Monday, February 13, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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PACE Push (Two Opportunities to Help Out)

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 08:52 AM PST


If you remember, PACE financing was one of the best, most promising clean energy models out there, until it was effectively killed a couple years ago (in a complicated story). It has historically received bipartisan support across the country (as the image above shows), since it is an extremely fiscally conservative and progressive program. Well, now, despite it’s hibernation (or temporary death.. if you prefer that analogy), there’s an opportunity to bring it back! You can do two things, at the moment, to help with this. Here’s more info on that, via Vote Solar on email:

Remember PACE, the popular and promising energy financing model that the Federal Housing and Finance Authority stopped cold?

Good news. There are not one but two opportunities for revival. And you can help with each.

The first: a recent court decision has forced the FHFA to conduct public rulemaking on its actions in regards to PACE. This gives advocates a great opportunity to fight misinformation, develop the record with supportive facts, and make the case for PACE on the merits.

Comments are due by March 26, and we want to get as many folks as possible to participate. To that end, we are are holding a webinar that will describe the ruling, explain the rulemaking process, and provide participants with the tools and information necessary to be effective.

Wednesday, February 15
10:30 Pacific / 1:30 Eastern.
To register:

The webinar is designed for city and state officials, renewables and energy efficiency professionals, advocacy groups, and concerned citizens.  More details here.  Spread the word…

Second opportunity: There's a bi-partisan bill in Congress that would put PACE back on track. To date, 51 Congresspeople have signed on in support of HR 2599.  We need more, many more—can you send a note to your Representative to make that number bigger?

Related posts:

  1. PACE Comes to Florida
  2. PACE Coming Back?
  3. PACE — You Can Help Revive It! (& Why You Should)

Top 10 LED Reflector Bulbs on the Market

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 08:21 AM PST

best led reflector bulbThe Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE) recently partnered with Ecova, a sustainability management firm, to determine the 10 best LED bulbs on the market today.

A news release I was emailed briefly explains what the ranking was based on:

“By ‘best,’ the study sought to measure not only an LED reflector bulb's energy-related qualities—its energy efficiency, payback period, and lifetime cost savings—but also how it compared with a halogen incandescent reflector bulb in both its light quality (warmth) and its dimming capability.  In other words, the study focused on ‘consumer friendly’ and efficient LEDs.” More info on how the bulbs were evaluated is here.

The top bulb, overall, was Technical Consumer Products' 17-watt LED PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) 38 bulb, pictured above.

“In comparison with an equivalent 90-watt PAR38 halogen incandescent bulb, this LED bulb offers a lifetime cost savings of $200, produces a soft, warm light similar to a halogen incandescent and dims smoothly.  At a cost of $42, the LED bulb has a payback period of 4.1 years and an estimated useful life of 23 years.  All ten recommended bulbs will save the consumer money and energy, with lifetime cost savings ranging from $72 to $200.”

"LED reflector bulbs are becoming more common," said Lisa Wood, IEE Executive Director, "and given their higher cost and long life—some LEDs now last up to 30,000 hours—consumers need guidance as to which offers not only great energy savings, but also can give them the light quality that they've come to expect from halogen incandescent light bulbs.  Our top ten list is a quick, convenient way to identify consumer friendly, efficient LEDs.  This helps both consumers buying bulbs and utility companies providing rebates for efficient purchases."

Top 10 LED reflector bulbs

Bulbs of three sizes or categories, the most common three, were evaluated. Those sizes/categories are PAR38, PAR30, and PAR20.

“The number of winning bulbs in each category is approximately proportionate to that category's share of ENERGY STAR-qualified LED reflector lamps.  As a result, the IEE top ten list contains five (5) PAR38, four (4) PAR30 and one (1) PAR20 bulbs.”


