Category: Alternative Energy

Rooftop Solar Deployment in LA Could Power Half of California and Create 30,000 Jobs

rooftop_solarIn yet another example of the truism that there is no conflict between environmentalism and job creation, a UCLA study has determined that by putting solar panels on undeveloped roofs in LA County, two great economic benefits would be achieved.

First, over half of the homes and businesses in California could be powered via solar, the cleanest energy source we know about.

Second, approximately 30,000 jobs – many of them good, specialized positions — would be created in the process.

According to this story in Rewire, “Los Angeles County’s rooftops could conceivably generate half the state’s power on most summer days, and perhaps more during cooler parts of the year.”

Stella: A Solar-Powered Car That Creates More Energy Than It Uses

STELLA - Solar-powered German auto prototype

STELLA – Solar-powered German auto prototype

Via Storify and designboom today comes word of a new German engineering triumph: a solar-powered car that accommodates four people, has a range of 600+ miles and produces more energy than the car often needs. The surplus energy can be sold back to the power company, creating a negative-carbon footprint for the car, dubbed Stella.

The Stella features a snub-nosed torpedo design profile (as you can see from the image), and is very low to the ground, so low in fact that getting in and out of the vehicle requires some contortions that I could never perform.

There are plans to enter the Stella into the annual World Solar Challenge 2013 in the Australian Outback.

Among the futuristic-sounding features in the Stella, one is described as “an expanding and contracting steering wheel that warns the user if they are driving too fast or too slow.”

A vehicle that generates surplus energy would obviously be a huge boon if it were widely enough adopted. Technologically, this seems like quite an accomplishment.

Fracking California: Once More Into the Angst

Water on fire, May 9, 2011.Fracking is the name given to a process oil companies use to blast oil out of rock by injecting under high pressure a chemical cocktail that is almost certainly toxic but that they refuse to tell us anything about. It has been accused of being responsible, at least in part, for:

  • unsafe drinking water
  • polluted air
  • earthquakes
  • displacement of wildlife
  • disruption of agriculture

The real problem with fracking is that oil companies have lobbied hard and successfully for regulations that make it impossible to assess the damage being done. All the while, they claim that fracking is safe simply because they’ve been doing it for so long. Which turns out, unsurprisingly, to be a lie: the horizontal drilling aspect of fracking is very new technology, having first been deployed, e.g., in Ohio as late as 2011.

Now fracking is kicking into high gear in my state, California, where regulators and legislators cannot even keep up with the pace of growth in an industry that routinely invades peaceful towns with 24-7 flares that burn off gas byproducts (which could be used commercially if they cared enough), destroying peace and quiet, tearing up roads for taxpayers to repair, and creating noxious odors that leave people sick. Sure, a few landowners make out like bandits, picking up lease payments in the thousands of dollars per month. But at what cost? We can’t know and the oil companies are determined to be sure we never do.

All of this is in the name of oil-independence, which is a thoroughly discredited idea whose ring sounds patriotic and smart but whose reality is quite the contrary. We should not be trying to get more energy from oil on our lands; we should be trying to greatly reduce or eliminate oil as a source of energy at all.

Did You Know Automakers Are Barred from Selling You a Car?

Neither did I until I ran across this piece on SmartPlanet Daily today.

It seems that in 45 states, laws require that new automobiles be sold to consumers through dealerships rather than directly by the manufacturers. If ever there was a law written to protect a tiny special interest group, this has to be it. It’s brutally dumb and horribly anachronistic, particularly in an era when you can buy nearly anything over the Internet.

teslaTesla, on-demand makers of electric vehicles, has opened storefronts in about 25 locations in the US. It appears that they don’t actually sell vehicles at these outlets, which function rather more like educational installations. Tesla officials say most people who wander into one of these stores don’t have any idea what Tesla is or that their automobiles are all-electric.

So the company, faced with the problem of educating the public, tries a new way to approach the market. All of its product is sold online. There are months-long waits  for a new car from them, but nobody seems to mind much.

Unsurprisingly, networks of auto dealers and the state boards set up to provide them with undeserved special protection, have begun suing Tesla over its unorthodox merchandising methods. They claim that only authorized dealerships can provide consumers with the service and protections that the laws provide. Anyone who’s ever shopped in a modern-day auto dealerships knows quite well the fantasy disguised in that ridiculous suggestion.

I hope Tesla hangs in there. As soon as I can, I’m going to start looking for a Tesla myself.


Wind Plus Solar Plus Storage = 99.9% of Grid Needs, Affordably

I was greatly encouraged today to read the news of a new study in Delaware that suggests that it would be affordable to combine wind and solar with storage to replace substantially all of the nation’s power grid.

The finding is contained in new  research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College and reported in Science Daily.

According to the report, “Unlike other studies, the model focused on minimizing costs instead of the traditional approach of matching generation to electricity use. The researchers found that generating more electricity than needed during average hours — in order to meet needs on high-demand but low-wind power hours — would be cheaper than storing excess power for later high demand.”