Archive for June 18th, 2011

Sri Lanka Anthropology: challenge to truth and sovereignty

Sri Lanka Anthropology: challenge to truth and sovereignty

Posted 16 June 2011, by Susantha Goonatilake, Lankaweb,

The Sri Lanka anthropology enterprise associated with the likes of Obeyasekara, Tambiah, Kapferer and Seneviratna not only distorted Sri Lanka but distorted it in a particular way to undermine our attempt to regain Sri Lanka’s intellectual feet which had been cut off by the Portuguese. Such anthropology writing targeted to a Western audience, that was oblivious about local reality has gone further than simple distortion. It has at times demanded foreign intervention in the country. The colonial missionary position was back.

We have to approach this Uncle Tom, house nigger (in the language of Afro American intellectuals) style of anthropology distortions by the likes of Obeyasekara, Tambiah, Kapferer and Seneviratna in the historical light of the devastation of local centres of learning by the Portuguese and subsequent events. In the 16th century, the Portuguese barbarians under direct instructions of the Pope destroyed all the major centres of learning in the country. But fortunately many of our documents and practices existed in south-east Asia to which region these had been transported by the Sinhalese from circa the 10th century to the 15th century. After that major cultural genocide by the Portuguese, we began to attempt lifting ourselves against colonial odds. Key landmarks were the restoration of Buddhist learning and practice brought back from south-east Asia – as from Siam and Myanmar and the establishment of the new Nikayas.

Even though these events had started, even up to the early 19th century, there were no temples allowed around Colombo. After the 1830s key events began to occur. Later more than 40 scholar monks established intellectual links around the world. These links were far more intellectually interesting and valid than the anthropology witch doctor mumbo-jumbo of recent years. Valane Sri Siddhartha established in 1841, the Parama Dhamma Cetiya at Ratmalana which became the Centre of the Buddhist revival.  Of those who studied there, Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala established in 1873, the Vidyodaya Pirivena; Ven. Ratmalane Sri Dhammaloka established in 1875, the Vidyalankara Pirivena. (Seneviratna would denigrate and distort Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara).

The Panadura Vaadaya was a culmination of a series of challenges to Christians. At Panadura, the Christians were trounced, and there were reports in the outside world leading to contacts with Olcott who had read these debates.

In the 19th and 20th centuries much of the Buddhist intellectual achievements and discussions were done by locals. And they had an impact in the external world. One should just read Guruge’s over 1000 page compilation of correspondence to swiftly realise that the direction in the transactions between the West and us in Buddhism was from us to the world. Our anthropologists have not read or had the capacity to digest these obvious facts. Obeyasekara perversely put this direction upside down to mislead the world. Obeyasekara deliberately distorted history and downgraded the importance of the central work by local Buddhists by putting as origins of current Buddhist ideas Olcott and Blavatsky. Olcott and Blavatsky actually came as acolytes of monks not as their teachers.

The likes of Obeyasekara, Tambiah and Seneviratna cover the periods of our attempt to regain our intellectual strength and in their colonial interpretations falsify and denigrate the process. Obeyasekara invents a Protestant Buddhism giving primacy to Olcott and Blavatsky, Tambiah lies about the more recent period and Seneviratna misleads us on the role of Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Pirivena. Reading through their writings one finds gross ignorance of what really happened in Sri Lanka. And they have been tied to institutes like the ICES (ICES is associated with the Sinhala as cannibals link). ICES, if you remember, also pushed for foreign control of Sri Lanka with its director Mani deported for antinational activity. In their falsifications, the colonial anthropologists discounted the attempts of over 150 years to get back the heritage lost by Portuguese barbarities while the colonial anthropologists prepared for a new foreign domination which some of them literally signed into. Their role paralleled the missionaries of colonial times.

