30 November 2010

More on Mycobond

You can now trust mushrooms for the safety of your goods or fragile objects as these miraculous plants expose yet another fabulous facet of their personality. Mushrooms are known for their efficient absorption properties when it comes to BDP, but now they will save the unnecessary wastage of paper in the packaging industry. Ecovative Design has devised these special mushrooms which can be used for packaging and spares the unnecessary use of paper.

This low-energy material is called Mycobond and it is heat resistant and fire resistant and this feature upstages it over paper wraps. These Mycobond covers are not only tough but are also cushy enough to provided sufficient protection to your fragile goods. Mycobond is discovered and developed by two Rensselaer Polytechnic University graduation students and National Science Foundation (NSF) assisted them in doing so.

It is an excellent substitute for the traditional form of foam packing and at the same time it is easily biodegradable. If Mycobond catches up with people then the other forms of electronics packing and insulation packing will come to an end!

29 November 2010


Mycobond is a mycological bio-composite that can be used in a wide variety of applications. Instead of conventional manufacturing processes, Mycobond uses mycelium—which is essentially the root system of a mushroom—to transform loose aggregates into strong composites. This process can be varied by using different species of fungus and mixtures of aggregates in order to make a composite with an optimal density, strength, appearance, and performance for the specific application.
Additionally, Mycobond represents a low-embodied-energy manufacturing process as the material self assembles at room temperature and pressure in the dark. Furthermore, Mycobond upcycles resources like rice hulls, cotton burrs, and buckwheat hulls that are otherwise thrown away, transforming them into valuable products, including rigid board insulation and protective packaging buffers.

28 November 2010

IEA Acknowledges Peak Oil.

The IEA (International Energy Agency) is the mouth peace of the world's political and corporate leadership. Every year it releases a report on the world's energy outlook. This graph below is from that report. I have added two graphic notes. The first is to point to the area of "fields not found". Colin Campbell (Peak Oil Elder) has proved that this is really a coded word for shortage. Also, notice the growth in "unconventional oil" such as tar sands and coal to oil is, as a percentage, very small and also on a side note very expensive.

For the first time ever the IEA is acknowledging PEAK OIL. As you can see from their graph we are just past it. One thing to remember is this is about the big picture. Whether peak oil has happened or will happen in the next few years, the big overall take away is " ACT NOW OR REACT LATER"

If you have been a reader of my blog, you may have seen this graph below in early 2009. This is the big picture. Drink it in, and prepare for the ride.

27 November 2010

Simpson-Bowles Panel to Skip Low-Hanging Carbon Tax Fruit?

Reposted from THE GREEN MILES
We currently give polluters permission to dump as much carbon pollution into our atmosphere as they want, free of charge. So if the deficit reduction commission led by Alan Simpson & Erskine Bowles was serious about cutting the deficit, asks Matt Yglesias, why not slap a fee on carbon pollution?
The mere fact that the conservative movement is currently engaged in a massive fit of pretending that greenhouse gas emissions aren’t a problem doesn’t change the fact that greenhouse gas emissions are, in fact, a problem. Taxing them would reduce the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate the problem. It also creates revenue.

If Alan Simpson’s reason for thinking a tax on greenhouse gas emissions is a bad idea is that Simpson is a nutcase who doesn’t believe that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change, then Erskine Bowles should have made him write that on a piece of paper. Then we could look at the proposal and know it’s co-written by a nutcase. It wouldn’t surprise me. There are a lot of nutcases in Washington life. But it’s important to know these things.
Even a small tax on the carbon pollution of only the largest emitters like power plants & factories could bring in billions to reduce the deficit. And if the deficit was ever eliminated, you could refund the tax's revenues to all taxpayers equally. Doesn't that make more sense than slashing Social Security? Apparently, conservative Republicans & right-leaning Democrats agree it's more politically palatable to target the poor than to hold big polluters accountable.

26 November 2010

A Short History of the past 110 years in the US

For those folks that actually are open minded enough to study the facts of history, there is an unsettling wave running through this country. I am not talking to those who believe the Faux News coming out of the right or the weak minded twaddle from the center left, for those of you who believe the likes of Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson or Robert Reich, stop reading now, you are too far gone.

I am speaking to those who have enough personal integrity left to look at history and actually learn from the lessons of past events. By my reckoning, there are not many Americans in this category. Most Americans, it seems, are either to bored, lazy or ignorant to care about precedent. A large amount of the rest are too caught up in the psycho babble coming from right wing media to admit any thought other then those implanted by media sycophants.

So here it is. We are an empire in decline but too blind or proud or ignorant to admit it. Our peak was fifty years ago. With time one can analyze these things.

At the turn of the century, this country was just barely recovered from the civil war. The “Captains of Industry” (wealthy elite) were ascending, turning their considerable economic power into political power. This country was heading toward Plutocracy. Along came a man of considerable power and integrity that was from the Plutocratic class. He recognized this and did his best to reduce the Plutocrats threat to democracy. Theodore Roosevelt did his best to bust the economic monopolies and reduce the political power of extreme wealth. As soon as he left office, he was replaced by Taft who promptly returned the power to the elite. He was so upset by what happened after he left office that he came back to run as a third party candidate 1912. From his administration we have anti-trust laws and the foundation of our National Park system.

For twenty years after TR, the power returned to the Plutocrats and our country was run into a ditch through the wild speculation on Wall Street. The US entered the great depression after the largest redistribution of wealth from poor to rich in our history. The country endured three years under Herbert Hoover and was quite ready to elect Franklin Roosevelt in ’32. Roosevelt laid the blame for the countries problems where it belonged on the doorstep of the wealthy elite that had speculated, created bubbles and became wealthy on the backs of the average American. From FDR, we received the New Deal, which saw the real regulation of banking, the beginning of the social security system and the creation of unemployment.

After FDR, we lived in the “American Golden Age” from 1946-1973. During this time America created a true and expanding middle class. The equitable redistribution of wealth from the wealthy elite to the larger population allowed many to create and live the “American Dream”. The election of both Truman and Eisenhower saw a time of benevolent and somewhat benign leadership in our country. There were however, undercurrents of what was to come. It was this period that the demonization of the communist philosophy really hit its stride. The constant drumbeat of anti-communist propaganda that began in the 1950’s has lead us inexorably to today’s state of confusing liberal ideas with socialism and to a public too ignorant to know the difference between socialism and Christian values.

When Ike left office he made what is one the most compelling analysis and pleas for the resistance of the takeover of the US political system by the corporate wealthy elite. He warned against letting what he termed the “military industrial complex” become too powerful. This from a man that lead the US to victory in WW2 and had a unique and in depth vantage point. Ah, but we did not heed his warning.

After Ike came the Kennedy/Johnson administrations, which on one hand empowered the military industrial complex through the Vietnam War and on the other pushed the ideals of the “Great Society” and race reform in the US. Johnson was a politician’s politician pushing through some of the best legislation in US history, creating medicare, expanding social security and pushing through the Civil Rights Act.

