Monday, December 14, 2015

COP21 Paris - a historic turning point for energy


On the 12th of December, 2015, high-level representatives from 195 nations, including many presidents and prime ministers, agreed to try to hold warming “well below” 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. On April 22, at the UN in NYC, the agreement takes full effect (once nations representing a majority of the planet’s GHG emissions sign the agreement). Unfortunately, the truth is that, even if the agreement in Paris is carried out by every nation, and to the letter, global temperatures will still be on course to rise by around 2.7°C by the end of the century.

Luckily, the best news of the entire COP21 came on Day 1 with the announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (breakthroughenergycoalition.com). The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is a group of more than 20 billionaires (including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg {CEO of Facebook}) who have agreed to invest in innovative clean energy. The Coalition wouldn’t be able to fund and meet all of its goals without the most important international commitment by governments to invest in clean energy to date. Mission Innovation (mission-innovation.net) is a group of 20 countries including the U.S., Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, who have pledged to double government investment in clean energy innovation and to be transparent about its clean energy research and development efforts. In a statement from the Coalition, the importance of both groups is highlighted –

“THE WORLD NEEDS WIDELY AVAILABLE ENERGY that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working together with a growing group of visionary countries who are significantly increasing their public research pipeline through the Mission Innovation initiative to make that future a reality.”

Brazil was one of the last countries to join the ‘high ambition coalition’, while China and India were hold outs to this section of the pact. The 'high ambition coalition' are a group of countries, including most of the “Mission Innovation” countries and a group of the most vulnerable (smaller generally, and poorer) nations, that are looking towards a more ambitious goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. China and India are the major emitters in the developing world, and were the last agree to the main pact, but not the high ambition goal, at COP21.
Below are some major resources for more information on the COP21:



COP21 Paris – breakdown of the event




Sunday, November 22, 2015

Worldwide smart grid

In order for a worldwide smart grid to be created, governments must invest in smart infrastructure. Most electricity grids rely on dirty fossil fuels and outdated equipment. A smart grid, on the other hand, uses state of the art technology to meet demand and to maximize efficiency. Essentially, the smart grid is an efficient, modern electrical grid. Utilities manage their electrical supply and productivity in a cost-effective way for them and customers benefit from a more efficient power system.



Utilities in a smart grid use 21st century systems to match power demand with energy supply. Intermittent energy sources, like wind and solar, can be used both more efficiently, and when they’re produced more, in a modern smart grid. When these systems are augmented with renewable energy storage, there is indeed a smarter grid...

 Please see: http://www.greencitytimes.com/Sustainability-News/smart-grid-overview.html for the whole article.




Friday, November 20, 2015

Stabilize Greenhouse Gasses


There are numerous ways that we can stabilize greenhouse gasses, thereby "stopping" climate change. Governments of 1st world and even developing nations must implement some of the following policies (and most might, at least implement some of the following, especially after the upcoming COP meeting of the UNFCCC in Paris). Clearly, the path to stabilize GHG emissions includes making it a priority for governments to financially invest in at least some of these solutions:

1. A carbon tax, or carbon cap-and-trade system, or both
2. Further investment in, and development of all forms of renewable energy including: wind, solar, geothermal and biomass/ biofuel etc...
3. Carbon capture and storage
4. Widespread adoption of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, as well as sustainable mass transportation using biofuel or electricity (bus systems, light rail etc...)
5. More use of, and development of smart grid infrastructure - smart meters, home energy management systems etc...
6. Energy, especially renewable energy, storage


This is certainly an incomplete list, so please feel free to add points.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Climate Change Realities: Hurricane Patricia


