DOE Funded Charging Stations Go Under; EV’s on the Move with GM & VW; Google Lifts Solar Plane’s Global Voyage; U.S. Grants LNG Exports

Electric Vehicles On the Move

Ecotality Inc, a San Francisco-based maker of charging stations for electric cars under the Blink and Minit Charger brands that won a $99.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 has filed for bankruptcy protection, and plans to auction its assets next month, according to Reuters. According to a court filing, the Energy Department is owed $6.5 million as the largest unsecured creditor of Ecotality affiliate Electric Transportation Engineering Corp.
Ecotality is just one more on a growing list of U.S. clean transportation companies that have struggled against or succumbed to consumer resistance to the high cost and restricted driving range associated with electric vehicles.

Undaunted by the slow traction of electric vehicles in the U.S., Volkswagen will enter the US EV market in 2015 with the e-Golf, according to the New York Times. It’s a charge-up version of the company’s subcompact car.

General Motors also announced it was at work on another electric car that could go 200 miles per charge at a cost of about $30,000, far cheaper than Tesla Motors’ $71,000, all-electric Model S. The Model S can go up to 265 miles on a single charge.  GM believes that a moderately priced electric car with a 200-mile range would make EVs more appealing to Americans, as price and driving range have both been sticking points for US consumers, according to the Washington Post.

Google Invests in More Clean Energy

Google has agreed to purchase the entire output of the 240-megawatt Happy Hereford wind farm outside of Amarillo, Texas, which is expected to start producing energy in late 2014. Chermac Energy, a small, Native American-owned company based in Oklahoma, is developing the farm.  It will provide electricity to the Southwest Power Pool, the regional grid that powers Google’s data center in Oklahoma, according to the Mercury News. The price of the deal was not disclosed, but Google has invested more than $1 billion in several renewable energy projects, including a solar power plant that will be built in South Africa, the Ivanpah solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert, the Spinning Spur Wind Farm in West Texas, the Rippey Wind Farm in Iowa, and Alta Wind Energy Center near the Tehachapi Mountains.

Discovery.com is reporting that solar airplane maker Solar Impulse is teaming team up with Google to promote its goal of circumnavigating the globe in 2015 using only solar energy. They will work together to enhance Solar Impulse’s social media presence as it prepares for its planned flight around the world. The newly announced partnership is the product of a successful collaboration with Google during Solar Impulse’s record-setting, coast-to-coast flight across the United States this past summer, according to company officials.

LNG Exports Granted to Dominion

The DOE gave Dominion Resources permission to export natural gas from its southern Maryland terminal to countries that don’t have free trade agreements with the United States, says the Washington Post. The Energy Department said that Richmond, Va.-based Dominion has received conditional approval to expand exports of natural gas from its Cove Point terminal in Calvert County, Md. Dominion had previously been authorized to export the fuel only to countries with free trade agreements. But now the department says Dominion can export up to 770 million cubic feet of natural gas a day over a 20-year period. Dominion and other energy companies see a lucrative overseas market for U.S. natural gas, which is cheaper than natural gas in Europe and Asia.  Environmental groups blasted the decision, saying that Maryland residents will end up paying the price of exporting fracked gas from Cove Point.  The Chesapeake Climate Action Network plans to challenge Dominion’s efforts to obtain federal and state permits for the project.

Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion’s CEO, told an audience at the Wall Street Journal’s ECOnomics conference that the firm’s biggest initiatives include both the export of natural gas to Asian countries and the build out of natural gas vehicle infrastructure for private trucking fleets in the U.S.

NREL, DOE, and DoD Working Together

The newest building at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO. will let scientists and industry researchers test what happens to the electricity grid when renewable energy is added to the load, reports the Denver Business Journal.  The Energy Systems Integration Facility, which cost $135 million, will support research by both the public and private sectors that’s aimed at updating the U.S. electrical power grid so it can handle more renewable energy. The electrical connections in the building will be capable of handling up to 1 megawatt of power, according to NREL officials. DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz was on hand to dedicate the building as the first of its kind in the country.

Other research efforts underway at the center include a collaborative research effort involving the DOE, NREL, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing in North America that will use 20 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to explore the best ways to integrate electric-only vehicles into the grid.

Moreover, NREL and the US Army are working together to develop a Consolidated Utility Base Energy (CUBE) System, a power system that integrates solar power systems, batteries, and a generator to provide electricity to forward operating bases (FOBs), according to Solar Industry Magazine.

 

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