Voltage Optimization for Businesses – VPO Technology

Today, it is no longer a question whether it would be beneficial for your business or organization to adapt environmentally friendly solutions as part of your company’s public brand and best practices. Instead, like most companies, you are probably on the look out for the most effective green solutions, that would deliver not only energy waste reduction, but also significant financial savings. In this case, consider Voltage Optimization (VPO), an energy saving technology that is quickly gaining a strong hold among big corporations, small businesses, retail locations, educational and medical facilities, and government organizations. By utilizing VPO technology, such as PowerProtector, you will quickly see major reductions in your site’s energy and carbon emissions, as well as your electric bill.

What is voltage optimization?

Since most buildings in Europe are supplied much higher voltage than is need to run all electric equipment ( which runs at 220V), you end up paying as much as 20% more in electricity that you do not actually need, and emitting as much as 15 % more CO2. Voltage optimization technologies correct this problem by utilizing a step-down transformer inside the building’s switch room to reduce the supplied over-voltage. As a matter of fact, voltage optimization is not a new practice – it has been successfully used for decades by power distribution companies to level demand spikes during peak times of the day/year.

Implementation process

Since the power supply and the electricity usage in every building is different, a VPO provider will need to come in and do an assessment of your site, to install a transformer optimized for your building’s power needs. After the initial appraisal, an experienced engineer will come in to conduct a site survey, collecting critical information such as the voltages, currents, maximum demand, types of equipment used, etc. This information helps to validate the appraisal and to determine the best method of implementation.

Next, a team of electrical installers will figure out where and how the VPO units will be installed. Customization means that it will be possible to have the installation even when space conditions are challenging. Creative installation solutions include: placing VPO units on a rooftop with a crane, building an external storage for the transformer, making custom enclosures for confined spaces, etc. After all of these factors are assessed, you will get an accurate installation price quote from your VPO provider.

Since VPO transformers cannot fail once installed, the danger of something going wrong is actually during the installation process itself. This is why it is imperative to work with a highly reputable and experienced VPO provider, such as PowerPerfector, a company designed to mitigate risks through optimal voltage management for businesses in the UK.

Advantages of voltage power optimization

Once your VPO transformers are installed, you will enjoy a number of benefits for years to come:

-Typically, sites with large lighting and office equipment loads, such as motors, refrigeration and air conditioning will realize the greatest electrical savings ( up to 30%). Office spaces that use traditional equipment can realize up to 12 % savings.

-Reduced CO2 emissions by 15-20%

-Prolonged service life of many of the electrical appliances on your site

-Long maintenance free – service life of the VPO unit itself (up to 50 years)

-Protection against transient events, which can wreak havoc in sensitive electronic equipment.

What is the ROI?

One of the reasons why so many companies and organizations are quick to utilize VPO technologies is because you will not need to wait around for years to see a return on your investment. The bigger your building and the more you spend on electricity, the faster your ROI will be. Research shows that if you spend over £160,000 annually on electricity, the payback will be as quick as 18 months from the time of installation. Overall, VPO equipment delivers an average of 25% ROI, but the payback is often significantly higher.



US Government Policy: Fossil Fuels vs Renewable Energy

While renewable energy has made impressive strides in the US over the last couple of years, the reality is that we continue to live under a government that is actually not vested in seeing renewable energy take off, and continues to remain an avid supporter of fossil fuels. Our politicians go where the money is, and while there is great promise and potential in renewable energy, the killer profit is still in the oil, coal and gas industries.

image of Fossil Fuel emissions

The danger in this situation is that supporting fossil fuels not only hurts our environment, it creates a none-level playing field for the developing renewables industry. In addition to the fact that globally the fossil fuel industry gets subsidies of around $400 billion annually, while renewables get only around $60 billion, private investors also take cue from government policy. Wavering government support both in the US and Europe has made private investors weary of investing into renewable energy, because at the end of the day they want to realize maximum profits with minimal risks. From that perspective, the fossil fuel industry (movie FUEL), which continues to be heavily supported by governments worldwide, remains to be a highly attractive investment opportunity. This combined lack of investment and government support make it next to impossible for the renewable energy industry to become competitive with its subsidized and more mature fossil fuel competitor. And yet this is the miracle that the world expects the renewable energy industry to deliver.

