7 Factors Show Why Wind & Solar Are The 1st Choices

Discussions of electrical generation technologies frequently fall into the trap of considering a single factor. One way this occurs is with advocates of a specific legacy technology pointing out a single downside of wind or solar generation as if it’s a gotcha. This is equally true of wind and solar advocates who point at single-factor issues with nuclear or coal, as examples, making the comparison to the more virtuous renewables.

However, there is no single technology which will prevail on all grids in the future. There will be multiple generation technologies at any given time, the mix will change over time, and the specific mix will vary for specific geographies.

The following is my multi-factorial assessment as of 2016 for different forms of electrical generation. The assessment is a simple scale of 1 to 5, and is based on my judgment of each of these technologies which is informed by my background, knowledge, research, and systemic perspective. It is not a quantitative evaluation.

It is unweighted because my weighting would be roughly equal on these points for North America or Europe, but the explicit weighting would vary substantially based on geography. The strict market cost of generation has far outweighed the other factors historically, and only wind and solar’s plummeting costs have made them expand as rapidly as they have recently.

Electrical generation factorial assessment

Unsurprisingly, coal falls near the bottom of the rankings. Its challenges in terms of pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, relatively low flexibility, and liabilities make it non-viable in a multi-factorial assessment, with only its position as a form of legacy generation and lower price point making it as dominant as it is. If someone suggested coal as a new form of generation today without its history, it’s hard to imagine the idea would gain traction.

Nuclear’s poor ranking is perhaps more surprising. It’s gained a good deal of favour among various former opponents over the past few years due to its lack of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. However, its inflexibility, the high impact of any failures, its high economic cost, and the limitation to roughly 30 countries globally make it much less attractive. In countries where it already exists, in general, very few new reactors are being considered compared to the amount of wind and solar being put on grids. Only China is expanding its nuclear fleet in any substantial way.

Each of these factors is explained below with examples of the reasons for many of the rankings. Not all rankings are explicitly explained, but nuances which would assist in weighting for specific circumstances are discussed.

Economically Viable

This is straightforward. Society runs on energy and money. Given a choice between something which costs 3 cents per kWh (LCOE) and something which costs 15 cents, pretty much everything will favour the 3 cents option. (This is why it’s perplexing that the UK conservatives are still pushing for the Hinkley nuclear choice, which costs 15 cents USD per kWh.)

The least expensive forms of new generation today in strict market terms are wind, solar, and methane generation.

Low Negative Externalities

A negative externality is a cost of something which is not included in the dollars paid for it. With fossil fuel electrical generation, negative externalities include CO2 emissions and methane leaks which cause global warming, particulate matter and nitrous oxides emissions which impact lung health, and sulphur oxide emissions which kill trees and lakes. With wind energy, they make a little bit of noise, which some people who live close to them find annoying part of the time. With solar energy, there’s some mining and manufacturing pollution. Hydroelectricity in desert areas or the far north or south can be very low carbon, but may impact fish stocks or require population dislocation.

Negative externalities are dealt with by finding ways to include them in the cost of the product through regulation requiring that they eliminate the negative externality (e.g., sulphur scrubbers and low-sulphur coal for coal plants), or through market mechanisms which burden the cost of the externality and let people figure out how to deal with it (e.g., carbon pricing). In both cases, the cost of the negative externality needs to get added to cost of the form of generation so that market mechanisms can do their job, but in both cases, regulation is required in order to have that happen.

The best forms of generation today in this respect emit no CO2, particulate matter, NOx, hydrocarbons, or SOx during operation (e.g., wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, and nuclear). Large-scale carbon capture and sequestration has proven to be an economically non-viable pipe dream, as basic analysis of the underlying physics and economics made clear to dispassionate observers long ago, so fossil fuel generation will never be carbon neutral at any reasonable costs.

The best forms of generation today for negative externalities are wind, solar, tidal, and nuclear.

Broadly Deployable

3t_global_windThe wind doesn’t blow equally everywhere, but can be harvested in every country in the world economically. The sun doesn’t shine as strongly in Alaska as in Florida (or in Germany as in most of the US, despite what some people say), but is a viable resource in most countries of the world.

There aren’t effective sequestration sites under most parts of the world that would make it somewhat cost effective to put coal plants there and capture the carbon emissions. There aren’t good hydroelectric sites in many countries. Natural gas isn’t cheap everywhere. Landlocked states have no option for tidal energy. Islands have lots of waves, but less land and expensive grid connections, so wave energy starts to be viable. Nuclear is restricted to 30 or so stable regimes which are already part of the nuclear club, and expansion of the club is unwise.

What this all means is that there will be different mixes of generation that make sense in different places. This is mitigated massively, however, by the emerging continent-scale grids, high-voltage DC transmission which vastly lowers transmission losses, and energy markets. Basically, it’s getting easier and easier on more developed continents to generate electricity almost anywhere on the continent and get it to the major consumers at a reasonable price.

Given the above, in terms of broad deployment, the best forms of generation today in most countries of the world are wind and solar.


There are forms of generation which must run at 90% capacity factors in order to be economically viable (e.g., nuclear). There are forms of generation whose technology makes them very slow to respond to changes in demand or supply (e.g., nuclear). There are forms of generation which come onto the grid or fall off of the grid only in major increments of a GW or so, requiring substantial hot backups and contingencies (e.g., nuclear).

