Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Calls to cut Australia's 20% Renewable Energy target rejected

Image from Australia's YES! to renewable
An independent body set up to consider Australia's official target of generating 20% of its energy needs by 2020 from renewable sources has rejected calls from incumbent utilities and heavy industry to scale back the target.

In its first major publication since its inception in July, the Climate Change Authority (CCA) on Friday said altering the target would harm investor confidence.

It recommends that the fixed large-scale RET target of 41,000 GWh per annum remains unchanged, and its full recommendations were included in a 150-page discussion paper as part of a wider review of the RET by the authority, which is due to be finished in December.

The RET, which enjoys support from both the ruling Labor Party and the opposition Liberal-National Coalition, met significant opposition from companies such as utilities Origin Energy and Energy Australia and the Business Council of Australia. Opponents wanted the set target cut because it would overshoot, resulting in higher industry costs.

“The challenge is to strike a reasonable balance between encouraging further investment in renewable energy — leading to ongoing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — and the costs to the scheme to households and business consumers of electricity," said CCA chairman Bernie Fraser.

Australia’s renewable energy industry congratulated the authority for recognising the importance of policy stability, saying it had understood the key issues confronting the industry.

“Retaining a fixed target as drafted in the legislation is the best outcome for companies and investors who are looking at renewable energy projects between now and the end of the decade,” said CEC deputy chief executive Kane Thornton.

“Every review of this policy has shown that the RET is the most efficient, low-cost and effective way to deliver what Australians consistently say they want - more clean energy. But every review has also stifled investment and created uncertainty due to the prospect of serious policy changes,” he added.

A report released prior to the CCA discussion paper by the CEC and economists SKM MMA found that Australia’s economy stood to gain an additional A$18.7 billion ($19.4 billion) in investment under the RET.

“The renewable energy target has been an extraordinary success and must be maintained,” said John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Council. “It will help build many Big Solar plants in Australia over the next decade."

The CCA also recommended the RET be reviewed every four years, rather than every two years, to ensure certainty for investors.

This decision should pave the way for some 8 GW of wind farm developments and up to 3 GW of large scale solar over the next eight years.

Climate change minister Greg Combet said Australia’s policies to lower emissions and promote renewable energy may drive investment of A$100 billion ($104 billion) in the next four decades.

The government has set a price of A$23 ($23.8) per metric ton on carbon emissions for about 300 of its largest polluters for the year that started on 1 July, with a market-based system scheduled to begin in 2015.


By 2020, Australia is targeting 20% of its energy needs from renewables. Back home, what is Malaysia's RE target in the energy generation mix? By 2015, Malaysia targets to generate 5.5% of its total power needs from renewable sources. Prime Minister, Najib Razak said this during his keynote address at IGEM 2012 recently.

I wonder what would it be in 2020

Source: Renewable Energy World

Jambatan Tamparuli in 1954

Construction of the Tamparuli Bridge by British North Borneo in 1954.

Jambatan Tamparuli 1954
Circa 1954. Photo source: 1Suara Sabah

Tamparuli suspension bridge
Tamparuli bridge: October 31, 2009

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

SolarLight-300 by Kirchner

The beauty of Solar power is that it can be harnessed everywhere. It is environmentally friendly and cost-effective, and the single major advantage of solar energy is its location-independent availability.

We have seen many solar light from various manufacturers (predominantly from China) but what set Kirchner Solar Group apart from the rest of the Asian manufacturers is the history and track record for quality solar products. It has many off-grid solar power systems in its product range and one of them is the Solar Light 300. It is an energy saving rechargeable lamp with 300 lumens in brightness.

Quite nicely built.

The difference is that it does not require power supply mains to recharge; it comes with solar charger. As a guideline, a typical 40W incandescent bulb can have brightness of 275 to 400 lumens, depending on brand and colour temperature. So, you can think of this portable solar light along the same line.

It is developed in particular for the energy requirement in structurally weak regions, however, it can be used in remote rural regions at any location if so desired.

There are various way you can position it to suit your need

In comparison with diesel generators, kerosene lamps, paraffin lamps and similar energy or light sources, the Solar Light 300 surely protects the climate and health better. I'd like to have one for outings and camping trips.

For further reading, visit Kirchner Solar Group.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why do parrots live so long?

Life expectancy in Malaysia are currently 77 for women and 72 for men. It seem many of us would be outlived by parrots. According to Sciencefocus, some parrots can live up to 75 years.

red haired kakaktua
Red-haired parrot at Lok Kawi Zoo. Nikon | 200mm | f/5 | 1/100sec | ISO 400 |

Sciencefocus reckoned that parrots are the longest-lived order of birds whereby cockatoos and Amazonian parrots can reach the age of 75 or older. Even budgerigars (common pet parakeet) live for 15‑25 years, which is an exceptionally long life for such small animals. The reason for this is that they have few predators and are often colonial, so their chances of finding food are better.

Species with lots of predators can’t expect to escape being eaten for more than a few years. So they evolve to reproduce as quickly as possible, and in large numbers. This takes a lot of metabolic resources out of the adults, and they are more likely to die shortly after breeding. Even more importantly, genetic mutations that might cause disability or disease later in life don’t have any effect on natural selection because those individuals have already reproduced. This means mutations of this sort tend to accumulate in the species, and so its maximum natural lifespan will tend to shorten.

In the absence of parrot predators, natural selection has weeded out most of these mutations from their gene pool.

TheGreenMechanics: From human perspective, make lesser 'predator' and you live longer. Strive to make friends, not enemies.

Note: Facts are from Sciencefocus, the photograph is my own.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Addressable Light Bulb Goes On Sale

Do you fancy switching on some particular lights at home using your smartphone while you are still on your way?

In the internet protocol, every device connected to the world wide network has its own IP address. That's including your PC, laptop and mobile smartphones. This means that your devices have unique identification and therefore addressable.

