Apache Celebrates Houston Opening of Public Access CNG Station

20130329_Grand-Opening-2
Apache Corporation (NYSE, Nasdaq: APA) announced today the grand opening of its latest compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station, located in Houston’s Galleria shopping district at 2109 McCue Rd, adjacent to Apache’s corporate headquarters.

Steve Farris, Apache’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, addressed about 150 attendees at the grand opening ceremony, held on March 22, 2013, and a number of Houston-based dealers/installers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) exhibited a selection of CNG-powered vehicles.
Since 2009 Apache Corporation has transformed 42 percent of its U.S. fleet vehicles to CNG power, which represents more than 450 cars and trucks, with a long-term goal of converting 80 percent of its fleet to this clean-burning, abundant, and domestically generated fuel. Including its Galleria area facilities, Apache has constructed 20 CNG fueling stations in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana. Six of these are public access facilities and the private CNG stations are available to other area fleets by agreement with the company.

Natural gas vehicles pushed in La.

The push for compressed natural gas vehicles has gained some major traction with commitments from Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and General Motors, but energy industry experts say federal incentives will be needed if real transformation is to occur.

“It is extremely nice to see that it’s actually here. A lot of times you talk about those things like they’re unicorns,” said Gifford Briggs, vice president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. “But now they’re here …. I think that is a huge first step towards making it (CNG) a little more mainstream acceptable.”

The energy industry has felt good about the direction CNG has taken for a while, Briggs said, but the advent of mass-produced pickups that can run on natural gas or gasoline opens the door on a national scale.

Louisiana has seen CNG advances because of its Haynesville Shale natural gas formation, LOGA, the energy industry, and companies like Chesapeake Energy Corp., Encana Corp., Petrohawk Energy Corp. and Apache Corp., Briggs said. But trying to get Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and other states that don’t have the energy infrastructure to support CNG has been more challenging.

That may be changing. Twenty-two states are part of an effort, led by the governors of Oklahoma and Colorado, to encourage automakers to make more affordable CNG vehicles for state fleets. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has said the governors hope their efforts will help overcome some of the obstacles automakers face in producing a wider variety of CNG vehicles.

Oklahoma Energy Secretary Michael Ming said if the participating states could buy 5,000 CNG vehicles that would be great, but 1,000 is more likely given the current economic climate.

State government buys only about 40 percent of the public-sector vehicle purchases, Ming said. Municipalities and other political subdivisions account for 60 percent of sales.

If the municipalities — city and parish governments — tag along, the CNG sales could be significantly higher, Ming said.

Chris Knittel, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, described the states’ request as “interesting.”

The states presume the CNG vehicles available aren’t that affordable, Knittel said.

“There’s no magic wand that the automakers can wave that makes the CNG vehicles less expensive than gasoline-based vehicles,” Knittel said.

“But there are things that policymakers can do to level the playing field.”

States have to put policies in place with incentives that encourage consumers to switch, he said. Those incentives could involve making CNG fueling stations available, subsidizing vehicles or in-home fueling stations, or by lowering retail prices for natural gas.

Right now, the states aren’t guaranteeing anything to automakers, Knittel said.

“I think the states are just saying that if you build them, we’ll promise the consumers,” Knittel said. “I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case given the current structure of prices and the number of refueling stations around.”

There are roughly 1,000 fueling stations nationwide, and 123,000 CNG vehicles, Ming said.

In Louisiana, CNG vehicles make up less than 1 percent of the cars and trucks on the road, Briggs said. Nationwide, CNG vehicles are around 2 percent of the total.

But that can change if the state, local and federal governments and the private sector — the companies that operate fleets — work together, he said.

“I don’t think the federal government or the state government or the local government can do it by themselves, any more than I think the fleets can do it by themselves,” Briggs said.

But working together can make things happen, Briggs said. Just look at Lafayette, where the city-parish government and private sector have joined to make the state’s most aggressive move to CNG.

