Latest Developments in Energy Storage

Energy storage

   A recent article on Harvard Business Review, suggested that in order to increase our productivity we should shift our focus from managing our time to managing our energy, emphasizing the importance of conserving energy for when you most need it.

  Although we have gotten better and better over the years at coming up with more efficient ways to produce energy, we haven’t gotten any better at storing that energy. Yes we might have more efficient engines, solar panels and wind turbines, but during peak hours most of the energy is wasted due to a lack of efficient energy storage solutions.

  The same is true on a personal level, we have access to power bars, energy drinks, coffee at every corner and more sugar than our bodies can handle, but all this easily available energy has hindered our bodies abilities to recover the energy it stores as fat. In this post I will not go into details about how to recover energy from your body by burning fat (there are other people better qualified to give you advice on that) Instead I will present the basics of electrical, mechanical and thermal energy storage and the most revolutionary devices available on the market today.

  Energy can be stored in many forms: thermal energy, compressed air, using a flywheel, in pumped hydro-power plants, in solid batteries or in flow batteries. In this article I will go into details about the pro’s and con’s of each option. And if you stay with me until the end of the article you will discover also the latest technological developments in energy storage solutions, including some surprising tech like liquid metal batteries or batteries made from food waste.

Continue reading “Latest Developments in Energy Storage”

How competition is slowly killing us

goats-692660_640

Healthy competition is at the heart of economic development. Ever since the idea was put forward by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations, it led to innovations, great technological improvements and lower prices for the consumers.

On the other side, too much competition can have damaging effects on the economy and on individuals, in the long term. In a highly competitive market, companies and people are pushed to constantly lower their prices while delivering more and more value. This is good for the consumer but for the companies it quickly becomes unsustainable because it leads to lower margins, and budget cuts especially in research and employees salaries.

Take for example the car industry, a highly competitive market, where some of the top companies resorted to unethical practices, or lower quality materials in an effort to keep up with the increasing expectations of the markets and governments, in terms of profit, innovation and prices. Or the construction industry which saw a massive drop in 2008, due to high competition and the ridiculously low prices that had to be accepted by the companies wanting to remain in business at all cost. And, probably, for one of the best examples on how extreme competition is bad for business, we can have a look at one of the most competitive markets in the world: the bar’s and restaurants sector. More than 80% of the business in this sector fail in the first 3 years, competition is fierce and a lot of the newcomers drive the price down while serving bigger portions. That means somewhere expenses have to be cut: either on personnel, food quality or health & safety regulations. I’m not saying all restaurants are like this, in fact some owners manage to maintain a good quality of service and a high morale among employees, even when pushed by competition, and they are usually the 20% that remain in business. However, most of the times, extreme competition in the long term can lead to profit loss, reducing cost on R&D and personnel, less innovation, lower quality and at the end businesses closing down and people losing their jobs.

On a personal side, we are always competing with our rivals, our peers, our neighbors or the status quo, and usually this competition makes us achieve more, be more and have more. But when we take competition too serious, it leads also to unethical behavior like lying, cheating, bullying, bribing and all the other nasty things people due in the effort to get in front of others. Another effect of the pressure competition puts on us is overworking, which leads to stress and exhaustion and in a more severe case even to death.

So why do we value competition at all costs? Why, in a time when we talk about moving towards a society of abundance, are we still competing heavily with everyone else, until the point of collapse? I am not suggesting that we should not have any competition, I am simply implying that we would be maybe better off if we follow Aristotle’s advice and strive to achieve the Golden mean, especially in the most important competition of all: our life. If you go to bed 1% better every day, in the long term you will become a great person; If you are always in a rush and want 200% improvements every day, like many of the investors wish for, it might work for a short while but there is a high chance that you will collapse with exhaustion, and lose everything you gained, just like the stock market crashes every 5 to 10 years.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject: What are the areas in your life where you are or have been maybe over competitive, and what was the impact of this competition on your health, happiness, family and friends? Where was your tipping point, between healthy and unhealthy competition? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Recommended reading:

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations

Peter Thiel – Zero to One

 

Global warning about climate change!

