The Google PowerMeter

Google wants to build the platform for collecting, managing, and analyzing home energy information for… well, if they have their way, for everybody on earth. PowerMeter is currently in internal beta testing. About four dozen Google employees have home energy monitors to record their power usage (as proxies for the smart meters of the future). A Home Energy gadget on their iGoogle home pages shows them shows how much energy they are using. The gadget tracks historical data and forecasts future trends (similar to the displays available for some of Google's finance applications).

Forecasting the Potential of the Wind

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has reached an agreement with Xcel Energy to provide highly detailed, localized weather forecasts to enable the utility to better integrate electricity generated from wind into the power grid. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will support the project by developing mathematical formulas to calculate the amount of potential energy produced by winds blowing at various speeds. The forecasts will help operators make critical decisions about powering down traditional coal-and natural gas-fired plants when sufficient winds are predicted, allowing the utility to increase reliance on alternative energy while still meeting the needs of its customers.

Alternative Fueling Station Locator

Drivers can now find alternative fueling stations using cell phones & PDAs. Consumers on-the-go can now access the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Alternative Fueling Station Locator using their cell phone, BlackBerry, or other personal digital assistant (PDA). The Mobile Alternative Fueling Station Locator allows drivers to find the five closest biodiesel, electricity, E85 (ethanol), hydrogen, natural gas, and propane fueling sites. This convenient tool uses well-known, easy-to-navigate Google Maps to automatically generate maps to fueling sites and lists each station's contact information and business hours. Detailed driving directions and an instant phone connection to the station can all be accessed at www.afdc.energy.gov/stations/m/.

Who Let the Dogs Out?

The U.S. is now the world's top Wind Power Producer and closing in fast on Solar. The U.S. increased its wind capacity by 50 percent last year to a total of 25 GW, enough to power nearly 5 million homes. Germany took a close second with 24 GW of installed wind, while Spain took the third spot. Globally wind power grew by 29 percent, to reach 121 GW total capacity. As one of the most affordable sources of alternative energy -- being only slightly more expensive than coal and nuclear -- wind accounted for 42 percent of the new energy installations in the U.S.

AC Solar Panels

Akeena Solar Inc. and Enphase Energy have announced a strategic partnership to develop and market Andalay solar panel systems with ordinary AC house current output instead of the high voltage DC output that is produced from most solar panels. Andalay AC panels are expected to cost less to install and provide higher performance than ordinary DC panels. Akeena estimates that up to 25 percent of the total costs necessary to design and install a solar power system can be eliminated with solar panels that have integrated racking, wiring and grounding, and that operate with standard AC wiring.

Giant Wind Turbines

If the U.S. is going to generate 20 percent of its electricity from the wind in the next 20 years, wind turbines will need to evolve in every way - larger, taller, less expensive, more reliable and more efficient. At NREL's National Wind Technology Center, engineers are preparing to install the two largest turbines ever tested at the laboratory. Key elements of a 1.5 MW General Electric turbine have begun arriving; instrumentation and equipment testing should begin by late summer. Installation of a 2.3 MW turbine from Siemens Power Generation is scheduled for late summer, too. Full story here.

Smart Grid - The Internet for the Energy Economy

The nation's century-old energy grid might get an upgrade soon to handle alternative energy. The economic stimulus package has earmarked $11 billion to invest in smart meters and 3,000 miles of renewable-energy transmission lines. Venture capitalists and utilities also are investing in smart-grid applications at a record pace. "It's like the Internet for the energy economy," said Katherine Hamilton, head of the GridWise Alliance.

Cisco EnergyWise Partner Program

Cisco this week initiated a partner program that integrates power management with network devices to monitor and control power usage. The company estimates 30% reduction in power consumption could drive adoption. Dubbed EnergyWise, the program was announced Tuesday along with partners from Schneider Electric, makers of power distribution and automation equipment; Verdiem, which manages PC and laptop power; and SolarWinds, known for network management. The collaboration lays the groundwork for robust, automated power management, Cisco said. EnergyWise software will be available on Catalyst switches via a software upgrade to all customers with a support contract.

NIFTE Pump Technology uses Solar Energy

There is now an alternative pumping technology being developed that is simple and costs little to manufacture, yet it is highly effective and can operate using low-grade heat energy - such as waste heat or solar energy. This type of heat pump has been termed the Non-Inertive Feedback Thermofluidic Engine (NIFTE). Given their mechanical simplicity, low energy consumption and potentially low purchase cost, NIFTE pumps could be applicable for a wide variety of tasks. These range from irrigation and pond pumps to central heating circulating pumps and power showers.

Ethanol-Powered Fuel Cells

A team of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Delaware and Yeshiva University, has developed a new catalyst that could make ethanol-powered fuel cells feasible. Made of platinum and rhodium atoms on carbon-supported tin dioxide nanoparticles, the research team's electrocatalyst is capable of breaking carbon bonds at room temperature and efficiently oxidizing ethanol into carbon dioxide as the main reaction product.

9000 Homes Powered by Scotch Whisky!

An award-winning scheme which will reduce the carbon footprint of the whisky industry on Speyside has moved a step closer after being granted planning permission by Moray Council. The CHP unit will use a combination of distillery co-products and wood chip from sustainable sources to generate 7.2 megawatts of electricity, enough for 9,000 homes, which can be used onsite or exported to the National Grid.

Vertical-axis Wind Turbine

Project Nova (Novel Offshore Vertical-Axis), to which Qinetiq is a key technology supplier, was given the go ahead on 13 January 2009 by Lord Hunt, the UK Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, as part of a potential £1.1billion fund. Project Nova's innovative aerogenerator wind turbine is based on a pair of giant V-shaped composite wings that will be scaled up to 120m high and rotate around the central axis to create power. Invented by David Sharpe and developed by Wind Power Limited, the aim is for a large-scale demonstrator to be installed offshore within six years and for offshore vertical-axis turbines to provide 1GW of power by 2020.

Let's Get to Work!

Today, Barack was inaugurated President of the United States of America. Many of his dreams fall on the renewable energy industry to fulfill. In his words "For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."

Tidal Turbine Contract

The first full-scale Neptune tidal stream device is the design of Edinburgh's Aquamarine Power Ltd. The 2.4MW Neptune demonstration design is on schedule for delivery in 2010 at the UK tidal test centre, known as the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), located in Orkney, as a precursor to commercial deployment. The device comprises two horizontal axis tidal turbines, which will be mounted on a single monopile for the commercial demonstrator. The device features bi-directional (flood and ebb) generation, with its design heavily influenced by wind turbine technology and as such gives predicted efficiencies of up to 45 per cent.

Utilities Invest in Smart Grid

In spite of the weakened economic conditions in countries around the world, electric power utilities are proceeding with investments in both their infrastructure and "smart grid" automation programs according to a study released by the Newton-Evans Research Co. Newton-Evans found that a majority of the 110+ officials from 38 countries participating in the just-completed study indicated that capital spending for control systems, substation automation, smart grid related programs, distribution management, advanced metering rollouts, and infrastructure equipment for transmission and distribution grids will remain as originally projected a year ago.

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