Education

What Is Blockchain? Is it the Future of Energy?

What is blockchain, and why is it important for the energy sector?

If you know anything about blockchain, you are probably wondering how it is related in any way, shape, or form to energy. Indeed, the concept of blockchain was originally confined to the cybercurrency known as Bitcoin, where the technology chronologically records and links transactions made across the network, securing the Bitcoin environment.

Now, however, the blockchain concept is being applied to situations beyond Bitcoin, and especially in the energy sector. Inquiring energy experts asked if this same technology used to track the flow of cybercurrency could be used for energy transactions. And, as it turns out, it might be able to. Thanks, energy experts!

With blockchain, an energy consumer would be able to securely sell any unused energy to a willing buyer, such as a neighbor. Blockchain would track the flow of electrons on a distributed grid, much like that of currency in a cyberenvironment. At its core, blockchain would be able to create a secure, instantaneous, and independent system for energy transactions.

For all its positives, there are some obstacles that blockchain must overcome before it can meet the high expectations of energy experts, especially on the technical side. For instance, blockchain does not currently provide the sufficient bandwidth and throughput needed to make global energy transactions a reality. But don’t despair! Many are working to create blockchain a usable, everyday part of life. This map shows the areas where blockchain research has made headway:

What would a blockchain future look like?

If blockchain technology gets past the current technological barriers, it would significantly alter the energy sector. For one, it would eliminate the need for an electricity retailer, as transactions would happen directly between an energy producer and an energy consumer. This means that a household would be able to buy the energy it needs from a preferred sustainable energy producer. Furthermore, any unused energy by a household could be sold or gifted to a neighbor. The blockchain future is a bright one, and we look forward to it!

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Geek Out On Solar Energy

Geek Out Huntsville was awesome enough to let us guest post about going solar in North Alabama. So here it is!

Time to geek out on solar. Let’s be honest. Solar is sexy as hell. You know you want some. There’s a lot to know about solar before you take the leap.

I’m going to share all the knowledge I’ve gained over the last 5 years working on solar projects so you know the best way to go solar, if you decide to go down that route. Also, if you’re not motivated to go solar after this, I’ve failed you.

To continue reading the full post, please visit: https://geekouthuntsville.com/2017/04/25/geek-out-on-solar-energy/

Energy Use Intensity

Here’s What Energy Use Intensity Means, And Why Should You Care

To calculate an Energy Use Intensity (EUI) score, all you really need is a few key pieces of information and some basic math skills. Sure, you’ll have to learn what a kBtu is, but it’s really not as complicated as you might think.

To understand what you EUI means—well, that’s what we’re here to discuss today. But first, let’s practice those basic math skills as we walk through a quick scenario.

So, you have a building and you may or may not want to know its EUI. You’re not really sure what an EUI is, but you’ve heard it can be a valuable metric. (This is true, by the way. More on that later.) Great. First order of business: Find out how much energy your building uses per year.

Got it? Now divide that number by your building’s total area. The resulting number is your EUI. That’s it.

 

So What Does My Energy Use Intensity Mean?

Unlike an ENERGY STAR score, which runs from 1-100, a lower EUI number generally represents better performance. Just like an ENERGY STAR score, however, you’ll be able to compare your building to others that are similar in age and size. It just won’t be in the form of a percentile ranking.

Energy Use Intensity Chart

Some types of buildings will always have a lower EUI than others, as this chart from Energy.gov illustrates.

Some good news: At Energy.gov, Portfolio Manager will do all the math for you. So no matter which units you use to input your energy consumption and building area, you’ll be fine. At the end, Portfolio Manager will spit out a number expressed in kBtu/square feet.

(In plain English, a “kBtu” is one thousand British thermal units. So now you know, and it’s up to you to decide whether you’ll ever use that information again.)

But here’s the kicker: It’s possible to calculate an EUI for virtually any building. (That’s not the case with an ENERGY STAR score.) So if you’re taking the North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge, calculating your building’s EUI could generate some seriously valuable energy-efficiency information for yourself and your company.

Even if your building doesn’t produce enough data for an ENERGY STAR score.

So basically, when you calculate your EUI, you’ll know how exactly how well you’re doing with your efficiency efforts. What’s more, you’ll be able to identify areas for improvement.

And most importantly, you’ll continue to make progress toward your overall goal of improving your building’s energy efficiency.

utility bill explained

Your Huntsville/Decatur Utility Bill Explained

It’s that time of the month: bills. You go to your mailbox and get those white envelopes. You get to your utility bill and open it up. All the other times you’ve gotten this bill, you just look at the amount you owe, write the check, and you’re done with it. But, this time, you open it, and you decide you want to know what the heck you’re actually being charged for. Well, we are here to help! We are going to be looking at a couple of bills from Huntsville Utilities and Decatur Utilities and break them down so can find out what they mean for you.

