Tag: solar

Tesla Energy, Brookfield, and Dacra Create the First Tesla Solar Neighborhood in Austin

The installation of solar panels on a residential roof at the first Tesla Solar neighborhood, located in East Austin, photo courtesy of Brookfield Residential

Not only is Tesla building a $1.1 billion Gigafactory in Austin to make trucks and other vehicles, but Tesla Energy is also creating a solar-powered local neighborhood.

Last week, Tesla Energy announced the first Tesla Solar neighborhood called SunHouse at Easton Park, 12 miles east of downtown Austin. Tesla is working with Brookfield Asset Management and Dacra.

“Neighborhood solar installations across all housing types will reshape how people live,” Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, said in a news statement. “The feedback we get from the solar and battery products used in the community will impact how we develop and launch new products.”

Installation of Tesla V3 solar roof tiles and Powerwall 2 battery storage began in June at select homes in the SunHouse community on land in Brookfield Residential’s Easton Park master-planned residential community.

The houses, being built by various homebuilders, start in the low $300,000s and go up from there.

“This initiative brings together multiple parts of our organization with innovative and forward-thinking partners that share a commitment to advance the development of sustainable communities,” Brian Kingston, CEO of Brookfield’s Real Estate business. “As consumers increasingly seek out energy security alongside sustainable places to live, combining Tesla’s solar technology together with Brookfield’s real estate and renewables development capabilities will help us meet demand for environmentally responsible communities of the future.”

“Our goal is to establish that fully sustainable neighborhoods are not only viable, but the best practical and economical choice,” Craig Robins, CEO of Dacra, said in a news release. “Together with Brookfield and Tesla, we are trying to change the world by creating technology-driven, energy-independent communities that make the world a better place.”

The master-planned community of homes seeks to become an energy-neutral, sustainable community and a model for the design and construction of sustainable large-scale housing projects around the world. The community also expects to produce enough energy to supply daily needs and reduce the daily demand on the electric grid. They will also have backup power and they will have the ability to sell excess energy back to the energy grid.

Tesla Solar will provide ongoing oversight of the homes’ energy systems, and Brookfield’s renewable power business will integrate a community-wide solar program to serve broader public use needs and surrounding neighborhoods. Brookfield Residential will also incorporate a suite of technology features, including electric vehicle charging stations in each home and throughout the community.

The City of Austin and Travis County have both announced commitments to sustainable development.

“The City of Austin is excited for the arrival of these affordable options to housing powered by renewable energy,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a news release. “I am excited for the Tesla, Brookfield, and Dacra partnership’s approach to sustainable energy and housing as an example of the out-of-box thinking that continues to make our community a beacon of innovation for the rest of the country and world.”

As China’s power consumption grows, GE invests in clean energy to meet future demand

