In Focus: Thin Film Solar Cells


Thin film solar cells also known as thin-film photovoltaic cells are solar cells that are made up of one or more layer of photovoltaic material such as silicone, graphene or another substrate.

These types of solar cells are not really a new idea. They have been around since the inception of solar calculators. Of course these thin little strips that were used to power hand held calculators are more sophisticated now and much larger.

Thin film solar is being used today in building installations and to charge the new electric vehicles. This market has really blossomed since the early 2000′s with growth up by about 50-percent. It is predicted that thin solar cells will surpass other types of solar technology within a few years.

Application and Use

The thin nanometer to micrometer widths makes this an ideal medium to use in building construction. Sheets of this material are either laid directly on the roof or are integrated with the roof. The application of this type of solar film means no additional weight on the building from heavy solar panels.

Many consumers had to have large solar panels installed on their roofs or in spaces near their homes. This is not only an eye sore but the weight of the panels can cause undue stress on the roof.


Initially this thin solar material could only turn out about 12 megawatts. After research and development, thin film solar now offers about 40-50 megawatts and that is expected to grow and production costs drop.

Thin film is a very efficient type of material that can be used in many different applications to generate solar energy. Car manufacturers have found this material to be the material of choice to use in their electric and hybrid cars.

The efficiency is still not that of conventional panels but the prediction is that it will continue to improve because there is a definite market for the material. This is by far a much easier material to work with and to install and it is far less intrusive than traditional panels.

The Costs

Through advances in the industry the production costs have been greatly reduced which in turn has driven down the end cost. China has affected this market by mining large amounts of silicon which they have been using to produce very low cost (in comparison to previous years) conventional panels at cut rate prices.

The cost has fallen dramatically and with continued research and development into production strategies it is likely that this film will continue to decrease in price while it will increase in efficiency.

Thin film solar cells may be the answer to providing solar energy to homes and businesses that are located in urban areas where placing conventional panels is not possible. It is the goal of the industry to surpass the efficiency of conventional panels by 2014 – 2015.

Original Article on Green Tech Gazette


The Siemens SST-500 GEO Steam Turbine


Geothermal plants are going to get a new addition to the family of energy assistants. This is because Siemens Energy is releasing a steam turbine that is going to extremely useful to the current state of how these plants are offered powered. This turbine will assist the power range up to 120 megawatts.

A New Addition to Steam Turbines

The SST-500 GEO is being released after the SST-400 GEO turbine, which came out during the season of Autumn 2011. This steam turbine features a single-casing, double-flow condensing turbine. It is taken from the SST-500 and SST-600 families that many people are already familiar with. It combines the well-established casing and auxiliaries of the SST-500 and SST-600 models with the geothermal attributes and steam path technological aspects that have been so brilliant developed by Siemens Energy. This means it can be sent into a geothermal power plant under an impressive wide assortment of potential steam conditions.

The beauty of geothermal energy is that it can work at any time, and it can work under a variety of conditions. Weather and climactic possibilities can do nothing to stop geothermal energy from working, and this makes it one of the most durable renewable energy sources available. Further developments and growth in this field is expected. The SST-500 GEO steam turbine is an excellent example of the constant developments that are occurring in this endlessly fascinating scientific arena.

Each SST-500 GEO steam turbine that is released promises to have the ability to adapt to whatever the surrounding conditions demand of it. The blade path in the standardized casing can be altered to make this steam machine capable of performing optimally in any situation.

Siemens has been an active member of the geothermal community for over 20 years. They have used that time to make incredible strides in the technology that allows geothermal plants to thrive. The SST-500 GEO will be able to function in live steam temperatures that can rise as high as 250 degrees Celsius. It will also be able to endure steam pressures up to 15 bar absolute. There will be high-grade resources for stage-particular turbines, as well as additional features that will allow for moisture to be removed at any potential stage.

When going green it is important to remember the steam.

External References

Original Article on Green Tech Gazette

Choosing the Right Solar Energy Installer in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Solar Image-tiff

The implementation of  ICE’s Net Metering, Distributed Generation solar energy program has created a rapid increase for the demand of quality installed, solar energy systems amongst home and business owners in Costa Rica.

Spurred by the country’s already high, rising cost of electricity, ICE’s progressive solar energy program encourages energy consumers to produce their own electricity from renewable sources, while transmitting excess energy generated back into the utility grid.

The innovative program allows consumers to significantly reduce their electricity bills, namely during peak Demanda hours.

