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Enviro-Green Tech: The Good? (not the Bad and the Ugly)
Old 08-19-2014, 09:26 AM   #1
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Enviro-Green Tech: The Good? (not the Bad and the Ugly)

It seems that occasionally a thread is started promoting some new environmentally friendly technology, and in no time, that idea is shot down (can it be 'shot down' if it was never 'up' to begin with?) by other posters with facts and figures. I was thinking, rather than a negative thread on enviro-green ideas, how about some ideas that look to have real merit? And if a new idea posted to this thread looks bleak after closer examination, maybe move any further discussion to another thread, to keep this one on the positive side? Just a thought.

Just for reference, let's look at a few not so great, bad, and downright ugly ideas, and get them out of the way.

The Ugly - That 'Solar Roadways' plan to make roads out of glass covered solar cells and LEDS, with heaters to melt ice and snow. There isn't even a single aspect of this that makes a lick of sense (other than for the promoter's pocket books) - it's all a waste, not environmentally positive in any way whatsoever. There are far better ways to use solar PV. See more at this thread, or just search the web for more critique than you can handle.

Solar pavement

And the super-mega-over-hyped source: Solar Roadways - Introduction


The Bad - Home-sized wind turbines and home-sized solar PV. Not outright ugly, but if you want to support wind power, the materials that go into making a wind turbine should be used at a large scale - winds are so much more powerful and steady at higher elevations, and larger sizes bring economy of scale. It is a waste, in relative terms, to make small wind turbines. Same with solar PV - large installations on schools, big-box stores, etc, bring economy of scale - one install and plan optimally placed on flat roofs versus hundreds of individual installs that need to consider shading and angles and wiring. Far easier to adjust one industrial sized install for the seasons, or to clean if needed, than to drive to and climb up hundreds of home rooftops, etc.

Personal Windmill, anyone seen this?


The Not so Great - Electric Vehicles. We have a lot of discussion of this on the Tesla thread, and when you compare an EV to other environmental options ('standard' hybrid cars like the Prius), they may be marginally better in terms of CO2 (but worse on much of the grid), but far worse for other pollutants (like a 100x worse) such as SOx (acid rain) and NOx (smog, irritant). And since batteries, chargers, and motors are already highly efficient, we can't really expect much improvement (yes, the grid may slowly get cleaner - but even a small % of coal creates problems for NOx and SOx).

Way too much in this and other posts in the Tesla thread: More on the Tesla electric car


If you disagree with any of the above, please take that to, or start, a separate thread. So on with the potentially 'good':

Hybrids are already pretty good, they don't have range or infrastructure issues, and unlike EVs, there is still a lot of room for improvement in the engines that power them. I predict that these improvements will advance faster than the greening of the grid. Here are a few potential ideas for hybrids:

1) The six-stroke engine - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-stroke_engine ... the engine captures the heat lost from the four-stroke Otto cycle or Diesel cycle and uses it to power an additional power and exhaust stroke of the piston in the same cylinder. Designs use either steam or air as the working fluid for the additional power stroke. Injecting a bit of water absorbs some of the remaining heat, turns it into power, and may eliminate (or greatly reduce) the need for radiators.

2) The free-piston, linear engine - in a series hybrid, the engine is only a generator, and there is no need to convert the linear piston motion to rotary motion. The free piston engine eliminates the weight and friction from the crankshaft.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-piston_engine


Toyota shows off free piston engine linear generator for future EVs



3) Hybrid delivery trucks - micro-turbine - Now this makes a LOT of sense to me. Focus these expensive hybrid systems on big delivery trucks that drive many, many miles of stop and go (where hybrids really help), and use LOTS of fuel. That battery and generator in a passenger car isn't utilized that well - cars are parked most of the day. Big savings on a delivery truck can trump the savings you get on a dozen or more passenger cars.



Ian Wright was a co-founder of Tesla Motors - Wright points out that the delivery companies will run their trucks for 10 to 20 years and need to replace their engines two or three times during the life of a single chassis. A new engine and transmission for these types of vehicles cost about $35,000. So ..., why not upgrade to a turbine-powered, electric dynamo?


