- New Oracle Software Seeks to Simplify Smart Grid Installations, Asset Management
- Going Green: Upgrading Your Household Appliances
- Wind Turbine Net Capacity Factor — 50% the New Normal?
- National Clean Energy Summit 5.0
- Study Shows Renewable Energy Potential in Every State
- USDA, DOE Announce New Investments in Biofuels
- Energy Fact Check
- How to Find the Best Solar Solution for Your Home
Posted: 27 Jul 2012 01:25 PM PDT
Akin to telecommunications providers, utility service providers of all stripes — electricity, gas, water and waste — now face challenges, and opportunities, of a sort they haven’t had to deal with for decades. Increasing demand for utility services is putting increasing strains on old and aging utility grids, pushing utilities to invest in new infrastructure.
Governments have been opening up highly regulated utility markets to new competitors for a couple of decades now, with very mixed results. Coincidentally, technology push — particularly in the area of smart grids — and socio-political push, in the way of reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and increasing efficiency, is prompting them to find ways of decoupling revenue and profits from the amount of power, water, or waste management they provide to consumers.
Managing Smart Grid Complexity
The fast-growing global market for smart grid technology has given rise to to a new breed of specialized information technology and service providers, including the likes of Itron, Echelon, Landis+Gyr, Silver Spring Networks, and Tendril. Realizing the market potential, a mix of much larger, well-established industrial/engineering and high-tech multinationals, including ABB, GE, Siemens, Schneider Electric, IBM, SAP, and Google have entered the fray.
So has Oracle, which yesterday announced the availability of Oracle Utilities Operational Device Management (OUODM), an information systems platform that “helps utilities manage the change, configuration and inventory of smart grid assets for improved operational efficiency.”
Based on open standards, Oracle says its new smart grid software platform is designed to manage the range of “smart devices” in utilities’ new distribution infrastructure. This includes smart “meters, access points or communications relays and communication components attached to various devices that are too complex for traditional asset management systems.”
“Oracle Utilities Operational Device Management helps manage the intricacy of smart devices with more speed, accuracy and cost savings, which will lead to greater operational efficiencies for utilities.”
Meeting the Utility Smart Grid Challenge
Skeptics and critics of smart grid systems development and deployments have pointed to security as a glaring, potentially disastrous, weakness. Installing and managing the servers, storage devices, networks, and information flows across smart grid systems is a new, complex, and significant challenge to utilities, as is regulatory compliance.
Moreover, though industry-wide standardization efforts have progressed; equipment, software, and telecoms compatibility and interoperability also number among the critical issues utility providers need to thoroughly assess in making smart grid investments.
Oracle’s Utilities Solution, which includes its new OUODM platform; Utilities database systems; and the Oracle Smart Grid Gateway seek to address these in an integrated manner, offering a range of software solutions that provide support for making smart grid technology investment decisions, managing deployments and day-to-day operations on through to taking care of customers and billing.
Oracle’s new smart grid platform comes with Vendor Adapters for Itron MV90, Landis+Gyr (with regional restrictions applying), Echelon, Sensus, and Silver Spring Networks. Generic Adapter Templates are also included.
Smart Grids + Renewable Energy = Carbon Emissions Reductions
The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), in a study released in early 2010, estimated a smart electrical power grid could decrease annual electric energy use and utility sector carbon emissions at least 12 percent by 2030.
The US could avoid the equivalent of 442 million metric tons of carbon emissions by making full use of smart grids, according to the report. That’s equivalent to that of 66 typical coal power plants, enough electrical power for 70 million average US homes. “By making the grid smart, we make it more efficient and more accommodating of renewables, and we’re able to cut down on the amount of carbon we emit to generate the electricity we need,” PNNL research scientist Rob Pratt was quoted in PhysOrg’s report.
Utilities, with regulators’ consent, by and large, have control over the type and amount of investment they make in new grid infrastructure. Electric utilities have been investing large amounts in smart grid technology, installing smart meters, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and modern transmission and distribution lines. A big question mark remains on the demand-side of the market, however.
Demand-side grid management requires “buy-in” from consumers, and that, though it can be strongly influenced by utility demos, outreach and educational programs, in the end lies in the hands of consumers themselves.
Posted: 27 Jul 2012 12:40 PM PDT
Lets face it; we're suckers for new technology. The rate at which machines are evolving is fascinating, and we want to experience this process every step of the way. Amidst the criticism that some of the more environmentally harmful models receive, there have also been developments in producing energy-efficient machines that are both beneficial to your wallet and the environment. When the time comes to replace the appliances in your home, consider an energy efficiency upgrade; you'll be glad you did. Below are some more details on this matter.
The Energy Rating System
Energy-saving and environmentally sound homes and appliances are approved in Washington using one of three methods. If a home or appliance isn't certified, then it won't necessarily save you any money in utilities or taxes, and it could waste you a lot of energy.