As with any rapid growing industry, the probability of inexperienced, fly by night companies looking to cash in on the opportunity rises, increasing the importance for savvy consumers to choose the right solar energy provider.

We asked Mr. Lester Sacks, founder of Costa Rica Solar Solutions (CRSS), one of the country’s leading solar energy providers, what home owners and business operators looking to convert to solar should look for in a service provider.

As an experienced nuclear engineer of 20 years and having participated in the development, design, supply and/or installation of many various sized residential and commercial solar energy systems throughout Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and the U.S., Mr. Sacks emphasizes the importance of doing your homework before making any long-term, energy investment decision.

Below are some helpful tips Lester recommends to would be consumers, when choosing the right solar power provider for your project;

  1. Qualification: Possibly the easiest way to check to see whether a solar installer is qualified, is to know their qualifications. Are they a licensed electrician or engineer, are they registered as a solar installer. There are organizations that certify solar installers, the NABCEP is probably your best bet in terms of the quality of work offered from their certified installers. Not only do they have their potential installers pass a rigorous set of tests, but prior to receiving their certificate an installer must also have two years of experience in solar system installations.

In the case of solar installers that claim to have enough experience to do the job without certification, it is important that you ask them to provide you with as many references as possible. This will be helpful to know not only how much experience they may have, but may provide insight as to the quality of work that they hold as standard. It is also important to ask about the range of solar systems they have installed, and how many of those are similar to the system you are considering.

2. Licenses/Insurance: The last thing anyone wants is to be on the receiving end of a liability claim due to an accident during installation. Should an accident occur, most solar installers have general liability insurance, workers compensation insurance, and a contractor’s license, all of which are designed to protect you from anything that could go wrong while they are on the job. More than often, if a solar installer does not have these basic protections or is not willing to verify that they have them, you’re probably safer choosing a different company.

3. Financing: One of the best ways to know your installers level of capability, especially in a commercial install scenario, is whether or not they can help you finance your system. Are they able to help put money where there mouth is?  Is there an experienced finance company willing to stand behind the installer, while literally investing in the installation and workmanship?

We suggest commercial clients in Costa Rica consider leasing a system from a company like ArcStar Energy S.A. – This requires little or no up front capital and includes complete operating and maintenance throughout the duration of the lease program (15-20 years)… insuring the system will function optimally with minimal time or risk committed by the business operator. It also insures warranty will be up to spec, because the client doesn’t pay unless the system is working properly. This is one of the safest overall solutions when investing in solar in Costa Rica, because often the locked in monthly lease rate is less than the consumers previous monthly ICE bill, permitting immediate savings with minimal risk. This finance method also protects the business operator from future rising rate hikes without having to take on the responsibility of operating the system.

4. Interconnection with ICE: In Costa Rica it is possible to connect a solar or other renewable energy system to the ICE distribution grid. This means that as an independent power producer you can produce your own energy while feeding your excess energy back into the ICE grid. You then will receive a credit on your electric bill for the energy that is produced every month earning you up to 33 cents US per kWh. While choosing to participate in this progressive program, it is advisable you choose an installer who has experience in interconnections process and agreements with ICE. The more experience the installer has in this department, the better. An experienced installer may even help handle the application process with ICE and will coordinate the date and time your system will “come online” while connecting to the grid. Ask your installer how many grid connections he has participated in, and don’t feel shy to ask to see previous interconnect agreements he has received from ICE.

5. Referrals/Track Record: Look for an installer who has been contracted to do other systems in your neighborhood or region. Ask to be taken to some of those other sites to view the quality of your installer’s workmanship and don’t be shy to ask the system owners if they would choose the same company if they had to do it all over again. A quality installer will be proud of the other jobs he has completed in the community and will have maintained close relationships with past customers, making it easy for you to determine the company’s level of integrity.

6. Design: Each solar energy system is as unique as its owner. The system’s components and size of the project will be contingent on the needs of its owner, requiring a unique design based on geography, energy demands, location to the grid, mounting equipment (rooftop or ground mount racking), area of coverage (footprint) and budget. Beware wary of installers who recommend “in a box systems”… one size does not fit all.

7. Subcontracting: Subcontracting can be a touchy subject when it comes to photovoltaic solar installations. If your solar installer subcontracts any of their work, this may not be the ideal choice for you. You may trust your solar installer, but not necessarily the subcontractor who will ultimately be assigned to your project. Also confirm if your installer’s company insurance covers sub contractors. The last thing you want as a consumer is finger pointing when trying to figure out why your system isn’t working.

