Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Our Energy Future - II

Peak Oil graph
Where will our energy come from in the future? Peak oil is upon us, even if the exact date is not yet conclusively known. Nuclear power is at best a transitional step, and quite costly when factoring in construction and external costs. What's left?

How about 100% from renewable sources? A new report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers suggests Europe could be powered entirely by renewable sources, albeit at substantial cost of transition, especially on inter-continental transmission:
A "super-smart" grid powered by solar farms in North Africa, wind farms in northern Europe and the North Sea, hydro-electric from Scandinavia and the Alps and a complement of biomass and marine could render carbon-based fuels obsolete for electricity by 2050, said the report.

The goal is achievable even without the use of nuclear energy, the mainstay of electricity in France.
While the costs and challenges are great, those of clinging to the fossil economy would be much greater. But what is remarkable, of course, is that the modern industrial economy of Europe, roughly the same size as that of the United States, could be run entirely on renewable energy.

Thus, today's announcement by President Obama to expand off-shore oil drilling in the United States is especially disappointing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tea Power

Tea factory in Papua New Guinea
The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has a massive power bill from over 60 factories that process tea from 500,000 farmers. The supply from the national grid is costly and erratic, so last summer the KTDA created an energy subsidiary to pursue locally generated hydropower, reducing factory costs and boosting farmers' incomes. The Kenyan Ministry of Energy identified 12 sites for the KTDA to develop distributed hydropower generation. Two of these sites are now under development:
Imenti Tea Factory Company is already generating 1 megawatt through the Imenti mini-hydro project. Last June, the factory signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Kenya Power and Lighting Company to supply surplus power to the national grid. The second project still under construction at Gura river in Nyeri is a four-factory partnership that will serve the KTDA factories at Gitugi, Iriani, Chinga and Gathuthi.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Conservatives Announce Plan to Promote Renewable Energy

Nate Beeler: Energy Policy Stopgap
Conservatives recently announced a 12-point action plan to boost renewable energy and nuclear power. The plan would also entail a substantial change to the energy sector. The plan recognizes the historical abundance of oil and gas in the country as well as the relatively recent rise of concern over pollution, resource depletion, and the green house gases emissions that are fueling climate change.

Some of the specific initiatives include:
  • A Green Investment Bank to provide public funding for new energy technologies
  • Establishing a "floor" price for carbon and an upstream tax
  • Accelerated demonstration projects for energy storage and carbon capture
  • Establishing an "energy internet", including distributed generation and a smart grid
  • Household incentives for energy efficiency
  • Electrifying the transport system
  • Implementing national feed-in tariffs
The current energy approach is "out of date"; what is needed are:

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Logo

We've updated our logo:

Hydrovolts logo--Power from Water

It still has the diamond shape containing a stylized water-course with power bursting forth.

We'll be rolling it out on the web site, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and our various print pieces over the next few weeks. Also coming soon: a fresh look for our web site.

As always, we'd love to hear your comments and ideas...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Low-Impact Hydropower

The Obama administration's peripatetic interest in renewable energy focused yesterday on hydropower:
The Energy and Interior departments and the Army Corps of Engineers have agreed to create a new strategy for promoting hydropower development while reducing environmental impacts and streamlining regulations. But, the agencies caution, do not expect a proliferation of new dams.

"This is not ushering in a 21st century new dam era," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. "This is taking a look at existing facilities and low-impact hydro. This is an examination of what we can do with hydropower that does not necessitate the building of new dams."

Hydrokinetic power!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Climate Whodunit

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
Who killed the climate?

For all the niggling over minor mistakes in the IPCC report, the preponderance of the evidence points to greenhouse gases:
So, we have a precedent for how climate change policy should be determined, not by the bogus logic that any hint of uncertainty in any of the climate science should be grounds for doing nothing, but rather that the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence demonstrating the human link to climate change should frame our actions.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Full Accounting

How much environmental damage results from business as usual? According to a forthcoming United Nations report about $2.2 trillion in 2008--from the activities of just the 3,000 largest global corporations. This amount is larger than the national economies of all but 7 countries in the world.
The report comes amid growing concern that no one is made to pay for most of the use, loss and damage of the environment, which is reaching crisis proportions in the form of pollution and the rapid loss of freshwater, fisheries and fertile soils.

