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U.S. Solar Created More Jobs Than Oil And Gas Extraction January 21, 2016

Filed under: Energy Exploration,Energy Generators,Green Living,Solar — bferrari @ 6:39 pm
Two of 105 solar panels are installed on the roof of a barn Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, north of Hesperus, Colo.

Two of 105 solar panels are installed on the roof of a barn Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, north of Hesperus, Colo.

Over the last year, the solar industry added jobs twelve times faster than the rest of the economy, even more than the jobs created by the oil and gas extraction and pipeline sectors combined.

The Solar Foundation released its annual Solar Jobs Census Tuesday, and found that for the third straight year, the solar workforce grew 20 percent in the United States. According to the census, the industry added 35,052 jobs, elevating its grand total to 208,859. That builds on the 31,000 jobsadded the year before, and 23,600 added the year before that.

“It’s incredible,” SolarCity CEO and co-founder Lyndon Rive told ThinkProgress. “The industry employs over 200 thousand people — more than the coal industry.”

The census found that even just the U.S. solar installation sector employed 77 percent more people than the coal mining industry. Installers have reported the most job growth by far, with project development, sales, and distribution also rising.

Solar employment growth by sector, 2010-2015CREDIT: TSF

Solar employment growth by sector, 2010-2015CREDIT: TSF

Most of these jobs (83 percent) were new positions, and 65 percent were in the installation sector. Solar ranked third behind wind and gas power capacity in 2015, with over two gigawatts being added to the grid across several states. Companies expect this trend to continue as costs keep declining — over two dollars per watt over the last five years.

Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the Solar Foundation, told ThinkProgress that the industry “continues to create skilled well-paying jobs at a really fast clip.” Workers in the solar industry, she said, find it easy to rise and be promoted, while wages continue to be competitive with similar industries. Solar businesses are employing more women than in previous years — 49,775 workers over the last year, which is up from 37,500 the year before. Though the census did find some percentage decline in racial and ethnic minorities working in the solar industry — 5 percent of the workforce is African American, 11 percent Latino, and 9 percent Asian/Pacific Islander — the absolute numbers did rise.

The percentage of military veterans working solar jobs declined to 8.1 percent in the last year from 9.7 percent in 2014. Luecke said that the number of veterans in the industry did rise in an absolute sense to 16,835, but they just did not grow as quickly as the rest of the workforce. She said that some of the variability can be attributed to regional changes. Arizona, for instance, has a workforce rich with veterans and Latinos, but the state experienced some “job turmoil” in the last few years. SolarCity’s Rive said he did not believe that the flat growth trend was true for SolarCity: “we’ve got a really aggressive veterans hiring program.”

With one in five employers reporting that it is “very difficult” to find qualified employees, the labor demand is there, and so these imbalances seem easily addressed.

Last year, President Obama announced a new program aimed at providing solar training to veterans, called “Solar Ready Vets.” Last week the initiative began in its eighth installation at Fort Drum, New York.

The census measures employment in the time period preceding November 2015, and uses company surveys, growth trends, and extrapolations similar to those used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to arrive at its totals. It includes all direct solar company jobs and some indirect solar-focused positions. This ranges from installation to sales, finance to R&D.

The report said its data “is derived from a statistically valid sampling and survey that went to nearly 400,000 establishments throughout the nation.”

Rive said that SolarCity added over 6,000 jobs over the last year, bringing the total to around 15,000. “This year we want to add almost as many,” he said.

Regional data is not available in the census released Tuesday; Luecke said that data would be available in February.

2016 looks to be a big year for the solar industry after Congress extended the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Luecke told ThinkProgress that the fight over the ITC had made solar businesses “very cautious about their hiring plans,” though the certainty going forward could boost hiring and installation projections through 2016 and beyond.

However some states, such as Nevada, enacted policies that would make electricity for solar households more expensive, which cannot help but influence solar industry hiring. “These jobs can be lost if you have a person who doesn’t look at the future and only looks at supporting the monopolies of the utilities,” Rive said.

