While meandering along a garden(ing) path through the Internet, I came across a great publication produced by the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the State of Alaska Plant Materials Center. It’s called “Alaska Biofuels Past, Present and Future” and includes a short history of the use of plant materials for fuel; a succinct definition of the relevant terms, some “how to” information for crop propagation and a list of “future hopes.”
From the New York Times on Wednesday, March 18, 2009:
Solar cells adorn the roofs of many homes and warehouses across Germany, while the bright white blades of wind turbines are a frequent sight against the sky in Spain.
If one day these machines become as common on the plains and rooftops of the United States as they are abroad, it may be because the financing technique that gave Europe an early lead in renewable energy is starting to cross the Atlantic.
Put simply, the idea is to pay homeowners and businesses top dollar for producing green energy.
From the Washington Post on Tuesday, March 10, 2009:
One gizmo allows you to run the dishwasher when electricity is cheapest. Another decides when to fire up the water heater if you plan on a 6 a.m. shower. Another routes solar energy from a rooftop panel to a battery in your garage and the wiring in your house.
Outside, towers equipped with sensors tell the electric company exactly where a storm has knocked out power. The power grid itself can react to trouble, rerouting juice from a healthy part of the system or isolating itself to prevent a larger meltdown.
From the New York Times on Tuesday, March 10, 2009:
Although home energy tracking devices like the single-outlet Kill A Watt or the whole-house Power2Save unit are gaining popularity in this energy-conscious age, I hadn’t tried one out until my electric bill topped out at $150 in January. That prompted me to invest in an Energy Detective, a device that retails for $145 and promises to give homeowners a telling glimpse into their personal energy consumption habits — and the appliances that consume the most juice.
From the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, posted on 2/18/09, retrieved on Friday, March 6, 2009:
President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on February 17, and the tax section of the act provides greater tax credits for clean energy projects at homes and businesses and for the manufacturers of clean energy technologies. For homeowners, the act increases a 10% tax credit for energy efficiency improvements to a 30% tax credit, eliminates caps for specific improvements (such as windows and furnaces), and instead establishes an aggregate cap of $1,500 for all improvements placed in service in 2009 and 2010 (except biomass systems, which must be placed in service after the act is enacted). The act also tightens the energy efficiency requirements to meet current standards. For residential renewable energy systems, the act removes all caps on the tax credits, which equal 30% of the cost of qualified solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines, and fuel cell systems. The act also eliminates a reduction in credits for installations with subsidized financing.
Click here to read the whole posting, and to link to additional Federal documents.
From the Los Angeles Times on Friday, February 20, 2009:
Scientists have developed an interactive map on Google Earth that shows fossil-fuel carbon dioxide emissions across the United States.
Users can view pollution levels from factories, power plants and residential and commercial areas in their state or county. They can also compare emission levels in their county with those of other counties in the U.S. The mapping system, called the Vulcan project, is based on 2002 data.
You may find it interesting to contrast the “absolute” and “per capita” views. There is a marked difference between the two in how cities appear.
**WARNING: the interactive map requires that you download a plugin, and this map will not work without DSL or a faster Internet connection.**
From the New York Times on Saturday, February 14, 2009:
Wind turbines typically spin from tall towers on hills and plains. But in these green times, some companies hope smaller turbines will soon rise above a more domestic spot: homes and garages.
An Energy Ball turbine. Adam Bird for The New York Times
The rooftop turbines send the electricity they generate straight on to the home’s circuit box. Then owners in a suitably wind-swept location can watch the needle on their electricity meter turn backward instead of forward, reducing their utility bills while using a renewable resource.
From the New York Times on Tuesday, February 10, 2009:
… This study covered the United States east of the Rockies, minus Texas and Florida, and was prompted by the utilities’ concern that state quotas for renewable energy, already in place — or a proposed federal mandate — would have to be met with wind energy generated much farther from the point of consumption than is common today.
The plan is “conceptual” and the system would not be completed until 2024.
The Joint Coordinated System Plan, as it is called, has been in development for months, according to the Midwest Independent System Operator, which is steering the project — and the full report will not be ready until the fall. But details of the plan were revealed on Monday in order to coincide with debate over the stimulus bill.
“This is information we believe that our leaders need to consider as they begin work under a new administration and start defining our energy future,” said John Bear, the president and chief executive of the Midwest I.S.O.
From the New York Times on Tuesday, February 10, 2009:
If people knew how much electricity they are using every time they turn on the lights, fire up the oven or lower the thermostat on their air conditioner, they would make smarter decisions about their energy use, and presumably, conserve more.
That’s the idea behind a prototype service that Google unveiled Tuesday, which my colleague Matthew Wald and I wrote about in Tuesday’s paper. The service, which will be called Google PowerMeter, will allow users to measure their energy use in real time. It one of many new consumer products that would-be enabled by so-called “smart grid” technologies, and it is one of Google many new initiatives in the energy area.