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Renewables & efficiency - May 29

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Why Obama Should Take Notes from Cuba on a Green Energy Revolution

Peter Bosshard, International Rivers
Cuba has successfully greened its energy sector over the last few years, and is now exporting its energy revolution.
Barack Obama has proposed to invest $150 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency over the next ten years. He need look no further than La Havana for inspiration. Cuba has successfully greened its energy sector over the last few years, and is now exporting its energy revolution. Will we soon benefit from Cuban expertise in cleaning up the US energy sector?

Just a few years ago, Cuba was plagued by frequent power blackouts – the result of inefficient generation in outdated thermal power plants, large transmission losses, and wasteful consumption. In 2006, the government responded to the power crisis by launching its "Revolución Energética." "We are not waiting for fuel to fall from the sky," Fidel Castro said at the time, "because we have discovered, fortunately, something much more important: energy conservation, which is like finding a great oil deposit." Laurie Guevara-Stone of Solar Energy International summarizes the impressive results of this energy revolution in the April issue of Renewable Energy World Magazine.

Cuba’s electricity utility has wasted no time in exploiting the "oil deposit" of conservation. According to Guevara-Stone, it mobilized consumers to replace more than 9 million incandescent light bulbs – almost 100% of the bulbs used in the country -- with compact fluorescents within six months. Under the utility’s program, more than 2 million energy-efficient refrigerators, 1 million fans, 182,000 air conditioners and 260,000 water pumps were sold.
(26 May 2009)

Solar Carbon Payback

Jeremy Faludi, WorldChanging
Some naysayers argue that solar panels don't make sense because it takes so much energy to make them--mining, smelting or refining, processing, etc. Do they really save fossil fuel energy and greenhouse gas emissions over the long run? The simple answer is yes. They save a whole lot. But then the question is: what kinds of solar panels are better than others?

A recent life-cycle analysis published at the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) showed that in a nice sunny place like Spain, PV panels reach energy payback (when they've saved as much fossil fuel as it took to make them) in about one to three years, depending on the type of panel. Interestingly, the new thin-film chemistry cadmium telluride (CdTe) fared best at 1.1 year despite having the lowest efficiency (9%), while monocrystalline silicon fared worst at 2.7 years despite having the highest efficiency (14%). This may seem counterintuitive, but the explanation is simple: it takes a lot less energy to make CdTe film.
(18 May 2009)
It's not just naysayers who insist upon looking rigorously at the Energy Return on Eneergy Invested (EROEI) of energy sources. The predominant tendency is to subsidize ineffecient technologies, out of enthusiasm and lobbying efforts. As physicist Richard Feynmann said in his report on the Challenger disaster:

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, because nature cannot be fooled.

Recommended by Big Gav.

Resourceful Guy Builds Solar House, Solar Power, Solar Car

Peak Moment TV

pm145_150.jpgJohn Weber’s Boise, Idaho house with south-facing windows rarely needs heat and never air conditioning. Meet a man who has built a passive-solar house with solar electric power and solar hot water; plus a solar-powered electric car — and who rides a bike! With photovoltaics tied to the grid, he sells surplus electricity back to the power company. John shows how he converted his “Sun Car” from a junked Festiva to all-electric, with added solar panels on top to extend its range. Ride with us - and hear how quiet it is!

(2 April 2009)

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