Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Alberta's CO2 capture target falls after project scrapped - Edmonton - CBC News

Alberta's CO2 capture target falls after project scrapped - Edmonton - CBC News

The province's carbon capture target for the four projects was five million tonnes annually by 2016. Now the target is about 2.6 million tonnes through two remaining projects: the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line and Shell Quest.
Bob Savage, director of Alberta Environment's climate change secretariat, said the province’s new target is the equivalent of taking more than half a million cars off the road.
"Carbon capture and storage remains a key part of Alberta's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is a technology that has a lot of potential. The challenge is figuring out a way to do it in a cost-effective manner," said Savage.

Key part of Alberta's commitment

Matt Horne, a director with environmental group the Pembina Institute, said one reason carbon capture and storage projects aren't making sense financially is because Alberta does not have a tax on carbon emissions.
"There is very little incentive here in Alberta to reduce those emissions. If Alberta's policy becomes stronger, there is going to be a stronger incentive to reduce those emissions and invest in technologies like carbon capture and storage."
Climate change scientist Keith argues that the Alberta government doesn’t seem keen on spending serious money on cutting emissions.
“The government really seems to be kind of ignoring serious sustained action on cutting carbon emissions. And that’s clearly a political response to the fact that the political pressure isn’t as high as it was. But I think Alberta needs to take the long view,” he said.
“The government should be involved by putting a price on people using the atmosphere as a free waste dump and getting serious about cutting carbon emissions.”
Carbon capture technology is aimed at reducing carbon dioxide, a major contributor to greenhouse gases. The carbon is taken from an industrial source, such as a smokestack, liquefied and shipped by pipe to another location and stored deep underground in porous rock.
Proponents say it's the best way to feed the consumer appetite for fossil fuels while reducing the pollution.
Opponents say the technology is expensive and unproven, and it's not being done on a large scale anywhere in the world. They also voice health concerns, noting if the concentrated CO2 leaks, it could poison underground water sources or asphyxiate people if released to the surface.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

2012 Temperatures – One For the Record Books | Resilient Design Institute

2012 Temperatures – One For the Record Books | Resilient Design Institute

For those who have made a habit of following temperature records over the past few decades, what’s most surprising with today’s news isn’t that 2012 set a record for U.S. temperatures (that had been expected for months), but rather the extent of that record.
If you go back to the beginning of systematic record-keeping for the lower-48 states in 1895 until last year, the difference between the record-low (1917) and the record-high (1998) was 4.2°F. That temperature span jumped a full degree Fahrenheit with the 2012 record temperature. The average temperature in the contiguous U.S. in 2012 was 55.3°F, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), dramatically beating the previous record of 54.3, and exceeding the 20th century average by an amazing 3.3°F.
At weather stations around the country, 34,008 daily high-temperature records were set in 2012, compared to just 6,664 daily low-temperature records. In a normal year, those record highs and lows would be roughly balanced.
You have to go way back to 1985 (28 years ago) to find a single month (February) when the average U.S. temperature was below the 20th century average.
Nineteen states recorded their warmest year on record in 2012 and another 26 states recorded one of the ten warmest years on record. Only three states did not experience one of their ten warmest years (2012 was the 11th warmest for Georgia, 12th warmest for Oregon, and 30th warmest for Washington).
Nationally, July 2012 was the warmest month ever recorded in the history of the U.S.
Severe drought in 2012
Along with record temperatures, 2012 was exceptionally dry. Drought extended across 61% of the country, wreaking havoc on the nation’s grain belt. The average precipitation for the contiguous U.S. was 26.57 inches, 2.57 inches below normal, according to NOAA. That made 2012 the 15th driest on record, while two states—Nebraska and Wyoming—experienced record drought conditions.
Crop losses have already reached $35 billion and some experts project that total damages from drought in 2012 could top $100 billion, according to the reinsurance company Aon Benfield—perhaps even eclipsing the damages from Hurricane Sandy.
And don’t forget wildfires. Dry conditions in the West lead to wildfires, and 9.2 million acres were burned in 2012—the third highest in U.S. history.

