October 2019 Newsletter
DIY Solar Light Up Ghosts
By: Florassippi Girl
These cute little ghosts will be the star attraction in your Halloween display this year! They look simply spook-tacular set out in the yard, welcoming the trick-or-treaters as they approach. They stand just over 3 feet tall (about 37 inches), and can be made in just a few hours! There's no need to worry about stringing extension cords across the lawn either. They light up as soon as the sun goes down, and stay on most of the night, without raising your electric bill! So grab your glue gun & a few supplies, and let's get started on these adorable little ghouls.
This is actually my second time making these little guys, and I have made a few improvements - worked the kinks out, you might say. One thing I changed was the shroud material. My first attempt was made with just an unhemmed white cloth fabric material (whatever was on sale), but it proved to fray terribly in the strong winds of fall. So this time, I am using white, full size, flat bed sheets instead. I chose them because they were fairly inexpensive and already had finished edges. If you find a good sale on fabric, and are handy with a sewing machine (I am not), feel free to make your own if you like. The next thing that I did, was add a few more fastener and tie down locations. Like I said the winds were not kind to my first models. I was having to basically reassemble them almost daily, but that should not be a problem anymore.
There. Now that we have that covered, let's get to it...
You will need the following materials:
2 - 5 foot Tomato Cages (actual size 54 inches)
1 - Wire Coat Hanger
2 Clear Notebook Paper Page Protectors (optional)
2 - Twin Size, White, Flat Bed Sheets
1 package - Outdoor Restore Pressure Sensitive Nylon Patches, black (see picture)
1 package - White Velcro Fasteners
4 - 2 inch Styrofoam Balls
8 - 7/16 inch Eyelets (optional)
6 to 14 Metal Stakes (depending on eyelet use)
2 - Solar Yard Spot Lights (the kind with the separate, tiltable, solar panel)
Grab these tools as well:
Hot Glue Gun / Glue
2 Safety Pins
7/16 inch Eyelet Tool (if using)
The first thing you'll want to do is shape your tomato cages. Flip them over so that the top ring is now the base. Using your pliers, fashion a hook into the end of each straight wire. Then, bend each wire over the top and loop the hooks around the first ring on the opposite sides. Tighten the hooks to secure them. They should now look like this...
Now, straighten out a wire coat hanger as best as you can (It doesn't have to be perfect.) and cut it in half. Then cut each half in half again. This will give you 4 lengths of wire, 2 for each ghost. For each cage, attach one wire to the now top ring on each side, by bending it around the ring at a point where the cage wire crosses. These will be your arms, so make sure you have it stout enough to stand out on it's own.
To each end of the arm wires, we're going to add the Styrofoam balls. (I had a terrible time with the wires poking through the fabric of my first ghosts, so this is another 'fix'.) Just poke the wire about half way through the ball, and add a small dob of hot glue so it stays in place. Attach a small piece of Velcro to the top of the ball . (Even though mine were self sticking, I chose to also glue them as an extra precaution.)
Your frames are now complete!
Time to work on the shrouds...
My sheets were pretty wrinkled when I pulled them out of the packaging, so I ran them through a quick wash before I started.
Gently place a sheet over each ghost form. Position it so that the long side runs front to back, and the short side is by the arms. Make sure you have it where you want it, and mark the position of the forehead on each ghost with a safety pin. Pull the sheets off and lay them out on a hard surface, positioned where you can easily access the face area.
I also made an adjustment to the frames at this point. I didn't like how the fabric in the face area would bend and curl around the wire, so I taped a clear page protector across the front of the wire to help fill things out. If it doesn't bother you, just skip this step.
One of the best things about this project is that since you create the faces, you control how scary or friendly they look. Keep in mind that you will need to work with solid shapes that are not extremely detailed. I suggest making a few sketches on paper & then deciding on the two faces that you like best. The outdoor restore comes in packages of 2 - 8 inch square pieces. You may have to get creative with your placement in order to fit all of your pieces onto it. I recommend drawing the faces out to scale on paper, and making cutouts that you can rearrange on the outdoor restore as needed. Once you have them laid out, trace around the shapes with chalk. Now, use a sharp pair of scissors to cut them out. Once cut, simply wipe off any remaining chalk with a damp paper towel. Reassemble the faces onto the sheets just below the safety pins. Apply them to the sheets according to the package directions. (They are pressure sensitive self sticking patches, so they will stick just by pressing them on. However, I noticed that after some time the edges may start to lift. You can either just glue them back down at that point, or you may want to go ahead and add a little glue now.)
Remove the pins and place the sheets back over the ghost forms and make any final adjustments to the positioning. Note the location of the Velcro on the balls and attach the corresponding pieces of Velcro to the sheets, in the proper positions, with hot glue. You may want to also add a few spots of Velcro along the edges under the arms to close those seams, but that is totally optional.
Take the sheets back off, and if you're using them, add an eyelet to each corner of the sheets, using the eyelet tool & according to package instructions. (This step is recommended in windy environments. The eyelets will allow you to stake down the shrouds separately, so they will stay in place better.) The eyelets require a thicker section of fabric, so you'll need to fold the corner over and place it through both layers.
Now it's time to set up your ghosts!
Figure out a fairly level location, and one that gets a good amount of sun. Start by positioning your frames, and staking them down 3/4 of the way, with three stakes each, evenly spaced, over the bottom ring. Replace your shroud, and fasten all Velcro closures. Position the sheets how you like them, and tuck as much of the bottom edges of the fabric as you can, under the bottom ring. Carefully reach through the arm openings, and pull the sheets from the inside, if need be. Once you've done that, finish driving in the stakes. If you are using them, go ahead and twist up the excess fabric and stake down the corner eyelets (inside the ghost) too. This will help to keep your ghosts in place and looking right. Position the solar spotlight so that it shines up into the ghost from the back. Tuck the fabric between the spotlight and the solar collection panel. Make sure to position the panel so that it will receive the most amount of sunlight possible.
