Friday, 30 March 2012

It's ARPA-E day in the US.

Today is the day that all interested parties get to step up and give notice to ARPA-E of new and transformative ideas. There are 8 topic areas, 30+ sub-topics and even a catch-all bag called "Other".
While I've little expectation of being awarded and ARPA-E grant, (It's that pragmatic side of me that tells me don't get your hopes up with 5000+ applicants submitting proposals!) I do use these events as a driver to collect my thoughts on various aspects of our transformational, evolutional, path to the future:)

Last year, we proposed the "EnergyOS: GridNOC" project and also "A Control Architecture for Urban Microgrids". Nice titles and topics to drive us forward. While these were not ARPA-E funded, we are now in the happy position of leveraging the ideas percolated through the ARPA-E experience into showcase pilot installations in Nagasaki Japan and Xiamen China. This validates the return on effort put forward in our participation in the  ARPA-E process!

This year, we have collected our working team (Intel Microgrid Labs and Nextek Power Systems) to provide 4 topics for consideration. These are, again, at the forefront of our view of the needs of the market place and levarage forward on our success of the past 12 months.

So we will see how the following fare:
  • Title 1: DC Infrastructure, Aggregated Contextual Data Streams, and Holistic Operational Management in Buildings
  • Title 2: Managing Consumer Behavior & Aggregated Energy Markets: Consumer Engagement through Gamification, Social Motivation, and Community Economic Flows
  • Title 3: DC Power Management in High Performance Data Centers
  • Title 4: EnergyOS: Building an Open Source Energy Infrastructure

Interesting topics and ones that, if they should happen, would provide critical elements in our transformed energy infrastructure.  Of course, like last year, we won't wait to change the future!!

People Power - Enabling Green Button and our Transformed Energy Economy!!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

It's all in the Packaging: 20x boost to solar (MIT)

MIT stacks solar panels like pancakes, increases their power output by up to 20x
By Sebastian Anthony

3D solar power cells from MIT
What’s better than one pancake? A whole stack of pancakes! Using the same logic, a team of MIT researchers have stacked a bunch of photovoltaic solar cells together to produce up to 20 times the power output of conventional solar power installations.
Normally I’m the first to drop my jaw in awe at MIT’s latest and greatest innovations, but this one really is a bit of a no-brainer. Basically, photovoltaic cells themselves aren’t all that expensive — according to MIT, they’re only around 35% of the total cost of a solar power installation. The main issue with solar power (and its main cost) is its low energy density, and thus the sheer surface area required to generate a sizable amount of electricity. This is why you need to cover your whole roof with cells to power your light bulbs, and why solar power plants would have to occupy tens of square miles of desert to produce as much power as a nuclear power plant.

[More ...]

Zipcar moves electrically in Chicago

EVs are expensive (see CODA's announcement they are now shipping to first customers)  with a range of @125miles. Urban environments, and 2xcommuting distance and 2xpriceReduction is still needed (IMO:). But applying the current generation to the community shared model is certainly in order. Zipcar (see below) has launched in Chicago - to success I hope. I also think a special edition of might emerge - especially in CA. 

Forbes: Zipcar Launches Its Pilot Large-Scale Electric Vehicle Program In Chicago

Zip car carsharing service at downtown Washing...

Zip car carsharing service at downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Zipcar has launched its first large-scale electric vehicle program in Chicago. Electric Vehicles are a natural fit to car-sharing programs not just because of their eco-friendly nature, but also owing to the easy and cheaper access to adequate charging infrastructure, which has long been a hurdle in the popularity of EVs. Car-sharing programs opting for EVs would also benefit from government support for electric vehicles.

Zipcar is a membership-based car sharing company that serves over 673K members with a fleet of over 9K vehicles in North America and Europe. Aside from competing with traditional rental companies and car-sharing services like Connect by Hertz, Enterprise’s WeCar, UHaul’s UCarShare and City Car Share, it also faces competition from new low-cost, pee‘“r-to-peer (P2P) car sharing services like RelayRides and
So far, weak infrastructure and fewer number of charging stations have been a big hurdle to the popularity of electric cars. However, car-sharing programs make development of shared charging infrastructure easier.
Zipcar has been investing significantly in developing electric charging infrastructure and is likely to benefit from government support for electric vehicles. In Chicago, Zipcar is working with several partners like 350Green, which are installing EV charging stations for Zipcar EVs in various locations that include commercial and residential buildings, private parking lots and major travel routes.
The utilization of energy efficient vehicles like EVs also qualifies Zipcar to earn ‘Zero Emission Vehicle’ credits, and selling extra ZEVs under low-emission regulation laws generate supplementary income for Zipcar.

