Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The $1 Watt barrier.... Reality? Or Myth?

You talk to various groups in the Solar photovoltaic industry and they say that the $1 per Watt barrier is the measure to beat. Sort of like the 4-minute mile. Everyone is shooting for it. Unfortunately, according to a recent post in Greentech Media... this is way wrong. It depends on what the cost per Watt already is in your particular power grid. If you are in an expensive cost-per-Watt area already, you might not have to reach $1/watt to make your investment in solar photovoltaics worth the effort.

What this barrier also doesn't look at is the rate of inflation. If folks were talking about the purchasing power of the dollar about 15 years ago or even 5 years ago... it has no bearing on what that dollar is worth today. There are also more efficiencies involved... and you must also see how many days of insolation you have in your particular location. You'll get far less solar photovoltaic energy from an Alaskan photovoltaic installation in the winter than you would in Arizona or Hawaii. Of course, you'll get a whole lot more photovoltaic energy from a solar installation in Alaska during the northern hemisphere SUMMER.

For more information on this you can go to the Greentech Post About Cost per Watt Barrier for Photovoltaic Power.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Offshore Windfarms in Denmark! As Seen From Space!

I was doing some work on my Squidoo lens on Space Exploration, and I stumbled over the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) website. One of the links on their site was for satellite views of the Offshore Wind Farms, Copenhagen, Denmark. Since it's such a different way of seeing these types of alternate energy production, I thought I'd include it here for your enjoyment and viewing pleasure.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Solar Quonset Hut in Victoria Province, Australia!

I was exploring the web today when I stumbled over a beautiful architectural example of what can be done for energy efficiency and energy self-sufficiency! I was working on my Squidoo lens on Quonset Huts and found this Solar House at Mt. Best, north of the Toora Windfarm and East of Melbourne about 10 kilometers North of Victoria Province's Australian Highway A440.

The Solar House on Mt. Best also has its own wind-power generator, and uses energy conserving and energy-efficient architectural design techniques to maximize the solar and wind power generated.

Very nice. (From the looks of the place, I'd love to live there!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Some Ranting on Solar - Alternatives to Photovoltaics

(I posted this in a different forum -- but since it's MY writing, I claim it as my own *grin*)

Solar doesn't always have to be about the "photovoltaics" (although that always seems to be the *sexy* thing that gets the media hype).

Solar mirrors and solar heat have been used long, long, long before the photovoltaics were even invented.

Parabolic solar collectors aimed at water pipes can create a good steam pressure (aka "head") to run turbines to generate electricity... also, the flat-plate mirrors (sun-tracking mirrors called "heliostats") can be focused on salt-containers and heat-exchange units to create thermal heat to run generators. These can be done on a large scale--like the solar-collecting troughs of Solar-1 plant in Nevada, the heliostats of Solar-1 plant near Barstow, California .. .or the large test facility near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But on a smaller scale, individuals can spray-paint copper-piping with flat-black paint and enclose those pipes into a glass-faced box such that the water flowing through the pipes can either radiate heat into their dwelling or provide hot water for washing.

Yes, we should look into the "industrial-strength-sized" solar concentrating plants for large-scale power generation. But this technology isn't new or even a "breakthrough". This technology (and the underlying concepts) have been used for decades. I'm happy to see that the governments and the research institutions are looking at it again.

Passive solar homes have been around since the 1800's. Tromb walls, clerestory windows, thermal mass, phase-change-materials (PCM), radiative heat exchangers, proper insulation, proper landscaping, -- all of these go a long way to making more energy-efficient homes... but combined with active solar concentrators AND photovoltaics... along with wind and other technologies, you can really squeeze more energy out of highly available sources.

Squidoo lens on Environmental Alternatives
Squidoo lens on "Moving Electrons"


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Electric Jeepney is LTO-licensed in the Philippines-a Start of the Green Movement

The Philippines Land Transportation Office (LTO) released the first-ever license plate for an electric vehicle to a locally-assembled electric jeepney.

The 14-passenger e-jeepney, manufactured by PhUV Inc. (the business arm of the Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturers Association of the Philippines – MVPMAP), is now going through pilot testing on the Legaspi jeepney route in Makati City.

Some of the parts and components for the vehicle obviously had to be obtained from offshore international manufacturers (such as the motors from a China manufacturer), but the design, fabrication, and assembly were accomplished by PhUV, Inc. in the Philippines. A second e-jeepney is slated to be added to the Salcedo Village route in Makati City.

As part of the e-jeepney transportation system, the Green Renewable Independent Power Producer (GRIPP) organization (PhUV, Inc. and environmental group Green Pease are GRIPP members), funded in part by the Doen Foundation of the Netherlands and Green Peace, is in the process of creating a biodigester for generating electricity from biodegradable household wastes and a depot to store and serve as the charging station/terminal for the e-jeepneys.

PhUV, Inc. plans to add three body styles of the smaller electric tricycles (e-trikes) to their assembly lines to serve the transportation needs of the more rural areas of the Philippines. PhUV is making two demonstration "e-trikes" (a 5-seater and a cargo pickup). The vehicles can run at speeds of 40 kph and require 6 to 8 hours of charging.

PhUV stated that they plan to sell 200 units of the e-jeepneys during the next two years. Green Peace has ordered 44 of the units of which 26 will be delivered by the end of this year.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Upcoming Events and Goodies for Do-It-Yourselfers -- Time to Study?

