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Hundreds rally for legislation on climate change

March 2, 2009 11:08 am | Blogs | Comments

Hundreds of demonstrators are urging Congress to pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, and they're using the Capitol power plant as a symbol of the problem. Despite attempts by lawmakers to clean up the power plant in southeast Washington, it still burns coal and accounts for a third of the legislative branch's greenhouse gas emissions. Monday's rally on Capitol Hill was being followed by a march to the power plant, where some demonstrators planned to block entrances and get arrested.

Electric Vehicles on Cell Phone Contracts

February 18, 2009 11:15 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place, wants to make electric cars viable. His solution? Spread battery-swapping stations throughout the world, using a fee structure similar to cell-phone contracts. According to Better Place’s site, “The batteries of a zero-emission vehicle need three things in place for optimum functionality: charging spots, battery switching stations, and software that automates the experience.” Their solution is a network of stations where depleted batteries can be swapped out for fresh ones.

Clean Coal and Nuclear Funding Cut from Stimulus

February 13, 2009 7:13 am | by Alix Paultre | Blogs | Comments

This "compromise" is an example of the misguided cuts that have been made in the stimulus package in the name of savings. "Clean Coal" and Nuclear power are among the best alternatives to oil we have, and to cut funding for these important technologies is shortsighted. "Clean Coal" and Nuclear power are among the best alternatives to oil we have, and to cut funding for these important technologies is

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Next Stop, the Twilight Zone

February 7, 2009 9:22 pm | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Obama’s position on tailpipe emissions presents a strange paradox: traditional supporters of states’ rights are clamoring for one national standard, while federalists want the states to decide. It seems that we’ve entered bizarro world. But it goes deeper. Allowing states to set their own emissions standards is a thinly-disguised attempt to impose higher national standards through backdoor means.

The Dangers of Exporting E-waste

January 30, 2009 11:27 am | by by Ken Manchen, Newark & Premier Farnell | Blogs | Comments

As readers of ECN well know, Americans are purchasing new and improved electronic products faster than ever—and thereby creating a record amount of electronic waste. What you may not know is that 50% of the e-waste generated in the European Union and North America is now exported to developing countries such as India, China and Africa.

State vs. Federal Emissions Standards

January 27, 2009 10:39 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

President Obama has ordered the EPA to “review” its denial of California’s request for exemption to federal emissions standards. On Monday, January 26th, Obama gave a press conference relating to, “Jobs, Energy Independence, and Climate Change.” Among other things, he spoke about America’s dependence on foreign oil, the proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, and the aforementioned EPA denial.

Energizer to Release OEM Version of Zinc/Air Battery

January 14, 2009 10:14 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

The history of portable electronics is one of decreasing size, both for the devices themselves and the batteries to power them. A while back, I reported on the Quad A battery—specifically, Energizer’s push to make the Quad A more commercially available. The Quad A was commercially available (though not prevalent) since 1989. Similarly, the technology behind Energizer’s latest offering, the Zinc Air Prismatic Battery (or ZAP for short), has been around since 1991.

Mini-E is Highway Legal Pure Electric Vehicle

December 31, 2008 9:23 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Hipsters of the world rejoice! Mini has announced the greatest thing since arthouse theater—an electric version of the Mini Cooper. Unveiled at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Mini-E is the first highway legal all-electric vehicle. Amazingly, the Mini-E is heavier than its internal combustion engine (ICE) counterpart (curb weight of 3,230 vs. 2,546 for the ICE). This will satisfy those who feel greater mass equals greater safety. Despite its added bulk, the Mini-E has even greater front/rear weight balance than the ICE.

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European Union to Phase Out Incandescent Bulbs by 2012

December 11, 2008 4:42 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

In a move sure to ignite debate on this side of the Atlantic, the European Union approved the phasing out of incandescent bulbs by 2012. Here in the US, we’re debating which technologies should be allowed to earn a label (Energy Star). Over in Europe, they’ve ended the discussion with multinational governmental action. By following the commission’s proposal, EU citizens will save close to 40 TWh per year, and emissions will go down by 15 million tons of CO2 (according to the European Commission). But there’s a larger issue at hand: should government have such control of industry?

