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Author Topic: Your Green Energy News Center
Enigmatic
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I think the Green "big picture" is a lot of little changes. "Think globally, act locally" is one of the popular slogans. What will be asked of you? I dunno, what sort of changes can you make without having a drastic impact on your life?

Let me put it this way: I care about the environment and I want to reduce CO2, but I sure don't want to give up my air conditioner this summer! But I drive a relatively fuel-efficient car, and I'm hoping by the time I need to replace it I'll be able to afford a hybrid or something better. I recently moved, and when any of the incandescent bulbs here burn out I plan on replacing them with the compact flourescent energy-saver kind.

I guess I don't see where a lot of the green/renewable alternatives are even a sacrifice. Much of it is energy-efficiency improvements that would wind up saving you a lot of money in the long run (often after an initial investment, though). I think we just have to weigh the benefits and costs of each thing individually, and if it does ask us to give up something, decide if that's a change we can live with or not.

Just my $0.02, it's not like I'm running for office or anything. [Wink]

--Enigmatic

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
I sure don't want to give up my air conditioner this summer!
It really bothers me that we've become so used to air conditioners that we don't think of them as a luxury anymore.

In hotter climates, people wear winter coats when the temperature gets down to 70 degrees. There's no reason we can't aclimate ourselves to temperatures in the 80's without the need for an air conditioner. I usually don't turn mine on unless the outside temperatures are in the 90's.

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Lyrhawn
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A couple things here -

First of all, Bok, even if Honda did use the government figures, that won't excuse them. The EPA had crappy testing standards that they changed with good reason, and Honda did their own tests, as all car companies do, to see what their MPG would be. Toyota got some static because they tailored the car to match the EPA's old driving tests to artificially raise what they could advertise for fuel economy.

If Honda KNEW that their car had worse fuel economy than what the EPA said and still used the numbers, then I think it was fraud, and I think they'll get in trouble for it.

Now, to the big picture:

This is what my editorial was going to be on, so I guess it makes sense to do it here and now anyway.

First of all, you have to consider that the energy use in the US includes fuel used in cars. Transportation is 28% of our total energy costs and uses in the country. The thing is that we currently import a vast majority of that energy for ourselves.

Now before we start, let’s look at a breakdown of US energy usage (as of 2004, via Wikipedia).

Industrial 33%
Transportation 28%
Residential 21%
Commercial 17%
(just like Sim City!)

Now before I go into breakdowns of each sector, the general renewable argument to the future of our energy needs is three things: Efficiency, Microgeneration & Large Scale Renewables.

Efficiency is the big one, it’s going to reduce our total need. We don’t need to produce 3.5TW of energy of energy with renewables if we can cut that number down by reducing our total energy need. There are hundreds of efficient products out there that we can purchase that won’t change our way of life at all, but reduce our total energy usage. These are mostly in the residential and commercial sector, which are 38% total of our energy use.

Next comes microgeneration, in other words, powering your own house or office building. It can mean anything from a small wind turbine or solar array on the roof of your house to the large 1.5MW or 3MW wind turbines on an office building like the one in Abu Dhabi. Or the solar array at Google that produces 1.5MW of energy. Yes, this is small scale production, duh, it’s microgeneration. But if everyone produces their own power, it dramatically reduces the amount that needs to be mass produced, and with smaller numbers, renewables become much more likely to have a major impact. Microgeneration has a couple of drawbacks, I won’t sugarcoat it. You’d have to pay for repairs to the equipment yourself, unless there’s some sort of insurance that could come with it. And you have to be wary of claims, as not all turbines and PVC will get the production they advertise, it depends on where you live. But the benefits in my opinion outweigh the drawbacks. You become your own power company, you no longer have an electric bill, and you might even make money when you sell power back to the grid. Also, producing your own energy means that the energy won’t have to come from miles and miles away, which reduces the transmission losses that power incurs. It also means that when we start driving electric cars, we can fuel them ourselves from home. Exploration is already being done on solar car ports, so we could park out in the lot, shop, and come back to find our cars partially or totally charged, or the same thing when we go to work. I’ll get to the benefits of that later when I break down transportation.

That brings us to the third, mass production of renewable energy. Fact is, if we REALLY wanted to, we could produce ALL of our power through renewable energy. If we used solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, and wave, we could, but it would take a ton of space. Think something along the lines of the state of Massachusetts covered entirely in solar voltaic cells and plopped down in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Especially with newer more advanced cells, it’s possible, it would just be expensive and the transmission problems would be a nightmare. Coal doesn’t have to be totally eliminated, just reduced to the levels where with filters and caps, and forest replantings we can negate their carbon impact to sustainable levels. We can still use gas in our cars, but nowhere near as much as we use now. Maybe one day we’ll get rid of those things entirely, but we should be looking at short, medium, and long term solutions. In the short term, efficiency! Make sure your car is operating at peak efficiency, make your home as energy efficient as possible, suggest energy saving measures to your boss at work. In the medium term, build renewable energy plants whenever we can, embrace microgeneration, and buy PHEVs from car manufacturers. Long term, silver bullet stuff like orbital mirrors and solar energy, fusion power, fancy nuclear power that doesn’t have as many downsides or negative stigma.

So let’s get down to it.

Industrial (33%) –

Industrial plants could make limited use of microgeneration and efficiency updates, and they could put better filters on their stacks to reduce emissions.

The biggest gains will be in Transportation, Residential, and Commercial:

Transportation (28%) –

61% Gasoline
21% Diesel
12% Aviation
6% Other

Gasoline could be majorly limited by switching over to PHEVs, which are extremely more efficient than ICE engines. In the near term, switching to diesel is more efficient, and with tailpipe filters also produces less particulates. PHEVs are Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. They aren’t purely electric, although they are electrically powered with batteries, and with a very small ICE on board to charge the battery, which then powers the cars, whereas Hybrids are still mechanically powered with a battery to power the car on a limited basis. Essentially with electric cars we are switching our energy needs away from gasoline and onto the power grid. But through microgeneration, we basically power our own cars, which takes the responsibility off the grid entirely. Eventually using all PHEVs will reduce the need for Diesel as well, when we get them working on the nation’s Semi trucks. Aviation is a bugger. GE is making more efficient engines, and with the debut of the Boeing Dreamliner, we see the most efficient plane yet in the air for it’s size. That will help reduce jet fuel consumption, but we’re still a long way off from making them better. In 2004 we consumed 3.3TW of energy. If we could even cut our energy need from Transportation in half, it would mean 460GW of power that doesn’t need to be produced anywhere else.

Residential (21%) –

33% Space Heating
13% Water Heating
12% Lighting
11% Air Conditioning
8% Refrigeration
5% Electronics
5% Wetcleaning (clothes dryers)

My goal would be to ENTIRELY eliminate our residential energy needs in the future. Homes are where we can make the biggest gains in microgeneration and efficiency. For space heating you could install solar heating or if you are building a new home you could build from better insulators like concrete or use better double paned windows, for water heating there’s solar water heaters, for lighting there’s CFLs, LEDs in the future which are even better, and that recently invented lighting devices that I posted about a couple weeks ago that are even more efficient than LEDs. For Air Conditioning and refrigeration there’s more efficient appliances. The DOE tells you what is best with the Energy Star symbol. Refrigerators of the future will also either have clear windows so you can see inside without having to open the door, and/or have tags so a computer in the refrigerator will not only tell you what’s inside without opening the door, but will also automatically create a shopping list for your trip to the store. Architectural solutions exist too, and new homes should all be built to a more efficient code, to include solar lighting, and better materials.

What you can’t reduce by using more efficient products, you can power your own house through microgeneration. The article I had the other day on mini-wind turbines are not ugly to put on your house, they don’t cost too much, and six or seven of them could power your whole house, and during night time offpeak hours they could charge your car. Out west, it might be more economical to install solar panels, where solar potential is much greater. If we eliminated our residential power need from the grid, it would save 690GW of energy.

Commercial (17%) –

25% Lighting
13% Heating
11% Cooling
6% Refrigeration
6% Ventilation
6% Electronics

Now efficiency is big here too. Lighting costs could be dramatically decreased by using better lighting (LEDs, or better). Using more efficient office products, and turning off laptops at the end of the day could also help. New office buildings like the new Bank of America building under construction in New York. It’s almost a test bed for what a Green skyscraper could be. They produce their own water, own energy, greatly advanced efficiency upgrades, and it only cost $3.5 million more for the already $1 billion construction cost. The builders expect to recoup the extra cost in only a few years, and after that it’s pure profit, and less pressure on the grid. Upgrading existing skyscrapers, and changing building codes for all future buildings could save us tons of watts to say nothing of tons of dollars. If we could cut half our energy costs from Commercial power, we’d save 280GW of power.

