Archive for January, 2010

Small-scale distributed hybrid RE systems opportunity == Haiti

It’s been over a week now, and I haven’t seen any interest in some of the RE discussion forums I am a part of on offering an assist to rebuild Haiti. This saddens me. I may be ‘blind’, but sans the Solar Light Electric Fund, who already has solar panels in a warehouse in Haiti, and who had/has aspirations to perform more PV installations,  I have not seen any feeds on the RE community scrambling to offer assistance to Haiti on the ground, yet.

I see this as a long-overdue opportunity to help & rebuild an infrastructure. An opportunity to perform my part as a global citizen.

Witnessing the events since a week ago, the first thing on my mind after assisting the survivors was what kind of efforts were being made to rebuild the infrastructure–electricity capacity in particular. I listened to this report today on Democracy NOW! by Amy Goodman who’s on the ground in Haiti. Comments came from a  Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health contingency in the main hospital in Port-au-Prince, that doesn’t have adequate electricity to keep running 24/7,  so they can perform life-saving surgeries.

With Foreign Aid Still at a Trickle, Devastated Port-au-Prince General Hospital Struggles to Meet Overwhelming Need

This is a week well after the initial earthquake! I won’t get into the politics of why I ‘know’ this is transpiring…

If anyone wants to collaborate and help me make way to Haiti in the coming months, I’ll gladly donate my time to help site, design, make recommendations for implementation of sustainable development including hybrid RE systems (solar, wind, micro-hydro, biomass–whatever technology is appropriate for the geographically predisposed location).

And I’ll stick around and help provide labor and install, too. I’m beyond past ready to get out from behind the computer. The Solar Electric Light Fund’s slogan is Energy is a human right. A human right, INDEED!

Social networking via the web–Why not?!

I recently received an email blat from an agency to which I subscribe that covered the role of social networking during a job search. I have to be honest, I was solicitous at first about social networking; especially Twitter and Facebook. (I actually still am a bit uncertain with those two for professional purposes.) But truth be told, my recent activity on the LinkedIn matrix has netted me a few new colleagues, and many a scintillating, mind-expanding dialogue exchange. Not to mention, I noticed that I’ve been coming up in a number of prospective employers’ searches. Nice!

So, here are my observations why I think social networking is something everyone should incorporate into expanding their sphere of contacts and/or in seeking a new job:

  • I think social networking gives prospective employers a feel for one’s personality, an understanding of your past work experience, style, and one’s interest/ability to use social media. It is pretty clear, this is becoming increasingly important for a wide-range of professions. I think this LinkedIn matrix also provides easier access for making contact, too.
  • I also signed-up for a number of groups on LinkedIn. And in the recent past few months, started chirping-in and contributing to posts/blogs–demonstrating my interest in certain renewable energy technologies. This instantly gives my new colleagues an idea about my abilities and knowledge on a subject.
  • Having a constant stream of knowledge, news and tips from industry sages and shakers doesn’t hurt either. I try to devote 15-30 minutes/day reading the stream of headlines that are permeating all the groups I have subscribed or alerts dispatched to my emailbox. When a topic is complementary to my ‘arsenal’, I jump into the discussion.

So, why not?! I recommend all job seekers take advantage of social media platforms–they happen to be very easy to use, even for luddites. Not only will this give the impression you are in tune with the latest technological advances, but will work wonders breaking ability to show your agility and excel in today’s rapidly evolving workplace.

I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? Expanding one’s network of contacts. And at best, landing a job quicker than one might think!

Hybrid RE Systems–Nudge, Nudge. When is the USA going to get on the ball?

I am confounded. To the best of my knowledge, a great deal of companies in renewable energy (RE) are not collectively using the operatives ‘hybrid renewable energy’ in their marketing and educational language in the USA. I mean, it just makes sense, since the sun does not shine 24/7–typically, when the sun is down, the wind is comparatively gusty. PV, altho it’s ‘sexy’  and wind is prosperous at this time, alone they are not a panacea.

To achieve a better overall electricity supply, it’s just makes common sense to integrate two or more renewable energy technologies–be they wind-solar, wind-solar-biomass, wind-biomass, solar-biomass, etc. This, of course, will depend on one’s geographical predisposition and renewable energy resource availability.

