Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the category “solutions”

Driverless Car

Everywhere on the planet there are projects underway to make use of the new possibilities of mapping, GPS and IT (keyword: ‘location awareness’) to develop a ‘driverless car’, both for individual and freight transport. The potential is huge, because for the first time, the need to own a car would disappear and mass-car ownership can be replaced by ‘car on demand’. Additionally, the size of the car can be adapted to the number of people that need to be transported. In most cases, small, energy-efficient scooter-cars like these should suffice for most-often single-person transport:

All you need to do is use your mobile device and check availability and make a reservation. The transporter will drive to your home without a driver and all you need to do is step in and travel to your destination. Maintenance of the transporter is a responsibility of the company, not the individual.

Most commercial airplanes spend more time in the skies than on the ground and this for decades on end, which is unproblematic as long as the maintenance is done properly. With cars that is not different. The big advantage is that the transporter will be used all the time, based on the ‘law of large numbers’. In other words: the same transportation performance can be realized with far fewer transporters.

An additional advantage is that the cities will be freed of cars that spend most of their economic life time in a parked condition. Example: average number of kilometers/year driven in Holland per car is ca. 13,000. With an average speed of say 60 khm, that’s 200 hours, in a year that has 16*365 = 5840 daylight hours. Using supply/demand principle and subsequent pricing, people are encouraged to travel outside the peak hours as much as possible. Public transport can be used to take the brunt of commuting transport. When energy shortages really begin to bite, the number of kilometers/month can be rationed. If you realize that the embodied energy of a car is something like 76,000 kWh (that’s 14 kwh/day on a 15 year lifespan) before it has driven a single kilometer, the energy saving potential is considerable (ratio embodied energy/fuel cost is ca. 15-25%).

But hey, why not expand on the idea of driverless vehicles. Why go to the supermarket, if you can shop from home? Send your order over the wire and a little self-driving robot will come your way and deliver it literally on your door step. Why use a 1000+ kg car to drive to the supermarket to fetch perhaps 5 kg of groceries, if a small vehicle of say 50 kg will give the same result.

[] – Google Driverless Car

Additional advantage of automatic driving: using the driverless principle and accurate computer control, large columns of personal cars and trucks can drive close to each other in a convoy and thus save a substantial amount of fuel.

And again, you don’t need fossil fuel to drive:

The car shown absorbs enough energy from the environment all by itself to transport 4 adult persons over 700 km/day (at least in a sufficient sunny environment like Australia).

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Cargo Bikes

[] – 5 Reasons Cargo Bikes Are the Perfect Mode of Transportation

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Rocket Mass Heater

Many personal adds refer to it: a fire place, a glass of wine and a beloved one to have a ‘good conversation’ with (about the prenuptial agreement perhaps?), nothing beats an open fire to keep people warm. Or does it?

The problem with the standard open fire place is that perhaps up to 90% of the heat escapes unused via the chimney, just to heat the universe. And that the heat that is generated, is often too intense and short-lived. A remedy against that is to store the heat in a large mass and to release it evenly and slowly. That’s where the rocket mass heater comes in.

The hot air generated in the black stove is transported through the stone mass below the window, before it is released through the chimney at considerably lower temperature as would have been the case if released directly. Now the heat is stored in the large stone body. In this manner you need up to six times less fuel to achieve the same heating result. Additionally, you need to pay less attention to the fire during the day, just get the stone mass warm early in the morning and you’re warm for a couple of hours.



[] – Rocket mass heater
[] – Rocket Mass Heaters

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Saving Fuel With More Gears

Volkswagen was the first to introduce in 2003 a gear-box with 6 gears. Mercedes and BMW took up the gauntlet and increased even more. Now Volkswagen brings a 10-gear gear-box for their mass market models Golf and Passat. Advantages: less wear of the coupling and better fuel efficiency (16%). The new gear-box weighs 5 kg more, but has the same size as the old one.




[] – Zehnganggetriebe von VW: Jetzt wird’s zweistellig

Volkswagen XL1 review

Youtube text:

After nearly ten years in the making, the Volkswagen XL1 has arrived, and we were lucky enough to drive one in this video review.

