Tagged: electricity

Surprising complexity, insights into global effects of wood fuel burning

The harvesting of wood to meet the heating and cooking demands for billions of people worldwide has less of an impact on global forest loss and carbon dioxide emissions than previously believed, according to a new Yale-led study.

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers, including Prof. Robert Bailis of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, concludes that only about 27 to 34 percent of wood fuel harvested worldwide would be considered “unsustainable.” According to the assessment, “sustainability” is based on whether or not annual harvesting exceeds incremental re-growth…

According to the authors, the findings point to the need for more nuanced, local-specific policies that address forest loss, climate change, and public health. They also suggest that existing carbon offset methodologies used to reduce carbon emissions likely overstate the CO2 emission reductions that can be achieved through the promotion of more efficient cookstove technologies.

The study identifies a set of “hotspots” where the majority of wood extraction exceeds sustainable yields. These hotspot regions — located mainly in South Asia and East Africa — support about 275 million people who are reliant on wood fuel.

However, in other regions, the authors say, much of the wood used for this traditional heating and cooking is actually the byproduct of deforestation driven by other factors, such as demand for agricultural land, which would have occurred anyway…

The results stand in contrast to a long-held assumption that the harvesting of wood fuels — which accounts for more than half of the wood harvested worldwide — is a major driver of deforestation and climate change…

Emissions from wood fuels account for about 1.9 to 2.3 percent of global emissions, the study says. The deployment of 100 million improved cookstoves could reduce this by 11 to 17 percent, said Bailis, who also studies the factors that influence the adoption of cleaner cookstoves in developing nations…

“We need to be able to understand where these different components of non-renewability are coming from in order to get a better sense of the positive impacts of putting stoves into peoples’ homes or promoting transitions to cooking with gas or electricity,” he said.

Economics rules. IMHO The first reason to choose wood-burning for fuel is cost. There is none. Yes, there is the cost of labor-time; but, the discussion covers a majority of rural families who are self-sustaining farmers…with little or no cash income.

Cost factors of electricity, natural gas, butagaz, etc. aren’t part of the equation. These folks generally can’t budget to buy fuel. Income-generation from local/regional small-scale manufacturing or more efficient, more productive methods of agriculture offering surplus to sell can remedy that core problem.

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant shuts down

Ellen Merkel says she gets “a little teary-eyed” when she thinks about the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant sending its last electrons to the regional power grid. She knows it will likely mean moving from her nice neighborhood in Vernon, where her husband works at the plant, to the South for a new job.

Frances Crowe, of Northampton, Massachusetts, says she’ll take some satisfaction that her anti-nuclear activism, which began before Vermont Yankee was built in the late 1960s, has had an impact. But she promised to continue to push for the highly radioactive spent fuel from the plant to be moved as soon as possible.

Those were among the reactions in the three-state region of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts as the plant finishes powering down and prepares to disconnect from the grid, most likely Monday…

Vermont Yankee, the state’s only nuclear reactor, employed more than 600 people when it announced it would close. The workforce will be cut in half after a round of layoffs and retirements Jan. 19. In 2016, the plant will see another big reduction as it prepares for a 30-year period during which time its radiation will cool. The plant likely won’t be dismantled until the 2040s or later. [My emphasis added – Eid]

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Life with a Tesla — spent more on tires than electricity

David Noland always knew electric cars were cheap to run, but this is ridiculous. [OK – Back to first-person]

After I bought the first set of replacement tires for my 2013 Tesla Model S (at 26,000 miles), I crunched the numbers and came to a startling conclusion: I’ve spent substantially less per mile for my electric “fuel” than I have for my tires.

The tires weren’t cheap. The Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season grand-touring tires set me back $250 apiece, plus mounting and balancing, for a total of $1,131.

Over 26,277 miles, that works out to 4.3 cents per mile. Pretty typical for a high-performance luxury sedan.

