Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Considerations for Selecting Photovoltaic Modules and Inverters

With so many different types of products on the market today for the solar electric (PV) industry, selecting the right module or inverter can be the difference between a successful system and a failed one. With the fast growth of the US market and other parts of the world, it seems that almost overnight the PV market has hundreds of companies to choose from when selecting product. Being that longevity is one goal in providing an extended return of investment (ROI) for projects, it is important to select the products from companies that you can trust will be around into the distant future.
Research can be a daunting task in regards to finding the balance of quality, longevity, and price — your distributor can be a great source of information when considering products for a PV systems. Your representative should be able to provide you with information about product warranty, quality of the product, price (often reflected in dollars per watt), and any technology implemented into the product.
As it relates to solar modules, the most expensive side to the system, a low priced module can get very tempting. While important, price should be weighed in conjunction to a manufacturer’s longevity; after all how good is a 20-25 year warranty when the company no longer exists? Additionally, there is a common miss-conception that module efficiency should be the deciding factor — efficiency generally only affects a systems size not performance. Efficiency reflects a modules ability to convert the sun’s energy into electrical power. For example a 200 Watt 16% efficient module vs. a 200 Watt 20% efficient module reflects a reduction in the system physical size by 20% but this will also most likely increase the cost of the module and therefore the length of ROI on the same 200 Watts of power. Until just recently, module technology was mostly based only on efficiency and material type, but now some electronic technology is implemented into the modules themselves increasing the modules energy yields, and power output.
Inverters are also a key function to the PV system and also typically the second most costly item of the system. Inverters contain many electronic components and over the years can be stressed to their limits, so selecting a manufacturer that has proven technology and a solid warranty can help save the installer a problem down the road. In the past the PV market has seen typically a 10 year inverter warranty and a fail period on the inverters in the first 15 years, however with today’s leading manufacturers these numbers are progressively getting better with 15+ year warranties and a fail period after the first 20+ years.
Product selection can take a significant amount of time, but with a good distributor relationship, on-going training, and a focus on longevity you can become a better installer with better projects and happier customers.

Michael Harvey- Able Energy Co.

EU CO2 emissions fell by 11% in 2009

Published: 02 April 2010

Emissions from industrial installations covered by the EU's carbon trading scheme fell by 11% in 2009 on the back of the global downturn, according to new data published by the European Commission yesterday (1 April).
The EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) has since 2005 required some 10,000 large industrial plants in the EU to buy and sell permits to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The first trading phase saw a gross over-allocation of permits, sending carbon prices tumbling. The number of permits was slashed by 10% for the second phase between 2008-2012, but the global downturn and an accompanying drop in production have pushed down prices.
To correct the problems, a revision of the scheme for the third trading period starting in 2013 was agreed in December 2008, tightening the emission cap to 21% below 2005 levels. Under the revised scheme, electricity producers will need to buy 100% of their CO2 emission permits at auction by 2020.
Total industrial emissions amounted to 1.887 billion tonnes in 2009, according to estimates by market analyst Point Carbon. This is an 11% drop on the previous year, confirming that the recession stifled industrial production and power demand even more last year than it did in 2008, it said.
The figures are based on the Commission's preliminary figures on installation-level verified emissions in the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) as well as estimations for countries that are yet to report on their emissions. Portugal, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta and Norway had not yet submitted their data to the EU executive.
The significant drop meant that emissions were in fact below the cap set under the EU ETS, which is designed to help the EU meet its climate change commitments.
Indeed, European companies were left with surplus emission allowances worth close to 80 million tonnes of CO2, Point Carbon said.
Environmentalists have seen the impact of the economic crisis on emissions as a sign that the cap under the EU ETS is not stringent enough. As the surplus allowances can be banked and used in the next trading phase starting in 2013, they fear that the recession will continue to drag down carbon prices for years afterwards (EurActiv 05/03/10).
"This new information makes it clearer than ever that the EU must increase its climate ambitions. Caps are now sitting above emissions and we are already over halfway towards meeting the caps that have been set for 2020," said Bryony Worthington, director of climate campaign group Sandbag.
However, Kjersti Ulset, head of European carbon analysis at Point Carbon, said the emission reductions were to be expected and emissions would continue to grow next year.
"This was more or less what the market expected. I don't think there will be much of an impact on the emissions trading scheme as such," she said, adding that if anything, the publication of the data had brought certainty to the market.
"A lot of market participants feared very low emissions in 2009, but now they've seen the 2009 numbers and there's less uncertainty on the market," Ulset said.
Speaking to EurActiv the afternoon after the release of the data at midday, Ulset said prices of EU allowances had risen by 20 eurocents as a result.
The Commission will publish the complete data next month.

Aral Sea 'one of the planet's worst environmental disasters'

The Aral Sea, once the world's fourth-largest lake, is one of the planet's most shocking environmental disasters, according to the UN Secretary General

Published: 12:00AM BST 05 Apr 2010

The sea which has shrunk by 90 per cent has ruined the once-robust fishing economy and left fishing trawlers stranded in sandy wasterlands. The sea shrank largely due to a Soviet project to boost cottong production in the arid region.
Its evaporation has left layers of highly salted sand, which winds can carry as far away as Scandinavia and Japan, and which plague local people with health troubles.

Ban Ki-Moon toured the sea by helicopter as part of a visit to the five countries of former Soviet Central Asia. His trip included a touchdown in Muynak, Uzbekistan, a town once on the shore where a pier stretches eerily over gray desert and camels stand near the hulks of stranded ships.
"On the pier, I wasn't seeing anything, I could see only a graveyard of ships," he said after arriving in the city of Nukus, the capital of the autonomous Karakalpak region.
"It is clearly one of the worst disasters, environmental disasters of the world. I was so shocked," he said.
The Aral Sea catastrophe is one of Ban's top concerns on his six-day trip through the region and he is calling on the countries' leaders to set aside rivalries to cooperate on repairing some of the damage.
"I urge all the leaders ... to sit down together and try to find the solutions," he said, promising United Nations support.
However, cooperation is hampered by disagreements over who has rights to scarce water and how it should be used.
In a presentation to Ban before his flyover, Uzbek officials complained that dam projects in Tajikistan will severely reduce the amount of water flowing into Uzbekistan. Impoverished Tajikistan sees the hydroelectric projects as potential key revenue earners.
Competition for water could become increasingly heated as global warming and rising populations further reduce the amount of water available per capita.

Clash of Old, New Economy

Cement Plant Is Resisted by Some Neighbors Who Would Rather Lure High-Tech Jobs
Logan Mock-Bunting for The Wall Street Journal. Assignment
WILMINGTON, N.C.—The old economy and the new economy are squaring off in this coastal city, which is having second thoughts about revisiting its roots in heavy industry.
Titan Cement Co. of Greece wants to build one of the largest U.S. cement plants on the outskirts of the city and is promising hundreds of jobs. The factory would be on the site of a cement plant that closed in 1982 and today is populated mainly by fire ants, copperhead snakes and the occasional skateboarder.
The proposed $450 million plant by Titan America LLC, Titan's U.S. unit, is welcome news to Ron Givens Sr., a 44-year-old unemployed Wilmington native. Mr. Givens's father supported 12 children while working at the former Ideal Cement plant, and Mr. Givens and two brothers have now applied for jobs with Titan. "I will apply for janitor if that's what is going to get me into that plant," he said.

But thousands of opponents have petitioned local and state politicians to block the plan. They object to the emissions from the plant and say it will scare off tourists, retirees, entrepreneurs and others who might otherwise want to live here.
An initial state environmental review has dragged on for two years, and critics of the plant have filed a lawsuit seeking to further broaden the review. The governor, amid public pressure, has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to probe the plant's permitting process.
"That's their tactic: Delay, delay, and at some point Titan will leave," said Bob Odom, Titan's general manager in Wilmington, of opposition efforts.
Among the most vocal opponents is a fast-growing class of high-tech entrepreneurs and telecommuters who moved to Wilmington in recent years, drawn to the temperate climate, sandy beaches and good fishing. They argue the plant, by curbing the community's appeal, will cost more jobs and tax revenue in the long run than it produces.
"I think we can be discriminating," said Lloyd Smith, a 43-year-old entrepreneur who moved here from northern Virginia in 2001 and founded Cortech Solutions Inc., a neuroscience company with nine employees and about $5 million in annual sales.
The standoff in Wilmington reflects a broader tug-of-war across the country as communities try to kick-start employment. It is unclear how much manufacturing will power the long-term U.S. economic recovery—even in southern states that have long embraced heavy industry but have begun to feel the new economy's pull.
President Barack Obama trumpeted stimulus efforts during a tour of a Charlotte, N.C., manufacturing plant Friday, but U.S. industrial output remains below prerecession levels despite rising eight straight months. And while the economy has added 45,000 manufacturing jobs this year, the sector employs roughly six million fewer people than a decade ago and makes up less than 10% of the U.S. work force.
In New Hanover County, where Wilmington and the proposed cement plant are located, the area's unemployment rate rose to 10.5% in January, the most recent data available. Jobs were singled out as the most important issue facing the county in a February poll of 400 residents. Yet 43% in the poll said the Titan plant would have a negative effect on the county; 36% viewed it as positive.
Opposition to the plant has caught community leaders off guard. After the local economy was dealt a heavy blow half a century ago when a railroad employer left for Florida, Wilmington Industrial Development, a pro-business group, recruited firms such as Corning Inc., DuPont Co. and General Electric Co. to build plants in the area.
Wilmington became an industrial magnet, even as other revenue sources such as tourism and film production began to take hold. Then a few years ago, after many local employers shed workers or shut down plants, the group lobbied local politicians to bring Titan to the area.
"Not everybody is going to be a software engineer. It takes a myriad of jobs to make a community," said Scott Satterfield, who has lived in Wilmington for four decades and has headed Wilmington Industrial Development since 1995.
Titan applied for its initial state environmental permit in early 2008, when it also secured $4.2 million in tax incentives from the county in return for meeting targets including hiring 160 people and paying $2 million in taxes. But state legislators later argued the environmental review should be more thorough and new county commissioners came out in opposition as a bumper-sticker campaign by local protesters grew, stalling plans.
Among critics of the plant is Ian Oeschger, an International Business Machines Corp. software developer and avid surfer who moved to Wilmington in 2004 from the San Francisco area. Wilmington "attracts people who can live anywhere they want," said Mr. Oeschger, 40, who works from home. He estimates 60 or 70 telecommuters from IBM alone live within a 20-mile radius of Wilmington. The influx has helped swell New Hanover County's population since 2000 by roughly 20% to more than 190,000.
Mr. Oeschger and others in opposition say the plant's proposed limestone mining operations and 425-foot smokestack would spill unsafe levels of mercury and other contaminants into the air and water, including the Northeast Cape Fear River, which borders the site and flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Titan counters that economic spillover from the proposed plant could generate more than 400 jobs overall—including the 160 direct jobs—and that its capped annual emission of 263 pounds of mercury is equivalent to a resident eating one and three-quarter teaspoons of canned light tuna a month. State environmental regulators haven't concluded their own review.
The company says plants have become more efficient and it would only use 150,000 tons of coal to make 2.2 million tons of cement annually—unlike the earlier plant, which burned 500,000 tons of coal to make 500,000 tons of cement.
Cherri Fearington, a 36-year-old waitress at the Castle Hayne Cafe, near the proposed plant, supports Titan. "I like the legitimate way to stimulate the economy: real jobs," she said. "People spend money when they have stable paychecks."
Her husband worked as a chemical operator at local plants for two decades before being laid off a few years ago. He has since found a new job at a chemical plant, but as a security guard, and at half his former wages. When he recently applied for a single job opening at a local chemical plant, more than 350 other job seekers did too, Ms. Fearington said.
At the County Line Bait and Tackle store a couple miles downriver from the proposed plant, owner James Smith said he allowed Titan opponents to put up some signs outside about a year ago. But he removed them after pro-Titan customers complained. "I'm just a one-legged man on the fence trying to keep from falling off," he said. "We need the jobs here as long as it doesn't mess up the water."
Write to Mike Esterl at mike.esterl@wsj.com

What's the Next 'Global Warming'?


