Monday, December 8, 2014

The Haney Energy Saving Group: Are green cars really clean?

Cars of the future have always been envisioned as running on electricity and sporting futuristic and compact designs. But while this thing of the future called electric vehicle is slowly entering the mainstream car market today because of climate change concerns, it is still worlds away from replacing the conventional internal combustion engines we've been using since the 1800s.

The thing is, owning an electric car is probably not for everyone -- for now. Aside from the fact that they are not widely available yet, there are many factors that affects someone's choice of owning one -- the main concern being its expensive price, even though there's a government subsidy in the form of income tax credit to those who will avail of an EV.

Moreover, you've got to have an outlet on hand in order to charge your car's battery for a minimum of 5 hours as advised by The Haney Energy Saving Group. While one manufacturer is offering access to a free charging station, it won't likely be present in every 5 miles so that's a real delimiter. And if you decide to have one installed at home, it will surely eat up on your electricity bill, what with the long charging time.

Further complicating matters is that most EVs are still limited when it comes to range: you'll normally get around 100 miles in one charge, depending on speed and weather among others.

Fortunately, the technology used in EVs is advancing every day so we can look forward to a cleaner future. But do they really cause less pollution like what we've been made to believe? Will patronizing EVs really make a difference as it is?

As The Haney Energy Saving Group previously reported, that depends on where its electricity will come from. In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, it's true that EVs can be environment-friendly because they have no emission at all. But you can't really convince yourself that you're supporting a greener future when the electricity being used to charge your EV comes from coal/gas powerplants. A powerplant relying on solar, nuclear, hydro or wind resources in generating cleaner energy will undoubtedly be a good step towards combatting climate change.

Granted, it's not really that easy to conclude just where your electricity is coming from. But it's still something we should consider in terms of what green energy really means, especially since the source of electricity for an EV to run is often overlooked.  Though it has no actual emission from itself, the carbon dioxide emitted by the powerplant to charge an electric car for a period of time would also count as carbon footprint.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently developing a plan to lessen emissions from powerplants which should be a big help in cleaning up the electricity industry, as well as ensuring the future of green cars. Coupled with the efforts of car manufacturers to significantly add up on the average driving distance EVs can reach on a single charge, we can probably be assured of a good fate for green cars.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Haney Energy Saving Group: Common Sense Energy-Savings Tips, and then Some

Some of the most unappreciated measures to take in reducing our energy consumption hark back to old or traditional practices before we had modern technology. Or, simply, using common sense and enough logic will help bring down that electric bill. But the willingness to do so must come first.

Here are some:

• Do more outdoor grilling than other cooking choices. It may not be so good on your lungs or nose and the neighbours might complain; but it saves you a lot by sparing your oven or stove from high energy costs.

• Copper-bottomed pots and pans conduct heat more efficiently when cooking on the stove compared to other metals. Not only that, they also look rustic and nice compared to the shiny yet less efficient alternatives.

• Clean up your stove reflector pans to reflect more heat upward when cooking. Dirt and grime, especially oil smudges, reduce the efficiency of those pans.

• Turning off your oven or burners just before the food is cooked allows the remaining heat to finish the task for you. With practice, you will know just how soon you can turn them off.

• Tight-fitting covers on pots and pans reduce cooking time and help you save energy. As a general rule, then, buy only kitchen-ware that will enhance your ability to save.

• Use pots that match your stove burner size in order to avoid heat loss. Small pots on big burners are a waste, unless you have burners that can adjust to either a single, smaller flame or a double, bigger flame.

• Habitually turn off bedroom, kitchen and bath fans each time you leave the room. People used to leave air-conditioning on the whole day. Today, every small saving you can make means a lot in the long run.

• Dust your refrigerator each time you dust your house. Inspect the coils at the back of your unit and use coil vacuums or dusters for cleaning. This will make your unit run more efficiently.

• A full freezer uses less energy than an empty one. To maximize savings, fill your freezer with water containers. This should be an easy measure for all to do.

• Buy energy-efficient appliances. They help save money and also protect the environment because they utilize less energy. Browse the Internet and find out how they work and protect nature, then buy the most efficient and most economical ones.

• Replace your old refrigerator with one that has the yellow EnergyGuide® label, making sure you compare features. Select models with better insulation and have power-saving switches. Unlike PCs that may become obsolete after a year or two, the latest refrigerators can still be up-to-date and efficient for several years.

• Do several loads of your washing and drying during your laundry schedule. This keeps the dryer warm and ready for the next load and allows you to save so much on energy.

• Over-drying your clothes wastes energy and produces static and wrinkling. Like cooking food, turn off the dryer before the clothes are completely dry. Let evaporation do the rest, especially if you schedule your laundry in the middle of a warm day.

