Monday, April 25, 2005

Austin Energy Texas First in America for Alternative Energy Electricity Sales

Austin Energy has shown its commitment to renewable energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Austin Energy's Green Choice program sold more than 334 million hours of renewable energy last year.

More than 350 businesses in Austin get their power from renewable sources as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Austin Energy uses electricity from 61 West Texas wind turbines.

Here's the top ten green energy programs in the United States (as of December 2004).

1. Austin Energy -
areas served include Austin, Texas
green energy from Wind Power, Land Fill Gas, Small Hydro -
334 MWh/year

2. Portland General Electric (PGE) -
areas served include Portland, Oregon
green power from existing Geothermal, Wind Power, Small Hydro - 262 MWh/year

3. PacifiCorp - includes Pacific Power and Utah Power
areas served include:
Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, California, Utah, Idaho
green energy from Wind Power, Biomass, Solar Energy -
191 MWh/year

4. Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) -
green power from Landfill Gas, Wind Power, Small Hydro, Solar Energy - 176 MWh/year

5. Xcel Energy -
areas served include: Denver,Colorado; Elkhart, Kansas; Wakefield, Michigan; Saint Paul, Minnesota; Roswell, New Mexico; Fargo, North Dakota; Boise City, Idaho; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Amarillo, Texas; Eau Claire, Wisconsin
green electricity from Wind Power - 137 MWh/year

6. National Grid -
areas served include:
New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Nantucket
green power from Biomass, Wind Power, Small Hydro, Solar Energy - 88 MWh/year

7. Los Angeles Department of Power and Water (LADPW) -
area served Los Angeles through the Green LA program
green energy from Wind Power, Landfill Gas - 75 MWh/year

8. OG&E Electric Services -
area served Oklahoma
green electricity from Wind Power - 56 MWh/year

9. Puget Sound Energy (PSE)-
area served Washington state
green energy from Wind Power, Solar Energy, Biogas -
46 MWh/year

10. We Energies -
areas served include Wisconsin and Michigan
green power from Landfill Gas, Wind Power, Small Hydro -
40 MWh/year

(source: NREL)

MWh/year = million kWh/year rounded down

List of Green Energy Providers by State

One of the single biggest ways we as individuals can encourage the use of alternative energy and help aid the transition to a post fossil fuel age is to buy electricity partly, or preferably completely, generated using alternative energy.

Switching your electricity utility provider may be as simple as requesting a form or filling one in online. That's exactly how I switched to 100% renewable energy (generated mainly from wind power with some solar power and small scale hydro thrown into the mix). Renewable energy options are available throughout the U.K. and in many other countries.

To find out if you can switch to renewable energy in your area look on your search engine of choice for "green energy", "green power" or "green electricity". You may also need to add your location to the search. If your local utility doesn't provide a renewable energy option yet, email or call them and ask why.

Original News 8 Austin Article

Green-e Certified Electricity Products

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Wind Energy Japan: Vestas Eyes Offshore Future

While it sees the Japanese mainland as a challenge due to the country's dense population, Danish wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems A/S is hoping to put some puff into its sales with offshore installations, the company's president said.

Svend Sigaard, president and chief executive officer of the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer, spoke to The Daily Yomiuri at 2005 World Exposition Aichi, where the company is exhibiting at the Nordic Pavilion.

"Japan is a densely populated country, and that makes the Japanese market more difficult compared with other markets. If we utilize the possibilities of nearshore installations or even offshore installations in the future, that will give us the possibility of continued use of wind energy.

If we go offshore, it's more expensive because the construction of foundations is expensive. But often the wind is stronger offshore, and that can offset the higher costs.

We're getting more and more competitive with our equipment. The price--if you measure it per kilowatt-hour produced--is going lower, due to the fact that turbines are getting more efficient. So we're creating increased interest in wind energy.

If you compare it to other renewable energy sources, wind is by far the most competitive today. If we're able to utilize sites close to the sea or at sea with good wind machines, then the price per kilowatt-hour is competitive against other sources of energy. "

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Energy Efficiency: LED Lights to Replace Lightbulbs?

Alternative Energy Blog reader Jeff Vail emailed me about this Associated Press article on the increasing use of and advances in LED technology.

LED lamps were unthinkable until the technology cleared a major hurdle just a dozen years ago. Since then, LEDs have evolved quickly and are being adapted for many uses, including pool illumination and reading lights, as evidenced at the Lightfair trade show in New York this week.