In July, Apache opened a public fueling station. The company also converted 15 of its vehicles in Lafayette, part of 300 conversions it will complete by yearend. The city-parish has converted five buses and announced plans to convert its entire fleet.

The city-parish is also trying to form a partnership with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the local school boards to convert all their vehicles, Briggs said. Acadian Ambulance is experimenting with CNG for its vehicles.

The East Baton Rouge City-Parish Government recently began looking into converting all of its vehicles to CNG. The city-parish expects the move will slash fuel costs, particularly for heavy-duty pickups and other vehicles that consume more fuel.

Chesapeake spokeswoman Katie McCullin said there is evidence across Louisiana that the state is leading the nation in natural gas usage.

For example, Shreveport has added 14 natural-gas powered buses, and Bossier City has added a second public fueling station. Holmes Honda in Shreveport and Bossier City received its first shipment of the Honda Civic Natural Gas, the only dedicated CNG vehicle now sold in the United States.

In total there are 10 public CNG stations in Louisiana, with more in the planning stages or under construction, McCullin said.

Chesapeake, a major player in the Haynesville Shale and other natural gas plays, is one of the leading proponents of CNG.

The Oklahoma-based company’s Fueling the Future Initiative is an effort to communicate how natural gas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and end the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, McCullin said.

The company has a billboard off Interstate 10 near the state Capitol extolling the use of natural gas vehicles.

Chesapeake has participated and sponsored natural gas vehicle seminars nationwide and is converting its 5,000-vehicle fleet to CNG, McCullin said. UPS, Verizon Wireless, Waste Management, Disneyland Resorts and AT&T are also converting their fleets to CNG; in 2009, AT&T announced it would spend $350 million to buy 8,000 CNG vehicles.

McCullin said Chesapeake will also invest at least $1 billion over the next 10 years with Clean Energy, 3M Corp., GE and Sundrop Fuels in efforts to increase demand for CNG vehicles.

The work with 3M could revolutionize the design and manufacture of CNG tanks, the most expensive part of the CNG fueling system, McCullins said. The redesign is expected to lead to lighter, more durable and less expensive tanks.

Chesapeake expects these investments to be the tipping point that gives automakers the confidence to increase their production of CNG and liquefied natural gas vehicles, McCullin said.

Still, both Briggs and Knittel said federal incentives are needed if natural gas is to replace oil as a transportation fuel.

The federal government would be the best source for those incentives, Knittel said, because the benefits from CNG vehicles accrue to the nation, not just to the states.

Energy independence and a reduction in climate change help everyone in the United States, regardless of whether a Louisiana resident buys CNG vehicle, he said.

“When the benefits accrue to everyone, the best place to set the policies is at the higher federal level,” Knittel said.

Briggs said if the country wants to see “a monumental shift,” then Congress should pass the Natural Gas Act.

The act replaces CNG incentives that dropped off the books about three years ago, Briggs said.

That was about the same time that Louisiana passed its own CNG vehicle incentives, Briggs said.

Right now, with only the state incentives, a Louisiana consumer can recover the $10,000 it costs to convert to CNG in two years if he drives 15,000 to 20,000 miles a year.

Most people don’t drive that much, Briggs said. But if both federal and Louisiana incentives were in place, converting a vehicle would be free, and consumers would begin saving money instantly.

“You’re saving a dollar, a dollar fifty, two dollars a gallon,” Briggs said.

“That would register with the American public overnight.”

Briggs pays around 45 cents per gallon by fueling up at LOGA’s office station, he said.

At Apache’s Lafayette station, the cost is around $1.79 a gallon, which is still only about half the price of gasoline.

Briggs said there is enormous support for the Natural Gas Act, but he doesn’t expect Congress to pass the legislation anytime soon.

And Knittel said any new policies that involve handing out more money have little chance in Congress these days.

“Still, I could certainly see both sides of the aisle supporting CNG,” Knittel said.

The rhetoric from both parties suggests they would support natural gas vehicles, he said.