• Separate wash loads into heavy and light fabrics to shorten the drying period. And if you want to save more, dry your lightest fabrics in the air or under the sun.

• Provide an outside vent for your dryer to minimize the workload on your air conditioner. Keeping all that heat generated inside the house while running the aircon is like trying to fill up a leaking pail with water.

We wonder why many people discover only now how to use these simple tips which used to be common measures in the past. Is it because we take so many things for granted? We assume things work out well as long as they are new or still functioning. However, saving on energy requires a more discriminating understanding of how it is used and also how it is wasted. These tips should prove that point clearly.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Haney Energy Saving Group: Doable Steps to Save on Your Utility Bills

It never hurts to find ways of reducing your energy consumption in order to save and help the environment as well. Here are a few suggestions:

1.    Reduce “phantom loads

Phantom loads are energy consumption of appliances (75% of the power they consume when used) when they are turned off. Sounds unbelievable; but that is according to the US Department of Energy. So, it makes sense to unplug appliances when not in use or plug into a power strip which you can turn off when not using appliances.

2.    Design windows according to your needs

Windows can reduce electric bills for homes that use heating or cooling units. In the tropics, big windows are preferable not just for lighting purposes during daytime (saving on artificial light) but also for bringing in cool air (saving on cooling cost) during windy days. However, many homebuilders today have forced people to buy ill-designed homes that have small steel-casement windows, trapping in more heat during the day and preventing cool night air to enter. Hence, people, who do not seem to see the connection, generally choose to buy air-conditioners when the air outside is cool enough to provide comfortable temperatures at night.

The main reason, as we know it, is that people who live in the urban areas try to prevent dust and pollution from entering their homes. The other reason is to prevent burglary. So, they close their windows at night. Steel grills solve part of the problem. Again, people do not realize it but those grills absorb heat at daytime, aggravating the heat inside the house.

3.    For those who plan to build a home, make it energy-efficient

The ultimate solution, of course, is to build a house that is energy efficient. There are so many things one can incorporate to make it so. It all depends on the budget. Insulating it against heat or against the cold, as the case may be, will save you a lot of money. But even if you have an old home, you can do a lot more to make it energy-efficient.

4.    Conserve water

People do not realize that water is the easiest resource to save money on. First of all, you can see and feel it. You can store it and even recycle it, unlike electricity. Finally, you can get it free from the sky or the ground, with a little investment.

Washing dishes, for instance, should be a cinch on how to save money: Whereas you open the faucet fully when doing this chore, try half-open and see how much water you save. The time it takes you to wash may not even differ. Then try one-third; it might take you longer; but, hey, you saved two-thirds of the water already! And if you really want to scrimp, try a trickle while washing dishes. Water from a fully-opened faucet will not completely touch the plate while soaping or rinsing it. Much of the water merely flows past into the sink. But a trickle and enough scrubbing (even without using a basin) will do the trick just as well. It is not in the amount of water you use but how you clean that matters.

Storing rainwater in a cistern used to be common; but nowadays, people do not even know what it is. Recycling gray-water (used water from laundrying, dishwashing or bathing) for other uses, such as cleaning dirty garage floors, watering plants and flushing toilets can save a lot of water.

5.    Plant trees and shrubs

Keeping a cool house can be achieved through having plants around it and inside it. Plants never stop to produce protein through photosynthesis even at night or indoors. They can store sunlight and heat energy to survive and grow. They can help absorb heat inside and outside your home. They can also provide a buffer against solar heat and reflected heat from the surroundings.

If you plant fruit trees and vegetables, you can have extra income to cover part of your energy bills. If you cannot avoid paying power bills, grow some of the money to pay for it.
Even without spending so much and, sometimes, while making some money, you can save on your energy consumption.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Eco care home creates unique interior

When the Fisher Partnership wanted a bespoke interior for their purpose-built care home, Whitby Court, they turned to Shackletons for seating and soft furnishings that would reflect the high standards of care and comfort the company is committed to providing.

Jenny Fisher from Whitby Court says: “We were very aware of not reflecting an institutionalised image when completing Whitby Court. This unique home required a unique interior treatment that would enable us to offer something completely bespoke.”

“We found Shackletons were on our wavelength, they engaged with our thoughts, understood our requirements and really worked with us to get the right seating and soft furnishings for our residents.”

Sarah Thompson, Regional Sales Manager at Shackletons says: “Working with Whitby Court was a pleasure; their level of creativity and input enabled us to push the boundaries of interior treatments within a care home. I believe we have created a bespoke environment that reflects a person-centred approach whilst offering fit for purpose and comfortable furniture that will last in a demanding environment.”

Shackletons provided over 100 individual seating options in varying comfort styles and fabrics throughout the home with soft furnishings to complete this very individual care home look.

