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 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.

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 112014

The Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research has developed a non-toxic insulation using wood, which is renewable, instead of petrochemicals. They claimed that it insulates as well as traditional polymer-based foams.


The insulation.  Image obtained with thanks from Fraunhofer.

The insulation.
Image obtained with thanks from Fraunhofer.

“Our wood foam can be used in exactly the same way as conventional plastic spray foams, but is an entirely natural product made from sustainable raw materials,” says Professor Volker Thole of the WKI.

It was developed by grinding up wood into fine particles, and then filled with gas to form a frothy foam-like product, which is then force-hardened. “It’s a bit like baking, when the dough rises and becomes firm in the oven,” Professor Thole explains.

Source: Fraunhofer.

Mar 062014

Originally published on Cleantechnica.
By Joshua S. Hill.
It is quite possible that daylight saving time is one of the most unambiguously contentious issues of our time. I’m not saying it’s the only one, but given the sheer weight of legislation, vials of ink, hours of discussion dedicated to the issue of daylight savings, whether we should continue it, or whether it should be scrapped, I would suggest that it is one of the most hotly contested issues in many nations.

For those in my locale — Southeastern Australia — we are set to move our clocks backward on the 6th of April. For those in the United States your set to put your clock forward on March 9, while Londoners are looking to March 30.

But why all this fuss about what time it should be? And specifically to readers at CleanTechnica, is it at all energy-efficient?

Simply put, it’s not — at least, that’s what Michael Downing says, a lecturer in English and author of the book Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time.

Current DST usage worldwide. Regions in blue currently use DST, orange have scrapped DST, and regions in red have never used DST.
Image Credit: Paul Eggert under a Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

According to Downing — as expressed in an article on the Tufts University website — while some studies suggest that there are small reductions in electricity usage, the most comprehensive studies have shown that there is in fact an overall energy consumption increase of about 1% to 4%.

“The barbeque grill and charcoal industries say they gain $200 million in sales with an extra month of daylight saving—and they were among the biggest lobbies in favor of extending DST from six to seven months in 1986,” he says.

So there’s benefits for some industries, especially if you are selling ice-cream down at the beach in summer, but on the whole, one must wonder why we are still adhering to such an archaic mindset — especially in light of it’s relative uselessness in terms of energy efficiency, not to mention the long-standing issues suffered by occupations tied to the rise and fall of the sun, rather than the hands on a clockface.

As with many issues the energy industry faces at the moment — specifically those within the industry looking to create a cleaner and more efficient tomorrow — the big enemies is the lobbies. With so much power and history behind them, lobbies of all sorts are winning the war against dismissing daylight savings.

So let’s hear it: Do we need to keep daylight savings around? Or are its negative effects enough to drop it entirely?

Feb 262014

Netflix created an amusing spoof of drone delivery services called Drone2Home.

On a serious note, drones have the potential to deliver packages very efficiently, both in terms of speed and energy usage. Drones demonstrated by Amazon and the UAE are the lightest, and smallest vehicles to deliver packages yet. Instead of using one large vehicle to transport the weight of delivery personnel, and stop at many houses. Tiny, lightweight, power-sipping drones can fly your package straight to you in 30 minutes, according to Amazon.

This speed means that you can plan to have packages delivered to whichever location you happen to be, even if you are staying at grandma’s house for only a day.

Source: Mashable.

Video Credit: Paul Johnson via Youtube.

Jan 302014

Acura developed a new luxury hybrid which consists of its new three-motor propulsion system assisted by a V6 engine. It is the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. 119 HP of the power is provided by the electric motors, which utilize a 260-volt battery pack. The remaining 258 HP is provided by the gasoline engine. It has a combined 377 HP. This is the first vehicle to utilize Acura’s new three-motor hybrid propulsion system.

Image obtained with thanks from Acura.

Image obtained with thanks from Acura.

Acura says that the RLX Sport Hybrid, can accelerate comparably to that of its V8 engine-powered competitors. It is already unusual for V6 engines to perform as well as V8 ones, but a V6 hybrid? Both hybrids and V6 engines have long been snubbed at by some performance enthusiasts.

While this sounds like a technological feat: The performance of hybrids no longer lags behind that of traditional automobiles (at least not much).  The power of this vehicle doesn’t make it a gas guzzler: It achieves 28 MPG city, 32 MPG highway, and 30 MPG combined, which is comparable to the the fuel economy of a sedan with a four-cylinder engine.

“The Sport Hybrid RLX sets a new bar in luxury performance sedans, but it does it the Acura way,” said Jerry Chenkin, president and CEO, Honda Canada Inc. “The Sport Hybrid RLX has some of the most advanced technology on the planet, but this sedan is more than the sum of its parts. With the Sport Hybrid RLX everything comes together to create true synergy between man and machine.”

According to HybridCars.com, the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD does not have a conventional driveshaft or rear differential, in place of those are two 36 HP motors, and a third 46 HP one at the front which performs regenerative braking and provides the front wheels with torque.

It made its debut in Canada at the Montreal Auto Show on the 16th of this month.

Dec 172013

I have been using a Kill A Watt P4480 energy use monitor/timer to monitor energy usage and to do other things, for example, I used it to program the washing machine to start automatically at a specified time. I also used it to program my mobile device chargers to charge for a few hours, then shut off, so the chargers don’t stay on and waste power. When I put the mobile device down, I just plugged the chargers into them, knowing the timer would take care of everything for me.

Zuli Smartplug App. Image obtained with thanks from Zuli's Kickstarter page.

Zuli Smartplug App. Image obtained with thanks from Zuli’s Kickstarter page.

