Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Audubon Society coming out to support Wind Power, even in the face of bird kills

According to Tree Hugger, Audubon Society "Strongly Supports Wind Power" even though many environmentalists get knots in their stomach thinking about the birds being killed by wind turbines. There have been studies recording birds being killed by being hit by wind turbine blades, but there are other studies on why birds get killed by wind turbines, how to avoid the bird deaths, and in any case the rates of bird death due to wind turbines are lower than birds killed by flying into skyscrapers.

Wind-turbine based bird deaths found to be less than thought likely is my earlier blog entry on this subject.

What's interesting here is that the Audubon Society is saying, essentially, maybe it doesn't matter if a few birds are being killed. In the greater scheme of things wind power has so many more plusses that this minus, if it's at all significant, is completely overwhelmed by the positive effect from generating electricity without any greenhouse gasses, or drowned valleys, or radioactive substances that last zillions of years, etc. Wind power is a relatively benign way to generate electricity compared to all the other methods.

The Audubon Society magazine first ran an article doing an in-depth study of wind power and then in the next issue ran an editorial giving this support to wind power.

Let's hope it captures some attention. There are a lot of NIMBY's who are resisting wind power, but who are otherwise environmentalists. I am absolutely baffled by their resistance. How can they possibly be an environmentalist and be so closed minded as to resist wind power???

Well, this is one of those issues dangerously like that adage of squeezing a balloon just to find the balloon expanding in the area you didn't squeeze. Like many problems you solve, it can create other problems. So it seems to be with wind turbines, that in some cases birds get killed by them. But I am myself completely in agreement with the points I wrote above. First, wind power itself is so extremely benign compared with the many other things our society has done with technology. Generating electricity by capturing the wind seems so completely harmless compared to the urban vistas we see in the major cities, concrete and gleaming steel towers for as far as the eye can see. How can anybody think wind turbines are ugly compared to that? And what of the exhaust spewed by fossil fuel burning power plants? Again, the byproducts from wind turbines seem so completely benign compared to that.

Second, as I noted the problem has already been studied and the solutions are well known.

Third, as I noted, birds get killed by so many other human structures, why are the environmentalists focusing their worry against wind turbines when skyscrapers kill lots of birds as well?


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

EI Solutions


EI Solutions is one of California's fastest growing providers of large-scale solar power systems. We deliver clean, reliable, cost-effective energy solutions to business, government and institutional clients.

Our solar energy systems empower environmentally conscious customers to achieve utility independence and save money on energy. Founded in 2001, EI Solutions brings together the engineering, construction, capital financing, and project management skills needed to deliver today's large-scale grid-tied renewable energy systems on time and on budget.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Moonbeam mini-car ideas

The Moonbeam is an interesting concept of a vehicle. It's a home-built design where the plans are available on the above web site under a Creative Commons license allowing you to reuse those plans any way you wish. The vehicle is made from scooters, specifically 1980's era Honda Elite's, which the guy chopped up and reconfigured to have three wheels and a canopy. As a three-wheeler it registers as a motorcycle but in most U.S. states does not need further licensing beyond a typical drivers license. He estimates a $2000 for parts and a half year of assembly (assuming weekends).

However, looking at this just makes me think of the Scoot Coupe. That vehicle is a commercially built three wheeler built around a scooter drive frame. The Scoot Coupe does not have a canopy, so the driver will have to wear a motorcycle helmet, but otherwise it is very similar in concept. The big advantage is you can buy one of these with money rather than having to buy it with your sweat and weekends.

Either way the concept is fabulous. If driven with a gasoline engine either should get over 100 miles/gallon and be able to ride on city streets up to expressways and be able to handle the vast majority of around town travel. If driven electrically the limitation will be in the battery choice, the near-highway speed should be very achievable the question would be the range you can accomplish.

Cycle Santa Monica has a little more, including a video.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Solar power in the parking lot

Google Plants Solar Trees: What are Solar Trees? Well, think of the typical parking lot. Rows of parking slots for cars, and scattered around the lot are trees. The trees might be giving some benefit from shade, but what else? As much as I like trees, parking lots seem like an innapropriate place, because the trees aren't close enough together to form a forest, plus the parking lot blocks the rain from reaching their roots, etc.

Instead Google is launching a project to install solar panels in their parking lots. The panels are on structures that put the panels above the lots, providing shade, and capturing sunlight to make electricity. According to the article their parking lots (and some panels on rooftops) will provide enough space to provide 30 percent of the power requirements of Google's headquarters complex.

To give you an idea of how this would work, I invite you first to use to inspect some typical office complexes. Enter "N 1st St & W Montague Expy, San Jose, CA 95134 and click it to the hybrid map. This location is the heart of Silicon Valley but is typical of office complexes worldwide. What I want you to look at is the relative percentages of rooftop, building, and parking lots. There's a very high proportion of flat areas, either the parking lots or rooftops.

Solar panels in the parking lot would require a structure to be built, simply some poles and an open roofing, that can hold the panels safely above the cars. This is a simple engineering exercise to design. The tricky part would be orienting the panels for southward exposure, but again that's just engineering. Essentially this is a "carport" with the roof made by solar panels.

Google isn't designing this on their own, but is working with an engineering company Energy Innovations. I found this company but their site doesn't discuss the "Solar Tree" projects so I am not sure this is the right company.

Searching for "Solar Trees" I found the 'Solar Grove' project by Kyocera that provides a great picturing of the solar carport idea.

UPDATE December 20, 2006

TreeHugger: Google's Solar Trees Due To Bloom This Spring has more information including a link to the proper company.


Energy Innovations


Technology company developing solutions for delivering cost-effective solar electricity.


Monday, December 4, 2006