Whitby Court is the Whitby’s first purpose-built ecological care home and includes a biomass boiler, solar panelling, LED energy-saving lighting and underfloor heating throughout to minimise our carbon footprint.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Haney Enery Saving Group: Device saves £175 on water & gas bills

A £200,000 project has got underway to install energy-saving devices in thousands of homes across North Lincolnshire to help tenants save on water and gas bills.

Landlords at North Lincolnshire Homes estimate the savings per property could be as much as £175 per year.

Work started this month on distributing shower heads and timers in homes where a Vokera Unica boiler has been installed.

Tenants will also be offered an energy efficiency guide, giving top tips on how to reduce utility bills as part of the affordable warmth project.

Project manager Tim Ball said: "We are committed to offering our tenants affordable warmth and to try to improve the energy efficiency of homes. This is helping to reduce the impact on both the environment and offering residents innovative money-saving devices where possible.

"Over the last six years we've installed high efficient A-rated appliances into 3,500 homes.

"It's these tenants who will benefit initially, but we have plans to increase this in the future though. When people require a new boiler fitting they will also be able to take advantage of these products.

"After research and a trial of the products over the past 18 months, we've seen real savings can be achieved which is why we've decided to invest £200,000 in this project."

Monday, July 7, 2014

'Smiley faces' could help cut bills

Households could cut their fuel bills by £80 a year with the help of a simple "smiley", a study has revealed.

Giving people feedback on how much energy they are using compared to their neighbours can have as big an impact on reducing bills as installing loft insulation or upgrading their boiler, the research by the organisation Sustainable Homes found.

Sending people happy face emoticons, or smileys, if they used less energy than other similar households, and sad faces if they were using more than the rest of the group, led to people changing their habits to reduce electricity and gas use.

The success of the smileys could be down to people's desire to "fit in" with the social norm, something that can be a more powerful driver to change behaviour than the motivation of saving money, the study's authors suggested.

Andrew Eagles, managing director of Sustainable Homes, said: "These findings will be of great interest to anyone concerned with cutting energy bills - which, of course, is most of us.

"We know that people are always keen to save money, but what this study uncovers is that their natural desire for approval is at least as important, and probably more so.

"Nearly one third of the UK's emissions come from homes, and the results have implications for the roll-out of smart meters in the UK.

"They suggest we would be missing a trick if we did not take people's real motivations into account with a simple and cheap method like this when we try and reduce household energy consumption."

The study recruited 540 homes in 14 housing associations around England, with all the households being given energy saving tips before they began the programme.

Some households received information about their energy use without comparison to other homes, some were ranked against similar properties and a third group received feedback with smileys which indicated how well they were doing compared to others.

Those in the smiley group whose energy use was in the lowest 25% of households got a yellow smiley with a big grin, while those in the second lowest quarter got a green smiling face.

Households whose energy use was in the second highest quarter compared to the group as a whole received an amber neutral face, and the highest energy users were sent a red sad face emoticon.

Feedback of any kind helped people cut energy use, but the research found that people who received smileys made the biggest savings compared to groups who were given a ranking or simply informed of their "killowatt-hour" usage.

The smiley group saved an average of 8% on their electricity bills and 3.6% on their gas bills, or around £79 on average.

If three-quarters of the UK population were to achieve these kind of savings, it could save 2.7 million carbon emissions a year, equivalent to switching off Didcot power station for half the year, the report said.

Friday, July 4, 2014

COLUM -Can We Really Do Without Coal? Kemp

(John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own)
By John Kemp

LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) - Two-thirds of the world's already discovered reserves of oil, coal and natural gas must remain unburned if the rise in average global temperatures is to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

But coal miners and oil and gas companies round the world allocated $674 billion to finding even more reserves and new ways of extracting them in 2012/13. Much of this investment risks being wasted, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, which is campaigning to get investors to think again. ("Unburnable carbon 2013: wasted assets and stranded capital")

"It is possible that much of this additional spending would prove fruitless. At worst, these assets might be 'stranded' forever," Martin Wolf, the celebrated chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, wrote in a sympathetic review recently. ("A climate fix would ruin investors" June 17)

Carbon Tracker Initiative is part of a broader divestment movement pressing universities, pension funds and other socially responsible investors to boycott shares and loans in fossil fuel companies to force them to leave the oil, gas and coal "down there". ("Stranded assets and the fossil fuel divestment campaign: what does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?" Oct 2013)

The divestment campaign has drawn a swift response. Major oil and gas companies such as Exxon and Shell (LSE: RDSB.L - news) reject the claim that their exploration and development spending is being wasted. "We do not believe that any of our proven reserves will become stranded," Shell wrote in a letter to investors on May 16.

