Will the UK regret the decision to go nuclear?

The United Kingdom has just released data which highlights that their renewable energy use has officially surpassed their coal dependency, and now accounts for a monumental 25% of their energy use. With so much momentum around the development of green infrastructure, there are still many worries about the UK’s government cutting funding directed towards subsidies for renewable resources. UK leadership is attempting to drastically cut solar panel funding 87%, with additional plans to terminate any funding towards on-shore wind farms.

Presently, the UK is leading the charge on wind power, by producing over 28 TWH annually. This energy is responsible for powering 6.7 million homes on a daily basis – it is difficult to see what will happen as subsidies are slashed and projects cease to get funded.

Map of UK Wind Fams

In response, last Thursday, Al Gore, former US Vice President, heavily criticized the UK and urged them not to kill off a budding market which has served as the centerpiece of the necessities of strong government support in developing a market for green infrastructure. Furthermore, this government slashing could not come at a more crucial time. With a UN meeting in Paris centralized around forming a global greenhouse emissions agreement, the UK was supposed to be the model for an effective system.

One of UK's many solar farms

One of UK’s many solar farms

UK has responded to concerns, by saying that they plan on building a nuclear power plant named Hinkley Point C, which numbers have shown, will considerably raise the cost of electricity for its constituencies. What began as a £16 billion project has soared to a whopping £24 billion, with construction at a standstill. The more concerning aspect of this project is that, Finland and France have both taken on the monstrous nuclear plant projects as well, and are 3 and 5 years behind respectively. Particularly troubling is UK’s shift from a progressive attitude towards green infrastructure towards an enormous nuclear energy project. Currently the global energy usage is comprised of 22% renewable resources and 11% nuclear power, with nuclear power dependency steadily declining, and renewable energy dependency steadily increasing.

Hinkley Point C

Are we to believe that the UK will continue to back step, allowing nuclear energy to take precedence in their country? A country considered as one of the front runners of green technology.

The ‘Mirai’ of the automobile industry?

New, advanced technology continues to offer the individual a variety of customization choices on cars. Whether you want a diesel, gas, or electric engine, whether the car is black, blue, green, yellow, purple, etc, the customizations continue almost endlessly. However, as of recently, Toyota has released their newest model, the hydrogen powered Mirai, which fittingly, when translated from Japanese to English means ‘future.’  Although Toyota already has its work cut out with over 20,000 placed orders and the ability to only produce 3000 through 2017, opinions have already begun to circulate about the notion of hydrogen fuel cell cars. On the one hand, Elon Musk of Tesla, has already openly stated that hydrogen fuel cells are “bull****,” with most of his rationale stemming from the lack of infrastructure in place for producing, transporting, and filling hydrogen fuel cells. This sentiment comes from the blatant fact that only a handful of filling stations exist nationally, 10 in California and 1 in Connecticut. On the other hand, Shino Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan purchased the first Mirai, openly stating that we are working towards a “hydrogen society.”

The Mirai will be available in California to customers in October tentatively for the cost of $57,500, or $499/month for 36 months. Toyota is aware of the steep cost, and is offering to offset the cost by paying for the first three years of hydrogen. Additionally, although the $8000 federal subsidies for hydrogen cars have expired, locally in California a customer can receive $5000 state subsidies. California has already set aside $200 million for a total of 100 more stations to be developed by 2020, perhaps just the motivation needed for the nation to follow suit.Mirai from the outside

The brilliance of the car lies in the complexity masked behind the simple yet sleek design of the Mirai. The car on the outside looks like a car you’d find driving on the highway today, yet behind this mask, are a handful of impressive features. Aside from the emergency shut off valve to the car’s hydrogen fuel cell in case of a car crash, comes an impressive list of driverless features which help the driver avoid any possible catastrophic accidents, such as the ability to keep it from veering into other lanes, aid in braking when needed, and the ability to match the speed of the car in front of it.Mirai

