Monday, December 1, 2014
LEDs: Lighting The Way To Major Energy Savings Eric Savitz Eric Savitz , Forbes Staff Guest post written by Chuck Swoboda Chuck Swoboda is CEO of Cree, which makes LEDs and LED lighting products. Chuck Swoboda President Obama set what he considers an ambitious goal for reduced energy consumption during his State of the Union address Tuesday night: “Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years.” Why wait so long? The technology and economics to achieve much of this goal exist today. One of the most antiquated devices wasting power in your home right now is the light with which you’re reading this article. Your incandescent bulb is based on technology that is more than 130 years old, a light source that converts most of the bulb’s energy to heat rather than light. American companies that build lighting based on modern technology – LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) – can enable consumers to save money and slash their electricity usage for lighting by as much as 80 percent. Today. That change can achieve much of the President’s goal since lighting accounts for nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of electricity spending in the average household, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. As consumers, we already rely upon LED lights in our cell phones and HDTVs. The barrier to the widespread use of efficient LEDs for lighting has been the high upfront cost of LED fixtures and bulbs. But now advancements in technology are dramatically lowering prices, so much so that a sub $10 LED bulb, which delivers brilliant, high quality light for more than a decade could soon be a reality. LED lighting is already cost effective – extremely so – for businesses and municipalities. The City of Los Angeles is saving $5.3 million annually thanks to the Green LA initiative that has thus far replaced 114,000 high-pressure sodium street lights with LED lighting, the nation’s largest such project. Once completed, Los Angeles anticipates LED lighting will save taxpayers $10-million-a-year, nearly two-thirds of what the city had been paying for lighting its streets. Sheetz, the convenience store and gas station chain, ranked 61st on Forbes Magazine’s List of America’s Largest Private Companies, has installed LED interior and exterior lighting at more than 130 of its locations across six states. The energy savings: 45 percent on interior lighting, and as much as 55 percent on exterior lighting that illuminates Sheetz’s gas pumps. As expenses drop, LED lighting is helping boost top-line growth, according to Sheetz, which reports customers find the brighter facilities more visually appealing and perceive them as safer. Such examples explain why LEDs accounted for 8 percent of the U.S. lighting market in 2012, according to McKinsey & Co., primarily in street lighting, retail and office environments. Now it’s the consumer’s turn. Fundamental advances in LED semiconductor technology, optics, and lighting system design now enable LED lights to break century old cost and performance barriers that have prevented consumers from realizing the savings businesses and municipalities already enjoy. While a typical incandescent bulb uses 60 watts of power to generate light, the current state of LED technology can produce the same light for less than 10 watts. A better, more efficient product means less expensive light. To a consumer, this means saving money – significant amounts of money. As the cost factor shrinks, adoption of LED lighting climbs. The industry’s current rate of cost reduction could result in a doubling of LED lighting adoption over the next year. The shorter the payback on the upfront expenditure, the more likely consumers will choose LED lighting. We’ve already seen this trend in commercial lighting markets. As we approach price parity with traditional lighting, any remaining barriers for commercial and consumer adoption should continue to diminish, and we believe the rate of adoption will accelerate. Not only does this trend result in better lighting that saves Americans money and time (imagine not changing a bulb for more than a decade), but it will also eliminate a tremendous amount of physical waste. According to IMS Research, collectively, 5.6 billion bulbs light American households and businesses, including 4.2 billion incandescent bulbs and about 1 billion compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs that contain toxic mercury. More than 1 billion new bulbs are purchased every year. The President’s own U.S. Department of Energy predicts the switch to LED lighting over the next two decades could save $250 billion in energy costs. There’s no need to wait.