By Paul Dvorak
SolidarityEconomy.net via Windengineering.com
Dec 30, 2014 - IHI and Toshiba have developed a unique floating underwater marine-current turbine to generate electricity. Their research is to demonstrate the feasibility of generating ocean energy and creating a framework for the industry, and improve energy security for Japan.
The floating underwater marine-current turbine uses two counter-rotating blades. A pair would be fixed to the seabed and sail like a kite supported and driven by the ocean current.
The floating underwater marine-current turbine uses two counter-rotating blades. It is fixed to the seabed and sails like a kite supported and driven by the ocean current. IHI is the leading company in the joint research project and will manufacture the turbine and the floating structure. Toshiba will provide electrical equipment such as generators and transformers.
Ocean currents, such as the Kuroshio Current, are natural energy resource. If Japan succeeds in converting the enormous energy of ocean currents, it will provide the island nation a large-scale, stable energy source. IHI and Toshiba have been working with the University of Tokyo and Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute since 2011.
Electricity generation from ocean energy of currents, temperature differences, tides, waves, and so on has been explored in Europe and the United States.
NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) promotes R&D projects in the field of marine-energy technology with the aim to develop world-leading technologies and contribute to the reduction of CO2 since 2011 in Japan. This project will continue into 2017.
The Taoshouse in New Mexico, US, is expected to run entirely on electricity generated by its solar power system A home built in New Mexico, US, is expected to run entirely from the electricity generated from energy harvested by its nine 230 W solar panels. The Taoshouse also has a number of design features to help keep power usage to a minimum.
By Stu Robarts
SolidarityEconomy.net via Gizmag
Like the Active House prototype in Missouri, US, the Taoshouse is designed to look and feel like a normal home and not some futuristic box. Located in a senior co-housing community in the town of Taos, the Taoshouse has a clean interior aesthetic with plaster walls and floor-to-ceiling bamboo casement work. Both projects show the potential for net-zero energy housing.
Project designer Needbased says that part of the brief for the Taoshouse design was to ensure that it would achieve Passive House Certification and meet the highest level of the National Association of House Builders (NAHB) green building standard. According to Needbased, the house has achieved both of these goals and, as such, is one of only a handful of North American buildings to be certified by the Passive House Institute in Germany.
The Taoshouse has an internal area of 1,632 sq ft (152 sq m) and covers a total area of 2,870 sq ft (267 sq m). It can pull electricity from the grid if needs be, or feed any surplus back into the grid. To date, the home has had an energy usage of 1.87 kWh / sq ft (20.13 kWh / sq m).
"Over the past ten months since the project was completed, the house has used 3,100 kWh and generated 2,800 kWh," Jonah Stanford of Needbased tells Gizmag. "The first year of energy use is expected to be higher than the norm due to the latent energy of the moisture of all the building materials used. I expect the overall energy use to come down slightly after the building has fully dried out."
The house is kept cool using passive shading and night-sky cooling. In order to minimize heat loss, it is highly insulated in the walls, under slab and roof and employs high performance Zola windows.
An energy recovery ventilator is used to condition incoming air with air that is being exhausted from the building. This means incoming air can be warmed and dehumidified, for example. An underfloor hydronic radiant system, meanwhile, is used to heat the building.
The Taoshouse was completed earlier this year.
By Laurie Guevara-Stone
SolidarityEconomy.net via Rock Mountain Institute
Nov 5, 2014 - A small German town in southern Bavaria is participating in an interesting experiment proving that a high-renewables future is viable. Wildpoldsried (pop. 2,600) currently produces 500 percent more energy than it needs through renewable energy systems, and sells the surplus power back to the grid.
Though this is celebrated as a huge success in many circles, it’s not without its challenges, including how to integrate such a large local surplus of renewable energy into the greater grid while maintaining network stability. Which is why regional utility AÜW and Siemens chose Wildpoldsried to test out a smart grid that automatically stabilizes the power network.
The story began in 1997, when Wildpoldsried mayor Arno Zengerle and the city council decided they wanted to revitalize the community and encourage growth without incurring debt. The town adopted the Innovative Leadership Plan, WIR-2020, to reinvent Wildpoldsried based on renewable energy, green building, and water resource protection. As part of the plan the town set a goal of producing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020.
Things happened much faster than planned—17 years later, the town now has five biogas plants, almost 5 MW of solar PV, 11 wind turbines with a total capacity of more than 12 MW, a biomass district heating network, three small hydro power plants, and 2,100 square meters of solar thermal systems. While the first two wind turbines were partly financed by a small grant from the state of Bavaria, local residents—many of them dairy farmers—have financed all following turbines. Those turbines, which generated over 17,000 MWh of electricity in 2013, have a payback of 10 years, and then generate 80 percent of the earnings of the dairy farms.