Meanwhile, the price of natural gas is lower than it’s ever been, and with shale gas so plentiful, prices are expected to remain low for some time, Knittel said. In the past, natural gas prices have been very volatile; the price might fall but no one expected it to stay there.

Now, natural gas is expected to remain at less than $5 per thousand cubic feet for the foreseeable future, Knittel said.

Briggs said the United States is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.

“We have more natural gas than we know what to do with. We’re trying to export it,” Briggs said.

The country has so much natural gas that it’s going to run out of storage capacity, Briggs said.

“I think if the federal government … is serious about eliminating our dependency on foreign oil, the only viable alternative is natural gas,” Briggs said.

Congress should pass the Natural Gas Act, he said.

“Let’s get it on the books, and let’s see if we can get started transforming America’s transportation infrastructure” Briggs said.

Source:  The Advocate

Looking to get a cng station? Check us out http://www.fenleynicolenvir.com/cng.html

Full Circle Apple’s future will not fall far from the tree.

TECHNOLOGY CENTERS
On the very same day in March, Texas announced a huge new Apple Inc. campus in Austin (notably without a quote from Apple), and Apple submitted revised plans for a new headquarters campus in its hometown of Cupertino, Calif., that would boast a Texas-sized capacity of 13,000 employees.

According to the results of the latest “Best and Worst States for Business” survey by Chief Executive magazine, released in May, Texas is first in the nation. California is last. But both sites are aiming to be built to last for Apple, as it looks toward new horizons even as the sun sets on the life of its late founder and technology icon Steve Jobs.

The $304-million Austin project aims to create 3,635 new jobs by 2025 at a new campus in North Austin, which appeared to have beat out Phoenix for the project. The state has offered Apple an incentive of $21 million over 10 years through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), and other local incentives are on offer. However, as of June government officials were still awaiting final confirmation from Apple.

In California, the plan updates have continued to flow this spring from Apple to state environmental authorities and to the Cupertino City Council, whose chambers hosted Jobs in one of his last public appearances last summer.

“Apple’s growing like a weed,” he said then, explaining that his company’s core buildings now hold 2,800, but that an area work force of 12,000 had required “renting buildings — and not very good buildings either — at an ever greater radius from our campus.” The latest outgrowth for the company occurred in March 2012, when the nearby City of Sunnyvale announced that by the third quarter of this year, Apple would move approximately 400 employees into the entire 156,000-sq.-ft. (14,492-sq.-m.) second office building at the Sunnyvale Town Center redevelopment project, next door to a 500-person Nokia operation.

So, in addition to its existing campus in Cupertino, the company is planning to build Apple Campus 2, “an integrated, unified, and secure state-of-the-art office and research campus designed to serve as a model workplace for the 21st century.” Foster + Partners are the architects for the new campus. The general contractor will be a joint venture of DPR Construction and Skanska USA Building Inc.

Apple Campus 2

Apple Campus 2’s focal point is a 2.8-million-sq.-ft. (260,120-sq.-m.) ring-shaped main office building, which will consolidate 12,000 Apple employees together into one integrated workspace around an expansive courtyard.
Renderings courtesy of Apple Inc. and the City of Cupertino

A company spokesperson declined an interview request regarding the California and Texas projects. But thanks to transparent application requirements in California and Apple’s own increasingly thorough transparency efforts, some meaningful details can be gleaned from documents alone.

Apple in April filed a 270-pp. application with the state for expedited permitting for “the Project” under California’s new Jobs and Economic Improvement through Environmental Leadership Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in Sept. 2011. Among the requirements of the act is that the project exceed $100 million in investment, a milestone Apple said it would “far exceed.” Among the application’s other highlights:

> “The Project will replace and rebuild 2.66 million sq. ft. [241,540 sq. m.] of existing aging office buildings and surface parking lots on a 176-acre [71-hectare] infill site with 3.3 million sq. ft. [36,570 sq. m.] of high-performance energy- and water-efficient buildings, below-grade and structured parking, and more than 115 acres [46 hectares] of landscaped green space, nearly three times as much as before.” It’s aiming for LEED-Silver certification.

