Ozone Generators, Snake Oil of the Modern Age

February 26, 2009

Perhaps this goes to show that there will always be snake oil vendors.   For years, we’ve been sold on the idea that Ozone generators are a good thing, that they promote and create healthy air within our homes, remove odors, etc.  The manufacturers of ozone generators even go so far as to point out that it’s just as nature does with lightning strikes and thunderstorms.  This notion resonated with us. After all, isn’t there a hole in the ozone layer?  So more ozone is a good thing… right?  Up in the stratosphere, protecting our planet, it is.  Down here where we breathe, though, it’s actually flat out dangerous.

That last statement bears repeating: Ozone generators in our homes are dangerous.  Ozone is, chemically speaking, O3 — three oxygen atoms bound together.  It’s made by electricity passing through the air.  So what’s wrong with that?  Our bodies aremade to breathe O2, not O3.  O3 (Ozone) can make our throats sore and damage our lungs.  The same properities of ozone which can cause certain smells, bacteria and mold to be affected, those same properties also affect tissues within our bodies, and not in a good way.

There’s a long list of data to support what’s being presented here.  Research performed by both the U.S. and Canadian governments,  as well as others, all agrees with this.  Ozone up there is a good idea.  Down here, it’s a bad thing.  Even in a best case scenario, even “safe” levels of ozone will to little or nothing to provide helpful benefits.  Once the concentration is high enough to be killing off harmful or offensive aspects, it has become dangerous to our health.  There is no practical effective way to use an Ozone generator safely in your home.

Ion generators, preferably those which generate both positive and negative ions, do have a desireable effect, in that they help to knock down airborn particulates.  How much so?  There are too many variables to answer that, but the best bet is still to use air filters to remove allergens, to filter out dirt and dust particles.  It would seem that HEPA filters are still the best means of cleaning the air that we breathe.

Why are the manufacturers allowed to make the claims if they’re not true?   Apparently the government is not empowerede to regulate Ozone generators.  Or perhaps someone got a major payoff.  But if you check a bit online, you’ll find the EPA’s statement on the subject.  (Or you could follow the link we just provided here.)

If you’ve bought yourself some snake oil recently, you may want to return it.  If you cannot, it’s best to dismantle or crush it before disposing of it.  Normally we’d not be keen on adding such things to a landfill, but there are far too many people who remain unaware of the dangers of this.  Donating it to Goodwill or some similar organization just spreads the snake oil to some other unsuspecting person.   When disposing of an ozone generator, it’s best to follow the Golden Rule and make certain that no one else ever uses the thing again.

What can we do about the hole in the ozone?  Most dangerous aerosol sprays are gone, and the dangerous freon is unlawful to discharge intentionally.  Stop using combustion engines.  That’s the single best thing we can do for ourselves and our planet.

Windspire, the Small Footprint Wind Turbine Alternative

February 25, 2009

One of the most frequent objections to wind turbines is that some consider them an eyesore, and they take up a lot of space. Enter Mariah Power, a Nevada company, with their innovative designs. The Windspire solves the large footprint problem with a propeller-free design capable of operating in most any terrain or environment.

Unlike the traditional propeller-style wind turbines, Vertical Axis Wind turbines, (VAWTs) consist of blades positioned vertically, which rotate around a vertically placed axis. These blades can be either curved or straight.   The Windspire is a type of Giromill, a VAWT which uses straight-sided blades. Mariah Power researched the optimal airfoil configuration, developing the Windspire absent of self-starting problems normally associated with Giromill turbines.

Not only do Vertical Axis Wind Turbines offer the advantages of an exponentially smaller footprint than what we’re used to seeing, the heads don’t need to orient themselves with the changing wind directions.  This vertical design readily harnesses wind energy from any angle.  Though designed to be  extremely quiet, the Windspire can handle winds up to 100 mph.  They come equipped with a high efficiency generator, integrated inverter, hinged monopole and a wireless performance monitor.  Windspire’s manufacturer provides a warranty is a generous 5-year warranty.

The 1.2 kW Windspire is rated to produce some 2000 kilowatt hours per year under wind speeds of approximately 12 miles per hour.  The internal wireless modem (included) allows you to transmit power production information directly to your computer on a continuous basis, allowing you to check your power production.  The 1.2 kW Windspire is available now for around $5,000 USD including installation.  A low wind version, an off-grid or battery-charging version , and a 3 kW version are each currently in development.

It’s easy to see that Windspires could easily supplant the awkward and space-hungry Horizontal wind turbine designs in closed spaces, allowing the everyman to have a commercial-level generator in his own back yard.   This is amongst the many improvements in design which will lead us into energy independence.  As we move towarads the promise of renewable, passive energy sources, companies like Mariah Power will most certainly pioneer the solutions of tomorrow.

World’s First Commercial Wave Generators Now Operating!