Upcoming events you might be interested in attending:

AWEA Wind Power Supply Chain WorkshopCleveland, OH December 8-9, 2008

Windpower 2009Conference and ExhibitionChicago, IL May 4-7, 2009

Links to Solar Energy Events

Links to Web-Based Alternate Energy Newsletters

Want to Do It Yourself? Or, Learn More about How These Things Work?

Good references for the adventurous "Do-It-Yourselfer" types:
Alternate Energy Resource Manual--Lots of ideas for ways you can build your own alternate energy sources for your home or small business.

Solar Power Design Manual--Teach Yourself All About Solar Power. Comprehensive Manual by Genuine Expert. Spreadsheet Included.

Renewable Energy Solutions--The Manual--The folks who put this together have been presented on TV, Google, and the New York Times as a source of Alternate Energy Information. Good stuff for those in need of Alternate Energy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Using Solar Panel to Cook, Sera Temple, Lhasa, Tibet, China
Using Solar Panel to Cook, Sera Temple, Lhasa, Tibet, China Photographic Print
Su, Keren
Buy at AllPosters.com

Here's proof that you don't need to have a huge amount of "technology" to effectively use alternate energy (in this case, solar energy for cooking). The energy from the sun is available for anyone who wants to capture it--and you can use simple materials such as cardboard, silver-coated mylar film or mirrors, and a rebar pot-holder stand to make this concept work.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Solar Happenings in the San Francisco Bay Area

Chinese solar photovoltaic manufacturer Trina Solar Ltd. of Changzhou, China, has chosen San Francisco, California as its base for North America sales operations. A few miles south, in the Silicon Valley, the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation dedicated a 185 kW solar-electric system on the roof of their Parkside Hall--an ancillary building next to their main facility. The solar installation of SunPower solar panels mounted on non-roof-penetrating T10 Solar Roof Tiles was designed and installed by SunPower Corporation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Remote "Electrification" in the Rural Philippines - the Solar Method

In coordination with the Australian and Philippine governments, BP Solar installed one of the world's largest solar power projects (the Municipal Solar Infrastructure Project - MSIP) in the Philippines between 1997 through 2001--with ongoing imrpovements to the facilities. The Australian Government provided a grant and soft-loan combination of about $27 million to fund the project for which BP Solar provided design, training, engineering, and installation services after the Australian and Philippine governments confirmed the intended locations for the facilities.

The installation provides lighting for homes, schools, and community centers, as well as remote telecommunication, fresh drinking water, and vaccine refrigeration for about 721,140 individuals in 11 provinces, 53 municipalities, and 435 villages in the most remote and otherwise un-electrified areas of Mindanao and Visayas.

BP installed 1,145 packaged solar systems in the 435 villages in order to upgrade four district hospitals, 11 rural health centers, 104 village health centers, 260 village drinking water supply systems, six municipal halls, 201 village halls, 266 schools, and lighting for 289 communal areas.

A key factor is that before starting this project, the government and BP representatives prepared the villagers for the project by hosting community assemblies to introduce the project concept and the basics of solar electricity generation. Community groups were formed to manage the systems, and training was provided to 2,251 villagers so they could maintain and repair the facilities. After the installation, follow-up visits were conducted to ensure that the facilities were operating effectively without any troubles.

If more systems like this were installed through joint ventures with governments and private industries, there would be a lot less dependance on oil and other fossil fuels.

At the same time, although governments (federal, state, and city) should get on board with alternate, renewable energy sources for their facilities such as the Philippine installation, it's still up to us as individuals to investigate and implement our own energy-saving and alternate energy applications--whether it be solar photovoltaics, solar water heating, solar air heating, wind-power generation, and other sources.

(The BP Solar Project office is in Mandaue City, Cebu--and the BPPI's main office is in Makati City.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Upcoming Solar and Alternate Events - Resources for Do-It-Yourselfers!

The resources are out there. All you have to do is either attend an event to get the information in person (take a lot of notes!) and get the materials there:

American Wind Energy Association

AWEA Wind Energy Fall Symposium 2008
Palm Desert, CA November 19-21, 2008

AWEA Wind Power Supply Chain Workshop
Cleveland, OH December 8-9, 2008

Windpower 2009
Conference and Exhibition
Chicago, IL May 4-7, 2009

Links to Solar Energy Events

Links to Web-Based Alternate Energy Newsletters

Or... you can also find good references for the adventurous "Do-It-Yourselfer" types:

Alternate Energy Resource Manual--Lots of ideas for ways you can build your own alternate energy sources for your home or small business.

Solar Power Design Manual--Teach Yourself All About Solar Power. Comprehensive Manual by Genuine Expert. Spreadsheet Included.

Renewable Energy Solutions--The Manual--The folks who put this together have been presented on TV, Google, and the New York Times as a source of Alternate Energy Information. Good stuff for those in need of Alternate Energy!

Happy Friday! If you get these references today, you'll be able to get the materials at the hardware store this evening or tomorrow morning and have a good weekend start at building your own alternate energy contraption!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Project, anyone? Home-made solar water heater?

A recent post in another forum mentioned that all the focus nowadays seems to be on solar photovoltaic panels--that's the "high-tech" and "sexy" issue that's getting all the attention.

