Sunday, December 7, 2014

Solar power production doubles in US to 12k GW

By Juan Cole | —

Compared to Germany and Spain, the United States is woefully backward in its development of wind, solar and other renewable sources of energy for electricity generation.

But there is some good news on this front, as CleanTech notes. Utility-scale solar power generation in the United States doubled in the past year, from about 6,000 gigawatt hours in 2013 to 12,000 gigawatt hours in 2014. Utility-scale solar is on the verge of passing the symbolic 1% level of US electricity generation. (Statistics don’t count the contribution of roof-top solar, which is the major form of solar energy in the US, so its actual contribution is much greater). Germany, which is not particularly sunny, generates about 7% of its electricity using solar. Spain gets about 5% of its electricity from solar. The US south and southwest and west is so sunny that it is crazy that the country has neglected this source of power. But that neglect is changing, because the price of solar panels has plummeted in the past 5 years.

Wind energy is also growing rapidly in the US. Iowa now gets 27% of its electricity from wind turbines, and South Dakota is also in that range. Some 9 states get at least 12% of their electricity from wind. These states are Colorado, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Oregon. The rapid progress of wind power (a 24-fold increase since 2001) can be seen in this graph:

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 1.16.13 AM

Non-hydro renewables are now 6% or so of the US energy mix, while with hydroelectric power renewables come to 13%. The US is producing about 5.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, some 16 tons per person– the highest per capita in the major OECD countries. Just 50 US power plants account for almost as much CO2 as the whole country of Germany. Even if you count the CO2 produced in manufacturing and installing them, over their lifetimes wind turbines generate almost no carbon dioxide, and their fuel is free. If the US could get to 30 percent wind power by 2030, it could reduce its carbon production to 40% under 2005 levels.

Wind provides 21% of Spain’s electricity. This EU report notes:

There are now 117.3 GW of installed wind energy capacity in the EU: 110.7 GW onshore and 6.6 GW offshore.

11,159 MW of wind power capacity (worth between €13 bn and €18 bn) was installed in the EU-28 during 2013 . . . The EU power sector continues its move away from fuel oil and coal with each technology continuing to decommission more than it installs.

The wind power capacity installed by the end of 2013 would, in a normal wind year, produce 257 TWh of electricity, enough to cover 8% of the EU’s electricity consumption – up from 7% the year before.

Congress has kept the tax credit for wind farms this year, but it doesn’t do that much good, since wind entrepreneurs don’t know if the tax break will still be there in 2016 and so still cannot plan out wind farm construction and be sure what their margin of profit will be. But wind and solar are coming down in cost so fast that people with a need for inexpensive energy will keep installing them, even if via cooperatives.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The missing piece of the climate puzzle

In classrooms and everyday conversation, explanations of global warming hinge on the greenhouse gas effect. In short, climate depends on the balance between two different kinds of radiation: The Earth absorbs incoming visible light from the sun, called “shortwave radiation,” and emits infrared light, or “longwave radiation,” into space.

Upsetting that energy balance are rising levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), that increasingly absorb some of the outgoing longwave radiation and trap it in the atmosphere. Energy accumulates in the climate system, and warming occurs. But in a paper out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, MIT researchers show that this canonical view of global warming is only half the story.

In computer modeling of Earth’s climate under elevating CO2 concentrations, the greenhouse gas effect does indeed lead to global warming. Yet something puzzling happens: While one would expect the longwave radiation that escapes into space to decline with increasing CO2, the amount actually begins to rise. At the same time, the atmosphere absorbs more and more incoming solar radiation; it’s this enhanced shortwave absorption that ultimately sustains global warming.
“The finding was a curiosity, conflicting with the basic understanding of global warming,” says lead author Aaron Donohoe, a former MIT postdoc who is now a research associate at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “It made us think that there must be something really weird going in the models in the years after CO2 was added. We wanted to resolve the paradox that climate models show warming via enhanced shortwave radiation, not decreased longwave radiation.”

Donohoe, along with MIT postdoc Kyle Armour and others at Washington, spent many a late night throwing out guesses as to why climate models generate this illogical finding before realizing that it makes perfect sense — but for reasons no one had clarified and laid down in the literature.

They found the answer by drawing on both computer simulations and a simple energy-balance model. As longwave radiation gets trapped by CO2, the Earth starts to warm, impacting various parts of the climate system. Sea ice and snow cover melt, turning brilliant white reflectors of sunlight into darker spots. The atmosphere grows moister because warmer air can hold more water vapor, which absorbs more shortwave radiation. Both of these feedbacks lessen the amount of shortwave radiation that bounces back into space, and the planet warms rapidly at the surface.

Meanwhile, like any physical body experiencing warming, Earth sheds longwave radiation more effectively, canceling out the longwave-trapping effects of CO2. However, a darker Earth now absorbs more sunlight, tipping the scales to net warming from shortwave radiation.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Singapore makes it painfully expensive to operate a car!

My November Trip Highlights – Month 3: "Singapore is clean It is illegal to buy chewing gum and you can be heavily fined if caught spitting on the ground. I remember filling out my disembarkation card as I arrived into the country and on the bottom in capital, bolded red letters it read: “WARNING DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKERS UNDER SINGAPORE LAW.” Driving is also expensive, as the government uses regulations to discourage driving and encourage bikes and public transport. Before you can even buy a car you have to buy a certificate of entitlement, which changes based on your car and the horsepower. For example, Vanessa’s dad’s BMW had a certificate costing around $80,000. The government uses the certificate as a way to regulate vehicles by raising or dropping the price. Once you have a certificate, you still have to buy a car, then you have to decide what kind of registration you want. There are 3 different levels, designated by license plate color. A black license plate means you can drive whenever, a red plate means you can drive during the evening on weekdays and anytime on weekends and a yellow plate means you have to drive during the evening, except Sunday, which has no restrictions. And it doesn’t stop there. The government sets up electronic toll roads and you must buy the cashcard reader for your car. Toll roads litter the expressways and arterial roads with heavy traffic to discourage use during peak hours and as a way to lower traffic usage. Further, it is illegal to have a car in Singapore over 10 years old, unless you do major engine re-hauls. I found it all fascinating, but what I really noticed was how clean the country was, everywhere."

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Friday, October 17, 2014

flooding good farmland not best choice for BC

Clean Energy commissioned the study to provide up-to-date information to the province, which is expected to make a decision on Site C before the end of the year.

“If government is going to make a decision, then let’s make sure at least that we put our best foot forward and let’s commission this study,” Clean Energy executive director Paul Kariya said on Thursday.

“What government does with the study, whether they agree or disagree – we’ve got that dialogue going on right now.”

That dialogue is taking place as the government mulls whether to proceed with Site C, which would be the third dam on B.C.’s Peace River and has a current price estimate of $7.9-billion.

The project, first proposed in the 1970s, cleared significant hurdles this week when it received environmental approvals from the federal and provincial governments.

But it faces questions about its potential cost and even whether it is needed to meet future energy needs.

B.C. Hydro says the province’s electricity needs are expected to grow by about 40 per cent over the next 20 years, that conservation and efficiency programs won’t be enough to fill the gap and that Site C is the best option when financial, technical, environmental and economic factors are taken into account.

Clean Energy’s new report challenges that position, and maintains the province could save up to $1-billion over 70 years – the projected life of the Site C dam – by pursuing smaller projects including wind installations and run-of-river hydro projects.

