Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Renewable Energy and Climate Change

In July, I spent four days at the ASES-American Solar Energy Society Conference in Denver and the topic was Renewable Energy and Climate Change. There were a couple of facts and developments that struck me:

In the US , about 50% of the emissions are being caused by buildings, 25% by transportation and 25% by industry. American Architects have founded the "Architecture2030" initiative with the goal to reduce emissions from all new buildings by 50% starting now and to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. By the year 2030 , 75% of the then existing buildings will have either been built or renovated between now and then. So committing to higher building standards now will have a major effect over the next 25 years. Take a look at www.architecture2030.org

With regards to energy efficiency , it is amazing what impact we all can have by doing our part. If every of the 110 Million households in the US would replace one 60W incandescent lightbulb with a compact fluorescent one, we would save enough energy to power all households in the states of Rhode Island and Delaware and avoid the construction of two additional power plants. If each household would replace four incandescent lightbulbs by compact fluorescent ones , the need for nuclear power plants would be eliminated . How many compact fluorescent lightbulbs do you use ?

There was also a fascinating discussion about plug-in Hybrids at the Conference in Denver. We are probably all familiar with Hybrid vehicles, cars that use combustion as well as electric engines . Due to the use of the electric engine , the gas mileage increases by about 60% in comparison to the same vehicle with only one combustion engine. A Plug-in Hybrid makes it possible plug the car into a regular outlet , the battery is always fully charged and the car will drive on electricity more frequently. The battery will recharge either by plugging in or by driving the car with the combustion engine. As the car will use the electric engine more often, the gas mileage will increase even more.
The fascinating aspect of the discussion was the use of the stored energy in the batteries of plugged-in vehicles for the management of our electricity grid. That means that utilities would be able to access the energy in the batteries of the plugged-in vehicles to meet peak demands of electricity and avoid black-outs . Using this additional energy resource could mean avoiding costly investements in new power plants if there are sufficient plug-in hybrids in circulation. Under these circumstances , subsidizing the development and the sale of plug-in hybrids makes perfect economic sense.

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Blogger Bernd Weyersbach said...

There are some big steps forward on energy efficiency of cheap solar cells, presented this week at the meeting of the American Chemical Society. Layers of titanium dioxide in cells made of electrically conductive plastics, using phthalocyanine in dye-sensitized solar cells, and finally using nanotubes for both kinds seem to be capable to turn these cells into economically viable alternatives to silicon based cells. If these tecnologies could help solar power to go (further) mainstream, affordability for remote areas - as we have many here in Brazil - would largely improve.

Congratulations for your great initiatives from an old schoolmate.

1:35 PM  

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