The major writings of Obeyasekara that distorts Sri Lanka is his depiction of the Buddhist transformations in the 19th and 20th centuries as that of Protestant Buddhism brought in by “Protestants” Olcott and Blavatsky. This theme has been accepted as true by many and has led to a chain of citations in the international literature legitimizing its validity (thus Bond 1988, Brow1996, Holt 1991, Kapferer 1988, Kapferer 1991, Malalgoda 1976, Mcgowan, 1992, Prothero, 1996, Roberts 1994, Spencer 1990, Stirrat 1992 )^^[i] <#_edn1>. But Olcott and Blavatsky came to Sri Lanka to learn from us on bended intellectual knees.Olcott writing in 1879 to Venerable Piyaratana Tissa said:

“I pass among ignorant Western people as a thoroughly well informed man, but in comparison with the learning possessed by my Brothers in the oriental priesthoods, I am as ignorant as the last of their neophytes … To you as you must we turn, and say,: Fathers, brothers, the Western world is dying … come and help, rescue it. Come as missionaries, as teachers, as disputants, preachers … Persuade good, pure, learned, eloquent Buddhists to come here and preach, you will sweep the country before …” (Quoted in Guruge, ed. 1984, pp. 338-9).

These are the actual words of a Protestant who according to Obeyasekara transformed the content of our thinking. The reality was just the opposite to Obeyasekara’s fiction. (Watch this space on the recolonisation attempt by anthropologists. To be contd.).

*References: Susantha Goonatilake: *

/A 16^th Century Clash of Civilizations: the Portuguese Presence in Sri Lanka/ (Yapa, Colombo 2010);

/Anthropologizing Sri Lanka: A Civilizational Misadventure/ (Indiana University Press, 2001);

/Recolonisation: Foreign funded NGOs in Sri Lanka /(Sage 2006)/;/

*”White Sahibs, Brown Sahibs: Tracking Dharmapala”/Journal of the
Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka/ New Series pp 53-136 LIV *2008

*”Locating South Asian Anthropology within the Shift to *Asia” in N.
K. Das, V. R. Rao (ed) /Identity, Cultural Pluralism and State,/
Macmillan India Publication, New Delhi 2009

*”Border Crossings in Anthropology and Buddhist Philosophy” in
*/Philosophy and Anthropology:  Border Crossing and
Transformations/Ananta Kumar Giri and John Clammer (eds) (forthcoming)

*”The Construction of the Panadura /Vaadaya/ as Buddhist
Fundamentalism”,/Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka/
New Series Vol. XLIX 2004 pp 87-118 Special Number on the Panadura

“‘Buddhist Protestantism’: The Reverse Flow of Ideas from Sri Lanka to the West” /Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka/ New Series Vol. XLV 2002 pp 35-71

“Cultural Imperialism: A Short History, Future and a Post Script from the Present” in /Cultural Imperialism: essays on the political economy of cultural domination/ / edited by Bernd Hamm and Russell Smandych.
Peterborough, Broadview Press, 2005. pp 33-52

Why I hate the phrase “Standard American Diet (SAD)”


Why I hate the phrase “Standard American Diet (SAD)”


Posted 17 June 2011, by John Durant, Hunter-Gatherer,

I hate when people use the phrase the “Standard American Diet”, or SAD, to exemplify what’s wrong with our food system.  It’s so contemptuous. The problem with Coca Cola and Snickers isn’t that they’re American foods.  The problem with soda pop and candy bars is that they’re industrial foods.  Some of the earliest industrial foods, like refined flour and sugar, and industrial food processing methods, like pasteurization or canning, weren’t American in origin at all.  The Industrial Revolution started in the UK, people.   The Europeans started it.

Is it any wonder that America became a fast food nation?  First, we were a melting pot and had no food traditions to start with.  Blaming America for not having a food culture that could resist industrial foods makes as much sense as blaming Native Americans for not having immune systems that could resist small pox.  Second, America is really good at that whole industrial growth thing.  We did a kick-ass job of making food damn cheap and damn tasty.  And when America decides to get healthy, look out — cause we’re gonna be really damn healthy.

See, a traditional food culture, like in France, might keep industrial foods at bay, but it also slows the kind of food and health innovation that you read about on this blog and others like it.

So I’m not saying Standard American Diet (SAD) anymore.  Next time you hear someone use it, see if you can pick up on the emotion driving it.  It’s probably either thinly-veiled contempt or deeply repressed self-loathing.

I encourage you to start using the phrase “industrial diets” and “industrial foods”.  The problem is industrial diets, people – not American diets.

