Archive for May, 2009

New York Solar Energy Resources and Incentives

Renewable Energy-Related Legislation in New York

A renewable portfolio standard (RPS) was adopted by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) in September 2004 with a target of 19% to 25% increase in the proportion of electricity used by retail consumers in New York State derived from renewable resources by 2013 after scrutinizing public hearings from more than 150 parties. Two distinct approaches were taken to accomplish the goal. Among them a central procurement approach would cause an increase of 24% and a voluntary green market approach would provide the rest 1%. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) was given the task of monitoring this RPS program. Mainly two tiers of resources were considered eligible under RPS program – a Main Tier and a Customer-Sited Tier. NYSERDA has the authority to procure Main Tier resources by a many means e.g. standard offer contracts, requests of proposal or through auctions also. Under these two tiers RPS also supported incentives programs which were previously supported by System Benefit Charge (SBC). An amount of $45 million was funded for Customer-Sited Tier.

PSC also recommended an Implementation Plan to guide the program through 2013. But an extension was filed by Congress for Production Tax Credit (PTC) allowable for certain renewable facilities with a deadline of December 31, 2005. By the end 22 proposals were submitted and 7 projects were awarded. On April 14, 2005 the Implementation Plan was developed and approved by the Commission which would identify the procedures based on their eligibility and future procurements. On January 26, 2006 NYSERDA was authorized by the Commission to conduct solicitations of Main Tier Resources in 2006 and 2007. NYSERDA approved its Operating Plan for the Customer-Sited Tier on February 12, 2007. On October 28, 2008 PSC issued an order to reallocate funding to the Customer-Sited Tier and subsequently authorized $20.6 million for the solar photovoltaic (PV) category. This program will provide cash incentives for the installation of new Solar Electric or Photovoltaic (PV) systems by eligible Installers. Incentives will be granted till September 2009 on a first-come, first-served basis or until funds are fully committed.

Solar and Fuel Cell Tax Credit

This provision is applicable to taxable years beginning on and after January 1, 2006. It acts mainly on expenditures on PV equipments for residential property and equal to 25% of the total cost of PV equipment and installation. Solar Energy equipment is identified as “an arrangement or combination of components utilizing solar radiation, which, when installed in a residence, produces energy designed to provide heating, cooling, hot water or electricity.” The PV system size is limited to 25 kW according to the net meeting law expanded by S.B. 7171 on August 2008. SunPower is one company targeting New York solar installations, they have sponsored the creation of these articles here on Solar Power Authority.

Local Option – Solar, Wind & Biomass Energy Systems Exemption

There is a provision for property tax exemption for solar and wind energy systems constructed in NY State under Section 487 of the New York State Real Property Tax Law. Local government is authorized to allow or deny it. Property owners can also enter into a contract for payments in lieu of taxes. Generally the exemption will be equal to the increase in assessed value attributable to the solar, wind or farm-waste energy system.

Solar Sales Tax Exemption

NY State issued this exemption program in July, 2005 on sale and installation of residential solar-energy systems from the state’s sales and compensating use taxes. Various systems utilizing solar radiation to produce energy can avail this exemption. No recreation systems are allowed for this exemption. Local Governments can also approve an exemption from local taxes under this law.

NYSERDA – Distributed Generation as Combined Heat and Power (DG-CHP)

This multi-faceted program implemented mainly three initiatives under different categories to achieve its goal which was the advancement of DG-CHP technology within NY State. These three initiatives are new demonstration, existing facility improvement, and technology transfer. A fund of $25 million was granted to invest in one or all of these three aspects of this program.

New York City – Property Tax Abatement for Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment Expenditures

Property tax abatement for photovoltaic (PV) system expenditures was allowed by the NY State in August 2008. Mainly cities with more than 1 million population were eligible. Systems placed in service by December, 2010 can get abatement up to 8.75% against eligible annual expenditures for four consecutive years. Then, systems which were placed in service in between January, 2011 and December, 2012 can apply and avail an abatement of 5.0%. Department of Finance administers this abatement program collaboratively with Department of Buildings.

