News was mixed today, depending on which way the wind blew. In the United States, the American Wind Energy Association announced the “exciting” news that a record 8,358 megawatts of wind capacity had been installed across the United States in 2008. Assuming an average capacity factor of 33 per cent, that’s roughly 2,800 megawatts of reliable power generation built in a single year. And how many nukes have been built? Zilch. When will the first new nuke plant in North America likely become operational? Oh, say, 2018? A lot of wind can be deployed in those intervening nine years. But I digress. AWEA said the wind industry in 2008 channelled $17 billion in new investments into the U.S. economy, and represented 42 per cent of newly installed power-generation capacity — most of the rest coming from natural gas. In all, the wind industry spurred the creation of 35,000 jobs last year. (more…)
Archive for January, 2009
If you want more proof that the grid will follow the same evolutionary path as the Internet, look no further than Cisco Systems. The company is getting into energy management in a big way, as demonstrated by today’s EnergyWise announcement. With big tech names like Cisco and IBM getting deeper and deeper into the smart grid arena, the big trend for investment and innovation is becoming increasingly clear.
It was a big day yesterday for renewable energy, even though most North American media outlets didn’t notice. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was officially launched in Bonn, Germany, creating an international voice for the renewable-energy industry that simply wasn’t being represented adequately by the International Energy Agency. German legislator Hermann Scheer, known as the chief architect of Germany’s green-energy laws, has spent the past two decades as the driving force behind IRENA’s creation. Said Scheer yesterday: “From this day forward, the world’s nations will have a mechanism for working together on the adoption of renewable energies.”
During the event 75 countries became official members and several more indicated plans to join. Canada, the U.S., and Australia are among those that have refused to join, but Canada perhaps stands out as least supportive of the effort. At least the United States and Australia sent official observers. “Regretfully, Canada did not send an official representation to the founding conference,” said Jose Etcheverry of the David Suzuki Foundation.
The American Council on Renewable Energy is hoping the U.S. will reconsider the Bush administration’s refusal to join, and under an Obama administration there’s a good chance it will. That leaves Canada, which has consistently maintained the position: “Why bother?”
Shai Agassi seems to be doing okay when it comes to raising money in a tough market. Better Place and Danish partner Dong Energy announced today the closing of a $134 million (U.S.) financing — a combination of equity and convertible debt. The funds will go toward building out Denmark’s electric-car charging network in advance of the introduction of Better Place-compliant vehicles in two years. “Starting in 2011 through the extensive network, The Renault-Nissan Alliance will begin to commercialize a complete range of EVs especially adapted to Danish customer requirements,” the companies said in a statement. “These cars will benefit from the Better Place mobility services and products.”
Of course, we shouldn’t assume Better Place is the only EV-charging game in town. There are other companies, such as Campbell, Calif.-based Coulomb Technologies, going after the same market with a different — and less flashy — approach.
There’s been chatter here and there about how much recoverable lithium there is in the world, and whether our move toward electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries will create a “peak lithium” scenario.
It all started with William Tahil of U.K.-based Meridian International Research, who back in January 2007 published a paper questioning whether the automotive sector’s expected embrace of lithium-ion technology for next-generation plug-in vehicles was a wise move. Tahil is a fan of the zinc-air battery, largely because “zinc is the only metal which can sustain large battery production in the volumes required by the global automotive industry.” Needless to say, Tahil’s first report whipped up a firestorm of controversy, as you’ll see from some of the comments in a past post here.
Geologist R. Keith Evans published his own report in March 2008 in response to Tahil. Evans’ conclusion: “Concerns regarding lithium availability for hybrid or electric vehicle batteries or other foreseeable applications are unfounded.” Tahil returned fire four months later with a July 2008 report, arguing that Evans failed to make a distinction between practically recoverable lithium carbonate and resources where lithium concentrations are too low to economically exploit. (more…)