Tuesday, April 1, 2014

GOOD SOLAR NEWS

Kyocera Solar reduces cost and increases efficiency with new 1000-volt modules

Kyocera Solar Inc. is now offering new 1000-volt solar photovoltaic (PV) modules designed to significantly reduce labor and materials costs while simultaneously increasing overall system efficiency.
The US electrical code was only recently amended to allow 1000-volt solar modules, following a similar development in Europe that enables wider use of high-efficiency 1000-volt inverters.
By specifying a 1000V system instead of the previous 600V standard, installers can reduce total system costs by a substantial amount — up to 20%, according to Kyocera engineers, depending on the individual project.
The cost reduction is achieved in several ways:
  • Because 1000V PV systems incorporate more modules per string, materials and labor costs are minimized by reducing the total number of strings and combiners the system requires. 
  • String cable used for 1000V modules is thinner and uses less copper, making it less expensive to purchase and install. 
  • 1000V inverters are likewise smaller and less expensive to install than their 600V counterparts.

A more long-term advantage of the 1000V system is its ability to minimize resistive losses, also known as “voltage drop” — which is typically about 0.75% lower in a 1000V system than in a comparable system of 600V. This increase in efficiency results in significant energy retention over the 20+ year lifespan of a system.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

INTERESTING INFORMATION

Wind farms can tame hurricanes: scientists





Huge offshore wind farms can protect vulnerable coastal cities against devastating cyclones like Katrina and Sandy by tempering winds and ocean surges before they reach land. researchers said.

Had such installations existed at the time, Hurricane Katrina which ravaged New Orleans in 2005, and Sandy, which smashed the coastlines of New York and New Jersey in 2012, would have been reduced to strong but not devastating winds.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is the first to demonstrate that wind farms, deployed on a grand scale, can buffer violent hurricanes, the researchers said.

The team simulated the impact from farms of tens of thousands of turbines, placed miles offshore and along the coast of cyclone-vulnerable cities.

They found that turbine blades extracting energy from the wind on a very large scale can have a marked effect on the internal dynamics of a cyclone.  When wind turbines are present, they slow down the outer rotation winds of a hurricane.

This feeds back to decrease wave height, which reduces movement of air toward the centre of the hurricane, increasing the central pressure -- which in turn slows the winds of the entire hurricane and dissipates it faster.

In the case of Hurricane Katrina, sustained peak wind speed would have been reduced by as much as 98 miles per hour. Katrina's storm surge -- waves whipped up by the exceptional winds -- would have abated by up to 79 percent, said the study.

In the case of Tropical Storm Sandy, the model projected a drop of up to 87 mph in sustained peak wind speed and a 34-percent decrease in storm surge. When Sandy, at an earlier stage, was rated as a powerful Category 3 hurricane, it packed gusts of up to 115 mph.

According to the study, the turbines should not be damaged and would continue to produce power during these events. By taming the leading edge of the storm, they would also dissipate the buildup of the winds that followed.

As a result, the wind speed would not exceed the turbines' designed cutout speed -- a threshold that prompts the device to go into lockdown and feather its blades to prevent damage.

But, according to the study, these mega-farms would pay for themselves by generating electricity in addition to providing storm protection.
A 20-mile installation off the New York coast would cost about $210 billion  to build.

By way of comparison, Tropical Storm Sandy inflicted about $80 billion  in damage when it hit three states in 2012. The disaster spawned plans to build higher sea walls to shield New York from rising storm surges expected from climate change -- a project that carries estimated costs of between $10-29 billion but produces no revenue.


Friday, February 7, 2014

SPACE NEWS

 A Very Wobbly Planet Found by Kepler

Kepler was designed to detect ecoplanets by noticing the dips in brightness caused when these worlds transit, or cross in front of, their parent stars. Normally these transits occur in a regular pattern, but Kepler-413b behaved strangely.


Imagine living on a planet with seasons so erratic you would hardly know whether to wear Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat. That is the situation on a weird, wobbly world found by Kepler space telescope.

The planet, designated Kepler-413b, precesses, or wobbles, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child's top. The tilt of the planet's spin axis can vary by as much as 30 degrees over 11 years, leading to rapid and erratic changes in seasons. In contrast, Earth's rotational precession is 23.5 degrees over 26,000 years. Researchers are amazed that this far-off planet is precessing on a human timescale.