February 20, 2009

Three miles off the coast of Acuadora, Portugal, we find the site of the world’s first commercial wave-generated electric plant. In it’s first stage, the three Pleamis wave energy converters (PWEC) are operational. Each produces 750 kilowatts. Once the entire farm of 25-30 PWECs is complete, it is expected to generate some 25 MegaWatts of clean, Green energy, powering 15,000 households. This will eliminate more than 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

The generators, which look like a cross between a submarine and a sea serpent, work by harnessing the energy of the ocean’s waves. The segments move on hinged joints, actuating hydraulic engines which move the generating mechanism. Each is tied in to a cable on the ocean floor, allowing several units to feed into the same electric line. Though some aspects of the manufacturing of the units may not be Green, the harvesting of the tides’ energy certainly seems to be.

Consider this: There are about 6.8 billion people on the planet at this time. In a worst-case scenario, if they had energy consumptions equal to those used in the above projection and there was an average of 3 people per household, 150,000 such completed wave farms could provide clean energy for every household on the planet! Considering that many households include far more than 3 people, it’s realistic to say that, in practice, they’d need between 75,000 and 100,000 such farms, which is even better news! Do we want to cover the planet’s oceans with wave generators? Of course not, but they’re not the only clean, passive harnessing of energy either. Wind farms, photovoltaic and other solar energy solutions will also play their part. What this does clearly demonstrate, though, is that we can have clean power for everyone on the planet, and that’s cause for celebration!

What’s the cost? So far, the combined investment is about 9 million Euros, but that includes R&D costs which would not be required once the generators are being made in quantity. The per unit cost is certain to drop well below 3 million Euros per unit, with each unit powering 500 households. Even at that price, though, it’s still only 6000 euros per household, to provide that household with clean and inexpensive passively generated electricity.

The British Wind Energy Association tells us that wave generators have the ability to displace 1-2 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year from conventional fossil fuel generating sources. The above paragraphs demonstrate that wave farms will be able to do far better than that. The biggest thing to gather from this article? Clean passive energy is not some far off futurescape. It’s possible, within our abilities now!

Heat Exchange — the OTHER Alternative Energy

February 15, 2009

Most of the attention on alternative energy is focused upon wind or solar generation, and alternative ways to fuel transportation.  Meanwhile, tremendous amounts of energy continue to be used in heating our homes and water.  Also, there are solar technologies such as the Earthships’ passive solar home designs and parabolic mirror systems.  These “other” alternative energy system may prove far more important, effective and easy to integrate than the more prominent wind turbines, photovoltaic farms, and similar electricity generation systems.  Moreover, heat exchange systems allow that expended energy to be conscripted, recycled, rather than wasted out into the environment. Read more

The Argument For Investing In Green Energy Sources

February 11, 2009

Fifteen years ago, no savvy investor would have touched alternative or renewable energy resources — and rightly so.  The technology wasn’t able to pass muster.  It was clunky, unreliable and unnecessarily expensive.  Worse yet, it had virtually no support in the mainstream.  That was 1994, and the world was a very different place.

Today’s savvy investors are looking for something reliable, secure, safe and promising, the same as any other day. But what a difference a decade makes in today’s world! Today’s investors who are looking at the long haul, are looking at alternative energy. Huge investments come from what may seem to be some of the most unlikely places.

The Middle-east, for example, seems to be betting against themselves. They’ve sunk tens and scores of billions of dollars into investments in alternative energy technologies, and not to buy and bury them either. Hundreds of millions each in endowments and grants to the likes of M.I.T. (and just about every other prestigious university on the planet, it turns out,) were just the beginning. Masdar, a zero-carbon-footprint city sleeping 50,000 residents and a total of 90,000 people during the day, shows every indication of becoming a functional reality within a decade. Those wiz kids and profs they’ve invested in will be providing some of the technological advances needed to pull it off, and the Arabs don’t even have proprietary rights to the technologies. They just know a good idea when they see it, and are resolved to have a big place at the table as times change.

It’s not just guys in thobes with long beards and lots of money though. It’s also Wall Street, and Pickens, and Bill Gates, and just about anybody with more than a few nickels to rub together and the vision to see what ought to be the obvious truths:

  • We ARE going to run out of oil, so alternative energy solutions aren’t optional.

  • The list of people in favor of green is long and distinguished, and profitable.

  • The alternative-source energy market is climbing steadily, undiminished by even radical market fluctuations on the petroleum front.

  • Projections suggest a need for $26 trillion (in 2007 dollars) to be invested from 2007 to 2030, in energy infrastructure alone.

Whoever funds the need is going to make out like a bandit. Funding Green isn’t just some cute little philanthropy anymore. You don’t need to be any kind of tree-hugger to see that Green is good business.