Energy Star is the primary system that is used to rate appliances for energy efficiency. The system currently covers seven different types of appliances ranging, from refrigerators to air cleaners and purifiers. The physical differences between Energy Star products and their less-efficient counterparts are generally few and far between, but the energy and money that you will save over time is monumental.
In order to become Energy Star–approved, appliances must pass a variety of tests that have been set forth in the Energy Star product specifications. To qualify, a product must meet these requirements:
The Energy Star label would effectively differentiate the product from its counterparts, and would make the product visible to buyers. As an intelligent consumer, you're probably wondering exactly how these energy-efficient appliances will save you money. Below, I will spell out exactly what separates these appliances from the rest of the field, so that you can make an educated decision when you go to purchase appliances for your home.
Energy Star Appliances
The differences between approved Energy Star appliances and standard household appliances are obvious. You will save energy, money, and the environment if you use any of these appliances in your home.
When you are deciding which type of unit to buy, consider that topside freezers are 10-25% more efficient than bottom- or side-door freezers. In addition, you should also determine if you need the icemaker on your freezer door. Icemakers and dispensers will increase the use of energy by 14-20%, and cost anywhere between $75-$250 each year. (Saving energy generally means that you're saving money.)
While Energy Star does not rate clothes dryers, it's recommended that you purchase a dryer with a motion sensor installed. For energy purposes, the sensor will detect when the clothes are dry, and the machine will shut down. This is more efficient than setting the dryer for a specific run time.
A Win-Win Situation
By upgrading the appliances in your home, you will be helping not only yourself, but the environment as well. Some of these energy-efficient models might cost you a little extra money upfront, but the back-end savings will be enough for you to earn your money back, and then some. Obviously, not all of the appliances mentioned are necessary for every home, and the less you need to use the better. The green movement is relatively young, and not nearly enough people have jumped on the bandwagon yet, but every little bit does make a difference.
Posted: 27 Jul 2012 07:30 AM PDT
Anyone who hangs around in the comments section of sites covering wind energy knows one thing — clean energy haters love to talk about wind turbine capacity factor. In particular, they love to chant the now quite untrue claim that wind turbines have a capacity factor of 20-30%.
If you’re not familiar with capacity factor, it is how much electricity a power plant actually produces compared to how much it would produce if it operated at full nameplate capacity 100% of the time.
No power plant operates at 100% capacity factor. NREL’s new Transparent Cost Database shows the following capacity factors:
Where Does Capacity Factor Fit Into Things?
Now, before moving on to the focus of this article, here’s one more thing to note:
Clean energy haters love to talk about capacity factor because it’s clearly a metric wind, solar, and hydro don’t win at (though, geothermal and biopower actually do very well). However, capacity factor by itself is really not that important. What’s important is the total cost of producing electricity. In the energy field, levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is one of the most important metrics. This is “an estimate of total electricity cost including payback of initial investment and operating costs,” as NREL writes.
Capacity factor plays a role in LCOE, of course, but so does free fuel (i.e. wind and sunshine). (In a perfect market, LCOE should also include the cost of pollution, which is not the case at all in the US today.)
Even without the cost of pollution figured in, if you look at NREL’s LCOE tab, onshore wind energy has a median of $0.05/kWh. The only energy source that beats that is hydropower ($0.03).
So, the point is, onshore wind energy is already essentially the cheapest option for new electricity (new hydro is not so cheap — that low figure is based on very old dams), even with NREL’s median capacity factor of 40.35%.
Wind power is still a relatively new electricity option. The technology is still improving, becoming more and more efficient. And, as a part of that, there has been what is essentially a breakthrough in net capacity factor of various turbines in just the last 2 years.
Chris Varrone of Riverview Consulting, a friend of ours and true expert in this arena, recently noted in an email to me that this is due to a “proliferation of ’stretch rotor’ machines like the GE 100-1.6MW and the V100-1.8MW and V112-3.0MW…. such machines can often hit 50% capacity factor onshore.”
In other words, new wind turbines are regularly hitting 50% capacity factor, much better than that antiquated 20-30% clean energy haters love to throw around!
More from Chris: “this contrasts with low 30s for the last generation of rotors (e.g., V80-2.0MW) — it is changing the game.”
NREL’s minimum of 24% is old news, old technology. Even turbines in the 30s are old technology now. And the median is being brought down by these older turbines.
New wind turbines are more efficient. And, thus, new wind power is even cheaper. It is now at an all-time low, in fact.
One more note from Chris: “LCOE has declined by 33-45% in the past 3 years in the US!”
Next Time You’re in a Conversation with a Wind Energy Hater
What are the takeaway points?
