Written by Bruce Mulliken
TWO METHODS TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE:
START NOW OR DO IT LATER.
Consider two ways to mitigate global warming. One, come up with a long term,
100-year-perhaps plan with no real goals, no specifics, and hope that others
use it as a guide for the future. Or two, get on the phone and convince
people, companies and organizations to find ways to cut greenhouse gas
This week the Bush Administration published its long-term plan to tackle
climate change. Its dubbed the Climate Change Technology Program Strategic
Plan. Its 244 pages and its filled with ideas for the
future: A hydrogen economy. Carbon sequestration. A reduction of non-carbon
dioxide greenhouse gases. Better monitoring and measurement of greenhouse
gases. More research and development of clean technologies. Public/private
partnerships to implement technologies. Voluntary action. Nothing much
different than Bush has been saying for five or six years.
The Energy Department took four years to write the Plan. The next
administration may scrap it and come up with a new one.
(It is not known if this is the final action President Bush will take on
climate change. He may have something else up his sleeve.)
Former President Bill Clinton stepped up the podium this week to announce
the results of his organizations labors to tackle climate change. The
results? Companies and organizations willing to put time, effort and money
into the problem. If they dont do it or start to do what theyve pledged
they wont go to jail, but likely will get an angry phone call from Bill.
The most newsworthy pledge to the Clinton Global Initiative (which covers
more than climate change) was for $3 billion spread out over ten years from
Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin brand name. Virgin Fuels, as it is now
known, is the biofuels division for research, development and
commercialization of bio-transportation fuels. Appropriately the money will
come from 100 percent of the profits from his transportation divisions such
as Virgin Atlantic Airways.
But there were a total of 40 commitments so far, not just Bransons. Here
are four of them:
--- Urban-Climate & Energy Inc. will undertake research and
design-development of its Heat Harvester technology. Heat Harvest is
designed to capture and remove waste heat from air-conditioning systems.
Waste heat will be transformed into zero-emission renewable energy, and
energy equivalent (electricity and hot water).
--- Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) will install solar water pumping and
small-scale irrigation systems in the Kalalé District of Benin to grow
vegetables and other crops during the dry season. SELF will also help
farming families by expanding solar electrification for schools, clinics,
streetlights, pumps for clean water, and micro-enterprise and communication
--- Environmental Defense will develop a $6 million Carbon Fund to engage
farmers and forest owners to emit fewer greenhouse gases while taking more
out of the atmosphere. This pilot fund will emulate a cap-and-trade market
for five to eight demonstration projects.
--- Global Green USA will apply green building design criteria, and where
possible net zero energy and climate neutral strategies, to insure all
school construction and renovation in New Orleans and Louisiana wrecked by
Hurricane Katrina are built green.
(The remainder are at the website.)
And which is the better approach? At least one climate scientist James
Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has said that we
have ten years to get greenhouse gases under control. (We dont have a
For the Bush Administrations plan visit the US Climate Change Technology
Program at http://www.climatetechnology.gov/, for the Clinton Global
Initiative visit http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/
PLUG-IN HYBRIDS: HOW GREEN ARE THEY?
This week the state of California sued the six largest automakers in the
United States (and thus selling the most vehicles in California) over the
impacts - now and future - of global warming in the state. Only Honda has
responded saying the US government should increase fuel economy standards as
a way to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. The states
shouldnt be allowed to do this on their own.
(Not surprisingly, Honda (as well as Toyota and perhaps Nissan) would find
it easy to meet any increase in fuel economy increases the federal
government might throw at them. Honda (and the others) already have plenty
of cars that could meet higher standards today as well as new technologies
under development and near commercialization that could meet very stringent
fuel economy standards, perhaps well above 40 miles per gallon, if it came
Yet while the majors continue to find ways to beat back lawsuits and
government mandates, more and more technological opportunities are coming
forward that can offer significantly better fuel economy and much lower
greenhouse gas emissions.
(Eventually the state of California might come to the obvious
conclusion: If the major automakers wont build the low-emission cars that
we want well just have to build them ourselves.
Already there are a handful of fledgling, low-volume green car companies in
the state that could be expanded with the states help. The heck with
Detroit they could say.)
One of the technologies for greener vehicles is plug-in hybrid electric
vehicles (PHEVs) which coincidentally seem to have their roots in
But are plug-in hybrids the final answer for greener vehicles?
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has taken a
look at and released an in-depth study of the technology: Plug-In
Hybrids: An Environmental and Economic Outlook.
First, some notes on the study.
