Livinghomes

November 14, 2008

livinghomes-grow_with_you

Today I watched an episode of Wired Science on PBS.  They were talking about this super-green house that was made by a company called Livinghomes.  It was kind of an old episode so the company’s been in business for quite some time now.  It was particularly interesting to me because they incorporated a lot of my ideas into the homes that they build so I must be on the right track. Steve Glenn is the owner and he has put everything green, renewable, and sustainable that you could think of into the houses that he builds. 

He starts out with a modular constructed home that is prefabricated in a factory to reduce onsite construction costs and pollution caused by trucks.  And on the inside of the house they make sure to use nontoxic building materials, substances, paints, coatings and furniture so the house doesn’t have all the poisonous fumes and toxic molds that many of the new tight houses have associated with them.  Hopefully all houses that are built above ground will be built like this soon.

Here is a partial summary of Steve’s house from the show:

The living homes demonstration house is 2480 square foot in size.  It is 80% more efficient than a conventional structure of similar size.

It costs $390 per square foot to build, some 25% less than typical high and construction in the neighborhood (in California).  This is the first home to receive the platinum LEED standard set by the nonprofit United States Green Building Council.

Solar panels on the roof provide 80 to 85% of the energy needed for the house.  A Solar hot water heating system is also mounted on the roof.  This provides all the hot water necessary for the house including items such as the shower and washing machine.  In addition, this system also provides all the energy needed for the radiant heating system embedded in the floor of each room.

A water recycling system and a rainwater collection system provides irrigation water to a rooftop garden.

 

 

Explain renewable energy to me again

November 11, 2008

atoms3_renew

OK, I thought I knew what alternative energy was and I thought I knew what renewable energy was, but now I am a bit confused.  Now I see renewable energy mentioned everywhere and the term alternative energy gone by the wayside, extinct like the dodo.  Even our government is teaching our kids what the term renewable should really mean to us.  See their website here:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/renewable/renewable.html

(and I’m sorry but this thing looks like some sort of menacing atomic weapon to me–and what is that weird cricket alien looking thing in the middle all about?)

Not really sure if a meteor struck the earth or if all the dictionaries on the planet have been rewritten, but now I’m seeing solar and wind power talked about in the same sentence as a renewable energy almost everywhere.  This is where I’m a bit confused.  To me, renewable means something that you can renew.  As far as I know the sun rises every day and the wind blows every day somewhere.  I think of renewable as something that is grown or made, used and then you grow and/or make some more (thus the renewing part of renewable) as you need it.  Maybe the rain has to renew the water behind a dam or something like that but that’s not even a good usage of the phrase.

I know I’m not the smartest guy in the world so I suppose there could be somebody out in space growing the sun and there could be somebody on earth blowing the wind around  (I do know a lot wind bags out there so it is possible).

Anyway, I consider geothermal, solar, wind, and a lot of other kinds of power to be alternative forms of energy as opposed to traditional or conventional energy sources.  So if you could help me out here I would appreciate it.  I really don’t mind and bracing new words or phrases but I like to do so when they make sense.  Does this make sense to you?

Opinion: Obama is the Clear Energy Winner

November 3, 2008

Senator John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s mantra is “drill, baby, drill.” This is inarguably short-sighted, foolish AND more irrelevant as oil prices fall.

 

It would take the oil companies 10 years to put the entire infrastructure into place to extract that oil that McCain is talking about.  The United States consumes the most oil of any country and contributes the most pollution.  Now that oil prices are falling consumers seem to be going right back to their old habits as pickup trucks and SUV sales are climbing.

 

When I look at Obama’s plan, I see a clear long-term vision that will put us in the winner’s circle as a nation.  His energy policies will reduce our dependency on foreign oil (see my posts on both of the candidates’ policies).

 

The housing crisis was the last blow that triggered the financial meltdown.  But the rising energy costs were the first blow that knocked us down because the energy costs drastically reduced our discretionary spending. 

