August 31, 2006 – Volume 10, Issue 11
I N · T H I S · I S S U E


Hybrids & Phantoms
Do you like the word “hybrid” as much as I do? Sure, the auto companies have worked me over. I equate “hybridization” with greening and efficiency, and the concept is out of the box! In this issue, we report on hybrid autos, buses, and formula race cars, as well as hybrid lighting systems and hybrid solar electric generating stations! So what’s up with that?

Scarcity of resources – in this case electricity and oil – causes prices to rise. This in turn unleashes developers to design more efficient systems to wring the maximum value out of fuels. Hybridization provides for optimization of system efficiencies, giving end-users the benefits of combined systems and the best possible prices for services they demand.

So let’s dig in! Solar generating stations are coupled with gas to be fully dispatchable at any time of day or night. This issue also presents a four-fueled car, hybrid buses, and even a hybrid formula race car. And the wires have been abuzz this week with hybrid lighting systems, which have duel-fuel capability and all the benefits of both natural and artificial light sources.

At the other end of the efficiency spectrum are phantom loads. These somewhat evil electricity uses lurk in the shadows, are often unnoticed, and are significantly undercutting the efficiency gains we’ve all made with conventional power uses. We’ve all heard about the phantom power issue - that televisions continue to draw power even when they’re “off” – but you may be surprised by the magnitude of this “end-use.” Standby losses have grown to 10 – 20% of household use. Fortunately there are means for consumers to take action; we’ll these in this week’s feature.

Hybrid Owners of America

Hybrid Owners of America (HOA) has been launched to advocate for the interests of Americans who are saving money on gas, reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, and reducing pollution by driving hybrids.

In addition to tracking federal, state, local and private-sector incentives, HOA is encouraging hybrid drivers to get involved by promoting a five- point "hybrid friendly" agenda: It involves lifting the current cap on the federal tax break for hybrids; creating a new federal incentive for plug-in hybrid conversions; promoting a new tax break for corporations that provide direct incentives to employees who buy hybrids; rewarding U.S. automakers that undertake more hybrid research and production; and conversion of 30% of the federal car and truck fleet to hybrids.

According to the Civil Society Institute that sponsors HOA, as of July 2006 there were about 550,000 hybrid vehicles on the road in the United States. The number of hybrids sold to Americans has roughly doubled every year since 1999. But the 200,000 hybrids sold in 2005 accounted for only 1.2 percent of the 17 million vehicles driven off auto dealer lots that year.

Standby Power Losses

Leaking power, leaking electricity, standby power, plug loads, “phantom load" whatever you call it, is a phenomenon that is little known but of quite major proportion. Defined as “the energy consumed by appliances when they are switched off or not performing their principal functions,” standby power requirements have become a costly end- use:

• Leaking electricity uses 50 - 100 watts in typical American homes.
• One study measured 450 kWh of standby losses in a year.
• This represents 5% of typical home consumption.
• This is also about 2/3 of the typical consumption of new refrigerators.
• Nationally, this corresponds to 5 GW of total electricity demand, about 5 nuclear stations.
• The U.S. spends over $4 billion on standby power every year.
• The U.S. is not alone: In Japan, Germany and the Netherlands, standby power constitutes 10 – 15% percent of total residential electricity use.

As a society we are used to natural gas standby losses. Consider pilot lights on stoves. Water heaters are always “at the ready” with 50 - 80 gallons of hot water. (Is this like leaving your car idling in the driveway for when you need it next?) While we may be used to gas losses, electricity losses are quite invisible.

Many common products incur standby losses – like TVs, VCRs, cable boxes, stereo systems, and telephone answering machines -- to provide instant response to remote controls and/or to switch to full operation. The growing array of appliances that constantly “leak” includes remote control dog doors and automatic plant feeders. Intermittent ignition devices used in some furnaces also continuously draw power.

Typical Losses in Watts:
Cable Box
Compact Audio
Answering Machine
Household Alarm
Video Game
Cordless Phone
Fax Machine
Smoke Detector
Satellite Signal Receiver
Garage Door Opener

There is good news. TVs used to draw up to 40 watts of standby power. New TVs draw 5 - 20 watts. Standby power consumption of computers, monitors, fax machines, and other appliances have also fallen thanks to Energy Star guidelines. Other trends are increasing standby losses. Building codes now require ground fault protected outlets not only in bathrooms, but now in kitchens and other areas. Each one draws about a watt. Smoke alarms must now be hard-wired into a new home's electrical system. Each one draws about 0.34 watts. And the household saturations of electronic appliances are increasing rapidly. In Australia, residential standby losses have been growing 2 - 5% annually.

Hybrid Generation: Luz 2

Pacific Gas and Electric Company has plans with Luz 2 to purchase 500 MW of solar energy beginning in 2010. The energy will be produced using Luz 2's proprietary DPT 550 technology, a hybrid solar-gas design that meets the requirements of the California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program. The technology has the potential to dispatch electricity at any time of the day.

Luz was a pioneer of solar energy development. Between 1984 and 1990, it built nine solar electric generating systems (SEGS) in southern California. (See EcoMotion Network News V10#8) At one time, Luz was producing most of the solar thermal electricity in the world. Luz 2 is led by its original management team, including its former CEO Arnold Goldman. According to Goldman, Luz 2's technology – which directs sunlight to a solar tower -- is not only more efficient than the solar trough design originally used, it is significantly less expensive to build and operate.