"While the stranded asset notion may appear to be a strong and thought-through case, it does have some fundamental flaws, and there is a risk that some interest groups use it to trivialise the important societal issue of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," the company complained in a detailed response.


There is an obvious inconsistency between companies continuing to invest in developing more fossil fuels while governments maintain they are still committed to the 2 degree target.

According to Wolf: "Something will have to give: either the world will abandon its pledge to keep emissions below the level thought to produce a temperature rise of 2C, or the fossil fuel companies are holding stranded assets and investing in unusable ones. Investors are implicitly betting on the former possibility."

He concluded: "Major energy producers do not believe governments will do what they promise. They envisage a very different and quite unrevolutionary energy future in which the reserves they now possess and those they plan to develop will all be burnt."

Wolf is right about the contradiction between investment policies and climate targets. It is more likely the world will miss the 2 degree target than that fossil fuel reserves will be stranded.


Rather than oil or gas, the primary target of the divestment campaign is coal, which emits far more carbon dioxide when burned for electricity production.

"Coal companies appear far more vulnerable than oil and gas," according to researchers at Oxford University's Stranded Assets Programme. "Coal not only contributes to climate change but also releases harmful pollutants with short-term and visible, health and environmental consequences."

In the first phase of the divestment process, concerned investors are likely to begin by liquidating their holdings in coal companies, the Oxford researchers explain, before moving on later to oil and gas producers.

Several prominent U.S. universities and European pension funds have already sold their shares in coal companies.

If the total amount of carbon that can be burned in the next few decades is constrained by an overall "carbon budget", and coal is the most polluting fossil fuel, it might seem to make sense to put coal reserves off limits first.

Some of the big oil and gas companies have quietly supported this idea, hoping to replace dirty coal with clean-burning gas and bump up demand for their own products in the process.

The unspoken alliance of climate campaigners and gas companies appears to have convinced the Obama administration.
Cutting coal consumption and replacing it with gas is the central objective of new U.S. regulations on power plants at home. ("Regulatory impact analysis for the proposed carbon pollution guidelines for existing power plants" June 2014)

And the U.S. Treasury has stated it will not provide financial support for any new coal-fired plants in poor countries. ("Guidance for U.S. positions on multilateral development banks engaging with developing countries on coal-fired power generation" Oct 2013)


The stigmatisation campaign against coal, in the words of the Oxford researchers, is already well underway and has notched up some notable early successes.

Recent successes in developing shale gas and oil have led some campaigners to imply the world could do without coal.
But the effort to put coal off limits is doomed to fail. Coal resources will remain an essential part of the energy mix far into the future.

Coal accounts for roughly a third of known fossil fuel resources (excluding highly unconventional resources such as methane hydrates which are unlikely to be developed in any foreseeable timeframe).

Gas and oil appear much more abundant than before thanks to the shale revolution. But they would start to look scarce again if coal was put off limits and the entire power generation sector switched to gas.

On a global scale, switching entirely from coal to gas would put a tremendous strain on gas supplies and push prices sharply higher. It would be a windfall for gas companies but not for everyone else.

Coal also has important benefits for energy security. Coal reserves are much more widely distributed around the world than the other fossil fuels. Major developing economies with fast-growing energy demand, including China and India, have abundant coal resources but relatively little oil and gas.

Shale oil and gas could change that calculation, since they are more widely distributed than conventional oil and gas, but their widespread development still lies in the future.

In the meantime, coal is cheaper than oil and gas, available from a broader range of suppliers, and the major emerging economies have more of it at home. Coal is therefore vital to energy security in developing economies.

For these reasons, coal has been the fastest-growing source of energy in the 21st century, driven by growth in emerging markets. Coal is the second-largest source of primary energy after oil and the largest source of electricity.

"Coal has been, is and will be the backbone of modern electricity and the bedrock on which the modern world is built," according to the World Coal Association. ("The public image of coal: inconvenient facts and political correctness" May 2014)

The trade association has an obvious interest in promoting the future of coal, but that does not make its claims any less true.

There is no conceivable energy future over the next 30 to 40 years in which coal does not play an enormous role.
The divestment campaign, however well intentioned, will therefore fail. While it might shut down some of the ageing U.S. coal mines in Appalachia and Kentucky, it will not dent the developing world's prodigious demand for coal-fired power.


If coal is set to remain a big part of the energy mix, however, the way it is burned will have to change. Coal power plants in China and other developing economies are creating killer smogs, which are poisoning the population as well as spewing billions of tonnes of greenhouse-causing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In future, coal must be made to burn more cleanly (to cut air pollution) and more efficiently (to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated).