Later this year, another huge UN study - dubbed the "Stern for nature" after the influential report on the economics of climate change by Sir Nicholas Stern - will attempt to put a price on such global environmental damage, and suggest ways to prevent it. The report, led by economist Pavan Sukhdev, is likely to argue for abolition of billions of dollars of subsidies to harmful industries like agriculture, energy and transport, tougher regulations and more taxes on companies that cause the damage.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Paying Dearly

Australian ethicist and author Clive Hamilton has written a series of lucid articles that provides needed perspective on the SwiftHack affair (the so-called "Climategate scandal".)
While the “revelations” have been milked for all they are worth, and a lot more, the science remains rock solid. If instead of cherry-picking two or three that lend themselves to spin, you read the 1000 or so emails that were posted on a Russian server the picture that emerges is one of an enormously dedicated group of men and women doing their best to carry out research of the highest quality.


And the emails reveal the enormous external pressure they were under. They show they were constantly accused of being frauds and cheats; their work was twisted and misrepresented; and they were bombarded with vexatious freedom of information requests orchestrated by denialists. In short, they were caught up in a hot political debate that they did not really understand or want to be part of, yet they were the target of savvy, secretive and ruthless organisations ready to pounce on anything they said or wrote.
The charge that these scientists have been engaged in some kind of deep and carefully hidden conspiracy to foist alarm about climate change on a gullible public does not withstand scrutiny.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hydropower Potential - III

Furry Creek, BC small hydro project
There is significant untapped potential for hydropower around the world, including in the UK and in Europe more generally. There's also great potential in the United States.

In 2006 the US Department of Energy (DOE) Hydropower Division conducted an assessment of the potential for new micro and small hydropower across the USA.The assessment is based on traditional hydropower potential, not hydrokinetic potential, but the values are useful to note. DOE has identified over 500,000 sites with enough water volume and head that can each generate at least 10kW, and DOE has even mapped them online for every state with its Virtual Hydropower Prospector tool. DOE further overlaid various feasibility criteria in its maps and identified approximately 130,000 sites meeting the criteria. At least 20% of these sites would be suitable for at least one Hydrovolts turbine, for a total of 26,000 sites and at least that many turbines.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Enough Science, We Need More Marketing

Woman listening to an iPod, talking on a cell phone and holding a Starbucks coffee
Eric Roston at Grist considers the problem that renewable energy and other green technologies can be more expensive than the fossil/nuclear infrastructure we've used until now, and suggests some companies that might lead public opinion to the cleantech future:
I can’t help but wonder if the wrong companies are on the case. Shouldn’t Starbucks (which more than doubled the price of coffee), Apple (whose iPod delivers a tenth the sound quality of analog music at four times the cost), and AT&T (more dropped calls) get to work on making expensive-but-clean tech a style-driven phenomenon?
Sadly, he's on to something.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


The Hydrovolts Flipwing Turbine is designed to be complete, compact, modular, safe, simple and scalable.

There are several aspects of being simple:
  1. Simple design. The Flipwing is composed of 4 basic components: the rotor, the generator, the electronics, and the deployment. Each component is built with a minimum of materials and designed to accomplish its sole primary function; respectively: spinning, converting kinetic energy to electricity, making the electricity usable, and keeping the turbine optimally positioned.
  2. Simple deployment. Being a self-contained floating unit, the Flipwing can be deployed in as little as an hour, and removed just as easily. Hook-up to equipment or to the grid uses equipment and procedures pioneered and long-used by small wind, solar and fossil fuel generators.
  3. Simple maintenance. Since it easily taken in and out, the Flipwing can be out of the water for routine maintenance and back in without significant downtime. The simple design allows routine cleaning and lubrication to be done using common hand tools and off-the-shelf supplies and equipment.
  4. Simple value. The Flipwing makes continuous, low-cost and immediately usable power, solving a basic need for business, communities and individuals world-wide.
Simple is good. Power from Water.