Chicago Going Green With Zipcar
Zipcar has launched its pilot Electric Vehicle program starting with five Chevrolet Volts in Chicago, and is expected to add another 20 EVs to its fleet this year. A Chevrolet Volt can travel gas-free up to 35 miles, after which it shifts a gas generator which produces electricity to keep it going an additional 375 miles on a full tank of gas. It thus offers Zipcar members the best of both worlds – low carbon experience of an electric car with the back-up security of a gas engine. Since most trips taken by Zipcar members are fewer than 35 miles, these trips taken in the Volts will be powered solely by electricity rather than fuel. The new Zipcar EVs will be placed in pods located throughout the city and will be available for reservation starting at $10 per hour.

Zipcar’s Electric Vehicle program also gets support of the Chicago Climate Action Plan. In 2012, the City of Chicago will install hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations for public use to help expand the EV infrastructure throughout the city.

In December 2011, Zipcar’s much smaller Chicago-based non-profit car-sharing competitor I-GO also launched a $2.5 million electric vehicle project for solar power based EVs. It added 36

Electric Vehicles Make A Strong Case For Car-Sharing and Government Support
There is a natural fit for EVs in the car-sharing space as some people’s reasons for not owning a car is due to environmental harm. Electric vehicles are clean, green and quiet and are believed to be the best near-to-market low emission vehicle technology with no emissions at “point of use,” 30-40% lower CO2 emissions, and 60-70% lower fuel costs compared to petrol or diesel-fueled vehicles.
Electric vehicles are likely to be strongly leveraged by car sharing programs after 2012 and will create a strong case for government support for car sharing programs in Europe and North America.

Communities and Corporations: A Sustainability Symbiosis?

SustainAbility.Com 2012 Sustainability Leaders
GreenBiz Coverage Calling out Unilever as a 2 time winner!

Well, congratulation to the top 10! And I'm very happy to see IBM, Siemens, Nike, and Nestle' move into the top 10 (I never did feel that Shell was executing a sustainable business model, as represented in last years list:).

These are, for the most part, global companies that are executing sustainable practices throughout their operations. They interact with a diverse collection of local communities, bringing sustainability, based upon global economic flows, in direct contact with local economic flows driving sustainability of the community. There is often conflict and cross purposes as these two drivers, global and local, interact.

A deeper impact of this interaction;  at the role of community and city sustainability as a significant metric in the evaluation of our global corporate players' sustainability ratings; might extend our understanding. Maybe we need a cross view. The most sustainable cities and their supportive sustainable industries?

The SustainAbility video (3 min) is definitely worth your time. 


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Games in Our Loops & Consumer Aggregation

The basic gamification loop fits well over community circular economic flows, allowing people to enjoy the support of their social network while optimizing their resource usage. This piece by Ben Holland, reflecting his recent SXSW experience, provides a reflection of how games support need to achieve more efficient resource use. 

Put this together with Jesse Berst's observation that consumer aggregation, based upon community and social relationships, to achieve leverage in the energy market and you have a back-2-the-future emergence of the community co-op model. Like minded people share the economic benefits of joint purchasing power while shaping the usage profiles through gaming experiences. 

From the Washington Post: "...Shoring up that money and converting organizations to clean energy has become a point of focus for District-based Groundswell. The nonprofit has negotiated reduced prices on renewable energy for three cohorts of community and religious institutions in the past year.

The latest purchase, which closed last week, counted 103 groups from across Maryland and the District — more than twice the number that participated in the previous round. The Georgetown Presbyterian Church, Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy and the NAACP were among the groups that took part."...
The beginnings of the transformation!


How businesses can use games to spur greener behavior

Published March 26, 2012

When it comes to energy and the environment, most people want to do the right thing. But how many people actually contribute to improving energy use and environmental impact is another story.
Two buzzwords, "gamification" and & "big data," were in frequent use at SXSW earlier this month. The two are closely related, and when combined, could have interesting implications for energy use..
By applying principals of gaming to non-game applications, it is believed you can encourage people to change their behavior. Mobile app developers have had great success doing this by incorporating location-based awareness data into their products.
In his study, "Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment," Dr. Robert Cialdini looked at homeowners and their rate of adoption of energy efficiency and renewable options like insulation, lighting retrofits and solar panels. Cialidini found that even when homeowners were presented with the finances that showed an attractive return on investment, they rarely implemented the measures. Instead, Cialdini argued, peer pressure drove these decisions.
"Most people say they care about saving energy -- for either financial or environmental reasons," said Yoav Lurie, founder of Simple Energy. "But, like in weight loss, smoking secession, and personal finance, caring is often an insufficient motivator. We find that it's much more effective to get people to act as if they care."