There you go! Two spook-tacular little ghosts, ready to greet everyone who passes by - Day or Night.
source: click here
September 2019 Newsletter
Solar Technology Will Just Keep Getting Better: Here’s Why
By: Peter Kelly-Detwiler for Forbes
With the federal Investment Tax Credit phasing out, it’s a good time to take stock of the solar industry - both taking a look at where it has come from and where it is headed, especially in terms of innovation and evolving technology.
There are few individuals more qualified to discuss this topic than Jenya Meydbray, Founder and CEO of PVEL (PV Evolution Labs). His company – founded in 2010 - performs independent qualification of photovoltaic solar equipment on behalf of large buyers and investors (PVEL tests both thin film and crystal silicon panels, but the vast majority of technology in the market is crystal silicon – which is where investors and developers are seeking the data).
A solar power plant is a capital-intensive venture, with an expected lifespan of as many as several decades. Operations and maintenance costs are relatively marginal, and the fuel is free, so the quality of the panels is perhaps the most critical element to consider in the overall equation.
As Medbray comments, “Manufacturers are selling watts, while customers are making money off kWh and those are two different things.” This dynamic becomes increasingly important with assets that must perform over a large variety of conditions and lengthy timeframe. He asks rhetorically, Have you ever seen a plastic kid’s toy left outside for a year? Polymers and plastics degrade in the field and solar panels are no different – they have polymers and plastics. We try and make it as simple as possible to provide comprehensive solutions through our qualification program.
PVEL evaluates panels by applying sophisticated reliability and performance-testing programs to ensure the panels will perform as promised and investors can feel confident ponying up their cash. It’s no small challenge, given that the cell and panel technology continues to evolve. And the industry has already come a long way since Meydbray started.
A look back at the past decade of innovation
Meydbray comments that from an outsider’s perspective, a solar array “looks like a rectangle of crystalline solar cells glued to glass, bolted to a rack that goes through an inverter.” In that sense, he says, solar panels haven’t changed much in ten years and today they look more or less the same, “They still have 72 crystalline based cells glued to glass, bolted to a frame, and interconnected with an inverter.” However, he likens the cells to an engine in a car – an engine that has evolved greatly in the past decade, and whose costs have fallen dramatically, to perhaps 20% of what they were ten years ago.
Meydbray catalogs the items driving that trend in cost reductions, with one of the biggest levers being improved efficiencies in the manufacturing process itself. Take the utilization of silicon, for example. Although the price of silicon has plummeted from highs of $400 per kilogram to around $10/kg today, it’s still the most expensive input in a solar panel (for multi-silicon, an estimated 15-17% of total costs of goods sold). Thus, any ability to reduce the amount of silicon helps slash costs.
He cites the concept of ‘kerf loss,’ a term for the silicon lost in the sawing process during which raw silicon ingots are cut into cells. If silicon were wood, this would be the equivalent of sawdust that would go to waste. When a solar wafer – the precursor to the finished polished cell – is made – one essentially slices a giant log or brick of silicon into wafers. The widespread introduction of ultra thin diamond wire saws several years ago vastly reduces the amount of silicon lost in the process.
Meydbray observes that the cells thicknesses have stayed at about 180 microns for some time. Efforts to produce thinner cells resulted in frequent cracking during the production process, reducing overall yields. However, the widespread introduction of the diamond wire saw has recently allowed for the creation of thinner wafers (and therefore cells), though these haven’t yet moved into commercialization. He estimates the cost impact to be 1.5 cents/watt for every 10 microns of wafer thickness.
Then there is the conversion efficiency of the cell itself – how effectively it converts photons into a useful stream of electrons. This is important, since with higher efficiencies you get more watts out of the same rectangle of glass, the same frame, inverter, and labor. Since 2010, he notes, the absolute efficiency of the crystal silicon solar panel has gone up about .5% per year and “that’s pretty consistent. That’s huge. And it’s fundamental to continued cost reduction.”
One recently applied approach in this area, simply slicing cells in two (a technology referred to as ‘half cut cells’), has helped cut costs by adding five to seven watts of additional power per panel. That’s because the panel’s electrical current gets cut in half (current being proportional to the size of the cells). Since the resistive losses are proportional to the square of the current, this approach results in meaningful gains.
In general, efficiency improvements have generally come in waves and largely, but not entirely, out of China. In 2012, Meydbray comments, the first round of import tariffs was slapped on Chinese panels. These tariffs were focused on the cell - rather than the panel - level. As a consequence, Chinese manufacturers started sourcing much of their cell supply from Taiwan while continuing to assemble the panels in China. During this period, innovation slowed down considerably. PV technology was dominated by the traditional aluminum back surface field (aBSF), with little innovation until 2014, when the tariff loophole was closed and cell manufacture migrated back to China.
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August 2019 Newsletter
Installing solar panels on agricultural lands maximizes their efficiency, new study shows
By: CHRIS BRANAM Oregon State University
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The most productive places on Earth for solar power are farmlands, according to an Oregon State University study.
The study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, finds that if less than 1 percent of agricultural land was converted to solar panels, it would be sufficient to fulfill global electric energy demand. The concept of co-developing the same area of land for both solar photovoltaic power and conventional agriculture is known as agrivoltaics.
“Our results indicate that there’s a huge potential for solar and agriculture to work together to provide reliable energy,” said corresponding author Chad Higgins, an associate professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “There’s an old adage that agriculture can overproduce anything. That’s what we found in electricity, too. It turns out that 8,000 years ago, farmers found the best places to harvest solar energy on Earth.”
The results have implications for the current practice of constructing large solar arrays in deserts, Higgins said.
“Solar panels are finicky,” he said. “Their efficiency drops the hotter the panels get. That barren land is hotter. Their productivity is less than what it could be per acre.”
For their study, OSU researchers analyzed power production data collected by Tesla, which has installed five large grid-tied, ground-mounted solar electric arrays on agricultural lands owned by Oregon State. Specifically, the team looked at data collected every 15 minutes at the 35th Street Solar Array installed in 2013 on the west side of OSU’s Corvallis campus.
