Morocco launches the largest wind farm in Africa

On June 28, 2010, it was announced that Morocco has inaugurated a $3.13 million USD wind farm in Melloussa, which is near the major port city of Tangiers, just across the Straits of Gibraltar. The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, presided over the festivities of this important event.

In all, the wind farm has 165 turbines able to produce 140 megawatts of power by the wind alone. Like the Spain and the U.A.E., Morocco is demonstrating that they are increasingly forward-thinking about non-petroleum energy sources. A recently released draft proposes another wind plant, at a cost of $3.5 billion USD. This, coupled with the newly inaugurated wind farm near Tangiers, would bring the country’s reliance upon renewable power up to 42% by the beginning of the next decade.

When a more prosperous nation develops such technologies, this is an enlightened perspective. For a country like Morocco to do so, when so much of their nation is much less financially prosperous, it is a noteworthy commitment to a Greener world. Join us in congratulating His Highness for the vision, and the people of Maroc for this milestone development!
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Every Day Is Earth Day

This year marks the 40th Earth Day.  In some ways, we’ve come a very long way.  DDT is still used though, just not here in the U.S., where the delta effect of the Mississippi River was causing thin, broken shells on peregrines and some eagle eggs.  The peregrines and eagles have made a full recovery (with the help of falconers and other environmentally aware individuals.)  Smog is greatly reduced in the U.S. as well.  We say we Think Green, and there’s certainly a lot of Green press.  There are even tax credits for energy-efficient appliances (and to spur the economy.)  Miller time?  Not even.

Part of the reason we don’t have as much pollution in the U.S. is that we’re buying all those goods from other countries now — countries which don’t share our laws about pollution.  So instead of polluting the world HERE, we’re causing tons of toxic wastes and byproducts to be dumped into the rivers and oceans of China instead… and at a much higher rate.   And what about our track record with the other inhabitants of our planet?

For two decades, there have been accords with nations all over the world, international agreements not to kill whales (which includes dolphins and porpoises as well.)  Throughout those two decades, Japanese whalers have continued to do so with impunity by calling their commercial kills “research” and claiming to be taking “tissue samples”.   And the slaughter of whales continues off the coast of Denmark’s Faroe Islands as well.   Both of these nations have thumbed their nose at the rest of the world with impunity.  What the Japanese is doing is finally being revealed in the Oscar-winning documentary, “The Cove”.  So it’s all better now, right?  One would think… and be very sadly mistaken.  Most people still haven’t viewed the film yet, so they don’t know what horrors are unleashed upon these sentient neighbors who have befriended us for thousands of years.  They still don’t know about the incredibly toxic mercury levels in dolphin flesh which is being marketed as whale meat and provided to unsuspecting Japanese families as food.  They don’t know that dolphins can and do willfully suicide in captivity, preferring death over the constant barrage of living in a fish bowl when they’d normally cover a hundred miles of ocean a day, frolicking in the waves.  They don’t know about the many documented cases of dolphins putting themselves at risk to come to the aid of a human surfer or swimmer or vessel… or of the betrayal these beautiful, magnficent, advanced and sentient creatures suffer at human hands.
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Care for the Planet? Care For Your Car!

The U.S.’ “Cash for Clunkers” program has ended, effectively paying people who had the most offensive vehicles somewhere between $3500-$4500 USD to buy a new vehicle.  (How nice for them, to have We The People buy so large a chunk of their car for them, while those of us who have been ecologically minded all along pay for our own…)  So that momentary boost to car sales has passed… but the polluting of the planet remains.

We came across this ad from a mechanic in Denver, Colorado, which sparked considerable thought:

Care for the planet? Care for your car.
Care for the Planet?  Care for your car.

A brief look at some of the ways that statement is true yields that a car which leaks oil is putting the nasty stuff on top of the earth, where it runs into waterways, seeps back into our water table, and poisons other living things.  A car that isn’t tuned properly or has mechanical problems is at LEAST using more fuel than it needs to, often spewing the unburned fuel out the tailpipe.   Cars that are out of adjustment put out a lot more pollution as well, adding to the global climate and pollution problem.    These are just a few of the more obvious aspects.