> In addition to the Project’s signature ring building, additional structures include ancillary research buildings (another 300,000 sq. ft. [27,870 sq. m.] for another 1,000 employees), a central plant, a 1,000-seat corporate auditorium, a corporate fitness center, and above- and below-grade parking. “These buildings will be integrated into the site’s newly created and expanded green space, which will be landscaped with native vegetation and approximately 6,000 trees, including orchard trees reflecting the region’s agricultural past” as an apricot orchard.

> “The Project will be entirely powered by renewable energy, which will primarily be generated on-site from fuel cells and more than 650,000 sq. ft. (60,385 sq. m.) of solar panels installed on building roofs, making the Project one of the largest corporate campus solar installations in the world.” The project is likely to deploy fuel cells made by Sunnyvale-based Bloom Energy Servers, whose units are already destined for Apple’s mega-data center in North Carolina.

> “The Project will also promote alternative transit through the provision of a comprehensive Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program, an on-site Apple Transit Center, employee shuttles, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly design, and 300 on-site electric car charging stations with built-in capacity to expand. These features will place the Project at the forefront of an emerging low-carbon economy in California.”

Ken Alex, a senior policy advisor to Gov. Brown and the director of the state’s Office of Planning and Research, who used to head the state attorney general’s energy task force, says via email that the AB 900 certification process precedes the Environmental Impact Report, “so it’s still early in the review process. We are currently reviewing the energy and GHG provisions (the California Air Resources Board in particular), for compliance with the requirements of AB 900 on those issues. So far, the project seems to be doing well.”

Asked for a decision timetable, Alex says, “We are aiming to have a decision by the end of August.”

A recent New York Times piece on Apple’s tax planning explored the company’s Braeburn Capital subsidiary, conveniently based in Reno, Nev., where the state levies no corporate income tax and where Apple processes its profits. The article also called into question whether Apple was paying its fair share in California. But the company is still Cupertino’s largest taxpayer, paying some $8 million in local property taxes.

Steve Jobs Memorial

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at a celebration of Steve Jobs’ life on Oct. 19, 2011, held at Apple’s current HQ.
Photo courtesy of Apple Inc., © 2011, All rights reserved

Getting There

Apple has already been successful with the TDM program used at its nearby corporate headquarters campus at 1 Infinite Loop. The program has resulted in a rate of employee trips in single-occupancy vehicles of 72 percent in the morning peak hour and 68 percent in the evening peak hour, well below the average of 82.6 percent for other workplaces in Cupertino. Among the program’s features:

> Coach shuttle service for Apple employees to and from multiple locations in the Bay Area;

> Coach shuttle service to public transit stations for Caltrain, Altamonte Commuter Express, and Valley Transportation Authority;

> Commute website with transit and shuttle information and carpool matching and bike route matching services;

> $100/month transit subsidy per employee;

> $20/month bike subsidy for bicycle commuters who do not use local transit;  bicycle racks, pumps, lockers, and showers available at the campus; and a bicycle sharing program;

> On-site services that reduce the need for midday errands.

The campus is ahead of its time in more ways than one. Senate Bill 375 requires that each metropolitan planning organization in the state prepare a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) as part of a regional transportation plan (RTP). However, the Bay Area’s SCS will not come into effect until 2013. The greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target for the SCS requires a reduction of per-capita CO2 emissions from cars and light-duty trucks by 7 percent by 2020 and by 15 percent by 2035 (compared to a 2005 baseline).

“Not only is the Project consistent with these targets, it will serve as a model for how the Bay Area can achieve them,” says Apple, citing its non-drive-alone commute rate of 30 percent or more and its provision for the 300 EV charging stations.

The Payoff

Apple estimates that construction alone will generate 22,967 person years of employment, which will translate into 9,187 full-time construction jobs over a 30- to 36-month construction period.