Global warning?

Dr Adam Scaife, head of long range forecasting at the Met Office, said: “The 3 leading global temperature datasets show that 2010 is clearly warmer than 2009. They also show that 2010 is the warmest or second warmest year on record as suggested in the Met Office’s annual forecast of global temperature issued in December 2009.” (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2011/2010-global-temperature)

If you are a green enthusiast and agree with the data from Met office, you are probably already taken steps to reduce your carbon footprint and preserve the planet for your children and grandchildren, convinced that we are part of the cause for the extreme climatic conditions we have seen in the last decade. Considering that more than 26% of total energy in the EU is consumed by private households it is easy to see that each of us must take action and become more careful on how we consume energy and how much CO2 we put in the atmosphere, in order to not melt in the future.

On the other hand you could be skeptical about global warming and find that scientific data is not conclusive. According to Nate Silver author of “The Signal and the Noise” : “statistical forecasting methods suggest that if you measure temperature trend one decade at a time in any given decade there is a warming trend 75% of the time since 1900 but a cooling trend the other 25% of the time”. On the other hand a steady increase in global temperature of about 1dg C has occurred over the last century. Also we can’t ignore the increase in extreme heat waves that we see and feel everywhere in the last years.

hot

https://www.coursera.org/learn/sustainabledevelopment1

Although a large number of scientists believe that carbon dioxide is not the only major cause of global warming, in 2010, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties 16 (COP 16) approved a non-legally binding commitment to cap global average temperature rises to 2°C. A 2°C rise is considered consistent with capping atmospheric CO2 equivalent (CO2-e) concentration levels to 450 parts per million (ppm) by 2050 (IPCC 2007). On current projections, by 2050 CO2 emissions must reduce significantly below not only ‘business as usual’ levels, but also current levels in order to reach the cap of 450ppm. This particularly applies to emissions of CO2 resulting from the use of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas.http://www.globalccsinstitute.com/

Scientist have agreed that climate change is due to man made action and that we have already crossed many of the sustainability boundaries that keep our planet in balance. Some of these boundaries are shown in the infographic bellow by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs from a longer course, “The Age of Sustainable Development.” An introduction to this course can be found on Courserra. https://www.coursera.org/learn/sustainabledevelopment1

Beyond the boundry

The decision about what to believe is only yours, but the evidence point in only one direction, and we have to start taking responsability for our actions and start working togheter on the solution.

Regardless of what you choose to believe it will not hurt you or anyone else if you reduce your carbon foot print.

If you need some easy to implement ideas on how to do that you can find a small list below.

Use your car less.

Our ancestors used to go everywhere by foot, now we do not even walk for 30 min. each day. Not only driving less will help the environment it will also help your health, posture, looks, self-esteem and wallet.

Don’t waste energy on unnecessary lights or idle appliances. 

You can install sensors that automatically close the light when you are not in a room or have a fancy smart-home system installed, if you are forgetful about this kind of things. Or just use a post-it note above your light switch. In the long term you would be helping the environment and saving also money on electricity bills.

Eat more local and BIO food.

This will reduce the pollution related to growing the plants, especially the release of nitrogen used as fertilizer in land and water, the use of pesticides, and the pollution related to transporting food on long distances.

Not only you will cut pollution but you will also improve your health since most of nutritionist agree that having a diversified diet, based on seasonal foods, can bring major improvements to your overall well-being. Except from making you beautiful eating only how much you need will also save you money and reduce the waste you produce, I think it is safe to say that this can also make you happier.

Michael Pollan tracked how much oil we use to produce a Hamburger. If this doesn’t change your mind about how much our eating habits affect us I do not know what will.

How food affects our environment

Use less water.

