Archive for March, 2011

International E-Waste Design Competition

 The International E-Waste Design Competition sponsored by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to design new, long-lasting, easily recycled ways of using electronic waste (old computers cell phones, TVs, cameras, printers, freezers, etc.)

See fascinating videos of last year’s winners.

March 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm 1 comment

MIT Scientists Create Artificial Solar Leaf That Can Power Homes

 The idea of a cell that can reproduce the photosynthetic process came about over ten years ago, but initially required expensive and rare metals and materials that would price out the commercial consumer. But Nocera’s model uses inexpensive nickel and cobalt catalysts. These catalysts effectively and efficiently split hydrogen and oxygen at a production rate of about ten times that of one of Mother Nature’s leaves.
Using a simple mixture of sunlight and one gallon of water, the “leaf” which is the size of a playing card, is made of silicon, electronics and the aforementioned catalysts, which speed up the process.  Rather than producing energy directly like a photovoltaic cell, the “leaf” splits the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, which then produce electricity for personal and household use. The prototype can produce energy continuously for 45 hours without any fluctuations.
Nocera’s leaf could mean big things for household energy everywhere.  Poor and developing countries could source affordable electricity for their homes in small and remote villages without the construction of power lines and the like. In light of the ever increasing oil prices, Nocera’s renewable energy “leaf” would function practically as a furnace, providing low-cost energy as a common household device.  In fact, the “leaf” has been funded in part by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E transformational energy program- via our tax dollars.

Nocera’s “leaf” is ready for commercial production and distribution. Hopefully one day soon, each home will find it as common as a hot water heater!

Read full CleanTechnica article..

March 31, 2011 at 3:57 pm Leave a comment

City Installs Do-It-Yourself Bike Repair Stations

Cambridge, Massachusetts has come up with a creative way to support its increasingly bike-loving populace and to encourage people to opt for green transport. The city has installed three bicycle repair stations around town. Cyclists can drop by the spots in Harvard Square and make minor repairs or inflate their tires. Cambridge’s transportation manager says the city was inspired by MIT, which already had bike repair stations.

See full Geekosystem article. .

March 24, 2011 at 9:48 pm Leave a comment

Germany set to abandon nuclear power for good

The world’s fourth-largest economy stands alone among leading industrialized nations in its decision to stop using nuclear energy because of its inherent risks. It is betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy to meet power demands instead.

See the full World news – Europe – article.

March 24, 2011 at 5:46 pm Leave a comment

Breakthrough in Nanocomposite for High-Capacity Hydrogen Storage « Berkeley Lab News Center

 Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have designed a new composite material for hydrogen storage consisting of nanoparticles of magnesium metal sprinkled through a matrix of polymethyl methacrylate, a polymer related to Plexiglas. This pliable nanocomposite rapidly absorbs and releases hydrogen at modest temperatures without oxidizing the metal after cycling—a major breakthrough in materials design for hydrogen storage, batteries and fuel cells.

 See full Berkeley Lab News Center article.

March 24, 2011 at 3:40 am Leave a comment

Maui Community Garden Initiative

Want to start a community or neighborhood garden?
Need experienced advice?

Maui Community Garden Initiative (MCGI) is a nonprofit organization formed to proactively engage Maui communities in growing food. Through strategic collaborations and public advocacy, they provide educational and technical support for cultivating and sustaining community based gardens. Two of the principles, Nio Kindla and Kirk Surrey, are very active with the Kihei Elementary School garden.

Visit their website..

March 22, 2011 at 4:31 am Leave a comment

Vog Information

Vog is primarily a mixture of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas and sulfate (SO4) aerosol. SO2 (invisible) reacts with oxygen and moisture in the air to produce SO4 aerosol (visible). SO2 is expected to be the main problem in areas near the vent on the big island of Hawai’i.

Here are some online resources with information about vog and vog contitions.