Then there are forms of generation which ramp up and down easily (e.g., wind, solar, gas, and hydro).

duck-curve-california-electricity-demandAs economies develop, they go through a stage where 24/7 heavy manufacturing provides a very stable baseload demand which is easily met by inflexible generation. After that stage, they enter a consumer and knowledge worker economy where demand is much lower in the troughs and higher in the peaks. Too much inflexible generation, historically known as baseload generation, causes conditions of surplus baseload generation regularly for these economies. That occurs today in places like France and Ontario, with their large nuclear fleets, requiring them to pay neighbouring jurisdictions to take their electricity on a regular basis.

Given the above, on a flexibility basis, the best forms of generation in most places in the world are wind, solar, and methane generation.

Rapid to Build

There is a pressing need globally to decarbonize electrical generation, and in China, India, and many other places, to reduce pollution from electrical generation. A solution which takes 15 years on average to put in place from conception to commissioning (e.g., nuclear), isn’t a viable choice given the significance and urgency of the challenges. A solution which takes 1–3 years to put in place in utility scales (e.g., wind and solar) is much preferable.

Given the above, the best forms of generation in most places in the world are wind and solar.

Reliable & Predictable

A form of power which has a high likelihood of producing a certain number of MWh of generation in a certain period is reliable. A form of power whose availability can be determined with reasonable accuracy at longer time frames and high accuracy in shorter time frames is predictable. Grids require reliability and predictability.

Most classical forms of generation are reliable and predictable (e.g., coal, nuclear, gas, and hydro). Hydro is predictably better in the spring than fall, and reliable over the year.

ElectricityUCTE.svgNew renewable forms of generation have proven themselves to be both reliable and predictable. Wind and solar are the fastest-growing forms of generation on every grid in the world today because they are sufficiently predictable and reliable that they do not destabilize grids in large volumes of generation. Their purported challenges in this regard are massively mitigated by wide area synchronous grids and markets. It’s only in isolationist and small grids that this is a challenge, but to be clear, there are enormous numbers of people living in archipelagos where this is a greater issue. High voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission offers a solution for archipelagos such as Indonesia due to its much lower losses underwater.

The most reliable and predictable generation in most places in the world today are wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, and methane gas. Coal is predictable and reliable, but at such great cost otherwise that it is impossible to recommend it.

Low Liability

Forms of generation which have operational or failure modes which cause massive economic disruption or health challenges, or which include potential for significant misuse of materials for terrorist ends, are high in liability in the event of a problem. Nuclear is the most obvious example of this, with very rare accidents on a per TWh basis, but very high impacts of those accidents. Fukushima is likely to cost closer to a trillion dollars (USD) for cleanup, economic disruption, replacement by expensive fossil fuels, etc. Coal has so many negative health and climate repercussions compared to alternatives that it must be considered a high liability form of generation.

The best forms of generation in most places in the world from this perspective are wind and solar.

Source: Clean Techinaica

Natural Medicine: Affordable, Effective & Eco-friendly

It seems like everyone is taking pharmaceuticals, and although they are effective, these drugs are finding their way into our drinking water. In 2008, an Associated Press investigation showed that mood stabilizers, sex hormones, antibiotics, etc, were found in at least 41 million Americans’ drinking water supplies. Because of this water quality issue, it’s important to acknowledge that many health problems can be resolved through lifestyle changes (such as proper diet, exercise and stress reduction regimes) as well as natural medicines. Effective alternatives that have less of an impact on our water supply include but are not limited to essential oils, flower essences, acupuncture and Chinese herbs. pills

Mood Enhancers
Having a baby, losing your job, relocating and other major life events can cause dysfunction and chaos in your life. You might not even feel like yourself, but instead of resorting to anti-depressants, sometimes a holistic approach will suffice.

Essential oils are liquids distilled from plants and flowers, and they have powerful healing properties. Some massage therapists integrate these oils into their treatment, but you can create a personalized aromatherapy session at home. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Research has confirmed that lavender produces calming, soothing, and sedative effects.” For example, if you’re stressed out or anxious, a few drops of lavender essential oil in your bath or vitamin E body cream may calm your nerves. Bergamot and Neroli have a reputation for uplifting your energy and relieving depression, so these oils can be diffused in your home or office.

However, do keep in mind that although each oil has certain properties or a reputation, your body might react to them differently. Also, when using essential oils, it’s important to purchase 100 percent therapeutic grade oil. Still, regardless of the oil’s quality, certain types such as cinnamon and peppermint can burn if applied directly to the skin. Essential oils are versatile and each oil has several health benefits, and if you visit a massage therapist or holistic practitioner, you’re sure to find a blend of oils to meet your needs.

Another option is to use flower essences. Dr. Edward Bach was a British physician who created Bach Flower Remedies. These flower essences are 100 percent natural and are made by sun-steeping or boiling spring water infused with wild flowers. In comparison to essential oils, they don’t have a fragrance and are completely safe. If you have any emotional imbalances or undesirable feelings such as fear, worry or aggression, a couple drops of flower essences in your water may help bring peace back into your life.

Treating Illnesses
Diseases may initially affect a specific part of your body, but eventually they cause other organs and bodily functions to malfunction or shut down. Because diseases are complex in nature, holistic cures for serious illnesses often attempt to treat the body on multifaceted level.