8. Location, location, location: The location of your proposed project in relation to the area your installer operates out of may play an important role in choosing the right installer for your job. The closer they are to your location, the better. Not only can this help to decrease some of the costs while minimizing travel time, it may also result in the installer being more familiar with local building codes and connection requirements. In addition, if the installer has performed other work in the area then they will be more familiar with what is required to leverage local weather conditions in terms of maintenance plans, which may prove to be beneficial in saving costs while improving your overall energy outputs.

9. Brands Used: Unless you’re willing to risk some potential problems later on in the life of your solar energy system, do not let yourself get roped into being a science experiment for your installer to try new, unproven technology on. It is important that your installer is familiar and comfortable with the component brands being used, as well as their methods of installation. More importantly, it is imperative that your installer recommends a brand of panel and inverter that will be in business tomorrow, to protect your warranty.

10. Warranty: Because most solar projects can be considered a large, long-term investment, it is crucial that your solar panels come with a reliable warranty. A photovoltaic system can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to pay for itself in Costa Rica, therefore a warranty less than 10 years should be unacceptable. The solar panels themselves should have a reliable warranty of 20 to 25 years, covering degradation (annual decreased efficiency) of no more than 3% a year. A 5 year limited warranty on labor should also be sought, allowing time for your installer to mend any malfunctions free of charge should materials malfunction or require warranty. On this note, it’s imperative to choose an installer who has a successful track record and will be in business in the years to come.

Also worth noting, choose an installer who recommends the use of solar panels manufactured by a company that will likely be in business in 20 years from point of installation, in the event warranty is necessary.

Ask your installer about modules manufactured by known companies with diversified interests, to offset their balance sheets during times of solar economic trouble. In the world of commercially operated, utility scale solar projects, this is called “Bankability.”

A reputable installer who plans to be in business for the long haul, will not only be thinking about minimizing his clients long term risks, but also his own.

11. Economies of Scale: Many have found that choosing the route of the “one stop” solar installation company can prove to be beneficial when it come to costs and ease of installation. Choose a company that can perform all of the necessary steps, from the beginning consultation to the final electric hookup to the grid, without you having to call upon outside contractors. Not only will this prove to be more convenient for you and the installation company, but will generally help expedite the process. In addition, often times the solar installer can pass along savings made by ordering services and components in bulk, due to ordering larger quantities based on “economies of scale.” Therefore, the busier the company you choose is, the more affordable their services may be.

12. Locating a Solar Installer: Historically, word of mouth is always one of the best ways to find any type of products and/or services. Ask your neighbors or associated companies who they may have recently had systems installed by, or ask them if they know of any others who have recently had systems installed.

Another way to identify quality installers is to leverage the internet, but don’t always believe everything you read. Again, do your own due diligence thoroughly, researching the companies you are interviewing.

13. Common Sense: While considering all of the above factors, the ultimate decision of choosing the right photovoltaic installer in Costa Rica comes down to you and your comfort level. Remember, this is just business, so don’t get too personal or feel badly about choosing one company over another. This decision can be a big commitment and the comfort and/or reliability of the operation of your home or business may be dependent on it, therefore do not always go with the cheapest quote – Going too cheap could end up costing you a lot more in the long run.

Be satisfied with how quickly the companies you contact respond to your calls and questions and feel confident that they are knowledgeable when answering, no matter how trivial the question may seem. A company that does not respond to your calls reliably, will likely not be in business long.


Your solar energy solutions provider in Costa Rica should be more than just someone you temporarily hire, but rather a professional you trust to make a long term investment with. An experienced, reliable PV installer will make the installation process painless, while providing you a reliable means of significantly reducing your carbon footprint… while saving you a lot of money in the process.

The Solar Gazette is a media related company dedicated to global change through the reduction of harmful toxins and greenhouse gases being released into the Earth’s atmosphere. In doing so, The Solar Gazette advocates the use of clean renewable energies as economic replacements for outdated fossil fuels,   through a variety of related publications. The Solar Gazette thanks Lester Sacks and Glenn Kawamoto from Costa Rica Solar Solutions (CRSS) for their cooperation in the creation of this article.

Has Apple Improved their Sustainability Efforts?

With the declining progress of environment in today’s world, many movements enter the scene to prevent it. Manufacturers begin to use eco-friendly materials to produce products that will help save the environment. However, recurring reports are against Apple’s “contribution” to the ecosystem.