Wind Turbine Design Reduces Blade Size, Saves Money

December 3, 2008 11:10 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Betz’ Law (culled from its namesake, Albert Betz) is a theory for flow machines. From this theory we derive the Betz Limit, that is, “the maximum possible energythat may be derived by means of an infinitely thin rotor from a fluid flowing at a certain speed.” In windmills, this equates to how much electricity can be harvested from the wind energy. Current technology allows turbines to capture a maximum of 59 percent of the energy in wind

White OLED Illuminator Achieves Energy-Star Color Rating for Solid-State Lighting

November 29, 2008 7:04 am | Osram Opto Semiconductors | Product Releases | Comments

This achievement not only speeds us forward in the development of real-world solid-state lighting, it demonstrates that LED-based tech is not the only game in town.Delivering a light yield of over 60 lumens/watt, an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) white light emitter from BASF and Osram Opto Semiconductors also meets international Energy Star SSL Standard with regard to color requirements.

Air Cars- Next Big Thing or Pie-in-the-sky?

November 6, 2008 9:39 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

When we think of advanced technology vehicles, we usually conjure hybrid electric, fuel-cell, and solar cars. But the term, in fact, encompasses a wide-variety of off-the-wall designs including our most fundamental resource- air. Compressed air, as a technology, is nothing new. Seen in everything from power dusters to UPS’s, compressed air has a wide scope of application. But as an ATV variant, compressed air is relatively new (and unproven). French-based Motor Development International (MDI) has, since 1991, taken the lead in creating a viable air-powered vehicle.

Ocean Vortices Could Lead to Long-term Renewable Energy

October 30, 2008 9:37 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

A new technology aims to extract energy from that which covers 75% of the Earth— water. Michigan-based Vortex Hydro Energy is researching the natural motion of ocean currents; in particular, how currents interact with cylinders. Take offshore oil rigs, for example. When water impacts the cables that hold the platforms in place, it creates small vortices. When each vortex dissipates, it creates a vibration that poses a long-term risk to the rig’s structural integrity. But ocean engineer Michael Bernitsas, founder of Vortex Hydro, believes these vortices can be harnessed.

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DoE Lab Prototype Sets Record for Solar Cell Efficiency

October 14, 2008 12:23 pm | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Regular Efficiency Zone readers know that photovoltaics is a very inefficient technology. While the technology is environmentally-friendly, and the energy source (the sun) will be viable for billions of years, the conversion process (and viability) is undercut by a number of factors. These include shade, dirt, and panel-to-panel mismatch. In addition, detractors of the technology point to its high cost, but this is a socio-economic factor that won’t be solved by science alone. But scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have made a huge technological leap.

Online Event Promotes Green Technology

October 8, 2008 11:17 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Registration is now open for Premier Farnell’s green event, “Designing for Energy Efficiency,” to be held at the online venue, Live EDGE EcoSphere, on October 15. This coincides with the design competition, “Live EDGE – Electronic Design for the Global Environment.” For the latter, entrants have until January 31, 2009 to submit environmental technologies, with the winner of the student and open/general competitions each receiving a cool $25,000. The online event, “Designing for Energy Efficiency,” will showcase green technologies from such manufacturers as National Semiconductor, Vishay Intertechnology, and Ohmite Manufacturing.

Electric Bike Sports Revolutionary Half-hour Recharge Time

October 2, 2008 6:31 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Bicycling is generally considered one of the most efficient forms of transportation. In many countries (particularly ones where the average income precludes weekly gasoline fill-ups), the bike is the primary mode of transport. Yet for a variety of reasons, the bike has yet to catch on in this country as a viable means of transportation. Schwinn could adjust the paradigm with its new Toshiba-powered Tailwind electric bike. Schwinn, a constant fixture in the bicycling industry since 1895, is no stranger to the E-bike market. Their current lineup, including the Continental, World GSE, and Campus, gets 40-60 miles on a 4 hour charge (decent stats for the E-bike market), and costs anywhere from $1,480 to $2,080.

Embedded Power Conference Strives to Fill Power Vacuum

September 22, 2008 12:19 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

From September 17-18, the Marriott Hotel in San Jose hosted the first annual Embedded Power Conference, focusing on “increasing power-management issues.” I attended this inaugural event, and it was well worth the price of admission (press get in free). Seriously though, it was a great first effort, and will fill a void in the industry. Embedded Power was comprised of over 20 lectures, classes, and discussions. The highlight (in this humble editor’s opinion) was a panel moderated by ECN’s skipper, Alix Paultre. Entitled “Open-Source vs. Proprietary Methodologies in Digital Power Management,” the panel addressed a hot industry topic in a town hall format.

Performance Enhancement For Residential Light Fixtures

September 10, 2008 11:51 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

In a recent beer commercial, a woman asks for a low-calorie beer, and the host proceeds to spill out half the bottle, and hand it to her. In similar fashion the EPA believes that, through the use of add-ons, one can improve the innate efficiency of legacy technologies. In reference to their new Energy Star “technical amendment,” the EPA’s Lightning Program Manager, Alex Baker, told me, “With this approach, the Program currently has nearly 12,000 qualified fixtures from more than 120 manufacturing Partners…even incandescent technologies (the latter only allowed when used with a motion sensor to minimize operating time)” (emphasis mine).

Biomechanical Energy Harvester Converts Human Motion Into Electricity

September 4, 2008 7:22 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

The inherent weakness of any portable device is its isolation from a constant power source, such as electricity. Thus, battery technology has evolved alongside the iPod and laptop computer. But batteries themselves are inefficient, because they either deplete themselves, or in the case of rechargeables, require electricity supplied from a power grid. But what if you could harness the energy produced by the natural motion of the human body? Bionic Power is endeavoring to accomplish that with its “Biomechanical Energy Harvester.”

The Mathworks Kicks Off EcoCAR Competition

August 25, 2008 9:19 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

On August 14th, 2008, The Mathworks held the kick-off to “EcoCAR,” a collegiate advanced technology vehicle competition (ATVC). EcoCAR’s subtitle (“The NeXt Challenge”) says it all- this is the spiritual successor to “Challenge X,” a similarly-themed ATVC contest that, last year, ended with Mississippi State University taking home the gold. In speaking with personnel from the DOE, The Mathworks, and GM (all event sponsors), I concluded that the biggest obstacle to ATV’s greater viability is a lack of young, qualified engineers.

“Green” Project Aspires to Reduce IT's Carbon Footprint

August 7, 2008 11:42 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

According to Doug Ramsey of UC San Diego, “The information technology industry consumes as much energy and has roughly the same ‘carbon footprint’ as the airline industry.” This is because of the unparalleled growth in high-speed electronic equipment, and the corresponding electricity requirements. Not only is energy necessary for the systems themselves, but as IT equipment blossoms, so does their cooling requirements.  It’s an implacable scenario that currently plagues the IT industry. Similar to hipster environmentalist celebrities who globe-trot on private jets, how do you conduct scientific research into efficiency issues when your investigative process gobbles up energy?

Energizer Stays One Step Ahead by Catering to Diminutive Device Trend

July 31, 2008 9:55 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

“Quad A” may soon become part of the common vernacular. Although the AAAA battery (or Quad A) has been commercially available since 1989, it’s mostly been a niche product, difficult to find on shelves. But with consumer electronics moving towards smaller, more lightweight devices, with decreasing power requirements, the battery industry is adapting. Quad A has long been an internal industry standard for 9 V batteries (6 Quad A’s linked together, each generating 1.5 V, equals 9 V), but it could soon displace the AAA as the battery of choice for portable electronics.

EPA Creates Bedlam With Amendment for Residential Light Fixtures

July 22, 2008 5:17 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Ayn Rand, one of capitalism’s greatest proponents, once said, “I am an innovator. This is a term of distinction, a term of honor, rather than something to hide or apologize for. Anyone who has new or valuable ideas to offer stands outside the intellectual status quo.” Governmental interference in private enterprise is always disastrous. What’s worse is when innovation is stifled by bureaucratic finagling and pc notions of impartiality (or as some would say, preventing a “competitive disadvantage”). You can’t give a chimp a skateboard and call him Tony Hawk.

Report Suggests Plug-in Hybrids Threaten to Strain Freshwater Resources

July 9, 2008 10:47 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Advanced technology vehicles are the wave of the future, but they aren’t the elegant solutions advocates posit them as. The conservation of one resource inevitably comes at the expense of another resource. A report by Carey W. King and Michael E. Webber of the University of Texas suggests that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) will place a strain on the nation’s freshwater resources. The research compares miles driven with a conventional internal combustion engine vs. a PHEV.

New Study Calls for World-Wide Reduction in Energy Consumption

July 3, 2008 8:42 am | by Jason Lomberg | Blogs | Comments

A Swiss Academic Study, “The 2000 Watt Society,” is gaining a lot of traction in the environmental movement.  First developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the latest treatise ("Smarter Living") was coordinated by Novatlantis, and is an urgent call to action.  In short, it proposes an overall reduction in energy consumption to the world-wide average of 2,000 watts per capita by the year 2050.  Naturally, the US bears the brunt of the scorn.

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