Energy and Global Warming News for April 28: All-electric Chinese car headed to U.S. market; Home sensor startup snapped up; Do rules of U.S. electric grid discriminate against wind power?

A worker cleans an all-electric BYD e6 at a Beijing auto show this year. About 100 test vehicles will be put on the road as taxis in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen by June, with a launch on the west coast of the U.S. by the end of the year. All-electric Chinese car headed to U.S. market

The first Chinese-made car to hit the U.S. market might be an all-electric minivan that bypasses gasoline technology altogether and could be a harbinger of the auto industry’s new era.

BYD Inc., part owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., hopes to start selling its five-seat e6 on the west coast this year.

The e6, displayed at the recent Beijing auto show, is one of a series of “green” vehicles being developed by Chinese automakers that run on everything from batteries to solar panels and tiny wind turbines.

They lag Western rivals in technology but are working at a frenzied pace to ensure they’ll be part of the green automobile age.

Home Sensor Startup Snapped Up

If you knew how much electricity your plasma television used or how much water your dishwasher drank at different times of day, would you change your habits to conserve more and spend less on utilities? Researchers at the University of Washington, Duke University, and Georgia Tech believe that you might. Several years ago they invented sensors that could track the electricity consumption and water usage throughout an entire building via a single point on each system. In 2008, the researchers founded a company called Zensi to commercialize the technology, and last week, they sold that company to Belkin, an electronics hardware manufacturer.

A line of easy-to-install sensors for homes could be commercially available within the next year, says Shwetak Patel, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington, and co-inventor of Zensi’s sensors. Data from such sensors could lead to itemized utility bills–and customers who are more aware of the energy sinks in their homes, he says.

Right now it’s impossible for a consumer to get an accurate gauge of energy use without deploying numerous expensive sensors. But cost reductions in key technologies have made the concept of watching every device in a home more feasible, says Ivo Steklac, executive vice president of sales and strategy at Tendril, a Boulder, CO-based, energy-monitoring startup. The key technologies are high-speed analog-to-digital conversion devices, digital signal processing algorithms, low-power communications, and ubiquitous Internet access and connectivity, Steklac says.

The concept behind Zensi’s technology is simple: a single sensor is plugged into a wall outlet, where it “listens” to the high-frequency electrical noise produced in the wiring when different devices are turned on. Each electrical device has a signature that is unique to the kind of device it is, its brand, and its location within a house. This information, in turn, reveals its energy consumption. MIT professor Fred Schweppe, and others tested a similar idea more than a decade ago. In the case of plumbing, a sensor is connected to the hose spigot on the side of a house. When a toilet is flushed or a sink is turned on, the sensor detects the characteristic change in pressure.

Do the Rules of the Nation’s Electric Grid Discriminate Against Wind Power?

The future mix of electric power generation sources in the United States is critically linked to the fate of climate legislation in Congress.

But changes in the way the grid works — if they occur — hinge more on what happens at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, where a set of central policy issues are on the table.

FERC has solicited comments (FERC docket RM10-11) into whether the grid’s current operating rules discriminate unduly against wind power, and if so, what should be done about it. The inquiry focuses on possible rule changes in how wind power forecasts are handled, how backup generation for wind is priced, and whether wind generation should be coordinated more widely across grid regions to dampen the impact of sudden wind shifts. The comments fill 2,800 pages, and the commission has set no timetable for taking action.

The questions the FERC staff posed in the inquiry — warmly endorsed by FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff in January — suggest that it sees plenty of reason for concern about the prospects for wind and solar power based on the way the grid is run today, industry officials say.

“FERC inquiries that have incredibly detailed analysis and lengthy sets of questions are especially likely to lead somewhere. And that’s what this is,” said Rob Gramlich, senior vice president of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The same conclusion registered with the Organization of Southeastern Utilities, a group of power companies from the nation’s poorest wind resources region that stand opposed to AWEA on essentially all of the critical issues raised in the FERC proceeding.

While the FERC inquiry pledges not to pick one kind of generation over another, “certain of the proposals tentatively advanced” in the inquiry “actually imply a selection of VERs [variable energy resources such as wind] as the favored class of generating resources,” the Southeastern utilities complained in their filing.

US lawmakers propose boost to clean energy exports

A group of Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday proposed legislation to promote U.S. exports of clean energy technology, which they said are badly lagging behind those of China and Europe.

“The U.S. must be the leader in manufacturing and exporting clean technologies, not one that becomes dependent on foreign energy products,” U.S. Representative Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, said in a statement.

Clean energy comes from renewable natural resources, such as sunlight, wind and geothermal heat.

The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated U.S. exports of clean energy technology, also known as green technology, could reach $40 billion per year and help create more than 750,000 jobs by 2020, the lawmakers said.

“Right now, the global market for environmental goods and services is estimated at $700 billion … At present, only six of the top 30 global companies that lead in this sector are American-owned. This must change,” said Representative Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat.

Senators look to solidify funding for coastal conservation

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) yesterday both backed a proposal to codify funding for the Interior Department’s efforts to protect coastal wildlife.