Such projects have a contentious history in B.C., including concerns about environmental impacts from river hydro installations over the past decade.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How to build My 50 Dollar Greenhouse » The Door Garden

How to build My 50 Dollar Greenhouse » The Door Garden
The planning is over and construction on my hoop house greenhouse has begun.  I’ve rounded up all of the materials and it looks like I’m going to end up with about $50 in a 165 square ft. green house. Granted I already had most of the materials because I’m an incorrigible pack rat, but even if I had bought everything new just for this polytunnel It would still only come to about $120 $150 – less than a dollar per square ft.  Due to the fact that we are in the midst of a global economic meltdown, and the future is a bit uncertain keeping the cost of this project as low as possible is an important consideration.
After some research I’ve decided to build the structure of the hoop house out of 20 ft. joints of three quarter inch PVC plumbing pipe.  Some similar greenhouse designs that I’ve run across use 10 ft joints of pipe and then fasten everything together with pipe fittings, but I’m saving quite a bit of cash with the long joints of pipe and by not using any fittings – also overall simplicity is improved.  There is one thing though, you can carry 10 ft joints of pipe in the mini van, but hauling 20′ pipe requires a truck and preferably a ladder rack.  However, you could just cut them in half right at the home improvement store and then put them back together when you get home with the coupling that is built into one end of the 20′ long pipe joints – 10′ pipe joints don’t have the built in couplers – just go to the home improvement store prepared with a saw or pipe cutter.
My hoop house green house is going to be 11 feet wide and 15 feet long, and will be about seven and a half feet tall in the center.  You could make one of these as long or as short as you want, but using this design the width needs to be between 10-12 feet.  11 feet wide just happpened to work out with the layout of my garden which has 3 foot wide beds with 5 ft paths between (the wide paths are so that I can keep it tidy with my riding lawn mower) so eleven feet covers two beds and the path between them.  This width also makes the sides go fairly straight up from the ground for the first few feet – I’ve noticed that in some hoop house / polytunnel designs the outer edges are almost unusable because of the slope of the greenhouse sides.
If your Greenhouse is too Flat it will collapse!
You might be tempted to make your greenhouse wider and lower at this point to get more floor space out of it – but be careful.  If you have snow in your area it will slide off of a high peak a lot better than it will if your greenhouse has more of a flattened shape – and the same goes for heavy rains.  If your hoop house shape is too flattened it will cave in the first time it snows or rains really hard!
How to Build the $50 Hoop House
I decided to begin the construction by building the end walls first – even though it would be more fun to throw up the main structure in just an hour or so and make a big showing of progress, I think that in the long run it will be quicker and easier to build the end frames first on my garage floor.

New Li-Ion Batteries Charge 70 Percent in 2 Minutes, Last for 20 Years

New Li-Ion Batteries Charge 70 Percent in 2 Minutes, Last for 20 Years: "A team of researchers in Singapore have developed a next generation lithium-ion battery that can recharge a battery to 70-percent in just two minutes. That means it would charge an entire electric car in just 15 minutes. And here's the kicker: it lasts over 20 years. Normally, it's safe to be skeptical about new battery technology, but there's something rather hopeful about this breakthrough. The new battery isn't altogether new. It's actually just an improvement upon existing lithium-ion technology. The key comes in the form of nanostructures. Instead of the traditional graphite used to create the lithium-ion battery's anode, this new technology uses a cheap titanium dioxide gel, the same kind of material used in sunscreen to absorb UV rays. The scientists found away to turn the compound into nanostructures that speed up the charging process. And speed it up they do. This simple innovation makes lithium-ion batteries charge 20-times faster and last 20-times longer. "With our nanotechnology, electric cars would be able to increase their range dramatically with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars," Associate Professor Chen Xiaodong of Nanyang Technological University said in a release. Just imagine what it could do for your smartphone. How To Take Care of Your Smartphone Battery the Right Way Your smartphone is a minor miracle, a pocket-sized computer that can fulfill almost every whim. But … Read more The researchers say they'll have the new technology on the market in just two years. While we've certainly seen fast-charging battery promises in the past, the simple fact that this new battery uses so much existing technology is reason to believe that they're right about that timeline, too. [NTU] "

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

PV advances from U of Cambridge promise higher efficiencies

A new method for transferring energy from organic to inorganic semiconductors could boost the efficiency of widely used inorganic solar cells.

The key to making a better solar cell is to be able to extract the electrons from these dark triplet excitons
Maxim Tabachnyk

Researchers have developed a new method for harvesting the energy carried by particles known as ‘dark’ spin-triplet excitons with close to 100% efficiency, clearing the way for hybrid solar cells which could far surpass current efficiency limits.

The team, from the University of Cambridge, have successfully harvested the energy of triplet excitons, an excited electron state whose energy in harvested in solar cells, and transferred it from organic to inorganic semiconductors. To date, this type of energy transfer had only been shown for spin-singlet excitons. The results are published in the journal Nature Materials.

In the natural world, excitons are a key part of photosynthesis: light photons are absorbed by pigments and generate excitons, which then carry the associated energy throughout the plant. The same process is at work in a solar cell.

In conventional semiconductors such as silicon, when one photon is absorbed it leads to the formation of one free electron that can be extracted as current. However, in pentacene, a type of organic semiconductor, the absorption of a photon leads to the formation of two electrons. But these electrons are not free and they are difficult to pin down, as they are bound up within ‘dark’ triplet exciton states.

Excitons come in two ‘flavours’: spin-singlet and spin-triplet. Spin-singlet excitons are ‘bright’ and their energy is relatively straightforward to harvest in solar cells. Triplet-spin excitons, in contrast, are ‘dark’, and the way in which the electrons spin makes it difficult to harvest the energy they carry.

“The key to making a better solar cell is to be able to extract the electrons from these dark triplet excitons,” said Maxim Tabachnyk of the University’s Cavendish Laboratory, the paper’s lead author. “If we can combine materials like pentacene with conventional semiconductors like silicon, it would allow us to break through the fundamental ceiling on the efficiency of solar cells.”

Using state-of-art femtosecond laser spectroscopy techniques, the team discovered that triplet excitons could be transferred directly into inorganic semiconductors, with a transfer efficiency of more than 95%. Once transferred to the inorganic material, the electrons from the triplets can be easily extracted.

“Combining the advantages of organic semiconductors, which are low cost and easily processable, with highly efficient inorganic semiconductors, could enable us to further push the efficiency of inorganic solar cells, like those made of silicon,” said Dr Akshay Rao, who lead the team behind the work.

The team is now investigating how the discovered energy transfer of spin-triplet excitons can be extended to other organic/inorganic systems and are developing a cheap organic coating that could be used to boost the power conversion efficiency of silicon solar cells.

The work at Cambridge forms part of a broader initiative to harness high tech knowledge in the physical sciences to tackle global challenges such as climate change and renewable energy. This initiative is backed by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability.

The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. If you use this content on your site please link back to this page. For image rights, please see the credits associated with each individual image.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Methane-Eating Microbes Need Trace Metal

Geo-engineering: Methane-Eating Microbes Need Trace Metal: "The study was recently published online in the journal Environmental Microbiology. The research was sponsored by the Department of Energy, NASA Astrobiology Institute and the National Science Foundation. Glass conducted the research while working as a NASA Astrobiology post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, in the laboratory of professor Victoria Orphan. The methane-eating organisms, which live in symbiosis, consume methane and excrete carbon dioxide. “Essentially, they are eating it,” Glass said. “They are using some of the methane as a carbon source and most of it as an energy source.” Phylogenetically speaking, one microbial partner belongs to the Bacteria, and the other is in the Archaea, representing two distinct domains of life. The archaea is named ANME, or anaerobic methanotrophic archaea, and the other is a sulfate-utilizing deltaproteobacteria. Together, the organisms form “beautiful bundles,” Glass said. For a close-up view of the action on the sea floor, the research team used the underwater submersible robot Jason. The robot is an unmanned, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and can stay underwater for days at a time. The research expedition in which Glass participated was Jason’s longest continuous underwater trip to date, at four consecutive days underwater. The carbon dioxide excreted by the microbes reacts with minerals in the water to form calcium carbonate. As the researchers saw through Jason’s cameras, calcium carbonate has formed an exotic landscape on the ocean floor over hundreds of years. “There are giant mountains on the seafloor of calcium carbonate,” Glass said. “They are gorgeous. It looks like a mountain landscape down there.” While on the seafloor, Jason’s robotic arm collected samples of sediment. Back in the lab, researchers sequenced the genes and proteins in these samples. The collection of genes constitutes the meta-genome of the sediment, or the genes present in a particular environment, and likewise the proteins constitute a metaproteome. The research team discovered evidence that an enzyme used by microbes to “eat” methane may need tungsten to operate. The enzyme (formylmethanofuran dehydrogenase) is the last in the pathway of converting methane to carbon dioxide, an essential step for methane oxidation. Microorganisms in low temperature environments typically use molybdenum, which has similar chemical properties to tungsten but is usually much more available (tungsten is directly below molybdenum on the periodic table). Why these archaea appear to use tungsten is unknown. One guess is that tungsten may be in a form that is easier for the organisms to use in methane seeps, but that question will have to be answered in future experiments."

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Transatomic Power

Transatomic Power: "The reactor can be powered by nuclear waste because it uses radically different technology from conventional plants. Instead of using solid fuel pins, we dissolve the nuclear waste into a molten salt. Suspending the fuel in a liquid allows us to keep it in the reactor longer, and therefore capture more of its energy. Conventional nuclear reactors can utilize only about 3% - 5% of the potential fission energy in a given amount of uranium before it has to be removed from the reactor. Our design captures 96% of this remaining energy. Why it's different Molten salt reactors are not a new technology - they were originally developed and tested at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In many respects, Transatomic's reactor is similar to these early designs. We use similar safety mechanisms (such as freeze valves), chemical processing techniques (such as off-gas sparging), and corrosion tolerant alloys (such as modified Hastelloy-N). These similarities to previous designs allow us to build on an established body of research and reduce the uncertainty associated with the design. The main differences between Transatomic Power's molten salt reactor and previous molten salt reactors are our metal hydride moderator and LiF-(Heavy metal)F4 fuel salt. These features allow us to make the reactor more compact and generate electricity at lower cost than other designs. Furthermore, previous molten salt reactors, such as the Oak Ridge Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, used uranium enriched to 33% U-235. The reactor can operate using fresh fuel enriched to a minimum of 1.8% U-235, or light water reactor waste."

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Lithium Battery Company

The Lithium Battery Company

'via Blog this' ecommerce483001.jpg LBC-100 Product Specifications:

Recommended Max Discharge Current: 80A
Recommended Max Charge Current: 60A
Discharge Cut Off Voltage: 10V
Charge Cut Off Voltage: 14.6V
Battery Management System: Included
Charge Temperature Range: 0°C - 45°C
Discharge Temperature Range: -20°C - 60°C
Life Cycles: 3000 - 5000

Syngenta wants to douse more neo nicotinoids on alfalfa!

Seed and crop management company Syngenta Crop Protection LLC has petitioned U.S. EPA to increase the legal tolerance for a neonicotinoid pesticide residue in several crops -- in one case increasing the acceptable level by 400 times, according to a notice in today's Federal Register.

Syngenta, one of the biggest manufacturers of pesticides, wants to increase the allowable threshold for residues of thiamethoxam, a pesticide that has been linked to the decline of honeybees and other pollinators over the past several decades.

The petition would apply to alfalfa, barley, corn and wheat, both the crop itself and the straw and stover left over after cultivation. Syngenta is seeking to increase the levels from as low as 1.5 times for stover from sweet corn to as much as 400 times for hay from wheat.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are one of many factors that scientists say have caused a dramatic decline in pollinators, insects and animals that help crop production by carrying pollen from one plant to another. The United States has lost more than half its managed honeybee colonies in the last 10 years, according to the Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of pollinators and their ecosystems.

Scientists say neonicotinoids can suppress bees' immune systems, making them more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria. The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to phase out neonicotinoids on wildlife refuges nationwide starting in January 2016 (Greenwire, Aug. 1).

Increases in neonicotinoids are especially concerning in forage crops like alfalfa, as bees collect pollen from the blooms, said Aimee Simpson, policy director and staff attorney for the advocacy group Beyond Pesticides.

"Instead of figuring ways to stop or reduce the use, it's significantly increasing the amount on forage materials and other crops," Simpson said.

Can solar power save South Asia?

Today, roughly one-third of Indians rely on kerosene, dung or wood for most energy needs. Next door in Pakistan, it's worse — roughly 40 percent of its 180 million people have no electricity. The financial and physical state of the electrical grids is worse than decrepit. Energy theft is routine in both countries, creating mounting piles of utility debt that make it hard to keep the lights on, let alone improve or expand power lines.

At the end of 2012, Pakistani's energy-industry debt topped $9 billion, according to The Economist. "It's one unholy mess," says Michael Kugelman, an expert on South Asia energy issues at the Wilson Center think tank in D.C.

Powering up solar, though, raises its own set of issues, including creating incentives for investment in an industry with high upfront costs and low initial returns. "It is very much a long-term investment and not something that can address the immediate energy crisis in Pakistan or the insatiable energy thirst in India," Kugelman says. The greatest hope for capitalizing on solar energy's potential lies with innovative small-scale projects that can connect people to electricity for the very first time, like EcoEnergyFinance.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Solid info on rainwater carchment design, construction, estimating

Rainwater Catchment

Local rainwater catchment system designers, installation professionals, and equipment vendors (PDF)

View or download the brochure, "Rainwater Catchment in Monterey County: A Homeowner's Guide to Capture and Re-use of Rainwater" (PDF)

Rainwater Catchment Basics

Rainwater catchment is the collection and storage of rainwater for purposes such as landscape irrigation, non-potable household uses, and storm water abatement. Most often rainwater is diverted off of rooftops and diverted to storage tanks. Catchment water is not considered drinkable.

Rainwater is a valuable, free source of water that we can collect and use for much of our everyday needs, like landscape watering. By collecting rainwater, we reduce our utility bills while reducing the harmful water runoff that can carry toxic chemicals into our streams, rivers, and the ocean. Rainwater catchment is valued as a water conservation tool to reduce demands on more traditional water supply sources.

Additional benefits include:

The end use is located close to the source thereby eliminating the need for costly distribution systems
Rainwater provides a source of water when a more traditional source such as groundwater is unavailable or the quality unacceptable
Rainwater is free of Sodium salts, so there is not salt build up in the soil or on hard surfaces
Rainwater harvesting reduces flow to storm sewers and the threat of flooding
Rainwater harvesting helps utilities reduce peak demands during summer months
By harvesting rainwater, homeowners can reduce their utility bills.

Rainwater has an inherently superior quality. Rainwater has long been valued for its purity and softness. It is slightly acidic, and is free from disinfectant by-products, salts, minerals, and other natural and man-made contaminants. Landscape plants tend to grow better with rainwater.

Design Considerations

When you start thinking about a catchment system for your home or business, you’ve first got to answer the question, “How big?” A catchment system can be as small as a single 50 gallon rain barrel or as large as an underground cistern of 50,000 gallons. From one rain barrel to a linked system of 5 or 10 rain barrels, the thinking is the same: collect the water from a downspout on your roof, and store it until the dry months and use it to water your garden.

With water rates climbing rapidly, and with drought conditions around us, it will make sense to catch and store as much water as possible. We can probably collect more than we can store.

Some Disadvantages to Consider

Because rainfall events are highly unpredictable, rainwater harvesting cannot be relied upon as a long-term, drought-proof source of water supply
The capital cost for a rainwater harvesting system is typically higher than the cost of obtaining water from a centralized distribution system. However, it is comparable to the cost of drilling and installing a new groundwater well
Rainwater harvesting systems require care and maintenance after installation which may not be suitable for all homeowners
Rainwater storage tanks may take up valuable space around the house
Rainwater harvesting systems under 5000 gallons are not subject to state building code and the absence of clear construction guidelines may discourage homeowners and developers from installing these systems.