Jeffrey Bond has been practicing acupuncture for 20 years, and people of all ages with various ailments seek his expertise. Bond explains that acupuncture can treat many different problems, because it “treats the person as a whole system.” Often times another system in the body is neglected or cannot be properly treated by Western methods. Bond says this is when “chi and channels are key,” because the “matrix of channels throughout our body (blood, circulation) influence emotions.”

Chinese medicine understands this connection and this is why acupuncture can treat back pain and stress as well as more severe ailments such as Ménière’s disease. This disease is an abnormality of the inner ear, which often affects only one ear. In 1861, French physician Prosper Ménière described the following symptoms of the disease: pressure or pain in the ear, variable hearing loss, severe dizziness or vertigo, and a roaring sound in the ears.

Bond once treated a woman with Ménière’s, and the disease caused her to experience severe vertigo, migraines and tinnitus (a ringing sound in the ears). In addition, the imbalance made her violently sick to the point of collapse. According to Bond, acupuncture helped her manage the disease, and he says the symptoms no longer plague the patient.

If needles deter your interest in trying acupuncture, visiting a Chinese herbalist is an alternative. After the herbalist diagnoses you, he/she will prepare your herbal remedy by measuring a concoction of leaves, twigs and other dried plants, which you boil down to tea. According to the Rocky Mountain Herbal Institute, composing the herbs is a methodical process, and you can’t simply choose herbs for a single symptom. Some herbal doctors such as Dr. Bob Shen, OMD, LAC have created formulations to help combat certain ailments such as diabetes, asthma and herpes as well as prevent high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

There are a variety of affordable ways to heal your ailments without traditional medicines. Plus, these alternative treatments can have a lower impact on your body and the environment. Whether you choose traditional or natural medicines, it’s best to do plenty of research and discuss your treatment options with a doctor. Pharmaceuticals are powerful drugs that we are lucky to have available, but it’s comforting to know that you have other options that are not as harmful to our drinking water.

Source: About My Planet

US Solar Industry Could Catch Gold Fever From US Air Force

The US Air Force Office of Scientific Research has been funding a flurry of gold nanoparticle projects at academic research centers around the country, and one of the future beneficiaries of all this activity could be the US solar industry.

Air Force gold solarMore & Better Gold Nanoparticles

In the latest development, an AFOSR-supported research team at the University of Florida has fine-tuned the pathway by which light can be used to synthesize precisely structured gold nanocrystals.

The use of light to grow nanoscale crystals is old hat, relatively speaking. The process, called plasmon-driven synthesis, has been used to form precisely engineered nanoparticles of silver. That’s well and good but silver has a limited range of applications, especially when it comes to medical purposes.

Human systems tolerate gold very well, but until now researchers have not been able to control plasmon-driven synthesis precisely enough to yield consistent results.

The UF team came up with a solution that involves integrating a common water-soluble food additive called polyvinylpyrrolidone into the process. For those of you familiar with the stuff ‘s crystal-blocking traits that strategy might sound counter intuitive. However, the team found that when it sticks to the perimeter of emerging gold nanoprisms, it acts as a “photochemical relay” that precisely engineers the growth pattern.

You can get more details from the journal Nature Communications under the title, “Polyvinylpyrrolidone-induced anisotropic growth of gold nanoprisms in plasmon-driven synthesis.”

The team also discovered an energy efficiency bonus. In addition to delivering precise, high-yield results, the new plasmon-driven process can operate at low power, using light in the visible range.

Solar Power Hearts Gold

Medical applications seem to be generating the most excitement around the new research, and the team also anticipates that the new process could be combined with solar cells to perform chemical synthesis.

The new process could also help speed along the development of next-generation thin-film solar cells, with efficiency enhanced by the reflective properties of gold nanoparticles.

A research team in Australia, for example, has applied gold and silver nanoparticles to off-the-shelf thin-film solar cells, to achieve an increase in the range of wavelength of absorbed sunlight.

The emergence of an efficient, relatively low-cost method for fabricating gold nanocrystals could also impact other research efforts that integrate plasmonics and solar energy.

Deploying gold nanoparticles to enhance solar-powered steam production is another solar-related area of research. Other cleantech applications include enhanced bioluminescence and stretchable electronics.

US Air Force Hearts Gold

The new UF research (which was also partly funded by the National Science Foundation), is just one example of the AFOSR’s interest in gold nanoparticle research.

AFOSR also has a research team at Oregon State University working on the manufacture of uniform gold nanoparticles, and an AFOSR-supported team at Carnegie Mellon University has been synthesizing gold nanoparticles and mapping their structure “atom by atom.”

AFOSR also has a deep interest in foundational solar research and other related fields like graphene, so stay tuned.

Source:  Clean Techinica


Eco-friendly Cleaning Products

It’s common to disinfect toilets, sinks, counters, etc. with bleach or other harsh chemicals that only leave behind a strong, unpleasant odor. Sometimes an odor so suffocating that it causes you to leave the sparkling room before you even get a chance to enjoy it. But cleaning products don’t have to be so assaultive to your body and surroundings.2531475055_e022dda01a_m

A more natural way to clean is to use essential oils. Essential oils are liquids distilled from flowers, trees, roots, bushes, shrubs and seeds. Essential oils were actually humankind’s first medicine, and there are 188 references to essential oils in the Bible. Each oil has different properties and certain ones can protect the immune system, enhance your mood, stimulate or regenerate tissues and nerves, oxygenate cells and even destroy odors.

