Monday, June 29, 2009

Can Wind Power Get Up to Speed?

Time Magazine has some good news on the potential for wind power in the USA with this piece: Can Wind Power Get Up to Speed? With the potential to generate 16 times the amount of power that this country needs from the Midwestern States alone and even more if offshore wind is harnessed, the potential does exist for this country to show fossil fuel a huge fist. And T Boone Pickens, oilman par excellence turned wind entrepreneur, is clearly spot on in his promotion of wind power in this country.

With more and more of the media pointing out solid research - the Time piece references NASA investigations - I hope some of the die-hard skeptics as far as wind power is concerned are drawn into a positive dialogue over the potential for wind power. I also hope that the USA leaps into this and pushes the envelope for bigger and better wind turbines. There is tremendous potential for this country as well as for power generation in other countries in markets that are currently dominated by European companies. It would be good to offer some friendly competition with US products.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Semi Finalists in a Tough California Clean Tech Contest

I was sent this link by my good friend of many years, engineer and entrepreneur in India, Kulasekaran, who is also a supporter of this blog and a frequent discussion participant here: The California Clean Tech Open is a major contest in an environment and technology conscious state, to support new businesses with innovative technologies, business plans and ideas etc. The five semi-finalists here could well become major corporations in the future and bring about a mini revolution (or a major one) considering that they have amde it this far in the contest.

Of the listed companies, the one that interests me the most in the potential that it offers for South Asia, is Armageddon Energy: Their design for mount them yourself solar photovoltaic cells is something that could be extremely useful in the electric supply deficient cities and small towns in South Asia. While I am fascinated by the idea of do it yourself zero net energy homes like the Parco Homes designs: unfortunately, I don't think that South Asia has the vision or foresight to look ahead at technologies like these. Parco are one of many companies with very interesting zero net energy home designs - I have written about others on this blog - unfortunately, this very good idea, is not likely to appeal to Jaikishan or Jahangir Average. And therein, lies a tragedy . . .

My thanks to Kulasekaran for sending me the Fast Company link. This is one more website that I shall make it a point to watch in the future.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Website That Can Teach You to Save Fuel and Money by Hypermiling

I have written about hypermiling before, but it was through Autoblog Green that i came to learn about Clean MPG: a nice site that I signed up on at once. I am no expert - and I am happy to admit this whenever asked. As a learner, I do think that many who visit my blog would find this a useful site. DO try and use some of the techniques that they talk about to save fuel and post back to let me know how you find this. And, of course, do sign up.

Thanks and happy saving through hypermiling!

The First Air Car Test - Tata are Licensees of the Technology's Insideline blog has the first test of the MDI Air Car by any magazine / website at:* This, of course, is a technology that some have been saying would never work. And others have been decrying for reasons known 0nly to themselves and to the industries that write their paychecks. There has been some speculation about how the air to fill this car's tanks would be compressed. These people haven't, of course, heard of wind, solar or geothermal power for some reason. And, of course, when an Indian company buys the rights to a certain technology and plans to use it in its cars, it has to be a mistake, right? These are the same bozos who also said that the Nano would never be made, and, probably, are the same doofuses who said that Renault's takeover of Nissan was such a flop show that Renault could have thrown gold bars worth what they paid for Nissan into the sea. Yes, there are idiots writing in mainstream newspapers and magazines, if you didn't know. And MDI, like Renault, are French, so they must be just as bad as those Indians, right?

Which makes Insideline's test all the more admirable. They have tested the Air Car in France and made it clear that they have seen that the technology works. Sure, it needs to be improved. The internal combustion engine was invented more than a hundred years ago and the large auto manufacturers are still working to improve it. What is significant is the short fill up time - just two minutes using compressed air pumps at filling stations. And, I think, this technology could be used on motorcycles also. My hat's off to MDI for their amazing new idea and to the Tatas for having the foresight to rush and support the technology by licensing it at once. MDI's website is: and, of course, if you want the Tatas's website with links to all their companies, check at:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dale Vince's Electric Car Runs Quite Fast Indeed!

Trust an eccentric Brit to pull off something spectacular if he puts his mind to it, and you won't go wrong. That is the country that gave us the jet engine, after all, as it did thrust vectored aircraft, several amazing cars, some of the world's best stereo systems and much more. While the Brits love few things more than arguing and living the good life, they do some amazing work whenever they set their minds to it, and they do it in a fashion that no one else can emulate. I have posted about dale Vince and his company Ecotricity before. He had plans to manufacture what he called a "wind powered car," and while the term was somewhat sensationalist because the car was not directly powered by the wind, it was accurate because he owns the most profitable company generating power using the wind after all. Turns out that the car, a modified Lotus Exige, has some amazing performance as this link on Autoblog Green and this video show:

As friends who are interested in electric vehicles understand, this is the same platform used by Tesla for their roadster. This is a proven platform, after all, and one that has been very successfully demonstrated as far as using it for electric vehicles is concerned. I like this idea of a different vehicle with similar shattering performance - I do wish that the final version of whatever Vince decides to call his car, would look different from the Lotus offering, though. Mark my words - this does have the potential to be another great British car produced by yet another eccentric British genius. I can't wait for more updates on this!

When Fuel-Efficient Hybrid Cars are a Bad Idea - Toyota's Environmentally Harmful Plan for Manufacturing the Prius

Toyota's Prius hybrids have been a huge hit since the first version was launched some years ago. The cars are very fuel efficient, though the technology used is not quite the be all and end all as Toyota and the Prius's many fans would have you believe, because lower tech cars like the Volkswagen Jetta diesel have proven as fuel efficient in a combined in-city and highway cycle. Some experts have criticized the use of Nickel in the Prius's batteries as a major environmental issue, though I am not sure if the alternative of emitting more burnnt petrol gases into the atmosphere is an acceptable substitute.

However, there is a completely different reason why Toyota needs to be opposed and the Prius boycotted, that is, unless they reverse their decision over where to manufacture it. Autoblog Green has this piece about Toyota planning to destroy 17th century rice paddies to build more Priuses. It is not only the destruction of the paddies that I am concerned about. The cars will be built in Japan and then shipped to the USA and other countries burning (and polluting the atmosphere at that) huge amounts of oil. Why on earth can't Toyota just build them in the USA, their biggest market for these cars? They do build excellent trucks here in Texas and cars in California and some other locations, after all . . . The Autoblog Green post about Toyota's ridiculous plan is at this link:

Fortunately, for someone contemplating a hybrid in order to show fossil fuels a tiny fist (they do burn gasoline after all) there are options other than the Prius. Honda's new Insight is a nice car if somewhat smaller than the Toyota. And, if you want a bigger car, Ford has its Fusion Hybrid (and its up-scale Mercury Milan version which I plan to buy shortly) which is less fuel efficient than the Prius but a lot bigger, mroe comfortable, and, if you want a Toyota comparison, a better car by every report out there than the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Please do your bit to knock some sense into Toyota - if you are contemplating buying a Prius, don't. At least, not until the company decides to preserve the paddies and adopt less environmentally harmful manufacturing practices. Thank you!

Please Sign This Petition to Ask Manmohan Singh to Pass a Renewable Energy Act by 2010

While I am not always in full agreement with Greenpeace on everything that they do, I have been a strong supporter of their recent campaign to persuade the Tatas into looking at their new port from the perspective of the sea turtles which come there to breed. It is a good campaign and one that deserves support - I love the outdoors and the mainr eason why I like the idea of Renewable Energy is that it would make a beautiful country like India even more beautiful. How would you like to walk along the shores of the Kodai Lake without the fumes form highly polluting buses and cars burning your nostrils, for example? We do have the technology to produce cleaner vehicles as we know - Mahindra has a mild hybrid vehicle, Tata has electric cars that the company sells in Norway and an Indo-British team won the first TTXGP.

However, the electricity produced in India - whatever little is produced - is from the filthiest means possible: using coal. It is not only the burning of the coal that is an issue. The transportation of the coal from Indonesia and Australia is a dirty process, as is the horrendous destruction of the beautiful Indonesian forests by that country's greedy coal mafia. There is also something that our politicians don't care a hoot about - the fact that India is bathed in sun the whole year and we can use that sunlight to power homes. We can use the winds that blow over the country to do the same. We can use the sewage that we dump into the oceans to generate methane to burn and produce power with. The possibilities are endless.

Greenpeace India has a petition campaign to persuade the Prime Minister to pass a Renewable Energy Act by 2010. A link to this is here: Please sign this petition. And get your spouses, your children, your parents, their friends and your friends to all sign this. Please spread the word around. And please push hard.

India spends half of all the foreign exchange that it earns on importing crude oil and coal. We don;t have to send our hard earned money to Saudi Arabia or Indonesia or China or wherever to make the rulers of those countries, and their businesspeople richer. This money could stay back in India and help us to become a richer country. And a cleaner one.

Thank you for signing this petition. Thank you also for getting at least 10 people to sign it after you do and requesting that they get 10 more to do so and so on. Please do it for India and for the earth. Thank you.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hat's Off to India Again - Indo British Entry Wins First Electric Motorcycle GP Ever By a Big Margin

An Indian company manufacturing high quality electric motors and a British engineering group put their strengths together recently to win the world's first ever TTXGP. As Gizmag, one of the sites that this blog subscribes to points out, this was by a very good margin:

Most significantly, wasthe fact that this was a class win for bikes that cost below UK Pounds 30,000, a significant factor because this means that the bike is capable of being produced and sold at realistic prices with economies of scale working out in production. That the bike also won the overall victory, attests to the excellence of the design as it is potentially capable of beating more expensive bikes designed in technologically advanced countries.

