9 Suprising Things about People Who Go Solar (Infographic)

Our good friends over at One Block Off the Grid (1BOG) have created another awesome solar power infographic. The last infographic of theirs that we shared here on CleanTechnica, on how much solar power costs in locations across the U.S., was quite popular, and I imagine this new one will be as well. The topic, as you can see from the title above, is 9 surprising things about people who go solar. There really are some surprising things in here, and just some downright cool information — my favorite point is #9. Feel free to let us know which points really surprise or excite you! Here’s the infographic (larger version can be seen on 1BOG… or by clicking on this image and then clicking on it again on the next page):


surprising things about people who go solar infographic

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18p0m)

Denmark Aims for 50% of Electricity from Wind by 2020

Denmark is taking major steps towards a greener future, passing an agreement that the Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building, Martin Lidegaard, says is “the broadest, the greenest, and the most long-term energy agreement that has ever been reached in Denmark.”

The agreement establishes a framework for the policy on climate and energy up to 2020 and outlines a direction for the country up until 2050. It was passed by a broad majority in the Danish Parliament led by the government parties and Denmark’s Liberal Party, the Danish People’s Party, the Danish Red-Green Alliance, and the Conservative Party; in total, 171 seats out of 179 in the parliament.

“This is a historic day for Danish energy policy. In our everyday political work, the parties are different shades of red and blue. However, today – together — we have laid down the foundation for a green future,” says Martin Lidegaard.

Middelgrunden windmills outside Copenhagen

The initiatives are as follows;

  • CO2 emissions in 2020 will be reduced by 34% of what they were in 1990.
  • Energy consumption will decrease by more than 12% in 2020 compared to 2006.
  • A total of more than 35% of Danish energy will stem from renewable energy sources.
  • 50% of the country’s electricity consumption will be stem from wind power.
  • The agreement will ensure a stable framework for the business community as a whole, and the energy sector in particular.

“Large changes will be made over the next decade,” says Lidegaard. “However, with this agreement the parties have started a transition that will strengthen the competitiveness of Danish businesses and ensure that citizens will not be subjected to exorbitant price increases on fossil fuels.”

As already reported on CleanTechnica, Denmark recently approved the construction of two large wind farms at Kriegers Flak and Horns Rev.

“Denmark will once again be the global leader in the transition to green energy. This will prepare us for a future with increasing prices for oil and coal. More-over, it will create some of the jobs that we need so desperately, now and in the coming years,” says Lidegaard.

“Investments are necessary if we are to switch society towards green energy. But the bill will be much bigger if we do not act in time. At the same time, the transition will benefit climate mitigation and the environment, and it will ensure the future competitiveness of Danish industry. With this agreement, the parties are sending a clear message that we all assume responsibility and are taking the challenges of the future seriously. It is truly a great day for energy policy in Denmark.”

Source: Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Building
Image Source: Andreas Johannsen

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18jZf)

Germany — 7.5 GW of New Solar Power in 2011 (Confirmed)

Earlier this year reports were released that 3 GW of new solar power were installed in Germany during the month of December alone. This marked a new record for solar capacity installed in a single month in Germany and doubts were cast on the accuracy of the news. Many craftsmen and companies of the solar industry voiced their skepticism since they didn’t notice the kind of increased activity that would have been required to accomplish such a record.

To put the 3,000 MW in December into context, the entire solar industry of the US installed a total of 1,855 MW of new capacity in the entire year of 2011.

Now, weeks of speculation have come to an end as the German Federal Network Agency has confirmed its earlier assessment by releasing its final report on new solar installations during the 4th quarter of 2011.

According to the report, solar capacity did actually increase by 2,983 MW in December alone. This report also confirmed an annual solar power capacity increase of 7,482 MW in Germany.

What kind of PV-Systems make up 7.5 GW in Germany

Besides confirming the numbers of the estimates, the report also shed some light on the record months of December. As the reports shows, all kinds of solar projects were significantly up compared to previous months. The installed capacity increased across the board, from small rooftop solar with 3-kW installations, to huge multi-MW solar farms.