No longer will customers be forced to wait for hours as their electric cars recharge, because as more hydrogen stations pop up around California, customers will begin to see the beauty of the five minute hydrogen fill up. The Mirai simply releases water back into the environment as it swallows oxygen from the air and mixes it with hydrogen in order to create electricity, which expedites the need for the electric car recharge and in an effort to conserve the hydrogen, the car is only two-wheel drive. Now onto the million dollar question: isn’t this a little too early of a rollout with so few hydrogen stations available? Toyota has already solved that problem, and is teaming with the federal government by supplying funds in order to subsidize the cost of the hydrogen stations being built in California and the Northeast.

So what do you think? Is the Mirai bull**** or not?

Monitoring and controlling the auto-pay program

According to a study conducted at Duke’s Sanford School for Public Policy, which was based on over 3 million records spanning from 1994 all the way to 2010, individuals enrolled in electricity auto-pay programs, on average, are paying 8% more than those who are not enrolled in those same programs.  With basic waste management tip’s, such as turning off your lights before leaving the house being the most important first steps to energy conservation, it is very telling when studies affirm that auto-pay programs are leading to more energy waste. Numbers like the aforementioned study are scary in that they show the product of not monitoring your energy output, and how mindless waste just becomes a daily occurrence.

With the rise of new forms of energy waste management, the world is seeing products more representative of computers or scientific calculators than of the sleek solar panel, or wind turbine. The renewables industry is starting to see a more economical form of energy conservation in the monitor and controller aspect of the industry. Furthermore, these companies are gaining more interest. Companies like lucid, who just received $14 million in their Series B funding round, are starting to invest in the smart home concept, which seems to be the future of the renewables industry. Lucid is a commercial building energy data analysis company, which monitors an expansive array of energy outputs that commercial buildings emit, and compiles it in an effort to measure what is being wasted. Energy monitoring companies are the future of the renewables industry, and are much more prominent today than 5 years ago, built on the foundational vision of “what can be monitored can be fixed.”

The Jury’s Out!

According to the US Energy Information Administration’s annual report, energy output for homes hit a peak this year, and will begin to regress over the next few years. Although, the administration believes that we will never reach the same low levels of energy output that we saw in the second half of the 20th century, researchers believe that levels will begin to regress due to the implementation of energy efficient products into the residential realm. That being said, the industrial and commercial sectors will continue to rise at .7% and .5% respectively through the year 2040, however technological innovation will cause higher output in both those sectors at the same time. However these telling statistics are not reflective of the rest of the world, India and China will be leading the world in energy consumption, accounting for half of all global energy consumption through 2040. The International report blames this added energy consumption on the transition from these countries into leading global super powers. Additionally the report claims that wind and hydro power will account for 80% of future renewable electricity through 2040.

Batteries For Houses?

The renewable resources industry, although advancing, is still just at its infancy stage. Therefore the industry is consistently adapting to be equipped to face problems associated with exponential growth. One growing pain that the industry has been facing, has been in the realm of efficiency, even the best solar panels manufactured globally, which are used by NASA on spaceships, are still only 46% efficient. Therefore in order to become more efficient, the industry decided to shift the focus to storage and control. In a couple of days, Tesla will release an industrial sized battery which would essentially be used to “charge a house” in the case of an emergency, like a power outage. However, what excited the renewable sources world even more was that Tesla might potentially be teaming up with SolarCity to release a PV panel scheme which would work in congruence with the battery, storing energy during off hours, and providing the house with a backup rechargeable battery. The battery could be used to store spare energy, allowing the customer to store and sell back energy to their energy provider. In teaming up with SolarCity, and with a little subsidizing from Pacific Gas and Electric, Tesla has already made this PV scheme available to 300 customers. SolarCity offers a leasing option which asks for a $1500 down payment followed by $15 monthly payments for ten years. SolarCity has commented, saying that they will lease out an additional 130 more PV schemes to Bay Area concerts over the next couple of weeks, until there is an official announcement moving SolarCity away from their pilot program and towards a more concrete and official program. That said, amidst all this weekend excitement, the availability of a mass production of leasable PV schemes is all tentative until Tesla’s big announcement April 30th, in which they will give a rollout of the product. During the April 30th announcement, consumers will be made aware of the options available, and if they are teaming up with SolarCity in an effort to expand the reach of their solar storage product.