All public buildings, 120 private residences, and 4 companies are connected to the district heating system. The biomass for the system is all sourced from waste wood from local forests and generates 8.2 MMBtu of heat each year. The majority of the PV systems in the town are on private residences—about 200 homes now have rooftop solar. Nine municipal buildings including the primary school, recycling facility, and sports center also have PV systems. The electricity generated from the solar, wind, and biomass is sold to AÜW under a fixed-price 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA).
IRENE to the rescue
While all this excess renewable energy is bringing in over $7 million a year in revenue, it was also causing a headache for AÜW, which has to maintain grid stability. So in 2010 AÜW chose Wildpoldsried as the site for a smart grid experiment. Meanwhile, Siemens was looking for a grid operator to test its new smart grid technologies. The two teamed up and launched a $6 million project called IRENE—Integration of Regenerative Energy and Electric Mobility.
The first step in IRENE was to install 200 measuring devices at renewable energy systems throughout the town. The devices measure different electrical variables such as current, voltage, and frequency, to determine who’s feeding energy into the grid, who’s consuming energy from the grid, and to find any problems affecting the network’s stability. Once any problems are identified, a variable transformer offsets voltage fluctuations. The town has also incorporated 138 kWh of battery storage into the system, which receives and discharges electricity to help stabilize the grid.
Keeping the grid stable with SOEASY
The key to the smart grid is a self-organizing automation system called SOEASY, which balances supply and demand to keep the grid stable. It is IRENE’s brain, so to speak. SOEASY considers weather, electricity prices, power quality, and other factors when deciding whether to send electricity into the grid or to storage. It’s actually more complex than the name makes it sound. SOEASY contains five different software modules—the personal energy agent, balance master, area administrator, network transport agent, and energy police.
Personal energy agent—Every “prosumer” in the town has a personal energy agent. This small device allows the energy producer to dictate how much power he or she wants to sell, at what time, and at what minimum price, in 15-minute intervals. It is, in some sense, a distributed energy resource marketplace on the scale of one town embedded in a far larger grid.
Balance master—The balance master is installed at AÜW and decides which personal energy agent offers it will accept to cover demand in the grid. It can plan adjustments up to a day in advance, and takes into account different parameters such as weather changes.
Area administrator—The area administrator helps AÜW maintain network stability if too much energy is being fed into the grid. The area administrator can modify the input from different sources via commands to their personal energy agents, can send energy to storage, or can adjust the voltage through the variable transformer.
Network transport agent—The network transport agent (NTA) collects data from the energy producers, consumers, and the grid, and supplies it to the area administrator, which intervenes if maximum voltage is exceeded, and to the balance master, which decides what power can be accepted without overloading the grid.
Energy Police—The energy police makes sure that all energy producers supply the power promised by their personal energy agents, and that no power is illegally siphoned off.
Integrating EVs into the smart grid
One way to help balance the grid is to use electric vehicles to store excess energy. Wildpoldsried now has 32 electric vehicles that are leased to residents. When there’s an energy surplus, the vehicle’s batteries are given charging priority. The plan for the future is to have the vehicles return electricity to the grid in case of power shortages.
IRENE ended in 2013, and the developed smart grid now serves as the foundation for IREN2 (Future Viable Networks for Integration of Renewable Energy Systems). The goal of IREN2 is to study how energy systems with distributed power generation, battery storage, district heating, biogas plants, and diesel generators can be technically and economically optimized.
The renewable energy systems in Wildpoldsried have done more than help Germany move towards its renewable energy goals. The renewable energy systems have created 140 new jobs, led to construction of an ecological training center, and increased tourism, with over 100 delegations visiting the town each year. The increased revenue has allowed the town to have its own doctors, recreation center, fire station, and other amenities not available in many other towns of a similar size. And the success of the smart grid will enable places to develop even larger smart grids for all of Germany and the world.
By Loz Blain
SolidarityEconomy.net via Gizmag
Nov 26, 2014 - WaveNET - a floating, flexible, modular and massively scalable wave power generation idea under testing in Scotland
Scotland's Albatern is putting a new, modular spin on renewable energy generation. WaveNET is a scalable array of floating "Squid" generator units that harvest wave energy as their buoyant arms rise and fall with the motion of the waves. Each Squid can link up to as many as three others, effectively creating a large, floating grid that's flexible in every direction. The bigger this grid gets, the more efficient it becomes at harvesting energy, and the more different wave movements it can extract energy from. Albatern's 10-year target is to have 1.25 kilometer-long floating energy farms pumping out as much as 100 megawatts by 2024.