The fights over solar fees, taxes, and net metering in Nevada and Arizona — states that could be leading the nation in solar power production — have led to layoffs.

“In December, the Nevada PUC decided to kill solar in the state,” Rive said. “There’s probably about 5-6 thousand solar jobs in the state, and most of those jobs are going to get laid off. We just laid off 550 people in Nevada. At the stroke of a pen, three people can decide the fates of millions. We’re going to fight it — we think it was unethical.”

As demand for solar rises, and these companies get more efficient at production and installation, what does that mean for job numbers?

“In 2013 it used to take two days to install one system,” Rive said. “In 2015, we were a little less than one system per day — efficiency has essentially doubled. I don’t think we’ll have that kind of leapfrog again but we could get close to 1.2 systems per day.” Rive explained how the 2013 change was due to some important technology: the company’s acquisition of Zep Solar, which simplifies the mounting of the panels on the rooftop.

Luecke said that the industry used to see a more direct relationship between installed capacity and jobs even as companies were getting more efficient. In 2012, it took 19 people to install a megawatt of solar power; that number is now 15, and Luecke expects the trend to continue as crews get more and more efficient and competent. “We’re going to have the ability to install more, and more cheaply.”



Hybrid Cars – Elio To Launch by Mid-2016 With 41,000 Reservations And Counting October 11, 2015

Filed under: Electric,Gasoline,Green Living,Hybrids — bferrari @ 2:56 pm
86 MPG Elio Hybrid

86 MPG Elio Hybrid

The ongoing saga of Elio Motors’ push toward production now projected by mid 2016 took a new step last week with the aspiring automaker’s first-time presence and press conference at the New York International Auto Show.

With 41,000 reservation holders having shelled out $100-$1,000 for the American startup’s economical three-wheeled, front-wheel-drive vehicle, Elio has been likened to an “anti-Tesla” and has many supporters as well as detractors willing to offer opinions on its prospects.

In New York, founder and namesake Paul Elio gave a brief talk April 2 for the media and fielded questions.

Elio Motors has said production deadline for the tandem two-seater – which has been pushed back – as well as funding goals, and mpg estimates are not hard-and-fast, but general ranges.

At the same time it does continue to tout eye-catching statistics like 49 mpg city, 84 mpg highway for $6,800 but these targets the company concedes are not do or die, but they remain, and it will at least be very close if not on the money.

“I wanted it to be high mileage, and I think our initial target was 75, and then we realized we could do better,” said Paul Elio in January to Jalopnik in a lengthy phone interview. “84 was a stretch target if you will, and we’re very close to hitting it. Right now, I think we’re about 81.4, but we’re continuing to work on the design. So I don’t know that we’ll hit 84, but let’s face it, if we go into production at 81, did we fail? I want to hit it because I said I would. But from a social impact and product value, anywhere in that neighborhood is going to be dandy and I know we’re there.”

Paul Elio has his talking points down, and to his supporters, he’s been called a visionary with a more-practical mission than Tesla chief Elon Musk.

Whatever is the case, while there’s been some ambiguity on how to classify the vehicle, it is officially a motorcycle, he says, or rather, an “autocycle.”

SEE ALSO: The Elio – High Hopes For This Unusual UnderdogThis term was explained by Vice President of Sales Jerome Vassallo in an interview with April 1 at Elio’s modest presentation in the basement of the Javits Center, and Vassallo says proposed legislation would classify the Elio uniquely.

An autocycle is a sub-class of motorcycle that includes three wheels, automotive airbags, automotive controls, and a roll cage – i.e., the reinforced cabin.

Additionally, Vassallo said insurance should be motorcycle cheap while the company strives for maximum safety. Given that the Elio should be safer than a motorcycle, Vassallo said Elio could argue insurance premiums ought to be even less, but it will be content if underwriters at least keep it lower cost than an automobile.

Highest Safety Standards

If you have read reports saying Elio will be granted a “5-star safety rating” from the federal government, Vassallo said Elio has never said exactly that, nor could it because the federal government does not crash test motorcycles. Rather he says it will meet the “highest safety standards.”

Whether the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration chooses to anonymously purchase and crash test the Elio after it’s in production is still up in the air though the request has been made.

This is potentially even a “political” question, Vasallo said. If NHTSA decides not to crash test the Elio, it will nonetheless be engineered for occupant protection with its automotive-length crumple zone, three airbags – front and side curtain – and if needed, Elio will contract a private firm to crash test the autocycle and provide data.

What safety “standards” it might meet is unclear given that it’s not classified as a car, and there are no crash test standards for a motorcycle, but the gist is the autocycle will be safe, potentially even counter-intuitively so.

The Anti-Tesla?

Paul Elio says the Elio story began after he could take it no more hearing of U.S. trade deficit, money going offshore to feed the oil habit, environmental and related issues, and decided to take matters into his own hands.

It’s been said in ways his bargain-basement priced solution could not be more different than the technologically avante garde approach Tesla is taking with its $75,000-$140,000 Model S and other creations pending.

That its objective is at least similar to Tesla Motors is clear however, and both companies contemplate overlapping goals with very different thinking.

Where Elio is different includes, but is not limited to it caters to “poor” people – or those on a budget. Its demographic is those who want a cheap commuter, not an ultimate long-range, gas-eschewing large electric sedan capable of competing with all comers, even in P85D form against a Lamborghini Aventador in stoplight drag races.

Tesla aims to go down market too, but one $35,000-$50,000 Model 3 could buy at least five Elios so Elio is aiming to sell them in bunches like bananas. Tesla’s “gas savings” touted for a Model S is $10,000 over five years.

Vassallo said a buyer would be hard pressed to equip an Elio from its a la carte menu options above $10,000.

The Elio is also a motorcycle, not a car, and it is a low-tech internal combustion-powered vehicle. Elio is developing its own 900cc naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine modeled on the Suzuki/Geo Metro developed engine used in prototypes. German engineering firm IAV which makes engines for Mercedes, others, and “did the Veyron” engine for Bugatti is doing the work, but this will be produced in-house in Elio’s Shreveport plant.

Tesla by contrast constructs proprietary electric drive systems and to date has sold technology to Toyota for its RAV4 EV and Mercedes-Benz for its Smart Electric Drive and B-Class Electric.

Like Tesla, Elio occupies a formerly GM-affiliated facility, in the U.S., and pro-USA Elio says this will create 1,500 jobs and be 95 percent U.S. content. Last week, Elio said the U.S. originated engine from a U.S. startup automaker was recently fired up. This was the first time in 60 years a U.S. automaker had done this, he said.

Unlike Tesla, Elio does use gasoline, just less of it, and the company does tout this benefit potentially from an energy security and environmental standpoint.

“At up to 84 mpg you’ll be passing gas pumps in your Elio all day long. Which also means you’ll be putting far less pollutants in the air than even the most environmentally-friendly cars,” says Elio on its website. “Multiply that times the number of Elios projected to be sold, and America could save almost 5 billion gallons of fuel per year, while reducing harmful CO2 emissions by more than 90 billion pounds.”

There’ve been questions and loose dealing of facts sloshing around the blogosphere about this car being a motorcycle which has been said not to need to meet emissions regulations, but this is not exactly correct.

Motorcycles sold in the U.S. do need to meet less stringent regulations, and the Elio which is built from all automotive componentry will have a catalytic converter and be developed to relatively efficient automotive standards.

Its design ethos of using lower tech (thus less expensive) parts also means while it will have variable valve lift, 12.5:1 compression yet compatible with regular gas, the 55-horsepower mill won’t have direct injection or other tricks such as a Ford 1.0-liter EcoBoost has.

Estimated performance for its new car is 0-60 in 9.6 seconds, top speed of 107 mph.

Vassallo said amongst all the brainstorming that happens behind the scenes, the proposal of racing Elios has been floated, he thinks it would be a neat idea, but no plans are pending.

Despite deviating with its own engine and re-engineering parts like the windshield washer bottle, or the hood latch to save $20 per car, Elio is trying to use parts bin engineering where it can. It simultaneously boasts of thinking outside the box but staying safely within a cost-containing box and implies it is working smarter, not harder to deviate from what it describes as major automaker practice which may be careless with production costs.

This is part of the formula for hitting that $6,800 price point which Elio will offer in strip mall-based privately owned stores.

Here too the formula is like Tesla but different in that it’s planning factory stores with no pressure, no haggling. Where it differs from Tesla is that its real estate will not be as premo as Tesla’s which plants itself in high-floor traffic districts to attract enough upper socioeconomic folks who can afford the Model S and subsequent planned products.

Rather, Elio offers an inexpensive, novel conveyance that will do the job, and while progressive in its sales approach, it expects buyers to come to it.


Elio Motors has inspired quite the following, while simultaneously provoking several writers and other self-appointed guardians of the truth to decry it as a “scam” on a high order, or simply an overoptimistic goal which cannot succeed.

Numerous objections start with the low price and relatively high mpg for a U.S. based manufacturer, considering such facts that imported scooters can cost a few thousand more, and perceived red flags range from there.

Another objection is three wheelers have a checkered history of ever being embraced in America, and that the Elio is a motorcycle in a country checkered with helmet laws and motorcycle licensing laws meaning bottlenecks to sales here and there.

Paul Elio said the autocycle is actually safer without a helmet as a helmet could increase likelihood of injury. Still, some states may require owners be licensed as motorcyclists before they may drive the Elio on their roads.

To this, Elio Motors says motorcycle licensing and helmet laws are a minor issue, it’s lobbying state by state, has had success in reasoning with lawmakers, and Elio says issues will be resolved.

Another sore point for detractors is the fact Elio is building its own engine and not using an off-the-shelf component like it otherwise boasts of as smarter engineering. Elio says when it made the decision to build its own engine, supply was not available from other sources, so this is the road it chose.

And one other big issue is that life blood of any company – funding.

Vasallo said Elio has a goal of $300 million, a number that’s been reported in the middle $200 million range at other times, and in any event Elio Motors has raised $65 million – mostly from private venture capital funding and one wealthy backer.

Meanwhile, the capital-light business model has become the most successfully crowd-sourced company in history, said Paul Elio, and counting 41,000 reservations it has “pre-sold” $280 million in product. This assumes 100 percent of all reservation holders do not back out though the “all in” reservation holders are obligated with non-refundable deposits.

Elio said also the first year 5,000 reservation holders signed on, the next year 33,000 did. Beyond this, he said he believes 250,000 reservation holders may sign up meaning 100-percent of the plant’s production capacity is accounted for (18:17 in video).

Vasallo said the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (AVTM) program re-contacted Elio Motors and offered to let an application made a few years ago be reopened. After negative press and political fallout from loans gone bad to Solyndra, the government had shut the AVTM program down, but it’s again accepting applications.

It’s believed established suppliers are more likely to be approved, but Vassallo said $185 million is potentially waiting in federal tax dollars if AVTM stamps yes on Elio’s request.

For the above objections and more, the company has patiently answered and its website does as well.

Helping Elio’s case is the fact Pep Boys has signed on to service the company’s products, and Elio Motors is making headway which means objectively, the jury is definitely out despite subjective feelings expressed by naysayers, fans or anyone in between.


Elio Motors fully acknowledges it is selling what others have said is pie in the sky, but it maintains these sky high aspirations of a reliable, safe, American-manufactured car that gets 49 mpg city, 84 mpg highway, and starts at $6,800 is on its way.

Today’s economy and market have witnessed other companies with big ideas floated amidst a sea of naysayers and some are still standing even if they defy traditional accounting fundamentals in some sense.

Three or four years ago Tesla looked far more shaky than it is, and it has defied odds, so will Elio do so as well from the low end of the spectrum with quite the different alternative?

