward households and businesses installing electricity-generating measures with enough of a return to make it a serious financial, as well as an environmental, investment. If you’ve got the money (which is a big “if”) and, crucially, a sunny, south-facing roof, you can earn a 7%-10% tax-free return, an income that will rise in line with inflation. At the same time, you get to do more than your fair share in reducing the UK’s carbon­ emissions.” The government has also said that it will be giving feed-in tariffs to households installing solar water heaters (like in California!), from April 2011.

Inevitably there’s argument as to whether the plans are too timid, but if want to suggest it to your parents, your landlord, or if you’re a homeowner yourself then now is a great time.


(pretty pics from the Carbon Trust)

UK Carbon Trust Announces £22m Funding to Develop Marine Energy Technologies:

The UK Carbon Trust (a not-for-profit company with the mission to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy by providing specialist support to help business and the public sector cut carbon emissions, save energy and commercialise low carbon technologies) announced this week plans for its Marine Proving Fund to provide £22 million (US$35m) funding (money from the Department of Energy and Climate Change) for what it considers to be the six most promising marine (ie wave and tidal) energy technologies under development in the UK.  They’ve selected 6 companies to receive the grants to help move from prototypes to commercial projects. This is exciting as research by the Carbon Trust shows that 25% of the world’s wave and tidal technologies are being developed in the UK, but that financial constraints have frequently inhibited progress because they’re not yet considered commercially viable – but if we only ever invested in the technologies that are already successful businesses we’d never move forward.

nom nom nom


Sustainable Samsø!


Hello SuperForest!

I wanted to share with you a story of renewable energy and community that I found quite inspiring: for the last 12 years, the approx. 4000 residents of the small Danish island of Samsø have undertaken, with government support, but no grants or funds, to convert almost entirely to renewable energy through a combination of community owned wind turbines, district heat plants (run on local biomass) and offshore turbines (installed to offset the emissions of the island’s transport) – to the extent that the island is now not just self-sufficient, but produces 140% of the energy it consumes and is exporting energy back to the mainland.

I was particularly excited to hear of this as my family used to vacation in a summer house near Kalundborg and I remember visits to Samsø as a child – it was pretty windy.  It’s awesome to see a whole island carbon-neutral, but what’s really exciting is how this was fueled by the engine of community and the individuals who cared enough to give the community a kickstart!

In 1997 Samsø won a competition by the Danish government to be designated the country’s “renewable energy island”. However, this did not come with funding or third party investment.  Initially, there was little interest in participating: Samsø is predominantly a farming, self-professedly conservative, rural community, but individuals like Søren Hermansen (then a local teacher, now one of TIME magazine’s environmental heroes of 2008) persuaded them that it was both doable and not just good for the environment, but good for the Samsingers!  Hermansen told the New Yorker:

“One reason to live here can be social relations,” he said. “This renewable-energy project could be a new kind of social relation, and we used that.” Whenever there was a meeting to discuss a local issue—any local issue—Hermansen attended and made his pitch. He asked Samsingers to think about what it would be like to work together on something they could all be proud of. “People on Samsø started thinking about energy,” Ingvar Jørgensen, a farmer who heats his house with solar hot water and a straw-burning furnace, told me. “It became a kind of sport.”

A key part of the project has been the ownership of the wind turbines by residents (and others) through co-operatives, this avoided much of the “NIMBYism” that many proposed turbine projects face – as Jesper Kjem says in The Jordan Times, “in areas where private companies just throw up wind turbines, residents see them as intrusive. But when people actually own and benefit from them they don’t mind seeing a turbine in their backyard”.

The Samsø project has generated plenty of international media interest and now the island receives visits from researchers, eco-tourists and politicians from around the world and Jesper Kjems recently attended the first Euro-Jordanian renewable energy conference to share the Samsø experience and what it can offer to other communities – “make two city blocks 100% renewable, then maybe the next two will follow”.

This seems a nice example of SuperForest spirit – to quote SuperForester Jason “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” and inspiring others in the process!

Check out the Samsø Energy Academy site (and many thanks to the delightful blog of Mr Thomas Lund-Sørensen, Danish Ambassador to Jordan).


Driving on the Highway Creates New Energy?

The news for recently developed ways to harness energy doesn’t stop! Just last week I posted about harnessing energy from revolving doors in a cafe in the Netherlands and about the Toyko subway stations that are harnessing energy from the floors, as people pass through.

