Renewable Energy

It's all about energy, from renewable sources to energy-efficient usage.

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7/18/2014

energyThe electric and gas utility industries are facing substantial changes. For decades, rising sales have contributed to increasing revenues and profits, but the combination of improved energy efficiency with the growing use of solar electric systems and other forms of “distributed energy” has reduced growth rates, which could lead to small declines in future sales. But these potential small declines will not lead to the kind of “death spirals” claimed by some industry alarmists, as our new report, The Utility of the Future and the Role of Energy Efficiency, shows. Still, the industry and their regulators will need to make substantial changes in the next few years in order to continue providing quality service at a reasonable price, while providing utilities reasonable returns on their investments.

According to the alarmists, utility sales could plummet, requiring utilities to raise rates so they can recoup their fixed costs (such as the cost of the current distribution system), and these rising rates would drive additional customers to leave the system, a phenomenon they call a death spiral. Our study examines three potential sales scenarios, employing increasing levels of energy efficiency, solar electric power and electric vehicles. The most extreme scenario includes levels of energy efficiency now being achieved in only a few states plus the use of solar electric power that eventually uses nearly all available roof space. Under this extreme scenario, national electricity sales decline about 10% by 2040, an average reduction of 0.39% per year. Under a more likely mid-range case, sales grow 0.04% per year, while under the reference scenario, developed by the Energy Information Administration, sales grow 0.7% per year.

Creating Resilient Electric Utilities

In our view, a 10% sales decline over 25 years is far lower than what would be required to initiate a death spiral. Under the more likely scenario, sales are essentially flat. In such a scenario, utilities that have relied on rising sales to fuel profits will need to pursue new business models if they want to see profit growth. To address this finding, our report recommends that utilities offer optional energy-related services to their customers, including energy efficiency and technical help and financing for larger customers installing and operating high-efficiency combined heat and power systems. Such efforts can contribute to utility profits, reduce customer bills (since consumption is lower) and also provide services that customers value, positioning the utilities to offer additional services.

To support this effort, we also recommend that regulators

• adjust rates so that fixed costs are fully recovered as sales levels change,
• provide utilities financial incentives for meeting energy efficiency goals,
• reform ratemaking so that costs are fairly allocated and price signals encourage efficient use of energy, and
• develop rules to improve the ability of utilities to offer optional services in ways that provide a level playing field relative to non-utility providers.

Quite a few states have taken some of these steps, but only a few states have taken most of them. In addition, we recommend upgrading management of the electric grid to better handle increased amounts of variable and distributed generation.

What Utilities Shouldn't Do

Our research also identifies several things not to do. In our view, the ‘first rule of holes’ applies: When you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. If sales are level or declining, then utilities and regulators need to be careful of investing too much in new generation, transmission and distribution. Our report notes how Australian utilities invested so much in transmission and distribution that rates doubled, and how German utilities over-invested in generation, contributing to a steep drop in stock prices. While some investments in fast ramp-up generation, transmission to link control areas, grid hardening, and grid control will be needed, these should be prioritized so costs and rates are kept to reasonable levels.

Our call for increased utility investment in energy efficiency fits in well with proposed regulations on existing power plants published last week by the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposal calls for substantial cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector, but provides utilities and states with the flexibility to use energy efficiency programs and policies to help achieve those reductions. An earlier ACEEE report found that energy efficiency could achieve all of the needed reductions while also increasing GDP and employment.

In summary, if we can get the rules right and continue to develop the technologies and systems we will need, utilities can maintain profitability, customers can receive the services they need, bills can be kept to reasonable levels, and we will all enjoy a cleaner environment.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit ACEEE.org

If you’d like to read more, check out Sierra Club’s article Throwing Shade



7/5/2014

Analysis of our current economic situation yields a gloomy outlook. The U.S. is currently experiencing an economic slowdown, $20 trillion of national debt, and an unnerving unemployment rate. However, a solution may be presenting itself in the form of an initial guideline to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, proposed on June 2, 2014, by the Environmental Protection Agency, under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. This plan is an opportunity to not only limit our carbon pollution but also to inject life back into our domestic workforce.