Low-tech Magazine: The solar envelope: how to heat and cool cities without fossil fuels

Low-tech Magazine: The solar envelope: how to heat and cool cities without fossil fuels

Great article that contains great info on ancient Greek and Pueblo solar housing, here is some;
Solar oriented cities in Antiquity
Knowles' research draws on ancient knowledge, most notably the solar planned cities in Ancient Greece and the solar communities of the Ancient Pueblo People in what is today the Southwestern United States. The Ancient Greeks built entire cities which were optimal for solar exposure. 
Passive solar house in priene greeceOlynthus street planIn the fifth century BC, for example, a neighbourhood for about 2500 people was built in the city of Olynthus. The streets were built perpendicular to each other, running long in the east-west direction (the horizontal streets shown in the plan), so that all houses (five on each side of the street) could be built with southern exposure.
A gridirion street plan oriented at the cardinal points was not new at the time, and neither is it proof of a design aimed at maximum solar exposure. But the Greeks did more. In "A Golden Thread: 2500 Years of Solar Architecture and Technology", Ken Butti and John Perlin note that all houses were consistently built around a south-facing courtyard: 
"The houses that faced south on the street and south to the sun were entered through the court, straight from the street. The houses that faced north to the street and south to the sun were entered through a passageway that led from the street through the main body of the house and into the court, from which access was gained to all other spaces." 
Priene solar oriented cityIn keeping with the democratic ethos of the period, the height of buildings was strictly limited so that each courtyard received an equal amount of sunshine:
"In winter, rays from the sun traveling low across the southern sky streamed across the south-facing courts, throgh the portico, and into the house - heating the main rooms. The north walls were made of adobe bricks one and a half feet thick, which kept out the cold north winds of winter."
Another obvious example of Ancient Greek solar planning was Priene (illustration above), rebuilt in 350 BC and located in present-day Turkey. The city had about 4000 inhabitants living in 400 houses. Its buildings and street plan were similar to those in Olynthus, but because the city was built on the slope of a steep mountain, many of the fifteen secondary streets (running north-south) were actually stairways. The seven main avenues were terraced on an east-west axis.
Native Americans
The Ancient Pueblo People or "Anasazi" built a number of sophisticated solar oriented communities during the 11th and 12th centuries AD in what is now the Southwestern United States: Long House at Mesa Verde, Pueblo Bonito in Northern Mexico and the "sky city" of Acoma.
Drawing by Gary S. Shigemura in Energy and Form by Ralph L. KnowlesIllustration of Acoma Pueblo, by Gary S. Shigemura (from "Energy and Form", Ralph Knowles).
These communities followed a different building style than that of the Greeks. The Ancient Pueblo People constructed terraced buildings of up to three floors high. These were buildings that would fit perfectly in a solar envelope with slanting lines. Acoma pueblo (illustration above) is one example of these orderly, solar planned communities. It consists of three rows of houses built along streets running east and west, so that each building faces south. The streets that separate the houses have a width that allows winter shadows to cover the whole of the adjoining street, stopping just before the following row of buildings. 
Solar houses 2Heliodon
Knowles' research combines the best elements of these historical designs and incorporates modern technology that greatly facilitates the generation of a solar envelope. The heliodon, invented in the 1930s, is a contraption that creates a geometrical relationship between an architectural scale model and (a representation of) the sun. More recently, software versions of the heliodon have made the technology much more affordable, while allowing for the fast generation of even very complex solar envelopes.
On larger sites in particular, and when already existing buildings complicate the generation of a solar envelope, the available computer software saves time and can result in more building volume.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Crowdsourcing and Scaling Rooftop Solar Energy | CleanEdison

Crowdsourcing and Scaling Rooftop Solar Energy | CleanEdison

n order to effectively take advantage of the potential of rooftop solar, a model must be adopted that brings down the cost of capital, increases the amount of available capital, and builds a larger base of stakeholders to support strong policies for solar. The new concept giving hope to small-scale solar proponents is known as “Crowdsourcing Solar.”
One company has taken the forefront on this innovative new crowdsourcing model. Mosaic, an Oakland-based company developed a platform that connects investors to solar projects that need financing. These investors can contribute as little as $25 to the project of their choice in the country. Currently, the only states that allow non-accredited investors to invest in the Mosaic platform are New York and California, but the company is working with the SEC and other state governments to allow more individuals to make investments directly through their platform.
With expected yields of between 4.5% and 6.38% annually, the investments made through Mosaic are roughly on par with historical returns of the S&P 500. The interest was almost immediate - on the first day of the project’s launch, Mosaic funded all four potential projects totaling $313,000, and since 2011 it has deployed $1.1 million from more than 400 investors to fund a total of 11 projects. Moreover, the platform opens up the ability for those without a suitable rooftop to invest in clean energy.