  1. Osram Sylvania LED8PAR20/DIM/827/FL36—”This is an 8W PAR20 LED medium floodlight. It replaces a 35W halogen flood.”


  1. TCP LED14E26P3030KFL—”This is a 14W PAR30 LED floodlight. It replaces a 75W halogen flood.”
  2. The Home Depot, EcoSmart ECS 30 WW FL—”This is a 15W PAR30 LED floodlight. It replaces a 65W halogen flood.”
  3. Duracell, CMG Energy Solutions DL-P30F-38-30K-BL—”This is a 12W PAR30 LED narrow flood light. It replaces a 50W halogen flood.”
  4. Samsung SI-P8V151BB0US—”This is a 15W LED narrow floodlight. It replaces a 75W halogen flood.”


  1. TCP LED17E26P3830KFL—”This is a 17W PAR38 LED floodlight. It replaces a 90W halogen flood.”
  2. Osram Sylvania LED18PAR38/DIM/830/FL40—”This is an 18W PAR38 LED floodlight. It replaces a 75W halogen flood.”
  3. Philips EnduraLED 17E26PAR38—”This is a 17W PAR38 LED narrow floodlight. It replaces a 75W halogen flood.”
  4. The Home Depot, EcoSmart ECS 38 WW FL—”This is an 18W PAR38 LED floodlight. It replaces a 75W halogen flood.”
  5. Samsung LED Company SI-P8V181DB0US—”This is an 18W PAR38 LED narrow flood light. It replaces a 75W halogen flood.”

What’s a reflector bulb?

From Top Ten USA, a non-profit energy-efficiency ranker, here’s a brief definition and bit of info on reflectro bulbs or lamps:

“Reflector lamps shine in a particular direction, providing either a narrow cone of concentrated light (spotlighting) or a broader cone of more diffuse light (floodlighting). Until recently, people have primarily used those familiar cone-shaped conventional incandescent lights for that purpose. However, those lights waste a lot of energy in the form of heat, and literally burn out relatively quickly. After the passage of federal energy efficiency standards, many of these incandescent lamps have begun using a halogen fill gas to reduce energy use, increase lamp lifetime, and make the light appear slightly whiter or cooler in color.”

Related posts:

  1. IKEA Saying Goodbye to Incandescent Light Bulbs
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  3. Lowes to Carry Electron-Stimulated Luminescence Light Bulbs

Green Homes to Grow 5-Fold by 2016

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 07:14 AM PST

This post was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

green construction boomingWith the construction industry still recovering in the U.S., companies offering "green" services may be able to set themselves apart and grow business faster, according to a survey conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction.

In 2011, green builds in the residential sector made up 17% of construction, totaling $17 billion in economic activity. And the value of the residential green building market is expected to grow five-fold by 2016, taking up to 38% of the market and representing $87 billion – $114 billion.

McGraw Hill defines green building as "one built to LEED standards, an equivalent green building certification program, or one that incorporates numerous green building elements across five category areas: energy efficiency, water efficiency, resource efficiency, responsible site management and improved indoor air quality."

According to figures released by McGraw Hill, 46% of "conventional" homebuilders say that providing green design services makes it easier to find new work. And 71% of firms working exclusively in the green building space say that these services help set themselves apart in a struggling construction market.

Many factors are driving the green homes market, with "higher quality" and "increases in energy costs" topping the list, indicating that today's green homebuyer is not just a green consumer. Buyers recognize that green homes have lower bills due to higher building performance. The reported costs of building a green home have also gone down significantly. Builders report that the cost to go green is now 7%, as compared to 10% in 2008 and 11% in 2006.

While green is growing across the U.S., three regions are seeing higher than average growth. The West Coast has seen the highest green growth; the Midwest's northern region, west of the Mississippi, is second highest; and New England ranks third.

The green remodeling market performed even better than new construction in 2011, with 62% of firms saying green services helped them increase work last year. Just over one third of remodelers say they'll be doing mostly green work by 2016.

This mirrors trends in the commercial sector, where LEED-certified retrofits surpassed new builds for the first time ever in 2011.