Think about light bulb that has IP address of its own. And think about hundreds or thousands of addressable light bulbs. That is what this title is all about. LED Light bulbs that can become data hotspots and be controlled (switch on/off, dimmed, auto-switched, programmable) from anywhere in the world.

Image: dvice

On Monday, October 22, 2012, GreenWave Reality and NXP launched a new line of WiFi-networked LED light bulbs, along with the Connected Lighting Solutions platform to run them. According to Greentechmedia, GreenWave has already started shipping the bulbs to European utility customers, such as in Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden. The new bulbs are also certified for sale in the US.

How much?

Noting that possibility is endless with such bulb, how much would you be willing to pay for it? For a start, a basic kit containing a gateway device and four bulbs, along with a handheld remote, will cost about $200. Individual bulbs can then be purchased at $20 to $30 (RM60 - RM90).

The technology make use of IPv6 connectivity to network LED light bulbs.

If $30 is too steep, think about these two things about network and connectivity:
  1. The rise of the “Internet of Things” is pushing basic IP connectivity down to pacemakers, security webcams, smart thermostats and other devices at a pace that should cut costs dramatically in the years to come.
  2. There’s a new breed of IPv6-enabled mesh networking technology that’s allowing these devices to receive and pass along data to one another, which beefs up the topological factors (i.e., walls) that can cause trouble for low-power wireless networks.
The advantage of using light bulbs as places to add wireless mesh nodes, is that they are likely to reach every part of the home or business they are deployed in. Hence the data nodes as well.

Although GreenWave and NXP are not the first to come up with the idea of a house full of IP-addressable smart light bulbs, the usability of such technology is still in infancy stage. But as earlier mentioned, the possibility is endless.

If you are interested to read further, hop in to GreenTechMedia

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy Eid al-Adha Malaysia

Selamat menyambut Hari Raya Aidil Adha kepada semua saudara mara, kawan-kawan, dan semua warga Malaysia.

UMS1 mosque600 sharp
Masjid kampus UMS di Kota Kinabalu. |18mm | f/11 | 1/100sec | ISO 200 |

Semoga keamanan yang kita kecapi hari ini akan berterusan. Semangat persaudaraan, toleransi dan hormat menghormatilah yang memungkinkan ianya berkekalan.

Beautiful in white by Westlife

This beautiful song is dedicated to everyone celebrating their big days no matter how, when and where.

It's weekend again, and year-end is fast approaching. Many would want to tie the knot before the year closes its curtain, so, let's share this with your loved ones.

If you are going to walk the isle, or taking the first step by getting yourself engaged this weekend, here is wishing you nothing but the best. Congratulations!

God bless.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

No cash rebate as incentive to buy electric and hybrid cars

No. Not our way.

Because such incentive to attract buyers to purchase electric cars would cost a lot of funds - that's according to International Trade Minister, Mustapa Mohamed. Apart from the US and some European nations, handing out cash rebates has been done in Japan, too.

If such exercise costs too much, why not do it the other way - review the tax and duties for such vehicles. Price range of RM97,000 to RM100,000 for hybrid cars such as Honda Insight and Toyota Prius C is still way too much. If such review looks drastic that it affects the current value of existing models, formulate mechanism such that it happen gradually. Policymakers just need to think harder and dig deeper.

Above all, make owning-a-car a painless experience by lowering the car prices across the board. Price of hybrid and electric cars is about RM100,000 currently and is beyond reach of many low to medium income Malaysians. Possible subsidies and cash incentive will unlikely be enjoyed by low income earners!

Insight 1.3 facelift 2012
Face-lifted Honda Insight 1.3 litre IMA starting at RM99,800 OTR

Mustapa: No plans for cash rebate as incentive to buy electric and hybrid cars
The Star, October 24, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government does not plan on cash rebates as an incentive to buy energy-efficient vehicles (EEV) similar to that implemented in the United States or other European countries, Parliament heard Wednesday.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said such a subsidy to attract buyers to purchase electric cars would cost a lot of funds, which will be taken from other ministries.

"Currently, to attract consumers, the Government has lifted the import duties for EEV while major car companies were given incentives to draw them to set up their manufacturing operations locally," he told Datuk Ismail Kassim (BN-Arau) during Question Time.

Ismail had asked whether the Government would consider handing out cash rebates like in the US or European countries to attract more people to buy EEV or hybrid vehicles.

Mustapa said the incentives given by the Government to major companies had attracted companies such as Honda, which recently set up an EEV factory in Malacca, attracting some RM1bil worth of investments.

"The new factory enabled 1,000 new job opportunities for the locals as well as the production of some 50,000 EEV assembled locally to be sold locally and to other Asean countries," he said.

He also noted that the reduction of import car excise duty needed to be studied carefully to avoid any negative implications to the economy.

"We believe that the vehicle ownership cost is still considered cheap compared with other Asean countries if we take consideration of other factors such as oil and gas subsidies, maintenance costs, insurance and others.

"We must also look into the impact on used car dealers, public transportation as well as congestion problems before we consider reducing the import duty," he told Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (PKR-Machang), who asked whether the Government intended to reduce the excise duty for cars.

Insight 1.3
I like to have one but I don't like the price tag. Or, should I say tax !?

iMiEV copy
Electric car, i-MiEV from Mitsubishi on display in Langkawi Island. Mitsubishi plans to start selling them in Malaysia within this financial year. Photo: CBT

iPad Mini launched & Prices

Apple Inc. unveiled the new tablet half the size of the existing iPad called "iPad Mini" on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. Measured diagonally at 7.9 inch, it is obvious that it is aimed at competing with Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7.

iPad currently is the king of the tablet world, and it is evident the Mini iPad is made to dominate the 7-inch segment of the fast growing tablet market.

Not really a 7-inch tablet but looks easy on the hand.

iPad Mini build

The rounded edges reminds you of the iPhone 3G. Thickness (or rather thinness) is 7.2mm and weight is 308g. This means that the mini version is 23% thinner than the big iPad and weighs at half of the bigger sibling. The volume and screen-rotation lock buttons have moved to the right-hand side. Not a big deal to me, just a bit of getting use to.


