|How Much Energy Does the Internet Use?Posted: 01 Jun 2012 09:08 AM PDT
Manipulating electricity, image by Storm Crypt
“No trees were killed in the sending of this message, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.” It’s a funny email signature, but how many inconvenienced electrons does it take to power the internet?
In 2011, the digital universe, or the amount of information created and replicated, reached 1.8 trillion gigabytes, and this digital universe is doubling in size every two years. Much of that digital information is housed in data centers around the world, and running these data centers requires a huge amount of electrical energy.
A 10-megawatt (MW) data center can use the energy of a small town at a cost of around $300,000 a month. Couple that with the fact that there are over 500,000 data centers in the world, according to Emerson Network Power, and we’re talking about 2% of all electrical energy used globally. So, running the internet uses upwards of 406 terawatts per year, assuming 20.3 petawatts as the world’s annual electrical energy consumption.
The odd thing is that in traditional data centers, only half of the energy consumed is useful for running the digital universe: powering the servers that hold our emails, social networking profiles, and the like. The other half of the energy goes into cooling those servers, or it’s lost as heat when electricity is changed between alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC).
Some data centers use natural underground reservoirs to cool their servers and improve their power usage effectiveness (PUE), or the relationship between energy used for the computing and energy used by the building.
This week, Green Data Center announced another potential solution to save energy: the world’s most powerful DC data center. Since transforming energy between AC and DC creates heat, Green has opted to run a portion of its servers purely on DC, reducing the transformation steps required from around five to just two.
With DC-capable servers from HP and DC technology from ABB, Green data center has a PUE of 1.4 and hopes to save 10-20% on energy costs. For a 10-MW fully DC data center, that’s equivalent to saving the energy generated by this wind turbine.
Protestors will likely never carry signs reading “Use paper! Save an electron!” but greening data centers with natural reservoirs, renewable energy, and DC technology saves energy. That’s a convenience to us all.
|Element Power Adds Educational/Cultural Center to Solar Power Projects in Chile’s AtacamaPosted: 01 Jun 2012 08:16 AM PDT
Portland, Oregon solar power systems installer and project developer Element Power Solar is adding an educational public outreach aspect to its recently announced plans to build 10 projects with 300MW of solar power capacity in Chile. JoiningSERNATUR, Chile’s national tourism service, Element’s co-sponsoring an interpretive cultural and educational center in the world’s driest place, Chile’s Atacama Desert.
The educational and cultural center is to be developed in the Atacama municipality of Calama, where it will serve as a vehicle for broadening public awareness and knowledge of solar PV and solar energy, as well as other renewable energy and sustainable development technology. The educational and cultural center will be open to other renewable energy providers.
Projects such as building the center are part and parcel of Element’s efforts to develop its business internationally and domestically, a business strategy that incorporates socially beneficial outreach aspects to its activities. Element views such initiatives as bi-directional in that it results in a give-and-take and exchange of information and opinions between the company and local residents.
“We at EPS need to make the knowledge of solar energy more accessible, its characteristics more visible, its benefits more tangible for users, investors and society at large,” declared Paolo Pietrogrande, Element Power Solar’s chairman.
Reaching Out to the Public on Solar PV
Element’s making good progress regarding its plan to develop 10 solar power plants, each with a rated 30MW capacity in the SING (Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande) region, which includes the Arica y Parinacota, Tarapaca and Atacama regions. Chile’s Servicio de Evaluacion Ambiental (Resolucion de Calificacion Ambiental) has already issued environmental permits for seven of the 10 projects. Permits for the remaining three are expected to be approved in the next few months, according to the company.