 

Obama’s energy policy is much clearer than McCain’s.  The Obama energy plan provides the clearest vision by explaining how he would support alternative energy, renewable energy, solar energy, and wind energy.  The energy crisis will not be resolved without sacrifice and energy conservation.  Barack Obama deals more intelligently with oil and coal.

 

When I look at the energy policy of the McCain campaign, I see the energy policies of the Bush administration.  President Bush and John McCain have the Iraq war as part of their energy policy.  Oil is king.  Deregulation (part of the Bush Doctrine) is also part of the McCain doctrine. This is what caused the energy crisis and subsequent housing meltdown in the first place.  If elected, the McCain legacy will morph right into Bush’s energy legacy.

 

But when it comes to energy policies and Obama and McCain (or Obama vs. McCain), the McCain/Palin camp just doesn’t get it. Obama/Biden does.

 

Don’t get me wrong: I like some of John McCain’s energy policies.  But overall they are inferior to Obama’s.  McCain’s campaign has not convinced me that they will fix the current problems and get us out of this mess.

 

When you vote, consider the fact that the economy will improve over time.  Global warming, left unchecked, will destroy our future and most likely plunge our country into another economic (perhaps permanent) crisis.  That is why, in the 2008 presidential election, I support Barack Obama.

 

JCE

Note: All comments that do not pertain to the candidates’ energy policies will not be posted.

Rooftop Mount Wind Energy System Comes to the USA

October 31, 2008

On Tuesday, 28 October 2008 it was announced that Michigan based Cascade Engineering has become a distributor for the Swift Wind Turbine in North America.

Renewable Devices, based in Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, states that their wind turbine system is the world’s first specifically designed for rooftop installation.  Renewable Devices says that their system is exceptionally safe, efficient and the operation is so quiet that it is near silent.  They have installations worldwide quietly generating clean energy for homes, community groups, and commercial industries for over 4 years.

Here is a quote from a press release on their website at

 http://www.renewabledevices.com/news/company/swift-launches-in-the-united-states.html:

“With rising energy costs and increased environmental consciousness, we’ve seen more people turning to small wind. For the past several months, we’ve been inundated with requests for the Swift before we’ve even launched the product” said Michael Ford, Head of the Renewable Energy business unit at Cascade Engineering. “The Swift wind turbine design solves many of the challenges of previous residential and commercial scale wind turbines: it registers as a whisper on decibel charts, it’s efficient, it’s safe and it’s clean.” 

The first commercial installation is atop the Frauenthal Centre for Performing Arts.  It was in unveiled in a ceremony attended by Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm.  The installation is a project designed to demonstrate a cost-effective source of clean, renewable energy.  This commercial installation will also serve to educate the community and show people how each of us can really make a difference by reducing pollution one home at a time. By installing these nonpolluting sources of energy right on your rooftop, you can cut carbon emissions, reduce your electric bills, and any extra electricity that you generate will put money back in your pocket.

These wind turbines systems feature a rooftop or wall mount, near silent operation, no vibration, and with a rated power output of 1.5kW they can easily generate up to 2000kWh annually (when well sited).  They work in smooth air and make the most of turbulent air.  Just install it and forget about it.  And don’t worry they are bat and bird safe.  Each unit comes with a 20 year warranty and is guaranteed maintenance free for life.

And remember that the Federal Small Wind Energy Systems Tax credits are available to homeowners who install residential small wind turbine systems. The credits are available for systems placed in service from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2016. The tax credit is for 30% of the cost of the system, up to $500 for each half kilowatt of capacity with an overall maximum of $4,000.  See the energy star website at:

 http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits#s10

And don’t forget to check your state and local governments for additional financial incentives.

These wind turbines are available in a couple models.  One is a standalone system that works off the grid in remote areas where electricity may not be available.  It supplies energy when you need it and stores the excess energy in batteries for later use.

 The standard model is designed for homes connected to the grid (electricity supplied by your local Electric Power Company).  It also supplies energy to you when you need it and when you don’t need it the excess energy is sent back to the power company and they pay you for it.  You can actually watch your meter spin backwards. 

 

Update to the 2010 VW super efficient diesel that gets over 200 MPG

October 30, 2008

I found some more new pictures of the Volkswagen super diesel production model on Motor Authority:(http://www.motorauthority.com/vw-boss-confirms-1-liter-car-for-2010.html).

 It’s still going to be a two seat tandem and it’s still going to get 235 MPG but now it’s going to be a hybrid diesel. They don’t expect to sell too many so they are only making 1000 of them.

Since they are handmade in the prototype shop they expect the price to be fairly high at $31,400 to $47,100. But I suppose when people are paying $20,000 to $30,000 for a Harley Davidson motorcycle I suppose this isn’t too far out of line. The vehicle is so small that some are concerned that the car may not pass the safety tests required for on-road use. But since the vehicle has tandem seating, a slight redesign could make it into a three wheeler. By putting a single wheel in the rear it would become a motorcycle and not be required to be held to the same safety standards as an automobile.

Bush Signs Amtrak Funding and Rail Safety Bill

October 27, 2008

Last week Bush finally signed the Amtrak funding and rail safety bill after the tragic September 12, 2008 collision that killed 25 people in Los Angeles.  Bush had opposed the bill because it gave funding to Amtrak. But this time around he signed the bill without question.  This provides Federal funding for many projects including high speed rail in the Midwest.  If we finally get our butts in gear we can get this project done.  Our politicians have been talking about it, arguing and dragging their feet for years and haven’t done a thing.  High speed rail from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and onto Minneapolis would give people the option they deserve.  The last time I tried to catch the train from Milwaukee to Chicago I couldn’t even get a ticket.  I had to drive down through all the construction and it was horrible.  I was scared to death half the time and I got lost on the way back.  When I can get a ticket on the train it’s wonderful.  I sit back and read and study and it worked done.  When I get off I feel refreshed.  We need a safer alternative to driving our cars everywhere.  This not only saves fuel but also wear and tear on our vehicles.

We need to get on our politicians and ride them until they get this thing done.

McCain-Palin 2008 Energy policies

October 26, 2008

Expanding Domestic Oil And Natural Gas Exploration And Production: “Drill baby drill” Has Been the chant of their campaign.  Drilling for offshore oil is an unrealistic fallacy.  If you look it up on the government web sites you’ll find a study by the Department of Energy that say the impact would be “insignificant.” Does it make sense to you to go after the same stuff that there’s less and less of everyday?  This isn’t gonna help our pain at the pumps at all.  All the oil infrastructure that they are talking about would take about 10 years to get up and running.  And even after it was all in it would only account for about 1% overall oil usage.  What this really means is after it’s all in place you will see about one penny less per gallon at the pump.

 

Taking Action Now To Break Our Dependency On Foreign Oil By Reforming Our Transportation Sector.

 He wants to “commit a $5,000 tax credit for each and every customer who buys a zero carbon emission car, encouraging automakers to be first on the market with these cars in order to capitalize on the consumer incentives. For other vehicles, a graduated tax credit will apply so that the lower the carbon emissions, the higher the tax credit.” Now this a good start.  But it doesn’t do anything to get the inefficient trucks and SUVs off the market and our streets.  We need to charge more at the pumps for large and efficient vehicles and less for hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

 

I like the “$300 Million Prize To Improve Battery Technology For Full Commercial Development Of Plug-In Hybrid And Fully Electric Automobiles“because I believe we shouldn’t invest in new technologies.  He does, however, put all our eggs in one basket.

 

I’d don’t like that he “Supports Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) And Believes They Should Play A Greater Role In Our Transportation Sector.  It is true that Brazil runs about 85% of their vehicles on domestic ethanol.  McCain’s proposal to get rid of the tariffs on Brazil’s ethanol that is produced from sugar canes is just another imported fuel that keeps us dependent on imports.

