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By Russ Finley on Jun 19, 2012 with 6 responses

First Vehicle to Home Power System in North America

Nissan issued a press release earlier this month to announce that Power Stream will be using the V2H system with its fleet of Leafs in Canada. This device acts as a charger and as a power inverter, allowing 4 hour charges instead of 8 hours as well as the capacity to power a home for a couple of days in the event of a power outage. Apparently your Leaf has to have the CHAdeMO protocol quick charge port which was an option on the 2012 cars. The price seems about right to me costing roughly twice as much as the charge stations now installed in homes but that’s still cheaper than a charge station and a backup generator system. And if… Continue»

By Russ Finley on Jun 4, 2012 with 21 responses

Will Fukushima Save the Bluefin Tuna?

From a story in Forbes titled Fukushima Radiation May Actually Save Bluefin Tuna:

If the governments can’t help, maybe bad publicity will [save the bluefin tuna]. Nicholas Fisher, the study’s co-author and a marine biologist at Stony Brook University in New York, says when he first saw the levels of radiation in the fish, caught off of San Diego, “my first thought was ‘this will do more for the conservation of this endangered animal than nearly anything else could.’”

Which is also the first thing I thought when this story broke. And yes, I know that isn’t a picture of a bluefin tuna.

 There are natural levels of radioactivity in the tuna, and Fukushima has only added the slightest amount more. (The report can be found here.) “But people are often anxious about radioactivity,” says Fisher.

And this may be what ultimately benefits the Bluefin. The fish, Madigan points out, is not harmed by the radiation that they collected while swimming through the spill waters off the coast of Japan after the tsunami.

But the public perception of the fish may be contaminated for good. And that may keep it out of restaurants.

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By Russ Finley on May 24, 2012 with 2 responses

Multidisciplinary Problem Solving

I made a trip to my forest property last weekend where I took these photos. The rough skinned newts had returned to the lakes from their terrestrial stage winter wonderings, just in time to avoid their main predators, the snakes that were hibernating. The frog tadpoles were plentiful in seasonal ponds that will eventually dry up, concentrating their numbers into smaller and smaller areas. The snakes and herons will have a heyday then, but that is part of the reproductive strategy. Like with salmon, the tadpoles will be too numerous to all be eaten. The snakes will get full way before the tadpoles are gone. The emerald tree frogs only lay eggs in ponds that dry up in the summer because they don’t have major predators in them like fish and turtles. Nature, what remains of it, always amazes me.

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By Russ Finley on May 20, 2012 with 12 responses

Plug-in Solar Panels — Do They Make Cents?

An article over on CNET titled Got a deck? Solar panels now a plug-in appliance, suggests that you can buy from Amazon.com a 1,000 watt solar panel system that plugs into your wall outlet for only $1,099. I thought they were really on to something until I read the comments:

This article was written very poorly. At first read, it would appear that the 1,000 watt system costs $1,099.95, but going over to Amazon, that is just the price of one panel whose rating is 240 watts.

At about $4.58/watt, these panels will not produce electricity to pay for the finance charges alone. You will not be able to recover your investment on this, as the panels deteriorate through time.

If the 1,000 watt system costs $1,099.95, it would truly be disruptive as it will be feasible. But no, this solar PV will not cut it, still too expensive. If they can just sell these to about $2/watt, then it would be very worthwhile, given that you will mount these yourself.

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By Russ Finley on May 17, 2012 with 5 responses

How Much Are You Willing to Pay for Clean Energy?

A recent study published in the subscription only Nature Climate Change (which I do not have a subscription for) found the price Americans are willing to pay to have 80 percent “clean” energy by 2035. Drum roll please  … $13 bucks a month.

The researchers went a step further and calculated that the cost would have to drop even further to overcome political barriers:

The researchers — Joseph E. Aldy, Matthew J. Kotchen and Anthony A. Leiserowitz — ran a what-if exercise and found the current level of public support insufficient to overcome entrenched opposition in Congress.

Majority rule does not really apply there, of course: getting anything controversial through the Senate, for example, requires 60 votes to break filibusters. With some number-crunching and assumptions about how preferences back home would influence the votes of lawmakers, the researchers found that the annual added cost per household of a clean energy policy would have to drop below $59 a year to pass the current Senate and below $48 a year to pass the current House.

