Nicholas Brown

Nicholas Brown, a writer on Cleantechnica and Gas 2, has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. He is also interested in developing energy-efficient technologies. Follow him on Twitter: @Kompulsa. Like Kompulsa's Facebook page at:

Apr 092014

By Nicholas Brown.

Jaguar Land Rover has switched on the largest rooftop PV solar power plant in the United Kingdom. The 5.8 MW, 21,000-panel system is supplying their £500 million Engine Manufacturing Centre in the West Midlands with 30% of its electricity requirements, reducing emissions by an estimated 2,400 tonnes per year.

Rooftop solar panels in Indooroopilly, Brisbane, Australia. Image obtained with thanks from Micheal Axelsen on Flickr.

Rooftop solar panels in Indooroopilly, Brisbane, Australia.
Image obtained with thanks from Micheal Axelsen on Flickr.

The company plans to expand the PV power plant to 6.3 MW this year, further reducing emissions, and as well as the impact of fluctuating electricity prices on the company.

That’s not all, they did what any wise company would do, and reduced the factory’s HVAC energy usage via insulation, insulated cladding, ventilation, and maximizing heat gain from sunlight, which earned it a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) ‘Excellent’ rating.

BREEAM is a long-established, and widely used sustainability certification system for buildings. BREEAM ratings range from ‘Pass’ to ‘Outstanding’. ‘Excellent’ is the second-best rating.

According to businessGreen:

‘Energy monitoring facilities in the plant continually analyse the amount of energy being used and identify opportunities to reduce consumption of both electricity and natural gas, while JLR plans to create an ecological corridor across the bottom of its site for wildlife and install boxes, habitat piles, dead wood stumps and insect houses for small mammals, invertebrates, amphibians, bats and birds.’

Trevor Leeks, the Engine Manufacturing Centre’s operations director, said, “Our world-class facility showcases the latest sustainable technologies and innovations. The completion of the UK’s largest rooftop solar panel installation here at the Engine Manufacturing Centre is just one example of this.”

Rooftop solar systems such as these help to conserve a significant amount of valuable land, while generating electricity cleanly, quietly, and with no electricity cost increases. This is a step in the right direction for Jaguar Land Rover.

Source: businessGreen.

Apr 082014
33MW solar power plant.

Kompulsa | Science And Energy Library: A 33 MW array of solar panels. This is enough to power 2,750 homes (assuming an average capacity factor of 25%, so cloudy weather and night-time have already been factored in).
Image obtained with thanks from Lightsource Renewable Energy.

By Nicholas Brown.

In March alone, Lightsource Renewable Energy connected 26 photovoltaic solar farms amounting to 227 MW in the United Kingdom. This was done just in time, as the U.K.’s renewable subsidies program for large-scale solar systems was going to be terminated on April 1.

The U.K. photovoltaic solar market has been enjoying a ‘boom’ (as PV-Tech put it), and it saw record-breaking growth in the first quarter of 2014.

Below, Nick Boyle, the CEO of Lightsource describes the company’s record-breaking month, and how they used helicopters to squeeze 16 solar system connections into one week.

Source: PV-Tech.

Apr 082014

The United States And Iraq Have Increased Oil Production

An article found on CNBC indicates that the United States will soon overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil producer in the world. And though the United States is also the biggest consumer of oil in the world, the United States International Energy Administration indicates that it may become self-sufficient by 2020.

petroleum refinery

Oil refinery.
Image obtained with thanks from Iraq Business News.

The Wall Street Journal sudden surge in local production is mainly due to the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to get at shale oil. And with this newfound capacity comes the pressure to lift the ban on exporting fuel.

US is Not the Only One with Booming Production

However, the United States is not the only one with increased production. Reuters reported that Iraq is now the world’s fastest growing oil producer in the world. Currently, it is the second largest producer in Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC.

Iraq’s southern fields are one of the main contributors to the expansion, with the huge North Rumaila probably being the largest oilfield in the country with the potential to churn out as much as 2.85 million barrels of oil per day in the second half of the coming decade. British Petroleum holds the technical service contract, while the field services and inspection contract is held by the joint venture by Unaoil and RBG Middle East.

An article on USA Today suggests that Iraq’s production would rise by 20% in 2014, the equivalent of about 4.5 million barrels per day. By the year 2020, production is expected to jump by 157% for a total of about 9 million barrels per day.

The balance of oil production appears to be shifting to the United States and Iraq. Projections from the United States International Energy Administration indicate that growth from non-OPEC producer is expected to lower oil prices. From a little under $109 in the year 2013, prices of Brent crude oil are expected to go slightly below $105 per barrel in 2014.In terms of WTI crude oil, the price in 2013 was at about $98 and is projected to down to around $95 per barrel in the year 2014.