Interior’s Coastal Program began in 1985 as an initiative to protect the creatures of the Chesapeake Bay that sends federal experts to partner with state agencies and local volunteer groups to protect wildlife habitat, remove invasive species and restore wetlands. It has since expanded to 23 coastal areas, but Congress has never specifically authorized funding for the program.

Cardin said he was exploring such an authorization and that it would “establish more permanence” for the program. The legislation was still being drafted and will likely not set a specific authorization level but rather call for “such sums as necessary,” he said yesterday after an Environment and Public Works Subcommittee hearing.

Healthy coastal ecosystems create $800 billion worth of economic benefits annually, and every dollar the Coastal Program spends on restoration, leverages three in private contributions, Cardin said.

Inhofe, the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, also said he would support the authorization.

On Patrol With the Reef Ranger

Gilbert Mart­nez has his work cut out for him. A reef ranger for the Belize Department of Fisheries, he spends his days patrolling a 87,000-acre Marine Protected Area called Glover’s Reef, an azure paradise of an atoll about 28 miles from the country’s mainland. I met him while reporting for an article in Tuesday’s Science Times about a reef-monitoring project in the atoll that is sponsored by the Bronx-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Beneath the white hull of Mr. Mart­nez’s patrol boat was a reef system teeming with diverse life. Robust corals, sponges the size of oil barrels, spiny lobsters and a dizzying array of multihued tropical fish all call this place home.

The ranger’s job to protect these animals from overfishing and other damage. Within just three hours on a recent afternoon on which I accompanied him, he encountered at least three men illegally collecting conch, a local favorite that can fetch $15 a pound in local markets.

One of these men was just outside the so-called no-take zone, where no fishing of any kind is allowed. It is legal for him to collect conch here so long as they weigh three ounces or more. The fisherman’s bag was swollen with the slimy reef-dwellers, which are cut from their shells by using a short blade.

23 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for April 28: All-electric Chinese car headed to U.S. market; Home sensor startup snapped up; Do rules of U.S. electric grid discriminate against wind power?

  1. Daniel Ives says:


    According to Huff Post, Harry Reid has decided to put the climate bill ahead of immigration! (sorry for being off-topic)

  2. Bob Wallace says:

    RE: Home Sensor

    “If you knew how much electricity your plasma television used or how much water your dishwasher drank at different times of day, would you change your habits to conserve more and spend less on utilities?”

    2009 –

    “A smart grid pilot project in Fayetteville, N.C., has resulted in an initial 20 percent decline in average electricity consumption,….”

    A 20% drop in residential electricity would be a huge step toward getting us off of coal. Shifting loads to off peak hours would be another great improvement. Pool sweeps/pumps, freezers, defrost cycles are things which can be moved from hot afternoons.

    We’re now closer to 40% of our electricity from coal as opposed to the 50% level of a few years ago. A 20% drop in overall use would create a much larger percentage of surplus coal generation.

  3. fj2 says:

    re: 1. Daniel Ives, “climate bill ahead of immigration!”

    Once there is general acknowledgement of the seriousness of the environmental crisis and the importance of human capital there will be major incentives to do the right thing regarding health care, education, immigration, etc.; as it will be “All hands on deck!”

    During World War II, life-expectancy increased by seven years despite deaths caused by the war.

  4. fj2 says:

    re: “All-electric Chinese car headed to U.S. market”

    Small modular hybrid human-electric vehicles would be much more impressive especially, if they could be networked in newly developed mass transit systems designed to move millions of people per hour.

  5. Bob Wallace says:

    Breaking news: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has approved the nation’s first offshore wind farm, off Cape Cod. Cape Wind expects to be on line in 2012.

  6. “James Inhofe (R-Okla.) yesterday backed a proposal to codify funding for the Interior Department’s efforts to protect coastal wildlife.”

    If he had to run for office, the fox would back a proposal to protect the hen house.

  7. prokaryote says:

    Melting sea ice major cause of warming in Arctic, new study reveals
    April 28, 2010

    Melting sea ice has been shown to be a major cause of warming in the Arctic according to a University of Melbourne, Australia study.

    Findings published in Nature today reveal the rapid melting of sea ice has dramatically increased the levels of warming in the region in the last two decades.

  8. fj2 says:

    Gee, it’s awfully nice hearing people say yes:

    Harry Reid . . . climate bill ahead of immigration

    Ken Salazar . . . nation’s first offshore wind farm . . . Cape Wind!

    James Inhofe . . . efforts to protect coastal wildlife

  9. Bob Wallace says:

    Expected BYD e6 performance (from Wikipedia)…

    Electric power consumption: less than 18 kWh/62 mi (That’s 0.29 kWh per mile.)

    0-60 mph (0–96 km (60 mi)/h) acceleration in < 8 seconds

    Top speed 100 mph (160 km/h)

    Normal charge: 220V/10A household electric power socket

    Quick charge: 50% capacity in 10 minutes (This is Major.)

    Range: 200 mi (320 km) (This is also Major.)

