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Posts Tagged ‘wind power’

SpiroFlo breaks down a report from Clean Edge on the top 10 clean energy states in the US.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the problems with “green” is that it’s a term you can make mean whatever you want based on how you define things. Take this Clean Edge report on the top 10 clean energy states:

It sounds good. They use “more than 70 different indicators in technology, policy, and capital”  — including patents filed, capital invested, alternative fuels/vehicles registered, amount of clean source energy, etc. — to rank the 50 states. While #1 is no surprise, some of the others shake out differently than I thought:

  1. California
  2. Oregon
  3. Massachusetts
  4. New York
  5. Colorado
  6. Washington
  7. New Mexico
  8. Minnesota
  9. Connecticut
  10. Vermont

The top 10 list in clean energy leadership — based on capital invested, green laws, job creation, etc. — is similar, save some ranking shifts and a couple of replacements: New Jersey and Maryland come in (at #5 and #8 respectively); New Mexico and Vermont get the boot. No need to call your bookie: California holds strong at #1.

However, even the creators of the study know some of the numbers are off. For example, Oklahoma leads in electrical vehicles registered, but as two of the largest rental companies simply register there and rent the cars elsewhere — surprise! — California is still number one in this area. Iowa legitimately leads in wind power reliance, but that doesn’t actually mean they produce wind power; they just use it. This pinnacle of wind power reliance? 15%. California takes the bronze here.

Eventually though, my brain starts to rebel. Even based on conservative estimates, California has the top 6 of the 10 worst cities for air pollution (and some studies credit them with 9 of the 10), yet they place at the top of most clean energy studies. Granted, you can’t help your population (leading to more cars and thus more air pollution) and some of the other dynamics of where you live, but if it’s about effort, why doesn’t a state like Wyoming place higher? Does their high “clean” placement in wind power usage not offset their high “dirty” placement in coal use?

If nothing else, I bet I can rig a study to get the results I want. Actually, this is the internet; if I wait 10 minutes, someone will do it for me.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo shares an infographic on how wind power is harvested.

For those who are curious, here’s how you turn wind power into energy generation (it’s pro-wind power info, but it gives the basic gist of things):


A full PDF version is available here.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools shares five insights on the shifting views of green business in the U.S.

Each year, the Cleantech Open holds a national conference. In order to attend this conference, your company needs to be a semi-finalist in their competition to accelerate emerging green technologies. As Vortex Tools qualified in the energy efficiency category in the Rocky Mountain region (for transforming harmful CO2 waste from oil and gas wells to recovered high-value energy), some of our team attended the event.

Although I’ll comment more on the Cleantech Open in later blogs, as this national conference brings together leading minds in green industries—both the proven standards for today and hopefully the better standards of tomorrow—there’s a lot of insight as to what’s shifting in the world of green.

While these may be obvious to many in the green energy market, for the Average Joe, here are the top five green insights from the Cleantech Open:

1. Global Warming is Dead; Long Live Climate Change

There are certain words the green industry doesn’t say anymore. Clearly, Solyndra is out—I suppose these things happen when a California solar company gets $527 million from the Obama administration to go out of business with an inferior product—but global warming was officially announced as debunked, dead and a term to ditch (yes, at a green conference).

In the mean time, climate change is still alive and well. Like the vague buzzword green, climate change is broad enough to mean different things to different people, giving it wiggle room to be easily updated.

2. Wind Power is Down; Solar Power is Up

Despite the variety of companies at the Cleantech Open, I expected to see a number of  innovators from solar and wind power. While there were nearly a dozen solar companies, only a couple of wind power companies qualified from around the country. Five years ago, the split would’ve been 50/50, maybe even slightly in the favor of wind power, but now the solar power market is heavily saturated.

According to a solar energy expert, these companies are playing a game of last man standing, because many believe solar will be huge… sometime. However, most solar companies know that the market can only handle a fraction of them, so barring acquisition from a larger company on the way through, most will falter before the boom. In many ways, it’s the behemoth companies with infrastructure—the BPs, the GEs: the very companies these smaller startups want to replace—who’ll do the best when (and if) solar does go big.

3. Trending Companies Include Nanotechnologies and Green Roofs

As for newer representation and buzzwords, nanotechnologies and green roofs are taking off in the American green world.

Nanotechnologies is a broad market, as all nano really means is that it’s small, so there are benefits for coatings, electronics, bugs, material strength, etc. You name an industry, nanotechnologies are improving it, but the added cost is often prohibitive to success.