Governor Misharin has left farmers in the Sverdlovsk region high and dry

Governor Misharin has left farmers in the Sverdlovsk region high and dry


Posted 17 June 2011, by Konstantin Dzhultaev, Lyudmila Maslova, and Vladimir Terletsky, RusBusinessNews,

In 2011 the Sverdlovsk region planted an extra 1,500 hectares of potatoes. Officials were trying to curb the escalating price for this popular product, which had tripled in the previous six months. But farmers aren’t expecting prices to decline, even if they have a good harvest. Why? Because of the policies of local officials who don’t pay enough attention to the agricultural market. As these columnists for “RusBusinessNews” have determined, the region missed its chance to modernize its farming practices and is now at risk of losing its agricultural industry.

Ilya Bondarev, the minister of agriculture for the Sverdlovsk region, claimed that 10,700 hectares of potatoes will be planted in 2011, which is an increase of almost 1,500 hectares over 2010. He says that almost all the major farms in the region are increasing their planted acreage in order to avoid potato shortages this fall. After the extraordinarily dry summer of 2010, the resulting harvest was poor, which created an upheaval on the market and thus an unprecedented rise in prices. Potatoes with a production cost of 2-3 rubles per kilogram were selling in stores for 45 rubles/kg.

As it turned out, the Sverdlovsk region was not prepared for such a price jump. Retail sales networks accused local potato producers of price speculation, while farmers countered that oil industry workers up north were prepared to pay 100 rubles a kilo for their current crop. Governor Misharin decided that the public itself was much to blame, claiming they had gotten too lazy to grow their own potatoes at their garden-plots like they had in Soviet times. The regional leader decided to combat rising prices for this staple food, which often acts as a substitute for bread, by bringing in imports, and suddenly the stores were selling spuds from Egypt, Turkey, and the Netherlands. “Now they know what they can do with their expensive potatoes,” – Misharin threatened the farmers.

The government’s actions helped lower the price of potatoes to 30 rubles a kilogram, and to further this success, they decided to plant even more hectares in 2011. But a new disaster struck before the sowing began – the price of local seed potatoes jumped by four times in comparison to the previous year’s price, which made them almost as expensive as the elite, imported varieties. Farmers predict that there is no way consumers will be able to buy potatoes from this latest crop for less than 40 rubles a kilogram. This is approximately what they cost in Germany (one euro a kilo), where incomes are much higher than in Russia. This is just one more example of the government’s ineffective management of the Russian agricultural sector.

In developed countries, the state guarantees farmers a certain level of income while also making sure that the market price for agricultural products is not completely inconsistent with what it costs to produce and sell them. Regular monitoring of agricultural expenses and revenues allows the government to set the farming subsidies, which are rising each year. According to experts, subsidies represent up to 50% of the value of output in the EU, 70% in Japan and Finland, and 3.5% in Russia.

And the Sverdlovsk region is an outlier even among Russian regions. During recent hearings in the regional Duma, Deputy Anatoly Sysoev claimed that government support for agricultural producers did not exceed 1.6%, which would mean that the Central Urals lags behind the Tyumen region (4.8%), Bashkortostan (3.6%) and other neighboring regions. Of the two ways listed above to regulate agriculture, making production more profitable or restricting prices, neither is adequately utilized in the Sverdlovsk region. The processing industry determines the market policy and also gets the majority of the public subsidies. According to Anatoly Sysoev, the reduction in the market price alone cost farmers two billion rubles in 2009 and 1.3 billion in 2010.

Deputy Ilya Gaffner points out that the agricultural industry also uses ancient, Soviet-era equipment. The former governor of the Sverdlovsk region, Eduard Rossel, approved a program to build modern cattle barns and improve farming practices, but he preferred to invest public money in questionable projects, such as the construction of a building for the regional legislative assembly. Aleksandr Misharin, the new regional leader, picked up that baton and decided to bury 5-9 billion rubles in the swamp by building a new exhibition center. As usual, such budgetary expenditures meant that there wasn’t enough money to invest in the rural areas.

