Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Oil and Solar Do Mix

John Perlin, Miller-McCune
Oil and solar do mix — and have for a long time.

Last month, the oil and solar industry joined hands in an oil field about a century off its prime Chevron owns in Coalinga, Calif., where steam is required to sufficiently thin what oil remains so it can be extracted. The oil company signed a deal with Bright Source Energy to build a demonstration project: Thousands of flat mirrors will reflect concentrated sunlight on a boiler atop a tower, superheating the water to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to produce high-pressure steam. The mirrors will move throughout the day to track the sun. While the “Luz Power Tower” usually generates steam to run a turbine that cranks out electricity, in this case the steam will be injected right into the aging field.

Coalinga (named for once having been Coaling Station A on the Southern Pacific, not for another source of fossil fuels) has the perfect environment for Bright Source’s technology — lots of sunshine and flat terrain. The installation not only allows Chevron to green its operation but also protects the oil company from the volatile cost of natural gas, which usually powers steam-based pumping…
(19 Sept 2009)

Plugged-In Age Feeds a Hunger for Electricity

Jad Mouwad and Kate Galbraith
With two laptop-loving children and a Jack Russell terrier hemmed in by an electric fence, Peter Troast figured his household used a lot of power. Just how much did not really hit him until the night the family turned off the overhead lights at their home in Maine and began hunting gadgets that glowed in the dark.

“It was amazing to see all these lights blinking,” Mr. Troast said.

As goes the Troast household, so goes the planet.

Electricity use from power-hungry gadgets is rising fast all over the world. The fancy new flat-panel televisions everyone has been buying in recent years have turned out to be bigger power hogs than some refrigerators.

The proliferation of personal computers, iPods, cellphones, game consoles and all the rest amounts to the fastest-growing source of power demand in the world. Americans now have about 25 consumer electronic products in every household, compared with just three in 1980…
(25 Sept 2009)

Americans Are Still Buying Gas-Guzzlers, But Here Are 7 Signs That the Market for Green Transport Is Exploding

Tara Lohan, alternet
Americans get a lot of flack for their big cars. And often for good reason.

After sales figures for the first half of 2009 came in, it’s looking like Ford’s F-Series pickup trucks are set to make their 28th year at the top of the charts, with nearly 180,000 sold in the first two quarters.

With gas mileage near the bottom of the heap — 15 miles per gallon in the city and around 20 on the highway — the trucks are icons of America’s suicidal obsession with gas guzzlers.

And suicidal it is. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, since the early ’90s there has been a 20 percent increase in CO2 pollution from SUVs and pickups, which aren’t required by federal law to meet the same fuel-efficiency standards as cars.

…This sounds pretty depressing, but it’s not all bad news. On Sept. 15, President Barack Obama announced a proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department to increase corporate average fuel economy (or CAFE) standards to 35.5 mpg by 2016. The new requirements would go into effect in 2012 and are predicted to save 950 million metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions in four years.

There’s also more good news on the horizon, and it’s coming from consumers. It turns out not everyone wants to own a 5,000-pound vehicle like an F-150, and that’s a big help in combating global warming.

Here are seven ways Americans may be turning around that gas-guzzling trend.

…1. Hybrids Catching on Like Wildfire

…2. Plug It In

…3. The Best Things Come in Small Packages

…4. When in Doubt, Go Italian

…5. Who Needs a Motor?

…6. Why Not Just Share?

…7. Better Yet, Just Go Public
(30 Sept 2009)

Passive Solar Design Overview – Part 5: Distribution, Ventilation, and Cooling

Will Stewart, The Oil Drum
In this final article in the passive solar design overview series (see Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4), we will cover the techniques used to avoid hot and cold spots in a passive solar building, how to provide fresh air, and how to provide cooling (in many situations).

The first aspect we must address is the needs of the building occupants. While we may strive for ideal conditions as often as possible, a zero net energy home might not be required by its owners to always fit the mold of a typical power-intensive HVAC design. To understand how we need to distribute the heat from the building’s thermal masses, we need to understand how the human body interacts with the conditioned space, and how to define comfort.

In simple terms, the human body is considered to have obtained thermal comfort when a body’s heat loss equals its heat gain.
More specifically, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) devised a simple chart showing the upper and lower bounds of temperature and humidity by for what it defines as human comfort zones, taking into consideration differing clothing levels by season…
(24 Sept 2009)

Google working on “smart” plug-in hybrid charging

Reutersvia the Independent
Google is in the early stages of looking at ways to write software that would fully integrate plug-in hybrid vehicles to the power grid, minimize strain on the grid and help utilities manage vehicle charging load.

“We are doing some preliminary work,” said Dan Reicher, Google’s director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives. “We have begun some work on smart charging of electric vehicles and how you would integrate large number of electric vehicles into the grid successfully.”

“We have done a little bit of work on the software side looking at how you would write a computer code to manage this sort of charging infrastructure,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of an industry conference.

Google, known for its Internet search engine, in 2007 announced a program to test Toyota Prius and Ford Escape gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles that were converted to rechargeable plug-in hybrids that run mostly on electricity.

One of the experimental technologies that was being tested by the Web search giant allowed parked plug-ins to transfer stored energy back to the electric grid, opening a potential back-up source of power for the system in peak hours…
(30 Sept 2009)

10p to create a solar power sector in UK

The Ecologist
A higher tariff for green electricity generation would help the UK catch up with the rest of Europe

An extra 10p on the level of the proposed tariff given to small-scale renewable energy producers would be enough to kick-start a solar power sector in the UK, say industry groups.

Earlier this summer the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) finally agreed to introduction of a long sought-after feed-in tariff (FIT) under which households and businesses will be paid an above-market rate for every unit of electricity they generate and feed back to the grid.

Feed-in tariffs have been identified as the key factor behind the success of solar energy in Germany. But UK campaigners for solar power worry that the planned Government tariff will be too low…
(29 Sept 2009)

Saving BIG on electricity costs: chest refrigerators

walker, LoveSalem
Yup, that’s “refrigerator,” not freezer . . . . If I were making a list of way under-appreciated luxuries, in-home food refrigeration would probably be the top of my list. As a contributor to both higher life satisfaction (via improved enjoyment of food) and greatly, greatly improved public health (via improved food safety and enhanced nutrition through reduced food spoilage), there’s probably no other device that compares to the home fridge for value.

Alas, as with everything, there’s simply no free lunch. Refrigerators are energy pigs. Even the super-high efficiency (and super-high cost) ones sold for “off-the-grid” homes are pigs, because they are vertical — all the cold air dumps out whenever you open the door.

…Been trying to figure out how to modify a chest freezer’s thermostat to make it work and, just tonight, while redoing a search for “chest refrigerator” information, found a site that I had previously missed —- and of course it’s the one that has an elegant, simple and (in retrospect) obvious solution: don’t mess with the freezer’s own thermostat, just override it with one suitable for refrigeration! (I’m quite red-faced to admit that something so obvious eluded me for so long . . . just another reason I should never have given up drinking beer after leaving Wisconsin!)

So, with one of these, applied to something like this, I should be able to use one of these to measure what I hope will be nearly a 90% reduction in energy consumption by our single biggest electricity hog, our fridge. It’s pretty much our “base load” here, given that LOVESalem HQ has few, if any incandescent bulbs, no air-conditioning, and an old-style, low-energy TV plugged into a wireless-remote-operated power-strip that we click off whenever we’re not actually watching it…
(29 Sept 2009)
Sent in by EB contributor John Gear