Solar power plants greater than 1 MW increased even more so compared to 2010. The market segment for these relatively “huge” solar power projects had a very significant spike in December…. While other segments were up by 200-400% compared to the average value of the previous 11 months, projects 1 MW or larger were up 12x! That pushed about 70% of the installed capacity of that market segment in 2011 into the month of December. I think that showcased quite a strategic move on the part of project developers — low installations during the first half of 2011 to keep cuts to the FiT in July rather low, and then connecting as many projects as possible in December. That’s my thought on it, at least.

What does this new record mean for the solar industry in Germany?

That’s difficult to tell at this moment. The success of the industry and the spread of individual energy autonomy has lead to a serious blowback from the fossil & nuclear lobby and their political allies within the current conservative government. This has been building up since October 2011 and followed the usual playbook of anti-renewable agitation. How hard the industry and the technology will be hit in the coming months is still uncertain. But one thing is certain:
December 2011 proved, once again, that decentralized renewables energy systems can be installed faster than most people are told to believe.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/18err)

Ball State Dedicates Largest Closed-Loop Geothermal System in America

Indiana’s Ball State University last week dedicated the largest vertical closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system in the United States.

Drilling geothermal wells at Ball State

A few of the 3,600 geothermal boreholes across campus

When fully complete, the project will allow the school to shut down its four aging coal-fired boilers, prevent 85,000 tons of annual carbon emissions (cutting the campus carbon footprint in half), and save $2 million in annual operating costs.

Phased Approach

Construction began on the system in 2009, and will ultimately connect 5.5 million square feet of space in 47 buildings across the 660-acre campus with geothermal power. Phase one was recently completed, consisting of 1,800 boreholes drilled on two geothermal fields and a new energy station connecting the fields with buildings on the northern end of campus.

Work recently began on phase two of the project, and will continue through 2014. The second phase will include installing an additional 1,800 boreholes in a geothermal field on the south side of the campus and a new energy station connecting two 2,500-ton heat pump chillers with a connection loop around the southern portion of campus.

Ball State geothermal system

Sustainable Schools

The rising cost of coal contributed to the school’s decision to shift toward sustainable power. “When costs began to escalate for the installation of a new fossil fuel burning boiler, the university began to evaluate other renewable energy options,” said Jim Lowe, director of engineering, construction, and operations.

Ball State’s geothermal system is just another example of the school’s “Green Campus” sustainability efforts. The university diverts around 20 percent of all waste from landfills, has a hybrid fleet of electric and biofuel vehicles, all new construction is built to LEED silver certification, and university president Jo Ann Gora is a founding member of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

More Green Jobs

A recent study conducted by the school’s Center for Business and Economic Research found the geothermal system is creating an estimated 2,300 direct and indirect jobs. This figure is impressive, but unsurprising, considering the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just last week found 372,000 construction-related green jobs in the country.

The geothermal system cost a total of $50 million dollars, and was funded through federal and state grants, including $5 million in stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and $45 million in capital funding from Indiana state government.

Ball State University geothermal campus map

NYC to Build Wind and Solar Farm on Old Dump Site

Who would know that an old garbage dump at Staten Island in New York City would house 20 MW of renewable power? If they succeed with their plans, “Fresh Kills landfill” will be transformed into a combined solar and wind farm that could generate enough electricity to power 6,000 average American households!

The old landfill has serviced the city for 53 years, and taken care of a whopping two billion tons of thrash, before closing early in 2011.

Fresh Kills Landfill

Soliciting Bids

NYC says it has 75 acres that are available for lease, and it is currently soliciting bids to see who’s qualified for the job. It will be interesting to see what the bids end at — the main motivator for the companies to be involved is cost-competitive electricity from solar and wind power.

The Future Looks Green

Last week, Deputy Mayor Holloway stated the following about the project:

“New York City needs energy to keep it running, and we want that power to be reliable, clean, and affordable. Renewable energy is the most sustainable kind, and under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership we’re maximizing the use of City assets to develop as much capacity as possible.”