The researchers synchronized the Tesla information with data collected by microclimate research stations they installed at the array that recorded mean air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, soil moisture and incoming solar energy.
Based on those results, Elnaz Hassanpour Adeh, a recent Ph.D. graduate from OSU’s water resources engineering program and co-author on the study, developed a model for photovoltaic efficiency as a function of air temperature, wind speed and relative humidity.
“We found that when it’s cool outside the efficiency gets better,” Higgins said. “If it’s hot the efficiency gets worse. When it is dead calm the efficiency is worse, but some wind makes it better. As the conditions became more humid, the panels did worse. Solar panels are just like people and the weather, they are happier when it’s cool and breezy and dry.”
Using global maps made from satellite images, Adeh then applied that model worldwide, spanning 17 classes of globally accepted land cover, including classes such as croplands, mixed forests, urban and savanna. The classes were then ranked from best (croplands) to worst (snow/ice) in terms of where a solar panel would be most productive.
The model was then re-evaluated to assess the agrivoltaic potential to meet projected global electric energy demand that has been determined by the World Bank.
Higgins and Adeh previously published research that shows that solar panels increase agricultural production on dry, unirrigated farmland. Those results indicated that locating solar panels on pasture or agricultural fields could increase crop yields.
Co-authors on the recent study were Stephen Good, an assistant professor in OSU’s Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, and Marc Calaf, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Utah State University.
source: click here
July 2019 Newsletter
A Brilliant New Kind of Solar Tech Could Provide Electricity And Clean Water to Millions
By: Mike McRae
A compact device that uses waste heat shed by solar cells to purify water could one day change the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the globe.
The new spin on old technology from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia promises to ease increasing pressures on the nexus point between water and energy that threatens our future.
These two resources are conveniences many of us take for granted. But more than 780 million people around the world currently lack easy access to clean water. Even more people don't have electricity at the flick of a switch.
Missing out on water and electricity not only puts communities at direct risk of illness through contamination, it makes it harder to grow crops, raise livestock, or maintain stocks of food and medicine.
Perhaps even more importantly, there's the Catch-22 relationship between clean water and electricity we rarely give much thought to.
Limited access to relatively fresh water makes it impossible to efficiently generate the steam required for power on an appreciable scale. And without a convenient source of power, water can be harder to decontaminate or even reach in the first place.
Fields of solar panels can bring electricity to populations in remote, dry places. But hosing them down with water is a good way to keep them clear of dust, which is not easily done in such arid locations.
With two birds to kill, researchers behind this latest project realised they could solve both problems by creating a photovoltaic cell that uses sunlight as both a means to generate electricity and distil water.
Unsurprisingly, linking photovoltaics with water decontamination isn't novel. A US-based start-up called Zero Mass Water uses solar energy to condense liquid water absorbed straight out of atmosphere, for instance.
To be useful, though, such devices need to be compact and affordable, leaving plenty of room for improvement.
The engineers of this latest device designed their cell with efficiency in mind, folding the components for distillation under a fairly standard silicon photovoltaic cell in a way that doesn't impact on the cell's energy output.
Just over 10 percent of the sunlight collected by their photovoltaic cell on a clear day goes towards generating an electrical current, an efficiency that isn't too far behind conventional solar technology.
A fraction of the remaining solar radiation becomes thermal energy, which would usually go to waste. That heat is instead absorbed by a pancake-like stack of hydrophobic membranes shuffled between materials selected to assist evaporation and condensation.
Heat forces water to turn into vapour as with any solar still. But as it condenses, the heat energy is passed down into lower membranes for the process to repeat, making for a higher rate of distillation.
By stacking the membranes this way, the researchers found they could improve on conventional solar stills, potentially producing about five times the amount of clean water.
Just a single square metre of this multi-stage membrane distillation device was shown to distil more than 1.6 litres of seawater per hour, all without compromising the amount of electricity being produced by the photovoltaic cell on top.
Last year, solar energy accounted for more than 500 gigawatts of the world's electricity. By 2025, the researchers think we might come close to doubling this figure.
That's good news, but to achieve it we're going to need around 4 billion square metres of land. Doubling it up with distillation membranes could theoretically clean the equivalent of 10 percent of 2017's drinking water.
It's an exciting idea, if it scales. The next step for the research team is to investigate ways to push the boundaries on the device's efficiency and affordability.
The interdependence between energy and water wages a heavy price on technologies that can potentially solve the problems of communities in need.
For example, desalination also has the potential to service large populations, but only if the energy is available. In 2016, sea water contributed 3 percent of the freshwater in Middle Eastern nations, but required 5 percent of its electricity to make palatable.
What's more, the power required to separate out that salt demands a fraction of the very fresh water it produces.
This kind of technology can't come soon enough.
This research was published in Nature.
source: click here
June 2019 Newsletter
This Swedish Cleantech Company Wants To Mass Produce Printable Organic Solar Cells
Innovations in solar technology - from creating solar skinsthat are more aesthetically pleasing for homeowners to smart solar water bottles and solar storage advancements by using bacteria (electroactive microbes) to store energy - the future of photovoltaics and concentrated solar power remains in a state innovation.
According to a March 2019 report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the US solar market is expected to double over the next five years. The same report notes that there are now 62.4 gigawatts of installed solar capacity in the US.
In Europe, Research and Markets reported that despite a drop in the solar market in 2016, the European solar PV industry recovered in 2017 adding 8.6 gigawatts of solar capacity and is expected to add 16.5 gigawatts by 2025.
Mattias Josephson, CEO of Epishine, a Swedish cleantech company, says his company has made several roll-to-roll process breakthroughs which he believes is key to the tipping point to printing organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells.
Josephson says a long-term goal for their solar cells are factories with manufacturing machines in the size and scale of newspaper presses where each machine can print solar cells on rolls equivalent to one nuclear reactor per month.
