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Renewable Energy

Positive News
Largest Solar-Electricity Installation
100% New Renewable Energy Co.'s
Average Electricity Consumption: Japan vs. America
Hydrogen Power
Home Energy Usage
Hazardous Waste as Fuel
Electricy Label Generator
Renewables Rate Option
Energy Breakthroughs
Environmental Alternatives
Energy from Water
End of Light Bulbs
LED Energy Comparison
More on LED Lights
CFL Disposal
Eying alternative energy
Energy Questions

Involute Wind Turbine

Negative News
Decline of Energy Conservation in the NW
World's Water Storage Shrinks
Belize Dam

Find out about your electricity using our handy tool.
                              Our Electricity Label Generator is designed to show how YOUR electricity is produced
                              -- and how much pollution is created in the process. Where your electricity comes from depends on where you live. To see the facts about YOUR electricity, try out our interactive tool.

Home Energy Usage

Knowing where your energy goes is the first step in reducing waste, and the average American home wastes a lot of energy!

  • The "average American home" consumes about 30 kilowatt hours per day.
  • PHANTOM LOADS!  A wireless phone or inkjet printer (even when its turned off) can be a bigger energy hog than a hair dryer.
  • Cut your energy cost by up to 99% by using super efficient LED lights.  The U. S. Department of Energy reports that each year in the United States, holiday lights consume 2.2 terawatt-hours, that’s 2.2 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), of electricity. At 10 cents per kWh, that’s US$220 million annually to power our displays.
  • Take a walk throughout your house/apartment.  Try to identify what you think are the biggest electrical energy users.  Choose ONE ROOM to analyze:  Make a list of everything that runs on electricity in ONE room, but don't include battery operated items such as clocks or smoke detectors.  DO include any built in appliances, lights or clocks, not just the things that plug into a wall socket.  Now think about ways you can reduce the electrical load (use) in the one room you selected.  Then walk through the next room.

The World Alliance for Decentralized Energy

Hydrogen Power

Energy Questions
by Izaac Post

Read about
Energy Breakthroughs

Alternative Energy

Energy & Food

Everything Energy, from Activation Energy to Zero Point Energy

Hazardous Waste as Fuel

Hazardous Waste as Fuel

In Manila there have been over 10,000 solar lights using soda bottles.  The poor families lives in shanty houses covered with corrugated metal roofs. The 1 liter PET soda bottle contains water, with a little bleach to prevent mold.  The light comes in from a hole in the roof like a solar tube.  The bottles disperse the light 360 degrees. The brightness is equal to a 55 or 60 watt light bulb, but this light comes from the sun.

Here is the link to "A Liter of Light" non profit organization.
More videos in English and tagalog:

An abandoned nuclear power plant site in south-central Washington will soon begin producing electricity--from the sun, not from splitting atoms. The Northwest's largest solar-electric installation, with a projected capacity of 35 kilowatts to 50 KW, is planned for the WNP-1 nuclear plant site in the Tri-Cities area. This solar undertaking is a joint venture of Energy Northwest, Bonneville Power Administration, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Western S.U.N. Cooperative, at least one corporate sponsor and the U.S. Department of Energy. "Everyone talks about solar but no one ever does it," said BPA's Tom Osborn. Solar energy is widely considered too expensive, as was wind power a decade ago, he noted.
"We have to start somewhere." Energy Northwest will own and operate the solar plant, according to an April 20 news release. At least some of the proposed 50-KW capacity--perhaps half--could be installed as early as July. Estimated energy production is 80,000 kilowatt hours annually when the project reaches full size. This represents "an important step forward for solar energy in the Northwest," said Rachel Shimshak of Renewable Northwest Project in the news release. "Taken together with the several hundred megawatts of new wind energy now in the pipeline, it is evidence that renewables are ready."

Three Puget Sound-area companies will voluntarily pay more for their electricity in support of renewable energy. The three enterprises--Xantrex Technology, Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters and Global Energy Concepts--will indirectly buy all their electricity from renewables under milestone agreements announced in early April. These are reportedly the
first Northwest companies to commit to 100-percent new renewable energy via "green tags" procured through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. The green tag purchases by the three western Washington businesses will help finance new renewables for the regional grid, via BEF. BEF president Angus Duncan called this "a truly extraordinary commitment" by the three companies. "They are exemplars for other folks in the region who have the same impulses but haven't acted upon them," he said at an April 4 ceremony at Snohomish PUD headquarters in Everett. Company officials cited business as well as philosophical reasons for paying electricity premiums estimated in the range of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. Xantrex--which, based on that number and its 2000 consumption, will pay approximately $20,000 more
annually for power at its manufacturing plant in Arlington--will use clean energy as a marketing tool. The maker of power inverters for renewable systems will affix a logo declaring its 100-percent green energy status to all products shipped out of the factory.

