Want to see how quickly we can add megawatts of wind power to the grid. This wonderful time-lapse video by MidAmerican Energy shows just how rapidly we can deploy new wind turbines, generating well paying construction jobs and clean energy for years to come.
As Nepal continues laying to rest her thousands of dead, many westerners like myself who have spent time there are feeling helpless, wanting to do more than sending prayers and financial support in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. This is not to say financial aid and humanitarian relief efforts aren’t essential during the immediate, and ongoing recovery. They are critical.
Simply put, healing and rebuilding this magnificent country full of wonderful people, many of whom struggled to survive against the elements below the Himalayas prior to the earthquake, will take years. It’s currently estimated that 75% of the buildings in Kathmandu alone have been destroyed or are uninhabitable.
As Nepal recovers, people, countries and companies that can contribute to this base infrastructure redevelopment should begin planning now to implement and lead a concentrated charge to place renewable energy on the ground.
For example, in the immediate aftermath of the quake, in addition to rescue, cell phone charging was one of the most urgent needs, especially for first responders and families trying to locate one another. While the cell phone networks was fairly resilient, the main grid was not and this made recharging phones nearly impossible.
Solar charging stations would have been, and would still be a viable solution in this kind of crisis. Cleantech and renewable energy options like these not only provide immediate access to clean affordable energy, but also build up resilience and preparedness for future disasters.
In the mid 1990s, when I was in my twenties, I spent nearly two years living in Nepal as part of a college requirement. My field of study was international development, with a focus on rural energy delivery. I saw first hand the vast difference in wealth between villages powered by renewable energy, such as a small micro grid hydro or solar panels – and those that weren’t.
At one point I lived for several months in the tiny village of Thulo Besi in Lamjung district. The village was just over the hill from a well traveled trekking route, about a half day walk from the nearest road head. It was a village of subsistence farmers, working from dawn until dusk to grow their crops like millet, rice and a few vegetables. They also raised chickens and goats for meat and a few families had water buffalo for plowing the fields and milk.
The women worked hardest of all. They made the meals, cleaned their homes, did the laundry (by hand of course) and raised the children, until they were able to take care of themselves and help with the little ones. They cooked the family meals over fires inside the house, without any kind of chimney, the smoke burning their eyes and filling their lungs. All this, in addition to hours spent in the fields, bent over, with a child on the back, doing the backbreaking work of planting, weeding or harvesting by hand.
Women are also responsible for collecting all the fuel for their families, which consisted of firewood, and sometimes dung. In addition to wood for the fires, the villagers used batteries for flashlights and radios and some kerosene for lights.
The total ‘cost’ of their energy was staggering. Kerosene and batteries had to be bought and were incredibly expensive. Wood fuel took huge amounts of time to gather every day.
In comparison, a village not too distant from Thulo Besi had access to electric energy from a micro hydro power station. The difference in wealth was instantly evident. They had modern electric lights in their homes, which were much better built and had improved cook stoves that did not fill their homes with smoke. In addition they were able to use electricity to run a grist mill to process their grains, giving them the ability to earn extra income.
Other homes in the area used solar panels to charge a few batteries used to run lights, a radio and possibly even a TV.
It was my first introduction to renewable energy and what people can do to lift themselves out of poverty given access to low cost, reliable energy. It made a powerful impact on me. Abundant, clean, reliable and affordable energy is the foundation of a sustainable and resilient society.
As Nepal begins to rebuild I sincerely hope that people dedicated to solving humanity’s myriad of problems with sustainable solutions, will be at the forefront of lending a hand. CleanTech solutions like solar, small hydro and energy efficiency can and should be a key component in rebuilding after disasters.
Every village not currently connected to the grid, every police station, school, hospital, fire station needs a solar system for lights, battery charging and more in order to be prepared for the next disaster, and also to simply have access to this abundant energy in everyday life.
OK, it’s a simple concept. Leveraging the same battery technology used in their awesome vehicles, Tesla is getting ready to enter the home energy space. But what’s really interesting about this, in my mind, is that it’s positioning Tesla as a different type of company. It’s not just a car company anymore. Not that Tesla ever really thought of itself as a car company.
