A Solar Farm That Is Beautiful – How not to waste energy

I am going to be posting things I LIKE this week. It is my summer fun. This is a great site. Please RSS.


Behold the Gorgeous Solar Farms of Le

Mées, France

  • May 27, 2011 • 12:10 pm PDT

The energy company Efinity opened two new solar-power farms in Le Mées in north-central France this month. They’re huge. Together they occupy 89 acres, generating enough electricity for 9,000 families. They were also designed with the landscape in mind. The panels were installed without concrete foundations, which means when their 20-year lifespan is over and they’re removed, there will be healthy land left behind, and grasses are being planted so sheep can graze among them.

But what’s most remarkable about these solar farms is that they’re really aesthetically pleasing. Set on the rolling hills, they look like some sort of Frank Gehry installation. Carbon aside, they’re just much nicer to look at than a coal plant.


More fun tomorrow.


Americans Waste Energy Just Getting Out Of Bed – Even while they sleep

This is a great blog post. I will only quote part of it because its point is that we must decentralized our energy sources to avoid losses. But I just want to focus on the losses part. Next week we start another meditation. Have a great Memorial Day weekend. (I realize you can not  see the entire graphic below. More reason to go read the source.)


Thursday, April 21, 2011

It’s Not Just Alternative Energy Versus Fossil Fuels or Nuclear – Energy Has to Become DECENTRALIZE

dot dot dot

This basic trend can be seen around the globe with many energy sources. We’ve most likely already found and tapped the biggest, most accessible and highest-E.R.O.I. oil and gas fields, just as we’ve already exploited the best rivers for hydropower. Now, as we’re extracting new oil and gas in more extreme environments – in deep water far offshore, for example – and as we’re turning to energy alternatives like nuclear power and converting tar sands to gasoline, we’re spending steadily more energy to get energy.

For example, the tar sands of Alberta, likely to be a prime energy source for the United States in the future, have an E.R.O.I. of around 4 to 1, because a huge amount of energy (mainly from natural gas) is needed to convert the sands’ raw bitumen into useable oil.

Professor Charles Hall of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry provides the following graphic to illustrate the point:


“Balloon graph” representing quality (y graph) and quantity (x graph) of the United States economy for various fuels at various times. Arrows connect fuels from various times (i.e. domestic oil in 1930, 1970, 2005), and the size of the “balloon” represents part
of the uncertainty associated with EROI estimates.

(Source: US EIA, Cutler Cleveland and C. Hall’s own EROI work in preparation)Click to Enlarge.

(click for larger image.)

The take away message from the graph is that the energy return on investment was very high for oil in 1930, but it is very low today, since the cheap, easy-to-get-to (and less dangerous) oil is gone.


dot dot dot

America uses 39.97 quads of energy, while it wastes 54.64 quads (i.e. “rejected energy”).

As CNET noted in 2007:

Sixty-two percent of the energy consumed in America today is lost through transmission and general inefficiency. In other words, it doesn’t go toward running your car or keeping your lights on.

Put another way:

  • We waste 650% more energy than all of our nuclear power plants produce
  • We waste 280% more energy than we produce by coal
  • We waste 235% more energy than we produce by natural gas (using deadly fracking)
  • We waste 150% more energy than we generate with other petroleum products

The Department of Energy notes:

Only about 15% of the energy from the fuel you put in your tank gets used to move your car down the road or run useful accessories, such as air conditioning. The rest of the energy is lost to engine and driveline inefficiencies and idling. Therefore, the potential to improve fuel efficiency with advanced technologies is enormous.

According to the DOE, California lost 6.8% of the total amount of electricity used in the state in 2008 through transmission line inefficiencies and losses.

The National Academies Press notes:

By the time energy is delivered to us in a usable form, it has typically undergone several conversions. Every time energy changes forms, some portion is “lost.” It doesn’t disappear, of course. In nature, energy is always conserved. That is, there is exactly as much of it around after something happens as there was before. But with each change, some amount of the original energy turns into forms we don’t want or can’t use, typically as so-called waste heat that is so diffuse it can’t be captured.

Reducing the amount lost – also known as increasing efficiency – is as important to our energy future as finding new sources because gigantic amounts of energy are lost every minute of every day in conversions. Electricity is a good example. By the time the energy content of electric power reaches the end user, it has taken many forms. Most commonly, the process begins when coal is burned in a power station. The chemical energy stored in the coal is liberated in combustion, generating heat that is used to produce steam. The steam turns a turbine, and that mechanical energy is used to turn a generator to produce the electricity.


