Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Funding small-scale solar projects for widespread gains

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 3rd, 2012


Photo by Rajiv Patel (Rajiv’s View) via flickr CC

From “Solar rooftops sought in poor communities” by Bernice Yeung:

San Diego is home to more than 2,600 solar residential rooftops – more than any other California city – but in the neighboring lower-income community of National City, there are only about a dozen.

A bill before the California Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce this month seeks to equalize renewable energy installation in the state by promoting small-scale solar rooftops in the disadvantaged communities. The bill targets neighborhoods with high unemployment rates and those that “bear a disproportionate burden from air pollution, disease, and other impacts from the generation of electricity from the burning of fossil fuels,” the bill said. Bill author Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Mountain View, said the legislation would create jobs and build “cleaner, safer, and healthier neighborhoods.”

[…]

The legislation would require the state to install enough systems to produce 375 megawatts of renewable energy – or about 1,000 small-scale projects – in disadvantaged communities between 2014 and the end of 2020. Utility companies are required by a 2011 state law to achieve a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020. The renewable energy systems supported by Fong’s bill would take the form of rooftop solar installations on apartment complexes and commercial buildings, and each project would be limited to producing 500 kilowatts of power, a project the size of a typical Costco rooftop. Advocates say passage of the bill could improve both the health and economy of these low-income communities.

Through a program known as “feed-in tariff,” the owner of the solar panels would be able to earn revenue by selling back unused energy to the local utility company. Additionally, the bill promotes the hiring of local workers to install the solar panels. And because reliance on carbon dioxide-emitting power plants used during periods of high energy demand – called peaker plants – could be decreased with an increase in renewable energy creation, there are health implications to the bill, said Strela Cervas of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, which sponsored the legislation.

[…]

Read the full article by Bernice Yeung on California Watch.


Australia’s transition to a post carbon future: Post Carbon Pathways report

Posted in Movements, Research by Jessica Bird on April 11th, 2012


Image source: AAP 

From What Australia can learn from the world’s best de-carbonisation policies by John Wiseman and Taegen Edwards

Around the world an increasing number of detailed policy road maps are demonstrating the possibility, necessity and urgency of a rapid transition to a just and sustainable post carbon future. The key barriers to this transition are social and political, not technological and financial.

The Post Carbon Pathways report, published by the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne and the Centre for Policy Development has reviewed 18 of the most comprehensive and rigorous post carbon economy transition strategies. As Australia enters the next phase of the climate change policy debate, this report will provide vital information on how other jurisdictions are designing and implementing large-scale plans to remove carbon from their economies. The review focuses on transition road maps produced by governments with the strongest emissions reduction targets, such as Germany, Denmark and the UK. It also looks at the most comprehensive and influential non-government authored strategies such as Zero Carbon Britain, Zero Carbon Australia and World in Transition (German Advisory Council on Global Change). Our analysis of these diverse ways of reaching a post-carbon future highlights several key lessons.

The window is closing fast
A wide range of detailed national and global level strategies demonstrate the technological and economic feasibility of rapidly moving to a post carbon economy. This goal can still be achieved at the scale and speed required to significantly reduce the risk of runaway climate change. But the gateway for effective action is rapidly closing. Decisive action in the next five to ten years will be critical. There is a crucial difference between transition strategies that advocate a pragmatic and evolutionary approach and those that advocate more rapid and transformational change. […]

Technology is not the most significant barrier
Analysis of these strategies shows that technological barriers are not the most significant obstacles to a fair and swift transition to a post carbon economy. The integrated suite of technological and systemic changes needed to reach a just and sustainable post carbon future will clearly need to include:

  • rapid reductions in energy consumption and improvements in energy efficiency
  • rapid replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy
  • significant investment in forests and sustainable agriculture to draw down and sequester carbon into sustainable carbon sinks.

We already have the technologies to achieve emission reductions at the required speed and scale. Soaring investment in technological innovation, particularly in the United States, China and Germany, is driving down the price of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies at a remarkable speed.