How the Clean Power Plan Creates JobsElectricity Grid Expansion

How can a plan that proposes to retire coal power plants create jobs? Here are the 8 answers to your question.

Back in 2009, The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that a national renewable electricity standard seeking to cut 25% of carbon emissions by 2025 would generate 297,000 jobs, $263.4 billion in new capital investment and $95.5 billion in lower electricity by 2030. The potential economic benefits of expanding our renewable energy technologies are substantial. Renewable energy technologies are typically more labor-intensive than fossil fuel technologies which are intensely mechanized and capital intensive.

The Expansion of Solar Power

Solar panels will need to be manufactured, sold, installed and maintained. In 2011, the solar industry employed over 100,000 workers. Before the EPA ruling came out, solar jobs were expected to experience a growth rate of 24%, thereby creating 24,000 net new solar jobs the next year.  In fact, sales and distribution employed about 23,910 people in 2012 and installation employed 65,571 people. With respective growth rates of 22% and 35%,that’s an additional 5,260 and 22,950 jobs.

Wind Energy Expansion

Imagine the growth possible in the wind turbine manufacturing market when the amount of domestically manufactured equipment used in wind turbines jumped from 35% in 2006 to 70% in 2011 with 560 factories directly employing 75,000 full-time employees.

Hydroelectric Expansion

The hydroelectric power industry employed 250,000 people in 2009, and if the hydropower industry were to install a new capacity of 23,000 MW-60,000 MW by 2025, the total amount of jobs required to meet that target could generate as many as 700,000 jobs.

Geothermal Energy Expansion

In 2010, the geothermal industry directly employed 5,200 people. Now with approximately 248,672,710 acres of public lands in the Western US are areas identified with geothermal potential and a single geothermal plant generating about 860 jobs, the potential job market is huge!

Construction of New Natural Gas Plants

By 2030, the EPA projects natural gas to account for 32% of our electricity generation. The construction alone will require an additional 62,500 workers to meet this standard. This isn’t even accounting for the growing numbers of geoscientists, gas drillers and seismic crews, the plant operators, terminal operators, truckers and landsmen and all of the other 311,000 currently employed people needed to operate the US natural gas industry.

Construction Workers

The construction sector is expected to experience quite the growth. The implementation of new solar, wind or other renewable energy sources, besides needing construction workers to build those plants and factories and offices, will require the construction of more power lines. This is particularly necessary for states wishing to export their renewable power to other states. This represents massive construction job creation.

Workforce Training Providers

As renewable energies become more accessible, one can observe a parallel development of the energy efficiency education market. People need to be trained on how to make, install and maintain a solar panel, or build green buildings. We need clean-tech training providers in order to have a competent sustainable workforce.

Technology

Vast investments will be made to increase grid efficiency, and to store the energy collected from our various renewable sources. Every renewable project will necessitate a variety of engineers, technicians, computer programmers and mechanics in areas that range from electrical, civil, information technology, systems management, waste management, simulation modelling, operations, structural to energy analysis and the list goes on and on.

All of these numbers barely scratch the surface of the economic benefits of an expansion of renewable energy sources as they do not take into account the jobs and capital investment that would be generated by indirect and induced employment.



7/3/2014

We the people, in order to form a more perfect world, do hereby declare that we will free ourselves from the tyranny of Fossil Fuels.

Wind Powered Gas Station in Lawrence Kansas

We know that nothing lasts forever. If we do not use the fossil fuel energy we have available to us now to build a way of life based on renewable energy then we will be choosing life in a pre-industrial society.

We recognize that fossil fuels separate the haves from the have-nots. They are the cause of massive conflicts from the Vietnam era oil fields of the Mekong delta and the South China Sea to wars in the deserts of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. Their extraction has caused environmental devastation and social injustice from Appalachia to Australia.