Financial support from the government and states is exactly what we need to push renewable energy forward. This is what has made the solar power industry in Germany triumph, resulting in the country becoming the largest shareholder of the world’s PV solar cells. Even with the recent proposal of cutting subsides as much as 30%, German energy policies could make solar in America a lot more affordable.

We sure hope that NYC’s renewable energy plans go through as dreamed. This would mean a doubling of the city’s renewable power capacity, and could be the catalyst for similar projects in the future.

It sure will be interesting to see how the project develops. In the meantime, feel free to comment below with what you think about NYC’s plans.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/17YZH)

Your Guide To Long-Distance Electric Car Publicity Drives

You might think that electric vehicles aren’t naturally suited to driving long distances just yet, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of people giving it a go anyway.

Here then is the GreenCarReports guide to the world of long-distance EV publicity stunts, arranged conveniently by distance, shortest to longest. We’ll keep this article updated when new teams attempt new distance challenges…

313 miles, 2009 – Australian road trip in a Tesla Roadster

Prior to the JEVC’s decimation of the EV distance record, Simon Hackett and Emilis Prelgauskas managed 313 miles from a standard Tesla Roadster at the Global GreenCar Challenge in October 2009. 313 miles is still an EV production record, since the Japanese crew’s car was an EV conversion. The EPA rated the Roadster at 240 miles on a charge, but the record shows what can be possible with empty roads and a feather-light right foot.

480 miles, 2011 – San Diego to Tucson in a Nissan Leaf

480 miles is the sort of distance you wouldn’t think twice about in a regular gasoline or diesel vehicle – in fact, some diesels could do that on one tank of fuel. But what about in an electric car? Jerry Asher didn’t think twice about doing the trip in his Leaf, and although it took the best part of a week in the Leaf, this trip was certainly more about the spirit of adventure and enjoying electric cars than getting there quickly.

600 miles, 2011 – Nissan Leaf around the Emerald Isle

Early adopters of the Nissan Leaf have really been putting it to the test as far as distance runs are concerned, but in a place like Ireland which has a suitable charging network, even an event like the Irish Cannonball Run was no problem. The team in their Leaf became the first competitors anywhere in the world to complete such an event in an electric car.

623 miles, 2010 – Japan Electric Vehicle Club

Most of us would be happy with getting 357 miles from an EV. That’s a good hundred more than the EPA rating for a Tesla roadster and more even than the 2011 ChevroletVolt gets with the help of a range-extending gasoline engine. For the JEVC though, 357 miles was just a test run. Back in May, the team managed a staggering 623 miles from their home-converted Daihatsu Mira, and the team thinks they can do even more…

850 miles, 2011 – One weekend in a Tesla Roadster

Electric car advocate and Tesla Roadster owner Michael Thwaite wrote a special piece for GreenCarReports about two U.K. Tesla Roadster owners completing an 850 mile trip –from tip-to-tip of the U.K. – in only a weekend. He worked out that the Roadster needed ten hours of charging for the trip – but since eight of those hours were spent either eating or sleeping, the trip really took only two hours long than it would have in a regular gasoline car.

2,000 miles, 2011 – European electric road trip

Not just one, but 20 different teams took part in an electric road trip around Europeback in September 2011, starting in Paris and finishing in the Czech Republic, taking in the Alps along the way. They all covered around 2,000 miles in a fortnight, and the trip became something of a rolling exhibit for electric vehicles – everything from home-converted vehicles, to brand new Tesla Roadsters and Nissan Leafs.

2,300 miles, 2011 – Kansas students driving coast-to-coast

Based on a Lola IndyCar chassis and clothed in sleek body panels, Minddrive’s EV prototype certainly looks the part. The team hasn’t yet started their 2,300-mile coast-to-coast trip in the prototype – that should happen some time this year. Currently, the team is working on electrifying a classic Lotus Elise sports car. You can find out more about the team’s projects on the Minddrive blog.