 

His belief that “Alcohol-Based Fuels Hold Great Promise As Both An Alternative To Gasoline And As A Means of Expanding Consumers’ Choices. Some choices such as ethanol are on the market right now. The second generation of alcohol-based fuels like cellulosic ethanol, which won’t compete with food crops, are showing great potential” would make a great transition to all electric vehicles.  Any crop used for fuel would depend on powered vehicles to plant maintain and harvest them.  Today these vehicles are powered by Petroleum Products.

 

John McCain’s elimination of “Wasteful Special Interest Subsidies” is a good move.  Robert Kennedy Jr.  recently stated on a Fred Friendly’s Seminar series called “fueling our future” that gasoline prices are actually $10 to $12 dollars a gallon.  People don’t understand that the price at the pump is so low because it’s hidden in your taxes.  Subsidies to special interest groups allowed this to occur.

 

“John McCain Will Effectively Enforce Existing CAFE Standards” is a joke.  These are the mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers’ cars must meet.  They have been way too low for years and “Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars” which makes it even more ineffective.  The penalties have to be painful enough so the carmakers comply.  Therefore I believe John McCain’s quote that he “believes that the penalties for not following these standards must be effective enough to compel all carmakers to produce fuel-efficient vehicles” is a good policy.

 

But what he does an address is how about more and better mass transportation systems?  How about encouraging employers to push for improved telecommunications systems and encourage people to work from home as much as they can?  How about encouraging employers to take mass transportation or carpool? This would put a huge dent in our fuel usage.

 

Investing In Clean, Alternative Sources Of Energy

I like this quote “John McCain Believes That The U.S. Must Become A Leader In A New International Green Economy. Green jobs and green technology will be vital to our economic future. There is no reason that the U.S. should not be a leader in developing and deploying these new technologies.”

 

But that he was often a la-la Land. “John McCain Will Commit $2 Billion Annually To Advancing Clean Coal Technologies. Coal produces the majority of our electricity today. Some believe that marketing viable clean coal technologies could be over 15 years away.” This sounds great (sarcasm here).  Invest and another fossil fuel that’s over 15 years into the future.  What a great idea.  This would be not only of no use to us now but it would also rely on another fossil fuel.  Bad idea.

 

Protecting Our Environment By Addressing Climate Change

I also agree with the cap-and-trade idea. “That Would Set Limits On Greenhouse Gas Emissions While Encouraging The Development Of Low-Cost Compliance Options. A climate cap-and-trade mechanism would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allow entities to buy and sell rights to emit, similar to the successful acid rain trading program of the early 1990s.” this is good stuff but he’s not aggressive enough on the auto industry and all other pollution sources to get their act together.

 

We need to declare war on energy waste and air pollution.  This crisis is actually worse than the economic crisis that we’re in right now.  The economic crisis will be used as an excuse not to take care of energy waste and air pollution.  This will lead to further destruction of our planet and increase the greenhouse gas problem.  We need to create a WPA type program where we take all the people that are out of work due to this economic crisis and get them busy working on wind Energy and solar energy projects that will save our planet.

 

Promoting Energy Efficiency

“John McCain Will Make Greening The Federal Government A Priority Of His Administration. The federal government is the largest electricity consumer on earth and occupies 3.3 billion square feet of space worldwide.” This is a really good idea.  It’s good to lead by example.

“John McCain Will Move The United States Toward Electricity Grid And Metering Improvements To Save Energy.” This is a really good idea that doesn’t go far enough.  We need to put huge wind farms in the central corridor of the United States and huge solar installations in the sunny desert areas of the United States.

 

As part of this policy, John McCain says “we will also need to deploy SmartMeter technologies. These new meters give customers a more precise picture of their overall energy consumption, and over time will encourage a more cost-efficient use of power.” This is also a great idea.  He does not, however, mention smart grid technology that would another great energy policy.  Smart grid technology allows the consumer to select appliances that can be turned off during the day without affecting them at all and avoid brownouts and blackouts at the same time.

Another great idea that he does not address would be another work program where people could winterize low income homes and then work their way up to middle class homes.  These homes are notorious Energy wasters.  This would create jobs were they are needed and help people that are out of work due to this economic crisis.