Was hurricane #Patricia an undeniable sign of climate change? It's a question with no definitive answer. It was the strongest storm on record. To the extent that climate change is a very relevant topic to humanity, Patricia was also very significant. Were Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina at least partially caused by man-made climate change? These events do speak to how climate change should be politically prioritized. Should governments endeavor to address things like defense, poverty, and so forth first before climate change? And how relevant are domestic concerns like gun control and a woman's right to choose in the face of catastrophic environmental disasters?
The truth is that no one can tell to what extent human-caused climate change led to Hurricane Patricia or similar apocalyptic-like environmental events. As  Eric Holthaus wrote in a recent article on slate.com: “But it is exactly the kind of terrifying storm we can expect to see more frequently in the decades to come. Although there’s no way to know exactly how much climate change is a factor in Patricia’s explosive strengthening, it’s irresponsible, at this point, not to discuss it.”
Climate change boosts the frequency of the worst in weather. The current, massive El Niño weather event, along with rising ocean levels and rising oceanic and atmospheric temperatures, all contributed to Patricia. Climate change not only causes there to be more frequent strong hurricanes, but more frequent strong El Niño’s as well.
Eric Holthaus wrote in a recent article on slate.com:

“ / What’s easier to attribute is the fact that, El Niño or not, the temperature of global oceans—and more importantly, the total heat content stored in the top layer of the world’s oceans—is skyrocketing. The carbon dioxide released by fossil fuel burning does a great job of trapping the sun’s energy, and recent research has shown most of that energy—more than 90 percent—is being funneled into the oceans. Hurricanes use that extra energy as fuel for the thunderstorms that swirl around their centers. Warmer water increases the intensity of updrafts, which draw in humid, tropical air, and in turn, increases the chances of rapid storm intensification. In this way, storms forming in today’s climate probably have a better chance to reach their maximum potential intensity, as Patricia has.\

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Benefits of electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles - now and down the line

hybrid vehicle combines energy from a gasoline engine and an electric motor to increase efficiency. Hybrid automobiles increase MPG compared to standard vehicles (50+ for the vehicles addressed in this article), while lowering CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. The benefits of hybrid cars include financial savings even above and beyond the $5000-$6000 in savings on gas (over 5 years) that the cars in this article average. For example, hybrids help to avoid road tolls such as London's congestion charge. Hybrids typically offer features with advantages over standard cars, such as regenerative braking, electric motor drive/ assist and automatic start/ shutoff.
Regenerative braking refers to energy produced from braking and coasting that’s normally wasted, which is stored in a battery until needed by the motor. During electric motor drive/ assist, the electric motor kicks into gear, providing additional torque for such things as hill climbing, passing or quickly accelerating.  For automatic start/ stop, energy is conserved while idling, as the engine is shut off when the vehicle comes to a stop, and is re-started when the accelerator is pressed.
Whereas a normal hybrid car simply combines an electric motor and a gas engine, a plug-in hybrid can run only on electric power, when charged, and can be recharged without using the gas engine. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV’s) have high capacity batteries, and charge by plugging into the grid, storing enough electricity to significantly reduce gas use.
There are two basic types of plug-in hybrids: extended range electric vehicles and blended plug-in hybrids. Extended range electric vehicles work by having only the electric motor turn the wheels, and can run only on electricity until the gasoline engine is needed to generate electricity to recharge the battery that powers the electric motor (or the gas engine can be eliminated entirely, on short rides). Blended plug-in hybrids work by still having both the gas engine and the electric motor connected to the wheels, both propelling the vehicle most of the time.
Electric vehicles (EV’s) drop the gas engine entirely, becoming much more environmentally friendly. The MPG goes way up, but the cost tends to go up as well, and the driving range goes down. These factors; the MPG, cost and range are tied to how efficient, how much capacity, the battery has. The higher the capacity of the battery, the higher the cost, MPG and range. Although EV’s emit no tailpipe pollutants, it remains important that the source for the energy from the grid that charges the vehicle’s battery remains green (i.e. renewable energy) as well.
Hybrid cars take numerous different forms, including the types mentioned above, and then compete against standard gas cars, flex-fuel vehicles, diesel vehicles, etc... European sales of standard hybrid vehicles have increased, but with roughly half the cars in the EU being more fuel efficient diesel engines, EV’s and plug-ins are the more popular choice. These cars can better compete in the global market, in terms of fuel efficiency.
The global hybrid market is still dominated by Toyota, in particular their Prius line, including the Prius Plug-in. The Prius remains California’s most popular car, as a testament to its global popularity. The Prius gets around 50 MPG, costs $25-30K and has a driving range of 540 miles on a full tank of gas. The plug-in model costs $30-35K and gets 95 MPG running on electricity only or 50 MPG running on both electricity and gas, with a driving range of about 600 miles.
The Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf are examples of successful electric vehicles. The Tesla Model S with a 60 kW-hr battery pack gets up to 102 MPG’s, costs around $70K and has a driving range of 208 miles on a fully charged battery. The Nissan Leaf costs $30-35K, can get 80 miles on a full charge and hits 128 MPG’s.
(*All figures are as of 2015.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Nuclear energy is necessary to fight climate change


