Living building home

Check out this gorgeous Oregon ‘living building’ home. Huge windows look out on green meadows and forests, but its 3500 square feet of indoor space is expected to use only $50 a year in energy bills.  It uses solar panels, of course, but also has super insulation, heat-recovery ventilation, a roof overhang and window shades to control heating and cooling.  Eric Lemelson consulted with Green Hammer and worked with construction company, Hammer and Hand to create his home.

http://on.wsj.com/18IbY2p

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Cars that burn up the roads

Two articles appeared next to each other on the front page of the WSJ on August 18: ‘US Car Plants Shift to Top Gear,’ and ‘Decade of Drought Threatens West.’

We need to connect the dots.

The manufacture of 60 million new passenger vehicles in 2012 worldwide, 99% of them burning gasoline or diesel, guarantees us more extreme weather disasters.

With rising carbon emissions making the atmosphere warmer, increasing storm surges, floods, droughts and wildfires will destroy infrastructure, water resources, homes, and jobs.

The federal government gives tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and installation of solar panels that can be used to charge them, and also requires automakers to increase energy efficiency.  This is great, but we should do more.  A carbon fee should be imposed to make purchasers of fossil fuels to pay more of the actual costs of using those products.  Taxpayers now pick up the tab for spill clean-up, disaster aid, flood insurance, crop insurance and military protection of oil shipments.

A tax on oil, coal and natural gas at the wellhead, mine or point of entry, increasing each year, up to $100 per ton, with revenue returned to households would help level the playing field and allow more profitable production of clean energy alternatives.   With a tariff on goods from other countries not imposing a carbon fee, we could also encourage worldwide adoption of clean energy.

Streamline permits for solar

Citizens can promote sustainability by making sure that communities and states have updated their codes and standards for installation of solar panels. States, cities and even planning commissions can choose to encourage or to block homeowners and businesses from adopting cost saving solar power. There are wide differences in waiting time and cost for permits to install photovoltaics. As the cost of solar panels drops, old and costly permitting requirements can double to price of solar installation.The US Department of Energy studied and reported on major gaps in 2010 and helped fund the Solar ABCs, recommending standards and codes for installation. In half a dozen states, solar panels provide cheaper electricity even without subsidies. With current federal tax credits, solar rooftop electricity is competitive with local electric costs in all but a few states.

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/08/21/local-permitting-makes-a-bigger-difference-as-solar-gets-cheap/

http://solarabcs.org/about/index.html

http://www.ilsr.org/why-pay-double-solar-america/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddwoody/2012/07/05/cut-the-price-of-solar-in-half-by-cutting-red-tape/

Tea Party support for clean energy

Tea Party supporters in Georgia are calling for more consumer choice in energy. Debbie Dooley, a national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots argued for a vote by the Public Service Commission of Georgia to require Georgia Power to add solar generation to its portfolio. In an interview with Chris Hayes in ‘All In’ she said, “We care about our environment.  We believe things should be done in a conservative way. ..This solar plan will not have to be subsidized.  We believe this giant utility monopoly deserves some competition and that consumers deserve a choice. …Show us in constitution where a government can pick winners & losers and set up a monopoly and be an impediment to the free market. We believe it is wrong.  In the next legislative session we will be asking the legislators to overturn the Territorial Right Act of 1973 that actually allowed these monopolies to take place.”

Byron Dorgon, a former Senator from North Dakota agreed and went further. “If we want more clean and renewable energy in this country, we have to do something about it. Thirty states have renewable energy standards, good for them, they are the heros. States need to make choices about what kind of future they want.  …. There should be renewable standards in every state should have them. We ought to have a national energy standard.”

Encouraged by public support by both the Atlanta Tea Party and the Georgia Sierra Club, members of the Public Service Commission voted on July 11, 2013 to require Georgia Power to generate more power from solar, adding 525 megawatts by  2016.  Although the power company had argued for months that such a move would raise rates, after the vote, the company’s attorney said that the addition of more solar probably would not affect power bills.

http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2013-07-10/ga-power-says-closing-coal-plant-wont-make-room-solar

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/georgia-utility-regulators-back-unprecedented-sola/nYnBk/ – cmComments

Pikes Peak conquered by Winning Electric Motorbike

Go Electric!  Lightening Motorcycle’s electric sportbike won the race up Pikes Peak this year. It beat the next closest competitor, a gas powered Ducati, by a full 20 seconds. The 12 mile track climbs 4720 feet to the top of one of Colorado’s 14,000 foot high peaks.  

Power in Ocean Breezes

North America’s first offshore wind turbine has just been launched, a prototype for gathering data. The full size floating  turbines will be nearly as tall as the Washington Memorial, and will be tethered 20 miles offshore where winds are stronger. Within 50 miles of the US shoreline there is enough wind energy to power the entire US several times over.

Developed at the University of Maine, the turbines will be made of composite material that won’t rust. They will be connected to an underwater power cable that will take power to thousands of homes.

The turbine, called Volturnus, will be competing for  funding with Norwegian energy company Statoil that has already tested floating wind turbines in the North Sea.  A turbine industry in Maine would create thousands of jobs and bring millions in private investment.

Grid systems balance power as wind and solar increase

How do we keep refrigerators running 24/7 as more solar and wind power is installed? Texas, California and Iowa are now getting 20% of their electricity from renewables; and the US average is 13% and growing.

Electricity needs to flow continuously. All power plants stop sometimes, for maintenance or accidents, and demand changes by the minute, with temperature changes or popular media events.

Grid operators are the quarterbacks; they keep it happening; they call the plays. Working in giant control rooms with huge arrays of dozens of screens monitoring electric input and output,  they balance the supply and move electricity to where it is needed. Weather reports help  grid operators plan. When the wind is dying down, or  clouds are on the horizon, operators pull power from other areas that are making plenty of electricity, or  turn on idled plants, and increase supply. The bigger the area served by a grid station, the more options it has for balancing the electric load.

Check out this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSiCRZcJnfE