Village explores the Internet to find the most interesting and useful websites to guide you in the quest for sustainable living.
A NASA run website is designed to be used in conjunction with the RETScreen website below (ensure you enter the URL exactly as below). The Surface meteorology and Solar Energy (SSE) project is developing the commercial potential of NASA's cloud, radiation, and meteorology data by working closely with partners from government, commercial industry, educational, and non-profit organizations. The NASA Earth-Sun Division run this project along with what they describe as a renewable energy resource website that features over 200 satellite-derived meteorology and solar energy parameters and global solar energy data for 1195 ground sites. This information enables you to choose any part of the world and gain detailed information on wind speed, solar induction (sunshine) and various other weather related factors there over a 10-year period.
Begin by entering the coordinates for any region (Limerick is roughly 52 Longitude, -9 Latitude), or pointing to it on a globe. Then change any of the obvious parameters you may know, such as terrain. A long list of information appears, which would enable you to choose which is the best type of renewable energy resource for your region. The information deals with the amount of sunshine or the wind speed you receive, amongst several other factors, but is quite technical and difficult to understand. That is where RETScreen comes in.
RETScreen is provided free of charge by the Canadian government. The company has developed software for planners, decision-makers and industry to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The software can be used worldwide to evaluate the energy production and savings, life-cycle costs, emission reductions, financial viability and risk for various types of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies (RETs). The software also includes product, cost and climate databases, and a detailed online user manual.
Once you have installed the RETS software, you input the information you received from the NASA website en masse into something similar to an excel spreadsheet. This will give you an easy to understand description of the overall weather patterns and the best type of renewable energy for your area. As with any spreadsheet, you can change certain variables, with the results of the alterations shown automatically. A simple example would be to see the possible increase in overall energy production from an additional solar panel on the roof.
Similar to the previous sites, Homer is a set of free downloadable software. Groups in developing countries that want to develop sustainable energy sources in rural areas use it extensively. Homer's optimisation and sensitivity analysis algorithms allow you to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of a large number of technology options and to account for variation in technology costs and energy resource availability. For example, the user can easily compare the energy use of a certain project powered from diesel with the same project powered by renewable sources, solo or in conjunction with a diesel generator, adding battery use, wind or solar power or extra generators.
Working from the point of view that you cannot really reduce your carbon footprint if you don't know what it is, one of the many carbon footprint calculations websites will enlighten you. As there do not seem to be any local sites, the closest we can come to is British sites. A UK government sponsored site is Actonco2, which allows a detailed analysis of your energy use, by heating and lighting, appliance and travel. The site is user friendly, yet quite detailed. While many criticise the idea of carbon calculation as impossible due to the number of variables and unknowns, it is still a shock to see a figure put on the amount of carbon one person can create in a year, in tonnes.
Sustainable Energy Ireland
Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) was formerly the Irish Energy Centre. Set up by the government in 2002 as Ireland's national energy agency, their mission is to promote and assist the development of sustainable energy. The website is an invaluable source of information on all manner of advice on sustainable living, sustainable energy types, Irish regulations and government incentives.
An interesting project from the Californian Internet giant originated in the company's 2006 pledge to pursue solar energy production. To this end they installed what they describe as the “largest solar panel to date on a corporate campus in the US”. A rarefied field of endeavour maybe, but Google have done it well. The roof space of the Googleplex near San Jose is already covered in 90 per cent of the 9212 solar panels that will be installed when the project is finished. It will generate 1600 kilowatts of power, which will be enough for 30 per cent of Google's peak electricity demand in their solar powered buildings at the HQ. This could also power around 1000 homes in the region. The website is interesting for its constant monitoring of the amount of solar energy generated at the Googleplex, over the last 24 hours, the last seven days and since they began the project on 18 June 2007. Also shown are examples of the number of hours you can run certain appliances on the amount of energy they have produced that day. π