Production and distribution of our food requires 10 calories of energy from fossil fuels for every calorie of food produced. We therefore resolve to produce our food locally as it was done by our forefathers before it was controlled by multinational corporations who supply the petroleum based herbicides and pesticides that have poisoned the food, soil, water, and air, resulting in untold numbers of cancers, birth defects and diseases.

Knowing that doubling an ingredient in any recipe can lead to a disaster in the kitchen or in a chemistry lab, we recognize that the delicate balance of the web of life can be drastically altered. Using fossil fuels we have released 200 million years of stored carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide from burning coal, natural gas and petroleum creating an imbalance on Mother Earth which has already led to desertification, environmental refugees, sea level rise, and threatens to make life miserable for billions of this planets inhabitants.

Photo, above: A wind powered Gas Station in Lawrence, Kansas, across the street from the Local, Organic Food Co-op, The Merc.

Demand Energy Independence

To an Empire, a Declaration of Independence is a Declaration of intent to be free. We demand freedom from dependence on an energy source controlled by the few at the expense and ruination of the many.

We hereby issue a Proclamation of Emancipation from the slavery of fossil fuel and state that from henceforward we shall not rest until our world is free from the tyranny imposed by the control of energy.

We will work towards this goal until,

In the Future,

we will sit on our front porches,

with our family, friends and neighbors,

singing and playing acoustic music,

until the stars come out and shine down upon us,

undimmed by the fires of fossil fuels.

How do we do this? One Wind Powered Gas Station at a Time!!

References and Inspiration

We Are United; War is Not the Way – It’s What’s Going On. [Video] Playing for Change, YouTube.

Don’t You Worry [Video], Dailymotion.

The Paiute, Wovoka [Video], YouTube.

Don’t worry in the End, everything will be OK and if it’s not OK it’s not the End



7/3/2014

 DIY Wind Generator

Are you headed for the beach or going camping in the mountains? Maybe you live on a boat, visit a remote cabin or you're living off-grid. Electricity is yours for the taking as long as the wind is blowing... And you can get it on the CHEAP with an easy homemade wind generator. Light up that storeroom, barn or use the generator to keep all your vehicle batteries charged too.

My off-grid cabin's electricity comes from solar and wind power, stored in 6-Volt golf cart batteries. A charge controller and battery minder keeps my system from under-and over charging. The whole shebang cost me less than $1000 and I have lights, fans, TV and stereo, refrigeration, and a disco ball that goes up for special occasions.

If you can turn a wrench and operate an electric drill, you can build this simple generator in two days: one day of chasing down parts and one day assembling the components. The FOUR basic components include a GM pickup truck alternator ($40 new), a GM fan-clutch assembly ($35 used), the bracket for mounting the generator on a tower or pole ($25 galvanized pipe and fittings version), and a tower or pole ($20 for 15 feet of 2" tubing, used). If you're a Ford guy or a MOPAR gal that's fine, just make sure the alternator has a built-in voltage regulator. You'll also need some electric cable or wires to hook it up to your storage battery. I used 8 gauge, three-strand copper wire pilfered from the oil patch. (And they said the transition from fossil fuels to renewables would take years. Pfft!)

My Wind Generator Parts List

Car/Truck Alternator - GM 1988, 350 motor, alternator with built-in regulator (used in illustration). Almost any alternator with a regulator will work but use a new one. It should have a warranty. 

GM Alternator

Car/Truck Fan Clutch Assembly - GM 1988, 350 motor -used

 GM Fan Clutch Assembly

Bracket Assembly for Mounting Alternator/Fan

If you have a welder, making a bracket is simple. I used 1" square tubing for all the bracket pieces and a 2-feet long piece of 1" pipe for the Rotating Stem that fits inside the pole. If you don't have a welder, fear not. The Bracket Assembly can be fitted up with 1/2" galvanized pipe and fittings. Here's a list of the pipe fittings you'll need:

