Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Solar Energy

Of all the different renewable energy types, solar energy is the most abundant and fundamental of them all. After all, almost all forms of energy on earth ultimately came from the sun. The wind, the plants, even fossil fuels that came from animals that ate plants. How about if we could harvest electricity directly from the sun? Well, its possible with today's photovoltaics. The only drawback is that it's still much more expensive compared to traditional fossil fuels. This is the begining of a series of reviews on existing and future solar technologies. For a comprehensive look at photovoltaics, you can browse through the landmark Handbook of Photovoltaic Science and Engineering by Luque and Hegedus on google books. It has all the info you need to know on the basic principles, limitations, and theoretical background. In these reviews, I will outline these principles in more simple terms. I will also connect these scietific principles with existing products and ultimately the factors that influence the energy we buy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama's Speech on Race

Check out Obama's speech on race and equality. What an eloquent analysis of the evolution of civil rights in the US and the power of potential for change! Diversity is our asset, the sum is more than the individual parts. Nothing short of inspirational.

Listen Now

Transcript on NPR

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Deciding for our future

In this critical time in our nation's history, we're not only deciding for ourselves, but we are deciding for our children, and our children's children, as stated by a someone commenting Obama's blog.

Check out Obama's energy plan on his official website. Also interesting is his plan for foreign policy, intimately related to the energy policy.

And for you folks asking "How does this impact me?", here's a clear picture on the tax policies of the two candidates. I invite you to draw your own conclusions.

From the Washington Post:

It's always good to have more than a single source, so here's another way to look at it from LA times:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Obama won!

Ok, the election hasn't taken place yet, but tonight was the 2nd presidential debate, and I think we have a clear winner. Obama had the poise, the confidence, and the intelligence to address the American people and inspire us to do our part to help solve the energy crisis. He's right, the energy problem isn't just a challenge, its an opportunity. It's an opportunity for America to shine again, and lead the world to again by providing clean energy technologies that will revolutionize the energy market forever. Check out Wired magazine's article on Tom Friedmans' new book, Hot Flat and Crowded.

What can the government do? The government is made of people, and each of us can have a part too. We can start by conserving electricity and gasoline in our daily lives. Yes, the economic incentives need to be in place to make those choices viable, and to incubate those technologies that need a boost. But that's exactly what has been done in the past as with the oil industry. So this election, do your part, make sure you vote and get your voice heard.

It's interesting to consider the relationship between a country's energy policy and its political structure. As I heard on a recent NPR radiocast, countries dependent on non-renewable resources easily fall into dictatorships such as Russia and Venezuela, the reason being that the natural resources are controlled by a handful of people who are also in charge of the government.
When countries without much natural resources are forced to innovate, such as Japan and Germany, they develop renewable energy technologies that create jobs and in turn benefit the entire population. If we then look at the US, we have become increasingly dependent on non-renewable resources for energy, and worse yet, we are forced to import the supply from foreign entities that doesn't necessary fit our moral code. We need to make changes, and we need to make them fast. You can help by conserving energy to help us bridge the gap, and you can help by getting out the vote. Check out NPR's election map.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tire pressure on fuel efficiency

Do you keep your vehicle's tires properly inflated? You could be losing out on 3% of fuel efficiency! According to the US government's website on fuel economy, you could save up to $0.11 per gallon if you properly inflate your tires. Not only do you save gas, the right tire pressure also keeps you and your passengers safer, and reduces tire wear. The fuel economy site has a lot of other great info too on keeping your car in top shape, like changing your air filters, and tuning your engine. All these things may not sound impressive at first, but they all add up! 

Recently, even the presidential candidates have been debating over the tire pressure issue. On July 30th, 2008, Obama said, "Making sure your tires are properly inflated, simple thing, but we could save all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling, if everybody was just inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups. You could actually save just as much" [from] McCain has dismissed the argument as seemingly inconsequential. According to, as a nation, we can save up to 1billion gallons of gasoline per year if we all properly inflated our tires. The effect would be nearly immediate, whereas drilling would take years before we see any increase in our domestic supply. But for the long term, offshore drilling would produce up to 10 times more oil than the tire pressure reduction. You can check out the entire article here

But questions remain: How long would it take to get the offshore oil drilling started? We know that the technology we have today is not adequate for this job. How much money would it cost to develop this technology and implement the capital investments? Why not put this money into technology development for renewable energy instead? After all, even the offshore oil will be consumed one day, then what?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Solar homes tour

Today we checked out the solar homes tour in the New York Capital Region, sponsored by NESEA (north east solar energy association). We saw two in Rexford, one built in 1852 and another built in 2008 which is still under construction. Both houses are beautiful and have sustainable energy elements such as solar photovoltaics and solar hot water. It just goes to show that any house can be green.

The Coons house, 1852
The White's house, 2008