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Green Thoughts Blog

Solve for X: Charles Chase on energy for everyone
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Solve for X: Bill Gross on solar cheaper than natural gas
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
See The Scientific Accident That May Change The World (Or At Least Your Battery Life)
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, which was launched 2 years ago, has captured some amazing imagery of the Sun.

GE announces largest U.S. solar panel manufacturing plant
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
GE announces largest U.S. solar panel manufacturing plant
Image credit: SolarDave.com
As part of a $600 million solar technology investment, GE will be building the largest photovoltaic panel factory in the U.S. The factory will manufacture GE's new thin film solar panels made from cadmium telluride, which are attractive because of their lower cost to manufacture than traditional PV panels. The new factory will employ 400 workers and will produce enough panels to generate 400 MW per year. The location of the new facility has not yet been announced.
Google invests in German photovoltaic power plant
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Continuing its support of clean energy initiatives, Google has invested in a European solar power plant in Germany. Google is partnering with German private equity company Capital Stage for the 18.65MWp photovoltaic power plant in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany. Google invested $5 million for a 49% stake in the already completed solar power plant. While investing in clean energy projects is not new for Google, this is its first investment outside of the United States.
U.S. Marines Install 1.4 MW Solar Array
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Base Camp Pendleton
The United States Marine Corps has completed the construction of its largest solar power installation. The 1.4 MW solar array, which should produce approximately 2,400 MW hours per year, was built on top of a landfill outside of San Diego to power Base Camp Pendleton. The installation contains 225 solar panels manufactured by Kyocera Solar. Installation was performed by Synergy Electric Company and the site was designed by AECOM.

The project cost $9.4 million, was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is expected to save $336,000 annually. This project was in response to the 2005 mandate by the Department of the Navy that 25% of the energy used by a base must come from renewable energy sources by the year 2025.
Honda Unveils the Electric Fit Concept Car
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
At the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, Honda unveiled the concept version of the Fit EV - an all electric version of the Honda Fit. According to Honda, the Fit EV can go 100 miles (70 based on the EPA adjustment factor) on a single charge and will be put into production in 2012. The Fit EV will be powered by an electric motor similar to the motor in the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle.
Chevrolet Volt Wins Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" Award
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
General Motors Chevrolet Volt
Image credit: GM Corp.
Despite not being commercially available yet, Motor Trend Magazine has named the Chevrolet Volt its "Car of the Year". The General Motors plug-in hybrid can go 40 miles on battery power before the gas engine engages. While powering the car, the gas engine also charges the battery. During the magazine's testing, the Volt got 72.9 miles per gallon.

The Chevy Volt will be available later this month and General Motors plans to sell 10,000 Volts in the first year.
GE To Purchase 25,000 Electric Vehicles
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
General Motors Chevrolet Volt
Image credit: GM Corp.
Sure to help the financial bottom line for General Motors, GE (Quote) announced plans to purchase 12,000 Chevy Volts starting next year. This is the start of GE's plan to purchase 25,000 electric vehicles through 2015. The Chevy Volt, along with electric vehicles from other manufacturers will begin to replace the existing vehicles in GE's current fleet of 30,000 vehicles. Not only will this help bring visibility to the electric vehicle market, but it will also increase demand for GE's grid equipment such as its "WattStation" charging point.
South Korea investing $8.2 billion for offshore wind farms
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
The South Korean government announced today that they will be investing $8.2 billion to build offshore wind farms. The joint effort between the government and private sector firms calls for 500 offshore wind turbines, off the west coast, that can generate 2500 megawatts of electricity. The current schedule is:
  • 2013 - 100 megawatt test farm
  • 2016 - 900 megawatt farm
  • By 2019 - 1500 megawatts
The government is hoping that this investment will help stimulate business for wind turbine exporters in South Korea so that they can compete in the global marketplace.
First Solar ranks #7 on Fortune's 100 Fastest Growing Companies list
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Image credit: First Solar
With an earnings per share growth of 228% and a revenue growth of 141%, First Solar ranks #7 on Fortune's 100 Fastest Growing Companies list. Last month the company reported strong second quarter financial results, highlighted by net sales of $588 million and a reduction in its photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturing costs. The Arizona based firm is the world's largest supplier of PV modules and has expanded its global reach by recently entering the Chinese market. First Solar has produced more than 26 million solar modules that generate over 2 GW of power.
Plug-and-play solar for the masses
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Seattle, WA based Clarian Technologies is looking to make solar power affordable for the common homeowner. With its Sunfish product, homeowners will be able to start generating solar power without requiring installation from a licensed electrician. Sunfish will be available in a 200W unit (MSRP $599-$799) and a 1kW system (MSRP $2995-$3995). A Sunfish kit will include:
  • Photovoltaic (PV) panels
  • Mounting kit
  • Power module which plugs into a wall outlet to convert the DC power from the panels into AC power that the house can use.
  • Circuit monitor to regulate the incoming electricity to prevent overloading circuits. It includes Wi-Fi for sending data to applications such as the Google PowerMeter.
A 3 panel assembly will generate a maximum of 600 watts and return on investment is said to be 3-4 years (after rebates and tax credits). This is not a net metering solution where you can sell power back to the grid. Its goal is to slow down your power meter. With the low price point (compared to typical solar installations) and the ease of installation, Sunfish may finally be the product that makes solar power available to the mass market.

Production starts in the fall of 2010 with a goal of spring of 2011 for retail sale.

Tesla Motors releases 2nd Quarter Earnings Report
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Image credit: Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors released their quarterly results for Q2 2010 which showed some promising news. Highlights include:
  • Revenue increased 36% from $20.8 million (Q1) to $28.4 million.
  • Gross margin increased from 19% (Q1) to 22%
  • Net loss increased from $29.5 million (Q1) to $38.5 million.
  • A $42 million purchase agreement for an automotive facility in California.
  • A $50 million investment from Toyota.
  • Initial public offering (IPO) which raised approximately $184 million.
The company has sold 1,200 Roadsters, which had a redesigned model released in July. The highly anticipated Model S is scheduled for release in 2012 and Tesla is hoping that the lower price tag, as opposed to the Roadster, will help make it more attractive to the masses. The Roadster sells for $100,000 and the Model S is expected to be in the $50,000 - $57,000 range.
Honda Pushes Forward With Hybrid and Electric Cars
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Honda Civic Hybrid In a bid to win the fuel-efficient car race, Honda is pushing forward with new plug-in hybrid and battery-powered electric model cars for the 2012 model year. Honda is also planning to release the Hybrid Honda Fit late in 2010 and a small diesel car targeted for the European market in 2012.

Honda's hybrids for 2012 will include the next generation of the Hybrid Honda Civic, which will utilize lithium-ion batteries instead of nickel-metal hydride packs which are currently used in all of Honda's hybrids. Acura, which is owned by Honda, will begin to leverage Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) technology as well to compete with Toyota's Lexus line of hybrids.

Honda is hoping that they can catch up to Toyota's popular selling Prius by utilizing lithium-ion batteries that have a better power to weight ratio than the nickel-metal hydride packs used by Toyota.
Impressive Debut for Tesla Motors Stock Offering
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors (TSLA) shares opened on the NASDAQ at $19, which was 12% higher than its initial offering price of $17. Despite a down day on both the Dow and NASDAQ, Tesla ended the day up an impressive 40.53% to close at $23.89. The company has lost almost $300 million since it was founded in 2003 by Elon Musk (who also founded PayPal and Zip2 Corp.) and is not expected to turn a profit until 2012 when it releases the Model S. Currently, Tesla only offers the pricey Roadster for $100,000. The Model S is expected to be a more reasonable $50,000.
Europe looking to import solar power from Northern Africa
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Image credit: TREC
Looking to harness the power of the vast amount of sunlight that shines on the Sahara desert, the European Union is backing multiple projects to import solar energy from Northern Africa into Europe. Guenther Oettinger, the European Energy Commissioner, recently stated that Europe will begin importing solar energy from Northern Africa within the next 5 years. Numerous projects will contribute towards helping Europe reach its goal of generating 20% of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2020, but the majority will eventually come from the Desertec solar initiative. Desertec is a long range, multi-billion dollar project that will supply Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa with energy from renewable sources, with fossil fuels as a backup. The European Union is currently backing the construction of power transmission cables along the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea to transport energy from Northern Africa to Europe.
Google invests in North Dakota wind farm
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Image credit:
Google announced a $38.8 million investment into the "Peace Garden Wind" farm in North Dakota. The $190 million wind farm is run by NextEra Energy Resources and will be Google's first investment in an energy project instead of a company. The Peace Garden Wind farm will produce 170 megawatts of power annually. Some features of the wind farm include:
  • 113 turbines
  • Real time adjustments to the blade pitch angles
  • Round the clock monitoring
  • Blades with 15% more swept area
NextEra Energy Resources is a subsidiary of FPL Group (NYSE: FPL).
State of the Air 2010 Report
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Image credit: Library of Congress
The American Lung Association released their "State of the Air 2010" report on Wednesday. The report analyzes ozone and particle pollution levels and then ranks the cities/neighborhoods in three categories:
  • Ozone
  • Short-term particle spikes
  • Long-term particle averages
California once again performed poorly with three cities - Los Angeles, Fresno and Bakersfield - all ranking in the top 10 in the three categories.

