Archive for the ‘Energy Efficiency’ Category

Flywheel Energy Store (FES) | Out thinking the box at it’s finest…

I have had touted since I first embarked on my pursuits in renewable energy systems technologies, that this industry needed a more sustainable, pragmatic, clean(er) and green(er) storage offering instead of the filthy, precious resource-intensive battery. To me batteries are sacrilegious, and are hardly clean(er) or green(er).

Abigail Carson, a female mechanical engineering student has used her prowess to come up with an improvement on the kinetic flywheel offering, she calls Flywheel Energy Store (FES). What’s interesting is she claims her design is small, portable, highly-efficient, and could be applied rather quickly for domestic applications.

Abigail Carson, 21, who has completed her third year studying Mechanical Engineering at Lancaster, has created a superfast design for a Flywheel Energy Store (FES). The design, which was a self-proposed project as part of her MEng degree course, could have a wide number of uses, most notably for the storage of electricity generated by renewable sources such as wind turbines or solar panels.


Seriously, what is sustainable development?

Today I was knobbing around with performing some back of the envelope calculations on what would happen if all the cars in the USA were instantly converted to electric vehicles [EVs]. I also wondered if this happened, how much more electricity would be needed and how this would affect CO2 emissions. But then, after completing this calculation [summary of my conclusions are at the end of this post], I took a step back again, wondering if this infrastructure were fully realized and developed, how truly sustainable this would be…

It seems today, hardly anyone ever mentions the first step in managing the flow of electrons; energy reduction, conservation or elimination–in two words, behavioral change. It’s all about convenience. And as I brought up in a previous post, when did convenience become a human right?

  • Does one really need more light bulbs or more day lighting?
  • Does one really need the latest clothes dryer or a new piece of rope?

I would hope that those that aspire to go off the grid, first find ways to reduce dependence on electrical items, which can greatly reduce electrical needs, thus making going off grid that much easier. Once one minimizes one’s needs and usage, then a cost-effective system can be designed. Alas, so much of the marketing these days decouples conservation from energy efficiency, making perceptions that energy efficiency is a panacea–it is NOT! Ja, miff’d!

I think part of the problem is, a lot of people from a currency background keep delving into engineering and touting energy independence. Problem is, they don’t understand one of the biggest challenges with deploying an off-grid scenario is seasonal and dependent on geographical predisposition. This is especially HUGE in areas that experience winter, especially in the USA. And so, I would encourage all to look at this idea of electric vehicles, going off grid offerings from a bigger picture perspective, before getting overly excited. The problem we have is green fashionistas who don’t understand the thermodynamics make overly optimistic statements like this about green(er) energy solutions. At best, greener solutions can help ups avoid limits for a little while longer. Not to mention, these green fashionista fail to look at all externalities and the fact that a great deal of renewable energy systems technologies have been and still are predicated on oil–seriously, how do these massive wind turbine generators reach their intended locations? Think about it.

Then there is the matter of what is truly sustainable. Greener solutions are just pushing us from CONG (coal, oil, nuclear, natural gas) to other resources that are also likely to be problems in the longer term. In the matter of all this hype around electric vehicle [EV] batteries, depletion of high quality ores, metals, minerals like lithium, will only leave us with lower quality ores, metals, minerals later on in the future. Batteries that use these rare minerals are likely not very scalable, due to quantity limits and low recycling rates.

Aside: I think using batteries in tandem with renewable energy systems technologies is ‘sacrilegious’. I mean they are toxic, not recyclable, difficult to repurpose. What gives?

And so I say, this is all just a bunch of nuanced, well-intended sustainable development scenarios. When batteries exist that don’t get hammered with time and depth of discharge (DOD), when inverters can simultaneously juggle local production, the grid and a lot more batteries in EVs or other storage devices, then perhaps, real demand relief for the grid can start to happening. It’s going to be a long while for all this, folks, and I’m not expecting it to happen MASSIVELY in my lifetime. Better to PREPARE. to RESPOND. to ADAPT. to what’s coming down the pipe, be it financial or due to the ‘indifference’ of Mother Nature. Fleh.

Oh yeah, about my conclusions…

After looking at the USA energy consumption of gasoline, electricity consumption in 2012-2014, battery longevity, and the cost of switching to all EVs, EVs are not a good way to reduce CO2 emissions give today’s power mix. As a matter of fact, presently, this is pretty darn expensive. But hell, we can invest now or invest HELLA more later, ja?

And so, what I have been saying for over a year now is helping the ‘smoke stack’ industry reduce it’s CO2 emissions is just as good as any wind farm, solar farm or energy efficiency policy/directive. The only way that a massive EV roll-out makes sense is if it is accompanied by a MASSIVE roll-out of renewable energy systems technologies. And based on today’s generation markets, I’d say it’s going to take decades. And so, to me, this all remains to be seen if indeed, this intent to empower citizenry with energy independence by going off the grid will eventually stand as being sustainably developed. And so…

…this all just reaffirms my enquiry on a previous post, A thought about ethanol… if 6% less CO2 will be emitted from EVs, why not just make today’s current auto fleet more fuel efficient to reduce CO2 emissions in the interim future?


Is it just me, or is the notion of conservation being decoupled from energy efficiency?

This past month, I have been to a couple of seminars. One was on net zero energy buildings. The other was how the organization is creating opportunities for marginalized groups to get their homes installed with PV.

Presenters mention energy efficiency, but fail to mention nega-watts, er conservation. It’s as if they are touting energy efficiency, alone, will solve all our energy woes. I think they are creating a false illusion that the flow of electrons is infinite, and that we in the west can continue to consume, willy nilly, because technology is singularly being touted as a panacea.

Don’t get me wrong, I think using energy efficiency to meet more of our power needs, rather than building new, fossil fuel power plants, is good for consumers and good for the environment. But what about changing consumer behaviors, too?

Indeed, energy conservation has to do with consumer behavior. And yes, there might be some instances where adopting a newer technology might make more sense than practicing conservation alone. It’s becoming quite a habit for most consumers to be averse to practicing conservation after a more efficient technology becomes available, or is deployed. And it’s clear to me, that in the west, it’s always about more, more, more–not what’s enough to maintain a reasonable quality of life.

Over the years, the trend I have been witnessing is, consumers feel they can continue to consume more, because technology improvements allow them to do so. I think taking steps to cut energy use, consumption, will not only help protect the energy grid from disruption, but lower GHG emissions.

Perhaps governments need to do more to help by providing incentives, techniques and information that will foster more conservation behavior. It’s pretty clear people won’t change their behavior because they are informed. I think some positive feedback loop building is needed–involve individuals in campaigns, so they view themselves as part of a path to sustainability, so their personal level of commitment will increase. Perhaps using energy efficiency technologies to provide reinforcement for conservation e.g. sensors in homes that shut-off lights in a room after several minutes of inactivity. Perhaps it’s time to also create a shift in perceived social norms, so more folks will come around to exercising conservation behavior.

Ok, so the information is out there. Knowledge is gleaned. It’s the attitude that has to change, so the good intention becomes a behavior that results in conservation. A possible solution: the use of gamification comes to mind to aid in this process.

Aside: For the life of me, I do not understand why on this Earth a single family of four in the USA requires a 4,000 square foot LEED rated home.

Flex Your Power

It’s no wonder the CONG (coal oil nuclear and [natural] gas) conglomerates do a good job appealing to the masses. I don’t often watch TV, but I recently caught this:

Overall and unfortunately, I do not think the if the renewable energy (RE) industry invests this kind of time, money and effort in this regard to educate and enlighten the general audience–nor, I’m pretty sure, can it afford to.

As an industry, not only does the RE industry need to continue to demonstrate the viability, implement and install REs, but I think we need to (somehow) do a better job educating the general public and telling the story about solar, wind, hydrokinetic, hydrogen, geothermal, biomass/biofuel, energy efficiency and conservation.

A few years ago, Flex Your Power posted up these energy efficiency adverts in California–we could use more adverts like this. I especially like how these spots leave the viewer with a final, attainable, empowering solution offering, especially spots 3 & 4:

Next up on the chopping block? PACE?

I understand last week, the FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued guidance letters that threaten existing green retrofit programs/PACE participants. From what I have read, they are effectively destroying the promising energy efficiency and renewable energy financing program called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). In California, this is also known as AB 811, which was passed in July 2008.

AB 811 authorized all California cities and counties to designate areas within which willing property owners could enter into contractual assessments to finance the installation of distributed renewable energy generation, as well as energy efficiency improvements, that are permanently fixed to the property owner’s residential, commercial, industrial or other real property. These financing arrangements would allow property owners to finance renewable generation and energy efficiency improvements through low-interest loans that would be repaid as an item on the property owner’s property tax bill.

To date, there have not been comparable models offering the same scope and scale of green job benefits and greenhouse gas reduction as PACE. If Congressional action does not resolve this, it’s even more dubious the greener industries will get back on track.

You can read the particulars of this program, here. Efforts to protect PACE are here.

Requiem for a dream : USA vs DE & SK on invoking emissions redux & energy efficiency measures

I had a dream this year that the USA would have taken the role as the vanguard in 2009, leading the way for the world in invoking emissions reductions and MASSIVE investment in energy efficiency measures and renewable energy technologies. Perhaps there are some measures on the books that I do not know about. But based on all the reads I’ve seen via the i-net this past year, what the USA has been delivering up pales to other nations like Deutschland and S. Korea.

Earlier this year, I received the following from a German newsletter for renewable energy and energy efficiency I subscribe.

Deutschland achieves its Kyoto goal

According to the short-term prognoses that are now available from the German Federal Environmental Agency, Germany already reached its Kyoto goal in 2008: the overall green house gas emission in Germany sunk compared to the previous year by 1.2%, nearly 12 million tons. With that, the overall emissions are now 945 million tons of CO2 equivalents, 23.3% less than in 1990. The Kyoto Protocol requirement to reduce emissions by 21% by 2008 to 2012 has already been achieved. A reason for the low CO2 emissions is especially the decreased demand for black and brown coal. At the same time, an increased number of low emissions energy suppliers – such as natural gas and renewable energies – were put into use. With the energy supply adjustment, an increase in the prime energy use of 1% Germany-wide could even be compensated for. Renewable energies now account for 7.4 percent of the overall energy use, that is 7.3 percent more as in the previous year.

South Korea’s whoopin’ ass, too.

South Korea to spend billions on energy efficiency

The Government of South Korea has announced a spending programme worth over $84bn to improve energy efficiency in the country. The money will be spent over five years and will be spent on a broad range of measures, from cutting energy use in buildings and industry to addressing transport emissions.

S. Korea is a nation of ~48mil. Today, the USA is contains a population of just over 304mil. S.Korea’s government is earmarking $84bil. to improve energy efficiency–just energy efficiency! Yet the USA is ONLY forkin’ over $66bil for all RE technologies. I understand it’s going to cost $8-$9+bil to install a high-speed railway in between Los Angeles & San Francisco, CA, USA. Do the math…

You’ll also note/recall, Jimmy Carter’s administration was willing to fork-over $88 bil back in the day for renewable energy and energy efficiency. The current $66 bil being offered up by Obama’s admin has a GREAT deal to be desired. Um, understatement.

I also caught this earlier this year…

July 1, 2009
Renewable Energy Investors Are Cautiously Optimistic

Guidelines for the grant and loan guarantee programs are expected sometime in July. After that, companies will have more clarity on how the process will work. Meanwhile, the U.S. renewable energy industry is in limbo.

The general consensus from investors close to program administrators is that not many of the stimulus funds will be deployed in 2009. It will be 2010 and 2011 when money really starts moving and capital is formed.

And will 2010, 2011 be the end of this ‘long term agreement?’ Why did/is this take/taking so long?! Rhetorical.

As I lament over the aforementioned, just know it would have been my preference to dish out a pithy rhapsody in green instead of a downer dirge.

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What is a Hybrid RE Engineer?

An engineering generalist with an understanding of sustainable development whose skills set are typically comprised of an amalgam of mechanical and electrical engineering. One who is able to design and assemble systems and components that are comprised of more than one renewable energy (RE) technology i.e. solar, wind, hydro-kinetic (ocean/wave/micro-hydro), biomass, hydrogen fuel cell, geothermal and storage (battery, fly wheel, pumped-hydro). The RE technologies selected depend on one's geographical predisposition, resource availability, the end-use need, practicing conservation (behavioral change) to name a few considerations...

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