In the past few years, Apple has been faced with issues regarding the use of toxic chemicals (Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic, Mercury, and Brominated Flame Retardants) in producing their products. In turn, the late CEO Steve Jobs made a commitment to be more forthcoming about its programs and policies in the future. However, is it bearing fruit?

Although they received some “cautious” praise from China about the latter’s attempt to level the playing field with regards to environmental concerns. It may have been a major step for Apple. However, they still have to make drastic measures in order to redeem itself from previous transgressions against the environment.

Matters took a turn for the worse when they fell rock bottom being named as the ‘least green’ tech company. According to a report from Greenpeace, Apple’s North Carolina facility will triple their electricity consumptions for more production and income. The electricity demand was equal to 80,000 average US homes. This may have resulted to Apple having a large boost in their quarterly earnings. However, with the facility being powered with energy in a form of 62% of coal and 32% nuclear, fatal damages to the environment were to be expected.

Is design and income more important than the safety and progress of the environment?

According to a report by CNN last July, Apple decided to add fuel on the fire when they dropped green EPEAT (Electronic Product Energy Assessment Tool) label from their products. “They said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” said EPEAT CEO Robert Frisbee. Apparently, Apple withdrawing their entire line of products from the label damaged their own reputation, ranking behind HP and Dell in terms of environmental friendliness.

In a few days after, CNN reported that Apple has called back the decision to abandon the certification label, calling it a “mistake.” With loyal Apple customers disappointed with the abandonment of the label, the company thought about more losses and decided to bring it back instead.

Loyal customers prefer a company that supports a clean environment, and Apple made a wise choice to get the certification back. To add, Greenpeace also applauded Apple’s decision, but states that the latter still needs to show proof that their materials are recyclable.
A letter from Bob Mansfield, Apple’s Senior VP of Hardware Engineering was released stating that the entire line of Apple products will be back on the EPEAT rating system, thus strengthening their bond with EPEAT and the environment itself.

Sadly, in the 18th edition of Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, Apple has dropped to 6th Position, stating they are still lacking transparency on Greenhouse emission reporting and clean energy transparency. Apple could have done better with if they’re committed in their reformed act. However, if these are the results, what can we now expect from them?

About the Author

Reese Jones is a tech and gadget lover, a die-hard fan of iOS and console games. She started her writing venture recently and writes about everything from quick tech tips, to mobile-specific news from the likes of O2, to tech-related DIY.

Original Article on Green Tech Gazette

Fuel Efficiency: The Road Ahead

Automakers are under pressure to meet the demands of the Federal Government’s fuel efficiency standards and the American public’s demand for reasonably priced vehicles. 20 years from now, automakers will no doubt have the technology figured out, but in the meantime both they and consumers may be in for a bumpy ride.

The Standards

The new fuel efficiency standards are calling for vehicles that can deliver 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. That’s a substantial improvement on the 35.5 mpg standard that’s required by 2016. Automakers will have to do some creative experimentation to keep up with the fuel efficiency demands, and since those aren’t negotiable, the consumer is going to see lots of new developments, but not much standardization.

The Trends

Two emerging trends are smaller engine size and lower vehicle weight. Ford is working on a 3.5-liter V-6 and GM has the Chevrolet Cruze with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that competes well with larger engines. In some cases, the Chevrolet Cruze performs as well as engines twice its size. That’s great news for fuel efficiency, and customers with an eye on reducing their environmental impact will be pleased. The catch is that drivers will have to pay a bit more to use less gasoline. Vehicles will get more complicated and the technologies that make this new generation of vehicles more fuel efficient are going to be more expensive.

Tech Evolution

Fuel injectors and water pumps will change drastically. Ford already favors direct injectors over the traditional variety, as do many European automakers. Water pumps will be electric, and much smaller. The new vehicles will require several water pumps, where the older models would have used just one simple pump with a belt feed.

Engine-powered devices decrease fuel efficiency, so automakers are focusing on reducing the number of them on the new vehicles. To compensate, batteries are being utilized to perform many of the functions previously accomplished by auxiliary engine power.

Challenges for R&D

The new standards are tough, but automakers are willing to take some risks to meet the challenge. Their willingness to commit to new technologies will give their suppliers the confidence to spend time and energy in research and development as well, giving the consumer a taste of what’s to come. For example, when GM announced plans to build the battery-powered Chevy Volt, the battery technology they ended up using in the car had not yet been developed. Their suppliers had to work to design a suitable battery for the new vehicle. These batteries are still very expensive, which means the consumer must pay over $40,000 to buy a new Volt.

