Archive for April, 2009


April 30, 2009


With climate change discussions pervasive on US university web sites and Nobel Laureate DOE Secretary Chu on board with Cap and Trade, it may be of interest to see what the other side of the discussion presents.

One of the key arguments made by Cap and Trade opponents is the adverse economic affect on US households through increased utility bills. However, energy conservation is starting to impact proceeds of regulated utilities, as we hear today from the Centerpoint Energy CEO.

Another argument posed by Cap and Trade opponents is that carbon capture technology is not commercially available and will not be until 2020.

On the other side of the discussion and also reported today: By 2020 climate change may have an impact on rice production of our former adversaries greater than any we inflicted.

Clinton Global Initiative and actor Edward Norton have formed the 2020 Initiative to reach 20 million television viewers annually to present stories about climate and world poverty.

Climate change may be fact, but Cap and Trade appears flawed.

Maybe Hollywood will provide the vision to sort this all out.

Photo of grazing African elephants by Cook

April 26, 2009


A partisan debate which began on Earth Day is taking place in the US Senate: what will be the nature of the new emissions tax.

The states have individually been considering legislation, a plan which highlights the absurdity of trying to legislate atmospheric conditions on a local or even national level.

Carbon cap-and-trade policies are intended to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon based generators would be required to acquire allowances to cover their emissions. The emissions tax may be limited to CO2, or it may also include nitrous oxide and sodium oxide (NOXSOX), mercury, CO, and methane.

For commercial-scale renewable energy projects in development, the Production Tax Credit is still critical. RPS mandates adopted by over half of the US states also create demand for Renewable Energy Certificates (REC). These provide a revenue stream to generation owners. Voluntary markets (VRE) provide another source of demand for renewable energy projects. Together with the sale of electricity and demand capacity, these three additional sources of income allow projects to go forward with a predictable return on investment.

Demand for voluntary renewable energy (VRE) is motivated to a large extent by the purchasers’ desire to reduce emissions below what would be required legislatively. Cap and Trade programs therefore have the potential to thrawt demand for VRE.

The VRE market is comprised of customers of utility “green pricing programs”, customers of competitive energy providers in electric market restructured states (such as New York and New England states served by their respective ISO), and enterprise and non-profit customers that buy unbundled renewable energy credits.

NREL estimates that in 2007 US consumers made voluntary purchases of REC totaling 18 million MWh.

Compare how the VRE – REC markets encourage renewable energy projects: the voluntary market primarily supports new renewable generation for the incremental benefit provided. Since 2004, VRE demand has exceeded compliance market demand.

Voluntary demand is growing. The market grew year-on-year by 62% in 2004, 37% in ’05, 41% in ’06, and 53% in ’07. If it continues to grow at the rate of 40%, the VRE market will reach 50 million MWh by 2010.

By comparison, state RPS policies collectively call for utilities to obtain 60 million MWh of renewable electricity by 2010. Although RPS-mandated demand may outstrip voluntary demand in the future, the VRE market is significant.

In the VRE market, enterprise and non-profit purchases comprise 3/4 of the MWh transacted. These customers are trying to reach organizational emissions goals. When they purchase renewable energy in the VRE market, they have effectively reduced their emissions. These voluntary actions are in addition to what is required by statute (currently zero for all enterprise and non-profit customers/generators in NYS, up to 2 MW of generation capacity), unlike the RPS requirements placed on the regulated generating electric utilities.

In the absence of a Cap and Trade emissions tax, the generation from renewable sources displaces whatever generation is operating at the margin, which is fossil-fuel based generation, thereby reducing systemic emissions.

But if Cap and Trade emission tax is enacted, the purchase of renewable energy electricity no longer reduces emissions. This result was recently explained by the California PUC. In October of last year, the CPUC acknowledged that the VRE market would be affected by Cap and Trade. They wrote:

“Once pollutants in the electricity sector are subject to a cap, purchase of voluntary renewables (VRE) do not contribute to further reductions, because the cap determines the allowable level of emissions. ”

Global climate change discussion not withstanding, the Senate need to do some serious homework before they act.

April 23, 2009

moneyNYSERDA have compiled a list of stimulus funding for energy projects.

NYSERDA have also compiled a list of the energy-related Block Grants from the federal government. This is a new program, similar to the Community Development Block Grants. One distinct difference I noted is that CDBG was administered for the Westchester County cities and towns by the county government. The energy-related Block Grants are being given to cities and towns directly, not through county government, and various towns in Westchester have been given their own energy grants. For towns that may have yet to apply, NYSERDA have a description of the application process.

North Carolina State University compiles links to funding programs for the US states. Here is their latest compilation for New York State, including programs specific to NYC and selected NYS counties. The funding for the other states is also compiled by NC State.