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Using lumens as the measure of a light bulb’s brightness will simplify shopping for light bulbs… By EARTHEASY.COM Posted AUG 17, 2011 Back in the old days, when there was only one basic type of light bulb consumers could buy, (the incandescent bulb descended from Edison’s original) we could rely on the term “watts” to help us choose the right bulb for our lamps and outdoor lights. Although “watts” refers to how much energy a bulb will use when lit, we understood the relative brightness levels between 60-watt, 100-watt or 150-watt light bulbs. Then along came the energy-saving CFL bulbs A 15-watt CFL bulb, according to the package, produced the equivalent light of a 60-watt incandescent. A 25-watt CFL was comparable to a 100-watt incandescent in light output. And so forth. Shoppers were expected to understand the wattage conversions of these strange looking new CFL light bulbs. LED bulbs, more efficient than CFLs, use even less wattage to achieve desired brightness levels As we gradually got used to the idea of the CFL bulbs and began to understand how to choose the right CFL for our lighting needs, the new LED bulbs came into the mix. Originally used for small task lights such as flashlights and instrument lights, LED technology has evolved rapidly with new LED bulbs available for most applications in the home. LED bulbs, more efficient than CFLs, use even less wattage to achieve desired brightness levels. A 6-watt LED is equivalent to a 15-watt CFL which is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb. It’s getting confusing isn’t it? And besides three different wattage equivalents for the three basic types of light bulbs on store shelves, there are new halogen incandescent bulbs, new LED tube lights, and terms like Coloring Rendering Index (CRI) and Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) which further describe characteristics of light quality from a bulb. the FTC has mandated packaging changes for all light bulbs, effective in 2012, which simplify and standardize the differences in light bulb output To help shoppers make sense of the many choices in lighting today, the FTC has mandated packaging changes for all light bulbs, effective in 2012, which simplify and standardize the differences in light bulb output. Wattage is no longer a reliable way to gauge a light bulb’s brightness. Lumens, the measure of a bulb’s actual brightness, is the new standard for comparing light bulbs of all types. Lumens, the measure of a bulb’s actual brightness, is the new standard for comparing light bulbs of all types Lumens measure brightness. A standard 60-watt incandescent bulb, for example, produces about 800 lumens of light. By comparison, a CFL bulb produces that same 800 lumens using less than 15 watts. But you don’t need to understand yet another conversion. It’s simple. The more lumens, the brighter the bulb. You can use lumens to compare the brightness of any bulb, regardless of the technology behind it, and regardless of whether it’s a halogen incandescent, CFL or LED. Using lumens helps you compare “apples to apples” when you shop for light bulbs. Once you know how bright a bulb you want, you can compare other factors, like the yearly energy cost.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
There is still time to cash in on incentives from Focus on Energy. Please consider us for all your lighting needs.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Rural Energy for America Program - Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loan and Grant Program
The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses in rural America to purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems; make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities; use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption; and participate in energy audits, renewable energy development assistance, and feasibility studies.
Monday, October 20, 2014
According to Greg Merritt, Vice President, Marketing, Lighting at Cree, Inc., "Every lighting solution will be LED, and every lighting solution will offer some type of automated intelligence. More contractors and even distributors will develop their own design and specifying capabilities."
Electrical Contractor Magazine 10/14
Electrical Contractor Magazine 10/14
Monday, October 13, 2014
Two reports released simultaneously last week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) say that by the year 2050, solar power could eclipse fossil fuels, hydro, wind and nuclear as the world’s most widely used source of electricity generation.
Friday, October 3, 2014
We are pleased to announce that we are in the process of installing a Bergey Wind Power Turbine that will stand 80' tall at a farm in McHenry County.
Below are some Interesting facts about Wind Energy from the Wind Energy Foundation www.windenergyfoundation.org
Below are some Interesting facts about Wind Energy from the Wind Energy Foundation www.windenergyfoundation.org
Interesting Wind Energy Facts
#1. The United States currently has 61,110 MW of installed wind project capacity, comprising 5.7% of total U.S. installed electric generating capacity.
#2. Wind mills have been in use since 2000 B.C. and were first developed in China and Persia.
#3. Wind power is currently the fastest-growing source of electricity production in the world.
#4. Iowa and South Dakota generated more than 25% of their energy from wind during 2013.
#5. A single wind turbine can power 500 homes.
#6. In 2012, the Shepherds Flat wind project became the largest online wind project in the United States (845 megawatts), breaking the record previously held by the Roscoe Wind Farm (781.5 megawatts).
#7. In 2013, the roughly 168 million megawatt-hours generated by wind energy avoided 95.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) — the equivalent of reducing power-sector CO2 emissions by 4.4% or removing 16.9 million cars from the roads.