Elon Musk and his team see the future very clearly. They understand that we have a real problem (let’s call it climate change) and what they’re doing is addressing our problems with real solutions. We will still drive, use energy, etc. We will simply power our modern lives with the help of our sun.
They have also identified electricity as the best carrier of energy going forward because it is so flexible, easy to use and transmit. They’re not getting into other forms of fuels or complicating the way energy will be generated. Why should they. Tesla already understands that our future will be solar powered. In their view (and mine) solar is the best way forward. It’s clean, it’s easy to install, understand and maintain, plus it’s getting cheaper all the time. In fact in many cases it’s already on parity with or cheaper than power from the grid.
To get a glimpse of the Tesla vision just watch the video and see their tweets below. It’s all starting to make sense. Isn’t it.
— Tesla (@Tesla) May 1, 2015
— Tesla (@Tesla) May 1, 2015
Need a little inspiration this Friday. Check out this new kickstarter campaign for a new home automation/energy efficiency device: OttoBox.
Everybody knows a significant amount of energy is wasted by appliances in standby mode. According to information provided, Ottobox tracks the habits of its users, learning when appliances tend to be in use and turning them off when they are not. Ottobox automatically turns off standby appliances, allowing consumers to achieve considerable savings on their electric bills.
Ottobox is the brainchild of Ameer Sami, the Founder & Chief Engineer of Ottomate. Ameer, after being continually scolded by his mother for failing to turn off his devices when not using them, decided that there must be a more convenient way to save energy. So, at only 16 years old, he developed the first prototype of the Ottobox. Now, through Kickstarter, 18 year old Ameer and his team of five are working to bring the Ottobox to mass production.
If it lives up to the presentation, it’s cool and, importantly, super simple to use. Plus you gotta feel good when it’s invented by a teenager and supported by a company and a team that look not much older.
So check it out!
It’s not always just about the technology. Clearly we have a lot of great cleantech to choose from these days, be it in energy generation (solar), energy efficiency (LED lighting), clean transportation (electric vehicles), etc. but sometimes it’s the business model behind the technology and how we apply it that makes all the difference and drives acceptance.
A great recent example of this is a new collaboration between the Schiphol Group, Cofely and Royal Philips who have entered into an agreement to offer light as a service in the terminal buildings at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Providing light as a service means that Schiphol pays for the light it uses, while Philips remains the owner of all fixtures and installations. Philips and Cofely will be jointly responsible for the performance and durability of the system and ultimately its re-use and recycling at end of life. By using energy-efficient LED lamps, a 50% reduction in electricity consumption will be achieved over conventional lighting systems.
By applying circular economy principles, Schiphol Group, Cofely and Philips have created a new standard in the transition towards sustainable lighting. The innovative light design also provides a better lighting experience and is part of an extensive renovation of the terminal intended to increase passenger comfort and capacity at Schiphol.
In association with architects Kossmann.dejong and Philips Design, lighting fixtures were specially developed for the airport that will last 75% longer than other conventional fixtures as the design of the fixtures improved the serviceability and therefore improved the lifetime. In addition, the fixture components can be individually replaced. This will reduce maintenance costs and means that the entire fixture does not have to be recycled, resulting in the greatest possible reduction in raw material consumption.
Jos Nijhuis, CEO and president of Schiphol Group, said, “It is Schiphol’s ambition to become one of the most sustainable airports in the world. We believe in a circular economy and want to play an active role in its realization. The collaboration with Philips and Cofely marks a good step in this direction. Together we left the beaten path to develop an innovative, out-of-the-box solution. We set a new standard that matches the ambition level of the airport.”
Frank van der Vloed, General Manager, Philips Lighting Benelux, said, “We are pleased to make an important contribution to Schiphol’s ambitious sustainability targets. We believe that more and more forward-thinking businesses will move to a Light as a Service model. After all, most of us are used to this kind of model – for example I drink water but I don’t have a reservoir in my basement. Many people are used to pay-as-you-go models. Add to this considerable energy savings from LED technology and the sustainability of the overall system and the proposition is compelling.