Financial and economic barriers: significant but not insurmountable
The economic and social costs of failing to take action to reduce emissions are becoming increasingly clear – as are the multiple employment, health and environmental co-benefits of a swift transition to a post carbon economy. Most strategies advocate a mix of market based and regulatory mechanisms, underpinned by clear long-term emissions reduction targets. Some authors however remain cautious of relying too much on carbon pricing. They recommend additional, more direct interventions such as:

  • binding renewable energy targets
  • feed-in tariffs
  • eliminating fossil fuel subsidies
  • allocating the funds to close fossil fuel power stations.

Strategies with emissions reduction targets that are more strongly informed by climate science also commonly advocate a significant shift towards economic priorities which focus on improving social and ecological wellbeing rather than unconstrained growth in material consumption.  […]

There is no solution to climate change without climate justice
Intergenerational justice – the need to respect and protect the livelihoods and opportunities of future generations – remains the most powerful ethical justification for taking prudent and decisive climate change action now. There is also widespread recognition that political support for a rapid transition to a post carbon economy depends on implementing policies to overcome key social equity challenges – within and beyond national borders.

The key barriers are social and political
The biggest barriers preventing a rapid transition to a post carbon future are social and political – not technological and financial. The difficulty of securing and sustaining broad social and political support is widely recognised as the greatest barrier to a swift transition to a post carbon economy. The most significant gap in post carbon economy transition strategies is a lack of detailed game plans for mobilising political leadership and public support. Worryingly, even the most optimistic of the social change theories underpinning these strategies, tend to rely on a variety of ‘Pearl Harbor’ scenarios in which one or more catastrophic ecological events would provide the necessary wake up call. […] The development and communication of inspiring stories and compelling images of a just and sustainable post carbon future will be particularly crucial.

Australia’s post carbon pathway leadership challenge
The Australian Government’s 2020 emissions reduction target (a 5% decrease on 2000 levels) is clearly still far from the level required for Australia to make a responsible and fair contribution to global emissions reductions. Australia’s 2050 target (an 80% decrease on 2000 levels) is more robust. But there is no detail as yet as to how this target will be achieved. Evidence from the most promising transition strategies elsewhere suggests we need a more informed and thoughtful debate about the kind of economic growth and industry mix that Australia should aim for. We need to talk about the fairest approaches to mobilising the required levels of financial, human and social capital. Most importantly, a far more visionary level of political leadership will be required in order to drive an Australian climate change debate informed primarily by climate science rather than short-term calculations of political and economic feasibility. […]

Read the article in full on The Conversation.
Read the Post Carbon Pathways briefing paper, summary report or full report.


City of Sydney blazing the way with LED lighting.

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on April 4th, 2012


Photo from City of Sydney

From an article on Greenpages by The Climate Group

Sydney has become the first major city in Australia – and one of the first in the world – to embrace LED lighting, following council approval for General Electric (GE) and UGL Limited to fit LEDs to the majority of the City’s outdoor lights as part of an AUS $7 million three-year project.

The new lights promise to cut the City’s lighting-related electricity bills and carbon emissions by more than 50%, while bathing city streets in a whiter, brighter light. The first lights were installed last weekend on George Street in front of Sydney Town Hall, a central location which was initiated by The Climate Group’s LightSavers program. In total, 6,500 lights will be fitted with LED technology. A rollout of this size is unprecedented in Australia and will be closely watched by other councils. If successful, it may start a domino effect and see LEDs spread to city streets across Australia.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore supports the City’s pioneering rollout of the LED lights. She said: “Replacing 6,450 conventional lights will save nearly $800,000 a year in electricity bills and maintenance costs. Sydney will be the first city in Australia to install the new LED street and park lights across its entire city centre, and joins other major cities such as Berlin, Barcelona, Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

Independent polls conducted in the trial areas show that Sydney residents agree with the City Council’s move: 90% supported the rollout of the lights on Sydney’s streets.

