Archive for the ‘Solar’ Category


For quite some time now, I have had my doubts about some advances in technology and the definition of what really constitutes progress?

Today, modern glass greenhouse require massive inputs of energy to grow crops out of season. This is considered progress? This energy loss is due to the fact that every square meter of glass, triple glazed included, loses ten times as much heat as a wall, a thermal mass.

Producing crops in temperate regions did not originally involve glass greenhouses, instead thermal masses, fruit walls, were utilized. These thermal fruit walls stored heat from the sun for nighttime use, and are installed with insulated mats rolled out over the glass covers during the night or cold weather; passive solar buildings in the true sense.

Kris deDeker recently posted up a nice exploration of the utilization of passively designed fruit walls that were highly utilized in urban farming up until the late 19th century in Europe.

Fruit Walls: Urban Farming in the 1600s

This labor-intensive practice required a deft, skilled hand for maintenance. But cheaper, less-labor-intensive produce was imported due to the railways eventually took over.

I understand, some of these passive farming practices are still used in Korea. And the Chinese use passive solar greenhouses that are heated year round with only solar energy. Of course performance will be predicated on the greenhouse design, the location (latitude), and on the local climate.

According to Kris, produce grown in a passive greenhouse industry would take up two to three times as much space to produce the same amount of food. But do we really need to be eating so much anyway? 

Another challenge is it is a best-practice is to have a CO2-level that is at least three times the level outdoors to increase crop yield. When no there is no CO2 byproduct from the combustion of fossil fuel based heating systems inside the greenhouses, another source is required. Provided a structure is well insulated, compost from the manure of livestock and fish in an aquaponics system can serve this purpose. A compost heat recovery system producing hot water could be pumped through a radiant floor. So compost can serve a triple purpose; CO2 production,  heating, and soil enrichment.

Talk about a GREAT food propagation practice to re-institute in the urban environment. Get me to a warehouse space!

Fruit Wall Greenhouse

Greenhouse built against a serpentine fruit wall. Source: Rijksdienst voor het culturele erfgoed.


Crimey! MORE Green Going Wrong | Ford to install wind and solar energy at dealerships


I just caught this today.

Ford to install wind and solar energy at dealerships

I couldn’t let this one go. Another installation of kinetic architecture. And so, blatted out the following on this post…

[POST #1]

I’m fairly certain the PV arrays will be the stars of producing the flow of electrons. And unless the wind turbines have been sited correctly, they will only be kinetic architecture ==> another green gone wrong installation by green fashionistas Wind Energy Corporation.

[POST #2]

As someone who performed post-graduate research of the performance of small wind turbines in the built environment, this installation is questionable at best. And just based on the photo, I’m pretty sure this installation was not sited well, which only gives small wind a bad name.

I also went to the vendor’s,  Wind Energy Corporation’s web site, and all I could locate was a single landing page. Red flag #1. I also searched for Jack Phillips on Linkedin and his background is only in accounting and int’l business, NOT computational fluid dynamics or mechanical engineering. Red flag #2.

Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs) like the ones here, are NOT immune to turbulence. Rapid, turbulent low-level wind increases the fatigue on a VAWT just like an Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWTs). HAWTs are just as sensitive to changing wind direction and turbulence as VAWTs, especially if the turbine is installed on too short a tower.

Readers to this post should also know:

  • VAWTs perform better if they too are mounted higher in smoothest, strongest wind, not near to the ground or close to the tops of buildings or other structures, natural canopies.
  • VAWTs blades are prone to fatigue created by centrifugal forces as the blades spin around the central axis –> they are less reliable  than HAWTs.
  • VAWTs require large bearings at the tower top to permit the shaft to rotate and thick steel cable to supper them –> more costly, especially when repairs and maintenance are needed.
  • VAWTs are less reliable and less efficient that HAWTs, and made worse if they are mounted at ground level or on top of buildings. And the ones in this photo are clearly close to ground level.

Reference: Power from the Wind by Dan Chiras with contributions from Mick Sagrillo and Ian Woofenden.

It is a well-known fact that, by seasoned professional small wind turbine experts, VAWTs, like these are less efficient than HAWTs  and made worse by being mounted closer to ground level boundary level–the few advantages they offer cannot counter the many, fatal disadvantages sited so close to ground level.

Small wind turbine installations are not advised that do not meet the  best practices recommendation of at least 30 feet above the closest obstacle, er trees included, within 500 feet, and are well inside the turbulence bubble (vertically ~2xs the height of the obstruction/house(s) and downwind ~15x – 20x the height of the obstruction/house(s)). Raising a wind turbine, be it HAWT or VAWT,  into the smoothest, strongest wind ensures greater electrical production and longer machine life.

I would also encourage readers to focus more on the performance data vs power curve information. I realize that rated power of wind turbines/power curves was devised to provide customers a way to compare wind turbines. I think folks need to understand that its usefulness has been limited. After taking another look (since it was back in 2009 that I looked into performance data from the results of the Warwick Wind Trials), I see updated standards in the wind industry for determining rated power has been established for comparison across models i.e. 5 m/s [11 mph].

Perhaps the editor, James Murray will revisit this read and ensure the truth is told about this well-intended offering. Not holding my breath, especially because they keep deleting my posts. Yeah, well, you know…Fleh.



REST in Urban Agriculture

As the ‘indifference’ of Mother Nature, er climate instability continues intensifying, and when the price of petrol gets prohibitively expensive for foodstuffs to make their way to the markets, folks will be wishing for an achievable, sustainability developed schema like REST in Urban Agriculture  that includes:

  • hybrid renewable energy systems technology [HREST] for energy generation and capturing moisture from the air via atmospheric water generation
  • water resource management
  • waste management
  • affordable housing
  • access to fresh produce
  • employment opportunities
  • the 5 R’s – resiliency, redundancy, robustness, reliability, repair


If it is a matter of the quality of life…

…it remains to be seen when investing in renewable energy technologies will achieve the same ‘sexy’ status and value as say a luxury car, a fur coat, a diamond ring, etc. Surely, since renewable energy resources have a lower overall negative impact on nature and public health systems, many people can benefit from the quality of life these technologies hold so much promise, yes?

Most of the world’s energy resources are from the sun’s rays hitting Earth. Some of that energy has been preserved as fossil energy, some is directly or indirectly usable. e.g. wind, hydro- or wave power. According to Volker Quaschning’s Understanding Renewable Energy Systems: 

Annually,   39 exajoules  (3.9×1024 J) = 1.08×1018 kWh of solar energy reaches the surface of the Earth. This is about ten thousand times more than the annual global primary energy demand and much more than all the available energy reserves on the Earth. In other words, using one-ten-thousandth part of the incoming sunlight would cover the whole energy demand of mankind.

For some perspective on the Earth’s energy resources, one only needs to look at the world energy resources versus consumption. The volume of the cubes represent the amount of available geothermal, hydropower, wind and solar energy in terawatts (TW), although only a small portion is recoverable. The small cube shows the proportional global energy consumption, in a word, thermodynamics. Put another way,  this is equivalent to an annual average power consumption rate of 15 terawatts (1.50×1013 W).


Perhaps if President Obama were to issue an Executive Order, say, to implement a national solar Feed-in Tariff (FIT) policy to require PG&E in California to buy all solar from homeowners & farmers at $0.54 kWh, this would create ~22 million new jobs in one year, creating a HUGE opportunities for improvement in the quality of life for many. In Germany, who has far less sun than the USA, the FIT has contributed making the economy in Germany the strongest in Europe. I defer you to a former post:

VIDEO :: Environment MN & SolarHotDish got game! Putting the Sun to Work for Minnesota


VIDEO :: Environment MN & SolarHotDish got game! Putting the Sun to Work for Minnesota

I see adverts like this, and typically do not see in renewable energy (RE) industry countering and educating the public on misinformation dispelled on REs.

Sometimes major media networks make ‘feeble attempts’ to dispel the myths about fracking, CONG (coal, oil, nuclear, natural gas):;lst;5

How is the RE industry supposed to compete when it doesn’t seem to ever have the financial resources to counter balance this kind of infomercial? Well I tell you, Environment Minnesota (MN) has game!

Here’s what, in my opinion, is a PRIMO example of the type of media blitz RE industry needs to start adopting to compete with the CONG conglomerates. Way to go Environment Minnesota for facilitating this contest! I think the winner of this contest, SolarHotDish, has done a GREAT job creating a video story that should lure and attract the consumerism mindset. You go SolarHotDish!!  I understand this was the winning film in Environment Minnesota’s short film contest! Ja, it’s polished, cool, sexy–just what a consumer wants.

This one is pretty funny, too. Clean coal is deeelicious!

I am a firm believer that we need to quit ‘poking holes’ in our ‘spaceship’. Or as some  might prefer I more simply say, “We need to stop drilling.”

Consumerism WILL be the bane of human existence.

WWOOFing, permaculture & spherical cows

For the past couple of months, I’ve had a really fun a time practicing problem solving requiring the consideration of a spherical cow, er back of the envelope calculations, whilst designing a schema for implementing hybrid renewable energy systems on a commercial, organic farm in the Napa Valley of California.

I have been performing the duties of a WWOOFing Acolyte, learning about permaculture while applying my sustainable development knowledge in the field which includes developing a commercial application schema for installing small wind turbines in the built environment. Additionally, I am looking at opportunities for installing photovoltaics and biomass waste recovery systems. Thanks to Dr. Kubiak at the RLP AgroScience Institute for AgroEcology in the Rhineland-Pfalz area of Germany, my interest in biomass has been heightened to not only look at utilization of an anaerobic digester for farm and vineyard waste, but also utilizing the grape pomace as an effective mold and mildew mitigating agent.

My aim is to mindfully identify and address how ecosystems respond to change, how to facilitate public engagement by telling a story that resonates with all stakeholders, to help the environment and to learn how to mitigate the decline of biodiversity. The goal is to build on and better understand how my multidisciplinary insights apply in a real-world setting, and in identifying and understanding the landscape and culture of all stakeholders. And ultimately, I aim to provide big picture, sound, pragmatic and as-green-as-possible renewable energy technology recommendations that minimize any potential impacts on the landscape and culture being served, so an environmentally and socially accountable end can be ultimately achieved.

More to come soon…

DESERTEC in Tunisia

Five years ago, while on holiday in Tunisia, I witnessed first-hand the abundant and rich solar resource in this land of magnificent skies, resplendid palmeraie bursting with the best damn dates I’ve ever had, the Andalusian-inspired azure blue and white architecture of Sidi Bou Said usually dressed in shocking pink bougainvilleas, and a population touting the highest literacy  in the Arab world. I spent most of my time in Douz, one of the gateways to the giant sand dunes of the Sahara.

It’s no wonder to me why there is a movement to bring renewable energy technologies to this part of the world. But I truly hope that not only is sustainability development practiced, but the best interests and cultural sensitivities of all the stakeholders involved, be they the Bedouin community in Douz or the metro denizens of Tunis are included in future discussions on how all can be empowered and powered/electrified.

Today there was an article posted on the Renewable Energy Access web site:

MENA Taps its Green Reserves

Huge oil reserves are no longer preventing the Middle East and North Africa region from developing its abundant clean, renewable energy resources.

I am surprised this article did not mention how Tunisia fits into the DESERTEC initiative for HVDC (high voltage direct current). If HVDC is going to make the way to the mainland of the EU, the geographical path of lesser resistance would be via the Strait of Gibraltar and/or Tunisia -> Italy.

Two conferences in October will provide information about the progress of the realization of DESERTEC in the Mediterranean region:

Tunisia Solar International Conference

29-30 October 2010, Tunis

Under the patronage of the President of Tunisia and in the presence of several Ministers from MENA, the ambitious Tunisian plans in terms of clean power from deserts will be discussed and a Founding Agreement for the DESERTEC University Network will be signed.
Go to conference website

REPOST :: Solar Nation – Why We Advocate

This deserves repeating, especially since the USA energy bill recently went ‘pear-shaped.’ [Thanks for the fruity analogy Rens.]

Solar Nation — Why We Advocate


We beat the drum for solar energy and all the reasons why it makes sense – energy independence, climate regulation, clean energy, sustainability and more – because we want our elected legislators to hear something other than the sound of money falling into their war chests.  And we work for the day when those legislators turn to their deep-pocket corporate contributors and say (apologetically) that they would like to oblige them on this upcoming vote, but there are so many voters in their districts demanding action on clean energy that, for once, they have to do what the people want.


…with his portable, low-tech, low-cost LED lantern powered with reclaimed photovoltaics.

With the help of volunteers, he designs, makes and distributes, for free, Solar Powered Lanterns dubbed ‘MwangaBora!’, which means ‘Better Light’.

To learn more, go to Sustainable Development For All – Kenya.

Return top

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...

Content © 2009-2017 by Kimberly King