Browsing the archives for the alternative energy alternative fuels tag.


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    Are we selling the U.S. to the foreigners?

    alternative, energy, energy conservation, energy efficiency, forum, green living, solar, Wind

    I don’t usually like to get political or get involved in the discussion of the national economy, but… It just seems to me that when a company from a foreign country comes in and buys a large portion of an American company it threatens our national security. Just my personal opinion. Now I am reading how companies from Japan and Germany are coming in and buying into American renewable energy to take advantage of new renewable energy initiatives (http://bit.ly/B5Byb). Are we selling ourselves and our wind overseas? I would love to hear your comments on this.

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    • blog traffic exchangeThe Solar Bill of Rights (This is a guest post from Roy Gayhart, originally posted on his blog at Whole Solar, a Women Owned Small Business, which is part of an affiliated group of wholesale distributors and manufacturer’s representatives who share a passion for solar energy.) At the Solar Power International Show, Rhone Resch, President......
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    Take Action Now!

    alternative, energy, energy conservation, energy efficiency, green living, solar, Uncategorized, Wind

    Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. – Helen Keller

     Sometimes people don’t vote because they think “one vote can’t change anything”. I think the 2000 election proved that wrong, but some people still don’t believe. Now is your time to be counted by your elected officials. If you want this country to move forward with cleaner energy contact you Congressional Representatives and Senators today. It only takes a minute but can help save the earth a life time.

     Click here to email your U.S. Representative and Senators about the NAT GAS Act today!

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    • blog traffic exchangeResidential Solar Energy Systems Power the Witchcliffe Eco-Village Residential solar energy systems do not need to be isolated systems providing power for one individual home. They are most effective when grouped to service a complete land development or sub-division. A prime example of this can be seen in a new eco-village development at Witchcliffe, near Margaret River,......
    • blog traffic exchangeBudget Crunched? Not sure about where you live, but here in Fredericksburg, VA the gas prices have really started to come down. Just last night I filled up both of our vehicles for $3.09 per gallon for regular unleaded. While the stock market has begun to resemble a terrible train wreck, the......
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    One Step Forward for Offshore Wind

    alternative, energy, green living, Wind

    Thumbs up to Ken Salazar and the Department of the Interior, they have issued five leases to private companies to explore offshore sites for wind energy. All these sites are off the shore of New Jersey and Delaware. I hope this is only the beginning of government being proactive in helping private enterprise develop off shore wind sites.

    Here in Massachusetts, where I live, Cape Wind has been fighting an uphill battle, at their expense, to get government approval for a project in Nantucket Sound. Eight years of pushing for wind energy is too long if we are actually going to make wind and renewable energy a reality. In order for individual states to meet any renewable energy quota we need more positive government actions like this.  

    Lets all pray that the government will continue to put their money and decisions where their mouth is.

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    • blog traffic exchangeHow To Save Energy: A Guide to Renewable Energies by Lynn You should be able to find several indispensable facts about clean energy in the following paragraphs. If there's at least one fact you didn't know before, imagine the difference it might make. Consumers, businesses, and organizations may purchase green energy in order to support further development, help reduce......
    • blog traffic exchangeYou can use wind generated power for your home. by Bart Forcey The need for alternative fuel sources has been a topic of hot debate and dire concern for decades. It is only as we reach points of energy catastrophe and economic peril that the issue is taken seriously. Researchers and scientists in many countries have been planning for......
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    Lessons for Wind Power

    alternative, energy, green living, Uncategorized, Wind

    According to Boston Business Journal, Boston’s Museum of Science announced this week that it will be putting a wind turbine laboratory on its roof. Apparently they have already done wind studies for a year and have come to the conclusion that there is not enough viable wind in their location to create any meaningful electricity. They already have two turbines up and intend to put up three more of varying shapes and sizes ranging from 7 feet to 40 feet. The idea is to “demonstrate small wind turbines that could be erected on small businesses and homes”.

     

    The problem is that small wind turbines cannot be erected on any building, ever. Mother Nature is a very formidable force to deal with. Any and all wind turbines have an incredible vibration; this can cause both structural and noise problems. Roof top turbines have been known to cause nails to vibrate right out of the roof. While the museum roof may be substantial enough to withstand this, with a full time maintenance crew, the average home is not engineered to withstand these forces. 