70% of our water is used for irrigations. If you have a lawn that requires allot of water for maintenance in the summer you should consider replacing it with small bushes that are fit for arid conditions. This will save water, be just as pretty and will also save you money. If you have a garden where you grow vegetables you could implement a drip irrigation system that uses significantly less water.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drip_irrigation

If you do not have a garden you can reduce water and energy use by taking cold or colder showers. In my personal experience this has proved great for burning fat, increasing testosterone and adapting better to extreme temperature changes. Although we are not always fully aware of it our body has to deal with these changes every day- for example going from 20 degrees in a car or office to 40 degrees outside in the summer.

Another easy way to save some time, energy and water is by using a dish washer.

Plant more trees.

They do not produce WIFI but they produce Oxygen, fruits and a cool place for a swing if you have kids. Also when they are close to buildings they can reduce the energy loads by providing shadow in the summer, and protection against wind in the winter, meaning you will need less energy to heat your home.

As you can see sustainability is not hard, or expensive as many would want us to believe. It just needs a little will power applied in the right direction every day. And since will power is hard to find this days with so many choices around us take consume it, small reminders like post-its above the light switch, an inspirational quote or a picture with your baby, to remind you why this is important, or sharing this article can be good all good motivators for taking action now.

These are just few ideas so I would love to get allot more thoughts on how we can achieve sustainability from you. Share with us your ideas and also tell us what keeps you motivated to be sustainable?

FMB
reconstructromania@gmail.com

Why should we believe in renewable energy?

 Image

  A very intense debate about the future of renewable energy in Romania has started at the beginning of this year, with numerous voices claiming that it only brings cost not value to our country.

  Before we decide if renewable energy is good or bad let’s first see WHY the EU ( European Union) and IEA (International Energy Association) care so much about this type of energy?

  So WHY are these organizations promoting renewable energy an WHY should we believe in it ?

  1. Does it bring value to the economy?

   According to the debaters from our country it seems that renewable energy is only increasing the cost of energy, so economic growth is not the reason, but IEA seems to disagree, so let’s have a look at some facts about energy subsidies.

   IEA (International Energy Agency) in the WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK 2011 FACTSHEET :

  Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $409 billion in 2010 while global renewable-energy subsidies increased from $39 billion in 2007 to $66 billion in 2010, in line with rising production of biofuels and electricity from renewable sources. In a global survey covering 37 countries where subsidies exist, at least 15 have taken steps to phase them out since the start of 2010. Without further reform, the cost of fossil-fuel consumption subsidies is set to reach $660 billion in 2020, or 0.7% of global GDP while phasing them out completely by 2020 would result in savings in oil demand in 2035 of 4.4mb/d. Global primary energy demand would be cut by nearly 5% and CO2 emissions by 5.8%. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions. “

   I agree that the subsidies for renewable energy are now bared by the population and that leads to an increase in the energy bill but no one speaks about the subsidies for fossil-fuel generation?  As we can see from the IEA report these are far more expensive world wide then the subsidies for the renewable energy and in the long term they will only increase so we might be saving 1 Euro now but it will cost us 4 Euros in the future. 

After looking at the facts it seems that one reason for investing in cleaner technology might be that it brings economic value.

  2. Does it create more jobs?

  According to the debaters the answer is again No. Renewable energy leads to job losses in coal industry, steel industry and does nothing in return but IRENA seems to think differently so lets again look at some facts :

  According to IRENA ( International Renewable Energy Agency)”Renewable Energy Jobs: Status, Prospects & Policies” when we look at the job market for renewable energy there are 3 types of jobs:

“Direct jobs are relatively easy to measure and understand. These are jobs related to a sector’s core activities, such as feedstock conversion, manufacturing, project development (including site preparation and installation) and operations and maintenance.

 Indirect jobs include all those involved in supplying the renewable energy industry. these are jobs in the industrial input sectors in the production and the operation and maintenance of renewable energy technologies. Examples might include the labour required to extract and process raw materials, such as steel for wind turbine towers as well as positions in government ministries, regulatory bodies, consultancy firms and research organisations working on renewables. 

