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The February Energy Update

By Steve Jones,

As soon as I published the December update, the new Energy Act passed. It removed some provisions for solar and wind, which I think is a mistake. I'm not sure that those technologies are the answer, but they're part of the answer and the keys to getting them mature and growing is to get consumers interested, get builders interested, and have a semi-distributed generation system and a lower distribution network.

And I don't think that will happen without some changes from the various governments around the world. Especially with regards to vehicles; I was glad to see MPG requirements going up.

Since the last update I also got my generator working. Or at least we got the final installation of gas and it was broken in. It takes about 3-4 hours to break it in where you slowly up the load and so I ended up turning stuff on and letting it create a load in various rooms, TVs, stereos, even the hair dryer in the bathroom. Everything went well, but I wondered if it would really work if the power went out.

One morning I was getting ready to cook breakfast for my son and the lights went out. The UPS started beeping in the office and out of curiosity, we walked through the dining room to the East well. As we got to the window, we could hear the generator fire up and by the time we'd walked back to the kitchen, the beeping had stopped and things were running. So I'm protected and that was nice. I didn't lose the hour of work I'd have otherwise lost.

My wife was talking about getting a trash compactor. Apparently her sister has one and it works well for her. I've never had one and I'm not sure if I think it's a good idea, but maybe I could convince her to get a solar powered one? Course it's not like we're burning fuel by making more trips to empty the trash around here, or at least not oil. :)

I usually have some nuclear news to report, and I found an amazing interview with the founder of Greenpeace where he actually promotes nuclear power as a solution. He's a little dismissive of solar, and a little arrogant over waste and weapons issues, but it's still interesting.

I still think nuclear is a good idea, especially the less complex, newer designed plants. I think we can reprocess a lot of waste fuel, reuse it, even have more controls and security around the plants, and have a great energy source. I would love to see California lead the way in asking for new plants. Just don't build them in CA where we have moving earth issues. Maybe Nevada would be interested in a few. It appears that the UK is looking to build new plants.

Most of us have learned in this business to work smarter, not harder. Or I hope we have. This study talks about having a smarter power grid and saving a tremendous amount of energy. A study showed that by using feedback from the grid to reduce usage and a little automation, that we could save 15% on usage and 10% on bills. I'd certainly be interested in something like that if my utility offered it.

I'm not sure I'd want this type of green home, but I'd like to think greener about how we build. We're thinking that when we build a riding arena we'll use the Clearspan style, which is translucent and reduces the power needed for lighting. If I ever build a workshop garage away from the house, I'm definitely looking at incorporating some passive solar into the design to help with heating.

You might have seen news about this knee brace. It's not for protection, though that is probably a possibility. This one actually generates power, helping to recharge small electronics. Gives new meaning to the "talk all day" cell phone if you have one of these.

Lastly, I want one of these lamps!. It's a great idea, it's a very cool design, and it would be thrilling for a night light if you had low intensity LEDs. I'm not sure it really works as some of the people that discuss the physics and power calculations don't seem to think it can produce much light, but it's still a cool idea.

Steve Jones


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Today's podcast features music by Everyday Jones. No relation, but I stumbled on to them and really like the music. Support this great duo at www.everydayjones.com.

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