Tesla Motors, Solar Energy, Energy Efficiency, the Electricity Grid, and More!
It’s time for another round of news and updates with cool technology!
Tesla Car Update:
A pair of bills that would have allowed electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. to sell vehicles directly to consumers in Texas failed to make it to a vote in the state legislature before its regular session ended on Monday. Texas Occupations Code (TEX OC. CODE ANN. § 2301.476) prohibits Tesla from selling its electric cars directly to the public in Texas because, according to Tesla Motors, “…it has no franchised dealer relationships in Texas (or anywhere else in the U.S.). This regulation not only affects Sales, but also Service of Tesla vehicles for existing customers.”
That means you must go through a third-party or franchise dealer. Similarly, as cited by Green Car Reports, North Carolina Senate committee approved a bill outlawing the sale of new cars over the internet. Again, local franchises are protected against factory-owned stores.
CEO Elon Musk wants to be able to sell direct to the public because he believes that auto dealer selling conventional gas-burning cars lack incentives to sell electric cars. Auto dealers, meanwhile, see manufacturer direct sales as a threat to healthy market competition.
Musk’s arguments are interesting, nevertheless. Daily Finance points out that electric car sales by big manufacturers with franchised dealerships are hit and miss because of limited traveling range. In fact, GM just dropped lowered the price of the Chevy Volt by $4,000.
Solar Panel News:
Solardaily.com reports that there is more to 3D printing than just making your own toys. Using semiconducting inks, the researchers print the cells straight onto paper-thin flexible plastic or steel. With the ability to print at speeds of up to ten meters (30 feet) per minute, they can produce one cell, the size of an A3 sheet of paper (11.69 x 16.54 inches), every two seconds.
…and you thought your ink cartridges were expensive…
On the other hand, there is a bit of sour news about poor quality control for panels.
Solar panel arrays have been booming. New installed capacity jumped from 83 megawatts in 2003 to 7,266 megawatts in 2012 — primarily from CHEAP Chinese panels flooding the market. A New York Times story reports now manufacturers world wide are willing to swap in these components to cut costs. Unfortunately, many solar panel array owners are experiencing seriously bad failure rates. These failures include the protective thin film coatings dissolving in 2 years and bad converters starting fires. Moreover, defect rates of 5.5 percent to 22 percent have been discovered during audits of 50 Chinese factories over the last 18 months.
Home Energy Trend:
Several months ago, EIA announced that more and more energy in the average American home was being used by gadgets, computers, and televisions. Back in March, EIA announced that home heating and cooling no longer consumed half of a home’s energy use. While that seems to indicate better insulation and air sealing used in home construction, the facts point out that we are still using more energy at home:
“On average, residents living in homes constructed in the 1980s consumed 77 million Btu of total energy at home. By comparison, those living in newer homes, built from 2000 to 2009, consumed 92 million Btu per household, which is 19% more.”
One factor missing from the report is census data that shows that in 1993, the average new home size was 2095 sq. ft. In 2009, that size was 2,438 sq. ft. From 1993 to 2010, new home sizes increased about 19% as well.
Energy Efficiency in Older Homes
Enclosures That Work
Do you live in an older home and want to improve it’s energy efficiency, but you’ve got absolutely no clue how to start? Get over to BuildingScience.com and check out their collection of building profile retrofits. They gathered together a nice collection of illustrations of different house wall profiles showing how to retrofit insulation and air seal them — including 1850’s Victorians, 1960’s Colonials, Cape Cods, multifamily row houses, and bungalows. The illustrations give you a clearer idea of what to expect in wall construction and how to insulate properly.
Electricity Grid News
MySanAntonio.com makes it plain: Texas had the third-most power outages among states in 2012 in the U.S. With Texas facing another hot summer, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), which oversees stability of the US electrical grid, forecast that Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) will have the lowest reserve margin to maintain a stable system: 12.88% which is below its own target of 13.75 %. Other regional grid organizations have a reserve margin of 18%.
To be sure, for ERCOT to get through the summer, it’s going to take some real conservation tactics. To that end, ERCOT.com now displays its grid conditons online in real time, showing both actual and forecast demand, as well as actual and planned available capacity (also known as “dispatch”).
What are some other developments in technology that you’ve read about recently? Please share those links in the comments!