The Vog Measurement and Prediction Project (VMAP) has a number of useful pages:

U.S. Geological Survey Hawai’ian Volcano Observatory.

Hawai’i State Department of Health
NOAA Satellite & Information Service: SO2 map

Useful Vog Info

Wikipedia vog article

March 21, 2011 at 12:15 am Leave a comment

Notes from Clean Energy Meeting, Kihei March 17, 2011


  • Situation in Japan
  • Reation what can we do
  • Why 2011 is “Solar Year”
  • Solar Investing
  • Action Items in Maui and Honolulu
  • Kanu Hawai’i – July energy challenge


  • The reactors are out of control.
  • The situation is worse than Chernobyl, which had 1 million deaths. Now there are 6 reactors compared to 1 in Chernobyl. Some commentators say this is 500 times worse.
  • Reactor 3 is run partially on plutonium which is 1000 times more dangerous, experimenting with MOX for 3 months 5-15% plutonium
  • A Google news search for plutonium incidents shows that the US media doesn’t report them, but they are big news in Germany.

What can we do?

  • Set up a web page with radiation information. Click here to see this new posting.
  • Discussion: Should we start a Facebook page for distributing information about radiation risks and protection on Maui? What organizations already exist here with those resources?
  • Call for replacing nuclear with clean energy, wind, solar.
  • The Sierra Club already has anti-nuclear position, but it hasn’t started to point what we should be learning from the Japanese events and implementing in the U.S. We are prompted to encourage the Sierra Club to more actively to promote renewable energy in place of nuclear.
  • There is much discussion now on the internet about nuclear risks and suggested political actions.
  • There is also some information about the risks on Maui from the Japanese nuclear accidents and recommended precautions.
    Click here for some online resources as of 3/18/11.
  • Radioactive Iodine (Iodine-131) was major risk from the Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown is not as big a factor with the current situation, which is leaking more Cesium.
  • For radioactive iodine, potassium Iodide is recommended, but only when person is exposed. It’s absorbed by the thyroid, which then doesn’t take in the radioactive substance.

    Good natural sources of iodine are edible seaweed, like nori, kelp, dulse and irish moss as well as asparagus, garlic, lima beans, mushrooms, seafood, sea salt and fortified salt, sesame seeds, soybeans, spinach, summer squash, swiss chard and turnip greens.


  • PV costs have come down to between $2.80/watt (Germany) and $6.50/watt (US).
  • Chinese thin wafer technology is less expensive but can fracture more easily.
  • China is installing a new coal plant each week.
  • Safe nuclear? This is a problem because of the long half life of nuclear waste, which contains certain radioactive elements (such as plutonium-239) from “spent” fuel that will remain hazardous to humans and other creatures for hundreds of thousands of years. Other radioisotopes remain hazardous for millions of years.
  • What is needed is the political will to make the change to clean energy happen sooner. Because of the wealth and lobbying power of the established oil, coal and nuclear suppliers , this is a huge challenge. How can we make the change?
  • Suggestion: Lease rooftops to MECO to generate electricity.
    Response: MECO did survey about this and found it difficult to manage a large number of small roofs.
  • One problem with locally generated clean energy is the limited capacity of the grid to take variable energy. Reliable forms of storage are needed, perhaps incentives for homeowners to get batteries to store sun and wind generated electricity during high production and and installation of available systems that let individual batteries feed back into the grid at specific times of day, like peak demand between 7-9pm.
  • Currently the best batteries are Lithium-Ion batteries.
  • Energy can also be stored by Pumped Hydro systems, but local studies about feasibility of pumped storage at Ulupalakua revealed serious problems regarding environmental impact statements and getting permits.
  • A planned reservoir in upcountry has a cost of $100 million to build and an 18-year of permitting process. Two of those would be needed for pumped storage. MECO is only worth $100 million and they burn $300 million of oil burned/year, which is paid for by consumers. It is hard for them to invest $100-200 million in a storage system.
  • The Lanai PV farm was designed to store energy, but the battery company failed and the Chinese bought it. Lanai is just now getting a new battery.
  • The new FIT (Feed-in-Tariff), policy allows an electricity producer to upload a maximum of 250 kw to MECO for 20 years at a guaranteed rate of 21-27 cents per kw hour.
  • Net metering is better for homes than FIT, however, a producer can have a FIT meter on a separate meter from the Net Meter.