Until we have electric cars run off of wind, hydro, solar and tide energy sources, we owe it to ourselves and our planet to  keep them running as well as possible, as efficiently as possible.  This doesn’t even cost money.  In fact, it saves!  If you lose 3-4 mpg because the car isn’t running well, you’re polluting, but you’re also tossing a pretty good chunk of change out the tailpipe every time you drive!  So we join the mechanic in saying it:

Care for the planet?  Care for your car!

Green Engineering, What Is It?

by Jody Singleton

Clean Energy Act, RoHS & WEEE

WEEE As of August 13, 2005, producers have been required to finance the collection, treatment, recycling and recovery of all Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment

RoHS As of July 1 2006 Electrical & Electronic Equipment may no longer be sold in the European Union if it contains any of six banned substance Restriction of Hazardous Substances On March 1 2007 the first phase of Administration on the Control of Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products came into effect.

The Climate Control Bill introduced by Representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass.) & Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in May of 2009 introduced the most recent version of the American Clean Energy & Security Act and aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by the year 2020. It would distribute up to 85 percent of pollution permits in a proposed cap-and-trade program.

The Carrot & Stick

Cash & Energy Savings Using Wireless Sensor Networks

Industries everywhere are finding ways to save not only on energy and it’s costs but through the use of wireless networks, in numerous other ways too.

According to Oak Ridge National Laboratories, through the use of wireless sensor networks, savings on energy for motors used in industrial processes could improve efficiency by 20%, resulting in significant cost savings. Wayne Manges said: “With electric motor-driven systems accounting for nearly one-fourth of all electricity consumption in the United States, the potential for savings is huge.”

The Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program works with US industry to improve environmental performance and energy efficiency. The ITP is distributing 15 million to support R&D specifically to improve energy efficiency in industrial processes. Already a number of new wireless sensor products are being developed together with the Department of Energy.

Cost savings with wireless systems are recognized in multiple areas including materials and labor where the cost of running wire in plants ranges between $155 and $3,700 per foot. The typical payback for wired systems is 24 months and less than a quarter of that for a wireless equivalent, only six months. Add in the on-going energy savings and the return on investment decision is very clear.

In a large number of industries, companies are recasting their product lines to implement wireless technologies. “We can’t think of any segment of the industry that isn’t going to be impacted by this,” states Honeywell’s CTO Dan Shiflin.

Wireless sensor networks of all varieties are exploding into our world. There is a massive amount of research & development, from academia to start-ups, pushing to create proverbial “better-faster-cheaper” products. A growing number of products are based on an emerging specification “ZigBee”. A majority of utility companies that have settled on a standard have identified ZigBee as their preference due in main to its inherent security capabilities. Real-time data from wireless sensors networks will enable companies to achieve greater productivity and efficiency by continually improving their processes.

Named BP International’s first Director of Technology & Sensory Networks, for the oil company’s Technology Office, Ken Douglas said “You don’t ask people ‘How would you use ZigBee?’ Because they don’t know, but if you ask them: ‘How would you use information that you can now access for the first time?’ They have to think about it for a bit, but then the ideas just starting pouring out.”

In addition to the benefits of ZigBee’s security layers, the mesh network is highly reliable, flexible and can connect a variety of sensors simultaneously including protocols such as OPC, Modbus and HART.

Companies whose product objectives include reducing costs or waste, more reliable equipment management; improved physical asset control or greater situational awareness should investigate the variety of capabilities wireless sensor systems can provide. In addition to the potential savings in energy, there are likely many additional cash benefits to be found.

The technologies for green engineering are not only cost effective, if done right, they are cash positive. When it comes to the design and development of products that are energy efficient and eco-friendly, as well as cost effective, wireless sensor networks make “better faster cheaper” energy saving products. Electronic designs using Zigbee products are making home sensors and energy saving devices a reality. It is less expensive when you get smarter, simpler products with better resource utilization while conserving precious resources.

Engineering…great profession…

Engineering … it is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege.

– Herbert Hoover, Civil Engineer, 1929. 31st President

Biofuel Bilking, Old Adages & New Technologies

It was only a matter of time.  In many ways, the charlatans have been coming out of the woodwork for a while already, selling snake oil to the Alternative Energy movement and industry.   What makes this one so surprising is that it wasn’t a false claim about the products’ ability — no water-burning car, this.  Far more typical, in ways, a former state ethics committee chairman, Jack Boykin (of Alabama) was selling the vapors — an investment in fuel that never was.  What?  A politician perpetrating a lie, a sham, a scam?  Say it isn’t so!

