Friday, February 15, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Tesla Slams NYTimes Reporter For Lies, Ignorance, & Doing Completely Illogical Things To Run The Model S Battery To 0

Posted: 14 Feb 2013 03:41 PM PST

Man, stories like this (the NYTimes one, not the Tesla one) are simply sad, shameful, and a disgrace to humanity. If you haven’t heard, an extremist NYTimes reporter with a clear anti-EV agenda was awarded the chance to perform a test drive of the Model S. Unfortunately, the “test results” were already completely planned. Mr John Broder, the “reporter,” had decided to run the Model S battery to 0, even if that meant driving in circles in a parking lot, not charging the EV as much as he could, and even driving past public charging stations when the car is telling him to charge up! Insane, isn’t it? This guy writes for the NYTimes, but decided to fake “accidentally” running out of electricity before finishing the planned trip.

I imagine Tesla wouldn’t publicly call Mr Broder a “liar,” a “cheat,” or a “crook,” but I certainly would.

But you don’t need to believe one person’s word over another. As Tesla points out in this article below, the company carefully tracks what goes on in the cars that reporters drive, to be able to provide an informed response when people with an agenda simply make things up. (Tesla — a hero of good yet again.)

Here’s Tesla’s full response to the article by Mr Broder:

By Elon Musk, Chairman, Product Architect & CEO

You may have heard recently about an article written by John Broder from The New York Times that makes numerous claims about the performance of the Model S. We are upset by this article because it does not factually represent Tesla technology, which is designed and tested to operate well in both hot and cold climates. Indeed, our highest per capita sales are in Norway, where customers drive our cars during Arctic winters in permanent midnight, and in Switzerland, high among the snowy Alps. About half of all Tesla Roadster and Model S customers drive in temperatures well below freezing in winter. While no car is perfect, after extremely thorough testing, the Model S was declared to be the best new car in the world by the most discerning authorities in the automotive industry.

To date, hundreds of journalists have test driven the Model S in every scenario you can imagine. The car has been driven through Death Valley (the hottest place on Earth) in the middle of summer and on a track of pure ice in a Minnesota winter. It has traveled over 600 miles in a day from the snowcapped peaks of Tahoe to Los Angeles, which made the very first use of the Supercharger network, and moreover by no lesser person than another reporter from The New York Times. Yet, somehow John Broder "discovered" a problem and was unavoidably left stranded on the road. Or was he?

After a negative experience several years ago with Top Gear, a popular automotive show, where they pretended that our car ran out of energy and had to be pushed back to the garage, we always carefully data log media drives. While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn't get in the way of a salacious story. In the case ofTop Gear, they had literally written the script before they even received the car (we happened to find a copy of the script on a table while the car was being "tested"). Our car never even had a chance.

The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. In the case with Top Gear, their legal defense was that they never actually said it broke down, they just implied that it could and then filmed themselves pushing what viewers did not realize was a perfectly functional car. In Mr. Broder's case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Here is a summary of the key facts:

  • As the State of Charge log shows, the Model S battery never ran out of energy at any time, including when Broder called the flatbed truck.
  • The final leg of his trip was 61 miles and yet he disconnected the charge cable when the range display stated 32 miles. He did so expressly against the advice of Tesla personnel and in obvious violation of common sense.
  • In his article, Broder claims that "the car fell short of its projected range on the final leg." Then he bizarrely states that the screen showed "Est. remaining range: 32 miles" and the car traveled "51 miles,” contradicting his own statement (see images below). The car actually did an admirable job exceeding its projected range. Had he not insisted on doing a nonstop 61-mile trip while staring at a screen that estimated half that range, all would have been well. He constructed a no-win scenario for any vehicle, electric or gasoline.
  • On that leg, he drove right past a public charge station while the car repeatedly warned him that it was very low on range.
  • Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.
  • At the point in time that he claims to have turned the temperature down, he in fact turned the temperature up to 74 F.
  • The charge time on his second stop was 47 mins, going from -5 miles (reserve power) to 209 miles of Ideal or 185 miles of EPA Rated Range, not 58 mins as stated in the graphic attached to his article. Had Broder not deliberately turned off the Supercharger at 47 mins and actually spent 58 mins Supercharging, it would have been virtually impossible to run out of energy for the remainder of his stated journey.
  • For his first recharge, he charged the car to 90%. During the second Supercharge, despite almost running out of energy on the prior leg, he deliberately stopped charging at 72%. On the third leg, where he claimed the car ran out of energy, he stopped charging at 28%. Despite narrowly making each leg, he charged less and less each time. Why would anyone do that?
  • The above helps explain a unique peculiarity at the end of the second leg of Broder's trip. When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

When Tesla first approached The New York Times about doing this story, it was supposed to be focused on future advancements in our Supercharger technology. There was no need to write a story about existing Superchargers on the East Coast, as that had already been done by Consumer Reports with no problems! We assumed that the reporter would be fair and impartial, as has been our experience with The New York Times, an organization that prides itself on journalistic integrity. As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.