Pittsburgh Announces World’s First Solar-Powered Trolley

February 6, 2009

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum’s Scott Becker recently announced an innovation in energy sources, mixing very old and very new. The museum is going all solar, making their working exhibit the first solar-powered trolley line in the world. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Energy Harvest Program funded just over a quarter of a million dollars, which will pay for an installed 36 KW photovoltaic (solar panel) system. The system will generate the electricity by which they run their vintage streetcar vehicles.

Guests learn by experience, enjoying a four-mile long ride on these perfectly restored streetcars. The scenery along the way is pleasant. With the new power source, the exhibit will be both a step back and forward in time. This exhibit proves that we can provide transportation without pollution.

Becker says he’s conveyed the concept to the Pittsburgh Port Authority, who will now consider using this as an example. Hopefully they’ll be designing their own solar system to power the city’s light rail system soon.

Solar Power Industries of Belle Vernon, a local company, is doing the system design and installation. The project will give the museum its own substation. It’s may not seem like all that much of an immediate savings, only $5000 a year. But when the museum reopens for the season on April 3rd, 2009, it will be running entirely on its own power, generated entirely by solar panels. This makes the trolley autonomous and entirely Green, and that’s worth a fortune!

And the PVSEC Goes TO…

February 4, 2009

The PVSEC award honors individuals for outstanding contributions to the development of science and technology of photovoltaic solar energy conversion. This year’s PVSEC goes to Dr. Subhendu Guha for his PhotoVoltaic research and development. It was Energy Conversion Devices which was wise enough to hire Dr. Guha. We offer our congratulations to Dr. Guha, and to ECD as well.ECD is the leading global manufacturer of thin-film flexible solar laminate products for flat-roof commercial buildings.

Dr. Subhendu Guha is their Senior Vice President, as well as Chairman of United Solar Ovonic, their subsidiary.Dr. Guha’s innovative work in both development and production of multi-junction amorphous silicon-based materials, devices and products contributed to his being the recipient of the distinguishing award.”I’m honored to receive this award. It is personally gratifying, and I particularly appreciate the collaboration of my colleagues to carry out cutting-edge research to develop products that have great societal values,” said Dr. Guha.Having written more than 250 technical papers, and holding over 30 patents, Dr. Guha is indeed a world expert on such subjects.

He sits on many national and international committees, including the Advisory Board of National Center for Photovoltaic, which directs and implements the U.S. Department of Energy’s strategy in photovoltaic progress. His work has received recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy, Bright Lights Award, and the Discovery Magazine, Environment Category. He was also the recipient of World Technology award in 2005 in the Energy category.ECD’s UNI-SOLAR(R) brand products are unique in that they employ flexibility, minimal weight, ease of installation, durability, and real-world efficiency to make a practical solar solution. ECD is also a pioneer in other alternative technologies. Amongst other innovations is their nonvolatile digital memory technology, which is significantly faster, more cost-effective, and well-suited for use with cell phones, digital cameras and PCs.We’re pleased and proud to see Dr. Guha receiving recognition for his many contributions to a better, Greener world!
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Bolivia’s Vast Lithium Resources

February 3, 2009

Beneath the salt desert of Uyuni in northern South America’s Bolivia, lies more than half of the world’s lithium.  Previously used in small quantities for certain psychological disorders caused by brain chemistry imbalances, lithium has found a new use in battery technologies.  Lighter than nickel, lithium makes cell phone and digital camera batteries more compact, and is state-of-the-arts when it comes to Electric Vehicle (EV) power packs.  At this time, the hopes of plug-in vehicles hang upon Lithium Ion (LiIo) batteries. In years to come, the world will be demanding a lot of lithium, and Bolivia has most of it.  

They’re not about to let loose of it freely or for a pittance, nor should the world expect it of them.  Bolivia is a very poor country.  People live from day to day, hand to mouth.  If they don’t have a job, they face starvation.   They’re poor, but they’re not stupid.  They realize that the world wants what they have, and they’re willing to allow others to be partners in their lithium business, but they’re not about to let us just go marching in there, dig up all the lithium and leave with it.  They will want a decent price for the material itself, and jobs for their people as well.    The only complication that might be cited is the elevation, which may make some lithium processing  difficult in some places within the country.   Aside from that, there’s little reason that the wold should not become their trading partners.  Bolivians can make batteries just as well as any other labor force, given the opportunity to do so.   

So it is that the most important test of fair trade goods may be found there in Bolivia.  We must be willing to give them a fair price for their ore, but we must also be willing to allow them to capitalize on their fortune.  Why should Bolivia NOT be a battery capital of the world?  Why shouldn’t they take from their own lands, turn it into the batteries we want, providing their people with much needed jobs and prosperity? In the days and years to come, much will be needed, and we’ll all be expected to pitch in and do our share.  That doesn’t mean that poor countries must stand by and watch as the rich become richer.  Today’s lithium is the oil of decades past.  Let us treat the people of Bolivia fairly and seek good relations with them, that they will treat us fairly as well.

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