Perhaps, the saddest part of the story is that the American public is often misled to believe that renewable energy is at best not viable, and at worst actually wastes taxpayer dollars and contributes to loss of jobs. Popular media outlets tend to emphasize problems and failures in the renewable energy sector, while giving very little air time to the industry’s many successes. If renewable energy is to have any real future in this country, the government needs to be on board, and the citizens need to be informed to demand action from the people in power who represent them.

US government supports fossil fuel industry

We castigate many countries like China for their polluting production practices and lax environmental laws, and yet without blinking an eye, American government subsidizes the most polluting fossil fuel industry and completely lets it off the hook for a number of environmental costs, which include toxic waste in our water. A fossil fuel subsidy is any policy that lowers the cost of fossil fuel energy production, increases the price received by energy producers or lowers the price paid by energy consumers. Overall, subsidies to the domestic fossil fuel industry are estimated to be around $10 billion plus annually.

Subsidies currently in place include tax breaks and giveaways, loans at favorable rates, price controls, purchase requirements and more. It is important to note that the largest subsidies to fossil fuels are written into the U.S. Tax Code as permanent provisions. On the other hand, many subsidies for renewables are time-limited initiatives implemented through energy bills, all of which have expiration dates that limit their effectiveness in helping the renewables industry grow. It is no wonder that renewable energy cannot compete with fossil fuels, given such blatant favoritism for fossil fuels in our government policy.

It begs the question why one of the wealthiest industries in the world needs such heavy subsidies? Last year, the three biggest U.S. oil companies took home more than $80 billion in profits. Whenever the price of oil goes up, and prices at the pump go up, and every American family’s budget is strained, the oil companies make a killing. Research shows that every time gas goes up by a penny, these companies usually pocket another $200 million in quarterly profits. Meanwhile, oil companies pay a lower tax rate than most other companies on their investments, partly because they are getting billions in tax giveaways every year.

President Obama’s efforts to decrease subsidies for fossil fuel companies have been shut down by Republican – controlled – House. In his most recent call to cut subsidies to fossil fuel companies because they are perfectly able to stand on their own, Obama proposed the roughly $2 billion a year in tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies to be used as a source of revenue for clean energy development. The procedural vote of 51-47, which failed to reach the needed threshold of 60 in favor, killed the measure.

At the same time, “green” US companies have to struggle and get leftovers form BIG-Oil table, and very promising innovations such as Electric Vehicles, Algae, Bio-Fuels, etc. are left in the dust.

Obama criticized for supporting domestic renewable energy industry

While the Obama administration has been particularly supportive of the renewable energies industry, providing it with generous subsidies and opportunities for growth and development as part of pursuing a diversified energy policy and creating more jobs in a struggling economy, the president has gotten slammed with criticism and negative press for his commitment to renewable energy. In fact, because of the 2012 presidential election, renewable energy has become a hot polarizing issue. The strings of bankruptcies declared by US solar manufacturers (many of whom were subsidized under the Obama administration), closing factories and lay-offs have been used by the Republicans as a beating stick against Obama every chance they get.

One such bankrupt solar company – Solyndra – which once used to be Obama’s poster child for American renewable energy industry success, has gotten the most bad press. The company has been investigated by a Congressional Republican Committee, and has publicly become synonymous with government waste. On his campaign trail, Mitt Romney paid a secret visit to Solyndra’s head quarters and gave a talk there accusing Obama of cronyism and misusing the taxpayers money to fund failing enterprises of the President’s friends. Overall, Republicans attack Obama’s energy policy, accusing it of contributing to high gas prices and stunting domestic oil development.

The truth is that a large part of American political class, which essentially includes the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in the fossil fuel industry and derives massive profits from continuing their support. As a result, this political class is actively hostile to alternatives, using both direct political power, as well as indirect media influence to ensure that subsidies to the fossil fuel industry remain in tact, while renewable energy lags behind as an “unrealistic” alternative. What we as citizens need to know is that while today our tax dollars go towards making more money for oil, gas and coal companies, our children will be paying a hefty price by having to deal with the grave environmental consequences of our decisions.