The main point being we waste energy to make energy. There is something wrong with that. It really means that resources are not free. But that is another post. More Tuesday.


We Even Waste Light During The Day – That’s right

The people of the US actually turn on more lights then they need and make there eyes worse from the glare. If you don’t believe me listen to this professor.


Proposal Essay: Less wasted light equals more energy savings

Posted on April 18, 2011 by David Apperson

The UAF campus uses electricity.  Some of the electricity is used to power fluorescent light bulbs which are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs but because they exist as a load in the power grid, use energy.  How much energy is being used by these lights, is it more than is necessary, and how bright to classrooms and computer labs need to be?  In 2010, UAF created its Office of Sustainability to utilize the $20 per student fee towards sustainable projects.  The goal is to supply the necessary funds to make sustainable projects happen but the projects must be cost effective with realistic financial return periods.  Although bright rooms are convenient, the UAF sustainability club should lobby the Chancellor and Facilities Services to implement a program that systematically removes bulbs from over-lit rooms because it will reduce the energy use of the UAF campus, make indoor conditions more comfortable, and save money.

The simplest way to reduce the energy use for lighting is to remove unnecessary bulbs.  Before someone begins pulling random lights from their fixtures at will, some simple calculations can be done to get “back of the envelope” numbers for a cost-benefit analysis.  The following calculations will use some simple energy units, the kilo-Watt (kW) and the kilo-Watt-hour (kWh).  A kW is a measurement of Power and is defined as 1,000 joules per second, how quickly work is being done.  A kWh is a measurement of energy, a fairly large amount of energy at that, being the amount of work by a one kW source for one hour.  Electricity is sold in kWh, because it doesn’t matter how fast someone or something is using the electricity but how much of it they are using.  Light intensity can be measured in lumens or foot-candles.  A lumen is a measure of the power of light perceived by the human eye and the foot-candle can be considered as the amount of light falling on a surface, being defined as one lumen per square foot.

The first thing to be determined is whether or not rooms are over lit.  If they are, then energy is being wasted.  The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), recommends that in an office setting, the light intensity be between 20 and 50 foot-candles (OSHA).  As I write this essay, I am sitting in the Students of Engineering Computer Lab (SOECAL) in Duckering.  The room is quite bright and approximately 20 ft by 40 ft and holds 15 light fixtures, each containing three fluorescent bulbs.  The bulbs are GE Ecolux Starcoat bulbs consuming 32 Watts and producing 2800 lumens a piece (light bulb).  To determine if this particular room is over lit, the following calculation is made:

It appears that the SOECAL lab is over lit by three times the amount of recommended light for a work office, perhaps other similar classrooms and computer labs are as well.  Since we can assume the SOECAL lab and many other rooms are over lit, it can also be determined how much energy is being wasted and how much it is costing.  The following calculations are performed considering a single bulb for a single hour.


In the room where he is writing no less. More tomorrow.


Militaries Waste Huge Amounts Of Money – In everything they do

Let us put aside the fact militaries themselves are a huge waste of money. It is estimated that for every 1 $$$ the US for instance spends on a bullet they get 75 cents in return. That is just if it sits on the shelf. If it is used of course it is worth nothing. Not to mention that lavishing spending on militaries brought Empires from the Egypt to the Soviet Union’s down. But the USA’s Military wastes energy like there is no tomorrow. The worst offenders of course are the Airforce and the Navy. The Airforce in particular spews kerosene byproducts into the upper atmosphere where they do the most harm and the Navy because they burn warm asphalt at sea. Not to mention the nuclear issues both as weapons and power sources. But think about our main battle tank. It is as big as a modest 2 story house and it runs on diesel. So the idea that they want to go to zero energy use is great. But I got my doubts.


U.S. Army Launches Plan to Make All Military Bases Net Zero

Posted by Ggw Admin on Apr 19, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

Army Vision for Net Zero, Fort Bliss, net zero, renewable energy, U.S. Army, U.S. Military, Waste Reduction, water conservation

Over the past couple of years, the U.S. Army has announced several initiatives ranging from solar-powered tents for troops to hydrogen-powered tanks, however this is their most ambitious program yet. With the help of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the U.S. Army is aiming to have all Army installations across the country be net zero.

Army Vision for Net Zero, Fort Bliss, net zero, renewable energy, U.S. Army, U.S. Military, Waste Reduction, water conservation

With funds from the DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), the “Army Vision for Net Zero” program will aim to meet mandates to reduce energy as a result of Executive Order 13514. The order calls for all new buildings to be net zero energy by 2030, and it dictates a 30 percent reduction in water use and a 50 percent reduction in waste that goes to landfills. On top of that, the National Defense Authorization Act also mandates that the Army produce or acquire 25 percent of its energy from renewables by 2025.