Types of rainwater catchment systems

The simplest system is a rain barrel with a watering can to scoop out the water. You may choose to add a spigot to the barrel and add a hose to that, then include diverters in the garden, and then a pump to move the water around the yard and to an irrigation system. If you believe the ‘simpler the better’, then a gravity feed rain barrel that requires no pump or piping is just the thing. If you want to catch and store thousands of gallons, and move it around your property, then you’ll need a more elaborate design, permits, etc, and enough roof area to fill the cistern.

Cost Considerations

The cost of a simple gravity feed rain barrel and the downspout to fill it is under $100. A complete rainwater harvesting system for a typical single-family home will generally cost between $4,000 and $10,000.
The single largest cost in a rainwater harvesting system is the storage tank. As expected, the cost of a tank depends on its size and construction material. On a per gallon basis, this cost can range from about $0.7 for a fiberglass tank to more than $4 for a welded steel tank. The cost of a large underground cistern is very roughly $1.00 per gallon. Therefore, a 5,000 gallon underground cistern costs roughly $5,000. Other components such as gutters, downspouts, roof washers, pumps, and pressure tanks will add to the costs of the system. Professionally installed systems can further increase costs. If the intended use of the system is to collect water for drinking, costs for disinfection must be added to the total cost. Any cistern of 5,000 gallons or more requires a permit. Any new wiring for a pump to move your water around will also require a permit.

Types of Tanks and Tank Stability

While a vast majority of the rainwater collection storage tanks are placed above ground, there are tanks available that can be installed below ground surface. In-ground storage tanks tend to be a lot more expensive than above-ground tanks because of excavation costs and the need to have a more heavily reinforced tank.
Water weighs just over 8 pounds per gallon, so even a relatively small 1,500-gallon tank will weigh 12,400 pounds. A leaning tank may collapse; therefore, tanks should be placed on a stable, level pad. If the pad consists of a stable substrate, such as decomposed granite, a load of sand or pea gravel covering the bed may be sufficient preparation. In some areas, sand or pea gravel over well-compacted soil may be sufficient for a small tank. For any tank over 5000 gallons, a concrete pad should be constructed. When the condition of the soil is unknown, enlisting the services of a structural engineer may be in order to ensure the stability of the soil supporting the full cistern weight.
Consider protecting the pad from being undermined by either normal erosion or from the tank overflow. The tank should be positioned such that runoff from other parts of the property or from the tank overflow will not undermine the pad. The pad or bed should be checked after intense rainfall events.

Calculating Storage Tank Size

In theory, a rainwater harvesting system can collect approximately 0.62 gallons of water per square foot of roof area, per inch of rainfall. In practice, however, there is always some loss due to first flush, evaporation, splash-out, overshoot from gutters, and possible leaks. Most installers use an efficiency of about 75 to 85 percent for the system.
For a Monterey home with a roof surface of 2,000 square feet, using a collection rate of 0.62, a system efficiency of 0.85, and an average annual rainfall of 17 inches, you can expect to collect about 18,000 gallons of rainwater per year (0.62 x 0.85 x 2,000 x 17 = 18,000 gallons per year). So, even if you only collect from half the roof in a drought year (0.62 x 0.85 x 1,000 x 17 = 5270 gallons per year), you still can collect a lot of rain water. You just need a tank large enough to store it.

There are various methods determine the amount of rainwater you should collect to meet your needs. The easiest method to calculate landscape water use is to look at your past water bills and compare winter months water use to summer water use each month. The portion of higher water use in the summer is most likely that amount used for exterior landscaping. Some very rough, but simple daily consumption guidelines are:

Gardens/Lawns 600 gallons per 1,000 square feet
Young Trees 15 gallons
Small Animals .25 gallons per 25 pounds
Dairy Cattle 20 gallons
Range Cattle 15 gallons

Since rainwater is so valuable, based on the effort to collect and store it, it is not advised to use it to water lawns. Watering grass would be wasting this valuable resource. A typical lawn requires about 3,000 gallons a month. This means you would need some large tanks to hold the water, especially in drier climates. Additionally, you would need a very large surface area to capture the rain.
If you choose to water grass and are planning on installing large tanks, consider reducing your outdoor water consumption as much as possible elsewhere. Choose low water use, hearty, native plants and consider irrigating all your landscape, including the lawn, with drip or sub-surface irrigation. But remember, rainwater is still free. The constraint is the cost of the tank.

Provide a Tank Overflow Pipe

Run-off that is not collected in the tank or that overflows should be diverted away from tank foundations, buildings or other structures. This water should be directed onto gardens or into the storm water drain; it should not be allowed to pool or to cause nuisance to neighboring properties or to areas of public access.

Tank Installation

Tanks are often located in remote locations. Consider what type of equipment will be required to access the tank pad. How close can a 40' tractor and trailer combination get to the tank pad? How much reach is needed to lift the tank or components with crane? Is the site accessible by two-wheel drive? How large of a vehicle can the access road accommodate? Does the site have existing structures, tanks or foundations? Is alternative water service available? Is there electricity available at tank site? Are there any overhead obstructions such as power lines or trees? In addition to the physical aspects of the tank site, consideration should be given to piping from water source, gravity flow, site aesthetics, soil stability, drainage, and site security (to name a few)..
From my own experience, having road access to the top of the construction site, or higher, has huge advantages, ie, no more pushing wheelbarrows full of sand, cement, firewood to push uphill!

Consider Installing a Pump

If your tank or rain barrel is at ground level and you need to move the water up any slope, then you will likely need a submersible electric water pump. However, sometimes you can get enough water pressure in an elevated, closed-looped water collection system to supply the pressure required, even enough to drive a sprinkler system.

Try to place your tank at the highest elevation possible. Every foot you raise your storage tank increases the pressure about 0.433 psi (1 psi ~ 3.21 feet of fresh water head). It generally takes only a few feet of elevation to allow the use of a hose or drip system, but it takes an elevation difference of over 50 feet to run a sprinkler or sprinkler system.

Screens and Water Filtration

In California, our first concern is debris. Leaves and algae’s wash off the roof and into the gutters. So, the first defense against this issue is the installation of gutter screens. There are many types available, of varying price and effectiveness. The second line of defense is the diverter. This device screens debris out of the water as it diverts it away from the downspout and toward the storage tank. Then another even finer screen is used in the leaf catcher to catch even smaller bits of debris. Then a first flush device takes the very first water to come off the roof and disposes it in the landscape. It is believed that this first flush of water would contain bird droppings and other contaminates that build up over the dry season. However one study shows that the first rain simply loosens the debris, and then a later hard rain washes it off.
It is recommended that you install an inexpensive in-line filter at the outlet of your tank to collect small debris. Most irrigation stores sell inline sprinkler filters. This is a simple device that screws into the line, prior to your pump or irrigation system, and cleans out the small leaves and other stuff (i.e. sometimes referred to as particulates) so it does not clog your drip irrigation emitters or sprinkler nozzles.
Screens and filters are categorized by the size of filtration. Below is a conversion chart comparing mesh to microns. These terms are typically are used to tell you how small the opening is in the filter.

Tank Sludge

All tanks should be examined for the accumulation of sludge every 2-3 years, or if sediment is evident in the water flow. Sludge can provide an environment for survival and/or growth of micro-organisms and in some cases relatively high concentrations of lead have been detected in sludge even though the body of stored rainwater complied with drinking water guidelines.

Often, a drain valve is provided at the bottom of tanks, and as sludge accumulates, this valve can be opened to allow removal of tank rinse water. Sludge may also be removed by siphoning without emptying the tank. To do this, use a swimming pool vacuum or siphon, and move it carefully across the bottom of the tank.

Tank Cleaning

Where cleaning necessitates entering the tank, care should be taken to ensure adequate ventilation is provided and an additional person is in attendance. Advice on working in confined spaces should be available from Occupational, Health, Safety and Welfare authorities in each State. It is important to check the structural condition of the tank before choosing a method of cleaning. Cleaning agents that might release hazardous fumes or adversely affect water quality after cleaning should not be used. After cleaning it is recommended that the internal walls and floor of the tank be rinsed with clean water. Rinse water and sediment should be run to waste.