Facts about Solyndra Bankruptcy Case

Solyndra Inc. is back in the news and is now a hot political issue in the presidential election, sharply dividing Democrats and Republicans on the issue of wasteful spending, energy policy and the direction of economic policy. To understand this political debate and its implications for US energy policy, it is important to know the basic facts about Solyndra’s case.

Brief history of Solyndra Inc.

Solyndra Inc. was founded in Silicon Valley in 2004, producing specialized cylindrical solar panels for commercial rooftops. The company came up with an innovative technology of building solar panels without polysilicon. The idea behind this innovation was that due to exorbitant polysilicon prices, solar panels that were built without it would have a major advantage in the market. The other projected benefit of these solar panels was that they were supposed to be cheaper to install than their competitors.

Since the company seemed to have a promising future, in 2005 it was invited to apply for a government-guaranteed loan under the Energy Policy Act that was enacted that same year. This law was backed by bipartisan support under the the Bush administration and was designed to support innovative renewable energy technologies. In 2008, the Department of Energy started reviewing Solyndra’s application and in March 2009, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a $535 million conditional loan guarantee to Solyndra Inc. The loan was formally announced in September 2009, and was funded with stimulus money; the problem was that by that point Solyndra was already in deep financial trouble that eventually lead down the road to Solyndra’s bankruptcy.

Why Solyndra went bankrupt

There was a number of factors that converged together causing Solyndra’s collapse. The reality is that none of these factors could have been foreseen or prevented given the nature of the company’s product.  The first factor was that in February of 2008 the price of polysilicon began to fall sharply, taking away Solyndra’s solar panels’ advantage in the market place.

The second factor was a dramatic collapse in the price of solar panels that took place in 2011 and can in large part be attributed to the fact the Chinese solar panel manufacturers started to squeeze out American solar panel manufacturers like Solyndra out of the market. The company’s solar panels were relatively expensive from the start, but cheap solar panels from China made Solyndra’s prices super uncompetitive, and Solyndra did not have enough large commercial clients to create the necessary economies of scale.

Another contributing factor was that natural gas prices also fell during the same time frame, which made investments into a comparatively more risky and expensive solar industry a lot less attractive. This in turn contributed to the fact that the firms’ executives failed to raise required additional capital that would have kept the company afloat. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September of 2011, was forced to shut down its Fremont factory and fired around 1,100 workers.

Grounds for a Congressional investigation and subsequent scandal

image of Obama visiting Solyndra before bankruptcy A Republican Congressional committee has been investigating the loan allocated to Solyndra Inc. since 2010. Internal administration emails that have been released show the the White House was warned on numerous occasions and from numerous trusted sourced in the venture capital world the Solyndra is in trouble and will likely go under. Despite these warnings, the administration pressed on with the loan and internal administration emails reveal that the Energy Department asked Solyndra to delay layoffs until after 2010 midterm elections.

In December 2010, the firm failed to make a payment on its federal loan, thereby violating its terms. Despite this, the administration continued to financially support the struggling company, keeping it afloat. In February 2011, Department of Energy restructured Solyndra’s loan, and found new investors who gave the company an additional $75 million in financing. One of Solyndra’s largest investors was a major Obama supporter and financial bundler, George Kaiser. To be sure, the company had a number of key Republican investors as well. These actions by the White House came to be considered as misguided management of funds, and Mitt Romney went as far as accusing President Obama of cronyism and handing out money to his friend’s businesses.

Related Article: Solar metal roofing – roof-integrated thin-film PV panels

The Implications of Solyndra’s Scandal & Bankruptcy on Future US Renewable Energy Policy

image of Obama visiting Solyndra before bankruptcy For anybody keeping an eye on developments in the US solar industry, one thing is blatantly clear: solar industry and domestic renewable energy industry as a whole has become a hot political issue, fueled by the upcoming presidential election.

While president Obama saw the domestic renewable energy industry as paving the way for a cleaner environment, new jobs, new markets and investment opportunities, and a means to end our nation’s dependency on foreign oil, his efforts and policies have been vehemently criticized and opposed by the G.O.P. Solyndra’s case is a poignant example of the detrimental influence the current political climate has on the the renewable energy industry. The full implications of this political trend in Washington are hard to predict, but they will certainly set US many steps behind in the global renewable energy race.

