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Archive for July, 2010

President Obama made what may come to be considered an historic commitment to clean energy in his July 3rd radio address.  Timing the announcement near Independence Day made it even more appropriate since “energy” independence has become a non-partisan, national objective.  The two solar technologies he chose to support with Recovery Act loan guarantees have special significance for the nation.  It’s possible that historians will describe these projects as transformative in the quest for a clean and sustainable national energy system.

Abengoa Solar has been researching and developing concentrating solar thermal systems since the 1980s.  These are the systems that heat a fluid high enough to create steam to drive an electric turbine.  The Arizona located project, named Solana, will be the largest such system in the world, with a capacity of 280 magawatts; enough electricity to power about 70,000 homes.  What makes this concentrating solar Power system (CSP) unique is its ability to store energy for use in cloudy weather and even during the night.  The Abengoa system will have a six hour storage capacity.

Mr. Obama is evidently aware that utility scale projects as above will by no means dominate the emerging 21st century solar society.  Solar PV panels distributed widely on residential and commercial rooftops will enhance the reliability, efficiency and security of electricity.  The technology known as “thin-film” photovoltaics promises to make solar affordable the way desktops made computing affordable.  The President has offered Abound Solar Manufacturing a loan guarantee to build two state-of-the-art, thin-film manufacturing plants.  By 2013, when the plants are fully operational, “millions” of solar panels will be produced each year.

Sam Kendall

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Oh, the frustration of so many years locked in to dirty oil.  We’ve wanted to quit stopping at the gas station but what were our choices?  Seemed like we’d never get off gasoline!  When the Japanese started introducing energy efficient hybrids, American car makers responded with SUVs.  What?  Were they responding to consumer demand or were they driving consumer demand to match low prices at the pump with higher income statements?  Will the BP oil spill finally bring us back to reality?

At last there is some notion of consensus going on among us consumers and the car manufacturers.  We the consumers, wishing so long for clean transportation, are now in a position to make a difference in transportation fuels and fundamentally change our energy infrastructure for the better.  Car manufacturers are actually offering us fuel options!

Ford, GM, Toyota, Mazda, Isuzu and Mercedes have flex-fuel vehicles for sale.  Ethanol is in our gasoline now.  The EPA is weighing whether to support an even higher ratio at the pump.  Flex-fuel vehicles will provide an even higher level of demand.  Their engines are designed specifically for the cleaner, renewable fuel.  The ethanol industry is ready to provide this fuel and Florida ethanol producers are especially going to be the beneficiaries.

Charles Bronson, Agriculture Secretary, has been convening stakeholders at his “Farms to Fuels” convention since 2006 preparing for this opportunity.  Yes, he sided with the off-shore drilling crowd, but he kept his farm fuels conventions on track and this up-coming August meeting couldn’t be more important.

Bruce Stephenson, professor of environmental studies at Rollins college, believes new housing construction may not be in just a temporary lull.  It could last for years, he says.  Bruce has followed the sprawling housing developments in Florida and translated them into large amounts of wasted energy and water.  The plus side of the housing recession is fewer greenhouse gases and and less pressure on landowners to sell farms or green space to developers.  The minus side is that home construction has been Florida’s biggest source of income and employment.

So what industries can replace construction and help stoke up employment?  The Florida biofuels industry is well positioned to move into that role.  County commissioners are listening to applicants who want to build ethanol and biodiesel plants.  Farmers are agreeing to plant energy crops to feed the plants.  A few years ago there wasn’t an E-85 pump in Florida.  We’re starting to see them now.  A new industry is developing in Florida and consumers can help build that industry by investing in the vehicles designed for the fuel.

Celebrate energy independence this Fourth by visiting a car dealership.  This is worth waving the flag!

Sam Kendall

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