Consumers have heard for years that solar, wind, and geothermal power might soon cut their monthly energy bills. But things get exciting, even exotic, looking a decade or two ahead . Scientists envision that light bulbs will talk to switches, furnaces to windows, and everything to the Internet. Homes generate their own power in basement plants. Windows and paint change color to harvest sunlight or reject it. But ... cutting home energy use means changing consumer behavior and industry practice. That said, promising new technologies are emerging in labs, and some in commercial buildings, that in a decade or two could win over even the most skeptical builders and homeowners.
IBM is already staking claims in the smart grid industry to better manage electricity. Now it's doing the same for water, with a broad offering that will include developing sensor and intelligence networks for water utilities, smart water meters and a new technology for water filtration. IBM sees a role for information technology in the water world that's analogous to its role in smart grid projects according to Sharon Nunes, vice president of IBM's "Big Green Innovations" team. That includes sensor networks that can track water flow and quality, water meters that can give utilities and customers up-to-date information on water use and price, and complex "predictive" modeling to let water managers plan for the future.
An in depth look at the recent spate of investment in European thin film companies. The EU recently reinforced its commitment to renewable energy with an EU-wide directive that commits the EU to 20 percent renewable energy targets by 2020. Specifically from the solar industry perspective, a lot would depend upon Germany's continued support. Last month, the European Commission backed nearly €100 million euros ($129 million) in aid to two solar power projects in Germany.
America's electric power grid is subject to immense inefficiencies that arise from the interplay between centralized power generation, local power consumption and on demand utility service. The goal of the Smart Grid is to maximize the efficiency of existing generating facilities and accommodate the integration of renewable power resources. This article discusses manufactured energy storage devices ; enabling technologies that will be the beating heart of the Smart Grid for the next 10 to 20 years.
A group of nine leading biomass companies has formed the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) , a non-profit association dedicated to advancing the use of biomass for heat and other thermal energy applications. The founding members of BTEC include biomass fuel producers, appliance manufacturers and distributors, and supply chain companies that represent the breadth of interests in the fast growing biomass thermal energy industry. Thermal energy accounts for roughly one-third of the energy used today in the United States. Renewable biomass resources can help meet this demand for thermal energy by providing heat for industrial processes as well as heating for businesses and homes.
BWEA, UK's leading renewable energy trade association, welcomed the Prime Minister's endorsement today of the enormous potential of renewable energy to create employment in the UK. Studies published by BWEA in October 2008, concluded that wind, wave and tidal energy projects could drive job creation and stimulate sectors of the economy crucial to delivering the country's 2020 renewable energy targets. The report commissioned by BWEA from Bain and Co. in late 2008 reiterated that "the wind industry is now established as one of the highest-growth industries in Europe, growing at an average rate of 12 percent over the last 5 years." Here is a link to the report.
If the energy efficiency across the United States was equivalent to that of the top performing states, the nation could save 1.2 million GWh, equivalent to 30 percent of its annual electricity use, according to a new report from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) . The top five performing states, according to the report, are in order New York, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware and California, all with an electric productivity greater than 6.2. The five worst performing states, with an electric productivity less than 2.3, are South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi.
Alternative energy systems and the semiconductors used in them could grow at an annual rate of as much as 40 percent over the next several years, according to a new market research report. Solar, wind and fuel cell systems consumed an estimated $800 million in semiconductors in 2008, a figure that could rise to nearly $2 billion by 2012 , according to the report from The Information Network (New Tripoli, Penn.). The chips involved are primarily MOSFETs, IGBTs, microcontrollers, DSPs and discretes used to convert the renewable energy from AC to DC power. Some of the anticipated growth will come as the result of the recently passed economic stimulus package that calls for spending about $43 billion on alternative energy including about $4.3 billion on smart electric grids.
Smart meters, which measure and automatically communicate detailed electrical (or gas or water) usage information to the utility and, in some cases, enable greater consumer awareness and control over consumption, are being deployed at an increasing pace, especially in North America and Europe. The current trends in AMI markets represent a continuation of the growth rates charted by ABI Research over recent years. "We don't think that the economic crisis is having a significant effect," says Lucero. "Utilities' smart metering deployments are typically multi-year plans developed in the context of regulated market environments, and not terribly susceptible to short-term economic fluctuations."
This $4 million wind turbine project can be found at Jiminy Peak , in Hancock, Massachusetts. The turbine is nicknamed Zephyr, after the Greek god of the west wind. And Zephyr isn't afraid to make its presence known. The tower is more than 250 feet tall. The hub adds 10 feet, and the blades extend an additional 123 feet, creating a 386-foot green machine. Zephyr works its magic to produce about a third of Jiminy Peak's electric needs, shaving $450,000 a year from the resort's energy bill. To put that in perspective, the energy from the turbine is enough to power more than 600 homes. And Zephyr's power doesn't stop there. It has also drawn the interest of many visitors.
Sony will be soon exhibiting its cordless speaker system and cell phone chargers that are powered by its direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) , where the fuel methanol is located within a transparent tank. A lithium ion secondary battery is used to compensate for low outputs of tiny DMFCs, enabling mobile devices to handle steep current peaks without any detrimental effect. The cell phone chargers rely on USB connectivity to keep your precious handsets juiced up .
NTT Energy and Environment Systems Laboratories developed a circuit module that enables the charge of a lead storage battery with a single photovoltaic cell . The circuit module consists of a boost circuit with a DC-DC converter and an IC equipped with the "MPPT (maximum power point tracking)" function. The boost circuit can increase the typical voltage of a single photovoltaic cell, about 0.5V, up to 15V.
Peter Russo and Brendan Wypich of Stanford University developed the SmartSwitch , a light control with tactile feedback that helps you "see" how much energy is already being used, whenever you try to flick the switch. If the total energy consumption in the house is low, the SmartSwitch is easy to flip. But if the consumption is higher, the SmartSwitch is physically harder to flip, thanks to a brake pad within the mechanism. The idea is that people will use this tactile feedback to decide if they really really need that light on or not.
NRG Energy, one of the United States' most coal-dependent utilities, on Monday signed a deal with California startup eSolar to develop solar power plants. The agreement calls for NRG to invest $10 million in Pasadena-based eSolar for the right to use the startup's technology to develop and operate three solar power projects in California and the Southwest that would generate 500 megawatts of greenhouse gas-free electricity. NRG ranks as one of the nation's dirtiest utilities, spewing 70 million tons of carbon dioxide annually from its coal-fired power plants. eSolar will use fields of mirrors to heat water to create steam that drives electricity-generating turbines.
Los Angeles' 140,000 streetlight fixtures will be replaced with LED units over the next five years with help from the Clinton Climate Initiative in the most extensive municipal green lighting retrofit thus far. The upgraded lighting system is expected to save the city $48 million in energy and maintenance costs and cut carbon emissions by 197,000 tons over a seven-year period. The cost savings accrued during that time are to pay for a loan that will fund the project. After paying back the loan, the city is expect to save about $10 million a year in costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by at least 40 percent and cut carbon emissions by about 40,500 tons a year.
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