In both cases, the challenge is to bring the whole fleet of coal-fired power stations up to the standards of the best.
Even in the United States, more than half of coal-fired power plants are over 40 years old. China and India, too, have lots of very old facilities. Most of these old plants are too small to reach maximum efficiency and employ outdated technology. ("Focus on clean coal" Nov 2006)

The average power plant in the United States or China achieves a thermal efficiency of just 33 percent. For every three units of energy contained in the fuel burned in the plant only one unit of usable electrical energy is delivered to the grid. In India, the percentage is even lower.

But modern plants built on a scale of 500 or even 1,000 megawatts, with ultra-supercritical boilers, can achieve thermal efficiencies of 40 percent or more, burning less coal to produce the same amount of power.

Even higher efficiencies are possible if instead of burning the coal directly it is gasified and the gas is then used in a combined cycle system (first driving a gas turbine and then a steam turbine). Integrated gasification and combined cycle plants are tricky to build and operate but could achieve thermal efficiencies of 45 percent.

China, India and even the United States are now building power plants that are larger, far more efficient and with better pollution-control technology. Modern coal-fired power plants can make a contribution towards slowing climate change, in combination with more use of natural gas, renewables such as wind and solar, nuclear power, and energy efficiency measures on the demand side.

The question is how to shut down the fleet of old power plants that fall far below these standards. "To reduce emissions, replacement of the oldest plant should be a high priority, but it is rarely economic, and electricity demand growth dictates that these plants often remain open," the International Energy Agency explained in 2006

In the United States, the Obama administration is now attempting to force these old power plants to shut or undertake expensive upgrades by introducing strict rules on pollution and carbon emissions.

China, India and other developing countries will eventually have to overhaul their own older coal-fired plants if they are to enjoy clean air and contribute to global efforts to limit climate change.

The realities of the energy system mean there has to be a future for coal.

Even in the United States, with its shale gas boom, coal is still expected to account for 30 percent of power generation by 2025, down from 37 percent currently. In Asia, coal's share is currently much higher and cannot conceivably be replaced by gas.

To limit the impact, however, coal will have to be burned in power plants very different from most of those in existence today.

Rather than trying to shut down the coal industry, campaigners would be more effective if they focused on trying to modernise the electricity sector to use newer, larger, cleaner and more efficient power plants.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Energy Saving - The Haney Group Conservation Awareness

Overall energy usage in the city grew at a slower pace than the average economic growth in the 10 years to 2013, new data shows.

And from 2012 to last year, consumption of electricity alone fell 1.1 per cent.

One green group welcomed the official figures as a sign that the city was getting serious about saving energy. The statistics reflected public awareness of reducing energy consumption, Edwin Lau Che-fung, head of advocacy and education at Friends of the Earth, said.

"The slight drop is in a positive direction," he said. "It reflects a power-smart attitude among consumers and businesses."

The city recorded an overall energy balance last year of 300,284 terajoules, down from 322,938 terajoules in 2008, the Census and Statistics Department said in its annual report.

During that period, imports of electricity from the mainland decreased 5.2 per cent.

The energy balance is the sum of energy input - mostly imports of coal, oil and electricity - minus output, when these resources get transformed into energy.

Electricity generation made up the bulk of the balance, while the rest came from gas.

Commercial users remained the top guzzler of electricity last year, consuming 66 per cent of energy used. Households came second, despite falling three percentage points to 26 per cent. Industrial users consumed 7.3 per cent of electricity.

Overall energy usage rose 2.5 per cent from 2003 to 2013. Over the same period real GDP grew at an average of 4.5 per cent a year.

Environment officials have floated a pair of options on the future of Hong Kong's energy mix. One proposal involves drawing a third of the city's electricity from the mainland power grid.

Under fuel-mix proposals for 2023, mainland company China Southern Power Grid may export up to 15 billion kilowatt-hours a year to Hong Kong - an option that Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing claims can help the city outperform its targets of cutting carbon emissions.

Higher electricity bills are in store no matter which option is chosen, Wong has warned.

Lau, a former member of the government's advisory council on the environment, said tougher energy and carbon reduction targets should be imposed on the city's two power suppliers.

"The government should also explain more about the two fuel-mix options," he said. "We need to know how much more electricity prices will go up and why.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Energy Saving - The Haney Group New Ideas in Lighting

Ever since government regulations began phasing out the traditional light bulb in 2012, the once-simple visit to the lighting aisle has become an exercise in navigating a dizzying array of choices and terminologies, especially for new kinds of compact fluorescents and LEDs.

Now, those choices are about to become even more complicated. Two start-up companies are poised to begin selling bulbs that use entirely different technologies — one borrowed from heavy industry and the other from old-fashioned televisions — but meet the new energy standards.

