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The April Energy Update

By Steve Jones,

It was Earth Day this week on Tuesday, Apr 22, and apologies for being late on the energy update. That would have been the day to do it. :), this MVP thing is creating more work for me than I expected.

So in energy news, Virtual Earth 3D is wind powered!!!! (local video). Microsoft hasn't put up windmills, at least not in Boulder, but they're buying wind credits, which should encourage a bit more windmill deployment. Maybe even something like in Ireland where wind is king!. There's some research to suggest that the entire Republic of Ireland could go wind powered with both on and off-shore windmills. Their goal is to get about 33-42% of their power from the wind. They are also considering wave power over there as well. I like the idea, but I'm concerned about both durability and blogging sea lanes with the wave technology. It might be unfounded, but it's something to keep in mind.

The wind analysis here at the ranch continues. I put up a small home weather center that contains a wind anemometer to measure wind speed. I had some mounting issues, and a bent auger, so that project is on hold right now. It seems to under report the wind, but what can you expect for $100. At least I can see it spin regularly, so it gives me more confidence that wind power might work well out here. Maybe I'll get one of these (video) at some point.

If any of you have seen the movie Sahara, there's a solar thermal plant in there used to incinerate waste products. Spain and Abu Dhabi are considering similar technologies for producing power. I think in some areas this is a good idea, just as wind is more suited to other areas. As I've mentioned before, we need a blend of technologies.

Boulder is working hard to become the center of renewable technology in the US. There nearby federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory helps, but Boulder has a lot going on. They're building a smart grid that equips homes with smart meters and technology to reduce demand at peak times. I really like this idea since it's less invasive than some other ideas and helps us build more efficient systems. In any system the peaks are usually what cause the most problems. Think about how much easier it would be to tune your database systems if you can help manage the peaks in your transaction volumes. Doing it with power means that we don't need as many huge power plants and can perhaps work with more, smaller plants.

Now this was very interesting and it spawned a question from me. It's an article about paying $0 in heating bills and it's from someone that lives near me in the Rocky Mountains. With some green building, they've lowered the cost of heating in a home to a few hundred dollars in wood. And this is a place that gets well below 0F in the winter. The two amazing statistics are that it's a house from 1983 and it only cost about $6000 more than a standard heating system. When a house costs six figures, that's almost noise. It shows that our building industry really needs to update it's techniques, especially for large developments.

However the really interesting thing in the article (and video) is that the refrigerator is super efficient, being built into the cabinetry. The compressor is above to fridge, actually a separate unit. Why do we buy and sell fridges without building them in? It can't be cost and they're a pain to move. I'd think that builders should be doing this now.

Perhaps only in California, but there was a lawsuit that had one couple's redwood trees trimmed because they blocked a neighbor's solar panels. Who was more green? Who was right? It's a crazy story.

It's good to see that utility executives are concerned about the environment. My co-operative power utility is a little resistant to alternative power generation technologies. Only the federal law forcing them to allow customers to build them allows them to get hooked up. I wish they would embrace things and sell value added services instead of trying to avoid them.

The energy work here at the ranch was delayed. I have some LED bulbs at Fed Ex from the C. Crane Company that I want to test, but have been delayed in getting them with my travel schedule. I'll hopefully let you know how they work in June.

I also have a plan from Make Magazine to eliminate batteries from our various TV remotes using a Faraday generator. Some parts were delayed and with the travel schedule I haven't gotten things done, but I hope to have a good update and story for you in June.

Steve Jones


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