Green Air Conditioning?

Every summer, we spend countless millions of kilowatts keeping things cool indoors.  This alone constitutes a good chunk of global warming, but we’d swelter, even die, without it.  So far, the most efficient way to cool things down has been the swamp cooler, but that’s only of use in relatively arid locations; Evaporative cooling does no good at all near any large body of water.

In the past, discussions about alternative cooling systems always involved huge sums of money. With all the more recent focus on solar and other renewable energy sources, though, scientists have been focusing their attentions on the problem.  We reported some months back about a MIT professor who had devised a solar-driven hydrogen power plant, for example.  Now Europe is talking about revisiting a cooling technology, modifying the concept to be fueled by the sun.  Could Europe have the solution to a Green air conditioner?

Like everything, it comes down to dollars (or Euros) and sense.  If the technology is better in some ways but costs twice as much to operate, it’s not going to catch on.  If it costs too much initially, again, it’s going to be left behind.  Let’s take a look at this new Euro concept from Thermodyna.

Based in Hamburg, Germany, Thermodyna has a lofty goal: build a household power plant which will make electricity, heat and and cool the air, and do so whenever you need it to. If they succeed, no air conditioner would be necessary at all. At the heart of the notion is what some have dubbed the “Schukey” motor, a solar-powered cool air machine. The operating cost? 5 cents per kilowatt hour, which is more than half, nearly two-thirds lower than conventional AC units.

According to Thermodyna’s Volker Bergholter, the unit employs just two motors, is driven by the sun, (which heats the water into steam, and from there into the energy that powers the cooling system) and turns damp, warm air into a comfortably climatized 68 degrees F. Sound like a pipe dream? Thermodyna has announced availability as early as 2010. This is all the more important, as experts predict that Europe’s demand for AC will increase at least 10 percent by 2020, a direct result of global warming. The Thermodyna unit would reduce CO2 emissions, and decrease the mid-day demand for electricity. Just when the sun’s rays are hottest, these units would be providing relief from the heat.

It’s not cheap. Right now, the cost is about 1500 Euros ($2490) per kilowatt. But the manufacturer is hoping to slash that by two-thirds within the next decade, and then they’d be even up with conventional technology. Idealists to the end, Bergholter says “In the short term we could bring about a revolution” with the Schukey motor. We tend to agree. What do you think?

Pittsburgh Announces World’s First Solar-Powered Trolley

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!

Iran Completes First Solar Energy Plant

Some may doubt Iran’s intentions with nuclear power, but it’s hard to argue with these results on their solar intent. The Shiraz solar power plant was recently completed, and produces a modest 250 kilowatts of electricity. The completion is four years behind schedule, but breaks new ground in its design.

Rather than photo cells, their first solar energy plant is solar-thermal. Parabolic mirrors create a trough that cradles a tube that runs its entire length. The mirrors gather and focus the sunlight onto the tube. Within that tube, a liquid transfers the heat of the sun to a generator that produces steam and electricity.

The plant was constructed of domestic materials and labor there in Shiraz, within the Fars province. This solar-thermal electric plant is the first to generate electricity, but Iran already has some 4000 smaller solar-thermal installations throughout the country, providing solar-heated water for residents and public baths.

One 40-home village in Iran gets its power from photovoltaic cells, but in the overall Iran is focusing on solar-thermal technology. Part of their wisdom is likely in that they can produce the entire array domestically with thermal-solar, rather than purchasing photovoltaic equipment from other nations. Their independence is inspiring, and may go a long way towards explaining their insistence upon developing their own nuclear power as well.

For a nation to develop and produce their own domestic system in this fashion is commendable. We salute Iran for their efforts in going Green!

Top Five Solar Power Advantages

We’ve pretty well established that Going Green News is all for environmentally safe, sustainable and renewable resources. In other writings, we’ve defined that as (primarily) solar, wind and water generated. Hydrogen technologies are not yet commercially viable, so we don’t include them at this time. In this article we’ll be looking at the advantages that Solar power offers over other Green technologies.

