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The article on Crowd Farms has generating a stirring debate and a lot of interest so I figured I would follow up with a piece that highlights some more applications of this concept of people and motion creating power. The problem with the Crowd Farm plan is it only exists on paper and could be too costly for production, but that is how many great ideas begin in my opinion. Take solar for example, solar panels used to cost some $20 per watt to produce in the early 80′s and now Nanosolar has reduced this cost to below that of coal energy at 30 cents per watt. Some great ideas take time, money and significant effort to produce real-world applications. Finding a balance of how much to leech off a person’s movement is the most difficult problem for human-powered technology. All energy has to come from somewhere which means that if you are the one producing the power then, to some degree, you’re the one feeling the drain.
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What can Brown do for you?
It’s not just what United Parcel Service can do for you, but it’s also what they can do to trim operating costs and help the environment – all at the same time.
UPS announced this week that the Petaluma branch in Northern California will lease 42 Xebra electric vehicles to deliver smaller packages in congested areas where driving the Big Brown trucks aren’t so conducive to swift navigation through heavy traffic and, the bane of all urban drivers, finding a place to park (or double park, as the case may be).
The Xebra electric vehicle is manufactured by Santa Rosa-based Zap. In business since 1994, with customers in 75 countries, Zap has made over 100,000 electric and alternative vehicles, from scooters to their planned electric SUV.
And now UPS is one of those customers.
With a ground fleet of 94,542 vehicles moving 16 million packages around the world every day, and a barrel of oil hovering in the 90’s, actively pursuing alternatives to large fossil-fueled trucks is a matter of good business sense as well as environmental concern.
UPS walks the talk with the largest private alternative fuel fleet in the industry.
After all, it doesn’t take a big brown truck to deliver your next order from Amazon to your front door.
Pictured here is an tire made from 85% Citrus Oil – a useful oil extracted from orange rinds discarded by the citrus industry. The remaining portion of the tire is petroleum based traditional material. The prototype, by Yokohama, is one of the most interesting things I saw at the LA Auto Show yesterday and, assuming what their rep says is true, could impact drivers in more ways than one. Do take all this with a grain of salt, as the product is not on the street, so to speak, and there is no information on Yokohama’s website yet about it. Here are some of the highlights:
1) 80% less petroleum used in the manufacture
2) An “air permeation suppression film” which apparently reduces leakage and ensures good pressure
3) Reduced weight, and therefore less resistance
Crowd Farm, developed by two MIT architecture grad students, is a concept that harvests the energy that is transmitted through our feet. It works like this: Beneath highly crowded subway platforms there would be a sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly due to the force of human footsteps above. These blocks rub together under the pressure generating power the same way as a dynamo, a device that converts energy from motion into an electric current.
This is a concept that is only worth its weight in gold in highly crowded ares where the feet are many since one human footstep can generate enough power for two 60-watt light bulbs for only a mere second. But get a coffee-primed crowd moving by the masses and the Farm could be in business. The typical New York subway train in Manhattan at rush hour will typically have 300 people in it, all of whom ran an average of 150 steps in the station to get onboard. That is equivalent to 45,000 steps every few minutes, which could be transferred to power the subway train. This is a brillant idea for reclycling the energy from human movement.
In a slow housing market, many developers are looking to green features to set themselves apart from the competition. With increasing concern about energy costs, climate change, and indoor air quality, the market is ripe for green building. Market forces at work, with environmentally sound options excelling.
“There are not enough green builders out there, and demand is exceeding the homes available,” says Harvey Bernstein, Vice President of Industry Analytics, Alliances and Strategic Initiatives for McGraw-Hill Construction. Meanwhile quantity of certified green homes being built is growing rapidly.
Nearly 100,000 homes have been built and certified under voluntary green building programs across the country since the mid-1990s, with a 50% increase from 2004.
