Archive for wind

Too Much Wind! (Where do I sign up?)

Too Much Wind?

Wind Turbine

It seems that utilities in Denmark have stumbled upon a problem.  On windy days, the wind turbines they use to generate 20% of the country’s power needs are intermittently producing TOO much energy, reducing power costs to $0.   Yup, that’s zero.  So power company Dong Energy (from Denmark) and Project Better Place (located in California) are teaming up with Renault and Nissan to build a fleet of electric cars with lithium ion batteries that can be recharged during periods when the power grid is carrying too much energy.  Then, this national fleet will get infrastructure, as Denmark plans to roll out a nationwide charging station initiative.  Nice!  To top things off, in looking for ways to “spend” the extra power, Denmark has also gotten cozier with some of its neighbors, selling inexpensive power to those such as Norway whose own energy needs are greater at certain times.  Now that’s international relations as it should be. 

What I want to know is: if Nissan and Renault are already going to build this fleet of purely-electric cars for Denmark and a similar program in Israel, why don’t they release them state-side as well?  Since the death of the EV1 in America, the only electric car we’ve had is the new plug-in option on the Toyota Prius.  Here’s to hoping they make a few with steering wheels on the left side. 

MDI Air-Car

Speaking of steering wheels, have you heard about the new car from MDI that runs on air?  AIR.  It has a 80s VW meets PT Cruiser kind of body, but inside seems pretty nice, and features… a steering wheel in the center of the car, so it can be driven anywhere in the world.  Why did it take someone so long to think of this?  Really.  Right now the car is only being tested in India, but with a promise of $3 fillups (that’s for the TANK, not a gallon) and 180 miles between each one, a lightweight fiberglass frame, and considering you get the car and a home air compressor for less than $20,000, I’m pretty certain it won’t be long before people want one worldwide.

 

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Quickie: Renewable Energy Installation Database

For all you Earth Day surfers out there, here’s a good site to check out, courtesy of the Stella Group in Washington DC:

Geographic Database of Renewable Energy Installations

It’s a nicely compiled state by state listing of proposed and operational energy installations.  If you’re looking for a little “been there” inspiration or want to know what sorts of alternative energy are well-suited for your area, start here!

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BOOK REVIEW: Power of the People

I just finished reading Power of the People: America’s New Energy Choices (2007), a nice short read about the history of, current usage of, and the future possibilities for energy consumption in the United States. At 188 pocket-sized pages, the book doesn’t take more than an afternoon to thumb through. This is thanks to the concise way in which Carol Sue Tombari explains things. She writes as though you’re sitting down together to share a nice salad lunch, not stuffy, not too complicated. But in the mix, she throws in a surprising amount of information about the current energy landscape. You see, Ms. Tombari knows what she’s talking about, after years working for both private and governmental authorities on the topic of energy. So when she talks about the ways in which power utilities fell victim to disincentives for innovation when they “reregulated” in the 1990s, you can bet she saw it happen from the front lines.

Power of the People

The book is divided into two main sections of two chapters each. First, you find out why all this is important anyway. What IS the energy crisis? Then on to Energy 101, a brief discussion of the current power generating technologies and what is already possible in terms of augmenting power load both at the personal and utility level. I learned a lot about how the utilities work (and why this model is outdated). The next main section focuses on the future. What will we have to do to survive the looming power shortage? In the first chapter, she outlines the different players in the energy system, and then discusses how each is challenged by setbacks, and suggests how that challenge will have to be overcome. The last chapter outlines the future and its many possibilities.

I really liked the format of the sections, in which each technology is presented in “the good”, “the bad”, and “the balance” sections. This allows you to get a clear overview of the limitations and promises without delving too deep into science. If you are looking to implement alternative energy solutions in your life but don’t know which one fits for you, I’d recommend this book heartily. If you already have a clear idea of what’s going on, you’ll still find a nicely written essay with interesting photocopy-friendly facts to quote.

The best audience for this book, however, are those who are looking for a way to change energy consumption on a societal level. Buried within the outlines of various technologies is an underlying cry – “Innovate!”, challenging readers to help find the solutions alternative energy implementation barriers. Only a few logistic issues separate most alternative technologies from gaining wide-spread acceptance. What is the power of the future? Could you be the mind to crack the riddle?

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DIY Wind Turbine for your home

Here are full instructions for building your turbine

DIY Wind Rotor

This guy builds a nice wind rotor for home power generation. He claims to get 1000 Watts Average in 20MPH Wind. Either way, the design is attractive, scalable, and doesn’t look like it will scare the neighbors too much. Check it out!

NOTE: since this was posted, the listed page has been removed.  Here are two more links to low-cost vertically constructed turbines:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-your-own-Savonius-VAWT-Vertical-Axis-Wind-T/

http://www.instructables.com/id/Faroun-Savonius-Wind-Turbine/

and a smaller scale project to whet your appetite:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Pringles-Wind-Turbine-Pleech—Version-One/

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EcoBridge: Chicago Tames the Windy Waters

EcoBridge Design Profile

EcoBridge Chicago

Another fine design example from Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill (see their “energy-positive” design here). This circle in the lake serves two purposes: to create an area of calm water, known as breakwater, that can be enjoyed by tourists and enthusiasts, adding aesthetic value to the city. Additionally, the ring supports wind turbines that generate power for the city using the particular weather there to the city’s advantage. All the while providing a place to stroll out for a great lake-front view. This is a nice application of a city coming together to think on an integrated level about space usage. With proper focus, making a change in even one area of the green spectrum can be amazingly far-reaching.

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RESULT: My First Solar Cooker

My First Solar Cooker

Me and the Box Here it is, my first solar oven. One successful project down, and many, many to go! This solar cooker required almost no investment, took about five minutes to make, and looks pretty much like the result shown in my previous post about windshield shade solar cookers.

For the stand, I used the blue bin pictured above, which conveniently enough was on the trash in an alley this morning. I also managed to scrounge up an old wire grill surface from a naught-used corner of my house, and it just so happened that it fit into the blue container perfectly. Must be a sign. This is important, given the windshield shade’s flexibility, because it provides a solid cook surface on which the pots and pans can rest.

In fact, the windshield shade is SO flexible, I decided I will have to glue some cardboard to its rear sides to provide enough stiffness to withstand wind before attempting to actually cook a meal. Los Angeles has plenty of wind, and it wasn’t more than a minute before a naughty little gust had crumpled up my cooker beyond all hope of reflection. Which just makes me want to further investigate wind power, but, one thing at a time… In deference to the wind, I also decided to place a chunk of 4×4 wood in the blue bin, under the oven, in order to add weight and provide optimal support for the reflective surface under cooking vessels. So there it is! Now that everything is ready to go, and I’m dreaming of sun-baked breads, success is smelling sweet already!

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Solar. Wind. Solar-wind?

Bluenergy Solar-Wind-Turbine

Bluenergy Solar-Wind-Turbine

BSWT is a vertical wind turbine based on sailing engineering. The wind rotor is rotated by two spiral-formed vanes. For best performance, these vanes are covered in solar cells, so that sun and wind produce electricity as one element. The BSWT installation costs relatively little, produces no noise or significant shadowing, can be easily maintained from ground level, and is an attractive addition to any home.

from the Bluenergy AG website.

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