Can the Use of Wind Really Power your Home?

Following on from my previous post on the applications of solar power for the home, the next part of this renewable energy series looks into the effects and uses of wind, whether this be for electric radiators, hot water, or another use. With the main usage, of course, being electricity. As we have been using this power for centuries (sails etc...), it seems only fitting that wind power has become a prevalent force in the small-scale renewable energies market. In this post I will attempt to cover the basics of the technology, its applications, and to what extent it is cut out for the task of small scale energy production.

The Hydrogen Highway is poised to take off

The first hydrogen-vehicle refueling station fed by an active industrial hydrogen pipeline was opened in May in Torrance, Calif.

The first hydrogen-vehicle-refueling station fed by an active industrial hydrogen pipeline was opened on in May in Torrance, Calif., just across the road from Toyota's national headquarters. A collaborative effort among Toyota, Air Products, Shell, South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Department of Energy, the facility will provide hydrogen for the Toyota fuel-cell-hybrid demonstration-program vehicles as well as other manufacturers' fuel-cell vehicle fleets in the Los Angeles area. 

The hydrogen station is adjacent to the Toyota Motor Sales marketing headquarters. As landowner, Toyota leases the land to Shell for a nominal fee. As station owner/operator, Shell works directly with Air Products, which provides on-site equipment and station maintenance. The pipeline gas also is provided by Air Products from its plants in Wilmington, Del., and Carson, Calif.

Using pumps that are similar in appearance and operation (the nozzles have control levers much like those on typical gas pumps), the station provides a high-pressure supply for all types of fuel-cell vehicles. 

“Toyota plans to bring a fuel-cell vehicle to market in 2015 or sooner, and as you see, we will not be alone in the marketplace,” said Chris Hostetter, vice president of strategic resources for Toyota Motor Sales

“Building an extensive hydrogen-refueling infrastructure is the critical next step in bringing these products to market. But infrastructure development is no easy task. It will require coordination and cooperation between vehicle manufacturers, government agencies, hydrogen producers and end users. This station, for example, is the result of years of planning and a truly collaborative effort.”

Having the hydrogen pipeline mere yards from its front door provided Toyota with some other options. As Hostetter explains, “It created an opportunity for Toyota to explore other uses for hydrogen. In fact, Toyota has partnered with Ballard Power Systems to place a fuel-cell generator on our Torrance campus. The fuel cell will provide electrical power during peak-usage months and draw hydrogen from the same pipeline that supplies this station. The system is scheduled to come on line in 2012 and will reduce an estimated 10,000 tons of annual CO2 emissions.” 

The fuel-cell generator will be fed directly from the hydrogen pipeline through an existing tap on the TMS property. Pipeline hydrogen used on campus will be offset with the purchase of landfill-generated renewable biogas. Plans include using heat created by the fuel-cell system to provide hot water and space heating in the Toyota employee fitness center and in the Lexus headquarters building within the TMS campus. Use of this heat will offset natural-gas consumption on campus, thereby avoiding an estimated additional 28 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

Air Products teamed with Toyota and other fuel-cell vehicle manufacturers to develop the Hydrogen Vehicle Authorization System (HVAS), another first for the industry and unique to the Torrance station. The HVAS wireless-vehicle-recognition system allows station-to-vehicle recognition to facilitate quick and convenient fueling for customers.

The station also will feature a learning center on-site to provide hydrogen information and station information to local students and the public. Shell and Toyota will cooperate on the exhibits. With this new station, the city of Torrance will become part of the California Hydrogen Highway initiative, which aims to create clean-air solutions and develop new technology jobs across the state. 

For more information on the Hydrogen Highway initiative, visit

By BARRY WINFIELD on 5/18/2011

Getting Started With Renewable Energy

Getting started with renewable energy article in Home Power Magazine gives a straightforward advice about professional load analysis and site survey when starting with renewable energy.

