Tag Archives: electricity

The post-PC era: smartphones and tablets use (much) less energy than laptop and desktop PCs

The smartphone revolution is spreading to every corner of the globe and, in 2011, an astounding 450 million smartphones were shipped. But what is the environmental cost of all these phones?

A piece from OPower looked into this and found some surprising facts. The first is that the iPhone 5 only uses $0.41/year of energy, and the second is a look at the post-PC era.

It turns out that smartphones and tablets are ultra-energy efficient compared to traditional consumer electronics – “A day spent web-surfing on a smartphone is a much more energy-efficient than doing the same on a traditional computer.”

 

 

Read the full article – Smartphones: smart for energy efficiency

IKEA makes the switch to LED bulbs – but Americans still don’t know about them

This week IKEA announced they plan to sell only LED bulbs by 2016, becoming the first furniture retailer in the United States to do so.

A round-up of the stories covering this:

The total annual cost saving (including purchase price and energy consumption cost) of switching one incandescent 40W bulb to a corresponding LED bulb, is about $6.25. – Earth Techling

While the high cost of non-traditional lighting may be prohibitive for some, the company says that it will “be selling the LED bulbs at the lowest price on the market” (IKEA’s cheapest LED bulb currently starts at $9.99). – The Verge

But what most Americans (about 73%) don’t know is that LED bulbs last 20 years, incandescent bulbs, by contrast, last only about a year. – Daily Finance

IKEA said the effort fits in with its phase-out of plastic bags in 2007 and incandescent bulbs in 2010. – Market Watch

 

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San Onofre nuclear plant update – one unit to turn on, another to stay off permanently

Yesterday Southern California Edison submitted plans to restart one of its two nuclear generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The other generator is being shut down permanently. Both units showed radioactive damage and required repairs.

Unit 2, the generator that will be turned on, had six tubes showing extreme decay, and 1,600 overall with some decay. Unit 3, which will remain shut down, had 381 showing extreme decay, and 1,800 with some decay. Edison reports that a team of independent experts inspected these repairs and approved the plan to turn on Unit 2. These plans were submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and are awaiting approval.

If accepted Unit 2 will run for five months at 70% power, and then turn off for “inspection of the steam generator tubes to ensure the continued structural integrity of the tubes, to measure tube wear and to confirm that the solutions are working.” At the same time, Edison plans to defuel Unit 3, which “refers to the carefully executed transfer of fuel from the reactor into the spent fuel pool in a strong, reinforced building where it is secure and constantly monitored.”

This is a “longer term outage mode” and there are no plans to bring it back online “in the near future”.

In a separate release from a review started two years ago, Edison plans to downsize the staff at SONGS by 730 employees, a 33% reduction. The press release said this was for achieving greater efficiencies like other nuclear plants. But there was also a mention of the financial losses at the plant due to the shutdown, and a reference to Unit 3 that “will not be operating for some time.”

There is a public meeting about this information scheduled for October 9 at 6pm in the St. Regis Hotel in Monarch Beach. There will also be a live stream of proceedings available at video.nrc.gov – starting one hour before the meeting. The official pdf notice of the meeting and a blog post with updates and comments.

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More information can be found at SongsCommunity.com and by following the SONGS twitter account.

 

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European Union leads the world in renewable energy – achieves 100 GW of wind power

Renewable energy continues to surge in the European Union (EU). The latest achievement is 100 GW of wind power, the equivalent of 62 coal power plants. The growth has been fast, “it took twenty years to get the first 10 GW grid connected…only 13 years to add 90 GW.” And half of that was added in the last six years.

To produce the same amount of electricity with coal – in one year – would require the mining, transport and burning of 72 million tons of coal, at a cost of $6.48 billion.

For a broader perspective, the United States is also booming having recently achieved 50 GW of installed wind power. But the most important number is the total electricity used in the EU – 3.6 million GW. And this wind milestone only represents 0.003% of that. Like an ant standing at the foot of the mountain.

The good news is that growth is continuing at a rapid pace – 13-16% in each of the past 5 years – and only a tiny fraction of “Europe’s vast domestic wind energy resources” have been put to use. Follow the curve of this graph and you can see where the future is headed:

 

source: European Wind Energy Association

 

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How does water get to my house?

Through a series of pumps and electricity, from the USGS Water Science School:

Let’s assume that you get your water from the local water department through pipes buried below the streets. In other words, you don’t have your own well in your back yard. Chances are that you get your water through gravity and pumps. Cities and towns build those big water towers on top of the highest hills and then fill them with water. So even if you live on a hill, there’s a good chance the water tower is higher than your house. Water moves from the tower, due to gravity, and goes down a large pipe from the tower to eventually reach your house.

Although gravity supplies the power to move water from the tower to homes, electricity is needed to run a pump to push water from the source.