1/2" Tee (5X)
1/2" Elbow (2X)
1/2" X 12" Nipple (2X)
1/2" X 6" Nipple (2X)
1/2" X 1-1/2" Nipple (2X)
1/2" X 2" Nipple (2X)
1/2" X Close (2X)
Galvanized Pipe Bracket

A tail fan to spin the generator around lining it up with the wind's direction must be attached to the 12" nipple at the back of the bracket. Cut a fan out of old tin siding or roofing with tin snips or a cutting torch. A right angle triangle shape works best. Drill three holes in the nipple. Use self-tapping screws (steel roofing screws work good) to affix the tail to the nipple.
(See photo)
 Tail

Tower/Pole - I used an old Television antenna tower 20' tall with a 2-1/2" diameter pipe top piece. You'll also need a Stop at the top of the tower which lines up with the Stop on your bracket assembly. This can be welded or bolted onto the tower. The Stops will only allow the generator to turn 360° clockwise and counterclockwise so your cable doesn't get twisted around and around the pole/tower.

A joint of 2-3/8" oil field tubing anywhere from 10' to 20' in length (height) attached to a building or bolted to your truck bumper makes a good tower. Make sure it is secure and you may need to use guy wires. If you aren't sure how to mount the generator, send me a message and I'll try to help.

Fan Clutch to Alternator Attachment:

The fan clutch hub can be welded directly to the alternator hub, just make certain the fan is perfectly straight in line with the alternator shaft. Make sure the alternator's built-in wire plug ins are located on what will be the bottom of the generator. If you don't have access to a welder, create a union from the 3" washer and four bolts, which will fasten the two major components together. Drill four holes to match the holes in the fan clutch. Use a 1/4" tap to cut threads in the holes. Unscrew the alternator pulley nut, remove the pulley and small fan. Slide the union over the alternator shaft---bolts pointing away from alternator, then reattach the alternator fan and nut onto the shaft (leave pulley off). The large nut will hold the union in place. Attach the fan clutch assembly to the bolts now protruding from the alternator. Tighten nuts with lock washers in place.
You'll need:

3" washer, 3/16" thick, 5/8" hole.
Electric drill
1/4" steel drill bit
1/4" thread tap
1/4" X 1-1/2" to 2-1/2" bolts (4) and lock washers (4)
Washer
(To determine length of bolts, stack the fan on top of the alternator with both shafts in line, fan pulley on alternator pulley. Measure length along the two shafts from back of alternator fan to back fan clutch hub. Use this length for the bolts.)

Tower of Power

Once you have all the generator components fastened together, mount it on your pole or tower. Insert the pipe on the generator inside the larger pole pipe (or the top of your tower). Use two steel washers together to create a bearing between the generator and tower for a smooth surface for the generator to pivot 360 degrees. Attach the positive and negative wires to the alternator and secure with zip ties, baling wire and/or duct tape on the bracket and along the tower. It isn't really homemade unless it has a little baling wire and duct tape on it somewhere, now is it?! You'll need assistance standing the tower and generator upright as it will be pretty heavy. Ropes and a come-along will help if you're going up fairly high. If it's always windy in your location, you only need to be high enough off the ground to keep the moving parts safely overhead. Securely fasten your tower in place. The wind can be deceptively strong so do not cut corners on this final assembly stage.

Now that you've erected the wind generator connect the wires to your battery(ies) with a charge controller in between to prevent over-under charging. Now you're ready to hit the lights, crank up the jams and bust out those old disco moves I know you've been saving up for an electric slide on the beach with your family and friends.

Build and use at your own risk. My generator works fine but you are responsible for your work. Good Luck and Power Up!



6/9/2014

solar steam engine

The following post summarizes the author’s Chapter 7 of Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year Story of Solar Energy.

Alarmed by the prodigious amount of coal consumed as the industrial revolution moved forward, a French mathematics professor, Augustine Mouchot, warned in 1860 that “Eventually industry will no longer find in Europe the resources to satisfy its prodigious expansion…Coal will undoubtedly be used up” He then asked, “What will industry do then?” It must “reap the rays of the sun,” the French professor concluded.