Between efficiency and microgeneration, we could eliminate 1.5TW of needed energy, almost half our total needs, and all through simple, often inexpensive changes. If we use 2004 numbers, 1.5TW of energy is almost half the 3.3TW of our total consumption. Then the question becomes, can we produce 1.5TW of energy through renewables? Yeah, we really can. Sometimes we’ll use small scale plants, just 10MW or 20MW here and there, and sometimes we’ll build giant 1GW plants for major electrical generation. Knowing that much of this will be for industrial, and since solar and wind are much, much more scalable than coal, gas, or nuclear, we could install plants MUCH closer to where they are actually needed, which will reduce transmission loss.

And the thing is, doing all of this will create millions of jobs, save billions of dollars, EARN billions of dollars, save the environment, make us energy independent, and probably happier, and safer if we aren’t depending on other countries for our power needs, to say nothing of greatly lowering the trade deficit, more than a third of which is for imported oil.

[ July 08, 2007, 09:35 AM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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Lyrhawn
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And here's a little update for the day, in case you skip the editorial:

The 2008 Chevy Malibu Hybrid will debut at the MLB All Star game. It gets a combined 28MPG, and looks pretty sharp.
.........................

Interview with the guy who is suing Honda. If you read the comments section, the people mostly seem to rather vocally disagree with him, but when everyone says "you have to know that you aren't getting what they say you'll get" I think there is a disconnect. Why shouldn't we expect what is advertised? I won't pass judgement, but I plan to follow this one closely.

.................................

Ford and SoCal Edison have announced...that they are going to make an announcement! Soon! The announcement will be on Ford getting into the plug in hybrid field. Supposedly they will deal with SCE and will test their cars in southern California.
...................................

Suzlon wants to be producing 4.2GW of energy by January of 2008.

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AvidReader
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Thanks, Lyr. I've been really curious about that. Now to get Congress on board with incentives for the selfish types who won't do any of this stuff without prompting. [Smile]

quote:
Refrigerators of the future will also either have clear windows so you can see inside without having to open the door...
Best. Idea. Ever.
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Lyrhawn
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They actually already sell refrigerators like that, though lately I've seen them replaced with LCD screens in the doors rather than windows. But I've seen wired houses demonstrated that combine RFID tags with scanners in the fridge to tell you when you are out of something you usually have. One step further, the fridge could actually order the food that you need, either from some place like Amazon Grocery, where it will be sent directly to you, or from the grocery store, so all you have to do is stop and pick up your assembled order. It's about connectivity and convenience as much as it is about saving energy by having you open the door less. I'd say we're a ways away from that, but Wi-Fi is so widespread now, that I imagine we aren't far away from having homes where all the electronics and appliances "chat" with each other and the outside world as a standard of living.

Incentives from Congress aren't totally necessary, but they are extremely helpful. Sad to say, the majority of the public just doesn't know what is good for them. If one average homeowner bought a PHEV, made their home as efficient as possible, and powered it all via microgeneration, they would never have an energy bill again, would make money via energy sold back to the grid, and would almost eliminate their gasoline costs for the year. These things pay for themselves, the environmental benefits don't cost anything, they're almost a free side effect of efficiency. Granted many of these upgrades really aren't available to the poor, and that is where I'd like to see the government help out, but not with handouts, only as a facilitator to make a revenue neutral switch to Greener habits for those who can't front the money for it.

Incentives help large scale renewable plants stay cost competitive. After awhile they won't need the incentives because prices will come down. Wind is cheaper than it used to be, a lot cheaper, and solar is headed for a 30% reduction in the price of PVCs. They only need that kind of help until production ramps up. Government however can help in a LOT of different ways. Say tomorrow the government mandated that ALL government vehicles purchased had to be PHEVs. That would be automatic sales in the millions for those cars, and companies like GM and Ford would be able to to full scale production, which would bring down the price for the average consumer.

It's the kind of thing that helped get the airlines started, among many other industries. I think if government does little or nothing to help, the free market will take care of a lot of this by itself, but it will happen much slower. The sad thing is that many in Congress, and especially the White House, are illogically denying the Green business sector. They keep falsely claiming that Green moves will cost us money, when we know from experience and from what experts are telling us that the opposite is true, the Green movement will create jobs and money, and will save many companies money as well when they go Green.

I think we're going to see a lot of really good things in the Energy Bill currently in Congress, assuming Bush doesn't veto it. A lot of helpful pro-renewable incentives and tax breaks are in the bill currently. But I also think that if we get a Democrat elected in 2008, that will go a long way towards bridging the gap. Bush is just too entrenched in 20th century old world thinking, and I think his ties to old world fossil fuel power is part of the problem. Companies like Exxon and BP won't die when we switch to renewables, they will adapt, and become renewable providers themselves. The only ones who will really get hurt by this are foreign oil exporters, and I won't shed a tear for the Saudis, who will go right on selling their oil to China and India. The other probable sufferer is the coal industry, and I'm sorry to say that a slow death or coma for them won't be bad for the country. New jobs will replace theirs, and we'll all be better of for it.

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Bokonon
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:

Interview with the guy who is suing Honda. If you read the comments section, the people mostly seem to rather vocally disagree with him, but when everyone says "you have to know that you aren't getting what they say you'll get" I think there is a disconnect. Why shouldn't we expect what is advertised? I won't pass judgement, but I plan to follow this one closely.

As a friend of mine (who doesn't own a hybrid) mentioned last night, it's been a poorly kept secret that the EPA figures are always off. Most people know this already, and claiming ignorance of this seems naive.

Also, in my investigation of hybrids when I was buying, the Honda web site always gave me the impression that the mileage was going to depend on how I drove it.

I mean, seriously, if you are a lead foot you aren't going to hit ANY EPA estimates, for hybrid or non-hybrid cars. And unless he can prove an actual vehicle fault, his really low mileage seems to be PEBSWAC (problem exists between steering wheel and chair).

For the record, At 86 miles on my most recent tank, and driving mostly on the highway, I am at 45.7 MPG... My car is rated 48MPG. Does it it help that I was running between 55-60 most of the way (due to congestion)? Absolutely, but that'd be the same in anyone's non-hybrid car.

-Bok

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Bokonon
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After reading the article, I'm still not all that sympathetic to the guy. Basically he wants the mileage rating to be accurate for everyone, everywhere, regardless of driving conditions (see his last bit telling them to test the car on the freeways).

I'm guessing that he hardly engages autostop since he has air conditioning all the time (which I've found doe not drastically affect the mileage in my case), and that while "not speeding" he's doing 80+ on highways with a bunch of heavy audio equipment in the car.

-Bok

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pH
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Random question: Do those energy saver lightbulbs that last three years also generate less heat?

-pH

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Glenn Arnold
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Don't forget trains. If we stopped government subsidies of highway construction and nationalized the railway system, we could eliminate a lot of the inefficiency inherent in shipping by truck.

It would also tend to concentrate development near railroad tracks, which would make mass transit far more feasible for people, and cut down on sprawl.

Trains are WAY more efficient than cars and trucks.

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Lyrhawn
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Yeah, I meant to mention rail. We need a major upgrade to our rail system, and I'd love to see high speed rail lines added for mass transit. It can be cost competitive, environmentally friendly, and just as quick as air transport over short distances, and might save people from making some long commutes in cars. In a couple decades, I think we should get mag-lev trains going as well. We have a lot of ground to cover in this country, and mag-levs are a great environmentally friendly way to move people from place to place. Plus, our nation's skyways are going to become unbelievably clogged, which will increase airport delays by HOURS on a regular basis. It might end up being necessary to diversify our travel options beyond flight, and I think we should get that done BEFORE we're forced to.

Pearce -

CFLs produce less heat, use less energy, and last longer, LEDs use less heat and less energy than CFLs, and also have less harmful chemicals, the newest invention, I can't remember the name, is 50% efficient (compared with 1% for incandescents), has no harmful chemicals, and lasts 20 years or more and generates more heat. We're still a few years away from LEDs being used in the homes, and probably a decade until the newest bulbs are mass produced and sold, but it's all in the pipeline.

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Tstorm
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quote:
Trains are WAY more efficient than cars and trucks.
I agree. But something doesn't add up here, from my point of view. Even though I agree with you, here's what I've noticed. In Kansas, railroad companies are ripping out the track and abandoning rail lines. I've seen at least two stretches of rail line fall victim to this, just in my area of northern Kansas. Most notably, the Central Branch of the Missouri-Pacific (MoPac) line, which connected dozens of small towns and their grain elevators.

Because of this, more towns are relying on trucks to move grain to and from elevators. It's sad and aggravating to watch this infrastructure decay to the point of abandonement or merely be sold for scrap. The increase in grain truck traffic on the highways is noticeable. Those heavy trucks are responsible for quite a bit of wear (and thus, higher costs for maintenance) on our highways. If rail is so much more efficient than trucks, then why are companies refusing to move grain cargo via rail?

I'm mystified by this. I agree with you, and I now the numbers show that rail is extremely cheap. What the heck is going on here?

