1. "In June, the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research released the U.S. Solar Market Insight: 1st Quarter 2011 report showing that in the last three years the U.S. solar industry has gone from a start-up to a major industry that is creating well-paying jobs and growing the economy in all 50 states.

    Solar’s robust growth in the past years has been the result of a very favorable combination of new, innovative business models, affordability for consumers, rapidly decreasing manufacturing costs, and most importantly, a strong commitment from the Obama Administration and other policymakers in Washington.

    In the first quarter of 2011, the solar industry installed 252 megawatts of new solar electric capacity, a 66 percent growth from the same time frame in 2010. There are now almost 3,000 megawatts of solar electric energy installed in the U.S., enough to power 600,000 homes. In the manufacturing sector, solar panel production jumped 31 percent.

    And with the growth of the solar industry, thousands of jobs have been created. In fact, solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy source. According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, 93,000 Americans were employed in the U.S. solar industry in 2010 and that number is expected to grow between 25-50,000 this year.

    The Obama Administration has taken solar energy initiatives to unprecedented levels and is leading the effort to win our clean energy future.”

    — The White House

  2. U.S. Air Force and Army’s Battle for Clean Energy

    By Sarah Kiner

    This past week, the first ever joint Army-Air Force Forum took place with the main objective of finding a way to lessen the dependence of the U.S. military on outdated conventional fuels. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability, Richard Kidd, along with CleanTechnica’s Dr. Geiss, believes the Army and Air Force can achieve this goal with innovation, technology, conservation and sustainability.

    Dr. Geiss reminded the roundtable that during the 1988 National Security Strategy, the military wanted to focus on energy as a systematic element in the long term national defense strategy, but the U.S. still has not achieved this goal.

    The Iraq and Afghanistan wars has intensified the need for cleaner fuels due to such core issues as financial costs, loss of life due to transportation and storage risks, and the construction of operational flexibility.

    At the roundtable, Geiss was optimistic about the ability of the biofuel industry to meet the Air Force’s interest in jet biofuel because of a recent alternative fuel partnership with the commercial aviator sector.

    Kidd went on to stress that the only way the Air Force and Army can implement biofuels is if energy, waste, and water solutions are done in sync with local communities.

    The entire battalion from Fort Raley, Kansas has been deployed to Afghanistan with sustainable technology. This has reduced the operational burden and supply logistics that conventional fuel and batteries can place on the Army and the Air Force.

    Clean Technica’s Tina Casey wrote,

    As these service members cycle in and out of the civilian world, that enthusiasm for new sustainable technology will reach virtually every community in the U.S.

    Casey concluded, 

    It’s unfortunate that in the very moment that the U.S. military has adopted a transformational concept of sustainability, some federal legislators are digging in their heels and pushing for “dirty fuels,” but perhaps events like the Energy Forum will help convince more policymakers that there is a lot more to “support our troops” than waving a flag at them.

  3. The auto industry a sore loser

    By Chandler Clay

    Carmakers simply aren’t getting it. 

    Rather than trying to innovate and improve the fuel efficiency of their fleets, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is fighting new efficiency standards with ads that will attempt to counter the strong case for cleaner cars: 

    Families would be hit with higher car prices. Small businesses dependent on vans, SUVs or pickups would face limited vehicle choice. And, even the government is predicting a drop in auto sales from what amounts to an electric vehicle mandate.

    Research groups say that the new fuel economy standards will create more than 500,000 jobs and save consumers $150 billion in gas prices. The real kicker? Three quarters of Americans already support the new standard.

    Clearly, this isn’t a battle between consumers and producers or efficiency versus affordability. This is a battle between old school and new. And new is kicking old’s butt.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report that found a 6-percent increase in fuel efficiency through 2025 could cut oil imports by 1/3. The sustainability consultancy Ceres found that this 6-percent improvement could also create up to 700,000 jobs and save consumers over $150 billion by 2030. These are some powerful numbers. It’s no wonder the oil-heavy auto industry is pouty.

    The case that clean energy is too expensive is quickly losing effect. Across industries the efficient alternatives are becoming increasingly cost-competitive with their older, dirtier counterparts. Imagine if the powers of old and new school were combined what carmakers could be capable of.

    There’s a reason the saying goes, If you can’t beat them, join them.

  4. Wind power: More powerful than we thought

    By Chandler Clay

    We were all surprised to hear that Texas is the nation’s largest generator of wind power. Now we come to find that the United States is capable of generating three times the original estimate of our wind energy potential.

    The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and consulting firm AWS Truewind conducted a new analysis of the nation’s wind resources and found some exciting results: Current wind technology can generate 37 million gigawatt-hours of electricity per year. The last comprehensive analysis from 1993 pegged the potential at 10.8 million gigawatt-hours. 

