The US military improves its carbon footprint
The military is America’s largest consumer of fuel, spending over $15 billion last year alone. It has an enormous carbon footprint and its reliance on fossil fuels encumbers progress and renders it vulnerable to attack. All that is about to change as the military adopts new energy policies that will save lives, money and the environment too.
Recent congressional directives and presidential orders are forcing the military to clean up their act. In an effort to reduce costs and improve safety, the Pentagon has ordered the military to develop weapons which are more environmentally friendly, utilize renewable energy sources, and encourage more energy-efficient behaviour from their troops.
One of the greatest motivations for the move is the growing cost of fossil fuels. In WW2, each soldier required only 1 gallon of fuel per day to function efficiently. Modern military operations utilize a staggering 22 gallons per soldier per day. The cost of providing this fuel is overwhelming. Supplying fuel for the 300,000 service men and women in Iraq in 2007 required 1,000 trucks a day and 35, 400 troops who often took weeks to drive fuel to distant outposts. The cost of each gallon could spiral to hundreds of dollars (over $400 dollars in some cases) as it had to be trucked or flown to remote areas over rugged terrain. One in eight casualties was sustained in the transport or protection of fuel convoys.
A leaner, greener military will see a reduction in costs and the carbon footprint of operations. If troops in the field are able to rely on renewable energy sources like solar, they will be more mobile and efficient.
Small portable solar arrays, which can be rolled up and easily transported, provide troops in the field with a power source for their electronic equipment. Larger solar panels are used to supply power to bases for air conditioning, lighting and electronic equipment.
The major source of consumption is vehicular and the military have been experimenting for some time with biofuels. The Navy is developing “the great green fleet” which comprises an aircraft carrier and F-18 fighter jets and helicopters that run on bio-fuels. The fleet will be deployed by 2016. By 2020, the military hopes that at least 50% of its energy will come from renewable sources.
Bases also consume massive amounts of energy, especially in areas of inclement weather. Although new buildings are already expected to attain LEED certification, the military hopes that all bases will be net zero by 2020. The military uses a two-prong approach to achieve these lofty energy efficiency targets; a reliance on the strength and insulating powers of ICFs coupled with renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal and wind energy to power operations.
General Martin E. Dempsey puts it like this: “Saving energy saves lives… Whatever and whenever our forces go into harm’s way, they must have the best tools available. Improving our energy security can help us do that, and we don’t have time to waste”
A question we encounter quite frequently in talking to home and business owners is: Does solar work for my roof? While solar systems work on most roofs the answer sometimes is not that simple. This is why I am going to shed some light on this issue to give you some tools for your own roof assessment.
1) Roof Pitch
The roof pitch is one of the factors that influences how much energy your solar modules will absorb. Keep in mind that we are trying to find a good balance between summer/winter. While some people are leaning towards your location’s Latitude as the optimum angle, there are others that deduct a number from your Latitude so the modules perform better in summer, when the bulk of the harvested energy is available. The reason why the optimum pitch is often below the Latitude for a location is the fact that a typical solar system in the northern hemisphere will harvest the majority of energy from April to October. Thus the modules need to be angled a bit less to hit the optimum for when the sun declination (the angle of the sun rays in relation to the equator) is quite high. Most industrial units have flat roofs and are ideal for a solar installation as the angle of the panels can be adjusted. At the end one should not put too much emphasis on this topic since most residential installations are roof-parallel. This means the pitch is given by the existing roof slope and can not be altered.
The best orientation of a solar module is facing towards True South. This is ideal as you can see in the diagram, the sun’s path changes from season to season. But with the cost of solar modules coming down, roofs that are facing towards the East or West, and even in some cases North-East/North-West exposures are still producing good return rates. Businesses with flat roofs are ideal as the solar power system can be positioned to suit the sun’s path irrespective of the buildings direction. How important this maximum efficiency of a solar system is, depends on the feed-in-tariff program and the overall system cost.
Shade on a solar module is not a good thing and must be avoided. Modules should only be mounted on roof spaces that are not affected by partial or full shading during the core hours (10am to 4pm) of a day. Even the shadow of a telephone wire can significantly reduce your energy production. It also needs to be noted that there is no inverter technology available that can generate energy from a shaded module, contrary to what micro-inverter supporters sometimes claim.
Solar modules can operate even at very cold temperatures. In fact the electric efficiency of a module increases the lower the temperature is. Most modules are rated for as low as -40 degrees C. Due to this effect you can expect very high power generation on crisp cold but clear days. Great for northern climates like ours in Ontario.
5) Dust and Dirt
Modules have a self cleaning effect when it rains. The tempered glass surface does not allow dirt and dust to stick to it once rain water runs over it. There may be exceptions when additional cleaning is required, i.e. farm operations or locations near major highways. Ensure that demineralized or rain water is used for the cleaning. Otherwise you may get calcium build up, negatively effecting the amount of light that gets through to the solar cell under the glass.
Solar powered vehicles to top your Christmas shopping list
Plagued by hungry polar bears and beset by a shrinking North Pole, Santa is more aware than most of the consequences of green house gas emissions. Christmas presents which utilize electronics, batteries and fuel will land you on Santa’s naughty list next year for sure. All the more reason to invest in a solar powered Ontario this year. We have brought you all kinds of goodies from solar backpacks to patio furniture, but this year we know that you have been really, really good, so let’s think a little bigger.