How a Tesla Battery will fit in your home's garage.

How a Tesla Battery will fit in your home’s garage.

‘Alternative’ paths to managing waste — the summer edition

California just announced 25% state-wide mandatory water cuts and it has opened a can of worms. Some cities, like San Jose, are implementing additional water cuts such as moratoriums on filling pools and watering lawns, in order to really do their part in the fight for water waste management. As California enters the fourth year of its worst ever drought, the Sierra snowpack, which accounts for half of the states’ water, has been found to be 94% below the annual average. These mandatory cutbacks are just a microcosm of the major water issues that countries are facing on a global level, which is what I will try to highlight in this specific entry. Especially in light of the fact that we’re going to be entering the summer months, I will try to share how some states and countries are successfully improving their water waste management schedules.

A Geothermal Plant -- Iceland

A Geothermal Plant — Iceland

BP and Shell have estimated that by 2030, alternative resources will have to account for one third of the global energy dependency. For some countries this number may seem daunting, however for countries like Iceland, who rely solely on renewable sources, this feat was accomplished years ago. A majority of the renewable resources have been available to this country simply due to location, tapping into the nations’ intersections of volcanoes and plates in order to heat water in 87% of the countries buildings. In addition to geothermal, the country relies on hydro power as another main source for electricity—with 73.8% of the nation’s electricity being collected from hydro power. All that said, not every country has what seems like the winning ticket to being the perfect candidate for a large scale implementation of renewable resources such as Iceland.

An overhead shot of the Sorek Water Desalination Plant in Israel.

An overhead shot of the Sorek Water Desalination Plant in Israel.

Take for example, Israel, a country stuck between the Mediterranean Sea and The Negev, with one fresh water supply, the Sea of Galilee, supplying the entire countries water. In order to combat the water crisis that continues to perpetuate in that region, the Israeli government found a solution in the water desalination industry. In 2004, Israel was receiving all of its water from groundwater and rainwater sources. Today, through desalination processes, Israel only relies on groundwater and rainwater sources for 60% of their water usage, and by 2016, experts estimate a drop to 50%. In late 2013, Israel developed ‘Sorek,’ a water desalination plant which uses 16 inch pressure tubes instead of the industry standard of eight. This growth in pressure tube diameter dramatically reduces the high capacity of energy output that would otherwise be required to desalinate the water. Furthermore, in order to meet water reduction requirements by 2020, Israel has partitioned 520MW of the requirement to solely PV dependence.

All over the world engineers are building massive amounts of solar infrastructure in order to divert their regions reliance from niche natural resources to renewable resources. The world is constantly technologically and ideologically evolving and new unchartered locations are becoming home to many new projects. From Africa to India, the world is starting to realize a shift to the reliance of renewable energy instead of the former (non-renewables). With all this innovation seeming to continue to perpetuate on a daily basis, the question that remains is, will humans be able to reach the aforementioned goal by 2030?

Water Saving Opportunities for Commercial Pool Operators

Overview:   With only 3% of the planets water being fresh, the ongoing California drought has brought the finite nature of fresh water resources into clear focus.

Furthermore, two thirds of this water is locked up in Glaciers, mostly inaccessible for human use.  Two things appear certain: (1) Water will be more expensive in the near future, and (2) additional government regulation of large consumers of fresh water is inevitable. As large users of fresh water, Commercial Pools are likely to be a target.