Penn State researchers Bruce Logan and Shaoan Cheng announced yesterday the results of experimental research that produces hydrogen from microbes. Built upon earlier work that led to the production of electricity from microbes, Logan’s team has shown how to take those same hard working microbes and make hydrogen. Could the hydrogen economy be just around the corner?
Several years ago, after reading Eco Economy – Building an Economy for the Earth by Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, I felt I had a pretty good understanding of how a hydrogen based economy might work. Since its publication in early 2001 (and doesn’t that seem so long ago) I kept reading reports of the “false promise of the hydrogen economy” and my enthusiasm waned for hydrogen, despite my respect for Lester Brown’s visionary work. The obstacles to making hydrogen an efficient carrier of energy do appear daunting.
But technology and human innovation don’t always follow expectations.
This reminds me of the early days of digital audio. Allow me to explain.Click to continue reading »
Amid the stock market turmoil last week, an interesting event took place in the market’s valuation of sustainability. If I were shopping for corporations, on Friday, I could have purchased one share of either Whole Foods Market or Walmart for $43.40. and today, I could have purchased either for $46.00. And if I had wanted to put a little hard-earned cash into owning a company in the crossfire of the green debate, what exactly would I have received for a little less than the cost of filling up a twenty-gallon tank of gas, or a reasonably priced dinner for two?
With Whole Foods, $46 could have bought me 1/140,000,000th of a growing organic grocer run by a libertarian vegan, bringing healthy food to people all over the country, and soon, perhaps, the world, while providing a delightful culinary shopping experience for soccer moms everywhere, spreading the good word on how to eat, and quite possibly reshaping commercial agriculture as it grows.
My $46 in Whole Foods could have bought just about $43 dollars in sales, and $1.32
On Friday, June 16, 2006 Samuel Brittan wrote in the Financial Times (page 11) that “the most likely trigger for a dollar collapse would be a US housing market setback.” I read this with gratitude that someone was actually addressing this important global threat but I had to respectfully disagree. The greatest threat to the role of the US dollar as the international reserve currency, and indeed the global economy itself, is a sudden end to petrodollar hegemony.Click to continue reading »
From Keith Rockmael at Greenerati.com
We felt a little guilty strolling through the San Francisco stop on Green Festival tour while others removed black gold from various wildlife that an Exxon Valdez-like tanker recently dumped into San Francisco Bay. At least a good percentage of the environmentalists, vegan hipsters, LOHAS types and simple non Green classifieds rode bikes, walked, skateboarded and even took Muni to the SoMa location. Unfortunately, the packed nearby parking lots had their share of cars which didn’t exactly make our green hearts go pitter-patter.
Once we entered, the various green venders assaulted our minds and stomaches with organic, free trade, vegan desserts, drinks and energy bars. With all the samples, who even needs to eat lunch at these Green festivals? Maybe we should have fed our dogs as well as the show offered half a dozen natural pet related displays and products.
Nevertheless, the main advantage of wandering around eating gave us that much more time to enjoy the words and wisdom of Paul Hawken and Deepak Chopra who typically feed the urban Greenies with more energy than can be had in a full can of Steaz and a Bumble Bar.
Nanosolar coatings are as thin as a layer of paint and can tranfer sunlight into power quite efficiently. Imagine the possibilities, from solar coated shingles to solar lined windows to solar powered cell phones and ipods. Solar powered buildings and homes might just become standard in the future thanks to this innovative technology by Nanosolar Inc. The almighty dollar will launch these thin-film solar cells into worldwide applications thanks to the fact that it’s actually cheaper than burning coal. The underlying technology for these solar cells is nothing new, having been around for decades, but Nanosolar has created the actual technology to manufacture and mass produce the solar sheets. The solar cells are produced by a solar printing press of sorts rolling out these aptly named PowerSheets rapidly and cheaply. The machines apply a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil reducing production costs to a mere tenth of current solar panels and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. The first commercial cells for consumer use are scheduled to be released this year.