Rebate Programs

Town of Southampton – Photovoltaic (PV) Rebate Program

Under this rebate program every individual and commercial organization is entitled to a flat rebate of $2,500 for PV systems of 5kW in the Town of Southampton, NY. The installation cost of the applicant must be paid by the applicant and smaller systems are not accepted under this program. Systems must abide by all the applicable state and local laws. Initially an amount of $50,000 was approved sufficient enough for 20 rebates. This program is due to expire on December 31, 2009.

Long Island Power Authority – Energy Efficient Commercial Construction Rebate Program

Long Island Power Authority has been providing full support to its non-residential customers through this Commercial Construction Program. It’s a utility rebate program availavle for various technologies like Air conditioners, Heat Pumps, Compressed air, Commercial Kitchen Equipment, Vending Machine Controls etc. In return LIPA will retain the ownership of all rights to existing and future emissions credits. And rebate over $10, 000 will require pre-approval.

Long Island Power Authority – Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program

This utility rebate program will provide an opportunity for residential customers to increase the efficiency of their homes. Air conditioning systems and air-source heat pumps can avail rebates under the Cool Homes Program. Efficiency rating is SEER 14 and EER 12. And the owner should get the units installed by Cool Homes Contractor. Moreover, rebates for new and replacement geothermal heat pumps are also available under the Geothermal Energy Wise Program.

Long Island Power Authority – Solar Rebate Program

To develop clean energy alternatives $32 million was funded under this Solar Pioneer Program in 2000 by LIPA. Later LIPA extended this initiative for another five years with an increase of $5 million in funding. Recently the budgets have been – $44 million in 2007, $48 million in 2008, and $53 million in 2009. In 2009 this program has been expanded again and renamed as Solar Entrepreneur program. Through LIPA rebates a downfall in the costs of PV has been observed. Under this rebate scheme customers can enjoy a rebate for residential systems up to 27.5kW. Till January 2008, rebates have been issued for 1,133 PV systems.

National Grid – Commercial (Electric) Energy Efficiency Incentive Programs

Large commercial and industrial customers can be benefited from this new construction program offering energy statistics, technical assistance and financial incentives. A financial incentive up to 75% of the cost of the energy system can also be availed. This program known as Design 2000plus can pay in between 40% to 50% of the total cost involved in a project.

National Grid – Solar Thermal Rebate Program (Long Island and metro New York)

National Grid customers from Long Island and metro New York using solar thermal technologies can get solar thermal rebate to support various applications like solar hot water heating, solar space heating or high temperature process applications. They can get a rebate of 15% off project costs up to a maximum of $1,500. And commercial users on the other hand can avail a rebate of 50% of the project costs or $100,000 per project.

Visit the original post at: Solar Power News

DARPA HEDLight Program Saves Up to 87% with New Lights for U.S. Navy

U.S. Navey to junk old light bulbs for high-efficiency HEDLight systems.After a year-long demonstration project, the U.S. Navy is poised add its own contribution to reducing the military’s carbon bootprint – or carbon wake, as the case may be.  The Navy stands to gain up to 87% in savings for shipboard lighting, by switching from conventional light bulbs to high efficiency LED and HID systems developed through DARPA under the HEDLight (High Efficiency Distributed Lighting) program.  One recent retrofit has been accomplished by Ohio-based Energy Focus, Inc. Saving energy is just part of the picture: the quantum leap to HEDLight is also expected to yield significant gains in the Navy’s strategic efficiency.

Read more of this story »

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Maker Faire 09: GoBe Solar Charger

Maker Faire 09: GoBe Solar Charger
gobe solar charger photo

Wandering through the Maker Fair expo, I came across this solar charger I hadn’t heard of before. It’s called GoBe, and looks like a great portable way to charge up some hefty devices, possibly even your laptop. …
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Peepoople: Portable, Affordable Sanitation for Everybody
peepoo bag portable sanitation photo
Image credit: Peepoople

Hygenic, Biodegradable Single-use Toilets for the Developing World
It’s no great secret that sanitation and clean drinking water are major challenges in much of the world. But, like the Life Straw or Freeplay’s self-powered lights and radios, solutions don’t always have to be high tech or expensive. In fact, they are often more effective when they are not. That’s where Peepoople come…
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Maker Faire 09: Dying Yarn with Solar Power
yarn solar booth photo

I couldn’t resist stopping by a booth that had piles of squishy, gorgeously dyed yarn, especially when their sign boasted that the yarn is dyed with solar power. I had to find out just what that meant…and squish some yarn….
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Aquaponics Made Easy DVD (Video)

Aquaponics Made Easy DVD (Video)
Step-by-Step Introduction to Aquaponics
It’s been a while since I posted on Aquaponics – or the art of combining fish farming and hydroponics in a mutually beneficial system where fish poop becomes fertilizer, and plants become filters for the fish. From Growing Power’s urban aquapo…
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Chipotle Institutes Local Produce Program
Lettuce Leaves Chipotle
photo: Chipotle

If you’re visiting a destination where you can’t seem to find a sustainable bite, you might be in luck if there’s a Chipotle around the corner. Chipotle, which has in the past taken steps towards being a more ecologically responsible mega chain, has recently increased its local produce program. As you crunch into your massive vegetarian burrito, take solace in the fact that Chipotle has increased an already sizable local produce program by 10 percent….
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New Glasses for Solid Oxide Fuel Cell and Electrolyzer Cell Seals

Virginia Tech professor of materials science and engineering Peizhen (Kathy) Lu has developed new barium oxide-, calcium oxide-, magnesia-, and alkali oxide-free glasses that can be used as sealants in both solid oxide fuel cells and solid oxide electrolyzer cells (SOFC/SOEC).

SOFCs operate by separating oxygen ions from air, which pass through a crystal lattice and oxidize a fuel—usually a hydrocarbon. The chemical reaction produces electrons, which flow through an external circuit, creating electricity.

Composed of ceramic materials, SOFCs can operate at temperatures as high as 1,000 °C (1,832 °F). An SOFC can also be designed to operate with reversed direction of current flow as a solid oxide electrolyzer cell (SOEC) to split steam to produce hydrogen.

To produce enough power or hydrogen for a particular application, SOFC/SOEC modules are stacked together. Suitable sealant material is required to avoid the mixing of fuel (hydrogen or hydrocarbon) and oxidants (oxygen and air) in solid exide fuel cell, and steam and reactant gases in solid oxide electrolyzer cell, to avoid leaking of the gases.

Seals are a key barrier for the high efficiency and long-term integrity of both cells. Although glasses are the best solution for these particular applications, it is very difficult to design a glass to fulfill all the required properties simultaneously. Lu has invented a new self-healing seal glasses that can be used to seal the modules and the stack.

In addition to being BaO-, CaO-, MgO-, and alkali oxide-free, the invented glass seals also contain little amount of or no B2O3. All the developed glasses in this invention have glass transition temperature in the range of 680-750 ºC, thermal expansion coefficient in the range of 10.5-12.5×10-6/ºC from room temperature to glass transition temperature, and dilatometric softening temperature in the range of 720-820 ºC. The glasses are thermally stable up to 850 ºC. The sealing temperature of the developed glasses does not exceed 1000 ºC. The invented glass is suitable for the cells operating at 700-900 ºC for long term.

Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties is licensing the invention.

The US Department of Energy has provided $365,000 in funding for Lu’s SOFC and solid oxide electrolyzer cell research so far.


  • K. Lu and M. K. Mahapatra (2008) Network structure and thermal stability study of high temperature seal glass. J. Appl. Phys. 104 074910 doi: 10.1063/1.2979323

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Mitsui Chemicals Begins Operations of Pilot Plant for Methanol Synthesis from CO2

Mitsui Chemicals (MCI) has begun operating its pilot plant for synthesizing methanol from CO2. (Earlier post.) The pilot plant will produce approximately 100 tonnes of methanol per year as a base material for plastics from the CO2 released during ethylene production at the Osaka Works petrochemical complex.

In MCI’s CSR Report 2008, Masaki Ueyama, from MCI’s ENergy & Utility Unit Planning and Coordination Division, said the MCI estimates that it can convert half of the CO2 emissions sequestered from its plants into methanol.

The process relies on hydrogen obtained from water photolysis and ultra-high activity electrocatalysts consisting of zinc oxide and copper.

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Possible Feedback Mechanism Between Tropical Cyclones and Global Warming

Tropical cyclones could be a significant source of the deep convection that carries moist air upward to the stratosphere, where it can influence climate, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard, published in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Using 23 years of infrared satellite imagery, global tropical cyclone best-track data, and reanalysis of tropopause temperature, David Romps and Zhiming Kuang found that tropical cyclones contribute a disproportionate amount of the tropical deep convection that overshoots the troposphere and reaches the stratosphere.