Richard Nixon followed with mixed results. Nixon did take governing seriously enough to try to come down in what he thought was the majority of the people’s interests. He pushed through the clean air act and laid the foundation for the clean water act and created the Environmental Protection Agency. These acts alone make him a true leader in sustainable thinking. Whatever one thinks of him, Nixon did take on the interests of wealthy corporations to move forward with legislation for the good of the country.

It was during the term of Richard Nixon that the “American Golden Age” began to wane. In 1973, the Yom Kippur War inspired the oil embargo that woke Americans to the fact that unbridled exploitation of the world’s resources was not a long term strategy. We realized, perhaps for the first time, that we were not necessarily going to enjoy the kind of growth and opulence we had experienced since 1946. It was during this period that the American family’s finances came under siege. In order to maintain the living standard we had come to expect during the Golden Age, we sent our spouses to work and sent our kids to day care.

In our 200th year we elected Jimmy Carter, a dreamer and a realist. He worked hard to confront the realities of resource usage in our country. He developed the first (and last) comprehensive national energy policy. He cut the importation of foreign oil by 50% and when he told people that realistically we all need to conserve and perhaps put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat, he was ridiculed.

Then in 1980, the wealthy elite found the perfect vessel into which they could pour their poison. Ronald Reagan was the ex-governor of California, an actor and totally clueless about the effects of the policies he was espousing. This is where the story really gets interesting. Up to this time the wealthy had not gained back the reins of power they held prior to Theodore Roosevelt, but this was their time and Reagan was there shill. Reagan preached an unorthodox idea of “trickle down” economics which was roundly and aptly discredited by George Bush I in the 1980 presidential debates as “Voodoo Economics”. He said in the debates that the economic policies that Reagan was pushing would lead to economic ruin. But with the help of wealthy patrons, Reagan was able to spread both hope in the form of lower taxes (he did not say how he was going to lower taxes and not cut spending which he did by borrowing) and fear by ginning up the fear of the Communist threat. Finally, with his accomplice, Iran, Reagan was able to gain power by brokering a deal to hold our hostages until after the election.

The reign of Reagan was the beginning of the retaking of America by Plutocrats, the beginning of the loss of wealth by the middle class and the beginning of the debt crisis that will ultimately lead to extreme pain and suffering among the vast majority of Americans. Reagan’s legacy is one of debt and manufacturing job loss. By giving tax breaks to the wealthiest American corporations and individuals the wealth began to accumulate among the very top earners in this country. Reagan’s premise that the wealth at the top would trickle down has been shown in study after study to be untrue. When you give tax breaks to the wealthiest folks, who can and do already buy whatever they want, the majority of that money will not be spent but saved.

It was during the Reagan period that the environment came under siege through Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, James Watt. Banking rules were loosened under his Treasury Secretary Don Regan. We were lead again into a period of excess that ended up in the Savings and Loan Crisis which the American tax payers footed the bill. With the 25% tax cuts that had been given the wealthiest corporations and individuals, the majority of the money came from the middle classes. Also Reagan’s pursuit of “free trade” made the closure of American manufacturing a regular occurrence.

Reagan never came clean to the American people that the national debt was growing as a percentage of GDP to the highest levels since World War 2. America had always had a very conservative fiscal pattern of increasing debt during war and then reducing that debt during peacetime. For the first time Since World War 2 debt was increasing exponentially rather then decreasing. The American public was quite! Reagan through his backers use of media and money was able to keep the poorest Americans in his corner through the use of fear; fear of crime, fear of communists, fear of immigrants.

George Bush I succeeded Reagan and vowed to continue the economic policies he knew were untenable. In 1990, faced with the reality of governing and a growing deficit, he allowed modest tax increases which lead to him being challenged in the primaries by candidates more suited to the will of the wealthy. During this time the deficit was still increasing precipitously.

Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. During the first two years of his presidency, though he made some mistakes he did make headway on the debt issue by passing the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993. It was passed by one vote with Al Gore casting the deciding vote in the Senate, and no republican votes. This act created the first reduction in the deficit in twelve years and would lead to record budget surpluses ay the time he left office. He was repaid for his forward thinking efforts by a resounding defeat in the 1994 mid term elections. Once again, through the thinly veiled efforts of the wealthy the election was bought and paid for and the “reforms” promised by the “contract with America” never materialized. It is typical of the Plutocrats to use fear and misinformation (lies) to win the votes of the ignorant. The 1994 election was a good example of he who repeats his lies most and loudest wins. Clinton turned out to be very bad at judging the character of others. It was Phil Graham that pushed through the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act at the end of Clinton’s term and Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers pushed Clinton to sign the bill that removed FDR’s regulations on the banks. It was also Larry Summers with the help of Robert Reich that killed the regulation of the financial derivative, which Warren Buffet referred to as “financial weapons of mass destruction”. This helped set the stage for today’s current economic conditions.

In 2000, we saw the reduction of the American democratic system to the level of a third world puppet state, on par with Iran and North Korea. With a plurality of the vote going to Al Gore, the wealthy puppet masters orchestrated nothing less than a bloodless coup and installed George Bush II as president. Then swiftly and deftly positioned Dick Cheney as vice president, thus completing the Plutocratic takeover of the US presidency. Cheney headed one of the largest international corporations in the world, a corporation that represented the very face of the military industrial complex Eisenhower had warned us about fifty years before. It was not long after this that Bush, the empty vessel into and through which all the wealthy elite’s hopes, dreams and greed flowed, that taxes were cut for the richest, a faceless enemy “terror” was named and unending war was entered into. The takeover was virtually completed. With the ability to control the media, being implemented by those like Rupert Murdoch and the new arrow in their quiver of fear of an unknown enemy to keep the lower classes in line with their wishes they ran unopposed through the coffers of the United States.

The greatest transfer of wealth and power in the history of the US occurred in the eight years of George Bush II. Once again, the unregulated greed and audacity of the wealthy lead to economic collapse. Unfortunately, for the American public, unlike 1929 – 1932, the American public only lived through a few months of rule under the inept and clueless George Bush II. If we had to live for two years under the reign of GBII, there may have been chance for real reform but alas no. During his reign, GBII callously increased the public debt to levels not seen since WW2.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama was historic. It does not seem that old Barry O. has what it takes to govern this country. He has fallen under the spell of Larry Summers, the same economic Svegali that pushed Clinton into the hands of the wealthy. His attempt to appoint Tom Daschle as head of HHS to be his lead at health system reform tipped his cards that his reform would be the warmed over give away to the health insurance industry that the republicans tried to offer in 1992.

With the Supreme Courts’ Citizen United decision to allow unregulated spending by corporations, foreign or domestic, into American politics and the transfer of wealth to the upper 5% of American over the past eight years, the take over is now complete.

Right now our country has gone through what can only be described as a completed takeover by corporate and elite interests. Today we need to be facing the very real prospects of financial collapse due to the misguided fiscal policies of the Fed and Treasury. With 20%+ of the US debt being purchased by the Fed with freshly printed dollars, we are heading down the same road as Zimbabwe and Weimar Germany. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world calls our bluff.