By Nickenge (Taken by Nick.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Green roofs are popular in Europe—1 out of every 5 houses in Germany has a green roof—but with the benefits of shading and improved insulation (especially in lowered AC costs), the trend is rising in the States now, too. The problem is that many older buildings, both commercial and residential, can’t handle the weight of 4-6” of soil, especially if it’s loaded with water. With this in mind, newer, lighter green roofs (likely with lesser benefits) are increasing in demand.

Hotter, arid climates like California, Arizona and Texas are slated to benefit the most from green roofs.

4. Natural Gas is Still the Bad Guy

This isn’t a new insight so much as a maintained trend. A couple of the main speakers expressed their (disgruntled) opinion that low natural gas prices are standing in the way of emerging green technologies. While I understand this viewpoint—as natural gas is a proven and plentiful energy source that’s been depressed for far too long—it seems as though many in the green crowd miss this point: Overall, the oil and gas industry is as unhappy about the price of natural gas as they are. The oil and gas industry wants the value of their proven resource to not be so low that it’s competing with emerging green alternative energies.

Finally, the other maintained trend:

5. Europe and Japan are Still Held Up As the Standard; China is Still Catching Up to the U.S.    

This one is no surprise, as Europe has a greater need for more efficient means, thus the reality reflects the necessity. Meanwhile, China’s current waste is still nearing where the U.S. was in the 1970s.

One ongoing trend I dislike is that many European and Japanese trends are held up as the standard  for America without qualification. For example, one of the panel members cited Japan’s recent minor emphasis on solar energy as indicative that clean tech has finally arrived in the world, so I asked how less than $10 billion in projected (not actual) solar energy could offset the $1.5 trillion juggernaut of Japanese nuclear power. While this panelist stated that he never argued that solar would replace nuclear energy, if your technology isn’t replacing an incumbent solution—likely in a cheaper, greener, more effective way—it doesn’t have a place, period.

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In upcoming blogs, I’ll share my experience with Cleantech Open competition. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at blog (at) spiroflo (dot) com

Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools looks at Japan’s decision to return to nuclear energy a month after shutting down their last nuclear reactor. 

By Nife (Nife's photo) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAlthough Vortex Tools covered Japan’s decision to shut down its last nuclear reactor in May 2012, over the weekend, the Japanese government approved restarting two reactors at the Kansai Electric Power Company in Ohi.

Here’s a quick recap up to this point:

  1. In the aftermath of 2011’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, four nuclear plants in Fukushima were damaged, leading to three meltdowns and radiation leaks. As this was the worst civilian nuclear disaster since Chernobyl — killing nearly 16,000, leaving 3,000 missing and evacuating 160,000 more — public concern shot up, and Japan had no choice but to make it through that time without heavily relying on nuclear energy.
  2. Since that time, as each of Japan’s 54 reactors have shut down for scheduled maintenance, none have been restarted due to public opposition. The thinking was that if they could make it through peak summer usage without major blackouts, this could spell the end of atomic energy in Japan.
  3. However, prior to the shutdowns, nuclear power provided almost 30% of the electricity to keep the $5 trillion economy going. After years of deflation, in 2011, Japan suffered its first trade deficit in over 30 years as oil and gas was heavily imported for extra power generation capacity. (As Japan has very little native oil and gas, this mass importation cost billions.)
  4. With the risk to $1.5 trillion of Japan’s economy from nuclear power, many politicians are pro-atomic energy; though with the split parliament and a lack of alternate energy sources, there’s no good solution at this time.

Kyodo News reported that 60% of Japan is opposed to restarting the nuclear reactors. Despite this public opposition, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he gained “public consent” to do so. In trying to balance out this ill-favored move, he also set the premium price of solar energy at triple that of conventional energy to spur a projected $9.6 billion in new solar installations. The immediate effect was a rebound in solar stock prices.

As reported before, wind power and solar energy only make up 1% of Japan’s alternate energy sources combined, meaning that even if Japan is successful in doubling their solar energy, it probably won’t be enough to shut back down the two restarted nuclear reactors (even if the hoped for growth in solar power could cover three nuclear reactors, projections have yet to meet reality). With $1.5 trillion of Japan’s economy in the balance, it is likely that more of the 52 remaining reactors will be turned back on.

Prime Minister Noda has other problems, too, as there’s large opposition to his goal of doubling Japan’s 5% sales tax to cover their large debt and welfare costs. As several politicians have been booted out every year for the last five years, many think Noda’s chances of getting reelected in August 2013 are slim. However, like most major problems in the world today, Japan’s struggle over nuclear energy won’t be solved simply by a change in political persuasion.

For now, Japan is learning to juggle safety with the need for a stable economy.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at recent allegations (and refutations) that wind power causes global warming.

