The new fuel for personal vehicle transportation is fast becoming electricity. If you own a hybrid or other electric vehicle, it will pay you to know about the most economical residential electric rates, rates that are already being developed to reduce and manage the cost of refueling your new Prius, Leaf or Tesla. First off, you can continue to pay for all your electricity (including the power you need to recharge your new EV) on your current residential rate. How much you pay will, of course, depend heavily on how you use your electricity and when you charge your vehicle. Here are some charging options currently being offered by some electric utilities: Residential Home and Plug-in EV Time-of-Day Rate Under this rate, you combine charging your electric vehicle with your entire household electric needs and appliances (like lighting, cooking, electric heating and AC). This gives you a low-cost option for using electricity during off-peak hours, which includes charging your vehicle at night. This option requires no added metering. Residential Plug-in EV Only Time-of-Day Rate This special rate applies only for… Read more

The US is crisscrossed with thousands of miles of paved roads. All absorb vast amounts of heat—as much as 140 degrees in some locales. University of Rhode Island researchers have decided it might be time to tap into some of this wasted heat. One goal is to use this wash of sun power to melt ice, power streetlights, illuminate signs, and even heat buildings. All would reduce fossil fuel consumption and global warming. “We have mile after mile of asphalt pavement around the country, and in the summer it absorbs a great deal of heat,” said K. Wayne Lee, URI professor of civil and environmental engineering and joint project leader. “If we can harvest that heat, we can use it for our daily use, save on fossil fuels, and reduce global warming.” It’s a Wrap One idea is to wrap flexible PV cells around the tops of highway barriers. This would generate enough electricity to power streetlights and illuminate road signs. PV cells could even be embedded in the roadway between these barriers and adjacent rumble strips. Lee notes that… Read more

A few years ago, California adopted a measure requiring utilities to start planning “viable and cost-effective energy storage systems.” Refining technology that can efficiently store renewable electrical energy is key to the effective and efficient distribution of energy. Storage allows power to be available on demand, improving both the reliability of an area’s electrical grid and optimizing existing transmission systems. A Greener Grid Thanks to improvements in energy storage technology, electrical grid systems have become “greener,” facilitating a smoother transition to solar and wind power. It ensures that the flow of electricity from renewable energy resources is even and steady. This is because the country’s Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) note that integrating wind and solar with conventional generating technologies can result in widely fluctuating power outputs, depending on the weather and time of day. Smoothing out Power Peaks and Valleys Energy producers know that household refrigerators, AC units, computer systems and municipalities need steady, reliable power. Conventional coal or natural gas power plants can meet this steady demand of electricity and they can accommodate a day's roller coaster power demands.… Read more

Many people are talking about solar panels these days, but there’s another technology that’s piggy backing on top of these photovoltaic cells. It too, will soon add to the solar tech landscape. Emerging in tandem with solar panels is the Stirling Solar Engine, a breakthrough innovation that unites an age-old electromechanical system with PV science to generate electricity. The Technology Solar panels produce electricity directly from sunlight by releasing electrons when sunlight strikes them. A Stirling Solar Engine converts sunlight into heat by concentrating the sun’s energy into a heat collector. This intense heat runs a Stirling engine, which spins a generator to generate electricity. The engine features a closed cylinder with a piston and helium, nitrogen or hydrogen gas. When the gas is heated at one end by concentrated sunlight and cooled at the other end by air or water, the gas expands and cools with the movement of the piston. This cyclical movement then drives the generator to produce electricity. Follow the Sun Unlike many solar panel installations, which are fixed at specific sky attitudes, the parabolic dish… Read more

Why use solar power? Scientific American broke it down this way: The sun bestows 89 petawatts of power on the Earth every day; yet all of human civilization uses around 15 terawatts of power, or one six-thousandth as much. In other words, in just over 14 seconds, the sun provides as much energy to Earth as humanity uses in a day. So the point is not if solar will take over, but simply, when. The Acceleration of Solar Tech Solar technology is improving at a breakneck pace. In North America, Europe and Japan, the race is on to drive down solar costs with the relentless march of advanced technology.  The University of Buffalo has developed a nanoscale microchip that can capture a full spectrum of wavelengths and absorb far more light. Researchers at Oxford are using of perovskite, an abundant material that is cheaper than silicon and produces 40 percent more voltage. Scientific American pinpoints two things that are driving down the cost of solar. Solar cell manufacturers are learning how to reduce the fabrication costs of solar panels and… Read more