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Supercritical Injector Doubles Efficiency March 18, 2010

Posted by OldGuy in Alternatives, energy conservation.
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Transonic Combustion company has a new injector that can double efficiency, improved energy efficiency and lower CO2 emissions using conventional fuels like gasoline.  In the lab, they have achieved 64mpg in a non-hybrid Prius-class vehicle (3400  pounds)

This innovative fuel injection systems uses “supercritical” fuel injection, where the fuel is modified with a catalyst for  ultra-high efficiency and lower emission levels.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s  Transportation Research Board, gasoline engines only use 15% of their energy for propulsion of the vehicle.  30% is waste heat out the radiator and another 30% goes out with the exhaust.

Transonic’s precision controlled fuel injection systems produce lean air-to-fuel ratios that minimize many of thermal efficiency losses from today’s engine technology.  This is done by changing the physical properties of hte gasoline into a supercritical state.

For non0chemists, the critical point is the intersection of liquid and gasseous state of a substance.  Above that – the supercritical area – the substance mixes very easily while remaining compositionally dense.  What Transonic has been able to do is push the gasoline into that supercritical area, mix it with oxygen and inject the mix into the chamber with no liquid droplets to lower the burning temperature.

In laboratory tests on modern engine architectures, this technology has successfully run on gasoline, diesel, biodiesel, heptane, ethanol, and vegetable oil, all in the same engine.

The company expects cost-parity with current high-end injection systems.  They are already working with 3 auto companies for conversion of their existing engines, with a target introduction to the commercial market in 2014

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Wind Turbine Efficiencies Offered November 10, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in energy conservation, Wind Power.
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Virginia-based Catch the Wind has an innovative solution for improving wind turbine efficiency— laser beams. The company’s fiber-optic laser system gives turbines up to 20 extra seconds to adjust to changes in gusts and wind direction. That may not sound like much, but Catch the Wind claims that its system can improve turbine output by 10 percent.

source:  cleantechnica.com

Catch the Wind, Inc is based in Manassas, VA

Efficiency is the key October 13, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in energy conservation.
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Most of the talk in energy policy these days is about creating new sources of energy.  However, I hearken back to the Carter 70s, where the mantra was conservation.  We were unsophisticated back then.  Insulation was two inches thick, and solar heat meant water barrels or flagstones behind double-pane glass.  We’ve learned a lot since then, but have failed to implement what we know.

At the 2008 Clinton Global Institute Annual Meeting, Andrew Winston, Founder, Winston Eco-Strategies, led a session on Energy & Climate Change – Ending Energy Waste.

At the begining of the seminar, he made a statement about energy waste:

One of my favorite (statistics) is all that energy that goes into those data centers, those big server farms that are powering all of the technology we have today about 3 or 4-percent that goes in the door is used to actually process some data. Some people tell me that’s a high number. The rest is lost to cooling, duplication, all sorts of things. So there is this opportunity for orders of magnitude and change in how we do things. This is the easy stuff.”

He quotes Amery Eleven as saying these ideas are “not the low hanging fruit, but the fruit on the ground.”  This stuff ought to be easy.  He tells the story of UPS, which now has a system where they now say they don’t take left turns, because they found they were spending too much time and fuel waiting to turn left, and programmed their routes in right-hand circles.

To make the point, Diana Farrell from the McKinsey Global Institute said that the discussion on reducing carbon emissions has had positive economic consequences.  She says that “about 1/3 of the opportunity to abate CO2 is in things that are, if you like, negative costs.”  With a little bit of up-front capital, many of these things can achieve positive rates of economic return, even as they reduce carbon emissions.  She says there are already viable technologies that are commercial available that could cut 150-percent of US energy use.  And if the up-front capital could be found, it’s likely to see an Internal Rate of Return of 17% on the investment – a 6-year payback.

Bill McDonough, a world-renowned designer and architect, then brought up the fact that 40% of the energy used is for buildings, because “you can’t start applying renewables to an inefficient thing,” and that “intelligent design is the best way to conserve.”  SImple things, like white rooftops (like at all WalMart stores) and skylights.