Whether they can capture customers who remain stubbornly wedded to incandescent light is anybody's guess. But that both have come this far is an indication of how unsettled the consumer lighting market remains, despite years of promotion for the new energy-saving options.

"It's going to be a really long putt to try to replace the incandescent," said Mark Rea, director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "People hate change of any kind. We make light sources today that are better than incandescent by any metric at delivering the benefits you're expecting from lighting. But it's different."

Indeed, incandescent bulbs — whether leftover store inventory of standard lights or halogen models that meet the new regulations, which went fully into effect in January — outsell other types by far at big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe's, lighting executives there say. In the last quarter of 2013, according to statistics from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, incandescent bulbs accounted for 65 percent of shipments from manufacturers, with the remainder consisting of mainly compact fluorescents.

Even as government officials, manufacturers and retailers focus their efforts on improving and marketing LED technology, researchers and entrepreneurs have been pursuing others, convinced that none of the options on the market offer consumers a close enough match to the familiar light quality at a low enough price. LED bulbs, for example, offer light quality that many experts say is equal to or better than the traditional incandescent bulbs, but their price — often $10 a bulb or less after starting out several years ago at about twice that — has scared off consumers. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why Solar Power Is Booming but Will Never Replace Coal

In recent years, solar power has shown tremendous growth. Last year alone, the solar industry hit a new record in terms of installed solar capacity. The data shows the impact which according  to the Energy Information Administration reached 3.5 million megawatthours of electricity produced by solar photovoltaic panels in 2012. In 2013, that figure more than doubled to 8.3 million Mwh. And to think that ten years ago, the U.S. generated only 6,000 Mwh from solar PV cells. Solar is gradually closing in on price parity with other energy sources such as coal — with full-cycle, unsubsidized costs of almost 13 cents per kilowatthour against 12 cents for more modern coal plants.

So, is the solar revolution finally arrived? Not really. Even after ten years of rampant growth, solar energy still hardly makes an impact in the U.S. energy field. In truth, solar only equals the amount of electricity that the nation produces by burning natural gas derived from landfills. And it is merely a little more significant than the 7.3 million Mwh we get from combusting human waste filtered out of municipal sewer structures.

Ultimately, when you collate all the sources of energy used up in this nation, captured solar energy adds up to significantly less than 1 quadrillion Btu out of an yearly total of 96.5 quadrillion.

The largest sources are the traditional standbys. Oil still stands above the rest at 36 quadrillion Btu, natural gas at 26 quads and nuclear at 8. Hydropower and biomass follow from behind at 2.6 and 2.7 quads. Wind is only 1.5 quads. And coal — the great carbon-emitting monster of the global energy sources —contributes 19 quads. That is about 8 times all the country’s wind and solar generation put together.

This is very vital important to remember in light of pending efforts by the EPA to institute draconian fresh regulations governing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power facilities. Coal emits about 1.7 billion metric tons annually of carbon dioxide out of the 5.3 billion ton yearly total.

The assumption, by policy makers such as President Obama, is that the nation can reduce carbon emissions by shutting down coal plants, while making up for the lost electricity by using more natural gas and putting up more solar and wind plants. In truth, natural gas has replaced much of the coal output. In 2013, coal production from U.S. mines went down to 995.8 million short tons. The last time it went that low was in the late 1980s. Coal production reached its height in 2008 at 1.17 billion short tons.

The president is instituting significant measures to control heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants and to increase renewable energy production on state-owned facilities, making use of his executive powers to resolve climate change issues and avoiding the partisan debacles in Congress.

The shortfall in demand has gravely affected America’s largest coal-mining firms. In the past five years, shares in Peabody Energy BTU +1.5% went down 36%, Arch Coal down 67% and Alpha Natural Resources ANR -1.67% off 78%. In contrast, shares in Solar City SCTY - 4.48%, up 400% in only 18 months.

However, coal is not dead. Certainly not close to it. “Even when the president is against coal, it is like you stand against City Hall. But the truth will conquer,” says Andrew Redinger, managing director at KeyBanc Capital Markets, which has performed investment banking work for coal firms and for solar developers. “I see coal recovering soon. The best thing for coal will be when we begin exporting natural gas.”

This winter proved that “announcing the death of coal is premature,” says Bob Yu, analyst at Bentek, a division of Platts. “Winter showed that natural gas is utilized for heating. Coal use was significantly up this winter because of natural gas purchases by retail buyers.”

Consider what occurred last winter during the chilling grip of the polar vortex. In January, shortfalls of natural gas in the Northeast led to price spikes above $100 per mmBTU in some markets. Electricity spot prices in the Mid-Atlantic region peaked as much as $2,000 per megawatthour for a short period. Natural gas experienced high demand for residential furnaces that electric utilities could not even get what they required for their power facilities. Some had to turn to back-up emergency generators that use much more expensive petroleum. So much for that so-called glut of shale gas.