But the benefits of other, less technology-oriented, solar energy collection are largely being ignored.

Anyone who has entered a car left on a parking lot all day (even a day when it's cloudy) can attest to the "collection of solar heat".

So, the next question is, "How do we USE this captured solar heat?"

That's something we could be working on.

Also, if you leave a black or dark-colored garden hose laying on the lawn all day, you can generally be sure that the water in the hose will be hot. Very hot.

So again, how do you use this heat?

These scenarios point to using an enclosed solar collector with piping/tubing within the enclosure. The piping comes from a water source, flows to the enclosed solar collector tubing, absorbs the heat collected and stored in the enclosure, then flows out to provide hot water for bathing or through a heat-exchanger (like a radiator) to provide room heat.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) contractors and construction professionals are already aware of using this type of heat collection and are using versions of it for under-floor thermal heating. The thermal mass of the floor around the embedded water-flow piping radiates the heat into the living space of the buidings. At the moment, most of this type of "space-heating" is provided by natural gas heaters heating the water going to the heat-exchanging floor-tubing. But this could also be accomplished by using parabolic solar collectors heating the water for storage in insulated tanks and then releasing the water through the floor-heat exchangers. It won't take long before these should be common.

In the meantime, there's nothing stopping folks like you and me from reading up on this alternate energy use and just doing something ourselves. This beats waiting around for the government or ready-made products to be available.

Just a thought.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hybrid Concentrated Solar Energy - Do It Yourself?

Copper tubing and panels being soldered before being spray-painted flat-black. To be used in solar water heater collector. Work done at the University of Guam. Photo by Dave Gardner

The concept of "Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV)" is becoming well-known and can be seen every day on the road in much of the U.S. and the rest of the world.

But now, in a joint Australian, American, and Chinese research project, the concept of "Hybrid Concentrated Solar Energy" is being studied and has resulted in devices that combine solar heat collection with solar photovoltaic electricity generation.

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU), China's Tianjin University, and Silicon Valley's Chromasun created large roof-mounted solar-trough-concentrator systems that use the mirrors to focus sunlight onto strips of high-efficiency photovoltaic cells. Then, the thermal aspect of the collectors uses heat-absorbing water-flow tubes that provide flow to hot water storage and in-slab floor heating. These devices were large installations (for example, 80 mirrors, 80 meters long, 20 kilowatts) used primarily for businesses and government institutions.

This process has worked so well that now the researchers are developing smaller devices to be available for individual consumer home use.

You can read more details about this project here: Hybrid Concentrated Solar Energy".

Still Room for the Do-It-Yourselfers

Although it's great that this type of research is being done at the University and Corporate level, what's to keep folks from tinkering with this concept at home and coming up with something similarly innovative or even better? Who wants to wait for the research and development to finally work its way through the government and corporate bureaucracy before becoming available for regular consumers like us?

You can buy "pieces" of solar photovoltaic chips or the whole panels on eBay or from other sources. You can also go to local hardware stores to buy copper tubing, PVC-pipes, caulking compound, flat-black paint, "glazing", plywood, aluminum sheets, and other supplies. You can also find plastic fresnel lenses (useful as "concentrators") readily available either through online suppliers or your local stores.

If you don't have much in the way of mechanical or electrical or plumping ability, you may be able to find some friends or acquaintances who might like to help you with a project like this. You only need to ask around.

If you have a website shows your own alternate energy contraptions and you'd like to share it, let me know the link--and I'll link to it here!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Losing Interest in Alternate Energy? DON'T!

Just because the gas/fuel prices have come down almost by half (here in the U.S.) since about 4 months ago, don't abandon the continuing push toward alternate energy. This drop in prices is only a brief moment in this crazy economy. You can bet that fuel prices will be jumping up toward the end of the year.

Who to blame? Who knows? It could be the OPEC folks in cahoots with the automotive manufacturers messing with the supply to lull us into buying more gas-guzzlers. It could be some kind of manipulation by the big oil companies to play games with us while they post RECORD PROFITS! But it really doesn't matter.

It's time for ALL OF US to explore our own methods of tapping into alternate energy sources--whether it's homemade do-it-yourself solar collectors for heating water or air, or assembling your own solar photovoltaic panels and then installing them on your roof. Or, hybrid-electric-vehicles (HEV) or plug-in-hybrid-electric-vehicle (PHEV), or Natural-Gas-Vehicles (NGV), or hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicles (HFCV).

Of course, not only should we be switching to other sources of energy, we should also be conserving and cutting back on how we currently use energy. By properly insulating our homes, by switching the incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs or better yet, Light-Emitting-Diodes (LED), by not taking long hot-water-showers, by not leaving unnecessary lights and electrical appliances on when they're not being used.

Some of this will require minor adjustments to our daily habits. And some of this will take more than that--it may require a major investment into the methods of using the alternate energy sources.

But every step toward alternate energy (anything other than fossil fuel) will be a good move that will pay off quicker than most would assume.

I'm curious. With the folks from all over the world reading this blog and some of my rants here, what are you doing and what are your countries doing to use alternate energy and to conserve energy?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Paint-On Solar Panels?

There's been a lot of news lately about "paint-on solar panels"... in which the paint contains chemicals that can take the sunlight through an electron transfer process to create a current that can be collected and transmitted through wiring to provide electrical current.

