Secretary Ken Salazar made an appearance in Rhode Island today to announce that the Federal government was accepting applications for offshore wind farm projects off the coast of the state and that it would start signing offshore leases for those projects by 2012.
Rhode Island is getting special attention because of the huge potential for offshore wind in the state. Salazar pointed to an NREL study that found that Rhode Island offshore wind farms could potentially generate 1,000 gigawatts of electricity -- enough to power most of the U.S.
The state has already announced plans for a couple of offshore projects: one is a smaller wind farm that will power the currently diesel-generator-dependent Block Island and feed any excess power to the mainland and the other is the huge 1,000 MW Deepwater Wind Energy Center that will be located in the Rhode Island Sound with transmission lines running from Massachusetts to New York.
With the government pledging to start signing offshore leases and the wealth of electricity that could be generated, there will likely be more cropping up soon.
The electric drive Cadillac Converj concept, which was unveiled in 2009, has been greenlighted for development and will be joining the Cadillac fleet as the Cadillac ELR.
The Converj was the second GM electric vehicle concept after the Chevy Volt. Although preliminary sales of the Volt have been behind those of the Nissan LEAF, and neither has been especially outstanding, GM is moving to expand its EV offerings with this announcement.
With the development program just under way, the company says that "details on performance, price and timing will be announced later."
Wal-Mart Canada has revealed that they're working towards getting 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy.
To meet that goal, two large Canadian stores have been outfitted with rooftop solar panels and wind turbines, with other major projects on the way. The retail store intends to generate enough renewable energy to sell some back to the grid.
Hopefully, these plans extend to the U.S. as well. Many stores here have been outfitted with solar panels, and a New Jersey store will soon replace all its light poles with wind turbines, but the company has indicated that they'll only work towards being completely powered by renewable energy if that renewable energy matches or beats grid parity. So, as long as it's cheap.
Iowa has hit a pretty big milestone in wind energy generation -- the state now gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind power. That's the highest percentage for any state in the U.S. and about on par with wind heavy nations like Denmark.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported that the state hit the mark in the second quarter of the year after a new 594 MW wind farm came online outside of Adair. The even better news is that Des Moines utility company MidAmerican Energy has two more big projects like it on the way in 2011.
With 4,000 MW, Iowa is second in total installed wind power capacity after Texas, which has 9,000 MW. The Lone Star state's much larger population means that capacity doesn't stack up the same percentage-wise though.
The great lesson from this is that if Iowa can get to 20 percent wind power, any state can, and it looks like we're moving in that direction. The AWEA reported that as of the beginning of July, 7,354 MW of new wind power was under construction in the U.S.
Along with the recent announcement of increased efficiency standards for cars, the US government is also, for the first time, setting efficiency standards for trucks and buses and other heavy-duty vehicles which have previously not had an efficiency standard.
The new regulations apply to three categories of vehicles (combination tractors (semi-trucks); vocational vehicles (such as transit buses); and heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans) and take effect beginning in 2014 and run through 2018. Under these new requirements, national oil consumption is expected to decrease by 530 million barrels. The program is also expected to provide a savings of $50 billion in benefits to vehicle owners.
Furthermore, by the 2018 model year, specific program goals call for semi trucks to be 20% more efficient than current levels, and heavy-duty pickups and vans are to be 15% more efficient, while vocational vehicles to be 10% more efficient.
As was the case with the recent automotive standards, these new truck and heavy-duty standards have also been generally well accepted by the industry.
Over the past few years, the U.S. military has worked on one renewable energy project after another -- and it's to their benefit. Not only does it cut down on energy costs at military bases, but it's also a reliable source of energy in locations where getting fuel shipments can be dangerous at best.
The U.S. Army has decided to become more organized in its renewable energy pursuits by creating a task force assigned purely to developing these projects. The Energy Initiatives Office Task Force will work with developers over the next decade to build renewable energy power plants at U.S. military sites. The task force has a 10-year budget of up to $7.1 billion.
The task force will be established by September 15 of this year and will assist the Army in its goal of getting 25 percent of its energy from renewables by 2025. The projects will each be about 10 MW in size, though details of which type of renewable energy will be used and where have not been disclosed.
BMW has released a series of videos to unveil the first two cars in their "i" series of electric vehicles: the i3 and the i8. Both are still very much concepts, but the videos give us a good look at what BMW has in store for this line of vehicles.