Natural gas prices have already increased three-fold within two years. And coal-to-gas shift has already reversed. From making up 40% of the national electricity mix in the first quarter of 2013, coal’s share grew to 41.4% in the first quarter of 2014. Natural gas was down from 25.6% of total power production a year ago to 23.8% in the first quarter of 2014.

This will dampen what has been a slow shift away from coal. Power firms have been closing down old coal-burning facilities ahead of more stringent emissions regulations, with 4.7 gigawatts of coal capacity shut down in 2013, following the 10.3 GW in 2012. Another 60 GW of additional closures will occur by 2020. Analyst Yu says, “that may appear like a lot, but not in connection to the entire power mix.” The plants being shut down are many years old, not yet outfitted with the pricey “scrubbing” technology that can decrease harmful emissions by 90%, even when burning low-quality, sulfur-carrying coal.

At large electric facilities in the Midwest, where coal still supplies over 70% of fuel, the costs of converting coal into power are so low that we will see negligible shift over to natural gas — especially with prices of gas tripling in two years. In fact, the issue is whether or not shale gas drillers will have the capacity to fill up depleted gas storage ahead of the coming winter. We should be alright. After all, predictions say more than ample natural gas supplies are available as far as can be foreseen. Once pipeline obstacles are cleared out, there should be enough gas for everyone wherever it is needed.

So, what would it require for America to replace every coal-fired power facility (totalling to 19 quads of energy annually) with solar and natural gas? Let us consider it. Assuming a natural gas turbine construction bonanza, coupled with a rise in gas power plants’ operations to full capacity, we could significantly enhance power generation from gas by 50% in five years, supplying about 13 quads. To make up the rest of coal’s share with solar would require increasing the amount of electricity we get from solar about six times to about 50,000 megawatthours annually. Attaining that would mean 20% compound yearly growth in solar installations for a decade. Or almost 9% CAGR for 20 years.

This is feasible, on the short term. Electricity production from solar PV generation almost tripled from 2009 to 2010. It grew more than twice in 2011. And more than three times in 2012. Achieving such a growth rate is not difficult when you are small; but the bigger the base the harder it gets. Wind power is a fine example — it managed to increase 19% last year from a much larger base, to 168 million Mwh. But remember: Both wind and solar energy have to overcome the obstacle of geography — developers build systems in the most windy and sunny areas first. The worse the location, the more panels or windmills you require to attain the same amount of electricity. That is the reason why it is less important how many megawatts of solar capacity is built and more important how much actual electricity that is produced by those solar panels.

For all the discussions on “grid parity”, the simple truth is that even mixed with far more power generation from natural gas, renewable sources will need many decades to replace coal completely. And the irony will be that as the coal demand decreases, it will become less and less expensive, making it even more attractive for the coal-burning power facilities that endure through the coming storm. The direct cost of producing electricity from coal is 2.5 cents per Kwh.

It is encouraging to see that even some noted veteran environmentalists have proven themselves to be realistic when it comes to coal. Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, has concentrated for three decades on minimizing the environmental impact of the global energy system. Yet in an article published late last year, he claimed that “coal is not going away.”

Coal will be crucial to economic modernization in the developing world, where most energy supply will be installed in the next three decades. Coal will also have an important residual role in much of the OECD. Coal is not going away. We need to start using it without emitting considerable amounts of carbon dioxide, and quickly. If we don’t, the risk to global climate is great, and possibly irreversible. It’s that simple. People who think otherwise, and simply hope for the death of coal, are not admitting the facts. (…)

Let me be direct and clear: Except for the environmental challenges, this expansion of coal-fired power boom is a desirable development; dependable energy is a correlate of economic growth and human development. But let me be equally clear: The carbon produced by this expansion is unacceptable and puts us on a dire collision path with our global climate.

Coal has become enormously cleaner over the past generation. And novel and better ways will be discovered to derive energy from coal without producing dangerous by-products and burdening the environment. It is scalable and dependable in ways that renewable energy sources simply are not. Hence, unless we are willing to put up with blackouts that freeze grandma during winter and melt her in summer, coal will stay as a faithful source of U.S. power generation for many years to come.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Origami-like lightbulb worlds Energy Saving-The Haney Group

How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb? Three, it turns out. The founders of Hong Kong-based Nanoleaf – former engineering undergrads Gimmy Chu, Christian Yan and Tom Rodinger – are on a mission to reinvent the humble invention that has remain unchanged for over a century.

The result is both unexpected and beautiful. Nanoleaf’s LED bulb is a geeky origami project – its body is made of folded silicon instead of glass. According to the company, this design makes it extremely energy efficient.

