US Cities In Which The Fewest People Drive To Work

by Nicholas Brown

Percentage of commutes done by bike, public transportation, and foot.
Percentage of commutes done by bike, public transportation, and foot.Image Credit: IQC.

The US is such a large country, that it has co-cultures and is almost like multiple countries in one. As a part of that, people’s habits and the accessibility of transportation options vary significantly throughout the country.

For example, in Oklahoma City, only 2.2% of people travel to work without cars. Tulsa and Fort Worth are tied just an edge above that. Notably, Tulsa is also in Oklahoma – its second-largest city. Meanwhile, in New York City, 67% of people travel to work without cars. It’s a world of difference.

Leading the nation at 67%, NYC’s subway system and density are surely big parts of that. There is also the fact that intense congestion (largely a result of high density) in some parts of the city can deter people from driving, as they don’t appreciate long waits in traffic.

The Institute For Quality Communities, which is at the University of Oklahoma, gathered data from Census metrics of how Americans usually travel to work to come to  the above conclusions. Here are more of their findings:

Next are charts where it is broken down by region and individual mode share.

Here’s the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic:

Image Credit: IQC.
Image Credit: IQC.

The Midwest:

chart-3
Image Credit: IQC.

The Southeast:

chart-4
Image Credit: IQC.

Finally, here are cities where bike transportation increased significantly over the last decade:

chart-5
Image Credit: IQC.

Congratulations to these cities for their strong and effective support for bicycling. Let’s see if these cities can surpass New York’s public transportation usage rate someday!

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This article, US Cities In Which The Fewest People Drive To Work, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa.

5 Solar Growth Markets That May Surprise You

by Zachary Shahan

U.S. PV Market Growth Through 1H 2013
U.S. PV Market Growth through the First Half of 2013.

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

You probably know which states have been strong solar growth states over the past several years — California, Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina…. But below are 4 states and one city that are picking up some serious steam in the solar power arena (can I use “pick up steam” with solar PV?), and that you probably wouldn’t guess are primed to become solar leaders.

GTM Research, which revealed these at Solar Power International last week, has termed them “hidden growth opportunities.” GTM Research projects a total of over 1 gigawatt (1 billion watts) of solar PV demand in these markets between the second half of this year (2013) and 2016. That’s a lot. Solar panel suppliers are going to love these 5 markets.

So, let’s very quickly check out these hot (or soon to be hot) solar markets (in no particular order):

1. Minnesota

Not exactly the sunniest state in the US, state requirements that utilities get 1.5% of their electricity from solar power and 10% from distributed, small-scale power generation systems (systems 20 kilowatts or smaller, such as home solar systems), as well as net metering (which allows solar power producers to sell their electricity back to the grid at retail electricity prices) for systems up to 1 megawatt (MW) in size, could help boost Minnesota’s solar power capacity from about 13 MW today to about 450 MW by 2016. We’ll see….

Notably, for homeowners who go solar in Minnesota, you’re expected (on average) to get a 10% internal rate of return (IRR) on your investment, which beats the S&P 50-year CAGR of 9.9% — very, very good.

2. Virginia

Virginia has low electricity rates and not the best solar resources around. So, how is this state showing up as a hot solar market? Well, a Virginia law, HB 2334, requires that Virginia’s large utility, Dominion Energy, implement a 50-megawatt PPA renewable energy pilot program. 50 megawatts is a sizable pilot project, and who knows what it might stimulate? Virginia also has net metering. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much else going for it when it comes to solar power, except perhaps a lot of people who would like to rely on their own clean electricity source while also saving money. Those are a couple of big incentives, aren’t they?

Investing in solar in Virginia may not be as lucrative as investing in solar in Minnesota, but it’s still projected to save/make the average homeowner more than investing in a 30-year U.S. Treasury Bond or 5-year CD. Homeowners should be going solar in a heartbeat for the IRR available here.

How much will solar save you? Find out in about 60 seconds!

3. Washington, DC

Yes, here’s the non-state. so, I’m sure you’re wondering: what does this little city have that so big to have put it in this list? For one, 2.5 percent of DC power must be from solar by 2023 (projected to be about 250 MW of power capacity). And the city has an undersupplied Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) market, meaning there’s a lot of need for growth there. Also, net metering in DC is allowed for projects up to 5 MW in size (quite large), allowing for more people to take part in (and profit from) relatively large solar projects, even “community solar gardens.”

Investing in solar in DC has a better average IRR than in any state in the US other than Hawaii. 20%! It’s almost a crime to own a roof in DC and not invest in solar power. Also, thanks to the city’s progressive net metering law, even if you don’t own a roof but live in DC, you can take advantage of that great IRR by investing in a community solar garden. Solar panel suppliers must be drooling looking at the DC market.