This is a nifty concept--but as the researchers say, it's still being studied and has a long way to go before being viable for common domestic use.

You want another way to create a solar panel from the mere act of "painting it"?

--Get one or more wood or metal panels (4'X8' or other size)
--Get some flat-black paint
--Get some reflective silver paint or mylar film (with glue/sealant)

--Cut the wood/metal into easily liftable sizes

--Paint one side (and edges) of the wood/metal with the flat-black paint.
--Paint the other side with the reflective silver paint (or line it with the mylar)

--Let the contraption(s) dry and set.

During the day (when it's cold outside), lay the panels black-side-up in the sunlight hitting your floor near your southern exposure windows. The panels absorb some of the heat and then that heat transfers to the rest of your home.

Later, when the direct sunlight is no longer streaming into your windows, turn the panels over--the reflective side will still send some of that valuable light deeper into your home... negating the need for turning on light bulbs (incandescent, fluorescent, or otherwise --LEDs?--).

This is sort of a BASIC concept... but it works. And anything, and everything, is worth a try.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Solar Energy Doesn't Have to Result in Electricity!

Although it seems that the big push nowadays is solar photovoltaic panels and their installation (to be off-grid most of the time!), you can also get a nice savings and benefit from using solar energy in other ways!

Solar water heaters--You can make your own and install it yourself (after getting the plans, it takes a bit of work, but it's gratifying when you have completed the project!) or you can get it from the manufacturer and have professional installers put it in for you. (See the picture at the right side of this blog!)

Solar air heaters--Same as above... you can get the plans and build it yourself, or you can get professionals to get it and install it for you.

Solar architecture--Just by making some modifications to where you live, you can take advantage of solar energy. In the northern hemisphere, winter is approaching. If you can arrange to have your east and south facing windows unblocked so that the incoming sun can heat the floor and perhaps a brick/masonry wall or two, you can take advantage of the "thermal mass" of the floor to help with your heating. As soon as the direct sunlight is no longer coming through those windows, close insulating drapes over them to prevent the captured heat from escaping.

Conservation efforts--If your home is not insulated well, you still should take the time now before the weather gets even nastier to weather-strip your doors and windows. Make sure your window-sills and cracks are sealed well. Make sure your doors close well and firmly against the jam. Warm air leaking from your home can cost you with more expensive heating bills.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Solyndra and Gecko Logic!

From a Solyndra press release, the following story: Solyndra Inc., a manufacturer of photovoltaic systems, has signed a new long-term sales contract with German solar integrator GeckoLogic GmbH. The thin-film solar panels for the contract will be manufactured at Solyndra's facilities in Fremont and Milpitas, Calif.

"Solyndra's light system weight and low wind-loading enables our firm to install solar on a large number of rooftops that otherwise could not support traditional PV systems," says Steve Gyoerffy, CEO and co-founder of GeckoLogic.

And while digging around to get this information, I found the following interesting solar/alternate energy site:

(And, if you are wondering what a Gecko really is, you are welcome to visit my Gecko Site Here!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Best Way to Beat the Energy Crunch! Do It Yourself!

<--Photo by Dave Gardner. Row of Homemade Solar Ovens with a Parabolic Solar Concentrator Cooker.

I've been corresponding with folks who have come up with their own ways to beat the energy crunch. They are in the "Do It Yourself" (DIY) Mode. And this may be the most expedient and best way to get around the energy crunch!

It's well-known that you can buy photovoltaic panels and inverters, wind generators, hydro-generators, and storage batteries on eBay or through the many distributors throughout the world and close to your location. You can buy various books on how to set these alternate energy devices up with your home or business. You can either buy the nicely assembled plans and assembly instructions through some of the providers mentioned on this blog, or--if you are the "adventurous type" and you have a lot of time on your hands--you can do your own research on Google and other search engines and find free plans and instructions for setting up these devices.

The key, however, is getting out there and DOING IT.

I would like to hear from folks who have put together parabolic solar concentrators, solar water heaters, solar space heaters, solar swimming pool heaters, solar photovoltaic panels and inverter/battery combinations, wind-generators, hydro-generators, and so on. The wind and solar generators are very common in the boating industry -- large sailboats and yachts always seem to have these somewhere on deck.

So, if you have put these together and have had some success with these new options, let us know! If you have pictures that you'd like to share, let me know as well! We need the inspiration!

In the meantime, I'm adding some pictures of home-made solar collectors here.

<-- Close-Up of the homemade Parabolic Solar Concentrator Cooker. Chicken Drumstick being Cooked. Photo by Dave Gardner


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Upcoming events in Alternate Energy (wind power):

American Wind Energy Association
AWEA Wind Power Health & Safety Workshop
Denver, CO October 29-30, 2008

AWEA Wind Energy Fall Symposium 2008
Palm Desert, CA November 19-21, 2008

AWEA Wind Power Supply Chain Workshop
Cleveland, OH December 8-9, 2008

Windpower 2009
Conference and Exhibition
Chicago, IL May 4-7, 2009

Environmentally-Friendly, Energy-Saving Trains, Part Two

Kawasaki Heavy Industries is developing a high-speed train named the environmentally friendly super express train (efSET), that can reach speeds of 217 mph (350 kph). This train design is more energy-efficient and less noisy and uses 19% less energy than other trains currently on the Japan National Railway (JNR) rails. It's lightweight, aerodynamic, and uses "regenerative braking technology" to capture energy lost during braking. Japan currently has the world's fastest train network, with trains reaching up to 180 mph (300 kph).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hybrid-Electric Trains (HET)?