Also, it is not in the corporate interest to allow any realization by the American people that we have ceded our leading positions in the world to other more progressive and open minded countries in every way except our military. Our ability to adapt and change to flourish has been taken away by the corporate media that attacks any independent thinking and vilifies realistic analysis of our current situation. We will soon be at the point where America will be at the mercy of it’s creditors and the countries that hold the resources we so blindly cling to. At that point, we will exploit our one remaining leading asset and then, well …..

How Few Jobs Will Wise Co. Coal Plant Create?

Reposted from THE GREEN MILES

Dominion Virginia Power is spending $1.8 billion dollars worth of your electric bills to build a dirty coal-fired power plant in Wise County. How many jobs will that investment of our money deliver? Shockingly few, according to the Virginia Mining Association (PDF):
At the end of July, there were about 1,800 men and women employed in the construction of the 585-megawatt power station. The work force included about 600 people from the local area, accounting for 33.4 percent of total employment. The local area is defined as being within a 50-mile radius of the town of St. Paul, with Wise, Russell and Scott counties accounted for the majority of the local hires. Additionally, the staff that will operate the power station is being formed and trained. After Oct. 4 operations employment will stand at 34 with half of those hires coming from the local area.
Well hey, that's only $106 million of our money per permanent job for local residents. What a bargain!

Meanwhile, a Virginia State Corporation Commission analyst has testified (PDF)that, because the higher rates needed to pay for it, the plant will cost Virginia 1,474 jobs.

Now, apologists for this terrible deal will say, "But The Green Miles! They need every job they can get in Wise County!" By that rationale, why bother actually building the plant? As the Chesapeake Climate Action Network has pointed out, we could pay 75 Wise County residents $100,000 per year and give the county $6 million a year for the next 133 years with the $1.8 billion it will take to build the plant. And in that scenario, we wouldn't have to deal with the 5.4 million tons of carbon dioxide, thousands of tons of other air pollutants & dozens of pounds of mercury the plant will release.

All in all, a terrible deal for Virginia's economy & environment.

25 November 2010

World's First Village that Runs on 100% Solar

From Oilgae
It's been one of the ironies in the energy equation - we have the energy from the sun all around us, many times more than what all of together on earth require, yet capturing and utilising that energy has been much more difficult and costly than one would like.

This has not stopped the solariphiles from looking forward to the day when the sun will power most of, or all, our energy needs.

Well, while that day might still be far off for most of the world, it already has arrived for a small village in South Korea. This village has achieved what even the most powerful countries in the world are still struggling to accomplish: total energy independence with clean technology.

Donggwang is a village on the western half of the island Jeju-do in South Korea. On the roof of each of the 40 houses in Donggwang lies a large beds of solar panels. And this includes even the small, local elementary school!

A typical house roof in the village has a two kilowatt solar installation. The photovoltaic panels thus fitted produce enough energy to power the entire area.
Now the important question is, how much of this success is translatable to the rest of the world? Are there some specific advantages that this tiny South Korean village has that has facilitated it to become 100% solar? I could not see anything unique about this village, so there is hope that this is replicable. We however have to keep in mind that this is a small village - they are talking about 40 houses in all, certainly small by any standards!

One piece of info gleaned from the articles could provide a hint: "In 2004, the government helped to install solar systems in Donggwang, paying 70% of the installation fees." Now, this could indeed be a great help as it is well known that installation costs for solar could in fact be a major stumbling block to its widespread adoption.

While we spend our time analysing whether this small success could lead to a big leap for solar energy adoption in the rest of the world, hats off to Donggwang for showing us the light at the end of the tunnel, to use a pun!

24 November 2010

Cool Stuff from MIT

23 November 2010

No Comment Needed

22 November 2010

Repube Math

From Jobsanger

I never have understood Republican math. It just doesn't seem to follow the same rules as the math I was taught in grade school, high school or even college. The Republicans tell us that all our governmental problems are caused by the government spending too much money, thus creating too large a deficit.

But they have a solution -- just cut taxes for the richest Americans (they ones who can most afford to pay taxes). Somehow they think that the government receiving less in tax revenues will cure the debt the government has created. Obviously, as a liberal I just don't understand Republican math, because I would have thought that receiving less money in taxes would make it harder to pay off the debt these Republicans are so afraid of.

But it's not just in government that the Republican math doesn't make sense for me. They apply the same nonsensical mathematics to fundraising also. Take for example the appearance of teabagger icon Sarah Palin in Pennsylvania recently. She spoke at the Plumstead Christian School in Plumstead Township, Pennsylvania. The event was a fundraiser for the school, and school officials are hoping that after the dust settles the school will have raised several hundred dollars.

The problem is that Palin did not speak at the event for free. She was paid $75,000 by some of the school's private donors. Yes, you did read that correctly. Donors to the school paid Sarah Palin $75,000 so she would help them raise a few hundred dollars. I don't know about you, but that (Republican math) just doesn't make sense to me. Wouldn't the school have been a lot better off if the donors had just given the $75,000 to the school?

But that's Republican math for you. Evidently the most important rule in Republican math is to fatten the bank accounts of the rich and fill the campaign chests of the right-wing politicians -- and to hell with everyone else, including schools needing funds. These "donors weren't interested in helping the school. The school fundraiser was just an excuse to funnel money into a Republican politician's pocket.

The last time the Republicans were in power they drove America's economy into a serious recession. Now they have regained power, and I'm afraid that they will drive the recession into a full-fledged depression if they continue practicing their own special kind of math. But so far, they've given us no reason to think they'll change.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

21 November 2010

No Comment Needed

20 November 2010

Vain Hope

Believing a Republican or teabagger will forsake hypocrisy for rationality is a lot like believing in fairies. It's just a denial of reality. From the blog of Yellowdog Granny.

19 November 2010

Pee on Ice

From Checklist Toward Zero Carbon

By Ken Levenson

New research seems to finally be acknowledging the obvious: that water runoff from initial glacier melt is triggering much more dramatic, accelerated melting. Science Daily reports:

melt water in Greenland
“We are finding that once such water flow is initiated through a new section of ice sheet, it can warm rather significantly and quickly, sometimes in just 10 years, ” said lead author Thomas Phillips, a research scientist with Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. CIRES is a joint institute between CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Contrary to the right-wing-noise-machine’s protestations, the climate science has been, again, overly conservative:

Conventional thermal models of ice sheets do not factor in the presence of water within the ice sheet as a warming agent, but instead use models that primarily consider ice-sheet heating by warmer air on the ice sheet surface. In water’s absence, ice warms slowly in response to the increased surface temperatures from climate change, often requiring centuries to millennia to happen.

Ironically even the scientists must put some softening caveat into the news, saying:

“However, this process is not the ‘death knell’ for the ice sheet. Even under such conditions, it would still take thousands of years for the Greenland ice sheet to disappear…”

That may be so, but even if the ice doesn’t disappear, our coastal cities will be under 20 feet of sea water.