For its part, Elio is shooting for first deliveries sometime before June 2016. Stay tuned.



Egg-shaped Home Powered by Sunlight and Wind Lets You Live Off-grid Anywhere October 4, 2015

Filed under: Green Building,Green Living,Solar,Wind — bferrari @ 8:25 am
The Ecocapsule offers a radical alternative to conventional housing and can be situated anywhere on Earth.

The Ecocapsule offers a radical alternative to conventional housing and can be situated anywhere on Earth.

The sleek, egg-shaped capsule resembles a spaceship, complete with antennae and a layer of futuristic cells.

But the striking design from Slovakian group Nice Architects represents a creative effort to offer housing solutions for this planet. The ‘Ecocapsule‘ is a mini apartment with all the conventional luxuries you would expect, but generates its own clean energy and can be situated anywhere, from city to tundra.

After six years of development, the capsule was unveiled to rapturous acclaim at a recent design festival. Nice Architects have already received thousands of pre-orders and the buzz has extended to celebrities.

“We were not prepared for the reaction,” says Nice partner Igor Zacek. “We started small but now we have to revise our model.”

It was first displayed at Austria's Pioneer Festival.

It was first displayed at Austria’s Pioneer Festival.

The capsule marries form and function with stylish aesthetics. It powers itself through solar cells that cover the roof and a retractable 750W wind turbine, while the curved shape maximizes energy efficiency and allows for the collection of rainwater, which built in filters make safe for human consumption.

These measures make it practical in even the most remote locations, and for ease of transport it fits within a regulation shipping container.

As for living conditions, the design maximizes the eight square meters of interior space, managing to fit in in a folding bed, workspace that doubles as a dining area, en suite bathroom, kitchenette and storage.

Zacek sees specialist and general purposes for the capsule: “One use is businesses hospitality for entrepreneurs,” he says, adding that many of the pre-orders have been for multiple units from hotel affiliates.

“We also thought of people that have a relationship with nature, but based on the response it could be for almost everybody, it has caught the imagination and reminded people of childhood dreams.”

The architects have also worked to make the design better suited to the urban environment, making the shape more compact and improving energy efficiency.

Zacek believes it offers solutions for city dwellers suffering overcrowded conditions and exorbitant rents.

“We talked about areas with high rents. Google used to house employees in a van until they could afford to buy a house. This could be a better solution.”

Future iterations will feature smart weather forcasting software, which will set the interior climate accordingly.

Future iterations will feature smart weather forcasting software, which will set the interior climate accordingly.

Faced with enormous demand, the designers are now seeking to evolve the concept further. More intelligent features such as weather prediction software will be included in future incarnations, as well as a wheeled chassis for greater mobility.

As for the psychology of living in a capsule, Zacek believes users will be pleasantly surprised by the comfort.

“It seems quite small from outside, but spacious from inside. There are a lot of options where to go (in future), once we are established on the market, we can play with scenarios.”

Other architects seem to agree — the egg shape is emerging as a popular concept for green living space.

When the Ecocapsule reaches the market next year, the buzz will reach new heights.

Visit the Creators Webiste


Mystery No More: Tesla’s Model X Unveiled September 30, 2015

Filed under: Biofuels,Gasoline,Green Living — bferrari @ 10:09 am

Tesla’s new Model X

The crossover vehicle is Tesla’s third model and will join the Model S on the market. The signature series Model X will cost in the low six-figure range for customers seeking a fully loaded, top-of-the-line experience.

With the same options as a Model S, the new car will cost $5,000 more because of its size and body complexity, Musk tweeted. The base Model S starts at $70,000, not including any tax incentives that could be used at the federal and state level for electric vehicles.

The Model X is said to be able to seat seven people in three rows of seats, with the car having wing-like doors instead of opening from the sides. It’s unclear what the final pricing will be for the vehicle, which was first announced in 2012, but it hasn’t stopped Tesla devotees from putting down a deposit to reserve their Model X.

Getting the delayed Model X to customers will help Tesla clear the way for its next project — the lower cost Model 3. Musk revealed the electric car company will show off the look of the vehicle March and will begin taking pre-orders around that time.

The smaller sedan is expected to cost around $35,000 and will begin production in 2017.


Thirsty Concrete Absorbs 880 Gallons of Water a Minute September 27, 2015

Filed under: Green Living — bferrari @ 10:02 am

It’s a bit like a large-scale magic trick. In the video above, a truck dumps gallon upon gallon of water onto the pavement, and it all seems to disappear the moment it hits the ground.

Behind the magic: Topmix Permeable, an absorbent concrete that’s made by Tarmac and able to filter 880 gallons per minute through its pervious top layer. The water then goes to a drainage system where it re-enters the groundwater system.

The porous concrete could help to prevent flash floods by serving as a reservoir during heavy rain periods. It could also improve safety conditions simply by reducing puddles and overflow, plus it stays cooler than most asphalt in the sweltering months.

While the “thirsty” Topmix holds a lot of promise for many regions, it’s untenable in colder climates, where frozen water in winter months would expand and wreck the surface.


Coffee Grounds Can Absorb Global Warming-Causing Methane Through a Simple Treatment September 8, 2015

Filed under: Energy Ineffiency,Global Warming,Green Living — bferrari @ 11:41 am

Tech Times noted on their article published on Wednesday that scientists have found a way to convert coffee grounds used in compost, allowing them to act as sponges that absorb greenhouse gas methane, which causes global warming.

In order to come up with methane sponges, the coffee grounds are submerged in a solution that consists of ingredients found in oven cleaners and are boiled in a furnace with a temperature of over 700 degrees Celsius. This process will hopefully eradicate methane from the atmosphere. It could even be used in natural gas fuel cells.

“The big thing is we are decreasing the fabrication time and we are using cheap materials,” said one of the study’s authors Christian Kemp of Pohang University of Science and Technology, Korea. “The waste material is free compared to all the metals and expensive organic chemicals needed in other processes. In my opinion, this is a far easier way to go.”

Activated carbon or activated charcoal is absorbent enough to wash away the toxins in people who experience poison-ingestion or drug overdose. With coffee grounds being absorbent as well, scientists have been able to do away with the filtering and washing methods, which are usually done to activate a material’s carbon.

In the method conducted by the scientists, the coffee grounds’ carbon are activated during the treating process and heating process in the furnace. These steps are enough to make the coffee grounds absorb methane gas and fight global warming.

On an article published today by the Business Insider, methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide topping the list. In a period of a century, it has been found that methane is 25 times more harmful in global warming compared to carbon dioxide.

The fast and low cost way of turning coffee grounds into methane sponges can help save the world from global warming without causing hazards to humans, considering that current methods are expensive, heavy and dangerous.


Italy’s Eni discovers huge gas field off Egyptian coast, Largest Ever August 31, 2015

Filed under: Energy Exploration,Global Warming — bferrari @ 8:13 am
Eni said the well could be one of the largest in the world

Eni said the well could be one of the largest in the world

Italian energy group Eni says it has found one of the world’s largest natural gas fields off Egypt’s coast.

The company said the area was 1,450m (4,757 feet) beneath the surface and covered 100 sq km (39 sq miles).

It could hold as much as 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, or 5.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent, Eni said.

The company says that the Zohr field “could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds” and help meet Egypt’s gas needs for decades.

“This historic discovery will be able to transform the energy scenario of Egypt,” said Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of Eni.

Eni, which has full concession rights to the area, is the biggest foreign energy firm in Africa.

In June, it signed an energy exploration deal with Egypt’s oil ministry worth $2bn (£1.5bn) allowing the company to explore in Sinai, the Gulf of Suez, the Mediterranean and areas in the Nile Delta.

Eni’s find follows other significant gas discoveries in the Mediterranean in recent years, including by Egypt’s neighbour Israel.




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