Rainwater collected and stored in domestic tanks is likely to contain micro-organisms from one or a number of sources. While most will be harmless, the microbiological safety of rainwater will depend on the exclusion of organisms that can cause infections of the gastrointestinal tract (enteric pathogens). The enteric pathogens include types of bacteria, viruses and protozoa. These organisms are typically introduced into drinking water supplies by contamination with fecal material from humans, animals and birds, with human enteric pathogens more frequently carried in human waste.

The majority of domestic rainwater storage tanks are installed above ground and collect run-off from roofs via gutters. Likely sources of micro-organisms include:

soil and leaf litter accumulated in gutters particularly if kept damp for long periods due to poor drainage.
fecal material deposited by birds, lizards, mice, rats, possums etc.,
dead animals and insects either in gutters or in the tank itself.


Rainwater tanks can provide a very good habitat for mosquito breeding. The most effective control measure is to prevent access of adult mosquitoes. If access has occurred, remedial action can be taken to prevent the release of mosquitoes. Ensure that, unless in use, all access points excluding the inlet and any overflows are kept shut with close fitting lids that will prevent access of mosquitoes.

Inlets and overflows should be covered with closely fitting removable insect-proof screens. The screens should be made of non-rust material formed, typically, with 0.315 mm diameter material and 6x7 mesh openings per cm2. The screens should be readily accessible for regular cleaning.

Mosquito larvae (wrigglers) found in rainwater tanks indicate the presence of an opening through which the female mosquito can enter and lay eggs on the water. The opening should be closed. This will prevent further entry and will also prevent the escape of any hatched mosquitoes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

hemp found to be low cost graphene source to build capacitor instant batteries

Super-capacitors can store and release electricity like a battery, but can be recharged in seconds instead of hours. At the moment, they are usually made from graphene, a man-made super material that is 100 times stronger than steel by weight, conducts electricity better than copper, and is more flexible than rubber. Unfortunately, graphene is very costly to produce. A team of researchers led by David Mitlin at Clarkson University in New York have found a way to produce super-capacitors from an inexpensive hemp fiber left over from textile and building material construction that could pave the way for a mainstream super-capacitor.

Mitlin admits that his hemp fiber can’t do everything that graphene can, but for energy storage it works just as well – and at a tiny fraction of the price. The first step, he explains, “is to cook it – almost like a pressure cooker. It’s called hydrothermal synthesis. Once you dissolve the lignin and the semicellulose, it leaves these carbon nanosheets – a pseudo-graphene structure.” These sheets are then assembled into electrodes and an ionic liquid added as the electrolyte, resulting in super-capacitors which operate at a broad range of temperatures and a high energy density.

The American Chemical Society Journal ranks the hemp based material “on par with or better than commercial graphene-based devices”. It says the hemp fiber’s properties work down to 0 C and display some of the best power-energy combinations reported in the literature for any carbon. Fully assembled, their energy density is 12 Wh/kg, which can be achieved at a charge time of less than six seconds.

Why is this important?

We reported just yesterday that Tesla is working on a battery that uses graphene anodes to double the range of its cars. Elon Musk is quoted as saying the new technology could find its way into Tesla automobiles “soon”, if they make economic sense.

Substitute Mitlin’s new hemp based material for the graphene in Musk’s experimental battery and you have a device with high energy storage ability and fast recharge times. Which means the lowly hemp plant, so long despised and vilified, may be the key to unlocking the the secret of affordable, practical electric cars.

Monday, August 25, 2014

farmland prices in the US still tied to ethanol potential

As I see it, buying farmland is a very long term hold, so given that policy can change, there are no guarantees that these investments will remain profitable, especially given the complicating issues of changing government regulations and subsidy systems, pollution concerns, water, super weeds, rising input costs, qualified labor, rural demographic issues, and consumers who are revolting against GMO crops and foods. It has always been my opinion that cropland investors, through investment vehicles, are naive about the nature of both farming and investing in farmland – if they are thinking it is a sure bet.

Ernie Goss, in his July report, tells us that the bank CEOs which he interviewed expect land prices to fall by 4.8 percent over the next 12 months, an increase from a rate of decline of 3.2 percent that was expected earlier this year.

This all comes as no surprise, as commodity prices have fallen in price with this season’s bumper crops. Farmland will follow.

Hint: The best future indicator for prices of farmland and commodities themselves can be summed up in two words: Biofuels policies… in the U.S. and everywhere.

Because, in the developed nations, we are still dealing with overproduction, hardly a surefire indicator for buying cropland.

Only from biofuels policies are nations creating new demand to utilize a significant percent of this excess crop production and drive up prices enough to cover their input costs. Through biofuels induced domestic consumption, through the export of biofuels and biofuel related products, and through the tweaking of biofuels policies from year-to-year, perhaps a “swing demander” has emerged for the commodity crops.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

passive cooling works like a charm

How to Stay Cool in the Hot Desert
(with less power)

When the thermometer starts to hit 90ºF nearly every day, even though "it is a dry heat" as we say here in the desert , we start thinking seriously about ways to stay cool. More than 14 years ago when we were planning to build a renewable energy powered home, cooling our home was the big question.

We had no doubt our new home, to be constructed on a 20 acre hilltop near Vail, Arizona, would be powered with wind and solar. We chose the site with wind power in mind. The domestic hot water system would be a passive solar system. We would use solar for space heating the structure, but how do we cool the home using alternative energy?
No Information on Low Energy Cooling
Air conditioning is not practical for a renewable energy (RE) powered home because the compressor and blowers consume a lot of energy. Evaporative coolers work well and use considerably less energy, but the blower still requires lots of energy. Plenty of books and information discuss all types of solar heating, but little to none describe passive or low energy use cooling.

I first thought about building most of the house underground. After choosing a site on the property to construct the house, I realized that excavating and removing the rock at the site would be difficult. Secondly, an underground house would deny us the outstanding views at the house site. We decided to build at a different site on the property. The house would be a two story structure. The downstairs would be mostly (80%) earth-sheltered, and the upstairs completely above ground with many windows.
Underground Cooling Tubes
The downstairs would not require much cooling because it is thermally connected to the earth, but the upper portion of the house would require considerably more cooling. I had researched underground cooling tubes and thought this could be part of the answer. I would feed air through a tube about 150 feet long and two feet in diameter. The air would pass through an evaporative cooler pad as the air entered the house. This cooler would be located underground. To move the air I would use an upwind air scoop at the cooling tube's intake. A solar chimney at the top of the house would help move the air through the house. No blowers would be required to move the air. So I started digging the ditch for the cooling tubes. I soon found the rocks that I had abandoned at the other higher site had deep roots. In addition I still had to come up with a material for the tubes: it had to be rust proof, a good heat conductor, the proper size, workable, and affordable.
Finding A Better Way
The ditch and the search for the tube material became an ongoing project. Then one day, about three years into the search, I stopped by the Environmental Research Lab where a friend, Bill Cunningham, worked as an engineer. He told me about a low energy use passive cooling system — cool towers. A cool tower requires no blowers or fans to move the cool air. The only power required is for a small DC pump to circulate water over the pads. A cool tower seemed the perfect answer for cooling an RE powered dwelling. From that day on, some major design changes took place in the already half completed structure. The solar chimney planned for the west end of the house changed to a cool tower. We filled in the mini Grand Canyon (the ditch) and avoided many hours of digging.
Normal Evaporative Cooling
Folks that live in places other than the desert may not be familiar with an evaporative cooling system. Blowers are used to move air through wet pads. As the air flows through the wet pad, water evaporates and cools the air. You cannot recirculate this air because the humidity increases and evaporation stops. At that point your evaporative cooler becomes a humidifier only. With evaporative coolers you must leave an exit for the air to escape from your house. Many newcomers to the desert don't realize you must open a window to make an evaporative cooler work properly.
How Cool Towers Work
Cool towers operate on the same principle as a standard evaporative cooler. The magic starts with the way the air is moved. Special pads made of CEL-dek sit at the top of a tower with a pump recirculating water over these pads. Air passes through the special pads with little resistance and is cooled by evaporation of the water. This cool moist air is heavier than the hot dry outside air and drops down the tower and into the structure to be cooled.