     

    Second, there is no usable wind on a roof. When you see a small wind turbine on a roof spinning wildly, it looks like it would be generating plenty of power. The truth is, all that spinning is the turbine trying to find a steady wind in a very turbulent area. Wind is invisible, and most people don’t understand what they can’t see. Think of a stick lazily drifting down a calm stream, making slow but steady progress, then there is a rock in the way, the stick goes around the rock but gets caught twirling in the eddy behind it, there is a lot of movement, but no progress. Wind is the same way, once it hits an object, such as a house or a tree; there is wind turbulence behind the object. Another way of looking at this is a sailboat in the lee of a bluff. You feel the wind on your face, it feels strong, but the sail is slapping madly and the boat is going nowhere. A wind turbine is the same way as it searches for the wind in the turbulence.

     

    The Boston Museum of Science would be doing the public a huge favor by teaching the physics of wind and turbulence using smoke chambers and roof mock ups to show how a nail or a screw can be loosened due to vibration. They should teach the benefits of clean wind energy when placed in the right location and the uselessness of putting it in the wrong location. With all my heart I hope the Boston Museum of Science is not advocating building mounted turbines, not only would they be putting the public at risk physically and promoting a waste of money, they will be putting a black mark on wind energy when these turbines never produce any meaningful electricity.

     

    Look for an upcoming blog on proper wind turbine location.

     

    For more information check out the Warwick Wind Trials data on building mounted turbines.

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    • greenhouseGreen Home Improvement Tips The green home improvement movement is very strong these days.  It seems that no matter which direction you look, you’ll find some new article being written about it.  Some of the articles are written by people that are very gung-ho about ecologically friendly home improvement.  There is nothing wrong with......
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    Solar panels are evolving

    energy, green living, solar

    One of the largest hurdles of solar photovoltaic panels is converting their production of DC (direct current) electricity into AC (alternating current). AC current is what all household electrical systems use. Solar panels are usually placed on a roof top and wired and grounded together. Then the high voltage DC electricity is collected and fed to an inverter where it is changed to AC and fed into the household system. This causes the solar array to perform only as well as the least performing panel. So if one panel gets shaded in the afternoon, all the panels get “shaded” in the afternoon.

    A California based company, Akeena Solar Inc. , is changing the design of their Andalay solar panels to include a micro inverter in each panel. This means that the electricity produced by each panel will be converted to AC as it leaves the panel and is then fed directly into the house electrical system. If one panel becomes shaded all the other panels will still be producing AC electricity at their optimal levels. Because each of the Andalay panels already comes with a built in rack system, and comes with its own micro inverter, the company predicts design and installation costs to go down by as much as 25% and efficiency to go up by 5% to 25%.

    Akeena has found a way to make solar more efficient and financially feasible to more consumers. With the federal and state tax credits available it almost doesn’t make sense for most households not to try solar. Until more households start using the technology today, the industry will not be able to learn and develop how to make solar more cost efficient for the future. Solar has always been expensive and will remain so until the industry is given the time and resources to find a “better way.” In the meantime it is never too soon to reduce our carbon emissions.

    Akeena Solar Inc. plans to start producing the panels in 2009.

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    Wind Energy is great in the right place

    alternative, energy, green living, Uncategorized, Wind

    Anybody who follows renewable energy news, more specifically wind power, knows that there has been a lot of controversy with the permitting of Cape Wind’s proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts. After a seven year battle, the farm has now been cleared by Minerals Management Service in their Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) to lease federal waters in between Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The final permitting process will probably take place this spring.

    As you can probably assume, I am for wind power. Why else would I write this blog if I was not 100% behind renewable energy? But I have a problem with this one. I am from Cape Cod and the Islands. This is not even a case of “not in my backyard”; as a matter of fact I am looking into putting a wind turbine in my backyard. The problem is with the economy and the location of the wind farm.

    I, like most of my neighbors, survive on the three month tourist trade season. Other than those three months there is not a lot going on in our economy. It is cold and windy (great for a wind farm) and nobody wants to come and spend money. Large corporations are scared off by our exorbitantly high land prices and taxes, so they are not providing year round jobs. We rely on the tourist trade.