Why consumers are ganging up to buy electricity

By Jesse Berst

Published Margh 25, 2012

Consumers are increasingly setting up joint purchase agreements to get better prices from energy providers, the Washington Post reports. The latest alliance was a coalition called Groundswell made up of 103 religious and consumer groups including the NAACP and Georgetown Presbyterian Church. Groundswell will negotiate in their behalf for lower rates.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Microgrid wave

Communities composed of island-able microgrids. Little grids meshing together to make bigger grids. Clusters providing aggregated management resources for quality and balance in the transmission grid. Sensed potential providing the intelligence for balanced management of the whole.

It starts with microgrids (or nanogrids as referenced in Japan), and builds out to a transformed energy infrastructure.

This definition by the Melanie Johnson of Army Corp of Engineers CERL program provides a very good context for discussion. The smaller microgrids, though, don't go small enough for me. I'd rather see my notebook computer treated as a microgrid. I'd happily share the battery storage when needed by my home microgrid. And my home would gladly collaborate with my community to achieve an aggregated balance. 

An infrastructure to support living.

Below is a brief vew of todays news re: microgrids.


US to help India develop clean energy projects

New Delhi : The United States Trade Development Agency Monday signed two deals with Indian firms to help develop clean energy projects. The deals will generate Indian demand for US equipment worth over $250 million.
Under the first deal, the agency will support a feasibility study for development of a rural micro-grid solar power project that will bring electricity to remote villages in India.
The second deal is related to the implementation of smart grid technology in Kolkata.
"India has ambitious energy infrastructure development goals. We are pleased to join this trade mission to support those goals, and to help open the market for US clean energy technologies," Henry Steingass, regional director for US Trade Development Agency, said after signing the deal.
Steingass is part of a business delegation accompanying US Commerce Secretary John Bryson. Bryson on his current India visit is leading a delegation of 16 US infrastructure firms.
According to a statement released by it, the US agency said it will help private solar power developer Azure Power in the feasibility study to access the development of a rural micro-grid solar power project that will bring electricity to remote villages in India.
Azure aims to set up over 100 micro-grid solar systems. Each system would cover an area of 2-3 acres of rural land with little or no connectivity to existing electrical grids.
The other deal signed with CESC Limited is related to a feasibility study for implementation of smart grid technologies across their electricity distribution networks in Kolkata. The project will improve efficiency and energy reliability for its 2.5 million customers.


Largest US CERTS-Based Micro-Grid Goes Live with BYD Environmentally-Friendly Batteries

ALAMEDA, Calif., Mar 22, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- At a press conference today in Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail, Chevron Energy Solutions demonstrated the largest CERTS-based (Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology Solutions) micro-grid in the United States. The Alameda County Smart Grid Project was designed and constructed by Chevron Energy Solutions integrating 4 mega-watt-hours (MWh) of BYD energy storage with wind and solar in a closed-loop micro-grid.
A key component in the micro-grid is the BYD’s Iron Phosphate battery -- the first rechargeable chemistry that is completely environmentally-friendly. It contains no heavy metals or toxic electrolytes and is capable of meeting strict requirements for reliability, cycle and service life -- the expected service life of the Iron-Phosphate batteries is over 25 years. BYD mega-watt-scale energy storage stations are rated at a 91% AC-DC-AC round-trip-efficiency but installed performance is as high as 94% -- setting a new benchmark for the industry.
Micheal Austin, BYD America Vice President who attended the ceremony stated, “BYD has been delighted to see Chevron’s leadership in the application of renewable power coupled with environmentally-friendly energy storage. BYD believes that the only way we can make renewables relevant to the grid is through distributed storage, we were very glad Chevron chose the BYD Iron-Phosphate batteries for this 4 MWh system.” BYD has supplied more than 60 Mwh in energy storage stations across China. For more information, visit BYD at and .
Green jail to demonstrate power of microgrids
March 21, 2012 By Julie Chao
Green jail to demonstrate power of microgrids