    A 200 mile range makes this a workable car for almost all driving. And a 10 minute, 100 mile quick charge means that one could drive a 400 mile day with only two ten minute charge breaks. Very adequate for the occasional long trip.

  10. prokaryote says:

    Latest image of Explosion, Leak at Gulf of Mexico Oil Well

  11. prokaryote says:

    U.S. Electrical Grid Undergoes Massive Transition to Connect to Renewables
    Utilities are spending billions to make the grid more reliable, efficient, and green

  12. Theis says:

    More wind news: Wind Power company Vestas signs one of the biggest deals of all time – delivery of up to 2100 MW. See more here:

  13. prokaryote says:

    Orissa heatwave death toll 110

    New Delhi: Five more persons died of heatwave in Orissa on Wednesday, taking the toll in the country this summer to 113, as temperatures stayed above the 40 degree Celsius mark at many places in northern India.

  14. prokaryote says:

    Country swelters through heatwave

    THE annual March and April heatwave has pushed maximum temperatures in some areas of upper Myanmar to almost 50-year highs, the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology has announced.

  15. prokaryote says:

    And 2 weeks ago …

    RIO DE JANEIRO, April 12 (AFP) – The worst heatwave to hit Rio de Janeiro in 50 years turned the city into a pre-Carnival furnace Wednesday, and killed 32 elderly people farther south, officials said.

    According to the Inmet national weather service, recorded temperatures were six degrees (10 degrees Fahrenheit) above average for the month: 39.7 degrees Celsius instead of 33.8 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 93 degrees Fahrenheit).

    But strong sunlight and lack of wind meant they felt much higher, around 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas.

    Let the great die-off begin, while people still listen to the dirty oil & coal skeptics.

  16. prokaryote says:

    Voters want climate action now

    Greens leader Bob Brown says a carbon levy is now the best option to tackle climate change.

    A new opinion poll released by the Greens shows the majority of voters support a carbon levy to cut emissions.

    About 70 per cent of those surveyed want the Federal Government to negotiate with the Greens and other Senators to introduce a levy.

    Greens leader Bob Brown says it is clear Australians want immediate action to tackle climate change.

  17. prokaryote says:

    Global floating ice in “constant retreat”

    LONDON, Apr. 28, 2010 (Reuters) — The world’s floating ice is in “constant retreat,” showing an instability which will increase global sea levels, according to a report published in Geophysical Research Letters on Wednesday.

    “It’s a large number,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds, lead author of the paper, estimating the net loss of floating sea ice and ice shelves in the last decade at 7,420 cubic kilometers.

    That is greater than the loss of ice over land from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets over the same time period, highlighting the impact of warming oceans on floating ice.

  18. prokaryote says:

    EPA says climate change is causing storms, heat waves

    There is indisputable evidence that human activities such as electricity production and transportation are adding to the concentrations of greenhouse gases that are already naturally present in the atmosphere.

    Many of the report’s findings are not new, but some may be little known or surprising. For example, it says bird species in North America have moved their wintering grounds northward by an average of 35 miles since 1966. Also, despite much snow this past winter, it says the portion of North America covered by snow has “generally decreased” since 1972.

    The report’s key findings include:

    * Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are increasing. Between 1990 and 2008, there has been about a 14% increase in emissions in the United States.
    * Average temperatures are rising. Seven of the top 10 warmest years on record for the continental United States have occurred since 1990.
    * Tropical cyclone intensity has increased in recent decades. Six of the 10 most active hurricane seasons have occurred since the mid-1990s.
    * Sea levels are rising. From 1993 to 2008, sea level rose twice as fast as the long-term trend.
    * Glaciers are melting. Loss of glacier volume appears to have accelerated over the last decade.
    * The frequency of heat waves has risen steadily since the 1960s. The percentage of the U.S. population impacted by heat waves has also increased.

  19. Bob Wallace says:

    “The world’s floating ice is in “constant retreat,” showing an instability which will increase global sea levels, according to a report published in Geophysical Research Letters on Wednesday.”

    Something does not sound right there….

  20. prokaryote says:

    From the article, last paragraph

    Floating ice adds very little to sea levels, because it does not add to the total weight of water already in the sea, but it does add a little because ice contains no salt and so dilutes the ocean as it melts, causing the sea to expand in volume.

    Melt of floating ice in the past decade had increased the volume of the world’s seas by 193 cubic kilometers in this way, said Shepherd. Directly, that would add to sea level rise by the width of a few human hairs, he added.

    I think themajor problem is, that this melted ice further contributes to an accelerate of other ice and climate implications – albedo and water chemistry – positive feedback loops.

  21. prokaryote says:

    I think the major problem is, that this melted ice further contributes to an accelerate of other ice *melt* and climate implications – albedo and water chemistry (affecting ocean currents) – and other positive feedback loops.

  22. prokaryote says:

    And this

    If all the world’s floating ice melted it would add about 4 centimeters to sea levels. But this could have a bigger effect by unblocking glaciers over land, which could then slide faster into the sea, and also because open water reflects less sunlight than ice, warming the local area.

    I would love an edit function ;/

  23. saxonslehr says:

    open species climate observed