Residential electric customers of Oregon investor-owned utilities will soon be able to choose a time-of-use rate, one of several green resource rates, or an environmental mitigation rate, in addition to the traditional cost-of-service rate now offered by Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp. The Oregon Public Utility Commission on March 20 approved the
new portfolio of options, which will also be offered to small non-residential customers, beginning Oct. 1. Oregon's electric industry restructuring law requires the two IOUs to offer a market-based option and at least one renewable resource rate by the October deadline. Actual tariffs for the rate options still must be developed and some of the finer points worked out, but members of the Portfolio Advisory Committee, which developed the options, are pleased with the proposal. So are renewable energy advocates. "This portfolio will allow smaller utility customers meaningful choices that will further stimulate the market for renewable energy," said Peter West, assistant director of Renewable Northwest Project, in a news release. The next step is for the OPUC to approve a bidding process for the renewable resource options, according to OPUC
senior utility analyst Rebecca Hathhorn, who served on the advisory group.  This bidding process should occur "extremely expeditiously," she said, as the utilities must file tariffs for the new options by June 1.

Utility-reported energy savings in the Pacific Northwest dropped nearly 40 percent from 1997 to 2000, according to a newly released survey by the Regional Technical Forum. The RTF study further documents the decline of energy conservation across the Northwest since the mid-1990s. It found collective utility-reported savings of 49.91 average megawatts in 1997, 36.56 aMW in 1998, 35.06 aMW in 1999 and 30.61 aMW in 2000. Meanwhile, utility-reported conservation spending plunged from $86.7 million in 1997 to $54.4 million in 2000, a drop of about 37 percent. These downward conservation trends do not uniformly apply to the 105 Northwest utilities hat responded to the survey--some actually increased their energy savings over the four-year period. In addition, the RTF's utility-supplied data are somewhat inconsistent and incomplete across the region. This is a "more cursory" summary than the Green Books assembled by the Northwest Power Planning Council in the early- to mid-1990s, acknowledged RTF member Ken Corum of the Council. It's probably accurate regionwide within a margin of error of 10 to 15 percent, he said. Nevertheless, Corum told Con.WEB, "The general shape of what's been going on in the way of conservation is reasonably well-reflected here. It's much lower than it was in the mid-1990s." But he also expects regional conservation numbers to rise again in the next two to three years. RTF survey tells a tale of declining conservation.

California Gov. Davis Signs $850 Million Conservation/Renewables Bills;
Two Solar-Electric Projects Win BEF Grant Funding;
Portland Business Wins Energy Efficiency Award;
Alliance Releases Lighting, Activities Reports;
BPA Wins Energy Star National Award;
Customer Publications Available from Northwest Regional Group
For more information:


"To imply that we're flattening Appalachia is so untrue. We're creating level land for Appalachia."

-- Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, claiming that the destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining- blowing the tops off mountains to get at the coal beneath- performs the "necessary" function of creating flat land for development.

                       Dam Project Cleared by Belize Government from the Environment News Service
                       The government of Belize has decided to approve construction of a massive
                       hydroelectric dam in a jungle valley, destroying some of the richest rainforest
                       habitat in the country. The Chalillo Dam is expected to flood 1,100 hectares (2,718
                       acres) of pristine forest, engulfing the valleys of the Macal and Raspaculo rivers.


BONN, Germany, December 4, 2001 (ENS) - The reservoirs of the world are losing their capacity to hold water as erosion brings silt down to settle in behind dams, the chief of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned today.

For full text and graphics visit:


An ocean wave energy demonstration is in planning for the Pacific Northwest coast, although it's still unknown whether a project or projects will result.
This venture is spearheaded by the Electricity Innovation Institute, an affiliate of the Electric Power Research Institute, with partners including several Northwest utilities, Bonneville Power Administration and governmental energy agencies.
"It's an energy resource that's just too important to overlook," said E2I's Roger Bedard, noting the recent emergence of international wave energy trials. "The technology is now ready for demonstration in this country to overcome the naysayers."
Potential sites have been identified off the coasts of Oregon, Washington, Maine and Hawaii, and conceptual design along with power and economic assessments are in progress for a demonstration facility in each of three of those states. A decision is expected soon whether to start detailed design, permitting and pursuit of construction financing. The Washington state portion involves environmental review assistance for an already- proposed wave energy pilot venture, a 1-megawatt-capacity plant envisioned off the Olympic Peninsula coast by developer AquaEnergy Group.
Mid-2006 would be the earliest debut for a demonstration plant under the E2I project, Bedard told Con.WEB. E2I initial reports suggest a 0.5-MW- capacity project, although specific size, cost and locations remain undetermined.
Ocean wave power is touted as a clean, abundant renewable resource that can tap the immense energy contained in endless wind-generated waves. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council in the early 1990s suggested a technical potential of up to 2,500 average megawatts from regional ocean wave energy, at an estimated cost of 22 cents per kilowatt-hour generated.
But the Council has not substantially updated that assessment, and wave energy uncertainties continue regarding costs, technology, siting, transmission, environmental impacts, maintenance and durability in harsh marine conditions, among other issues.

Wave Energy Gears Up for Coast Project

The potential of wave energy is big.  We mean, really, really big.  How big?  Consider this: A sliver of ocean, roughly the size of Lake Washington, could power the entire state of Washington.  No wonder a worldwide race is shaping up to harness all this power.  And our state of Washington is in the middle of the action.

(Below is an excerpt from this newsletter.)

So How Does This Wave-Energy Stuff Work?

    These are interesting times for wave energy.  The energy stored in ocean waves is enormous -- easily able to rival wind or coal or nuclear as a major energy source.  The $64,000 question is how to build the best gizmo to capture that energy.  Lots of different technologies and lots of talented engineers are in the hunt.

  • Some systems float a series of tubes across choppy seas.  Each tube is connected by an articulating joint.  As the tubes move up and down in the waves, the joints -- which are really hudraulic pumps -- force oil at high pressure through pipes to spin a turbine.
  • In other systems, crashing waves fill giant chambers on shore, compressing air that then drives a turbine.
  • Yet others use the up-and-down wave motion to jig a permanent magnet past stationary windings on a stator.
  • AquaEnergy has developed what it calls the AquaBuOY system, which uses the up-and-down motion of a wave-riding buoy to alternately compress and expand rubber hoses.  The compression phase forces seawater through a pipe to drive a turbine.
Here's how it works:
(1)  The buoy itself is just a giant bobber, about 18 feet in diameter.  It goes up and down with the waves.
(2)  Attached to the bottom is a very long and very large tube, maybe 100 feet long and about seven feet in diameter.  It's called an acceleration tube.  It's open at both top and bottom, so it moves up and down with thbuoy, although the water inside the tube doesn't move.
That's the easy part.  From here on it gbets tricky, so let's add just one part at a time to the explanation.
(3)  The third part is a piston, which is neutrally buoyant and submerged inside the acceleration tube.  Like an engine piston, the diameter of the wave piston is just slightly smaller than the diameter of the cylinder, which in this case is the acceleration tube.
At this point, if we added nothing else, we'd have the buoy and acceleration tube bobbing up and down while the water and the piston inside the tube remain pretty much in place.
(4) But we're going to add two more elements that are the key to the AquaBuOY: two hose pumps.  The hose pumps are long rubber hoses about a foot in diameter.  One end of the top hose pump is attached to the top of the acceleration tube, just below the buoy.  The other end is attached to the top of the piston.
The second hose pump is attached to the bootom of the acceleration tube and the bottom of the piston.  You could think of the piston as being held in place in the middle of the acceleration tube by two giant rubberband-like hoses, one gently pulling at it from the top and the other pulling at it from the bottom.

