Worldchanging reports on renewables

August 6, 2008

Mapping the World’s Renewable Energy Potential

by Sarah Kuck

http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/008318.html

As renewable energy technologies become more competitive, investing in them is becoming a more viable venture. Yet, uncertainties about cost and ROI are still keeping some investors at bay.

Wind blows, rain falls and the sun shines, but differently at different times and locations, making wind, hydroelectric and solar power dependent upon weather and climate systems. A new Northwest-based energy efficiency company, 3TIER, is using their science skills and computer smarts to remove some of that guesswork.

Over 90 percent of the renewable energies used for electricity generation are weather-driven; in other words, they are completely dependent on the weather/climate system for their fuel. So while these sources of renewable energy have the capability to liberate us from our dependence on fossil fuels, they introduce another complicating dependency: the weather. This dependency affects all aspects of weather-driven renewable energy projects: from proper placement to ongoing operation and integration.

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This map of the United States shows the amount of available solar power, ranging from from 4 (blue) to 5.5 (red) kWh/m/day.

The 3TIER team uses their technology-assisted powers of analysis to calculate the weather and climate and its impacts on renewable energy. The group customizes their forecasts with data from each client’s site to help them save money and optimize power. They take multiple readings from the site, for an extended period of time, and combine the reading with weather and climate knowledge for that region to tell wind farmers, for example, an estimate of how much energy they’ll be generating, and at what time.

The group recently finished helping oilman turned renewable energy propent T. Boone Pickens illustrate his national plan to help propel the U.S. energy economy with wind. Using wind maps from 3TIER, the Pickens Plan explains how the U.S. can use wind power to meet more than 20 percent of its electricity demand within 10 years. (View a video about the plan here).

3TIER is currently working on a project called REmapping the World, which combines their prediction technology and analysis with Google maps to assess solar and wind energy potential from locations around the world. So far, they have mapped North America, but they plan to map the renewable energy potential of the entire world by 2010.

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Take a FirstLook at the project’s “Find Wind Fast” function. Here clients from renewable energy project operators to developers, financiers to marketers, can select the height of a proposed turbine and its location to get an estimated read on how much wind power is in that area. For more exact details, clients can order custom reports that provide information like monthly windspeed and power capacity, hourly windspeed and power distribution and more.

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But you don’t need to be one of their clients to play around with the maps, and it is pretty fun to look at the potential from afar as well as to click around and see how much specific potential lies where.

Potential just happens to be the perfect word to describe this project, this company and the renewable energy movement. Being able to more accurately estimate how much we can depend on renewable energy systems will only aid in their much needed proliferation, and hopefully, forecasting where the wind will blow will only become more valuable with time.

Image credits: The 3TIER Group


High tech to low, world’s green technology are many

July 2, 2008

This article in CNN Technology speaks about low and high tech solutions for reducing reliance on fossil fuels from using simple building materials such as straw and clay to installing solar panels on roofs. 

Sieben Linden, the village in eastern Germany, mixes high- and low-tech approaches. Some of its roughly 100 residents live in homes built with little more than clay, wood and straw.  Straw bales coated with clay are put inside the homes’ walls. The insulation reduces the need for powered heating and cooling, making the houses much more energy efficient than homes made with standard building materials, according to village resident Martin Schlegel.

“The energy you save by [using straw] is sufficient to heat this house 12 years, compared to a house built with normal modern materials,” he said.  Those who worry about the straw easily catching fire should think again, Schlegel said. He said that because the bales are tightly packed, they don’t ignite quickly.

“[Burning] a sheet of paper — it is very easy. But try to light a telephone book,” he said, comparing the bales to the book.  Straw-bale construction was used in Nebraska in the 19th century. The villagers of Sieben Linden take a more technological approach, fitting their homes with solar panels.


Clean energy mega grid proposed

June 19, 2008

DESERTEC: A Club of Rome initiative to build a super clean energy power grid

The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) is an initiative campaigning for the transmission of clean power from deserts throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The DESERTEC Concept was founded in 2003 by The Club of Rome, the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation and the National Energy Research Center of Jordan, and is being researched in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The DESERTEC Concept of TREC is to boost the generation of electricity and desalinated water by solar thermal power plants and wind turbines in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and to transmit the clean electrical power via High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines throughout those areas and as from 2020 (with overall just 10-15% transmission losses) to Europe.


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