The First Solar Machines

Mouchot first studied what had already been done in times past to put solar energy to use. Mouchot discovered many fascinating solar machines built over the millennia, beginning with a sun-run siphon developed by Hero of Alexandria in the first-century BCE. To produce steam, he found the best combination would be to build a concave mirror that focused on a glass-covered boiler. On its first trial run in 1866, it vaporized enough water to run the world’s first solar-powered steam engine. “It functioned marvelously after an hour exposed to the sun,” he wrote, full of enthusiasm. He went on to construct even larger sun machines.

A reporter described one of his new solar motors on display by the public library at Tours in these words: “The traveler who visits the library of Tours sees in the courtyard in front a strange-looking apparatus. Imagine an immense, truncated cone that looks like a mammoth lamp shade, with its concavity directed skyward.” The reactions was one of amazement – a motor that ran without fuel, on nothing more than sunbeams.

Ice From the Sun With Concentrating Solar

In a later device, Mouchot amazed crowds in Paris by making ice from solar energy. He had connected to the sun motor a heat-powered refrigeration device invented a few years earlier. As Mouchot wrote, “Under a slightly veiled but continually shining sun, I was able, in spite of the seeming paradox, to utilize the rays of the sun to make ice.” While Parisians viewed the experiment as some magic show, Mouchot saw it as something that promised a great opportunity for the future, where sun-generated ice in tropical climates would keep food from spoiling. He was also the first to generate electricity from sunlight.

The principle behind his success was simple: When heat, in this case solar heat, is applied to the junction where two metals are soldered together, an electrical current is generated. But he had bigger plans: To heat the junctions of a hundred such bi-metallic couplings and in this way generated enough electricity to separate hydrogen from water and to store the hydrogen for fuel when the sun did not shine. But for all his efforts, he could not compete with the more efficient methods of electrical generation rapidly being perfected at the same time.

Non-steam uses for Mouchot’s concentrating solar apparatuses proved to be the most practical and popular. He replaced the boiler with a glass-enclosed cylindrical metal pot in which he baked a pound of bread in forty-five minutes and a perfect roast in less than half an hour. In another demonstration, he passed brackish water through the boiler to make it potable. The French Foreign Legion cooked in the lands of North Africa their meals with Mouchot’s solar oven. In remote areas of Algeria, settlers and explorers used his solar stills to make the brine water heavily charged with magnesium salts drinkable.



6/9/2014

Kerosene lamp

1.3 billion people in the world lack access to electricity. They depend on mostly kerosene to use as light at night, which gets expensive over time and poses a lot of health risks at home (think toxic fumes and accidental fires). But there is a viable solution already available today: affordable solar energy. In the last 5 years, the cost of solar PV technology has dropped so drastically that companies are sprouting up all over the developing world to manufacture and distribute affordable solar products to light up unelectrified homes. These products range from basic torch lights to entire solar home systems that can power multiple lights, cellphone charging, radio, and even TV. So what's enabling the off-grid solar revolution? Here are the three main reasons:

End-User Financing That Makes Sense

While the cost of solar has gone down, many of the 1.3 billion off-grid population still find the price tag on most solar products prohibitively expensive. However, solar companies have coupled their solar products with financing plans that allow customers to purchase solar products according to their level of income. These plans include monthly installments or weekly installments that span from 3 to 18 months. Some companies even go further and sell solar energy as a service similar to how people in the developed world pay their electric bills. In those cases, each family pays to keep their solar powered electricity services on, and the service will be cut off if the family stops their payment.

Looking at examples of what people currently spend on energy will put these costs and financing plans in context. A typical rural Indian household spends Rs. 150 to Rs. 300 each month on kerosene lighting. If we include diesel generators the cost goes up more. They end up spending a significant part of their overall income, which leaves them with not much funds to do anything else. A micro-grid solar project that was funded on SunFunder's crowdfunding platform ends up costing each household Rs. 100 a month and it gives them clean, bright solar lighting and overnight cell phone charging. Solar is more affordable and better for the people's health. 