Tropical cyclones account for only 7% of the deep convection in the tropics, but 15% of the convection that reaches the stratosphere, they found. The authors conclude that tropical cyclones could play a key role in adding water vapor to the stratosphere, which has been shown to increase surface temperatures.

Because global warming is expected to lead to changes in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones, the authors believe their results suggest the possibility of a feedback mechanism between tropical cyclones and global climate.


  • David M. Romps and Zhiming Kuang (2009) Overshooting convection in tropical cyclones. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L09804, doi: 10.1029/2009GL037396

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DOE Issues RFI for Fuel Cells For Combined Heating and Power and APU Applications; Reflective of New Direction for Hydrogen Program

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0000111) seeking input from stakeholders and the research community on proposed technical and cost targets for fuel cells designed for residential combined heating and power (CHP) and auxiliary power unit (APU) applications. This is a Request for Information and not a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA); therefore, DOE is not accepting applications and is instead providing an opportunity for stakeholders to submit feedback on targets for residential Combined Heat and Power and Auxiliary Power Unit applications.

The RFI reflects the steps being taken by the DOE’s Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Infrastructure Technologies Program to rebalance its portfolio in alignment with the DOE’s new position of focusing on fuel cell applications for near-term impact, and less on the long-term development for application in transportation, said Dr. Sunita Satyapal, Acting Program Manager, during the recent Hydrogen and Vehicle Technology combined Merit Review meetings in Washington, DC.

Although the proposed 2010 budget for the DOE reduces funding for hydrogen fuel cell vehicle work (earlier post), the Recovery Act is providing a $42 million boost for nearer-term applications of fuel cells in other areas.

We are rebalancing our portfolio, focusing on fuel cells rather than just hydrogen for long term transportation. We will be technology-neutral, and look at diverse fuels—not just hydrogen, but natural gas, biogas, and other fuels that are readily available and for diverse applications, that can have near-term impact.

In addition, if you look at our program structure, we will focus on fuel cell system R&D. Again, this is technology neutral. This would include materials R&D as well as subsystems. It’s still R&D, so for example, we’re talking about reducing catalyst cost, improving membrane durability. Some of that R&D will still be applicable to long-term transportation, but will also be applicable and help jump start some of these other applications.

—Dr. Satyapal, at the DOE Merit Review meetings

The newly-posted RFI is one example of how the Hydrogen program will gather stakeholder input for the new program focus, Dr. Satyapal said.

We’ve really been focused on transportation, and now we’re expanding. It’s a good opportunity to provide input. We will have targets that we’ll post, feedback on the relevance of recommendation, and the current status of technologies compared to future R&D. We’ll incorporate all that feedback as we look at redefining the portfolio and establishing and formalizing that portfolio.

—Dr. Satyapal

The RFI. The purpose of the RFI is to solicit feedback from stakeholders and the research community on DOE’s proposed performance, durability, and cost targets for CHP and APU fuel cell applications.

High-temperature fuel cells, including (but not limited to) solid oxide fuel cells, are a key focus area of DOE’s R&D activities for stationary power generation because of their fuel flexibility, high efficiency, and potential for use in CHP applications. DOE anticipates that residential CHP fuel cells will use primarily natural gas fuel to provide electrical power, heating, and hot water.

APUs for heavy duty vehicles/trucks also represent a potential early market opportunity for fuel cell deployment. DOE expects truck APU fuel cells to use primarily diesel fuel to power environmental controls and peripheral electrical devices.