Home to the world’s largest copper mine, the Atacama region and SING electrical service area is a center for Chile’s mining industry. Element’s 10 projects will provide clean, renewable power to meet the mining industry’s growing energy needs in the region, displacing the use of fossil uses and thereby avoiding some 530,000 tons per year of CO2 emissions.
|SELF Brings Solar PV, Light and Power to Haitian Health Care CentersPosted: 01 Jun 2012 05:20 AM PDT
Photo courtesy: SELF
Dedicated to eliminating energy poverty through the use of solar power, Washington, D.C.’s Solar Electric Light Fund yesterday announced it has installed solar electric systems at 11 health care facilities and one hospital in Haiti. At just over 38 kW, the power capacity of the solar PV systems pales in comparison to the beneficial social and environmental impacts such initiatives can have in troubled, poverty and disaster-stricken nations around the world.
The non-profit Solar Electric Light Foundation (SELF) worked with the Haitian government and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on the project, which “will help to improve the quality of medical services provided to more than 170,000 Haitians by powering lights, microscopes, centrifuges, autoclaves, vaccine refrigerators and other life-saving equipment,” SELF explained in a press release.
Solar Energy Has Big Advantages
The birth of a child at a clinic at night was one of the first of a host of benefits the solar PV systems will bring to a Haiti still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake that struck in Jan. 2010. Another clinic is already saving money by no longer having to buy and transport the fuel needed to power a vaccine refrigerator.
Solar PV systems need regular attention and maintenance. SELF has hired and trained eight Haitians to ensure that all 12 solar PV systems will continue operating at maximum performance levels over the long-term. Energy managers and medical staff at the health clinics and hospital are being trained to operate and monitor them on a daily basis.
SELF’s health care and hospital solar PV installations build on its solar energy installation partnership with the Government of Haiti and the IDB. With backing from its partners, SELF saw to the installation of 68 solar-powered streetlights in the Caradeux tent camp managed by Operasyon Men Nan Men, and 32 solar-powered streetlights in Petionville Club managed by the J/P Haitian Relief Organization founded by Sean Penn.
|Preliminary Victory for U.S. Wind Turbine Tower Manufacturers in China Trade CasePosted: 01 Jun 2012 04:43 AM PDT
The Commerce Dept.preliminarily affirmed its determination that China’s subsidizing its wind tower turbine manufacturers violates international WTO trade rules. The preliminary ruling carries with it countervailing duties (CVDs) that range from 13.74%-26%, which will be imposed on utility-scale wind turbine tower imports from China, as well as those from Chinese manufacturers in Vietnam.
The ruling is a victory for the Wind Tower Trade Coalition, a group of four U.S. utility-scale wind turbine tower manufacturers that filed unfair subsidy and dumping petitions with the Commerce Dept. and the U.S. International Trade Commission in late December 2011. The Wind Tower Trade Coalition’s members are Wisconsin’s Broadwind Towers, Inc., North Dakota’s DMI Industries, Nebraska’s Katana Summit LLC and Texas’s Trinity Structural Towers, Inc.
Commerce’s ruling marks the second instance in two weeks that it’s found China’s violating agreed-upon WTO rules. Two weeks ago, Commerce found that Chinese manufacturers of silicon solar PV cells and panels have been dumping product below cost in the U.S. market, imposing duties on imports of silicon solar PV from Chinese manufacturers ranging from 31% to 250%. That followed a previous determination that China’s subsidization of silicon solar PV manufacturers also violates WTO trade rules, which carried the imposition of comparatively low CVDs ranging from 2.9% to 4.37%.
Is there a pattern here?
Commerce’s recent decisions are clear indications that the Obama Administration is following through on its publicly stated intention of strengthening monitoring and enforcement of international WTO trade rules meant to establish a level playing field across an increasingly globalized economy. They also highlight the recent history of long running trade disputes with China, the root of which seem come down to the simple fact that China, a “non-market” economy, has not been honoring the WTO rules its pledged to uphold.
What these apparently boil down to is that China’s subsidies to Chinese manufacturers result in exports below the actual cost of production in China. Commerce has found that these preferential “supply-side” subsidies violate WTO trade rules in that they are predatory, resulting in exports that harm manufacturers in other WTO member countries.
