Weekly Clean Energy Roundup: June 10, 2009

  • Mitsubishi, Subaru Launch EVs in Japan
  • Prices for Oil, Gas Escalating
  • Worldwide Clean Energy Investments on the Upswing
  • DOE Awards $80.56M in Weatherization Funds to 4 States
  • U.S. Small Wind Market Grew 78% in 2008
  • Solar Decathlon: October 9-18 on the National Mall
  • Federal Regulators, Washington State Collaborate on Water Power

    Mitsubishi and Subaru Launch Electric Cars in JapanMitsubishi EV

    Mitsubishi Motors Corp and Fuji Heavy Industries, Inc. (FHI), the maker of Subaru automobiles, both announced last week that they will soon begin selling electric vehicles (EVs) in Japan. Mitsubishi unveiled the production version of its i-MiEV, a mini-car with a lithium-ion battery pack tucked under the floor. The vehicle has a range of about 100 miles, and it can be quick-charged in about 30 minutes. A 47-kilowatt motor drives the wheels via a single-speed reduction gear transmission, an approach similar to that used in the high-end Tesla Roadster.

    Mitsubishi plans to lease about 1,400 of the vehicles to corporations and local authorities this year, with sales to individuals starting in April 2010. The company will start taking orders for the vehicle in late July. The vehicle will sell for 4.38 million yen, or about $44,860, including a tax exemption of about $2,240. The vehicle will also qualify for a rebate of up to $14,200, which would lower the price to $30,660. See the Mitsubishi Motors press release and the i-MiEV Web site.

    Meanwhile, FHI launched its Subaru Plug-in Stella EV, also a mini-car equipped with a lithium-ion battery pack. The vehicle has a much shorter range of 56 miles, but it actually costs more than the i-MiEV, at 4.725 million yen, or about $48,200, including consumption taxes, which will probably be exempted. It will qualify for a rebate of up to $14,100, bringing the price down to $34,100. The vehicle is much like the i-MiEV, with a 47-kilowatt motor and a quick-charge capability, but the two-door mini-car has a boxy shape. FHI plans to start delivery in late July and plans to sell 170 vehicles by March 2010. See the FHI press release (PDF 44 KB).

    Prices for Oil and Gasoline are Escalating, Says EIA

    Oil prices rose for the third consecutive month in May, and prices for gasoline and diesel fuel are also going up, according to DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA’s "Short-Term Energy Outlook," released on Tuesday, blames rising oil prices on expectations for an economic recovery and future increases in oil consumption, as well as a weaker dollar.

    Crude oil prices are expected to average $67 per barrel for the second half of the year, compared to about $51 per barrel in the first half. Meanwhile, the average U.S. price for regular-grade gasoline reached $2.62 per gallon on Monday, almost 60 cents per gallon higher than the average price at the end of April. That led the EIA to boost its projections for gasoline prices, increasing the projected average for this year to $2.33 per gallon, a 21-cent increase above last month’s projection. The EIA also increased its diesel fuel price projection for 2009 by 14 cents, to $2.40 per gallon on average for this year. See the EIA’s "Short-Term Energy Outlook."

    Report: Worldwide Clean Energy Investments on the Upswing

    After a difficult first quarter, worldwide investments in clean energy are now gaining momentum, according to analysts at New Energy Finance. Clean energy investments in the first quarter of 2009 were down 44% from the fourth quarter of 2008 and down 53% from the investment peak in the first quarter of 2008.

    Even though there are several weeks left in the second quarter, clean energy investments are already surpassing the first quarter investments by more than a third. New Energy Finance notes that public market investments have rallied sharply, while bankers active in the clean energy sector are optimistic about a gradual improvement in the availability of project financing as the year progresses. The gradual injection of worldwide "green stimulus" funds, including funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, are also expected to assist the recovery.

  • Although the situation is improving, clean energy investments will still likely fall short of investments in 2008, which reached a record $155 billion. New Energy Finance expects clean energy investments for 2009 to be in the range of $95-$115 billion, a drop of 26%-39% relative to last year.

    The drop is particularly troubling in light of a report published earlier this year, which showed that annual investments in clean energy needs to reach $500 billion by 2020 to ensure that global carbon emissions peak before that date. That report was prepared by New Energy Finance and published by the World Economic Forum.

    The World Economic Forum put it differently, claiming that at least $515 billion must be invested annually between now and 2030 to keep global temperature increases in check. Noting the drop in global interest rates, that report also concluded that "at some point a flood of cheap money will begin to flow, and when it does, clean energy infrastructure … will be among the first (sectors) to benefit." See the New Energy Finance press release (PDF 20 KB) and the World Economic Forum’s press release and full report (PDF 2.9 MB).

    AWEA: U.S. Market for Small Wind Turbines Grew 78% in 2008

    The US market for small wind turbines grew 78% in 2008, adding a total of 17.3 MW. Small turbines are defined as 100 kW or less. AWEA’s "2009 Small Wind Global Market Study" credited the increase in part to greater manufacturing volumes, as the industry was able to attract enough private investment to finance manufacturing plant expansions. It also credited rising electricity prices and greater public awareness of wind technologies for an increase in residential sales. But a poll of small wind manufacturers found that the growth in 2008 might be only a glimmer of things to come, as the companies projected a 30-fold growth in the U.S. small wind market within as little as five years, despite the global recession.