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Lyrhawn
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Cheaper to ship by rail, but the rail infrastructure is 50+ years old, and government is not at all interested in updating it, as it would cost billions. No one asks Ford and GM to pay for the roads all by themselves, why should Amtrak and Union Pacific pay for the rail lines?

Basically, cheaper as it may be, having to foot the bill for the entire infrastructure just doesn't make sense.

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aspectre
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http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,485757,00.html
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Lyrhawn
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Big update for today, so most of it will come in link form.

First up is a pretty funny Canadian commericial for renewable energy. I won't spoil it, just watch it.

You've probably seen news about this, the biggest solar farm being planned for California, but it has a lot of kinks in it. I don't know how feasible this is yet, I don't think we're that far away from high production 100's or even 1,000s of watts of solar power farms, but the guys planning this have almost nothing in place. I have more hopes for the sterling plants being tested right now, but we'll see.

One Australian scientist has a rather odd suggestion for solving south Australia's drought problem: send them water in giant "bladders" from the north.

A little bit more on the Geothermal debate. 100GW is not the most that we could produce in the US, it is what they believe we could achieve in the next couple decades, and what they think we need to achieve to prove it a viable replacement to fossil fuels.
...................................

Special Report Section: Bottled Water is Evil!

You all know how much I hate bottled water, and this is one more reason why. ICE CUBES IN A BOX! Click the link, I just can't say anymore about it.

And here is yet another link about water safety and why your bottled water is ridiculous. It's more expensive than a gallon of gas (almost by a factor of 10), is unfriendly to the environment, and it isn't even better than tap water!

[/bottled water rant]
...................................

Resort in Alaska shows how microgeneration and ingenuity is going to be a standard over localized power production in the future.

GM has announced that they might eat some of the cost for the new two-mode hybrids of the Tahoe and Yukon. Unlike the VUE and Aura hybrids, these are much more complicated, and thus much more complicated. They could add as much as $10K to the price of the vehicle, and even with all that effort, you don't get dramatic savings (but hey, you still get the best fuel economy for an SUV that size without a loss in power or safety). If someone drives a 15mpg behemoth and drives an average 15,000 miles a year, they use 1,000 gallons of gas. A 25% savings, which a two mode hybrid would offer them, means using 250 gallons of gas less a year, at $3 a gallon, that means a savings of $750 a year in fuel costs. They'd have to drive the thing more than a decade to realize their investment back. Still, it's a FULL SIZED SUV that suffers no loss in performance, and frankly I think it even looks sharper than the regular version of the thing. If GM does decide to eat some of the cost of the hybrid, I think they have a real winner, especially if drivers see their gas bill fall 25%, and if gas prices stay where they are or go even higher.
....................................

According to a recent poll, 70% of Americans support a measure that would force auto companies to increase their fleetwide fuel economy standards. But not part of that poll was the more important question "are you willing to pay more for those cars?"

Frankly I'm starting to be pulled more to the side of automakers when it comes to this issue. The government is forcing a few billion dollars in costs on them, which isn't chump change. And as a result, if gas prices were to bottom out in five years, they'd be stuck with a bunch of cars that no one really wants to buy if gas is so cheap. Many of them are going in the right direction without Congressional oversight, like GM with the Volt, but I'm starting to wonder if Congress is a bit out of touch with the difference between what the American consumer SAYS he wants and then what he actually buys, like when polling data shows a bajillion people watch PBS, but in reality their ratings don't come close to matching it.

I think they would get a LOT further by offering tax incentives and breaks to those who buy the most fuel efficient cars (ahem, PHEVs), mandated that the government buy those cars for their own fleets, and offer some backing to US automakers to make some of these changes. The reason cars today don't get the better fuel economy than cars in the 1970's is because of all the fancy toys we like. Cars back then didn't have all the electronics or safety features we have now. Detroit has pioneered advances in lighter materials, better engines, all things that help fuel economy, but are you willing to give up your air conditioning? Radio? Cd player? air bags? or a dozen other things? Those are the things that drag down efficiency. Do I think CAFE standards should be raised? Yes. Do I think throwing Detroit into a sink or swim situation is the right thing to do? Absolutely not. There should be a happy medium.
...............................

Office Depot will be the first major office supply chain to sell Forest Stewardship Council approved paper in their stores. The FSC sets strict standards on companies making this paper, making sure they use forest safe practices and take care of their workers. In other words, if you buy their paper, you can be reasonably sure that they don't stip mine forests for the stuff.
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Sustainable Development Technology Canada has announced another $48 million in funding for research projects, after a recently announced $101 million. This money will go to help companies working on green technologies. This link is to a list of the winners, which includes a description of their projects.

Here's an article that deals with Carbon sequestration, and a potential huge project being looked at for Lake Erie. It's potentially extremely expensive, with an unknown number of risks, but it could be part of the short term solution. I think we need a lot more study before we try it on this large a scale.

Okay, four featured articles today, with varying degrees of cool factor and importance:

[ July 10, 2007, 02:12 AM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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Lyrhawn
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Decided to give the four featured articles their own post.

Sony will soon start selling OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) flat panel displays. They use 40% less energy than energy guzzling LCDs, and can be twice as thin. They cost 1.7 times more to make, but cost should come down as production increases.

The next two are great examples of Green architecture.

This one is really cool, it's the Sidwell School in Washington DC. It uses 70% less energy and 60% less water than a comparable building. It features much of what I've talked about, light sensors that turn off lights when people aren't in rooms or when solar lighting is sufficient, water recycling plants, vegetation on the roof, and solar panels. Check the link out for a few more details and some cool pictures. It's also made almost entirely from recycled or reclaimed materials.
.......................................

On the other side of Green architecture we have this planned sci-fi ish hotel. It's being built into an abandoned quarry, which means turning a dead area of the environment into something usable, rather than destroying another habitat. It has a mix of underwater hotel rooms and indoor waterfalls, which look pretty sweet if you ask me. It also plans to provide most or all of its power from geothermal heat, since it is dug so deep into the ground, and will reclaim the area around it (make it environmentally friendly and viable again). There's pictures of what they plan it to look like at the link.
......................................

Okay that brings us to the big Ford announcement. This is a follow up to what I said the other day about a PHEV announcement. They're going to test a small fleet (20 cars) of PHEVed Ford Hybrid Escapes over the next two years. Not exactly stunning news. GM plans to have their PHEV, the Volt in production by that time, and they have 1,000 hydrogen cars on the roads at the moment, so I'm not exactly spinning cartwheels over this announcement.

Plus their PHEVs won't be pure PHEVs like the Volt, but converted to add battery packs. I mean hey, it's a stepping stone, but it could have been better. You can read the whole article here. It has some interesting stuff on what they plan to gain out of the tests with SCE. It's more than just testing the cars, they are testing the lifestyle. What could we really get out of having PHEVs in America? A lot apparently.

............................

Now I know I said there were only four updates, but I found a gem of a piece of information hidden in one of the other sources:

This is a 39 page document that I'm still reading, but the gist is that if tomorrow the ENTIRE US fleet of cars changed over to PHEVs, the electrical grid could power more then 70% of them with NO added need for generation.

Like I've said recently, our grid is greatly underutilized at night. One of the big criticisms that electric cars get (one that Tatiana leveled earlier in this thread) is that you aren't really solving the problem when you run cars on gas, you just make it so we have to produce the power with more power generating stations. But this report shows that if all cars were PHEVs, we'd only need to supply an extra 27% power, and it would fully cut our use of oil imports per day by 52%.

The uses become even more marked when you include the use of PHEVs in microgeneration, or storing power used at night and using it during the day, and while that might hurt the uses for the batteries in the cars, it might create a huge market for used PHEV batteries. Those batteries could be bought for home use, I think especially with wind power, and could make sure both renewables produce perpetual energy, and that PHEVs are much cheaper.

I'll do an additional post to report the findings from the report in case y'all don't want to read the 39 pages.

Edit to add: I finished reading it (no it didn't take me several hours, I stopped read it to work on other things) just a moment ago, and there are a lot of very exciting findings! I'll detail them for you tomorrow, but the gist is that not only will this mean big savings for consumers, it could mean big savings for big utility companies as well, all while reducing overall US emissions of greenhouse gases, in some cases dramatically (with the exception of SOX, but I'll get to that later). Anyway, exciting news!

[ July 10, 2007, 05:46 AM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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Sorry I haven't gotten the summary of that article to you guys yet, I'll get to it when I get home from work tonight. It really was an extremely good report, I had to read it a couple times to understand all the technical aspects of it, and I'm not entirely sure I still understand it all. If fugu is reading this thread and happens to read the article, and notices anything wrong with my summary, I'd welcome corrections, but I think I understood the main points.

Anywho, here's an update for today:


Mayor Bloomberg proposes banning traffic in Times Square to ease congestion, and charging big bucks to drive in Manhattan. Echoes measures taken in London already, which has increased revenue and decreased traffic.