Conservation: The above is conservation, and I think conservation has a much bigger near term payback than 'alternate energy'. Most alternate energy is variable, and that causes problems before it can replace significant % of our needs. Storage is expensive, and may have potential hazards to consider. I think we can conserve 20% far easier than we can replace it. And a MW-hr not consumed produces zero pollution.

I think telecommuting and ride-sharing could be promoted. And I'm in the lowest quintile of electric power users in my neighborhood and less than 1/2 the power of the average user (despite having an electric dryer rather than NG which is more common), and I'm sure not living like the Amish, I don't go powering down everything, we have two refrigerators and a freezer (and 2 of those are the old, supposed 'energy hogs'), and lots of old-style 'Edison bulbs' (high use sockets are mostly CFL though). What are all these other people using their juice for? How about more tiering of rates to make high energy users pay more? That would motivate savings in many areas, rather than just a few that get hyped (CFLs, etc).

So what other green ideas have potential? Thoughts?

-ERD50
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Old 08-19-2014, 09:38 AM   #2
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I have often thought about home turbines. Produced in mass quantities, each small one could produce a lot of energy.

Also, panels to replace roof boards and shingles, that were also solar power generators. You save on some construction costs by eliminating the plywood (or OSB) and shingles. If the cells could be produced cheap enough, it would be great.
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Old 08-19-2014, 09:43 AM   #3
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Don't forget the "streamers"

Dead-Bird ‘Steamers’ at a California Solar Plant | National Review Online

" Workers at the state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plants concentrated sun rays steamers, for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair, the Associated Press reports this week. "
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Old 08-19-2014, 10:09 AM   #4
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Don't forget the "streamers"

Dead-Bird ‘Steamers’ at a California Solar Plant | National Review Online

" Workers at the state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plants concentrated sun rays steamers, for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair, the Associated Press reports this week. "
With respect to ERD50's desire to keep this a positive thread: pre-cooked free (tastes like?) chicken dinners from the sky!

I'm a huge fan of 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.' as a conservation method. Very little goes in our gigantic trash company provided bins.
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Old 08-19-2014, 10:34 AM   #5
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I do agree that the electric power makes more sense for large, expensive, gas guzzling vehicles than in small, high mpg vehicles. I think Tesla got it right by making its electric car an expensive sports vehicle, rather than trying to produce a small but very expensive little car that has to compete with much cheaper, high mpg vehicles like the Prius.
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Old 08-19-2014, 10:47 AM   #6
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Thanks for posting. What about self-driving cars? In 20 years, these will be becoming mainstream. An individual's personal car is idle 96% of the time. Maybe that number will only be 50% idle time for a self-driving car. When I am about to leave the mall I will simply push a button on my smart phone and my ride will be pulling up. Also, people can choose to share rides this way (they will get a discount over paying for a single person point to point ride).

Over time, cities will no longer need so much parking near dense commercial and residential spaces, even driveways and personal parking spaces will not be needed by many which allows for shorter distances and wider and more varied transportation corridors. With 50% vehicle utilization, maybe a certain type of engine (hybrid?) will be make more sense. Also, many fewer vehicles will need to be manufactured.

Also, I see this whole driverless care concept being ignored in long term public transit plans. Driverless vehicles would seem to be a replacement for certain kinds of public transit (e.g., perhaps build a dedicated road for high speed driverless vehicles instead of a high speed rail between cities, driverless vans instead of big buses for city public transit, etc).
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Old 08-19-2014, 11:53 AM   #7
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Speaking of conservation, how about home software to minimize driving distances when running a series of errands? UPS and FedEx use it, IIRC. For most of us here it probably won't matter, but for people who have large families with lots of daily trips it might.
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Old 08-19-2014, 12:04 PM   #8
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With respect to ERD50's desire to keep this a positive thread: pre-cooked free (tastes like?) chicken dinners from the sky!

I'm a huge fan of 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.' as a conservation method. Very little goes in our gigantic trash company provided bins.
Cooked is good, be good to figure out how to get them on my plate at lunch time. Though a good amount o' spices needed to cover up the smell.

+1 on your second para, DW and I do the same.

Onto the good stuff.