4,000 miles, 2010 – Classic Beetle with 21st century power crosses Canada

Classic cars can make for great EV conversions as they’re so lightweight and simple to work on, and Volkswagen Beetles are very popular conversions. The UBC Electric Car Club from Vancouver took their 1972 Bug 4,000 miles across Canada over winding mountain passes and on deserted highways. The car has a range of 185 miles at 60mph and 340 miles at 30mph, with a top speed of 85mph. You can find out more about the E-Beetle here.

4,000 miles, 2010 – 28 days to cross Canada in an i-MiEV

The car may be newer but with a range of only 100 miles at best, Mitsubishi had a harder time on their Canadian road trip than the students in their e-Beetle. The stops to charge gave them a chance to show the car off to journalists and enthusiasts along the way though. They set off from Cape Spear in St John’s, Newfoundland on August 17th 2010 and arrived in Vancouver on September 16th 2010.

15,500 miles, 2012 – Around the world in a Citroen C-Zero

You may think that the ideal round-the-world vehicle is a large, comfortable off-road vehicle, but French duo Xavier and Antonin are doing their trip in a Citroen C-Zero, an electric city car based on the more familiar Mitsubishi i, or i-MiEV as its known in Europe. The duo will be relying on “Pluggers” to let them charge at peoples’ homes, so if you’d like to help, go to the team’s website as this one is still ongoing.

16,000 miles, 2010 – Driving the Pan-American highway in an electric supercar

If you were driving from Alaska to South America, you might want some creature comforts. Air conditioning? Comfy seats? Err… A windscreen and a roof? Racing Green Endurance from the UK saw fit not to bring any of the above, instead choosing a Le Mans Prototype-style Radical. The car is fitted with EV running gear and has a 300 mile range. Over 16,000 miles in a car more basic than a Lotus Elise. Mad? The Brits prefer the word “adventurous”…

18,650 miles, 2010 – The Zero Race – around the world in 80 days

Jules Verne got there first but the Zero Race is the first attempt to circumnavigate the globe in EVs, and using renewable electricity at that. In the end, the winning vehicle was the “Oerlikon Solar”, an enclosed, two-wheel electric vehicle with its energy usage on the road offset by the production of solar energy. A Vectrix electric scooter finished second when the points were tallied at the end of the event.

25,000 miles, 2010 – The TAG Heuer Tesla: “Odyssey of Pioneers”

Perhaps a little more glamorous than Project EViE or the Zero Race but the mission is the same – drive around the world. The Tesla is a good choice for a road trip given the potential for more than 200 miles from a charge. The journey began back in March 2010 and they drove through Russia in May of that year. Their Odyssey ended in New York on September 2nd. You can find out more about the trip on the website.

66,000 miles, Project EViE – 70 countries, six continents

Project EViE was about busting the range anxiety factor that is currently one of the biggest hurdles to mainstream EV adoption. No better way to silence the doubters than proving that EVs can be confidently used on the mother of all road trips, a global circumnavigation. Along the way they’ll face varied terrain that will push their car to it’s limits. You can read an interview with the project director here. Unfortunately, the team’s website and blog now no longer exist – so we expect this ambitious trip was one that never got off the ground.

Source Green Car Reports

Massive Solar Power Deal Being Made in San Antonio

“In a unique, first-of-its kind generation-to-manufacturing proposal, CPS Energy is entering into negotiations for a power purchase agreement from one of the nation’s largest solar projects,” CPS Energy wrote yesterday. “The project will mean new corporate headquarters and U.S. manufacturing operations for global companies in San Antonio.”

The solar project, offered by OCI Solar Power, is expected to:

  • have up to 400 megawatts (MW) of power capacity (which will be bought through a 25-year purchased power agreement)
  • create over 800 professional and technical jobs
  • result in over $1 billion of construction investment

Multiple solar manufacturing facilities in the San Antonio area to produce proven components of solar power plants” under the agreement.

“This proposal would diversify our energy sources in a manner that makes good business sense and meets our objectives. Our goal is to always provide our ratepayers safe, reliable and affordable energy, and wherever possible, bring additional value to our community,” said CPS Energy’s President and CEO Doyle Beneby (a top utility company CEO when it comes to solar). “As San Antonio becomes a central hub for solar development in the U.S., there is also a beneficial opportunity for other Texas based municipal utilities to achieve their renewable energy goals by becoming sites for parts of the project.”