#8. There’s enough on-shore wind in America to power the country 10 times over.
#9. In 2013, 12 states accounted for 80% of U.S. wind-generated electricity: Texas, Iowa, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration March Electric Power Monthly report.
#10. Most wind turbines (95%) are installed on private land.
#11. Modern wind turbines produce 15 times more electricity than the typical turbine did in 1990.
#12. At times, wind energy produces as much as 25% of the electricity on the Texas power grid.
#13. American wind power is a $10 billion a year industry.
#14. Unlike nearly every other form of energy, wind power uses virtually no water.
#15. By 2030, U.S. wind power will save nearly 30 trillion bottles of water.
#16. At times, wind power produces as much as 45% of the electricity in Spain.
#17. Wind energy became the number-one source of new U.S. electricity-generating capacity for the first time in 2012, providing some 42% of all new generating capacity. In fact, 2012 was a strong year for all renewables, as together they accounted for more than 55% of all new U.S. generating capacity.
#18. During 2013, California led the nation in new wind installations (with 269 megawatts), followed by Kansas, Michigan, Texas, and New York.
#19. 70% of all U.S. Congressional Districts are home to an operating wind project, a wind-related manufacturing facility, or both.
#20. As of May 2014, the United States is home to 46,000 operating wind turbines.
#21. Right now, 559 wind-related manufacturing facilities produce a product for the U.S. wind energy industry across 44 states.
#22. Both Nevada and Puerto Rico added their first utility-scale projects during 2012.
#23. In 2000, more than 60% of U.S. wind power capacity was installed in California, with 17 states hosting utility-scale wind turbines. Today, 39 states and Puerto Rico share 60 gigawatts of utility-scale wind project development.
#24. Wind is a credible source of new electricity generation in the United States. Wind power comprised 43% of all new U.S. electric capacity additions in 2012 and represented $25 billion in new investment. Wind power currently contributes more than 12% of total electricity generation in nine states (with three of these states above 20%), and provides more than 4% of total U.S. electricity supply. Source: 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report (PDF 3.4 MB)
#25. Wind energy prices have dropped since 2009 and now rival previous lows. Lower wind turbine prices and installed project costs, along with improved capacity factors, are enabling aggressive wind power pricing. After topping out at nearly $70/megawatt-hour in 2009, the average levelized long-term price from wind power sales agreements signed in 2011/2012 – many of which were for projects built in 2012 – fell to around $40/megawatt-hour nationwide.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
A friend of mine asked me:
Do You Need to Install Solar Panels in Direct Sunlight?
Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are widely regarded as an ideal method of generating electricity. The materials in the panels, usually silicon, create an electric current when met with natural daylight and this current is then used as standard electricity within properties. The energy is renewable, therefore, considered green. However, many question how effective solar panels are in cloudy climates and wonder whether direct sunlight is, indeed, needed to get the full benefits of the panels.
Daylight not Sunlight
Solar panels use the energy from daylight, as opposed to sunlight, to produce electricity so panels do not need direct sunlight to work. It is photons in natural daylight which is converted by solar panels cells to produce electricity. Heat has no effect on the production of electricity.
This being said, it is true that direct sunlight does provide the best conditions for the panels. However, even in overcast conditions light will diffuse through the clouds and reach the solar panels. Modern solar panels include concentrators which use a system of lenses and mirrors to maximize any light that does reach the cells. As a result it is estimated that solar panels will be 40% as effective in heavy cloudy as they would in direct sunlight. The clearer the skies are the more electricity will be produced.
So if you live in an area that is not the sunniest climate in the world, such as the east coastline of
Michigan, but there appears to be sufficient daylight to ensure
that solar panels will work effectively, a solar system may still produce
energy for you. It is worth noting that this is true for solar array systems
that are feed back into the power supplier. If your array is tied to battery
storage, having a long period of sunny weather will create electricity which
can be used later on.
Solar panels will not work at night and the property will still be dependent on electricity from the energy provider. Solar panels will work in winter, even in the
but of course less electricity will be created as the hours of daylight are
considerably shorter than they are in the summer months.