Aside: I figured this out back in 2000 when I had my epiphany whilst a Sr. Systems Administrator at Preview Travel/Travelocity.com during the Y2K ‘unevent’ in San Francisco, CA. My company was located just a few blocks from the Embarcadero, in a part of San Francisco where insolation was primo. It bothered me a great deal that we could spend 10’s of 1,000s of dollars, er ~$75,000.00 for a three day rental of a back-up battery generator, half a city block long, to ensure our security of electricity supply. When we should have, instead, spent all that moola on a PV array to match our peak load, daytime requirements on our low aspect ratio building for our web server farm and 350+ nodes for our end-users. Not to mention, it’s also possible an urban wind turbine could have been installed to handle the nighttime power requirements for our 125 web server farm, database and Liebert UPS. A perfect justification for a hybrid RE system!!

So, once again, the EU is ahead of this USA in this regard. I recently came across this web site: Hybrid systemsSkip to main content

And on the educational tip, universities like Loughborough University/CREST, Oldenburg and Kassel, DE, as well as The School of Renewable Energy Science in Iceland offer graduate level course work in in hybrid renewable energy systems. So far in the USA, to the best of my knowledge, only the Oregon Institute of Technology offers a RE Engineering program; but, it is a four year undergraduate program.

I mean, it’s going to take an amalgam of renewable energy technologies to keep the lights on and CPUs fired-up when the end of oil arrives, so that a certain quality of life standard can be maintained/attained in the future, anyway. Generating electricity close to where it will be used is an attractive option, enhances the security of supply, not to mention the carbon footprint reduction benefit. Sans the folks who have installed off-grid, hybrid renewable energy systems and the group at NREL performing research, what is the rest of this nation waiting for? Can you say distributive hybrid renewable energy systems?

I know. I know. Probably isn’t going to happen until relative cost of petrol/natural gas go up and the demand for renewable energy goes up in the marketplace.

NREL small wind turbine certification program–it’s a start…

I just posted this response on my LinkedIn.com profile and thought it warranted a re-post here for those of you that aren’t tethered to me in the LinkedIn.com matrix.
NREL’s only tested four manufacturers over the past two+ years: http://www.nrel.gov/wind/smallwind/independent_testing.html

Truly a surprise there have not been more, especially because of some recent performance issues revealed in the Warwick Wind Trials (WWT) in the early part of 2009. http://www.warwickwindtrials.org.uk/8.html

Small wind turbine (WT) sage, Mick Sagrillo even raises the WWT in one of his posts —
http://www.awea.org/smallwind/sagrillo/warwick_urban_wind_trial_project.html

As of today, there are approximately 408 small WTs on the market (340 HAWT, 68 VAWT) from 159 WT manufacturers, — http://www.allsmallwindturbines.com

In the summer of last year, Boston-Cambridge Museum of Science installed some WTs: Architectural Wind AVX1000, Swift, Proven Omni Roof, Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7, Mariah. There was an ANSYS CFX/Fluent CFD software webinar a few months ago on this installation/test environment — http://www.ansys.com/demoroom/swf/demos/114_Wind_Energy_Projects/index.html – You might have to register to view. You can use the slider bar to advance the slide show. At ~25:00 you can see all the WTs.

An interesting aside: Using ANSYS CFX, they were able to optimize the location of the Swift WT.

This all being said, I think it would help the small wind industry a great deal of more manufacturers had an independent review of their machines. The results from the 2007-2008 12-month Warwick Wind Trials in the UK reported discouraging wind energy yields for the 26 small, building-mounted wind turbines. In this trial, wind turbines sited in a veritable plethora of urban canopies were compared to rural areas that possess low surface roughness/texture. Small wind turbine manufacturers capacity claims fell far short of the results returned in this trial compared to their claims included in specification sheets. I can attest. I have seen and analyzed the data from the WWT, and most of it ain’t pretty.

Oh yeah, collaborations to arrive at an international standard would be prudent.

There was also a trial that ran for a year (April 2008 – March 2009) in Schoondijke, Zeeuwind of The Netherlands lead by Sander Mertens at Ingreenious.com. Ik spreek maar een beetj Nederlands (I only speak a little Dutch). Ja, it’s in Dutch, so you’ll need to use a translator to get a contextual overview. Outcome was similar to the Warwick Wind Trials on the performance results.

Killer Cover Letter Secret

I try to start off my cover letter openers with an attention-grabbing subject or headline opener that is so unique and so compelling that the hiring manager can’t help but notice it. Having a title with ‘Renewable Energy Engineer’ doesn’t hurt, either, even tho most still don’t know what this job title means or is–but at least it starts the discussion ==> big toe in the door.

Unfortunately, I can’t share my explicit copy secrets/info loot that have worked for me in this matrix. Sorry, you’re on your own crafting your own opener. I hope at least my ‘tea leaf’ will suffice spark some right-brained activity.

So try to start your next cover letter with a smashing title or subject headline, and get ready for that email reply or phone call.

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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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