The 7.9-inch display is LED-backlit. Because it is at almost 4:3 ratio it looks more squarish when compared to the bigger iPad. Screen resolution is 1024x768 at 163ppi which is similar to that of the iPad 2. Check out the picture below.


Main camera is iSight 5MP similar to the one on iPad 3. There is stabilization on video camera so it should be easier to take picture. Taking picture with the iPad 3 is easy, I expect it would be better with the smaller iPad.


Announced as up to 10 hours of surfing the web on WiFi, watching video, or listening to music. If you are on cellular data network, you can surf up to 9 hours. Of course, these are always based on ideal conditions but with my current iPad 3, I'm happy with the battery performance.

iPad Mini performance

The iPad Mini is using the A5 dual-core chip, similar to the one found in iPad 2. In comparison, the new iPad 3 is using dual-core A6X with quad-core graphics chip.

Heck, who'll be able to tell how it perform if one hasn't even fiddle with the slab for at least a day or two. But the mini is loaded with LTE which means faster communication through 4G network (in selected countries). Don't put your bet on that to happen very soon in Malaysia though. We have 4G here but there is still that nagging compatibility issues.

For gaming and ease of use, you will have to wait for early adopters to come out with their comments.

Will you go for it?

While it is too early to hand down a verdict, there is one obvious reason why people would pass this one: Prices are way too high! Base model starts from $329 / £269 (possibly RM1,299) and the top end 64GB WiFi + Cellular will set you back $659 / £529 (possibly RM2,599).

It's a big hindrance as Google's Nexus 7 is only $199 (RM600) and Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) at RM1,299. I am comfortable with my iPad 3, with the 9.7-inch display being just what I need to complement my smaller smartphone. I think I'll keep my saved cash for a newer iPad.

Scaled comparison of the iPad Mini with the bigger siblings. 

iPad Mini prices:

16GB $329 £269
32GB $429 £349
64GB $529 £429
Wi-Fi + Cellular
16GB $459 £369
32GB $559 £449
64GB $659 £529

Malaysia prices? Check this site again soon, we'll make some interpolation and put our best prediction for Malaysia market.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

China grid-scale energy storage: Outlook in 2012-2016

What's with the huge interest on China's RE initiatives?

Because it is fast becoming leader in renewables, and it has the world’s largest declared investment in renewable energy; no matter how you look at it. Rightly so because this year, China’s electric grid will become the largest in the world in terms of both installed generation capacity and electricity produced.

These facts, according to Greentechmedia, suggest that China is also the most attractive market for energy storage in the world, even though China currently has just 4% of the worldwide energy storage capacity. Japan has the largest installed energy storage capacity at 42% of the cake. This does not take into account pumped hydroelectric.

World's installed energy storage capacity, excluding pumped hydroelectric. Source: GTM

China's focus

Whereas other markets have focused on power quality and ancillary services, GTM noted that China’s grid energy storage market has developed with a focus on renewable energy integration, load-shifting and peak shaving. Azure International and GTM Research forecast that pumped hydro storage capacity will double or triple by 2016 to reach 40-60 GW, while other storage technologies will rise from currently insignificant levels to over 700 MW installed by 2016. Refer to the following Figure:

World's overall energy storage installed capacity, excluding pumped hydroelectric. Energy storage is dominated by Li-Ion and Pb-Acid. Source: GTM

With strong government support and steadily improving technology, GTM anticipate the energy storage market will grow to a US$500 million per year market by 2016.

Credit: There is a full report of the research carried out by GTM Research that you can download for a fee. IFor me, this introductory info is sufficient as I don't have any need for details right now. But for those interested, the more than 140 pages report can be downloaded at Report.


Energy storage - accomplished by devices or physical media that store energy  (potential energy or
                           kinetic energy) to perform useful operation at a later time.

Grid energy storage - a method used to store electricity on a large scale within an electrical power grid.

Pumped hydroelectric - a method used to stores energy in the form of water, pumped from a lower
                          elevation reservoir to a higher elevation. When electrical demand is high, the stored
                          water is released through turbines.

How do you define nervous?

Nervous moment


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

PV Module Consolidation in 2013-2014?

The PV manufacturing sector has seen sustained profits and stable growth for several years now.

However, research shows that it is now in the state of overcapacity and most solar PV producers are facing difficulty trying to balance their accounts. GTM Research thinks that much more consolidation is on the way, and that the global PV module landscape is headed for a significant transformation.

Some of clear indicators of this are - plant closures, market exits and insolvencies in the past year and a half.

Figure 1: PV module supply capacity versus global installation. Image: GTM

What can we expect:

Below, I share with you what GTM envision to play out over the course of the next 2 years:

1. Market exit or plant closure will continue to happen to firms with facilities in high-cost locations such as in Western Europe and the U.S. By 2015, module facilities in high-cost locations are expected to make up just 9% of global capacity, compared to 32% in 2009.

2. By 2014, it is expected that thin film will make up less than 5% of global module capacity, compared to 19% in 2009. Three suppliers - Hanergy, Solar Frontier, and First Solar - will make up 92% of the installed thin film base.

3. Aggressive downstream build-out in China: The large pure-play firms and diversified firms are likely to be awarded with module supply or EPC contracts for several large, multi-hundred-megawatt projects on account of their workforce and government connections.

4. Some of the struggling Pure-play Chinese firms will receive additional debt from domestic Lenders to allow them to service their near-term debt obligations, stay solvent, and maintain employment.

5. Large Chinese firms will continue to acquire European module companies. We have seen Asian firms acquiring established but embattled European module suppliers such as Sunways, Scheuten, Q-Cells and Solon. This trend is expected to continue.

6. Some Pure-play Chinese firms could be acquired by State-owned Chinese firms. There are natural synergies to be gained from the acquisition of certain pure-play Chinese solar firms by larger diversified Chinese firms.

