Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Never pay an Electricity Bill again? Sounds pretty good to me.

Posted in Models, Movements, Sustainable Cities, Visions by emma.gerard on August 21st, 2013

Source: Climate progress

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photo from: Habitat for Humanity of washington DC

From the article Why Habitat For Humanity’s Newest Homeowner Might Never Pay An Electricity Bill by JOANNA M. FOSTER

Lakiya’s new home is the first super energy-efficient passive house in D.C. It also just happens to be a Habitat for Humanity home.

The house doesn’t look like a futuristic spaceship, but it is different from the other small pre-fab houses along the street. It is a two home duplex with a big wooden porch in front and, of course, solar panels on the roof.

Lakiya’s house started out two years ago as an entry in the Department of Energy’s biannual Solar Decathlon. Dubbed “Empowerhouse” for the competition, it was an ambitious concept brought to life by engineering and architecture students from Stevens Institute of TechnologyParsons The New School for Design and Milano School for International Affairs, management and Urban Policy, many of whom had never even wielded a hammer before attempting this elaborate construction project. The team’s dream was to build a solar-powered house that could not only compete with the most cutting-edge technologies out there, but was actually affordable and something ordinary people would want to live in.

According to Josh Layrea, one of the Stevens engineers, the winning entry from a German team two years before cost over two million dollars. “It was an impressive piece of engineering,” Laryea concedes. “But made for exhibit, not habitation. The entire outside of the house was covered in solar panels.” Laryea and his teammates had a different goal. In a way, they were in a competition of their own, in which they were competing against themselves to see if they could create something that Habitat for Humanity could use not only as a home for a low-income family in the Deanwood area of D.C. but also as an affordable housing prototype for Habitat going forward. The Stevens-Parson-Milano house won the top prize for cost-effectiveness at the Solar Decathlon.

Lakiya’s house was built based on passive house design principles. The basic concept of passive house is to lower energy consumption by being super-insulated and practically airtight. Empowerhouse has 12-inch thick walls and triple-glazed windows and, as a result, uses up to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than an ordinary house. Such low energy consumption enabled Empowerhouse to have one of the smallest solar panel arrays in the competition, which helps keep construction and maintenance costs down.

As anyone who worked on Empowerhouse hoped, Lakiya’s home is not the end of the dream. Habitat is gearing up to build six more passive houses in Ivy City, a short drive from Deanwood. They’ll look a bit different from Empowerhouse, more townhouses than duplex, but they’ll cost about the same and hopefully pass on the same savings.

“As much as we can afford, we would like to have the highest standard of energy efficiency available for our homeowners,” said Susanne Slater, President and CEO of D.C. Habitat for Humanity. “Our whole mission is to provide affordable housing to low income families, and if homeowners pay less in energy costs, that helps us reach that goal.”

“I really believe that with the mounting cost of electricity, passive houses with solar panels are going to take off,” said Slater. “And our homeowners are going to be out in front of the movement.”

>>> You can read the original article on Climate Progress


Obama’s plan for climate action: Infographic

Posted in Models, Movements, PostCarbon by Jessica Bird on June 26th, 2013

Source: tcktcktck via Post Carbon Institute
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Infographic: tcktcktck

From ‘Infrographic: What’s in Obama’s Climate Plan?‘ by Heather Libby:

In a major speech today, U.S. President Barack Obama has made the fight against climate change a priority for his second term. Saying he “refuses to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing,” Obama outlined the first comprehensive U.S. Climate Action Plan. […] While the details of much of the Plan have yet to be decided and his continued support for natural gas and carbon capture and sequestration will likely be met with criticism, Obama’s all-encompassing plan to tackle climate change is being seen as a positive signal for bold action from the United States.

>>> You can access the infographic and full article on the tcktcktck website.


Energy co-ops retrofit to lower bills and emissions

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on May 2nd, 2013

Source: The Guardian

CARBON CO-OP
Photo from the Carbon Co-op

From the article “Energy co-ops are cutting household bills alongside carbon emissions” by Simon Birch

For customers, trust is key when it comes to getting advice on improving energy efficiency – and co-operatives have the edge.