Nuclear energy is necessary to fight climate change and decrease fossil fuel use. Wind and solar are often distributed energy sources which are always intermittent and variableNuclear, however, is continuously available and represents a much more concentrated source of energy than renewables, with a much higher production capacity. Both nuclear and renewable energy's contribution to energy production on the planet must increase to a combined energy production level which is a little more than what coal alone currently provides.
In order to significantly cut down on the share of fossil fuels in the world energy mix, at least double the production of that which is illustrated in the chart above is needed by 2035. (A total of 40% of the world's energy mix for renewable and nuclear energies combined is needed to reach significant GHG targets. Only 20+% of renewable and nuclear combined is projected in 20 years - by 2035).
In order for the entire planet to achieve at least 25% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction by 2025 compared to 2015 levels (a reasonable, yet challenging, GHG reduction goal for the planet), nuclear energy is going to have to augment truly clean, renewable energy in the effort to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use. Once it’s at the operational stage, carbon dioxide emissions from a nuclear reactor and the power plant’s site are minimal. Other than reduction of emissions, nuclear offers, by far, the most energy dense resource available.
Fossil fuels are more energy dense than renewable energy sources, but 1 kg of coal can only keep a light bulb lit for a few days, while the same quantity of a nuclear energy source will keep the same bulb lit for well over 100 years. Nuclear does this without any CO2, or most other GHG, emissions from the nuclear plant.
Current reactors, 1st and 2nd generation plants, rely on water and uranium. Therefore, these nuclear plants still deplete water supplies, create nuclear waste, use a fuel source that can be enriched to convert the material into a bomb, and represent a source of potential danger, as in the Fukushima disaster (although this risk is dramatically minimized in a 3rd generation plant).
A safer, cheaper, and still energy abundant and emissions-free design that uses relatively benign energy sources and relatively much less water than previous designs and operational plants, is being envisioned in 4th generation nuclear, and is currently available in 3rd generation designs.
Using a small fraction of the water as previous designs, the 4th generation nuclear plant designs are safe, cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and still offer tremendous potential for energy production. Molten salt reactors using depleted uranium, nuclear waste from other plants, or thorium, are being designed as 4th generation nuclear plants. 4th generation designs (and many 3rd generation plants, both planned and operational) are autonomous, smart plants that are even being designed to run on different fuel sources.
Thorium, instead of uranium, is being looked at as a fuel source, as it is abundant, much less radioactive than uranium, and also creates by-products from burning the fuel source, that can just be used again in the reactor. Thorium reactors are being designed with low up-front capital costs, and little manpower is needed to run and maintain 4th generation plants, due to the advanced computer technology set to be deployed in the plants.
Thorium, and depleted uranium, have a very low chance of being developed into a nuclear weapons, produce less radioactive waste, are abundant fuel sources, and are safer, cheaper and cleaner.
Thorium, in particular, is being looked at by developing nations like China and India because of the relatively low cost, increased safety, abundance of the material, and tremendous energy potential of this energy source. The U.S. has huge amounts of thorium, in places like Kentucky and Idaho, and there are large quantities in countries like India, Australia and Brazil.
The U.S., Europe and even some of the aforementioned developing countries also have large stockpiles of depleted uranium, with more being produced every day, which would work in many of the 4th generation designs. 3rd generation nuclear plants are already operating, and some 4th generation plants are projected to be developed and ready for operation by 2025. 4th generation nuclear promises to produce abundant, low-cost energy safely, and with little environmental impact.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Carbon Cap and Trade: putting a price on carbon