7. Rather than allowing “zombie companies” in China to go insolvent, banks are forced to continue lending money to failed businesses far past the point where they demonstrate any ability to repay the debts

8. Larger diversified firms (such as LG, Samsung, AU Optronics, Sharp, Panasonic, Bosch, and Saint-Gobain) could be forced to exit the market. They need to decide whether to cut their losses, or to continue to compete by differentiating substantially and aggressively in terms of their product or business model.

Well the solar PV can be unpredictable and in 5 years' time these expectation may not be even relevant. But we'll see.

GTM - Green Tech Media
You can read the full report here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sabah Budget 2013: RM4,088 billion

A RM40 million increase

The Sabah State government has proposed an annual budget of RM4,088.48 billion for 2013. With an increase from this year's provision by about RM40mil, next year's allocation will be the biggest yet in Sabah's history. The provisional sum covers three main areas, namely:

i)    Emoluments                 - RM663.17 mil
ii)   Recurrent expenditure    - RM1,087.93 mil
iii)  Special expenditure       - RM2,337.38 mil

     TOTAL                          : RM4,088.48 bil

From the pie chart, the allocations for Finance Ministry, CM Department and Infrastructure development alone represent more than 75% of the 2013 budget.

Table 1: Sabah state budget for the past five years.

Budget objectives & Expenditure breakdown

Key objectives:

 (i) To strengthen the State financial position;
(ii) To improve basic infrastructure and public amenities;
(iii) To accelerate the achievement of Halatuju;
(iv) To develop valuable and high quality youth and human capital;
(v) To eradicate poverty and improve the quality of life of the people; and
(vi) To achieve balanced regional development

Expenditure breakdown:

Revenue projection: RM3.828bil, Expenditure: RM4.088 bil
1)  Ministry of Finance                                                - RM1,873.57 mil
2)  Infrastructure development                                      - RM716.50 mil
3)  Chief Minister Department                                      - RM443.97 mil
4)  Agriculture and food industry                                   - RM306.88 mil
5)  Social development and consumer affair                  - RM138.49 mil
6)  Tourism, culture and environment                            - RM108.35 mil
7)  Local government and housing                                - RM87.92 mil
8)  Resource development and Information Technology  - RM87.89 mil
9)  Rural development                                                  - RM68.00 mil
10)Youth & Sports                                                      - RM58.34 mil
11)Expenditure not included in Ministry portfolio            - RM23.63 mil
12)Charge expenditure                                                - RM143.66 mil

Chief Minister, Datuk Musa Aman (during the 2013 Budget tabling on Oct 19,2012):
"This budget has been set for the entire spectrum of the society, taking into consideration the needs and well being of all people in the state and bringing the development of the state to a higher level"

What would happen if you set off a firework on the Moon?


I wish I could tell you 'there will be big explosion', but scientists say otherwise.

Because there is no oxygen in the Moon's almost non-existent atmosphere, there is nothing with which the inflammable materials in fireworks can ignite. However, if there were oxygen present, a firework could travel six times as high as on Earth. This would mean the most powerful mortar-launched fireworks could easily reach over a mile above the Moon's surface.

happy new year
I captured these fireworks during the ushering of new year (2011) in Bukit Bintang, K.Lumpur

Fact source: Sun Life, D.Express, Oct 21, 2012 - pp 14

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Government to ban incandescent bulbs by 2014

Really? Can we do it? Or shall we do it? Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against green technology; in fact I'm all for energy saving. I advocate renewable energy.

Incandescent bulb
Also widely known as filament lamp

Incandescent light bulbs are electric lamps that produce light with a filament wire heated to a high temperature by electric current passing through it. The heated filament glows at high temperature and gives out light. There is a lot of energy dissipated during the heating process making incandescent light very inefficient.

The following report from The Sun suggest that banning the product is the best option to reduce CO2 emission. But the 2-year timeframe is too short if you ask me. Cost of the more energy-efficient CFL and T5 lamps are more than 10 times of incandescent. You can buy CFL for as low as RM16.00 to as high as RM50.00 a piece depending on brand while incandescent lamp can be bought at RM1.50 to RM2.00. LED lamps would be even more expensive. The majority of us will not be able to afford it to be honest.

CFL and LED have very low power factor (pf). In contrast filament bulb has unity pf. When the ban is fully enforced and millions of people are forced to use LED lamps, you can imagine the power utilities headache with severe pf issues.

Furthermore, the energy saving lamp tubes are filled with mercury.

Technology will improve over time where pf and mercury issues would have been taken cared of. But the banning should also be timed in tandem with technological advancement. I'd say, 4 to 6 years is more appropriate instead of 2014 as cut off date. Don't commit ourself hastily to manufacturers lobbying for early adoption. There could be something up their sleeves.

The appended article:

Govt to ban incandescent bulbs by 2014
TheSun daily

PETALING JAYA (Oct 16, 2012): The Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry has announced phasing out traditional light bulbs – also known as incandescent bulbs, that will eventually lead to a complete ban in 2014.

The policy is part of the government's initiative to reduce carbon intensity by 40% by 2020, and to enable consumers to use energy efficiently by using energy-saving lights such as the compact fluorescent lights (CFL), T5 tube lights and light emitting diode (LED) lights.

The implementation of the policy is being done in two phases, with the first phase in 2011, seeing a ban on the sale and import of 100-watt incandescent light bulbs. The second phase is currently being carried out from Jan 1 this year until Dec 31 next year where the government will ban the manufacture, import and sale of the 100-watt lights.

This will save consumers about RM336 million a year if they buy energy-saving lights as incandescent bulbs are less energy efficient and are not as environmentally friendly. Other countries have also initiated similar policies, with China banning imports and sales of certain incandescent light bulbs starting this month, and gradually extending the ban to those over 15-watt in Oct 2016.

Anticipating huge global demand for LEDs, the Department of Standards Malaysia will help local companies adopt international standards and speed up the industry's adoption of Malaysian Standard (MS) to ensure production of high quality LEDs for export and domestic use.