According to Fong Wan, PG&E’s Vice President of Energy Procurement, "Thirty percent of the power we deliver comes from hydroelectric and renewables like wind, biomass, and geothermal facilities." This year PG&E has already entered into agreements to purchase an additional 274 megawatts of renewable energy.

First Solar Costco

Collaboration was bright in Lancaster, California where Costco installed its first photovoltaic installation. The 600 kW installation of 1,800, 310-watt Schott solar panels was supported by Southern California Edison and managed by Permacity Solar. Costco’s first installation covers 45,000 square feet, neatly tucked between the store’s skylights, generating power and reducing cooling costs as the panels shade the roof from direct sunlight.

Responsible Energy Investing: Member Keith Mesecher

As an investor and an investment advisor I long wished for a way to invest in renewable energy which made sense as an investor as well as as an ecologically concerned citizen. I was delighted when I discovered the Danish company, Vestas Wind Energy Systems some years ago (it has been a terrific investment) and more recently the German company, SolarWorld. Having just bought Shell’s photovoltaic division they are now one of the three largest PV companies in the world and the largest supplier in the US.

The wind machines Vestas makes are on the other end of the spectrum from the ones described in your newsletter. Vestas makes 3 MW giants with 300-foot rotor diameters and they put them in the most hostile environments, like in the North Sea. I saw a grid of about a hundred standing in the ocean when we were flying into Copenhagen. We were high enough that we couldn’t see trucks or cars on the roads but we could see the individual blades of the massive wind turbines.

Both these companies are large rapidly growing profitable businesses. Nice to see this process underway.

Keith Mesecher Registered Investment Advisor:

Hybrid Solar Lighting

Hybrid lighting – developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory -- draws energy from both the sun and the grid. Sunlight is harvested by 4’ parabolic, rooftop, sun-tracking collectors and is then fed into bundles of 127 optical fibers that transport the light to ceiling fixtures. Hybrid light fixtures have both conventional lamps and ballasts, plus diffusion rods for solar lighting that spread light in all directions. One collector powers 8 - 12 fixtures which illuminate 1,000 ft2. When the sun is not shining, a photosensor controls an “artificial light source” to compensate and judiciously maintain a constant level of desired illumination.

Benefits of hybrid lighting include energy and maintenance savings. The output of hybrid solar lighting systems correlates closely with peak demand, saving energy when electricity costs the most. Research has shown that natural light is superior to artificial light, leading to increased productivity and improved sales.

Sunlight Direct has been granted the license for the technology. Its principal calls hybrid lighting the “ultimate green technology," one that fits well within the LEED-certified building movement. The systems will now be tested at twenty-five locations including the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and a Wal-Mart in McKinney, Texas.

Hybrid Buses and Race Cars

Advanced Energy of Raleigh, North Carolina will be sending 19 hybrid buses to schools in Arkansas, California, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Iowa. The 65-passenger yellow school buses are expected to get 40% better fuel mileage and to cut emissions in half by coupling a V8 diesel engine with an 80-kilowatt hybrid-electric power train with regenerative braking.

At the other end of the speed spectrum, two Italian companies, N. Technology and Tatuus, have teamed up to produce a hybrid-drive single-seat Formula race car, proving that hybridization not only optimizes efficiency, but packs a powerful punch!

Not to be outdone, Fiat has introduced the world’s first four-fueled vehicle. The new Fiat Siena – the ELX 1.4 Tetrafuel – was developed in Brazil and can operate on ethanol, gasoline, compressed natural gas (CNG), and gasohol.

Combating Standby Losses

A variety of strategies can reduce or eliminate standby losses, ranging from simple behavioral changes, to technical solutions, utility incentive programs, and state and national and even international policy.

The simplest solution is to unplug the device when it is not being used. It’s also easy to install a manual switch between the plug and the outlet. Hardware stores sell extension cords with built-in toggle switches. Many power strips have an on/off switch. Some countries - notably the UK - require that all outlets be equipped with switches.

A technical fix involves the manufacture of products which use battery packs to sustain functionality. The batteries energized the sensor and an additional circuit periodically recharges the battery when the unit is “on.” Try buying products with “true-off” switches. Some portable “boom boxes” have 3-way switches, with "off", "ready", and "on."

Some electric utilities are taking action. Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) offers incentives for occupancy controls for power outlets. Program literature explains: “To get the most benefit, all items in a work area except for the computer CPU should be connected to the controller.”

Many governments are now taking action. Alan Meier of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – the initial proponent of the global one-watt per appliance standby limit – reported in August with Swedish colleague, Hans-Paul Siderius of Novem, that six governments took action to stem standby losses in 2005 - 2006. (Japan, Korea, California, Unitied States, Europe, Australia/New Zealand.) The International Energy Agency’s proposed “horizontal” 1 watt per appliance regulation has been adopted in Korea and Australia. This approach is one of six possibilities including a functional approach that considers different functionalities relative to standby consumption.

Meier and Siderius report that governments appear to be shifting from voluntary approaches – such as Energy Star – to regulatory programs, “in response to a rapidly rising number of electrical devices that consume standby energy and the increasing fraction of energy used by a number of appliances in the standby mode.” Consider this, another source to EcoMotion reported that 30% of all appliances use 90% of their power in the standby mode!

So take action. Inspect your home, tally up the appliances that have standby losses, and how many appliances use electricity all the time. And beware, there are smart options to plug leaking electricity when you buy another gadget.

For more information, see