“The first priority is less,” Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy Environment Katherine Hammack said. “If you use less energy, you don’t have to buy as much – or you don’t have to make as much from alternative energy sources or renewable energy sources. So if you look at energy, that is a focus on energy efficiency. If you’re talking about water, then that’s water conservation. Or even if you’re talking about waste, that’s reducing the amount of waste we have in the steam.”

The program already has a poster child in the form of Fort Bliss. The military base boasts solar daylighting in the dining facility, warehouse and gym, energy-efficient windows, utility monitoring and control for heating and air-conditioning systems in approximately 70 buildings, and plans to increase the on-site hybrid waste-to-energy/concentrating solar power plant from 90 to 140 megawatts. The City of El Paso has committed to provide 1 million tons per year of municipal solid waste, which will be transformed into energy by the base.

“The Army’s net zero vision is a holistic approach to addressing energy, water, and waste at Army installations,” Kingery said. “We look at net zero as a force multiplier for the Army that will help us steward our resources and manage our costs.”

Considering that defense is a massive cause of national debt, the plan serves two purposes – reduced spending and “greening” national security. If the military can get on board with renewable energy, it makes you wonder why other areas of government are having such trouble.

+ U.S Army

Images © US Army


More tomorrow


USA Wastes 59% Of The Energy It Uses – We are energy pigs

Great article and great graph. Please see the rest. The comments are particularly stupid.


US energy use chart shows we waste more than half of our energy

April 9, 2011 by Lisa Zyga report

US energy use


This flow chart shows the amount of energy (in quads) that is produced by different energy sources and consumed by different sectors. Image credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the US Department of Energy.

(PhysOrg.com) — This flow chart of the estimated US energy use in 2009, assembled by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), paints a pretty sobering picture of our energy situation. To begin with, it shows that more than half (58%) of the total energy produced in the US is wasted due to inefficiencies, such as waste heat from power plants, vehicles, and light bulbs. In other words, the US has an energy efficiency of 42%. And, despite the numerous reports of progress in solar, wind, and geothermal energy, those three energy sources combined provide just 1.2% of our total energy production. The vast majority of our energy still comes from petroleum (37%), natural gas (25%), and coal (21%).


More tomorrow.


Wasted Food Is Wasted Energy – And we waste alot

Remember when your mom used to say, “Clean your plate. There are children in the world who are starving.”? Well now it is save the world kind of stuff. Wasting food wastes huge amounts of energy. This brief article below sums it up nicely. Please click on the authors name to see more of this authors work.


There’s more energy in wasted food than there is in the Gulf of Mexico

Maggie Koerth-Baker at 8:42 PM Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010

Recently, while doing some research on the carbon footprint of food, I ran across some studies that reported Americans ate, on average, 3774 calories of food each day.

Something about that smelled funny to me.

Sure, Americans eat a lot. But 3774 calories a day? I have family members who subsist almost solely off fried meat and various sorts of potatoes and I’m not convinced that even they hit that number on a regular basis. When I took my questions to the researchers, I found out that my hunch was correct. Americans aren’t, technically, eating an average of 3774 calories per day. This figure is calculated by looking at food produced, divided by the number of Americans. It assumes we’re eating all that, but, in reality, according to environmental scientist Gidon Eshel we really only eat about 2800 calories per day. That whopping 3774 includes both what we eat—and what we waste.

And what we waste—not just at home, but from the farm field, to the grocery store, to our Tupperware containers full of moldy leftovers—is a big deal.

We use a lot of energy producing, transporting, processing, storing and cooking food we don’t eat. About 2150 trillion kilojoules worth a year, according to a recent study. That’s more kilojoules than the United States could produce in biofuels. And it’s more than we already produce in all the oil and gas extracted annually from the Gulf of Mexico.

Reducing that waste requires both changes in the way we eat at home, and systematic changes that address waste at every part of the food cycle. Right now, I’ve talked to a lot of researchers who can identify the problem, but don’t have a lot of suggestions for concrete solutions. I’m sure they’re out there, though, and I’ll report back as I track them down.


More tomorrow.