“Being a scientist, Tom has an engineering perspective,” says Yan. “Why use an extra material like glass? Why not mold the circuit board in a shape of a light bulb?”

With every component designed from scratch, the bulb brings 87 percent energy savings compared to the existing LED variety. It produces 133 lumens-per-watts, almost double the efficiency of Philips’ 22-watt bulb. The design has another positive spin-off: more efficiency means less heat, making Nanoleaf’s bulb one of the coolest around. Literally.

At US$35 each, it isn’t too far beyond other LED bulbs, so the pricing isn’t prohibitive considering the long-term cost savings.

There’s a trade-off though. A more efficient light bulb has a lower color rendering index, which means it brings out less of a surrounding’s natural colors, making the environment less attractive. This has implications for the retail and food sector, as well as for discerning homeowners.

This is another engineering problem that the Nanoleaf team wants to solve. It will also introduce warmer-colored lighting, which homeowners tend to prefer, for the next iteration of the bulb.

The startup’s goal is to push the product into as many people’s hands as possible, which was why they decided to enter fundraising mode. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

10 Natural Alternatives to Energy Drinks

Almost every one of us is living in a fast lane and so are most of the Americans and we support this kind of lifestyle with no other than energy drinks.

According to Packaged Facts, a food and beverage market research firm, consumer demand for energy drinks increased 60 percent between 2008 and 2012. Sales of energy drinks and shots summed more than $12.5 billion in 2012 and Packaged Facts estimates this figure to boost to $21.5 billion by 2017.

Products who label themselves as the “energy” packaged drinks, shots, drink mixes and extra heavily caffeinated soft drinks. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., for the Mayo Clinic explains, most rely on large amounts of caffeine, along with sugar and other additives, to temporarily boost energy. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suggests “stimulant drink” is a more appropriate name for this class of beverages.

The USADA found tyrosine and phenylalanine, which may interfere with medication; kola nut and guarana, which are sources of caffeine; yohimbe while analyzing commonly used ingredients in energy drinks, which interacts with anti-depressants; and ma huang, which is a plant source of ephedra. Competitive athletes should focus more on to energy drink ingredients, warns the USADA, as banned stimulants may come out having some other name.

Depending on energy drinks for just a boost of energy is fine sometimes but taking these kinds of products has harmful effects on the body. Excessive caffeine can cause nervousness, irritability, insomnia, increased heartbeat and elevated blood pressure.

Plus, it can trigger more serious complications such as migraines, seizures and heart problems. Reported by Medical News Today, the number of people receiving emergency treatment as a result of consuming energy drinks increased from 10,068 in 2007 to 20,783 in 2011,

If regularly feel fatigued or tired, or maybe you have a problem with your low energy or you, identifying the cause can be helpful in identifying effective, natural strategies. “Usually when people are feeling the need for an energy boost, it is due to a low-blood sugar or dehydration,” says Mindy Black, a board-certified dietitian and exercise physiologist.

Blood sugars drop 3 to 4 hours after a meal or 30 to 45 minutes after a high-sugar snack.

“No matter how perfect their lunch may have been, blood sugars only remain stable for about three hours,” Black says. She recommends one of these energy-boosting combos rather than energy drink. The secret is to include lean protein with quality carbs.

•             Handful of almonds mixed with a handful of whole grain cereal
•             Beet juice with low-fat string cheese
•             A smoothie with yogurt, a few strawberries and a banana or a mandarin orange and handful of walnuts
•             Salmon and half a cup of quinoa or brown rice
•             A glass of chocolate milk

Another common cause of low energy is dehydration. “If we’re dehydrated, a lot of our organs and vital systems are slowing down, which can make us lethargic and tired,” Black says. “If you are not drinking enough hydration fluids, not sodas and alcohol or juice, to have clear or close to clear urine every 90 minutes, your energy drain may be due to dehydration.” The solution? Drink more water.

One typical reason why people feel tired is that they’ve depleted their glycogen stores.

“Perceived exertion and perception of fatigue are directly related to low glycogen stores,” says Barbara Lewin, RD, LD, sports nutritionist and owner of “That translates into not taking in enough carbohydrates, especially before and after your workouts. This is the primary reason for athletes experiencing low energy levels. The best ways to boost your energy levels is to consume carbs throughout the day.”

Here are a few more natural energy boosters:

•             Snack on healthy carbohydrates, such as apples and oatmeal
•             Include foods containing iron, such as spinach, nuts, oysters and dark chocolate, in your diet
•             Drink cold water to increase energy for up to two hours
•             Take a quick 10-minute walk
•             Catch a 20-minute power nap

Although energy drinks offer a short-term solution to low energy, developing healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, eating wholesome foods every 3 to 4 hours and regular physical activity will keep you energized all day, every day.