This lack of cash resulted in a lack of competitiveness. The potato market in the Sverdlovsk region has recently fallen under the control of producers from Tyumen, who managed to eke out a decent crop even during 2010’s dry weather by using better equipment and industrial crop-production technology. Potato farmers in Perm, who are in their third year of the Perm Potato Project, can also offer a cheaper product. Not only does their regional government subsidize their production, but they were also able to significantly increase their harvest by buying fertilizer and superior seeds. According to Tatyana Kayukova, the deputy director of Oven, LLC, some varieties of potatoes can produce up to 59,000 kilograms per hectare. She predicts that their industry will be able to offer potatoes to dealers for ten rubles a kilogram this fall, which will be 50% cheaper than the price demanded by farmers in Sverdlovsk. It’s no wonder that Perm sells up to 20% of its potato harvest in Ekaterinburg.

Grain is also very expensive in the Sverdlovsk region, which, combined with ancient poultry-farming equipment, is resulting in an uncompetitive poultry industry. According to Ilya Gaffner, the production cost of a single chicken is 20% higher than its sales price, the results of which could be seen in the market very quickly. Currently the Argayashskaya poultry farm (Uralbroiler CJSC) sells more chicken in Ekaterinburg than in its home region of Chelyabinsk.

The business community believes that officials in the Sverdlovsk region failed to modernize their rural areas and now need to make up lost time quickly by investing heavily to lower the production cost of agricultural products. The authorities need to make a decision – either make farms more profitable, as they do in the EU, or put limits on the market participants’ desire for a high rate of return, for example, by allocating 10% of the sales price to the retailer, 30% to the processor, and 60% to the farmer.

Elena Stafeeva, the executive director of the Urals Union of Livestock Breeders, non-commercial partnership, believes that the amount of government support needs to be tripled, if the goal is to motivate farmers and stimulate the industry. It takes a long time to recoup an investment in an agricultural project – about ten years – and outside investors are hesitant to open up the cash spigots for long periods if the risks are high. Public subsidies would help reduce the payback period to a more acceptable 7-8 years, and then bank loans could be used to modernize production.

But officials decided to go their own way. In early 2011, they promised to compensate farmers for up to 50% of the cost of new machinery, equipment, and other inventory. The farmers were happy and took out bank loans to begin modernizing. Then it was discovered that the Sverdlovsk regional government had officially decided to subsidize only 19% of the cost of a combine, 15% of a tractor, and 10% of a planter. As Elena Treskova, a deputy in the Sverdlovsk regional Duma, confirms, the industry fell into a black hole of debt.

The farmers are beginning to grumble. The truth is that Governor Aleksandr Misharin’s administration has left them high and dry. Officials from Moscow who came to the Sverdlovsk region to work temporarily are showing interest in buying agricultural products outside the region. And no one seems to be in a hurry to invest public money to support local farmers. After all, everyone knows that if you want a garden you can feed yourself with, you need to plan it in the winter – by the time summer comes it’s a bit too late.

Don’t ignore ancient wisdom in predicting monsoon, drought


Don’t ignore ancient wisdom in predicting monsoon, drought


Posted 17 June 2011, by Shyamal Gupta, Economic Times (Times of India),

Monsoon prediction has long been a touchy and sticky issue in India. Monsoon has price implication on commodities as well as on the perceived health of the overall economy. Monsoon is the greatest single factor in Indian agriculture and thus myth impinges on it as well.

According to legends, Vritra (personification of drought) kept the waters of the world captive. He was killed by Indra (Lord of Heaven) by destroying all the ninety-nine fortresses of Vritra before liberating the imprisoned celestial rivers. Humans have always wanted to predict the future. Never this has been truer than when it comes to the weather.

 The difficult part is in getting the forecasts correct. There are different criteria between long-range and the shortrange forecasts. The information available in a longer term is much more of the trend variety, so the temperatures will be ‘above average or below normal’ or ‘a heat wave or a cold wave’. It’s nothing specific as in the short-range.

The department of meteorology uses all the internationally-approved parameters as well as cutting edge technology. The state-of-the-art Doppler S Band radar in Mumbai, costing around Rs 10 crore, does not have many expert interpreters. A nation which has spent thousands of crores of rupees on capital-intensive equipment still looks to experts like fishermen to spot the altered behaviour of fish to predict the rains.

