Monday, September 30, 2013

China's Synthetic Natural Gas Plants Could Accelerate Climate Change - Businessweek

China's Synthetic Natural Gas Plants Could Accelerate Climate Change - Businessweek

Unfortunately, one scheme to limit coal burning by converting China’s plentiful coal supplies into synthetic natural gas (SNG) presents a host of other ecological worries. To date, China’s government has approved construction of nine large SNG plants in northern and western China, which are projected to generate 37 billion cubic meters of gas each year when completed. At least 30 more proposed plants are awaiting approval.
None of these planned plants are located near large Chinese cities, so the emissions generated in producing the gas will not hang directly over metropolises. But that doesn’t mean the coal-to-gas conversion process is clean. According to a new study (PDF) in Nature Climate Change, the entire life cycle of harvesting coal and turning it into gas produces from 36 percent to 82 percent more total greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal directly—depending on whether the gas is used to generate electricity or power vehicles.
While the most-polluting stages of energy generation could be moved farther from China’s population centers—perhaps allowing for more brighter, cleaner days in Beijing—the net effect could be to accelerate global climate change, argue the study’s authors, Chi-Jen Yang and Robert Jackson of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.
Moreover, the scarcely populated hinterland regions earmarked for the SNG plants are dry, while converting coal to gas is a water-intensive process. “The water consumption for [synthetic natural gas] production could worsen water shortages in areas already under significant water stress,” write Yang and Jackson. “Overall, the large-scale deployment of SNG will dramatically increase water use, [greenhouse gas] emissions, and additional air and water pollution.”
When it comes to tackling China’s many environmental challenges, it’s, alas, much easier to point out flaws in current government approaches than to find sustainable solutions.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Wind Contract Cheaper Than Coal, Nuclear

Daily Kos: BFD: New Wind Contract Cheaper Than Coal, Nuclear

The utilities — National Grid, Northeast Utilities, and Unitil Corp. — would buy 565 megawatts of electricity from six wind farms in Maine and New Hampshire, enough to power an estimated 170,000 homes. The projects, in various stages of permitting or development, are expected to begin operations between 2014 and 2016.
John Howat, senior energy analyst at the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center, said he needed to review the details before he could provide a thorough assessment of the contracts. But his initial reaction to the price — on average, less than 8 cents per kilowatt hour? “Wow.”
For a comparison, in the same time frame gas is projected to cost 7 cents/KWH, coal 10 cents/KWH and nuclear 11 cents/KWH. A dollar a month may not seem like a lot. But if wind is cheaper than coal & nuclear, why would you ever build a new coal-fired or nuclear power plant? And that's not even starting to account for all the climate change, public health and wildlife benefits that come with switching from coal to wind. When the cost of pollution is factored in, both wind and solar power blow the doors off of coal and are competitive with gas.
Why should we go all-in on wind when gas is projected to be slightly cheaper? Because New England is already dangerously dependent on gas, leaving us vulnerable to price spikes like we saw last winter. And since gas plants can fire up much faster than coal plants, gas and wind actually go very well together. (No, that was not a fart joke. Let's keep moving.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

under ground housing by Mike Oehler

under ground housing by Mike Oehler


The PSP construction process is simple and easily understood. But the concept of living under the ground is extremely alien to most people who haven’t been exposed to Mike Oehler’s design concepts. In addition, proper design is the single most important key to the success of an underground dwelling, in terms of light, ventilation, and most importantly, drainage.

So it’s not surprising that Mike spends most of his time and effort, in his book as well as videos, on design.

Conventional thinking (if that can be applied to something as radical as U housing) most often involves digging a hole into a hillside and plopping a structure there. A bank of windows faces downhill, while the uphill side is a solid blank wall. More often than not, if the house is on a south slope, the roof is pitched back into the hill, so drainage from the roof runs into drainage from the hillside. Leaks are almost inevitable. There is little or no air flow, the back of the house is dark and damp, and the view is limited.

Mike calls this the first-thought design. His thinking has taken him far beyond that.

The five approved methods of design
In his videos he stresses designs with views – and light and ventilation – in all four directions, and he urges viewers to try it themselves (with accompanying worksheets). Although some of the ideas are revolutionary, he simply calls them the Five Approved Methods of Design.
They are: the uphill patio; the off-set room; clerestories; the Royer foyer; and gables.

The uphill patio
The uphill patio is as useful as it is clever. It is basically a terraced garden area, with its bottom at any desired height from the floor of the house, and its top blending into the adjacent ground level. It not only solves problems of drainage and lateral thrust (the pressure of the earth on buried walls), but it can function as an emergency exit or a second entrance. It can also serve as a built-in greenhouse.