The simplest way to create a multi-purpose cleaner is to use a spray bottle and add 30 drops of lemon essential oil to 8 ounces of water. Lemon like other citrus fruits is a natural antibacterial and antiseptic, so this solution is good to use on counter tops, floors, toilets, etc. Cinnamon can be used too as an antifungal, antiviral and antimicrobial. It’s important to make sure that the oil you are purchasing is 100% therapeutic grade; otherwise, it can burn your skin.

The best place to purchase quality oils is at a natural health food store. Although they are expensive, they last awhile since you don’t need to use a lot. Essential oils are a healthy alternative to the common toxic cleaning products. However, you can also use vinegar as a multi-purpose cleaner and baking soda as a carpet deodorizer.

Remember to use rags instead of paper towels, because you can wash and reuse them. If you use any other disposable fabrics to clean, find alternatives that are either biodegradable or can be reused.

Eco-friendly cleaning products are safe to use around pets and children, and when you choose to use essential oils, you clean and refresh your house with aromatic ingredients. There are a variety of oils that can mixed to create a customized scent and cleaning product to meet your needs.

The Empire State Building: Brighter & Greener

Yes, as of 2011, The Empire State Building, one of the world’s largest buildings has achieved the distinction of becoming the largest buyer of green renewable wind power. The Empire State Building will be using more than 100 million kWh of wind energy in the coming couple of years approximately. It will be totally – 100% – wind-powered from now on! This is not the only feather in the lofty Empire State Building’s green cap. Already the tall building has executed the refurbishment of fitting of all its – some 6500 or so – windows with a unique type of insulating glass for power savings. Some $13.2 million very well spent in boosting the green credentials.

Reduction in deadly footprint empire-gallery-exterior

By purchasing 100 million kWh of wind energy from Green Mountain Energy Company‘s wind farms, The Empire State Building has beat by far any other commercial customer in purchasing renewable energy. Think of how much less carbon emission there will be because of this. It has been calculated to be equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by whole of New York State houses in one full week – some 100 million pounds of carbon!

Getting a better edge

The Empire State Building’s supervisor, Malkin Holdings, is upbeat about another offshoot of getting the wind-energy to power the building. Clean renewable wind energy from the wind farms and power savings from the insulated window glasses have given them an extra edge in getting tenants with better credit and credentials, he claims.

Setting better standards

Mr. Malkin expects that these innovative changes to using more and more renewable energy sources can set an example to be followed by other landlords to become energy efficient and make the entire city cleaner, more energy smart, and greener. Seeing the benefits doubled – no tripled – at The Empire State Building’s savings and revenue can be a great encouragement for others to follow suit.

Topping the list

With the latest power purchase, The Empire State Building has shot up the list of Environment Protection Agency‘s League Table of 100% Green Power Purchasers. There are people who are not impressed by this achievement or certification, and criticize that it is more effervescence rather than having any concrete effect on investments in green energy. But nobody can deny that it is a great step in the right direction by The Empire State Building.

Source: Alternative Energy News

Google Going Solar

In the largest solar panel system ever constructed in the US, Google Inc. is planning to incorporate 9,212 solar panels to power 30% of their Mountain View, California operations. EI Solutions, part of Energy Innovations Inc., will install these solar panels on four acres worth of roof and these panels will also be used as shading for cars. The panels will create 1.6 megawatts of energy, the same amount of energy needed to power 1,000 Californian homes. Google-User-Should-Know-these-important-URLs-1

Google’s solar project should be completed by next Spring, but they’re not stopping there. They are also looking to other ways they can make their locations more environmentally friendly.

Source: Alternative Energy News, Solar Energy System for Google Headquarters, October 17

Major automakers turn to Illinois startup for electric vehicle batteries

The Big Three automakers and the U.S. Department of Energy are banking on Illinois startup company SiNode Systems to help them develop the light, energy-dense batteries needed to accelerate the spread of electric vehicles, increasing the distance electric vehicles can drive between charges and making the technology more affordable.

In June, SiNode Systems was awarded a $4 million grant to work on prototypes of better batteries with the DOE and Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Alliance as part of the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), a subsidiary of the U.S. Council for Automotive Research.

The work will stretch over 30 months, building on technology that SiNode’s founders patented while at Northwestern University and continued developing with SiNode, which is based at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s University Technology Park.

The technology — anode materials for lithium ion batteries — can also be used in smartphones, tablets and other consumer electronics. In 2013, SiNode won the grand prize at the prestigious Rice Business Plan Challenge in Texas, an honor including different awards totaling almost $1 million. In 2012, SiNode Systems was a finalist in the Clean Energy Challenge hosted by the Clean Energy Trust in Chicago.

Last year, SiNode co-founder and CEO Samir Mayekar was named one of Midwest Energy News’ “40 under 40.”

Samir Mayekar

Samir Mayekar

Mayekar talked recently with Midwest Energy News about the grant and the future of electric vehicle batteries.

Midwest Energy News: What does the DOE and Ford/General Motors/ Fiat Chrysler contract mean for SiNode’s work?

Mayekar: It’s a tremendous step forward for the company. Working hand in hand with the Big Three U.S. automakers to bring our technology to market — it’s a big step.  The most important work we can do to bring our new technology to market is focus on customer-led development. Via the USABC award, we work on a weekly basis with the battery teams at FCA, GM and Ford.

Would the technology you are developing be relevant to other energy applications, like storage for solar panels or on the grid?

