Solar Powered Automotive Technology

The idea that cars can run entirely on solar power is gaining traction these days. Rethinking gasoline-based transport as a major source of air pollution and depletion of natural resources will help tackle the climate crisis. An alternative solution to this problem could be the creation of vehicles that convert the energy of the sun into electricity.

The first solar-powered car was shown on August 31, 1955, at the General Motors Powerama in Chicago. It was a small car, 15 inches (38 cm) long, which became the main attraction of the event, which laid the foundation for the future of solar-powered automobile production.

Operating principle of a solar vehicle

Although the Sun’s energy is not yet available to provide sufficient power to operate a vehicle, many automakers are trying to find the use of solar batteries as an alternative source. 

The principle of a solar car is based on the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy, which is the power source for the solar-powered electric motor installed in the car. The principle of converting solar energy into electrical energy is based on “p-n conductivity” created in solar cells made of two layers of silicon with the addition of various substances.

An electric motor can be connected, ensuring normal operation in various operating modes as well as a number of batteries that are responsible for the supply of electrical power. Such a circuit can serve as a drive for mechanical transmission, including car movement.

Challenges of Solar-Powered Automotive

Many methods have been developed to convert solar energy in cars into electrical energy. In addition, the use of solar energy to power various objects is a popular research area around the world.

There are many ways and theories for converting solar energy, the most promising for the automotive industry are:

    • the use of photocells in transport and stationary;
    • the use of various heat engines for converting solar energy (Stirling engine, steam engines, various variations of external combustion engines, etc.);
    • the use of solar power plants (hot air, ground-based various variations, etc.);

Currently, the most popular use of photovoltaic cells for the accumulation and conversion of solar energy, due to their reliability, ease of maintenance, and manufacturability, including for cars and other vehicles. Typically, photovoltaic solar cells are installed on open surfaces that are good for sunlight, such as the inside of a car roof.

First solar-powered car

The Development of Solar-Powered Vehicles  

Giants of the automotive industry are engaged in the production of solar-powered prototypes. These are BMW, Toyota, Mercedes, French Venturi, and Swiss Green GT. 

Due to the low power and high cost of converting solar energy, photocells have not yet found widespread use, however, the prospects for their use in the automotive industry are quite large.

Developments are going in 2 directions:
    1. creation of a mixed design of a car with solar panels, which in cloudy weather can be recharged from the electric network and work like a regular car.
    2. creation of a car in which solar energy is used for auxiliary needs, for example, for the operation of a navigation system or condensation.

Thus, the idea of a “clean” solar-powered car technology is not ready yet. Meanwhile, experimental models of such vehicles have already been tested for sale to wealthy buyers.

Next to read: Tesla Developments for Sustainable Transportation

Lightyear One

Dutch company Lightyear announced the results of testing its latest prototype electric vehicle, Lightyear One, which is equipped with solar panels for additional power. In practical tests, the car covered a distance of 710 kilometers on a single charge of a 60 kWh battery. During testing in a full driving cycle, the car moved at a speed of 85 km / h. According to Lightyear, the One will be very energy efficient and will be able to generate about 12 kilometers per hour from its rooftop solar panels.

The company has announced that the exclusive 946 Lightyear One series will go into production in the first half of 2022. The company plans to enter the mass market in 2024. The cost of one will be about $ 165 thousand.

Lightyear was able to integrate photocells into the electric sunroof of the Tesla Model 3 and Volkswagen to dramatically increase its autonomous range. The integration into other vehicles is also possible.

Lightyear One
Lightyear One
Humble Motors

American company Humble Motors plans to launch a solar-powered crossover. According to Inside EVs, the vehicle was named Humble One and will be able to carry four people. The main competitors of the novelty will be electric vehicles Tesla, Lucid, and Rivian.

The price of the car in the basic version is $ 109,000. At the moment, the acceptance of preliminary applications for the car has already begun. Serial production of new items will begin in 2024. The first cars will be delivered to customers in 2025.

So far, the car exists only as a virtual concept. The crossover will receive a roof consisting of solar panels, however, the main source of power is a rechargeable battery.

Humble One
Humble One
Aptera’s Paradigm and Paradigm Plus

Aptera Motors has introduced a no-charge electric vehicle and has begun accepting pre-orders for it. The Paradigm and Paradigm Plus models use a solar panel with an area of ​​about 3 m2 and a power of 700 watts. It consists of several sections mounted on the bonnet, roof, and even on the dashboard. This solar battery charges the traction battery, which, in turn, powers the electric motor (there are two in the top version).

According to the developers, such a solar battery generates energy during the day, which is enough for 60 km of run. And if you “stretch” the solar battery on the trunk lid, then the daily mileage on free energy will increase by another 38.5 km. Of course, these are the limit values ​​in sunny weather, in reality, most likely, you can count on 50 km of run. 

Depending on the power plant, battery capacity, and additional options (individual color, improved audio system, etc.), the price varies from 25 to 46 thousand US dollars.

solar powered car
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Tesla Motors

Despite the success in the field of electric vehicles, Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2017 gave up the idea of placing solar panels on the roof of the Tesla Model 3 as inefficient. However, solar power technology has improved significantly and is making more sense.

Elon Musk recently said the Cybertruck could have solar panels as part of its features but a solar electric van would make “a little more sense”. “A van, because you’ve got a big flat area, that’s actually where solar could start to make a little more sense because you could have a lot of areas,” Musk said.

