Month: May 2014

Colorado: A Cleantech Collective

Global Clean-Energy Projected Growth 2012-2022The need for alternative energies in the 21st century has fostered an entire industry in cleantech. The cleantech sector refers to any renewable energy manufacturers and providers, as well as, any products that increase efficiency in production and distribution of energy. In 2012 the global cleantech industry was valued at $250 billion by Clean Edge, a market authority of cleantech, and is expected to grow to a $400 billion in 2022. Despite these optimistic projections, there are challenges that need to be addressed for full scale implementation. The major gatekeepers to this industry are governments. Prudent policy in the area of cleantech is crucial for this growing industry. Policy initiatives can combat the cost gaps between these technologies and more traditional forms of energy. Policy can also improve infrastructure to accommodate and promote these players. Cleantech is the future, governments however have been hesitant to take action due to high costs and complexities surrounding these issues. We need action now, we need an example to learn from, we need momentum, we need policy.

The Colorado Cleantech Industries Association or CCIA is a statewide, industry-led, organization, that promotes the cleantech industry in Colorado. CCIA believes that Colorado is poised to becoming a global leader in the cleantech industry if we can take advantage of the opportunity. Quoting their website, Colorado’s cleantech industry the fastest growing out of any state with over 300 companies and counting. Colorado is also No. 3 in the U.S. for cleantech venture capital financing and No. 4 in the country for percentage of jobs in the cleantech sector.

The CCIA is a vocal lobbiest at local, state, and federal levels. To promote the growth of this industry they specifically support policy that:

  • Accelerates the cleantech research and development pipeline.
  • Speeds cleantech technology transfer and support the growth of early stage companies;
  • Expands our rich base of management talent able to move cleantech into the marketplace;
  • Promotes a business climate that is friendly to cleantech companies, and;
  • Supports policy to use all forms of energy, water, waste and more as efficiently as possible.

2013 was a productive year for the CCIA, gaining traction and helping pass 8 proactive state bills that helped achieve these goals. Among these bills there are a couple awesome steps in the right direction. The Advanced Industries Acceleration Act is a major state investment in economic development. As a result, cleantech will receive $2 million dollars in grant money. Grants will also be tiered into 3 categories allowing for funding of various types (seed, early stage and infrastructure). The Renewable Energy Standard graduated Colorado’s energy portfolio goal of 10% renewables by 2020 to 20% renewables. The Special Fuel Tax Electric Vehicle Highway Use Tax Fund, is not only hard to say but promotes and funds electric vehicle infrastructure. In effect it created the Electric Vehicle Grant Fund, estimated to collect over $400 thousand in the  the next five years which will be used for charging station build out.

The future for cleantech looks promising and recent developments may signal that it is catching on. This traction is only bound to increase as the world changes and begins to recognize the need for sustainability. These developments could mean massive economic growth for cleantech worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Policy can have a dramatic impact on the speed of these changes and will be the ultimate deciding factor in how we will adapt. Industry lobbyists are often portrayed in a bad light, but in the case of cleantech, they could be able to push agenda’s towards sustainability. Whether or not you think lobbying is a encroachment on democracy, or an unfair advantage, there’s one thing I’ve learned from the world we live in today, money speaks all languages.

 

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Wind Energy: a Guide for Household Implementation.

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Is wind energy the best for me?

In the pursuit of reliable and affordable sources of renewable energy people are looking at wind turbines. Although the space requirements  (generally requiring one acre+ of land) and wind requirements for these systems make it hard for some to implement, wind power is still an opportunity for roughly 25%of the US population. People living in windy areas, on large plots of land and energy bills exceeding $150 per month should seriously consider a small wind electric system.

What are some obstacles to look out for?

Before committing to a wind energy system you should research local zoning laws. Most residentially zoned areas have a height limit  of 35 feet. In order to find out and and obtain a building permit call your local building inspector or municipality. Regardless of zoning laws one should be respectful of neighbors that might complain that the turbines are aesthetically displeasing or too noisy. Objective facts should be used to ward off naysayers. For example the noise level of a residential  turbine is no more than a household refrigerator.

What size of wind turbine will do the trick?

A 2.4 kW Turbine

This 2.4 kW turbine generates approximately 230 kWh per month.

Depending on application, you will need to consider what size turbine to use. Small turbine system outputs can range anywhere from 20 watts, to 100 kilowatts. Based on your local wind patterns and electricity needs one will need to evaluate what size works. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average household in 2012 consumed a yearly average of 10,800 KWH. Depending on average wind speed, wind turbines rated in the range of 5-15 kW will provide significant contributions to this demand. Because wind speeds increase with height, tower height also plays a role in maximizing potential output. Increasing tower height can have positive effects on cost and return. For example increasing tower height from 60 feet to 100 feet may involve a 10% increase in cost but could potentially increase output by 30%.

How much will it cost?

According to the American Wind Energy Association’s 2011 U.S. Small Wind Turbine Market Report, small wind turbine systems cost $3000-$5000 per every generating kilowatt of generating capacity. This is much cheaper than solar systems but can still have long payback periods. Although there is significant initial investment wind turbines, eventually, depending on the system, you will break even where the cost will equal the present value of all the electricity bills you have avoided. It is hard to calculate an encompassing payback period because of the variations in machine output to region and cost. To estimate the power output of your system used to further evaluate the payback period, this simple equation is used by the wind turbine industry:

Power output kilowatts=k Cp 1/2p A V^3 , where:

  • k=.000133 (constant)
  • Cp= maximum power coeffiecint ranging from .25-.45
  • p= air density (lb/ft^3)
  • A= rotor swept area (ft^2)
  • V= average wind speed (mph)

Instead of doing this calculation yourself it maybe just easier to contact a local wind turbine manufacturer.

Conclusion

Obviously before making a huge investment one should consider the risks and benefits of the decision. In the case of small scale wind power, the benefits have almost no associated risk and the cost per energy output is higher than solar alternatives. But the payback period may be long and not worthwhile. Also one must evaluate their households capacity for wind power and be wary of legal barriers. More research should be done if you are actually considering an installment, but hopefully this article helps open the door to new possibilities of energy independence.