Over those same 26,277 miles, I used a total of 8,531 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

But, thanks to Tesla’s network of free high-power Superchargers, I didn’t pay for all of it.

As best as I can figure, I drove about 5,500 Supercharged miles during that time, including a 2,500-mile round-trip to Florida from my home in New York’s Hudson Valley.

That means I probably sucked up around 1,800 free kWh from the Superchargers.

So let’s say I paid for 6,700 kWh…My local utility, Central Hudson, charges about 14 cents per kWh. (Unfortunately, it offers no special night-time or electric car rates.)

So, let’s do the math: 6,700 kWh x 14 cents/kWh = $938…Divide by 26,277, and my total “fuel” cost per mile works out to a remarkable 3.6 cents per mile.

That’s 20 percent less than the per-mile cost of the tires that carried me on all those miles.

Yes, you can spend more – or less – on electricity or tires. Or tyres [I spent more years selling tyres than tires – few countries use American spelling for English].

RTFA for the fun and satisfaction of driving a car absent fossil fuel and the direct pollution that results. Tesla also takes advantage of the rate of torque transmitted directly to the road by a DC motor. It is a feeling that demands gobs of horsepower from anything that requires fire inside.

Thanks, Smartalix

IBM “sunflowers” designed to supply off-grid energy, water, and cooling

Looking rather like a 10-meter tall sunflower, IBM’s High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system concentrates the sun’s radiation over 2,000 times on a single point and then transforms 80 percent of that into usable energy. Using a number of liquid-cooled microchannel receivers, each equipped with an array of multi-junction photovoltaic chips, each HCPVT can produce enough power, water, and cooling to supply several homes.

Swiss-based supplier of solar power technology, Airlight Energy, has partnered with IBM Research to utilize IBM’s direct warm-water cooling design (adapted from use in IBM’s SuperMUC supercomputer), water adsorption technologies, and leverage IBM’s past work with multi-chip solar receivers developed in a collaboration between IBM and the Egypt Nanotechnology Research Center, to develop and produce the system…

“The direct cooling technology with very small pumping power used to cool the photovoltaic chips with water is inspired by the hierarchical branched blood supply system of the human body,” said Dr. Bruno Michel, manager, advanced thermal packaging at IBM Research.

The HCPVT system can also be adapted to use the cooling system to provide drinkable water and air conditioning from the hot water output produced. Salt water is passed through the heating conduits before being run through a permeable membrane distillation system, where it is then evaporated and desalinated. To produce cool air for the home, the waste heat can be run through an adsorption chiller, which is an evaporator/condenser heat exchanger that uses water, rather than other chemicals, as the refrigerant medium.

The creators claim that this system adaptation could provide up to 40 liters (10 gallons) of drinkable water per square meter of receiver area per day, with a large, multi-dish installation theoretically able to provide enough water for an entire small town.

All of these factors, – waste energy used for distillation and air-conditioning combined with a 25 percent yield on solar power – along with the setup’s sun tracking system that continuously positions the dish at the best angle throughout the day, combine to produce the claimed 80 percent energy efficiency

Estimations on the operating lifetime for the HCPVT system are around 60 years with adequate maintenance, including replacing the shielding foil and the elliptic mirrors every 10 to 15 years (contingent on environmental conditions) and the PV cells, which will require replacement at the end of their operational life of approximately 25 years…

Everyone is so cautious about operational life of photovoltaic systems. It cracks me up. There are homes here in New Mexico with 20 to 30-year-old PV solar panels still running at 90-95% efficiency.

OTOH, the photo-tracker design is one long-accepted by those who can afford the original cost. The National Guard Armory just outside Santa Fe is a site with such an installation.

I look forward to checking out costs and payback when the critters are in production.

China’s Xinjiang bursting with an excess of green energy


Click to enlarge

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, a major power supplier in China, has accelerated the development of green energy as it recorded higher installed capacity in 2013.

Statistics with the Xinjiang branch of the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) showed that by 2013, the combined installed capacity of wind power, hydropower and solar power stations exceeded 1,368 million KW, accounting for about one third of all installed capacity in Xinjiang….

A project to connect the Xinjiang power grid to the northwest China grid was launched in 2010 to transmit Xinjiang’s redundant electric power to other parts of the country. The money made from this is used for developing Xinjiang.

The SGCC Xinjiang branch has put an average annual investment of 500 million yuan towards green energy projects.

Total installed capacity is expected to reach 6,048 million KW by the end of 2014, and that of green power will exceed 2,200 million KW.

While this wee post may seem a bit foreign to many of my readers you have to understand I live in a part of the United States with many parallels to Xinjiang.

Aside from some historic political differences, the natural landscape is often similar. As is the potential. It’s been 20 or 30 years since the New Mexico state engineer’s office determined we had sufficient resources to be a net exporter of wind-generated electricity. We are equally capable of filling state needs and then exporting solar-generated electricity.

The technology for each of these alternatives has improved and become more cost effective over the decades – while the state, local power utilities and the federal government have accomplished little more than a sampling of what might be if they were as serious about non-polluting power generation as they all are about the crap coal mined and burned in the Four Corners.

China’s capital to begin replacing some coal-fired plants


Auld Reekie

China will replace four coal-burning heating plants in the capital Beijing with natural gas fired ones by the end of next year as it steps up efforts to clean up pollution…

The report, citing the city’s Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, said the four plants and some 40 other related projects would cost around $8 billion and cut sulphur dioxide emissions by 10,000 metric tons. It did not detail the related projects.

The plan is the latest step by authorities to deal with a persistent smog crisis in China’s big cities that is fuelling public anger. The capital has been shrouded in thick hazardous smog for several days during the ongoing seven-day national holiday.

China has been under pressure to tackle air pollution to douse potential unrest as an increasingly affluent urban populace turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has besmirched much of China’s air, water and soil.

Last month the government announced plans to slash coal consumption and close polluting mills, factories and smelters, though experts said implementing the targets would be a major challenge.

The new plants will replace four coal-fired ones that provide heating for homes in the city’s central urban area as well as generating electricity, Xinhua said.

Beijing is the Auld Reekie of the 21st Century. For those of you who don’t know the term, it described Edinburgh [and London] not only in the years before World War 2, but, especially afterwards during the efforts to ramp industrial production back up to speed in the UK.

Then, as now, though industrial use was a significant portion of the air pollution, everyone’s attachment to their wee coal fire heating the main rooms of home was a tough cultural obstacle – just as central to established urban life in Beijing. The solution has to be the same – replacing those coal fires with natural gas or electricity generated by means other than burning coal.

The cost of bringing large volumes of natural gas to locations in and around Beijing also lays the groundwork for local provision and access to that cleaner substitute for coal. Smart idea.

New opportunities found to generate electricity from waste heat

Zhifeng-Qian
Zhifeng Ren, left, and Qian Zhang

Physicists at the University of Houston’s physics department and the Texas Center for Superconductivity are working on an innovation that could boost vehicle mileage by 5 percent and power plant and industrial processing performance as much as 10 percent.

Their research uses non-toxic materials – tin telluride, with the addition of the chemical element indium – for waste heat recovery.

Telluride has been studied for years, said Zhifeng Ren, M.D., professor of physics at UH and lead author of a paper describing the work…

But earlier work faltered because lead-containing telluride, despite its strong thermoelectric properties, can’t be used commercially because of the health risks associated with lead, Ren said.

That has sparked the rush for a similar, but safer compound…

Qian Zhang, a research associate in Ren’s group who designed the experiment, said she ultimately decided to add another element, known as a dopant, to alter the electrical properties of the tin telluride. In this case, she added indium to boost its conducting properties.