Induced jobs are created when wealth generated by the renewable energy industry, directly or indirectly, is spent elsewhere in the economy, thus stimulating demand in industries that may be entirely unrelated. Renewable energy technicians, for example, may spend part of their wages on a holiday, thus inducing jobs in the tourism industry.”

  It seems that actually renewable energy creates a variety of jobs across all sectors of the economy. Also according to the same study it creates better jobs also.

“Many essential jobs in the renewable energy industry require a skilled workforce. Industry surveys in Germany have suggested that on average renewable energy jobs are relatively high-skilled, across both fuel-free and fuel-based technologies: 82% of employees in the industry have vocational qualifications and almost 40% of these have a university degree, compared to an average for the whole industrial sector of 70% and 10%, respectively (Lehr et al., 2011).”

After seeing these facts maybe the better question to ask is:  Do we really want to keep doing jobs that have a low income, high accident rate and provide bad health after a few years of activity, for example coal mining, or we want to have jobs that are safer, provide more income and require more qualification?

3. Does it make us independent?

 To answer the question lets look again at some facts:

   In 2007, the EU was importing 82% of its oil and 57% of its gas, which then made it the world’s leading importer of these fuels. 

   The EU Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 legally includes solidarity in matters of energy supply and changes to the energy policy within the EU. The European Commission has proposed in its Renewable Energy Roadmap a binding target of increasing the level of renewable energy in the EU’s overall mix from less than 7% today to 20% by 2020 and a minimum target of 10% for the use of biofuels by 2020.

  Romania produces now in average more then 45 % of its power from fossil fuels. If we achieve the target of 20 % renewable energy by 2020 that means we will only have space for 25 % fossil fuels left in the energy mix making us almost independent of imports from other countries. 

    So maybe we can become independent by using renewable energy.

4. Does it make the grid better?

At the present moment no. The wind and the sun cannot be controlled and that provides challenges to the grid. This has been the problem at the heart of many sustainable-energy systems: How to store power so it can be delivered to the grid all the time, day and night, even when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s not shining? 

One example is the use of large water reservoirs that can be filled by pumping water when there is excess energy from the renewable sources, water that can be used to produce energy when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining.

Another example is the use of high capacity batteries developed at MIT, where Donald Sadoway has been working on a grid-size battery system that stores energy using a three-layer liquid-metal core. 

So it is only a meter of time until the renewable energy will become also grid friendly.

5. Are we doing it to create a better, cleaner, safer world?

The EU Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 also includes some other proposal like :

A cut of up to 95% in carbon emissions from primary energy sources by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

A cut of at least 20% in greenhouse gas emissions from all primary energy sources by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels), while pushing for an international agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol aimed at achieving a 30% cut by all developed nations by 2020 this means limiting temperature increase to 2⁰ Celsius which would require the long-term atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to be limited to 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent.

 IEA (International Energy Agency) states in the WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK 2011 FACTSHEET: 

 ” If internationally co-ordinated action is not taken by 2017, we project that all permissible emissions in the 450 Scenario would come from the infrastructure then existing, so that all new infrastructure from then until 2035 would need to be zero-carbon, unless emitting infrastructure is retired before the end of its economic lifetime to make headroom for new investment. This would theoretically be possible at very high cost, but is probably not practicable politically”

So it seems that in order to not increase the global temperature with more then 2 degrees Celsius all the investments in energy from 2017 need to be 100% green.

Maybe 2 degrees Celsius does not seem like allot but think about the damages that would bring to wildlife, crops, climate and even landscape. Desertification is happening as we speak, Alan Savoy addressed the problem and provided a proven solution to reverse this, but it must be collaborated with the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Renewable energy is at a starting point, it has problems and is expensive but when we ask WHY do we believe in renewable energy and the facts lead us to answers like:

 “Because it brings economic value, because it provides better jobs, because it makes us independent and because it makes the world a better place where we can actually live and not melt” maybe these are things worth paying extra for…

  Spread the word and ask WHY?