[…]

Sydney’s LED transformation follows a rigorous testing phase conducted as a contributor to The Climate Group’s Global LED Trial. The Global Trial, undertaken in more than 10 major world cities, including Hong Kong, London, New York and Toronto, has put almost 30 different outdoor LED lighting products to the test. The City’s successful trial results also reflect those of the wider Global Trial: LED products are reliable, use 50-70% less energy and produce fewer carbon emissions – and have outshone traditional street lighting with more attractive light.

[…]

Read the full article here


Energy Independence: A Rural Town in Germany

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on March 14th, 2012


Photo: Matt Biddulph via Flickr CC

From “A Power Grid of Their Own: German Village Becomes Model for Renewable Energy” by Renuka Rayasam:

Werner Frohwitter drives his white Prius into Feldheim, parking halfway down the village’s one street in front of what looks like a shipping container. Behind the street is a field where 43 giant wind turbines loom over the village’s 37 houses. Frohwitter works for Energiequelle Gmbh, which owns the wind park. He greets a Russian camera crew and ushers them into the chilly container, which has become Feldheim’s impromptu visitor’s center. It’s the only sign of life in this otherwise quiet village. Inside, he uses posters on the wall to explain the town’s energy transformation for the Russian crew’s renewable energy documentary.

This town of 150 inhabitants, tucked away in the Brandenburg countryside some 60 kilometers (37.2 miles) southwest of Berlin seems like an unlikely tourist hotspot. It has no bars, museums or restaurants. But since the Fukushima nuclear disaster one year ago, Feldheim has become a beacon for cities across the world that want to shift their energy mix toward renewables.

Feldheim is the only town in Germany that started its own energy grid and gets all of its electricity and heating through local renewable sources, primarily wind and biogas. This mix of energy self-sufficiency and reliance on renewables attracted 3,000 visitors in 2011. Visitors came from North and South Korea, South America, Canada, Iran, Iraq and Australia. About half of the visitors are from Japan. Eri Otsu served as a translator for a group of Japanese energy analysts and politicians who came to Germany to see Feldheim. “Feldheim is not a charming Bavarian village; it is gray and they have little,” says Otsu, an organic farmer in southern Japan. Still, the group found Feldheim the most impressive of the three German villages they visited because it is energy independent and uses renewables. “They were amazed and said they had never seen anything like that,” Otsu says.

A Mayor’s Work
“People are here almost every day,” says Michael Knape, shifting through a stack of business cards on his desk. He sighs, saying that he can’t keep track of all the visitors. The 41-year-old, with dark hair and wide eyes that make his young face look even more boyish, is the mayor of Treuenbrietzen, the larger municipality where Feldheim sits. In many ways Knape’s work is typical of a small town mayor, dealing with residents when snow is not cleared fast enough and sometimes answering the phone at the city hall. What makes Knape different is that he is also a patient ambassador for Feldheim, convinced that investing in renewables is the only answer to the country’s energy dilemma.

After the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Chancellor Angela Merkel planned a phase-out for Germany’s nuclear power plants and set the goal of requiring 35 percent of Germany’s energy to come from renewables by 2020, up from 20 percent at the time. Yet the federal government is now cutting funding for renewable energy projects and phasing out solar subsidies. […]

A Series of Coincidences
It started with a few windmills in 1995. A series of coincidences transformed Feldheim from a backwater town in eastern Germany into a model renewable energy city. “Back in the 1990s no one expected it would get this far,” says Frohwitter. Feldheim’s strong wind and abundant land are pretty much the only reason that Michael Raschermann, head of Energiequelle Gmbh, decided to install a wind turbine in the village. Now the wind park has more turbines than the village has houses.

By 2008, after two years of planning, Feldheim built a €1.7 million biogas factory to be used for heat and fueled by slurry of unused corn and pig manure. The village received about half of the startup costs from a European Union program. Because farmers in Feldheim already grew corn and raised pigs, the biogas factory also benefits local agriculture. A furnace burning wood chips left over from felled trees in the local forest serves as a backup heat source when the temperature dips.