Yet none other than Vinod Khosla, the Silicon valley mogul who has been involved with and supportive of alternative energy vehicles) was one of the victims.  How much was he played for?  How about more than $12 MILLION dollars.  That’s two million dollars more than the judgement against Cello.  You don’t have to have invented the abacus to wonder where the other $2 million is going to.

Testimony given during the hearings stated that Boykin talked  Khosla into investing without “due dilligence.”  One would think someone with $10 million to invest would know better.  Let’s just say that Khosla’s sincere interest in moving alternative energy forward got the best of him and leave it at that.

Should this give us all cause to be concerned?  To be sure, there will be other cons perpetrated, and products and technologies that don’t pass muster.  We’ve heard about a guy who wants to build a mag-lev train system in an evacuated tube (think Artificial Space) and run it east to west across Florida.  My hand never even twitched in the direction of my wallet on that one.

As we move into a new age, we’re doing to need open minds and new ways of thinking.  But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Let’ s just hold on to some good old fashioned common sense, too.  That and the old adage “The proof is in the pudding” should serve us well as we make our way in this new Going Green century.

America Bringing Up the Rear — Alternative Energy Thoughts for the 4th of July

As the U.S. Congress hashes out Green Energy legislation at the prompting of the Obama administration, Americans may feel a certain sense of pride and accomplishment.  Don’t be too quick to pat yourselves on the back.  It happens that the U.S. is behind the curve on this one, has been for years.  The sort of legislation that might come out of this session of Congress might equal the sort of rules, incentives and investments that China has had in place for over two years now.  If we’re really lucky, it might even begin to look something like what smaller European countries have been doing for years, now.  There’s no question, though, that the U.S. is bringing up the rear when it comes to alternative energy.

You may balk at this notion, citing that China is just now becoming a larger buyer of wind turbines than the U.S.  But China has been doubling their wind power capacity each of the past four years, and is already heavily invested in solar farms and burning waste to generate electricity.   Moreover, they’ve got six huge projects under way in their deserts — each with a greater capacity than 16 coal-powered plants.  Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Energy is blocking the building of more coal-burning energy plants.  Coal may still be their primary fuel for electricity, but that still puts them heads and shoulders above us.

Perhaps more telling is this:  Across the U.S., the “not in my back yard” complaint arises any time a wind farm is suggested.  “It just won’t look the same,” life-long residents complain, if they hear of a wind farm being  proposed for a ridgeline.    We here in the States still haven’t quite figured out what the European Union (EU), which is also dependant upon other nations for their oil and gas, has long understood.  Last winter’s gas outage while Russia squabbled with the Ukraine was not the first time they have been without heating fuel during Europe’s harsh winters. This quote sums it up well:

“‘The Europeans see offshore wind turbines as sentinels,’ Mandelstam told me, ‘protecting them from energy domination by foreign powers. When you put that against a few winter days of seeing turbines on the beach as you walk your dog, I think that’s a very easy trade-off.’”

Another adage suggests that if we can’t change something then we should change the way we look at it.

Perhaps it’s time we got serious about alternative energy and started adopting that perspective, seeing wind turbines as sentinels guarding our independence, instead of seeking out more oil and gas so we won’t have to look at those “ugly” wind turbines.

GOP: Drill, baby, drill. DEM: Burn, baby, Burn. What’s the difference?

Colorado’s Senator, Michael Bennet, was appointed to fill the vacancy made when Ken Salizar was appointed to be Secretary of the Interior. Mr. Salizar is also receiving less than glowing grades from us.  (See other recent posts.) Bennet, who was formerly a Denver Public School superintendent, graduated from the Yale  School of Law.  Senator Bennet’s recent statements indicate that he’s very much in favor of using natural gas as the new oil alternative. Allow me to retort:

The new motto is clearly “Burn, baby, burn!” These “representatives” aren’t looking for non-combustion solutions. They’re not leading us towards energy technologies that are renewable or free. They’re moving us from oil to natural gas, and not terribly quickly either. They claim that natural gas is less expensive… but for how long? When vehicles start increasing the demand, of course, then THAT commodity’s prices will rise. (Propane and CNG already go up with winter heating fuel’s demands.) In the final analysis, we’ll be no better off than we were before, except that we’ll be slaves to a gas supplier instead.