But, consumers are proving that this type of innovation is worth the added expense in order to drive green. In December of 2011, GM Vice President of U.S. Sales, Don Johnson, said GM would deliver the 10,000th Volt in early 2012. He noted, “We’re not at all disappointed. You have to continue to build awareness.”

The automakers have their work cut out for them. They intend to meet the demands of new fuel efficiency standards by 2016 and again by 2025, educate consumers about the need to spend a bit more for a car that uses less gasoline, and provide a product that is reliable. The environmental benefits, coupled with the advances in technology make this a bumpy ride well worth taking.

About the Author

George Zeed works for Impact Battery. He is an avid outdoorsman and environmentalist. George writes about topics related to all kinds of recreational vehicles and accessories. He is the “go to guy” for information when shopping for a great selection sunlinq products.

Original Article on Green Tech Gazette

Green Buildings Go Mainstream

For a long time, advocates of green living have had to endure some level of ridicule. And although once relegated to the fringes of mainstream public opinion, champions of sustainable solutions to the increasing problems associated with over-consumption may end up having the last laugh. More and more, sustainable living practices are making their way into the mainstream and the impact is formidable.

Schools Going Green

The students at the Waldorf School in Costa Mesa, California are getting the chance to participate in sustainability just by going to school every day. The school is expanding their current capacity by 10,000 square feet through the use of recycled steel shipping containers. Forming four entirely new buildings, these shipping containers will be permanent additions to the school rather than temporary mobile classrooms like we’ve seen so many schools use in the past. Seeing sustainable building practices make their way into the mainstream to such an extent that schools are jumping on board is truly exciting because it accomplishes more than initially meets the eye.

Using recycled shipping containers for building materials solves the primary challenge of creating much needed space for classrooms in which students can learn. But going to school in recycled classrooms is an effective way to teach students good environmental practices. And there’s no better evidence that green, sustainable practices are finally going mainstream than to see schools adopting responsible building practices.

Green Homes

Earthship homes are one of the more intriguing examples of sustainability gradually starting to make its way into the mainstream. Back in the 1970′s when Mike Reynolds first began constructing these tire constructed and rammed earth homes, the earthship carried connotations of a hippy dippy fringe society.

But the practicality of these simple buildings has made them ever more popular and they can now be found in most parts of the United States and are becoming popular in Europe as well. Not only do these homes require very little energy consumption due to their passive solar design, the technique of pounding dirt into old used tires for their construction is another great example of using common materials in an innovative way.

What can You Do?

Sustainability as a way of living isn’t always going to be as appealing as building schools out of recycled shipping containers and incredibly cool earthship homes. But everyday actions can have a huge impact toward pushing sustainability farther into the mainstream. In your home and office, make a concerted effort to engage in less wasteful practices. At home, try to conserve water resources by fewer toilet flushes and not running the faucet while shaving and brushing your teeth. Keeping your home a few degrees warmer in the summer and a few degrees cooler in the winter can have a greater impact on reducing energy consumption than you might imagine.

In the office, try to print paper copies less frequently. Making company resources available electronically can go a long way toward cutting down on wasteful paper usage. Encouraging telecommuting is great for cutting down gas consumption. And if you absolutely have to go to the office to perform certain duties, think about consolidating them into the first part of the week and telecommuting the last day or two if possible. Businesses can make a big impact when sustainability becomes part of corporate culture. And as sustainability continues to encroach into the mainstream, irresponsible conspicuous consumption of natural resources may eventually find its way out of the mainstream and into the fringe.

External Videos

Waldorf Construction Youtube Video:

Earthship Homes Youtube Video:

Author Info:

Aaron Carlson lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University and has a keen interest in green living and social media. He also writes for

Original Article on Green Tech Gazette

In Focus: Energy Efficient Smart Home Technology

Since most of us spend of our time at home when we’re not working, it makes sense for us to be aware of our energy consumption when we are there. For that reason, there are a lot of home technologies that help us to monitor our energy consumption and even save energy in the process. Most people are unaware of their daily carbon footprint or how sustainable their homes are, but there are simple ways that we can all move to being more eco-friendly and viable even when at home.

Some of the technologies that are providing people with easy ways to monitor and cut their energy and water usage include the following.