4. Louisiana

Louisiana has great solar resources, but almost no solar power installed. GTM Research seems to be hopeful that the market will wake up a bit down there in the coming few years. While there aren’t state requirements for utilities to increase their use of solar power, there is net metering and a state tax credit for solar panel installations through 2017. On average, the projected IRR for someone who goes solar in Louisiana is an extremely attractive 9.4%. It’s a no-brainer.

5. Georgia

Another Southern state with little solar power capacity today and a lot of room for growth is Georgia. A few big new policies look to grow the solar market in Georgia considerably, even though solar leasing remains off the table legally. As GTM writes: “Demand for solar in Georgia will be driven by an attractive feed-in tariff and utility-scale RFPs for twenty-year PPAs. The Georgia Advanced Solar Initiative offers 13 cents per kilowatt-hour for distributed generation and 12 cents per kilowatt-hour for utility-scale solar.” Once those are in place, hold on to your hands, solar power installations are going to be flying into place all over the state.

All in all, cities and states across the country are looking to see a lot of solar power growth in the coming years. ¾ of US solar power installations were connected to the grid within just the past 2½ years, ⅔ of solar PV panels shipped around the world by solar panel suppliers have been shipped just within the past 2½ years, and that pattern of rapid solar growth is expected to continue. Solar panel costs have dropped about 60% since early 2011. There’s no reversing that dramatic fall. The market is maturing, and as a market matures, costs come down.

The 5 markets above seem primed for much stronger solar power growth than they’ve seen so far. If you’re in one of these states or DC, you might want to have a look at the solar incentives that are available where you live. Or, even better, you can have us help you with that while you also get hooked up with a local solar contractor and get professional estimates of how much solar would cost you and how much more you could save by going solar.

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This article, 5 Solar Growth Markets That May Surprise You…, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

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Renewable Energy cost reductions of 50% since 2008

by Silvio Marcacci

That renewable energy is becoming more cost-competitive with fossil fuels isn’t news — as technology improves and more clean power generation comes online, electricity without emissions gets cheaper.

But one new analysis reveals just how shockingly cheap it’s gotten.

The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from wind and solar sources in America has fallen by more than 50% over the past four years, according to Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis 7.0, recently released by global financial advisor and asset manager firm Lazard Freres & Co.

Lazard’s analysis compared the LCOE for various renewable energy technologies to fossil fuels on a cost per megawatt hour (MWh) basis, including factors like US federal tax subsidies, fuel costs, geography, and capital costs.

Unsubsidized LCOE for US energy
Unsubsidized LCOE for US energy graph via Lazard

Utility-Scale Solar, Wind Lead LCOE Charge

The LCOE analysis shows that even during one of the most turbulent times in recent memory for renewables, the environmental and economic benefits of clean energy continue to spur technological innovations and utility-scale deployments across the globe.

According to the analysis, utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) and leading types of wind energy are leading the surge — the LCOE of both power sources has fallen by more than 50% since 2008. Lazard estimates that utility-scale solar PV is now a competitive source of peak energy compared to fossil fuel power in many parts of the world without subsidies.

In fact, Lazard finds certain forms of renewable energy generation are now cost-competitive with many fossil fuel generation sources at an unsubsidized LCOE, even before factoring in externalities like pollution or transmission costs.

Specifically, solar PV and wind energy both fall within the range of $68-$104 per MWh, making them extremely competitive with baseload power from coal ($65-$145 per MWh), nuclear ($86-$122 per MWh), and integrated gasification combined cycle ($95-$154 per MWh).

Financial Incentives, Energy Storage Could Boost Fortunes

The LCOE of electricity from those renewable energy sources falls even further when US federal tax subsidies are included in the equation. Lazard realistically admits incentives are key to pushing renewables toward grid parity without subsidies, but finds wind ($23-$85 per MWh) and thin-film utility scale solar PV ($51-$78 per MWh) especially competitive.

LCOE for US energy with tax subsidies
LCOE for US energy with tax subsidies chart via Lazard

While wind is progressing quite well — generally speaking — against fossil fuel generation in Lazard’s analysis, it could get much cheaper much faster in the near future when combined with energy storage. The report cites numerous examples of existing battery storage combining with off-peak wind production to demonstrate value in load shifting and peak power applications.

And while utility-scale solar PV leads the LCOE charge, rooftop solar PV remains expensive by comparison — a trend evident in recent summaries of the US market. Ironically, Lazard says this may be attributable to the generous combination of multiple levels of tax incentives, which distort resource planning by excluding externalities in long-term outlooks.