 

In my city, those water pumps use a lot of electricity. It is the second largest city expense, using 5.4 million kWh and costing more than $500K a year. (Energy Action Plan, page 21)

 

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The EPA is screwing up the discussion on global warming

The EPA is reporting the wrong information on global warming and I want them to get it right. The information they publish becomes the gold standard and is reported in the media, covered on TV, and published all across the web. It reaches the eyes and ears of a majority of Americans, and so why are they screwing it up?

The first problem is in using economic terms over plain language. The average person has a hard time understanding the meaning of ‘by economic sector’ or ‘end user emissions’. And nowhere in their mission statement does it say they should be communicating like college professors:

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

Neither does it say they should communicate clearly, but that’s covered in the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

Another problem they face is choosing what data to report. Again, they seem to be focusing on macroeconomic data sets instead of what will help the average person. Here is the data set spread out across 20 pages on the EPA website and reported many thousand times over in the press:

 

Emissions by Economic Sector

  • Electricity generation – 34%
  • Transportation – 27%
  • Industry – 21%
  • Agriculture – 7%
  • Commercial & Residential – 11%

 

Very helpful for the big picture and if you’re writing policy, but worthy of ignoring by the common person. What are they supposed to do about electricity, buy a wind turbine? For transportation, go out and buy a new car? What does industry even mean?

For those steeped in the economics of global warming this makes total sense. Our energy is slowly moving towards renewables, cars are becoming electric, homes and business can similarly electrify, and that would make 61-90% of our emissions from electricity. Yes, it is vital we pick up renewables.

But that stymies any discussion about what individuals can do. Here is another data set left to gather dust, buried 200 pages deep in the EPA’s most important report:

 

Emissions by End User

  • Manufacturing – 30%
  • Homes – 18%
  • Business – 17%
  • Personal Cars – 17%
  • Farming – 8%
  • Freight Trucks – 6%
  • Airplanes – 2%

 

End user is an economic term for you bought it you own it. Meaning the person who drives the car is responsible for the emissions, not General Motors. From this perspective the story changes entirely. Transportation moves down into a tie for third most important. The three ahead of it – manufacturing, homes, business – all represent places where the average person has a significant impact.

Individuals could buy less or switch to recycled products, in simple ways, like buying recycled toilet paper. At home they could lower the thermostat or send less to the landfill. At work they could accept normal temperatures for the A/C and support any green company policies.

It is strange that this data, which places the responsibility on individuals and can easily encourage a change in behavior, is buried in favor of the economic report. It would seem like the EPA is purposely avoiding the issue of responsibility, or letting the economists control the marketing. Either way it’s unacceptable and screwing up the discussion on global warming.

Come on EPA get your head in the game!

 

 

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Facebook app allows you to compare energy use with your neighbors

From Cyprus Mail (the island in the Mediterranean):

Find out how much electricity you consume compared to your friends, those in your neighbourhood, or even your district with Facebook application ‘Social Electricity’, which uses data from the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) to help people save energy.

 

I love this idea. I’ve always wanted to know how much my neighbor uses, but could you imagine the privacy implications? Opt-in is a must, but I do like bringing in the community element of being green.

What do you think?

 

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Federal government approves first wave powered project off Oregon coast

The wave park will include 10 buoys stringed together and linked to the coast through an underwater power cable. It is the result of six years of far-sighted research and development, and $10 million of funding.

From One World One Ocean:

Last month, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the country’s first commercial wave energy project off of the coast of Reedsport, Oregon. The 35-year license allows Ocean Power Technologies Inc. (OPT) to build up to ten 140-foot buoys, which will generate 1.5 megawatts of power – enough to power 1,000 homes. The first buoy is expected to be deployed in October.

 

For testing purposes only one PB150 Buoy (pictured below) will be installed 2.5 miles off the Oregon coast. Assuming no problems nine more will be placed in the waves, connected together, and begin lighting up Oregon homes.

 

 

The above picture is pulled from the projects Newsletter and Progress Report (pdf). You can also read about OPT’s technology and coverage from the N.Y. Times.

Map of coal and oil-fired power plants in the United States

In 2010, coal-fired power plants represented 45% of the electricity generated in the United States and oil a smaller amount, 1%. Combined together they are the dominant air polluters and facing tough new restrictions from the EPA.

Unfortunately, they have a few years to clean-up and that doesn’t help if you live in one of the toxic twenty states. Visit the previous link to see how your state compares, or scan this map to see if any of the polluting power plants are close to you.

 

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The future of street lights – hybrid power with mini-wind turbines & solar panels

A friend recommended these to me after her company installed them. From UGE, they are streetlights combining solar panels with mini-wind turbines. They are quite amazing:

From the brochure (pdf):

  • Our hybrid model operates entirely off-grid.
  • Can be installed in remote locations which are inaccessible to the electric grids.
  • Lower utility costs – avoid the high cost of wiring grid-connected lighting

 

 

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