All this green building activity translates into new jobs and new skills for existing workers. McGraw Hill reported in October that one third of architects, engineers and contractors in the U.S. — around 660,000 people — say they have "green" jobs. That number may climb to more than 900,000 jobs by 2015.

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Natural Gas Climate Benefits Not All They’re Fracked Up to Be, Study Finds

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 05:21 AM PST

Yikes. Looks like natural gas lovers have more to worry about—aside from the numerous water quality and earthquake concerns facing the industry, its greenhouse gas claims seem a ‘little’ shaky. Here’s more from Joe Romm in this Climate Progress repost:

by Joe Romm

Air sampling by NOAA over Colorado Finds 4% Methane Leakage, More Than Double Industry Claims

natural gas greenhouse gas emissions


Natural-gas operations could release far more methane into the atmosphere than previously thought. [Source: Nature]

How much methane leaks during the entire lifecycle of unconventional gas has emerged as a key question in the fracking debate.  Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4).  And methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2), which is released when any hydrocarbon, like natural gas, is burned.

Even without a high-leakage rate for shale gas, we know that "Absent a Serious Price for Global Warming Pollution, Natural Gas Is A Bridge To Nowhere."

But the leakage rate does matter.  A major 2011 study by Tom Wigley of the Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) concluded:

The most important result, however, in accord with the above authors, is that, unless leakage rates for new methane can be kept below 2%, substituting gas for coal is not an effective means for reducing the magnitude of future climate change.

The industry has tended kept most of the data secret while downplaying the leakage issue.  Yet I know of no independent analysis that finds a rate below 2%, including one by the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the DOE's premier fossil fuel lab.

Now, as the journal Nature reports, we finally have some actual air sampling measurements, and they appear to confirm the higher estimates put forward by Cornell professor Robert Howarth:

When US government scientists began sampling the air from a tower north of Denver, Colorado, they expected urban smog — but not strong whiffs of what looked like natural gas. They eventually linked the mysterious pollution to a nearby natural-gas field, and their investigation has now produced the first hard evidence that the cleanest-burning fossil fuel might not be much better than coal when it comes to climate change.

Led by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado, Boulder, the study estimates that natural-gas producers in an area known as the Denver-Julesburg Basin are losing about 4% of their gas to the atmosphere — not including additional losses in the pipeline and distribution system. This is more than double the official inventory, but roughly in line with estimates made in 2011 that have been challenged by industry. And because methane is some 25 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, releases of that magnitude could effectively offset the environmental edge that natural gas is said to enjoy over other fossil fuels.

Methane is 25 times more efficient than CO2 trapping heat over 100 year — but it is 100 times more efficient than CO2 trapping heat over two decades.

"If we want natural gas to be the cleanest fossil fuel source, methane emissions have to be reduced," says Gabrielle Pétron, an atmospheric scientist at NOAA and at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and first author on the study, currently in press at the Journal of Geophysical Research. Emissions will vary depending on the site, but Pétron sees no reason to think that this particular basin is unique. "I think we seriously need to look at natural-gas operations on the national scale."

UPDATE:  The 30-author study, led by NOAA researchers, "Hydrocarbon emissions characterization in the Colorado Front Range – A pilot study" is online here (subs. req'd).

Natural gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal per unit of energy when burned, but separate teams at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded last year that methane emissions from shale gas are much larger than previously thought. The industry and some academics branded those findings as exaggerated, but the debate has been marked by a scarcity of hard data.

"It's great to get some actual numbers from the field," says Robert Howarth, a Cornell researcher whose team raised concerns about methane emissions from shale-gas drilling in a pair of papers, one published in April last year and another last month (R. W. Howarth et al. Clim. Change Lett106, 679–690; 2011; R. W. Howarth et al. Clim. Change in the press). "I'm not looking for vindication here, but [the NOAA] numbers are coming in very close to ours, maybe a little higher," he says.

Natural gas might still have an advantage over coal when burned to create electricity, because gas-fired power plants tend to be newer and far more efficient than older facilities that provide the bulk of the country's coal-fired generation. But only 30% of US gas is used to produce electricity, Howarth says, with much of the rest being used for heating, for which there is no such advantage.