According to a supporting document filed by the DPR/Skanska JV, median hourly union wages associated with some of the job classifications most prevalent on the project site include $44.18 for a construction laborer, $78.48 for an electrician and $81.14 for a sheet metal worker. Cupertino’s median household income from 2006 to 2010 was $120,201, nearly twice the figure for the state as a whole.

“As for permanent jobs, Apple is currently the second largest technology employer in Silicon Valley, with approximately 13,000 full-time employees based in Cupertino,” says the application. “The Project will enable Apple to locate an additional 6,000 to 10,000 permanent employees in Cupertino by 2015. For every one new Apple job, an additional 1.5 jobs are created within Santa Clara County as a result of expenditures by Apple and by Apple employees.”

Even as the state application makes its way forward, the company is seeking more than a dozen approvals and entitlements from the city, including right-of-way transfers, zoning amendments, and utility relocation and easement agreements. Apple anticipates commencing construction immediately after approval and expects construction to be completed by the fall of 2015.

And for those already wondering, there is a Phase 2: “Phase 2 includes programmatic approval of an additional 300,000 sq. ft. [27,870 sq. m.] of development capacity for up to 1,200 employees that could occur anywhere on the Apple Campus 2 property, providing limited flexibility to address future operational or business needs,” says Apple.

We’re iHome

The land Apple acquired has distinct ties to the teenage invention needs of founder Steve Jobs, as he related in his speech to the city council last summer.

“This land is kind of special to me,” he said. “When I was 13, Hewlett and Packard were my idols, and I called up Bill Hewlett because he lived in Palo Alto and there were no unlisted phone numbers in the phone book … He picked up the phone and I talked to him. I asked him if he’d give me some spare parts for something I was building called a frequency counter. He did, but he also gave me something more important, a summer job at Hewlett Packard, at the division that built frequency counters.”

At the same time, HP bought property in Cupertino for their new computer systems building — the same property that Apple just bought from HP as the latter company has been shrinking its footprint.

Apple’s aim is to enlarge its footprint at the same time it shrinks the carbon footprint of the site. Even with a 20-percent increase in building space, the company aims to go from roughly an 80/20 split between building/pavement and landscaping to its exact opposite.

“I think the overall feeling of the place is going to be a zillion times better than it is right now with all the asphalt,” said Jobs. “We want to take the space and, in many cases, make it smaller.”

Panasonic Begins Mass Production of Energy Storage Solutions for the European Market

Strategic Decisions

On Monday, Panasonic announced that it will launch mass production of long-life lithium-ion battery systems that the company has developed especially for European homes. According to Panasonic, every lithium-ion battery module has an estimated lifetime of 5000 load cycles at 80% DOD (depth of discharge) and a capacity of 1.35 kWh. Cranking up its production like this is a big decision that will certainly affect the prices of these systems.

In the press release, Panasonic pointed at Germany as the main market for its energy storage solutions designed for European homes. Germany is “of course” the world’s largest market for photovoltaic power generation and has reached consumer price parity and even grid parity in some cases this year. In accordance with this development, the country’s groundbreaking FiT for solar energy will soon be lowered below electricity prices, a change that puts the struggling solar industry in a difficult situation at the moment as small investors question the profitability of going solar.

But this change also creates huge new opportunities for storage solutions, as solar power becomes a cost saver the more people can use their own power throughout the year. It seems Panasonic has anticipated this development….

Earlier this year, Panasonic introduced a “Smart Energy Storage” system to the Japanese market. This was a development by Sanyo — a (the?) leading Japanese battery maker — which Panasonic bought in 2009 and fully integrated into its corporation as of March 2011. This is clearly a big strategic takeover by the giant Japanese electronics corporation as it focuses its future business strategy on clean tech solutions and restructure its company accordingly.

