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.”
The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies converge with new energy systems. New energy revolutions make possible more expansive and integrated trade. Accompanying communication revolutions manage the complex new commercial activities made possible by the new energy flows.
Ushering in the First Industrial Revolution during the 19th century, cheap steam-powered print technology and the introduction of public schools gave rise to a print-literate work force with the communication skills to manage the increased flow of commercial activity (which was made possible by coal and steam power technology).
That was followed by electrical forms of communication in the 20th century – mass media – and energy powered by oil and the combustion engine. And now we are at the beginning stages of the third step, with renewable energy and the internet as the drivers of change.
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
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.”
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:
2011 was a great year for solar power with an increase of 73.3% in generating power – the fastest growth since reporting began. Germany and Italy led that charge by installing 57.1% of the new power. Worldwide there is now 63.4 gigwatts (GW) of solar power – of which 29.3 GW were brought online in 2011.
In graphical terms that is exponential growth:
Of course, Europe is leading the charge into solar having recently passed the 50GW milestone. Which makes the United States look tiny in comparison, having only recently surpassed the 4GW mark. We are just as far behind in wind power with Europe having 100GW and the United States at 50GW.
The good news is that both are rapidly constructing new installations – both solar and wind – and growing at an exponential pace.
The world’s third largest wind farm just started spinning its turbines in Oregon. Covering more than a thousand acres the 338 wind turbines will create 845 megawatts of clean energy. All of that will be sent down to California for 20 years as part of an agreement with Southern California Edison – who is in need of clean energy to comply with state energy standards, 33% clean energy by 2020.
The name of the project is Caithness Shepherds Flat and it cost $1.9 billion. During construction the project employed more than 400 workers and 45 of those will become permanent full-time positions.
The wind farm will create enough energy to power 235,000 homes. Adding to the growing number of homes powered through clean energy. Recently, wind power in the United States passed the 50 gigawatt milestone, and this project should put that at 51 gigawatts.
A substantial achievement but we still have a long way to go, the United States uses 3,900,000 gigawatts of energy.
The city of Milton Keynes will replace the diesel buses on one route with eight electric buses that will use wireless charging. The route currently transports more than 775,000 passengers a year over a total of 450,000 miles. Electrification is expected to remove about 500 tons of tailpipe CO2 emissions per year, and cut running costs by between £12,000 and £15,000 per year.
The busses will charge when parked over a primary coil in the ground. In 10-minutes the coil can send enough energy to the secondary coil in the bus that it can complete its route. The plan is to place the primary coils at the beginning and ending locations for the bus route and coordinate charging with bus driver breaks.
If all goes well this technology could be “real contender in the future of public transport.”
I know what you’re thinking, how can a McMansion be green – especially with tiny homes becoming popular – and when you see the photo below you’ll be even more skeptical. Add in the $2.5 million price tag and it sounds like a bridge-to-nowhere disaster. But before you pass judgement let’s learn more about the home.
It’s a 2,700 square-foot house with two stories, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and an oversized two-car garage. Not your average American home, more like something designed for a wealthy neighbor. And that fits because this home has the best green fixtures money can buy. The multi-million dollar price purchases:
The design allows the National Institute of Standards and Technology to turn the home into a laboratory, where they will test all the features – with no one home. Lights will turn on in the morning and after work. There will be fake microwaving and fake cheering for a football team on the TV. Garage doors will open and close several times. All to simulate the energy use of a typical family of four.
All kidding aside, this is a serious scientific experiment, “buildings account for 40 % of the primary energy consumption and 72 % of the electricity consumption in the United States, while accounting for 40 % of the CO2 emissions…will develop and deploy the measurement science to move the nation towards net-zero energy, high-performance buildings in a cost-effective manner while maintaining a healthy indoor environment.”
It’s a great goal – to have net-zero energy homes – but why did they have to do their research on a McMansion?
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.