Hans van Happen, COO Cofely Nederland NV: “As the main contractor, Cofely is always on the look-out for innovative, energy-saving solutions that contribute to Schiphol’s business objectives. This innovative partnership with Schiphol and Philips matches perfectly with Cofely’s ambition to play a leading role in the energy transition.”
Philips will retain ownership of all the equipment, Schiphol Group will lease it for the duration of the contract. At the end of the contract, fixtures will be re-used elsewhere after upgrading, resulting in maximum resource reduction.
Supported by Cofely’s round-the-clock presence at Schiphol, Philips and Cofely can provide real-time management of the lighting system to generate an optimal lighting experience and sustainability. At the same time they will also be responsible for the intensity and reliability of the lighting, based on a KPI model.
It’s common sense that energy efficiency and solar make a great team, the former making the latter even more financially attractive. So it’s nice to see SolarCity, America’s largest solar power provider, embrace that concept and run with it via an exciting new partnership with Nest Labs.
On Monday, the company announced that it would start installing one Nest Learning Thermostat™ with each new solar installation in California for it’s next 10,000 customers – at no additional cost. To qualify, customers must simply have a compatible air conditioning system and agree to connect their Nest Thermostat to SolarCity as part of the Works with Nest program.
SolarCity makes it possible for homeowners to install a solar system at no upfront cost and pay a lower rate for solar electricity than they pay for utility power. The Nest Thermostat can program itself – it remembers what temperatures homeowners like, creates a custom schedule for the home and automatically turns itself down when homeowners are away.
Results from three recent energy-savings studies show that on average, Nest can save customers about 10 to 12 percent on their heating bills and 15 percent on their cooling bills. This translates to an estimated average savings of $131 to $145 a year with the Nest Thermostat alone, and combined with affordable solar power from SolarCity, customers can save hundreds more each year.
As an owner and fan of the Nest Learning Thermostat myself, I can wholeheartedly say that it works as advertised, saving me hundreds of dollars every year on heating bills. Plus I love the ability to check my family’s energy history, usage and energy-saving stats, and control our Nest Thermostat using a smartphone, tablet or computer, from anywhere.
With this new partnership SolarCity will offer its customers access to Nest energy services – such as Seasonal Savings – that were previously only available through utilities and government energy programs. Additionally, SolarCity is building connections with the Nest Learning Thermostat that can deepen solar integration capabilities and help homeowners further optimize their savings and comfort.
These Works with Nest integrations will be available to SolarCity customers this summer.
To celebrate this beautiful marriage of Solar & Efficiency, we’re giving away a Nest Thermostat to one lucky winner in a giveaway.
Just enter below. One limitation: you must be a U.S. resident 18 years or older to be eligible to win.
In this news segment PBS explores why in parts of Hawaii, where many homeowners have installed rooftop panels to capitalize on federal and state tax credits for using solar energy, the local utility company has slowed down approvals of new solar systems, saying that abundant users may threaten the safety and reliability of the power grid. As the popularity of rooftop solar spreads, many Americans could soon enter the same gridlock.
Colorado added 67 megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity, bringing its total to 398 MW in 2014. That’s enough clean, affordable energy to power more than 76,000 homes, according to the recently-released U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review. The report went on to point out that Colorado’s biggest solar gains came in residential installations, but commercial installations increased, as well.
Of the new capacity added, 42 MW were residential and 25 MW were commercial. Together, these installations represented a $212 million investment across Colorado.
From an environmental perspective, solar also helped to offset nearly 450,000 metric tons of harmful carbon emissions last year in Colorado – the equivalent of removing more than 90,000 cars off the state’s roads and highways, or not burning nearly 500,000 gallons of gasoline.
To put the state’s solar growth in some context, the 398 MW of solar PV installed today in Colorado is nearly as much as the entire country had installed by 2006. And frankly, the state is just scratching the surface of its enormous potential.
– Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)
Today, there are 380 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in Colorado, employing more than 4,000 people. Notable solar projects in Colorado include:
- Alamosa Solar Generating Project was completed in 2012 by developer Cogentrix. This concentrating photovoltaic (PV) project has the capacity to generate 30 MW of electricity – enough to power more than 5,400 Colorado homes.