The fuel cell at the Santa Rita Jail. Credit: Alameda County
( -- When the next “big one” hits northern California, chances are good that the power will be knocked out across large swaths of the Bay Area. But one place that is likely to stand unaffected is Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California, the third largest jail in the state and fifth largest in the country. If all goes according to plan, this “mega-jail,” housing about 4,000 inmates, will seamlessly disconnect itself from the electric grid and switch over to its own microgrid, powering itself for the duration.
Scientists at the Department of ’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are using software they developed called DER-CAM (Distributed Energy Resources-Customer Adoption Model), which looks at electricity and heat requirements, to help analyze and develop an optimal plan for the Jail to meet its needs at minimum cost.
“Microgrids have several promising advantages,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Chris Marnay. “Number one is that they can be tailored to local requirements, so in the case of the jail, the microgrid can help them achieve the extreme reliability their mission demands.”

Friday, 23 March 2012

Transformational Infrastructure: California and EV Charging

Green Car Congress picks up the announcement of the settlement b/t the state of California and NRG (Dynergy + Enron +...) over early 2000 energy price fixing and long term contracts with generation resources. A network of fee-based stations, supporting the upcoming zero emission vehicle requirements, will be architected and deployed. Of course, to be effective, that pesky time2charge will have to be dealt with too. Onward!!!

California Governor announces $120M settlement with NRG will fund electric car charging stations across California; new Executive Order to accelerate commercialization of ZEVs

California Governor Edmund Brown Jr. and the California Public Utilities Commission to announced a $120-million settlement with NRG Energy Inc. (stemming from claims reaching back to Dynegy and the California energy crisis in 2000 and 2001) that will mostly be applied to fund the construction of a statewide network of plug-in vehicle charging stations, including at least 200 public fast-charging stations and another 10,000 plug-in units at 1,000 locations across the state.
The Governor also signed an executive order (EO) designed to accelerate the commercialization of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). The EO instructs all state government entities under the Governor’s control to “support and facilitate the rapid commercialization of zero-emission vehicles” and sets out specific targets to lay the foundation.
This executive order strengthens California’s position as a national leader in zero-emission vehicles, and the settlement will dramatically expand California’s electric vehicle infrastructure, helping to clean our air and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
—Governor Brown
Settlement. The agreement, pending approvals and finalization, resolves outstanding litigation arising out of a long-term electricity contract entered into over a decade ago by a subsidiary of Dynegy, Inc., then a co-owner with NRG of the portfolio of power generating plants currently owned by NRG in California. NRG assumed full responsibility for resolving this matter in 2006 when NRG acquired Dynegy’s 50% interest in the assets. $100 million from the settlement will fund the fast-charging stations and the installation of the plug-in units and electrical upgrades. The remaining $20 million will be directed to the CPUC for ratepayer relief.
[Dynegy, along with Enron and several other energy companies, was accused of energy price manipulation during the California electricity crisis that began in May 2000. Dynegy had also emerged as a white knight bidder for Enron, but scrappedthe merger before closing. Enron subsequently declared Chapter 11 and unsuccessfully sued Dynegy. Buyout firm Blackstone Group acquired Dynegy in 2010, and power producer NRG Energy Inc. paid Blackstone $1.36 billion for Dynegy plants in California and Maine. ]
The fee-based network of charging stations funded by the settlement and to be built by NRG will be installed in the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County.
The settlement will launch a virtuous circle in which ever more Californians will feel comfortable driving EVs, and growing EV sales will in turn attract ever more investment in charging infrastructure to our state.
—CPUC President Michael Peevey
The new ZEV (zero emission vehicle) regulations approved by the California Air Resources Board in January as part of the Advanced Clean Cars package (earlier post) requires minimum numbers of battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicles to be sold into California, with an anticipated target of 15.4% of new vehicles by 2025 (i.e., one in 7 new cars).
Executive Order. Governor Brown also ordered that the California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission and other relevant agencies work with the Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative and the California Fuel Cell Partnership to establish benchmarks to help achieve by 2015:
  • Major metropolitan areas will be able to accommodate zero-emission vehicles, each with infrastructure plans and streamlined permitting; and
  • The manufacturing sector will be expanding zero-emission vehicle and component manufacturing;
  • The private sector’s investment in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure will be growing; and
  • The State’s academic and research institutions will be contributing to zero-emission vehicle research, innovation and education.
The Executive Order also calls for benchmarks to achieve the following by 2020:
  • The state’s zero-emission vehicle infrastructure will be able to support up to one million vehicles;
  • The costs of zero-emission vehicles will be competitive with conventional combustion vehicles;
  • Zero-emission vehicles will be accessible to mainstream consumers;
  • There will be widespread use of zero-emission vehicles for public transportation and freight transport;
  • Transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions will be falling as a result of the switch to zero-emission vehicles;
  • Electric vehicle charging will be integrated into the electricity grid; and
  • The private sector’s role in the supply chain for zero-emission vehicle component development and manufacturing State will be expanding.
Benchmarks ordered for 2025 include:
  • More than 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles will be on California roads and their market share will be expanding; and
  • Californians will have easy access to zero-emission vehicle infrastructure;
  • The zero-emission vehicle industry will be a strong and sustainable part of California’s economy; and
  • California’s clean, efficient vehicles will annually displace at least 1.5 billion gallons of petroleum fuels.
The Executive Order further mandates a California target for 2050 of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector equaling 80% less than 1990 levels.
AB 32, the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, calls for a 30% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. An overall goal of a reduction of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 was set by an executive order signed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Brown’s Executive Order further calls for the state vehicle fleet to increase the number of its zero-emission vehicles through the normal course of fleet replacement so that at least 10% of fleet purchases of light-duty vehicles be zero-emission by 2015 and at least 25% of fleet purchases of light-duty vehicles be zero-emission by 2020.
This directive shall not apply to vehicles that have special performance requirements necessary for the protection of the public safety and welfare.