Ross Lovegrove, visionary designer, inventor and organic essentialist brings us the ‘car on a stick.’ Solar canopies collect solar power and charge the car during the day. Satellite GPS navigates the pod car for you, leaving you free to enjoy the city view through the wrap-around windows. When you park your car at the end of the day, a central pole elevates the car, leaving the road accessible to pedestrians. Your car is now utilized as a street lamp.
Bachelorette number two is the Venturi Fetish; the most advanced electric sports car in the world. A bold claim, no doubt, but since Venturi are the proud owners of the world fastest electric car, its one we can believe. As the world’s first solar-powered supercar… it’s simply gorgeous. With an output of over 300 HP, weight of 1, 225 kg, a top speed of 200 km/hr and 0 to 100 in less than 4 seconds, this 2 seat roadster is bound to make your toes curl.
If you are a family man, need more space than the two-seater roadster offers, or are a fan of the Grateful Dead, we have just the thing for you. VW has teamed up with Hydro Technologies to bring you the Chameleon. Solar panels on the roof-mounted surfboards provide additional power to this 100% electric vehicle. The interior of the minivan is decked out with the latest electronic and GPS technology with voice-activated controls. It also sports ‘exciting rear seat entertainment’, but that’s hardly a new innovation in the VW minivan. The 1964 31-window model was chosen as it is undeniably the most prized among the classic VW minivans.
For the modestly priced options, we turn now to the Solar Bug. Again, roof-mounted solar panels provide about a fourth of the Bug’s 200 mile capacity. At $15,000 a piece, the 900 pound two-seater is flying off the shelves (OK, out of the garage) faster than inventor and manufacturer Steve Titus can make them. Even Disneyland has ordered one! With a top speed of 55 km/h, you can zip around the city safe in the knowledge that you’re not contributing to the depletion of Santa’s homeland.
Too lazy to shovel your drive this winter? No worries, what you need is an Antarctica. The Mission 3 Antarctica is, literally, unstoppable. Currently deployed at the Princess Elizabeth station in Antarctica, it is charged solely by wind and sun power. The Antarctica is able to carry a ton of passengers and equipment over a 150km distance. Able to withstand temperatures of -50°, it is ideally suited to the harsh Antarctic climate. With a top speed of 40 km/h over rugged terrain, this juggernaut will have you counting more penguins than all the other researchers combined.
When Regan removed the solar panels that Carter had installed on the White House roof, he sent a clear message – that solar had not come of age. If you are making a substantial investment in your home or business, you need to consider your options carefully and, while you are considering, we thought we might enlighten you by dispelling some urban legends about solar power systems so that you can make the right decision. This week at SolarLine we are busting myths and taking names. Be prepared to be educated…
Myth #1—Solar is too expensive
WRONG! It does take some initial investment, but most homeowners make back their initial investment within the first five years and can then look forward to a 15% or more return on their investment annually. If you live in Ontario, you can take advantage of the microFIT program currently on offer from the government and make a profit from your solar panels.
Solar installations have seen a dramatic decrease in costs over the last decade. This is thanks to a greater demand and more efficient technology. There are several firms who operate locally, making installation less costly. If you don’t have the capital, you can always get financing from your bank or through your solar installer.
Some people think that it is better to wait for the technology to advance and for solar to become cheaper. You can say that about every technology, but waiting will mean that you miss out on current government incentives. Look at the chart for a better idea of the return you will receive on your initial investment.
Myth #2—More power is used to manufacture and transport solar panels than the panel will produce in its lifetime
NOPE! A National Renewable Energy Laboratory report shows that the cost of producing a panel will be recovered in 1 – 4 years and, since most solar panels last for 30 years, they will make far more energy than they used. The idea that panels will one day clog landfills is also unlikely as 90% of material used to manufacture them is recyclable. A PV system that meets the needs of an average household prevents 1 ton of sulphur dioxide and about 12 000 lbs of nitrogen from polluting our atmosphere. Most pollutants produced during the manufacture of solar panels are recycled resulting in pollution that is minimal at best.
Myth# 3—Solar panels only work when the sun shines.
MISTAKE! Solar is not just a fair-weather friend; energy storage ensures that the lights stay on even when the sun isn’t shining. Advances in battery technology mean that power is guaranteed for much longer than you probably thought possible. Solar is reliable, and residents will not have to suffer through power cuts, especially in inclement weather. In fact, solar is so reliable that most highway signs, signals at railway crossings, lighthouses and navigational buoys are powered only by solar panels. Solar panels still produce energy on cloudy days – how much depends on cloud density. Most Ontario homeowners will still be connected to the grid. They supply the grid with their power at $0.80 kWh and pay a maximum of $0.09 kWh when using energy from it.
Myth #4—Solar doesn’t work in extreme temperatures
ERROR! Solar panels are actually better at producing power in cooler climes. Solar panels are very hardy and can withstand onslaughts from hail, wind, snow and sleet. Battery technology has improved remarkably and silicone batteries are able to withstand extreme temperatures from -50˚C to +70˚C. Germany is a great example of solar at work in colder climates – they have more than 2 million homes with solar panels! The cost of solar is also significantly less than costs associated with extending hydro poles to remote areas. A recent survey by the Solar Industries Association said 94% of people who owned solar water heaters considered them a wise investment.