This is of course more important for the developing world, like China and India and the Middle East, but also important for us, trying to dig out of an economic crisis caused by old thinking about problems.  These are great ideas.

Note:  A transcript of the session is available from the CGI website.

Energy alternatives for Africa August 17, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in Alternatives, energy conservation, Wind Power.
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“Africa is fast becoming an important player in cleaner energy sources. If only 0.3% of sunlight falling on the Sahara and Middle Eastern deserts can potentially provide all of Europe’s energy needs because of its intensity, how about everything else?”

With these words, Sam Aolo Ooko (a writer for Green Options), introduced a bold idea – switch Africa from eco-costly investments into planting and developing biofuels, but instead jump-start more developed continents by developing alternative energy sources and innovating conservation measures. He continues:

“How much wind blows from Nouakchott to Natal, and how much of this is ever utilized as an alternative energy source? How much water flowing in the Zambezi is used to power villages in Zambia and Zimbabwe; and how much more of the great Nile waters that flow into the Mediterranean can sustainably be harnessed to run corn mills in Nakuru and cotton ginneries in Jinja and Khartoum or fisheries in Cairo?”

Ooko quotes Ester Nyiru, a respected African economist, as saying “African countries are not using alternative power supplies since international combines do not encourage the switch; indeed, the use of such technologies may damage their business.”

Ooko is on to something. There are vast deserts with abundant sun and wind. In those regions, there is little reason to use oil and coal to generate electricity. Africa has vast coastlines and many rivers capable of producing hydro- and tidal generation.

Ooko’s future is hopeful: “Every single village in Africa can have cheaper, cleaner, sustainable energy and we can re-write every book that proclaims the end of poverty. Forget oil, alternative energy is the way to go for Africa.”

10 Ways to Save Gas June 1, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in energy conservation.
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With fuel reaching all-time highs, double the cost of last year’s frenzy, Aaron Gold has provided us a list of ten ways to save on gasoline.  Some are pretty simple, like checking tire pressure, and others involve lifestyle changes, like taking public transportation or bicycle to your destination.
Gold’s Top 10 tips are

  1. Slow down.  Try driving the speed limit.  Just hang to the right lane to let everyone else pass by.
  2. Keep tires inflated to proper pressure.  WIll improve mileage and lengthen the life on the tires.
  3. Check the air filter and change promptly when it’s dirty.  Keeps the fuel mix at the right ratio.
  4. Accelerate with care – no jackrabbit starts.
  5. Maintain constant speed on the highway.  Continually slowing down means you have to accelerate more to get back to speed.  Trucks use this technique to save on long-haul costs.
  6. Use A/C only when needed.  When it’s moderate temp, and at low speeds, consider opening a window for air ventilation.
  7. Type of tire matters.  Custom wheels look cool, but generally aren’t as efficient. Use stock wheels for long trips.
  8. Clean out the trunk junk.  Hauling an extra 50 lbs takes extra fuel.  Consider if you really need all that “just in case.”
  9. Downsize to a more fuel-efficient car, especially for single-person commuting.
  10. Find alternatives to driving, such as public transportation, bicycles, walking or carpooling.

This is just a summary.  Read the full list and descriptions of each at his web post.

Can the grid handle all the new electric cars? April 8, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in Alternatives, energy conservation.
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I read an interesting post at HybridCarBlog.com. If we all suddenly went out and traded our gas guzzlin SUVs for all-electric cars, could the electrical grid handle the load? Or would plugging in at the end of our commute home cause such a drain on the system that brownouts at 6pm would become common?

I think he’s overstating the case. He’s assuming the electrical grid is already saturated, and has no spare capacity to absorb a new drain. He assumes everyone will plug in at the same time, and that office buildings will still be running full bore at that moment. And he assumes current electrical draws.

I think people will plug in to a trickle charger as they get home, which varies from 3:30 to 7pm. There will not be a spike, but a gentle increase, similar to turning on a few more light bulbs and TVs. It will happen as office buildings go dark and silent. My office is on motion detectors after 5pm, and if I work late and sit still too long, I’m suddenly in the dark until I stand up. And he assumes there will not be any improvements in conservation.