In 2008 Feldheim decided to take control of its own grid. Cutting out the middleman was a natural step since the town was producing all of its own energy right in its backyard. But when E.on refused to sell or lease its energy grid, Feldheim, with help from Energiequelle, had to build its own smart grid. They completed the grid in October 2010 with each villager contributing €3,000 ($3,972). Now Feldheimers pay about 31 percent less for electricity and 10 percent less for heating. The project has created about 30 jobs in Feldheim. […]

Read the rest of this entry »


Solar Mosaic: Invest in Solar Projects Anywhere

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on February 28th, 2012

Source: Solar Mosaic


Photo: © Solar Mosaic

One of the biggest barriers to converting to solar power has always been the initial outlay involved in the installation of panels, and connecting to the grid where necessary. In the last ten years the concept of a Solar Lease, similar to that of a car lease, has led to the expansion of the industry with traditional investors being banks, energy companies, and private equity firms. US organisation Solar Mosaic, based in Oakland California, have opened up the idea of solar leasing so that anyone can invest in solar projects to help local communities and “Bank on the Sun”; “Mosaic is a platform where people come together to create local clean energy in their communities and around the world.”

The Solar Mosaic website explains how their platform works:

1) Invest in a Project
Choose a solar project to invest in. Each project has been carefully vetted by Solar Mosaic to ensure that your investment creates local clean energy, green jobs and benefits a site host that is financially secure and has a good roof.

2) Your Project is Installed
After you and all your friends invest in the project, the project will be installed. You’ll receive updates as your project is funded, installed and connected to the grid.

3) Get Paid Back
As your investment produces clean solar electricity, the building owner will save thousands of dollars on their utility bills. Low monthly lease payments along with other incentives will go towards paying you back. All of our current projects operate under a zero-interest loan model, meaning that if you put $100 in, you’ll get $100 back over the number of years specified in the project.

 

What’s in a name?
Tile mosaics are works of art where many pieces come together to form a whole. In the same way, Solar Mosaics are solar projects where many people come together to fund a solar installation.

Mosaic is a place where you can create and fund solar projects
The solar economy is undergoing unprecedented growth. We’ve created Mosaic so you can invest in solar power anywhere and take part in the solar revolution.

Mosaic is helping to build the new energy economy
We’re a new way of financing and unleashing solar for communities across the world. Mosaic’s mission is to democratize the financial and environmental benefits of solar.

The projects are powered by people like you
Together we can create a world powered by 100% clean energy. We are excited to have you join Mosaic. Sign up and invest today.

 

Solar Mosaic have also produced an interactive guide to help in the development of your own solar project.

Read more about Solar Mosaic and their current projects on their website.


Community Renewable Energy Projects: UK

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on January 13th, 2012

Source: guardian.co.uk


River Bain Hydro photo © wonky knee

From “The communities taking renewable energy into their own hands” by Ed Mayo:

“Late last year we – Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Group – published a new report which reveals the growing number of people who are choosing to start renewable energy co-operatives in their communities, against all the odds. What is exciting about the report is that it is the first and most comprehensive guide to what amounts to a new movement of communities who are taking action for greener energy into their own hands.
In a time of doom – when all talk is of cuts, unemployment and rising prices – this report highlights a different story. Despite, or maybe even because, of the wider economic woes, people across the UK are creating a co-operative movement for green energy.  There are now 43 communities who are in the process of or already producing renewable energy through co-operative structures. They are set up and run by everyday people – local residents mostly – who are investing their time and money and together installing solar panels, large wind turbines or hydro-electric power for their local communities.
The report highlights a series of examples. Like Ouse Valley Energy Service Company, which is owned by 250 people who have installed solar panels on a local brewery. Or River Bain Hydro, which installed a hydro electric power generator in its local river with investment of £200,000 from around 200 people.”

[…]

Read the full article by Ed Mayo on the Guardian.


The Rough Guide to Community Energy: Free book

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on January 9th, 2012

What can we do to create sustainability in our own communities? How can local people work together to save or generate energy and tackle climate change?