A total of 12 MS have been published so far, covering safety, testing and performance of LEDs. These international standards were adopted from the International Electrotechnical Commission, where compliance to MS will increase local manufacturers' access to international markets.

International certification within Malaysia is also available, with the first LED-SSL certification centre outside of the US was set up in Penang in 2011 to perform testing in accordance with the standards of the American National Standards Institute.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Smoke-free ride is everyone's right

Last Wednesday the relevant authorities did the necessary to stop people from smoking in Public Transport. Occasional operations, however, are just not sufficient. We have to do it continually and consistently. Encouragingly, participation of NGOs and private entities on anti-smoking campaigns seem to have ramped up so the education part is fairly taken cared of.

It is now time to put the stick to work. More agencies (government or otherwise) need to take cue of what the two did. Kudos!

Smoke free ride
RTD personnel inspecting a public bus. Photo: J.Goh/Daily Express

Better late than never

This is a small piece of good news to non-smokers. Commuters on public transportation in the State Capital can soon enjoy a smoke-free ride, thanks to a joint operation conducted by the Road Transport Department and the Kota Kinabalu Health Office in Kota Kinabalu, recently.

The two-and-a-half-hour operations, which started at 9.00am and called "Ops Anti-smoking in Public Transport (Bus/Taxi)", was conducted by a total of 6 teams comprising 20 officers at Taman Awam in Likas Bay.

Operations aside, Taman Awam in Likas Bay is a great place for recreation and picnic.
Photo: de engineur

The objectives of the joint operation were to enforce control of the Regulation 2004 (CTR 2004) which states that:-
  • Regulation 12.1(a) - Signage should be displayed in Public Transport.
  • Regulation 12.1(a) - Signage should be displayed in Public Transport

Pamphlets and stickers were also distributed to public transport vehicles to create awareness regarding CTR 2004. A total of 48 public transport vehicles we checked and a total of 6 notices were issued to public transport operators for failures to display signages.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hungry bird gone hunting

We had a short vacation recently and I took some time to try birding. It was good that the operator maintained the greenery around the resort and there are areas that are quite photographer-friendly to those with camera with them. But who doesn't, nowadays.

Here is birdie's three steps to hunt fruitfully:

* hide and spy - be on alert *

* snap your prey at first glimpse - don't delay, opportunity only flash once! *

* enjoy your catch, but wait, make sure there's no one lurking *

There are many more telling shots in between these three pictures. They can be found in my photo blog.

Note: I can't identify the bird. It looks like heron but it could also be a kingfisher. Appreciate some help.

Sabah Budget 2013

The 2013 Budget for Sabah will be tabled today by Chief Minister, Datuk Musa Aman.


Last year the CM who is also the Finance Minister announced the biggest ever budget for Sabah of RM4.048 billion in a lengthy afternoon cabinet sitting.

Sabah's last 5 years budget seen on the increasing trend.

2013 Budget Outlook

Yesterday, Institute for Development Studies (IDS) Sabah chairman Datuk Clarence B. Malakun said he expected the State to table the best ever Barisan National State Government budget. He is confident that it would be even better than this year's, which at RM4.048 billion was the biggest in Sabah's history.

Meanwhile, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Sabah unveiled their version of an ambitious State Budget 2013 of RM7.284 billion in expenditure for development covering social, economy and welfare aspects in Sabah if it take over the government. The opposition took into account the promised 20% increase in oil royalty once it comes into power.

Some of the highlights of the opposition's alternative state budget are:
Thrust 1: Making our Land Work
Thrust 2: Raising Disposable Income Sustainably
Thrust 3: Social Outreach for All
Thrust 4: Enabling and Empowering Women and Local Communities
Thrust 5: Improving our Connectivity

This, for now, is just for reading pleasure as the real deal will be coming out this afternoon.

Let's hope for the best for the Rakyat.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

IBM sets world record for photovoltaic energy conversion efficiency

IBM's CZTS Solar Cell Device (Credit: IBM Research)
An efficient and affordable photovoltaic (PV) solar cell made of readily available natural materials was developed by team comprising IBM’s Materials Science and Japanese  company, Solar Frontier.

“Tests of our Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 (made of readily available copper, zinc, and tin, and referred to as CZTS) thin-film devices have achieved a world-record PV solar-to-electric power conversion efficiency of 11.1% (10% better than any previous reports) for this class of semiconductors, say IBM Research photovoltaic scientists Teodor Todorov and David Mitzi. And it can be manufactured by simple ink-based techniques such as printing or casting.

What makes CZTS better

Energy from the sun reaching the earth’s surface amounts to several thousand times our global consumption of electricity. Yet electricity from photovoltaic (PV) solar cells currently contributes significantly less than one percent of worldwide production. Of the numerous existing PV technologies, none so far have combined the virtues of being highly efficient, cheaply scalable and made with abundantly available materials.

Currently, the most widespread PV semiconductors, made of crystalline silicon, are abundant and highly efficient. They’re in panels used for everything from home electricity to the International Space Station. However, they have extremely high material purity requirements (>99.9999%), and the wafers are typically cut from large solid ingots and wired in series to form PV modules — making it expensive and difficult to upscale.

Other thin-film chalcogenide materials used in PV cells, such as Cu(In,Ga)(SSe)2 (CIGS) and CdTe, have been developed to a performance level close to that of silicon, with inherently more scalable processing, the scientists say. They are directly deposited on large-area, low-cost substrates such as glass, metal or plastic foil.

But their compounds contain rare and expensive elements that increase cost and limit their manufacturing levels to less than 100GW per year (worldwide continuous electricity consumption is 15 Terawatts — 150 times greater than the level of what these CIGS can produce).

“Our CZTS PV cells could potentially yield up to 500 GW per year — getting closer to the Terawatt levels of renewable electricity the planet needs.”

They hope that within several years this new class of photovoltaic materials will begin to contribute to the wider availability of lower-cost solar electricity.

