Friday, April 30, 2010

Nissan Leaf in the Black


Nissan Motor is on track to book 25,000 U.S. orders for its Leaf electric vehicle by year's end and will be making money on the green car, the carmaker said Thursday.
Nissan has taken 8,000 U.S. reservations for the hatchback, set to go on sale in the United States in December, since it started taking orders on April 20, Mark Perry, Nissan's North America director of product planning and strategy, told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry conference.
"We are on a double-time march" for launch, Perry said. "We are on our way to have 25,000 firm orders by December."
Nissan's U.S. launch of the car will start in California, Arizona, Washington, Tennessee, and Oregon. The automaker also is launching the car in Japan and Europe in late 2010.
Production of the Leaf will start in Japan and later at plants in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Leaf sales will be capacity restrained in the first two years until the U.S. plant comes on line, Perry said.
The five-passenger car will be the first fully electric car launched by a major automaker. It is designed to provide a 100 mile range on a full charge and is priced at $32,780 not including federal tax credits or other incentives.
"We are making money at the price that we announced," Perry said. "We priced the car to be affordable. We priced it for mass adoption."
Nissan is counting on electric cars to help it close the gap on rivals led by Toyota Motor and its gasoline-electric Prius, the world's most popular hybrid.
Federal tax credits of $7,500 will cut the Leaf's retail price to $25,280--about 10 percent more than the $23,000 starting price for a Prius. Federal tax credits have been phased out for the Prius.
State incentives could cut the cost further. In California, the top U.S. alternative car market, credits could reduce the Leaf price to $20,280.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

France Goes Solar


Under a memorandum of understanding, the European Investment Bank (EIB), will allocate €500 million to a 2010 - 2012 investment program for financing solar power plants in France and Italy, EDF Energies Nouvelles (EDF EN) has signed a framework agreement for the French part of this program.
At the same time, EDF EN reached financial close and is drawing on the credit line to fund the French pilot project of the program, i.e. the two initial 12 MW tranches of the Gabardan photovoltaic power plant, currently under construction.
At the same time, EDF EN is drawing on the credit line to fund the Gabardan project in the Landes department. In order to finance an important investment program over the 2010-2012 period, related to solar photovoltaic projects in France and Italy, EDF EN designed and negotiated an innovative financing solution derived from the project financing technique, usually only used for projects having a larger unit size than the ones in solar photovoltaic.

“Thanks to the volume of our projects’ portfolio, we have been able to set up a financing scheme, allowing a rapid, simple and cost-effective replication of a standard project financing structure, initially implemented for two pilot projects”, explained Philippe Crouzat, Chief Financial Officer of EDF Energies Nouvelles. “This innovative scheme, where each financing stays independent of the others, represents an effective solution to help us complete our numerous projects under development in France and Italy”.

Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding signed with the EIB on the December 17 2009, a global amount of €500 million representing up to 50% of the total financing of the investment program, is allocated to EDF EN by the EIB, the balance being provided by commercial banks.
At the same time, EDF EN reached financial close and is drawing on the credit line to fund the French pilot project of the program, i.e. the two initial 12 MW tranches of the Gabardan photovoltaic power plant, currently under construction, and which will be commissioned in 2010. Located in south-west France (in the Landes department), the ground-based solar power plant will achieve a total capacity of up to 76 MW, making it one of the largest solar photovoltaic projects in Europe.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Solar power in US grows 37% in 2009


Despite the global economic recession, solar capacity in the US increased by 37% last year to reach 2108 MW, according to figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The annual industry report shows that 2009 was, in fact, a year of strong growth with revenues reaching $4 billion, up 36% on 2008.
The growth is being driven mainly by utilities, which tripled their solar photovoltaic capacity from 22 MW to 66 MW, with a pipeline of 17 GW, sufficient to power 3.4 million homes.
Residential photovoltaic installations also showed particular growth, doubling in capacity from 78 MW to 156 MW. Non-residential installations, however, lagged well behind growing 2% less than last year.
California continues to lead the way with 220 MW in new solar electric capacity, followed by New Jersey, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and North Carolina.
Despite the strong growth, the US still ranks fourth in newly installed solar electric capacity (481 MW) behind Germany, who leads the way with a massive 3000 MW increase, Italy and Japan. The total capacity of the US is also well behind Germany’s total of 8877 MW, as well as Spain and Japan.
“We expect 2010 to be a breakout year for the US solar industry,” says SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. “The right policies and industry innovation continue to drive solar’s growth across America. Now we’re talking gigawatts of solar, not megawatts.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chevy Electric SUV