Kepler 413-b is located 2,300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It circles a close pair of orange and red dwarf stars every 66 days. The planet's orbit around the binary stars appears to wobble, too, because the plane of its orbit is tilted 2.5 degrees with respect to the plane of the star pair's orbit. As seen from Earth, the wobbling orbit moves up and down continuously.

Kepler finds planets by noticing the dimming of a star or stars when a planet transits, or travels in front of them. Normally, planets transit like clockwork. Astronomers using Kepler discovered the wobbling when they found an unusual pattern of transiting for Kepler-413b.

Looking at the Kepler data over the course of 1,500 days, scientists saw three transits in the first 180 days -- one transit every 66 days -- then  had 800 days with no transits at all. After that, they saw five more transits in a row. The next transit visible from Earth's point of view is not predicted to occur until 2020. This is because the orbit moves up and down, a result of the wobbling, in such a great degree that it sometimes does not transit the stars as viewed from Earth.
Astronomers are still trying to explain why this planet is out of alignment with its stars. There could be other planetary bodies in the system that tilted the orbit. Or, it could be that a third star nearby that is a visual companion may actually be gravitationally bound to the system and exerting an influence.

Even with its changing seasons, Kepler-413b is too warm for life as we know it. Because it orbits so close to the stars, its temperatures are too high for liquid water to exist, making it inhabitable. It also is a super Neptune -- a giant gas planet with a mass about 65 times that of Earth -- so there is no surface on which to stand.



Friday, January 10, 2014

INTERESTING TECHNOLOGY

Electronic valet parks the car, no tip required




There is no one inside the Range Rover in a Las Vegas parking lot. But it still guides its way to a parking space, after what looks like some hesitation.

The self-parking is directed by an app which controls the vehicle, detects an available space and maneuvers into it.

The "automated parking valet" created by the French equipment maker Valeo is among the technology innovations for the sector on display at this week's Consumer Electronics Show.

While the idea of a fully autonomous car is a dream for some, this is a step which promises to alleviate at least some of the tedium facing motorists.

The system allows drivers to leave their car at the entrance of a parking lot and let it find a space to park itself. Drivers activate the feature from their smartphone, and can also use it to summon the car to pick them up.

The system does not require garages or parking lots to have special equipment. It relies on the kinds of sensors some cars already use, with some extra electronics.

The system may require a camera to recognize and avoid spaces designated for the handicapped or unusual features in a garage. 

The system was designed to be as simple as possible, so that it would not be only for luxury vehicles.

Parking maneuvers, experts say, are the most difficult for motorists.

Valeo said three million cars already have its semi-automatic system, which can perform parallel parking but require the driver to remain at the wheel.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SOLAR CONTINUES GROWTH

US solar sector small but growing


Solar power, only a minuscule part of the energy mix in the United States, is getting a boost from cheaper panels, growing acceptance by large companies and chances for homeowners to rent solar systems.

Analysts expect a phenomenal growth for renewable solar power over the next two decades, after huge gains in the past two years: 60 percent growth in 2012 and 30 percent on top of that this year.

Heavily reliant on oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear, the United States only gets 12 percent of its power from renewables, of which solar is the smallest part, less than one percent.

But the solar sector is expanding faster than any.

The US Energy Information Administration predicts that photovoltaics -- the semiconductor technology that converts sunlight into electricity -- will grow 11.6 percent a year through 2040.

By comparison, wind power is expected to grow at two percent a year and geothermal power at four percent a year.

They attribute solar power's fast growth to a decrease in the price of photovoltaic panels in a generously oversupplied market, making the energy source more competitive with other types of renewable energy.

Additionally, the possibility for homeowners to simply rent panels rather than purchasing them has helped their popularity.

Around 55 percent of US demand for solar panels currently comes from power generating companies.

Another 30 percent comes from businesses that have large buildings and massive rooftops where installing solar systems for their own power makes sense.

This includes companies like retail giant Walmart, and Google, which puts the panels on top of its huge data centers. The rest of demand comes from the residential sector. Experts estimate that solar's growth could drive renewables to 20 percent of the entire energy market by 2030-2035.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED?

Whither the teakettle whistle

With the winter weather comes the  flu and cold season, which means this device will be getting alot more attention.

Did you know...