One conservation effort I’m working with increases power transformer efficiency. Radio amplifiers are notoriously inefficient – around 9%. The emerging technology in the labs today should push that to 30% in the next year, perhaps to 50% efficient by the end of the decade. If similar technology were applied to computers, the electrical demand would drop.

Even more important, increasing efficiencies should decrease the need for as much electrical power to run those new cars.

Which should help the electrical grid handle those new electric cars.

Simple Ways to Reduce Energy Usage April 7, 2008

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Did you know that you could save money on your energy bill by simply unplugging the charger after you’ve removed your cell phone? Wall warts — or small transformers with plugs attached, like cell phone chargers, that hang from electrical outlets — account for up to 4% of electrical comsumption.  They continue to pull electricity, even after the device they were powering has been disconnected.

New technology needed to meet electricity needs April 6, 2008

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Some bloggers think the problem behind electric cars is that there is not enough power in the grid, and the grid is not structured to handle additional plugins.

Dahcrednys posted on hybridcarblog that the grid can’t support the additional usage of electric cars.  He has a point.  The average age of power generation plants in the USA is 47 years old.

But he ignores recent advances.  Where server rooms used to be massive spaces of rack after rack of heat-generating computers, most are now operating efficient blade servers.  Where power amplifiers are traditionally only 9% efficient, new Gallium Arsenide devices are promising between 40% and 60% efficienty by the end of the decade.

He also ignores the improvements in solar and wind production.

“Building Green” doesn’t have to cost February 29, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in building green, energy conservation, LEED.
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Robin Suttell wrote a great article at Buildings.com that cites hard numbers of building environmentally friendly buildings.

The article quotes the 2003 study by the The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings which shows that the average premium for all 33 studied green buildings is slightly less than 2 percent ($3 to $5 per square foot).”

While it’s hard to generalize from such a small sample, most of the research believes you can build a building with many of the LEED standards without any additional cost. Most of the cost incurred involves taking time up front to think through the project with an eye to efficiencies, and the architectural time to put the ideas into the plans. “Green isn’t going to be cost effective or work to the highest levels of efficiency if it is tacked on somewhere in the middle or the end of the project,” says Turner Construction’s green guru Rod Wille.

Other studies suggest many of the improvements actually improve productivity, paying for themselves. Robin Suttell concluded that “Four attributes of green building design – increased ventilation control, increased temperature control, increased lighting control, and increased daylighting – have been positively and significantly correlated with increased productivity. Indoor air quality also has been linked to potential productivity and health gains in workplaces and educational facilities.”

Rod Willie adds, “If you can increase productivity by more than 1.5-percent over the 20-year term of a building, that translates into $40 per square foot you can put into a building based on the ultimate term of high productivity. … You can spend $40 per square foot more because you’re going to get that back.”

The ROI of Green Buildings February 27, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in energy conservation, LEED.
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In a Washington Post article titled “Saving the World Inside the Office,” they described the actions of Discovery Communications (Discovery Channel) trying to revamp their corporate headquarters to be more eco-friendly.

Larry Laque, an executive at Discovery, noted they had done the traditional recycling campaigns and standard energy conservation methods.  But they wanted to do even more.  “Green-handled, low-flush toilets were installed in every restroom. Three 400-gallon tanks in the garage stored rainwater to irrigate the company’s lawn. And numerous unnecessary light bulbs had been removed, such as vending machine lights.”

The point of the article was to tell companies how to “become part of the green solution.”  Discovery has taken the effort to get certified by the US Green Energy Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

The article points out, however, the unusual features of LEED certification.  Noted was the discrepancy between environmental remediation and key design features and the relative worth in the scoring method.   It quotes Bill Oatey, owner of the Oatey Co., a Cleveland Plumbing company.  They got one “point” for brownfield remediation and another one point for putting in a bicycle rack.

Almost missed in the article was the potential for economic return on investment.  There are some interesting and affordable options in the sidebar.  Like the use of collected rainwater to care for the landscaping and graywater (from sinks and water fountains) to flush the toilets.

As you look for ways to produce more energy, consider first the conservation of what you have now.  Doing good for the environment does not have to be bad for the wallet.