Chevrolet Volt MPV5
The Volt isn't even on American streets yet and there's already a crossover variant in the works.
(Credit: Chevrolet/GM)
Chevrolet has taken the yet-unreleased Volt extended-range electric vehicle in an odd direction for the Chinese market, making it bigger and less efficient with the newly revealed Volt MPV5 concept. The concept takes the styling cues of the Volt sedan that we're already familiar with and super-sizes it into a five-seat crossover.
The Volt MPV5 is only 0.6 inches longer in wheel base, but overall it is 7 inches longer than the sedan version. Height has been increased by about 7 inches and width has spread by 2.9 inches. The result is a vehicle that gives its five passengers a bit more elbow room.
Under the hood is the same Voltec powertrain consisting of a 111 kW (150 horsepower) electric motor that twists the Volt MPV5's front wheels to the tune of 273 pound-feet of torque. Electric power is supplied by the same T-shaped 16 kWh lithium ion battery that juices the sedan, but the heavier MPV5's EV range has been reduced to 32 miles (down from the 40-mile zero emission range of the Volt sedan).
Once the battery is exhausted, a 1.4-liter gasoline range extender takes over supplying electricity and keeping the electric powertrain spinning until the battery can be plugged in and recharged.
Chevrolet Volt MPV5
The Volt MPV5 shares a facade with the sedan, but the profiles are dramatically different.
(Credit: Chevrolet/GM)
"The Volt MPV5 concept demonstrates the flexibility of the Voltec propulsion system, which can produce enough electric power to propel a range of vehicles. from a compact sedan like the Volt to a crossover like the Volt MPV5 concept," said Doug Parks, global vehicle line executive and global vehicle chief engineer for electric vehicles at GM.
The Volt MPV5 is still in the conceptual phase of development, with no solid details being given on when the vehicle will be available in the Chinese market or if such a vehicle will be sold in the North American market. Considering that the original Volt sedan hasn't hit the streets of Detroit yet, we can assume it'll be some time before the MPV5 hits the streets of 

Santa Cruz Sentinel: Contractors hope solar financing initiative will keep them busy


SANTA CRUZ - Local contractors coping with the recession hope a new initiative to finance residential energy improvements will give their business a much-needed boost.
"I'm excited to see this," said Ron Jones of Sustainable Home Solutions in Santa Cruz. "It's going to benefit the economy. We'll burn less energy and homes will be more comfortable."
Painting contractor Ron Myer and custom-finish carpenter Chris Williams are getting trained to do energy efficiency retrofit work. Williams is taking two classes at Cabrillo College, one on home performance audits and another on photovoltaics. Both are full.
"I hope this works out for us," said Williams.
The Property Assessed Clean Energy initiative from CaliforniaFirst would provide loans to homeowners to invest in a solar installation, which can cost $12,000 after rebates and incentives, and pay the money back over time with their property tax bill.
More than three dozen people squeezed into the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce conference room Thursday to find out more.
Participants include 14 counties, 146 cities, the Royal Bank of Canada, bond counsel Jones Hall & Orrick and Renewable Funding, a company headed by financier Stephen Compagni Portis and Cisco DeVries, who championed a pilot solar project while working in Berkeley City Hall.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2500 Megawatts of Solar in Ontario


The Green Energy Act Alliance, a coalition of Ontario groups committed to furthering green power, applauded the recent government announcement that contract offers had been made for 2,500 megawatts of new renewable energy projects.
"With this announcement, Ontario has flicked the switch on a new era of green energy prosperity," said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director, Environmental Defence, a member of the Green Energy Act Alliance.
The news was the latest in a series of announcements related to the feed-in-tariff program (FIT), which guarantees a stable price for renewable energy. The 184 projects announced will generate enough energy to power 600,000 homes, the Ontario Power Authority reported.