Apr 052014

By Nicholas Brown.

Matt Farah and Zack Klapman of The Smoking Tire went on an electric car test drive to compare the value of the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR. Zach Klapman drove the Cadillac ELR, and Matt Farah drove the Chevy Volt.

Video Credit: The Smoking Tire on Youtube.

Unsurprisingly, the ELR was found to be more pleasant overall, but the reviewers were disappointed in its value. They agreed that $50,000 would be a much better price for the Cadillac ELR (where value is concerned). There is an enormous price difference of $40,815 between these two electric vehicles. The Chevy Volt MSRP is $34,185, and the Cadillac ELR is $75,000 (as of April 2014 for the base models). asked if this makes me happy I have a Volt, or if I wished for an ELR. If I had a Volt, my answer would be the former.


Apr 042014

By Nicholas Brown.

Panasonic, a major manufacturer of batteries, is hesitant to join Tesla Motors’ ‘Gigafactory’ project, because it would raise investment risks, according to Panasonic’s CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain. Image Credit: Kompulsa.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain.
Image Credit: Kompulsa.

“Our approach is to make investments step by step,” Tsuga said yesterday. “Elon plans to produce more affordable models besides Model S, and I understand his thinking and would like to cooperate as much as we can. But the investment risk is definitely larger.”

I don’t blame them for being cautious, as this is a very large project. It costs $5 billion! (Tesla already raised $2 billion). On the other hand, sometimes big risks result in big rewards.

If this project succeeds as Elon Musk hopes it will, it could reduce lithium-ion battery manufacturing costs, making them more feasible for electric vehicles and home energy storage. It would also enable Tesla to manufacture hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles annually. To top it off, the success of this project could provide peace-of-mind to others who are interested in pursuing similar projects, leading to more large-scale factories that produce low-cost lithium-ion batteries.

Those are big rewards!

Source: Bloomberg.

Apr 032014

General Electric (GE) has revealed its Ecomagination research and development centre in the Incubator Building of Masdar City. It was inaugurated by His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and CEO of Masdar. The Incubator Building is for housing small startup companies, small-and-medium-sized enterprises, and regional offices for multinational companies.

The inauguration of the Ecomagination centre in Masdar City.

Ecomagination inauguration.
Image obtained with thanks from Masdar.

Apart from GE, other major tenants of Masdar City’s Incubator Building include Mitsubishi and Schneider Electric.

Masdar City is a low carbon city project, aimed at significantly reducing/eliminating emissions from transportation (with the use of electric cars), and electricity generation (with the use of energy efficient techniques, and renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind power).

This is an all-inclusive project which minimizes water usage by recycling water, and using greywater for irrigation of crops. It even minimizes solid waste by separating it into four streams, and then it is carried to processing facilities.

‘Masdar City is on a journey to build the world’s most sustainable city,” added Dr. Al Jaber. “The addition of GE is an important milestone in our growth, as we expand and incorporate a diverse mix of tenants. Today, Masdar is a sustainable operation, combining multinational companies, organizations, startups and the amenities that make up a diverse urban community.’

Nabil Habayeb, GE’s president & CEO for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, said: “Locating the ecomagination Center at Masdar City further delivers on our promise to be an active partner in the concerted efforts of the UAE Government to promote a culture of sustainability. The Center builds on our long heritage in the country, and our commitment to support the vision of the Abu Dhabi Government to integrate sustainable growth as a key pillar of all its activities. Masdar City’s mission complements our sustainability objectives and is an ideal home for our first ecomagination center.”

Source: Masdar.

Apr 022014

The title may appear a bit simplistic, or even ridiculous. After all, more speed causes more accidents, doesn’t it? If using cars, it does. If using trains, not so much (train accidents are rare, car accidents are a much more prevalent issue).

Electric trains powered by overhead power lines.  Image obtained from Vagabond Shutterbug on Flickr:

Electric trains powered by overhead power lines.
Image obtained from Vagabond Shutterbug on Flickr.

I’m not referring to an increase in the speed of road-based transit, which is inherently limited by braking and tyre technology. I’m referring to public transit (excluding buses). High-speed public transit (especially high-speed rail) has the potential to increase throughput, because it can transport many people in little time. At the moment, public transit systems around the world are outdated and slow.

For example: Modern high-speed trains can carry hundreds of passengers at over 200 MPH. This means that a light rail train carrying 220 passengers could transport them in (theoretically, excluding slowdowns for cornering) 220 miles, in only an hour!

Cars, on the other hand, must not exceed 85 MPH in any case, plus, they have to wait at stop lights. They would likely require more than two hours to transport only 7 people (if an SUV) the same distance. To add insult to injury, cars waste even more gas than they usually do at high speeds. Trains are more energy-efficient than cars.

The moral of the story: Maybe it is time to start looking to high-speed rail as an energy-efficient, punctual solution to the growing problem of congestion, rather than just a way to save a little money on long trips.

Undermentioned Benefits Of Expanded High-Speed Rail To Economies

The last time you travelled to another country, what was the first thing you had to do after collecting your baggage? You had to find transportation, or wait for a friend to pick you up. If a country is equipped with a well-developed, ubiquitous public transit system, that could be a motive for frequent travellers. Travellers would appreciate it if they knew that they could simply hop on a train and quickly arrive at their destination (or near to it), rather than walking around and struggling to find transportation options.

Public transit needs to be, and could be an option that people actually want to use, because it is convenient. Feel free to visit the Brainstorm Project page and leave a comment, or send me an e-mail!

Apr 012014

First Solar has announced that they intend to construct a set of solar power plants amounting to 200 MW in Australia, to provide mines with power.

Rooftop solar panels in Indooroopilly, Brisbane, Australia. Image obtained with thanks from Micheal Axelsen on Flickr.

Rooftop solar panels in Indooroopilly, Brisbane, Australia.
Image obtained with thanks from Micheal Axelsen on Flickr.

These plants, assisted by diesel-fueled generators, are expected to reduce the electricity cost of mining firms in Australia, and shield them from rising electricity prices, which will eat into their profits even further. This came at a time when much-needed, as profitability of the mining operations has decreased.

‘In an environment where profitability isn’t what it used to be, with the mining industry focused on cost control, the electricity that powers the mines is becoming a bigger line item, and the ability to put a dent in that and hedge against fuel price volatility is something that solar offers,’ said Jack Curtis, VP of business development for First Solar in the Asia-Pacific.

Mr. Curtis also noted that project announcements in this sector were close.

Construction of these power plants will take place over the next three years.

Source: PV Magazine.

Mar 202014

Brainstorm Project – Home

Autonomous cars open a window of opportunity for amputees, people who suffer from visual impairment, Parkinson’s disease, and any other condition that could have an effect on their safety, such as severe cases of ADHD.

Ford Fusion Automated Research Vehicle. Image Credit: Kompulsa / Nicholas Brown.

Ford Fusion Automated Research Vehicle at the NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show).
Image Credit: Kompulsa / Nicholas Brown.

It enables them to get around privately without soliciting lifts. That’s a godsend, but how is this related to energy or science?

Autonomous vehicles offer the ability to avoid the consequences of typical driving habits, such as reduced fuel efficiency, which is caused by frequent, sudden acceleration, sudden braking, and speeding.

Implications Of Autonomous Vehicles For Electric Propulsion

The electrification of automobiles is impeded by the short range of electric vehicles. Therefore, the improved efficiency achieved by autonomous vehicles (especially due to the fact that they don’t speed) can help to conserve range. As a matter of fact, it can substantially improve average range, making electric vehicles a far more viable and attractive option than they ever have been.

Autonomous vehicles can also be equipped with smaller battery banks and achieve the same range that today’s electric cars do, reducing their cost.

Mar 192014

By: Rachel DiFranco, Sustainability Coordinator, City of Fremont

The City of Fremont has made a number of local headlines this month for reports on the high number of electric vehicle owners living within its boundaries. With a population of 221,986, Fremont holds 14.3 percent of Alameda County’s 1,554,720 residents.1 But with 3,870 electric vehicle rebates issued in Alameda County since 2010 under the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, Fremont, with its 1,143 rebates to date, represents 29.4 percent of all-electric vehicles owned within the County.2

Pie Chart

Fremont's EV Rebated By Month

The reason for the heightened media attention is that many people were surprised that this southern Alameda County suburb could be “the East Bay’s epicenter for electric vehicles,” questioning, “What makes it so special?” The news of increasing EV ownership in Fremont, however, is less of a surprise to those responsible for City development. As the City’s deputy director of Community Development, Dan Schoenholz, stated when pointing out that a slightly larger number of electric vehicle rebates had been issued in Fremont than in San Francisco, “San Francisco has the reputation for being a super-green city, but this shows that Fremont is quietly pushing the envelope.”

The story, in fact, fits nicely into the future vision that the City has created for itself. This is a future of sustainable urbanism, one in which Fremont has evolved beyond its early agricultural roots and post-war suburban sprawl into a center for clean technology, a mecca of cultural diversity, and the home of eco-conscious citizens. Beginning in 2011 with the City’s award-winning General Plan that strategically positioned “Sustainability” as the opening chapter for its 2030 vision, and gaining momentum with the adoption of its Climate Action Plan in 2012 to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020, the City of Fremont continues to challenge the conventional model of development with an alternative one that places the health and well-being of future generations at the forefront of policy-making.

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