Portugal Inaugurates Alqueva Pumped-Storage Hydroelectric Project Expansion | Renewable Energy News Article

Portugal Inaugurates Alqueva Pumped-Storage Hydroelectric Project Expansion | Renewable Energy News Article

An extension of Portugal's Alqueva pumped-storage hydroelectric plant has doubled its capacity to 520 MW.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Investigators Pinpoint a Short Circuit Within a 787 Dreamliner Battery | Autopia | Wired.com

Investigators Pinpoint a Short Circuit Within a 787 Dreamliner Battery | Autopia | Wired.com
Boeing, along with investigators in the United States and Japan, have focused on the lithium-ion battery from the start. And today’s announcement that the problem appears to have started with a short circuit within a cell is exactly what battery expert Dr. K.M. Abraham suggested was the problem when we spoke with him last month. The lithium-ion cells within the 787 batteries use a graphite-coated copper anode and a lithium cobalt oxide-coated aluminum cathode. The anode and cathode are separated by a very thin polyethylene film known as the separator.
The separator is roughly the same thickness as cellophane and behaves in a similar way. There doesn’t need to be a tear or a hole to create a short circuit that can cause thermal runaway. The material is very thin – typically around 25 microns, according to Abraham – and small irregularities in the thickness can be enough to lead to problems. A section of the separator that is just 20 microns thick might be enough.
“It could be a stretch, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big hole, just a weak point where you have low resistance,” Abraham said. “It can be a problem when you have such a very large surface area electrode where there is a lot of inhomogeneity in the current distribution.”
The variable thickness of the separator material could be a result of manufacturing, but also could occur during charging and discharging of the battery. A very small short might lead to the growth of a lithium crystal within the battery cell.
“Sometimes what happens is you start with a very small dendrite growth due to an internal short,” Abraham says of the small fibers of lithium metal that can grow in the cell, “but it gradually heats up because gas can pass through it and heat up that location.”
And just like cellophane, the separator can shrink when it is heated, Abraham says, “once it starts heating up slowly it will shrink and then a small short will become a massive short.”
Abraham, agreeing with comments made by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, said the relatively large cells in the 787 battery pose a problem. The large surface area of each cell increases the chance that an irregularity could lead to a short, Abraham said. The problem of the separator changing thickness due to heating is something addressed in the batteries used in the Chevrolet Volt. The separator is less likely to change thickness due to heating, according to Abraham.
“That was overcome in the Chevrolet Volt separator where they reinforced the separator with ceramic particles to mitigate the shrinking problem,” he said.
According to the NTSB, the separators used in the 787 batteries are not reinforced with ceramic particles.