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By Russ Finley on May 4, 2012 with 9 responses

Electric Car News

Electric Ford Focus
Some test drive reports for the electric Ford Focus are out–fake radiator grill, optional leather seats, looks like a regular car, blah, blah, blah. Other than superficial appearances, it’s almost indistinguishable from a Leaf in performance, and costs a few grand more. One was used as the pace car at the NASCAR Sprint Car Series race last week in Richmond so at least they are marketing the thing and the Leaf really could use some competition. Then again, I also thought the Prius would have met some stiff competition from American hybrids by now. The latest episode of the sitcom 30 Rock was about an American engineered couch that was so uncomfortable the government bought them to torture terrorists …I think I have one of those couches.

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By Russ Finley on Apr 30, 2012 with 18 responses

Nuclear Energy is Not a Mature Industry

Senator Bernie Sanders is using Grist Magazine to lobby against government assistance for nuclear energy on the grounds that it’s a mature industry. I might agree with him if it really were a mature industry and if renewables really could carry the day without it. But it isn’t, and renewables can’t. It always irritates me to watch ignorant politicians screw with my children’s futures. As sometimes happens with my long-winded comments, the one I left over there got large enough to convert into a post over here.

Senator Sanders may have good intentions, but what’s new? We don’t need any more roads to hell paved by those. He’s just another member of the generation that has been systematically misinformed by “the end justifies the means” anti-nuclear lobby and our sensationalist for profit lay media.

An earlier article on Grist recently (and inadvertently) demonstrated with a simple graph that the most optimistic estimates for renewable energy do not come close to meeting our energy needs, all cost issues aside. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Apr 22, 2012 with 7 responses

Why is the Gov’t Mandating E15 if Big Ethanol is Unwilling to Back it?

The Domestic Fuels Protection Act Racket Just classic. According to Consumer Reports, the corn ethanol lobby has introduced legislation that would:  “ … leave consumers on the hook for any product damage caused by E15 …Rather than trying to solve the problem of preventing damage from E15 and easing its transition into the marketplace, this bill would simply sweep aside all liability for everyone but the consumer,” That picture of a decomposed  gasket is an example of what happens over time when an improperly engineered component meets a corrosive compound at elevated pressures and temperatures. In this case, the compound was coffee in an espresso machine.  Click here to see a gasket destroyed by ethanol in a gasoline engine. It’s… Continue»

By Russ Finley on Apr 9, 2012 with 9 responses

Solar’s New Competitor


Last week, Kate Galbraith wrote an article in the New York Times with the headline A Competitor Emerges for Solar Panels, which is  somewhat nonsensical.

It’s about the small co-heat and power (C.H.P) electric generator and hot water systems available for residential homes. This technology is not just emerging. I wrote an article about these five or six years ago when they were first marketed in Japan.

The article suggests that you can sell your excess power back to the grid (which I could not confirm), like is done with solar panels, and I suspect that is why she thinks they compete with solar, but solar panels “generate” zero emission renewable energy. These C.H.P units “consume” a non-renewable GHG emitting fossil fuel. Cogeneration competes with other energy consuming devices like 95% efficient condensing forced air gas furnaces and heat pumps. It’s an apples to orange comparison when it comes to solar.
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By Russ Finley on Apr 5, 2012 with 15 responses

A Base Load Free Power System

Below I Fisk an article titled Why Germany is phasing out nuclear power by David Roberts.

Why is Germany planning to phase out nuclear power? In a nutshell, because they fear it — self-serving behavior based on irrational fear. They’re doing it because a sufficient number of German citizens have been convinced by the fear tactics used by the anti-nuclear lobby that their nuclear power poses a significant safety risk (which it doesn’t).

They will be removing from the European grid their low emission nuclear power exports while simultaneously increasing the use of fossil fuels domestically in addition to using more from the E.U. grid, which is almost entirely nuclear and fossil fueled. They are counting on that power from the E.U. grid to fill in the gaps inherent in their own renewable power. To meet their goal of 100% renewable they would have to isolate themselves from the European grid.

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