Carbon Cap and Trade: putting a price on carbon

Carbon cap and trade systems are plans in which countries, provinces, states and even cities set regulations (a cap) on the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions industries/ power plants can emit, and then implement an Emissions Trading System (ETS). Companies included in cap and trade systems, often companies that operate power plants, have a limit (cap) on the amount of GHG emissions they can produce that is set by the government. Governments may either "grandfather in" GHG allowances (essentially give away credits based on past GHG production) or auction allowances off. Companies with extra carbon credits because their plants go under the limits can then trade their excess carbon allowances to companies that need to buy carbon credits to avoid going over the limit.
Auctions for carbon permits (one carbon permit is usually = to 1 metric ton of GHG pollution) are an essential part of the carbon cap and trade system, helping to establish a price on carbon, and are  much more effective than the system where credits are just '"grandfathered in". The cost of carbon permits is essentially the price of carbon. As GHG emission credits are auctioned off, a price on carbon is established. Companies can also keep carbon credits for future use in trading or for their own allowances. For companies that run over their GHG emissions limits and don’t cover their allowances, a heavy fine is imposed. Carbon cap and trade systems are designed to lower the cap annually, gradually reducing the allowable limit of GHG pollution for those industries targeted by the cap and trade system.
There are trades that offset GHG emissions; trades for credits with companies that have forestry projects and that are reforesting areas or that limit deforestation, or companies that have livestock projects that incorporate sustainable practices, or companies that invest in clean coal technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) or other carbon sequestration measures. To make cap and trade systems even more effective, there should be more offset credits allowed for trades with companies that implement GHG emission saving and energy efficiency technologies like renewable energy, integrative gasification combined cycle (IGCC), and anaerobic digestion (AD), combined heat and power (cogeneration) (CHP) etc…
For some companies, it might make more financial sense and be more cost-effective to make the effort to reduce emissions through emission saving and energy efficiency technologies and/ or expanded use of renewable energy, and then sell their allowances to companies that are over their GHG limit. However, usually most companies tend to buy carbon allowances if it’s cheaper to buy them than to try to lower emissions. Carbon permits can be invested in by businesses, industries, or even the public in some regions, via a carbon futures market. 
Carbon cap and trade systems are in effect in about 40 countries and 25 states/ provinces/ cities globally. The largest market for cap and trade is in the EU with the European Union Emissions Trading System. The EU ETS covers more than 11,000 power plants and industrial stations in over 30 countries, as well as airlines (for flights within Europe until 2016). The primary focus of the EU ETS is to fight climate change by lowering GHG emissions.
The EU ETS remains the largest (and first) international trading organization for trading GHG emission allowances. The EU ETS has successfully put a price on carbon, with its system of trading allowances of GHG emissions, and has also watched GHG emissions fall by a few percent annually since it began in 2005. The cap, or limit, set on GHG emissions will be, on average, over 20% lower on all power plants and industries by 2020 from 2005 levels (when the program started), as the EU continues to make efforts to reduce pollution.  Clean, energy efficient, low-carbon technologies like CCS, IGCC, CHP and AD, as well as renewable energy, have grown in popularity throughout Europe, in part, because of the rising price of carbon resulting from cap and trade programs.
All countries deal with cap and trade differently. Most have cap and trade for industry and power sectors. South Korea has cap and trade for heavy industry, power, waste, transportation and building sectors. China has six provinces testing out cap and trade, and along with South Korea, represents a very large carbon market (with just those 6 provinces China is a large market, the entire country represents the single largest carbon market, by far). The U.K., Ireland, Iceland and the Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Finland have legislated both a carbon tax and cap and trade programs.
The nine state agreement in the U.S. northeast (the Regional Greenhouse Gas InitiativeRGGI) is another major carbon cap and trade trading pact, and is, at least partially, based on the pioneering EU program. These states have auctioned off carbon allowances to industries in RGGI states, and have thereby collected well over $1 billion from carbon cap and trade programs, much of which has been reinvested in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other clean energy programs. Since carbon cap and trade has started in the U.S. northeast, GHG emissions have steadily dropped. Like the EU, this in part due to investment in clean energy technologies, but also because some companies in the U.S. northeast have switched from dirtier fossil fuels like coal to cleaner natural gas generators in power plants, or to renewable energy.
Some carbon cap and trade markets are:
EU ETS:
The U.S. Northeast region:
"To comply with the federal Clean Power Plan's requirements for cutting carbon pollution from power plants, states have several options—including joining RGGI or similar schemes such as California's cap-and-trade system." – from: Cap & Trade Shows Its Economic Muscle in the Northeast, $1.3B in 3 Years (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative offers blueprint to all states as they begin to think about how they will comply with Clean Power Plan.) By Naveena Sadasivam, InsideClimate News
The RGGI states and California are ahead of the curve as far as complying with the Clean Power Plan.
California, Quebec: 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Anaerobic digestion - a proven solution to our waste problem