--- ACEEE considers PHEVs as an evolution of current hybrids, thus compares
PHEVs with current hybrids and not with conventional cars.
--- There are no PHEVs commercially available, only some retrofitted cars
and trucks, so ACEEE cant compare real PHEVs against real conventional
--- ACEEE also concludes that hybrids and PHEVs will continue to be mostly
variations of conventional cars and trucks, not purpose-built designs.
(Toyotas second generation Prius owes its success to its purpose-built
design. It was built from scratch to be a hybrid, nothing else. Other
automakers may choose this route in the future. A successful plug-in hybrid
may also have to be purpose-built.)
--- ACEEE considers power plant emissions attributed to charging of the
vehicles battery from the grid. The advocacy group also looks at the
current and potential costs of large battery packs needed for all-electric
range of PHEVs.
With the limited information ACEEE has to work with the group has some hopes
with some reservations.
--- ACEEE thinks that fuel economy estimates for PHEVs is somewhat overblown
and wishes they werent. Since policy makers may be dealing with legislation
dealing with PHEVs they need more accurate information. Consumers, too,
deserve realistic information so as not raise false hopes.
--- Fuel economy for a plug-in with a 20-mile electric-only range would be
30 percent higher than a conventional hybrid, but 50 percent higher if a
plug-in traveled 40 miles in all-electric mode.
--- Lithium-ion batteries, because of their low weight and small size, would
be best suited for plug-in hybrids, but ACEEE is concerned about their high
cost and untested longevity.
--- ACEEE is also concerned about the overall costs of PHEVs. The pay back
period for the additional costs of the technology wont drop to 3 years
(seen as desirable) unless the price of batteries drops or the price of gas
--- A PHEV plugged into a Californias fairly clean power grid will see
overall greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 32 percent. But, on average
nationwide where most electricity is from coal, the figure drops to 15
--- And, if battery technology continues to improve (as it has been) and
the power grid gets cleaner, then pure battery electric vehicles could
become a broadly applicable technology.
In the end ACEEE calls for more PHEV demonstration programs and incentives
for advanced battery production that would lead to a drop in cost for PHEVs.
The full report is available at http://aceee.org/pubs/t061.pdf ( A print
version is available for a fee.)
ALL ABOUT SOLAR.
This weeks news.
While General Electric has been going gangbusters with its wind energy
division almost since the day it was acquired from Enron, its solar energy
division, once AstroPower, has been moving a slower pace.
Finally, GE has secured a notable solar order. The company will be supplying
three-megawatts worth of 200-watt solar power modules along with
balance-of-system equipment for a project being developed in Yong Gwang,
GE says the order is the companys largest single order globally to date.
The project is being developed by Korea Hydro Nuclear Power which supplies
more than 40 percent of the nations power. The solar modules will be
manufactured at GE solar facilities in Newark, Delaware. Visit GE Solar at
Windows on the sunny side of a home or office easily provide significant if
not all of the heat for a well-insulated, well-sealed room even during
coldest days of winter.
But what about electricity? Could windows be developed to generate
electricity while still allowing light to stream in? Silicon is chosen as
the semiconductor for the majority of the worlds solar cells because it is
transparent when thinly sliced. Could even thinner silicon allow a window to
function normally (let light in, let people see out) while still producing
Octillion Corporation of Vancouver, Washington seems to think so. The
company says it has a series of patents and patents pending on a
groundbreaking technology (they say) that incorporates nanoparticles of
silicon that can be deposited (sprayed) onto substrates, apparently glass,
to make photoelectric window panels. The product, if developed, would fit
over existing windows.
Its nearly impossible to determine the viability of a technology from a few
words on a press release backed up with disclaimers. However, many new
companies have no choice but to divulge as little information as possible to
keep it out of possible competitors hands. The company does say it has
entered into a research agreement with scientists at the University of
Illinois in Urbana-Campaign for research and development of the technology.
The collaboration gives the technology a measure of credibility. Visit
Octillion at http://www.octillioncorp.com/
-- Don't forget about your thermostats! Check out the BEST prices on the
WORLD WIND WATCH.
The same message has been repeated in various forms in this column.
Renewable energy is all about building capacity, and wind energy is the
fastest growing renewable power source on the planet.
Together the following wind energy projects will yield 717 megawatts of
power, about the same capacity as an average-sized coal-fired power plant.