Interesting work being done by Ford:

Ford is pioneering advances in making many now petroleum based car parts out of plants instead.

80 years ago or so, when plastics and other similar materials were first being developed there was a debate over whether or not they would be plant based or petroleum based. But oil was so ridiculously plentiful and cheap at the time that it sort of seemed a no brainer.

But that isn't the cast anymore. Ford is pioneering advances in using soy, hemp and other materials to manufacture plastics, resins, foam and polyester, among other materials to make them both more environmentally friendly, cheaper, reduce dependence on oil, and will also make the materials lighter and less hazardous to produce. Check out the article, it's really interesting stuff that Ford is working on that could become a new industry standard in the near future if they can get production on track.

In related news, Ford's CEO says that Ford PHEVs are 5-10 years away. Now you might think that makes their big announcement the other day a pretty moot point. But it's not. Part of what Ford is really testing is the lifestyle and the side business of PHEVs. Getting the cars on the road is one thing, but what other uses will they have? Perhaps as grid stablizing secondary power? Perhaps a big market for used batteries like PG&E wants? Perhaps a mixture of the two and more things that we've never considered? They are as much testing what other uses PHEVs could have as they are testing the actual cars themselves, which is good, and I'm sure GM will appreciate the feedback when they are the first to produce a wide production electric car in a few years.
................................

In totally unrelated to anything having to do with Green energy news, the UAW has agreed to take over a major portion of healthcare costs from the automakers. Currently US automakers have to add $3,500 on average to the prices of their cars because of health care costs and other costs that foreign automakers don't have to pay in the US. This deal should reduce the cost of American cars by almost a thousand dollars on average, but I doubt you'll notice the difference.
......................................

Remember me talking about carbon sequestration via algae farms? Well here's a more recent article on it. They've run into some problems, but hope to have it back on track better than ever soon. It takes up a lot of space, but out west they have the space to burn, I still think this is a viable small scale solution.

Userful, an industry leader in public computing has created a program and hardware fix that could save tons of energy and money for companies.

The gist of the idea is that offices spend thousands of dollars on computers, and then thousands more powering them for dozens of office workers who only really use them for clerical work and other simple functions. But these computers are powerhouses, and have tons of computational power (as well as using tons of power). The solution is to turn one computer into ten. Instead of 10 separate computers barely using their potential, max out one computer with 10 workstations. We'd save by having to produce less computers, less energy, and the company will save money. Great idea.
...............................

GM has confirmed that they plan to lose money on their upcoming SUV hybrids, the Yukon and Tahoe. Much like when video game companies sell their systems at a loss, GM plans to sell these cars deeply discounted so people will get them on the roads, which should lead to increased production, lower prices and eventual profit. It's a huge risk for GM. They're putting a LOT of their future stake in hybrids, and they are betting heavily on hybrids being big business for the forseeable future, but they don't want to sacrifice what Americans traditionally want: size and power. Now if only Congress would back them up with some fuel taxes and an oil minimum price fix...
...............................

Why are we making the car companies do all the work?

So we know that we have a problem. Oil is a finite resource getting more finite every day. Don't come at me with the "peak oil" thing. Fact of the matter is all the cheap easy to get to oil is gone. The giant oil fields that have been our bread and butter for the last couple decades are starting to dry up, which means we have to get more and more oil from extremely dirty sources like tar sands or shale, or we have to spend billions to dig deep into ocean bedrock, which skyrockets the price of oil.

And so what is our solution? Mainly it's been an assault on automakers. Why haven't they increased efficiency? We bemoan. Why do they keep making all those gas guzzling behemoth SUVs? We accuse. But the fact of the matter is that the automakers aren't the problem. We are. When you add the cheapest gas in the world to cars with increasingly better performance, you get the biggest consumption of fuel in the world. I've said it before, but when you compare a car built in the 70's to today, it's true that they really don't get much better fuel economy now than then, but that's because the car companies have been forced to add thousands of pounds of safety and entertainment equipment to the cars that kills MPG, all while making them more efficient than ever. It breaks even.

CAFE standards were introduced in the wake of the oil crisis of the 70's, and it worked. Cars became much more efficient. But now 30 years later we're looking into the face of another crunch, so the first people we blame is...the car companies? No, the problem isn't them, the problem is us.

quote:
From 1990 to 2004, the growth in America's demand for gasoline proceeded at an annual rate of 1.6 percent, the report says. But it fell to an annual growth rate of 0.3 percent when gasoline prices spiked above $3 per gallon in 1975 and grew slowly to 1 percent in 2006 when gasoline prices began to fall.
The reason automakers make gas guzzling behemoths is because we want them. The reason they don't build gas sipping compacts is because we don't buy them. It's supply and demand. We keep telling them we want one thing and then we go and buy something totally different. We say we want to use less gas, but we don't really much care how much gas we use, we just want to get from point A to point B and spend the same amount all the time to do so. If that means better fuel economy or cheaper gas, whatever, it's what we'll do, and we'll always pick the cheaper of the two option.

Fuel consumption is going to skyrocket worldwide, as fuel supply is going to start tapering off due to both a lack of investment in discovery, unrest in some unstable nations, and wells losing productivity. And instead of attacking car companies we should be asking why Congress is doing nothing to curtail the driving habits of the people instead of forcing industry to make all the compromises. I think it's high time Congress put a permanant fixture on the price of oil. Oil can never go below say $55 a barrel, and anything less than that they take for tax money and put towards energy saving solutions. Furthermore, they should immediately raise the gas tax. I know that's political suicide to suggest, but I am sick of politician's telling us all the easy solutions that only last a decade until we get the heavy end of the hammer dropped on us. Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I know we're worried about how this will effect the poor, and I am too. Some of the money collected could go towards rebate checks to the poor for gas. Any person under a certain income level with a vehicle registration get a cetain monthly allowance or some such. I think it'd cost less than most would assume.

But it's time to stop looking at the corporate side of this mess and start looking at what the people themselves are doing to solve the problem. Right now Congress isn't asking us to do or spend any more on a more and more finite resource, they just tell us to happily go about our business, and it's time for them to stop babying us.

[/rant, sermon, editorial]
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Still almost another dozen articles, so you get them in short, SHORT form:

Case for free public transportation

Congress looks to the future of US energy use

US vs. The World: Daily Fuel consumption

The Sun is not responsible for climate change

Wind up LED lantern a Green boon to campers

Another demon prepackaged water product

Ashland, Oregon to sell solar power shares to citizens.

I liked this one, why isn't the war on waste and climate change similar to WWII efforts? We planted victory gardens, we recycled tires and cooking grease. Why isn't more being asked of us?

[ July 11, 2007, 04:12 PM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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I have a bunch of links and at the end I have part one of my cliffs notes version of the PHEV report I spoke about a couple posts ago. Part one is about the feasibility and implementation of PHEVs, their market penetration. Part II has to do with the money and economics of the situation.

Big increase in solar power installations

Naples buried in trash

US and EU increase Energy Star standards, EU makes it mandatory for all public purchases to be Energy Star or better.

Diesel in America? Not anytime soon.

Increased CAFE standards means more jobs

Ford to introduce soy foam on Mustang, oil based products on the way out?

Ford's green plant is not only enviro friendly, it's also saving Ford a bundle of money.

Toronto switching to LEDs and solar

Only 12% of US homes are as efficient as they could be

More evidence of unsafe Chinese products, but with a twist, we aren't blameless

Another company goes carbon neutral and installs solar panels on their home building

Better than ethanol? Micanthus has high yield per acre, and is very low maintenance. Could save the bio-fuel industry.

Florida adopts California emissions standards, more than half the nation on board now.

Three articles to focus on

Surgeon General gagged by the President, not representing the best interests of the people's health

The true cost of Solar power, it's not as expensive as you think.

PHEV tax break might make a comeback after being killed from the FREEDOM Act

Edit to add: Fell asleep last night before I could post the notes, so I'll do that now, and I have one more minor link, then I won't be posting for the next three days or so, as I'm going camping. Getting back to the nature I champion [Smile]

More outcry over the harm of corn based ethanol.

[ July 14, 2007, 11:58 AM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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Some of this might be a little disjointed, but you’ll get the idea when you read the whole thing. The report is based on 2002 numbers.

84% of cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs could be powered with current capacity and infrastructure.
73% of America’s Light Duty Vehicle (LDV) fleet could be powered, which is the above plus vans.

This would displace 6.5 million gallons of oil per day in imports, which is 52% of our daily imports of oil. There’s a breakdown on our daily imports and what they are used for in industry on page 13 of the report. That’s the summary. The majority of the report is the meat of the study that was done to figure out exactly how those numbers were created.

The grid operates at full capacity for only 5% of the year. All estimates in this report are for current Transmission & Distribution capabilities (T&D). Charging is based on 33 miles on only electric power, and for recharging during offpeak hours, though there are breakdowns later on what happens to capacity when you limit or expand charging hours. This is a worst case scenario report, in that it assumes lowest capacity, the lowest T&D capacity, and the lowest free amount of energy, and yet it still would power about two thirds of the LDV fleet with no added production. I think it’s a soft number, but I doubt we’re any closer than 30 years away from anywhere near that sort of PHEV penetration, and during that time there will be plenty of time and money to add more T&D capacity, as well as more generation capacity.

Estimating spare energy is based on a “valley filling” approach. It also takes into account inter-regional power transfers to supplement native generation. Emissions, as well as oil savings, are considered from the “well to wheel” process, in other words, all the emissions that are emitted to get the oil into your tank, from the time it leaves the oil well in Saudi Arabia (or wherever) to the refining process, to getting into your tank and then burned back out into the air.

Energy is divided into 12 national regions, but it’s more complicated now, the Energy Act of 2005 complicated the issue and switched those 12 regions all around, but this study deals with pre-2005 format, simply because its easier, but that won’t change anything real that’s on the ground. The study focuses on the LDV fleet, 217 million vehicles. Also based on the average American driving 28 miles per day. 50% of all cars drive 20 miles or less a day, 70% drive 33 or less. The excess is largely from people going on long trips, averaged into people with their short commutes or 40 miles or less.

How is excess load determined?

It’s based on two hypothetical days, one in the Summer and one in the Winter. They choose these two days of the year and they assumed the least possible amount of excess. It’s an extremely conservative estimate, and it also takes into account outages and maintenance problems, which would be heavily increased by a 100% run time of the plants, rather than peaks and valleys running that now happens.

There’s a figure on the top of page 8. Figures do not include peaking plants, which exist only to come online during periods of very high use, generally from 3:30 to 5:30pm or so, but these don’t operate as much in the Spring and Fall when load is much less, this is also typically when maintenance is done. When you compare load use on these two hypothetical days to total installed capacity, you get the excess that could be used on PHEVs. They realize that on some days the power won’t be enough, but gas can supplement it. This guarantees that you’ll never be without a means to power your car, and that the national energy grid will never be overtaxed for producing power for homes and offices.

The middle of page nine has a breakdown of kWh per mile for different vehicle classifications. They also assume an 8% loss of energy in T&D. This number will be higher when energy is transferred between regions, and it will be less, or non-existant as renewable energy sources bring power closer to your home, or if you power your own. In other words, they look at energy for powering PHEVs the same “well to wheel” way they look at oil use. If you restrict the use of power for PHEVs from 6pm to 6am, the capacity of the system for LDVs to 39%. While most of the recharging very well should be done at night, where most of the power is, the valley filling method includes power all throughout the day.

There would be even more capacity with T&D upgrades. The ERCOT region (Texas basically) has 136% of their electrical power, which means they have some to give away, but their T&D capacity does not allow for any transfer, thus their bonus 36% is lost, and they can merely power themselves. Upgrades would mean their native power companies could sell the excess load to neighboring regions, like the AZN&RMP region (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and bits and pieces of others), which can only meet 66% of their PHEV needs under optimal conditions. The money they would get from selling the energy would more than make up for the cost of the upgrades. This percentage is an estimate based on a 24 powering period, and the excess ERCOT generating capacity would power another 5.58 million PHEVs.

Emissions Details

There is a mix of good and bad news here.

Overall there is a drop if 27% nationally in greenhouse gases. Regionally it depends on the makeup of power generation. Texas could see an overall 40% drop, because they have a lot of natural gas power generation, which is far less polluting than coal. The MAPP region (draw a vertical line from North Dakota to Oklahoma, it’s all those states basically) might see a slight rise in emissions due to 98% coal powered plants.

Total Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) will improve drastically by 93%, and total Carbon Monoxide emissions would drop by 98%, though these are both based on how often the internal combustion in the PHEV is used. Nitrogen Oxide is reduced by 31%, because of ICE and refinery reductions.
PM10 particulate emissions would rise nationally by 18%, but confined to power stations it is away from people. The health effects are reduced, and filtering is much easier as the generation goes from 217 million tailpipes to a few hundred smokestacks. Sulfer Oxide (SOX) would rise nationally by 125%, though urban emissions still improve. Given increased filtering methods, some of which I have talked about recently, I think the effects would be greatly reduced, but that would involve upgrades, which aren’t discussed in this report.

Reducing Dependence on Foreign Oil

LDV fleet uses 97% of the 9.1 million bbpd we use for gas. We import 12.5 million for various uses total. Converting 73% of the LDV fleet means 6.5 million less, or a 52% reduction of imports. Converting 100% of the LDV fleet means 9.1 million less, but this also depends on how much 33+ miles per day driving we do.

Impacts

Converting 73% of our fleet would mean adding 910 billion kWh of generation, which is within our current capacity. It’s a 24% increase over 2002 generation. This study doesn’t examine V2G (Vehicle to Grid) technology that PG&E and others are working on, but it could seriously help mitigate shortages during peak hours. It means working on smart charging so cars can know when not to take energy from the grid, or even give power back to the grid to not only help peak hours, but to keep heavily polluting peaking plants from having to turn on at all. We would also have to adopt pricing changes to make night time charging more attractive. If we all charged at 4pm, this won’t be feasible at all. We’d also go from a system of peaks and valleys to one of constant loading, which will require more maintenance, but the power companies will certainly be able to afford it, which I will cover next time.

Next time I’ll cover Part II, which talks about how much money this would mean for power companies, and how much a PHEV would likely cost and save a PHEV owner over the life of the car. This will probably be on Wednesday when I come back from vacation, along with what I imagine will be a very big update. See you all in four days.

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Okay I'm back, with all too much sun, from my vacation. It was quite nice actually, maybe I'll post some pictures of my fun in the sun if I get a chance.

I've decided not to do a summary of the second half of the report, you really need to read it to get the specifics of how they come up with their conclusions, but the basics are that given best and worst case scenarios for power companies, running at full load all the time would mean greater profits for them, and probably lower energy prices for us, taking into account more maintenance, more fuel, and other problems. It would also mean, depending on the price of gas, that consumers could afford to spend between one and six or seven thousand dollars more on a PHEV over a regular car of the same kind and still expect to recoup their investment over a 10 year life of the car. But that depends largely on what they are already driving and what the price of gas is. Read the report for more specifics.

Other news:

Walmart wants to cut their truck use of fuel by 25% by the end of the decade. They are working with trailer manufacturers to make them more aerodynamic and with cab makers to explore diesel electric hybrids. It won't just green their image either, it'll save millions of dollars in fuel costs every year. It's tall order to attempt to accomplish in the next two and a half years.
...................................

New York state has shelved Mayor Bloomberg's plan to ease congestion in NYC. The votes weren't there, so NYC will stay the way it is. Frankly I don't see why this isn't purely a city matter.
...................................

South Carolina has their first PHEVs, converted Priuses with a target of 100mpg. They'll be tested by power companies there for the next few months.
.....................................

Diesel, despite what some domestic higher ups are saying, is gaining popularity in America. JD Powers reports that Americans are willing to be a premium of about $2,300 more for an Hybrid, but they expect ridiculous increses in fuel economy, something in the neighborhood of 20mpg, whereas they are willing to pay $1,500 for a diesel, and expect 15mpg more, which might actually be achievable. But it remains to be seen if diesels can be made cost effectively to match the new ultra tough standards the US has set for diesels. America's Big Three actually sells millions of diesels in Europe, but American standards for diesel are 10 times stricter, and about to get worse.
...................................

The New Jersey Institute of Technology has announced that they have a viable nano-tube printable solar power technique perfected. These are cells that could be painted on, or printed on a sheet of paper, virtually placed anywhere. They work so well because nano-tubes are much better conductors than copper, but I have my doubts on how commercially ready this is. It's been a holy grail of sorts for more than a decade, but if what they have really works, then it's a big step in both the versatility and the cost competitiveness of solar.
...............................

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has released a report urging Congress to adopt the more stringent measures from both the House and Senate energy bills. They say the measures, with everything from CAFE updates to updating building codes for more efficient lightbulbs could save government and businesses $1.3 trillion in energy costs between now and 2030.
.................................

A little more solar news, Sterling dishes are in trouble out west. Plans to build almost a GW in solar power in the desert might be scuttled because of an expensive and environmentally damagaging transmission line that would have to be built. The irony is that Environmentalists are trying to stop construction of a solar power plant. They might have to build it elsewhere, or figure out a better solution to the T&D problem.

......................................

Other news in Solar power inventions and innovations. UC and a Korean firm have announced they've perfect a new kind of plastic solar panel that will be cheaper to produce and with greater efficiency. New cells will hopefully cost 10 cents per watt when they are made commercially available, again hopefully by 2012, and they will also produce 15% efficiency, almost twice the standard now considered for commercial viability.

............................................

Have an old cell phone lying around? Check out Cellforcash, they'll buy your old cell phone off you if it isn't too out of date, and if it is, they'll recycle it for you anyways.