The tremendous drive toward clean energy exists because of increased demand for fossil fuels from China and the developing world.
“I’m not a clean energy guy, I’m an energy guy,” said Kevin Skillern, managing director of venture capital for GE Energy Financial Services.
He spoke to several hundred people attending the second day of the Clean Energy Venture Summit 2011, the fifth annual event at the AT&T Executive Education Center in Austin.
Skillern’s key points are a huge need exists for software to drive new energy applications, solar is becoming more affordable and microbes show great promise for providing fuels of the future.
So why is GE interested in the clean energy market? It is the biggest industrial company in the world with a market capitalization of $550 billion. GE is bigger than Exxon plus Wal-Mart plus another company, Skillern said.
“About a third of the world’s power comes from equipment made by GE,” Skillern said. “We’re the biggest company in the renewable industry with wind and solar power.”
GE has backed about 40 renewable energy startup companies since 2005, Skillern said. And about 1,500 business plans come across its desks every year, he said.
In the U.S. people take energy for granted, Skillern said. He has four kids and lives in California. When the power goes out, within two minutes his kids “are going crazy,” he said. But in India, days go by without power, Skillern said.
Fuel and energy is fundamental to our lives and that’s why GE formed Energy Technology Ventures with NRG Energy, an energy retailer, and ConocoPhillips, global energy company. The $300 million joint venture invests in emerging energy technology companies. The venture’s key objectives are to make money, collaborate, gain new technology insights and strengthen relationships.
The current investing environment is challenging, Skillern said. Energy tech stocks were negatively affected in the recent market sell-offs. The clean energy index is down 33 percent year to date. And Solyndra , a solar panel maker in Freemont, Calif. that filed for bankruptcy in Sept. 1 and laid off all its workers, proved one of the biggest venture capital busts ever, he said.
“There are few energy venture capital success stories with real profits yet,” Skillern said.
But on the positive side, the demand for energy innovation is strong and energy remains the largest venture capital segment. An estimated 15 percent of all venture capital dollars are going in energy startups. That’s up from less than one percent 10 years ago.
“The world needs new energy technologies,” Skillern said.
Mature companies and breakthrough technologies are beginning to emerge, he said. And the U.S. remains the most fertile hub of innovation for energy.
Overall, China’s energy consumption will soar in the next decade and that’s driving the need for more energy sources, Skillern said.
“China, in aggregate, consumes as much energy as the U.S.” Skillern said. Seven years ago, it was 40 percent, he said.
In China, the big power source is coal, Skillern said. Twenty years out that trend is not going to go away, he said.
By 2020, the passenger car fleet in China will hit 225 million. Meanwhile the U.S.’s passenger car fleet is shrinking
to an estimated 246 million vehicles, down from an all time high of 250 million a few years ago.
“China will consume the equivalent of all the oil produced in Saudi Arabia,” Skillern said. “That’s a long term trend. But it’s a big, big deal.”
The software industry is driving innovation in the energy industry, Skillern said. He quoted from Netscape founder and Venture Capital Investor Marc Andreessen’s essay in the Wall Street Journal from Aug. 20.
“We are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy,” Andreessen wrote. “Six decades in the computer revolution, four decades since the invention of the microprocessor, and two decades in the rise of the modern Internet, all of the technology required to transform industries through software finally works and can be widely delivered at global scale.”
Today, more than 2 billion people now use the broadband Internet, up from perhaps 50 million a decade ago, according to Skillern’s presentation. And in the next 10 years, at least 5 billion people will own smart phones giving access to full power of the Internet every moment of every day, he said.
“On the back end, programming tools and Internet-based services make it easy to launch new global software power startups,” Skillern said.
For example, in North America one in every six home energy meters is a smart meter, Skillern said. In five years, it’ll be 55 percent, he said. Worldwide smart meter adoption is at 6 percent and it will grow to 19 percent with five years.
“It’s not going to put power plants out of business,” he said.
But it does provide low costs and easy savings for consumers and allows them greater information about energy consumption and control, Skillern said.
Skillern said his household pays 35 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, compared to 10 cents nationally. Software will allow consumers to cut their consumption, he said. Smart meters lead to a 10 percent to 15 percent reduction in their bills.
Consert has a major deployment underway with CPS Energy in San Antonio. Energy efficiency savings from 140,000 homes generates 250 megawatts to create a virtual power plant with the potential to double. The rollout starts in mid-2012 and will be completed over the following three years.

After his keynote, Kevin Skillern with GE visits with people attending the Clean Energy Venture Summit

Already, Consert has hired 20 people in San Antonio since June and it plans to hire eight to ten more by the end of 2011 and more than 150 during the next three years.
Another big trend is making solar energy more affordable. Solar energy costs 30 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with an average of 10 cents nationwide for traditional energy sources. The idea is to make solar a “grid parity” technology which means it can be produced at or less than the cost of delivered grid power without subsidies. Right now, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts have achieved grid parity with government subsidies.
The fluctuation in price of solar energy has to do with location, Skillern said. In Hawaii, solar power is just 9 cents.
“The economics of solar have gotten better by 54 percent in the last three years,” Skillern said. Solar energy is a $70 billion industry today. GE has invested in Solar Edge.
The last big trend is microbes, Skillern said. Some types of algae and other microbes offer potential fuel sources for the future.
“Energy represents one of great societal challenges of our time,” Skillern said. “Breakthrough energy technologies are an essential part of the solution.”

Austin has 200 companies in the clean energy business

At the Clean Energy Venture Summit 2011, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce Director for Clean Energy, Jose Beceiro says Austin has more than 200 companies involved in the clean technology industry. It’s a growing area and more companies are relocating to the city all the time, he said.
In fact, Complete Energy Systems, based in Boca Raton, just signed an agreement with Pflugerville City Council to move into a new energy park. The company, which only has eight employees, says it plans to hire up to 200 employees by 2014.

Austin’s Mayor declares city clean energy capital of the world

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell declared the city the clean energy capital of the world at a reception for the Clean Energy Venture Summit 2011 at city hall Wednesday night.
The city’s goal is to have 35 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2020 and it’s well on its way to achieving that goal, he said.
In the last few weeks, the city has signed wind contracts that will put it at 30 percent of its energy coming from renewables by the end of next year, Leffingwell said.
Austin has a very mature high-tech industry that provides a support base to nurture clean energy business that continue to grow, Leffingwell said.
Several years ago, Austin declared itself the live music capital of the world and no one has ever challenged that, Leffingwell said. So he expects the clean energy capital of the world slogan to stick as well.
The changes started at city hall, which is the only city hall that is a national wildlife habitat, it has all kinds of renewable features including solar panels, Leffingwell said.

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