Federal funding for capital projects is key to economic recovery. Unemployment in Common Market participant and alternative energy leader Spain has reached 15.5%. The US administration will not want to head in that direction. The US unemployment report is due out today at 8:30 AM Eastern Standard.

The ability of federal funding to reach small towns and other small market participants is key. Funding major banks has not done enough to stimulate capital projects.

On a positive note, my friend in Utah who listens to conference calls reports that US companies are seeing an uptick in business during April.


April 20, 2009


A traditional efficacy measure for lamps (light bulbs) has been lumens per watt. Recent studies suggest consideration of an added measure for determining efficacy as it relates to human visual acuity for night vision. The Canadian government and ASSIST scientists have determined dual lumen parameters should be calculated to determine visual acuity, Photopic Lumens and Scotopic Lumens.

The eye contains two light receptors, cones and rods. Each has unique spectral sensitivity. At night both are active. For straight-ahead viewing to see objects in your direct line of motion, only cones are active. Detection of objects not in your direct line of motion is done by both rods and cones. Objects are best discerned in central vision. We know not everyone has the same peripheral vision, readers will recall the great Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

To assure a lighting system meets standards for object detection/recognition, it would seem that the recommended light levels should be given in both Photopic and Scotopic photometric quantities, which vary by light source.


The graph below shows the luminous efficiency functions of the eye at various wavelengths of light, normalized at 683 lumens at 555 nanometers. The cone achromatic channel for photopic vision has a maximum sensitivity at the green color of 555 nm. Rods for scotopic vision have maximum sensitivity illustrated by the peak of the Scotopic sensitivity function at the blue-green color of 507 nm. The differing peaks of the two sensitivity functions are due to the normalization of 683 lumens at 555 nm and not innate differences in rod or cone light sensitivity.


The Scotopic and Photopic lumens seen by the eye associated with a lamp with a given spectral density should be determined by weighting that spectral density with the Scotopic and Photopic spectral sensitivity. The integrated result over the range of visible wavelengths of the weighted spectral density yields the Scotopic and Photopic lumens. The ratio of Scotopic to Photopic light for a particular lamp (S/P) is independent of absolute light level to the extent that the spectral density remains constant.

Comparison of a tested high pressure sodium lamp with a tested LED lamp array shows LED to have a significantly higher S/P values, about 2.65 times greater.

090420-100w-hps-scotopic-v-photopic-lumens090420-88w-led-scotopic-v-photopicThe Photopic lumen output of both sources, 100W HPS and 88 input W LED, is equal. The Scotopic lumen output advantage of the LED is 11,179 to 4,226 Scotopic lumens for the 100 W HPS. At a lamp output 0f 6650 Photopic lumens, the LED has an efficacy of 70 to 94 lumens per input watt (plug load) and the 100W HPS has an efficacy of 48.5 lumens per input watt (plug load), including a standard magnetic ballast with a power supply efficiency of 73%. Though efficiency of the HPS could be improved with a more efficient but more costly and less robust electronic ballast, the  advantage related to the S/P ratio cannot be matched by the 100W HPS source.  In applications such as walkway or roadway lighting where both straight-ahead and peripheral vision are required, the LED array has distinct electrical energy and visual acuity superiority.

Photo of red LED sculpted rear lights courtesy Porsche USA.


April 4, 2009


Performance characteristics for 5.5 ton Closed Loop Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) units from McQuay, WaterFurnace and Maritime are found below. All units are Energy-Star rated. The name plate performance characteristics are very similar for the three units, based on International Organization for Standardization (ISO) criteria.

Experienced system engineers will be aware that ISO 13256-1 ratings for heat pumps do not represent actual operation conditions,  and that loop design should not be based on ISO. The ratings do give a reasonable starting point for equipment selection, but heat exchanger and compressor durability are more important. Ratings for the three units are nearly identical.

EER, Energy Efficiency Rating, range from a low of 18.0 EER for the McQuay to a high of 19.5 EER for the WaterFurnace. EER records cooling efficiency at 80 degrees F indoor and 95 degrees F outdoor temperatures. It measures steady-state efficiency, the efficiency of the unit once running. EER is expressed in BTUH / Watt, the rate of heat energy removal divided by the rate of electrical energy input..

To promote GSHP technology, federal legislation provides a 30% investment tax credit. There also is a NYS tax credit.

Separate from tax credits, NYSERDA provides a $600./ton (1 ton = 12,000 BTUH) incentive; it can become uneconomical because additional measures selected by an outside consultant must be implemented for a project to qualify. NYSERDA need to rethink the New Construction program. GSHP should qualify as a pre-approved measure; there’s a long track record of operational electrical efficiency.


HPAC’s recent article on GSHP for commercial buildings: