Sunday, August 31, 2008

Railways Are Back

As someone who was born and lived in a country with the world's largest and most successful rail network, I should be proud of this. Green Daily has highlighted the enormous advantages that rail has over roads in the economical transportation of goods in this post: However, this does not mean that there is no scope for improvement. India's rail networks are old and the engine and coach technology dates back to the 1950s. There is scope for developing the networks to make compartments more comfortable for passengers, for making goods carriers more efficient and for the use of more fuel efficient engines. Somehow, my fear is that with the success of the rail network as far as generating profits in India is concerned, the government may become complacent and decide to leave possible improvements alone. That would be a terrible shame. I hope that I am proven wrong in this suspicion.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Hybrid Luxury Boat

Now, boat owners need not feel bad at all about using fossil fuel. I know they have been in the sights of the green community because the bulk of the world's fossil fuels are used by boats and ships. Now, there is a technical solution that should make them feel less guilty: A hybrid solar-diesel-electric boat. There are also rumors that the Japanese and the Norwegians are independently working on large oceangoing vessels powered by solar power alone.

And I have written about this before but the Dutch Czeers company makes a solar powered speedboat: It would be inappropriate not to mention them on this post.

Cheers! And happy green boating!

A Step Ahead in Harnessing Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy has been a clean source of power for homes but it has, so far, been accessible only to the very wealthy because of its cost. The equipment has been expensive and the amount of energy that could be extracted from the earth meagre. However, this turned out to be something that fashionable anvironmentally conscious types instaleld in their homes in the swankier parts of the Northeast or on the West Coast of the USA. Now comes a breakthrough that promises to work efficiently at lower temperatures underground: Rasertech's website has several videos talking about their technology and about the plant that they are currently building in New Mexico.

Yes, this is yet another technology that I would love to see available in more places. Nothing beats showing fossil fuel the fist!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

And Energy from Flowing Water

With so many wind turbine designs, there had to be some innovative attempts at harnessing power from flowing water. The Gorlov Helical Turbine: is a turbine designed to generate electricity from flowing water. A very interesting design and one that has many applications around the world. The system could be used very effectively to harness tidal power - India / Pakistan / Bangladesh / Sri Lanka - are you listening?

Some Ideas for Do-It-Yourselfers

I found the Renewable Energy UK website today and it seems like a nice one for those who are hobby do-it-yourselfers. Two of the projects that seemed particularly interesting to me were a home made wind turbine (designed here in the good old U S of A): and some plans for a Solar Powered Irrigation System for collecting rain water and grey water and using it for garden irrigation: Considering that Solar Powered Irrigation Systems have been available in India for at least 10 years now, this is an interesting idea that people who have small gardens could use to put their bath water and collected rain water to use in watering their flowers and grass.

There are also some nice do-it-yourself videos at the Green Power Science website: for those interested in trying out different home-brew projects. Those who have interesting ideas can also write to these people with their suggestions. They plan to have a television show and I think that would be fantastic viewing for people around the world. I would love to show it dubbed in local languages in India and in other third world countries if possible.

All strength to these good people!

Congratulations, India! Two Large Solar Energy Powerplants to Come up in the Country

It was while going through the Treehugger Archives today that I came across two very interesting posts. One talks about a 250 MW Integrated Solar Power Facility coming up in the port city of Haldia, West Bengal:

The other talks about what would become (for a while at least) the world's biggest solar facility in Gujarat, supported by the Clinton Foundation:

I can think of many more places which could do with this kind of project - the desert areas of Rajasthan, the dry and ferociously hot area in Anantapur and Tadipatri in Andhra Pradesh, Chennai and North Arcot District in Tamilnadu etc. With substantial funding available for these projects from the US Exim Bank, there is no reason for this type of development not to take place in India. May the examples set by these two states be followed by others! I also hope that India's neighbors would follow these examples and come up with projects of their own.

Congratulations, again!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Clean Energy in the USA Runs into a Roadblock

A New York Times article today talks about a problem that faces the USA in its very positive move to generate power from renewable means:

While wind energy is being harnessed, the grid does not have the capacity to take this power to consumers. Texas seems the best state as its maverick oilman turned renewable energy enthusiast, TR Boone Pickens has testified, because the state has laws and policies supporting clean power. The rest of the USA needs to act NOW. Hopefully, this election year will see more effort by the American public who must be sick of the joke prices that they are forced to pay for oil press both major party candidates on this issue.

The positive thing about this is that both Sens Mc Cain and Obama have been listening.

Go, gentlemen! A 20% reduction in the use of fossil fuels and a significant reduction in oil imports would be fantastic. This would also mean more people hired here to set wind turbines up and to service and support the industry's clients. A good way to reduce some of the problems from the current weskness in the economy? I am no economist but that does seem right.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The World's Largest Wind Farms

Some more nice information from Eco Geek: I know that Suzlon are an aggressive company. Maybe we should have an Indian company compete to be somewhere in this list. Or, maybe a Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Sri Lankan company . . .

It would be nice for this "prize" to belong to a South Asian country if you ask me. Personally, that would beat an Olympic medal IMO.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Colorado Shows Fossil Fuels the Fist

This community written about in Ecogeek, another excellent resource for those interested in Renewable Energy will be the first Fossil Fuel Free community in the USA. That it is being built in the beautiful state of Colorado which is a battleground between those who want to preserve its natural beauty and those who wish to drill there for oil, is particularly interesting. I would like to hope that the nations of South Asia come forward to look at this place and learn from it. After all, the site is just 25 acres in size and similar, therefore, to many developments in India. Just imagine - no more worries about power cuts, no noise and no dust and pollution gnerated from your own home!

What could be better?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Turning Sewage into a Valuable Resource

There was a snippet in one of the newspapers about the toilets at a moffusil bus stand in Tamilnadu being used to power some of the cafeterias there, the unfortunate result being that people who would notmally eat at the cafeterias stopped doing this when they learned that the fuel came from their own shit. And while this silly experimentation continues, the capital of Tamilnadu, Chennai, discharges huge amounts of sewage every single day into the sea through the Cooum and the Adyar Rivers. Not only is the state government of Tamilnadu (and I am sure that the state governments of every other state in the country are no better) wasting a very valuable resource, it is also ruining the environment on its coast especially around two of the finest beaches in that part of the world.

I do think that it would be great for an Indiancompany to tie up with a Western one or for a Western company to go it alone and use this huge amount of power to generate electricity, fill the gas in cylinders and sell it or simply use the gas to run a fleet of cabs, delivery trucks or whatever in India. That is a country that ahs been hit extremely ahrd by fuel costs and this would be a fantastic way of using something that is already a filthy nuisance lying around damaging the environment in several ways to do something useful.

Could Sail Ships Make a Comeback?

Popular Mechanics, my favorite tech magazine (well Popular Science comes close) has an excellent article on the new Parasail Technology that promi9ses to reduce fuel consumption in shipsar: The German Skysail system
featured in the article is designed to be fitted to virtually any of today's cargo ships and promises a reduction in fuel consumption of 35% on each voyage. The system is certainly good enough to be improved even further and the German engineers who have designed it must be hard at work fine tuning the technology or even designing vessels to be powered exclusively by it. There was already a move in Congress to impose fuel efficiency regulations on recreational boats, a very good idea if you ask me, and the IMO has been toying with similar recommendations for large ships. There are proposals to intriduce fuel cell driven ships but with fuel cells still some way away from commercial production that may be something for the future.

In the meantime, a French company has gone to the real thing: full fledged sailships carrying wines to other European markets as this article from Treehugger describes:
My feeling is that it is a question of time before goods that do not need to be rushed from one location to another are moved by sail. I have seen sailboats go nearly as fast as diesel powered ones on Lake Michigan and while I am no expert in this area and do not know how a particular engine displacement would compare with say a certain surface area for a sailboat's sails or whatever, the fact is that we have a centuries-old tradition of using wind power to deliver cargo. In her day, the last British Tea Clipper, the Cutty Sark often beat steamships hollow across the seas. Granted, there should be much faster vessels these days, they would hardly do what they do as cheaply as a sailship would. And with oil temporarily down but still expensive (yes, it cost me $ 41 for a tankful of gas today despite a "reduction" in pump prices) I think that it is a question of time before sailships become more common. Right now, some of the sailships use diesel gensets to keep food cargo cool. In the future, there could be one or another of the solar powered designs that are used. It is a question of integrating technologies and it is only a question of time before something very concrete comes out. Engineers are impatient and fiercely competitive people. I don't expect them to keep off fiddling with different energy-saving technologies in their rush to make the most advanced ships possible in the future.

Yes, I am a boy who comes from a seaside town where, in the mornings, children still go to the beach to watch fishermen bring their catch in and sell it to fishmongers. I have seen vessels from small catamarans (the name comes from the Tamil "kattu maram") to huge oil tankers at the port in Chennai. While I did see the last of the coal-fired steamships when I was a boy and even traveled from India to Sri Lanka by sea, the era of sail had died when I was growing up some four plus decades ago. I cannot, but, be excited about a future where sailships are visible on the horizon. What would I give to be outside Fort St George in Chennai looking out into the Bay of Bengal for sailships coming in to the port! As boys in school we were made to memorize John Masefield's "Sea Fever." I can feel it coming on as I wait for sail's second coming.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Green Hypocrites in the USA

An excellent editorial brings out the hypocrisy of some greenies in the USA:

I have posted earlier about a CBS commentator whining on AM 780 in Chicago about wind farms in Texas giving red states a switch with which they could turn power to blue states off. These are the jokers who howl about global warming and scream that there is little being done about investing in green energy. These are the same jerks who moan for days upon end about the other side being in the oil industry's pocketbooks. And these are the same jerks who work hard to sabotage any attempt that anyone tries to make in actually generating and transmitting power from green means.

Those who are really interested in renewable energy and in showing fossil fuel the fist would do well to show these jerks the fist as well.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Showing Your Electricity Utility the Fist as Well

No one who lives in South Asia is unaware of power cuts. The state owned electric utilities in that part of the world are a criminal disgrace to the millions of people who live there. I keep getting enquiries from a lot of you guys (and gals) for rooftop wind turbines to power individual homes. Well, here are some designs and also some new and high-tech designs that could be useful in more remote applications:

Aerotecture is a Chicago based company that makes horizontal axis wind turbines which are really unique. They also have a nice picture of a building where they have integrated their turbine design with the architecture of the building and produced a unique and attractive structure that would be powered by the turbines and looks really nice. I can see this design being very popular in India in particular on the multi-storey buildings in the cities in particular.

Oregon Wind is another company developing a product that should be a huge hit if they could sell it in South Asia. Their turbines look nice and the price-point they are talking about would be superb if they could be close to it. I am particularly happy that these applications are coming about as a result of interest in renewable energy because of high fossil fuel prices. There's nothing like savings on costs to get people more interested in a new technology.

One more rooftop mounted turbine that looks like a large chimney or elevator service room us the Tesnic I shall be keeping a watch on their website to see how their project develops. It does look aesthetically better than any other wind turbine I have seen.

Tangerie Alternative Power a company that offers an advanced Vertical Axis Wind Turbine works with Engineers and Architects to offer an integrated solution to wind power needs. This is a woman owned business according to their website and the lady runs it in the memory of her brother, a soldier who laid down his life for his country in the Vietnam War. My salute is to both her and her brother as people, in addition to a second salute for offering a renewable energy product.

For those with large homes on the coast like the East Coast Road in Chennai or Clifton Beach in Karachi, for example, there is a British product that looks like some kind of modernist sculpture and generates power quietly, a concern with people who do not like the hiss of wind turbines: has a nice product that would appeal to anyone who feels like driving an Ariel Atom or a KTM X-Bow if you get my drift . . .

And finally, a somewhat conventional design from Canada that is selling well in this part of the world from what I hear: This design also works very well for home / condo use and could be a nice fit for a seaside home or for a home in an agricultural / recreational area. The Canadians do some really good work in this area and if something works in the very severe weather conditions in their country, it should be an excellent product for South Asia as well.

Cheers, everyone!

I hope this gives

And Something for our Railways

San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit Stations are to run their ticket vending machines etc from solar power mounted on the roofs. Admitted vending machines are not really going to become something in South Asia, all South Asian countries have extensive railway networks, India's carrying more people than the railways of any other country in the world and the others being proportionately very large as well. Why on earth can't our countries do something like this: BART Station Will Run on Solar Power
July 10, 2008Harnessing the power of the sun here at Orinda Station.That's the idea behind an agreement the BART Board of Directors has unamiously approved. The Board gave the General Manager the authority to award a contract to a copmany that will install a canopy made out of solar panels in one of Orinda Station's parking lots.Gail Murray/BART Board President"We're seeing a great pilot (project) and I'm very pleased that it's happening at Orinda because Orinda itself is very energy conscious and it's a good place to start."Power generated by the solar panels will provide all the electricity the station needs during daylight hours, operating ticket machines, fare gates and more.The panels will look something like this, providing not just power but some shade as well.The solar panel project is just part of a plan to make BART's business operations more friendly to the environment.Gail Murray/BART Board President"Who better than BART to lead the way in sustainability because BART itself is so sustainable."The solar power contract also calls for installing solar panels on two of BARTs' sprawling maintenance facilities.In total, BART could benefit from 3.4 million dollars in electrical savings over the next 20 years.Gail Murray/BART Board President."Think what we could do in terms of saving energy if we could do that at many or all of our stations. It's a great start to a great project to save energy and be a leader in sustainability."Look for the solar panels at Orinda by late December.And to learn more about the BART Board and its Sustainability/Green Committee, click on Allison, BARTtv News.