Despite common beliefs, solar panels do not need direct sunlight to work and the weather conditions in the
Midwest should not put off potential solar panel
buyers. It is energy from daylight, as opposed to sunlight, which powers
the panels which means even on overcast days electricity will be generated.
There are many questions potential solar panels owners should concern
themselves with but the question of the panels needing sustained sunlight to
work can be dismissed.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
NIST test house exceeds goal; ends year with energy to spare
Despite five months of below-average temperatures and twice the normal amount of snowfall, NIST's Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) ended its one-year test run with 491 kilowatt hours of extra energy.
Instead of paying almost $4,400 for electricity-the estimated average annual bill for a comparable modern home in
A net-zero energy house produces at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. A number of states are taking steps toward encouraging or even requiring construction of net-zero energy homes in the future. For example,
Both a laboratory and a house, the two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath NZERTF would blend in nicely in a new suburban subdivision. But it was designed and built to be about 60 percent more energy efficient than houses built to meet the requirements of the 2012 version of the International Energy Conservation Code, which
The 2,700 square-foot test house is built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards-the highest standard for sustainable structures. Its features include energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies, such as solar water heating and a solar photovoltaic system.
Despite 38 days when the test house's solar panels were covered with snow or ice, the NZERTF's sun-powered generation system produced 13,577 kilowatt hours of energy. That's 491 kilowatt hours more than used by the house and its occupants, a computer-simulated family of two working parents and two children, ages 8 and 14.
First year energy use totaled 13,086 kilowatt hours, which was about 3,000 kilowatt hours more than projected usage in a year with typical weather. In a normal year, a comparable home built to meet
In terms of energy consumed per unit of living space-a measure of energy-use intensity-the NIST test house is calculated to be almost 70 percent more efficient than the average house in
From July through October, the facility registered monthly surpluses. In November, when space-heating demands increased and the declining angle of the sun reduced the energy output of its 32 solar panels, the NZERTF began running monthly deficits. Through March 31, when the house's net energy deficit plummeted to 1,800 kilowatt hours-roughly equivalent to the combined amount of energy a refrigerator and clothes dryer would use in a year-temperatures consistently averaged below normal.
Starting in April, the energy tide began to turn as the house began to export electric power to the grid on most days.
In terms of cost, the NZERTF's virtual residents saved $4,373 in electricity payments, or $364 a month. However, front-end costs for solar panels, added insulation, triple-paned windows, and other technologies and upgrades aimed at achieving net-zero energy performance are sizable.
In all, estimates that incorporating all of the NZERTF's energy-related technologies and efficiency-enhancing construction improvements would add about $162,700 to the price of a similar house built to comply with
Planned measurement-related research at the NZERTF will yield knowledge and tools to help trim this cost difference. Results also will be helpful in identifying affordable measures that will be most effective in reducing energy consumption. And research will further the development of tests and standards that are reliable benchmarks of energy efficiency and environmental performance overall, providing information useful to builders, home buyers, regulators and others.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
In theory, the idea could work: replace all of the nation’s asphalt with solar panels, and we’d generate more than three times the electricity the
uses. Great idea and it would road and highway problems. Solar roads design
would also filter storm water, replace above-ground power cables, prevent icy
roads by melting snow, and light up to warn drivers if a deer wanders onto the
Unfortunately, the list of obstacles is long. The main problem is cost. There are roughly 29,000 square miles of road surface to cover. We need roughly 5.6 billion panels to cover that area. That’s a price tag of $56 trillion.
The researchers have been unable to secure any large piece of the more than $2 billion a year spent on solar research and development around the world. Probably because there are too many more-practical, more-promising investments to be made to seriously consider this pipe dream.
This brings up a good point. Rooftop panels and solar arrays are already established as a viable power source, but adoption is still low. It’s hard to imagine a city ripping up asphalt and installing a largely unproven technology when it could achieve the same level of power generation by planting panels along the road.
Most of the technological challenges seem solvable. Those include things like how to keep the roads clean, how to increase the efficiency of the panels in the road, how to store the solar power, how to get electricity from more remote roads to the grid, and whether the glass is durable enough. Whether they’re solvable for a reasonable price tag is another question.
The first thing that one has to understand before beginning to look at numbers is this: an apples to apples comparison between asphalt or concrete roads and solar roads is not possible.
An asphalt/concrete road is simply a hard surface to drive a vehicle on. A solar is a modern modular system with a multitude of uses and features.
For an accurate cost comparison between current systems and the solar road system, you'd have to combine the costs of current roads (including snow removal, line repainting, pothole repair, etc.), power plants (and the coal or nuclear material to run them), and power and data delivery systems (power poles and relay stations) to be comparable with the solar road system, which provides all three.
This will be interesting to watch.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
EIA said Chinese coal production and consumption increased for the 13th year in a row in 2013, the last full year for which data are available.
China, EIA said, consumes about 49 percent of the coal produced globally, besting the No. 2 consumer, the United States, which consumes about 11 percent of the world's total coal.
EIA said Wednesday coal is fueling the Chinese economy. Gross domestic product in 2013 grew 7.7 percent, though that growth rate followed a decade of 10 percent expansion that ended in 2011.
In terms of production, EIA said
is by far the world's largest producer accounting for 46 percent of the coal
produced globally. China
In February, the World Wildlife Fund said
could still thrive
economically while removing coal from its power mix. China
Friday, April 18, 2014
Let the Sun Shine In: Redirecting Sunlight to Urban Alleyways
In dense, urban centers around the world, many people live and work in dim and narrow streets surrounded by tall buildings that block sunlight. And as the global population continues to rise and buildings are jammed closer together, the darkness will only spread.
To alleviate the problem, researchers have developed a corrugated, translucent panel that redirects sunlight onto narrow streets and alleyways. The panel is mounted on rooftops and hung over the edge at an angle, where it spreads sunlight onto the street below.
Researchers expect the device to provide illumination to perform everyday tasks, and improve the quality of light and health conditions in dark areas. These dimly lit areas specifically include narrow streets, but the new panel could be used as a greener, cheaper, and more pleasant alternative to fluorescent and other artificial light.
While other commercially available window-like devices can redirect light, they are designed for shade and redirecting glare or for brightening a room-not a narrow street. So the researchers decided to create their own design. They wanted a simple way to redistribute natural light without the need for a tracking device that follows the rising and setting sun.
What they came up with is a panel made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), the same acrylic plastic of which Plexiglas is made. The bottom of the panel is smooth while the top is covered in ridges that are based on a sine wave, the mathematical function that describes everything from light to pendulums.
The researchers used computer simulations to find the size and shape of the grooves that distribute the most amount of sunlight in a wide range of sun positions all year round, whether it's high or low in the sky. A sine-wave pattern is also easy to manufacture.
Using simulations of sunlight shining on an alleyway, the researchers found that their panels increased illumination by 200 percent and 400 percent in autumn and winter, respectively, when sunlight is most limited. They also tested a small prototype and found that it lit up the area as designed.
The next step will be to build a full-scale model 10 times bigger to validate their calculations and to test it in a real alleyway. The team then plans to market and commercialize the panel.
And that may be a small price to pay for the benefits of sunlight. The lack of sun in urban areas doesn't just make life gloomy; it can be harmful to your health. Research has shown that lack of natural lighting can cause severe physiological problems, such as serious mood changes, excessive sleeping, loss of energy and depression.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
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
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
in 2012, would have been reduced to strong but not devastating winds. New Jersey
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
at an earlier stage, was rated as a powerful Category 3 hurricane, it packed gusts
of up to 115 mph. Sandy
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
coast would cost about $210 billion
to build. New York
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
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
Electronic valet parks the car, no tip required
There is no one inside the Range Rover in a
parking lot. But it still guides
its way to a parking space, after what looks like some hesitation. Las Vegas
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 power, only a minuscule part of the energy mix in the
is getting a boost from cheaper panels, growing acceptance by large companies
and chances for homeowners to rent solar systems. United States
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
only gets 12 percent of its power from renewables, of which solar is the
smallest part, less than one percent. United States
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
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
Sensor Suitcase - Brings Energy Efficiency to Small Commercial Buildings
Most buildings in the
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.