Alternate Power is a collection of original energy articles, opinions and selected energy news and power related products. The world is Going Green, and advancements in solar power technology are making transition solutions affordable and easy to implement for your home and business. If you have a Green gadget or would like to submit an energy efficient style article, please contact Alternate Power for more information.

Green News

Morocco launches the largest wind farm in Africa

On June 28, 2010, it was announced that Morocco has inaugurated a $3.13 million USD wind farm in Melloussa, which is near the major port city of Tangiers, just across the Straits of Gibraltar. The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, presided over the festivities of this important event.

In all, the wind farm has 165 turbines able to produce 140 megawatts of power by the wind alone. Like the Spain and the U.A.E., Morocco is demonstrating that they are increasingly forward-thinking about non-petroleum energy sources. A recently released draft proposes another wind plant, at a cost of $3.5 billion USD. This, coupled with the newly inaugurated wind farm near Tangiers, would bring the country’s reliance upon renewable power up to 42% by the beginning of the next decade.

When a more prosperous nation develops such technologies, this is an enlightened perspective. For a country like Morocco to do so, when so much of their nation is much less financially prosperous, it is a noteworthy commitment to a Greener world. Join us in congratulating His Highness for the vision, and the people of Maroc for this milestone development!
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Gadgets

Rechargeable Batteries – Fact, Fiction and Reality


We’re in love with portable devices and this is a digital world. Digital cameras (SLR and point & shoot) use 4 AA batteries. Digital voice and music recorders use them. Wireless headphones use them. Guitars, keyboards, effect pedals, clock radios… the list is obscenely long, and that’s not even counting all of the battery-operated toys the kids just got for over the holidays and for their birthdays.

Most of us would be broke if we bought high-quality one-use Alkaline batteries for these devices, so we’ve moved to Rechargeable batteries. Ah, nirvana! (No, not the band.) We’re in heaven! For the first few weeks, it’s magic. Just stick ‘em back in the handy-dandy recharger, and you’re set… if you’re one of the lucky ones. Sometimes, they never even take a charge the first time. Returning them to the store may gain you more hassles as they examine everything suspiciously, making sure you’re not pulling a fast one. Eventually you return with a new pack of batteries, ready to be elated again, only to find that these are duds too! What gives?

What gives, mostly, is the science in the batteries you’ve bought. Lithium Ion batteries are used in laptops, but you won’t find AA and AAA LiIon batteries. They’re still a bit too dangerous to let the consumer play with them. So mostly what we can buy are Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) rechargeables. These store power in crystals. As the crystals are depleted, they become smaller. But if you don’t discharge them all the way, they regrow over the old stones while being recharged. This is why they sometimes don’t last as long as they used to. There are other things that can happen to them, (including overheating on cheap chargers) but we’re trying to keep it simple here.

Discharging them completely (sometimes called cycling or re-cycling) is one way to try to regain the other hundreds of charges the manufacture has promised. Few chargers will give you that option (and none of the cheap “plug it in the wall” types. The Fujifilm S5600 camera has that utility, but you’ll have to hunt for it… or explore a bit via Google and find out how to put a resistor to them, if you’re handy that way. Once discharged, so long as there’s SOME trace of current potential left, they should be given a full charge and be right as rain, or nearly so.

Sometimes they need a kick in the crystals to get their lungs started. That’s most often performed by allowing a paperclip to join the two positive terminals together (though we cannot recommend or endorse any such method, of course.) The lawyers make us say that, but really, if you manipulate the batteries, you do so at your own risk. Once again, having cleared the battery, it should be up for some more charges.

The problem is two-fold. First there’s the batteries themselves, which are often an exercise in marketing misinformation. Yes, perhaps they spec at twice the milliamps that they used to, but that doesn’t mean they MAINTAIN that charge for very long at all. Some only go days or hours. And part of that MIGHT be attributed to the second aspect, which is the charger. As a general rule, poor chargers do a poor job. You’ll often find them bundled with batteries at the checkout area for $10-20. Fair warning: It’s in their best interest that the charger NOT safeguard your batteries. Once invested, you’re more likely to buy their brand again, putting more batteries into the same irreverent unit. Not all manufacturers are that unscrupulous, but if you get a short lifespan or hot batteries, or both, it would be unwise to put more NiCad cells in that charger.

NiCads are best charged slowly. Charging them rapidly can be done, but burns away a lot of the battery’s life expectancy — and not consistently either. Then you’re left trying to figure out which of the four cells is bad. Unless you’re truly in urgent need, you’re far better off to buy an extra set of batteries and keep them at ready, always doing a slow overnight charge instead. See the next paragraph for a solutions to all these problems.

There may not be any such thing as a free lunch, but there are some reliable, quality chargers. One such option is the La Crosse Technology BC-900 AlphaPower Battery Charger. It can take over on automatic, or you can monitor the batteries’ status on various factors via the LED displays — one for each cell. This unit features 4 modes (charge, discharge, recharge and test) Four AA nad four AAA batteries and a carrying case are also included, so at about $40, you’re getting a nifty gadget, eight more batteries and adding hundreds of charges to your existing batteries!

There is another model for a few dollars less, but it doesn’t include the batteries or case: La Crosse Technology BC700 Alpha Power Battery Charger. Like the BC-900, this model also performs in 4 modes (charge, discharge, recharge and test) but we recommend taking advantage of the package deal.