Natural gas may burn clean(er). Perhaps there’s more gas left than oil (though it may not have started that way 100 years ago.) But we’re still talking apples and oranges. Cars use a lot more natural gas than gasoline to get a mile down the road, so we don’t really know what the practical comparison may end up being.

What we DO know is that solar, wind and tide generation of electricty does not pollute, is entirely inexhaustible, and can cost a fraction of what pulling gas out of the ground costs, in the long run.  So why aren’t our elected representatives rallying behind these ecologically sound energy sources? In a word, MONEY. Gas comes out of the ground cheaply once found, and is sold for huge profits. Meanwhile, alternative energy technologies require larger up-front investments, and provide slower returns on that investment.  Perhaps even more importantly, alternative energy resources hold potential for the everyman to be producing his own energy, sans tax or profit. Government officials and energy sellers are both against that idea.

First we had the Republicans crying out “Drill, baby, drill,” as their mantra.  Now we’ve traded them in for pseudo-ecologist Democrats who suggest “Burn, baby, burn!” is a good thing.  Both are twin sons of different mothers, and neither has any intention of leading us to true energy independence.  Meanwhile, concerns like “Energy Tomorrow” and the Pickens Plan keep on telling us about the virtues of (burning) natural gas in our combustion engines, and doing a lot of flag-waving about the economy.   Long-term investments in alternative energy can yield us energy for a fraction of what we’re paying now, and provide us with greater prosperity, but that wouldn’t please the power brokers, now would it?

The reign of oil mogul George W. Bush, is over; Now is the time of the Democrats.  The King is dead — Long live the King! Trading “Drill, baby, drill” for “Burn, baby, burn!” doesn’t seem like much of an improvement.  The supposed advantage is that we’re not sending money overseas, but other countries supply us with natural gas too. From this writer’s perspective, the difference that makes no difference is no difference.  Is this is the change we voted for?

Wrong Tool, Dull Tool, or No Tool?

The Obama administration, which promised to be the most outspoken defender of wildlife and wild spaces since Teddy Roosevelt, seems to be falling far short of the mark at the hands of Secretary Salizar.  Though they started off strong by rescinding the last-minute oil leases the Bush administration had rubber-stamped, the track record since then hasn’t been terribly favorable.  In fact, it could be said to be unconcerned.

The latest in this trend is Salizar’s statement that the Endangered Species Act’s protections are the wrong tools to be using against global warming.  He said this in response to concerns about the polar bears.  The problem, Mr. Salizar, is that the bears themselves need something done NOW, not when you get around to curing global warming.    In fact, they’re one of the reasons we care about global warming.  So get a tool, any tool, and get at doing SOMEthing.  I’ll take the ESA as one. Or are you too dull a tool yourself?

If that seems overly harsh, realize that Mr. Salizar’s administration has also actively thwarted the efforts of several falconers to propagate species of eagles nad falcons.  These well-intended raptor enthusiasts want to spend their own money to import and breed the birds in captivity, ensuring their genetic survival.  But the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s CITES office prefers to respond by harassing them, burying them in paperwork for well  over 6 months, when that same CITES paperwork is routinely completed by other countries in a matter of minutes.   That’s just one of the many flaws and holes emerging in the Salizar story.

They say “The buck stops here.”  In Mr. Salizar’s case, we’re left to wonder if he knows what the buck is, or even where it starts… and this writer begins to worry that perhaps we didn’t get the change we voted for after all.

Green Festivals A Hit!

Across America this summer, you’ll be seeing Green Festivals.  Seattle’s was March 28th and 29th.  We just had one in Denver on May 2nd and 3rd, and another is scheduled in Chicago for May 16th and 17th.  DC has theirs October 10th and 11th, San Francisco’s is November 13-15.  It’s an exciting concept that is taking hold!

What exactly is a Green Festival?  A convention of sorts, where people can share ideas and products that make the world a greener place to be.  Everything from bicycles (and e-bikes) to energy-efficient gizmos and kitchen gadgets, to the latest in solar, hydro and wind generators, insulation, etc. — it’s all there, and it’s all about going Green(er)!

Is some of this just about selling you stuff?  You betcha, it is!  And some of it may seem pretty overpriced.  Then again, riding a bike instead of driving, using a manual can-opener instead of an electric one, things like this actually SAVE you money — a LOT of money, if you think about it!

