As of today electric vehicles have some hurdles to climb before they are widely adopted; primarily high prices and short driving range. Both of these issues are related to the expensive batteries. But if claims by Envia Systems hold true electric vehicles could cost the same as traditional cars, and you’d be saving money from day one from the difference in fuel cost.
Graduate students often work on various research projects at their colleges and university, but how often do they spearhead renewable energy development for the facilities? Michelle Rodio, a graduate student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University from Hammonton has helped the school develop a new biodiesel system on campus. The system recycles waste oil from the university’s kitchens into biodiesel that will be used to fuel tractors and other landscaping equipment at the university.
Your first thought about electric cars and the power grid might be that the vehicles are going gobble up more energy from grid and might cause blackouts. But the truth may be quite the opposite. Last week Nissan, makers of the fully electric Leaf, announced plans to partner with ABB to test the feasibility of creating an energy storage network from used batteries. Rather than dismantling and disposing or recycling the battery’s individual components after the vehicle’s life Nissan or another company could buy the old battery and use its remaining charge capacity to storage energy for use on the grid.
This week the NJ Pinelands Commission adopted a set of amendment to its development rules to allow solar power facilities in more locations. Previously Pinelands regulations permitted solar as a “primary use” in growth and development planning areas, though only as an “accessory use” in preservation, forest, or agricultural areas. In short this meant that you could build a large scale solar farm on vacant land in growth and development designated areas. However in preservation, forest, or agriculture areas you could only install solar as an accessory to the current use of the property, namely to provide power to a home or business located there.
Speaking in the most general terms this country's political parties have each taken up one side in the climate debate; with Democrats typically in favor of policies to reduce emissions and incentivize renewable forms of energy to mitigate climate change, while Republicans typically arguing that these policies just add more taxes and hurt the economy. Underlying this is the basic assumption that Democrats believe climate change is really happening, is a real threat, and the science behind it is undisputable. Conversely the perception is that Republicans think man made climate change is all a bunch of hogwash and either can't be proved or is completely debatable at this point that there is no reason to act.
Blogging about another blog may seem a little excessive, but I found one blog to be a perfect example of what I consider to be the cult of global warming. The website grist.com is a great source for news on the energy and environment, and I find them to be somewhat reasonable in posting information that may contradict their agendas (which are very transparent). Being an environmental website they do not hesitate to make it known that manmade global warming is real and certain.
Creating a new clean and green energy grid doesn’t just require wind mills and solar panels, it also requires smart gird technology. Smart gird is a buzzword thrown around a lot lately, but it really boils down to using real time data to manage the supply and demand of electricity as efficiently as possible. One of the key aspects of smart grid is getting electric customers, both business and homeowners, to become more aware of how much energy they use and when.
The internet, computers, cell phones, and other wireless devices have become such an important part of our daily lives it’s hard to imagine how we can live without them. Out there, backing up data, powering the internet, and pretty much keeping our digital lives up and running are massive data centers. These data centers are not only energy hogs for all of the electricity they use keep the endless numbers of servers, storage devices, and other equipment powered up; they also require intensive climate control.
With the supposed doomsday causes by Hurricane Irene now past, here are some thoughts on what happened from a green perspective:
This week the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report on the amount of recoverable natural gas in the Marcellus Shale (an area that runs from West Virginia north through New York). The report estimated that the shale deposit has approximately 84 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas. In 2002 the USGS reported that amount to be only 2 trillion. That’s a pretty large increase since the last report was issued, and is likely great news for the natural gas industry, as well as the United States’ energy future.
Governor Chris Christie is nothing if not controversial. To me, that is a good thing. Helicopter scandals aside, the controversy surrounding Christie isn’t based on moral lapses in his personal life, as is becoming very common among politicians these days. The Governor drums up controversy because he says what he thinks, does what he says he is going to do, and doesn’t care if you or anyone else likes it. Whether you agree of disagree with his stances, you have to admit it’s pretty refreshing to see a politician that does something beside talk, and who actually acts on what he says he is going to, even if there are a lot people who won’t like it.
During a land-use planning class I was taking last year a discussion started one day about the usefulness of the video game Sim City when it comes to learning practical urban planning. For those unfamiliar with the game, the idea is the player has complete control over how a city is laid out. You decide where roads and superhighways go, what parts of the city should be zoned for residential, commercial, or industrial, where there should be high density and low density development, etc. The game then plays out as a simulation, with your town growing into a thriving metropolis or miserable cesspool. All sorts of factors can contribute to the failure or success of your city; everything from providing enough hospitals and parks, to making sure there is electric and sewer service, to not having a school right next to an industrial plant. The game really does work well as a tool to make you think of everything a city needs, and also doing so on a budget.
When it comes to cleaning up the automobile, it appears that electric vehicles are the path that will be taken here in the United States. Nissan and Chevy have both already entered the EV market with their 100% electric Leaf and gasoline backed up Volt respectively, and Toyota and Ford prepared to release EV models of the Prius and Focus soon, with just about every other major auto maker having some sort of electric model in the works.
