Fuel Cells for Cell Phones

The cell, built by Medis Technologies , is - at least in concept - similar to a glow-stick or a hand-warmer. The user squeezes the cell to mix two chemicals together, and the unit runs until the chemicals are exhausted - about 40 hours. It comes with an assortment of connector tips, including those for USB ports, BlackBerrys and cellphones of various other models, MP3 players and similar devices. The company hopes to soon manufacture a version big enough to run a laptop computer, and later one that could run a whole house.

The Google PowerMeter

Google wants to build the platform for collecting, managing, and analyzing home energy information for… well, if they have their way, for everybody on earth. PowerMeter is currently in internal beta testing. About four dozen Google employees have home energy monitors to record their power usage (as proxies for the smart meters of the future). A Home Energy gadget on their iGoogle home pages shows them shows how much energy they are using. The gadget tracks historical data and forecasts future trends (similar to the displays available for some of Google's finance applications).

Forecasting the Potential of the Wind

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has reached an agreement with Xcel Energy to provide highly detailed, localized weather forecasts to enable the utility to better integrate electricity generated from wind into the power grid. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will support the project by developing mathematical formulas to calculate the amount of potential energy produced by winds blowing at various speeds. The forecasts will help operators make critical decisions about powering down traditional coal-and natural gas-fired plants when sufficient winds are predicted, allowing the utility to increase reliance on alternative energy while still meeting the needs of its customers.

Alternative Fueling Station Locator

Drivers can now find alternative fueling stations using cell phones & PDAs. Consumers on-the-go can now access the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Alternative Fueling Station Locator using their cell phone, BlackBerry, or other personal digital assistant (PDA). The Mobile Alternative Fueling Station Locator allows drivers to find the five closest biodiesel, electricity, E85 (ethanol), hydrogen, natural gas, and propane fueling sites. This convenient tool uses well-known, easy-to-navigate Google Maps to automatically generate maps to fueling sites and lists each station's contact information and business hours. Detailed driving directions and an instant phone connection to the station can all be accessed at www.afdc.energy.gov/stations/m/ .

Who Let the Dogs Out?

The U.S. is now the world's top Wind Power Producer and closing in fast on Solar. The U.S. increased its wind capacity by 50 percent last year to a total of 25 GW, enough to power nearly 5 million homes. Germany took a close second with 24 GW of installed wind, while Spain took the third spot. Globally wind power grew by 29 percent, to reach 121 GW total capacity. As one of the most affordable sources of alternative energy -- being only slightly more expensive than coal and nuclear -- wind accounted for 42 percent of the new energy installations in the U.S.

AC Solar Panels

Akeena Solar Inc. and Enphase Energy have announced a strategic partnership to develop and market Andalay solar panel systems with ordinary AC house current output instead of the high voltage DC output that is produced from most solar panels. Andalay AC panels are expected to cost less to install and provide higher performance than ordinary DC panels. Akeena estimates that up to 25 percent of the total costs necessary to design and install a solar power system can be eliminated with solar panels that have integrated racking, wiring and grounding, and that operate with standard AC wiring.

Giant Wind Turbines

If the U.S. is going to generate 20 percent of its electricity from the wind in the next 20 years, wind turbines will need to evolve in every way - larger, taller, less expensive, more reliable and more efficient. At NREL's National Wind Technology Center , engineers are preparing to install the two largest turbines ever tested at the laboratory. Key elements of a 1.5 MW General Electric turbine have begun arriving; instrumentation and equipment testing should begin by late summer. Installation of a 2.3 MW turbine from Siemens Power Generation is scheduled for late summer, too. Full story here.


The eco-sheet shows that there is no silver bullet solution. When looking at CO2 emissions only, it would be clear what options to take. However, this is not the only environmental consideration. Not preferring any particular method of electricity generation, the eco-sheet lists the main environmental impact categories and benchmarks them against the electricity generation mixes for the EU 25 and EU 15.


Lead-carbon batteries are different from other types of batteries because they combine the high energy density of a battery and the high specific power of a supercapacitor in a single low-cost device. The primary goals of lead-carbon research have been to extend the cycle lives of lead-acid batteries and increase their power.


The grid will need to be totally redesigned to integrate small generation inputs from PV, wind, biomass and other more sustainable system inputs, the majority of which will need to utilize energy storage to provide reliable energy reduction.


What do supermarkets do with their products when the expiry date has been reached? Surprisingly, there are only a limited amount of options. Belgian retailer Colruyt has found a sustainable angle: they convert it to green power.


Jet travel has both been a time saver and a giant waste of energy. More fuel has been consumed in jet travel than by all the cars in the US combined. About 19.4 billion gallons of fuel are consumed by air travel within the US. Since these planes cannot use an alternative fuel, conservation is the only answer.


Somewhere in the mid 1980's, the NAHB Research Center in Washington was run by a guy I knew (whose name I can't seem to dig up) who had a wacky vision. His idea was to reinvent the way electrical power was distributed throughout the home. They called it Smart Home (not to be confused with the Disney movie of the same name or other stuff that uses that name now). I think it was the first use of the name.


Pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of biomass occurring in the absence of oxygen. It is the fundamental chemical reaction that is the precursor of both the combustion and gasification processes and occurs naturally in the first two seconds. The products of biomass pyrolysis include biochar, bio-oil and gases including methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Depending on the thermal environment and the final temperature, pyrolysis will yield mainly biochar at low temperatures, less than 450 0C, when the heating rate is quite slow, and mainly gases at high temperatures, greater than 800 0C, with rapid heating rates. At an intermediate temperature and under relatively high heating rates, the main product is bio-oil.

Capturing Energy With Thermal Mass

The sun's heat passes through the windows and gets absorbed by dense materials like brick, stone, concrete, or rammed earth that will store the heat and release it later. Also called "Thermal Mass", these heavy materials serve to keep the house from overheating when the sun shines and later release heat when the sun is not shining.

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