‘Solar bros,’ lithium jackpot, and a geothermal breakthrough — This Week in Cleantech

‘Solar bros,’ lithium jackpot, and a geothermal breakthrough — This Week in Cleantech

This Week in Cleantech is a new, weekly podcast covering the most impactful stories in cleantech and climate in 15 minutes or less. Produced by Renewable Energy World and Tigercomm, This Week in Cleantech will air every Friday in the Factor This! podcast feed wherever you get your podcasts.

This week’s episode features Associated Press green energy reporter Jennifer McDermott who breaks down a monumental achievement for enhanced geothermal energy.

This week’s “Cleantecher of the Week” is Lisa Jacobson, head of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. Send your nominations for “Cleantecher of the Week” to thisweekincleantech@tigercomm.us.

This Week in Cleantech — Nov. 17, 2023

1. The Biden Energy Slush Fund — Wall Street Journal

This story involves a critique of the DOE’s Loan Program Office (LPO), designed to fund innovative and potentially transformative clean energy initiatives that might otherwise struggle to get financing. While emphasizing unsuccessful ventures, the story overlooks the program’s overall success. The story brings up Fisker Automotive as a “failed electric-car maker”, but makes no mention of the fact that an LPO loan played a critical role in allowing Tesla to become a $700 billion company.

2. How Solar Sales Bros Threaten the Green Energy Transition — TIME

The surge in demand for rooftop solar panels in the U.S. has exposed a concerning trend—unregulated “solar sales bros” exploiting the situation. Lacking licensing requirements, these individuals use misleading tactics, promising free panels and exaggerated savings. 

While Nevada has taken steps to regulate, opposition from industry players suggests a broader issue. Calls for increased oversight are growing as the solar industry faces challenges in maintaining ethical standards amid rapid growth.

3. BP pays £254mn to take full control of solar joint venture Lightsource — Financial Times

BP’s latest move to acquire the remaining 50.03% of Lightsource bp signals a substantial step in their clean energy transition, initiated in 2017 with a 43% stake purchase. Their commitment to solar aligns with their position as a clean energy leader among oil majors, although skepticism exists among scientists and environmental groups.

Under BP’s complete ownership, Lightsource bp is set to build solar plants catering to BP’s vehicle charging networks, green hydrogen facilities, and biofuel operations. Additionally, Lightsource bp will persist in creating and selling solar projects, providing income that contributes to BP’s earnings in the low-carbon sector.

Watch the full episode on YouTube

4. The Salton Sea has even more lithium than previously thought, new report finds — LA Times

The Salton Sea in California holds more lithium than previously estimated, potentially providing up to 18 million metric tons for electric vehicle batteries. This discovery could yield around 382 million electric vehicle batteries – and the U.S. doesn’t have 300M cars and trucks in its entire vehicle fleet right now. However, challenges such as the corrosive nature of underground brine and high geothermal energy costs may limit the actual extraction to around 4 million metric tons.

Even if extraction is limited, strong winds are picking up toxic dust from the Salton Sea’s drying lakebed and exposing Imperial Valley residents, which is why some are saying this doesn’t involve as much environmental destruction as lithium extraction often entails.

5. New Google geothermal electricity project could be a milestone for clean energy — Associated Press

Teaming up with Fervo Energy, Google has integrated 3.5 megawatts of carbon-free electricity into Nevada’s grid, powering its data centers through Fervo’s new geothermal project. This strategic collaboration is a pivotal step in Google’s commitment to achieving 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030.

The International Energy Agency projected back in 2011 that geothermal could contribute 3.5% of global electricity generation annually by 2050. This achievement could be the kickstart needed to make that a reality.

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Join us every Friday for new episodes of This Week in Cleantech in the Factor This! podcast feed, and tune into new episodes of Factor This! every Monday.

This Week in Cleantech is hosted by Renewable Energy World senior content director John Engel and Tigercomm president Mike Casey. The show is produced by Brian Mendes with research support from Alex Petersen and Clare Quirin.