The entire system consists of a management unit that includes controls that manage energy flows and an inverter that converts direct current (DC) from solar or battery into the AC we all love for powering our gadgets at home. A battery of various sizes is then hooked into the management system to make it work. The size of the battery depends on the number of 1.35-kWh modules, but it’s mainly promoted with a 5.4 kWh capacity (4 x 1.35-kWh modules)

Panasonic at large in Germany

But this announcement is not Panasonic’s entrance into the German market. In fact, it had already partnered with a small German energy storage company that is owned by EWE, a relatively large regional utility and IT company based in northern Germany. Together, they developed the E3/DC power management and storage system, which was announced last year and went on sale earlier this year. Considering EWEs investments in e-mobility and offshore & onshore wind, and its IT background, it seems to be building its own little “smart grid empire” and Panasonic provides the enterprise with cutting-edge lithium-ion battery technology.

The E3/DC system has a usable capacity of 4.05 to 8.10 kWh and is equiped with those Sanyo/Panasonic battery modules that are now about to be mass produced. It has a maximum power output of 4 kW, which is more than enough for an average German household. They are also developing a system that can be used in apartment buildings, a missing link for the “solarization” of cities here in Germany and elsewhere.

How fast will Panasonic’s move to start mass production reduce prices? Only time will tell.

But one thing seems certain, with prices for solar systems at their current lows and big players like Panasonic basing their corporate futures on these kind of clean tech solutions, the power grid and the world are in for a technological revolution that will shake things up even more than the rise of the internet. The only question seems to be when, or should I say how soon, this revolution will start?

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1dtlO)

Geothermal Heat Pumps: The Next Generation

The most efficient way to heat and cool a building just got more efficient.

Climatemaster, a division of LSB Industries(NYSE:LXU), recently announced that their new Trilogy 40 geothermal heat pump (GHP) had been certified by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) to exceed 40 Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) under ground loop conditions.

Climatemaster LogoEER is the ratio of effective cooling (heat removed) to the energy used, at maximal load, and is the standard measure of cooling effectiveness for geothermal heat pumps. A quick perusal of the list of Energy Star qualified GHPsshows just how big a leap this is: the highest EER rating currently available is 30, and many Energy Star qualified heat pumps have EERs as low as 17.  So the Trilogy 40 is a third again as efficient for cooling as the most efficient commercially available GHP, and more than twice as efficient as some Energy Star qualified GHPs.

Scott Lankhorst, President of Synergy Systems, a GHP installer in Kingston, NY, called the jump in efficiency “pretty amazing… 30 EER has been the max for quite a while now.”  Lankhorst says that Climatemaster hopes to have the Trilogy 40 in full production by the end of the year.

According to Barry Golsen, President and COO of LSB, the Trilogy 40 will also have improved heating performance, with a Coefficient of Performance (COP, the industry measure of heating efficiency) of 5 at ground loop conditions.  This is also a significant increase, with the best GHPs in the Energy Star list having COPs of 4.1.

In addition, they’ve added new functionality, called “Q-Mode.”  Q-Mode is the result of a collaboration between Climatemaster and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  It allows the GHP to produce hot water even when it is not being used for space heating or cooling.  According to Chris Williams, technology evangelist at Heatspring, a provider of renewable energy and energy efficiency training and certification, producing hot water year round required additional equipment (and cost) with traditional heat pumps.

Waterfurnace logoThe Competition

Yet Climatemaster is not moving into 40 EER territory unchallenged.  On GHP manufacturer Waterfurnace Renewable Energy’s (TSX:WFI, OTC:WFIFF) first quarter conference call, an analyst asked CEO Tom Huntington if Waterfurnace had an answer to efficiency breakthroughs at “a competitor.”  It does.  Huntington believes Waterfurnace’s new 7-Series GHP’s will be even more efficient than Climatemaster’s Trilogy.  Variable speed compressors (see below) are available from a number of vendors, and Huntington believes that the compressor used in the Trilogy is less efficient than the on Waterfurnace has selected for the 7-Series.

The Technology

How did they achieve these efficiency breakthroughs?  Both companies speak of “variable speed technology.”  According to Lankhorst, what they mean is variable speed compressors.  Current GHP models use two stage scroll compressors.   Variable speed blower motors and pump fields have been available for some time, although they often require the special controllers.