It will. The focus of this award is automotive, however the work we’re doing to meet the automotive specifications will be relevant to consumer electronics. The grid is one step beyond automotive. In terms of the difference, we provide the most value to customers where size and weight are the preliminary value drivers.

If you have something mobile — whether it’s a drone or smart phone or tablet or car — mobility is key in those applications. When you’re talking about the grid, it’s all about cost. The size of the battery isn’t a primary factor so this market will be a longer term focus after we enter the vehicle market.

Does your technology figure into the ability to use electric vehicles as storage on the grid?

That’s a really interesting application of technology — the notion you would connect your car in the garage and use it for storage and demand response. I can see that happening, but first we need to get EVs to be widely adopted, then this could become a bigger trend.

What is the key to your technology and how does it differ from traditional batteries?

The lithium-ion battery technology invented 25 years ago uses graphite anodes. Our technology replaces that graphite with a composite of silicon and graphene that stores more lithium per unit than graphite. This enables us to increase the capacity of the battery, because it’s a better sponge for the lithium.

How much extra distance per charge could electric vehicles gain thanks to your technology?

The first-generation deployment of our technology enables up to a 40 percent increase in range, depending on battery configuration. As you migrate to generations two and three, the capacity bump is highly impacted by the battery ecosystem.

We provide one component, which is the anode. When the market sees improvements in cathode technology and anode technology together in the battery, you can get close to a 100 percent increase in range. But improvements to the cathode alone can’t achieve such dramatic spikes in energy density.

What projects might SiNode undertake when this contract is done?

We do have other customer-focused development projects underway, mainly in consumer electronics. We are highly focused on getting our consumer electronic products to commercial scale and volume.

The automotive market works through longer-term contracts, and we started this company to get into the EV space in the long run. But we’ll see the initial launch of our company in consumer electronics and that will pave the way for future markets like EV batteries.

How much do you expect the EV market to grow?

People have divided opinions about this. I do think we’re at a very different place than we were five or 10 years ago. Countries like Germany are trying to outlaw fuel-burning vehicles by 2030. The Chinese government is taking big steps to promote electrification. Norway is moving to outlaw fuel-burning vehicles by 2025. Volkswagen announced a significant commitment for its fleet. You’re seeing much more traction than 10 years ago.

I’m not going to try to predict the future. But if our technology does what it’s supposed to do, we could see big changes. Industry experts are cautious but much more optimistic than they were five years ago.

What does the DOE/Big Three contract and SiNode’s other accomplishments mean to your personal professional trajectory and goals?

I have one personal goal: to bring SiNode technology to the world in the quickest and most efficient way possible. One thing that’s been amazing about this job is seeing how the market has truly evolved. We started this company four years ago. Since then the consumer electronics market, the auto market, the battery market have changed tremendously. You’ve seen Tesla going from a couple thousand orders to building the biggest battery factory in the world in Nevada.

For me personally, we’re based in the Midwest, but 90 percent of our customers are in Japan and Korea, so our local innovations here in the Midwest have global traction.

How could the growth of the electric vehicle industry and innovations in batteries affect jobs and the economy in the Midwest?

If the electric vehicle revolution does take off, you have a whole supply chain and entire industries that will be disrupted. That will mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. There are many companies manufacturing powertrains that would be out of business if EVs become the norm. Therefore you’re seeing a lot of action, like the German company Bosch acquiring [Silicon Valley startup battery-maker] Seeo.

You’re seeing big moves because there’s a lot to lose when an entire industry changes. With the legacy battery industry, cells are made largely in Japan, Korea and China. But production will increasingly move to the U.S. because it’s expensive to be building EV batteries in China and shipping them to the US assembly plants. So you could imagine a manufacturing renaissance if EVs become a [widespread] reality. Smart phones are assembled in China, but you can put those on a plane and fly them here. With EVs, that whole supply chain could change. I always get excited thinking about how the Midwest and Chicago are positioned well because we are a hub of battery innovation.

Source: Midwestern Energy News

What Homebuyers Should Know About Solar Panels

Consider these questions before buying a home with solar panels.

As Americans gain awareness about the financial and environmental cost of non-renewable energy sources, residential solar installations are increasing across the country. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that the U.S. now has enough solar installations to power 5.7 million homes, with more than 1 million individual solar installations across the country. While solar installations were once common in high-end homes, the decreasing cost of these systems means they’re showing up on moderately priced homes, too.

As homeowners with solar panels sell those homes, it presents an opportunity for new homeowners to reap the benefits of lower electric bills and a smaller environmental footprint. Still, new owners won’t qualify for the solar rebates and tax credits that the original installer could get. “The single most effective thing that any one individual can do [to combat climate change] is to go solar,” says Raina Russo, founder of Women4Solar, and advisor for CREW: Own the Switch Advisor for Integrity & Mission Council Team Builder. “A homeowner that buys a solar powered house should feel very proud,” she adds.

Of course, the decision to install solar panels goes beyond the potential energy savings and environmental impact. The original owners have the opportunity to thoroughly research their purchase, choose between different manufacturers and installers and make other choices. Meanwhile, homebuyers searching for a residence with existing solar panels can avoid this legwork, but they should still do their homework since the purchase has more complexities than a conventional home purchase. Solar is essentially a “25-year marriage,” Russo says.


In general, buyers are willing to pay more for a home with solar features since they know they’ll be rewarded with low (or no) electric bills. A 2015 Berkeley Laboratory study found that buyers are willing to pay an average of $4 per watt of solar photovoltaic energy system installed, which equates to about $15,000 for the average system.