    Our tourist trade is based on two things our beautiful beaches and our excellent boating. Both of those will be in jeopardy once construction begins on the wind farm. Every south facing beach on the Cape will have a view of the behemoth structures, including a ten story building, instead of scenic vistas. Even each of the islands will have a great view of the turbines. Supposedly, part of the permitting states that both commercial fishing and recreational boating will not be barred from using the area around the turbines. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that some knucklehead won’t try to sabotage construction. If that happens there is a good chance a majority of Nantucket Sound will be deemed off limits due to terrorism concerns.

    This loss of our single largest natural resource is going to cause a huge loss in tourism dollars which translates to job losses in an already down economy. There will be loses among commercial fishermen who will have less area to fish and will have to travel further to meet their quotas. Jobs brought in by the wind farm are apt to be union and out of state jobs, they will not be filled by the locals. On top of which, electricity from renewable energy costs 2-3 times more than conventional electricity, so an already strapped economy will get a double whammy with higher electrical costs.

    If Cape Wind fails, as other proposed marine wind farms across the country have, who will pay the price? Will the government bail them out? Who will clean up any construction in progress or towers that are no longer being maintained or used? Once Nantucket Sound is gone it is a natural resource that is gone forever.

    No I am not against the wind farm; I am against the location of the wind farm. South of Martha’s Vineyard there is a little island called No Man’s Land. Most likely anybody who lives west or north of the Cape Cod Canal has never heard of No Man’s Land. During the Cold War this little island was used as a military ordinance testing ground. This area is no longer used, yet is and always will be, off limits to the public. The island is surrounded by shoals, as is most of the waters south of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. These waters don’t make for great boating, but they make for shallow installation of towers and actually better, unobstructed wind for a wind farm. Why has this never been a consideration? Money. It would cost more money to install a cable from there to one of the islands and then to the mainland. It is all about the wind farm’s bottom line, not the residents of Cape Cod who have to live here.

    Senator Kennedy, a Cape Cod resident, has been highly criticized for being against Cape Wind. Many consider him an elitist, too old or senile but he has done nothing but stand up for his constituents. He was elected to represent the best interest of the people of Massachusetts and that is exactly what he has always done and even continues to do now. He is not against renewable energy. It was his brother, President Kennedy, who was hailed for having the forethought to save a good portion of the Cape from development when he proposed the Cape Cod Natural Seashore. Now his brother is being chastised for his forethought to save Nantucket Sound. Senator Kennedy is for what is best for the people of Cape Cod and the people who enjoy vacationing here.

    Sometimes when looking at what is “right” we also have to look at the big (and small) picture and find what is best for everyone. In this case wind energy is best placed south of its current proposed location so that it can benefit the environment as well as the people it serves.

     

     

     

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    Hypermiling

    alternative, energy, green living, Uncategorized

    The word is out, and the word is hypermiling! Oh yeah! Believe it or not hypermilling is the New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year. Their definition is …“Hypermiling” or “to hypermile” is to attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques.

     

    As with every seemingly admirable activity on the face of the earth, some people take hypermiling too far. If you read the hypermiling forums, you will here about people not breaking through turns, shutting off their car while coasting to a stop, or riding the draft from large trucks. These are all very dangerous practices and in some cases even illegal. While driving, you should be focused on the road and your surroundings. You should be a defensive driver. You should not be more concerned for your gas mileage than for the safety of yourself and the people around you. Some of these practices have not even been proven to save fuel.

     

    The truth is that standard practices to save gas are actually, by definition, hypermiling. These tried and true techniques can not be overstated enough.

     

    Basic ways to save fuel in your car are as follows:

    1)    Properly inflate your tires – can save 1 to 2 mpg and extend the life of your tires. More on this later.

    2)    Proper tire tread – insert a penny into the tread of your tire, if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head you need new tires. Some experts think you should do this with a quarter.

    3)    Purchasing the correct fuel – most cars do not need a high octane fuel (check your owners manual), using eeFuel  can make all octane levels work more efficiently.

    4)    Reduce resistance – Remove ski racks and luggage storage containers when not in use.

    5)    Check your gas cap – gas evaporates from old, cracked or not secure gas caps. Turn you gas cap four times to assure it is tightened properly. Consider getting a locking gas cap to prevent siphoning.