So global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time. Which means that pretty soon we're going to need another apocalyptic scare to take its place.
As recently as October, the Guardian reported that scientists at Cambridge had "concluded that the Arctic is now melting at such a rate that it will be largely ice free within ten years." This was supposedly due to global warming. It brought with it the usual lamentations for the grandchildren.
But in March came another report in the Guardian, this time based on the research of Japanese scientists, that "much of the record breaking loss of ice in the Arctic ocean in recent years is [due] to the region's swirling winds and is not a direct result of global warming." It also turns out that the extent of Arctic sea ice in March was around the recorded average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
The difference between the two stories has little to do with science: There were plenty of reasons back in October to suspect that the Arctic ice panic—based on data that only goes back to 1979—was as implausible as the now debunked claim about disappearing Himalayan glaciers. But thanks to Climategate and the Copenhagen fiasco, the media are now picking up the kinds of stories they previously thought it easier and wiser to ignore.
This is happening internationally. In France, a book titled "L'imposture climatique" is a runaway bestseller: Its author, Claude All├Ęgre, is one of the country's most acclaimed scientists and a former minister of education in a Socialist government. In Britain, environmentalist patron saint James Lovelock now tells the BBC he suspects climate scientists have "[fudged] the data" and that if the planet is going to be saved, "it will save itself, as it always has done." In Germany, the leftish Der Spiegel devotes 15 pages to a deliciously detailed account of "scientists who want to be politicians," the "curious inconsistencies" in the temperature record, the "sloppy work" of the U.N.'s climate-change panel and sundry other sins of modern climatology.
As for the United States, Gallup reports that global warming now ranks sixth on the list of Americans' top 10 environmental concerns. My wager is that within a few years "climate change" will exercise global nerves about as much as overpopulation, toxic tampons, nuclear winters, ozone holes, killer bees, low sperm counts, genetically modified foods and mad cows do today.
Something is going to have to take its place.
The world is now several decades into the era of environmental panic. The subject of the panic changes every few years, but the basic ingredients tend to remain fairly constant. A trend, a hypothesis, an invention or a discovery disturbs the sense of global equilibrium. Often the agent of distress is undetectable to the senses, like a malign spirit. A villain—invariably corporate and right-wing—is identified.
Then money begins to flow toward grant-seeking institutions and bureaucracies, which have an interest in raising the level of alarm. Environmentalists counsel their version of virtue, typically some quasi-totalitarian demands on the pattern of human behavior. Politicians assemble expert panels and propose sweeping and expensive legislation. Eventually, the problem vanishes. Few people stop to consider that perhaps it wasn't such a crisis in the first place.
This is what's called eschatology—a belief, or psychology, that we are approaching the End Time. Religions have always found a way to take account of those beliefs, but today's secular panics are unmoored by spiritual consolations or valid moral injunctions. Instead, we have the modern-day equivalent of the old Catholic indulgence in the form of carbon credits. It's how Al Gore justifies his utility bills.
Given the inescapability of weather, it's no wonder global warming gripped the public mind as long as it did. And there's always some extreme-weather event happening somewhere to be offered as further evidence of impending catastrophe. But even weather gets boring, and so do the people who natter about it incessantly. What this decade requires is a new and better panic.
Herewith, then, I propose a readers' contest to invent the next panic. It must involve something ubiquitous, invisible to the naked eye, and preferably mass-produced. And the solution must require taxes, regulation, and other changes to civilization as we know it. The winner gets a beer and a burger, on me, at the 47th street Pig N' Whistle in New York City. (Nachos for vegetarians.) Happy panicking!
Write to bstephens@wsj.com

Indian Ocean marine reserve and the Chagossians' right of return

The Guardian, Tuesday 6 April 2010
The foreign secretary's announcement (UK sets up marine reserve in controversial area, 2 April) of the establishment of a marine protected area (MPA) around the Chagos archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory) following the recently completed consultation is welcome news in principle. The area's conservation value is undisputed. However, as John Vidal's article (Good news for the warty sea slug is devastating for Chagos islanders, 30 March) indicates, there are important associated controversies regarding the displaced Chagossians' right of return and Mauritian sovereignty claims. The FCO's unilateral action over the MPA is exacerbating these tensions and unnecessarily undermining what should have been near universal support.
The Mauritian foreign minister is reportedly furious, having repeatedly requested a bilateral approach to the MPA process. Many Chagossians are similarly angered that the "no-take" commercial fishing zone may damage their future livelihood prospects. Their right of return – at least to the outer islands – could easily also have been granted magnanimously as part of the deal, thereby resolving what even the British government admits to have been a shameful historical injustice.
Thursday's announcement repeats earlier assertions that the MPA should not prejudice resolution of either of these issues. Significantly, it also implicitly leaves open the possibility of subsistence fishing and implies that Diego Garcia, site of the massive US military base, will be included within the MPA. However, it ignores the key fact that once established under international conservation instruments, MPA status is hard to change or rescind. Why does the FCO never fail to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity over the Chagos/BIOT?
David Simon
Royal Holloway, Universityof London
• While some Chagossians are undoubtedly concerned by the marine reserve, there are many others who support its establishment. The Pew Environment Group and others supporting protection of the Chagos Islands have been working closely with the Diego Garcian Society, the largest Chagossian group in the UK.
Designation of Chagos as a protected area means the islands and their resources will be protected for the future, whatever it holds. If the Chagossians are one day granted the right to return, conservation arrangements could be modified to accommodate their needs.
Without protection, the Chagos' resources will continue to be damaged and diminished by commercial fishing.
It is difficult to think of anyone other than a few distant water fishing fleets that would be disadvantaged by the protection of the Chagos' resources, whereas millions would be advantaged, including those benefiting from the replenishment of the Western Indian Ocean's marine resources and those benefiting from better climate and marine science.
Alistair Gammell
Pew Environment Group