 However, home appraisers don’t always factor solar panels into their assessment of the home’s value, especially if there aren’t other comparable homes in the area that have solar. “The awareness about the value of solar varies widely across the country,” says John Livermore, executive director of the nonprofit Healthy Home Healthy Planet. When the sellers price a home based on the value of solar features but the appraiser doesn’t, that can create a gap between what the buyer offers to pay and the amount the mortgage lender is willing to loan on the home. “That’s a conversation that the agent should be having with the appraiser,” says Shane Herbert, a real estate agent at Summit Sotheby’s International Realty in Park City, Utah.

With that in mind, here are some questions to consider before buying a home with existing solar panels.

Are the panels leased or owned? Ideally, you’d buy a home from someone who owns the solar panels affixed to the home rather than assuming their solar lease. Because solar leases are an ongoing liability (often with escalating payments), assuming a lease can raise your debt-to-income ratio and hinder your ability to qualify for a mortgage on the home. Leasing solar may also give you fewer certainties than owning them, adds Christina Mathieson, vice president of marketing at the New York-based SUNation Solar Systems and a LEED Green Associate. “What we’re seeing is that many leasing companies retain the right to change their production guarantee,” she says. “They retain the right to every year or two lower the amount that they say their system is going to produce,” she adds. Plus, there’s no guarantee that the leasing company will approve you as the new lessee either.

 Who is the manufacturer? Even if you haven’t chosen the solar manufacturer, you should still research its reputation. In the best-case scenario, the solar system is from a U.S. company, according to Mathieson. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that the panels are exclusively manufactured here, but you want them to be a U.S. corporation so you’re protected by the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act [a law that protects U.S. consumers from shady warranty practices],” she says.

Who installed the panels? Mathieson suggests researching the reputation of the person who originally installed the solar system. “The roof is one of the most important structures of your home,” she explains. “Check out the installer that put the system in and make sure that that installer has a warranty,” she suggests, pointing out that the installer or the company that sold the system may be willing to inspect it for you to provide peace of mind. Herbert also suggests getting an independent professional to inspect the system before you commit to buying a new home with existing panels.

Can I see past electric bills? Ask to see the current owner’s utility bills from the past year, so you’ll know what to expect. Most parts of the U.S. operate under net metering where your electricity bill can be zeroed out by solar, but not reduced further. Still, you could roll over credits from a sunny month into a less sunny month, according to Livermore. In a few areas, you can actually get paid for excess electricity your solar panels generate as allowed by your state and your utility provider. Not all solar systems are created equal. “The age of the solar does make a drastic difference, also how many panels and how much energy usage the house is seeing,” Herbert adds.

 What’s the warranty? Ask about the warranty terms. You likely have two separate warranties: one for the panels and another for the inverter, which converts the energy produced by your panels into alternating current that actually powers your house. “Usually the warranty for the inverter is shorter and the expected life is shorter,” Livermore says. “Sometimes when a solar system is sold, the buyer will purchase an option for the replacement of the inverter. Sometimes they don’t,” he adds. The typical solar panel warranty might run 25 to 30 years, while inverters might be warrantied for 10 years, according to Livermore. “They need that documentation to be passed on to them [in case] there were any issues down the road,” Russo adds.
 Source: USMoneyNew

Efficiency on the Rocks

Products being redesigned in light of new efficiency standards, refrigerant changes

The most commonly heard three-letter term in the ice machine business used to be “ice.” Now, it has been joined by “EPA” and “DOE,” which both are garnering as much attention as the actual end products.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of phasing down a number of popular hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, including ice machine stalwarts R-134a and R-404A. Meanwhile, an even more pressing issue looms from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE): new efficiency standards are due to take effect Jan. 1, 2018, and increase ice machine efficiency requirements by roughly 20 percent.

The DOE’s intentions are laudable. The new standards are projected to result in approximately $2 billion in energy bill savings for products shipped between 2018 and 2047 and is anticipated to avoid about 11 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. However, with product lines being redesigned even as this is being written, this will certainly not be an easy task for ice machine manufacturers.

“With the DOE’s new energy standards for maximum energy use by commercial ice machines poised to take effect in January 2018, the push for energy efficiency is now not just a trend but a necessity,” said Ani Jayanth, marketing manager, foodservice, Emerson Climate Technologies Inc. “These standards will require between 15 and 25 percent energy reductions in kWh per 100 pounds of ice produced, and, based on the standards, approximately 60 percent of ice machines currently listed in the DOE database will not meet that requirement.”

According to Jayanth, Emerson’s efforts have been focused on optimizing the compressor, particularly as it relates to the harvest cycle.

“The technical challenge lies in increasing efficiency levels to meet new energy standards and maintaining or even improving ice machine operational steps to  produce appropriate quantities of ice, and we have been working to raise those efficiency ratios to meet these requirements,” Jayanth said.


When it comes to the EPA and DOE’s combined moves, the DOE’s energy-efficiency requirements are the first priority for ice machine manufacturers, said Scott DeShetler, director of marketing, Ice-O-Matic.

DeShetler said the new efficiency rules have Ice-O-Matic and all other ice machine manufacturers working hard to redesign their equipment.

“The new DOE rules will increase the energy-efficiency requirement by about 20 percent for everyone in the industry,” he said. “And, although we’re all redesigning with an eye toward new refrigerants, we won’t be fully impacted by the EPA rulings until 2020, so our more pressing issue in the ice machine business is to address the DOE regulations.”