Volkswagen had one thing in mind with the XL1 – to create a useable, everyday vehicle that would use just a single litre of fuel for every hundred kilometres it travelled. Three concept cars and thirteen years of development later, the Volkswagen XL1 has now become a production reality.

It boasts a stylish teardrop design, shaped by aerodynamics to create as little drag as possible. It sits just over a metre tall, which is lower than most sports cars, including a Porsche Boxster.

When the XL1 finally arrives in the UK, only around 20-30 cars will be on offer, with early estimates of the price tag coming in at around £100,000.

Volkswagen claim the car can achieve 313mpg, so to put this to the test, we drove the XL1 around a short loop in full electric mode. Astonishingly, we managed to achieve 403mpg – so it actually beat the figures stated by Volkswagen.

Okay, so, when we did drive the XL1 a little faster, that figure did fall to 196mpg. But it’s still efficient, and hardly going to break the bank. Overall, we were pretty impressed with the XL1 – the build quality of the interior was stunning, and it was hard not to be seduced by the cutting-edge technology on board.

Don’t worry, though; it’s going to be a while before the next Volkswagen Golf looks like an XL1.

Short Term Battery Storage Could Eliminate Need Fossil-Based Backup Capacity

Battersea power station in London

Earlier we reported about considerable progress being made in bringing down the price of storage of electrical energy. This could greatly reduce the need for maintaining fossil fuel based backup capacity. In the modern grid there is always spare capacity standing by, that can be switched on quickly to meet varying demand patterns. If indeed the cost of storage could be brought down to ca. 100-200$/kwh, than the need for the spare capacity mentioned above could be considerable reduced and backup power stations can be closed.

And it is not just batteries that will replace the need for backup generation capacity, there is also the option of pumped hydro storage, that could cover both short and medium term storage capacity.

[] – Energy Storage Will Soon Replace Simple Cycle Combustion Turbine Peaker Plants

SolaRoad Operational

[source] Dutch minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp opened the SolaRoad, a bicycle path paved with solar panels.

Earlier reports from this site, here and here.

[] – Dutch to test solar panels on bicycle path
[] – Dutch unveil world’s first solar-powered bicycle path
[] – Fietsen over zonnepanelen
[] – Erster Solar-Radweg der Welt in Betrieb genommen



[source] The future?

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Urban Farming

Over 6,000 pounds of food per year, on 1/10 acre (400 m2) located just 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. The Dervaes family grows over 400 species of plants, 4,300 pounds of vegetable food, 900 chicken and 1,000 duck eggs, 25 lbs of honey, plus seasonal fruits throughout the year.

Editor: this is how many people in Ukraine and Russia already live and in the West soon many will live like this too. There is a life after the end of the oil age. You don’t need a nine-to-five in the cubicle, a car or a skying vacation or a trip to New Zealand or a second home. A home, 100 m2/person and a community is enough to live a free life as the Dervaes family proves.


[] – Jules Dervaes

Power Pond

Instruction how to extract hydro electricity from a situation with little fall.

Found these videos here:


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Garbage Disposal Units Introduced in the Netherlands

50% of US households own one (UK 6%, Canada 3%), but in Europe they are almost unknown: garbage disposal units. The idea is to get rid of all organic waste via the sink, not as usual via the trash can, where in the summer this wet material will start to rot and stink. In order not to clog your drain, the organic food left-overs needs to be grinded first. That’s where the garbage disposal unit comes in.

Yesterday-night, on the Dutch news (NOS), there was an item that on several locations (Sneek, Hengelo, Amsterdam & Apeldoorn) tests are starting to see if this method of garbage disposal could be introduced in the Netherlands as well. Getting rid of food waste hygienically is not the only motive; the grinded organic material can be isolated in the sewage processing unit and used as biomass for energy generation purposes.

[] – Je etensresten door het riool

[] – Garbage disposal unit

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Keep a Room Warm for 14 $ Cent a Day

Here a guy who claims you can keep your little study warm during the winter with a computer installation, one human exothermic chemical process… plus 2 * 4 = 8 waxine lights.

