Tag Archives: utility

Austin, Texas, approves plan to become zero waste by 2040

On December 15, 2011, the city council in Austin, Texas, voted unanimously to approve the Zero Waste by 2040 plan. And now the program is starting to take effect.

Starting with the comprehensive master plan (pdf), the executive summary:

Zero Waste is a design principle that goes beyond recycling to focus first on reducing wastes and reusing products and then recycling and composting the rest. Zero Waste works to redesign the system to mimic natural systems, recognizing that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and everything is a resource for something or someone else. Currently, Austin is estimated to lose over $40 million annually by sending materials that could be recycled or reused to area landfills.

Austin’s Zero Waste system will strive to recover that estimated loss and eliminate waste, or get darn close. This Plan defines success as reducing by 20% the per capita solid waste disposed to landfills by 2012, diverting 75% of waste from landfills and incinerators by 2020, and 90% by 2040.

Then, bringing the children into it with a program called Generation Zero.  Offering educational programs at each grade level:

  • Kindergarten – 2nd grade – classroom composting
  • 3rd – 5th – learning about recycling
  • Middle School – learn about landfills and visit a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)
  • High School – history of trash in America

And, my favorite, offering discounts on the utility bill for reducing your trash. If you throw away more you pay more, allowing greener families to save up to $20/month:

  • 24 gallon bin – $13.35
  • 32 gallon bin – $14.60
  • 64 gallon bin – $19.75
  • 96 gallon bin – $33.50

This is exciting to watch Austin transform itself, starting from a very low recycling rate of 38% and moving all the way to zero waste.

 

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How does water get to my house?

Through a series of pumps and electricity, from the USGS Water Science School:

Let’s assume that you get your water from the local water department through pipes buried below the streets. In other words, you don’t have your own well in your back yard. Chances are that you get your water through gravity and pumps. Cities and towns build those big water towers on top of the highest hills and then fill them with water. So even if you live on a hill, there’s a good chance the water tower is higher than your house. Water moves from the tower, due to gravity, and goes down a large pipe from the tower to eventually reach your house.

Although gravity supplies the power to move water from the tower to homes, electricity is needed to run a pump to push water from the source.

 

In my city, those water pumps use a lot of electricity. It is the second largest city expense, using 5.4 million kWh and costing more than $500K a year. (Energy Action Plan, page 21)

 

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Solar Industry booming with 21% growth – Solar Leasing now has waitlists

Unlike much of the rest of the economy, the solar industry is growing rapidly. New solar installations in California jumped by 21 percent last year. An increasing amount of that growth is from “solar leasing.”

What’s commonly called “solar leasing” is now the most popular way for homeowners to install solar electricity.

A solar company installs the panels for the customer for free or for a minimal cost. Then it sells the consumer the electricity for about 10 percent less than local utility rates.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, “before solar was more designed to those who could afford a large upfront cost of $20,000 to $25,000. Now the average person can go solar and just start saving money, there’s no investment.”

Rive says the option is so popular that in some markets his company has a waiting list of 4 to 6 months.

via Capital Public Radio

 

// Photo – Heritage Solar

Renewable energy production variability by hour of day, and by season (graph)

- …illustrate the variability of wind and solar generation relative to the comparatively smooth output from other generation sources

- Power produced by geothermal, biomass, biogas, and small hydro generators can be easily dispatched, meaning it can be either increased, decreased, or controlled to remain fairly constant.

- Wind resources are often more available at night.

- Solar power is not generated until the sun comes up, and can increase and decrease quickly as the sun rises, sets, or is blocked by cloud cover. However, much of California’s utility-scale solar capacity is based on concentrating solar technology, which embodies enough thermal storage to continue generating power for a few hours after the sun goes down

- The variability of wind and solar power generation leads to challenges in power system operations and planning.

- The contribution towards total generation from eligible renewable resources also varies seasonally. For the dates charted above, the amount of renewable generation as a percentage of the total generation ranges from 8% on Oct 18, 2011 to 14% on May 9, 2011.

via - Today in Energy, EIA

Video games wasted about 1% of America’s electrical energy

A new study from Carnegie Mellon University found that in 2010, video games wasted about 1% of America’s electrical energy.

They found that up to 75% of energy consumed by video game consoles is during idle use, because the machines don’t have an auto-power-down feature (like every computer does).

The authors of the study say the cost of implementing this feature is marginal and would save more than $1 billion in utility costs.

More details:

- By the end of 2010, over 75 million current generation video game consoles (Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Sony PlayStation 3) had been sold, meaning that many homes have two or more current generation game consoles

- We estimate that the total electricity consumption of video game consoles in the US was around 11 TWh in 2007 and 16 TWh in 2010 (approximately 1 % of US residential electricity consumption), an increase of almost 50 % in 3 years.

- The most effective energy-saving modification is incorporation of a default auto power down feature, which could reduce electricity consumption of game consoles by 75 % (10 TWh reduction of electricity in 2010).

- A simple improvement that could be implemented now via firmware updates to power the console down after 1 hour of inactivity. Though two of the three current generation consoles have this capability, it is not enabled by default, a modification that would be trivial for console manufacturers.

- Saving consumers over $1 billion annually in electricity bills.

 

Scott Lowe at The Verge points out that in May 2011, Microsoft did update Xbox 360′s firmware to enable auto-power-down by default. Now it’s up to the rest of industry to catch-up.

 

Full study available – Electricity consumption and energy savings potential of video game consoles in the United States

 

// Photo – Jami3.org