The Unstoppable Renewable Revolution

For years naysayers have been arguing that renewable energy isn’t a good idea because the electrical input fluctuates too much on the grid. Now we have more evidence that those naysayers have nothing to back up their argument.

Over at Climate Progress they have a good post on key factors that make the renewable revolution unstoppable. One reason is the ability of technology to make up for perceived (and in some cases, real) shortcomings of renewable energy production.

A key point, though, is that new technology is increasingly making it less and less likely for there to be an unexpectedly cloudy or windless day. As a 2014 article on “Smart Wind and Solar Power” in Technology Review put it, “Big data and artificial intelligence are producing ultra-accurate forecasts that will make it feasible to integrate much more renewable energy into the grid.”

It’s already happening: “Wind power forecasts of unprecedented accuracy are making it possible for Colorado to use far more renewable energy, at lower cost, than utilities ever thought possible.” The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder makes these forecasts “using artificial-intelligence-based software … along with data from weather satellites, weather stations, and other wind farms in the state.” And that helped Xcel Energy, a major power producer in the state, set a remarkable record in 2013 — “during one hour, 60 percent of its electricity for Colorado was coming from the wind.”

Read more.

Mobile Tech Makes Donating Insanely Easy

It’s the giving time of year, and MobHappy has a short writeup on new technology that allows people to donate to charities, simply by sending a text. This is a great advancement, because it shortens the gap between intention and action where a lot of charitable dollars are lost.

Today, mGive works with over 200 charities, enabling mobile users to donate money quickly and easily via shortcode. And it’s been successful: one campaign, featuring Alicia Keys and conducted during the American Idol TV show saw 90,000 donors raise $450,000 in just minutes. Donors have given about $1.5 million via mobile so far in the US; this exceeds the first year of online donations, and those now amount to some $18 billion per year.

Unfortunately the service is currently only available to our US friends.

Read the rest of the article

DIY Glasses for the Poor

Something like 6 percent of the North American population wears glasses. If you’re amongst these four-eyes, you probably appreciate your local optometrist, who makes your vision possible. Unfortunately, people in developing countries don’t get to have a local optometrist — and that means no glasses. Happily, an inventor has just created glasses that people can adjust themselves, obviating the need for prescriptions and experts. And he’s getting them out to the people who need them.

The implications of bringing glasses within the reach of poor communities are enormous, says the scientist. Literacy rates improve hugely, fishermen are able to mend their nets, women to weave clothing. During an early field trial, funded by the British government, in Ghana, Silver met a man called Henry Adjei-Mensah, whose sight had deteriorated with age, as all human sight does, and who had been forced to retire as a tailor because he could no longer see to thread the needle of his sewing machine. “So he retires. He was about 35. He could have worked for at least another 20 years. We put these specs on him, and he smiled, and threaded his needle, and sped up with this sewing machine. He can work now. He can see.”

Read more at The Guardian

Heat Transfer Science for your Clothes Dryer

Although the allures of heat transfer science might be remote for some, and frankly boring for others, would you want to know more if they could dry your clothes with less energy? Michael Brown, not of GE or any drying machine manufacturer, has come up with a way to make clothes drying less energy intensive. Instead of using a traditional air-in-contact-with-heating-coils heater, Michael’s uses an oil as the heat-transfer medium. The oil needs less energy to heat, and, once heated, holds onto the heat better. That oil is then used to heat the air that gets blown into the drying drum.

The device is so much more efficient that it can be plugged into a regular 110 V plug (instead of 220s now required by dryers.) Additionally, the heating unit only ever reaches about 150 F, since the heat-transfer is so much more efficient. Traditional dryers have to heat their elements up to 1000 F in order to reach optimal efficiency, resulting in about 15,000 household fires each year.

The device can be installed by a technician in 30 minutes at a total cost of around $300, which would be recouped in less then four years. It might also be the first dryer to ever receive an Energy Star rating.

Make Your Telecommute Even Greener

Telecommuting is good for the environment because it means that people don’t have to get in a car and not move during rush hour. Granted they can take transit or bike, but some people like the “freedom” of getting into slow moving roadways. Telecommuters have it even better because they can wear slippers and pajamas all day.

Over at Web Worker Daily, they recently asked readers how to make web working more green.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but there are a few areas that seem to be obvious candidates for a web worker focus. Energy consumption is one: if we swap cars for more computers, our carbon footprint doesn’t go down as much as it might. We’ve looked at cutting down on vampire power as a way to attack this in the past. Virtual machines can also offer computer – and power – savings.