1. Low Flow Showerheads and Toilets

Low-flow showerheads and toilets are beginning to gain popularity in the home. Hot water can account for up to 25% of a home’s total energy costs and 15% of it being due to showers! So, it makes sense to try and reduce the amount of hot water used. By installing low-flow showerheads, you can reduce your water, and energy, consumption by up to half! According to BC Hyrdro, if “10,000 B.C. households switched to low-flow showerheads, the annual energy savings could power 300 Canadian homes for a year.”

Hand-in-hand with low-flow showerheads are low-flow, energy efficient toilets. By installing this type of high-efficiency toilet, you can “save over 30,000 litres of water a year”! This is not only better for the environment, but also results in you saving money.

2. Water Usage Meter

You can also seek to save water and energy by buying a water saver usage meter. These handy little devices show you exactly how much water you are using so that you can take steps in order to reduce your water usage by not over watering your garden, for example. These meters fit on standard hoses, have LCD displays, a reset button for every usage in addition to an auto shut-off to help conserve power.

3. Energy Star Appliances

One of the best and most efficient ways to save energy in the home is to switch to appliances and products that do the work for you! There are many options in the realm of Energy Star appliances including fridges, dishwashers, laundry machines, dryers and even the smaller items such as blenders.

By switching to an Energy Star appliance, you will use “10 – 50% less water and energy than standard models”.

4. Energy-Saver Light Bulbs

Another easy way to save energy in the home is by switching to energy-efficient lighting in every room. For example, ENERGY STAR® compact light bulbs use “75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs”. Another option is to switch to halogen lighting. It has light output “similar to a regular incandescent bulb but uses up to 40 percent less energy”.

5. Solar Powered Gadgets

A Technology that is becoming steadily popular these days includes solar powered chargers and gadgets. While solar power for your home in the form of panels is still very expensive, we can instead harness the suns energy in smaller portions. These days the market has everything from solar chargers for our cell phones and mp3 players to solar alarm clocks to solar powered lights for the garden. They even have solar powered TV’s now!


Regardless of what type of technology suits your fancy, by switching even a few of your gadgets over to solar power, you will benefit from cost savings. Not to mention that you will feel better knowing that you’re reducing your carbon footprint and saving the environment.

Other ways you can upgrade to more energy efficient lighting is by using a 100-watt bulb in place of two 60-watt ones. The single 100-watt not only produces the same amount of light, but it is also more energy efficient. There are also many energy-saving devices that can be used in conjunction with lighting such as motion sensors, dimmers and automatic timers.

While these are some of the top energy-efficient items for the home, there are many other options in today’s market and many more arriving all the time. Green technology, though not necessarily a new trend, has been picking up in the past few years as people start to become more and more environmentally aware and responsible. As a consumer, the next time you go shopping for new technology, appliances or gadgets for your home, be sure to check out some energy-efficient models instead!

Guest Post by Amy Lizee

Original Article on Green Tech Gazette

How Green is the Internet?

If the Internet were a country it would rank fifth in the world for energy usage according to a recent report from Greenpeace. For those of you keeping track at home, that meansthat data centers around the world use more energy annually than Indiaor Germany.

The report, released in April this year, examined theenergy footprint of major IT companies based on their use of clean anddirty energies. IT server farms the report notes, are the factories ofthe 21st century and like their brick-and-mortar counterparts of theIndustrial Revolution, their effect on the environment must beaddressed.

The comparison between the Internet and a smoking,belching 18th century cotton mill does invite comment, as does the useof the phrase ‘the cloud’ as a catch all for the anything related toonline services or the online ecosystem. Setting aside these points, the report does draw attention to how much energy a big organisation likeGoogle or Facebook uses.

The report is intended in many ways tobreak the perception that companies like Twitter exist in cyberspaceonly as well as the corollary belief that they are therefore green andenvironmentally friendly. In reality, data centers account for 2% of global energy use and electronic devices consume 15% of home electricity.

Furthermore, the report distinguishes between efficient IT and green IT. Moreefficient IT essentially means less power consumption via technicalsolutions. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the power being used andsaved is generated in a green way. To use a domestic example you mightbuy a TV that promises to use 50% less power but it is still using power generated by burning fossil fuels, just half as much. At home you canoffset this environmental effect by buying green energy from your electricity supplier. Green IT implies IT companies do the same.