Again, I am as positive about this as I am about the Tata plans to build electric versions of their cars for India. However, I must admit to caution about the Indian state's ability to provide power through clean means and on an uninterrupted basis - eight hour powercuts in most cities throughout the day are not a good thing for this sector. Neither is the fact, as my friend Mohanakrishnan likes to point out, that Coal India is putting huge sums of government money into importing coal to satisfy India's requirement for power while the government pays lip service to the idea of renewable energy.

That said, if the private sector is given the relevant permissions to do something in India, they are more than capable of doing extremely well. Team Agni underlines this fact. Congratulations, Team Agni, and Congratulations India. There is another entry about this at the best online motorcycling blog, The Kneeslider at: Those who wish to congratulate Team Agni would do well to do this in The Kneeslider. I am sure they check there like most motorcycling enthusiasts do.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Technology to Make Concrete Structures Last 16000 Years

Ecogeek has this piece (via Greentech Media) about the smart guys at MIT devising the technology to make concrete last millenia instead of the decades that we are used to: As the piece says, the technology alterts how concrete degenerates with strain, making it last several magnitudes longer than we now expect it to. A very good idea, I think, especially in public structures which are not midified or altered as much as private homes are. Let's see if this picks up in South Asia - that part of the world has the most infrastructure projects going after China.

Just a reminder that this blog subscribes to both Ecogeek as well as Greentech, and both are superb blogs to visit for the latest in various technologies that would ensure that we show fossil fuels the fist.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why On Earth is This Not Being Implemented in Chennai?

For the past thirty years at least, as I can recall, the British have sent technology and money to help clean up the Cooum River / Buckingham canal in Chennai, but nothing has happened. Where has the money gone? Those in the Tamilnadu State government know, if someone does. And the two outlets, once navigable canals in which boats went all the way to Chingleput, become filthier by the day with more and more sewage pumped into them. The Adyar River, on whose banks much of the Chennai elite lives along Boat Club Road and Archbishop Mathias Avenue, is yet another example of a water body that was once clean turned into a filthy cess carrying canal by the State government.

Dr Mayraj Fahim, who has been a strong supporter of this blog, has sent me a very interesting link which has implications for Chennai: British utilities already send sewage derived gas to generate power, and they now plan to offer the same gas for use in domestic kitchens etc. How difficult would it be for the Government of India and the Tamilnadu State government to revive the old British initiative and get the relevant technology from the UK to implement large-scale projects along these outlets? The raw material is there, and, it is not going to diminish in quantity as long as Chennai-vasis eat and then clear their stomachs out. There is an old initiative where the British have offered support - perhaps, the state could look at creating a utility under the common administration of the Water and Electricity Boards to use gas to generate electricity for the city? Or, alternately, as there are many gas powered cars running in the city, use this to supplement gas supplies for fueling vehicles and save foreign exchange?

Is anyone listening? Our Prime Minister who is supposed to turn the country into a new superopwer, perhaps? Or the Chief Minister whose wisdom is always hailed by his followers? Anyone? United Utilities, the British business involved in this project, has a nice website: Over to India . . .

Monday, June 15, 2009

Congratulations! India's First Solar Powered Floating Store Launches in Kerala

The state of Kerala in South India is a beautiful place. It has backwaters (canals for non-Indians) and is green throughout. The residents of the state have a passion for watercraft because of the many canals and the long coast. I have fond memories of the place as I have relatives in Kozhikode and friends in Fort Cochin, Palghat, Ayalur, Nemmara, Ochera etc. And if you can excuse the constant strikes that plague the state thanks to its Communists, it can actually be a nice place to spend some time in.

But let's leave the negative stuff out. I posted a link some time ago to a solar powered ferry-boat built in the state on this blog. Now, the idea has been taken further: A solar powered store is due to sell various goods to communities living along the backwaters: It is a bit of a stretch to call this a "supermarket," but I do think that the promoters of the floating Thriveni Superstore, the Kerala Government owned Kerala State Cooperative Consumers Federation Ltd, have much to pat themselves on the back for. Everyone involved in this project deserves kudos.

Electric Airplane Sets Speed Record

Yes, there are road cars that can go faster than this airplane and for longer. But this is an achievement that is absolutely on the right path ahead: Autoblog Green Must be thanked for giving this achievement publicity.

