Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Triac is not Tesla, but it's not meant to be


Tesla may have the celebrity cachet and media spotlight, but the humble, three-wheeled Triac is clearly the more practical choice for a "Green Core" consumer looking for a $25,000, all-electric vehicle with an honest 100-mile range. In a siliconvalley.com article, Mike Ryan, president of the firm based in Salinas, CA that produces the Triac, says that the car is aimed at people who have a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

Key among the features is a sophisticated system for predicting remaining range before a recharge is needed.

The Triac will include a Vehicle Efficiency Data Assistant -- VEDA -- interface to the battery management system as well as diagnostic and navigational data. VEDA is an electronic learning system that captures a person's driving habits and commute patterns to accurately predict miles left before recharging.

"Range anxiety is something that gives people a lot of concern," Ryan said. "Say I forgot to charge my car. I'm at lunch. I want to run an errand before I go home. Will I make it home?"

Options in the electric car market are getting more expansive. The Triac is an interesting home-grown option that favors practicality over panache—and for many buyers that's a plus.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sahara Solar Breeder Project to turn sand to solar cells to electricity


An ambitious project sponsored by universities in Janpan and Algeria seeks to accelerate the production of energy from solar cell technology using silica and sunlight from the Sahara Desert. The objective is to first extract silica from the sand to create solar panels and then combine the panels to make solar power plants in the same geographic area. The plants would be used to power additional silica extraction and solar cell manufacturing, building exponentially on the energy potential with a target of providing 50 percent of the world's energy by 2050.

As detailed in a Gizmag.com article, the project is attempting to accomplish a number of things that haven't been done before.

Subscribing to the "give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" philosophy, another major aim of the project is to train scientists and engineers from developing countries. To that end, the project won’t just bring well-understood technology from developed countries, but will involve people from both developing and developed countries working together on R&D right from the outset.

“Because technology hasn't yet been established for making silicon from desert sand, then using it to make solar cells, our aim is to work together from the basic research stage, so we can discover and nurture talented scientists and engineers in Africa," said Koinuma.

More power to this project and a sincere hope that they meet their objectives.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Climate change deniers take over the House

Originally uploaded by Bjørn Giesenbauer

Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes from a Catastrophe tackled the challenge of global warming as a first-person observer, traveling around the world to witness the changes in places where they are most severe. Now, writing for The New Yorker in Uncomfortable Climate, she takes a hard look at the current crop of deniers entering the US House of Representatives, many of whom consider their primary role as disrupting any hope of political progress on this critically important global problem.

Though four presidents in succession have paid lip service to preventing dangerous climate change, these commitments haven't lead to any significant action given the magnitude of the challenge.

Elizabeth sums up the current situation neatly:

Meanwhile, as John Boehner chortles about the dangers of CO2, the world keeps heating up. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first half of 2010 was the warmest January to July on record. And this is just the beginning. Owing to the inertia of the climate system, the warming that we’re experiencing is only a fraction of the temperature increase that’s already guaranteed.

The United States is no longer the world’s largest carbon emitter; that honor belongs to China. But we’re still the largest source of warming in terms of cumulative emissions, and on a per-capita basis Americans produce more CO2 than just about anyone except the Qataris. Without the active support of the United States, there’s no way to make progress on emissions globally. This month, negotiators will meet in Cancún for another round of international climate talks, and it’s a safe bet that, apart from the usual expressions of despair, nothing will come of them. It may seem that we’ll just keep going around and around on climate change forever. Unfortunately, that’s not the case: one day, perhaps not very long from now, the situation will spin out of our control.

The window left for action is closing quickly. If the new members of the House have their way, it will be slammed shut permanently, in blithe ignorance of the consequences.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Nicaragua adopts aggressive renewable energy targets

La Vieja Managua (Nicaragua)
Originally uploaded by denetsnuff

Nicaragua is setting aggressive targets to replace fossil fuel use with renewable fuels, as discussed in this Renewable Energy Magazine article. Under a plan announced by Emilio Rappaccioli, the Nicaraguan Minister of Energy and Mines, on October 29th, the goal is to increase the use of renewables to 94 percent by 2017 and to be at the 100 percent renewable mark by 2025. Currently, 66 percent of Nicaragua's thermal energy is petroleum based.

If we could get the US to make a similar commitment, we'd be able to make some serious progress toward reversing climate disruption.