Whether IT giants go green remains to be seen, but the report does draw theissue into the open by making clear the connection between your nextGoogle search and dirty power.


Read more

For Smart Grid Technology to Flourish, Upgrades are Needed

Smart grid technology is quickly moving from theory to reality inmany parts of the United States. The technology consists of a group ofnew energy delivery techniques based on ideas that started over 100years ago in the mind of Nikolai Tesla. He saw a world where power wasdelivered on demand from a centralized power generator, going in bothdirections so that nothing was wasted.

Much of today’s technology focuses on the way appliances handleenergy, like smart appliances that know when to draw power and when notto draw power. Changes to the delivery methods of power from the powerstations may take more innovation and time to accomplish. Tomorrow’stechnology workers will have to solve problems of efficiency,integration and returning unused energy to the grid.

Grid Needs Multiple Sources and Storage Solutions

A true smart grid system relies on more than one source of power. The power sources need to be spread evenly along the grid in order toprovide the maximum amount of power to smaller geographic areas. Windturbines, photovoltaic panels, and solar power collection sites couldreplace the larger traditional power stations.

A smart grid also needs more manageable power storage solutions. Asthe power is collected from the various sources, it needs to be storedin batteries that can send the power out in the appropriate amounts asneeded. Controlling the power distribution at this finite level willrequire highly sophisticated devices.

Equipment Changeovers

One of the main challenges that tech workers will face as powerstations shift to smart grid technology is dealing with the equipmentthat is currently installed. In many cases, the old equipment usestechnology that cannot be converted to the smart grid system. Workerswill need to uninstall the old equipment and replace it with updatedtechnology without disrupting the energy that is being supplied by thepower plant. Extensive tests will need to be run before power plantswill be ready to install the new technology, which could createextremely high costs for the changeover process.

Blending the Grids

In the United States, today’s power grids are managed on a state bystate basis rather than a federal system. That means that each state has its own equipment and configuration based on the system that the staterelies on. With a smart grid, the states would need to find a way toblend their systems together into a more seamless power grid. Thepolitics involved in such an undertaking could take several years toresolve before the workers can even begin to install the new system.Once the politicians are happy, the work that will be needed to createlinks from state to state could be daunting.


Jessica Bosari blogs for The site provides useful advice and information for those thinkingabout computer science careers and answers questions like, “What is thetop health informatics salary new graduates can expect?”


Read more

How Smart Home Automation Can Save Future Energy

If you’re anything like me, the outlook right now for powering yourhome is looking abysmal. Oil prices are at an all-time high. We’retrying to get away from burning coal, but radiation leaks after theJapanese tsunami are making everyone question. Unfortunately all ofthese occurrences point to us using power sources which are bothinefficient and bad for the environment.

We’re moving closer to ultra-efficiency and net-zero homes and I’vegot an awesome set up to conserve my home’s electricity for my lighting.

Between 12-15 percent of energy use in homes is lighting. That’s ahuge amount if you consider that people are running TVs, microwaves,refrigerators and stoves which are all huge energy suckers. I’ve got two techie tricks of easily saving energy in your home.

1. Dim the Lights

I have a Crestron system in my home, but you can do similar thingswith almost any home automation package. What you do is program yourlights to only come on to 75% of full luminosity when activated. Youwould think that 25-percent is a lot, but it’s hardly perceptible toyour eyes.
This trick ends up cutting your lighting portion of your bill by20-percent by itself. As an added bonus, you will find your lights willlast 4 times longer than at full blast because of the wear and tear onthem being so much less.

When someone drops a contact lens or you need the most lightpossible, you can always turn on full power to them, but you’ll findyourself loving how much you’re saving without even trying.

2. Motion Sensors

How much energy do you waste because your kids leave the lights onand walk out of the room? Just twice this month I walked outside in themorning for a run and realized we left the porch lights burning allnight long. So frustrating!

We’ve all seen the garage lights that turn on when there’s motion, right? We’re talking that, but on anabolic steroids.

Imagine a motion sensor in every living space. When you walk into the room, the lights automatically turn on. When you leave, they turn off.No wasted electricity and you may never have to touch a light switchever again.

A really fun program you can run on it is between the night hours,only to bring lights on to 10-percent when motion is detected. That wayyour eyes don’t hate you if you have to use the bathroom or run to thekitchen for a midnight snack, and you won’t have to worry about stepping on any toys along the way.

But Automation is Too Expensive!