Solyndra’s bankruptcy case is made into a political issue and used against Obama in the 2012 presidential race

So why was Solyndra’s case made into a political scandal, in which Obama has been accused of wasteful, irresponsible spending of taxpayer’s money, which was allegedly used to help his cronies? Is there any truth to these allegations or are they all political propaganda cleverly manipulated by the Republicans in the presidential election race?

The reality is that the administration’s decisions in Solyndra’s case do seem to have political considerations, rather than pure economics in mind. As early as March of 2010, an independent audit by Price Waterhouse Coopers raised concerns whether Solyndra was financially viable. Similarly, internal administration emails reveal that administration staff and Obama’s allies in the venture capital world warned the White House that the company may not be a good investment.

However, despite these warning signs, Obama’s administration pressed on and administration officials pushed for the DOE to hasten its final decision on approving Solyndra’s loan just in time for Vice President Joe Biden to announce it on his planned trip to California. Obama also visited the company in a high-profile press event in May 2010, making an already troubled company an example of his successful energy and economic policy. Internal administration emails also reveal that to save face, the Energy Department convinced Solyndra to delay layoffs until after the 2010 midterm elections, according to those emails.

From private sources the DOE was aware that the firm was in danger of bankruptcy, and in December 2010 Solyndra violated its federal loan deal terms by failing to make a payment on its loan. Despite this, the administration put in more effort and money into saving the company. In February 2011, the department restructured the loan, and found investors who provided Solyndra $75 million more in financing. One of the largest investors in Solyndra who also backed this new loan, was George Kaiser (one of the biggest fundraising bundlers for Obama). Part of this deal was that private investors, would be paid back before the government if Solyndra collapsed.

So did Obama want to use Solyndra to help his own political agenda and public image in light of the upcoming election? It seems that they answer is yes. Was  it an economically misguided decision? Yes. However, there is a lot of hypocrisy at play here: a renewable energy company’s ties to the administration are considered cronyism, but the fossil fuels companies’ ties to the G.O.P party and the previous Bush administration, which have afforded this industry lavish financial returns for decades pass with flying colors.

Understanding Solyndra’s case from the perspective of overall US energy policy

While Solyndra’s bankruptcy has been portrayed by most major media outlets as a political scandal, it is important to understand this case in light of the overall US energy policy. While the president has been accused of wasting tax payers’ money during a recession, the reality is that the federal government actually spends a minimal amount on renewable energy, compared to other sectors. A 2009 American Energy Innovation Council Report states that the federal government spent only about $3 billion on energy research (which included help in commercializing the products for start-up companies like Solyndra), compared with the lavish sums of $36.5 billion spent on the National Institutes of Health, and $77 billion spent on defense research. 

Moreover, taking a closer look at the Department of Energy’s 2005 Federal Loan Guarantees Program reveals that it backed close to $38 billion in loans for 40 projects around the country. Just a small fraction of these loans has been allocated to solar. In fact, the program’s largest beneficiary to date is an $8.33 billion loan guarantee for a nuclear plant in Georgia. Solyndra’s loan represents just 1.3 percent of the total program portfolio, but more significantly as of yet, it is the only loan that has soured.  Other solar beneficiaries, such as SunPower and First Solar, are still in business and doing well.

What is important to understand about this program is that it is specifically meant to allocate money to more than average risk start up companies, in which private investors would be too cautious to invest. This is the job that the government takes upon itself in propelling forward industries, such as renewable energy, that have a larger benefit to society than just financial profit. A job, that we as citizens need to be done.

What does it all mean? It means that while there may have been neglect and oversight on the part of the administration in analyzing Solyndra’s application for the loan, Obama’s administration can hardly be accused of cronyism and waste of money solely on the basis of one company’s failure. Numbers clearly show that this failure was an exception rather that a rule.

