To plan for Solar Power Gen 2013 in San Diego, CA. It will be held 13-15 February, 2013.
And I’m not talking only about registering to attend. Abstracts for papers can be submitted here until June 22, 2012.
According to this AP via Yahoo News story, $1 billion ghost town is planned for a 15-square mile area in Lea County, near Hobbs, New Mexico. The goal is to provide a safe location for research projects for next-generation applications.
Sam Cobb, Hobbs Mayor, said the research facility will look just like an empty city about the size of Rock Hill, South Carolina, but will literally be a city without residents.
The town will contain highways, houses and commercial buildings and facilities. Structures will be a combination of old and new, just like any other populated area. While nobody will live there, they could.
Homes will be fitted with all appliances, heating and air conditioning, and plumbing. This way, new technologies of all kinds can be tested in real-world conditions, without disturbing the everyday lives of citizens.
While some researchers are busy testing a new renewable energy technology against existing-technology power grids, other researchers can examine a new smart street-signal system designed to work with self-driving cars, also under test.
Simultaneously, other testers could be indoors collecting data on a new toilet technology design that flushes by the power of human thought. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention…
Environmental and health issues of certain tecnhologies could be examined without fear of harming the town’s citizens. The only thing that apparently won’t be done in the $1 Billion ghost town is destructive testing. At least not intentionally. They hope.
Ground-breaking is planned by the end of June of 2012, with an initial development cost of $400 million. It is believed that the project could create 350 permanent jobs and about 3,500 indirect jobs as part of design, development, construction, and maintenance operations.
The benefits could be even greater, based on the use of the scientific ghost town. Hobbs airport hopes to expand on its number of daily flights to/from Houston, and is working toward securing service to Albuquerque and Denver, and perhaps other cities.
Well, not exactly.
I know it was installed in 2010, and I know it’s really a JF Electric commercial, but it’s still cool to watch the installation of solar panels and inverters in this time-lapse video …
Something exciting is happening at one of my favorite travel destinations. Of course, I’m talking about China Lake, California, located in the relatively remote Western Mojave Desert region of the state.
When I was a flight tester for the US Department of Defense based out of Patuxent River, Maryland, I looked forward to trips to the military base at China Lake, and neighboring town of Ridgecrest. The longer the stay, the better.
I was in the minority compared to the rest of my fellow engineer-types. I even went on a few trips on behalf of others, because they didn’t want to go to a place where, after traveling across the US, the final destination was still over a 200-mile drive away, and in the opposite direction of all that most considered fun. Their running joke was, “China Lake may be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s only four hours away from everything!”
My kind of place.
Yesterday, the US Navy announced that construction has officially started on a new 118-acre solar farm at Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake. According to the US Navy’s Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installation and Environment, Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, “This is the largest solar project in the Navy”.
What are the numbers? The installation includes a 13.78 megawatt solar photovoltaic power system, consisting of a fully integrated, modular solar block consisting of 31,680 solar panels.
The Navy anticipates getting at least 30% of China Lake’s power from the solar farm integration. Over the 20-year life of the purchase agreement, the Navy will be allowed to buy electricity below the retail rate, starting at the end of 2012. The solar farm is estimated to reduce energy costs by $13 million for the Navy over the next two decades.
When it’s complete, there will be yet another reason to spend our vacation in the area! Can’t wait to tell my wife. Or maybe I will surprise her…
My uncle (who’s approaching 80) once told me about growing up in a rural farm house without indoor plumbing. When he was a boy, the family’s toilet was an outhouse. He said he remembers his mom’s reaction upon hearing his dad’s plans to install a bathroom in the house. She was horrified and deeply offended. She said, “I will not live in a house where the outhouse is inside!” Worded like that, her argument makes perfect sense!
It’s funny how easily we adapt to life’s situations, except when it comes to modern technology. There, we maintain a level of frustration and dissatisfaction, searching for a balance between freedom and comfort.
Not that long ago, we all wanted a desktop computer at home. As soon as we had one, we felt overly confined to the desk. After all, we want freedom over comfort. Technology gave us laptops. Then we got wireless networks, which only revealed how short our laptop power cords were.
We turned to the freedom of smart phones and smarter phones, and tablets of all shapes and sizes. Our laptops seemed clunky by comparison, heavy with excessively large screens and out-dated keyboards. And that short cord.
Our complaints today center around the tiny displays and small keyboards on our mobile devices. So our screens get larger. Now they’re selling docking stations for mobile devices. Ah, comfort!
Once docked, our expensive tablet becomes little more than a screen, but with the mobile device immobilized and plugged into the wall outlet, we are able to type in comfort from the luxurious full-sized keyboard on our desk! After all, we want comfort over freedom.