U.S. imports of utility-scale wind turbine towers totaled an estimated $222 million in 2011, more than double 2010?s estimated $103.57 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Global Trade Atlas. In its preliminary determination on China’s subsidization of its utility-scale wind turbine tower manufacturers, Commerce imposed a net subsidy rate of 13.74% on “mandatory respondents” CS Wind China Co. Ltd., CS Wind Tech (Shanghai) and CS Wind Corp.
A preliminary net subsidy rate of 26% was set for mandatory respondents Titan Wind Energy (Suzhou) Co. Ltd., Titan Lianyungang Metal Products Co. Ltd., Baotou Titan Wind Energy Equipment Co. Ltd. and Shenyang Titan Metal Co. Ltd. A preliminary net subsidy rate of 19.87% was set for all other Chinese producers/exporters.
Commerce is now moving forward and instructing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect cash deposits on landing of these products based on its preliminary CVD rates. Commerce intends to issue its final determination on August 13. The ITC’s final determination is scheduled for Sept. 27.
|Kyocera Increases “Green Curtain” Program to Save More EnergyPosted: 31 May 2012 05:29 PM PDT
The Kyocera Group has been growing “green curtains” on buildings in recent years to help a regional effort to reduce electricity demand in Japan since the shut-down after all nuclear power plants. Zach wrote about this about one month ago, but the latest news is that Kyocera has significantly increased its efforts on this front.“This year Green Curtains are being planted at 28 Kyocera Group company locations throughout Japan, more than a 30 percent increase over the previous year,” the company writes.
Kyocera Green Curtain Example Project
These green curtains are the growth of walls/curtains of plants over buildings, which block out some sunlight and help to keep buildings cooler.
Where air conditioning is used, reducing heat gain can save a massive amount of electricity, since air conditioners consume hundreds of watts of power at the very least (for example, 500 watts for a 100- to 200-square-foot room, or 1,200 watts for a 500-square-foot space), and they operate for hours a day. Air conditioners use more electricity than most household appliances.
Kyocera’s Green Curtain Activities website consists of photographs and illustrations of the Green Curtain initiative, which shows you how to grow your own Green Curtains. It provides a complete list of materials and instructions, even how to start the seeds.
This initiative doesn’t only reduce the demand for electricity from fossil-fueled power plants, but it also reduces the electric bills of those who utilize it.
Energy efficiency and conservation are a key piece of tackling global warming and climate change, so it’s great to see such innovative approaches to saving energy.
In addition to the usage of the Green Curtains, Kyocera has a total of approximately 2 MW of solar power systems installed at 18 company facilities in Japan — generating as much power as 480 households would use.
In the past, I saw that Kyocera also covered the walls of one of its buildings with solar panels. Unusual, but an interesting sight. It looks like that could suit tall and narrow buildings which don’t have enough roof space, like the one Kyocera did it with. (Plus, Kyocera is a solar panel company, so it’s good advertising.)
The Green Curtain effort is one of multiple conservation projects carried out in response to the large-scale shut-down of nuclear power plants in Japan. Japan now has the opportunity to prove its ability to live without nuclear power, and it is working hard to do so.
|Improved Electrolyte Claimed to Facilitate Vastly Improved BatteriesPosted: 31 May 2012 02:27 PM PDT
Researchers have been experimenting with lithium-ion concepts that could improve the energy density of lithium-ion batteries significantly, but they all have their drawbacks and limitations. Researchers at Boulder Ionics say that it is the electrolyte that lithium-ion batteries use which is limiting their ability to be economical.
Boulder Ionics’ CEO/co-founder Jerry Martin says that the company is developing a new electrolyte that gives batteries higher performance capabilities. The electrolyte is made from ionic liquids, which are salts that are molten below 100 ?C (212 ?F).
One quality of this type of electrolyte is that it is able to operate at relatively high voltages and temperatures, and this means that fewer batteries than usual can be used to achieve the voltage required by whatever the battery is being used to power.