................................................

NASA is working on ways to build nanobatteries to power nanosized devices, which until now have been powered by much, much larger power sources.
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I saved this article for last because frankly it just pissed me off the most. Read on for some details, but basically BP is being allowed to pour a lot more toxic sludge into Lake Michigan. Someone is going to hear from me on this, and they're going to get an earful. I swim in that lake several times a year, even if it is on the other side of the state from me, and I love it. It's one of the most beautiful, pristine places I've ever been (Michigan's West Coast, the parts that haven't been developed). Time to fire up the email.

[ July 19, 2007, 03:29 AM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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Report from the European Renewable Energy Council is a serious look at the hundreds of billions of dollars that could be saved if we started investing more heavily in renewables. It also gives a glimpse into the future of electrical generation. Renewables in the next 40 years will produce much more than half our needs.

A glimpse into the future of housing? This apartment complex in California powers itself.

Following the theme here, this report from home builders gives all the options and ways that home builders and commercial builders can use renewables and efficiency to build and power their buildings. It details all the available technologies, how they work, how they are installed, what is best for what home, and the costs and savings involved. It's a great guide (though lengthy) for anyone looking to build a renewable powered home or add upgrades.

Want an idea on what such a renewable home might look and feel like? Here is a zero footprint home, or close to it. Solar panels, solar lighting, solar heating and other advances give this home a near zero footprint, and better, a zero operating cost. The link includes a video tour of the house.

BP announces they will expand production in Massachusetts of their solar power production lines (factories that make solar panels and similar products), the new facility is planned to be ultra green itself, with a green roof and PVCs.

Now on a non-solar bent...

New method of cooling may mean big savings for big cities.

Upgrades in Altamont Pass will reduce deaths to birds. Newer wind powered technologies are much safer to birds, and have a lot more options.

HP has recycled its billionth pound of paper.

Richard Branson makes a move towards Butanol. Sounds like great news.

New report has a lot of great things to say about PHEVs.

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Mini-update tonight. You might not see one tomorrow because I'm avoiding everything media related, including all internet, until I finish Deathly Hallows. I'm afraid to even go into work tomorrow.

Cheap and easy to install system can recycle grey water in your home and save water, and save you money.

Chevron to build wave farm in California, taking advantage of new laws against importing polluting energy and investing in new technology.

Dell boosts electronics recycling by 93%.

The Solar Decathlon is upon us! Here's a sneap peak at a contestent.

Another look at the potential risks from wind power.

Pollution in China: Pictures say a thousand words

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Mini update for the 22nd. I've left out some stuff, but I didn't have the time to do the usual search I do, too exhausted from all the Harry Potter reading.

Bush walls off access to EPA library

Green tires from Goodyear save thousands of gallons of gas for truckers.

Might have already linked to this one, but here's a PHEV study on air quality and the environmental effects of PHEVs.

An extreme take on wind power, someone wants to build manmade tornado powered wind plants, and they'd be cheaper than coal fired plants.

More arguments for peak oil

Mass. based Mascoma to build Cellulosic ethanol plant right here in Michigan.

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Woulda been better off going straight to butanol production, then using the 10% glycerine waste as feedstock for ethanol.

After the InternationalEnergyAgency admitted that the peak oil crunch will hit by 2012 -- ie demand will increase much faster than supply -- Exxon's former chairman, now president of the NationalPetroleumCouncil has recently admitted that the oil prices will continue to rise rapidly in the future, and that massive conservation efforts through efficiency gains is the only way to moderate the economic crunch soon due.

Bush already walled off access to the Bureau of Land Management. Can't even find out which public lands he's selling/leasing off to his worse-than-worthless friends until after somebody accidently stumbles over development on that land.
And nope, no help from the EnvironmentalProtectionAgency. Dubya issued an ExecutiveOrder forbidding the EPA from starting any environmental studies on the effects of development on BLM property until after it's leased or sold, AND after being ordered to do so by the courts after a successful lawsuit filed by environmental advocates; which naturally can occur only after somebody accidentally stumbles across development on that (sometimes formerly) BLM-managed public land and reports it to the public.

Don't need to see pictures of China to see China's pollution; all ya hafta do is look at air on the US WestCoast.
"On some days, almost a third of the air over Los Angeles and San Francisco can be traced directly to Asia. With it comes up to three-quarters of the black carbon particulate pollution..." as well as a highly significant portion of the nitrate and sulphate pollution.
Most of it's ours anyways. We just shipped off the manufacturing pollution to import goods that used to be made by US workers.

[ July 23, 2007, 06:44 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

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Lyrhawn
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For all the benefits of biobutanol, I don't think the technology to create it on a commercial scale is really financially feasible yet. Though if it had the same subsidies that ethanol has...maybe. I think it has a few years before it comes into its own. Cellulosic ethanol, better than corn based, is only just now getting ramped up, with two facilities planned, one in Michigan and one in Georgia, as it too has production related kinks to work out.
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Lyrhawn
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This could be the last update before I leave for vacation. Sorry that I haven't been up to snuff on these lately, I've been trying to finish up last minute things for my vacation and that, combined with a hectic work schedule has played havoc with my free time. So here you go:

Bank of America gets into solar. They financing the purchasing and installation of solar panels for the roofs of buildings, then they sell the energy to the building at a much reduced rate, and everyone profits. I might have posted something like this already.

PG&E signs onto biggest solar project in the world in the desert using solar trough designs.

Ted Danson becomes defender of the Seas.

Britain plans to build five carbon neutral towns.

Can the US power grid stand up to widespread EV use? Maybe it'll even be a solution rather than a hurt.

Maryland aims to be first state with "smart grid" up and running for power consumers.

Altairnano, battery supplier for Phoenix Motors is moving into the home battery business. The idea has been around for awhile, batteries in your home collect renewable power during the day or night and discharge it when needed. Until now such system have been prohibatively expensive, but all that might change soon.

featured article

Carbon sequestration in algae gets an innovative jolt. It just might be economically feasible afterall.

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AvidReader
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On a down note, Florida's pessimistic about all this green stuff. Link

quote:
When it comes to harnessing the sun or wind for powering homes and offices, Florida is no California. But it does have lots of crops.
quote:
We have a better chance of having electricity beamed down from the Starship Enterprise than from some of the technologies we see today.
So how bout it, Lyr. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot if we go with waste biomass plants? Or are those ok, too?

I just can't believe leaders in the Sunshine State are leery of solar power. How could it hurt?

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Lyrhawn
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The West has a lot of natural advantages when it comes to a lot of these technologies. They have deserts which are giant solar panel stations waiting to happen, they have rolling hills and valleys where wind power is best suited, and have a large portion of our easily accessible geothermal reserves.

Florida's problem is a lot of urbanization. While Florida would be a great place (hell it's the Sunshine State isn't it?) for stuff like solar power, but solar, on a large scale, requires a lot of open space, space that Florida doesn't have. But I think that's a bit of a cop out, their homes, businesses, and flourishing tourism industry could all invest in microgeneration, and if their problem is having to spend money out of state, they should get their government to incentivize in-state business so they can get a homegrown industry going.

Otherwise, I don't necessarily have a problem, for the moment with the use of sugarcane for ethanol and thermodepolymerization plants with carbon capture, but it's not the best. If they want to become a big producer of biobutanol I'd be happy with that too, even as a long term strategy, but claiming they can't make do with solar and wind is bull, they either need to think small, make space, or innovate.

Edit to add: I forgot before to say that if anyone wants to take over this thread with updates for the next two weeks while I'm on vacation, I'd appreciate it. I'll post a couple of my usual information sites here and whoever wants to can pick through it and post an informational morsel or two every other day or so. Let me know.

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Lyrhawn
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IBM entering solar cell market.

New study from U of M says that higher CAFE standards could mean billions in sales for the Big Three.

Russia claims hundreds of square miles of the Artic in an attempt to get their hands on more oil. Good luck with that, the UN has already slapped them down.

EPA sinks to new low, under Bush's watch, EPA breaks the law by employing too few inspectors.

Big increases in wind in 2007, and only more good things to come.

New super efficient appliances from Bosch save money, electricity, water and maybe the world.

MIT grad students find way to harness the power of crowds...now there's irony, malls that power themselves from rampant consumerism.

PG&E is buying tons of wind, and also solar and even tidal and wave power. From icon of pollution in Erin Brokovitch to super Green energy provider.

In addition to all that wind news you've already seen, here are your featured articles:

China unveils new MagLev wind generators. Incrase output by 20%, can operate at lower windspeeds. Seen as vast improvement over old generators.

And now the big one...

Super sized MagLev wind generators take up 100 acres...

and provides 1 GW of power.

They're huge but one of these big guys could replace hundreds of regular turbines, and reclaim thousands of acres of land. The builders think these mega mills could provide power at less than one cent per kWh, which makes it far cheaper than even coal, and with none of the bad side effects, they'd produce more power than many nuclear plants even produce. I'd love to see some demonstration models built, and with all the money being thrown around, and scale being an issue, I think it's quite possible we might. At the very least, MagLev tech is here to stay for wind power.