We Waste Millions O Megawatts On Night Lighting – I have been complaining about this for 25 years

Guess what it just gets worse every year. One year I put up the classic “night sky” compulation from the space station. It is horrid. And the excuses are myriad. One year I put up a picture of the Stratton Building in downtown Springfield. I swore 30 years ago I would live to see those lights out. Guess what? They are still on. The excuse: There are no individual shut off switches in the offices. Each floor is controlled my its main electrical panel,and the night janitors couldn’t see to do their jobs! Lighting on highways? What don’t cars have headlights? Street lightening? Gotta be able to see criminals. Put spotlights on the squad cars and get them off their dead asses. It just goes on and on and on and on. There is no off. So here is another story.


Federal Agency Headquarters Leave Lights On In DC

8:10 PM, Jan 25, 2011  |

WASHINGTON (WUSA) — Night after night, year after year, this nightside reporter observed lights left on in federal government buildings. So I decided to see just how much taxpayers were spending to keep empty buildings illuminated.

For several months, we kept track of the lights left on in a dozen federal buildings, including the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation and Energy always checking after 10 p.m., each on at least six occasions.

“Turn the lights off. That’s what I do anyway. That’s how I save money,” said one visitor from North Dakota.

Just how much are the federal agencies electricity bills costing you, the taxpayer? First, using the Freedom of Information Act, we requested six months of utility bills for the headquarters buildings of more than a dozen agencies. Then, we asked taxpayers to estimate the price of one month in one building.

‘Whew. $3,000 a month?” one woman estimated.

“$5,000 a month?” guessed a young man from New Jersey.

“Monthly? $5-10,000,” said a man from Virginia.

The low end is about $200,000 a month. The high end more than a million. One month’s electricity bill at the Department of Labor topped a MILLION dollars. That was a bill paid in July of last year. The month before, the department paid a bill of nearly $700,000. And utility costs of that magnitude are not unusual.

“Whoooo. That’s too much!” exclaimed a taxpayer.

“Maybe the perception is, they want to tell the American people that we’re always on,” speculated another.

The Department of Health and Human Services paid a bill last August of $799,000 for a month of service.

“Oh my God. That is per month?” was one reaction.

The Department of Commerce paid a bill last June of $794,000.

“I used to work for the federal government. I know they waste tax dollars. Do it every day,” said a man in DC.

“Turning off the lights is about the simplest way that the government can save money. There is no excuse not to do this on a regular basis,” said Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste.

Most federal agencies purchase their electricity through PEPCO and Constellation New Energy of Baltimore. The buildings are large, and some appear to be making an effort to turn off their lights consistently, like the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Energy headquarters was so dark on one of our nighttime visits, we could barely see its sign.


More next week.


Idling Vehicles Are Costing Billions – Cops, firemen and farmers alike

Everyone has an excuse. For Cops it is they, “gotta be ready to roll”. For small town folks who leave their cars running at the curb, “it’ll just take a minute”. For bus drivers it is the mistaken notion that, “turning it off and on is harder on it then idling”. But it is all fuelish and wasteful.


Idle Reduction

Idling vehicles use billions of gallons of fuel each year and emit large quantities of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Idle reduction technologies and practices are an important way to cut petroleum consumption and emissions.

Idle Reduction Basics

Photo of fleet trucks

Idling Facts

  • Medium-duty trucks use about 2.5 billion gallons of fuel to idle each year, or 6.7% of the total fuel they consume.
  • More than 650,000 long-haul heavy-duty trucks idle overnight for required rest stops at least some fraction of the time, using more than 685 million gallons of fuel per year.

Idle reduction describes technologies and practices that reduce the amount of time drivers idle their engines. Reducing idling time has many benefits, including reductions in fuel costs, emissions, and noise.

Drivers idle for a variety of reasons, such as keeping vehicles warm, operating radios, or powering equipment. Each year, U.S. passenger cars, light trucks, medium-duty trucks, and heavy-duty vehicles consume more than 6 billion gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline—without even moving. Roughly half of that fuel is wasted by passenger vehicles.

Idling can be reduced without compromising driver comfort or vehicle equipment operations. Learn about:


More tomorrow.


Gas Flares At Garbage Dumps – Humans just throw resources away

In 1000s of landfills across the nation natural gas (primarily methane) is being allowed to drift into the atmosphere or worse yet “flared”. They should be at least using this to generate electricity. Like this landfill in Brevard County.


Your Guide to the Central Disposal Facility

click for larger image

The Central Disposal Facility (CDF) is located on Adamson Road in Cocoa. The property was first used for solid waste disposal in the 1960’s. Since then the County has continued to make improvements operationally and environmentally. For example, the 192-acre permitted landfill area is lined by a clay slurry wall, groundwater monitoring wells have been installed, and a methane gas collection and flare system is in place.