Ruth Rosselson is an environmental pioneer. The freelance writer and community trainer is one of the first homeowners to sign up with the Manchester-based Carbon Co-op for a programme of energy-efficiency improvements that will transform her cold and draughty house into a warm and toasty low-energy home. “The main motivation for making my house more energy-efficient is that currently it’s so cold and damp,” says Rosselson, 42, speaking from her Manchester semi that she shares with her partner, Justin. “We also care deeply about the global environment and so we wanted to improve the carbon efficiency of the house.”

Carbon Co-op, which launched in 2011, is one of a new generation of co-ops that are now aiming to address the critical issue of climate change by making houses more energy-efficient, which in turn will slash carbon emissions and in the long-run save homeowners money. “The UK has a legally binding target for cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 1990 baseline,” says Carbon Co-op’s Jonathan Atkinson. “At the same time, escalating fuel bills are leading to more and more people experiencing fuel poverty. Consequently we’re aiming high and offering packages of retrofit improvements to householders that will cut both energy bills and carbon emissions.” […]

“We take the whole house approach to retrofitting and recommend a package of complementary measures such as wall and loft insulation that will improve the energy performance of a house,” says Atkinson. “And because we have a strong ethical strand to our work, we aim to source materials from local businesses such as highly energy-efficient windows from the Green Building Store in West Yorkshire.”

So what’s the key benefit of operating as a co-op in this sector? “The big issue in the retrofitting industry is that of trust,” replies Atkinson. “The big energy companies dominate the energy-efficiency market because they are forced to by Ofgem, the energy regulator. However, very few people trust the big energy companies any more because of the recent mis-selling scandals.” He says people are increasingly suspicious of energy companies trying to sell them big-scale changes, thinking that all the companies want is for their bills to increase. “As a co-op, we’re community orientated and householder-owned with no external shareholders,” says Atkinson. […]

The Birmingham-based Energy Saving Co-op, which like Carbon Co-op launched in 2011, has similar ambitions to be a national player in the energy-efficiency retrofit market. “We’ve already retrofitted 50 homes with a target of completing 600 homes by the end of the year, two thousand homes in 2014 and a plan to eventually operate nationally,” says the chief executive and co-founder Ewan Jones, who aims to fund this expansion programme through its current share offer.

Financing the retrofit ambitions of both Carbon Co-op and the Energy Saving Co-op is a major challenge though both co-ops and the wider co-op movement are set to benefit from the green deal, the government’s flagship programme to make millions of homes more energy-efficient, which was launched this year. Essentially a type of personal loan where you pay for the work over time through your energy bill, the green deal is set to kickstart the energy-efficiency market – and co-ops and social enterprises are lining up to take a slice of the action. The Energy Saving Co-op, for example, is now working with a number of co-ops which will act as green deal energy assessors including Energywise, a new Birmingham co-op and the Jericho Foundation, a social enterprise which will install the energy saving kit. […]

>>> Read the full article on The Guardian website.
>>> Find out more about Carbon Co-op and  the Energy Saving Co-op on their websites


The power of Algae – innovative building facade

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on April 18th, 2013

Source: DesignBuild Source

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Image from Arup

From the Arup media release “World first bio-reactive façade debuts in Hamburg

The BIQ [Bio Intelligence Quotient] house will become the world’s first pilot project to showcase a bioreactive façade […] With 200m² of integrated photo-bioreactors, this passive-energy house generates biomass and heat as renewable energy resources. At the same time, the system integrates additional functionality such as dynamic shading, thermal insulation and noise abatement, highlighting the full potential of this technology.

The microalgae used in the façades are cultivated in flat panel glass bioreactors measuring 2.5m x 0.7m. In total, 129 bioreactors have been installed on the south west and south east faces of the four-storey residential building. The heart of the system is the fully automated energy management centre where solar thermal heat and algae are harvested in a closed loop to be stored and used to generate hot water. […]

“Using bio-chemical processes in the façade of a building to create shade and energy is a really innovative concept. It might well become a sustainable solution for energy production in urban areas, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario.” — Jan Wurm, Arup’s Europe Research Leader

The system will be officially presented to the media on 25 April 2013 when the biofaçade system goes into operation for the first time.

>>> You can read the original media release on the Arup Website.
>>> You can see more images of the building and read more about it on DesignBuildSource.com.au


Financing energy efficiency: Learning from Thailand

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on April 4th, 2013

Source: Greenpages

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Photo by Asian Development Bank via flickr cc

From ‘Lessons from Thailand: Mobilizing Investment in Energy Efficiency‘ by Louise Brown and Athena Ballesteros.