  • An investment in a PV system with a 6% interest loan gives power costs for 30 years between 14-33 cents / kWh. MECO currently charges $0.30-0.34/kWh and that will likely only get higher.
  • Inverters for PV systems are warranted for 10-15 years and will likely be replaced because of limited lifetime and improvements in technology.
  • The PV modules have 10 year warranty, but can least for up to 40 years if not damaged by a big voltage surge, people walking on top of them and creating micro fractures, or getting serious corrosion on the terminal or getting water seepage.
  • The resulting return on a PV system is between 8% and 13%, depending whether tax incentives are utilized.
  • This grows to a 31% annual return in 20 years (considering a 5.5% increase in kWh prices)
  • Commercial systems pay off in 2-4 years –
  • Investments in solar parks yield 7-14%. A solar park is where people rent out their land or their roof and others invest in the PV installation.
  • One problem is that the rush to install at the end of the year for tax write-offs chokes installation process with over demand of limited supplies.
  • People need to learn how to use the tax benefits that are year-round.
  • Need to have clean energy education for architects and bankers.
  • LEED (international green building certification system) points are given for generating energy, but not for design. Because of the current low economy, there are few LEED projects on Maui now.
  • PV installation also protect roofs, but you need to start with a roof in good condition.


  • Signs in front of PV homes or stickers on their mailboxes could show the trend.


  • These are very practical, can be placed in parking lots, give shade to parked vehicles and provide power for all the associated businesses or homes.


  • Alternating PV pipes and open space can make the right amount of shade for vegetables like tomatoes. Some panels let sunlight through and could also be installed in gardens.


  • Ground mounted systems require a building permit and they must be engineered.


  • Solar hot water was tested by, and standards developed in part by the utilities. Now it is mandated for new construction, but regulations and enforcement were not mandated. The mandate eliminated solar hot water tax credits and rebates and costs the state money for inspection. Contractors also must be trained to properly install the units.
  • Architects also need to be educated about locating solar electricity and solar water units appropriately, too limit length of pipes from source to end use.


  • These are made from amorphous materials and serve a double purpose, but are not yet efficient enough to be really practical.


  • The Small Wind Power market is still developing.
  • The vertical axis installation at the MECO office is wobbly. Same problem at the UHC. The 20′ height above the bearing creates cantilever problems on bearings.
  • All wind units get energy from their “swept area”, which is one of the most important factors in predicting energy production
  • Vertical wind turbines swept area is half the cage size because because half of the time it’s rotating into the wind.
  • The small turbines at the Ma’alea aquarium are challenged to follow shifts in wind direction.
  • Wind turbines must be high enough to avoid turbulence, which kills energy production.
  • Wind power provides better dollar per kw hours than solar in a good wind resource.
  • Durability is issue with wind equipment. There’s a 20-year design for the better units.
  • The first big Maalea turbine fell apart each week because it was an old design that wasn’t  made for the salt environment)
  • The <i>First Wind</i> farm now has storage in the form of a semi-truck sized GE battery. Their new farm will go up soon. Huge pieces of the new windmills can be seen stored beyond the fence at the end of South Holopono Street in the Maui Research Park.
  • Land is leased from the state by First Wind. Customers pay MECO which pays First Wind which pays state.
  • When excess energy is generated, it can be curtailed  by stopping the windmill from turning.
  • Construction has begun at the Auwahi Wind Energy 22-megawatt wind energy and battery storage project near Ulupalakua. Because it’s at end of power line, it needs a massive 30 MW battery.