The major factors affecting water use at a commercial pool are evaporation; backwashing; chemical re-balancing, leaks and occupancy (the number of users).   As an important first step, commercial pool operators need to at least track their water consumption.  Typically, what can be measured can be improved.   It turns out that all kinds of information can be derived from continuous data logging of water use.   For example, leaks can be detected, use of covers at night can be monitored and backwashing frequency and duration can be tracked.  Fortunately, The MKT Aquatic Brain Smart Pool Monitor/Control system has recently been updated to include water consumption data logging and pool chemistry monitoring.  The energy saving features of the Aquatic Brain Controller/Monitor can easily pay for the costs of installing such a system which now brings the important benefit of water use tracking.

One clear opportunity for water conservation is the possible recycling of the water used to backwash the pool filter system.  The frequency of backwashing, which clears the (typically sand) filters of debris and other contaminants, varies widely, but heavily used pools may be backwashing as often as once a day during peak (typically summer) season.   Each time this technique is employed, between 1500 and 4,000 gallons of water is dumped into the local sanitary sewer.  This represents a clear opportunity for onsite recycling.  This may in fact be the only option short of pool closure or severe curtailment of operating hours for those trying to comply with severe water cutbacks, like those with 25% mandatory water cutbacks in California.

“Water Smart Pool Water Recycling System”

The functionality of the aquatic brain

The functionality of the aquatic brain

How it works:

By contentiously monitoring the flow and pressure differential across the inlet and outlet of the filter bank, the system determine the appropriate time to backwash the filters. This step is designed to reduce over back wash and keep the water quality as peak health to comply with health department requirements.

Using an appropriate amount of on-site storage to hold and treat back-wash water, the system can save 95% of this water (and associated chemicals) which is typically dumped down the drain.  The back-wash water goes into Tank #1 first where solids settle in the bottom where they can easily be flushed out with a small fraction of the total gallons of backwash.

During the actual backwashing, the pool water level is replenished from Tank #2, which contains recycled water from prior backwashes, supplemented as necessary with fresh water from the local utility.  As a further safeguard, this recycled water is passed through a UV sanitizing device before going to the pool.   After the settling in Tank #1 has occurred, 95% of the (to be) recycled water is pumped to fill the now partially depleted Tank #2.  Then the drain port on Tank #1 is opened briefly to flush out the remaining water and concentrated solids, readying the system for the next backwash.

Water Savings potential

Ideally,  a commercial pool supposed to back wash  it volume worth annually. With over 3,000 commercial pools in California with average volume of 650,000 gal, there are 2 trillion gallons of fresh water wasted annually.

There are 3 types of commercial pools:

  1. Municipal pools – typically municipal pools backwash daily an average of 3,000 gal, which translate to 1,000,000 gal/ annually. With 1,000 municipal pools in California. This translates to 1 trillion gallons of water wasted annually. With water cost at $.03/ gal, using the proposed solution would save the average municipal pool $30,000 annually, additional savings in various chemicals and sewer disposal cost.
  1. YMCA type pools – typically these pools would back wash 4 times / week and average of 3,000 gal, which translate to 625,000 gal annually. With estimated 1,000 commercial pools in California, this portion is representative of 625,000,000 gallons of water wasted annually. Switching to the Aquatic Brain would not only save a customer of the Aquatic Brain, on average, $18,000 annually, but additional savings would be found in the costs of various chemicals and sewer disposal.
  1. Olympic size commercial pools – typically these pools would back wash 1 times / week and average of 3,000 gal, which translate to 156,000 gal annually. With estimated 1,000 commercial pools in California. This translates to 56,000,000 gallons of water wasted annually. The annual savings these pools would be $5,000 in water savings, additional savings in various chemicals and sewer disposal cost.

Additional benefits

The constant monitoring prevents prolonged backwash and provides alarms to customers when the backwash uses more than its allowance. This helps prevent accidents where equipment malfunction allow hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to flush into the sewer system.