A bit more from this important article:

To quantify the influence of melt water, the scientists modeled what would happen to the ice sheet temperature if water flowed through it for eight weeks every summer — about the length of the active melt season. The result was a significantly faster-than-expected increase in ice sheet warming, which could take place on the order of years to decades depending on the spacing of crevasses and other “pipes” that bring warmer water into the ice sheet in summer.
“The key difference between our model and previous models is that we include heat exchange between water flowing through the ice sheet and the ice,” said Rajaram.
Several factors contributed to the warming and resulting acceleration of ice flow, including the fact that flowing water into the ice sheets can stay in liquid form even through the winter, slowing seasonal cooling. In addition, warmer ice sheets are more susceptible to increases of water flow, including the basal lubrication of ice that allows ice to flow more readily on bedrock.
A third factor is melt water cascading downward into the ice, which warms the surrounding ice. In this process the water can refreeze, creating additional cracks in the more vulnerable warm ice, according to the study.

So the next time you have an opportunity to pee on ice, don’t be surprised if it reminds you of our world’s polar ice melt catastrophe.

18 November 2010

Seven Blunders of the World

The Seven Blunders of the World is a list that Mahatma Gandhi gave to his grandson Arun Gandhi, written on a piece of paper, on their final day together, not too long before his assassination. The seven blunders are:

Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Knowledge without character
Commerce without morality
Science without humanity
Worship without sacrifice
Politics without principle

17 November 2010

Good Analysis from Jobsanger

Judging by the Republican reaction to the recent elections, one might think that they had been given a mandate by the American people to continue the disastrous policies that threw America into a recession in the first place. The only things they have offered so far is more tax cuts for the rich and cuts to so far unnamed government programs. And to get what they want, they are already threatening a government shutdown.

And it's not just the new congressmen, who may not fully understand what they are getting into, but experienced Republicans like Mitch McConnell are also calling for the Democrats to give in or suffer a government shutdown. I find it hard to believe this is what the voters wanted when they put the Republicans back in power (at least in the House of Representatives).

A large part of the teabaggers who voted for them (about 50%) are over the age of 55. Many of them are already on Social Security and Medicare, and many more will be there very soon. In addition, more than half of elderly Americans voted Republican in this last election. Were they voting for a government shutdown? I doubt it. A government shutdown for any length of time at all will mean no Social Security checks will go out and Medicare will be discontinued.

Clear majorities of all Americans do not want Social Security messed with, and I have to believe the Republicans will reap the whirlwind if they shut down the government and elderly Americans are left to fend for themselves. The medical bills of these elderly Americans will not stop and the rent and groceries will still have to be paid for. How will this happen if the government is shut down?

And then there's the exit polls conducted. Most of them show that the voters aren't happy with either political party. They're mad at everyone and just want something to be accomplished in Washington, and the number one thing they want is job creation. Nobody was given a mandate and most voters want the two parties to compromise and get things done -- not argue and shut down the government.

An exit poll done by CBS News shows this clearly. Huge majorities said they wanted both the Republicans and President Obama to compromise -- and this was not just voters in general, but also Republican voters. Here are the results:

Republicans should compromise...............75%
Obama should compromise...............71%

Republicans should compromise...............66%
Obama should compromise...............79%

I think the Republicans, especially those talking about a government shutdown, have misread the election results. They can probably accomplish a shutdown if that's what they want to do, but that's not what they were put back in power to do. And if they do shut it down, they could well regret their action in 2012.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

16 November 2010

World’s First Wireless Electric Car Charger Launches in UK

IPT (Induction Power Transfer) is the name of the world’s first commercially-available wireless electric car charging system, just launched in London. The brainchild of UK start-up HaloIPT wishes to electrify the England’s M25 motorway by using magnetic induction, a principle discovered in the 1800s.

The company has designed the IPT to be functional on any weather conditions and even if the driver doesn’t align the car properly with the pads embedded in the asphalt. They also say it has a performance closely equal to that of a wired charger, though I doubt it can brag any efficiency higher than 80 percent at a few centimeters gap.

HaloIPT used a car named Evie, based on the Citroen C1 (ultra compact) to test the charging performance of the IPT. Fully charging from 20 percent took the Evie about six hours, and the energy came from a regular household socket. The company also says their system can charge even at distances of up to 40 centimeters.

“We’re using IPT to break down the barriers to mass-market adoption of electric cars,” says HaloIPT’s CEO, Anthony Thomson. “Keeping electric vehicle costs down is a key priority for us.” He also claims that a car using wireless charging is going to have a third of a today petrol car’s carbon emission by 2030, including the manufacturing and usage processes.

15 November 2010

POO POWER: Chicken Manure to Power UK Homes

by Timon Singh

Chicken manure is becoming a renewable energy source of choice for many countries. The UK has a plan to convert a local Alfagy biogas station so that it uses agricultural waste, such as feedstock waste and manure, to create electricity.

The power plant, which is located on the southern outskirts of Cirencester, is scheduled to be opened on November 1. Its location in Cirencester was selected due to the area’s large chicken population and its proximity to other agricultural industries.

Various UK projects have looked at plans to use animal waste to create energy, including one that would have utilised cow manure as an energy source. this Alfagy plant will use the manure of smaller farm animals, as well as agricultural feedstock. Local farmers will deliver any agricultural plant waste, chicken litter, and pig manure that they have to the station, for which they will be paid for. They will also receive free heat for their animal barns, grain-drying bins, and homes. It is a fantastic opportunity for farmers, and it is hoped that many will join the endeavour.

Once delivered to the power plant, the agricultural waste will be converted into biogas via an anaerobic digester. According to Alfagy, the station will then use a combined heat and power (CHP) system in which one 260-kilowatt CHP unit can perform at a 42.9 percent electrical efficiency. When the plant is operating at full capacity, it is expected to produce about 1 megawatt of electricity per year — enough to power about 350 Cotswolds homes (Cirencester’s population is about 19,000). The station will also create digestate fertilizer.

In a statement, Alfagy said, “This ‘digestate’ is a powerful fertilizer that decreases the average fertilizer costs by up to 100 percent, which is a major cost to farmers and the environment. Normal fertilizer production uses large amounts of fossil fuel [and emits] significant quantities of carbon dioxide, and the finished product is transported over great distances to farmers. Whereas [if] the fertilizer is produced locally at the power plant, there is no necessity in importing it from the U.S.”

14 November 2010

CEED dedication set for Nov. 17

From the Franklin News Pose
Monday, November 8, 2010

By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer

After years of planning and construction, the Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED) will be dedicated on Wednesday, Nov. 17 on the campus of the Gereau Center.