Are you taking anything else away from this? (There are some other key benefits from these improvements…. I’ll mention them in the comments if no one else picks up on them.)
Posted: 27 Jul 2012 04:03 AM PDT
Four years ago, Clean Energy Project was preparing for the very first National Clean Energy Summit. It was the summer of 2008 and Nevadans were just beginning to understand the multitude of ways we could tap our natural resources and create our own energy. Co-sponsors of the event, the Center for American Progress, US Senator Harry Reid, and the University of Nevada Las Vegas were putting together a summit designed to focus the spotlight on clean energy here in Nevada and across the nation.
So, it seems a perfect time to take a few minutes pause as we finalize plans for our 5th Summit, on August 7 at Bellagio in Las Vegas, to look at how far Nevada has come since we first set out to codify the national clean energy dialog.
As with building any new industry, the path to capitalizing on our solar, geothermal, and wind resources hasn't been an easy one; we are carving our own trails and foraging new ways to harness our resources. We were bound to have some busts, but, looking back, it's worth noting that since the first National Clean Energy Summit in 2008 Nevada is not only not pursuing three new coal-fired power plants, but producing nearly 4-and-a-half times the amount of clean megawatts it was just four years ago. That's 1,150 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power tens of thousands of homes.
In my role as Executive Director of the Clean Energy Project, I spend a lot of time speaking to the community – policy leaders, community leaders and everyday folks – helping them see the economic benefits of fully developing a clean energy economy. As the public's focus continues to be on the economy, I'm often asked to explain exactly how these solar, wind and geothermal projects popping up across the Silver State really make a difference. Aside from feeling good about where the energy is coming from, what are these projects doing to help us now and how can investing in clean energy really pay off?
Of course there are dozens of reasons why investing in clean energy pays off, but one that's easy for everyone to relate to is crystal clear when you look at the numbers. Since 2010, these clean energy projects, projects like Silver State North and Enel Green Power's Stillwater plant, have generated more than $248 million in tax revenue. So, that means that, through clean energy projects, we aren't just powering tens of thousands of homes with renewable energy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels; we are stimulating the economy now and in the future.
The best part is, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Nevada has virtually no fossil fuels, but we have abundant natural resources from which we can grow an entire clean energy economy. There are undeniable geothermal reserves in the north and west, and the potential to capture the bright sunshine of southern Nevada and even some wide-open plains perfect for harnessing the wind in the east. The Silver State is ripe for a clean energy revolution.
That's why this year's Summit focus is so important. As we stand on the precipice with the opportunity to push forward the clean energy agenda, or see it fade into the background, we are centering this year's discussion on The Power of Choice. At the Summit on August 7, you will hear from President Bill Clinton, electric vehicle entrepreneur Elon Musk, and FedEx CEO Fred Smith — visionaries who have made a choice; a choice to invest in a clean energy future. In addition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, we will be joined by Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar; Center for American Progress Chair and Counselor, John Podesta; and Jon Wellinghoff, the Nevadan who is the Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They will all be gathered to illuminate the choices that we – individuals, businesses and governments – have when it comes to plotting out our energy futures.
There has never been a more important time for Nevada and the nation to better enable investment in clean energy. We have done a lot since our first National Clean Energy Summit. It is my hope that as we head into our 5th National Clean Energy Summit it will be a springboard, propelling us forward in our efforts to develop our resources and create the clean energy future we deserve.
Posted: 27 Jul 2012 03:58 AM PDT
The report, U.S. RE Technical Potential, looked at the available renewable resources in every state in the nation, and established an upper boundary estimate of development potential.
“Decision-makers using the study will get a sense of scale regarding the potential for renewables, and which technologies are worth examining,” said NREL's Anthony Lopez, a co-author of the study. “Energy modelers also will find the study valuable.”
"This is intended to be a living document," NREL's Donna Heimiller, another co-author, added. "We'll be frequently updating the information as we get more data."
The report has the potential to provide decision-makers and utility executives with information comparing estimates across six renewable energy technologies. The report also shows the achievable energy generation of a particular technology given resources availability, system performance, topographic limitations, and environmental and lad-use constraints.
Posted: 27 Jul 2012 03:51 AM PDT
The USDA and DOE, through the Biomass Research & Development Initiative, are aiming to create sustainable and economically efficient biomass to boost supplies of bio-based products and renewable fuels.
"If we want to develop affordable alternatives for oil and gasoline that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we need investments like these projects to spur innovation in bioenergy," said Tom Vilsack, US Agriculture Secretary, in a statement.
"By producing energy more efficiently and sustainably, we can create rural jobs, boost rural economies and help U.S. farmers, ranchers and foresters prosper," he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu also said in a statement, "As part of President Obama's all-of-the-above strategy to deploy every available source of American energy, we continue to strive for more efficient, cost-competitive technologies to produce U.S. energy."