Trains are an effective, environmentally-friendly, cost-savings method for transporting cargo across long land-distances--especially with the advent of intermodal tranportation, in which carriers maximize the efficiency, cost, and timeliness by integrating different transportation modes for their cargo--whether it's fare-paying passengers, dedicated cargo-containers, or the intermodal-trucktrailer-flatbed combo cars.

New innovations also need to be made for train transport--such that these innovations combine research in alternate energy sources and usage methods, cargo-production-and-destination studies, and new methods of containing and transporting cargo.

Imagine if you wanted to have a family trip to L.A. You could go by plane, but the cost of the tickets for a family of four, the rental car and fuel, the hotels, and whatever attractions you might find there could be prohibative. What if you could drive your car (a PHEV, of course) onto a specially-designed "container car" that accomodates vehicles, then leave your vehicle and walk to the passenger car of the train, where you could enjoy a high-speed, few interruptions, trip across the country or down the coast. You would be able to get up and walk with the kids to the dining-car, or perhaps purchase a meal and/or snacks from the roving attendants with the carts (as they do in Japan on many of the long-distance, non-commuter trains). Because you are on the train with maybe another 400 or so other travelers, you have effectively gotten 200-300 other cars off the road--thus saving fuel and emmisions. You are also experiencing less stress from the driving. Once you get to your destination, you walk through the cars to the one that has your vehicle stored, off-load the car, and away you go with your family. The return trip could be the same.

How to Make the Trains More Effective and Energy-Efficient as Well?

Hitachi has developed a system to use Hybrid-Electric/Diesel technology for trains. By using a battery-assisted diesel-electric traction engine, the battery is used when the train is stopped at a station or elsewhere and during early accelerations up to about 20mph (30kph). After the 20mph/30kph threshold has been reached, the conventional diesel engine activates for further acceleration. Hitachi's tests in Japan showed that the hybrid system cut emissions by 50% and fuel costs by 20%. This system is being worked on for production in Japan and Europe.

This could be another way that the U.S. and world could improve their energy "footprint". This technology is already being used for municipal buses and cars (the HEV and PHEV), so there shouldn't be much of an additional stretch to start applying it to trains.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Solar Plant Applications Being Accepted Again by BLM

On May 29th this year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced that they would no longer accept proposals for new solar plants on BLM lands in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California. The BLM officials said they were overwhelmed by more than 100 proposals and required 2 years to study potential environmental impacts for those proposals. However, Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Colorado Representative Mark Udall put some pressure on the Feds; and on July 2, the BLM said that it would continue to accept new solar plant proposals--while they continued studies on the plant environmental impacts.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Resources for Investigating and Building Your Own Energy Safety Net

Alternate Energy Resource Manual--Lots of ideas for ways you can build your own alternate energy sources for your home or small business.

Solar Power Design Manual--Teach Yourself All About Solar Power. Comprehensive Manual by Genuine Expert. Spreadsheet Included.

Renewable Energy Solutions--The Manual--The folks who put this together have been presented on TV, Google, and the New York Times as a source of Alternate Energy Information. Good stuff for those in need of Alternate Energy!

California City Takes First Step Towards Renewable Energy

The Tracy (California) City Council voted 4-1 last night (Tuesday, October 8, 2008) to put a solar or other renewable energy generation facility on 200 acres it owns in its southwest corner of city limits. The city originally acquired the property when the General Services Administration sold 50 acres to them, but then the GSA also released the rest of the land on the condition that it be used for recreation or education. One power company, GWF Power Systems, is already discussing whether it can build a solar farm on the land to supplement the local power plant.

The city was originally going to put sports fields on the land, but then they discovered that there were underground high-pressure natural gas pipelines and heavy industry (including the current power plant) in the same area. So the sports-field idea was squelched.

To be able to build the solar energy facilities, the city must now negotiate changes to the Federal requirement about "recreation or education".

Of course, they might be able to get around this by not negotiating with the Feds, but to use the solar or alternate energy facility as a teaching center and model for students and teachers (whether for elementary, secondary, or college studies). That would satisfy the requirement for "educational purposes".

There would have to be some coordination between the engineering and power company building the facility and educational representatives, but that could probably be worked out a lot more effectively than fooling around with negotiating with the Feds (the Feds seem to have a lot of other problems on their plates to fool with this little matter).

I, of course, being an ex-science teacher and having taken many alternate energy classes myself, propose to be one of their "educational representatives" to create educational materials for different grade-level audiences for all the students and teachers coming to take tours of the facility.

These resources would consist of coloring pamphlets and short and simple energy lessons for the younger crowd and more complex booklets for the older and more advanced students. Since I've taught elementary kids, junior high kids, and high-school level kids basic science (and I was a teaching assistant when I was in Grad School at the University of Guam), I feel that I have the qualifications to develop these materials. And, of course, it would be great to get "sponsorship" from PG&E, BP, Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and other energy-companies in addition to that from ZomeWorks, SolarPower, Aram Solar, Bloom Energy, and Solyndra.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Solar Panels? We Need Options?