Late last year, some of the leading (center-right) economists in the country — Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus — concluded in a top economic journal that the total damages from natural gas generation exceed its value-added at a low-ball carbon price of $27 per ton! At a price of $65 a ton of carbon, the total damages from natural gas are more than double its value-added!

For the record, stabilizing at 550 ppm atmospheric concentrations of CO2, which would likely still be catastrophic for humanity, would require a price of $330 a metric ton of carbon in 2030, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted back in 2008. So even leak-free, new gas generation isn't a good investment if avoiding catastrophic warming is your goal.

Back in April, I wrote about Howarth's controversial paper, "New study questions shale gas as a bridge fuel," arguing:

This is a potentially game-unchanging conclusion for one of the seminal energy policy choices of this decade — how hard to push shale gas here and around the world.  And yet, as the lead author Cornell Prof. Robert Howarth explained to me in an interview, it is based upon very limited data.  And that's in part because the industry has fought efforts to get more data.  Prof. Howarth agreed with my suggestion that this would be a very ripe topic for the National Academy of Sciences to review.

Howarth's analysis does in fact appear to be vindicated by these real-world observations.  I asked him for comment.  He writes of the Nature piece:

As they point out, our estimates seem to be a little on the low side.  That's not surprising, as we were pretty conservative in our published analysis.  This new paper has the first actual measurements at the landscape scale, which is exactly what has been needed (as we concluded in our first and second papers).

In truth, it would not have surprised me if their numbers had come out either considerably higher than or considerably lower than ours, but it is quite gratifying to see that they basically confirm our estimates, and suggest in fact that the greenhouse gas emissions are even somewhat worse than we had concluded.  This is bad news for the planet, but good news for our credibility.

He directed me to an online version of his new 2012 paper, which concludes:

We reiterate our conclusion from our April 2011 paper that shale gas is not a suitable bridge fuel for the 21st Century.

The fact that natural gas is a bridge fuel to nowhere was also demonstrated by the International Energy Agency in its big June 2011 report on gas — see IEA's "Golden Age of Gas Scenario" Leads to More Than 6°F Warming and Out-of-Control Climate Change.  That study — which had both coal and oil consumption peaking in 2020 — made abundantly clear that if we want to avoid catastrophic warming, we need to start getting off of all fossil fuels ASAP.

I'll end with some more background detail on the study from Nature:

The first clues appeared in 2007, when NOAA researchers noticed occasional plumes of pollutants including methane, butane and propane in air samples taken from a 300-metre-high atmospheric monitoring tower north of Denver. The NOAA researchers worked out the general direction that the pollution was coming from by monitoring winds, and in 2008, the team took advantage of new equipment and drove around the region, sampling the air in real time. Their readings led them to the Denver-Julesburg Basin, where more than 20,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled during the past four decades.

Most of the wells in the basin are drilled into 'tight sand' formations that require the same fracking technology being used in shale formations. This process involves injecting a slurry of water, chemicals and sand into wells at high pressure to fracture the rock and create veins that can carry trapped gas to the well. Afterwards, companies need to pump out the fracking fluids, releasing bubbles of dissolved gas as well as burps of early gas production. Companies typically vent these early gases into the atmosphere for up to a month or more until the well hits its full stride, at which point it is hooked up to a pipeline.

The team analysed the ratios of various pollutants in the air samples and then tied that chemical fingerprint back to emissions from gas-storage tanks built to hold liquid petroleum gases before shipment. In doing so, they were able to work out the local emissions that would be necessary to explain the concentrations that they were seeing in the atmosphere. Some of the emissions come from the storage tanks, says Pétron, "but a big part of it is just raw gas that is leaking from the infrastructure". Their range of 2.3–7.7% loss, with a best guess of 4%, is slightly higher than Corn­ell's estimate of 2.2–3.8% for shale-gas drilling and production. It is also higher than calculations by the EPA, which revised its methodology last year and roughly doubled the official US inventory of emissions from the natural-gas industry over the past decade. Howarth says the EPA methodology translates to a 2.8% loss.