"This would accelerate the global shift from fossil fuels to green utility-scale energy plants. An ultra-light solar cell which eases transportation and makes areas such as deserts and even water - lakes, oceans, ponds - suitable places for solar energy," added Josephson.
"[..] If you add a scalable and cost-efficient manufacturing solution completely independent of both scarce, toxic and expensive raw-materials to the process, you get a picture of the breakthroughs we’ve made and think important," added Josephson.
Epishine is using organic electronics - conducting and semi-conducting hydro-carbon-molecules with no silicon or metal. "Our active layer is based on polymers, which is long hydro-carbon-chains. Organic electronics is an [..] interesting emerging technology where the first application you’ve seen on the market is organic light emitting diodes (OLED) where ‘O’ stands for organic electronics."
Epishine's thin, flexible and semi-transparent printed solar cells could be a part of building materials that generate electricity in structures.
Josephson believes that in several years, Epishine's solar cells viable, affordable building-integrated solar cells for a variety of building materials.
"With exponential global challenges - such as exponentially increased energy demand - we expose the environment and the climate to great risks," said Josephson. "In addition to healthier consumption and circular solutions, we need new energy systems that can scale quickly enough and incentives to switch to these."
"The best of both new energy systems and powerful incentive systems are probably found in new innovation - which is also developing exponentially. For example, innovation can be found in new materials like our solar cells and in blockchains for safe incentive solutions," adds Josephson.
Today, the company is harvesting light and produces light energy harvesting modules that use indoor lighting to create energy to support low power devices currently powered by batteries.
Epishine has a €2.8M grant from the Swedish Energy Agency, Knut & Alice Wallenberg, Vinnova, Climate-KIC and several other angel investors. They also have €1.6M ($1.3M) in funding from ALMI GreenTech Invest, Potential Invest, Lars Björk, Linköping University, Chalmers Ventures and a group of local business angels.
source: click here
May 2019 Newsletter
Don’t Overload Your Home
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 47,700 home fires in the U.S. are caused by electrical failures or malfunctions each year. These fires result in 418 deaths, 1,570 injuries, and $1.4 billion in property damage. Overloaded electrical circuits are a major cause of residential fires. Help lower your risk of electrical fires by not overloading your electrical system.
Overloaded circuit warning signs:
Flickering, blinking, or dimming lights
Warm or discolored wall plates
Cracking, sizzling, or buzzing from receptacles
Mild shock or tingle from appliances, receptacles, or switches
How to prevent electrical overloads:
All major appliances should be plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet. Only plug one heat producing appliance into a receptacle outlet at a time
A heavy reliance on extension cords is an indication that you have too few outlets to address your needs. Have a qualified electrician inspect your home and add new outlets
Power strips only add additional outlets; they do not change the amount of power being received from the outlet
article source: esif.org
April 2019 Newsletter
RIP Coal. Long Live Coal Country
Jobs in southeast Kentucky's coal mines are vanishing. Can green jobs replace them?
Scott Shoupe didn’t want to follow his classmates into the coal mines when he graduated from Harlan High School in 1993. His ticket out — “to make something of myself” — was a baseball scholarship 130 miles north at Morehead State University.
But when his favorite sport started feeling more like a job than fun, the headstrong outfielder dropped out two years short of a bachelor’s degree. Shoupe returned home to Harlan County, an isolated and impoverished patch of southeast Kentucky, and like his father before him, signed up to mine coal.
“That’s all there was,” Shoupe said. “It was the one thing I could do to make money.”
King Coal has dominated this part of Appalachia for more than a century, powering local economies and offering lucrative, if dangerous, steady employment. That era is vanishing as mines shutter and coal companies across the country file for bankruptcy. So Shoupe is following his father, Carl, once again. But this time, it’s into a career that’s less about unearthing energy and more about using it super-efficiently.
At 43, he’s about to become the third graduate of a “new energy internship” for the region’s displaced coal workers. It’s a project of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, a local nonprofit. Enrollees in the program earn full-time wages and health benefits for six months while immersing themselves in the intricacies of lighting, weatherization, solar panels, and decoding utility bills.
Despite President Trump’s campaign mantra about championing miners and “putting our great coal miners back to work,” the industry continues to shed jobs. And that means people like Shoupe need a hand to move from an old, carbon-heavy economy to a new, green one.
Coal once defined southeast Kentucky’s character. Starting in the 1930s, miners in Harlan County went on strike against their employers, demanding fair wages and safer working conditions. Their efforts led to pitched battles with employers over the decades, sometimes turning the area into a “war zone,” with bombings and shootouts.
All those union mines have shut down, along with plenty of others. Nearly 6,600 Kentuckians worked in coal at last count, down roughly 80 percent in three decades, according to statistics from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. Some 41 percent of people in Harlan County live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau, more than triple the national average. And surrounding counties aren’t much better off.
Mechanization has played a role in the region’s struggles. Enormous machines now do the same work that miners once did by hand. But the main reason is that the country is weaning itself off the dirty fossil fuel. Hydraulic fracturing has created a glut of cheap natural gas, and technological advances have made solar and wind competitive. The result: a growing bounty of green jobs and fewer and fewer people heading from high school to the mines in Appalachia.
March 2019 Newsletter
China Plans To Build The World's First Solar Power Station In Space
By: Scott Snowden
China is planning to build the world's first solar power station in space to provide "inexhaustible clean energy" according to a story in Science and Technology Daily, the official newspaper of China's Ministry of Science and Technology.
Pang Zhihao, from the China Academy of Space Technology said that a space solar power system orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers could tap the energy of the sun's rays without disruption from atmospheric conditions or loss of sunlight at night.
They claim to be already testing the technology and intend to build the station by 2050.
Xie Gengxin, deputy head of the Chongqing Collaborative Innovation Research Institute for Civil-Military Integration in Southwestern China, told the China Daily newspaper that a testing facility in Chongqing's Bishan district is being built that will be used to test the theoretical viability of a space-based solar power station.
