- PACE Push (Two Opportunities to Help Out)
- Top 10 LED Reflector Bulbs on the Market
- Green Homes to Grow 5-Fold by 2016
- Natural Gas Climate Benefits Not All They’re Fracked Up to Be, Study Finds
- World’s 1st Plantagon Greenhouse for Urban Farming Under Construction (in Sweden)
- 6 Green Data Centers that Could Survive a Zombie Apocalypse
- New Battery Could Mean More-Efficient Solar Energy Storage
- Is Cleaner Cheaper? The Cincinnatti Blimp
- Unexpected Discovery of New Power Source
- Hydrovolts Hydrokinetic Turbines
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
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?
Posted: 13 Feb 2012 08:21 AM PST
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.”
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.”
Posted: 13 Feb 2012 07:14 AM PST
With 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.
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.
Posted: 13 Feb 2012 05:21 AM PST
by Joe Romm
Air sampling by NOAA over Colorado Finds 4% Methane Leakage, More Than Double Industry Claims
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 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:
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.
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).
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:
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:
He directed me to an online version of his new 2012 paper, which concludes:
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:
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.
Posted: 13 Feb 2012 05:05 AM PST
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.
Posted: 13 Feb 2012 04:45 AM PST
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.
Posted: 13 Feb 2012 04:24 AM PST
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."
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 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:
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
Posted: 13 Feb 2012 04:19 AM PST
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."
Posted: 13 Feb 2012 03:52 AM PST
“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.
"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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