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31 August 2013

Press review 31-08-2013

Feudalism is the name by which is known today the socio-economic structure that dominated in Europe during Mediaeval times. One of the pillars of the feudal system was land ownership: the state was divided into fiefs, each owned by a single person, the Lord. Everyone else living in the fief, the Peasants, were obliged to pay a tax to access the land, usualy in labour or kind. Peasants were mostly subsistence farmers, hence land was the most important productivity factor of the time. This economic aspect of Feudalism is also called Manorialism, and produced an highly unequal society with wealth concentrated on a very few (the Nobility).

These days the government of Spain is trying to instate Feudalism again, by imposing a tax on solar irradiation. Such is the content of a draft royal decree presented by the government late last month that tries to put an end to the growth of off-the-grid PV. I wrote before that governments could eventually try to make PV illegal, but this proposal defies imagination. If such absurdity ever comes to pass in Parliament a legal battle is sure to follow. It is not easy to see how it squares with the constitution of a modern democracy and even with European law.

27 August 2013

Why I had to quit using Chromium

Firefox or Chromium, which is better? I like both, and have used both in parallel for years. Chromium's interface is slightly more appealing, lean and easy to use. But Firefox has all those useful extensions, most especially Firebug, and other utilities like BYM. I got used to do programming related stuff on Firefox, like web app debugging, and leaving the personal or recreational stuff for Chromium. I was quite happy with this, until one day.

In one of those much-longer-than-could-possibly-render-it-useful meetings I noticed the laptop battery being drained much faster than usual. On light work it can last up to 8 hours; with more intensive tasks and internet browsing it can still last 4 hours. This time in two hours the battery was empty. It was easy to find the culprit: a Chromium process was cannibalising the CPU at 100%.

18 August 2013

Solar Power Cost Calculator - SPCC

The Solar Power Cost Calculator (SPPC) is a web application intended to help investors assess the end cost of electricity generated by a solar system. Using a series of inputs that characterise the system it produces a final figure in €/kWh, the same units used by grid operators to charge households and consumers in general. With this result the investor is furnished with a direct comparison to the cost of tapping electricity from the grid. This application is conceived for Photo-Voltaics (PV) but can also be used for other technologies that have similar cost structures.

SPPC is open source, released under the EUPL v1.1 license; the code is publicly available at GitHub. This post is presently using SPCC v1.1.

10 August 2013

Press review 10-08-2013

The European Commission took this time of slow business to track back on its intentions to impose import duties on solar panels manufactured in China. There is an half victory to celebrate: a lower limit to price and a top limit on yearly capacity imported. But has I have been writing, a globalised marked is not really complacent with this sort of tactics. On the one hand China has surely waved retaliative measures, on the other hand manufactures can simply shift production to other countries. As technology progresses these limits may soon become outdated and force further negotiations; the struggle of centralised governance structures against decentralised power supply has just began.

03 August 2013

Zinc-air electrical storage ready for grid testing

One of the technologies I have been following closer in recent times is metal air electricity storage. The principle seems simple enough: an aqueous solution (the electrolyte) containing metal particles (anode) that oxidate in contact with ambient air (cathode), thus releasing free electrons. Zinc-air batteries in particular have been in the market for long; cheap to produce and with high energy density, they are used in a myriad of applications. The only downside: once the metal in the solution has fully oxidated, the battery can at best end up in recycling.

Recently though there is an American company that has developed a rechargeable zinc-air battery design that promises to bring the electricity storage market up side down.