SOLAR TODAY Blog


>>Missouri town goes 100% windy
April 28, 2008, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Utilities

By Seth Masia
SOLAR TODAY

An Earth Day breakthrough slipped past us: Rock Port, Mo. threw a “green switch” and became the first municipality in the U.S. powered entirely by wind turbines.

Loess Hills wind turbines at Rock Creek, Mo.Can’t find Rock Port on the map? It’s an agricultural crossroads town of 1300 independent-minded souls, about 75 miles south of Omaha and a few miles east of the Missouri River.

Over the past year, a crew of 500 workers put up four 1.2 mW Suzlon wind turbines, on 250-foot towers, generating more electricity than the town can use. The municipal utility district therefore sells the excess to Missouri Joint Municipal Utitlities, a consortium of 31 cities. The towers sit on the crest of Loess Hills, municipal land just west of town.

The project was funded through Wind Capital Group of St. Louis, which has been building wind farms in Missouri since 2004. The company now has four farms complete or under construction in the state, totalling about 160 mW capacity, with plans in place to build 1400 mW across ten states.

It’s been fashionable for a couple of years for medium-sized corporations to claim they’re powered entirely by wind (or at least by renewable energy credits). SOLAR TODAY recently reported on the first school district to run entirely on wind. We ought to begin tracking firsts of steadily increasing size and importance: The first university campus run entirely on renewable energy? The first public transport system? The first county? The first investor-owned utility? The first island nation? Send us your firsts!

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>>Gasoline vs. solar-powered transport
April 24, 2008, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Transport

By Seth Masia
SOLAR TODAY

My old friend John Howe lives sustainably on a farm in Maine. Among other things, he builds solar-charged farm tractors, and converted an old MG Midget to solar-charged battery power.

John Howe with his first solar-powered garden tractor

In my recent SOLAR TODAY story on low-carbon cars I cited some figures on the astonishing quantity of gasoline we burn in the U.S., and what it costs us in terms of trade imbalance. I got the numbers off a lying, cheating government website, and John spotted the blunder. Here’s his note of admonition:

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>>Shell, peak oil, and the “blueprint scenario”
April 22, 2008, 3:13 pm
Filed under: 3660911

By Seth Masia
SOLAR TODAY

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition program ran a startling interview this morning with Jeremy Bentham — not the utilitarian philosopher, but Royal Dutch Shell’s vp for the global business environment. InJeremy Bentham wonderfully elliptical language, Bentham conveyed the idea that Peak Oil is upon us and that oil will become more difficult to supply sometime around 2015.

He outlined two possible scenarios for the future: a chaotic scramble for oil resources (hello? What do you call the various Gulf Wars?), and a “blueprint” scenario in which “emerging coalitions” act to find solutions to energy supply and climate change issues. He defined the blueprint scenario as policy action by states (like California) and, presumably, by smaller nations — a patchwork of local solutions, including “some kind of carbon-dioxide pricing.”

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>> Utility group: efficiency can curb need for new plants
April 21, 2008, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Utilities

NEW YORK, April 21 (from EPRI) – Energy efficiency improvements in the U.S. electric power sector could reduce the need for new electric generation by an additional 7 to 11 percent more than currently projected over the next two decades if key barriers can be addressed, according to a preliminary analysis of potential energy savings released today.

The draft findings were presented by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) during an Edison Foundation conference.

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>> Waste heat and thermal pollution
April 16, 2008, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Utilities

By Seth Masia
SOLAR TODAY

On March 14, NPR’s Science Friday did an hour on concentrating solar power, with Mark Mehos (NREL), Fred Morse (Abengoa) and David Mills (Ausra). A listener called in with a question: What’s the effect of excess heat bounced back from the mirrors into the atmosphere?

The answer is that there’s none. The solar array creates no new heat — it simply intercepts some of the sun’s heat and converts it to other forms.

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>> Electric vehicle charging stations coming to Israel, Denmark ― and North America
April 16, 2008, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Transport

By Seth Masia
SOLAR TODAY

Renault-Nissan will introduce an all-electric vehicle (EV) in the United States by 2010, the company announced on Mar. 5. It’s apparently part of a world-wide strategy of charging-station build-outs involving Silicon Valley start-up Project Better Place (PBP), NEC, and the Israeli government.

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>> Trucking plans for a railroaded future
April 15, 2008, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Transport

By Seth Masia
SOLAR TODAY

A few weeks ago I spent some time with a group of road-building contractors from Pennsylvania, and I took the opportunity to ask what sort of infrastructure changes they’re planning for in an oil-constrained future.

The answer, in two words, is truck lanes.

Confronted with $4 diesel fuel, headed to $10, trucking companies want permission to run road trains. A road train is a string of several trailers pulled by a single tractor cab. This is common practice across the Australian Outback, and it’s common to see trailers double-ganged or occasionally tripled on open stretches of highway in the western United States and Canada. Trains don’t mix well with congested traffic and windy roads – car drivers especially object to the problem of passing a slow road train grinding up a long grade. North American rules limit road trains to about 100 feet in length, and to limited-access highways with at least two lanes in each direction.

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