Meanwhile, the refrigerant issue promises to provide fuel for some interesting discussions and decisions over the next five years.

“Refrigerant issues are fairly complex for ice machines,” DeShetler said. “If we wanted to go to R-290 today, we wouldn’t be able to because the EPA has not yet approved R-290 for ice machines. It’s in the latest SNAP [Significant New Alternatives Policy] proposal, and it will be approved, but even then it will be controlled by charge limitations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] that will limit R-290 systems to less than 400 pounds of production per day. Since most people buy machines bigger than that, we’re evaluating alternative refrigerants for our larger units.”

DeShetler also discussed Ice-O-Matic’s new ozone-delivery system, the O3-Matic, which infuses ozone into incoming water, killing microbes on every surface it touches and retarding future growth. In addition, the ozone becomes entrapped in the ice cubes, carrying the same sanitation benefits to the bin and dispenser. According to Ice-O-Matic, introducing ozone increases intervals between sanitizing and impedes microbial growth while continually sanitizing the ice making system, which diminishes mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses. The O3-Matic is designed for modular cube ice makers and can be retrofitted to all existing units.

“The water is the most effective way to deliver ozone into an ice machine,” DeShetler said. “The O3-Matic doesn’t eliminate the need to sanitize and delime an ice machine, but it does extend the amount of time between the sanitation intervals and makes cleaning easier because there will be less buildup.”


Scott Bingham, senior product marketing manager, Follett LLC, said a growing trend in the ice machine industry is the focus on improving equipment reliability in applications with poor water quality. Removing total dissolved solids (TDS) from the water in the machine not only makes for better ice, it also helps keep machines cleaner and easier to maintain. Follett’s new Horizon Elite models now feature a system that isolates and regularly flushes TDS.

“Depending on what types of solids are in the water, TDS may cause scale buildup, have corrosive effects, and can impact the taste of the water,” Bingham said. “We have found that by regularly quarantining and dispelling the TDS, we can greatly reduce or eliminate scale buildup between the normal sanitizing periods. In addition, the method is very inexpensive as it uses only a very small amount of flush water.”

The system was voted as a product innovation of the year runner-up by the Foodservice Consultants Society Intl. and received a Kitchen Innovation Award from the National Restaurant Association.

Bingham added that Follett is exploring its refrigerant options and watching for the industry to determine a direction in this area.

“We’ve done some explorations with R-290, but there are issues with building codes and with technicians not yet really being ready to handle -290,” Bingham said. “The market will need to coalesce and determine what direction we’re going. We’re not going to dictate the direction of the industry — it’s going to have to be a collaborative effort.”

Finally, Bingham pointed out that the DOE’s new energy-efficiency regulations, in many cases, will be more stringent than the current Energy Star targets, and Energy Star is a voluntary program while the DOE regulations are mandatory for sale of the equipment in the U.S.

“The upcoming DOE regulations are an important consideration for those buying ice machines,” he said. “I’m happy to say all of Follett’s equipment already meets those 2018 standards today.”


Bo Erickson, vice president of sales and commercial distribution, Manitowoc Ice, said the company will be using a three-prong approach when it comes to refrigerants going forward: R-404A will still be used for now, R-290 will be used in smaller units, and R-410A will gradually replace R-404A in larger units.

“We can still go with R-404A, but, eventually, that’s not going to be an option anymore,” he said, referring to the EPA’s phasedown of HFCs. “The good news is we can get some very good efficiencies out of R-410A in ice machines.”

The ice machine industry is fortunate to be a “fast follower” of the refrigeration industry on the refrigerant transitions, Erickson added.

“There is a lot of crossover as far as the technicians and the training between the refrigeration and ice machine businesses,” he said. “So, because our industry is not the first, we get the benefit of the work that’s already been done.”

Meanwhile, the DOE’s upcoming efficiency standards will impact a large number of all the ice machines on the market. According to Erickson, between 50 and 70 percent won’t meet the new threshold.

“We have some things to do to our machines to make sure they’re updated and ready for that, but we have plenty of time, and we have the technology to do it,” Erickson said.

From Manitowoc’s perspective, the company will continue to offer machines designed around easy cleanability. Erickson said about 60-70 percent of all problems with ice machines are attributable to lack of cleaning or maintenance, and Manitowoc’s machines are designed to be fully cleaned in about 45 minutes. This savings on maintenance time is one of the reasons the company’s machines have a low cost of ownership.

“We’re not the least expensive units, but we have a good payback story,” Erickson said. “It’s our biggest differentiator in the marketplace.”

Erickson concluded that Manitowoc is looking to aggressively target the health care market.

“Health care is a huge market, and although we have a large share of the ice machine market overall, we have a very small percent of the health care market,” he said. “Increasing our share of that market is a huge focus.”


Hoshizaki America Inc. recently unveiled the IM200, a large square-cube ice machine designed to fit under counters.

“The large square ice cubes are designed to provide the perfect amount of chill for cocktails in upscale bars and restaurants,” said Sally Ray, marketing manager, Hoshizaki.

The IM200 has the capability of producing up to 200 pounds of ice per day, and a storage capacity of about 50-75 pounds.

“We‘ve offered the large square cubes in our 500-pound ice machines for a few years, but the new undercounter IM200 is perfect for bar areas,” Ray said. “Our hard, clear, dense ice cubes not only look good, they melt very slowly so they don’t dilute expensive drinks,” she said.