An American Passive Home | Home Power Magazine

An American Passive Home | Home Power Magazine

Earth Room

In addition to capturing solar gain, Pura Vida takes advantage of another source of free heat (and cooling): from the relatively constant temperature of the ground. In Europe, earth tubes are often buried around the foundation of homes to provide tempered fresh air, but in the United States, there has been concern that earth tubes can grow mold or mildew. With Pura Vida, and subsequent buildings I have designed, an “earth room”—a modified approach to earth tubes—has been successful.
In Pura Vida, the earth room lies below the front porch. A short, 12-inch-diameter tube brings fresh outdoor air into one end of the earth room. The air flows the length of the 48-foot-long room where it is preheated (in the fall and winter) or precooled (spring and summer) through direct contact with the concrete walls prior to entering a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). The earth room is like a large thermal battery, storing heat in the summer for use in the fall and winter and storing “coolness” in the winter for use in the spring and summer. The earth room eliminates the need to use a conventional mechanical heating system for about two months of the year (October and November) and eliminates the need to run a cooling system from mid-May to mid-June. Throughout the rest of year, the earth room significantly reduces the heating and cooling loads.
After passing through the earth room, the air enters the Nu-Air Ventilation Enerboss, a complete heating, filtration, and HRV system. An efficient fan constantly pulls air from the bathrooms and kitchen, which is exhausted, while the same amount of fresh air is evenly distributed throughout the home by an airflow-balanced high-velocity duct system. The system has operated flawlessly for the past five years. The Enerboss system requires an external source of hot water for heating the air to be distributed. In Pura Vida, we use a 4.5 kW Marathon water heater to provide hot water to the heat exchanger coils within the Enerboss. Air conditioning is provided by a 3-ton, 16 SEER Lennox Elite. The evaporator for the AC unit is mounted on top of the Enerboss.
Visitors to Pura Vida often comment how fresh the air is and how quiet it is within the home. The comfort provided by constantly filtered fresh air moving throughout the home makes it difficult to go back to living with a conventional HVAC system.

Domestic Hot Water

A small Nyle Systems air-to-water heat pump mounted on a wall in the earth room provides domestic water heating. A timer is programmed to turn it on in the evenings when the time-of-use electricity price is $0.02 to $0.03 per kWh. The hot water is stored in a well-insulated 105-gallon Marathon water heater for use during the day. The average monthly cost for domestic hot water is about $5. (The timer is bypassed when we have guests or need to use more hot water.)
We also have a GFX Technologies wastewater-to-water heat exchanger. Although the concept of recovering the energy in hot water going down the drain is an interesting one, the high cost of copper makes this technology too expensive to be cost-effective for the amount of preheated water the unit provides.

Demonstrated Performance

Six Lascar temperature and humidity sensors were placed throughout the home, outside, and in the earth room. Data collected from these sensors every 30 minutes for the past five years—along with energy use data collected from several TED (The Energy Detective) units and our utility bills—have validated the home’s performance.
The all-electric home’s advantage is that we can measure and directly compare the energy use for every appliance and system. Having collected data on the efficiency of the air-to-water heat pump in the earth room for providing domestic hot water, I plan to modify the heating system to include a second heat pump, instead of the existing water heater, for space heating. This should reduce the electricity demand for space heating by at least 60%.
When the home was built, we also decided to sign up for time-of-use utility metering. This utility billing method provides us with cheaper energy during off-peak times, and more expensive energy during peak times. The risk we took with this decision was that if we needed to use large amounts of energy during peak times—like running air conditioning midday during the summer—the cost could be significantly higher. The table (upper right) shows our average annual energy use for the various portions of the property along with an approximate annual cost for each.
Because of the relatively high upfront cost of renewable electricity systems, we felt it was important to first design and build a home that is as efficient as possible—and then get a good understanding of the home’s energy demands. A year after the home was completed, we applied for and received a state grant to measure the effectiveness of residential small wind systems.
We installed a 2.4 kW Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7 turbine on a 60-foot tower (at the time, we did not understand that height is too short for nearly all applications). The utility account was converted to net metering so that we could sell our excess energy back to Commonwealth Edison. The energy production from the Skystream was monitored through a Zigbee data system and logged on a computer.
We believed we had a wind resource that was sufficient to justify a wind-electric system. Our chosen turbine, the Skystream, is predicted to produce about 2,600 kWh per year given an 11 mph resource, and about 900 kWh per year in 8 mph winds. After several years of operation, the system has produced roughly 500 kWh per year, or the equivalent of $50 of energy, which is expensive electricity when you consider the $21,000 installation cost.
It is clear now that the information we started with was not sufficient to justify using wind energy at our site. Factors contributing to our turbine’s lower-than-anticipated production include a tree line that sits about 800 feet to the west, resulting in turbulent wind from the prevailing wind direction. A taller tower would undoubtedly help with this problem, because the farther you get away from the earth and its obstructions, the more wind there is. As a well-known small-wind expert has said, we unknowingly chose expensive energy over an expensive tower.
Over the past several years, the cost of photovoltaic systems has come down dramatically. During that time, we collected information on the energy demand for Pura Vida. We found that during the fall and spring, when there was no energy use for heating or cooling, the average demand was between 600 and 700 kWh per month.
In 2011, we installed a 4.3 kW grid-tied PV system that should average about 400 kWh per month. Twenty-four batteries provide backup for power outages and provide enough energy to live without the grid periodically—assuming that the backup heating would be provided by the wood heater instead of electricity. Performance data is being collected by the OutBack MATE3 energy monitor and we should have an accurate performance picture by the end of 2012.