The CEED is a state-of-the-art educational center and template for residential and educational construction for the 21st Century.
"It is a 21st Century creation that combines cutting-edge 'green' technology with modern advancements in education," said Kevin Bezy, principal of the Gereau Center.
The dedication will begin at 10 a.m. on Nov. 17.
The CEED is an energy-studies building, featuring a variety of energy-saving features and energy-producing devices, Bezy said.
At the center, students from Franklin County and surrounding school districts will study and analyze efficient ways of saving and producing energy. The primary focus is on responding to the changing dynamics of the environment.
The CEED will have a number of versatile uses. It will be a classroom for Franklin County students, a field trip destination for surrounding school districts, and a place where citizens and builders can view and learn about energy-producing devices and energy-saving building techniques.
The center is the brainchild of John Richardson and Neil Sigmon, two teachers at the Gereau Center.
The CEED has already won an award even before it opens.
Earlier this year, Franklin County schools was awarded the "2010 Cool Citizen Award" in the Government Category by the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition for support of environmental education.
The CEED will have classrooms where students can study energy sources, including solar, wind and others.
It will include learning laboratories for hands-on instruction and projects related to the building design and advanced systems features.
The state-of-the-art educational center will be a net zero energy efficient building. Using technologies that include PassivHaus design, earth berming, south facing solar orientation, thermal mass, geothermal energy, photovaltaics, solar hot water heaters, electricity-producing wind turbines, rainwater harvesting, energy efficient appliances, and daylighting, the building will produce more energy than it needs to operate.
The CEED will address problem-based learning with classrooms and other areas for students to work individually, in small groups or in large groups.
Biology, chemistry and physics will be taught in the broader context of environmental science and architecture.
The initial phases of the energy efficient design project were completed earlier. These included the installation of solar hot water heaters at the Gereau Center, solar crossing lights, three solar lights for the school parking lot and two wind turbines.
The center, which was four years in the planning, cost approximately $850,000, with more than $200,000 in-kind donations from building firms and other businesses.
The project has been funded partly with more than $400,000 in federal grants.
Structures Design/Build, LLC, a Roanoke company, constructed the center.

13 November 2010

MIT Scientists Create Self-Repairing Solar Cells that Double Efficiency

by chillyjr

I’m thinking this is really good news. Looking forward to seeing how soon this will make it’s way into the market.

Solar power is inefficient. Whenever those plains of panels are laid out, the sunlight they convert into stored energy also degrades their effectiveness. With each day the panels spend smoldering under the sun, they become more unreliable in harvesting the rays. For many new systems, designed for lower cost and flexibility, degradation is a huge issue: In just 60 hours, efficiency can sometimes plummet as much as 90%.

To fix that problem, researchers from MIT turned to some excellent harvesters of sunlight for inspiration: plants. Chemical engineering professor Michael Strano recently had [1] a eureka-moment while reading about plant biology. “I was really impressed by how plant cells have this extremely efficient repair mechanism,” he told MITNews. To mimic this process, his team began work on a set of self-repairing molecules, called phospholipids, that can turn sunlight into energy, and reassemble even after being broken down. By adding or removing a solution, the phospholipids create a structural support that responds to light and can realign the system once electrons are “knocked loose” by the particles of light.

With a grant from the MIT Energy Initiative, Strano built and tested a prototype of the synthetic molecules, discovering the system to be 40% efficient–about double the efficiency of the most advanced solar cells currently available. In one 14-hour trial, the cells were repeatedly assembled and disassembled, with no efficiency lost.

The most popular and talked about stories of the week

Strano also said the new “photovoltaic” technology could one day near 100% efficiency, and in the meantime, his team is working toward increasing the amount of electricity the cells can produce.

“We’re basically imitating tricks that nature has discovered over millions of years,” Strano explained.

12 November 2010

80% Cheaper Solar Cells Switch Gold For Nickel

by Brit Liggett

One of the major drawbacks of most renewable energy sources is high cost. In order to see a huge rise in the use of renewable energy sources, prices must come down. In the world of solar there have recently been some major breakthroughs in cost advantages and efficiency increases. Scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada have come up with a way to reduce colloidal quantum dot solar cell prices by up to 80%, by swapping out costly conductive gold for cheap nickel.

Quantum dot solar cells consist of a silicon substrate that has a thin film coating of nanocrystals — or quantum dots. Gold was previously used as the conductive material in the cells and when scientists tried to switch the gold out for nickel the nickel formed new particles with the quantum dots that weren’t able to capture energy. Scientists at the University of Toronto led by Dr. Ratan Debnath found that increasing the layer of silicon substrate created a big enough barrier between the dots and the nickel that the solar cells became effective at the expected efficiency levels.

The team at University of Toronto published their findings in a paper in the July 12, 2010 issue of Applied Physics Letters and noted that with further research they believe that they will be able to increase the efficiency of their extremely inexpensive quantum dot solar panels and make them look attractive to consumers when they eventually hit the market. Unlike conventional solar panels, the quantum dot solar cells that the University of Toronto invented capture visible and infrared light. Though a mode for large scale production still hasn’t been found the impacts of these super-cheap cells could be huge.

Via Science Daily

11 November 2010


It Sounds Crazy, But It’s True

Here at One Block Off the Grid, we’re constantly striving to demonstrate not only how much money solar can save, but also make for households, so we decided to conduct a little experiment: let’s say you, the homeowner, had $20,000 to invest today. What would happen if you decided to put panels on your roof instead of putting it in the bank? Now bear in mind that, rates of return are different in different areas, so we looked at exactly how this would play out in three different markets: San Francisco, Long Island, and New Jersey. Our conclusion: investing in solar trounced the bank in every city we tested.

Method: to approximate the rates of return from going solar, we had you, our homeowner, invest your electricity savings in a bank account with 4 percent interest. If you also live in an area where you can receive money from selling SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Credits) we had you put that money into an account as well. In the example above, each solar system costs around $20,000 after local rebates and the 30 percent Federal Tax Credit. Let’s take a look at how this plays out financially.

The Bank

If you put the initial savings into an account with 4 percent interest then in 18 years you have $40,516, or $20,516 more than what you started with.

San Francisco

Once you deduct the California rebate and the federal tax credit, $20,000 buys you a 6kw system in SF through 1BOG (all of these scenarios use 1BOG’s group discount), with a monthly electric bill of $147. If every month you invest that $147 in an account with 4% annual interest and factor in electricity rate increases, after 18 years have passed you’ve gotten back your initial investment plus an extra $55,998.

Long Island

Because the rebates are so good in Long Island, our initial savings buys 12.3kW of solar power, with a monthly power bill of $230. When the monthly savings are invested in a bank, after 18 years our Long Island homeowner has made $98,909 more than when they started (they actually have $20,000 + $98,909 because they recouped their initial investment).

New Jersey

New Jersey homes with solar generate SRECs, which can be sold to utilities for lots of cash. Therefore, New Jersey has the best payback of anywhere in the U.S. with your $20,000 savings turning into $118,001 in only 18 years.

10 November 2010

New Passivhaus Blog

Here is a post from one of our client's blog. He is documenting the process of designing and building his Passivhaus.

As we all know, climates vary significantly throughout the US. Regardless of climate differences, several Passivhaus projects have either been completed or are underway nationwide. These projects span a wide range of climate zones: from Minnesota and Vermont on the cold side to Louisiana, North Carolina, and Berkeley, California in warmer climates.

While most of these projects are single-family houses, several other projects include, multifamily housing, schools, a university building, a senior housing facility and building retrofits to Passivehaus standards.

By jason kristopher specht

Please check out his blog

09 November 2010

8 Lies Republicans Want Us To Believe

During this election campaign the American public has been inundated with lies from the Republican Party. Some of these lies have been told and repeated for so long that they have assumed the proportions of myth, and are accepted by a great many Americans. But they are still just Republican lies.

