Two Years of Zero Resource

Over the last two years, we have covered a number of topics, from tiny houses, to DOE rules on showerheads, to definitions of terms.

Since the end of February, when WordPress starting showing the statistics, Zero Resource has attracted readers from all over the world.

Over the last two years, the top twenty most popular posts of all time are:

  1. Death Rays
  2. More Tiny Houses
  3. The Difference Between the CEC and CPUC
  4. Tour a Tiny Apartment in Spain
  5. Putrescible Waste
  6. Finding Data – GDP and Electricity Consumption
  7. Alex Wilson, Founder of EBN – Part 1
  8. Plastic Bag / Retail Bag Laws in the U.S.
  9. Bad News About CBECS 2007
  10. Nina Maritz
  11. Are People Clueless about Energy Savings?
  12. MRF (Rhymes with Smurf)
  13. Resilience vs. Sustainability
  14. The Key System
  15. Visualizing the U.S. Power Grid
  16. Do Green Roofs Improve Solar PV Performance?
  17. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
  18. Local Target Stores & Hazardous Waste
  19. Tiny “Spite” Houses
  20. Houses – Small, Reused, and Prefab

Many thanks to all the Zero Resource readers around the world! We look forward to another year.

Microgrids – The Future of Electricity

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Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) visited the University of California, San Diego, to document the campus microgrid.

According to the video description:

At UCSD, the microgrid provides the ability to manage 42 megawatts of generating capacity, including a central cogeneration plant, an array of solar photovoltaic installations and a fuel cell that operates on natural gas reclaimed from a landfill site. The central microgrid control allows operators to manage the diverse portfolio of energy generation and storage resources on the campus to minimize costs. In addition, the campus can “island” from the larger grid to maintain power supply in an emergency, as in the case of the power blackout that struck parts of Southern California, Arizona and Mexico in September 2011.

If the video does not appear above, you can watch it online here.

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR FRIDAY VIDEO SERIES.

Do Green Roofs Improve Solar PV Performance?

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

 

While attending a recent talk given by Paul Kephart, president of pioneering ecological design firm, Rana Creek, I heard an interesting assertion: Green roofs can improve the performance of solar photovoltaics by up to 30%. This would be due to the ability of the green roofs to lower the ambient temperature surrounding the panels, thereby boosting efficient operation.

Plants + solar PV may be an exciting possibility for synergistic systems on rooftops, especially in dry climates like California.

I have been looking around for studies or more information about this and came up with just a few articles that are linked below. Portland State University has a study underway on this topic.

http://www.pdx.edu/news/integrating-solar-panels-and-green-roofs

http://solar.calfinder.com/blog/going/can-you-combine-a-green-roof-with-solar-panels/

http://www.greenroofsca.com/2010/04/solar-green-roof-co-installations.html

http://www.greenroofsca.com/2010/04/solar-green-roof-co-installations.html

 

 

California’s Clean Energy Future, Part 3

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On Tuesday, January 25, I was in the audience at the SPUR Urban Center in San Francisco as Panama Bartholomy, CEC, and Emma Wendt, PG&E, gave presentation about California’s clean energy future.

The post below consists of Part 3 of my record of the presentation –  Emma Wendt’s presentation. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any photos or images.

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Emma Wendt

Most people don’t think of utilities as wanting to do something to address the clean energy future… You might know PG&E through your utility… We’re a really large but really green utility… We’ve won greenest utility in America for the last 2 years… We have a really green portfolio… We have a significant amount of solar interconnected into our system…

… …

What do we mean when we talk about a sustainable electric system?… … The first step in cleaning up the system is to supply green power… On the customer side, you can add rooftop solar and plug-in electric vehicles. But because you have peaks in demand, and an intermittent demand… you need some sort of storage system to make sure demand can always be met by supply… Also need a way for all of this to talk to each other.

On the renewable side, there are a number of ways you can interconnect renewables into our grid… There are a number of programs – California Solar Initiative, Self-Generation Incentive Program, net energy metering, feed-in tariffs, and the renewable auction mechanism, which are hot of the policy presses…

We have a renewables RFO, where we look  at the feasibility of projects … … and PG&E is looking at more options for owning renewables.

So why are we doing all this? … … We do have the renewable portfolio standard…

Another policy hot off the presses is the TREC decision – only allowed to buy out-of-state renewables for up to 25% of our renewables obligation… …

[Showing 2009 electric power mix.] This is what was actually delivered. We don’t yet have final 2010 numbers…

In the future, we have a ton of contracts for new renewable sources. A large part is solar – both solar thermal and solar PV… … You’ll only see a small amount coming from small hydro – basically the rivers that can be dammed are already dammed up… …

PV program hopes to speed up future PV installations… … if you are a developer of small-scale renewables projects, the RFO comes out next week… … On the utility side, we are planning to build more substations… … We want to build solar PV near our substations…

In reality, renewables projects in California don’t always get built. As of the end of 2009, half of our projects were cancelled or significantly delayed… … transmission is causing the most delays, but other barriers are significant – financing, developer inexperience… permitting, technology risks… site control, and the list goes on.. …

PG&E is involved in a statewide initiative called California’s Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI)… you can’t have clean generation without a way to get it to where the people are. This is a really big problem… …

PG&E customers lead in on-site solar generation… but the best resource is energy efficiency… … PG&E offers a wide range of customer energy efficiency programs… … we also have a program where we work on appliance standards… And we work with retailers… to give them the incentive, then they have control over what they put in front of their customers… …

A cool tool to help customers find out more about EE is also SmartMeters. You may have heard a number of things about SmartMeters… But there is the possibility of seeing what your load is like.

PG&E is also looking at options for plug-in electric vehicle integration… looking at meters for the charging of EVs, and having a separate pricing system… We have a number of partnerships with organizations working on electric vehicles.

… …

We hope that we’ll have a really involved community to help this all move forward.

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This presentation was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here.

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Gigaton Throwdown

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photo: Wikimedia Commons

While attending the two-day “Pathways to a Clean Energy Future” symposium put on by the Philomathia Foundation and U.C. Berkeley last week, I made a note to look up a recent initiative called the “Gigaton Throwdown” that was mentioned by Professor and Senior Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Fellow Dan Kammen, during his talk.

The Gigaton Throwdown Initiative is essentially a collaboration of a diverse group of academics and business/investment professionals, that spent 18 months looking at what it would take to bring nine clean energy technologies up to a gigaton threshold of power generation (one billion metric tons) by the year 2020. The nine technologies include biofuels, building efficiency, concentrated solar power, construction materials, geothermal, nuclear, plug-in hybrid cars, solar pv and wind. The technologies were selected for the capacity-building study because they already have a market presence and are able to attract investors.

The aim of this exercise, according to the Gigaton Throwdown website, is “to educate and inspire investors, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy makers to “think big” and understand what it would take to scale up clean energy massively over the next 10 years.” And really, in the face of the daunting challenges for the future of energy industries and policy, who can’t use the inspiration?

The GTI issued a report documenting the findings of their process. Key points center around the critical need for a cross-collaborative policy and investment framework to assist in the transition to a cleaner energy future.

Read the full report here.

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A few weeks ago, Dan Kammen, who leads the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley, was appointed by the World Bank to be its first Clean-Energy Czar. At the time, we pointed readers to a couple interviews, which you can read here.

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