In contrast to Tesla, Toyota has installed solar panels on the roof of its new Prius Prime hybrid, which will increase the vehicle’s range from 20 to 30 km depending on the amount of sunlight and weather conditions.

Thus, transport in the future will definitely use alternative energy sources. At the current level of development of solar panel technology, they are often not able to fully provide movement. However, solar technology is developing rapidly, which is only a matter of time.

Off-Grid Living Ideas

Have you considered off-grid living, paying less, and doing what you really are for? What is stopping you from fulfilling your dream? Yes, we all know that. You must pay a monthly loan or rent for your home and electricity and utility bills.

It is in your hands to get the desired financial freedom if you choose alternative ways to live without electricity. You are not alone on this journey. There are many success stories about people gaining financial freedom and living off-grid. You might think that this sounds like a 19th-century lifestyle without electricity and many modern amenities, right? But this is no longer the case.

Modern technological innovations can make life without electricity much easier and more comfortable than before. More and more people voluntarily disconnect themselves from the power grid and adopt the off-grid lifestyle. This lifestyle also called minimalistic or “green,” is a conscious choice for people who want to cut energy costs and protect the environment.

Next to read: Living Without Electricity – Survival Skills

Living without Modern Conveniences

Most of your electricity bills come from the use of household appliances such as air heating and cooling systems, water heating, washing and drying, cooling, and light bulbs.

Living without dependence on any modern conveniences, such as TV and the Internet, even for a short time, teaches self-sufficiency and to appreciate what you have. It may not be as convenient as if you had electricity, but you will find new comforts in spending more time with your family, reading books and walking in nature.

The off-grid lifestyle can help you relax and focus on mindful and healthy living. You will have more time for things you didn’t have time before like meditation, yoga, reading, and writing, looking in the sky, and watching the stars. This may prompt you to completely leave the grid.

There are several successful ideas for off-grid living that will make you financially and mentally happier.

Off-grid living
Photo credit: Pexels

Embrace Minimalism Lifestyle

More and more people voluntarily disconnect themselves from the power grid and adopt the off-grid lifestyle. This lifestyle also called minimalistic or “green,” is a conscious choice for people who want to cut energy costs and protect the environment.

You will also save money because you do not need to buy many things. Instead, a minimalistic lifestyle will allow you to travel the world and be happier and richer with tangible experiences. Finally, it will completely change you and your lifestyle to the one you dreamed about.

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Living in a Tiny House

You can build your own tiny house on wheels or home from shipping containers if you want to lead a simple and stress-free lifestyle. Tiny houses are becoming more popular all over the world as more people want to escape the stress and anxiety of the urban lifestyle and reduce their impact on the environment.

The owners of tiny houses will tell you that they have gained financial freedom and paid off all credits and loans. With solar panels on the roof, they do not pay much for electricity bills and utilities.

Energy-Efficient Homes

Energy-efficient homes use the placement of windows to take advantage of natural lighting for most of the day. Natural lighting from windows and skylights, as well as natural ventilation and cooling, are ways for more sustainable living.

Even if you are used to electric lighting, there are many ways to light your home without using commercial electricity by charging from solar energy.

If you already have solar panels, you will definitely benefit from their use. An energy-efficient home can reduce your dependence on electricity for heating, cooling (air conditioning), ventilation, and lighting.

A solar refrigerator, air conditioning, fans, water heater, and other home devices provide exceptionally low energy consumption and can reduce by 50–80 percent of your electricity consumption.

Click Here to Discover the ‘Top 20+ Projects for Off-grid Survival’ <<

off-grid living

Zero Energy Homes

Zero Energy homes, also called Net Zero energy homes, produce as much clean renewable energy as they consume from sources on-site or nearby. Because they have a very high energy performance with a very low or nearly zero energy requirement, they are also called nearly zero energy buildings.

A zero energy home is not just a home with solar panels. A zero energy home design combines cutting-edge design for a better living experience and systems with energy efficiency to provide ultra-comfortable and healthy environments. These include tight insulation for a quieter home, consistent temperatures throughout, and clean indoor air to reduce dust and allergens, such as dust, pollen, and outdoor air pollution.

It’s also equipped with energy-efficient appliances that can lower energy bills or even get an Energy Tax Credit or other financial incentives. All features of a zero energy home significantly minimize your household’s environmental impact.

Zero energy homes have certification from the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Certification, the Living Building Challenge Zero Energy Certification, Passive House Certification, or other third-party organizations.

Passive house
Prescott Passive House in Kansas City, Kansas. Credit: Wikimedia

Passive House

Passive Houses are built based on principles developed by the Passivhaus Institute in Germany. The Passive House standards are very close to those of the zero-energy house as both have high standards of energy efficiency.

The principal difference between them is that a Passive House is focused on energy reduction and uses renewable energy to fill the energy gap, while a zero energy house produces as much its own energy as it’s consumed.

The passive house is very well insulated so that most of the heat can be provided by the sun, its inhabitants, and the ventilation system. Thus, it can be even more energy-efficient than a zero-energy house, as it consumes less energy in general.

In Conclusion

If your goal is to lead an off-grid lifestyle, you will definitely get more financial freedom and you will have more time for family and your favorite activities. Whatever your goals, you will benefit from them.