The world's car manufacturers are making decent strides (albeit sometimes reluctantly) as far as fuel efficiency is concerned. But aircraft and watercraft have been a different cup of tea so far. All work in these areas has been on a small scale and laws pishing these companies to do something significant have been few. That said, airlines like Emirates, Japan Air Lines and Air India have done some work in reducing the amount of fuel burned in take offs and landing by tinkering with time schedules and similar. However, it is only technological breakthroughs in electric aircraft power that will help reduce the use of fossil fuels in the air significantly. That said, algae based fuels have been successfully tested by the Japanese as well as by the US Air Force, though, there again, carbon is emitted into the air. My hat's off to the Sky Spark team. Their website is:

Friday, June 12, 2009

China Throws Down a Renewable Energy Challenge to the World

While it is currently one of the world's most heavily polluted countries and it needs to import over 90% of its oil, China has decided to act in a manner that needs to be applauded: I am grateful to Dr Mayraj Fahim for this link showing where South Asian countries, which enjoy the same climatic conditions and suffer from similarly high pollution, are lagging seriously behind. So, for that matter, is the USA where the only action forward seems to be Barack Obama's pious talk along with the constant and stale applause of his drum-beaters in the media and in the blogosphere. While well intentioned US plans like the Pickens proposals fall by the wayside, the Chinese seem to power ahead with their desire to insulate their country from the vagaries and whims of the oil producing nations and of oil traders and their manipulations.

Yes, China has coal - so does India, but the Chinese consider their coal reserves a finite asset. India has no hesitation in preserving some of its own coal reserves while it encourages massive environmental degradation in Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and elsewhere by mining for coal there and pollutes the air and the seas by shipping it back to India. And, though India has recently articulated a massive proposal to work on solar power, it is going to be difficult for it to do much as it is way behind China on the neccessary manufacturing infrastructure to produce solar and other RE equipment.

However, this is a situation that could be a wake-up call if you ask me. There is no reason why South Asian countries - and India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc all have excellent engineers and facilities with which to manufacture / develop renewable energy products. This could be the spark with which to ignite a powerful flame (well, yes, this is an inept simile) of Renewable Energy in South Asia. Our antions would be wealthier because of money saved, our air, water and soil cleaner, and our workers treated more humanely as they no longer have to work in near-slavish conditions in Arab countries.

Let's hope this competition is joined, and, at the soonest.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Public Transport May Not Really be Green

I am grateful to Dr Mayraj Fahim for this link: While some dedicated environmental groups have, in the past, audited the environmental impact of the manufacturing process of various goods and means of transport, the practice has not always been given the publicity that it deserves. Now, with scientists looking at public transport, some common beliefs about supposedly "green" transportation are being challenged.

Specifically, the issue about trains is something that I have suspected for some time and I did get into a brief discussion on this at Low Tech Magazine: There is no question that trains are at their most efficient at hauling heavy freight or large numbers of people. try and make them luxury vehicles on wheels like they are in the USA, and their efficiency drops. Hopefully, there will be a comparison of the efficiency of local trains in cities like New York with decent public transportation with local commutes as well as with failing, state-owned businesses like Amtrak with cars in long distance travel so that a specific environmental impact in each case is better understood. As far as showing fossil fuels the fist is concerned, I do think that the more efficient the means of transportation, the lower its carbon footprint would be. Let's hope that we get more expert views on this in the near future.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The New York Times Looks at India's New Solar Plans

The new solar plans that India articulated while the election campaign was on (and which I was cautiously optimistic about) are now being looked at by the New York Times: The fact is that India does have the potential to become a solar leader. The country is bathed in sunshine most of the year. There is no question about the fact that sunlight is a resource that could be tapped into, and which has not been seriously considered by India so far. There is also no question that other than talk, India has done little (with the exception of small initiatives by states like Karnataka and Haryana and municipalities around Mumbai for example to encourage solar powered water heaters) about harnessing what the country has in abundance, so far.

The NYT report, though, does make sense in talking about the support that India needs from foreign nations that have done vastly more work in this area than India has done. I do think that this is a good idea - India has excellent engineers and if Indians could do well in writing computer software, for example, they could also do well in working on solar power. A good beginning would be a major plus. And, international help, especially from the USA, is available. The US Exim Bank has funding worth $ 5.5 billion available for Renewable Energy co-operation between the USA and India for 2009 alone. As far as I know, hardly any of this money has been touched. From the focus of the current US government, the amount available in 2010 would, most probably, be higher. And there are superb US designed and made products that could be replicated in India under license from the US patent holders to help achieve the Indian goals.

I shall admit that I am not a supporter of any Indian political party or government - I like being skeptical of politicians like many Indians are. That said, there are two governments - one in the USA and the other in India - that have been talking about renewable energy with increasing fervor. The USA has put money (through the Exim Bank) where its mouth is. Now that India has come up with a plan ahead especially with a focus on solar power, there is the potential for a very positive way forward on this in the future. What will decide whether the two governments are serious about this thrust will be how the Indian plans are implemented. Those who read this blog know, certainly, where my hopes on this lie.