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Lyrhawn
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Here are a couple sources if you guys want to check these things out for yourselves, that was my last post before I go on vacation. See you all again on the 14th.

Greenbiz (news site for Green related business news)

Green Wombat (random Green news, mostly Green energy stuff)

Treehugger (this one is from all over, Green architecture, fashion, energy, tech, etc, and it has tons of updates everyday)

The Energy Blog (might see some of the same stuff from Green Wombat, but this focuses on energy specifically)

That should be enough to tide over the avid reader.

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aspectre
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Not sure whether these are good news or bad news, but:
The effects of GlobalWarming are getting close to convincing both Brazil and China that economic development can't be separated from environmental protection.
And electric dragsters are poised to overtake nitromethane-fueled competitors.

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Lyrhawn
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I hope you've all been keeping up on your news!

Now that I'm back, expect a monster sized post-vacation post later tonight after I've caught up on my sleep.

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aspectre
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Apparently Dubya plans to exterminate an endangered species, the black-footed ferret.
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Lyrhawn
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Toyota exec bets $100 that they'll be the first to produce LION car.

Sadly that's at odds with another report that says Toyota is attaching themselves to old school Panasonic technology. GM looks to be taking the lead.

This one is heavily skewed towards GM, but it touches on the coming battle between Toyota and GM over electric cars

GM expects the battery packs for the Volt to be ready by the end of the year.

They are also still on track to have a test model ready by Spring 2008, and have mass production ready by 2010. If you remember before, I posted that GM was letting A123 and CPI fight it out for who would get to produce the battery pack for the Volt. GM has decided to work much closer with A123, and will gain proprietary knowledge on cell development for the batteries. CPI is not out of the running, but A123 seems to have taken a step ahead of them. There's a video on YouTube that claims to be an A123 battery getting a nail drilled through it, which is significant, it means they've gotten past a number of safety issues, but it's unconfirmed. And for those who still think GM is down and out, they just posted a three quarters of a billion dollar quarter. I also read an article today that said consumer confidence in American cars is up, but confidence in Asian car brands is down, they're leveling the gaps.

Now, in non-car news....

Scottish researchers have discovered a levitation effect that eliminates friction, I expect we'll see this as an advancement over MagLev tech for wind turbines.

New streetlights use moonlight to save on energy.

California aims to save "nega-watts" by increasing efficiency instead of building new plants

PG&E, in yet another move to Green up their image is putting hybrid service trucks on the streets

PG&E joins others like AMD, Dell and IBM in the "Green Grid"

Totoya exec not yet sold on V2G technology. No surprise, the technology is still in its infancy, but it's nice to see it being discussed at that level.

Government goes solar

Solar Tower falls in Australia, but may rise high in the US or China
IBM plans drastic savings by upgrading servers, both in money and energy.

Special tubes sift pollutants from the air, could be big help to reducing emissions from stacks if the price is right.

Ultra low powered Toshiba laptop battery lasts for 8 hours, comes at a premium, but looks like the wave of the future.

Simple desalinization could save thousands of lives in Africa

Ships are quickly becoming the largest single source of air pollution in the world

But there may be an old fashioned partial solution to the problem

Group IV Semiconductors accelerates development of more efficient solid state lighting

Canada looks to take the lead on ocean power, still behind the US and UK

New aerogels remove heavy metals from water, but at high cost

Ontario has some big complaints about US Coal fired plants and air quality

NASA and Boeing move forwards on flying wing B2 like commercial aircraft

That's all for today, if I have time after work tomorrow I'll try and do another big post to make up for lost time. Stay Green!

[ August 14, 2007, 03:39 PM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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aspectre
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Thanks for taking the time to read&select the articles. Lots of interesting stuff.

Considering Matsushita's/Panasonic's long held dominance in the lithium battery market, I'd be surprised if GM's partnership beat Toyota's. I wouldn't be surprised if Matsushita leapfrogs Li-ions with rechargable aluminum batteries.

The Chicago city council is considering heavily taxing bottled water.

And Bloomberg is slowly gaining ground in his push to tax peak-hour traffic in NewYorkCity.
People need private cars in NYC like fish need bicycles.

[ August 15, 2007, 02:05 AM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

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Lyrhawn
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Last I read Panasonic was still holding fast with old school NIMH batteries in the car battery area. It's part of why they've pushed back the new Prius, because they don't have a battery for it, and GM has locked up some of the best potential battery producers. Besides, my great hope is still the eestor battery, which has the potential to blow all of the rest away if they can get it to work, but details on the battery are still extremely hush hush. None of my sources have been able to get anything other than statements about optimism out of the eestor people.

Anyway, we'll see what happens. GM expects to have a production ready car with next generation battery good to go into mass production by 2010. Toyota just pushed back the PriusX from 2008 to an unknown time, and even the PriusX was going to be loaded with old school NIMHs that give it an 8 mile range of just battery, which pales compared to the estimated 40 miles of the Volt.

They just finished saying that they've decided against using LION batteries in their new hybrids and PHEVs, because they don't think the technology is ready yet. If GM can make it ready faster and get a car to market first...it'll be a big leap forward. But we'll see what happens. We're still a year away from battery packs being completed for GM.

I just finished reading the article on the bottled water tax before I checked back on Hatrack. I think the idea has some merit, though I think it's silly to tax bottled water and leave other plastic bottled drinks alone. If it forces people to switch to soft drinks, the plastic bottle situation would be just as bad, AND people would be more unhealthy. They need to use better materials, and come up with a way to reduce bottle water use but without solely targeting bottled water drinkers. Despite the benefits, I just don't think it's fair.

And I don't know if Bloomberg is going to pull it off. Getting them to agree for the sake of the federal funding is one thing, actually getting them to sign off on the compromise and make it law is another. I hope he can pull it off. It's worked in London, I don't know about Singapore, in reducing traffic and increasing revenue for public transit.

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Lyrhawn
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2009 Ford Fusion spotted on the streets

Totoya Prius has serious flaws with control? Charges are being leveled.

Paper that can hold an electrical charge utilizes carbon nanotubes.

Ethanol threatening responsible crop rotation practices?

Study questions the economic advantages of PHEVs, but I think they are missing a few of the key strong points of PHEVs

College students' computers are carbon emissions and monetary savings waiting to happen.

Looking at the future of energy production in America, and what power companies can do now to soften the financial blow

Carpets clean your air

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Lyrhawn
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Wanted to toss this onto the end. Here's an interview between a blogger at GM-Volt, a pro-GM blog, and Nick Zielinski, the Chief Engineer on the Volt project

He talks about some of the problems and developments of the car, like trying to reduce all the electrical draws from components so the 40 mile range of the battery is achievable, and the biggest problem is the thermal systems of the car, including air conditioning, which is a huge power hog.

I'll preface the interview with this warning though: Zielinksi sounds very monotone and boring, like he's reading a manual. And the blogger sounds like he is reading off a list of questions and just wants Zielinski to hurry up and answer as fast as possible so he can get to the next question. This is the same criticism I had last time I linked to one of their podcasts, but there IS still some decent interesting information in there about the Volt, so it's worth the listen if you can stay awake for it.

.........................................................

And here's a couple more articles of interest...

Roundabouts (European intersections) are surging in America. Studies show them to be safer and more efficient

French fry producer in Britain embraces microgeneration

JD Powers takes a look at flattening hybrid sales. The news isn't all bad. Turns out we're maybe buying less of them because tax breaks are running out and most people are waiting for nicer looking hybrids models coming out, and PHEVs that we all know are in the offing.

[ August 15, 2007, 11:55 PM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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Lyrhawn
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For everyone in the Metro Detroit area this weekend, there's a rumor that a Chevy Volt will be on display in Birmingham for the Dream Cruise.

...................

Helivolt proves there's big money and big potential in thinfilm photovoltaics.

Wells Fargo follows that by throwing a quarter of a billion dollars into a solar trough project in Nevada. It may be that renewables are one of the safer long term bets in investing at the moment

EPA sets aside a million dollars for small business upgrades to reduce energy costs. I'd love to see the results of this program. It's designed to reduce costs to small businesses but the benefits are far more reaching.

Be careful in the developing world with a cap and trade system, it might actually lead to more deforestation.

School moms not allowed to drive kids to school? Not for the reason you might think, but a good reason anyway.

Thin film photovoltaics (TFPV) could be a 7 billion dollar industry by 2015. It's cheap, easier and faster to produce, and you can put it everywhere.

...............

Now your two featured articles for the day...

One is of a more personal nature. You may remember awhile back I ranted a bit about plans for a BP refinery in Chicago to dump a bunch of extra waste into my backyard, ahem, into Lake Michigan. Well Chicago is fighting back against decisions made at the state level. Their plan would bar the city from using any BP gas for public vehicles, and would bar three major banks who share directors with BP, unless BP changes their mind about the dumping. I've still received nothing in the way of a response from the governor or my congressmen from when I wrote them about this issue.