So here's what happens:
    A wave crest sweeps under the buoy and forces it up.  The huge, 7-foot-diameter acceleration tube is attached to the buoy, so it also rises.  The top hose pump is attached to the top of the acceleration tube, so it has to rise, too.  However, the other end of the top hose pump is attached to the piston, which has a massive amount ow water sitting on top of it (all the water in the 7-foot-diameter aceleration tube.)  That piston does not want to move, at least not anywhere near as fast as the buoy.
    The top of the hose pump rises with the buoy, but the bottom of the hose stays put with the piston.  That means the tube has to stretch, which it can do because it's rubber.  When the hose pump stretches, its inside space is compressed, forcing the seawater in the hose to squirt out a pipe at the top.  A check valve prevents water from squirting out the bottom of the hose pump.  The force of this expulsion drives a Pelton wheel turbine, producing electricity.
    Now, as the wave passes and the buoy drops into a trough, the acceleration tube also drops, pushing down on the top of the hose pump.  But the piston still remains pretty much unmoved, so the hose pump is compressed, which expands ints internal space and allows more seawater to rush in.  At the same time, the lower hose pump is stretched, and it squirts out water into the same pipe that leads to the turbine.  This way, for each stroke up or down by the buoy/acceleration tube, water will be expelled into the turbine.
    This sounds simple, but the engineering is complex, and this design has never been tested in the ocean.  The rest of the process uses proven technology -- the transmission of the electricity to shore via underwater cable.  The multi-speed tubine produces "wild" alternating current electricity (unsynchronized AC of varying frequency, or cycles per second).  This AC is rectified to direct current (DC) and routed to shore by a high-voltage DC cable.  Once on shore, the DC is run through an inverter and converted to AC electricity of proper hertz and phase and delivered to the power grid.
    The HVDC cable is a better way to transmit electricity underwater because, unlike AC, DC is largely unaffected by the high capacitance of long undersea cables.  Underwater, AC cables produce a strong electromagnetic force field that drains power.  That problem is avoided with HVDC cables.  And DC transmission avoids the extremely low frequency electromagnetic force fields that are controversial for their effects on health.  That may be good news for the clams.

Please submit your wave-energy ideas to


By Bjorn Carey
October 21, 2005

The main light source of the future will almost surely not be a bulb. It might be a table, a wall, or even a fork.  An accidental discovery announced this week has taken LED lighting to a new level, suggesting it could soon offer a cheaper, longer-lasting  alternative to the traditional light bulb. The miniature breakthrough adds to a growing trend that is likely to eventually make Thomas Edison's bright invention obsolete.  LEDs are already used in traffic lights, flashlights, and architectural lighting. They are flexible and operate less expensively than  traditional lighting.

Happy accident
Michael Bowers, a graduate student at Vanderbilt  University, was just trying to make really small quantum dots, which are crystals  generally only a few nanometers big. That's less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair. Quantum dots contain anywhere from 100 to 1,000 electrons. They're easily excited bundles of energy, and the smaller they are, the more excited they get. Each dot in Bower's particular batch was exceptionally small containing only 33 or 34 pairs of atoms. When you shine a light on quantum dots or apply electricity to them, they react by producing their own light, normally a bright, vibrant color.  But when Bowers shined a laser on his batch of dots, something unexpected happened.

"I was surprised when a white glow covered the table," Bowers said. "The quantum dots were supposed to emit blue light, but instead they were giving off a beautiful white glow."

Then Bowers and another student got the idea to stir the dots into polyurethane and coat a blue LED light bulb with the mix. The lumpy bulb wasn't pretty, but it produced white light similar to a regular light bulb. The new device gives off a warm, yellowish-white light that shines twice as bright and lasts 50 times longer than the standard 60 watt light bulb. This work is published online in the Oct. 18 edition of the Journal f the American Chemical Society.

Better than bulbs
Until the last decade, LEDs could only produce green, red, and yellow light, which limited their use. Then came blue LEDs, which have since been altered to emit white light with a light-blue hue. LEDs produce twice as much light as a regular 60 watt bulb and burn for over 50,000 hours. The Department of Energy estimates LED lighting could reduce U.S. energy consumption for lighting by 29 percent by 2025. LEDs don't emit much heat, so they're also more energy efficient. And they're much harder to break.

Other scientists have said they expect LEDs to eventually replace standard incandescent bulbs as well as fluorescent and sodium vapor lights. If the new process can be developed into commercial production, light won't come just from newfangled bulbs. Quantum dot mixtures could be painted on just about anything and electrically excited to produce a rainbow of colors, including white. One big question remains: When a brilliant idea pops into your mind in the future, what will appear over your head?

Iceland invents energy-from-water machine
Iceland has an abundance of geothermal energy
 By Richard Black
 BBC science correspondent in Iceland

The UN climate change negotiations, now getting under way in Delhi, have focused international attention once
more on the problem of global warming.

Experts agree there is a need to switch to renewable forms of energy if production of greenhouse gases is to
be curbed. Now an Icelandic team has invented a radical device which can produce electricity from water.

The Thermator could play a major role in the non-polluting economies of the future.

The Thermator contains a semi-conductor crystal ©Varmaraf

It works by something called the thermo-electric effect, which scientists have known about for many years.

But while thermo-electric generators have mainly been used to power spacecraft, such as Voyager and Galileo
using heat from radioactive materials, the Thermator is firmly rooted on Earth and works on nothing more than
hot water.

Professor Thorstein Sigfusson, of the University of Iceland, says it works by translating the difference between
the temperature of hot and cold water into energy.

He explains: "In between the hot and the cold side are crystals made of semi-conductors.

"As the heat is transferred through these crystals part of it is converted from heat energy into electric energy."

Professor Sigfusson said there was potential for using all sorts of excess heat to fuel Thermators and he
added: "In car engines for example, only a fraction of the heat produced is turned into propelling energy."

Check out the original link (and photos) at:

Energy Use Comparison Chart for 45 days Use
# of Lights   Type of Light   Energy Usage of Bulb   720 Hours (16 hours Per Day for 45 Days)   Average Cost Per kW/h   Average Operating Cost
300  Large Incandescent C9 9.00 watts   1944.40 kW/h  10 cents   $194.44
300 Mini Incandescent 0.45 watts   97.20 kW/h  10 cents   $9.72
300  New LED Lights  0.043 watts  9.29 kW/h 10 cents   $0.93

Read more on LED lights

Average Electricity Consumption: Japan vs. America

The average electricity consumption of a family of four in the USA is about 30 kiloWatt hours per day.
The average electricity consumption of a family of four in Japan is about 9.3 kiloWatt Hours per day.

On one hand, Japanese homes are smaller than most American homes.  On the other hand, many Japanese homes have 'all' the latest electrical appliances, toys, games, devices, etc, down to the heated toilet seats!  Want to see how Japanese communities are focused on reducing waste, conserving energy, and improving efficiency?
(see Japan For Sustainability:

CFL Disposal

    Despite their substantial energy saving benefits, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) present a unique challenge for the environmental and energy efficiency communities. Even though CFLs contain only a very small amount of mercury – about 100 times less than an average home thermometer – many stakeholders, including solid waste departments and mercury-reduction advocates, are working to keep large accumulations of bulbs out of landfills. Utilities can play a leading or supporting role, a choice that needs to be made on the local level.
    The CFL Disposal Kit was developed to help utilities understand this issue by reviewing the role of mercury in fluorescent lamps, the confusion caused by some media coverage shortly after the 2001 energy crisis, and the specific challenges of recycling CFLs. It also offers options and tools for utility participation in promoting proper CFL disposal.  This kit contains information about proper disposal of CFLs and provides program options for utilities wanting to develop CFL disposal programs for their customers. You’ll find tools, messaging and training materials to support these programs, as well as information about other factors that may impact utility-run CFL programs.

Power to kick our oil habit?

Eying alternative energy
New York Daily News
February 4, 2006


President Bush said in his State of the Union speech that he wants to reduce our oil imports from the Middle East by at least 75% by 2025.
Currently, Middle East oil fuels about 10% of America's energy needs, mostly for transportation.

Some of the technologies that Bush mentioned — such as clean coal, solar, wind and nuclear — would be used mainly to produce electricity, so they wouldn't make much of a dent in the country's oil addiction.

So how realistic is the President's goal? Here's a look at the emerging technology:

Cellulosic ethanol
This type of ethanol is made from switch grass, sawdust and other plant waste, and it is chemically identical to conventional ethanol, made mostly from corn. Ethanol mixed with gasoline can be used in cars and trucks on the road today without any modification.

However, the technology and production infrastructure are still in their infancy. Companies would need to build multimillion-dollar plants relatively close to farms to make cellulosic ethanol economically feasible.

"It's going to need a dramatic infusion of dollars to make it happen," said Marchant Wentworth, a clean-energy specialist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Grain ethanol has been around for more than a decade, but it still accounts for only 2% of what goes into gas tanks.

This lighter-than-air gas powers vehicles or generators that have fuel cells, which have virtually zero tailpipe emissions, aside from plain water vapor. But unlike ethanol, using hydrogen would require not only entirely new vehicles, but also an entirely new infrastructure, including plants that make hydrogen (by using electricity to extract hydrogen from water) and "gas" stations that sell it. Fuel cell-powered cars already exist, but they are mostly experimental and are far from mass production.

"It's so far in the future that it's not something you can hang your hat on right now," said Karen Wayland, an energy specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Clean coal
Coal accounts for 23% of U.S. energy needs and 52% of U.S. electricity production, but it creates a lot of pollution. High-tech power plants can turn coal into a gas and take out pollutants such as mercury and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from the exhaust. The President has proposed spending $218 million more next year — an increase of 22% — on research and development for such technology. But experts said it's not enough to make it an everyday reality by 2025.

"Clean coal does exist, but it's no more cost-effective than solar power," said Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at University of California at Berkeley. "A 22% increase in funding is just not a Manhattan Project-type effort that we need."

Nuclear and hydroelectric
Environmental concerns and the immense cost of building these types of power plants mean there is virtually no projected growth in these sources without major policy shifts. Nuclear power accounts for about 8% of U.S. energy needs, and hydroelectric power, about 2%.

Solar and wind
These sources account for barely two-tenths of a percent of U.S. energy needs.

"It could increase vastly, but it depends entirely on policy," Borenstein said. Solar technology in particular is expensive. It costs about 35 cents to produce a kilowatt-hour of solar power, compared with about 5 cents for coal and 9 cents for wind. Solar power isn't for every region, and it wouldn't be feasible in the New York area.

Wind power could be harnessed almost anywhere in the country, including the Appalachian Mountains and on – or off – Long Island.

Solar Breakthrough in Africa

If this breakthrough, which has actually been around for a couple of years now, lives up to its claims, we are indeed on the verge of an absolutely major revolution in the world energy scene!   In a similar arena, I have been corresponding with a company in New Zealand seeking to manufacture a TPV cell (developed by a Boeing engineer!) that can convert thermal energy (from my biomass-fueled furnaces) quietly into electricity at theoretically 100 times the energy density of solar cells.  Lots is happening to unseat king oil from the despot’s throne in the near future.  Read the two articles below.

SA solar research eclipses rest of the world
Willem Steenkamp
February 11 2006

 In a scientific breakthrough that has stunned the world, a team of South African scientists has developed a revolutionary new, highly efficient solar power technology that will enable homes to obtain all their electricity from the sun. This means high electricity bills and frequent power failures could soon be a thing of the past.

The unique South African-developed solar panels will make it possible for houses to become completely self-sufficient for energy supplies. The panels are able to generate enough energy to run stoves, geysers, lights, TVs, fridges, computers - in short all the mod-cons of the modern house.

Nothing else comes close to the effectiveness of the SA invention.  The new technology should be available in South Africa within a year and through a special converter, energy can be fed directly into the wiring of existing houses. New powerful storage units will allow energy storage to meet demands even in winter. The panels are so efficient they can operate through a Cape Town winter.  While direct sunlight is ideal for high-energy generation, other daytime light also generates energy via the panels.

A team of scientists led by University of Johannesburg (formerly Rand Afrikaans University) scientist Professor Vivian Alberts achieved the breakthrough after 10 years of research. The South African technology has now been patented across the world. One of the world leaders in solar energy, German company IFE Solar Systems, has invested more than R500-million in the South African invention and is set to manufacture 500 000 of the panels before the end of the year at a new plant in Germany.

Production will start next month and the factory will run 24 hours a day, producing more than 1 000 panels a day to meet expected demand. Another large German solar company is negotiating with the South African inventors for rights to the technology, while a South African consortium of businesses are keen to build local factories.


More details of the technology are given in this article:

This article has been reproduced from the SA edition of
Popular Mechanics.

Solar cell technology has remained essentially unchanged since the phenomenon was first noted in the 1800s. The standard for today’s devices is still the silicon-based panels that have been steadily refined over the past half-century. Present conversion efficiencies are between 10 and 15 percent. In direct sunshine you can bank on between 100 and 150 watts per square metre of panel.