The Cornell group had estimated that 1.9% of the gas produced over the lifetime of a typical shale-gas well escapes through fracking and well completion alone. NOAA's study doesn't differentiate between gas from fracking and leaks from any other point in the production process, but Pétron says that fracking clearly contributes to some of the gas her team measured.

Capturing and storing gases that are being vented during the fracking process is feasible, but industry says that these measures are too costly to adopt. An EPA rule that is due out as early as April would promote such changes by regulating emissions from the gas fields.

Officials with America's Natural Gas Alliance, based in Washington DC, say that the study is difficult to evaluate based on a preliminary review, but in a statement to Nature they add that "the findings raise questions and warrant a closer examination by the scientific community".

I think a NAS study is warranted, but these actual measurements, coupled with the myriad other analyses raising questions about the "dash to gas," are more than reason enough to slow down any major investment in natural gas infrastructure that we will be stuck with for decades.

Filling up existing underutilized natural gas power plants to generate electricity that displaces coal remains a reasonable near-term idea.  But building a significant number of new natural gas fired power plants — or  building a major infrastructure for natural gas vehicles, which don't even have the efficiency benefits of gas power plants — remains a counterproductive lock-in of scarce resources needed elsewhere to avert catastrophic global warming.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress.

Related posts:

  1. Study: Natural Gas May Not Provide Immediate Global Warming Improvement
  2. EPA Seeks to Control Pollution from Fracked Natural Gas Wells
  3. Biofuels 14-31 Times More Costly than Raising Gas Tax, Study Finds

World’s 1st Plantagon Greenhouse for Urban Farming Under Construction (in Sweden)

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 05:05 AM PST

plantagon urban greenhouse

Here’s a pretty cool urban farming solution—a Plantagon greenhouse for urban farming. Construction on the first one broke ground in Sweden last week. This unique vertical-farming greenhouse will also be “[part of] an international Centre of Excellence for Urban Agriculture, a demo-plant for Swedish clean-tech and a climate-smart way to use excess heating and CO2 from industries,” a news release on the groundbreaking states. Aside from offering an innovative vertical farming solution, “Plantagon plans to develop integrated solutions for energy, excess heat, waste, CO2 and water” in cooperation with several partners.

Here’s a video more on the Plantagon greenhouse:

The first Plantagon urban greenhouse is being built in Linköping, Sweden. Representatives from Linköping city, Plantagon, and Tekniska Verken (the regional energy company, which is located nearby) broke ground on the project together on February 9, 2012.

“This is a historic day for Plantagon. This ceremony marks the realization of the vision of creating functional sustainable solutions for the growing cities of today and tomorrow, where we can grow food in the cities in a resource-smart way, making use of the special conditions of the city,” says Hans Hassle, CEO of Plantagon.

More info at Plantagon
Source & Image via Mynewsdesk

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6 Green Data Centers that Could Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 04:45 AM PST

Data centers use a massive amount of energy. In response to demands for a greener internet, a growing number of data centers are going underground, making them more energy efficient.. not to mention nuke-proof. Assuming a continuous energy supply, "data bunkers" like these will keep the internet running no matter what. Not even a nuclear explosion, a zombie invasion, or Lamar Smith could stop the internet from ticking in these energy-efficient, ultra-secure data centers.

Green Mountain Data Center in Norway

Green Mountain claims to be the greenest data center in the world with no carbon footprint. It uses renewable hydroelectric energy for power, and water from a nearby fjord for cooling, giving it an impressive power usage effectiveness (PEU) of 1.2. PEU is a ratio of total facility power (including cooling and lighting) divided by IT equipment power. An ideal PEU is therefore 1.0, whereas the average is 1.8, according to the Uptime Institute. In other words, non-IT equipment uses nearly as much power as the IT equipment. On top of energy efficiency, the data center's location in an old munitions storage site offers protection from electromagnetic pulses, fire, and anything an army of roving undead would have to throw at it. The center also has a high level of redundancy and 8 independent generators, which would ensure that the cloud survives just about anything.


