Thursday, August 31, 2006

Want a Hybrid ? Become a Knesset member

For those of us concerned about our elected members spending taxpayers money on their fancy gas guzzling Volvos there is good news .
Knesset Members Will Be Able to Opt for Hybrid Vehicles
Updated: 08/31/2006

Following the request of Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra to the Speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzik, the Speaker has stated that within the framework of a tender won by the New Kopel company, Knesset Members will be able to order hybrid vehicles which are available in Israel: Honda Civic 1.6 liter and Toyota Prius 1.5 liter.

Hybrids are a step in the right direcion and who better than our elected menmbers to do the me first to set a precedent . There are certain issues that need to be address . The fuel consumption of the cars , Honda and Prius, is much higher than the advertised consumption as mentioned here and here . Couple it up with the hefty price tag , the cars start to look less attractive . Economics is quite naturally not the main concern here , the concern is what sort of impact it has on the environment . But until we stop using fossil fuels and start using green energy for electricity we are not doing much by using a hybrid . We are reducing the emission levels when we are driving but we are still burning the fossil fuel at some other place .
So the Knesset needs to adopt another resoluion of gradually phasing out fossil fuel run power plants and to promote alternative forms of energy . At the same time they can subsidise hybrids for the cattle class because in the end the average guy may want to save the environment but he won't do it from his pocket .

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dood shemesh (solar water heaters) - Time for a rethink

This is comment I left on Treehugger for this story
I have been living in Jeruselem for the past few years and the 'dood shemesh' ( I prefer to spell it that way ) is an integral part of the skyline , very jarring at times but let's leave the aesthetics for the time being . The dood works wonderfully well in the summer , we have hot water for the bath , for cleaning washing , infact we can even flush with hot water if we want . In winters, when you really need , the dood falls short . True we don't have harsh winters and even on a cold day you can have lukewarm water in the afternoon but very often the dood is located a couple of floors away from it is used , so you waste quite a bit of water and secondly invariably the electrical heating element is located in the tank on the roof which is exposed to the elements and inspite of being insulated is losing heat constantly . I don't have figures but I am told that the dood actually is less economical . If one factors in the cost of the collectors and the boiler and the fact that they need to be changed every few years , the dood is no longer that economical or green .

This needs to be researched a bit more before we let the axe fall on the dood . A very simple way to save the water that you need to let go waste is to have an additional boiler within the house which is fed by the tank on the top . That way if it is cold outside the tank inside the house is not effected by the cold and you don't waste energy heating water that is quite exposed .

Monday, August 28, 2006

Shop till you drop , it's ok if it's green

A few days back in an interview in Treehugger Joel Makeover claimed that the biggest eco-myth doing the rounds is that
.. we can shop our way to environmental health .
And I can't agree with him more . Every green page is flooded with green links , which invariably point to sites selling green prducts . Do we need all of these things albeit being green ? I hold the view that one of the basic tenets of going green is following the three R's which are namely reduce , reuse and recycle . To buy less would be a very logical conclusion but somehow I see that there is a wide chasm there , a leap in logic , the message going out is that it's ok to buy your guts out provided it is green . Even Joel falls prey to this belief , with his love for fast cars and business/manufacturing models that adopt a greener approach but the bottom line remains the same , sell , sell , sell . Acoording to Nicholas Parker of Cleantech Venture network
It’s about money, Mr. Parker said. And venture capitalists are clamoring to get in. In the first two quarters, venture capitalists invested $379 million in 30 cleantech companies, according to the National Venture Capital Association. That is up from $230.8 million in 27 companies in all of 2005.
Read the rest here .

It's no wonder that green products are one of the fastest growing sectors , we can continue being the same voracious consumers but with a clear conscience !!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Solar glass

New technology that allows solar cells to be applied directly onto glass while still retaining it's transparency . The story here

[blockquote]XsunX specializes in the development of unique solar cell designs and manufacturing processes that reduce the cost per watt of solar power and increase its potential applications. Unlike today’s rigid solar cells, all of the XsunX designs to date are completely flexible. Imagine what this flexible power makes possible!

XsunX first solar cell technology, called Power Glass™, can be applied to glass windows allowing them to generate electricity while still remaining largely transparent. XsunX is also developing an opaque solar cell that is so thin and flexible that it can be integrated into other building materials, such as roofing and siding. The possibilities are virtually endless[/blockquote]

The Green Skeptic
The material has it's merit but I am a bit uncertain about this technology , maybe just because of lack of information .

  • The article doesn't state clearly whether it can be applied onto existing glazing or it is somethig that is at a manufacturing stage . If it is in the latter then would people get rid of old glazing to take advantage of this technology ? This as we know will end up in the city dump.

  • Does the application os XsunX allow for the recycling of glass ?

  • And how green is this technology really if it promotes use of large glazings , aluminum , elements that can be recycled but are very energy intensive in production .
  • Does the use of this technology offset the additional energy costs that we will incurr due to large glazed areas ?

  • Maybe we are once again trying to convince ourselves that we can continue living the way we have become accustomed to .

Monday, August 21, 2006

Carbon Rationing


Carbon Cards: Lifeline for Planet or Big Brother?
Filling up the car at the gas station could take a few seconds longer in future -- to deduct points from your personal "greenhouse gas" ration card.

Issuing every citizen with an electronic card to encourage them to reduce energy use is one of the most radical ideas for curbing reliance on fossil fuels, widely blamed for global warming.

The article goes on to talk about how it would not work in USA , quotas are too direct a reminder to the 'other' from the cold war era I presume . But fuel rationing is not somethig unknown . In Israel , I am told , during the 80's each car had a tag denoting which day of the week it was not allowed to be on the road . The story goes on that all the religious people went and got tags for 'shabbat' ( sabbath - saturday ) a day they don't drive . Well trust the Jewish brain for a workaround !!!

Generating energy from footfalls

Repost from Wired

British engineers are converting street vibrations into electricity and predict a working prototype by Christmas capable of powering facility lights in the busiest areas of a city.

"We can harvest between 5 to 7 watts of energy per footstep that is currently being wasted into the ground," says Claire Price, director of The Facility Architects, the British firm heading up the Pacesetters Project. "And a passing train can generate very useful energy to run signaling or to power lights."

Interesting idea , the drawback or the catch is how can this energy tapped and used when the source of energy is not continuous .
I had a similar idea while standing next to the Tel Aviv Jerusalem highway and almost being blown off my feet with passing vehicles . The suction that the vehicles moving at 100+ kmph is tremendous , by the way same as drafting when on a bicycle , so if one was to line the 60 km stretch between TA to Jerusalem we could surely produce enough energy to light up the highway .
Ps ; If I could figure out how to wire my kids to tap all the energy they expend , I would be a millionaire .