I’m going to go ahead and assume Google’s latest activities in the alternative energy space aren’t simply aimed at burning off some extra cash. Typically Google, the brilliant company is looking to the future byÂ putting millions toward studying and developing alternative energy solutions.
Called “Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal,” or RE<C, the program is one they were coaxed into by former Vice President Al Gore, who sits on the board of directors for Google.
There’s obviously a ton of power consumption involved with running a tech company. Servers, lights and PCs suck down quite a bit of juice, but perhaps even more importantly are the air conditioners keeping those servers cool. Add to that an extremely shaky (at best) electrical grid in this country and a company like Google has every incentive they need to build out their own power generation capabilities. For a quck look of Google’s microgeneration in action, check out this picture.
But could there be more to the picture?
And, meanwhile,Â it’s been well-reported that Google is big-time lusting for all the dark fiber it can get its hands on and that it’s heading into the telecommunications business, which certainly will suck down even more energy.
So the question is, are they just thinking ahead to produce their own power to be clean and save money, or will companies who aren’t on the public electrical grid simply be enjoying the ultimate competitive advantage? After all, being the only company online in the next power crisis has its advantages.
As regular readers know, I’m on something of a jihad as I attempt to seek out a reasonable LED light solution for the home. Since the lights are long-lasting and extremely low energy, they offer a much greater potential than even the hottest solar concept.
You’ll always need some clean energy generation, but why not just move the goalposts a whole lot closer?
That’s what LED Lighting Fixtures, Inc.Â out of Morrisville, NC claimed to have done last week. The company claims to have produced a fixture that uses just 6 Watts of power, but generates the light of a conventional 60 Watt light bulb.
Why a special fixture is needed to maximize the use from LED bulbs, I’m not sure, but I suppose I’ll just assume it’s similar to how halogen fixtures need a different configuration.
LED Lighting Fixtures already sells a six-inch downlight today. That’s something I should look into as my recessed kitchen lights are probably one of the biggest energy burners in my house today. Somehow I’d need to test it out before buying, though.
Â OK, this is lots of fun: a wonderful concept for taking alternative energy solutions to a whole new place — shipping! Found via Extra Technology News, word of a company driving toward solar-powered ships and boats.
The company, Solar Sailor, combines ancient principles of sail technology with solar panels creating the ultimate hybrid. The Australian company hopes the increasing costs of fuel will make this mode of travel quite practical in the future.Â I’d personally be concerned about some of the concepts shown on their Web site as watercraft can become surprisingly top-heavy with very little weight moved to high locations. However, the company reportedly works with the vessel manufacturers to ensure the panels are installed safely.
I’d love to see these take off and become commonplace around the world.
I’ve been ranting recently about the lack of LED lights out there for purchase. Thanks to my close personal friend Suman, I found and purchased an LED light bulb fromÂ Amazon. The single bulb I purchased was a 3 Watt Westinghouse Nanolux white bulb. With shipping this cost me $21.88. Ouch! Oh well, it’s in the pursuit of knowledge, right?
The results were quite discouraging. The 3 Watt bulb had very low light output, even though it was the size and shape of a typical incandescent bulb. (To be fair, this bulb isn’t really designed as a 60W replacement.) I also thought the design was a little bit goofy looking, it reminded me of a snowball on a pedestal. The bulb has a plastic-ish feel, which didn’t really bother me as it felt more indestructable than typical bulbs.
I have to mention here how hard it is to take a picture of a lit light bulb. I never realized how challenging that was before. Because of that it’s hard to show the comparison between this and an incandescent or compact florescent bulb. But the bottom line for me is that the bulb is way, WAY too underpowered to be of any practical home use. I would go ahead and use this bulb in a place where I didn’t need much light, but wanted to leave the light turned on all the time. An example would be a dark hallway or outdoor walkway that just needed a dim safety light. To be honest I’m not even sure this light has enough power to even use as a bedside reading light. (Again, in fairness, this is onlyÂ billedÂ as a replacement for a 20W bulb.) I found the color, although officially white,Â to be an annoying blueish tone that reminded me of a prison. Â
Some of the more positive points about the light is that it is good for indoor and outdoor use (I assume this means it can handle temperature changes and some moisture) and that it always remains completely cool to the touch. It doesn’t really even warm up at all when on for some time.
