Archive of category "Renewable Energy"
Here are a few videos and articles that I showed up in recently. I promise – a real blog post will come soon — but for now, I figured this might be fun to share.
1. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with someone who was a big early influencer of my thoughts on urban sustainable development this past Summer. Richard Register (who literally, in both senses of the word, wrote the book on eco-cities) was in Detroit, and he writes an article about his experience here.
2. A good series (videos and an article) from the Powering the Nation folks (for whom I did a blog post earlier) about the growth of Green Jobs in Detroit. It’s a nice set of stories, though the last video makes us all look a bit like idiots — but not unreasonably so! Their central point is solid: when it comes to green jobs, clear meaningful definitions are few and far between. Still, I’ll post the video where we all look like idiots here, because who doesn’t love that…
Bringing these two topics together, I’ll note that Richard Register’s take on the green jobs movement was basically this (in paraphrase):
People are working on all the wrong concepts. A barista at the local coffee shop has a green job if she can live nearby in a multi-unit apartment building and walk to work. The infrastructure that emerges out of truly dense and vertical urban development makes any job more significantly green that what most people are talking about now.
I’ve been doing a bunch of research lately on electric vehicles to see what might make sense for us at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage for our vehicle co-op. For 12 years we have been focusing on biodiesel and vegetable oil based fuels but things have not always been smooth. The main issues have been related to winter fuel gelling and fuel filters clogging in general. We’ve also never gotten a steady system for collection of used oil and production going, so we have been using biodiesel made from new veggie oil which is only marginally better for the environment than petroleum.
We are now embarking on a major re-evaluation of vehicle technologies for our co-op, with a team researching things like electric vehicles, hybrids, ethanol (including home made, potentially from cellulose), bio-gas, wood-gas, human and animal powered, and any new technologies in the veggie oil world.
My interest in electric vehicles (EVs) has come out of my research into a village-wide electric power co-op with a largish wind turbine to power our whole village. With an abundant source of renewable electricity, EVs could be our most ecological option. There are ecological issues related to batteries of course, but my research shows that EVs are a net benefit over petro based vehicles and on par with other bio-fueled options currently or soon to be available (more on that in a post soon).
Of course the main issue with EVs is about range – how far you can drive on a single charge. Most all-electric vehicles (sometimes called Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs to distinguish them from hybrids) still have ranges in the 80-100 mile range. That range is great for most folks daily commuting needs, but our rural location means many or even most of our trips are 80-150 miles.
A further complication, is that a 100 mile advertised range does not always mean you can drive 100 miles. Accessories like A/C, heat, lights, etc. can reduce your range. Higher speeds and hills also reduce range (and while we don’t have mountains we do have hills). Winter temps can also reduce battery capacity and range. It also matters how you drive – fast acceleration and breaking are inefficient.
So what are our options?
In the All Electric Category I found the following vehicles available now or in the next 18 months.
|Nissan LEAF||100 miles||$33,000|
|Mini-E (2 passenger)||upto 150||Unknown|
|Ford Focus||80-100 mi||Unknown|
|Ford Transit Connect||80 mi||Unknown|
|Tesla Sedan (claims to seat up to 7)||160-300mi||$57-75,000|
|Think City||100 miles||$37,0000|
|Conversion Kit Vehicle||25-80 miles||$20-30,000|
The most appealing for us would be the Tesla Sedan because of the extended range it can provide. The price tag is pretty high though. The Nissan LEAF is definitely more affordable, but its unclear if it would really get us where we need to go (and back that is). The CODA is still limited in its availability.
For folks living in suburban or urban areas with shorter commutes I think a lot of these options would work great.
The Volt is expected to have a 40 mile electric range and get 50 mpg once the gasoline (or E85) engine kicks in. The 2011 Prius will have only a 15 mile electric range and also get around 50 mpg. With a Prius Plug in conversion you can get electric ranges of 25-50 miles before it goes back into hybrid modde and gets 46-50 mpg (depending on model year).
Its too bad the electric range on these hybrids is so short. If you could get something with an 80 mile range and a gasoline/diesel back up that would really work well for us and for a lot of people I would think. Obviously the cost and weight of having a big battery pack and a gas engine is probably the issue.
I’m expecting that once these EVs are available, someone will come up with an aftermarket add on battery pack to increase the range, just like there are plug-in Prius kits. That could be just the ticket and demonstrate the demand for EVs with a bigger range.
Here’s an article on some policy initiatives to support renewable energy use at the community scale:
We’ve been promoting the blog as being Pedal Powered but the company that was supposed to ship us the pedal powered generator never shipped the product! Annoying…
So last night I went into McGyver mode to see if I could come up with some way to power the blog with a bicycle. I had less than 24 hours, so I had to use what was on site or could maybe go to an auto parts store (in the end I didn’t have to). Here’s what I came up with:
First I found an old training stand and mounted my bike on it.
Then I found an old cordless drill that I hadn’t used in years because it wouldn’t go in reverse. I hooked up some wires to where the battery would connect and then connected it to the training stand.
Then I found a pocket inverter that would convert 12 Volt Dc to 120 Volt AC and hooked that up to the wires coming from the drill.
Using a volt meter, I could adjust the speed of my pedaling to keep the voltage around 11 to 14 Volts. We then turned on the inverter and powered a lightbulb as a test.
Later today we’ll be hooking this up to a computer. I don’t know if we’ll be able to keep the computer powered the whole 24 hours like we had hoped but its at least something and not too shabby given 24 hours and all the parts were already on site.
Update: When we tried to plug in the computer the higher current draw made the voltage drop below the inverter’s cut off point, and we couldn’t bike fast enough to keep up. I went and found a small 12 Volt solar charge controller and a tiny 12 Volt battery and now the generator charges the battery as it is powering the computer.