The farmers continue to rely on the age-old almanac (panchang) to predict the local rainfall. It is not only the challenges to dissemination of forecasts (in absence of information delivery mechanism) but the ambiguous forecasts like ‘medium to heavy rainfall is expected around West Coast’ leaves a question mark on the veracity and utility for the local farming community.

The classical Indian almanac gives the calculations that enable many people to predict bi-weekly average rainfall. Though its correctness has often been denounced by the modern meteorologists , however, the high level of the usage in rural and semi-urban India cannot be undermined. In the ‘panchang’, the lunar year has been considered with every fourth year having thirteen months to adjust to the earth’s natural year.

Various stars, planets and constellations in the sky are divided into 27 parts, called the nakshatras. Every nakshatra cannot be located easily like a zodiac sign because it is a part of the sky as seen only from a particular point on earth. Of the 27 nakshatras, nine are during the monsoon, and are called the monsoon nakshatras.

Two important treatises by Sage Varahamihira called ‘Brihatsamhita’ and ‘Panchasiddhantika’ gives the details of how the calculations are done and the principles used in formulating predictions. Anand Agriculture University (AAU) scientists are conducting a study to see if these movements have an impact on the occurrence of rains. The study aims to blend astrology and meteorology to predict the quantum of rainfall in a particular year, whether it will be a good monsoon or a drought year.

AAU has already distributed the questionnaires and the almanac to ‘sarpanchs’ and ‘talatis’ of the 18,000 villages across Gujarat. They have been asked to fill in details like the quantum of rainfall and how long it rained, on a daily basis in the calendar and reports it monthly to AAU. The daily rainfall data received from all villages as per the astro-meteorological calendar will be collected and compared with 100 years of rainfall data of 200 rainfall stations across Gujarat.

 AAU will then study and analyse as to what extent does astrological movements affect rainfall. Over the last decade, the monsoons have become more and more erratic. In spite of using the 16 parameter model for long-term rain prediction, the forecasts are going exceedingly haywire.

Shyamal Gupta is the Chief Business Officer of NATIONAL COLLATERAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES LIMITED (NCMSL). NCMSL is engaged to set new standards in the area of risk management for commodities and inventories. Incorporated and registered under the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 NCMSL has been jointly promoted by several Leading Banks in the country, NCDEX, IFFCO and other co-operative bodies and a global collateral manager based at Geneva.

Bolivia calls for urgent high level talks on cutting climate pollution


Bolivia calls for urgent high level talks on cutting climate pollution

Posted 17 June 2011, by Staff, World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth,

BONN, 17 June 2011 – At the close of UN climate talks in Bonn that failed to address the huge shortfall in emission targets compared to what the science suggests is necessary, Ambassador Pablo Solon of the Plurinational State of Bolivia called for a high-level meeting to discuss how to drastically reduce climate pollution.

“In order to have success at the UN climate conference in Durban in December we need to have a clearer willingness to increase the emissions reduction pledges that are on the table.” Ambassador Solon said.

“We have seen in these two weeks not much engagement in science but a lot of engagement in business. There has been no movement on the big issue of reducing emissions but instead a proliferation of proposals on new market mechanisms.” Ambassador Solon said.

“All the reports show a problem of science and a problem of leadership. We need deep cuts and we need developed countries to take the lead That is why we propose an ad-hoc high level meeting dedicated to the issue of increasing targets.” Ambassador Solon said.

Reflecting on the two weeks of talks the Ambassador outlined concerns regarding the future of the Kyoto Protocol, with new market proposals, and hope for consideration of the rights of nature.

“The lack of ambition for Kyoto Protocol worries us very much. Countries are abandoning the international rule based system. Some developed countries are proposing effort for the second period that is even less per year than they are doing now.” Ambassador Solon said.

“We have seen proposals for markets for the oceans, so called ‘blue carbon’ we are surprised and concerned by these. The problem with the reference level for markets such as these is that it is based on assumptions that are not real. And there is the great possibility that the new market mechanisms will just create more hot air.” Ambassador Solon said.