If only they made a portable version of the mobile device docking station, maybe one that I could can use from the top of my lap. That would give me more freedom…
Some days I think if I removed these pesky contraptions from our home, we’d finally have real freedom and comfort. I’m sure somebody would build large mainframe versions and install them in corporations around the world, and I’d want a personal version of my own.
Last night, my wife, Alane, and I shared our frustrations with the poor battery performance of our gadgets. Perhaps this is the one common complaint in mobile computing: the dang pesky batteries that always need charging and recharging, and lose energy capacity as they age!
As an electrical engineer with two engineering degrees, I understand rechargeable battery design. I think. If you want to maximize the life of a rechargeable battery, put it only through full charge cycles. Charge it fully, use it until fully drained, then fully charge it again.
That’s how the battery is designed to perform, but but that’s not how we live. Our lifestyles won’t allow us to use rechargeable devices to the point of exhaustion, then wait until they are fully charged again before using them. Buying extra batteries and keeping them charged is out of the question.
This morning, I noticed a tweet by Twitter follower, @treehugger. We might be getting there with the 2012 release of this solar-powered case for the Kindle by Solarmio.com. It comes with a built-in solar panel and reserve battery that powers the reading light. Not only is it solar charged, but the Kindle’s battery is not drained by the light. I’m not endorsing the product. I’m just reporting my obversation… Unless, that is, they wish to sponsor the blog. Then I love love love it!
Now if I could only have a sun that shines after dark …
Outside Online magazine has a fascinating article on renewable energy and front-line fighting with the United States Marines.
Back in 2003 during the second Iraq war in 2003, General James Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division during their initial drive into Baghdad, and found his division repeatedly outpacing their own fuel resupply.
They were required to reduce speed to match pace with the much slower fuel resources if they wished to remain fully fueled during the trip. In General Mattis’ post-combat report to Congress, he asked the US Department of Defense to “unleash us from the tether of fuel.” It hasn’t exactly happened yet.
This story is not just a report on the second Iraq war. It features detailed accounts of US Marines India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment as they transition to renewable energy sources for power and clean water while they continue to fight.
Colonel Bob Charette, Head of the Expeditionary Energy Office, is quoted many times in the article. His words are refreshing, especially given the typical gridlock and red tape, debates and watered-down answers we’ve come to expect from Washington.
“Our dependence on power generation puts us directly at risk,” Charette said. “To the Marine Corps, it isn’t about money or global warming. It’s about saving lives.”
The efforts to make the Marines more combat effective using renewable energy are quickly gaining ground because of what the story calls, “the Corps’s relentless, non-ideological pragmatism.”
Charette again: “We’re going to change the way we think. In the Marine Corps, behavior change is easy.”
This time it’s Washington DC who is challenged to keep pace.
This story is worth the read!
Solyndra. The name of the solar panel manufacturer conjures up more than the solar panel image above. Images of bankrupcy and poor investment decisions by the United States Deptartment of Energy (DOE) come to mind. According to an Environmental-Finance.com news report, those behind the scenes of clean energy investing estimate 80% of investors would have said “bad idea!” to the DOE, who guaranteed a $535 million loan to Solyndra.
Wednesday, Vice-president of Research and Advisory of Cleantech Group, Greg Neichin, told the Society of Environmental Journalists’ annual conference,“There was certainly a lot of backroom discussions and chatter at the time that this was a risky bet.” Neichin also said Solyndra was in fierce competition with Chinese suppliers, and that, “Solyndra just lost. That’s just part of the game.”
If true, Solyndra was no more or less of a risk than many other newer technology companies. The Solyndra controversy may be good experience for the DOE, and for all of us. Future loan guarantees may not be so freely offered, but won’t companies offering unique renewable energy products and solid implementation techniques still get noticed?
The third quarter 2011 Cleantech Group report says solar companies received $350M in investments for 33 deals, the most transactions of a clean-tech sector in that period. The momentum toward clean technologies hasn’t slowed.
Let’s learn, move on, and continue to provide renewable energy solutions.
We’ve got a great post today based on Friday’s story by Jeff Zimmerman, Teen’s Invention Boots Solar Panel Output 40 Percent, published on Grist.org.
Nineteen-year-old Princeton mechanical engineering student, Eden Full, is letting her passion interfere with her classes. Thanks to the $10,000 received from 2011 EcoLiving Student Leadership award, Eden put college on hold to finish her invention, the SunSaluter, a device that uses the sun’s power to collect the sun’s power.
Eden’s design uses a selection of metals with different expansion rates instead of a mechanical motor. As the metals are heated by the sun, the different expansion rates move the solar panel in a way that optimizes direct exposure to the sun. Her design is so efficient that it takes 40 percent fewer solar panels to produce the same amount of energy.