Now, with similar technology that is being used in Tokyo, they are testing a roadway next month in Israel that can create energy from the motion of the cars on a highway.

“Engineers at Innowattech in Israel recently created a new type of road that generates electricity as vehicles pass over it! The supercharged surface is embedded with piezoelectric crystals, which transform kinetic energy from passing vehicles into an electrical current. With widespread adoption, the technology could feed energy back into the nation’s burgeoning electric vehicle grid, transforming congested roadways into a clean green source of energy.”


Thanks, once again, Inhabitat for the heads up!


Yes, harness MY energy, please!

Good Morning,

I had one of those “duh” moments a couple of days ago when I saw an article on Inhabitat titled “The World’s First Energy Generating Revolving Door”.
This article refers to a cafe in the Netherlands that installed revolving doors that generates energy from the people going in and out of the cafe. This energy is then given back to the coffee shop to be used.

Here at SF, we’ve been wondering why this technology, which has been developed for some time now, hasn’t been put into effect in New York City. We have millions and millions of people revolving through subway turnstyles everyday and we could be harnessing our own energy.
Then, yesterday, Inhabitat posted about The East Japan Railway Company installing energy generating floors that will power the Tokyo Subways. They are using a technology called Piezoelectric flooring which they have been testing over the past year. Now, they have installed it in a Tokyo subway station to generate power for the ticket gates and display signs. They hope to generate enough power, in the future, to power their entire system.
I live in a major city where there is tons of waste. We never think about the fact that just by walking though doors, we are wasting energy. But now, with the technology advancing, there is a better way to generate renewable energy! We could harness our own energy by just walking through revolving doors and getting onto the subways.
Now, literally, we possess enough power that can actually make a difference. It’s amazing to see the technology, that we all knew was out there, being utilized. Step by step (pun intended), we can save energy!
Thumbs up to Inhabitat for the news and images!
Thumbs up to progress! Please, bring this technology to New York!

Repower America – All Renewable Energy in a Decade!

The We campaign has put together an initiative to convert the US to 100 percent renewables within ten years. It’s called Repower America.

Looks like it could totally happen.

I love America 2.0

Watchy watchy!

I love that the word “renewables” triggers spellcheck. Not for much longer.

New Jersey Building Huge Wind Farm!

Great news from the Times. New Jersey is all set to join sister cities Rhode Island and Delaware in the installation of some serious wind turbines! Go East Coast! Get down with your green self!

Read on:

“The proposal by Garden State Offshore Energy includes installing 96 turbines to produce as much as 346 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about tens of thousands of houses. The turbines would be arranged in a rectangle about a half-mile long by one-third of a mile wide.

The selection, which includes access of up to $19 million in state grants, is part of New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan, which calls for 20 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2020.”

We love seeing wind farms sprouting up all over the place like wonderful clean-energy producing mushrooms of goodness.

Congratulations to New Jersey, to Garden State Offshore Energy, and to all the lucky families who will get their power sustainably once the farm is pumping that juice.

Seriously great news.

Solar Having a Really Good Year!

Peak Oil! Doom and Gloom! Petro Sadness! War of the Wells!

So much noise.

Meanwhile, in a quiet antechamber off away from the main stage, the solar power movement has grown massively in scale, all the while increasing in efficiency and decreasing in price.

It seems that everywhere one turns these days, there’s great and encouraging news about solar power. Solar power breakthroughs and milestones are had and overcome with such regularity, that keeping on top of it has become a bit daunting.

And what a wonderful predicament to be in!

So much good news it’s hard to keep track of it all!

Look at all of this wonderfulness:

Treehugger: Solar Industry Growth Prediction: US Largest Market by 2011

CNN: Unique business aims to spread solar power

MarketWatch: SolarCity Offers San Francisco Residents Solar Power for Less than Their Electricity Bills

Wall Street Journal: GT Solar a Bellwether for ‘Green’ IPOs

Seattle Times: Local schools shining light on solar panels

Reuters: Solar panels get aesthetic designs

Energy Exec: Record growth in renewable energy systems

And here’s the crazy thing, all of these news items are six hours old or less.

Every single day brings a tidal wave of encouraging news just like this.

It’s simply impossible not to be excited and optimistic.

Love to all,

Team SuperForest

Matt Simmons on CNBC’s Fast Money

Scroll down to see why the Fast Money Crew looks so glum.

