Sunday, October 23, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Is it Time for Energy Efficient Windows? Yes. Just Add Up Those Positives.

Posted: 23 Oct 2011 07:00 AM PDT

energy efficient green windows

There are plenty of ways manufacturers can meet the standard of being "energy efficient". A lot of it is pretty technical for average people. From the homeowner's point of view, when you are purchasing energy efficient, you are looking to purchase windows that represent a measurable improvement in keeping cold out on cold days and heat out on hot days. Obviously, the idea is keeping things cool when you want it cool and warm when you want it warm. Windows play a huge part in what comfort result you are experiencing inside your house by greatly influencing the costs to keep it the way you want it.

Windows themselves represent a heating and cooling retention "black hole" for a house. Almost without fail windows are deficient because their existence represents a downgrade from the better-insulated remainder of the dwelling. Heat and cold tend to escape or invade through windows over most other spots in a home. The goal with windows is to be as small a downgrade from the remainder of the dwelling as possible while still allowing desired light in and being able to see out.

In extreme climates such as the North in the winter or the deep South and Southwest in the summer, the worse the energy efficiency of a window, the more you'll likely have to run the heat or the air to keep the inside of the home comfortable. Look around you and you'll see that the cost of heating or cooling is tied to electricity or natural gas. Those costs continue to rise and good luck finding anywhere those rates project to even remain flat. With a true energy efficient set of windows for your home, it won't take long to recoup the replacement costs.

Windows represent an important part of the puzzle approach available to a home owner to increase the energy efficiency of the home. There are more than 20 installations or upgrades which will increase a home's energy efficiency, and decrease the energy costs you'll pay every month on your home. Windows are a super place to start because not only do poor windows increase your costs by 30% or more in extreme weather conditions, but new energy efficient windows stand to instantly increase both the aesthetic quality of your home as well as the resale value.

Besides cost savings more consistent comfort, there's lots more goodies coming in your way for installing energy efficient windows. Start with style. This isn't the boring world of the dull cramped electric car. True energy efficient windows aren't those ugly and gloom inducing tinted windows that immediately spring to mind when you think energy efficiency. Because of government mandates throughout the country requiring energy efficiency in new builds, builders have had to create an entire line of offerings giving consumers loads of choices in picking a pane style, size, and shape that fits their ideal for appearance.

The inside of the home will be more comfortable room to room and even spot to spot too. This is because hot and cold spots created by poor hot or cold air capture with older windows are eliminated by energy efficient windows. The inside of the home also benefits in appearance. Energy efficient windows cut off harmful wood and color fading UV rays by 98%. Energy efficient windows also reduce wood and fabric condensation. They even do a much improved job blocking out unwanted exterior noise.

The tipping factor for many that makes energy efficient windows even more enticing is the government incentives in the form of credits against your tax bill for installing them. There are specific requirements that the windows must meet to qualify for the Federal credit and the availability and requirements for state credits vary. When you are shopping around, keep your tax preparer or accountant on the horn to get the exact specs to qualify for the current tax year. Also keep in mind that greater incentives are likely available if you undertake other energy efficient upgrades in conjunction with replacing your windows.

Sean has specialized in contractor marketing since 2003, helping thousands of contractors build and market their businesses. As Chief Executive of Green Training USA, Sean has created Home Energy Team, a turn-key business and marketing solution which takes all the guesswork out of running a home performance business. The Home Energy Team platform helps energy auditors, contractors and those with no previous experience establish profitable businesses in the home energy efficiency industry. Visit for more.

Windows photo via shutterstock

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“Revenge of the Electric Car”… the Kings (a review)

Posted: 23 Oct 2011 02:57 AM PDT


If Chris Paine’s earlier movie, “Who Killed the Electric Car” (WKtEC), was about people being deprived of their vehicles and used as pawns in a struggle between government regulations and established business, then his latest film, “Revenge of the Electric Car,” is about the Kings.