 

 

Addressing Speculative Pricing Of Oil

John McCain wants two find the abusers and punish them swiftly. “To make sure it never happens again, we must reform the laws and regulations governing the oil futures market, so that they are just as clear and effective as the rules applied to stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments. “ These are good ideas and should be implemented.

John McCain Does Not Support A Windfall Profits Tax.  A windfall profits tax would punish the oil companies that greatly profited from the speculation.  Personally, I’d like to see those profits taxed at a higher rate and the money used for work programs and research and development into green energy technologies.  The money could also be used for the home winterization programs.  See the exact details on McCain’s website: http://www.johnmccain.com

Sometimes a huge effort that falls short is still huge

October 24, 2008

If you have a chance, read this article:

UK wind farm plans on brink of failure

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/oct/19/renewable-energy-greenhouse-carbon-emissions

John Vidal, The Observer, Sunday October 19 2008

Here’s little quote from it:

“Last week Britain committed itself to cutting greenhouse gases by 80 per cent. This week Gordon Brown will claim the UK is now a world leader in wind power. An Observer investigation reveals his hopes could be blown wildly off course. No country has tried to switch so fast to renewable energy – but rising costs and technical problems mean that, without urgent action and cash, the targets cannot be met. “

This is one of the most ambitious efforts I’ve ever seen. Even if they fall way short it’s still going to be a huge accomplishment. There’s a lot are really cool stuff in this article. In Berlin, they are putting together the world’s largest wind turbine. Each of the blades is supposed to be 20 meters longer than the wings of the world’s largest aircraft. The giant Enercon E-126 will sit on top of the 140 m tall concrete tower on a ridge that will put it 250 m above the ground. A single unit will provide nearly 20,000,000 kWh of electricity a year-enough to power a town with over 20,000 homes- WOW!

Now imagine a bunch of these babies lined up in that wind corridor in the center of the United States. We have a lot more wind Germany does. T. Boone Pickens isn’t that crazy after all.

JCE

Moving underground after 2 houses burned

October 24, 2008

http://www.wwmt.com/articles/california_1354907___article.html/taking_houses.html

Moving underground after 2 houses burned

October 24, 2008 – 8:07AM
CALIFORNIA (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A California couple who lost two homes to wildfires isn’t taking any more chances.

” This time they’re building in the landscape.  Skip and Linda Miller are building a home in the side of a hill with only one side visible.  The rest will be covered with fire-resistant landscaping.

 They watched their homes burn down in 2003 and again in 2007. The second time they escaped with just the clothes on their back.

 Going underground might seem strange for some, but the Miller’s say it shouldn’t feel that different from their other homes. “If you look at some of the models of these homes, with the use of skylights and the orientation of the building and everything, it doesn’t really feel like you’re inside than on a normal building,” said Skip Miller.

 The Miller’s say it was frustrating to lose two homes, but they’re just glad their family is safe and sound.”

Underground houses are an excellent solution to many problems.  They’d be perfect for tornado alley.  An underground house (if built correctly) is fireproof, earthquake proof, flood proof, soundproof and is naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

I just wish more people would take advantage of this technology.

JCE

Opinion: Obama is the Clear Energy Winner

October 23, 2008

 

John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s “is ‘drill, baby, drill.” Short sighted and foolish AND more irrelevant as oil prices fall.  It would take the oil companies 10 years to put the entire infrastructure into place to extract that oil that McCain is talking about.  The United States consumes the most oil of any country and contributes the most pollution.  Now that oil prices are falling consumers seem to be going right back to their old habits as pickup trucks and SUV sales are climbing.

 

When I look at Obama’s plan, I see a clear long-term vision that will put us in the winner’s circle as a nation.  His energy policies will reduce our dependency on foreign oil (see my posts on both their policies).

When you vote, consider the fact that the economy will improve over time.  Global warming, left unchecked, will destroy our future and most likely plunge our country into another economic crisis.