If you want to learn more survival skills that can be useful in an emergency or for camping go here. Please share your thoughts below.

Living Without Electricity – Survival Skills

Have you ever lived without electricity for several hours or days? Were you ready for this lifestyle? Most people cannot imagine life without electricity, because it will disturb their comfortable life. Many basic needs, such as cooking, lighting, and the use of electrical appliances, depend on electricity.

Now imagine you have no electricity for a period of time. This can also happen due to natural disasters in your area, such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter snowstorms. This outage can last days or even months.

Historically, humans have survived without electricity for millions of years. Today, nearly 2 billion people live without electricity in underdeveloped countries. Others, like the Amish communities, generally use off-grid methods, such as gas or diesel engines, to power appliances and utilities.

Here are some practical tips or survival skills to help you get ready when you go camping and in the event of an unexpected power outage.

Living without electricity
Photo by Nicolette Attree from Pexels

Camping with Solar

There are plenty of options using a solar grid (solar panels and batteries) for camping. You can use lightweight or portable panels from 5 watts to 100 watts that can charge your batteries, cell phone, laptop, and camera.

You can use a generator and install bigger solar panels. Now you can charge more devices like a micro-refrigerator.

If you decide to stop using commercial electricity in your home, you can find alternative ways to live off-grid. Surprisingly, many of the alternative methods are cheaper than using electricity and help you get rid of worries about paying bills and gain financial freedom. This may even prompt you to start the transition to completely leave the grid.

Read next: Off-Grid Living Ideas

Lighting without Electricity

Solar lighting is the best and the safest option of lighting for indoor or outdoor use. The hybrid fuel lamp is ideal for camping, as well as in cases of emergency for outdoor use. It runs on unleaded gasoline and requires a ventilated area. This outdoor lamp is less expensive and more reliable even in the coldest conditions.

In fact, you can still use bulbs such as LED bulbs. Many of these light bulbs produce 60 to 100 watts of light with power consumption under 7 watts. There are also many battery-powered LED lights that provide enough light for a small room. Just use a solar-powered charger, and these LEDs and batteries will last you for many years.

If solar energy is not available, use candles as a light source in the dark. Another option is an oil lamp. The Amish still use oil lamps. A kerosene oil lamp is a widely available fuel with clean-burning, which makes it a good option. It burns brighter and steadier than candles.

These methods will give you a lot of light and alternative ways at the time when the power system goes down, including oil lamps and kerosene oil lamps.  

Solar cooker
Credit: Wikimedia

Cooking without Electricity

There are hundreds of other ways to cook without electricity, which you can easily adapt to outdoor when camping or doing other activities. Be prepared to cook on an outdoor cooking stove like Ecozoom using wood, charcoal, or solid biomass fuels when the power turns off.

Instead of an electric oven, you can use a solar oven for cooking. The solar stove is much safer but is rather for slow cooking for the whole day. However, some solar ovens allow you to cook your favorite dishes as fast as a conventional oven. DIY solar ovens or solar cookers are used worldwide to deliver hot meals that are safe to eat.

Campfire is great for camping and outdoor cooking. If you like grilling and you have firewood and charcoal, you can barbecue or boil water. For some grills, you can use wood, charcoal, or propane.

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Refrigerating without Electricity

Natural cooling options include cold running water, root cellars, ice-cooling, and others. Propane-powered refrigerators are commonly used by Amish communities.

Solar options are a home cooler/freezer with the solar operation and a solar refrigerator. This cooler/freezer can be used in a car, truck, or boat. It can use multiple power supplies when used outdoors.

A solar refrigerator provides exceptionally low energy consumption, requires less expensive power systems, and provides lower operating costs. It can be powered by a solar panel, battery, and 15 amp charge controller.

Heating without Electricity

Heating is life important, therefore, emergency heating sources must be planned in advance. There are several types of heaters that use gas (butane, propane), kerosene, and denatured alcohol. If you have a wood stove that can be used as a heater, then you are set up.

Another option is to make a DIY heater like a clay pot heater or a candle lantern heater for a small space. All types of heaters can also be used for cooking, baking, and heating food.

Here are a few appliances that use off-grid heating sources:

Heat Pal is an unpressurized alcohol stove and heater that uses denatured alcohol, which is slightly more expensive than propane, but it will burn well regardless of the weather. This will not only help you warm food but also provide additional comfort as a heater.

Mr. Heater is safe for indoor use and the reliable radiant heater has been approved for indoor and outdoor use and is environmentally friendly, almost 100 percent efficient. This propane heater is an ideal solution for heating enclosed spaces such as large tents.

Washing without Electricity

Without electricity, you will find that you have to do a lot of tasks manually like washing clothes by hand. Hand washing without electricity is a long-forgotten option.

The Amish still do laundry using a diesel generator. They also dry their wet clothes by hanging them and iron them with a traditional iron and stove.

Click Here to Discover the ‘Top 20+ Projects for Off-grid Survival’ <<

Power your home

Cooling without Electricity

A small solar fan will let you stay cool without electricity. You can make a DYI solar fan by connecting fan blades to a portable solar panel.

Another option is a swamp cooler, which can support the cooling of small enclosed spaces using ice and water, but is not suitable for long-term off-grid living.