Power generation rates for US metro areas
Power generation rates for US metro areas chart via Lazard

Interestingly enough, solar is becoming an economically viable peaking generation source in many geographic regions of the US. This trend is especially apparent in transmission-constrained metropolitan areas like New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Lazard estimates solar could become even more competitive as prices continues to fall, but the observation is somewhat muddled by factors like system reliability, stranded costs of distributed generation for existing systems, and social costs/externalities of rate increases.

“Increasingly Prevalent” Renewable Energy Use

But the most promising potential for the future of renewable energy sources may be their value as distributed small-scale generation. Lazard estimates that the expensive capital construction costs of fossil fuel generation boost their LCOE when utilities consider future resource planning across an integrated system, and make them less cost-competitive — without even considering externalities.

US energy capital cost comparison
US energy capital cost comparison chart via Lazard

Lazard concedes that the future of renewable energy is far from set though, and still faces significant challenges like establishing long-term financing structures in the face of falling subsidy levels, excess manufacturing capacity, and the globalization of markets.

However, renewable energy’s role in America’s energy mix is likely to continue growing despite these challenges, concludes the analysis.

“We find that alternative energy technologies are complementary to conventional generation technologies, and believe that their use will be increasingly prevalent for a variety of reasons.”

This article, Analysis: 50% Reduction In Cost Of Renewable Energy Since 2008, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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U.S. Bike-Sharing Fleet More than Doubles in 2013

By: Earth Policy Institute  — Special to JBS News

chicago bike share

By Janet Larsen

The opening of the San Francisco Bay Area bike share on August 29, 2013, brings the combined fleet of shared bikes in the United States above 18,000, more than a doubling since the start of the year. The United States is now home to 34 modern bike-sharing programs that allow riders to easily make short trips on two wheels without having to own a bicycle. With a number of new programs in the works and planned expansions of existing programs, the U.S. fleet is set to double again by the end of 2014, at which point nearly 37,000 publicly shared bicycles will roll the streets.

U.S. Bike-Sharing Fleet, 2012-2014

The largest bike share in the United States is in New York City, where some 6,000 bicycles are available at 332 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The program opened at the end of May 2013, and in less than 3 months hit 2 million trips. On busy days, each bike gets checked out seven times or more, a remarkably high borrowing rate. The city ultimately hopes to expand the program to other boroughs and grow to 10,000 bikes.

The other large bike-sharing debut in 2013 was in Chicago, where 1,500 Divvy bikes now grace the streets. The program hopes to double to 3,000 cycles by the end of the year, ultimately growing to 4,000 strong—reinforcing the city’s efforts to dramatically boost biking. In addition to making shared bikes readily accessible transit, Chicago plans to extend the path and trail network to within a half-mile of all residences.

GRAPH: U.S. Bike-Sharing Fleet, Largest Programs, as of August 2013

Before New York and Chicago came on the bike-sharing scene, Washington, DC, held America’s top spot. Its program has grown to over 2,000 bikes, spreading into neighbouring communities. Transport planners from cities around the country have made the pilgrimage to Washington to ride one of the cherry-red Capital Bikeshare bikes and see firsthand how the popular program works. Since 2007, biking in the nation’s capital doubled to 3.5 percent of all commuter trips, and bike sharing has made it more convenient to travel the expanding web of marked cycle lanes.

Other large bike shares include Nice Ride in Minneapolis and St. Paul (1,550 bikes), Hubway in the Boston area (1,100 bikes), and DecoBike Miami Beach (1,000 bikes). Aspen, Columbus, Fort Worth, and Salt Lake City are among the more than a dozen programs that opened in 2013, joining a list of cities that have enjoyed bike sharing for longer, including Denver, San Antonio, Chattanooga, Madison, and Fort Lauderdale.

Bike-Sharing Programs in the United States, 2007-2014

On the international scene, the United States is just catching Europe and Asia’s bike-sharing tailwind. Worldwide, more than half a million cycles can be picked up in well over 500 cities in 51 countries. Italy and Spain have the greatest number of programs, while China is home to two thirds of the global shared bike fleet.

New York is the only American city to make it onto the list of the world’s 20 largest bike-sharing programs. In fact, five cities have more shared bikes than the entire U.S. fleet. Four of them are in China, where Wuhan reportedly has some 90,000 shared bikes for its 9 million people. Hangzhou has 69,750 bikes that are well integrated with that city’s mass transit.