Ozone

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
  2. Bakersfield, CA
  3. Visalia-Porterville, CA
  4. Fresno-Madera, CA
  5. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Yuba City, CA-NV
  6. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
  7. Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX
  8. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
  9. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA
  10. Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury, NC-SC

Year Round Particle Pollution

  1. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
  2. Bakersfield, CA
  3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
  4. Visalia-Porterville, CA
  5. Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
  6. Fresno-Madera, CA
  7. Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, AL
  8. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
  9. (tie) Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington, OH-KY-IN; St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, MO-IL
  10. (tie) Charleston, WV; Detroit-Warren-Flint, MI; Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH

Short Term Particle Pollution

  1. Bakersfield, CA
  2. Fresno-Madera, CA
  3. Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA
  4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA
  5. Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, AL
  6. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Yuba City, CA-NV
  7. Salt Lake City-Ogden-Clearfield, UT
  8. Visalia-Porterville, CA
  9. Modesto, CA
  10. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
Cape Wind Project Approved
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Image credit: Lepti
After more than 9 years of debate, the Cape Wind offshore wind farm project has been approved for construction in the Nantucket Sound. The 130 turbine project has been heavily debated in the Cape Cod area over the years and was finally approved by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday. While offshore wind farms are common in Europe, Cape Wind will be the first in the United States. The wind farm will cover about 5% of Nantucket Sound's 500 square miles and each turbine will be over 40 stories tall. The estimated cost of the project is between $800 million to $1 billion.
Celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2010
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
April 22, 2010 is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which was created by US Senator Gaylord Nelson in the spring of 1970. Later that same year, the federal government created the Environmental Protection Agency which has been working to protect human health and the environment ever since. Volunteer or attend an Earth Day event near you.
GE invests $450 million in European offshore wind projects
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff

Image credit: GE
GE has announced plans to invest $450 million over the next 10 years for wind turbine manufacturing, research/development and service facilities in England, Germany, Norway and Sweden. The Norway facility will be involved in testing GE's new 4 megawatt offshore wind turbines which utilize a new drive train technology that does not require gearboxes. The technology was developed by Norway based ScanWind, which GE acquired in 2009. With the European Wind Energy Association predicting more than 70% growth in offshore wind generation in Europe during 2010, investing in European projects is desirable to most alternative energy companies.
AT&T Zero Charger
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
The cellphone industry is finally catching on regarding reducing phantom loads. AT&T will soon start selling the new AT&T Zero Charger which stops drawing electricity once a cellphone is fully charged or is disconnected from the charger.
Cisco invests in GridNet
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
Smart grid start-up company GridNet has now added Cisco as one of its investors, to go along with other high profile investors such as Intel Capital and GE Energy Financial Services. Founded in 2006, GridNet will use the funding for its smart grid network infrastructure. GridNet has developed software products for both residential smart meters and also real-time monitoring for utility companies.
Bill Gates at the TED Conference
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
At the recent TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference in Long Beach, California, Microsoft founder Bill Gates stressed the importance of clean energy sources. He even went as far as to say that developing clean energy sources is more important than developing vaccines, a cause to which he has donated billions of dollars. Gates said that there are 5 key areas where research and development should be focused:
  • Carbon capture
  • Storage technology
  • Nuclear
  • Wind
  • Solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power
Gates particularly focused on nuclear research that could turn spent uranium into electricity. He noted that the United States could power the entire country for 100 years with the country's spent uranium supplies.
How Much Do You Pay?
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
BrightSource EnergyHow does your energy bill match up to your neighbors? Where you live in the country will affect how much electricity you need to use (and how much you pay too). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, here are the average annual energy bills for a household by region:
  • Midwest $1,768
  • Northeast $2,319
  • South $1,758
  • West $1,491
Learn how to lower your energy bill
Google PowerMeter Update
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
As an update to our post about the Google PowerMeter, Google has announced the first set of utility companies that will be taking part in the Google PowerMeter pilot program. The pilot program is taking on a global scope by including utility companies in Canada and India and includes both small and large scale utility companies. The program is currently limited to certain customers of the utility companies, but Google will be expanding the rollout later in the year.

California: San Diego Gas & Electric
Canada: Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited
Florida: JEA
India: Reliance Energy
Kentucky: Glasgow EPB
Missouri: White River Valley Electric Cooperative
Texas: TXU Energy
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Public Service Corporation
Yet Another Record Deal for BrightSource Energy
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
BrightSource EnergyIn February, we reported on BrightSource Energy signing the world's largest solar energy deal with Southern California Edison for 1,300 Megawatts of electricity. BrightSource has now broken its own record and signed a deal with PG&E for 1,310 Megawatts of electricity. The deal includes seven solar facilities that will be built in California's Mojave Desert by 2017.

An area of concern for BrightSource is navigating its way through the license approval process in California. Estimates for when the licenses will be approved put their projects behind schedule by several months and the company is also dependent on energy transmission lines being installed. As an alternative, BrightSource is also investigating building power plants in Nevada where they can get their projects approved faster.

The deal with PG&E brings BrightSource up to an impressive 40% of all large scale solar deals in the United States.

Image Credit: BrightSource Energy
High Tech Google Goes Low Tech
Posted by: The Better Planet Staff
When you think of Google, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a cutting-edge high tech company. However, in an effort to lower the company's carbon footprint, Google is going low tech by using goats to mow the lawns at its' corporate headquarters instead of gas lawn mowers. Google rents 200 goats from start-up company California Grazing once a year for about a week to eat the grass and also fertilize the land (via goat droppings). Google says that it costs the same amount to have goats graze the fields once a year as opposed to hiring a landscaping company to mow the lawn and the goat droppings also help to make the ground more fertile over time.