Read next: Off-Grid Living Ideas

Communicating without Electricity                               

When disconnected from the grid in emergency situations, communication can be life-saving. One of the surviving skills is to know off-grid communication methods in emergency situations or in an area not covered by cellular services.

Here are some options for communicating without electricity:

(1) Plug into your car’s cigarette lighter outlet or solar chargers. If none of the above is available, charge your cell phones and radio with a wood charging station.

(2) The HAM radios are the best to provide communication; other options are the CB radio, GMRS/FRS/MURS radios, however,  they have a limitation on power and range.

(3) Satellite cell phones are quite good for emergencies, but are expensive and require satellites to function. If satellites stop working during a power outage, the same goes for satellite phones.

Taken together,  if your goal is to live off the grid or just spend weekends on camping trips, then self-sufficiency and the ability to live without electricity are survival skills to learn.

Would you like to learn survival skills that can be useful in an emergency or for camping? Please share your thoughts below.

Updated 03/19/2020

The Best Tips for Energy-Efficient Appliances in 2020

The construction of energy-efficient homes implies the use of such energy-efficient homes features as the proper home framing, insulation, and quality windows. However, you can make your home truly energy-efficient only with energy-efficient appliances.

Most of your energy bill falls on household appliances such as air heating, and cooling systems, water heating, washing, and drying, refrigeration, and light bulbs. Energy-efficient home improvements and appliances can lower your bills and even get you an Energy Tax Credit or other financial incentives. Depending on your country and region, you may have several incentive schemes.

Look for energy-efficient labels!

When buying household appliances, first of all, look for energy-efficient labels! What are Energy-Efficient Labels?

All major household appliances, with the exception of rangers and ovens, must meet the US Department of Energy (DOE) standards and have a black and yellow EnergyGuide Label. You can find these labels on refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washing machines, microwave ovens, water heaters, pool heaters, room air conditioners, central air conditioners and heat pumps, furnaces, and boilers, and ballasts for fluorescent lamps.

Other appliances, such as televisions, clothes dryers, ranges, and ovens, as well as heaters, were excluded from the EnergyGuide program, although they must also meet federal minimum efficiency standards.

Energy Star® is designed to help customers to choose more energy-efficient products and protect the environment through high energy efficiency. The Energy Star® Program is supported by the US EPA and DOE for the efficient use of energy in homes and businesses. Energy Star® certified home appliances exceed federal standards by 10 to 40 percent.

Energy Star® symbol, which is awarded only to products that meet stringent energy efficiency requirements. This applies to equipment, computers and printers, household goods, and even new homes! So, knowing this rating system will save energy and money.

Check out Backyard Revolution

Go Solar!

There are many ways to save energy by applying the latest technology in alternative energies. These are solar energy systems, which can be either the addition of several solar panels to your roof or a complete solar home system.

Renewable Energy Tax Credits are available for alternative energy resources such as solar and small wind turbines. Federal incentives offer a 30 percent credit off the total cost of any qualified photovoltaic or water heating system.

Solar roof panels

Energy-Efficient Doors and Windows

Poor door and window seals allow hot and cold air to pass through. This makes the Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC) systems consume more energy, which means higher energy bills.

Energy Star® doors and windows comply with strict energy efficiency guidelines. They will provide you comfort and save energy and money for many years to come. Consider not only the initial price but also the guarantee, the cost of maintenance, and the quality of the company that sells them.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

Appliances can add up to 15 to 20 percent of overall energy usage and operational costs to your home. Therefore, it is recommended to choose the right size and maintaining them properly.

When purchasing be sure all your household appliances are  Energy-efficient appliances that will help you save even more energy.

Heating and Cooling Systems

Energy-efficient HVAC systems save most of your home energy that means fewer energy bills. No matter where your home is located, you want to have a comfortable home temperature without increasing your electricity bills.

Try to install ceiling fans wherever possible, especially in rooms with high ceilings. Be sure to select only fans approved by Energy Star®, as they are approximately 20 percent more efficient than the average ceiling fan. Consider installing insulated window shades or blinds on the sunny side of your home. These strategies will help you to stay cool while cutting your air conditioning (AC) costs.

Click Here to Discover the ‘Top 20+ Projects for Off-grid Survival’ <<

off-grid water solutions

Water Heating System

Water heating at home is the second in energy consumption after residential heating and cooling. Energy Star® water heating can cut your energy bill in half.

Tankless Water Heater

Energy-efficient tankless water heaters are one of the best innovations of the last decade. The advantage of these heaters is that you do not need to constantly heat the water in the tank during periods when you are not using hot water. They only heat water when you need it, so you can save money and energy.

Consult an experienced plumber to assess the need for hot water in your home. Most Energy Star® qualified tankless models will qualify for a Federal tax credit.

Solar Water Heater

The advantage of a Solar Water Heating System is that it uses the free energy of the sun. These solar systems can work anywhere regardless of climate. An energy-efficient solar heating system can reduce the hot water energy consumption and an electricity bill in half.

With any solar system, you want to have an efficient backup system. The best way to supplement the solar water system is to install tankless water heaters, so you call them up as needed. Like all renewable energy products, a solar heating system qualifies for many tax incentives and discounts.

Refrigerators

The new energy-efficient refrigerator is the best choice for investment, to save energy and money in the long run. When purchasing an energy-efficient refrigerator, consider the starting price, maintenance costs, and operating costs.