The first step in renewable energy system planning is to determine how much energy is needed to be made:
  • If the site is off grid, the stand-alone systems must provide all the site’s required electricity with renewable energy sources or a backup engine generator. This is when energy efficiency and conservation becomes critical. For this reason, most renewable energy consultants will ask for a detailed load profile. These systems also need to be accounted for seasonal energy availability. For example, more energy will be used in the summer because the house is for vacation use or pumps a lot of water for irrigation. In a year-round home, the critical energy time may be winter, when more lights and other loads are used.
  • On grid sites doesn't require accommodating the complete load. Systems can cover as little as 10% to 50%, or even over 100% of home’s electrical use. Utility detects the imbalance and supplies only what is demanded from the user. Any extra energy produced will go to the grids, which will buildup KWH credits that can be used when system’s output is lower.
When determining energy requirements, most dealers will roughly calculate what size of system is needed and give a ballpark cost figure. Then the installing dealer or RE consultant will visit the site and assess what RE resources are available on the property. When planning the system, everyone who will be using it should know how it was planned, how it works, and what he or she can do to make it run well.

For solar energy, site surveyor will evaluate the property with a solar site selector tool. It helps determine which locations the property or roof are shade free. This will show the best location for PV array or solar water collectors. PV arrays can be put hundreds of feet away from home, but solar hot water systems need to be much closer because long pipes become costly and incurs high heat losses.

If the property has a potential wind energy site, wind turbine might be a great asset. However, wind turbine requires regular maintenance and poorly cared components can become hazards. Surveyor will determine if adequate room exists for a tilt-up tower, or freestanding tower is necessary. Freestanding towers have smallest footprint, and may be the only appropriate tower for a small lot.

Micro hydroelectric systems can be one of the most cost effective but sometime hard to implement because local, state, and federal authorities can have jurisdiction over the activity, unless water resource is completely privately owned. Hydroelectric works well with solar or wind energy sources since water still flows when there is no sun or wind.

Hybrid systems are best for off grid system because one source can backup another source and vice versa. However, hybrid capability is less important on grid-tied systems which use utility grid for backup. Battery-less grid-tied systems are often the most cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and easy to operate systems available.

Bill Gates thinks big, spends big in push for energy innovation

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is investing more of his own time and money in the search for clean energy and solutions to climate change.

Gates is moving into a third arena, after software and philanthropy, and is using his Kirkland-based incubator, BGC3, to fund related science.

"The more I learn about this problem, the more I see it as super critical," he said. "We need a breakthrough; we need multiple breakthroughs."

Gates spoke Tuesday to a sold-out audience at a fundraising breakfast in Seattle for the nonprofit Climate Solutions.

Gates said he has been meeting with energy experts, reading up on the latest science and investing in startups, such as Bellevue-based TerraPower, which is designing a new kind of nuclear reactor intended to run for decades on depleted uranium.

He also started the American Energy Innovation Council with a group of senior corporate executives, which has tried unsuccessfully to persuade U.S. political leaders to double government funding for basic research.
Science and market-based technology solutions have the potential for huge advances, Gates said.

"The capitalistic format ... is the main area where energy innovation is going to take place," he said.

Gates is unlikely to make energy a focus of the philanthropic work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which concentrates on needs of the poor, but certain things like biofuels for small farms in Africa or Asia might play a role.

His growing involvement in clean energy hasn't been without controversy.

He rankled some with comments that appeared dismissive of small-scale renewable energy at a conference last week in New York.

"If you're interested in cuteness, the stuff in the home is the place to go," he said in an interview with Wired Magazine. "If you're interested in solving the world's energy problems, it's things like big [solar projects] in the desert."

Gates might not give adequate emphasis to less exciting options, such as improving energy efficiency or rapidly deploying existing solutions, said KC Golden, policy director at Climate Solutions, but his focus on technology innovation is badly needed.

"Not surprisingly given his background, that's his primary emphasis," Golden said in an online conversation after the event. "It's not everything that needs doing, but it's great he's doing it."

Golden appreciates Gates' ability to think big.

"I want to participate in a real revolution, not make futile gestures," Golden said. "That's why retreating back to just private and local action alone won't work."