I have been trying to attack these lies one at a time, and have written several posts about them. But Dave Johnson over at Campaign for America's Future has combined them into one very good post. He cuts through all the BS and exposes these mythic lies, and then tells the truth about them. Here are those 8 lies:

1) President Obama tripled the deficit.
Reality: Bush's last budget had a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama's first budgetreduced that to $1.29 trillion.
2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.
Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the "stimulus" was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.
3) President Obama bailed out the banks.
Reality: While many people conflate the "stimulus" with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailouts to be "non-reviewable by any court or any agency.") The bailouts passed and began before the 2008 election of President Obama.
4) The stimulus didn't work.
Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.
5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.
Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.
6) Health care reform costs $1 trillion.
Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 billion.
7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is "going broke," people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.
Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to the military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.
8) Government spending takes money out of the economy.
Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on "welfare" and "foreign aid" when that is only a small part of the government's budget.

Don't believe the lies being told by Republicans. They just want to return to power, and they'll say anything to do that. If the American people fall for this nonsense and return them to power, the recession will continue unabated and the country will be damaged for many more years. Remember when you go to the polls this November, it was the Republican policies that put the American economy in the mess it is in right now and those policies have not changed.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

08 November 2010

A Good Area For Deficit Reduction

As this chart from the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation shows, military spending in the United States is completely out-of-control. Instead of cutting the social programs that actually help Americans as the Republicans want to do, wouldn't this be a much better place to start cutting the federal budget?
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

07 November 2010

Why Do Republicans Hate Our Veterans ?

The Republicans love to talk about how patriotic they are and how much they not only support the two wars they got us into, but also how much they support the troops. Maybe they do, but it has become obvious that when the troops return after serving this country and transition from troop to veteran, the Republican support stops.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a non-partisan group who's only political belief is that America's veterans deserve to be helped by the government they served, has examined how each senator and representative voted on issues important to veterans. They took these votes and gave each politician a grade on how well they supported America's veterans. Those "patriotic" Republican politicians didn't grade out too well.



Those are some pretty pathetic numbers for the Republicans. It seems that they believe the most important thing is to vote against President Obama -- even when the president is trying to help American veterans. This is the party of no's patriotic accomplishment -- NOTHING!

by Ted McLaughlin

06 November 2010

Republicans Would Destroy Social Security

The Republicans have been denying that they are in favor of privatizing Social Security. That is because they realize that it is one of the most popular of the government programs, and is supported by a clear majority of the American people. They know that the time right before an important election is not the right time to tell the American people how they really feel.

But they are lying. At least 104 congressional Republicans have, in the past, either voted to privatize Social Security or said they would be in favor of doing so. They want a small government with little or no taxes for their corporate masters and rich buddies, and they can't have that as long as programs like Social Security and Medicare exist. They really don't care that privatizing Social Security would be a personal economic disaster for most Americans.

Remember when you go to vote this election, when Republicans talk about a small government they are not talking about reducing government welfare for corporations, the giant banks, or Wall Street. There is no end to the money they wish to put in those pockets.

No, they are talking about cutting, abolishing, or privatizing the programs that help ordinary Americans and needy Americans. All of the following Republican in Congress are in favor of privatizing (or outright abolishing) Social Security.

Senate (20)
Jeff Sessions (AL) Richard Shelby (AL) Jon Kyl (AZ)
John McCain (AZ) Saxby Chambliss (GA) Chuck Grassley (IA)
Richard Lugar (IN) Pat Roberts (KS) Sam Brownback (KS)
Mitch McConnell (KY) Roger Wicker (MS) Thad Cochran (MS)
Judd Gregg (NH) James Inhofe (OK) Tom Coburn (OK)
Jim DeMint (SC) Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) Bob Bennett (UT)
Orrin Hatch (UT) Mike Enzi (WY)
House of Representatives (84)
Jo Bonner (AL-01) Spencer Bachus (AL-06) Trent Franks (AZ-02)
Wally Herger (CA-02) Dan Lungren (CA-03) Devin Nunes (CA-21)
David Dreier (CA-26) Jerry Lewis (CA-41) Ken Calvert (CA-44)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46) John Campbell (CA-48) Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Duncan Hunter (CA-52) Doug Lamborn (CO-05) Jeff Miller (FL-01)
Ander Crenshaw (FL-04) Ginny Brown-Waite (FL-05) Cliff Stearns (FL-06)
Adam Putnam (FL-12) Connie Mack (FL-14) Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18)
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) Jack Kingston (GA-01) Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03)
Tom Price (GA-06) John Linder (GA-07) Phil Gingrey (GA-11)
Tom Latham (IA-04) Steve King (IA-05) Judy Biggert (IL-13)
John Shimkus (IL-19) Dan Burton (IN-05) Mike Pence (IN-06)
Rodney Alexander (LA-05) Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06) Pete Hoekstra (MI-02)
Vern Ehlers (MI-03) David Lee Camp (MI-04) John Kline (MN-02)
Erik Paulsen* (MN-03) Todd Akin (MO-02) Roy Blunt (MO-07)
Virginia Foxx (NC-05) Howard Coble (NC-06) Sue Myrick (NC-09)
Patrick McHenry (NC-10) Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) Lee Terry (NE-02)
Scott Garrett (NJ-05) Peter King (NY-03) John Boehner (OH-08)
John Sullivan (OK-01) Tom Cole (OK-04) Jim Gerlach* (PA-06)
Bill Shuster (PA-09) Joseph Pitts (PA-16) Joe Wilson (SC-02)
Gresham Barrett (SC-03) Bob Inglis (SC-04) Zach Wamp (TN-03)
Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) Louie Gohmert (TX-01) Sam Johnson (TX-03)
Jeb Hensarling (TX-05) Joe Barton (TX-06) Kevin Brady (TX-08)
Michael McCaul (TX-10) Mike Conaway (TX-11) Mac Thornberry (TX-13)
Ron Paul (TX-14) Randy Neugebauer (TX-19) Kenny Marchant (TX-24)
Michael Burgess (TX-26) John Carter (TX-31) Pete Sessions (TX-32)
Rob Bishop (UT-01) Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) Eric Cantor (VA-07)
Doc Hastings (WA-04) Dave Reichert (WA-08) Paul Ryan (WI-01)
Tom Petri (WI-06) Shelley Moore Capito (WV-02) Cynthia Lummis (WY-AL)
Posted by Ted McLaughlin

05 November 2010

Drought Will Be The Norm Without Emissions Reductions

by: GinaMarie Cheeseman

Climate change will likely cause warming temperatures that lead to widespread drought around the world in the next 30 years, according to a National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) study. Most of the western two-thirds of the U.S. will be much drier by the 2030s. Most of the Western Hemisphere, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia will be at risk of extreme drought this century.

"We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community," said Dr. Aiguo Dai, the NCAR atmospheric scientist who authored the study.

“As Dai emphasizes here, vast swaths of the subtropics and the midlatitude continents face a future with drier soils and less surface water as a result of reducing rainfall and increasing evaporation driven by a warming atmosphere,” Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory said of the study.

