Monthly Archives: March 2007

NYTimes: Earth’s Climate Needs the Help of Incentives

Global warming, or climate change, sure seems to have hit the big stage. From emmys for Gore to a whole list of legislation moving through the beaurocratic process, we hear and read about this issue every day. But what should we actually do? The next issue to tackle is the immediacy and magnitude of the problem. Do we need a complete overhaul of our lifestyles, or should we baby-step our way to a solution with trial and error?

No wonder, then, that the political debate now revolves around what that action should be. In the current Congress, there are six bills to deal with climate change, and more are on the way.

This attention certainly qualifies as progress. But it is also creating the newest big obstacle to a climate solution, an obstacle that’s far less obvious than the efforts to deny scientific reality. The would-be reformers may be saying all the right things; every last one of them may even be pursuing the solution she or he honestly believes to be the best one.

The only reliable way to reduce carbon emissions is to make them more expensive. When you hear somebody talk first about doing this and only then about the wonderful innovations that will follow — and they will follow — you know that person is serious.


US Army begins testing Hybrid-Electric Trucks

The vehicle above is the Army’s Future Tactical Truck System (FTTS) Maneuver Sustainment Vehicle (MSV), developed by Armor Holdings. The company recent delivered two ‘demonstrators’ to the US Army to begin testing.

Powered by a heavy-duty parallel hybrid system composed of an 8.8liter Caterpillar C9 diesel engine, an Allison 7-speed transmission, and a custom 120kW electric motor, range should be between 600 and 900 miles, depending upon tactical and/or operational conditions.


The Power-Spar PV/Thermal system.

The Power-Spar® is a revolutionary high efficiency solar concentrator that can be configured for electricity, heat, cooling and/or lighting solutions. The Power-Spar® system consists of a parabolic trough reflector which concentrates the sun’s energy onto a modular absorber. The absorber converts the sun’s energy to electricity (via high efficiency multi-sun photovoltaic cells), or to heat (via a patented absorption surface) or transports the light to the buildings’ interior (via optical cabling).

The Power-Spar is a pretty novel product, combining photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies to produce both electrical and thermal energy.  While most solar thermal or concentrating solar (CSP) systems convert sunlight to heat, which then powers a turbine via a HTF (heat transfer fluid), the Power-Spar operates differently:

Using patented technology, the Power-Spar® panels reflect and concentrate solar rays onto an absorber that runs the length of the spar units. Within the absorber, there are channels containing a heat transfer fluid (typically propylene glycol). The fluid is heated by the sun’s energy and is then pumped to the building.

The heated fluid is either used directly (for process heat or steam) or passed through one or more heat exchangers to transfer energy from the fluid to space heating applications, domestic hot water pre-heat, etc. This system can supply up to 70% of your heating energy requirements from free solar energy.

Surplus heat energy is transferred to a thermal storage tank. The mass of water in this tank allows for effective retention and distribution of energy even during prolonged ‘non-solar’ periods (i.e., at night or on cloudy days)

The company claims that the Power-Spar’s design enables it to effecitvely produce heating even in the winter.  “Since the Power-Spar® concentrates the sun’s rays onto a small absorbing area, the heat loss of the entire system is minimized.”  Concentrating sunlight onto a small area also allows for efficient electrical production from the optional photovoltaic cells:

In addition to the glycol fluid, optional high efficiency multi-junction solar cells can be added on the Power-Spar® absorbers. By placing the PV cells in the concentrated light, their electric current is amplified significantly – a three watt solar cell can produce up to 10 watts. Effectively lowering solar cell costs by a factor of three.

The glycol fluid behind the PV cells should help keep them cool, also adding to their efficiency.  As PV modules heat up, their efficiency decreases:

For every 1ËšC rise in PV panel temperature, there is 0.4 to 0.5 percent drop in PV efficiency. When you consider that many PV solar panels are placed on roofs in temperate climates, this can represent a significant loss of effectiveness. Of greater concern is that the heat build-up can damage the PV cells, shortening their useful life. (EDC)

The Power-Spar can be used in both ground and rood-mounted applications.  More info at the link below:


Why the sloppy love for nuclear?

