By July 20, 2017 Read More →

Clean energy tech brief July 20: Captain Kirk explores the outer reaches of…home solar energy

Star Trek actor William Shatner, second from right standing, and the Solar Alliance team.

Also in this brief: Only 1 in 8 US homes uses programmed thermostat with central AC, will there be enough lithium to meet growing battery needs

William Shatner joins Save Money, Save the World alliance, switches home to solar power

Actor William Shatner, famous for playing Captain Jame T. Kirk on the 1960s Star Trek TV series and in movies, is boldly going where everyone seems to be going these days: installing solar power on his Los Angeles home.

Canadian company Solar Alliance Energy Inc. (TSX VENTURE: SAN) (OTC: SAENF) says it has completed the installation of a 6.3 kW solar system on Canadian actor’s house.

“The installation process was straightforward and the team was professional. We are already experiencing the benefits of solar energy,” said Shatner in a press release.

“I am committed to creating a better world through action and this is one small step towards a cleaner future that is less dependent on fossil fuels. I am proud to be part of an alliance of homeowners who have made the switch to solar. You can save money and help the planet by going solar. I did!”

Solar Alliance is working with Shatner to promote the benefits of solar energy through an exciting public awareness campaign titled “Join the Alliance — Save Money, Save the World” and the installation of a solar system on his home was the first stage of the campaign.

The Solar Alliance team of installation professionals worked closely with Shatner to determine his solar requirements, design a custom solution and ensure a flawless installation.

“Mr. Shatner is a strong voice for environmental sustainability and it was a great experience installing a solar system on his home,” said Solar Alliance CEO Jason Bak.

“This public awareness campaign will bring a strong message to thousands of businesses and homeowners: solar energy is affordable, it will save you money and it will provide positive environmental benefits. With his unique brand of humor and international celebrity, Mr. Shatner is the perfect advocate for solar energy.”

Solar Alliance is developing the solar awareness campaign in order to support the widespread adoption of solar energy. Once it is complete, the campaign will be rolled out across Solar Alliance’s social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Lithium mines gearing up, but demand outpaces supply

As global automakers join Tesla in the electric vehicle revolution, questions over the reliability the lithium supply haunt the growing number of car companies making the shift out of traditional internal combustion engines.

According to “Industrial Minerals”, last year, lithium prices skyrocketed.  Since then prices have moderated and are now trading in the $18-$21.70 per kilogram range, down from $25 in early 2016.


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New producers in Australia and Argentina are ramping up production and more are expected to join them in the next year and a half.

On the experimental side, MGX Minerals Inc., a Canadian company, has patented a process to extract lithium from SAGD (steam assisted gravity drainage) from Alberta oil sands wastewater.

The big miners, FMC Corp, Albermarle and SQM from Chile are building their capacity as demand for lithium continues to grow.

“The Lithium Spot” analysts expect supply to grow by about 35,000 tonnes to 235,000 tonnes in 2017, which, according to the analysts equals or outpaces demand this year.

In 2018, they expect another 60,000 tonnes of additional lithium to hit the market.

Patricio de Solminiha, Chief Executive at SQM in Chile, says his company is expanding their operations to “capture the opportunities that arise in the lithium market.”

He says the global demand for lithium is currently at about 200,000 tonnes and is “growing at rates of nearly 14 per cent per year.” He adds “We believe it is highly probable that worldwide demand will exceed 500,000 tonnes by 2025.”

With supply firming up, demand still remains an elusive part of the equation.

In March, SQM said it could see demand for lithium “grow over 10 percent per year in the near term”.  Since then, the company has lifted its estimates by 4 percentage points.

With the market in flux, uncertainties loom larger.

Speaking with Reuters, Joe Lowry, a lithium consultant and commentator says even with the uptick in mining activity, it is possible that a “supply shortage will cause significant issues in the battery supply chain by 2023.”

Only 1 in 8 US homes uses programmed thermostat with central air conditioning

Programmable thermostats are designed to help manage energy use, but most of the U.S. households with these controls do not choose to program their thermostats.

Based on information collected through EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) for 2015, only 12 per cent of the nation’s 118 million households had a central air-conditioning unit that is actually controlled using the programmed thermostat.

About one in three households using central air conditioning do not have a programmable thermostat. But even for those households that use central air conditioning and have a programmable thermostat, more than two-thirds of those households control temperatures without actually programming the thermostat.

In EIA’s 2015 RECS, respondents were asked how they set indoor temperatures during the summer. Almost half (45 per cent) of households using central air-conditioning units said they set the thermostat at one temperature and left it there most of the time.

The second most common approach was to manually adjust the temperature at night or when no one was at home (26 per cent).

Using a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust indoor temperatures was the third most common approach (18 per cent), and it was more common than manually turning equipment on or off as needed (11 per cent).

For households using individual window, wall, or portable air conditioners, close to half (45 per cent) chose to turn the equipment on or off as needed.

Programmable thermostats are relatively less common on individual units, as only 5 per cent of households with that equipment reported using a programmable thermostat.

Smart thermostats, also known as learning thermostats, observe household behavior and create a temperature-setting profile without the need for user intervention. About 3 per cent of RECS respondents reported having a smart thermostat.


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