 Sincerely yours,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Small actions that can lead to HUGE energy savings

Image

In the E.U. around 26% of the total energy is consumed by private households. So if you apply some small changes to your home you can really make an impact in the overall energy consumption.

You can start making your house more eco-friendly by following this simple tips:

Change your light bulbs with new high efficient ones. This can lead to a saving of up to 30% in your electricity bill.

Turn down your thermostat with 1 degree. You won’t be able to tell the difference and you will see a saving at the end of the month. The recommended habitat temperature is 20-21 degrees Celsius.

Buy A+ rating appliances in order to save electricity and instead of leaving them on stand-by try turning them off when you leave the house. This will not only save you money but provide more quality to your lifestyle.

Improve the building shell (air sealing) and insulation of your building. Proper insulation plays a very important role in energy-saving and CO2 emissions.. A well-insulated home is also easier to sell because lower utility costs are an attractive selling point for buyers. Where does the heat go? 35% is lost true walls, 25% through windows, 25% through the roof and15% through the floor.

Go for solar heating instead of wood, gas, or coal boilers. This will protect the environment and after the initial investment the cost for heating will be close to zero.

If you have any other ideas to improve the energy efficiency your comments are always welcomed.

With best regards,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Wind Power for your home

Image

Wind energy has been used since ages to power wind mills or for pumping water from the flooded fields of Netherlands. Today wind energy delivers more than half of the energy produced by renewables worldwide and it is still one of the cheapest ways to produce energy “out of thin air”.

A modern large scale turbine (rated power around 3MW) can go up to 150m height and can have blades that are over 75m in length. These turbines could produce enough energy for an entire village and they cost millions of Euros.

But if you live in an area where the wind is always messing up your hair, maybe it would be good to install a small wind turbine. They are used mainly for small installations and can have a rated power between 300 W and 50 kV.  The majority of small turbines are horizontal axis turbines but vertical axis turbines are a growing type in the market. The rotor diameter of a small machine can range from 2 m to 8 m. In terms of cost, a new turbine will range between 5000 and 20000 Euros, while a second hand one can go below 2000 Euros. When purchasing a second hand turbine make sure you ask for at least 1 year warranty and check all the mechanical and electrical systems before you make the purchase. Look for damage on the blades, tower and wires especially and take care about the claims made in the manufacturer’s brochures as the annual production is usually overstated.

Turbines are usually mounted on towers in order to raise them above any obstacles. It is recommended that the turbine is raised with at least 9 m above the highest obstacle on a 200 m radius. So if you have a 10 m high house you should consider mounting your wind generator at 20 m above the ground. The effect of nearby obstacles needs to be taken into consideration not only for performance reasons but also for safety reasons because turbulence and vibration caused by the nearest obstacles can cause system failure.

Installation on rooftops can be taken into consideration but a strength analysis of the roof structure and the building structure needs to be made in order to ensure safe operation. Rooftop systems in cities rarely produce enough electricity.

In order to produce electricity even in high winds a dynamic braking system that regulates the speed by dumping excess energy is used. The dynamic braking resistor may be installed inside the building to provide heat (during high winds when more heat is lost by the building).

When choosing a location for a small wind turbine, additional to the wind data which tells you how much energy this turbine will produce on your site,  you also need to align with the safety distances from roads and other building specified in the country or local regulations.

And keep in mind that wind turbines can be noisy so do not place them near your home or your neighbours home.

A small wind turbine can make you some extra money if you connect it to the grid or it could cover your home energy needs when connected to batteries.

Please let me know your thoughts about the topic. Your comments are always welcomed.

 

With best regards,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Investing in renewable energy?