The Rough Guide to Community Energy has the answers. Packed full of practical advice and inspiring case studies, it covers:

  • Local energy groups – how to set one up and keep its momentum going
  • Types of project including solar, wind, hydro, biomass, CHP and energy efficiency
  • Getting a project off the ground, from fundraising and planning to construction
  • Real-world advice from successful groups all over the UK

Whether you’re looking for inspiration or you already have a local energy group, The Rough Guide to Community Energy will help you make your project happen.

>> Get your free copy.

Check out the Resources section at the back of the book for websites and further reading.  KA


Sharing Energy Makeover Costs

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on November 28th, 2011

Source: Climate Spectator


Photo by Yemisi Blake via flickr CC

From “Free energy makeovers drive growth for Siemens” by Natalia Drozdiak (Reuters):

One of Berlin’s most famous universities is getting a free green makeover that will slash its energy bill by nearly a third under an increasingly popular type of efficiency contract.

With engineering companies looking for new ways to drive growth in a tough economic environment, and the public sector finding it difficult to invest on stretched budgets, the deal between Siemens and the University of the Arts is a template for more. Under a ‘buy now pay later’ scheme, worth about 1.1 million euros, the UdK has turned its heating, cooling and lighting over to Siemens to renovate. In return Siemens gets to keep a substantial part of the savings that the scheme generates: since 2004 it has cut energy consumption by about 28 percent each year, reaping annual savings of about 240,000 euros. After the 10-year contract expires and the renovation has been paid for, the university gets to keep all the savings.

Read the full article by Natalia Drozdiak.


Solar Energy from Existing Structures: Free Calculator

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on November 11th, 2011

Source: Renewables International


Image from SEES Manual


From New software calculates a city’s potential by Sven Ullrich & Craig Morris:

Researchers at the University of Göteborg in Sweden have come up with a new computer program to analyze the potential of solar power generation and solar heat for entire cities. The program supports a wide range of data formats.

Called Solar Energy from Existing Structures (SEES), the new software collects, stores, analyzes, and graphically displays geographical data for roofs to determine their suitability for solar arrays. It calculates both the angle of solar incidence and shading from trees and nearby structures. In addition to this data, the roof angle and climate data are included with a resolution of up to an hour. The program shows building roofs in their actual environment. In the model, the sun shines on the building’s three-dimensional surroundings to correctly reveal shading, which can also be calculated for individual months and the year as a whole.

Read the full article by Sven Ullrich & Craig Morris on Renewables International.


Community Power Conference: Australian communities taking charge of their energy use

Posted in Events, Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 12th, 2011

Are you looking for practical, achievable ways to reduce the impact of electricity price rises in your community? The Community Power Conference: Australian Communities Taking Charge, aims to showcase how regional Australian communities: are developing innovative energy projects, helping to reduce local economic shocks can take practical action to hedge against rising energy prices.


14 -15 November, The Capital – Bendigo Performing Arts Centre, View Street, Bendigo


The Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities, in its third biennial conference on renewable energy, is partnering with the Central Victoria Solar City project, part of the Australian Government’s Solar Cities program, and the City of Greater Bendigo, to deliver an exciting exploration of current energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies and actions being taken by Australian communities. This conference will show your community what it can do with regard to:

  • more efficient use of energy in homes and businesses
  • more effective demand management to smooth peak energy loads, and
  • developing local, renewable energy generators embedded within the national distribution network.

The conference will bring together leaders in the renewable energy industry including government, industry associations and communities which have adopted sustainable strategies built on innovative, renewable energy business models. Speakers will engage with community and municipality leaders:

  • Outlining and developing comprehensive strategies for local and regional energy sustainability (identifying appropriate business models, overcoming policy barriers, engaging your community, knowing your technology options);
  • Showcasing examples of regional communities that have already, or are in the process of putting such strategies in place; and,
  • Reviewing and developing communities’ local and regional energy sustainability policy and programs.

If your community is facing increased energy costs and you would like to learn how to address this issue at the local level then this conference can help you. Follow the link below for more information.

www.centralvictoriasolarcity.com.au/special-projects/communitypower