Cities and Emissions - Emerging Standards

Conor Riffle (GreenBiz) makes the case that measuring emissions is one of the primary enabling elements of evolving to a sustainable urban environment. That without uniformity in measurement technics, we'll never end up with an apples2apples set of metrics, for both baseline and operational needs. We fully agree and support international efforts in this direction. But standards alone won't be enough! Deployments and Open Data will be the key to real enablement!

Why the world needs a better way to measure cities' emissions


Earlier this week, the world welcomed a new protocol for how to measure the greenhouse gas emissions from an entire city. Thanks to the leadership of C40, ICLEI, and the World Bank, among others, this new protocol will for the first time provide city governments with clear and consistent guidelines for measuring emissions. It couldn't have come at a better time -- a new measurement protocol is critical for empowering city governments to take the next step on climate change action.

Read more on GreenBiz

DC Verge and the SustainAble City

Adam Aston must have gone to Verge DC. I did. But I didn't leave the ranch of course - miracle of the virtual that Verge is. Adam's piece, focusing on SustainAbility is worth reading.

Bottom Line:  They are going to come and we better build it:)


Matt Rogers on the VERGE Opportunity - Internet of Things from Hugh Byrne on Vimeo.

Edwin Lee speaks on the VERGE opportunity (Vehicles to Grid) from Hugh Byrne on Vimeo.

Citystates from SustainAbility on Vimeo.
The Seven States
The report defines seven characteristics that SustainAbility concludes can help cities and business thrive symbiotically. Here’s how co-authors, Chris Guenther and Mohammed Al-Shawaf describe these “citystates” and the opportunities they open to businesses:
1. The Connected City: Growing technological sophistication and traditional social connectivity provide opportunities for greater awareness, trust and collaboration among stakeholders. How can business both bolster and create value from this essential connectivity?
2. The Decisive City: Cities often have the urgency and accountability to act decisively. For example, cities lead state and national efforts in the areas of climate change mitigation and adaptation. How might companies improve their own decisiveness, and/or leverage that of cities, to drive sustainability?
3. The Adaptive City: Cities are among the most adaptable structures in society. How can business grow more adaptive while collaborating with cities on their mutual survival?
4. The Collaborative/Competitive City: The healthy tension between peer-to-peer collaboration and economic and brand competition among cities has potential to drive precompetitive sustainable innovation and rapid diffusion of solutions. How might industries exploit this tension in their own parallel drive for sustainability and competitiveness?
5. The Visceral City: Urban living is shaped by numerous real and potential feedback loops. As urbanization progresses and its impacts become more pressing. How can companies beneficially tap into these feedbacks to drive both value creation and sustainable development?
6. The Personal City. The influence of shared identity and values -- in cities and elsewhere -- is a particularly powerful driver of individual and collective action. How can businesses connect with citizen-consumers’ values to drive demand for more sustainable products and services?
7. The Experimental City: Cities are inherently creative, experimental social systems. This opens up links between R&D and low barriers to entry for nontraditional actors. How can business embrace the growing democratization of innovation and leverage cities as laboratories to test and scale sustainability solutions?