CIGS     - Cu(In,Ga)(SSe)2 (thin-film material)
CZTS     - Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4  (made of copper, zinc, and tin)
GW       - gigawatt
PV        - photovoltaic

Note: The original report was written by Teodor Todorov and David Mitzi, IBM Research photovoltaic scientists. Reference: IBM Research

TheGreenMechanics: Moving ahead for the better. With more and more breakthrough on finding cheaper and more efficient solar cell, let's hope that we wouldn't have to resort to nuclear power in the distant future.

I will lead you home

            Feeling safe?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Germany hikes electricity charge to finance Green Energy

It is inevitable, really.

To make renewable energy sustainable, a kind of levy has to be imposed on your energy consumption. The more you use energy the more surcharge (hidden charges if you like) will be levied on you. Germany is doing just that.

A biogas plant is seen behind a wind turbine in Nauen, Germany. Photo by AP via wtov9

Electricity surcharge up by almost 50%

Germany's electrical grid operators Monday (Oct 15, 2012) said they were hiking by nearly 50 percent the charge to consumers that goes to finance subsidies for renewable energy as the country phases out nuclear power.

Consumers will be asked to pay 0.05277 euros ($0.06839) per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed in 2013, the firms announced, compared to a 0.03592-euro surcharge this year.

For an average three-person house, this 47-percent increase amounts to an additional 60 euros per year to around 185 euros in add-on power taxes. In total, the network operators hope to collect more than 20 billion euros to finance renewables.

On Thursday, German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said that Europe's top economy wanted to have 40 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, up from a previous target of 35 percent.

Germany decided in the immediate wake of Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster to shut down its nuclear reactors by 2022 and ramp up the use of renewable energy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has made the so-called "Energiewende", the term used to describe both the end of nuclear power and the promotion of renewable energy sources, one of her government's priorities.

However, the policy has run into difficulties, notably due to technical and financing problems as well because of local resistance to building new power lines. - FRANCE24

Related story: Germany's clean-technologies industry to more than double by 2025

Germany's new electricity surcharge of €0.05277 (RM0.21) is almost equal to Malaysia's average household electricity price. According to the EU statistical office Eurostat, Germany's average household electricity price is €0.253 (about RM1.00) per kWh, the second highest in the 27-member bloc behind Denmark. Suddenly our electricity tariffs seem so cheap.

In Malaysia, to help finance the Feed-in Tariff scheme, consumers who use up more than 350kWh per month are levied with 1% surcharge. This is good for a start but that just shows that we are still at infancy stage compared to Germany.

How many trees are needed to provide enough oxygen for one person?

Short answer: 8 trees

Long answer (but why take the trouble to read further if you already know the answer?):

Simple. It's to satisfy your (and my) curiosity; to answer your how, why, what, etc. Or just for a the fun of it. Whichever the case maybe, it's good to know.

Rainforest tree at Forest Reserve of Poring Hot Spring, in Ranau Sabah.

The mechanism behind the production of Oxygen

Trees release oxygen when they use energy from sunlight to make glucose from carbon dioxide and water. Like all plants, trees also use oxygen when they split glucose back down to release energy to power their metabolisms. Averaged over a 24-hour period, they produce more oxygen than they use up; otherwise there would be no net gain in growth.

It takes 6 molecules of CO2 to produce 1 molecule of glucose by photosynthesis, and 6 molecules of oxygen are released as a by-product. A glucose molecule contains 6 carbon atoms, so that’s a net gain of 1 molecule of oxygen for every atom of carbon added to the tree. A mature sycamore tree might be around 12m tall and weigh 2,000kg, including the roots and leaves. If it grows by 5% each year, it will produce around 100kg of wood, of which 38kg will be carbon. Allowing for the relative molecular weights of oxygen and carbon, this equates to 100kg of oxygen per tree per year.

So, how many trees?

A human breathes about 9.5 tonnes of air in a year, but oxygen only makes up about 21% of that air, by mass, and we only extract a little over a third of the oxygen from each breath. That works out to a total of about 740kg of oxygen per year. Which is, very roughly, seven or eight trees’ worth.

Fact source is from Sciencefocus, but the picture is mine.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Japan to phase out nuclear energy by 2040

Wise move by Japan

On September 14, 2012, Japan announced that it too would phase out nuclear power generation by 2040 and would further develop renewable sources.

Nuclear japan2
There are more than 50 nuclear plants in Japan. Graphic by AFP

World's biggest nuclear power producers

Japan trails only the United States and France in nuclear power generation capacity, and replacing the country’s 49,000-megawatt nuclear generating capacity could mean a big boost for both green energy and natural gas suppliers. A possible downside is that Japan would increase imports of crude oil, which it also has been burning to generate electricity to replace production from Fukushima.

According to the Financial Times, Japan’s remaining 50 nuclear plants will be shut down once they reach an operating lifetime of 40 years and no new nukes will be constructed. The last plants were built in 2006.

Japan’s nuclear plants provided about 30% of the country’s electricity and the country had planned to raise that to 50% by 2030. Today only one of the country’s nukes is still in operation and the rest were not restarted following shutdowns for safety inspections. That was not because the plants failed the inspections, but because the government responded to public demands to keep the nukes closed.

Positive impact on Japan's energy alternatives

Japan is the world’s largest importer of natural gas, virtually all of it in the form of liquid natural gas (LNG.) The large LNG projects in the Middle East, South Asia and Australia have already gotten a boost, and that boost will last longer and may get larger for big LNG producers like Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips.

Japan currently has about 7% of the world’s total solar power capacity, and most analysts expect that number to rise significantly. Japan boosted its feed-in tariffs for solar power to $0.53 per kilowatt-hour in June over a period lasting for the next 20 years.

Japan’s Sharp is the world’s largest producer of solar PV panels, and with Kyocera poses a significant obstacle to foreign solar makers like First Solar and SunPower.

Wiser? While Malaysia plan to build, but Japan is shutting down

Malaysia, through MNPC (Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation) is said to be preparing a Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development Plan by 2013 to deliver Malaysia’s first nuclear power plant by 2021.