The 33 acre test facility will develop space transmission technologies while studying the effect of microwaves beamed back to Earth on living organisms. The initial investment of 100 million yuan ($15 million) will be made by the Bishan district government and construction could take up to two years, but once it begins operations, scientists and engineers will use tethered balloons equipped with solar panels to verify microwave transmission technologies.
"We plan to launch four to six tethered balloons from the testing base and connect them with each other to set up a network at an altitude of around 1,000 meters," said Gengxin. "These balloons will collect sunlight and convert solar energy to microwave before beaming it back to Earth. Receiving stations on the ground will convert such microwaves to electricity and distribute it to a grid."
First proposed in 1968 by aerospace engineer Peter Glaser, the concept of a power-generating platform in geostationary orbit has been a popular idea among scientists, but has seen little in terms of development due to technological and financial hurdles. These notions may sound farfetched, but the space agencies of both China and Japan are taking the ideas that were once just the stuff of science fiction very seriously.
Plans to develop an orbital array of photovoltaic dishes were announced in Japan some time ago and according to CNN, Beijing is pledging to invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($367 billion) in renewable power generation – solar, wind, hydro and nuclear – by 2020, indicating China's willingness to invest in advanced concepts.
source: click here
February 2019 Newsletter
By: Phil Dzikiy
Chicago recently became one of the nation’s biggest cities to make a public commitment to achieving 100 percent renewable energy. The city aims to hit its target by 2035.
With the announcement, Chicago joins the list of 100 Resilient Cities, an organization dedicated to helping cities become “more resilient” to “physical, social, and economic challenges.” Cities all over the world have joined the group.
As part of the announcement, Emanuel joined with the Sierra Club and its Ready For 100 campaign. Chicago will seek 100 percent renewable energy in all buildings by 2035. The city also plans to transition to a fully electric CTA bus fleet by 2040. Emanuel said,
“Ready for 100 is a key first step in implementing the vision of Resilient Chicago and builds upon our pledge to use 100 percent clean energy for municipal facilities by expanding that goal to include all of Chicago.”
Ready For 100
Thus far, 107 American cities have committed to the Sierra Club’s Ready For 100 campaign — a full map can be seen here. Chicago will be the largest city on the list when it’s officially added.
The map also reveals cities which have active campaigns, and cities with mayors who have pledged their support. So far, six cities have already reached the goal of generating 100 percent energy from clean, renewable sources: Kodiak Island, Alaska, Aspen, Colo., Greensburg, Kan., Rock Port, Mo., Georgetown, Texas, and Burlington, Vt.
A number of California cities — including Culver City, Oxnard, and Santa Monica — are listed as committed to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2019. So, there may be a number of “fully powered” announcements to come later this year.
The Ready For 100 campaign calls for energy from renewable sources which include wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal. The campaign’s webpage also notes:
“Low-impact, small hydro and some forms of biomass may be included after being evaluated for sustainability and environmental justice implications. Nuclear, natural gas, coal, oil based, or any other forms of carbon-based energy production are not included as clean or renewable sources of energy.”
Just because a city hasn’t yet joined the Sierra Club’s campaign doesn’t mean they won’t join in the future. Nor does it mean they haven’t already discussed similar plans.
For instance, Los Angeles is not listed as a committed city to the campaign — and who knows if the city will do so in the future — but L.A. city officials have publicly discussed reaching a goal of 100 percent renewable energy.
Emanuel plans on introducing a resolution to Chicago City Council in March for formal adoption of the Ready for 100 commitment. By December 2020, the city expects to develop a concrete plan to reach these goals.
The plan can expect to meet some obstacles, of course. Almost immediately following the announcement last week, a number of community groups in Chicago denounced the plan. As WTTWreports, these groups believe the plan “fails to address neighborhoods where residents have for years suffered from disproportionate levels of pollution.”
These groups want to know more about the possible “impact of a renewable energy transition on low-income, minority communities.” But it’s possible specific answers may not be made available until December 2020.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) joined the U.S. Climate Alliance in January — the Alliance recently added Wisconsin as its 21st state or territory.
source: click here
January 2019 Newsletter
Google plans largest solar farms in Alabama, Tennessee
To support its under-construction data centers, including in northeast Alabama, Google on Wednesday announced plans to purchase the output from the two largest solar energy farms to be built for the internet giant.
The solar farms will ensure that the electricity consumed by the data centers in Tennessee and Alabama is matched with 100 percent renewable energy from day one, according to Google.
The Alabama solar farm will be in Hollywood near Scottsboro while the Tennessee facility will be in Yum Yum near Memphis.
Google is building data centers in Bridgeport in northeast Alabama as well as Clarksville, Tenn.
Each of the solar farms will generate about 150 megawatts. Google will be purchasing the energy output from the panels that NextEra Energy Resources and Invenergy is building.
“Google’s data centers are the engines of the Internet, and we are committed to maintaining 100 percent renewable energy and achieving carbon-free energy around the clock for the operation of these facilities,” Google said in a statement. “This milestone solar energy deal with TVA perfectly reflects this strategic commitment. These renewable energy projects represent good news for Google and for the Tennessee Valley region.”
The announcement comes on the heels of plans shared last year by Facebook – which is building a data center in Huntsville -- to build a solar farm in Colbert County in northwest Alabama that will generate about 227 megawatts of electricity.
The Google data center in Alabama is expected to be online later this year.
source: click here
December 2018 Newsletter
Top 13 Christmas Lights Safety Tips
For some, the holiday season starts the day after Halloween while others prefer to wait until they’ve carved into the Thanksgiving bird to decorate their home in red and green. Whether you’re an early bird or a week-of decorator, most homeowners can agree that hanging Christmas lights will be the most time-consuming task for the holidays and one of the most dangerous.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Christmas lights cause 40% of Christmas tree fires, and overall decorations caused more than 15,000 injuries resulting in an emergency room visit with falls being the highest at 34%, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Knowing how to properly install and maintain your Christmas lights could be the difference between happy holidays or more than just chestnuts roasting over an open fire. Here are 13 safety tips to follow when decking the house with Christmas lights.