And this is some potential big news for solar power. Developments from the National Renewable Energy Lab could potentially increase the efficiency of solar panels threefold using silicon nano-crystals.

quote:
The discover could lead to increasingly inexpensive and efficient silicon solar cells. Senior research fellow Arthur Nozik notes that current silicon cells are theoretically limited to roughly 30% efficiency on their own, and 40% efficiency with concentrating mirrors. This new kind of cell, however, could be easily be 40% efficient on their own and up to 60% efficient with concentrators!

..........

The nano-crystals could prove much easier to produce than high efficiency mono-crystalline solar panels, and they will contain no toxic substances, unlike other materials that have shown these 'multi-electron' properties.

This is possibly a major breakthrough. There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome. The first is how to harvest the energy. It isn't as straightforward as it is with current technology, they need special panels to do it, and they haven't really been invented yet. But 60% efficiency is dramatically better than what we had even five years ago, actually it's dramatically better than anything we have now, or that we thought we'd have any time soon.

Solar is making huge advances in technology that increase output, decrase cost, and are more clever ways of putting solar closer to home. This latest development is still in the R&D phase, but it's just one more piece of news that helps prove that renewables are here to stay, and they can compete with the polluting utilities, and that's with much, much less funding (though as you can see, big business thinks there's a lot of potential too!)

Stay Green Hatrack!

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Lyrhawn
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Too tired to even do the short version that I usually do, so you'll have to explore the links to see what's in them. Sorry, but it's better than nothing!

Chicago, Bottled Water, Plastic

Army, Tanks, Hybrids

Biodiesel, Michigan, Plants

Okay this one I will comment on, because it's Bush being stupid and trying to claim credit for something that's already been done. He's created a DARPA for Renewable energy, which is dumb because we ALREADY HAVE A RENEWABLE ENERGY RESEARCH LAB! If anything this will waste money and actually SLOW DOWN advancement.

Global Warming, Hot Water, Nuclear Power

BP, Chicago, and other groups actually sit down to talk about the Lake Michigan issue

China, Deserts, Battle

Cellulosic ethanol, funding

Even the people who run bottled water plants can't tell the difference between their own beverages and tap water, at least not in Britain.

I should add on that last note about water, that after driving around most of the East coast and the south, the water really does taste different all over the place, and I've yet to find anything that tastes near as good as it does at home, but ice water did tend to taste closely the same wherever I went.

Anywho, I just thought that article was interesting. The Thames was rated as having better tasting water than the bottled waters, but it was just a random taste test of a few people, so take that as you will.

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Lyrhawn
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The scourge of the mining industry

Biofuels' use of water may be too much for some

Another example of using kinetic energy for microgeneration...this one has a nifty video.

Just a small entry for today, not a lot of super interesting articles, unless you guys wanted to hear more about the Farm Bill and sugar subsidies. I'll post again tomorrow night.

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Tatiana
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Here's a really interesting series of pages that a friend linked me to. This guy is very smart. I think a lot of his ideas are sound. John McCarthy's energy page.

This note in particular interested me: "[2003 April 9: GM just announced the end of its EV-1 electric car program. Of the more than 1,000 built by GM and leased in California, about 375 are still on the road. GM will take them all back when their leases expire. The program cost GM about $1 billion. The whole electric car program was a triumph of appeasement of ideology over engineering knowledge. The cars were unsuccessful except for hobbyists for exactly the reasons that were known before GM built them.]" I've always thought electric cars were a bad idea, pending some gigantic breakthrough in battery technology, which so far we aren't even close to.

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Tatiana
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Another quote from John McCarthy, this time from his main page.

quote:
The Sustainability of Human Progress
Many people, including many scientists, mistakenly believe that human progress, in the form it has taken in the last few hundred years, is unsustainable. The sustainabililty page and its subsidiaries attempt to summarize the scientific basis for technological optimism. There is also a section discussing related ideological phenomena and the advocacy politics to which ideologies have given rise.


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Lyrhawn
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Not a big fan of the energy page you linked Tatiana. Being pro-nuclear is fine and all, though I agree with the people he disagrees with that nuclear shouldn't be considered a renewable energy source. It isn't. It might be a clean source of power, but it isn't renewable in the sense the others are.

I also think they were much harder on battery technology and renewables than is fair, and frankly I don't think the guy is really up to speed on a lot of the stuff he is throwing negative attention towards. Maybe his page just hasn't been updated recently, but there have been some huge advances made in the last couple years. Lithium Ion batteries are being revolutionized, solar power is getting cheaper to produce and is putting out more power. Wind is getting cheaper, with fewer bird strikes, quieter blades, and more energy.

Furthermore, shale and tar sands are extremely messy, even if they have become more cost effective because of the price of oil. They create a lot of pollution, the type that BP likes to just dump in the middle of Lake Michigan. It should be a last resort, and we should be working on efficiency and energy reductions. I just don't like his whole attitude on energy use.

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Lyrhawn
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Anyway, here's an update, not many of my sources have been updated lately, so it's another small one:

The story behind biofuels' sustainability

Water photoelectrolysis might not be that far off, could pave the way for realizable hydrogen cars.

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aspectre
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I'll put it more bluntly: John McCarthy is a liar.
eg GM engineered EV1 for failure so they could run whining "It's impossible" to Congress; just as GM had previously whined "It's impossible" about seatbelts, lead-free engines, lower-pollution engines, the 55mph speed limit, more fuel-efficient automobiles, mileage standards for manufacturers, catalytic converters, airbags, nonChloroFluoroCarbon-based air-conditioners, etc...

[ August 20, 2007, 07:38 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

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Tatiana
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aspectre, do you have any data to back that up? What he says matches my understanding of the technology really well. I believe him.
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Lyrhawn
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Half dozen or so updates for today. I left off some stuff from yesterday but I'm replacing it with better news from today, so don't worry.

Green roofs catching on in the US

Sun Microsystems reduces number of servers by half, reduces power consumption by 80% and increases computing power by over 450% Yet another case of going Green and saving green.

Beijing says its doing better reducing pollution for the Olympics...but is it really?

Another British goal might be missed in the fight for renewables.

A look at what the road of the future might be - It powers the nation, contains a nice portion of our infrastructure, and makes driving easier, safer, and more enjoyable.

This I think I've shown before, but it's just plain cool. The story is actually wrong, it wasn't caused by logging, it was actually caused by a huge storm in Sweden. After the trucks and clearing materials came through to clean up after the mess, that's the image that was left in the ground.

In another article on my small but continued fight against BP dumping in Lake Michigan...apparently Pearl Jam has joined the fight.

The DOE has awarded a contract to United Solar Ovonics to reduce the cost of solar energy.

Featured article for the day goes to solar...

quote:
Generally, solar cells on the market today do not produce much electricity from ultraviolet light, instead it is either filtered out or absorbed by the cell, heating the cell. That heat is wasted energy and could even lead to damage to the cell. However, researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered a way to utilize that energy by placing a film of silicon nanoparticles onto the silicon solar cell. By diluting particles of silicon in alcohol, covering a solar cell with it and letting the alcohol evaporate to leave the nanoparticles of silicon on the cell, the team has increased the power output by 67% in the ultraviolet range and about 10% in the visible range. According to Munir Nayfeh, a physicist at the University of Illinois, "Our results point to a significant role for charge transport across the film and rectification at the nanoparticle interface." Nayfeh also believes that this process could be added onto the existing process of cell creation at very little cost. This could potentially be another solar breakthrough by increasing the voltage of cells which are very similar to those already being produced today.
The science and story behind it

This is just the latest in a large, long string of breakthroughs to make solar cheaper and far more efficient. I can't wait to see what solar looks like in another year when all these technologies have been integrated and designs have been updated.

[ August 22, 2007, 02:59 AM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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AvidReader
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That Swedish picture is the coolest thing I've ever seen.

I'm not sure about the solar road, but I liked the commentor's idea of running water pipes under the road to heat it up.

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Lyrhawn
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The solar road is probably a decade into the future, but as much as it costs, I think it would be feasible. It wouldn't have to be replaced as often as regular roads, so you wouldn't have the usual maintenance issues. Besides, power companies would own the solar part and sell the energy, so they would pay for a piece of the cost, as would the cable companies for the cables running through the road and so on. With so much infrastructure bundled into one package, the cost would be shared across many parts of the public and private sectors. Plus if the pipes under the road heated it up and in the northern states both eliminated the need for snow plows and salt, and got rid of the ice, it would make them last longer (ice is a major killer of roads) and it would be a huge financial relief not to have to clear the roads all winter.

I think it would pay for itself in the long run, or at least the cost would be offset enough to be financially feasible, but they still have a lot of kinks to work out.

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