How to improve on that? Consider this telling comparison: a typical conventional panel uses silicon slabs over 350 microns thick because of the material’s poor absorption properties; the Alberts method produces a five-micron film. That’s a quarter of the thickness of a human hair.

So it’s thinner. That doesn’t necessarily make it better. But it is. “Let me put it this way,” says Alberts. “From the solar energy point of view, what we have developed is the best-absorbing material known to us.” Not only that, but it’s cheaper to produce.

He is talking about a patented semiconductor material, copper indium gallium selenium sulphide or Cu(In,Ga)(Se,S)2 for short. Five elements that, taken separately, are pretty pointless as collectors of sunlight. But then they’re subjected to a bit of high-tech alchemy… or should that be domestic science?

“You know, it’s a recipe… the whole thing is much like baking bread,” he says. “You start off with ingredients that have certain characteristics, and after mixing, preparing and baking you have a product whose characteristics are completely different to what you started with.”

Professor Alberts says the thin film technology he and his team developed can generate up to 150 watts of electrical power at a cost below R10 per watt peak. He adds that it has demonstrated not only high efficiency, but also long-term performance stability. “The pilot plant demonstrated that these thin film solar modules could be produced by highly scalable and proven industrial technologies such as physical vapour phase deposition and diffusion processes.” Commercial-scale thin film modules are being produced with output powers between 10 and 40W in direct sunlight.

Quoted costs of R10/Wp look highly favourable against the cost of “traditional” electricity. And better still against the R35 per watt production cost of conventional modules. The import price locally of a silicon-based 50W solar panel is about R2000 (R40/Wp).



Published on Thursday, November 15, 2012 by

How Germany Is Getting to 100 Percent Renewable Energy

PV Panels in Bernal

There is no debate on climate change in Germany. The temperature for the past 10 months has been three degrees above average and we’re again on course for the warmest year on record. There’s no dispute among Germans as to whether this change is man-made, or that we contribute to it and need to stop accelerating the process.Solar panels cover the rooftops of a German farming village. (InsideClimate News/Osha Gray Davidson)

Since 2000, Germany has converted 25 percent of its power grid to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The architects of the clean energy movement Energiewende, which translates to “energy transformation,” estimate that from 80 percent to 100 percent of Germany’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2050.

Germans are baffled that the United States has not taken the same path. Not only is the U.S. the wealthiest nation in the world, but it’s also credited with jump-starting Germany’s green movement 40 years ago.

“This is a very American idea,” Arne Jungjohann, a director at the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation (HBSF), said at a press conference Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C. “We got this from Jimmy Carter.”

Germany adopted and continued Carter’s push for energy conservation while the U.S. abandoned further efforts. The death of an American Energiewende solidified when President Ronald Reagan ripped down the solar panels atop the White House that Carter had installed.

Since then, Germany has created strong incentives for the public to invest in renewable energy. It pays people to generate electricity from solar panels on their houses. The effort to turn more consumers into producers is accelerated through feed-in tariffs, which are 20-year contracts that ensure a fixed price the government will pay. Germany lowers the price every year, so there’s good reason to sign one as soon as possible, before compensation falls further.

The money the government uses to pay producers comes from a monthly surcharge on utility bills that everyone pays, similar to a rebate. Ratepayers pay an additional cost for the renewable energy fund and then get that money back from the government, at a profit, if they are producing their own energy.

In the end, ratepayers control the program, not the government. This adds consistency, Davidson says. If the government itself paid, it would be easy for a new finance minister to cut the program upon taking office. Funding is not at the whim of politicians as it is in the U.S.

“Everyone has skin in the game,” says writer Osha Gray Davidson. “The movement is decentralized and democratized, and that’s why it works. Anybody in Germany can be a utility.”

The press conference the foundation organized with InsideClimate News comes two weeks after one of the biggest storms in U.S. history and sits in the shadow of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would unlock the world’s second-largest oil reserve in Canada. The event also comes one day after a report that says that the U.S. is on track to become the leading oil and gas producer by 2020, which suggests that the U.S. has the capability to match Germany’s green movement, but is instead using its resources to deepen its dependency on fossil fuels.

Many community organizers have given up on government and are moving to spark a green movement in the U.S. through energy cooperatives.