- Another utility scale project, the Hooper Solar Project, is currently under construction in Colorado and is scheduled to come online in 2016.
- Several large retailers in Colorado have also gone solar, including Kohl’s, REI, Safeway and Walmart.
- IKEA has installed one of the largest corporate PV systems in the state with 1,120 kilowatt (kW) of solar capacity at its location in Centennial.
In addition to a growing commercial sector, the Colorado residential market also showed impressive gains last year, with installed system prices dropping by 8 percent – and down a total of 49 percent since 2010. Nationwide, the U.S. residential market added 1.2 GW of installed capacity in 2014, marking the first time that this growing sector surpassed 1 GW of clean, affordable solar. Residential also continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S., with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50 percent annual growth.
“Today, the U.S. solar industry employs 174,000 Americans nationwide – more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined – and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into our economy,” Resch added. “This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the U.S. and Colorado economies, as well as for our environment.”
Photo credit: SMPA Community Solar Farm installed by Sunsense Solar.
Los Angeles (LA) will become the first city in the world to control its street lighting through an advanced management system that uses mobile and cloud-based technologies. The new technology, developed by Philips, confirms LA’s Bureau of Street Lighting as a trailblazer in next generation LED street lighting with a new solution that saves energy, reduces maintenance and provides quality lighting that makes streets safer for LA residents. The technology also supports Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets initiative, promoting the revitalization of neighborhoods through more pedestrian-friendly streets for LA’s citizens.
LA has long been at the forefront of smart city innovations, including adopting new web-based technologies that will help city administrators better manage city services such as street lighting. With the addition of the Philips CityTouch connected lighting management system, the LA Bureau of Street Lighting can remotely control lighting fixtures, as well as monitor energy use and the status of each light. Using mobile chip technology embedded into each fixture, the street lights are able to identify themselves and network instantly. This smart plug and play approach not only reduces the cost of programming each fixture, it also reduces the time of commissioning from days to minutes and eliminates on-site commissioning completely. Furthermore, the entire system can be securely controlled and managed remotely through any web browser.
“LA has more LED street lights than any other city in America, with about 7,500 centerline miles,” said Ed Ebrahimian, director of the Bureau of Street Lighting for the City of Los Angeles. “This required a solution that would allow us to remotely control street lights and accurately report how much energy each light is consuming, while also being easy to install and flexible enough to adapt to broader Smart City plans. We piloted several solutions over the last year and decided to implement CityTouch as it required no further investment or intervention in our infrastructure.”
While CityTouch is already in use in 31 countries, the LA solution is the first in the world connecting directly to each light point using the Philips CityTouch connector node, which can connect street lights from any manufacturer. This extends the life of legacy and LED systems alike, enabling them to become connected light points. CityTouch gives the Bureau of Street Lighting a clear picture of the entire city’s lighting system at its fingertips, with map-based visualization, charts and diagrams. The combination of LED technology and management software will enable the Bureau to better manage its assets, while Angelinos benefit from the increased uptime, with safer, well-lit streets.
“Philips CityTouch supports Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets program by taking the management of LED street lighting to the next level, increasing safety through uptime, ensuring better visibility and providing the capability to further adapt lighting to the needs of a particular neighborhood,” said Amy Huntington, president of Philips Lighting Americas. “Not only does better lighting management support the city’s energy efficiency initiatives, but it has a beneficial effect on the streetscape, contributing to more vibrant and engaged communities.”
– New Philips CityTouch saves energy, gives citizens safer lit streets
– Connected system reports faults and reduces commissioning time to minutes
– Wireless plug and play connector node protects city’s existing investment by networking streetlights from any vendor
Part one of a four-part video series. Released in conjunction with Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels. By Richard Heinberg
In this new short video Richard Heinberg explores how – in our economy, the environment, and energy production – we may very well be hitting our defining moment, the point of diminishing returns.
When previous societies have hit similar limits, they often doubled-down by attempting ever more complex interventions to keep things going, before finally collapsing. Will this be our fate too? And is there an alternative?