Earlier this year, MNPC and TNB revealed that the Nuclear Power Plant project has tiptoed to an advanced stage of development and that the final decision to “go nuclear” would be made next year or in 2014.

Nuclear power program in Malaysia - snapshot of IAEA's presentation

Why oh why, Malaysia?

Malaysia's plan to go nuclear is of great concern because Japan and France - the two supporters of nuclear energy - apparently have made major decisions to back away from reliance on nuclear power.

Germany announced earlier, after last year's disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, that it would abandon nuclear power generation by 2022. So, it is very wrong for Malaysia to go the opposite direction. It does have many other alternatives other than nuclear.

Come on!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Germany's Clean-technology industry to more than Double by 2025

Germany's clean-technologies industry is set to more than double in volume by 2025, creating jobs and maintaining its global market share, a study shows.

Installation of offshore wind mill. Photo: REpower Systems, one of the leading international manufacturers of wind turbines.

Green Technology continues to grow rapidly

The volume of German companies in areas such as resource efficiency, sustainable transport and recycling will rise 125% to €674 billion ($862 billion), Roland Berger Strategy Consultants said. They’ll keep a market share of about 15 percent while creating an expected 1 million jobs, it said.

“Green technologies are growth technologies,” Environment Minister Peter Altmaier, who commissioned the study, said today in Berlin. “We still have a leading position in clean technologies and we will do everything to defend that.”

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, plans to increase its reliance on renewable sources of power such as solar and wind as it phases out nuclear generation. Domestic technology companies such as Solarworld AG must contend with rising competition from Asia, where investment in clean energy has soared.

The German clean-tech industry is dominated by small- and medium-sized businesses that have helped stabilize the nation’s economy, Altmaier said. The country has a target to raise energy efficiency and lower greenhouse-gas emissions 40% by 2020 from 1990 levels.

The global clean-tech market will more than double to €4.4 trillion by 2025, according to the Roland Berger study.

TheGreenMechanics: As mentioned, the market for green technology will continue to grow rapidly and is becoming the driving force for growth in traditional industry sectors of many developed nations. Malaysia must take cue and not risk itself of missing out on clean energy boom.

The reporter on this story can be reached at For additional information, visit:

Top 10 heaviest land animals

The following is a list of top 10 heaviest land animals of the world.

Some may argue with the order of listing but you can always do a 5-minute search and you will have better idea. The heaviest land animals can be measured and defined using a variety of methods, such as by mass, height, volume, and length.

1. African elephant
Weight: Up to 10,000 kg (22,046 lb)
Largest recorded reach a height of 4m at the shoulder

African Elephants. The bush elephant is the bigger of the two species: The African bush elephant and African forest elephant. Photo by Joubert/N. Geographic

2. Asian Elephant
Weight: Up to 5,400 kg (11,905 lb)
Can reach a height of 3m at the shoulder
Asian Elephants can easily be distinguished from their African cousins by their smaller ears.. Photo by de engineur

3. Hippopotamus
Weight: Up to 3,200 kg (7,055 lb)
Its body can reach up to 5.4m length
African hippopotamus. Photo by Nichols/N. Geographic

4. White Rhinoceros
Weight: Up to 2,300 kg (5,071 lb)
The largest of the five rhinoceros species can be up to 4m long
White rhinoceros at Singapore Zoological Gardens. Photo by: de engineur

5. Giraffe
Weight: Up to 1,932 kg (4,260 lb)
A giraffe's neck can be 2.4m long
Giraffes shot at Singapore Zoological Gardens. Photo by: de engineur

6. Walrus
Weight: Up to 1,500 kg (3.307 lb)
Its tusks can reach 1m in length
Walruses use their tusks to help pull themselves out of the water. Photo by: Curtsinger/N.Geographic

7. Black Rhinoceros
Weight: Up to 1,400 kg (3,086 lb)
Height can be up to 1.8m at the shoulder

8. Gaur
Weight: Up to 1,300 kg (2,866 lb)
Also called the Indian bison, the biggest bovid can reach 2.2m at the shoulder.
The Malayan gaur is called Seladang. Photo by: de engineur

9. Asian Bufallo
Weight: Up to 1,200 kg (2,645 lb)
It has the widest horn span of any bovid. It can span up to 2 m
Asian water buffalos are domesticated animals. Photo by: de engineur

10. Saltwater crocodile
Weight: Up to 1,000 kg (2,205 lb)
The largest reptile in the world can grow to 8 - 10m in length
The above given figures are speculative as Guinness World Record holder for largest saltwater crocodile (in captivity) is the Philippine's Lolong which measures only at 6.17m (20.24 ft) in length. Pictured above is one of the bigger crocodiles at Tuaran Crocodile Farm. Photo by de engineur

Source: Top ten list obtained from Sun Life, DE, Oct. 14, 2012 - pp 13

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Naked protest by woman

No idea what happened to her after the incident but it is sad that this was attributed to yet another land dispute.

Sabah land and survey department is notoriously known for poor handling of land applications. There're just too many pending cases. A case in point, my late father had an application for a piece of land when I was still a small boy. I have kids now and the application is still waiting for approval.

Naked protest
Daily Express, Oct. 3, 2012

Woman strips in protest

Last week a 39-year-old local woman ran around the old township in Keningau naked for 200 metres before she was stopped by police and taken to hospital.

According to a relative, the woman who has three children but divorced from her West Malaysia husband had returned to the State to claim her father's land of about 30 acres, which had been developed by Felcra and had started yielding fruits.

It was learnt that certain irresponsible quarters had reaped the land's yield of about RM33,000. The woman had filed a complaint at the Nabawan district office and also obtained the service of a lawyer to help her case but until now to no avail.

On Monday at about 9.00am, the woman took off her clothes near Keningau Mall and ran around the old township before returning to the Kedai Telekom. She was arrested by police and sent to the hospital for treatment.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Malaysia: 5.5% total energy capacity from Renewable sources by 2015

In less than 2 years from now, Malaysia expect to generate 5.5% of its total energy capacity from renewable source. Going by what's hot on the list of Sustainable Energy Development Authority, these sources would most definitely be Biogas, Biomass, Hydro-power and Solar PV.