The projections in the study are based on current projections of greenhouse gas emissions. "If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous,” Dai said.

Given that the study’s projections are based on projections of GHG emissions, there is still the opportunity to avoid the proverbial worst care scenario. Greenpeace’s report, Energy Revolution offers a plan to reduce GHG emissions. Under the Energy Revolution plan, global carbon emissions would peak in 2015 and decrease there after.

The Energy Revolution Plan requires the U.S., EU, and Australia to reduce their carbon emissions by up to 30 percent below 1990 levels. Developing countries’ carbon emissions would peak by 2025 and then they would start reducing them by 2030.

The Energy Revolution plan calls for government leaders to agree to:

Phase out all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy
Internalize the external (social and environmental) costs of energy production through “cap and trade” emissions trading
Mandate strict efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances, buildings and vehicles
Establish legally binding targets for renewable energy and combined heat and power generation
Reform the electricity markets by guaranteeing priority access to the grid for renewable power generators
Provide defined and stable returns for investors, for example by feed-in tariff programs
Increase research and development budgets for renewable energy and energy efficiency

04 November 2010

What Republican Policies Have Done

By Ted McLaughlin Jobsanger
It all started in 1980, when Reagan convinced people that his "trickle down" economics (or as the first George Bush called it -- voodoo economics) would create a richer country for all Americans. He said if we removed regulations and allowed the corporations and the rich to make unlimited profits, those profits would be shared by everyone. He lied.

There were unlimited and record-breaking profits, but it all stayed in the bank accounts of the richest Americans. This resulted in the most uneven distribution of income and wealth since the 1920s. That vastly uneven distribution in the 20s lead to the Great Depression. The current vastly uneven distribution has led to the most serious recession since the Great Depression (and may well someday be called the Second Great Depression).

George W. Bush hastened this recession by his slavish adherence to the Reagan policies. It started a period of expansion for the income of the richest 1% of Americans that was unprecedented. As the chart above from msnbc.com shows that the income of the richest 1% of Americans grew over 60%, while the bottom 90% of all Americans only had their income grow by a paltry 4%.

The recession in 2007 and 2008 hurt all Americans, but the bottom 90% were hurt the worst because they had the least they could afford to lose. The last bars on the graph show that. In the period from 2002 all the way through 2008, even considering the recession, the richest 1% of Americans still had their income grow by 30% while the bottom 90% had their income fall by 4%.

Now the recession is over for the rich and they are once again making record profits and enjoying record bonuses (after being bailed out by the rest of us). Meanwhile, the rest of America is still mired in a jobless recession.

The sad part is that many brain-dead Americans are blaming President Obama and the Democrats for the country still being mired in recession (and I admit the president and the Democrats have not acted boldly enough, and have given in to Republicans too many times). But many are now ready to return the Republicans to power.

That would be a terrible mistake because they still cling to the policies that got us into this economic mess in the first place. If Republicans return to power, their policies (such as encouraging and rewarding outsourcing of jobs, deregulation of Wall Street and the giant financial organizations, tax cuts for the rich, abolishing the minimum wage, destruction of unions, privatizing Social Security, etc.) will just continue the redistribution of income from the bottom 90% of Americans to the richest Americans.

It's beginning to look like the Republicans won't be happy until the rich have all the country's wealth and income, and the rest of us have to beg them for bread crumbs. Too many Americans don't realize it yet, but if you're in the bottom 90% of Americans then voting for the Republicans is voting against your own economic interest.

03 November 2010

That's the right, it's my way or else.

While it wouldn't be his first choice, Stephen Broden, a Republican congressional candidate from Texas, says violent overthrow of government is "on the table" if the elections don't change things.

Broden, a first-time candidate challenging incumbent Eddie Bernice Johnson in Dallas' heavily Democratic 30th Congressional District, said the founding fathers provided for a constitutional remedy and "if that don't work, revolution," the Dallas News reported recently.

That drew a quick denunciation from the head of the Dallas County GOP, who called the remarks "inappropriate."

"If the government is not producing the results or has become destructive to the ends of our liberties, we have a right to get rid of that government and to get rid of it by any means necessary," Broden said during a television interview. "The option is on the table. I don't think that we should remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms."

02 November 2010

No Comment Needed

"Fascism should more properly be called "Corporatism" because it is the total merging of corporate and state power."

-Benito Mussolini, father of the fascist state

01 November 2010

Rising hopes electric cars can play key role on grid

Climate Progress 15 Oct 2010 07:25 AM PDT

Will electric cars one day become part of a network of rechargeable batteries that can help smooth out the intermittent nature of wind and solar power? Many experts believe so, pointing to programs in Europe and the U.S. that demonstrate the promise of vehicle-to-grid technology.

Journalist Dave Levitan has the story in this Yale e360 repost.

The United States now has more than 35,000 megawatts of installed wind energy, enough to power close to 10 million homes. Close on the heels of this ongoing renewable energy revolution is another green technology: By next year tens of thousands of Nissan LEAFs, Chevy Volts, and other electric vehicles will start rolling off assembly lines.

The electricity generation and transportation sectors may seem like two disparate pieces of a puzzle, but in fact they may end up being intimately related. The connection comes in the form of the vehicle-to-grid concept, in which a large electric vehicle (EV) fleet — essentially a group of rechargeable batteries that spend most of their time sitting in driveways and garages — might be used to store excess power when demand is low and feed it back to the grid when demand is high. Utilities and electricity wholesalers would pay the EV owners for providing that power.

Vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, is not a new idea. In fact, it’s been floating around environmental and green tech circles for a decade at least. But it has always had the tough-to-shed image of a utopian technology. Now, though, V2G — as well as simpler schemes based on smart-timed charging of the vehicles — is slowly becoming reality, evolving in quiet synergy with the worldwide push for renewable energy.

The main drawback of wind and solar power has always been their intermittency: By now it is more than a cliché to say that the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. To some extent, that claim is specious: Existing power supplies also vary by huge amounts, and flexible generators, such as natural gas power plants, are called on to balance out the blips. This is called frequency regulation.

Those generators can handle only so much variation, though, says Willett Kempton, director of the Center for Carbon Free Power Integration at the University of Delaware and one of the pioneers of the V2G concept. “And also, we’d rather not be using those generators at all. When you get to 40 percent, 50 percent generation coming from renewables, you need some kind of storage, and this [V2G] is a way of getting storage on the system.”

That storage takes the form of the lithium-ion battery pack on board most EVs being produced today. For V2G to work, though, the cars need to be able to communicate with system operators running the electrical grid — this can be accomplished with a simple Internet connection that could be built into the car’s plug. That communication link and a power converter that lets electricity flow both in and out of the battery will allow an overtaxed electrical grid to draw power from a group of cars, and then charge them when there is plenty of electricity to go around. If renewable energy ever supplies a sizeable portion of a nation’s power needs, using EVs as a diffuse network for storing electricity — and then feeding it back to the grid on demand — could be an important tool in decarbonizing the economy.

V2G technology is beginning to emerge in a number of countries. Japanese carmakers, including Nissan and Mitsubishi, plan to start producing V2G-ready cars by mid-decade. Small pilot projects to test the idea are also underway in Europe, from Sweden to Italy.

Increasingly-green Denmark, though, has taken the lead in V2G adoption. Wind power already accounts for about 20 percent of its electricity supply, and additional planned wind farms will raise that level to 27 percent by the end of 2012 and beyond 50 percent by 2025. At times, when the wind blows strongest, the entire country’s power demand is already met and exceeded by wind turbines. But without a way to store that excess energy, it is essentially lost.

So could a large number of EVs actually help with the huge variations in wind that can occur? According to Claus Ekman, a researcher at the Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy in Frederiksborgvej, Denmark, it can, to an extent. Ekman recently published a paper in the journal Renewable Energy that modeled how well EVs could handle increasing wind power generation. He found that in a scenario involving 500,000 vehicles and 8 gigawatts of wind power, various strategies would reduce the excess, or lost, wind power by as much as 800 megawatts — enough to power more than 200,000 homes. Ekman calls this a “significant but not dramatic” effect on the grid. Scenarios involving 2.5 million vehicles and even more wind power show an even greater impact.

“The limitation is the total amount of power that the EVs can absorb,” Ekman told Yale Environment 360. “The peaks in the wind power will be too high for the EVs to absorb them completely.”

Even if a large EV fleet couldn’t handle the full extent of a 50-percent wind power penetration in a country like Denmark, which could be fossil fuel-free by mid-century, it could clearly make a dent. And Denmark has already gone beyond the theoretical, with a V2G project called EDISON running on the small island of Bornholm. The goal is to use the storage capacity of EVs to bring the island’s wind power capacity up to 50 percent of the total demand. Because V2G will reduce the need to generate power from traditional sources, researchers estimate that the price of electricity on the island could drop by 50 percent or more. Though the island is home to only 40,000 people, the project could eventually be used as a proof-of-concept for larger systems, both in Denmark and elsewhere.

In the U.S., commercial-scale V2G projects are farther off, but then again so is 20 percent renewable energy penetration. (The U.S. is currently hovering around 2 percent.) Nonetheless, some progress is being made. For almost a year, several modified vehicles based at the University of Delaware have been providing power back to the grid, and getting paid for it.

Kempton, who runs the Delaware V2G pilot program, notes that using V2G storage, rather than huge centralized aggregations of batteries, eliminates the need for additional high-voltage infrastructure, and the economic benefits of using car batteries that consumers are buying anyway are undeniable.

“Maybe once a year you won’t have enough power in your battery to drive where you want to drive, and you’ll have to wait half an hour before you go somewhere,” says Kempton. “In exchange, you’ll get these payments and you’ll be helping bring more renewables onto the system. That’s the deal.”

The Delaware project involves fewer than 10 cars at this point, each earning about $6 per day for the power fed back into the grid. The price will depend on external factors like the cost of natural gas, so as fossil fuel prices rise in the future a plugged-in EV might generate even more money for its owner. And a common concern, that V2G might tax the car batteries too much and shorten their lifespan substantially, hasn’t proven to be an issue to this point.

Policy makers are also getting on board. Delaware now features a first-of-its-kind law requiring utilities to buy back electricity that EVs can offer up to the grid, and an energy storage bill recently passed in California could open the door to V2G in the future. Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — which governs the interstate sale and movement of electricity — has also expressed support.

Still, the need for further hardware on board the cars may present an economic challenge to large-scale V2G integration. A standard EV can receive a charge but lacks the equipment necessary to send it back out. Paul Denholm, a senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Strategic Energy Analysis Center, says that issue is far from resolved.

“I get the impression that the vehicle [manufacturers] aren’t particularly interested in V2G because that’s not a core vehicle technology,” Denholm says. “That would be a lot of extra costs, and they’re in the business of selling cars, not grid services.”

“It’s fine to talk about plug-ins, but it is really going to be a while until we see a sufficient number of vehicles on the road to have an impact on the grid,” Denholm says. “How many Volts are they going to sell, how many LEAFs are they going to sell this year and next year? We’ve got time to figure this all out.”

Chevrolet’s and Nissan’s EV entries won’t ramp up to full-scale production — on the order of hundreds of thousands of vehicles — for a few years, and 20,000 cars here or there won’t provide the type of grid impact that Kempton and others envision. President Obama, however, has set a goal of 1 million EVs and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015, and last year the administration threw $2.4 billion of stimulus funding behind that goal.

And if slowly building a scattered fleet of residential vehicles won’t help the mass adoption of V2G and managed charging, there are other possibilities. Ken Huber, the senior technology and education principal at regional transmission organization PJM Interconnection — they’re the ones paying that $6 per day to the University of Delaware cars — says fleet vehicles like those of the U.S. Postal Service might make a very attractive place to start with V2G.

The EVs coming onto the market now — including the Volt, LEAF, and Tesla’s Roadster — aren’t equipped for V2G, but Kempton says he is working with manufacturers and hopes to see that change soon. He guesses that within five years, tens of thousands of V2G-ready cars will be produced, and within 10 years “it will be a major component of the vehicle fleet.”

The logical intermediate step before full V2G adoption, most seem to agree, is the use of managed- or smart-charging practices for EVs. With smart charging, a car won’t have to feed any power back to the grid. Instead, it will charge at certain times when demand is low or when the wind is blowing the strongest. Both of those often occur early in the morning, say, between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.

“When people get home at 5 or 6 p.m., that’s typically when the grid peaks in terms of demand for air conditioning and things like that, so it’s a really bad idea to charge right when people get home and plug in,” says Denholm. “If you’re talking about thousands or millions of vehicles, some kind of controlled charging scheme is going to be absolutely necessary.”

In this case, the technology isn’t hard to come by, with smart meters already being deployed nationwide and software that could control the car’s charge readily available. Denholm says that on the simplest level, just a basic timer could do the trick. In Ekman’s Danish study, the best schemes he modeled combined V2G with smart-charging practices to maximize the benefit to wind power integration.

Even with managed charging, though, we may be years off from EVs playing a significant role in renewable energy’s growth.

“They park at the same place, they are very regular in their routes, they know the amount of distance and charge that they need, and they are typically available during those periods when we need it, those 12 off-peak hours,” he says. School bus fleets, which often sit for the entire summer in a parking lot, offer another opportunity.

Such vehicle fleets could fill a need immediately. According to Huber, PJM Interconnection — which provides electricity to about 18 percent of the country’s population in 13 states and the District of Columbia — currently has only about three gigawatts of wind power out of its peak capacity of 144 gigawatts. Even now, there are periods in the early morning when the price of electricity actually becomes negative: There is too much generation and not enough demand, demonstrating the need for power storage.

Huber said that if, as planned, wind generation in the PJM system eventually rises from the current three gigawatts to almost 50 gigawatts — and if EVs in the area reach 1 million in the next five years — the goal of large-scale V2G technology will become a reality in a market that supplies electricity to 51 million people in the mid-Atlantic, Midwestern, and southern states.