The solar project is supposed to be built in phases over the next 5 years.

“In just a few short years, this initiative could help CPS Energy achieve our Vision 2020 goal of attaining 20 percent or 1,500 MW of renewable resources by the end of the decade. It’s a phenomenal opportunity that propels this utility to a leadership position for both wind and solar energy,” stated CPS Energy Board Chair Derrick Howard.

With this company relocating its headquarters to San Antonio due to CPS Energy’s work, the utility has now brought 7 clean energy companies to the area. The utility announced last June that it intends to become “a New Energy Economy hub” — looks like it is sincere about that.

Here’s a list of some of CPS Energy’s additional clean energy stats:

  • 14-MW Blue Wing solar farm launched in 2009, largest solar project in Texas
  • 30 MW more under contract with Sun Edison
  • 1059 MW of wind energy under contract

Source: CPS Energy | Blue Wind Solar Project image via CPS Energy YouTube video

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/15duk)

Expensive Home Appliances That Eat Up Your Electric Bill

A good number of Baby Boomers can recall conversations with their grandparents about a time before electricity, or when an “icebox” was literally a container that housed a block of ice that kept food inside cool. But my, how times have changed. We have gizmos and gadgets that didn’t even exist a decade ago, and we consume energy at an alarming rate. Between 1949 and 2010, domestic energy consumption has more than doubled to about 100 quadrillion BTUs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. During that same period, consumption of coal, petroleum, and natural gas have skyrocketed — yet energy use from renewable sources, such as the sun and wind, has remained
surprisingly flat.

Look around your own home, and you’ll find power guzzlers in both likely and unlikely places. But by making some fairly painless changes, you can see big savings: in energy, cash, and yes, saving the planet by shrinking your carbon footprint. Here’s a look at some of those power-hungry appliances, and what you can do to be more efficient and economical without backbreaking hassle.

List courtesy of

Old Refrigerators

They sure don’t build ’em like they used to, right? While older refrigerators may hold up better than their newer, more sleek-looking cousins, they also use up to three times more energy. Opting for a new EnergyStar-rated refrigerator can save you significant cash in the long run. The LG Electronics 25-Cu. Ft. French Door Refrigerator ($1,199.99 with $252.55 s&h or free pickup, a low by at least $17) is EnergyStar-certified and has a chic 3-French door design. Plus your savings don’t stop there! First, you’re eligible for EnergyStar tax credits for your purchase. And some electric utilities like ComEd in Illinois will pick up your obsolete appliances when you replace them — and give you cash to boot. Want to figure out your potential savings? The Environmental Protection Agency has this handy refrigerator retirement savings calculatorwhere you can see how the savings add up.

Old Freezers

Every time frozen dinners go on sale, I wax nostalgic for the chest freezer my parents had at their house. But those older freezers cost about $120 a year to operate, according to the California Energy Commission. Costs like that can easily wipe out any supermarket savings, and can even put you in the hole. If your freezer’s there for sentimental value, get rid of it — and consider replacing it with a more efficient EnergyStar model, or doing without one at all. Going the latter route will save you enough money in appliance and power costs that you can buy frozen dinners at full price and still come out ahead. (Of course, March being National Frozen Foods Month, you can stock up at a discount all the same.)

Clothes Dryers

While the whirring and chugging of your washer’s spin cycle might suggest it uses lots of energy, the dryer is the real power hog of the pair. Figures from the U.S. Department of Energy show that dryers consume between 1800 and 5000 watts of power. So 200 hour-long drying cycles could run you as much as $85. Not only does investing in a clothesline and clothespins cost you mere pennies, but avoiding the dryer will also preserve the life of your clothes, saving you money in other areas as well.

Space Heaters

Thank goodness we’re getting out of winter, as space heaters consume about as much power as a blow dryer (750 to 1500 watts), but stay on for much, much longer. One space heater might not consume a lot, but multiply that by three or four units, and you’ve got some real power guzzling going on. The obvious alternative — wearing thick sweaters or layers — really does work.