    6)    Use your manufacturers recommended grade of motor oil.

    7)    Avoid idling – a good rule of thumb is if you plan to idle for more than a minute shut it off. Go in don’t use the drive-up. Put the car in park at red lights.

    8)    Keep extra weight out of your trunk – just carry emergency items.

    9)    Slow down – I’m not asking you to go 55mph, you might be a victim of road rage if you don’t cause an accident first. But be reasonable, stay back so that you don’t have to brake as often, and use cruise control when you can.

    10)  Maintenance – Pay now or pay later!!!! Keep your car on a regular maintenance program and you will save fuel, save energy and save money. Just installing a new air filter can show measurable fuel savings.

     

    The strange thing is that when I checked around some forums about hypermiling I found there wasn’t much posted since the gas prices started to drop. Does everyone think the fuel shortage is going away? We still need find ways to save fuel, but we also need to find ways to make our carbon footprint smaller. Things like wind power, solar power, and hydrogen will provide better conservation than driving dangerously.

     

     

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    What are our heating options this winter?

    energy, heating options, Uncategorized

    It seems like summer just began, but alas, some children have already headed off in the yellow bus. This can mean only one thing, winter is on the way. With the cold weather, comes the cold reality of high heating bills.  My parents both live in the North East and each has oil heat. I have taken on the task of getting estimates to convert their homes to natural gas. I started with a phone call to our natural gas distributor who happens to be National Grid. They are running a special program right now to get new furnaces at a deep discount. They will even set up an appointment with a contractor for an estimate. I have met with the contractor sent to my father’s house and will meet with the contractor assigned to my mother’s house next week. I also plan to get two more estimates at each house. I will follow up on the results next time.

    My basic reason for looking into this oil to gas conversion is to save fuel, save energy and save money. Right now oil is far more expensive than gas but this is the first time in recent history that this has been the case. Ten years ago home heating oil was only 63¢/gallon a far cry to the $4.00/gallon we are facing this winter. The reality is that nobody seems to think the price of oil is going to go down significantly any time in the foreseeable future. The natural gas supply is not reliant on foreign countries, 99% of natural gas is from North America. A natural disaster can cause a sudden spike in price due to interruption of production, but it has never historically stayed high.

    Another option to fight high heating bills is stoves. Wood stoves have come a long way, they are now manufactured to provide a clean, efficient burn with virtually no dust or soot being emitted into the house and far less carbon into the atmosphere. A good stove can cost between $600 and $1500, not including pipe, blowers and installation. This is great if firewood is readily available in your area and you have a place to store the wood and you don’t mind hauling it in every day or so, even in bad weather. And of course if the power is out you still have heat, but this is not an option for my aging parents.

    For some, a better option may be a pellet stove.  These too have evolved into clean, efficient burning stoves. Unlike wood stoves they use pellets made of saw dust, wood chips or scrap wood from sawmills, the pellets are 100% recycled material and no trees are cut just to produce them. The pellets usually come in 40lb. bags that sell around $4 a bag depending on where you live. Stoves come with a hopper that automatically feeds the stove depending on how high the thermostat is set. They need to be filled every 10 to 40 hours depending on the stove and heat setting. This also means you have control of the heat output. Pellet stoves are also more expensive, between $1500 and $3500. The hopper also needs electricity to work so you need an optional battery backup if you have frequent power outages. There are also multi-fuel stoves that can use corn, pellets or some other fuels such as soy beans or pits. This link (http://www.pelletheat.org/3/residential/compareFuel.cfm) will explain more about pellet stoves and also has a calculator to compare heating with different fuels in your particular area.

    There are other options too. Wind power, solar power and geothermal look like great options in the foreseeable future. The problem is, for now, they are way too expensive for the average consumer even with the tax breaks and utility discounts offered. Most of these products range in the tens of thousands of dollars. I see a time in the near future where these renewable sources of energy, and many more, will be plentiful and affordable. This new energy market will bring about products that will save fuel, save energy, save money, help save the environment and probably help save the economy as well.

    In my next blog I hope to update you on the costs of converting to natural gas if my parents decide to go that direction. I also plan on introducing options for getting the most out of the furnace you already have in place without having to spend of fortune to save a little energy.

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