Of interest, there are three warnings on the package: 1) “This device is not intended for use with emergency exits or emergency lights” and 2) An all caps warning, “DO NOT USE WITH DIMMERS”Â and 3) A note that the device may interfere with radio signals.
I’m not sure why there’s a warning about emergency exits. I wish they’d explain why. All I can think of is that it’s not bright enough or something, but I’m not sure. The dimmer warning is similarly unexplained. My guess there is that the lower power input could cause the device to burn out premature, but again, I have no idea.
So, the Nanolux 3W LED was a disappointment. But good learning overall. I have two takeaways from my one-bulb LED experiment:
1. There needs to be a standardized measurement for light bulb output. Probably in lumens. People tend to think in terms of 60W or 100W and have a general idea of how bright that light is. When using other forms of lighting, however, it is hard to translate power usage into actual light.
2. There needs to be some higher-power LED options for the standard bulb setting. This one looks like it’s a little beefier, but I think they need to push this harder. Further, these need to be much cheaper. What is making these so expensive? It seems, to my uninformed brain, that these should be cheaper to manufacturer than a CFL or an incandescent, but I guess maybe it’s scale that’s causing the disconnect.
In short, interesting experience and fun to hold cutting edge technology in my hand. But now what do I do with an oversized nightlight bulb?
I finally managed to make it to the Seattle Home Show this weekend. And, what did I find? LED Lights! Perhaps I was too hasty before.
While at the show, there was one lone booth selling LED lights. I received the Marine Line brochure information, which did have some standard home light bulb configurations inside. The booth was run by Dr. LED, who sell the bulbs from their Web site. It appears most of their inventory is for specialty use orÂ are spot-type bulbs. So far, the only multi-directional bulb I’ve found is from LEDlight.com.
Interestingly, everything I’ve found so far on LED lights seems primitive or at least very young from a marketing point of view. This is despite LEDs having been around forever.Â Maybe this is the next big industry to explode?
Update on 10/20/07: Thanks to Suman, an excellent discovery: LED lights at Amazon!
Great insight and background from A Siegel on a very interesting power storage concept. I highly recommend reading the whole piece.
One of the biggest challenges with renewable power solutions is that they aren’t particularly storable. For example, in a warm climate such as Arizona, you might have plenty of power in the daytime to drive a completely solar-powered system, but once the sun goes down, you better turn off the tube and go to bed.
In home systems, power has long been stored in large arrays of batteries for use during times of low power generation. The batteries effectively allow you to be off-grid, assuming they and your generation system have enough power.
But batteries don’t scale up to grid-sized proportions. The solution, as it turns out, may be remarkably simple. All that’s really required is a place to move water uphill, and then back down again. Once you have that, you use excess power at peak times to move the water up to a reservoir of some sort and then when power generation drops, you release the waterÂ and use gravity to spin turbinesÂ (sort of a hydroelectric dam without the requisite river).
This solves one of the trickiest problems in the entire altenergy world. Now if we can just get some built.
There is a ton of information out there about how LED lights use just a tiny percentage of the power of incandescent bulbs. They even dwarf the much-hyped florescent bulbs in terms of power consumption. And let’s not kid ourselves: florescent light bulbs SUCK. The light is terrible, there’s a weird delay when you flick on the light and I don’t know if this is common, but I’ve had terrible luck with them in lasting. They easily would burn out in a tenth of the time a normal bulb would in my house. I’m not sure if that’s typical, or related to something with my house or the brand of bulb I was using.
So you’d think there would be a great market for LED replacements. Yet there aren’t any LED substitutes for the classic light bulb available for sale. An online search yields little, although I was excited to see the LEDlight.com is up and running.
What is going on? Where are the LED products that aren’t flashlights? Could they be hard to find because LEDs basically last forever?
Via Jetson Green, a vertical, sustainable farm concept in the heart of the city. The Center for Urban Agriculture won Best of Show at the Cascadia Region Green Building Councilâ€™s Living Building Challenge. From Jetson Green:
Vertically constructed on a .72 acre site, the off-grid building is designed to be completely energy and water sufficient and will include 318 affordable apartments (studio – 2 bedroom).Â And on top of that, there will be greenhouses, rooftop gardens, a chicken farm, and fields for growing vegetables and grains.Â
It collects its own water, it generates its own power — it’s completely grid-free. Only catch: It doesn’t exist. It’s just a design concept right now. But a very cool one.