--- PPM Energy and Horizon Wind Energy will be dedicating the first phase of
the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lowville, New York on September 26. When phase
two is complete the facility will have nameplate output of 320 megawatts
using 195, 1.65 megawatt turbines from Vestas Wind Systems.
Maple Ridge will increase wind capacity in the state by a factor of six. The
project was built to help meet New Yorks renewable portfolio standard (RPS)
which mandates 25-percent renewables by 2013.
The project will bring $8 million per year in tax revenues to Lewis County
and $2 million each year to be divided between 75 landowners in land lease
payments; an average of about $27,000 each. Visit PPM at
http://www.ppmenergy.com/ and Horizon Wind at http://www.horizonwind.com/
--- PPM has also broken ground on its next wind project: the 150-megawatt
MinnDakota Wind Power Project that spreads across the South Dakota and
Minnesota border in Brookings County and Lincoln County respectively.
MinnDakota will have 100, 1.5-megawatt turbines from General Electric. The
project spans 15,000 acres with only 300 acres actually used by the turbines
and support roads. All of the power will be sold through Xcel Energy , the
nations largest provider of retail wind energy . Visit Xcel at
--- Save Our Planet! Buy Green Energy! Available now from
John Deere Wind Energy has announced it has secured a supply order with
Suzlon Wind Energy of India for 247 megawatts of wind turbine nameplate
capacity. The order is for 30, 1.25 megawatt turbines and 100, 2.1-megawatt
machines. The turbines will be delivered throughout 2007.
John Deere is mum on where the turbines will be installed but says that the
turbines will be used in numerous projects throughout the US. The company
has been focusing on small community-based projects. Visit Suzlon at
http://www.suzlon.com/ , John Deere Wind Energy at
--- Colorado Governors Office of Energy Management and Conservation New
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Debuts At Clean Energy Event
http://www.colorado.gov/oemc (click Press Releases)(A converted 2006 Prius
from Hybrids Plus http://www.hybrids-plus.com/ )(9/18/06)
--- Orbital and Bajaj Sign New License for Gaseous Autorickshaw
http://www.orbitalcorp.com.au/ (click Recent News Releases)(LPG and CNG
fuel injection technology applied to Bajaj's autorickshaw three wheeler
--- Millennium Cell Awarded U.S. Navy Phase I SBIR Contract
http://www.millenniumcell.com/ (Company will develop a novel, safe, high
energy density hydrogen storage system for use in small, portable fuel cell
based power sources suitable for a variety of military
--- Air Products Grants Argonne National Laboratory External Collaboration
Award http://www.airproducts.com/ (Lab helped prove effectiveness of Air
Products' electrolyte salts for lithium-ion
--- Altairnano, Phoenix and Boshart to Demonstrate Electric SUV at Zero
Emission Vehicle Symposium; Electric Sports Utility Model Also To Be On
Display http://www.altairnano.com/ (California Air Resources Board Zero
Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Technology Symposium,September 25-27, 2006
Sacramento, California http://www.arb.ca.gov/homepage.htm) (9/21/06)
--- Michelle Kaufmann Designs -- A New Prefabricated Home mkSolaire(TM)
Environmentally Friendly Green Solution for City Living From Michelle
Kaufmann Designs http://www.mkSolaire.com/ (Solar manufactured home)
--- NASA -- Short-Term Ocean Cooling Suggests Global Warming 'Speed Bump'
http://www.nasa.gov/home/ (click More Life on Earth Features)(Average
temperature of the upper oceans has significantly cooled since 2003, the
decline is a fraction of the total ocean warming over the previous 48
years.) ( 9/21/06)
--- Raser Technologies Enters Design Agreement with a Singapore Company
http://www.rasertech.com/ (Raser to provide technical, engineering and
design support for the development and manufacture of a switched reluctance
motor and drive; will receive royalty payments on sales of up to 500,000
--- SatCon Announces 10 Megawatts in Orders for Photovoltaic Inverters from
a Series of New and Existing Customers http://www.satcon.com/ (click News
and Events) (Renewable energy subsidiary's backlog exceeds $16 Million.)
Events and Publications.
--- Renewable Energy Project Finance -- Capitalizing on policy frameworks
and innovative financing methods November 16-17, 2006 New York, New York
--- AltCar Expo Santa Monica, California, December 9-10, 2006
--- Worldwatch Institute -- American Energy - The Renewable Path to Energy
Security Renewables soon competitive in US.
--- Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) Fundamentals of Lighting
Efficiency Online Seminar http://www.aeecenter.org/realtime/lighting/
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Inc. 9/16/06 vol. 11 no. 25.