People Want Solar Energy to Charge Cellphones

Cellphones in rural Uttar pradesh

Of the 1.3 billion people that lack access to electricity, about 600 million use cellphones. The majority of these off-grid cellphone users have to charge their phones through inconvenient means, like walking for hours to the nearest station where they can plug their phones into a car battery. 

Almost all basic solar lights can now also charge cellphones, and this is largely because companies that design and manufacture solar lights realize that this is the main feature that will increase the sales of solar lights in off-grid communities. Not only that, but the cellphone charging feature presents a new source of income as well--many solar light customers who are also small shopkeepers now offer cellphone charging services in their shops.

Paying for Solar is Much Easier With Cellphones (After They're Charged)

A big challenge for companies that sell solar products with financing plans or as a service is how to get paid by households that live in remote areas. The administrative cost of traveling to remote villages and collecting payments is high and unsustainable for any business. However, many developing countries have robust mobile money platforms, like M-PESA in Kenya, that allow easy money transfers with cellphones. This keeps administrative costs for companies low, and it makes paying for solar as easy as sending a text message for the customers. Check out this video of Fenix International's ReadyPay solar kits to see just how easy mobile payments are.

ReadyPay

These three factors combined together are the main reasons why solar is poised to leapfrog the electricity grid in many developing countries and deliver sustainable energy access for all. And right now, you can support the off-grid solar companies that are making it happen on SunFunder. SunFunder is a solar investment platform for both private and crowd investors and it loans capital to help scale solar companies in emerging markets. I am part of the SunFunder team, and we are doing this because we think energy access is a human right.

Photo of ReadyPay by Fenix International



4/14/2014

ecoATMecoATM, a new strategic partner with The Green Living Guy is taking recycling to you more than any other company has offered. With a no-excuses approach and 800-plus kiosks located in shopping malls and retailers near you and across the USA, recycling electronic devices has never been more accessible.

What Electronics Does ecoATM Accept?

This ATM will recycle consumer electronics including:

mobile phones
tablets
and MP3 players

By using the ATM, you will ensuring that the devices are kept out of landfills. Best part, you get cash in return. Customers can also donate a portion or all of their cash payment to a number of charity partners.  If it's too old, the ATM will ask you to donate $1 to your charity of choice by recycling the device. 

It's been reported that many consumers use the cash they get from ecoATM to support their local economies. They usually spend the money in the mall or retail outlet where they recycled their devices.

“More people across the country are realizing the hidden value in the phones and devices they’ve been tossing into junk drawers for years, and with only 20 percent of cell phones being recycled today, there is incredible potential for millions of Americans,” said Mark Bowles, ecoATM’s founder and Chief Marketing Officer. “Our goal is to offer consumers an opportunity to convert their clutter into cash while doing the right thing for the environment by keeping tons of toxic waste out of our nation’s landfills.”

The two million devices recycled means 500,000 pounds of devices not in landfills. This is equal to:

1. three space shuttles worth of plastics, metals and potentially toxic materials

2. 70,000 pounds of copper – enough to create a second Statue of Liberty (made of 62,000 pounds of copper) and still have

3. extra 1,544 pounds of silver – enough to create 22,540 American Eagle silver dollar coins (made of .0685 pounds of silver)

For respect and creds, ecoATM holds both Responsible Recycling (R2) and ISO14001 certification, confirming the company’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards of electronics recycling, as well as ISO27001 certification for information and personal data security.

Sources: See "How it Works" (ecoATM) for a video of how an ecoATM kiosk works, visit www.ecoATM.com and for more information about Outerwall Inc, the Parent company, please visit www.outerwall.com.

Photo Caption:

ecoATM, the nationwide network of automated electronics recycling kiosks, has officially recycled more than two million phones and devices in its four-year history. ecoATM's more than 800 kiosks, which are located in shopping malls and retailers, recycle consumer electronics and provide cash payments as an incentive for consumers to recycle. (PRNewsFoto/ecoATM)

Photo by ECOATM









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