Image

A few words about Romanian renewable energy market:

Romania in accordance with European Union laws has committed true the “Energy strategy 2007-2020” to increase the share of renewable  energy in the total energy consumption to 35% in 2015 and  38% in 2020.

In order to achieve this goals Romania adopted the green certificate support scheme presented in Law nr. 220/2008 modified by Law 139/2010 and OUG 88/2011.

According to the laws mentioned above for producer with installed capacity of under 1 MW a feed in tariff for electricity produced from renewable sources will be announced by ANRE.

Private owners with installed capacities of under 50 KW and public authorities can request their utilities provider to receive a compensation for the difference between electricity delivered to the grid and electricity consumed from the grid.

The number of green certificates received by producers who own power plants with an installed capacity larger than 1 MW are:

  • For electricity produced by hydro power plants with an installed capacity of under 10 MW: 3 green certificates for  1 MWh produced and delivered in the system from a new power plant.
  • For electricity produced by wind turbines: 2 green certificate for 1 MWh produced until 2017 and 1 green certificate for 1 MWh produced from 2018.
  • For electricity  produced from biomass: 3 green certificates for 1 MWh produced.
  • For electricity produced by solar power plants: 6 green certificate for 1 MWh produced.

    Additional to the green certificates you can sell the electricity produced and delivered to the grid at the Day Ahead Market price.

The green certificates and the electricity can be sold on the Day Ahead Electricity Market.  The national operator of the electricity market in Romania is OPCOM by government decision  627 of 2000.

In 2010 the electricity market controlled by OPCOM had a significant growth compared with 2009 both in volume (with 37% from 6.346.570 MWh to 8.696.190 MWh) as in transaction value( with 38%  from 232.869.539 Euro to 322.478.397 Euro) .

In 2011 the electricity market recorded  again a growth in volume (with 2% from 8.696.190 MWh to 8.869.600 MWh) and in transaction value (with 43% from 322.478.397 Euro to 461.873.344 Euro).

According to data from OPCOM here are the prices for green certificates and electricity sold on the Day Ahead Market for 2011:

*The average price for one green certificate in 2011 was 55,96 Euro

*The average price for electricity in 2011 was 52,13 Euro/MWh.

* The average price for one green certificate in 2012, from January to September,was 56,29 Euro/MWh.

* The average price for electricity in 2012, from January to September, was 51,74 Euro/MWh.

According to Order nr. 8/2011 from the National Agency for Energy Regulation (ANRE) the price for a green certificate cannot be lower than 27 Euro and cannot be higher than 57 Euro. This values are increased every year with the average inflation rate of the European Union.

The number of green certificates received by the green energy producer is guaranteed for investments finalized until 2016 by Law 220/2008 for a period of 15 years after receiving the producer license.

If the IRR, for renewable energy power plants using the same technology, exceeds with more than 10%  the IRR considered by ANRE for that technology type then ANRE can reduce the number of green certificates for that technology in order to maintain the IRR level as initially considered.

For renewable energy investments in Romania the time to start is NOW.

Your ideas and comments related to this topic are always welcomed.

With best regards,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

Solar Power for your Home

Image

Solar photovoltaic panels generate electricity by using light energy (photons) from the sun.

A solar system includes solar panels, inverters and in remote locations batteries.

One of the best way to use solar panels is by connecting them to the grid. In this case you supply electricity to the grid during the day and consume electricity from the grid during the night.

The optimum orientation for fixed solar panels is facing south and the optimum slope for Romania is between 35-38 degrees. Another option is to use solar trackers that rotate depending on the sun direction in order to generate up to 30 % more electricity.

A good way to estimate the electricity production of a solar system in the building area is by using the PVGIS tool. This site provides an estimation of the electricity production from a solar system by taking into consideration the following factors : the type of panels, the radiation in the area and the angle of the photovoltaic panels.  Based on your average annual energy consummation you can estimate with only a few clicks the installed capacity needed in order to be independent from the grid.

Please let me know your thoughts related to this topic.

Best regards,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com