It’s common to use the TV as a white noise machine when we’re not watching, but we might as well paper our walls with dollar bills. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates TV power consumption at between 110 and 170 watts, meaning that if you leave it on eight hours a day, you’re consuming close to 1 kilowatt of energy. Over the course of a year that could add up to $30 per TV set you leave on. Just as you would with lights, shut TVs off when they’re not in use. It’s also wise to invest in a newer television set like the Panasonic VIERA 42″ 120Hz 1080p LED-Backlit Widescreen LCD Television ($649.95 with $1.99 s&h, a low by $216), which will onlycost you $10 per year to operate (assuming it’s on for 5 hours a day).

Personal Computers and Monitors

While many consumers now favor laptops for home and on-the-go use, it’s not as if the tower computer with a separate monitor is a thing of the past. Taken together, a computer and its monitor eat up close to 300 watts of energy. Supposing you leave your computer on eight hours a day, you’re now looking at more than $60 in energy usage over the course of a year. When you computer’s not in use, power down. Put those extra savings toward some nifty software packages or a wireless mouse.

Swimming Pool Pumps

People who live in warmer climes might not think about their pool pumps, but the same device that circulates water also sucks wallets dry. Department of Energy statistics show that a typical pool pump costs $240 a year to operate. But in a study by the Center for Energy Conservation at Florida Atlantic University, pool owners saved as much as 75% when they used conservation measures such as downsizing their pump, or running it less.

When it comes to looking for power hogs around the house, you won’t exactly have luck listening for a piggy squeal. But here’s the next best thing: Consider age. Simply put, old appliances, especially the large ones, don’t run nearly as efficiently as newer ones from a power-consumption standpoint. Also as a general rule, know that any appliance that has a huge power draw (such as a space heater) is going to sock your electric bill if you forget to power it off. Put these bits of wisdom to work, and chances are you’ll save hundreds of dollars a year on your energy bills. Getting in the habit of shutting all your appliances and lights off when not in use is going to help that bottom line, too.

Source- Huffington Post

Germany: 80 Times More Peak Solar Power than U.S. Compared to Electricity Demand

I ran across this interesting statistic the other day and wanted to comment on it and some of the differences between German and U.S. solar energy policy. (This is the post I hinted at in my piece on the 2011 U.S. Solar Market Insight report yesterday.)

First of all, some more stats:

  • As of sometime in the first half of 2011, Germany has had over 20% of its electricity supply coming from renewable energy sources.
  • By 2011, its installed solar photovoltaics capacity was 25 GW.
  • In the U.S., cumulative PV capacity nearly hit 4 GW last year.
  • Solar power peaked at 40% of power demand in Germany last summer.
  • In the U.S., solar peaked at 0.5% of electricity demand last summer.
  • In other words, as stated in the title of this piece, compared to peak electricity demand, Germany has 80 times more solar PV on the grid.

So, basically, while the U.S. is now considered the most attractive country in the world for solar power, by far (by Ernst & Young, at least), and everyone in the industry has its eye on the U.S. and/or is trying to get a big foot in the door, taking a look at solar energy capacity compared to electricity demand should be humbling.

Now, the thing I noted yesterday, in that U.S. Solar Market Insight post, is that the majority of U.S. solar power growth has been in the utility-scale and commercial-scale solar categories. Additionally, that’s expected to continue, as a number of large CSP plants are in the pipeline and current trends in the PV sector are expected to continue along the same lines, as well.

On the other hand, “80 percent of the solar installed in Germany was on rooftops and built to a local scale (100 kilowatts or smaller – the roof of a church or a Home Depot store),” John noted several months ago.

Putting 2 and 2 together, Germany has put solar panels on a ton more of its houses than the U.S. That’s decentralized solar power than benefits citizens even more than centralized solar power. Imagine if the U.S. were more ambitious about decentralizing our electric grid and putting more solar panels on homes and small businesses…. Well, if you remember John’s post from October, we could power the entire U.S. with rooftop solar by 2026.

h/t Renewables International

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/17xut)