Seventy-six of the approved projects are ground-mounted solar photovoltaic, 47 are on-shore wind and 46 are hydropower projects, the OPA reported. There are also seven biogas, two biomass, four landfill gas, one roof top solar and one off-shore wind projects.

“With this announcement, Ontario has flicked the switch on a new era of green energy prosperity,” said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director, Environmental Defence, a member of the Green Energy Act Alliance. “This occasion is potentially as significant for Ontario’s economic prosperity as the signing of the Auto Pact in 1965. The provincial government has served notice today that the new center of global green investing is right here in Ontario. Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to adopt a feed-in-tariff, and it’s working even better than we had hoped.”
The renewable energy projects announced are in addition to the 510 renewable energy contract offers totaling 112 megawatts approved recently.

The FIT program was enabled by the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009. The Ontario Power Authority is responsible for implementing the program.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Solar Plane Makes Maiden Voyage


A plane designed to fly day and night using solar power has successfully taken its first maiden flight.
The Solar Impulse HB-SIA soared into the air for its first flight early Wednesday from its home in Switzerland. After a smooth takeoff, the plane climbed to an altitude of 1,200 meters (3,937 feet or three-quarters of a mile) and stayed aloft for a total of 87 minutes. Pilot Markus Scherdel used the flight to run the Impulse through different exercises and maneuvers to see how it would handle itself.
The Solar Impulse takes its maiden flight.
The Solar Impulse takes its maiden flight.
(Credit: Solar Impulse/Stephane Gros)
As thousands of spectators gazed skyward, Scherdel worked the controls to take the plane on a series of intricate turns and then steered the Impulse to simulate its approach and landing phases. Though piloting an aircraft so big and light is considered both difficult and risky, Scherdel's maiden flight proved a success from takeoff to landing.
"This first flight was for me a very intense moment," said Scherdel as he stepped down from the aircraft following the flight. "The HB-SIA behaved just as the flight simulator told us. Despite its immense size and feather weight, the aircraft's controllability matches our expectations."
The Solar Impulse HB-SIA is designed to fly without the need for fuel. Though its wingspan is as wide as that of a Boeing 474, the plane weighs only around 1.7 tons. The 12,000 solar panels on its wing collect energy from the sun to drive its four electric motors and charge the plane's lithium polymer batteries, allowing it to fly at night.
Though the plane will ultimately use solar power for an upcoming flight this year, the maiden flight relied solely on the batteries, which were powered up beforehand in the hangar. The Solar Impulse's first official flight followed asuccessful test flight in December, which was labeled more of a "flea hop" since the plane only traveled 3.2 feet off the ground for a distance of 1,148 feet.
Wednesday's flight was the first to see how the plane would fare at a high altitude over a longer duration. It was also considered the riskiest phase of the project by Solar Impulse CEO and co-founder Andr? Borschberg as the 87-minute journey represented the culmination of seven years of research and testing. Borschberg said that the success of the maiden flight brought about a greater sense of serenity to move forward to the next phase.
Next on the plane's itinerary will be further test flights, each one increasing the distance and duration that it stays in the air. The first day-and-night flight is scheduled for this summer to see if the Impulse can remain aloft for 36 hours operating on just solar power and batteries. Grander ambitions lie ahead for 2012 with a flight that will navigate around the world in five hops over the course of four to six days.
The Solar Impulse reached an altitude of 3,937 feet on its 87-minute voyage.
The Solar Impulse reached an altitude of 3,937 feet on its 87-minute voyage.
(Credit: Solar Impulse/Stephane Gros)
"We still have a long way to go until the night flights and an even longer way before flying round the world, but today, thanks to the extraordinary work of an entire team, an essential step towards achieving our vision has been taken," said Solar Impulse Chairman and initiator Bertrand Piccard, in a statement. "Our future depends on our ability to convert rapidly to the use of renewable energies. Solar Impulse is intended to demonstrate what can be done already today by using these energies and applying new technologies that can save natural resources."