Wind solar hybrid at Pulau Perhentian Kecil
Wind turbines and solar PV in Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Terengganu. Photo by TNB via Pemandu.

Facts from PM's keynote address

Objective             : National energy generation mix to have 5.5% from renewable source
Timeline               : 2015, and 11% by 2020
Job created          : 50,000 (by 2020)
Economy             : RM70 bil worth of economic activity (by 2020)
CO2 avoidance    : 42.2 mil tonnes, or about 40%

As reported by the media

The Prime Minister said the government had created support mechanisms, including the Feed-in-Tariff, which pays a premium rate for green electricity to achieve the goal.

"We have pushed renewable energy into the spotlight and now aim to secure 5.5 per cent of the total energy capacity from renewable sources by 2015 and 11 per cent by 2020," he said in his keynote address at the official opening of the third International Greentech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia (IGEM 2012) here on Thursday.

He said it is estimated that renewable energy will generate RM70 billion worth of economic activity by 2020 and support 50,000 jobs.

"It will also avoid 42.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions, about a 40 per cent reduction, which I promised at the Copenhagen Climate Conference," he added.

Energy efficiency and other green initiatives

Alongside generating more clean electricity, Najib said Malaysia must also strive to conserve it, as energy efficiency can save Malaysia RM14 billion in Gross National Income (GNI) by 2020.

"So, we are developing Energy Services Companies to help users find savings, encouraging energy efficient appliances for homes and businesses, and supporting efficiency drives with tax incentives," he added.

He said Malaysia had good potential to become a regional hub for electric vehicles, with a vibrant, world-class industry. "That is why we reviewed the National Automotive Policy, to stimulate investments in electric vehicles, with research grants and tax incentives," he highlighted. He said Malaysia's green industries are already worth some RM67 billion and grew by six per cent between 2010 to 2011, outstripping the global green sector.

"One of my ambitions is to encourage green industries to expand and innovate, and not just for the environment, but because it is so plainly good for our economy," he added.

Najib said it is estimated that all the green projects under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) will generate a total GNI of RM53 billion by 2020.

TheGreenMechanics' two cents: We are still waiting for the launch of more affordable Electric Vehicles (EV) in Malaysia. Much has been talked about full EV and let's hope that sky-high motor vehicle prices exclude environment friendly models like EV.

Secondly, the FIT should cover other states like Sarawak and Sabah and not just those in Peninsula Malaysia. It is still unclear if the suspension on FIT scheme in Sabah has been lifted.

Source: The Star

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Powering half the world with Wind by 2030

Is it possible? Will nations with good wind potential (and those with money) go for it?

In 2011, nearly 200,000 wind turbines around the world met 2.5% of global energy needs. But according to RenewableEnergyWorld, new study tells that there is every possibility that wind could power half the world with clean energy by 2030. That is pretty impressive.

Giant wind-turbine blades belong to GE Energy Financial Services. Photo: GE

Wind power fast growing

Wind power is now the fastest-growing and one of the cheapest renewable energy sources, and in last year 40.5 GW of new wind power was brought on line, bringing the global total capacity up to 238 GW. This is translated into offsetting over 600 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Researchers estimated that 4 million 5MW turbines operating at a height of 100 meters could provide over 7.5 TW of power, at no risk to the environment. This is more than half of our energy needs (which is estd. 5.75 TW) in 2030.

Wind power is the least damaging option

The research team is confident that of all the sources of energy, wind is one of the sources of energy with the least environmental impact. Energy from wind would come from the mixture of onshore and offshore wind turbine, with offshore likely to be more important to the future of wind due to several advantages:
  • It’s right there on the coasts, where the people are. Hence lower cost to install,
  • Offshore wind tends to peak in the afternoon, which is when people peak with demand for electricity,
  • Offshore sites tend to be windier than onshore sites.

Wind turbines are expensive now but at the rate technology is advancing today, it would not be too far-fetched to think about 'affordability' in the near future.

TheGreenMechanics: No doubt, offshore wind turbines are less expensive in a long run, but with gigantic 100m high unsightly poles in waters near you, you'd be in for a less than desirable sea view. Of course you have to compromise a thing or two to get clean energy.

Further readings, please go to: RenewableEnergyWorld

Monday, October 8, 2012

Why do we see only one side of the moon

Do you enjoy the sight of full moon? Then you may want to read on.

moonlighting by JDFloydPictures
Copyrighted by TheGreenMechanics

Actually it's not just 'half' or one side of the moon. A little googling and you'd find that due to slight changes called libration, we can see slightly more than half of the moon over the time of its orbit. Look at the two shots below (I took them in Penampang Sabah, Malaysia) on two different times and they will give you some idea.

full moon
End of year shot of the full moon

Moon full on July14-2011 -800
Full moon shot taken in Penampang, Sabah

So, why only one side?

The time taken for the Moon to spin on its axis is almost exactly the same as the time it takes to orbit the Earth. Hence, the Moon always keeps the same side pointing our way.

According to Sciencefocus, this is not a coincidence as over many years, the Earth’s gravity has forced the Moon to spin synchronously with its orbit. However, things are a bit more complicated than that. Viewed from Earth, the Moon appears to rock slowly backwards and forwards so that we see a slightly different face throughout the lunar month.

There are two main reasons for this.
  • First, the Moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical not circular so its rotation is sometimes ahead, and sometimes behind, its orbital motion. 
  • Second, the Moon’s rotation axis is not at right angles to its orbit around the Earth so we can sometimes see ‘over’ or ‘under’ its poles. 

Over time this means we actually get to see about 59% of the Moon’s surface. I have illustrated that in my two shots above. I have quite a collection of moon shots, I would probably share them here in future.

Facts source: Sciencefocus
Note: The pictures are my own.