More widespread use could lead to big energy savings and a minor revolution in the way we think about lighting.

LEDs have been around since the 60s, but have mostly been relegated to showing the time in an alarm clock or the battery level of a video camera.

They haven't been used as sources of illumination because they, for a long time, could not produce white light - only red, green and yellow. Nichia Chemical of Japan changed that in 1993 when it started producing blue LEDs, which combined with red and green produce white light, opening up a whole new field for the technology.

White LEDs

And the industry has been quick to exploit it. LEDs are based on semiconductor technology, just like computer processors, and are increasing in brightness, energy efficiency and longevity in a way that's reminiscent of the way each year's new crop of processors is faster and cheaper than last year's.

Researchers at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., said they had boosted the light output per watt of a white LED to almost six times that of an incandescent light bulb, beating even a compact fluorescent bulb in efficiency.

The current generation of mass-produced white LEDs is not as effective. It's about twice as good as a light bulb of the same wattage, but the energy savings aren't enough to overcome the major drawback of being expensive.

"It's hard to convince consumers based on energy savings alone," said Nadarajah Narendran, director of lighting research at Rensselaer. "If you look at compact fluorescent lamps, they're four times as efficient as incandescent lights, and how many homes have those? It's less than 5 percent penetration."

But development is brisk, and the Department of Energy has estimated that LED lighting could cut national energy consumption for lighting by 29 percent by 2025. The total savings on U.S. household electric bills until then would be $125 billion.

LEDs have other advantages that are propelling them into niche uses, despite their upfront cost.

LED Traffic Lights

Current white LEDs will last up to 50,000 hours, about 50 times as long as a 60-watt bulb. That's almost six years if they're on constantly.

That makes them attractive for places where changing bulbs is difficult or expensive - like on the outside of buildings or in swimming pools. Osram Sylvania, the lighting subsidiary of German manufacturer Siemens AG (SI), makes 27-foot long strips of flexible, adhesive tape covered in LEDs for such applications. They are also being used in traffic lights and increasingly in car tail lights.

Hotels are interested in using LEDs in bedside lamps to save them the trouble of replacing burned-out bulbs, said Jim Anderson of Lamina Ceramics, which showed off a 6-watt array of LEDs that produce light equivalent to a 20-watt halogen bulb.

LEDs are also durable. Being solid-state, they can resist the vibrations in aircraft and cars, according to Narendran, who has worked with Boeing on designs for aircraft cabins.

BMW LED Tail Light

The feature of LEDs likely to propel them into homes is aesthetic, not practical. Arrays that mix red, green and blue LEDs can produce any color of the rainbow. Instead of a dimmer, you might have three sliding knobs that let you mix color.

"On a very hot day you might want blue light to cool it down a bit, or on a winter day you may want to simulate sunlight," said Steve Landau of Lumileds Lighting, an LED-making joint venture of Agilent Technologies Inc. (A) and Philips Lighting.

Qantas Airways Ltd., the Australian airline, recently outfitted its first-class cabin with LED lighting that shines a deep blue when it's time to sleep.

A system like that would be too expensive for most homes, but industry experts believe the price will come down in a few years as the technology develops.

"We are still in a very young research environment," said Norbert Hiller, vice president at Cree Inc. (CREE) of Durham, N.C., which produces blue and green LEDs. "Our researchers keep surprising us."

AP article on LED Lighting Technology

Energy Efficient Product Reviews

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Alternative Energy in Developing Countries: New U.N. Report

a Ghanaian woman

A United Nations environment agency survey has revealed the potential for renewable energy in some of the world's developing countries is much greater than previously thought. The UN Environment Agency (UNEP)'s four-year project to map the solar and wind resources of 13 countries has discovered thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy waiting to be unleashed in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America

"In developing countries all over the world we have removed some of the uncertainty about the size and intensity of the solar and wind resource," said UNEP executive director Klaus Toepfer. "SWERA (The Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment) is a good example of international cooperation that can produce a range of positive environmental and social outcomes. In the case of renewable energy, knowledge is literally power."

"SWERA (The Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment) has clearly demonstrated that the modest amounts needed to support renewable energy assessments can significantly change the way countries pursue their energy goals," said SWERA's project manager Tom Hamlin.