P.S. We did not test this idea. Our hobby horse remains thermo-wired cloths as the cheapest way to stay warm during the winter. And the safest. Other simple means to stay warm: 5 minutes/hour of intensive physical exercise on a home trainer or rowing machine.

Samsø 100% Powered by the Wind

Samsø is an island of four thousand inhabitants situated in central Denmark and 100% electricity self sufficient and 75% of its heat comes from solar power and biomass energy. Samsø achieved that in less than ten years.


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FlyKly Smart Wheel

Youtube text: Published on Oct 19, 2013 – Lightweight and highly efficient all-in-one design pedal assist that fits on practically any bicycle. Move through busy city streets in no time and spare your energy with the help of Smart Wheel, a pedal assist that encases an ultra-thin electric motor and intelligent electronics within a robust housing, neatly fitted onto the spokes of a bicycle rim. It fits practically any bicycle frame and helps you use your bike more efficiently and comfortably, when and where you need it.


Güssing, Austria – Fossil Fuel Free


Güssing, 100 miles south of Vienna, population 4000. In 1988 the annual fossil fuel bill amounted to $8.1 million. The community wanted to keep that money in town and started to look for ways to save energy and replace it with local sources. Answer: biomass, fueling a district heating system and in 1996 covered the entire town and generated electricity as well, all based on an area with 5 km radius. The city’s power plant produces on average 2 megawatts of electricity and 4.5 megawatts of heat, more than enough energy for the town’s needs, while only consuming one-third of the biomass that grows every year. In 2007 the NYT reported about the town, now they have a research institute focusing on ‘thermal and biological gasification and production of second-generation fuels’. Additionally 850 MW worth of solar panels are produced in Güssing, as well as several other photovoltaic and solar thermal companies. The town meanwhile earns $17 million per year due to locally produced renewable energy sales.

[google maps]

Net-Zero Cabin in Virginia

Youtube text: Published on Sep 3, 2013 For the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013, West Virginia University presents Preserving Energy with Appalachian Knowledge, or PEAK, which invites residents to embrace a new Appalachian way of living with contemporary, mountaineer design that blends subtly with automated smart systems. PEAK integrates innovative technologies and passive design techniques to maximize energy efficiency and support sustainable design practices and approaches.


Heating Homes With Mirrors

Heliostats are a low cost way to capture light and heat and direct it into a building through windows. In many buildings, some rooms never get direct sunlight at all – they face the wrong way. Heliostats placed outside these cold /dark rooms can direct warmth and light into the rooms, transforming them into enjoyable, comfortable spaces. Each H1 Heliostat can deliver over 2000 watts to a room, or over 230,000 lumens of light.


Price range: $1,349.00 to $1,699.00

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European Supergrid Submarine Cables – Inventory & Plans

An essential part of the solution to Europe’s energy problems is the European Supergrid. It means that all European countries will be interconnected to even out demand and supply patterns. Most countries in continental Europe are already strongly interconnected. A missing link though are connections to the country that could serve as ‘Europe’s battery pack‘: Norway.

purple – existing connections
yellow – planned connections

The first subsea connection was between Norway and The Netherlands: NorNed. Others followed like BritNed.

The Germans also have plans to link Germany with Norway: NorGer and NORD.LINK. NorGer plans got concrete by December 2012.

Siemens to increase power transmission capacity between England[source]
Siemens has won a 1.1 billion euro contract to connect England and Scotland (420 km, 2200 megawatts bi-directional, late 2015).

SSE’S Norway Interconnector Project. Meanwhile, SSE has withdrawn from the project. NorthConnect‘s other partners, Sweden’s Vattenfall and Norwegian companies E-CO Energi, Agder Energi and Lyse, said it would not affect their plans. NorthConnect has the support of Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, the man pushing for Scottish independence.

[] – NorthConnect Won’t Cancel Plan for U.K.-Norway Electricity Cable.

