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The June 2008 Energy Update

By Steve Jones,

CCrane CompanyIt's time again to take a look at energy news from an IT perspective, or at least the Steve Jones' perspective and there have been some interesting notes over the last couple months in the world of energy. Quite a bit will be how things are changing here at the ranch.

A month or so ago I got a shipment of LED bulbs from the C. Crane Company, from one of the IT people there that saw these updates. They wanted me to do some testing of the bulbs and see what I thought. Now one of the things that I've done out here on the ranch is replace some our bulbs to try and get more efficient in how we use power. We have compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs for a number of our outdoor lights that run at night, solar powered lights in a few places like on the shed, and I'm wiring an energy efficient metal halide light for the barn. However most the internal house lights have dimmers installed and so CF bulbs don't work well with dimmers.

I replaced a few lamps with the LED bulbs I received, but I found that in some places things didn’t work well. LEDs tend to through direct light, almost in a spotlight-type manned, and they don't diffuse light that well. So I had to rethink how I did things. I've done a little testing on today's podcast so you can see the difference with direct lighting on things as well.

There is a decent comparison on the three types of bulbs, giving some pros and cons and costs. For most of us, CF bulbs work well if you don't have dimmers and the costs aren't too high. LEDs are fairly expensive, but much, much more efficient. We'd replaced a number of flashlights with LEDs and in places I'd look to use LEDs for other applications. The light definitely looks different and takes some getting used to. I'm sure that we'll get better technology over time, especially since those old incandescents will be banned after 2014.

Most of us have a preference on lighting in our homes, and probably don't want to change. I think that the bright spots on LEDs are annoying and I hate seeing them in cars. However I know that we need to change away from incandescent bulbs. I'm just hoping the technology will continue to improve.

I saw this story about some companies looking to create means of storing power out on the grid. There are a couple of issues that they're tackling here. The first is large peak demands, such as air conditioners in the summer. Often there are peak demands that require "dirty" and expensive power plants to come online for short periods of time. There are financial and environmental reasons to avoid this and storing power in batteries, flywheels, compressed air tanks, or some other means might help alleviate some of the pollution concerns. The other thing is that solar and wind (and other) alternative power generation means might gain more widespread acceptance if power were available when those sources aren't working.

Most of us store some amount of power around the house. Lots of us have laptops, batteries in remotes, and more, but it's a minor amount of power compared to what we use. Here at the ranch we actually have power stored in slightly larger amounts. I have a couple of solar lights that contain small batteries, a gate that also stores solar energy, and a large propane bottle that powers my generator.

I'm not thrilled with having more power out on the grid because I think it's fundamentally an inefficient means of powering our lives. Instead I'd like to see more work done to distribute the loads to every city, neighborhood, even every house. Perhaps we could do most of our power generation locally and use the grid for supplemental power instead of the other way around. However, we'd need a lot of solar panels.

Mariah PowerThe neighbor just behind me recently put up a windmill that I can see from the house. It's spinning on most days and I've been meaning to go talk to them about that experience. This was a new installation, so I'm curious as to how it went. The other neighbor I spoke with last year had purchased the house with a windmill. We're still debating here, but I did find an all-in-one vertical windmill from Mariah Power that I really like. At $5k plus about $1k for the installation, that is really tempting. I still need to calculate an ROI, but as prices get lower and the installations get simpler, this becomes more and more of an option.

A few quick notes on other things. I still believe in nuclear power and McCain won some points for the upcoming US Presidential election for hispro-nuclear stance. The big issue is waste, which can be greatly reduced if we are smarted about how we build nuclear plans. Here's a good article on the waste issue. An article on living in the city and it being more "green" than living in the country. There's some truth to this, but what about working at home? The cities have to be well designed and if we're redesigning, perhaps we should think about more work-at-home situations.

Lastly, if you are upgrading servers or a data center, check out this look at how to consider the energy efficiency of your upgrade.

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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