Yes, what Tony Stark has in his house is much too expensive for you,but surprisingly home automation lighting is getting extremelyreasonable. It’s not uncommon to find lighting for $140 per switch, andadd a processor and programming, and you can be into a basic systemwhere the energy savings payback period is attractive.

There are many low-cost, even do-it-yourself automation systems outthere where you can also cut costs if you need to. I’m always a Crestron fan, though, if you can fit it into your budget, as it’s going to berock solid and you won’t be troubleshooting every Saturday.

And as more and more people see it as a viable option, prices willcontinue to drop, making it more viable! So if you can’t find room inthe budget for it now, watch for the future. Then dream that somedayyour home will be so efficient that the power company will be paying you for feeding excess power back to the grid.


About the Author: AJ Wilcox is the marketing manager for a Utah home theater company that specializes in whole-home automation and integration. He’s got two kids and a wife, and loves running, technology, and droolingover exotic cars.


Read more

Transparent Solar Panels Developed for Windows

The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) which is part of the U. S. DOEhas come up with a thin-film material that can be used in transparentsolar panels. This breakthrough discovery may have far-reaching impacts.

According to the LANL, “The new material is a semiconducting polymer spiked with ‘fullerenes’ – soccer-ball-shaped, cage-like molecules composed of 60 carbon atoms.When applied to a surface under carefully controlled conditions, thematerial self-assembles in a repeating pattern of micron-sizedhexagonal-shaped cells resembling a honeycomb. Researchers createdreproducible films of up to several square millimeters in area.”

Now, this could have some impact on the residential solar panelmarket as homeowners would be able to put these solar panels integratedinto their windows either reducing the size of the solar panels on therooftop or eliminating them altogether depending upon the type of home.

But, what may have even a larger impact is within large cities thathave a lot of buildings including skyscrapers with literally tons ofglass windows. Industrial and commercial businesses use far more energyin the U. S. than do residences.

If large facilities were equipped with either window solar panels ortraditional solar panels or both, this would mean a dramatic savings inenergy consumption from the grid. Now, fast forward 10 years and imagine new homes and businesses being built with solar windows as a standardpart of construction. The grid as we’ve come to know it will never bethe same.


Read more

Bluenergy SolarWind Helical Hybrid Turbine Uses Dual Technology

Bluenergy SolarWind TurbineI’ve talked about helical wind turbines before such as the Helix.I’ve also many times talked about the merits of solar energy. But, whatif you could combine these two types of renewable energy systems intoone device?

A company called Bluenergy has done just that. The Bluenergy SolarWind turbine is a helical wind generatorcovered with photovoltaic cells. The beauty of the SolarWind turbine,besides it aesthetically pleasing design, is that when the sun isshining it collects energy. Also, when the wind is churning (up to 90mph) it is also collecting energy.

And, when the sun in shining and wind is blowing it is doing doubleduty in creating electricity. Solar energy is intermittent since thesun doesn’t shine all day. Wind energy is intermittent because the airisn’t always moving. The SolarWind turbine, however, has the potentialto smooth out this intermittent renewable energy problem.

Because of the design by Bluenergy, the turbine turns as relativelylow wind speeds. In addition, because of the helical design and thepresumed turning of the turbine, the photovoltaic cells are receivingmaximum sun coverage. The photovoltaic cells don’t have to track thesun from sunup to sundown in order to create energy.


Read more

Green Tech Bull Market Pulls Back

It’s no secret that if you’ve been watching the green tech industryand green tech stocks that there has been a bull market charging aheadsince March 2009 when the Dow hit a low of in the 6,500’s. And in thisbull market, renewable energy companies across the board were going upin price.

But, last week, the stock market decided that this “irrationalexuberance” of green tech stocks needed a pullback. I watched myfantasy watch list of green tech stocks go from a health gain the weekbefore to a healthy loss (thank goodness this wasn’t real money I wasplaying with).

My green tech watch list of stocks covers companies in solar, windturbines, geothermal, alternative fuels and energy conservation. Thestocks were pretty well down on all fronts. Forbesand a few other finance websites have reported a gloomy outlook forsolar stocks, because of a glut of solar in the marketplace and a stillshaky economy.

One Chinese company Suntech Power gave its earnings report, whichstated that profits fell 80-percent from the year before during the 2ndquarter. This week, the green tech market seems to be coming back abit. With the Obama administration pumping money into the green techindustry expect it to still continue in an upward trend. But, alsoexpect it to be a very bumpy ride.


Read more