[…] The development of Thailand’s energy efficiency sector is an interesting case study. It demonstrates how strong government leadership combined with strategic support from international climate finance can drive the transition toward an energy-efficient economy. In the early 1990s, Thailand’s economy was growing rapidly at 10 percent per year; the power sector was growing even faster. The government recognized that conserving energy would provide a low-cost way to meet its citizens’ rising demand for energy.

It responded by passing a law in 1992 that set energy efficiency standards for industry and established an Energy Conservation Promotion Fund, which raised funds for energy efficiency projects by taxing petroleum products. The government also introduced a demand-side management plan, using about $40 million in climate finance from the Global Environment Facility (an international climate fund) and the Australian and Japanese governments. This plan included public awareness campaigns, setting energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, and demand-side planning to better manage the timing of consumer energy use.

The state energy generation utility successfully implemented the demand-side management plan, with impressive results: The utility achieved 15,700 gigawatt hours of energy savings by 2012, exceeding its own energy-savings targets. Key to the plan’s success was the fact that it was designed in close coordination with the private sector, carefully tailored to the Thai context, and widely disseminated through public awareness campaigns, resulting in strong support from industry and the public. Furthermore, the utility underwent considerable staff expansion and training to build its capacity to effectively implement the plan.

Financing Low-Carbon Projects in Thailand: While the demand-side management plan yielded positive results, an important barrier remained: Thailand’s local banks had a limited understanding of energy efficiency projects, making it challenging for potential developers to access financing for such projects. The Thai government took action by establishing an Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund in 2002, offering credit lines—initially at no interest—to local banks so that they could provide loans for energy efficiency projects. The Revolving Fund made commercial banks more familiar with energy efficiency projects, and by 2010, it had financed projects worth a total investment of $453 million, resulting in energy cost savings in the region of $154 million each year. The financial incentives to banks, combined with the enhanced awareness of energy efficiency, were key to the success of the Revolving Fund. Another critical factor was that the government had a reliable source of funding from the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund to invest in the Revolving Fund, so it did not need to rely on international support.

What Can We Learn from Thailand? Thailand has been able to transition smoothly from readiness activities—such as capacity-building, awareness-raising, and demonstration—to large-scale investments. It is now embarking on a 20-year energy efficiency development plan funded through the Energy Conservation Promotion Fund, which aims to reduce the country’s overall energy consumption by 20 percent by 2030. Other countries can learn from Thailand’s experience of combining strong national leadership with strategic use of climate finance for carefully targeted readiness activities. […]

>>> Read the full article, and learn more about the Thailand case study on the World Resources Institute’s website.
>>> You can follow the WRI’s six part blog series on Mobilizing Clean Energy Finance, which draws from their recent report Mobilizing Climate Investment.


(Em)Powering Communities: SolarKiosk

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on February 15th, 2013

 Source: TransitionsFF

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Photo from SolarKiosk.

From ‘SolarKiosk: mobile modular power for really remote areas” on Good.is

For those who’ve grown up constantly plugged into the power grid, it’s almost impossible to think of life without an endless supply of outlets, power cords, and technology. But for an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world, power—from cutting and burning firewood to lighting kerosene lamps, paraffin, and candles—doesn’t come easy. According to the United Nations Foundation, almost 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, about 1.5 billion have no access to electricity, and 1 billion more have access only to unreliable electricity networks. Smoke from polluting and inefficient cooking, lighting, and heating devices kills nearly two million people a year and causes a range of chronic illnesses and other health impacts.

In an effort to tackle health and development-related obstacles in developing countries, a company based in Germany and Ethiopia is bringing clean energy to “off-grid areas” around the world. Housed in a metal hut topped with a solar panel-filled roof, the designers have named their creation a “SolarKiosk,” a small-scale power source for communities without electricity. Each SolarKiosk is expected to provide enough power for villagers to charge their mobile phones and car batteries, run a computer, or power up a solar fridge. Goods sold from the Kiosk include solar lanterns, mobile phones, and cards to top-up cellular devices. Considering that the Kiosk’s fridge may be the community’s only one, it could be used to house everything from medication to chilled drinks. The kiosk could also provide television, music, and internet depending on the locale. The creators project that a larger-size SolarKiosk could even produce enough energy to run a telecom tower reliably, while also providing security and maintenance. It will even be possible to connect multiple kiosks to create a local grid.

The world’s first SolarKiosk set up shop on July 15 [2012] near Lake Langana in Ethiopia. Designed by Graft Architects, the project not only provides clean energy solutions to “off-grid” countries, but once installed, becomes a power-generating shop and business hub, providing jobs to community members and education on how solar products work. It also becomes a glowing, solar-powered light source at night. Each kiosk comes in a lightweight, DIY kit, making it is easy to transport and build a kiosk in off-road, rural areas—the package could even be carried to its target location on the back of a donkey. With the exception of pre-manufactured electrical components, the kiosk’s parts can be constructed from a range of local materials including bamboo, wood, adobe, stone, metal, or even recycled goods. Post-assembly, the entire structure is firmly anchored in the ground. […]

NB. The second SolarKiosk was installed in Teppi, Ethiopia, in November last year. – [JB]

>>> You can read the full article on Good.is.
>>> You can learn more about SolarKiosk on their website.


Cow Power: Reducing waste, boosting electricity supply

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on January 23rd, 2013

Article source: The Morning Sentinel.

Cow Manure CC BY Ian Barbour

Image by Ian Barbour via Creative Commons

From ”Cow power’ turns manure, food waste into mighty electricity source’ by Ben McCanna

“Every day in rural Penobscot County, a large dairy farm harnesses clean-burning gas from cow manure and food waste, and it generates enough electricity to power 800 homes continuously. The process, commonly known as cow power, has the potential to earn the facility $800,000 a year. It also creates byproducts — animal bedding and a less-odorous fertilizer — that save the farm about $100,000 a year. Cow power is more consistent than solar and wind energy, and it eliminates greenhouses gases that otherwise would enter the atmosphere. The $5.5 million project could pay for itself in five years.”

>>> You can learn more about cow power here or here.


Sweden’s trash power – keeping up with demand

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on November 27th, 2012


Photo by Vattenfall via Flickr CC.

From the article “Sweden imports waste from European neighbors to fuel waste-to-energy program” on Public Radio International.

When it comes to recycling, Sweden is incredibly successful. Just four percent of household waste in Sweden goes into landfills. The rest winds up either recycled or used as fuel in waste-to-energy power plants. Burning the garbage in the incinerators generates 20 percent of Sweden’s district heating, a system of distributing heat by pumping heated water into pipes through residential and commercial buildings. It also provides electricity for a quarter of a million homes. According to Swedish Waste Management, Sweden recovers the most energy from each ton of waste in the waste to energy plants, and energy recovery from waste incineration has increased dramatically just over the last few years. The problem is, Sweden’s waste recycling program is too successful.

Catarina Ostlund, Senior Advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency said the country is producing much less burnable waste than it needs. “We have more capacity than the production of waste in Sweden and that is usable for incineration,” Ostlund said. However, they’ve recently found a solution. Sweden has recently begun to import about eight hundred thousand tons of trash from the rest of Europe per year to use in its power plants. The majority of the imported waste comes from neighboring Norway because it’s more expensive to burn the trash there and cheaper for the Norwegians to simply export their waste to Sweden. In the arrangement, Norway pays Sweden to take the waste off their hands and Sweden also gets electricity and heat.  But dioxins in the ashes of the waste byproduct are a serious environmental pollutant. Ostlund explained that there are also heavy metals captured within the ash that need to be landfilled. Those ashes are then exported to Norway. This arrangement works particularly well for Sweden, since in Sweden the energy from the waste is needed for heat. According to Ostlund, when both heat and electricity are used, there’s much higher efficiency for power plants. “So that’s why we have the world’s best incineration plants concerning energy efficiency. But I would say maybe in the future, this waste will be valued even more so maybe you could sell your waste because there will be a shortage of resources within the world,” Ostlund said.

Ostlund said Sweden hopes that in the future Europe will build its own plants so it can manage to take care of its own waste. “I hope that we instead will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries. They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste,” Ostlund said. In fact, landfilling remains the principal way of disposal in those countries, but new waste-to-energy initiatives have been introduced in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania. It is also important, Ostlund notes, for Sweden to find ways to reduce its own waste in the future. “This is not a long-term solution really, because we need to be better to reuse and recycle, but in the short perspective I think it’s quite a good solution,” Ostlund concluded.

>> You can read the original article on Public Radio International.
>> You can also listen to the interview with Catarina Ostlund by Bruce Gellerman on Living on Earth.


Tidal Energy for Darwin: pilot plant and research centre

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on September 26th, 2012

Source: RenewEconomy


Photo by Oceanflow Energy via flickr CC

From “Plan to power Darwin with tidal energy gains momentum” by Sophie Vorrath

A plan to power Darwin with tidal energy – and to turn the Northern Territory into a tropical tidal energy hub – has come one step closer to being realised this week, after the signing of an MoU to build a 2MW pilot plant and research centre in Clarence Strait, off the Territory’s coast. Australian tidal energy company Tenax Energy said on Tuesday it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NT’s Power and Water Corporation to develop a 2MW Pilot Plant and Research and Tropical Tidal Testing Centre, the first steps on the path to a utility-scale generation facility that would deliver renewable power to Darwin.

Tenax says the project – to be located between Darwin and Melville Island – will be generating electricity by 2015, and could reach commercial scale before the end of the decade. The 2MW project will be followed by a 10MW pilot array test.  The Darwin-based company was first given a provisional licence to occupy 16.8sqkm in the Clarence Strait in 2010, having identified the area as one of three locations around Australia ideally suited to tidal energy; with high tidal velocity movement, sufficient water depth, and proximity to existing power grid infrastructure. (The other two locations are Banks Strait, Tasmania, and Port Phillip Heads, Victoria.) Tenax says power from the Clarence Strait has the potential to provide a “significant percentage” of Darwin’s electricity supply, and would go a long way to helping the Territory achieve a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.

The project’s staged development process is designed to allow the establishment of appropriate environmental and performance standards for tidal energy technologies in tropical waters, while also showing the Darwin community that tidal energy is a safe, convenient and reliable energy source.  “The idea with the testing station is to test out a number of different turbines and technologies in the Clarence Strait,” said Power and Water’s manager for sustainable energy, Trevor Horman, on ABC radio on Monday. “(The project) is reasonably close to an existing power line, so we’ll give it a trial over a couple of years and see how the technologies work out there… but we do hope this will prove a safe, reliable and inexhaustible energy source.” According to Tenax’s managing director, Alan Major, reliability is one of tidal energy’s strong points. ”The generating capability of tidal generators is predictable, with exceptional accuracy many years in advance,” he said back in 2010. “Twice a day, every day, the sea rises and falls … creating powerful and reliable water currents.” Major also says that one of the company’s main goals is to to position Darwin as the global centre of excellence in tropical tidal energy, “before the opportunity is captured by others.” “Tidal energy generation in tropical waters will demand new technical solutions that will be developed first in Darwin,” he said in the company’s statement on Monday. “This project is going to place Darwin at the forefront of a global industry, providing local employment and skills development and opening major export opportunities to Asia.”

Read the original article by Sophie Vorrath.


EV Charging Station Software

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 7th, 2012

Source: Autopia

From “Software Helps EV Station Owners Become Entrepreneurs” by Keith Barry:

While [EV] drivers already have a myriad of services they can use to search for public plugs and see what prices they’ve put on electricity, WattStation Connect makes it easy for owners of charging stations to set hours and rates using a computer or smartphone. It’s an easy way for EV owners to make some cash off their home charging setup, or for businesses to install public charging stations in their parking lots.

Apps like PlugShare and Recargo already let anyone with a free electrical outlet publicize their charging station, and software like WattStation Connect can turn it into a business. Like a convenience store owner who puts an ATM next to the coffee maker and collects the transaction fees, a charging station may soon become yet another source of revenue for anyone with a parking space and an electrical connection.

Using the WattStation Connect software, owners can decide whether the station is public or private, then choose when it’s open and how much a charge should cost. Owners can charge for electricity by the hour, by the kilowatt hour or require a flat rate upfront. It’s also possible to set up dynamic pricing by time, or allow separate users to pay different rates. For instance, a business owner could let his or her own employees charge for free but ask the general public to chip in for electricity.

[…]

Read the full article by Keith Barry.

It doesn’t look like this app has actually been released yet, but the WattStation site, linked above, says that updates and announcements of the release will be posted there. KA