Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sarawak Energy awards RM1.2 billion 500kV backbone projects

Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) awarded six contracts packages worth total of RM1.2 billion for the 500kV Transmission Backbone project yesterday.

Based on the information submitted by successful tenderers, SEB said, over 60 local companies, employing an estimated 30,000 workers, will be involved in the awarded contracts.

Successful bidders of the project which is expected to commence in October 2013 and is scheduled for completion in stages from December 2015 to June 2016 are:

Six successful bidders,with more than 50% local participation

Better power supply system for Sarawak?

The local participation across the six packages is well above 50% the company said. The 500kV project would extend over 500 kilometres from Similajau in Bintulu to Tondong in Kuching.

Sarawak Energy said the 500kV transmission backbone project would support the future development of the company's generating system and provide a strong security of supply to the fast-expanding Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy (SCORE) customers.

TheGreenMechanics: Sarawak is a big state and the high voltage transmission lines can not only carry more power, but they also have lower losses. High voltage lines of max 500kV (so far) is used by TNB in West Malaysia.

Annual solar radiations in different cities in Malaysia

Two places where you'd get the best solar radiation in Malaysia are Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) and Bayan Lepas (Penang), with the former as the best spot.

It's a shame we do not have the SEDA Feed-in Tariff (FiT) in place in Sabah and Sarawak.

Table 1: Annual solar radiation in different cities/town in Malaysia
* Source - Sustainable Energy and Environment Forum

Annual average value per square metre of solar cell.

Table 1 above shows that every square metre of solar panel produces 1,900 kW of energy per hour in Kota Kinabalu, compared to only 1,571 kW per hour in Kuala Lumpur; assuming 100% solar cell efficiency.

This means that for a solar panel with efficiency of 15%, you get:

285 Watt per hour in Kota Kinabalu
235 Watt per hour in Kuala Lumpur

With 5 hours of good sun per day, and with an installation of 10 m2 of solar PV, you produce energy in the region of:

14.25 kWh in Kota Kinabalu, daily
11.75 kWh in Kuala Lumpur, daily

Income generated at both locations

Take the above installation size, and take the current FiT for solar PV of RM1.37/kWh, you generate and sell electricity to TNB from the roof of your home or car garage at:

K.Kinabalu     : RM586 per month or RM7,125 annually
K.Lumpur       : RM482 per month or RM5,875 annually

As you can see, location makes a lot of difference. Folks in Sabah and Penang are primely located, which makes you wonder why the Sabah state government is not willing to contribute to the Renewable Energy Fund to get the people enjoy the same benefit as of those in West Malaysia.

The levy is just 1% of the the monthly electricity bills and it affects only the bigger energy users, i.e, those paying more than RM77 per month.

Alternatively, the state government can set aside an annual budget and pay to the fund holders at SEDA Malaysia for the first, say, 3 years. Thereafter, let the consumers pay the 1% levy just like those in peninsula.

Best spots to generate renewable energy through solar - the northern states. Image credit: SEE Forum

TheGreenMechanics: Again, it's a shame Renewable Energy FiT is not applicable in Sabah.

Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

SEDA Malaysia announced final release of 1,500kW Solar PV quota for Individuals

Rooftop solar PV. Image credit: Green Remodel Forum

Sustainable Energy Development Authority Malaysia (SEDA Malaysia) announced the release of 1,500kW of solar photovoltaic (PV) quota for the individuals in three batches.

The quota for individual under the Solar Home Rooftop Programme will be released at noon on:-
  • 28th August 2013 (Wednesday)       - 500kW
  • 4th September 2013 (Wednesday)   - 500kW
  • 11th September 2013 (Wednesday) - 500kW

After 11th September 2013, there will be no more release of any solar PV quota for the individuals because it is not realistic for these individual Feed-In Approvals Holders (FiAHs) to be able to achieve commercial operation of their PV system by year end.

Any renewable energy projects which are supposed to achieve commercial operation by this year and fails to do so will incur further degression to their FiT rate as stipulated in their Feed-In Approval (FiA) certificate. It is thus important for all FiAHs to note for solar PV for the individuals, the degression rate is 8% whilst for the non-individuals, it is 20%.

Preventing potential abuse

In order to prevent any potential abuse of solar PV quota for the individuals, effective 28th August 2013, the solar PV quota for the individual will be applicable only for residential premises under individual names only.

However applicants who are applying as an enterprise/sole proprietor/partnership for buildings or premises registered under individual names will also be allowed to apply for a FiA under the individual quota.

Useful reminder

SEDA Malaysia reminds all interested FiA applicants to comply with all the requirements during application as follows:
  1. Ensure all information submitted through the e-FiT online system is accurate, clear and precise as any ambiguity may result in automatic refusal;
  2. Declaration form must be uploaded to the e-FiT online system within three (3) calendar days from the application date; and
  3. The hardcopy of the declaration form and proof of payment of application and processing fees must be received by SEDA Malaysia within seven (7) calendar days from the application date.

TheGreenMechanics: According to SEDA Malaysia, as at end of July 2013, it has approved renewable energy capacity is 509.75 MW but so far only 112.44 MW is connected to the grid. We are a bit slow in implementing approved projects!

Source: SEDA Malaysia press release, dated 27th August 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Solar demands surges in Asia

We've heard in the recent time that solar panel manufacturers are scaling back and some them even filed for bankruptcy.

But in contrary, Bloomberg reported this week that three major solar manufacturers are producing panels at full speed and contemplating plans to expand capacity to meet surging demand in Asia. They are Trina Solar, SunPower and Jinko Solar.

Green money surging in Asia? Image credit: REW

Increased production by major solar manufacturers

Trina Solar, the third-largest panel producer, increased its forecast for panel shipments this year to as much as 2.4 GW from an earlier range of 2 GW - 2.1 GW. Trina shipped 647 MW of panels in the second quarter, up 54% from a year earlier. It expects to deliver as much as 680 MW this quarter.

SunPower Corp. and JinkoSolar Holding Co. said they're also running their factories at maximum and mulling ways to boost output. The industry has been battered by excess production that drove panel prices down 61% since the start of 2011.

JinkoSolar expanded its annual production capacity to 1.5 GW from 1.2 GW, which won't be enough to meet its 2013 forecast of 1.5 GW - 1.7 GW of panel shipments. The factories are running at about 90% of capacity now.

SunPower said on July 31 that it's exploring ways to increase capacity, including expanding a joint venture with AU Optronics Corp.

"The solar industry was put into a bad, bad downturn, a horrendous margin environment. New markets, China, Japan, are growing, more than offsetting slowing markets like Europe."
- Dan Ries, an analyst with Maxim Group LLC.

Japan is promoting wider use of solar power after closing nuclear facilities following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. China has said it expects to install 10 gigawatts of solar panels this year.

According to Bloomberg, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. is the largest panel manufacturer by 2012 shipments, followed by Suntech Power Holdings Co.

TheGreenMechanics: In a small way, Malaysia too, is contributing to this increase in demand in Asia thanks to our very attractive Feed-in Tariff rates for electricity generated from solar PV. Response is very encouraging especially from non-individual segment.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sabah Development Bank ventures into oil & gas

There are ways and means for us to get involved in the oil and gas industry in Malaysia. One of them is by becoming a multi-discipline bank.

The acquisition of an Oil & Gas player, M3nergy, by Sabah Development Bank (SDB) is expected to pave the way for the state to have better participation in the lucrative O&G market.

Recently, SDB acquired M3nergy through a debt for equity swap, and according to Malaysia Oil & Gas, this take over includes Bukit Tua project recently awarded by Petronas.

Corporate structure of SDB: Diversified business including hotel, water treatment and Oil & gas

SDB down to business in O&G immediately

Malaysia’s M3nergy have lined up Singapore’s Keppel Shipyard for the conversion of a floating, production, storage and offloading (FSOP) vessel destined for the Petronas-operated Bukit Tua oil and gas development off Indonesia.

Keppel landed the job after beating other Asian yards including Malaysia Marine Heavy Engineering for the conversion work. Works on the vessel conversion at the Singapore yard is understood to be already ongoing and with cost estimated in access of RM800 million.

Work will take between 20 to 24 months to complete, with delivery from the yard penciled in for the first half of 2014.

The tanker will be converted into a production floater with a design capacity of up to 50,000 barrels per day of liquids and a storage capability of up to 600,000 barrels of products.

Petronas has issued a letter of award to M3nergy for the supply of the FPSO to go on five year fixed term charter, plus options to extend for another two years.

M3nergy receive a significant cash injection after state-owned shareholder, Sabah Development Bank, moved to take over 100% interest in the private-owned FPSO contractor.

The Bukit Tua production floater will be tied to a wellhead platform likely to be fabricated at two separate yards in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s minister of energy and mineral resources, Jero Wacik said last year after a meeting with Petronas’ chief executive, Shamsul Azhar Abbas, production at Bukit Tua will start in October 2014.

TheGreenMechanics: A timely move by Sabah Development Bank. Instead of begging and asking for help from others, it bought its way in literally. Kudos to the management team at SDB!

Reference: partly Malaysia Oil & Gas, and other news blowing in the wind.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How do wireless charging mats work

By now, most of us would be familiar with wireless charging.

When Samsung announced its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4, it came supported by wireless charging, although not out of the box; meaning you have to buy the charging mat separately.

Charging pad for the Galaxy S4. It works on induction concept. Remember AC induction motors?

Wireless charging mats allow you to power-up multiple gadgets all at once by simply resting them on the surface, eliminating the need for tangled wires and device-specific adaptors.

How do they work?

They work via a process known as magnetic induction, the same method used to charge electrical toothbrushes, which employs an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two objects.

According to Faraday’s law of induction, a current is produced when a conductive substance passes through a magnetic field. So the electromagnetic force created in the mat induces a current in the device you’re charging.

In future, manufacturers plan to integrate the technology into the gadgets, as well as domestic surfaces and furniture, so you can just drop your gadgets on the kitchen table and leave them to charge. For now, though, your gadgets have to be slipped into special cases that will enable wireless charging.

Friday, August 23, 2013

4G service now available on Mount Everest

No jungle's to deep and no mountain's too high.

That's what two of the global telecommunication giants from China  -  Huawei and China Mobile - did last month. They successfully deployed 4G coverage on Mount Everest, some 5,200 metres above sea level and demonstrated this by streaming live HD video from a Mount Everest base camp to the event venue.

This is pretty impressive, considering the engineering challenges the IT companies faced at 5,200 metres high (17,000 feet). Our own Mount Kinabalu is 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) in height.

Mount Everest is 8,848-metre high and the 4G facility is constructed at 5,200-metre high. Photo by Luca Galuzzi

This is not the first attempt at bringing high-speed broadband to the world's tallest mountain as in 2007, the two companies worked together to provide GSM services ahead of the 2008 Olympics Games torch relay. But it's a first for super-fast connectivity, the 4G LTE.

Concerns on spying?

Huawei has delivered 4G solutions to other parts of the region including EPC (Evolved Packet Core), integrated equipment rooms, BTS (Base Transceiver Station), microwave transmission and 4G devices.

However, Computerworld reported that  the company is still struggling to win approval in the UK and the US, due to its close ties with the Chinese government. Huawei's founder, Ren Zhengfei, is a former Red Army officer, but the company denies receiving any financial support from the government.

Huawei has been banned from doing business in the US and blacklisted from Australia's critical national infrastructure.

Our telcos are still far behind in terms of deploying 4G LTE connectivity in this country. Instead of collaborating, they make life difficult for themselves by refusing to share the burden of putting up the network infrastructure.

Well, they shares some communication towers, but that is all.

Source: Computerworld Malaysia

Thursday, August 22, 2013

8 out of 10 Malaysian Internet users shop online

That's according to Trend Micro, a Malaysia-based Internet content developer of security and threat management solutions.

So, that makes me an odd species among the many Internet users in Malaysia as I don't really shop online. Okay, I make online rewards points redemption on my credit card, but that's about it. I don't shop online, not for foods, not for gadgets, not just yet.

Besides, I can drive to the city center in 15 minutes if I need to. But of course, things could change - if not soon, later.

Are you an online shopper?

Read what Trend Micro found out, and be warned of the risk involved:

Recent online survey shows that eight out of 10 Malaysian Internet users now shop online, an increase that reflects a global and regional increase in online commerce.

Global online retails sales passed US$1 trillion last year and are expected to grow by 17.1% this year, according to eMarketer, with the Asia Pacific region accounting for more than a third of the sales.

The company cited market research firm Nielsen's expectations that Malaysia's online shopping market would increase to RM5 billion (US$1.52 billion) by 2015.

The rapid growth of online shopping worldwide together with the immense increase of money changing hands in the cyberspace, especially after the reduction of the of the Online Interbank GIRO (IBG) to 10 sen, will attract more cyber criminals to target online shoppers.

Risks for online shoppers:

"The main risks for online shoppers lie in replying to unsolicited emails spoofed to appear to originate from reputable retailers. Clicking through the links in these could lead unsuspecting users to a phishing site designed to steal their credit card credentials."
- Goh Chee Hoh, Managing Director, SEA Region, Trend Micro Inc

TheGreenMechanics: So, at a dinner table of ten Internet savvies, two of us would be at odds with the rest of the people. Wow, that's a bit stressing, LOL.

Source: Computerworld Malaysia

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Proton's new Suprima S launched, price starts at RM76,338 (RM78,338 in Sabah)

Proton is expecting to correct the public perception that the local car manufacturer produces sub standard cars with the launch of its latest offering, the Proton Suprima S.

Proton says that this car is RM40,000 cheaper than other makes in the same class. This puts the Suprima S (by Proton's own words) in the same league with Honda Civic, Toyota Altis, Ford Focus and Nissan Sylphy, which are priced around RM115,000 to RM120,000.

For comparison, the RM89,000 Kia Forte is known to be in the same segment as Civic, Altis and the peers.

Ok, I know the Suprima S is a hatchback, but yes, price-wise - that's what Proton is saying.

Proton Suprima S
The Suprima S looks exactly the same as the Preve, except that it is a hatchback.

In Peninsula Malaysia, on-the-road selling price for the Proton Suprima S, which comes with a five-year warranty and five-year free road assist programme, is as follows:

Proton Suprima S 1.6 Executive (metallic) RM76,688
Proton Suprima S 1.6 Executive (solid) RM76,338
Proton Suprima S 1.6 Premium (metallic) RM79,988
Proton Suprima S 1.6 Premium (solid) RM79,638

You have every reason to be pissed off if you've been expecting a similar pricing in Sabah. In Kota Kinabalu area, you are slapped with a RM2,000 'premium' compared to those in West Malaysia:

Proton Suprima S 1.6 Executive (metallic) RM78,688
Proton Suprima S 1.6 Executive (solid) RM78,338
Proton Suprima S 1.6 Premium (metallic) RM81,988
Proton Suprima S 1.6 Premium (solid) RM81,638

"I hope the perception that Proton produces cheap, low quality cars will be corrected because Proton cars are of the same standard as other famous car manufacturers."
- Proton Advisor, Dr Mahathir during the launch of Suprima S.

Suprima S is Proton's first 'hatchback' model fitted with high safety features such as ABS with EBD, brake assist, electronic stability control (ESC), traction control and two rear Isofix mounts. Both Suprima S variants are equipped with six airbags - front, side and curtain.

Five colours are available for the Proton Suprima S, these being Atlantic Blue, Fire Red, Genetic Silver, Tranquility Black and Solid White.

Proton Suprima S 1.6 CVT

TheGreenMechanics: Go for a test-drive, even if you aren't a fan of proton cars. This one looks nice on paper, we are planning to go to the nearest showroom and touch the metal ourselves.

Monday, August 19, 2013

SEDA pays out RM38 million to Renewable Energy feed-in approval holders

As of June 2013, SEDA Malaysia has paid about RM38 million to feed-in approval holders (FiAH) in the country.

What is Feed-in Approval Holder (FiAH)

FiAH is an individual or company who holds a feed-in approval issued by SEDA Malaysia, and the holder is eligible to sell electricity from renewable energy sources.

Example: If you have applied for FiT for installation of rooftop Solar PV from SEDA, and your application have been approved, you become a Feed-in Approval Holder.

FiT Quota Allocation
Small Hydro
Solar PV (individual)
Solar PV 
Approved no.of applications
Approved capacity (MW)
Source: SEDA,    as of June 2013

RM38 million disbursed so far

Under the Renewable Energy Act 2011, individuals or non-individuals can sell electricity generated from renewable energy (RE) resources back to power utility firms at a fixed premium price for a specific time.

The four RE resources that are eligible for feed-in-tariff are biogas, biomass, small hydropower and solar photovoltaic (PV).

The payment is financed by an RE Fund contributed by electricity consumers who consume more than 300kWh of electricity per month. The current 1% extra charge translates to about RM300mil per annum.

“The amount of quota to be released depends on the amount of RE Fund which comes from the 1% extra charge currently imposed on the electricity tariff. The release of new quotas would depend on the next extra 1% supposed to be imposed in the next electricity tariff review, which is yet to be announced by the Government.” - SEDA Malaysia interviewed by StarBiz.

Can FiAH be revoked?

SEDA would not hesitate to revoke the licences given to FiAH who did not comply with the required project milestones. However, it is a tedious process to revoke FiAH and the revocation was legal, and thus, the authority would need some time to check if all milestones had been met.

The basis for revocation is always because FiAHs are unable to meet their milestones on project progress despite repeated reminders.

As of June 30, Seda had approved a total of 1,614 applications, with a total capacity of 480.45 MW, out of which 189.78 MW was from Solar PV.

Source: TheStar

180 MW hydropower plan to improve electricity in Sabah

The proposed 180 MW Ulu Padas Hydroelectric Project is scheduled for construction in 2014 and is targeted for completion in 2019. We've been slow at implementing similar initiative, but at least this should be a sign that things are finally moving.

This project is unique in that it only use small area of water catchment per megawatt of electricity generated. Meaning, much lesser environmental impact.

Daily Express, Sunday - August 18, 2013

The hydroelectric proposal in brief

Installed capacity : 180 MW
Location  : Kuala Tomani, Tenom
Cost : RM2.3 billion (approx US$702 million)
Catchment area : 590 hectares, or 3.3 ha/MW
Scheduled commencement : 2014
Scheduled completion : 2019
Employment created : 1,000 during construction

The project is also expected to tackle the perennial flooding issues in Beaufort and Tenom areas.

RM2.3 billion hydroelectric project in Tenom

Construction of the Upper Padas Hydroelectric Project (UPHEP) with a capacity of 180 megawatt (MW) at the Padas basin, upstream of Kuala Tomani in Tenom, would proceed next year and is targeted for completion in 2019.

The project had been approved with a government soft loan of RM569 million for SESB’s equity injection into a special purpose company to be set up to undertake the project.

The paper reported that UPHEP requires a water catchment area (** TheGreenMechanics' note: I believe this refers to 'flooded area' or surface area rather than catchment area) of only 590 hectares, or 3.3 hectares per MW, unlike the Bakun hydroelectric project which requires up to 29 hectares of land per megawatt of power generated and the Murum hydro’s 26 hectares per MW.

Murum hydroelectric has an installed capacity of 944 MW, while Bakun is 2,400 MW. Both are located in Sarawak.

“This project can qualify for the Clean Development Mechanism status under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”- Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, Datuk Dr. Maximus Ongkili

The government expect to save about RM4 billion in 40 years of the project operation as the infrastructure would be undertaken by the SESB and a consortium to be set up by the federal government. Subsequently, SESB's dependency on government subsidy can be reduced, while costs and losses from possible flooding are expected to be significantly reduced.

Assurance of proper EIA study

The Minister assured the people that the state government will ensure the preservation of the ecosystem at the project site while SESB is currently conducting a detailed engineering study and relevant activities associated with the special Environment Impact Assessment study.

Let's hope this will improve electricity supply in Sabah. If proper environment assessment is done, and the welfare of those affected are fairly taken cared of, the people should give-and-take and allow this development to be carried out.

Source: Front page, Daily Express, Sunday August 18, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

No grid power, no problem!

                               Image credit: US Solar Institute

I really hope I can say so.

With power failure so frequent (almost on weekly basis - we had one last night), I really hope I can power up my home with solar, like Mr. Island-man.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Solar PV market worth $134 billion by 2020

Being the third-largest deployed renewable technology globally (after small hydro and wind), the world passed the 100 GW mark in cumulative installed photovoltaic capacity in 2012.

By 2020, cumulative installation is predicted to more than quadruple at 438 GW worldwide. Pretty remarkable, eh?

Annual revenue from solar installations will top $134 billion by 2020

Market analyst Navigant Research has predicted annual revenues from PV installations worldwide will top US$134 billion by 2020.

The company's report predicts most government renewable energy installation targets will be met in coming years resulting in 438 GW of cumulative installations worldwide over the next seven years.

Navigant Research predicts solar will be able to stand as a viable competitor to conventional electricity independent of incentives in 2017, a year after the tax credit for solar investment in the U.S. falls to 10%.

The release predicts solar will be cost competitive with electricity without subsidies across 'most of the world' by 2020.

Navigant's Dexter Gauntlett says financial incentives, government renewables targets and technology cost reductions remain the three forces driving the adoption of solar.

Source: PV magazine

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

People's power: Western Australia reversed decision to cut FiT rate for residential Solar PV

Australians living in Western Australia enjoy rooftop solar PV feed-in tariff rate of A$0.40/kWh (approx. RM1.19/kWh) and this is slightly lower than Malaysia's rate of RM1.37/kWh.

But what's interesting here is the state government's reversal of its earlier decision to halve the currently A$0.40 per kWh to A$0.20 per kWh amidst strong protest from people with solar panels installed on their rooftops.

It's encouraging to note that there are about 75,000 solar-owning voters in Western Australia. This shows that at a rate lower than Malaysia's, solar power is very much viable.

Here are the details:

6-panel solar PV array on suburban Australian rooftop. Image by: REW

Western Australia backs down on Solar Feed-in Tariff cut

Western Australia’s government today announced a reversal of its earlier decision to retrospectively halve its AUD $0.40/kWh feed-in tariff (FiT) for residential solar power, only four days after announcing it.

Premier Colin Barnett said during weekly cabinet meeting that the decision to cut the FiT had been a mistake.

The state’s budget, announced last Thursday, said the FiT would be retroactively halved to $0.20/kWh in a bid to save $51.2 million over the next four years. But since then MPs have been deluged with protests from angry voters, including a petition organised by solar advocacy group Solar Citizens which the group said gathered 8000 signatures in just three days.

Solar Citizens also began a campaign to focus on unseating politicians holding marginal seats in solar-heavy areas.

The strength of the protest caused a political firestorm, with The West Australian newspaper reporting that criticism even came from within the governing party.

But the real surprise was the mobilisation of what the government estimates are 75,000 solar-owning voters in the state, which apparently frightened politicians in light of Australia’s upcoming federal election on 7 September.

“Quite simply, we got this decision wrong and we have to fix it. We have listened, and we appreciate the commitment that many people have made to take up renewable energy, like solar power.” - Western Australia Premier, Colin Barnett.

TheGreenMechanics: Our FiT rate is considered more attractive and is funded by consumers that consume more energy. Small energy users are not affected. That's fine by me.

Source: REW

Your favourite headline - Higher BR1M

This is about BR1M or 'brim' - the 1Malaysia People's Assistance or Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia.

On surface, it looks good and who says higher cash payout is bad? But wait a minute. It started with RM500 per household earning less than RM3,000 a month, then a RM500 + RM250 was splashed again right before the general election. And there's more, here:

BR1M of more than RM500 would be given to the deserving citizens next year.

They are planning to increase this to RM1,200 within a span of several years during the current government's term. This kind of candy is NOT SUSTAINABLE and is unfair to the genuinely deserving citizens.

I totally disagree with such expenditures. They could spend the RM5 billion to RM10 billion on providing basic infrastructures in the rural areas such as road and electricity.

After all, these are the target areas for the BR1M.

Monday, August 12, 2013

World’s slowest moving drop caught on camera after 13 years!

It took them 13 years to finally capture on camera a single drop of the world's slowest-moving drop - a bitumen, or asphalt drop. That's very very slow, but it sure moves.

No wonder, you find the tarred road moving a little bit after few years, and it moves much faster than 13 years due to the vehicular weight it is holding on a daily basis.

Exactly how this experiment can benefit mankind, I don't know but for the sake of reading, here it goes:

Fall of a drop of tar pitch caught on camera for the first time. Image source: Discovery News

Slowest drop caught on camera

The second-longest running science experiment in history has just yielded its strange result: a sticky, black drop of pitch.

Set up in 1944 at Trinity College Dublin, the experiment is meant to reveal the strange properties of bitumen -- pitch, or asphalt -- which appears solid at room temperature but is in fact flowing very, very slowly.

At around 5 o'clock in the afternoon on July 11, 2013, physicist Shane Bergin and colleagues recorded what Nature described as one of the most eagerly anticipated and exhilarating drips in science.

“We were all so excited,” Bergin told Nature. “It’s been such a great talking point, with colleagues eager to investigate the mechanics of the break, and the viscosity of the pitch.”

The Trinity College team estimates the pitch to be about 2 million times more viscous than honey, or 20 billion times the viscosity of water.

The origin of the experiment is lost in history, although a similar experiment at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, set up in 1927, is tagged by Guinness World Records as the world’s longest running lab experiment.

More details, go to Nature News

Friday, August 9, 2013

Residential Solar PV system financing packages by Senheng

Climate is certainly good for the solar PV industry in Malaysia; at least where financing is concerned.

Just a couple of months ago, Alliance Bank Bhd came up with Home Complete Plus-Solar Panel Financing. Then, earlier this month, Bank Muamalat became the second bank in Malaysia to offer financing for solar PV under the Home Solar Rooftop Programme by SEDA.

Simplified details of the 3 packages offered by Senheng

Latest to join in the bandwagon is Senheng Electric (KL) Sdn Bhd, an electrical and electronic retail chain store with more than 130 outlets nationwide, with its financing package themed “Green Energy, Green Money”. It is slightly different in that the package includes consulting, installation and maintenance of the solar PV system, whereas Alliance Bank and Bank Muamalat only provide financing after the customer has fulfilled all the installation requirement on his own.

Green Energy, Green Money

The theme “Green Energy, Green Money” is derived from the idea that the residential solar PV system is one of the most effective ways in producing green energy, while at the same time able to provide a source of income. Consumers will now be able to play a very important role in decreasing the harmful impact of traditional energy sources (fuel, coal, etc) to the environment, whilst generating a side income.

3 Packages available

Senheng offers 3 residential solar PV system packages, all come with free first 3 years maintenance service:-
4kWp system - cost around RM40,800
8kWp system - cost around RM81,600
12kWp system - cost around RM122,400

Senheng provides 85% financing with special low interest rate for customers, and as a carrot, customers are entitled to 15% cash rebate after full installation.


This will initially be available only at Klang Valley Senheng outlets and senQ Digital Stations, but the company will expand to other states over time.

Very attractive prepositions, especially with the 15% cash rebate upon full completion. A bold move by the company. But the 'special low interest rate' now seems like a distant reality as the company needs to recoup the rebate amount - RM6,120, RM12,240 and RM18,360 - respectively for each package.

Note: The total revenue and total surplus mentioned in the brochure are only estimations. Actual revenue will be determined by weather condition and efficiency of the solar PV system.

An interesting alternative though, for the consumers.

Reference: Senheng Electrical website

Use your urine to charge mobile phone!

Put your phone on the ground and pee on it!

Maybe not literally, but soon you will be able to charge your phone with urine. Not only that, the researchers aim to eventually use the technology to power household electrical appliances, too.

You may not have to waste your urine anymore. Image credit: Discovery news

Alternative power source: Urine powers mobile phone

British scientists said they have harnessed the power of urine and are able to charge a mobile phone with enough electricity to send texts and surf the Internet.

Researchers from the University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory in south west England said they had created a fuel cell that uses bacteria to break down urine to generate electricity, in a study published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

"The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun; we are actually reusing waste to create energy. One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine."
-Ioannis Ieropoulos, engineer/researcher at University of Bristol

According to them, the cell is currently big - the size of a car battery - but hope to shrink it to become portable soon.

How it works

The team grew bacteria on carbon fiber anodes and placed them inside ceramic cylinders. The bacteria broke down chemicals in urine passed through the cylinders, building up a small amount of electrical charge which was stored on a capacitor (battery).

The microbial fuel power stack (MFC) that they have developed generates enough power to enable SMS messaging, web browsing and to make a brief phone call.

As long as people continue to pee, raw material for this technology will be available. The task now is to refine the idea to make the invention capable of fully charging a phone battery.

Source: Discovery news

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Rooftop gone green: Wright idea, Wrong execution

"We're saving so much money with our new solar panels that we can now burn our parking lot lights 24 hours a day!"

Image credit: Kimcorealty

Solar-powered laptop lasts 10 hours on a charge

Think solar, think independent.

You can go far away from the power grid and still get connected to the rest of the world. You can do so with the truly independent laptop, the SOL which can be powered by just "plugging" it into the sun. During night time, or when the sun isn't there, you can run it all night long with its powerful battery, claimed to be up to 10 hours!

The laptop charges up in 2 hours and can last up to 10 hours. Image credit: SOL

SOL laptop comes loaded with all the productivity and creativity tools you need. Since there are thousands of free apps available online, you don't need to purchase any more software to get started. Since it runs on Ubuntu (not Mac or Windows) operating system, it cost you nothing to power it up and running.

The laptop has built-in foldable solar panels, and the Canada-based makers behind the SOL claim that the device can run directly off solar energy or can harness the sun’s rays to charge the laptop’s battery in under two hours. Once fully charged, the battery is expected to last between eight and 10 hours!

The SOL Specifications

  • CPU: Intel Atom D2500 1.86 GHz Duo Core
  • Storage: Seagate 2.5” SATA HDD 320GB
  • RAM: 2GB upgradeable to 4GB DDRIII SDRAM 
  • Graphics: 1080p HD Vide, Built-In Intel GMA3600 Graphics
  • Battery Operating Time: 8 - 10 hours
  • Weight: 5.02 lbs / 2.28 kg
  • Display: 13.3" LCD, WXGA, 1366 x 768
  • Camera: 3MP
  • Audio
  • 3 USB2.0, Headphone jack, HDMI, LAN, Card reader
  • Modem: 3G/4G World/multimode LTE
  • GPS: gpsOne Gen8A
  • WiFi, Bluetooth

  • $350 (RM1,139)
  • $400 (RM1,302) - waterproof version

From the above information, it is clear the laptop is packed with mid-range specs but what sets it apart from the rest is that it's designed for use in the military, education and developing countries where electricity is scarce.

TheGreenMechanics' take:
It is not the first solar-powered laptop, but previous products such as the Samsung NC215S netbook don’t claim 10 hours of battery life on a single solar charge.

It is slated to launch in Ghana, Africa first but with the attractive price, I'd love to see the laptop making its way into Malaysia. Perfect for the grid-power-deprived folks in the not-so-rural-areas in Sabah.

Reference: SOLaptop

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

To all Muslim friends, relatives and readers, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Wishing all of you nothing but the best of time with your loved ones, and lets pray for a peaceful Malaysia.

UMS mosque
Eid Mubarak. Picture of Universiti Malaysia Sabah mosque, in Kota Kinabalu.
Photo by de engineur

Let's keep the 1Malaysia spirit alive.

Yours sincerely,
de engineur, for The Green Mechanics,
Kota Kinabalu.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

World's first Test-tube beef burger unveiled

A different (or should I say odd) way of making meat, I doubt I'd ever want to replace the beef in my burger with one.

Besides, meat may not even be an accurate name for it. If you think it has potential to become 'meat', it must have greater nutritional value than its predecessor. Nah, I'll stick to my real beef burger, for now.

Fancy a test-tube burger? Image credit: Discovery news

World's first test tube burger tasted in London

Early this week, Scientists unveiled the world's first lab-grown beef burger, serving it up to volunteers in London in what they hope is the start of a food revolution.

The 140-gram (about five-ounce) patty, which cost more than 250,000 euros (RM1.08 million) to produce, has been made using strands of meat grown from muscle cells taken from a living cow. Mixed with salt, egg powder and breadcrumbs to improve the taste, and colored with red beetroot juice and saffron, researchers claim it will taste similar to a normal burger.

A volunteer said he was expecting the texture to be more soft, adding it was close to meat but not as juicy.

How it is made

Cells are taken from organic cows and placed in a nutrient solution to create muscle tissue. The cells then grew into small strands of meat, 20,000 of which were required to make the burger. Although it is very expensive, the costs of cultured beef are likely to fall as more is produced and scientists claim it could be available in supermarkets within 10 to 20 years.

"Our burger is made from muscle cells taken from a cow. We haven't altered them in any way. For it to succeed it has to look, feel and hopefully taste like the real thing."
- Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

TheGreenMechanics: A very expensive burger, but time will tell if human will eventually shift to eating such edible as we run out of food.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Google launches Android version of ‘Find my Phone'

Losing your precious phone to thief or by your own doing of misplacing it is a painful experience. I lost my iPhone 3GS (my first Apple gadget) in a conference hall of a hotel in Kota Kinabalu a couple of years back.

I was foolish and naive, I never thought of installing the 'Find my Phone' app until it was too late then. All attempts to recover the lost phone proved futile. The 'golden one hour' was wasted because the phone was not set to 'discoverable' mode.

Screenshot of Find my Phone on my iPad, viewing its location in real time.

If you are using Android phone, there is now a similar app for it. Google has recently launched an Android equivalent to Apple's Find my Phone app in order to help consumers track down missing or stolen handsets and tablets.

The app is called Android Device Manager and it offers much of the same functionality that is available for iPhone and iPad.

Phone manufacturers like HTC, Sony and Samsung all have proprietary security tools on their Android smartphones, but this is the first time Google has released such a feature.

Availability and features

It is scheduled to be officially roll out this month.

The service will allow users to call their phone and make it ring at maximum volume - even if it is in silent mode - in case it has been misplaced around the home, or view its location in real time on a map if it was left at a restaurant or somewhere else further.

If the Android device is missing because it was stolen, the owner can quickly and securely remote wipe all information on it.

Google says that the app supports about 98.7% of all active Android devices and the service is compatible with devices running version 2.2 (Froyo) or higher of the operating system. Like Apple's Find my Phone app, it will come with a supporting app for managing multiple devices.

TheGreenMechanics: You've got nothing to lose. Install it once it becomes available and avoid my painful experience.

Source: Tech News

Monday, August 5, 2013

Thailand adding 1,000MW of Solar PV by 2014

In Renewable Energy sector, Thailand is known to be more aggressive than any of its Southeast Asia counterparts. Within the next one and a half years, the kingdom plans to install 1,000 MW of solar photovoltaic - 200 MW for individual rooftops, and 800 MW for community-owned installations.

Table 1: Thailand's Feed-in Tariffs for Solar PV. There is currently 400 MW of PV installed in Thailand.

Table 2: Malaysia's Feed-in Tariffs for Solar PV

Aggressive move by Thailand

Since Thailand launched its aggressive feed-in tariff program in 2006, the country has installed nearly 1,000 MW of renewables and has a portfolio of signed contracts of more than 4,000 MW, nearly half of that for solar PV.

Unlike Malaysia, contracts were for a limited time period of 10 years or less. But that has changed recently - Thailand’s National Energy Policy Commission (NEPC) has approved new feed-in tariffs for both rooftop and ground-mounted solar PV with contract terms of 25 years.

This brings the Thai program into alignment with similar programs in Germany, Great Britain, and Ontario, Canada. According to a release by Thailand’s Energy Research Institute, the new feed-in tariffs for solar PV will be differentiated by size and application. There will be three size tranches for rooftop solar PV, and a separate tranche for community-owned, ground-mounted installations.

NEPC has set aside 200 MW for rooftop solar PV, but it must be installed by the end of the year (2013. 100 MW is set aside for systems less than 10 kW in size, and another 100 MW is set aside for systems from 10 kW to 1 MW. The remaining 800 MW is reserved for community-owned projects and must be installed by year end 2014.

Source: REW

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bank Muamalat launches rooftop Solar PV financing

Interested individuals have been hoping that more commercial banks will help finance the installation of solar PV on their rooftops. It seems that they are getting what they've been wishing for.

This week on Thursday, Bank Muamalat became the second bank in Malaysia to offer financing for solar PV under the Home Solar Rooftop Programme by the SEDA.  The first was Alliance Bank, which announced its solar PV loan program in June 2013.

Deputy Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Datuk Mahdzir Khalid launching the smart financing. Photo credit: Bernama

Smart Green Mortgage for Solar PV FiT plan

Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd has launched the "Smart Green Mortgage for Solar Photovoltaic Feed-in Tariff Plan", offering financing services to its customers to purchase and install solar systems in their house. The plan will be the first Islamic financing package which is fully Shariah compliant, offered to the market.

"Bank Muamalat is assisting the government to develop green technology via introducing this innovative service as it will help boost investment and awareness on green technology in Malaysia."
- Deputy CEO, Musa Abdul Malek at the launch.

The plan was in line with the implementation of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) mechanism administered by SEDA which enables Malaysians to generate electricity from renewable sources while earning a fixed income for up to 21 years by selling electricity to Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB).

Features (visit your nearest branch for more information)
  • special deal via refinancing of customer's existing home financing facilities with Bank Muamalat,
  • easy moving cost feature with legal and valuation fees absorbed by the bank,
  • limited period of special financing package to reduce financing cost, resulting in affordable monthly installments,
  • expected return on investment of up to 16% annually, with estimated average revenue of RM580 on the solar PV system, depending on installation type and location.
The income will be generated monthly for the next 21 years and it will be credited directly by TNB into the customers savings or current accounts maintained by the bank.

TheGreenMechanics: Participation from more financial institutions buds well with public/investors' confidence in the viability of the Rooftop Solar PV program. This investment would be a good source of income during retirement years. - 21 years of passive income.

Source: Bernama

Hari Raya: Electrical safety tips by TNB

Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) yesterday advised the public to take safety precautions while using electrical appliances during the Aidilfitri season.

Image credit:

Tenaga Nasional Berhad outlined some basic safety measures that could be adopted by you and me in order to prevent any mishap:-
  • Avoid making wiring extensions on your own.