“With parameters that are not real countries try to get a bigger share of certificates of reductions and in that way instead of developing new sources of finance we will develop new sources of deterioration of our natural systems.” Ambassador Solon said.

“Many of the proposals that we have had advanced have had interesting discussions such as the issue of the rights of nature an the integiry of ecosystems. This is key for us because we are all part of a system and until now we have not recognized the limits to our exploitation of natural resources that will affect precisely that system.” Ambassador Solon said.

The Big Here: an education in place


The Big Here: an education in place

Posted 17 June 2011, by Rich Heffern, National Catholic Reporter,

Bioregionalist Kevin Kelly writes about The Big Here.

“You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital.”

The bioregional vision stresses the importance of watersheds. We all live within one. A watershed carries water “shed” from the land after rain falls and snow melts. Drop by drop, water is channeled into soils, groundwaters, creeks, and streams, making its way to larger rivers and eventually the sea. Water is a universal solvent, affected by all that it comes in contact with: the land it traverses, and the soils through which it travels. The important thing about watersheds is: What we do on the land affects water quality for all communities living downstream. It’s an important way to understand our connection with the planet. And it’s a meaningful way to divide and understand regions — in contrast to the political divides of counties or states and nations.

We can’t heal the whole planet but we can actively and effectively work to repair damage within our watersheds and live in ways that allow their life and human communities to endure. I have lived on three or four different watersheds in my life, and have gotten better at knowing about them. How many have you lived on? Which watershed to you live on now?

Along with figuring out one’s ecological footprint,the bioregional quiz is a helpful tool for developing a concept of one’s connections with nature’s resources. We ran a short version of it on this Eco Catholic blog last December. The advantage of the quiz is that it focuses on “place,” that is, a local or regional context. This awareness can support better local choices. And, as Kelly suggests, places are interconnected.

— Name five native edible plants in your neighborhood and the season(s) they are available.
— From what direction do storms generally come?
— Where does your garbage go?
— Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighborhood?
— Point to where the sun sets on the equinox. How about sunrise on the summer solstice?
— Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move?
— Right here, how deep do you have to drill before you reach water?
— Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past?
— How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)?
— Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put?
— What was the total rainfall here last year?
— What primary geological processes or events shaped the land here?
— Name three wild species that were not found here 500 years ago. Name one exotic species that has appeared in the last 5 years.
— What minerals are found in the ground here that are (or were) economically valuable?
— Where does your electric power come from and how is it generated?
— After the rain runs off your roof, where does it go?
— Where is the nearest wilderness? When was the last time a fire burned through it?
— How many days till the moon is full?

The Bigger Here bonus questions:
— What species once found here are known to have gone extinct?
— What other cities or landscape features on the planet share your latitude?
— What was the dominant land cover plant here 10,000 years ago?
— Name two places on different continents that have similar sunshine/rainfall/wind and temperature patterns to here.

For recommendations on how to find answers to each of the questions, see Kelly’s post.

Everything I need to know about thermoelectric generators

Everything I need to know about thermoelectric generators

Posted 18June 2011, by Rani Thomas, EcoFriend,

Thermoelectric generators (TEG) are devices that convert heat energy directly into electrical energy. This technology is used as an alternative energy solution for public and private purposes. Converting heat into electrical energy paves way for conserving the exhaustible resources that are slowly being extinct now. So transforming these renewable resources into usable energy helps to balance the future environmental issues and economic survival. In spite of the rise in electricity bills, electricity still plays a major role in our daily lives.

Have you ever wondered how it would be to be living in a world without any electricity? No heater to warm you when you are cold. No refrigerator to keep your food from getting spoilt. No air conditioning when it is really hot and what not? What we save today will be what we will have left for tomorrow. Let’s just say, “Maximum use of scarce resources”. So it is better to squeeze out maximum energy from the ones that are being wasted and harvest them into consumable energy.


Thermo electric generators are made of thermo electric modules and are used in many situations. Solar energy, whilst being a great alternate cannot be relied on a cloudy or rainy day. Similarly, wind energy too comes inconvenient during hot summers when there is not enough wind. However, combining both the energies with TEG results in giving you enough energy for all your household needs.