For example, it is common for a lithium-ion cell (a cell is a single lithium-ion battery, not a battery pack) to be 3.7 volts, and to achieve 300 volts, 81 of these little cells would have to be connected to each other using what is called a series connection. 81 cells x 3.7 volts = 300 volts. It is important, however, that these can be operated at low voltages too.
It was also stated that the new electrolyte could double the storage capacity of ultracapacitors (double the energy density).
Ultracapacitors (otherwise known as supercapacitors) have some great advantages over batteries, such as the ability to charge in seconds and discharge all of their energy in a matter of seconds at greater than 90% efficiency, and without overheating like batteries would.
This is just a more complex way of saying that ultracapacitors are very powerful, and they can provide a large burst of energy in a short period of time. Ultracapacitors also have a much longer lifespan than batteries. However, they are much more expensive and are also much heavier than most mainstream batteries.
But doubling the storage capacity of ultracapacitors could go a long way in making them more competitive.
Charge Time is of Paramount Importance to Range Anxiety and the Mainstream Adoption of Electric Vehicles
People give me a strange look when I say this, and you are probably wondering why this is so important. It is not just a matter of convenience, but also a pragmatic issue. The two primary reasons why electric vehicles need a long driving range per charge are because it is so inconvenient to sit at a power outlet in public while they take 3-8 hours to charge (less if there is a charging station set up).
So, people have to be able to drive to their destination on their overnight home charge. Otherwise, they will be late for whatever they are trying to get to.
A fast charge time in the order of seconds enables electric vehicle owners to drive their vehicles with a small fraction of the batteries that are in use today, which translates into a much shorter driving range per charge, but, at least, assuming that charging stations are as ubiquitous as gas stations, this would not be an issue for most people because they could simply charge in seconds and be on their way, even if their driving range was only 20 miles!
A smaller battery pack would cost much less too, and the cost of electric vehicle batteries can be 40% of the whole vehicle cost, so short-range batteries can drastically cut the cost of electric vehicles.
There is more good news — li-ion battery technology that charges in only a few minutes already exists. Even if it was more expensive per kWh of storage capacity than typical batteries, the technology could still end up costing less overall because less of them would be required.
Conclusion: The driving range issue is actually a charge time issue, and the improved performance of the electrolyte mentioned above could make electric vehicles lighter, and reduce their battery requirements, since they will have less battery weight to carry around. They also wouldn’t need the extra-large batteries that high performance cars use to achieve high speeds.
|West Coast Electric Highway Expands to Washington, Now Extends to Canadian BorderPosted: 31 May 2012 02:15 PM PDT
Start saying so long to fossil fuels — 10 new electric vehicle charging sites from AeroVironment added along Interstate 5 and U.S. Route 2
The future is now looking far brighter for West Coast EV owners.
The West Coast Electric Highway, a border-to-border endeavor in North America, has moved closer to becoming a reality. Today 10 new EV charging sites opened, extending the highway to the Canadian border and opening it to EV drivers hailing from both the US and Canada.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and its electric charging station partner AeroVironment opened 10 new public charging stations — seven along Interstate 5 and three along U.S. Route 2 in northern Washington.
Gregoire added we are entering an era that protects the environment from vehicle emissions and builds a road leading away from American dependence on foreign oil and capricious gas prices.
Eight of the 10 new charging stations in Washington feature AeroVironment’s “DC fast chargers.” These chargers can provide a full charge for a nearly spent EV battery in less than 30 minutes. Each location includes AeroVironment Level 2 chargers, which provide EV drivers with convenient charging while they grab a bite to eat, run errands or visit with friends.
The West Coast Electric Highway is a seen as a fundamental part of a future transportation corridor from the Canadian to Mexican borders.
The AeroVironment charging stations are available at convenient locations in Blaine, Bellingham, Burlington, Tumwater, Centralia, Ridgefield, and Vancouver along Interstate 5 and in Sultan, Skykomish, and Leavenworth along U.S. Route 2. Two additional stations will be installed in the coming weeks.
The U. S. Department of Energy provided seed funding of $1.5 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand the West Coast Electric Highway in Washington. The funding is administered by the Department of Commerce through the State Energy Program.
Electric vehicle drivers will have access to the charging stations by enrolling in AeroVironment’s Charging Network at or by calling 888-833-2148. Once enrolled, EV drivers will receive an AeroVironment Network key fob that will provide free access to all AeroVironment chargers along the West Coast Electric Highway for a limited time.
Travel will become particularly more pleasant for those many who loathe the smell of gasoline and diesel.
|Public-Private Partnership Could Jump Start Energy Storage TechnologyPosted: 31 May 2012 02:07 PM PDT
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and CalCEF have joined forces to launch the first ever public-private consortium designed to leapfrog current energy storage technology and develop advanced battery systems.
The partnership, named CalCharge, will convene dozens of start-ups and established companies under one roof to share best practices and world-class scientific facilities and personnel, and develop a Bay Area “regional ecosystem” to jumpstart new technologies and boost American success in global markets.
Advanced batteries could hold the key to a clean energy future – imagine if electric vehicle range anxiety was a distant memory and renewable energy could easily be stored on the grid for peak demand. In addition, international competition in the advanced battery market is bristling, and as in many other clean energy fields, the U.S. could quickly find itself losing business to other nations.
CalCharge will provide technology assistance, workforce training, and market education to participating companies in order to speed up energy storage commercialization and market adoption. Members will have access to Berkeley laboratories, testing facilities, technical resources, and diagnostic equipment through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements – assets they may not be able to afford on their own.
In exchange, the clean tech market may get next-generation battery technology and California may get an economic boost. 30 battery companies of all sizes are located in the Bay Area, and the state has seen 258 battery technology patent registrations from 2008-2010 – more than the next three states combined.
California also leads the nation in clean tech venture capital investment, and energy storage made up 11 percent of all VC investment, so opportunity abounds for the right breakthroughs. “There’s a lot of battery know-how in California, specifically the Bay Area, but technology startups need an ecosystem to survive,” said Venkat Srinivasan, head of Berkeley Lab’s energy storage research program.
While the setting may be right, stakes for success are high, and timing is tight. “The next decade will be critical for this industry and this region,” said Paul Alivisatos, director of Berkeley Lab. Batteries are the most expensive component of electric vehicles, a major barrier to market-wide consumer adoption, and still top out around 100 miles of range. Recently, a Department of Energy researcher predicted the next generation of usable battery technology to be around ten years away.
CalCharge aims to create breakthroughs in consumer electronics, electric/hybrid vehicles, and the electric grid. By joining the companies trying to unlock the potential of energy storage, potential customers in a business community that can commercialize new technology, and one of the most advanced energy research institutions in the world, it may just succeed.
|Cleantech News: Empire State Building Saves Millions in 1 Year; Arab Spring Good for Renewables; Geothermal Could Provide UK with 1/5 of Energy NeedsPosted: 31 May 2012 01:51 PM PDT
Some cleantech news from around for you cleantech news addicts:
India’s Renewable Energy Certificate Program Crosses 3 GW: “The accredited generation capacity under the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) scheme has now crossed 3,000 MW.”
SunEdison Launches “Eradication of Darkness” Program in India: SunEdison has launched “a rural electrification program called Eradication of Darkness” that in which the company “will design, install and manage distributed-generation solar power plants, to provide energy to Indian villages that have never before had access to electricity.”
Q.CELLS Finishes 69-MW Solar Project in N America: Q.CELLS North America “has successfully completed the final stage of construction of a 69 megawatt (DC) solar energy project in Ontario, Canada. The project was completed in partnership with Starwood Energy Group Global, LLC, a private investment firm focused on energy infrastructure projects. With the “SSM3” plant now operational, Q.CELLS makes up 15 percent of the Ontario utility-scale solar market.”
Vivint Solar Expands Residential Solar Service into Hawaii: “Power prices in Hawaii have risen 17.8 percent during the last 10 years according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Vivint Solar customers save money on energy through the company’s power purchase agreement (PPA), in which customers agree to purchase the power their solar panels generate at a cost significantly less than a typical power bill. In exchange, Vivint designs, installs and maintains the system with no out-of-pocket costs. This allows customers to enjoy the benefits of renewable solar energy without a large, up-front investment.”
25.5-MW Solar Thermal Project Headed to Cyprus: “Infinia Corp., a developer of power systems that convert solar heat to electricity, said it won a contract to supply equipment to a 114 million-euro ($143 million) project in Cyprus,” Bloomberg reports. “The U.S. company will provide so-called Stirling engines to a 25.5-megawatt plant on the east Mediterranean island, David Townley, vice president in charge of business development, said by telephone from Nicosia on May 25.”
Global Offshore Wind Market to Reach 89 GW of Installed Capacity by 2025: “Offshore wind finds itself in a ‘make or break’ period up to 2015, by when the industry will either have positioned itself for sustained build-out, or rapidly decline as a non-competitive technology. Interest in the offshore sector continues to grow, with investor commitments, policy support, and technological innovations – the global offshore market is expected to reach 89 GW of installed wind energy capacity by 2025. However, costs remain high and financial backing for capital intensive projects is needed as the next generation of offshore projects heads for unchartered territory.”
328-MW Wind Project Contract Awarded: “Xcel Energy has awarded Outland Energy Services a long-term service contract to provide operations and maintenance services at three Xcel Energy wind farms totaling 328 MW until 2017.”
Empire State Building Saves Millions of Dollars in 1st Year of Energy Efficiency Plan: “One year after an innovative building retrofit project, the Empire State Building is ahead of plan and has exceeded its year one energy-efficiency guarantee by five percent, saving $2.4 million and establishing a commercial real estate model for reducing costs, maximizing return on investment, increasing real estate value, and protecting the environment.”
Albeo Technologies Winning Awards Left & Right: We mentioned one of Albeo’s awards a couple weeks ago, but apparently the company has been collecting quite a few lately: “Albeo Technologies Inc., a leader in solid-state industrial and commercial LED lighting, announced that its H-Series High Bay LED fixture won three prestigious awards at Lightfair International 2012; two 2012 Architectural SSL Magazine Product Innovation Awards (PIA) and one from The Next Generation Luminaires™ (NGL) Solid State Lighting Design Competition. All three spotlight the innovative H-Series High Bay LED light fixture as a significant industry achievement. The H-Series is the only LED fixture of its kind to scale from one to 12 LED light bars, while providing the largest lumen range in the industry of 6,500 to 77,000 within the same platform. This is equivalent in light output to arrays of two fluorescent bulbs to 1500 Watt HID.”
Arab Spring Good for Renewable Energy Industry: “The political uncertainty that has resulted from the Arab Spring would appear to thwart investors from the region, but Areva Solar thinks of that the movement could have positive repercussions for renewable energy. Jayesh Goyal, Areva Solar’s VP of global sales, told Alternative Energy Africa that in one sense, the Arab Spring has actually helped the sector. He said that there has been a heightened ‘recognition to provide policies for the youth’ and if not, governments acknowledge continued social unrest. ‘It’s spurring the governments to provide policies and promote local jobs which encourages the renewable energy industry,’ he added.”
Geothermal Could Meet 1/5 of UK Electricity Demand: “The UK could meet a fifth of its power needs – the equivalent of nine nuclear power stations – by exploiting geothermal power, a new report into the technology has found.”
UN: Switching to a Green Economy Could Create Millions of Jobs: “United Nations Environment Programme says global move to low-carbon economy means millions could be lifted from poverty.”