How it works
Each Squid unit in the WaveNET array consists of a central ballast pole, surrounded by three buoyant floats that connect to the central post with linking arms. The linking arms connect to the central post with a fully articulating pump unit at each end, thus any movement of the arms as the floats move in the water causes those pumps to create hydraulic energy.(more…)
St Louis Post-Dispatch Op-Ed
Nov 24, 2014 - In the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the single most important question St. Louis faces is: “What now?”
How will we respond to this conflict that has gripped our city for the past three months? How will we change the longstanding racial and economic inequalities that fueled it? What will we do differently, going forward?
A satisfactory answer to these questions must begin by acknowledging that injustice in St. Louis is not just about Darren Wilson and Michael Brown. It is not just about the choices and the decisions that individual St. Louisans make. It’s also about the structures — the laws, the social, political, and economic institutions, the urban and suburban spaces — that inform and shape those choices.
Real change must be structural change. Specifically, St. Louis needs to tackle structural injustice head-on with institutional reforms that acknowledge our social and economic interdependence. Many in our community are already working to create more jobs, to reform our municipal court system, and to reconsider our approaches to policing, among other initiatives. All of this work is important. Yet we believe now is the time to be even bolder.
Throughout the region, concerned citizens are asking how St. Louis might be transformed with sufficient money, expertise and commitment. This year, the gross metropolitan product of the St. Louis region is $147.1 billion. We propose investing 1 percent of our region’s wealth to achieve three game-changing goals.
First, we must create what some call a “solidarity economy.” New investments in St. Louis will transform its economic landscape only if properly directed to those who have been consistently left at the bottom. We should invest in small, black-owned businesses, worker cooperatives that offer child care and other community services, mutual aid societies, barter clubs, and other groups developing alternative currencies. We should ensure that all members of our community have a guaranteed income that enables them to meet their basic needs.(more…)
President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China at a joint news conference Wednesday in Beijing, China. (Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images)
By Tom Hayden
SolidarityEconomy.net via TomHayden.com
Nov. 12, 2014 - Top presidential aide, John Podesta, slipped off to Beijing last month to secretly negotiate the US-China climate agreement announced this week. One might say, borrowing from Naomi Klein, that "this changes everything." Podesta simply notes, "It's a big deal."
The climate strategy based on diplomacy with China has been pursued by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, California Governor Jerry Brown and environmental groups including NRDC, which has a staff of thirty there. The new announcement opens the path for a growing Green Bloc of regions building clean energy economies while waiting and wondering about the commitments of the greatest power emitters. Between them, China and the US are responsible for 40 percent of carbon emissions.
Regional grass-roots strategies have been the catalysts. In China, the angry residents of cities like Beijing are challenging the state over deadly smog. In the US, environmentalists and social justice activists have built constituencies in many states, led by California. Three Chinese provinces already are working on collaborative clean energy programs with California.
The US-China agreement overnight supercharges the quest for a global agreement by 2015 in Paris. It will raise expectations for the drafting meeting scheduled to begin in Lima December 1. It breathes new life into California's effort to find partners. California is being urged by environmentalists to at least double its pace on the road to a 100 percent renewable energy economy by mid-century.(more…)
SolidarityEconomy.net via TakePart.com
Sept 30, 2014 - If the International Energy Agency is right, you just might want to invest in solar company stocks: According to the IEA, the sun could be the world’s No. 1 source of energy by 2050.
The agency predicts in two new reports that solar will meet nearly a third of the world’s electricity demand, with photovoltaic panels like those found on residential rooftops generating 16 percent of the planet’s power. Solar thermal power plants, which use the sun’s heat to create steam that drives a turbine, will supply another 11 percent.
Replacing fossil fuels with all that solar energy would avoid the release of 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide by mid-century. That’s nearly equivalent to the carbon emissions of all planes, trains, and automobiles worldwide, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington, D.C.–based trade group.
“This report reiterates what we already know: Clean, renewable solar energy is poised to meet our electricity needs,” SEIA spokesperson Ken Johnson said in an email.
What’s driving the solar boom?