At my mancave 90% of the time solar generated electric is used. My recently installed wind generator is barely doing much. It is mostly for use in the winter when not much sun but lots of wind.
The camp is totally off grid. It would cost me more than $25000, to get utility power.

I am in the process of experimenting with co-generation on a small scale at my mancave. Slow it is.

Got a used marine diesel generator. For those who don't know marine diesel generators usually have dual circuit cooling systems. One sealed and pressurized, which is cooled by seawater sucked in, mixed with exhaust gas and the heat dumped via theexhaust stream.

What I am trying to do is use exhaust gas water separator which will re separate the exhaust gas from the cooling water. Then using this hot water to heat the mancave.

Diesel exhaust is much hotter than than gasoline engine exhaust. By reclaiming additional heat besides the regular coolant circuit I get more BTU per gallon fuel burned than just using coolant for heat. Getting electric once up and running is just a side benefit.

The plumbing gets a little complicated, to say the least. And as usual my cheapskate method is to acquire all needed stuff via craiglist or curbside. So it will take a while before actual heating will happen. As I am in no hurry, at this time I am roughly 1/3 way along. Can't rush these things, especially since I only work on it when I feel like it.

See, there are many who theorize, some of us do. Experiments are fun, regardless of actual outcome. I am partial to solutions that I can use, not interested in any societal benefits.

Since I do have a stream, If I luck on a cheap micro-hydro generator, I'd add it to the system.
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Old 08-19-2014, 01:40 PM   #9
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Thanks for posting. What about self-driving cars? In 20 years, ....
Yes, but as you say they are probably a ways out. But I do like the idea of car sharing (like Zip cars), and driver-less sure could make that more prevalent. So many cars sit unused for so much of the time - if you could click and have a car show up 10 minutes later, and just walk away when you return home (the car would drive itself to a local lot or space), I think a lot of people could get by with fewer/no cars in the family (I would). Fewer cars made is less energy expended. And along the lines of the delivery trucks, fewer cars running higher mileage justifies higher initial expenditures for energy saving techniques (like hybrid tech). There could be a lot of synergy there, even if the car was only driverless from the lot to your door and back.


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Speaking of conservation, how about home software to minimize driving distances when running a series of errands? ... .
Interesting - I picture an app that ties into the family calendar, looks at a map and makes suggestions on how to reduce trips for that week. We may see 'an app for that'!

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...

What I am trying to do is use exhaust gas water separator which will re separate the exhaust gas from the cooling water. Then using this hot water to heat the mancave. ... .
Neat. Being off-grid does make a lot of things practical. They may not translate to on-grid use, but it does bring up ideas. I'm always struck by the amount of low-level heat that is just wasted. My refrigerators/freezer kick out heat all day, and in the non-heating months, that could go towards heating (or at least pre-heating) my domestic water, and not dumping heat into the house when A/C is on. And a cooling unit would probably be more efficient using cold ground water to absorb the heat in place of room temp air. But in reality, the complexity just doesn't make it practical.

But it seems like many industrial installations could do things like this. The big data centers create so much heat that needs to be pulled out - can't they co-locate those with some industry that can use low grade heat?

I wonder if big diesels with refrigerated trailers could use the waste heat to run absorptive air coolers? Those aren't as efficient as compressors ( 0.7 COP vs 3-4 COP for compressor?), but if it is just waste heat, could it make sense? But if it needs to be 5x the size, maybe that's a big factor? I don't know, but it sure seems there are a lot of opportunities out there. I think businesses are s focused on their business, they don't want to be distracted by some of this.

I gotta run, but keep the ideas coming, I think this is fun, it keeps the brain working!

-ERD50
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Old 08-19-2014, 02:40 PM   #10
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Cooked is good, be good to figure out how to get them on my plate at lunch time. Though a good amount o' spices needed to cover up the smell.

+1 on your second para, DW and I do the same.

Onto the good stuff.

At my mancave 90% of the time solar generated electric is used. My recently installed wind generator is barely doing much. It is mostly for use in the winter when not much sun but lots of wind.
The camp is totally off grid. It would cost me more than $25000, to get utility power.

I am in the process of experimenting with co-generation on a small scale at my mancave. Slow it is.

Got a used marine diesel generator. For those who don't know marine diesel generators usually have dual circuit cooling systems. One sealed and pressurized, which is cooled by seawater sucked in, mixed with exhaust gas and the heat dumped via theexhaust stream.

What I am trying to do is use exhaust gas water separator which will re separate the exhaust gas from the cooling water. Then using this hot water to heat the mancave.

Diesel exhaust is much hotter than than gasoline engine exhaust. By reclaiming additional heat besides the regular coolant circuit I get more BTU per gallon fuel burned than just using coolant for heat. Getting electric once up and running is just a side benefit.

The plumbing gets a little complicated, to say the least. And as usual my cheapskate method is to acquire all needed stuff via craiglist or curbside. So it will take a while before actual heating will happen. As I am in no hurry, at this time I am roughly 1/3 way along. Can't rush these things, especially since I only work on it when I feel like it.

See, there are many who theorize, some of us do. Experiments are fun, regardless of actual outcome. I am partial to solutions that I can use, not interested in any societal benefits.

Since I do have a stream, If I luck on a cheap micro-hydro generator, I'd add it to the system.
Ooo - a stream! Gotta thump-pump as well?
Home-made Hydraulic Ram Pump
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Old 08-19-2014, 03:25 PM   #11
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Nah. They are noisy. 100' of 1" piping gives gravity feed from uphill.

For drinking water, have a spring, also uphill from the cave, and 2 250 gal jugs for storing with a bit of chlorine dumped in every so often to kill of any little buggers. All the comforts of home

One of these days I'll make a solar cooker just for the hell of it.
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Old 08-19-2014, 03:40 PM   #12
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All the waste management (garbage, recycling, yard debris) trucks around here are powered by natural gas, so no diesel smell on pick-up days.
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Old 08-19-2014, 05:50 PM   #13
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I think conservation is a way to go. It is something we all can make immediate impact. Let's start with our cars. Owning, driving unnecessarily big cars ... do we really need an F250 to commute, often driving at 20 MPH in city traffic?

How about all those product packaging? If you ordered a large McDonald meal, you know you are getting more plastic, and paper waste than food itself.
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Old 08-19-2014, 06:03 PM   #14
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What strikes me about green tech in general is that the door needs to be left open to some subsidy in order to move things forward. Trancontinental railroads are an example that comes to mind. Rural electrification is another.

The knee-jerk temptation is to show by arithmetic and some facts and assumptions that it won't pay it's own way at this time. To rely on that test alone is to miss the opportunity in a lot of cases, imo.
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Old 08-19-2014, 08:32 PM   #15
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......... ... do we really need an F250 to commute, often driving at 20 MPH in city traffic? .................
You are treading awfully close to discussing religion here...
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Old 08-19-2014, 10:06 PM   #16
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I'm pretty pleased with out geothermal HVAC system. We've had it for 7 years with only one small repair. It's a big, 3 zone house, and the system paid the difference between itself and a normal electric heat pump system by the end of the 5th year. Maryland electricity is expensive, and our bills are running just a touch more than half of what our comparable sized neighbors are paying. We managed to miss all the subsidies when we installed it, so there's nothing masking the true costs (AFAIK). I'll never build anything again without geothermal.

Oh yeah, we have a well for our water supply, so that was already available when they installed the system. If we hadn't had the well there would have been additional costs getting one drilled, which would have slowed the break even point.
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Old 08-19-2014, 10:59 PM   #17
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I'm pretty pleased with out geothermal HVAC system. ...
That's a good example, geothermal can make a lot of sense - use the ground as a large heat sink/source.

As you point out, it takes some significant support system, so it may not be feasible and/or economical for many. And I don't think it is (much?) cheaper than heating with Natural Gas, so probably won't be adapted much in areas where NG is available. Now I'm curious to what extent this is being used in large buildings? I would think that support system would work out due to economies of scale.


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I think conservation is a way to go. It is something we all can make immediate impact. Let's start with our cars. Owning, driving unnecessarily big cars ... do we really need an F250 to commute, often driving at 20 MPH in city traffic?

How about all those product packaging? If you ordered a large McDonald meal, you know you are getting more plastic, and paper waste than food itself.
The tough thing, even when you pass a big vehicle with one passenger - maybe they use it for work, and they need that size? Hard to judge sometimes. And a big car carrying 4 people is getting better mpg-per-person than 4 bitty cars who aren't bothering to car-pool. If there were some practical way to make fuel bills 'progressive' (like some tiered electric rates), I think it would go a long way towards people thinking again just how much vehicle they really need.

Amazon was pushing 'frustration free' packaging, which I liked, but I rarely see it. A plain cardboard box is better for me and the environment than those finger-cutting plastic cases.


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What strikes me about green tech in general is that the door needs to be left open to some subsidy in order to move things forward. Trancontinental railroads are an example that comes to mind. Rural electrification is another.

The knee-jerk temptation is to show by arithmetic and some facts and assumptions that it won't pay it's own way at this time. To rely on that test alone is to miss the opportunity in a lot of cases, imo.
Well, I'm going to disagree for most subsidies (but offer positive alternatives to keep the thread in a positive mode). And there are cases like you point out where it takes some govt 'persuasion' when individual players can't put up the resources or garner enough profits. But...

I've talked about this before, but when you look at new technology, it is rarely a subsidy or early adopters 'moving them forward' that increases adoption. It is that the technology matured, increasing the value proposition, leading to wider adoption. As they say, nine women can't make a baby in a month. If we had, for example, subsidized portable computers in the mid-80's, it would not have done anything to make laptops get smaller, lighter, faster, cheaper any more quickly. Probably the opposite. If consumers were buying bulky, slow ones because they were made 'cheap' by a subsidy, then manufacturers would keep making bulky slow ones. What made laptops gain acceptance is that CPUs got better, screens got better, batteries got better, manufacturing techniques got better - and all those things were improving due to a general push from competition across all the products that we use. Intel could not have made die shrinks on a tighter schedule, they already had incentive to do that. We could not have placed smaller and smaller parts on PCBs until we gained experience with one step, and the machines were improved, and then we moved to the next step - experience takes time. A few incremental sales from subsidy affects wouldn't have been a drop in the bucket to ALL that had to happen.

Far, far better, IMO, than subsidies for individual product purchases, would be to use that money to invest in research. Especially the kind of research where a private company would benefit, maybe can't get a competitive benefit. That kind of research helps the entire industry, and the consumers.

Let's consider the $7,000 (IIRC?) subsidy to the purchaser of a Tesla. Now I can't believe that many potential buyers of a $100,000 high profile car were really swayed by that $7,000 delta. They wanted that car, period. So for say 1,000 cars, that was $700,000 that went to individuals... for what? Even if it pushed a few incremental sales (doesn't Tesla have a supply problem, not a demand problem?), that doesn't move the needle on advancement of the technology - it's just a few extra sales. I'm certain that what Tesla needs is better batteries, not a few more customers in line. And there is enough push for better batteries from all over the market - EV sales aren't really going to move that on their own.

But provide that same $700,000 to a lab, and maybe you can get some testing done that could improve all vehicles (or energy efficiency in general), and help everyone at a much larger scale.

-ERD50
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Old 08-19-2014, 11:18 PM   #18
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You are treading awfully close to discussing religion here...
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Old 08-20-2014, 08:43 AM   #19
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ERD50 wrote:

"So for say 1,000 cars, that was $700,000 that went to individuals... for what?"

Agreed, subsidy plus bad policy leads to waste and distortion.

In a perfect world, business pioneers would invest , reap the future rewards, and move technology forward without intervention from anyone. My thinking was more along the lines of developments coming from the space program, and darpa, stuff like that. Early work by nasa or it's contractors may have jump-started the processes and material science that intel, etc later exploited. Would space-x be where it is without nasa?

Jet engines, nuclear technology, synthetic rubber, etc moved forward dramatically during WW2. All would likely happened anyway, but when?

Maybe catalyst is the word that works better than subsidy.
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Old 08-20-2014, 09:11 AM   #20
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If you ordered a large McDonald meal, you know you are getting more plastic, and paper waste than food itself.
How can you tell them apart?
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