According to a report by the Solar Energy Industry Associaton--in 2007, solar installations in the U.S. rose by 45% to 150 megawatts. That's equal to the total energy use of about 37,500 homes.

But that's not enough.

There's no excuse anymore for building homes without consideration for energy conservation as well as at least partial self-generation capabilities.

In addition to proper construction with correct insulation, homes and business buildings should have energy-efficient designs, orientations, and landscaping. You can retro-fit homes and building with solar panels, wind-generators, and other energy-conserving or electricity-generating devices, and this would still be a good option. However, retro-fitting sometimes is "too obvious".

New buildings (for homes and business) can be built such that the alternate energy devices and construction is integrated into the structure. They can be built such that their positioning on the construction site takes into consideration the optimum conservation of energy and use of ambient energy. Landscaping can also enhance the buildings' efficiencies.

SunPower (controlled by Cypress Semiconductor) is a leading manufacturer of solar panels that work seamlessly with flat-roof tiles and the Spanish-style curved clay tiles common in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and other sunny areas. Lumeta, a division of DRI Energy, is also making similar "integrated panels". New advances in solar photovoltaic technology are enabling manufacturers to build solar panels into a wide variety of roofing tiles, walls, and even patio awnings such that they are not as obvious.

The time has come for folks to stop whining and complaining and fussing over the "Return on Investment" or "payback" on solar energy in the form of photovoltaic panels, solar air heating, solar water heating, and so on. It's now becoming a necessity--particularly in areas where ambient sun is plentiful.

When you buy a refrigerator or a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine or an air-conditioner, you don't ask "what's the payback time?" or "what's my return on my investment?". No, purchasing one of these things makes your life more convenient and has some benefit that you can enjoy. Refrigerators keep food from spoiling quickly, and thus can in the long run save you money (because you don't have to run to the store every day to get fresh food and you can save left-overs for extra meals--and you won't come down with food-poisoning so frequently). Vacuum cleaners are not a necessity--because you can always use a mop or broom and a dustpan. But they are time savers and perhaps more efficient at getting allergy-producing dust and dirt and pollen off your floors and other things needing to be swept. Air conditioners are also not a necessity. However, living conditions in some parts of the world would be borderline unbearable without an air-conditioner. Can you imagine a hotel (or worse yet, a hospital) without air-conditioning? Particularly in the southern part of the U.S. and in most tropical parts of the world, being stuck in a hospital bed without air-conditioning would not be pleasant. It might be downright dangerous. And... no-one fusses about the "payback time" or the "return on investment" for air-conditioners.

So, this being said, we should continue with research into new ways of capturing the power of the sun, geothermal, hydropower, and wind-power--and we should get our lawmakers to lighten up and help the construction industry and the citizens to bring electricity generation home and more in control of individuals.

More later....

Photo by Dave Gardner - Fuel-Efficient Toyota Prius Parked in Front of Home with Solar Panels. (If this were a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle - PHEV - that had the engine converted to run on used vegetable oil, it would never need to go to a gas station! And it would be plugged in to the sun!)


Monday, October 6, 2008

Wind Energy Crunch...

A recent story in Design News mentioned that although wind-power generation projects have escalated during the past few years, the manufacturers of the wind turbines and generators are facing problems keeping up with the demand. There's more to engineering the aerodynamic blades and industrial-strength generators than what would be required for standard, on-the-ground, facilities. The Design News article explains it further.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Solar Power Conference Coming Up - In San Diego!

There's a solar power conference (Solar Power International) coming up in San Diego from October 13 through 16, 2008.

This event will be a wealth of information on solar energy (photovoltaics, concentrating photovoltaics, solar thermal electric or solar hot water). There will be 420+ exhibitors on the show floor and 65+ conference sessions to choose from to learn about the latest market, policy, finance and technology happenings in the industry.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

e-Jeepney? In Makati?

Okay, for some of you, the question may be.... "What's a Jeepney?"

A jeepney is a very common mode of transportation in the Philippines. And, yes, it's based on the general form of the WWII version of the American jeep. After WWII, there were bunches of jeeps left behind as the Allied Forces left the Philippines and headed for home. Entrepreneurial and creative Filipinos salvaged these jeeps, fixed them up, lengthened the bodies, decorated them inside and out, and put them on the streets as an economic "bus system" that is sort of a cross between taxi and bus service and abstract art gallery. They are usually ornately decorated with wild colors, chrome, and ornaments.

The local government of Makati City (suburb of Manila) is planning on having 10 electric jeepneys (e-Jeepney) by December of this year. They already have three out there running around, but they want to add 7 more before the end of the year. The eJeeps are locally designed and built by the Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturing Association of the Philippines (MVPMAP)--a consortium of about 130 Philippine automotive parts and components manufacturing companies.

They take a long time to procure and assemble because many of the components that make up an "eJeepney" are imported from foreign suppliers. (As with most finished products today, right?)

It will be interesting to see how the e-Jeepneys fare in the heavy traffic around Manila. Also, I'd be interested in seeing their "recharging stations" or whether they are pure-electric or whether or not they are hybrid-electric vehicles (HEV) or plug-in-hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEV). The flat roof of these vehicles would be a handy place to install photovoltaic panels to help keep the batteries charged while they are sitting in parking lots and at the curbs waiting for fares.