Poplars AD plant (England)
Anaerobic digestion (AD) can used for farms, businesses and municipalities as a productive solution to a growing waste problem throughout the world. Instead of waste simply ending up in landfills, or being incinerated, waste (and purpose grown crops) could be turned into energy. AD is the process of turning agricultural waste (such as livestock manure), or municipal, commercial and industrial waste streams (such as food processing waste), into energy using micro-organisms to transform waste into a productive material used to create biogas and digestate.
An anaerobic digester generates biogas (or biomethane) which is burned on-site to generate heat, power or both (so, combined heat and power – CHP) or to generate biogas for use as an energy source for the grid (or biomethane used for heat or transportation). Also produced in the process is digestate, which is a source of nutrients that can be used as a fertilizer. Organic waste finds a purpose as it is put in a digester, such as a biomass plant, along with various types of micro-organisms to produce methane, the useful part of biogas. The anaerobic process also occurs naturally, in addition to the man-made construct in a biomass plant.
AD in a biomass plant is a cost-effective way to produce renewable energy. AD also leads to less landfill waste and is a constructive way for farms, businesses and municipalities to dispose of waste. When used for heat or transportation, as biomethane (biomethane can be used in place of diesel, given modifications to the vehicles in question), there are tremendous greenhouse gas reductions.
The entire bus fleet in Oslo, Norway, is run on biomethane from sewage treatment and organic waste, and they see a dramatic (around 70%) reduction in GHG emissions compared to fossil fuel burning vehicles. Food waste and other waste processed through AD also reduces GHG emissions substantially. Energy produced by AD has a very low carbon footprint.

The AD plant at Cannock, Staffordshire, England (called the Poplars AD plant) is an example of a successful, large-scale AD plant. The £24 million project treats commercial and industrial food and waste to create around 6MW of renewable energy for the national grid. The Poplars plant shows that large-scale AD can be successful.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cellulosic biofuel - one fuel option


