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Renewables & efficiency - June 11

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


John La Grou plugs smart power outlets
(video)
TED
John La Grou unveils an ingenious new technology that will smarten up the electrical outlets in our homes, using microprocessors and RFID tags. The invention, Safeplug, promises to prevent deadly accidents like house fires -- and to conserve energy.
About John La Grou

John La Grou, a long-time electronics inventor, audio designer and entrepreneur, wants to save lives (and energy) with a new, smarter type of electrical outlet.
(June 2009)
John La Grou writes:
Every February, the TED Conference brings together a group of amazing people to dream about a healthy future. I was invited to give a short talk at TED2009 to describe an invention we patented some years ago. The global community is now taking an active interest in this technology.

Please take three minutes to learn about the intelligent power outlet - it saves lives, prevents injuries, and greatly reduces energy consumption.



The Renewables Hump 4: EROEI Issues

Jeff Vail, blog
As discussed in the last post in this series, the energy return on energy invested in renewable sources of energy will be a critical measure of whether it is possible to transition on a large scale from a fossil-fuel powered economy, or whether a global "powerdown" is eventually inevitable. If EROEI, the net-energy ratio of a renewable energy source, is high--say 40:1--then it should be possible to rapidly transition our fossil-fuel driven economy to a renewable energy base, and to support ongoing economic growth that requires ever more energy. If this ratio, however, is low--say 4:1--then at a minimum a transition to renewable energy will be extremely challenging, and may be effectively impossible. As a result, the actual EROEI value of the various renewable energy options available to us is plainly critical. There are lots of measures, lots of studies, and lots of figures floated about for the EROEI value of solar photovoltaics, wind turbines, etc. There is not, however, a universally accepted methodology for calculating EROEI. In fact, I don't think it's a stretch to say that EROEI figures are more likely to be marketing copy intended to secure venture capital than the result of rigorous inquiry.

In my opinion, understanding the reality of our society's ability to transition to a renewable energy basis for our economy is one of, if not THE most important issue to be resolved. If this transition is a realistic possibility, then it should be our society's primary and immediate focus. In addition, improving our understanding of just how realistic such a societal transition is will help us understand the necessary rate of investment in renewables, as well as the nature and degree of the challenges to be accomplished. If it is not realistic, then we must not waste what little surplus energy we have on a fools errand. In addition, the present understanding that such a transition is unrealistic will allow us to both develop and focus on those societal options that are realistic. Given the importance of accurate EROEI calculations, this post will discuss the current methodology issues with EROEI calculation and make recommendations for proceeding.

Jeff Vail is an attorney at Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP in Denver, Colorado specializing in litigation and energy issues. He is a former intelligence officer with the US Air Force and energy infrastructure counterterrorism specialist with the US Department of the Interior.
(8 June 2009)
Jeff Vail is a regular contributor to Energy Bulletin and The Oil Drum.



Google Closing in on Cheap Renewable Energy

Peter Henderson, Reuters
Google Inc is closing in on its goal of producing renewable energy at a price cheaper than coal, the company's so-called green energy czar, the engineer in charge of the project, said on Tuesday.

But the United States needs to raise government-backed research significantly and take much bigger risks if it wants to make alternative energy mainstream, executive Bill Weihl told Reuters in an interview.

Google, known for its Internet search engine, in late 2007 said it would invest in companies and do research of its own to produce affordable renewable energy -- at a price less than burning coal -- within a few years."
(9 June 2009)



China launches green power revolution to catch up on west

Julian Borger and Jonathan Watts, The Guardian
China is planning a vast increase in its use of wind and solar power over the next ­decade and believes it can match Europe by 2020, producing a fifth of its energy needs from renewable sources, a senior Chinese official said yesterday.

Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-chairman of China's national development and reform commission, told the Guardian that Beijing would easily surpass current 2020 targets for the use of wind and solar power and was now contemplating targets that were more than three times higher.
(10 June 2009)

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