Iceland is considering building the world’s longest subsea power cable by around 2020 to take advantage of its abundant geothermal energy to supply Britain with green power, the head of the state-run electricity producer said. “We can serve as a green battery for the U.K.,” Hordur Arnarson, the chief executive of Landsvirkjun said in an interview… Landsvirkjun expects to make a final investment decision on the 1,000 kilometre subsea cable by 2015-2016… McKinsey & Co. estimates it (Iceland) is harnessing only 20 to 25 per cent of its hydro and geothermal energy potential… Mr. Arnarson declined to cite a figure for the costs of construction, which would take five years and would entail laying cable 3,000 metres underwater in some areas. The longest subsea cable currently in operation is the 580-kilometre NorNed link from Norway to the Netherlands, which was completed in 2008 and cost €600-million ($784-million U.S.).

[] – Iceland revives plans for world’s longest subsea power cable, Jan 9, 2013.

Now even Israel wants to get connected to Europe (Greece), to start with Cyprus.
The cable’s total length measures 870km (540 miles) and its depth is over 2,000 meters (656 feet). Between Israel and Cyprus, the cable will be 270km long. Electricity will flow in both directions at a capacity of up to 2,000MW. Another cable will connect Cyprus and Crete which forms part of the Greek electricity grid. As a result, Israel will be connected to the European electricity grid.


Tablet Energy Considerations

What is the energy impact of a tablet like the iPad? Let’s make a few reasonable assumptions about the user and his tablet:

  • Economic lifespan tablet: 3 years.
  • The user reads a newspaper (6 times per week), a magazine (once per week) and reads a book every two weeks.

    Newspaper, magazine and books can be made superfluous by the iPad. What would be the energy gain?

    Let’s estimate the weight of a newspaper at 500 gram, that’s 940 * 0.5 kg = 470 kg in three years. Let’s assume that the magazine and book have similar weights and we arrive at ca. 550 kg paper in three years. The embodied energy of recycled paper is ca. 19 MJ/kg or 10.5 GJ in total. And that is just paper. Add to this the transport cost of wood from say, Scandinavia or Canada into the EU or USA. Add the cost of delivery to your doorstep, every day. How about the trip to the book store or library by car or bus, every two weeks? Let’s say 2 * 5 km/trip, makes 800 km in three years. That’s 70 liter of fuel.

    Now, what about the embodied energy of an iPad? It is very difficult to retrieve data on that. Apple claims 105 kg CO2 for an iPad2, consisting of 60% production, 29% user energy consumption, 10% transport, 1% recycling.

    We have 550 kg paper = 10.5 GJ, as well as 70 liter fuel. 70 liter of fuel = 0.7 * 2.3 * 70 kg CO2 = 112 kg. So the trip to the library/bookstore every two weeks already is equal to the entire energy usage of the iPad. Assume 1GJ = 15 kg CO2. That means that 10.5 GJ represent 158 kg CO2.

    By replacing a newspaper/magazine/books with an iPad, we reduce the carbon footprint to 105 kg, coming from 112 kg + 158 kg + delivery cost newspaper = 270+ kg. But additionally the iPad delivers the potential to replace the television as well (1300 kg CO2!), or the desktop (1800 kg CO2) not to mention gaming, skype face-to-face communicating, endless internet browsing, internet shoping, and even cloud based working, all for the (energy) cost of 105 kg CO2 per three years.

  • Flow Batteries

    Youtube text: “In this video, Stanford graduate student Wesley Zheng demonstrates the new low-cost, long-lived flow battery he helped create. The researchers created this miniature system using simple glassware. Adding a lithium polysulfide solution to the flask immediately produces electricity that lights an LED. A utility version of the new battery would be scaled up to store many megawatt-hours of energy.



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    The Hiriko is a folding two-seat urban electric car being developed by the Hiriko Driving Mobility consortium in the Basque Country. The electric car is the commercial implementation of the CityCar project developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab since 2003. Pricing starts at €12,500 (US$16,400). Maximum speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). The Hiriko Fold weighs less than 500 kg (1,100 lb), has an extended length of 2.5 m (98.4 in) and its hinged body allow the microcar to retract its front and rear modules, enabling the Hiriko to fold upwards to 1.5 m (59.1 in) for parking.


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