Ethanol is traditionally made from food crops like corn and sugarcane, but it can also be made from cellulosic feedstocks, non-food crops or inedible waste products. Examples of sources for cellulosic biofuel are crop residues, Miscanthus, switch grass, paper pulp, packaging, cardboard, sawdust, wood chips, rice hulls, corn stover and the byproducts of lawn and tree maintenance.
Technically, almost all plants have the lingocelluloses needed to produce ethanol from cellulosic material. Once glucose is freed from the cellulose using enzymes, fermentation produces ethanol, similar to how ethanol is traditionally produced from 1st generation biofuel sources. Lignin is also produced in the process, which can be burned as a carbon-neutral fuel for local processing plants, businesses and perhaps even homes.
There are tons of cellulose containing raw materials that could be used to produce ethanol that are simply thrown away each year in the U.S. alone. Examples of this are over 100 million dry tons of urban wood wastes and forest residues and over 150 million dry tons of corn stover and wheat straw. That material plus just a fraction of the other paper, wood and plant products that could be used to create ethanol instead of garbage would be enough to make the U.S. independent of foreign oil. This theme is true in other parts of the world as well.
Financial concerns stop cellulosic biofuel from really taking off and providing a consistent source of fuel. This type of ethanol production involves an additional step, the breakdown of the raw material into glucose with enzymes, which translates into a higher cost. However, the raw material is abundant, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from cellulosic biofuel can be up to 90% compared to fossil fuel petroleum, significantly greater than those obtained from traditional 1st generation biofuels. Cellulosic raw material can be easily grown in land marginal for actual agriculture or simply be diverted from landfills, in order to make the production of cellulosic biofuel more cost-effective. Cost-effective processes, such as using inexpensive enzymes to break down the cellulose, are being researched and developed as well.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Carbon tax - a levy on pollution whose time has come

A carbon tax is a levy on pollution, for the relative cost to humanity of the use of fossil fuels. This cost cannot be tabulated in exact terms, for it’s the accumulated cost of the damage to the environment, human health, and related costs of the use of fossil fuels that can only be estimated. The carbon tax itself is a fee on the production and distribution of fossil fuels. The government sets a price per ton on carbon, then that translates into a tax on oil, natural gas or such things as the electric bill.
Businesses and utilities then have the incentive to reduce consumption, and/ or maintain the market price and absorb the cost of the tax, or pass the added fee on to individual consumers. Individuals would then have the incentive to reduce consumption, increase their energy efficiency habits or face a steeper cost for energy and gas.
The principle of mitigating negative externalities (such as the damage caused by fossil fuels), and having the relative costs of pollution paid for, is the primary purpose of the carbon tax. Who bears the ultimate burden of the tax is a hypothetical question that has a couple of answers. The businesses that produce and distribute fossil fuels should consider bearing the brunt of the tax. In practice, individuals pay more.
A carbon tax is enacted to lower greenhouse-gas emissions. Public transportation, energy efficiency products, and things like clean coal technology become great alternatives to traditional means. One other benefit of a carbon tax, besides the incentives to reduce consumption and increase energy efficiency, is the increased attractiveness of the cost of alternative energy, which is made closer to cost parity with fossil fuels.

Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK have all successfully implemented a partial carbon tax on some goods and services, while not being able to implement a broad, universal carbon tax. Generally, reports of lower greenhouse-gas emissions follow the passage of a carbon tax. In addition, India and Australia, among many other countries, have also successfully enacted carbon tax policies. The province of British Columbia, in Canada, has reported drops of around 5% annually of greenhouse gas emissions due to its aggressive carbon tax policies. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

District Heating and geothermal district heating in Iceland



District heating has become the favored method of heating in many cities in Europe. It has also risen in popularity and use throughout much of the rest of the world. This idea is actually more than 100 years old. It started in 1903 in Moscow, Frederiksberg and Copenhagen, all in the same year.

District heating systems as a modern concept were designed and introduced in the 1980's (with constant breakthroughs since then), with automatic control, remote monitoring and unmanned operations. The concept binds together available heat sources which otherwise would be wasted for heating or to produce cooling.

Many district heating networks use cogeneration, or combined heat and power (CHP). Cogeneration is the production and use of electricity and heat simultaneously from a given power source. The sources for CHP typically are: heat from waste incineration, waste from power production, industrial waste and biofuel boilers. Solar and geothermal energy are sources of renewable energy that are also used. The market has further developed through the conversion of natural gas into the district heating supply to customers.