Anya Schoolman is a D.C. organizer who has started many co-ops in the district although she began with no experience. She says that converting to renewable energy one person at a time would not work in the U.S. because of legal complexities and tax laws that discourage people from investing in clean energy.

Grid managers in the U.S., she explains, often require households to turn off wind turbines at night, a practice called “curtailment.”

“It’s a favor to the utility companies,” she says, which don’t hold as much power in Germany as they do in the United States.

Individuals and cooperatives own 65 percent of Germany’s renewable energy capacity. In the U.S. they own 2 percent. The rest is privately controlled.

The largest difference, panelists said, between Germany and the U.S. is how reactive the government is to its citizens. Democracy in Germany has meant keeping and strengthening regulatory agencies while forming policies that put public ownership ahead of private ownership.

“In the end,” says Davidson, who spent a month in Germany studying the Energiewende, “it isn’t about making money. It’s about quality of life.”

This article was made possible by the Center for Study of Responsive Law.

© 2012 Thomas Hedges

Thomas Hedges works for the Center for Responsive Law in Washington, DC

While Germany Is Headed for 80% Renewable Energy, We're Getting Left in the Dust

Osha Gray Davidson discusses his new book "Clean Break," about the keys to Germany's success with renewables and why the U.S. is getting its butt kicked.
November 21, 2012 |

Photo Credit: © manfredxy/

This article was published in partnership with

When you think of places with great potential for solar energy, what comes to mind? Maybe the American Southwest, perhaps the Middle East. What probably doesn’t come to mind is Germany — and yet Germany is leading a global revolution in renewable energy, with solar playing a key part.

In the U.S., we now get 6 percent of our energy from renewables, which is exactly where Germany was in 2000. And then it passed the Renewable Energy Act and jumpstarted a movement known as Energiewende. Twelve years later, Germany gets over 25 percent of its energy from renewables and it is surpassing all of its benchmarks to be 80 percent renewable-powered by 2050.

In his new book, Clean Break: The Story of Germany’s Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn From It , Osha Gray Davidson explains how Germany made such a significant leap. Here are some shocking numbers he breaks down in the book:

25 percent of Germany’s electricity now comes from solar, wind and biomass. A third of the world’s installed solar capacity is found in Germany, a nation that gets roughly the same amount of sunlight as Alaska. A whopping 65 percent of the country’s total renewable power capacity is now owned by individuals, cooperatives and communities, leaving Germany’s once all-powerful utilities with just a sliver (6.5 percent) of this burgeoning sector.

AlterNet interviewed Davidson about his new book, and got his take on whether or not the U.S. can catch up to the green energy revolution.

Tara Lohan: You went to Germany interested in its clean energy revolution. Despite the research you’d done, were you surprised by what you found there?

Osha Gray Davidson: No matter how much I read about it beforehand, it couldn’t prepare me for what I saw. I write in the book about traveling by train from Hamburg in the north down to Freiburg in the very south. It was something like a five-hour train ride but there wasn’t more than 15 minutes that went by without seeing either wind turbines on the hills or farm fields or solar panels on roofs of houses, barns, anything that had a south-facing roof. Even knowing how much energy they get — now it is 26 percent — from renewables, it doesn’t prepare you for what’s it’s like to live or visit a society that is moving in a big way to renewable energy.

TL: Does hitting their goal of 80 percent renewable power by 2050 seem realistic?

OGD: The reason it does seem realistic to me is they started out in the year 2000 with 6 percent renewable power and they’ve had a series of targets and so far they’ve been surpassing the targets. In the year 2020 their target was 30 percent, they are so far along now that they’ve moved that target to 35 percent. Everyone I’ve talked to there across the political spectrum says that 35 percent renewable energy by 2030 is completely doable.

When you look at how much money they’re putting into this and how it’s designed, and it’s not universal support, but there is overwhelming support for this transformation throughout Germany. Knowing all that, yes, I can see them getting to 80 percent by 2050.

TL: What has been the key to their success so far?

OGD: A couple of things. One, they made a decision to do this and I think when a government and a population make a decision to do something and it’s widespread that changes a whole lot because it’s always a matter of political will, not technological will, that makes the difference. The support is key and the way that they got that support is they designed policies that would give everybody — all residents of Germany — a way to have skin in the game. Sixty-five percent of all renewable energy in Germany is owned by individuals and cooperatives and groups of small investors.


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