Pionen Data Center in Stockholm, Sweden

If there ever is a nuclear winter, you can bet that WikiLeaks will hear of it first. They host their data in the Pionen Data Center, originally built in 1943 as a command center in the White Mountains of Sweden and converted to a data center in 2007. Pionen is not just bullet proof—it's hydrogen bomb proof. A single entrance tunnel and a 40-centimeter-thick armored door would keep the zombie hoards at bay. Meanwhile, inside, the data center is kept cool by an environmentally friendly cooling system that utilizes the chill mountain air and local water systems to cool the center.


Iron Mountain's Room 48 Data Center in Boyers, USA

More than 200 feet down, inside a former limestone mine, the facility that now houses the data center known as Room 48 was used in the 1950s to secure important government paper documents from the threat of nuclear attack. To save energy on cooling, Room 48 uses overhead ducts instead of floor heating that work on the simple principle that cool air sinks. Rich Miller of Data Center Knowledge claims Room 48's cooling system allows it to save some $1.7 million annually. That’s more than enough to allow Iron Mountain to stock up on anti-zombie munitions.


InfoBunker Data Center near Des Moines, USA

All of InfoBunker's critical infrastructure, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is housed within the underground space of the bunker, surrounded nonetheless by a foot-thick concrete wall and steel doors. Similarly impenetrable emergency generators assure that the center can function off the grid. As if being underground in an old air force bunker weren't secure enough, InfoBunker has a collection of extra-secure vaults (think: Ocean's Eleven). According to Tim Greene of NetworkWorld, InfoBunker is "shielded from electromagnetic pulses, features isolation pads to shield equipment from shocks, stores enough diesel fuel for six days and 17,000 gallons of fresh water reserves." On top of all this security badassery, InfoBunker maintains an average PUE of just 1.38.

Swiss Fort Knox

If Swiss banks are any indication, the Swiss are good at locking up other people's valuables in ultra-secure vaults. The Swiss Fort Knox data center, a repurposed 1960s Cold War bunker, takes cyber security to an almost ridiculous extreme. The data center's first layer of defense in case of war or battles against the undead is the very mountain beneath which it's buried. Inside of the mountain, the data center is equipped with supplies, making the data center self-sufficient for a time if it ever needs to seal itself off from the rest of the world. The mountain rock, separately locking security layers, and explosion-proof bulkheads shield the data center from nukes, chemical attacks, and electromagnetic pulses. A subterranean lake under the mountain provides sabotage-proof cooling and an alternative to energy-intensive air conditioning.

Subtech Data Center in Kansas City, USA

Like Pionen and Swiss Fort Knox, Subtech is underground, which reduces the energy needed to cool the equipment. The center has a PUE of 1.5. But Subtech is anything but isolated. It's part of the world's largest underground business complex, SubTropolis, located in Kansas City. So, in a post-apocolyptic scenario, Kansas City could become the new Zion from the Matrix. Scary as that may sound, survivors will have high-speed internet access, protected by solid subterranean limestone walls.


More Energy-Efficient Data Centers

These are some of the coolest energy-efficient, nuke-proof data centers on Earth, but they’re not the only ones. By using variable speed drives, among other things, data center operators can do to reduce energy costs, whether they’re under ground or above. Contact a data center expert about substation efficiency, variable speed drives, and monitoring utility rates to learn even more.

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New Battery Could Mean More-Efficient Solar Energy Storage

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 04:24 AM PST

Working in tandem, the University of Southampton and lithium battery technology company REAPsystems have discovered that a new type of battery has the potential to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of solar power.

The study looked specifically at the use of lithium batteries as a storage method for solar power in photovoltaic systems and found that they were a more efficient method than the lead acid batteries currently used in most systems.

