Thursday, January 19, 2012
The availability and increasing uptake of residential solar power systems shows exactly how versatile and viable it is as a source of energy for our electricity needs.
Solar energy will form the centrepiece of world's clean, renewable and distributed electricity generation future. When you install solar panels, you'll not only slash your greenhouse gas emissions and your electricity bill, you'll be joining world's energy security revolution.
The technology and the panels are becoming smaller, more economical, efficient and better looking than ever.
Now there is a new worry: How can they protect customers from what one utility refers to as “mental fatigue?”
In this particular case, the utility raises the issue as it prepares to invite homeowners and small businesses to select from among new and possibly complicated rate options made available because of smart meters. The new rates should lead to greater energy efficiency. But that won’t happen if customers become overwhelmed by their complexity, throw the bill insert into the trash, and turn to the next thing demanding their attention.
Mental fatigue is a big problem not only when it comes to homeowners, but also businesses and organizations faced with technical decisions required to green their facilities. Start with the basics. Do you pursue energy efficiency or renewable energy or both? And then, do you choose to make actual physical changes, such as installing combined heat and power systems or solar panels, or do you buy from among the more virtual products such as energy efficiency certificates or renewable energy credits (RECs). And to make it even more difficult there are now a growing number of RECs to choose from: solar RECs, zero emissions RECs, low emissions RECs and more. (See my article on US RECs in the December issue of Platts Energy Economist.)
Analysts Patrick Costello and Roshni Rathi recently prepared a report for RealEnergyWriters.com that sorts through the many options presented to companies trying to go green. The detailed analysis attempts to give direction to organizations by using examples drawn, interestingly, from information technology and telecommunication companies. These industries are known for their progressive, game-changing strategies and many have led the way in reducing energy usage and emissions in their data centers, according to Costello.
The report, “Data Center Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, and Carbon Offset Investment Best Practices,” points out that seven of the top ten organizations inNewsweek’s Green Rankings were IT or telecom companies with IBM, HP and Sprint Nextel in the lead. IBM won further kudos this week from the European Union, which bestowed its code of conduct recognition on 27 IBM data centers for their energy efficiency. IBM met a 2007 goal to double the IT capacity of its data centers within three years without increasing its electricity usage.
But not all data centers are run by firms the size of IBM. Many are small and don’t have the kind of resources of a large IT firm, so don’t even know where to begin when installing or purchasing energy efficiency or renewable energy. REC purchases, in particular, can confound the uninitiated. Two markets exist for RECs, one voluntary and the other regulated by states, and each state has its own way of defining what constitutes a legitimate REC. “It is really important to be careful about what you purchase and where you purchase it. People often don’t have an understanding of what they are buying,” Costello said.
They don’t understand and sometimes they wish they didn’t have to. Mental fatigue may be a new occupational hazard for the energy-consuming public.
It’s with these resources in mind that some are questioning the nation’s energy plan, which will focus on an increase in hydropower from its current 35 percent of the energy mix to 50 percent. While the increase may be necessary to combat the supply volatility of imported natural gas, others argue that it is putting too much of an emphasis on hydropower, which itself can go through supply constraints during periods of drought.
More than anything, critics are wondering why the nation isn’t moving more aggressively toward the renewable sources it has had all along. One positive development this week for those backing renewable energy efforts in the nation was the announcement that the 115-MW wind development 400 miles north of Santiago was ready to begin construction.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
The outcome of the tremendous push that's now underway to change how the United States and other countries obtain and consume energy is anything but predetermined. There are no definite answers to questions about the role one source of energy or another will play 15 or 20 years from now, no clear sense about the type of fuel (if any) people will put in their cars, no consensus on how quickly any of this can happen or at what cost.
Nor is the change likely to be smooth and quiet. Instead, it will probably be disruptive, breaking down existing ways of thinking and acting. Not that disruption is bad: Joseph Schumpeter, the famous Austro-Hungarian economist, once spoke of "creative destruction," whereby new technologies and ideas replace old ones, which themselves are overthrown by newer, more progressive ones.
Already, 2009 has been a year of visions, of prophecies. President Barack Obama's inaugural address offered one such vision: doubling alternative energy production in the next three years, updating and expanding the nation's energy infrastructure, saving billions of dollars in energy costs through improved energy efficiency. Think tanks, businesses, industry groups, and environmentalists have laid out their own plans, some more aggressive and some less so.
The sheer number of these plans, not to mention the interest percolating up from nearly all corners of American life, suggests, as Energy Secretary Steven Chu puts it, that "the landscape is changing."
Ebb and flow. Clean energy is, of course, a narrative that has been slowly developing in the United States over the past four decades or so, at least since President Jimmy Carter's administration. In the past, its visibility and its urgency have ebbed and flowed with the price of oil. Today, however, it's not just the wild fluctuation in oil prices that is driving the discussion. There is the economic crisis. There is the burgeoning climate crisis, with its implicit call for global cooperation. And there are fresh concerns about national security in an age of emboldened oil cartels and nuclear ambitions.
Addressing each of these priorities raises its own set of questions. At the moment, there is no consensus on how aggressively the United States should reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the few next decades or, more broadly still, the proper role of fossil fuels and renewable energy.
Meanwhile, almost every potential contributor to a " green energy economy"—wind and solar power, biofuels, nuclear power, energy efficiency—faces hurdles well beyond the technology of each system. Regulatory policies or economic issues stand in the way of massive, quick deployment of any of these.
And so, today, a new mentality is emerging among almost all the major energy players, from wind developers in the Dakotas to coal-plant operators in North Carolina: Energy issues can no longer be treated as piecemeal policy items left up to states and hodgepodge federal legislation to decide but instead must be addressed nationally, in a sweeping manner.
Want the country running on flex-fuel vehicles? "It's just a few hundred dollars more per vehicles," says retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the 2004 presidential candidate and now cochairman of Growth Energy, a group representing several of the nation's largest ethanol producers. "What would encourage an automobile manufacturer to believe he should do it would be a government policy that says we are moving in that direction."
Want more wind power? "The critical thing we are talking about here is national policy and the signals it sends to people," says Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. "There is tremendous demand for wind power, but there is not enough transmission."
Friday, September 16, 2011
Take at look at Google, who gets about 200 million queries a day. Let's assume each query is displayed for about 10 seconds; that means Google is running for about 550,000 hours every day on some desktop. Assuming that users run Google in full screen mode, the shift to a black background [on a CRT monitor! mjo] will save a total of 15 (74-59) watts. That turns into a global savings of 8.3 Megawatt-hours per day, or about 3000 Megawatt-hours a year. Now take into account that about 25 percent of the monitors in the world are CRTs, and at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, that's $75,000, a goodly amount of energy and dollars for changing a few color codes.