Fresh-Aire UV’s Ice UV Mini™ is an ultraviolet light system designed to eliminate biological contaminants in compact countertop ice flakers and water dispensers used in the health care industry.

According to Fresh-Aire UV, the dark and moist interiors of nursing station countertop ice flakers provide an optimal environment for unsanitary slime, mold, bacteria, and virus growth that may result in contaminated patient ice and failed health code inspections. The Ice UV Mini’s ultraviolet germicidal irradiation is designed to work silently 24/7 to eliminate slime and other biological contaminants from condensate drains and other countertop ice and water dispenser interiors. Fresh-Aire UV says its 254-nanometer UV-C lamp has a low-intensity discharge that won’t damage sensitive ice flaker plastic or metal internal parts. It is designed to fit in the tight interiors of most flaker brands and models.

In addition to sanitation, the Ice UV Mini, according to Fresh-Aire UV, will reduce ice machine cleaning and maintenance time and costs.

Danfoss recently introduced the universal TU ice machine service kit. The kit is designed to enable contractors and technicians to perform almost any thermostatic expansion valve (TXV) repair in an ice machine. The kit includes:

• An exchangeable orifice TU valve, type TUA, which Danfoss says can easily replace any OEM-specific TXV;

• A selection of orifice sizes covering ice machines ranging 75-2,300 pounds of ice;

• Elbow connections;

• A bulb strap; and

• Insulation tape.

Danfoss reps said that, while OEM-specific replacement parts will always best match OEM design performance, this new universal service kit may help deliver ice to end users hours earlier than otherwise possible and allows contractors to use the time saved on another job.


15 Cheap Ways to Stay Cool This Summer

When the weather is hot and humid, turning on the air conditioner at full blast or sticking your head in the freezer sure feels nice – but neither is energy efficient or particularly frugal. The 15 ideas below, however, will help keep your temperature down without sending your electric bill upStaying-cool-this-summer

1. Go to the library. 

The library is filled with free books, magazines, movies, Wi-Fi and, most likely, air conditioning. Instead of reading or surfing the Internet at home on a hot day, do it at the library instead. And if you have kids, be sure to look into what programs might be available for little ones in the summer, such as story time or book clubs.

2. See a matinee. 

Another place that pumps in air conditioning is movie theaters. If you’re planning to see a new movie anyway, make it a matinee. The ticket price will be cheaper, and you’ll be able to get out of the heat while the sun is shining.

 3. Take a shower  and don’t towel off. 

A cool shower is already a great way to help beat the heat. But when you’re done, dry yourself in front of a fan instead of using a towel – the evaporation will help cool you down. You can also use a spray bottle to spritz yourself and get the same effect.

4. Keep the curtains drawn during the day. 

If you’re not at home, keep the curtains drawn and the blinds down – this helps stop sunlight from getting in and heating up your house.

5. Wear light colors (and sunscreen).  GTY_drinking_water_sk_150626_16x9_608

Light colors reflect light instead of absorbing it, like dark colors do. So why the sunscreen? While wearing light colors will keep you cooler, they’re not as effective at blocking the sun’s harmful rays from your skin. Consider applying a daily lotion that contains SPF 30 so you remain protected.

 6. Freeze your pillowcase. 

If it’s still hot out when you’re going to bed, stick your pillowcase in the freezer for a bit before you hit the hay. That way, you’ll be able to fall asleep on a nice, cool pillow.

7. Use your fans right.  Air-conditioning-wind

Unlike air conditioners, fans are usually most effective at cooling people directly, not cooling entire rooms. Or if you have more than one fan, and it’s cooler outside than inside, you can position two fans in your windows so that one pushes hot air out, and the other brings cool air in.

8. Eat strategically. 

We all know that eating and drinking cold things can help cool us down. But you might be surprised to learn that eating very spicy foods can also help you chill out because they help induce sweating.

9. Open your windows at night. 

Opening your windows during the day can just make your house hotter. Instead, wait until the evening to open your windows to let the cool air in.

10. Don’t use the oven to cook. 

Using the oven can drastically increase the heat in your kitchen. Instead, plan for meals that only use the stove top, microwave or grill.

11. Keep bottles of water in your freezer. 

A few bottles of frozen water can do a lot! Put one behind your neck when you’re watching TV or in your bed with you when you sleep at night. If you’re going out and about, bring it to drink – the water will melt slowly, leaving you with something extra cold to sip on.

12. Replace your light bulbs. 

Incandescent light bulbs use more energy and emit more heat than compact fluorescent light bulbs, so if you haven’t already, replace your old bulbs.

13. Wear the right fabrics. Lemon-mint-water-6-660x440

Loose cotton and linen will help keep you cool; synthetics will usually make you sweat. So dress accordingly.

 14. Drink lots of water.

Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to keep cool. If you’re bored by regular water, try infusing it with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. Some refreshing combinations include cucumber with lemon and orange with mint. Infusing is easy – just slice up the elements you want to use for flavor, put them in a pitcher with some water and keep it in the fridge.

15. If you do use AC, don’t go too cool.

Setting your air conditioner at 78 degrees instead of 72 degrees could decrease your cooling bill between 6 and 18 percent, according to energy.gov. If 78 degrees sounds warm to you, don’t worry – when it’s 90 degrees or hotter outside, 78 will feel plenty cool.

Source: US MoneyNews