Future of APH

We believe that building super-energy-efficient homes will have a significant impact on U.S. energy use. If the building cost of an APH is within 15% of a conventional building method, a conservative energy cost savings estimate is more than $1,000 each year per home.
One outcome of the recent economic downturn has been that the American consciousness has been awakened to the importance of common-sense solutions to important challenges. For families paying to heat and cool their homes—and as a nation that needs to use less fossil fuel—emphasizing energy efficiency in homebuilding is a simple yet promising way to address these challenges.


Victor Zaderej has been passionate about energy use in homes, businesses, and transportation for 30 years. He holds two engineering degrees from MIT, and an MBA. Through his company, Solar Homes, he helps design energy-efficient buildings. He is currently the manager of Advanced Solid State Lighting at Molex.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Choosing the Best Batteries: Page 4 of 5 | Home Power Magazine

Choosing the Best Batteries: Page 4 of 5 | Home Power Magazine

A battery’s storage capacity—the amount of electrical energy it can hold—is typically expressed in ampere-hours (amp-hours, or AH) at a certain discharge rate. One AH represents a flow of electric current of 1 amp for 1 hour. A battery is like a bucket—the larger your “bucket” is, the more AH it can hold. Hence, the larger the AH value of a battery, given a particular discharge rate, the more storage it offers.
Often there’s a choice of selecting a battery with either higher voltage and lower AH, or lower voltage and higher AH. How do you know which is most appropriate for your application? In general, limit the number of battery series strings in parallel to three or less (two are better, and one is ideal). This reduces imbalances introduced by having multiple paths for the current to follow and extra electrical resistance created by paralleled battery cables. In applications where more AH are needed, buy lower-voltage, higher AH batteries so that several low-voltage batteries can be wired in series and the number of paralleled battery strings can be minimized.
The denoted AH capacity of a given battery depends on the rate at which it is being discharged and the amount of time it takes to discharge it. Large industrial batteries, i.e. for forklifts, are often rated at the “6-hour” rate, indicating a high current discharge rate, which brings the battery to its terminal voltage (often at 80% DOD) in 6 hours, about the length of a forklift’s working shift. For RE systems, a 20-hour rate is typically used, because that is closely aligned with the more modest discharge rates that bring the battery to a terminal voltage (again, often at 80% DOD) over 20 hours—more closely approximating daily home use before recharging.
For converting 6-hour rates to an RE system’s more common 20-hour rate, multiply by 1.24. Using this calculation, a 100 AH, 6-hour rating offers 124 AH at the 20-hour rate.
Bulk Charge Set Point Voltage. When charging batteries, the goal is to put as much current as possible into the battery as efficiently as possible. But charging a battery too quickly can cause heat to build up in the battery, as well as excessive gassing, and can shorten the battery’s life. To keep from harming the battery during charging, charge controllers used in RE systems limit the charge rate based on the batteries’ voltage. As the cell voltage increases, the charge rate (the number of amps allowed in) is reduced to prevent overcharging.
The initial phase when all available current is allowed into the battery is referred to as the “bulk” charge phase. Once the battery has reached its initial bulk-charge voltage, the charge controller will hold the voltage there for a programmed period of time (often 2 hours)—the “absorption” charge phase. This is done to assure full charging throughout the many cells of the battery. Note that the set points listed in this guide are per cell, so you will need to multiply it by the number of series-connected cells to determine the appropriate battery charge set points. For example, if you were to use four batteries (6 V each, wired in series for a 24 V configuration) and the bulk charge set point voltage range is 2.4 to 2.49 V for your battery’s cells, the ideal battery bank bulk-charge voltage set point would be between 28.8 and 29.88 V (3 cells per battery x 4 batteries x 2.4 to 2.49 V).
Float-Charge Set Point Voltage. After the absorption period, the charge controller ramps down the charging current to achieve the “float” phase, which is a lower voltage that greatly reduces the batteries’ gassing while still keeping the battery full. To continue the example, the float-charge set point voltage range is 2.20 to 2.23 V for each cell. With 12 cells total, the ideal battery bank float-charge voltage set point for this particular battery bank would be between 26.4 and 26.76 V.
Both AGM and gel-cell batteries will not tolerate voltages that are as high as FLAs. The charge controller’s bulk and float set points must be programmed appropriately to avoid damaging these batteries.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Filabot Turns Your Plastic Junk Into Material for 3-D Printers | Wired Design | Wired.com