Another important factor is the quality of the batteries themselves. Of course, we always prefer Green companies, and so here we can recommend Green Batteries.

We’d also take this opportunity to remind you of the solar-powered battery chargers which we’ve written up before and highly recommend.

Summing up, while rechargeable batteries are a great innovation and good news for the planet, slow-charging will let your batteries last a lot longer. Fully discharging them is important, and investing in a quality charger can save a bundle! Thanks for doing your part in Going Green!

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Home Energy

Do It Yourself Pest Control

Pests such as ants and roaches can drive a person mad. Almost everyone has dealt with them at one time or another. An inviting environment for a pest is usually a dirty one, but what a pest considers dirty is really not that dirty, unless you really look. Under furniture, cracks in the kitchen between the wall and floor, anywhere tiny food particles can be brushed into and not seen. Read more »

Wheels

Zagato’s PRT Pod A Huge Hit at WFES

Zagato is much better known for such suave stylings as those made for Maserati, Ferrari and Aston Martin, but it was their Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) pod which seems to have gotten the lion’s share of attention at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi this year. The PRTs are going to be used to transport students at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology this fall. For now, they’re on display and wowing the attendees.

The WFES has brought together heads of State, auto manufacturers, energy producers, scientists, and all manner of other concerned parties, both to network and to thinktank what our futures will hold. As you may have read, the Middle-east is sinking billions into alternative energies, and clearly taking the next wave of energy into their own hands — including acquiring the PRTs.The PRTs operate by calculating the number of revolutions of the tires, the direction traveled, and calibrating all of that by magnetic sensors which correlate with marked positions on the street. Sensors slow or stop the vehicle if there’s an object blocking the path ahead.

Studies have shown them to be much safer than having a human operator. The pods will travel to pre-determined stops, but will not run unless there are occupants, avoiding the waste of large bus routes which operate at all hours. Seating 4 comfortably (or 6 cramped,) the cost of these pods, once they’re being mass-produced, is expected to be about $40k each, will run on LiOn batteries from China, and will run for 3 hours before they need to be recharged. The pods are expected to play a big part in the zero-carbon city of Marsdar, as there will be 50,000 residents and another 40,0000 workers who arrive in the city every workday, all leaving their cars (if they have them) at the gate.  Similar craft have carried people in Europe already.  

2getthere, the same company which developed the PRT pods, has provided Holland’s Rotterdam with some 300 automated lorries, for example.  They also have developed human transport vehicles for use there in the Netherlands. The comfort and safety of the pods shows us a rather favorable vision of the future.  Ride on cushioned seats, holding hands or facing each other.  Have a conversation, catch up on the morning news.  The car will stop to let you off at your chosen destination.  Chauffeurs for everyone, and Green at that?  That’s our future?  Not bad.  Not bad at all! 

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VIDEO: Living Off Grid


Bill and Lorraine Kemp live off-the-electricity grid, making their power with the sun and wind and living a typical North American lifestyle, while reducing their carbon footprint

Solar Energy Solutions

Green Air Conditioning?

Every summer, we spend countless millions of kilowatts keeping things cool indoors.  This alone constitutes a good chunk of global warming, but we’d swelter,... Read more »

Pittsburgh Announces World’s First Solar-Powered Trolley

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum’s Scott Becker recently announced an innovation in energy sources, mixing very old and very new. The museum is going all solar,... Read more »


Wind Power & Energy

Morocco launches the largest wind farm in Africa

On June 28, 2010, it was announced that Morocco has inaugurated a $3.13 million USD wind farm in Melloussa, which is near the major port city of Tangiers, just across... Read more »

America Bringing Up the Rear — Alternative Energy Thoughts for the 4th of July

As the U.S. Congress hashes out Green Energy legislation at the prompting of the Obama administration, Americans may feel a certain sense of pride and accomplishment. ... Read more »


Hydro Electric Generation

Removing Dams — Throwing Out The Baby With The Bathwater

As a New York Times editorial recently pointed out, in the past 10 years some 430 dams have been removed.  A good number of them were in states of disrepair, but... Read more »

World’s First Commercial Wave Generators Now Operating!

Three miles off the coast of Acuadora, Portugal, we find the site of the world’s first commercial wave-generated electric plant. In it’s first stage,... Read more »


Building Green

Heat Exchange — the OTHER Alternative Energy

Most of the attention on alternative energy is focused upon wind or solar generation, and alternative ways to fuel transportation.  Meanwhile, tremendous amounts... Read more »

Furnace Not Required

Central Germany is cold — very cold.  Yet a growing number of passive thermal houses are being built that require no furnace at all to keep their inhabitants... Read more »


Green Business News

Materials used in Bearings

Bearings are made of many different materials, and many of these materials function more effectively in certain applications than others. Take a minute to learn... Read more »

Green Collar Jobs

What is a green collar job anyway? You have heard the term green collar job discussed thousands of times lately by politicians, business leaders, union spokespeople... Read more »


Hybrid & Electric Transportation

Zagato’s PRT Pod A Huge Hit at WFES

Zagato is much better known for such suave stylings as those made for Maserati, Ferrari and Aston Martin, but it was their Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) pod which... Read more »

Green Vehicles Cost More — Fact or Fantasy?

A comment recently left to an article in a national publication states: “I love the fantasy of creating a green economy. Very few people can afford green.... Read more »


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