And the same kind of roofs are being used over car parks as well:

Applications are available aplenty. Now if only someone would sit down and find a way to do something like this in South Asia . . .

And Hybrid Buses in a Country that Uses Extensive Public Transport

There are several companies including General Motors and Daimler-Benz who manufacture hybrid buses in the USA. These buses do not see much use - few people use public transport across much of the country with the possible exception of the Northeast, I think, and to some extent the larger cities on the West Coast. An old article on MSNBC talks about a 235 bus purchase by the Seattle WA transit authorities: The engines for these buses are made by Caterpillar in Peoria IL and Caterpillar have a strong presence in India. I wonder if our two major bus chassis manufacturers, Tata and Ashok Leyland have even bothered to consider these buses? Cities like the Metros with their huge numbers of buses - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata must have tens of thousands of city and moffusil buses between them - could save millions of gallons fo diesel if they sed this tech. The MSNBC article talks about a high price for these buses but that could be brought down if these cities began buying these buses in numbers because of the sheer numbers that they would buy. Another opportunity that our people ignore? You bet!

Pakistan runs its buses on CNG because they have large quantities of it and BAngladesh might do that as well because that country sits on some of the world's largest reserves of natural gas. This would, then, be a typical Indian solution but not something that India can afford to ignore. And yet, ignore it is what Indians do!

A Hybrid Truck that South Asia Should Be looking At

Considering the junk for trucks that run in India - ancient Tata 1210s and Leyland trash for one - I wonder if anyone has figured out how much oil is wasted with these ancient monstrosities. I don't know what the situation is like across South Asia though Sri Lanka would certainly have some good trucks plying their roads because they have always permitted imports of good stuff. However, there is a new game and that is the hybrid truck. The technology would be ideal for the stop-start drivind conditions on the overcrowded roads in much of South Asia and today's Autoblog Green has a piece on a new hybrid truck from Peterbilt: With a 30-50% increase in efficiency over regular American trucks, this should offer a 90% increase over the junk that plies on South Asian roads, especially in India. It can't be all that difficult for the Tatas or for Leyland to license this powertrain technology and incorporate it into their truck frames if they really want to do it. But do they?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wind Powered Land Based Vehicles

One more exciting post from Green Daily: A team of German university students are in the process of developing a wind powered vehicle that can run into a wind on land. The group has a website at: and also check out their Solar Taxi from the sidebars when you are there. I wish the IITs in India or AC Tech for example would do something similar and compete with these guys at their anual races. These would be fun events to participate in and Indians could also use their superb engineering skills to participate in these challenges. I am not well informed about engineering institutions in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and if any friends have any information about them, I would be grateful and would love to add this information here.

Speaking of wind energy, it is very interesting to learn from Who else but Green Daily that the USA is hot in competition with Germany to become one of the world's top wind powers: This kind of competition can only be a good thing. May there be many more such competitions around the world! I hope India (which is also a good country as far as harnessing wind power is concerned) also jumps in though most of the wind power that could be harnessed in India through conventional wind energy equipment has already been put to use. There are innovative technologies, though, that promise to help in harnessing wind energy at locations where it may otherwise be difficult to harness slow winds at ground level. These Canadian innovators are coming up with a system that generates wind based power up in the air from helium filled baloons that fly at 1000 feet directly above the location which needs power. A superb idea and one that they are on the road to commercializing possibly by the next year. Well, for you entrepreneurs, here is one more product to look at in South Asia. Yes, let's show fossil fuel the fist!

An Innovative Solar Powered Refrigerator

One of my favorite websites, Green Daily, has this link to an announcement of a solar powered refrigerator: I have posted about solar powered airconditioners before but this design works on DC and directly runs the airconditioning unit without any converters etc required. Some big names are testing Greencore's products including MacDonalds and the US Armed Forces. Shouldn't companies in South Asia be checking them out? With the sun shining down on cities like Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore for many days every year, this could be an excellent product for use in India.

High tech is something that Indians associate with software alone. I wish they thought of other fields which could be equally high tech and did some work on them as well.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Beginnings of Electric Flight

A very interesting piece of news as far as renewable energy and transport are concerned is the development of electric powered flight. I found this website on Gizmodo today and it seems really interesting: Admittedly, these guys are currently modifying gliders to work with batteries and electric motors. But the posssibility of quiet and more fuel-efficient flight is a very attractive one. You can rest assured that this pioneering, nuts and bolts effort will come to be closely watched by the big names. Already, there is one more small aircraft manufacturer who have their own plans for an electric powered motor glider. Of course, experimental electric powered aircraft have existed since the 1970s. But the lack of focus on this technology was due to the plentiful availability of fossil fuels and also due to considerably less dangers from pollution back then. With today's challenges beginning to point ominously at an energy-challenged future, this is a new development that needs to be carefully watched.

Here's to looking for more news in this area!

Friday, August 8, 2008

The US Federal Government Becomes More Interested in Energy Saving Buildings

For all the nonsense I keep hearing from cushion-warmers every now and then telling me (and everyone else who thinks like I do, that saving energy is important and that reneewable energy is the way of the future) there is some very positive refutation of this skepticism by the Federal Government. And, this is in the world's wealthiest country, the USA. Countries in the rest of the world would do well to take note - like the USA or not, take it from me, this is going to be the way of the future. Forbes, my favorite business magazine because of the diverse range of subjects that it tackles, has this very interesting article about net-zero energy structures:

I wonder when India would look at building more energy-saving homes. The technologies required for this are available and the government ought to be encouraging Indian businesses to look at technical collaborations in this area instead of getting Indian companies to build ridiculous cars that are severely fuel-inefficient and which are only going to put the country even more in hock to the Middle East.

Before I end this post, there is another excellent link to a Forbes article about a country that they admire - Denmark. That country, Forbes points out, has something that the USA needs to look at: decentralized energy production. If the USA needs to look at this, then India needs to look at it even harder:

Best wishes!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Some More Interesting Links

It is always refreshing to see more and more information about efforts in the field of renewable energy come out - with more people working in this area, something decent cannot but be in the offing. Ecogeek talks about an Indian Green community in Kolkata: There is also an excellent analysis in easy to understand terms of the problems with the pricing of electric cars (and no, I don't mean quadricycles like the Reva G-Wiz) at:

There is also the matter of using sewage to power homes. There have been experimental gas collection centers at some bus termini in Tamilnadu from what I have read in the Indian media but there has been no systematic attempt at using human poop to do anything useful. In a country of 1.2 billion people squeezed into an area a third the size of the USA, this could be a fantastic idea. If the governments of the various states and the centre offered the use of toilets free to the poor, then this would also make the country vastly cleaner. Check out the Ecogeek Link:

Finally, an interesting New York Times piece on the Pickens Plan: Yes, he is planning to show fossil fuel the fist. Life is good!

T Boone Pickens puts His Money Where His Mouth Is - Now Will the Bozos Who have been Slamming Him Please Shut Up?

In a world of loudmouths and poseurs, it is refreshing to someone like me who has been turning into a cynic over the years, to see someone go out to do exactly what he has been advocating. Texas oil billionaire T Boone Pickens just landed a double punch in the solar plexus of skeptics both on the left and the right with a $ 2 billion investment in wind turbines: I have posted before about some of the arrant nonsense that has been spewed by vested interests and sundry cushion-warmers against this plan. I wish I had a Texas sized hat to raise to this gentleman for doing what he has insisted is the best plan for weaning the USA away from an addictive dependence on imported oil.

Granted this is a drop in the ocean of energy that the USA requires, it is a substantial beginning. The man has invested half of what he is worth into what he has been talking about. There is no shortage of those who pontificate about Alternative Energy and whine about oil, global warming etc. You can't praise a man who is doing something about it enough.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Enhancing the Efficiency of Photovoltaics

In correspondence with friends over the past few days, I have found some criticism of the cost of Solar Photovoltaics especially pertaining to their use in Third World countries like the nations of South Asia. I was, therefore, happy to get some interesting links on the Pickens Plan website: which have technological solutions to enhancing the efficiency of photovoltaics through cool buildings which maximize the efficiency of solar photovoltaic equipment: For someone who is technically enabled, there is enough information here to help them design a home with integrated photovoltaic systems in the roofs. I do hope this is helpful to you engineers out there.

MIT Scientists Mimic Photosynthesis in the Lab With Positive Implications for Solar Power

Yet another breakthrough has been made and it promises to make Solar Power even more efficient and cheap in the future. The engineers at MIT have managed to use solar power to initiate the splitting of oxygen and hydrogen in a solar cell, something that this website explains: The inventors of this process are confident that it could be perfected in about 10 years' time. Hopefully, if alternative methods are used in increasing degrees during this period, fossil fuel could be shown the fist for once and for all by the time this technology is perfected.

What fantastic news to end the weekend with! May the brilliant folk at MIT come up with more inventions that would accelerate this process forward! Thanks, ladies and gentlemen!