The world’s third largest bike share is Vélib’ in Paris, the first large-scale program to gain worldwide attention. Since its 2007 launch, riders have taken 173 million trips. According to the program, one of the nearly 24,000 Vélib’ bikes gets checked out every second of the day. Vélib’ claims to have the highest bike density among the world’s top programs, with one bike available for every 97 city residents.

Largest Bike-Sharing Programs Worldwide, August 2013

Within the next year, the U.S. bike-sharing fleet will have caught up with Paris. New entries in Florida could push the country past that mark, with launches expected in Miami (500 bikes, an expansion from Miami Beach), St. Petersburg (300 bikes), and Tampa (300 bikes). Phoenix is also hoping to launch a 500-bike program that will double in size as neighbouring cities join in. Rollouts hoped for in 2014 include large offerings in Los Angeles (some 4,000 bikes) and San Diego (1,800 bikes), as well as 500+ bike programs in Portland (Oregon), Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Seattle, along with a number of smaller markets.

The new San Francisco Bay Area scheme is starting out relatively diffuse, with 700 bicycles split between San Francisco and other cities along the 50-mile rail line south to San Jose. Planners note that it ultimately could grow to a network of 10,000 bikes, better allowing rail riders to travel the first and last mile or so of their commute on two wheels. As communities continue to improve their biking infrastructure and as enthusiasm for an efficient, environmentally friendly, healthy, and enjoyable form of transportation grows, bike sharing has a bright future in the United States.

U.S. Bike-Sharing Fleet, Largest Program Plans, as of August 2013

(For full list of current and planned U.S. bike-sharing programs, click here.)

For more information on bike-sharing in the United States and globally, see “Dozens of U.S. Cities Board the Bike-Sharing Bandwagon” and “Bike-Sharing Programs Hit the Streets in Over 500 Cities Worldwide,” by Janet Larsen.

Image credit: opacity via photopin cc

This article, U.S. Bike-Sharing Fleet More than Doubles in 2013, is syndicated from sustainablog and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

Washington, DC government agencies to run 100% renewable energy

Washington, DC government agencies to run 100% renewable energy | 22/03/13
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Until now, U.S. government buildings in Washington, D.C. have had 50% of their electrical power needs met with wind-turbine powered electricity supplied by Washington Gas Energy Services CleanSteps® WindPower. That percentage increased recently to 100% as part of the government’s renewable energy target and building efficiency improvement plan.

http://www.eere.energy.gov/topics/wind.html
The United States has tremendous wind resources both offshore and on land. In 2012, the total installed wind capacity in the United States reached 50,000 MW. That’s enough to power more than 12 million homes annually, and it represents an 18-fold increase in capacity since 2000. — photo courtesy of U.S. DoE

Using 100 percent wind power for electricity equates to the Washington, D.C. government avoiding the consumption of 32,825,000 gallons of gasoline or taking 61,000 cars off the road for a year. The world’s fastest-growing energy resource, wind power displaces conventional power, reduces carbon dioxide and helps eliminate air pollution.

“Going green helps foster economic growth and creates modern and vibrant communities across the District of Columbia,” said Brian J. Hanlon, Director, Department of General Services.

“Our goals are to become more energy efficient and reduce our carbon emissions, and our strategic partnership with WGES is playing a role in helping us achieve these objectives.” – WGES press release

Even prior to this announcement, Washington, D.C. held the record among U.S. cities for the highest total renewable energy use at over one billion kilowatt hours per year – or, 11.4% of it’s total electricity consumption.

To read a complete breakdown of U.S. cities and their renewable energy use in 2012, visit this EPA Green Power Community Challenge Rankings page.

“We have stated our mission for Washington, D.C. to be the cleanest, greenest city in the nation, which includes the use of renewable energy for our power sources.

We’re proud that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Washington, D.C. as the leading Green Power Community for our commitment to purchase green power.” — Keith Anderson, Director, District Department of the Environment

In his National Geographic NewsWatch piece, Sam Brooks, Associate Director of the Washington, D.C. Department of General Services and head of its Energy Division said, “conservative estimates indicate a long-term purchase of regional wind power could save more than $100 million over 20 years.”

What could be better than breathing clean air while saving 100 million dollars?

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NOTES:

  1. The U.S. Department of Energy funds R&D to develop wind energy. Learn about the DOE Wind Program, how to use wind energy and get financial incentives, and access wind energy information.
  2. In the District of Columbia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, businesses, organizations, government entities, institutions and individual residents can purchase their electricity and natural gas supply from retail energy providers. Customers in Virginia may purchase natural gas and customers in Delaware may purchase electricity from retail energy providers.
  3. To learn more about WGES and its CleanSteps® products, visit www.wges.com or call 1-888-884-WGES (9437).