The site originally consisted of 285 acres. CDF now totals 957 acres. Portions of the landfill have been closed by capping it with a liner, two feet of cover dirt, and sod. It is estimated Brevard County will have enough landfill capacity to handle the disposal needs for the county until 2014.

In addition to the landfill area itself, there are many other areas within the landfill which emphasize waste reduction and environmental protection.

Yard waste is banned from Florida landfills but is used for daily cover material in the landfill after it’s mulched.

Tens of thousands of pounds of mulch is sent to a facility in Auburndale to be converted to Green Energy.

The mulch is available FREE to all Brevard County residents,
call (321) 633-1888 for more information.

click for larger image

Landfill Gas Conversion to Green Energy
click for larger image
The gas produced by the Landfill (methane) is extracted through a vacuum system run by LES (Brevard Energy LLC) which in turn is connected to a power grid at the FP&L Facility
(Oleander Plant) and converted to Green Energy.
Anaerobic bacteria break down the garbage in the landfill which produces methane gas. These Flares were burning off the methane to reduce build-up in the landfill.

Now that the Landfill Gas Plant is up and running the Flare Station will be utilized only when necessary.


Seems like we waste energy even when we throw it away. More tomorrow.


Wasted Energy – Very cool blog

I started a meditation on wasted energy last Friday by looking at all the energy we waste by “flaring” natural gas at drilling rigs. We burn more than we use. Then I got distracted by the Corps of Engineers opening the Morganza  Spillway which is a huge environmental deal. So I come back to the meditation today. I googled up the issue and this site popped up. It’s a pretty cool blog. They haven’t posted since April so I am hoping I am not hyping a dead blog.


The Palest Green

Posted by wastedenergy on April 6, 2011

Now that enough time has passed to witness what is really happening in Fukushima, I am ready to pass judgment. I notice a lot of other commentators offered their two cents up immediately, as if they could tell the full scale of the disaster from the first few hours. Not me, though. I knew something strange was afoot the instant it happened, but it’s important to keep in mind that one must always do the necessary homework before making ultimate determinations of value. Now that time has come.

The most common argument I see supposed “environmentalists” making in favor of “nuclear power” (which is a misnomer since it is actually a drain on energy over the long run) is that it is “better than coal.” “It’s carbon neutral,” they say, as if to suggest that were the only criterion that mattered, and also as if to ignore the full energy-consumptive effects of the nuclear fuel cycle from mining to ultimate disposal (it’s supposed to get disposed ultimately, right?). But the path to “clean” nuclear energy is laid with many other booby traps, and it takes an eye open to truth and closed to propaganda to catch them all.

In nature, the color yellow often means “Don’t touch me, I will hurt you.”

As I see things today, the quest for nuclear power, hailed as tomorrow’s energy source by those so obsessed with technocracy that they blind themselves to the big picture, represents better than almost any other story our civilization’s descent into madness. We have become truly power-obsessed, seeking cheap thrills today and tossing tomorrow to the winds. Let our children handle the nuclear waste, we keep saying. Well, the children have arrived, and they are ready to take the reins of power now, and we still aren’t any closer to figuring out what to do with this stuff, which keeps piling up in spent fuel pools vulnerable to release into the environment from earthquakes, volcanoes, meteor strikes, acts of sabotage, and all the other hazards that are a natural part of life on Planet Earth. So what makes today’s nuclear scientists so certain that tomorrow we will finally come up with the magic solution that will allow us to seal this stuff forever behind closed doors, especially if we continue to create even more? It’s time to stop kicking the can ever further down the road and face up to the reality we’ve created for ourselves.

Nuclear fission and radiation are natural parts of our existence. Decaying radioactive isotopes are what power the Earth’s geothermal heat, much like nuclear fusion powers radiation from the Sun. We tell ourselves there cannot be a hazard here since it is always around in one form or another. But we overdo it sometimes, and just as with oil depletion, we trick ourselves into thinking what we are doing is perfectly natural by suggesting “there’s always going to be some, so it can’t be so bad.” That is, once again, the continuum fallacy. We presume that just because we cannot draw a clear line between one phenomenon and its much larger version, that there must be no difference at all. The disaster at Fukushima, which has caused radiation levels to spike to millions of times background levels, has proven conclusively that there are real clear and ever-present dangers associated with even the most carefully operated nuclear power reactors, and the silver lining in the event is that it has brought these as well as the dangers associated with the back end of the nuclear cycle into the forefront of discussion and back into clear view. Such a perspective is necessary if we are to take an objective look at the advantages and drawbacks of our different energy options, something many players with vested political and economic interests are not particularly keen on seeing.


Wasting my energy again tomorrow.