March 19, 2011 at 2:26 am 1 comment

Nuclear Radiation Information for Maui

When radioactive iodine is detected in the air, potassium Iodide is recommended, but only when there’s an actual risk of exposure. Radioactive iodine can cause thyroid cancer. The iodine from the potassium iodide protects the thyroid because it’s absorbed by the thyroid, which then doesn’t absorb the radioactive iodine.

3/15 article on cautions of using potassium idodide without iminent threat.

Good natural sources of iodine are edible seaweed, like nori, kelp, dulse and irish moss as well as asparagus, garlic, lima beans, mushrooms, seafood, sea salt and fortified salt, sesame seeds, soybeans, spinach, summer squash, swiss chard and turnip greens.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) operates on a 24-hour basis.

The Department of Health (DOH) continues to closely monitor the situation, and at this time says there is no indication of increased risk to the state. (via Interim Health Director Loretta Fuddy).

If a need should arise for residents to start taking potassium iodide to guard against effects of radiation exposure, the Hawaii State Department of Health along with other local, state and federal agencies will inform the public.

The EPA Radnet (Environmental Protection Agency) post air and water monitoring results online.

March 17, 2011 Maui News article
More radiation monitors deployed

EPA told The Associated Press it is adding two more stations on Guam, and two in Hawaii.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already monitors radiation throughout the area as part of its RadNet system, which measures levels in air, drinking water, milk and rain.

The new Hawaii monitors would be placed on Oahu’s North Shore and on Kauai; two are already in place, on Oahu and the Big Island.

Maui Energy Commissioner: Doug McLeod
State Office Building, 200 South High Street, Wailuku, HI 96793-2155, (808) 986-1200

See other posts on nuclear energy in the Political Action category.

March 19, 2011 at 1:54 am 2 comments

Clean Energy Meeting – Kihei – March 17

2011 is a landmark year for Clean Energy. Recent technological advances, cost reductions and generous government support make investing in solar and wind generation highly lucrative. New governments in Maui County and Hawaii State have pledged their support for a swift reorientation away from oil.

Join us this Thursday, March 17 at 6:30 pm for a spirited discussion of investment possibilities for individuals and recommendations for Maui’s transition into an oil free future.

Chris Mentzel (in affiliation with South Maui Sustainability)
619 Kupulau Dr
Kihei HI 96753
– no cost –
– please park above the house along the empty lot –

Energy Revolution
How to get Maui off oil by 2020

By Chris Mentzel

The central question about the introduction of renewable energy is WHO will do it. It’s not anymore about necessity, technology, finance and practicality – those have been proven and are available. But revolutions depend on the people who will bring them forward.

Consider the last revolution with massive impacts on our daily lives, the structure of our society and the distribution of wealth and knowledge. In a little more than a decade, people have embraced wireless technologies from the cellular phone to satellite TV to wireless Internet.

This change was not driven forward by government planning or the existing telecommunication companies with their huge investments in wired networks. Instead it was driven from the ground up by countless entrepreneurs, inventors and users that embraced a new technology and the autonomy it brought them.

In Bangladesh, Grameen Shakti has brought a network of ingenieurs and installers, most of them female, into place who have installed 1.5 million PV systems in less than 10 years. That was just the beginning, tens of millions are in the plan. For comparison – Maui has 800 PV systems, we are outrun by one of the poorest countries on earth.

In Germany, the Feed-in Tariff has created $130 billion in renewable energy investments in 10 years, ten times more than all the investments of the traditional energy sector. Income from clean energy systems mostly benefits the middle class, rather than large corporations. The law is so successful, that the government is trying to reign it in for fear of destabilizing the traditional energy sector.

In summary, the fastest progress has been achieved by involving many players in the society at large, especially when they are less hampered by laws or the involvement of the existing industry. Many small energy systems can be installed in weeks, rather than in years or decades like large power plants.

…to be continued…

March 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm Leave a comment

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