Zuli has taken this clever technology to the next level…It can now be controlled remotely via smartphone! Zuli developed Smartplugs, which are devices that enable you to switch appliances on or off remotely from your iPhone, monitor power consumption, dim lights, and program them to switch on and off at specific times, or even based on whether or not you are in the room, all from your iPhone.

These devices are very intuitive, simple devices. All you need to do to use a Smartplug is plug it into the wall, then plug the device you want to control into it, and program the iPhone app to control it however you want to.

Also, according to their Kickstarter page (linked to below):

‘You can also set Zuli to turn off all devices when a room is unoccupied. No more double checking the house for lights your kids left on or trying to remember if the iron is still on. Zuli always watches your back to keep your home and loved ones safe and secure.’

Zuli has a Kickstarter campaign to fund this Smartplug project. So far, they have reached $98,909 of their $150,000 goal. You can get your very own Smartplug (or more), depending on the size of your donation.

Learn more on this project’s Kickstarter page, which is the source of this news.

I cannot verify the legitimacy of this project, therefore, it is up to you to analyse it carefully and decide whether or not you want to donate.

Dec 152013

People have been debating the V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid) concept (which involves using electric vehicle batteries to provide backup power to electricity grids) for some time now. However, it hasn’t yet come to fruition.

Nissan Leafs plugged into charging stations. Image obtained with thanks from Nissan.

Nissan Leafs plugged into charging stations.
Image obtained with thanks from Nissan.

Nissan tested a more decentralized way to use electric vehicle batteries at their Advanced Technology Center in Atsugi City, Japan. They used Nissan Leaf electric vehicles to power their building during peak hours to reduce the amount of grid electricity the building used during those hours, when electricity is more expensive (time-of-use electricity pricing).

The vehicles are then recharged during peak hours, which is when the price of electricity is lowest. Basically, the electric vehicle batteries ‘captured’ and stored cheap electricity for use when electricity rates are high, and at the end of the day, employees got to drive their Nissan Leaf vehicles home, fully charged.

Time of use electricity pricing enables power companies to sell the surplus electricity that was generated at night, instead of letting it, and the fuel used to produce it go to waste. So this concept, which Nissan refers to as ‘Vehicle-to-Building’, not only saves money, but provides an energy-efficiency boost.

Nissan’s test results:

‘The facility benefited from a reduction of 25.6KW during peak summer periods by controlling the charging time of the EVs, with no impact on the workers’ daily commute, or their vehicles. The results have led to approximately a 2.5-percent reduction of electrical power use during peak hours, a saving of nearly 500,000 Yen per year in electrical power cost (based on current Tokyo Electric Power Company’s rates)’. [Source: Nissan].

Nissan said this concept can be applied to homes as well. They referred to that as the ‘Vehicle-to-Home’ concept.

Source: Nissan.

Dec 112013

Water has always been a necessity as our bodies cannot survive without hydration, plus the rest of the ecosystem relies on it for that, and other reasons.

Over the past century, energy has evolved from merely a convenient light source to an integral part of the global economy and it helps to sustain us by powering factories, heaters, etc.

One water-energy nexus is that energy is used to power the pumps that are necessary to transport water to homes and businesses.

While energy and water are seemingly unrelated, the issue of the water consumption of steam (coal, nuclear) power plants, which are ubiquitous, connects them.

Example: A typical 500 MW coal power plant would consume 12 million gallons of water hourly for cooling and other process requirements.

This is not sustainable in drought-stricken regions, and in the future, will become less sustainable as water shortages become more prevalent worldwide.

What Steps Can Individuals, Businesses or World Leaders Take to Address These Issues?


Stop relying on coal: Homeowners and renting landlords could equip their houses with solar panels, as they don’t pollute the air and emit CO2 as coal power plants do. They also require less water.

Residential solar can minimize the need for energy storage, because the solar panels would be distributed widely over entire countries. This means a larger than normal percentage of the solar panels would be able to avoid cloud cover.

Business Owners

Cool steam power plants using seawater/waste water, due to its abundance.

CHP plants are efficient, and they provide heat without burning additional fuel (which would require more water).

Program air conditioners to shut off after work, and stop using recessed lighting fixtures.


Governments should, if possible, and sometimes already provide incentives to encourage people to “go solar” to heat water or generate electricity.

A Solution to Water Shortages: Wind and Solar-Powered Desalination (with minimal energy storage)

Wind and solar-powered desalination will not only keep the cost of pumping water from rising with energy prices, but pump it without emitting greenhouse gases such as CO2, and pollutants into the air.

I mention the importance of having the most diverse array of solutions on the table, because one cannot solve all problems. Desalination is no exception to this rule, however, it is a helpful solution to shortages, due to the fact that the ocean is a terribly abundant source of water.

Desalination is particularly suitable for coastal areas because the further a desalination plant is from the ocean, the more energy is required to pump seawater into it.

Improved extraction technology lowered the cost of other extraction processes. The same can be done for water.

Wind, sunlight, and ocean water all have one thing in common: They are abundant, and are at least somewhat accessible in all parts of the world.

Wind turbines and solar panels can power the pumps required to transport water from the ocean to tanks at desalination plants. Since tanks store water, they can be designed to store extra water by making them bigger, for when wind or solar power generation is inadequate until the wind picks up, or until cloudy moments pass.

This concept makes it possible to use less energy storage to back up the solar and wind generators, and it can eliminate the need for it, if the water tanks are big enough.

Wind and solar generators can also power the desalination process. The desalinated water can be stored in tanks large enough to hold enough extra water so that when there is too little wind or sunlight, the tanks will have enough left.

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