Stainless steel refrigerator
Stainless steel refrigerator. Photo by Alex Qian from Pexels
Thermostats

Keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature, without overheating and overcooling, and turn off the heater and air conditioning when nobody is at home. In extreme climatic conditions, when it is impossible to completely turn them off, you can certainly adjust them so that they consume less energy.

If you are often away from home, consider a programmable thermostat. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature of your home in advance. This way you will save energy and money while you’re not at home.

Clothes Washers and Driers

If you have an older washing machine, it probably consumes more hot water and energy, which means a higher energy bill for you. If you need a new washing machine, look for an energy-efficient washing machine that will save energy and money. In general, Front Loading Washers use less energy and less water than Top Loading Washers.

To reduce energy consumption, you can always find a clothes dryer with a good energy rating. These energy-saving appliances will save energy and money in your pocket.

Energy-Saving Dishwashers

Energy-efficient dishwashers are one of the most common appliances in the kitchen and expensive to maintain because it uses not just electricity but also ample amounts of water. Dry dishes without heat and you will save energy and water.

Energy-Efficient Solar Lighting

It’s important to ensure that you use energy-efficient lighting such as LEDs, CFLs, and halogen bulbs as well as outdoor solar lighting. Energy-efficient lighting will benefit you with a lower energy bill and will save the environment.

Summing up, always purchase appliances with the Energy Star® label, in particular, a washing machine and dishwasher, as they typically consume 50 percent less water and electricity.

With these simple steps, you will not only save money on your electricity bills but also create a healthier home environment and reduce environmental pollution.

Updated 03/19/2020

Waste-to-Energy – Green or Brown?

New advanced technologies can produce energy from municipal solid waste. Homes and households produce 60 percent of the waste, and people will always create garbage. Thus, the conversion of municipal waste into an energy source can become one of the largest energy sources of the future.

For every ton of household waste produced, commercial, industrial, and construction businesses produce another six tonnes. Manufacturers can minimize and improve their waste management in order no longer to be able to discard their waste.

Along with the “Zero Waste” approach, other alternative methods for managing the household and commercial waste that reduce the amount of harmful waste, including industrial toxic by-products, are the so-called “Waste-to-Energy” technologies that generate energy from waste.

The municipal waste separation and recycling methods greatly reduce the amount of solid waste left over, which means much less space in landfills. However, a vast portion of mixed waste or residual waste is difficult to separate and recycle. Waste feedstock left after sorting is standardized into solid recovered fuel (SRF) or refuse-derived fuel (RDF).

There are various applications of Waste to Energy (WTE), which are based on gasification, pyrolysis, and incineration. The energy produced by gasification is considered renewable in some U.S. states.

Anaerobic digestion plant
Anaerobic digestion plant. Credit: Wikimedia

What is Gasification? 

Gasification is the process of breaking down organic matter into a gas by applying extreme temperatures in an environment with a limited amount of oxygen.

The gasification system breaks down the organic waste into a gaseous form bypassing the 4 processes like drying, pyrolysis, combustion, and reduction.

Pyrolysis is the application of heat to organic matter in the absence of any oxygen. The solid waste breaks down into charcoal and various tar gasses and liquids. It is essentially the process of charring.

A heat source is required for the pyrolysis process, but no heat source is needed for gasification because this process is self-sustaining thermally.

When both pyrolysis and gasification processes occur at the same time, the gasification combustion reactions can provide the heat source needed for the pyrolysis process to perform the reactions.

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Synthetic Gas

Gasification and pyrolysis produce synthetic gas or Syngas as a major end product of the process. Syngas is similar to natural gas that contains a mixture of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, and other hydrocarbons and inert ingredients.

Then the produced Syngas is cleaned from large tars and particulate goes through several steps of the filtration system. The cleanliness of the gas is important for the end-use. It can be used to power an internal combustion engine, feed a boiler or a burner, and could be used to create steam.

Further, this gas can be used to power an internal combustion engine in order to create electricity. This makes both pyrolysis and gasification methods profitable, because of the various end products from Syngas including heat and power generation.

Gasification vs Incineration

Although the two processes have some common features it’s important to understand the difference between them.

Incineration is the process of combusting the organic matter within waste through ‘thermal treatment’. The main by-products of incineration are inert bottom ash and flue gas. The toxic dioxins and furans are formed, especially when PVC-containing plastics and other materials are burned. Pollution Control Systems (PCS) destroy these gases by passing through a secondary burner at high temperatures.

On the contrary, gasification is claimed to be a carbon-neutral process. It fits into the carbon cycle by using responsibly sourced biomass as fuel.

As a result, incineration produces just heat and electricity, while Syngas produced by gasification can be turned into valuable commercial products including transportation fuels, chemicals, and fertilizers.

Emissions from gasification are below EPA emission standards.  This explains the growing trend in the development of gasification-based waste-to-energy, which is considered renewable energy.

Waste-to-Energy Plants in Europe

Waste-to-Energy (W2E) is widely used by EU countries to burn waste that could not be recycled. This waste is used to generate energy in the form of steam, electricity, or hot water.

Presently, modern Waste-to-Energy facilities are equipped with filters. Between 1990 and 2000 dioxin emissions of Waste-to-Energy plants in Germany dropped from 400 g to less than 0.5 g per year while the amount of thermally treated waste had more than doubled in the same period.

Waste-to-Energy supports high-quality recycling. Countries with very high recycling rates also have high rates of Waste-to-Energy and thus have reduced landfills to almost zero. These are Austria, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. New Waste-to-Energy initiatives have been also introduced in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltic countries.

Has Sweden established the best recycling practice?

Sweden burns 2 million tons of waste every year, while only 1 percent of all country’s household garbage goes into landfills. Half of the waste is recycled while another half is burned. The country generates 40 percent of heat energy by burning garbage in low-carbon incinerators or Waste-to-Energy plants.

The Waste-to-Energy system also improved Sweden’s recycling rate by 50 percent, which is twice as much as the US rate of 24 percent.

Sweden banned landfills in the 2000s and considers waste incineration as a form of recycling. According to some reports, up to 86 percent of plastics in the country are burned. It is known that burning plastic is very harmful to human health and the environment. However, the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) claims that there are no harmful effects.

The country runs out of garbage and imports it from other countries. Currently, Sweden imports about 700,000 tons of garbage from other European countries including the UK and Norway.

Debates Over Waste-to-Energy 

Waste-to-Energy plants provide energy and reduce a significant amount of non-reusable, non-recyclable waste by 90 percent. But is this energy renewable, as it is claimed?

There is disagreement with environmental justice communities and non-governmental organizations. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) report (May 2019) shows that municipal waste incinerators are economically inefficient as the most costly and unsustainable, and also raise growing concerns about health effects.

Energy Justice Network considers incineration as an extremely dirty way of getting rid of waste. Waste incineration produces highly toxic emissions of dioxins, furans, mercury, lead, and other toxic substances. A 2006 EPA study found that dioxins, highly toxic substances produced by incinerators can cause cancer.

EPA emission standards for incineration plants are currently being criticized in court by Earthjustice, the environmental legal organization representing Sierra Club to address pollution issues under the Clean Air Act.

Zero Waste Europe is convinced that “Waste-to-Energy is not sustainable because it harms the Circular Economy.” Burning garbage and releasing carbon dioxide minimizes all the benefits of landfill reduction.

In addition, waste-to-energy plants dispose of waste including single-use plastics and other recyclable materials, through the processes of incineration, pyrolysis, gasification, and a plasma arc system which are considered as “waste-of-energy”.

Recently, waste-to-energy incineration was excluded from the new E.U. Sustainable Finance Taxonomy Report (June 2019). Transition to a Circular Economy, waste prevention, and recycling are major environmental objectives that can contribute to climate change mitigation as well as to the E.U. climate goals in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

In Conclusion

With the implementation of green initiatives and more sustainable waste management, the expansion of landfills has rapidly slowed. Environmentally friendly technologies and waste separation methods must meet strict environmental pollution standards.

Building a Circular Economy that includes the prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling, and repair of waste will largely depend on changes in our behavior and the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle. The next generation can deal with these problems better than we do.

What is your opinion on this? Please leave your comment below.

Rethinking Waste – What Is Zero Waste Energy?

The zero Waste movement was introduced in the 80s, which means preventing waste by making the best choices, starting with the extraction of raw materials, product manufacturing, and disposal to a landfill. A zero-waste system approach focuses on redesigning the product life cycle so that the end-product can be reused or recycled, thereby enabling a circular economy.

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health. Other definitions for zero waste given by various organizations and communities are very close.

Zero waste is a systems approach to eliminate waste through recycling and reusing it by redesigning of resource lifecycle. The United States Conference of Mayors adopted a Hierarchy of Material Management, which includes:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility and Product Redesign
  • Reduce Waste, Toxicity, Consumption, and Packaging
  • Repair, Reuse, and Donate
  • Recycle
  • Compost
  • Down Cycle and Beneficial Reuse
  • Waste-Based Energy as disposal
  • Landfill Waste as disposal

When something can’t be reused it will enter the landfill, the landfill sites produce huge amounts of methane gas as organic compounds such as food scraps decompose.  This gas is captured and then able to be reused as a combustion material to produce electricity.

Why Is Zero Waste Important?

As mentioned above, zero waste means that at least 90 percent of the waste must be diverted from incineration and landfills. Landfills are the least expensive municipal waste management, and this is the most commonly used method in the United States and many other countries. However, landfills have a huge harmful environmental impact, in the form of leachate which can contain harmful metals and chemical pollutants, and this can get into the groundwater.

Landfills also accumulate greenhouse gases, from the decomposition process, which contribute to global warming. There are other alternative methods of municipal waste disposal that can be more environmentally friendly, and some can be used for conversion to energy sources. Recycling municipal waste can be done in several ways, including some alternative ways that have less of a harmful impact on the environment.

Waste Management

Rubbish recycling has developed over decades in many countries with the goal of eliminating waste that is harmful to the environment. Implementing the latest technologies, zero waste communities, businesses, and individuals strive to recover as much waste as possible so that up to 90 percent of the waste is diverted from landfills.

Municipal waste management services are using the latest technologies, such as Material Recovery Facilities, to recover as much waste as possible to divert waste from landfills and turn it into resources.

What Is Zero Waste Energy?

Zero Waste Energy is referred to as renewable energy obtained through anaerobic digestion of solid organic waste and resource recovery processes.

Emerging technologies can be used to further generate energy from non-recyclable waste. The proper application of these technologies in combination with the extraction of expensive goods and organic substances for energy and compost production makes the best use of an integrated waste management system.

Recycling municipal waste helps the environment by removing greenhouse gases from landfills. The utilization of municipal waste using the latest technologies can generate alternative energy. Municipal solid waste is a sustainable and renewable source of energy.

Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT)

MBT plants are designed for the treatment of mixed domestic, commercial and industrial waste. The process combines a front-end sorting facility with biological treatments such as composting or anaerobic digestion.

The MBT facility has one line that sorts single-stream, commingled, and source-separated recyclables, and the other line sorts residential and dry commercial waste. It can handle a wide variety of materials, including municipal solid waste, C&D debris, single-stream recyclables, and source-separated OCC, paper, electronic scrap, and white goods.

Anaerobic digestion plant
Anaerobic digestion plant. Credit: Wikimedia

Anaerobic Digestion

Biodegradable organic waste can be treated with or without air access. The aerobic process is composting and the anaerobic process is called digestion.

Anaerobic digestion is a low-temperature thermal process of decomposing biodegradable materials into gas, also called biogas, mainly composed of methane and carbon dioxide.

Biodegradable materials are broken down by microorganisms in the process of anaerobic digestion without the use of oxygen using Anaerobic Digesters. The end result of anaerobic digestion is valuable by-products such as compressed natural gas (CNG) and electricity.

Waste-to-Energy Is Not Zero Waste

There is confusion with Zero Waste and Waste-to-Energy approaches. Although both strive to reduce CO2 emissions and landfills, their goals and technologies are quite different.

Waste incineration is not part of the Zero Waste strategy. In fact, the waste-to-energy approach has been criticized as wasting energy and producing the most expensive form of electricity compared to other resources (including coal, natural gas, and oil).

Zero Waste only accepts anaerobic digestion as the technological process for making sustainable energy resources from waste. Waste-to-energy practices such as incineration, pyrolysis, gasification, and a plasma arc system  are considered as “waste-of-energy.”

“Zero Waste to Landfill” Is Not Zero Waste

“Zero Waste to Landfill” is not the same as the Zero Waste system approach. The former focuses on producing energy by burning waste and thus eliminating landfills. Burning waste is considered as the destruction of resources and ends up with a lower amount and more expensive energy. The “Zero Waste to Landfill” approach does not reduce waste and protect natural resources.

Contrary, a zero-waste system approach focuses on the reuse or recycles of products by redesigning of resource lifecycle. According to ZWIA, any term including “zero” means at least 90 percent diversion from landfills, incinerators, and the environment. However, Zero waste does not mean achieving absolute zero.

Zero Waste Cities

Zero-Waste City is a program adopted by cities for phasing out waste without incineration or landfill but using a zero-waste strategy that prevents waste in the first place.

Cities around the world including Auckland, Catalonia, Copenhagen, Dubai, London, Milan, Montreal, Navarra, New York City, Newburyport, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rotterdam, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington D.C. announced their commitment to achieving “zero-waste” signing C40’s Advancing to Zero Waste Declaration.

The International Zero Waste Cities Conference (IZWCC, 2018) at Bandung, Indonesia with the theme ‘Circular City is the Future City’ presented the zero-waste approach of municipal waste management to reduce their waste by redirecting it to other purposes, extend recycling and composting and increase the overall sustainability of the cities.

Thus, Zero Waste aims to help people change their habits and lifestyle, minimizing excess consumption and maximizing their recovery. Could you reduce your waste or live a zero-waste lifestyle? Please leave your comment below.

Going Green: Energy-Efficient House Design

Many people dream of having their own energy-efficient houses.  It’s great to buy a house build using an energy-efficient design. However, you can make your existing home more energy-efficient, using energy-efficient appliances and step-by-step home improvements starting with small, low-cost, and medium to large-sized.

Recent technological advances in building materials and construction technology make the process of building energy-efficient houses less challenging. This can be quite an investment but in the long run, it will save homeowners money on monthly electricity bills for many years to come.

In addition, energy-efficient house design will also benefit to house owner because such a home may be eligible for an energy-efficient or “green” mortgage.

Energy-Efficient Homes Features

Designing and building a new house or renovating an existing house to ensure high energy efficiency requires careful planning and attention to detail.

Most energy-efficient homes or net-zero homes have several features in common, such as solar panels. First of all, the entire house needs to be viewed as a whole system rather than looking at each part separately. The whole-system approach allows the efficient use of electricity, water, and minimizes waste and materials.

The energy-efficient design of the house is crucial but can only be fully implemented if it is complemented by energy-efficient appliances.

Well-known factors that make a house energy efficient are its framing construction, type of insulation, quality of windows, and heating and cooling systems. While each of these components is important, when used together, it is the most important component for creating a truly energy-efficient house.  

energy efficient house with solar panel roof
Black solar panel home. Image credit: Vivint Solar/Pexels

Energy-Efficient House Framing

House design and frame is a major factor in energy efficiency. While some houses are built using standard 2×4 framing, others are built using staggered 2×6 construction. Staggered framing methods allow for less continuous space inside the walls. When looking at house plans, be sure to consider the type of framing used.

It’s important to pay attention to proper framing for electrical wires as a very important detail of the overall energy efficiency. Another important area to consider is the framing between trusses and walls as well as between the walls and the foundation of the house.

Energy-Efficient House Insulation

The first step you need to take to maintain the energy efficiency of your home is to install high-quality insulation.

Isolation is most effective when blocking conductivity or heat transfer through an object. The extent to which insulation blocks conduction is called its thermal resistance value, or R-value. There are various types of insulation materials such as spray foam, fiberglass, and cellulose. Thus, the purpose of insulation is to stop thermal bridging and increase the effective R-value as well as eliminate air bridges and condensation.

In addition to the insulation R-value, there are many other types of insulation, including its resistance to air and moisture in the house. The higher the resistance of an insulating or building material to heat flow, the greater the resistance to heat flow. Usually thicker and denser insulation has a higher R-value and therefore better insulates your home.

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A Cool Roof of an Energy Efficient House

A cool roof of an energy-efficient home protects against solar heat gain and keeps the house and attic space cool. Typically, cool roofs are made of low thermal mass materials such as tiles, slate, or clay which are reflective or have light-colored pigments that reflect the sunlight.

Several countries and cities around the world mandated green roofs or solar panels for new commercial buildings. Green roofs include anything from a simple plant cover to a rooftop garden. Cool roofs improve indoor comfort, reduce energy losses, and extend the roof’s service life.

solar panels
Solar panel roof home. Photo credit: Pujanak/Wikimedia

Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

Windows and doors are another important part of the overall energy efficiency of the house. Windows and doors come in all types of qualities and are another way by which you can save a lot of money on utility bills over time.

When considering the different types of windows for your home, you should also consider whether or not they need to be opened as continuous windows can be more energy-efficient than sliding windows.

Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling System

The house’s heating and cooling system accounts for 48 percent of the energy consumption in a house and represents a major portion of a household energy bill.

Most homeowners recommend packages that not only reinsulate the attic but also clean the air ducts. Having clean air ducts improves the air quality and efficiency of the heating/cooling system.

The most efficient heating and cooling systems such as a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC) system, are 95 percent efficient. Other high efficient heating and cooling systems include VRF and variable speed HVAC systems.

Energy-Efficient Water Heating

Water heating accounts for 15 percent of energy costs and is one of the largest energy expenses in a home. You can use High Energy Efficient Water Heaters and save energy and money. There are several options for Energy-Efficient Water Heating such as a tankless water heater, a high-efficiency water heater, a high-efficiency heat pump water heater, and a high-efficiency solar water heater.

Tankless Hot Water Heaters 

Tankless water heaters do not store warm water like a traditional tank water heater and can use gas, electricity, or propane. These heaters with an energy efficiency of up to 99 percent can save from 10 to 40 percent of heating costs.

Solar Hot Water Heaters

Solar water heaters can be used to heat water and save energy. They can be used as the main source of hot water or as a backup to other nonsolar heaters.

solar water heater
Domestic solar water heater. Photo credit: Wikimedia

Energy-Efficient Lighting

Lighting accounts for up to 15 percent of a home’s annual electricity costs, so it is important to ensure that lighting is energy efficient and well optimized. Energy-efficient lighting can only be achieved with simple and cost-effective strategies that will benefit you with lower energy costs and save the environment.

The most common types of energy-efficient lighting are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and halogen incandescent lamps.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

A CFL is a fluorescent light bulb that fits into a regular light socket. The CFL bulb burns cool and uses much less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb. However, the cons of the CFL is it may take a minute or more to reach full brightness and CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, which makes recycling difficult.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

LED light bulbs are the longest-lasting bulbs: they last 50 times longer than an incandescent bulb, 20 – 25 times longer than a halogen, and 8 – 10 times longer than a CFL. They contain semiconductors diodes that convert electricity into light. LEDs are about 90 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, however, they are more expensive.

Halogen Incandescents

Energy-efficient Halogen bulbs are the least expensive energy-efficient lighting option; however, they do not have the longevity of LED and some CFL bulbs. Halogen incandescents have a capsule inside that holds gas around a filament to increase bulb efficiency. They are similar to traditional incandescent bulbs but use less electricity.

solar panel roof house
A photovoltaic roof installation filling the entire roof. Photo credit: Roy Bury/Wikimedia

Energy Efficient Ventilation

The ventilation control of an energy-efficient home is crucial because air-tightness traps pollutants (such as radon, formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds). It is important to install a ventilation system with energy recovery that controls ventilation and minimizes energy loss.

Proper ventilation can prevent bacteria and mold and keep your home dry and protected from damage, saving you money on expensive repair bills. Spot ventilation helps reduce water vapor and moisture, such as exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms, as well as natural ventilation.

Alternative Energy Resources

The design of an energy-efficient home should strive to create as much energy as it uses by installing renewable energy options. These are solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, a wind system, or a small “hybrid” electrical system.

Renewable energy sources can save money and energy and maybe even be eligible for Federal Tax Credits and local and/or national tax incentives.

The ultimate goal of an energy-efficient house is to achieve net-zero energy use. The design should also strive to comply with the Energy Star sustainability requirements, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).

Summing up, achieving these standards will significantly save owners’ money over the lifetime of the house, create a high degree of comfort, and ultimately increase the resale value of the house.

Updated 03/19/2020