Politicizing Solyndra’s bankruptcy has potential to negatively effect the future growth and development of domestic renewable energy industry 

Renewable energy industry in this country has a potential for growing and prospering only in the climate of stable government support. Government policy not only directly aids the industry with financial incentives, but also signals to private investors that they can invest large amounts of capital into the industry. In previous years, US solar investments and support for the renewable energy industry in the US has been for the most part bipartisan, where both Republicans and Democrats saw renewable energy as being good for the country and for the environment in the long run. This mind set in Washington allowed President Obama to implement a number of important incentives programs such as the Production Tax Credit (PTC) the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and others,  that have tremendously helped the growth of both solar and wind sectors of the renewable energy industry.

A number of these key incentives are due to expire both at the end of 2012 and in 2013. In the current political climate, where renewable energy has become a deeply divisive issue for Republicans and Democrats it is highly unlikely that these will be renewed.  Solyndra’s scandal has really added fuel to the fire, further denigrating the whole industry’s worthiness both in the eyes of Washington’s policy makers and the general public. A telling comment by Rep. Cliff Stearns, who chairs the oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sums it all up:” Solyndra’s downfall proves that green energy isn’t going to be the solution”  (Washington Post). How these sentiments will dictate our nation’s future energy policy remains to be seen.

Related Article:

US DOE Solar Decathlon

Green Home Living in the 21st Century – Smart Homes

If you are into eco-friendly living, clean energy, and innovative green technologies, then chances are you have come across the term “smart house”, which has been popping up all over environmental and green living blogs. The concept of a smart house seems to not only be amazingly cool from the technological perspective, but it is also environmentally friendly and offers many unexpected benefits to home owners in terms of comfort, heath, and safety. It is inspiring that these technologies are developing at such lightning speed, which means that the day average consumers across the globe will be able to actually live in a smart house may be approaching much sooner than many of us expect.

What features and components make a house “smart”?

What makes a smart house unique is the fact that it is built as a place where technology and design go hand in hand. These homes are digital by design with a complex relationship between architecture, hardware and software. In building and designing a smart home, environmental considerations come first, and all technologies and materials have the purpose of making the house as green and energy efficient as possible. For example, to save energy smart homes are designed to regulate energy use by running the washing machine at off peak times and switching off unneeded appliances.

One of the most visible, user friendly, and coolest features of smart houses is a highly advanced, interconnected and automated network of systems that can be manipulated both from inside the home or remotely. Some of the most common systems are Interconnected Personal Computing (any devise with a chip is connected to your PC, the home’s “command center”); Personalized Home Automation (comfort features such as lighting and window shades that can be adopted based on your and guests’ preferences), Security System and Climate Control System. Keep in mind, that the architectural design of this home also has to be smart, to be able to support all of the above mentioned systems and other green features.

Benefits of living in a smart home

While it may seem like these houses may be too techie and lab-like for the kind of homie, comfortable living most people are used to, the opposite is actually true. The innovative high tech features add an unparalleled level of convenience, comfort and safety. While smart homes are designed to benefit people of all ages, older people or people with disabilities may be the biggest beneficiaries of the house’s high tech automated systems and features. The reality that we as a society need to be prepare for is that by 2050 the largest age group among women will be 80 plus. With the aging population on the rise in most Western countries including the US, smart houses may provide a revolutionary solution to the kind of in-home care most elderly and sick people with cognitive or physical limitations need, but currently do not have access to.

Dr. Diane Cook, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Washington State University, has been conducting research and testing various types of technology in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, which assists them with getting up, preparing food, making hands-free phone calls and remembering to take their medication. One of the biggest break throughs of smart home’s technologies is protection against safety hazards, which is a particular affliction with people with disabilities, such as dementia, who cook and then forget to turn their stove off, causing a fire. In a smart home, sensors will turn the stove off automatically when it is no longer in use. These types of features are also highly desirable for families with small children, offering an extra level of safety and protection within the home.

A smart home is a paradigm shift from what we typically understand a home’s functions to be. An ideal smart home will as a whole think about your needs and will use its components, to meet them quickly and efficiently. Thanks to major advances in robotics, sensors and intelligent systems much of this technology is expected to be widely available within the next 10 years. We are living in exciting times when a smart home is quickly shifting from being a sci-fy fantasy into tangible reality that people can use and benefit from.