A recent national report places Minnesota among leading states in moving utilities toward a future with more distributed energy resources and greater consumer choices.
GTM Research’s “Regulating the Utility of the Future: Implications for the Grid Edge” looks at four other states in addition to Minnesota – California, Massachusetts, New York and Hawaii. Written by consultant Bentham Paulos, the report focuses mainly on regulatory changes in each state that may open the door for business opportunities for grid companies.
The attention is warranted. Minnesota has several efforts underway now at the Legislature to encourage regulatory transformation and greater distributed energy.
(Photo by the New America Foundation via Creative Commons)
Entrepreneur and policy expert Dr. Holmes Hummel says cleantech can thrive in the U.S., but it still faces formidable obstacles.
Those include a lack of research support and a market that heavily favors the status quo. But Hummel believes those barriers can be overcome.
Her wide-ranging career includes serving on the Cleantech Open Board, which helped sponsor the recent Midwest Innovation Summit in Minneapolis, where she gave the keynote address. Hummel also is on the Global Advisory Committee of Cornerstone Capital Group, a leader in sustainable investment and finance.
Hummel served as the senior policy advisor in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Policy & International Affairs from 2009 to 2013. She spoke to Midwest Energy News prior to her talk.
Iowa State University engineer Sri Sritharan is developing a modular system that he says will enable wind turbines to be built taller. (Photo by Bob Elbert/Iowa State University)
If wind turbines stood 20 or 40 meters taller than they typically do today, they would produce more energy and possibly make wind energy economically viable in areas where it currently is not.
An Iowa engineer says the solution to provide the necessary growth spurt is to switch from steel to concrete.
Sri Sritharan, the Wilson Engineering Professor at Iowa State University, is developing a wind-turbine tower constructed of modular concrete blocks that can be assembled to any height and any width. He believes it would address one of the major factors now limiting the height of wind-turbine towers: the overhead clearance between highways and their overpasses.
The currently prevailing 80-meter towers typically are transported cross-country in three segments on a costly truck built especially for the job, Sritharan said. The laws of physics prevent a tower from getting taller without also getting wider at the base, and a base wider than the currently-prevailing 14 feet won’t clear the vertical space between a roadbed and bridges that cross over it, according to Sritharan.
“When the tower gets wider, you cannot transport it. Period,” Sritharan said.
Students compete in the EcoCar 2 competition in 2013. (Photo by Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions via Creative Commons)
Working on energy-efficient cars at the college level can be a route to a career in the Michigan auto industry. That’s what generations of students participating in the United States Department of Energy’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions have discovered over the past 26 years.
The trend continues with the EcoCAR 3 competition — an automotive engineering challenge in which 16 teams will engage in a four-year race to design the most eco-friendly and cost-efficient Chevrolet Camaro they can build.
EcoCAR 3 will give students hands-on experience integrating energy storage systems, simulating and testing hardware and software, developing interactive interfaces for displays, creating control systems, testing powertrain components, and improving aerodynamics.
Electric vehicle parking in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Ian Muttoo via Creative Commons)
Despite its automotive legacy, Michigan is behind its Midwestern neighbor states in establishing a better market for electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles, according to a recent report by clean-energy experts.
“Michigan’s auto history, manufacturing expertise and legacy of innovation in the personal transportation sector position it arguably better than any other state in the country — or any other place in the world — to be the dynamo for these advanced transportation policies,” said Joshua Rego, project associate at the Clean Energy Coalition who co-authored the report. “I believe there needs to be an effort for us in Michigan to lead and not be led.”
“We really should be at the top,” added the coalition’s Allison Skinner, another author of the report.
This transparent solar collector is the latest in a string of technology breakthroughs in Michigan, a state that advocates say still lags on solar policy. (Photo via Michigan State University)
Last month, researchers at two Michigan universities announced innovations tackling aesthetic and intermittency obstacles for solar energy systems.
At a third university here, researchers are using a centuries-old Japanese art form to address what is perhaps the biggest barrier to solar development: cost.
These efforts, together with what some regard as pioneering solar technology from the private, Michigan-based company Dow Chemical Co., suggest that Michigan is on the front lines of the evolution and growth of solar technology.
However, deployment of solar innovations still lags statewide, which some experts say is a public policy problem, not one of technology. These newly engineered products, at various stages of development, are emerging into a marketplace that has plenty of room for expansion.
Via GTM Research (Click to enlarge)
Cross-posted from Greentech Media with permission.
By Stephen Lacey
When Wes Kennedy started engineering solar systems in the mid-1990s, he pretty much had one integration option: batteries.
At that time, Kennedy designed and installed systems for Jade Mountain, a Colorado-based distributed energy retailer that eventually merged with Real Goods Solar. With very little policy support from utilities, the off-grid market was the dominant driver of business in the U.S. and globally. The vast majority of PV was paired with lead-acid batteries and sold to people who wanted to disconnect from the grid, or who had no other choice for electricity.
That’s the way it was from the 1970s onward for a couple of decades, until a steady march of state-level policies and interconnection laws made tying solar into the grid more attractive. In typical first-mover fashion, California offered some of the first U.S. incentives for solar systems connected to utility wires in 1996. A handful of other states followed, extending net metering to solar and creating state rebate programs.
Ford employee John Wooten assembles an EcoBoost V-6 engine at a plant in Lima, Ohio. Photo via Ford Motor Company. (Click to enlarge)
With the help of the U.S. Department of Energy, Ford Motor Co. now boasts that since 2009 — through expanding production of fuel-efficient vehicles — it has avoided 2.38 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and saved 268 million gallons of gasoline.
The company reached a milestone in early May when it sold its 500,000th F-150 pickup truck equipped with a fuel-efficient EcoBoost engine. Ford credits the V-6 truck engine for nearly one-fifth of the fuel savings it attributes to the EcoBoost fleet, which also includes four- and three-cylinder engines used in smaller cars.
Driving that progress was a $5.9 billion loan from the federal government to transform 13 factories across six states into state-of-the-art assembly plants.
(Photo via Department of Energy)
Bill Whittenberger co-founded his Ohio-based company Catacel Corp. in 2001 upon recognizing a niche for catalysts that manage heat and chemical reactions.
It wasn’t long before the fledgling entrepreneur heard about another potential power source that was creating buzz at the time.
“There was all this talk in Ohio about fuel cells,” said Whittenberger. “We were looking for something else to do, and we thought we could help with that.”
Thirteen years after Catacel’s inception, the company is now supplying more than $2 million worth of fuel cells and related components each year to an industry escalating nationwide.
“Without fuel cells, we’d be dead,” he said.
(Photo by Ben Terrett via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By David Ferris
Like most people, Sean McBriarty has always been less than thrilled with his thermostat. Programming it involved using an instruction manual and pushing tiny buttons. He would set it to an energy-saving mode, only to be countermanded by his daughter, who liked it hotter.
Now the Tulsa, Oklahoma, resident has a Nest thermostat. It has a cool-looking dial that, strangely enough, he doesn’t need to use very often. The embedded motion sensor knows when he’s home, and after a few initial adjustments, the unit has learned his family’s comfort zone. He hears no complaints from his daughter, and he realized savings on his energy bill of around $150 a month.
What he might not fully realize is that his thermostat — this wireless, cloud-connected, attentive gadget on the wall — is much more than a thermostat.