The Journey
For the trip to the theater, I used an electric vehicle,.. though many don’t consider how the subway’s are powered. The train was stopped two stations short of my destination for a passenger with a seizure and I decided to walk. Many can be subject to what affects one train, but is this so different than a traffic accident on a highway? The air was crisp and most New Yorkers are under-dressed for spending much time outside. Along the way, newspapers proclaimed in headlines the demise of the man who was all but King in Libya, complete with a photo of a fellow next to him sporting a New York Yankees cap on his head.

The Audience
This is the third screening of this movie in NYC. It was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and, on July 12, at the Central Park Naumberg Bandshell, through the mayor’s office and Nissan. Our viewing of the movie was graced by the presence of Tim Robbins, who narrated the film, Marc Schiller, and Ray Wert, who provided some commentary in the film. They provided an introduction and a Q & A after the film.

With a show of hands, it was revealed that most had seen the earlier film and all but one didn’t own an EV. One couple said they had traveled from Maryland (more than 4 hours driving one way) just to see this film. The Tesla Roadster parked out front represented our EV owner, as 4 different cars were to represent the 4 Kings followed in this film.

We were told that this is a very different film than WKtEC. It was not to be viewed as a sequel. Perhaps that makes this a bit of a rogue review, but a comparison seems inevitable and many appeared to be attending with the expectation of a similar perspective or coverage.

Tim Robbins commented that this was a film about ingenuity and would probably not be embraced by the “right-wing,” and we are reminded that, in our polarized society, too often we find ourselves “preaching to the choir.” This turned out to be an even more interesting observation after the movie. He also suggested, to general approval, that the NYC subways do not share the silent operation of other systems and some innovation there may not go amiss. There was a certain anticipation in the air. One next to me asked if I was also going to take notes during the movie. This was a NYC audience.

WARNING, What follows contains SPOILERS.


The Kings
Like a game of cards, each of the four kings are represented by a suit — in this case, their cars: A GM Volt, A Nissan Leaf, a Tesla Roadster, and a converted speedster replica. However, this is not a movie about the cars but the people trying to create them: GM executive Bob Lutz; Mr Detroit, Carlos Ghosn, CEO & President, Nissan; the Warrior, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors; the Rocket Man and Greg “Gadget” Abbott, CEO of Left Coast Electric, who is appropriately nicknamed the Outsider, as he is in the electric vehicle conversion business. The court includes a cast of journalists who comment on the developments. Along with dates and subheadings, there was a full list of items to remember.

The film is a personal history, with the kings representing the industry. To those closely watching current EVents it may seem a bit dated. The 2008 economic collapse comes in the middle of shooting, and mounting tension causes one of the kings to swear. It was left in, earning the film its PG13 rating, though you’ll have to listen carefully to hear it.

MAZDA MIATA EV (represents a conversion vehicle, but not in the movie)

Environmentalism is mentioned in the movie, as well as climate change. Bob Lutz and Carlos Ghosn both comment that they don’t care. What matters to them is that people care, and if they can sell vehicles as a result, this is a clear direction. Carlos Ghosn also doesn’t care about the range of his EV, as his all-consuming goal is a mass-produced car for most people, not all.


The Business Case
In 2003, there was no “business case” for electric vehicles. No numbers are offered. By 2006, we hear Bob Lutz comment on his hate mail after WKtEC. This seems to have shaken his usual charismatic self-confidence. He goes to GM suggesting the EV is a way to proceed. They demure. Tesla proves it can be done. They agree to a hybrid. The business case for an EV, therefore, seems based upon a working model and wounded pride.

How Much Money
Nissan is making a 6-billion-dollar investment. GM spent a billion on building a car. It cost Tesla more than 100 million to make a car that the original business plan said would take only 35 million, and our conversion genius does an EV for $50,000 for the prototype, with eventual hopes of an $8,500 conversion. It is interesting that the numbers, for the manufacturers, are inversely proportional to the final expected cost of the vehicles. This relationship also holds true when we consider that most EVs are initially more costly than alternatives, but are cheaper to operate… until we get to the conversions, some 2-wheel and smaller electric vehicles.

Taking it Away
I found Ray Wert outside after the show. He didn’t have a coat. “In 1920 there were 300 auto manufacturers in the US. Now we have two and a half,” he said. Those who provide our vehicles are like Kings who can dictate our choices with what they choose to give. But sometimes our voice can also be heard.

A Yankees baseball joins the headlines of a king’s demise, reminding us that as this movie is being released, the OWS protest against the 1% holding most of the wealth in this country continues. Pride can be broken, but direction is also required.

The kings featured here show some uncommon qualities. Bob Lutz tells us he wants to take risks in interviews because they also represent opportunities. The risks they take are not personal but spread over large corporations and are often supported by disposable income. Spending wisely is favored over conservation. Focus is also significant. What they don’t care about is as interesting as their directed passions. Overall, the right wing would probably be very happy with the way the film was conducted. It would appreciate the worldview of these captains of industry. At least two of them would be at home in any “right-wing” gathering.

The film lacks the common touch of WKtEC and may also represent broken promises, as the filmmaker at one point steps from behind the camera to identify his personal ownership of one of the cars or, as Bob Lutz says, he is “Never one to turn down a bribe” .. when offered a cigar. Some will come to this film looking for a representation of a movement. They may be disappointed. It is supposed to be a positive film. The questions afterward, like the website, are mostly about the EV industry and not the film or the people involved. It is a measure of EV interest that just the mention of electric cars, without a focus on them (as in WKtEC), is enough to spark interest.

It may be a good archival piece that is not presently in tune with our rapidly changing times. Important to see, but limited to continuing the discussion started in the previous film.

Photo Credits: All photos by author from Plug in Day or the NYC Auto Show (reserved)
For additional photos, see Revenge of the Electric Car on Flickr

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Coldest Parts of Earth Have the Best Solar (PV) Potential, Study Finds

Posted: 23 Oct 2011 02:13 AM PDT


According to a new study, some of the coldest geographic locations on earth have the best solar power generation potential if using photovoltaic panels.

Some of the regions include the southern Andes and the Himalayas.

The two main reasons why some of the coldest regions on earth have the best solar power generation potential are:

  1. They are at high altitudes, which are exposed to more sunlight.
  2. Some types of solar cells (the electricity-generating part of solar panels) generate electricity more efficiently at cold temperatures. Traditional silicon wafer solar cells are affected by heat more than others and, like all solar panels, are exposed to reasonably high temperatures all day long.

I should also add that, according to a study, heat from solar radiation (sunlight) is what degrades solar cells as well as the transparent panels that they are protected behind, and more so than any other environmental factor by far. Heat is almost the exclusive destroyer of solar cells. Because solar cells do not exhibit any measurable degradation without much heat, it is reasonable to assume that they will last longer in colder climates.

It is important, however, to keep in mind that some climates have harsher weather that results in increased hail and strong winds that could damage solar panels with flying debris.

According to the study, covering 4% of the Himalaya’s high potential region with solar panels, which is approximately 12,000 square kilometers (7,460 square miles) could generate all of China’s electricity. China consumes the most energy worldwide. It consumed 4,190 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2010. The United States consumed 3,741 TWh that year.

While large-scale solar setups are expensive to install in the cold areas mentioned above, the results of the study could be an incentive for people to set up small scale solar power plants for rural residents.

h/t Yale Environment 360

Photo Credit: Friar’s Balsam

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Tokai University Wins World Solar Challenge Championship

Posted: 23 Oct 2011 02:00 AM PDT

Rental Mopeds Recharge With Solar Power!

Posted: 23 Oct 2011 01:40 AM PDT

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