  • Obtain the services of electrical contractors registered with the Energy Commission for installation of additional wiring in your premises and to notify the TNB.

  • Do not to use too many electrical adaptors to avoid the wire getting heated up.

  • Avoid wearing metal ornaments such as watches, chains or rings when installing electrical gadgets.

  • Keep the extension wire away from wet areas in the case of electrical gadgets installed outside the house,

  • Ensure that the Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB) sockets, plugs and other electrical appliances were functioning.

  • Switch off and remove plugs from the power source when they are not in use or before leaving the house.

The public were told not to go near TNB restricted areas.

Consumers can contact TNB for feedback:
  1. Call, by phone or text to 15454 - for power outages and faulty street lights
  2. Call 1300-88-5454 - for inquiries on electric bills and related matters. For SESB, SMS to 33154, and the toll-free line is 1-800-88-1355
  3. e-mail to or visit
  4. SESB can be reached at this e-mail:

TheGreenMechanics: This does seem like the usual safety measures we're being fed every now and then, but you've got to take this seriously. You don't want your iron left on the ironing board, switched on during the long weekend.

Source: Bernama

Friday, August 2, 2013

Peru pursues Solar for the masses

Peru is looking to its future with new plans to use solar to provide electricity for about 2 million of its poorest residents by the end of 2016.

Peru is the third largest country in South America and has a population of 24 million. Solar power will cover roughly 10% of its population. Image credit:

The country, which is the world’s second largest exporter of copper, is experiencing strong demand for new electric generation to support its mining and other operations. As such, it needs to add 500 MW of new electric generation annually for the next few years. In all it plans to add in 2.1 gigawatts of new electric generation.

The Solar Power option

The solar being installed will only be a part of the larger target, which includes hydro-electric and gas-fired electric generating power plants. The country, will add in 1 GW of hydro-electric, 800 MW of gas-diesel power plants and 300 MW of renewable energy.

When completed, “The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program” and other programs will allow 95% of Peru’s population access to electricity. While that’s not everyone, it’s a pretty high percentage of the population and it’s a rapid ramp up. Right now, about 66% of the country’s population has access to electricity in the mountain-rich country.

“This program is aimed at the poorest people, those who lack access to electric lighting and still use oil lamps, spending their own resources to pay for fuels that harm their health.”
-Peru Energy and Mining Minister, Jorge Merino.

Under the first phase of the program 500,000 homes will get access to power from roughly 12,500 PV arrays, and is expected to cost $200 million, which is only part of the $3 billion that Peru plans to spend on new electric generation.

Powering the rural folks

By bringing access to electricity throughout so much of the country, this could help propel its economy and help more of its citizens get access to health services, refrigeration, water filtering and more. It can also bring more of Peru's rural areas out of poverty.

United Nations Development Programme's 2012 Human Development Index reports that about half of its people are poor and 20% of its people are considered extremely poor.

TheGreenMechanics's two cents:
$3 billion (approx RM9.8 billion) could well benefit the folks in the rural areas of Malaysia, plus, improvement of the power supply system in Sabah. Peru is targetting a completion of this project in 2016. We certainly don't need 10 years (year 2023) to solve the power supply woes in Sabah.

Original article was posted here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How close to my house can they put that?

This is an illustration of how close should an installation (or in this case a source of pollution) be from your house. Apparently a wind farm needs to be sited further away from your home compared to coal-fired power plant.

Pretty cool way of putting things into perspective.

A seemingly harmless wind turbines must be built far away, while coal power station and gas well (coal seam gas) can be built just stone throw away from residential area.

This graph is believed to be the work of campaigners against coal seam gas project in Gippsland, a large rural region in Victoria, Australia.


All-electric car BMW i3 is officially unveiled

In another big step towards promoting electric vehicles, BMW joined the bandwagon with the launching of the BMW i3 in its production version simultaneously in three locations – New York, London and Beijing.

It costs €34,950 in its home country, Germany, equivalent to RM151,000 here but don't get too excited yet about the direct currency conversion. We have the tariff, duties, and other import permits that will sure jack the price up much higher.

The BMW i3 electric car is unveiled in London

Launching its BMW i3 model, the German group compared the prospects of the electric car market to the technical revolution of the mobile telephone, but declined to give any sales or production targets.

Sleek and distinguished as always

"What the mobile phone did for communication, electric mobility will do for individual mobility. The BMW i3 is more than an evolutionary step -- it is a great leap forward."
- Chief executive Norbert Reithofer, during the launching.

The series-produced model will go on sale in Europe in November to be followed in the United States, China, Japan and several other markets in the first half of 2014.

Price and Features

It will hit the German market at a price of €34,950 ($46,438) and has a range of 130 to 160 kilometres (about 80 to 100 miles).

The Munich-based company trumpeted technological features of the model, which can seat four, including a carbon fibre passenger cell to help offset the weight of the batteries and an aluminium chassis.

BMW said the global market for electric vehicles was showing positive development. "After almost 93,000 electric vehicles were registered worldwide last year, a total of 150,000 units is already forecast for the current year," a statement said.

Germany's electric vehicle policy

Germany set a target in 2008 of having one million electric cars on its roads in 2020 and said it wanted to be a pilot market in the field. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has acknowledged that the country would struggle to reach the target while insisting the goal should not be dropped.

The government offers tax incentives to electric car drivers but campaigners say much more needs to be done to encourage people to switch from petrol or diesel to electric vehicles.

The i3 would be a good addition to the currently available locally - Leaf, iMiEV, and the soon to be available Chevrolet Spark.

Source: AFP