Both vehicles feature carbon fiber construction and sleek, futuristic styling (note the use of clear carbon fiber panels on both vehicles) and are scheduled for a 2013 release.
The i3 is a four-door, compact city car, formerly going by the name of Megacity, that will be the automaker's first series-produced all-electric vehicle. It will be 700 lb. lighter than the Nissan LEAF and have 170 hp -- 63 hp more than the LEAF.
The i8 is the two-door, all-wheel drive, plug-in hybrid sports car that was formerly the Vision. The i8 will have a combined output of 349 hp, will go from 0 - 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, have a top speed of 155 mph and get about 80 mpg.
Check out the video above or watch all the new videos on these vehicles here.
Yosemite National Park is known for El Capitan and the breathtaking views captured by Ansel Adams, but visitors may soon remember another sight from their trip. Yosemite has installed the largest solar power array of all the national parks with a 672 kW system that will provide 12 percent of the park's power needs.
Installed by Suntrek, the system consists of a 500 kW solar canopy over a parking lot, a 100 kW rooftop array on a warehouse and a 72 kW wall mounted array, all located within the park's maintenance and administrative complex. The whole system is made up of 2,800 solar PV panels.
The $4.5 million installation will save the park $50,000 a year on energy costs and the park also expects to receive $700,000 in energy rebates from PG&E over the next five years.
This is something I'd love to see more of. While no one wants to see our national parks overrun with solar arrays, it is very fitting to install them at administrative or visitor centers where electricity is used. National parks exist to conserve and protect the most amazing parts of our land, so renewable energy seems to be ideal for providing their electricity.
Testing for a new vehicle-to-vehicle communication system is beginning this week on a specially arranged road course at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS). The US Department of Transportation is examining systems that use "communication-based safety warnings" to reduce the number of traffic accidents by alerting the driver when there is a risk of a crash or other safety driving hazard.
Eight carmakers, including Ford Motor Company, General Motors LLC., Honda R&D Americas, Inc., Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center, Inc., Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Inc., Nissan Technical Center North America, Inc., Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. and Volkswagen Group of America, are taking part in this project as members of the Vehicle Safety Communications 3 (VSC3) Consortium.
About 100 local drivers have been recruited to drive specially modified cars and test the systems for this project. "Each clinic will include about 16 cars equipped with technology applications which drivers will evaluate as they use the vehicles in a controlled environment designed to simulate real roadways and intersections." Simulated intersections, traffic signals, and other configurations have been laid out on the MIS grounds to test situations and equipment as a first step toward deployment of these systems.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to make a decision in 2013 about whether or not this technology is sufficiently developed that it can begin to be deployed in new cars.
In Japan this week, Nissan unveiled a system for using their LEAF EV to power a house during a power outage or shortage.
The two-way charging device isn't a new concept, it's been part of the idea for EVs all along, but finally companies are producing the technology and nations are getting behind the idea of using EVs for extra power. Denmark recently became the first country to create a program that pays EV owners for the power they feed back to the grid.
The two-way system is beneficial in two ways: it lightens the load on the grid during peak hours and helps cover power shortages and it also allows EV owners to buy their power during cheaper night hours and then use it during more expensive peak hours.
The Nissan LEAF batteries can store up to 24kWh of electricity, which could power an average Japanese home for about two days. If the system is just used during peak hours during the day though, the car would still have plenty of juice left for everyday trips.
In Japan where nuclear reactors have been taken offline since the tsunami, power shortages and blackouts have become more common. Lithium ion storage batteries are available for homeowners to use as back-up power, but if you can use your car for the same purpose, it becomes more simplified.
The new bulbs follow GE's release of a 40W replacement bulb last year. All models are dimmable and will have a lifespan of over 20 years based on three hours a day of use. The 13W bulb (60W replacement) will be available this November, while the 18W (75W replacement) and 27W (100W replacement) bulbs will follow by the end of 2012. The 60W bulb is the most popular incandescent bulb, so having an LED replacement ready for that brightness level is key to consumers making the switch.
All of the GE LED bulbs will come in a range of colors and shapes including bulbs suited for spot and flood lights, ceiling fans, candle and night lights and small and medium globes for lamps and other fixtures.