Naturally, it admits light and air, even from the uphill side of the house which would otherwise be a dark blank wall. This not only reduces kerosene or electric bills but results in more balanced lighting.

The view is up to the garden design interests and abilities of the owner, of course. Japanese courtyard gardens, which are world-renowned works of art, are offered as an example of the possibilities.

And finally, the uphill patio offers a controlled view. It’s determined by the depth of the patio and the resultant trajectory of sight. No matter what anyone builds nearby, you won’t have to look at it if you don’t want to. (If the neighbor builds a 20-story high-rise one foot from your property line, put a greenhouse covering on the patio.) And no one can see into it (or your home) unless they’re standing right on top of it.

The offset room
The basic U house design is a square or rectangular room. The simple expedient of adding a second room, and offsetting it to protrude into the uphill patio, provides the opportunity to install a section of windows which face an entirely different direction. This offers even more advantages of views, light, and ventilation. Elevating the offset room results in even more design possibilities.

The Royer foyer
The Royer foyer is a design invention which allows us to have a good view down a hill without rechanneling the flow of drainage or interrupting the purity of design of a shed roof. The Royer foyer sneaks into the hillside rather than protruding from it. It makes possible a downhill view from windows that are all but concealed from neighbors.
The foyer (named after the helper friend who came up with the idea) is a pie-shaped excavation away from the house on the side wall (not the downhill wall) of a downhill corner. It has many advantages and attributes, all discussed and illustrated in the book.

Clerestories and gables
Clerestories and gables are nothing new, but they can be valuable contributions to underground housing. As might be expected, however, there are details to consider when incorporating them into an underground PSP house… where the three primary demands are drainage, drainage, and drainage. Details are provided in the book.
Also included are discussions of earthen floors, built-in root cellars, earth coolers, a barbecue window and bachelor bar, plumbing and wiring considerations, engineering rules of thumb, scrounging materials… and everything else you’ll need to know to build your own pleasant, comfortable and affordable underground home.

Construction of an emergency shelter
You really need the book, and perhaps the videos, to get a good grasp of the construction method and, more importantly, design considerations. But many readers who don’t consider themselves candidates for building an underground house – or even a root cellar or tornado shelter – might appreciate knowing how it’s done, just in case. Mike Oehler covers this aspect in his latest book, "The Hippie’s Guide to Y2K" (see review in 83/3:110). He calls it the Pit House. It’s as simple as this:

Dig a hole. Cover it with logs. Cover the logs and exposed sides with polyethylene. Put four to six inches of earth on the poly.
He does suggest a few tricks to make the job easier and the shelter better. For example, use the earth thrown out of the hole as part of the structure, so you don’t have to dig as deep. You want the roof sloping, not flat. On a slope, put most of the soil on the uphill side, forming a V with the pointed side uphill. This will divert surface water around the shelter, keeping it drier. Reading both books will give you many other ideas.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Tyee – Encana Files Defence in Lawsuit with Fracking Folk Hero

The Tyee – Encana Files Defence in Lawsuit with Fracking Folk Hero
In addition, the claim details how Alberta's energy regulators, the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment "failed to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicized," despite direct evidence of industry-caused pollution and public admissions that shallow fracturing puts groundwater at risk.
"Encana now says that they didn't frack the wells. Yet Encana's own data says they fracked the wells," Ernst told The Tyee.*
Encana letters dated 2006 and 2012 obtained by The Tyee directly refer to "the drilling, perforating and fracking" of coal bed methane seams in the area.
A legal response to Encana's statement of defence adds that "'hydraulic fracturing' is defined as the process of stimulating a well by injecting fracturing fluids (whether liquid or gas) at high rates and high pressure into the perforated zone(s) of the well to create new fractures and enlarge existing fractures in the underground formations for the purpose of releasing and encouraging the flow of hydrocarbons."
Ernst also said that Encana did offer to test her water well, but the gesture resembled a Monty Python sketch.
In one case "they offered to test my water well in a registered letter with a limited deadline of acceptance. They mailed it to me 24 days after the deadline," she alleged.
Unknown chemicals
Ernst claimed she repeatedly told the company that they could test her water well as soon as Encana released a list of its fracking chemicals, so that groundwater technicians would know what contaminants to test for. She said the company refused.
According to Canada's auditor general, more than 800 chemicals have been used to frack open more than 200,000 oil and gas wells in recent decades. At least 33 of the substances are known carcinogens. Both Environment Canada and Health Canada admit that "a complete list of substances used in Canada is not known."
Two recent studies confirm the widespread contamination of water wells in areas of high drilling and fracking activity.
A study by the University of Texas found often dangerous levels of arsenic, barium, selenium and strontium in groundwater near the heavily fracked Barnett shale gas fields.
A Pennsylvania study discovered methane contamination in 82 per cent of drinking water samples taken from rural homes just one kilometre away from fracked natural gas wells in the Marcellus formation. They also found evidence of ethane and propane contamination.
The study concluded that, "Overall, our data suggest that some homeowners living less than one kilometre from gas wells have drinking water contaminated with stray gases."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The conceptual evolution of the SketchUp WikiHouse.