(much of the information in this post came from the Philippines Today newspaper Sept 25-Oct 1 edition)

Photo by Dave Gardner

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What Ever Happened to Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)?

Are there any operational Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plants anywhere?

Or, was this just another option that folks were scrambling to investigate during the "energy crunch of the 1970s/1980s--and it became a dead end?

As a former marine biology major at the University of Guam, I remember that researchers were finding that biofouling was a major problem. The intake pipes would quickly reduce in volume because algae, barnacles, and mussels would coat the linings and other internal areas. Another problem was how to protect the plants during tropical storms... some of the storms, such as hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones could severely damage the main structure as well as the accessory structures of such a plant.

OTEC was an interesting concept--but it didn't go very far.

OTEC uses the temperature differential between deep water and surface water to liquify and vaporize a coolant (much in the same way a refrigerator works). The cooler water liquifies the coolant, the warmer surface water vaporizes it. When the coolant is vaporized, the gaseous form can move turbine blades of a generator--thus producing the power. Back in the late 1970s, there was a pilot plant in Hawaii. Another was being investigated on Guam.

Evidently, the interest in this method of generating power has waned and the plants are no longer working (they've probably been scrapped by now).

Hawaii was investigating all sorts of power/energy alternatives--geothermal (with all their volcanos, this would be viable in some ways), wave action/tidal (these are also in action in France, I believe), biofuel (halekoa, tangantangan--a fast-growing legume/tree that many consider a weed--shredded and used for boiler-style electricity-generating plants), and small-scale hydroelectric (dams aren't that pretty and can wipe out indigenous plants and animals in their flood area--a major concern in tourist destinations).

However, the best bet for places such as Hawaii (and other places as well) is most likely solar. I was digging around again for solar info... and I stumbled over this solar contracting and research facility -- based in Hawaii: Sopogy. Their headquarters are in Hawaii, but they also have offices here in the U.S. --one is in San Jose, California.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Learning Resources for Alternate Energy Advocates!

I have been collecting solar and alternate energy references and resources for the past 30 years. It started when I was in high school and got interested in other ways to create heat and light (mostly for during typhoons) when we lived on Guam.

I've recently discovered an interesting resource that you can see when you click here. Lots of ideas for ways you can build your own alternate energy sources for your home or small business.

And here are two more:

Solar Power Design Manual--Teach Yourself All About Solar Power. Comprehensive Manual by Genuine Expert. Spreadsheet Included.

Renewable Energy Solutions--The Manual--The folks who put this together have been presented on TV, Google, and the New York Times as a source of Alternate Energy Information. Good stuff for those in need of Alternate Energy!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Alternate Energy Lessons....

The recent hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast states have left much of the Houston, Texas, area without power. Without power, they can't pump gas or water. According to an alternate energy blog called The Energy Road Map much of this problem is because decent modes of energy storage have not been developed or implemented in this area.

I know the feeling.

When I lived on the Western Pacific island of Guam, we frequently experienced powerful hurricane-like typhoons. These storms would trash the island (namely, taking out the power poles and lines)--and depending on the severity of the storm, it would take anywhere from a few days to a few months to get the power back up around the island.

For this reason, many major businesses and government entities would have backup gas or diesel generators to provide for their lighting and other electrical needs. For cooking, many establishments had propane tanks to provide for this need.

Since the power goes out frequently on Guam for reasons other than storms (the brown-tree-snake is always a problem--they get into the transformers and cause blowouts when they cross two lines on a powerline), we learned to tolerate cold-showers, light-less nights, and other inconveniences. Some of us also got creative with solar heat (lots of sun available on Guam!) and collecting rainwater. A garden hose filled with rainwater (from a 55-gallon drum collecting water from the roof run-off) left on the lawn during the day would provide a nice hot shower for the evening bath.

A pot of rainwater suspended on a tripod over a parabolic, aluminum/mylar-lined dish would provide boiling water and heat for cooking.

The folks on Guam have become adept at barbequeing--because cooking with electricity isn't always an option. You may have to make some adjustments cooking with solar rather than burning "tangentangen" wood, but heat is heat... and you can get a nice hot meal from the sun if you have your parabolic dish set up correctly.

Just a thought.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Do-It Yourself versus Buy What's Available

When I was studying alternate energy in school many, many years ago (1974-1980, if you must know), it was not easy finding good alternate energy products. And, in our classes at the University of Guam and the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus Guam Extension, we wound up making our alternate energy items--including a solar water heater, a solar oven, and a solar cooker.

As students, we each acquired the plywood, copper pipes, solder, butane torch, nails, flat-black spray paint, glass/glazing, glass-cutter, duct-tape, and other tools necessary to build these things. It required some heavy lifting, some hot soldering, teamwork with holding the copper pipes while they were being soldered and for heavy lifting of the assembled units.

I was taking the classes as a public school science teacher (taking additional classes to satisfy my teaching certification requirements)--so the units I made wound up being part of the science curriculum at the high school I was teaching at-- and those things may still be in the science department storeroom.

But the solar energy principles and the learning experience of hands-on work with building the units have stayed with me ever since.

