Fueling Stations of the Future Here Now

The 21st century’s just about sure to see the end of what, in terms of human evolution, has been aptly dubbed “The Fossil Fuel Era.” The transition to cleaner, renewable forms of energy and power — be it for lighting, heating, cooling or industry — is (pardon the pun) gaining steam. And while gains are slower and more difficult to come by, the same can be said when it comes to transportation, that other major component of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

A growing number of entrepreneurial companies — from multinational giants such as GE to small-scale newcomers, such as Tesla, A123, and a bevy of others — are hard at work developing electric, flex and hybrid fuel vehicles, as well as the infrastructure to support them.

Electric vehicle (EV) sales jumped 164% year-over-year in June. Sales of the Lexus CT200h increased 500%, while Chevy Volt sales surged 200% higher, according to the Kelley Blue Book Market Report.

There’s good reason to believe that this surge in the search and development of clean, alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure will be different; that a drop in oil, gasoline and diesel prices won’t be enough to derail progess, as happened in the eighties and nineties subsequent to the oil crises of the 1970s. Two news items this past week provide supporting evidence.

Of Skypumps and Solar Trees

GE’s industrial division and Urban Green Energy (UGE) came out with word that the first installation of their Sanya Skypump is up and running at the headquarters of environmental services company Cespa near Barcelona, Spain. Integrating New York–based Urban Green Energy’s 4-kW vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) and GE’s DuraStation EV chargers, the Sanya Skypump points the way toward fueling stations of the future that gather all the energy they need from the wind.

Along a similar vein, San Diego’s Envision Solar announced it has successfully completed engineering and manufacturing of its first run of pre-cast concrete columns for its Solar Tree arrays. Parking lots are ideal sites for Envision’s Solar Trees. Combine them with EV chargers and you have a clean, renewable fueling station right where EV motorists need and want it.

The Sanya Skypump can fully charge EVs in 4-8 hours, using electricity produced by UGE’s 4-kW VAWT, which stands 42 feet high, according to the partner companies. Winds of at least 7 mph are needed to generate electricity.

Plans are in the works to install Sanya Skypump EV fueling stations in the US and Australia before year-end, GE and UGE say. Sites include shopping malls and universities, as well as other locations.

A big advantage of the Sanya Skypump wind-powered EV fueling station is its installation time. The entire system takes less than two hours to get up and running, the companies say.

Envision Solar’s new pre-cast Solar Tree concrete columns are part of its “Drag & Drop Infrastructure” product line, one that “offers much faster, more efficient deployment of Solar Tree structures,” the company explains.

“We are continually leveraging technology to increase our efficiency and quality. We call this new modularized approach: Drag & Drop Infrastructure™ — creating the shortest possible time and ease for deploying the best solar shaded parking products in the industry with the least disruption in the field,” Envision Solar president and CEO Desmond Wheatley elaborated.

“That means lower costs, lower risks, higher quality and higher customer satisfaction. We have to take these steps in order to efficiently meet the volume demands that our business development activities will be creating. We are in this to deploy thousands of Solar Tree arrays and we are going to have to be highly efficient to get that done.”

Manufacturing the concrete columns in a controlled environment enables Envision to produce the highest quality results. It also makes for much more efficient installations. The new Solar Tree columns enable Envision to install the solar PV structures in hours rather than the days or even weeks required for columns that are cast in place, director of Program Management Peter Seiler added.

Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1le69)

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EPA approves fuel blend containing 15% ethanol – ‘E15’ won’t likely be at the pump soon, since sizable hurdles remain

Fuel dispenser selection

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave final approval on Friday for a fuel blend containing 15 percent ethanol to be sold at gas stations across the country, but a series of hurdles remain that could prevent it from being available to consumers anytime soon

Until now, U.S. companies were not allowed to sell a fuel that contained more than 10 percent ethanol for use in most conventional gasoline-powered vehicles. Most gasoline sold in the United States contains the blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol.

The EPA, which approved the new blend in January 2011, had to first complete a series of steps before E15 could go on sale to prevent misfueling and ensure that the fuel is properly marked and sold. The blend has been approved for use in cars and light trucks from the 2001 model year onward, but it is banned from older vehicles and light equipment.

“I think there are a number of stations, particularly in the Midwest, that will be very interested in introducing E15, and there will certainly be encouragement from the renewable fuel industry for it to be done as quickly as possible,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

Vilsack said there are a limited number of flex-fuel vehicles in the U.S. that can use a fuel containing 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. And with most gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol, boosting the additive to 15 percent was one way to increase the use of the renewable fuel, he said. “Anything that paves the way for E15 is a good thing, and today we got the last hurdle removed, so we should be able to see additional biofuel use,” Vilsack added. Still, he acknowledged it will “take some time” before the E15 blend is readily available.

The EPA said while some companies may introduce E15 into the marketplace, some federal, state and local requirements, along with other issues, must still be addressed. For example, dispenser and tank compatibility with E15 must be considered by marketers of the fuel. In addition, because several states restrict the sale of some gasoline-ethanol blends, law changes might be needed before E15 can be sold in those states.

Iowa is the nation’s largest ethanol-producing state, with 41 plants that in 2011 produced about 3.7 billion of the total 13 billion gallons of ethanol produced nationwide.

Corn-based ethanol has been touted by the ethanol industry and American farmers who produce corn as a way to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil, create jobs and boost income for rural communities. Critics counter that ethanol leads to food inflation by driving up the cost of meat and poultry.

Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, said the rollout of E15 to the marketplace could be very gradual. “I wouldn’t expect to be seeing it in gasoline stations across the country anytime real soon,” added Westhoff, noting the Midwest as one exception where the fuel could appear relatively quickly. “As of right now, there appears to be some resistance on the part of consumers because of concerns about mileage and concerns about (its impact) on their vehicle.”

In a joint statement, the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy called the announcement “a victory for American consumers.”

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents 500 oil and natural gas companies, downplayed the EPA announcement. “The bottom line is that it’s premature to say that it’s ready to be sold — the obstacles remain. Even the EPA acknowledged obstacles remain,” said Bob Greco, an API director. “Our position still remains that the partial waiver of E15 was premature.”

A series of studies have promoted the money ethanol has saved consumers at the pump. Most recently, a study conducted by economic professors at the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University and sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association estimated ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by an average of $1.09 per gallon in 2011.

A federal renewable fuel standard mandates the use of 13.2 billion gallons of alternative fuels in 2012, with most of it coming from corn. By 2022, the figure would require 36 billion gallons to be blended into transportation fuel.

Source – Petro Plaza