  1. Low/no maintenance. Once a solar farm is set up, the panels go on collecting energy for a long time with minimal care.
  2. Low space requirements means that they can be mounted most anywhere, including rooftops (which are often wasted space.)
  3. Solar isn’t just photo-electric. It can also be used to heat homes, heat water for cleaning and bathing, etc.
  4. Small solar chargers can deliver portable energy to gadgets and light-duty devices, freeing us from plug-ins.
  5. As we become more energy conscientious, more devices will be engineered to operate on minimal energy (and solar cells will become more effective at harnessing the sun,) making solar devices as common as the solar calculators we’ve been using for decades.

These five points go far to demonstrate how solar power is feasible and useful now. People have been using solar energy as their primary source for a long time, and the advancements in solar technology just keep on coming. When we consider the nearly incalculable power of the sun’s rays, it’s clear that solar technologies must be a major part of our Green energy solutions.

Solar Power-Advantages and Disadvantages

Top Five Solar Power Disadvantages

Going Green News is decidedly in favor of renewable, sustainable energy sources, no matter what their origin. The basic groups are Solar, Wind, and Hydro generated. Biodiesel, ethanol and other combustion engine fuels don’t qualify, as they still have significant carbon footprings, and are often destructive in their production. But what about the big three? Are they as good as they seem? Let’s take a look at some of the DIS-advantages of solar power. Here’s a list:

  1. Relatively low output, which equates to a much longer return on the financial investment.
  2. Needs to be stored in batteries. The power simply isn’t strong enough to be stored any other way.*
  3. Relatively expensive to produce, and its components still have a carbon footprint.
  4. Whether lead, lithium ion, or some other technology, batteries aren’t exactly kind on the environment either.
  5. While they can produce in overcast conditions, most agree that solar panels require strong sun to be efficient.

Improved battery technologies may alleviate some of the concern, but it remains that solar farms are going to have to be located in very sunny places. They will sprawl. Then the energy will have to be transported via wire (loss of power) to the places it is needed.

One mitigating concept we’ve been employing thusfar is to produce and use the solar-generated power locally. Solar can charge up smaller batteries easily enough, which works great for small patio lamps, gadget recharging, etc.  Depending on locale, the sun’s rays can also be used to suppliment hot water for washing within the home.  Just don’t expect to power your car off of a rooftop solar panel any time soon.

* A M.I.T. professor has developed a hydrogen generator that can theoretically run on a solar panel, but this is not an available technology.

Solar Power-Advantages and Disadvantages

Meraki’s Solar Brings WiFI to the Great Outdoors

Meraki Solar recently announced that they’ve taken the first ever solar-powered WiFi mesh device to market. Public places will now be able to use the Meraki system to provide a WiFi hotspot in places where it would have been difficult, costly, and expensive to do before. With their system, the need for cables is all but gone, so WiFi can be provided easily most anywhere!

Meraki SolarThe unit comes with both a solar panel and a Lithium battery, so it is able to store the sun’s energy even even if it’s not in use at the time! The unit is entirely self-contained, compact and convenient. Just put it on a wall, a post, a fence — anywhere you find some sun!

Sanjit Biswas, the CEO of Meraki, said that Meraki Solar allows customers to “deploy wireless in hard-to-wire areas quickly and without disrupting their businesses.”

Prices for the solar-powered repeater range from $848 to $1,497. No, that’s not cheap, but it eliminates the substantial expense of running electricity to a remote location, (sometimes the most expensive part of the entire installation,) making it less expensive than a hardwired installation. The company also provides a web-based Dashboard, so you’re able to monitor the battery’s charging status.

Suffering from sticker-shock?  Meraki is also offering a solar-powered repeater which will extend the range of your home or office Wi-Fi by as much as 700 meters — for a total of less than $150!

Solar powered WiFi systems aren’t a brand new thing, but Meraki’s all-in-one commercial solution is the first of its kind, and promises to be considerably more practical than previous piecemeal combinations have been, and it’s all Going Green!

Look forward to finding a WiFi signal in more remote locations in the near future!
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NJ Going Green Again!

New Jersey is starting to seem like the most Green state in the nation. The Governor has ordered a billion dollars worth of wind turbines installed some 20 miles offshore, to power between 250,000 and half a million homes. New Jersey is obviously a believer in alternative energy sources. Their funding and incentives are considerable. Local communities have already solarized 17 of the 21 schools in the Toms River Regions School District. Now their Brick School District is asking that their 525 kilowatt system be added to the list.

This time it isn’t a matter of if they will put in a solar system, but whether they’re going to contract with another company to provide the equipment, or if they’re going to buy it themselves. If the contract, an outside vendor will supply the solar panels and related equipment, mount that equipment on school property, maintain it, and charge the school for the electricity. Of course, the company is there to make a profit, but how much more will it cost to contract for the power?

The difference is considerable. The school’s net savings is projected at $520,000 if they contract to purchase solar power. But if they finance the $4.75 million to buy the equipment themselves, the state will contribute another $1.25 million, and they stand to gain about $1.2 million in the same timeframe. What’s more, those figures are conservative. Revenues from selling solar power back to the grid could be considerably higher.

Either way they go, that’s not too shabby for having a few panels on the roof. Either way, everyone stands to gain from switching to alternative power. We’re pleased and proud to see the Garden State leading the way in alternative energies by Going Green! Read more

City of Los Angeles Leads By Solar Example

The first week of November, 2008, has been one which will long be remembered.  First the historical win by Barak Obama, and then, at the end of that same week, the city of Los Angeles City Council announced its decision to install solar energy systems on rooftops  all over the city.

Although the city council does not need to put the solar program to a vote, they  will be doing so, putting forth the Green Energy & Green Jobs For Los Angeles proposal on the ballot for a March, 2009 vote.  This February, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had already announced the Solar Jobs Initiative, which would fund increasing solar capacity on city-owned and commercial rooftops, creating 350-400 jobs, at a cost of about 270 million dollars.

If the Green Energy & Green Jobs for Los Angeles proposal passes, the resulting solar systems would produce some 400 megawatts from the sun’s rays, which is the consumption of about 108,000 customers.

Why are they putting it to a vote if they don’t need to do so?  They want to ensure that the program continues beyond their terms in office.  A vote by the citizens would mandate the program, ensuring its longevity.  “It’s been expressed that this would represent buy-in from the public in investing in solar,” said the city’s Chief Legislative Analyst, Gerry Miller.  But this proposal is a lot bigger than the one that the city council just approved.  If passed, the project would cost somewhere between 1.5 and 3 billion dollars.  Revenue Bonds, private capital and Federal and State grants would provide the funding to put sunny Southern California in the Green. Read more

Solar Energy Storage Batteries

One of the big concerns about Solar energy is how to store it.  That’s a valid concern.  So far, batteries are large, heavy, environmentally messy, and need replacing every 4 years or so.  Well, that’s actually the best case scenario, the GOOD version.  Fact is, the batteries are often much more problematic than that, require a lot of maintenance and repair/exchange during those four years as well.  What, then, are the answers?  Well, if you’re on-grid, you can sell it back to the power company.  What if you’re off-grid?

A couple concepts come to mind.  One is a capacitor.  We’d have to figure out a way to do a controlled discharge of the electricity, but large capacitors are nowhere near as heavy, nor do they damage the environment the way that lead batteries do.  The other is to store the heat from the sun, not just electricity.  There is a french company making a VERY well insulated hot water heater, for example.  Their 6′x6′ panel, combined with that water heater, keeps water steaming hot all night long!  The savings would be enormous… and no electric bills in the meantime!  And it’s not only feasible in warm-weather places.  Cold weather places still get the sun’s rays as well.  Just takes a bit of effort and ingenuity to use the sun’s rays to our benefit all the time!

Solar Power International 08 Event

The Solar Power International 08 convention and expo will be held in San Diego, California in October. There will be thousands in industry people from around the world attending the Solar Power International event, the largest solar energy industry event held in the USA this year. The event is organized by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). This is the fifth year for the event. Solar Power International will take place October 13 – 16, 2008, at the San Diego Convention Center. This year the conference and expo coincides with Solar Energy Week in San Diego, organized by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE), drawing curious citizens from across the region to learn about solar power. With a total attendance expected to approach 20,000 people, Solar Power International ‘08 is the largest solar energy event in history. For more information on attending or participating, visit the Solar Power International website.

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