Filabot Turns Your Plastic Junk Into Material for 3-D Printers | Wired Design |
Filabot promises to help turn your plastic crap into 3-D printed fanciness, alleviating one of the biggest sustainability problems for 3-D printing.
Just over a year ago, Tyler McNaney was on break from college. “I was surfing the internet as most college kids do, and I saw a video of 3-D printing,” he says. “I was amazed and I learned all I could about it.” Soon after, he owned one of his own. Not much longer after that, he decided he wanted to make his own filament for it. Sadly, he was low on cash. So he launched Filabot on Kickstarter.
For desktop 3-D printers to work, they need some kind of material to work with. Most contemporary printers use plastic filament, available in spools from various suppliers. Filabot reduces the need for that stuff. Instead you can grind up household plastics or even past projects to make new lines.
Think a meat grinder on top of a pasta maker and you get the general idea. “Plastic extrusion is nothing new,” says McNaney in the Kickstarter pitch video. “The only thing we’d like to do is adapt it to the desktop environment.”
The need for something like this is enormous. The whole point of 3-D printing is that you can do rapid prototyping and customization of parts. This means that you can expect any given project to have lots of unwanted prototypes, to say nothing of failed prints or other errors. Go into any vibrant makerspace and you’ll find dozens of demo objects, broken parts and failed experiment lying around, the detritus of tinkering with objects. It’s similar to how in the early days of computerized workspaces, the “paperless office” resulted in more paper being consumed as workers reprinted documents over and over.
“I am working on this because this is the next system that is needed for at-home manufacturing,” says McNaney. “3-D printing is in its infancy, and when coupled with a Filabot a 3-D printer will be a complete closed-loop recycling system on your desk, office or school. I also see a lot of potential for helping out third-world countries. With a Filabot and a 3-D printer people can now make things as simple as a fork or cup.”
Unlike some of the more outlandish promises about how 3-D printing might save the world, McNaney’s project has a point. The world is awash in disposable plastic containers like soda and water bottles.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Electric Vehicles and the high cost of batteries

Could Electric Vehicles Fly Out of Showrooms? - NYTimes.com:

'via Blog this'

First he cited the cost of the battery. While it has declined from about $1,000 per kilowatt-hour of storage in 2008 to about $500 today, it would have to decline to $125 over the next 10 years.

A kilowatt-hour will propel a small electric car three or four miles. Its cost is cheap, about 11 cents. Storage for that kilowatt-hour is what is pricey. A battery that stores $2 worth of electricity but costs $8,000 to buy and has the same range potential as two or three gallons of gasoline is an odd combination, like buying a solid gold cup and using it to serve tap water.

Second, Dr. Chu said, the cost of a kilowatt of power from the rest of the drive system, now $30, would have fall to $8. That would make cars with electric batteries competitive with cars running on internal combustion, even with the efficiency of the latter improving as time goes by.

He said that features available only in cars with batteries, like the ability to heat or cool a car cabin to a comfortable temperature a few minutes before the owner gets in, could help sell the cars.

The Obama administration’s current goal calls for one million electric vehicles to be on the road in the United States by 2015. Asked whether it could be achieved, Dr. Chu replied, “It’s ambitious, but we’ll see what happens.”

He said he was encouraged by a recen tprice cut for the Nissan Leaf, and Chevy’s sales of 24,000 Volts last year.