Tip 1: Replace Old or Damaged Christmas Lights
Before plugging in last year’s Christmas lights, inspect their condition to make sure they’re up to par. Check for cracked or frayed cords, wires poking through the insulation and sockets without bulbs.
It might seem tedious, but damage to the cord or light bulb could cause an electric shock when plugged in, or worse, an electric fire.
Tip 2: Switch to LED Lights
If you’re in the market to purchase new Christmas lights, consider LED lights with epoxy lenses. LED lights are cool to the touch, compared to traditional Christmas lights, and use less electricity – a nice break for your electric bill.
Since most holiday fires are caused by overheated lights on a Christmas tree, switching to LED lights could prevent your tree from catching fire.
Tip 3: Follow the Rule of Three
Most manufacturers agree that plugging in more than three sets of Christmas lights into a single extension cord may cause problems with overheating. However, it depends on both the strand’s wattage and the maximum watt capacity of the plug.
If you’re unsure of how to check the wattage of your home, you can use a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead of your wall outlet. Make sure you cross-reference the wattage of your Christmas lights to the amount of your power strip before you plug it in.
Tip 4: Look for Christmas Lights with a UL Safety Certification
Some Christmas lights will include a UL Safety Certification, meaning that the lights have been designed and manufactured to meet industry specifications for safety from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent product safety certification origination.
Lights that have these certifications will be safer to use in your home, compared to lights that don’t have this certification. If your current lights don’t have the UL Safety Certification, you might want to invest in ones that do, especially if your lights are older than a few years.
Tip: 5 Keep Your Christmas Tree Hydrated
Other than overheated Christmas lights, fires are also caused by dry Christmas trees. A dry tree will be more flammable compared to one that’s been properly watered. If you prefer a real Christmas tree, make sure you check the water every day to prevent the tree from drying out.
However, if you’re not too attached to a real Christmas tree, it’s actually safer to purchase an artificial Christmas tree made from fire-resistant materials.
Tip 6: Use Outdoor and Indoor Lights, Respectively
Christmas lights are labeled by their use, so you’ll notice a disclaimer that reads “for indoor use only” or “for indoor and outdoor use.” Make sure you read this carefully as indoor-only Christmas lights cannot be used for the outdoors.
Indoor-only lights aren’t insulated like outdoor lights and won’t work with moisture from the outdoors. In fact, if indoor lights are exposed to water, snow or any other outdoor element, they could possibly become hazardous.
Tip 7: Use Ladders Appropriately
Since falls are the highest emergency room-related injury during the holidays, it’s important to know how to safely use a ladder when hanging Christmas lights off the roof of your home or in any other space that would require a ladder.
Have a spotter with you at all times to hold the ladder for stability. When hanging Christmas lights, never extend your body further than parallel with the ladder to prevent tipping. Consider a wooden or fiberglass ladder when you’re working with Christmas lights to prevent an electric shock.
Tip 8: Use Christmas Light Clips Instead of Nails or Screws
When hanging outdoor Christmas lights on your roof, don’t use nails or screws to secure the lights as they can puncture the wires, causing the lights to malfunction, or worse, shock the person installing them.
Instead, opt for light clips found at any hardware store to secure the lights onto the house. The light clips are safer for the Christmas lights and will cause less damage to your roof, compared to nails or screws.
Tip 9: Secure All Loose Light Strands
If you need to use an extension cord or have a long strand of lights between your Christmas tree and outlet, make sure you secure all loose light strands with electrical tape to avoid tripping and falling.
If you have loose light strands outdoors, secure them with ground staples found at any hardware store. Simply place the staple around the light and push as far as you can into the grass or other soft surfaces to secure the cord.
Tip 10: Don’t Run Christmas Lights through Windows or Doors
If you don’t have access to an outdoor outlet, you may find it challenging to light up your home this holiday season. Remember that you can’t run Christmas lights or extension cords through windows or doors.
When closed on the light strand, windows and doors can cause wires to break or become frayed from constant pressure, making them a safety hazard for shocks or electric fires.
Tip 11: Use a GFCI Outlet for Outdoor Lights
There’s a specific outlet used for outdoor Christmas lights called a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. It prevents electric shock from electrical systems that could be exposed to wet conditions, like rain or snow, acting as a circuit breaker.
This is especially helpful if your outlet is outdoors. Make sure you protect yourself and your home from electric shorts by purchasing a GFCI outlet. You might need to hire a licensed electrician to install this outlet or you can install it yourself.
Tip 12: Don’t Forget to Turn Off the Lights
Christmas tree lights should not be left on for prolonged periods of time or overnight. Even LED lights can overheat, and with a combination of a dry Christmas tree, could cause a fire. Make it a habit to turn off your Christmas lights every time you leave the house or go to bed at night.
To make it easier, purchase a light timer for your Christmas tree lights and set it to a time to turn off every night and back on the next day. You can also buy a wireless control to shut off your lights through an app on your phone. Not only could this save your home from a fire, but it could also save you money in electricity bills.
Tip 13: Be Sure to Store Lights Properly Until Next Season
When the holiday season is over, make sure you don’t slack on putting away your decorations. Check the local laws of your city for how long you can keep up your holiday decorations. Some cities will ticket homes who have their holiday decorations up past a certain date.
Store all outdoor and indoor Christmas lights in a well-sealed container to prevent water damage and rodent access.
Knowing how to properly install and maintain your Christmas lights could save you money in electricity bills, prevent you or a loved one from getting an electric shock and eliminate the chance of a home fire. Follow these tips this holiday season to keep you and your home safe.
Source: click here
November 2018 Newsletter
How much energy does it take to roast a turkey?