"Lead acid batteries are traditionally the energy storage device used for most photovoltaic systems,” said lead researcher Yue Wu, a MSc Sustainable Energy Technologies student. “However, as an energy storage device, lithium batteries, especially the LiFePO4 batteries we used, have more favourable characteristics."

Data for their research was acquired by connecting a lithium iron phosphate battery to a photovoltaic system attached to one of the University of Southampton’s buildings using a specifically designed battery management system that was provided by REAPsystems.

“The research showed that the lithium battery has an energy efficiency of 95 per cent whereas the lead-acid batteries commonly used today only have around 80 per cent,” added Yue. “The weight of the lithium batteries is lower and they have a longer life span than the lead-acid batteries reaching up to 1,600 charge/discharge cycles, meaning they would need to be replaced less frequently."

The LiFePO4 battery appears to have the potential to improve the efficiency of solar power systems, as well as reducing the cost of both their installation and their upkeep. But more testing will be required before being implemented in commercial photovoltaic systems.

“For all kinds of energy source (renewable or non-renewable), the energy storage device — such as a battery — plays an important role in determining the energy utilisation,” said Dr Dennis Doerffel, founder of REAPsystems and former researcher at the University of Southampton. “Compared with traditional lead acid batteries, LiFePO4 batteries are more efficient, have a longer lifetime, are lighter and cost less per unit. We can see the potential of this battery being used widely in photovoltaic application, and other renewable energy systems."

Source: University of Southampton
Image Source: now picnic on Flickr

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Is Cleaner Cheaper? The Cincinnatti Blimp

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 04:19 AM PST


Greenpeace resorted to uplifting the imaginations of the Cincinnati City Council as it took to the air to inflate its agenda in Cincinnati recently. “Cleaner is Cheaper” trumpets the words on the blimp floating around the city.


Externalities is a microeconomic term that refers to costs outside of a transaction. In economic theory, a transaction itself is covered by market influences. Demand and supply will influence cost. But if part of the cost is external to the transaction, then market influences don’t apply. If manufacturer can produce a product and dump some of his manufacturing waste into the air or water without any cost, this pollution is an externality. Society pays for it in health care, life expectancy, and quality of life. Governments and taxpayers pay for cleanups but we don’t pay when purchasing goods or services from the factory, because the manufacturer never incurred any cost and did not include any for disposing of the waste.

The Blimp

The hot-air blimp is a good symbol for this campaign. It is a large object floating in the air. Externalities are huge costs that are also “floating” all around us just waiting to be noticed. Some successful businessmen build their livelihood and fortune on abuse of externalities. They seek them out like a gold mine for easy plunder. Seeming to use a minimal amount of fuel (and resulting pollution), the blimp suggests an economy that lacks externalities. (In practice, blimps get points for cheap take-offs and landings but jets are cheaper at cruising with a heavy payload due to their aerodynamic shape and relatively small frontal area.) A hot-air blimp has the advantage of being able to be brought to a site quickly and then inflated with hot air.

Cleaner is Cheaper

The words look to coal-fired power plants that are extensively used in the Midwest. Cincinnati’s existing power is produced primarily by coal power plants on either side of the city. The externalities produced by coal power plants make coal power seem artificially cheap. Clean power would include wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric, which don’t produce the same pollutants and, if you consider the externalities, are therefore cheaper. It is reported that:

Pollution from the Miami Fort and Beckjord coal plants is responsible for 200 deaths, 313 heart attacks, over 3,200 asthma attacks, and hundreds of hospital admissions and emergency room visits each year.

Not Everyone Agrees

In Sunday’s interview with Josh Tickell, Dr. Frank Alcock discussed externalities. Dr. Frank Alcock commented that the GOP uses Austrian Economics that does not recognize externalities. This is sadly rather consistent with the label that the Republicans have become the party of NO, which in turn seems a twist on Nancy Reagan’s campaign against drugs “Just say no.” We have to wonder if the present Republican strategy will work as well.