The SunSaluter is not the first sun-tracking device ever made, but it may be the cheapest. Instead of the multiple hundreds of dollars required to buy a more complex externally powered solar panel requiring electricity and lots of moving parts, her elegant self-powered design costs the equivalent of two fast food combo meals. The SunSaluter can be maintained by kids in developing communities with no access to power, which is one of Eden’s goals.
In the short Vimeo video, Eden describes her design and her desires for putting it put into service in developing countries.
Her parents instilled a sense of environmental responsibility when Eden was a kid. A visit to the Canadian Arctic a few years ago deeply affected her. “This was an emotional moment for me when I realised that I had a chance to help prevent this problem from getting worse,” she said. “I would have to help with the reduction of CO2 emissions.”
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) believes that the talent and passion found in Eden Full is not an anomaly, and that college students from around the world can create amazing things if given an opportunity. The DOE started the Solar Decathlon a few years ago, and it has quickly become a popular annual competition for many teams of college engineering and architecture students.
The Solar Decathlon consists of a series of ten challenges taking place over a two-year period. All the winning college team needs to do is design and build the best solar home possible. It must be affordable, attractive, functional, comfortable and healthy. The solar home must supply sufficient energy for personal use, cooking, cleaning, and entertainment. The design must produce at least as much energy as it consumes. That’s all.
The same passion found in Eden Full’s solo design can found in many of the world’s college students as they compete to make a better world through solar energy. This year’s Solar Decathlon competition showcases young talent representing the United States, Canada, Belgium, New Zealand, and China.
The 2011 Solar Decathlon is at the National Mall, West Potomac Park, Washington D.C. from now until October 2, 2011, or you can read and see more at the DOE Solar Decathlon website. Check out the renewable energy designs and the designers of our future!
This September 14, 2011 Renewable Energy World story addresses Hawaii’s initiatives to transition away from petroleum reliance to biofuels. Because of the state’s remote location and isolation, the state’s energy is nearly 90% petroleum-based. Currently, Hawaii’s electricity rates are three times the US average, and twice that of the second most costliest state.
Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture (HREDV) is leading efforts to transition from 90% petroleum reliance on electricity generation to 40% electricity generation from renewable energy by 2030, and a 70% non-petroleum for areas like transportation. These thresholds will be achieved through biofuel energy for existing power facilities instead of new utility construction, and perhaps a mix of geothermal, solar, wind, and sea power technology as the new technology emerges.
This long-range plan is aggressive but there is movement toward these goals. Hawaiian Electric Company and Hawaii BioEnergy have reached a preliminary 20-year agreement to blend biofuel from Kauai with low sulfur fuel oil for use in Oahu’s largest generation station. Recent completion of a new Honeywell demonstration facility is designed to convert forest residuals, algae and other cellulosic biomass into biofuels targeted for Hawaii’s transportation market.
These companies and others are hoping for the agreement to lead to approved contracts; however, opposition exists from Hawaii’s environmentalists and some local communities. Concerns include impact on property values, increased traffic, and possible adverse impact on tourist appeal with new biomass fuel farms and renewable energy generation systems located in strategic locations throughout the islands.
According to the story, serious issues also exist with the transparency (or lack thereof) of price structures for fuel costs from current energy suppliers. Transparency is perhaps another area in need of reform. Regardless, no expert expects Hawaii to lose its costliest energy ranking anytime soon. Even if HREDV success is achieved and 2030 renewable energy goals met, new ways of doing business are never cheap.
Dawn Lippert, HREDV Project Coordinator, gives an overview of their renewable energy initiatives at the Tech Enterprise 2010 conference:
Science Daily’s article, “Transition to Renewable Energy Stimulates the Economy, German Researchers Say,” describes findings from several studies by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
Question: Is a transition to renewable energies too expensive in today’s financial climate? Answer: The transition will stimulate economic growth in the coming decade, and any negative impact will be outweighed by positive short-term and mid-term job growth, and long-term benefits of renewable energy research and application across Europe.
Germany is doing more than generating studies. An energy system renovation of a large apartment building in Germany has reduced energy needs by a projected 40%. Actual energy consumption will be measured over the next few years for real-world data, which will drive similar renovations for future sites.
Some may see Germany’s efforts as a knee-jerk reaction to the Fukushima disaster. Regardless of the driving factors, a growing awareness of the benefits of renewable energy is evident within Germany and on a more global scale.
Renewable energy technology is maturing beyond the offer of an alternative energy source. The willingness to rethink how energy is used and re-used is leading us all into new areas of innovation, such as intelligent energy monitoring, passive storage, use of alternative energy states, and adaptable grid designs integrated with existing technology that historically relies on fossil fuels.