By the way, you don’t need to wait and drive to attend one of those Green Festivals.  This is grass-roots.  There’s nothing wrong with having your own Green Festival right there in your home town.  Talk about recycling (which starts at home, by reusing the containers, for example.)  Talk about more energy-efficient vehicles, electronics, construction techniques.  Talk about generating your own electricity passively, with non-combustion means.  Talk about bringing your own reuseable bags rather than taking them home from the grocery store so they can become a mess in the land fills, lakes, streams and oceans of the world.  Think local and global, but act locally.  These are changes you can make, and you can make a very real difference!

We’re very pleased to see Green Festivals.  They show us that the message is taking hold, that people really are taking Going Green seriously, that changes are in the works and we’re learning, walking the talk!   Let’s keep on rolling towards a Green country and planet!

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UK’s First Carbon Budget

UK’s first ‘Carbon Budget’ – Investment in renewables, energy efficiency & green jobs

UK Chancellor Alistair Darling unveiled a series of ‘green’ initiatives in the UK’s first ever ‘carbon budget’ this week, with around £1 billion pounds set aside to encourage alternative and efficient energy use and deliver ‘green jobs’. The budget promised carbon emission cuts of 34 per cent by 2020. Darling called the move a “landmark step”. The increased target is well ahead of the 20 per cent promised at EU level and sets UK targets well above those in the US. Greenpeace dismissed the energy saving initiatives, expected to save around 380,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, as “woeful”. “The emissions saved per year represent about two weeks’ emissions from Radcliffe-on-Soar coal-powered station” said the environment group’s spokesperson. Lord Turner, chairman of the Climate Change Committee and one of the central figures behind the budget, commented “The carbon budgets provide the UK with the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world. We need to start reducing our emissions now, and we need tough policies and strong leadership from government.”

Offshore Wind Development – Offshore wind is one of the big winners from latest budget, Darling adding that Britain needed cleaner energy investment, talking of a new “North Sea energy hub”, built around offshore wind and including gas storage and carbon capture. “The credit squeeze is holding back major offshore wind projects. I want to lift the barriers — through £525 million pounds of new financial support over the next two years for offshore wind, funded through the renewables obligation. The potential is enormous,” he said. “I am confident that this will lead to major projects getting the go-ahead quickly, providing enough electricity to meet the needs of up to 3 million households.” This is still someway short however, of the £2 billion pounds asked for by the wind industry but should be enough to benefit a number proposed projects that are under threat including the London Array, the world’s largest. Paul Golby, chief executive of Eon UK, which holds a 30 per cent stake in the London Array, said he was “certain” the move “would help transform wind power in the UK”.

Green Buildings – An additional £435 million pounds of extra support will be provided “to deliver energy efficiency measures — for homes, businesses and public buildings” such as weatherproofing. The government also announced that from a £500 million pounds package designed to kick-start the building industry it would spend £100 million pounds helping local authorities to build low-carbon homes.

Car Scrappage & Green Cars – In an attempt to boost sales within the struggling automotive industry and encourage people to switch to greener, more efficient vehicles, Darling confirmed that the government will launch a scrappage scheme worth £2,000 per car. The scheme covers the 10 million cars in the UK currently older than 10 years. The scheme kicks in next month and is likely to run until next March or until the money runs out, whichever is soonest. The Chancellor also announced a major reform to vehicle excise duty next year “to encourage manufacturers to produce cleaner cars” new bands will be introduced offering an “incentive to encourage drivers to choose the least polluting car”.

Green-collar Jobs – The Governments green jobs strategy was key to this carbon budget. Darling claimed government spending on environmental initiatives in the fight against climate change would create large numbers of “green-collar jobs”. He claimed that there “could be over a million jobs in our environmental industries within the next two decades” providing “huge opportunities” for business. “These budgets give industry the certainty needed to develop and use low-carbon technology – cutting emissions, creating new businesses and jobs.” Funding for skills development and training also increased, with £260 million pounds focused on “sectors with strong future demand” which should benefit those in green industry sectors.

Other Energy Investment – The Chancellor confirmed plans for a further two CCS demonstration plants maintaining an option to build a further two in the future, how these projects will be funded was not confirmed. Darling also announced that highly efficient CHP plants are to be exempted from the climate change levy from 2013 which he predicts will bring forward £2.5 billion pounds of investment from the private sector.

Submitted by Sam Newell at Renewable Energy Jobs

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