Earlier this week after a heavy afternoon shower I came home from work to see my neighbor’s sprinkler system on. Since they have a built in system it is set to a timer, and comes on daily around 5 pm. Aside from seeing their sprinklers wasting water an hour after it rained, there were many other things wrong with this picture.
The conventional wisdom is that the oil and solar industries go together like, well, oil and water. Think again. In Oman a solar firm called Glasspoint Energy is set to install a solar system to help create more oil. It works like this; oil fields in Oman have a large amount of “heavy” oil, which requires more effort to get it out of the ground, usually from steam generated by natural gas. Glasspoint’s system will use a solar greenhouse design to create steam that gets injected into the oil fields as part of the extraction process.
A recent study by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) indicates that the EU will triple its wind energy output by 2020. In 2010 the EU wind industry generated approximately 182 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity or 5.3% of the energy demand, in 2010 it is expected to increase to 581 TWh and 15.7%. Currently there are roughly 70,000 turbines in operation throughout the EU, it is expected that an additional 60,000 will be operational by 2020, with more advanced turbine technology allowing greater efficiencies and power output. Annual investment in the industry is expected to rise from € 12.7 billion to € 18 billion by 2020.
One of the most prominent issues in the environmental and energy debate going on today is that of shale gas drilling, involving hydraulic fracturing processes, commonly given the somewhat derogatory name of “fracking” or “hydrofracking” in the media. This is a topic in New Jersey that we may hear more about than other places in the country, as our neighbors in Pennsylvania, and the large media market in Philadelphia have taken notice to what is going on in their backyard of rural PA, an area which is known as the Marcellus Shale.
Fishing and recreational water sports are big business in South Jersey, so locals will probably be quite alarmed to find out how bad things are getting just south of here in the Chesapeake Bay. Officials in Maryland and Virginia are reporting the largest “dead zone” on record in the bay stretching over 83 miles. When measured in June, the dead zone reached from the Baltimore Harbor to the Potomac River, and has since spread into areas along the Virginia coast. The dead zones are areas of the bay that are oxygen deprived, making them uninhabitable for most aquatic life.
One of the great debates when it comes to renewable energy is that these projects all require some sort of incentive for developers to actually build them. Yes it’s true that the economics work far better for solar, wind, and the various other technologies when some sort of incentive is attached to it. However, be it renewables, coal, natural gas, petroleum, or nuclear, all of these energy types are receiving some sort of incentive from the government to offset the large capital cost involved with construction.
When it comes to “green living” people tend to point to organic foods as the way to go. I’ve never really been a big supporter of organic foods. For one thing, the name always made me laugh; as if plants and animals from modern industrialized farming were made of something besides organic materials? It’s a connotation that non-organic foods were just that, NOT organic, and synthetic. Obviously that’s pretty absurd. But aside from that, I always thought of organic foods as an alternative, not necessarily always better one than typical food, but with various tradeoffs. To me, if you wanted to be conscious of the environment and act sustainably, it was more important to buy local than buy organic. So I came across this great article from Scientific America (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2011/07/18/mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/) that really lays out the facts behind organic foods, and can help someone compare the tradeoffs associated with organic foods.
Rather than tackling one topic today, I want to share a few interesting bits of news that show how everyday things can turn into power plants.
Yesterday I presented data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that through the first quarter of 2011 both production and consumption of energy from renewable sources had surpassed that of nuclear energy in the United States. Also noted was that compared to the same period in 2010, renewable energy production had increased by 15% in 2011.
With all the talk out there about renewable energy sources you’d think we are well on our way to a clean energy future where dirty coal plants are a thing of the past and all vehicles are powered by biofuels or cleanly produced electricity. Unfortunately, despite all of this hype, renewable energy sources still make up a small portion of our total energy use. However data recently released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that renewable energy now provides more power in this country than nuclear energy. So while we are not quite at the point where there is a solar panel on every home, we are making progress.
It seems everyone wants a clean and green energy grid these days, and the reasons are all good ones; be it cutting emissions or reducing demand for expensive and scarce foreign resources. Unfortunately there is a problem with this dream of powering our world solely on wind and solar electricity; we use power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing, it’s called intermittency, and today I am going to provide a quick tutorial on it.
Here in America we are all about the car; its personal freedom, it’s a rite of passage for young adults, and it’s just how we get around in this country. But on the flip side it insurance payments (high ones for us here in New Jersey), maintenance costs, and ever rising fuel prices. Not to mention the exhaust emissions, which are thought to account for about half of the greenhouse gases emitted in the Garden State. I like to drive, I can get to where I want to be on my own schedule, and down here in South Jersey I can do so without the hassle of traffic congestion (for the most part). Though I can sympathize with and understand city residents and the desire for an easy way to get around without cars; while I loved living in Philadelphia during college, dealing with traffic up there drove me crazy.
Welcome to Green World, the Press of Atlantic City’s new Energy & Environment blog. To get started I want to let everyone know a little bit about me, what you can expect to find in future blog entries, and provide some background information and links that I find to be very useful.