For your amusement, a satirical look at the perils of (large) corporations trying to do a simple design without having a simple objective in mind:

(h/t Polizeros)

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Power of the Open Road

South Korean Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV)
What will power our transportation future? The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has built a prototype magnetic train that runs on an electrical road:
On Tuesday researchers launched an environmentally friendly public transport system using a "recharging road"-- with a vehicle sucking power magnetically from buried electric strips.

The Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV), towing three buses, went into service at an amusement park in southern Seoul. If the prototype proves successful, there are plans to try it out on a bus route in the capital.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hydropower Potential - II

Archimedes Screw in Osbaston, Monmouthshire, UK
The potential for Hydropower is enormous throughout the world, including in Europe. France, Italy and Norway have especially good hydropower resources, as does Turkey, from which we have had several purchase and distributor inquiries for turbines. But other countries have great potential too--like in the UK:
A study commissioned by the Government body has concluded that there is vast untapped potential across the England and Wales for generating energy from rivers.

Waterways in Wales, the upper reaches of the Thames, the Humber, the Aire, Severn and the Mersey have been identified as having the most potential.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Euthanasia of Reason

Goya etching The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Goya created the famous etching with the even more famous caption "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters." While he may perhaps have sought to convey sleep as unleashing creativity, the caption as well as the imagery of foolish owls and ignorant bats is now used mostly as metaphor for the disasters that result from a lack of critical thinking.

It is a sleeping sickness for it renders its victims at length incapable of exercising their faculties' full function. The sickness is virulent, as it is readily contagious to those with a mental immune system weakened by atrophy. Even the somewhat more hale of mind are also susceptible to those evangelizing the joys of dimwittery who are as vectors for the pathology of embraced ignorance.

Perhaps, gentle reader, you think I wax over-much and with an excess of alarm? Sadly, no. These monsters of unreason have been so widely loosed that the resulting grotesqueries are everywhere visible. For example, behold the rich vein of raw unreason displayed in this recent piece: "Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets." (The reporter, Leslie Kaufman, does not much heap irrationality on the idiocies of those quoted, but is, alas, guilty of journalistic stenography: can not the most absurd and ridiculous of statements be tagged for the utter nonsense that it is?)

How deep is our sleep? Let's bestir ourselves and see...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Who Speaks for Business?

Empty podiumtitl
Who speaks for business? Who advocates for business and articulates their views on public policy? Businesses and their leaders do of course. They just don't always speak with one voice.

For example, a recent survey commissioned by international renewable energy group NTR Foundation and conducted by the Brunswick Group found more than half of the largest US companies wanting an end to the ambiguity surrounding climate change legislation.
About 50 per cent of America’s top business leaders believe a lack of clarity on climate legislation is negatively impacting upon the ability of the US to compete in the global market.

Seventy per cent of the respondents said climate change would be an important part of their commercial decision-making within five years. But almost three in four of the business leaders said security of energy supply was a more “pressing issue” for them than climate change.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Hydrovolts Turbine - VII

The Hydrovolts Flipwing Turbine had a very successful coming out at the Harvesting Clean Energy Conference a few weeks ago. So, where does it go next?

Moving into the McKinstry Innovation Center in a few months is exciting, but another great reason to be there is the football field-sized workshop just downstairs. We decided there's no reason to wait until May, so we took the turbine straight from the show to the shop.

The Hydrovolts Flipwing Turbine arrives at McKinstry on a flatbed truck
Hydrovolts COO Chris Leyerle arrives at McKinstry
after the drive from Kennewick with the Hydrovolts Flipwing Turbine

The talented staff at McKinstry got right to work.