For any modern city with a dense population, this type of system offers the most significant contribution to ensuring energy efficiency that's readily available. District heating is used in many cities (especially in Europe), but needs to be used more in major cities throughout the world.

Geothermal District Heating in Iceland


Situated directly on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is one of the most geothermally active locations in the world. The country experiences moderate summers and often bone-chilling winters. An environmentally friendly solution, that takes advantage of the country's geographic position, while meeting the unique needs of the residents and businesses dealing with the often chilly climate, is sensible.

The use of geothermal district heating in Iceland began nearly 100 years ago. Over the past 84 years, the country and its citizens have worked diligently to perfect the system. The people and government have transformed Iceland into one of the global leaders of this. The capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, kicked things off in 1930 with a small elementary school and an infant version of the technology.

Today, the city provides heat to 95% of the over 120,000 population with geothermal district heating. The remaining 5% is supplied by some traditional methods, as well as geothermal power, affording residential and business owners the option of electric heating and space heating.


Outside of Reykjavik, the use of geothermal district heating in Iceland is widespread. Almost 90% of the heating and hot water in the country is provided via geothermal heating, while petroleum, coal and other sources make up the remaining percentage; however Iceland also uses geothermal power as over 50% of its energy source, some of which goes towards electric heating systems.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Cottle Zero Energy Home (1st ZNE home in CA)



All over the world, a higher level of emphasis is being placed on environmental sustainability as evidenced by the increase in efforts towards energy efficiency and green building. Countries are in constant search of new technologies with the promise of reducing carbon footprint and optimizing the use of available energy without causing harm to the environment. The state of California is one of a few places that is achieving this goal. This is best represented through their ambitious goal of making all new homes zero net energy by the year 2020. Some might think that this is too big of an endeavor, but the state is slowly making the necessary steps to finally show the world that this is possible.

The Cottle Home

As part of commencing the efforts towards zero net energy, One Sky Homes has introduced The Cottle Zero Energy Home, which is the very first of its kind and has been lauded by the California Energy Commission. For those who would like to experience what it is like to be living in such a place, it may not be an easy feat as it comes with a hefty price tag of $2.2 million. More than the luxurious build of the home, obviously, its biggest selling point is its efficient use of energy. Generally speaking, one house in California will most likely consume energy worth over $100 monthly. On the other hand, with The Cottle (in San Jose, CA), the energy consumption is $15 (or usually less, due to standard utility connection fees) monthly.

The Mandate for a Greener Future


The inception of the Cottle Home was part of the idea of transforming the entire state into a greener place and it serves as an example for other states to have similar initiatives. California has recently mandated that all new home construction must be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020. All new commercial buildings in the state must be ZNE by 2030...


Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Topaz Solar Farm has 550 megawatts/ powers 160,000+ California homes



The project size of the Topaz Solar Farm is 550 megawatts, which is enough to power 160,000 California homes. It is located on the northwestern portion of the Carrisa Plains, San Luis Obispo County, California. The location was chosen after a thorough review of potential sites in the state. Some of the factors that were considered include current land use, environmental concerns, available solar resources, and proximity to existing electrical transmission lines.

Reports have said that the solar farm has more than nine million photovoltaic panels mounted across 9.6 square miles of land. When fully functional, the Topaz Solar Farm displaces more than 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. The amount is equal to removing almost 100,000 cars off the road.

The Topaz Solar Farm has provided around 400 construction jobs for over three years, which are worth more than $190 million. Local suppliers have earned around $50 million from the project. Around $14 million in sales taxes were generated during the construction, and up to $400,000 a year in new property tax revenues will be collected from the renewable energy project.

Pacific Gas and Electric will buy the electricity from the solar farm under a power purchase agreement. The agreement is said to last for 25 years. Utilities in California have been mandated by law to get a third of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.