Variable speed compressors are new.  According to Williams, “there has been a huge amount of innovation in air source heat pumps,” and the innovations are now being applied to ground source technology.

Climatemaster’s Q-Mode a control system that integrates the GHP and components with the hot water tank, enabling the heat pump to deliver hot water year round.  Previously, year round hot water required additional components, or a back up heating source.  Q-Mode is patent pending, so it may be that it will give Climatemaster a competitive advantage if competitors like Waterfurnace are unable to duplicate the functionality without infringing patents.

Application

The integration of components and jump in efficiency should make these new systems attractive to installers in the field.  According to Lankhorst, the Trilogy may be especially cost effective in high-end residential applications, where the integrated system will eliminate several separate components.  Year round hot water is less of an advantage in commercial applications, since commercial installations operate nearly all the time in cooling mode, when free hot water is produced as a byproduct of cooling the building.

On the other hand, the spot efficiency ratings of a GHP are far from the only factor in determining the effectiveness of a GHP system.  According to Williams, proper ground loop, distribution, and system design can potentially have a greater impact on system efficiency.

Competitive Advantage

English: Mark Johnson, picture of job site.

When contractors select a GHP, technology tends to be more important in commercial operations than in residential ones.  The cost of the heat pump is a small fraction of the cost of drilling the loop field, so residential installers are more interested in the level of technical support offered by the distributor, so these competitive advantages will vary from region to region.

On the other hand, if Q-Mode makes for much simpler installations, Climatemaster stands to gain residential market share unless its competitors can offer similar integration without infringing its intellectual property.

Conclusion

The next generation of efficient ground source heat pumps are a significant step forward in energy efficient climate control.  Nevertheless, for the next few years, I’d expect that these variable speed compressor pumps will only be used in a small fractions of installation.  Geothermal heat pumps are already so efficient that the additional savings may not be enough to justify the higher up-front cost.  Additionally, Waterfurnace introduced their new 5-Series line of GHPs with two stage compression in March, at a slightly lower price point than the Envision product it replaces.

Either way, the cost of saving energy continues to fall, and the potential customer base for geothermal heat pumps will grow as higher efficiency and lower prices make them an even more economical approach to climate control.

Source: Forbes

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):

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SIZE INFOGRAPHIC

surprising things about people who go solar infographic

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

Top 10 Solar Panel Companies in 2011

Lux Research has just released a report on the most productive solar panel (or solar module) manufacturers in 2011. The Solar Supply Tracker report notes that the top 10 solar panel manufacturers produced 12.5 GW of solar panels in 2011, 44% of the global market sector.

Japanese and South Korean solar panel companies rose in ranks in 2011, Lux Research also notes, with the two countries moving forward with strong solar power policies about as fast as any other country. “Expect to see a major rise in market share from Japanese and Korean suppliers, while European module manufacturers struggle with financial woes and reduced government incentives for solar in Europe,” Fatima Toor, the Lux Research Analyst who led the Solar Supply Tracker, added.

And, of course, crystalline silicon solar panel prices dropped considerably in 2011, benefiting companies that focus on that solar technology. “Crystalline silicon module prices continue to be at a record low with Tier 1 manufacturers selling around $0.9/W while Tier 2 and Tier 3 manufacturers sold at even lower rates to burn through their inventories and survive the current market conditions.”

But, now, the part you’re probably eager to see — here are the top 10 solar panel producers of 2011:

top solar panel companies

And, if you’re interested, here are some more details on the Solar Supply Tracker and what Lux Research includes in this analysis:

Available only from Lux Research, the Solar Supply Tracker provides a customizable platform for tracking the capacity and production of five key value chain segments in photovoltaics: polysilicon, ingot, wafer, cell and module. The cell and module segments track crystalline silicon (x-Si), thin-film silicon (TF-Si), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and organic photovoltaic (OPV) companies, while the polysilicon, ingot and wafer value chain segments are specific to x-Si. Lux Research tracks over 400 companies globally across all value chain segments.

Thoughts?

Source: Lux Research [PDF]