Your burning utility sector Thanksgiving questions, answered
It takes about four hours to roast a 16 pound turkey, which means if you put it in a 350-degree oven at 8 a.m. you should be asleep by 3 p.m. That's fairly simply Thanksgiving math, but a far more tricky question is: How much electricity did it take to roast that turkey?
Before we try to track down the answer, let's just point out that from a utility-perspective the holidays really are a relaxing time of year. Perhaps not for you — your household power bill might be higher as you crank the oven for hours and fill the house with crazy aunts and uncles — but overall loads decline on the holidays.
“Demand for electricity on Thanksgiving Day is generally lower than on a typical week day,” said NYSEG spokesman Clayton Ellis, “because the largest users of electricity are closed for the holiday.”
So, about that turkey …
The most direct answer comes from TXU Energy, which estimates it takes roughly 8 kWh to cook your average turkey – an electric oven drawing 2 kW, running for four hours. And with about 46 million turkeys roasted each Thanksgiving (a fact they authoritatively sourced from the National Turkey Federation), that's a lot of energy.
But not all households use electricity for cooking. The California Energy Commission estimates about 58% of American homes have electric stoves rather than gas, which means about 26 million turkeys cooked in electric ovens – or 213 million kWh used, according to TXU.
“When you translate that to dollars spent on electricity for the day, it’s nowhere near what’s spent for holiday meal ingredients, but it still adds up,” the utility said. “Based on the most recent federal electricity pricing data, it also means that roughly $25 million may be spent on the electricity used to roast turkeys across the nation this Turkey Day.”
That's one answer, but TXU isn't the only source to try and dig into the power consumption behind the gravy boat and cranberry sauce.
A lot of blogs have dipped into the question: Over at Green Explored, they assume an oven using .4 kWh would cook the average bird in four hours using 1.6 kWh — or 48 million kWh across the United States. Go Green Solar assumed a 4.4 kWh oven for a total of 17.6 kWh per turkey and came up with 792 million kWh used around the country to cook turkey (but they assumed a large bird and all electric ovens).
Back in 2013, Wired — being Wired, of course — tried to figure out how many batteries it would take to cook a turkey. They came up with 151 D cells, unless you tried to cook it fast, and then it was 263. The magazine's tests showed that to cook a 10 pound turkey in an hour you would need almost 200 watts.
About the only thing these estimates have in common is cook time, which is hugely variable since opening the oven door once can drop the temperature by 25 degrees. And who can resist?
But the coolest answer comes from a blog post a few years ago at Home Energy Pros, which is a network aimed at home energy professionals and is partly funded by the Department of Energy. Using data from the Phased Deep Retrofit project at the Florida Solar Energy Center, an analyst compared Thanksgiving 2012 load with the previous week's Thursday in fairly small sample of 30 homes.
For the day, holiday loads averaged 2.76 kWh while the week before was just .73 kWh. While the post focused on all-day power use (including cooking the full meal), the basic estimate is about 2 kWh to feed the family. And that result was largely in line with another Florida project completed more than a decade before, which estimated Thanksgiving cooking at 2.5 kWh. Check out the graphical representation of load, dropping off right after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Stop opening the oven. Yes, you.
Any way you cut it, it takes a lot of energy to cook a Thanksgiving meal. A lot of electricity, too.
Utilities are increasingly looking for ways to engage their customers, and holiday efficiency tips have become a staple of the season. So unless you're cooking with gas or stocked up on Duracells, here are a few suggestions from around the power industry:
Consolidated Edison is using turkey season to put energy savings in terms of pizza. Maybe they figure there's only so many leftovers you can eat? The utility says an average string of LED lights costs 47 cents to run for a month, so six strings add up to just under $3 -- "a little more than the cost of an NYC slice of pizza," ConEd notes. "Non-LED lights can cost you up to 10 times the amount to power, so get rid of the old lights and go enjoy the whole pie." They're serious about the pizza and have included a video. Watch until the end.
Stop peeking: Florida Power & Light notes that ovens "lose a lot of heat when opened and require significant energy to heat back up to the appropriate temperature." What doesn't use a lot of energy? The oven light and window.
Edison Electric Institute is running a virtual culinary efficiency school with 10 cooking tips, including: "Use the microwave instead of your regular oven whenever possible. Microwave ovens draw less than half the power of your regular oven, and they cook for a much shorter period of time."
And the California Energy Commission's Consumer Energy Center makes a point about right-sizing your pan to heating element. "More heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air," the agency notes. Using a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste more than 40% of the energy.
source: click here
October 2018 Newsletter
Solar Light Jack O’Lantern
This Solar Light Jack O’Lantern charges all day in the sun and turns on automatically each night to wow your neighbors and guests without you having to do a thing! I know, I know. Pretty cool, right? How do you make your own? Let’s get started!
Solar Light Jack O’Lantern
Small-medium sized pumpkin
Outdoor solar light (just the top piece that holds the battery)
Knife or pumpkin carving tool
Spoon to scoop out the insides of the pumpkin
Pen or pencil
Piece of paper
Small disposable bag to put pumpkin “innards”
For specific instructions, click here.
September 2018 Newsletter
Home Electrical Safety Tips
According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical cords and temporary wiring account for over 25% of the estimated 81,000 electrical system fires that occur each year. The risk of fires can be reduced by following these essential home electrical safety tips.
Extension cord safety rules
Don't use extension cords as a substitute for repairing building wiring.
Inspect extension cords for broken connectors, damaged insulation and missing hardware before each use.
Do not run extension cords through walls, over beams, around corners or through doorways.
Only use extension cords approved for the environment and loads expected.
Equip extension cords with ground fault interruption (GFI) devices.
Dont use coiled extension cords.
Discard damaged extension cords; don't try to repair them.
Use only surge protected power strips. Inspect the power strips regularly for damage or signs of overloading.
Temporary wiring safety rules
Don't substitute temporary and flexible wiring for repairing building wiring.
Use temporary wiring only when needed for maintenance, repair or demolition activities.