Despite decades of brewing tea in a whistling kettle, the source and mechanism of this siren sound of comfort has never been fully described scientifically. Acknowledging the vibrations made by the build-up of steam escaping through two metal spout plates is about as far as the explanation went -- and was good enough for most people.

But not for a team of engineering investigators, who have at last illuminated the mystery. Through a series of experiments, the team has produced a breakthrough in breakfast musings with the world's first accurate model of the whistling mechanism inside the classic stovetop kettle.

They have located the physical source of the teakettle whistle at the spout as steam flows up it, and identified a two-mechanism process of whistle production. Their results show that as the kettle starts to boil, the whistle behaves like a Helmholtz resonator -- the same mechanism that causes an empty bottle to hum when you blow over the neck.

However, above a particular flow speed, the sound is instead produced by small vortices -- regions of swirling flow -- which, at certain frequencies, can produce noise.

The findings are potentially able to explain familiar problems of other wayward whistles, such as the annoying plumbing noises caused by air trapped in pipes or damaged car exhausts.

To interrogate kettle whistles, the team tested a series of simplified kettle whistles in an apparatus by forcing air through them at various speeds.
They then recorded the resulting sounds produced by rushing air, plotted the frequency and amplitude data of the sound, then analyzed it to identify trends in the data. They also used a two-microphone technique to determine frequency inside the spout.

Vortex production starts as steam comes up the kettle's spout and meets a hole at the start of the whistle, which is much narrower than the spout itself. This contracts the flow of steam as it enters the whistle and creates a jet of steam passing through it.

The steam jet is naturally unstable, like the jet of water from a garden hose that starts to break into droplets after it has traveled a certain distance. As a result, by the time it reaches the end of the whistle, the jet of steam is no longer a pure column, but slightly disturbed.

These instabilities cannot escape perfectly from the whistle. As they hit the second whistle wall, they form a small pressure pulse. This pulse causes the steam to form vortices as it exits the whistle, and it is these vortices that produce the siren sound that has conditioned millions of people to anticipate the coming of the tea.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

HELP TO NEW AND EXISTING BUILDING TO BECOME ENERGY EFFICIENT

Sensor Suitcase - Brings Energy Efficiency to Small Commercial Buildings



Most buildings in the U.S. don't perform as energy-efficiently as they could simply because energy-using equipment in the building has never been set up to maximize energy performance. Thermostat set points are too low or too high, so rooftop units (RTUs) cool buildings down below recommended temperatures, or keep them too warm (or both).

Or, there is no difference in the set point during hours when the building is unoccupied versus occupied-turning the heat and space conditioning down during unoccupied hours helps lower energy bills substantially. Lights may be left on at night when no one is in the building, or there may be daytime opportunities in spaces that are not continuously occupied.

These are only a few of the problems that energy performance professionals see in the field, problems they can correct through retro-commissioning,the process of assessing the energy performance of an existing building, and then tuning its systems, and implementing no or low-cost energy efficiency improvements. When this is done to a new building, it is called commissioning.

Research published in 2009 by scientists demonstrated that in a large sample of existing buildings, retro-commissioning could save as much as 15 percent of a building's annual energy use, and pay for itself in less than a year, through the resulting utility cost savings.

In large commercial buildings, where the cost-effectiveness of this process is highest, retro-commissioning is beginning to become more common, thanks to growing awareness of its economic benefits to building owners and operators, as well as a thriving industry of building energy performance professionals.
In smaller commercial buildings efficiency efforts, including retro-commissioning have been hampered by several factors.

Small commercial buildings do not typically have budget or business economics that allow investing in enhancements such as comfort and energy improvements. They also don't have in-house staff with the expertise in building systems who can perform retro-commissioning or identify improvement opportunities.

The Sensor Suitcase, is a turn-key hardware and software solution that non-experts can use to generate low or no-cost recommendations automatically on how to improve a building's operating costs, comfort and energy performance.
This project is accomplished by 'embedding' the knowledge and skills of a highly experienced building commissioning practitioner into a scalable hardware and software package that can be easily deployed by a variety of building services personnel to make it easier for building owners and operators reap the benefits and cost savings for building commissioning.


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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WINTER IS ON THE WAY, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS?

