YEAR ESTABLISHED: 1916
NUMBER OF MEMBERS: 650
MILES OF LINE: OVER 110
Located in the southeast corner of Iowa and in the heart of one of the largest Amish and Mennonite communities west of the Mississippi River, the Farmers Electric Cooperative has a hands-on, keep-it-simple approach to financing and building solar energy projects. The 650-member cooperative in the town of Kalona has established a varied and mostly self-financed portfolio of solar and clean energy programs since 2008. It is also a national leader in installed solar watts per customer, with a cumulative solar capacity of more than 1,800 watts per co-op member.
Read more at Solar Success for Nonprofit Utilities
LightSail Energy Advances Grid-Scale Compressed Air Energy Storage. LightSail Energy has developed an advanced grid-scale compressed air energy storage (CAES) technology that stores mechanical energy rather than electrochemical energy. With CAES, an electricity-powered air compressor drives air into storage tanks and the compressed air can then be released on demand to generate electricity. The LightSail system captures and stores both the mechanical energy and the thermal energy used in compressing air. To do this, a water mist is infused into the compression chamber as the air is compressed. Water can hold 3,300 times as much heat as the same volume of air, and as such, it is able to capture the heat generated by the process more effectively. Both potential energy in the form of pressurized air and the heated (and therefore higher-energy) water can be stored. The LightSail team is working on the system’s round-trip efficiency and report they have “consistently achieved over 90 percent thermodynamic efficiency.” The company will ship its first product in 2013, with a unit size somewhere between half a megawatt to a megawatt. (Greentech Media.com, 2012; LightSailEnergy, 2012)
More Than Half of Germany’s Renewable Energy Owned by Citizens or Farms. Slightly over half of renewable energy in Germany is now owned not by corporations but by actual biological people — a democratic shift in control of resources and a break from the way electricity and energy has been produced over the past century. Of all renewable energy in Germany 51% is now owned by individual citizens or farms, totaling $100 billion worth of private investment in clean energy. Breaking that down into solar power and wind power, 50% of Germany’s solar PV is owned by individuals and farms, while 54% of its wind power is held by the same groups. In total there’s roughly 17 GW of solar PV installed in Germany—versus roughly 3.6 GW in the US (based on SEIA’s figures for new installations though the third quarter of 2011 plus the 2.6 GW installed going into the year). Germany now produces slightly over 20% of all its electricity from renewable sources.
By Rosie Wong, March 9, 2012
With its muddy roads, humble huts, and constant military patrols, Bajo Aguán, Honduras feels a long way away from the slick polish of the recurring UN climate negotiations in the world’s capital cities. Yet the bloody struggle going on there strikes at the heart of global climate politics, illustrating how market schemes designed to “offset” carbon emissions play out when they encounter the complicated reality on the ground.
Small farmers in this region have increasingly fallen under the thumb of large landholders like palm oil magnate Miguel Facussé, who has been accused by human rights groups of responsibility for the murder of numerous campesinos in Bajo Aguán since the 2009 coup. Yet Facussé’s company has been approved to receive international funds for carbon mitigation under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
The contrast between the promise of “clean development” and this violent reality has made Bajo Aguán the subject of growing international attention — and a lightning rod for criticism of the CDM.
Read more in Foreign Policy in Focus..