Limit temporary wiring for holiday or ornamental lighting to no more than 90 days.
In outdoor settings use only outdoor approved temporary wiring and extension cords.
Don't route temporary wiring across floors, around doors or through walls.
Locate temporary wiring at least 7 feet above any walking or working surface.
Protect temporary wiring from sharp edges, heat and sunlight to avoid breakdown of the insulation.
For more electrical safety tips, check out: nationwide.com
August 2018 Newlsetter
Why go solar – Top 10 benefits of solar energy
There are many reasons why homeowners go solar, but improving the environment and cutting energy costs are the most common. Many people are aware that solar is a great home efficiency upgrade and are eager to reduce their carbon footprint while also improving property value.
Whether your motivations for going solar are economic, environmental, or personal, this sizable list of solar power beenfits will have something for everyone. Here are the top ten reasons why solar energy is good for your home and more popular than ever in the United States.
#1 Drastically reduce or even eliminate your electric bills
Whether you’re a homeowner, business, or nonprofit, electricity costs can make up a large portion of your monthly expenses. With a solar panel system, you’ll generate free power for your system’s entire 25+ year lifecycle. Even if you don’t produce 100 percent of the energy you consume, solar will reduce your utility bills and you’ll still save a lot of money.
#2 Earn a great return on your investment
Solar panels aren’t an expense – they’re one of the best ways to invest, with returns rivaling those of more traditional investments like stocks and bonds. Thanks to substantial electricity bill savings, the average American homeowner pays off their solar panel system in seven to eight years and sees an ROI of 20 percent or more.
#3 Protect against rising energy costs
One of the most clear cut benefits of solar panels is the ability to hedge utility prices. In the past ten years, residential electricity prices have gone up by an average of three percent annually. By investing in a solar energy system now, you can fix your electricity rate and protect against unpredictable increases in electricity costs. If you’re a business or homeowner with fluctuating cash flow, going solar also helps you better forecast and manage your expenses.
#4 Increase your property value
Multiple studies have found that homes equipped with solar energy systems have higher property values and sell more quickly than non-solar homes. Appraisers are increasingly taking solar installations into consideration as they value homes at the time of a sale, and as homebuyers become more educated about solar, demand for properties equipped with solar panel systems will continue to grow.
#5 Boost U.S. energy independence
The sun is a near-infinite source of energy and a key component of achieving energy independence in the United States. By increasing our capacity to generate electricity from the sun, we can also insulate our country from price fluctuations in global energy markets.
#6 Create jobs and help your local economy
According to The Solar Foundation, the solar industry added jobs at a rate nearly 12 times faster than the overall U.S. economy in 2015, representing 1.2 percent of all jobs in the country. This growth is expected to continue. Because solar-related jobs tend to be higher paying and cannot be outsourced, they are a significant contributor to the U.S. economy.
#7 Protect the environment
Solar is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Buildings are responsible for 38 percent of all carbon emissions in the U.S., and going solar can significantly decrease that number. A typical residential solar panel system will eliminate three to four tons of carbon emissions each year—the equivalent of planting over 100 trees annually.
#8 Demonstrate your commitment to sustainability
Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are important components of an organization’s culture and values. They also produce bottom line results. Increasingly, consumers and communities are recognizing and rewarding businesses that choose to operate responsibly. Businesses are finding that “green” credentials are a powerful driver of consumer purchasing decisions, creating goodwill and improving business results.
#9 Increase employee morale
Just like consumers, employees have a demonstrated appreciation for their employers’ commitment to operating responsibility. Employees share in the success and contributions of their organizations. Companies that care about their community and environment tend to have lower turnover rates, more engaged employees, and higher levels of morale.
#10 Stay competitive
Companies quickly are realizing the social and economic benefits of adopting solar power. As early adopters pull ahead of the competition, many companies are exploring solar power as a way to keep up.
July 2018 Newsletter
Exciting News FOR solar!
The US has added more solar power than any other type of electricity in 2018 so far — more evidence of an energy revolution
The US added more solar power than any other type of electricity in the first quarter of 2018.
Solar accounts for 55% of all US electricity added so far in 2018.
The number is evidence of a broader global shift: Investment in renewable energy for electricity is overtaking fossil fuels.
The US added more solar power than any other type of electricity in the first quarter of 2018.
According to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a nonprofit group, the US solar market added 2.5 gigawatts of new capacity in the first three months of 2018, up 13% from the first quarter of 2017.
That accounts for 55% of all US electricity added in the first quarter of 2018, including fossil fuels and other forms of renewable energy.
"This data shows that solar has become a common-sense option for much of the US and is too strong to be set back for long," SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement.
The SEIA report notes that the bulk of the new solar capacity added comes from utility-scale projects, which are large installations that feed power into the grid. Non-residential solar, a category used when companies like AT&T and Nestle switch their electricity source to solar power, was the second largest area of growth, according to the SEIA.
This growth comes despite the 30% tariffs the Trump administration levied on imported solar panels earlier this year. The tariffs went into effect at the beginning of February, a change that some in the solar industry previously told Business Insider would lead to a reduced demand for solar power.
After the tariffs went into effect, developers killed some $2.5 billion of solar installation projects, according toReuters. Some US senators recently introduced a bipartisan bill to repeal the tariffs, saying they "jeopardize tens of thousands of workers" who are employed installing and maintaining solar installations in the US.
In 2017, before the tariffs were implemented, it cost around $50 to produce one megawatt-hour of electricity from solar power, according to an analysis from the investment bank Lazard. Coal, by comparison, cost about $102 per megawatt-hour to produce, the report calculated.
Rising US solar investment mirrors a larger global shift. In 2017, solar energy attracted $160.8 billion in investment, according to data from the United Nations Environment Program, outpacing nuclear and fossil fuels. China was by far the largest investor last year, sinking $126 billion alone into the renewable energy sector, according to a UN report.
Solar in 2017 was also the fastest growing electricity source globally, with 98 gigawatts added in 2017.