China, largely. The country is expected to account for 37 percent of the world’s solar capacity by 2050. The rapid expansion of the Chinese photovoltaic panel industry has helped make solar electricity increasingly affordable and competitive with fossil fuels. Solar panel prices, for instance, have fallen 80 percent in recent years, and by 2050, the IEA predicts the retail cost of solar electricity will drop by 65 percent.(more…)
Customers bag their own groceries at a WinCo foods location (Credit: Joe Jaszewski/AP)
By Mary Josephs
SolidarityEconomy.net via Forbes
In Corvallis, Oregon, a couple miles north of the Oregon State University campus, sits a WinCo Foods discount supermarket and, unless you’re in need of groceries, you might drive by without noticing it. I assure you, however, it’s an extraordinary building, a laboratory of capitalism worthy of pilgrimages by the world’s great business schools.
Inside the store labor 130 employees of WinCo – grocery clerks, shelf stockers, display builders, bakery workers – and their combined retirement savings roughly comes to an astounding $100 million. And that figure is growing rapidly, such that in a few years the average wealth of these employees could easily exceed $1 million. Quite a few individual workers already have account balances above that level.
Outside of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the WinCo store represents an unusually concentrated – and unlikely — grouping of millionaires. The secret to their wealth is employee ownership. Since 1985, WinCo, which operates 98 stores across eight states from its headquarters in Boise , Idaho, has been employee owned, with an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP, as the vehicle for its workers’ main retirement savings. (WinCo also has a 401k and about 70% of workers participate.)
The company is by all indications well managed, grows steadily and provides its clientele of families on a budget a combination of low prices, wide selection and efficient and friendly service. Sales for fiscal 2015 are expected at about $6 billion. Same store sales growth and expansion into new markets have propelled WinCo’s profits and thus its ESOP stock past competitors and, indeed, past most growth stocks. The shares have risen at a compounded annual rate of about 20% since 1986. Purchased for $10 million from its former owners in 1985, company workers today hold shares valued at close to $3 billion.(more…)
CRH380 (China Railway High-speed) Harmony bullet trains are seen at a high-speed train maintenance base in Wuhan, Hubei province, early Dec 25, 2012. (Photo / Agencies)
Nov. 4, 2014 - MEXICO CITY - A Chinese-led consortium has won the bid to build Mexico's first high-speed train project, local media reported Monday.
Mexico's Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) announced at a press conference that the group, which includes the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) and a handful of Mexican construction firms had been granted the contract.
The 50.8-billion-pesos (about US$3.7 billion) project involves building a bullet train line to connect the national capital of Mexico City with the growing industrial hub of Queretaro to the north by 2017. It is expected to shorten travel times from about 2 hours to less than one hour.
"Today the results of the bidding on the Mex-Qro High-Speed Train were released (and) the winner is China's CRCC company," SCT head Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said via Twitter.
The SCT's director of Rail Transport, Pablo Suarez Coello, told reporters that "China's Exim Bank will finance 85 percent of the project," the daily Excelsior said.
A second high-speed train is being considered to link Mexico City with Toluca, the capital of the industrial central State of Mexico.
By Mike G
SolidarityEconomy.net via desmogblog,com
When NASA researchers first saw data indicating a massive cloud of methane floating over the American Southwest, they found it so incredible that they dismissed it as an instrument error.
But as they continued analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography instrument from 2002 to 2012, the “atmospheric hot spot” kept appearing.
The team at NASA was finally able to take a closer look, and have now concluded that there is in fact a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane—roughly the size of Delaware—floating over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all intersect.
A report published by the NASA researchers in the journal Geophysical Research Letters concludes that “the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coalbed methane mining and processing.” Indeed, the hot spot happens to be above New Mexico's San Juan Basin, the most productive coalbed methane basin in North America.
Methane is 20-times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and has been the focus of an increasing amount of attention, especially in regards to methane leaks from fracking for oil and natural gas. Pockets of natural gas, which is 95-98% methane, are often found along with oil and simply burned off in a very visible process called “flaring.” But scientists are starting to realize that far more methane is being released by the fracking boom than previously thought.
Earlier this year, Cornell environmental engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea released the results of a study of 41,000 oil and gas wells that were drilled in Pennsylvania between 2000 and 2012, and found newer wells using fracking and horizontal drilling methods were far more likely to be responsible for fugitive emissions of methane.
According to the NASA researchers, the region of the American Southwest over which the 2,500-square-mile methane cloud is floating emitted 590,000 metric tons of methane every year between 2002 and 2012—almost 3.5 times the widely used estimates in the European Union’s Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research—and none of it was from fracking.
That should prompt a hard look at the entire fossil fuel sector, not just fracking, according to University of Michigan Professor Eric Kort, the lead researcher on the study:
“While fracking has become a focal point in conversations about methane emissions, it certainly appears from this and other studies that in the US, fossil fuel extraction activities across the board likely emit higher than inventory estimates.”
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