Now? Maybe instead of building my own solar water heater and solar cooker and solar oven (although I probably could easily do this, if I had the inclination), it might be better to buy those that are now available commercially.

My experience with building the things is helpful now when evaluating the quality and performance of the commercially-built units.

Why buy a commercial unit? Even though it may seem costly, you may get a higher-quality product. If you are not a metal-worker or experienced carpenter or construction worker or engineer, you might not get a good unit even after all the time you've put into assembling an alternate energy unit. If you buy a commercial unit, chances are good that the assembly is well-put-together and it will have a warranty on it.

You can always meet the solution half-way -- you can buy a solar or alternate energy KIT -- which provides you with a box or shipping crate of the proper components, and all you have to do is assemble it on your intended location. This ensures that the basic components are good and functional and saves you on the installation costs.

There are many different ways of looking at alternate energy resources for your home or business--I hope these help with your decision to act on avoiding the oil monster.

Power your home with solar or wind power, visit the Alternative Energy Store!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thin-film Photovoltaic (TFPV) -- Printing Your Solar Panel?

By 2015 (6 years from now), amorphous silicon photovoltaic technology will use more than $900 million in silane gas and other silicon-based materials (sand will be a good thing to have a lot of).

It used to be that the crystalline silicon photovoltaic materials were the hot technology (as seen in the solar panels developed for space flight and the early PV panels used on home and business installations) for electricity generation.

But now, the thin-film PV materials are strong light absorbers and only need to be about 1 micrometer thick..... so the material costs are significantly reduced. The most common materials for thin-film PV are amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper indium (gallium) diselenide (CIS or CIGS).

Each of these three is suitable for large-area deposition (on substrates of about 1-meter wide) and thus are suitable for high-volume manufacturing. The thin-film semiconductor layers are deposited onto either coated glass or stainless steel sheets.

Research organizations and manufacturers are now exploring how to apply this chemistry to photovoltaic-capable inks--that when applied and dry, will generate a current when exposed to light and other inks that will conduct a current. This enables the high-volume printing of circuits and electricity generating components.

It's technological advances such as the one described above that will raise the bar on solar and alternate energy electricity generating processes!

Want Solar Options? Check Out the Variety Here!


Get Youngsters Involved - Education Works!

Why don't more schools have programs in either their geography or science classes that teach about alternate energy?

Different energy sources are used in different parts of the world. Some countries, particularly those near the equator, can readily make good use of highly available solar energy. Other countries may have to use a combination of solar, geothermal, hydro, and other energy sources to provide the power needed to keep a home warm or cool and to provide the electricity to power things such as lights, computers, radios, and so on.

By learning about the limitations of various kinds of environmental power sources, our kids can be better informed about their own choices in energy usage and conservation.

Not only should they learn about how to read an electric meter, but they should also learn about electricity--what it is and how it works in making things like radios, TVs, computers, stoves, ovens, and otehr modern conveniences possible.

A course that covered solar water heating, solar cooking, solar electricity generation could be easily incorporated into a basic science class, or physics class, or even a geography class, although the science class would make the most sense.

I've covered some more of these thoughts in my Squidoo lens on Energy Independence. Drop on by and visit. And pass this on to your friends who also may be getting frustrated with the price of gas and the chunk it takes out of their income each month!

You Want Wind Power Options? Check Out The Variety Here!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Resources out there for those who want to ACT!

While in college, I took classes in alternate energy--most involved solar energy. Let's face it, the most powerful energy provider for our planet is the SUN. And it seems that many among us want to ignore this point.

Global warming? Duh. The SUN is the most obvious culprit in this phenomenon. I live in a semi-arid area of the U.S. -- and it gets over 100 degrees F frequently in the summer. And I don't thing Joe Schmoe down the street with his big SUV did anything to cause this heat.

Since we're finding archeological remains of human habitation as the glaciers melt away, this sort of implies that there had been warmer days before "global cooling" (aka "ice age") happened. And humans were there for that. Humans evidently "adapted" to the new climate, and it seems that other animals, such as the wooley mammoth and the saber-tooth tiger weren't as quick at adapting to the new climate. Because we humans are still here and those critters aren't.

So, in my view, we're not experiencing "global warming"--well, yeah, we are. But it's probably more correctly referred to as "coming out of an ice-age". And when this "global warming" has run its cycle, we'll have to prepare for "global cooling" again. And, what are we going to blame this phenomenon on? Refrigerator salesmen? Yup. We humans may have to take the rap again.

Ah well... enough rambling.

While you are at it, check out the following resource on Solar Heat!


So... another blog about alternate energy?

Yup. Another blog about alternate energy. Hey, maybe with more of us squawking about the problem with fossil fuels (oil and coal), we might get some action from our leaders (funny how that might work!).

Remember--the *first* oil crisis in 1973-1974?... when folks lined up at gas stations to get their cars filled up based on whether they had an odd-numbered or even-numbered license plate? We were hearing that the world would run out of oil by the year 2000. (Uh, it didn't, but maybe we should have thought more about alternate energy at that time anyway!) But back in 1974, the year 2000 was more than 25 years away. Now, however, the year 2000 is in the past.

So, we have seen advances in technology for solar photovoltaic panels, advances in energy-saving devices, better battery types, and so on that we can use to beat this new "oil crisis".

You Want Solar Options? Check Out the Variety Here!