When I first heard about what could at best be described as irregularities in Broder's behavior during the test drive, I called to apologize for any inconvenience that he may have suffered and sought to put my concerns to rest, hoping that he had simply made honest mistakes. That was not the case.

In his own words in an article published last year, this is how Broder felt about electric cars before even seeing the Model S:

“Yet the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate."

When the facts didn't suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts. Our request of The New York Times is simple and fair: please investigate this article and determine the truth. You are a news organization where that principle is of paramount importance and what is at stake for sustainable transport is simply too important to the world to ignore.

Vehicle Logs for Media Drive by John Broder on January 23 and 24

Detail showing car driving around in circles in front of the Milford Supercharger trying to get Model S to stop with zero range indicated:

 

Two inaccuracies in the graphic attached to Broder’s article:

 

Google Map with Tesla comments showing actual performance of Model S and Broder’s intentions:

Map provided by PlugShare of charging stations along Broder’s entire route:

Interested in keeping up with Tesla Motors?
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Tesla Slams NYTimes Reporter For Lies, Ignorance, & Doing Completely Illogical Things To Run The Model S Battery To 0 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

California Plans For 1.5 Million Zero-Emission Vehicles By 2025

Posted: 14 Feb 2013 07:45 AM PST

Decarbonization and zero-emissions technology is certainly on California Governor Jerry Brown's mind. Clean air and energy is not lip service with him. Governor Brown, with California state agencies, has taken 32 pages to lay out a process for how to make zero emissions vehicles abundant across the Golden State.

Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles are all promoted on the roads in California through the 2013 Zero-emission Vehicle (ZEV) Action Plan [PDF].

Jerry Brown By Phil Konstantin

Jerry Brown by Officer Phil / Phil Konstantin

Becoming Green and Affordable

One thing that holds the truly concerned environmentalists back (unless they have liberated themselves by living on their bike or using transit transit) is the higher up-front cost of buying ZEVs. Ways to ease this problem are in the works: the 2013 ZEV Action Plan aims to help get 1.5 million ZEVson California’s roads by 2025 through a combination of consumer incentives, infrastructure improvements, and communication / awareness-raising.

Among many other things, the state would subsidize utility price discounts for ZEV charging, create enough of an infrastructure to support one million ZEVs statewide by the end of the decade, and work with insurance companies to possibly reduce premiums for ZEV drivers. The state government would also have 10% of its light-duty vehicle purchases be ZEVs by 2015, and 25% by 2020.

Dozens of specific actions are detailed under the following four broad goals, Green Car Congress notes:

  1. Complete needed infrastructure and planning
  2. Expand consumer awareness and demand
  3. Transform fleets
  4. Grow jobs and investment in the private sector

For the “complete needed infrastructure and planning” goal, there are a total of 45 specific actions for these 13 objectives:

  1. Provide crucial early funding for ZEV charging and fueling infrastructure.
  2. Support ZEV infrastructure planning and investment by public and private entities.
  3. Enable universal access to ZEV infrastructure for California drivers.
  4. Ensure pricing transparency for ZEV charging and fueling.
  5. Expand appropriate ZEV-related signage on highway corridors and surface streets.
  6. Support local government efforts to prepare communities for increased PEV usage and the coming commercialization of FCEVs.
  7. Ensure that hydrogen and electricity can legally be sold as a retail transportation fuel.
  8. Make it easier to locate and install public PEV infrastructure.
  9. Ensure a minimum network of hydrogen stations for the commercial launch of fuel cell vehicles between 2015 and 2017.
  10. Streamline permitting of hydrogen stations.
  11. Plan for and integrate peak vehicle demand for electricity into the state's energy grid.
  12. Establish consistent statewide codes and standards for ZEV infrastructure.
  13. Coordinate with other "Section 177 states" that have adopted California's ZEV mandate to learn from each other's innovations and enable a seamless consumer experience for ZEV drivers across the country.

For the ”expand consumer awareness and demand” goal, there are 30 actions detailed under these 7 objectives:

  1. Reduce up-front purchase costs for ZEVs.
  2. Encourage and support auto dealers to increase sales and leases of ZEVs.
  3. Reduce operating costs for ZEVs.
  4. Develop and maintain attractive non-monetary incentives for use of ZEVs.
  5. Strengthen connections between research institutions and auto makers to better understand how ZEVs are being used.
  6. Promote consumer awareness of ZEVs through public education, outreach and direct driving experiences.
  7. Provide plug-in vehicle (PEV) drivers with options to connect PEV charging with energy efficiency and renewable energy.

For the ”transform fleets” goal, there are 30 actions detailed under these 10 objectives:

  1. Incorporate ZEVs into state vehicle fleet.
  2. Identify funding to expand fleet purchases of ZEVs and ZEV infrastructure.
  3. Track benefits of fleets' transition to ZEVs to the extent practicable.
  4. Complete necessary infrastructure to allow for 10% ZEV purchases by 2015.
  5. Maximize use of ZEVs in state-sponsored car rentals.
  6. Ensure that state vehicles can benefit from evolving benefits associated with ZEVs and position state vehicle fleets to participate in technology demonstrations.
  7. Expand use of ZEVs for private light- and medium-duty fleets.
  8. Help to expand ZEVs within bus fleets.
  9. Reduce cost barriers to ZEV adoption for freight vehicles.
  10. Integrate ZEVs into freight planning.

And for the ”grow jobs and investment in the private sector” goal, there are 15 specific actions detailed under these 4 objectives:

  1. Leverage tools to support business attraction, retention and expansion of ZEV companies.
  2. Support demonstration and commercialization of ZEV-related technologies by California companies.
  3. Support R&D activities at California universities and research institutions.
  4. Prepare California workers to participate in ZEV-related jobs.

Again, thanks to Green Car Congress for those bullet-point lists.

Acting Now, Being Aware, Stepping in Time with Global Concerns

Californians do not drag their feet on change; they want clear air and long-life, and they are acting now. I sometimes wonder if the rest of our country is asleep. Here's a spark to burst that hidden bubble, so that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will appreciate that we did wake up, instead of being overcome by lapses into denial and procrastination.

When one thinks of our children, who are carrying a burden of planetary injury they did not incite, one does wonder why we have taken so long to act. Let's hope that other states and their respective legislators begin swiftly to lay down regulations that work for zero emissions vehicles and drop the cost for those looking to become early adopters.

Of course, large electric and hybrid cars are not for everyone. There are also bikes and those trendy Lit C-1s.

For me, bike paths, bike shares, and mass transit are still priority options, but if all autos transitioned to zero emission technology, that would allow green transport within interdependent value systems and lifestyle choices.

These new plans are par for the course for a state that accounts for about 12% of the country’s approximately 250 million vehicles but about 40% of the country’s plug-ins. In January 2012, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) came out with its proposed requirement that at least 15.4% of new vehicles sold by a major automaker in the state would have to either be a plug-in electric vehicle or hydrogen powered by 2025. California has also long been at the forefront of cutting vehicle emissions through initiatives such as stricter fuel-economy standards and emissions controls.

Remember this one, a visionary song of our visionary state (and before this, the woes of losing trees for concrete spaces):

Main Sources: State of California and Green Car Congress

California Plans For 1.5 Million Zero-Emission Vehicles By 2025 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

US Solar Residential Financing Expected To Top $5.7 Billion By 2016

Posted: 14 Feb 2013 06:00 AM PST

US solar residential financing is expected to reach $5.7 billion according to GreenTech Media ResearchThe new report suggests solar financing for residential homes will grow from $1.3 billion in 2012, to $5.7 billion in 2016, more than four times the current rate.

Much of the strength anticipated in solar residential financing within the next few years will come from third party financing companies, including SolarCity, which have sprung up in recent years. This growing avenue is helping to make solar energy more accessible to the public, making up more than 50% of new solar residential capacity in states including Arizona, Colorado, California, Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, states also seeing bigger market share from third party financing are: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Oregon.

"Prior to 2010, there were few residential third-party ownership (TPO) vendors," said report author and Vice President of GreenTech Media Shayle Kann.

"Since then, the success of companies such as SolarCity, Sunrun, and SunPower has led to a spate of new entrants into the market. Today, we count at least ten TPO companies operating, and a number of others still getting off the ground," he said.

With solar prices continuing to fall investors have also become is also helping to attract financial backing from investors. A total of $3.1 billion has been provided to over 28 funds. US Bancorp has supplied the most, giving $1.35 billion towards fourteen funds.

"Each company has introduced its own unique version of the residential financing model," Kann said.

"These vendors differ in their services, their relationships with solar installers, their geographic footprints, their financing sources, and their customer acquisition strategies. As a result, there is now a vibrant competitive market for third-party owned residential solar in the U.S.”

With 684 megawatts of solar installations in the third quarter of 2012 – a 44% increase compared to the third quarter of 2011 — solar energy is advancing quite nicely as a serious part of the US Energy mix, thanks to climate change concerns. With US President Barack Obama using the State of The Union to fight climate change and promote clean energy, the continued growth of residential financing will help make solar an attractive option for homeowners as people become more aware of solar energy’s potential.

US Solar Residential Financing Expected To Top $5.7 Billion By 2016 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Yet Another Storm Brewing Over Wind Production Tax Credit

Posted: 14 Feb 2013 05:38 AM PST

Wow, talk about taking the wind out of a guy’s sails. Just minutes after President Obama urged the nation to support more wind power in his State of the Union address, Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) sure put a damper on things. He announced that his House subcommittee intends to challenge the new one-year extension for the production tax credit for wind power. That comes on the heels of a similar announcement last month by Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA), who complained that the new wind tax credit extension is a “dramatic” change from previous versions.

The investigation threatens to throw yet another monkey wrench in the path of the wind industry, which is just coming off a banner year for wind production in 2012.

House will investigate production tax credit for wind

Trouble Ahead for the Wind Production Tax Credit

As Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements Subcommittee, Lankford isn’t just blowing smoke. According to our friends over at The Hill,  Lankford said that the wind production tax credit will be “the subject of increased oversight.”

That sounds pretty tame until you consider the way Issa, who chairs the Since Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, framed his views on the new extension:

“In 24 hours the heavily subsidized wind industry has gone from the verge of collapse to a modern-day Gold Rush. H.R. 8 seems to create a perverse incentive to rush production of additional facilities…”

Why is This Even an Issue?

At issue, for those of you new to the subject, is a 1990′s-era temporary tax credit for wind power, which normally gets a routine extension every few years. It is intended to level the playing field between wind power and conventional energy, which has long benefited from enormous taxpayer subsidies.

Nothing being normal under Republican leadership in the House, this year the Obama Administration had to fight tooth and nail to win a one-year extension.

That would appear to be a hollow victory. Modern wind farms take at least 18 months to finish construction, and previous versions of the tax credit only applied to projects that were completed within the designated time frame.

So, why was the wind industry so happy with the new extension?

As it turns out, the new extension contains new language, making the tax credit apply to any project begun within the designated time frame, whether it’s completed or not.

That’s the sore point for Issa and Lankford, and now the game is to see how many projects they can exclude from the tax credit, by restricting the way the federal government considers that a project has actually begun.

Return of the Department of Energy

The Obama Administration hasn’t exactly been sitting on its hands while all this has been going on.

On Monday, the day before the State of the Union Address, the Energy Department released a glowing report on a wind project in Wisconsin, consisting of a single wind turbine at the Port of Milwaukee.

To highlight the interest of U.S. businesses in wind power, the Energy Department points out that ten different companies contributed to the project, which generates enough electricity to power the Port’s administrative headquarters with plenty left over to sell to the local utility.

That sounds like small potatoes, and it is. In the second phase of the one-two punch, on Tuesday morning the Energy Department released a report on Oregon's Caithness Shepherds Flat wind farm. The massive, 845 megawatt wind farm (the equivalent of power for 260,000 homes) started up last fall and is credited with creating 400 construction jobs and 45 direct, permanent operating jobs without disrupting the ranch economy in its rural host community.

The choice of Shepherds flat was no accident, since it highlights the interest of major U.S. companies in alternative energy. In addition to federal support it was partly funded by a couple of U.S. wind power enthusiasts, namely Google and GE.


The Energy Department also took the opportunity to steal some thunder from the House investigation, stating that:

“The recent extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) is also helping the wind industry continue to surge forward…Now, instead of layoffs, we're hearing stories from American wind companies that are retaining and re-hiring workers instead of moving business overseas.”

If you’re wondering what the Energy Department hopes to accomplish by posting articles on its website, the point is not so much that they expect to gin up lot more support from the general public. It’s a signal to Issa and Lankford that some heavy hitters in the private sector are betting on strong growth for the U.S. wind industry.

We’ll keep you posted.

Image: Oregon wind farm by sam_churchill

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Yet Another Storm Brewing Over Wind Production Tax Credit was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Quanta Wins Contract For Two PV Power Plants

Posted: 14 Feb 2013 05:00 AM PST

quantaQuanta Services, through its subsidiary, Quanta Power Generation, obtained an engineering, procurement, and construction contract from Con Edison Development (CED) for two photovoltaic (PV) solar power plants in the Kings and Tulare counties in California.

The total capacity of these solar power plants is about 40 megawatts of alternating current.

Almost all power plants, including solar, are designed to supply alternating current, but solar panels generate direct current (DC), so inverters are used to convert their DC into AC.

Two special purpose entity subsidiaries of CED — White River and SPS Corcoran — are involved in this project. Quanta Service will completely design, engineer, procure, and install all equipment required for the two 20 MW projects. These systems comprise 176,000 polycrystalline PV solar modules mounted to a single-axis tracking system and  will occupy 350 acres.

From October 2012 the pre-construction activity on the project was started while the project is slated for completion this year. New green collar jobs will be created during the construction of these facilities, which will provide clean and renewable electricity for many years to come.

Source: Zacks

Quanta Wins Contract For Two PV Power Plants was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

New Nuclear Power In The UK Looking Increasingly Unlikely

Posted: 14 Feb 2013 04:00 AM PST

The UK government has been planning the development of a ‘next generation’ of nuclear power plants in the region for some time, but with the price of renewables falling quickly and the costs of nuclear rising, it is looking increasingly likely that the plans will have to be scrapped. There are also other important issues with new nuclear; such as the unresolved issue of nuclear waste, and its dependence on further subsidies, which will be illegal under European Union rules.

20130213-042754.jpg

Investors have been steadily dropping out of plans. The British utility company Centrica is just the latest to pull out of the program. This week it wrote off £200 million ($315 million) while doing so, following on the heels of previously involved German utilities. In order for the program to still go forward, the government would need to break “two important electoral pledges and may face legal challenges that it intends to breach European Union subsidy rules in guaranteeing a minimum price for nuclear power,” Climate Central writes.

Construction delays and rising costs seem to be an issue with new nuclear everywhere in the world, not just the UK. The French nuclear industry, arguably the strongest in the world, has been facing numerous delays in the development and construction of its new power plants, and rapidly rising costs.

“Centrica’s chief executive, Sam Laidlaw, said the company had pulled out because the project was more costly and extended further into the future than had been planned four years ago. Together with its partner, the French government-owned EDF, Centrica has spent close to £1 billion ($1.5B) on the project and is now writing off its 20 percent share of £200 million ($315M), concentrating instead on renewables and natural gas for electricity generation.”


 
Essentially, renewable clean energy technologies are a better choice than nuclear in every way. They are cheaper, faster to build, don’t create radioactive waste, aren’t as susceptible to environmental disasters, don’t require the same level of safety measures, and have far more public support. At current rates of growth, renewables are predicted to generate more electricity in the UK than nuclear by 2018, and expected to power 1 in every 10 homes in the UK by 2015.

And the issue of nuclear waste is still very much a problem in the UK. Just last week, the Cumbria County Council rejected the government’s plans to dump the nation’s nuclear waste in the Lake District. And with no alternative locations put forward yet, the government still doesn’t know what to do with its growing nuclear waste. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee just released a new report on Monday detailing (and highly critical of) the rising costs of dealing with such waste.

Image Credits: Nuclear Power UK via Flickr CC

New Nuclear Power In The UK Looking Increasingly Unlikely was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Smart Metering In Europe (VIDEO)

Posted: 14 Feb 2013 03:00 AM PST

As noted in previous posts, the renewable energy graduate student who got me to go give a guest lecture on renewable energy to his class recently passed along some useful videos on different types of clean technology. These are introductory videos, but they’re not as introductory as our typical blog posts about such topics — they’re each about 30 minutes to 1 hour in length. Below is the fifth video we’re sharing, which is on the topic of smart metering in Europe.

For more videos, check out our Leonardo Energy archives.

Smart Metering In Europe (VIDEO) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Daily Energy Prices On “Today In Energy” Webpage

Posted: 14 Feb 2013 02:00 AM PST

daily energy prices

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has begun posting a set of key energy commodity spot and futures prices on the Today in Energy webpage. These prices provide a daily snapshot of energy markets in the United States.

This report (available on the Prices tab in the navigation bar above) will typically be updated between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. each weekday (excluding federal holidays).

This article was originally published on the website of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Daily Energy Prices On “Today In Energy” Webpage was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Australian Transformers Safe From Decepticon Solar Attack

Posted: 14 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

Australians possess the bizarre superhuman ability to take photographs of transformers without being arrested by Homeland Security.

There have been unconfirmed reports that electrical transformers have been damaged by solar power in Australia. And when I say unconfirmed, I mean really unconfirmed. As in, no one who’s mentioned it to me has been able to back it up with any evidence at all, not even a link to a newspaper article. This strikes me as odd because the people who have mentioned it to me (e.g. commenters on this site) seem really concerned about it, as if it was some sort of major problem, and important enough for them to bring it up out of context in online discussions.

But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by people saying things that aren’t based on evidence. I’ve noticed it happening a fair bit at the Australian end of the internet. I’m afraid the Australian internet just isn’t as refined or sophisticated as I’m sure the rest of it is. We seem to lack the dry wit and formal politeness I’m sure the UK internet has or the generous, warm-hearted friendliness I’m confident characterises the American part of the internet.

If you’re wondering just what is the Australian portion of the internet, it’s the part that smells like kangaroos. If you’re wondering what kangaroos smell like, I’ve been told by British people that they smell like curry, but I haven’t noticed this myself. I have had plenty of curries that have smelled like kangaroo, but I’ve always assumed that was because the chef was being flexible with the definition of the word "beef."

I don’t claim to be any sort of genius when it comes to using this newfangled internet thing, but I’ve looked and looked and, while I can find news articles about things such as power station transformers catching on fire, I can’t find anything about a transformer being damaged by solar power in Australia, or indeed anywhere else. Now, this doesn’t mean it has never happened, but it does mean it is obviously not a big problem. Things that are big problems have a tendency to turn up in newspapers. That’s how they make their money. In fact, due to the motivation money provides, newspapers have a tendency to turn things that are teeny weeny little problems into very big problems. But despite this, I still found nothing on solar power damaging transformers.

And just to be clear, I’m not saying it’s impossible for some sort of botched solar power installation to damage a transformer. For all I know, it could happen. All I’m saying is it couldn’t be easy. It would require levels of incompetence that would impress even me. After all, our local power infrastructure doesn’t consist of twisty ties suspended from poles. It’s robust enough to handle things such as locals building their own homemade arc welders out of old microwave ovens.

So, I couldn’t for the life of me work out why people kept bringing up stories about solar power damaging transformers when it was obviously such a nonproblem. But then it occurred to me that maybe these people didn’t want to point out a real problem in order to motivate people to fix it. Maybe they actually had the ulterior motive of trying to make solar power look bad. Maybe it was all some sort of con job, or a deception, or a deceptive con!

I immediately went out and informed my local transformer of my suspicions, but he had to think about the situation and so didn’t make any comment. Nor did he roll out or change form into any sort of vehicle.

More recently, instead of complaining about solar power damaging transformers, deceptive con artists have been saying rooftop solar can damage appliances by raising voltage levels. When I asked these people to provide evidence of this, all they’ve been able to show me so far is a single newspaper article that merely mentions it as a possibility but makes no mention of any appliance actually being damaged. This lack of evidence doesn’t surprise me as I happen to know that in reality this simply does not occur, as solar inverters are designed to automatically cut out if the voltage rises too high.

So, my advice is to simply not believe people who lie by making mountains out of molehills, or who lie through negligence by repeating something that sounds good to them without considering if it has any foundation in reality, or who straight out lie because they either like to fight for what they think is their side or are just plain nuts. Now I’ll sit back and see if some nut can manage to produce evidence of a transformer somewhere in Australia being damaged by solar power at some point in time and see how much internet froth comes out of their mouth as they try to insist it’s some sort of massive problem.

But the up side of all this is I have obtained a deeper appreciation for my local transformer and all the good work he does for me. And I strongly recommend getting to know your own local transformer better. They are very thoughtful and always think long and hard before speaking. They answer any question you ask with a prolonged, "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…" Just remember to respect their personal space and keep a safe distance. And most importantly, above all else, resist the temptation to give one a hug.

Australian Transformers Safe From Decepticon Solar Attack was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

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