DOE is currently working to identify appropriate technical and cost targets for fuel cells for residential CHP and APU applications. The RFI includes preliminary targets developed with earlier stakeholder input, including a workshop in June 2008 at the Program’s Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation meeting. DOE says that responses to the RFI should address one or more of the following:

  • Relevance of the proposed targets
  • Probability that the proposed targets could be achieved as scheduled
  • Recommendations for testing conditions and protocols
  • Adequacy of target table footnotes and/or need for additional supporting information
  • Need for thermal cycling or on/off cycling durability targets
  • Apportionment of CHP energy between electrical and thermal energy
  • Recommendations for additional targets
  • Status of fuel cell technologies in comparison to targets and potential areas of R&D
DOE Proposed performance, durability, and cost targets
for fuel cell systems for residential CHP using natural gas
  Est. 2008 status 2012 2105 2020
Power output 1-10 kW 1-10 kW 1-10 kW 1-10 kW
Energy efficiency at rated power1 ~38% DC 42.5% DC 42.5% AC 47.5% AC
CHP energy efficiency > 75% 80% 85% 90%
Cost2 ~$750/kW $550/kW $500/kW $350/kW
Transient response (10-90% rated power)   < 1 min 20 s 5 s
Start-up time from 20 °C ambient 720 min 240 min 60 min 30 min
Average stead-state degradation < 2%/1000 h 1%/1000 h 0.5%/1000 h 0.25%/1000 h
Transient power degradation < 1% 0.50% 0.25% 0.10%
Operating lifetime ~5,900 h 16,650 h3 24,975 h 4 49,950 h5
System availability 97% 97.5% > 97.5% > 97.5%
1DC net/LHV or AC net/LHV. 2015 and 2020 targets include DC-AC conversion efficiencies.

2Factory cost defined at 50,000 unit production (250 MW in 5-kW modules).

3Approximate hours in 2 yrs of operation at 95% availability.

4Approximate hours in 3 yrs of operation at 95% availability.

5Approximate hours in 6 yrs of operation at 95% availability.

DOE Proposed performance, durability, and cost targets
for fuel cell systems for APUs using diesel fuel
  Est. 2008 status 2012 2105 2020
Power output 1-10 kW 1-10 kW 1-10 kW 1-10 kW
Energy efficiency at rated power1 ~16% DC 25% DC 30% DC 37.5% DC
Power density 17 W/L 25 W/L 30 W/L 35 W/L
Specific power 12 W/kg 15 W/kg 25 W/kg 35 W/kg
Cost2 ~$750/kW $550/kW $450/kW $300/kW
Transient response (10-90% rated power)   < 1 min 20 s 5 s
Start-up time from 20 °C ambient 720 min 90 min 45 min 10 min
Average stead-state degradation 2.6%/1000 h 1.5%/1000 h 1%/1000 h 0.5%/1000 h
Transient power degradation ~1% 0.75% 0.5% 0.25%
Operating lifetime ~3,000 h 12,480 h3 18,720 h 4 31,200 h5
System availability 97% 97.5% > 97.5% > 97.5%
1DC net/LHV.

2Factory cost defined at 50,000 unit production (250 MW in 5-kW modules).

3Approximate hours in 2 yrs of operation at a weekly cycle of 5 days on and 2 days off.

4Approximate hours in 3 yrs of operation at a weekly cycle of 5 days on and 2 days off.

5Approximate hours in 5 yrs of operation at a weekly cycle of 5 days on and 2 days off.

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Maker Faire 09: Cool Solar and Electric Bikes
Bike valet sign photo

Maker Faire is never a let-down when it comes to crazy modes of transportation. The faire featured a large section devoted to some pretty amazing bikes, not only built in interesting and cool ways, but also run off solar power or featuring electric hybrid capabilities. Here are a handful we thought were extra awesome. …
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Maker Faire 09: Turning Book Scraps into Swag
book scraps into swag photo

Recently we TreeHuggers were talking about the big problem of swag at conferences and tradeshows. We brainstormed ways swag could be cut down or made sustainable while still getting businesses’ messages across. It looks like one publisher is already on the ball. Some of the best swag found at Maker Faire was at the Quarry Books booth. They turned the scraps of their published books into new journals to give away….
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Brian Dettmer’s Solution for Recycling Cassette Tapes and Encyclopedia
Brian Dettmer, cassette tape skeleton photo
Image: Andrew Huff, Flickr

Skull #11 (’80s Metal), 2006, by Brian Dettmer

Obsolescence. A leit-motif of our modern age is captured with grace and humor in the artwork of Brian Dettmer. Starting with once common but now superfluous items such as cassette tapes or Encyclopedia sets, Brian Dettmer creates new beauty. The mere concept of reformulating a dead media as a skeleton suffices, but Dettmer hones the message; as the viewer’s eyes scan the warped words on each cassette, the titles drive…
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