In one example, the device could capture heat from a car’s tailpipe and convert it to power the car’s electronics, improving the car’s mileage by about 5 percent, Ren said.

Even 1 percent, every day, would be huge,” he said, considering how much crude oil is consumed worldwide…

But capturing car exhaust and converting it to electricity is only one example of how the process can be used. It could also be used in power plants – Ren suggested it could boost the conversion rate of coal-fired power plants from 40 percent to as much as 48 percent ­­­­– and other industrial plants.

In some cases, Ren said, the efficiency gain could reach 10 percent.

Every little bit helps. In this instance, a small portion equals an enormous quantity of wasted energy and heat pollution.

Wind turbines DON’T lower property values – Gasp!

Green-Google-Wind-Farm-Investment-Wind-Power-RPM-Access-Nordex-USA-Renewable-Energy-Iowa1

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, as Bob Dylan said. But whether or not it’s a good idea to build wind turbines to harness wind energy has been a matter of some debate in communities throughout the country and world.

One of the main arguments used by those who oppose the turbines is that they decrease property and home values. But a new study effectively puts that argument to rest.

The study, published this month, looked at more than 50,000 home and property sales near 67 wind facilities in nine U.S. states and found no average decrease in home properties when windmills were built nearby. Study author Ben Hoen, a policy researcher…at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said it’s the second large-scale study he’s been involved with that’s shown such a result.

“Regardless of the home’s model and construction, regardless of how we slice the data set, we still ended up with the same result: We cannot find evidence of an impact that turbines have on nearby property values,” Hoen said…

Most windmills aren’t placed in densely populated areas, however. In this case, the argument can become a matter of aesthetics, with some claiming they are eyesores. But many also see them as beautiful kinetic sculptures, John Rogers, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told LiveSience.

The fact that windmills usually don’t affect home prices suggests that the other concerns (annoyance, potential health effects, etc.) aren’t widespread enough to have an economic impact, Hoen said. Or widespread enough to detract from their environmental upside.

Studies have shown, however, that windmills may in some instances have significant impacts on birds and bats. Usually, though, “there are ways to find proper sites for wind farms to avoid, minimize or compensate for the impact it might have on wildlife,” Rogers said.

Some of the new coastal offshore wind farms have become tourist attractions. Of course, the answer to that from some Luddites is that “those people” haven’t good taste. Uh-huh.

World’s wind turbines will pass the 300 gigawatt mark this year

The world will have enough wind turbines to generate more than 300 gigawatts of power – the equivalent of 114 nuclear power plants – by the end of the year, industry figures show.

As Brazil, China, Mexico and South Africa add turbines, the figure represents modest growth compared with a year ago, when the overall total capacity was just over 280 gigawatts…

Europe, which has led the world on wind, still represents around a third of all capacity, with more than 100 gigawatts, but its growth has been stalled by uncertainty as financial crisis has meant abrupt changes to subsidy regimes…

The most heated debate has been in Germany, ahead of elections in September, where the cost of energy and progress of implementing the nation’s Energiewende – or transition to green energy and away from nuclear fuel – are election issues.

Heavy industry has attacked renewable subsidies, arguing they add to costs and damage competitiveness, especially when the United States benefits from cheap shale gas.

Representatives of the renewable industry say they are working to produce energy that can compete economically with traditional sources, which would lower political risk.

They say they have made progress on onshore wind and solar, but for the huge scale of offshore wind, a technology still in its infancy, subsidies are essential, probably for the rest of the decade…

Wind energy executives note conventional fuel sources have long benefited from support in the form of tax breaks for oil and gas and government help in disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

State and federal subsidies have been part of construction costs for every kind of power station built in the last century. Not that the fact isn’t brought up as a special case by know-nothings who oppose reductions in the consumption of fossil fuel and the inevitable effects that has on environmental quality. Sometimes, subsidies are also added in to defray fuel costs, as well. Something never going to be needed by renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro.