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Energy | Green and Alternative Energy Information

LED? Low wattage comes with a price

Lowe’s this week announced it would begin hawking a light-emitting diode, or LED, bulb.

It’s the perfect substitute for the good-old 60-watt incandescent standby. However, the price is a bit off-putting at $39.98. But new technology comes with a cost. A really cool flat-screen TV can run up to $3,600 at Costco.

Of course, I still have an old tube TV and still burn some low wattage incandescents.
Lowe’s version is from Osram Sylvania. Home Depot sells a similar unit for about the same price from Phillips.

Cool? Sure. Will I use one?

I thought about that. I live in a somewhat respectable area in Clovis, Calif. But it’s a place where if you put anything at all valuable on the curb, it disappears. I’ve actually timed this practice. I put an old washing machine out, and it lasted 15 minutes.

Even scrap metal disappears relatively quickly.

So I imagined how quickly my outside lights would disappear should I plug in LEDs. Three outdoor LEDs could fetch one of my friendly roving recyclers a good return.

I tried going with compact fluorescents. But even with stores’ increased eco light selection, I can’t seem to find any that don’t blow out with photo-cell lighting.

Photo-cell friendly compact fluorescents do exist, but I couldn’t find them on the shelf. I ended up buying 38-watt incandescents. They work fine but stay on all night.

The key for greater usage is versatility, or, in my case, conformability. I may have to break down and buy some new fixtures.

Many have said the incandescent is on the way out and in fact may be banned by energy efficiency seeking regulation. But the price differential for that efficiency remains high.

Martin LaMonica of Green Tech on cnet.com said change may be coming. “Some lighting company executives forecast that within two years, LED bulbs in the 800 lumen category will cost less than $10,” he wrote.

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Solar Powered Garden lights

Gardens are a very important part of someone’s home. Gardens not only decorate the home but also give fresh feeling to the home. For a creative person the garden could be the place to shower all the creativity. Lighting also brings out the best part of a garden.

Without proper lighting a garden does not really feel good. There are many types of lightings available in the market but the newest addition to the variety of lightings is solar powered garden lights. These solar powered garden lights not only give a fresh feeling to the garden but also help in saving the environment.

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Clean energy – Definition

Finding an adequate definition for clean energy isn’t an easy thing to do, mostly because of the issue with nuclear power categorization. While some energy experts believe that nuclear power should be also categorized as a clean energy source because harnessing nuclear energy doesn’t emit harmful greenhouse gas emissions others say that nuclear power shouldn’t be considered as a clean energy source because of radioactive nuclear waste.

What does this “clean” mean? The clean means environmentally friendly, or given our current energy situation, environmentally more acceptable compared to fossil fuels. This somewhat explains why there is such a big debate whether we should include nuclear power among clean energy sources or not, as energy experts first need to agree whether nuclear power is environmentally more friendly option compared to fossil fuels.

The question about nuclear power categorization is really a question of setting up the limit for term “clean”. If clean energy refers only to energy sources that are not connected with greenhouse gas emissions then nuclear power should be considered as one of the clean energy options, and if clean refers to energy sources that are not hazardous for environment then nuclear power cannot be categorized as a clean energy source.

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Why isn’t the world using more solar energy?

Using more solar energy to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, and improve our energy security and energy independence seems like a very logical solution, especially since the Sun is the most abundant source of energy on our planet. Solar energy can provide us with over 1000 times more energy than we currently need but despite this enormous potential, in 2008 solar power accounted for miserable 0.02% of the world’s total energy supply.

There are several reasons why world isn’t using more solar energy to satisfy its huge energy demand. When talking about solar power technologies we need to know that these technologies are still in the very early phase of development, which explains why solar power still fails to achieve efficiency comparable with fossil fuels. An average solar panel has an efficiency of around 15 percent, which means that large amount of solar energy gets wasted, and ends up like a heat instead being turned into some form of useful energy.

Improving efficiency of solar cells won’t mean much unless science also finds the solution on how to make solar panels cheaper. The only way solar power can really prosper in years to come is by finding highly efficient solar panels that would also be commercially viable. This is by all means a difficult task for science, but several latest researches have given us at least some hope that finding this solution isn’t a mission impossible.

There is also one other issue that solar energy sector will need to resolve, namely the intermittency issue. Solar energy is an intermittent energy source because Sun doesn’t shine all the time which means that solar energy is not continually available throughout the whole day. In order to tackle the intermittency issue solar energy (again) needs science to find some cheap solar energy storage solution. Using molten salts as the storage medium has so far proved to be quite effective, and many energy experts have great expectation of this solar energy storage method.

Solar power will also need to have strong political support, and big funding to become dominant energy source in years to come. Powerful fossil fuel lobbies will no doubt use their huge political influence to slow down the development of solar power technologies as much as possible because they are well aware that once science presents cheap and efficient solar panels, they will lose their last big advantage over solar power, the cost-competitiveness.

The future of solar power depends heavily on science but politics cannot be overlooked because science needs large funds to continue with researches, and these funds can not be obtained without the strong political support. Solar power has currently strong public support which should result in favorable politics toward further development of solar power technologies in years to come. Doing otherwise would mean fewer votes on elections, and this is something politicians will try to avoid at almost any cost.

The correlation of science, adequate funding and strong political support should in years to come turn solar energy into one of the world’s most widely used energy sources.

Posted byNed Haluzan

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Efficient, inexpensive plastic solar cells coming soon

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2010)  Physicists at Rutgers University have discovered new properties in a material that could result in efficient and inexpensive plastic solar cells for pollution-free electricity production.

The discovery, posted online and slated for publication in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature Materials, reveals that energy-carrying particles generated by packets of light can travel on the order of a thousand times farther in organic (carbon-based) semiconductors than scientists previously observed. This boosts scientists’ hopes that solar cells based on this budding technology may one day overtake silicon solar cells in cost and performance, thereby increasing the practicality of solar-generated electricity as an alternate energy source to fossil fuels.

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Less Power To Refrigerators! Appliances Get More Efficient From 2014

Via Conservrefrigerators.com

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week announced new efficiency standards for most new refrigerators as of 2014. Energy efficiency for these domestic appliances is set to increase by 25%. They account for about 10% of household electricity use.

Advocacy groups and appliance manufacturers welcomed the news. “We appreciate that DOE has moved so quickly to adopt the agreed-upon standards,” said Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). “The consensus standards not only save consumers a huge amount of energy and money, they also save DOE the energy, time, and money that a contentious rulemaking process can require.”

According to the proposed rule, a typical new 20-cubic-foot refrigerator with the freezer on top would use about 390 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, down from about 900 kWh/year in 1990 and about 1,700 kWh/year in the early 1970s. On a national basis, the new standards would, over 30 years, save 4.5 quads of energy, or roughly enough to meet the total energy needs of one-fifth of all U.S. households for a year. Over the same period, the standards will save consumers about $18.5 billion. DOE will finalize the standards by year’s end, and they take effect in 2014.

“The appliance industry has a strong history in reaching agreement with a broad base of energy and water efficiency advocates, as well as consumer groups, to develop energy conservation standards for home appliances,” said Joseph McGuire, President of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “The new minimum energy standards are a significant part of the agreement, as is the extension of the current super-efficient manufacturers’ tax credits, which we are urging Congress to act on, and a soon-to-be-submitted petition to ENERGY STAR on smart appliances.”

Based on the July agreement, home appliance manufacturers and efficiency, environmental and consumer advocates have agreed to jointly pursue with Congress and the Administration new standards for six categories of home appliances (refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers and room air conditioners), a recommendation that ENERGY STAR qualification criteria incorporate credit for Smart Grid capability, and a package of targeted tax credits aimed at fostering the market for super-efficient appliances.

As part of the new refrigerator standards, ice maker energy consumption also will be reflected in product energy-use ratings to help consumers gauge actual energy use choosing a refrigerator.

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Green energy – Definition and meaning

The simplest green energy definition would be energy produced from energy sources that are environmentally more friendly (or “greener”) compared to fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). Green energy therefore includes all renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, hydropower), and by definition should also include nuclear energy though there are many environmentalists who oppose the idea of talking about nuclear energy as the green energy because of the nuclear waste issue, and its harmful environmental effects.

Green energy term was coined to separate highly polluting fossil fuels from other less polluting, environmentally friendlier energy options such as renewable energy sources. Climate change has become a global threat, and world needs to find cleaner (less emitting) energy options, and thus the importance of green energy keeps growing.

Green energy is still not powerful enough to compete with fossil fuels. This is mostly because green energy is still significantly more expensive energy option compared to fossil fuels, and thus many countries, especially developing ones, rather stick with cheaper fossil fuels such as coal.

It also has to be said that term green energy doesn’t include only renewable energy sources but can in more broader term also include the conservation of energy (for instance a green energy example is also a building constructed in a way that it keeps itself cool in the daytime and heated in the night through its architectural design instead of relying on air-conditioning or a heating system).

The promotion of green energy does not only include using more renewable energy sources in years to come but also to make currently dominant fossil fuels energy technologies more greener and less polluting (such as clean coal technologies).

Term green energy is sometimes identified with the term sustainable energy but this is not entirely correct because sustainable energy also includes technologies that improve energy efficiency. Green energy doesn’t refer to efficiency of renewable energy sources but is only interested in their positive environmental impact (compared to fossil fuels).

Posted byNed Haluzan

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Solar energy vs fossil fuels

Many people wonder how come we still so heavily rely on fossil fuels when we could use free, environmentally friendly, and almost unlimited solar energy to satisfy our energy needs. The answer is quite simple, fossil fuels are still considerably cheaper energy option compared to solar energy, and energy consumers are still not ready to pay higher prices, even if this means reduced environmental damage. Also, fossil fuels technologies have far better efficiency compared to currently available solar power technologies.

Solar energy industry still searches for its holy grail in form of cheap and efficient solar panels. There are many ongoing researches that offer some interesting solutions, but none of these solutions have the sufficient commercial component that would make it economically viable, and thus competitive with fossil fuels.

Standard solar panels installed on a house may convert only up to 15% of the sun’s rays, meaning that large potion of solar energy remains untapped and instead becomes waste heat. Even the most efficient solar panels available on the market today have efficiency of only 22%.

Scientists use different approaches in their research of efficient and inexpensive solar photovoltaic panels. Some believe the key may lie in complex nanomaterials and semiconductors, while others focus on the process itself, not giving total attention to materials used in process.

How difficult it is to improve efficiency of solar panels with currently available technologies? Many energy experts will tell you that improving efficiency of solar panels by only 5% would be a massive achievement, and this certainly answers the above question.

Photovoltaics are complicated technology, and in many cases when scientists try to improve efficiency their end result it even worse then it was in the beginning. The discovery of cheap and efficient solar panels is definitely one of the greatest scientific and technological challenges of our time.

Though fossil fuels currently have big advantages in terms of costs and efficiency compared to solar panels, fossil fuel industry still wakes up each day in fear thinking “what if today is the day when solar panels will become less expensive and much more efficient?”.

That day will no doubt come, and hopefully more sooner than later.

Posted byNed Haluzan

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The Difference Between Renewable and Sustainable

Via Campaign Against Climate Change

Climate change, renewable energy, green this, eco that … We are constantly flooded with information about the need to shift towards a different, planet-friendly economy in order to preserve the atmospheric condition in which life as we know it can thrive.

And it’s true.

However, the media is fragmented, conflicting interests clash and everyone is learning and making mistakes in the process. Just remember how much controversy there is about climate science and you get an idea as to how complex thinking about these issues, let alone writing and legislating about them, is.

The concept of renewable energy is also multi-faceted. Renewable, in the context of energy, refers to fuels whose supplies are not based on a finite reserve, like fossil fuels are. For instance, solar power is renewable because the sun will probably outshine the human presence on this planet for millions and millions of years

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Financing Renewable Energy

Stephen Lacey’s podcast this week on Crossing the Valley of Death was simply terrific. In the first 10 minutes or so, he delivered interview snippets with several top players in the financing of energy innovation, each pointing to a singular basic fact:

There is a gap between the interests of venture capitalists (who want to invest a few million dollars in projects that are likely to produce large short-term profits) and the interests of institutional investors and banks (who, while they will take long-term positions, do so only in mature, risk-free technologies).

The show went on to discuss a variety of different work-arounds to the challenge, including an initiative now working its way through Congress: the creation of a new entity housed in DOE, the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA). Supporters claim that CEDA would bring strong financial expertise and a specific purpose to create an attractive investment environment for the development and deployment new clean energy technologies.

The only thing I would add is that this entire discussion is occurring in the context of renewable energy that is currently expensive vis-à-vis fossil fuels. A few of the folks Stephen interviewed mentioned this casually, but it’s really at the crux of the entire issue; I know I’ve mentioned this “level playing field” concept before, but this is where the central problem lies. If you a solution that makes a bloated government even bigger, go for it. But if you you believe that “that government is best that governs least,” and you want market-based capital formation to drive the clean energy industry, all you really have to do is remove the subsidies given to fossil fuels, the problem will take care of itself more or less instantly.

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