    Last year, the US wind industry added 10 GW of new capacity, enough to power 2.4 million homes or generate as much electricity as three large nuclear reactors. The wind turbine fleet in place at the end of 2009 (35 GW) is enough to power 9.7 million homes, and that number is increasing at 1 million homes every five months.

    But Americans currently use only 3 million gigawatt-hours of electricity each year. So where’s the disconnect?

    Industrial and political leaders must support renewable energy programs in order for states to utilize their fullest wind potential. The chart below (via Wired) features the 10 states with the largest wind energy potential. It’s these states that must take the lead in implementing the necessary policies and technologies to harness their natural, sustainable resources. 

  5. 'Trash gas' fuels trash trucks

    By Chandler Clay

    Waste Management, North America’s largest waste service company, will add its 1,000th truck to a fleet fueled entirely by natural gas.

    The fuel derives from methane gas, released from one of the company’s landfills in Altamont, Calif. The decomposition of organic waste within landfills releases the methane, which typically discharges into the atmosphere causing harmful effects as one of the most potent greenhouse gases. But the captured and converted methane serves a valuable and sustainable (though smelly) purpose as trash gas. 

    This trash gas, or liquified natural gas (LNG), not only makes good use of methane — it also emits 80-90 percent fewer carbon emissions than diesel fuel, significant for reducing smog and improving human health. 

    Henry Hugo, assistant deputy executive officer of science and technology advancement for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said he ranks Waste Management “pretty high as a leader in the refuse collection industry. They have been very proactive with alternative fuel vehicles.”

    While recycled natural gas is certainly a cleaner alternative to diesel duel, electric cars remain the most environmentally efficient vehicles for every day use. Green Energy News writes:

    For passenger cars and light trucks, the automotive industry is now more interested in improving fuel efficiency of conventional vehicles and building electric and hybrid vehicles than converting them to natural gas.

    The capture, storage and conversion of natural gas is not always encouraged, since the methods of extraction can be detrimental to the environment and public health, but for an industry that has the waste of landfills at hand, trash gas is a clean solution to a stinky problem. 

  6. Texas: The land of coal and wind

    By Chandler Clay

    Yes, you read that correctly. Texas, the highest CO2-emitting state or province in the world, now gets a substantial portion of its power from the wind. 

    The extensive history of coal mining and conservative politics hasn’t earned Texas the best reputation among environmentalists, but the cowboys and cowgirls of the Lone Star State deserve some street cred for their leadership in generating sustainable energy. Texas is now the nation’s largest generator of electricity from wind with a 9,700 megawatt capacity online, 370 under construction and several more under development.

    If all of the plans for wind farm development are followed through by 2025, Texas will have the capacity to generate 38,000 megawatts from the renewable source — the equivalent of 38 coal-fired power plants — which would meet the electricity demands of nearly 90 percent of the state’s 25 million residents. 

    While wind power is expanding, coal is not being phased out just yet. Rather, natural gas is the largest loser from Texas’ shift to wind. 

    Natural gas is abundant in Texas and environmentally friendlier than coal, but wind blows right by it when it comes to cost. The “fuel” of wind is free, so it costs nothing to add more wind to the grid as long as wind is available. This is not the case for natural gas, which requires some form of fuel input to generate the fuel.

    Texas seems to moving in the opposite direction of nationwide trends, which show an increase in reliance on natural gas, a drop in coal generation and a slower expansion of wind power development. While the amount of Texas coal production is still of great concern, there is hope that the state’s movement towards renewables are a good sign of less energy dependence on coal in the future. 

  7. Googley eyes on clean energy

    Picture the year 2030. That’s 19 years from now. Are you imagining an improved U.S. economy? A country with more than 1.1 million net new jobs? Is there reduced dependence on foreign oil and fewer greenhouse gas emissions?

    This is the image of our future world through the eyes of Google. 

    Google recently published a study titled “The Impact of Clean Energy Innovation: Examining the Impact of Clean Energy innovation on the United States Energy System and Economy,” which simultaneously considers the competing interests of the economy, environment and national security. The research focused on the potential impact of clean energy applications, including clean power generation, grid-storage, electric vehicle and natural gas technologies, and compares the applications to business as usual scenarios modeled to 2030 and 2050. 

    The study also considers two clean energy policy paths: 1) comprehensive federal incentives and mandates called “Clean Policy,” and 2) a power sector-only $30/metric ton price on CO2 called “$30/ton Carbon Price.”

    Google’s results were encouraging. The models indicated that energy innovation could:

    • Grow the U.S. economy by over $155 billion in GDP/year ($244 billion with Clean Policy)
    • Create over 1.1 million new net jobs (1.9 million with Clean Policy)
    • Save U.S. consumers over $942/household/year ($995 with Clean Policy)
    • Reduce U.S. oil consumption by over 1.1 billion barrels/year
    • Reduce U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions by 13% (21% with Clean Policy)

    The models indicate the cost of clean energy going down with large reductions in the first ten years of development. 