"The investments announced today are helping to accelerate innovation across America's growing biofuels industry, which will help to reduce our dependence on imported oil and support job creation across rural America," he continued.
Five projects of the thirteen projects being funded by the USDA and the DOE are funded through the Biomass Research & Development Initiative (BRDI), which is co-funded by both departments. The goal of the initiative is to create sustainable and economically efficient biomass to boost supplies of bio-based products, along with renewable fuels.
The five projects which received funding through BRDI include:
Quad County Corn Co-Operative in Galva, Iowa, will get $4.25 million. The funding will go towards retrofitting the plant and will add value to its product in the market. The product would be used to sell in the non-ruminant feed market and for biodiesel.
Agriculture Research Services National Center for Agriculture Revitalization in Peoria, Illinois will receive $7 million in order to advance rapeseed/canola, mustard, and carmelina oilseed crops for quantity and supply, from the use recombinant inbred lines. The oils would then be hydrated to make biodiesel and jet fuel.
Findlay, Ohio’s Copper Tire & Rubber Co will get $6.85 million to increase the quality and production of guayule rubber from genomic sequencing and molecular marker development. The used rubber will be used for tire formulation, with remaining residue to be looked at to covert jet fuel precursors and biopower.
Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin will receive $7 million to use manure from dairy as a source of fertilizer and fibre. The fibre would be changed into ethanol, while manure would be utilized as crop fertilizer. The crop oil would then be used as biodiesel to power farm equipment.
The University of Hawaii in Manoa, Hawaii, will receive $6 million. The used funds aim to increase the production for various grasses, including napier grass, sugar cane, energy cane that could be converted into biodiesel and jet fuel.
Meanwhile, the eight other projects will receive $11.5 million spread out between them. It’s hoped that through the application of biomass, genomics will improve the quality of biofuel feedstocks, while advancing production.
Meanwhile, the Department of Energy, also released a Biofuels 101 video (below), highlighting how advancements in technology are driving biofuel costs down, while advancing efficiency.
Posted: 27 Jul 2012 03:16 AM PDT
Here’s a pretty astounding note from Adam Browning of Vote Solar, who passed this along to me:
“Consider: of the negative advertising in April of this this election cycle, 81% have targeted renewable energy for attack. And when you factor this presidential election is shaping up to be the most expensive in history, with experts estimating spending in the range of $6 billion dollars, well, we got trouble.”
This is pretty good indication that clean energy is threatening some folks with a ton of money (i.e. King Coal and Queen Oil). It’s also a reminder as to why we focus a good bit of our time and attention on policy and politics! The record needs to be set straight.
EnergyFactCheck.org is reportedly “a non-partisan source of facts, fact-checking, and corrections to the record on all things renewable energy.”
The fact-checking I’ve noticed on the site is 100% correct, and highly useful. Check it out!
Here are a few last words from Browning:
“If you see an article in your local paper that doesn’t get the facts right, send a letter to the editor with a correction. Same for your local TV newscast. As always, we recommend civility in your rebuttal. Catch more flies with honey, etc. Similarly, if you see positive coverage about solar in your community that should be highlighted, ping the folks at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know how it all works out.”
Posted: 27 Jul 2012 02:54 AM PDT
For many, the topic of solar systems and solar panels is something unfamiliar and, for this reason, it can be difficult to know where to start when choosing a solar technology. The first step to going green is to go online (i.e. browse around this site) and research the topic of solar technologies. Once you know more about the different types of products on offer, you will automatically feel more comfortable when it comes to discussing your need with a sales person. The internet boasts a plethora of information regarding solar heating systems, solar panels, heat pumps, home insulation, and more. And I’m told this site alone has over 2,000 articles on solar energy!
Once you have an idea of the product you require, it’s time to start your search for a reputable solar specialist. If you do not know anyone who can give you a recommendation, you can find a specialist in your area (click through on the solar ads on this site for some top options and free quotes). You will come across many companies that offer customers deals on solar panels, but there are many more important factors to consider. If you have a budget in mind, this will help you to eliminate a few of the options open to you, but it is not always the cheapest option that is the best.
While it is important to many homeowners to get a good deal on solar panels for the home, it is also important that you invest in a high-quality product that comes with expert advice and customer support. Once you have narrowed down the possibilities, get in touch with each of the companies and discuss your needs with a member of the team. You can find out more about the solar technologies on offer while finding more about the services that are offered by each company. Using the internet in this way allows you to compare companies at speed, saving you both time and money in the process.
There are many solar technologies available, but here are the most popular options:
Investing in solar technology is only one of the ways that you can make your home greener and more fiscally efficient. Many solar specialists, such as our team at Mark Group, also offer services such as energy-efficient heat pumps and home insulation.
Photo Credit: SolarCity
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