In his own speech, Golden acknowledged that even if the U.S. reduced carbon emissions to zero, the world would still be "swamped by just a few months of growth in the Asian economy."

Profitable solutions that can be applied globally are needed.

"What we can do is pioneer a new path to prosperity that works for us and billions of people across the world," Golden said.

Gates had some critical jabs at politicians, saying the optimism he feels when meeting with scientists fades when he thinks about "the political elements that should be in place" by now, such as pricing for carbon.

"The lip service that has been paid to energy innovation over the last few decades has been disappointing," he said.

The Energy Innovation Council's recommendations include establishing a national energy plan with concrete and measurable energy targets that various technologies and companies could compete to reach.

In making the case for increased government support for basic research and development, Gates said he and other business leaders met with President Obama.

"He said nice things, and I think he meant them," Gates said. "In a normal fiscal environment we probably would have been successful."

Still, Gates added that "I'm kind of stunned we can't get more bipartisan view on this R&D piece. It's about jobs and innovation."

While China has surged ahead in some areas, such as solar-panel production, the U.S. remains dominant in the power to innovate in the sciences, Gates said.

Innovation thrives where the top universities and best environments for high-risk startups are.

"I know of 100 great new energy ideas," Gates said. "I'd say 70 percent of them are based in the United States, even if they are looking at doing some manufacturing [in China]."

China is a necessary part of the solution because it's a much bigger market for energy than the U.S., he said.
Yet scientific innovation is an area where "the world counts on America to do well."

At the same time, it's important to take advantage of "practical, real-time solutions where we live," said McKinstry CEO Dean Allen, another speaker. About 70 percent of electricity produced in America goes to buildings and other physical infrastructure, Allen said. "What we've learned is 50 percent of the energy our customers use in their facilities is pure waste."

Eliminating energy waste from commercial and government buildings alone could cut emissions at a level equivalent to eliminating 200 coal-fired power plants, he said.

Allen raised a note of caution about too much reliance on "spectacular breakthrough technologies" as silver bullets. Much like reform in education, he said, "it's often not best to wait for Superman."

Seattle Times business reporter

How Geothermal Heating and Cooling Works

Basically, geothermal heating/cooling systems operates via sub-surface conductive heat transfer, using the naturally renewable temperature of the earth's crust as a heat source in the winter, and as a heat sink in the summer.


Cooling Mode Operation

In the cooling mode, the hot refrigerant (well over 100 degrees F) exiting ETA's compressor is sent directly into the approximate 50 to 60 degree F range deep earth, which now absorbs and takes the heat away. The cooled refrigerant fluid is then circulated through the air handler where it absorbs and removes unwanted heat from the interior air. The heated refrigerant travels to the ETA system's compressor unit where the process is repeated. Thus, in the cooling mode, the ground removes your heat for free.


Heating Mode Operation

In the heating mode, approximate 50 to 60 degree F range naturally occurring heat from deep within the earth travels to, and is absorbed by, a much colder refrigerant fluid that is circulated within the copper tubing inside a deep well/borehole. Such naturally occurring heat is transported by the refrigerant fluid to the system's compressor where the fluid is compressed, thereby raising its pressure and temperature, transforming the 55 degree F temperature into a temperature well over 100 degrees F. The hot refrigerant is then circulated through the finned tubing within an air handler, where the cold return interior air absorbs the heat. The heated air is supplied, via a fan, to the interior air space. With the heat now removed from the refrigerant fluid, it becomes very cold and is re-circulated into the ground to absorb more naturally occurring and renewable heat. Thus, the ground supplies your heat for free.


Hot Water Heating

Utilizing the ETA geothermal system's optional Hot Water Pre-Heater (HWPH), the system can also produce virtually free hot water. Capturing excess heat in the refrigerant, this module can typically provide about 50% of the total hot water needs for an average home or business. Additionally, the ETA system can be designed to solely provide heat for low-cost hot water generation for hot tubs, swimming pools, or for in-floor hydronic heating purposes.

ETA units can be specifically designed to solely heat water for residential, commercial, and industrial applications at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods.

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