Photo via Greenpeace

Related posts:

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Unexpected Discovery of New Power Source

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 04:19 AM PST

While on sabbatical from RMIT University in Melbourne, Associate Professor Dr Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, joined MIT Associate Professor Michael Strano’s nanotechnology research group and together accidentally discovered a new way to generate power.

new power source

Their work was published in the December IEEE Spectrum Magazine, the publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), entitled ‘Nanodynamite: Fuel-coated nanotubes could provide bursts of power to the smallest systems’.

The MIT-led team were measuring the acceleration of a chemical reaction along a nanotube when they found that the reaction they were monitoring actually generated power. Now, Dr Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh and Michael Strano are combining their expertise in chemistry and nanomaterials to explore this phenomenon.

Associate Professor Kalantar-zadeh said that his experimental system, based on one of the materials that have come from nanotechnology — carbon nanotubes — generates power, something researchers had not seen before.

"By coating a nanotube in nitrocellulose fuel and igniting one end, we set off a combustion wave along it and learned that a nanotube is an excellent conductor of heat from burning fuel. Even better, the combustion wave creates a strong electric current," he said.

"Our discovery that a thermopower wave works best across these tubes because of their dual conductivity turns conventional thermoelectricity on its head.

"It’s the first viable nanoscale approach to power generation that exploits the thermoelectric effect by overcoming the feasibility issues associated with minimising dimensions.

"But there are multiple angles to explore when it comes to taming these exotic waves and, ultimately, finding out if they’re the wave of the future."

Source: RMIT University
Electric sparks via shutterstock

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Hydrovolts Hydrokinetic Turbines

Posted: 13 Feb 2012 03:52 AM PST

A hydrokinetic turbine company, Hydrovolts, has been getting into the news recently for innovative new hydrokinetic turbines that will go where no hydrokinetic turbine has gone before.


Hydrovolts turbine for clean energy generation, designed with the help of Autodesk software. (Photo: Business Wire)

“Clean technology innovator Hydrovolts is using software from Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) to create unique hydrokinetic turbines that are more easily installed in rivers, canals and other waterways for faster generation of renewable energy. The company's smaller turbines can be quickly installed and generating power in less than an hour,” Business Wire reports.

As stated above, they can be installed many places, but the company is most focused on getting them installed in wastewater treatment plants. Hydrovolts has been in talks with Veolia Environmental Solutions, one of the biggest wastewater treatment processors in the world, regarding such plans.

“There are, according to Hydrovolts CEO Burt Hamner, over 26,000 municipal wastewater treatment plants in the United States and over 100,000 industrial treatment plants,” Herman Trabish of Greentech Media writes. There’s a lot of opportunity there.

“Hydrovolts has completed one round of financing and is about to complete a $5-million-plus second round, Hamner said.”

Although these turbines are not huge electricity generators, they are cheap and easy to install, making them a logical technology to use for a little electricity boost.

"The Portable turbine is expected to retail for under $2,000. The Canal turbine has two sizes, from 2 to 10 kilowatts output, depending on water speed, for approximately $20,000 and $40,000, [respectively]. The Waterfall turbine is in development and will likely have two sizes and a modular design. Price remains to be determined," Hamner says.

Hamner has been in the tidal turbine field since 2005 and micro-hydropower since 2007, but this is a new area of focus for him and the horizons are still broadening.

"We are just starting to understand the possibilities,” Hamner says. "We are quoting plants that have flows of 25 million to 40 million gallons a day. Bigger cities have bigger plants. A whole river runs through a bigger city's plant." Of course, the bigger the plant, the bigger the turbine.

While, before, Hamner says the engineering costs of preparing a site for micro-hydro (pouring concrete, doing civil engineering) made it very difficult to make a profit in this field, Hydrovolts’ new portable, easy-to-install technology may open the doors for a boom in this sector.

Note that we’ve covered Hydrovolts’ venture into generating electricity from canals a couple times in the past. Haven’t heard much about that of late, but looks like the company might have more progress in this wastewater treatment plant arena.

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