    Reductions in cost per unit of clean energy indicate a gradual reduction in household energy bills, petroleum demand and greenhouse gas emission, along with an increase in GDP.

    These results suggest that the U.S. government should proceed with policies that stimulate development of clean energy technology, rather than making the drastic cuts that Congress recently passed to cope with budget problems.

    This study is just one of many contributions that Google has made as a philanthropist and a generally good cyber citizen. The tech company pledged itself to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in clean energy projects, rivaling the environmental expenditures of the U.S. government. If European and Asian countries aren’t providing enough case studies of clean energy market success, perhaps it’s time the U.S. government take a good look at Google, the online powerhouse that has met so much business success in recent years, many believe it is capable of world domination

    All signs point towards clean energy development. It’s about time we start following the leader(s).

  8. More than 50 percent of 31,000 people surveyed worldwide say they would pay more for products made with clean energy. In addition, 90 percent want more renewable energy and 79 percent have a more positive perception of brands produced using wind power.

    — 

    (Source: evwind.es)

  9. Twitter Town Hall: Obama’s Thoughts on the Clean Energy Economy

    By Sarah Kiner

    On July 9, President Obama took part in his first Twitter Town Hall, in which he answered a variety of questions. One of the main topics that he addressed was the clean energy economy and what he foresaw for the future of this industry in America.

    Obama made it no secret that clean energy manufacturing would be important now and in the future when his administration made the largest investment in clean energy in America’s history through the Recovery Act. Although Obama’s administration has made great efforts to fund clean energy, he lamented what he called “the lack of a sense of urgency coming out of Congress.”

    Obama said he is committed to increasing domestic oil drilling, but the United States “can’t drill its way out of the problem.”

    The President believes that in order to reduce America’s oil use, we need to set goals that can be achieved in steps. One example of his administration taking steps towards less oil was during the bailout when he told Detroit car companies that they had to start to invest in cars of the future that are fuel efficient or electric, instead of gas guzzlers.

    A good starting point to tackle oil use would be to make clean energy investments. The President understands that we have some of the best infrastructure to support advanced manufacturing. We need to invest in wind turbine and solar manufacturing, so it is not only designed in the United States, but made here as well.

    Advanced battery making is another aspect of clean energy that American should look into. The Recovery Act provides credits and grants to start up companies, so if we produce advanced battery making companies, we can go from making 2 percent of the world market, to around 40 percent, so more jobs are made in America. Obama believes that whoever wins the race of making batteries in the 21st century will also win the race of producing the best cars. Countries like China and Germany are already investing in advanced batteries.

    One of the most important steps that we have to take as a country is reducing our oil dependence. According to President Obama:

    Reducing our dependence on oil is good for our economy, it’s good for our security, and it’s good for our planet — so it’s a “three-fer.”

    Every president has spoke about reducing our dependence on oil from other countries, but no one ever gets the job done. Congress needs to come up with a plan to reduce oil use because oil is something that we cannot replace overnight and it would be not logical to suddenly drop a huge demand for energy solely on renewable sources.

    If we implement a plan to do this, we will reduce our dependence on oil, save consumers money, make businesses more efficient, and become generally less vulnerable to the disruptions that have occurred in the Middle East this past spring.

    After all, we only have 2 to 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves and currently use 25 percent of the world’s oil.

    (Source: thinkprogress.org)

  10. European cities challenge drivers to go green

    By Chandler Clay

    Could infuriating drivers be the needed motivation to get cars off the street and bikes on the road? Some European cities have taken to the streets to reduce their transportation sectors’ carbon footprints, creating obstacles for drivers and incentivizing bike-sharing programs and public transportation. Is this something we might soon see in American cities?

    Fat chance.

    The U.S. automotive industry is tied closely to the U.S. economy. Driving is a part of our culture the way the Tube is a part of British culture. Changing our habits would require a complete restructuring of American lifestyles, not to mention a restructuring (or shall we say constructing) of vast railways. 

    Europeans have the appropriate infrastructure to accommodate reformed drivers. Closing streets to oblige bikers, charging tolls for city drivers and establishing "environmental zones" that welcome only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions are just some of the changes being used to stifle drivers in Europe — but the vast rail and subway systems between the metropolitan cities make it possible for commuters to get to their destination quickly by other means. This is not the case for most U.S. cities.

    Americans are getting used to sensors and apps that make it easier and more efficient for drivers to get where they’re going. We synchronize our green lights and tell people where they can find parking spots, but we haven’t done much to effectively expand our public transportation sector — a serious issue facing our increasingly large population of seniors.

    The challenge, then, isn’t really for European commuters to switch to rails, bikes or sneakers — rather it’s for Americans to invest in the infrastructure that would enable us to follow suit. We need to stop giving the automotive industry all of the attention (unless of course it’s for electric cars) and instead focus our energy on clean energy (yes, the bikes and sneakers count).