In order for the cool air to flow in, hot air must be exhausted from the structure. Open windows exhaust this air with conventional evaporative coolers. If the wind blows hard against the side of the house with the open windows, the cool tower air flow will be reversed: no cooling. A large solar chimney can be used to exhaust air from the structure, which eliminates constantly watching the wind and opening the appropriate windows on the lee side. Downwind scoops are another alternative.
The Normal Cool Tower
Most cool towers have the pads around the very top of the tower. They use baffles inside the pads to keep the wind from blowing through the pads and out the other side.
My Cool Tower
I never do anything the way most people do a similar task. Maybe my situations are always different. I wanted to reduce the cost of the system as much as possible. The pads are expensive, so the fewer pads used that still accomplished the job, the better. I also used some cooling tube ideas in the design of the cool tower. Since the wind blows at a good steady pace here most of the time, I wanted to use wind power directly to help move the cool air through the house. To create the additional flow down the cool tower I installed one large upwind scoop above the pads in the cool tower. This is an air scoop with a tail to keep the scoop oriented into the wind, thus creating a positive pressure. Instead of one large outlet for the hot air, like a solar chimney, I installed smaller openings in the roof with down wind scoops to help remove heat. With these scoops the wind can blow from any direction and the cool tower continues to work properly.

On my design the pads are just below the scoop. This reduces the size and area of the pad, thus reducing cost. I have 18 square feet of four inch thick pads in my tower. Placing pads at the top of the tower would have required 72 square feet of pads. Pads down below the scoop are protected from direct sun, so they last longer. The tower itself is six feet square and 27 feet tall. The air scoop occupies the top three feet. Two pads three feet square by four inches thick are located just below the air scoop. Just below the pads is a tank containing 20 gallons of water with a float valve keeping this tank topped up. Located outside the tank is a small 12 Volt Teel bilge pump. This is a submergible pump, but I found the hard way not to submerge this pump. The first pump only lasted two months. The replacement pump mounted outside the tank lasted six seasons.
Some General Design Rules
I am not an engineer. I build things by what many refer to as "back yard engineering". I suspect some of you have completed projects engineered in a like fashion. Most of the time things work out pretty well. I did get some suggestions from my friend Bill Cunningham, an engineer and co-inventer of the cool tower.

A good way to visualize the air flow is to compare air flow to water. Water is of course a much denser fluid than air, but the principle is the same. Tower height, or the distance from the bottom of the pads to the air outlet, will determine the velocity or pressure of the air. The greater this distance the more air pressure created, similar to a water column. We are using a column of cool moist air (compared to the hot dry outside air) to create this pressure.

To determine tower width, or cross section, use the water analogy here, too. The larger the size of a pipe, the greater the volume passes through the pipe at a given pressure.

Enhancements will increase the air flow; upwind and downwind scoops are my choice. Other methods include rigid and movable cloth baffles. Barometric operated louvers also work to direct the air through the pads and create increased pressures.

Pad material choice for me is CEL-dek. At first I installed the expanded paper pads that are much less expensive. Even the old standby for coolers, aspen pads, will work. Water must flow down the pads and air must pass through the chosen medium. The CEL-dek pad works best because it has low resistance to air passing through it. Duct work must be as large as possible. Having the air move through hallways and doors of the structure is best. An open floor plan works well. Cooling a large open area is much easier than cooling many rooms. If you use duct work with the cooling tower, the ducts must have a larger cross sectional area than ducts in a forced air system. Vents must have a larger opening than those used with a forced air system such as conventional air conditioning or evaporative coolers. We are moving the air naturally with small pressure differences. Use large openings that don't restrict air movement.
What Kind of Water?
Evaporating water is what creates the cooling and makes evaporative coolers and cool towers work. Rain water is the perfect source for the water used in cool towers because it does not have dissolved salts or minerals. Well water can contain dissolved minerals. As the water evaporates from the pads, whatever minerals it contains are left behind. This buildup will eventually clog the pads and block air flow.

We chose to get water for all our needs from the water harvesting systems we installed. Yes, we live in a desert, with an average annual rainfall of only 12 inches and we have plenty of water for all uses. The CEL-dek pads in our cool tower have only had rain water on them since 1986. They have a very small amount of mineral buildup on the surfaces.

Normally you can expect to replace cooler pads every year, or at best every other year. I have seen cooler pads fed with ground water that have more buildup after less than one season than my eight year old pads fed with rain water.
How Much Water
Approximately 1000 BTUs of cooling is created per one pound of water evaporated. On a hot summer day with low humidity you can expect to use 50-100 gallons of water. The most we have used in one day is about 60 gallons to cool the entire house. When we only cool parts of the house ("zone cooling"), we reduce this by 50-75%.
Other Benefits to a Cool Tower
Would you believe the cool tower helps heat our home in the winter? Our greenhouse has excess solar gain. We open a small door in the cool tower leading to the greenhouse. The upwind scoop on the cool tower forces cool outside air into the greenhouse and excess heat is pushed downstairs. Cool air escapes through a vent located low in the downstairs room and is replaced by more warm fresh air from the greenhouse . We call this our fresh air heating system.

When we go away for an extended period of time in the summer, we open all the vents from the cool tower but leave the water pump off. With a slight breeze fresh air flows through the house. This keeps the house from building excess heat.

Bill Cunningham built a cool tower on his office and shop/garage with south and east facing windows in the cool tower. They provide light and heat to both areas in the winter. In the summer they provide soft indirect light.
We started construction on the cool tower in the spring of 1985 and used it that summer. The system has undergone several changes. The first upwind scoop was metal, and not a good choice unless you use aluminum. Our scoop now has a framework of steel covered with heavy canvas. The cool tower has been in operation nine years. On a hot dry day (100ºF with 10% humidity) the air coming from the tower is 65-70ºF. We are very pleased with the performance. I am saving the finishing touches for a 110ºF day — that's when working inside the cool tower is quite enjoyable!
Author: Charles Van Meter, Alternative Research Center Inc., PO Box 383 Vail, AZ 85641-0383; 602-647-7220

Custom Cool Tower & Solar Design, Bill Cunningham, 5085 S Melpomene Way, Tucson, AZ 85747; 602-885-7925

Suppliers of CEL-dek: Munters Corporation, Mrs. Pat Thomas, Box 6428, Fort Myers, FL 33911; 1-800-446-6868

12 Volt Teel bilge pump: Stock # 1P811, W.W. Grainger Inc., local phone book

by Charles Van Meter
copyright 1994 Charles Van Meter

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Exclusive: Ukraine rebel commander acknowledges fighters had BUK missile | Reuters

Exclusive: Ukraine rebel commander acknowledges fighters had BUK missile | Reuters: ""The question is this: Ukraine received timely evidence that the volunteers have this technology, through the fault of Russia. It not only did nothing to protect security, but provoked the use of this type of weapon against a plane that was flying with peaceful civilians," he said. "They knew that this BUK existed; that the BUK was heading  for Snezhnoye," he said, referring to a village 10 km (six miles) west of the crash site. "They knew that it would be deployed there, and provoked the use of this BUK by starting an air strike on a target they didn’t need, that their planes hadn’t touched for a week." "And that day, they were intensively flying, and exactly at the moment of the shooting, at the moment the civilian plane flew overhead, they launched air strikes. Even if there was a BUK, and even if the BUK was used, Ukraine did everything to ensure that a civilian aircraft was shot down." CIVILIAN FLIGHT Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Khodakovsky's remarks confirmed what U.S. officials had long been saying, that "Russian-backed separatists have received arms, training and support from Russia." But she dismissed the rebel leader's efforts to blame the Kiev government for the downing of the airliner, calling it "another attempt to try to muddy the water and move the focus from facts.""