The countries where SWERA has carried out surveys to date are: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sri Lanka.

China alone has the potential for more than 100,000 megawatts of renewable power, while Brazil also has large amounts, according to the study.

Small countries also have surprising potential. Sri Lanka has a wind power potential of 26,000 megawatts, which is 10 times the country's installed electricity capacity.

Windy Lake Nicaragua gives the small Central American country 20,000 megawatts of potential renewable power.

In Guatemala, wind estimates before SWERA were mostly unknown, but is now estimated at 7000 megawatts, based on SWERA products. The Guatemala Ministry of Energy has established, with support from SWERA, the Center for Renewable Energy and Investment within the Ministry to carry out validation studies and identify sites for wind energy development.

The benefits for each country differ. "If you look at China and Brazil they're going to be manufacturing the (renewable) plants and there are big economic benefits in that," said Hamlin. "And there are broad economic benefits for the smaller countries," he said. "Instead of always importing petroleum they would have domestic resources so they would save on the costs and risks of having petroleum prices fluctuate wildly."

In the African country of Ghana, where the SWERA study discovered more than 2,000 megawatts of wind energy potential, this is "quite a significant amount" according to UNEP, as it estimates that Africa need just 40,000 megawatts of electricity to power its industrialisation.

Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment Website

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Alternate Energy Japan: Energy Plan to Decrease Dependence on Oil

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday instructed ministers in his Cabinet to work out a long-term energy plan featuring increased use of alternatives to oil, such as solar and wind power, a government official said.

At a meeting of ministers on the country's energy policy, Koizumi said Japan should draft an energy plan that goes beyond the one the government has compiled up to fiscal 2010 and that the new plan should put priority on departing from oil dependency and boosting alternative energy consumption, the official said.

"We need to decrease consumption of oil and bring in new alternative energy sources including solar and wind power as well as fuel cells," Koizumi was quoted as saying. "That is the way we should transform our country from a nation with almost no resources."

Recent surges in crude oil prices to record-high levels are behind the policy, the official said.

The premier said nuclear power is an important source of energy for Japan but it would be difficult to increase the number of nuclear power plants.

Some electric power companies have become reluctant to promote nuclear plant construction because of local opposition and the high cost of building and running the plants, analysts say.

Under the government's revised energy supply plan, which is expected to be formalized by May, Japan aims to lower dependence on petroleum in primary energy supply from 47 percent in fiscal 2000 to 41 percent in fiscal 2010.

Considering the technological lead Japanese automakers like Toyota and Honda have shown in hybrid technology, it is time for the Japanese government to show leadership in promoting plug-in hybrid technology and alternative energy. By doing so Japan can lock in long term electricity and transportation fuel prices and reduce its significant exposure to rises in fossil fuels prices. It also has an opportunity to set an example on an international level by leading the way to a post oil age.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Alternative Energy Technology: Toshiba Develops One Minute Rechargable Lithium-Ion Battery

Thanks to Alternative Energy Blog reader Josh who referred me to this recent press release by Toshiba who have developed a high energy density lithium-Ion battery that recharge 80% of its capacity in one minute. This is sixty times faster than typical lithium-ion batteries (which among other applications are commonly used in cellphones). As Josh (who has worked as an engineer at Ballard Fuel Cells) commented:

"Having worked extensively with fuel cells, I think this technology may dominate over everything Ballard has already developed. With high energy density, fast charging cells, there is also a clear path to fully electric vehicles with no need to change current infastructure. Vehicles could also easily be charged from home, at work, or gas stations could adapt by providing high-speed charging facilities."

According to the press release its secret is the use of "nano-particles" to "prevent organic liquid electrolytes from reducing during battery recharging. The nano-particles quickly absorb and store vast amount of lithium ions, without causing any deterioration in the electrode".

The battery has a long life cycle, losing only 1% of capacity after 1,000 cycles of discharging and recharging, and can operate at very low temperatures.

Toshiba will bring the new rechargeable battery to commercial products in 2006. Initial applications will be in the automotive and industrial sectors, where the slim, small-sized battery will deliver large amounts of energy while requiring only a minute to recharge.

According to the press release "the battery's advantages in size, weight and safety highly suit it for a role as an alternative power source for hybrid electric vehicles", which is exciting news for plug-in hybrid cars.

Full Toshbia Press Release including comparison charts with other types of battery technology

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