The thermoelectric wrist watch is another example wherein the heat from the wearer’s body is converted to energy to run it. Seiko and Citizen are two companies that have taken an initiative to built these models. Under normal usage conditions the Seiko watch produces 22 μW of electrical power ultimately using an electric efficiency of about 0.1%. So expect more and more watchmakers to come out with thermoelectric watches in the future as the human body heat provides enough energy to run a wristwatch. Just like automatic watches have been the trend for quite some time now, thermoelectric watches could be the next big thing in the watch industry.


Thermoelectric generators are preferred mostly for the quality of harvesting wasteful heat sources to energy that can be used on a daily basis and does not rely on fuel or gas. The generators come in as “solid-state” which adds on to its durability and are perfect to be used in harsh environment viz automobiles, incinerators, and spacecraft.


One of the major drawbacks of TEG is the factor of cost. Because of its expensive nature it is not encouraged to be used on a wider scale. A limit on efficiency of power conversion is also found to be another flaw but this is still being worked upon and has shown a progress by a factor of two or three levels. Another study shows that it requires the same amount of electrical resistance to operate powerfully.


The ability to convert energy from small semi conducting elements has helped in yielding reusable energy from heat energy that is wasted. They use up any sources of heat to generate electricity thus making it possible [PDF] to reduce the use of exhaustible natural resources. Going ahead, expect to see many devices like mobile phones, MP3 players, etc to usher in the thermoelectric generators as a viable alternative power generating or battery recharge mechanism.

Solar generator splits water to make hydrogen


Solar generator splits water to make hydrogen

Posted 16 June 2011, by , cnet News,

BOSTON–One of the barriers to the long-hoped-for hydrogen economy is a non-polluting energy source for hydrogen. Nanoptek is one company that’s tapping the sun’s energy.

The Maynard, Mass., company this week said it is taking orders for a commercial solar hydrogen generator, which is now in pilot production. The company showed a smaller version of its product at the TechConnect conference here.

Nanoptek envisions creating a system for storing energy from solar at large scale, making hydrogen for vehicles, and even home fueling. In the nearer term, though, the company is seeking to sell solar generators to businesses that now buy tanks of hydrogen for industrial use.

The company’s product, called the Solar Hydrogen Generator 300, is slightly bigger than a typical solar photovoltaic panel, measuring two meters wide and one meter high. Like a traditional electrolyzer, it applies a voltage to a liquid electrolyte to break apart the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water. The hydrogen is stored in tanks and used in a fuel cell to make electricity.

What’s different is that Nanoptek’s device can produce hydrogen from water using about one-third the electricity of a typical electrolyzer, said CEO John Guerra. The key is a titanium dioxide coating that is activated by both ultraviolet and visible blue light, he explained.

Its photocatalyst material is a titanium dioxide that’s baked onto strips of titanium metal, which is “stressed” with a nanostructure before coating. The surface treatment allows electrons to be released with the lower energy available from visible blue light, Guerra explained. The flow of electrons into the water causes the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water to split apart.

Because the photo catalyst reacts well to this type of light, the solar hydrogen generator can work well on cloudy days, he added. The company calls it a hybrid device because the generator can operate as a traditional electrolyzer from grid power when there is no sunlight available.

A prototype solar hydrogen generator. The solar PV panel provides the voltage needed to split water, making it more efficient.(Credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET)

The company’s panel includes both strips of titanium and an optional row of photovoltaic cells, which provide voltage for the water splitting to occur and make the process more efficient. As water is pumped in, the hydrogen gas captured.

The idea of making hydrogen as an energy carrier for vehicles and grid storage has been around for years, but there are a number of technical barriers, such storing hydrogen in a small footprint for vehicles and finding inexpensive catalyst materials. Also, there isn’t a distribution infrastructure for transporting hydrogen apart from transporting tanks.

Still, with growing interest in cleaner energy, there remains a lot of research and development work. SunCatalytix, which was spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is working on what it calls an “artificial leaf” also designed to make hydrogen from water using a solar photovoltaic cell. In addition to technical challenges, finding customers willing to try out the new technology is also a challenge.