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Solar for the Rest of Us

Solar for the Rest of Us
After all, not everyone has a large roof area facing in a southern direction or a large enough piece of land to set up an array stand in the yard. Even for those of us who do, it can be difficult to break into solar because of the still somewhat high initial investment required.
Those of us living in urban areas face a similar problem because the rooftops are usually not owned by the tenant meaning solar systems cannot be installed.
Does this mean we should forgo alternative energy? I don’t think so. While not a new idea, community solar gardens are gaining popularity across the country and offer an alternative energy solution for those of us unable to install solar panels at home for whatever reason.

How Does it Work?

The basic idea of a community solar garden is that customers buy into a solar array constructed in an ideal location. For their investment, customers receive credit on their electricity bill based on the power produced by the panels they have purchased.
Whether customers want to reduce their carbon footprint, save money or both, investing in a community solar garden is a great way to take advantage of the solar boom regardless of where they live.
Community solar
These initiatives also benefit solar developers by opening up an entirely new market. Approximately 85% of all residential customers in the US cannot own or lease solar systems because the location is unsuitable or the roof is not controlled by the customer (i.e. renters and people living in large apartment buildings).
Developers build solar farms ranging in size from a few panels on a rooftop to thousands of panels on a large parcel of land. Once completed, the developers sell the energy output of a certain number of panels to each customer. Usually, the customer chooses how many panels to purchase based on electricity usage and budget.
Typical costs per panel are anywhere from $500 to $1,400. This cost can be offset relatively quickly as conventional energy prices continue to rise. The other advantage to these solar gardens is that the panels are positioned for optimum performance.
Where I live, for instance, my roof does face south and I plan on installing panels within the next year. Unfortunately, large pine trees will block the sun for a few hours each day forcing me to trim the trees for maximum panel efficiency or deal with periods of low output throughout the day.
Solar gardens get sun exposure throughout the day and I would venture to say that they produce electricity more consistently than most home solar installations.
It’s worth noting that this concept is still in its infancy. According to a report by the New York Times, there are only about 52 of these projects occurring in 17 states right now although quite a few other states have legislation on the table that would make community solar gardens possible in many other areas.
Since the technology is so new, there is a chance you could spend significantly more as an early adopter than you might in five years. With the speed at which solar technology is advancing, however, I don’t think it will take that long for solar gardens to make financial sense for most people.
While I am still a proponent of installing solar at home whenever possible because of tax incentives, increased equity in the property and complete control of your own power generation, community solar gardens are a great way to go green and save some money in the long run if installing solar at home isn’t possible.

Large Scale Geothermal Power - Could it Work?

Large Scale Geothermal Power - Could it Work?

Large Scale Geothermal Power - Could it Work?
Geothermal power isn’t a new idea but researchers in Spain are thinking about the “Big Picture” and their work could have significant implications for the future of the global energy landscape.
You might remember a write-up in Resilient Strategies last year where I explained how home geothermal systems work to keep the average home comfortable year round by pumping water through a network of pipes located a few feet below the ground.
The reason this works is because despite sometimes radical temperature fluctuations on the surface of the Earth, if you dig down a few feet the ground maintains a consistent temperature around 55°F. This keeps the home cool in the summer and using a heat collector, amplifies the heat to keep the home warm in the winter.
The research being done at the University of Valladolid in Spain is based on geothermal principles but is nothing like the home systems described above.
Let me start with a question: Do you know how hot the center of the Earth is?
Believe it or not, it’s almost as hot as the surface of the Sun.
Another question: Why aren’t we using this energy to mitigate the growing energy crisis?
With any luck, that may change soon.

Enhanced Geothermal Systems

Rather than dig only a few feet under the surface to access the consistent temperatures commonly leveraged for residential geothermal systems, an Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) digs thousands of meters into the ground to capture some of the intense heat that escapes from the Earth’s core.
This heat is used to boil water, which creates steam and ultimately drives turbines that generate power. Pretty much the same thing as current power plants except EGSs don’t need fossil fuels or radioactive fuel rods to make it happen.
If implemented successfully, we could generate power 24 hours a day without concerns about the rising costs of fossil fuels or the hazards associated with nuclear power plants.
Geothermal Power
And we’re not talking about a little bit of power either. Current estimates demonstrate that an EGS in Spain could produce up to 700 Gigawatts of power.
To put that into perspective, the U.S. generates approximately 1,000 Gigawatts of power during peak summer usage. A little over 700 Gigawatts of that power comes from coal-fired power plants.
In other words, a single EGS with similar capacity as the one proposed in Spain could eliminate fossil-fuel based power generation in the United States practically overnight.
Anyway, back across the ocean to Spain. The Iberian Peninsula has multiple areas where temperatures reach sufficient values at relatively shallow depths. Oh, by the way, relatively shallow means 3,000 – 10,000 meters below the surface.
That may seem extraordinarily deep but keep in mind that many oil holes are drilled in this depth range so the technology already exists to make it happen.
Perhaps the only real obstacle the modern EGS faces is that it is essentially a form of fracking – officially known as hydraulic fracturing. Despite the massive amounts of natural gas our country is now harvesting thanks to this process, there are some serious side effects associated with traditional fracking such as ground water contamination.
The difference when harnessing geothermal energy is that the pressures are lower, the chemicals are not as dangerous and the pressurized water would be injected into hot rocks below the surface – not near natural water supplies.
But to an environmentalist, fracking is fracking so I would expect EGS construction to face many of the same obstacles faced by natural gas companies using fracking to extract fuel from shale beds below the surface.
Even if the EGS weren’t approved, there is another way to use geothermal power although the results are not nearly as impressive. Researchers have determined that the Iberian Peninsula could generate approximately 3.2 Gigawatts of power just by using the heat that reaches the Earth’s surface naturally.
That means no drilling and no injecting water into the ground.
3.2 Gigawatts may not seem like a lot (certainly not when compared to 700 Gigawatts), but that is the equivalent of three nuclear power plants. Even that would offer a much more sustainable solution than our current energy infrastructure.
By the way, the graphic below shows the temperatures below the surface within the United States. Anything over 150°C can be used to generate power using an EGS and that includes most areas of the country so EGSs are a feasible alternative in this country as well.
US Heat Map
As interesting and potentially ground-breaking (pun intended) as this idea is, I’m certain it’s a long road ahead – especially in the United States. I recently wrote about Ohio’s decision to freeze current alternative energy requirements which I surmise has a lot to do with lobbyists associated with the massive fossil fuel industry in the state.
Why would an idea like this be any different? If I were a fossil fuel mogul, I’d be shivering in my boots to think that a single new technology could take out all the coal-fired power plants in the country simultaneously.
So, as usual, it comes down to government inefficiency and the unwillingness to change politicians so proudly display like an American Flag pin on the lapel of their jacket. All we can hope for at this point is that the project is a success in Spain. Verifiable results are much more difficult to argue with than a good idea and only time will tell.
To your resilience,
Paul Clarke

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

World's Oldest Solar Device | CleanTechnica

World's Oldest Solar Device | CleanTechnica
According to the great philosopher, upon waking up the eldest son would attach a solar ignitor to his belt as he dressed for the day. It was his duty to focus the solar rays onto kindling to start the family’s cooking fire.
According to another early text, the Zhouli, which describes rituals dating far back into Chinese antiquity, “The Directors of the Sun Fire have the duty of transferring with burning mirrors the brilliant flames of the sun to torches for sacrifice.”
Although scholars found over the years many ancient texts discussing solar ignitors, the discovery of an extant yang sui eluded them for centuries. Quite recently came the Eureka moment. Digging up a tomb that dated to about three thousand years ago, a team of archaeologists found in the hand of a skeleton a bowl-shaped metal object. While the inner side could have passed for a wok, the exterior trough had a handle in its center. That’s what caught the eye of the two archaeologist in charge of the dig, Lu Demming and Zhai Keyong. They immediately brought the relic back to the local museum and ordered its specialists to make a mold from the original and then cast a copy in bronze.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Energy Department Bombshell: LNG Has No Climate Benefit For Decades, IF EVER* | ThinkProgress