The conceptual evolution of the SketchUp WikiHouse.
The conceptual evolution of the SketchUp WikiHouse.
The conceptual evolution of the SketchUp WikiHouse.
SketchUp Marketing Manager Mark Harrison writes:
Kicking off the project, it was quickly evident that between the SketchUppers and the WikiHouse’rs, there were more than enough architects to go around. Aside from the reality that no one on the team had a CNC router in his garage, we knew we’d need a project partner with tons of CNC experience — and one who wouldn’t laugh off the idea of hammering together a thousand cut pieces in the middle of Maker Faire.
Enter our friend Bill Young over at ShopBot Tools. We’d been itching to do a project with Bill since he caught us spreading saw dust all over Maker Faire Bay Area earlier this year. Bill’s practical experience with wood selection, tolerances, and project planning are nicely measured by his ability to engrave anything (onto anything) while generally believing that most things are possible. With the right mix of optimism and practicality, we started trading SKP’s back and forth, hashing out the trade-offs in various design concepts.
Tomorrow they begin the two-day construction of the house, on-site at Maker Faire New York. Bertier Luyt, of Le FabShop in France, who is also involved in the project, writes, “The SketchUp WikiHouse is a very ambitious project to build in two days, but we’re well-prepared and equipped, and very motivated.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

GoSun Stove: Portable, High Efficiency Solar Cooker by Patrick Sherwin — Kickstarter

GoSun Stove: Portable, High Efficiency Solar Cooker by Patrick Sherwin — Kickstarter

The GoSun will passively work its magic whenever the sun is shining.  Water can be heated and hot meals can be prepared with a little patience even on the coldest winter day.  A vacuum between two layers of tough glass prevents the outside ambient temperature from transferring into the inner cooking zone.
How to use the GoSun (45 second video)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Solar desalination in North Africa


Moroccan Solar Plan
Morocco has launched one of the world’s largest and most ambitious solar energy plan with investment of USD 9billion. The Moroccan Solar Plan is regarded as a milestone on the country’s path towards a secure and sustainable energy supply. The aim of the plan is to generate 2,000 megawatts (or 2 gigawatts) of solar power by the year 2020 by building mega-scale solar power projects at five location — Laayoune (Sahara), Boujdour (Western Sahara), Tarfaya (south of Agadir), Ain Beni Mathar (center) and Ouarzazate — with modern solar thermal, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power mechanisms.
The first plant, under the Moroccan Solar Plan, will be commissioned in 2014, and the entire project is expected to be complete in 2019. Once completed, the solar project is expected to provide almost one-fifth of Morocco’s annual electricity generation. Morocco, the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe, is also a key player in Mediterranean Solar Plan and Desertec Industrial Initiative. The Desertec Concept aims to build CSP plants to supply renewable energy from MENA region to European countries by using high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines.
In 2010, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), a public-private venture, was set up specifically to implement these projects.  Its mandate is to implement the overall project and to coordinate and to supervise other activities related to this initiative. Stakeholders of the Agency include the Hassan II Fund For Economic & Social Development, Energetic Investment Company and the Office National de l’Electricit√© (ONE). The Solar Plan is backed by Germany, with funding being provided by German Environment Ministry (BMU) and KfW Entwicklungsbank while GIZ is engaged in skills and capacity-building for industry.
Ain Beni Mather Project
The Ain Beni Mather Integrated Solar Thermal Combined Cycle Power Station is one of the most promising solar power projects in Africa.  The plant combines solar power and thermal power, and is expected to reach production capacity of 250MW by the end of 2012. African Development Bank, in partnership with the Global Environment Facility and Morocco's National Electric Authority (ONE), is financing approximately two-thirds of the cost of the plant, or about 200 million Euros.
Ain Beni Mather plant, which is now supplying electricity to the Moroccan grid, uses a cutting-edge design, combining a large array of 224 parabolic mirror collectors concentrating sun energy and boosting the steam output needed to produce electricity. This area enjoys abundant sunshine and has enough water to cool the power station and clean the solar mirrors. It is close to both the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline and the high voltage grid that will help to transmit the generated power.
Ouarzazate Solar Complex
The 500MW Phase-One Solar Power Complex at Ouarzazate is the world’s largest solar thermal power plant. To be built with investment of an estimated Euros 2.3 billion, the project is the first one to be implemented under the Moroccan Solar Plan. The Ouarzazate Solar Complex, with a total capacity of 500 MW, will come on-stream in 2015 and produce an estimated output of 1.2 TWh/year to meet local demand. The first phase will be a 160-MW parabolic trough facility while photovoltaic modules and CSP towers will be used in later phases.

Solar Energy in Jordan

The solar energy potential in Jordan is enormous as it lies within the solar belt of the world with average solar radiation ranging between 5 and 7 KWh/m2, which implies a potential of at least 1000GWh per year annually. Solar energy, like other forms of renewable energy, remains underutilized in Jordan. Decentralized photovoltaic units in rural and remote villages are currently used for lighting, water pumping and other social services (1000KW of peak capacity). In addition, about 15% of all households are equipped with solar water heating systems.
Jordan has major plans for increasing the use of solar energy. As per the Energy Master Plan, 30 percent of all households are expected to be equipped with solar water heating system by the year 2020. The Government is hoping to construct the first Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) demonstration project in the short to medium term and is considering Aqaba and the south-eastern region for this purpose. It is also planning to have solar desalination plant. According to the national strategy the planned installed capacity will amount to 300MW – 600MW (CSP, PV and hybrid power plants) by 2020.
One of the most promising potential investments in renewable energy worldwide will be installing more than 250 MW of concentrated solar power (CSP) in Jordan’s Ma’an development zone through different projects developed by the private sector. The upcoming CSP solar power plants in Ma'an would highlight Jordan's strategy of sustainable energy diversification. The Ma'an Development Area enjoys about 320 days of sunshine a year, with a high level of irradiance that allows over 2500 million kWh of primary energy to be harvested annually from each square kilometre.  At full capacity, the planned flagship CSP plant could meet some 4% of the Kingdom's electricity needs, reducing the reliance on electricity imports from neighbouring countries. Surplus energy could in turn be sold to Syria, Egypt and Palestine, whose networks are connected to Jordan.
Qawar Energy in partnership with Maan Development Area (MDA) has recently announced the launch of its $400 million Shams Ma’an Project, a 100MW photovoltaic (PV) power plant project to come up at the MDA industrial park in Jordan. The project, being undertaken in partnership with MDA, is spread across a two million m2 area, and expected to be ready in 2012. On completion, it will be the largest PV plant in the world that will position Jordan on the global renewable energy map attracting investments, technologies and knowhow. It aims to utilize approximately 360,000 to 2 million PV/CPV panels and produce around 168 GWh per year
California-based company Ausra has been chosen to supply solar steam boilers to the 100MW JOAN1 concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) project in development in Ma’an. The JOAN1 project is expected to enter operation in 2013 and will be the largest CSP project in the world using direct solar steam generation. JOAN1 will be based on Ausra’s reflector technology to power the plant’s solar steam cycle and generate up to 100 MW of electricity. JOAN1 will use dry cooling to conserve water. Ausra plans to install an advanced manufacturing facility in Jordan in order to supply JOAN1 with its solar steam boilers.

Renewable Energy in Jordan

  By Salman Zafar | - 6:09 am |

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

CETO Commercial Scale Unit Overview

CETO Commercial Scale Unit Overview

The CETO 5 design (pictured below) builds on the experience gained in previous generations and incorporates some important improvements. The diameter of the buoyant actuator has the most significant influence on power output and has been increased to 11m from the 7m diameter CETO 3 unit successfully tested at the Garden Island site in 2011 (see image on right).
Further optimisation of the design and tuning of the hydraulics has been undertaken which, together with the increase in buoyant actuator diameter, leads to a rated capacity of approximately 240 kW. This capacity is some three times that of the CETO 3 unit that was tested at the Garden Island site in 2011 and higher again than the 10m CETO 4 unit currently being deployed by EDF and DCNS off Reunion Island.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Raspberry Pi and temperature sensing; to GPIO