Good Morning All!

We just saw this priceless post over at sweet, gentle, treehugger.

Matt Simmons, head of the oil investment firm Simmons & Co Int. was a call in guest on Fast Money. When asked about the future of oil and what its current price meant for us here in the US and worldwide, his unbelievably candid answer left the Fast Money crew looking a little shocked.

Return to village life? Check.
Growing our own food? Check.
The importance of renewable energy and the end of cheap oil as we know it? Check and check.

Watch this:

It’s amazing the way truth and honesty can have such a chilling effect on the cheerleaders of the status quo, especially when the status quo is built on illusion and inequality. These poor people look like they’ve been doused in fish tank water.

Love to All, (especially the hosts over at Fast Money!)

Team SuperForest

Solar and Wind Powered Billboard in Times Square!


SuperForester Justin just sent this in. It was originally posted on engadget.

“Ever walk through Times Square and wonder how much electricity all those flashy billboards are soaking up? No? Well, Ricoh has, and now they’re doing something about it. Ricoh Company Ltd. of Tokyo is erecting a 47 x 126-foot billboard at Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street that will be completely powered by the sun and wind. Fueled by 45 solar panels and four wind turbines, the billboard won’t even need a backup electric generator. On days that the sun and wind aren’t enough to power it, it will simply go dark. In the end, the billboard is said to reduce carbon dioxide usage by 18 tons a year. The billboard will go live in December, or just in time for the sun to go dark.”

That’s triple awesome. One billboard down, many to go.

Little by little, the world shifts and adjusts to the new responsibility.

Full story on engadget.

Delaware’s New Wind Farm!

(pretty picky via this cat)

The Net is just so chock full of good, encouraging news these days, it’s like being a kid in an eco-goodness candy store. Really, where to start?

On the home front, CNN has just reported that Delaware has just reached an agreement to build an off-shore wind farm, capable of powering the homes and businesses of over 50,000 Delawarians. (Delawarites? Delawareses?) People in Delaware.

Read on:

“Using electricity generated by the wind, “Delmarva Power will be able to light about 50,000 homes a year, every year” for the duration of the 25-year contract, Lanard said, with first power expected by 2012.

He said the project may help stabilize consumer energy costs, since the contract locks in the price Delmarva will pay per kilowatt-hour.”

“Each turbine in the Delaware project is to sit on a pole about 250 feet above the waterline, where the ocean is about 75 feet deep. The poles are to extend 90 feet into the seafloor, and the units are to be constructed to withstand hurricane-force winds.

From the shore, the park will be visible only on clear winter days, and the turbines will be nearly invisible during summer months when Rehoboth Beach fills with vacationers, Lanard said.

Each blade on the three-blade rotor is to be 150 feet long.

“If they can see them at all, the turbine blades would cover about the size of your thumbnail, and the poles would be about the width of a toothpick.”

Here’s the original article.

So, the US is getting what will undoubtedly be the first of many off-shore wind farms.

Great news. Take heart, for the big change is upon us.

In the meantime, be excellent to each other, wear a helmet when you’re biking, and don’t steal other kids toys when you’re playing in the sandbox.

Love to all,

Team SuperForest


First Rock Port, Then the World!

Just saw this over at treehugger.

Wind Power Produces 123% of Residential Energy Demand in Rock Port, Missouri

“Rock Port, Missouri, is a small city of 1,300 people, and they just made history by being the first city in the US to be 100% powered by the wind, also making them #1 in the US for percentage of renewable energy. The Loess Hills Wind Farm, built by the Wind Capital Group, employing 500 workers from 20 states for about a year, is expected to produce about 16 million kilowatt hours annually, while Rock Port only uses 13 million. The excess wind power will be sold to other communities in the area.”

Power meters spinning backward? A U.S. city exporting energy? If they can do it in Rock Port, we can do it in Manhattan!

Big, big change is in the wind, y’all! News like this makes our Thursdays great.

Thank you to treehugger for bringing this to our attention, and a huge thank you to the people of Rock Port, Missouri for leading the charge. First Rock Port, then the world!


One grid down; many, many to go.

(note: just found this on youtube!)


Syntroleum: Part II

In which our humble narrator attempts to “score” an interview with the esteemed Ron Stinebaugh, head of Media Relations at Syntroleum.

I hope he replies, I’d love to know more.