Cost has always been the burdening factor weighing down the mass application of solar technology at nearly $3 per watt. In order to compete with the energy produced from coal solar has been in need of finding a way to shrink its costs down to $1 per watt. Nanosolar’s cells use absolutely no silicon as is the standard for current solar production and the efficiency of the PowerSheet cells are competitive with the traditional systems as well. The golden kicker, the cost to produce these solar coatings is a mere 30 cents per watt!!
Many people have asked me about the feasibility of “clean coal” paired with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as a genuine option for a more sustainable future. In a previous article I wrote about coal-fired power plants (see AskPablo: Coal-Fired Power Plants) so I won’t beat that dead horse too much. However, I will discuss coal-to-liquids as well as the feasibility of CCS.
Some politicians will have you believe that coal-to-liquids is a viable and sustainable alternative to our dependence on oil-based fuels. Whether or not these politicians are from coal-rich states, or which party they belong to I will leave up for you to explore.Here is how a liquid fuel is made from coal:
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by Lorna Li
The Big Three Auto Makers in America – General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler – are spending millions to convince Congress not to pass a 35 mpg fuel efficiency standard in the new 2007 Energy Bill.
A large group of auto workers and dealers have broken from the industry in order to support the 35 mpg by 2020 fuel efficiency standard. As members of the American auto industry who have designed, built and sold automobiles in this country for decades, they state that 35 mpg is attainable with current technology, will, in fact, create auto industry jobs, and can help the U.S. end its foreign oil addiction.
The American Solar Energy Society reports that by 2030 one in four workers will be wearing green collars at work. The report estimates the creation of up to 40 million green collar jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.
Giving that report a gentle push was the announcement last week that GE Power Generation in New York state plans to expand its renewable energy division, investing $39 million and creating 500 new jobs.
Another unit of General Electric, GE Energy Financial Services, has plans to build a 120–megawatt wind farm in Texas, with completion of the project in April of next year.
And for a little icing on the cake, First Solar, whose initial public offering sold for $20 a share a year ago, soared up to the almost Google-like heights yesterday past $200 as share, finishing at $224.43 based on solid earnings reports (okay, maybe not Google-like – if only I’d gotten in on Google when it was “only” $200 a share).
And First Solar isn’t alone, the market appears to be getting hot for a number of solar ventures.
But despite the enthusiasm, a press conference by House GOP members today had a noticeable lack of any mention of solar or renewable energy, pressing Democrats for an energy bill with “energy in it”; apparently under the impression that energy only comes from carbon and essentially blaming Democrats for the surge in crude oil prices. ANWR will forever remain in their sights.
Fortunately, it seems the private sector isn’t waiting for leadership in Washington.
Let the sun shine in.
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Commercial and urban buildings have a large variety of different exterior applications available, also known as it’s “skin.” Some buildings are painted in order to preserve and protect the surface exposed to the elements. The problem with painting applications is that it degrades over time and releases harmful toxins into the environment.
With the endless array of environmental products and innovations that are prevalent in today’s world, it’s no wonder there is a new paint on the cusp of bucking the damaging trend of its predecessor. Imagine a paint that can make a positive contribution to the environment and urban ecology in particular. How? By cleaning up the pollutants that are transported in the air, more specifically, by reducing the levels of nitrogen oxides in the surrounding atmosphere.
Millenium Inorganic Chemicals, a British R&D firm has developed what they intended to appropriately name “Ecopaint.” This paint utilizes the same photo catalytic process of the anti-smog cement developed and under going testing in Italy. However, it has the advantage of being applicable to many different surface applications.
A new marketing study reveals that conscious consumers expect accountability and transparency from companies that claim to be “green.” Companies that fail to do so put themselves at risk of a consumer backlash.
Who are these “conscious consumers”? According to the inaugural BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, almost 90% of Americans say this term describes them well. When shopping for products that are of equal value and price, these consumers would choose items that are energy-efficient, promote health and safety benefits, support fair labor and fair trade, and are made according to environmentally-friendly standards.