    The U.S. small wind industry also benefits from the global market, as it controls about half of the global market share. U.S. manufacturers garnered $77 million of the $156 million that was spent throughout the world on small wind turbine installations. A total of 38.7 megawatts of small wind power capacity was installed globally in 2008. See the AWEA press release, which includes a link to the full report.

    DOE Awards $80.56 Million in Weatherization Funds to Four States

    DOE transferred $80.56 million in ARRA funds to Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, and Oregon on Monday to expand the weatherization assistance programs in those states. The states previously received 10% of their total funding allocations to support training programs and other efforts to ramp up the scale of their weatherization programs.

    Combining that earlier funding with the new funding accounts for 50% of the Recovery Act funds that the four states will receive for weatherization activities. The balance of the funding will be released when the states meet the reporting, oversight, and accountability milestones required by the Recovery Act. The funds include $22.81 million for Arizona to weatherize an additional 6,409 homes, $22.58 million for Kansas to weatherize another 5,820 homes, $19.77 million for Mississippi to weatherize 5,467 more homes, and $15.40 million for Oregon to weatherize an additional 4,635 homes. See the DOE press release and the Weatherization Assistance Program Web site.

    DOE’s Solar Decathlon to be Held October 9-18 on the National Mall

    DOE announced that this year’s Solar Decathlon will be held October 9-18 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition where 20 teams of university students develop fully-functional houses that draw all their energy from the sun.

    After spending two years developing their homes, the students ship their partially completed homes to the National Mall, finish building them, and then compete in 10 contests that measure the team’s skills in architecture, home design, and communications. The solar homes must produce enough electricity and hot water to perform all the normal functions of a home, including powering the lights and home electronics, washing clothes and dishes, showering, and cooking, all while maintaining a comfortable temperature. Teams can also earn bonus points if their homes produce a surplus of electricity. Opening ceremonies for the 2009 Solar Decathlon will be held on October 8, and the event will be open to the public on October 9-13 and 15-18.

    The 20 teams include universities from 15 states, as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, and Spain. The teams include Cornell University; Iowa State University; the Ohio State University; Penn State; Rice University; Team Alberta (the University of Calgary, SAIT Polytechnic, Alberta College of Art + Design, and Mount Royal College); Team Boston (Boston Architectural College and Tufts University); Team California (Santa Clara University and the California College of the Arts); Team Missouri (Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Missouri); Team Ontario/BC (the University of Waterloo, Ryerson University, and Simon Fraser University); Technische Universität Darmstadt; Universidad de Puerto Rico; Universidad Politécnica de Madrid; the University of Arizona; the University of Illinois; the University of Kentucky; the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; the University of Minnesota; the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and Virginia Tech. See the DOE press release and the Solar Decathlon Web site.

    Federal Regulators and Washington State to Collaborate on Water Power

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) signed an agreement with the State of Washington last week to coordinate their reviews of water power projects in Washington state waters. The agreement specifically applies to "hydrokinetic" projects, which draw on the movement of water from waves, tides, or currents.

    Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the two parties will notify each other when once becomes aware of a potential applicant for a preliminary permit, pilot project license, or commercial license. They will also agree on a schedule for processing any license applications, and they will coordinate the environmental reviews for the projects. The agreement also leaves room for the State of Washington to prepare a comprehensive plan on the siting of hydrokinetic projects, committing FERC to take the state plan into consideration when issuing a license for any hydrokinetic project. Oregon signed a similar agreement with FERC last year. See the FERC press release and the MOU (PDF 1.6 MB).

    Water power technologies have been steadily advancing in recent months. In November 2008, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) installed one of its PowerBuoy wave energy converters near Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, as part of an ongoing program with the U.S. Navy. The PowerBuoy is located about a mile off the coast in 100 feet of water. In April, the company was awarded an additional $1.1 million to support continuing upgrades and testing of the PowerBuoy.

    In December 2008, a SeaGen tidal energy system, developed by Marine Current Turbines (MCT), reached full power at 1.2 MW. The device is deployed off the coast of Northern Ireland and is delivering power to the electrical grid. In January, Voith Hydro Wavegen Ltd. received approval from the Scottish Government to install a four-megawatt wave energy system on the shore of the Lewis Island. And in April, Aquamarine Power successfully tested its Oyster wave energy converter off the coast of England, producing more than 170 kilowatts of power. The global recession has taken its toll, however, and in February, Finavera Renewables surrendered its permits for wave energy projects in California and Washington, as the company is focusing on wind power in the near term. See the OPT press releases on the PowerBuoy deployment and added funding, as well as the press releases from MCT, Wavegen, Aquamarine Power, and Finavera Renewables (PDF 28 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

    With so much going on, DOE has created a Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology Database to keep track of it all, while the International Energy Agency has prepared an 83-page report on the current status of the technology (PDF 2.5 MB). Looking ahead, a new report from Pike Research concludes that the next five years could be crucial for ocean energy. The report projects that the ocean energy industry will provide 2,700 megawatts of power by 2015, and if the technology proves itself, 200,000 megawatts could be installed by 2025. That should spark some interesting conversations at EnergyOcean 2009, the world’s leading conference and exhibition on renewable ocean energy, which takes place on June 16-18 in Rockport, Maine. See the Pike Research press release and the EnergyOcean 2009 Web site.


    Kevin Eber is the Editor of EREE Network News, a weekly publication of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

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