Weatherizing Homes to Uniform Standard Can Achieve $33 Billion in Annual Energy Savings




With winter around the corner some homeowners may be thinking about plugging all the leaks in their home to make them less drafty. Imagine if every homeowner in the country did that-how much energy could be saved? 
Using physics-based modeling of the U.S. housing stock, researchers found in a new study that upgrading airtightness to a uniform level could achieve as much as $33 billion in annual energy savings.

Currently people who weatherize can get their homes about 20 to 30 percent tighter. But they're not sealing all the cracks. There's still quite a bit left on the table, and those extra leaks and cracks could potentially save a lot of energy. Energy impacts of envelope tightening and mechanical ventilation for the U.S. residential sector. while researchers need to figure out how much energy is wasted from leaky homes and determine the optimal standard of airtightness-one that would maximize energy savings while minimizing the cost of achieving those savings.

This is an important question because the residential sector-113 million homes-uses about 23 percent of total U.S. source energy annually. (Source energy includes site energy, the energy consumed by buildings for heating and electricity, as well as the raw energy required to transmit, deliver and produce it.) Heating and cooling accounts for about half of the site energy used in residences.

The largest potential savings are in the hottest and coldest climates. As new air enters homes through leaks and cracks, it has to be cooled or heated. Although the trend has been towards building tighter houses, the science is still not settled on the best ways to minimize leaks. More research is needed to figure out what are the most effective ways to weatherize.

The researchers considered five levels of tightening:
  • "average" tightening, 
  • "advanced" tightening, 
  • the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) standard, 
  • the R2000 standard (common in Canada, tighter than IECC) 
  • and the "passive house" standard, the tightest and most difficult to achieve.

They found that upgrading all homes to be as airtight as the top 10 percent of similar homes (advanced tightening) would decrease energy demand by 2.6 quads annually-out of the total 22 quads of source energy used by the residential housing sector-leading to roughly $22 billion in savings in energy bills. Reaching the IECC standard would yield savings of 3.83 quads in annual source energy, yielding $33 billion in savings.

The study found that the IECC standard offered most of the benefit that the tighter standards would yield. Moreover this standard is likely more achievable than the tighter standards. According to their analysis, raising the U.S. housing stock to the IECC standard would reduce airflow in homes by a median value of 50 percent.

The analysis in the study factored in the energy costs of increasing ventilation where necessary to maintain good indoor air quality. A separate analysis looked at the energy cost of only bringing the housing stock into compliance with ASHRAE 62.2, a national ventilation standard for homes that ensures sufficient ventilation for human health.

Leave us a comment on what you are doing to achieve a tighter, more energy efficient home this winter.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

SOLAR TECHNOLOGY

Low-priced plastic photovoltaics



Solar cells and panels, which tap the power of the sun and convert it to electricity, offer a green - and potentially unlimited - alternative to fossil fuel use. So why haven't solar technologies been more widely adopted?

Quite simply, they're too expensive, Researchers have come up with a technology that might help bring the prices down.

To collect a lot of sunlight you need to cover a large area in solar panels, which is very expensive for traditional inorganic - usually silicon - photovoltaics. The high costs arise because traditional panels must be made from high purity crystals that require high temperatures and vacuum conditions to manufacture energy potential.

A cheaper solution is to construct the photovoltaic devices out of organic compounds - building what are essentially plastic solar cells. Organic semiconducting materials, and especially polymers, can be dissolved to make an ink and then simply "printed" in a very thin layer, some 100 billionths of a meter thick, over a large area.

Covering a large area in plastic is much cheaper than covering it in silicon, and as a result the cost per Watt of electricity-generating capacity has the potential to be much lower.

One major difficulty with doing this, however, is controlling the arrangement of polymer molecules within the thin layer. Scientists have developed an advanced structural probe technique to determine the molecular packing of two different polymers when they are mixed together. By manipulating how the molecules of the two different polymers pack together, they have created ordered pathways - or "nanowires" - along which electrical charges can more easily travel. This enables the solar cell to produce more electrical current.


This work highlights the importance of the precise arrangement of polymer molecules in a polymer solar cell for it to work efficiently. Researchers and scientists expect polymer solar cells to reach the commercial market within 5 to 10 years.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

SOME ( A REAL LOT OF) ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

IKEA rolls out consumer solar panel systems in British stores

I'll take the Billy bookcase, the Karlstad sofa, and a pack of solar panels in black.

Don't laugh it may be true some day.


IKEA stores in Britain this week began selling rooftop solar panel systems, giving the industry a boost after rounds of feed-in tariff cuts and freezes.

The Swedish retail giant confirmed Monday it would roll out the systems to 17 of its stores in Britain in coming months in partnership with Chinese panel-maker Hanergy Solar U.K. after conducting trial run this summer at an outlet in Southampton, England.

Believed to be the first time photovoltaic energy systems have been made available through a mass-market retailer, IKEA's move comes a year after feed-in tariffs paid to British panel owners were slashed from 69 cents per kilowatt to their current 23 cents.

IKEA announced the consumer roll-out after using solar panels extensively to help power its own facilities. Under its corporate sustainability program, the retailer has installed more than 250,000 panels across its stores worldwide and is aiming to produce as much energy as it consumes by 2020.

The price of a standard 3.36-kilowatt PV system for a semi-detached home would run about $10,800, including value-added tax, with 15-percent discounts available under IKEA's Family loyalty program.

Steve Howard, IKEA's sustainability chief, told The Wall Street Journal despite likely low profit margins, the retailer wants to build PV systems into "a real business."

They're becoming easier to sell thanks to the volatility of energy prices, he said, adding, "You don't have to care about the environment and climate change, you can just care about the finances."

After a surge of PV panel-buying when Britain first introduced its feed-in tariff scheme, the number of homes installing rooftop systems has dropped as the FIT has gone down. The British Solar Trade Association says the solar market is currently installing about 100,000 solar systems per year -- far below the projected 300,000.


It will be interesting to see which model prevails. Either way, IKEA's move represents a big bet on solar panels' potential to shake their reputation as boondoggles and become the latest sleek status symbols for the modern home. The company has already begun the work of recasting their aesthetic image, suggesting that its solar panels resemble "flat-screen televisions."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

SOLAR CELL IMPROVEMENTS

New Connection between Stacked Solar Cells Can Save on Wasted Energy




Researchers have come up with a new technique for improving the connections between stacked solar cells, which should improve the overall efficiency of solar energy devices and reduce the cost of solar energy production. 
The new connections can allow these cells to operate at solar concentrations of 70,000 suns worth of energy without losing much voltage as "wasted energy" or heat.

Stacked solar cells consist of several solar cells that are stacked on top of one another. Stacked cells are currently the most efficient cells on the market, converting up to 45 percent of the solar energy they absorb into electricity.

But to be effective, solar cell designers need to ensure the connecting junctions between these stacked cells do not absorb any of the solar energy and do not siphon off the voltage the cells produce - effectively wasting that energy as heat.
Researchers discovered that by inserting a very thin film of gallium arsenide into the connecting junction of stacked cells we can virtually eliminate voltage loss without blocking any of the solar energy.

This work is important because photovoltaic energy companies are interested in using lenses to concentrate solar energy, from one sun (no lens) to 4,000 suns or more. But if the solar energy is significantly intensified - to 700 suns or more - the connecting junctions used in existing stacked cells begin losing voltage. And the more intense the solar energy, the more voltage those junctions lose - thereby reducing the conversion efficiency.

We have created a connecting junction that loses almost no voltage, even when the stacked solar cell is exposed to 70,000 suns of solar energy. And that is more than sufficient for practical purposes, since concentrating lenses are unlikely to create more than 4,000 or 5,000 suns worth of energy. This discovery means that solar cell manufacturers can now create stacked cells that can handle these high-intensity solar energies without losing voltage at the connecting junctions, thus potentially improving conversion efficiency.

This should reduce overall costs for the energy industry because, rather than creating large, expensive solar cells, you can use much smaller cells that produce just as much electricity by absorbing intensified solar energy from concentrating lenses. And concentrating lenses are relatively inexpensive.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

RECYCLING STUDY

Landfill nation: What makes consumers less likely to recycle?


Consumers are more likely to toss a dented can or a chopped-up piece of paper into the trash than to recycle it, according to a new study in research that examines recycling habits.

Although products that have changed shape are still recyclable, the likelihood of a consumer recycling a product or throwing it in the trash can be determined by the extent to which it has been distorted during the consumption process.

The study looked at how consumers treat products that have gone through physical changes during and after consumption that "distort" the product (but do not affect its recyclability). For example, a piece of paper might get crumpled up or torn into smaller pieces, or an aluminum can might get crushed or dented. And when that happens, people are less likely to recycle.

In one study, participants were asked to evaluate a pair of scissors. Some were asked to cut either one or two sheets of paper into smaller pieces, while other consumers were given a sheet of paper and asked to evaluate the scissors without cutting the paper.

Everyone was then asked to dispose of the paper on the way out (next to the exit were two identical bins, one for trash and one for recycling). Consumers recycled the whole sheet of paper more often than the smaller pieces (regardless of the total amount of paper).

Around the world, more than two billion tons of trash is generated each year, with the United States throwing away more than any other country. Understanding why consumers throw recyclable products into the garbage instead of recycling them could help companies and public policy makers find novel ways to encourage consumers to step up their recycling efforts.


These findings point to important outcomes of the post-consumption process that have been largely ignored and provide initial insight into the psychological processes influencing recycling behavior, the study concluded.

Monday, August 5, 2013

TO CLEAN OR NOT TO CLEAN...THAT IS THE QUESTION

Cleaning Solar Panels Often Not Worth the Cost


Don't hire someone to wash your dirty solar panels. That's the conclusion of a study recently conducted.

Researchers found panels that hadn't been cleaned, or rained on, for 145 days during a summer drought in California, lost only 7.4 percent of their efficiency. 
Overall, for a typical residential solar system of 5 kilowatts, washing panels halfway through the summer would translate into a mere $20 gain in electricity production. For larger commercial rooftop systems, the financial losses are bigger but still rarely enough to warrant the cost of washing the panels. On average, panels lost a little less than 0.05 percent of their overall efficiency per day. The study is focused on smaller systems, for very large installations, economies of scale may mean that washing panels is worth it.

Dust on PV panels does make a difference but it's not a big enough factor in Wisconsin to warrant cleaning. Researchers believe that this is the largest study quantifying losses of electricity output due to dirty solar panels conducted so far. Typically, particulate matter from air pollution, agriculture, construction and traffic accumulates on the panels, as well as pollen and sea salt.

Researchers also found that solar panels mounted at an angle of less than five degrees caused bigger losses in efficiency. That's because dirt slips off panels that are installed at a steeper angle. Here in SE Wisconsin we angle solar arrays at slightly less than 45 degrees.

But solar panels heavily soiled with bird droppings should be cleaned. That's because the droppings essentially block all sunlight and will not be washed away when it rains. Engineers also found that photovoltaic panels were dirty enough to warrant cleaning due to very specific and localized circumstances. For example, being directly next to and downwind of a highway, factory or agricultural field may generate enough dirt to warrant cleaning.

Next steps in the study would be looking more closely at the sites that did warrant cleaning and determine what caused the panels to get so dirty. Finally, researchers could add collectors at specific sites to determine what kind of dirt accumulates on the solar panels; whether special materials could keep dirt from accumulating; and whether special, less costly washing systems would do a better job at removing dirt from the panels.


Monday, July 22, 2013

MOON TRIVIA

Grab your erasers, there are more moons than we thought

We spend so much of our blog discussing the sun & wind and their importance to their respective renewable energies, I thought it might be interesting to get some fun facts out to you regarding moons. Yes, you read that right, moons. After all, tonight is the first night of the full moon.


Quick: What's the total number of moons orbiting planets in our solar system?

Don't worry if the answer's not on the tip of your tongue, but it's still the Trivial Pursuit sort of question that's fun for a water cooler session.

If the last time you checked was more than a week ago, your answer will be incorrect. Not to keep you in suspense, the answer is 178 moons. 
Granted, that number includes the 5 moons of Pluto, which has been demoted to dwarf planet status, so we now speak of our solar system's eight planets, not nine. Still, it has moons, and even as a dwarf planet it is still considered part of our solar system.

The point to note here is that the answer to the "how many" question would have been different just a short while ago; just last week astronomers announced an analysis of existing Hubble telescope images and data revealed a new moon orbiting Neptune, bringing that blue-green planet's total to 14.

Moons in our solar system have fascinated us since Galileo used his primitive telescope to discover the first one --  four in fact, orbiting Jupiter.
Since Galileo, moon discovery has been an ongoing effort by astronomers, as last week's news aptly demonstrated.

Mercury and Venus, our close neighbors between us and the sun, have no moons.  Astronomers suggest it's their very proximity to the sun that is the reason; any moon orbiting beyond a certain distance eventually would be "kidnapped" by the greater gravitational pull of the sun, while any closer would crash down into the planets. The zone of distance where a moon could exist in a stable orbit is thought to be so narrow that neither Mercury nor Venus managed to ever capture one.
Earth has only managed one, of course, but it's a solar system standout because of its size. There are larger moons out there, but in relation to the size of its planet our moon is impressive, being slightly more than a quarter the size of Earth, a ratio seen nowhere else in the solar system.
Mars has two moons, both are believed to be asteroids captured and pulled into orbit by Mars.
Jupiter, when it comes to a moon count, leads the solar system pack with 67, including the largest moon in the solar system, Ganymede, larger than Mercury and three times larger than Earth's moon. Saturn's not far behind with 62, many of them tiny moonlets of less than 30 miles in diameter.  Uranus clocks in with 27 known moons.
And we end with Neptune and its new moon. Its discovery suggests the count will not stop, and the total will no doubt increase with better telescopes and more space probes voyaging around the solar system, so by all means offer the 178 figure the next time astronomical trivia is the subject around the water cooler -- just be ready to amend that at a moment's notice.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

WIND TURBINE NEWS

New certified small wind turbine announced for US market


The United States has incredible wind power resources, and Government reports predict that 20 percent of electricity will be wind produced by 2030.

There's great community support for developing small wind power, and the latest small wind turbine to pass the Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC), and achieve American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) approval for State incentives is the Kestrel e400nb.

With wind prevalent in most States and an average speed of 4.1 meters per second, wind energy is a great way to become eco-friendly, self-sufficient, less reliant on fossil fuels and reduce your electricity bill. And, depending on your State's scheme, you can even earn money when you send energy back into the grid.

The leading small wind turbine from Kestrel can produce 3,930 kWh annually, and is ideal for the US due to its size and affordability. Teamed with its durability it can withstand high wind speeds (156mph) and has proved itself already in the US with a number of successful installations.

DID YOU KNOW .....?

Top 10 windiest US cities (based on average annual wind speed)

1. Boston, Massachusetts 12.3mph
2. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 12.2mph
3. Buffalo, New York 11.8mph
4. Milwaukee, Wisconsin 11.5mph
5. Dallas, Texas 10.7mph
6. Kansas City, Missouri 10.6mph 
    San Francisco, California 10.6mph
7. Cleveland, Ohio 10.5mph 
    Minneapolis, Minnesota 10.5mph 
    Virginia Beach, Virginia 10.5mph
8. Providence, Rhode Island 10.4mph
9. Chicago, Illinois 10.3mph
10. Detroit, Michigan 10.2mph

A quick science lesson

Electricity produced by the turbine is processed by an electronic inverter and fed into the grid. The property is then preferentially supplied by wind power, and any shortfall during peak demand is supplied by the grid. The result is that your energy bill is reduced by the amount of wind energy that is harvested.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

RENEWABLE ENERGIES CONTINUE TO GROW

Renewable energy use gaining worldwide




Renewables like solar and wind represent the fastest-growing source of energy power generation and will make up a quarter of the global power mix by 2018.

In 2016 renewable energy will overtake natural gas as a power source and will be twice that of nuclear, and second only to coal as a source of power.

The growth of renewables -- non-fossil fuels like hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal and bioenergy -- has been bolstered by increased competitiveness compared with conventional energy.

Non-hydro renewable power, mainly wind and solar photovoltaics, is projected to grow from 4 percent of all power generation in 2011 to 8 percent in 2018.
Still there is some uncertainty about long-term government policies that discourages investment; reduced subsidies in some countries due to economic problems; and tough competition from other energy sources, such as the United States, where a boom in shale gas has made that fuel more competitive.

US President Barack Obama's energy and climate proposals were unveiled Tuesday. Obama's polices constitute a clear example of a target that goes beyond the four years of a presidential mandate.

A report released earlier this month warned the world is on track to surpass by more than double the two-degree Celsius warming goal set by the United Nations, unless urgent measures are taken. The recommendations include curtailing coal-fired power stations and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

Let's continue the growth in all areas of renewables right here in the USA.