Connecting a temperature sensor to GPIO
In this exercise, we're going to connect a Dallas DS18B20 temperature sensor to a breadboard, and read the temperature through the Raspberry Pi's GPIO pins.
The DS18B20 has a 1-Wire interface, which means that one of its leads is used for serial communications. The other two leads need to be connected to 3.3V and 0V. The sensor itself contains a small circuit that generates serial output. It also contains a unique serial number so that several sensors can be connected in parallel and still be addressed individually.
The circuit diagram and photoraphs on the right show how I set up my bread board. Pin 1 of the sensor is connected to either of the 3.3V pins on the GPIO connector. Pin 3 of the sensor must be connected to one of the ground pins on the GPIO connector. Pin 2 of the sensor is connected to GPIO pin 4. Pin 2 must not be allowed to float, so a pull up 4.7kOhm resistor must be used to connect pin 2 to 3.3V.
Before you can use the sensor, you need to load two kernel modules with these commands:
sudo modprobe w1-gpio
sudo modprobe w1-therm
These modules are device drivers that interpret data from the DS18B20.
Next, you need to type these commands to find the address of the DS18B20 and read from it:
cd /sys/bus/w1/devices/28*
cat w1_slave
When the sensor is detected, a directory is created using the serial number as the name of the directory. All serial numbers for this type of device start with '28', so we can use the '*' operator to change to any directory that starts with '28'. The sensor is represented by the file w1_slave, and you can get a reading from it using the 'cat' command. You should see output similar to this:
67 01 4b 46 7f ff 09 10 3b : crc=3b YES
67 01 4b 46 7f ff 09 10 3b t=22437
The temperature is shown in the last five digits on the second line. You need to divide this number by 1000 to get the temperature in degrees celcius.
As well as getting readings from the sensor by accessing it via the command line, we can also use a python script to get readings. The python script below goes through the same steps as above.
#!/usr/bin/env python

import os
import glob
import time

# load the kernel modules needed to handle the sensor
os.system('modprobe w1-gpio')
os.system('modprobe w1-therm')

# find the path of a sensor directory that starts with 28
devicelist = glob.glob('/sys/bus/w1/devices/28*')
# append the device file name to get the absolute path of the sensor 
devicefile = devicelist[0] + '/w1_slave'

# open the file representing the sensor.
fileobj = open(devicefile,'r')
lines = fileobj.readlines()

# print the lines read from the sensor apart from the extra \n chars
print lines[0][:-1]
print lines[1][:-1]
Save this code as, and make sure it's executable with this command:
chmod +x
Run this script by typing this command:
You should see the same output as before:

Seawater Greenhouse | Process

Seawater Greenhouse | Processuses

Intriguing food producing greenhouses that evaporates seawater in a swamp cooler with large cardboard evaporator, and deep, cold, seawater running through a heat exchanger, where humidity is condensed out of the greenhouse, with big fans pulling the air through evaporating pads, then picking up heat inside greenhouse, and out over cold water coils with fins, nifty process!
Millions of refugees need water, food and work, this might be a great project for people tp feed themselves!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Better, bigger passive solar dryer is operational!

A Flickr set is here;

night time cooling with radiant panels, useful links

Re: solar heat - Solar Cooling - radiant energy transfer
    Posted by: "sunfarmermark" sunfarmermark
    Date: Tue Aug 20, 2013 7:00 am ((PDT))

This is a great thing for us to be discussing and doing some experiments.  When I looked into this, I found like most solar thermal "technologies", humans have been doing this for years.  There is evidence that the Persians made ice using radiative cooling. 

There is a some good information on radiative night sky cooling at these links.

BTW, there is another "technology" for cooling your house via the power of the sun called Katabatic cooling towers (or simply solar cooling towers).

Here are some links that describe this technique and provides examples of use:

Enjoy and please share your experiments/results/design thoughts with us!


--- In, "A6intruder@..." <A6intruder@...> wrote:
> Question about cooling:
> Every object emits radiant energy, the rate depends on its temperature.
> Does the rate also depend on the temperature of the environment receiving
> the energy?
> So a solar panel that is used to heat water during the day, could it be used
> to cool other water at night?  I assume yes, some level of cooling could be
> achieved.
> But here is the real question, is that energy transfer by radiant energy
> emission depend on the background temperature that is receiving/absorbing
> the radiant energy?
> So if you had a solar cooling panel pointed at the dark sky at night - is
> the lowest temperature that could be expected the ambient air temperature or
> could you achieve lower temperatures on the surface of the emitter since it
> is pointed at a nice dark sky.
> The practical goal of this discussion would be to cool water at night that
> could be used to augment the AC during the daytime.
> Thoughts?
> Thanks,
> Dan Nicoson
> Round Rock, TX