Earlier this week, Fox News published an article entitled, “New Research Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming“. It noted:

The world’s wind farms last year had the capacity to produce 238 gigawatt of electricity at any one time. That was a 21 percent rise on 2010 and capacity is expected to reach nearly 500 gigawatt by the end of 2016 as more, and bigger, farms spring up, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Albany (analyzed) the satellite data of areas around large wind farms in Texas, where four of the world’s largest farms are located, over the period 2003 to 2011.

The results, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, showed a warming trend of up to 0.72 degrees Celsius per decade in areas over the farms, compared with nearby regions without the farms.

“We attribute this warming primarily to wind farms,” the study said. The temperature change could be due to the effects of the energy expelled by farms and the movement and turbulence generated by turbine rotors, it said.

Not surprisingly, conservative pundits picked up on the story and mocked the green poster boy of wind power for not following the environmental standard. This isn’t wind power’s first not-so-green scandal either, as it has been criticized (and refuted) for causing bird deaths.

In this case, environmentalists rightfully pushed back that the study was taken out of context. One of the scientists at the University of Albany, Liming Zhou, called the media coverage of his study “misleading”:

As Zhou himself explained in an accompanying Q&A (pdf) about his paper: “the warming effect reported in this study is local and is small compared to the strong background year-to-year land surface temperature changes. Very likely, the wind turbines do not create a net warming of the air and instead only re-distribute the air’s heat near the surface, which is fundamentally different from the large-scale warming effect caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.”

And there’s the problem: The study found that wind turbines move some warm air around the surrounding areas in Texas. That’s not the same as global warming, although that term — much like “green” — can mean just about anything you want. For all the fair wind power criticisms, this one feels more like prodding someone in the eye with their own terminology.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at a potential breakthrough in wind power: the wind lens.

I’ll admit it: I’m not a big fan of wind power (oh, pun).

Like electric car batteries, it’s making progress, but thus far, fails in a) the ability to store a sufficient amount of energy; and b) returning enough energy value for the energy it takes to create it — the fancy term is EROEI: energy returned on energy invested — making it unreliable as anything more than a niche power source.

That said, I still like to keep track of the progression of green technologies, because the world is changing, and if it changes rapidly enough, some of these alternate energy sources could be sustainable long-term. Of course, this will likely require a dominant energy industry to crash — as need is a great developer of technology — so in the mean time, we get to enjoy the smaller developments along the way:

If you’ve driven through North Dakota, Texas or Wyoming, you’ve probably seen those giant three-pronged wind turbines up on a hill. Even though they’re placed in areas where they should catch the wind and spin, you’ve probably driven by them when they’re not turning. As a result of that, wind power technologies are looking for ways for turbines to spin more efficiently, while being safe and cost-effective.

Japan has invented a wind turbine that could triple the output of a standard wind turbine, potentially making it more cost-efficient than nuclear power ($80 per MWh for wind versus $90 per MWh for coal). As usual, I italicized the terms that highlight the difference between a success and a raging failure.

new wind turbine

Looks like a Dyson bladeless fan -- uh, with the blades put back in

Speculators have determined that with a mere (whopping) 2,640,000 wind lenses, wind power could completely replace nuclear power. You know, if it actually works as planned, and if people somehow sign off on turning over a combined land mass area a quarter the size of Alaska. Minor details, especially considering wind turbines aren’t aesthetically pleasing enough for many environmentalists.

That’s one of those hypocritical standards that pops up in environmentalism: As wind power gets more mainstream — and therefore more visible and hopefully more reliable — the less it is embraced by the hardcore green crowd who initially champion just about any potentially green technology that could be more efficient than big oil or nuclear energy. In the end, green or not, there is no more inefficient energy resource than fantasy.

Wind power has some hefty price tags ahead, too — like the proposed multi-billion dollar TWE Carbon Valley project in Wyoming (note that ‘proposed’ is italicized, whereas ‘multi-billion dollar’ is not) — but at least it’s progressing in a way that even I might agree with one day.

More on the wind lens:

More innovative wind turbine designs: http://www.ecofriend.com/entry/7-innovative-wind-turbine-designs/

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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One of the things that throws me off about energy resources is that it seems as though there are different standards for favored power resources. For example, I’ve heard offshore oil rigs slammed as being an aesthetic blight on the beauty of the ocean, yet that same standard doesn’t seem to apply to giant wind turbines on the landscape (though to be fair, the aesthetics of wind turbines do come under fire from time to time).

That's one fine lookin' energy resource

Maybe it’s that states like Texas, Iowa and Wyoming — leaders in wind power — just aren’t as darn well perty as California, or maybe oil & gas is still too dirty of an industry, but I still don’t get how the aesthetics argument can apply to one resource (or really to any if the energy is good and safe enough) and not the other.

Can someone explain this to me?

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with a 3.5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) 

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