Energy Department Bombshell: LNG Has No Climate Benefit For Decades, IF EVER* | ThinkProgress
Yes, despite multiple studies to the contrary, the DOE is asserting that the leakage rate is very low in the U.S. (but not in Russia, of course) — so low that U.S. LNG just happens to be better for Europe than its own coal:
“The high modeled leakage rate for the U.S. LNG scenarios (1.6 percent) is still less than the breakeven percentage for the European scenario (1.9 percent), but slightly higher than the breakeven for the Asian scenario (1.4 percent)…. As previously noted, the calculated breakeven points are the most conservative, so these results do not indicate that natural gas has a higher GHG than coal on a 20-year basis in all cases.”
The DOE is actually asserting that the absurdly low leakage rate of 1.6 percent is conservative! How conservative? Look at this table:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Onshore Wind Is The Cheapest Electricity Generation Option In Europe | CleanTechnica

Onshore Wind Is The Cheapest Electricity Generation Option In Europe | CleanTechnica
These estimates are for Europe, but Neto suggested the cost difference is even greater in the US, where recent contracts have been struck between $20/MWh and $40/MWh. That’s despite the so-called shale gas boom, which brought down costs of gas-fired generation for a short period, but still cannot compete with wind.
“It is clear, more and more, that our product (wind energy) is good, not just because it is green, but because it is cheaper,” Neto told the analysts. (You can see the presentation here). He said wind energy is also cheaper than gas in key emerging markets such as Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, and major Asian markets.
Neto admits that the short-term outlook in Europe remains challenging because there remains a misperception.
He might have been referring to the likes of former Queensland Treasurer Keith De Lacy, who in the front page lead for The Australian today said renewables had “no place in a modern society.” And he might have been referring to people like Institute of Public Affairs’ Alan Moran, who insists that that wind energy is “three times” the cost of coal.
Neto says “the less educated” typically refer to the spot price, but this only reflects market dynamics and the level of supply and demand, not the cost of the technology. New build coal is also “three times the market price.”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fukushima radiation has made Hawaii and Pacific islands un...

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As more and more contaminated water gets dumped into the ocean, listen to this well qualified woman talk about the currents and the health effects, very informative!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

infra red photos for crop health using modified low cost camerasPublic Lab: Mobius NDVI

Public Lab: Mobius NDVI
In my quest to get good NDVI images from an Infragram-modified Mobius ActionCam, I previously found white balance settings that produced photos with color histograms like the ones for good Infragrams taken by Infragram-modified Powershots. I used the program mSetup on Windows to install the white balance settings on the Mobius via USB (Mac and Android solutions are also on that page). Yesterday I took a series of test photos to see if those white balance settings produced useful photos.
I took photos of the test scene in the topmost image with these five cameras. The four PowerShots have internal filters and the Mobius has no internal IR filter but has a holder for filters in front of the lens. All cameras have plates for easy attachment to a Manfroto tripod.
The dual camera system with an unmodified A495 and a pure near-infrared A495 generally produce the best DIY NDVI images I have seen. So that result is presented below as the benchmark. Ned's Fiji plugin was used to align the two photos and compute NRG and NDVI values for each pixel after stretching both histograms (parameter=2). This stretch parameter, and the same color table, were used on all of the NDVI images below, and no other adjustments were made on any of the photos or NDVI images.
Photos from an unmodified A495 (top left), a pure NIR A495 with Wratten 87 filter (top right), and a false color infrared image (NRG) and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index image (NDVI) derived from those two photos. Green plants are well differentiated from non-plants in the NDVI image. This is a high resolution image, right click to enlarge in new tab.
The Infragram-modified PowerShot A2200 with Wratten 25A filter produced an NDVI image that differentiated plant and non-plant about as well as the dual camera system. This camera was white balanced on red origami paper in full sun, and was used in the calibration of the white balance settings for the Mobius.
Super-red Infragram photo from a Canon A2200 and the NDVI image derived from that single photo.
The Infragram-modified PowerShot A2200 with glass BG3 filter also produced an NDVI image very similar to the one from the dual camera system. This camera was white balanced on blue origami paper under blue sky in the shade, and was used in the calibration of the white balance settings for the Mobius. The BG3 filter is similar to the Rosco 2007 filter.
Infrablue Infragram photo from a Canon A2200 and the NDVI image derived from that single photo.
The Mobius camera with Wratten 25A filter produced an NDVI image that differentiated plant and non-plant about as well as the Powershot Infragram cameras. The white balance setting for the Mobius was the one determined empirically by comparison with histograms of the PowerShot Infragrams. This setting is: red 310, green 500, blue 700.
Infrablue photo from the Mobius ActionCam with Wratten 25a filter and the NDVI image derived from that single photo. The Mobius has a a much wider lens than the PowerShots, so these images are cropped for comparison.
The Mobius camera with Rosco 2007 filter produced an NDVI image that was quite meaningless. The white balance setting for the Mobius was the one determined empirically by comparison with histograms of the PowerShot Infragrams. This setting is: red 690, green 500, blue 240. The NDVI image sort of differentiates between plant and non-plant, but NDVI values are consistently higher for non-plants than for plants, which seems to be a serious flaw. I don't yet understand what's happening here, but the process of determining white balance settings that worked for the red filter gave very different results for the blue filter.
Infrablue photo from the Mobius ActionCam with Rosco 2007 filter and the NDVI image derived from that single photo. The Mobius has a a much wider lens than the PowerShots, so these images are cropped for comparison.
I tried several combinations of white balance settings and also tried a Wratten 47B filter (not shown), but did not find a combination that produced useful NDVI images. I also have not come up with a hypothesis to explain the failure of a blue filter to produce usable NDVI information when a red filter works very well.
NDVI images with different white balance settings in the Rosco 2007 Mobius ActionCam. NDVI values for non-plants are generally higher than for plants. The lower right image has this pattern somewhat reversed and is the best version I have produced.
It might be possible to find settings that produce somewhat better results with a blue filter. But a red filter seems to work well, and there are other important reasons to use a red filter instead of blue. So the next task is to find a red filter that is less expensive than antique Kodak Wratten 25A gelatin (Rosco Fire, please).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cotton Battery by Ryden Organic & Recyclable | CleanTechnica

Ryden Organic & Recyclable Cotton Battery | CleanTechnica
Critics of lithium-ion batteries (and there are many) have plenty of arguements in their corner. These batteries run hot – hot enough to cause the occasional fire. They take a long time to recharge. They are expensive and have a limited life cycle. When they are used up, they become potentially hazardous waste. Is this really what the world wants to depend on for its transportation needs?
The folks at Japan Power Plus don’t think so. They have just announced the all new Ryden battery, which is made primarily from cotton. Yes, you read that right, the fabric of our lives has become a battery. Ryden in Japanese translates into “god of lightning.” For the new battery, cotton fibers are modified to create a new form of carbon fiber unlike any ever seen before, according to Chris Craney, JPP’s chief marketing officer. The modified cotton forms the anode and cathode of the Ryden battery an organic fluid is used as an electrolyte.
Why is this a big deal?
Several reasons. The Ryden battery recharges 20X faster than its lithium based cousins. It lasts through many thousands of discharge cycles. It does not run at high temperatures, so no cooling system is required. All its components are organic and recyclable. Most importantly of all though, it should be cheaper than lithium-ion batteries once full-scale production begins.
And when will that be? Well, the basic research dates back to the 1970′s, and JPP has been working on the project for more than 6 years. So the Ryden battery won’t be on the shelves at your local auto parts store anytime soon. But if the folks at JPP are right, their cotton battery could do for electric vehicles what gasoline did for the auto industry.
If you missed out on Apple or Microsoft, this might be a good time to pick up a few shares of JPP, before everyone else finds out.