10 May 2012

News You Can Use

I've been learning a lot about renewable energy lately. Folks I've met have pointed me to various articles, and I've found others through Twitter. (Yes, Green House, Good Life is on Twitter -- check it out and follow GHGL here.) So today I thought I'd share some interesting links on topics related to energy-efficiency.

"The grid." The electrical grid is a complex beast, but this article from our local paper, the Austin American-Statesman, is a great overview of how it works and some of the issues facing Texas electricity officials as summer approaches.

Grid-level batteries. Because it's not enough just to ensure that we don't run out of electricity -- too much power will shut the system down just as quickly as too little -- we really need a good way to deal with the excess (especially as the use of solar and wind power grows). Wouldn't it be easier to manage the grid if there were huge batteries where the excess could be stored so regulators don't have to match up supply and demand so precisely? Fortunately, the technology to store electricity within the grid is within reach.

Storing wind energy underground. Last month, our local paper covered a company that plans to use wind turbines (similar to those we saw when we drove to New Mexico earlier this year) to store wind in underground caverns during periods of low energy demand so that that wind can be used to generate power later, during periods of high demand. Genius! Read the full article here.

The end of solar water heating. In short, solar water heaters aren't cost-effective. That was our conclusion back in 2009 when we were deciding on a water heater -- it made more sense to take the $3k or so extra that we would have spent on a solar water heater and put it toward solar panels to power the whole house, not just one appliance.

What electric vehicles (EVs) can teach us about driving habits. Results of a study commissioned by the Department of Energy regarding driver behavior based on data from 4,200 EVs and 6,400 charging stations.

Determining and communicating home efficiency information. Municipalities are beginning to require disclosure of efficiency information (to prospective buyers, etc.), but what's the best method for determining efficiency? From simple disclosure of electric bills (which are heavily dependent on user behavior) to complex formulas, there is currently a lack of consensus on a single method for determining and reporting home efficiency information. Learn about possible disclosure options here and why the Home Efficiency Rating System (HERS) might be emerging as a national standard here.

Solar glass. Transparent solar panels embedded in window glass stand to revolutionize how cities are powered. Imagine covering a skyscraper -- which has a lot more window area than roof area -- with solar glass.

National green building standards. The National Association of Home Builders is working on a national green building standard that will likely become a model for states and municipalities wishing to implement green building programs. The second draft is currently out for public comments.

That was fun. I hope you learned something new here. I know I did.

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