Huntsville Utility Bill Explained

The image to the right  is a sample of the front of a Huntsville Utilities bill. The top sections are pretty obvious. They are the parts of the bill that tell you your account information, what you owe, and when you owe it by. Below that section, there are a couple of parts that break down your usage. The sections we are going to look at are indicated in a red box marked with a red A and a purple box marked with a purple B.

Section A: This section details the meter reading.  The utility company uses the meter reading to determine how much electricity you used that month. This section of the bill shows you the date the meter was read for this month and last month, the previous and present reading, and the amount of electricity used.

Section B: This bar chart portrays the electricity usage of the past 13 months, if available. You’ll notice that in our example there is not 13 months of usage perhaps because this person has not yet lived at the address for 13 months. This is just a visual representation for you to see how your usage changes month to month.

The photo to the left shows an example of the back of the Huntsville Utilities bill. This breaks down what you are being charged for in the bill.

Section C: This section breaks down the two charges of the bill: the availability charge and the consumption charge. The availability charge is the fixed cost of maintaining service to the resident and is the same no matter how much energy you use. For example, it covers things like meter reading and maintenance. The consumption charge is the charge for the amount of electricity used.

Section D: This section details the consumption charge. In this example, this customer consumed 695 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity. The charge per kWh is 0.088410. When you multiply 695 kWh by the charge of 0.088410, you get the charge for the consumption, which is $61.44. Adding the $61.44 to the availability charge, $8.88 in this example, gets you the charge, before tax, of your electric bill.

Decatur Utility Bill Explained

To right you’ll find a sample of a Decatur Utilities bill. Just like the Huntsville Utilities bill, the top half of this bill is pretty self-explanatory. It shows your account information, the amount you owe, and when you have to pay it by. There is one section in this particular bill that is important in understanding your charges.

This section of the bill gives you some details of your consumption analysis. It shows you the current usage, the usage from the last month, and the usage from a year ago. The section circled in red is where the information for your electricity usage will be. In one column, it shows you the total consumption in kWh (kilowatt hours), and in the next section it shows the daily average in kWh.

Note that your utility may show more than just electricity depending on how many products you purchase from the utility company. Each of the other products, like gas or water, will have breakdowns like the ones for the electricity; the main difference will be the units in which the consumption is measured, like gal (gallons) for water.

Energy vs Power

Power vs Energy: What’s the difference?

Power vs Energy. What is energy? What is power? How do they work together? And why does it matter to you? These are all important questions in helping you understand what fuels the light, heat, and electronics in your home.

What is energy?

Energy is defined as a measurement of how much fuel is contained within something or used by something over a specific period of time. This is what your utility company uses to determine how much energy you consume each month, and they measure it in kilowatt hours (kWh), which is how many kilowatts per hour you use. So you know that consumption charge you see on your bill that says something like 652 kWh? It means your residence has used 652 kWh worth of energy in a month.

A lot of energy, yo.

Power on. Beep.

What is power?

Power is the rate at which energy is generated or used. It is the measure of how fast something is generating or using energy. A kilowatt (kW) is a good example of a measurement of power. You measure power by how fast something is generating or using energy. For example, the higher number of kW a building pulling, the faster that building is using energy.

How do they work together?

We’ve already found out that power is the rate at which something uses energy, so for something to have power it also has to somehow have energy to work. For your TV to have power, it has to be plugged into the wall where the electricity can connect to it. The electricity is the energy that gives your TV the power to project the new episode of The Big Bang Theory that you’ve been waiting to see. The energy you used is the amount of power over the duration of the time you watched TV.

The units that power and energy are measured in, kW and kWh respectively, are also related. This fact may be relatively obvious since they look pretty similar, but there is actually a little bit more involved. The two measurements are connected through math. (“OH NO! MATH!” But I promise this math is easy to understand.) To get energy, you multiply power by time. For kWh, it is kWh(energy)= kW(power)*time (usually hours). To get power, you divide instead of multiply. You divide the energy by time. For kW, it is kW(power)= kWh(energy)/ time. This is how the measurements are calculated.

Why does it matter to you?

We already know that power and energy are what powers (you see what I did there???) our day-to-day lives. It’s what charges our smartphones for us to stay connected during the day; it’s what turns our lights on when night time comes so we don’t trip over shoes on the floor or stub our toes on the furniture. (Although, stubbing my toe on furniture happens to me during the day time, so I don’t think that is the electricity’s problem.) In modern times, most of us couldn’t function properly without somewhere to charge our phones, a microwave to heat our food or something to heat the water for our showers. Understanding power and energy and how they work together is a good first step in understanding and appreciating the comforts most of us enjoy daily.