The question to me has always been why alleged conservatives have so much time for nuclear when it doesn’t align with one of their cherished principles: If “big-government nanny-state market interference” had a poster child, the cooling towers of a nuclear plant would be it…

The mid-1970s were, as it turned out, the last best hope for a major nuclear expansion. With unprecedented spikes in the price of oil, France (as any nuclear advocate will endlessly tell you) embarked on a major expansion of its nuclear industry. How did France do this? With yet more nanny-state intervention, of course! Reactors were designed by the state, financed by the state, built by the state, and operated by the state. Permanent waste sites are similarly built and run by the state.

Often called the biggest single subsidy for the nuclear electric industry, the U.S. government insures every reactor built in the U.S. with taxpayers’ money. (No private insurer will ever, ever risk a nuclear investment.) The companies that make civilian reactors also just happen to be able to rely on contracts from the U.S. Navy, which powers all its large ships with nuclear reactors.

And now we have Yucca Mountain, a long-term (and I mean long-term!) storage site for nuclear waste being built at taxpayers’ expense in a location chosen for political expediency, not safety, efficiency, or even market logic. (Nevada apparently didn’t have the sway in Congress to dump in another state.)


Marriott Plans to Reduce Emissions by a Million Tons

Marriot International is on track with its plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20% over the period from 2000-2010. The result will be equivalent to taking 140,000 cars off the road. “Being green is good business,” Marriott senior VP Pat Maher said of the goals. “It is important for the environment and saves our hotels money.”

A Pill to curb Methane emissions.

As, we’ve reported here on green.mnp, livestock emissions are no joke. In fact, they are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent. This includes 9 percent of all CO2 emissions, 37 percent of methane, and 65 percent of nitrous oxide. Altogether, that’s more than the emissions caused by transportation! The latter two gases are particularly troubling – even though they represent far smaller concentrations in atmosphere than CO2, which remains the main global warming culprit – Methane has 23 times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2 and nitrous oxide has 296 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide.

But, people around the world love eating meat. Even with the increasing popularity of vegetarianism, beef consumption isn’t going to drastically decrease anytime soon. What is more, methane could become an even greater problem if the permafrost in northern latitudes thaws with increasing temperatures, releasing the gas now trapped below decaying vegetation. So what do we do?

Well, scientists in Germany may have come up with a way to curb methane emissions from livestock, without forcing everyone to become a vegetarian. How? A pill that prevents them from ‘breaking wind.’ The pill, developed at the University of Hohenheim, breaks down methane in the cows’ stomachs, and even has other benefits:

It will make this energy available for the cows’ metabolism. The cattle can use the methane to produce glucose instead of just passing it out and it will enable them to produce more milk.

Our aim is to increase the well-being of the cows and to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

The pill is about the size of the fist, and is designed to slowly release the active ingredients over the course of a few months.


Kenworth Unveils T270 Hybrid Truck

Hybrids are popping up everywhere now, from military vehicles, to sports cars, and even gas-guzzling SUV’s. Well now, we can add those big eighteen-wheelers to the list:

Kenworth has introduced its new T270 Class 6 hybrid-electric medium-duty truck. Powered by a 6.7 liter PX-6 engine integrated into a parallel hybrid system with a 340-volt battery pack, the T270 is said to improve fuel economy by 30%. The truck is optimized for start-stop traffic, running of its diesel engine and electric motor at speeds below 30mph. Above that speed, the powertrain utilizes only the diesel engine. Kenworth will also offer the truck spec’d with an electric power-take-off (PTO). Peterbuilt is also bringing a medium-duty hybrid truck to market this year.


Read Kenworth’s Press Release

New Peugeot 308 to offer diesel hybrid powertrain

As predicted, diesel-electric hybrids are coming to market in Europe.  French automaker Peugeot is releasing a hybrid model of their popular 308 compact car, which will feature a 1.6 liter turbodiesel engine paired with an electric motor and batteries.  Like the new BMW 1-series, the 308 will also feature auto stop-start technology:

The model will also get stop/start idle technology – which cuts the engine when stationary in traffic – and a semi-auto gearbox. On top of this, the stop/start set-up will work even if the electric motor battery pack is completely flat, while an all-electric zero-emission setting is also offered, which will propel the car up to around 30mph.

Peugeot claims the hybrid 308 may get as much as 83mpg, and the company hopes the vehicle’s CO2 emissions will be 90g/km.  According to AutoExpress, “That’s enough to make the 308 the most fuel-efficient car in its class, ensuring it qualifies for a no-charge tax disc as well as exemption from London’s con-troversial congestion charge.”

Pour some biodiesel into the tank and give us the keys.