Nanoptek will first target the industrial gas market with an eye toward grid storage and off-grid applications over time, Guerra said.



Mapping Sun’s Potential to Power New York


Mapping Sun’s Potential to Power New York


Posted 16 June 2011, by , New York Times,

Two-thirds of New York City’s rooftops are suitable for solar panels and could jointly generate enough energy to meet half the city’s demand for electricity at peak periods, according to a new, highly detailed interactive map to be made public on Thursday.

The map, which shows the solar potential of each of the city’s one-million-plus buildings, is a result of a series of flights over the city by an airplane equipped with a laser system known as Lidar, for light detection and ranging.

Swooping over the five boroughs last year, the plane collected precise information about the shape, angle and size of the city’s rooftops and the shading provided from trees and structures around them.

The map is at the Web site of the City University of New York. City officials said the information should advance efforts to increase the city’s reliance on solar power as part of its energy mix, reducing the metropolis’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The quality of the Lidar information is so remarkable that it will much more rapidly unlock usable sites,” said Stephen Goldsmith, the deputy mayor for operations.

Over all, the images show that 66.4 percent of the city’s buildings have roof space suitable for solar panels, said the CUNY team, which developed the map in partnership with the city and the federal Department of Energy. The rooftops could generate up to 5,847 megawatts from hundreds of thousands of buildings, the team said, compared with the negligible 6.5 megawatts yielded now from about 400 installations.

At those output levels, the panels could meet 49.7 percent of the current estimated daytime peak demand and about 14 percent of the city’s total annual electricity use, the officials said. The figures consider typical weather conditions.

Yet harnessing solar power also involves overcoming barriers like the upfront costs of installation, the availability of installers and the ability of utilities to integrate solar power into their grid. Solar power is projected to grow into a $12-billion-a-year industry this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, but the sector is still in its infancy.

Nationwide, the installed solar capacity is just 2,300 megawatts, less than half the rooftop potential of New York City.

“We’re just really beginning,” said Rhone Resch, president of the trade group.

The solar map will allow New Yorkers to type in the address of a building where they live or work and find out how much solar power the roof can yield and at what cost. The Web site indicates what government financial incentives are available to help cover the costs and calculates how long it would take a building’s owner to recoup the costs in energy savings.

For the more environmentally minded, the map also shows how much carbon dioxide emissions each property would avoid, in pounds and by the number of trees that, if planted, could absorb that amount of emissions.

The solar map alone cost $210,000 and was financed by the federal Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities program. The city provided $450,000 for the Lidar flights.

Lidar produces images of structures, trees, wetlands and other surface terrain by shooting laser pulses from an aircraft and measuring the time it takes the pulses to bounce back. Its data will also be used to update flood maps.

More than a dozen cities already use similar maps, although not necessarily prepared with the Lidar system, and some of the maps have contributed to broadening the use of solar power. In San Francisco, the number of solar installations on private roofs rose to more than 2,300 this year, from 551 in 2007, when the solar map was introduced along with financial incentives like tax credits and rebates.

“It’s sort of a one-stop shop for people to understand what the technology is, does it make financial sense, are others doing this,” said Danielle Murray, the renewable energy program manager for San Francisco’s Environment Department. “You realize that you’re not alone, and that it’s a smart investment.”

In New York, David Bragdon, director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, said the city could realistically add “thousands of megawatts” in solar power.

To that end, Mr. Bragdon said, it has been working on streamlining the installation permit process and relaxing building regulations to accommodate the panels, in addition to pursuing larger-scale solar projects at landfills and other sites.

Officials with Con Edison, the utility that supplies electric service to most of the city, said they were developing a centralized Web site to reduce the cost and time of going through all the paperwork required to install the panels, which currently can take up to a year.

The city had already identified some “solar empowerment zones” where solar energy would be most beneficial, based on growing demand for power and other factors. The solar map now will offer roof-by-roof information within those  zones, allowing planners to locate and aid owners in areas with the highest demand on hot and sunny days.

“This map can serve as a key foundation toward building a new infrastructure, a clean energy infrastructure, for New York City,” said Tria Case, the director of sustainability for CUNY.