Not only will atomic power be released, but someday we will harness the rise and fall of the tides and imprison the rays of the sun. Thomas A. Edison

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Apple Has Big Plans for Solar, Biogas

If you were expecting the Apple logo, fuggetaboutit... it's a registered trademark.

According to, Apple Computer has big plans for their $1 billion facility in Maiden, NC. This site serves as the company's largest data center, providing storage for their iCloud, iTunes, and Siri voice functions on the iPhone 4S. All 500,000 square feet of this facility is LEED Platinum certified. No other data storage center can boast this level of energy efficiency certification.

In addition to the energy efficiency of the site, Apple is heavily invested in clean, alternative energy to provide the majority of the data center's energy needs. To begin with, 100 acres of land surrounding the building will be the largest solar array to be owned by the end-user. The 20 MW installation will provide 42 million kWh of power annually.

Apple is also building a 5 MW fuel cell facility that will provide 24 X 7 baseline power, making it the largest non-utility fuel cell complex in the United States. The fuel cell complex will run on 100% biogas. Annual output of the fuel cell portion of the energy mix will be 40 million kWh, for a total 82 million kWh of clean renewable energy.

You can read James Montgomery's original story on Renewable Energy by clicking here.

You can read or download Apple's Facilities Report 2012 Environmental Update by clicking here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

If You Think $4 Per Gallon For Gas Is Bad…

I just reviewed last year’s Pew Research paper “From the Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America’s Armed Forces.” You can check it out for yourself by clicking here. Here are some of the major points I would like to point out:

- Fuel delivered to forward operating bases in Afghanistan costs at least 16 times more than the civilian equivalent. Under certain conditions, the delivered cost can range from $75 to $400 per gallon.
- Eighty percent of convoys in combat areas have been for fuel.
- One in 46 convoys results in a casualty.
- Just in 2010, there were 1,100 attacks on fuel convoys.
- From 2003 to 2007, there were 3,000 convoy-related casualties.

Missing from the report was any mention of politics in Pakistan. Since the successful mission into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden, many convoys were idled at the border and unable to cross due to tensions between the two countries. While positioned in one place, they proved to be sitting ducks and many vehicles were attacked while within the borders of a supposed “partner nation.”

For our brave men and women in uniform, alternative energy is more than a political tag-line. Energy independence can and does mean the difference between life and death. Further, forward-deployed troops reliant on a long logistics trail are less nimble and are more vulnerable to enemy attack of convoys.

Adding to the increasing use of energy (an average of 22 gallons of fuel is expended per soldier per day), we now have the “iSoldier” so tied into complex electronics that the foot patrol load includes 7 pounds per day just for batteries. Imagine our soldiers and marines fighting with 35 pounds of batteries alone on their back. That’s just not nimble by any stretch.

So what’s being done to correct the situation? Plenty. Troops are positioned in forward operating bases (FOBs). The Department of Defense has been experimenting with these bases to make each one energy independent. These Experimental Forward Operating Bases (Ex-FOBs) have been able to support personnel without resupply of fuel or other forms of energy. The Army’s Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power System and improvements in rechargeable batteries literally lighten the load carried by soldiers.

So what does this mean to civilians? Government does very well when it is engaged in pure research and provides business a ready customer base. This is how the space program improved our daily lives in unexpected ways from enhanced weather reporting, global voice and data communications, non-stick cooking in the kitchen, and memory foam mattresses. Similarly, many of the technologies developed for an Ex-FOB will enhance our energy security and price stabilization at home. This is just one more way that our men and women in uniform defend not only our freedom, but our way of life.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Scottish Distiller Uses Malt Waste For Energy

Leave it to the Scotts to find new and inventive ways of using whiskey. William Grant & Sons, a Scottish distiller of whiskey, is using waste malt from the fermentation process in an anaerobic digester. The resulting gas is approximately 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide. This biogas is then fed to several GE Jenbacher gas engines that provide more electricity than the plant can possibly use, thus providing a new product for the company to sell in the form of electricity.

The distillation plant uses on average 3 MW of power. The three J420 Jenbacher gas engines provide a total of 4.6 MW. An additional J620 unit produces 3.3 MW. All told, approximately 7 MW of maximum and an average 5 MW of power is available for use on site, leaving 2 MW available for sale to the grid. The total cost of the project was £15 million, but the time to pay-back is 5 years. At that time, the company will realize a positive return on investment over initial cost.

Jenbacher gas engines are used for their flexibility of fuel source and efficiency wiLinkth fuel mixtures that would be too lean for normal internal combustion engines. General Electric’s gas engine headquarters is in Jenbach, Austria which lies in the Tyrol region.

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