This video is the first in a four-part series by Richard Heinberg and Post Carbon Institute. The themes covered in these videos are much more thoroughly explored in Heinberg’s latest book, Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels.
You can buy Richard’s new book direct from the publisher (use coupon code PCI2015 for a 20% discount through June 14, 2015).
You can also read the the book’s introduction.
The oldest ethnic group in the United States is also the least connected.
In the Navajo Nation — the country’s largest Indian Reservation that sprawls across parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — about 38 percent of homes are off the electric grid. Eagle Energy, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering disenfranchised people in this community, is trying to change that by installing or distributing solar-powered light kits across the reservation.
Eagle Energy is an offshoot of Elephant Energy, which operates in Namibia, Africa, distributing solar energy systems. In 2010, the founder of Elephant Energy, Doug Vilsack, took a trip to the Navajo Nation and discovered that many of the same energy issues present in Africa exists at home here in America. By partnering with local activists and Navajo chapters, Eagle Energy was born. The nonprofit’s staff, including its director of operations, Adrian Manygoats, is largely sourced from the local Navajo population.
To ensure that the Nation’s elderly demographic is well-served, guides who are fluent in Navajo are often used. This also makes it possible to find many of the community’s off-the-grid citizens, as only a long-time local would know where some of them live deep in the backcountry.
“One of the most shocking things about the Navajo Nation,” says Julia Alvarez, executive director of Eagle Energy, “is the extreme poverty despite the fact that it is right here in the south-central United States.”
Nearly half of the Navajo Nation lives below the federal poverty line. Years of mistreatment by the U.S. government, forced (and ineffective) integration and post-war uranium mining that lasted till the late 1980s marginalized and deteriorated the health of the population.
Today, those who live off the grid often rely on kerosene lanterns for indoor light. The cost of kerosene consumes a large portion of household budgets, while the smoke — released directly into the indoor environment — contributes to a high incidence of respiratory problems, which are exacerbated by the extreme temperature shifts between day and night in the desert climate (as evening descends, homes are shuttered against the cold, preventing ventilation).
Eagle Energy, partnering with other nonprofits, hopes to reach all of the estimated 18,000 un-electrified homes in the Navajo Nation, with its eventual goal of making these residences energy independent. It’s an ambitious mission, but every installation brings this extremely motivated group one step closer.
“We’re still a great people,” says Manygoats. “We’re still here. And I think that matters.”
Just in time for a nice summer weekend, here is a great video for our readers to enjoy. Learn all about building and enjoying a natural swimming pool that’s clean and enjoyable for humans as well as all the other creatures that enjoy water.
If you liked the video above, here is one more to whet your appetite.
So here’s what you need to know about wind: It’s the fastest growing renewable. Why? First, it’s simple. Wind turns the blades, which turn the generator, and that makes electricity. Then, it’s modular. You can put up a few wind turbines to help power a village. Or put up a lot, and you’ve got a wind farm.
And you can do it fast. A windfarm can be built in a year. And in the world of energy, that’s very fast.
Then, wind is available. Most countries have usable wind. And some of the biggest power consumers, like the US and China, have a lot of it. But wind’s most important benefit, is that it’s affordable. Windpower is about the same price as natural gas power. And that means people will build it.
And of course, once it’s built, there are zero emissions – carbon or anything else. That’s a pretty good deal.
But wind has a few downsides. Some people don’t want to look at all the turbines. And the closer they are, the less people want to look at them. So you could put them offshore. But this makes windpower several times as expensive.
Or you could put them far away, like in the Great Plains. But then you’ve got to build long-distance transmission. And it turns out, that’s much more of a challenge than building the windfarm itself.
Finally, the biggest challenge is that wind is intermittent – it only makes power when the wind is blowing. So it may not be there when we need it most, like on a hot summer day when everyone’s running their air conditioning.
That means we have to back up wind with another fast-starting power source, ready to jump in when the wind dies. That’s usually natural gas.
So wind is a new clean power source that is affordable – unless building transmission and back up generation make it unaffordable. Which goes to show, that every energy source is a trade-off of pros and cons – and that a successful energy transition will require the right balance of many energy sources.
For more information visit switchenergyproject.com