The innovator: Sandy Sullivan

The pioneer of resomation, 53, has devised an environmentally sound alternative to burial and cremation

Lucy Siegle
The Observer, Sunday 4 April 2010
Death does not become us – in ecological terms. More than 600,000 people die in the UK each year, all but a tiny proportion opting for a (single-use) wooden or MDF coffin. Some 70-75% are dispatched via cremation, which has a big carbon footprint, not to mention the toxic chemicals created by the heating process and the harmful mercury vapour generated by incinerating tooth fillings. Meanwhile, burial takes up space and resources, and can pollute the ground with formaldehyde.
"We urgently need a non-burial alternative that achieves what cremation achieves," says Scottish biochemist Sandy Sullivan. He's devoting his time on earth to convincing us that his Resomation system, an "accelerated version of the body decomposition hydrolysis found in nature", is the answer. The Resomator is a pressurised chamber that liquefies rather than burns (the unit is made by a family engineering firm in Leeds). The body is immersed in a diluted alkaline solution and rapidly heated; within three hours it is turned to white ash. The Resomator has a carbon footprint four times smaller than that of a typical cremation process, there are no dioxin emissions, amalgam mercury is safely recycled, the only coffin is a transfer casket (used many times), and expensive medical implants (such as hip joints) are recovered in pristine, reusable condition.
The UK Cremation Society has changed its 134-year-old charter to allow Resomation to be adopted, although he's still awaiting "final approval" from the government. "Once they get over the 'ick' factor, people seem to get behind it," says Sullivan. "They should have this ethical choice."

Tokyo to trial electric 'filling stations' to boost green transport

First step in Californian firm's bid to build the world's first infrastructure networks for electric cars by next year

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 April 2010 17.23 BST
The first public trial of a system that "refills" electric cars in minutes will be launched this month. The Californian company Better Place will test its automated battery-swap stations in Tokyo.
It is the latest element in the company's ambitious plans to build the world's first infrastructure networks for electric cars by the start of next year.
Globally, road vehicles generate around a fifth of carbon dioxide emissions. The figure is the same for the UK. According to a study for the Department for Transport, widespread adoption of electric vehicles with a range of 30 miles or more could halve road transport emissions.
One of the biggest challenges, however, to the large-scale implementation of electric cars is the problem of infrastructure for recharging.
Better Place has come up with a model that involves building networks of charging points and battery-switch stations. At these a robotic mechanism will swap the empty battery in a car for a fully charged one. This means electric cars can be "refilled" in minutes, rather than taking several hours to charge their batteries.
On 26 April in Tokyo Better Place will begin the first public trial of its battery-switching stations. "We're applying the switch technology to taxis and working with Tokyo's largest taxi operators, Nihon Kotsu," said Better Place. The trial is expected to last for 90 days.
The first part of Better Place's technology, a network of 100 public charging points, is already being trialled in Copenhagen. Using data from the trials, Better Place will launch its first commercial network in Israel at the end of the year.
"All of our components will be tested together with the Renault Fluence electric vehicles. There will be 10 cars this year, and as we work out the kinks in the system we'll scale up by bringing in additional vehicles and deploying additional infrastructure," the company said.
Further cars will be introduced as the network is built up in size. Electric Renault Fluence cars will be available for consumers to buy by the end of next year and Better Place expects to be able to serve several other makes of car as long as their batteries are easily swappable by its robots.
How consumers will pay for Better Place's services is yet to be worked out but Jason Wolf, a business manager at the company, has said that users would probably pay a monthly subscription for unlimited access, or a one-off fee for casual users.
Better Place has raised about £460m in investment in the past three years and has signed deals with Israel, Denmark, Australia and Hawaii and California to build trial networks of its electric vehicles and charging infrastructureWestminster has expressed interest in the Better Place model but has not committed to it, instead backing a more general £250m scheme including trials of a range of cars and charging infrastructures.